08 December 2009

Sensible Style - Your 8 best holiday helpers

Sensible Style launched in July to answer your questions about how to get the most out of your kitchen. ...

That's especially crucial at this time of year, when many of us are entertaining friends, family and colleagues in our homes. That makes it stress time for your kitchen! Here are some handy helpers to make the holiday season easier on you, your schedule and the hardest working room of your house.

Maximize cooking capacity

Most of the kitchens I've remodeled have started out with a single oven range with four burners on top, and a separate microwave oven. This is the sum total of their cooking capacity. Here's how to increase yours without tearing apart your kitchen this holiday season.

1) Replace your standard microwave oven with a convection microwave. This will turn your micro from a simple reheating, defrosting, popcorn-making machine into a top-flight cooking and baking appliance. They're available in both over-the-range and built-in models, and ideal for doubling oven capacity in compact kitchens.

2) Add additional capacity by choosing a convection microwave with warming oven capability. This will build in some flexibility to your cooking and serving schedule.

3) Add a fifth burner to your kitchen with a portable induction cooktop. These single-burner appliances boil water quicker than your current gas or electric versions and can sit on a spare foot of countertop to increase your capacity.

A portable induction cooktop, like this one from Viking, can increase your stove top cooking capacity.

Simplify prep and clean-up

Meal prep and clean up never garner any gourmet points, but occupy a significant part of your holiday entertaining time. Here's how to streamline the process and get you out of the kitchen quicker.

4) Select cookware that can go from the freezer to the oven to the table to the dishwasher. This will reduce your clean-up time considerably, (and the amount of water you use cleaning up after your big holiday dinner). There are several attractive brands you can choose from. Find the one that fits your budget and style.

The most attractive quality to this Emile Henry cookware just may be its extraordinary convenience.

5) If you were looking at replacing worn-out, broken or warped wood cutting boards, consider a color-coded (meat, vegetable, fish, etc.) set that can go into your dishwasher instead. This is much more sanitary and convenient, as well.

6) Invest in an immersion blender. This handy tool requires less clean-up than a standard stand mixer, takes up no space on your countertop and builds some flexibility into your prep process.

7) Keep your cookbooks cleaner and your countertops cleared with a cookbook holder that mounts below your wall cabinets.

This Under Cabinet Cookbook Holder is available on Organize-It.com

Tread lightly

Most of us have tiled kitchen floors that are extremely hard to stand on for the hours it takes to prepare, cook, serve and clean up after a holiday dinner.

8) My favorite holiday helper is a cushioned floor mat that make this season as merry for our feet, back, hips and legs as for our hearts and bellies.

Choose a size, color and pattern for a GelPro mat that fits your kitchen and takes the stress of holiday entertaining off your body.

Visit the Sensible Style box on the right column for links to all the posts in this ongoing series.

02 December 2009

MOLTEN GOLD - Classic New Corian

MOLTEN GOLD is another new Gold Notes feature. Launched last month, MG will focus on hot new products or companies that can add luster to your home. Today, we'll look at a beautiful new countertop series by Corian called Private Collection.

Same quality, new style

I first mentioned this collection when I spotted it at the Kitchen/Bath Industry Show last May. I thought the new colors and patterns were a huge aesthetic leap forward. My issue with Corian has never been its material properties, which have a lot to offer, but its often plastic-like appearance.

Private Collection offers a richness of color and movement I haven’t seen on Corian or its competitor tops in the past. These are great-looking counters.

Why Corian?

Why choose a Corian countertop for your home? Concrete and stone have gotten all the buzz in recent years. I’m a huge quartz fan myself, as regular readers (and my design clients) know. So what would make me recommend an acrylic surface to a client when it lacks the heat and scratch resistance of the hardier stones?

Corian’s greatest attribute, in my opinion, is that it’s completely repairable. This makes it an ideal surface for kids’ rooms. It also makes it ideal for rental properties.

I used to work in a design center where someone sat on a large Corian overhang and completely cracked off the two-foot end of our desk. When the repair pro came in and worked his magic, you could not see where the damage had been. It looked like new. How much more affordable would that be than replacing an entire section of damaged top that a tenant or tyke dinged, scratched or burn? Small scratches can even be buffed out by the homeowner, for just the cost of sandpaper.

Another popular Corian attribute is its seamless appearance. That makes it a good choice for oversized or irregular tops where you might otherwise see the joints of a stone or laminate top.

Clients who like Corian often choose its integral sink option. Unlike standard drop-in sinks, apron fronts or even undermounts, there are no edges or crevices around the sink where food can get caught. This makes for a very easy clean-up process.

The coved backsplash option – where the splash flows seamlessly into the top – is pricy, but also easier to clean and better looking than a standard four-inch splash, shown above. (I’m much more partial to full-height tiled splashes anyway.)

An additional, seldom-mentioned Corian attribute is its softness. The softer-than-stone surface is a good choice for aging in place homes, especially for clients with balance or coordination issues.

The Brand

Corian – and its entire solid surface category – were created by DuPont more than 30 years ago. Many competitors have emerged on the scene as Corian grew popular with builders, designers and homeowners, but most just imitate, rather than innovate.
The 207-year-old DuPont is not resting on its inventive laurels. It has continually improved and updated its brands. Private Collection is just the latest step.

The Facts

Warranty: 10 Year

Pricing: Estimated $45 to $55 per square foot installed

Purchase through a local countertop fabricator, kitchen showroom or home center

Website: Corian.com

20 November 2009

Gold Coast: San Francisco Victorian

Continuing the recent Gold Coast tradition of introducing you to homes that exemplify their region and, hopefully, inspire my readers, I'm taking you to the City by the Bay this week. I'll be spending Thanksgiving in San Francisco this year with my family, and thought I'd get in the spirit a little early.

The Property

When you think of San Francisco, Victorian architecture probably leaps to mind first. My parents bought and restored a Victorian in 1988. Their home had been built in 1887, I believe, and survived the great earthquake of 1906. (It also survived the 1989 Loma Prieta quake that toppled the Bay Bridge.)

The Victorian I'm featuring in this Gold Coast installment (MLS #362702 by Coldwell Banker) was also beautifully restored, and offers all the luxuries of modern life, along with the formal beauty of its time period.

It also offers extraordinary views of the Golden Gate Bridge, city and Marin headlands that only add to its value.

The update on this Victorian apparently added a great amount of light and openness not typically found in old Victorians. At the same time, it maintains the architectural details, like the magnificent stairway and millwork, that bring these homes such elegance and charm. The home also has a small outdoor courtyard that gives its owners some very usable outside space. Land is at a premium in San Francisco, so you rarely find expansive lawns there.

Details, Details

Here is the listing description: This beautifully renovated mansion features spectacular Golden Gate and Bay views from all levels, grand scale rooms with great ceiling height, huge kitchen/great room with solarium and walk-out South garden, fabulous media/family room with soaring cathedral ceilings, two decks, elevator from the garage to the main level and a great location close to Fillmore and Union Street shopping and restaurants. This home is well-designed for gracious entertaining as well as a casual contemporary lifestyle!

Year Built: Not Given (Probably Late 1800s/early 1900s)
Approx. 6705 SF
7 Bedrooms
5.5 Total Baths
4 Fireplaces
4-Car Garage
Elevator from Garage
Panoramic City, Bay Views

The Pricetag


San Francisco Bonus

Here are some ready resources for visiting San Francisco:

Forbes Traveler - San Francisco Guide
Fodors - San Francisco Travel Guide
Design Sponge - San Francisco Design Guide
San Fransisco Architectural Heritage

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! Gold Notes will be on vacation next week. I hope all my readers have a happy, healthy holiday.

18 November 2009

MOLTEN GOLD - Sink Supreme

MOLTEN GOLD is another new Gold Notes feature. Launched earlier this month, MG will focus on hot new products or companies that can add luster to your home. Last time, we looked at a great line of eco-friendly faucets. Today, we'll step into the kitchen for an award-winning innovation.

Revolution, not evolution

Dan Sullivan solved a problem no one had thought about before, the dreadful drain. The sink he invented eliminated that ugly seam around your drain and disposal that catches gunk and creates an eyesore.

Dan Sullivan, inventor of the Affluence Seamless Sink, comes from a long line of plumbers. His invention may make him one of their best friends!

His Affluence Seamless Sink is a work of beauty. It's also, according to the company, a quicker, easier installation for your plumber. Why haven't sinks been made this way all along, some have asked. Sullivan wondered that, too. He took his invention to all the major fixture firms, (you know, the ones whose sinks you find at Home Depot, Lowes and Fergusons)... And was turned down by all of them. Here are some of the responses he says he's been given:
  • Sinks have been this way for 50 years, nobody's complaining, why change.
  • It means a whole new line of inventory and we already have six.
  • The institutional memory of plumbers was too strong. It will take 5 years for them to get it.
  • We are in the sink business, not the disposer attaches to sink business.
Like any great American inventor, Sullivan was not deterred by doubt. He made the sink through his own company and sells it online, as well as through far-sighted plumbing stores. And it is a thing of beauty.

The Affluence Seamless Sink

I first mentioned this brand when it won the Best of Competition and Gold Award for the Kitchen category at this year's Kitchen/Bath Industry Show in May. I believe it's earned its own Molten Gold posting, especially with its latest beauty!

Crisp elegance - Affluence Seamless Sink SR3019-8

Besides being darned good-looking, these sinks are made of premium 18 gauge stainless steel with a light European brushed finish. They've got sound-proofing pads and undercoating to reduce clean-up noise in your kitchen.

Look Mom, no ring around the drain! Model D3421L9-7

Among their innovations are a pair of dishwasher-friendly disposal splash guards that come with each sink. This allows you to clean one while you're using the other, and prevents the build-up of bacteria present in the permanently-installed versions so common in American households.

All the parts you need, including the strainer basket and splash guards, are included with each Affluence Seamless Sink.

There are even bar sinks in the Affluence Seamless Sink family

The Brand

Affluence Seamless Sinks were invented and patented by Dan Sullivan's design firm, Create Good, LLC. They're based in Cincinnati, Ohio. The sinks themselves are actually manufactured in China, by the same plant that makes another respected U.S. brand. According to Affluence's web site, they're currently developing some new toilets and shower heads. This is definitely a company to watch.

The Facts

Warranty: Lifetime

Pricing: Full-sized $695 to $845
Bar sinks $295 to $545

Purchase: Online at Affluence Seamless Sink Showroom or at a local dealer

Website: seamlesssink.com

11 November 2009

Sensible Style - Small Makeovers, Big Impact

Sensible Style launched in July to answer your questions about how to get the most out of your kitchen.

Since this is Makeover Month on Kitchens.com, we'll focus on kitchen makeovers. Not the kind that take months to plan and execute and thousands of dollars to cover. This posting will show you small, reasonably quick and affordable ways to make over your kitchen.

Get a handle on it

If your cabinets don't have knobs or handles on them, adding hardware will liven them up enormously. I recommend handles for drawers and knobs for doors, but you can do all one or the other. Think of cabinet hardware as jewelry for your kitchen and dress it up! You can choose a brushed nickel, chrome or pewter finish to coordinate with stainless appliances. Bronze will look beautiful on painted white or black cabinets. Glass can give you a lovely retro look. Black is a nice choice, too, especially if you have black appliances and want a rustic look.

Rustic knobs on these American Woodmark Townsend Oak cabinets enhance the kitchen's arts and crafts style.

Crowning achievements

I love the look of crown molding on cabinets, even contemporary ones. To me, they look more finished that way. Of course, you have to have space between your ceiling or soffit and cabinet tops to accommodate crown. You also have to choose a style that works with your cabinetry. If your door style is contemporary slab, a bullnose or square molding will accentuate, not muddy, its contemporary aesthetic. If your doors are traditional raised panel, a classic crown will look elegant. Transitional, Shaker door styles coordinate beautifully with cove or angle moldings.

If your cabinets extend all the way up to a soffit, you can paint or faux stain the soffit to match the cabinets and put your crown at the ceiling. This will make your cabinets look taller, your kitchen ceiling look higher, and really pull an upscale look together.

Traditional door styles, like the Richmond Cherry by American Woodmark shown here, look pretty, but naked, without crown molding.

Island fever, bar shopping

Upgrading your countertops can cost thousands of dollars for an entire kitchen, and often also involves changing out your sink, faucet and drain, as well as dealing with backsplash damages. Get an easy, affordable update by just changing the top on your island or raised bar.

The new top should coordinate visually with the surrounding ones to give the space a pulled-together look. If, for example, your surrounding laminate tops have flecks of gray, you could opt for a solid gray quartz top for the island or bar. If they're solid white Corian, a recycled glass top with bright colors on a white background can look great. Maybe you've got wonderful oak floors, but less-than-wonderful, old, chipped white tile tops. A dark wood top on your island or bar in the same color family as the floors will become a rich focal point.

An island or bar can get topped in a different material, like the Vetrazzo recycled glass shown here, adding a dramatic, yet well-coordinated, focal point to a kitchen.

Light the way

Many of the older kitchens I've redesigned have big ugly, cracked plastic light boxes or one dated fixture in the middle of the ceiling. Removing that light box or replacing that fixture is a quick, relatively easy way to update the look (and functionality) of your kitchen. There are numerous lighting options for kitchens, including pendants, chandeliers, pot rack lights, island fixtures, track systems and recessed cans. (This Gold Notes guest post by lighting designer Vicky Lodge could be useful for you in considering new kitchen lighting.)

Enhance the style and functionality of your kitchen by replacing outdated light fixtures with new versions, like this monorail system from Tech Lighting.

Fabulous faucets

Don't underestimate the aesthetic power of a good-lucking faucet to give your kitchen a style boost. There are hundreds of looks and price ranges to choose from, both contemporary and traditional. There are also water-saving opportunities with some new models. While you're faucet shopping, look for one that works with the overall style of your kitchen. Also consider getting a companion soap dispenser if you have an extra faucet hole to cover. (Getting the soap bottle off your countertop is an added aesthetic upgrade!)

This Kohler Simplice faucet in its new Matte Black finish can give your kitchen a mini makeover. The coordinating soap dispenser gives you added convenience with more style than a bottle of dish soap on your countertop.

Backsplash bling

A pretty backsplash can really jazz up your kitchen, and doesn't have to cost a fortune either. There are myriad options, from ceramic to bead board to stainless steel to tin ceiling tiles. Choose one that amplifies the style in your kitchen, rather than introducing a new one.

A gorgeous backsplash, like this one designed using Crossville Tiles, can become a fabulous focal point for your kitchen.

Small appliances, big impact

Can't afford to replace your major appliances with stylish stainless ones? Change your countertop appliances instead. Blenders, toaster ovens, coffee makers, toasters and other small appliances come in stainless, too. Another option is to bring in a kicky color, like red or turquoise. You won't have as many choices, but you will have a cheerful kitchen to put them in!

Stainless steel or colorful countertop appliances, like this Cook for the Cure Kitchen Aid pink stand mixer, can up the style quotient in your kitchen.

Softer side

Don't forget about your kitchen fabrics either. New window valances, pot holders, aprons and dish towels can style up your space in a low-cost jiffy. Coordinate all the fabrics in patterns and colors that work together well, and that work with your kitchen's style, too.

These shades by Smith + Noble coordinate beautifully with the styles and colors in the kitchen.

Visit the Sensible Style box on the right column for links to all the posts in this ongoing series.

09 November 2009

Gold Coast: Gulf Shores Getaway

As I wrote when I launched Gold Coast last week, I want to inspire and delight you with views of homes around the country. This week, we're going to visit the Alabama Gulf Coast. Hurricane Ida may be visiting soon, as well. That's why so many of the homes along the shore are built on stilts. Many of them also have charming names, which delighted me when I honeymooned in the area eight years ago. Long ago, this area was knocked as the "Redneck Riviera." With seven- and eight-figure homes along some of the softest white sand beaches in the country, it's far more Riviera these days than redneck.

The Property

The area agents listing this three-story coastal home (MLS# 154270) call it Bella Bleu. It could have easily been called "Come On Down!" as it's ideal for entertaining large groups of family or friends. It sits right on the beach, so young guests can build sand castles while their parents relax on the deck.

I like its casual comfort. Floors are easy-maintenance tile throughout. The bedrooms all seem to open to the decks. There are rooms designed for adult guests, and rooms designed for kids. Ceiling fans bring Gulf breezes into the home and there's ample seating for gatherings.

The dual refrigerators are a cost-saving option relative to a large built-in, but I would have chosen a left hinge for the left fridge, rather than the dual, awkward rights. Double dishwashers and an icemaker make entertaining easier for the crowd this house can handle. So is the media room, just in case the weather gets wet, as the Gulf Coast so often does on summer afternoons.

Most of the homes in the area don't have pools, so that's a nice feature for this one. So are the three-plus parking spots, as beach parking is never easy anywhere in season!

I didn't see anything in the listing notes about hurricane shutters or impact glass doors. The metal roof and pilings foundation are designed to address hurricane-force winds and rising seas; I hope they're enough!

Details, Details

Here is teh listing description: Bella Bleu - West Beach Custom-built Gulf Front Home with pool and gorgeous views. Three levels for large groups. Large open living/dining/kitchen. Gourmet kitchen w/granite countertops, 2 refrigerators, 2 dishwashers, ice maker, Professional gas range and eating bar. Six bedroom suites (3 Gulf Front; 3 Lagoon view)/7 baths. Plus media room/BR. Elevator. Handicap Accessible. Covered parking. Call for IMPRESSIVE Rental History.

(The last sentence refers to the income potential this home can generate when you and your gang aren't beach bumming.)

Year Built: 2006
Approx. 3870 SF
6 Bedrooms
7 Full Baths
Ceiling Fans
Crown Molding
Carpoort and Garage
Swimming Pool

The Pricetag


Gulf Shores Bonus

Here are some ready resources for visiting Gulf Shores:

Alabama's Gulf Coast Vacation Guide - Official state tourism site
National Shrimp Festival Annual big-deal event every October
The Beach Club - Nice restaurant and spa in the area; we enjoyed both!
The Beach House - Our honeymoon bed and breakfast -- great views, great food, great hosts and great location.

06 November 2009

MOLTEN GOLD - Fabulous Faucets

MOLTEN GOLD is another new Gold Notes feature being launched this week. Each edition will focus on a hot new product or company in the design world. Molten actually means having warmth or brilliance, and my goal is to bring you brilliant new finds that you may want to add to your own home. We'll start in the bathroom this time around.

Fabulous Faucet #1 - SSI's Fluid Series Penguin

A press release for this faucet came my way a few weeks ago and I absolutely adored its light-hearted sophistication. I could definitely see this in any bathroom that doesn't take itself too seriously.

It is clean and contemporary, and sized for wading-pool (AKA countertop) sinks. However, it doesn't have the cold, clinical look that I dislike in so many modern faucets.

Fabulous Faucet #2 - SSI's Fluid Series Emperor

A week or so later, a press release for the Emperor faucet arrived, and I loved it, too. (So have others -- the Emperor has won two product design awards already.) This one was inspired by an ancient Chinese dynasty. Like the Penguin, you can see its inspiration in its sexy lines. And like its fellow fluid series member, the Emperor brings an element of wit to a contemporary bath.

The Brand

I wasn't familiar with Sustainable Solutions International (SSI) before meeting their Penguin and Emperor creations. They call themselves a U.S.-based green manufacturer, though they also have a strong Canadian presence, and produce sinks and bathroom accessories, as well as faucets.

There are eight style series in the fluid faucets line. Toucan, Swing, Sublime, Fan and Wisdom round out the collection. They all feature flow-regulated aerators and WaterSense certification.

The Facts

Warranty: Lifetime

Pricing: MSRPs start at $595

Phone # for Local Distribution: 800-460-7019

Website: fluidfaucets.com

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