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Saturday, November 29, 2014


Exciting new things are happening over at ROHL. Faucets and water fixtures have embraced German innovation in metal finishing. How? The ROHL/ Jörger collaborative - collections all hand-made by German craftsman who take pride in the best surfaces in-order to produce only the best fixtures.

Florale Crystale

Mark Rohl and Oliver Jorger

I learned all about it at an informative and scrumptious lunch at  the Asiate, Mandarin Oriental Hotel in NYC with two influential men in the plumbing industry: Mark Rohl, President of the Eastern division at Rohl and Oliver Jorger, the Managing Director of Jorger. Joining me was Amy from abcddesigns and Rebecca from Rebecca Reynolds Design.

The colors and the taste of the food was delightful! Paired well with the Florale Crystal collection. 

Florale Crystale

During lunch, Oliver Jorger explained that his great, great grandfather founded the company and was a master plumber to the court of the Grand Duke Friedrich II of Badenstarted.  Generations to follow, Oliver's father taught him to rely on his own sensibilities and look for inspiration from the world around him. For Oliver that would be nature and architecture. 

Aphrodite collection

Oliver told us that the Aphrodite collection was inspired by his great grandfather's watch but you can also see a nod to Greek architecture. 

Turn Collection

The beautiful twist of the Cayan Tower in Dubai is the architectural inspiration for the Turn collection. 

Aphrodite cross handle

What really blew me away while admiring all the new designs were the sparkling accents and striking metal combinations. Jorger's manufacturing process is able to combine multiple metals. This is something unique and complete luxury in the plumbing industry! Look at the integrated fluting of gold with platinum. Wow...Each warm colored layer is finished by hand. Oliver adds, "innovation is all about authenticity and value." In simple terms, its all about the craftsmanship and finishing which makes this collection so special!!

Palazzo collection

The Palazzo faucet exemplifies European luxury. See the special 18 karat gold alloy. Its more warm and less goldie. Its called the Sunshine finish. The platinum is called Mink. Gorgeous. Designers are seeking out unique embellishments for powder rooms and these new designs are very exciting for high end residential design.

Thank you so much to Julie McCrary and Sherry Hansel Qualls of Whitegood, Mark Rohl and Oliver Jorger for an inspiring lunch!

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Sunday, November 23, 2014


Do you think that a range hood could be sexy? 



Well, if its a Zephyr hood! 

Zephyr is making sure that unique hood design is the next revolution for kitchens. Some are curved, some sleek, some geometric and some with cool LED lighting! Whatever your preference, kitchen hoods can be a real architectural statement and reflect your taste and personality.  

San Francisco Zephyr showroom

On Modenus' Blog Tour Cali, I was introduced to Zephyr Ventilation. What a gorgeous San Francisco showroom! Zephyr is committed to smart design and making sure that range hoods are no longer an after thought. Zephyr gets that today's customer is savvy and not only wants something innovative; but also wants something cool, beautiful and captures one's imagination.

San Francisco Zephyr showroom

Pairing style and functionality, Zephyr's artful hood designs are great for modern kitchens: extremely quiet, self cleaning technologies and high CFM output. Zephyr has gone as far as partnering with innovative thinkers such as Fu-Tung Cheng and Robert Brunner bringing ventilation to a whole new level. 

CHENG's OKEANITO wall ventilation hood for Zephyr 

At our exclusive dinner, the bloggers got to meet Mr. Cheng and hear him speak about his firm Cheng Design, a history of innovation.  I had the opportunity to chat with him during our amazing dinner! What an honor!

Michele Alfano (me) and Fu-Tung Cheng

Mr. Cheng is trained in fine art and an innovator in the use of concrete. A man who is inspired by beauty in everyday life. He told us that he is not a trained architect;yet he knows how to build entire homes out of concrete!  Of course years of experimentation starting out in his very own home! (image below) His new book Concrete at Home shows some of his wonderful work! 

I am so inspired by his thinking that I had to learn more about him...I am excited to share an interview with Mr. Fu-Tung Cheng!

House #6


I would describe my style as modernist (Bernard) Maybeck...after the Bay Area famous, turn-of-the-19th century Beaux-Arts trained architect who in turn trained Julia Morgan of Hearst Castle fame. I love the work of Antonio Gaudi in Barcelona and aspire to put a minute portion of his detailed craftsmanship and artistry in my work.

Cheng's Home Kitchen concrete countertop


I approach architectural design somewhat like a painter approaches a blank canvas––excited at first, anticipating the infinite possibilities. Apprehensive edge of fear.  The lengthy creative process to discover, or uncover, the final design is too big for one person. So I rely on all the influences from every person engaged in the process, from client and staff architects to contractors and sub contractors. Each contributes crucial bits of information and expertise. It’s akin to movie making, where you have a writer, producer, director, editor, and of course, the all-important actors. Each adds their unique ingredient to spice the collective stone soup. My role is the shape-shifter chameleon who maintains the DNA of the vision. Sometimes I keep to the background, camouflaged. Sometimes I am front and center. 

Concrete Fountain

House #6


None really. The material itself is so versatile, so essential to structures that its myriad possibilities re-sets new goals to achieve, organically, project to project. From modest countertops to whole houses of concrete, I have risen to the challenges of the big change in scale, while maintaining the same level of active play with the material.

Cheng Zephyr Range Hood


In product design, there is the added challenge of what price the target market is willing to pay for a given design. The vetting process of finding out what the market needs, who will pay for, and how it will be made at an affordable price with a profit to be made, is different than with custom design. I take in all the data and sketch with pad and pencil. We all look at sketches and make short lists. The factory gives their input. Then we go back to the drawing board. Working backwards from the price at retail is sometimes the only realistic way to design what will actually evolve to production.

House #6


Working out the concrete wall "lifts" around the perimeter of the house was a first for Cheng Design. This method of "Slip" casting four foot high sections of wall enabled me to place colored 'geological' strata along the length of some of the walls. It is somewhat of a blind placement as it is difficult to see what is happening in the few inches of clear space between the re-bar, mesh and wall the concrete is being vibrated. One has to rely on instincts and experience to achieve distinctive results. House 6 could have easily felt cold and forbidding with its small portholes and concrete floors, walls, and kitchen countertops. But the eclectic textural and material array of warm Japanese plaster, wood, and paper lanterns combine with the rich imbedded tones of the shiny smooth concrete walls to assuage the seemingly hard surfaces.

House #6


Not to over-reach with too much manipulation of the building finishes process and trust that the space, light, and form of the building can hold its own as the core experience. 

Concrete Geocrete Countertop


Sagrada Familia Cathedral in Barcelona, Frank Lloyd Wright Usonian houses and Taliesin West and East, Alhambra palace in Granada, Spain. Temples in Kyoto. Paolo Solari's studio Cosanti in Scottsdale, AZ. Christian Science Church in Berkeley by Bernard Maybeck. Sacred Kivas of the Anazasi in Arizona. Venice, Italy.

Concrete Geocrete Countertop


Meditate or take naps!

Concrete Fireplace Design


Don't Worry, Be Happy––Meher Baba. 

Concrete Fountain

Thank you Zephyr and Mr. Cheng for the wonderful interview!

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Tuesday, November 11, 2014


Marmara Park Avenue

One can say that New York City artist and designer Joe Ginsberg is a Renaissance man. With formal training in art, sculpture, color science and photography, Joe Ginseberg's multi-faceted background informs interior spaces with thoughtful ingenuity. The NYC Marmara Park Avenue, an American flagship of the Turkish hotel chain the Marmara Collection is his latest creation. The 1927 building located on 32nd street between Park and Lexington avenues underwent a full renovation to house the luxury boutique hotel,128 key units in the heart of Manhattan.

Marmara Park Avenue Hotel

The cool factor about this forthcoming hotel and Joe Ginsberg's design is that it aims to make guests feel as if they're coming home.  Each hotel room is designed to look and feel more like apartments rather than the standard traditional hotel room layout. For the NYC visitor, this urban oasis is perfect for an extended stay.  The design includes custom-designed and individually produced items from artisans across New York City's five boroughs. Nothing mass produced. Love that!  The signs that this is going to be an unique experience is when you walk through the front doors. The black riveted iron façade is spectacular. Its a big, wow!  A neutral palette combined with richly colored accents and art indulges the visitor to find refuge from the busy New York City streets.

I'm excited to share an interview with Joe Ginsberg today!


I create designs that are timeless and classic. Our interiors carry a distinctive hand made sense of craftsmanship evident in our unique material applications and custom fabrications. In my drawings, you can see the visual process of how one idea leads into the next. My work spans multiple platforms from my paintings to the interiors and collections I design. 

Private residence


To approach each project and creation with a new point of view each time.

Paul Rudolph Landmark Estate

DESCRIBE the vibe and creative process in your STUDIO?

The creative process is one that I embrace and aim to have my studio run in the same way. Together we work collectively as a team to unify our ideas and voice, bringing together our independent design aesthetics and goals.

Marmara Park Avenue Hotel

which of your material innovations are your favorites and why?

It's hard to have a favorite child.

Marmara Park Avenue Hotel

BIGGEST DESIGN IMPACT THAT inspired the marmara park avenue project?

A design impact hasn't inspired the Marmara project. Rather, it was my gut that told me to create the modern metropolis setting in the heart of the city.

Marmara Park Avenue Hotel


I continue to develop a deeper understanding of how to deal with challenges that arise with each project. 

Marmara Park Avenue Hotel

MOST IMPACTFUL entity (space, art, music, etc) THAT has INSPIREd your work?

Nature, the street, Picasso and the Beatles.

Marmara Park Avenue Hotel


Keep your cool. 

Marmara Park Avenue Hotel

Lose yourself to find yourself. 

Marmara Park Avenue Hotel

Thank you Joe for the great interview! 

To connect with Joe, 

To get a daily dose of design, find MoD Design Guru on

Monday, November 10, 2014

Can the Smell of Coffee Help Sell Your House?

Having trouble selling your house?  Bake a cake and brew some coffee. The fragrance of a home is the best way to ensure prospective buyers that your home is homey and warm.

I may be biased but the best damn cup of coffee on the planet is from the Whole Bean Built-in Coffee System by Miele. Yeah, I know you are not going to buy this for your old house but I highly recommend this machine for your new house!!  A brilliant appliance that will make you happy on the inside and out! It's proven that coffee makes you happy!

I've personally shared a cup of Miele coffee with Dr. Markus Miele in Germany two years ago on Blog Tour Cologne and now again with friends on Blog Tour Cali. Its delicious!  The cappuccinos are frothy like blown up cotton clouds and have a beautiful aroma of espresso. Yum!

Carrie Leskowitz (carriesdesignmiusings) and Patti Johnson (chattipattitalksdesign)

Miele is the leader in innovation and their products are built to last. That's what their motto "Immer Besser" means. A bit more expensive than other models but who cares; it saves you on all those mocha frappachino's at Starbucks.

So back to its innovative details..... this machine is pretty awesome. It knows how tall and wide your cup is and will get the right amount of coffee in your cup without overflow. The touch interface is very easy and it can make 2 different coffee drinks at once. Another plus is that it has a drawer for mugs, plates and dishware. How cool is that? 

Miele Swiss Apple cake 
image: Chasen West

Bake this Miele Swiss Apple Cake along side your coffee and your golden with the sale of your old house! Here is the recipe:

Miele Swiss Apple Cake Recipe


  •     1 Cup + 2 tbsp all purpose flour
  •         1/4 tsp salt
  •         4-5 tbsp butter (slightly soft)
  •        3 tbsp water
  •         1/2 cup finely ground almonds, not mixed in dough


  •         3-4 apples (granny smith or other sharp tasting apples, pears or fruit)
  •          Topping:
o   8 oz heavy cream
o   2 eggs
o   ¼ cup sugar


  •         Mix together ingredients for the crust and knead to a smooth, elastic dough (can use a stand mixer). Knead briefly to bring together into a disc and wrap in plastic wrap or zip lock. Place in refrigerator to rest at least 30 min. (fits in sandwich size zip)
  •          Roll out the pastry on a floured surface, to fit the Miele round baking tin (aka-Pizza Pan). The dough will be thin, you might want to use a rolling pin to carefully place in baking tin. Press edges to side of tin. Prick the pastry with a fork and sprinkle the crust with 1/2 cup of finely ground nuts.
  •        Peel and core the fruit and cut into very thin slices. Arrange the fruit slices on the base.
  •        Beat together the cream, eggs, and sugar, pour over the fruit, then bake. Do not pour the topping over the crust too far in advance of baking or the crust will get soggy.

Thank you Miele for being one of our awesome sponsors on BlogTourCali and for the delicious brunch!

To get a daily dose of design, find MoD Design Guru on

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Miele and Mr.Steam Buzz: Cooking and Bathing with STEAM

Miele Combi Steam Oven | Mr. Steam

It's always hard coming back from a trip. Laundry, phone calls, emails, stacks of papers, family stuff and deadlines awaiting... oh my, but it was well worth it. BlogTourCali was AWESOME!  Hand picked by Modenus, I was one of eleven designers who experienced what the notion of "Living Well" is all about and how to fully integrate the elements of wellness into life with good food, good wine, good design and some mindfulness.... all compacted in five days. 

BlogTourCali doing Yoga at the Bacara Resort & Spa

In the coming weeks, I will be sharing with you my observations, and participation in what was the most amazing trip across the coast of California. Thank you Veronika of Modenus. Muah!  I learned so much, especially how we must nurture and engage our body, mind and spirit in-order to live a more fulfilled life. The tour proved that all areas such as design, health, food, nature, etc overlap and we as designers can help our clients achieve a Well-Designed Life.

Steam was the buzz word on BlogTourCali!  The power of steam has the ability to transform one's life.  I not only experienced what steamed food tastes like at Miele's showrooms in  Los Angeles and San Franscisco; but also what steambathing feels like at the Bacara Resort & Spa sponsored by Mr. Steam!

Miele Combi Steam Oven

For the foodies: Miele has taken cooking with steam to a new level with their Miele Combi Steam ovenIf you think steamed food is a dieters way of making a meal...its totally not. Let me assure you. I tasted it firsthand. On day 2 of the trip, we went over to Miele's Los Angeles showroom for brunch. There they have an open kitchen set up with professional chefs who cooked up the most visually beautiful and tasty meal all made in their Miele Combi Steam oven. All with fresh ingredients and cooked without oils and fats.  My God,  look at the cous cous and beet salad below......all made with steam!

Miele Professional Chef Lupi
image credit: Chasen West

Steam cooked food is some of the best food I have ever eaten! I was excited by Miele's technology and how easy the interface is. There are fewer steps and less mess too! So, if you want amazing flavor, texture and  color combined with all the health benefits, we all need to be preparing our food with steam!! 

For spa lovers: When you are on vacation, is the spa one of your destinations? Why can't you feel like you are on vacation at home? Your bathroom can be your spa, your sanctuary.

"Feel Good," is Mr. Steam's belief and that is why they came along on BlogTourCali to explore "the Well Designed life." On our drive to the Bacara Resort & Spa in Santa Barbara,  we laughed all the way with Martha, Mr. Steam VP of marketing. She educated BlogTourCali on all the benefits of steam with her Wellness Wheel. We all won tons of prizes!!

Martha, Mr. Steam VP of marketing and her Wellness Wheel
image credit: Chasen West

We finally arrived at the Bacara Resort & Spa. What a beautiful place! Ahhh! There we experienced a little yoga, a yummy brunch and the ultimate steaminess.....

Bacara Resort & Spa

I learned that its not all about sweating. With gobbs of TALA lava clay all over our faces (new product launch from Mr. Steam), we steamed in the resort's eucalyptus steam room. The thick mask had to dry before going in and it was steamy in there. We sat in the steam about 15 minutes and after only about 5 min., the mask started to drip. After wiping away the entire mineral enriched mask with a cool towel, my skin never felt softer. It was glowing the next day. Love that glow after a spa experience! 

This TALA stuff is amazing. 

What is TALA? Its the fountain of youth packaged in a jar. No joke.  Its a mineral based clay from the mines of the Moroccan Fez region. Its supposed to help reduce redness and unblock pores. Martha from Mr. Steam found this clay at an actual Hammam in Morocco and brought it back to the States. 

I certainly walked away from the experience that there are major health and beauty advantages to steambathing that can certainly fit into a well designed life. Martha gave us all our very own TALA gift box. Yahoo!  I promised myself that I would #SpaSunday with TALA and take a moment to nurture my body. 

TALA faces - BlogTour ladies 
image credit: Chasen West

Why wouldn't I want to have my very own spa experience at home? Next renovation, I'm getting a steam shower!! And so should my clients!!  Mr. Steam's intelligent operating system iSteam offers an array of options with easy touch screen navigation - add music, aroma, lighting and/or control the temperature in your steam room. Mr. Steams online virtual spa system makes it easy. Get a simple system or all the bells and whistles. You can see the pricing as you select your options.

So if you are remodeling, think about making it relaxing, healthy and luxurious with Steamtherapy technology by Mr. Steam. Whatever your preference, steam is personalized therapy!!

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