In our last post, we covered 3 makeover moves that will ensure your kitchen improves with your age. In this follow up post, we want to address the kitchen work triangle: sink, oven, and refrigerator. You don’t need a degree in geometry to design a kitchen work triangle, but thinking ahead now will deliver long-term convenience, usability, and safety as you age.
A good, well thought out work triangle makes kitchen tasks easier and more efficient. When designing an aging in place kitchen, the oven, sink, and refrigerator should be as close together as possible. If necessary, have a secondary sink installed. Try to keep these three appliances/fixtures on the same level for ease of transfer of food, pots, baking pans, etc. Always choose appliances that are easy to use, easy to read, and have nice large buttons.
As we grow older our chances of sustaining serious burns increases. Fortunately, companies are hard at work designing appliances and faucets that can greatly diminish the chances of injury. One of the most hazardous appliances in the kitchen is the oven. But three companies—GE, Viking, and Bosch—now have French door or side door wall ovens to greatly enhance safety in the kitchen.
Wall ovens, microwaves, and cooktops
Wall ovens should always be placed at a comfortable height. For some, that’s in a base cabinet. For others, it’s about waist high. Side by side is the safest configuration. A landing space beside or across from an oven is mandatory according to building codes. But one of the best designs for an aging in place kitchen—or any kitchen– is a pullout shelf right under the wall oven, just low enough to allow closing of the oven. It’s these small things that can make a big difference.
A cooktop is usually a much safer option than a range. In general,
electric cooktops are considered more senior-friendly than gas options. An open flame is never a good idea in an aging in place kitchen. One of the very best gas alternatives is an induction cooktop, which heats the pan but not the cooktop itself. These are far less likely to cause burns. Always choose one with front mounted controls—no reaching over the cooktop. Also, choose a model that makes it easy to see if it is on or off.
Placement of the microwave can also spell the difference between a safe kitchen and one that may cause a serious accident. Microwaves should be about counter height whether they are built-in or not. One type of microwave that comes highly recommended for the elderly is the microwave drawer. Some companies who sell these are Sharp, Jenn-air, and KitchenAid. Although they are usually installed a little lower than counter height they are easier to use at this height than the door style.
Safety tip: Protecting against scald burns
Scald injuries are common among the elderly. While 42% are due to hot food, a significant percentage—32%– are due to hot water. Here are two simple steps you can take to reduce the risk of scald burns.
- Have a sink located very close to the cooktop. And install a pot filler at the cooktop. Also use the large pasta type pots with a lift out strainer in the pot.
- Turn down the hot water heater. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), the setting should be no higher than 120 degrees fahrenheit
The most recommended faucet for aging in place kitchens are the hands-free type. Touch faucets are very easy on arthritic hands. An anti-scald device should be on all faucets used by the elderly. When planning your kitchen design, request that the faucet placement is located on the side of your sinks, rather than the traditional center location. Reaching over a hot pan or getting too close to the hot water spray can be dangerous.
Refrigerators and other modifications
Side-by-side refrigerator/freezers are the easiest to use for seniors. Look for storage in the door, especially for large items, like milk jugs. Also look for sturdy, easy to use pull out shelves for smaller items. These make it much easier to find what you need.
Other modifications include under counter lighting, countertops with rounded edges, and non-slip flooring. Everything in the kitchen should be chosen with an eye toward easy cleaning and upkeep. Improving your kitchen’s functionality can be done all at once or little by little. The final takeaway will be a beautiful kitchen that is a joy to work in now and functional for the future when motor skills, balance, mobility, sight, and other physical functions become more limited.
I hope you learned some useful design applications that will help add exquisite form and innovative function to your renovation plans. Please contact us if you have questions about an upcoming renovation project that relates to adaptive kitchen designs or other projects you’re contemplating.
— Jennifer Howard, owner + chief designer, JWH Design & Cabinetry
An adventure in Paris as a full-time business owner, traveling solo, studying painting and language, is not the typical trip for a 52 year old mother of 5 and grandmother of 1. Mid-life crisis or making up for the missed college year abroad program? Either one, it is time to regroup and refuel the creative fires. With another 20 years to work, and to continue to LOVE the work I do, I realized it was time to take some time for myself.
Taking a solo trip, anywhere, has never been something I’ve particularly enjoyed. Business trips that involve a flight alone, hotel room alone, and an occasional meal alone, are relished by some of my business friends. Mindlessly flipping through magazines on a flight and spreading out in the entire king-size hotel bed don’t do it for me. I like to fall asleep the minute I board the plane, curled in my window seat. And I still stay on my side of the hotel bed, leaving the other two-thirds untouched. Add a few meals alone, trying to make conversation without looking like a pick-up move, makes me even more eager to get back to the craziness of work and my family. So why have I now booked myself to travel 7 hours to France–alone? And for how long?
It all started in a conversation with my daughter, Caroline, about her upcoming semester abroad in Madrid. After she had spent a year at Tulane and another year at Georgetown, she was still managing to come home far more often than my older boys ever did– combined. “Caroline, you don’t even like to be gone from home for long. How will you make it 4 months in Spain?” I asked. In her typical confident manner, without a moment’s hesitation, she responded “That’s easy. You will have an apartment in Paris.”
This quick retort last March quickly germinated into an idea that I couldn’t release from my mind. As outrageous and ridiculous as that idea sounded, something inside grabbed hold of my daily (and nightly) thoughts for the next 2 weeks. As the words came out of my mouth to share this plan with my husband, Rob looked at me in a supportive, yet unbelieving way. Was a full semester a little dramatic? Maybe 3 months, leaving after the busy work month of September and returning in December. “2 months?” he countered. I hesitated and responded, “Maybe 1 month will be enough?” Yes, a month I could handle and the planning began.
Work or Pleasure?
First practical question: How could I manage a month away from the office? Well, working on JWH projects is a given. Skype, email and my remote access computer would let me continue design work from anywhere. Maybe not as efficient on a small laptop keyboard, as compared to my 2 large side-by-side screens on my desk, but I’ve done it on shorter vacations so I could certainly set up a work routine for this longer trip. We’ve laughed about setting up a blow up doll in my office chair, and propping a pair of expensive heels on my window sill, and passerbys would believe I am working away in Rye, NY.
A quick post on Facebook asking for recommendations on where to stay helped to focus on the “arrondissements” that would keep me safe and centrally located. Adding “laptop friendly workspace” to the search criteria on Airbnb helped to further narrow down the number of possible flats. There weren’t a lot of other filters I required. Blow dryer–optional. Wifi– critical. It seemed like 5-story “older” buildings without a lift best fit in my housing budget.
As luck would have it, the perfect studio jumped out at me. The private courtyard for the building, 2nd floor location, and tiny square footage seemed to guarantee I could make myself feel cozy. The well-known jazz bar across the street, which closes at the mandatory time of 10 pm, sounds like it was set up for my exciting nightlife. And the amazing murals on the studio walls would be my inspiration to start every day in a creative mode. And the bonus: blow dryer included.
Making the most of each day:
So now that I figured out how I would work efficiently every day from Paris, the question remained, what will I do with the rest of my time? I will be awake on a different time zone and my office has not yet come to life? (And then I will be winding down with a glass (or 2) of French chardonnay, and the office will be calling with technical questions.) Brushing up on my French–of course. A great way to meet other people while reviving my 5 years of honors French, not-so-eloquently last spoken 34 years ago at Rye High School. I envisioned ordering my cafe-au-lait with utmost confidence, asking the price on a fashionable outfit and understanding that the answer is not in my price range, and striking up casual conversations with strangers while sitting at the bustling sidewalk cafes. The reality of the latter part is that native Parisians won’t want to start up random conversations with a solo middle aged mom from NY. At least I’m pretty sure the waitstaff or other English-speaking tourists won’t snub me. Fully thinking through this scenario, which is one of my strengths (and weaknesses), reveals that I will STILL have too much time on my hands. Enter the suggestion from my beloved little sister, Molly.
Past or present life:
“Jenny, you’ve always fashioned yourself as an artist. And I know you believe there might have been a previous life as an architect, why don’t you explore this passion in Paris?” Brilliant Molly, who sometimes knows me better than I know myself. Now we are adding structure to my day, and filling lots of time in a creative way. Again, I can picture it clearly: setting up my easel along the Seine, dressed as a Parisian artist with interested onlookers, capturing the architecture on canvas with my paints and brush. The reality? First, I have trouble getting my right hand to relay what I see in my mind so the representation of these historical landmarks will be more impressionist, not to insult my beloved Monet. Second, I’m a messy painter. A full smock was the recommended protective gear to wear over my clothes, as only a BFF could suggest. But I can’t resist the challenge or the experience, I sign up for the 6 day outdoor class, and I realize that I will come home with paint on my clothes.
Housing, work and ideal activities for the trip are “planned”, but far from being executed. Life (and travel planning) always throws some funny curve balls. Please follow along to see how things develop…
A kitchen designer can be the most valuable team player in a renovation. The right person will identify challenges, offer creative solutions, and guide you through the multitude of decisions. Ready to get started and make the most of your new partnership?
Pick your partner:
Picking the right kitchen designer to bring your vision to reality is the first critical step in the design process. Maybe a specific kitchen project has caught your attention in a magazine, or you love a friend’s new kitchen. Or perhaps you find yourself grabbing online images from a particular designer’s social media page. Once you’ve narrowed down your choices your homework begins: a call to the designer’s office should be met with interest and enthusiasm. An openness to share basic facts over the phone can make a big difference. Types of cabinetry, general price points, timeliness of drawings, and estimated lead time for the cabinetry order, are all valid questions. These are easy opening questions to establish if you’re in the right ballpark for your project.
Face to Face:
Although there is heavy reliance on texts, emails, and calls for most communication these days, a face-to-face consultation is the next step. This is the best way to determine if a working relationship is going to be a good fit. You’re about to embark on a big project and it has to be a comfortable partnership from the start. Meeting in the kitchen designer’s office or showroom gives an accurate glimpse into their business model and work style. How does this meeting flow– from being greeted at the door, to conducting an informative presentation worthy of your time. Do you feel heard and understood when discussing your vision? Do you like their examples of other projects that should include a range of style and creative ideas? The most important question: can you have an honest and open partnership with this professional to achieve the best possible outcome? If any of the above are “no”—keep looking.
Make your vision clear:
Communicating your overall vision for the project, as well as any must-have wish-list items, is always a fun topic. Since you might not know the correct terminology to describe your desired features, a picture is worth 1000 words! Online resources, like Pinterest and Houzz, make it easy to compile images that have caught your eye. Noting your likes (and dislikes) about each of the photos is an excellent way to convey your aesthetic preferences. The designer should be able to easily assess common threads, as well as the disparate details.
Don’t hide from the bottom line:
Discussing your investment expectations (aka budget) is not the easiest conversation to start. If you have done initial appliance shopping, this is the best time to reveal the brands that appeal to you. Top brands like Sub Zero and Wolf signify the need for a healthy appliance budget. The remaining budget for cabinets, countertops, other finishes and construction will add up quickly. It is important to align everyone’s expectations from the start. If there is a drop-dead project limit, share this fact. If there is flexibility within your budget range, share this important point too. There are creative design options at every price range and you want to start exploring the best options right from the start. Your kitchen designer is key to helping make these critical decisions based on your priorities.
Listen to the Expert:
You’ve made the leap of faith and selected the designer to help bring your renovation dreams to reality. The next step is to see your transformed spaces conveyed clearly on layouts, elevations, or ideally 3-D perspective views. Some of the images may look just like you envisioned, while other design options may look like they came out of left field. Keep an open mind. Remember, exploring all the options on paper, before the hammer ever hits the nail, keeps later changes (or regrets) to a minimum. Are these unique layout options accompanied by a clear vision and explanation of good logic? Ask all the questions you need. Your original idea may have needed modification based on structural limitations or maybe it didn’t make sense functionally. Or even better–perhaps your designer came up with a creative, out-of-the-box solution based on years of practical experience!
No Need to Rush:
As much as you are anxious to get your cabinets designed, “signed off” and scheduled into production, this is the time to make sure you’ve considered all your layout options. Options 1, 2, and 3 may have turned into Options 4 and 5. But as long as there is forward progress (and not going in circles), this interactive problem-solving process should be worth it. Once the interior architectural details, cabinetry, and appliances layouts are set, the rest of the functional and aesthetic cabinetry details follow naturally. The kitchen designer wants your flow and function to be the best possible, and working with custom cabinetry allows the best utilization of space.
Be Open to Compromise:
Wish as we might, some design ideas are simply not achievable. The 2-tier cabinetry details you adored in a Houzz photo may not work with your 8’ ceilings. Hopefully you will have discussed these challenges and alternate design direction early in the process. The designer’s creative interpretation should make YOUR space the best it can be. Working within the limitations of budget, timing, and/or physical obstructions can require compromise. But compromise doesn’t not mean “settle.”
Be patient — It will be worth it:
Although the less-than-reality shows show miraculous kitchen transformations within days, real construction is a long process. Custom cabinets have lead times of 8-12 weeks, plus another week to install. You may be anxious for the delivery of your cabinets, since this generally signals the approaching completion of a project. But your custom cabinets should be one of the last items to arrive. Beautifully finished cabinetry should be installed toward the end of the project. Ideally, most of the major construction work is completed. You definitely want to avoid trades walking through your kitchen space with tool belts and ladders, Your kitchen designer knows the value of delaying delivery to protect your cabinets, but your contractor might need a little persuasion.
The end result of your new kitchen is even better than expected?
Thanks for visiting our JWH blog. I hope you learned something new today. Please contact us to discuss your project. We would love to help you achieve your dream kitchen.
— Jennifer Howard, owner & chief designer, JWH Design & Cabinetry
Homeowners contemplating a kitchen renovation are often triggered by a living space that no longer accommodates their family’s needs or preferences. The kitchen may be excessively outdated, lack sufficient cabinet and/or counter space or the room may not be optimally configured to maximize space. These are all sound reasons to plan a kitchen renovation, but before you get seduced by “all the pretty colors” and a virtually limitless list of options from captivating cabinet styles and configurations to tony tiles and backsplashes, take your foot out of the showroom and put your future goggles on.
Gen Xers and Baby Boomers Plan on Staying Home
If you are among the 43% of 45- to 65-year-olds that anticipate remaining in their current residence throughout their retirement (source: USA Today), you may want to make some additional nips and tucks to your kitchen renovation blueprint. Here are three key elements to take into account to ensure your kitchen retains its functionality and usability as your physical abilities moderate over time. Remodeling with an eye to the future can not only provide you with peace of mind and a beautiful kitchen now, but a future that is safe and comfortable.
1. Custom cabinets with removable fronts
Cabinets that are universal design capable are no longer ugly or institutional. Beautiful custom cabinets with stunning finishes and fashion conscience door styles can be designed with a view on the horizon and the physical limitations the future may bring.
Custom cabinets could be designed with removable fronts to become wheelchair or scooter -friendly. island cabinets can be designed to use sitting down. Eating counters should be table height with chairs or low stools. Counter height stools can be dangerous for seniors—both feet on the floor is the safest way to go. Some cabinets, such as dishwasher cabinets, can be raised to make loading and unloading easier on the back.
2. Keep it safe and within arm’s reach
The safest place to store anything in the kitchen is in base cabinets. Falls from step
stools are a major hazard in the kitchen and pulling items down on top of oneself presents another risk. Tall pullout pantries are a good place to store dry goods, but the pantry cabinet should be no taller than the user.
Dish and glassware drawers eliminate the need for hard-to-reach wall cabinets and can open up a wall for more
windows to provide natural light and a nice view. Studies prove that bright sunny rooms prevent depression and improve mood overall– a real plus for aging in place design. A bright sunny kitchen also cuts down on the electric bill and helps those with low vision.
3. Minimizing frustration with open and pullout shelving
Open shelving in islands or base cabinets is another way to keep dishes and glassware within reach.
Frustration and impatience are two common complaints of the elderly and inability to find things is a number one cause of frustration, so organization in drawers and cabinets is vital. Pull-out shelves can help find items that would be otherwise lost in a dark and not easily assessable cabinet.
Anything heavy should be on a pull-out shelf such as the mixer, blender, slow cooker, bread machine, etc. This type of shelf protects your back and maximizes storage space. Even your kitchen garbage pail and recycling bins can be equipped with a pullout system. Anything that makes life easier, safer, and less frustrating will be worth it in the years to come.
I hope these tips inspired you. Come back for part two of this series where I’ll cover other aspects of the kitchen, particularly the “work triangle”, appliances, and other clever construction design applications that will both beautify and add comfort and safety to your kitchen long into the future.
— Jennifer Howard, owner + chief designer, JWH Designs & Cabinetry
Appliance Panel or Stainless Steel?
Deciding where to add an appliance panel in a Kitchen or leave as exposed stainless steel? 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 painfully obvious: 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 appliance panel is close in price to paying for the upgraded stainless steel. But 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 at the time of your renovation, or when then the existing unit runs its natural life, buy the panel-ready dishwasher that can be fully concealed for custom, streamlined look.
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 I shared at my last Client meeting: “a bad appliance panel looks like lipstick on a pig”– not the desired look in your new Kitchen!
Hope this helps! Jennifer & the JWH Team
Home Accessories that Pop
While staging a recent photo shoot in a Client’s newly constructed home, we were faced with the challenge of accessorizing the expanses of countertops, table surfaces, and comfy couches. Choosing the right accessories is the last step of the project and overlooking it is not seldom. Perhaps this challenge seems daunting and the choices are endless. Or the Client just needs a breather after a long project… all of the above are reasons to postpone. Nonetheless, the effort is worth it. The right home accessories make the biggest difference in a room’s appearance, and once they are properly in place, they become part of the overall look and need no more attention.
Take Time to Chose
When choosing the right accessories it is important to keep in mind the style of the room you are decorating as well as color schemes and scale. The goal is to find pieces that complement the room without overpowering it and making it feel cluttered. Houzz.com describes a designer’s definition of a vignette as a “pleasing picture formed by grouping several objects — think of it as a pocket-size table arrangement that tells a story about you and your home.” The rules for designing a vignette are similar to those of accessorizing an entire room.
The first step is to choose an anchor or a statement piece. These are typically larger accessories and the most important to the homeowner; the rest of the accessorizing is tailored to the anchoring piece. The formation of the rest of the accessories is the trickier step. Coordinating pieces should have complimenting elements of each other without appearing too similar. Elements to keep in mind are color, size and texture. While the size of the accessories should vary, be careful of the placement of different pieces that are not the same size. For example, when accessorizing a table, height should be matched on either end to prevent the vignette from looking lopsided.
Looking through the lens of a camera quickly identifies areas in need. Professional photography for magazines and websites offer great visual solutions. Choose the right designer to guide you in these finishing details or start experimenting by trial-and-error. And don’t be afraid to let your personality shine through your accessories!
Jennifer & the JWH Team
Countertop Trends: Where To Begin!
When exploring different countertop trends, homeowners commonly come face-to-face with four popular materials: marble, granite, quartz, and quartzite. When quickly glancing at the four options, one can easily be confused. Although the characteristics of each stone differ greatly, the differences are not always blatantly apparent. Aside from chemistry itself, each stone material poses different benefits for different situations. Factors such as personal lifestyle, cooking habits, budget, as well as aesthetic preference, need to be considered. Whether selecting material for a hard-working kitchen countertop, a master bathroom vanity, or a focal point fireplace surround, it is important to understand the difference between today’s top countertop trends, and which material best fits with your specific situation.
Straight from the Earth:
Natural stone materials share a lot of similarities. All are mined directly from the earth, and present the unique variances, qualities and beautiful imperfections only found in nature. When peering into a slab of granite, marble, or quartzite, the beauty comes from the fissures and swirls dancing throughout the stone. The pattern and colors represented in a single slab is usually the primary feature that initially attracts a homeowner. But understanding the pros and cons of natural stone options helps to determine the best choice for a particular application.
Granite used for countertops begins with mining the stone, deep in the ground, and cutting it into slabs, typically 9 to 10 feet long and 5 to 6 feet wide. Once mined, the slabs are saw-cut. Resin is applied to fill any pits, sealing the porous surface. Then the slab is cured in an oven. After curing, slabs are polished and buffed. With colors and patterns that range from deep solids to dazzling swirls of mica, the choice of granite often made the most significant design statement in a kitchen.
Granite countertops have been the popular workhorse of kitchens for over 20 years. Being able to handle hot dishes right from the oven is a major plus. Temperature is not a concern. Knives won’t damage the surface either, but the granite will dull your knives. One of the biggest “cons” of these super-tough surfaces is the ease with which you can break a special crystal bowl, china plate, or wine glass. Barely tap one of these delicate items on granite and kiss it goodbye.
As designers looked for new styles to update the look from the heavier granite options, marbles provided a dramatic visual alternative.
Carrara and Calacatta Marble, have long topped the favorites list for marble in a white kitchen. Carrara marble (a grayer version with softer veins from Carrara, Italy) is one of the least expensive natural countertop materials on the market, mainly because it’s readily available. The rarer, luxury stone like Calacatta marble, offers a whiter surface and more dramatic veining. The price tag from Calacatta has skyrocketed over the past 10 years as the demand for this beautiful material spread world wide.
Marble is vulnerable to staining agents (like wine, juice and oil) that seep deep into the rock. Prolonged exposure to an acid (called etching) removes the polish or sealant from marble’s finish and makes it dull and more vulnerable to scratches. Honing your marble — a process that results in a matte, less polished effect – might make etching less noticeable, but won’t stop it from happening, unfortunately.
For the avid baker, marble countertops are a reliable surface to stay cool, even in a hot kitchen. The stone is also heat-resistant, making it a good option for the cookies and cakes that come out of the oven. However, despite its ability to withstand high temps, the greater risk is burning or staining the marble.
The countertop trend to quartzites, such as Super White and Quartzite Statuario , reflects a desire for the elegant veining and light aesthetic of marble, with an extra level of durability. Quartzite slabs range in the white to gray family, with some veining similar to marble. Pink and red hues are a result of iron oxide in the stone, while yellow, blue, green and orange quartzite results from the presence of other minerals. Regardless of the color, the quartzite will have streaking caused by varying degrees of pressure in its formation and the random presence of iron oxide or other minerals.
Quartzite is actually harder than granite, so it is quite durable. This hardness, however, also adds to the cost. Skilled fabricators will use expensive diamond blades in the fabrication process. They will also apply a penetrating sealer at the time of installation. Without a proper sealer, stains will penetrate into the stone.
Improving on Nature: Quartz
Quartz is a fast rising challenger in countertop trends. As a top option in terms of durability and longevity, the name is a bit confusing with a “quartzite”. But these terms are not interchangeable. Also referred to as “engineered stone” , the significant difference is that quartz is essentially a man-made material. 93% of the finished material is actually loose quartz. Once blended with a binder and pigment, quartz countertops can be formed into slabs of many sizes. This process allows manufacturers to offer a wide range of colors, styles, slab sizes and durability.
Quartz is a durable material for kitchens, baths and even exterior applications. It comes equipped with a sealant embedded within its surface and requires little-to-no maintenance. Quartz is also less prone to denting and chipping, but knives and sharp objects will leave nicks and scratches.
Reflection for Perfection
Researching the latest in countertop trends is a start, but one must consider all other relevant factors, too. Countertop projects prove to be a more complicated decision than most other parts of home renovation projects. The stone options used for breathtaking surfaces seem all too similar, but in reality, they greatly vary in cost, functionality, appearance, and maintenance.
So, before you delve into paving your countertops with timeless stone slabs, take a moment to reflect your own life. Your age, family life, professional situation, or even personal interests will all influence which stone countertop best fits your preference. Only with such reflection (and advice from some pros) will the perfect countertop find its way into your home!
Hope this helps!
The JWH Team
Kitchen design trends come and go –harvest gold and avocado, RIP—but one thing remains: a white kitchen. Whether it’s sleek and modern, clean contemporary, elegant traditional, or charming farmhouse, white cabinets take center stage in any kitchen and will stand the test of time.
Most kitchen colors and finishes have their season in the sun, and if they don’t disappear altogether, they take a backseat. The exception is the white kitchen.
At one time in our history, white was the only cabinet color. White continued to be the main color of kitchen cabinets throughout the 1940’s. And although the 1950’s saw an explosion of color in the kitchen, a white kitchen was still the preferred choice.
While white lost its top billing in new kitchens during the 1960’s and 1970’s in favor of wood finishes, painted cabinetry began making a slow comeback by the end of the 20th century. The 21st century welcomed a new age of spacious and beautiful new kitchens filled with stunning door styles, exquisite stone countertops, and delightfully soft cabinet colors with a white kitchen taking its ‘most popular’ status once again.
White is clean and bright
White hangs onto its top billing because it’s clean and fresh. The look for kitchens today–regardless of style– is bright, cheerful, and inviting. White brightens the kitchen because light reflects off white surfaces. And if doors with glass inserts are added, which is very popular in white kitchens, they brighten the room even more. White has been shown to also brighten your mood!
White enlarges the kitchen
Okay, it may not actually add square feet to your kitchen, but another reason white is so popular is because it can make even a small kitchen look more spacious. A white kitchen will ‘’open’’ any size kitchen and make it look airy and expansive. This JWH Kitchen won “Best Use of Small Space” by Westchester Home Magazine.
White is “omnicompetent”
White is universal, it works well for any kitchen style. And it has the uncanny ability to do all things well. It has the clean simplicity that exemplifies the contemporary style and the sleekness of modern. A white kitchen exudes elegance and it’s classic so it’s the perfect color to compliment the traditional style. White is light, bright, and casual which also describes the cottage style—what could be more perfect for that summer at the beach feeling? It’s charming, inviting, and ideal for the farmhouse style. It’s crisp, it’s cool, it’s coastal! Any and every style can be made better with a JWH white kitchen!
White is the perfect neutral
White cabinetry is the perfect neutral to use in virtually any color scheme. It enhances any color it’s teamed with and brightens rooms with dark walls or floor colors. If you would love to add a dramatic black or navy-blue island but don’t want to darken the kitchen, pair it with white cabinetry to open up the room and accentuate your dark island. The dark gray or black cabinet colors are stunning, but they do tend to darken a room if you don’t have abundant natural light. Team them with a white island, countertops and backsplash. Perfect!
White cabinets also look great with any appliance color. Black and white is a classic. Stainless steel and white will brighten and create spaciousness in the kitchen. White is a must for a monochromatic white kitchen. White appliances are making a comeback—most designers will tell you they never really left.
White adds resale value to your home
If you want to add value to your home keep your kitchen bright, light, and white. If it comes time to sell your home, it will sell faster, and perspective buyers are attracted to elegant kitchens with white cabinets.
White makes economic sense
And lastly, with major remodeling projects reaching into the tens of thousands—serious cash. You don’t want to make major changes more than once or twice in your home’s lifetime. When your kitchen needs some new color, a white kitchen will make it very easy to change your color scheme. New countertops or backsplash, or just add a quick and painless coat of paint to your walls. Need some inspiration?
Timeless, classic white cabinetry is somewhat a jack-of-all-trades. It adds class and sophistication, or elegance and charm, and it can make kitchens look expansive. White tones down bright colors and brightens dark colors. It makes us feel good, and adds value to the home. Is it any wonder it’s the most popular color in kitchen today?
Today’s Top Kitchen Island Styles
No one can deny that the kitchen island has become one of the most functional parts of today’s kitchen. In fact, many may argue this facet is the most functional part of the modern kitchen. It can be used for cooking, food prep, clean up, serving, baking, eating, homework, chatting with guests, and sometimes a combination of all of the above. With glistening hardware, finishes that rival that of high-end furniture, and rich stone countertops, today’s kitchen island styles are as beautiful as they are functional.
There are many variables that go into the design of a kitchen island. An island must be the right size and the right shape for the kitchen. Furthermore, it must have a clear-cut job—or jobs– to do, and it must define the style of the kitchen; be that Traditional, Contemporary, Old World, etc.
Basically, there are three styles Traditional, Contemporary, and Transitional. The latter is a combination of Traditional and Contemporary. However, of the three, many exciting sub-styles sprang from the Traditional style such as the very popular Farmhouse style.
Traditional Island Features
In the race to win first place in popularity, Traditional runs neck in neck with Contemporary. Some years Traditional wins by a nose, and some years the popular vote goes to Contemporary. But regardless of the official race score, Traditional will always win the heart of America. Its graceful door styles, charming turned millwork, and beautiful finishes help create captivating kitchen islands. Traditional style islands can be almost any finish and certainly do not have to match that of the other cabinetry.
White is currently very popular and always will be. New colors are coming out continuously, often enhanced with rich glazes like coffee or olive. Gray is a big color for Traditional islands. Wood finishes are also seen.
Traditional islands often boast tons of storage space behind their elegant doors and drawer fronts, but they also pack some heat: dishwashers and dishwasher drawers, steam, conventional and microwave ovens, cook or rangetops are common additions. Usually, an extra sink or possibly the main sink is located on the island. Apron sinks are very popular in Traditional style islands. Bookshelves and eating counters are also popular.
- Raised and recessed panel doors and drawer fronts
- Beaded and plain inset cabinet construction, often with exposed hinges
- Turned table legs, corner posts, carved corbels, turned feet, legs and decorative end panels
- Glass display doors
- Painted finishes with or without glazes
- Rich wood finishes
- Impressive ogee and stepped countertop edges
Although the island is the workhorse of the kitchen, don’t attempt to pack too much into one island. If necessary, and you have enough room, include two islands. Limit any appliances to the side where your main work triangle is located and use the other side or sides for eating and/or storage. You don’t want to run circles around the island when preparing dinner! As far as Traditional countertops, stone takes it usually in the form of granite or marble. These are not only elegant but durable. Other countertops for Traditional islands include rich teak wood countertops and quartz.
Contemporary Island Features
Contemporary islands have clean lines and an uncomplicated appearance. Contemporary is a simple elegance born of natural materials, colors and textures–rich earth tone shades of brown, tan, cream, sage, rust, and gold and innovative materials like recycled and ‘’green’’ products. Natural finished wood, often exotic, stone and rock, gleaming metals—usually chrome, nickel or stainless steel—and sleek simple hardware, lighting and faucet design. Polished metals are beginning to take a backseat to brushed or satin. As far as decorative features, it’s the opposite of Traditional but unlike Modern, the Contemporary style is not devoid of décor. It is never cold but, in fact, very comfortable and inviting.
Rather than the gracefully paneled cabinet doors of a Traditional style island, Contemporary islands feature classic Shaker or slab door styles and drawer fronts, open shelving, simple stools—often backless, sleek state-of-the-art appliances, and sophisticated countertops with neat, unpretentious edge styling. Countertop materials run the gauntlet from wood to stone to innovative forms of solid surface. Pro-style and stainless steel appliances are almost textbook in Contemporary style kitchens. Range tops and ranges, under counter refrigeration and dishwashers, are usually stainless steel.
Contemporary Characteristics Include:
- Frameless, European style cabinet construction
- Full overlay doors in a simple Shaker-style or as a plain slab
- Stone, wood, or solid surface with simple edge styles
- Natural materials with clean lines
- Floating shelves
- Brushed stainless, nickel, or chrome metals
The Transitional style is a marriage of Traditional and Contemporary, combining elements of both its parents. Transitional islands are often more elegant and decorative than Contemporary but less detailed than Traditional. The cabinet doors include elements of Traditional in styling with framed inset construction, matching end panels, and a mix of stainless steel and paneled appliances. Hardware can be simple and sleek or oversized for an extra punch. Metals run the gauntlet from chrome to nickel, bronze to copper, with emphasis on mixing metals for added visual interest.
Transitional Characteristics Include:
- Framed and frameless (European) cabinetry construction is often mixed
- Door styles are always recessed panel, with a varying degree of detail on the framing bead
- Hardware can be more decorative but not too decorative
- Stainless steel as well as paneled appliances, most often the dishwasher
- Millwork includes simples
- Countertops are stone or wood with simple edge styles
- Neutral paint colors, light wood finishes, often exotic
There’s a mix of natural and man-made in Transitional kitchen islands. Cabinet finishes are often neutral paint, mixed with unique wood finishes and exotic woods. Islands are masterpieces of both new and old, natural and manmade, luxurious and simple. You won’t see elaborate cabinet feet or turned legs but squared end posts, feet, and island legs abound. Countertops are granite, marble, and sometimes wood or quartz.
American Country has largely been replaced by the Farmhouse style which made #1 most popular kitchen style for 2018 defeating both Traditional and Contemporary in a stunning upset the likes of which we haven’t seen in many years. But it’s easy to see why America loves the Farmhouse kitchen. They’re bright and sunny, cheerful and comfortable, charming and welcoming. The materials used in this historical kitchen design are, again, natural—rich wood finishes, paint with lots of glaze, either distressed or clean white, ceramic tile, stone, and bronze, copper, pewter, nickel or black metals. The style is decorative, in fact, a controlled clutter is part of the style.
Cabinetry for the Farmhouse Island is simply framed often with corner posts and simple corbels. The cabinet feet and island legs are prevalent but often not quite as elegantly styled as the Traditional style—they tend to be a little heavier and more substantial. The Farmhouse style is attractive to the eye but more solid than the elegant Traditional with a welcoming down-to-earth practical look and feel. Like French Country, the Farmhouse style is flexible and can be very rustic or more traditional in style to suit the owner without damaging the design.
Farmhouse Characteristics Include:
- Simple framed cabinet doors and drawer fronts, sometimes with glass inserts
- Hardware is less decorative than Traditional but more so than Contemporary
- Metals are copper, bronze, pewter, nickel, or black
- Lighting is simple pendants or iron chandeliers
- Countertops are granite, marble, slate, soapstone or wood with simple edges
- Sinks are bronze, copper (often hammered) granite, ceramic, fireclay
- Faucets are Victorian styled
- Undercounter appliances are often hidden behind cabinet panels
- Millwork such as turned island legs, cabinet feet, simple corbels, corner posts
The Farmhouse Island is usually a blend of island and the traditional farmhouse table. These tables in historical farmhouses were massive and used for any number of kitchen chores and large enough to seat a crowd. Island bookcases, bead board, stone or wood countertops with simple countertop edge styles are the order of the day. Farm sinks are almost mandatory and often even a secondary sink will be in the farm style and always with wonderfully graceful Victorian faucet styles. Appliances are often hidden behind cabinet panels and dishwasher and refrigerated drawers are very popular in the Farmhouse Island. Undercounter wine coolers or full-sized dishwashers can also be hidden with matching panels or made to blend in with framed glass doors.
The kitchen island is the centerpiece of your kitchen; prep, serving, gathering, and eating. While style is important, it is nothing without functionality. Make sure your island isn’t just a pretty face, however. Make sure your island gets that job done.
It has been nearly a century and a half since Thomas Edison introduced the incandescent light bulb to the American public. Although he did not invent the light bulb, he did create a prototype that effectively and economically gave American consumers the opportunity to bring electric light into their homes. However, over the past six decades, the incandescent light bulb grows closer and closer to archaism. The future of home lighting has begun to formulate as the new light-bulb sheriff is in town: the Light Emitting Diodes Bulb (LED).
Good reason correlates to the massive shift from incandescent to LED. Firstly, incandescent bulbs are only available with Warm Light, which results in a yellowish hue that is not suitable for every room. With LEDs, you have the choice of using Warm Light, Cool Light, and Daylight—but we will cover more of that later in this article. The biggest reason for the growing number of LED lighting in American homes is the mass advocacy of energy efficient appliances. Not only does the latter help out our environment, but it helps us save money in energy expenses.
According to Energy.gov, LED lighting towers over incandescent in regard to energy efficiency. This report compares the difference between a 60W incandescent bulb to a 60W LED bulb; the results, staggering! Switching from an incandescent bulb to LED can save you 75%-80% in energy usage and cost. Furthermore, the LED has a lifespan of 25,000 hours, while the incandescent typically stays lit for merely 1,000 hours. One does not need to look far to see why the switch from incandescent to LED has become widely prevalent.
LED Lighting: Three Temperatures = Three Different Light
However, with innovation comes great challenge. Most people are not aware of the different qualities shed by LED lights. Measured in Kelvins (K), LED lighting provides a vast spectrum of light color and brightness. The lower the number of Kelvins, the warmer the light. A Soft White (warm light) bulb shines at about 2700 K, producing a yellower light for a warmer environment. The next option is a Cool White bulb (cool light)—typically 3000-4100 K—which produces a brighter white hue in the room. Finally, there is the Day Light Bulb, which clocks in at the highest amount of K (5,000-6,500 K). This light creates a bluish glow in the room, giving the room a “daylight” or even dreamy atmosphere.
With so many choices, how does one know which LED lighting is right for which room? What kind of light is appropriate for a kitchen—a bathroom—a bedroom? This wide variety of light choice can come as a complicated issue. That’s where the JWH Design and Cabinetry Team comes in!
As mentioned before, Warm Light emits a yellower hue into a room’s atmosphere. The latter concludes in a warmer environment, specifically one that is great for unwinding from the day. For a place like a kitchen—a room whose space is dedicated to preparing meals—a warm light proves to be inefficient. You do not want to be slicing and dicing in a room with a soft yellow tint for light; this is a recipe for an accident. Nevertheless, this does not mean that there is no place for warm light in your home.
Bedrooms, living rooms, hallways, and bathrooms—depending on your preference—are all places where warm light can exist efficiently. When you come home from a hard day’s work, you do not want to try and relax in a brightly lit room. Unwinding comes best with a warmer environment. Furthermore, places like hallways only use light at night, so a warm light is recommended for illuminating these passageways. In summary, anywhere in your home that is dedicated to relaxing or is associated with nighttime should incorporate the usage of warm light.
Cool Light for a Brighter White
Cool light luminescence correlates to a brighter environment. This type of LED lighting is perfect for the kitchen or a bathroom—bathrooms can use any light, it is really up to your preference. As we explored earlier with Warm Light, no one wants to prepare meals in a sleepy environment. That is why bright white Cool Lights are essential. These LED lights will efficiently aid in cutting, cooking, and hosting events.
The kitchen is the liveliest room in the house; dinner and cocktail parties, social gatherings, family dinners. A kitchen is a place for sharing food and good times with one another. You would not want people dozing off during dinner, or yawning in the middle of a social gathering. The liveliest room in your home deserves the liveliest of light.
Inviting Day Light into Your Home
Day Light is commonly used in professional environments. However, there are various possibilities of incorporating Day Light LEDs into your home. Out of all the LED lighting types—although all three work for this particular room—Day Light is most recommended for bathrooms. As many of you begin the day in this room, it should be able to wake you up; a room that embodies alertness. Nonetheless, incorporating both Warm Light and Day Light into your bathroom may better suit your needs.
Another room that Day Light can shine in is the kitchen. Houzz recently featured this stunning LED lighting project by Mal Corboy Design. A mixture of the bright white Cool Light and the bluish dreaminess of the Day Light causes a euphoria to float around the kitchen. Not only does the design allow for kitchen use efficiency, it embodies a certain magic that would make anyone tingle with visual astonishment. How this light affects your color selection for cabinets, countertops and paint needs to be a critical part of the equation.
LEDs Lighting the Way to Our Future
Besides the vastness of design opportunities, LED lighting also provides a homeowner with the honor of living green. With such a savings in energy, LEDs are the leading bulb in energy conservation. Not only does this mean a better future, but it means more money in your pocket.
With the growing abundance of LED lighting in American homes, it is important to know the difference between the different types of light emitted from LEDs. Warm Light is best used in areas of your home that are used for relaxing, or nighttime activities that require a winding down. Cool Light is perfect for kitchens or any lively room—such as the laundry or mudroom—in your home. Finally, Day Light is best incorporated in rooms that should wake you up—such as a bathroom or a kitchen.
The possibilities of fixtures and bulb combinations are endless. With such great environmental qualities and financial saving, it is no surprise that LED lighting will illuminate the path into our future. A brighter light for a bright day.