Friday, October 23, 2015

Choices Choices Choices

It is time to do some review and expand on some information presented these past months in this blog. Remodeling and new construction represent events that can be the most creative and exciting adventure or a disappointing experience. Here at Apple Wood, our commitment is for you and your family to fondly remember your design/ build process as one of your best times filled with memories you will share for decades. Our expertise and years of satisfied clients tells us we have succeeded.

In the excitement surrounding updating our homes, few realize the process is filled with hundreds of options. Each of these options presents a final choice that must be made. Even more important is that these choices need to be completed in a timely fashion to keep the project on target for its completion date. There is a definite deadline for every selection. Women especially get so excited about their new kitchen, bath or addition! They can become truly overwhelmed with all the possibilities. Soon the need to practice some self control to stay on target presents itself. Balancing this fact determines whether the process is going to be enjoyable or filled with stress.

Each appointment in the design and ordering process exposes clients to more than they expected.
It can make people anxious, wondering if they are making the right choice. We tend to seek others opinions because we doubt our own preferences. The people living in the home need to be the final decision makers. Often, asking a friend or relative can cause us to second guess something we felt confident about the day before.The temptation to change our minds is hard to resist. However, constantly rethinking can complicate, confuse, and slow the entire project. That becomes frustrating for everyone involved.

Having choices is fun in so many ways.What woman does not enjoy shopping and discovering possibilities? It also has the potential to bring great confusion into the remodeling process. This is true for the homeowner as well as the Designer/ Contractor they are entrusting their dream project to. An experienced remodeling design professional has helped hundreds of client navigate through the sea of possibilities. Be sure to work with someone who asks and listens to your ideas and dreams. Discovering your hearts desire for your project along with finding who you can confidently work with is the key!. It is critical to trust your designer, sales, and contractor. They will help keep you true to what you discovered is most important to you.

Let's backtrack a few months. Please review some of our blog posts these past months. There is an important suggestion about creating your own Design Folder. It is fun! It is also a critical tool to keep yourself on task. Most people begin looking at pictures of kitchens, homes, baths, additions as they begin their journey. Collecting the pictures and articles they resonate with into their folder will become extremely important! Making final decisions based on what style they discover suits them truly simplifies the process. One of the first assignments we give new clients is to create their Design Folder and keep adding ideas to it. Soon they recognize their personal style and design preferences.
It just develops organically as pictures and articles are added. They begin to notice similarities in the choices made. That discovery reveals their true taste and preferences. Generally , honoring that will result in a project they will love for years to come. It may not be "trendy". It is their personal signature and will ultimately feel like home to them.

Ponder what I have suggested please. Does it make sense to you? In the next few weeks we are going to inform you of the nuances of our industry and answer some questions.  Next week, we will begin with an interesting topic. We all know the expression "comparing apple to apples or oranges to oranges."

The general population thinking about remodeling has a few choices in whom they award their project to.  We will explain some of the differences between the various venues and companies offering remodeling products and services.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Unusual to Rare Counter Top Choices

We have covered a wide territory talking about historical products used for counter tops in the past couple of posts. One solution I have not mentioned is laminate, commonly referred to as Formica. It continues to be an option for applications that require keeping costs down. Wilson Art and Formica are the big names competing in the world of laminates. The good news is the upgrades in the past decade or two have launched durable counter tops that mimic popular granite colors and designs.

Laminates are perfect for laundry rooms, bath counter tops, kitchens as well, if the budget is tight. Landlord's and contractors who flip houses select durable laminates often.  Perhaps you are planning on adding a new kitchen or just a new counter top to a property you rent to tenants. If so, you want it to be as beautiful and indestructible as possible. Laminate is perfect for this application.

Before we jump off into unknown worlds of surfaces for the work space of your kitchen, let's cover another big market share. Man made quartz products are as beautiful as granite.  They are taking over more of the market share now. People love the carefree attributes of  quartz products. The positive features of the natural stone, granite, soap stone , and marble are many. Yet their are a few negative features to be considered. Granite and marble can stain or scorch because they are porous. They require sealing at least once a year. Sealing is a simple process yet we often forget how many months have passed by. If you are too busy, a year can roll around pretty quickly.

Quartz to the rescue! It is perfect. Being a combination of quartz, sand, and other elements forged together creates a strong non porous surface. Whichever brand you select:  CaesarStone, Cambria, or Viatera, it is available in patterns that look like granite or completely different finishes.  However, it will not stain.

Some of the best features for these man made counter surfaces include finishes that are perfect in a sleek contemporary kitchen, to simple mat or "honed" finishes, or flowing granite swirls of color. Being made by man allows another feature that is very well received. In larger applications such as a truly expansive home planning to budget a large amount of square feet for the kitchen, over sized islands are valued highly. Islands become the gathering place in most homes. Family meals and projects gravitate to this beautiful feature. A huge island is the best location for refreshments at a party. Granite, a natural stone, limits the size of slabs. To select granite for a large counter top surface on an over sized island requires two or more slabs to be seamed together. Quartz product manufacturers have solved that dilemma by having larger molds made to create one slab of bigger proportions that do not need seams in an over sized island. Many clients will combine granite on the perimeter cabinets, against the walls, with a complimentary Quartz counter top used for the island, especially if it is featured as a large focal point in the space.

One of the most adventurous kitchens I designed used a contemporary Quartz counter top. It was a city industrial loft converted into a home. All the cabinets were Stainless Steel and thus, very dramatic! The huge windows looked out over Boston's lights at night. The Caesar Stone countertop was a stunning cobalt blue with diamond like flecks of reflective glass. They added a beautiful shimmering quality in the day light. At night that gorgeous finish sparkled like diamonds and was quite the conversation piece for the homeowner. He loved to entertain and his guests felt as if some of Boston's lights cast reflections into his kitchen. That was a fun project!

Green building is common these days as we become more mindful and responsible caring for our environment. Curava recycled glass counter tops are a beautiful new product showing up recently. It is stain resistant like quartz. The non porous surface make Curava very sanitary and easy to clean. Recycled glass combined with resins result in a user and environmentally friendly hard surface that remains beautiful for many years.  Glass mixed with resins creates a strong and impervious surface to utilize in kitchens and baths.

Speaking of glass applications. Floating counter tops above the main work surface in island applications made of  one inch glass mounted on clear or chrome supports add sophistication to an island. The natural glow of turquoise edge of the glass is stunning. In a natural setting where the home is built around the ocean or a lake, this touch of color and special details repeats the beauty of the water the home's view embraces. Another new application in glass counters has been developed for a true speciality market. Actual jewel colored stones added to a more transparent product have been designed to allow lighting below the counter top to illuminate the slab, adding dimensions and depth unheard of previously in the industry. Very clever and exciting!

That idea opens up new possibilities for true artists that want something extraordinary .  Unusual applications of recycled glass or mosaics in a section add the one of a kind look some creative types want. These counter tops can be installed with adhesive, a flat end trowel, and broken pieces of glass, pottery, and tile.Using your imagination and creativity sets your space apart as you create designs and patterns that add a focal point complimentary to your kitchen or bath design and color scheme.

Other truly unusual products that make conversation pieces of your counters are copper, zinc, and stainless steel. Zinc and copper are especially interesting. They stain, they discolor and a unique patina is the result. In fact the more liquid and solid items spilled on them cause a chemical reaction.
The results can be absolutely gorgeous and artistic. Zinc especially starts out dull and very definitely metallic. As time passes, the spills and wear result in a beautiful shimmer , even some iridescence reminding one of a soft pale " abalone shell" swirl of colors.  This patina deepens the older the zinc is.

Stainless steel is just that, stainless. It has been used for decades in commercial setting such as restaurants due to its practicality. This sleek sanitary product has enjoyed a spurt of popularity recently. The application of stainless has taken two roads. High rise condominiums in major cities tend to prefer contemporary design, which this product is perfect for.  Another application utilized occasionally is as an island. In fact sometimes the Stainless Tables with a lower shelf found in restaurants are sometimes purchased for use in a residence.

Wow, so many choices! It can be overwhelming. Next week we will talk about that!


Friday, October 2, 2015

More Countertop Options ....

Last week I mentioned marble countertops being around for decades. It is true. They have enjoyed fans since America was founded, especially in homes of the wealthy. They also enjoyed commercial success, being popularly used for drug store fountain bar tops throughout America in the 20's through the 50's.

Even the little one street town my grandparents lived in had a long marble counter top where I sat enjoying a float or ice cream sundae. Marbles weakness impacted its success. It did stain and scratch easily and thus,  lost its appeal. Ceramic tile counter top options began to take over in the the 1940's  and 50's. Solid Surface or Corian began to corner the market following tile.

Cararra Marble is not for everybody because it is a softer stone than granite or quartz. Being softer is an inherent characteristic of the material which is why it is enjoying a renaissance.  People  who love the nostalgia of  Art Nouveau  up to Mid Century decor trends prefer marble because it does age and show wear or the distressed look that is so popular right now. 

Another favorite of mine is Honed Soapstone. I love this look! It is classy and unique as well as traditional. Soapstone is a soft , non porous, natural stone. Despite it's softness, it is very resilient. It is always a dark shade, nearly black and has a honed or dull finish. It is an excellent heat insulator that cooks absolutely love!

One important point however, is to make sure the Soapstone is of the architectural grade, which is denser that artistic grade is used. A sculpture would use the artistic grade to sculpt a piece of art. It is much too soft for use in a kitchen or bath. Maintaining soapstone is easy to maintain with simple soap and water. It will last for generations.  Many clients love to make their soapstone counter top area or sink a focal point of their new kitchen. It blends perfectly with any black and white themed design.

The pictures below of black and gray soapstone display the variations of the product that is typically mined in Vermont or the Appalachians Mountain area of the US. It is also being imported from Brazil now.