Friday, September 25, 2015

Can My Counter Top Be Something Other Than Granite? ( Part One)

As a Kitchen and Bath Designer for more years than a lady wishes to admit, I am amazed at the longevity of granite's popularity. Natural stone still dominates the industry as it has for more than twenty years. Design trends purposely change for marketing reasons. Savvy marketers know to create need and desire for a change, new ideas must be branded as the new savvy trend. After all our culture is always up and coming with the new thing! New colors, or textures drive sales. So why has granite held it's position for so long?

Prior to granite, our counters were grouted tile, wood, marble, or Solid Surface (Corian) counter tops.
Very wealthy discriminating clients might select soapstone. We tired of dirty grout and old ceramic tiles. We were equally bored with wood. In the late 80's through the 90's every high end home or kitchen remodel client insisted on marble or Corian. It was a hit! However, it proved to be very high maintenance! It would scorch if you set a hot pan on it. It stained and scratched very easily. The typical lighter solid colors showed every flaw. The seamless Corian sink began to give way to the new Stainless Steel Sinks new on the market!

Granite's arrival was a much needed alternative. The beauty of natural stone with variations of texture and color caught on fast. Unlike Corian, granite was available in dark rich multi layer hues. Everyone considered it heat, stain, and scorch proof. It did not take long for granite to surpass Solid Surface as the trendy thing to have in your kitchen and baths. At first, color and selections were limited.

I remember granite tiles enjoying a brief time in the spotlight. They are still available in more common granites. Granite was more resistant to stain than marble or Corian. The first color selections provided simple tight grained granite with very little variance to pattern in a slab. This established three truths.
1. Granite is porous after all. It is somewhat resistant to staining or scratching but not impervious to
    it. Wine or a hot pan could stain your new granite counter top. Fixing the problem was difficult
    and expensive.
2. Corner seams were so obvious in the first granite color selections.   
3. Customers tired of the limited colors and lack of drama of the first round of granite slabs. They
    began to demand more interesting textures and colors.

A whole new industry sprung up. Granite Fabrication became huge! Big machines were built to cut
custom granite counter tops to order for individual kitchens. Multiple edge choices along with sink mounting choices emerged. Skills to design and fabricate the individual order raised up specialty craftsman.

As customers became more sophisticated, the sales division of these companies began to widen their sources. Being a natural stone product, minerals, natural rock, soils, sands and quartz deposited in the earth created unlimited colors, textures, and patterns. The granite business exploded globally. This provided a quality selection unheard of prior to the developing trends that were escalating. It was exciting! Everyone "had to have" granite. Soon it was being used for shower walls,  ceilings, floors, and desk tops as well as kitchen or bath counter tops. It still sits at the top of the list for most wanting to remodel.  

I am still thrilled with new granite imported from Europe, South America, Africa, every area of the world. The beauty and diversity is awe inspiring! There truly is any color, texture, or pattern you can imagine. Each has it's own interesting story. Walking through a warehouse filled with granite slabs stimulates your senses and creativity. I still highly recommend granite to my clients. However, there are other options. People being curious always creates new products. Next week I will write about the numerous options available as you consider the perfect choice for your new project! Have a wonderful week imagining the possibilities!

Friday, September 18, 2015

The Power of Lighting

We have explored many possibilities in the past few posts. Today let's talk about really seeing and highlighting all the beautiful changes your newly remodeled kitchen or bath has experienced.

Lighting is so important. We need it to function. Yet, allowing strategic lighting to accent or emphasize is fun and adds great value to your new space.

Gone are the days of big light boxes attached to the ceiling with fluorescent  bulbs.  Basic lighting now generally includes lights over the sink area, over the island, and at least one central light fixture to light up the entire room.

In kitchens pendant lighting is especially popular right now. What  is a pendant light? It is a singular fixture hung from and extension bar or cord between the ceiling cover and the counter top or sink. Pendant lights are available in every style imaginable.  Beautiful hand blown glass globes are very popular. Another style, a drum shade in various sizes is too. There are lights and extension bars made in the same metal as faucets. Nickel, chrome,brushed or textured nickel, black, bronze, and antiqued finishes for faucets and lights add beauty and sophistication, whatever your preference is!

Specialty lighting is the icing on the cake. However, it also has practical function. One of  the best innovations for mood and function is under cabinet lighting. It is beautiful. It highlights the gorgeous granite or quartz counter surface selection. A very new trend is quartz counter tops with actual semi precious stones embedded in the slab. They have a translucent quality that lends itself beautifully to under counter lighting to bring out the true color of the stones.

The under cabinet lighting is economical.  LED lights under the cabinets are perfect because they are extremely economical. They use very little electricity, yet brighten up the area very well.  Using only one area all night is perfect for a soft nightlight to guide one looking for a midnight snack without needing to turn on all the lights! Sometimes prepping and cooking is just easier with better lighting. The light shining down on the counter as you create your favorite dishes really helps.

What about your special memorabilia or family heirlooms?  We all have special dishes or items we love and enjoy seeing. Their is something so special about a family heirloom used by our mother or grandmother in their own kitchen. It is so easy to forget about where it is and never see it or use it.
Adding a special set of cabinets with finished interiors and lighting is perfect. You feel so connected to very special memories and your loved ones seeing treasured items they used in their own kitchens.

In kitchens using professional six or more burner stoves, special lighting in the appropriate hoods shine down beautifully on the cook top area. Some of these lights are specialized to keep food warm.
This practical use of lighting makes life easier. Another great new application for lighting is a feature in Plato Cabinets, our premier line of custom cabinetry. Interior lights can be ordered which turn on as soon as the cabinet door is opened. This feature is especially helpful in corner cabinets with lazy susans. Storage cabinets get packed with rows of pantry supplies. It can be hard to see exactly what is hidden in the back. Interior lighting brightens everything up so you easily find what you need.


Have you heard of color therapy? Different colors effect us emotionally and physiologically. New soaking or air pumped jacuzzi like tubs are available with lighting to help you relax and calm down or stimulate you to begin your new day.

Lighting is also available in accessories in your shower. Ceiling lights flood the entire shower with light. They even have lighted shower heads now! Pendant lights are also very popular over the vanity area.

Of course the combination of ventilation fans with lighting is still a practical need and very popular.

Remodeling creates  many decisions you need to make. You will find lighting to be one of the most expressive and fun choices you make. Come see us and we'll listen to your dreams and help make it come to life!        


Friday, September 11, 2015

Cold Air In Places You Never Expected!

There are new trends that are just brilliant! What you are going to read about today will surprise you!

Are you tired of going to your refrigerator, "way over there," in your kitchen to grab stuff to make a sandwich. You have your arms and hands loaded with jars, packages of meat and cheese, and loaves of bread. Do you drop something before you can set it down on the counter or island? Well, we have news you are going  to love.

Kitchen Aid and other appliance brands have taken a hint from the big high end name brands like Wolf, Jenn Air, Bosch, and Viking who all manufacture the very expensive commercial grade
built in refrigeration for your home. Refrigerated drawers began to be available on their own a little while before Bottom Mount Freezer Refrigerators hit the market. A refrigerator drawer? What is that?

Go back to the picture of yourself lugging all the sandwich fixings to a handy place to make your lunch. Of course, after making it, you have to take everything back to the fridge. What do you think about this idea? A drawer that is refrigerated. Yes, a drawer to hold cheese, meats, condiments and
anything else you want right under the counter top of your island or the cabinets attached to your kitchen walls. How about another one for beverages or salad ingredients? Think of all the time you will save. We are not even mentioning the time you might have to spend cleaning up something you dropped on the path from your fridge to where you put your lunch together. Sound great? We think so!

Like everything else in life different people have different needs and tastes. Our lifestyles determine which combination of refrigeration and freezer is best for us. Since we sell cabinetry, it is important to remind you that if your prefer yours to have matching cabinet doors, we can order and install them on the models made to hold the frame and wood. If you like Stainless Steel, you have no limits of options.

Refrigerator drawers have become quite popular. Other specialty items to keep things frosty you will love are Wine Refrigerators and Ice Makers. They both tuck in nicely under your counter tops between your cabinets so nothing is free floating in the room gathering dust or other odds and ends of stuff. They work equally well in the kitchen, a bar, or in a devoted outdoor space near your BBQ.

As far as typical refrigerators go, Side by Sides are still popular. However, for people who love to entertain and need a wide area to put deli trays or wide birthday cakes, a Bottom Mount is perfect.
All your fresh food is clearly visible at eye level. You can adjust the split shelves to create a wide enough area to hold the biggest tray or cake.

The bottom freezer drawer is deep and holds masses of food. Every year the storage sections improve in both the fresh storage area and the freezer. Many have door storage plus shallow shelves combined with one deeper shelf and the bigger deepest area for meats etc. Some brands actually have two freezer drawers to allow access to items accessed often in one so the food in the other drawer is left undisturbed from warm air impacting its contents.

The next time you are in the mood to fantasize about the kitchen of your dreams, take a tour of a big appliance retailer. Ask to see their display of refrigerator drawers. I think you are going to decide they are really COOL! When you are ready we would love to help you design your special sandwich making area. Come show us what you like and we will help make your dreams a reality!  That is what we do best, everyday!  

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Your Range and Ovens as a Dramatic Focal Point

I was so excited last week about this topic, I wrote a long post without saving it along the way. Yes, you guessed it. I hit some key accidentally. I lost the entire thing! Here goes again!

Focal points in a kitchen are wonderful. You might be surprised to find out even a small kitchen can be designed with flair, including one particular area being featured to draw your attention. Someday, I hope to have enough square feet in my kitchen to design my ultimate dream creative center as my focal point. Creative center? Yes, I say that because, those of us who love to cook and bake, find it a great creative expression. Let's begin with the range, hood, oven, and cook top area.

Commercial grade ranges measuring 36 to 60 inches wide have become very popular in large kitchens. Sometimes these mammoth appliances have six burners plus two ovens, indoor grills, rotisseries, steamers, and griddles as well as the gas burners. Viking and Bertazzoni ranges have a wide range of colors available as well as stainless steel. Other brands of stainless ranges include Dacor, Wolf, DCS,  JennAir, and Thermador.

There truly is nothing you cannot cook or create using these high end ranges. The BTU's  put out by the burners require powerful blowers. They are installed in massive range hoods to ventilate smoke and steam out of your kitchen.

Special plumbing can be installed in the side or back splash over the range top. Collapsible faucets called Pot Filler Faucets save you time and energy for cooking lobster or big pots of soup or sauces.
You can avoid carrying very heavy pots of water and fill any huge pot on the stove top. If there is room in the counter near the stove, a special sink to discard any liquid left in the pot is wise as well.

In the last post we discussed Pull Out Pantries. Let me expand your imagination. Picture one wall in your kitchen where you want to place your stove. Our designers can help you surround the range/oven combo unit with the perfect storage of everything you need to create your favorite cuisine. Whether you select two tall Pull Out Pantries, or two Wall Pull Out Pantries to support the Integral Canopy Hood plus two base Pull Out Pantries below the counter top, all of your spices, oils, cooking utensils, and accessories can be immediately available to you.  Built In Storage In Kitchen Hood For Oils & Spices Pull Out Spice Rack Next To Cooking Surface

Next to each POP ( pull out pantry) I would add wide Three Drawer Bases or Base Pot and Pan Roll Out Cabinets. Some Base Tray Divider Cabinets or Wicker Basket Cabinets that hold garlic, potatoes, or onions is handy in the configuration too. The wall cabinets above can also keep food or dishes at your fingertips. Personally, a chef's hat would be the perfect accent as you create your five star restaurant dishes to enjoy!
Deep Drawer Storage With Lid Partition      Image result for dura supreme wicker basket

There are stainless steel commercial hoods and back splashes available in every width the commercial style range comes in. That look is awesome in a contemporary style kitchen.
If you love your cabinet door style, wood hoods that match are the best choice.They surround the internal blower and hood made to handle your particular ranges ventilation needs. The range backsplash area is perfect for a unique and artistic back splash to pull together the theme of your kitchen creative center.

Let me expand your imagination again. Have you considered a separate baking center in your kitchen? Baking truly is an art! However, it is an art based on the chemistry of how ingredients interact. Some people are gifted in this special area. Those who are tend to build a reputation among friends and family. I am not one of these gifted people. They usually want more than just one double oven. Typically, two double ovens are needed on one wall. The range may also have an oven. However, they may select a commercial 30 to 48 inch cook top with Three Drawer Base or Pot and Pan Roll Out Cabinets under the cook top.

In a kitchen with ample square footage, a baking center with a marble counter top is ideal. Marble stays cool to the touch. It is the perfect surface to roll out dough on. Base cabinets with multi layer drawer accessories keeps all your various sized measuring and rolling tools organized.

I hope you enjoy dreaming and visualizing your fantasy kitchen. We love to make the project fun and as economical as possible. Come see us, let's brainstorm and make your dream a reality!

Next week, I have some interesting ideas for refrigeration and islands. Stay tuned!