Showing newest 14 of 17 posts from April 2008. Show older posts
Showing newest 14 of 17 posts from April 2008. Show older posts

Blue is the New black

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Patricia Gray has mentioned Blue is the New Black at her blog . Blue remains timeless. It can be bold or quiet. I noted in an earlier blog that blue remains a popular color even the kitchen. Color communicates who we are. Bold colors for a free spirit. Demure colors for soft spoken types. It can also transmit a vibe. Do you feel best when at the beach, or are you invigorated by world travels and need to be surrounded with more exotic colors and elements?

Back splashes can be an opportunity to create a vibe for your space. Hard surfaces can play off of soft surfaces such as cushions & fabric.

From the most bold...

Shown here, variegated handmade glass tiles. Reminiscent of the ocean, by Erin Adams through Ann Sacks. Interior Design by Frank Roop and Dalia Kitchen Design.

Large Zen Weave in mottled blue, Ann Sacks tile

To the fanciful formal...

An interlocking oval in hand cut glass tiles in Ann Sacks silver and mineral presents itself as a whimsical yet formal pattern.

To the invigorating...

Ann Sacks Lake Garda Ceramic Art Tile in multiple hues of blue.

...and then there is the most subtle forms of blue.

Kitchen floor is bluestone with a sky blue fabric pallette. With 22 ft. ceilings the blue recedes. Designer David Klienberg, House Beautiful, April 2008.

From the most vibrant to the most subtle shades, blue is accepted everywhere.


John Adams

I have started to read a new Blog by Fay, called Red River Interiors.
A really smart blog on interior design. I appreciate the historical perspectives, and her personal point of view.

I found someone else who admits to watching the HBO special about John Adams, not just for the historical significance of the formation of our country and the life of our second president of the United States, John Adams, but I found myself hitting rewind and pause to absorb the period elements of architecture and design through the following:

  • Architectural embellishments, fireplaces, moldings, floors,
  • Room colors, paint and wallpapered halls for the Federal period
  • The furnishings
  • The hair styles (wigs)
  • The window treatments
  • The gardens at Peacefield in comparison to Monticello and the French gardens
  • The unfinished interiors of the White House in 1800.
It appears the construction of the white house indeed suffered from contractor delays. Remember this when you are agonizing over your own remodel. Interesting factoid, Irish American architect James Hoban, won the design competition to build the presidents house. He was awarded $500 for the winning proposal. Hobans inspiration for the house was drawn from an Anglo-Irish villa called the Leinster House in Dublin.

I did not see any kitchens in the movie, John Adams, but I did get a chuckle when Benjamin Franklin was in the large copper tub with Madame Helvetius, in her french salon. A copper tub for two. This is a beautiful pictorial movie to be enjoyed time and time again. For behind the scenes information on this movie visit John Adams. References:


Seating Arrangements in the Kitchen

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

When personalizing a kitchen, the seating area is the area to make a statement.

Take a kitchen from functional to fabulous.
Here are some of my favorites.

At the far end of the kitchen, an 18th-century French farm table is lit by a three-bulb version of the pendants over the kitchen island.
The reproduction Thonet dining chairs came from Paris. Notice the dark wood hutch, a family heirloom, with gleaming white ceramic and ironstone pieces the homeowner collects.
As seen in House Beautiful.

Modern dining room featured in House Beautiful December 2006 issue.


On the cabinets, high-gloss paint--Benjamin Moore's White Dove--easily wipes clean and is set off by custom-colored grass-green walls.
The 48-inch gas range is by Wolf. The Country Kitchen sink is paired with the Amarilis Heritage faucet, both by American Standard. Click here for House Beautiful article.

Bruck Rainbow LED lights hang over the island. The Onda stools are from Design Within Reach. The white stacking vases are by Pascal Mourgue, from Ligne Roset.
Featured in House Beautiful April 2007 issue.

New traditional kitchen featured in March 2006 House Beautiful issue.

Modern open-plan kitchen featured in House Beautiful April 2006 issue. For link click here.


It's easy to live in designer Eldon Wong's kitchen because it blends so seamlessly with the family room. For more information, click here.


The client's love for Swedish style inspired the cabinetry, custom-made by Kevin Ritter. The 5-burner Diva de Provence induction cooktop delivers over 89,000 BTUs. The 36-inch dual convection oven is by Wolf. Wilt pendant lights from LBL Lighting. As seen in House Beautiful.


Seating with the added feature of storage is the added bonus.
This from Better Homes and Gardens where you may view some 50 plus styles of banquettes and seating areas.

This is Susan Serra's kitchen. Cozy!
Great place for luxuriating over the Sunday paper. Love it!


Electrolux Kelly Bags

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Calling all handbag lovers: The hunt for “Kelly’s Bags,” a new on-line game inspired by TV personality Kelly Ripa, starts April 14 at The new game designed by Electrolux, Europe’s leading premium appliance brand, is designed to attract those who covet the latest clutch, hobo or satchel, as well as anyone who wants to win one of 10 new suites of designer kitchen appliances from Electrolux. Anyone who registers to play will be supporting The Ovarian Cancer Research Fund, a cause important to Kelly and women everywhere. Visit for game rules and how to play.


Blue Kitchens

Blue has always been a popular color. Do you have a favorite color and want to incorporate in your kitchen without looking overdone, see how blue accents these wonderful kitchens.

Elegant carved cabinetry in this Connecticut kitchen take us straight into French chateau country. click here. House Beautiful.

Here is the ultimate collector's fantasy, with beautiful blue cabinets to show off pottery, and a hand-carved island from France.
As seen in House Beautiful. Click here.

The contemporary Quimper dinnerware is still made in the original factory in France. The cabinets were custom-designed by Joanne Hudson and built by Downsview. A collection of tea cozies is tucked on top. Old Italian apothecary jars are lined up on the marble countertop from Vermont Quarries. Featured in House Beautiful January 2007 issue.

Kitchen from


Beautiful sinks

More beautiful kitchen sinks.

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.


Modern life, vintage look

Sunday, April 13, 2008

These photos were published in the LA Times, February 22, 2008, from an article "William Krisel: Modern architecture's everyman".

I do enjoy the clean simple lines. Sunshine and the easy access to the outdoors predominates this style.

This is architecture I can live with.


The Ahhh Tub

Saturday, April 12, 2008

There is nothing like a deep soaking tub.
At a height if 24" don't even think of using this for a tub/shower combination.
This is the ultimate in soaking tubs. Simple & Pure Luxury. The height to the overflow is 19.5". The interior length 70 1/4", plenty of room to luxuriate in a tub. It does come in alternate sizes and shapes.
Here is one of my favorites tubs.
The Elise by the brand MTI Whirlpools.


Tackling Formaldehyde and Alternatives

The March/April 2008 Issue of Building Products has a good summary for clarifying the use of formaldehyde in building products. There is no web link, unfortunately, so I will copy the article here.

Most structural engineered wood is glued together with binders that contain
phenol formaldehyde, a product with minimal off gassing. The binders used for some non-structural, interior grade products, like particleboard, MDF, and hardwood plywood, however, can contain urea formaldehyde, a volatile compound that is classified as a carcinogen. Urea formaldehyde is also linked to respiratory problems, eye and nose irritation, and allergic reactions. The telltale sign of its presence: the sweet smell that most kitchen and bathroom cabinets emit.

New regulations in California will restrict urea formaldehyde emissions, but do not deal with phenol formaldehyde. In response, manufacturers are developing formaldehyde-free binders, using products like polyurethane and even soy. Last summer, the California Air Resource Board adopted new caps on the amount of urea formaldehyde used to bind wood products used indoors, to take effect in 2009.
While UF binders are significantly less expensive than PF binders, they give off a lot more formaldehyde—a volatile compound that is classified as a known human carcinogen. Source:, article:Binders in Manufactured Wood Products:Beyond Formaldehyde

Given the concerns about formaldehyde, a lot of R&D is going into formaldehyde-free binders for manufactured wood products. Researchers at Oregon State University, inspired in part by the ability of mussels to form an extremely durable adhesion underwater, developed a formaldehyde-free, soy-based binder, now produced by Hercules and used in Columbia Forest Products’ PureBond hardwood plywood (see EBN Vol. 14, No. 6). Because most binders are more expensive than UF, we can expect manufactured wood product prices to increase to some extent as UF is eliminated.


Commercial Kitchen Zone Arrives Homes

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

I was raised around a commercial kitchen and so I have a fondness for cooking and planning for cooking. My favorite place, as a kid, was the cold zone where the tubs of ice cream were kept, and the fountain/beverage service area, where I was so thrilled at "organizing" the mise en place objects . I loved the elegant dishes reserved for serving ice cream, the tall and amusing shape of the ice tea spoons, the white coffee cups with the apple red rims laid out with matching saucers stacked next to them, the glasses in pull out plastic trays below the counter for ease of serving glasses of water and iced tea. (I probably drove the servers crazy when I "re-organized" things for them before service). At the tender age of eight I knew the difference between a steam table and a deep fryer, was enthralled with the glow from the salamander, watching cheese bubble on the hot plates, I loved stirring the sauces in the steam table when the cooks would permit me in the kitchen during prep hours. Kitchens are in my blood. I was a kitchen designer in the making before I even knew it!

As I witness a trend developing into an accepted theory in residential kitchen design, I am delighted to show clients how to embrace zoning in their kitchen too. There is a growing acceptance by kitchen designers and homeowners alike to move away from the notion of a kitchen triangle. There was a time when that worked perfectly when the homemaker was the chief cook and bottle washer.
However, as the kitchen has evolved as a gathering space with more than one cook, so to has the options in appliances we want for our home and how we organize them in our kitchens. As walls come down between kitchen and adjoining family room, and as the kitchen melds into the family room, the opportunity to co-op a commercial kitchen's work zone is coming into play more often.
Thus a kitchen triangle is out of sync in a larger kitchen and "zoning" is the new key feature to a residential gourmet kitchen. Searching the topic, I typed "commercial kitchen" in Google, and was not surprised to see how kitchen design has evolved with terms reserved for commercial design.

For example, Dornbracht shows off zoning for the kitchen sink: two bowls, each with its own faucet.

Dornbracht Kitchen Zones - new concept of space from Dornbracht ...

Two sinks, two faucets are desired in the zoned kitchen. It is an idea from commercial design that makes logical sense. A clean up zone and a preparation zone perform better when they do not share a single source of water. A residential kitchen may not have the space a commercial kitchen does for a seperate clean up zone but even a small kitchen can benefit from two faucets to keep wash up chores separate from salad and vegetable prep work. Dornbracht sees the value and is offering it to consumers now.

Kraftmaid, one of the largest cabinet manufacturers in the United States has introduced Harmony Kitchen Zones. Kraftmaid breaks it down to great visual marketing material with interactive point and click photos and PDF printable handouts for homeowners to see the benefit with cabinets designed with zoning in mind. Kraftmaid states in their ads, "The best kitchen designs are laid out with work zones ... Harmony® Storage Solutions for your kitchen are organized by zones as well."

Viking Range Corporation has published an article in their newsletter, The Edge, "Breaking out of the Work Triangle". The basis for zoning your kitchen is replacing the triangle with a series of zones: The Preparation Zone, The Baking and Cooking Zone, The Beverage Center, and the Clean Up Zone.
No longer relegated to the back of the house, residential kitchens are now taking their cue from commercial kitchen design, using the theory of zoning to provide a well organized cooking and gathering space for all to come into the kitchen. True, residential kitchen, (with the exception of a kosher kitchen), will never need to have the commercial requirements for a separate fish, vegetable, meat and sauce sections. Although it would be great to have your own personal soux chef once in a while, residential kitchen design can benefit when planned with prep centers, baking & cooking zones, beverage centers and clean up zones. Zoning, a must for restaurants and hotel kitchens that require organization and order to perform with speed and efficiency, with a chef, soux chefs, line cooks and pastry chefs, servers and cleanup crew all working simultaneously to prepare, serve and clean up for hundreds of guests a day. No doubt a residential kitchen can benefit from similar types of zoning, regardless of large or small kitchens. Although a homeowner may not be preparing food at the same capacity as a commercial kitchen, the residential kitchen needs to serve the demands of the household. The kitchen, a daily family gathering space, when well planned with zones, will allow for multiple family cooks to lend a hand or just simply hang out in the kitchen in a inviting, welcoming way.

Suffice it to say, the kitchen has evolved. There are architectural books that detail the entire history of homes throughout the ages, so I will not comment on the social history here. It really is fascinating to read and discover how the home has evolved. If interested in further reading, I highly recommend Witold Rybczynski book, Home: A Short History of an Idea for further reading.



Monday, April 7, 2008

Tales from remodeling. As I review remodel proposal with clients, I explain this: I do not include allowances for plumbing fixtures, cabinet hardware or tile. The reason is simple, there is a false sense of security built into a proposal, a security bubble that is easily burst when the homeowner visits the plumbing store and starts pricing the fixtures they want on the project. The shock and frustration sets in after one realizes the contractor allowances are not close to being realistic. It can add up to thousands more than what the contractor allowed.

Here is one example from the blog, Dream Home Diaries.

Our builder, John, does not have cheap taste. Quality materials were included in the budget: granite counter tops, composite decking and Hardie Plank siding. Then why, oh why, did he allow such paltry amounts for sinks and faucets?

Paul and I were shocked to learn that John had budgeted only $20 for each bathroom sink —thinking that we would be pleased to use the kind of ugly drop-in sink one finds in spec houses.
Lesson learned: when comparing bids, request the contracting firms bidding on your project to leave out allowances for fixtures. A fixture allowance will never be realistic. Notice that John the contractor allocated funds for quality building materials because he knows his materials. This is what he does day in and day out. On the other hand, he couldn't possibly guess what every client's taste level will dictate. In addition, when bidding against other contractors, why would he inflate his proposal with fixture allowances for $250 sinks when a $20 sink will get the job done just the same. Even though the more expensive sink is probably closer to what you may desire.

"Do $20 sinks really exist?"

There was a time when a sink was a sink and that was it! This is not the case today. I suggest you go forth to the plumbing stores, shop, compare and get a sense of your style. Also, what is invaluable is to find a knowledgeable plumbing sales person to work with. Ask your contractor or designer who they recommend. Seasoned plumbing sales people can be a wealth of information on setting you on the right path.


Learning From Others Mistakes

Sunday, April 6, 2008

I must give a nod to The Kitchen Designer, Susan Serra, for her masterful opinion in her blog dated 04/06/08, Lessons Learned from New York Times "Dream House Diaries". Susan Serra's 14 points are a primer for anyone planning a home renovation project.

A builder who assumes the cabinets are to be built around a predetermined plumbing and mechanical plan means someone put some thought in planning the kitchen, you would think so. But to read in the "Dream House Diaries" that the builder suggested to leave the kitchen planning till the point where the floors are down is nothing but a** backwards. It indicates the builder is interested in a cabinet order taker to come in later to get it in and get it done. This causes a huge disservice to the homeowner who is intent on a "Dream Kitchen for their Dream Home".

Whether building from the ground up or renovating an existing home, the mechanical locations for plumbing & gas lines, go hand in hand with planning the kitchen. Also, the placement or relocation of windows and doors is a critical stage in planning the kitchen. The design of the cabinetry, the doors and windows and the appliances must all be factored in at the beginning of the project, not the middle and not after drywall is up. For the do-it yourself crowd, I admire your fortitude to handle the project yourself, but it would not hurt to get a second opinion from a kitchen designer before ordering your cabinets. See the article link by one homeowner, "Did I get it right".

You can't leave planning the kitchen foot print to chance, thinking or hoping that the architect or builder is intent on the specifics, making sure the appliances and cabinets will fit. As much as we hope to see standards in the appliance industry, there are no "standards" when it comes to appliances. See an analytical point by point appliance comparison at the Kitchen-Exchange by Peggy Deras, Comment on Arrol Gellner's Appliance Advice. A builder that allows a variance of (+ or -) 6" can cheat the space with over sized cabinets and therefore cheat you by not allowing for the trash base or a proper bank of drawers or a lazy susan or a larger refrigerator. Kitchen Designers are not order takers. Planning the flow of space around appliances, cooking and clean up zones requires specialized training. A kitchen or bath designer will factor the dimensions of a space down the to the 1/8" inch and provide the builder a detailed plan ready for installation.

As Susan Serra stated in her article, the other problem by not planning the kitchen in the beginning creates a problem of cabinet size continuity. Wall cabinets with different door widths creates disharmony. Anybody with a tape measure can fill a wall with stock cabinets and fillers. To me, this is a waste of space and a waste of money when the design is washed down to nothing more than a bunch of boxes on the wall when the home owner's intent was a dream kitchen. Please refer to Peggy Deras excellent commentary Choosing a Residential Remodeling Architect.

The next factor the client has to be ready for is patience in planning. Don't rush into signing a contract until you have thoroughly interviewed the candidates. Take time to interview the architect, the builder, and the designer. If you fail to plan, plan to fail. Signing a contract with a professional who starts promising he or she will throw in free enticements or prices "good today only" are red flags. See NKBA for more advice on hiring a Kitchen and Bath designer. Go to NARI and AIA to find professional Contractors and Architects in your area. Check the BBB Reports to see if the business is in good standing. As a professional, I am so frustrated when I see a client taken in by the lowest bid, and outright lies about materials. To have a client compare my all plywood cabinet construction backed by a lifetime warranty against a 45# particle board box with a 5 year warranty and be taken in by lies by the "cabinet order taker" who says they are the same quality really frustrates me. My recommendation for homeowners is to be patient in the process of finding selections. As one homeowner said, she hoped she could just breeze right through this. This is not the same as ordering take out food. Patience is required.

No one can discount the value of the Builder, an Architect and Designer; each professional has the task at hand to provide the client a beautiful project. While a builders' interest is to get the project built on time and on budget, there is no fault in that. But, a quality builder will recommend you start working with a Kitchen and Bath specialist from the beginning so that the client can achieve their Dream Home.


Paint your Kitchen with Cyber Paint

Time is money when your painter is waiting for an answer. Hearing the painter ask. "What color?" can be unsettling when all you have to base your decision is off of a small paint chip the size of a business card or a postage stamp.

My client and I were going back and forth on the idea to paint the molding dark or not.
Seeing a concept before you put the paint brush to work is a huge help to visualize the space.

For us, we needed to see french windows, doors and door casing and lots of molding for a comparison. The cabinets and cabinet crown molding is a dark cherry wood, the crown molding around the room is paint grade. Should we go with a dark stain on the exterior doors and casing or paint them light?

There are two on line tools I want to tell you about that are invaluable.
Experimenting with different colors before painting saves a lot of time and mistakes.

Quick Tips:
  1. Take the smaller paint chips from the paint store, grab a 1/2 dozen and paste them together to make one large paint chip if you don't want to buy a small quart of tester paint.
  2. Dunn Edwards offers larger paint chips (about 4" x 8") through the architectural division. You can order these large paint chips on line at no charge.
  3. Have your painter (or do this yourself), apply test samples on the walls and trim. Live with it over the weekend before you commit to the color. View the color in morning, noon and night lighting.
I really like the Paint Brush tool offered at House Beautiful. It is great for quick room concepts, and saves the trip to the paint store. You can do this in the convenience of your home. There are 25 room images to select.The paint colors are from Benjamin Moore, Valspar and Sherwin Williams.

HB Paint Brush is missing the advanced options. It only allows you to pick one color trim for all the trim.
When comparing it to Dunn Edwards Palette Previewer, Dunn Edwards is more advanced and offers more flexability. Again, there is another learning curve. It is not for the impatient, but once you understand how to use it, it is really great to see your scanned photo of your actual room transformed with the paint colors you select. If you want to keep it simple, you can use the sample pictures to paint with.

Both programs allow you to print out the photo of your room with the paint numbers listed. Great idea.

Environment Friendly. I use the Dunn Edwards Computer Palette Previewer on my projects all the time and the larger paint chips so clients don't have to invest in a quart of paint three or four times over to test multiple samples on the walls. I just wish Dunn Edwards would come out with smaller paint testers. A quart of paint is really a lot of paint when you add up three or more colors consumers may buy before making the final decision. Half empty paint cans for the recycling centers is not eco-friendly.


Practicality of Concrete

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.


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