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Let Me Stand Next to Your Fire

Let Me Stand Next to Your Fire

There are a few things first to consider; gas, real wood burning or both using gas to start the fire. I find the latter is one to consider for someone who doesn’t have the time, skill or patience to get it started. As far as gas, these can be extremely easy to install because most come pre-made and can be installed on raised decks (usually requiring a non-flammable deck board), placed closer to eating areas (no smoke), different styles using lava rock, glass stones, big bowl styles, stainless steel. You just need a good plumber and gas (or a propane tank).

A masonry fire pit can a little trickier. First, they do make a great deal of smoke so seating should be around the entire pit or moveable based on the wind. I would also not place it too close to combustible structures, or where smoke can be a nuisance. They will need a good foundation so they don’t shift and fall apart and drainage so they don’t fill up with rainwater. They can be made of really any masonry materials; pavers, brick, fire brick, stones. One important design feature is to make them large enough to use a raised grate to promote air flow under the logs to get a good fire going. The nice thing about a masonry fire pit is that it will get hotter. The actual masonry parts will become like a radiant heater so they can really generate a lot of warmth.

10 Steps For Planning Your Kitchen Remodel

10 Steps For Planning Your Kitchen Remodel

“I have no idea where to start!”, “I’ve just started looking.”, “Isn’t this what everyone’s doing?”

These are some of my favorite quotes people say to me when I first meet them in my showroom. My reply is, “It’s not so hard, a good Kitchen Designer will get you right through the process easily.” So here are some easy steps to follow…

1. Why are you doing your kitchen? Old and outdated, in poor working shape, new house, just want new. These are some reasons people have and no matter your reason you need to think about what your needs are. Think about how your family uses the space. What are your priorities in regards to cooking, and gathering in the space, do you need to enlarge the space by removing walls or extending the home. Begin making a list of these needs and saving pictures from either magazines or websites that express these needs and wants.

2. Setting things in motion. You need to start by researching the ideas you put down in you wants and needs list. This will probably start online looking at products that relate to it. During this research stage you will need to formulate an approximate budget for what you can afford to spend on this project. This is probably the most important part because it will guide your project to the correct materials to use to try to stay in this range. Remember this is not so easy if you haven’t done work like this before but to have some idea of some costs are very important for guiding the project properly. This is a process of educating yourself so you can make good decisions.

3. Hiring Your Kitchen Designer. This is the hardest part…this is the person or firm that will be able to decipher and diagnose all of your ideas, wants and needs into a real plan. The scary part here is there a lot of what I call “Box Sellers” who are out to fit cabinets/boxes into a floor plan size instead of a families needs into a clear and concise design plan. This professional should visit the job site, meet with all of the parties who are making decisions, do a questioner or survey to learn more and be experienced. To find this person you can ask friends or colleagues for recommendations, check local showrooms or contact NKBA for a local list. I would always recommend using a NKBA Certified Designer because of the training and continued education that is needed to maintain this certification.

4. The Design. When choosing the Kitchen Designer I would look at how he/she will present their plan. The floor plan should be clear and easy to understand, show the relationships to surrounding rooms. When working on this plan don’t get caught up in the look of everything but stay focused on the space planning. You should also be provided with elevations of each wall and Islands clearly showing the doors / drawers and door swings to see its functionality. Once a good flowing plan is laid out you can focus on the decorative details, moldings, columns, corbels, etc. These decorative details might alter the plan slightly to give you the look you want. By no means be wooed by a beautiful rendering or 3d drawing to make your decisions but look at the real details.

5. Choosing Your Finishes. Now your ready to make you’re cabinet and appliance decisions. This again might change the plan slightly but the main flow and working design shouldn’t change.

This will include:

A. Cabinetry construction type, door style, finish, wood and color.

B. Countertop style and materials, Granite, Quartz, Marble…

C. Sink and faucet choice. Water filter, instant hot, disposal…

D. Appliances: Refrigerator, Oven, Range, Dishwasher…

E. Flooring, tile, wood…

F. Backsplash Materials, Tile, Glass, Stainless…

G. Cabinet Hardware, Handles, Knobs…

H. Lighting Fixtures, Pendants, Hi-hats, Chandeliers… Many of these choices should have been specified earlier in the survey stage and driven the plan, but now is the time to make actual permanent choices.

6. Choosing Your Contractor. This is also a very difficult process. First I would only use experienced, knowledgeable and licensed/insured companies. I would also call references of previous Kitchen jobs and look at some of their previous Kitchen jobs. I always suggest that the company who designs and supplies the cabinetry also installs at least that portion. This will avoid any finger pointing on design and/or product choices. In fact if you can find a Full Service company to handle the entire project even better. These are always the least amount of mistakes and handholding. Also Price is always important but compare properly and remember “Don’t be penny wise and pound foolish”

7. Job Start and Timing. What is important here is to preorder all of your needed components and stage them so the job is not held up waiting for something. Have a clear communication on approximate finish date. Know how you are going to deal with no kitchen for a while is important, Are you setting up a temporary kitchen? Is your contractor doing preliminary walk through to explain their process? How are they controlling dust and dirt? Are you able to function in the house and how?

8. Work, Changes and Punch list. I always tell my customers, “There’s a life to the job” and what I mean is there are always things that come up during the process, unforeseen problems; things you thought were going to be different, construction issues. A good contractor will know how to come up with good solutions to these problems. If there are changes that will incur cost changes they need to be written down and approved. And finally the hardest part of the install process is the infamous punch list. I always suggest that the contractor and the homeowner make their lists separately and then combine them. There should be clear communication on to what is expected from each item on the list. Remember this is a job and mistakes happen and I am sure at this point if you picked a qualified contractor he is willing to do whatever it takes to make you happy.

9. Surviving The Job. During the job I would always try to constantly communicate on things of concern and calmly discuss them, no post-it notes, lol. You want your contractor happy to come there everyday. Gestures of consideration always go a long way, even just saying “good morning” is good. This is always a stressful type of job for all but I can tell you from experience, “A nice, caring and friendly customer always has a more pleasant experience”.

10. The End. When the job is completed hopefully everything is great, you are now enjoying your new Kitchen. Hopefully a recommendation is what you would give your Kitchen Designer and Contractor. Any form of compliments to them (letter, online review) will also have them jumping through hoops for you if ever a repair, warranty issue or just more work is ever needed.

As my Momma always said, “You get more with sugar than spice” And that goes for the Designers and Contractors too!

Choosing A Kitchen Designer

Choosing A Kitchen Designer

What’s the first thing you do when setting out to build new or redesign your existing kitchen? Look on the Internet? Travel from showroom to showroom? Buy magazines featuring Kitchens? Well maybe the answer is all of the above. But during this process the one thing that is not so easy to find like this is the right designer. While one would think choosing a good designer will cost more the opposite is usually true. A good designer will “hit the mark” with all of the customers wants and desires, recommend the right products based on the parameters of the project and will also probably make very few or no errors in the designs and ordering, which is common in this industry.

When speaking with prospective kitchen designers ask yourself these 10 Questions:

1. Are they really listening to me?

2. Are they suggesting things in the direction of my project or just trying to sell me something?

3. Are they a cabinet designer or just a “box” seller?

4. Do they understand how we live?

5. Is the designer going to layout lighting, plumbing, electric outlets hood ventilation, and small appliance locations?

6. Do they really understand how to structurally change things when removing walls?

7. Is this designer professionally trained? There are certifications through different associations that test the designer’s abilities to work with a customer correctly and even require continued education in order to keep this certification valid.

8. Consider who will be installing this kitchen and will they be on the same page with my designer?

9. Do they really understand all of the available products and installation techniques available to me?

10. Do I have a budget? This is probably the most important thing to consider because a good designer will direct the project correctly based on this budget.

One thing I tell all my customers is, “The kitchen I design for you is most likely a totally different kitchen than if I move a new family into the same home” Everyone’s family has different parameters, lifestyles, cooking, entertaining…”A kitchen is not 12” X 14”, but it is, 2 working adults, 5 year old boy, 10 year old girl and a large dog”… Your kitchen design is ”The Family”.

Finally, when teaching design courses I always recommend that the designer is to see through the eyes of your customer and truly try to stand in their shoes. All kitchen designers have different approaches and finding the right one is sometimes just a gut feeling but it is probably the most important part of your new kitchen. As they say, “The kitchen is the Heart of the Home”, and the right designer will give your home the “Healthiest Heart”.

Keep Your Cool – Designing Refrigeration In The Modern Kitchen

Keep Your Cool – Designing Refrigeration In The Modern Kitchen

When setting out to design a Kitchen I always start with the Refrigerator/Freezer, the cornerstone of your kitchen. The refrigerator is usually the largest and most intrusive appliance in your kitchen when looking at layouts, esthetics and flow patterns in your design. It is also probably the most important appliance today’s modern kitchen

Modern refrigeration consisting of an insulated box with its own refrigeration unit began entering home in the early 1900’s. With this invention perishable food was able to be stored at its optimal temperature (37°-41° Fahrenheit) in order to lower the reproduction rate of bacteria. When freezing foods below (0° Fahrenheit) they can be kept safe indefinitely. Today refrigerators and freezers come in a large variety of sizes, shapes and configurations.

The Common Refrigerator: These units are usually a combination freestanding refrigerator/freezer approximately 30”-36” wide, 65”-72” tall, 20”-30”deep, the most common size being 36”x72”. These come in many configurations including; side-by-side, top-freezer, bottom-freezer and French door. A counter-depth model is built to fit into the cabinetry using a 24” or less, unit without the door. They offer models that can be paneled but the functioning components of the unit will be very visible.

The Built In Refrigerator: These units are usually wider and taller than the common refrigerator, are mounted/secured to the cabinetry and built to fit into a 24” depth. They usually are closer to 84” tall and up to 48” wide. They also come as combinations in similar configurations the “Common Refrigerator” but they also offer individual refrigerator and/or freezer so they can be combined to even offer larger than 48” units. They offer models that can be paneled with cabinetry but you can see some of the functioning components of the unit.

The Intergraded Refrigerator: These units offered are very similar to the “Built In Refrigerator” except they offer the ability to integrate the cabinetry in a way that you will no longer see any of the functioning components of the unit.  Special articulating hinges, bottom or remote venting are just a few of the parts that help these units to completely disappear into the cabinetry.

Other Refrigeration: There are many other types of units that have now worked their way into or modern kitchens. Some these include, refrigerator and freezer drawers, under counter units and that include beverage and wine models and even a unit for you Beer Keg!

So when planning your new kitchen the Refrigeration being the most important place to start I would look at these things first. Your traffic patterns in the room, how your family lives and where you are loading/unloading your refrigerator.

Traffic Patterns: Are you placing by an entrance? Do you have to go through the cooking zone to get to the refrigerator?

Today if possible I like to situate the refrigerator centrally between the cooking and eating areas, this way traffic to the refrigerator is not interfering with the cooking, especially with children.

The Family: 2 adults, 2 boys and 1 girl all under 10, 1 medium dog? Retired Couple, grandkids visit?

All design not just the refrigerator is developed with the family and your usage in mind. You really should look at how much food storage is needed? Do you shop in bulk? Do you want the kids to have access to certain things? Sometimes we have used separate beverage refrigerators or drawers for child access. When looking at built-ins and integrated they are not as deep as some but maybe taller so the cubic foot size and interior configurations are really important when looking at these models.

Loading / Unloading: Make sure the refrigerator configuration and the kitchen design work together as a team. When taking item in and out of your refrigerator you need a place to put them down without traveling. As an example of this is when using a French door style you tend to load/unload behind you, the doors are in the way on the sides making it awkward to place things there. Side-by-side refrigerators load/unload to the left side or behind and the freezer to the right or behind. Also keep in mind door size is important, as an example; 36” single door on an articulating hinge can come out over 40” at 90 degrees and hit the island.

There are so many variables in the Refrigerator part of the design that I could probably write an entire book on “Designing Refrigeration in the Modern Kitchen”. My ultimate advise for anyone that is looking for their dream job not to turn into their nightmare….Hire a professional that has made his/her career doing this right! Happy Planning!