28 February 2011

Kitchen Technology Guest Post

Technology is playing an ever-greater role in the kitchen, so much so that I'm considering attending the Consumer Electroncs Show next year instead of the Kitchen/Bath Industry Show.

As I'm not the techiest gal in the world, I went to Dean Larkin, AIA, my advisor on all things architectural, for his go-to guy on home electronics. That guy is David VanWert of VanWert Technology Design. I suspect that DVW may become one of my design MVPs this year.

Here's the question I threw at him to start with: What's the latest and greatest in tech gear for the kitchen? What follows is his well-informed take on the subject, in his own words.

An experienced man

I have had the pleasure of designing electronic systems for clients in California for more than 10 years. [Let me interject something here: Knowing the kind of clients Dean alone would be referring, those are some pretty A list folks!] In this time, I have seen technology grow in leaps and bounds. I have never been more excited about how new technology is so easy to use, and how it can improve our everyday lives. I have included a few of my favorite technology advances for the kitchen space.

Apple iPad

Without a doubt, the Apple iPad has been one of the most exciting devices to hit the technology market in recent memory. Not only can you browse the web, view photos, play games, and explore thousands of other apps, now you can also use it as an essential device in your kitchen!

Imagine having a flush-mounted iPad in the wall that allows you to access thousands of recipes, watch your favorite TV program, be alerted when the oven is at the right temperature, check the front door camera when guests arrive and much, much more. All of this can be made possible very easily via an iPad in conjunction with companies such as Crestron, Control 4, and Savant.

An Apple a day in a whole new way!
image provided by Creston


I have seen many gorgeous kitchens with wonderful fixtures and materials, but power outlets and light switches that stick out like sore thumbs. Until now, you were, at best, able to color-match the wall plate or chose a solid color to help it "blend in."

Trufig offers flush-mount solutions for stone, wood, and drywall applications to provide virtually invisible outlets, keypads, switches, and more for almost any application.

Can you spot the light switches or outlets in this backsplash?
Image provided by Trufig

Lighting control

Lighting control can completely transform the look and feel of a kitchen. Although having all of the lights at 100 percent brightness my be great for cooking or cleaning, you may want a different effect while entertaining guests or having a romantic dinner.

Along with being one of the easiest ways to save energy and having a "green" home, lighting control and different living scenes can transform a room from a "commercial cooking space" to a "romantic bistro" at the touch of a button.

Shed a little (or a lot of) light on the subject
image provided by Control 4

Look for an upcoming post from David VanWert on technology for your bath.

21 February 2011

MOLTEN GOLD - Artistic Merit

Last fall, a highly-respected firm in our industry hired me to develop and present a talk for fellow designers on the use of woodcarvings in kitchen and bath design. As always happens when I research a talk, post or article, I learn something new and useful in the process.

This wonderful new 'something' that I learned in creating the Art for Everyday program was that you can design your own custom woodcarvings that the firm's talented craftsmen will produce to your specifications.

Imagine the possibilities...
  • A hood onlay with the family crest
  • Custom fireplace mantel with a literary inspiration
  • Corbels featuring the family pet
  • Island posts inspired by a vacation
  • Crown molding with a favorite flower carved into it
  • The options are as unlimited as your imagination

I can't wait to have a project that calls for this feature -- maybe even Chez J, my own micro-manse! While the potential for personalizing is tremendous, the cost doesn't have to be. Choose one key focal point to customize and go with more standard elements in the rest of the space.

A custom carving like this Art for Everyday beauty could be your client's likeness!

Confucius, as shown in this Art for Everyday original, could be an inspiration for a custom carving

A favorite flower could inspire a custom carving, as it did this Art for Everyday original

Also, be careful about designing a component that would violate prevailing neighborhood standards if resale is a consideration. Nineteenth Century New York robber baron August Belmont liked to shock his Fifth Avenue neighbors with the erotic statuary in his front hallway; you may not want to go that route in your residential projects.

About Art for Everyday

Art For Everyday is a Canadian producer of architectural woodcarvings and turnings. Offering both contemporary and traditional styles, the company uses premium North American lumber to craft more than 950 woodcarvings in 12 different categories, including corbels, mantels, appliqu├ęs, moldings, capitals, turnings and rosettes. Affordable customization is also available in re-sizing the firm's existing catalog carvings to meet specific project needs.

The Facts

Customized carvings are created in one of Art for Everyday's solid North American wood species, and priced from a designer's renderings and specifications. There is no minimum price on an order. Custom quotes are based on the design's size and detail. Call 416-645-5120 or email sales@afe-in.com. Designers receive their quote within one working day.

Website: http://artforeveryday.com/

10 February 2011

Kitchen planning meets the Jetsons

Jane Jetson's kitchen is sorely out of date. She wants a new floor plan filled with all the great Twenty-First Century gear she's finding online at blogs like Gold Notes. Since he's a mid-century boomer with a real defined benefits pension and decades of home equity in their Skypad condo conversion, George Jetson says Jane can have whatever she wants.

Jane gets out her iPhone 9 and calls up her favorite design sites. She clicks on the induction range she wants to see in person. A special text message comes her way a moment later.

This text instantly connects her to that appliance. First, it shows her the nearest store that carries the product line, with its address, phone, web site and Facebook page. It also gives her a one-click link to the store's phone number so she can call to see if it's on display there. It is, and she can demo it, too! (Jane wishes the next generation software was out that would link the store's inventory to the text and save her that call, especially since she had to wait until Monday at 10 AM to call them, but no such luck just yet!)

The text also gives her a special manufacturer's coupon if she buys both the range and a range hood from the same brand, and a very special visualizer iPhone application that she quickly downloads. This is the one she's most excited about. Jane's new app activates her iPhone's camera in a unique way and actually see the range in her space. She makes an appointment to visit the store and sends them the coupon code via text message.

Jane still isn't sure what type of cabinets or countertops she wants for the Jetson kitchen. She's leaning toward the "un-kitchen/hideaway" style she's been seeing on various sites. Browsing through the visualizer's options, she comes to the lone cabinet manufacturer that has its offerings digitized and clicks on its link.

To her delight, this forward-thinking brand has all of its styles readily available and easy to navigate. She clicks on "Modern," then "Slab," then "High Gloss," then, hesitating slightly, "Red." (This will take some convincing, as she didn't take George's 'anything you want' to include crimson cabinets!) What the heck!

The visualizer scans her existing walls, windows, cabinets and appliances and overlays the captivating new cabinets and induction range. She sees her dream kitchen materialize right on her iPhone screen. Another few clicks and Jane has a local showroom appointment to see the cabinets in person.

Fast forward a few weeks. Jane has retained Jamie "Jette" Goldberg to design her kitchen... After all, who else but her favorite design blogger, the same pro whose futuristic blog brought her the fabulous mobile technology she just used, would do!

They've incorporated the induction range and companion hood that Jane had picked out earlier. They went with the same cabinets, but in glossy white instead of red. They've finalized her plans. Everything arrives on site, ready for installation.

Jette has Jane download a new app that she has created for her clients. This customized restaurant coupon site will help the Jetsons get through the upcoming weeks without full use of their space. (Some things never change!)

Once their gorgeous new Sensibly Styled kitchen is installed, Jane sends big digital thumbs up to the brands and local pros who helped turn her dream kitchen into her new IRL* kitchen. The brands reward the pros with incentive points they can use on products for their own homes or exciting design trips. The pros reward the brands with even more referrals and specifications for making their jobs so easy!

This is how the design world will look in the next five years, I predict. I'm looking forward to it happening as soon as possible! How about you?

*IRL means In Real Life

Image Credits:
Jane, George and Astro (http://www.fanboy.com/)
Skypad exterior (http://jimsuldog.blogspot.com/)
Jane using videophone (http://girlsinwhitedresses.wordpress.com/)
Jetsons flying (http://controlissblinds.co.uk/)

Inspiration Credit:
A conference call this morning with The Yaffe Group about mobile marketing's potential for the kitchen and bath industry inspired this post. The photo visualizer, geo-based locating and coupon solutions came directly from their insights. Any techno-gaffs are purely mine.

03 February 2011

LivingKitchen at IMM Cologne: Top Products

Last week I shared the top trends I spotted at LivingKitchen, a kitchen trade show I attended last month in Cologne, Germany. This week, I'd like to share some of my favorite products from the show.

Game Changer Alert: Counter Intelligence

I've fallen in love again... With a new countertop material. Gold Notes readers know I love quartz tops or their durability, easy maintenance, versatile good looks and warranty protection. These new porcelain tops from TPB Barcelona in Spain offer the same virtues, with some great new styles.

There will be a Molten Gold feature on TPB coming soon, but I didn't want to delay in bringing you a fabulous new entry to the countertop market. They're not yet available in the US; I'm hoping that will change very soon! If you're a designer, ask your favorite fabricator to check these out. If you're a homeowner, ask your favorite designer to look into them for your kitchen. Let's get the North American ball rolling, folks!

Fridge Plus

Liebherr has added a wine cooler to a fridge-freezer combination. While I can't see this working in a family kitchen -- it lacks the freezer space most families require -- it could be an interesting choice for a rec room or vacation home.

Dishwasher Less

Bosch took a modular approach to appliances, allowing you to create kitchen symmetry with a group of small in-wall units. I particularly liked the mini dishwasher.

I can see this unit working very well as a home's second dishwasher - especially in a bar or game room setting.

Game Changer Alert: Hoodwinked

Traditionally, downdraft hoods are less efficient than their overhead components. It's just physics; smoke rises. Elica has changed the equation. Their new Seagull downdraft hood elevates to an overhead position, drawing smoke up into its vents with both style and efficiency.

While all the Elicas I've seen at past KBIS shows have focused on style, this one delivers innovation, too.


Every time I visit KBIS, I make it a point to visit the Blanco booth and see what new styles and colors they're offering in Silgranit, one of my favorite sink materials. As Blanco was the host for this Germany/LivingKitchen trip, I was one of the Design Council members given a tour of their large booth at the show. I really liked the Ronis Sink with its cutting board cover and accessories.

I would definitely spec this as a client's prep sink, but in an undermount configuration. I also liked the new Blanco Ceramic sinks.

They offer both fireclay durability and great accessories - i.e., Sensible Style!

Game Changer Alert: Now You're Cooking!

Gaggenau is a company that isn't afraid to innovate. At LivingKitchen, they introduced a fabulous new induction cooktop that works like no other smooth top I've ever seen - induction or radiant. Anywhere you place your pot or pan on its surface becomes a burner.

If you move the pot to a new place on the cooktop, it recalls your previous settings, making cooking more flexible and efficient. Wow.

Take a look at my LivingKitchen Top Trends Post, too! Some of these will be heading to a North American kitchen near you!

Also check out the blogs of my fellow LivingKitchen travelers. Each has their own great posts on this terrific tradeshow. The links below will take you to their home page. A search of "LivingKitchen," "Living Kitchen," "IMM," or "Cologne" should pull up their top-notch coverage.

Leslie Clagett's KB Culture
Paul Anater's Kitchen and Residential Design
Susan Serra's The Kitchen Designer
Cheryl Clendenon's Kitchen Details and Design

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