31 January 2009

Check out these ceilings from Valley Tin Works

Valley Tin Works is a Pennsylvania-based company that prides itself in being the last company left that makes traditional, stamped tin ceiling panels. They are also the only company in the US that restores original tin ceilings.

Tin ceilings don't show up very often in my part of the world and when I do see one, it's invariably a plastic fake gracing the ceiling in a home where a tin ceiling has no place. I don't care how cool you think it looks, a tin ceiling has no place in a Florida ranch house. However, some of the older buildings here had them back in the day and it's good to know that they can have them again should the need and the impulse arise.

But in looking over Valley Tin Works' website, my Yankee roots began to stir. I loved going into an old storefront or home when I was a kid and seeing that they still had tin ceilings. There's nothing quite like them and I know from having lived in the Tin Ceiling Belt as a kid, that dealing with them when they need to be repaired can be a character builder.

Tin Ceilings gained popularity in the US in the 1880s as a less-expensive replacement for the exquisitely detailed plaster ceilings that were popular in Europe at the time. At the height of tin ceiling craze, there were about 45 companies in the US that made the stamped tin plates. The depression and two world wars sounded a death knell for the tin ceiling. Over time, such tin ceilings as there were either fell apart and were removed or they turned into the ultimate do-it-yourself project. So from the ashes of history, Valley Tin Works arose in 2004 with a master metal smith at the helm.

Valley Tin Works makes traditional tin ceiling patterns and makes them available either unpainted or finished with their signature, multi-step, lifetime paint finishes; a handful of which I'm displaying here. Valley Tin Works doesn't shy away from finding new uses for these stamped tin plates either. Their tin panels can be used as kitchen back splashes, as wall cladding or as art.

Check out their website, there are photos galore of the work they do and have done. BravoValley Tin Works, bravo.

29 January 2009

SketchUp 7 is amazing!

I downloaded the new version of  Google's SketchUp yesterday and am now running SketchUp Pro 7. This thing is a wonder, believe me. There's a free version available that's great to use to get your feet wet in the pool of 3-D architectural rendering. If you want to wade in deeper still, the Pro version is available for $495. When I stop to consider how much other professional-grade rendering software costs, that $495 is all but inconsequential. It's practically a nominal fee when consider further how horribly most other rendering programs work. SketchUp works, it does everything I need it to do and more and it makes me look good. What's not to love?

I've seen the future gang, and the future has an icon on my desktop.

28 January 2009

Sherwin-Williams Gone Wild

So the fourth and final 2009 palette from Sherwin-Williams is something they're calling Techno Color and I have to say it's one of the more daring palettes I've ever seen them do.  For a company around whose neutrals I've built a career, there is nothing neutral about this palette. I mean, look at the inspiration photo. Techno Color is bold and bright and somehow environmentally friendly. I predict that the colors in this palette will show up all over the place and I think they'll stay around the longest out of the four palettes I've reviewed in the last couple of days. Anybody want to venture an opinion?

Gauntlet Gray

Hep Green

Zany Pink

Ruby Shade

Reflecting Pool


More Design Pro LED Lighting from Kichler

Since I wrote about Kichler's Design Pro LED under cabinet lighting yesterday, I need to mention it one more time before I move onto another topic. The lighting I was talking about yesterday is LED in the form of a box and that's all well and good. I'll take under cabinet lighting in its box form any day over what I usually see. What I usually see is the Home Depot halogen puck light.

Puck lights don't work well as under cabinet lighting because the super bright halogen light isn't diffused enough and you end up with a series of spotlights illuminating your counter. It looks sloppy and still leaves too many shadows in the area where you prepare food. Add to that the amount of heat kicked off by halogen bulbs and I have to wonder why bother?

Well, Kichler re-imagined the puck light and came up with something they're calling a disc light. The light produced by the discs has the same warm quality as the light emitted from the rest of the Design Pro LEDs and are a great solution for a space where box lights won't work.

The Design Pro LED Discs are 3/8" of an inch thick if you can believe that, and each disc comes with embedded installation screws and connection wiring already coiled inside. Features like these are an electrician's dream come true and they take the guesswork out of a retrofit. Kichler's Design Pro LED under cabinet lighting sounds like a winner to me. I'm using them in my next job, that's for sure.

27 January 2009

Design Pro LED under cabinet lighting from Kichler

I've always had mixed feelings about under-cabinet LED lighting. I love the fact that it's incredibly energy efficient and produces almost no heat. I love how small and bright they are and I'm fascinated by the very nature of LEDs. I mean, things that work without moving parts excite some part of my brain that I've never been able to explain.

However, when it comes time to living with them at home or specifying them for a client I have always balked. Sure, they last forever and they're super-efficient, but the light they produce is the bluest white light I've ever seen. It's worse than what comes out of a fluorescent tube. Man, nothing looks good under light so harsh.

But our great pals at Kichler have come up with something that may make me an LED convert after all. LED technology is evolving quickly and Kichler has harnessed that evolution in the form of their Design Pro LED Under cabinet lights.

This is what typical LED under cabinet lighting does to food. Ugh. I looks like the hideous food photography in a 1970s cookbook.

See what I mean?

Well, Kichler's changing all of that with their new Design Pro Line of under cabinet lighting. Check out the effect of their softer light:

Very nice and no more Betty Crocker flashbacks!

Add to the pleasing light how easily these lights can be installed and how long they last and I think they have a winner. Under cabinet lighting is all but mandatory in a new kitchen and retrofitting an older kitchen with it is a money-saving way to squeeze out a couple more years. I can't imagine making dinner in a room without it and with the advent of these warmer LEDs, it may be time for me to swap out my halogens. Track them down, you won't regret it.

Here's another Sherwin-Williams color palette for 2009

Third in Sherwin-Williams' 2009 is something they're calling Local Momentum. The colors in Local Momentum are intended to invoke a renewed appreciation for a scaled-down way of life dependant on things found close to home. I'm not so sure about that, but this palette really sings to me. I'd find a replacement for Mesa Tan if it were up to me, but the remaining five colors more and make up for Mesa Tan's shortcomings. So all of the colors in Local Momentum are:

Wool Skein

Black Fox

Lemon Verbena



Mesa Tan

Notice that in the photo at the top of the page, it's not just wall colors they're talking about. All this talk of color palettes is always about color in general, not just paint colors. Tune in tomorrow for the last palette in this series that I'm calling "Sherwin-Williams Gone Wild."

26 January 2009

NEWSFLASH! Home Depot Expo is going going gone.

Home Depot just announced that it is closing its remaining 34 Expo Centers. From Marketwatch:
Before the opening bell, Home Depot (HD:23.02, +1.30, +6.0%) said that Expo has "not performed well financially and is not expected to anytime soon. Even during the recent housing boom, it was not a strong business."

And, it has "weakened significantly as the demand for big-ticket design and decor projects has declined in the current economic environment."

Over the next two months, the company will close 34 Expo Design Center stores, five YardBIRDS stores, two Design Center stores and a bath remodeling business known as HD Bath, with seven locations. All told, that will result in the loss of about 5,000 jobs. "Streamlining" some support functions will cost another 2,000 positions for a total of about 2% of the company's workforce.

This is a pretty big deal. I never felt particularly threatened by them, not did I think those stores stocked anything that couldn't be bought less expensively from a professional expert in design. But still, that's a lot of people thrown into the bread lines. Times is hard gang, times is hard indeed.

More 2009 colors from Sherwin Williams

Another palette Sherwin Williams has come up with for 2009 is something they're calling Conscious Luxury. Hmmmm. Is that opposed to unconscious luxury? Aside from all of the soft-headed hoo hah that surrounds these palettes, they're important because they have a strong influence over the stuff available to you. Whether it's paper plates from Target or a sofa from Macy's, these color combinations show up all over the place.

Steamed Milk



Plum Dandy

Constant Coral

Insightful Rose

Gung hey fat choy!

Happy year of the ox and welcome 4707, I thought you'd never get here.

25 January 2009

Colors for 2009

Way back in September, I ran a series of 2009 color predictions from Sherwin Williams. Well, now that it's 2009, these things are no longer predictions and have settled into their roles as color descriptions. I tend to take these things with a grain of salt, but there is no denying that this stuff trickles down pretty quickly and ends up showing up all over place. See if you recognize any of these color combinations.

First up, here's a collection Sherwin Williams is calling Global Tapestry and it consists of:

Enticing Red

Gambol Gold

Basket Beige




Now let me state for the record that I dislike this palette. There are a couple of colors in here worth looking at, Umber and Gambol Gold in particular, but as a group they leave me rather cold. Alexandrite is a green that can't go away fast enough. Ugh! But SW did better on their remaining three palettes and I'll show them to you through the early part of this week.