Maintain Your Garden This Fall: TIPS

While autumn’s weather remains relatively mild, spend some quality time caring for your home and yard. Read on for reminders on which tasks to tackle this time of year.

To cut back on gutter-cleaning duty, consider installing aluminum, foam, or vinyl gutter guards that help block debris from entering while allowing water to drain. Remember that nothing is foolproof, so look for models that can be removed for periodic cleanings.

Vintage? This Kitchen Proves “Old” is Better.


This reclaimed New York cook space (dating back to 1755!) proves everything old is, in fact, new again.

Think your kitchen needs a remodel? Imagine how homeowner Daniel Flebut felt when he first laid eyes on the cook space of his overgrown 1700s stone house in New Paltz, New York. Fortunately, the architect-by-day welcomed the challenge of restoring the room to its old glory. Here’s how he and partner William Charnock paid tribute to its past while adding a few modern-day upgrades.

Better With Age

Imperfect floors. Rather than replace the “flawed” flooring where the fireplace once stood, Daniel embraced the pieced-together texture, leaving the original wide plank boards and stone hearth untouched.

Modern lighting. Sleek fixtures (a mix of large dome pendants and custom swing-arm lamps) provide a contemporary contrast to the rustic space. 

 

Reclaimed island. William fashioned the island topper, secured to two old sawhorses, from floorboards salvaged from an upstairs bedroom.


Pop of Color
The built-ins pay homage to the colorful wainscoting unearthed during the restoration. They couple used Cook’s Blue by Farrow and Ball.


Aga Oven
The cream-colored cast-iron cooker—William’s favorite feature in the kitchen—sits on the footprint of the home’s old fireplace hearth. Next to it, a restored (but no longer functioning) beehive oven serves as a focal point in the cozy space.

High Ceilings
Open shelves. Daniel designed the kitchen without upper cabinets, which would have felt clunky next to the hefty beams and low 7-foot ceiling.

 
Mixed finishes. Cabinets with blue-gray undertones (built by local furniture maker Josh Finn and finished by John Cox of Re-Fab studios balance the warmer hues of the original wood.

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Make Your Home Look More Expensive.

These DIY architectural details will give your home tons of character—for a fraction of the cost.

Blogger Cristina of Remodelando la Casa gave her kitchen a serious facelift by extending the height of her cabinets to the ceiling. 
Get the tutorial Remodelando la Casa.

Custom Cabinets
Blogger Cristina of Remodelando la Casa gave her kitchen a serious facelift by extending the height of her cabinets to the ceiling.

Emily of Decorchick! used a chair rail, wooden frames, caulking, and several coats of white paint to create this wainscoting look-alike. 
Get the tutorial at Decorchick!.

Faux Wainscoting
Emily of Decorchick! used a chair rail, wooden frames, caulking, and several coats of white paint to create this wainscoting look-alike.

Get the tutorial at Decorchick!.

No miter cuts neccessary! Blogger Amanda of The Penny Parlor anchored pre-made blocks in the corners to join crown molding.  
Get the tutorial at the The Penny Parlor.

Easy Crown Molding
No miter cuts necessary! Blogger Amanda of the Penny Parlor anchored pre-made blocks in the corners to join crown molding.
 
Get the tutorial at The Penny Parlor.

Pinterest user Teara Backens Rhode created this decorative ceiling plate by spray painting a plastic cheese tray and cutting a hole in the center.

Fake Ceiling Plate
Pinterest user Teara Backens Rhode created this decorative ceiling plate by spray painting a plastic cheese tray and cutting a hole in the center.

A gorgeous view deserves an equally beautiful frame. The blogger behind this weekend project spent just $50 on materials. 
Get the tutorial at Jenna Sue Design.

Window Trim
A gorgeous view deserves an equally beautiful frame. the blogger behind this weekend project spent $50 on materials.
 
Get the tutorial at Jenna Sue Design.

Fake ceiling rafters are a great way to add country character. Blogger Traci of Beneath My Heart used artificial beams to dress up her bathroom and hide an unsightly pipe. 
Get the tutorial at Beneath My Heart.

Faux Ceiling Beams
Fake ceiling rafters are a great way to add country character. Blogger Traci of Beneath My Heart used artificial beams to dress up her bathroom and hide an unsightly pipe.
Board-and-batten wainscoting is an easy way to add a dramatic dose of farmhouse charm to an entryway. 
Get the tutorial at The Home Depot

DIY Board and Batten
Board-and-batten wainscoting is an easy way to add a dramatic dose of farmhouse charm to an entryway.
 
Get the tutorial at The Home Depot.

Thin hardwood sheets, half-inch-thick MDF panels, and lots of hard work went into this master bedroom accent wall.  
Get the tutorial at Jenna Sue Design.

Paneled Wall
Thin hardwood sheets, half-inch-thick MDF panels, and lots of hard work went into this master bedroom accent wall.
 
Get the tutorial at Jenna Sue Design.

Jamielyn Nye, a blogger in Arizona, made this chic valance using MDF wood and crown molding left over from a kitchen renovation. 
Get the tutorial at I Heart Naptime.

DIY Window Valance
Jamielyn Nye, a blogger in Arizona, made this chic valance using MDF wood and crown molding left over from a kitchen renovation.
 
Get the tutorial at I Heart Naptime.

John and Sherry of Young House Love framed their plain "builders" mirror without removing it from the wall. 
Get the tutorial at Young House Love.

Mirror Update
John and Sherry of Young House Love framed their plain “builders” mirror without removing it from the wall.
 
Get the tutorial at Young House Love.

French leather club chairs from Wyatt Childs, plus a pair of Mitchell Gold   Bob Williams sofas, serve up plenty of cozy seating in this Georgia lake house.
Plus: 85 living rooms you'll love »

Create a Rustic Room
French leather club chairs from Wyatt Childs, plus a pair of Mitchell Gold Bob Williams sofas, serve up plenty of cozy seating in this Georgia lake house.

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Home Ownership is Best Way To Build Wealth. -New York Times

 New York Times: Homeownership is Best Way To Build Wealth | Keeping Current Matters


The housing market has made a strong recovery, not only in sales and prices, but also in the confidence of consumers and experts as an investment. In a New York Times editorial entitled, Homeownership and Wealth Creation” they explain:

Homeownership long has been central to Americans’ ability to amass wealth; even with the substantial decline in wealth after the housing bust, the net worth of homeowners over time has significantly outpaced that of renters, who tend as a group to accumulate little if any wealth.”

Many of the points that were made in the article are on track with the research that the Federal Reserve has also conducted in their Survey of Consumer Finances. The study found that the average net worth of a homeowner ($194,500) is 36x greater than that of a renter ($5,400). The National Association of Realtors (NAR) expanded on the Federal Reserve’s research and projected that by the end of 2015, the average homeowner will have nearly 41x the net worth of a renter. Their findings are detailed in the graph below:


Increasing Gap In Family Wealth | Keeping Current Matters


One reason for this large discrepancy in net worth is the concept of ‘forced savings’ created by having a mortgage payment and was explained by the Times:

“Homeownership requires potential buyers to save for a down payment, and forces them to continue to save by paying down a portion of the mortgage principal each month.” “Even in instances where renters have excess cash, saving a substantial amount is difficult without a near-term goal, like a down payment. It is also difficult to systematically invest each month in stocks, bonds or other assets without being compelled to do so.”  


Bottom Line

“As a means to building wealth, there is no practical substitute for homeownership.” If you are a renter who is considering making a purchase, sit with a local real estate professional who can explain the benefits of signing a contract to purchase over renewing your lease!

TRUTH? No such thing as a ” little lie”

We’re all conditioned to believe that some lies are acceptable. But, in reality, there are costs and consequences to our lives whenever we lie, including stress, low self-esteem and even disease.

Seventy-eight percent of the 6.5 billion people on the planet operate under the conscious level of integrity, as reported in an article featuring Gary King and The Power of Truth™ in Oprah Winfrey’s O Magazine.

This week, we want to challenge you to take the 24-hour truth challenge.

Here’s how it works: Starting right now, and for the next 24 hours, you decide to be honest and authentic in everything you do. You don’t lie to yourself and you don’t lie to anyone else on any level of your life. You will start to become acutely aware of your thoughts and words about everything you say and do.

Once you get past the initial discomfort of being completely honest, you start to feel a sensation of strength. A lightness and energy and freedom arise. You’ll notice a difference in your courage, the way you walk, the way you stand, the tone of your voice, the communication you have with people you love, the depth of connection with those close to you and with people you don’t even know.

When you speak the truth, feelings might get hurt. That is okay, humans are not weak. You do people no favors by trying to protect them from the truth. If you honor the people around you, be honest with them. You are beginning to shift your consciousness; you are now paying attention.

We offer this challenge as a gift to your inner self. After the first 24 hours, take another, then another. Your life, health, and peace of mind will never be the same.

Challenge people you know to do the same…it will change their lives.

Have a great week!

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Time waits for no one. TO REALIZE…

Some say that time is money, but ideally, time is truly more valuable than money. It’s virtually impossible to put a dollar value on the time you spend with a loved one, doing your favorite activity without interruption or enjoying a vacation.

Take a minute today to reflect on how you use your time and with whom you spend it. Make sure you’re getting the most out of the time you spend each day so that you can enjoy a stellar life.

Treasure every moment you have. To Realize…

  • To realize the value of one year:  Ask a student who has failed a final exam.   
  • To realize the value of one month: Ask a mother who has given birth to a premature baby.

  • To realize the value of one week: Ask an editor of a weekly newspaper.

  • To realize the value of one hour: Ask the lovers who are waiting to meet.

  • To realize the value of one minute: Ask a person who has missed the train, bus or plane.

  • To realize the value of one second: Ask a person who has survived an accident.

  • To realize the value of one millisecond: Ask the person who has won a silver medal in the Olympics.

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Adding Value to Your Home? Consider These 10 Best Home Improvements

The weather is hot and so is the market. Home prices are on the rise faster than they have ever been since 2006 and the interest rates we’re seeing, while on the rise, are still very low.

 

You’re considering putting your home on the market to catch the wave, but you’re not sure what to do to your home to garner the best offer. Should you put in hardwood floors, granite counter tops, finish unfinished space, paint, etc? And if you did do any of these things, which one is going to get you the biggest return on your investment?

 

These are all very good questions and we have some pretty good answers for you.

 

1. Indoor Systems

Make your home move-in ready for buyers by improving major systems like heating up to codeBefore you consider cosmetic and even functional improvements (such as adding additional square footage) to the home, make all needed upgrades, repairs or replacements to the home’s major systems. Major systems include plumbing, heating, electrical and sewer systems, among others.

Buyers want assurance that these basic items are in working order and won’t need to be replaced or repaired in the near future, an issue that will most likely be addressed in the home inspection. Older homes may require updated wiring and plumbing. An old roof should be replaced. Address problems with heating and air-conditioning units.

2. Outdoor Replacement Projects

Replacement projects will give you more added value than remodeling projects, according to Remodeling Magazine. Fortunately for homeowners, these types of projects are also the least expensive and add to the home’s curb appeal. Consider replacing the garage door, siding, the front door and windows. The average return on investment for these projects is almost 72 percent.

3. Attic Bedroom

The number one home improvement project as far as recouping a return on your investment is the addition of an attic bedroom, according to Remodeling Magazine. At a nationwide average cost of a little over $50,000, expect to recoup 72.5 percent of the cost of adding the attic bedroom when you sell the home.

Increase home value by adding an attic bedroom

4. Add an Additional Bathroom

Over the past few decades, the kitchen was the average homebuyer’s focal point when choosing a home. In 2011 bathrooms became more important to buyers than kitchens. That said, anadditional bathroom, even a half bathroom, adds significant value to your home, according to the experts at the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB).

A half bath may add up to 10.5 percent to a home’s value, while a full bath can tack on an additional 20 percent. Of course, the amount of additional value you will receive varies according to the home’s other features.

In 2011 bathrooms became more important to home buyers than kitchens.

The price of adding another bathroom to the house varies as well, depending on region. If you live on the West Coast, plan on paying almost $50,000 for a new bathroom, according to Remodeling Magazine. The magazine also states that, at the sale of the home, you’ll recoup almost 67 percent of the cost of the additional bedroom. East Coasters can plan on spending a bit less – around $41,000, but will recoup less as well – 47.7 percent of the cost.

Tip: If you’re on a tight budget and can’t afford a bathroom addition, give the existing bathrooms a facelift. A fresh coat of paint, new fixtures and new flooring will add value and make the home show better.

5. Kitchen Improvements

Kitchens tend to be the heart of a family home so anything you do to improve your kitchen will add value. Again, painting the kitchen should be the first step, whether you plan an entire remodel of the room or just a minor facelift. Vinyl flooring tends to make the room look dated, so consider replacing it with laminate or tile. New cabinetry, kitchen sink fixtures and updated lighting will all add value.

Tip: Folks on a budget can still increase value by sanding and then painting or staining cabinetry and adding new hardware and by purchasing new (matching) appliances and new countertops.

6. Boost Curb Appeal

When a TV show can be built around this one subject, it’s a pretty good indication of its importance. Curb appeal is what beckons potential buyers into your home and underestimating its importance to the value of a home is a big mistake many homeowners make.

If you have a healthy budget, and your landscaping needs extensive work, consider hiring professionals for this home improvement project. A landscape architect can be pricey but necessary if your yard is in desperate need of an overhaul. According to Jeff Mitchell with the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), curb appeal shouldn’t stop at the front yard, but should be extended to the backyard as well.

At the very least, clean the yard of any debris, trim trees and shrubs and spread fresh mulch in the planting beds. A poorly maintained front yard can result in up to a 10 percent drop in value, according to Houston appraiser Frank Lucco.

Budget curb-appeal improving landscape projects include:

  • Line the walkway with solar-powered lights. The big home improvement stores carry a variety of inexpensive styles and all you need to do is stick them in the ground. Not only are they functional – lighting your way at night – but they provide ornamentation as well.
  • Green up the lawn, keep it mowed and edged and reseed bare spots.
  • Add color to the planting beds. Be careful to keep your color choices aligned with the home’s architecture. In other words, don’t add cottage garden-type flowers to a bed in front of a starkly modern home. Certain plants are grown because of their interesting and colorful foliage, such as hosta and coleus, and are better suited to more modern homes. If you have questions about what to plant, consult with the experts at your local nursery.
  • Plant a tree. Yes, it sounds like an Arbor Day slogan, but planting a tree in your front yard pays off by helping cut energy costs in the summer (if strategically located to shade the house) and by adding value to the home. Not sure which tree to plant? Use the fun National Tree Benefit calculator to assist you with making the right choice. Just enter your zip code and the calculator will bring up a list of trees suited to your region and let you know the benefits of each.

We’ve only barely scraped the surface of this important topic here. Check out these time-tested curb appeal boosting tips to learn how to get more money for your home when you decide to sell!

7. Refurbish the Basement

Converting the basement into a finished room adds usable square footage to the home. Finishing basements is one of the best ways to increase your home’s value as it transforms unfinished basements – glorified storage space – into a usable, attractive room.

Consider the following basement bar. Who wouldn’t be willing to splash out thousands for the privilege of owning something like that?

Refurbish your unfinished basement and make it into a barHere is a short list of rooms your basement can become – and accoutrements to put inside it – if you choose to renovate it:

  • Sports den – Big screen TV, sports memorabilia, overstuffed couches and cushy carpeting
  • Lounge – Pool table, wet bar, dark hardwood floors and a poker table
  • Children’s play area – Playset, soft furniture like beanbag chairs, arts and crafts table and bins and shelves for toys and books

8. Additional Storage

Most new homes come equipped with lots of storage. Older homes, on the other hand, tend to lack even some of the basic storage options, such as a coat or linen closet. If you lack the space to expand closets or other storage spaces or build new ones, consider redesigning the spaces you do have.

There are specialty stores now dedicated to nothing but storage solutions. Do-it-yourself projects may include adding a complete closet system or adding organization details to a pantry.

9. Additional Square Footage

Every 1,000 square feet added to a home raises the value by more than 3.3 percent, according to a 2003 study for the National Association of Realtors®.

While that percentage doesn’t sound significant, when you put it into numbers it makes a lot more sense. For instance, if your home is valued at $200,000, a 3.3 percent increase adds an additional $6,600 to the value.

Additionally, the 3.3 percent statistic can most likely be adjusted upward based on the age of the study. The study also claims that each additional bedroom adds 4 percent to the value of the home.

Each additional bedroom adds 4% to the value of the home.

If your laundry is located in the basement, the value of your home decreases by two percent, so if you plan on adding square footage to the home, build a laundry room on one of the upper floors.

10. Miscellaneous Home Improvements

There are many small items you can add to the home that buyers will perceive as adding value. Some of these include:

  • Alarm systems
  • Water filtration system
  • Luxury touches such as an upgraded dishwasher, whirlpool bathtub and built-in wine coolers may peak the buyer’s interest. Luxury homeowners can take this a step further by adding an in-home theater and additional spa-like features to the bathrooms.

Caveat – Invest in Home Improvements Wisely

One of the most important things to keep in mind when considering any home improvement project is to not go overboard. The value of your home is partially determined by the value of your neighbor’s homes, so don’t make improvements that bring your home’s value significantly over the general value of other homes in your neighborhood.

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You Want To Succeed In Life? Yes, Then here are 6 Failures You Should Experience.

Everybody wants to know the secret to being successful in life. Whether it be in your career or personal life, we all want it all. The real question is: How do we get it?

The answer’s a simple one: You have to fail, and you have to fail often. You have to learn all there is from each failure. It’s that simple.

The only other factor is you have to be mindful enough to fail at the right things. There are certain failures in life necessary for the fruition of success. Without them, you’ll be missing a piece of the puzzle.

Then, of course, there are failures that can be entirely avoided — including any and every repeated failure. Failing multiple times is not only allowed, it’s praised.

But you should be sure to fail differently each time you fail. Here are seven failures you need to experience in order to succeed in life:


A failed serious relationship

If I had to pick a single moment in my life that had the greatest influence on the person I am today, it was the failure of a relationship.

Not only because it was with a woman I loved more than any before, or after, but because I was the one that screwed it up.

Relationships fail all the time — most of the time it isn’t our fault. You’ll never appreciate a meaningful relationship the way you ought to appreciate it, however, until you manage to mess up a great one.

It’s easier to brush yourself off and move on with your life when the other person was clearly to blame. When you only have yourself to blame though, you learn lessons that stick with you. And this requires admitting you were the one that screwed things up… but that’s a different story.


A failed friendship

It takes time to understand and appreciate the relationships you have with different people in your life. It’s not just the romantic ones that teach you important life lessons, but also the relationships you have with your friends.

Just like there are toxic romantic relationships, there are also toxic friendships. Once you experience a falling-out with a friend, you understand yourself a little bit better and the life you hope to lead.

It’s most often the company we keep that determines the life we live.


A failed career choice

I’ve never met or heard of a single individual who figured it out the first time. If you’re going to find your passion in life, you’re going to have to spend a whole lot of time figuring out all the things that aren’t a right fit.

If you’re still holding down the first job you’ve ever had, there’s roughly a 99 percent chance you’re not doing what you ought to be doing. Maybe you’re that one-in-a-million statistic who got lucky, but most people need to go through some trial and error.

It’s usually less about figuring out what you’d like to do and more about what the world has to offer and what you can add to it.


A failed “healthy” bank account

If you’ve never been broke in your life, you’ll never understand the importance of money. It just isn’t possible. Sure, you can understand it conceptually, but you’ll never know how it feels to figure out how to score a free meal.

Or how stressful it is to be buried by the APR on your credit cards and student loans.

Being broke at one point of your life or another — hopefully sooner than later not only gives you an appreciation for money, it gives you an appreciation for how little you need to get by.

Most people are wasteful. They overindulge and live their lives inefficiently. Even worse, such individuals never have an appreciation for the simple things in life.

They’re always trying to throw money at happiness, but never manage to figure out you can’t buy happiness.


A failed attempt at greatness

Regardless of your definition of greatness, unless you fail at achieving it repeatedly, you’ll never appreciate your accomplishments.

If you don’t have to struggle to win, to succeed, to be great, then can you even call it greatness? It’s the struggle and all it takes to overcome the seeming impossibilities that we find awe-inspiring. If it comes easy, it isn’t worth praise.

Keep in mind the difference between failing to be great and failing to even attempt being great. You learn a lot from trying your very best and realizing your very best isn’t good enough — yet.

You learn absolutely nothing, however, from never giving yourself a chance to fail. Not until it’s too late.


A failed understanding of what’s to come

The reason human beings landed on the top of the food chain is primarily due to our ability to predict the future with accuracy. We understand the relationship between cause and effect better than any other species, and it’s made all the difference.

It takes time to develop this skill. We observe and learn the moment we’re born (technically, shortly after) until the moment we die (technically until we believe there’s little new to see in our vicinities).

We often forget how important it is to observe and calculate. Most people rely on superstitions and hope, which is amusing, as we were much better observers during our toddler years than we are as adults.

Those of us who understand there’s always something new to observe, always something new to contemplate and calculate, are the ones who usually get furthest in life. The more complex the scenario, the more difficult it is to calculate the outcome.

In all honesty, we can only predict the possibility of an event occurring. But it’s all you really need — most of life is a gamble anyhow.

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5 Good Reasons Why You Should Sell Now!

5 Reasons to Sell You House Now! | Keeping Current Matters

As the temperature continues to rise, buyers are coming out ready to purchase their dream home. Here are five reasons that you should list your house for sale now.

1. Strong Buyer Demand

Foot traffic refers to the number of people out actually physically looking at homes right now. The latest foot traffic numbers show that there are significantly more prospective purchasers currently looking at homes than at any point in the last two years! These buyers are ready, willing and able to purchase… and are in the market right now! Take advantage of the buyer activity currently in the market.

2. There Is Less Competition Now

The National Association of Realtors reported last week that housing supply as slipped to a 5.0-month supply. This is still under the 6-month supply that is needed for a normal housing market. This means, in most areas, there are not enough homes for sale to satisfy the number of buyers in that market. This is good news for home prices. There is a pent-up desire for many homeowners to move as they were unable to sell over the last few years because of a negative equity situation. Homeowners are now seeing a return to positive equity as real estate values have increased over the last two years. Many of these homes will be coming to the market in the near future. The choices buyers have will continue to increase. Don’t wait until all this other inventory of homes comes to market before you sell.

3. Home Prices Are Skyrocketing

Daren Blomquist, President of RealtyTrac, recently shared insights into why “2015 is a Great Year to Sell” by saying:

“So far in 2015, [sellers] are realizing the biggest gains in home price appreciation since 2007. In June, sellers sold for above estimated market value on average for the first time in nearly two years.”

One major factor driving prices up is the lack of inventory available for the amount of buyers in the market. Often buyers, who find a home that they would like to make an offer on, are met with the reality that they aren’t the only ones interested.

4. There Will Never Be a Better Time to Move-Up

If you are moving up to a larger, more expensive home, consider doing it now. Prices are projected to appreciate by over 19.4% from now to 2019. If you are moving to a higher priced home, it will wind-up costing you more in raw dollars (both in down payment and mortgage payment) if you wait. You can also lock-in your 30-year housing expense with an interest rate near 4% right now. Rates are projected to increase by a full percentage point over the next year according to Freddie Mac.

5. It’s Time to Move On with Your Life

Look at the reason you decided to sell in the first place and determine whether it is worth waiting. Is money more important than being with family? Is money more important than your health? Is money more important than having the freedom to go on with your life the way you think you should? Only you know the answers to the questions above. You have the power to take back control of the situation by putting your home on the market. Perhaps, the time has come for you and your family to move on and start living the life you desire.

That is what is truly important.

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Whats Hot and Trending in Kitchen Innovation!


Kitchen trends may come and go, but one thing never changes: Whether you’re whipping up a four-course gourmet meal for 12 or reheating a slice of pizza, this room is the heart of the home. In fact, the kitchen’s multipurpose role as a place to entertain friends, tackle homework and school projects, answer emails, or just hang out with the family is on the upswing, according to local kitchen experts like Jason Landau, a professional interior designer with a master’s in architecture and owner of Amazing Spaces in Briarcliff Manor. 

Perhaps the strongest trend in kitchen design is the open floor plan, in part because the kitchen “is the most social room of house” and “all family life revolves around food,” says Landau. “The cook or hostess wants to be part of the party without everybody piling into the kitchen workspace.” 

In many cases, open floor plans allow rarely used formal dining and living rooms to be incorporated into one large area with the kitchen or great room. Individual dining-room and kitchen tables are replaced with a single dining area with counter chairs or bar stools at a connected table or island.

A bright red range hood (custom-painted at an auto-body shop!) is a great way to add colorful accents and “accessorize” a monochromatic kitchen.

Also increasing in popularity, says Landau, are kitchens with two sinks in separate, dual work zones, with the refrigerator located between the two. The first zone, for the casual user, clean-up helpers, and everyone except the cook, features the main sink, the dishwasher, its own counter space for “making a sandwich or jellying an English muffin,” and access to everyday dishes and glasses. The second, a work area for the cook, has its own sink, counter space, and the cooktop and oven. 

In terms of style, transitional looks—somewhere between traditional (“fussy, Louis XV seating”) and contemporary/modern (“ultra-modern Knoll chairs”)—continue to gain popularity, says Landau. While five to seven years ago, traditional was all the rage, clients these days are looking for a cleaner look with few curves and ornamental details, according to Landau. Almost every kitchen he designs now leans toward transitional, although modern looks are stronger than in the past. In keeping with the transitional feel, color palettes feature a lot of neutrals—grays, blacks, and whites—with a white kitchen still the most popular. “A white painted kitchen is like a black dress,” says Landau. “You can wear it with pearls to look conservative or cool diamonds to look trendy,” he adds, noting that lighting and hardware are similar to jewelry; paint color and cabinetry to makeup; and flooring, such as natural stone or wood laminate, to shoes; and all are different ways to accessorize a look. What makes a kitchen unique, he says, is a cool color for your range hood, interesting hardware, a unique backsplash, and “all the other materials.”

Finishing Touches: Countertops & Backsplashes

Among the most important of “all those other materials” are countertop and backsplash surfaces, which Landau says impart a kitchen with a truly custom look. Surfaces of metal and stone—either natural or man-made, like Caesarstone or Silestone—continue to be popular. The man-made materials offer a cleaner look, more solid colors, and, especially, a more exciting variety of textures, like suede, velvet, brushed, or leathered; textured surfaces are big in today’s kitchens. “When people enter the kitchen,” says Richard Brooks, president of Brooks Custom, a Mount Kisco company that specializes in surfaces, “the first thing their eyes go to are the countertops.” 

Brooks says several trends have emerged as particularly strong in this area, including increased use of wood, especially American black walnut with a stain-proof and waterproof marine-oil finish in dark chocolate brown. And butcher blocks continue to have a place in the kitchen as food-prep surfaces, he notes. “But where we used to do a blond maple chopping block, now we do a walnut version in chocolate brown.” Among the most innovative wood-related trends, however, is the use of live-edge wood countertops, in which the organic edge of the tree remains and the natural wood’s “figure”—its knots and natural waves in the grain—are highlighted. “The bark is pulled off to the white sap wood and then we use a marine-oil finish,” says Brooks. “The uneven edges puts you in touch with the natural aspect of the wood for a more organic feel.” While oak and rare woods are often used, walnut, says Brooks, is the most popular choice here.


Open floor plans, which help rooms “flow” harmoniously, are one of the hottest new kitchen trends.

Ornate and fussy is out; sleek, chic, and functional is in. And granite-only countertops? That ship has sailed, too.

Another trendy countertop choice, for a very post-industrial look, is concrete. “It started about 12 or 15 years ago and is really growing now beyond our expectations, for countertops as well as islands,” says Brooks. “What’s happening in the commercial sector is now coming into residential.” While shades of gray and earth tones are used most often, concrete can be offered in any color in the Benjamin Moore color chart, says Brooks. Also cutting-edge for countertops—and backsplashes—are hammered, distressed, and textured zincs and metals in a dull pewter gray, especially for a secondary wet bar, says Brooks, with no coating or lacquer required. “Not everyone is aware of it, but zinc is a bacteriostatic, or hygienic, material,” he says. “Germs die faster on it than on stainless steel.” And brushed stainless steel—like the front of a refrigerator—is increasingly popular for backsplashes and is easy to keep clean—just use Windex. Glass, either in tiles or glossy sheets of very forward-looking back-painted glass, is gaining traction. While glass, like concrete, can be painted any color in the Benjamin Moore chart, light gray, metallic silver, and a muted gray-blue are especially on-trend. So what doesn’t Brooks see a lot of anymore? Kitchens that are totally granite or marble. “We no longer do everything in one material,” he notes.

To Store It All: Cabinetry

A critical element of any well-designed kitchen, cabinetry is composed of the face or door style, the box or interior, and the hardware or knob and pulls. Anthony Maucieri, president of East Hill Cabinetry in White Plains, says perhaps the most prevalent trend in kitchen cabinets today is customization at all price points. “The cabinet used to be like a Chevy, with just a few door and handle options,” explains Maucieri. “Now, the increased automation of factories has made both customization and furniture-grade quality available at more accessible price points, with even the most inexpensive line coming in five different colors with six door detail choices and so much more flexibility in wood species and finishes at the midrange.” He says now it’s all about personalization and tailored design. “We’re seeing more eclectic kitchens and never really do a strict French country or cookie-cutter Georgian any more.” Even clients with deep pockets, he notes, are choosing semi-custom cabinets rather than custom because they now offer so many choices. 

In general, East Hill’s clients want streamlined styles, with clean lines and flat panels predominating, even in older homes. “Everything remains more understated coming out of the Recession,” says Maucieri. “We are not doing heavy ornamentation or carving, or legs and arches,” he explains. “And we’re using mostly flat-panel doors for a transitional look, in primarily solid colors rather than glazing or multi-step finishes.” Landau’s clients are similarly inclined. “For transitional cabinetry,” Landau says, “99 percent of the time it’s a white painted-wood Shaker door with a square picture and simple recessed center.”  

And Westchester clients still want wood cabinets,  primarily painted maples or cherry, according to Maucieri. “The types of woods haven’t changed,” he says. “It’s the way we cut, stain, and treat the wood or mix different types of woods in the same kitchen.” One exciting new way of taking a traditional wood and having it look more up to date, he adds, is quarter-sawn oak. “For old oak kitchens, we’d take the tree and cut board out of it. With quarter-sawn, the tree is cut in fours and turned diagonally with the grain in all one direction,” he explains. With regard to color, cooler whites and gray-blue painted or stained wood are very of-the-moment as opposed to warmer, dark browns and earth tones. “Last year, there was a lot of ‘greige,’ or grays with browns,” he notes. “This year, they’re much truer grays and even some blues.” Finally, Maucieri says he’s moved away from highlighting the cabinet hardware and having it appear more distinct. “Now, with all the clean lines, we want fewer details,” he says. “So on a white cabinet, instead of a dark oil-rubbed cup, we’ll use a clean-lined brushed-nickel or stainless-steel knob or pull to blend in more with the  cabinetry.” 


Behemoth refrigerators are on the wane; smaller units in more than one place are popular. Here, wine fridges are everywhere—even in the island!


Hot Equipment & Cool New Technology: Appliances

Of course no matter how terrific a kitchen looks, you need the right appliances to make it all work. “There’s no perfect setup,” says Fred Albano, president since 1997 of family-owned Albano Appliance and Service in Pound Ridge. “You have to find the one that best fits your lifestyle.” Albano points to the old family fridge as one appliance undergoing dramatic changes. Perhaps the most exciting trend is what he calls the “disassembling” of the unit. “Instead of the box getting bigger and bigger,” he says, “now, we’re breaking it up into pieces and putting them in all the places where they are needed, particularly ‘breaking off’ the freezer and putting it out of the main line of fire.” So instead of a 48-inch unit, for instance, he’ll recommend a 24- or 30-inch refrigerator-only column, with the freezer placed elsewhere in the room. Why? “The main reason is that the chef wants more counter space where all the work happens,” he says, “and while they might go into the refrigerator 10 times in one meal prep, they don’t often go into the freezer.” By switching out a 4-foot-wide fridge for a 30-inch one, a significant amount of counter space is gained. Other new refrigeration trends include the increased use of separate refrigerator drawers, fully integrated or hidden units (“You don’t see any compressor or hinges—it’s perfectly flush with the adjoining cabinetry”), and convertibility, or being able to convert parts of a refrigerator to a freezer or wine storage as needed. 

Refrigerator “columns,” with units built into the wall, flank a wine-storage unit.


Exciting things are happening to other appliances as well. “The steam oven is the biggest revolution in the home kitchen,” says Albano. “It does everything that the microwave does except heat up a cup of coffee or make popcorn—but the quality of the food is much better. It’s particularly good for ‘refreshing’ food from the day before.” Traditional double ovens are primarily a thing of the past, adds Albano, whose preference is pairing a specialty convection oven—particularly good for baking and roasting—with a steam oven or a 240-volt microwave/convection combination. Albano adds that under-the-counter drawer configurations are growing in popularity for microwaves, where they are less conspicuous and take up much less room. He also notes an increase in the popularity of induction cooktops (“It offers the performance of gas—it’s as fast or faster than gas and as responsive in cooling off—with the easy clean up of electric”) and the return of a modular platform that might combine two gas burners with two electric coils, or maybe a barbeque or steakhouse-style griddle. And new for dishwashers is the addition of a second, smaller 18-inch unit in a butler’s pantry or wherever glassware is stored, a plus when entertaining. Finally, says Albano, every kitchen should include a wine-storage cooler for resale value. 

 
Source: http://bit.ly/1uF21nC

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