The Perfect Gift: Comfort

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Thanksgiving is behind us and after spending hours in the kitchen preparing a meal, the one thing we need is relief from the nagging backache. As we are in the midst of the holiday season, this means more people will be cooking and entertaining for their family, friends and out-of-town guests. Spending more time in the kitchen also means standing on hard flooring for several hours at a time, unfortunately resulting in nagging neck, back and foot pain.

The GelPro Mat is redefining healthy cooking. Its patented anti-fatigue gel comfort technology reduces pain and increases blood flow, creating a more relaxing and enjoyable experience for those doing the cooking this year.

Fatigue resulting from holiday cooking is something GelPro Mat founder and engineer, Robb McMahan is especially familiar with as it was his direct inspiration for developing the GelPro Mat. Robb’s wife Lisa complained about her fatigue and pain after cooking Thanksgiving dinner for the family. Relying on his innovative spirit, Robb designed a solution for his wife that has grown into a product that pros like Martha Stewart and the Barefoot Contessa depend on in their kitchens.

Here are some examples of the festive choices that you could include in your own home or give as a gift:

Single Crocodile in Red

*Available in the Neiman Marcus catalog and at

Single and Double Striated in Moss

*Available in the Frontgate and SkyMall catalogs and at

Single / Double Basketweave in Chestnut or Truffle

*Available at Bed Bath & Beyond and at

Give the gift of comfort this holiday season.


Do men like being in the kitchen?

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Over at Hospitality Net, there is a question posed to the reader in an article called ‘The New Food Tourist – Gordon Ramsay Eat Your Heart Out! | By Dr Ian Yeoman, Futurologist:

Do men like being in the kitchen?
Sure they do. I am not a social forecaster but as a kitchen designer I can testify to the fact that more men are actively researching and going out to the appliance stores and doing the research on the internet just as much as women. Maybe even more so than women. I have noticed that men are less cost conscious of appliances than women are, in that men are more concerned with getting the best quality and features, and will pay more to get them. Women tend to be more focused on the interior features of the cabinets, focusing on ease of access and the colors in the kitchen and similarly will pay more for cabinets than men will. I do believe men are more focused on the mechanics of the gadgets in appliance design, less so on color of cabinets. Also I do think that it is more than a single focus for men, it does involve self-fulfillment in showing off creative cooking skills and entertaining.

The article states: As pollster Mark Penn observes 'micro trends are based upon the idea that the most powerful forces in our society are the emerging, counterintuitive trends that are shaping tomorrow before us'. Therefore moving into the future, tomorrow's food tourist will be the upwardly mobile male, aged 26-44 who will see cultural capital and social cachet in America's food experiences. In general, men are becoming more interested in food. This means more connectivity between food and wine, whether it is as an incentive product for those involved in business tourism or just more men taking food tours. Deluxe kitchen manufacturers will probably offer cookery lessons with the celebrity chefs in a wonderful location so you can learn how use all those gadgets. Cookery schools with probably offer 'Man Food' courses for those that want to know how to 'cook a decent curry' for those on urban weekends. Restaurants will be taken over by budding Gordon Ramsay's, who will fight it out just like 'Hell's Kitchen'. Those budding celebrity chefs will pay for the privilege for doing so and they will invite their friends and relatives to consume that food (which you will charge for) and you will then sell them a DVD of the experience.
There has been a social overhaul of the kitchen from the isolated domain of the happy homemaker to the shared open space of The Great Room. Residential kitchens are being designed for two cooks. He has his requests, she has hers. There is a social shift in who does the cooking at home, to shared responsibilities. In contrast, in hospitality kitchens, male chefs have always dominated the industry. It was always harder for women to earn the top spots in fine dining restaurants. The competition to keep women out was fierce. Still, women have proven equal rank in some of the highest rated restaurants and hotels, creating greater competition for the top spots. Cooking shows are equally populated with male and female contestants vying for the title of Top Chef and Hell's Kitchen Champ. The cooking competition shows have contributed to a new enviable social status with a celebrity like presence. Have you seen these twenty something hot shots? I think this will influence how more young men might think about a culinary career like never before. These shows are culinary boot camp. Brimming with competition, bravado and throw down, the kitchen is no place for wimps. The men on these cooking shows, some of them have a mystique to their persona similar to a rock star. Mavericks, swarthy, dead serious about food, enviable knife skills. They make cooking skills look cool. Rock on! It's all in the competition.

This translates to what men will be requesting in their own kitchen. I do believe the kitchen is a new way for men to show off status and fashion as an extension of their personal identity, the same way a car has been a reflection of one's identity. Poggenpohl knows this with the first Porsche designed kitchen, designed especially with men in mind. With the return in popularity of the dinner party, and the trend of the great room where the kitchen is included in the living space, I do believe men will play a bigger part of the kitchen scene. No longer will they want to be relegated to the bar-b-que. This will surely be another reason to keep marriage therapists busy.


Take a Trip to KitchAnn Style

Friday, November 28, 2008

Today I just posted an article on manufacturer responsibility and buyer awareness with respect to selecting environmentally responsible products. Speaking of manufacturer responsibility, Ann Porter, of KitchAnn Style, has posted a commentary, LG Caught Under reporting Energy Consumption. The article reveals in September LG’s French Door fridges were tested and showed an energy usage 100% higher than the energy use promised on the fridge’s DOE Yellow Card.

The “DOE believes that the actions LG plans to take will benefit consumers and help ensure that the Nation's energy conservation goals are met,” Acting Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy John Mizroch said. “It is critical that we work together with our industry partners to maintain the integrity of the ENERGY STAR® brand to make sure that consumers are able to make the most efficient purchasing decision - we appreciate LG’s cooperation in settling this issue.”
Without government regulation and independent verification, it is impossible to compare products and make informed decisions. LG voluntarily suspended these products from the ENERGY STAR® program. DOE's ENERGY STAR® criteria for refrigerator-freezers require all qualified refrigerator-freezers to use at least 20 percent less energy than the Federal government energy consumption standard.

The related links to DOE's official report, consumer hotline and links to LG's website are all there at KitchAnnStyle. Very well done posting. Thank you Ann Porter.


Making responsible material selections.

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.

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.

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?

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:

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.


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.

  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.
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.

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.


Throw out what you know about the kitchen window

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Feel constrained by your kitchen window? Lack of privacy? Do you have a sun baked kitchen in summer? Have a less than attractive view of your neighbor? Tired of conventional kitchen plans? Challenge yourself to think with a new view. You could pick up better storage, more task lighting, increased energy efficient windows, and a better view.

Start by throwing out what you know about your kitchen window. The sink does not need to be centered at the middle of the window. Once you allow yourself to throw convention "out the window", a whole new window of possibilities for a better kitchen plan can be yours for the asking.

Here are some fabulous kitchens presented by Remodeling Magazine, one of my favorite trade publications. Follow the hyperlink to the article by Nina Patel, Back Lighting: narrow backsplash windows bring natural light to the kitchen while maintaining privacy.

And by the way, enjoy the view!

John Rogers, Rogers & Labarthe Architects

Both photos above and below: Phil Rossington, Rossington Architecture

Phil Rossington, Rossington Architecture

Alison Rainey, Merz Project

Both pictures: exterior and interior shots.
Iris Harrell, Harrell Remodeling

Click HERE to be directed to the slide show that provides written commentary by either the responsible architect, designer or builder on the project. Once there, click on the slide commentary to be directed to each company web site.


Are you game for a new grill?

Monday, November 24, 2008

Get ready to expose your dirty grill.
This just in:

We'll find America's dirtiest griller and give them an Epicure 36” Outdoor Grill by Dacor

PHILADELPHIA – November 24, 2008 – Grill, baby, grill. And if your efforts result in a greasy, mucky mess, the "Dirty Grills Gone Wild” contest may offer you a sizzling new start.

The contest is seeking the grossest grill in America. Its owner will receive a new Dacor® Epicure® 36” Outdoor Grill and Grill Cart and a year's supply of Scott Shop Towels. To enter, contestants must submit a digital photo of their dirty grill by February 2, 2009 at

"Dacor changed the way people cook outside forever, with the introduction of the industry's first built-in halogen lighting on an outdoor grill in 2001,” said Steve Joseph, Vice President of Marketing at Dacor. "Today, we're focused on new standards of excellence, with a full line of appliances that feature brilliant style and performance details to heighten the cooking experience. With the same level of craftsmanship as our indoor cooking appliances, the Epicure Outdoor Grill is designed to provide superior cooking results, no matter if you are just grilling a few hot dogs or searing the finest cuts of steak.”

"As the makers of some of the most heavy-duty shop towels around, we're all about cleaning things up,” said Lauren Collier, an Associate Marketing Manager for the Kimberly-Clark Professional DIY Business. "We're looking to give one grubby griller a second chance, by awarding both a new grill and the cleanup tools to keep it that way.”

The contest is being promoted at barbeque competitions and football tailgate parties across the country, and will end the week after the Super Bowl. Organizers will also be shooting footage of grimy grills for a "Dirty Grills Gone Wild” video that will be posted on the contest web site as well as on other Internet sites.

Entries will be reviewed by a panel of judges, which includes Joey Mac's Smoke Stax, the award-winning grilling team of Joe (Joey Mac) McManus and Wayne Styck.

"The Dirtiest Grill in America” will be anointed in February 2009.

The Epicure Outdoor Grills, available in 52” and 36” widths, feature brighter halogen lighting to illuminate the cooking surface so the barbecue can continue long after the sun goes down. A patent-pending, optional ceramic sear burner, placed inside the firebox, offers high intensity cooking for perfect searing.

Brilliant Illumina(TM) Burner Control Knobs glow blue when the grill is on, for increased safety and aesthetic appeal to indicate when a burner is in the "on” position and the redesigned premium canopy hood is lighter and more user-friendly.

Three U-shaped stainless steel burners operate at 20,000 BTU on grill models without the optional ceramic sear burner. Grills that include the ceramic sear burner will feature two high-output U-shaped stainless steel burners. An infrared ceramic rotisserie burner with a heavy-duty removable motor conveniently attaches to the grill when needed, providing limitless cooking options for the outdoor chef. For additional safety, Dacor's Perma-Flame(TM) technology will automatically reignite the burner flame in the event that it is extinguished unexpectedly.

About Dacor: Founded in 1965, Dacor is the innovator of the most stylish, luxury kitchen appliances that provide the optimum ownership experience for people who are passionate about the details of cooking. The company has introduced many industry firsts including an infrared ceramic gas broiler inside an electric Pure Convectionä self-cleaning oven, an outdoor grill with built-in halogen lights, and the world's only 30” dishwasher. Based in California, family-owned Dacor offers a complete line of luxury kitchen appliances that includes ranges, wall ovens, cooktops, refrigerators, dishwashers, warming drawers, microwaves, ventilation hoods, wine storage and outdoor appliances.

For more information on Dacor, its product line and local dealer locations, visit, contact Customer Care at (800) 793-0093 or visit the Dacor Design & Culinary Centers in Los Angeles, Atlanta, Chicago or San Francisco.

About Kimberly-Clark Professional: Kimberly-Clark Professional, located in Roswell, Ga., is one of four global business segments of Kimberly-Clark Corporation. The Kimberly-Clark Professional DIY business provides professional solutions for home improvement and car care projects to make fixing up and cleaning up fast, easy and efficient. For more information, visit


Subtlety: The Master in Design

Saturday, November 22, 2008

I love detail. Who doesn't.

Detail, well crafted can exude an enormous amount of interesting features without becoming overwhelming. The beauty of detail is found in the subtlety of design and the ability to interpret regional influences.

A master at quiet detail is Doug Durbin, award winning designer, and co-founder with brother John Durbin, of NuHaus Kitchen and Bath Design. His ability of layering wood species in a space is absolutely striking but never loud. So subtle are the transitions, similar to a painting, there is a nuance you may not observe upon first viewing. Return again, and a new detail will present itself that you hadn't noticed before. To me, that is the inspiration of good design.

SubZero has an excellent video series featuring award winning projects with a commentary from client, designer and design commentary from leaders in the kitchen and bath design world.
Please visit to visit Doug Durbin's featured video.


Storage Needs 101 for the Average Wine Drinker

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Can anyone see a problem here? ;-o

There are two things at a minimum you will want to avoid when storing wines: Temperature Fluctuations and Sunlight. Poor storage of wine will have a lasting affect on the wine's flavor and/or bouquet. But some of you may say, no problem, your wine buying habit is for immediate consumption. Wine won't stay in storage long enough for you to worry about it, right?

If this sounds like you, there is a short article you may want to check out:
Storage Needs of the Average Wine Drinker
Here are 4 minimum points to remember.
• away from direct sunlight,
• temperatures between of 4ºC and 18ºC (40ºF and 65ºF),
• temperature does not fluctuate more than 2-3ºC (5ºF) once annually, and
• humidity levels are greater than 50%.

For more information on wines contact The Fine Wine Reserve.


Isaac Mizrahi in the Kitchen at

I have to tell you, I cracked up and giggled most of the way as Isaac gives us a tour of his kitchen. His frenetic energy is the equivalent to a double shot of espresso. Check out the video link at the side bar on the left or visit

Lessons learned from Isaac:
We can all learn to live with a little dirt.

Secrets kept:

The contents of his refrigerator.

Favorite features in his kitchen:

His commercial faucet, his enamel white cabinets, the prep sink, his white Le Creuset cookware and home made mint chip ice cream.

Really a fun and creative man, definitely one you would want at a dinner party. Isaac shows that style does not mean we have to break the bank. Splurge where it's worth the investment, (the appliances and cabinets), and spend a little less in easy care changeable dinner ware and accessories that can change easily as the mood or holiday dictates.



Home remote

Monday, November 17, 2008

Z-Wave Brings Green Home Solutions to Fry’s, Marking the First Retailer Nationwide to Offer Affordable Energy Saving for the Whole Home

Have you ever left the house and can't remember if you turned your heater, a/c, coffee maker, or iron off? Z-Wave wireless technology gives consumers the ability to wirelessly turn lights on/off, control appliances, and even adjust the thermostat- all with just the click of a button. With Z-Wave, you can perfectly tailor your household energy consumption for maximum efficiency or preference, anytime, from anywhere.

Fremont, Calif. –November 11, 2008 – The long wait for mass-market wireless home control solutions in retail stores is finally over. Today marks the availability of Z-Wave-based home management solutions in Fry’s stores across the nation. Stores are located across nine states including California, Texas, Arizona, George, Illinois, Indiana, Nevada, Oregon and Washington.

“This is a huge day for Z-Wave and the reality of affordable wireless home control,” noted Yan Rodriguez, Director, Home Networking and Access with Wayne-Dalton, one of the members of the Z-Wave Alliance participating in the offering. “Our offerings at Fry’s will provide consumers with easy to install wireless products that can solve real challenges for today’s busy homeowner including energy conservation, enhanced safety and security, monitoring elderly relatives and remote home management from a PC or cell phone, to name a few.”

The Z-Wave display will exclusively feature products from three Z-Wave Alliance members – Wayne-Dalton, Hawking Technologies and GE – with the goal of providing consumers with a one-stop shopping resource for Z-Wave-enabled home automation and control solutions.

Z-Wave is the first technology to bring affordable, reliable and easy to deploy wireless home control to every aspect of daily life – the home environment, consumer electronics, and energy management – to create a truly “connected home.” With energy bills rising, home control technologies such as Z-Wave are becoming a cornerstone of home energy conservation and management. Using a wide range of sensors and controllers available to the homeowner, Z-Wave can precisely tailor a home's energy usage by the device, by the room or by the whole house.

“We have noticed that retailers are increasingly looking to satisfy consumer demand for products enabling a green lifestyle,” said Raoul Wijgergangs, chairman of the Z-Wave Alliance. “Fry’s is one of the first retailers in the nation to offer a section completely devoted to energy-efficient home control products that fit into almost any consumer’s budget or lifestyle. We’re thrilled that consumers are proactively creating green homes, and we are proud to provide products that make that transformation possible.”

The Z-Wave home display at Fry’s will include the following products, which will allow consumers to quickly and easily create a solution set tailored to their needs:

  • Wayne-Dalton Gateway Module (central hub), Garage Door Conversion Module, Thermostat and usb and remote control units
  • GE Lamp Modules and Appliance Modules and remote controls
  • Hawking Motion Detector, Magnetic Door Sensor, Remote Pro Gateway, Night Vision Camera and Wireless Camera

To find a Fry’s store near you, please visit

For more information visit Z-Wave



Free Online Kitchen Visualizations

Sunday, November 16, 2008

My Edited Image created online at

Matrix EuroElectroluxKitchen

Builders Homesite, Inc. American Kitchen with Island
My edited image of same kitchen
Rendered images courtesy of

Kitchen Design Notes was contacted by Noah Kennedy, a product manager for a new technology under development by Autodesk that would allow DIY’s and interior designers to experiment with home remodeling ideas in an entirely new way.

Autodesk, an industry leader in several key design and visualization industries wants to here from you. Autodesk has a vision that decorators want to (1) see their designs quickly, easily and photorealistically before they are real, (2) privately browse real products (furnishings, appliances, paint/wallcoverings, tiles, fabrics, etc.) from real manufacturers, and (3) be able to mix and match products together.

Noah states, "What we need now is feedback: do you and your readers like this vision and do you want to see more? What are we doing right, and what are we missing?"
"Our technology preview shows how this might work- it is free and works on all browsers, and there is no software to install. What we need now is feedback: do you and your readers like this vision and do you want to see more? What are we doing right, and what are we missing?"
Send Noah your feedback. This is a chance for designers and homeowners to give your opinion on what you want in design software.



Inspirational Vanities

Native Trails introduces a new alternative for a small space vanity console in rustic finishes with a contemporary base. The Cuzco Vanity Base with options in sizes from 24", 30", and 36" wide and in two finishes: antique and brushed nickel, they are a wonderful artistic alternative to a standard vanity cabinet or pedestal sink.

Pair it with the Sedona Vanity Top for a complete ensemble.

Sedona Vanity Top

  • 3.5" Backsplash
  • Basin: 12.25" x 17.25" x 5.25"
  • 16 Gauge Copper
  • 1.5" Drain use DR120, DR140 or DR160
  • Faucet holes pre-drilled for 8" spread
  • (faucet not included)


At a moment's notice entertaining: dinner for twenty or thirty people...

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

I find some people absolutely fascinating for their ability to be so well organized. I revel at the idea of a well organized, well stocked kitchen and pantry. Oh, that's right, I am a kitchen designer, it goes with the territory, call me crazy but I happen to love this stuff. The ability to pull off your holiday entertaining and make it look "effortless" is not by accident.

As the holiday's approach, I do not want to be running around "last minute" and neither should you. Large or small kitchens, everyone can benefit from knowing how to organize their kitchen space. For some inspiration, who else to turn to but legendary entertaining expert Colin Cowie. I pulled my copy off the shelf, "Colin Cowie Chic: The Guide to Life As It Should Be".

His video is just as inspiring. See the side bar at the left to play. In the video, "The Efficient Kitchen", Colin explains with grace and confidence, "literally at a moments notice I can have dinner for twenty or thirty people. That's the way I like it."

Talk to me baby, talk to me. How cool is that! Did you see his video? Imagine your freezer flush with several particular types of ice cubes ready to pair with the drinks being served. If you are as organized as Colin, then you know about Couture Cubes. Scotch on the rocks? Reach for the wonderful big round ice ball to keep your drink from watering down. A dark and stormy? Freeze your ice in tall Popsicle shaped ice cubes. Tequila? Nothing else will do but the tall shards of ice served in a champagne flute. Are you looking at last summer's stale ice cubes and wondering where you went wrong? Don't despair, there is hope yet for my ice cubed challenged friends. See page 145 of his book. A tip from the book: make your own "couture" ice cubes this holiday season. Look for star shapes, jewels, and flowers for mixed drinks. This is not just for alcoholic beverages, more ideas abound for the designated driver refreshments. Use ziploc bags to keep your ice cube shapes from shattering and picking up freezer odors.

Whether planning for a holiday party or planning to remodel your kitchen, make a true assessment of your space. Think about your lifestyle and design your kitchen around you and your family. An entertainers kitchen, a family kitchen, whatever it is, build in features that make your space special to you and your family. Clear out items that make no sense to hold onto.

My top ten favorite features in Colin's contemporary kitchen and beyond:

  1. The under cabinet lighting is concealed without a light rail for a contemporary elegant detail. The bottom of the wall cabinet is recessed to achieve this attractive detail. No clunky light rail.
  2. The return of the oak cabinet but in a very modern way. The cabinets are gray. Colin's reason for this is that he wants the food to be the center stage in his kitchen. Color pops with the accent of all white dinnerware and color from the stemware.
  3. The everyday dinnerware is located directly above the dishwasher for ease of access.
  4. The silverware drawer is built deeper, "as it should be"to allow several sets of silverware to be stacked one above the other. I don't know why more face frame cabinet manufacturers won't give us this option without going to great lengths to customize. This should be a basic feature. If you order frame-less cabinets you can pick up more space with the absence of the face frame, but still not as much as it should be.
    One of my tricks I will share with you: instead of a drawer, order a base cabinet with a full height door and add several deeper roll out trays for cutlery. You can store much more in the same cubic space in stead of a standard door/drawer combo.
  5. The storage: a well stocked freezer with chickens, racks of lamb, frozen soups, chicken and beef stocks. If your kitchen is small like Colin's, plan for a freezer in your garage to stock up on all the necessities.
  6. Organize your spices alphabetically with the labels facing out, (I know it is a little reminiscent of the eerie move, "Sleeping with the Enemy", but to be ready to entertain, you want to see everything at once in a well organized spice cabinet or drawer. as for spice storage, I avoid designing with swing out spice racks in wall cabinets, because I don't like small jars falling off the rack. I find most of my clients feel the same. I prefer a wide drawer with all the spices at easy viewing. Again, this is where slightly deeper drawers would come in handy. Or utilize the pull out wall cabinets that are so handy for seeing all your spices. Warning about decorative wall mount spice racks above a stove: spices should be kept in the dark and away from heat to preserve the freshness. Also watch the expiration dates. Use them or loose the flavors in your next meal. Buying Costco sized spices? Are you really going to benefit from that much? Unless you are serving 1000 people a day, the best bet with spices is to buy smaller quantities to enjoy the freshness.
  7. Zoning: keep all the foils, wraps, plastic, wax paper in a drawer close to the refrigerator for ease of wrapping up left overs.
  8. Music. I love to have music piped in to my kitchen as I prepare a meal. It can be as simple as a shelf mini stereo or when planning your kitchen, factor in a place to hold a reciever and install built in speakers from the ceiling. My client in the Hollywood Hills had a very small kitchen and we found the perfect spot in the wall cabinet over the refrigerator to house his small Bose system. The doors were removed for ventilation and to access with a remote. CD changing was not a problem as he kept his top 5 in there and changed them out at random. Music equipement needs air circulation. Be sure to factor that in your design.
  9. Shop for fresh produce. Get out to your local farmers market. It is cheaper than buying frozen and tastes so much better.
  10. Enjoy your holidays!



What to expect in 2009: Price Increases

What buzzed across my fax machine this past week caused me to groan, "price increase from my cabinet manufacturers? Not again!"

The three things that are unavoidable are death, taxes, and price increases.

Several appliance manufacturers recently increased prices by a dramatic 20% due to the cost of raw goods, energy and production costs. If you got in on a sale before appliances went up this fall, good for you. I am telling all my clients who were holding out until after the holidays to order now while you can still buy cabinets at 2008 prices.

Why wait? Cost of goods inflation waits for no one.

If you were thinking of getting started in '09, start looking for end of year deals now.



Can I add a garbage disposal to my farmhouse sink?

Monday, November 10, 2008

Over at The Daily Tubber they are discussing garbage disposals. Ok, so who really wants to talk about garbage disposals you may ask? But the truth of the matter is that the garbage disposal plays a large part in convenience and practicality in the kitchen.

I had a client call me saying the sink was vibrating something awful every time she used the garbage disposal in her stainless steel sink. Garbage disposals come in varying horse powers. Most households can get by just fine with 1/2 or 3/4 horse power. Could a heavy duty garbage disposal be too powerful for your sink? The torque of a powerful disposal can loosen the clamps that hold the sink in place. Check with your plumbing store and your plumber to make sure your garbage disposal will be compatible with your sink.

In the case of the vibrating sink, it turns out that the clamps that holds the sink in place came loose due to a garbage disposal that was too powerful and not compatible with her sink. She was able to replace the garbage disposal for another and has not had a problem since. Purchasing a garbage disposal based on highest price or the most horsepower is not the best way to judge it's value or compatibility with your sink.

Another cautionary note with garbage disposals is not to rush the job. Installing an under mount sink, granite tops and hooking up the plumbing all in the same day is a recipe for problems later. If it is done all in one day, chances are the weight of a heavy disposal will pull the sink away from the counter top eventually. The epoxy that bonds the sink needs to set for at least a day before the plumber comes in to hook up the garbage disposal and fixtures.



This weeks featured celebrity kitchen: Colin Cowie

Last week we toured Moby's compact kitchen and discovered his favorite appliance: the microwave. A kitchen space that works well for a musician who spends most of his life traveling.

This week we take a tour to Colin Cowie's kitchen through the web link at Epicurious. Colin's kitchen is the epitome of a well defined kitchen space, perfect for entertaining. Notice the grey stained oak cabinets. Very sophisticated.
Enjoy the tour. For more tours visit or click on the side bar link.


A trip to Appliance Notes: Hank Goes Tankless

Sunday, November 9, 2008

A thanks to Peggy Deras at Appliance Notes for highlighting the article Smarter Hot Water: The Big Switch- from Tank to Tankless. A good article for anyone thinking about replacing their old hot water heater.


Glam is in! Black and Grey accents in Kitchen and Bath

Friday, November 7, 2008

Imparting sexiness, glamor and oh so sophisticated; watch for the newest shades in decorative fixtures, stone and paint. In a sea of chrome and oil rubbed bronze, grays and blacks are making their way to the center stage.

Also for the floor, look at Galaxy Black stone from Ann Sacks. It comes in three finishes: Honed, Antiqued, and Bush-Hammered. With sealer, it simply glows as a surface.

Galaxy Black by Ann Sacks, brings a rustic yet sophisticated black limestone to our stone assortment. Reminiscent of a starry sky on a dark night, the character and patterning of this material has inspired its name. Offered in a variety of finishes, this material is uniquely flexible.

Vintage elegance. NDI botanical arrangement brings quiet elegance to
black marble and gray veined tiled walls.

Renea Abbott's home in Houston is filled with uber drama details in nuetral shades of gray and muslin. I was searching in the November-December issue of Veranda for a picture of her kitchen with calcutta gold marble tops with the wall cabinets removed, bit no such luck. Instead, above is a sneak peek of the powder room. Walls painted in a soothing nuetral gray.



Largest Storage Capacity in a French Door Refrigerator – 29 c. ft.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008



7” LCD Touch Screen Paired with 28.5 cu. ft. of Internal Space
Offers Consumers
Easy Organization Inside and Out

RIDGEFIELD PARK, N.J., Nov. 3, 2008 Samsung Electronics America Inc., a market leader and award-winning innovator in consumer electronics, announces the latest addition to its rapidly expanding kitchen suite of appliances with the RFG299 French Door Refrigerator. The new RFG299 French Door Refrigerator includes a convenient 7” LCD touch screen above the ice and water dispenser and delivers the industry’s largest internal storage at 28.5 cu. ft. in a standard footprint.

In recognizing the kitchen as the heart of the home, and reinforcing its commitment to develop innovative products that enhance consumer lifestyles, Samsung developed the LCD touch screen to give consumers easy access to calendars, schedules, showcase photos, nutrition facts, and unit conversions. A simple touch of the screen can control the refrigerator’s temperature or monitor the water filter status.

“Whether entertaining friends or preparing dinner with the family, Samsung understands the kitchen is the focal point in today’s modern home,” said James Politeski, vice president of Home Appliance Sales & Marketing. “The 7” LCD Touch Screen takes our already highly-regarded 28.5 cu. ft. French Door Refrigerator to a new level of innovation all to make life a little easier for our customers.”

Samsung is able to achieve the RFG299 French Door Refrigerator’s larger interior capacity thanks to high-rate urethane insulation technology, which reduces the refrigerator walls from 2.04 inches to 1.38 inches, resulting in an extra 3.5 cubic feet, or 14%, more storage space for consumers. Amazingly, despite the extra space inside, the RFG299’s size on the outside remains the same for quality cooling without the need for a new kitchen layout.

Along with the breakthrough technical advancements, the RFG299 French Door Refrigerator features many sleek details that combine for an ideal refrigerator solution. The interior LED lighting is considerably brighter than lamp-based illumination. Samsung’s EZ-Open™ Handle effortlessly breaks the freezer seal, eliminating the need to strain when opening. And the exterior door handles, hidden hinges, and stainless finish add tasteful elegance to any kitchen.

The innovative Twin Cooling Plus™ System allows the main body of the refrigerator and freezer section to be cooled separately, ensuring odors from compartments do not mix and create ice cubes that taste like last night’s leftovers. The Twin Cooling Plus™ System offers professional-grade cooling to maximize and prolong freshness.

Samsung has recently been named by J.D. Power in the 2008 Home Appliance Study as the brand ranked highest in customer satisfaction for Side-by-Side/French Door Refrigerators. Samsung excelled in the areas of performance, ease of use, styling and feel, and operational features. This marked the fourth year in a row that Samsung has received a customer satisfaction award from J.D. Power for refrigerators.

The new Samsung RFG299 French Door Refrigerator is available in stainless steel at select Best Buy locations now. For more information, please visit


A trip to Kim's Kitchen Remodel

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Over at Desire to Inspire blog author Kim Johnson is undergoing her own kitchen remodel. Kim admits "I am a complete kitchen reno virgin and am learning as I go."

Kim is allowing her readers to watch the progress with photos as the job progresses. Demo just begun. Come follow the progress at a special link called Kims Kitchen Remodel. I'll be watching from the peanut gallery.
Come watch with me.

The cabinet line she selected is made by, Green Tea, asian inspired hand-built furniture styled cabinetry from reclaimed woods. Really beautiful pieces. I admire the beautiful unfitted hand worked antique appearance of these cabinets.

Since Kim admits to being a "remodel virgin", I offer this friendly advise to her and others who are new to the experience. Construction, a little like pregnancy, begins with joy and expectation, and almost always ends with joy and satisfaction. There will be a few points in between, however, when you may wonder "Whatever did I get myself into?" Recognizing this in advance may prove helpful in managing emotions.

My gift to you is a mood chart: a graphical representation of the changing moods during a typical design/build remodel project: Post it on your kitchen wall and remind yourself that high's and lows are to be expected, and remember that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.


Looking back to look forward in kitchen remodeling.

Monday, November 3, 2008

(photos found at Retro Renovation)
I am a history buff. I love kernels of information so I can go off on a self discovery reading journey. Here is one that got me thinking about times of economic turmoil and how it affects everything we do, everything we buy and even what we eat. Did you know that during the Depression the U.S. Commerce Department proclaimed six standard colors in response to the chaos of various colors that previously existed regarding kitchen equipment? Is this not a wild factoid?

Hold on to that green frying pan. Yes, the US Commerce Dept formed the National Kitchen Modernization Bureau in 1935. White, delphinium blue, royal blue, kitchen green, ivory and red were designated as standard colors. Was the multitude of various colors in kitchen equipment really a problem? Could it be that the drive was to modernize kitchens? Out with the coal and in with gas ranges and electric refrigerators available in six matching colors for a lovely new modern kitchen.

For more information please take a detour to Retro-style suits older home for a very informative and quick read about the reactionary history of appliance colors based on economic hardships.

I found a reference to the National Kitchen Modernization Bureau, pulled from the archives of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinal.
Refer to the article: Newspaper's institute raised bar on homemaking by Nancy Stohs.

Here is a snippet from the article:

In 1930, members could get free advice on kitchen remodeling through the institute's Home Modernizing Bureau. A program announced in The Journal instructed women to mail in sketches of their woefully old-fashioned kitchens. Some of the old kitchens, along with suggested new designs, would be published in the Real Estate section. Owners of kitchens whose designs were not published would get a personal reply.

An article announcing the opportunity informed readers: "Pantries are out of date, be they large or small, and we must be rid of them to be modern." Perhaps the pantry could be turned into a breakfast nook, or "a niche for the electric refrigerator."

As for all those objects displaced from the pantry, "Closed cupboards are the modern, sanitary answer." But don't panic: "Building them is no longer a week's long process."

A thorough kitchen modernizing should run from $300 to $500, readers were told. "It is not necessary to have all of it done this spring."

For more reading on Vintage Kitchens, reference the article:
Vintage Kitchens of the 1930's, 1940's, 1950's.

If you are loving all things vintage, then take another detour to Retro Renovations.


European Old World Kitchens

Sunday, November 2, 2008

There is nothing quite as beautiful as European old world hand crafted cabinetry.
A trip through European Kitchen Design blog takes you through some of the most beautiful kitchens.

If you are looking for new ideas and interested in thinking outside the box, consider bending the tradition on American designed kitchens.

Here are a few photos for your enjoyment. Work displayed below as shown at
Notice the extraordinary design details showing the individual cases built into the walls and masonry, the absence of "wall to wall" cabinetry Americans are so accustomed to. A great departure from what is in fashion in the states: standard overlay doors and exposed hinges. Although what I would not be able to do with out is more drawers. There seems to be so few drawers in these designs.

Favorite details: The arched and plaster openings. Open shelves in place of wall cabinets.

If this was in America, I guarantee there would be a corner base lazy susan and the walls would be filled with cabinets, end to end. This is so much more charming. The exposed beams, the plaster hood. Ahhh!

Exposed hinges and standard overlay doors. Trey chic in this setting.

Textures, color, lack of uniformity. So beautiful.

For more information please visit,


Greystone Showhouse 2008

Shown here is the estate's principal stairway,
featuring marble stairs and hand-carved ballustrades.

(photo credit: Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times)

The Los Angeles Times, Sunday Home & Garden section announces the opening of the Veranda sponsored Greystone show house 2008.
To purchase tickets, go to www.BeverlyHillsGardenShowcase.Org

Magazine editor-at-large Carolyn Englefield, lined up 28 interior and landscape designers from Southern California and beyond -- a list that includes Martyn, Lawrence-Bullard, Suzanne Rheinstein, Windsor Smith, Rose Tarlow and David Phoenix. Englefield's directive: Create the feel of a Great Gatsby-style home taken into the 21st century." Her second request, perhaps even harder to fulfill: "Make it feel like a real home."

As an undergraduate at UCLA, I would steal away time between morning and afternoon classes, drive up the curvy streets in Beverly Hills to have a quiet moment in the gardens, study and daydream about the history of the Doheny Mansion. It was there, I would pullout my sketch book and study the architecture and dream about a career in design.


Built in 1928 for the son of a prominent oil baron, majestic Greystone Mansion today is surrounded by 18.5 pastoral acres of lush, City-owned parkland. The former Doheny estate is now a registered historical landmark and serves as a stunning backdrop for cultural and educational activities, photo and commercial shoots, weddings and public events. Since 1965, when the property was leased to the American Film Institute, Greystone has had feature roles in many famous movies.

Visitors are invited to stroll through two public areas on the grounds—the beautifully maintained formal gardens with their centerpiece fountain, and the pool and inner courtyard area.

PHOTOS FROM THE LA TIMES. For more photos visit: Greystone show house 2008.

Appliances by Dacor and cabinets and countertops by Acquisitions
fill the family kitchen by Veranda.
(photo credit: Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times)

Detail of the carved hood.

Pictures from past events at Greystone.
Notice the kitchen transformed from a past Design House.
The lights and wall cabinets are original to the home. It appears the floor, paint, island, appliances and base cabinets have been changed from each Design House.

During my college years, the reflecting pond was one of my favorite areas to sit, although not as lusciously appointed as shown in this photo. Peel me a grape!

For a history of Greystone please visit Friends of Greystone Mansion.
The Beverly Hills house will be open through Nov. 16, and admission is $30. For more photos click in the above link to the LA Times.


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