29 July 2010

European Kitchen Trends

Appliance Mag

One of the striking trends at the Eurocucina 2010, according to Electrolux Design Director Thomas Johansson, was the use of revealing and concealing design elements, such as slide-open fronts to hide kitchen appliances.

The Milan Furniture Fair is Europe’s largest kitchen and furniture show and is considered to be at the epicentre of interior design.

The Eco-Sense trend was another trend apparent at the 2010 Fair, Johansson said, with a number of manufacturers taking a greener approach by addressing issues like sustainable materials and energy savings.

Authenticity was another important trend, particularly in the use of authentic wood, often combined with stainless steel, quartz, marble, Corian, and laminate. The wood used is either dark or very light, "veined, and valuable," Johansson said. This trend could also be seen in the use of "rough, structured surfaces with authentic beauty."

Johansson noted that glass was widely used on kitchen countertops and fronts, and could be enhanced with etching, satin or silver mirror finishes, and tints. Other hide-away features included the use of strategic ironing centers.

White and colored LED lighting was used widely in the exhibits, often partially visible under shelves or hidden in door fronts.

Johansson said colors were mostly white or off-white, brown/gray, and dark-brown. He also noted some primary color use and "emerging mid-tones like turquoise, dark acid yellow, fuchsia, and violet."

Johansson said kitchen layouts at the Milan event often used a central kitchen island and tall wall units, and the layout allowed the kitchen to fulfill its many roles as the room for cooking, socializing, and entertaining.

Lastly, Johansson witnessed a shift occurring away from "completely minimalistic design to softer aesthetics."

19 July 2010

New Kitchen: $500 Plus Sweat Equity

Boston Globe

For the past 10 years, Duxbury interior designer Linda Merrill lived with an ugly, cluttered kitchen complete with appliances from the early 1980s. “The room was dated and dreary, I was sick of it and embarrassed to have people see it,’’ she says. After struggling with what to do with the kitchen for a while, she decided to update it herself.

“Economically, it’s been a tough time in my industry. I didn’t have the budget to hire people to do the work,’’ said Merrill, who wanted the room to have the feel of a country kitchen with a little bling. “I thought it would be a fun challenge to see how far ingenuity and hard work could get me.’’

She got new appliances on trade from a business relationship, but the rest of the room’s transformation totaled less than $500. Working with friend Robert O’Connell, who has no professional construction experience, Merrill’s kitchen project took five months of Sunday afternoons. So, how did they do it? Here’s the step-by-step process.

1. Redoing the ceiling 
One of the kitchen’s most unappealing features was its 1980s “popcorn’’ textured-stucco ceiling. That was eliminated inexpensively, but required a good bit of sweat equity. “We literally scraped it off by hand, it didn’t cost much except a sore back and a lot of dust,’’ says Merrill. After the ceiling was scraped and washed, two coats of skim coat were applied, and it was sanded, primed, and repainted.

2. Updating the cabinetry

Since buying and installing new custom casework was out of Merrill’s price range, she gave the existing pine cabinets, which were in good shape, a new look. After cleaning, sanding, and de-glossing the cabinets, Merrill painted the cabinets with two Benjamin Moore colors: Essex Green and Black Forest Green as the second coat. She used exterior trim paint, so it would stand up well to wear and tear. Both coats were sanded with a fine steel wool to achieve an aged look. The cabinet interiors were painted a pale shade called Cooking Apple Green by Farrow and Ball.

Merrill was able to reuse all of the original brackets and hinges, but for the door knobs, she wanted to add a little sparkle and lightness to the dark cabinets. Inspired by high-end crystal knobs she spotted in a designer showroom which would have cost her around $700 to outfit all the cabinets, she combed eBay to find a cheaper alternative, which she found for less than $2 a piece.

3. Replicating bead board

Merrill wanted to panel the walls with bead board, but after realizing it wasn’t in the budget, she learned she could achieve a similar look with wallpaper made to emulate the material. “You can tell its not actual bead board if you knock on it, but you can’t tell just by looking at it,’’ says Merrill. The wallpaper cost $22 a roll, and sheathing the entire kitchen, floor to ceiling, took four rolls. To obscure the edge of the wallpaper, she added crown molding around the perimeter of the room.

4. Creating more storage space

To add surface space to the small kitchen, an old door was fashioned into a countertop along a wall. Supported by 2x2’s, wire shelving was installed below. To keep the shelves out of sight, Merrill made a curtain out of burlap — she also fashioned a roman shade for the window over the sink out of the eco-friendly material, which cost $1.99 a yard. For additional storage, an existing pot rack made of plumber’s copper piping was polished and reinstalled with new brackets and a heavy-duty steel chain off a ceiling stud above the new countertop.

5. Using what she had

To brighten the space, Merrill had recessed lights installed. But she left two original features intact: the original white Formica counters, which, she decided that after a good cleaning, worked well with the room’s new aesthetic. The black and white tile flooring, installed when she moved in a decade ago, was also kept.

“While the project took a while, the end result has been very personally satisfying and enjoyable,’’ said Merrill, who recommends doing a huge amount of research before embarking on a renovation like hers. “There are tons of resources out there, look at high-end stuff to get ideas for budget level. Don’t just rely on what they have at the big box stores,’’ she says. “Get inspired by House Beautiful and Martha Stewart, then look for inexpensive alternatives. You will be surprised at how much you can do yourself.’’

14 July 2010

San Francisco: What you can Buy in the Bay Area for $800,000

San Francisco Chronicle

Orinda, $779,000

58 California Ave. Beds: 3 Baths: 2 Square footage: 1,758 School district: Acalanes Union High, Orinda Union Elementary

Situated on a quarter-acre lot in the Claremont subdivision of Orinda, this updated single-story ranch features an eat-in kitchen with an island, wood cabinetry and stainless-steel appliances. The carpeted living room has a fireplace and doors that open to a spacious deck with views of the surrounding trees. There's also a brick patio in the front and a walk-out lower level that leads to the rear yard.

Inner Mission, $799,500

3083 22nd St. Beds: 3 Baths: 2 School district: San Francisco

The lower condo in a three-unit building, this home has a front balcony and energy-efficient windows. It's highlighted by a sleek kitchen that features top of the line kitchen appliances: Fisher & Paykel refrigerator, Grohe fixtures, a Blanco composite double sink, Bosch dishwasher and KitchenAid gas stove. There's also hardwood flooring in most of the public rooms, and the living room is centered by a fireplace. The property offers radiant heating and a landscaped garden with a fountain.

13 July 2010

From Ireland: the Making of a Modern Classic

The Irish Times

Interior designer Ger Smyth lives with her husband, Mike, and children, Simone and Jordi, in this Ranelagh house which they renovated. EMMA CULLINAN reports

When did you move here?

About three years ago. We acquired the house five years ago. It had been empty for four years. The gentleman who owned it had been in a nursing home. He was born here. It was very charming – and had the original wallpaper – but you just couldn’t live in it because the windows had been open for four years and everything was mouldy. Some of the ceilings had come through although we managed to hoist them up and saved them all which was fantastic.

I love period houses and the contemporary look. To get it all in one building was nice for us because we had been looking for years and years for the right period house. We were the underbidders on so many and just kept moving back into new houses.

We always wanted a double-height space and the back of this house allowed us to do that which was great.

Has doing the house up taught you about what clients go through?

It has been really good being at the coalface and to have gone through it myself and been there with the builders and architects.

Who were the architects?

Kelliher Miller. I work with them now. It’s been a really nice relationship. Declan Byrne of Shale construction did the building. I like working with him. It was the first time I had worked with them both and it was good for us all to see we could work as a team.

So you weren’t daunted by what needed to be done?

Being in business you can see the potential very quickly. It was a fantastic journey and was trouble free. The building was listed – we wanted to protect the period features and were not out to destroy the house anyway – so we got a conservation architect to do drawings and a report for the planning application. The conservation architect, Manfredi Anello, was fantastic and got it through planning first time. We had to pay a bit more for him but the reality was that we would have been in rented accommodation for months longer if the planning permission took longer.

How did you decide how to configure the space?

We were living in rented accommodation and used to come here every night during the building work which helped us to make decisions: it’s one thing looking at a plan, another to feel the space. That’s why I suggest that clients bring me in early in the process.

I will always say to a client, “how do you live in your house? Where do you read? What do you do in the evenings?” You don’t just build a house to have a nice interior – it’s to live in.

We wanted a room with no television and we didn’t want rooms that were never used. Both Mike and I work at home and the office in the back doubles up as a guest bedroom: it has an en suite. You don’t need a spare bedroom for when children’s friends stay over because they want to sleep on their bedroom floor.

You don’t want people away from you when you’re cooking so the kitchen remodeling joins it with the living space. And the children’s rooms are on the floor above, overlooking the living area, so we are near them when we are downstairs. I had a ladder of mirrors made so you can look up and down it to see what is happening on the other floor. Often in older houses people are either in the basement or up top, divided by the reception on the middle floor.

So you went over the design a few times: did you change things on site?

Yes, the architect suggested a cantilevered office window . With a terraced house the width is limited so this gave the office a larger footprint and is a nice design feature.

How did you choose the overall look?

I wanted a contemporary, classic look and there are a lot of different ways of approaching that. If you have lots of antiques you go that way but sometimes when young people own period houses they want a funkier look so I would use classic-shaped furniture with funky fabric and texture. So you pay lip service to the period.

If you think of the palette before you start, you can get a nice flow through the house. I chose off-whites and silvers. In choosing metals, you need to decide whether you will go for gold and brass or silver and aluminium and they will play roles right throughout the house.

It was a 1990s thing to have different coloured rooms: a terracotta room, green room, mustard room. Here it’s open plan so it’s not like you can open the door to old and new but there is a warmer feel in the period end and a cooler monochrome in the contemporary area.

You can make the palette topsy turvy: in the kitchen I have grey skirting and white walls while upstairs it is the other way around. I don’t use pure white because it is too sharp and cold. I’d use something that is more like a silver or very, very pale grey.

If a house flows well then you should be able to put any piece of furniture into any room, from another room.

What did you paint it with?

I particularly like the Simply range by Dulux. I tend not to stick to one brand but they have a lot of lovely slates. They grade the tones, so you get Slate one, two and three. You can use, for instance, Slate one on the walls and Slate three for the furniture, knowing they are all from the same family, just deeper and lighter. Sometimes you need a different tone on a different wall: if there is lots of light on one wall you can go deeper on that.

And you paint furniture?

In my own house I paint it myself but I don’t do that for clients: I have it made and spray-painted by a cabinet maker. I got our bed painted in the same colour as the fire and wardrobe – we’ve had that wardrobe since we first got married. It was pine then but has been many colours since. In my business new things keep coming in and making me want to start from scratch.

What’s coming in now?

Well, it’s like the catwalk in Paris – you are never going to wear the clothes. With interiors, you are trying to adapt the latest trends to a domestic situation. With children and pets you need to scale down.

The new trend is for mustards which look beautiful with greys but I find a resistance there. When people hire you they want things to last for seven years. I usually say to go with a neutral background and strong colours in the accessories which you can change. I have done show houses which is great, great fun because you don’t have a client who is going to live there so what you can do is amazing.

Has the extension given better access to the garden?

Yes. We didn’t even know the length or width of the garden when we bought it or that it had granite walls. When we cut it back we found beautiful plant tags – apparently the garden won prizes. We brought the level of the garden down by several feet and now the extension doors go right back. You can walk straight out into the garden and if you keep going, out the back gate, you can get on the Luas.

Where did you get the kitchen?

We designed it and got a custom cabinetry maker to put it together. I saw the glass cupboard in a magazine and he made it for me. We got the extra-wide granite for the island unit from Spain. You are usually limited to a certain width and length in Ireland. I went to Kuper Stone and said I didn’t want a join in the granite – I don’t like that – and he went to investigate and found this.

Where is your furniture from?

A lot is from Bo Concept which is great for well-priced sharper pieces and Roche Bobois is excellent for high quality soft furnishings. The sofa is from Bo Concept and the table and chairs are by Calligaris from Living. I love the fish-tail chair backs. I also buy contemporary furniture from Duff Tisdall

I try to make wide scope of shops. It depends on the period of the house. I go to Minnie Peters and Francis Street for nice occasional stuff from various periods, such as art deco. And I bring things in from abroad.

In my own house I ordered things in from abroad, like the free-standing bath from the UK, to test how reliable the companies were. Some things arrived and some didn’t so I knew who I could work with for my clients.

Could you be inventive and use ideas for your house that you could not do with a client?

Yes, but you have to be practical and this is a showpiece for clients. Also I don’t have an endless budget. I brought things here from my previous houses – I didn’t start from new – so would I have put all this together? No.

In most houses there is something that has to stay, that you have to work with.

Every client has a different amount to spend on home remodeling but I always tell them to keep something back for a wow object – it might be expensive but in six months’ time you’ll barely remember what you paid for it. This house has been walked through so many times: it is great to be able to bring clients here.

09 July 2010

The Return of the Kitchen

Orlando Sentinel

The explosion of remodeling shows on TV and makeover spreads in magazines has whetted America's appetite for glamorous rooms brimming with the latest furnishings, kitchen appliances and color schemes.

Kitchen remodels are among the most popular, according to a report in the just-published August issue of Consumer Reports and online at consumerreports.org. And the economic slowdown means there are outstanding deals on everything from cooktops to countertops. It also means Pennsylvania kitchen designers and building contractors are eager for work and willing to negotiate.

But bargain prices and good looks aren't everything, said Celia Kupersmzid Lehrman, Consumer Reports' deputy home editor.

"When remodeling a kitchen, functionality is every bit as important as style. Fortunately there are many products that look good and work well," she said.

The design of your kitchen is every bit as important as what goes into it, said Jim Spence of Spence & Vaughn Fine Kitchen and Bath in Maitland.

The most functional design is based on the "work triangle" — the relationship between the prep area, the cooking area and the sink, he said. Ideally, the distance between them should never be less than four feet or more than nine feet. Of the three areas, the most-used is the sink.

When planning a remodel, determining your budget is one of the first steps. The National Kitchen & Bath Association (NKBA) calculates the average kitchen remodel costs between 10 percent and 20 percent of the home's value. But obviously, the extent of the makeover determines its cost. In its latest issue, Consumer Reports takes top-performing products and creates three design schemes: a do-it-yourself makeover for $5,000; a plan that costs $15,000 (the average spent on a kitchen remodel); and a full-scale renovation for $50,000.

Determining your priorities is another key step, said Phil Johnson, a partner at Spence & Vaughn and a certified kitchen designer.

"Do you love to cook? If so, now might be the time to consider professional-style appliances," he said. "Do you have a large family? Consider how best to accommodate them in your new space. Think about the things you love in your old kitchen — and the things you dislike."

In addition, Johnson recommends the following steps for a successful remodel:

•Do your homework. Watch TV remodeling programs, clip appealing pictures and articles from magazines, attend remodeling seminars, visit home shows and parades of homes. Consult with a kitchen designer who is a member of the NKBA, who has the training and experience to avoid many of the things that can go wrong with a remodeling project.

•Visit a showroom. Examine the options in cabinets, countertops, appliances, flooring, plumbing and lighting. Decide what you want — and can afford.

•Schedule a home visit. The designer/installer need to measure the kitchen and adjacent rooms, and make a note of existing walls, doors and windows, electrical supplies, ceiling height, attic access, type of wall construction, plumbing details, etc.

•Finalize the project. The design is refined, construction plans are completed, appliances and supplies are ordered — and the initial deposit is paid.

•Survive the dust, noise and workers. With proper supervision, the disruption can be kept to a minimum. Make sure materials are ordered and on the way before beginning the tear-out. Clear a space in the garage for workers' tools and supplies and items removed from the old kitchen. And communicate regularly with the designer/installer.

Four remodeling rules

The August issue of Consumer Reports identifies these four rules for a successful kitchen remodel:

Don't rush. There are many kitchen products that combine value, performance and good looks. Take time to meet with professionals, browse the Internet and visit showrooms and home centers. Haste can be costly. Changing your mind after the project is started typically adds about $1,500 to the cost of a kitchen project.

Size matters. In addition to being expensive, oversized kitchens can be exhausting to work in and keep tidy. A more compact kitchen often functions better. The National Kitchen & Bath Association website, nkba.org, provides guidelines for optimal space between appliances, cabinets and islands.

Beware of budget busters.
Leave a 10 percent to 15 percent cushion for surprises, such as unexpected structural repairs. Avoid settling for a cheap option, thinking someday you will replace it with something you really want. Chances are that will never happen.

Get it in writing. When using a professional for a remodel, the written contract should list each phase of the project; every product, including the model number; and copies of each contractor's license, and workers compensation and liability insurance to confirm they are current. Call references and, if possible, visit them.

07 July 2010

Coffee Pros and Cons

Wisconsin Rapids Tribune

Nik Karpinsky's favorite coffee drink is a caffeine-bomb called the red eye.

"It's coffee from a drip coffee maker with a shot of espresso in it," he explained, while his knee bounced up and down.

Karpinsky, a Schofield native, estimates he drinks eight to 12 cups of coffee a day. Karpinsky now lives in Ames, Iowa, where he's a graduate student studying human-computer interaction at Iowa State University. He was sitting in front of the downtown coffee shop Allister Deacon's last week, sipping espresso and visiting with friend Melissa Will, 23, of Schofield.

While his coffee consumption might be on the extreme side, Karpinsky is among 56 percent of American adults who drink coffee regularly, the National Coffee Association said.

Karpinsky will be the first to admit he might overdo it, but he can't bring himself to stop drinking coffee. "No, I enjoy it too much," he said. "I consider it one of my vices."

Though, like Karpinsky, many refer to their java habit as an unhealthy indulgence, experts say that in moderation, a cup or two of joe a day actually has numerous health perks.

"People always talk about it as if it's a little bad for you. That's not necessarily true," said Donald Hensrud, associate professor of Preventive Medicine and Nutrition at the Mayo Clinic. "Coffee contains over 2,000 different chemical components, including cancer-fighting anti-oxidants."

Some studies suggest coffee can boost vision and heart health, said registered dietitian Elisa Zied, author of "Nutrition at Your Fingertips." Research also has suggested coffee helps people with liver disease, but it has had mixed results when it comes to diabetes.

The studies that highlight the health benefits of coffee make Karpinsky "feel a little better" about his caffeine habit, but he's still not convinced that drinking coffee is a good thing.

He's right about that. There is conflicting news about the impact of coffee.

Will, who graduated from Ripon College with a degree in psychology and is weighing graduate school options, also loves coffee, but limits her consumption to four to six cups a day.

"Everything in moderation," Will said. "There's research on both sides (about the benefits and ill effects of caffeine) ... I think it's a better habit than (others) I could have. Probably, it's not the most beneficial."

Be aware of how much caffeine you're consuming, because it varies among coffee drinks, said Mary Rosser, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx, N.Y.

Loading up on cream and sugar is a bad idea, Hensrud said. A Starbucks venti 24-ounce double chocolate chip frappucino has 520 calories, 14 grams of saturated fat and 75 grams of carbohydrates. Pregnant women and people with anxiety and sleep problems should especially watch their intake, he said.

Also, people metabolize caffeine differently -- the result of genetic differences, Hensrud said.

Caffeine's influence can last for 10 hours or more, said researcher Jim Lane, a professor of medical psychology at Duke. He recommends pacing yourself throughout the day: "It's nice to have places to meet friends that aren't alcohol-related, but it does sort of encourage people to ignore the drug effects of caffeine."

Java's perks, pitfalls

Aging: Recent research suggests caffeine could help protect against cognitive decline, including Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia, said Donald Hensrud, associate professor of Preventive Medicine and Nutrition at the Mayo Clinic.

Large clinical trials still are needed, though, said Duke aging expert Murali Doraiswamy. “We still don’t know the right dose for seniors,” Doraiswamy said. “Bottom line: I would not recommend caffeine solely as a preventive strategy for dementia.”

Wakefulness/performance: Convinced you need a morning cup to wake up? Research online this month in Neuropsychopharmacology suggests frequent coffee drinkers develop a tolerance to the anxiety-producing and stimulatory effects of caffeine. A study last month suggests those who consume caffeine via coffee and espresso makers perform better on the job.

Dental: Coffee exacerbates bad breath, said registered dietitian Elisa Zied, author of “Nutrition at Your Fingertips.” It also can give teeth a yellow tinge.

Diabetes: Although research suggests drinking five or six cups a day might reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, other studies show caffeine can exaggerate blood sugar problems in people who already have it, said Jim Lane, a professor of medical psychology at Duke University.

Gastrointestinal: High levels of caffeine can exert a laxative effect in some people but constipate others, Zied said. Heartburn and peptic ulcer patients should steer clear, too.

Too much coffee at once can increase blood pressure, but a cup or two a day generally does no harm to heart health, said Carl Lavie, medical director of Cardiac Rehabilitation and Prevention at John Ochsner Heart and Vascular Institute in New Orleans. Rarely, overindulgence can increase heart rate and cause heart rhythm disturbances, he said.

Liver: “Coffee intake is associated with a reduced risk of cirrhosis and liver cancer,” Hensrud said.

Migraine: Hensrud said coffee can ease migraines in some people. Coffee lovers who use espresso makers at work each day should keep up the habit on weekends, because skipping coffee can lead to withdrawal headaches, he said.

06 July 2010

Wisconsin Fire Dept: New Building Materials Accelerate Fire Damage

Wisconsin State Journal

A Saturday fire that destroyed a $337,000 home on Madison's Far East Side burned rapidly because of lightweight construction that is now the industry standard but increases the risk to occupants and firefighters in a fire, according to the Madison Fire Department.

The fire at 6913 Stockbridge Drive underscores concerns firefighters have with roofs and floors made from lightweight, prefabricated materials, said Madison Fire Lt. Dave Peterson.

"They're good products that cost less, but when fire is touching them, they fail at a much-faster rate than older lumber," he said.

Home builders say the products meet or surpass state building codes and that houses built today are safer than ever before.

When fire crews arrived Saturday, the first floor already was collapsing. Firefighters deemed the house structurally unsafe and fought the fire from the outside.

"When a first floor collapses, we could fall right into the fire with no way to get out," Peterson said.

The home, built in 2004, was a total loss, according to the fire department.

Two occupants who were home escaped unharmed. Smoke alarms had sounded, according to the fire department.

The cause of the fire was under investigation Wednesday. The fire department received the call at 2:53 p.m. and arrived nine minutes later, said Bernadette Galvez, a fire department spokeswoman.

Ideally, crews try to get to fires within four to six minutes, she said. She did not know why it took longer but noted the home is in a newer subdivision on the city's edge.

Almost all new homes in Dane County in the last 15 years have been built using lightweight construction, Peterson said. Floors today generally are made of pieces of wood that are of a smaller dimension than decades ago, with the webbing in between made of glued-together particle board, he said.

The materials can hold the same weight but burn quicker because they are less dense, Peterson said. "We're not looking to get rid of these things or attack the building industry," he said. "We just want to do some things to protect occupants and firefighters."

Firefighters would like to see the state building code changed to require sprinkler systems in single-family homes, said Ed Ruckriegel, city fire marshal. The cost would be about $2,500 for a 2,000-square-foot home, he said.

Barring that change, another option would be to require a drywall enclosure around flooring systems to slow a fire's spread. "Drywall is a huge insulator for fire, and it's a cheap and easy fix," he said.

Ken Bowers, owner of Bowers Construction in Madison, which built the Stockbridge Drive house, said those are "good ideas, but it comes down to affordability and what people are willing to pay." The house was built to code and passed a city of Madison inspection, he said.

Abe Degnan, president of Degnan Design Builders in DeForest and president of the Madison Area Builders Association, said manufactured materials are stronger than solid wood and meet standards for "green" construction. They are constructed out of fast-growing trees planted specifically for that purpose, as opposed to harvesting old-growth forests, he said.

With smoke detectors and products such as fire-rated doors, "there is rarely any loss of life in homes built under modern building codes," Degnan said.