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 the client's 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,