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Not Your Mama’s Kitchen

Friday, January 18th, 2019

Oh, how things have changed…  As the world changes around us we can not help but let it seep into our home lives.  Technology changes rapidly but there’s a larger change that happens with much less fanfare – The social norms that sometimes pass us by until we’re left behind, choking on the dust of feeling older.  This is why those of us that are parents find ourselves comparing our children’s lives to our own with the tired line, “When I was a kid…”  We didn’t care when our parents said it to us and our kids don’t care when we say it to them – that’s a generational constant.

Kitchens have not been immune to change – Due to more hectic lifestyles and demand for efficiency, kitchens provide excellent insight to just how things have changed through the decades.  All you have to do is Google, “Kitchens from the 50s” and check out the images that come up.  Apparently only women used the kitchen and, as far as I can tell, they loved it!  I also found out from the photos on the World Wide Web that Moms baked a lot of pies back then.  Like, all the time!

I think we can all agree that the greatest change to hit our kitchens was the introduction of the Turducken around 1984.  What did we do without it and why would you make a simple, two-legged turkey when you can make a six-legged, turkey – duck – chicken mutant-combo, protein power-bomb thing?  We’re truly advancing as a species.

Let’s get real-ish…

The raised bar vs. a flat counter-top – What makes this a generational issue?  Raised bars are commonly around the sink area so the question that gets brought up is, “Won’t people be able to see into my sink?”, the answer I give is, “Yes, but who cares?  We all have the same thing in our sinks at home.”  The point here is that we are not a formal society.  We’re busier and more stressed so we just want to casually hang out with friends.  Hopefully we have enough understanding for each other that a few dishes in the sink doesn’t lead to a social faux pas.  If you do find some dishes in the sink at the next social event and you start feeling judgy, have another glass of something, try to have some fun.

Formal dining room vs. dining area – Much like the raised bar, we sometimes look to eliminate a separate, formal dining room since taking over that space can expand the kitchen tremendously in some layouts.  An area to sit for dinner or family gatherings is a must.  It’s the “formal dining” that typically implies a room that we don’t use.  “Formal” requires too much energy and time that we just don’t have anymore.  Gotta run…  The cleaners called – My ascot is ready for pick-up.

Work triangle – This is such a keyword that it deserved it’s own blog a while back.  Check it out Here.  The work triangle was developed back in the 40s.  The concept of having a convenient flow is what still makes sense but the 3 points of a triangle could now be increased to 4 or 5 points depending on what appliances a family night use.  Microwaves, multiple dishwashers, steam ovens and even coffee makers are all important appliances to some families today.

One of the underlying changes in kitchens over the years is not only how they’re used but who’s using them.  It’s not always Mom doing the cooking these days.  In some households it’s the Dad that enjoys making dinner.  Kids are getting to know their way around the kitchen and becoming little chefs at earlier ages.  As the definition of who uses the kitchen has changed the design of the kitchen has also evolved to accommodate the users along with new technology and social expectations.

Useful Vs Useless Counter-Tops

Tuesday, July 3rd, 2018

One of the most common items on homeowner’s wish lists is the desire for more counter-top space.  While no one wants exposed clutter out in the open for everyone to see, there is still a desperate need for more work space.  The trick here is in the “work space” not just more counter-top space.

There’s not much need for counters that we can not use as part of the kitchen.  If we have 40 square feet of counter located on the other side of the kitchen as the cook-top or sink area it quickly becomes a drop zone for the family.  We also affectionately refer to this area as the family “crap catcher”.  A bit crass but yet every family knows exactly what area in their kitchen this is referring to.  It’s OK, we all have one.

Our goal is to improve counter-top space WHERE YOU NEED IT MOST.  Check out the below examples:

There is quite a lot of counter-top in the above photo.  Unfortunately it’s not where you need it.  The sink has useful space flanking it but the cook-top was totally robbed of fulfilling it’s full potential.

Then there’s this classic arrangement above.  No counter-space, a wall (oven tower) built next to it, no chance for success.

It is our job as kitchen designers to make sure that we are getting you the quantity of counters you need but also the quality.  The kitchen must be laid out in a way that maximizes the square footage of the space but more importantly makes the most out of the square footage gained.

Cabinet Crown Vs. House Crown

Wednesday, October 18th, 2017

The use of the “Vs.” above is quite intentional.  Many of our clients ask how we intend to run the new cabinet crown in to the existing house crown molding as if they are going to fight.  It’s a logical question due to the fact that the two crown molding profiles and colors will not match – Often, not even close.  So we have a battle on our hands…  Unless you treat it like I believe it should be treated – Don’t even try.

There are a few older techniques that were used to blend the two crown moldings together.  Transition blocks were used back when people enjoyed seeing more traditional, decorative items throughout their home.  This has definitely changed recently as we’ve all been migrating to the “less is more” mentality with cleaner lines.  In my opinion, transition blocks look frivolous and outdated.

If you have two different crown profiles coming together at a transition block it doesn’t look half as good as the one below.  Either way, this method tends to draw your eye to it, giving it more attention than it deserves.  Not a fan.

Another method is called coping.  This is where one crown is cut to the profile of the other crown.  It’s a bit of a risky maneuver even when you have someone highly skilled doing the cutting.  There are lots of little cuts that can end up looking messy.  Even when cut very well, like the picture below, it draws more attention to it than may be desired due to to multiple lines not in sync.

What do we prefer?  Thank you for asking.  We like the house crown to be house crown and cabinet crown to be cabinet crown not one in the same.  It looks best where the two moldings are turned back into the wall just before they hit each other.  They may actually touch slightly at the very top.  This forms an “A” shape  with a bit of wall between.  See the two pictures below:

What you may notice is that the crown transitions are minimized, not really an issue in the space.  This is the reason we prefer the “don’t even try” approach.  In this case, the simplest method is also the best.  It ties the two moldings together without tying them in at all allowing the two moldings to be what they are without conflict.  There are so many topics to discuss and think about throughout a remodel, I believe this is one you can check off the list.

The Realities of Remodeling

Wednesday, June 21st, 2017

There’s a fine line between lack of intelligence and blatant honesty.  I prefer to think that I’m blatantly honest but you can decide which you think of me after you’ve read this blog.  …How could you not keep reading after a set up like that?

Companies in our field (construction, remodeling, etc.) will not advertise all the “what ifs” or all the possible scenarios that can lead to aggravation and delays during any given project.  It would be a terrible ad – Our “Platinum Process” would turn into something like the “Aluminum Process”.  We could talk about all the potential issues, aggravations and delays that COULD arise during the project. – Not sexy.

I should say something positive before I shoot myself in the foot…  Where my industry can be problematic, it’s often not the problems themselves but how issues get resolved that defines a company.

Given all the “opportunities” (problems) that can arise, let’s discuss a few of the major ones:

Lead times and back orders The waiting game.  This can happen with almost any product.  And it happens often enough.  From back-splash tile and counter-top material to light fixtures and appliances, it’s an issue that may arise that no one can do much about barring reselecting the delayed item.

For example, if an appliance manufacturer chooses to push a release date back for a new model of range, refrigerator, etc., there is no amount of grease that will get that wheel oiled.  Even your largest appliance distributors will be at the mercy of the manufacturer.  Yelling and screaming will not speed anything up, only add to the already stressful situation for you and the appliance dealer.  It’s better to work together to possibly reselect.

SelectionsThis part ain’t for everyone.  Holy cow the tears!  We have we seen people fall apart here.  Some people make decisions very well and others don’t.  You probably already know which category you fall into here.  Don’t lose your mind and especially don’t second guess yourself right into Crazytown. – It exists, I’ve been there, it’s not fun.

Analysis paralysis is when you can’t make a decision so you’re simply stuck.  We do our best to help people realize their vision.  What we can’t help is when people spend hours and hours on the internet and listening to every opinion from every friend, their friends, their kids, spouse, Dr’s and elementary school teachers.  This is not life or death and it doesn’t need to be torture.

Communication breakdownHe said, she said.  I consider myself a good communicator.  I spend time with people and enjoy exploring the possibilities of what could be in their kitchen.  However, between our first few meetings there is so much information being thrown out that it’s nearly impossible to absorb all of it.  Whether it’s the homeowner or the designer everyone’s trying their best to keep up and stay on task.  Phones ringing, kids screaming, brain wandering.  All you can do is your best to stay focused and ask questions!

Pre-existing conditionsYou think your house is the weird one – You’re right – They all are!  There is not a level ceiling or floor out there.  Your walls are bowed.  Their might even be plumbing or electrical wiring that was not done correctly.  Yes, there were inspectors when your house was built but that doesn’t mean he didn’t do a “drive by”.  Remember the time when builders couldn’t get houses up fast enough?  MANY mistakes were made.  In my home as well.

What that means is that there will be no perfection this time around either.  Remodel projects must deal with what they were given unless correcting that issue is part of the scope of work.  If it’s an electrical issue that shows itself, given it’s importance, you should be given the opportunity to correct it.  Repairing any pre-existing condition of the house can add more time to any project.

LaborThey don’t make ’em like they used to.  Our industry is struggling with a lack of workers.  The current generation is not that excited about getting dirty or working with their hands.  Good advice for any young adult entering the work force would be to become a plumber or electrician.  Not glamorous but you can do VERY well.

These days it’s getting harder to find good workers.  The goal in this industry is to build relationships.  However, everyone gets sick, their vehicles break down and (here comes the harsh truth) EVERYONE has a personal life outside of your project (OMG!  Did he say that?  Sure did).  What we don’t want to do is find a new, random person we’ve never worked with before and try them out on your project.  That could be, and has been disastrous.

Change ordersWhile you’re here… – There are two types of change orders.  Let’s discuss the ugly category first.  These are the ones that are due to the “surprises”.  They’re less fun and sometimes painful.  Sometimes in order to get where we want to go with a design we must change or correct the home’s existing conditions.  Perhaps the change order is due to something we didn’t have a chance of seeing while at the house.  Support walls where they shouldn’t be, water damage where we couldn’t see it or any other issue that ties into the pre-existing conditions discussed above.  The “whats” and “whys” can be abundant.

The other category refers to the add-ons that homeowners ask us to do while we’re working on the project.  It can be anything from additional paint, hanging a light fixture or refinishing flooring.  These typically don’t incite anger (except possibly from your spouse) but they can absolutely add time to the project.

Expect reality because you can’t stop it.  There will be some bumps in the road and possible hiccups.  There will be dirt and mess.  There may be some mis-understandings.  We,  like you and everyone else, may make a mistake here and there (if you don’t make mistakes we would much rather you use someone else for your kitchen remodel).  The best remodels are a team effort between the homeowner and remodeler where problems are solved together.  Don’t lose sight of why you chose to remodel and don’t forget to breathe.



Chinese Cabinets (the non-politically correct guide)

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2015

So someone thought it was a good idea to give me a blog. I know it’s not the most popular blog on the web but from time to time people tell me that they read something that helped them in their kitchen education. Well this entry is a big one for me. It deals with a big issue not only in the kitchen industry but a large problem for our country. I’m going to do my best to avoid making people angry and at the same time get to the point without the unnecessary fluff.

This is not an attack on China or it’s people. It is an attack on Chinese cabinets. Not the beautiful works of art from ancient dynasties that show extreme craftsmanship and attention to detail. I’m referring to the ones of today that are built with bad plywood and cheap knock-off hardware, finished with the wrong methods and therefore having a very short life span in a kitchen. I’m supposed to be calling them “import cabinets” but that would be ambiguous and I’m not interested in that. I, very deliberately, mean Chinese.

Let’s remember a few things from recent history: 1. Lead paint in toys from China, 2. Chinese drywall that made people sick, 3. Chinese dog food that was killing pets, 4. 2008 Chinese milk scandal – Baby formula that contained melamine. Do your own research if you don’t remember these from the news.

There is one driving force that attracts people to Chinese cabinets – Price. But why are they so inexpensive? Is it the labor? Is it the materials? Is it due to lack of guidelines that need to be met?

Time for a cliche… What do we know about things that seem too good to be true? Exactly. There’s something wrong here.

“But plywood is plywood. Wood is wood.” WRONG. How many plys is it? What kind of wood was used? Are the plys straight and unbroken or do gaps, kinks and overlaps exist in the material introducing weaknesses? There are different levels of everything out there. Chinese Birch plywood is inferior and lacks in strength. You can do your own plywood investigation – There’s plenty of info out there. Do you think any highly skilled woodworker that takes pride in their work would use plywood from China? The only answer is “no”.
bad plywood

What about CARB compliance? American products are held to a higher standard reducing the formaldehyde exposure in many building materials. Regardless of how you feel about our own EPA, China is known for it’s lack of air quality and low product standards. Cabinets from China would definitely not be considered “green” and possibly dangerous.

So this is a blog post that is not only making some strong statements but also asking you to do your own research. Yes, I think Chinese cabinets are very bad quality. No, I wouldn’t sell them. I had a short period in 2006 where I did try this route – I didn’t know any better – Now I do. I will never do it again. I think it takes a certain morality to not sell them when so many others do. I have always gone against the grain to a degree and rarely chosen the easy way – I wouldn’t change that about myself. In keeping with that personality trait (or flaw) this post is my attempt to push back. Perhaps it will save someone from wasting thousands on an inferior product that will have a short life span.

Do your own research. Tell me if I’m wrong.

Kitchen Accents – The Finishing Touches

Friday, November 21st, 2014

Let me ask you something, but you have to promise that you won’t look – that’s cheating… Tell me, what does your current hardware in your kitchen look like? Do you have knobs or pulls? Do you have both? How about your backsplash; is it less than stellar? What about your wall color; or does your kitchen even have enough wall space to impact the overall look? What about your faucet style? Or your light fixture? Describe those to me… Most of the time, people can’t even answer those questions because those are the things that go unnoticed in our daily life – that is unless you spend hours studying your kitchen and all of it’s features, and I’m assuming your neighbors have something better to do than question you about the style of knobs you chose.

To be perfectly honest, the importance of style for all of these items is pretty irrelevant when it comes to function; however, it does contribute to the overall aesthetic of the space. These details are important but they often go unrecognized as an individual piece. Rather, they come together to create a compilation giving the space its overall style when it’s all said and done. In reality, the most permanent pieces of your kitchen would be your cabinets, followed by countertops and possibly flooring. While replaceable, those tend to be the most expensive so it makes sense to keep those longer. But when it comes to everything else (such as paint, backsplash, and hardware) those costs are not nearly as significant.

If you are looking for a place in your kitchen to dress it up, make it trendy, or give it your own personal style then these finishing touches are the place to do it! If it’s resale value you are worried about you should keep in mind, these are things that other people can easily fix if they are not happy with it. I’m not saying go crazy with color or have decorative fish tiles on your backsplash, but make it your own! Don’t obsess about how perfect it is and think that you are married to this exact kitchen forever. Everyone at some point or another feels that their space will need a change here or there, and after you get ten to fifteen years of use out of all of these finishing touches, it’s okay to consider replacing them and giving your space a whole new vibe without having to remodel the entire thing again! You could even consider changing out drapery, adding jars or a cute colorful mixer, or even setting out some fresh flowers to liven up your space. The personal touches don’t have to stop with the permanent things. Remember, what makes a home is the people who live in it, not just the function of the space.

At the end of the day if you’re having trouble deciding on finishing touches, my advise to you would be to follow your gut feeling and don’t over think it. Do what you like and what makes you happy! That’s what will take any ordinary kitchen and turn it into YOUR kitchen. Don’t worry about what others think, because at the end of the day they don’t have to live with it – you do! So make it yours! Spice it up, add some character, and don’t look back! After all, they’re just finishing touches.

Kitchen Accents