Slide on Over! The Booth

As an elementary school kid in the 1970’s, my family often dined at the Jerry’s Restaurant located on the main drag in Winchester, KY. I couldn’t wait to slide into the smooth shiny vinyl booths and order up a grilled cheese, onion rings and a hot fudge cake sundae. (The sound effect when my brother and I were wearing shorts always made us giggle.) Although there were table and chairs in the middle of the dining room, what we wanted was a booth around the perimeter! I always thought booths were the absolute American symbol of diners of the 1950’s. But interestingly, their creation is far older and hardly American.

Booth seating goes hand in hand with the development of the restaurant industry. Feeding people in public places has been documented for centuries and history is rich with tales of taverns and inns providing food and shelter for wayward travelers. The official beginnings of the restaurant business however point to the aftermath of the French Revolution. Chefs to the aristocratic families found themselves unemployed and began to open up their own establishments to showcase their talents. Restaurant is a French word, from present participle of restaurer, meaning to restore. Nourishment to restore one’s soul- bon appétit! Dining options moving out of private homes and into the public realm resulted in restaurants emerging all over Europe and eventually in America.

Original seating options in early restaurants were influenced by the 17th and 18th century practice of pew boxes for the British elite. Privacy and warmth were expected at church services and opera performances. Patrons expected the same during their dining experience. Booth seating provided the desired cozy, intimate atmosphere with some establishments going so far as to provide curtains as an added measure of privacy.

Times changed and the curtains came down but booths have remained as popular as ever … not only in the restaurant industry but in homes as well. Kitchen booths are less about privacy and more about maximizing seating options in tight spaces. They can provide the perfect solution to that awkward corner, making efficient use out of an otherwise difficult space. Built-in booths can provide value to a home as a finished look and can be customized in any shape and a variety of styles. If booth seating would work well in your kitchen remodeling ideas, we’ve had plenty of experience at AKB.

Come see us at the Little Yellow House of Big Ideas!

Say Goodbye to the Kitchen Soffit?

The ubiquitous kitchen soffit found in older homes is that drywall “box” connecting the ceiling to the top of standard size wall cabinets. The word “soffit” is derived from the French language meaning “something fixed underneath.” Soffits often hide wires, pipes or vents but many soffits have nothing underneath and were constructed around the kitchen for symmetry. Kitchen remodeling clients for years overwhelmingly regard soffits as outdated and aesthetically frumpy. Current designs favor the finished look of cabinetry to the ceiling accentuating even modest ceiling heights.

 

Something behind the soffit?

If there is anything to contend with during a remodel, electrical wiring is usually not a problem. On the other hand, a 4” waste pipe would be a much bigger issue! We have on many occasions accommodated vents and pipes that cannot be relocated by working around them and custom making interior pieces to conceal issues behind the cabinet façade.  This cabinet example is actually built over a HVAC vent which communicated between floors and could not be relocated. The designer was able to camouflage the vent by using a mirror behind the glass paned doors.

Regardless what you may find behind soffits, most everything can be moved… for a price. Whether the cost is worth relocating pipes or vents, or whether the installer can work some magic inside the interior of the cabinet is a question for the homeowners to decide based on budget and expressed goals of the project. Bottom line, intelligent design and a dedicated team to make it happen is all you need.

Ready to remodel? Start your process at the Little Yellow House of Big Ideas!

Tidying Up with AKB

Marie Kondo, author and star of the Netflix show about tidying up, is commonly acknowledged as the “Queen of Organization”. Her modus operandi is to create positive spaces by eliminating things that do not bring joy. She promotes a life of surrounding oneself with things that have purpose and meaning, bidding adieu to those which have outlasted their usefulness. (My Williams Sonoma holiday cookie cutters? Haven’t seen sugar dough in ten years. But sorry Marie, I’m keeping them in the baking drawer with the rolling pin and icing kit.)

Simplified lifestyles where storage has purpose and clutter is not classy now dictates cabinetry designs used in our remodeling projects. People are affected by their environment, and decluttering can feel satisfying, even cathartic. There is something nice about your items being easy to find, easy to see, easy to reach. At AKB, we’ve incorporated appliance garages for Instant Pots, mixers, toaster ovens and coffee stations. We’ve created storage for large platters, baking sheets and cutting boards. We’ve designed spice drawers, knife drawers, and kitchen tool drawers. We’ve installed Lazy Susans that don’t just spin but pivot and slide with extra extension, making nothing hard to reach! We’ve designed built in step ladders, chalkboards for grocery lists framed with cabinetry wood, corkboards in the tile backsplash to tack up items, … you name it. If getting organized would bring you joy, AKB can help!

Feeling Nostalgic- The Laundry Chute

Anyone else have a laundry chute growing up?  I have some pretty fond memories of my brother and I parachuting GI Joe and Barbie down our vertical, sheet-metal chute, clanging on the sides until landing in the laundry basket in the basement. As elementary kids, we tried climbing up and down it with varying degrees of success until our mother put an end to our fun. I’m also pretty sure we contemplated lowering our baby brother and the family dachshund in a homemade basket system down onto the pile of cushy dirty clothes. In our young minds, it seemed perfectly “safe”. Yikes.

Laundry chutes have existed for decades and were the answer to hauling mounds of dirty clothes, towels and bedding down the stairs to the basement laundry room. The laundry rooms I grew up with were dank, dreary subterranean spaces where time spent was as limited as possible. They were spaces that were cold and a little scary with concrete floors, exposed joists and cobwebs. In today’s world, clients looking to remodel their homes are relocating laundry rooms from below to the first floor and even to the master bedroom closet. They tend to be bright, light and filled with elements that coordinate with surrounding rooms. Instead of classifying them as merely laundry rooms, they are multi-functional areas! At AKB, we’ve designed  new “laundry” spaces that include home offices, craft areas, pet washing areas, coffee stations, hunting and golf equipment as well as general overflow storage. When AKB designers talk to clients, they hear their struggles and their wishes to make their lives easier. They see the space. They see the pieces and the parts. They are the ones who can create a living solution, one that extends beyond a kitchen or bath project and beyond simply a place for a washer and dryer.

Laundry room? Now an efficient, ergonomic and enjoyable space … and appreciate just being home.

All Dressed Up and Nowhere to Go

In March, you were ready for the college basketball tournament with an outfit befitting your true-blue status. The #BBN would be represented with sincere enthusiasm and serious style. Let the Madness begin! **  Not so fast. All conferences were cancelled March 12th. 

In April, you were looking forward to attending a few days of Keeneland’s Spring Race Meet. Already had spruced up your spring wardrobe offerings and couldn’t wait to showcase your new purchases, weather permitting. Keeneland can be warm/sunny or cold/cloudy depending on the day and which part of the clubhouse or track you were planning to enjoy. ** Bad news. Keeneland officials cancel Spring meet on March 16th.

Also, in April, you had plans to head south for Spring Break and scored the perfect bathing attire to hit the beach and poolside. You couldn’t wait to unpack the suitcase full of new resort wear. ** Governor DeSantis finally drops the axe. Stay-at-home order for Floridians issued April 1st, closing beaches. Checkpoints at Interstate 95 and 10 to cross into state. Hotels closed to the public, only “essential lodgers”.

In May, you, along with your Kentucky brethren and fans across the world were looking forward to joining in on singing “one song for my old Kentucky home” and had been brainstorming for months for the perfect outfits for Derby weekend. Dapper ties, fascinators, matching his/her Derby ensembles. You had an appointment with that famous milliner for a custom look. You even bought colorful clear ponchos as a backup so your outfit would still be visible on a rainy Derby Day. ** For the first time in 75 years, Derby will not be held on the first Saturday in May. It is postponed on March 16th until September.

Not many could have possibly predicted what has happened this year. (Personally, I was supposed to be touring Barcelona to Brussels in April. Instead, I was logging steps between my  bedroom, bathroom and kitchen.) Whatever pre-planned and purchased items carefully cultivated for plans got returned, credited or stored for another day, another time. Such is the reality of our current existence.  Everyone has been affected. Life has marched on but how we normally celebrate has not. Weddings, birthdays, proms, graduations, funerals, anniversaries and all typical events are not the gatherings of friends and family. Looking at the silver lining, you have to appreciate people’s creativity and sense of humor. Balcony serenades, birthday party parades, even those that are dressing up for some of the most mundane chores have made me smile. Those caped crusaders, zombies, elves and storybook princes and princesses rolling out trash cans to the street-side are entertaining. The dinner productions with menus, props and entertainment shared on social media seem elaborate but clearly gave the entire family an “activity” for the day. Spending so much time in our homes has many of us scouring Overstock, Wayfair and auction sites for that perfect side chair, lamp or area rug. Freshening up our personal spaces has never sounded so good. And the most important thing? It gives us an “activity” to work on. 

If your kitchen or bath is falling into your “to do” category, we’ve got good news. Our designers are available to meet you personally, our manufacturers are producing cabinets and our remodeling partners are practicing #healthyatwork strategies. AKB is available at info@akandb.com, at your convenience. 

Feeling isolated? Have fun and explore Houzz!

Household trim need a fresh coat of paint? Yard need to be mulched? Windows and blinds a little dusty? Looking to better organize your garage? Our current COVID-19 crisis has many of us relishing household chores as an activity to pass our day. Improving our homes comes with a sense of accomplishment (and has to be a better reward than finishing off the new batch of cookies!). Need inspiration for home and yard projects? It’s a great time to create an account on Houzz.com. Unlike Pinterest which covers any and all topics, Houzz is very home/yard/design specific. And it’s easy. No more frumpy folders of home and garden magazine pictures you’ve collected. Using your phone or computer, you can explore and save images as you wish. How?

Go to Houzz.com. Sign Up with Email (Big Green Button!) Create a password. Now you’re off and running.

At the top right is Your Houzz. A scroll down option will offer Your Ideabook.

Get Ideas is the button on the left side of the screen. There are MILLIONS of professional images for you to enjoy and take inspiration from! You can search for very specific photos! (Ex/ Grass covered stairs in Gardens. Concrete Countertops. Traditional Kitchens with Columns. Contemporary Bathrooms with Double Sinks. Handicap Accessible Showers) See a photo you like?

Click the SAVE button and it will save it for you in your very own online folder. As you become familiar with the process, you can create several Ideabooks, customizing them based on type or area. You can add, delete and share these online folders if you wish, or just keep them ready for the day you might be ready to implement.

https://www.houzz.com/pro/mclifton/architectural-kitchens-baths

Discouraging Your Co-Worker from Sitting On Your Lap…

and other wild tales of working remotely! Humorous online suggestion recently was to consider your family and pets as co-workers when you are working from home. Personally, I have an older dachshund that thinks this means “nap-lap” time. Feline friends certainly can relate! Since the social distancing situation may be longer than a few days, but weeks, this new reality (or coming soon to a business near you!) may need some news to use.

Pretty sure the world woke up when Italy became the first country to announce a national quarantine. Escalating level 3 TSA from 5 to 26 countries overnight last week was a huge wake up call. Plans were seriously disrupted and around the world you began to see a change in people’s actions. So… now a lot of people are working from home, or should I say LUCKY ENOUGH to work from home. Let’s keep this perspective in mind as I’ve heard from many people about the cost of buying new monitors, reevaluating their Wi-fi providers and horror of all horrors… no IT department to manage issues! Some jobs are lost and/or pay suspended. I have confidence our community will persevere.

For those new to working at home? Get a comfortable chair to work from… nothing is worse than a bad back, no matter your age! Self schedule exercise, meal and breaks whenever you can manage. (Walking the dog or vacuuming are always satisfying for exercise and productivity!). Call, text or Face Time a coworker when you’re needing to brainstorm and/or collaborate on an idea and need some feedback. Camaraderie is so vital and certainly is best at a face to face level but when desperate times call for desperate measures, we have the technology! Stay healthy and snack accordingly. I bought a bunch of childhood “comfort food” at the grocery that even had my family scratching their heads at my rationale. Oh well, nobody’s perfect. We’re all trying to make sense out of these very strange times. Personally, I am buoyed by the sense that we will recover with a robust economy that will showcase American patriotic pride.

Washing my hands and looking forward to when we say: “Do you remember when?” Be safe.

 

 

Personalize or Commercialize?

When did a home become a return on investment rather than a place where people live in and love? Who are you creating this kitchen for? You don’t really want an all white kitchen but feel that’s the safest bet? Common questions we hear revolve around how to add value to a home while satisfying personal design requests. We’ve had clients who didn’t give a sniff about resale value and just wanted what they wanted. Others had no plans to live in their property for more than five to seven years and wanted a universal look that wouldn’t be a headache to sell. No problem. We’ve dealt with both spectrums for 15 years. Our rule of thumb in either case is to invest in quality basics. Kitchen cabinets and countertops are usually the most used items in your home. Quality materials and finishes that can withstand daily use are critical. Additionally, having the right appliances can make or break the value of your remodeling investment. Brand awareness is key to many homeowners and luxury brands don’t just read well on home listings, they indicate exceptional quality and reliability. Ex/Sub-Zero are recognized as leaders in food preservation through their dual refrigeration system. Less spoilage, more savings.

The selection of appliances is also important. If you’ve gone to the expense of creating a new kitchen centered by a gourmet cooking area, a standard single oven simply will not do. Expectations are double ovens with precision cooking modes, dual convection, and even Wi-Fi connectivity. Our designers can explain which products will satisfy your project goals. Built in versions of microwaves either in the island or perimeter cabinetry are standard. So, what if you’re not a microwave user? We can help by explaining that some drawer fronts can be converted to a microwave-ready base cabinet. A consideration should you want to accommodate for a future owner.

You can let your personality shine through by selecting interesting hardware, paint color, lighting, barstools, fabrics, artwork and even tile back splashes. All can be changed relatively easy. Quality Cabinets, Countertops and Appliances are the most important choices to consider when remodeling, regardless what you have planned for the future. The overall look needs to satisfy and perform for you first and foremost. 

Measuring Up to the Truth? Virtual Kitchen Planners

Virtual Kitchen Planners and Visualizers are addictive to the DIYer.  Using start from scratch templates, they can create floor plans where they select, drag and plop in kitchen cabinets and appliances. These “planning tools” tend to be a bit tricky as some basic knowledge of cabinetry and appliance dimensions are necessary. The easy and fun ones are playing in the pre-designed templates where you get to select from various countertops, cabinet finishes, backsplashes and flooring materials to mix and match until you can “visualize” the combination you like best. It looks great on your computer screen… but doesn’t seem to really translate to reality.  Lighting is a huge factor. Recently, a prospective client was showing us pictures of kitchens she liked and custom cabinetry ideas she hoped to incorporate in her new design. She was in the preliminary stages of her remodeling plan and made it clear she knew what she wanted. She didn’t want an all white kitchen and gravitated to our selection of stained and/or specialty finishes, happily taking home several samples in various wood species to evaluate. Less than an hour later she called back in exasperation. “None of these work! Everything I thought would look good is too dark for this space! I need your help.”

Help means coming to your home and seeing it in person– evaluating your space and listening to what you want to accomplish. Natural light makes your home interior colors look different and professional designers know how to augment the look with the right finishes and design elements. Cabinetry using translucent glass and/or mirrors can artfully help define a space with the illusion of more light. Additionally, the placement and type of artificial lighting elements can dramatically change the overall effect. This is the type of professional help you get when you work with designers who can personally see your space.

Bottom line? Have fun playing with the visualizer tools.  When you’re ready to remodel at least educate yourself on what is possible. Come visit us… and if you’re ready, let us come see you, in your home! Then we can really help you decide the direction you want to go.

 

*There are dozens of kitchen-specific visualizers online. Here are two that were super easy to use.

https://seigles.com/kitchen-visualizer/  (Pick a style of kitchen then play with combinations of cabinetry color, backsplashes, countertops and flooring)

https://www.caesarstoneus.com/quartz-visualizer/ (Limited to Caesarstone products but fun to play with countertop and backsplash options)

** I also tried out Kitchenplanner.net, Lowe’s Virtual Room Designer, Cabinets.com Planner and Ikea’s Planner= all a lot trickier and require more in depth dimension and size knowledge. I believe their goal is to get you to work with their remote planner (who will never set foot in your home) and purchase product with or without ever having seen a sample.

Buyer Beware: Price Shopping for Fixtures.

Looks can be deceiving. There can be a difference between quality grade fixtures ordered through professional providers and retail grade versions that you can pick up at the local Home Depot. Hold a faucet purchased from the big box store in one hand and a similar one from a plumbing supply store in the other and you might feel the difference in weight. Plastic vs. metal working parts means breakable vs. long lasting.  Your builder wants to install your fixture and have supreme confidence that it will last. So do we. If a fixture is purchased through professional suppliers, everything is warranted. The fixture, the installation and any unforeseen issues (think water damage!) due to malfunction will be handled professionally. If you purchase a fixture yourself online or from a big box store, your warranty will typically be for the install only. You’ll have to deal with returning your item and any residual issues yourself… not to mention the additional labor to reinstall.

When you’re ready to remodel your kitchen or bath, trust in the people that can guide you through purchasing decisions that save you time, money and frustrations. Selecting the best fixtures for your remodeling project is as important to your design team as it is to your builder.