The last 10 years has been a challenge to learn about the “new” LED (light-emitting diode) products and find the right fixtures with the right features. As much as we wanted to introduce this technology to our Clients, the products were not ready for the design demands of the kitchen and bath industry.
Choosing the right color produced by an LED has been a big battle between the designers who want the best color for the setting and the companies producing the options. Since the color of the light corresponds to the energy of the photon and the energy band gap of the semi-conductor (technical factors over which we have no control), we had to wait to see what products would be introduced. So we tested, we waited, we tested, and we waited some more. Sticking with the incandescent or halogen undercabinet lighting systems in the meantime, with all their faults, allowed us to achieve a natural light to compliment the finishes on our cabinetry, tile and countertop surfaces. This was a better trade off than the harsh, unforgiving light from the evolving LED choices.
But finally the waiting is over and we are specifying LED lighting for all our undercabinet, in-cabinet and accent lighting. The lower energy consumption, low heat emission, long life (30,000 hours of more!), durability and small sizes allow us to build in lighting in fun and functional spots: opening the corner base cabinet to illuminate the often-hidden contents; under a “floating vanity” to create warm ambience and a helpful night time glow; along the front of open shelves for those hard-to-read book titles. The color varieties from warm to cool have finally allowed us to select the light output that best suits the task and setting. A few added benefits: the cost is reasonable, the wiring and installation are relatively easy for our subcontractors, and our Clients won’t be changing any bulbs!
LED lightens up this compact JWH Bar.
Deciding which appliances in a Kitchen to add a custom panel (or leave as exposed stainless steel) is a topic that follows closely to a previous post about using a custom wood hoods. The visual effect can make a big difference in the overall style and feel of the space. Are you going for a streamlined look of cabinetry with matching finishes and hardware? Or does the punch of stainless make you feel like you are a chef in a commercial Kitchen? (This can be a good or bad feeling, depending on your love-hate relationship with cooking.)
There are a few key guidelines we explain to our Clients in helping them make these key decisions. The first one is easy: a stainless dishwasher doesn’t look great most of the time. After being touched by wet hands loading dishes, and the endless parade of kid fingerprints, a stainless dishwasher can become an unwanted focal point. The cost of adding a custom panel is close in price to paying for the upgraded stainless steel. If you are re-using an existing dishwasher—not a big deal—just keep the can of Stainless Magic on hand. But if you have the option, buy the dishwasher model that can be fully concealed.
The bigger decision is the refrigerator/freezer, in terms of cost and aesthetic result. The high end units like Sub Zero, Thermador, Monogram and Viking all take panels beautifully. They fit flush with the side panels, hide most of the metal, and accept matching hardware pulls. You may still prefer the look of a stainless model, but in this price range, at least you have the option of adding custom panels for a finished look. The next tier appliances like Kitchen Aid and Jenn Air offer lower prices, deeper projections, more exposed metal and hardware and they just don’t look great with a panel attached to the front.
A quote from my last Client meeting: “a bad appliance panel looks like lipstick on a pig.”
Part of every consultation is educating our Clients about the process of kitchen design, the realities of construction, the range of design styles and options, and the important facts about cabinetry construction. There are certain buzz words that are associated with “good” cabinetry: wood, dovetail, motion glides—most of which are confusing to the Client, and actually mean nothing unless they are used in the right context.
All wood cabinetry construction is critical for long term durability. The reality is that hinges and hardware just can’t hold tight to particle board sides after years of normal (or active) use. There’s little reassurance having a lifetime warranty on a hinge if the door is left hanging in your hand, unable to be reattached to a crumbling cabinet side. Most of the kitchens we rip out and replace represent the era of particleboard cabinetry. IKEA is still in the particleboard business—they make some pretty ads, with pretty cabinets and pretty prices—but they won’t be so pretty in a few years…
The other important feature is the finish of the cabinetry. This is what is protecting the wood of your cabinetry, and certainly what you are going to see every day for a long time. Catalyzed conversion varnish is key. The strongest finish available, this needs to be applied in the Millshop with the proper prep, application techniques, ventilation and curing time. Once the catalyzed conversion finish is fully cured, usually after another 2-3 months in the home, a Magic Eraser and regular touch ups, should keep a painted kitchen looking great for many years. This just can’t be replicated with paint finishes applied in the field.
Painted Classic White Kitchen
Painted Island for Seating
Painted KitchenPainted Classic White KitchenPainted Island for Seating
Mixing colors and textures in Kitchen design is the best way to create a functional and visually pleasing environment. Too much of a good thing is no longer a good thing. Paint colors, selected to blend harmoniously with other materials; countertops specified for durability; flooring that provides the backdrop to the whole space; and backsplash as the finishing touch. One of our favorite ways to turn an ordinary space into a Kitchen that feels like home: wood. Here are a few examples:
Islands: A stained wood Island, especially when surrounded by painted cabinetry, can be a warm and practical choice. As the vacuum hose is dragged around the corners, and little feet tap their sneakers while sitting at the Island stools, stained wood cabinetry helps to hide these signs of “life.” A damp cloth to remove the weekly dirt, a Magic Eraser for touch scuff marks, and annual touch up of any areas that really took a beating, should keep a stained Island looking in new condition.
Countertops: No longer confined to “butcher block”, as we all knew growing up, we love to introduce a wood countertop somewhere in a Kitchen. The wood choices are only dictated by the desired look and color, particularly in a natural finish. Natural cherry creates a warm orange-red finish, mahogany gives a darker reddish finish, while walnut provides a deep brown color.
Dark Wood Cabinetry: Click here to see a fabulous wood Kitchen that features a custom stain on cherry cabinetry, offset with Calacatta countertops, stainless appliances, and a customcutting board on the corner. This Kitchen was already 7 years old when photographed for Cottages & Gardens last year!
Mahogany Countertop with decorative edge
Custom Teak Countertop
Fabulous waterfront property is moving into the final stages. Beautiful tile details shown here, by JWH designer, Bridget Curran.
This antique farmhouse in Riverside, CT got a JWH Kitchen renovation and caught the eye of the Editor of Cottages & Gardens. Featured in this January issue, this stained wood Kitchen still looked great enough to photograph 7 years after being finished. A testament to classic design, timeless materials, and excellent cabinetry!
Appliances are always a big decision in any new Kitchen project. Refrigerators are getting larger, freezers have become separate units, two dishwashers are more common, and of course, there is the fabulous range that wants to be center stage. So what best compliments that large mass of (expensive) equipment below? The hood above becomes a more important decision than most people realize.
The appliance guy will always steer you to the matching stainless hood. Maximum power, halogen lights, baffle filters, and a name brand that commands a matching hefty price tag. But many people don’t want one more piece of stainless in the Kitchen, and find it more visually pleasing to join the side cabinetry with a custom wood hood. Designed to fit the space perfectly and built to accommodate a powerful interior motor, the wood hood becomes a hardworking, functional and beautiful part of the overall ambiance in the Kitchen.
The featured hood shown below has been designed for a vintage home in Rye, NY. The new addition, carefully crafted to blend with the existing architecture, needed the charm of yesteryear with the function and efficiency of today’s modern kitchens. Located over a 48″ Thermador range, the hidden Thermador insert provides all the power needed to fully vent the space. The wood surround is designed to match the cabinetry style in the room. Since it is located between two windows, the radius shelves on the sides allow for convenient storage while also creating a softer look. Side pull-outs next to the range (not shown) keep the other essential oils and spices close at hand.
Custom wood hood focal point
Here’s a chance to see some great Before and After photos of a kitchen renovation. From dark and cramped, to open, bright and functional! Check out all the photos on HOUZZ.
A total make-over is almost ready for move-in. JWH Custom Cabinetry, 48″ Viking Range, XO hood, and a pair of existing Sub Zeros that were brought back to life. Check out the photos on Facebook.