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Design Inspirations  Green Talk
            
 

 

Sunday
Feb202011

Selecting Counters for your Kitchen

Remodeling a kitchen is a big project and selecting the right counter can make or break your project.   The three main considerations that everyone needs to address are:

a)  Durability/wear ability

b)  Installed Price

c)  Color & patterning in relation to other materials in your kitchen

For kitchen counters the durability debate has been between granite and quartz with stainless steel and marble being thrown by the wayside. (picture:  Vyara Gold granite counter)

QUARTZ:  The truth is, if you want a counter that never stains and has a consistent pattern and color without variation, you need to stick with manmade quartz products (Silestone, Caesarstone, etc)  These products are made with real quartz stone in a binding resin.  The upside is that you have a durable counter that will withstand heat and will be the exact color and pattern as the sample that you were given.  Another positive is that you can select 'patterns' that look like limestone or marble but have the durability of the quartz material.  The downside is that it is just as expensive as granite and you do not get the unique variations that natural stone provides.

GRANITE:  is extremely dense and therefore is less likely to stain in comparison to other natural stones.  Granite is a stone, a natural material.  All natural materials can absorb stains, just in varying degrees.  All natural stone counters should have be sealed to protect the stone against staining. The beauty of granite is the unique one of a kind patterning available in a multitude of color variations.  The downside of granite can be the intense pattern activity (It can be very busy)

MARBLE:  This is a neglected beauty of a stone.  Yes, is is slightly less dense than granite, making it more prone to staining.  But if you have been to Europe, you probably sat at marble tables and counters and walked on marble tiles that have been installed for hundreds of years - and they look great!    Marble has less veining than granite, giving it an elegant look.  Marble is a favorite of pastry chefs, both professional and ameteur.    I often add marble counters into a kitchen design for a contrast to the primary counter material.  Marble tends to be less expensive than granite or quartz.

STAINLESS STEEL:  Another neglected material.  It is durable and you do not have to worry about matching colors.  Scratches blend together to become invisible (think of your stainless sink.)  Be careful of reflecting under cabinet lights onto a stainless steel counter.  Either select a different type of light source for task lighting or keep the stainless counter away from upper cabinets.

ALTERNATIVE materials:  There are numerous counter top products that should be considered, but are too numerous to explore in this article.  They range from recycled glass, recycled porcelain, recycled paper, recycled walnut shells, etc.  The durability of these products range from marble to granite in comparison and vary just as much in price. 

The CHALLENGE for a successful kitchen design is to coordinate the patterns and colors of the cabinetry, the flooring, and the counters.  A very strong patterned granite can 'take over' the personality of the kitchen.  This can be a good thing, OR it is the nightmare of the home owner ('all I see is the busy granite!') 

The QUESTION that you want to ask yourself is 'What do I want to be the visual star of attraction in my kitchen?'  If it is not the counter, then you want to stay away from most granites (the exception being black absolute, which has little to no pattern.)  The pickle that many homeowners find themselves, is that they have already selected/installed the flooring as well as the cabinetry and then they start looking at counters.   If your selections for flooring and cabinets cannot be changed, your good options for kitchen counters are extremely limited.  

The best advice I can give is to hire professional to help you successfully coordinate your patterns & colors and avoid the pitfalls that can present themselves in this extremely expensive venture.

 

Monday
Feb072011

Painting your bedroom for health & wellness

We spend 6-8 hours a day sleeping in our bedrooms.  What we are surrounded by, what we breathe, touch, see and feel, all affects our health and well being.  Many of us are blissfully unaware of the chemicals in the backing of our carpet, the VOC's in the paint on our walls, or the toxins in our bed covers.  Many of us are also unaware of the HEALTH BENEFITS of painting your bedroom.

1)  Specific colors/color frequencies can help relax your body, reduce tension, lower blood pressure.

2)  Paint with zero VOC's is good for your health.  The alternative being paint with VOC's (VOCs are volatile organic compounds, which are chemicals that off-gas into the air and into your lungs.  Yes, they are bad for your health.)

3)  Painters that are EPA Certified Renovators know how to provide the extra care needed to keep the dust and related particles contained and away from your loved ones and pets.  (This includes lead dust from lead paint that might be on a layer of paint on your home that is older than 1978)

Of course, I cannot flaunt this information without offering a package deal for the Valentines day month of February!  FEBRUARY SPECIAL:  Professional color CONSULTATION, zero-VOC PAINT, and professional EPA certified Painters to paint your bedroom for only $400.  Call or email me for more information! 206-517-4424 (Restrictions apply, projects must be scheduled by Feb 28, 2011 to qualify for this offer.)

Friday
Jan282011

Light & privacy-balancing the benefits

Natural light is a wonderful commodity.  It provides a sense of the outside  a connection to nature, and a peacefulness that settles our circadian needs.  Whenever possible, the addition of skylights or solar tubes in your home is the best investment for your interior health.  The light that comes through a skylight is significantly brighter and more expansive than the light that comes through a window.  The light that comes through a window is often shadowed by a roof overhang, or, gasp, it may be facing north and receive a dimmer light than the south side. 

Glass is commonly the material of choice to allow natural light into homes and offices.  Because of its transparency, the use of glass will make a space look and feel bigger.  Glass has its downside, however, generally in regards to privacy.  There are several options to consider:

1) When presented with the choice of having windows with natural light or looking into your neighbors bedroom, we chose a third option in this bathroom.  We added decorative film onto the windows, creating a 'light diffuser.'  To coordinate, we installed the same film onto the glass of the adjoining closet door.  

This decorative fim has a 'scratch' pattern to it, however there are many other choices, a popular one being the rice paper pattern. 

 

2)  The next picture shows upper cabinets with etched glass inserts.  We still get the benefits of glass, however the view through the etched glass is slightly diffused.   The apples were pulled forward in this picture to be seen.  Anything 3" back from the glass is seen as a blissful blur. (Do you want to arrange the interior of your kitchen cabinets?  I don't!)  Also, recent tests with AV equipment confirm that remote controls WILL work through etched glass.

 

3)  My latest favorite is the next alternative - Lumicor.  Lumicor is an architectural product  made of resin panels fused together with textural items placed between the panels.  In this case, there are reeds that are between the panels creating a very unique interesting texture.  Lumicor panels are also used as shower enclosures, light diffusers, inserts into french doors and counters.

4)  I recently founda 4th option from my colleague Tish Oye of Glassworks.

Glassworks designs, fabricates and installs kiln-formed glass, which “embosses” flat glass with interesting textures and patterns.  It can be made in clear glass or any color to match your interiors.  In addition, the glass inserts can be made of 100% recycled glass.  As with all Glassworks glass, it is inert, does not emit any VOC’s has a very long life and is easily recyclable, unlike acrylics and/or resins.  This picture shows the slumped glass option.  I hope you’ll keep this option in mind when thinking of using glass! 

Friday
Jan142011

Bathing in Style in a 60x32

I have found that people either love to take baths or really don't like or use bathtubs.  For those who love to take baths, it is often a therapeutic, ritualistic experience.  Steamy hot water, bath oils or salts, scented candles, music, a good book...There are thousands of wonderful bathing options that help you achieve this experience, but when limited to a 60" x 32" area (the typical size of an existing bathtub), those options become limited.  Here are some ways to create the Personal Spa Experience that you have dreamed of in your 60x32  space.

Select a tub that allows you to personalize your options.   MTI Whirlpool tubs (left, Andrea 6) allow you to select water jets, air bubbles, heated (inline heaters), aromatherapy, chromatherapy, pillows, factory installed hand held showers, non slip bottom, integral grab bars in many finishes, stereo speakers, integral arm rests and a removable teak seat to use with the arm rests.  The teak seat is great if you are like me and like to sit slighting above the tub floor.  MTI also offers a teak seat that is attached to the wall and can fold down. 

 If you recall my foot surgery experience, you'll remember my new found appreciation of bathroom fixtures that use 'universal' design concepts.  This means designing for people of all ages and abilities.  In my case, I asked 'how do I safely get in and out of the bathtub while standing on one foot?'  The first option is a seat or bench that acts as a 'transfer' area. (The drop down teak bench is a good example)  It is a bench that is easy to sit on (because it is at chair height), allowing you to swing your legs around into the tub.  This is the safe way to enter the tub, from a seated position.  The next step in the transfer solution is to sit down into the tub.  Since the tub is presumably filled with water, it can be very slippery so a carefully placed grab bar is the safe solution.

While there are tubs made specifically to 'walk in,' (SafetyTub), that fit within our 60x32 space, they look fairly institutional and you still have to 'walk' in, stepping over the curb, through a fairly skinny opening to sit down on the seat.  The plus side of this tub is that it has a ONE MINUTE drain feature.  Which means you will be shivering for only one minute while the hot water drains.  It also features all the bells and whistles as options, aromatherapy, different hydro massage options, etc. 

There is a new third option available.  It is the Kohler Elevance Rising Wall Bath.  Basically, the bottom of the tub is at chair height, the side of the tub slides down, allowing you to easily transfer and sit in the tub.  You swing your legs into the tub, raise the 'wall' and voila! You are in the tub and seated safely.  The tub has a nice design and offers a bubble massage and integral hand shower option.  The grab bars are integral to the tub, and Kohler boasts that the tub will drain in under two minutes. Upside, it provides a safe way to bathe.  Downside, it is only offered in white, it is 33.5" wide and we lost most of our hydrotherapy, chromatherapy and aromatherapy options. 

These are the latest bathing options for your bathroom remodel that stays within your existing space and layout.  Talk to you soon - I am going to take a long, hot bath!

 

 

Monday
Dec272010

Storage Solutions for Short People (and others)

I'm a short person, have always been vertically challenged.  I remember using a step stool to climb up onto the kitchen counters, stand on the counter and open up that top cabinet to try to see what was in it.  The problem was that you needed to climb down and stand back around ten feet to see what was inside and then you only got to see the items in front.  We were so intent on using every bit of space for storage that we lost track of the fact that if it is so difficult to get to and virtually impossible to see, then it is really not useable, it was trick we played on ourselves thinking that we were smarter than 'others.' 

I used to look at those sleek Italian kitchens with the skinny upper cabinets and laugh "Oh, look how much storage is wasted, look at that empty wall space above that cabinet!"  But, HONESTLY, is it really wasted if you cannot access it?  What is REALLY wasted is the money we spend to build/purchase cabinets that we cannot access, therefore cannot use.

Luckily, there are now 'options'  that will avoid future generations of 'short woman' complexes. Introducing the 'double tilt up door' that allows you to lift up the doors for the entire upper cabinet with one soft push of the handle.  Look, you can see what is inside without climbing onto the counter!  Now reaching some of the contents on the top shelf is another matter.  For help with that, we can add a 'premiere pull-down shelving system' that will safely bring the shelves (and the items on them) forward and down to counter level.

 What about pantry storage?  We all wanted 'deep' pantry cabinets so that we could store more food.  Getting the food into the pantry was one thing, getting it out is another.  Have you ever had to crawl into the pantry to get to the stuff in the back?   Admit it, how many of you have sent a small child in there? 

The truth is, those pantries are inefficient for the same reason as our ceiling cabinets, you cannot see the items, and you cannot easily retrieve the items.  And this time being tall doesn't help.  In fact you probably have a harder time crawling into the cabinet.   Voila!  Our storage solution is the tall pull out pantry.  24" deep, this cabinet can store a lot of food.  But the food comes to you, via smooth gliding hardware that pull the shelves forward to you.  Furthermore, you can view the pantry contents from both sides.  You will never lose another can of chicken and rice soup again!  Everything is visible and accessible.  You can even adjust the wire basket shelving up and down to accommodate both tall and vertically challenged people.  The same 'pull out' concept applies to base cabinets.  Instead of having shelving that you have to crawl into to find cookware, select large drawers that easily roll out for your search    One final 'show me the money' item is the pot filler.   This glorified faucet brings the water to me and my pot (located at the back of the cooktop) as opposed to making me walk tragically across the room to the sink. 

As always, let me know your thoughts, good and bad!  Happy New Year!!