29 March 2011

The things we carry - A weighty Let's Blog Off post

I love being part of the #Let's Blog Off series, where a gathering of talent throughout the blogosphere writes on the same theme every couple of weeks. In December, I wrote on "If money were no object." This is my second, weightier LBO. What I carry around, logistically-speaking A basic black Coach City Bag that outlasted my nine-year marriage... And that my ex thought should be registered as a weapon, it's so heavy!

Carrying my stuff since 1996!

Of course it is. It's got my business and personal lives in its leather belly. It's also got emergency lip gloss and nail polish, a mini tape measure from my Viking designer training program, (since you never know when you'll need to measure something for the new place!), my West Elm, Pottery Barn and Restoration Hardware trade discount cards, (since you never know when you'll need to buy something for the new place either!), my highly-prized, never-come-often-enough Bed, Bath & Beyond 20 percent off coupons, various gift cards and a photo of my Mom as a teenager in the 50s, looking like Lauren Bacall!

Sandy at 16

I also carry an iPhone 3G that I hope will make it to its second birthday in May - why don't electronics hold up??? - but preferably until the next generation iPhone comes out later this spring. That way I can decide whether to spring for the new one or cheap out on the 3GS at $49. This glorious, now tired gadget and its social enablers, (Twitter, Facebook, texting, unlimited long distance), saved my sanity during my separation, divorce and relocation to a city where I had acquaintances, but no close friends. The 2010 and 2009 years would have been even tougher without my Apple a day/hour/minute.

What I carry around, physically-speaking

Right now, I carry around an extra 17 or so pounds. Many women would be unhappy about this fact. I'm thrilled that it's no longer 90 extra pounds - the kind that made walking the trade show floor at the International Builders Show or Kitchen/Bath Industry Show hell on my overburdened feet. When my marriage crashed and burned in June 2009, I was so sedentary, I thought I'd have a heart attack or a stroke from the stress, so I started swimming. And lost 33 pounds. When I moved to San Diego, I didn't have a wonderful Olympic-length swimming pool at my community, as I did in Tampa, so I developed a walk with hills and stairs. That was the next set of pounds. So, when I visited the LivingKitchen Show in Cologne in January of this year, thanks to the generosity of my friends at Blanco, my feet, relieved of 75 pounds of extra weight, didn't demand Ibuprofen at the end of the day, or several shoe changes along the way. Thank God!

Jamie "happy footing" on porcelain top at LivingKitchen show

What I carry around, spiritually-speaking

I carry around both sadness and relief at the demise of TriGold, (the marriage at 40 that I thought would last forever), a tremendous amount of gratitude for the incredible family I have and the amazing friends in my life. I carry delight at the community of designers and bloggers I've joined.

Four of the Blogger 19 plus Lori Dolnick, PR pro for Blanco L to R, Susan Serra, Leslie Clagett, Lori, Jamie, Paul Anater

And I'm incredibly grateful for the natural beauty of my San Diego surroundings. It only took me 22 years to move here, after all!

View from the San Diego Sierra Club Lodge

And being me, still and always, I carry around a continual sense of worry. It's my default, my inner Jewish Mother! In his wonderful book, Happiness is a Serious Problem, Dennis Prager described the three pillars of joy, as best as I can remember them: 1) gratitude for what you have in life; 2) a sense of purpose; 3) Doing what you need to get done. For me, that means taking care of myself, my body, my clients, my readers, my car and home, and the people I care most about.

23 March 2011

Bathroom Technology Guest Post

I recently asked David VanWert, of VanWert Technology Design in Los Angeles, to share his insights on the latest tech advances for kitchens and baths. You can read his terrific kitchen technology guest post by clicking here. What follows are his thoughts on technology for your bathroom. Take it away, Dave...

In a day and age where multi-tasking is a necessity, and our ways of getting information is almost limitless, the bathroom is one place that is often overlooked for entertainment and information delivery. I've complied some of the best technologies currently available for bathrooms everywhere.

TV Mirrors

Whether it's watching the local news while getting ready for work in the morning, or not missing a single play of the big game, Seura TVs offer the most elegant solution for any bathroom. Many homeowners would love a TV in the bathroom, but don't want to give up precious wall or counter space.

Seura offers elegant television mirror solutions that allow you to view your favorite program, then virtually disappear into the mirror when not in use. For clients with high-end taste who always wants to keep up with the action, Seura is the obvious choice.

Bathroom Control Panels

When watching TV just isn't enough, simply add a control panel for your technology needs. At the touch of a button you can turn on your favorite radio station, iPod album, view the current weather outside, adjust the heating and air, view the security cameras, or a slew of other goodies.

By adding a control panel from companies such as Crestron, Savant, Control 4 or others, you can have all of your homes technologies available at your fingertips... Even in the bathroom!

Watch TV, surf the web, monitor your home security panel with a controller like Savant's

Flush-mount power outlets, lighting keypads and touchpanels

Although I did mention this concept in my previous guest post on kitchen technology, I felt it also deserved a spot in a bathroom post, as it fits seamlessly into almost any space, but especially those where rich materials deserve their best possible presentation.

A well designed bathroom will have wonderful fixtures and materials and there are few things that stick out worse than power outlets and light switches. Trufig offers flush mount solutions for stone, wood, and drywall applications to provide virtually invisible outlets, keypads, switches, and more for almost any application.

The outlets and switches are seamless in this Trufig installation

15 March 2011

SENSIBLE STYLE - Color Charged

"Courageous. Confident. Vital... It's a color for every day, with nothing 'everyday' about it." -- Pantone LLC on its 2011 Color of the Year

Maybe Pantone 18-2120 Honeysuckle is your color of the year, too. You love its vibrant pink energy and want it in your kitchen. But how do you incorporate a hot, trendy shade without dating your kitchen or anchoring yourself into a strong color you may not love down the line?

Trust me on this one: Don't buy honeysuckle-painted cabinets, large appliances or honeysuckle stone countertops unless you've loved pink your whole life and are absolutely certain you'll never, ever, ever sell your house.

You can still use this rich hue in your kitchen, but a little bit of a strong color goes a long way. Here are some Sensible Style approaches to integrating a strong color like this.

Go soft

Integrate your preferred color into your kitchen fabrics:
  • Select pot holders in your chosen color
  • Use it in a festive apron
  • Find chandelier shades in your color of choice
  • Add dish towels in solids or patterns that tie in that shade
  • Find place mats and napkins that bring in your color du jour
  • Look for floor mats in the color you love
  • Tie it on with seat cushion fabric

Houdan Pink Fabric from Pierre Deux

Verano Pink Dish Towel from Crate & Barrel

Serve it up
  • Add the color in serving platters and bowls
  • Choose canisters in your selected shade
  • Incorporate it in your bakeware collection
  • Add drinking glasses in that color to your place settings
  • Find cooking utensils or serving utensils with handles in that shade
  • Look for trivets and spoon rests that incorporate it

Ikea's Yngaren bowl

Bigger splash

OK, so these strike you as wimpy and you want to make a stronger impression with your selected accent color. I'm still going to try to talk you out of big, expensive, permanent elements like cabinetry, countertops and flooring. But you can bring in your accent color with a bigger impact this way:

  • Perhaps there are countertop appliances available in your color choice
  • You can find cabinet hardware in pretty much any color
  • Use the color you love in easy-to-change wall paint
  • Select window treatments that include that color
  • Look for a kitchen-friendly art piece with that shade in it
  • If you've loved it forever, find an accent tile to integrate into your backsplash

Four-slice toaster from Dualit

Perennial Poppy Mosaic accent tile from Ann Sacks

Le Fleur knobs by Atlas Homewares

Final thoughts

Remember, always, that your space should reflect your personal likes and loves, not a website, TV show or magazine. I'm not a pink person myself and have no insecurities about missing out on Pantone's 2011 color of the year. I may miss next year's, too, without any regrets. But I have friends and clients who love the "now" color, style, look. This post is dedicated to the trendies among us. You know who you are.

Read all of the Sensible Style posts, linked from the right column!

07 March 2011

Best Little Hood House in Texas

Once upon a time, way back in Great Depression and Dust Bowl era 1933, a Texan firm patented the first-ever kitchen range hood.

Model A1 launches the industry

That gave birth to a company that, more than 70 years and 60 international competitors later, has the best technology in the industry.

Still headquartered in Richardson, Tex., family-owned Vent-A-Hood Limited vents kitchen cooking gases, smoke, heat, steam, grease and odors in a way no other manufacturer does. Its patented Magic Lung system is a work of beauty!

An early ad touting the Magic Lung

Rather than your typical hard-to-clean filter-based systems, VAH hoods use a centrifugal force process to keep its clients' kitchens cleaner. There is a significant secondary benefit, which those of us in its recent training class, heard first-hand: VAH's Magic Lung-powered vent hoods are significantly quieter than its competitors.


The major complaint cooks and homeowners have is that vent hoods are too noisy. Much of that noise comes from the force required to push air through an ever-clogging filter. Magic Lung neatly sidesteps that problem by dispensing with a filter altogether. The company's 1200 CFM hood was barely noisier than its 300 strength model, and about a fourth as loud as the competitor's hood in a side-to-side comparison.

In fact, you could actually hear the instructor speaking normally over the Magic Lung-powered hood operating at that strength. Not so much the competitor's. You know what I'm talking about! So many folks don't even turn on the hood because it's so darn loud.

Vent-a-Hood will be my hood supplier of choice going forward, unless or until someone else convinces me that their technology is just as quiet, just as safe, just as Sensibly Styled.

Form meets function

How does Sensible Style play into this? First, on the style side: They're good-looking, with great finishes and lines.

A contemporary island hood

Retro styling for a retro kitchen

The model I'll probably use in my own kitchen

Second, on the sensible side, they have an industry-leading warranty. Third, also sensibly, they offer super-easy operation and maintenance.

When I noted above that the Magic Lung technology "neatly" sidesteps standard hood grease trapping, I meant it literally. Here's the clean-up process in a nutshell: Wipe out the inside of the wide open hood canopy with a household cleaner recommended for your chosen finish while you're cleaning up your kitchen.

From time to time, unlatch the easy-to-reach blower front from its housing with two quick clicks. Remove it, wipe it out with a paper towel or put it in your dishwasher. You can do this once a month or less, depending on how you cook. Put it back on. Latch it closed, click, click. Periodically, maybe once a year or less, (again, depending on how you cook), you can detach the Magic Lung itself with a few quick turns of a long screwdriver and soak it in soapy water. Put it back on and you are good to go.

Even my domestically-challenged self can get behind a cleaning routine like this!

Customarily speaking

Another feature I really like about Vent-A-Hood is its willingness to customize its products. There are three ways to do this. One is to submit your own design, including size, shape, number of blowers, position of blowers, position of vent cut-outs, finish, etc. In other words, they'll create a hood that's completely and uniquely yours. They'll quote it for you and build it from scratch if you decide to proceed.

You can customize a color and style to match your Aga or other colorful range!

An easier way to customize a Vent-A-Hood for your kitchen (or your client's), is to start with one of their Designer series configurations, then select your accessories and finishes. I love, love, love the fact that you can "build" your hood on their web site, too! For a creative kitchenista like myself, that's some fine quality time online. Here's the link if you want to play, too.

I would looooove to see a smart phone app that not only lets you build the hood, but lets you see it in your kitchen, using technology that I described in my recent Jetsons post.

The third approach is to use one of its liner inserts to equip the mantle or hood design of your choice.

Clean lines make for easy-to-clean insert

Safely speaking

I also mentioned safety, something all of us should be concerned about. According to the National Fire Protection Association, cooking fires are the number one cause of home fires and home fire injuries. While leaving burners on and unattended is one major reason why this happens, another is fire spreading from the kitchen through the ducts to the rest of the house.

Turns out, the grease and dust mucking around together in most kitchen ducts is quite flammable. Magic Lung's centrifugal pressure keeps fire from entering the kitchen duct work to play in that mess, offering a tremendous built-in safety feature.

We've been schooled

We were attending "The Harvard of Ventilation," Vent-A-Hood VP Blake Woodall told our group of designers and appliance pros. So let me share a little of this valuable education with you, as one can never know too much on this topic:

  • The most important consideration in choosing a hood is the cooking equipment it will cover. This will determine both its size and strength.
  • Remote blowers are more expensive to install, service and maintain than standard blowers. They also pull air, which is less efficient than pushing it, thus requiring more energy to power them.
  • A typical family of four generates a gallon of grease every year. Without proper kitchen ventilation, that grease ends up on walls, ceilings, furniture, clothing, art and pets!
  • The leading cause of poor hood performance is improper installation, most commonly incorrectly vent connections.

What were these installers thinking???
No wonder the attached hoods wouldn't work right!

Here's some more useful ventilation info from the Vent-A-Hood site, so you, too, can get a Ph.D., (or Professional Hood Degree, as I call it), in kitchen ventilation.

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