13 November 2014

Antiques belong in the kitchen too!

Modern appliances, the latest recipe, seasonal spices… staying current is important when it comes to cuisine and your cooking space. And in 2014, your kitchen is often a place that contains just as much programming and electronics as your car or TV room.  But let’s not forget the comfort and class of tradition - the sturdy, burgeoning design of homewares past, or your love for your great grandmother’s recipes. Incorporating antiques into your kitchen is an easy and effective way to bring time-honored heart and design to your favorite room. The internet boasts opportunities for buying timeless antiques at great value, so here are a few ideas to help get your wheels spinning:

Use antique vases as storage
While vases are traditionally regarded as flower holders, they have countless other uses if you put your mind to it. You can give a new life to a beautiful antique vase by using it to store your favorite utensils and kitchen gadgets. It’s a convenient, unique way to show off your love for old treasures.

Accent with antique furniture
Accenting with antique and/or mismatching chairs and table sets can benefit the overall ambience of your kitchen. Incorporating different antique chairs or accenting a corner with an old desk or cabinet for a work space gives off a homey, well-rounded feel. This works especially well in rustic-themed kitchens, but can also be complementary to more bold, modern designs.

Install antique fixtures for a dramatic effect
Finding the perfect antique can do wonders for the lighting and overall mood in your kitchen. While there are many great options for antique lighting online as is, sometimes old pieces need a bit of love and refurbishment. Here are some tips for modifying lighting and fixtures on your own.

Dine with antique dishes and ceramics
Mismatched dish sets offer an eccentric, aesthetic way to dine, and antique ceramics are a great window into the cultural values and delicacies of the past. Search for charming antique dishware online, or refurbish some old family heirlooms for a unique and personalized dining collection.

03 November 2014

Forget everything you think you know about drop ceilings

When I was doing a lot more retail design than I do these days I loved to work on older homes. There was always something about having to work within the confines of an existing structure that made me think more creatively. Blank slates are easy, but resolving a problem in an older home requires real effort. It's important to honor the structure you're working with and the challenge is always to add function without introducing any extraneous elements. Not breaking the bank is usually in order too.

My older home clients used to reach out to me initially because something had happened that they just couldn't live with.

In a plaster and lath home, it was usually the aging plaster itself or water added to aging plaster that prompted the decision to do something.

However, a water problem like in the office photo above can easily turn into a budget buster. Fixing the underlying problem is step one obviously, but repairing the original ceiling and walls is where the meter really starts running.

For all practical matters, nobody builds plaster and lath ceilings and walls anymore. and it's very difficult to partially rebuild a damaged old wall using drywall. Typically, all of the plaster comes out and gets replaced with drywall. By the time you're at that point, you're over budget and still have a room to finish.

Oh the joy of owning an old home.

There are options you know and they're not the drop ceilings you remember from school and work.

Honestly, if I were in the position where the damaged office shown above were mine, I'd be very inclined to replace all of that damage with something like this.

Yes, that's an Armstrong drop ceiling. It's the Easy Elegance Coffer and you can read about it here. 

Of course you'd repair the damage in the original room but when you're up against a wall (no pun intended) when it comes to a budget, a solution like a new drop ceiling from Armstrong may be the your best option. I know that's what I'd do.

In the meantime, take a look at Armstrong's inspiration gallery. You'll be amazed at the planks, the panels, the drops and the metals they have available. I know I was!

02 November 2014

Looking for color advice? Then don't buy this book.

I've been a blogger for over seven years and despite my irregular posting schedule anymore, I get inundated by press releases daily. I look them over of course and a lot of them are interesting.

However, every once in a while one comes through my in bin that really sticks in my craw. Such was the case a couple of days ago when a release showed up that was hawking a new book on the "psychology" of color and how to use said psychology to pick colors for your home.

The press release even went so far as to lead with the tease, "Do you wish you knew the secrets to selecting the best paint for your house like the pros do?" Trust me, any pro who relies on the kind of goobledygook advanced by this book needs to lose his or her license.

Jeanette Chasworth, who calls herself  "the Color Whisperer," managed to cram so much snake oil into a single page release that it boggles my mind. Among her claims are these gems: "It tells you which colors create a mood and how to use that to your advantage to increase your health, lose weight, make your food taste better, and increase energy."

Honestly? The right color walls in my kitchen will help me lose weight? It'll increase my health? It'll make my food taste better?

Let's stop here for a minute and think about this. By what mechanism will I lose weight with the right wall color? Will it burn more calories than I take in? Will it exercise for me?

Will the right wall color season my food just so or thicken my sauces automatically?

And what on earth does a promise to "increase" my health even mean?

There is such a thing as color psychology, let me say that. And there's a place for actual psychology in interior design. However, none of that is absolute.

It's commonly held and never questioned that the color red improves your appetite. Well, what if you were traumatized by the movie "The Shining?" What if "red room" reminds you of "redrum" and you're immediately haunted by images of a deranged Jack Nicholson breaking down your door with an ax? Odds are, the color red is going to put you off the feed.

When I lived in Florida I had a yellow kitchen and I loved it. I loved it because my grandmother Stewart had a yellow kitchen and it reminded me of her every time I walked into the room. My neighbor Kevin hated it and decreed that he was mortified by the very idea of a yellow kitchen. Maybe Kevin was beaten senseless with a car aerial in a yellow room when he was a kid. Whatever the case, it was clear that he had a negative association between kitchen and yellow. On the other hand, I had a positive one.

That's color psychology in a nutshell. Blanket prescriptions of what colors make all people feel or respond in a specific way are nonsense.

The color selection process begins with "what colors do you like?" and it ends with "which of those colors will work in this space?" That, Madame Color Whisperer, is the "secret" to how pros select colors.

This books is hardly the first one to make such nonsensical claims of course. Apparently, making up advice like this is a good way to make a buck but it's a load of crap.

I would love to live in a world where people who proffer such magical advice are held accountable for it. What recourse do I have if I take her advice and fail to lose weight? What if my food tastes the same? What if my health doesn't increase, what ever the hell that means?

If you want to know for real how professionals select colors, just hire one. Honestly, just hire one.

01 November 2014

Butcher block surfaces from ButcherBlockCo.com

When I was a kid, we used to buy our meat from a butcher. As in a real, live butcher who worked in an actual butcher shop. This was not by any means a charcuterie and concepts like grass fed and free range weren't even imagined yet. What it was an honest-to-goodness butcher shop and I remember it smelling like a combination of blood and the heavy paper everything came wrapped in.

I was fascinated by the place and what fascinated me most was the table-sized butcher block where just about everything was cut. It looked a lot like this one.

Buy this table here!

Those days are gone of course --killed off by a combination of changing consumer tastes and proliferation of grocery stores.

Though the traditional butcher shop may be well on its way to extinction,  those butcher block tables are still made by the John Boos Company and here's one they call the AB.

Here's the AA

I took those images from the ButcherBlockCo.com's website. ButcherBlockCo.com is a small firm in Phoenix that specializes in butcher block tables and counters from the John Boos Company. John Boos has been making wood tops and counters since 1887 and they are the gold standard of what a butcher block surface ought to be.

I've always known the reputation of John Boos but until recently, ButcherBlockCo.com was unknown to me. That changed with the arrival of this.

That is a scale replica of a John Boos AA and in my photo it's being used as intended. Namely, as a cheeseboard. My Mini Boos Butcher Block came with a rosewood handled cheese hatchet by Boska. Needless to say, I love this thing. It works as advertised, people can't look at it and not comment and it reminds me of that butcher shop a long time ago. That's what we call a win.

But ButcherBlockCo.com is more than just a purveyor of novelty cheese boards. They sell, direct to consumers, the full range of John Boos products and they do something else I've never seen offered on a website before. You can price and order your own John Boos butcher block counters. Seriously, there's a calculator built into the website. Not only that, they offer free shipping on any order over $75.

So if you're in the market for butcher block counters, tables, islands, cutting boards, kitchen carts, work tables or anything else the John Boos Company makes, look no further. ButcherBlockCo.com has you covered. Check out their website, find them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter too.

08 October 2014

Seven must-haves for a new home

Building a new home can be both exciting and stressful, especially when it comes to choosing the house plans and envisaging your life in the abode once it has been built. Many people get swept away in the thrill of finalizing their plans, but perhaps don’t take as long considering the layout and inclusions as they should. In order to minimize any post-construction regrets, it’s important that you factor in as many relevant details as you can before the building work starts.

From weighing up the amount of storage space and natural lighting, to considering electrical outlets and the placement of rooms, there is much to sort out. To help bring you many years of blissful home life, read on for seven elements you’ll want your house design to factor in.

Low-Maintenance Fixtures, Fittings and Surfaces

When designing a house that you’re planning on living in for many years to come, it’s always a good idea to keep the choice of fixtures, fittings, and surfaces in mind. For example, low-maintenance materials such as granite, quartz and laminate can be ideal for kitchen and bathroom bench-tops. Similarly, polished concrete floors can be easy to look after over the years, while stainless steel fixtures and fittings are a breeze to polish up as time goes by.

Placement of Rooms or Flexible Floor Plans

It’s always a good idea to think carefully about the placement of rooms in your home’s layout. For example, do you need a small powder room near the garage or back door to allow for clean ups after working on cars or in the garden? Or perhaps you need to ensure that the kitchen is placed close to the garage so that there’s no issue of lugging groceries too far? It’s also wise to choose flexible floor plans and make sure your house plans fit your needs. Having rooms or spaces in the home that can adapt easily to the changing needs of the family over time is very helpful.

Storage Space

In this day and age pretty much every family has accumulated a lot of stuff. Whether it’s a large collection of clothes, sporting equipment, books, DVDs or gadgets, most people never quite factor in enough storage space for all their belongings when designing a house. In the planning stages, make sure you include ample storage that will suit your needs both today and in the future if your family is likely to expand.

Look for areas of wasted space where you can create a small utility closet or storage nook (such as under flights of stairs, between bedrooms, or even in vaulted ceilings). Look to add in as much accessible storage space as possible, such as cabinets and shelving at heights that can be reached without ladders.

Provisions for Pets or Elderly Family Members

If you’re customizing your home to suit your family, make sure you think about the elderly members, as well as the four-legged ones.

If you currently have, or will in the future, less mobile family members living with you, have a very good think about sticking to a single-level home that doesn’t have any stairs.

Similarly, more and more people are factoring their pets in when designing a home these days. Homeowners can look at installing a dog-bathing facility in the laundry, or specially-designed cabinets for pet food in the kitchen or garage.

Heating and Cooling

Installing the right kind of heating and cooling systems during the build of a home is always going to be much cheaper than adding them in after, so don’t forget to consider your family’s needs in this area.

For starters, make sure your new home has properly-insulated walls to help keep the abode cool in summer and warm in winter, without a lot of extra need for power-draining appliances. As well, carefully consider whether you’re likely to want or need underfloor heating in the future, as it is one of the most expensive items to retrofit later on.

Electrical Outlets

Another thing that many people forget to include enough of in their home design is electrical outlets. As early as you can, think about each room inside your house, as well as the outside spaces, and consider exactly how many power outlets you might need, as well as where best to locate them.

Consider adding plugs on the kitchen island for phone chargers, under windows for Christmas tree lights, and in the bathroom and laundry for appliances such as hairdryers, shavers and dust busters.

Number of Windows and Skylights

Again, many people forget to factor in enough windows or skylights when designing their home. Natural light is one of the most sought-after elements in a house, so carefully consider the aspect and layout of each room in your plans to make sure you don’t end up with a residence that feels dank and dark, no matter the time of year.