The Elegant Ashtray

Designer Vladymir Rogov masters the mundane

Mona de Crinis El Paseo, Interior Design, Real Estate

Designer Vladymir Rogov speaks through his creations. Pieces from his elegant Desk Architecture series wax poetic about the human condition. The sleek collection — which includes a picture frame, letter tray, letter opener, clock, and 10-pound ashtray — unites social rituals, human interactions, function, and fine art.

The ashtray, for example, represents the social transactions occurring when people share a smoke — a ritual that has survived centuries, Rogov explains. “Imagine the stories and experiences that Desk Architecture ashtrays will witness over the generations they are designed to last,” he observes. “I believe that objects carry karma. The artifact is a catalyst in expressing a quality of human interaction.”

Rogov’s experience designing items of use, from housewares and medical supplies to toys and cars (his impressive portfolio includes Aston Martin interiors), spans decades. With Desk Architecture, a complementary palette of modernism, art, and design facilitates the marriage of creativity and utility: the stylish love child of architect and poet. Made of polished black nickel, silver, or 24-karat gold plate, Rogov’s masterpieces move the mundane into the realm of magnificent.

While it’s difficult to imagine crushing a cigarette into a signed piece of art valued at around $4,000, it’s part of the karmic sacrifice. “The ash is a secondary function, that’s the utility,” Rogov says during a visit to Palm Desert Tobacco. He taps ash from a Cuban cigar into a once-pristine sea of polished black nickel. “We seem to have devoted a lot of energy into banning things,” he adds with a sly grin. “And we realize we wiped out some of the things that bring people together.”

Bert Bruning, owner of Palm Desert Tobacco, the valley’s exclusive carrier of Desk Architecture ashtrays, appreciates Rogov’s support of the art of the smoke. Carrying the exclusive product fits well with Bruning’s other high-end items, such as a $6,000 Davidoff cigar humidor.

“I suggested he needed something to match the quality of his humidors,” Rogov says with a quick laugh, adding that he chose the upscale smoke shop on El Paseo because of its ambiance, charm, and Old World class. “It represents what Desk Architecture is all about,” he says, “respecting rituals and human interactions. I wanted to place a piece of artwork in the store.”

Bruning understandably keeps the ashtrays under lock and key. Each signed piece comes in a white lacquered gift box, along with a numbered certificate of authenticity. 

A family business, Palm Desert Tobacco has been around since 1969 and on El Paseo for about 15 years, successfully celebrating the ritual of tobacco with a style and elegance that even nonsmokers appreciate.

The New Modern

With sleek designs paralleling the desert’s midcentury modern aesthetic, Rogov launched Desk Architecture during 2010 Palm Springs Modernism Week (

“The city has a design history and a fine regard for art,” Rogov explains. “Modernism Week fits in with the philosophy of this collection by promoting public awareness of the desert’s midcentury modern design and architecture, as well as the event’s educational and charitable activities around the celebration of postwar design aesthetics and culture.” The event also provides an opportunity to witness “new modern” design as it is evolving today and as it manifests the modern spirit in the twenty-first century, Rogov says.

This year, Rogov invites the public to experience his design inspiration first-hand. His lecture, Parallel Universe, takes place Feb. 23 during 2011 Palm Springs Modernism Week, offering a multimedia overview on a world where all design styles coexist and flourish in parallel. “Styles carry forward year after year and can give people broader options, personal freedom and creativity to express their own styles, by mix and matching the best from each period,” Rogov explains. “Imagine a fine pallet drawn from styles such as Provincial, Modern, Goth, Medieval, Baroque, Asian, African, Egyptian, and so on. I will explore the subject more, show examples, and encourage people to mix and match and elevate function to fine art.”

Rogov Desk Architecture is available in limited editions at and select stores in Southern California. The ashtray is available at Palm Desert Tobacco, 73580 El Paseo, Palm Desert. 1-760-340-1954;

Fast Fun Facts

The Desk Architecture collection “stars” with Nicolas Cage and Nicole Kidman in Trespass, a new thriller by Joel Schumacher.

Rogov holds five U.S. patents, and his designs have been the recipient of prestigious awards.

In 1983, Rogov won the Design Canada Excellence Award. He also has received two International Design Excellence Awards (IDEA) from the Industrial Designers Society of America.