Yard of the Week: Outdoor Rooms With a Golf Course View

Before: The existing backyard had a basic patio, a small deck located off the homeowners’ bedroom on the left and a brick patio that was in bad shape on the right side of the house.

After: The scope of the project included a light makeover of the home’s exterior along with the landscape renovation. The exterior work included applying fresh paint that matched the walls in the landscape and installing new railings, gutters and downspouts in black. King had his clients use Houzz ideabooks to share inspirations for both the overall feel they were trying to accomplish and specific elements they wanted to incorporate.

He created a series of outdoor rooms across the back of the house. On the left is a private deck off the homeowners’ bedroom. On the right is a dining area. A large outdoor lounge with a fire pit is in the center. In the side yard around the corner is a deck with a convenient bar, a shaded TV lounge area and a hot tub. The French doors in the center of the house lead to the kitchen, dining and family room areas, which are all part of one open space.

“When it comes to plantings, we like to plant in masses. Otherwise it can look like a hodgepodge. The homeowners were open to it,” King says. For example, a massing of coral bells (Heuchera ‘Obsidian’) softens the edges of the lounge patio and brings in a big splash of deep purple color.

Before: There was a small deck with a railing located off the homeowners’ bedroom. It was disconnected from the rest of the yard.

After: Now the sitting area is larger and has a strong connection to the yard, thanks to the steps and the path. Cobblestone-like pavers lead to the other outdoor rooms. King used pavers in light to medium gray tones throughout the yard.

He used Trex Transcend decking in other areas around the yard to protect mature trees. Decking was the least disruptive type of covering to their roots. Here he cut the deck around an existing eastern redbud (Cercis canadensis). He allowed for potential growth when cutting the holes for the trees.

Saving the mature trees and working around them was a top priority in the design. “The ash tree in the center serves as the heart of the yard, and it was important to protect it,” King says. The trees were one of the most important assets in the backyard — they provide beautiful forms, foliage and shade.

King designed brick walls around the ash tree to highlight it. The trick was doing this in a way that protected its root systems. In this region, the standard practice is to build masonry walls with footings that extend down below the frost line. “If we had dug a 30-inch trench around this tree we would have severely compromised the health and stability of the tree,” he says.

Instead, they placed a pier footing in each of the corners of the walls seen here. “From each pier footing, a steel beam suspends over the root system, allowing the brick wall to float over the existing roots. This greatly reduced disturbance and overall damage,” he says. The wall anchors the tree within the design and provides seating. To highlight the tree even further, King filled the area with a mass of ‘Stella de Oro’ daylilies (Hemerocallis ‘Stella de Oro’). “These create a very low grassy ground plane and hold the yellow bloom throughout the summer,” he says.

King matched the brick profiles on these walls to those on the house and then used the same white paint on both. He capped them in 3-inch rough-cut limestone. They also installed electrical outlets and lights in the brick walls around the landscape. The outlets were installed so Christmas lights could be set up in the trees.

A paved walkway off the French doors makes it easy to bring food from the kitchen to the outdoor dining area. A large umbrella provides extra shade. The umbrella is built in and has a large footing. It’s adjustable, so the homeowners can move it to block the sun as the light crosses the yard.

Beyond the dining area is a lower lounge that makes the most of the golf course views.

To center the lounge patio off the tree and its walled surround, King added a wide pathway of pavers on the right side. “This broke up the patio a bit,” he says.

The trees along the fence are Firebird Sargent crabapple trees (Malus Sargentii ‘Select A’). They will add white blooms and red berries to the yard as the seasons change.

“This fire pit is really cool. The company that makes it, Nisho, is a Colorado company,” King says. “It is an all-concrete unit that has a clean look and fits into this design very well.”

Just around the corner from the dining area is another deck that extends along the side yard. A bar is convenient to the dining area, a second lounge area and the spa.

Before: The French doors lead to the kitchen, dining and family room area. “On the south side of the house, the roots from two mature linden trees had destroyed the brick patio. It was like a rollercoaster out here,” King says.

After: Kingused decking in this area to protect the trees’ roots and prevent another rollercoaster scenario. “If we had used pavers, we would have destroyed the roots, or the roots would eventually have destroyed the patio,” he says. He left extra room in the holes for any potential growth.

The space contains a bar, a lounge and a hot tub. At the time this photo was taken, the homeowners planned to install a TV across from the outdoor sofa.

The walls around this private side patio are original to the home. The team repaired and painted them to match the house and the other brick walls in the landscape.

Before: The scope of the project included the entire property and the home’s exterior. King made sure the design from the street to the back end of the property was cohesive. “We are site architects who look at the entire property as a whole,” he says. In front, this included the driveway, the entry courtyard, the exterior of the home and the rest of the landscape.

One problem was the driveway. When anyone else parked in it, the homeowners couldn’t drive into or pull out of the garage.

After: King reconfigured the driveway to include a parking area along the right side that didn’t block the garage. Using concrete instead of pavers for most of the driveway kept him within the budget. He was able to add a paver border and apron in the same cobblestone-like pavers he used out back. For a more attractive look on the concrete portion of the driveway, he recommended a sandscape finish, which creates a sand texture.

King took care to preserve another spectacular mature tree, a multistemmed beech. A mix of spreading English yews (Taxus baccata ‘Repandens’) and creeping Jenny (Lysimachia nummularia) adds color beneath it.

Before: The home had a charming existing courtyard. But it looked a bit tired and didn’t have any space for sitting and interacting with neighbors.

After: King spiffed up the courtyard with a new, more streamlined brick and limestone wall that matches the walls in the back. He used the cobblestone-like pavers to create a patio with a sitting area.

The new large shrubin the courtyard is a ‘Limelight’ panicled hydrangea (Hydrangea paniculata ‘Limelight’). He used the massing strategy inside the courtyard patio with ‘All Gold’ Japanese forest grass (Hakonechloa macra ‘All Gold’). The yellow flowers are the same ‘Stella de Oro’ daylilies he used in the backyard.

Before, there had been no connections between the front yard and backyard. In addition to repeating materials and plants, King physically connected front to back with a path. He used bands of the cobble pavers to draw a line between the two. Note the way he centered the bands off the driveway’s paver border.

The pavers lead to a focal point — a wind sculpture that entices visitors toward the back. King planted coral bells (Heuchera sp.) along the path to enhance that connection.

The trees along the right side are Crimson Spire oaks (Quercus robur x alba ‘Crimschmidt’). They are tall and narrow trees that hold onto their leaves until spring, providing year-round interest.

These homeowners had a beautiful view of an adjacent golf course from their backyard and some fantastic mature existing trees. But their outdoor spaces were uninviting. “This was an old, tired backyard with a basic little patio and no real space for outdoor living,” says landscape designer Jayson King. He created a series of thoughtful outdoor rooms in their backyard while preserving the mature trees. In front, he reconfigured the driveway, renovated the entry courtyard and planted shrubs, trees and ground covers to create connections between the house and the yards. By looking at the site as a whole, King developed a cohesive design for the property.

This content was originally published here.


Houzz Tour: City Couple Take Their Urban Style to the Country

“After” photos by Tony Soluri

Houzz at a Glance
Who lives here: Jill and Michael Maremont and their dog, Oscar
Location: Michiana Shores, Indiana
Size: 3,300 square feet (307 square meters); four bedrooms, 4½ bathrooms
Designer: Scott Dresner ofDresner Design

This exterior shot makes it easy to see why the Maremonts were drawn to the home. Large windows provide expansive views to a beautifully landscaped lot full of trees, while a deck and patio provide lots of outdoor living space. And the house is only a 20-minute walk from the shores of Lake Michigan.

Before: The first floor has an open plan that combines the kitchen, dining area and great room. The Maremonts love to entertain and were excited about the potential of the large, open space. But they weren’t fans of the yellow tones in the trim and flooring.

Jill Maremont worked closely with Dresner, whom she’d worked with before. “Scott is the master planner of all planners. He helped us carve out spaces for living and for specific tasks in the kitchen, which was not a very large space,” she says.

After: White paint highlights the leafy views and creates a bright and clean modern look. “When I first come to a new space, I look around and listen to my clients about what they need. And I also think about what I would like if this were my home,” Dresner says. “Then I can envision the solutions.”

One solution was avoiding the expense of replacing the existing yellow floors. Dresner hired H&M Flooring Design to refinish them with a warm gray stain. “The floor refinisher was a true artisan. He mixed a lot of samples for us throughout the process to make sure it was just right,” Maremont says. “They look incredible now.”

“The fireplace wall was the most crooked wall in Indiana,” Dresner says. He had the existing fireplace surround demolished, then added drywall and an asymmetrical concrete hearth. The white surround draws the eye to the firebox and makes a great backdrop for some of the couple’s art pieces. Sculptures like the Nigerian crowns on the hearth, vintage pieces and sculptural furnishings stand out in the white space. The dining room light fixture, sculptures and curvy chairs are highlights too.

Before: More yellowish wood, along with black countertops and backsplash, darkened the kitchen corner. Ocher paint on the staircase wall made everything look extra yellow. The island was L-shaped, and the countertop had some angles.

Luckily, the existing Pella windows and doors were high-quality and in great shape. This was a big budget saver and allowed the couple to put their money into new finishes.

After: Dresner made the dining room part of the kitchen. He continued the same finishes across the entire wall to tie the two spaces together. He also built a long shelf that continues over the screened-in porch’s doors to connect the cabinets in both spaces.

“We cook a lot and entertain a lot, so a kitchen island was a must,” Maremont says. “I usually cook and prep, and my husband is the grill master and the dishwasher. The island is large enough to have people sit on one side while we both cook, prep and wash dishes on the other.”

Dresner streamlined the island’s shape and gave it an elegant waterfall counter in white Silestone quartz. “I love the Silestone because it doesn’t stain and I can put hot pans right on it,” Maremont says. “And if someone spills red wine on it, it’s no big deal.” The deep, rich wenge wood adds dark contrast, while the iconic white Bertoia counter stools nod to midcentury modern style. A pop-up outlet is concealed in the countertop.

The designer packed lots of storage and function into the island. It includes one of Maremont’s biggest must-haves: a drawer with room for more than 70 spices, a beverage fridge, slats for baking pans and a microwave drawer.

“Before, the corner between the porch door and these windows was dead,” Maremont says. Dresner livened it up with a built-in coffee bar. The shallow cabinetry houses all of the coffee and tea accoutrements as well as mugs and glassware. It transforms into a wine-and-cocktail bar during parties. The cabinet, countertop and backsplash finishes match those in the kitchen, creating a cohesive look.
This is the couple’s Doberman, Oscar, who is very happy with the move to the country.

Dresner used flat-panel cabinetry with a white lacquer finish to keep things light, bright and modern. Italian company Stosa Cucine fabricated the cabinetry using a material made with recycled plastic bottles. To make the most of the 6-foot-long range wall, Dresner had Avenue Metal Manufacturing fabricate a custom matte aluminum vent hood and open shelves as one piece. “They are unbelievably talented — this is like a piece of art. And the proportions are just right,” Maremont says.

“The artwork on the left is a door from an event I conceived and put together for one of my clients called Another Door Opens. We asked designers and artists to reconcept what a door is and what it could become,” Maremont says. “All the doors were then auctioned off at a big cocktail party for a charity.” Artist Cleveland Dean used a Japanese burning technique called shou-sugi-ban on the door seen here.

Dresner had Italian Statuario Venato marble tiles left over from another job, and the Maremonts purchased them from the homeowners. This saved money over using the same Statuario Venato marble slabs used for the countertops. Dresner painstakingly designed the backsplash to minimize the number of tiles needed, and filled in spaces the tiles didn’t cover with tiles cut from a matching slab.

As for the lighting, “With 30-foot high ceilings, it was tough to get overhead light,” he says. So he installed a custom LED undercabinet lighting system from Hafele, with channels that keep the look clean and even.

“I just love everything about this kitchen,” Maremont says. “I love how beautiful, open, light and bright it is. I love the way it functions for the two of us, I love the way it functions when we entertain, and I love how easy it is to keep clean.”

Before: The laundry room was roomy but had ho-hum finishes.

The console provides a landing strip in the entry, brings in a rich wood color that plays off the kitchen island, and provides a spot for displaying art and other favorite objects. Both the teapot and the art over the landing are heirlooms from Michael’s grandmother.

Dresner preserved the existing staircase railing, which suited the couple’s modern tastes. But he had the stairs and the handrail stained to match the floors.

Before: The couple’s bathroom was the last space they renovated. Waiting allowed them to save up for every luxury on their wish list, including heated floors, a Victoria + Albert bathtub, a Toto toilet, motorized window treatments and a rain shower head with an integrated speaker and LED lighting that they can change to any color of the rainbow.

After: Dresner closed off the existing alcove, disguising it as recessed cabinetry. The closed doors hide the shelves, creating an uncluttered look. He also replaced a large glass block window over the bathtub with clear glass.

A minimalist freestanding bathtub replaces the old tub and its platform and surround. Dresner also expanded the shower stall, getting rid of the odd angle in the enclosure.

The new bathroom vanity wall is a stunner. Dresner designed and built the walnut floating vanity and mirrored medicine cabinets. The vanity has deep vanity drawers with push hardware, as well as lighting beneath it that helps anyone visiting the bathroom in the middle of the night. The long row of mirrored medicine cabinets provides a lot of storage and reflects the light from the windows.

The extra-thick countertop profile shows off the stunning natural stone’s prominent veining. Wall-mounted faucets keep the countertops clear and minimalist.

Jill and Michael Maremont made a big life change when they moved from Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood to a rural setting in Michiana Shores, Indiana. They purchased a contemporary home with an open plan and fabulous windows, knowing it would be great for entertaining and communing with nature. Architectural designer Scott Dresner helped them transform the home’s dated look, making it fresh, bright and clean-lined. The couple took on the project room by room over a four-year period and just recently finished the last phase, their bathroom.

This content was originally published here.


Kitchen of the Week: Creamy White, Rustic Wood and a Pop of Blue

For the most popular kitchen of spring 2021, a designer helped a Texas couple create a bright space full of character

This content was originally published here.


New This Week: 4 Classic Farmhouse-Style Kitchens

1. Warm and Welcoming

Homeowner’s request. “The homeowner was committed to paying homage to their well-loved farmhouse while incorporating the yellow cabinetry they have dreamed about for years,” designer Beka Barski says. “Our intention was to create a clean-lined farmhouse-style kitchen that could have been original to the home — with a little sprucing up, of course.”

Farmhouse details. “The wood beams are surprisingly not original to the kitchen, but they introduce a rustic charm that sings the praises of farmhouse design,” Barski says. “The Shaker cabinets are a classic element of this style as well, maintaining the simplicity that is often predicated by farm life.

“Of course the apron sink is something you often see in a farmhouse kitchen, in addition to the beadboard-wrapped island, open plate rack and the apothecary drawers we incorporated into the hutch area on the left side of the space.

“The homeowner selected subway tile and oil-rubbed-bronze hardware that pair wonderfully with the aesthetic of the design as well. It isn’t visible in the photos, but the island also has an open cabinet with wicker produce baskets, which is attributable to more traditional farmhouse kitchens.”

The island countertop is walnut.

Other special features. “The freestanding wood hood, quartz countertops and top-of-the-line appliances are certainly an upgrade from what is typically shown in an old-fashioned farmhouse kitchen, but they marry into the design all the same,” Barski says. “Similarly, the glass pendants are more modern than the other design elements in the space, though their seeded texture and dark hardware firmly ground them in the transitional style camp.

“One of my favorite features in this kitchen is the sink center. This area was designed so that the raised-panel oak sink base and adjacent three-drawer bases stood proud from the surrounding yellow cabinets, creating a focal point in a space that already has so much visual interest.”

Designer tip. “I am a huge fan of visual balance,” Barski says. “I like to introduce symmetry wherever possible, but without having the design feel too matchy-matchy. The shape of the space we were working with made this an easy task, in addition to the homeowner’s desire to have wooden cabinetry accents. By using stained wood in the sink center as well as the range hood, plate rack wall cabinet and hutch, I was able to harmonize the contrasting colors and materials throughout the kitchen.

“Even the hutch visually mirrors the fridge, which similarly has a darker color than the surrounding painted cabinetry. You can create this balance through a variation in color, texture or style — all achieve the same cohesion.”

Cabinet paint: Hawthorne Yellow, Benjamin Moore

2. Fresh and Functional

Designer: Jamie Ocken of Bearded Builders
Location: Outside Blair, Nebraska
Size: 182 square feet (17 square meters)

Homeowners’ request. “Functionality,” designer Jamie Ocken says. “The space was cramped and closed off from the rest of the home. There was only a small window over the sink looking into the living room. This particular home is located on a farm just outside of Blair, Nebraska, so we wanted to pay homage to the style of the home. They host a lot during the holidays, so opening up the kitchen to the rest of the home really gave them plenty of space for entertaining.”

Farmhouse details. “Vertical shiplap is a simple way to add farmhouse charm without going overboard,” Ocken says. “If you were to look closely at the painted oak cabinetry, you could see an added detail. Painting oak cabinetry allows for you to see the wood grain through the paint. It’s subtle but a strong design element.”

Other special features. Quartzite countertops. American walnut range hood.

Designer tip. “When we enlarged this space, it became a wide space with 8-foot ceilings,” Ocken says. “The vertical installation of the shiplap added additional height and some modernity to the kitchen.”

Sconces: English Pub in antique brass and tarnished graphite, Elk Home; cabinet hardware: Belcastel pull by Jeffrey Alexander, Hardware Resources; faucet: Paterson in matte black, Moen; shiplap paint: Amazing Gray, Sherwin-Williams

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3. Eclectic and Energetic

Designer: Tom Stumpff of Stumpff HomeWorks
Location: Kansas City, Missouri
Size: 160 square feet (15 square meters); 10 by 16 feet

Homeowners’ request.
“As an artist who paints with acrylics, the homeowner is not afraid of color,” designer Tom Stumpff says. “She wanted to mix her classic English cottage taste with bold color choices. She also wanted to use every inch of space available in her small kitchen.”

Farmhouse details. Repurposed antique buffet with custom iron pot rack. Large window with soapstone ledge for plants. Custom alder shelf for displaying items. Red brick backsplash. V-groove car siding on walls. Alcove shelves near the range for storing spices. Soapstone countertops. White oak flooring with clear finish.

Other special features. Cobalt blue range. Tray ceiling. “Built in 1965, the kitchen originally had a 7-foot-6-inch ceiling, with soffits and a small window over the sink,” Stumpff says. “By removing the soffits and adding a tray ceiling, we lifted it an additional 12 inches.”

Designer tip. “Look at every inch of space as an opportunity for use,” Stumpff says. “A couple of inches here and there in a wall or a ceiling can make a huge difference for functional storage and expanding your space.”

Paint: Soft Chamois in satin finish (upper cabinets and walls), Glimmer in satin finish (lower cabinets), Black 2132-10 in flat finish (buffet), all by Benjamin Moore

4. Historic and Heavenly

Homeowners’ request. Renovate a 1720 house while honoring its roots.

Farmhouse style. Antique beams. Brick floor and arch over range. Inset cabinets with custom hinges. Soapstone countertops. Butler’s pantry. Original icebox converted into a refrigerator. Single-pane windows. Unlacquered brass fixtures.

This content was originally published here.


5 Common Bathroom Design Mistakes to Avoid

1. No View Out

No one likes a dark, damp bathroom with bad circulation — it’s no fun spending time in a space like that. If you’re building or relocating a bathroom, try to site it on an outside wall with windows.

2. A Clear View in From Public Rooms

I once worked on a large remodel for which the existing design had a bathroom in the dining room — seems kind of like a conflict of interests, right? Whenever possible, avoid locating the bathroom directly off one of the home’s public rooms — like the kitchen, living room or dining room.

This doesn’t necessarily mean you have to put in a long hallway, but create some sort of formal separation to break up the line of sight. The last thing you want is to be sitting in the living room with a glass of wine and looking straight into the bathroom at the toilet.

3. Making It All About the Toilet

That leads me to my next blunder: Avoid making the toilet the first thing you see in the bathroom, and avoid any sightlines to it from adjacent rooms. I like to put the toilet and shower in their own room while keeping the sink separate. This allows someone to take a shower while someone else gets ready at the sink. In the bathroom floor plan here, the wall between the two rooms adds only a couple of inches to the overall size of the bathroom but doubles the room’s functionality.

5. Thinking Bigger Is Better

That’s right:Bigger isn’t better; better is better. Whether you’re designing a large master bathroom in your dream home or trying to figure out how to squeeze in an extra bathroom for your growing family, the most important aspect of your new bathroom is that it has a great design that functions efficiently for your specific lifestyle.

The truth is, great design is less about how a bathroom looks (although it’s always nice when it looks fantastic) and more about how it works. Great design translates to a house that functions better, costs less to build, is more efficient to maintain and gets you more for less.

Adding to or remodeling your house is one of the most exciting and creative processes you can go through. But with all that responsibility comes pressure to make informed decisions that will last. How can you make sure to get the right design for your lifestyle, stay within your budget and maximize the return on your investment? Start with a great design for every room in your house — including (or especially) the bathroom.

Bathrooms, whether big or small, should always be well thought out and carefully located, and should function with multiple users in mind. We’re long past the era where there was one bathroom for every three bedrooms in the house, and everyone had all the time needed to use it. Today’s bathrooms need to be beautiful, use space efficiently and serve the users functionally. Avoiding common design blunders, as these rooms nicely do, can help you be happier with your bathroom for the long haul.

This content was originally published here.


Kitchen of the Week: Modern Details Make Entertaining Easy

Photos by John Wilbanks Photography

Kitchen at a Glance
Who lives here: A couple
Location: Bellevue, Washington
Size: 433 square feet (40 square meters)
Designer and builder: Nip Tuck Remodeling, lead designer Allison Scott

“They really wanted a custom, sleek and modern space,” Bettinger says. “They had some interesting and unique requests. They’re both art-forward and art-driven, so everything we did had to combine these needs.” The team delivered a kitchen that combines custom cabinetry, sleek finishes, handy conveniences for cooking and plenty of room for family and friends.

Before: The tiny kitchen was a separate, compartmentalized room sandwiched between a breakfast nook and the dining room. “When I walked in, it was a postage stamp of a kitchen,” Bettinger says. “If it was 10 by 10 feet, that was generous. There was an adjoining dining room, and the area wanted to be one big space.”

In addition to being cramped, the kitchen had dated cabinets and tile counters. It wasn’t conducive to having more than a few people in it at a time.

After: The team removed a wall separating the kitchen from the dining room and took out the cabinets and refrigerator on the opposite side. It installed new oak flooring. It kept a skylight over the sink, which remained in the same location, and enlarged the window. Symmetry was important to the homeowners, so the existing skylights remained lined up over the windows and the French doors, Bettinger says.

The team also delivered on the homeowners’ wish for smooth cabinetry with no hardware. It used a combination of notched cutouts, push-to-open magnets and channels under cabinets to substitute for hardware pulls.

Here’s a view looking toward the area that opened up after a wall of cabinets and the refrigerator were removed. The changes made room for a spacious new island.

Before: Here’s a view from the old dining nook, which included a pass-through to the kitchen.

These floor plans of the kitchen’s previous layout (above) and the remodel plan (next image) show how the space was opened up by combining the nook, kitchen and dining room.

When the design-build team removed the barriers that had partitioned the space, it increased the kitchen’s size by more than 300 square feet.

After: The team installed an induction cooktop, which is powered by electricity and uses copper coils to evenly heat cookware. Glossy elongated hexagonal porcelain tile on the backsplash reflects light and provides a burst of artistic flair. The tile installers used urethane grout on the backsplash to make it easy to clean. Floating shelves made of vertical-grain fir keep fresh items at hand when cooking, and LED lights underneath them further brighten the space.

Cooktop and ventilation hood: Miele; tile: Verdon in Dove, Cepac Tile

The window that was replaced and enlarged offers a view of a creek in the backyard. The designers chose subway tile trim in the window frame to complement the backsplash tile. A stainless steel undermount sink and sleek fixtures that include a hot-cold water filtration faucet round out the modern aesthetic.

Window trim tile: Continental subway in Glossy White, Cepac Tile

The team created a sleek and smooth wall of fir cabinetry with built-in appliances that include a dishwasher, a speed oven and a base oven with a warming drawer, all from Miele. The speed oven combines the features of a full oven with a microwave. Nip Tuck’s cabinet supplier created the wood panel on the dishwasher, leaving room at the top for the controls. The toe kicks were painted a dark color to correspond with the black aluminum window frames and black-framed French doors.

The oven unit includes a warming drawer.

Here are measurements for the cabinetry and appliances on the wall with the sink and enlarged window.

For the island, the designers continued the look of the rest of the kitchen’s finishes with smooth fir cabinetry and a Caesarstone quartz top in Organic White. There’s a spacious work surface, ample storage for tools and appliances, and seating for family members who visit while meals are being prepared.

Appliances are neatly concealed in the island’s slide-out drawers. The team designed the island to be storage-friendly, since some cabinetry was sacrificed to accommodate undercounter refrigerators and freezers, Bettinger says.

Bettinger says the homeowners were adamant about having no traditional tall refrigeration or pantry, so the team opted for undercounter refrigerator and freezer drawers and two built-in beverage refrigerators. Here’s a view of the kitchen’s mix of closed and glass-front cabinetry, with the beverage refrigerators on the left and refrigerators and freezers on the right. The view through the doorway is to the home’s entry.

The owners use one of the beverage refrigerators for condiments and the other for beverages.

Beverage refrigerators: True

A cabinet with a coffee station and open shelving and cabinet above it for drink supplies contains the double-drawer refrigerators on the left and freezers on the right.

Refrigerators and freezers: Sub-Zero

The pull-open refrigerator (left) and freezer (right) drawers have plenty of capacity for daily food needs, Bettinger says.

The dining area of the kitchen fulfills the homeowners’ wishes for a more functional space. Before the renovation, for large family gatherings they would have to drag the dining table into the living room. Now the entire table fits in the kitchen. A table-height bar counter of PaperStone, a stone-like product of recycled paper and resin, runs under the original dining room window and is a multifunctional spot used as a desk for puzzles and projects, as well as extra seating and a buffet when entertaining.

The transition from kitchen counter to the black bar visually signifies a change in function, but the areas still tie together. “We had to find ways to make it look like it was one space,” Bettinger says. “That’s why the countertop drops, why the color stops, so we could find a place to stop the kitchen.”

Bettinger got to experience the benefits of the new kitchen at a dinner party the owners hosted right before the pandemic shut things down. “Everybody was sitting at chairs around the island and fresh food was out,” she says. “It was about bringing people into their home, saying, ‘Let’s cook together.’ It was about wanting to share their home and food with others.”

Wall paint: High Reflective White, Sherwin-Williams

This content was originally published here.


When to Pick: A Guide to Harvesting Vegetables

Harvest notes: Err on the side of caution, and use clippers or sturdy scissors when harvesting. For more information about the best times to harvest and other growing advice, check out the Home Garden Seed Association.

Summer crops like the heat and long days of summer. You’ll most likely get started with these plants in late winter or early spring, after the threat of frost has passed.

Beans. Pick green beans, or string beans, and shelling beans when they’re long but still thin. Don’t let either get too large or mature for the best flavor. Harvesting every couple of days will keep your plants producing longer.

Corn. The silks are the first indicator that the corn is ready to harvest — they should have turned brown but should still be silky and not dry. The husk should also still be green, but the end should have become more rounded. Just to be sure, peel back the husk and poke at a kernel. It should be milky inside.

For best eating, use immediately. If that’s not practical, keep the husks on until you’re ready to cook the ears.

Bonus: Harvest the cornstalks, set them in a cool, dark place to dry and then use them as part of your exterior decor in the fall.

Cucumbers. Cucumbers are ready to harvest once they’ve reached a size you can use. The older cucumbers get, the more bitter they become, so harvest when they’re still firm and the skin is still glossy. Keep picking to keep the plant producing.

Cucumbers should always be cut from the plant with clippers or sturdy scissors. If you aren’t using your picks immediately, leave a bit of stem to help keep them from rotting.

Eggplant. If the skin of an eggplant is purple and shiny, it’s ready to harvest. Letting it continue to grow won’t produce a more mature fruit. Instead, it will tend to make it more bitter.

Snip or clip the stem when harvesting to avoid damaging the plant itself.

Melons and watermelons. Melons can be tricky, as anyone who has ever harvested (or bought) a nonjuicy melon can tell you. Fortunately, there are a few ways to tell if your particular melon is ripe.

Cantaloupes should be harvested when they are fragrant, look like they have a net over them and can easily be lifted and separated from the plant. For other melons, pick when they have a strong and sweet aroma. Another sign is when the blossom end is slightly soft.

You should hear a “thunk” when you rap on a watermelon. To double-check for ripeness, see if the tendrils near the stem have begun to wither and darken and if the underside has begun to turn yellow. Watermelons should always be cut, not pulled, from the plant.

Peppers. Peppers are pretty easygoing when it comes to harvest time. They can be picked once they reach a usable size and are firm, but the longer you leave them on the plant, the more complex their flavors will become. Sweet peppers become sweeter as they change from their initial green color; hot peppers become more intense.

The exception is pimientos; they need to be completely red before harvesting.

Pumpkins. Don’t worry if your pumpkin crop is running a little behind on the harvest schedule; they can even handle a light frost as long as you pick them before the heavy frosts hit.

Harvest pumpkins once they are full size and firm and the stems have started to dry out. Stop watering a week before you plan to harvest, then cut each stem about 4 inches from the pumpkin itself. Store in a warm and airy outdoor spot for a couple of weeks to let them cure.

The stems can snap, so hold your pumpkins underneath when moving them from place to place.

Squash. The hardest part of harvesting squash, especially summer varieties, is staying on top of it. Summer squashes will be ready to harvest about two months after you sow seeds. They also grow quickly, so be prepared to check your squash patch daily. Cut the crooked-necked varieties when they are about 2 to 3 inches long; straight squashes should be about 4 to 6 inches long.

Winter squashes, those that can be stored up to six months, give you a little more breathing room. Wait until the skin is hard and the vines have dried up before cutting them from the vines. Set them outdoors in a cool spot until the stems have shriveled, and then store them indoors in a cool, dry area.

Tomatillos. A ripe tomatillo, even though it is still green in color, is easy to identify. Pick when the fruit has filled the husk but the tomatillo is still firm. The husk should also have started to turn brown and begun to split.
Tomatoes. Nothing really beats a homegrown tomato, so picking them at their peak is a delight. For most tomatoes, they should be completely colored and just a bit soft. Because they tend to crack when they’re fully mature, heirlooms and cherry tomatoes should be picked a bit earlier; just let them ripen out in the open rather than refrigerating them. All tomatoes should be easy to pull from the plant.

But an added joy of tomatoes is that you don’t have to wait until they’re ripe to enjoy them. Fried green tomatoes are a real recipe (not just a movie title), and if the fall and winter frosts are rapidly approaching, you can always harvest the green fruits and let them ripen in a cool spot indoors. Or simply pull up the entire plant and hang it upside down in a cool, dry place to get the last of the summer’s crop.

Cool-Season Crops

These favorite edibles prefer the shorter days and cooler weather of fall and spring. Some even do their best with a touch of frost. Most gardeners will plant these crops at the end of summer or early in the year.

Beets. When their shoulders are 1 inch to 3 inches across, it’s time to start digging up the roots. Don’t overlook the leaves while you’re doing this — they’re equally edible and tasty.

Broccoli. Broccoli is ready to harvest in about two and a half to three and a half months after you’ve sown the seeds. The trick is to harvest when the head is fully grown but the plant hasn’t yet flowered.

Cut the stem about 6 inches below the head (don’t pull).

Brussels sprouts. These miniature heads are ready to pick when the large leaves on the plant have turned yellow and the heads themselves are firm and almost the size of a golf ball but haven’t yet opened.

Start from the bottom and snap off the individual heads — these are part of one vegetable that you don’t want to cut unless you’re harvesting the entire stalk.

Cabbage. Harvesting the perfect head of cabbage requires paying attention. Most cabbages are ready in about two and a half to three and a half months after sowing, depending on the variety. You want to leave them on the plant until they’re fully grown, but harvest them before the heads split. Check regularly to see how each plant is doing.
Carrots. Carrots come in a range of lengths, from very short to very long, so before you start pulling, double-check the expected size of your variety. If you aren’t sure, another easy way to see if they’re ready is to check the shoulders of the root; they should be about three-quarters of an inch to 1 inch in diameter.
Celery. If you’ve gone to the trouble of growing, and possibly blanching, celery, then you want to know when it’s time to harvest. They’re generally ready about four months after you’ve sown the seeds, but you’ll need to start blanching them about three to four weeks before that. This process involves blocking the celery stalks from the sun with soil or cardboard to prevent them from developing a bitter flavor.

You can harvest individual stalks or cut off the entire plant at the base.

Chard. The younger the leaves and stems, the more tender they are, so continually harvest from the outer edges to get the newest leaves and also to keep your plant producing. Another option is to cut the entire plant back to about 2 inches from the ground — you’ll have plenty of leaves and stems to cook with now, and the plant will rejuvenate.

Gardeners in warm-winter climates may find that their plants last well into winter, and maybe beyond.

Kale. Want a lot of kale throughout its growing season? Simply cut the outer leaves and let the plant continue to grow. Need a lot at once? You can cut the entire plant back. Either way, kale is a remarkably prolific producer during the cooler months.
Leeks. Leeks are a vegetable for the patient. It can take more than six months for them to mature, though some may be ready in as little as three months. When they’re one-half inch to 2 inches thick, you can start harvesting.
Lettuce. You can start harvesting lettuce the minute the leaves are big enough to use. The more you harvest, the longer your crop will last. For varieties like butterhead and iceberg, you can also wait until the heads are completely formed.

No matter which approach you take, once the plants begin to form flowers, they have passed their prime and will be bitter.

Onions and shallots. Green onions are the easiest members of the onion family to harvest; simply pull them up once they’re big enough to use. Mature onions require a little more care. When about half the foliage has turned yellow, push all the foliage to the ground. Wait about three weeks, then start harvesting.

Shallots are heady to harvest when the shoots have died.

Peas. Both shelling peas and edible-pod peas are best harvested early. Shelling peas, or English peas, are ready when they’re bright green and the peas inside the pods have formed but are not too large. You’ll know that edible-pod peas are ready when the peas inside have just started to appear.

Harvest often for a long-lasting crop.

Potatoes. When you harvest depends on what type of potato you want. If you’re looking for new potatoes, dig them about two months after setting out the starts or when the vines start to flower (for those varieties with flowering vines).

More mature potatoes are ready in three to four months. Before harvesting, cut away the vines and wait five to seven days, then dig up the potatoes.

One of the joys of growing your own vegetables is enjoying them when they’ve been freshly picked at the peak of their flavor. One of the conundrums of growing your own vegetables, especially for beginners, is knowing just when that moment is. If you’re wondering if your crop is ready to pick, or worried that it’s beyond its prime, here’s a quick guide to determining harvest time for some of the most popular edibles in home gardens.

This content was originally published here.


How to Design a Multigenerational Kitchen

1. Let Sociability Determine the Layout

The position of certain elements in your kitchen will help household members feel connected.

“Locate the cooktop on an island or peninsula so the cook connects to what’s happening in the rest of the space, whether that’s chatting to someone sitting at the table or keeping an eye on the kids playing in the garden,” says Alan Drumm of Uncommon Projects. “But make sure small children can’t reach pans from the other side of the island.”

“It’s a hard-wired human need to see people’s faces,” says Johnny Grey of Johnny Grey Studios. “If you concentrate on eye contact when designing a kitchen, it immediately opens up to multifunctional use.”

It’s also important to illuminate the spaces where people gather.
“Look where the best natural light is coming from and use that to plan the areas where the family spends the most time,” Drumm says. The functions that don’t need the best light, such as utility rooms, can be pushed to the darker areas of the plan.

2. Tailor Spaces to Everyone’s Needs

Grey believes post-COVID kitchens will need to support myriad functions — home cafe and restaurant, digital classroom, wine bar, play area, home office and hobby zone — and “should be newly liberated for gender, disability and age. In short: more fun, fewer accidents, more workstations.”

This approach is about designing welcoming spaces that foster independence for longer for those with sensory, cognitive or physical challenges. Such spaces also would benefit from attention to aspects including acoustics, transitions and zoning for people with autism, who can experience sensory overload in everyday settings.

3. Multiply Tables and Seating

For Drumm, understanding how dining and living areas need to work, how many people will be using them and for what, and how often the family entertains is crucial. “Dining and other tables can then be sized appropriately and planned alongside the kitchen,” he says.

“Where you put tables and seating will depend on the location of the cooking area, island and access points and the flow through the space,” says Troy Dehaney of Model Projects.

If space allows, different meal times might mean different surfaces. “Breakfast might be at a perching spot, snacks at a small, sociable surface, and lunch and dinner at a main table,” Grey says. “Or there may be groups of the household using multiple work surfaces at a similar time.”

To be fully inclusive, he says, tables, surfaces and seating should be at different heights or be height-adjustable and adaptable to different users.

4. Position Appliances and Fixtures for Usability

Plan for convenience and safety when locating kitchen elements, the experts advise. For example, Drumm recommends positioning ovens at waist height or eye level rather than below countertops. “It’s safer to lift heavy things out of an oven that’s raised off the ground,” he says. “And no matter what age you are, it’s easier to keep an eye on what’s cooking in an eye-level oven.”

Look for wheelchair-accessible sinks and cooktops and kitchen faucets with easy-turn levers or extended handles. Grey suggests housing overhead lighting and a range hood in a movable gantry, or adjustable structure, so it can be positioned in line with an adjustable cooktop.

Choose an induction stove rather than ceramic or gas, Dehaney says. “With an induction stove, the ring only gets hot once a saucepan is on it. If anyone rests their hand on it, they won’t get burned.” The cooktop remains cool, with only some residual heat from the pan.

Where possible, provide an area of clear counter space to one side of the oven, Drumm suggests. “This allows you to put hot dishes and plates down immediately after lifting them out of the oven, instead of moving around the kitchen with them,” he says.

Creating a single, high-visibility spot in the kitchen for all hot items just out of the oven will help keep everyone safe, Grey says.

5. Design Surfaces for Everyone to Use

Dot different surfaces and workstations throughout the kitchen, Grey says. “Mix those dedicated to particular tasks with ones that can serve multiple functions — eating table, workspace, bar, servingware. They don’t have to be big, but place them to ensure eye contact with family occupying other areas.”

Adjustable counter heights make food preparation easier if you’re in a wheelchair, Grey says. “Or fix them [28 to 30 inches] high, so they’re comfortable for children and you can also get a wheelchair underneath.”

Dehaney says that if there are young children running around, you don’t want sharp corners on countertops. He recommends having curved corners on an island overhang.

6. Choose Functional Flooring

Flush thresholds, floor levels and anti-slip flooring are all important considerations for full accessibility and safety in a multigenerational kitchen.

“Choose a hard-wearing flooring material,” Dehaney says. “The kitchen gets a lot of bashing, footfall and movement, so durability is important, along with ease of cleaning.”

7. Build In Inclusive Units and Storage

A three-generation kitchen will need to store an awful lot of stuff. “Think about the position of kitchen cabinets, countertops and storage and particularly their height,” Dehaney says. “Can everyone who has to reach high-level units do so? Look for clever storage devices that ensure easy access.”

Some accessible kitchen product lines, such as those by Roundhouse Design, feature low-hung, automatic, click-to-open wall cabinets that can be reached by those in a wheelchair. An extended handle can lower the cabinet contents to worktop height.

Installing base cabinetry with drawers rather than traditional cupboards means no occupant will have to crouch down or kneel to access anything located at the back. If you have to have corner cupboards, fit them with accessible pullout or rotating shelf solutions.

Keep heavier items such as pans visible and within easy reach and do the reverse with knife blocks, chemicals and anything else that poses a hazard to anyone in the house. Accessible areas will be different for individual family members, so make sure you think about all potential danger spots.

“Walk-in pantries with open shelves and everything on display provide accessible storage,” Grey says. For those with dementia, this can be more helpful than having items concealed behind a row of cabinet doors that all look the same.

8. Watch for Product and Technology Advances

“There’s so much smart tech out there designed to make what we do in the kitchen more precise and nudge us into using it in a safer way,” Grey says. This includes a “cook anywhere” continuous wireless induction cooktop that doesn’t get hot. Users can cook at any point along its surface.

Grey also cites voice-activated assistants to help those with limited mobility or dexterity control lights and appliances. There are ranges that switch off if left on too long, lights that come on if the kitchen floods and smart locks that activate on knife drawers and other potential danger points.

“There’s so much potential in the technologies being pioneered around safe cooking,” Grey says. These include sous vide precision cookers, connected induction systems and glass ceramic cooktops.

Given that one of the measures used to determine whether someone needs to go into a care facility is whether they can safely use a kitchen, these technologies could have far-reaching implications.

Tell us: Do you have a multigenerational household? How have you adapted your home to accommodate everyone? Share your ideas in the Comments.

This content was originally published here.


Bathroom of the Week: Serene Spa Style in 100 Square Feet

“After” photos by Jackie Lamonds of WNC Real Estate Photography

Bathroom at a Glance
Who lives here: Blake and Lacey Hoyle and their two young sons
Location: Asheville, North Carolina
Size: 100 square feet (9.3 square meters)
Designer: Shawn Merkel of Align Design

Before: The updates the Hoyles tackled themselves never quite lived up to their standards. The lighting was poor. The colors didn’t pop. The tile work wasn’t great. The shower wasn’t properly ventilated, so condensation always remained on the glass. And barn doors that separated the bathroom from the bedroom didn’t shut properly, leaving the toilet visible. “That always bothered Lacey,” Merkel says.

After: Merkel ditched the old shower and vanity in favor of a calm and serene palette with light woods, like the hickory wood floating custom vanity, and plenty of white. The warm white walls are Cloud Cover by Benjamin Moore. “We have it throughout our house. It’s our favorite color,” Lacey says.

A new transom window with a natural wood frame above the vanity brings in natural light and offers treetop views. Merkel also added a larger picture window in the shower and framed it in the same light wood. A teak shower stool coordinates with the wood details.

The countertop is concrete with an integrated sink. “It’s another organic element that’s different from traditional granite or quartz,” Merkel says. Concrete pendants hang above. Grooves in the drawer fronts eliminate the need for hardware, creating a sleek look.

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Two single-handle faucets in brushed nickel sit over the large sink. A wood shelf on the round mirror coordinates with the vanity cabinet and other wood details in the room. “Everything else was linear, so we wanted to balance that out with something round,” Merkel says of the mirror. “It helps soften things a little. The shelf matched the cabinetry perfectly and was a happy accident.”

In addition to the pendants, a woven shade light (reflected in the mirror) and LED recessed lights in the shower and toilet area provide a layered lighting scheme. “All are on dimmers so we could keep the space feeling cozy and warm,” Lacey says.

A slim electrical outlet sits on either side of the vanity to keep the wall behind the vanity visually unobstructed.

Before: In the former bathroom, the Hoyles felt the wall next to the vanity was underutilized. The mirrored pocket door opened to a walk-in closet.

After: Merkel created a recessed niche with hickory wood shelves for storing small items. She replaced the pocket door with a barn-style sliding door that can hide the niche. “We measured very carefully to provide enough room for the niche and the barn door,” Merkel says.

Before: The former shower wasn’t properly ventilated, so moisture often remained on the shower glass and window, where mold formed. The tile around the shower entrance shows how the installation wasn’t exactly on par with professional work. The Hoyles also felt the toilet area lacked privacy.
After: Merkel created a wider shower with a crystal-clear glass enclosure. Handcrafted ceramic tiles in a stacked pattern — and properly installed — give the shower a clean and inviting look. A new operable window adds ventilation and crisp views of Asheville’s leafy mountain scenery. “It’s a 100% improvement,” Lacey says. “We can take a shower and stare out at all the mountains.”

Merkel positioned the shower controls near the entrance, rather than beneath the shower head, so the homeowners don’t get sprayed when turning the water on. Brushed nickel fixtures coordinate with the faucet finishes.

The shower floor is pebble tiles with organic tones.

The pebble tile runs up behind a storage niche in the shower. Tempered glass shelves hold products and washcloths. The shelves align with the tile grout for a clean, professional look. “The niche doesn’t go all the way to the ceiling, to help with ventilation,” Merkel says. She also installed a new bathroom exhaust fan.

The bottom portion of the niche lets the homeowners tuck their teak bench away when they’re not using it.

A recessed storage niche stands in a gap between walls that now separate the shower from the toilet area. Hickory wood shelves complement the vanity cabinet, holding woven baskets that store hair dryers and products. Wood hooks offer a spot for towels right outside the shower. “We just like that there’s not a lot of metal and shininess going on in this bathroom,” Lacey says.

In the wall to the right of the toilet, another recessed area (not shown) has additional storage for toilet paper and other items. An operable awning window above the toilet maintains privacy but allows in light, air and treetop views.

A new linen closet across from the toilet has a concrete countertop like the one used on the vanity. The upper cabinet has adjustable shelves for storing linens, while the bottom cabinet opens to reveal a hamper. “We had baskets hanging in our walk-in closet for dirty clothes before,” Lacey says. “This gave us a home for sheets and our laundry. It’s been a game changer for the functionality of the bathroom.”

Frosted glass double doors open to the Hoyles’ bedroom, replacing the white barn doors that didn’t close properly.

The bathroom floor is 24-by-48-inch white-and-gray travertine tile. “Larger floor tiles in a smaller space make them look bigger, and there’s less grout to clean,” Merkel says.

The refreshed bathroom now complements the modern Scandinavian style of the couple’s bedroom.

Before: These floor plans of the former bathroom show a functional setup, but not the small, frustrating details like poor-quality materials and lack of storage that added up to major frustrations.

This content was originally published here.

Home Improvement

Why Does My Finished Basement Smell Musty?

Most homes in Toronto are older and have unfinished basements.  Due to the age of homes, the weather and the massive amounts of underwater rivers running under Toronto, having a dry basement is a challenge.  Most basements, unless they have been fully waterproofed from the exterior, will have some sort of dampness or moisture issues.  These chronic moisture issues in the basement will lead to that ugly musty smell you often find in basements and sometimes even to mold formation.

In addition, the cost of hiring a water damage repair company in Toronto is expensive, so best to fix the problems early.

Why Basements Get a Musty Odour

Even a finished basement can contain high pollution levels and since these pollutants rise due to their buoyancy they can often invade the living space on the upper floors. Basements often have a bit of a musty smell to them and this is because certain types of wallboard and carpeting absorb moisture through the home’s foundation via a process known as capillary action.

This results in excess humidity and moisture which can be absorbed by the insulation. In some instances, excess moisture can lead to visible or invisible mold in the basement.

If a basement suffers water damage it can result in mold which releases pollutants into the air and can keep growing even after the room has dried. This, in turn, will result in a musty smell, especially if the basement has poor ventilation. Unfinished basements also become musty since they usually contain a certain amount of dirt, dust, and debris which can encourage the growth of mold and bacteria. To make matters worse, invisible particulate matter or debris in the air can damage your lungs and enter your bloodstream and are certainly unhealthy.

Other pollutant causes of a musty basement could include things such as fiberglass insulation, dank crawl spaces, Radon gas, and volatile organic compounds such as fertilizer bags and paint cans. If you notice a musty odour from the basement it’s recommended you have the air tested by a mold professional or specialist. Professionals can identify the cause of the moisture and smell and come up with a solution to eliminate it, resulting in a healthier and fresher smelling basement.

The aim is to eliminate the moisture from the basement and increase its airflow

If your basement is unfinished with a dirt floor the floor should be covered with a plastic sheet and wire mesh before covering it with a thin layer of concrete. If the basement has a concrete floor you may need a waterproofing solution if water or moisture is seeping into it. If the basement is filled with mold you may need to have it removed by a professional mold removal company.

If mold is left to grow it could eat through basement insulation, wood framing and other structures and materials. A good ventilation system is also needed as it removes the musty air and replaces it with fresh air. You may need to install an exhaust fan along with a dehumidifier/air purifier and open any windows to increase airflow. If you hire a professional to find and eliminate the source of your musty basement there are a few steps you can take to keep the area as fresh as possible once the job has been completed.

Make sure your downspouts and gutters aren’t clogged as water that pools around your home can start to smell unpleasant. You might also want to send the water further away from your home by installing extensions on the downspouts. This will help keep water from seeping into your basement from the ground near the house. You can also keep the basement air fresh by cleaning it out and throwing away all unneeded items which could absorb moisture, mold and mildew. If the basement is unfinished you can then clean the surfaces with soap and water as well as bleach, white vinegar, or hydrogen peroxide.

Some unpleasant odours can be absorbed by items such as baking soda, white vinegar, zeolite, charcoal bricks, and cat litter. If you place one or a combination of these items in the basement the air should stay fresher. Just be sure to replace them every two or three months. Another option is to place an ionizer downstairs. These devices are designed to remove bad odours by releasing ions in the air.  If you plan on hiring a general contractor or a design build contractor to finish your basement, then you must ensure the damp issues are cleared up before installing your drywall and flooring.