30 November 2011

Coverings is looking for a few good jobs

Coverings, North America's premiere trade event for the tile and stone industries, is looking for entries in their Installation and Design Awards.

Coverings takes place between April 17th and 20th at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando.

The competition is open to architects, designers, builders, contractors, distributors, retailers, and installers, and everybody's being encouraged to submit multiple entries. All projects must have been completed within the past two years (January 2009 – December 2011), and be located in the United States. Multiple winners will be selected in each of the two basic categories— residential and commercial. The deadline for submissions is Wednesday, February 1, 2012, with entry forms available at Coverings' website and on their Facebook page.

This is a terrific opportunity to show off your work to the rest of the industry and to prove that tile and stone aren't the sole province of the Europeans.

There's no fee for entry but if you want to win the cash prizes involved, you have to be at the show in Orlando on April 19th. What better reason to come to Orlando?

Graff wants to spread the good cheer

Graff makes faucets and bath fixtures that will bend your mind. Check out this collection called Luna.

Wow, what a bath!

It being nearly December and with the holidays approaching, Graff has a promo going on right now on their Facebook page that worth checking out.

Every week, from now through the week of December 16th, Graff is giving away a $200 American Express gift card. All you have to do is go to Graff's Facebook page and like them. A new contest will be revealed every week, but the only way you can know about it is to like their page.

Because this is a new promotion, I'll tell you this week's. Between now and Friday, post a link to your favorite or least favorite Christmas/ Hannukah/ or Eid (even though Eid was a month ago) song and if you post the best and or worst, you'll be $200 closer to the end of you holiday shopping.

Because I'm as much a nerd as I am a snob, I'll let you know my favorite Christmas carol of all time. It's "Tu Scendi dalle Stelle" as performed by Luciano Pavarotti. Chistmas and all of December are meant for classical music and Tu Scendi sums it up perfectly.

$200 toward my shopping this season would be a real boon and I'm sure I'm not alone in that. So why not give Graff a like and get the chance to make this a holiday season to remember. So go like Graff!

29 November 2011

My Brassavola nodosa bloomed today

After three years of utterly bizarre winters, my favorite orchid bloomed today. Mercifully, I have a blog to take note of such things because the last time it bloomed I wrote about it. That was on 20 December 2008.

Even though the climate's not changing and even though it's in the same spot where it's been for the last ten years, my prized orchid hasn't bloomed in three years. My bromeliads haven't bloomed since then either, bit that's a topic for another post.

There was a time when B. nodosa bloomed like clockwork the week before Christmas. It was always the same, year after year and it was always there perfuming the air for my annual Christmas Eve dinner.

Here's how I described it three years ago:
I think yesterday was the worst day in human history. I swear, people formed a line for the chance to be mean to me. Horrible day. Horrible day! I came home late and paced and growled like a caged animal. I went out onto my patio and something happened to make all of that drift away.
I walked out the door and stepped into a cloud of the most delightful fragrance on the planet. My Brassavola nodosa is in bloom and nothing I've ever encountered comes close to the scent of these otherwise nondescript white and green flowers. B. nodosa blooms in the winter here and it's fragrant only on warmer, wind-free nights. Last night was one such night. I stood under a waning gibbous moon and inhaled a scent of such complexity I had to sit down to process it. It's almost as if it's a combination of the blossom of a key lime with a flutter of vanilla and a black pepper end note. If I stand farther away, it's kind of caramelly and chocolatish with a whiff of nutmeg thrown in. At mid range it's a buttery jasmine with a hint of damson plum. Man, I could spend an hour circling the thing and inhaling, dreaming of moonlit nights in exotic lands. Ahhh. One good whiff and I was transported to a cliff side terrace in Grenada, a balcony in old Rangoon or a moonlit night in the same highlands of southern Mexico where B. nodosa originated.
Having a bad day? Stick your nose in a blooming Brassavola nodosa and it won't matter anymore.
Three years ago something strange happened. We had a frost and then a few days later we had an actual freeze. It was the first time this part of Florida had recorded a freeze. Ever. Two years ago we had three more frosts and last year we had a frost and another freeze. My orchids live outside and even though they made it through the cold temperatures, their internal clocks have been thrown off significantly.

So B. nodosa may be a couple of weeks early, and it may have only mustered a single flower, but at least it's here.

Its one and only bloom opened this morning so for the next six weeks or so, I'll be treated to the same incredible scent I last smelled three years ago, and I'll be treated to it every evening until its flower fades. I can't wait for the sun to go down tonight.

Starck towers over Warendorf

German kitchen manufacturer Warendorf just rolled out a new collection called Tower. Tower is the result of a collaboration between Warendorf and the design world's enfant terrible, Philippe Starck.

Tower consists of three components, two tall cabinets and an island.

Starck's forever deconstructing things and looking at every day objects and setting in a new light, hence his enduring popularity as a collaborator.

The towers are function-specific. One tower is for dish and pantry storage, the other holds a refrigerator/ freezer, a dishwasher, an oven and a steam oven. Each tower takes up a single square meter of floor space and they rotate to allow easy access to their contents. The appliance tower has electric, waste and water lines that run up into it through the floor.

The island holds a stainless steel sink and an integrated induction cooktop. Power and water run into the island from the floor and are hidden by the chrome leg under the sink.

Open kitchens are all the rage in Europe these days and this open kitchen takes that concept into the stratosphere. A set up like this could be installed in any open space. When it's not in use, it becomes just a few pieces of furniture but come meal time, it's a full kitchen.

It's a pretty wild idea and even though it's not for everyone, I'm curious to see how this idea trickles down into the rest of the industry and how it affects aesthetics on both sides of the Atlantic. What do you think? Is there any appeal to the idea of a kitchen not being in a dedicated room but instead being another furniture vignette in an open space?

Endless thanks to my brilliant cousin Tim for bringing this to my attention.

Real design stars and a concrete counter guy

During my travels last fall, I had some incredible opportunities to meet some people whose work in the design world I admire greatly.

Everything started at Cersaie in Bologna last September. Endless thanks to Chris Abbate, Novita Public Relations and Tile of Italy for making it possible for me to meet and talk with some people whose work I've long admired.

In order of appearance, I met Patricia Uriquiola,

Philippe Grohe

and the Bouroullec brothers, Ronan and Erwan, all in the same day.

I've written about these peoples' work quite a bit over the years. I shower with a shower that Ms. Uriquiola designed and Mr. Grohe brought to the market. It was great to be able to tell them how much I appreciate their vision and hard work in person.

Later in London for BlogTour 2011, I met such notables as Nicky Haslam,

Barbara Barry

and Lee Broom.

There were more people whose work I admire during those weeks on the road but I don't want to be too much of a name dropper. BlogTour 2011 dropped me into the middle of the London Design Festival and were it not for BlogTour I'd have never been there otherwise. So thank you.

But out of the entire who's who of the world design scene I met, none can compare to a man I had the pleasure to meet in San Francisco last month.

I'd been brought to San Francisco by Zephyr to attend a design event at their spectacular showroom in San Francisco's Design District. One of the night's speakers was Fu-Tung Cheng, the man who brought the decorative and functional possibilities of concrete to the world's attention.

There were at most 30 people in attendance at Zephyr's event and most of us knew one another. It felt more like a dinner party than it did a formal function.

After Fu-Tung spoke, he mingled with the everyone as if he were just another guest at a party. Never mind that there was a stack of his books by the door.

Here's a little back story. In 2002, Fu-Tung Cheng published his first book, Concrete Countertops; Design, Form and Finishes for the New Kitchen and Bath. I was a relative newbie to the kitchen and bath industry then and his book was nothing short of a revelation. It gave rise to a new aesthetic in my work but far more than that, his first book showed me that I could forge my own way and that I could create a career for myself. All I needed to do was channel my passion and my energy as tirelessly as I was able.

Concrete Countertops was far more than a book about a new idea in surfaces, it was a wake up call for me and it challenged me to strike out and make a place for myself in the world. Fu-Tung Cheng's generous spirit jumped off the page as I read his words and I realized that my making a place for myself wasn't a matter of my ambition. A career of my own making could only happen if I could be of service and use to other people.

Part of me knew that already, but Cheng's book about concrete drove home that point and sent me on my way. I'm not kidding when I say that his first book changed the trajectory of my life.

Fast forward to October, 2011 and I found myself in the same room with the man who'd had such an impact on me. I walked up to him and told him essentially what I just wrote in the previous few paragraphs. He was as gracious as he was grateful to hear that he'd impacted me so positively.

We ended up having a longer conversation and later, exchanging business cards when the event was breaking up for the night. And in a final gesture, he inscribed his latest book, Concrete at Home for me.

I'm a fortunate, fortunate man. I say that all the time and I mean it. I have opportunities extended to me on a regular basis that make my head spin, not the least of which are numerous opportunities to meet some of the  people I admire. So thanks Zephyr for a great event and thanks for allowing me to complete another circle.

28 November 2011

Three reader questions for a Monday morning

Help! My husband and I are planning to finish up our kitchen with all new appliances and by fixing our old cabinets at some point after the new year. Ideally we want to replace the cabinets rather than just fix them, however  we want to keep the granite counters we had installed a few years ago. Is it possible to replace cabinets and keep our existing granite counters?
I hate to be the bearer of bad news but here goes. No.

Except for cases that are very few and very far between, a granite counter can't be reused. The act of removing them carries with it the very real chance that the counter will crack or break all together. Granite's a very hard material, but it's also very brittle. I has to be supported completely when it's in a horizontal position. That's why it's always transported vertically. Sliding a counter off of the cabinetry where its's resting will leave it very vulnerable to being held in an unsupported, horizontal position.

Adding a layer of complication and risk to all of this is granite's sheer weight. 3cm slab granite weighs between 18 and 20 pounds per square foot, depending on the density of the stone you have. So if you have a counter that's eight feet long and 25 inches deep, that single counter will weigh around 330 pounds. Manipulating a large object that weighs that much will take a team of people. Dropping it will destroy whatever it lands on, be that a floor or the feet of the people carrying the stone. If it breaks while it's being carried, potentially catastrophic injury and damage await. Do not attempt this on your own. Please.

Since it's not a DIY project, one would think that a stone yard would take on a project like that. Don't hold your breath. You'll be amazed at the cost if you look into it. A team of stone workers' labor costs that aren't folded into the cost of an installed counter can be pretty steep and that's if you can find a company willing to take on the liability of moving a previously installed counter.

Barring some miracle, you'll end up saying goodbye to those counters unless you're willing to do a cosmetic do-over on the cabinets you have already.

Since you asked me this question I'm going to tell you what I think is a better plan. For 2012, have you and your husband set a goal to save between $25 and $30,000 so that you can renovate your kitchen correctly and without having to resort to Band-Aid solutions. Once you have that goal set, make an appointment with a local, independent kitchen designer. If you need a referral, I will find someone for you. In that appointment, tell the designer your budget and talk about the items on your with list for your new kitchen. Explain too the time frame you have in mind.

If you have a rapport building, terrific. Any designer I'd send you to is there to help you get as much for your money as it's possible to get. It's his or her job to do the math, figure everything out that needs to be addressed and to make sure that everything not only looks great, but that it works too. You'll spend less money with a good designer at the helm than you would on your own, as paradoxical as that sounds. Good luck!

Help! Do you have any idea how to refinish brass cabinet hardware? The knobs in my kitchen are legion and I'm in no hurry to buy new ones. I just replaced my faucet with a new one that has a brushed nickel finish. I really like how that looks and I'm wondering if there's a way to change the finish on my knobs to brushed nickel. Is there a product out there that can help?
No there isn't, sorry to tell you that. While it's true that there are metallic spray paints out there, they cannot accurately recreate the appearance of something like brushed nickel.

Spray painting cabinet knobs is a surprisingly enormous undertaking because all of those knobs have to be removed from the doors and drawer fronts, attached to something like a piece of cardboard and then sprayed evenly. Spray painting is not as easy as it looks under normal circumstances and in the case of kitchen cabinet hardware, the existing finish will will working overtime to prevent you from painting it.

Metal knobs and pulls (and faucets and just about everything that gets installed in a kitchen) have a stain-resistant clear coat applied to them while they're being manufactured. This clear coat locks in a factory finish and makes cleaning up spills a whole lot easier. It makes adding a new finish over top of that clear coat nearly impossible at the same time.

While it's true that you can remove that clear coat with a solvent, you'll probably end up damaging the metal underneath as you rub off the clear coat.

A much better use of your time and resources is to bite the bullet and replace everything. Lee Valley Hardware sells a plain, brushed nickel knob from their Atherly collection for $2.80 and if you buy ten or more, the unit cost drops to $2.40.

Start saving up your shekels and save yourself a whole lot of heartache and replace your brass knobs.

Andrew Coppa, Vis Vitae/In Touch Weekly
I get it that in certain areas of the country like Florida and California there's a historical and cultural link to Spain, so the architectural heritage of that country informs the aesthetics of those parts of the US. But in the northeast, kitchen designers are still pushing miles of tile, corbels, distressing and glazing in an attempt to recreate their idea of Tuscany. I think theme rooms belong at Disney hotels or Graceland. Any thoughts?
Oh you bet I have some thoughts. You hit a nerve. But before I get to that, let's have some geography first. While it's true that Florida and California were once Spanish territories, so was the rest of North America. However, it was only in the southern areas of what's now the US that the Spanish actually did any kind of development. Surviving Spanish structures in California were primarily missions and the surviving Spanish structures in Florida were forts and a handful of homes. Oh, the wild pigs that wreak havoc in our great state are their legacy too.

Furthermore, Tuscany is a region in northern Italy. Tuscany, while lovely, is a very different place than Spain is and the Italians never played a role in the colonization of North America.

What passes for Tuscan design in the United States is a uniquely US creation and yet another embarrassing example of trying to prove one's cultural awareness through excess. The nightmare in the photo above has nothing to do with Tuscany or anywhere near the Mediterranean. It is however a testament to the striving ambition of the nouveau riche vulgarian standing in the middle of it.

Here's a kitchen in a home for sale in Gandia, a coastal city 70km south of Valencia in Spain.


The hole on the left side is where a washing machine will go and the hole on the right side is where a dishwasher will go. Notice the oven and the cooktop. They're the metric equivalent of 24" wide. Note the absolute lack of "Mediterranean" details. By Spanish standards, this is a large kitchen and by Italian standards, it's enormous.

Here's a kitchen from a villa in Montagnana, 20 minutes outside of Florence, the capital of Tuscany. That makes this a real, Tuscan kitchen.


Where are the corbels? Where are the multi-step glazes, the dried flowers, the tapestries and the enormous appliances? I'll tell you where they are. They are in every cul de sac subdivision in the United States.

I've said it here more times than I can count, a home is no place for themed decor. Architecture should look the time when it was built and it should reflect the place where it sits.

There is no way someone walking around the streets of Florence or Valencia could conceive a kitchen such as the fist one show at the top of this question and then call it Tuscan or Mediterranean. A kitchen such as that is the product of some kind of warped nostalgia, too many weekends in Las Vegas and too many dinners at the Olive Garden.

But all of that excess is expensive and I believe very honestly that it's the expense of that stuff that drives peoples' asking for it and designers' willingness to give it to them.

So there you have it. My thoughts.

24 November 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

Take a moment today, and every day, to make a mental note of things you have to be grateful for. Then eat a lot of pie.

23 November 2011

Spend some time with Charlotte

Another bath fixture series I last saw as a prototype is the Charlotte from Brizo. As fond as I am by the RSVP, also by Brizo, the lines of it are a bit too Art Nouveau, a bit too heavily influenced by the Erte illustration that begat them.

I think the RSVP is drop dead gorgeous, but the RSVP dictates the room it's surrounded by and that's fine if you have a home built during the 1930s, but there has to be a way to bring some of that glamour into a bath that's not in a vintage home. Enter Charlotte.

Charlotte is a full line of fixtures and accessories that are available in the Chrome, Brushed Nickel, Polished Nickel and my favorite, Cocoa Bronze with Chrome highlights.

This is a fixture series that can play into a vintage setting, but at the same time, they can play well in more modern baths.

If you're in the market for new bath fixtures, give a thought to Brizo. You can see the rest of their fixtures on their website.

22 November 2011

Roasting a turkey; a Blog Off post

Every two weeks, the blogosphere comes alive with something called a Blog Off. A Blog Off is an event where bloggers of every stripe weigh in on the same topic on the same day. The topic for this round of the Blog Off is "It's Thanksgiving, so let's talk about food"

There are few things in life that give me the kind of joy that feeding the people I love does. One of my great pleasures is to prepare a meal from scratch and to share the fruits of my efforts.

It kills me that my sentiments about food aren't shared by everybody and seeing the endless displays of convenience foods arrayed in grocery stores at this time of year sends me over the edge. Instant stuffing, instant mashed potatoes and the nightmare that is green bean casserole aren't fit for human consumption and I can't believe that those sorts of things end up on Thanksgiving tables all across this country. Scratch cooking isn't difficult, all it takes is time and attention to detail. The result is a meal that requires effort but the reward comes in knowing exactly what you're feeding your loved ones. Read the ingredients on a box of Stovetop Stuffing some time. Is that really the sort of thing you want to feed to people you care about?

The centerpiece of any Thanksgiving dinner is a stuffed turkey. If turkey's not your thing, a capon makes a perfect stand in. In either case, stuffing and roasting a large bird is a simple operation.

All photos from Martha Stewart

When you're buying a turkey, allow a pound for every person you're feeding. Most frozen turkeys, and even some fresh ones, are shot full of heaven knows what so that they remain moist during roasting. This sort of idiot-proofing is completely unnecessary and introduces a bunch of things nobody needs in his or her diet. Find a fresh or frozen turkey that has one ingredient, a turkey. You get bonus points if it came from a local farm.

Defrosting a turkey in the refrigerator takes a couple of days. And if you're late to the game and don't have a few days, there's hope. You can defrost a large, frozen bird in a couple of hours using cold tap water. The USDA's website has some terrific guidelines on safe thawing.

Once thawed, it's time to prepare your bird for roasting and a large part of that preparation involves making stuffing. Two days before you need to use it, cube the slices of a whole loaf of bread and set them on a baking sheet. Let the bread dry out and get stale. Again, in the interest of knowing what I'm feeding my loved ones, I use bread I baked myself. But then again, I'm a purist.

Making stuffing is easy and Thanksgiving is no time to get cute. Holding onto traditions is what Thanksgiving is for. I make the same bread and sage stuffing my mother and my grandmother always made. I have no doubt my grandmother learned it from her grandmother and when I make it now, I feel like I'm honoring the people who came before me and upon whose shoulders I stand every day. I don't follow recipes or measure things, I tend to cook by instinct and sight. The following instructions are meant to be adapted, but if you follow them as written you'll get a good result.

Here goes. Remove the giblets and the neck from the carcass of the bird. Put them in a sauce pan with four to six cups of water and boil them for 45 minutes. Add more water as it evaporates. After 45 minutes, remove from heat and add a teaspoon of salt, a teaspoon of thyme and a couple good grinds of black pepper. You just made turkey stock, congratulations. Fish out the organs and neck and feed them to the closest dog. Let your stock cool.

Melt a stick of butter in a sauce pan. Once the butter's melted, add about a cup of chopped celery (with leaves), a chopped half an onion (not a sweet onion) and about an eighth of a cup of chopped parsely (stems and all). Saute for ten to 15 minutes until the celery's soft but still firm. Remove from heat.

See how loosely packed that stuffing is? That's how it should look.

Take your stale bread cubes and put them in a large bowl. Pour the butter and sauteed vegetables over the bread cubes. Take about half the stock and pour it over the bread cubes, but add a bit at a time. Stir the mixture as you add the liquid. You want the bread cubes to be moist and sticky, but not sopping wet. Save the rest of your stock, you'll need it later. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Make a chiffonade from 12 fresh sage leaves and add it to the bowl. Then add around a teaspoon of fresh thyme leaves and salt to taste. Stir and mix everything thoroughly. Set aside for the time being.

Take your now thawed turkey and rinse it thoroughly. Salt and pepper the inside of the bird. Then stuff it with the stuffing you've already prepared. Don't pack it too tightly. The goal is to fill the cavity, not to pretend you're stuffing a sofa.

A trussed bird ready for the oven.

Once stuffed, prepare the roasting pan. Line the bottom of the pan with whole celery stalks to form a rack of sorts. Roughly chop the remaining half onion and spread over the celery stalks. Set the bird on top of the celery and onion rack. Truss the bird's legs with cotton string. If there's a pop up timer in your turkey, remove it. They don't work very accurately and food safety is very important if you're roasting a stuffed turkey.

Tuck the wings under the bird before placing it in a roasting pan.

Pour around two tablespoons of olive oil over the bird. I eyeball everything so that measurement is approximate. You want to coat the entire bird, so use your hands to rub the oil over all of its exposed parts. Tuck the wing tips under the body of the bird. Sprinkle a teaspoon or two of salt over everything and set the roasting pan onto the lowest rack of your preheated oven. Every half hour that the bird's in the oven, brush it down with your remaining turkey stock. Don't skimp on the basting, the liquid that rolls off the turkey is what you'll be making gravy from later.

Toothpicks are the perfect way to pin down the skin around the neck cavity.

Use the USDA's guidelines for cooking times. Regardless of the amount of time it takes, a turkey has to be cooked to an internal temperature of 165 degrees. You have to have a meat thermometer to be able to read this temperature. No method other than a meat thermometer can tell you with any degree of accuracy when your turkey's cooked.

Take the temperature of the inner thigh and the thickest part of the breast, don't rely on a single probe and take care not to touch any bones when you're plunging in your thermometer.

About 3/4ths of the way through the roasting process, the bird will achieve the perfect color even though it's not fully cooked yet. Make a tent from aluminum foil and cover the bird, being careful not to let the foil touch anything but the roasting pan. The foil will keep the bird from browning any further and it helps to preserve some of the moisture being lost due to the hot oven.

When the bird gets to 165 degrees, remove it from the oven and set it aside. After five minutes, remove it from the roasting pan and set it on a warm serving platter. Let it sit for another 15 minutes before you carve it.

While the turkey's resting, take a fork and remove all of the celery and onion from the bottom of the roasting pan. Pour the remaining liquid into a sauce pan. Add a tablespoon of corn starch to the remaining stock that you made earlier. Mix in the starch and stock thoroughly. Keep stirring until the starch is dissolved completely. Add the stock and starch mixture to the sauce pan holding the drippings from the roasting pan. Bring to a boil while stirring constantly. As the liquid boils, the starch will make it thicken. Once at a roiling boil it ought to be done. Add salt to taste. Congratulations. You just made gravy. Turn down the heat to a slow simmer and cover.

Remove the stuffing from the now rested bird and put it in a serving dish. If you're planning to eat right away, set it out on the table. If not, cover it and put in the oven to keep it warm.

Carve the bird and you're done.

See? Easy. All you need is a willingness to put in the time and an awareness of what cooked food looks and tastes like.

It's these sorts of handmade meals that memories are made from and where traditions are born. As a personal favor to me this year; skip the prepackaged, cheater foods for Thanksgiving and make something from scratch. Thanksgiving's not a time for haute cuisine or edgy ingredients and techniques. Rather it's a time to eat the way your grandparents did. Simple foods prepared simply make for the perfect Thanksgiving dinner.

Late breaking addition: I've been told that how to carve a turkey properly is a sticking point for a lot of people. Here's a video that explains and shows everything.

As the day progresses, a list will appear below with all of today's participating bloggers as they weigh in on today's topic. It's going to be an interesting day and passions are running high. And not just mine. Check out what bloggers from all over think about food.

21 November 2011

Reader question: whither goest farm sinks?

Help! I love the look of the farm sinks, but I don't like the look of granite. The salesperson at Home Depot said to have a farm sink, you have to have granite. Is this true, or what other counter top can be used? Thanks.

To quote a young Christina Crawford in Mommie Dearest, "That's a lie." I don't think it's a lie on the part of the sales person who told you that, I think he or she was just parroting back the Home Depot party line. Whatever the source of that bit of misinformation, it's patently untrue and it's pretty illustrative of the reasons not to shop in a home center for anything other than light bulbs and duct tape.


The Home Depots of the world realized a long time ago that it's too expensive to train their employees adequately or to pay them enough to keep them around for long periods of time. The result of that incredibly short-sighted approach is the exact kind of advice you got about sinks. But hey, what's a little inaccurate information when there are a couple of bucks to be saved. Right?

Stay out of home centers for complicated purchases such as the one you described. There are independent plumbing showrooms everywhere who are anxious to win your business. The people who work there are paid a living wage and are rewarded for knowing what they're talking about. Find one near you and buy your sink there.

Before I get too far into this, the sinks you're referring to are called apron-front sinks by the industry. Referring to a those kinds of sinks as an apron-fronts as opposed to a farm sinks sends the message that you did your homework.

Apron-front sinks don't require that you use any specific kind of counter material, but they do require a specialized sink base cabinet. Retrofitting them into an existing kitchen is nearly impossible, even if you're getting new counters. This is not a weekend DIY project by any means.


If you want to add an apron-front sink and not tear out your existing kitchen, go talk to an independent kitchen designer. He or she can help you figure out a way to pull it off tastefully and properly. You'll have to buy a new sink base cabinet at a minimum, so talk to a professional about how you can add a new cabinet without it looking like a band aid.

Once you settle on a sink and how to integrate it into your kitchen, go talk to a counter fabricator. Most counter fabricators deal with natural stone, solid surface and quartz composites. Many of them can handle other materials like concrete and wood too, just ask. Explain that you're going to use an apron-front sink and they will explain, clearly and factually, the sorts of things you need to keep in mind as you pursue this project.

You will spend the same money there that you would from a home center. But again, your money will go to a company that pays its employees a living wage, trains them and rewards them for knowing what they're talking about. A salesperson at an independent counter fabricator can answer all of your questions about how to handle an apron-front sink.

Between the plumbing showroom, the kitchen designer and the counter fabricator you'll be all set. You'll have information that's based on facts, you'll get personal attention and you'll spend the same (if not less) money than you would at a home center. Furthermore, you'll be pumping money into your local economy instead of exporting it to Atlanta or Mooresville, NC.

Home centers have their place, but that place is not selling and installing specialty products, as the misinformation you were given illustrates perfectly.

19 November 2011

Optical illusion Saturday

I haven't written about optical illusions in ages but a website, Mighty Optical Illusions, popped onto my radar this week and I can't get enough of this guy's site. He has thousands of illusions; visual, audio and video. Check out that site but I have to warn you, it won't be a quick visit.

Click on any of the illusions that follow and they will open in a larger size.

Mighty Optical Illusions is great at not only presenting these illusions, but explaining why and how they work. Here's a great example. Stare at this image for around a half a minute without blinking and it will disappear.

It disappears due to a phenomenon called the Troxler Effect. The Troxler Effect describes visual fatigue. Stimulus that isn't moving eventually disappears from human perception. The Troxler Effect isn't reserved for visual stimulus either. If you take a small piece of paper and set in on your forearm, you'll stop feeling it after the same half a minute, provided neither the paper nor your arm is moving. Pretty slick.

This animated .gif is beyond cool. Let it load and start its animation. Notice the speed of the dots. Then, take your hand, hold it up to your monitor and cover the center of the image. Notice how the dots speed up?

That's an amazing effect and it illustrates very clearly that human brains are utterly dependent on context and previous experiences to make sense of the world.

This one's called Dancing stars. When you get to this illusion, scroll your sceen up and down and the center star field seems to move. Not only that, the sides of the inner square seem to slant a bit, even though they're perfectly straight.

This is the illusion of the running faucets. Stare at this one for a moment or two and the taps will appear to be running.

If you look at this for long enough, it's actually, physically fatiguing. That's from your brain trying desperately to make sense out of this apparent movement.

I love illusions that appear to be animated even though they're not. Here's a really great one.

The illusion of movement is caused by something called saccadic movement. It's an evolutionary adaptation that allows eyes to focus. It's a bit of a paradox, but when an object isn't moving, it fades from view. Having eyes that move back and forth rapidly and involuntarily keeps stationary objects visible.

Speaking of illustrations that appear to be animated even though they're not, check out this one.

That's absolutely amazing.

Again, spend some time over at Mighty Optical Illusions, the guy pulls together some of the most mind-bending stuff I've ever seen.

16 November 2011

The Jason Wu collection for Brizo

Brizo has been collaborating with fashion designer Jason Wu since 2006 and after a five year affiliation, Brizo and Jason just announced the launch of  their long-awaited, Jason Wu-designed powder room suite, The Jason Wu for Brizo Collection. Check out this video announcing the collection.

I can't think of anybody who's selling bath fixtures quite like that. Wow.

The central motif of the collection is something Jason calls his Baroque Flower and all of the individual components feature a matte black finish (a first for Brizo) with either chrome or brushed nickel accents.

Tissue holder

Liquid soap dispenser

Soap dish

Front-mount tank lever

Side-mount tank lever

Waste basket

Drawer pull

Most notable is the faucet at the center of the collection the Jason Wu for Brizo Odin. I've been fortunate over the years to see that faucet as a number of prototypes and it's a particular thrill to see it in production. Brizo has been utilizing touch controls for the last few years, but this faucet adds a proximity sensor in addition to its touch control. A proximity sensor turns a faucet on and off any time hands come within four inches of the faucet.

They've also added a subtle LED light to the base of the faucet. That LED is a temperature indicator with red being hot, blue being cold and varying shades of magenta to indicate the various degrees of warm between the two extremes.

Here's another video where Jason and Judd Lord, the head of industrial design at Brizo discuss the collection.

The collection goes on sale this spring, but you can pre-order the components now on Brizo's website.