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.
Camping at Home - life at home without the use of your kitchen
When people tell me they are ready to remodel their kitchens, we have a lot of information to exchange. I want to know their needs and tastes, and they need to know exactly what the process is. One area that I find some confusion is the gutting part where they don’t have a kitchen for about 6 weeks. Many folks never thought about the fact that they would spend time packing up everything in that kitchen, have a contractor tear everything out often including the drywall, then proceed to rebuild it from the bottom up. This will take some time, almost always 6 weeks.
I want them to be prepared, because there are many ways to make this transition much easier if done ahead of time. Camping at home means that there is a table, chairs, refrigerator, microwave, a few dishes, and hopefully a source of water. I urge paper plates and plastic flatware because the clean up is the hardest part to accomplish. The barbeque grill is a great way to actually cook through this period, but how are you expected to wash all that greasy cook-ware? I explain how they can get some meals put up for the weeks to come. Some families are good at this and actually make casseroles and other cooked meals and freeze them. If they have taken the time to prepare a space in the house to go CAMPING all they have to do is heat and eat mom’s good cooking. Others rely on relatives close by to bring food over. They are the lucky ones. If neighbors are good friends, perhaps they will let you come over to put a meal together, or at lease boil some pasta to put that micro-waved jarred sauce on. In these busy times, several businesses have sprung up to make meal prep fast and freezable. Dinner Done and Let’s Dish charge you a fee to come in and put as many meals together as you sign up for. It all gets packed up in plastic containers and bags, labeled with contents and instructions to go directly in the freezer. Restaurants may sound great at first, but believe me, it gets old quick. (and expensive!)
When all the dishes, glasses, pots and pans come out of the old cabinets, inevitably there are some hard decisions to make. Everything usually winds up on the dining room table on a table cloth. That’s a great time to cull out duplicates or things that never truly have been used at all. Sometime long lost items appear. A few boxes can be filled with donations and carted off to the thrift shop or Goodwill store. Usually a tax receipt is given which makes this trip a win win.
The good news is, when the new kitchen is finally finished, and you get to put everything away, there should be a place for everything, and everything in it’s easily retrievable place. Also, there is almost always more room than before, so those gorgeous glasses in the basement, or the lovely wedding gifts packed away in the basement for years can finally come out and be a part of your life.
This time frame is much like a pregnancy and delivery. It takes what seems like forever, and is pretty inconvenient, but enduring this discomfort makes the end result is so wonderful you’ll get amnesia about that unpleasant time you lived through.
A Fresh Start (Part 3) Craft Room Wrap Up
It seems as though we started remodeling the craft room in my house about 4 months ago, but I can now say, we are 99% finished. My #1 goal was to find ways to organize everything so I could find it easily. I also wished for a more attractive place to work in, with better light and restful colors. Additionally, I didn’t want to break the bank.
By taking out the silly sofa bed that was supposed to work for guests (but never really did) and making this strictly a work space, we gained lots of room. I now have several distinct work spaces, and find that two can comfortably sit at separate areas and work at the same time. I saved money by using shelving, lighting, fabric and storage units mainly from IKEA. I also made liberal use of The Container Store. Of course, having access to custom cabinetry helped immensely. I tapped into friends and relatives who were happy to help, if not in a huge rush.
I left the walls in the faux finish stripes that I did with a friend many moons ago. It is durable and neutral and provides a soft pattern against so much white furniture. The fabric gave us the colors such as the soft grey blue used in accessories. There are touches of black in the new desk chair and various other items. I really think every room should have some black. Glass doors in the wall units help me see where things are and give depth and interest in what could have been fairly flat looking.
We have one drawer strictly for paints of all kinds. (acrylics, glass, fabric) The containers with all the brushes are behind glass doors directly above. There are bins labeled for every craft I am (so far) interested in located in the open shelf unit. The rubber stamps, inks and papers are right at hand with glue and scissors close by. Making a quick card for someone does not now involve an hour long search for materials.
The beads, wire, findings, and pliers are just a reach below the card stuff. I plan to take a few classes this summer to brush up on ways to assemble these collected treasures. I have a special area I call the “jewelry hospital” so I can sit to repair/rework things when I find a little time.
Inspiration is close at hand as all my magazines/books are corralled properly and labeled clearly.
The sewing things are mostly located at the new workstation under the window. I was thinking this would be the best location because of the natural light, but realize now I need to put a light-blocking shade up there too for when the sun is blaring in. Both the Bernina and the Serger fit nicely on my new L-shaped top. All the notions are in the desk drawers to the right. That desk belonged to my husband when he was in high school (in the 60’s!!!) and he thought I was crazy to re-use it, but painted up and with new spiffy hardware it works just fine, and it is a bit of nostalgia in a room full of new things. I also merely spray-painted and re-covered the seat and back of an old chrome chair I found on the curb about 20 years ago. Covered with a dusty blue patterned fabric left over from another project, it now has a new life.
A sore area was always trying to find zippers, buttons, seam tape, interfacings and the like. I found cute little bins on sale at the container store and made labels for each item. These are now in the closet on shelves which is concealed most of the time by a curtain. I can open the curtain either way as I made a tie back and put a hook on each side. This is helpful when I’m trying to reach up high or pulling out large things. Those deep shelves are perfect for folded fabric storage as I can see easily where it is.
What you don’t see in these pictures is the ironing board, which truthfully is up almost all the time. There is plenty of room to move around when it is up, and it is handy for a quick touch up. When we are sewing, we find it’s nice to lower it and pull it up close to the sewing machine. There is much less wear and tear and it’s a time saver.
I have to thank the cast of characters for all their support and assistance. My daughter Kelly is the person who assured me that we could do this. She aided in the design and muscled huge heavy boxes of built-it-yourself furniture in and out of vehicles and actually assembled that big unit herself while I was at work. My husband Ralph was extremely important to the project as he re-wired outlets, installed new light fixtures, built the countertop, installed the cabinets and crown molding, cut odd shaped shelves for the closet and offered moral support. Also, Langston Urrita, our painter friend, kindly donated his time removing the old wall paper border.
I now have a beautiful room I am proud to share with friends who want to play/craft with me.
This exercise was really exactly what we go through to remodel a kitchen. Finding everything in it’s place, getting enough room to work comfortably, access to all the machines, and having a beautiful space to share with friends and family is the goal. We help folks realize that every day at Kleppinger Design Group.
PS: I don’t recommend a do it yourself for a kitchen project.
A Fresh Start (Part 3)
My fabulous craft room is almost done. I can see the light, but I have some busy work ahead of me. The closet shelving is installed and primed. The crown moldings are up. The old desk has a coat of paint (but needs another). The hardware is installed. The glass has been ordered for the glass door cabinets. More sorting was done (buttons, ribbons elastic, lace, notions, beads and jewelry findings). I still have the rubber stamps to round up, and more storage bins to find and purchase, but the new countertop is installed and painted a color which looks amazingly like the brushed nickel hardware. (!) It still needs another coat, and 2 days to dry fully.
Throughout this whole process, I have been frustrated to no end while waiting for volunteer help from my family members. I always thought of myself as a patient person, but I have felt so sorry for myself while facing tasks I could not perform myself. I am a total do-it-yourselfer, at least, housewife style, but when it comes to dangerous power tools, I have to draw the line. Expert talent and super strength have been required for cutting of plywood sheets, and installation of heavy cabinetry. Experience was needed for compressor driven pin nailers which were necessary for installation of moldings and such.
When I work with folks in the showroom to help them with the design and selections for their new kitchen, I try to prepare them for the length of time it will take to get their project completely finished. I mention that it is a great idea to make a space for “camping out” in their house. A place for a refrigerator, microwave, table and chairs, and a shelf of some sort for boxed cereals, etc. Some pre-made casseroles in the freezer are a great idea if one has the time and discipline. Sometimes a sympathetic neighbor or relative can open their kitchen up for some meal prep. Paper cups, plates and plastic flatware sure make clean up easier. I tell these families not to try to be too green for the 6 weeks or so as they will have no way to wash up.
You would think I would be relaxed about a mere craft room taking 3-4 months to re-model, but after designing it and preparing for it, it was extremely difficult to wait to fully enjoy it. I can see now that all my fun hobbies will be more accessible, and the layout will permit up to 3 people to work together in there, which will make it less isolating. The new lighting will enable me to see from every spot. The new storage will make digging and hunting for materials a thing of the past. There is a place for every single thing I have and need, and even some extra for more crafty fun.
These are all goals for a well thought out kitchen. The planning, the shopping, and the executing are all critical for the end result to be amazing. Each step of the process is exciting as you see the pieces and parts coming together. The waiting is very difficult, but is so worth it.
Bubble Wrap: A Tale of 2 ladies.
As it turns out, this was not what they do every day, but in fact they apparently often do just about anything their clients ask of them. Their names are Patti Beck and Mianna Harlepp. Their company name is “Bubble Wrap” which I thought was unusual for my industry, but we proceeded to meet and plan for the new cabinetry to be made.
In working on this project with Bubble Wrap I learned exactly what they routinely do: easing the strain of moving.
This particular homeowner had just moved into an older home and traveled so often she couldn’t even unpack. They helped her unpack, arrange furniture, paint, put up artwork, arranged for workmen of every type, including installation of gorgeous window boxes and the planting of them. A contractor they hired came in and gutted the kitchen. The new cabinetry went in. Appliances and granite tops were installed, along with lighting and plumbing fixtures. This room now is one thousand percent more efficient and attractive than it was originally and it’s also beautifully stocked with the client’s dishes, glasses, and cookware. Everything is exactly where it should be. All of the material selections were done for the client by shopping around and e-mailing pictures and specifications so the homeowner didn’t have to step foot in a showroom. She also didn’t have to be home to let anyone in. Now that’s service.
Kleppinger Design Group designs and supplies cabinetry for Kitchens, bathrooms, offices, mudrooms, libraries, pantries, and anywhere else one might want some cabinetry to store things with easy access. We take the time to help decide exactly what items should go where. You want a potholder to be easy to reach from the oven. You want the cabinets for dishes as close to the open dishwasher as can be. We tailor each kitchen to the individual homeowner’s needs.
Bubble Wrap unloads, packs, and unpacks (among so many other things). This service is wonderful for those homeowners remodeling their homes who just can’t face the thought of emptying out their cabinetry and putting it in a pile in their home for the duration of the construction. It also is most helpful on the other end: putting it all away neatly.
Those two ladies can also help with the various selections since they are great with color and scale. Light fixtures, countertops, tile and paint colors are sometimes hard to get just right. It’s wonderful to have a trained eye guiding your choices of such pricey stuff. Clever furniture arrangement is another bonus you receive when you hire this ingenious duo. If you need tradesmen for any service or product, they have a good one.
I will be handing out their card to my kitchen clients who are intimidated by the prospect of emptying the contents of their kitchens before the remodel. Imagine coming home to a clean
room with all your belongings safely packed away (in bubble wrap!) then then, when the kitchen is complete, coming home to a working kitchen.
Clever business, and nice ladies.
A Fresh Start (Part 2)
Shall I concentrate on the good news? All the difficult sorting of stuff I needed to keep and stuff I needed to toss has been done. A ton of old fabric has been carted to the thrift shop and donated. The fabric for the windows and the new closet opening has been purchased. I also have the “Dif” product which promises easy wallpaper removal. Decisions about how to store various items for the many crafts I enjoy have been made. New light fixtures are waiting for installation. (I will finally be able to see well to sew!) The design is pretty much refined to a point where I just want to get on with it, but as in many home improvement projects, we have to remain patient. They ALWAYS take gobs more time to complete than we estimate. I know it will be worth the wait.
A Fresh Start (Part 1)
It has become clear to me that I have a major design dilemma at my house. I used to love to sew when my daughter was small. (She’s 26 now) At that point in my life, I also wasn’t as busy and had more time for this relaxing pastime as well as so many other crafts I enjoy. I realize even now, I could be enjoying it more if I wasn’t inclined to avoid this messy space.
I keep the door closed when people come over because it is the sore spot of my entire house. I’m ready to concede that the room I designated for crafts in my home is in dire need of a makeover. The storage system I thought would work well never did. (converted closet and tall chest of drawers) The small loveseat/twin pullout bed I thought was a great idea wasn’t. (too uncomfortable as a guest bed and too big for the room intended for it.) The old desk I had my sewing machine and serger on is really not enough surface space to jockey them around. The Pier 1 paper lamp hanging from the ceiling is woefully inadequate. My cheap task light broke a long time ago and the table lamp I stuck in its place is too big and awkward.
I have decided that in 2011 I will spend more time crafting. I know I can make some snappy belts and jewelry. I have all the stuff already in my stash. I have tools and beads galore. I have books upon books for inspiration. I just need the proper space to do it in and a way of finding all my pieces and parts needed. I finally realized I needed to approach this challenge just like I do when I design a kitchen.
I am starting fresh. I need lots of countertop space for my sewing machine and serger. (one area for each) I need some drawers for little notions and tools. I need really wonderful overall ceiling and task lighting. I need a separate area for storing fabric and patterns plus the boxes of zippers, seam tape, elastic, lace, and ribbon. I am tired of fighting the closet door, and really don’t like that it intrudes on the floor space when it’s open. I also really want this new room to be an attractive space that I will love to work in. It won’t hurt if others see it and I won’t mind that it will say loud and clear, a creative mind lives here.
These are all the goals of a new kitchen. We want it to be well organized, personalized, beautiful and functional. The things you select will announce proudly what type of a homeowner lives here. Even if you don’t like to cook, you have to get the food on the table somehow. By thinking through all the processes and planning what goes where, your life can be easier and even more fun. We are all about helping you to do that as well as be proud instead of embarrassed when others see your new space.
Stay tuned to see how my project turns out!
How much would a new kitchen cost? (Part 1 of 3)
"Production quality" is good for many remodeling projects. This product is a money and time saver as the cabinets are produced quickly (literally 2 days in some cases) and shipped quickly. Depending on the brand, there can be many beautiful door styles and the choices in finishes continue to get nicer looking as these factories do battle with each other to get your business. The fact is though, that if you intend to stay in the house for over 5-10 years, you may want to look to one of the next levels which we call semi-custom and full custom. For the sake of today's blog entry, let's focus on the production variety.
These cabinet companies often print expensive gorgeous literature and hire excellent designers so that the visible parts of the product are great looking, mainly the doors and the drawer fronts. This is what you find in the Big Box stores in a variety of quality levels.
The least expensive has particle board in various thicknesses as the main construction material including the drawer bodies, sides, bottoms, tops, and shelves. Purchasing these cabinets for your project is a great way to save money on getting a home ready for quick sale (flipping), although due to the nature of the construction, these are more liable to suffering shipping damage.
Many production builders will use this product for either a whole house or various rooms other than the kitchen. (laundry room, baths) Their builder's guarantee for one year allows them to use cheaper materials as the homeowner is responsible for things breaking down after those 365 days are up. Typically the silverware drawer is the first to go. Sound familiar???
The levels go up from here often including upgrades like wood drawers, dovetail joinery, plywood sides option, and veneer wood ends instead of printed wood-grained vinyl. Once you have included all these upgrades, added the nice accessories like rollout shelves, pullout trash and recycle units, glass doors, nice moldings, cherry wood or paint, you are getting closer to the semi-custom price but still able to save a bit of money and receive your order in approximately 3-4 weeks.
These cabinets really work well in bathrooms, laundry rooms, family room built-ins, basement wet bars and the like. They might not get the hard use a kitchen does. They can be fine for a kitchen remodel as well, but think of it like this: These products have shorter life spans than the next level up. They were made quickly without to much thought or care or hand finishing. When your whole kitchen is completed, and you have installed beautiful new flooring, fabulous granite countertops, great sink and faucet and integrated new appliances into the plan, the last thing you want to think about is replacing the cabinetry. Those cabinets are literally trapped in between the floor and the top.
Give us call and schedule a time to drop by our Merrifield showroom and have a quick demonstration of the "piece parts" of cabinets. We are more than happy to show you the differences.
If you have a budget in mind for your project, our job is to help keep you there. We can point out some great money saving ideas to meet your comfort level.
The Perfect Sink (Part 2)
When I replaced my counter tops (10 years ago??) I chose DuPont Corian for various reasons. (the stuff of another whole blog post) I wanted stainless steel under-mount sinks in my new tops, but was over-ruled by my husband and daughter. The seamed-in Corian sinks I got are cool as there is absolutely nowhere for grime to hide. If you close your eyes and feel the area where the sink and top are joined, you will not be able to feel a seam at all. It is quite hygienic, and for that reason doctors and nurses seem to be especially drawn to that feature. My objection to Corian as a sink material is that it is white (or off white). I don’t know about your house, but the stuff that hits my sink is rarely white. It’s coffee, tomato sauce, grease, berries, meat juices and all sorts of dark staining stuff. A bit of “Soft Scrub” with bleach is all it takes to make it look new again though. I did manage to gouge a spot at the bottom by bringing the barbeque grids in and trying to clean them in the sink. When it’s clean you really can’t tell, thank goodness.
Other choices for sink materials exist, and if you don’t want stainless, you owe it to yourself to explore them all. The porcelain cast iron sink is certainly substantial, and does come in some lovely colors. It may take two people to carry it in the house as they are so incredibly heavy. Kohler is the big manufacturer of these and they come in a huge array of shapes and bowl sizes. The surface can be scratched or even chipped, but you’d have to drop a brick on it to make a big mark. The surface is high gloss so cleans
up brilliantly. If you under-mount one of these behemoths, (which you should) be prepared to pay your installer extra to build an armature below it to support the extra weight. These sinks are heavy on their own, but imagine what one will weigh when it’s full of water.
The “Americast” by American Standard looks like the porcelain variety, but doesn’t weigh or cost as much. I have seen one chipped, probably from abuse, but keep in mind what can happen in your house. I learned that American Standard is considering discontinuing this product, probably because of durability issues.
Blanco and a few other manufacturers have been making composite sinks for quite some time. They use ground granite (80%), silica and binders to form the sink. The surface is a bit textured rather than glossy. They are tough, but I have heard objections about them being difficult to keep clean. They make a charcoal black one, which I was fairly certain, would not show dirt, but the client who bought it tells me it always looks dingy.
Marblex, a great granite fabricator and neighbor of ours has been making sinks out of stone for years. http://www.marblexinc.com/ In their showroom, there is a lovely stone farm sink that matches the countertop. I have a client who saw it and instantly decided on that sink for her new home. It looks fabulous, and I can’t imagine anything hurting it. She paid a large sum for it, but it gets a workout as she has 3 kids.
I have seen soap stone farm sinks that look as if they’ve been around for centuries. Smart farmers!
All in all, I like stainless steel the best for it’s qualities:
Forgiving of dishes and glasses
Ease of cleaning
Tons of shapes and sizes
But if you must have some other material for your sink, be prepared to do
your homework and shopping. You surely don’t want to regret your choice
when your new fabulous kitchen is complete.
Take a Stand
That was then and this is now. Sometimes it takes some convincing, but my job is to point out new ways of doing things, and there is a better system for keeping all the stuff of a desk handy, but doing away with the chair. We call this the “standing desk”. Ever since the cordless phone was invented, the Mom’s desk became mostly obsolete. We now can take the phone (or laptop!) elsewhere to make the call, write the e-mail, or chat on the phone while multi-tasking. Checking e-mails is usually done at the breakfast table or island bar where there is more room. The eliminattion of that ball and chain makes it possible for us to get the whole area working harder. I typically place base cabinetry with upper drawers where the knee hole used to be. The stamps, paper clips, tape, scissors, envelopes, pens and paper tuck away here. All the stuff of a desk, without the knee hole or chair. Perhaps we need a file drawer or two there too. No Problem! The cordless phone can dock when it’s charging, and all the directories, phone books, etc can live in nice normal size wall cabinetry above. I point out that all the chargeable devices (cell phones, I-pods, cameras, GPS devices, etc) can be tucked into a basket on a shelf in there as well, with the outlet conveniently place there by an obliging electrician. We now have a hidden “recharge zone” right where we want it, but it and it’s nest of snaky wires is not on full view any longer.
This new “standing desk” now often has enough room for extra cookware, serving pieces, cookbooks, you name it. If we have enough room, we can add glass doors, or even a beverage center so the kids can get their snacks and drinks without going into the kitchen work zone.
Sometimes the way we do things is simply a matter of habit. “We’ve always done it this way” can make way for “Why didn’t we do this a long time ago?
Make an appointment to come in for more ideas on how to “take a stand”.
The Perfect Sink (Part 1)
After multitudes of client meetings here in our showroom, I find homeowners are almost all looking for the best information they can get about all the materials for their new kitchen. Almost everything they are purchasing is expensive, visible, and has to last a long time with daily hard use, often by many family members. No other room in the house will have so many items that are so difficult to change later.
Everything you select is critical to the overall satisfaction with the finished kitchen: Appliances (the power tools), Countertops (the work surface), Floor (daily grind), Cabinetry (beautiful storage furniture), Hardware (function), Good Lighting (absolutely crucial).
The missing link- Plumbing fixtures (water appliances)
I like to think the cabinetry is a priority, and all the other vendors of various materials think the same way about their products. But truthfully, there is nothing else in that finished room that is more important than that sink and faucet. If you did a time/motion study of how you use your kitchen the sink rates close to 70% of your time. Even a bachelor who doesn’t cook will stand there to open take out food, put it on a dish, then rinse the dish and put it in the dishwasher. All sink work.
If you have lots of room and want double bowls, get at least one that has 21” of width inside so you can lay a roasting pan or cookie sheet flat to scrub or soak there. If you have room for only one bin, consider getting the largest single bowl for the space you have available. I had one client take her largest cookie sheet to the plumbing supply showroom to make sure it fit into her new sink. Smart cookie!
Stainless steel is a natural material for this constantly used fixture. For now, we will concentrate on sinks made of this durable material. Even when it’s dirty it looks good, and when it’s clean, it looks fabulous. There is a cheap stainless steel version (hello $50.00 Big Box sink) but you’ll find the alloy has so little nickel in it that it can actually rust. Not a bargain. Very hard to change later. Better sinks have a high ratio of nickel to steel, have a smooth easy to clean surface, and are thicker gauge. You may find more insulation and padding underneath as well, which really cuts down on noise from vibration when you run the disposal.
If you use stone or solid surface for your new countertop (anything other than plastic laminate) you want an under-mount sink. This eliminates that icky edge that catches grime and causes you to get out a tooth pick every once in a while to dig it out. Yuck. Think also carefully about the depth of your new sink. Although 9-10” deep seems fabulous, (your current one is maybe 5” and you know that’s awful) keep in mind it will be lower when it gets under-mounted into a 1 ½” thick countertop. To scrub your sink or reach items on the bottom, you will have to bend way down. Not comfortable. 8” is plenty deep, and keep in mind, your new faucet should be a good pullout one, effectively giving you a garden hose for a faucet. You can fill a bucket, the coffeemaker, or a tall vase sitting on the counter now!
Save, Save, Save!
I’ve been learning about some methods to Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and SAVE money, energy and time right in the kitchen!
SAVE MONEY (It’s yours. You worked for it. Now keep some.)
I’m Irish, and am always looking for ways to keep from having to buy stuff and more stuff. I have been washing disposable sponges in my dishwasher for years. As soon as they get grungy, I toss them into the top rack and run them thru. A quick squeeze when they come out and they smell like new. We have been even washing out our zip lock plastic bags. This may seem extreme, but some of those freezer bags are expensive, and if I only use them once, I’m spending my hard earned cash wastefully. Why not give them a sudsy rinse while you’re washing something else? The trick can be getting them dry though. Look at this cute little rack.
SAVE THE WORMS (They love your coffee grounds!)
SAVE THE PLUMBING (Plumbers are expensive.)
Encouraging recycling also helps reduce wear and tear on the garbage disposal and the plumbing. An experience plumber told me if people never put eggshells down their disposal, he would get far fewer service calls. When he has to cut a major pipe, he often finds the inside lined with years and years of sticky bits of egg shells that have reduced the opening, and eventually caused a back up. (Yes, the worms also love eggshells.)
SAVE THE BAY (Look at it on the map. It is gorgeous. It is in trouble.)
Another cost-cutting habit of mine is to use the “theory of half”. If the laundry detergent label calls for 1 cup, try ½ a cup. You’d be surprised how we over-use products needed to do the job because the manufacturer recommends it. (HM?) If you also use a phosphate free detergent, it will have fewer chemicals in it (good for you) and will help with water quality (good for the Bay). Try the theory of half with your shampoo. Amazing, eh? Lately, you’ve probably heard about dead zones and algae blooms. Our yard fertilizers are part of the problem, but our yards of flat grass, and our sidewalks and streets that can’t absorb water are also at fault. Here are some great ideas if you are thinking of reworking part of your yard: (which attracts more birds which eat more pesky insects.)
You may have an old refrigerator that still works fine. If it’s more than 15 years old, you may think you are saving money by putting off the inevitable, but you may be surprised at how much electricity that old box is costing you. Energy star appliances are a lot more efficient. This designation shows that the Environmental Protection Agency has tested this product and given it this special label for its energy saving qualities.
In addition, many appliance stores and manufacturers have teamed up to offer deep discounts at retailer level as well as mail-in manufacturers’ rebates from $50.00-$100.00 for each piece to 4 piece package rebates as high as $1600.00 for purchases this month.
There are still federal tax credits available until December 2011 to reduce your costs of other energy saving household upgrades such as geothermal heat pumps, solar energy systems, Heating and Air Conditioning units, water heaters, and new doors and windows
Even if your family isn’t worried about climate change or damage to our environment, you may be worried about what’s left in your wallet at the end of the month. Come on and SAVE!
- Julie Hendrickson
Parents, Kids, and Pets, Oh My!
Since we are starting from scratch, we can prepare a specific spot to feed the pets, store their food and hair care products, and even be sure to plan a great washing area for them. I try to also think about other items like the leashes. Can they go somewhere near the door without being in full view? Let’s make this easier, ok?
The floor material is critical. The enemy of a new wood floor is not water, food, or even the dog’s nails. It’s the grit that comes in from outside. That grit, carried onto the floor, begins to get spread around on your feet, the bottoms of chair legs, etc. It acts like sandpaper on your new floor. This doesn’t mean you can’t have wood floors, but if you do you will have to stop the grit from getting in. (or else vacuum and mop every day.) Most of us have a rug of some sort in the foyer and garage entry. If you come in the house with the dog through the garage, a space can be set up out there for wiping the dog’s feet before entering the house. Ideally, there is also a laundry tub nearby to make this easier and more efficient. A mud room would be the ideal place, if you have one. (see My Mud)
A feeding station needs to have a mat of some sort to catch the drips, (which in the case of Great Danes is considerable.) This mat should be water resistant, but can also be pretty. You will want the colors to coordinate with your new cabinets, countertops, and other accent accessories. Bargain rugs are available from lots of outlet type stores. Home Goods, T J Max, and Bed Bath, & Beyond come to mind. (look in the “Beyond” department!) Since these colorful rugs are usually inexpensive, they can be replaced as they get ratty without too much guilt. We also have to be certain to locate this station where it will not impede the daily traffic of your busy kitchen
The storage of large amounts of pet food can be an issue as well. I have used a rollout trash container with it’s large plastic bin in place of the silly old desk area, and the kibble can go directly in there with a large scoop. If it’s only small amounts, perhaps a rollout shelf near the feeding area will work better. You can also keep medications, brushes, toys and treats there where everyone in the house can find them.
The ideal conditions for washing large dogs is a special shower with a hand held spray to control the water. A tiled corner of a laundry room, basement, or mud room with a shower pan works perfectly, and can even be designed with wall recesses at a lower height so you can easily reach the shampoo and other items quickly. A water proof stool nearby will be handy as you can sit while doing this duty. This shower can also come in handy for watering large plants, or rinsing sporting equipment. Imagine taking down those gross window screens occasionally and being able to spray a cleaner on them, rinse and drip dry them all without breaking a sweat.
Pets are family members. They don’t speak English so can’t tell us, but they have needs. When you redesign your kitchen with us, we want to be sure to create the ideal situation for them, and for you.
In all my years of helping families with kitchen remodeling, one theme continues to pop up: PANTRIES! It seems that most folks wish for a better, bigger, and more organized way to store dry food and other large items. Those who have no pantry at all are often determined to work one into their new kitchen plan. Since we are starting from scratch, my job is to make that dream come true. Sometimes, it is easy. The builder pantry of the 60’s-70’s era was built with typical 2x4 framing, drywall and (now aging) bi-fold doors. I commonly see shelves jam-packed; the floor covered with large items (cases and or liters of soda, Costco paper towels) and yet there is still enough room in front of the shelves to store 3 children. This is wasted space, which when remodeling this important room is unacceptable.
By gutting that builder stick-built pantry and redesigning the space, we can fit at least as much stuff, if not more in a smaller foot print. I usually place a tall cabinet with 5 adjustable rollout shelves inside it which makes access much easier. I will often re-locate it if it’s in a high-traffic zone. Having the pantry where it should be and the items inside easy to locate and retrieve is a powerful change for the better.
Above are two optional organizers for pantry cabinets
My training is primarily in space planning, although I have seen plenty of beautiful kitchens, and am happy to share my opinion of a particular combination. I tell folks that it’ s a lot like getting dressed to impress. (The decorative hardware is the earrings.) I also urge them to buy lots of kitchen/bath magazines and put sticky notes on any page that catches their eye. Maybe it’ s a light fixture, or the bar stools they like. Make notes, as later you might not remember why you liked something. Eventually, you will start to see a pattern develop which should help you to know you will love your final choice and not get tired of it.
For those people who really need more assistance with these difficult decorating decisions, another professional is called for. If you simply need someone to look at your choices and bless them or edit them, or you actually need someone to go shopping with you to pick everything, I recommend you hire an experienced interior decorator. One such person is Debora Brehony at “ Ooh La La Decor” in Vienna. I have worked on new homes with her for many (how many?) many years. I always felt her influence was a big reason that those houses sold. She always made the kitchens and baths I supplied look wonderful, often by custom mixing incredible wall paint colors. She is currently also working with real estate agents to showcase older homes for sale that otherwise might not get a second look. She can rearrange your existing furniture, artwork, and accessories, or help you select all new. Even if you just need her to pick out some great paint colors, her experience will give you a big boost of confidence that your new kitchen or bath will look fabulous for years to come.
- Julie Hendrickson
The Crowning Glory
20 years ago when I remodeled my own kitchen, 42” high wall cabinets were getting popular. Elimination of the need for the bulky, boxy bulkhead, and gaining another 12” of dish storage was here to stay. Cabinets were set clear up to the ceiling, which was never exactly level, and some type of molding was required. I used a small but decorative cove type molding, and I thought it looked great. Nowadays, we have many more choices of not only moldings, but even combinations of moldings. Why do we have so many choices to make?? Just look at the yogurt section of the dairy case in your grocery store. We demand variety!
Another addition to the arsenal for a designer, is the introduction of an idea which beautifully highlights the shapes of crown moldings. We call this “Staggered” moldings. This technique places several taller, deeper cabinets clear to the ceiling only in strategic locations. Often they are the diagonal corner wall cabinet, the refrigerator cabinet, and perhaps an oven or pantry cabinet. I then use somewhat shorter wall cabinets to fill in. The result is more mitering of the crown molding which truly displays their shapes and beauty much more than just running it across in a straight line of cabinets. This creates visual interest and movement and prevents the doors from becoming a “wall of wood”. It’s tricky though, and does take careful planning.
Light rail molding is now a standard addition to every package I am using. It is a decorative piece, that caps off the bottoms of all the wall cabinets. This is close to eye level, and provides a lovely finish to that stopping point. It also helps hide the under cabinet lights, which are now assumed to be standard everywhere. At least by me.
Moldings add expense. The cabinet maker is running your beautiful solid hardwood through a shaper in long lengths. It then is sanded a lot by hand. No machine can take that exact shape. It is then stained or painted and finished along with all your cabinets. Oven curing, drying, and packing and shipping follow. At that point, your cabinet installer has some precision measuring, cutting, mitering and nailing to do. This takes time.
The Crowing Glory is like your hair. It’s at the top, takes time to make look nice, needs to go with your personality and outfit, and can make or break the look.
The Great Divide
When I’m helping clients design a new kitchen, I show them some cool ways I’ve found to manage the storage of some odd shaped items. The baking sheets, pizza pans, roasting pans, cutting boards, and muffin tins can be extremely difficult to extract if they are all stacked on top of each other. Inevitably, the one you want is on the bottom. Thankfully, these items and others can be organized neatly in small spaces with dividers installed in various cabinets. Tray dividers are vertical partitions or metal racks that enable the cook to find an item and easily slide it out for immediate use. These work well in spots that might otherwise be tough to reach. I like to see them above the refrigerator in the deep wall cabinet I place above. Even a shorter cook can usually reach the bottom corner of a pizza pan or cookie sheet. They are standing up like books on a shelf. Easy peasy!
Other types of dividers can be arranged in drawers to corral all those odd-shaped items we seem to collect. I know I don’t use my pastry blender very often,(apple pie maybe twice a year) but when I want it, I have a space designed exactly to fit it. The apple corer fits right under it. The Container Store (I love this place) sells a system to arrange items in drawers which was designed by a woman in California. She realized that with rigid plexi type plastic, the only tool necessary to cut a straigt line was a razor blade. All you have to do is score it along a straight edge and snap the pieces over the edge of your counter or table. In the kit are also some peel and stick u-shaped channels that allow you to keep the rigid dividers in place in the drawer and to each other. I took all those wicked kitchen tools out and arranged them on my counter first. I like having the most often used ones closest, and the weirder ones at the back of the drawer. Now I have a perfect place for even the shish-kebob skewers. That’s power! I got so excited I went back and bought more. I now have a special drawer for the plastic picnic flatware, the special spoons for pho noodle soup and even birthday candles.
Crystal, one of my favorite cabinet factories, makes some really yummy wood dividers for your every day silver and even the sharpest of knives. The flatware drawer divider is beautifully made and even lifts out of the drawer easily for quick cleaning. Crystal is happy to make them up in any configuration for custom-fitting of any items you can fit in a drawer.
Something else I’m starting to see more is a removable wood divider in a deep drawer to store the pot lids. We have also had a system for years that consists of a sheet of pegboard with moveable wooden dowels that can be scooted around to hold all your dishes and bowls in place. In a kitchen where there are few or no wall cabinets, dish storage is now not a problem. I also like to use this unit when there are small children. They can be taught to help empty the dishwasher of their plastic dishes, put them away in their drawer, and set their places at the table later. This is a great lesson in self-sufficiency and fosters independence later as they grow.
Getting the meal on the table and cleaning up after are now a bit easier since finding and fitting all the various items is done with such little effort.
Ten Reasons People Remodel
When I meet clients in the showroom, we first sit down and I try to learn something about their family and their home. Depending on the age of the house, and how they would like the new room to function, certain topics almost always come up. I don’t have to ask them why they want to remodel their kitchen, but these are reasons I often hear:
Top Ten reasons you want to Remodel your kitchen:
10) The appliances are dying
9) The floor is shot
8) There is horrible lighting
7) Not enough storage and what is there is hard to reach
6) The Formica counter top has seen better days
5) The original drop-in sink is inadequate
4) So is the old fashioned faucet
3) There is no pantry
2) The cabinets are dark and ugly
1) Kitchens (and baths) sell houses
Spice is Nice
As we begin the process of designing a kitchen for a client, there are typical questions that help us understand how the current kitchen does or doesn’t work. We then know how to proceed to correct problem areas. One common complaint is storage and retrieval of spices. The bottles are small, and often hard to reach, but most often almost impossible to find. I find the analogy of a library a good starting point for explaining how we can help make this problem go away. Imagine going into a Library to find a specific book. The books are on the shelves, but they are going every which way, and the titles are all turned where we cannot see them. That’s the frustration you feel when you are searching for that tiny container of Cream of Tartar. Some solutions:
The door mounted spice rack
This unit is mounted to the door of the cabinet, and the shelves are often cut back to allow the door to close. You now have a wall cabinet that is essentially sliced in half. Half has the tiny bottles lined up on the back of the door with ALL THE TITLES FACING OUT. The other half is a great place to put the oils, teriyaki, soy sauce, vinegars, as well as the large containers (COSTCO?) of dried onions, bay leaves, etc. Commonly used canned goods can go in there too. Make chili every week? Tomatoes, beans, chili powder, cumin, salt, pepper, it’s all right there.
The spice drawer
If you have a lot of drawers in your kitchen, you may want to line one or two with spices. A zig zag shaped “stepped” platform lays there with the bottles relaxing at an angle. Again, the labels are facing you. Only the smaller containers will fit but it is organized.
The pullout spice base
This piece comes in several sizes, but a 9” wide one will hold a ton of spices as well as bottles of oils. I like to locate it close to the range. The shelves are adjustable, and you can arrange the bottles so you see one layer from the right and one layer from the left.
The spice lazy susan
This is something you can incorporate in any kitchen, new or not. Target and Container Store both sell very nice lazy susans for this purpose. They have a non-slip surface to keep the little bottles from scooching around. Don’t get the bigger one 11”?).It won’t fit in your 12” wall cabinets. The 9” one is perfect. You can even put different categories of flavorings on different susans. Imagine all your baking stuff on one. (vanilla, baking soda, baking powder, cream of tartar, etc.) Maybe all the herbs go on another. Maybe all the sauces, oils, vinegars go on one. If you place them so all the labels are facing out, you can just spin them and find what you’re looking for.
This will make cooking less frustrating and much more fun. You might even bake more often if it’s not hard to find what you need. Don’t want that stuff around the house? Make it and take it to work. You’ll be a hero.
Me and my Mud (Room)
Long ago, the mudroom of a house was the area between the outside of the house and the inside. In winter ice and snow, and in spring with constant rain, this room with it’s tile floor was a barrier to keep mud off the finished wood floors of the house proper. In households with animals such as horses, you can imagine the dirt that otherwise would have been tracked inside.
Nowadays, I hear clients referring to their “mudroom” but most often I find it is the laundry room between the garage and the kitchen. We have been referring to this as the “Family Foyer” because guests use the formal front door, but the family goes in and out this informal “mudroom”. For families with children, this room can become a problem as the kids routinely dump the coats, backpacks, shoes and sporting equipment on the floor when they come home. What can be done?
We have been working in some solutions to such an area and making it pull double duty. This can be a place to store out of season outerwear and shoes if we can build up to the ceiling. (mittens/hats/ beach towels/ flip flops) Depending on how large the area is, we can create cubbies, often with coat hooks and a place to sit so that it’s easy to hang up the coats and back packs and put on, take off, and store shoes and boots. It’s also a great place for mom and dad to park some of their gear so it doesn’t wind up on the kitchen counters. A “charging” zone can be created for the various rechargeable devices (phones, cameras, GPS, laptop, I-pods) that could develop into a snake nest of wires in the more public parts of you home.
If the laundry equipment is already in this room, dirty jackets, uniforms, and socks can be sorted and placed directly into the washer or hamper reducing the steps back and forth. If you have a laundry tub in there, you’ve probably already been wiping the dog’s paws before he gets into the house, so I guess we can continue to call it the Mud Room.
Bring your room dimensions to us and we’ll show you a few ways we can help you manage the mud.
Let’s face it. Getting dinner on the table is a big enough chore. There’s the planning, the shopping, the prep work, the retrieval of all the cookware, the actual cooking, and the endless clean up. Can we make this easier please????
I have worked with many families over the years to help them create their perfect dream kitchen. Each project presents me with a unique challenge which needs specific solutions to make life easier. Some areas are a common problem, but we have great ways to address them.
One complaint I almost know I’m going to hear about is the nightmare of the plastic containers we lovingly call Tupperware. There is no question that it is tough to store and retrieve. The lids go missing as they seem to jump off the shelf. Finding the right size container with a matching lid is frustrating at best.
In making dinner, putting the groceries away is the first step. Putting all the leftovers away during clean up is the final step. My goal is to reduce the steps in all these processes, leave room for several people to work in the room together, and find the right place for everything. My favorite way to store these handy containers is in deep drawers. The “three drawer cabinet” has a standard utensil type drawer at the top, and two deep drawers below it. I like to place this piece in a convenient spot to wrap leftovers, pack a lunch or a picnic, and yet not be in the way of someone emptying the dishwasher or putting something in the oven. Sometimes an island is the perfect spot. Food wraps fit nicely in the top drawer so everything is in a logical location for its task.
In these times of reducing plastic waste as well as dollars, it makes sense to use washable containers for leftovers. Money is also kept in your pocket if you carry that “previously prepared meal” to work the next day avoiding the $7.00 plus lunch. How about the calories you’ll save by knowing exactly what is in the food you are eating? Why not make twice as much food as you need that night and freeze a whole meal for later? When all the items are in the right spot, packing your lunch can actually be a pleasure.