Take a Look at This Drool-Worthy Kitchen Design

image-kitchenThe kitchen is the heart of a household. It provides light, warmth, and most of all, food. Kitchens should be comfortable, efficient, and functional. Here is this week’s drool-worthy kitchen design.

Close mouth, mop up drool.

We like to call it ‘Ceramic and Stone’. This kitchen is designed to be open, light, and roomy. The center island is made up of a dining counter, gas stovetop, and the piece de resistance: A built in fireplace. The exhaust hood is modern and sleek, barely drawing any attention, and the sink is situated directly behind the island for easy access. We love the use of natural wood, white enamel, and slate to create a modern cabin atmosphere.

Despite the rustic feel, the appliances are state of the art. Built in refrigeration units in the corner and under sink dishwasher seem to melt into the room, unusually inconspicuous.

The reason that this kitchen was deemed drool worthy was the innovative storage concept. Instead of wall-to-wall cabinetry, the designer opted for shelving. This makes for ease of access and makes the room appear much more open.  This provides relief to the flat stone ceiling’s oppressive closeness.

This is definitely a room to have friends or family over for a nice meal, or perhaps to enjoy the morning paper over coffee and buns. That is, if we can concentrate on the paper. The room is just too pretty to ignore!

Simple tips to increase counter space at your kitchen

One of the most frequent design requests we see every day is “I want to improve or increase counter space in my new IKEA kitchen”. With a smart IKEA kitchen design, it is possible to make your space work. For a busy cook, lack of a proper work space can really be a nightmare: Where are you going to chop those vegetables? Where are you going to leave those sizzling pots of chili while you wash the dishes? If you’re thinking of changing your kitchen layout, we have some tips to increase your counter space that you probably haven’t considered. Take a look:

How to increase counter space at your kitchen in 5 simple steps:

1. Use multi-purpose, built-in appliances Do you really need that 8-burner gas range if you only have a family of 3? Do you need that microwave sitting on the counter and a separate oven? Why not placing both on a tall cabinet and free up some space? Using multi-purpose appliances such as a convection-microwave oven or a microwave-hood combination will not only save you money, it also save you space both at counters and cabinets. It’s a smart choice. v-2 2. Downsize your sink or dishwasher If you’re leaving in a condo, it may be a good idea to consider a 24″ wide sink or an 18″-wide dishwasher. These are amenities that can increase both storage and counter space. To make them blend in with your kitchen, you could use an undermount or an apron-front sink, such as the DOMSJO sink from IKEA. Or you could use a panel-ready dishwasher and simply use an 18″-wide door front to integrate it with the rest of your kitchen cabinets.

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3. Avoid cabinets or appliances sitting on the counter

This basically the same as tip #1, but this also applies to those tall appliance garages or fancy hutch arrangements with glass doors. Sure, they look nice but… Isn’t your counter and work space more valuable? If you need an appliance garage, try to use the back of a corner. That space is hard to reach and wasted most of the time anyway.

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4. Use drawers instead of shelves in base cabinets

Drawers store more. Much more. Keep your pans, small appliances and spice jars there, not on the counter. The more you can stash and hide away, the better.

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5. Minimize the amount of specialized appliances and dedicated storage

If you have a small kitchen, space needs to be used wisely. Think again: do you really need that huge coffee maker, that stand mixer, the capuccino machine, the panini press, the electric grill and the food processor sitting on the counter at all times? How about that wine cooler, the china cabinet or the linen drawers at your kitchen? Maybe not.

What are the best brushes for staining?

staining-brushesThe best brushes for staining furniture are those that work on multiple furniture projects. Brushes are the most versatile stain applicator. They’re used to apply clear, semi-transparent or semi-solid viscous stains. Brushes are used to apply solid color stains over previous coats of paint or solid stains. Brushes can be used to apply stains to raw new surfaces or those previously stains. Brushes allow for greater application control and offer deep penetration of stain into wood pores.

High Quality Stain Brushes

Buy the best quality brushes you can afford and then clean thoroughly after use. They will be worth the cost. Professional painters purchase the best brushes and maintain these high quality brushes for years, as these are literally the tools of their profession. Get a good tool once and use it for years. Do not buy something that will cause frustration and become a throwaway after one use.

Good brushes make the task of applying stain easier: the brushes hold larger amounts of product, allowing the painter to make a smooth, even application in less time. The best brush makes the finished stain look better, too. Delivering more stain into the wood with each stroke and allowing it to lock and dry properly.

A lesser quality brush can cause the painter to exert 25 percent more effort, and a poor quality brush adds up to 80 percent more time to the project, says author Tom Philbin in “Perfect Exterior Staining.” (2004) A poor quality brush could add up to three hours to a four-hour furniture project. Philbin says that the poor quality brush won’t yield as attractive results even with extra effort!

Natural Bristles For Staining Cabinets

When applying oil-based stains, use only natural bristle brushes. These natural hair bristles are sometimes called “China bristle” because many of the wild hogs or boars used to make the bristles originate there.

If you insist on buying cheap brushes, make sure to remove the loose bristles. Bristles that come off the brush when staining or painting will stick to whatever you are working on. To fix this problem get some tape and wrap it around your hand; adhesive on the outside. Then press the tape on the brush. Keep doing this until all the loose bristles are off. A sticky lint roller works well for this too.

Cabinet stains come in oil and water-based varieties. If using a traditional oil-based type, use a natural brush. To protect the wood from stain blotches, use a thin coat of wood conditioning before applying stain. The conditioner should stay on the wood for 10 to 15 minutes to dry. (No need to sand the conditioner.)

  1. Stir the oil-based stain before applying to make sure the pigments and dyes mix with the mineral spirits.
  2. Apply the stain to cabinets with a brush, working with and against the grain.
  3. Focus on putting a generous coat of stain on the wood.
  4. To lighten the stain, wipe some off; to deepen the stain, leave on for at least five to 10 minutes prior to wiping.

All excess stain in the direction of the wood grain should be removed: this step guarantees that the stain has soaked into the wood and shows the wood grain to advantage.

Expect to pay at least $25-$30 for a high quality brush suitable for cabinet work. Avoid natural bristles with water-based stain. Natural bristles absorb too much product–as much as 40 percent of the hollow bristles fill up for a soggy result. Older brushes (manufactured before World War II) are always natural hair brushes. Paint from that era was oil-based.

Synthetic Bristles For Decks

Water-based deck stains continue in popularity because these stains are longer-lasting and durable when compared to oil-based varieties. Water-based formulas are easier to use: the water-based stains wash with soap and warm water. Because they aren’t made with solvents, painters breathe freely. Water-based deck stains wear better and are resistant to the elements. Wood needn’t be fully dry to use the oil-based stain. They dry faster than oil-based varieties and they’re a better green alternative. A high quality synthetic brush for the deck starts at about $50, and the stain brush can be used to maintain the deck when it starts to discolor or gray. Add wood brightener, then a light coat of stain to seal.

Disposable foam brushes work well for application of polyurethane. To avoid the challenge of cleaning this sticky substance from fine bristle brushes, or for a fast touch-up, foam brushes save the day. If you really need a throwaway stain applicator, foam brushes are your best bet. They provide a good surface area staining and can be cheap enough to toss out. They can cost $1-$3 for a simple small to medium sized brush.

Is the Thermostat getting “Smart”???

honeywell_prestige_hdYou may have heard the big news recently about Google acquiring smart thermostat manufacturer, Nest Labs, for $3.2 billion. But why would tech giant Google be willing to pay so much money for thermostats?

First off, if you’re unfamiliar with the term “smart thermostat,” you’re not alone. In the most general sense, “smart thermostat” refers to thermostats that can connect to the Internet via a Wi-Fi connection. Once connected, consumers can control their thermostats remotely through a mobile app or on the Internet. Did you forget to turn the heat down before you left the house today? Not a problem—there’s an app for that! Maybe you’re spending a summer weekend in the mountains, but forgot to turn off the air conditioner. Again, don’t worry—just turn it off using your phone!

But that’s not all, many smart thermostats can be programmed by asking simple questions about your schedule during installation, then they raise and lower the heat/cooling to match your schedule. They are much easier to program than past customizable thermostats, or in the case of Nest’s thermostat, it can actually learn your schedule and tailor a program based on how you use it.

Smart thermostats also offer a variety of features that can help owners use less energy such as:

  • Reminders to change air filters
  • Pop-up icons to alert owners when temperature changes they made are saving them energy
  • Alerts that detect when an air conditioner’s efficiency is declining and likely needs maintenance
  • Reports that show customers their heating and cooling energy usage month-over-month

All of these features empower customers to make smart decisions about their energy usage, which can save them money while also adding to their overall convenience and comfort.

Nest-ThermostatNest has earned much of the attention of the smart thermostat market, especially since the Google announcement, but it’s not the only company offering smarter thermostats: ecobee, Ecofactor, EnergyHub, and Honeywell all offer devices with similar feature sets. Let’s face it though—thermostats don’t drum up the same interest and enthusiasm as the latest smart phone or gaming console. But perhaps they should, and Google is betting that they will in the not-so-distant future.

Home Building at 4 year high

Housing starts climbed unexpectedly in October, a sign that the recent recovery in housing is continuing.

The pace of home building rose to its highest level in more than four years in October, according to a government reading issued Tuesday.

The Census Bureau report showed builders started construction at an annual pace of 894,000 homes last month, up 3.6% from the pace in September. Economists surveyed by Briefing.com had forecast a slight slowdown in building.

The stronger-than-expected report came because of a surge in construction of buildings with five or more residences in them. Single-family home starts remained little changed from September. But the September and October readings were the two best months for single-family home starts since 2008 as well.

Applications for building permits slipped 2.7% to an annual pace of 866,000. Despite that decline, the October reading was stronger than any month other than September over the course of the last four years.

Housing starts have soared about 42% from year-earlier levels, while permits are up about 30%. Joseph LaVorgna, chief U.S. economist for Deutsche Bank, says the recovery in housing is coming at a critical time for the overall U.S. economy, as the lift it was getting from exports and capital spending by businesses had started to slow.

The housing market has been showing numerous other signs of recovery in recent months. Demand for homes have been helped by mortgage rates at record lows.
The Federal Reserve’s decision to buy $40 billion in mortgages every month is likely to keep rates low for the foreseeable future. The low mortgage rates, coupled with affordable housing prices and an improving jobs market have helped to restart home sales.

Foreclosures have fallen to a five-year low, reducing the supply of distressed homes available on the market. And four years of depressed levels of home building have cut the supply of new homes on the market to nearly record lows, according to a separate government report.

All these factors have helped to lift home prices and get builders back building again. So Tuesday’s report is just one more sign that the long-awaited housing recovery is taking hold.