Making responsible material selections.

November 28th, 2008 § 4 Comments

EMOTION DRIVES THE PURCHASE
Love this counter! I just dig it. Look at the color, the patina of it. It reflects light. The direction in counter design lately is for less shiny, more informal matte finishes as well as mixing textures such as glass, natural stone, engineered stone, wood or stainless steel.

I have the same emotional “ooh-ah” reaction when I look at velvety smooth soft marble counters. The creaminess is lovely to look at but the acid etching and staining, not so pretty after years of use. As with anything, surface beauty has a story behind it. Do the research before you buy. Understand how various materials rate for maintenance and the environmental impact a product has before you buy.

UNDER THE MICROSCOPE
Did you guess that the counter featured above is concrete? If you did, you get to pass GO and get another roll at the dice again at the eco-friendly game of design monopoly. Any outsider thinking it is a piece of cake to make selections in materials, has yet to remodel. As design and remodeling specialists in our given field, we have the added burden of keeping up with all the latest information before us to help our guide our clients with the best materials for their remodel. The truth is, it is not really a burden. It’s only a burden if you don’t bother to educate yourself. It’s a fascinating time to be in design with so many wonderful material options and information available.

Getting back to the picture above, evaluating concrete counters we can say they are a good option for a sustainable surface, as they are made from limestone, an abundant mineral. Eco-friendly aside, is concrete for you? How fastidious are you about the materials for your project? For more facts on concrete counters than you ever need to know, click here.

If you love the look of concrete like I do, a quick primer video to watch by Fu Teng Chung, Video: Concrete Countertop Vulnerabilities, will show you a concrete counter that has been installed for over twenty five years. There is no reason to limit yourself to one material. Consider the use of more than one counter surface in your design.

Quick fact: Concrete has the same porosity as marble. Translation: monitored maintenance for counter surfaces, requiring regular sealing or waxing. If the idea of “wax on/wax off” is better suited for the Karate Kid and not a part of your cleaning regimen, consider the alternatives. Or if you are athletically inclined you could work in counter maintenance as part of your arm routine. Lats Tuesday: wax the counters. (Ok, so maybe you don’t need to buff out your counters weekly, but there is maintenance, unless you have the easy going attitude that Fu Teng Chung has about his counter tops. Be truthful, can you live with irregularities and vulnerabilities?).

For a similar look without the added regimen of regular t.l.c. & maintenance, watch for the hot colors coming up in 2009 from Caesarstone. For now, one of my favorite colors with Caesarstone is # 4350, Lagos Blue. You can order it polished (left) or honed (right).

There are other quartz products out there, so don’t write to me to tell me that, I am simply showing Lagos Blue as alternative color to the concrete shown above.

AS FOR THE CABINETS…
featured featured in The New York Times, Home and Garden section, 11/26/08: Of the Sea, and Air, and Sky

…I am shocked.
The design team and homeowners selected, approved and installed Brazilian rosewood cabinets for this kitchen.

Brazilian Rosewood, (Dalbergia nigra), is listed on the official list of threatened Brazilian plants by IBAMA. It is CITES-listed, (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora), and illegal to trade. It is one of the most highly prized woods in Brazil.

The New York Times article does not provide all the specifications for the products, so to be fair, I do not have all the facts on this project. If anyone associated with this project can answer the question, I would be willing to post the answer here. Are the woods selected in this project FSC certified as harvested from a “well-managed” forest?

WHAT LENGTH’S WOULD YOU GO…
to own a wood product that is on the endangered list?

Brazilian Rosewood timber has been harvested since colonial times for high-quality furniture and musical instruments. Rates of deforestation are great. Regeneration appears to be poor, possibly because of seed predation by rodents. Source: http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/32985

Factoid: Brazilian rosewood became famous in 1921 as an ingredient in Chanel No. 5 and continues to be harvested (often illegally and unsustainably) for fragrances, flooring, furniture, and musical instruments.
reference: Sustainable Development in the Brazilian Amazon: A Tale of Two Community-Based Organizations by Robert C. Tatum1,2 Department of Economics University of North Carolina at Asheville

This newly constructed McMansion Malibu digs featured in the New York Times article is of course, exquisite, and a testament to what money can buy . This could have been an opportunity to promote sustainable design by selecting wood products that are not derived from rain forest destruction.

SHOPPING TRIPS.

We can do a better job at reducing the negative environmental impact with sustainable design selections.

The US is the second largest importer of tropical woods. Ouch! Not really an astounding fact, is it? I am not suggesting you throw out your grandmother’s rosewood jewelry case or the buffet handed down to you from your mother. Exotic woods have always had a cache, a status symbol of wealth. It is up to Design/Build professionals for reversing this trend of unsustainable design/build construction practices and providing our clients sustainable alternatives.

MAKING RESPONSIBLE CHOICES. WHAT YOU CAN DO.

  1. Avoid any wood product that you cannot identify as domestic and second growth.
  2. For plywood, use domestic softwood plywood (pine and spruce) or hardwood plywood (maple, beech and birch).
  3. Avoid tools with wooden handles unless they are oak, ash or hickory.
  4. Buy used furniture or antiques.
  5. Always ask if any tropical woods are independently certified, such as SmartWood™. These are okay to buy.

PEACE ON EARTH: INQUIRING MINDS WANT TO KNOW.
Ask for manufacturer literature that indicates their level of commitment to protecting our natural resources. Manufacturers are willing to step up their game. One example of responsible manufacturing is Caesarstone. Caesarstone’s Eco Brochure shows the company’s environmental commitment.

Look for cabinet manufacturers that have earned their certification in the groundbreaking Environmental Stewardship Program administered by the KCMA (Kitchen Cabinet Manufacturer’s Association). This program was recently developed in 2006 and grants annual certification to those manufacturers who meet a stringent set of environmental criteria. The criteria, designed to promote the sustainability of natural resources, reduce waste, and to reward those companies who are going above and beyond in their efforts to reduce environmental impacts. The criteria is divided into the following five categories, which manufacturers are required to demonstrate their compliance.

  1. Air Quality: Manufacturers must demonstrate their use of low formaldehyde containing raw materials. They must also demonstrate compliance with all local and federal hazardous air pollutants (HAPS) regulations.
  2. Product Resource Management: Manufacturers must demonstrate their use of recycled and sustainable products.
  3. Process Resource Management: Manufacturers must have active recycling and energy conservation programs in place.
  4. Environmental Stewardship: Manufacturers must have a written environmental policy, as well as environmental management systems in place.
  5. Community Relations: Manufacturer must demonstrate their involvement with the community through service or charitable organizations.

CONSERVATION IS NOT A DIRTY WORD.
Information is all around us. Resources abound. You can be informed. Another good source for further reading on conservation: Rainforest Alliance
Whatever you do, research your products before you buy. Look for the KCMA, FSC symbols as credible labels on your wood products.

Beautiful sinks

April 20th, 2008 § 1 Comment

More beautiful kitchen sinks.
Enjoy!

What strikes me the most about this sink and counter is the rustic appeal of the concrete against the glossy cast iron sink. A mix of materials-Beautiful.

The concrete countertops were cast in place and finished with an acrylic sealer and a special wax. To maintain the patina, they’re rewaxed about every two months.
As seen in House Beautiful.


French country style with the farmhouse sink is the cleanup and storage area, where dishes are kept. House Beautiful.

Ann Sacks’s Zeus sink with an antique copper patina is paired with Kohler’s Vinnata faucet in Vibrant Brazen Bronze. From House Beautiful. Click here.

Bucks County Soapstone makes the old-fashioned farmhouse sink with a canted front and a little dip in the rim, as if it had worn down over the years. Perrin & Rowe faucet for Rohl.


Franke’s Manor House apron-front sink in stainless steel puts an industrial spin on the country look. As seen in House Beautiful.

A duo with creative details. The Farmhouse sinks and Julia faucets are from Waterworks. The counter top is made of two 3/4 inch slabs of Calacatta Oro marble put together, for extra thickness, then topped with a third layer in back. As seen in House Beautiful.

French Country in Darien, Connecticut. Click here for House Beautiful article.

Beautiful sinks

April 20th, 2008 § 2 Comments

More beautiful kitchen sinks.
Enjoy!

What strikes me the most about this sink and counter is the rustic appeal of the concrete against the glossy cast iron sink. A mix of materials-Beautiful.

The concrete countertops were cast in place and finished with an acrylic sealer and a special wax. To maintain the patina, they’re rewaxed about every two months.
As seen in House Beautiful.


French country style with the farmhouse sink is the cleanup and storage area, where dishes are kept. House Beautiful.

Ann Sacks’s Zeus sink with an antique copper patina is paired with Kohler’s Vinnata faucet in Vibrant Brazen Bronze. From House Beautiful. Click here.

Bucks County Soapstone makes the old-fashioned farmhouse sink with a canted front and a little dip in the rim, as if it had worn down over the years. Perrin & Rowe faucet for Rohl.


Franke’s Manor House apron-front sink in stainless steel puts an industrial spin on the country look. As seen in House Beautiful.

A duo with creative details. The Farmhouse sinks and Julia faucets are from Waterworks. The counter top is made of two 3/4 inch slabs of Calacatta Oro marble put together, for extra thickness, then topped with a third layer in back. As seen in House Beautiful.

French Country in Darien, Connecticut. Click here for House Beautiful article.

Practicality of Concrete

April 6th, 2008 § Leave a Comment

The floor shown on the left was my inspiration color.
In the last showroom I designed, I used the concrete slab as the finished floor. We didn’t have a big budget for wood or stone tile floors, so we thought we would work with what we had, concrete. Even then, we found out that concrete could be expensive if you go the route of an overlay, a stamped pattern or a highly polished mirrored like finish. We went for economical route by resurfacing and adding a stain to the existing surface.

We received so many complements on the floor that I laugh when I remember the trauma involved.

Everyone who stopped in wanted to know how we achieved that color. It was an acid wash base of terra cotta and verdigris and it turned out fabulous. But fabulous is never easy.

We wound up doing it ourselves, or rather our GC was brought in to fix it. It was a lot of trial and error. At first, we got 2-3 quotes from different concrete sub contractors to do the work. I was ready to hire one company who’s references checked out great. Then, the first contractor who’s original bid was higher than all the others came back, made us an offer to reduce the price as long as we let him use the showroom floor to advertise his work. That sounded fine. If he wanted to bring his clients to our showroom to look at his work, why not?

What do they say about a deal to good to be true? You know what comes next. We gave him the deposit, he sands the floors, and then we never saw him again. He gave us every excuse in the book why he couldn’t come back to finish the job. We waited as patiently as we could, but it was costing us thousands due to his delaying the work. We were on a deadline to open the store and we couldn’t wait for him to come back and finish the work himself. Our general contractor Julion, came through like a champ, learned how to stain the concrete out of necessity to get the job done quickly.

The old floor was carpet and it had a lot of glue residue that had to be sanded off. What came next was a black base. It looked like asphalt and I was really nervous I had made a huge mistake. My heart was in my throat for two days until I saw the transformation take place. The chemical stain was applied in two colors in layers to achieve the coppery worn patina of the floor you see in these pictures. How they did it exactly, I don’t know. We rented a sanding machine and a buffing machine, a lot of mops and rags and got it done! The only maintence required is mopping the floor and an annual maintenance job to keep it buffed to a semi polished state. Concrete Network is a good place to start for more information.
Click here for information on the type of floor we installed. Stained Concrete: The Art of Acid Etching Staining concrete is one of the most popular applications for transforming concrete slabs. Often referred to as colored concrete, homeowners, designers and builders are drawn to stained concrete because of the unique outcome that can be achieved combining colors, application techniques, etc., on cement flooring and other substrates. The results are limited only by the creativity of those involved in the stained concrete process.

Practicality of Concrete

April 6th, 2008 § Leave a Comment

The floor shown on the left was my inspiration color.
In the last showroom I designed, I used the concrete slab as the finished floor. We didn’t have a big budget for wood or stone tile floors, so we thought we would work with what we had, concrete. Even then, we found out that concrete could be expensive if you go the route of an overlay, a stamped pattern or a highly polished mirrored like finish. We went for economical route by resurfacing and adding a stain to the existing surface.

We received so many complements on the floor that I laugh when I remember the trauma involved.

Everyone who stopped in wanted to know how we achieved that color. It was an acid wash base of terra cotta and verdigris and it turned out fabulous. But fabulous is never easy.

We wound up doing it ourselves, or rather our GC was brought in to fix it. It was a lot of trial and error. At first, we got 2-3 quotes from different concrete sub contractors to do the work. I was ready to hire one company who’s references checked out great. Then, the first contractor who’s original bid was higher than all the others came back, made us an offer to reduce the price as long as we let him use the showroom floor to advertise his work. That sounded fine. If he wanted to bring his clients to our showroom to look at his work, why not?

What do they say about a deal to good to be true? You know what comes next. We gave him the deposit, he sands the floors, and then we never saw him again. He gave us every excuse in the book why he couldn’t come back to finish the job. We waited as patiently as we could, but it was costing us thousands due to his delaying the work. We were on a deadline to open the store and we couldn’t wait for him to come back and finish the work himself. Our general contractor Julion, came through like a champ, learned how to stain the concrete out of necessity to get the job done quickly.

The old floor was carpet and it had a lot of glue residue that had to be sanded off. What came next was a black base. It looked like asphalt and I was really nervous I had made a huge mistake. My heart was in my throat for two days until I saw the transformation take place. The chemical stain was applied in two colors in layers to achieve the coppery worn patina of the floor you see in these pictures. How they did it exactly, I don’t know. We rented a sanding machine and a buffing machine, a lot of mops and rags and got it done! The only maintence required is mopping the floor and an annual maintenance job to keep it buffed to a semi polished state. Concrete Network is a good place to start for more information.
Click here for information on the type of floor we installed. Stained Concrete: The Art of Acid Etching Staining concrete is one of the most popular applications for transforming concrete slabs. Often referred to as colored concrete, homeowners, designers and builders are drawn to stained concrete because of the unique outcome that can be achieved combining colors, application techniques, etc., on cement flooring and other substrates. The results are limited only by the creativity of those involved in the stained concrete process.

True Luxury in Concrete

February 6th, 2008 § Leave a Comment

Looking for inspiration for your shower?

This shower by Grotto Designs shows that concrete can be shaped, stained, embellished.



For more inspiration visit Grotto Designs

Concrete is adaptable and timeless. Picture above and below from Robert G Laurain Custom Concrete

True Luxury in Concrete

February 6th, 2008 § Leave a Comment

The concrete countertops were cast in place and finished with an acrylic sealer and a special wax. To maintain the patina, they’re rewaxed about every two months. As seen in House Beautiful.

Looking for inspiration for your shower?

This shower by Grotto Designs shows that concrete can be shaped, stained, embellished.



For more inspiration visit Grotto Designs

Concrete is adaptable and timeless. Picture above and below from Robert G Laurain Custom Concrete

Thinking it through with Slab Foundation

November 10th, 2007 § Leave a Comment

I am geared up for digging and planting in my small townhouse garden! Gardening is a lovely hobby to rest my eyes from all the computer work I have to do everyday. I love to get my hands in dirt, walking through nurseries and discovering what plants will thrive and which will not in my Zone 8. But before I set out to dig, I called my local utilities. Every month our local utility company always puts out a a reminder notice with the bill: “call before you dig”. You want to make sure you do not strike a gas line or other utilities that can really create a serious situation and costly repairs. So it goes with remodeling your kitchen when it comes to relocating utilities.

Are you on slab foundation? Houses with underground utilities on slab foundation require more extensive work relocating utilities compared to houses built on raised foundation. Start with your local building department or plan check department.

This brings to mind one of the projects I am working on right now. I called the local building dept to check if our client’s home had Post Tension Cables in the concrete slab. Post-tensioning is a method of strengthening concrete using high-strength steel strands or cables, typically referred to as tendons.

If you have a slab on grade foundation, check to see if your house has post tension cables in the concrete foundation. One item of note: our local building dept. commented that sometimes they may or may not have a record if a house has Post Tension Cables. Most newer homes will have them. Error on the side of caution always. It is worth the cost of having your slab ex-rayed for a few hundred dollars compared to repairs that can run in the thousands.

If you do have PTC in your foundation call in a company that will be able to x-ray the slab. The grid pattern has to be mapped out on the floor before trenching begins. Once the PTC grid pattern is mapped, then the concrete has to be cut, holes bored through between each cable grid to core through the earth and tunneled below the cables. The work is strenuous, time consuming and expensive but worth the extra effort if it means taking a dysfunctional kitchen to a exceptional functional entertainers dream kitchen. In the long run, the investment will be worth it if you look at it in terms of dollar cost averaging the expense divided into the years of enjoyment you and your family live in your home.

Here is a video showing PTC placed into the foundation.
HGTV Pro: Video Post Tensioning Slabs

A worker cutting a tendon tail in a poured concrete foundation.

A sheathed cable is laid through each interior beam before the slab is poured.

Here is a scary example of a slab that was trenched and cables were cut, requiring a very expensive repair. Photo courtesy of PTSR

This shows the damage that saw cutting and jack hammering can do to existing post-tension cables. Out of 18 exposed post-tension cables, 14 were broken.

Neutral Pallet for Artwork Collection

October 13th, 2007 § Leave a Comment

How do you design for a museum art curator and a graphic artist? The key was that the viewers eyes had to be drawn up towards the walls and what was to be displayed on the walls. My client’s are art collectors. One of the key factors in their kitchen remodel was to keep a neutral pallet to let the art collection become the focus. A simple clean sensibility was in order for the cabinet design.

I love this space. It is flooded with light.
We opened the wall between the kitchen and dining room. Kept the peninsula counter at 48″ high to keep the view of the sink counters out of view from the dining room table.
Concrete troweled fireplace. The Eurostone Counters in Anis play off the color of the fireplace.

New doors and Bay window open up the space to the outdoors and make the space appear larger than it really is. The before kitchen: (I wished I had a picture of it) there was a little breakfast table that used to occupy the space in front of the bay window. That used to be a standard window too.

Even the crown molding was kept subdued. We used a simple double stack stock with a beveled edge.
DCS 48 Range and Hood.42″ Sub Zero.
Fiesta ware in Red, Yellow, Blue & Green.

A bench and colorful Dhurri Rug from India.


“Downtown Interchange” by Frank Romero, 2006.

Art collection: by Frank Romero. http://www.romerostudio.net/frank-romero-artwork.asp


Alta Dena, just north of Pasadena, CA is bordered on the north by the Angeles National Forest. A unique position. High enough up that in some areas you can see the ocean on a clear day…

…and also views of downtown LA on any given smoggy day.!

Afraid of dark stained cabinets?

September 16th, 2007 § 1 Comment

Never fear dark stained cabinets as long as you know how to balance light and dark together.
Take a look at some kitchens that have successfully incorporated dark stained cabinets.

This kitchen, is located at the Residences at Victory Park. at the posh W Hotel in Dallas, Texas. The project became personal when design architect, Eddie Abeyta, of the W Hotel & Residences at Victory Park chose to make a condo in the South Tower his home.

Notice the lightness from the light horizontal shape wall cabinets, the 24″ high back painted glass back splash that reflects light. Not all of us can enjoy the soaring ceilings, but these ideas are transferable to a standard ht ceiling. I love the sculptural light over the table.

Dark-stained kitchen cabinetry pops against white paint and stainless steel. Eddie Abeyta’s favorite piece at home is above the dining table, where Ingo Maurer’s sculptural Oh Mei Ma Weiss pendant light casts a chic spotlight. (Photography by TERRI GLANGER / Dallas Morning News (MCT) )

We can take our cues for Residential Design from Public Spaces.


Notice the blend of light and dark in the restaurant, Craft, located at the W Hotel in Dallas Texas.

This kitchen is in a Terra Linda Eichler.
Notice the use of light wall cabinets that contrast against the dark base cabinets, high backsplashes, lots of glass, lots of stainless steel.

This kitchen is all dark cabinets against light floors, light counter surfaces and light walls. Minimalistic features keep this kitchen from feeling closed in. even if they warmed up the walls with a little bit more color, a warmer white perhaps, this would still feel bright. This is a comfortable modern kitchen.

This contemporary kitchen incorporates frosted glass horizontal bifold doors against the stained wall cabinet frame to keep things light. Again, notice the repetition of light-dark-light. Light floors, dark cabinets, light counters and splash.

Small spaces can use dark cabinets too. This is different. Notice the dark cabinets are on top! They work well, look at the inserts. They are a stainless mesh screen. Notice the repetition here from bottom to top: light/light/light/dark/dark/light. Light floors, light base cabinets, light counters, dark splash, dark wall cabinets, light ceiling. This kitchen is just so darn cute! It has great elements: beautiful wood tones, large slate tiles on the back splash make the space look bigger, bright off white counters. The counters would be too busy if it as a granite. The curve in the counter for a lap top is great. The blinds are wood and the tape is a contrasting fabric that blends with the cherry cabinets. No crown, no light rail. Simpler is better here. The stainless selection on the hood, cook top and sink are perfect. White or black would have been a bad note in this lyrical space. Whats wrong is the client kept the ratty old bow back spindle chair. This one needs to be banished in favor of a contemporary chair. So cute!

So far we have looked at Modern spaces. But traditional kitchens can also incorporate a little color ingenuity by combining colors in the design. The effect is welcoming. The lighter wood is Rustic Alder with a smoky-hued finish. Beautifully paired with a full-bodied finish on Lyptus to create a superb combination for this kitchen.

This transitional kitchen benefits from the flood of light coming in from the full walls of glass panels. The light honey blond of the floor and the light counter tops sets a beautiful counter point to the medium dark stain on the cabinets. I think this is one of my favorites yet!

This kitchen is beautiful but I would have suggested to the client they go a little further to complete the look. Something is a little off in this kitchen. Can you find it?
The refrigerator looks like they ran out of money and had to keep the old one. Folks, when you go this kind of expense, don’t skimp on the appliances. I would have ordered a built in refrigerator and applied integrated panels on the doors. The space is narrow and I want to see that refrigerator blend in, not stick out like a mistake. Also, the dark molding at the top of the refrigerator isn’t working either. It should match the white cabinets. The floor is maple natural and not the right tone. It is too light and contemporary looking. I would have gone with a shade or two darker and a wider plank. A hickory, cherry or oak floor would have looked better to complement the the traditional style of the kitchen.

Here is another one of my favorite kitchens. It has got all the elements, cleft stone walls in the back ground, a fireplace, painted cabinetry, stainless steel, dark wood tones, concrete, granite. Designed by Sandra Lutchens, this kitchen uses elements of oyster white as the primary cabinetry color. Anchored with a deep tone of Truffle on the island, paneling and trim, this kitchen is a dream. Notice the dark crown molding from the oven extending over the length of the range top wall. Great transition with shorter wall cabinets left and right of the hood. The island counter is a saturated coppery brown to match the island cabinets. Notice the dual sinks. Fabulous design!

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