Friday, May 31, 2013

Three Minutes With ... Creekside Tile

Useful Spaces goes audio this week with a new audio series I'm calling "Three Minutes With".  In this series I will be speaking with the trades and suppliers Ideal with on a daily basis and allow them to share with you some insight into their part of the kitchen and bath design world.

Today we start with Jeremiah, my awesome rep at Creekside Tile. In the first edition of "Three Minutes With" we discuss the latest in backsplash tiles and the things consumers should consider when choosing materials.


Check out Creekside's website, or if you're in Vancouver or Toronto you should stop by their showrooms.

If you have any suggestions for upcoming episodes of Three Minutes With, drop me a line either in the comments below or on the "About" page.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Food Friday - Ribaliscious

It's Luau weekend in our household. For 10 years we've  been smoking meat for friends and family on the Victoria Day long weekend. For the first time in 5 years I've decided to add ribs to the menu ( due to the fact that I love ribs and my son now works at a great local butcher).

Vancouver has a large and vibrant Chinese community, and one of my favourite foods from Chinatown is char siu or BBQ pork. This marinade is my rif on char siu.

Ribs on the smoker.  We'll see you in 5 hours or so ...

UPDATE: Had to add this picture from last night.  90% finished ribs.  I'll be finishing these over charcoal on the day of the Luau ... but damn they smell/look amazing already!  Here's hoping whatever you cook this long weekend is delicious and is shared with the people you love best.

Monday, May 13, 2013

BlogTourNOLA - Blanco & "Water For People"

BlogTour gave me the opportunity to learn a lot about the personal side of a lot of the suppliers I use everyday.  Last post I mentioned the NKBA's involvement with Storehouse and World Vision to help rebuild New Orleans (and I have a more detailed post on that coming soon).  Silestone is involved as well.  So it was with great pleasure that I learned today of Blanco's involvement with Water For People
Water For People brings together local entrepreneurs, civil society, governments, and communities to establish creative, collaborative solutions that allow people to build and maintain their own reliable safe water systems. Empowering everyone transforms people’s lives by improving health and economic productivity to end the cycle of poverty.
I've been a fan of Blanco for years.  Several of my projects feature Blanco sinks and faucets.  Yes, Blanco makes faucets and has for years.  In fact they are one of the leading faucet manufacturers in Europe, and have turned their eyes to North America.  Lucky us, because their faucets are beautiful.

Blanco supports “Water for People” throughout the year, and is currently hosting a fundraiser through their “Faucet Innovations” Video. Each click on the video  (up to 1000 clicks) results in a donation of $1 to “Water for People”.  Because I'm a giving kind of guy, I offer the video to you here to make it easy for you to help out.

But that's not all!  As a member of BlogTourNOLA I've been asked to participate in a small competition on Pinterest.  Simply click on the picture of my Pinterest board below, and like as many of the pictures there as you feel worthy.  Why?  Well my good friends at Modenus are holding a contest amongst BlogTour alumni and the prize is an iPad Mini.

Hey look!  I'm on Pinterest!
So here's my proposal:  Help me win.  I already have an iPad Mini.  If I win, I'm going to auction it off (eBay, on this blog, something else?) and the money I raise I will split 50-50 between Water for People and St. Paul’s Homecoming Center in New Orleans.  Deal?

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

BlogTourNOLA - KBIS Observations

With a few weeks of perspective I've been able to examine my notes and photos, and read some of the other BlogTour participants' recollections of KBIS, and while this year was certainly a different experience for me, it was by no means a poor one.  Here are some of my observations from the show:

White was everywhere at KBIS, and I'm not just talking about the powdered sugar on the beignets.  Appliances, hardware (I discussed DuVerre's white handles last month) and even plumbing fixtures are being offered in both matte and gloss white.  I first saw the Vuelo faucet with the Blogger19 group in New York.  At the time the Vuelo kitchen faucet in Cocoa Bronze finish was the most elegant thing I'd seen, but I think you'll agree the same faucet in classic white takes it to a completely different level.  I'm no fashion expert, but I'm seeing Ginger Rogers here.

It's my belief that quartz countertops are succeeding in their plans for world domination simply because they are able to bring high quality, durable, stain proof countertops in light colours to the kitchen.  Marble lovers may say that the "patina" their marble countertops develop over time adds to their character, but secretly they wish the marble wouldn't stain.

Silestone has been an industry leader in quartz surfacing for as long as I've been aware of quartz surfacing (too long to mention). In keeping with the fascination with white at this year's KBIS, Silestone was showing off White Zeus Extreme, "the whitest white hue available in quartz surfacing materials". I've been using a lot of white quartz lately, and one of the issues I have is working with whites that have different undertones. As the name belies, White Zeus Extreme is devoid of undertones ... as if Zeus himself had banished all colour from the slab (too much?). An extremely versatile colour.

Silestone also introduced their Suede finish. A number of years back, Silestone brought us Leather, their answer to honed granite. One of my showroom displays featured the Leather finish, and I can tell you from experience that it looked amazing ... provided you didn't touch it. Leather showed fingerprints, water residues, etc. I was constantly wiping it down. My suspicion is that Suede is Silestone's answer to the problems with Leather. It is a beautiful matt finish that has none of the texture that caused problems with the Leather finish. The picture doesn't do it justice; you need to see it and feel it in person.

Laminate manufacturers made a surprisingly good showing this year.  We spent the first morning of the show speaking with the people at Wilsonart about their additions to their HD series.  Wilsonart spends a lot of time on their website and promotional litersture focussing of their granite look-a-likes, and I have to admit in the high-res format their are very impressive.  But the take-away for me that morning was their butcher-block laminate.  Amazing isn't it?  And what this photo doesn't show you is the texture in the laminate.  Even up close it's tough to tell the difference.

At the other end of the spectrum from the realistic laminates of Wilsonart was the wild mid-century Anniversary Collection of Formica.  Formica is celebrating their 100th anniversary this year with some beautiful bold colours.  I have no idea where I would use this, but I couldn't pass up showing it.  I mean geometrics on Tangerine?  Yes please!

I've visited KBIS in the past and have come away informed and inspired, and with a box full of brochures and USB drives.  But as I mentioned at the beginning of this post, this year my KBIS experience was quite different.  I put the blame squarley on BlogTour.

That's not to say that BlogTour did me wrong.  Different is just different, and change is good, especially for KBIS.  BlogTour has highlighted the need for our industry to embrace the social media side of the interent and to truly explore what it can do for us beyond simple promotion.  BlogTour (and other blogger junkets) have shown me the importance of using technology to connect with other designers and learn from them.

My typical KBIS experience involves taking a few courses.  This year there really wasn't time (which was too bad because KBIS has really upped its game in this area).  But I came away from this year's show feeling like I really learned a lot.  Some of that was BlogTour related, but most of it was from engaging with my fellow designers, most of whom I "knew" through social media.   Twitter doesn't have to be about telling the world you just ate a muffin.

My hope is that this trend continues.  It used to be that you would go to KBIS to see the latest product offerings from manufacturers.  The Corian and Silestone booths used to be my first stops every year, just to see the new colours.  But as more and more manufacturers come online and bombard bloggers and designers alike with new about their latest product offerings before we even get to KBIS, the WOW factor is fading more and more each year.  By embracing social media KBIS gives a new reason to come to the party.  

Party?  Yeah, KBIS 2014 is in Las Vegas!  See you there?

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

BlogTourNOLA - Can We Talk About This?

You may remember this photo from a couple weeks back.  It was taken from the back patio of Joe and Gloria Robert in the Gentilly neighbourhood of New Orleans.  For me, this was the highlight (and lowlight) of the BlogTour; visiting this neighbourhood as well as the Lower 9th Ward, two areas that are still struggling to recover 8 years after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina.

I don't even live there, and I'm still struggling to come to grips with the WHY of it all.  Many of my BlogTour colleagues are as well, which is why on Thursday, May 9th from 4-5pm Eastern time we'll be gathering for a Twitter chat (use the hashtag #BlogTourNOLA).

We'll be discussing what we saw, what we felt, and in particular the efforts of The Storehouse of WorldVision. The Storehouse of World Vision, is a network of six storehouses which supply donated goods such as building materials, school supplies, personal care items, and clothing from corporate partners like the NKBA and Home Depot to more than 2.2 million people annually in low-income communities.  

In New Orleans The Storehouse of World Vision is partnering with St. Paul’s Homecoming Center (SPHC) to help people like Joe & Gloria.  From the outside their house doesn't look too bad.  Trust me, it's uninhabitable.  And while Joe is trying to get his life back in order, he's actually spending more time helping his neighbours.  

There's so much more to write about.  I have about 45 minutes of interviews to listen to.  I spoke with the families trying to get their lives back in order, and with the people of St Paul's  In my opinion, these are the true heroes of this tragedy.  In the meantime, I encourage you to join the chat on Thursday.  8 years later, there's still much to talk about.

Friday, May 3, 2013

BlogTourNOLA - Steam Therapy, Stress & Swedes

If you've been following #BlogTourNOLA on Twitter you may already know that American Airlines decided to have their computers crash (maybe decided is too strong a word, but I'm sticking with it) the day I flew from Vancouver to Louis Armstrong International.  After fourteen hours of stressful travel I was looking forward unwinding in the steam room at the hotel.  Regrettably the steam room was out of order ...  a Sazerac in the hotel bar was a poor substitute.

When I discussed the subject of steam rooms with a colleague, he told me he felt they were too expensive for the average consumer, who wasn't really interested in them anyway. While I agree his observations are a common perception, the fact is steam is affordable and something that anyone (especially a tired traveler) can appreciate.

During BlogTour I was introduced to the Mr. Steam product line, and to "Mrs. Steam" aka Martha Orellana, Mr. Steam's Vice President of Sales & Marketing. Martha lives and breaths the steam shower lifestyle.  She told me about the "Virtual Spa" on the Mr. Steam website; simply enter the dimensions of the steam-room-to-be and the Virtual Spa will create a shopping list for you:

Actual List Generated by VirtualSpa

How simple is that?  You can also visit their SteamTherapy blog for advice on how to put your steam room together, and for simple ways to incorporate steam into your everyday life.  There's everything from the basic "Butler" package, to the high tech "iSteam" package.  Remote control steam?  I suppose after all that steam I may just become lazy enough ...

I've been a fan of steam rooms ever since I was introduced to them by a Swedish neighbour.  He was a bit of a madman about steam rooms, doing half an hour of rigorous calisthenics in sweltering humidity after we'd just spent an hour playing squash ... and kicking my ass in the process.  You'd never know he was 35 years my senior.  "It's the steam", he'd say.

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.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

BlogTourNOLA - Antiquing in the Garden District

I am NOT and interior designer.  I don't say this because I see anything wrong with being an interior designer.  I say it because although I employ elements of interior design in my kitchens and baths, I am not at all comfortable with selecting pieces of furniture, fabrics, etc.

So it needs to be said that on the second day of BlogTour New Orleans, when we spent the better part of the day visiting antique shops along Magazine Street in the Garden District, I was out of my element ... especially when one considers the talented interior designers I was traveling with.

Veronika Miller, organizer, curator and all around amazing host of BlogTour recognized this and asked me over lunch how I enjoyed the day.  She recognized that I might not be especially enamoured with Louis XIV chairs (is that such a thing?) and embroidered tapestries.

I confessed I didn't deal with this sort of thing in my daily work.  But I also admitted I was able to pick out bits and pieces along the way that I could use.  I really appreciated the opportunity to learn, and to meet some great people along the way.

The moral of this story?  Get outside your element every now and then.  Push your boundaries. You never know what you might learn.

I can't wait to use a rocking horse in my next kitchen!

A huge THANKS goes out to Sean Smith who lead our group down Magazine street, and to the shop owners who opened their doors and shared their version of New Orleans style with us.  I strongly encourage you to add these folks to your New Orleans itinerary:

Sean Smith Home
Ecru Antiques & Interiors
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