Monthly Archives: October 2009

Movin’ on up!

Q:   We are putting our house kitchen1on the market but before we do, we need to update a few things.  Our biggest problem is the kitchen -currently, it has a bumpy off-white laminate countertop which has seen better days and yellow square backsplash tile… circa 1970.  We’d like to replace both, but we have a lot of countertop (there is other cabinetry and countertops not in the photo!) and two stretches of backsplash.  What should we put in its place that will attract potential buyers but still be affordable?   -J.S.

A:      When you are preparing to sell, most of the major improvements you make to the interior of your house should be made in the kitchen. Buyers generally place the most value on an updated kitchen.  With that said… you’d like to do this affordably?!  Before you start remodeling,  you’ll want to think about the cost versus value because you want it to look the very best for your money and you certainly want to make that money put into your improvements back… and then some. 

 A backsplash improvement for any budget would be to replace the existing tile with white or off-white subway tile.  It’s a classic look and can go with just about any style, which is what buyers like to see.  You can play up the green on the walls with a line of glass mosaics in shades of green… or any color that you have in the kitchen – it creates an accent and looks like it was thought out.  Here are a few examples of the classic look of subway tile backsplash I got off the internet:

subway tile1subwaytile2



   If your current laminate countertops are the pits, anything is better at this point.   There are several different price points to choose from.  Bottomline – go neutral so that buyers don’t see your tastes reflected in the house – they can start to see themselves living there.

**Update: Here are the tiles and solid surface countertop going into this kitchen:



Let’s check out countertop material:

Laminate – about $15-$60/ sqft installed.  Laminate is the ‘low end’ countertop material; made of polymer bonded to substrate – usually plywood or particle board; easy to clean, durable and comes in hundreds of colors or stone look-a-likes.  Not easily repairable if it chips; not heatproof so don’t put a hot pot on it… which in my mind is a ridiculous thing to want to do (see granite).  This would be the choice if your budget is down and dirty.

Tile – $5 -$50/ sqft installed.  Ceramic tile looks a bit more high-end than laminate.  I don’t love the look of ceramic tile counters – usually the grout looks grimy and can be easily scratch and chip.  Also, depending on the tile used the surface may not be entirely level. 

Granite – $50- $100+/ sqft installed (depending on the thickness).  Granite seems to be everyone’s choice in countertop material.  It’s durable, it won’t scratch or stain (if polished) and you can certainly put a hot pot on it. 

**Alright, I have to ask… how many people really put hot pots onto their countertop?! When I was a designer at a high end kitchen showroom, that was the question everyone asked – Oooh, I love limestone, but can I put a hot pot on it?  The butcher block top is divine… but am I able to put a hot pot on it? I’m leaning toward the stainless steel tops, but can I put a hot pot on them? If it was your very first time on this planet cooking …with heat, then yes I’d suggest you get a countertop that you could put a hot pot on, but the rest of us should go with something gorgeous that meets every other normal need for the kitchen.

Whew… with that said… granite is also very easy to clean, comes in a polished or honed finish and a smooth work surface. One of the downsides to granite is that I see the same stone in everyone’s home: the absolute black or the beige with little red specks (the name is different at every stone yard)- there are so many different granites out there with blues and greens in them. If you can find it in yourself – veer toward the unusual – they take granite a step up!  Sorry, I got away with myself there.

Marble – $50- $100+/ sqft installed.  If you are a baker, you will most likely have some marble in your kitchen somewhere.  Marble is great in that it’s easy to clean and heat-proof.  The movement in the stone (veins) create so many different looks.  This is a very classic looking material to use in a kitchen.  The biggest downside that people have with marble is that it stains.  It is a natural material and has pores, so yes that does happen – but there ways of getting them out.  Generally needs to be sealed. 

Soapstone – $70 – $100+/ sqft installed.  Soapstone has a really nice feel to it – silky and smooth.  Like marble it’s easy to clean, but does need to be sealed and can stain.

Solid Surfacing (Corian, etc) – $40 – $100/ sqft installed.  Some people dismiss solid surfacing because of its price and the fact they could put in granite for about the same price.  Unlike granite, you can scorch it with a hot pot and it can get scratched.  Otherwise, if it does chip or get scratched, it can be repaired; comes in many, many, many colors and patterns. 

 With solid surfacing you can have an integrated sink – a sink that is made out of the same material and virtually seamlessly attached so that it looks like one piece of material. Also, you could have grooves cut into the countertop sloping toward the sink, so that you can place your dishrack on it and have the water drain down.  I’ve seen strips of metal stuck in about 1/4″ higher than the surface to create a permanent trivet… so you don’t put a hot pot on it.

Stainless Steel – $65 – $100 (varies really)/ sqft installed.  Stainless steel tops look so cool!  Like some stones, you have to be okay with their look  after a little wear and tear because you will see scratches and fingerprints.  The price generally varies project to project because they are all custom-made to fit each space.

Quartz Surfacing (Silestone) – $75 -$125+/ sqft installed. Looks like stone… but isn’t. It’s made of about 93% quartz and 7% resins and pigments. Easy to clean and scratch resistant.  Installation needs to be precise and therefor installation cost is a bit high.

Wood – $50 – 200/ sqft installed (depending on the thickness). The looks you can create with wood!  Typically, you find small areas of wood countertops in a kitchen where you would chop and prepare, but I’ve seen entire island tops in wood.  Any type of scratch or mark can easily be sanded out.  However, to keep a wood top in great condition, it would need be treated with mineral oil periodically and like a wood cutting board, could swell and crack when exposed to prolonged periods of water. 

Concrete – $70+/ sqft installed.  There are a two main ways to install a concrete countertop – one is to install pre cast slabs and the other is to cast it in place.  If it’s poured in place – it takes a lot of time to install… about 10 days to cure.    Concrete is heat-resistant, but needs to be sealed.  It can come in just about any color and can also be imbedded with things such as stones, glass or fossils.

If you have any other ideas (or if you too wonder why people must put a hot pot on a counter) let me know!!

Please send me a photo of the kitchen after you get to the update… love to see it!


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Up, up and away…

I have a client who’s kitchen needs to be redesigned.  It is a large space with a very nice footprint and 12′ high ceilings to boot.  Presently, it has cherry wood cabinetry – 36″h base and 42″h upper cabinets along one long stretch of wall and a refrigerator and angled penninsula opposite.   Even though it is a good size room the mass of cabinetry makes it feels as though it’s much smaller than it is. 


existing kitchen

Right now in the design stage of the project, our big question is: How do we make this room feel more spacious? Well, for starters by using 42″h or taller upper cabinets.  That’s right. 

And in my opinion, the taller the better. 

 As it turns out, the client wants to relocate the sink (currently at penninsula -you can’t see it in the photo) to the long wall and add a window. Will a window make the room feel more spacious?  The light coming in will help, but it’s not the full solution.  Even if the sink remained in it’s original place and no window was added, something needs to be done to break up the heaviness of upper cabinets.  Let’s think about one upper at a time to figure this out – each of these door panels (average) is about 24″ x 42″ of  uninterrupted wood.  Think about it -that’s 7 square feet of wood. Per door.  So, if we put a new 24″ x 42″ door up it will also be about 7 square feet of wood – so what’s the difference? 

The difference is that it will be interrupted.  Whaaa?

Look at the existing kitchen photo.  The door panels are plain Jane.  It’s boring, there’s nothing to interest your eye.  But, if you were to add something horizontal to the upper cabinets:

kitchen elev1 001

Your eye now has many places to travel: up,  across, down, to the glass in the doors, to the window at the sink, to the crown…  the flat mass of wood is gone and because of the horizontal elements, your eyes keep a movin’.  Would it blow your mind if I told you that the height of these upper cabinets were drawn at 54″h?!   Doesn’t look as massive as the ones in the photo?  Well just to give yourself something to compare it to…


Kraftmaid Cabinetry

This is a very similar solution to the kitchen project I’m working on.  I think  it helps to see it in ‘real life’ rather than in a sketch.  The glass in the top doors are another feature that enhances the openess of the cabinetry and helps make the space feel more airy.  I know, the glass is only a small part, but compare it to the wood at the range hood… it looks to me that the height of the doors (wood cabinet door with glass cabinet door above) is very close in height to the solid wood panel at the hood.  That little bit of glass and the horizontal rails of the two doors make a difference.


Final Kitchen Result:


So if you’re blessed with high ceiling and are thinking about a kitchen remodel – use some of the following as inspiration to help keep the room feeling spacious… and don’t be afriad of going up, up, up with your cabinetry.  Break up the monotony with glass and horizontal elements.


Christopher Peacock Cabinetry

Empire Kitchen & Bath
Rutt Handcrafted Cabinetry

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mirror mirror on the wall

Q:  Just wondering about how big certain things in the bathroom should be.

We are purchasing a 42” wide vanity. But I don’t’ know how big of a mirror should go above it? My options are 30”, 35”, 38”.  What will look good?  Also wondering how wide the lighting fixtures should be above?  If I have a 42” vanity- with a 30” mirror- do I put a 31” light?  My husband doesn’t want side sconces… so I am stuck with light fixure above.  Thanks!!!   -J.K.

A:  Not to worry!   I drew up a quick little study with three 42″ vanities and the three different width mirrors above. (Ignore the dashed boxes for a minute)  vanity 001

 The first mirror is 30″w – you’ll have 6″ difference on either side of the mirror to that of the vanity width. Make sense? With the 35″ w mirror, you’ll have a 3 1/2″ difference and the 38″ w mirror, you’ll have a 2″ difference.  Following?  Good.

Above the mirror outlines are those dashed boxes – each box represents a 31″w x 8″h  light fixture.  So. Just looking at the three… which one looks the most comfortable to you?  Comfortable in the relation of each item to the others: the vanity width to the mirror width to the sconce width…  

My immediate reaction to the first elevation is that the mirror is too narrow for that size vanity. It’s not terrible, but it doesn’t feel good to me.  In the second and third elevations the mirror widths feel much better in regard to the vanity.  It may sound like a whole lotta fluffy talk, but I bet you too, thought the same thing.  

Now, a light fixture. You can see how a 31″w fixture looks above a 35″w and a 38″w mirror – I would think about keeping the light fixture’s width smaller than the mirror as shown.    My point: get the widest light fixture – one with at least three or four arms between 32″w and 36″w depending on the mirror width you chose.



** Something to try if you are stuck – ‘mock up’ an idea with painters tape in your space. For example, you can stick the tape at 42″ away from each other to show the vainty outline as well as the mirror widths… then stand back and take a look. 

Let me know what you choose!!!



* I just received photos of the finished bathroom vanities, medicine cabinets and sconces…

Thanks for the photos – it looks great!

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Spice it up. With a spice rack.

There’s a spot in your kitchen that offers a lot of extra storage and I bet you’re not even using it. It’s the space above your countertop but below the upper cabinets – 1970's spice rackthe backsplash. 

When I was a kid my mom had that typical 1970’s plastic spice rack up on the wall, and if that’s the first image that pops up in your head, you will be happy to know they still make it. However, I’m thinking of backsplash accessories that are cool, sleek and a whole lot better looking.


 At a very resonable price point is the Ikea Grundtal system.   



Most of the kitchen backsplash systems start with a rod that allows many different accessories to be mounted on or hung from them.  As you can see here, Ikea offers a pretty cool metal spice rack… along with a paper towel holder, a dish drainer, hooks to hold just about anything and even a utensil cup – all hang from the mounted bar.    Ikea also has two other series, that don’t seem to offer as much.





PB st stl


Pottery Barn offers stainless steel kitchen accessories that are mounted directly in the wall.  I like them and want them primarily because Pottery Barn has such good photos in their catalogues.




magic loc1


Another place I looked into is the Container Store.  I figured they’d have something cool – this is the store to go to for organization. I am so disappointed.  And not about their usual crazy ass prices, I’m disappointed because their system uses suction cups. The suction cups can hold to a non porous surface (tile, glass, etc) for at least 6 months when ‘properly installed’. I believe the max weight limit is 7 lbs. Lame. I didn’t even feel like checking  the prices after that. 


When you need any kind of architectural hardware, Hafele is the place to go.  That includes anything kitchen.  Along the same lines of the Ikea system, Hafele offers the Linero Backsplash System.  It is definitely more expensive, but has a sleeker high end look. Check it out at the Kitchen Accessories website – pricing aswell as other lines are offered.


  I investigated some kitchens and kitchen products from England (because I just like to, okay?)

 surry kitchen


…and noticed that if you wanted a backsplash system over there, this is the best you can do:

 multi kitchen dispenser





I’m kidding.  (that would be saran wrap and foil in the cubbies above the paper towels… fancy.)


So now you’ve cleared up some space in a cabinet or two… or even a drawer or counter space by adding a backsplash system! 

If you’ve seen any other ideas for backsplash storage, let me know! I’d love to post them…

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Dinner is Served

Q:  I bought a dining room table and chairs that are wrought iron and are painted white with white fabric on the cushions with blue coral. It is a rectangular table with 6 chairs. The designer that sold me them said that it was shabby chic. The chairs have  a shell design back and the table has a shell design at the base in the middle. The fabric on the chairs is indoor fabric. I bought the table and loved the look but am not sure if it is ok to use in my dining room. The house is in Palm Beach, Fla. and has saltillo tile on the floor. Do you think it is ok to use this table inside and if so should I use a rug under it or put felt on the bottom of the chairs.  I keep worrying about it.        –C.F.


A:   The dining set is an outdoor set!  Since you’re in Florida – I think it’s a cool idea to use it inside.  I’ll assume the chairs are somewhat heavy since they’re iron – I would definitely put a thick felt pad underneath the chair legs and table. 

example of saltillo tile

example of saltillo tile

 You had mentioned the possibility of putting an area rug underneath your dining set but a  potential problem with that may be that the chair’s weight would drag the rug when you move the chairs under the table.    Definately give the felt pads a shot because it’s an inexpensive solution and saltillo tile is too beautiful to cover.

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…and how does that make you feel?

“What color do you think I should paint my…”

Honestly?  How the hell should I know… I’m an interior designer, not a psychologist.  That’s not entirely true.  Oh no, I’m not a psychologist but I am able to help you.

Color psychology is a feeling or effect that is evoked by a color and is different from color symbolism which is primarily the use of color as a symbol.  For example, the color red symbolizes danger, blood, war, sex and many others.  Green symbolizes money, good luck, generosity, jealousy… 

 Although I don’t really focus on the symbolism of colors too much, I do think that certain colors do work better for certain situations or rooms.  Think about having a really tough day at work and then a terrible commute and coming home to unwind in a red room.  Hey, if you do walk into a red room, I’m not criticizing your color choice – I’m just painting a picture of someone who clearly needs to relax and kick back but is immediately accosted by RED.  The color that evokes aggression, speed, and danger to name a few.  That room should probably be in the green, blue, pink or brown family. 

There have been

“…an increasing number of studies linking colors to specific responses. One study found that weight-lifters have more powerful performances in blue rooms. Another study found that babies cry more frequently in yellow rooms. Yet another used “Pepto Bismol pink”, to calm prisoners. Color consultants believe that the colors used in the design of environment can have a significant impact on the emotions and performance of people within that environment.”

I’ve been doing some investigating online to see what the psychology of colors are because I’m thinking we are going to need to redo our bathroom soon. Our poop brown, sage and beige bathroom.  I picked brown before I knew it evokes warmth, comfort and security – I chose it because I liked it.  And because it went with the weirdly off white tiles that were in there when we bought the place. 

Here are some of the things I found:


Evokes:  energy, warmth, comfort, strong emotions, intensity.  Red is a great accent color.  Less is more with red on walls – pick one wall or area. Oh, and when painting a red wall  – use a grey or tinted primer.  If you use white you’ll get that candy red color instead of the dark red that’s on the paint chip. Red is a really important color in the practice of feng shui.


Evokes: happiness, energy, warmth, cheerfulness


Evokes: cheer, optimism.  Yellow should be used carefully in that too much yellow or intense yellow has the ability to evoke anger, frustration and high tempers.  It’s a popular choice in new babies room but make sure it’s a soft yellow because studies have shown that babies cry more in bright yellow rooms.


Evokes: peace, tranquility, health, calm, well placed energy; said to improve reading ability and fertility.


Evokes: peace, restfulness, confidence, calmness, serenity, security.  It is said that people are most productive in blue rooms and that blue can lower your heart rate and body temperature.  However, blue is associated with depression and certain shades of blue can send a “cold and uncaring message”. Unfortunately, I haven’t a clue which ones they are yet.  I also read that if you’re trying to lose weight that eating off a blue plate helps since it is one of the least appetizing colors. Pssst, it doesn’t work – we use blue plates…


Evokes: serenity, peace, balance, uplifting, offers a sense of spirituality, boosts imagination and creativity.


Evokes: happiness, tranquility. It’s not as bold as red, but bright pinks can act like red in a way evoking action or aggression.  Pink used in prisons worked at calming prisoners… initially. Exposure to pink over a long period of time made the inmates more agitated once they became accustomed to it.  Another study said that in some sport stadiums, the visiting team locker rooms are painted pink to induce a calmness and give the home team an advantage.


 Evokes: warmth, comfort, security, friendliness, stability.


Is a color associated with authority, power and strength. Seriously, don’t paint your room black.  Black is a great furniture color and accent color –  too much is overwhelming – like the walls are coming in at you.


Evokes: peace, purity, innocence, sterility, emptiness.  Benjamin Moore has over 140 shades of white in their paint color palette which is funny to me because most people want to paint their walls a color other than white. 


Evokes: unsettled and expectant feelings.  Interesting, I read that too much grey leads to feelings of nothingness.  A good background color.

SO.  Thats what I got from tooling around the internet investigating color psychology.  Even though these colors have a direct effect on emotions, I wouldn’t change an entire room because of them. Wall color can be balanced with the color of objects in the room… but that’s a whole other post.  Haven’t decided what color to use in the bathroom yet, but it does give me a lot to think about.  If anyone can think of some other things these colors can do …or not do for you, let me know!

Check out some of the sites I investigated:,, and

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