25 May 2010

Go-to Gold: Fixtures and Faucets - Part I

All designers have their core brands - their go-to-first sources for consistently great products that fit their style and needs. That's where a product search typically starts for most of us. I like XYZ Company, so let me see if they have a blankety-blank that fits this project.

This new Go-to Gold series will bring you some of my top go-to brands on a periodic basis. They all embody my Sensible Style approach, which means they make practical sense while looking really pretty!

It's not that I shun the original or unique. If you're a Molten Gold reader, you know that I enjoy discovering innovations and original styles. It's just that there are brands that I go to first, and I thought I'd share 'em with you...

Let's start with some of the bigger plumbing companies, just because I feel like it. (Don't worry, I'll be covering the smaller guys, too!)


I love the Performa series with its Silgranit II material. It's an incredibly tough, durable sink that can take on whatever pots, pans and knives you can throw at it - literally! - and its ultra-practical accessories make clean-up so much easier.

Blanco Silgranit II Performa - From the school of hard knocks

Knowing that I like the brand and write about it in this blog, Blanco asked me to join their Design Council. There's no payment involved; I just give my professional opinion on product development ideas and am available for press comment when requested.


Brizo is Lexus to Delta Faucet's Toyota, with a great fashion forward kitchen and bath faucet collection. I like the practicality of their hands-free technology and love many of their styles, which you've seen in this blog before and, I'm sure, will see again!

Virage series by Brizo - fashionista faucetry

Disclaimer: Brizo paid all of my travel expenses to see their newest product offerings and attend their Fashion Week festivities in New York in February 2010. They are also giving all of the participants a Talo Faucet, valued at more than $700. I had already specified Brizo in projects previously, and will continue to do so in the future, I'm sure.


I think Kohler is one of the most innovative fixture firms in the industry. They are continually developing game changers that look great and work well, and they do it across the full kitchen and bath plumbing spectrum, an impressive feat. Even though the industry has been economically challenged for the past few years, Kohler has continued to bring new products to the Kitchen & Bath Industry Show while other brands have stayed home. Kudos!

Expanse Curved Apron Bath by Kohler - More Style and Space in a Standard Size


Rohl combines classic styling with great technology. I'm particularly partial to its integrated faucet series, especially the lav tap that gives you filtered water to brush your teeth and wash your face with. I keep hoping they'll expand the series to the shower!

Sleek new Vincent Series by Rohl brought Italian inspiration to KBIS

18 May 2010

MOLTEN GOLD - Drainiacs II

One of the benefits of publishing your own blog is you get to write about whatever you want, even if you want to write about the same topic and company two months in a row. (Not too many print editors go for that approach, I've found.)

My last Molten Gold feature was on California Faucets' decorative StyleDrain series, which brought high style to the lowly shower drain.

This one is about California Faucets' brand new to the U.S. CeraLine drain. I love, love, love this sleek, sexy product! Apparently, others do, too, as it has won best product awards in Asia and Europe. Didn't know a shower drain could be integrated into the tile? Here's how it's done.

CeraLine comes in sizes that range from 32 to 52 inches, and in three trim styles, two metallic, one integrated with matching tile, as shown above. That's the one that knocked my socks off, stylistically-speaking.

The metallics offered are Stainless Steel finish, as well as five decorative PVD finishes that include Lifetime Satin Gold, Satin Brass, Mocha Bronze, Satin Rose Bronze, and the newly introduced Graphite. California Faucets claim that their PVD finishes are the hardest, most durable finish available and they include a lifetime guarantee against tarnishing to back up the claim.

Here's how the stainless style looks. Still sharp, but more visible.

California Faucets

California Faucets is best known for their customizable kitchen and bath taps. The company was founded in Huntington Beach, Ca. is 1988 and embodies California's everything goes spirit.

The Facts

Residential Warranty: 10 Year on parts. Lifetime warranty on PVD finishes.

Pricing: MSRPs start at $859.

Website: http://www.calfaucets.com/

10 May 2010

Sensible Style:: The 7 Most Overrated Kitchen Products

You see them everywhere! On HGTV, newsstand magazines and model homes. These are the must-have kitchen products du jour. Some, like stainless steel appliances, have shown lasting appeal.

Most of the others come and go, dating your home in the process. Why do some last? Because they embody Sensible Style. In other words, they work well and look great. The ones that fade away most often look good for a while, but ultimately their lack of practicality or comfort or durability or even just their sheer overexposure doom them to passing status.

Here are seven, in my opinion, of the most overrated kitchen products today. Feel free to add to the list by commenting below. Have I slammed one of your favorites? Give it your best defense.

Like a rock

Polished granite became the must-have countertop material for high-end homes a number of years ago. In the height of the housing boom a few years back, homeowners were throwing away perfectly good alternates to get them and builders wouldn't dare put anything else in. Ultimately, many clients, particularly those with active young children, found that they disliked the daily and periodic maintenance, worried about the porosity and mostly overblown radon risks, and even found from time to time that their much-vaunted heat resistance and durability was overstated when they scorched a pot ring next to the stove or chipped the edge with a heavy skillet.

Hard surface, hard to live with, too

Losing your marbles

Travertine floors also gained wide popularity among high-end projects during the recent housing boom. They epitomized a luxury kitchen for many builders and homeowners. You could say they gained traction among this group, except that they offer absolutely no traction at all. They are a broken hip waiting to happen, in my opinion. Kitchens are notoriously wet areas and slick marble only gets slicker with water on it. Travertine is also extremely hard underfoot, creating leg, foot, hip and back discomfort for the homeowner who actually likes to use her kitchen, not just look at it. Finally, as a natural stone, travertine needs to be kept sealed or will easily stain - not the ideal choice for a heavily-used work space.

Save it for the entry hall!
Photo credit: ServiceMagic.com


Another stone-cold trend has been the tumbled marble backsplash. They showed up especially often in Tuscan-style kitchens, designers and homeowners both equating Italianate design with Italianate material. Here's what Kitchen and Residential Design blog editor Paul Anater says about tumbled marble: "[It's] made from marble and travertine that's not of sufficient quality to be used without the tumbled finish. In other words, it's made from the reject pile... People think of it as being some kind of classy addition to their homes but it's anything but. It's a spongy, soft material that sucks up whatever liquid gets near it. That's why it makes a good coaster but a really lousy back splash."

High style from the marble reject pile
Photo credit: SouthernLiving.com

Faux pro

Another trendy look has been, and still is, the pro-style gas range. They're clunky, heavy, hard to maintain and extremely expensive, to boot. For most folks, they're the equivalent of swapping your minivan for a Humvee. You just don't need that kind of fire power. You also don't need to be spending your time cleaning those heavy grates soiled by 15,000 BTUs of burnt-on food.

How much firepower do you need for your frozen dinner?
Photo credit: Thermador.com

French Miss

One of the most popular refrigerator configurations of recent years is the French Door fridge. The built-in versions look great when paneled to resemble an armoire. French Doors also work great for catering trays, given their double-wide fresh food section. Other than those two very specific instances, I can see no real raison d'etre for this refrigerator style. They look dreadfully off-kilter with the popular through-the-door water dispenser convenience. They also force you to bend in half or do deep knee bends to see or remove anything in the freezer. Give me a side-by-side any day of the week!

The French can keep this style!
Photo credit: Whirlpool

Spouting nonsense

I have to admit a personal design bias against those towering restaurant-style faucets that look like a construction rig wrapped in a slinky. Do you really have pots so large as to require industrial scope cleaning? They work in restaurants because restaurant kitchens are all about function, not form. Form is for the dining room, not the kitchen staff. Presumably, form was a strong consideration when you were planning your kitchen. This trend can't end soon enough, as far as I'm concerned.

Construction zone meets toy box?
Photo credit: Jado USA

Over it!

I'm not sure who invented the over-the-range microwave, but it probably seemed like a good space-saver at the time. Doubly good is the OTR microwave with built-in convection oven, which gives the homeowner a double oven without the space requirements of a standard model. Granted, too, OTR microwaves are sometimes the only solution for a super-small kitchen. They just have some fatal flaws, in my opinion. One, their vent fans are noisy and underpowered. Two, mounting an oven over a cooktop can mean a risky reach across a hot burner or pot. Three, they're dangerous for children or the height-challenged, owing to flaw number two. Four, they rob you of a prime focal point opportunity in your kitchen.

A not so hot idea?
Photo credit: GE Appliances

04 May 2010

Details #2 - The Faucet Edition

This is the second of a five-part, first week of the month series with The Decorating Diva. Each of the five Details editions will focus on a single room detail that can make a huge difference in the success of that space's style.

Last month we looked at lighting. This segment focuses on faucets. Never underestimate the power of a terrific tap to up the style quotient in your kitchen or bath. To see what I mean, try to imagine this bathroom with a plastic-handled, builder basic faucet.

Bathroom designed by Jamie Goldberg, AKBD, CAPS

Such a tacky, outdated fixture would totally downgrade the elegance of this traditional, remodeled bathroom. I visited the remodeled master bath of an acquaintance who had spent her whole budget on custom cabinets, stone tops and new floors, but opted not to replace her builder grade faucets. What do you think got noticed first? Yep, the out-of-place plastic knobs stuck out like a sore thumb.

Here are some great faucets to consider for your kitchen and bath, even if you're not planning a remodel.

This Traditional Triflow Faucet from Rohl features integrated water filtration. There's also a bathroom version available so you can brush your teeth with filtered water, too.

This is Brizo's Talo faucet with SmartTouch Technology. One lucky Gold Notes and Decorating Diva reader will win one of these on Friday!

Kohler's Karbon Faucet offers flexibility and funky style

This strikingly-unique Italian-designed Wolo faucet has American (Elkay) and European (Webert) lineage

The handsome Virage faucet, also by Brizo, can work in contemporary or traditional bathrooms.

This graceful modern Stance Faucet by Kohler showed up at this year's Kitchen & Bath Industry Show

I've long delighted in the breezy style of Danze's South Sea series, which may show up in one of my own bathrooms one day.

I like wall-mount, rather than countertop-mounted, faucets with raised sinks, especially this contemporary Sirius, also from Danze.

Here are three essential points about kitchen faucets that you should consider:

* If the faucet is the only kitchen component being replaced, consider how many holes you have in your sink or countertop and don't exceed that number.
* If you're planning on upgrading your countertops later on, look for a faucet that can be mounted without a deck plate, and find out whether an extension will be needed to accommodate thicker tops. Buy it now while the part is available and keep it in storage for your eventual remodel.
* If your sink is tucked behind a raised bar, consider the height difference if you don't want your faucet to be seen from the next room.

And a couple for the bath:
* If you're considering replacing shower or tub faucets, you will most likely have to replace the valve behind the wall and below the deck, too, which means a larger project. If you stay within the same brand family, you may not have to. Check with a plumbing sales specialist for assistance.
* Bathroom sink faucets come in various configurations. Four-inch spreads are probably the most common. Be sure you know what you need before you order if you're not replacing your sink or countertops.

If you're limited by a four-inch spread configuration, consider this transitional Kohler Archer style for your bathroom.

Enjoy the entire Details series!

Details #1 - The Lighting Edition
Details #2 - The Faucet Edition
Details #3 - Fabrics and Fibers
Details #4 - The Hardware Edition
Details #5 - Finishing Touches

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