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Choosing the perfect kitchen backsplash

Choosing the “perfect” backsplash is often one of the most challenging tasks in a kitchen renovation.  This detailed Houzz article identifies the  top 10 backsplash material choices on the market.  Stainless steel, glass tiles, stone slabs and even mirror to add some “feng shui” to your space– each material has their pros and cons.  Matching the right look and the proper function ensures that your backsplash will be a well-chosen element for the long term.

Natural stone and mirrored backsplash

Backsplash idea

Another JWH Home Hits the Market

JWH Design and Cabinetry

JWH Renovation Hits the Market

This fabulous home, designed and completely renovated in 2008 by JWH Design & Cabinetry, hit the Rye market 3 days ago.  ”Updating a 1910′s home with 1970′s additions was no small challenge,” says Jennifer Howard, owner and principal designer at JWH.  ”At the time, I was renovating it for my own family.  The 6-bedrooms on an acre of land was a great find in Rye!”  The result is a charming, beautiful, and functional home–it won’t be on the market long.  Check out all the photos here:  PHOTOS

OPEN HOUSE:  Sunday, March 22, 1-3 pm

New to the Market

It’s too cold to tell…but Spring is in the air!  The Rye real estate market is heating up.  This renovated home, featuring a JWH Kitchen, has received offers over the asking price.


The finishing touches on the Calacatta backsplash, beautiful cabinetry hardware from JWH to follow, and then a happy homeowner!

Transitional is the new buzz word

Winner for Transitional Kitchen in Signature Kitchen and Bath Magazine


“Clean lines”…”not too trendy”… “classic look without being fussy.”  These are the top three statements we hear from most of our new Kitchen Clients.

The homes in the Westchester, NY and Fairfield, CT areas tend to be traditional architecturally. The pitched roof lines, decorative molding details, window styles and muntins patterns, and other trim details are representative of homes we’ve seen in our architectural reference books throughout the years.  These details also carry through to the infrastructure of the house:  the stairs, railings, interior moldings, and general layout.  But the way of “traditional” kitchen and bath design, and interior décor is diminishing, and morphing into a more “transitional” style.  This is true among the newlyweds, first-time home buyers, up-graders and even the empty nesters.

Here are a few elements of a great “transitional” kitchen as featured in Cottages and Gardens:

. Plain inset cabinetry with concealed hinges (or full overlay doors and drawers with a straight edge detail)

. Classic recessed panel doors, with matching or “slab” top drawers.  Painted finishes are the most popular in a multitude of varying whites, with a contrast in a stained wood or bold accent color.

. Round knobs on cabinet doors and linear pulls on drawers

. Appliances can be stainless or custom paneled, to blend with the cabinetry.  Often the mix of both is the best solution. (See our previous article on “To Panel or Not to Panel”).

. Countertops have the subtle patterns of marble, quartzite, or man-made quartz. Granites are chosen only when the grain pattern is really special.  (See our previous article on “The Rise of Quartz”)

. Hardwood floors are being selected in a variety of hardwoods, a favorite being quartersawn oak, with stains from light to medium, often with hints of grey undertones.

.  Backsplash choices range from white subway tile to interesting glass (often in a subway tile.)  When a Client wants to “shake things up”, the backsplash is a fun way to introduce some personality.

The benefits to creating a great transitional Kitchen:  you won’t get tired of the details, less dust collecting in the moldings, and your friends/family (and potential buyers) will love your Kitchen for years!





Shedding Light on LED

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!

Adding LED lights to the bar

LED lightens up this compact JWH Bar.

The Rise of Quartz

We are seeing a swift and steady rise in the request for quartz countertops.  These products have been around for years, the samples tucked in out-of-the way drawer in our Showroom, maybe to emerge for a kids’ bathroom vanity.  Not too distant memories of dated-looking Corian countertops scared people off from using solid surface materials.  As the range of quartz styles has increased—clearly the manufacturer’s believed the trend was coming—the design options widen.  Marble-like, limestone-like, cement-like and solids in a range of colors.  Here’s a fabulous transitional kitchen with White Zeus countertops, a crisp backdrop for the “punch” of color on the island cabinetry.

Only a few months ago, most of our Clients entered our Showroom requesting a classic white kitchen and marble countertops.  The slab of Calacatta Gold on display caught the most attention.  Even after we gave our Clients a “talking to” about the reality of red wine and hot pizza boxes, their decisions could not be swayed.

The latest inflow of Clients, most with young children but also the empty nesters, have a sharper eye on the long term functionality.  As quartz is making headlines on Houzz, Pinterest and other blog sites, we can almost guess what a new Client will request.   Our samples of Ceasarstone, Silestone and Pental Quartz have made their way to our upper sample display.  Heat resistant, scratch resistant, and some are even weather-proof for our outdoor kitchen projects.  Don’t be surprised by the prices, however—quartz is no bargain.  They can range in price as much as granite and marble, but they’ll hold their look and durability for a long time.

To panel or not to panel… that is the question

Stainless Bosch DishwasherDeciding 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.”

The Importance of a Factory Finish

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.

Classic white inset kitchen

Painted KitchenPainted Classic White KitchenPainted Island for Seating

The Warmth of Wood

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!

Fun tile details

Fabulous waterfront property is moving into the final stages.  Beautiful tile details shown here, by JWH designer, Bridget Curran.

Exquisite form. Innovative function.

© 2011-2015 JWH Design & Cabinetry | 1111 Boston Post Road, Rye, NY 10580 | p: 914-967-6020 | f: 914-967-1042 | infoREMOVETHISBEFORESENDING@jwhdesigns.com