30 September 2008

Ikea can wait

I had a conversation with one of my potential kitchen clients this week and she asked me why she shouldn't just go buy a set of kitchen cabinetry from Ikea for $5000 rather than what I was proposing for more than five times that amount. "What's the difference" she wanted to know. What's the difference indeed.

Good cabinetry is expensive, I'm not going to kid anybody. But cheap cabinetry is expensive too. It's expensive in that it needs to be replaced more often than the good stuff. A well-designed set of good kitchen cabinets should last you a life time. A set from Ikea will last you five years.

If you have a rental or a vacation home, cheap stuff's great. If we're talking about your primary home, be careful before you run down to the big blue and yellow box. The next time you're looking at a kitchen cabinetry display, open the drawers. Swing the doors, kick the tires. Talk to someone who understands what makes good cabinetry good and have him or her explain the difference to you. Keep in mind that everybody has an opinion and learn to tell the difference between a sales pitch and a genuine exchange of information.

Sometimes, all you can afford is the cheap stuff and that's OK. Buy the cheap stuff and make it look as great as you can. Just don't kid yourself.

Here's me standing in an Ikea kitchen in Italy. I'm happy not because of the cheesy cabinetry that's surrounding me. Rather I'm in a fantastic mood because of what I can see through that window.

Here's the view that had me grinning. Listen, if when you look out your kitchen window you can see the Sorrentine Peninsula as it drops into the Bay of Naples like this, ignore everything I just wrote about buying good stuff. You life doesn't need to be enhanced any further than it already is. But if you're like most people, read something other than price tags before you make a major purchase.

29 September 2008

Hmmmm. A sink in a drawer

I live in a shoe box. Charming though it is, I live in a small space. That's not really a complaint --I like the idea and the day-to-day challenges that come from a lack of room. That said, I'm always looking for clever and well-designed ideas that save space.

I came across this sink in a drawer idea on Apartment Therapy last week and it has been bouncing around the internet for the last couple of weeks. Now it's my turn.

When I first saw this I thought it was the coolest thing I'd seen in a while. In order for something like this to work, you'd need a flexible drain line. Your local building code may have something to say about flexible drain lines, so check before attempting something like this.

Again, I think this is a pretty neat idea but what's missing from this image is what's in the adjoining room? If the kitchen sink backs into a closet, it's no real problem, though you'd end up with a shallower closet. In my case, the bathroom wall where my pluming is backs against my kitchen cabinets, so something like this wouldn't work for me. Ditto anybody who has their sink attached to an exterior wall. Magazine photos can be a good source for ideas, but it always helps to think things through before getting too attached.

28 September 2008

Sunday funnies

This kills me. I know, I know it's a rip off of Las Vegas' big sign and logo but I still think it's hilarious. The clever kids over at St. Petersblog found this and I'm rerunning it here because I think it needs as much attention as it can get. By the way, if you're looking for some amusing insider info on the inner workings and absurdities of this Gulfcoast Monaco check out their blog.

Sunday not really funnies

This quote from the late great Art Buchwald is good to keep in mind as I site here wondering what the Dow's going to do tomorrow.

27 September 2008

Saturday funnies

Guess which vice presidential candidate took her first four questions from a reporter on Thursday? Hint: she was on her first trip to New York. Ever. No dear, changing planes in Newark on your way to Ireland... no, Iraq... I mean Kuwait doesn't count as a visit.

Here's a highlight of what she had to say after looking down into the hole at Church and Vesey Streets: 
"Every American student needs to come through this area so that, especially this younger generation of Americans is, to be in a position of never forgetting what happened here and never repeating, never allowing a repeat of what happened here.

"I wish every American would come through here,” she continued. “I wish every world leader would come through here, and understand what it is that took place here, and more importantly, how America came together and united to commit to never allowing this to happen again. And just to hear from and see these good New Yorkers who are rebuilding not just this are but helping to rebuild America has been very, very inspiring and encouraging. These are the good Americans who are committed to peace and security and it’s been an absolute honor getting to meet these folks today."

Part of me thinks this is hilarious, but then the better part of me realizes the gravity of the situation and wants to weep.

This man is out of his mind redux

I asked this question a week ago and I asked it rhetorically. Now I'm asking it again only less rhetorically and more authentically. Seriously, why does Jonathan Adler have a career? Is it his sheer bravado? I mean, it takes a set of balls to come up with a candle called "Hashish" to begin with, but then to turn around and charge $68 dollars for it is either more ballsy still or it's just attention seeking. What a curious, curious thing. 

It made the rounds of the blogs this week and predictably, everybody fawned and cooed on cue. Hello? Has anyone out there ever read the story of The Emperor's New Clothes?

26 September 2008

Thank you

On Tuesday at 1:20am eastern time, somebody in Phoenix, AZ entered the search terms "plywood vs. particle board" on Google and ended up being directed to this blog and an entry I wrote back in January on the same topic. 

What that person couldn't have known was that he or she was my 5,000th visitor. So thank you Phoenix. 

And thank you Greenville, SC and Findlay, OH and St. Petersburg, FL and Fair Oaks, CA and Lancaster, PA and Fargo, North Dakota and Seattle, WA and Hudson, NH and New York, London, Moscow, San Francisco, Toronto and Paris. Thank you too to Bridgetown, Barbados and Warsaw, Poland and Athens, Greece and Florence (Firenze!), Italy and Panang, Palau and Sydney, New South Wales and Bangalore, and Pusan, and Tokyo and Beijing. I seem to be violating some kind of unspoken rule in the blogosphere by acknowledging the people who read my meanderings but screw the rules. So thank you again. It is the coolest thing in the world to have a world full of people who find this site --it's humbling and energizing at the same time. Thank you.

Marvelous marble

Here are two shots of my favorite marble job of all time. I think I've mentioned this job before but I want to re-post these shots just because I think they're pretty.

This is honed Calacatta Gold Marble and the slabs used to make this counter were some of the best-quality marble slabs I've ever seen. This counter was expertly fabricated and installed by Custom Marble Works in Tampa. Their number is 813-620-0475. I lack enough superlatives to describe their work or recommend them adequately. If you find yourself in the vicinity of Ybor City, pop in there and see their showroom and slabs. It will change your life.

This first shot is a close up of the counter reaching up to the window sill. Notice how the window sill wraps around the corner of the wall and ends in a perfect half-round edge. Attention to those sorts of details is what makes a good counter job worth every penny.

I love how we made the full height back splash behind the range in this shot below. I don't like seeing big slabs of solid stone marching up a wall. Unless of course it's marble that's doing the marching. A marble such as this one is the only kind of stone I like to see on a wall. Mostly because most stones loose their luster and appeal when they're not lit directly. White marbles have a glow to them though. They absorb light and then diffuse it. Gorgeous gorgeous gorgeous. Many thanks to my very happy client who lets me show off her kitchen.

25 September 2008

Here's what I mean by a good knock off

This is Christopher Peacock's much ballyhoo-d Refectory Kitchen. It is gorgeous and when he started pushing kitchen design in this direction, it was pretty revolutionary. Before the rise of his Scullery and Refectory designs, the high end of kitchen design was all about Tuscan and other Vegas-meets-Disney interpretations of old world styles. Christopher Peacock launched himself onto the scene as an alternative to all of that noise and brought some restraint back to the world of high end design. Thank you Christopher Peacock. As lovely as the kitchen above is, it has a price tag on it well into the six figures. It is exquisitely fitted, finished, engineered, designed, constructed and installed. It is worth every penny he charges for it and it will last a lifetime. Several lifetimes in fact.

However, the number of people who are willing to spend that kind of money on a kitchen renovation are few and far between. But the ideas he's getting across through his design have some pretty broad appeal. To wit:

Though by no means an inexpensive kitchen, here's a kitchen that would cost half what a Christopher Peacock would. This is a kitchen from Medallion and it's taking its inspiration from The Refectory directly, but it's not stealing any ideas. It's pairing a painted finish with a dark stained wood and if you look at the details, it's really a different kitchen entirely. It's also beautiful, well-designed, well-fitted, well-finished and a respectful homage. All design is derivative as I like to say, and this kitchen from Medallion is a more affordable version of an idea that Christopher Peacock had. But it's a version, not a copy and I think that's what makes what I call a good knock off.

24 September 2008

Knock off or theft?

Charles-Édouard Jeanneret-Gris, who was better known by the single name, Le Corbusier, was one of the great minds of the 20th Century. He was an artist, a writer, an architect, a designer and a philosopher. You can read about him here

Although a lot of his ideas about urban planning and architecture have been discarded and debunked, he remains a significant presence in the world of design. What I think was his contribution with the longest staying power and popularity is his Chaise Longue pictured here. This thing has been in continuous production since he debuted it in 1928. You can buy one today if you like, an officially licensed reproduction, through places like Design Within Reach or the MOMA online store. A real Chaise Longue will set you back somewhere around $3000. 

Not only can you buy a licensed reproduction, it is impossible to walk into a furniture showroom today without feeling the presence of Le Corbusier and his Chaise Longue. It's ideas and its lines are in every recliner, every "chaise lounge,"  and every scrap of pool furniture out there.

Target, my dear Target has been engaged in a full court press to bring designed furniture to the masses for the last couple of years and I applaud their efforts. I love the idea of a good knock off, an homage to a great original. But there's a line between an homage and the theft of an idea and I think Target has crossed it. 

Shown below is an official Chaise Longue from Design Within Reach.
Le Corbusier

Below is an image of Target's $500 version. It's a nearly exact replica and it looks to me like the theft of an idea. Maybe I'm more sensitive than most to intellectual property because I make a living from my ideas, and maybe I'm not.
Le Target

As I said before, I love a good knock off. And by that I mean something that's clearly influenced, yet still different from an original. This to me looks like bald-faced thievery. Am I being irrational?

23 September 2008

Mobile means more than a place to gamble in Alabama

I can trace my love of the mobile as an art form to a wintry day in the late '70s when I walked into the brand spankin' new East Wing of the National Gallery and looked up to see Alexander Calder's massive Untitled. That's it right here. Look at it! Just seeing a photo of it gets me all hot and bothered again and I haven't been back to the National in at least ten years. Anyhow, as a kid I had never seen anything like it. The idea that a sculpture could move and swallow a space had never occurred to me. An art lover was born that day and since then I've been chasing the same thrill I felt that wintry day when I was 14.

Enter Oras, a sculptor of mobiles on a scale a little more suited to a home. These things are beautiful and they take me right back there. Check them out! Reasonably priced, great art --why not?

22 September 2008

And speaking of laundry...

In another shocking example of the national, New York-based media finding something I've known about for years, MSNBC's Your Business recently did a piece on my beloved Northeast Laundry, right here in Saint Pete. I mentioned yesterday that I send out my laundry every week, well guess where I send it?

Leonard and Jennifer Cooperman, owners of The Northeast Laundry, won a small business makeover from MSNBC's Your Business earlier this year. Their prize consisted of a couple of months of one-on-one time with gazillion dollar an hour consultant and Six Sigma guru Greg Brue. From what Leonard tells me, this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and he couldn't be more grateful for the advice. Brue spent a lot of time with the Coopermans and their staff and showed them how to take better care of their customers and make more money at the same time. What a great combination.

I used to think that sending out my laundry was a costly indulgence. But then I did the math. It costs me less money to send it out than it does to do it at home. And that's before I add in the amount of time I save. I cannot recommend using a service like this highly enough. If you're in Saint Pete, stop by The Northeast Laundry at 7035 Fourth Street North. Let them take a load off for you. It will change your life. Check out their website here.

21 September 2008

Sunday funnies

I first got wind of this one yesterday through the girls over at Design Boner. They had a link to the Gwinnett Daily Post, where this story and video montage first appeared. The newspaper ran it with a voice over by the participants, but I like this version of it better. Gwinnett County is in Metro Atlanta by the way. Anyhow, how fun is this?!

How to iron a shirt

I am one of those people who actually enjoys ironing. I send out my laundry every week, but I have yet to find a shirt presser who can do as good a job as I can when it comes to my shirts. So I iron my own shirts, mes chemises, as I like to call them,  and I say that not as an indication that I'm some kind of a martyr. I enjoy it. Shirt ironing is my me-time and besides, the ability to iron is what separates us from the animals.

My pals over at Apartment Therapy turned me onto a blog from Sweden called Chez Larsson. It's written by a woman named Benita Larsson and she has some great stuff on it. Click here to go to her blog. 

She irons shirts the same way that I do, so I'm using her photos and paraphrasing her instructions in my shirt pressing tutorial. Few things make as good an impression as a well-ironed shirt and nothing makes as bad an impression as an un-ironed one. Bad impressions are something we avoid like a contagion, so all you new people --watch this.

Step One: Lay the collar flat and iron it from the inside since that's the part that will be showing.

Step Two: Fold the shirt forward and make sure that the yoke is flat. Then iron the yoke. Ironing the yoke in one fell swoop makes all the difference for some reason.

Step Three: Lay the first sleeve flat with the button side out then iron.

Step Four: Turn the same sleeve over and iron it.

Step Five: Lay the sleeve flat and then flatten the cuff. Iron the cuff so that it's round when it's worn. A creased cuff will make you look common. Repeat steps Two through Five with the other sleeve.
Step Six: Start with one side of the shirt front and iron it flat.

Step Seven: Slide the shirt forward and iron the seam where the front and the back of the shirt meet.

Step Eight: Continue sliding the shirt forward and ironing until you've reached the other side. If the shirt you're ironing has a back pleat, take the extra time to fold it and iron it into shape for the entire length of the shirt. A half-ironed or un-ironed back pleat tells the world that you don't care enough to do a job properly and that you have a lazy mind to go with that poorly-ironed shirt you're wearing.

Step Nine: Hang your freshly ironed shirt on a proper hanger. Use a real, wooden hanger that will help your shirt keep its shape until it's ready to be worn. Take the wire ones back to wherever you got them. All they do is ruin the shoulders and collars of everything they touch. But then again, much better minds than mine have held the same opinion.

20 September 2008

This man is out of his mind

Why oh why does Jonathan Adler have a career?

Cool power source for a kitchen counter

This is a pop-up power strip for use on kitchen counters from Doug Mockett and Company out of Torrance, CA. Mockett and company have a host of variations on this theme available on their website and they are a pretty great solution to the problem of not enough power along a kitchen counter.

However, there are a couple of things to consider before taking buying one of these for use in a kitchen.

For starters, they are a power strip and they need to plug into something. If you don't have an outlet inside of the base cabinet below the area where you place this pop-up you need to get one installed, Festoon Lighting Sydney that specialize in lighting installation and hires estimate that it will cost between $150 to $300.

Secondly, even though they feature a water proof gasket and a UL listing, they are non-GFI outlets and are therefore not up to code for use in a kitchen. Insisting that all kitchen outlets near a water source be GFI is overkill if you ask me. However, my opinion of the building code doesn't make the building code go away. You cannot pass an electrical inspection with one of these babies installed. For that reason, you can only use them as retrofits.

So even with all of that said, I still think they're pretty cool.

Sherwin-Williams' color picks for '09: neutrals

And last but by no means least, Sherwin-Williams weighed in on their predictions for neutrals in '09. Sherwin-Williams does a better job with neutrals than any paint manufacturer out there. So much so that their neutral palette is my default mode when I'm specifying colors. SW 7037, Balanced Beige has been an easy crutch for me for years. I'm feeling a need to branch out and SW's predictions for neutrals in '09 might just give me that opportunity.

The new neutrals take their inspiration from wood, stone and natural fibers, obviously. And for the last couple of years, neutrals have been getting increasingly black and gray. SW predicts that all that will change as they start to slide back toward brown and yellow and they take on a more direct influence of wood and metal.

SW 7695 Mesa Tan

SW 6146 Umber

SW 6148 Wool Skein

SW 7019 Gauntlet Grey

SW 7504 Keystone Grey

SW 7667 Zircon

19 September 2008

Color scheme missing from the predictions

I see and alcove and I want to paint it black. This is so sharp looking I can't stand it. What a great idea. Take an already big room, paint the walls stark white, put in a dark floor and paint the alcove matte black. Man, a living room like this would force anybody to live efficiently and intelligently. And really, who wouldn't benefit from such an arrangement? This was spotted on Emma's Designblogg and she spotted it in an Australian magazine called Belle.

Great stairs!

This is my new favorite storage solution. It's interesting how the room's baseboard runs over the bottom drawers and breaks right along with them. Genius! This photo appeared over at Apartment Therapy a couple of times last week and I'm repeating it here. Thanks guys!

18 September 2008

Is this a joke?

I took this photo about an hour ago. I was standing in front of a Starbucks and there's a Wamu branch next door to it. They were open for business and still taking mortgage applications apparently....

Sherwin-Williams' color picks for '09: yellows and greens

In keeping with my theme this week, the gang over at Sherwin-Williams has a few things to say about the directions to look for in the realm of yellow and green. There isn't a better palette on the market and these people know what they're talking about.

Yellow is enjoying a resurgence in fashion and it's started to show up more off of the runways. Yellows are getting brighter and more primary and at the same time, some yellows are taking on a greenish hue.

Greens are staying at the forefront too as a reflection of the current mania for anything that can be described as "green." Expect more sedate and mature gray greens and some occasionally bright jewel-toned greens. Stay tuned for more.

SW 7726 Lemon Verbena

SW 0060 Alexandrite

SW 6404 Grandiose

SW 6690 Gambol Gold

SW 6901 Daffodil

SW 6914 Eye Catching

Helpful household hints

Who needs Heloise anyway? Few things get on my nerves more than when I'm away somewhere with friends and someone leaves snack bags open to the elements. I usually travel with a collection of bag clips or more typically, wooden clothes pins, when I know I'll be staying with other people. No lie. Ask around. Anyhow, here's a brilliant, clip-less solution to the problem of rancid potato and tortilla chips.

17 September 2008

Mortgage mess

This little gem came to my attention through my pals over at Consumerist. The Dow Jones is in a downward spiral this morning as it comes time to pay the fiddler. Unfortunately, we're going to be the ones stuck with the bill as the market corrects itself. What ever happened to the good ole Republican idea about giving a hand up not a hand out? It went to the same place where their other pearl of wisdom went; that industries can regulate themselves. Anyhow, what's happening in the financial sector this week affects everyone whether or not you understand what's going on or not. Here's a PowerPoint presentation that explains it pretty well.

Read this document on Scribd: CDO Powerpoint SubPrime Primer

Smart savings plan

Check this out! My pals over at Consumerist ran this story and link last week. I'd never heard of such a thing before. The thing I'd never heard of before is a website called Smarty Pig. I am a huge fan of online savings accounts. I've been a loyal account holder at Ing Direct for a while now and I cannot endorse the practice of regular, planned savings loudly enough.

Last year, I took what ended up being the most expensive vacation I'd ever taken in my life. About a year before I left, I opened a new savings account with Ing that was dedicated to this vacation. I squirreled away small sums of money regularly and repeatedly and before I knew it, I was able to pay cash for that vacation. For a lot of people, the idea of goal-oriented savings was covered in adulthood 101. Well, I must have slept through that class or something because I figured it out on my own in my 40s. Better late than never though. Right?

As fond as I am of Ing Direct, Smarty Pig takes the idea of a goal-oriented savings plan and improves it by an order of magnitude or two. Smarty Pig pays 3.9 percent interest for starters, that's nearly a point higher than what I'[m getting from Ing. But that's not where the differences end. When you join Smarty Pig, you set up an account for a specific goal. Whether it's for a vacation, a new TV, or a kitchen renovation. Once you set that goal, your savings are locked away where you can't get at them until you reach that goal.

If you're new to savings (looking at the average debt load of most Americans, that's just about everybody), one of the hardest things to do is keep your hands off your money once it starts to accumulate. By locking it away, Smarty Pig removes the temptation.

Smarty Pig also gives you the option to make your savings goals public so that your friends and family can watch your progress. It defeats the purpose of learning how to save money, but those same friends and family can also contribute toward your goal.

So, if you're not a saver but know you should be, check out Smarty Pig. It's a great tool to learn how to save money and that 3.9 percent interest rate cannot be beat.

16 September 2008

Sherwin-Williams' color picks for '09: violet and blue

In keeping with my earlier post about Sherwin-Williams' take on colors for next year, and because I can't think of enough good things to say about their company or their products, here's what they're predicting in the world of violets and blues.

SW expects violets and plums to become more red-based than they are now, they are predicting that they will also appear in more smoky shades. Whether red-based or smoky, look for violets to be paired with neon greens, pinks, greys and blacks.

Blue will remain pretty important and its tones and hues will start to be more influenced by the colors of water than they are today. Goodbye Tiffany gift box and hello Mediterranean Sea.

SW 6804 Dignity Blue

SW 6808 Celestial

SW 7613 Aqua-Sphere

SW 6284 Plum Dandy

SW 6558 Plummy

SW 6785 Quench Blue