Thursday, June 2, 2011

birthday week

This week is invariably the busiest week of my year. Thank god it lies almost directly opposite holiday season (both for my sanity and for my piggybank). This, my friends, is birthday week. For as long as I can remember, I have been surrounded by Gemini’s. Apparently I am drawn to people with multi-faceted personalities (or maybe just multiple personalities… hehe). So check it out, it goes a little something like this:

Mother's Day --- the official kick-off
5/27 bestfriend
5/29 mom
5/31 dad
6/1 half-sister
6/2 fiance
6/9 stepmom
6/17 [future] mother-in-law
6/18 [future] brother-in-law
Father's Day --- phew... made it

As you can probably imagine, I have been incredibly busy (although I must admit it has been a nice break from navigating the ever-present madness at Whole Foods as there’s absolutely no need for groceries when we’re eating out virtually every meal!!!). And I have been on an unrelenting quest to find the “perfect gift” for each of these people who are all so incredibly special to me, and who I feel deserve nothing short of the world.

So in accordance with the overarching theme of my week, I thought I would share a few of these gifts with you guys – plus I’ve added a few things that we have been designing into some of our most recent projects that I am currently obsessed with (and would definitely go on my personal ‘wish-list’).

For the die-hard Yankee fan in the family (in my case that would be my mother), I got these. And for the gadget guy who is trying oh-so-hard to stay current with today’s technology (ahem --- dad), how could you possibly resist this (unless, of course, you waited in line at 5am to get it the week it was released like someone I know who shall remain nameless, but is very near and dear my heart). But I would have to say my fiancĂ©’s present took the gold this year. As I have learned over the years, the reel way to a man’s heart is through his rod --- especially if he’s an avid fly-fisherman!!!

----------- things that I am currently obsessed with ------------

And no kitchen could ever be complete without one of these...

Happy gifting!!!


Thursday, May 26, 2011

when worlds collide

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about what happens when two seemingly distinct worlds collide. Sometimes the answers come easily, kind of like doing a Monday crossword puzzle. While sometimes a little more thought is required, like say your typical Thursday or Friday puzzle. Then inevitably at some point in our lives we all experience our own version of a Sunday crossword from the New York Times. Upon first glance it appears seemingly unsolvable, but as you remain diligent putting forth both effort and time (for what sometimes seems like an eternity), the answers slowly begin to unfold. Patterns develop. Themes become apparent. The secret is our receptivity, or better yet, our attunement to all of the subtleties as they are revealed. Just like in life. When you feel as if you are being asked to make a choice between two things you hold very important, how receptive or open can you be to all of the possibilities that could lie ahead? Are you skillful enough to pick up on the subtle clues that inevitably surround you helping guide your way? Are you patient enough and willing to sacrifice the necessary amount of time it might take to figure out what you really want? Or do you simply retreat, thus forcing a solution prematurely (even knowing full well that in doing so you are risking the chance of experiencing the sweetness of what could be out of fear or maybe even just plain laziness)? Of course we all know the old adage: patience is a virtue. And a virtue it absolutely is, which is all well and good, but patience alone ain’t quite enough to push you forward when you’re feeling stuck. In order to truly experience the fullness and beauty that could be, then in addition to cultivating both patience and receptivity, we must put forth effort in the form of dedication, steadfastness, and raw, gritty, fierce, sometimes even painfully challenging work.

So let’s first be really clear about our questions: when we come to these challenges or forks in the road, how do we navigate? In other words, how do we use our inner GPS to tell us the “right” path to choose? And do we even really have to choose one over the other or can we find a way to make our seemingly separate worlds collide (and I mean that in a good way)?

In order to even begin to find the answer(s), I default to what I know best (and what I know works – at least for me), and that is my yoga. If I were in a difficult yoga pose the very first thing I would remind myself to do is breath (note: this is actually true for any pose, but it undoubtedly requires more skill to remember your breath through the tough positions). This is what we call in the Anusara tradition, being “open to grace” (OTG), and it is the first of our five Universal Principles of Alignment™. For me, this applies both on and off the mat, so when times get tough and situations are trying, I simply pause and come back to my breath. I soften. Allowing the space for a greater sense of openness, attunement and receptivity to all those subtle clues that surround and offer insight as to how to proceed. Some visible right away, and others still cloaked that are to be revealed in time. OTG is both the patience and the receptivity. And once we are able to tap in to that, we are then able to add on. Next comes the work part and by no coincidence is this the second of our Universal Principles, which we call muscular energy. Muscular energy simply translates to grounding oneself and cultivating the strength, courage and steadfastness in whatever situation (or pose as it may be) that we may find ourselves in. WE need to put forth the effort. WE must be active co-participants in the shaping and design of our lives. Next in the sequence comes the expressive part (which is our third Universal Principal a.k.a. organic energy) reminding us that once we are grounded, we have the freedom to shine our brightest and fullest. Expressing our true potential outwardly in the highest way possible. These Universal Principles keep building on one another, always looping back the beginning (OTG) simply to start the process over again. Infinitely. To me, the process is both beautiful and methodical, offering the remembrance that there is never not something that we could be doing.

I could go on forever about the connectedness between yoga inside and outside the classroom/studio, but I promised this week to get to kitchens, so bear with me just a little bit longer. If you hadn’t picked up by now, my two worlds that have collided are design and yoga. I love each one dearly, but until just recently, I had felt like I needed to choose one or the other (in terms of a career path). I had resisted following my heart and enrolling in Teacher Training for years, because I thought it meant giving up my dream of being a kitchen designer. I now know that I wasn’t truly taking my teachings to heart. I heard them. I believed them. I could spit them back out as though I truly got it. But I wasn’t actually living it. I couldn’t even get past our first principle (OTG), so how could I ever expect to experience the beauty that potentially lies ahead? I completely was selling myself short. So I’ve made the conscious decision not to choose. Why should I feel I have to? I want it all. And will settle for nothing less. So here I am. Officially enrolled in Teacher Training. And what’s more? I am more inspired than ever before in my design. Who knew?!?!

Now comes the fun part (note: this is the part where I attempt to bring it all full circle). Curious to know how I interpret our theme of world’s colliding and translate it into beautiful kitchen design? Wanna see what’s inspiring me these days? Check out these pics of two kitchens done by the amazingly talented Donna Venegas.

LOVE LOVE LOVE how she blends traditional styles with more modern styles so seamlessly. And I’m especially loving the contrasting yet complimentary finishes she chose (like the white high-gloss poly with the more rustic and earthy walnut).

 So just like that. Two styles collide creating a fullness of beauty that wouldn’t otherwise be achieved were it simply one or the other.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

superficial AND profound

Dearest blog,
Hello, old friend. It’s been a while. Let me turn on the lights, and dust off those cobwebs. I apologize for being so distant over the last few months. Admittedly, I’ve thought about you on and off, but as we both know, I have yet to put in the effort required to maintain a healthy relationship (although in all fairness, you haven’t either, but I guess technology hasn’t quite reached the point where blogs literally opine back to us – at least not yet – so for now the onus is solely on me). Anyway, as we well know, relationships take work. Hard work. Like [sometimes] really, REALLY hard work. But when we put in the effort, regardless of outcome, there is one thing that we are always guaranteed: the satisfaction of knowing that we gave ourselves in our entirety. That’s kind of a big deal. Truly. And definitely worth more discussion, but in an effort not to get too far off track, I’m choosing to simply leave it at that with the offering for you to contemplate at will. 

So, with the inspiration and support of my friends/family/peers/teachers, I have made the conscious decision to step into the current and genuinely give my all in every aspect of my life. To that I am dedicated and committed. Writing those words down and publishing them in this blog may seem insignificant, but to me it helps carve it in stone. I guess it’s kind of like signing a contract in the digital age. There’s no turning back, as I am now accountable [to all of you who stumbled upon this] should I fail to honor my commitment. Keep me honest.

“What does any of this have to do with kitchen design?” you might ask if you are among the select few who dared read this posting. Well, in short: everything. Design is design. Period. And that stands true for both the superficial (and I don’t mean superficial in any negative connotation) and for the profound. We design our own image everyday through the clothes we choose to wear, the shoes we put on, how we style our hair, etc… We design our homes as reflections of ourselves. Whether you surround yourself with neutral color palettes or bold ones, says a lot about your personality. Do you like the idea of stepping off the beaten path and opting for concrete counters? Or does the mere idea of concrete counters simply make you cringe? Just as we are the designers of our superficial image/surroundings, so we are the designers (or to take it even a step further, the architects) of our lives, in a very profound and real way. It’s both as simple and as complex as that.

So as has been offered to me, I offer this forward to you: Are you in alignment with the design of your life? In other words, does the image you present to the outside world match the vision you have for yourself on the inside? If the two worlds are out of sync, which is the one that needs to change? And most importantly, what are you willing to do about it?

And finally, dearest blog, I leave you with this one last promise:

“I will write a weekly entry about something/someone that I find inspirational and how that is translated into my design (since this is a Kitchen Design blog, after all).”


ps- more on kitchens next time… I swear ;)

pps- and most of all, to my dear friend and teacher (you most certainly know who you are should you happen to be reading this, but I will respect your anonymity unless you give me the green light in which case I will give you shameless plugs to no end), I want to say “thank you” for your unfettered strength, clarity, poise and grace in communicating your thoughts and translating them into action. You, my friend, are true inspiration!!!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Back to school

As the summer winds down and fall is within arm's length, most of us begin to find ourselves at home more often. Everybody's back from summer vacation (hopefully well-rested) and ready to take on another school year. History shows that this tends to be the time when our office phone starts to ring. A lot. And that's a good thing. The kids are back in school. No more weekend trips. No more summer chaos - that's not to imply that we don't love the summer fun, but admittedly it can be exhausting. Back to routines. Somehow that seems refreshing right about now. Maybe we can finally find some time for ourselves. Take a nice long walk and sip in the delicious September air. Go to that yoga class we've been meaning to go to. Or simply sit in our kitchens reading the newspaper and enjoying our morning coffee. In silence. 

In theory, that all sounds idyllic. In reality, that may happen for about a week. Two if you're lucky. Then, suddenly the realization that holiday season is right around the corner. Gulp. Panic begins to set in. "Is it my turn to host? Again? Already? I need a second oven. And the stove is on its last legs. If only we had a second sink... or an island... do you think I could fit an island in here? How much would it cost to re-do my entire kitchen?" All these thoughts race through your head. And that's when you start looking for a kitchen designer. And the inevitable phone calls begin.

So here's my two cents, for what it's worth. It is highly unlikely (although not impossible), that you will be able to undergo a complete gut and wind up with your Dream Kitchen before Thanksgiving of this year. That being said, don't refrain from seeking out a kitchen specialist right now. Planning in advance is your best friend. And a good kitchen designer will give you some things to think about so that as you host this years festivities, you can go through your checklist of 'what you truly need' vs 'what you really really want' vs 'what you can live without' so that you don't wind up with regrets when you do finally get to design the kitchen of your dreams. And start the planning now. You're kitchen designer will help you plan when the best time to undergo the renovation would be for you and your family, so as to create the least disruption in your daily life. I hope no one comes away from this post feeling discouraged, as it is meant to be empowering. It's never to early to start planning for next year!!!

Monday, July 26, 2010

...cont'd -> white sans white

So now that you guys have had a couple of weeks to flip through magazines, I'm curious to know if what YOU are noticing is in line with what WE are actually doing (at least in terms of design aesthetic - primarily as it relates to cabinetry). Let me preface this by saying that I don't believe white kitchens are going anywhere... when done tastefully (and by that I mean simple and clean, with an understated elegance) white kitchens are both classic and timeless, and thus they are here to stay.

B-U-T (she says excitedly), we are finding that more and more people are wanting to keep that 'simple, light and clean' feel that is evoked in a white kitchen, but they are ready to change it up a bit. And so are we.

So question-of-the-day becomes: how do you keep the 'clean, simple, light' feel of a white kitchen sans the white kitchen?

Our solution has been to take a cue from Mother Nature. Picture yourself walking along a beach in whatever you consider to be the most beautiful weather imaginable. Feel the warm sun gently kissing your skin as you sip in the ocean breeze. How does that make you feel? If you are like most, it is delicious. So delicious you can literally almost taste it. Now let's bring that deliciousness into our homes.

We start by using a more rustic wood for our cabinetry. One where you can actually see some texture in the graining of the wood (note: we've been using a lot of grain-relieved oak lately). This helps give some movement and depth, but we must balance it out by choosing a really simple door style, otherwise it can become too complicated. Let me stop for a minute and clarify what I mean by 'rustic', since it could be interpreted in a number of ways. In this case, by 'rustic' I don't mean a dark-stained, knotty-butternut nor am I referring to an antiqued, distressed, chipped-paint look. What I am talking about is quite simply a white-washed or wax-finished, grain-relieved oak (note: this type of finish can also be achieved using butternut, but it is more often done with oak) that elicits an earthy feel somewhat reminiscent of driftwood.

To continue with the earthy feel, we've fallen in love with concrete counters. What's so cool about concrete is that you can actually personalize them by having things inlaid. Typically we like to inlay nautilus shells and trilobites, but you can get as creative as you like (we actually put rivets from the engine of a plane in one clients counter... he was an aeronautical engineer!). Plus you can customize the color to suit your home. Think of all the options you have with Benjamin Moore paint colors. Infinite. But I recommend sticking with something light in the gray/taupe/sand family if you are going for this particular look.

And the most important factor in keeping a kitchen feeling 'light and clean' is what???? Yep, you guessed it. Light (duh!).
So simple and obvious, yet so often overlooked. I recommend always getting as much natural light as possible, but regardless of the number of windows you have, make sure you have LOTS of recessed lights. Decorative lighting is great to make a design statement, but task lighting is SO crucial! Always err on the side of overkill when it comes to lighting (just make sure you opt for the newer recessed lights with the smaller aperture - fyi, they make conversion kits for the bigger ones these days if you are stuck with the old ones).

So that's our take on future trends. Is it on par with what you guys are seeing? As always, questions and comments are welcomed (and encouraged!!!).

Until next time,

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Are white kitchens a thing of the past????

Let's talk design aesthetic (at least as it relates to kitchens)...

Over the past decade the focus has shifted away from the stained woods and detailed mouldings, and towards a much cleaner and simpler design aesthetic. The kitchen-of-the-moment (for the past four years or so) is what we are calling 'transitional' (meaning that it is a blend of 'classic' and 'modern' design) and has typically been white cabinets with white marble counters (either calacatta, carrara or occasionally danby) and dark-stained wood floors. White, white and more white. And while I absolutely love the look and feel of a white kitchen, and I agree that the look is timeless (at least when done in a way that balances the simplicity in form of modern design with the feeling of comfort evoked in more classic kitchens), I've got to say that I am ready for a change. 

So what's the new white?

Check back next week and I'll tell you what we've been seeing a lot of lately, but in the mean time we'd love to hear your thoughts...

What does your dream kitchen look like?

What do you think will be the next big thing (for kitchen cabinets/counters/backsplash)?

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

New trends in hardware…. are drawer pulls a thing of the past?

So, every year we go down to Pennsylvania for an Annual Design Seminar that is held by our family down at Premier Custom Built,, (fyi- they’re the best cabinet makers in the industry today) at which time we learn about all the exciting new products that we’ll be seeing in the coming year. Last year there was some talk about nixing hardware (drawer pulls/knobs), but the technology wasn’t quite there yet. The only options that were on the market that were even remotely acceptable (in terms of quality) required electricity – so not only were you outta luck if you lost power, but the drawer had to be constructed in a way that would allow for the system to be mounted onto the back/interior portion of the cabinet (which meant sacrificing drawer/storage space) and it could not be used in framed cabinetry (only available for frameless application). Anyway, word on the street is that this year there is a new product on the market that meets all of our [extremely high] quality standards, and allows us the flexibility to go sans hardware in virtually any application. We’re really excited (to say the least)!!!

What do you guys think? Any interest?