Monday, April 29, 2013

BlogTourNOLA - TOTO "People Planet Water"

What is it about the bidet that leaves most North Americans giggling like school children. One of my first posts for Useful Spaces dealt with this exact subject and 3 years later I'm no closer to having an answer.  Honestly, I'd like to go all "Southern mama" on y'all and give you a whack upside the head. (I met "Mama" on a plantation tour just outside of New Orleans.  She'd do it too.)

The fact is complete toilet hygiene just isn't possible using paper alone. There are crevices, folds, and hair on the human body that will never be 100% clean without some soap and water. Trust me, I'm a middle aged man.  I know all about hair and crevices, and after an extended visit to France where a number of our hotels had bidets I was converted.

TOTO figured this out years ago and brought us the Washlet in 1980.  I can remember the first time I saw one; it was in the Japanese restaurant next door to my showroom.  I'd heard of TOTO, but had never actually seem the toilet seat with the electronic controls. Yes, I managed to soak myself after pushing the wrong button, but I've never forgotten that "eureka" moment when I saw it. Putting the function of a bidet into a standard toilet seat served the function of a bidet without adding another fixture into your bathroom is clever thinking.

Today Toto offers several models of the Washlet, and has augmented it with a new line of toilets that take the hygiene issue to new heights that fortunately won't leave some of you giggling. Heard of the smartphone?  How about a smart-toilet?  The Neorest toilet features the usual array of automatic features one would expect to find in a luxury toilet, but returns to TOTO's focus of "people first innovation" and adds a series of hygienic technology that's straight out of Star Trek ... although I'm still not convinced why I need a remote control for my toilet.  I lose my TV remote often enough and am afraid where I might lose my toilet remote.
  • Automatic Open and Close Lid
  • Three Cleansing Modes
  • Hands-Free Automatic Flush
  • Cyclone siphon jet flushing system (1.6GPF/6.0LPF)
  • Automated 1.2GPF/4.5LPF when seat and lid are in up position
  • Adjustable, Warm Air Dryer
  • Built-in Air Purifying System
  • Oscillating and Pulsating Comfort Washing
  • Front and Rear Cleanse
  • Self-Cleaning Nozzle
  • Slim and Sleek Remote Control
  • Adjustable Heated Seat Temperature
  • Adjustable Spray with Precision Positioning
  • Energy-Saver Timer
  • Manual Override Function
  • Adjustable Water Temperature
  • Warm Air Dryer
  • Rimless Design Ensures a Clean Bowl Rinse After Each Use
  • SanaGloss® Glaze Keeps the Neorest Cleaner, Longer

Have you ever heard of electrolyzed water?  TOTO has, and adds their eWater+  after every flush to clean and disinfect, and once every eight hours during non-use. There's also SanaGloss coating that seals china with an ionized barrier, creating a super-smooth surface that prevents particles from adhering, while its catalyzed ion barrier actually repels debris, mold, and bacteria.

Toto is also taking water conservation seriously. Think 1.28 gallons per flush is impressive?  TOTO has upped their game and is offering toilets with 1.0 gpm.  The Double Cyclone flush is not only efficient, but much quieter than other flushing technologies.

I was fortunate enough to have been able to sit down with Katsuhito Nojima, Executive Vice President of TOTO USA, over a breakfast of biscuits and gravy at  Calcasieu (private dining above Cochon). Not very Japanse, but it strangely highlighted Toto's commitment to focussing on what the consumer wants rather than what TOTO thinks the consumer needs ... the "People" part of "People Planet Water".

"Katz" offered this infographic as an explanation (TOTO is big on infographics.  Check out their Pinterest page for more proof)  It's Toto's belief that simply building a better product isn't enough. It's about building the right product for the market they're in.  I asked him about the Washlet and the reluctance of the North American market to adopt it.  He remains convinced that while the Washlet may not be for everyone it's a great product, outselling all others in its category.  When we all stop giggling, TOTO will exactly what we want.

My participation in BlogTour New Orleans has been made possible by the generous support of the sponsors, and while I will be sharing their stories with you, the views expressed are all my own.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

BlogTourNOLA - Poggenpohl Cabinetry & Étouffée

BlogTour New Orleans and KBIS 203 have come and gone and I'm left with 1000's of photos, a pile of press releases, and a few extra pounds strapped around my waist thanks to the hospitality of the Big Easy and the amazing sponsors who helped put BlogTour together.

One of our first gatherings was at the Nordic Kitchen Designs showroom in Metairie, Louisiana. The evening was put on by BlogTour sponsors Poggenpohl, Blanco and Silestone (more on the last two in future posts) and presented me with the opportunity to explore how another firm in another market shows off its product lines.  

I learned two very important things that evening: 1) I love étouffée, and 2) my design approach of keeping the cabinetry simple and letting the materials add texture was alive and well with New Orleans kitchen design. Those two thoughts aren't as different as you think when you consider a great étouffée is really all about creating a base with a really great roux and adding texture and flavour with shrimp, crawfish and vegetables. It's about starting with a solid foundation and adding to it for flavour.

I could find no better example of that than this stunning book-matched walnut backsplash. It's finished in polyurethane so it will stay pristine with minimal maintenance. But it serves a function and if its didn't do that to begin with, the beauty of the veneer would be pointless.  You'll also notice the strip of electrical outlets along the bottom edge of the splash. The location serves to keep the outlets in a convenient spot while not spoiling the beauty of whatever wall treatment is chosen for the splash.

The simplicity of Poggenpohl's lines (like their new +EDITION line) were evident throughout the showroom. Simple door profiles treated with veneers, adorned with minimal hardware.  Very modern but extremely elegant. And lest you fear quality is lost in all of this, after 120 years of making cabinetry Poggenpohl is as committed to quality construction as ever.

Aesthetics in design is important to be sure, but as I've often said on Useful Spaces, if a kitchen doesn't function well it's just a bunch of pretty boxes. The truth is Poggenpohl does an amazing job with accessories. Roll out shelves, drawer organizers and my personal favourite, the plastic wrap dispenser all feed upon the idea that everything has its place and the kitchen becomes more efficient when we know where things are when we need them.

We finished the evening gathered around an island display; a group of designers from around the world discussing our industry and suppliers we work with who truly understand how to work with us as we endeavour to deliver beautiful functionality to our clients.  Poggenpohl is clearly one of these suppliers.

My participation in BlogTour New Orleans has been made possible by the generous support of the sponsors, and while I will be sharing their stories with you, the views expressed are all my own.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Katrina, 8 Years On - BlogTour Gets Real

Spending the morning in Gentilly learning about the work done by St Paul's Homecoming Center to put people back in homes in New Orleans. The work is far from done and they need help. I'm actually pretty emotional right now so I'll take some time and share more of this inspiring day with you later.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

DuVerre Hardware - The Kids Are All White

Apologies on the ban pun in the title, but I've been in my bedroom for the better part of the afternoon packing my bags for BlogTour New Orleans and KBIS and I've had 1960's UK rock to keep me company.  This week has been extremely busy for me which will hopefully explain my absence from posting.  I promise I'll make up for it with lots of new things from KBIS and the sponsors for BlogTour.

One of those sponsors is DuVerre Hardware, who regrettably won't be able to attend BlogTour.  Still, they thought enough of my query (on Twitter - @DuverreHardware - more on this in a bit) about one of their new lines to send me a new sample board.  A crazy week is always made better with new samples. 

DuVerre is Canadian based (beauty eh!) and produces some of the most creative cabinet surface hardware I've come across ... ever.  While other companies are stealing ideas from each other and finding cheaper ways to make knobs and pulls, DuVerre has focussed it's attention on design and sustainability.

Each of DuVerre's lines is produced in collaboration with one of a roster of award-winning designers and artists.  No shortage of new ideas here.  And thanks to some new thinking in the manufacturing process, each piece of die cast hardware is crafted from recycled aluminum that is fully compatible with LEED objectives.

My query?  A while back I wrote about a change in colour trends, and noted that white was coming back in a big way.  I'm really looking forward to seeing what new white products show up at KBIS, but I'd heard through the grapevine (likely Modenus) that DuVerre was starting to produce some of there lines in white.  The prospect of being able to bring white into my projects in a new way was too good to be true ... so I asked.  A week later, these were on my desk:

I already have a couple projects in mind for these, but before I set them free on my clients I'll be handling them ... a lot.  While this hardware looks amazing I have a concern that the white is going to look ... well, less white over time.  My initial attempts to scuff them failed, but it's only fair (to my clients) I give them a full test.  I'll let you know how things work out in a few weeks.  Honestly?  I'm hoping they hold out because the coolness factor on this finish is too good to ignore.

My participation in BlogTour New Orleans has been made possible by the generous support of the sponsors, and while I will be sharing their stories with you, the views expressed are all my own.

Monday, April 8, 2013

BlogTourNOLA - Meet the Bloggers

In just over a week I'll be on my way to The Big Easy to participate in BlogTour New Orleans.  For 5 days I'll be joined by a pretty amazing group of bloggers and designers; some are new faces and others I've met and worked with before.  So while I'm Tweeting my discoveries (@ArneSalvesen) there will be 13 others doing the exact same thing, giving you a very unique opportunity to see New Orleans and KBIS from several different points of view.  All you have to do is follow the hashtag #BlogTourNOLA.   In preparation of what I know is going to be an amazing week let me introduce you to the talent that makes up this version of BlogTour.

Gloria Graham, author of design blog Kitchens for Living is a kitchen and bath cabinetry designer with AKBD certification from the National Kitchen & Bath Association. The co-author of The Complete Idiots Guide to Remodeling Your Kitchen Illustrated, her work has appeared on This Old House as well as Florida Design Magazine, The Sun Sentinel and the Palm Beach Post. She is a proud member of both the BLANCO Design Council and the illustrious “Blogger 19.” Gloria’s unique vision blends her work as a mixed media artist and avid world traveler with 19 years experience as a designer in the kitchen and bath industry. You can find her on Twitter as @Kitchens4living

Erica Islas is the founder and principal designer at EMI Interior Design, Inc., a full service interior design firm in Los Angeles, and author of an eponymous blog. A modernist at heart, Erica’s interiors are timeless and fun. “Form follows function” is Erica’s guiding philosophy. She approaches every project from an architectural perspective, never sacrificing usability and comfort. Her interiors are innovative, inviting and ultimately functional. Erica has appeared on HGTV design shows and her work is currently featured on HGTV’s designer portfolio. Her pro-bono work has appeared in Nesting Newbies & The Los Angeles Times. Her design work has also been featured in Real Simple Magazine, Dwell Magazine , Real Kitchens, and most recently Smalls Rooms Magazine You can find her on Twitter as @EMIIntDesign

Toma Haines, also known as The Antiques Diva is an American expat living in Europe who has traveled and antique-shopped in over 30 countries and, in her own words, has ‘learned how to live a life without borders’. Toma runs antiques, vintage, home decor and lifestyle shopping tours in five languages and six countries – France, England, Italy, Belgium, Holland and Germany. Somehow she also finds time to update her popular blog sharing advice on entertaining diva style and the latest home decorating trends, as well as tweeting as @TheAntiquesDiva

Cynthia Bogart is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of The Daily Basics, the on-line magazine which covers home and gardens, travel and living, food and drink, body and fashion, arts and literature and just about anything else you might ever want to read about. Cynthia spent 18 years with Better Homes & Gardens, Traditional Home, and Renovation Style magazines where her job was to find homes and trends, style and work with top photographers, shoot the stories and then write the manuscript for many of the articles you’ve been reading all these years. Cynthia, a native New Yorker, relocated to Rhode Island with her husband, three children and two dogs ten years ago. You can find Cynthia on Twitter as @thedailybasics

Jennifer Mehditash is a New York interior designer, with a career that started in London and then Portugal. She takes great pleasure in sharing her passion for art and design through her blog Dec-a-Porter. Since moving to NY, she has been included in the coveted Style Spotters for High Point Market, part of Brizo Fashion Week, and a Curator for the Joss & Main flash sale. She also contributed and featured on the Nate Berkus Show, on Fashion+Decor, on and on the New England Home Magazine blog. As a much in demand speaker, Jennifer continues to share her knowledge and her love of everyday inspirations with anyone that cares to listen. Follow her on Twitter as @decaporter

Interior designer Patricia Davis Brown is the creator of the international design blog, Dig This Design which she describes as ‘a blog about ALL things design’. Patti opened her first design studio in 1992 specializing in high end residential and commercial interiors with emphasis on Kitchen and Bath design. In 2010 she launched Professional Kitchen and Bath Plans her virtual design company and her online home furnishings company Patti’s work has been recognized with 15 National and several State awards and featured in Florida Architecture, Traditional Homes & Design, Florida Design, Qualified Remodeler Magazine, Better Homes and Gardens Kitchen and Bath Ideas and The Kids Space Idea Book amongst others. You can find her on Twitter as @patriciadavisbr

Designer, writer, and author Kelly Morisseau balances her busy day job as an interior designer with her love of writing about her latest design finds. Her blog,Kitchen Sync, focuses on kitchens, baths, and generational behavior trends while her book, Kelly’s Kitchen Sync, helps pros and homeowners avoid common kitchen design errors. She has served as judge for both US and Canadian NKBA.national design competitions, written for trade publications, and been featured in design magazines. She is a Certified Master Kitchen and Bath Designer and a Certified Interior Designer in northern California. You can find her on Twitter as @Kitchen_Sync

Carmen Natschke is known by many as The Decorating Diva, which is, of course, the name of her on-line luxury home design magazine and lifestyle journal dedicated to the concept of living a stylish and comfortably elegant life at home, as she says, ‘joyfully surrounded by the beautiful things you love’. Carmen blogs about sophisticated, smart, stylish and beautiful decor and shares her decorating and style advice with a substantial and loyal readership who also enjoy posts by contributors on design trips far and near . You can also follow Carmen on Twitter, where she tweets as @DecoratingDiva

Leslie Fine is President of her own award winning, full service design firm specializing in residential interiors for the luxury market and author of Leslie’s Blog. Leslie, a past President of the New England Chapter of the International Furnishings and Design Association (IFDA), prides herself on developing close working relationships with her clients. “Listening to my clients and responding to their lifestyles is essential. My expertise is in creating a functional home environment while simultaneously expressing the individuality of each client.” That expertise is generously shared in her blog and evident on Twitter where you can find her as @lesliefineint

Rebecca Reynolds is the founder and principal of New Canaan Kitchens, and author of KitchenINK. New Canaan Kitchens has been serving Fairfield and Westhchester Counties for the past 18 years but her portfolio contains projects from Cape Cod, Massachusetts to Rancho Santa Fe, California. Rebecca’s designs have even reached all the way to Kosovo when she was asked to design a kitchen for her local stone suppliers. Rebecca has a sense of style for combining the past and present while creating the perfect synergy of form, function and fabulous modern day living environments. Rebecca’s blog is always inspiring and entertaining, as are her tweets which you can find by following @RRKitchenDesign

Nest by Tamara, the blog of New York City designer Tamara Stephenson, is a thing of beauty. Tamara muses on her blog about interior design, antiques, architecture, gardening, cooking and entertaining – all that encompasses ‘nesting’ to create a well-lived life and a stylish home. As Tamara says ‘This is not a DIY blog nor a super snobby, stuffy view, but instead a philosophy of infusing a relaxed elegance into your home’. Tamara also writes for websites and magazines, including ‘East End Nest’ a weekly column in East Hampton magazine, Dan’s Papers. Tamara also imparts her wisdom on Twitter where you can find her as @nestnestnest

Linda Merrill, author of Surroundings blog, is an expert in interior design, media communications & marketing. A lifelong passion for creating beautiful – and livable – spaces combined with a savvy business mind has brought her design work and writing to a National and even International audience. Her blog offers her unique views on wide ranging aspects of the built environment from architecture, photographic tours, product reviews, design inspirations, special events and even movie set decor. Linda holds a certificate in Decorative Arts from the acclaimed Boston Architectural College and a Bachelor’s in Music Performance. She can be found on Twitter as @Surroundings

Barbara Elza Hirsch is a French-American interior designer and principal of ELZA B. DESIGN, INC based in Acton, MA and the woman behind the Chez Elza blog. Her European roots greatly influence her design work, as does her background in Art and Fashion. She likes to “build a room like a painting, each stroke and layer creating the final space”. Barbara creates stylish, textured and restful interiors for her clients. She lives in an old farmhouse with her husband, two sons and a giant cat. When Barbara is not gardening, or testing a new recipe, you can find her nestled somewhere with a book or even on Twitter as @elzabdesign

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Help Me Help You: An Open Letter To My Clients

I love you all.  Really I do.  But there are times I feel we get lost along the way to designer-client bliss.  So in the interest of keeping our relationships going strong I'd like to discuss a few things that sometimes get forgotten along the way.  I know it's a bit of a risk, but the strongest relationships always grow from risk.
  1. I cannot read minds.  I realize my ability to anticipate certain needs or desires you may have for your project may appear to come from some sort of super-natural designer ESP.  But it's really not.  What you're experiencing comes from years of experience in the design industry and hundreds of projects under my belt.  So if you really don't like that faucet I'm proposing, you need to tell me before I order it.  I'm no mind reader, but I'm an excellent listener. 
  2. I'm not an elephant.  Over the course of planning for your project we are going to discuss many different ideas.  Tile colours, cabinet accessories, paint finishes ... the choices available today are staggering. (That's why you came to see me in the first place isn't it?  To help you filter through all the choices and put together something that works for you and your home.)  And while we may have discussed a recycling bin for your kitchen two months ago when we first met, there is a chance I have forgotten about it.  This is why I present you with project specifications, and more importantly, drawings.  If that recycling bin isn't shown in there somewhere, chances are it's not included in the order.
  3. I'm not monogamous. As much as I'd like you to be my only client, you're not.  (I need several clients to help support my Lego and BBQ addictions.)  I promise that when I have a meeting with you I am focused solely on you and your project.  Just remember I make the same promise to all my clients; it's only fair.  So if you leave me a voicemail message or an email and I don't respond right away, please understand that I'm not ignoring you.  I'm just giving another client the same attention you'd expect.
  4. HGTV does not represent real life.  Ty Pennington is not going to descend upon your home with his crew of thousands to get your new bathroom completed in 48 hours no matter which members of your family are coming to stay for the weekend.  If the quartz countertop you selected has been discontinued, no amount of coercion by me is going to get the manufacturer to make you just one more sheet.  The drywall mud is not going to dry faster and the tile setter can only work so many hours in a day.  I am a professional, and I hire professionals to work for you.  Trust me, we all want to do the best work possible; work we can be proud of.  But sometimes things happen and the best I can do is promise you we will work as hard as we can to remedy the situation.
  5. This is a business for me.  Designing your kitchen, bath, home office, etc. is my business, so at some point I'm going to be asking for money (to support the aforementioned Lego & BBQ addictions).  When we sign contracts and agree on the scope of work we'll also agree on how much you'll pay me, how you'll pay me (per hour, flat fee, etc.) and when you'll pay me.  If something creeps up that falls outside the agreed upon scope of work I'll discuss any additional costs before we proceed.  All I ask is that you honour the agreement we made when we signed the contract.  Remember that by the time I've invoiced you I've likely already paid for materials and labour.  I realize these projects are expensive.  They are for me too.  
I hope you can read this with an open mind and an open heart and know that I only want what's best for us all.  If you feel there's a better way to improve our relationship or some other issue I've missed I'd love to hear it in the Comments section below.

Warmest regards,

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Kitchen Design Made Easy: The SketchThis Kitchen Design Plug-In

I've been a Sketchup user for several years now.  In fact Sketchup and the companion Layout software have become the main tool in my design and presentation arsenal.  If I have one issue with the programme it's that it's not "kitchen design" specific.  True, I'm able to create and save cabinetry as components (or download the components others have created) and insert them into my models.  But compared to programmes like 20/20 the ability to modify your cabinets in Sketchup (i.e. change widths, door styles, accessories, etc.) has been tedious at best.

Thankfully my whimpers of discontent have not been in vain, and Eric Schimelpfenig from has been busy working away at a new plug-in for Sketchup that addresses the needs of kitchen designers everywhere.  I've had the good fortune of beta-testing the plug-in for about a year now and am thrilled to announce that it is now available for you to download.

This plugin features an incredibly flexible library of Dynamic Components built by kitchen designers, for kitchen designers.  In addition to that you’ll find a growing materials library, Shaderlight enabled lights for rendering, and a host of help videos.  Best of all, when you’re designing kitchens you can swap doors in and out right from the cloud. 
Speaking of the cloud, every aspect of this plugin is hosted in the cloud.  What does this mean for you?  As we continually develop and add to the component library every user benefits from every change instantly, no waiting for software updates and long installs! 
Easily my favourite feature in Eric's plug-in is the ability to swap out doors and materials on the fly.  We've all had clients who have said they wanted high-gloss polyurethane doors at the first meeting, only to change their mind to maple Shaker at the second meeting.  With the SketchThis plug-in you spend your time designing, not figuring out how to change the size of a component without having to re-make it.

The plug-in runs on the Mac or PC version of Sketchup (version 8 or later).  The majority of the content is free, but if you're doing a lot of designs the $30/month "Pro" fee will give you access to even more. If you are a kitchen designer, interior designer, or are just looking for a simpler way to create kitchens in Sketchup this is a great addition to your plug-in file.
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