Can you imagine a kitchen without countertops? It wasn’t that long ago that the kitchen table was used as the main prep space- with minimal counter clean up space reserved for the sink. Once the marvelous concept of preparation and clean-up space was introduced, there wasn’t much call for improvement. The kitchen counter has evolved based on a few very important reasons: 1. Times change and so have the materials available – (stainless, laminate, solid surface, natural stone and glass, concrete and wood) so we can change the look as well as mix things up. 2. Times change and so have our lifestyles- Mom is not cooking alone in the kitchen anymore – the duties have been split and the children are more involved. Because of our busy lives it is one of the activities families do together now so the layouts of the counter tops have changed (islands, peninsulas, L and U-shaped kitchens as well as the most current use of multiple triangles of task-connecting stations for prep, clean-up and cooking… and the all-important homework while being in the same room with each other) 3. Times change and the kitchen is not just the nucleus of the home, it is the center of our life at home. This creates a need to blend the best practices of what the kitchen needs to do while making the kitchen a beautiful part of our family area… “wait, I think this is how the pioneers did it” In the following examples are a couple of counters that have more than one purpose:The chopping block above faces the family room and dinette and provides relief by not being on the same plane as the main counter. The warm color of the wood offers a casual change of definition, and the lower height is actually more conducive to cutting and chopping. The butcher block also means no more bringing out a cutting board at prep time. The length of the counter above allows two accomplished foodies to work side by side. There’s more! The extended casual dining is scalable and was designed to help manage the client’s invited guests and create more “gathering space” to keep the work zone free of unwanted participation. The extension is also scalable in that it can be used to bring little cooks in on some cookie making, be used for casual dining, or allow homework or other projects to be done while a meal is being prepared. One more benefit of this design is that the extended dinette is an architectural bridge helping transition the adjacent family room into the kitchen. The moral of the story? When you are designing your next kitchen, imagine all the things you want to accomplish in the space and use that as a creative start to your counter space.
The Master Bath Shower has come a long way. We are typically removing small and cave-like 32×32 inch stalls from existing master baths and designing in roomy and beautiful custom showers. There are a few important things to put on the to-do list with your shower design, so we’ll start from the bottom and work our way up: 1st – Shower Drains: We are seeing a strong trend in linear drains. This is a long channel placed on one edge of the shower in lieu of the round drain often found in the middle. The channel drain has a couple of advantages that may be worth the extra cost (about $200-400 more for the product and additional work on the pan). You can use large format tile with a channel drain since the pitch is tapered in one direction- so that large tile can be installed inside the shower and the look is a bit more modern. 2nd – Water proofing: The picture below is post applied water proofing, and this is not optional. There are a few different manufacturers and methods- the one shown is a liquid product that dries like a coating of rubber and we do use concrete board followed by the manufacturer’s recommendation to mortar all the joints. And for a small and important final step on prep, we waterproof every shower. 3rd – Storage: A shampoo and soap niche can be an attractive way to break up a large finish and add interest, texture and color. Waterproofing is critical here and the shelves need to have a slight pitch so that water won’t collect there. In the first photo pictured above, there is a niche on the left, and handy corner shelves on the right. Note the lower corner shelf – we often include these shaving stoops so that leg shaving is safer and easier – make them about 12″ plus or minus off the floor. 4th – Shower Doors: Modern design often includes a walk-in shower (just a panel on one end and no door on the other). This is a clean look and many of our clients like this. It should be noted that no door means no steam build up… or less warm air from the warm water being trapped. Most Master Bath installations include a door, and are “frameless”. The word frameless is a loose term because the glass has to be attached in some way and some methods sacrifice strength and water tightness for minimal hardware. My suggestion is to meet with the Glass installer if you have questions and make sure you understand the pros and cons of your desired look and your specific design. 5th and not least – Shower heads: Rain heads are the fastest growing trend according to our client requests. If the ceiling is too high or too low, don’t push it. Too high and the water gets tempered and falls weak so you get what feels more like a spring rain outside and less of a fantastic shower experience, too low and the stream is uncomfortable and will make the space feel small. Rain head or not we always suggest a handheld shower head in addition to a fixed one. A handheld isn’t always ideal as a main head, but if you want to lower it so you don’t have to wash your hair, if you want to rinse your legs or you want to rinse down the shower, it works perfectly. If you take the time to know what you want from your shower- you will truly enjoy the time to get refreshed!
Days are still warm but the nights grow steadily colder, bringing to mind the winter to come and the need to prepare our homes for severe weather. Many homes in this area carry strong references to New England’s architectural history, from the simple cottage style of Capes and saltboxes built by early settlers to the elaborate Georgian-inspired structures that began to appear in the early 18th century. Homes built in the Cape style are typically trimmed with simplicity, reflecting the colonists’ need for shelter that could be constructed quickly and expanded easily as families grew. Later dwellings mirror the region’s growing wealth and preoccupation with status, and have trim details that reflect an interest in English fashions and architecture.Regardless of the style of your home, trim is an important detail, and can be the first area of your home to show signs of wear and susceptibility to our harsh climate. Ornamental lintels over doors and windows, fascias that cover rafters and support gutters, soffits that join roof surfaces and walls, and frames that surround windows not only complete the appearance of a home, they also seal out moisture and wind. Traditionally wood has been used for this trim, but new composites offer easier maintenance and can reduce the effort and expense of upkeep. Here at the Wiese Company we often use PVC trim when and where the budget allows starting with the areas most susceptible to water damage. The beauty of this material is that it doesn’t rot like wood but can be painted and looks just like wood trim once painted. Two products we use, from manufacturers Fyphon and Azek, feature a cellular construction that is strong and similar in density to the white pine often used for trim. These materials resist rot, damp and insects, are easily cut and installed, have excellent insulating properties and are available in a wide variety of styles to complement the architecture of your home. Trim is more than a decorative accent; for New England homes, it is an essential component of a building’s insulation. The next time you look at your cracking soffits and sagging wood window frames, consider upgrading to composite trim materials. With soaring oil prices and predictions of a harsh winter to come, ensuring your trim is tight and weatherproof is a solid investment in your home’s value.
Top 5 trends in deck materials are changing the landscape- literally.
- Tropically deep tones for the materials on the floor, gaining popularity on interior floors, this trend is moving its way outside. Mahogany is still a favorite in our area and staining this is popular to maintain that deep chocolate finish as well as protect the wood from the environment.
- Plastic Decking is taking market share from some of the composites. This is primarily due to the fact that it does not stain, scratch or develop mold spotting according to the manufacturer.
- Railings are changing as well, from fantastic maintenance free systems that have the same beauty of a finely crafted painted rail, to cables and metal balusters that improve the view to the back yard.
- Hidden fasteners are becoming more common, both because homeowners are willing to spend more for this improved aesthetic and the increase in manufacturers that have improved the quality as well as reduced the price and labor requirement.
- What products are green? If you want a green decking material, choose a product that uses recycled materials and does not require annual staining.