Showing posts with label how-to. Show all posts
Showing posts with label how-to. Show all posts

17 October 2020

Bathroom and Kitchen Renovations Coquitlam


Do you sometimes feel that your bathroom has lost the stylish touch and appeal that it used to have? Or that your kitchen lacks enough space for you to move around freely? 

The solution lies in a renovation. Things change over time hence the need to remodel according to your new needs. It doesn’t have to be expensive. Sometimes all you need is to rearrange and organize various items in a better way. 

Depending on the type of task to be done, there are lots of factors to be considered. Here are some of the most important tips that might help you for kitchen renovation in Coquitlam.

Factors to consider to ensure successful renovations

  • Amount of work required

    If you are in need of extra space around the room then most of the time reorganizing the items to free up space will do just fine. This is a one-person job that you can do by yourself within a day or two.

    On the other hand, if it entails tearing down cabinets and other structures then it is best if you hire professional contractors to do the job. They’ll certainly have the labor force required and skills to do the job without interfering with other parts of your house.

    Before you hire them make sure that they are experienced and well-trained to handle the job effectively.

  • Estimated total cost

    Proper planning entails estimating the total cost expected to be incurred. This includes the prices of materials that will be used and the fees charged by the workers.

    It will allow you to adjust your budget accordingly and avoid surprises. Make sure to cater to any additional costs that may arise in your plan. You should also use the locally available resources to save some money.

    For example, if done properly, some of the materials from torn-down structures can still be re-used. If you have to buy new materials do so from the local market if possible to avoid importation costs.

  • The reason for revamping

    There are plenty of reasons to do so. For instance, you might be in need of new items that provide better functionality than your current ones or that are more desirable.

    Therefore, you must make sure that whatever you go for will satisfy the need. This makes the process a bit easier since it serves as a guide.

    Otherwise, using the trial-and-error method can cost you a lot of money and waste your time. Click here to see a few reasons why you  might consider doing some renovation.

  • Your taste

    Perhaps this can be considered as the most important factor when it comes to interior designing. The interior of your house should depict who you are as a person right from the walls to the floors.

    For instance, if you like the modern aesthetic appeal then the type of tiles you use on the surfaces should be sleek and modern.

    If you are more of a vintage kind of person then you can go for the classic traditional look which usually entails wooden and marble surfaces with intricate pattern designs. In all, make sure that your renovation doesn’t interfere with your personal style.

Tips to help you with your renovations

Here are some tips to help you get the most out of it.

  • Utilize your space effectively

    One of the most common reasons why people renovate is to create space. Whether in your bathroom or kitchen, you need to be able to move around freely without any obstacles getting in your way.

    Most of the space is consumed by storage. Therefore, once you find a way around that you will definitely have ample room. A good way is to utilize the wall storage units. Wall cabinets come in handy and will help you organize your things properly.

    Avoid throwing things all over the room as they will eventually pile up and take the much-needed space. See this link for some ideas on how you can create more storage space in your kitchen 

  • Choose your colors wisely

    They tend to affect perceptual vision and can also influence your mood. Dark colors have been found to make the room feel small. Most people like light colors, especially, white. For other items such as toilets, sinks, and bathtub you should consider warm colors that radiate positive energy within you. For such equipment, some people dislike white color because it gets stained easily.

  • Get good lighting

    When preparing to start with the renovation, you should include proper lighting as well. In the bathroom, in addition to the general bulb from the ceiling, you should have some on the walls and around the mirror to be specific.

    The latter should provide just enough light to enable you to look yourself in the mirror comfortably. As such, it should not be very bright.

    The central lighting, on the other hand, should be able to illuminate the whole room but also have a dimmer switch for when you want dim light. In general, the lighting should blend in smoothly with the colors of the room.

  • Use a pot filler

    Instead of going to the sink every time you need water then coming back to the cooker, you can use an adjustable tap that can be swung all the way to fill the pot while it is on the cooker. This saves you time and makes your cooking more enjoyable.

  • Use racks 

    There are plenty of stylish racks that you can use to store your cutleries in an organized way and conserve space too.

  • Maintain the plumbing configurations

    This will save you both time and money. Trying to change the plumbing can also interfere with the whole system and result in leaks. Only allow professional plumbers to do this. Click here to see a few bathroom renovation tips.


Renovation can be a daunting task if you don’t know where to begin. If you do it wrong you might end up having an even more messed up room. For this reason, proper planning is key. You have to determine the amount of work required and plan your budget based on this. It is also very important that you only deal with qualified experts to ensure satisfactory work. As much as you should invest in good quality, take care to avoid overspending. Also, feel free to experiment and try out different things.

20 February 2015

How much should you spend on redesigning your kitchen?

The past few years have seen the kitchen grow in importance, in comparison with the rest of the house. Today, people eat, gather, and even have parties in the kitchen. Larger kitchens have replaced the small, basic ones with conveniences such as larger sinks, islands, fancy lighting, beautiful refrigerators, cookers, and so on. Most homes have picked up on the cozy, social kitchen trend. But how much should you spend on redesigning your kitchen?

Creating A Budget

After conducting thorough research on the re-designing options for your kitchen, it is time to consider your budget. The following tips will help you estimate more accurately.
When planning, decide what exactly needs to be done. Your decision will place your project in one of two remodeling categories:

Minor Remodels

Minor remodels average at around $17,000 to $25,000. These are usually done when a  kitchen has a good layout, or its plumbing and electrical systems meet the current building standards. However, the finish may be outdated and needs revamping. The design, in this case, will remain identical to the original, and it will mean you change the cabinets, flooring, ceiling colour and worktops.

Major remodels

Major remodels are far more costly. Mid-range projects in this category average at around $50,900 to $59,700 while high-end projects average at around $103,500 to $115,500. Due to poor planning during construction, some kitchens require significant updates or repairs, and expansion in size, hence the sharp difference in cost between the minor and major remodels.

After determining what your kitchen needs, coming up with a budget that will cover your expenses becomes less daunting.

Break down the Costs

Come up with an easily comprehensible way of breaking your budget. On average, you can break down your budget – as a percentage of the total amount – as follows:

  • Cabinets: 35 percent,
  • Appliances: 20 percent,
  • Labour: 20 percent,
  • Windows: 10 percent,
  • Fixtures: 5 percent,
  • Fittings: 3 percent,

Prepare for the Unexpected

Something unexpected always happens during construction – especially in older residences. For example, on ripping out your walls, you may realize that the electrical wiring is outdated, or that your floor has rotted after pulling out your dishwasher. Leaving about 20% of your budget to cover the unexpected is practical.

List what You Consider most Important

List what you feel needs revamping the most. If you feel that new appliances will give your kitchen the most pleasing restoration, ensure that they are at the top of your list. This way, even if the cost supersedes your budget, you will have taken care of what is most important to you.

Acquaint Yourself with the Charges Design Professionals Demand

Design professionals can take your project from conceptualization to selecting the finish materials for your construction.

  • Architects charge, on average, $150 per hour and above, or a flat fee of about $500 to $5,000,
  • Interior designers charge an average of $100 to $150 per hour or a flat fee of $500 to $10,000, and
  • Kitchen designers charge $50 per hour.

Of course you should shop around for this. Some kitchen builders in Melbourne offer free design consultations along with their services.

You should also acquaint yourself with the charges that your local buildings permit office requires for such a demolition. Some areas determine their fees basing on the planned work while others require you to pay a percentage of the total project.

Your kitchen reflects your lifestyle, and spending money on it gives you the chance to get a kitchen you’ll love to be in, whether to cook, socialize or relax. Since a cozy, social kitchen is the new trend, revamping your kitchen should be among your top priorities if you've the budget to spare.

13 February 2015

Is it safe to be in a property while it is being treated for pests?


Pesticides can be dangerous if you use them the wrong way, so it’s often necessary to call in the experts if you have a problem with pests in your home, or of you want to prevent a problem from occurring.

Pest control experts know what they are doing, and they know what extermination processes and methods to use for different situations. As long as you take the necessary actions before, during and after the treatment process, you and your family will be perfectly safe.

What should you do before your home is treated for pests?

The most important thing is to make sure that the professional you hire is licensed. This means that they will be able to complete a safe and effective job, and will be able to advise you correctly on precautions to take. States have their own individual licensing procedures, with the Environmental Protection Agency, providing training in the handling of certain pesticides. Once you have made an appointment it’s important to make sure that the area to be treated is ready for when the pest control experts arrive.

If you are having a routine treatment completed then, most of the time, this is concentrated on the exterior of your home to prevent pests from getting inside the premises. Interior pest control is usually used when pests have actually been encountered indoors. If the exterior of your home is being treated then you need to make sure that the area is cleared, that grass is cut if necessary and that children and pets are removed from the area.

Similarly, if the interior of your home is being treated, you need to clear any small items from the floor and put away any food items; you should also cover any fish tanks and either cover or switch off the pump. When the Long Island pest control experts arrive you will often need to vacate your home, depending on what pests are being dealt with.  Children should always be out of the premises while the work is being undertaken, and it’s a good idea to make sure pets are too.

What happens during the treatment?

When your home is being treated for pests low levels of pesticide are used which are lethal to pests while not threatening the health of you or your pets, once they are dry. There are different treatments available depending on the pest involved. For instance, aerosols and dusts can be used for applying to cracks. This means that the pests can be killed, but there is no harmful reside.

When a pesticide has to be applied to a surface that’s exposed the experts follow very specific procedures to ensure that the right quantities are used in the correct manner. Application of these pesticides also dictates that all animals and humans must stay away from the surfaces until they are dry.

What happens after the treatment?

Recommendations vary as to the length of time you should stay out of a home that has been treated, except to say that you should not touch any treated surfaces until they are dry. You should ask the experts undertaking the job whether it is necessary to stay out of your home, as this can depend on the type of treatment undertaken.

If you have any concerns about re-entering your home then a period of 2-3 hours is definitely sufficient for any treated areas to have dried out. After this time you can enter your home with complete ease of mind, and no pests to worry about.

05 January 2015

Apple Juice… Without a Juicer?

That’s right, if you’re getting a cold weather craving for some delicious apple juice but don’t yet have a dedicated juicer, you’re in luck. Making apple juice in your own kitchen is not nearly as intimidating as it may seem. With a few basic supplies and a bit of patience, it’s relatively easy to churn out fresh, homemade apple juice unrivaled by anything you get at the store.

Choosing Apples
The apples you pick for your juice have a tremendous effect on the finished product. In fact, if you choose your apples carefully, there will be little or no need for added sweeteners due to the high levels of natural sugar in the fruit. When making apple juice, a variety of red apples such as Red Delicious and Fuji should be used to create complex flavors. Bruised or otherwise imperfect fruits can also be used for juice making, as their full flavor is intact.

If possible, fresh apples should be obtained from a local farmers’ market instead of a supermarket or other store for maximum flavor and freshness. Each bushel of apples yields about sixteen quarts of apple juice, so keep this ratio in mind when determining the amount of apples you will need for your juice making project.

Be sure to get an appropriate number of glass mason jars to store your juice in.

When you have decided on a suitable blend of apples for your juice, it’s time to start the process. Begin by thoroughly washing out the jars in hot, soapy water, then boil the jars for ten minutes to completely sanitize them. Keep the jars and lids submerged in the hot water until it’s time to use them to prevent them from breaking when you fill them with the heated apple juice.

Next, wash the apples in plain cold water and remove the cores with a corer or paring knife. Transfer the apples to a large, thick-bottomed pot filled with four inches of boiling water and put the lid on the pot to steam them. When the apples have softened, place them into a colander lined with layers of cheesecloth and allow the juice to drip into a large pot for an hour or until the apples are dry.

Juice Making
When the pot is full, add cinnamon to taste and bring the mixture to a low, simmering boil. Transfer the juice to quart-size canning jars, screw on the lid and tighten the ring around the jar. Place the jars in a water bath submerged in two inches of water for five minutes then remove them from the water with a pair of canning tongs, loosen the rings slightly, and leave them to cool slowly in a draft-free area overnight.

After the jars are cool, check them for a tight seal by pressing the center of the lid down. If it stays down, the jar is sealed and ready for storage. If the center makes a popping sound and pops back up, there is no seal and the jar should be placed in the refrigerator right away to prevent spoilage.

Homemade apple juice is both superior to store bought juice and simple to make in your own kitchen. This apple juice will stay fresh in the jar with no special attention for up to two years, so one batch will allow you to enjoy delicious apple juice all winter and beyond.

23 October 2013

Yes, you can buy cabinetry online

Say you’re working with a design-only designer on a kitchen renovation. Say that said designer puts together a plan to end all plans. A plan that takes efficiency and good taste to levels previously unimagined. Then what?

Since the lion’s share of kitchen design involves cabinetry, what do you do with a set of completed plans? How do you get from paper to a room you can cook in?

Well, one really simple way is by taking the plans you have and generating a list of components if your designer hasn't done that already. With that list you can go to a website like Cliq Studios, and place an order. There are a number of websites out there that’ll allow you to fulfill a cabinet order. A few more such sites are The Cabinet Factory, Kitchen Resource Direct and Kitchen Cabinet Depot. If you’re a homeowner buying cabinetry for the first time, each of those sites have staffed, toll-free numbers to hold your hand through the process.

These sites are set up to allow just about anyone to order semi-custom cabinetry. You choose the components you need in the dimensions you need them from an interactive catalog, just about the same way any industry professional does.

Ordering cabinetry is complicated but it needn't be overwhelming. There are a lot of parts to consider and to take into account but if your needs aren't too complex and you’re diligent in your approach, ordering cabinetry online may be the answer you’re looking for.

Explore the sites before you make a final decision though. Look for testimonials and look for details and descriptions about how the cabinetry’s constructed. Check to see where the cabinetry’s manufactured and for how long it’s warranted. Buying online is like buying anywhere. Ask a lot of questions and kick the tires as best you can before you take a leap.

Many online suppliers sell what are called RTA cabinets. RTA means flat-packed and ready to assemble. Be sure you’re up to the added labor if you buy RTAs and if the site doesn't define that term clearly, don’t buy from there. Similarly, look for details about the types of hardware used for hinges and drawer guides. If that information’s not listed on the site, call the 800 number. Good value kitchen cabinetry isn't just in the finish. It’s the hardware used that makes them last.

See too if they have a sample ordering program and what if any the charge is to get samples. Seeing color accurately on the internet is impossible, absolutely impossible and you have to see the actual product if you’re going to get an accurate preview of how things will look in your home. Again, if the site you’re on doesn’t have samples available or if they charge you for them, leave that site.

As you navigate the sites, look for endorsement logos from other entities. Such entities as HGTV and DIY Network don’t let fly by night organizations use their logos and only legitimate suppliers can be members of the NKBA.

Some sites have budgeting tools that will help you in your planning too. This tool from Cliq Studios is particularly helpful. Use budgeting tools as you plan and to help you keep a handle on costs as you move ahead on your project.

If you’re a design-only designer have you ever recommended an online resource to your clients? And if you’re a homeowner, have you ever used one of these suppliers? In either case, how was your experience? What advice do you have for someone who’s considering an online cabinetry purchase? Leave a comment, I’d love to hear some stories.

09 March 2013

A brave new recipe

One of my nieces has some health problems and as a result of that lives a gluten-free existence. She's home from college this weekend and since I love to bake and I love her, I decided to make something decadent that she could actually eat.

I'd never attempted a gluten-free baking before so I did some research. I wanted to bake something that had actual flavor and texture and since she loves chocolate, I settled on brownies with a ganache frosting. Again, because I like to bake and I'm pretty good at it, I hybridized a bunch of recipes I found and came up with a gluten-free brownie that had not only my niece, but everybody else clamoring for more.

I can handle myself in a kitchen, but a food stylist I'm not. Here's a photo of my finished recipe never the less:

Here's what I whipped up:

Gluten-free brownies
2/3 cup almond flour

1/3 cup rice flour
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
6 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 cup crushed walnuts
1 cup bittersweet chocolate chips

9 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup heavy cream

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees with a rack in the lower third of the oven. Line an 8x8-inch metal baking pan across the bottom and up two opposite sides with baking parchment.

Take almond flour, mix it with the rice flour and set aside.

Place the chocolate, butter and salt in the top of a large double boiler over barely simmering water. Stir frequently until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth. Remove the bowl and let cool for 5 minutes.

Stir in the sugar and vanilla. Stir in the eggs one at a time. Add the almond and rice flour mixture and stir until moistened, and then mix briskly about 40 strokes. Stir in the walnuts and chocolate chips.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and spread it evenly. Bake for around 30 minutes or until the brownies are slightly puffed all over and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out moist but clean. Cool the pan on a rack. Run a knife along the unlined sides of the pan to detach the brownies. Lift the edges of the parchment paper to remove the brownies. Cut into squares or leave them intact if you want to frost them.

I'm sure they'd be perfectly fine without any frosting, but I wanted to give them an extra kick. For reasons I'll never understand, a lot of people think ganache is difficult to make but really, it's a snap.

Take a cup of heavy cream and bring it to a gentle boil. Remove from the heat before it has a chance to froth up. Add nine ounces of semi-sweet chocolate chips and whisk until the chocolate's completely melted and you've achieved a uniform consistency. That usually takes two to three minutes. You now have a ganache. In its current form, it will be a very thick liquid and when it sets it'll have the consistency of fudge.

To turn the ganache into a frosting, whip it until it gets the consistency of frosting. That will take about ten minutes with a mixer or about a half an hour if you're using a hand whisk.

Frost the brownies then set them in the fridge to let the ganache firm up a bit before you cut them into squares.

These things are by no means low calorie, low fat or low anything else. But they're very good and they're gluten-free.

29 March 2012

Installing kitchen cabinets

The kitchen cabinets were ordered and have arrived. After some long months you’ve finally got your shaker style kitchen cabinets staring at you in their plastic wrap in your garage. Now it's time to install them and in most cases some advanced planning is required. This especially holds true if the installation is for a remodeling project. We'll assume that the cabinets that were ordered are the correct ones so the first thing that I do is some checking.

Is the floor level?
The way I do this is by setting up a laser transit in the room.

Once this is set up it will spin and create a perfect laser level line on the wall. I then take a chalk line and snap a line that matches that one. I now have a level line to reference and by measuring from that line to the floor at various points I am able to determine if the floor is level. If the floor isn't level then I can make marks down from my reference line to create a level line with another chalk line. Now I know where shimming or trimming will be required.

Photo by Annie Gray on Unsplash

Are the corners square?
This is easily accomplished with a standard framing square and allows me to see if I will need to make adjustments. I also need to check the corners to see if they are plumb as many are not.

Studs and blocking?
As there is nothing on the walls yet I need places that I can secure the cabinets to. Putting a couple of screws into a Sheetrock wall won't cut it. If this is a new kitchen then critical blocking should have already been added. However in remodeling projects you'll need to locate and mark the studs so that you have a strong place to attach your cabinets.

Starting the installation.
I do my installations a bit different than many.  Many will add a ledger board at the desired height and install the upper cabinets first while they can get right up against the wall. I start with the base cabinets as this is the system that works for me.

The first cabinet is critical. It has to be installed perfectly in regards to plumb, level and square or every one after it will be off by an increasing amount. At this junction its check, check and re-check until you have fully attached the cabinet to the blocking or studs. Once that is done you can attach, shim, plumb and level the next one. As you move along you will also need to attach the face frames together. Here I clamp the two units together and drill and screw them securely to each other with a finish head trim screw.

Installing the upper cabinets.
The next step for me is to apply the chosen counter top material, which I'm going to gloss over for now.

When that is done I am now ready to use the same techniques as for the base units but with a couple of great jacks.

I have already marked the wall with a level line to show where the base of the unit will be. Now with two of the above jacks in position, I put the cabinet on top of them and with the squeeze handles I can micro adjust it to be exactly where I want it with no real effort. Once it is set in place you just apply the screws and move to the next unit.

The finished project!
Planning and installing kitchen cabinetry takes time but the finished product is well worth it.

09 June 2011

Buy this book!

The book is Kelly's Kitchen Sync and it was penned by my great friend Kelly Morisseau.

I've known Kelly for a couple of years and among all of the peers I've befriended in the last few years, Kelly's always stood out for her good-natured expertise. Kelly's one of a handful of pros I turn to when I need design advice and through this book, now anybody with a question will find an answer in Kelly's Kitchen Sync.

Kelly starts at square one and talks a reader through every decision that needs to be made over the course of renovating a kitchen. This is Kelly's introduction:
Ready to remodel your kitchen? Great! It sounds so easy -- buy a few cabinets, some appliances and perhaps even replace a worn counter. Then you discover the dishwasher handle blocks a drawer, the refrigerator door hits the cabinets and the dishwasher won't fit under the new counter.

Some of you may think you'll never run into this --after all, your kitchen is pretty simple without a lot of changes, right?

Here's the reality: designing the kitchen of today is like stacking dominoes. Every choice, every product and every finish you add to your kitchen impacts the design, simple or not. One piece can send the rest tumbling if not thought out --and there are a lot of pieces!

I'm not trying to scare you, but rather provide you with a bit of hope --with the help of this book, you'll sail past all this. You'll learn how to spot those errors --and many others-- long before you ever get to the installation stage.
Kelly then spends the next 18 chapters and 210 pages reviewing every detail an eager renovator will run into. She discusses the importance of each step of the process and to someone new to the renovation market could easily see this resource she's penned as the most thorough visit with a master designer they're likely to get.

Kelly talks about how much money you can expect to spend. She talks about how to interview a designer and a contractor. She talks about cabinetry of course, then goes on to dissect the vagaries of cooking appliances, ventilation and refrigeration. If you have a question and you'd like an answer from an unbiased source, your answer is probably within the covers of this book.

It's available now through Amazon and $20 spent today will save you a fortune down the road. Buy it!

As a personal aside, Kelly Morisseau is the first designer I ever started corresponding with. It's been a singular thrill to watch our little network of two grow into something that includes some of the biggest names in the industry. Eventually, we formed the Blogger 19 but that's grown into something more like the Blogger 75. The launch of Kelly's book is but one more achievement to celebrate from this amazing group of people I call friends and colleagues. Even though Kelly's now poised to become a world famous, best-selling author, she maintains the blog that started it all, Kelly's Kitchen Sync, and has a thriving Bay Area design practice.

20 December 2010

Further adventures in bread baking

Two of my glorious loaves

For the last couple of years, I've been on a real bread kick. I've written about it here a couple of times and I've taken this bread-baking thing to the point where I don't buy bread anymore. I doubt I save any money this way and it certainly doesn't make very efficient use of my time. However, there is nothing more satisfying to me than knowing I have a loaf of fresh bread sitting on my kitchen table. A loaf of bread I made from scratch.

Bread baking isn't just an activity I'm finding. It's a way of looking at the world. I actually like it that it takes time and effort for me to make the thing that holds together a sandwich or gets slid into the toaster. My bread baking teaches me to be patient and as proud as I am of the finished results, I am at the mercy of a fungus when it comes to the finished result.

The fungus in question is a yeast called Saccharomyces cerevisiae. S. cerevisiae is the yest sold as baker's yeast and it's the same organism that ferments beer. S. cerevisiae is just one of a host of related species that will make bread dough rise. For example, Saccharomyces exiguus is the yeast that makes sourdough bread taste like sourdough bread.

I've been reading a lot lately about the role different yeasts play in how finished bread tastes. It makes sense and I'm beginning to wonder if there's more to life than Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Susan Tenny's amazing blog Wild Yeast has been a real inspiration. My starter, to make a bad bread joke.

So yesterday afternoon I embarked on an experiment to culture my own Saccharomyces exiguus. There's a lot of folklore surrounding the whole process of harvesting wild yeast. While it's true that there's wild yeast everywhere, the yeast that will grow in my starter arrived with the flour my starter's built around. Over the course of my starter's life it will attract other local bacteria and fungi and it will lend a special St. Pete flavor to my breads. But my goal here is to culture the yeast that's already in my flour naturally.

I'm partial to King Arthur flour and no that's not a paid plug. I think their bread flour is a perfect consistency and I get good results with it. King Arther also has a great website and it's their website that got me started on this grow your own yeast kick.

From what I understand, this will take a few tries until I get it right but I'm dying to see how this affects my breads.

Photo via K. Fields

OK, from King Arthur's website:
  • 2 cups warm water that's been allowed to sit for a day to let the chlorine dissipate
  • 1 tablespoon sugar or honey (optional)
  • 2 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
Mix the water, flour and optional sweetener together thoroughly in a clean, scalded glass or ceramic bowl. The scalding will ensure that you’re starting “pure.” Cover the bowl with a clean dishcloth. Put it in an area where there’s apt to be the highest concentration of airborne yeast as well as the warmth that is needed to begin fermentation.

If the surface begins to look dry after a while, give the mixture a stir. It should begin to “work” in the first day or two if it’s going to at all. If it does, your trap has been successful. As you would with a dried starter or active dry yeast, let this mixture continue working for 3 or 4 days giving it a stir every day or so. When it’s developed a yeasty, sour aroma, put it in a clean jar with a lid and refrigerate it until you’re ready to use it.

If the mixture begins to mold or develop a peculiar color or odor instead of a “clean, sour aroma,” give a sigh, throw it out and, if you’re patient, start again. Along with the vital yeasts, you may have inadvertently nurtured a strain of bacteria that will not be wonderful in food. This doesn’t happen very often though, so don’t let the possibility dissuade you from this adventure.
Have any of your guys ever tried this? Any words of advice? I know there are some bakers out there.

I'll keep you posted on my further adventures in bread baking.

13 November 2010

Autumn re-runs: Making your own pie crusts is as easy as, well, pie.

This post appeared originally on 25 November 2009. I baked an apple pie on Monday and it reminded me of this scolding post from a year ago. Cooking from scratch is a passion of mine and it seems like a better idea with each passing year.

It's Thanksgiving tomorrow and in keeping with my one man crusade against convenience foods, I am dipping into my time-tested recipe box. Actually, I don't have a recipe box. I have a file in my computer that's called "recipe box" though.

I am a pie man, through and through. Few things give me the pleasure of cranking out pies in anticipation of major holidays. Thanksgiving is my day to shine thank you very much and nothing says Thanksgiving to me like a real pie or pies as the case may be. And by real I mean made from scratch.

I am a self-taught baker. My mother was a skilled cook and my grandmother too. But kitchens were woman turf and though I watched them bake on holidays I wasn't allowed anywhere near the action. It wasn't until I got out on my own that I realized that I not only like to bake, I'm actually pretty good at it.

I know, I know, I hear it all the time; "We're too busy nowadays to bake from scratch." Well, I'll be the first one to tell you that that's a damn lie. I have a schedule that would kill a lesser man and somehow I manage to cook dinner for myself every night and turn out a hell of a spread of baked goods on holidays. Nobody's too busy, but people have different priorities. Having different priorities is fine, just own that. Telling yourself that you're too busy is what makes you neurotic.

I have a real problem with convenience foods. I don't care that they're not organic or that they're mass produced. What bothers me about them is that they're tasteless. It bothers me too that I can't tell what's in something that's prepackaged. Scratch baking keeps me in control of what I put in my mouth and it also makes me expend some effort before I get a reward. Self-discipline never sleeps kids.

So here's my recipe for pie crust, the first step toward a blue-ribbon apple pie like mine. This recipe's also perfect for the bottom crust of a tartine, but that's a topic for another day. Making pie crusts is not hard, despite what everybody says. All it requires is that you pay attention. Try this, just once, and you will never buy another convenience food for the rest of your life.

2-1/2 cups of all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon of sugar
1 cup of cold Crisco
1/2 cup of ice water

Put everything, including the bowl,  in the refrigerator for an hour before you start. Then mix the flour, salt and sugar together in the now-chilled bowl. Cut the chilled Crisco into small pieces and work it into the dry mix with a fork. When the Crisco and the dry mixture are blended, it will have the consistency of coarse meal.

Add the cold water in small drips and drabs and work the dough after every addition of water. After you have a quarter cup of the water worked in, slow down and start to test the dough after each time you add more water. Test the dough by squeezing a pinch between your fingers. If it's crumbly, then add more water. When it holds its shape and approaches the consistency of Play-Doh, stop adding water. Work the dough into a ball with your hands and wrap it in plastic wrap. Then put it back in the refrigerator. After an hour or so, cut the ball into two halves. The amount above will yield more than enough dough for a two crust pie.

Happy Thanksgiving!

01 November 2010

Join me for four Social Media seminars that start this week

image via

Beginning this week, I am joining forces with CEA Marketing in Clearwater to host a series of social media seminars. These seminars are geared specifically to small and mid-size businesses and offer four, separate classes covering the various aspects of how these businesses can get started and be successful from the start. Join me in presenting these seminars is CEA Marketing's Kelly Bosetti.

The first seminar is this Friday, 5 November and it runs from 8am to 5pm. The first seminar starts with an introduction to social media in general and then goes on to explore and discuss Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare.

The second seminar will be Friday, 19 November and it runs from 8am to 5pm. The second seminar in our series will cover LinkedIn, YouTube, Blogs, Flickr and Groupon.

The first two seminars make up our introduction to social media curriculum.

The second two classes are our intermediate and advanced social media curriculum. That starts with out thrid seminar. The third seminar will be held Friday, 3 December and it will run from 8am to 5pm. The third seminar discusses advanced strategies, generating a profit and building a fan base.

The fourth and final seminar will take place Friday, 10 December and it too runs from 8am to 5pm. The fourth seminar will discuss strategies to track results and further engage your audience.

Each seminar costs $150 but there are price breaks as follows.

The first seminar costs $150 and if you register for the first two the combined total is $250. That covers the entire introductory curriculum.

The third seminar costs $150 and if you register for seminars three and four at the same time, their combined cost is $250. That covers the intermediate and advanced curricula.

If you want to register for the entire series, that costs $400 and represents a $200 savings over registering for the four seminars separately.

You can find more information and registration forms on our seminar splash page here.

If you're in the greater Tampa area and you're wondering how to get in on the social media revolution, here's your chance to learn about it from two seasoned pros. This is hands-on, practical training and participants are urged to bring a wireless-enabled laptop so we can started being social during the class itself.

30 October 2010

Autumnal re-runs: How to clean a grout joint.

Let's get practical, practical. I wanna get practi-cal. Let's get into practical, practical... OK apologies to Olivia Newton-John. This post ran originally on 13 April 2009. Cleaning white grout joints is never fun but this trick may work. Along the way I thought it would be a good idea to lay some household chemistry on everybody. There's never a bad time for a little chemistry lesson, you know?

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 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.

08 October 2010

Let's have a pizza party

I've been on a pizza kick lately. Make that, I've been on a real pizza kick lately. Pizza in Rome has nothing in common with that garbage available for delivery except perhaps the similar-sounding names. Roman pizza hunts me, it does. So I've spent the better part of the last year mastering the manly art of pizza making and I can honestly say that I make a mean pizza. While hardly as good as the stuff in Rome, it's a thousand times better than anything that comes out of a box and best of all, I know what's in it.

The key to successful pizza making is practice of course, but you need cold ingredients when you make the dough and the a really hot oven when you bake your pizzas. It's all but impossible to bake pizzas at home without a pizza stone, so go get one before you try this. No two ovens are the same and so you're going to have to play with the baking time and temperature until you find the right settings. I have a crappy oven so I bake mine in two stages.

Baking bread and bread doughs is fun and there's something about it that appeals to me on a very primal level. I like to make things with my hands and the idea of making food with my hands has an appeal to me I just can't describe. I bake the old-fashioned way, no power tools. If you use a mixer or heaven forbid, a bread maker, I don't want to know about it. Baking bread is actually very easy. There are usually four or five ingredients and the yeast does most of the work. It is not a fast process, but easy access to fast foods is why westerners are so fat.

I got started with my pizza dough recipe on a website called 101 Cookbooks. The ingredients are about the only thing my method has with theirs at this point though. This is a great way to start though. Recipes are just a starting point, true mastery comes when you fly under your own steam.

  • 4 1/2 cups bread flour, chilled 
  • 1 3/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon instant yeast 
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 3/4 cups water, ice cold
  • Additional flour for dusting and additional olive oil for finished dough
  1. Stir together the flour, salt, and instant yeast in a 4-quart bowl. With a large metal spoon, stir in the oil and the cold water until the flour is all absorbed. Repeatedly dip one of your hands into cold water and use it, much like a dough hook, to work the dough vigorously into a smooth mass while rotating the bowl in a circular motion with the other hand. Reverse the circular motion a few times to develop the gluten further. Do this for 5 to 7 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and the ingredients are evenly distributed. The dough should clear the sides of the bowl but stick to the bottom of the bowl. If the dough is too wet and doesn't come off the sides of the bowl, sprinkle in some more flour just until it clears the sides. If it clears the bottom of the bowl, dribble in a tea- spoon or two of cold water. The finished dough will be springy, elastic, and sticky, not just tacky, and still be cooler than room temperature.
  2. Turn the dough onto a floured table top and form into an even ball. Add around a tablespoon of olive oil to the now-empty bowl. Put dough ball back into the bowl and roll it in the oil until it's evenly coated in oil. Cover with a damp kitchen towel and let rest in the fridge overnight.
  3. The next morning, set the covered bowl on the counter and let the dough warm up and rise. When it nearly doubles in size, it's done rising.
  4. Punch the dough down to remove the air and turn it out onto a floured table top. Roll it back into an even ball and then form the ball into a log about a foot long.
  5. Take a dough scraper and cut the log into six, even slices. Oil your hands and roll each slice into a ball.
  6. Place each ball into a small, zip lock bag and toss in the freezer.

It's pizza time!

  1. When you're ready to make a pizza, take a frozen dough ball and put it into a glass bowl then cover it with a damp kitchen towel. Let the dough defrost in the refrigerator. It will take two hours or so to defrost. Once it's defrosted, set the bowl on the counter and bring it to room temperature.
  2. While that dough's assuming room temperature, set a pizza stone on the lower rack and pre-heat your oven to 450 degrees and assemble your toppings.
  3. When the oven's to temperature, lightly flour the counter and your hands and make a pizza from the dough. Start with a ball and flatten it. Pizza dough is very elastic but you can poke a hole in it if you're not careful. My pizzas are rarely perfect circles but you'll get better at this the more often you do it. By the time you're done forming your pizza, it should be between nine and 12 inches in diameter.
  4. Take the hot pizza stone out of the oven and set on a rack. Be really careful with that stone. Place your pizza on the stone directly. Brush with oil or pesto and bake for five minutes.
  5. After five minutes, remove the pizza stone and set it back on the rack. Add the rest of your toppings now. Go easy on them. A good pizza has no more than three toppings and they should be added sparingly.
  6. Return the pizza and the pizza stone to the oven for an additonal four minutes.
  7. Remove from the oven, set the stone on a rack and let sit for two to three minutes.
  8. Slice it up and pretend you're in old Napoli.

02 October 2010

Early autumn re-runs: How to fold a fitted sheet

This post appeared originally on 19 January 2009. If having standards is a crime then I'm guilty.

I have occasional occasion to house and dog sit for an unnamed friend. This unnamed friend is someone I love like a brother and my life would be far less rich than it is without him in it. That said, he's not the most gifted housekeeper I've ever met and it's not an unusual thing for me to spit shine his house while he's out of town. I'm not the uptight, retentive person this is sounding like, really. But there are certain standards that until I met this unnamed friend, I assumed every one learned to maintain from childhood on.

As I said before, I'm not uptight and retentive, but there are limits to how much slovenliness I'll chalk up to a quirky personality even when I love the quirky personality like a brother. Well, the last time I was over there I opened his hall closet and saw before me a collection of wadded up sheets and pillow cases that make me shake my head even now. Someone claims no one ever told him how to fold a fitted sheet and so he just wads them into a ball and shoves them into a linen closet until he needs one. Appalling. Appalling! Am I the only one out there who had a grandmother around to impart these kinds of life skills? I mean, what kind of an adult can't fold a fitted sheet?

Without asking for a show of hands I know that there are far more unable-to-fold-a-fitted-sheet people out there than I want to know about. So in the spirit of public mindedness, I found a public service video that explains in simple, approachable terms, how to fold a fitted sheet. The video even stars a middle-aged man who's wearing a wedding ring, so that way no one's masculinity need be bruised in learning this vital life skill. So ladies and gentlemen, I now give you How To Fold a Fitted Sheet. Lights down please.

19 September 2010

Late-summer rerun: From the land of the shoo-fly

This post ran originally on October 3rd, 2008. In an effort to reclaim some part of my life, I'm dipping into my archives on weekends for the time being.

I grew up in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania; and no, I'm not Amish. I've been away from those gently rolling hills for a long time but Thanksgiving makes me nostalgic. I may not be Amish, but it doesn't take an Amishman to appreciate pretty countryside and an urge to make things by hand.

Arguably, Lancaster County's signature dish is a little something called shoo-fly pie. Shoo-fly pie is one of those things that everybody's heard of but never encountered first hand. Shoo-fly pie is one of my favorite things to bake and it can't be the holidays in my house without it.

The first time I ever made one for a party, everyone thought it was so exotic and cosmopolitan. That is funny on so many levels at one time I can't stand it. Anyhow, here's my recipe for cosmopolitan and exotic shoo-fly pie.

Pie dough for a nine-inch pie
1 cup of all-purpose flour
2/3 cup of firmly packed, dark brown sugar
5 tablespoons of unsalted butter (softened)
1 cup light molasses
1 large egg
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup boiling water

Roll out pie dough and turn into a nine-inch pie plate. Trim and flute the edges. In a mixing bowl, combine flour, brown sugar and softened butter. Mash with a fork until it reaches a consistent, crumbly consistency. In a separate bowl, beat together the molasses, egg and baking soda with a large spoon until blended. Stir in the boiling water and mix thoroughly (this will begin to foam). Stir half the crumb mixture into the molasses mixture and pour into the crust. Sprinkle the remaining crumb mixture evenly over the top. Bake a 400 degrees, on the center rack, for 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350 degrees and bake until the pie filling has puffed around the sides and is firm in the center, about 20 to 30 minutes more. Cool on a rack.

16 August 2010

Back to basics: how to measure a kitchen

Every once in a while it hits me that I'm straying too far from my niche. I am after all, a kitchen and bath designer. AS much as I enjoy my regular forays far and wide; the name of this blog after all is Kitchen and Residential Design.

I get asked questions constantly about how to start a renovation project. Everybody it seems, has an opinion about what they should look like when they're done, but few people know where to start.

How do you get from something that looks like this,

photo via Luxurbist

to something that looks like this?

photo via Medallion Cabinetry

Well, everything starts with a good set of measurements.

Measuring a kitchen is a bit more complicated that figuring out the square feet of a room or even the length of the walls. Because nearly everything that goes into a kitchen is built in, accurate measurements are vital, and know how to measure things like windows, doorways and plumbing stacks is very important.

While any professional you meet with with measure your room him or herself, there's nothing stopping you from measuring everything now so you can start planning even before you call in pros.

AK Renovations is an Atlanta design and build firm that was started in 1995 by Ed Choflin and Ed's somebody I've come to know through Twitter. Ed and the entire team at AK Renovations are consummate professionals and highly skilled tradespeople. They do great work in Atlanta and they put together a terrific website. It's chock full of great information and advice and about a week ago, they published one of the best How To Measure Your own Kitchen Guides I've ever seen.

You can download AK Renovations' .pdfs here and I encourage you to go to the site for the download if you're going to attempt this on your own. The resolution as .pdfs is far better than the reduced version of them here.

AK Renovations' guide will take you through the whole process is a systematic and painless way. In less than an hour you'll know exactly how big your kitchen is and you'll know exactly where the windows and other obstacles are.

See? Going back to basics isn't so hard. Many, many thanks to the gang at AK Renovations.

09 August 2010

How realistic is this $1527 kitchen remodel?

The yahoos at Apartment Therapy were crowing last week about a $1527 kitchen remodel that had been featured on the This Old House website.

Here's the before:

And here's the after:

I have to say that's quite a transformation. And talk about a bargain.

But not so fast. On the last page of the seven page story on This Old House's site, there's a cost breakdown and it reads like this:

Tore out the old cabinets, salvaging the bases. $0
Called in a favor for help upgrading electrical outlets. $0
Replaced the ceiling fan and added task lighting. $300
Patched the walls and ceiling with new drywall. $207
Built six pine cabinet boxes; added medium-density fiberboard doors and drawers to all the cabinets. $200
Resurfaced the laminate counter. $150
Used donated tiles for a new backsplash. $0
Upgraded to new brushed nickel hardware. $170
Built custom window arches and added crown molding. $100
Added a range hood. $140
Replaced the faucet. $110
Brightened the space with 2 gallons of primer and 4 gallons of paint. $150
Total: $1,527
They didn't pay for an electrician to rewire for new lights and a range hood. There's no mention of whether or not the hood vents to the outside or just recirculates. There's also no value assigned to the labor they put in. Granted, they still did everything on a shoestring, but this was not a weekend project and the home owners clearly had some building skills. Obviously too they didn't replace the appliances or the floor.

So despite the fact that they did do a terrific job, is the $1527 price tag being bandied about even close to an accurate accounting? Is this story and isolated incident or can people realistically expect to recreate what they'd done here for the under $2,000 being thrown around?

Is this $1527 renovation fact or fantasy? What do you think?

23 July 2010

Summer rerun: From the land of the shoo-fly

This post ran originally on 29 November 2008.

I was born in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania; and no, I'm not Amish. I've been away from those gently rolling hills for a long time but Thanksgiving makes me nostalgic. I may not be Amish, but it doesn't take an Amishman to appreciate pretty countryside and an urge to make things by hand.

Arguably, Lancaster County's signature dish is a little something called shoo-fly pie. Shoo-fly pie is one of those things that everybody's heard of but never encountered first hand. Shoo-fly pie is one of my favorite things to bake and it can't be the holidays in my house without it.

The first time I ever made one for a party, everyone thought it was so exotic and cosmopolitan. That is funny on so many levels at one time I can't stand it. Anyhow, here's my recipe for cosmopolitan and exotic shoo-fly pie.

Pie dough for a nine-inch pie
1 cup of all-purpose flour
2/3 cup of firmly packed, dark brown sugar
5 tablespoons of unsalted butter (softened)
1 cup light molasses
1 large egg
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup boiling water

Roll out pie dough and turn into a nine-inch pie plate. Trim and flute the edges. In a mixing bowl, combine flour, brown sugar and softened butter. Mash with a fork until it reaches a consistent, crumbly consistency. In a separate bowl, beat together the molasses, egg and baking soda with a large spoon until blended. Stir in the boiling water and mix thoroughly (this will begin to foam). Stir half the crumb mixture into the molasses mixture and pour into the crust. Sprinkle the remaining crumb mixture evenly over the top. Bake a 400 degrees, on the center rack, for 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350 degrees and bake until the pie filling has puffed around the sides and is firm in the center, about 20 to 30 minutes more. Cool on a rack.

05 June 2010

A recipe hack that doesn't work and a smart one that does

Our pals at Apartment Therapy figured out that you can't make whipped cream in a French press this week. Duh.

In yet another sterling example of why a working knowledge of chemistry will set you free, had the brave experimenter paid attention he or she would have known that whipped cream is milk fat mixed with air. Whipped cream needs to have at least 80% of its volume made up of air and there's no way something that works as a plunger can get that much air into a liquid. The need for air thing is the reason you can't make whipped cream in a blender either.

Short cuts abound but I find the best way to make whipped cream is to make it the way my grandmother did, with a bowl and a wire whisk. Making whipped cream by hand can be quite a work out but I find that when I have to work at something like this, I am more in touch with what I'm eating and I also eat less of something when I know how much labor went into it.

Take a glass or stainless steel mixing bowl and a wire whisk and put them in the freezer for about an hour. Once they're chilled, take a cup of cold, heavy cream and a tablespoon or two of powdered sugar and add them to the bowl.

Put the bowl in the crook of your arm and commence to whisking. You can also set the bowl down on a table or counter but I find I have more control if I hold the bowl against myself with my left arm.

Whisk for about ten minutes. Nothing will happen for about the first half of that time but the mixture will slowly thicken. About 9/10ths of the way through the cream and air reach critical mass and the mixture stiffens significantly. You're at the soft peak phase. Soft peak is what you want if you're going to add your whipped cream to another recipe.

This is what "soft peak" whipped cream looks like. Once you're at this stage
 you have about another minute to go. Photos from Pastry Pal.

If you're making a dessert topping keep going for about another minute and your whipped cream will reach the consistency of the whipped cream that comes out of a can of Redi-Whip. Stop immediately.

If you keep whisking, the fat globules in the whipped cream will begin to stick together instead of the air bubbles you just worked into the mix. When that happens, the mixture separates into butter and butter milk. That in itself is pretty cool but probably not what you're after.

Congratulations, you just made whipped cream.

You want a low-fat version of this? Eat a teaspoon of it instead of a quart.

26 April 2010

Wood Flooring: help an author out

I received an e-mail from Charlie Peterson this morning. Charlie's the author of Wood Flooring: A Complete Guide to Layout, Installation & Finishing from Taunton Press. He thanked me for reviewing his book and then he went on to tell me that the 330 pages of the book as it stands was whittled down from the 5200 pages he'd written originally. That's quite an editing job and I'm sure a lot of his ideas, tips and pointers were left on the cutting room floor.

Charlie asked me if I thought there were any way to make his book more useful. I'm flattered to asked that by someone of his stature and skill and even though most of you haven't read his book, I'm going to turn around redirect his question to you guys. In more general terms of course.

He'll see this post and so now let's play a game of focus group. If you're reading this blog that means you're interested in home design or construction in some capacity. As such, you're a target for books like Charlie's wood floor guide.

So when you're poking around in a bookstore, what do you look for in a design, architecture or construction book? Is it more important to be a coffee table book? You know, one brimming with beautiful photos of what's possible and little else?

Or do you look for something more practical and text heavy?

Is it possible to be both? Is it worth it to try to be both?

How do you like you how-to information? Is it more important to inspire or is it better to instruct?

In the meantime, I'm still reeling from the floor in the photo above. I cannot believe that it's a wood floor that he made. That's some skill.

Wood Flooring: A Complete Guide to Layout, Installation & Finishing