29 October 2009

Halloween Special: 13 Scary-Cool Home Decorations

It's that time of year again... Kids become costumed candy panhandlers and homes morph into graveyards and haunted mansions. I'm burying my inner-Halloween Scrooge this week to bring you 13 (natch!) scary-cool decorative items that you can bring out every year to frighten and delight guests. A few of them are nice enough to keep out all year, maximizing your investment.

Get your holiday started on the right foot
with CB2's Black Crow Doormat

Illuminate your trick-or-treaters with these nifty candle-holders and candles

This Glass and Metal Tabletop Lantern comes from Target

This Hanging Glass Pillar Holder comes from the Sundance Catalogue

This beautiful 20-Taper Tabletop Candelabrum is also from Sundance,
and stylish enough to use all-year-round!

I spotted these Crow Candles yesterday when I was indulging in some retail therapy at Pottery Barn. Aren't they neat-looking?

Creepy but cute

This Paper Mache Pumpkin Basket from Wisteria will hold all your Halloween trick-or-treat loot

Here's a unique party decoration that will have guests shaking their heads

It's Urban Outfitters' Doll Parts Faux Chandelier...
Have guests come in black and they'll wonder who died for your decor.

Here's another unique decorative or gift item, inspired by Dia de los Muertos
It's a Day of the Dead Shadowbox with Married Couple from the usually-light and bright Wisteria

My latest crush

Pottery Barn's Glitter Skull. Don't know why I'm drawn to this dude, but it was all I could do not to take him home!

Here's an all-year-rounder that can hold candy at your Halloween bash and bath supplies the rest of the year

They're Jonathan Adler's divinely-dramatic Druggist Jars

These can hold Halloween cider or treats for tricksters
You can use these Pumpkin Servers from Williams-Sonoma throughout the season.

Here's another year-rounder that can hold dramatic orange Halloween flowers at your party

And look great the rest of the year in your home. These are also from CB2

Wish you had a crystal ball? Play the wizard at your Halloween fest with these!

Williams-Sonoma Home brings you style throughout the year with their Spheres on Pedestals

20 October 2009

Lighting 101 Guest Post - Kitchen Strategies

"When I do my job well, no one notices," shares professional lighting designer Vicky Lodge. The problem is, as Vicky can tell you, when lighting isn't well planned or executed, you absolutely will notice.

Work areas won't be well lit for the task at hand. The room may feel too glaringly bright, too dark, or harsh in some areas and dim in others. Your space -- and its occupants -- just won't look their best. So I asked my lighting pro friend to share her designer strategies for lighting your kitchen and she graciously agreed. Here are Vicky's strategies and tips:

Kitchen lighting overview

The kitchen, more than any other room in the house, needs "layers of light." Layering lights is done by providing light from different sources and locations for the different tasks that will be performed in the space.

Layer One - general lighting

General lighting for a room is achieved by installing lights overhead to cast a broad glow over the entire space. Recessed lighting is the least expensive way of doing this. But not all ceilings allow for this. For example, if your ceiling is tongue and groove wood with the roof installed right on top, there is no space in which to recess anything.

A kitchen featuring energy-efficient recessed lights by Elco Lighting.

Track and cable lighting

If there are beams running across your ceiling, you could install track lighting along their undersides for more versatility in directing the track heads, or along their sides, so that the track heads are not as visible when you enter the room.

Another way of getting general overhead lighting, especially if the ceiling is high or vaulted, is to install cable lighting.

Kable Lite system by Tech Lighting provides a stylish ceiling-mount alternative to recessed cans.

This style of lighting is low-voltage and, therefore, requires a transformer. A transformer steps down the line voltage of the home (110 volts) to either 24 volts or 12 volts. I prefer 12 volts because the bulbs (lamps) are more widely available.

So now, where does the transformer go? Whenever possible, it is best if the transformer is hidden, but still easily accessible.

Lighting Pro Tip:
I often use the top shelf of an upper cabinet or pantry to hide a transformer.

Sometimes the easiest location to conceal a transformer is in an adjacent space, like a bedroom closet or the garage.

The dimensions of the transformer depend upon the type you're using. Electronic versions are smaller but more expensive. Dimmer switches are also more expensive for electronic transformers. The magnetic ones are less expensive, but much heavier and about the size of a small shoe box.

When hiding a transformer is not possible, there are surface-mounted transformers that are finished in attractive coverings. Its size will be influenced by the type of transformer you're using, as noted above, and by the number of lights the cable lighting system is designed to activate. A lighting designer can help you with the layout and specifications.

Monorail systems

A system that is a cross between track lighting and cable lighting is a monorail. Monorails have a rail that is similar in size and shape as a track, but are hand-bendable. Monorails are similar to cable lighting in that they are suspended from the ceiling and often appear to float in mid-air.

A monorail system, like this one from Tech Lighting, is another way to provide attractive ceiling-mounted illumination to a kitchen.

Layer two - task lighting

Besides general lighting, kitchens also need task lighting. Task lighting illuminates a specific area where work is performed, be it a sink, cooktop or countertop. Usually, task lighting is achieved by installing strips of light on the bottom of upper cabinets. These strips can be fluorescent, halogen, xenon, or LED.

Fluorescent lights operate at a much cooler temperature and are energy efficient.

Lighting Pro Tip:
The buzz, delay, or flicker that is often associated with fluorescent lights can be eliminated if the ballast of the fixture is electronic rather than magnetic.

Halogen and xenon fixtures render colors more accurately, but they do run hot to the touch. They are easily more easily dimmed and smaller than their fluorescent counterparts.

LEDs are cool to the touch, are environmentally friendly, small, and produce a great amount of light relative to their wattage. Just as incandescent, fluorescent and halogen light source differ in color, so do LEDs. Plus, since they are fairly new to the marketplace, expect to pay much more for them initially. They will, however, last 10-15 years, which is two to three times longer than fluorescent and almost eight times longer than halogen or xenon.

Under-cabinet task lighting for this kitchen is generated by Kichler's energy-efficient LEDs.

Island lighting

Another type of task lighting designed to be used over an island is, aptly called, an island fixture.

This Minka Lavery island fixture in bronze will hang beautifully in a traditional kitchen... Choose one that matches your style.

Lighted pot racks are another option for island lighting. They not only illuminate your island, they also serve a decorative and functional purpose, adding bonus style and storage to your kitchen.

Add style, light and storage to your island with a lighted pot rack, like this whimsical charmer from 2nd Ave. Lighting.

Layer three - ambient lighting

Another layer of light is ambient lighting, which can come in the form of up lighting, cove lighting, interior cabinet lighting, niche lights, under counter-edge lighting, and toekick lighting. Ambient light is low level lighting that creates a mood or scene without necessarily being seen.

Up lighting

Add Image
I use up lighting when the upper cabinets don't go all the way to the ceiling and there is less than three feet between them. The up lights, (often fluorescent, but I have also used rope lights), give lift to the space and softly reflect back into the room.

Kitchens with ceilings more than three feet from the top of the upper cabinet can still benefit from up lighting, but the reflected light will be significantly reduced. If the kitchen is large enough for an island cabinet, it is often large enough for a ceiling cove.

Lighting Pro Tip:
Cove lights in the kitchen are much less expected than in the dining room, which only adds to the richness and beauty of this technique.

If the ceiling is at least 10 feet, then a dropped ceiling can be put in around the perimeter of the room with a pop-up in the middle. Crown molding or a ledge is added at the lower ceiling line and then cove lighting is installed, again to give lift by illuminating the higher ceiling.

Here, kitchen cove lighting is installed in a contemporary design by Seaview Electric.

Interior lighting

Interior cabinet lights and niche lights are used to show off what is being displayed within, like beautiful serveware or pottery, but they can also serve as night lights when left on by themselves. Energy-efficient lights are ideal for this purpose.

Interior lights from WAC Lighting show off your collectibles in a cabinet or a niche, as shown here, and provide night lights when used on their own.

Counter edge and toekick lighting

Lights that install below a countertop overhang and in the toekick area of your base and tall cabinets add unexpected and delightful drama. Under-counter edge lights are a relatively recent form of ambient light, and require a thicker and deeper countertop edge to house and hide the lights.

Lighting Pro Tip:
Rope lights are primarily used for counter edge lighting since they are flexible enough to follow and bend around any curves, but LEDs would also be perfect for this application.

Under-counter lights can also serve as task lighting, since they will effectively illuminate the interior of a storage space to make finding contents easier.

Toekick lighting located underneath the base cabinet storage section makes the cabinet look as if it is gravitating in space. I haven't used this technique as much in the kitchen as I have in powder rooms since it makes a great night light. This could be useful for households with older, vision-challenged residents who may make after-hours kitchen visits.

Layer four - accent lighting

Accent lights, when applied in a kitchen setting, are best expressed with pendants. Although pendants often produce enough light to be considered task lighting, their main purpose is to be seen rather than to see by. Pendants are often very vivid and charming, and may be the only "color" in a primarily neutral room.

Pendants can be installed individually or a monorail could be installed with the pendants suspending down from the rail. Pendants not only liven up a room they can also serve to beautifully divide the kitchen space from an adjacent great room or family room.

I designed this kitchen with black cabinets, stainless appliances and neutral black-tan-grey quartz tops at my client's request. She selected orange pendants and matching paint to kick it up a notch.

Final thoughts on kitchen lighting

Besides the fact that layering lights is more interesting, layering puts the lights where and when you need them. From overhead to evenly illuminate the entire space or with dimmable pendants to give a gentle glow to say good night at the days' end.

About our guest post lighting pro

Vicky M. Lodge has been in the design business for more than 30 years and holds degrees in both architecture and interior design. She specializes in lighting. Vicky has taught architectural drafting at her Alma Mater, Design Institute of San Diego and a lighting class for San Diego State University. She has been the guest speaker at lighting seminars, and her designs have been published numerous times in San Diego Home and Garden Magazine. She is currently the owner and designer of VML Design & Lighting in Lakeland, Florida and San Diego, California.


Please comment below if this information has been helpful to you. It'll help me convince Vicky to write Lighting 101 - Bath Strategies for us!

14 October 2009

Sensible Style: Winning Color Combinations

Sensible Style launched last July to answer your questions about how to get the most out of your kitchen. ... Among the most commonly asked are which colors and finishes work best together.

That's what we'll be looking at this time around, using the most popular cabinet finishes as our starting point.

Maple Mastery

Maple is a wood species, of course, not a color, but it's most often associated with golden or light to-mid brown-toned stains. These give you a ton of versatility in flooring, appliance and countertop combinations. Here are a few options to get you started...

Classic combinations: Dark gold and rich tan cabinets work well with black or stainless steel appliances and dark countertops such as black and dark green natural or engineered stone. Select a floor about two shades lighter or darker in the same gold or tan/brown family as the cabinets to coordinate.

Contemporary combinations: Dark gold and rich tan cabinets can also work well with grey tops - especially concrete and matte-finish quartz - for a more updated look. I would suggest pairing them with stainless appliances and a slate or slate-look floor. You could also opt for a bamboo in a coordinating gold or tan about a shade or two lighter than the cabinets.

Praline finish on Putnam door style pairs well with stainless appliances, grey tops and flooring. Courtesy of Masco Retail Cabinet Group, manufacturers of Kraftmaid Cabinetry.

Cherries Jubilee

Cherry is one of the most popular wood species on the market, and ranges from natural, with a strawberry blond finish to ruby to cinnamon and chocolate finishes. I have found the last two to be the most requested among my clientele, and the ones I've seen the most often in kitchen publications.

Classic combinations: Cinnamon and chocolate finished cherries work beautifully with natural stone tops in pale golds and creams for an elegant look. I would pair these with paneled or stainless appliances with minimal black accents for the richest look. A light tiled floor that picks up on the gold or cream tones in the tops will work the best. Because cherry tends to have stronger graining, I generally don't love wood floors with it, as the grain pattern in the cabinets and the graining of the floor can get too busy together.

Contemporary combinations: These cinnamon and chocolate-colored cabinets paired with monochromatic white tops give a very strong and updated look. Again, I'd opt for stainless appliances with minimal black accents, or paneled appliances, for the best match. A nearly white terrazzo, tile or stained concrete floor would compliment the contemporary look.

Cinammon finish on Mandolay door style coordinates stylishly with stainless hardware and fixtures, white tops and off-white flooring. Courtesy of Masco Retail Cabinet Group, manufacturers of Kraftmaid Cabinetry.

White Album

White cabinets run the gamut from builder laminates to high-gloss European lacquers. The most common whites you'll find are painted maple - my personal favorite - and foil-based synthetics that have a bit of a plastic look to them. I would suggest the painted finish for your white selection, as they have become more widely available in affordable stock cabinet lines and will give your kitchen a more timeless look.

Classic Combinations: White cabinets pair beautifully with white, paneled or stainless appliances. You can use black with them, but then the appliances get more of a focal point emphasis than they probably deserve, in my opinion. I adore white cabinets with black or dark green stone tops and mid-toned or dark stained wood floors. Another stunning, albeit less neutral, top is blue pearl granite. White marble or granite tops with white cabinets and medium to light wood or stone floors are another great traditional combination.

Dove White finish on Lindsay maple doors pair elegantly with stainless appliances, white stone tops and light wood flooring. Courtesy of Masco Retail Cabinet Group, manufacturers of Kraftmaid Cabinetry.

Contemporary Combinations: High-gloss lacquer finishes in white give a sharp, contemporary look to a kitchen. They work best with paneled and stainless appliances, though sleek white ones can also work. When going modern with a kitchen, you can go bold with an orange quartz or multi-colored recycled glass top or go sleek with grey or white. You could also add updated details like stainless toekicks and stainless and glass doors, but be forewarned: the more trendy you get with your accents, the quicker your kitchen will date itself.

Paint it black

Black cabinets have become increasingly popular in recent years, especially as accent cabinets, though you'll often see entire kitchens in black. If you have wood cabinets that you really dislike, painting them black can be an easy, affordable update.

Classic combinations: If you're opting for black as a hood or island focal point, it will work really well with stained cabinets highlighted with a black glaze, or mid-toned stained cabinets. It will also work well with white cabinets, but only in larger spaces. (It will make a small kitchen seem more cramped.) Too keep a space from getting too busy, I'd keep the countertops all one color -- ideally a light, natural stone -- if you're adding black cabinets as an accent, though I have seen wood tops on a black island in the same color family as the kitchen's wood floors, work well with this combo. Stainless and paneled appliances will work best with this grouping. Wood floors, as mentioned, are a winner here. If all of your kitchen cabinets will be black, I strongly suggest a light-colored stone top and light wood or tiled floors, tying into the countertop's main color theme.

Contemporary Combinations: Sleek black cabinets can work very well in a contemporary kitchen with solid white or other light-colored single-tone stone or concrete countertops and light or dark wood, terrazzo, concrete or tile floors. Stainless and paneled appliances will work best in this look.

This contemporary Allmilmo Wave kitchen in black and white works great with its light tops and dark wood floors.

Crayola kitchens

Color can really personalize a kitchen. It works in both contemporary or classic kitchens and is most often seen as an accent color. You can use it throughout if you're confident that you'll love it for years to come, and that future buyers of your home will like it, too. (Or you can use it just in paint and fabrics that are easy to change later.) If you're looking to make a dramatic statement with a strong cabinet color, it's best to go neutral with your other finishes. Stainless appliances will work with dark and dramatic colors. White appliances will work with pastels. Here are some fun classic and contemporary combos to spark your color imagination.

Classic combinations:

CWP's country blue cabinets stand out in an otherwise neutral room.

Sage Mocha and Cherry Caramel Java finishes pair well in this traditional Wellborn kitchen.

Contemporary combinations:

Orange delivers a citrus punch to this otherwise neutral St. Charles kitchen.

Seaglass sparkles in this St. Charles kitchen.

Racing Red revs up Snaidero's otherwise neutral Pininfarina kitchen.

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

07 October 2009

Designer's Wish List - Bathroom

Ever wonder what designers choose for their own homes? Here's a sneak preview of what I plan to incorporate into my next place -- and why. As I mentioned in the first wish list posting last week covering my next kitchen, I plan on buying a house or condo in need of updating, so that I can put my own stamp on it.

This post covers the wish list for my next bath. I actually plan on having two in my next home. One will be for my primary use, another for guests.
I will probably set up the master suite as my guest room, with double sinks, since many of my overnight guests will be couples.

The smaller second bedroom and guest bath will work for my primary use, since putting a single sink in a master bath would hurt resale. (I doubt that this next place will be my last. It will probably be home for the next two to five years.)

All is vanity

Shakespeare wasn't wrong. Your vanity sets the tone for the bath. Here are some that I particularly like.

I like this traditionally-styled Newport vanity from Pottery Barn for several reasons. One, it will carry the white cabinet/black countertop combination from my kitchen. Two I like the openness at the bottom, both with the legs and basket shelf. This makes the space feel larger and lighter.

This British Cane Extra-Wide Single Vanity from Restoration Hardware offers six drawers for extra storage and a beautiful marble top. It also matches the dark wood of my armoire and planned bed. The caned doors are dreamy, and I like the legs, as well.

I may dispense with a cabinet altogether and go with a pedestal sink. I particularly like the neo-traditional styling on Kohler's Memoirs Pedestal Lavatory, and would get the matching toilet, too. This would necessitate a small storage cabinet nearby to hold all those girly things one needs to keep close at hand.

Here's another cabinet-less variation from Pottery Barn. Their Apothecary Single Sink Console's styling also makes a small bath feel more open and spacious. It needs a storage supplement, as well. What's nice about both of these models is having a nice amount of counter space for soap, toothbrush and the like.

Storage style

Bathrooms, especially small ones, often lack storage. This is particularly true for baths served by pedestal or console sinks, as shown above. Here are a couple of options for keeping your necessities close at hand when there's no cabinet below your sink, (or even if there is).

A great medicine cabinet, like this Cartright model from Restoration Hardware, can hold a number of personal items.

So can a small floor cabinet, like this Newport Sundry Cabinet from Pottery Barn. (It matches the vanity I like, above.)

A towel shelf, like this Paris style from Amazon.com, is another storage option. It can hold robes and in-use-towels on the hooks below, and folded towels on the shelf above.

Tile style

As you've already deduced, I like traditional and transitional styling, and that carries through to my tile choices. I may opt for simple white subway tile if I'm short on funds. If money is no object in this space, here are a couple of options I'm considering.

This is the Esmeralda floor from New Ravenna Mosaics, an award-winning tile company. I would carry the detailing into the shower and around the room as a wainscot. Beautiful!

I absolutely adore the Studio Moderne series from Walker Zanger. It comes in various colors and shapes, but the tone-on-tone geometry is gorgeous throughout the line. It's both modern and traditional at the same time, and absolutely fabulous!

On a quieter note, I could opt for the softer tones of Trikeenan Tile's Weave series. It's soft and beautiful and would work really well with the fixtures I have in mind.

Fixture fancy

I'm hoping that by the time I'm ready to remodel my next bath, Kohler would have added dual-flush capability to its elegant Memoirs toilet, shown here.

If you're not familiar with the dual-flush concept, you're missing out on a great water-saving opportunity. As the name implies, the toilet offers two flushing options. One uses far less water and for the majority of bathroom visits, that's all that's needed. The boost is there for just when you need it. I prefer the newer comfort-height commodes that tend to be a few inches taller in the seat than standard builder-grade toilets. (Caution: We learned a couple of years ago that some space saver storage units won't work with the taller tank!)

One aspect of my current master bath that I really enjoy is its hand-held, massaging shower head. That's a must-have for my next bath, too.

Shown here is the Kohler Forte Multi-Function Handshower, wall-mounted on a matching bracket with its own controls. That's the configuration I would opt for. The master bath would also have a stationery head. It would probably be a Forte, as well. I used that at a Ritz Carlton and it was divine!

For sink faucets, I like a few different models, all with easy-to-operate lever handles.

This beautiful Art Deco faucet just crossed my in-box, and may very well find its way into my next bathroom. It comes from a company called THG, not a household name, but deserving of recognition, don't you think!

I like this South Seas Collection faucet from Danze quite a bit, too. Very kitsch, don't you think!

If funds are tight, I'll head to my nearest Home Depot and pick up the Archer Faucet by Kohler. It's got nice clean transitional lines that would work with many of the looks I like. Since it's an in-stock item, it's easy on the budget, as well as the eyes.

Shedding light

Lighting is essential for the bathroom and comes in some good-looking varieties. Typically, a small bath will have lighting at the sink and over the shower. Here are a couple of fixtures I wouldn't mind seeing above my mirror. (There's usually not room for side sconces in small baths, though each of these comes in that preferred configuration if space allows.)

This Strande Triple Sconce is available at Restoration Hardware, one of my favorite home stores. There are also nifty Strande hooks and cabinet knobs if you want to extend the look.

This Portland fixture from Home Depot's Eco Options series has nice styling and offers energy efficiency, too! Not a bad combination.

... And beyond

More goes into a bath than the stationery items above. There are accessories, towels, paint and even artwork. One of the items I'll be bringing to my next place from my current one is my favorite Macy's Hotel Collection towel set. They are plush, incredibly soft and absolutely yummy against wet skin. The add-on sets will probably be white. I've never found a towel I like more!

I have fun picking accessory sets like other women have fun shopping for jewelry. Here are a few I have my eye on...

This animal print is by Labrazel for Horchow. I love the markings, but will only go for this pattern if I get a solid black vanity top.

Look closely at this white Isaac Mizrahi for Target set and you'll see the mod embossing. It's a pretty cool look at a pretty cool price, given the Target connection. If the budget doesn't allow for Jonathan Adler accessories, these could do in a pinch!

If I go with the South Seas faucet, I'd likely opt for these Tava pieces from Pottery Barn.

I like this Hampstead Mirror from Williams Sonoma Home, too. It comes in white, if I opt for the white/black look in one of the baths.

I like the idea of using environmentally-friendly, low VOC paints like Benjamin Moore's Aura. I'll probably go for this Amorous hue, or something close to it, for my bath. It will work with either the darker wood tones or the white cabinetry.

This Soleil shade, also in Aura, will probably cover the master suite. The master bedroom will have a lot of black furniture and white bedding in it; this will tie in very well.

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