Monday, February 27, 2012

Brizo Beverage Faucets

As a product line evolves, it needs to fill niches within it's original product line in order to remain successful.  A great example of this is the faucet industry.  Many manufacturers will chose to develop a new "look" rather than develop the breadth of their existing lines.  As kitchens (and bathrooms) become more complicated having a product line that doesn't cover as many bases as possible with a consistent look is, in my opinion, short sighted.

Brizo recently added a couple new beverage faucets to a couple of their lines of kitchen faucets.  Called "Traditional" and "Euro" these new faucets will allow you to add a secondary faucet to your kitchen design, without having to look for another brand that fits with the main faucet.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Be Colourful in Your Kitchen

I hate colour "trends".  Every year Pantone come out with a "Colour of the Year" and designers (fashion, interior, industrial and otherwise) all ooh and aah. For a month or two blog posts and magazine articles wax poetic about how this colour will infiltrate our lives.  This year's Pantone colour is Tangerine Tango.  Last year it was Honeysuckle.  Guess it's time to paint the kitchen again.

Please don't misinterpret my dislike of "trends" with that of the colours themselves.  I love vibrant colour ... anything but beige please!  I just don't like being told what looks great.

Silestone (quartz surfacing) has also embraced some of the more lively colours of the spectrum; their Orange Cool is really close to Tangerine Tango, and even Rossa Monza plays well in this spectrum.  The trouble for many of my clients is that some of these colours are just a bit "much" for one room.  The fear is that the colour will overwhelm the room.

Kim Lewis, the former production designer for ABC’s “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" offers some great solutions on how to handle this:

  1. Add an Accent - "If you're unsure about how bold you want to go, the key is to pick a few statement pieces in the room to introduce the hue. Consider orange vases, dish-ware or linens."
  2. Brush it On - "Find the focal wall in your kitchen and bath, and coat it with bold orange paint.  When using a daring paint colour, I suggest all other finishes in the space to be white or grey, creating a temporary or eclectic style"
  3. Immerse your Space - "Let's be honest - you want your kitchen or bath to be the talk of the neighbourhood, and using an orange countertop will empower the design of your home."
What I love about Kim's advice is that nowhere in there does she mention the word "trend"  Her advice will work for any bold colour.  Get in touch with me through my "About" page if you'd like to explore the some bold colours in your next kitchen or bath project!

Monday, February 20, 2012

NIM: The Urban Cultivator - Growing In Your Kitchen

At Useful Spaces I'm always on the look-out for new appliances. So many of today's appliances are fully-integrated, zero-clearance, require plumbing, etc.  If I can stay on top of what's new there will be fewer surprises on the job-site.

Last month, while watching The Dragon's Den (similar to the Shark's Tank in the US, but much better in my opinion) I watched a group from Vancouver pitch an appliance I had never seen before.  It's called the Urban Cultivator, and it allows the home chef to grow herbs and greens in their own kitchen.  Yep, an appliance that's designed to actually produce food.  Plants are water automatically, the air is circulated to promote growth ... all you have to do is feed the plants to harvest your own delicious, healthy greens.

It's available as a stand alone unit (with a selection of butcher block tops), as a built-in unit (much like a wine fridge) or as a much larger commercial unit. Some basic plumbing is required for drainage and of course power is needed.

The home unit starts at around $2,200 and is available through their website.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Monitoring Your Energy Consumption

As energy becomes more expensive and we use more and more electronic devices, the need to get some sort of control over our energy consumption is become more prevalent.  This is true for businesses and homes alike.  Fortunately there are some clever solutions out there to help.

Eragy is a system that will run in conjunction with the Control4 system and an energy monitoring device.  Eragy allows you to keep an eye on your energy consumption to anticipate your upcoming bill, and adjust your consumption as required.  All this information is available to you on your TV, computer or mobile device.

For a more detailed look at where your electricity is going, Powerhouse Dynamics is a system that analyses your energy use on a circuit by circuit basis.  If your fridge isn't performing as well as it should, or you forgot to turn down the furnace when you left for work, Powerhouse can email you and allow you to correct the situation remotely.

If recent home shows I've attended are any indication, this segment of the industry is only going to grow, although the irony of using an electronic device to monitor energy consumption is not lost on me.  Even BC Hydro is joining the party with their Smart Meter programme.  But however it's done, the message is clear.  Saving energy, or more explicitly using less, is here to stay.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Canadian Marble Eh.

I'm a very proud Canadian (Western Canadian if I'm really honest), so whenever possible I try to choose materials from Canadian sources.  I believe it's good for the economy, but I also believe it's important to embrace where you live.  Part of that is accepting both the bounty and the limitations of your home.  It's part of what makes you who you are.

Vein Cut

Aeon Stone & Tile in Vancouver recently sent me some information on Cafe Canal, a line of gorgeous Canadian marble (we'd say "it's a beauty, eh") that's quarried in Ontario.  This marble is available in a wide variety of tile formats as well as 2cm and 3 cm slabs for work surfaces.  Several colours are available, as well as two cut options: crosscut, or (my favourite) vein cut.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Proof Apple is Evil Empire 2.0: Food Friday Version

Last Sunday was Superbowl Sunday.  I didn't really care about the game and the only reason I watched was because there's bugger all else on the television on Sundays.  (That and I hate to be left out of water-cooler conversations after "the big game.")  And since it was Superbowl Sunday, it was the perfect excuse to fire up the smokers again for an appropriate tailgate-type meal.  And since it was a perfect day to fire up the smokers, it was the first chance for me to try out my Christmas present from my wife ... the iGrill.

The iGrill very simply turns your iPhone into a remote thermometer.  I have several wireless thermometers already, bt one have the cool factor of the iGrill, and none have all the bells and whistles that the iGrill does.  The iGrill uses the Bluetooth connection in your iPhone and the free iGrill app to see what's going on with your smoker, grill or wherever you're cooking.

This device has some really great features:

  • The Bluetooth connection is really reliable.  
  • The iGrill allows for two thermometers.  Nice if you're cooking two different types of meat, want to cook two roasts to different done-ness, or you want to monitor your smoker and the meat your smoking at the same time (like me).
  • The iGrill app allows you to set alarms for specific temperatures (to indicate when your meat is cooked) or a range of temperatures (like when I want to keep my smoker between 185C and 265C).
  • The app also graphs your temperatures on a line graph and (Geek Alert) you can actually export the information as a CSV file for your spreadsheet, or as a PDF.
My only complaint?  I have the white version, and it's going to get really messy.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Get Your LEGO On With CUUSOO

I've been a little surprised how many many people respond to the LEGO posts here on Useful Spaces.  I suppose I thought my love of these little building blocks was a bit unique ... and discovered it was anything but. So I wasn't surprised in the least when I came across CUUSOO, LEGO's online community that allows users from all over the world to share designs and possibly even have them produced by LEGO.

I've written about LEGO and community building before.  CUUSOO is just further proof that it works.  Have a look around the website and see the type of creativity LEGO encourages.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Design With A Fresh Perspective

This is Martin Rennie, the new coach of the Vancouver Whitecaps.  I introduced you to him at the end of last season, and since training camp for the 2012 MLS season began last week I thought it was a good time to talk about him again.  So what does a football (soccer) coach have to do with kitchen design?  Perspective.

One of the complaints we fans had with last year's team was its inflexibility.  The formation was the same, players were used in pre-determined positions ... there was little attempt to look at the collection of players and determine how best to use them.

Marin Rennie is doing just that.  True, certain players will always play certain positions (e.g. goalie) but Rennie's approach has been to use player's to the best of their abilities.  At first glance the Whitecaps squad seem to be very thin in the midfield (players between the defence and forwards).  And yet the management seems to take that in stride, feeling that some players who were slotted as defenders or wingers may be suitable in the midfield.  Martin Rennie has taken the time to get to know his players, and is bringing a new perspective to the team.

It's amazing how many of my clients simply want to stay with the kitchen layout they have had for years.  Old "rules" like the sink must be placed at the window or the kitchen must be designed around the "work triangle" may not necessarily result in the best functioning kitchen.  That doesn't mean that all rules are bad or must be broken, but sometimes trying things in a different way will result in something amazing.

When I meet with a prospective client I try to bring fresh perspective to the room.  But before I even think about where the sink will be located, or whether a cooktop & wall oven combination is better than a single range, I spend time getting to know my clients and determining how they work in the kitchen.  Once I know that I have the perspective to plan a kitchen around them.
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