29 November 2011

BOOK LOOK - Design*Sponge at Home

Last June, I posted my first book review – a write-up on my kitchen designer/Blogger 19 buddy, Kelly Morisseau’s top-notch Kelly's Kitchen Sync book. Today, I’m covering another blogger’s book, Design Sponge at Home by Grace Bonney, based on her incredibly popular Design*Sponge blog.

This fun, fat, hardcover volume is both useful and attractive. Design*Sponge readers will be very familiar with its casual tone and funky flair. Non-readers, especially boomers like me, may find it a bit random compared to the typical design book – that’s the online influence, I’m sure.

Despite my old-school orgnizational quibbles, I really like this book and expect that I'll pick it up often. I especially like Bonney’s everything-goes, you-can-do-it approach to home design. There’s something for pretty much everyone in its 371 colorful, photo-packed pages. Here are some of those delicious images.

In addition to the super-fun photos and helpful captions, there’s a very good resource guide with flea markets, DIY suppliers, furniture and other suppliers that are worth checking out. I like the fact that the very thorough Index imposes searchability on the book that the table of contents doesn’t. It’s a bit like having Google custom search in print!

This book is a wonderful buffet of design ideas, resources and inspirations, rather than a fast food primer or formal seven-course soup to nuts reference guide. I recommend it for someone looking to personalize their interiors or give a stylish gift to a favorite design maven. Click here if that’s you!

If you’d like to win a copy of Design*Sponge at Home, subscribe to Gold Notes today, using the subscribe box below! All of my subscribers – both new and old – who are based in the U.S. will be entered into a New Year’s Eve drawing of this book. The winner will be notified the first week of January and asked for his or her snail mail address by email. The publisher's representative will send the book your way early in the new year. (If you want to give this book as a gift for someone, you'll have to break down and buy a copy or it won't make it under the tree or menorah in time!)

Design*Sponge at Home Room Photo Credits/Top to Bottom: Neryl Walker & Tony Owczarek, Graham Atkins-Hughes, Johnny Miller, Patrick Cline, Jean Randazzo.

22 November 2011

A Chez J Thanksgiving

Last year, in these days just before Thanksgiving, I closed on my three-story town house, which I now affectionately call Chez J. It was a long road, given its short sale status. Don’t let the “short” in its name fool you.

Chez J elevation!

I had much to be thankful for then, and I still do. So I’d like to use this Thanksgiving week post to express my appreciation to the many professionals who have contributed to Chez J’s acquisition and improvements to date. Without their help, my home probably wouldn’t be mine, and it definitely wouldn’t be as homey as it is today.

I've included web sites for those folks who have them. I'm happy to pass along contact info for those who don't.

From the start

First and foremost, I need to thank my wonderful realtor, Terri Davids with Century 21 Award in Chula Vista. This deal would not have come together without her patience and expertise. Short sales are challenging in general; having a second lender involved makes it all the more so. And having a lazy seller’s agent who epitomized the sleazy salesman stereotype made her job that much tougher. Thanks for hanging with it, Terri! You gave me a home for my Talo...

Yes, I had a fabulous kitchen faucet even before I had a kitchen! When I attended Fashion Week in February 2010 at the invitation of Brizo and its agency, MSL Group, we were wined, dined, feted and sent off with wonderful gifts. Our newly-minted Blogger 19 group was treated to their premium Talo faucets with SmartTouch and MagneDock technologies in the finish of our choice. All I needed was a sink to pair it with! Thanks, Brizo, Jai, Charlie, Christiana and MSL for the wonderful housewarming gift -- it now has a cozy home of its own and is serving me very, very well. And thanks to my friend, Paul Anater of the brilliant Kitchen and Residential Design blog for suggesting that I be included in that inaugural B19 event!

My go-to-gal for lighting and more

My designer pal and favorite lighting pro, Vicky Lodge of VML Design and Lighting, was immensely helpful with terrific insights and local referrals who have proved to be phenomenal. Thanks for your friendship and for helping me settle into my new hometown.

Vicky suggested a three-light sconce when I decided to paint the powder room ceiling the same dark shade as the walls. I chose a fixture at Home Depot inspired by Restoration Hardware's Dillon (for about $100 less).

Friend and fix-it guy

Close friend for 20 years and super-skilled carpenter, Norman Alatorre is also a top-notch handyman who has spent more time here than anyone besides me! He’s done so much great work at Chez J since I moved in that I couldn’t list it all here.

The stand-out contribution, though, is my home office/design studio. He turned it from the bland, cluttered, carpeted box it had been to the inspiring, organized work space it is now. I smile every time I walk by or into the room.

Norman doesn’t have a web site, as his real job for the past two decades has been building TV and movie sets, but I’d be happy to pass along his contact information if you have projects, especially carpentry-related work, that needs a skilled hand. (You've already seen his talents in the Princess Diaries, Entourage, CSI Miami and other popular entertainment.)

Thank you for your friendship and dedication, mi amigo!

Logan Desk from Pottery Barn, part of the home office makeover designed by me, wonderfully executed by carpenter-friend Norman Alatorre

Finely wired

Bill Martin of Martin Electric was one of Vicky’s referrals and a phenomenal electrician. I’ve had him here for several projects already, and I look forward to doing more work together – both here and for my clients. I was very happy to hear that Bill also does AV work. When I get ready to set up my living room TV/components, I now have a great go-to resource!

To the trade

I’ve been a member of ProSource since I became an independent designer, first in Tampa, more recently in San Diego. I have found the prices and service to be notable in both locations. My rep here, Kathy Anderson, was terrifically helpful in getting me my laminate flooring at a fabulous price, getting me all the samples I needed quickly, and ensuring that everything was processed smoothly. Thanks, Kathy!

They absolutely floored me

Flooring Creations did a terrific job with my friend’s wood floors, and so I had them quote me on installing most of my laminate. (The material from ProSource was already here and the office already completed when I called them.)

First, company owner Gus showed up on time to quote my install. Then he came through with a terrific quote. Technically speaking, he didn’t have to take on this job at all, since there was no big material profit margin in it for him; it was just a chance to show me what his firm could do. And, boy, did he ever! What an incredible service experience from start to finish. It didn't feel like they were doing anything different for me than they'd do for a non-industry client either. I could see their approach to service and quality was stellar; that doesn't happen on demand. It's intrinsic.

Gus and Sinda, his able helper, coordinated everything smoothly, including the fixtures replacement that had to be worked in with the new powder room flooring. Their team was fantastic. Not only were they super-skilled, but they were also punctual, polite, respectful and incredibly hard-working. They’ll be my first call when I’m ready to replace the ugly old carpeting still left on the two staircases and third floor. Thanks, guys!

Palisades Honey Oak Laminate from ProSource,
expertly installed by Flooring Creations

Fixture folks, et al

I’d also like to thank Chris Patti and David Contreras at Ferguson for their help in ordering and delivering my beautiful Kohler Archer powder room fixtures at a terrific designer rate, and Dennis Hargraves at Fixtures Living for his help in selecting, discounting, coordinating and delivering my sleek powder room faucet! Dennis' able team includes Kellie and Rosa.

Kohler's Archer Pedestal Sink and Toilet look wonderful in my remodeled powder room!

I’d also like to thank the folks at my local Home Depot and Pottery Barn for their terrific help. My painter, Drew Leach, also gets thanks for working with my hectic schedule, for being a total pro, and for his beautiful handiwork. We, too, shall do more projects in 2012!

Behr Premium Plus Paint in Root Beer looks delicious on my powder room walls and ceiling -- especially against white fixtures and moldings

Finally, I’d like to thank my wonderful family and friends – both here in California and across the country – for your fabulous support, this year and forever. I love you guys!

Big hugs from San Diego,

PS: Look for posts in 2012 with all of the office, powder room, flooring and other Chez J improvements!

15 November 2011

FOOD FOR THOUGHT #4 - Why aren’t more powder rooms (and public restrooms) purse-friendly?

It happens all the time… I’m at a Barnes & Noble, Outback Steakhouse or Best Buy and there’s nowhere clean or dry to rest my purse while I wash my hands. You have a strap on that bag, so why not just hang it on your arm, you ask…

Well, that doesn’t work terribly well if I want to find whatever has inevitably migrated to said bag's least accessible corner. Usually, it’s my lip gloss or nail polish for touch ups. Murphy’s Law of Purses dictates that whatever one needs is always going to be buried at the bottom. I have found this to be cruelly and consistently true!

This anti-purse problem isn’t unique to public restrooms either. Many powder rooms, (and, sometimes, guest baths), I visit have the same shortcoming. The main difference is that I’m less squeamish about setting my purse down on a friend’s or relative’s bathroom floor or toilet tank than a public space's.

Still, there are numerous solutions to this problem that before now you didn’t even realize you had. (Aren’t you glad you stopped by!) I offer the following suggestions as a public service to all of your purse-wielding visitors and house guests.

Solution #1: If you have some floor space available, consider a small, rectangular side table or bath cart that coordinates with your décor. You can find them at your favorite furniture store, home center or even discount chain stores like Target.

Affordable, contemporary bath solution - 3 Tier Jumbo Cart from Bed, Bath & Beyond

Transitional choice adds a storage shelf below - Marin Side Table at Crate & Barrel

Luxe traditional bath choice adds great storage - Mirage Side Tables from Horchow

Solution #2: If you don’t have floor space, consider a wall shelf. Install it in a spot that won’t get easily bumped or interfere with outlets or towel hooks. This could be on a wall near the sink or above your toilet tank. (This second location calls for a shelf that isn’t deeper than the tank itself so you don’t bang into it when standing up.)

Sleek shelves for modern baths - West End's Paxton Wall Shelf

Rustic elegance for traditional baths - Glass Shelf by Restoration Hardware

Transitional bath shelves - Cafe Shelving from Ballard Designs

Solution #3: If neither is possible, consider adding a double robe hook to the back of a non-pocket door or a nearby wall. This works for hanging purses and coats, (another item that sometimes needs a hygienic resting spot!), or small purses without straps that can rest on the double hook instead of sitting on a wet counter.

Modern Bath Solution - JVJ Hardware Prism Pewter Double Robe Hook on Bellacor.com

Rustic hooks for transitional baths - Pottery Barn's Wire and Wood Double Hook

Double hook for a classic traditional bath - Bancroft Double Robe Hook by Kohler

There are so many choices in each of these categories that can match your décor, space availability and budget that you have virtually no excuse not to invest in at least one of them! That’s all I’m saying.

08 November 2011

Preview Post: Jason Wu for Brizo

I pushed back the post I was going to run today in favor of this one. This post lets me show off one of my very few ties to the high fashion world. (OK, I have just two ties, which doesn’t technically add up to a few, unless you count my Project Runway TV habit.)

Anyway… At the very beginning of 2010, I was invited to attend a Fashion Week design blogger event hosted by Brizo. If you’re not familiar with that brand, they are Lexus to Delta Faucet’s Toyota. Their focus isn’t just well-engineered kitchen and bath taps and accessories, it’s well-engineered, high fashion taps and accessories. Hence, their invitation to Fashion Week, where the rag biz celebrates its superstars and rising stars*.

Jason Wu Runway Show at Fall 2011 Fashion Week

Brizo is a corporate sponsor of Jason Wu, one of the most successful young fashion designers in the world right now. Even if you don’t follow high fashion – and I admittedly don’t, for the most part – you might recall that he designed Michelle Obama’s 2008 Inaugural Gown. Our group of bloggers-in-attendance attended Wu’s Fashion Week show and met him at a cocktail party organized for our benefit afterward.

We were allowed to take a group photo with Wu and pepper him gently with questions. I asked if he would consider designing a faucet line for Brizo, seeing that as an inevitable outcome of their synergistic tie. He demurred. The Brizo and PR agency guys demurred. Having been trained in one of the best J schools in the country, I followed up with a related question on the same topic. They demurred again. I knew the Blogger 19 wasn’t going to get an exclusive that night. No biggie. I wasn’t there as Lois Lane, but as blogger junket Jamie.

The announcement I anticipated in February 2010 came more than a year later. In April of this year, a new Jason Wu Collection for Brizo was announced. (Duh.) This morning,Brizo’s PR firm led a collection preview webinar for us B19ers. I wasn’t able to attend it “live,” but have it on my PC now.

The collection is just what I would have expected from these folks. It’s functional and fun, pretty and practical, whimsical and worldly, crisp and candied at the same time. OK, I’ll stop with the alliterative adjectives now. I like it!

Odin Faucet with hands-free technology and WaterSense

Making your towels look better!

Tux-worthy soap dish

One of my favorite pieces - a wastebasket evocative of a Wu skirt design

Pumping up the style

Shelving the ordinary

Makes even TP look good!

You’ll notice that there are no tub or shower faucets in this collection, which I've excerpted here. This is being billed as a Powder Room suite. If my prescience allows me yet another prediction, I anticipate that success with this line will usher in a Wu for Brizo Master Bath suite in Fall 2012 or Spring 2013!

Wu for Brizo collection pre-orders are available between now and February for the first one thousand faucet fashionistas. I’m tapped out – bad pun intended – when it comes to bathrooms at Chez J, or I’d probably sign up myself if just to get the cool Wu original signed and numbered lithograph and key chain!

*My second tie to the high fashion world is 2011 Rising Star award winner, Loris Diran, a close friend from our NYU days. I attended his Fashion Week show the week I was in New York for Brizo. I don’t know if Loris will ever design faucets, but he makes hot-hot-hot clothes for men and women!

PS: Today's post was going to be my fourth Food for Thought musing. It'll publish next Tuesday. Hope you'll stop back!

01 November 2011

Sensible Style - Multi-tasking Appliances and Other Holiday Helpers

The holidays are just around the corner – I know, amazing, isn’t it! – and your kitchen has been slacking off for months now. Especially during those lazy summer days when you lived outside by the grill. Break time’s over…

You’ve got company coming and it’s time for your kitchen to earn its keep again. Is it up to Thanksgiving, Chanukah, Kwanzaa, Christmas, Boxing Day and whatever else you celebrate with family and friends at this hectic time of year?

Here are some resources that could save you time, space and even tootsies!

Multi-tasking cookers

Why have just one appliance when two in the same space can do twice the work? Many of my clients who have lacked the space for double ovens have benefitted greatly from a convection microwave in place of a standard microwave. The convection feature turns the microwave into a supplementary oven, giving you two in the space of one. No, it won’t handle your holiday roast, but it’ll nail those pies and sides.

Here’s one to consider for a relatively simple swap-out. This new, over-the-range GE Monogram Advantium model should fit where your current builder-grade micro lives, but it also offers speedcook, convection cooking and warming. That gives you four appliances in the space of one. Nifty, huh?

GE Monogram’s new Advantium puts four ovens where one plain microwave used to live!

This is the combo I’d like for my own kitchen… with a really special bonus feature!

This KitchenAid combination oven offers convection, microwave and steam cooking, which I fell in love with a couple of years ago and have wanted ever since.

Multi-tasking chillers

The holidays really stress out your fridge and freezer capacity, don’t they? All those extra ingredients, left-overs and drinks taking up space you just don’t have. There’s help at hand!
Add a drawer that works as a freezer or a fridge, depending on your needs. You select the setting you need and Fisher & Paykel’s innovative CoolDrawer becomes the cooling machine you need – even for wine! If you’ve room for a three-foot cabinet and a licensed electrician to wire it for you, you’ve got an extra 3.1 cubic feet of well-organized coolness.

Fisher & Paykel’s CoolDrawer handles frozen food, fresh food and wine with the flexibility of an Olympic gymnast.

You’d really like to have extra space for an ice maker this season, but you also want a beverage fridge. The latter will serve you well all year-round, whereas you mainly need extra ice capability when you entertain. Consider this dynamic duo by U-Line that gives you both in the space of a standard beverage fridge.

U-Line’s Combo Refrigerator/Ice Machine can be an entertainer’s best friend!

Countertop multi-taskers

A slow cooker can also be your best friend during the holidays. I wrote a loving ode to this category recently, stressing its ability to deliver delicious, healthy dishes to time-stressed individuals like myself. The best models work overtime as food warmers and servers, too.

You’ve got a full day of holiday shopping ahead and company coming for dinner later. Put the ingredients you prepped last night into the slow cooker, set it on low for the desired hours and get your errands done. If you run late, no problem… Dinner won’t burn. Your Crock Pot will turn it from low to warm automatically and it’ll be fine whenever you get home. By the way, Crock Pot is a brand name, (like Coke and Kleenex), and is one of the few that offers the auto-warm feature I cherish so highly. That makes it the ultimate convenience appliance!

Incidentally, there are numerous desserts you can make in your slow cooker, too, freeing up one of your ovens, along with your schedule.

A slow cooker, like this eponymous model by Crock Pot, can be a busy bee’s best friend.

I’ve been eying this Cuisinart PowerBlend Duet Blender/Food Processor for a year now. It fits two appliances that are potentially worth having into one convenient package, saving both space and money… And who has more than enough of those, I ask??? I like its versatility for the part-time home chef. If you’re a cooking enthusiast, and I’m not, its food processor capacity is probably too limited for your needs.

If, however, you’re more of an occasional cook, this might be a good tool for you. Ditto if you’re spending the holidays at your vacation home, where you’d rather mix margaritas than make muffins from scratch... This could be the perfect item for your appliance stocking!

It’s a food processor… It’s a blender… It’s Cuisinart’s space-saving PowerBlend Duet!

I love my GE indoor electric grill-griddle-panini maker and you might, too. When I was renting a furnished studio last year, it came with a George Foreman model. I liked how it worked, but it was a nuisance to clean. My GE has removable, dishwasher-safe, non-stick grill and griddle plates and a drip cup to minimize countertop mess. It can be used open or closed, depending on how much I need to cook. The plates are super-easy to pop in and out, and the machine has multiple settings for just about every need. (It’s almost identical to Cuisinart’s Griddler, but about half the price at WalMart!)

Holiday time and the pancakes are easy with GE’s 4 in 1 Grill/Griddle, available at WalMart

Holiday helpers

Holidays stress out more than your appliances and budget, don’t they! Your countertop and storage space jam up with seasonal gear. Organizers can help with this any day of the year, but especially now. Consider easy-to-install back-of-door organizers for cleaning supplies; roll-out trays for pots and pans; drawer organizers for knives, silverware and utensils; backsplash organizers for paper towels and spices and a drop-down cookbook rack to keep your favorite holiday recipe book away from countertop spills.

Keep your classic cookbooks convenient but clear of spills with this CS Household Under-Cabinet Cookbook Holder from Amazon.com

Holidays are also hellish on your body. After standing in front of the stove all day your feet, back, hips and legs positively ache.

Since I’ve written so very often about the benefits of GelPro cushioned mats, I got an offer from Wellness Mats to sample one of their products. I gratefully accepted and have loved it ever since. They now have a wider range of styles and sizes to fit your kitchen and I’m happy to recommend them without hesitation.

Wellness Mats -- Heaven underfoot… Any day of the year!

Found Gold: Popular Posts from the Past!

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

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner