Appliance Bugaboo

DEEP refrigerator1
I find that communicating to my kitchen clients some key facts as they make selections for all items that will go in their new kitchen will surely make the process easier for them and for me. One category that tends to give us some trouble needs more discussion as the kitchen design takes shape. Appliances can be a real dilemma. We rely on our appliance expert. (Her name is Andrea at Appliance Connection: (703) 492-7283) We do need to know which appliances you choose for your new kitchen, and in fact spend a good bit of time getting various specifications and exact dimensions to ensure we allow enough clearance for our cabinetry. We also advise as best as we can how the appliances you choose will integrate, fit, and look when set in place in your brand new kitchen. This is tough to do perfectly on paper or with words. 

The appliance industry has challenges too. They want to give you the best features, durability, beauty, and affordability. Most of your appliances are designed to fit into the cabinet industry standard depth of the base cabinets in your kitchen. This magic number is 24”. Your countertop should overhang the front of your base cabinets by around 1 ½”, so the other magic number is 25 ½”. Dishwashers, ranges, cook tops, wall ovens, microwaves, hood fans, and wine chillers all seem to tuck into this space neatly enough. Most appliances seem to becoming “chunkier” as the desire for a more commercial appearance continues to drive sales. This will cause the doors and handles to protrude more than we found 10 years ago, so that does give us cause to create more clearance in corners so that we don’t have drawers colliding with dishwasher handles. But the overriding “problem child” in the appliance family is the refrigerator. The one item that is opened and closed more than any other is our biggest challenge as designers. When you look at refrigerators in the appliance store, there may be no cabinetry around them to illustrate how they will look installed in your house. They might be lined up like gorgeous soldiers awaiting your inspection. You are free to open and close them, check out the nice shelves, lights, and cool gizmos that their research and development has come up with for that year. The real dig is the depth of the thing. Keeping the magic numbers of 24” and 25 ½” in mind before you go refrigerator shopping will save us all confusion later on. There are refrigerators out there that with the handles measure 35-36” or more in depth. That’s a foot deeper than all that nice cabinetry and granite. We can make the beautiful wood returns alongside the refrigerator a bit deeper. We have even arranged for the contractor to cut into the 2 x 4 wall to create a bit more space to recess it in further. We can do some special planning if that very large capacity refrigerator is mandatory for you.

Some appliance salespeople are not thinking about this detail. They often simply want you to have  the 26 cubic foot behemoth of your dreams. Come in for a visit to our showroom to discuss some other pitfalls we have learned to avoid when you decide to remodel this most important room of your home.
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Paint, Highlighting & Brushing

shiloh brushing technique

High end custom cabinetry lines have been offering a brushed finish for years, but now some semi-custom cabinet lines are starting to offer the unique finish. Shiloh Cabinetry is one of those lines. And even better than just offering the finish, they offer it as a standard, no upcharge option.

The Brushing Technique is the newest addition to Shiloh's lineup of specialty finishes. The brushing is hand applied for an antiqued appearance. It is available in Polar White, Soft White, Eggshell or Ivory, with Cafe or Slate Highlight. Due to the hand-applied process, significant variation is common.

Read more to see the available colors.

eggshell cafe brush big
Eggshell with Cafe Brushing

ivory cafe brush big
Ivory with Cafe Brushing

soft white slate brush big
Soft White with Slate Brushing

eggshell slate brush big
Eggshell with Slate Brushing

ivory slate brush big
Ivory with Slate Brushing
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soap stone

Money Magazine declared Soapstone #1 in value when compared to Granite, Solid Surface, Concrete, Butcher Block and Ceramic Tile.

We have had a Soapstone countertop in our showroom for years and it still gets a lot of attention. People have a lot of questions about its durability and cost. Below are a few pros and cons of Soapstone just in case you are considering it for your kitchen. If you would like a closer look please feel free to stop by our showroom.

SoapStone is a soft stone found in Finland, Brazil and in the heart of Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains. Below are some of the pros and cons of choosing this surface for your kitchen.

• Its naturally nonporous (stain resistant)
• No fussy, vulnerable sealants; scratches can be sanded and oiled away.
• Prices out similar to granite

• You can get any color you want, so long as it's green or dark gray.

The Alberene Soapstone Company has been harvesting, processing, and fabricating soapstone from their Virginia quarries since 1883. We've visited their operation, and it is really quite impressive. Visit their website to learn more.
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Tales from a Kitchen Designer (Part 3)

It’s amazing what can happen in a week. Last Friday the cabinets arrived, and boy did they. We had boxes everywhere. In the kitchen, dining room, living room, sun room. I almost put some in our boys rooms, but they wouldn’t be happy with that. I was able to get the kitchen painted prior to the cabinet delivery, and then again after they arrived. The color that was agreed upon turned out to be a little too blue for my wife. She was looking for a greener color and what was on the wall was not that. After a last minute review of the color chips we had, a new color was selected and by the end of the weekend, my painting was done, (at least everywhere cabinets touched), and a few of the cabinets were unboxed, and staged to be installed. My wife happily helped do a little of that, just so she could get a glimpse of her new cabinets.

While we have entered week 4 of construction, and consequently dirt and dust everywhere, Monday was the day we were waiting for. It was the day we started to set cabinets. It is the proverbial home stretch. According to her, it was the equivalent of my wedding day. Apparently Sunday night I appeared anxious, constantly fidgeting with the cabinets, unboxing what I could and moving them around. By Monday morning, I had set up an area that had all the different hardware we would need (screws of varying sizes, washers, shims, tape, pencils and markers, etc). I also grabbed some drinks and snacks to munch on while we worked. I guess she was right, what has been months in the planning comes down to the day that cabinets get installed. Of course running through my mind is all of the details and little things that I hoped I accounted for when I designed the kitchen and ordered the cabinets.

They guys showed up and after unloading the tools, we got to work. It didn’t take long to find our groove, and we made pretty good progress. By the time we stopped for lunch, on section of the kitchen was finished and my wife was jumping up and down with excitement. She was sky high, and we had only just begun. By the end of the day, all of the cabinets in the main part were installed. The funny thing about installing cabinets is that it is truly and art and skill. Yes, anyone competent enough with tools can do it, but it truly takes a craftsman to install them the right way. Sometimes the cabinet goes in rather quickly without any problems, and sometimes it doesn’t. The key is it’s not about speed, but precision. If you take the time to make sure each cabinet is level, it makes installing the next one that much easier. And it shows in the final product. Sometimes the best thing to do is stop. We hit that point Monday afternoon with our oven cabinet. It was late in the day and we had to figure out a way to stand it upright. It would have been easier if I ordered the cabinet the right way, but we were able to solve the problem. After everyone left, I swept the floor yet again, and we had a picnic dinner on the kitchen floor. It was actually the cleanest place in the house at the moment. That night our oldest son played with some of the boxes, and even had a “restaurant” that he served us our dinner from.

Day two got off to a slow start, but once everyone got there, we found our rhythm and kept moving. At the end, we had installed all of the cabinets and the kitchen looked good. I could see the design come together and now the space was really defined. It’s amazing how in two days we went from having an empty room to what looked like a kitchen again. While everything went in right, I did have a few oops moments. I ordered two wine cubbies too tall (part of that had to do with the ceiling and floor not being level) plus an accessory here and there that was in the wrong spot.

Overall, we are happy with how it’s turning out. It will take a bit to get used to the fact that the kitchen is a little smaller, but nothing time won’t take care of. My wife is anxious to start putting things back into the cabinets and start to clear out the living room of boxes. However, we informed her they were not her cabinets yet. We still had work to do and until the doors and drawers were back on and the moldings installed, she wasn;t allowed to put anything in them. She’s waited this long, what’s a few more days.

Hopefully by the next update, we’ll have countertops on. Stay tuned.

Go to the photos...

- Andrew
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Tales from a Kitchen Designer (Photos)

View photos of my kitchen remodel currently in progress. The most recent photos are at the top of the page.
























Before any work began





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Tales from a Kitchen Designer (Part 2)

Well, Valentines Day came early to our house. Last week our contractor called and asked if he could start our project sooner than we had planned. Originally he was to start on Monday, Feb 14th. That would allow us a week to clean and pack after the baby shower my wife was hosting. After talking to her, we decided why prolong the inevitable, so we decided that Monday Feb 7th would be D-Day. as soon as the party was over Saturday night, we frantically started packing up our kitchen. While plates, dishes and breakables were carefully wrapped and boxed, the kid’s plastic plates and Tupperware went flying.
We continued into Super bowl Sunday clearing things out (yes I did stop to watch the game) and by 10:00pm, my wife was done. Unfortunately we still had a lot left. By the end, I was done boxing things up as well and what was left ended up on the dining room table. We were proactive enough to set up a small temporary kitchen area to hold the essentials that we would need to feed our boys and ourselves. Cereal, plastic plates and cups, and the coffee maker. During our packing, we came across several items that will not make it back into the new kitchen. We found spices that had become petrified, pieces and parts to items we no longer have, and even 2 cigarette lighters (we don’t smoke).

Monday morning came with an urgency and rush to finish moving furniture out before the workers showed up. In the end, they helped me move out a few things, before really getting to work. Surprisingly, the demo happened quite fast. The cabinets and soffits were torn out first, and they were all out of the house before lunch, as was some of the drywall. After lunch the 2 layers of vinyl floor came up. That’s where the real gem was. Apparently the original floor in the kitchen was vinyl parquet flooring. I wonder why the previous owners had covered that up! Also in the outside wall was an old vent that had been covered in drywall. Other than that there weren’t too many surprises. By the end of day 1, everything had been stripped to the sub floor and studs. We put baby gates up to keep our boys out, and constantly gazed in amazement of what had been our kitchen the previous day. The only disappointment my wife has was she did not physically get to break up something herself, primarily the pantry door and laminate countertops. We did go out to eat Monday, as we still needed to finish organizing our mess and setting up a temporary eating place.

Tuesday brought more work, noise and dust. They cut into the kitchen wall and framed the new bar and pantry areas, and started laying the new hardwood floor. Water lines were run for the new under counter ice maker and oven (yes it has a steam feature built in). Tuesday night, my wife and I reviewed the electrical plans, and discussed the things we still need to decide on.

Wednesday came and more progress was made. The installation of the floor was finished, most tools cleaned up and drywall was stacked in a nice pile. The plumber came and did his thing, and all that was really left was the electrician, and then they could do the drywall and finish the floor. In talking with the contractor, it sounded like we were moving ahead pretty well, and we might be able to start setting cabinets sooner than we thought.

Thursday came, and those plans went out the window. After reviewing the work with the electrician, it would take more than a day to do everything (since he was there, we decided it made sense to have him address electrical issues in other rooms too). Unfortunately for us, he can’t get back to our house until next Monday (Valentines Day) and as a result that bumps everything else back a few days. Oh well, there isn’t anything we can do about that. In the end, it is probably good as we still need to pick out a faucet and light fixture over the window. I’ve got the paint, so as soon as the drywall is done, I am ready to go. The cabinets are in our warehouse in Baltimore, I have the sink, and I picked up the cook top, hood and microwave. The appliances have been paid for, as well as the cabinets, and deposits on several other things have been made.

While there is a level of stress associated with doing a project, I have to say I am also having fun. I love to see things built, and how all the pieces fit together. That’s probably one of the reasons I am in the building industry. My brother-in-law who is living with us is amazed at the transformation already. He’s a mechanical person, and seeing the remodeling from the inside has given him a new appreciation for what we do. Our 6 year old always makes sure he has his shoes on so he can “come into the kitchen”. He’s getting a crash course in construction, learning about studs, sub floors and ceiling joists. I am sure today he will have more questions about what the electrician has done. Our youngest just sees all the tools and supplies as new and exciting tracks to drive his trains on, and gets upset that I put up gates to keep him out. And for my wife, every day means she is closer to getting the new kitchen she has wanted since we bought the house. The few weeks of dirt, dust and upheaval we’re living through will be well worth it when the project is done. Stay tuned, and enjoy the attached pictures. We took some pictures of the kitchen Saturday night, and then Monday afternoon. We are taking them everyday, but haven’t downloaded them from the camera yet. We’ll try to do that soon for the next update.

Go to the photos...

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