I have never particularly cared for modern art, but I have always loved modern design, especially kitchen and bath design. So, what’s the difference? Really, it is one of function. I am told that art has no function, but I have never believed that. I believe that the function of novels is to tell stories and that a painting must be of an object that can be recognized as that object, not just a series of smears on a canvas. And so on though a long list of very definite ideas I can proffer as the Absolute Dictates of Art, which will, in some quarters, brand me as a hopeless Philistine. And perhaps I am.
Be that as it may, I brought it up because what I find myself appreciating about modern designs in kitchens and baths is that the first thing one notices is that it is actually a kitchen! But the other part of it is that the work has a purpose. Yes, we would like to do something different with it if we could, but no, we are not going to do whatever the Picasso equivalent of kitchen design would be-kitchen cabinets with the doors nailed shut, I suppose!
One of the more delightful books in 1952 was entitled “A Hole is to Dig,” by Ruth Krauss and was a compilation of children’s definitions of the world around them and included such pearls as, “dogs are to kiss people” and “the ground is to make a garden.” Ask any of those budding lexicographers, and they surely would have said, “A kitchen is to cook in.” But thus defined, one knows at once what will fly and not fly in kitchen design, because in the end there’s the raison d’etre: a kitchen is to cook in.
And that is what I find myself so very much appreciating about the kitchen design work now being done in my own part of the world. Well, OK, it’s a bit north of me (I’m in San Diego), but Palo Alto is the home of a wonderfully inventive team, namely Dan and Lanny Danenberg who own and operate Danenberg Design. Yesterday I wrote quite a bit about the team these two have created. Today, I would like to write a little about the body of work they have produced with their teamwork.
One of the things that first caught my eye was some simply stunning countertops, and I found myself wondering who does the work for them. Well, as it turns out, that’s the Danenberg Design team in operation. Dan actually designs the glass countertops he wants, then has them fabricated by Kersey’s Glassworks in Hayward, CA. In addition, Dan usually designs the mounting hardware and has it custom-made locally as well. All of their countertops are individually designed, and no two are alike.
But by keeping so much of the design details in his own hands, Dan is able to create things that would not otherwise have been done, simply because he views design from a different aspect then most. The easiest way to illustrate that is with a twist detail on a granite countertop Dan designed. It is one of the more unusual, and innovative, design elements I have ever seen in a kitchen design, but it’s not there as a pasted-on decorative element; it performs an important role in the design of the countertop itself. I had to study it a bit and check with Lanny before I finally got the concept into my bonehead. On the inner half of the island, Dan wanted the edge of the countertop to slope out; on the outer half of the island, he wanted the edge of the countertop to slope in, to tuck under the edge, as it were. To make the transition between two bevels going in opposite directions, he designed the twist we see here.
As it turned out the fabricator who did the work had never seen anything like it, so it was a real challenge to him. He ended up making a hand-carved prototype to make sure it would work and was in keeping with what Dan had in his mind and then hand carved the actual granite top, as there are no duplicating tools for work that has never been done before. But it’s the kind of work that any fabricator would kill for a chance at, because how often do you get to walk on snow that has no footprints?
One of the things any kitchen designer with the chops for it most wants to have is a client with a large enough budget for some of the more innovative kitchen designs that can be accomplished in this day and age, and the courage to trust the designer with the budget and the design. Danenberg Design is quick to point out that they can, and will, work in any style of design, but they most enjoy creating contemporary designs with a Japanese influence, and seeing what they’ve accomplished in that area, I know what my preferences would be, were I commissioning their work! They bill themselves as dedicated professionals with a unique passion for their work, but it seems almost superfluous to point that out, because we have the pictures, and the pictures are so much more.
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