Contributors: The Ultimate Home and Inspired Houses
In past years, Robb Report’s Ultimate Homes have been compilations of extraordinary rooms selected from residences throughout the world. This year, in "Belle of Bel Air", our Ultimate Home feature, we once again spotlight a collection of remarkable rooms and other spaces. However, all of them are contained within a single home, in the hills of the Bel Air neighborhood of Los Angeles. "It was easier in terms of research," home and design editor Samantha Brooks says of the change in format, "but you have to justify the selection. That’s a challenge, because there is so much to say about the home, but a limited amount of space in which to do it."
In the past, notes Brooks, the Ultimate Home has included rooms that were eye-catching and original but not always practical. This is not the case with any of the rooms in this issue’s feature. "This home is anything but over-the-top," she says. "It’s incredibly tasteful and refined."
Taste and refinement always have been the hallmarks of the premier jewelry houses and designers. In "Rising from the East", Jill Newman, who serves as RobbReport.com’s executive editor and covers the jewelry industry for the magazine, writes about the prevalence of Asian design themes in many recent jewelry collections. "Some of the great jewelry houses are referencing their archives for inspiration," says Newman, noting how motifs originating from India and other Asian countries became popular with jewelry designers during the Art Deco period, in the early 20th century. "It makes sense that some of these great jewelers again would look to India for inspiration, because diamonds were discovered there. It’s such a rich resource for jewelry."
Some of the jewelry featured in the story is made in India, where at least one of the houses crafts its pieces using methods that have been employed for centuries. "They almost refuse to utilize modern technology to make some of the modern pieces," Newman says. "That’s what makes these pieces more charming, more captivating, and more personal than a machine-made piece of jewelry. There’s something almost imperfect about them because you can see that they’re made by hand."
Imperfections are unacceptable at Vacheron Constantin, says senior editor Laurie Kahle, who recently toured the South African mine and refinery from which the Geneva watchmaker sources platinum for its timepieces. In "White Hot", Kahle describes the arduous tasks of extracting ore from the mine and converting it, through a series of chemical processes, into the precious metal. "I’d been to gem mines before, but not to a precious metals mine," she says. "It’s much more involved than finding a stone, cutting it, and polishing it."
In "Horse Powered", contributing editor William Kissel writes about Hermès’ bespoke division, Hermès Gainier, as well as its new store in Manhattan, across from the New York Stock Exchange. "Hermès has gone so far beyond what its original product was," says Kissel. "It started out as a saddle maker. Today it’s creating helicopters and motorcycles and even talking about creating luggage for spaceships."
Kissel used to consider Hermès a women’s brand, so he was surprised to learn that about half of its business caters to men, including those who make unusual requests of the bespoke division. "Some of these customers come into the store and have some wacky ideas of what they have to have in their lives," he says. "But the nice thing about Hermès, you can have whatever you want, no matter how extreme."