30 August 2011

FOOD FOR THOUGHT #3: Why kitchen remodeling is like pregnancy

Most people will only remodel a kitchen once in their life. It's a completely foreign process to many, and one I've "midwifed" for years as a full-time kitchen and bath designer.

I’ve always likened kitchen remodeling to being pregnant, because many of my clients know all about what that experience is like. In my opinion, there are some striking similarities:
  • You know roughly how long the process will take, but rarely the exact date it will be over;
  • You're best off not planning major events around either one, or Mr. Murphy and his infernal law will kick you in the butt;
  • You’ll be doing lots of planning, preparation and sheer fantasy about both;
  • You will be inviting exotic professionals and technicians into your life for both;
  • You have no idea of what complications (and unforeseen expenses) will arise during the process;
  • You know you’ll be uncomfortable and inconvenienced along the way, but not to what extent, or exactly what forms it will take;
  • You can – and should – prepare in advance, but can, and probably will, still experience surprises along the way;
  • You may experience strange cravings – pickles and ice cream vs. pickled finishes;
  • You’ll be buying a lot of surprising new gear for baby or kitchen;
  • You'll be coming across names you never expected to cross your lips -- be they Madison Marie or Madison Maple, Cambria countertops or Cambria Johnson;
  • Both invite ideas and horror stories from friends, family and complete strangers spotting baby bump or curbside dumpster;
Best of all...
  • At the end of a long, laborious process, you’ll have a beautiful new addition to your household.
By the way, please feel free to add your own comparisons in my comment section below!

These musings were inspired by the work I’m having done this week at Chez J, the three-story town home I bought late last year. I’m not working on the kitchen just yet – except for a flooring replacement – but the room where I spend the greatest amount of time here is my office and it’s getting new laminate flooring*, baseboards, desk, crown molding and paint this week. It already got new drapes, drapery hardware, area rug and ceiling fan since I moved in. I look forward to saying goodbye, ugly carpet. Good riddance, clutter of books on floor and computer on folding bridge table!

*Incidentally, I had planned on purchasing engineered wood, which I had and loved in my Florida home. When I came across a laminate at half the cost that looked exactly the same, I went for it!

Yes, I will post “after” pictures once it’s all done. Here are some before shots:

23 August 2011

Wine Wanderings and Wonderings

The weekend before last was all about the grape… And great friends.

We went wine tasting, enjoyed an all-farm dinner at beautiful Buttonwood Farm Winery where one friend works part-time, and savored wonderful wines on the patio of our vacation rental in California’s Central Coast wine region.

An image from last year’s Buttonwood dinner – captured on My Los Olivos blog by a fellow diner

Calories aside, all weekends should be like that. But, eventually, you come home, sometimes with cases of wine to store and enjoy. This post is all about the storing and enjoying. I’m not a wine snob and I don’t have a wine cellar in my townhome. I don’t even have room for a wine fridge. If I did, I’d want a built-in, dual-zone model like this one from Sub-Zero... That'll be for the next house!

What I do have is a handsome Vicenza Console from Ballard Designs that holds whatever wine bottles I happen to have on hand, along with wine accessories.

The wine accessories include a decanter that lets my reds breathe while I’m preparing (or reheating) dinner and a very easy-to-use Rabbit that makes opening wine bottles a snap.

While I own a very delicate set of wine glasses from my parents’ 1955 wedding, the ones I use on a regular basis are bargain busters from IKEA. I don’t worry much if one gets broken.

I’m considering moving them out of the wall cabinet where they currently live onto shelves like this Holman from Pottery Barn with built-in stem glass holders -- one reds, one for whites.

My builder's decision not to put a cabinet over the dishwasher works very well for this purpose. It’ll be one of the first things I see when I come upstairs into my living area – and an invitation to relax over a lovely glass of wine when I finish my workday.

Here are some wines from around that area that I’ve enjoyed enormously. Maybe you will, too? Click on any of the wine images and you'll be taken to its winery.

And this is the breathtakingly beautiful country in which they go from vine to wine. This shot from santaynezwinecountry.com was also taken at Buttonwood.

16 August 2011

SENSIBLE STYLE - Vacation Home Kitchens

It’s summertime – and the living is easy! Foods are simple and unfussy. Days are long and spent as much outdoors as possible. Sand and mud get tracked into the house from flip flops and hiking boots.

This Sensible Style is dedicated to vacations… and vacation home kitchens.

Simplicity counts

Vacation homes are all about relaxing and leisure, not about detail and dusting. Choose a cabinet style that reflects this casual spirit. Fussy moldings and ornate carvings would be as out-of-place in your beach house or mountain cabin as a ball gown at a barbecue.

Simple cabinets, like these American Woodmark Del Ray models, work great for a vacation home kitchen's pared-down lifestyle

They’re not about slaving over a hot stove either. You don’t need a pro style range. Chances are, you’ll be cooking a lot of your meals on the outside grill. Nor do you need an oversized refrigerator. You’ll be cooking fresh food from farm stands and the fresh catch of the day.

If you don’t like paper plates, have the space in your kitchen, and welcome frequent guests, you might want to consider planning in a second dishwasher. This is a luxury that will definitely pay off.

Low maintenance counts

I’m betting you don’t want to spend your vacation polishing granite or sealing wood tops. Choose a counter surface that lets you choose to spend time outdoors instead of in the kitchen. Repairable Corian or engineered stone can work in this setting. So could stainless steel if you don’t mind seeing scratches.

Low maintenance quartz tops, like this one by Cambria, are ideal for vacation homes

Ditto for your floors. An attractive porcelain tile that stands up to the thundering of wet, muddy active feet or a wood that’s already distressed could be your best vacation friend.

Porcelain tile, like this one from Daltile, is vacation home friendly

Another option is flood-friendly stained concrete, especially if your home is built on a concrete slab already. It will take just about anything you can throw at it.

Avoid elaborate backsplashes. They won’t fit in any better than the heavily-decorated cabinets would. Beadboard, tin ceiling tiles, or just a simple painted surface can work at your summer home. Keep it simple.

Seating matters

Have plenty of it, at a height comfortable for the majority of your guests. They’re going to hang out in the kitchen anyway. Make it easy to do so with counter-height stools instead of bar stools and, if there’s space, chairs, benches or banquette with washable cushions at a standard height table.

A bench, like this Benchwright model from Pottery Barn, welcomes kids and friends to your table

Planning matters

Guests young and old will be traipsing in and out of your house all day. That’s the nature of summer homes. If outdoor entertaining is a big part of your vacation life, plan for a large deck next to your kitchen, if possible. Ideally, the doors from the kitchen open completely onto this deck for easy transit. A zero threshhold will be kindest to bare feet.

Vacations are about indoor-outdoor living; so is this glass wall-door combo by NanaWall

A pass-through from kitchen window to deck would also be great for serving and cleaning up.

I would also suggest planning an extra large, deep, sturdy sink for grilling tools and stock pots from crab boils and the like. A tall, pull-out faucet will be the most convenient for filling them.

A large, durable sink, like this Blanco Silgranit II sink, is ideal for vacation home kitchen clean-up

Decorating points

The whole point of vacation homes is to enjoy a relaxing time away from your daily life. Chances are, it’s got a great view of nearby woods, lake, mountain, gulf, bay or ocean. Let Mother Nature do the decorating for you. The view should be the focal point, so keep window coverings and distractions to a minimum.

Choose outdoor-rated fabrics for cushions and area rugs.

Outdoor rugs, like these Striped Braided versions from Ballard Designs, work great in vacation home kitchens (and on their decks)

09 August 2011

Barbie's Dream House: Part II -- The Winning Design

Last week, in Part I of Barbie’s Dream House, I shared my thoughts on where the style icon could live while her new Malibu manse was being designed and built. This week, I’ll profile the winning design of the Mattel/American Institute of Architects competition.

First of all, the location on three acres of beach with ocean and mountain views on all sides can’t be beat.

The winning architects, Ting Li, Assoc. AIA, LEED AP and Maja Paklar, Assoc. AIA, planned a tall home with lots of glass, terrace and roof garden to maximize those views. Though both work in New York and neither grew up anywhere near Southern California, (Li is from China; Paklar from Croatia), they both totally got the feel of the place. They both also loved Barbie as young girls.

I like the sustainability emphasis of the project: solar panels, landscaped rooftop and irrigation system, operable shading devices, bamboo flooring, low flow toilet and sink fixtures, and locally sourced and manufactured materials and furnishings.

Here's a link to the plans for the home.

I dislike the lack of aging-in-place features, including an elevator to transport the now AARP-eligible Barbie between floors in her new home. I’m also curious about the powder room on Level 1 with no apparent entrance. Hmmmm. It also would have been nice to have a bathroom, (maybe with steam or sauna?) on the exercise level and a half bath on the office/meeting room level… But that’s just my own AARP-eligible bladder talking. Guess I’ll have to sneak into Barbie’s master suite or sledgehammer myself into the Level 1 powder room!

Feel free to share your comments below. I'm eager to hear from Barbie fans, fellow designers and architects alike.

02 August 2011

Barbie's Dream House: Part I -- Before It's Built

Earlier this summer, I learned that Mattel and the American Institute of Architects teamed up to host a Barbie’s Dream House competition for architects. I loved the concept and thought I’d have some fun with it myself…

Barbie I Can Be architect doll by Mattel

While her dream home is being designed and built, which, as we all know, takes much longer in real life than it does on TV, Barbie will need a comfortable place to live. She wants to rent in the Malibu area, so that she’s close to the construction site and her pre-Ken gal pals, (you know, the ones who stuck by her through that awful break-up).

Malibu Barbie by Mattel - circa 1971

I did some looking around for my childhood pal and found a complex online that I thought she’d enjoy for a while. I’ve been too busy working on my book this summer to drive up to LA in person. I didn't even get to Dwell on Design this year. Barbie can have her manager, agent or personal assistant check it out for her. Sometimes these places look much nicer on the Internet than they do in real life.

It does look pretty sweet online, I must say! Villa Malibu has a pool with cabanas, 24-hour fitness center, tennis courts, barbecue and even a Zen Meditation Garden for when the house project gets stressful. It’s also pretty close to the beach, and there’s nothing more calming than a walk along the water’s edge.

There’s a beach porter who will take Barbie and her buds to Zuma, a personal assistant for errands, a chauffeur for airport, restaurant and shopping trips, and a concierge to schedule massages, dining reservations, spa visits, even yoga classes.

There are two and three bedroom models with fireplaces, balconies, separate soaking tubs and – you know this is important to our girl – huge walk-in closets. She’s been collecting clothes for decades now!

So, for however many months it takes to finish the design, get it through Coastal permitting and get it built, Barbie will have a lovely place to live and enjoy with her BFFs... Waiting for my invite, girlfriend!

Photo Notes: All photos except Barbie images are from the Villa Malibu website

Found Gold: Popular Posts from the Past!

Don't miss out on any gold -- subscribe by email

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner