30 April 2009

When in doubt, turn to Stephen Sondheim

Someone very near and dear to me is going through a rough patch right now and it's painful to watch. I know it's a stereotype, but I'm convinced that the answers to all of life's questions can be found in the Stephen Sondheim songbook. Paradoxically, the answer is that there's no answer and I find that really satisfying. Maybe no answers, but there's wisdom galore.

The situation I have in mind reminds me of 1987's Into The Woods. If you're not familiar with Into The Woods, the story is essentially an exploration of human dissatisfaction with happily ever after endings. 

In the following scene, The Baker, played by Chip Zien, confronts his father, a Rumpelstiltskin character played by Tom Aldredge. The Baker had been abandoned by his father when the Baker was a small boy. He runs into his father as he's running away from his own family and responsibilities.

I'd cut this video clip down to the meaty part I'm after if I could, but alas I have to run the whole four minute clip. The good stuff starts at 1:52. Here are the lyrics if you're in the mood to follow along.
Running away- let's do it,
Free from the ties that bind.
No more despair
Or burdens to bear
Out there in the yonder.

Running away- go to it.
Where did you have in mind?
Have to take care:
Unless there's a "where,"
You'll only be wandering blind.
Just more questions.
Different kind.

Where are we to go?
Where are we ever to go?

Running away- we'll do it.
Why sit around, resigned?
Trouble is, son,
The farther you run,
The more you feel undefined
For what you've left undone
And, more, what you've left behind.

We disappoint,
We leave a mess,
We die but we don't...

We disappoint
In turn, I guess.
Forget, though, we won't...

Consumer Reports turns to the viral video

I have a love/ hate relationship with Consumer Reports. I credit them for doing their part in keeping an informed populace informed and I love them for taking the nutritional supplement snake oil salesmen to task on a regular basis. But when it comes to their reviews of major appliances, cabinetry and other stuff I know a lot about I take their studied opinion with a grain of salt. On the whole though, I'm glad they're there. And now that they own my pals at The Consumerist, I'm beginning to like them all the more.

Anyhow, Consumer Reports has been making a number of videos and several of them turn a skeptical eye to the world of products sold via infomercial.

Not to kick our friend Vince the Shamwow guy when he's down, but here's Consumer Reports' video review of the Shamwow.

Here's their take on the AbRocket and other exercisers:

Here's their take on my favorite, the "Amish" space heater

Finally, here's a final video. It's not related to infomercials but it is something near and dear to my heart. Namely, a ringing endorsement of ammonia as an all-purpose cleaner. Woo hoo! I feel vindicated at last. Clients look at me like I have three heads when I tell that that all they need to clean their new kitchens is a bottle of Parson's ammonia.

29 April 2009

Taunton's All New Kitchen Idea Book: a review

The latest version of Taunton Press' Kitchen Idea Book is on the shelves and sits ready to inspire. As with the previous editions of the Kitchen Idea Book, The All New Kitchen Idea Book was written by Joanne Kellar Bouknight. Bouknight authored Taunton's Home Storage Idea Book and is a regular contributor to Taunton's Fine Homebuilding magazine. 

Photo by Randy O'Rourke, used with permission

Her All New Kitchen Idea Book is not just another picture book. Bouknight is an architect emeritus and brings an architect's penchant for details to her book. With that said, the photography's stunning but it's explained and described perfectly. There's enough information presented here that this Idea Book could be considered a how-to book easily.

Photo by Huyla Kolabas, used with permission

The All New Kitchen Idea Book's nine chapters cover everything from style and layout to lighting and windows; from cabinetry to counters; and from pantries to floors. She goes out of her way to highlight the unusual without dismissing the expected. This is a tough line to follow and Bouknight does it gracefully.

Photo by David Duncan Livingston, used with permission

Taunton Press' entire family of publications highlight and describe a tasteful, sensible and designed life that I can't get enough of. Any time I see a Taunton imprint, I know what follows can only be good and worthwhile. The New Kitchen Idea Book is of a piece with the rest of Taunton's titles and further rounds out one of the most expansive collections of titles in the home improvement category.

Photo by David Duncan Livingston, used with permission

The New Kitchen Idea Book would be a great addition to any home improvement library. If you have a renovation in your future, please pick up a copy. If you like the idea of a renovation in your future, pick up a copy perchance to dream.

28 April 2009

Too big to miss, too small to write about

I comb the Internet pretty regularly, always with an eye out for blog ideas. I stumble up all kinds of things that will never make it into my blog as free standing posts, but never the less some of this stuff warrants a mention. So here are a couple of things I say are worth a peruse.

Have a great Tuesday gang.

26 April 2009

The New Outdoor Kitchen, a review

Now that spring is springing in the northern hemisphere, I'm sure a lot of people are dreaming of summertime dinners outside. The kind where you linger for hours as the sun sets. Conversations by the dim light of patio torches and citronella candles. Ahhh, good food and good company; it gets no better.

Photo by Chipper Hatter, used with permission

If you're of a mind to entertain al fresco, The Taunton Press has a great resource for you in Deborah Krasner's The New Outdoor Kitchen; Cooking Up a Kitchen for the Way You Live and Play.

The photography in Krasner's book is gorgeous, but this is not just a picture book. She offers reams of practical advice that can be applied to projects as simple as moving a table into the yard to outfitting an outdoor kitchen with $30,000 worth of appliances.

Photo by Eric Roth, used with permission

The book's broken into chapters that deal with planning; outdoor fireplaces; outdoor cabinets and counters; dining and entertaining; lighting; sound systems and landscaping. She leaves no topic untouched and at the same time, allows her readers to apply her points and ideas to their own homes and lives. Krasner broadens the appeal of this book through a series of outdoor kitchen case studies, actual and live examples of how other people have integrated an aspect of outdoor living into their lives. These examples' locations range from California to Maine. With locations as diverse as these, there's bound to be something (several somethings I'd bet) you can apply to your own home.

So, are you ready for summer?

25 April 2009

Holy cow!

I came across this yesterday on Igloo Studios' School blog. Check out this movie, it's only a minute long but it represents such a huge leap forward I'm struggling to wrap my head around it.

Man! How cool is that?

That's a demonstration of Inglobe Technology's ARmedia Plug-in for SketchUp. That means that Inglobe Technology developed a separate piece of software that inserts itself into Google's SketchUp to make it do things it otherwise couldn't. ARmedia stands for Augmented Reality, and how it works is that from SketchUp, a user can activate the ARmedia and turn on a webcam. The Augmented Reality plug in will then project what ever model the user's working on into the video feed from the web cam. The result is a fully 3-D SketchUp model projected into something that approximates the real world.

If you watch the guy in the video, he spins his model and changes the view from a rendered model to a wire frame diagram and back. Just imagine where this kind of technology will lead.

I'm completely captivated by Google's Street Views in Google Maps, and I liken it to going on a virtual walking tour. Now imagine if instead of still photos knitted together in Street View, there were real, three dimensional images anyone could walk around and interact with. The technology behind the ARmedia Plug-in will some day soon allow me or anybody else to walk up to the Pantheon and pound on the bronze doors. Or window shop along the Champs-Élysées. Or pick lavender in Provence. This thing is going to change everything from how you watch a movie to how you study art history or genetics. WOW!

Inglobe has a free version of this plug-in available from their website, believe it or not. Free. There's also a pro version for € 99, a student version for € 49 and an educators version for € 29. I know, I think listing prices in Euros is a pose so the US dollar prices are $131, $64 and $38 if you're not up on exchange rates.

Again, holy cow!

24 April 2009

My name will live on in infamy

Igloo Studios' School blog just posted another one of my "designer's perspective" columns. It feels great to be a SketchUp evangelist. Somebody from Google called me that yesterday. A SketchUp evangelist. Thank you Chris! He meant it, and I accepted it, as high praise indeed.

Reader question: What is this and what do I do with it?

Help! I bought this bedroom set but I've no idea what the style is called or how to decorate around it. The bedroom is a square 17 x 17 with light grey carpet and walls. Nothing else is in the room at the moment. I'd like to find a paint that fits the furniture (no yellows) and decorate the room from scratch. Learning the style name would help. I'll take any ideas!

Before I get into your questions, I have a question for you. Is it too late to return it? If the answer's yes, check out the Silentnight web page for a great selection of beds and mattresses.

Oh my. Wow. I'd call that "style" a cartoon. It's a really poorly executed attempt to capture the allure and glamor of Italy. People who don't know any better refer to that "style" as Tuscan. Please see my post from 27 February, How Do I Decorate My Tuscany Dining Room. But really, it's wrong on a whole lot of levels.

So to answer your question about how to integrate it into a large bedroom so that you can decorate from scratch, I say scratch the bedroom suite and start over. You've fallen into a trap that catches a lot of people by the way, so don't feel too bad. 

That trap of course is not planning. If you're going to decorate that bedroom from scratch, the first thing you need is a plan. I know that taking the time to put together a plan removes the thrill of stumbling across treasures you'll impulse buy (like that Godawful bed and night stand), but trust me, it's worth it.

Step one in a plan I'd suggest is to hire an interior designer. But if you don't want to do that, start with a list of needs. Figure out what you need the furniture in your bedroom to do. You'll need a bed, obviously. Then you'll need night stands, lamps, a carpet, linens, window treatments and then furniture to hold your clothes. Inventory your stuff and think about how much storage you actually need. Don't think about what any of this stuff will look like yet, concentrate on function first.

Once you know what this bedroom furniture is going to do, then you can start thinking about how it's going to look. Before you start picking finishes though, you'll need to draw up a floor plan so you can make sure everything will fit. You can do it old school and get yourself a sheet of graph paper and draw a room in a scale where a quarter of an inch equals a foot. Or, you can do it new school and draw it in SketchUp. Keep it simple and go easy on the themes. After all, the theme should be you and your life.

Based on your selection of that bed and nightstand, you like things to be a bit on the traditional side. That's perfectly fine, just be careful of scale and proportion. The bedroom suite in your photo is massive and ungainly. Something like that will overwhelm that bedroom. Take it down a few pegs. Look for smaller-scale stuff and don't buy a suite. Your furniture shouldn't match necessarily, but it ought to come together into a cohesive group.

Now, if you can't return that bedroom suite and you're stuck with it just go for Baroque (bad pun I know) and pretend you're the Sun King. recreate Versailles with it.

Actually, please don't. Beg if you have to but return that bed and night table.

23 April 2009

Break a CFL? Don't panic.

Lisa Sharkey had a piece in yesterday's Huffington Post where she described her panic over a broken compact fluorescent light bulb in her home. She then listed a series of clean up procedures that could only have been written by a personal injury attorney. Sheesh. Calm down already!

All fluorescent light bulbs contain elemental mercury. That includes the long, skinny ones in offices and schools. Elemental mercury is a naturally-occurring heavy metal that's also a neurotoxin in high enough doses. Elemental mercury is a liquid at room temperature and it evaporates into a gas easily. That gas glows when electricity passes through it. Hence its use in light bulbs. Mercury has a long list of practical uses and is found in everything from Mercurochrome to mascara. High concentrations of elemental mercury are more damaging as a gas than as a solid, so there are some sensible precautions you'll want to take should you break one of these bulbs.

But let's get a little perspective first and do some math.

Let's say you break a CFL containing five milligrams of mercury in your child’s bedroom. Further, let's say that bedroom has a volume of 25 cubic meters (that's a medium-sized bedroom). For the sake of illustration, let's assume that the entire five milligrams of mercury in the bulb vaporizes immediately. This would result in an airborn concentration of 0.2 milligrams per cubic meter. This concentration will decrease with time, as air in the room leaves and is replaced by air from outside or from a different room. So even if you do nothing, the concentrations of mercury in the room will likely approach zero after about an hour or so.

Under these relatively conservative assumptions, this level and duration of mercury exposure is not dangerous, since it's lower than the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standard of 0.05 milligrams per cubic meter of metallic mercury vapor averaged over eight hours. 

To equate the level of exposure in our broken bulb scenario with OSHA's eight-hour standard Imagine the immediate level of mercury in the room immediately after the bulb broke to be 0.2 milligrams of mercury per cubic meter. If we assume the air in the room changes every hour, then the eight-hour average concentration would be .025 milligrams per cubic meter.

See? No need to panic. While I wouldn't call it harmless exactly, it's not something you need to call a Hazmat team over.

So, in the event that you break a CFL, open a window to speed up the dispersal of the mercury vapor. If it makes you feel better, leave the room for a half an hour. Then come back and clean up the broken glass. 

22 April 2009

11 more days 'til I pick a lucky winner

11 days kids, that's it. In just 11 more days I'll pick a name randomly and make some one's day for sure. Get your entries in! Information here.

So it's Earth Day...

So today marks something called Earth Day and as a blogger, I'm somehow expected to prattle on about saving the earth today. Well, I would if the earth indeed needed to be saved. 

The simple fact of the matter is that the earth doesn't need to be saved. The earth will continue spinning away as it circles the sun and so it will go until it meets a force strong enough to stop it. If this were about avoiding a collision with another planet I'd be all about saving the earth. But that's not what this is about. This is about preserving an earth fit for human habitation. For the life of me I'll never understand why, but that underlying motive never makes it into discussions about Earth Day. Ignoring self interest will doom a movement that has some real potential to bring about meaningful and lasting change and that's a shame.

Into the void left by an unspoken motive floods all manner of absurdity that culminates in a rejection of science and the scientific method. Odd, since science is the only means to identify a problem and the only valid way to prescribe a course of corrective action. 

It's an unarguable point that's it's better practice to use natural resources efficiently so that they'll last longer. Equally valid and unarguable is that the judicious use of limited natural resources saves money. Why then is it laudable to switch to compact fluorescent light bulbs to "save the earth," but making the same switch in order to save money is suspect? Why set a side a day to plant a tree in your front yard so you can "save the earth?" If that tree gets irrigated with potable water and fertilized with phosphorus and nitrogen that foul whatever waterway your street drains into, what' the point?

I was going to write something flippant and caustic for today so I went to Treehugger.com to gather some of their inflammatory rhetoric to pick apart. That site gets on my nerves in more ways than I can count, mostly because I agree with them in principle. It's their delivery, the environmentalist pose, that I can't bear. The occasional valid point made gets lost in a fog of irrationality and emotion and in the end they lose me. As a case in point, I came across an article by Jasmin Malik Chua there that I found particularly enraging, No Kidding, One in Three Children Fear Earth Apocalypse.
There's a new bogeyman lurking in the closet, and this one isn't imaginary. Us. One out of three children aged 6 to 11 fears that Ma Earth won't exist when they grow up, while more than half—56 percent—worry that the planet will be a blasted heath (or at least a very unpleasant place to live), according to a new survey.

Commissioned by Habitat Heroes and conducted by Opinion Research, the telephone survey polled a national sample of 500 American preteens—250 males and 250 females.
The results of that poll are reported as cold, hard fact by Chua and received as good news by most of the commenters. The idea being that children have a wisdom all of us corrupted adults lack. Please. As if these kids came up with these irrational fears on their own. These poor kids are parroting back the fuzzy-headed propaganda they hear from every quarter.

Congratulations to Treehugger, Earth First, the Animal Liberation Front and all of the rest of the nutjobs who set the agenda for what's now a mainstream movement. 25 years worth of emotion-led, irrational arguments have succeeded in scaring the crap out of a generation of kids. It's unnecessary and it's also dishonest. This does little to advance a goal of having people use resources more intelligently.

Not only that, you've set yourselves up for a backlash that gets played out every afternoon on such popular entertainments as Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck.

Yes, the earth is getting warmer and what there is to do is minimize the coming changes and prepare for the changes that can't be avoided. Telling a generation that they have no hope for a future doesn't do that. In fact, it does the opposite. It encourages them to do nothing because all hope is lost. All the energy spent on fear mongering could just as easily have been spent on explaining scientific concepts and introducing them to a framework of critical thinking. But I suppose it's easier to manipulate than it is to educate and that seems to work on both sides of the aisle.

So on this Earth Day, and the 364 earth days that follow it, why not ignore the hype? When you see Gwenyth Paltrow start to move her pouty lips, turn off the TV. Rather than listening to Gwyneth or Madonna or Sean Hannity or Bill O'Reilly, whattya say you get your science from scientists and entertainment from entertainers?

As a species, we have a couple of situations that need to be addressed, sooner rather than later. These problems are by and large human-caused. The solutions will also be human-caused in the form of human endeavor, human technology and human science. It's in our best interest to adopt the behaviors suggested by the greatest minds in our time and it's OK to call self interest self interest. Be more efficient, be smarter, spend less money, think about the long term. Most important of all, elect politicians who are capable of thinking in the long term.

Earth Day? Eh. Being smarter and more rational every day? Sign me up.

20 April 2009

Yet another blogging adventure

I started a new blog for the design studio where I hang my shingle, Kuttler Kitchens Design and Cabinetry. I've been working on it for about a month and it went live this morning. So if you just can't get enough of me here, there's even more of me over there.

If you recognize those posts as reworked posts that made their debut here, you're correct. For the time being, I'm rewriting some of my previous articles to make them a little more specific and local to folks here in St. Pete.

Eventually, I'll be rolling out some very specific and local content over at the other blog. I said eventually. In the meantime, if you're curious about where I hang my hat and actually ply my trade, give us a look at Kuttler Kitchens, and on our (my) new blog. Thanks!

Don't forget your refrigerator coils while you're spring cleaning

I stumbled across this WikiHow over the weekend. appliance people swear this little act of maintenance is vital, but most people have no clue how to do it. Well, here's how.

How to Clean Refrigerator Coils

from wikiHow - The How to Manual That You Can Edit

Refrigerators have probably done more to positively impact the modern kitchen than any other appliance. Largely unappreciated until they fail, they need only a minimal amount of maintenance to run effectively. This maintenance mostly consists of a simple cleaning of the condenser coil at 12 month (or less) intervals. This is very important, but is quickly and easily performed in an hour or less. Read on.


  1. Disconnect. Shut off the circuit breaker, remove the fuse or slide the refrigerator away from the wall as needed to remove the refrigerator's plug from the electrical outlet. Shut off water supply lines if equipped with ice maker or water dispenser.
  2. Locate the condenser coil. There are two sets of coils for cooling appliances like refrigerators, they are called the evaporator3 and condenser1 coils. Overly simplified, the two coils are filled with gas and liquid respectively, and are parts of a complex "circuit" that has a compressor4 and expansion valve2 that perform the work. The gas filled evaporator coil is located in the space to be cooled, and performs the task by absorbing heat from that space. It is usually protected from damage and out of view. The "heated" gas is compressed by the compressor, where it is further heated (hot to the touch) by the compression process. The heated liquid is passed through the condenser coil that is located away from the cooled space. This condenser coil is where some of the heat in the liquid is released to the ambient air. The cooled liquid is then drawn through the expansion valve by the suction of the compressor, where the liquid immediately boils off to a gas. This causes the temperature of the gas to drop significantly (well below freezing). The process repeats until the thermostat in the space is satisfied. Because the condenser coil is exposed to the ambient air on the refrigerator, it requires regular cleaning. There are a few locations the condenser coil may be found:
    • Older refrigerators have the coil (a grid-like structure often painted black) mounted on the rear of the refrigerator.
    • Newer refrigerators often locate the condenser coil at the bottom. It is likely that a fan (that may or may not be readily visible) will be directed at the coil to assist with heat dissipation. Use a flashlight to assist locating the coil and fan if needed. The coil will be accessible from one of two places:
      1. Toe space panel. Remove the panel at the bottom of the front of the refrigerator and carefully slide the condensate tray out (if present, the condensate tray may contain water). A visual inspection upward into this space may reveal a flat condenser coil when located here.
      2. Rear access panel. If not found behind the toe space, the refrigerator will have to be slid away from the wall further to work from behind. Disconnect water supply lines if too short to allow enough room to work. Remove the fasteners that holds an access panel in position. The condenser coil may be flat, but will likely be cylindrical in shape when located here.

  3. Disconnect power. Seriously. Make sure the power to the refrigerator is disconnected.
  4. Vacuum the coil. With a plastic crevice or brush attachment, carefully vacuum dirt and dust wherever it is seen. Use care not to damage the fins or coil. A breech created in the coil will allow the refrigerant to escape and will likely result in an expensive repair.
  5. Vacuum the fan. If the fan is visible and accessible, cleaning it will help it move air across the condenser coil as designed. Dirt and dust, if allowed to accumulate on the fan blades, decreases airflow, affects balance and can contribute to early failure of the compressor.
  6. Brush away stubborn dirt and dust. Use a narrow paint brush to gently remove stubborn dirt and dust from the coil and fan if able to get sufficient access.
  7. Slide refrigerator back into position. Plug the refrigerator back into wall outlet. Arrange any water supply lines and power cords so that they will not be kinked or crushed by the refrigerator.


  • Increase the frequency of cleanings if located in dusty or dirty areas (garages, basements, etc.) or if pets are owned. Pet hair can collect on the coil and damage the compressor circuit faster than dirt and dust alone.
  • Shutting off water supply lines is not required, but can save time cleaning spilled water if the line should become tangled, caught and ripped from the refrigerator while moving away from the wall.
  • Consider placing cardboard on floor to prevent possible damage to the surface when sliding the refrigerator in or out.


  • Disconnect the plug from the outlet before attempting to clean the coil and fan.
  • If equipped with an ice maker or water dispenser, make sure the water supply line is not ripped from or crushed under the refrigerator when moving out or in.

Things You'll Need

  • Vacuum cleaner with hose & attachments.
  • Simple hand tools
  • Flashlight
  • Narrow paint brush

Related wikiHows

Article provided by wikiHow, a wiki how-to manual. Please edit this article and find author credits at the original wikiHow article on How to Clean Refrigerator Coils. All content on wikiHow can be shared under a Creative Commons license.

19 April 2009

Pining for a vacation on a Sunday morning

It's nearing the end of April already and I am in dire need of a break. However, times being what they are, all of my vacation plans for 2009 have been shelved. Poor me, right? Anyhow, I went to dinner with some friends last weekend and we did hammer out a plan for a get away at the end of August.

One of the perks to living in Florida is our proximity to the Windward Caribbean and The Bahamas. So in an effort to streamline and economize what have been growing into some ambitious (and expensive) vacations, we're going back to The Bahamas. Specifically, the Out Islands of The Bahamas. Depending on where you are, that may sound extravagant, but it's really not. Our target, Cat Island is only 350 miles away. 350 miles to get to another world entirely sounds like a good deal to me.

The Out Islands of The Bahamas are the islands farthest east of the US and they're anchored by the larger islands; Cat Island, Eleuthera and the Exumas. I have been to Cat Island six times in the last couple of years and it is a paradise beyond my ability to describe it. The Out Islands Promotion Board just produced this video extolling the many virtues of this heaven on earth. As an added bonus, I've been to all of the locations in this video and a lot of it was filmed on the very beach where we stay over there. Pay attention to the next to the last scene and you'll see an empty hammock slung between two palm trees.

Well, here's that same hammock, only it's occupied by my great friend JD. I think it's a sign.

18 April 2009

SketchUp Saturday, the second coming

Reader Rachele just left a comment about her frustration over not being able to get SketchUp to snap and place objects precisely within a model. I can relate whole heartedly with her frustration. After ten years of working with software that snapped indiscriminately and automatically, I expected SketchUp to work the same way.

Well, it doesn't and the reason it doesn't makes perfect sense now that I've mastered what SketchUp calls inferential geometry. In SketchUp, you are always working in three dimensions, so you have to think in three dimensions. Working with rendering programs usually means you're working in two dimensions and imagining the third, depth. In SketchUp, you don't need to imagine the third dimension because you never leave it. This takes a bit of getting used to. Here's how Google explains the snap function of the move tool.

SketchUp Saturday

Anyone who's ever stumbled upon this blog before knows that I am a very loud proponent of Google's modeling software, SketchUp. I have been working in it for more than a year and I've become pretty proficient. I never took a class, I just jumped in and figured it out by trial and error. But that's just how I operate and I realize that that's not the approach for everybody.

At the same time, I believe very firmly that anyone can learn to use this software. It's not just for designers and architects. SketchUp is a go-to solution for every space planning and visualization problem out there. In the hands of an expert, SketchUp can generate a set of plans a builder would use to construct a house. In the hands of the eventual owner of that house; he or she can use it to preview furniture plans, figure out where to put a garden, or decide which sofa to buy.

With all that said, I realize that diving into new software can be a daunting prospect for some people. I never bothered to look when I was in the early stages of learning SketchUp, but YouTube is full of SketchUp training videos. Here are the first three lessons that Google came up with themselves.

So there are the first three official videos from Google. Google being Google and the Internet being the Internet, YouTube is also full of very informative, user-generated how-to videos. YouTube is well-organized and you can work your way from novice to pro in a matter of days with these videos.

My friend Eric started producing his own training videos that are specific to kitchen designers and he finished another one yesterday. His videos are particularly well-produced and he has many more coming. As he builds his library though, you can take a look at what he's already produced by going to SketchUp Training Blog. Here's a preview of Eric's lesson on designing a kitchen with the help of Google's 3-D Warehouse.

See? It's no so daunting. Download a copy of SketchUp and start playing around with it. At the risk of sounding like a total geek, it's fun.

17 April 2009

Beautiful, modern lamps from Inhabit

These are the Builtby lamps from Inhabit and I think they're gorgeous and cool.

You can order these lamps in 19 preconfigured styles or you can design your own.

It's pretty ingenious, really. If you choose the Design My Own option, there's an interactive lamp builder with all of the parts and colors sitting there, waiting for you to make a one-of-a-kind modern lamp. Or several for that matter.

Inhabit offers free shipping on orders of $50 in the continental US, and the shipping's free on order of $100 or more in Canada, Puerto Rico, Hawaii and Alaska.

I know Inhabit from their show-stopping wall flats and these Builtby lamps are a pleasant surprise. More surprising and even more pleasant are their pillows, throws, art and bedding. Check them out.

Many thanks to the amazing Creede at Grassroots Modern for the heads up.

16 April 2009

How would you like to win a Blomberg dishwasher?

[Please note that Metallo Arts is no longer in business. This prize was awarded but never delivered. Take from that what you will.]

[As of 2/21/10, there has still been no word from Blomberg regarding this dishwasher. Don't just take from that what you will, let's ratchet this up a little higher. NEVER buy a Blomberg anything.]

To help celebrate the fact that Blomberg Appliances is showing at this year's KBIS, Blomberg has joined with me to host another give away. That's right, you may end up the proud owner of a Blomberg DW361 Fully integrated dishwasher with five wash levels, six programs, five wash temperatures, a three-way filtration system, a delay start, and super quiet 50 db operation. This dishwasher has a typical retail price of around $900.

Blomberg DW361 Fully Integrated Dishwasher with 5 Wash Levels, 6 Programs, 5 Wash Temps, 3-Way Euro Filter System, Delay Start, End of Cycle Chime, 50db Silence

I told my friend Chris at Metallo Arts that I was giving away a dishwasher and wanted to get in on this too. So, as an option, the winner can select a Blomberg DW36100 instead of the DW361. The DW361 is a fully integrated model with a stainless steel front. The DW36100 is also fully integrated and has all of the features of the DW361, but it's what we call panel-ready. A panel-ready dishwasher needs a custom panel front instead of a stainless steel one. The want of a custom panel is where my friends at Metallo Arts come in. Should the lucky winner decide he or she wants a panel-ready dishwasher, Metallo Arts will provide that custom panel. Here's an example of what one looks like:

This is a big deal. The DW36100 retails for $950 and a Metallo Arts custom panel has a $1500 value.

Now the whole point of this is to tie into KBIS, the Kitchen and Bath Industry Show. KBIS is this industry's largest trade show and it has to be one of the largest ones period. It's being held in Atlanta this year and it's running from May 1st through the 3rd at the Georgia World Congress Center.

You can enter this drawing in one of two ways. First, you can stop by Blomberg's booth at the show, they will be in Hall C, booth C1918. You can place your entry with the great folks at Blomberg in person.

The second way you can enter is to leave a comment on this post. All you have to Write is I want a Blomberg Dishwasher! and you're in.

Having to pick a winner of my last contest based on merit about did me in, so this one's going to be a random drawing. On Sunday May 3rd, the last day of KBIS, I'm going to put all the names from here and from Blomberg's KBIS booth in a bowl and I am going to reach in and pick a winner.

So, you have a little more than two weeks to come back to this post and leave your I want a Blomberg Dishwasher! comment and the rest is up to me.

15 April 2009


The Italian website designer|blog.it picked up one of my stories today. They re-wrote it in Italian while giving me full credit. How wild is this? An Italian website picked up an American blogger's review of an Italian product that's represented by a German PR firm. It's a small world after all.

Man, my life is now complete. It feels like Apollo himself reached down from Olympus and poked me in the forehead with his thumb. Questo è un grande giorno! Molte grazie ai miei nuovi amici italiani!*

* This is a great day! Thank you my new Italian friends!

Dishwashers and more from Blomberg

[Do NOT buy anything made under this brand name. Ignore every kind thing I've ever said about Blomberg. I apologize if I mislead anyone. Events and things I've learned since this post appeared originally have brought about a complete change of heart for me regarding Blomberg and their US distributor. --Paul 2/21/10]

Blomberg DW36100 Fully Integrated Dishwasher with 5 Wash Levels, 6 Programs, 5 Wash Temps, 3-Way Euro Filter System, Delay Start, End of Cycle Chime, 50db Silen

Over the last couple of weeks, I've been made aware a dishwasher brand I know nothing about and that brand is Blomberg. I hate not knowing what something is, so I set out to find out.

Blomberg DWT35200 Fully Integrated Dishwasher with 5 Wash Levels, 5 Programs, 4 Wash Temps, 3-Way Euro Filter System, Delay Start, End of Cycle Chime and 52db S

Blomberg is new to the US, but they've been a German brand since 1883. Blomberg is owned by Arçelik, the Turkish conglomerate who sell appliances in over 100 countries around the world. What's being sold in North America as Blomberg also answers to the brand names Beko, Leisure, Flavel and Digifusion, depending on the country in question. Folks in the UK seem to be particularly loyal to Beko, and Beko appliances have been top-sellers there for a long time. While Blomberg may be new to the US, the company behind Blomberg has earned its stripes.

Blomberg DW35100 Fully Integrated Dishwasher with 5 Wash Levels, 5 Programs, 4 Wash Temps, 3-Way Euro Filter System, Delay Timer, 52db Silence Rating and ADA He

In the North American market, Blomberg has been introducing its full product line gradually. They started with their dishwashers, then their washing machines and now their refrigerators. Ultimately, they'll be bringing in their cooking appliances and ventilation products.

My quest for information about Blomberg dishwashers led me to a conversation with Bernie von der Lieth, a consultant responsible for Blomberg's introduction to the US market. Von der Lieth provided me with a wealth of information and I now know more about Blomberg dishwashers, refrigerators and washing machines than I ever thought I'd want to know. And here's what I learned.

Blomberg appliances are luxury appliances, comparable to Bosch and Liebherr. Like other luxury brands, Blomberg appliances are feature-packed and highly efficient. The similarities stop there though. A Blomberg dishwasher or refrigerator will cost half what a comparable Bosch or Liebherr appliance would. Go to a website like AJ Madison and do a price and feature comparison yourself.

Blomberg DW14120 Full Console Dishwasher with 5 Wash Levels, 4 Programs, 3 Wash Temps, 3-Way Euro Filter System, 54db Silence Rating and ADA Height: Black

All Blomberg dishwashers have stainless steel interiors and all of them feature an in-line water heating system. Unlike most American dishwashers which have heating elements inside of them. These elements waste energy, make the wash cycles take too long and prevent a dishwasher from attaining an optimal temperature. An in-line heating system has no heating element, instead the water is heated directly as it's piped into the machine. This maintains a water temperature of 165 degrees while using far less energy. No heating element also means that you can place plastic ware in the lower rack. 

Blomberg dishwashers are the quietest on the market due to their unique, three-layer insulation system. Their dishwashers have an on-board water filtration system and some models have a built in water softener. The racks inside are full adjustable and in a tip of the hat to appliance installers everywhere, a Blomberg dishwasher's rear leveling legs are adjustable from the front of the machine. If you've ever wrestled with a dishwasher installation, that's a very welcome feature.

Blomberg BRFB1040 10.6 cu. ft. Counter-Depth Bottom-Freezer with 3 Spill Proof Glass Shelves, 3 Freezer Drawers, HygION Antibacterial and Bottle Holder

Their refrigerators are similarly well-thought-out and equipped. All of their refrigerators' interior surfaces are treated with a process Blomberg calls HygION.  HygION uses silver nitrate (a potent, non-pharmaceutical, anti-microbial substance) to render the interior of a refrigerator an incredibly hostile environment for the wee-beasties that can make you sick. The glass shelves inside are all made from tempered, safety glass; all of their models have a suspended bottle holder, clear vegetable drawers and are highly efficient users of electricity.

My earlier reference to these appliances as feature-packed doesn't do them justice.

Blomberg's timing couldn't be better, they're introducing luxury appliances at a non-luxury price point. In a time of lowered expectations and slashed budgets, these things are a God send. I used to say Ich lieb Liebherr and think I was clever. But that was in a time when people wanted a $6,000 refrigerator "just because." Those days are gone obviously, so I'm changing my tune to Ich Lieb Blomberg. Or maybe I aşk Blomberg (that's Turkish), considering that they're made in Turkey.

14 April 2009

All Hail Decorno

The fantastic blog Decorno linked to one of my stories on Sunday morning. 

To say I've been experiencing a spike in my traffic since then is an understatement. Great busloads of you people are new around here and I would like to extend a warm welcome to you. Feel free to kick around through my archives. Leave some comments. Start a conversation. Ask me a question. Stick around and come back. Often.

And in the meantime, join me in a toast. ALL HAIL DECORNO!

A revolutionary new sealer for stone

Check out this video for Nanoseal from Tekon Universal Sciences.

Nanoseal is a new product that uses a new technology to render all natural stone waterproof and impervious to stains. This product is for use on granite (which is already pretty stain-resistant), marble, travertine, limestone and anything else you can think of. Imagine, now you can make a shower enclosure out of travertine and never worry about what the water's doing to the stone. Amazing. 

This process also overrides any concerns anyone could ever have about marble. The thing I love most about it, it's living and moody nature, can be circumvented completely with a single Nanoseal treatment.

I have see this stuff live and that video is no exaggeration, Nanoseal delivers as promised.

Nanoseal uses nanometer-sized particles that bond with virtually any surface. These carbon-based nanoparticles form a covalent bond with the targeted surface that cannot be broken. Keep in mind that a nanometer is a billionth of a meter, so all of this happens on the molecular and atomic level. These nano particles bond and organize themselves in a single layer and this layer is so thin that it doesn't change the appearance of the material being sealed. 

Stains on stone happen when a material gets lodged in the incredibly tiny pits and fissures that make up the surfaces of most counter materials. These nano particles effectively fill in those pits and fissures, so nothing can get in there in the first place. As a side note, this new nano surface treatment prevents not only stains from getting a foothold, mold and bacteria can't attach to it either. Fascinating and a real case of better living through modern chemistry. Nanoseal is available from most natural stone fabricators and it can be applied to existing counters, floors and walls as readily as it can new ones. Call your granite fabricator and ask about it.

13 April 2009

Coming this week, another great give away

Keep coming back this week gang. On Thursday I'll be announcing another give away. This one's also a pretty big ticket item, though I won't make anybody work as hard as I did the last time. Sound like a deal?

How to clean a grout joint

I get asked how to clean white grout all the time and my answer is usually, "Don't have white grout." Seriously, short of regrouting your tile every six months, white grout joints are nearly impossible to clean and keep that way.

However last weekend, I came across this article in the St. Pete Times. It's written by Tim Carter, a general contractor and syndicated columnist. Carter runs a website called AskTheBuilder.com and it's chock full of advice and how-to videos. He tackled the problem of white grout joints in a way I'd never considered.

His method involves the so-called oxygen bleaches that seem to be all the rage. Oxygen bleaches do use oxygen to power away organic and some inorganic matter, so I suppose I shouldn't use the expression so-called. However, how they're pitched is so laden with inaccurate descriptions of how they work I feel compelled to continue to use the so-called moniker for them.

So-called oxygen bleaches are made with sodium percarbonate. When sodium percarbonate is dissolved in water It breaks down and releases elemental oxygen that then bonds to whatever it can grab. Sodium percarbonate is hardly a benign substance. If it were benign it wouldn't work. As it breaks down, it leaves behind oxygen and carbon it's made from. These elements are less harmful than the leftovers from other cleaning compounds, but still, none of this stuff is non-toxic. While it's true that you need oxygen to live, pure oxygen will kill you believe it or not.

File this under the for what it's worth column, but chlorine bleaches also use elemental oxygen to do their thing. Household bleach is a solution of sodium hypochlorite and water. Sodium hypochlorite is made from table salt. Dissolved in water, sodium hypochlorite breaks down into elemental oxygen and hydrochloric acid. The atomic oxygen is what does the bleaching, but the hydrochloric acid goes looking for carbon bonds to break. This is not always a bad thing, hydrochloric acid is also the active ingredient in your stomach acid. The hydrochloric acid left behind by chlorine bleach may help you digest your dinner, but it does the same thing to the grout joints on your floor. That's why using chlorine bleach on masonry, concrete or grout is a bad idea.

Anyhow, here's what Tim Carter recommends to clean grout joints.
To clean floor tiles, all you need to do is mix any high-quality oxygen bleach with warm water and stir it until it dissolves. The next step is to pour the solution onto the floor tile so the grout lines are flooded, as if you had spilled a glass of water. It's best to apply the oxygen-bleach solution to dry grout so the solution soaks deeply. Let it sit for at least 15 minutes to allow the oxygen bleach to work. If it completely soaks in, add more solution, making sure there is always plenty on the grout.

The longer you let the solution sit, the less work you have to do. The oxygen ions work for up to six hours. To get maximum cleaning results, scrub the grout lightly after 30 minutes. Always pour new solution onto the grout as you scrub. You have to always scrub a little, but that's how anything gets clean.

Once you have clean floor tiles, keep the grout looking good by adding oxygen bleach powder to your mop water. Apply a liberal amount of mop water to the floor, scrubbing the tile surface with the mop. Leave the mop water in the grout joints without rinsing the floor; the oxygen ions will clean the light dirt in the grout without scrubbing. Come back 30 minutes later and rinse the floor with clean water. Do this each time, and you can avoid scrubbing the floor altogether.

Don't worry if your tile floor is installed next to carpeting. The oxygen-bleach solution will not hurt the carpet and can clean it. In fact, to clean carpeting with oxygen bleach, simply mix up the solution and use a sprayer to saturate the carpet fibers. Let the solution soak for 30 minutes, and then use a regular carpet shampoo machine to finish the job.

You also can mix up small amounts of the solution to handle small spills, such as wine or cranberry juice. It's always best to work on stains while they're fresh, but tile floors that have been dirty for years will come clean in no time with oxygen bleach.
I was over at a previous client's yesterday and he'd read the same article. In a miracle of timing, he was in the middle of cleaning his floors with Oxy Clean so I had the chance to see this at work. And it did work. If you have a dirty grout joint problem, give this a try. Sodium percarbonate doesn't work as quickly as sodium hypochlorite, but it does work.

12 April 2009

Unbelievable. Really.

When I was rooting around for images of Michelangelo's David earlier, I came across this.

It's a copy of the David, only it's covered up to protect the half wits who would find the original offensive. Wrapping a skirt around the David is what's offensive. Talk about an abomination. This should be against the law. If you're so whacked that you can't look at a classical nude and not be able to control your lusts, you have far deeper problems than I want to contemplate.

I did have to laugh though. Imagine what the mind who would cover up David would do to the Barberini Faun.

Or Hercules and Diomedes.

Or for that matter, this Drunken Hercules. A copy of this statue sits behind my toilet. Where else would I put it?