Category Archives: Kitchen

Does Your Kitchen Need a Facelift?




How many times have you walked into your kitchen and thought: “My kitchen really needs a facelift?”  I can’t tell you the number of times I hear from friends who share this dilemma. The problem is that they aren’t quite ready for a complete renovation or a brand new kitchen.  They simply want to breathe new life into a dated kitchen, whether ultimately to sell the house or to stretch the life of the kitchen for a few more years.

So, how do you make an impact when refreshing your tired kitchen?  Start first with the cabinets.  If they are sound and in good shape, consider having them professionally painted.  Techniques differ amongst painters — some brush the paint on, while others spray, so be sure to ask your painter about his process.  The prep work takes the most time and is a vital component of a great paint job, so make sure that you’re hiring a meticulous, professional painter with great references since this won’t be an insignificant amount of money.

If your countertops are in good shape and aren’t dated, consider yourself lucky!  Replacing countertops is most-definitely an option, but will certainly impact your costs, especially if your budget is tight.  And if you’re replacing your countertop, this would be a good time to switch out your faucet for a newer model, and your sink for an undermount (if you don’t already have one).

While changing out a dated tiled backsplash for something more current will require demolition and repair to the sheetrock, this is a change that will have tremendous impact.  Make sure to hire a good tile installer who knows how to remove the old tile, repair the wall behind and install new tile.  The process will take several days, but the wow-factor will be big.

Changing out your cabinet hardware will also go a long way towards making your kitchen look fresh.  If you currently have cabinet knobs and want to change to bar pulls, now is the time to do so since the painter can easily fill the holes.  Just remember:  you’ll need to hire someone to measure and re-drill holes for the new hardware once the cabinet paint has cured.  Alternatively, if you want to keep it simple and manage your costs, opt to keep the same type of hardware you currently have (i.e.: knobs or bar pulls) and just replace with a different style and/or finish.  No need to patch and re-drill holes.

Finally, a great way to make a big statement is to replace your lighting.  Does the light fixture over your kitchen table appear dated?  Do the pendants over your island look like they are stuck in the ’80s?  Lighting is often overlooked and is such an integral part of any space, and updating it can be literally transformative.  For some reason, people are often reluctant to change out light fixtures, when in fact this is one of the most impactful changes you can make in any space — give it a try!

Clearly even a facelift in your kitchen isn’t for the faint of heart, but if you’re willing to live through both the mess and the frustration of being displaced for a few weeks, these changes will certainly have a big impact on your space.  Any good designer can guide you through the process and manage all of the details to help you with your update.  It’s up to you to decide if it’s worth it!





Posted in Kitchen, Materials | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lazy Days of Summer


I can think of no other place that makes me as happy as the one above. I often tell people that I re-gain my personality in the summer. Lazy days at the beach, reading or knitting – or just chatting with friends and family with toes in the sand looking out at the ocean are how I truly relax. Book group friends might laugh that I count books among those things that I bring along with me to unwind at the beach, since during the school year I never seem capable of finishing any of the books that we read before the discussion! But for me, summer is for catching-up on all of the books I had hoped to get to during the year. It’s for finishing up all of the knitting projects that I began while watching my kids play sports on weekends and after school. Summer is when I re-charge my battery so that, with hope, in September I can come back home refreshed and ready to hit the ground running.


On a professional note, another thing that makes me happy is the day of the photoshoot that I schedule at the end of a completed design project. I am so grateful to have found a fantastic group of clients who have entrusted me with their beautiful homes and allowed me to help them to reimagine and transform their kitchens and other spaces. And somehow I’ve been fortunate enough to have found a professional photographer who makes every job that I do look even better in pictures! So, when those photos arrive in my inbox and I can see just how a space that we have been working on for months has come together, I’m particularly excited to enjoy the finished product and to proudly add the pictures to my website. So, when you’re enjoying your own lazy days of summer, please click here and check out the new photos that I’ve added to my website. As everyone knows, relaxing and enjoying vacations is only possible when your work is finished!

Posted in Bath, Kitchen, Laundry Room, Mudroom | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

It’s all about Fixtures & Finishes


When Ina Garten, otherwise known as The Barefoot Contessa, makes a delicious meal, she points out that often times the best recipes employ good quality simple, fresh ingredients, and that the focus should be on those ingredients.  The same same strategy can be applied to great design.  The most successful kitchen designs are based on three basic elements:  the layout, the fixtures and the finishes.

If you look at the kitchen above, designed by Erika Powell of Urban Grace Interiors, and break it down into its basic elements, you can see why together they make such a beautiful kitchen design.  First, the cabinets have a classic shaker-style design, painted in a very current shade of green-gray (Retreat by Sherwin Williams), which anchors the space.   It’s the combination of the fixtures and fittings with the decorative finishes that ultimately makes this space so special.  Consider first the classic white marble countertop paired with polished nickel bridge faucets.  Now add to that the custom brushed stainless steel hood fabricated with graceful curved lines, likely designed to balance the many angles formed by the cabinetry.  The show-stopping pendants from Urban Electric have a subtle watery-blue interior that reflects the same color of the fish scale tiled backsplash and ties the entire design color scheme together.

One thing is for sure:  the design and execution of this kitchen clearly demonstrate that a considerable amount of time and effort was spent coordinating all of its unique elements.  So, if you’re planning to do a kitchen re-model, make sure you dedicate the same effort to the selection of the light fixtures, cabinet hardware, plumbing fixtures, tile, etc. that you spend working on the design and layout of the cabinetry.  These elements are just as important to the overall design of the space and should be by no means considered an afterthought.  Yes, a kitchen renovation is often a daunting task, by the end of which homeowners are often weary of making decisions, but as I always remind my children:  your hard work pays off!

Posted in Design Element, Kitchen, Materials | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Make a Big Impact with Lighting

via The Decorista
via The Decorista

Lately I’ve been spending a lot of time researching and sourcing light fixtures.  I’m a believer that lighting can make a tremendous impact in any space, and the kitchen and bath are no exceptions.  Often times people fail to see how both the proper amount and type of lighting are necessary components when creating a functional, beautiful space.  More importantly, lighting is often overlooked since people don’t realize that it is a decorating opportunity that’s well worth the time it takes to select just the right fixtures.  

via Houzz
via Houzz

When designing a lighting plan for a kitchen (or most rooms, for that matter) I want the lighting to be flexible.  For example, there are times when I’m cooking that I want my kitchen to light up like Yankee Stadium.  When entertaining, I want to create a mood that can only be achieved when certain lights are on.  And at the end of the night when the dishes are done and the kitchen is clean, I might only flip on one or two accent lights so no one is fumbling in the dark to grab a late-night snack.  When you’re designing your kitchen, consider a variety of light sources.  A combination of recessed lighting, island pendants, sconces and a fixture over the table all will provide both the appropriate amount of light for each designated area and the variety you need to keep it interesting. 

Kriste Michelini

Consider the following guidelines when installing your light fixtures:  

  • When installing a fixture over a dining table, begin by holding the light 30″ above the table surface for a room with an 8′ ceiling.  Add 3″ for every foot that you add to the ceiling height (for a 9′ ceiling try 33″).
  • When hanging pendant fixtures over an island, consider that the bottom of your light fixture should be roughly 28-34″ above the countertop.  Once again, if your ceiling is higher than 8′ you might consider hanging pendants  a little bit higher.   Some situations do call for as much as 40″ over the island, so bear in mind that every space is different.
  • When installing sconces in a bathroom, for example, a general guideline for where to begin is 64″ from the floor.  Oftentimes, homeowners and electricians have a natural inclination to install these fixtures much higher than they need to be.  But who wants to stand at the sink and look straight into the bulb?  The purpose of a bathroom sconce is not only to shed light so that you can see what you’re doing, but it’s also to act as a decorative element in the room, no??  

How you choose to install your light fixtures is ultimately up to you.  Customers and friends always ask if there’s a rule to follow when making these decisions.  Unfortunately, the answer is no — it’s simply not that easy.  There are guidelines, to be sure, but in the end, it’s your decision.  For me, I often err on the side of having a light fixture hang a little bit lower as opposed to a little bit higher since I believe that lighting on the lower side creates a sense of coziness and adds a bit of ambiance — but that’s just my opinion.  What I do tell customers is that determining the correct height to hang any fixture is best done with two people.  One person should hold the fixture in place while the other person observes the fixture from multiple vantage points.  First, sit at the island or table — can you see the person across from you or is the light fixture in the way?  Enter the room from each doorway and look towards the island and/or the table — do you like what you see?  Is the light fixture too high or too low?  Does it block the view beyond the fixture?   Remember:  lighting serves a dual purpose.  It’s meant to illuminate the space and to be beautiful at the same time.  Lighting is an investment, so I suggest you treat it as such and take the time to make sure that the fixtures you choose hang at the height that is the most pleasing to you!  


Posted in Design Element, Kitchen, Materials | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Why Put off ‘Til Tomorrow What You Can Do Today?

Circa Lighting
Circa Lighting

Lately I’ve been feeling as though I’ve had so many things going on that I’ve had trouble crossing the finish line with any one of them.  I’m a knitter (a great stress-reliever) and right now I have at least four different projects on the needles, none of which I seem to be able to actually complete.  Some may say that I’m a “process knitter” — that I simply enjoy the process more than the finished product.  When I say that, I know I’m just fooling myself — I love the finished product, too!  The truth is, I guess I just like having multiple things going on at the same time.  The past six months have frankly been like that, too.  With a kitchen and bath design business, a son applying to college, and a fledgling blog that’s received almost no attention at all, I seem to be busy all of the time and yet I keep putting off things that simply can no longer wait.  Last week I checked two boxes off my growing list of to-dos, and when I completed each one I felt like a million bucks.  The first one was to create an ad for my son’s senior yearbook.  Going through pictures and thinking of the past eighteen years has made me both wistful at this milestone and excited about what lies ahead for him.  When I finally selected the photos that I would use and the caption that would accompany them, I felt a tremendous sense of relief.  Why had I waited so long to get that done?  And then, propelled by the momentum generated by that achievement, I decided to tackle the biggest weight that had been sitting upon my shoulders since December…my Christmas cards!  Yes, I mailed my Christmas cards at the end of February, much to the amusement of many of my friends.  A post on Facebook that I wrote shortly after mailing day acknowledged that perhaps sending my Christmas cards in February is a measure of how out-of-control I must be feeling lately!  Well, at least it’s done — another box checked off the ever-growing list.  


Alno Creations
Alno Creations

Truth is, I do enjoy being busy.  The past six months have been exhilarating, and I’ve met so many terrific people and learned so much.  Lately I’ve been helping several people to refresh their kitchens which after several years have simply become dated.  With cabinets and countertops in good shape, sometimes the best way to give your kitchen a face-lift is with a change to several key materials.  Re-tiling the backsplash, changing the plumbing and light fixtures, painting the cabinets and changing out the hardware can all have a meaningful impact on the overall look of your kitchen.  In future posts I’ll show some before and after photos to demonstrate how these changes can dramatically affect your kitchen’s overall appearance.  


Walker Zanger
Walker Zanger

In the meantime, the images that I’ve selected for today’s post should simply serve to get you to begin thinking of which elements in your kitchen you could change that would make your space look just a little bit more current.  Could it be the cabinet hardware or the backsplash tile?  Or would simply replacing the light fixture over your kitchen table be enough to refresh your space and reinvigorate one of the rooms in your home where you likely spend the most time?  Stop putting it off and consider changing some basic design elements in your kitchen — it can have a lasting impact.  Think about it!


Posted in Design Element, Kitchen, Materials | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

For the Love of Tile


It’s been entirely too long since my last post.  My excuse is simply that life has gotten in the way.  Funny how one of my many jobs as a parent is to teach my children the important life skill of time management.  Perhaps I haven’t been modeling good behavior lately as I’ve quite literally been burning the candle at both ends, and a few things have inadvertently fallen through the cracks.  September is one of the busiest months of the year, and most moms often ask one another “What’s worse:  September….or June?”  Endless meetings for school, requests to shuttle children to sports events, daily household chores and the launch of my kitchen & bath business have swallowed-up the month of September.  And it all came to a head today when I learned that I had forgotten my mother-in-law’s birthday yesterday.  Ah yes, the wheels appear to have come off the wagon.  Happily, October begins tomorrow, and with that I suspect a more normal routine of sorts will ensue.  By October we are generally in a rhythm – the kids with school and sports, and me with work and other commitments.  So, rather than feeling as though my family is spinning out of control, I am hopeful that the chaos of September is behind us, and that we will all start fresh in October!

Lately I have been spending time in tile showrooms sourcing backsplash tile.  I had the great fortune to visit the Walker Zanger showroom and I was so impressed by their beautiful selection.  I have written about tile in previous blog posts, as I’m a believer that tile is a great way to make a statement in both the kitchen and the bathroom.  What struck me during this most recent visit to Walker Zanger was the incredible variety of tile that is available today, and the countless ways these exquisite tiles can be used.  In the kitchen above,  designed by Drawing Dept. of Cincinnati, Ohio, the tile choice is so fresh and modern and makes quite a statement behind the sink.  At first it looks like custom millwork, doesn’t it?

In this bathroom designed by Tatum Brown Custom Homes in Dallas, Texas, tile is used behind the sink in lieu of wallpaper.  What a fantastic way to add both color and texture to arguably the most important wall in the powder room?  Who wouldn’t notice this bold statement when standing at the sink?

While a traditional 3″ x 6″ subway tile is a classic shape for a kitchen backsplash, the use of  hand painted ceramic tile with its depth and variety of color makes this classic shape appear much more current.  This kitchen designed by California-based Fiorella Design demonstrates that subtle color variation can add just the right amount of interest to the backsplash.  
So, here’s to a fresh start to fall and to a renewed enthusiasm for making a beautiful design statement in  your own home.
Posted in Bath, Design Element, Kitchen, Materials, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Add Some Independence Day Style to Your Kitchen

Traditional Holiday Decorations by Other Metro Furniture and Accessories Pottery Barn

Today is the Fourth of July, my all-time favorite holiday, so this is the perfect opportunity to talk about adding a little bit of Independence Day style to your kitchen.  Since red, white and blue together make quite a bold statement, it’s no secret to share that clearly a little goes a long way.  While these kitchens are by no means Fourth of July themed, I was inspired to find examples of kitchens that embraced any one or more of these significant colors.


This Lake Michigan kitchen designed by Martin Horner uses the color blue as a design element so perfectly.  When combined with perimeter cabinets painted white and a dark stained island, the use of this color in select materials adds blue in a way that isn’t overwhelming.


This Windsor Smith kitchen and adjacent dining area takes a bold shade of red and employs it throughout in a series of accents.  By introducing pops of red through the chinoiserie-style chairs, lantern and pendant light fixture, tremendous interest is added to the space.  The tension that is created by the contrast between the white cabinets, dark stained floors and bright red accents is so appealing.  Notice that just these few elements of bold color are all that is needed to add a little drama to an already beautiful space.

The next time you want to add a little bit of color to liven-up a quiet space, you might consider taking some inspiration from the flag by adding a touch of red or blue.  What a great statement that would make!

Posted in Design Element, Design Inspiration, Kitchen, Materials | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

How Do I Love Thee…A Kitchen That Has It All

lymankitchenThis post should really be titled “how to add character and warmth to your white kitchen,” but really that title would be kind of boring.  What truly grabs my attention about this kitchen which was featured in the June 2012 issue of House Beautiful Magazine is how designer Samantha Lyman used numerous elements to make this space truly unique and incredibly inviting.

How do I love thee…let me count the ways!

  • Dark stained oak floors in contrast to the white upper cabinets make a dramatic statement
  • Antique French armoire custom fit to nestle in-between the modern, shaker style cabinets adds character
  • La Cornue range in stainless steel is both traditional and industrial at the same time (a statement piece in itself)
  • Walnut island countertop stained dark brown adds a richness and a warmth that complements the cooler marble perimeter countertop
  • Gray painted island is a nice contrast to the white painted upper cabinets and grounds the island in the space
  • Vintage pendants made of copper and enamel over the island give the kitchen a rich history and add even more character
  • Honed Calacutta marble countertop is a classic material that develops a beautiful patina over time
  • Starfire glass backsplash back-painted white gives a clean, contemporary look and reflects light in the space

Samantha Lyman has created a stunning kitchen that is functional, beautiful, interesting, and unique all at once.  The overall look that she has achieved demonstrates that by adding interesting elements to a kitchen with clean white cabinets, you can create a space that is both warm in its overall feel and ultimately full of character.  And wouldn’t you want every space in your home to feel that way?  I would!

Posted in Design Element, Featured Kitchen, Kitchen | Tagged , , | Leave a comment