Monthly Archives: July 2016

Kitchen Lights Make An Impact

kitchen lights

If there’s any room in the home that needs special lighting, it would be the kitchen. That one room fulfills so many different functions. Office space, family space, eating space, cooking space – there’s no way that one overhead ceiling light fixture is going to provide enough light for all of those different activities. Spot lights are the way to go. Like the lights on a range hood (that I always turn on when I’m cooking), lighting that’s aimed directly toward the space in which you happen to be working is best.

Pot lights are now a common and obvious choice for kitchens. Usually, they’re on different switches and dimmers which allows you to operate just those lights that shine solely on the space you’re working in.

But, there are other options, too.

chandelierCombine ceiling pot lights with an accent chandelier over the eating area. This is an especially great idea if your kitchen features a little breakfast nook. The whole nook can be designed in a different way – with its own color scheme and style – and a unique light fixture accents the special area.

pendantAs I mentioned, ceiling pot lights are all the rage. But, if you’re not quite into that look, pendant fixtures are the way to go. They’re super functional because they direct light exactly where you need it, and they come in a nearly infinite variety of styles and colors to suit your taste and decor.

track lights

Believe it or not, track lighting did not disappear with the 1980s. It’s back, and better than ever before. Stylish and modern, track lighting has the advantage of allowing you to literally direct the light in the direction you want it to go. The fact that it’s installed into the ceiling doesn’t limit its ability to move.

Over to you: What’s your favorite type of kitchen lighting?

Don’t Make These 4 Kitchen Remodel Mistakes

shutterstock_253496008

Do you ever catch yourself dreaming of a brand new kitchen? It’s ok. It’s a good activity in which to engage. I, for instance, can spend hours poring over images of beautiful range hoods, countertop materials, and fridges. Nothing is impossible when you’re designing a kitchen in your head.

Reality, however, functions by slightly different rules. Money, for instance, is usually not an unlimited resource. Space is also usually at a premium. Despite the challenges, remodelling a kitchen is entirely possible, and even preferable. Think of it this way: you deserve a great kitchen. You deserve to have a kitchen that works for you. There’s absolutely no need to settle for something that just doesn’t work for you.

So, now that you’re ready to embark on a kitchen renovation, I’m going to let you in on a secret (ok, a poorly kept secret). Stay on your toes through the whole process because, as Murphy’s Law suggests, if something can go wrong, it probably will.

Keep an eye out for these common mistakes. Most of us end making at least one!

  • Being your own General Contractor. There’s a reason why people specialize in this area. There’s a lot of information about construction and building codes that a General Contractor must know extremely well. If you try to take on this role, you’re bound to make some serious mistakes.
  • Hiring just any General Contractor. Just because someone calls themselves a General Contractor doesn’t mean that you should hire him or her. Get referrals and do an Internet search. In the end, monitor your own comfort level. If the individual doesn’t inspire your trust and confidence, don’t feel obligated to hire him or her.
  • Asking for quotes when you’re not sure what you want. It’s fun to have General Contractors come into your home, give you their ideas for your kitchen, and provide you with a quote. The problem is that, if you’re not 100% sure of what you need in your kitchen, the quote will be way off. You’ll likely end up paying more than you should, and the General Contractor will end up feeling very frustrated by what might feel like constantly changing priorities.
  • Don’t pay in advance. At least, don’t pay more than 30% of the total cost of the project in advance. The General Contractor will need to buy materials to begin the job. But, he or she should provide you with a clear payment schedule that both of you can follow throughout the renovation.

Over to you: have you made errors through a kitchen renovation? Share them with us!

How To Choose A Kitchen Faucet Style

shutterstock_431562301

So, there you are, going like wildfire, making all the right choices for your kitchen upgrade. You’ve chosen the right range hood for your space, the perfect paint color for the walls, even the best island configuration that will accommodate your family.

There’s just one thing you might not realize. Did you know that you have more options for kitchen faucets than you think. A quick trip to a store like Home Depot or Lowe’s will reveal rows and rows of stainless steel sinks and faucets. They will vary by size, shape and style … but not color. What if you could choose the color, too? Now that would be fun!

Beyond color and style, you have a few other options from which to choose. Think about how you use your kitchen sink, and then you can decide whether or not you need a Pull-Down faucet. This is the kind where the faucet head is attached to a flexible hose that can be pulled straight down into the kitchen sink making clean up a breeze.

Two knobs or one? The most popular kitchen faucet of late, it seems, is the one with only one knob or handle controlling both the amount of spray and the hot-cold function. My kitchen currently has the two knob style – one for hot, one for cold. It’s fine. But, given the choice, I think I’d prefer the one handle style. That way, I just need one hand to select and regulate how much water at what temperature. Pretty handy when your other hand is occupied holding a soapy pot or veggies.

Here’s something that you don’t see every day – the wall-mounted faucet. Most kitchen sinks come with holes predrilled to accommodate either a single hole style faucet or a double (or triple) hole style faucet. If you’re going for a farmhouse kitchen look with a deep ceramic sink, a wall mounted faucet might just be the feature to complete the look.

Then there are faucets that feature a separate nozzle for pot filling, hot water, or cold water. Does your kitchen sink come with any of those? Have you found them particularly useful? Let us know!

Monthly Pick – The Kitchen Remodel – Use The Whole Wall

kitchen wall storage solutions

Most of us don’t have those massive kitchens that magazines like to feature. You know, the ones where the island is 10 feet long and features a stylish glass and copper range hood a few feet away from a stunning, modern chandelier.

Most of us are dealing with what I like to call an economy of space. In other words, a small kitchen in which nearly everything we might need in the course of a day or week or year needs to be stored, in which practically every meal needs to be prepared, and in which family members need to sit, talk and enjoy each others’ company.

So, the challenge is how does one go about shoehorning all of that in a small space? The answer, I’m pretty sure, is, the walls. Any wall space that’s not already taken up by cabinets can be used for storage. Yes, art on the walls of a kitchen is vital. To look at something beautiful as you sip your morning cup of whatever-gets-you-going contributes to a general feeling of positivity and well-being. Ok, I have no scientific proof of that. But, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

Whether you have a little wall space or a lot. Here are some ideas to get your creative juices flowing:

Storage Racks of any style or size make perfect holders. Try to find ones with shelving brackets if you’re worried about stuff falling off. It’s a great place for loose papers, pens, spice jars that don’t fit into those pre-sized spice racks, and any other odds and ends that require a home.

Photo: houzz.com

I love this Indoor Wall Garden concept. You really don’t need a lot of space for it, and garden centers typically sell everything you need to make your own. The one pictured can be found at Williams-Sonoma.

Photo: houzz.com

Check out Pottery Barn, Lowe’s, Staples or any other store that sells Heavy-Duty Shelving. Just because a product is sold as a tire holder for the garage or a file holder for an office, doesn’t mean it can’t be repurposed to hold bowls, serving dishes, or tablecloths and placemats.

Photo: houzz.com

Photo: houzz.com

Over to you: What great buys have you found for your kitchen?

 

The Best Foods For Your Body At Home

healthy food with a range hood

You might not have ever made the connection before, but using your range hood fan while you cook actually promotes good health. It’s true.

Cooking, especially with a gas range, can produce a whole lot of toxins that we definitely shouldn’t be breathing in, like carbon monoxide from the gas range and chemicals from non-stick pans. If you tend not to turn on the fan while you’re boiling water, you might be encouraging the growth of mold and mildew in your kitchen – two toxins that will release spores into the air. Using the range hood fan will not only help to remove those toxins from the air, but if you’ve been using the fan regularly, those toxins will never have a chance to take hold.

So, on your journey toward a healthier lifestyle, remember how important the range hood fan is to your success. Follow these tips:

  • use the low setting for light or regular cooking; use the high for frying
  • use your range hood fan to encourage the air in your kitchen to circulate; turn it on at least 15 minutes before cooking, and leave it on for at least 15 minutes after you’ve finished cooking
  • range hood fans aren’t just for when you cook with the oven or stove. Turn it on every time you use the microwave and toaster, too.

Staying on the health side of cooking, here’s a great recipe that’s perfect for any meal in the course of a day. Huevos Rancheros – that so healthy, so delicious concoction that is chock full of nutrients, and is flavorful enough to entice even the most jaded palate.

First, flip on your range hood fan. This dish will not produce a whole lot of particulate matter or unpleasant smells. Quite the opposite, really. So, you can keep your range hood set to low.

Huevos Rancheros (Adapted from Feasting At Home)

Photo: feastingathome.com

Photo: feastingathome.com

Ingredients:

4 – 6 inch tortillas

4 eggs

2 cups cannellini beans

1/ onion, sliced

1 garlic clove, minced

1/2 can San Marzano tomatoes (most of the juice removed and set aside)

1 tsp ground cumin

2 chipotle peppers (chipotle in adobe sauce), chopped

1/2 tsp smoked paprika

1/2 tsp sea salt

freshly ground pepper, to taste

Olive oil

1 large avocado, sliced

2 Tbsp cilantro, chopped

1 lime, cut into wedges and served on the side

1/2 cup queso fresco, crumbled

Mexican hot sauce

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. Sauté onion in olive oil until tender. Add garlic, tomatoes, beans, spices, chipotle peppers, salt and pepper. If the mixture is too thick, add in a little reserved tomato juice a tablespoon at a time until it reaches the desired consistency.
  3. Drizzle a large frying pan with olive oil. Lay tortillas down in the pan, overlapping if necessary. Brush the tops with a bit of oil.
  4. Over each tortilla, spoon an evenly divided amount of the tomato-bean mixture. Make a little indentation in the center of each bean mixture. Crack an egg into each center. Season the egg with salt and pepper; add crumbled cheese.
  5. Place the pan in the oven. Bake for about 10 minutes, or until the egg whites are cooked. Add avocado, lime wedges and cilantro to each tortilla. Serve on individual plates.

What’s your favorite healthy stove-top recipe?

Unique Elements That Make Your Kitchen Stand Out

Photo: houzz.com

The kitchen has become more than the food prep area. It’s become more than the heart of the home. Somewhere along the line it became another canvas on which you can express your own personal style. The minimalist and very modern look of the kitchen in the photo above definitely wouldn’t suit everyone. But, I love the haphazard, yet artistic, backsplash. It’s positioned exactly where it should be – behind the sink and stovetop. If you’ve found a box of beautiful tiles that wouldn’t be enough to cover the entire kitchen area, or if you’ve found tile that you love but that’s just too expensive for your budget, this kind of purposeful design would be the perfect way to have both your tile and a backsplash.

Photo: houzz.com

Have you ever been to a country market and found an absolutely beautiful piece of furniture that you really wanted to buy, but couldn’t find a use for? How about thinking beyond the borders of the usual. Instead of having a contractor install a typical island in your kitchen, why not buy that distinct table and use that as an island instead?

Photo: houzz.com

I’ve been to store closing sales – the ones where they’re literally selling off everything including the stands – and wondered who would actually by the display equipment. Well, here’s a great idea if I ever saw one. The shelves that clothes stores use to display their stock would make a great addition to a kitchen that lacks storage space.

Photo: houzz.com

Love the country look – and you’re a DIYer? You’ll have this look knocked out in no time. Go to antique or country markets to find old and discarded cupboards and doors. Give them a “fresh”, distressed paint job, buy slabs of your favorite wood to sit on top as a counter, and you’ll have yourself one of the most unique kitchens anywhere.

Photo: houzz.com

This, I think, is the ultimate kitchen. It’s the fold-up and go kitchen. Take a close look and you’ll notice that not one piece of furniture is built in. That little trick allows you to customize your space at less cost than if you had to embark on a renovation just to change the layout. It also means that you can choose pieces that you love without having to leave it all behind when you move.

Photo: houzz.com

Ok, how’s this for personal style? This would be perfect for a cottage or a loft-style home. It’s minimal, but says a whole lot about the person who lives here. It’s unusual, but completely functional at the same time.

What does your dream kitchen look like?

Monthly Pick – The Kitchen Remodel – Re-Think the Space

Photo: forbes.com

Photo: forbes.com

In my 10 x 10 square foot kitchen, renovating has always been an issue. Every designer and contractor I’ve ever brought into the space has said the same thing: knock out a wall or two and make the space open concept.

I’ve never been a huge fan of open concept rooms. My issue is that when I cook up a storm, I really create a mess. There are pots and pans in the sink, bits of food on the counter, the white noise from the range hood fan … just all the stuff that happens when you’re basically one person cooking a complex meal for multiple people.

It’s normal, I know. But, I don’t want my guests to be subjected to it. I also don’t want to be subjected to it when I’m trying to enjoy conversation.

So, the challenge has always been, how do I improve my kitchen space without embarking on a massive renovation? Here are some of the ideas I’ve come across:

  • The Table/Island Combo

I have a small table in my kitchen that functions as both a place for my small family to gather around on an every day basis. When I’m hosting a dinner party, that small table functions like an island. It holds drinks and appetizers or clean plates and cutlery. It can also function as a place for guests to sit as they watch me cook. Using one kitchen element in various ways is a great way to make your kitchen more functional.

  • The Dining Room/Kitchen Combo
Photo: houzz.com

Photo: houzz.com

One of the reasons I didn’t want to blow out any walls in a kitchen renovation is because I really like the idea of a separate, formal dining room. If you don’t have an extra room to dedicate just to eating, or even if you want to jazz up your kitchen eating area, pick up some plush seating for your kitchen table or island. The upscale addition to the space will add a certain formal feel that will make you and your guests feel special.

  • The Fresh Look Approach

Sometimes, you just can’t launch a full or even minor renovation. If that’s the case, and you still want to change up the look and feel of your kitchen, the best way to do it is to give a fresh paint make-over. I think every designer everywhere has said that brushing on a new coat of paint will make a world of difference at least once in their career. The fact is, though, that it’s true. Modernize the color, and in the span of a day or two, you’ll have a brand new-looking kitchen. Take the opportunity to remove appliances and other stuff you never use, too.

Tell us your own ideas for how to re-think your kitchen.

Kitchen Decor Trends 2016

 

Photo: houzz.com

Photo: houzz.com

There are so many kitchen design possibilities open to us now. All you need to do is flip through television show after show on HGtv or walk through any home hardware store. You can choose to paint your kitchen in one of literally hundreds of paint colors. Backsplashes for countertops come in all kinds of colors and materials, like tile, glass and even mirrored glass. There was a time when we could have chosen between paint and wallpaper. Colors and designs would have been limited to the few style trends of the time. Now, anything goes. You can follow a trend or make up your own path.

Having endless possibilities from which to choose is great … until you have to choose. Stand in front of a wall of paint chips for a while, and you’re bound to feel that pressure and indecisiveness creep into your decisions. All of a sudden, you’re not sure anymore about what you thought you wanted.

Don’t worry, though. There’s an easy fix to that.

Although you certainly don’t have to follow the going trend, you can use it as a guideline. Trends can help you decide what you like and don’t like, what you’re willing to live with, and what you’re willing to spend.

Here are a few of the popular trends so far this year:

  • Muted neutrals. Apparently, we aren’t tired of neutral colors yet. I think the reason they’re still going strong is that neutral colors go way beyond the browns and beiges. Greys, yellows and blues can be neutral. Punching up the design with a splash of red, orange or purple makes those neutrals more appealing.
  • Smart technology. From a home for the laptop in the kitchen to refrigerators that feature in-built screens and wi-fi, smart technology makes the kitchen the hub of the home. It’s where you’ll find a charging station for your device, where you can follow a cooking class via YouTube, and where state-of-the-art appliances will help you cook your meals.
  • Metal surfaces. Stainless steel appliances aren’t going anywhere soon. Instead, the trend this year is to bump up the metal even more. Range hoods made from copper or bronze will be hot. Install matching metal faucets, lights and cabinet handles, too.

What do you think of this year’s trends? Are they inspiring your own kitchen design?

Monthly Pick – The Kitchen Remodel – Stick To A Budget

kitchen remodel

Flipping through magazine images of beautiful kitchens is so wonderful and painful at the same time. It’s wonderful because the kitchens are so inspiring. I can see lots in all the images that I’d love to have in my own kitchen – a large fridge, a centre island with its own sink and seating on the opposite edge, an expanse of counter space. And that’s the part that’s ultimately painful.

I can’t have most of those things unless I knock out a wall or two. My kitchen is a pretty typical 10 x 10 square foot … well, square. I already have a lot packed into it. But, what if I really was to embark on a renovation? How much would it cost?

The truth is that my kitchen has seen a few major and minor remodels over the years. No matter how many times I go through it, the same question pops up: how much is this going to cost? The whole process feels less than straightforward to me.

So, I thought I’d set out a kind of a guideline to help you, and ultimately me when I decide to remodel again, outline a budget.

the budget

A typical reno can run between $10,000 and $100,000. Because that’s a huge range, you might think that it’s not very helpful. But, in actual fact, it tells us something very important about kitchen remodels. It tells us that there are more important questions that need to be answered before a budget can be set in place.

The first question is how much can you really afford. Also consider how long you plan to live in your home. If it’s 5 years or less, you should probably undertake a minor renovation instead of a large-scale change. The logic here is getting back (in the sale price) what you put into it.

You should also analyze how you use your kitchen. Do you really need a 6 burner stove when you’re cooking for only a few people a few days of the week?

Create a spreadsheet on which you can record the specific appliances you want to purchase and how much each will cost. Add a line for labor costs as well. That last bit could cost you approximately one third of the total renovation cost. Finally, add a contingency fund line, usually about 10% of the total project. Hopefully, you’ll never have to dip into this. But, speaking from experience, and if you live in an older home, there are bound to be surprises behind the walls.

hiring the right people

You’ll need to think about whether you need to hire a designer to come up with the renovation blueprint along with a contractor. Or, perhaps you can find a contractor who can create the design template him or herself. The latter option could save thousands of dollars.

Seek out at least 3 quotes. If you’re lucky, your contractors will submit quotes that fall within the same ballpark. That will tell you how much a renovation should cost. If your quotes come back to you in a range, do a little more research. Ideally, beware of hiring the most expensive and the least expensive offers. A quote that falls somewhere in the middle should indicate the skill and integrity of the contractor.

paying for it

Regardless of whether or not you have the cash in the bank, it’s a good idea to qualify for financing from a bank. Look for a low interest rate and a flexible payment schedule.

Share with us your own renovation tips!

 

 

Tips On Preparing Your Home For A Vacation Away

leaving home for vacation

If you’re like me, you’re so excited about going on vacation that you can forget about the fact that no one will be home while you’re away. I’m usually so preoccupied with making sure that I have enough clothes for my trip and the right sized luggage, that I forget that the mail and newspaper will still be delivered, the grass will go and life around my home will continue as usual while I’m gone.

But, if you don’t see to those daily or weekly routines, your house will look unlived-in. That’s just the look that burglars are looking for. So, I’ve compiled a few tips to help you keep your home safe while you’re away. The best part? Taking care of these items won’t take much time at all, so you can continue to daydream about your vacation!

  1. Ask a neighbor to collect your mail and your newspaper. If you don’t have a neighbor close enough to you, contact the post office and the newspaper’s circulation department to halt delivery for the time that you’re away.
  2. Ask a neighbor to park his or her car in your driveway. If that’s not possible, ask your neighbor to park your car in different places in your driveway every day or two. To someone outside your neighborhood, the fact that the car moves around will convince them that someone’s home.
  3. Make sure that the lights in at least one room in your house is set to a timer.

Those are all necessary tips to keeping your home safe. But there’s more that needs to be done inside, too. The kitchen is typically the most dangerous room in the home because that’s where we cook with electricity or gas, where most of our appliances live, and where much of the water use happens. So, although these next few tips don’t just apply to the kitchen, it’s certainly the one room that you will have to prepare before leaving for vacation.

  1. Keep your property looking cared for. Ask a neighbor to water your plants and cut your grass.
  2. Unplug all your appliances and electronic devices.
  3. Turn off all the water valves to the dishwasher, washing machine and sinks.
  4. Leave your contact information with a neighbor.

There, now you’re all ready to pack your bags and dream about that fabulous vacation you’ve been waiting for!