Wednesday, August 14, 2019

The End is in Sight

Insulating the walls
Drywall up,  Studio is Ready for Taping.

When we started phase two (about 2 months ago) of our project, we were busy with the insulation work.  First we blew insulation into the attic then we started the tedious task of wall insulation.   After the insulation then Al commenced with setting the drywall in place.  We have built enough places together to know that neither one of us wanted to do the drywall taping so we hire that process out.  Taping is a very time consuming process and if not done correctly it will show when you paint the wall.  Once the taping is done, things usually go much faster.

I started looking at hardwood flooring in late May and finally ordered the flooring in June.  It took me several trips to a variety of showrooms before I found what I liked.  I knew it would take awhile because I was dead set on several elements: I wanted a light, wire brushed hardwood,  no less than a 1/2" thick, and it had to be at least 5" wide. I found what I wanted at Worldwide Carpets on Route 1 in the Lawrenceville area of NJ.  Even though it came from Canada, it took around 6 weeks to arrive.  After allowing it to acclimate for a week, I laid the pattern and Al was behind me snapping it into place.  It's a floating floor so there aren't any nails or glue to adhere it to the plywood.  We will be placing the baseboard later, but having the hardwood floor down was a big step towards livability.

As a DIY designer, I like being involved with the project as much as possible.  It all adds to my knowledge base, but takes time, so you may not see any post from me for awhile.

We still have much of the finishing work to do, but the end is in sight.

Monday, May 20, 2019

Creating A Space Within A Space

The ICFF show in NYC over the weekend offered a wide variety of  innovative creations from a  global array of manufacturers.  I talked to several company representatives from the Scandinavian countries as well as from Italy and Spain who were exhibiting at the show for the first time.

There were many beautiful and highly functional products presented this year, but what struck me the most was the attention given to creating a space within a space.  Whether the design was meant as a workspace strategy or as a way to create just the right space for you in your home, the variety of materials on display designed to achieve a sense of well being was staggering.  The key concept of creating appealing spaces within the main space with materials other than 2 x 4 studs was manifested  throughout the event.

Softwall Divider -  Molo

What you looking at is a wall made form layers of paper.  That's right and what gives it strength is the flexible honeycomb geometry that can expand to create a structure about 100 times stronger than its compressed form. Components are made from paper or textiles and come in a variety of color and heights that connect by magnetic end panels.  It's a very flexible and sustainable design that can accommodate life's changes over time. You can configure the modules to meet your space needs whether that's a room divider to absorb sound or to create a more private space within a space.

 Complementing Spaces - Cascando

 This was the most fun booth for me.  Workplace happiness was on display here.  They have room dividers on wheels.  The divider could be configured to accommodate a screen, or business pamphlets.  It is about 12" deep so you can use the space between the acoustical panels to store manual or as book shelves.  This is a modular system so you create whatever environment you wish to incorporate in your life/work style.


Cascando is a Dutch design company with an impressive collection of innovative and inspiring products focused on empowering your workspace.  From soft seating to whiteboards to tables and coat racks, they can help  designers to give their clients just the right products for their needs.

Make Space Work Better - Loftwall
A lightweight, flexible partition screen that can accommodate the design of any space. The panels are neutral colors that serve as sound barriers in open spaces. The panels are available in 3 colors and can
easily be re-configuration to fit your work space and needs.

It's important than we enjoy our home and our workspace as much as possible.  I hope some of these concepts inspire you to look at your space in a more functional and sustainable view.  Designing your space effectively for your needs is the main goal of professional designers.  We like to help create just the right space.

Monday, April 29, 2019

Building a Staircase

Initial Stairway
Stairs are something we normally don't think much about.  They are tasked with the purpose of getting us from one level to another and we don't really think about them.  But building even the basic staircase can be complex.

There are a few things you need to decide before you begin the building task: where to place the staircase, the depth of the treads and the height of the riser and whether you want a straight stairway.  In this case we wanted a straight staircase; in other words no landing until the top. That being said, we allocated space for a 48" staircase on one side of the condo. You enter through a door in the garage to walk up the stairway. 

As soon as we were finished building the garage level, we needed access to the second floor and the initial access was a ladder secured to the 2 x 6 studs.  Going up and down a ladder can be hazardous,  so I was glad when construction of the temporary stairs began.
Temporary Stairs

Stringer construction

  The picture to the left begins the staircase building process. A stringer is a foundation on which the threads and risers sit. It's the first stringer and because our staircase is over 36" wide, we needed three stingers. In the older homes treads, which is the part of the stair you step on, was around 8" or 9", but after the Arts and Crafts period the depth was increased.  Our tread depth is 12" and the riser is 7" high.  The increased depth makes the stairs easier to walk on.

On the right is the completed temporary staircase. The temporary stairs were made out of plywood and various other wood around the garage.  They lasted several months but as you can see they are only one grade better than a ladder. Before we could proceed with anymore work on the upstairs, we  needed a more sturdy staircase. The staircase pictured below is the 48" wide permanent oak staircase. 


48" wide Oak Staircase
Our next big task will be installing drywall.  We protected the stairs from the constant wear that could occur when carrying drywall and other materials up the steps.  Hence, we got a rug and stapled it at various points on the steps and  we have a small rod that lays across the back of each thread.  Once the drywall is in place in the stairwell, we will replace the protective padding with a runner.  Until then though, the stairs need  to be protect

As a K&B designer I don't usually have to calculate space required for a staircase, so I just loved the challenge of this task.  It brought back memories of my days in drafting classes.  So much fun.

Friday, April 5, 2019

Color My World

Granite Gray
Colbalt Blue
  I am immersed in the world of color these days and I'm loving it.

Color is a subconscious language.  We are all effected by color, even when we don't realize it.  Each color has it's own influence and creates a physical, mental and emotional response within us and that's what makes the topic so interesting.

The are many approaches to choosing paint colors. When you decide to paint a room  in your home  a good approach is to fine a piece of art or fabric or some type of accessory that you can use to harmonize or contrast around for your new color scheme. But you always need to be mindful of adjoining rooms.  But for new construction I find that approach limiting.  For this project I am using the same approach that I used when we built our house back in Springfield, IL. 

My approach includes working with the total space first.  This means that I have subdivided the  condo into three color distribution components:
Dominant Tier:  wall, floor, ceiling;
Middle Tier:      cabinets, curtains, large furniture areas; 
Smaller Tier:     smaller spaces/accent areas

Choosing the color and sheen can be a daunting task.  My first decision is always about color temperature: cool(blue, green, purple) vs. warm(red, orange, yellow) color scheme.  Once you decide on the color temperature, the world of color explodes.  I've chosen a cool color scheme for the condo: vibrant blue and varying grays.

This is a 1100 square foot condo.  The main room is a big open space incorporating the kitchen, dining and entertaining areas. Paint colors for the dominant tier have been chosen, choosing paint colors for the middle and smaller tier are in process.

Most activities take place in the main area.  A traveling light to medium tone gray will be applied along the perimeter walls. The lightest part of the wall is in the kitchen area.  The kitchen has base cabinets only which I have painted a darker gray than the light gray wall.  To contrast gray and make the colors pop, I needed a dynamic item.  For this I chose to paint the 6' island in the rich vibrancy cobalt blue in a high gloss sheen. When all is done in the kitchen, industrial shelving units will take the place of the wall cabinets and artistic tile will add textural subtlety to the backsplash area of the countertop.  Other colors will be brought into play as we move through the furnishings and accent areas.

If you are thinking of painting your cabinets, I have two pointers for you.  The first is that it is better to spray the paint on in contrast to using a paint brush.  You will most likely have to thin your paint but it will go on smoother and you can work through the process faster.  Hand painting furniture is  labor intensive and it's a joy to do if you only are doing a few specialty items.  I have brush painted a lot of tables and book shelves etc.  However, when doing a kitchen, I think spray painting is the best way to go. I would also recommend a gloss or a high gloss sheen for the cabinets. 

The second bit of advice is that wall paint is not furniture paint, is not
cabinet paint.  Kitchen cabinets take a lot of  wear from the everyday opening and closing activity and a wall paint is not up to the task.  I use Dunn Edward's Aristoshield product.  It's a low-VOC  enamel formulated with a water-based urethane alkyd technology for an oil-like finish.  Basically, it puts a more protective finish on cabinet doors and drawers.

This project is ongoing and as soon as the cabinets are installed I will add a more completed post which will include the cabinet pictures to the topic.  Unitl then, if you have any questions regarding color or the specifics of painting cabinets, just email me.  I'll be happy to help. 


Friday, March 22, 2019

Foodie Friday - The Irish Table

My Irishness is with me all the time but for the week of St. Paddy's Day,  I emphasize it.  I read  a little from James Joyce to enjoy the genius of  his language structure, pull out my Yeats and Seamus Heaney to enjoy their lyrical tones, and  make Irish Scone to enjoy the culinary sweetness of the culture.  And today I have a special treat for all of you.
Last week I attended a cooking class at the Sweet Basil Gourmetware and Cooking School in Scottsdale. This shop  is a wonderful venue for the culinary arts and it also has a cafe and a wide variety of kitchen gadgets and cookery items in the shop area.  If you're in the Phoenix area and enjoy cooking in your kitchen then you should treat yourself to a class at Sweet Basil.

  The class I took was The Irish Table.  It's not the kind of class where you sit and take notes, you work and Chef Linda Martin is there to guide the way. It was fabulous. I enjoyed it immensely.  Seven items were on our menu for the night and we could choose or were assigned which item to cook.  There were at least 14 people in the class and my task along with another woman was the salad - the easiest task. The one I wanted (hand pies)was already taken. Everyone was enthusiastic and ready for the experience.  And Linda kept everything running smoothly.

Linda is a Le Cordon Blue trained chef who enjoys sharing her craft and knowledge with those who attend her classes.  As a kitchen designer I know Linda from attending events in various showrooms throughout the Valley.  Linda would often demonstrate the brilliance of cooking on the appliances such as Decora at the design industry meetings.  The menu items were always delicious.

The Irish Table Menu: Beef Pasties (Hand Pies), Purple Cabbage & Pecan Salad, Irish Lamb and Vegetable Stew, Cottage Pie, Traditional Soda Bread, Colcannon, Apple Cake with Whiskey Hard Sauce.  Yum.   We couldn't wait to get started.  One of the nice things about taking these classes is that Linda hands out recipes so you have a copy of  them to take home.

My First Helping

We all did a super job with fun conversation, a good show of humor and a great display of team work.  And Linda went from work station to work station and kept an eye on everything we were doing and kept us on schedule.  The food was all so good.
 I'll share one of the recipes with all of you.


2 1/2 c of flour
3/4 c + 2 TBSP sugar, divided
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1/8 tsp nutmeg
3/4 c buttermilk
4 Granny Smith apples, peeled and roughly chopped
Powder sugar for dusting.

1/3 c sugar
2 tsp cornstarch
pinch of salt
1 c heavy cream
1/4 c Irish whiskey
1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease an 8 inch cake pan with cooking spray
and line it with a circle of parchment.
Combine flour 3/4 c sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, cloves, and nutmeg in a bowl and whisk.  Add the butter and mix on low speed until the mixture resembles damp sand.
Stir in eggs, one at a time.  Add buttermilk and mix on medium high for 60 to 90 seconds, to aerate the batter and build the cake's structure. 
Fold in the chopped apples and transfer to the prepared pan. Top with remaining 2 TBSP sugar.
Bake for 45 - 50 min. or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
Let cake cool for at least 10 min before turning onto the serving platter.

Making the Sauce:

Combine sugar, cornstarch and salt in a small  pot and whisk.
Slowly drizzle in the cream while whisking.
Stir in the whiskey
Cook the mixture over medium-low heat, whisking occasionally, until boiling and thickened.
Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.

Before Serving: 

Dust the cake with powdered sugar.
Serve the sauce on the side.

Good food and good conversation, you can't do better than that.

Slainte (good health).