06 March 2014

Four ideas for making your kitchen into a more social space

Isn't it strange how a “great social space” is important to us when we move into a house, but then never seem to act on it to make it happen? It can be difficult to find the time for home improvements when there are so many other aspects of your life that are full on, but it can end up being worth it in the long run if you take the plunge.

Spring time provides a great inspiration for many people to get these jobs done for once and for all, so if you are also up for the challenge you will want to read the following ideas for making your kitchen into a more social space. Hopefully by the summer you will be able to invite your nearest and dearest over for barbecues, a jug of Pimms, and other fun in the sun...

Reorganise your kitchen layout

If you are adamant that you want to completely change your kitchen as it currently stands, you may want to look into reworking the layout. There are a number of possible benefits for this, the most significant being that you can create more areas to relax in. Whether this is a kitchen island to lean on, or a breakfast bar with some high stools, you could create something pretty special.

Think of going open plan

Of course, you may not feel that your space is not big enough for your ambitious plans. Luckily you may have a couple of options when it comes to looking for a solution. The first is to knock through to your living room or dining area to create an open plan kitchen that becomes part of the rest of the house. This means you can host guests without disappearing for significant chunks of time. The other option is to get a ground floor extension, if you have the space, permission and budget.

Create a comfortable seating area

Regardless of whether or not you choose to increase the footprint of your kitchen, you can still find ways of creating a seating area for your family, friends and other guests. It might be a good idea to have a look in the shops to see what is currently on offer; you might find that you want to replace your existing table and chairs for a set that is more ergonomic and comfortable over the course of an evening.

Include your outdoor space

If your kitchen leads to your garden, you might want to create a terrace or patio area right outside the back door. Have a look at Vevo bifold doors if you want an easy way for people to come in and out without too much congestion - they’re also pretty handy for bringing lots of natural light into the home. It could also be worth thinking about getting a decking area installed if you are a fan of barbecues and hot tubs; this could be the perfect place for relaxing during the warmer months, working in tandem with your kitchen.

25 January 2014

The silence of the lamps

Pardon the bad pun but if you keep reading it'll make sense.

Four years ago, I wrote a blog post about an Italian furniture studio I'd found on Twitter called CLAB4design. CLAB's still plugging away in Breschia and my now-friend Umberto Dattola's still at the helm and he's still creating beautiful work.

Umberto and I have kept in touch over the years and recently, he sent me some photos of his new collection of floor lamps.

In Italian, they're called Lampada Silente. That's Silent Lamp in English. In any language, they're simple, sculptural and absolutely beautiful.

He carves each of these lamps by himself, by hand.

The shades are made from thin sheets of poplar.

And the bases are made from linden.

The lamps are finished with an oil finish and the wood's left its natural color.

Each lamp is 190cm tall and can hold a standard lightbulb.

Silence Lamps are readily available in the EU and you can find out more information about EU sales on Umberto's website. Unfortunately, North Americans, Australians and the rest of the world are out of luck since CLAB4design doesn't have a distributor outside of the EU.

That wouldn't take much to remedy however. If you're interested in carrying the Silence Lamp or any of Umberto's other offerings, let me know and I'll put you in touch with him.

04 December 2013

Old techniques, new furniture

My friend Patrick Shilling is a master woodworker in Bethnal Green, London. Over the years he's carved out a niche for himself as a creator of exquisite, one of a kind interiors. Here are some examples of his work.

Never one to sit still, Patricks's been turning his hand to fine furniture and over the years has perfected a technique that uses an adze and a saw on English oak. The texture carved onto these pieces is done entirely by hand and that's something that's utterly unique in the world.

The finishes he's developed for this line mimic the appearance of stone, leather and charred timber but the attention to detail he employs never lets you lose sight of the fact that his pieces are made entirely of oak.

His passion for and love of his craft shine through this entire collection and I invite you to take a look through the gallery on his website. Whether it's a wardrobe, a table, a room divider, a larder or any of the pieces in this collection, all of it's breathtaking.

If you're interested in Patrick's work, you can contact him through his website. He's also looking for dealers in the UK, the EU, The US and anywhere else in the world you might be. So if furniture's your thing, drop him a line.

It's an easy cliche to fall back on the idea that no one makes high quality furniture by hand anymore and people like Patrick Shilling are living proof that the cliche's simply not true.

03 December 2013

This beautiful table is for sale

This is what I call craftsmanship.

That joinery is in the center of a table designed and built by my friend Kevin Fitzpatrick. Kevin's a master furniture maker by any measure and I'm regularly awed by the work that he does. However, this table stands out. It's also for sale.

This table's made from reclaimed barn timbers and floor boards. The wood was milled 200 years ago from old-growth Pennsylvania white pine. All of the old growth forest in this part of Pennsylvania is gone now and the last of it was cut down at around the time the boards used in this table were milled.

As a more or less rural Pennsylvanian now, I see old barns, mills and tobacco sheds so regularly it's easy not to notice them. I make it a point to keep an eye out for them though, and they tend to figure into my my photography when I'm documenting farm life and local agriculture.

Many of these old structures are still in use although some of them get torn down from time to time to make room for more modern agricultural operations. That's a somewhat sad turn of events, however none of the stone or timber used in those old buildings goes to waste. Lumber reclaimers stand in line to buy up whole barns that are slated for demolition.

That ancient wood gets reused as flooring, siding and in the case of my friend Kevin's table, furniture.

When Kevin built this table, he took an old barn's structural timbers and used them as the legs and supports. The table top is made from the floor boards of the same barn.

Though the finished surfaces have kept the rustic appearance of barnwood, the table's engineering is beyond precise. Through a combination of complex joinery and pegs, there are no nails, screws or glue holding the table together. It's all beautiful wood on wood locked in a precision embrace.

The top of the table is made from three floorboards and there's a quarter inch gap between each board. The rough hewn edges made a close fit impossible. Further, the gaps allowed Kevin to showcase the wear patterns and natural distressing already present in the wood. All told, the table top measures 60 inches wide by 35-1/2 inches deep. The table top is an inch and three quarters thick.

The table stands 34 inches tall and the legs are three inches thick. This is a substantial piece of furniture and I can see it used as a display table in a retail setting just as easily as I can imagine it in someone's home.

Kevin's asked me to broker the sale of this piece as a test to gauge what interest there is out there for his kind of wood working. He has other pieces completed and many more in the works. The cost for this table is $2500 plus the cost of shipping, so if you're interested, let me know.

Dealer inquiries are welcome too and I'm offering a designer discount. Tables of this vintage and quality can sell for upwards of $6000 and at $2500, this one won't last very long.

So again, if you're interested let me know. We're open to other offers too so don't let the price tag frighten you off.

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.