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.  (Pick a style of kitchen then play with combinations of cabinetry color, backsplashes, countertops and flooring) (Limited to Caesarstone products but fun to play with countertop and backsplash options)

** I also tried out, Lowe’s Virtual Room Designer, 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.

Mix & Match Metals- Selecting Kitchen Fixtures

I appreciate the art of Mix & Match. Interesting rooms incorporate various colors, textures, materials and styles. Art work, furniture pieces, throw pillows, upholstery fabric and rug designs can be combined to create depth and interest to a space. Instagram is filled with design ideas that have most people wondering “How did they think to put that together?” I take particular notice of posts by local designers ex/ @schnabelcashman and @matthewcarterinteriors. Love local designers who are talented on many levels with a sophisticated sense of visual aesthetics. Ever walk into Scout Antique & Modern on Liberty Road? Those folks combine the most eclectic pieces from different eras creating a look that is both unique and interesting. Their selections appear intentional, not a complete hodgepodge of unrelated items.

Remodeling a kitchen and picking out hardware, fixtures and lighting requires some professional finesse as well. In today’s world, remodeling clients have more metal choices than ever to consider. What used to be a fairly direct choice of Silver, Gold, Brass or Iron now includes everything in between. Options now include metals that are Brushed, Oil Rubbed, Distressed, Lightly Distressed, Matte, Polished, Antiqued or Satin. Each metal has a myriad of characteristics. There is German Bronze, Honey Bronze, Light Bronze, Mahogany Bronze, Medium Bronze, Old English Copper, Pewter, Black Iron…Wait, everything doesn’t have to match? How in the world does one know how to combine all the finishes to create the perfect look? Does the light fixture have to be the same finish as the faucet?  Do the pull and knobs on the cabinetry have to match the faucet? If you have a stainless sink and refrigerator do your fixtures all have to be silver? What guidelines do you follow for selecting hardware if you have a custom copper hood? What about old door knobs and hinges- do they have to be replaced?

We answer questions like the above daily at AKB. Our answers are based on the combined details of a project. Sometimes it makes sense to keep everything in the same family… and sometimes, mixing metals can be an effective way to make a room interesting. Creating that perfect look that personalizes your space is what we do best.

Small but Mighty: Powder Room Power

Powder Room, a bathroom in a private home intended for use by guests. “Functionally, a powder room needs only a toilet, a sink, and minimal storage for hand towels” according to the online version of Oxford Dictionaries, although some double as a full extra bathroom. It may be a small space but it can make a big impact on your guests and/or potential buyers of your home. Whimsical wallpapers, unique metal sinks and interesting vanities, bold paint and tile patterns, clever lighting elements…so many directions you can consider to create that perfect space in your home. Here are a few of our favorite projects!

Powder Rooms tend to be the perfect place to consider interesting wallpaper. (I once wallpapered an entire powder room, ceiling included, in Schumacher pink/cream/jade argyle. It was definitely a space to remember!) When there are no bathing areas, you don’t have to worry about residual moisture so are free to splurge on quality paper.  One of my new favorite wallpaper designers I enjoy following is Dandridge Art ( Beautifully inspired selections offered by Richmond abstract designer Dede Davis are available to the client desiring something beyond standard wallpaper selections.

Vanities and sinks don’t have to be ordinary, they can be extraordinary. Many powder rooms we’ve designed aren’t roped off for guest use only. Based on the location, the family may make daily use of the space. Custom storage options for needed items might be essential. Topped off with sleek metal basins and fixtures and the vanity looks anything but a utilitarian bathroom set-up!  Don’t need storage? How about a sleek custom-made marble vanity? Or a wall mounted modern version?

Bold paint and tile patterns can be fun to incorporate in your powder room statement. This beautiful high gloss acrylic wall mounted cabinetry is framed by Calacatta Herringbone with Gold Aluminum Mosaic tile to create an ultra-chic look. Wall Mount Faucet, Towel Bar, Tissue Holder all in Luxe Gold complete  the clean and contemporary picture.

Ready for a little pizzazz in your powder room? Come visit us at the Little Yellow House of Big Ideas!

La Vie en Rose- Remodeling with the Right Attitude

“Life in Pink” or “Life through Rose-Colored Glasses”, i.e., a cheerful, optimistic attitude. ‘La Vie en rose’ was a popular song released in 1947 by French singer, Édith Piaf describing the nation’s hopeful spirit after World War II. It is a very recognizable tune, symbolic of the joyous and romantic Parisian experience.

Is there joy and romance in the remodeling process? Probably more of a love/hate relationship. Love the initial phase of imagined possibilities. Love transforming possibilities into a working design plan. Hate the mess. Hate when issues arise. It’s always best to be pragmatic, patient and prepared to roll with the punches. Theme song suggestions? I’d go for Monty Python’s ‘Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life’.

As a kitchen/bath design firm, we specialize in the design of custom cabinetry, countertops, fixtures, tile and lighting. We work hand in hand with the contractor, waiting for their green light to deliver cabinetry, template your countertops, install your appliances, etc. Even the most experienced contractor who takes the age and condition of your home into account when creating installation timelines can encounter unforeseen issues which disrupt your remodeling schedule. No worries. If you’ve done your homework and asked for references, you can be confident your remodeling team will quickly and efficiently solve problems and move forward.

Ready to remodel? Come talk to Team AKB. We have been in business for 15 years, can show you an extensive portfolio of work and tell you dozens of comical stories of project challenges we successfully solved in older homes.  With a board certified architect and degreed interior designers, we deliver the design and product you want… and happy to assist you finding the  remodeling specialist who best fits your project needs.

Technicureans & New Age Appliances

Have you purchased a new car in the last couple of years?? Basic car features these days make anyone wonder how we ever learned to back one up or change lanes without altercation all this time. What newer model cars can do is pretty amazing– cameras, lights and sensors all working in tandem to keep you collision free. The changes can either be intimidating or exhilarating. For that tech-savvy, hands free, gadget loving car buyer, the more bells and whistles, the better.

According to the July/August 2019 edition of KBB, in this tech-savvy world, finding the right appliances for the right client is more important than ever. KBB introduces readers to the Technicurean, admittedly a made up term, but a memorable one. The Technicurean loves the Smart Home. They want to control their Security, Entertainment and Living Conveniences through their Wi-fi and enthusiastically upgrade their gadgets with each new generation of products introduced. Lamps, window blinds, temperature controls, coffee machines, holiday lights all managed through voice command or a touch of their cell phone. Smart locks installed on exterior doors that appear key-only from the street but can be voice-activated to open. (Handy when your hands are full of groceries.) Security devices with dual cameras help capture the people at your door as well as the packages that were delivered. The Pet Cams allow you to monitor, talk to and dispense treats to your pups while you’re at work. So what does the Technicurean want in the realm of appliances? Industry analysts suggest they seek the ultimate in the “connected experience” and respond to the latest in hands free capabilities to control their kitchen equipment. GE Appliances offers over 100 smart appliances with programs that can work through your cell phone or with your current cloud-based voice service. Running late from work? Preheating your oven remotely can expedite your dinner hour. Don’t know what temp to make your beef tenderloin? “GENEVA, make beef tenderloin.” Your GE oven will set it to the perfect 450 degrees and turn on the timer when you’re ready to cook. No time to read the directions? Scan the back of the package and let your appliance set up the time and temperature requirements. Some Whirlpool microwaves actually remember cooking habits and can anticipate requests for your normal breakfast routine. “Will you be having oatmeal this morning?” A concept oven featured recently at a tech show from Whirlpool’s line of ideas featured an oven window that is actually a touch screen, assisting with augmented reality for a better cooking experience.

Everything set up correctly in an easy-to-use consolidated control system can result in some pretty amazing appliances.  Consider yourself a Technicurean or just curious about what’s available in new kitchen appliances? No better place to start than at Architectural Kitchens & Baths, the Little Yellow House of Big Ideas. AKB partners with all the major appliance makers representing the best in what the industry has to offer.

“Mission Creep” Understanding How You Can Ruin Your Remodeling Budget

You did it. You dreamed of having the perfect kitchen and finally were in a financial and personal position to take on the burden of a remodeling project. Your dream made into reality! You had a budget in mind, but were unsure of the total investment involved so you searched and found the perfect team of design and construction professionals to help you. With their guidance, you were given options to achieve your goal. You labored over every decision and now, that beautiful kitchen you had always dreamed of is just weeks away from being complete! Cabinets, flooring and lights are installed. The walls and window trims are freshly painted. Hardware on the cabinets is pristine. Your appointment for the company to template your countertops is days away and installation is sure to be smooth. You can hardly wait to enjoy your new space. And then… as you pass through the other rooms of your home, you start noticing that some sprucing up in other areas of your house might not be a bad idea. A fresh coat of paint? New door handles? Flooring looking scuffed in the older parts of the home? Are there painted over and outdated hinges now glaringly evident in the older rooms?

Every time you engage an AKB designer, feel confident that they enter your project with an open mind and a goal to make the AKB design complimentary to your entire home. When you invite us in to evaluate your needs, know that we are looking at your home the way you will… with an eye on the total experience. When you choose us, we want you to be happy and informed and are obligated to share our expertise with you. Bottom line, when you’ve done your financial due diligence, choosing AKB should be the best experience to achieve your total goals. Come see us at the corner of Lafayette and Euclid Avenue in the Little Yellow House of Big Ideas!

LEGO House?

Relatively new to the market is the online “point and click” cabinet ordering business. All that’s required is you running around with a measuring tape and your cell phone to take a few pictures of your space. Send your details to the call center in Anywhere, USA and VOILA! Cabinets made to order. It’s so easy, what could possibly go wrong!

Issue #1- Houses aren’t built like Legos. Those iconic interlocking plastic bricks are perfectly shaped and reliably consistent. Your home is not.  Walls aren’t always square or perfectly level and will require some special attention during ordering and installation. Most online customers won’t be thinking about fillers, shoe molding, toe kicks and their raw/unfinished edges, scribe trim, soft close and finished ends to complete the look of the base products. And the online designer they are chatting with can’t possibly notice every detail of the space if they aren’t standing in it. The professional designer who has been to your home and measured it several times has calculated and inventoried everything needed to achieve the end result of a finished space. Their cabinetry contract included everything to get the job done right.

Issue #2- Quality and Look of Product. Your professional dealer represents quality cabinetry lines that offer a range of products in various styles, stains, finishes, wood species, high pressure laminates, acrylics, thermally fused laminates… all in various price points. You can evaluate door size samples of all these products, using them to help you select complimentary countertops, back splash materials, paint colors, etc. When cabinets arrive at the job site? The product is inspected by the professional designer upon delivery and returned if any issues are detected, relieving the homeowner of managing quality control issues. Order online? They’ll send you some chips of what they offer and the process is yours to manage remotely.

For the type of investment cabinetry requires and all the interesting little issues each house presents, it’s not surprising to read a lot of negative reviews for online suppliers. Quality of Product, Incomplete Orders and Unfinished Look being three big issues most cited. Seems like a large investment to risk your expectations on.

Looking for no risk, all reward? Come see us at AKB.

Five Questions for Architectural Kitchens & Baths

  1. Investing in a new kitchen is a serious commitment. What do you consider the most important factor when someone is ready to remodel?

Answer: Hire a professional kitchen designer. A degreed designer who can show you an expansive portfolio of work and can explain every detail and decision made is the person who can best assist you. Independent kitchen designers work well with the builder of your choice to accomplish your goals.

  1. Looking at before/after photos, it is clear that kitchen remodeling can involve a lot more than just replacing cabinets and countertops. What does a professional designer offer to create some of these spaces?

Answer: Professional Designers have expertise in functional layout and the ability to pull together all the pieces (cabinetry, tile, hardware, appliances, lighting, paint colors) to create the perfect space for each client. They accomplish this by listening to their client’s and then designing solutions to their everyday challenges.

  1. Any special design needs requested by clients recently in your business?

Answer: Family Locker Systems, Integrated Kitchen Appliances, Smart Homes, Pet Feeding Stations, Aging in Place Designs, Custom Cutting Boards…

  1. In your opinion, what general trends are you seeing in the industry?

Answer: We see clients mixing materials and embracing patterns and durability. Personalizing spaces with custom storage options makes for clean, clutter free and easier living.

  1. What is the best way to understand costs associated with remodeling?

Answer: Great question, especially if someone has never remodeled before. The best thing to do is come talk to us. Home improvement shows don’t tell the full story of costs associated with redoing spaces. The Designers at AKB are happy to discuss all your options. We represent two comprehensive cabinetry lines that give people plenty to choose from!

Modern or Contemporary? In Kitchen Design, is there a Difference?

Many a realtor will list “modern kitchen” or “contemporary kitchen” as a property’s positive attribute. I’m pretty sure they don’t literally mean modern or contemporary, but simply any kitchen that has been updated to some degree in the last decade! No earth-colored laminate countertops or bold patterned linoleum floors! So, is there really a difference between modern and contemporary kitchen design?  Design industry experts tend to see modern as more of a style, or forward movement based on past design trends… a period roughly from early to mid-20th century. Many of the design elements of modern are popular now which makes the terms seem interchangeable. However, contemporary is what is happening now: it is the contemporary version of modern. It changes with the latest in technology and materials available. Both styles tend to be a rejection of the ornate, devoid of unnecessary details. They result in a visual impact with the least amount of distraction from competing details. Contemporary kitchens take this impact a few steps further by using integrated appliances. Coffee systems, Wine Storage, Refrigerators, Dishwashers and Ice Makers all disappear into the overall kitchen design using panel ready products fitted with custom cabinetry. Full-access frameless cabinetry options (allowing no space to go to waste) are available at AKB in solid hardwood, textured thermally-fused laminate, glossy high-pressure laminate and wood veneer options for you to explore.

Ready for a new kitchen? Don’t settle for a design firm that produces only one style. You don’t want your space to look like every other project  they have done. Let AKB help you create your own style. At AKB, unique clients deserve unique solutions.