01 Dec / 2015
Next time you’re in a spectacular space, maybe visiting a stylish friend’s home or a beautifully designed restaurant, take a moment to notice the lighting. Chances are the furnishings, color palette, or artwork will grab your attention before the lighting. But, without a well–planned and well-executed lighting scheme, none of those design features would shine.
Particularly in the kitchen, as we have moved towards redesigning the kitchen and dining area into one great room, there is a bigger area and more objects to highlight. A well-lit kitchen begins with under cabinet lighting. With relative ease and a modest monetary investment, under cabinet lighting can have an amazing impact on a room’s style and functionality:
- It provides task lighting on the countertop for food prep and reading recipes.
- As accent lighting, it illuminates and showcases countertops and backsplashes. Used in display cabinets, it showcases art and sculpture.
- It is an ideal source of ambient lighting –the perfect night light for late night snackers.
Photos: Curtesy of www.yaleappliance.com
Under Cabinet Light Comparison
|Halogen||CFL (Florescent)||LED (Light-emitting diode)|
|Average Price: $1.50||Average Price: $3.00||Average price: $20.00 +|
|Lifespan: 2,250–3,500 hrs.||Lifespan: 8,000 hrs.||Lifespan: 25,000-50,000 hrs.|
|Energy Used: 30 - 75 watts per hour||Energy Used: 13 - 15 watts per hour||Energy used: 8 watts per hour|
|Pros: Inexpensive; produces crisp, white light.||Pros: Uses less power and last longer than incandescent||Pros: Energy efficient long life, low heat output.|
|Cons: Produce significant amounts of heat; can be dangerous in some applications.||Cons: Contain mercury; takes time to fully brighten.|
Most CFL bulbs sold today are non-dimmable
|Cons: Higher up-front cost; not all LED lamps are dimmable.|
While fluorescent and halogen lighting are still being used, LED strip lights and LED tape or ribbon lights are leading in popularity because of their versatility and ease of installation. LED strip lights have a transformer built into a metal casing with covered glass. It is simple to change out an existing incandescent or fluorescent light, because the connections are the same. And, since they have a glass cover, they are easy to clean. LED tape lights come as an adhesive strip that can be shaped and even cut-to-size to tuck neatly beneath your cabinets.
Look for damp location-rated designs for an added measure of safety in the kitchen or dimmable and multi-color designs to add an ambient touch to any room. Long-lasting and using as little as 24 watts, these energy-efficient designs offer an inexpensive way to brighten your space. For a full report and to get the low-down on high efficiency LED lighting view Houzz’s article Focus on High Efficiency LED Lighting.
06 Nov / 2015
When it comes to selecting tile for your home remodel, the abundance of options is daunting. While the material, shape, and size of the tile may be an issue of functionality, the color and texture of the tile can set the tone of a room. An unexpected source, The Wall Street Journal, recently offered an exciting and informative overview of emerging tile trends. As they profess, “No home renovator wants to get stuck with a lousy tile decision, but that doesn’t mean the only choice is basic, boring beige.” See The Complete A-Z Guide to Tiles: 26 Ways to Go Beyond Beige for an alphabetical survey of the new tile landscape, from Arabesque to Zellige.
Not only does the article give provide information on the full range of materials available to homeowners today – many of the new ones driven by technology innovations such as digital printing – it offers ideas from design experts on ways to mix the various A-Z elements. For example:
1. Combine complex patterns with plainer patterns
2. Offset textural effects with smooth tiles
3. Consider playing with scale
4. Besides pure aesthetics, consider a theme and how pairings can be a narrative.
For additional help on choosing the right tile for your home, consider the following factors and see the associated online guides:
Ceramic and Porcelain
Both ceramic and porcelain can be rated for wear using the Porcelain Enamel Institute (PEI) scale, which classifies tile surfaces from 1 to 5. A PEI 1 rating is for “No foot traffic, for wall use only”, while a PEI of 5+ can handle “heavy traffic and is most resistant to abrasion”.
Natural stone is not man-made and therefore does not follow the PEI scale. The natural stones used most often in tile are marble, limestone, travertine, slate, and granite.
There are both subtle and significant differences between the types of stone as to appearance, water absorption to durability. For more information on choosing ceramic, porcelain, or natural stone tile, see National Kitchen and Bath Association, Homeowners Tips for Choosing the Right Tile
Especially important in choosing floor tile, the Coefficient of Friction (COF) is a measure of traction and tile slipperiness. See Interiors and Sources to learn more.
Color, Texture, and Style
The color and texture of the tile helps set the tone of a room. Before deciding on a tile color, take note of existing colors in the room, the mood you want for the room and the amount of foot traffic the area receives. Today’s digital technology, has transformed the process of creating tile with new and intriguing possibilities. For example porcelain look-alike tile is sized to resemble individual floor planks and ceramic and porcelain “marble” tiles look almost exactly like real marble but they do not crack and scratch as easily.
See Daltile Tile Trends to read about their Four Top Tile Trends for 2015: Glass mosaic tiles in updated colors and shapes, a softer color palette, with lots of gray, softer textures, and subway tiles in updated shapes and colors.
Here is an example of the subway tile trend in this recently-completed Palo Alto kitchen remodel. The homeowner selected Heath Ceramic’s Stretched Hexagon tile for their backsplash. It’s a handmade tile that feels like classic subway tile but with a twist. See the Heath Ceramics website for a complete selection of their offerings.
01 Oct / 2015
A Man Cave can be defined as a room, space, corner, or area of a dwelling that is specifically reserved for a male person to be in a solitary condition, away from the rest of the household in order to work, play, and involve himself in certain hobbies and activities without interruption. This area is usually decorated by the male, without interference from any female influence. Technically, any space a man can go to be alone can be defined as a Man Cave. It can be an office, basement, garage, or shed out back. It is a room free from other themes or style of the home. A Man Cave is where a man goes for sanctuary.
It’s all in the Accessories
While the location can be almost anywhere, there are classic amenities found in many Man Caves including a pool table, bar, refrigerator, dart board, TV, sound system, a pinball machine, and very comfortable furniture. Often the wall décor emphasizes the man’s interests – sports, cars, movies, etc. Dependent on the man’s interests, they can also include a writing desk, a painting easel, a collection of sports memorabilia, or a garage wall filled with tools.
Comfort & Quality
The lounge chair is a man room necessity. While an old La-Z-Boy might immediately come to mind, take quality into consideration and buy things that are crafted with care. Invest in a good leather chair that is water & spill resistant and eternally stylish. A great chair is more than just a fabric bag stuffed with as much cotton as possible and a built-in cup holder. All good furniture has been designed with both form and function in mind. Here are 3 classic chairs with timeless appeal
The Barcelona Chair
by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe which was designed for the World Exposition in 1929 and still continues to be an iconic masculine piece.
The LC2 and LC3 Armchairs
http://www.houzz.com/ideabooks/105174/list/modern-icons-corbusiers-lc2-and-lc3-armchairs designed by French designer LeCourbusier
As far as lounge chairs are concerned, many consider the classic Eames Lounge Chair, http://www.hermanmiller.com/products/seating/lounge-seating/eames-lounge-chair-and-ottoman.html made by Herman Miller, to be one of the most comfortable chairs of all time. When you sit in it, it literally conforms to your body.
As far as lounge chairs are concerned, many consider the classic Eames Lounge Chair, made by Herman Miller, to be one of the most comfortable chairs of all time. When you sit in it, it literally conforms to your body.
Eames® Lounge and Ottoman
Audio — Visual
The right viewing portal is absolutely essential to every Man Cave. Equally important is a kick-ass sound system — not just good speakers — but a complete surround sound system. This will enhance your movie, music, or sports experience to the fullest. To create an in-home audiophile experience we offer two resources who are both NARI (National Association of the Remodeling Industry) members who have worked with many of our clients to create integrated home theaters or high performance audio systems.
The key to designing the ultimate Man Cave is to create a personal retreat to surround oneself with things that are meaningful. It is the perfect space for that lifelong collection of (fill in the blank) that your spouse doesn’t understand. The cave provides the perfect space to organize and display the collection and keep them safe. See for example, this modern Man Cave by Benedict August where a G.I. Joe Collection is creatively displayed and childhood toys are the focal point of the room.
Find a wide selection of sports memorabilia from local and national MLB, NFL, NHL teams at Man Cave Memorabilia. www.mancavememorabilia.com Shop locally (Foster City) or online.
Looking for the one-of-a-kind antique for your man room? Big Daddy Antiques Inc. is a retailer of one-of-a-kind antiques and reproductions from European, Asian, and North American markets.
Take a look inside the “Man Rooms” of 14 famous men from history on The Art of Manliness website.
Famous Man Caves
In reading about the lives of history’s great men, one thing the author noticed was that many of them had a place they could go to be alone with their thoughts. Some of these men had a study where they would retreat to think, read, and write. Others had a garage or workshop where they would tinker and experiment. But what all these rooms had in common was their sheer manliness. They were man spaces, places a man could call his own. Within these rooms ideas were formulated that would change the world and books were written that became classics. Thomas Jefferson, Winston Churchill, Ernest Hemingway, Theodore Roosevelt and Thomas Edison are some of the featured
A Manly Superstore, Man Cave a Home sells everything necessary to build the ultimate Man Cave, whether it’s a pool table, a bar, beer neon signs, Harley-Davidson bar stools, a stand up arcade game…you name it, they have it or can get it.
Click on the team logos to find their 2015/2016 Season Schedules
01 Sep / 2015
The French have a special je ne sais quoi when it comes to fashion and style. Simply put—they know how to dress. It seems that the French not only know how to dress themselves, but they also know how to dress their home interiors.
French interiors seem elegantly “thrown together” because their homes have an understated elegance that is welcoming and invites one to sit and stay awhile—it’s equivalent to how French woman toss on a scarf on the way out the door, effortlessly adding that last piece de resistance to their outfit.
Elegant and effortless seems like an ideal combination. Let’s take a few tips from French interiors and see what they can teach us about decorating our own homes.
Interior designer, Renate Hering-Shepherd from Dream Home Decorating shares with us her 7 Essential Elements of French Decorating.
Rule #1 Under-decorate
Rule #2 Be Bold!
Rule #3 Mix Old & New
Rule #4 Mix Raw & Refined
Rule #5 Mix Country & Court
Rule #6 Look Up!
Rule #7 A Bit of Gold Never Hurt Anyone
For more details, the full article can be found at
The article also provides room by room French Interior Design examples, tips on how to “Frenchify” your home and how to find furniture and accessories. It also is a great resource for French Interior Design books and magazines.
Take a peak at Luciane at HomeBunch as she offers several design ideas and inspirations on her website. These two beautiful pieces were showcased along with photos of Paris that makes you feel as if you were there.
If you are truly interested in an authentic representation of French décor, a visit to Enchante Boutique Hotel in downtown Los Altos is a must. This French chateau style hotel is adorned in Paris chic, with authentic details througout the hotel. The owner provides and experience and ambiance of a fine European hotel without the need for your passports.
01 Aug / 2015
In these fast-paced times, reading the news or the latest best seller is often done on a tablet, phone, or computer. From kids to adults, its pinch, swipe, and shuffle, back and forth between groups of icons. However, for many, nothing compares to the smell of the ink and paper, the weight of the book in your hands, and the sound of turning the pages. It involves all of the senses. Then there is the sight of the beautifully-crafted book cover — not just thumbnail in your Kindle inventory.
For those who continue to enjoy their collection of books, make sure to incorporate attractive library space in your remodel. See the following creative bookshelf ideas to help you house your collection attractively.
Bored Panda A leading art, design, and photography community, Bored Panda has collected these 33 Creative Bookshelf Designs. Even if you are not a book lover, consider their ideas for general storage – there’s something for everyone –from cats to kids.
House and Garden, The Most Novel Book Ideas
Find bookshelf ideas for every room in your home, including fitted and floating bookshelves, floor-to-ceiling libraries, and bookshelves built into stairs.
And finally, through a Houzz Tour see how the love of reading shaped a Seattle couple’s home remodel.
DeForest Architects in Seattle, WA took a dark Tudor-style home and opened it up for the couple to enjoy views of their garden and Lake Washington. Every room was designed with their love of reading in mind. Their home includes over 300 linear feet of shelving and various cozy reading spots.
01 Jul / 2015
The Not So Big Life
We can all be designers and architects…that is, architects in the process of our LIFE remodeling, according to Sarah Susanka, a bestselling author, architect, and cultural visionary. She was named a “Top Newsmaker” by Newsweek magazine, an “innovator in American culture” by U.S. News & World Report and has shared her insights with Oprah Winfrey and Charlie Rose. Sarah is well known for her book The Not So Big House, a guideline for remodeling with the approach of “build better, not bigger.” Her main approach to design is that if we look at the way we truly live, it’s not the size of the house that makes us feel comfortable, but the flow and function and attention to detail that makes us feel “at home.”
Her book The Not So Big Life, is an extension of this philosophy and uses the home as a metaphor to discuss more peaceful and centered ways to live our lives. As she puts it, “Your life is a lot like the house you live in. It has some things that you like and some that you find irritating.” Some problems are more difficult to identify, articulate, and resolve because they are less visible. However, just like remodeling a house, “you don’t need to change a lot of things in order to shift the character of the house, but you do need to evaluate what isn’t working and determine what you would like to have room for but don’t. Then you need to compose a good design solution that uses what already exits but modifies it here and there to accommodate the new functions. After that you must develop a thorough set of blueprints that record all the decisions made. And finally, to live the changes, you must build.”
To explore resources to simplify, prioritize and slow down, Sarah’s book offers a comprehensive tool for evaluating your life and redesigning it to fit who you really are and to reflect your core values.
Here are the 12 steps that go into the making of a The Not So Big Life
- Developing a Blueprint for a New Way of Living
- Noticing What Inspires You
- Identifying What Isn’t Working
- Removing the Clutter
- Listening to Your Dreams
- Learning to See Through the Obstacles
- Improving the Quality You Have
- Creating a Place and a Time of Your Own
- Proceeding Through the Construction Process
- Moving into Your Not So Big Life
- Maintaining Your Newly Remodeled Life
- Being at Home in Your Life
A detailed explanation of the above 12 steps can be found in an excerpt from her book Not So Big Life. “Learn How to Restructure and Simplify Your Life”
A master in the use of metaphor to help explain new dimensions of understanding, Susanka unveils a process for changing the way we live by fully inhabiting each moment of our lives and by showing up completely in whatever it is we are doing. Through this process of self-discovery, described in The Not So Big Life, readers uncover more meaningfulness and vitality in their own lives.
The Not So Big House book series by Sarah Susanka brings to light a new way of thinking about what makes a place feel like home – characteristics many people desire in their homes and their lives, but haven’t known how to verbalize. How big is Not So Big? Not So Big doesn’t necessarily mean small. It means not as big as you thought you needed, but designed and built to perfectly suit the way you live.
Possibilities—Life’s Invisible Feast Sarah Susanka at TEDxSanDiego 2013
01 Apr / 2015
There are many elements that drive a design: structural requirements, costs, and functionality, to name a few. However, there is an easy rule, used by many designers to create an aesthetically-pleasing, well-pulled together room. The Rule of Three is a principle used in many areas of design: architecture, graphic design, and photography (though, in graphic design and photography, it is referred to as the Rule of Thirds).
The basic idea is that details and objects that are arranged or grouped in threes (or odd numbers) are more appealing, memorable, and effective than even-numbered arrangements. According to Cecilia Walker of Cecilia Walker Designs, “While it is easier to create symmetry by balancing elements in twos, odd numbers create harmony and force movement and visual interest.” Consistent with Feng Shui principles, odd numbers give Yang energy and even numbers, Yin. Yang expands and moves, Yin contracts and condenses.
With interior design, the Rule of Three not only applies to architecture, but to lighting, color, and interior accessorizing.
Color and the Rule of 3
This simple diagram from The Interactive Color Wheel represents one of the designer’s basic tools: The 60-30-10 decorating rule, which is decorating with a selection of three different colors, each with its own pre-defined function, produces pleasant visual impact.
Dominant color: Roughly 60 percent of the given space should be the dominant color. In interior design terms, this color is for walls. Neutrals are the good choice for painting walls.
Secondary color: The next 30 percent should represent secondary color.
Accent color: The remaining 10 percent of the color scheme is for accent color. Accent color should be attractive. Warm vivid colors are good accents.
Design and Aesthetics
Margaret Everton is one of the many wonderful writers for Houzz. She is an arts and culture writer and explorer of how and what people create. Her work spans the disciplines of architecture and design, art, lifestyle, history, and literature. In her article, Using The Rule of Three In Your Home’s Design, she created an Idea book on the theme of threes and how, as a design tool, the rule in creative variations works in many ways. Here are a few examples:
In this home by Taylor Lombardo Architects, “the larger center arch not only accentuates the room’s center, but its raised height gives the room a loftiness that isn’t literally there. The room not only has added depth, but the illusion of added height.” Read More
With interior design, the Rule of Three can be implemented in progression and spatial composition. Consider the work triangle in kitchen design, color and fabric schemes, arrangements of furniture, and groupings of accessories.
For more inspiration, see Freshome Design and Architecture Magazine’s recent article “10 Designs That Incorporate the Rule of Three”
They demonstrate how to arrange furniture, tabletop objects, and artwork and provide examples of why the Rule of Three is not a hard-and-fast rule. There are times, such as in a small space, where it may make more sense to successfully “break” the rule.
31 Mar / 2015
Stylish. Simple. Affordable. Eco-Friendly.
It’s not too often that one can describe a product with all four of these attributes. Yes, there is home product that exists that is stylish, simple, affordable and eco-friendly. We are referring to FLOR Carpet Design Squares. Although, it has been around since 2003, we recently had a client come to us to help them with decorative finishes for their new addition. Hardwood floors had been installed throughout their home; however, they needed protective floor coverings for the laundry room, kitchen, living area and hallway. We knew FLOR was the answer. It was perfect for all four areas. Ever since, we have been a huge fan.
What is FLOR? FLOR is an innovative modular system of carpet squares (20” x 20″) that you assemble to create custom rugs, runners, or wall-to-wall designs of any shape or size. FLOR works great on hardwood, vinyl tile, laminate, plywood and concrete sealed with nonsolvent sealant.
With a full array of textures, colors and patterns, the designers at FLOR offer something for everyone. Whether it is the look of traditional herringbone pattern, playful leopard & zebra prints to earthy/nature & industrial tones, FLOR squares adds personality and conveys your unique style to any room. You can create floor coverings for any space, from cozy nurseries to busy kitchens or everyday high traffic hallways and entryways.
From beginning to end this product is simple. (Square+Dot=Rug). Simple to request samples (they’re free at Palo Alto store) and order product, simple to assemble by yourself (no contractor required) and simple to clean. FLOR rugs are easy to install, move and/or change, and they stay in place with FLOR dots, a patented adhesive, which adhere to the bottom of each square and not your floor.
Affordable. Costs run from $10 to $30 a Design Square (with the majority of Design Squares priced at $16-$18). They arrive to your door in about a week.
Need a quick estimate of how many squares your floor needs? Use FLOR’s Tile Calculator
All FLOR face fibers are nylon with varying degrees of recycled content. The backings are a vinyl composite, increasingly made from recycled materials. FLOR carpet tiles meet or exceed the Carpet & Rug Institute’s Green Label Plus standards for VOC emissions. Most FLOR carpet squares use a GlasBac backing, a vinyl composite, which is 100% recyclable. FLOR also offers a Return & Recycle Program – they take your old FLOR tiles and turn them into new product.
FLOR customer service is exemplary. Designed-challenged? No problem. FLOR offers design assistance over the phone as well as in the store. We are fortunate to have a retail store local in Palo Alto, where you can view samples and consult with an in-house designer to help you create your own unique composition.
Visit FLOR at 321 University Avenue, Palo Alto, CA 94301 (650) 289-9609 or check out FLOR’s Facebook page for more information, ideas, and inspiration:
12 Feb / 2015
We all want our homes to be safe havens—places where we can relax in comfort and security. But every year, home-related accidents result in medical visits and sometimes death to thousands of people in the United States. The top three causes of these injuries are: 1) falls, 2) poisonings, and 3) fires and burns. Many of these accidents take place in the bathroom. The average person uses the bathroom six times a day. With such a high level of usage, it is important for this room to be as safe as possible. We recommend these home improvements to help keep you and your loved ones safe while using your bathroom.
1. Falls: Eliminate!
• Wet, slippery tubs and shower floors can lead to some of the most serious injuries in the bathroom. Select non-slip floor surfaces for your bathroom and install grab bars.Many grab bars today are cleverly designed to avoid giving your bathroom an institutional appearance. Check out the new products from Invisia, that integrate a toilet paper holder with a grab bar, or a towel bar with a grab bar—effectively hiding the grab bar in plain sight.
• A comfort height toilet provides a seat height that is the same as that of a standard chair, maximizing your ease and comfort when sitting down or standing up.
• An LED light sensor night light in the bathroom will automatically turn on in low light levels. The night light will softly illuminate the path for safe nighttime visits to the bathroom, helping you avoid any tripping hazards along the away. It will also provide enough light to safely complete all normal bathroom tasks.
2. Poisonings: Eradicate!
• More than two million poisonings are reported to poison control centers each year—with the highest rates among children under age five. To help prevent poisoning, all medications and other poisonous items should be locked up and placed out of reach of children and pets. This may be accomplished by adding child-proof locks on the doors of cabinets where cleaning solutions are stored, as well as by installing a medicine cabinet with a built-in lock box for added safety.
• Keep all medications and bathroom cleaning solutions in their original containers with labels attached, to ensure they are used properly and not mistaken for another product. Never mix one medication with another.
3. Burns: Exterminate!
• Although 96 percent of all homes in the United States have at least one smoke alarm, some burns occur without any smoke! Each year, about 112,000 people are treated in hospital emergency rooms with scald burns, many of which are a result of household water heaters being set at temperatures above 120 degrees F. To prevent these burns, turn down your water heater to 120 degrees and install an anti-scald regulator fixture in the shower, tub and vanity sink. (This article features the ioDIGITAL from Moen)
• Never leave potential fire hazards, such as space heaters, candles or curling irons, unattended. Replace lit candles with battery-powered “flameless” candles and purchase a curling iron with an auto shut-off function.
15 Jun / 2014
Article courtesy of Plamar USA, Inc.
So you’re remodeling your kitchen or bathroom and have decided you want engineered quartz for your countertop. What now? With the many quartz products available today, how do you choose the best one for your countertop?
As countertop experts, we have been asked this question many times and can confidently answer that there is really no how-to-guide in choosing the right engineered quartz material. Our advice is to look at the range of products available in the market – Caesarstone, Silestone, Cambria, Pental Quartz, Color Quartz, Hanstone, Zodiaq, Icestone, Vetrazzo, and LG Viatera to get an idea of the range of choices. Educate yourself by visiting their websites to learn the features of each brand and how they differ from one another. In doing so, you’ll be able to identify each brand’s its composition, the range of colors and patterns available and how each brand compares to the others.