31 August 2008



Hanna, Ike and Josephine are heading to the U.S. after Gustav's recent rampage. (See details below.) Please check out the sections marked Generators and Hurricane Preparedness if you're in their path. The other sections offer longer-term solutions to strengthening your home against future storms, (and building a new home in a hurricane-prone area).

Track these storms at:


As I write this, another major hurricane is heading toward Katrina-battered New Orleans. I hope to G-d the levees hold this time, and no one else is killed or injured by Gustav.

I remember the fear I felt as Hurricane Charley bore down on Florida’s southwest coast in 2004. I don’t wish that on anyone – anywhere! Two years later, I was doing design work on a
two-family home, (shown in the photo above), flattened by that storm when it took a last-minute turn and pummeled the coastline two hours south of us. Charley, Katrina and now Gustav remind us of wind and water’s power to destroy the homes we love. Here are a few strategies and weapons in the war against nature.


If you’re planning on building a home, consider reinforced concrete construction. This building method is extremely energy-efficient, as well as being able to withstand wind and earthquake forces. An excellent book on the topic is PreFabulous by Sheri Koones. (You can purchase it through the Amazon Gold section in the lower right corner of this blog's home page.) In its well-illustrated pages, Koones not only shows how great prefab homes can look, but describes the different options, including concrete construction, in depth, with a resource section at the end. The National Association of Home Builders’ Concrete Home Building Council is another great resource for this building method.



If you’re planning to remodel your home, consider impact-resistant glass for doors and windows. According to one of my sources, Roger Hutson, millworks trainer for The Home Depot in Tampa, Fl., “Windows are now available to withstand the wind pressures of hurricane force winds. With the addition of IMPACT glass, the windows will protect the home from flying debris without the added time and effort needed to install shutters.” New windows can also improve your home’s energy-efficiency, if you opt for those with low-emissivity (or low-e) glass.

Garage Doors

Garage doors, especially those extra-wide double doors and older doors, are another vulnerable point in a storm. Home Depot, (and likely other sources, as well), carry new hurricane-approved garage door systems that are definitely worth considering. (A new garage door can add to your home's curb appeal, as well.)

Entry Doors

Entry doors – especially those handsome double door sets – are also vulnerability points. There are new door systems on the market that are Florida-approved and worth considering for your home’s safety. “Doors older than five years may not be designed or installed to withstand the forces of a hurricane,” Hutson says.

An interim step could be changing your in-swing double door set to out-swing, as this gives an extra measure of protection in a major wind storm, according to the millworks trainer.


Many hurricane zone residents purchase generators to power their homes or businesses during an electrical outage. Here is some safety advice on their use from the American Red Cross. If you’re the owner of a generator, or considering purchasing one, please read this short page of information first! Your family’s or employees’ lives may depend on it!



I’m not going to reinvent the wheel. Smarter folks who have lived here longer than I have put together top-notch hurricane preparedness lists. Here’s a short one for your consideration from our local newspaper, The Tampa Tribune:


The Trib also covered some intriguing new emergency “gadgets” you might want to consider:


One of the most important ways you can prepare yourself and your family is by having an Emergency Plan prepared. The Red Cross has put together a Podcast on how to do this:



If Hurricane Gustav creates the level of damage that Charley, Katrina, Wilma and so many other storms before it have, please be generous. The American Red Cross will put your donations to great use, helping our fellow Americans survive the painful aftermath, as it always does.


I was a volunteer in Los Angeles after the ’92 riots and ’94 earthquake and saw first-hand the great work this organization does.

New Orleans – the city in which I said, “I do,” seven years ago – you’re in my heart and prayers today.

26 August 2008


Every year, the leading companies in the kitchen and bath industry gather for the Kitchen/Bath Industry Show, the largest gathering of manufacturers, dealers and designers in North America. This year, the National Kitchen & Bath Association, which produces KBIS, decided to feature official bloggers to cover the show as it occurred. I was one of those bloggers. My beat was "luxury products," and I reported the show as it happened on Glam.com.

I’m looking beyond the luxury market for my own blog to products that could benefit any of our homes. Last week, I brought you the best of KBIS kitchens. Here's the scoop on KBIS bath products.


When I covered the International Builders Show in 2007, I spotted the same types of touch-free sensor faucets that one often uses in public restrooms showing up there for the residential market. They make great sense for home use, both from the avoidance of germ spread and for their potential water savings. They’re also great for those with arthritis, Parkinsons and other ailments that impact hand flexibility.

The problem was, the styles shown at IBS looked like they belonged in public restrooms, not in someone’s home. That deficit was clearly overcome at KBIS this year, and fashionable sensor faucets showed up in almost every plumbing booth. Shown here: Axor Starck X Electronic Faucet with Temp Control from Hansgrohe.


Again, these are not new introductions this year, but very much in keeping with one of the dominant trends of KBIS 2008: environmentally-friendly products. If you’re not familiar with the dual flush concept, here’s a brief explanation: Standard flushing uses a lower water ration than our current standard, and is suitable for liquid/paper flushes. The alternate flushing mode uses a higher water allotment, comparable to our current standard, for bulk needs. Dual flush toilets may become code mandated in future years as fresh water supplies dwindle further and droughts threaten even more areas. The good news is, you don’t need to sacrifice style while saving water. More manufacturers are introducing dual flush models into their designer suites. Shown here: Kohler’s Saile Dual Flush Toilet.

I love the hammered metal looks of the Native Trails product line. They evoke both contemporary and classic elegance and come in copper or silver finishes. I can definitely see myself incorporating one of their lavs in upcoming client projects. (They also make a line of tubs, bar and kitchen sinks.) Shown here: Tatra Basin in Antique Finish.


One of my design specialties is Aging-in-Place, which seeks to make spaces more accessible, comfortable and safer for older residents wanting to remain in their own homes. The image that comes to mind when you mention Aging-in-Place or Universal Design is a nursing home with white plastic grab bars. Not for my clients! I go more for Resort Spa than Rehab Hospital, and Kohler’s new integrated Belay grab rail system fits right into that plan. The front can be tiled to match the rest of the shower, tub or toilet area. The top edge is made to match the most popular Kohler finishes. It’s the grab bar system for clients who don’t like the look of grab bars. Shown here: Kohler 30” Belay with Brushed Silver edge.


If bath time in your family is a daily struggle, maybe adding some color to the experience will speed things along. The Hansa Colourshower lets your kids–or your spouse!–choose their favorite colors to shower with, as well as choose from variable pressure settings. The handheld body sprayer is super-convenient, as is the soap dispenser. You might want one of these for the kids’ bath and your own.


If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know that I’m a quartz countertops enthusiast. One of my favorite versions of the product literally stopped me in my tracks at KBIS 2008. It’s a jeweled version from Caesarstone, one of the leading manufacturers of engineered stone tops and the only one I know of that offers a limited lifetime warranty on its countertop material. Called Concetto, this gorgeous stone would enhance any master bath or powder room. Best of all: while giving a high-powered impression, it's a low-maintenance beauty. Take a look for yourself! Shown Here: Blue Agate.


I love the natural beauty of bamboo, and enjoyed seeing it in lavatories at KBIS 2008, rather than in its more common flooring application. Pair it with a soapstone, concrete or honed granite countertop for a knock-out powder room! Shown here: Solid Bamboo Vessel Sink from Totally Bamboo.


Tying into KBIS 2008's other major trend - modern style - is Graff's Luna faucet series. I featured it in the Bathing Beauties' Style File this summer, include it in my Amazon Gold list (so you can buy it easily for your own home!), and mention it here again. I can definitely see a Luna lav faucet in a show-stopping powder room. Can't you?


You probably don't think about washers and dryers when the word 'bathroom' is mentioned. Imagine for a moment, though, how incredibly convenient it would be to have a washer and dryer located where the pool towels pile up, or where the kids' hamper sits, or where your own clothes hang for convenient laundry day handling. Asko's new washer/dryer set can be installed virtually anywhere you have a water hook-up and power, as it doesn't need to be vented and has "shock absorbers" built in for second-floor placement. If you're planning a bathroom remodel, you might want to consider whether a second washer/dryer in your home would save your back and legs from lugging laundry baskets around the house. Many of the new home projects I've been involved with in the past couple of years have second/upstairs laundry rooms. This panel-ready set allows you to have that convenience, cleverly camouflaged in your bathroom or walk-in closet. (There are some nifty add-ons -- like a built-in ironing board -- available, too in its HiddenHelpers line.) If you're concerned that adding a second washer/dryer pair will hike your utility bills too high, Asko is known for its water and energy efficiency. Given that fact, and its more convenient location closer to the laundry source, you might find yourself using these more than your older set and actually lowering your costs! (Hmm, what alternate uses might that laundry room serve...)


If you're interested in more information about any of these products not furnished here or on the company's web sites, please let me know. I may be able to get your questions answered through my manufacturers' contacts.
Also, if you live in the Tampa, Florida area, feel free to contact me to run some local comparison pricing for you. I do long-distance consulting on fixture planning, too, but not price comparisons out of area. Feel free to contact me at (813) 810-0467 or jamie@jgkitchens.com.

17 August 2008


Every year, the leading companies in the kitchen and bath industry gather for the Kitchen/Bath Industry Show, the largest gathering of manufacturers, dealers and designers in North America. This year, the National Kitchen & Bath Association, which produces KBIS, decided to feature official bloggers to cover the show as it occurred. I was one of those bloggers. My beat was "luxury products."

This posting extends beyond the luxury market, though, to products that could benefit any of our kitchens. Here are those I feel are the most helpful, and fill the greatest need.


The first is Thermador's recirculating unit for its downdraft ventilation system. While downdrafts and recirculating models are less powerful than a conventional hood vented outdoors, this is a good solution for condo kitchens with island cooktops where outside venting isn't an option. I had one of those projects earlier this year and was delighted to find this solution at the show. Sister company, Bosch, is also offering a recirculating unit for its downdrafts. They're expected to be available by the end of August 2008.


Here's another innovation in cooking ventilation systems from Miele. This one elevates when not in use. It is ideal for open plan kitchens with killer views, that would be partially obstructed by a standard hood. Shown here: Model DA424 is scheduled for October or November 2008 release.


These are not a new introduction, but nonetheless merit a mention as they've more than proved their value, and showed up at most of the fixture companies' booths. They are ideal for an island-based cooktop or range, where a wall-mounted pot-filler won't work. Shown: Hansgrohe's Talis S Pot Filler, Deck-Mounted.


Just about every appliance manufacturer was showing an induction cooktop at KBIS. Viking was the only one I spotted with an induction range in the works. This is ideal for homeowners who want to replace appliances, not cabinets. The new induction range, expected at the end of this year or early 2009, can fit in the same spot as a 30-inch gas or electric range, and save you money on your utility bills. For more induction advantages, please see my earlier posting on this topic. If you'd like a sneak peak at the KBIS-displayed range prototype, you can click here at my KBIS Blog - Day One entry and scroll down three snapshots to see the photograph I took at the Viking booth.


While on the subject of induction cooking which, by now, you know I heartily endorse, this induction wok from German manufacturer, Kuppersbusch, is a great kitchen addition for those who enjoy stir-fry.


If you'd love to have a double oven, but have a space-challenged kitchen, you'll love this innovation from GE Profile. It allows you to cook in two ovens while only using the space requirements of one. The larger, lower oven can accommodate a 22-pound turkey, while the upper one cooks side dishes. This is the perfect holiday helper, and is expected to debut October 2008.


Asko introduced two dishwasher innovations: a third rack for low-profile items like bowls and a special rack for extra glasses. Electrolux added a light to the interior of their dishwasher, which is handy if you drop something in the bottom after a late-night snack attack.


Fisher & Paykel, the folks who energized the dishwasher category with their double drawer model several years ago, have come up with something new, unique and very convenient. It’s a refrigerator. It’s a freezer. You set the temperature for your current need, then change it in the future if those needs changed. This versatile, single drawer-based appliance can live in your cooking zone under a cooktop, so no more carrying a slab of ribs across the kitchen. I can see this chiller also working well in a catering kitchen, a Kosher kitchen, (which frowns on dairy fraternizing with meat), a wheelchair-user’s kitchen, given its upper drawer placement, and my next kitchen, too.


Imagine if your refrigerator alerted you if one of its doors was left open, (or if there was a malfunction threatening your perishables). You don't have to imagine any longer. Miele's new RemoteVision technology will do that for you. It won't tell you which son or daughter left the fridge open, but at least you'll know to phone home and get someone to close it! Shown below: One of Miele's refrigerator/freezer models with RemoteVision -- KF 1901 SF.


Look for an upcoming "Top Bathroom Products from KBIS 2008" posting.


If you're interested in more information about any of these appliances not furnished here or on the company's web sites, please let me know. I may be able to get your questions answered through my manufacturers' contacts.

Also, if you live in the Tampa, Florida area, feel free to contact me to run some local comparison pricing for you. I do long-distance consulting on appliance planning, too, but not price comparisons out of area. Feel free to contact me at (813) 810-0467 or jamie@jgkitchens.com.

12 August 2008


Did you watch the opening ceremonies of the Olympic Games last Friday night? I was one of the billion or so viewers who tuned in and enjoyed the festivities. My favorite moment, by far, was NBA and Team China basketball star Yao Ming leading the Chinese team in the Parade of Nations with Lin Hao, a nine-year-old Chinese earthquake survivor.

That scene touched me in so many ways. For one thing, it is so rare to see a celebrity today who is willing to share the spotlight with anyone else, much less a scene-stealing child. Another was the delicious contrast between the 7’6” giant and the diminutive boy walking next to him, both cheered mightily by their countrymen and guests alike.

The third was learning of the heroism of this youngster, who went back into the collapsed building to rescue two classmates. When asked later why he did this, after managing his own escape, he responded that he was a class leader risked his own safety because that’s what he was supposed to do as a leader. Wow. Yao Ming is also a leader in this regard. Though he now lives in Houston, Texas, he has established a charitable foundation to rebuild schools in the earthquake-struck region of China to higher construction standards so that no other children have to die.

So what does this all have to do with design, the primary focus of this blog. Being a designer myself and musing at the disparity between the towering basketball player and the tiny boy by his side, I began to wonder, how would I go about designing a kitchen for Yao Ming… That is my Olympic dream!


Clearly, you can’t fill a super-sized athlete’s kitchen with standard-height cabinets – not if he likes to cook at all. (His bride of one year, Ye Li, is a 6’3” member of China’s national women’s basketball team.) I would design their kitchen in a custom line that allows me to change the cabinets’ height, and identify which, if any, cooking tasks he enjoys participating in when he’s not on the road. For some very successful people, cooking is a relaxing hobby. If Yao Ming is among that group, I’d want to be sure his ergonomics were taken into account. Ye Li may want a taller prep section, too, given her stature.

I have read that Yao Ming’s mother, who now lives in the States and owns a restaurant in Houston, loves to cook old-fashioned Chinese food for her son. If Yao and his wife still enjoy having her cook for them in their home on a regular basis, as she did regularly when he was a bachelor, a section of the kitchen could be zoned for Mama Yao. Though she’s a retired basketball player herself and restaurateur, I would plan a table-height space in her section with some roll-under seating. That will let this hard worker get off her feet for a while as she preps her special dishes.


Health is always a big concern for professional athletes. I would plan on construction materials for Yao Ming’s kitchen that would contribute to his well-being. For example, I’d probably specify Breathe Easy cabinetry, which is made from formaldehyde-free plywood with no- and low-VOC finishes. I’d recommend quartz countertops for an easy-maintenance, non-porous countertop. (I've blogged about both of these recently in a healthy kitchen posting.)

I would also suggest a softer floor than the typical stone or wood celebrity kitchen. NBA knees and feet already take a pounding on the court. They don’t need to do so at home. Cork or Marmoleum Click would be my health-based recommendations, as both are anti-allergenic and anti-mold. Rubber is another great option. While none of these really sound like they could meet a celebrity home’s style quotient, I promise you that I can deliver the aesthetic points, too.

A top-notch ventilation system must also be factored into this remodel, so that all the Yao chow, (my foodie husband’s pun, not mine, I swear), cooking gases escape outside. You can’t account for air quality in Houston or Beijing, but at least indoor air quality in this Houstonian home will be top-notch. I hear good breathing is quite helpful in sports.


There are a few appliance categories that could particularly benefit this household. Since Yao and his wife both have professional athletes’ heavy travel schedules, Miele’s new refrigerators with RemoteVision – introduced at this year’s Kitchen/Bath Industry Show – are among those I’d suggest to this couple . The technology communicates any temperature malfunction or open fridge doors, (which could be really helpful if you’re on a long road trip), back to its manufacturer. The manufacturer then alerts a homeowner contact to alert them about trouble at home.

Given the customized height of this kitchen’s cabinets to accommodate the basketball players, a cooktop and wall ovens will work better than a range for the Yaos. I’m partial to induction cooking, as I’ve blogged about before. It’s more energy efficient and safer to use than a standard gas or electric cooktop, (especially for aging eyes and young hands, if the Yaos start a family in this home). Best of all, it offers the same cooking performance as professional gas burners without the need for gas flame or fuel.

A pair of wall ovens, one microwave/convection and one standard-steam could be good options for the Yaos. (Many Chinese dishes are prepared by steaming, so Kuppersbusch’s Combi-Steam oven could be ideal for this couple.) If space allows, I’d mount each in separate cabinets so that both ovens could be set at ideal heights for their users.

If Mama Yao is getting her own cooking section, she might enjoy an induction wok. Kuppersbusch demonstrated one at KBIS and it really sizzled. Many restaurateurs in Europe are switching to induction, I’m told. Mrs. Yao could start that trend among her U.S. colleagues. I’d also suggest a refrigerator of her own, so that she can have her preferred ingredients close at hand in her area. Two options present themselves: One is the standard, under-counter double drawer refrigerator widely available in both stainless and panel-ready versions. A new innovation – also launched at the most recent KBIS – is Fisher & Paykel’s CoolDrawer. This unit serves as either a refrigerator or freezer, depending on the user’s preference at any given time, and can install directly under a cooktop for both super-handy convenience and compact spaces.


I don’t have professional-level training in feng shui, the Chinese system of home and room arrangement, and its principles may be important to the Yaos, both natives of China. (I would have a feng shui consultant review the plans before any final decisions were made, if this were something the Yaos desired.)

In feng shui, the kitchen is extremely important, both in terms of its placement in the home and the placement of elements within it. Quite happily, many feng shui kitchen concepts mesh well with the design principles I already practice. For example, feng shui recommends that kitchens be located at the back of the home. This is ideal for houses with outdoor living areas just beyond the back door, as it creates a great indoor-outdoor entertaining flow.

Feng shui also suggests that the cook be able to see the room’s entry while working at the range or cooktop. This ties in well with participatory cooking/entertaining, which many young professionals enjoy. Given that we’re planning a cooktop for the Yaos, it can certainly be located on an island that faces the main views of the room. (Wouldn’t it be fun to watch someone so wonderfully dexterous play in the kitchen!)


I’m a strong believer that an open plan kitchen should fit well into its home environment, just like a team member fits with his team. One of the major mistakes I steer clients away from making is creating a gorgeous new kitchen that looks completely out of place in its setting. The Yaos already own a large, fairly new home in the Houston suburbs. I haven’t seen it for myself, but feel safe presuming that it has an open floor plan, as most young houses are designed that way. I would ensure that their remodeled kitchen, should they decide to take on such a project, would work for their home, their lives and their careers.

So call me some time, Rocket Man (or Mrs. Rocket Man)! Make my Olympic dream come true.

05 August 2008


Last week, I wrote about the much-hyped granite-radon-cancer link. This week, I’d like to suggest some stylish products for a healthier – and style-smart – kitchen. From top down, they are:


Quartz in its many varieties offers style, durability and easy maintenance. Quartz tops are nonporous, so you don’t need to worry about food-borne bacteria penetrating their surface. Quartz is sold under numerous brand names, including Cambria, Zodiaq, Silestone and Caesarstone. For more information about quartz, please visit my archive for the “Ode to Quartz Countertops” posting.

Corian is a countertop option that I haven't specified in more than two years, as most of my clients want granite or quartz. However, some people still prefer it for several reasons: Corian will integrate a sink more smoothly than any other material, giving the sleekest, easiest-clean edge on the market, and there’s something to be said for its almost-invisible seams and reparability. Corian is also much softer and warmer to the touch than stone. Last week, I spotted Corian’s new Illumination Series at the Southeast Builders Show and absolutely loved its cool, contemporary looks. It’s translucent, so you can uplight it for countertops – especially dramatic islands or vanities – or backlight it for easy maintenance backsplashes. Very dramatic, yet still non-porous and repairable.


In response to challenging economic times, there have been a rash of low-cost import cabinets from countries without environmental controls. These may have lead content or unsafe levels of formaldehyde that can be hazardous to your health. This is especially true for young children and the frail elderly, those with respiratory issues and anyone whose immune system has been compromised. A healthier alternative for this segment of the population are cabinets with low- or no-VOC finishes and formaldehyde-free construction. The challenge is finding attractive cabinets that meet your style needs, along with your health concerns. I’m delighted to share that I’ve found such a brand: Breathe Easy Cabinets. Their construction offers the benefits of high-quality, formaldehyde-free custom cabinetry, along with an attractive range of healthier finishes . Unlike some of their competitors whose design savvy is as green as their eco-status, you would not know that BEs are as great for your health as they are for your home’s value. I consider them the Volvo of cabinets: ideal for safety-conscious families, durable, stylish and mid-high priced. You can find a dealer at the Breathe Easy site. The Florida distributor is working on finding one in the Tampa area to serve my clientele.


Marmoleum is not a new product. Nor are its environmental properties new. It’s all natural, but it’s also allergen-free, antiseptic, antistatic and soft underfoot. You’ll love that softness when you have to spend hours preparing a family dinner and your feet, legs and back don’t ache like they do on tile. The company's new Marmoleum Click product installs easily and can be configured into a range of retro-friendly design styles. You’ll have no grout to clean and won’t worry about your children playing on it as you’re preparing meals.


IMAGE (Above): Marmoleum Click offers a healthier, stylish kitchen and great room flooring option.

Please let me know if you'd like to create a room using any of these materials. As an independent designer, my role is to pair clients with the best-available components for their projects. When it comes to healthier but still style-smart spaces, these are among my recommendations. For those clients outside the Tampa, Florida area, I do offer long distance design consulting by phone/email/internet. Please see my design firm website to view some recent projects and complete contact information.

Found Gold: Popular Posts from the Past!

Don't miss out on any gold -- subscribe by email

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner