Tuesday, February 16, 2010

A Lot of Hot Jenn-Air

I don't want this post to sound like a marketing piece for Jenn-Air appliances, but after this weekend I am a much bigger fan of their product. Jenn-Air has always occupied a strange spot in my appliance selection process. Their appliances are good quality, people who own them are rabidly loyal, they are historically hard to install, and the price point is usually too high for one demographic and not high enough for another, caught between G.E. and Sub Zero.

I was invited to Atlanta by Jenn-Air for an all-expenses-paid designer meeting. I pictured a room full of designers being led like cattle through a showroom where slick salesmen, like Vince from ShamWow, hawked the latest and greatest appliances... I was totally wrong. What I was treated to was a very intimate event; there were only eight designers there, ranging from one who counted Ronald Reagan as a client to a relatively new one-person design company, and everything in between. Our accommodations were first class, dinner at Au Pied de Cochon was merveilleusement délicieux, the conversation was lively and I began to wonder if Jenn-Air's new marketing strategy was to wine and dine me into specifying their products... Again, I was mistaken.

The Jenn-Air company, much like Domino's Pizza, has come to a realization that their products have a bit of a stigma. We have all seen the Domino's commercial where they solicit the honest opinion of the customer (or ex-customer) and use the info to better not only their product but their reputation. On day two of our meeting, they solicited our honest opinions, had a CMKBD take us through their new and very interactive website, provided great product catalogs, showed us each of the new appliances in great detail in their totally tricked-out Insperience Studio, answered a myriad of questions, and then let us cook our own lunch on the appliances. That was brilliant.

I can tell you this -- their new products are aesthetically pleasing, the technology incorporated into each appliance is well thought out and in step with the iPhone generation and, once again, they have brought us a new innovation: the ductless downdraft cooktop (Jenn-Air invented the downdraft in the 1960s). It is good to see a company like Jenn-Air step up to the plate, admit their faults and then do something big about it, starting with their most basic sales force, the kitchen designer.

What is your perception of Jenn-Air?

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Emphatically Speaking

Emphatic, Dominant, Subdominant, Subordinant - I remember learning these terms in my first Interior Design class. They refer to the items or elements in a room that vie for our attention; the red leather sofa or the monumental stone fireplace with flanking bookshelves. In my case, since I do kitchens and baths, it is usually an island or specialized piece that becomes the Emphatic.
This is the element that sets the mood and style for the rest of the room. The Emphatic may not be a single piece, it may be a collection of items that are viewed as a unit. For instance, if the island were to be the Emphatic of my design, it wouldn't be created by just the cabinetry, it would include placement in the room, color, countertops, lighting, appliances and accessories that define the area to visually catch and hold your attention.

One thing to avoid is the "Ooh, that's pretty syndrome." Things should be pretty, but too much of a good thing is still too much. Think of it this way: when someone walks into the room for the first time, where do you want their eyes to go first, second, third, fourth ... and so on? If everything is competing for their attention, the room will seem visually noisy and uncomfortable. If my island is the Emphatic, I shouldn't have a cabinet in its line of sight that would compete for its attention. I want your eyes to rest a moment on the island before moving on to the next strong feature of the room, or the Dominant -- this may be the hot wall where the range is located -- and then on down the line, with each thing having its own appeal without competition. This doesn't mean everything else has to be flat, white and boring.

Elements should be compelling but never fussy or cluttered. No matter what style I am creating, I want to be able to guide your eyes from point to point smoothly. I tend to prefer a cleaner, more relaxed environment. My designs usually have a circular visual flow so that your eye is always lead back to the Emphatic.

Have you ever been in a room where everything competes for your attention?