Black + Blum are two london-based designers, Martin Blum and Dan Black, specialising in taking the most mundane of products and turning it into an object of lust – their High & Dry dishrack is almost sculptural in its appearance, while the Heavy-Weight tape dispenser is industrial chic at its best. Their latest product is the Hot-Pot BBQ, an ingenious take on a summer staple that we might not want to have on show at all times – with Black + Blum’s version, the grill part is cleverly disguised like a plant pot, with herbs growing on the top…
What was the thinking behind the Hot-Pot? We wanted a solution that fits into urban outside spaces like roof terraces. The English summer is notoriously short, so we wanted a BBQ that looked good and blended in with its surroundings when not in use. We also stuck to very strong, durable materials that won’t rust – unlike most BBQs.Barbecuing can be a very alpha male activity.
If you fire up the Hot-Pot at Black+Blum HQ in Oxo Tower, who takes charge? The inner pot that holds the charcoal is purposely shaped so you don’t need to be a boy scout to light it. There is no need for the usual puffing and blowing.
Any quick-fix recipes for a day around the coals? As the grill surface is made from a thick gauge perforated stainless steel, it’s far more versatile. You can grill any size food without having to worry that it will drop between the usual wire rods. It’s even easy to grill stuffed peppers or a fragile fish fillet!
Tell us about the new products you’re planning to launch? As most londoners without daily access to cars, the shopping trolley sounds particularly great! Our shopping trolley design is only one of many we are working on. The aim is to come up with a bag that can be carried like a tote bag, squeezed under your arm when empty. When you start filling it up you can wheel it. We want it to become an accessory that you are not ashamed of wheeling around – male or female, young or young at heart.
There is something distinctly Japanese in your designs, like a good-quality Muji but with a sense of humour. Are you influenced by Japan? We first visited Japan in 2004 and have been back several times since. It was mindblowing, and a great source of new inspiration. Everything is similar but just that bit more gentle and poetic. Martin is also married to a Japanese woman. She is an artist and enjoys giving her input to the designs we develop. And Martin is Swiss – we all know the Swiss are notorious for our hilarious sense of humour…
Where did you two meet? We met at University where we both studied Design for Industry. We realised that we worked very well together and this first sparked the idea of working together sometime in the future.
When you’re not working, what do you love to do? M: I switch off by kite-surfing, skiing (I am Swiss after all) or anything to do with classic cars. D: I have a two-year-old boy called Jamie (named after our doorstop, which we’re holding above) and my wife is about to have another baby in a few weeks time. So at the moment, I like day dreaming about the things I love to do…which might include painting.
Apart from designing beautiful and useful products, what else are you good at? M: I recently put up some shelves for my neighbour. Last week I took apart our washing machine and managed to fix it! I was quietly impressed…. D: I like growing my own vegetables. I’m not very good at it, but learn a bit more each year and currently have some great broad beans, onions and potatoes on the go.
What are your homes like? M: We’ve opened up the top floor of our mews house and installed three big roof windows, so it is very light and airy. We try to keep things minimal. My wife enforces the rule that for everything that comes into the house, something has to leave…I managed to smuggle in a few things. D: We live in rural Rutland in a lovely old limestone village house. The original part of the house was built in the 17th century and over the years it has been knocked around a bit, so is quite higgledy piggledy but with a lovely atmosphere.
Tell us something you’ve never told the other. M: I used to be able to skateboard down our drive on my hands when I was a teenager! D: When I was eight, I was able to play the ‘Pink Panther’ theme tune on the saxophone quite well.