Sleek Grills, Cool Concrete, Small House Plans

Coolest Hot Products

Last week on a design awards jury I met Robert Brunner, founder of Ammunition Group, a fascinating product design and branding firm. He described some of his latest products and I think they are way cool, especially — just in time to fuel dreams of warmer weather — the Fuego Element gas grill (with an updated website),

a sleek metal cylinder topped with a concave cooking vessel. The perforated metal sides hide the propane tank.

It’s a textbook example of how a fine designer reinvents an everyday object in terms that are at once functional and formal (in this case, geometric) — here supporting cylinder and supported sphere combine in a way that really elevates barbecuing to an art. Here aspects of the wok and the patio heater have been combined — this must be DNA By Design — to produce an appealing  genetic manipulation of modernism.

The grilling surface is wide for maximum cooking space while the slender pedestal is just wide enough for the propane container: each section has a different function that is fully expressed in its shape. Brilliant. Brunner’s firm is also responsible for the Portable Element.

It weighs under 15 lbs and

the legs do double duty by forming the handle.

Brunner designed the original much larger rectangular Fuego Grill of a few years ago but I think these more recent streamlined Elements are the fires to follow.

The Ammunition Group has designed a wide range of other products, most notably partnering with Lady Gaga to develop a line of fashion-forward HeartBeat earphones

sunglasses, and instant cameras for Polaroid’s Grey Label — and now I’m a little out of my element.

Concrete design guru Fu Tung Cheng, founder of Cheng Design, sponsored the jury as a way to encourage concrete fabricators and designer/builders in the US and around the world. His own work is always an inspiration, like this two-toned kitchen island

with one  corner cantilevered for ease of movement at the breakfast bar; or this

super slick bathroom where the counter and the slanting slot sink are practically indistinguishable (images courtesy Cheng Design). Fu Tung has also invented a lightweight concrete — using fiber in the mix — that can be used for small scale furniture. I lifted one of thehandsome prototype stools in his office shown above and found them easy to carry. I could use one as a side table.

Meaningful Minimalism

My day spent reviewing projects with Fu Tung and Bob  made me think about house plans that express a sleeker sensibility. Plan 460-7 by Daniel Eric Bush is for an in-law unit or guest suite behind the garage.

It’s a solution for homes with garages set back from the street.

You walk past the garage door (the path is partially hidden by a vine-covered privacy screen in the view above) to the entry terrace off the living area. The design is simple and effective. The street facade of Plan 496-12 by Leon Meyer

speaks another spare but strong design language: garage, front door, picture window; each distinct but related to a larger whole. The path to the front leads all the way through the house to the dining area and family room at the rear. Again, here is a design that’s simple, clear, compelling. Note how the small bump-outs at the living room and dining room create corner views, giving those rooms a greater sense of spaciousness. The rooms engage with each other and with the site in a kind of dialog. I guess I’m always interested in what a design — whether plan or product — is trying to say. Speak up!

One response to “Sleek Grills, Cool Concrete, Small House Plans

  1. I caught a quick glimpse of your work on some other site and was blown away. I have been in construction for the better part of 40 years and have not found any one who hits the mark the way your work does. Your homage to Japanese imagination and style hit me between the eyes. As a devout woodchuck, I have always admired Japanese woodworking and habd tools, let alonr their dedication to the pursuit of excellence.
    I absolutely love your vision. Your drawings and renderings really stand out.
    Great vision . . . great work!!

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