Hip, Hip, Hooray to JRML’s Quarter-Century in Business!

Early this week, as we were resuming work after the holiday break, an associate exclaimed:  This year marks the firm’s 25th anniversary, we should celebrate the occasion.  Indeed, being in business for a quarter-century is a significant milestone, but how can one revel without reflecting on the path’s profound challenges.

After spending a decade designing waterfront and inner-city projects from Long Island, New York to the Outer Banks of North Carolina, I landed in Virginia Beach, Virginia in February of ’93, tasked to manage the construction of an oceanfront home I designed for a client from Santa Cruz, CA. 

New to the area, I rented a room at the Royal Clipper Inn on Atlantic Avenue.  The client made space in his firm’s copy room for me, ironically at the same time, SNL’s “Copy Guy” skit was popular.  (And yes, everyone called me “copy guy.”)  After finding a home in Shadowlawn, my partner, Monique, relocated from Philadelphia, our former hometown.

We immediately established JRML, an initialism for Jon Rizzo and Monique Libby.  I was responsible for “exterior design,” and she, for “interior design."  Since ’93, Monique and I, along with a talented roster of associates and interns, have designed hundreds of custom homes, communities, kitchens, and baths, additions, residential and commercial interiors, and hospitality projects from Hampton Roads to as far south as Mexico.  

Over the past 25-years, some of the highlights we have enjoyed include winning ten design awards.  Helping shape the interior design curriculum at Tidewater Community College.   Mentoring young designers through employment, summer internships, and TBA/HGTV design competitions.  And having our work featured on network television and numerous shelter publications. 

Was the journey easy? Not always.  As design and construction are symbiotic, we suffered every case of unbridled greed and concomitant economic decline from the 1990s S&L crisis, to the Dot-Com bust of 2000, and the Great Recession of 2007.  Through each crucible, our sought-after creativity, problem-solving skills, and business acumen saved the firm. 

To Monique and I, designing is the “art of the lonely leap.”  As seasoned designers, our success directly correlates with the intrinsic ability to know when, after much thought and research, we arrive at the optimal solution that satisfies a client’s needs.  And how is this confirmed?  Why from the smile-inducing notes we receive, containing prose that commends our effort, and reaffirms that our choice to pursue design was worthwhile and gratifying.    

Cheers to another 25 years, and sincere thanks to every client for allowing us to do what we love!


Miele: Revolutionizing Cooking

Recently, Miele announced not only a new product but also a possible new way of cooking at an unveiling in Berlin, introducing the new Dialog Oven.  The appliance looks like a conventional Miele oven, complete with a touchscreen and a sleek appearance. The Miele team demonstrated how different the Dialog Oven is by cooking a piece of raw codfish inside of a block of ice.

This method of cooking is possible with electromagnetic waves.  Dr. Axel Kniehl, executive director of marketing and sales for Miele, explained that this science had an unusual inspiration.  “We saw an idea in the basic technology used in organ transplant,” said Kniehl. “Regeneration has to be done there in a very cautious, even way, and we thought there might be something in that we could use outside of the medical field.”

Like in the medical version, the Dialog Oven features a modular unit that generates electromagnetic waves in a specific frequency range and distributes these in the oven with two antennas.  As the molecules in different foods are arranged in different ways and even rearrange during cooking, the technology provides the Dialog Oven with feedback on the amount of energy absorbed by food, and the oven targets the right foods and responds.  This is how different foods are detected and cooked accurately.

Another advantage of the oven is that food is cooked volumetrically; a filet of meat is cooked uniformly from the edges right to the center. In a conventional oven, this is much more difficult since heat travels from the outside in.  In the Dialog Oven, electromagnetic waves ensure the food is cooked from the inside out.

Since cooking with electromagnetic waves does not brown the surfaces of food, bread can be baked entirely without a crust. For a classic loaf of bread and the roasted aromas of meat, the oven technology always combines with radiant heat. Also, the oven features Miele’s flagship cooking products, including a user-friendly M Touch display. Elegant and uniform illumination on all levels is guaranteed by high-quality LED lighting.

When the oven first launches in 2018 in Germany and Austria, users will find several other convenient, high-tech features.


Bath Evolution

Textured and patterned tile, rustic industrial elements, vintage vanities, French shower door enclosures, darker colors, vintage-look floor tiles, round mirrors, bold accent walls, brass and gold, under-counter appliances, unique tile shapes, real rain and multi-point shower heads, heated floors, intelligent toilets, spa baths, hydrotherapy baths, touch faucets, digital shower systems, customization, advanced lighting…

The modern bath has evolved beyond mere preening.  To relieve stress, the extraordinarily motivated crave spa showers with body sprays and cascading rain heads, and hydrotherapy experiences offering quiet repose to stimulating invigoration.

From modern minimalism to luxe transitional to whatever you can dream, JRML’s boutique design studio will affect your vision.    


What is Transitional Design?

In recent years, traditional kitchen designs have been surpassed in popularity by transitional design.  Driven by a desire for people to spend more time socializing, kitchens today are expanding into living spaces.  In a world where people are working, socializing, and overall treating the kitchen as the heart of their home, transitional design is the perfect approach to designing a kitchen that will be used for more than meal preparation.

A Clean, Comfortable and Simple Aesthetic

The current trend of transitional design evokes a clean, comfortable and simple aesthetic. In this new world of kitchen design, everything may have a practical purpose, but the end result is a beautiful space where everyone feels at home.

Contemporary Styles with Cues from the Past

A transitional kitchen borrows elements or references styles of the past and combines them with contemporary features to produce something new and fresh. This trend has meant a shift toward a contemporary and very modern-looking kitchen, but with style references that feel familiar.

An Emphasis on “Blending”

Transitional design relies on built-in appliances that serve both a practical and aesthetic purpose—enhancing the usage experience while maximizing available space and creating a visually more pleasing environment. Instead of standing out, the appliances blend in, creating a cohesive, and more beautiful whole. These modern aspects of transitional design may manifest itself in a number of different ways, from stainless steel ranges and undercounter refrigerators to double sinks and stylish new dishwashers.

Source: U-Line

Transitional design combines elements of old and new.

Transitional design combines elements of old and new.

Wassily Chair

There are a plethora of stories here, but I want to focus on the chair as no other could achieve its appropriateness in this setting.              

Designed in 1925 by Marcel Breuer, the Wassily Chair was revolutionary in the use of bent tubular steel.  Breuer, inspired by the lightness of his first bicycle frame began to experiment using the material in furniture design.

With its minimal seamless steel frame and straps of leather forming the seat, back and arms, the chair’s openness allow the colorful book jackets to play a part in the composition.  The frame’s radiuses, curvilinear stair brackets, and railing’s scroll panels create an asymmetrical balance, where different objects have an equal visual attraction; its curves emphasizing the triangle formed by the stair's niche.   

As Picasso's photograph adorns the wall directly above the side table, I’d be remiss for not pointing out the chrome frame's highlights, the final touch a painter employs, giving life to their canvas.

The work exhibits an expert touch through the manipulation of spatial volume, surface treatment, product, and principles of interior design. 

My partner Monique is responsible for the design, and each time I visit this composition, I am reminded of her exceptional talent. 

It's All in the Details

I have the daily privilege of overhearing our interior design director, and enthusiastic associates discuss decorating ideas down to the smallest details.  Their team rigorously considers each design element for unity, balance, rhythm, emphasis, contrast, scale and proportion, and details before being considered.    

Yesterday, one conversation focused on a table lamp selection, the final design element concluding their client presentation.  After reviewing dozens of styles for lumen type, photo metrics, and CRI (bulb, beam spread, and color rendering index), the team analyzed each lamp's surface to eye level distance, shade length ratio, and shade diameter.  The remainder were then subjected to the seven principles of interior design to determine appropriateness.  

After much deliberation, the group chose a lamp designed by George Nelson, one of the most inventive minds of the twentieth century.  The inspiration for his Lantern Lamp stemmed from a photo of mothballed ships covered in netting and sprayed with a self-webbing plastic.  After spinning a skeleton of steel wires on a turntable and shooting it with translucent plastic, George wrapped the structure in a smooth, washable film.  After outfitting his creation with a lamp (bulb), he exclaimed: “it glowed.”  

In interior design, details are like jewelry.  From the pillow sham piping to the color and pattern of embroidery, each detail adds its distinctive feature to the overall composition.   As you may have guessed by now, even a lamp deserves much contemplation before making its debut.

Kitchen on the Cheap!

JRML was just commissioned to provide design and construction management for the Lambert’s Point Market renovation, a 100-year building anchoring the corners of Parker Ave and 40th Street in Norfolk, Virginia.  The site is adjacent to Old Dominion University’s campus.   Additional tasks include market analysis, regulatory, permitting, and study of student interaction within the built environment.

Our feasibility and structural analysis revealed 12-inch thick brick exterior walls, timber and steel beams, brick interior walls, high ceilings and windows, and an old safe.  The site also has a large side yard for off-street parking – a coveted asset.

Engaged in off-campus housing rentals to college students, the client requested a unique design but stressed cost efficiency.  We responded with an industrial style focused on durability, privacy, acoustics, energy efficiency, and security to allay parental concerns.

Our kitchen rendering illustrates restaurant grade stainless steel prep, sink table, and shelving for the cabinetry; a plastic laminate bar top; a recycled gym locker for the pantry; and standard appliances.  A focal point of glittering acrylic cast plastic resin completes the bar front.  

Total kitchen cost: $6,838.00!  A big impact at a small cost.

A Designer's Vision

In 1936, Frank Lloyd Wright’s vision for SC Johnson Company’s holistic workspace reached a crisis when the Wisconsin Industrial Commission denied Wright a building permit because they didn't believe a mushroom-like column could support the 12 tons of weight he suggested.  

To appease his critics, Wright staged a test, dumping sandbags on top of a column to prove its strength. Once workers reached 12 tons, they paused. Wright instructed them to continue, standing beneath the structure and tapping it with his cane for effect. Construction crews eventually loaded 60 tons of material atop the lone column, stopping not because the column failed, but because they ran out of space to add more weight. Wright was given his building permit.

Recently, we designed a steel hanger system to support girders fastened to each side of a column supporting a roof.  Our solution supported the weight and created a continuous load path, resulting in a clean aesthetic.  The City of Norfolk disagreed.  We replied citing the relevant building code provision and our interpretation.  Again we were denied.

Fortunately, we live in a different age than Wright.  Using modeling software, we proved to the building official that our solution was structurally sound.  After a few days, the city granted us a building permit.  

As an International Code Council member, I informed the official that we would pursue the inclusion of our system in the next code update. 

Kitchens 2017: What's in and What's Out

1.    Contemporary kitchens overtook traditional styles.  Transitional designs still reign.
2.    White and gray painted cabinets and color schemes dominate; blue and black are
3.    Mixed colors and materials are trending, with exaggerated two-toned effects.
4.    White wood cabinets rule current tastes, but metal cabinetry is growing.
5.    Furniture-look pieces, roll-outs, pullouts, and LED lighting are popular, as are bigger
6.    Quartz countertops are king while granite trends downward.
7.    Induction cooktops convection ovens, and microwave drawers proliferate, same for
       steam ovens.
8.    Technology and integration are on the rise.
9.    Barn and pocket doors are growing in popularity.
10.   Clients are also requesting accessible and universal design features.


Yet Another Divider Solution

Often, in an open setting, the need arises to separate one space from another.  We have an entire section in our resource library devoted to what we call "dividers."  

From woven wire cloth to translucent or laser cut panels, the choices are many.  Just when we think we have exhausted all options, a new product is introduced, adding another design tool to our toolbox.    

In our constant search to discover the perfect solution, we found this linear pendant fixture.  Formed by transparent alternating glass elements, the assembly allows for infinite designs.  And for larger spaces, the units can be combined.  

The wiring is hidden in the globe's shaded area to conceal the light source.  LED spot lights, embedded in the ceiling canopy, illuminate the assembly from above.

We just love the fixture's interstice, for a deconstructed view of the adjacent space's furnishings, accessories, and art.