27 December 2011

It's holiday time in the Houzz!

No, that headline isn't a typo! I recently became a Featured Ideabooks contributor to Houzz.com, one of the most popular design sites on the Internet. Houzz is a tremendous, searchable database of projects, products, pictures, professionals and design possibilities.

I was honored to be asked and excited to be contributing. So what is an Ideabook, you wonder? It's really a single concept mini-post illustrated with eight or more pictures.

Since this is the last work day before Christmas when I'm actually writing this, I thought I'd share a few of my holiday-themed Ideabooks with you this week.

Sensible Style for your Holiday Guest Room

Shares tips for making your space more comfortable for holiday visitors. I'm looking forward to my sister's first Chez J visit next week. I hope she likes my guest suite!

8 Elements of the Perfect Party Island

If you love to entertain at home, you might consider creating an "entertainment island." Here are eight ideas to consider.

Sensible Style Guide to Baking Centers

Do you love to bake and use your time off from work to create holiday goodies? Here are some tips on creating a baking center in your kitchen.

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20 December 2011

MOLTEN GOLD - Rock Stylish!

I've been a fan of upscale sink manufacturer Stone Forest for a number of years. I've written about their stunning onyx sinks in the past and am now gushing over their basalt beauties.

I readily admit to not knowing a ton about this material. Here's what the experts say about it:

Basalt Basics

As the most plentiful rock on earth, basalt has designers reveling in its abundance. Grey to black in color, its fine crystal grains offer a unique composition as a result of rapid cooling lava. Whether used in its organically-weathered surface or polished to create streamlined contours, the duality in its texture creates a stunning aesthetic contrast.

Origin: Oceanic crust is composed predominantly of basalt, produced from upwelling mantle below ocean ridges or at the surfaces of volcanoes.

Due to its durability and utilitarian nature, basalt is often used in railroad construction, highway engineering and as an aggregate in roads and asphalt. Basalt also lends itself as a main structural component in floor tiles.

Healing: Stone therapy -- if you're a metaphysical enthusiast! -- is the combined use of hot and cold stones in re-establishing energy balance. Therapeutic basalt massage stones are renowned for their healing energy and are based in Oriental disciplines, where the duality of temperatures is believed to improve blood circulation and the elimination of toxins.

So... with all of this going for it, it's no wonder we're seeing a terrific basalt collection at this juncture. Who couldn't use some durability or healing energy these days?

The Collection

Wave Pedestal Mimicking the movement of water, the Wave Pedestal by Stone Forest in honed basalt captures a graceful current frozen in time. I love how its old world material meets new world design. Wouldn't this be a smashing powder room fixture?

Slab Vanity in Basalt The Honed Basalt Slab Vanity on Stainless Stand is a stylish contemporary fixture. It can be drilled to accept any faucet hole configuration and its lower shelf can hold towels, as shown, or storage boxes or baskets.

SYNC Drop-in Vessel Sink SYNC by Stone Forest is an award-winning modular concept offering multiple combinations of sinks, countertops and shelving made from natural stone and stainless steel. The first ones I spotted several years ago were made of elegant onyx. The newest Sync addition is part of this basalt collection. All of the components slide into wall-mounted, stainless steel brackets that also double as towel bars at each end of the floating vanity. The honed basalt and stainless steel components look earthy and rich together, better even than the onyx or bamboo pairings, in my opinion. The system also features stainless steel drain covers.

The Stone Forest Brand

Stone Forest has been creating contemporary elements for the kitchen, bath and landscape using natural materials since 1989. Based in Santa Fe, New Mexico, the boutique manufacturer has a unique understanding of the tolerances of different stones and precious materials. All of their architectural designs are sculpted from organic sources, such as limestone, marble, bamboo, copper and onyx.

Stone Forest’s collections include vessel and pedestal sinks, bath tubs, furniture, fountains and outdoor sculptures. The company has won numerous awards, including the Good Design Award and Interior Design magazine’s "Best of Year" Award.

The Facts

Warranty: Five years


Wave Pedestal $2,200
Slab Vanity $1,150
SYNC Drop-in Vessel Sink $990

Website: http://www.stoneforest.com/kitchen-bath/

13 December 2011

BOOK LOOK - Patina Style

I love design books. They inspire or inform, sometimes both. Patina Style by Steve and Brooke Giannetti falls heavenly into the inspiration column. It’s Brooke’s gorgeous Velvet & Linen design blog sashaying off the screen and onto your coffee table.

Patina Style is divided into five chapters covering just about every design topic you'd want to consider when looking around your own home. There's also a Los Angeles-focused resource guide, if you want to shop at the same places as Brooke and Steve.

Patina Style’s soft pages are as sensuous to the touch as they are to the eye. Its elegant images of cozy coastal spaces seduce you with their subtle shadings. This is a book for the design gourmand. You don’t want to read it so much as devour its delicious style.

If you did want to read it, you might find the small, elegant type hard to read with older eyes. The pretty page numbers and scripted headlines are also a bit tough to decipher, but these are mere trifles. They just mean you won’t be calling your best friend, shrieking, ‘Did you see the gorgeous vanity mirror on page 96 of the Warm Bathrooms chapter. It’s exactly what I want for the summer cottage.’ Er, page what???

If this book didn’t come to me as a review copy, I’d be sorely tempted to buy it at my local Barnes & Noble. And I’d be thumbing through it every time I stopped in!

Here are some of the beautiful photographs in the book. These were all shot by co-author/architect Steve Giannetti.

You can buy yourself a copy by clicking here.


Design*Sponge at Home
Kelly's Kitchen Sync

06 December 2011

SENSIBLE STYLE - 2011 Kitchen & Bath Gift Guide

You’ve got relatives you rarely see and clients from the ‘80s and ‘90s on your gift list… So why not your kitchen and bath, which you use every day!

Here’s my Sensible Style take on gift-giving you’ll enjoy for years to come. In the interest of saving you time and mileage, (and possibly making some gift money of my own from my Amazon Associates account!), I’ve created this gift guide so that you can click on each picture to buy the item conveniently from Amazon.com.

Incidentally, Amazon has a fabulous iPhone app that you can download from the iTunes store! I absolutely love its one-click on-the-go buying option.

I enjoy a great glass of wine with dinner. If you do, too, consider these gift ideas for your own kitchen – or for a wine lover on your gift list.

Wine Enthusiast 12-Bottle Wine Refrigerator
Let’s presume that you don’t have room for an installed wine captain or wine room. Can you accommodate a countertop model?

Ennospace Wine Shelves

I think these are great-looking and want a set just like them. I’d opt for two glass shelves to hang red and white wine glasses. That will free up a cabinet and take advantage of unused wall shelves!

Metrokane Rabbit Wine Opener with Foil Cutter

The furnished studio I rented last year had a standard corkscrew that barely worked. Don’t subject your wine enjoyment to anything less than a good wine opener! This is the one I own.

Vinturi Aerators

I still use a decanter for my red wine, but this is a nice alternative if you’re a bit rushed. This set includes aerators for both red and white wines.

Riedel Champagne Glasses

Why not toast the New Year with your favorite champagne in classic Riedel champagne glasses? Doesn’t the Dom Perignon of bubbly deserve the DP of champagne glasses?


OK, I’m not an avid cook. If you are, well, that’s terrific… Invite me to dinner some time! These are my gift suggestions for lazy cooks, unmotivated cooks, reheaters and others of my ilk!

Crock Pot

This is my favorite appliance. I can turn it on in the morning, go to work, and have dinner warm and ready when I’m done. The keep warm setting is a lifesaver for days that run late.

Everyday Low-Carb Slow Cooker Cookbook

I’ve got about six slow cooker cook books, but this is my regular go-to resource. All the dishes are low-carb, quick and simple to make. Just my speed!

Axis Natural Wood Drawer Organizer (Ideal for Spices!)

This is the most practical solution to spice organizing that I’ve found. After trying wall cabinet step organizers and in-drawer tiered models, I’ve found drawer dividers to be the most practical, user-friendly system for having my spices readily available and organized. (I alphabetize mine so I can find them faster; again, spending more-than-necessary time preparing meals is just not my thing!) The one shown was designed for dresser drawers and will be too tall for drawers shallower than four inches high. Measure carefully before ordering! Similar styles are available in shorter configurations!

Henckels In-Drawer Knife Block

I love in-drawer knife blocks. They keep your countertops clear and put your knives away from young eyes and hands.

Knape & Vogt Tray Dividers

I got hooked on tray dividers a while back when my Florida builder kitchen came with a semi-useless 15 inch wide base cabinet. That’s too narrow for a roll-out tray, so we installed a pair of tray dividers. Voila, the perfect solution for storing baking sheets, cutting boards, platters and pizza stones. This deluxe model rolls out for greater convenience!


Everyone’s got a kitchen, right? Here are some gift ideas – whether you own or rent – that will enhance your time in that space!

Wellness Mat

A cushioned, anti-fatigue mat, like the one that Wellness Mats kindly sent me at the beginning of this year, is a wonderful gift to your feet, legs, hips and back! You’ll especially enjoy it at this time of year when you’re probably spending extra time in the kitchen preparing holiday meals and entertaining more guests.

Phillips Docking System

I listen to music during most of my waking hours, including when I’m working in the kitchen. I also have my iPhone on hand all the time. A docking station in the kitchen lets me enjoy my tunes and stay charged at the same time. This model also works for iPods and iPads. This is the model I’ve picked out for Chez J.


Maybe your bathroom needs some love, too? A gift to your powder room or master bath is a gift you’ll enjoy year-round, long after the last holiday decoration has come down.

Your powder room is your home’s “public” bathroom, the one your party guests will use. Since powder rooms tend to be small on size and storage, you might not have a handy cabinet for overflow storage. Don’t make the twelfth party guest lose out on toilet paper. Stash it next to the toilet in an attractive cannister that matches your toilet brush holder.

Kohler Wall-Mounted Soap Dispenser

If you have a pedestal sink in your powder room, as I do, you might be short on space for a soap dispenser. Consider a wall-mounted model in a design and finish that work for your bath. This is one I’m considering for Chez J!

InterDesign Bath Tissue Holder

Don’t make your party guests wonder where you hide the extra toilet paper rolls! Hide them in an attractive storage bin that matches your powder room d├ęcor.

Contemporary and Traditional Decorative Hooks

I recently blogged about purse-adverse powder rooms. If you want your powder room to be purse-friendly, consider a decorative hook for guests to hang theirs on. Here’s one I like from Kohler for a traditional or transitional bath.

And here’s one by Motiv for a contemporary bath.

Guest Towel Holders

I think every powder room should have a fully-stocked guest towel holder. Here’s one by Caspari for a traditional or transitional space.

And here’s one from Sitlax for a contemporary bath.

Inglow Flameless Candle

I like candles in a powder room, but being a worrier, I’m always fearful about a guest setting my house on fire. That’s why I’m bullish on flameless candles. This one has a timer and fragrance, too! How perfect is that???

Contemporary and Traditional Faucets

One of the first things I changed at Chez J was the powder room faucet. It’s a pretty easy swap-out that delivers big returns on your style investment, as long as you stay with the same set up – e..g, four-inch centers for four-inch hole spread. The nice thing about changing your powder room faucet is that you only have to replace one. Master bath updates usually call for two, as well as tub and shower faucets. The latter two require more professional work, too! Consider a lever-handle style for use by guests of all ages and abilities, and one with water-saving features!

Here’s a Toto powder room faucet for a contemporary bath.

And a classic Delta widespread for a traditional bath.


Your master bath should be your retreat from the world. It greets you every morning and ends every night. Here are some gifts to help you enjoy it more.

Kohler Multi-function Handshower

A multi-function handshower can give you a massage, reach places it’s otherwise difficult to reach and make bath clean up a little easier. They’re ideal for bathers who need to sit while showering and a necessary luxury for everyone else. This is the model I very happily own.

Delta Soap Dispenser

If you’re investing in new vanity tops, consider an installed soap dispenser to match your new faucets. They’re generally not sold with lav faucets, but often manufacturers have similar kitchen styles that will work with your powder room choice.

This Delta Victorian matches the traditional lav faucets mentioned in the powder room section.

Broan Sensor Vent Fan

You know you need to run your vent fan when you bathe or shower but, chances are, its noise interrupts the lovely spa environment you crave. Give yourself the gift of silence and moisture removal with an ultra-quiet sensor fan. It knows when to run and you’ll barely hear it when it does.

Axis Vanity Drawer Organizer

I love organizers! They speed up your bathroom routines, which is great for rushed mornings. Here’s one to consider for your cosmetics.

Taymor Hair Tools Holder

Free up drawer space in your vanity by installing this flat iron and hair blower holder on the back of a cabinet door.

Happy shopping, Sensible Style readers! I hope I made the task a little easier and more fun for you. Enjoy!

PS: You can find all of the other Sensible Style posts along the right column of this blog.

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