Most people turn on the faucet in their home without even thinking about how much work went into creating it. I had the opportunity to interview Brizo designer Celine Kwok at the ELLE DECOR Modern Life Concept House recently. As we walked around the house that included Brizo faucets and hardware, we discussed how she became an industrial designer, her inspirations, and what she's working on now. I definitely have a new found appreciation for each time I turn on the water at my own sink and I think you will too.
How did you become a designer of faucets and hardware? What type of training is required? How long have you been with Brizo?
I will have been with the company for six years this August. Judd Lord, our Director of Industrial Design, actually found my portfolio online and that's pretty much how I became a designer of faucets and hardware!
I don't think there is any faucet specific training required to design faucets, other than having a background in product design. However, I did take plumbing classes. Installing and uninstalling kitchen and bathroom fixtures helped me learn more about how the components work together. As far as designing goes, my background in Graphic Design and Furniture Design also helped a lot. Graphic design also helped me pay attention to the small details, while furniture design taught me to think and design in 3D, which is important because faucets are very sculptural objects.
How many collections do you work on each year?
Each year, Brizo launches one or two bath collections and one or two kitchen collections. We have a team of six designers here at the studio. We all work on multiple projects that extend through multiple style categories and various levels of innovation. We don't have specific designers assigned to a collection right off the bat. Instead, we improve our ideas by discussing them as a team and conducting various research exercises to determine which concepts work best for that particular project/collection. Once a design has been chosen, the designer or that particular concept then typically expands the entire suite.
I think it's a great way to keep a collection fresh. The initial pool of ideas comes from a group of creative people who all bring their own perspectives and life experiences into play. It also helps keep us constantly inspired. The diverse group of designers here makes working for Brizo fun and allows us to challenge each other to step it up even more the next time around.
Where do you look for inspiration?
So many different things inspire me. Most of the time, I draw on inspiration from home decor products, interior design, fashion, and graphic design.
Each of the designers at Brizo attends several unique design and trend shows around the world, almost always in cities that have some sort of architectural or design significance.
If possible, we try to attend shows that are not faucet or fixture related. Most of the time, the shows we review cover categories such as fashion, furniture or lighting. We even go to gift fairs. Just getting out of our normal environment and immersing ourselves into a different culture keeps me inspired.
How do you organize your inspiration?
Sites like Pinterest help keep me organized but for work related projects, I tend to keep a PowerPoint presentation of images on my desktop.
You've said that hardware is like the jewelry of the bathroom and kitchen. Do you ever look to jewelry for inspiration?
Jewelry can often give an outfit that final, finishing touch and I like to think that's what a faucet does for the kitchen or bathroom too.
I've taken a few jewelry classes and they have given me a deeper appreciation for all the intricate details that go into making it. And it's in those details that I often find the best ideas. It could be the clasp of a necklace instead of the necklace itself that sparks an idea in me. As I mentioned before, I look to many things for inspiration and jewelry is definitely one of them. I especially like looking at vintage jewelry pieces when I'm designing for a traditional line. What's funny though, is that more often than not, none of my faucets look anything like what I drew my inspiration from.
I'm seeing a lot of brass fixtures used in bathrooms right now. Are you noticing this as well and how are you responding to this trend?
I agree that brass seems to be making a resurgence. I've noticed it used a lot in order to make a product look vintage, period, or steampunk. A lot of the brass also has a brushed/textured/aged finish to it. Even with polished brass and gold, it seems to have more of a warmer tone to it, compared to what we saw in the '80s. I'm also seeing a lot of gold and rose gold pop up in jewelry. As a matter of fact, I bought myself a pale gold chain link necklace earlier this year even though I'm more of a silver and chrome type of person.
Brizo has a finish called Brilliance Brushed Bronze that plays well in this warmer tone. It can be found on Solna, RSVP, Talo, Tresa, Virage, Baliza, and Quiessence models.
What's your favorite piece you've created for Brizo?
My favorite piece is still a work in progress which will launch in 2013. So far though, I'd have to say that the Siderna robe hooks are my favorite. They're so pretty, simple, and geometric but they are designed in such a way that you can mount them in a variety or configurations.
Brizo often participates in show houses. Do you ever find yourself inspired by the room designs? Have you ever designed a custom piece for one?
Oh, absolutely! The products I design are meant for the home, so it makes sense to look to interior design for inspiration. Show houses are a great way for me to keep up with new trends in the home.
We don't do custom designs for a particular room here at Brizo. We have a trend tracking process in place which we keep to, and that is usually how we develop our designs. We leave the specifying of products to architects and designers. In the case of this year's show houses, they picked Solna for the kitchen and Loki for the bathrooms.
Sometimes it seems like there are only so many finishes and styles you can create for faucets and hardware. Are there any new trends in development like different colors or technological advancements we can expect in the future?
Actually, I see there being an infinite amount of finishes and styles. As eclectic as the world is today, it's really exciting and wide open. To help us navigate through all these possibilities at our studio, we employ a process that uses ethnographic research to identify previously unidentified unmet needs.
That process has led us to develop new innovations, such as our SmartTouch Technology (which allows touch activation) and MagneDock (which uses magnets to secure Brizo pull down and pull out spouts). Those two are found in almost all of our kitchen models. The same is true for many of our lavatory models, where you'll find our SmartTouch Plus Technology (which allows hands-free and touch activation), and TempIQ (a new temperature-sensing technology, in which the light indicator changes color according to the temperature). These technologies make space more ergonomically efficient. They also untie our hands from an aesthetic stand point, because products no longer have to follow old, mechanically-driven constraints. For example, faucets now don't require a handle, which means we can rethink how we want to deliver water.
Regarding finishes, we typically work around a core of six to eight, that are timeless in nature. But we always keep our eyes open for new opportunities. Our recent trend tracking has allowed us to expand upon two colors, Matte Black and Matte White, which has regained popularity, as well as sending us in a brand new direction with Cocoa Bronze.
Cocoa Bronze is a finish that has really capitalized on the trend of bathrooms becoming a more spa-like destination. In the past few years, we've seen a lot more furniture and wood tones being pulled into this space. Cocoa Bronze has a dark espresso color with a hint of copper undertones, which are very complimentary with wood, regardless of whether the bathroom space is traditional or modern in style.
Additionally, the introduction of glass into our Siderna bath collection has also added texture and color. The new material really elevates and celebrates the clean lines of that suite.
I certainly never realized how much time and effort goes into faucets and fixtures and thank Celine Kwok and Brizo for this education!
This post has been sponsored but all opinions expressed are my own.