Mindfullness in Remodeling


definition: the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something.

Image courtesy from Dreamstime.com

Mindfulness is a word that has gone mainstream. Have you read about it? Similar to meditation, it requires one to simply pay attention to our present being, to our thoughts and feelings. The benefit of practicing mindfulness reduces stress and who doesn’t want that? Studies on mindfulness report a myriad of benefits in the physical, psychological and social arenas.

It occurred to me that mindfulness plays a very important role for clients in their design decision process.  Remodeling is stressful enough with the fuss and dust during a remodel so who wouldn’t want to benefit from a little stress reducing mindfulness practice during the design phase. I know, I know, some of you get bored looking at floor plans or picking materials.  I recognize that glazed over look during a design meeting from either the husband or wife, the one who really isn’t into selecting materials, but is dragged along anyways because they need to get the project done or just focused on the $ botton line. The last thing your Design Pro wants to hear from a client is “I didn’t think it would look like that.”  I really dislike hearing this, and when it does happen, it’s rare, but it does come up on occasion with a client who isn’t mindful and complains after the fact.

Buying a new kitchen is more complicated than buying a car or even a house because ultimately you get to choose all the materials and the details can be a bit overwhelming for some. While some dig right in and relish the thought of choosing between counter depth refrigerators and built-in’s or deciding between 12 shades of white, this process can numb others out.

For the most part clients who are remodeling are generally excited about it all. I love it when clients are engaged in the process, ask questions and really get into the design decisions. It makes for the best outcome.

The client I worry about is the one who isn’t mindful of the design decisions. Ordering materials that is in direct conflict with what they truly want is not the fault of your Design Pro. They are there to guide and explain, but ultimately when you select a material, your Design Pro is working on the assumption that this is what you are approving. It is a 100% certainty that the client who complains later about the outcome not meeting his desired look is the client who is not mindful during the design process. Whether it’s just RUSHING to get it done and blowing off the details or the single focus of BUDGET driving the decisions, if you let either of these two drivers, (1) rushing and (2) budget, get in the way of your vision, you will certainly be disappointed if you have not (a) resolved that you are buying materials not in alignment with your vision and (b) you have not communicated your true vision to your kitchen designer who is building in these details for the project. Mind readers we are not!

Having a budget or being on a tight deadline is not an issue for the Design Pro, as long as the client has come to terms that beer budget and champagne taste are truly not the same.

My Top 5 Mindfulness Techniques when working with a Kitchen & Bath Designer:

  1. Don’t rush the details. Commit the details to a plan. Give yourself time to understand the plan: the placement of your appliances, cabinets, switches, lighting, storage or whatever is important to you. Mindfulness Technique: Ask yourself what you want. 
  2. Ask questions. Is there anything you are not certain of? What is it made out of, what is the maintenance like, how big is it? I have been know to be the blue tape Queen, mapping out what the new space will look like on the floor for my clients. It’s important to familiarize yourself with the scale of your new kitchen through design drawings, renderings and if possible, actually plotting it out full scale with blue painter’s tape in the existing space.
  3. Compare the actual design to your vision. Whether it’s a vision committed to memory or a notebook of ideas, ask yourself if the plan drawn up by your Design Pro is jiving with your vision. Designer’s do not have a third eye or psychic ability to read minds although we try. We ask many questions and do our best to get to know you, your style, your family so we can best recommend solutions to fit your lifestyle. Mindfulness Technique: Be truthful with yourself about what you want and communicate that to your design pro.
  4. Avoid shortcuts. The #1 complaint I hear from people I talk to who have remodeled in the past is they wish didn’t compromise. If it means postponing a project until you can afford what you really want, do it. Use this time to plan and do it right later when you can afford it.
  5. Test it out. I live in a major metropolitan area where we have access to exciting showrooms that offer fully equipped live demonstration kitchens. I can send my clients to these showrooms for complete meal demonstrations so they can test out what it’s like cooking on these appliances. Also, check with your local appliance store for more information on when they offer appliance demonstration days. Ask about “After purchase consultations” where some brands actually have a dedicated person that will walk you through the features of your new appliances.

Above all else…be mindful of your choices. Remodeling is not for the faint of heart and mindfulness in remodeling will calm the body, it will decrease (your designer’s) stress as well as your own, it will cut your anxiety of your decisions, and it will create joyful emotions with the outcome.

And lastly your kitchen designer will thank you!

Posted in Appliances, Dishwashers, Style Notes

Miele vs. GE Monogram Dishwashers (Reviews/Ratings/Prices)

Source: Miele vs. GE Monogram Dishwashers (Reviews/Ratings/Prices)

Yale Appliances Blog comes out with great up-to-date comparisons on the latest appliance brands. I highly recommend you read their comprehensive reviews if you’re considering purchasing a new dishwasher.

Eight Quick FAQ’s when considering a new dishwasher: 

  1. Package deals with a suite of appliances will net a better price, check out the rebates.
  2. Don’t over buy features you may never use, most people use only one or two settings and forget to use the others.
  3. Decibels (42-44db or less) are rated as the quietest, quiet dishwashers are a nice feature.
  4. Fully integrated panels are sleeker (controls on the top not on the face) versus less expensive controls on the face
  5. Tubs: Plastic (less expensive) v Stainless steel tubs (stain & odor resistant)
  6. Racks: look for convenience features like adjustable top rack and adjustable tines for accommodating bulky pots and pans.
  7. Additional Flatware rack is an added convenience with some brands.
  8. Flush panel and panel ready: do you want your dishwasher to be indistinguishable from the cabinet next to it? A flush panel (or fully integrated) design allows for a cabinet panel to sit in line with adjacent cabinets. (A single matching cabinet panel the full height of the dishwasher is ordered through your cabinet supplier. You can also design it with a false drawer front and door to make it look truly indistinguishable from your cabinet next to it). Panel ready doesn’t necessarily means it’s flush. Most American brands stick out 2″ beyond the adjacent cabinets. And some brands have the controls on the face so the panel is applied below the face, a little old fashion in my opinion.

I’d love to hear what you think. Tell me about your favorite dishwasher you’ve purchased in the comments below. What is your favorite feature in a dishwasher?

Posted in Back splashes, Style Notes, Traditional Kitchens

Nora Walker’s kitchen back splash

Nora Walker
Image via Wikipedia

A reader asks what the back splash tile is on the set of  ABC’s Brothers and Sisters.

I have talked about Nora Walker‘s kitchen set before, http://wp.me/pcRAx-1Z,  but I thought I would open it up to my social media design aficionados. What do you think it is?

I see Apartment Therapy has talked about it too, and they are saying the tile is Lanka by tile-shop.com. I disagree, the hand molded tile looks like a Campagna tile by http://www.tile-shop.com/products/campagna/campagna.html or maybe Gramercy Park by Walker Zanger http://www.walkerzanger.com/catalog/ecatalog.php. Or it could be Stellar by Sonoma Tile Makers, http://www.sonomatilemakers.com/PhotoGallery.aspx?prod-line-id=6&IsPhotoGallery=True

Like a lot of my readers, we tune into certain shows just for the set design. This set has  definitely received much attention.  I think you can get the whole series on DVD now. I rarely have the patience to sit through a one hour drama but will tune in just to see what materials are used in sets. It’s kind of fun, like furniture forensics and design deconstruction.  Here are a few snippit photos to check out the most important room, (at least to me), the kitchen. So, what do you say, is this a Walker Zanger tile or something else?

This island is on wheels for getting the best camera angles.

Close up of the Range Wall

Product Placement in Movie and TV Sets, consumers will want to know every little detail shown. It’s a bonus if your product is shown on a popular show.

ABC Drama, Brothers and Sisters
What is the tile they used in this set?
Posted in Art for the Kitchen, Back splashes, Historical Influence, Spanish Style, Style Notes

Hearst Castle and the Products it Inspired

Luxury as Defined. Period.
Preserving the history of design and craftsmanship through inspired contemporary design.

How does architectural history translate into kitchen and bath products? View pics at KBB online to view stunning products inspired by the architectural elements found at Hearst Castle. Once the private home of publisher William Randolph Hearst, the estate also known as La Cuesta Encantada®  or “The Enchanted Hill”, overlooks the spectacular California coast and was the shared design endeavor of architect Julia Morgan and William Randolph Hearst. Today Hearst Castle is a California State Historical Monument and State Park.

View of The Hearst Castle overlooking the Pacific Ocean

Some of my favorite manufacturers have been licensed by the Heart Castle Collection to produce inspired reproductions from design elements found throughout the castle. Tilevera, Enkebol, Soko, Barclay Butera Home,  Taracea, and Habersham to name a few. Not everyone can own a castle nor would want to furnish one, but the design details inspired from The Hearst Castle lend themselves beautifully into kitchen and bath projects inspired by the antiquities collected by Mr. Hearst from around the world.

Fortunately for me, Hearst Castle, on the Central Coast of California is a short day trip to escape to. Designers, artists and artisans from all over the world come to Hearst Castle for inspiration for their own reasons. Whether they come for inspiration for a major product line or for a one of a kind studio piece, the one thing they all leave Hearst Castle saying that in their wildest dreams they never imagined what an inspirational design resource it is.

For every client I have worked with there has always been a pivotal inspiration point for the design. Be it a color, a view, a vacation getaway, there is always a trigger point that inspires a design direction. What inspired your last renovation?

Where designers come to be inspired.


Fit for a King: Part 1



Posted in Consumer Research, Kitchen Sociology, Kitchen Trends, Men in the Kitchen, Style Notes

He Said, She Said

In an article, He Said, She Said, published at KBBonline.com, July 21, 2010, it appears stereotypes about what women and men want in kitchen design is not that different, at least not in the upscale market.

Click the Link below to read what the results of  Top 5 Items Desired in an Ideal Kitchen and the Top 5 Words Associated with an Ideal Kitchen. Where men and women differ in opinion, according to the survey,  focused on cabinet organization and performance. Women it appears in the survey are focused on cabinet storage solutions; while men focused on performance of appliances. While I can certainly sympathize with one dear male reader who would beg to differ with this part of the study, who shouted out one Sunday morning from his kitchen in Minnesota,  “a pan! a pan! I would give anything to find a pan!” His attempt to make a Sunday breakfast became a blog topic and he wrote about the trouble with kitchen cabinet organization. I would say that both men and women would both agree roll out trays and pot and pan drawers are highly desirable interior cabinet features to include in a kitchen remodel.

What can we learn about this study? In our changing economy, the study reveals that at least in the upscale market, one of the motivating factors for these homeowners, who know they couldn’t sell right now if they had to, have made their minds up to stay put.  This is a market to sell to homeowners who are digging in and improving their homes instead of moving.

Article Source:



Posted in Cabinets, Contemporary Kitchens, Managing Expectations, Maple Cabinets, Mineral Streaks, Style Notes

Critiquing Kitchen Design and Cabinetry



As a blogger who’s primary focus is that of all things kitchen and bath related, I get excited when I see a kitchen or a bath that has been carefully designed and executed with all the right design elements. Well, alright, maybe there are one or two things I would have done differently, but not by much. Overall I give this contemporary kitchen two thumbs up. Quiet elegance is what I call this. 

The home is located in Scottsdale Arizona. The neutral color palette and “tone on tone” scheme fits into it’s overall desert surroundings. What I mean is that the design is not contrived. They did not impose a Tuscan- themed design in a contemporary home. The kitchen is fairly large and the use of two islands is a stroke of ingenuity. They stayed away from the mistake of using one monster sized island and instead divided the space into two islands. The interior island, approx 6 1/2′ x 4′ is the workhorse island and includes the main clean up sink and dishwasher. (I wish they didn’t place that ridiculously over sized plant on the counter that blocks my view of the space). The opposite side of this island with 24″ deep cabinets allows for plenty of storage. This is a dream kitchen for entertaining. Who wouldn’t love this kitchen? 
The outer island is open to the living area and yet has a 42″ pony wall that prevents your eye level view landing directly onto the kitchen counters. Smart idea when company is over. You don’t want your guests focusing on the clutter in the kitchen. I like this, if I can hide clutter from view, I will do it. 
One of the most commonly overlooked elements in kitchen design is the ceiling. This kitchen added the drywall clad beams in the slightly  darker paint color. The addition of the beams adds an important element in the design. It prevents the large room from looking too generic and sterile. The one thing I see that I would have done differently is the placement of the microwave. Most kitchen designers have an opinion or two, or three about the microwave. If you are a tall person, let’s say 6 feet tall or so, placing a microwave 54″ above a finished floor is acceptable if you are this tall. But for the rest of us who are height challenged, 54″ a.f.f. is too high up for comfort. Actually, 54″ is the bottom of the wall cabinet. The bottom of the microwave starts at about 55 1/2″ the center of the microwave winds up at about 60″ tall. If the average height for women is 5′-6″ tall, the center height of a  microwave at 60″ is too high. You should never be pulling hot objects out in the direction of your face and above shoulder height. It is dangerous and can lead to severe burns if the container explodes in your hands as you are pulling it out. Argue with me if you insist, that you do not like a microwave lowered from the rest of the wall cabinets, but in the picture above, you can clearly see this microwave wall cabinet is located between two 24″ deep appliances and could have been lowered 6″ for the sake of comfort of shorter users, kids included. Actually, the microwave is usually a child’s first introduction to helping out in the kitchen, why not make it more convenient for the young set?  
I also like the use of 24″ stone floors. 12″or 13″ tiles would have been the wrong scale for this room. I wish there were more pictures of this kitchen to show the cook top section but sorry, this is it. 
The irregularities in maple wood is more noticeable on medium to dark stains.
Here is another important factor in the design. The cabinets shown here are maple in a medium tone and it looks like they they might be finished with a brown glaze wiped into the surface grooves in the door panels. Maple stained darker becomes more ruddy, more blotchy in appearance. You may look at this sample door shown and reject it for the blotchy appearance on face value alone. I picked apart this kitchen above with red circles the way a homeowner would before giving the cabinets a fair chance before the kitchen is completed. The number one sales call a cabinet sales reps receives has to do with the perception of what a finished cabinet should look like. Avoid over analyzing your cabinets with a clear grid sheet by picking apart the highs and lows in the graining and mineral steaks that are naturally occurring features in wood. This is not the problem of the wood itself but the problem of the sales person not properly explaining to the customer the inherent characteristics found in the wood species they selected. There is nothing wrong with the maple wood shown in this example and it should not  be considered a flaw requiring all the doors to be replaced. My intent with this example is to show  that when the maple is viewed in perspective in a completed design, the ruddiness becomes less of a factor. Look back at the first picture. Your eye is not focusing on the blotchiness of the cabinets, your eye is looking at the overall beauty in this kitchen design. If you look hard enough and close enough, you will find flaws in anything. Anyone who holds a 10x magnifying mirror to their own face can testify to that! Oh lord do I know that! Yikes! 

Mineral streaks found in wood cabinets are beauty marks not flaws. 
The most beautiful women in the world have beauty marks. 

You should never expect perfection in wood graining just as you can never achieve true perfection in your own skin’s pores. Before your cabinets were…”cabinets”, before the lumber from which your cabinets were built, they were once upon a time trees in a forest. How much light the trees received, the natural elements in which the trees grew are a forever reminder that your cabinets were once a living, breathing part of our natural environment. The demarcations on your cabinets tell a story of your cabinets history or pedigree. These natural characteristics cannot be air brushed away, cannot be removed with lasers or bleach lightening agents. What should not be accepted are burn marks from over sanding, thumb prints in the stain, mars in the finish, and rough finishes are not acceptable and should be brought to the attention of your sales person for replacement. Mineral streaks and mineral flecks are naturally occurring in wood and should be considered beauty marks not flaws. If you can not accept this fact, you need to look at thermofoil and plastic laminate that will provide you more consistency and repeat pattern in graining. But then again, if this kitchen was done in either, I would not consider it as beautiful as it is, would you? 

When all is said and done, this kitchen is really a beautiful example in elegant simplicity. 
Posted in Small Kitchens, Small Space Design, Style Notes

Making the Most of a Small Kitchen

So you have a small kitchen. Now what? What to do when expanding is not an option?
Take a look at these two kitchens and look at the solutions these owners came up with.
The first picture shows a small kitchen remodel without knocking down a wall.

(Image: Andre Rothblatt) Credit: Apartment Therapy,
the kitchen above (designed by Andre Rothblatt)

Upper wall cabinets are gone. Open shelving to the left. Drama in the hood, wall pot rack accents stainless steel counters, warmth and appeal provided by the Boos Chopping Block, red stools and Black and White floor. Full length subway tile running bond behind the stove. Busy? Never. Charming? Of course!

This second kitchen below knocked down the partition wall.
Brought to you via Funky Junk Interiors

Before: A typical isolated kitchen with dated details.

And the after…
The partition wall was non load bearing and came down. The typical single kitchen window was replaced with three single hung windows providing a flood of light and making the space appear larger. Read all the details at Funky Junk Interiors. Here is a great use of unconventional materials: metal top on the island and laminate tops on the perimeter. Check out more photos at Funky Junk. Amazing transformation. Great job, on a small budget!

Style Notes on a Budget:

  • Paint Cabinets and remove the doors.
  • Use white tile. It is less expensive without adding deco inserts and liners. Subway tiles add authentic classic look.
  • Order cabinets with Recessed 1/4″ panel doors to keep the cost down.
  • Order cabinets in Hickory, Oak or Alder to keep cost down.