Design Diary

A personal review of design creations.

The Grand Suites of Venice Simplon Orient Express

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When it comes to travel with class, there is no other train in world that can beat the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express. The favourite playground of Agatha Christie is even adding more luxury than before.


More than a symbol of luxury, the iconic Venice Simplon-Orient-Express is also a stunning work of craftsmanship with the very best material and ingenious design. But now, Belmond, the train owner, adds even more luxury to it.

As of 2020, the legendary train will boast three new "Grand Suites". The new additions, which cost around $7,800 per person a night, are named after three cities the train serves, Vienna, Prague and Budapest.

Working with the very best craftsman including Jérôme Clochard, a traditional glassblower who has created the spectacular glass sinks and delicate light fixtures; Philippe Allemand for the marquetry and many more skilled artisans.

Each suite has been designed to reflect the destination it's named for.

The Vienna suite:

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Classic art deco feel with hues of gold and emerald green. Dark wood with silk fabric panels.

The Prague suite:

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Gold and maroon colours with hand-embroidered cushions and mosaic patterns.

 

The Budapest suite:

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A strong reminiscence of Ottoman and Gothic architecture with carved woodwork.

 

Belmond has also created the Venice, Istanbul and Paris suites few months back (see below in the respective order). Each suite has an enhanced private bathrooms with showers, double beds, a private living area and underfloor heating, as well as free champagne and a personal 24-hour cabin steward.

"Each meticulous suite will draw inspiration from the romance, adventure and style of each great European city we travel to. They are a real tribute to the romance and glamor of Europe and the golden era of rail travel." said Gary Frankling, Vice President of trains & cruises at .

Beside the beautiful journey with breathtaking landscape throughout the Alps, travelers have access to three dining carriages, a champagne bar. The iconic Venice Simplon-Orient-Express travels throughout Europe from March to November and visits Istanbul once a year. 

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Design Auctions at Phillips

Lot 2 - Set of six armchairs and two stolls by Carlo Mollino (ca. 1959). Est. USD 20-30,000

Lot 2 - Set of six armchairs and two stolls by Carlo Mollino (ca. 1959). Est. USD 20-30,000


On June 6th in New York, Phillips is presenting 150 lots from great design masters of the 20th century for its last auction of the season.


With a prestigious list of designers, this auction sale is giving collectors a great opportunity to acquire some stunning pieces.

Here is a very personal selection of 12 creations (including the hero picture):

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Lot 6 - Wall Unit by Gio Ponti (ca. 1950).

Estimate USD 15-20,000. Spell-veneered wood, painted steel.


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Lot 7 - Adjustable floor lamp (model #1045) by Gino Sarfatti (ca. 1948).

Estimate USD 5-7,000.

Painted aluminum, brass.



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Lot 10 - Rocking Chaise (model #PS 16) by Franco Albini (ca. 1959).

Estimate USD 8-12,000. Walnut, fabric, cord.


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Lot 19 - Wall light by Venini (ca. 1950).

Estimate USD 3-5,000.

Glass, painted steel.


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Lot 25 - Pair of wall lights by Franco Buzzi (ca. 1952).

Estimate USD 4-6,000.

Polished and painted brass.


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Lot 36 - Illuminated bar cabinet by Giovanni Gariboldo (ca. 1949).

Estimate USD 7-9,000.

Maple-veneered wood, brass, glass.


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Lot 48 - “Banco Onda” by Jorge Zalszupin (ca. 1960).

Estimate USD 12-18,000. Stained wood-veneered plywood, chromium-plated metal, leather.


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Lot 51 - Console table by Vladimir Kagan (ca. 1952).

Estimate USD 8-12,000.

Walnut-veneered wood, walnut.


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Lot 62 - “Black and White Oval Pot” by John Ward (ca. 1996).

Estimate USD 4-6,000.

Hand-built glazed stoneware.


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Lot 85 - Unique “Butterly Love Sear” by Wendell Castle (ca. 1967).

Estimate USD 60-80,000. Stack-laminated oak


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Lot 125 - Important sideboard from the Maharaja of Indore’s Banquet Hall, Manik Bagh Palace (Indore) by Eckart Muthesius (ca. 1931).

Estimate USD 200-300,000. Stained American walnut-veneered wood, stained American walnut, sycamore, nickel silver drawer handles, white metal inlays.

Saint George Hotel: Toronto’s untold story

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In the heart of Toronto’s Annex neighbourhood, the Saint George Hotel mixes local heritage with a tasteful contemporary flavour.


The interior design of the Saint George Hotel communicates a narrative of local pride, diverse heritage and contemporary culture to create a hotel experience that celebrates Toronto’s layered history and sensibilities. The 14-story hotel integrates elements of Toronto’s culture and personality, giving guests a distinct sense of place. The experience of being a guest in their own well-appointed apartment. With 188 guest rooms and suites, a fitness centre, meeting and event space, the property provides unique guest accommodations within a neighbourhood setting.

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Guests initial experience with the hotel comes via an exterior black wood awning at the main entry, giving the hotel street presence and welcoming guests for their stay. The lighting is a subtle nod to the iconic marquee signs that once occupied the neighbourhood.

The most visually striking element on the exterior is the 10-storey high hand-painted mural on the west-facing facade of the building. Mason Studio commissioned well-known street artist BirdO to create a surreal geometric bird that continues the narrative of the interior experience to the exterior.

Upon entry, the reception area features a marble desk framed with wooden arches, back dropped by a hand painted mural of a misty Toronto-inspired scene. Adjacent to reception is a guest lounge, designed to feel like a living room. The space is a collection of bespoke furniture, artwork, lighting and objects, many crafted by local makers that continue to tell the story of local culture and design.  

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Arches are used throughout the hotel as a physical indicator of moving from one experience to another. They visually guide guests throughout the space while paying homage to Toronto’s diverse architectural style and eras.

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A 40-sqm lounge situated on the main floor, just outside the meeting room is realised in darker, more saturated tones to convey a feeling of intimacy. A custom bar and beverage area offer the opportunity for guests to relax before entering the meeting room.

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On the guestroom levels, a collection of original, small vintage black-and-white photographs from a couple’s vacation to Toronto appear at each guest entry. These images tell an intimate story of early post-war vacationers discovering the city.

The suites are a continuation of the nostalgic nod to the layered heritage of the neighbourhood. The rooms are designed with a residential approach by housing a collection of art and custom designed furniture and lighting that is seemingly collected over time.

Every element in the suites is carefully designed to provide guests with an experience parallel to a well-appointed apartment in the neighbourhood, offering guests with an alternative to more traditional hotel accommodations.

 

Photography: Naomi Finlay

The Xing Kiln Museum

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In the Northen Chinese county of Neiqiu, the Xing Kiln Museum pays tribute to an ancestral craft developed as refined art: white porcelain.


The white wares launched the country’s reputation as a center of porcelain. As hard, dense, and durable as their southern green counterparts, but more immediately appealing due to their sparkling, glossy, clean-looking material, white wares became the envy and aspiration of potters worldwide. Porcelain clays are naturally available in north China, and some rare examples of white wares—made of a pure, white clay, unglazed, but fired at temperatures just high enough to qualify as stonewares—have been discovered at sites of the late Shang dynasty (circa 1600–circa 1050 BCE) at Anyang in Henan province. 

 

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In 2012, the local government acknowledged this prestigious legacy by opening the Xing Kiln Ruins and decided to build a museum. 

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YCA was commissioned to work on the project and their first mission was to separate the site from a busy environment. 

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The top of the building acts like an open gallery that surrounds a pool elevated from the ground. Seven pieces of rustic porcelain are floating above the water; below the pool is a continuous space containing the entrance and main exhibition hall; symmetrical but plausible wide steps connect the ring gallery, pool and square on the north side.

The seven bowl-shaped structures offer a picturesque feature in the summer with the ripples of light reflected from the clear water at the bottom of the curved outer wall but also  in the winter when the scenery is turning white of frost.

Porcelain showrooms and corresponding ancillary facilities vary in size. In order to bring them together as a whole, circle-packing algorithm is used in the design as geometric control diagrams.

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Xing Porcelain originated in Sui dynasty, and flourished in Tang dynasty. The Great Tang Empire’s vigour and the simplicity of the square and the circle must be related somehow. How to use square and circle in contemporary times? This is our thinking and answer.

 

Photographs by He Chen