November 2007 Featured Books

Open Kitchens
By Montse Borràs
Rockport Publishers,
Beverly, MA

Montse Borràs’ pictorial look at 40 kitchens from around the world starts with the idea that the kitchen as the hearth of the home has undergone an evolutionary change so epic that our ancestors wouldn’t recognize the modern kitchen.

“Increasingly, traditional homes, modern studios and lofts follow the American model of the open kitchen, providing easy access from all sides,” Borràs writes. “The trend tends to favor turning flexible elements into real design objects.”

Open Kitchens has over 200 images of different architects’ interpretations of this concept, which Borràs feels represents the larger human desire toward flexibility and adaptability of their personal spaces. The photographs show not only the stunningly composed kitchens, but also the areas of immediate surround. The author’s comments on how these spaces have a kind of interplay with one another and that interplay’s influence on the use of the rooms are interspersed throughout.

A semi-detached kitchen with a wall-length sliding door that exposes the cooking and seating areas to the backyard has an innovative charm to accompany its unique use of space. So, too, does a loft in Milan where kitchen, dining and living rooms are joined by a continuous wall covered in 1"x1" mosaic tiles but realistically separated only by a change in flooring material. One apartment features a stylized solid-surface fabricated “glacier;” not surprisingly, that apartment is held together by its clean, pale color palette.

What these areas all have in common is the use of design elements such as counter space, flooring, even appliances, to join normally separated spaces together by color, shape or plane of view.

Borràs’ commentary takes an architect’s view, explaining the origins of the structure, what the intent of the design was, how the design successfully fulfilled its purpose and also how the inhabitants of the space use the room’s unique charm.

Open Kitchens is a satisfying, lushly photographed examination of the contemporary open plan kitchen and would be a good addition for any designer with a growing interest in contemporary design.

Tile Style for the Home: Kitchens, Baths and More
By Tina Skinner
Schiffer Publishing, Ltd.,
Atglen, PA

Spanish tile, renowned in the trade since the Moors first set foot in Spain in the 11th century, has long been on the cutting edge of style, design and technique. While Americans have been slow to warm to the versatility of tile in rooms other than the bath, Europeans have incorporated tile into every area of the home, from the smallest mudroom to the grandest great room.

Tina Skinner’s Tile Style for the Home: Kitchens, Baths and More is a concisely narrated tutorial on where Spanish tile is today, and where it’s headed for tomorrow. The author begins with a brief introduction to the history of tile in Spain, from the early days of the Moors through its trade importance during the Renaissance to present day, when modern technology and globalization have made tile a lucrative export.

Divided by the rooms discussed, Skinner provides an illustrative look at the current tiles Spain has to offer, including various texture, size and color trends.

The photos are largely of contemporary spaces; the baths, kitchens, sunrooms, dining rooms and other areas have a European sensibility whose appeal the author means to convey pictorially to an American audience.

Wide-format tiles are very much en vogue, and serve many aesthetic purposes – from creating zones to visually lengthening the feel of a room. Twenty-inch tiles are a common sight. Pairing tiles of varying sizes side-by-side creates the visual idea of zones within a room with continuous walls.

Faux patterns are big, and convincingly imitate everything from wood and stone to damask cloth. Interlocking tiles create interesting floor patterns, as do mosaic tiles. Mosaic tiles, traditionally 1"x1" or 2"x2", are the cornerstone of the industry and sell well around the world. They can be seen on the streets of Spain and other Mediterranean spots, and on the floors of bathrooms throughout the New World.

The decorative appeal of tile has always been its primary draw and there is no shortage of beautiful tile applications in Tile Style. From the newest styles, shapes and colors, Skinner provides an interesting resource for the growing American appetite for tile.