Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Gallery: Clean & Serene

You may remember this tantalizing picture as a pre-cursor to a remodel I was just starting.  You'll be pleased to know the bathroom and its hardwood flooring are now long gone, and the new kitchen that occupies the space is now complete.  To orient yourself with the new kitchen, the toilet and bathtub are approximately where we've placed the new cooktop.  Once the queasiness subsides, enjoy the new kitchen!
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The palate for this kitchen was chosen for its calming nature; the soft blues of the glass playing of the warmth of the laminate (yes, LAMINATE) doors. The countertops are Cambria Quartz surfacing (Torquay) and the flooring is an old favourite of mine, Marmoleum.

Combining the old bathroom space with the new kitchen has allowed the new design to eliminate wall cabinetry on two walls and still have plenty of storage space for the clients.  Pantry spaces are accessorized with roll-out shelves and a full height pantry pull-out to make the amble storage as useful as possible.  And by putting all the tall elements in this kitchen onto one wall, the amount of continuous counter space is every cook's dream.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Tile With Texture II

There's a really strong trend in the tile industry towards texture.  Tiles that take advantage of all 3 dimensions add depth to a surface in a way that faux finishing can only dream about.  Tiles also have the added benefit of allowing precise repetition of design.  I've featured some textural tiles previously and have discovered a few more that really show off this trend.

WallArt has come up with a terrific new series of embossed tile (16 pattern in all) made out of a 100% recycled and 100% biodegradable product made from bagasse.  Bagasse is the fibrous residue that is left after sugarcane is crushed to create raw sugar.  Apparently it can be compressed and formed into all sorts of shapes ... these tiles as an example.  

Patters range from brick-like, to more organic waves and craters (shown left). The tiles are thinner than you might imagine, so cutting and installing them is relatively simple.

Maps and various forms of cartography have been finding their way into many aspects of design ... so why not tile?  Brazilian designer Renata Rubim has incorporated cityscapes into a series of tiles called appropriately enough, "CITY".

The tiles are made from refractory concrete so they're suitable for both floor and wall applications (I'm thinking behind an AGA or an outdoor grill).  Several different patterns are available, so rather than playing another round of Sim City perhaps you can fulfill your metropolis building desires in your own home.

I tend to avoid celebrity designers on Useful Spaces.  Not that I have any issue with them per se (okay maybe a little) I just don't feel they need my "help" in promoting their particular product.  But when we're talking about Lenny Kravitz, well, the coolness factor is just too overwhelming.

Lenny has collaborated with Lea Ceramiche to create Goccia wall tiles.  "Goccia" means "drop" in Italian, and when you look at the patterns in this series you see where the name comes from.  Quiet yet visually impactful Goccia are available strictly in black or white and in a glossy or matte finish

Monday, August 13, 2012

NIM: VibraAcoustic - Good Vibrations in the Bath

I'm a shower guy, and yes if you must know I like to sing in the shower.  Not rock ballads or anything like that ... usually soccer chants (quit laughing!) .  But I've heard tales of people who prefer taking a long soak in the tub with some music playing in the background.

Kohler has taken this idea a step further with their new VibraAcoustic line of tubs.  Plug your favourite MP3 player into one of these tubs and you can enjoy your favourite tunes in or out of the water.  Check out how they're using it in Rio, Tokyo, Los Angeles and Paris!

VibrAcoustic technology permeates your entire body with buoyant rhythms that carry you on a course toward complete relaxation. Vibrations surround your body and resound throughout your core as the slow, sonic rhythms pulse both above and below the waterline. Choose one of our four original compositions or listen to music on your own personal device. Either way, the resulting relaxation and calm is closer to a spa session than anything previous experienced in the bath.
I just want to know if my bubble bath would overflow if I played my extensive collection of Georgio Moroder albums.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Making It Work - NKBA Guideline #4

In the last Design Tips we beat up on the work triangle a bit and talked about work centres and how they need to relate to each other.  I'm feeling a little grumpy today and want to go after the stodgy old rules a bit more.

Anyone who's spent any time in the kitchen understands that it makes little if any sense to put obstacles in the way of your work flow.  NKBA Guideline #4 states that a full-height, full-depth, tall obstacle (such as a tall pantry, refrigerator or wall oven cabinet) should not separate two primary work centers.  Thanks for the clarification.  Seriously, we needed to be told this?

In the top illustration on the left we see a wall oven cabinet to the right of the cooktop (it's the one with the red "NO" symbol on it). If I was only ever going to spend time at the cooktop this could be viewed as a convenient location; sear your roast then pop it in the oven.  of course, if you needed some water from the sink, well you're in a bit of trouble right?

There is a sneaky solution to this.  In the next drawing the tall unit is recessed into the corner.  Let's not worry about how much space this wastes for now, but rather focus on how it allows us to maintain a work flow from one side of the wall-oven to the other.  It's a great solution for the right situation, but an expert's eye is needed.  I try to avoid it whenever possible.

Our next guideline (#5 for those of you following along at home) is so obvious I'm a bit embarrassed to even bring it up, but you'd be surprised how many designs miss it completely.  No major traffic patterns should cross through the basic work triangle.  Think of it this way:  if the primary path to the back patio runs directly across the path between the sink and the fridge, how many times will you be interrupted by stampeding kids while preparing for a BBQ?  If it was my house I'd just knock the rugrats on their backsides, but if you're not as mean as I you need to find away to keep the traffic flowing.

The illustrations shows one of the simplest ways to avoid this mistake.  An island can clearly define the footprint of the kitchen, and will nicely direct non-kitchen traffic away from the work spaces.  A peninsula works as well, as will a Jack Russel Terrier with an attitude.  The point to take away from this: pay attention to the traffic patterns in your kitchen.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Kitchen Efficiency Comes in Small Packages

Integr60 cm wide fridge (on right)
I've recently moved over to a new laptop and have been spending the past few weeks going though old files and bookmarks, deciding what's worthwhile and what needs to be purged.  The purging was somewhat fortuitous because I rediscovered an article from fellow designer Becky Shankle.  Becky wrote about an idea she's been percolating about designing around smaller appliances, and it just so happens that I'm designing a kitchen for someone who would do well to pay attention to Becky's advice.
Let's design our kitchens around small appliances. This would allow our real focus to be on useable work and storage space, nicely appointed accents, good lighting and integration with other living spaces. 
It's all about efficiency.  If we have a small space to work with (as is the case with my client) then it's imperative we use every square centimetre of space we can.  We can't rely on "bigger is better" because we don't have room for bigger.  This isn't a problem if you're building a 4500 square foot monster home like those that seem to pop up in my neighbourhood like big ugly stuccoed weeds.  But as our cities because more dense, and space becomes more valuable, sub-300 square foot apartments will become more common.

An apartment that small just doesn't allow you to use that 36" french door fridge.  30" is going to be the biggest and 24" would be even better.  Becky refers to the 80/20 rule and applies it to the fridge ... so most of your eating comes from a small portion of the volume of your fridge.  It makes sense.  The other day our fridge went on the fritz and we had to downsize to a 24" bar fridge while the main fridge was repaired. It was amazing the number of items we just composted because they'd been in the fridge for so long and just never used.  Most of the European homes I've been in use a 24" (60 cm) wide fridge or narrower.

Becky offers other reasons for using a smaller fridge:
  • Our power use would go down.
  • We'd be more inclined to eat fresher food, since there'd be less space for prepackaged food. We might lose weight, like our European comrades.
  • Contents would be more visible; less waste and fewer forgotten items at the back.
  • We might have more room for countertop and cabinet space.
I have a hard time arguing with any of those reasons.  And as I continue going through my laptop and purging the things I don't really need, it has dawned on me that I might not actually NEED that 500 Gb hard-drive.

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