Lately I’ve taken on several new projects that have presented interesting obstacles and design challenges. To me, this is an opportunity to grow as a designer as well as find new vendors to add to my arsenal of professionals that help me create the best possible designs for my clients. Having vendors that provide very unique and specific products helps me to stand out in a crowded field of interior designers. It allows me to offer unique design solutions to my clients for issues that would otherwise be an eye sore. Lemons and lemonade, you get the idea.
A current kitchen project I am working on presented one such opportunity. The clients have a router that needs to stay in its current location, but we have specified a pantry to be installed there. In order to solve this issue, I decided that we would put metal grid inserts on the top row of cabinets to allow for the router to send its signal but remain invisible to the eye. This is not a new concept, of course. But the opportunity presented to us was how to make this a design FEATURE while still solving the practical problem. And so, today’s design destination is a trip to the studio of Modern Metal, a custom metal grille company that uses inspiration from textile designs, city streets, and even cocktails to create one of a kind metal panels and grilles.
Annie Kantor is the founder and owner of this studio and I got to spend a little time chatting with her about how she was inspired to start her firm and what the process was. In our conversation I learned about so many clever ways in which her product can be used; but first, a bit about Annie:
Annie Kantor earned her B.F.A. in Textile Design from the Rhode Island School of Design. After working in the New York textile industry for several years, Annie moved to Oakland, CA where she started her firm almost by accident. While working to remodel her own home, she found there were no good looking and architecturally relevant heating grills available on the market. Knowing that she could apply her textile knowledge of printing repeated patterns on a large scale, she set about creating a metal design in that same fashion. The result was a heat grill so stunning that the architect on the job encouraged her to create a line of metal grills to offer to architects and designers. And thus, Modern Metal was born.
I asked Annie what she found challenging and what she found rewarding in her work and was not surprised to hear one of her answers was that she found it sometimes isolating working mostly alone. This is true for many of us who run smaller firms and wear many hats. However, Annie found that her interactions with designers and clients were a huge part of how she stayed creative as they worked together to design specific panels for each project. One such example she gave was a more recent project in which she created custom panels for the interior of an elevator in their home. The client owns a whiskey company in England so Annie got right down to personalizing this panel with that in mind. The ending result was entitled On the Rocks and I am sure the image below illustrates why!
Her process is both ancient and modern and the results are unique, one of a kind designs that elevate any space in which they are installed. Each design starts with a hand-drawn sketch or painting that ensures a personal touch of Annie’s own hand in every finished product. The artwork is then scanned into a CAD program specifically configured for textile designers (ideal for creating patterns in repeat) before being rendered for metal fabrication. From there, either precision laser or water-jet technology is used to cut the final metal product. Every part of the process, from ideation to execution, is deftly strung to bring that initial inspiration to life in unique, alluring and ever-changing ways.
What started as a line of unique and custom heat grills grew into a large scale line of grilles and panels with an almost unlimited number of ways in which to apply them. Her panels have been used in such establishments as Oakland’s own Brown Sugar Kitchen, showrooms, hospitals, and residences all over the US. I was brimming with inspiration after hearing all the ways in which Annie has installed her product.
If Covid taught us anything, - ok, it probably taught us a LOT - it is that small businesses are the heart and soul of our economy and supporting them in any way possible will serve our local communities in countless ways. I am forever on the hunt for local, unique, women owned business that I can develop a long term working relationship with. Modern Metal is just such a firm. I look forward to seeing what Annie creates next and am certain that some of those stunning designs will end up in my own projects.
Check out more of her stunning work here:
Until next time,
College Ave, Oakland CA
College ave is one of those streets that, if taken from one end to the other, can offer up a snapshot of two distinctly different cities that represent so much of the Bay Area and its culture. Beginning at The College of the Arts and Crafts, it leads you on a journey that evokes the Oakland of the past and shows you the Oakland of the future. Funky old thrift stores, hole in the wall restaurants, typically run by an immigrant family, bars with sticky floors and a salty old guy serving up warm beer. All of this sitting shoulder to shoulder with trendy coffee shops, succulent pop ups, couture baby boutiques, and gourmet food shops selling handmade fresh pasta and $5 croissants.
At some point you cross over into Berkeley and the same story is told all over again. Only this time the dive bars of old are relic eateries touting their healthy foods and groovy decor. Street vendors still hawk their wares of hand crafted jewelry, roach clips, and Make Love not War stickers. But yet again, these places of the past are cheek to jowl with vegan pastry shops serving hand ground drip coffee, shoe stores with environmentally responsibly sourced materials, and home decor boutiques with the most beautiful accessories you never knew you needed. I love it all, the old and the new, the funky and the swanky. It is such a slice of Berkley’s evolution and its insistence on maintaining some of its hippy roots.
So follow along with me as I introduce you to a few of these spots along the way. To be sure, I have only given you a peek into all the treasures you can find on this Avenue. So, take a day and see what you find. It's a great way to learn the tale of two cities, and you can support some small and local businesses along the way!
But first….A little fuel.
Stop in at Highwire Coffee for some custom blends of coffee you won’t find anywhere else. Plus, their branding is on point! Their blend names are so fun and fit right into the Bay Area vibe. Obviously, my favorite is the Bauhaus blend. Now that we are caffeinated, let’s start the adventure. You can find them on instagram @highwirecoffee
First stop: Maisen d’ Etre. This little boutique has been on College Avenue for as long as I can remember and never fails to have some trinket or home accessory that I covet. However, the main reason I love this shop is they carry my favorite @blackwing graphite pencils! I use these stylish pencils for everything and love supporting my local business when I need to re-up my supply. The sell them individually so that you can try out all the different lead weights. I buy them in the stylish box since I use them so frequently. I love when form and function come together. Find them @maisondetreoakland
Just a few doors down is another Oakland landmark, Nathan and Co. They first opened on Piedmont Ave many years ago and became so popular they opened a second shop on College Ave. Also chock full of home accessories, and a few “spunky” ones to boot! Nathan and Co. is my go to spot for finding cookbooks that feature both local cooks as well as local food. We all know what a food scene Oakland and Berkeley are and I love pouring over all the beautifully composed cookbooks before making my selection. Check them out on Instagram! @nathanandco
Often you can find pop ups along College Ave. places where starry eyed entrepreneurs sell their wares for a few months before moving on to the next spot. You never know what you will find in these store fronts. Today I discovered a beautiful shop run by a husband and wife duo. He is a furniture maker (note to self for future projects) and she makes the most beautiful succulent wreaths. She even teaches classes on line! I enjoyed chatting with Jennifer, the wife half of the duo, and getting to hear her story and learn of her passion for what she does. Make sure you go show them some support! @westwindsucculents @lucas.ahlstrand.design
For a little Bay Area pride, I ducked into another fun pop up called Bart Bridge. This eclectic shop sells mostly Trucker style hats with just about every city you can think of stitched to the front. No matter where you are from, you can find your city and sport your hat with pride. I grew up in a Sacramento Suburb called Citrus Heights and was delighted to find my own town represented. They also sell clothing and loads of salty stickers with local Bay Area references. @bartbridgeclothing
So, whether you are a long time local, or visiting the Bay for the first time, College Ave. is a great way to great a glimpse into local life, all in one afternoon. I hope you plan your outing soon, and when you do, make sure to tag me in your adventures!
I’ve been an interior designer for almost 24 years and have learned a lot of along the way. I love sharing what I know and find that many feel as though they have been let in on a secret to learn my “insider tips”. This got me thinking: is there a way that I can reach a larger audience?
And thus Destination Design was born.
This blog is intended to take you, my readers, on a journey both near and far, with design as the center of its focus. We will explore local Bay Area neighborhoods, showcasing treasures I find appealing and would use in my own home or for any of my interior design projects. We will learn what cities have the richest design cultures, from architecture, to furniture and beyond. Follow along as I take you on a tour of my favorite design focused museums, introduce you to some of the up and coming trends and vendors, and teach you how to figure out what your own design taste is.
Special features like “Ask HCD” will offer you, the reader, the opportunity to ask your interior design questions knowing your answers come with more than two decades of knowledge.
For those of you that love design as much as I do, I hope that this page will offer great resources, tips and inspiration that lead you to your design destination.
Let’s get going!