Saturday, September 15, 2012

Designing the Perfect Family Kitchen


Truly the heart of the home, your kitchen is most likely the backdrop for your quality family time and designing a kitchen that suits the entire family’s needs can be a very difficult task. First, you have to consider the family cook; mom or dad, or both. Then, there are the needs of people who will be eating, snacking, chatting and hanging out in this kitchen. Of course that's the family, but there are also friends and other guests who are invited over from time to time. Lastly, and most importantly, the kitchen design must fit into the lifestyle of the family it serves.

Kid Friendly Cabinets

A great place to start the design is with kid friendly cabinets. This can include traditional items for very young children, such as lockable cabinet doors. However, it can also be expanded into ideas such as cabinet drawers and doors which cannot be slammed shut. Another great idea for creating kid friendly cabinets is to install a small, lower-level, pantry to store kid approved cooking supplies. This is a great place to put oils, vinegars, and a few spices for making home made salad dressings. Lastly, one of the best kid friendly cabinet designs has got to be the adjustable pegs used to divide a dish drawer. This makes it super easy for kids to help set the table and unload the dishwasher.

Family Friendly Seating

One traditional notion is that the kitchen is the heart of the home. However, many families today find themselves glued to a TV screen eating fast food day after day. Why not correct this failure of modern convenience by making a more comfortable seating area in the kitchen? This can be done by bringing couches, arm chairs, and other living room furniture into the kitchen area. Another great idea is to build a window bench if you have a bay window, or the space to put one in.

Shared Homework Space

At one time, all you needed for kids to do their homework with parental assistance was a large dining room table. Children could sit and do their homework while their parents prepared a meal and answered the occasional question. Now, a computer desk needs to be worked into modern kitchen designs for this same purpose. On the bright side, having a computer close at hand is a great way to find new recipes and videos to salvage a botched meal.

Custom Chalkboard Installation

Another great invention of our time is chalkboard paint. This allows for easy transformation of any cabinet surface into a chalkboard. Some of the best uses of this product include transforming the side of a cabinet into a menu board, converting a refrigerator door into a grocery list, or a constantly changing accent wall.

A recent survey estimates that Americans spend an average of 175 hours per month in the kitchen compared to 31 hours in the living room.  It’s your command center, the hub of activity and the place where family memories are made.  Keep in mind when designing your family kitchen that kitchens are hardly just for the cook.  

Saturday, September 1, 2012

The Personality of a Kitchen


Just as your clothes and accessories tell the world who you are, the d├ęcor of your home—particularly your kitchen—should reflect your style and sensibilities. When designing the kitchen of your dreams, ask yourself the following questions to ensure the finished product suits you and your lifestyle.

Classic or casual? Sleek or cozy? Minimalist or accessorized? Barefoot, sandals, or chic heels? Just as you should be comfortable in your own skin, you want to be able to relax and be yourself in your kitchen. Modern cabinetry ranges from polished contemporary designs to artfully cluttered countertops. Dangle your spices from a carousel or shelter them with shelving. Appoint granite counters with gleaming silver appliances or tuck everything inside spacious hidden pantries.

Choose how you’ll use your kitchen… and let your kitchen decorating ideas stem from that. Much as you dress to work out or dine out, will you knead or chop on counters, brew endless varieties of coffees and teas, or pour an elegant aperitif? Will you unpack take-out or toss salad from a bag?

Look in the mirror: The first thing you see when you enter the kitchen is what’s at eye level. Choose hues, materials, and textures that appeal to your senses. Do you gravitate toward warm colors, cool shades, bold patterns, or rough-hewn wood? From custom kitchen cabinets to bright white shine, deep black or glowing chrome, outfit your space in style….your style.

Like the cut of your clothes, the shape and spectrum of your cabinets and countertops set a tone. Choose from squared-style doors in maple or oak finish, or veneer flat-panel doors in gloss paint or weathered wood. Pick glass knobs and brass hinges or hide the fixtures. Stow your pots and pans in the cupboard or hang them over a kitchen island.

Stride right: From midnight snacks in slippers to dinner parties in heels, you’ll put in plenty of miles on your kitchen floor. Whether it’s ceramic tile or parquet, raw wood or travertine, your flooring choice should also reflect your design sensibilities.

At Amazing Spaces, we create award-winning kitchen designs throughout Westchester and Fairfield counties that are not only functional, but also reflect the lifestyles and tastes of the people who use them.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Home Kitchens of Famous Chefs


When you want to design a kitchen made for a real chef, don't look to TV shows or commercial kitchens. Instead, take a look at what celebrity chefs have in their own kitchens at home. This is where they prepare meals for their families and it's where they design with their own dime. Four iconic cooking celebrities stand out with iconic kitchen styles.

Paula Deen (Paula’s Home Cooking)

Which cooking show comes to mind when you think of country style home cooking? Paula Deen actually tapes her show, Paula's Home Cooking, in her own home kitchen. This offers you a glimpse into the real home kitchen of a celebrity chef. Gwyn Duggan, the designer of Paula's kitchen, says Paula wanted a serious, professional kitchen that didn't feel like one.” The focal point of this design is a cooking fireplace which is surrounded by soapstone counters and juxtaposed by a center island cook top with a deep fryer. Everything in this kitchen is designed to entertain guests while keeping them out of the way of the cook, right down to the refrigerator placement and double commercial convection style ovens. The result is a wide open and welcoming design which makes guests, and TV viewers, feel right at home in Paula's kitchen.

Guy Fieri (Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives)

A great example of a kitchen designed to match the personality of the cook who calls it home is that of celebrity chef Guy Fieri. Although he chose to remain in the same house after making it big on the Food Network, a kitchen remodel has expanding his cooking space to a very cozy 900 square feet. This lively custom kitchen design was built by Guy's dad and took a year to complete. Many of the appliances here take going over the top to a whole new level. There are his and hers refrigerators, a mega burner that can handle a 20-gallon jambalaya, and a 27,500 BTU wok burner. What do you expect from the host of a show that travels around the country visiting diners, drive-ins, and dives? One of the smartest features of this kitchen is the foot pedal operated kitchen faucet. Also, the reclaimed barn wood counter is a wonderful green design element that also ads a lot of character.

Ina Garten (The Barefoot Contessa)

Many cultures feel the kitchen is the heart of the home, but this is especially true of Italian homes. This concept was not lost on Ina Garten when she combined kitchen and living room design aspects in her kitchen. The work triangle, which is the centerpiece of any commercial kitchen, is at one end of her kitchen while easy chairs and a fireplace can be found at the other. This ensures guests are comfortable but out of the cook’s way around the refrigerator, stove, and sink. One of the most interesting and modern features of this kitchen is the induction range which can boil water in just 2 minutes. Simple and easy shelves are used throughout the kitchen in order to keep everything open and within arm’s reach.

Rachael Ray (30 Minute Meals)

Many people have extremely limited space and nowhere is this more a reality than in a New York city apartment. Yet, Rachel Ray claims size just doesn't matter if your kitchen is designed right. Her kitchen is full of mementos from her travels. Every plate has a story behind it, doubling as decoration and conversation piece. Even the tiles used in the back splash for her kitchen were sourced in Italy and coordinate with the dishes. The greatest design element to take from Rachel's kitchen and duplicate in any small kitchen would have to be the butcher block counter tops. Why waste space storing cutting boards when you can just make the counter top one giant cutting board?

When designing your dream kitchen, take a tip from the pros….or maybe something from each of them.  Between their love of all things epicurean and their need for practicality, it’s a great place to look for inspiration.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Entertain with Ease


If you love to entertain at home, it is most important that you include some elements of your own personality in the design of your dream kitchen. Sure, there are some elements which apply to all entertaining kitchens, open design, lighting considerations, sinks, cabinets, and counter tops. However, you should also consider custom features and gadgets that tell guests this kitchen belongs to you.

Open Design
You can't entertain guests if you can't see them from the kitchen. Make sure you have an open kitchen design which allows for interaction between the cooks in the kitchen and the guests at the party. This can be a pass-through windows in the wall separating your kitchen from your living room, or an island with a bar for guests to mingle around within the kitchen.  Some type of barrier such as a peninsula or island keeps your kitchen visually open but curtails traffic flow into the cooking area. Depending on the restrictions of your physical space and your cooking preference, you may prefer your guests to be in the kitchen with you or in the next room. Either way, if you want to encourage conversation with your guests while preparing their meal then you’ll want an open kitchen design.

Under Cabinet Lighting
Most people pay attention to the lighting on the ceiling of their kitchen and miss the opportunity to add ambiance and functionality with counter top lighting. Dim lighting under cabinets can cast just the right amount of light in your kitchen to set the mood for an intimate diner with close friends or family. Turning those same lights up a little can provide the extra lighting needed for food preparation on otherwise shadow covered counters. Under cabinet lighting adds the perfect balance of form and function to any kitchen.




Raised Counter Tops
When you're installing a center island or bar in your kitchen it's a good idea to consider including a raised counter top. This allows your guests to rest their drinks and hors d'oeuvres on the counter while leaving plenty of space for food preparations on the remaining, lower, portion of the counter. Additionally, raised counter tops are a great way to keep dishes out of sight until you have a chance to load them into the dishwasher.

Large Pot Sink
One of the most commonly overlooked components to an entertaining kitchen is the sink.     Your sink should be large enough to soak your dishes, pots, and pans prior to washing. Additionally, it should be large enough to fill any of your stock pots. For this reason, a deep and wide double basin sink is best. A prep sink can easily double as a bar sink if filled with ice and stocked with beer, for example.  It's a good idea to avoid any sink materials that are prone to staining, scratching, or melting. This is a particularly important consideration when your sink is built into custom formed counter tops.

Drawers, Lots of Drawers
Refrigerator drawers, warming drawers, and cabinet drawers are all important in a kitchen designed for entertaining. Refrigerator drawers are needed to keep food cold before serving while still keeping them ready at hand. Consider the type of entertaining you prefer and select a refrigerator which will accommodate your needs. Warming drawers do just what the name suggests; they keep your prepared foods warm until your guests arrive. This can make preparation and serving run a lot smoother when parts of the meal can be kept warm as other courses are cooking. Lastly, it is important to consider cabinet drawers. When you're designing your kitchen, think about how you are going to utilize your storage space. Would you prefer to reach for pots and pans in the back of a cabinet or simply pull out a drawer and select the right tool for the job? Most people elect to install drawers throughout their cabinets in order to make the most efficient use of pantry space, pot & pan storage, and for built in spice racks.

Gadgets
The gadgets that make up your kitchen tell your guests a lot about the cook. This could be a wood-fired pizza oven, high-end coffee/espresso maker, wet bar, wine racks, or any other gadget that suits you entertaining needs. Ideally, these gadgets should be items you and your family use every day and which add personality and charm to your kitchen. Rather than simply remodel your kitchen with design elements and colors from Tuscany, buy a pasta maker and wow your guests with home-made pasta and fresh baked pizza in your wood-fired pizza oven. This will let them experience, first-hand, your Italian heritage and the wonderful time you had in Tuscany.
There’s something about human nature that makes people want to congregate in the kitchen.  Rather than fight it, design with this in mind.  Your guests will feel a part of the preparation and you’ll be at ease with an efficiently designed space.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Beyond Veggies...Greening Your Kitchen


With a little creativity and some inspiration it is easy to create a green kitchen design on any budget. When your budget is tight, you may want to focus on reuse to save some green. However, if you have some money to work with you can create custom designs using recycled materials and stay green.

Hydroponics Cabinetry

Have you ever considered setting up a hydroponic system to grow your own food? At first glance this may seem a little over the top, but just look at what people are doing with indoor herb gardens and vertical window farms. Combine these design elements with some custom cabinetry and your garden can easily move right into your kitchen and produce food year round. Not to mention the novelty and beauty of custom hydroponics cabinetry. Although, realistically, most people will likely stick with a small herb garden, you could let your imagination run with this idea and include grow lights where needed. 

Chest Freezer Butcher Block

An upright freezer is one of the least efficient appliances in your home. Swapping it out for a chest freezer is the best green alternative, but you need a place to put it in your kitchen. This is where we bring in a butcher block. By installing a butcher block on the top of a chest freezer you now have counter space which can easily fit into your existing cabinets and counters. Alternatively, you can turn your chest freezer butcher block into a kitchen island.

Glass Door Refrigerator

Once you've removed the freezer from your refrigerator it is much easier to consider a glass door refrigerator. These tend not to have freezers built into them and they can be much more energy efficient. Mostly, this is because you can look inside the refrigerator to find what you want before opening the door. Since the door spends less time open with people staring into the refrigerator, less energy is wasted cooling your kitchen.

Green Cabinetry

When you are considering new cabinetry for your kitchen there are myriad green options available. Reclaimed lumber, strawboard, or wheatboard are just a few, and bamboo provides a beautiful, durable and non-toxic choice.  However, it is important to keep thinking green as you consider cabinetry coverings and doors. Purchasing zero VOC paint can reduce the chemicals leaching into the air in your home.  Each of these design elements can help make your cabinets just a little greener.

Recycled Counter Tops

While you're considering new green cabinetry, you should also look at green counter tops. Some of the most common options include recycled glass, concrete, aluminum, and paper. These are both beautiful and environmentally friendly. Also, the same bamboo which is used to make cutting boards can be used to create custom counter tops. Although bamboo counter tops are not technically recycled, this stuff grows so fast it might as well be. Bamboo is a highly sustainable and rapidly renewable resource which brings great form and function to any kitchen design.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Quantifying Taste...



A person's design aesthetic or "taste" is closely tied to emotion and translating those feelings into words becomes challenging when there are so many unfettered artful details bouncing around the imagination.  Add in memories and past experiences in spaces that one might want to re-create and communication really becomes murky. The first task in the process of creating or renovating a space often occurs well before the actual design work has begun; and that is simply defining what the finished space should look and feel like and then successfully communicating the concept to the designer.  When approaching any project, it is critical that everyone involved—clients, designers, and craftspeople—are working off the same vision and toward the same goal.   And that is why, of all the tools at our disposal today, one of the most critical is an item that you cannot buy at any hardware store.  In fact, you cannot buy it at all; it is free, on-line, and available to everyone...

Houzz.com is a social media website designed specifically around interior design that offers a virtually endless reservoir of home-improvement and design inspirations.   One of Houzz.com’s benefits is that it helps close the conceptual gap between creative collaborators.  No matter what space you're creating or renovating, Houzz.com presents a wide range of styles, many with subtle shades of differences.  Houzz.com provides endless inspiration and the virtual cork board on which to save, compare, live with, and share your ideas.  It would not be an exaggeration to describe Houzz.com as the Pinterest for interior design—only with Houzz.com’s single-subject purpose, you won’t be distracted by myriad other pretty pictures, click on a diverting link, and wind up admiring shoes for twenty minutes.  With tools like Houzz.com you can take your time honing in on the exact look that serves all your needs, as well as giving your designer a crystal clear concept of what you envision.  This makes budgeting much easier, and virtually guarantees that what you envision is what you will get. 

Join me on Houzz.com
There is a lot at stake in a remodeling job, financially as well as emotionally.  That is why Jason Landau  and his team at Amazing Spaces L.L.C. accentuates the value of collaboration with their clients, and one reason their clients love working with them.   Jason enthusiastically recommends checking out Houzz.com early in the design and interior space planning process.  Follow Jason's profile on Houzz.com to see firsthand his dazzling aesthetic and design contributions; you will quickly understand how easy and rewarding collaboration can be.  For more information visit the Amazing Spaces website at www.amazingspacesllc.com or phone Jason at 914-239-3725.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Open A New Window For Your Kitchen Remodel






If you are remodeling an older home, you may be faced with an often-seen relic of the past—a dark kitchen. Kitchens used to be smaller than is the fashion now and all-important wall space was used for cabinets, not “wasted” on windows. But today’s larger kitchen designs allow for the inclusion of all types of windows. Selecting the right ones can mean your kitchen remodeling project can go from purely practical to a light-filled space you’ll love. Here, with a little help from our friends at Andersen Windows, are some ideas to transform your kitchen from mundane to magic:

Cozy Nook
Casement windows that crank outwards are often installed over kitchen countertops because reaching over to lift a double-hung can be awkward. This kitchen features 400 Series Casement windows with pine interior, surrounded in oak trim. The look is completed with Frank Lloyd Wright Colonade art glass and stone-color Metro hardware. These windows feature a natural wood interior (pine is available), low maintenance exteriors, and a nearly invisible TruScene insect screen is optional.

Sunny Space
Use windows to convert a dark corner into a comfortable built-in nook for casual dining and a well-lit workspace. This room features 400 Series Picture windows with pre-finished white interiors, painted white trim and a custom grille pattern. Windows can be used as a single window or in combinations. High performance glass provides exceptional energy efficiency and a variety of grille options are available.

Rustic Retreat
Take advantage of a great view by making windows a center point of a room. Flexiframe triangles and a 30-degree Casement Angle Bay unit compliment a 400 Series Frenchwood Gliding patio door with natural pine interior.  These doors feature solid wood construction (your choice of oak, maples or pine interiors) and eight styles of hardware with 12 different finishes are available.

Cottage Comfort
If the kitchen is the center of the home, consider making windows the center of the kitchen. 400 Series transom units sit above 400 Series Casement windows with Estate hardware and specified equal-lit grilles. Pre-finished white interiors and painted white trim finish the combination. The larger glass area of these windows let in more light and the vinyl cladding protects the sash from rain.

Executive Elegance
The layout of a kitchen is critical, making window placement even more important. This kitchen features three 400 Series Tilt-Wash Double-Hung windows with pre-finished white interiors, bright brass Estate hardware and specified equal lite grille patterns. These traditional windows feature convenient tilt-in cleaning.

Trendy & Homey
Many kitchens blend easily into a dining room and living room, with windows and patio doors fully integrated into the overall look and feel of the space. These rooms showcase 200 Series products and feature 200 Series Tilt-Wash Double-Hung windows with pine interiors, stone-colored metro hardware, and colonial grille patterns in top sash only. The windows have Low-E or dual pane insulating glass, pine interiors and low-maintenance exteriors.

Some general things to remember about your window selection:

Windows may be custom, semi-custom, or stock, but they're all constructed to fit snugly in the window opening provided. You can choose from aluminum, vinyl, wood, aluminum over wood, and vinyl over wood, depending on your needs and budget. Whatever material you prefer, the best news about double- or triple-pane windows is that separate storm windows are a thing of the past.
·      Aluminum is the most economical material but may conduct cold, heat, and moisture. It's maintenance free, but if you elect to paint it, it requires yearly maintenance like any other painted outdoor surface on your home.
·      Vinyl is also maintenance free and cannot usually be painted successfully, but it comes in a range of popular trim colors as well as in white.
·      Wood, the classic window frame material, is still favored for many high-end and historic homes.
 
More common than double-hungs are casement windows, which are actually an older, simpler style than double-hungs. Casement windows are hinged on the side and can swing in or out to provide complete ventilation. They usually operate with crank handles, making them easy to operate, even when placed above counters and sinks. Your designer will make sure your casements are hinged to swing outward, or will allow space in front of the window for opening them.

Windows may be placed high in the wall and shelving installed beneath to hide an unattractive view while still letting in light.

Decorative windows are available in many shapes and sizes, but among the most pleasing is the half-round, sometimes called Palladian after the classic architect Palladio, who popularized them. Half-round windows can be positioned above doors, above other windows, or in shallow wall spaces to bring in more light and create architectural interest. Quarter-round and elliptical versions are also available and many high-end manufacturers now include art glass windows (stained glass or decoratively grilled) in their product lines. We’ll learn more about those in a future article.

To help you see the design options for your new kitchen windows, it is best to call on the experienced eye of a kitchen designer like Jason Landau of Amazing Spaces, LLC. Trained as an architect with an artist’s eye for using light, Jason can help you choose the perfect windows to brighten your new space. Visit www.amazingspacesllc.com or call 914-239-3725.