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Archive for June, 2018

To panel or not to panel… that is the question


Stainless steel Bosch Dishwasher

Reusing existing stainless steel dishwashers in a classic white kitchen

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.)

Some Guidelines

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.

refrigerator appliance panel

Thermador unit with custom appliance panel

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

The Importance of Accessories


custom living room

Soothing shapes and color offer a pleasing centerpiece

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. 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.

Entry table with accessories

Taller focal point in the center

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: JWH Explains Marble, Granite, Quartz, & Quartzite


Marble Island Top

2″ thick marble countertop with a mitered edge

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.

Honed granite countertops

Honed “Jet Mist” Granite Countertops

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.


Quartzite Bar Countertop Trends

Taj Mahal Quartzite Slab

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.

Practical quartz with the look of marble

Quartz countertop with waterfall edge

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