Holiday Home Tours in Southern California are…

December 7th, 2009 § Leave a Comment

so “So Cal”. I have to admit, we are a different sort out here in Southern California. We live in a time of strange dichotomies. We import our fun, not content to love what we have, and what the rest of the US wishes they had, oh no, we go to great lengths to import faux weather. Go to the snow? Not us, we bring the snow to us. We are not exactly living in a “Winter Wonderland” but we try. Snow in LA is a rarity so I had to do a double take while driving on the 101 Fwy. this Sunday afternoon when I saw the small hilly front lawn the size of a football stadium at Oaks Christian School covered in snow and kids frolicking with their sleds. It was in the 60′s today. No rain, no snow. We are in middle of a drought and Oaks Christian can afford to import truckloads of snow. Hopefully it was a fund raiser for a good cause.  Thousand Oaks City Hall also has a hand in creating faux weather. The concrete lake is frozen over to create an outdoor skating rink.

Meanwhile I am heading towards another charity event for a good cause and anticipating having a fun time with friends. It’s the annual jaunt to the Holiday Home Tour put together by the Wellness Community-Valley/Ventura Chapter. We go for many reasons. Not only is it a warm fuzzy knowing our money is going to support a worthy cause. The Wellness Community provides a wonderful network of free programs to those individuals who have been diagnosed with cancer as well as provide support for their family members.

Moreover it is fun day out for girl friends to get together, throw a little money back into the local economy while we  “ooh and ah” at the spectacular 10,000 sq ft. Mega Mansions in all their holiday faux-snowy glory. Tuscan, “Zen-tarian” (Mediterranean meet Asian), French Country and Tudor style estates, one more spectacular than the next.Oh My! I would have loved to have shown you pictures but no cameras were allowed.

As we are at one home on the tour, we notice the Carolers. My feeling is there is something really out of sync watching Christmas Carolers adorned in Dickens Era Caroling Costumes replete with Heavy Coats, Tops Hats, Bonnets and Petticoats gathered deck side near the infinity pool on a pleasant Southern California Sunday.

We saw enchanting displays of Christmas Trees in front halls, libraries, dens and dining rooms but I have to admit the real show was the backyards! As I walked through beautiful mega-manse estates, I wondered why some homeowners overlooked the kitchens. There were some kitchens that were downright dull with builder grade cabinets that looked so out of place when the rest of the house was so exquisite. It then hit me as I entered the back yards, (indoor-outdoor living space as we call it in California). The backyard is the other living room. It was no surprise to see where the money was invested. Outdoor kitchens! And what kitchens they were! We are talking beautiful resort worthy backyards. Infinity pools, jacuzzi’s, one had a zip line traversing over a stream in the Santa Monica Mountains, another had a water slide formed out of the mountain side, Separate Structures for the Cabana Houses with wide screen TV’s, fireplaces,  “His and Her” bathrooms were some of the amenities I saw. Then my heart skipped a beat when I saw the outdoor cooking cabanas. I mean these backyard designs and construction must have cost the price of a small house. Complete Viking Outdoor Kitchens: fully equipped with bar-b-cue grills, refrigerators, dishwashers, sinks, beer taps, plenty of granite topped counters, teak style cabinets,  fireplaces and flat screen TV’s around cozy seating arrangements.  Who would ever want to leave home?  With outdoor living spaces like this, no wonder why the indoor kitchens were ho-hum. Who needs to use the indoor kitchen when outside is so beautiful?

In a time of such great disparity, it is a pleasure to see many people come together to donate their time, their labor, and their homes for a worthy cause. We stopped at the Holiday Boutique and bought some gifts. I found a beautiful knit scarf and found out the ladies who knitted the scarves donated their time and yarn just for the event. I was told all their proceeds go back into the charity. That meant something to me. It was a good show and a lot of fun.

Photo credit:…/2008/12/surfing_santa.jpg

New Product Watch: Outdoor Kitchen Hood

November 10th, 2009 § Leave a Comment

So who needs an outdoor hood you ask? Anyone who enjoys outdoor living. Here in Southern California where we spend a great deal of our time enjoying our backyard patios, outdoor cooking is second nature for some. 
With DANVER’S recent introduction of the first Stainless BBQ grill hood built at 32 inches deep, there are more design placement options than ever for locating the BBQ grill.

Knowing that my readers may ask the question “why do I need a hood in my backyard?” I have taken time to interview the great folks at DANVER.

Q: “Why do I need a hood for my BBQ?, My BBQ is not in a covered area and I have been doing fine without one so far.” 
DANVER responds: You only need a hood for a covered area. For instance, most outdoor kitchens in FL are open and do not require hoods. However, DANVER has seen a growing trend throughout the country for outdoor living and entertainment areas that included not only kitchens, but also TVs and sitting areas. Even in colder climates homeowners are looking to invest in outdoor living spaces they can use year-round. These particular areas are normally covered increasing the demand for outdoor hoods.

Q: “Why can’t I use a standard stainless steel hood for my outdoor BBQ?”

DANVER responds: Besides the extra installation and costs mentioned before, the UL listing for outdoors hoods is different. Some stainless steel hoods may work for both indoor and outdoor kitchens, but not all of them. It depends on the hoods ability to handle direct flame.

Q: “Does my local building dept. require a vent hood for an outdoor BBQ?”
DANVER responds: If the outdoor kitchen and BBQ are under a covered area, Yes.
Q: “Where does an outdoor hood vent out to?”

DANVER responds: Considering it is in covered area- either straight up to the roof or straight up the back wall out to the area of the house that is not covered. The hoods are always attached to a wall.

For more information on designing with DANVER HOODS, follow the link below:

Before DANVER’s production introduction, the deepest hoods available measured 27 inches front to back, which did not fully cover the depth of most outdoor grills. To compensate, installers had to build some sort of box to add depth, adding cost and complexity to the hood installation. To simplify installation and cut costs DANVER worked with a major U.S. hood manufacturer to develop a 32 inch deep stainless steel BBQ hood.

Introduced in Summer 2009, the BBQ Hood is available in 36 inch, 48 inch and 60 inch widths to work with various outdoor kitchen designs. The all stainless steel exterior design is easy to keep clean and eliminates grease traps. For even easier clean-up the baffle filters underneath the hood are durable and dishwasher safe. For builders, dealers and other installation professionals who want to build their own hood, Danver’s hood liner is available providing the same 32” deep capture area.
For more information on DANVER’s outdoor BBQ grill hood or to design your own outdoor kitchen, visit and call 888.441.0537.
Headquartered in Wallingford, Conn., DANVER is the leading provider of stainless steel cabinetry and amenities for outdoor living including island inserts, grills, specialty burners, pizza ovens, bartenders, refrigerators, freezers and beverage coolers, sinks and faucets, floating shelves and kitchen carts, and door and drawer fronts. DANVER is dedicated to providing a luxurious outdoor kitchen experience.

Period Inspiration with Modern Appeal

March 23rd, 2009 § Leave a Comment


CHICAGO, IL (March 23, 2009) – Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet continues to break new ground in design and performance with its new Pasadena Outdoor Fireplace. Available beginning March 26, the beautiful and highly functional design takes its design inspiration from the craftsman-style of architecture epitomized by Pasadena architects Greene & Greene. It offers a new alternative for homeowners who are seeking the beauty of a built-in outdoor fireplace but also value the convenience and flexibility of a freestanding design.

An increasing number of homeowners are investing in an outdoor fireplace. According to John Crouch of the Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association, “We have seen outdoor fireplace sales significantly increase in recent years, seemingly in accordance with homeowner’s continued desire to provide a family retreat in their own backyard.”

“After a great meal, there is nothing better than sitting around a roaring fire,” says Russ Faulk, vice president of marketing and product development for Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet. “It is a natural gathering place, bringing family and friends together for comfort, warmth and casual relaxation. It also helps extend the outdoor entertaining season when cooler evenings arrive.”

To give consumers the best solution possible, Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet leveraged its expertise in stainless steel and outdoor cooking to create the Pasadena Outdoor Fireplace. Its intelligent design offers benefits that every homeowner will appreciate:

– Handcrafted in high-grade stainless steel, the Pasadena Outdoor Fireplace is easy to clean and warranted for life against rust
- Homeowners can choose between two popular Arts& Crafts designs for the sides of the fireplace: white oak leaves with acorns or graceful gingko leaves.
- An attractive low-pitched roof with wide overhangs keeps rain out, avoiding the time-consuming and messy cleanup of ashes and burnt logs common to open fire pits.
-The fireplace roof is conversation-height, allowing a large group to sit comfortably around the fireplace for hours of comfortable conversation.
- A deep ash box just below the fire holds the cinders of at least three fires. The simple pull out design makes clean out easy.
- Weighing more than 100 pounds, the Pasadena Outdoor Fireplace will withstand the elements, but is easy for two people to lift and reposition as needed.

Rosalind Reed, principal of Rosalind Reed Associates, says, “The Pasadena Outdoor Fireplace is a true beauty, and the attention to detail is all Kalamazoo.”

The Pasadena Outdoor Fireplace is available to homeowners and design professionals from Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet or its authorized dealer partners around the country. Photo available upon request.

The Kalamazoo Pasadena Outdoor Fireplace: $2,795

About Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet
Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet has been bringing gourmet lifestyles outdoors for more than 100 years and is the one-stop resource for creating the ultimate outdoor kitchen. From revolutionary hybrid grills that cook with charcoal, wood and gas, to the most powerful and energy efficient outdoor refrigeration available, Kalamazoo is the leading manufacturer in outdoor cooking and entertaining equipment. The complete line includes grills, refrigerators, freezers, wine chillers, keg tappers, weather-tight cabinets, wok cooktops, lobster boil pits, martini bars and a countertop pizza oven.

Please visit for more information or call 1.800.868.1699 to speak with an outdoor kitchen design expert.

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Tile Murals

October 27th, 2008 § Leave a Comment

Imagine being able to transfer any image onto marble, ceramic and glass tile to create tile murals?

Alicia Tapp Designs is very excited & proud to announce
the availability of art from
Contemporary & Award Winning Artists and Photographers
in a variety of themes and techniques~ from Tuscany landscapes to
Renaissance and spiritual paintings to be transferred onto your choice of
marble, ceramic and glass tiles. ..Indoors or Outdoors

Whether your project is indoors or out, ( kitchen back splash, floors, counter tops, patio or pools),there are innumerable ways to customize your design.

Alicia Tapp Designs offers unlimited ideas on their web site.

Tile Murals

October 27th, 2008 § Leave a Comment

Imagine being able to transfer any image onto marble, ceramic and glass tile to create tile murals?

Alicia Tapp Designs is very excited & proud to announce
the availability of art from
Contemporary & Award Winning Artists and Photographers
in a variety of themes and techniques~ from Tuscany landscapes to
Renaissance and spiritual paintings to be transferred onto your choice of
marble, ceramic and glass tiles. ..Indoors or Outdoors

Whether your project is indoors or out, ( kitchen back splash, floors, counter tops, patio or pools),there are innumerable ways to customize your design.

Alicia Tapp Designs offers unlimited ideas on their web site.

How to Choose Patio Furniture: A.K.A. The Education of a Kitchen Designer

June 1st, 2008 § 2 Comments

It is summer time and the news papers are full of ads featuring patio sets for sale. I want to remind you about the importance of avoiding tropical hardwoods for your patio furniture.

It’s funny the way things come about. Life is circular in so many ways. A cause and affect motion is set into place in our lives, like it or not, the same way a pebble hits a pond of water and has a ripple effect.

For me, my ripple effect was something as simple as shopping for a new patio bench last year. It brought my attention to the destruction of tropical rainforests. I was aware, yes, but it didn’t really impact me, so I thought, until it was about to impact me in my own backyard, literally. I felt small really on what impact I could have. Ultimately, I did not purchase a bench from Target made from nyatoh. What could I do, I am just one person among billions on our planet. Nevertheless, I researched this and wrote about it for the first time here in my blog October 15, 2007, Woods to Avoid and Alternatives. The impact to the environment is too big to ignore.

As far as my work as a kitchen and bath designer, well this is where I can have a bigger impact. Specifying materials for a project, I have an obligation to inform my client and my team on alternative options to exotic woods in a project. Where can these materials show up: hard wood floors, cabinetry, bannister’s, windows, timber, decks, siding and patio furniture.

As far as my patio bench realization, it was literally a benchmark in my education as a designer. Choose to take action, avoid local and global apathy, make good decisions when selecting materials for your own home improvement project.

Since my patio bench story last year, I am happy to check back with you and tell you who is making a difference and who is not. Source: Rainforest

  1. PROGRESS MADE: Significant progress had been made with the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation over the last decade, in moving the agency away from the use of old growth tropical hardwoods. For the full article, read the New York Post article, Wood Free Boardwalk
  2. PROGRESS MADE: Watch dog groups like FSC-Watch were founded to highlight problems within FSC and help move FSC to clean up its system.
  3. PROGRESS MADE: Barnes & Noble ends the use of mahogany and other rainforest wood in new store construction. In 1996 Rainforest Relief targeted this bookselling giant for their ongoing use of mahogany and other tropical hardwoods in store construction. At the time, B&N was building approximately 100 stores a year using mahogany for foyers, doors & railings, jatoba for flooring and Shorea sp. for furniture. They now use domestic second growth for foyers, railings and flooring, and steel doors. Way to go Barnes and Noble!
  4. NO PROGRESS MADE: Banana Republic is not making the grade: Banana Republic, owned by GAP, has used Sydney blue gum for flooring, a temperate wood logged from the old growth forests of Australia. Banana Republic is now using jatoba (Brazilian cherry) for flooring in new stores.
  5. NO PROGRESS MADE: This Old House gets a failing grade. The PBS show, This Old House (TOH), promotes the use of tropical and temperate rainforest woods, thus encouraging the destruction of rainforests — the world’s oldest “house”. On October 23, 2005, TOH aired a segment promoting the use of tropical and temperate rainforest woods for siding in their current project. The materials suggested for replacing siding included only tropical and temperate rainforest woods, with the host never suggesting the use of more sustainable alternatives, such as recycled materials, salvaged or reclaimed lumber, or even certified domestic woods.
  6. PROGRESS MADE: Crate & Barrel, Restoration Hardware, Linens-n-Things and have announced that they will no longer carry nyatoh furniture and they are working with organizations to find more environmentally sound alternatives.


  1. Send a message to Wal-mart, Sears, K-mart, Target, Pottery Barn, Cost Plus and Vons. Tell them it’s time to join with other forward-thinking companies like Ikea, Improvements and others and cease selling furniture and any other products made with wood from endangered forests.
  2. Plant a tree. Look for service organizations to get involved with. Tree People. Trees for the Future
  3. Join Rainforest Relief. Donate to a worthy cause making a difference.
  4. Bring Rainforest Relief to Your School, Civic Group or Event.
  5. Watch video information on the rainforests to see what is happening.

You Tube Video:
Tropical Timber Imports.
The Destruction of Our Forests.
Rainforest Destruction and Human Apathy

I can answer my own question on what difference one person can make.

If I can have an effect on one person this summer to avoid purchasing these beautiful patio furniture sets made from wood cleared from endangered forests, then my small contribution has made a difference. If you are on the fence, I challenge you to open up your patio catalogs and look at these while watching the video links I list above. It is pretty dramatic. What legacy do you want to leave your grandchildren. Make a difference, get involved, plant a tree, educate yourself before you buy. Apathy is not the answer.

As a consumer, and as someone closely tied to the design/build remodeling industry, I know it is real easy to be swayed by the sale and the beauty of nyatoh, available at many retail stores right now, but ask yourself this: is it really worth it? I hope you join me and answer no.

What to watch for when selecting Patio Furniture.
A fantastic source you need to know about is Rainforest Relief. They have a wealth of information on what to look out for when selecting wood.

From their web site, I have captured the following information from their outdoor patio furniture campaign:
Rainforest Relief began campaigning on outdoor furniture in the mid-1990s, starting with municipal and institutional site furnishings. They did this by engaging towns, cities and educational institutions, attempting to persuade them to end their purchases of benches and other site furnishings made mostly from teak and ipê.

More recently, as teak supplies have begun to dwindle and teak has become more expensive, other woods have come into vogue as replacements. As well, Rainforest Relief began to engage companies selling outdoor furniture to the home market. They began this phase of the campaign targeting those companies selling nyatoh, as they saw the popularity of this material rising quickly.

The demand for teak, mahogany, nyatoh, balau, kapur, keruing, jatoba, ipê, garapera, western red cedar, jarrah, cypress, redwood and other woods is driving the destruction of endangered rainforests in Indonesia, Vietnam, Cambodia and Brazil and the dwindling old growth temperate forests of Australia, Canada and the United States.

Rainforest Relief has begun to engage a number of retailers about their sales of furniture made from nyatoh. These entities include Wal-mart, Target, Restoration Hardware, Pottery Barn, Cost Plus World Market, Vons (Safeway) and others.

Nyatoh, balau, kapur and other woods are being logged from rainforests mostly in Indonesia but also in Malaysia, Cambodia and Vietnam. Logging in Indonesia is a nightmare of illegality, unsustainability and conflicts with indigenous peoples. In Malaysia indigenous people such as the Penan are being displaced by loggers. A recent study showed that much of the wood exported from Vietnam was being illegally logged in Cambodia.

Jatoba, garapera and ipê are coming from the Amazon rainforests of Brazil, where 80% of logging is being done illegally and loggers even employ slave labor. Loggers are bulldozing new roads into pristine rainforests, thus paving the way for their total destruction.

Jarrah is being logged from old growth temperate forests in Australia. Western red cedar is logged from old growth temperate rainforests of Canada and the United States. Cypress is logged from old growth sub-tropical forests of the southern United States.


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