Which Wood Would You Pick?

Wood cabinets are the classic “go to” for kitchens. Each wood type has slight variations in the grain (knots, patterns and markings in the wood). Deciding what type of wood is best for your kitchen renovation depends on the overall look and durability requirements you anticipate for your project. Here’s a quick overview of what we see at AKB!

Painted maple kitchens are the most popular choice. Maple is hard and heavy with a smooth texture and a uniform grain that is very easy to paint. Maple is also a relatively versatile type of wood, allowing it to fit in amongst many different styles of home decor.

Cherry is geared toward the traditionalists. Durable and longwearing, it is known for its’ naturally rich and luxurious dark color, but can vary between deep yellow and pale red. Cherry is very sensitive to light so you can expect cabinets to darken with age. Cherry cabinets tend to be on the pricier side but seldom chip or dent.

Hickory wood cabinets are an affordable counterpart to cherry wood yet produce a rustic aesthetic. Hickory is hard and heavy and shows extreme color variation. Its’ unique two-toned appearance is made up of natural streaks of lighter white, and darker reddish wood. Because a stain can’t penetrate the tight grain of this wood and veining can vary in a single cabinet, hickory wood cabinets are typically sealed with a clear finish. 

Poplar is a cost-effective, medium density option with good strength and stability and is particularly suited for dark-stained finishes. Wood is made up of thousands of cells, some large and some small. The large cells collect more pigment and go dark, whereas smaller cells collect less and appear light. So when you stain, you’re actually highlighting the cell structure of a tree. Bottom line, if you’re using poplar, go dark.

Oak is a very hard wood with a straight open grain. It is extremely durable with large open pores that accepts stain very well. The honey colored oak cabinets of the 80’s are out but cool toned oaks are popular today.

Alder is a nice cost effective wood that is also easy to stain. It is susceptible to dents more so than other hardwoods. With its naturally light tone, Alder is a great wood to use for lighter paint colors since it won’t show through.

Walnut cabinets feature graceful grain patterns and warm, sophisticated brown hues. The smooth, fine and general straight wood grain has colors that range from deep chocolate to light reddish-gray brown. We’ve designed many walnut and painted maple cabinetry combinations.

So which wood would you pick? The easiest answer is the best wood for the look you want at the price you can afford. Come see all the options at The Little Yellow House of Big Ideas on  the corner of Lafayette and Euclid Avenues.

Live. Work. Play. Stay

Dudley Webb’s vision for The Penthouses at City Center was to offer Lexington a superior mixed use property concept rivaling anything offered in larger cities like NYC and LA.  He envisioned luxury lifestyle units featuring every conceivable amenity allowing you to live, work, play and stay downtown. This $242 million dollar project is slowly winding down to completion and the result is nothing less than spectacular.

How was AKB involved? It began in August 2018. To execute the vision for the penthouse units, developers turned to AKB’s Architect/Owner Brent Richards to assist in developing an integrated plan to steer the lofty design requirements for this niche property.  Amenities include housekeeping, room service, health club and spa, 24/7 security, private entrance and elevators. Interior features for each of the 1609 to 5264 sqft units include 10ft main area ceilings, Sub-Zero and Wolf appliances, designer countertops, intricately detailed light fixtures … and from AKB, plenty of beautiful custom cabinetry!

The Penthouses at City Center give residents the ultimate in elegantly designed spaces, premium finishes and an unprecedented amount of luxury, class and style.

AKB was thrilled to be a part of this unique Lexington venture.

Barstool “Picks”

Your newly renovated kitchen only needs one more item, the right set of barstools! Selection criteria hinges on height, style, comfort and price.  Your goal is to create a cohesive look that balances your new space and creates visual interest. High back, low back, or backless? Swivel vs. stationary? Upholstered, leather, wood, rattan, metal or acrylic seats? Deciding on which direction to go has a lot to do not only with the overall look you want but who will be using them.

If children are involved, no surprise that upholstery gets dirty. Leather and wood will get scratched with metal detailing on denim pants and cleated shoes. Regarding swivel vs. stationary, I’ve found that the fewest moving parts when children are involved is a good rule of thumb. Something about spinning chairs and children is a recipe for trouble. Metal swivel chairs knocking into marble countertops can also be an issue. Versions with armrests have to be carefully measured to make sure the armrests clear the countertop height easily.

How many chairs does your island accommodate? Rule of thumb is to divide the length of your island’s counter by 30 to determine how many stools will comfortably fit. Extra wide barstools will obviously reduce your overall seating capacity.

Blend in or stand out? Scandinavian elegance, Italian sleek, Amish country, a hint of retro or industrial chic… selecting barstools is all about finding the ideal balance between aesthetics and ergonomics. Ask your AKB designer for helpful hints!

$10K Toilet

How do you define luxury? Extreme Quality? Expensiveness? Aesthetic Appeal? Luxury brands ride on perception; luxury items make us feel a certain way.  Some relate to a desire for quality or to own a “work of art” and frankly some relate to a desire to let others know they can afford that work of art.  Reading a couple of  expensive property listings, I was particularly enjoying the bathroom descriptions. You’ve heard of heated floors, steam showers and towel warmers. How about customized cosmetic cooling options that reduce bacterial and fungal growth in those expensive organic products? Interested in a toilet that costs $10,000?

Sun-flooding in every direction in this luxurious corner primary suite with two enormous walk-in closets, ensuite 5-fixture spa bath with Calacatta Gold marble slabs, custom white oak vanities, double sinks with Lefroy Brooks fixtures, radiant-heated floors, towel warmer, steam shower and private Toto Neorest NXi Dual Flush toilet.

HIS quarters, with a full bath and dressing room, are distinguished by mahogany-tone lacquered millwork with bronze trim creating the feel of an old school gentleman’s club. The shower is equipped with custom Olympic Grey marble shaving sink and anti-fog shaving mirror. Connecting is HER boudoir that is appointed with a Waterworks tub, gas fireplace, heated floors, steam resistant mirrors, and Biszet cosmetics refrigerator. A private stairwell leads you up to HER dressing room, a three room suite, with custom millwork cabinetry, glass shelves, lighted handbag display and a temperature-controlled vault for furs.

Most people just want their bathrooms to be a comfortable space where things are easy to reach and easy to store. Luxury to one is different to another. Updating that mid century bathroom with no convenient plugs, limited storage and traditional counter heights to the new standards can feel like “luxury”. Good news. At AKB, we can do the full range.  🙂

Why is selecting Hardware HARD??

Selecting kitchen and bath hardware is as much about function as it is about aesthetics.  Beyond the myriad of styles and finishes available, I find it more important to select by shape and size. Hardware reduces the amount of hand contact with your cabinets, which helps to keep your cabinetry clean. So how it fits your hand comfortably is a personal choice. Maybe you are in the position of having to consider ergonomics for a diverse set of users? Large hands, small hands, arthritic hands can be accommodated with the right hardware.

Pulls or Knobs?

Where does one begin to decide? Do you lean toward Cup Pulls, Tab Pulls, Ring Pulls, Curved Pulls, Bar Pulls, Recessed Pulls. Round Knobs, Square Knobs, Crystal Knobs, Knurled Knobs, Smooth Knobs, T-Shaped Knobs.  For those not working with a designer, sometimes placing blue painter’s tape on your cabinetry helps you visualize what direction you want to go. Once those holes are drilled, you’re pretty much committed.

Pulls only-Popular in creating a more modern look. Good for hands with limited dexterity. Caution: Designs with sharp radius edges hurt to hip bump and are known pocket catchers.

Knobs only-Popular in creating a minimalistic look. Good for the budget as knobs tend to be less expensive than pulls. Caution: Larger drawers may require two knobs. Knobs that are not round tend to twirl and create misalignment. (Think oval and t-knobs horizontal when the rest are vertical)

Pulls and Knobs-Common to have both pulls and knobs featured in the kitchen. Knobs are most typically placed on doors, and pulls are placed on drawers. Remember that the same finish from different manufactures rarely matches perfectly. You should try to use just one manufacturer when selecting a combination.

Key takeaway-Each kitchen is unique to the owner. Making hardware selections should best meet your style but equally as important, your comfort. Best advice is to go to a hardware dealer where you can actually touch and feel the product and decide how it might work for you.

Good Bye Old Kitchen

Save? Donate? Dump?  Your design is complete and cabinets are ordered. The contractor is ready to set the date to start your project. If you’re planning on living in your home during your kitchen remodel, get your game plan ready! With some careful planning, you can save money, lessen the hassle and come out successfully organized upon completion.

Action Item: Empty cabinets/drawers. Remove decorative items from shelves and walls as vibrations can cause them to fall. Are you going to reuse any appliances? Clean your ovens and dishwashers if they will be moved and stored in your garage, basement or other room. (No need to attract critters looking for a crumb or two!)  Assemble a collection of items you tend to use daily along with cutlery and serving pieces to get through each day, supplementing with plastic and paper products when necessary. If you keep important documents in your kitchen drawers, make sure they are safely relocated and easy to find.

Call Habitat for Humanity ReStore and see if they are interested in your old cabinets, appliances, fixtures, hardware or gadgets and make a date to have them collected and out of your remodeling team’s way. As you’re unloading your cabinets and drawers, take a realistic look at what you’ve collected. Still holding on to unused kitchen gadgets? The silicone Pie Crust Protector or the ever handy Onion Goggles? The Hot Dog Slicer shaped like a dachshund? That heated knife making butter melt that never made it out of the box? How about the Corn Silk Remover that keeps scooting to the back of the drawer. The Taco Proper- because spilling tacos is no laughing matter. Some people loved the mandolin slicer. After mangling my fingers a couple times, I pitched it. Any item that has missing parts or pieces needs to hit the trash.


You’ll still need to eat during your remodel, so establishing a temporary kitchen is a must. Other than a coffee pot, microwave, fridge, hot plate, or portable grill, the main issue for most people is water. Water is so much more than washing dishes. You need water to clean your hands, clean your fruits and vegetables and clean your surfaces. Purchasing pre-washed and pre-cut fruits and vegetables helps in food prep. Drying racks are nice.

Foot Traffic

Consider how you, your family (including pets) and the contractors will be entering and exiting the home. If you have a kitchen door that leads outside, problem solved. Otherwise, consider laying down plastic sheeting to deter tracking dirt and debris on your floors. Hanging plastic sheeting in open doorways can also help keep dust from circulating throughout the house.

When the project is done, it’s a good idea to change your filters and have your air vents and furnace thoroughly cleaned. Take extra care as you move appliances into your new space. Use carts and drop cloths to avoid damaging any of your new cabinetry and flooring. Then… time to enjoy.

Not-So-Lazy Susan

Fondue Night. Growing up in the 70’s, it was my favorite answer to “What’s for dinner?” We had the basic orange fondue pot with a set of long spears that had different colored tips so you knew which one was yours. Cubes of french bread slathered in melted cheese, chunks of beef fried in hot oil and angel food cake pieces swirled in melted chocolate- the ultimate in family dinner fun. But wait! Right in the middle of Gilligan’s Island, a commercial pops up for “The Rotating Lazy Susan Fondue Set”!! A fondue pot centered on a turntable, ingenious! My brother and I always wanted one.

I was curious as to where the lazy susan originated and thought a quick Google search would provide an easy answer. Not that lucky. 13th century Chinese? 18th century England? An invention by Thomas Jefferson (for his daughter) or a by product of the phonograph by Thomas Edison? No article agreed with the next. Seems it is a bit of a mystery for such a simple little gadget. If anyone has better information, feel free to share in the comments.

In the cabinet business, Lazy Susans are a little more complex. They vary in materials, shape, size and cost with the goal of making the best use of corner cabinet areas that would otherwise be problematic. Less expensive options are usually flimsy pole mounted plastic affairs, not appropriate for heavy items. Most of our designs incorporate the serious version, the Super Susan. Rather than being supported by a pole, they are supported by a fixed shelf, rotating on a ball bearing turntable with an articulated door. They are the perfect place for small appliances, larger casserole dishes and heavy canned goods.

If you’re considering a kitchen remodel, taking it to the next level in specialized storage options is what AKB does best. Pullout Platter Drawers, Appliance Garages, Corner Drawers, Spice Storage, Super Susan, etc are available to customize your space.

Allez, le bidet!

I was reading the latest issue of Kitchen & Bath Design summing up the market trends of 2020. Thanks to the pandemic, toilet paper shortages drove a spike in domestic demand for bidets this year. Bidets have been popular in Europe for centuries but less so in the States. (Theories focus on negative connotations/religious history.) The name bidet is derived from the French word for pony (bider means to trot) and was used for washing one’s… ahem… nether regions. This Old World device was the bathing “workhorse” to the French in the 1600’s. Original bidets were just bowls of water set in sturdy stools or chairs. Advancements included custom made chairs that discreetly held the bowls and could be concealed in the room with a cover. Eventually sprays powered by hand pumps were added. Jump forward to modern day options and witness the Japanese influence of combining the American toilet with the cleaning function of the bidet, hence the bidet toilet. The latest versions are compliant with ADA and Universal Design requirements. They feature heated seats, power options, remote control capability and guarantee  a powerful “cyclone flushing experience”.

If a bathroom remodel sounds good for 2021, consider all your options. Actual models I researched were the “Clear Rear”, “Tushy Classic”, “Bliss”, “Butt Buddy”(wow, not exactly creative marketing). Should a shortage of toilet paper be on your list of concerns, maybe it’s your year to embrace the spray!

Looking on the Bright Side

When AKB contemplated holiday gifts for some of our business partners this season, we decided against the large corporate options of past years and instead purchased gift certificates from local restaurants and gift boxes of DV8 Kitchen cookies. (One of our recipients said “not your standard issue Christmas cookie in the mail- these were really good!”). Giving back this year has been important to us, even if it just means shopping local. We were in awe of the folks at Bluegrass Hospitality Group, consistently providing food for our front line workers. They inspired us do something we’ve never done! We joined with Moe’s Southwest Grill this spring to host a lunch for the nursing staff at St. Joe’s East. It was a fun and rewarding event.  

We’ve donated to auctions and toy drives and each of us remained involved in our own philanthropic interests. Brent is committed to Young Life (a non-denominational Christian ministry for young adults) as one of the primary sponsors for their annual charity event. Gwen actively supports God’s Pantry and Iron Bridge Workshop (a local nonprofit helping men dealing with homelessness by providing a place for them to gather, provide personal care and make products during the week). Linda is involved with CASA of Lexington (an organization dedicated to providing guidance and support to victims and families navigating the family court system). Melanie supports the mission of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, where families of pediatric cancer patients are not burdened with the cost of care. As for me, I have served on the Lexington Public Library Foundation Board for many years. The Foundation provides funding for innovative and special programs within the library system…not the day-to-day cost of operations but the programs and events that benefit our entire community and make our library system special.

As this peculiar year ends, I am particularly grateful for the great group of people I work with… and also for the countless demonstrations of generosity I witnessed throughout our community, inspiring me to see the bright side.

“Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.” –Desmond Tutu  Here’s to 2021!

Tis the Season to be Fall-ee….

So long to the warmer and longer days of Spring and Summer. Daylight Saving Time ends at 2:00am on Sunday, November 1st.  Colder weather means more “gear” and depending on where your family enters and exits your home, more clutter. Mounds of coats, boots, scarves and gloves in various states of muddy, salty, damp and dirty condition can be avoided this fall and winter. Storage solutions that are super accessible and well-designed alleviate a lot of stress for a busy family. When redesigning kitchens and laundry rooms, the family locker system is a common request. A well designed space can help everyone keep track of their belongings as well as being aesthetically pleasing. We’ve done closed shelved, open shelved, cabinets and drawers, pull out baskets, shoe trees, bench seating… whatever works best for specific needs and compliments the existing home.