A Change in the Wind…for 2014

Hi Everyone!

It’s been quite a while since the last post.  August to be exact.  Our plan for September was to have several guest bloggers sharing their own thoughts on design…as a slightly refreshed direction…

Well, promises were made…but delivery was short and as you’re well aware, this didn’t happen; but something else EXTREMELY unexpected, fun and joyous did!

Ask Kent and Co. was invited by Bilotta Kitchens to participate in their annual Art of the Table event.  In it’s third year, this popular table-setting frenzy took off and changed the course of history…at least for Design Discourse!  7 weeks of planning, scheduling, setting up, entertaining in and breaking down what essentially amounts to a designer showcase, overtook our lives…but in the best sense.

It unleashed a pent-up love for tabletop and tabletop design.  Something kind-of unexplored, yet not, when we looked through old pictures of holidays past here at Ask Kent and Co.

So while we believe the Discourse should continue…always…we were also feeling like we’d covered the waterfront and it was time for more than just a new direction.  It was time for a fresh topic of discussion altogether.

Enter TABLETOP IN OUR TIME, a new blog featuring tools, tips and tricks for beautiful table settings both for holidays and for every day.  We also hope to feature some trend-setters in the worlds of floral design and in stationery and invitations to provide a more well-rounded view of real-world entertaining.

This certainly isn’t goodbye.  In fact, we hope you’ll join us in our new space at askkentandcotabletop.wordpress.com and decide to follow us there too.

And, we hope you’ll continue to follow us here for continued, though less-often posted pieces that drive the Design Discourse and keep the juices flowing!

Best,

Kent

Photo by Francis Smith

Summer 2013 Gift Show: Trends from NY NOW

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Overall it’s been a summer for the record books. Stifling heat from mid-June until mid-July slowed everyone down, a reservoir full of rain fell (the trees say “thank you” and promise a glorious display for fall), followed by a month of what my mother would call “Resort Weather.” Delightful and cool without humidity works for me! And through it all, I survived a novel full of personal loss, injury and road-blocks that would fill a Movie of the Week!  Who needs political revelation and reinvention, racially-driven shootings and more bad behavior perpetrated by…as well as on…children?

That said, this month celebrates the first anniversary of DESIGN DISCOURSE!

I can hardly believe it!? In 12 months, through “wild weather,” busy days, busier nights, project work, marketing campaigns, writing and presenting a class called “The Real Business of Interior Design: how to set up, manage and run your own interior design practice”…and submitting it for IDCEC approval I’ve have managed to create no less than 47 posts!!!

I’ve earned a vacation…and I’m taking it!

But before I do, I wanted to let you know that kicking off our second year -beginning in September- I have, for a change of pace and perspective, asked several guest bloggers to answer some of your questions. This group of queries will focus more on specific issues like, “I have a trapazoid-shaped living room: how should I arrange it?” and “What should I do with the room recently vacated by my children?”

I look forward to continuing to provide “useful” information and to helping you solve some of your design dilemmas. PLEASE CONSIDER BEING PART OF THE DISCOURSE! Send me your questions and comments. Remember, it’s only a discourse if YOU participate!!

Here’s to the change in season!

Best,

Kent

TRENDS FROM THE NY NOW, SUMMER 2013 GIFT SHOW

This was not the season to show on the West Side Piers. Only Pier 94 was up and running…and only 2/3’s full at that; And you could have shot off a cannon, there was so little foot traffic!

Comprised mostly of small gift items like jewelry, scarves and handbags, there was little for me here. In fact I walked the entire Pier in 20 minutes!

Even the small handful of home furnishings firms, including one from Ecuador and one from Viet Nam held little interest.

Boarding the shuttle bus for the Jacob Javitz Center, I held my breath. Why did I come?

There’s something to be said for seeing our tasks in life through to the end. The Javitz Center was jumping and full of merchandise, shoppers and vendors, all of which got the juices flowing.

Perhaps because I chose to go on a Monday, I didn’t see any of my “usual suspect” colleagues trolling the aisles. The one person I did see rather unexpectedly -and only because she called out to me- was P.R. Gal Carol Vanderkloot. Familiar faces are always a comfort at a large trade show. Thanks Carol!!…and thanks for the project lead too!!

So, what did I see?…who made it?…and how much did it cost?

I walked this show for no less than 5 hours…never sat down…and didn’t see it all. BIG…really BIG. And yes, my dogs were barking by the end of it!

While I saw many familiar vendors and plenty of new ones, it wasn’t WHO was showing so much as what I saw from booth to booth…COLOR. Color everywhere. Eye-catching and Eye-Popping color! It was glorious after so many years now of “brown” furniture and accessories…YUCK.

Almost every booth had an entire spectrum ranging from purple to yellow and everything in between. There was a veritable rainbow of color across all categories. I had to ask myself, is this consciously or uncosciously political? Is it in support of marriage equality? Or, are people just tired of beige? You tell me!

I saw it in woven throws –

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In eye wear  –

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On paper goods –

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On sculptural furniture –

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In lucite –

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In ceramics –

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On ice cream scoops –

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On serving spoons –

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In glass –

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In candles –

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In decorative plants and trees –

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In clothing –

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In clocks –

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In lighting –

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In linens –

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In chocolates –

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In china

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In paint –

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In carpets –

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In lacquer –

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In inventive storage and furniture –

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And in upholstery –

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Next week we’ll take a look at some of the other trends percolating from the show.

Until then…enjoy the waning days of Summer!

© 2012-2013 Design Discourse / Ask Kent and Co. All Rights Reserved

Cabinetry Cost Comparisons: why so much variation?

Recently, I met with a potential client who had a tight budget and a long list of wants for her kitchen renovation. She’d done some basic leg-work and met with a kitchen dealer; but she really felt working with a designer would serve her better in the end. Certainly, I would have to agree!

In discussing the work that would be required, we determined that she would have to double her budget, which she understood but was not willing to do.

Contracting (including all new plumbing and electrical) would be the largest, single cost. She could shop around, but it’s a big number no matter how you slice it…and came to almost 1/2 of her stated budget.

The remainder would cover the costs of low/medium grade cabinetry, hardware, fixtures, appliance store-grade range, refrigerator, dishwasher and microwave, basic lighting, granite counter top, inexpensive ($2-$8 per foot) tile and flooring; …and she would have a GREAT “replacement” kitchen!

What she wouldn’t have is a kitchen designed by a designer…a kitchen with all the latest bells & whistles and some inspired, thoughtful storage-maximizing-solutions. There was no room in her budget to cover the additional cost without increasing her spend. Essentially, her choices were: 1- DYI, shopping for and putting all the pieces together and then hiring a contractor for demolition and construction (or if you’re VERY handy, doing it on your own), which she didn’t want to do,  or 2- working with a kitchen dealer on replacing -cabinet for cabinet- what she already had, perhaps with a few perks and innovations (which add to the cost).

And while choosing to shop for her own materials would have been fine, she needed to understand what it was she was purchasing. For example, if she’d purchased close-out tile at 75 cents a foot (a terrific price and great find), she’d need to be sure that there is enough to do the job. If she hadn’t measured correctly, she may have found she needed additional tile to complete the last 1/4 of the floor area and found herself out-of-luck, with the remainder of the tile sold-out and no longer available!

Another area that can -heavy stress on “can” – be flexible in price is cabinetry. BUT you have to know what you’re buying!! Home Depot and Ikea have some great products…but…they also have some real clunkers. If you don’t know the difference you could find yourself without parts or find that the cabinet doors warp or even fall off in short order.

Of course -insert shameless plug- a designer can help you to locate a slightly more “custom” product, one that isn’t available directly to the public; and one that provides higher quality and a more reliable over-all integrity at the same or similar price as the big-box store option. …But you do have to allow for the cost of the designer’s time or fee…

With that in mind, I offer the following article by author, writer, fellow-blogger and Certified Master Kitchen and Bath Designer, Kelly Morisseau, on how to judge the estimates you receive from different cabinetry providers.  I hope you find this helpful!

HOW TO COMPARE CABINETS WITHOUT GRITTING YOUR TEETH

December 2012

Amelia is visiting various kitchen showrooms to get pricing for her new kitchen cabinets. After 6 quotes, she’s confused. She asked for maple cabinets with a raised center panel, full-extension drawer glides, plywood construction and a standard stain. The prices she has range from $16,600.00 to $18,600.00.

What is she missing? Are some of the prices out of line? How can she tell the differences? There is sometimes a combination of factors that the average consumer wouldn’t know. Here’s the inside scoop:

How well the manufacturer buys materials. My father gave up making cabinets in the early 1980s because as he said, “Our shop was too small. I couldn’t compete with the manufacturers who were buying millions in plywood, hardware, and wood. They get better deals on almost everything because they’re buying on volume.”

Some slight design changes to the quote to bring the pricing down. Crown moldings, light rail and specialty trims can be expensive in some lines, and cheaper in others. When Amelia returns to the showrooms, she should double-check that all the same trim is included or, in the case of the crown molding, that it is the same height. A smaller height or simpler style can be less expensive.

Design choices: Not all interior fittings are created equal. For example, many of the cabinet lines have two styles of lazy Susans to select from. I’ve also worked with custom lines that have as many as 6 different styles, with $ 300.00 at the low end and $ 1200.00 at the high end. Is the one you’ve included the same in every store? Amelia might check to see if the hardware on the lazy Susan has ball-bearing rollers, or a stop, or wire baskets instead of plastic. Or plastic baskets for all if she wants to keep the costs down.

While she might have asked for plywood, she may not know that not all plywood is created equal. At the low-end is a 3/8” 5-ply. Higher ends are a thicker ¾” 5- to 7- ply. They can come in different grades with knot holes or marks showing in the less expensive quality. Knowing the thickness is a good start and she might also look inside the cabinets to see what streaks, knots and other wood characteristics are showing up.

Are the doors solid wood? I don’t mean a single piece of wood—it would warp. I mean that the center panel of your raised panel door true wood or a composite? There are some door styles out there where the center wood has been replaced with a construction board covered with a wood plywood skin. This can make a significant difference to cost.

What is the finish? The industry standard is a catalyzed finish, meaning the finish is bonded to the wood. This type of finish will not gum or darken where one touch the wood; instead the wood develops a slight gloss over the years. With a catalyzed finish, the wear is eliminated (and so is the waxing and other finishing). Amelia won’t have to use harsh cleansers or soaps to clean her cabinets—merely a mild soap and water.

Finally, just as she double-checked the interior of the cabinets, Amelia should have a good, hard look at the quality of the maple exterior. Does the sample door show darker mineral streaks, pinhole knots, or discoloration? Higher quality maple doors select the clearest pieces of wood and eliminate the rest, which makes the end results more expensive.

Ultimately, when Amelia went back to the showrooms, she discovered that the lowest priced quote had selected smaller crown molding, a basic plastic lazy Susan, and a 3/8” plywood box construction. The costlier line has a 3/4” thick box, a 2-step crown molding that was double the size of the lowest quote, the top-end lazy Susan with chrome baskets, and a ¾” plywood box construction. In addition, the designer had added door panels as paneling for the back of the island.

The difference between low and high quotes was $2,000.00. When Amelia asked for another quote from the lower-priced cabinets with all the options of the higher-end quote, the difference between the two shrunk to a $130.00 difference.

At this point, Amelia has to decide. Perhaps she fell in love with the smooth drawer glides and the chrome fittings of the most expensive quote and knew she’d enjoy them even if she might not get the full return on investment. Or perhaps the doors for the higher-price quote were that much nicer. Or perhaps she decided that to go with the lowest pricing because she’s moving in a year.

Neither choice is wrong. What might have been a shame is if she had gone with the lowest quote thinking the other quotes were “ripping her off”.

I’m ready to replace/upgrade my counters. Granite seems to be everyone’s favorite, but I’d like to explore other options. Anything you can suggest? –SS, Camarillo CA

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Actually, there are a number of really beautiful options out there, depending on what you want to achieve. Does your kitchen get hard, daily use, or, do you mostly eat out? How much pattern do you want? Are you looking for an unusual color?

Questions like these will “frame” your choice…and what the final tab will be.

If you’re not a fan of granite, or like me, you’re just tired of hearing about it, here are a few other directions you might consider (courtesy of Gian Luca Fiori’s Marble and Granite Blog) and a few things you should know before you buy:

(photo courtesy of Artistic Tile and Stone, NYC)

MARBLE

· Overview – Marble is a popular choice.  Commercially, any stone that can be polished is also known as marble, with the exception of granite. This includes serpentine, travertine, limestone and onyx.  Often called the “green” marble, serpentine marble is not actually marble but looks very similar and is more stain and spill proof than actual marble!
· Appearance – Marble comes in a wide variety of colors and with different sizes and types of veining, often in complementary or contrasting colors.
· Beneficial Features – Natural marble is very hard, making it a versatile choice. However, you’ll need to protect marble from water, spills and stains.
·Care– Clean up any water or spills on marble as quickly as possible and consider adding a sealant. Do not use marble in high traffic areas of the home where dirt, sand or other particles may grind into the marble, which can permanently damage or mark the stone.  Never leave a chemical, citric or acidic item or substance on the marble.  Clean marble with a clean, slightly damp cloth and then dry with a soft towel.  Avoid bleach, acidic cleaners or any abrasive household cleaners as etching and dullness may occur.

QUARTZITE

· Overview – Quartzite, which is predominantly silica, is a hard non-foliated metamorphic rock which was originally sandstone. Sandstone is converted into quartzite through heating and pressure related to tectonic compression. It’s siliceous nature makes it a perfect choice for kitchen counter tops because chemically it has a very high resistance to anything acidic.
· Appearance – Pure quartzite is usually white to gray, though it also occurs in various shades of pink and red due to varying amounts of iron oxide (Fe2O3). Other colors, such as yellow and orange, are due to other mineral impurities.
· Beneficial Features – Quartzite is a decorative stone which is used for kitchen counter tops, to cover walls, as roofing tiles, for flooring, and for stair steps. Quartzite is extremely popular due to it’s marble like appearance and granite like properties which makes it an ideal choice to be used in kitchen. The hardness of quartzite makes it extremely resistant to water absorption, heat & scratches.
· Care – Use a stone sealant for an additional layer of protection. There are instances when a particular block of a quartzite can have traces of calcium carbonate which can be a cause of localized etching if that particular section comes in contact with anything acidic. That said, even in this situation it will give you more time to clean up before it starts to etch.

CAESARSTONE

· Overview – CaesarStone is primarily comprised of crushed quartz, to which high-quality polyester pigments and resins are added, making it very strong.
· Appearance – Over 40 colors are available.
· Beneficial Features – CaesarStone is stain, heat, scratch and chemical-resistant. In addition, CaesarStone is non-porous and does not require sealing.  It is crack and chip proof and has been certified for use in hospitals and restaurants by the National Sanitation Foundation.
· Care – CaesarStone is maintenance free. Just wipe with a damp cloth.

NEOLITH

· Overview – Neolith is a ceramic stone that comes in large slabs (12 ft./144″ instead of the usual 8 or 10 foot lengths).
· Appearance – Neolith is ceramic and is available in a wide variety of colors.
· Beneficial Features – Neolith is stain, water and heatproof.  You can even cut on it!  It can be cut very thin (1 centimeter) and looks great with contemporary cabinetry.
· Care – The material does not need to be sealed and is easy to clean with non-abrasive household cleaners.

GLASSOS

· Overview – Glassos is an exciting new quartz stone and the first resin-free engineered quartz surface on the market.  Being resin-free means it will not scorch or burn and does not give off toxic fumes.  The brilliant white surface is nonporous and harder than most granites.
· Appearance – Comes in two shades of white.  GLASSOS® Nano White has a mirror like polish that will never yellow or fade. Our unique process starts with the forming of ultrafine Nano quartz powder. The proprietary blend of quartz and other minerals is then heated at temperatures over 3000 degrees Fahrenheit and transformed into a molten liquid. Afterwards the liquid is molded into slabs, then polished. Quality control inspections follow the entire process to ensure slabs meet strict GLASSOS® Nano standards.
· Beneficial Features – a slab material of extreme hardness and classic beauty with no resins used in its manufacturing.  Stain proof and scratch resistant, interior applications include counter tops, vanity tops, walls panels and floor tile.  The slabs are also suitable for exterior building cladding due to their high UV resistance and zero water absorption properties.
· Care – Wipe clean with a damp cloth and mild detergent.

So how can you find these paragons of virtue?

Domoteck Interiors will order (they do not stock) and fabricate any of these products…and so much more!  Domoteck Interiors INC, 24-30 B.Q.E West, Woodside, New York, 11377, http://www.domoteckinteriors.com

HG Stone has a wide selection of materials in stock at all times (they have their own quarries), but works with a firm called Cayuu for fabrication.  HG Stone, 65 Davids Drive, Hauppauge, NY 11788, http://www.hgstones.com;  Cayuu, 280 Johnson Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11206, http://www.caayu.com

© 2012-2013 Design Discourse / Ask Kent and Co. All Rights Reserved

Relax, it’s the 4th of July!!

Hope everyone is ready to unplug, relax and celebrate! It’s the 4th of July!!!!…in case your electronic devices forgot to remind you!

Also, as a reminder, it’s a great time…and great time of year…for simple recipes that can be “made ahead” and that keep for several days so that you have more time in the parks or at the beach.

Here’s my recipe for potato salad. It’s great served hot, cold or anywhere in between…AND…it gets better with age. Overnight – two days in the fridge before eating, and you have perfection…but don’t let that stop you. It’s great fresh from the stove top too!!

Kent’s “German” Potato Salad

Ingredients

3-4 lbs. red-skin potatoes
1 large bottle of Wishbone “Robusto” Italian Salad Dressing (or equivalent)
1 small red onion
1 bunch cilantro (washed thoroughly)
1 bunch of dill (washed thoroughly)
3 T dry dill
Salt & Pepper to taste

Boil potatoes (skin on) in a large pot with some coarse salt and about 1T of the dry dill. Undercook them just a little, but the fork should come out clean. While the potatoes boil, wash the fresh dill and cilantro, and cut the onion into thin slices (or chop into chunks).

Take the potatoes out of the water and place in a bowl to cool. Leave the skin on. When the steam stops rising from them, cut each potato into ½” slices. It’s ok if some of them crumble. Put all the slices (and the crumbled bits) into a large mixing bowl and pour the entire bottle of salad dressing over them. Mix well. Add onion and the rest of the dry dill. Mix. Add a dash or two of black pepper. Potatoes should be salty enough from the water and the dressing, but if not, add a bit more now.

Chop the fresh dill and cilantro. Add to the mixture and combine to complete.

This recipe is good hot, cold or anywhere in between, although it’s best when left to “sit” in the refrigerator for a day or two to “cure.”

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How much should I expect to spend on a nicely done (but not super-high-end) two-bedroom renovation in a Manhattan apartment? –LS, NY NY

Originally published on August 23, 2012, here is another good barometer of how to figure out costs on your project.

As with all projects, this is merely a guideline; but it does frame -in realistic terms- good ballpark figures.

In general, a complete gut renovation will fall between 30 and 40% of your purchase price (or current home value). A kitchen renovation should fall around 20% of that figure.

Going back to the question at hand, first we would have to define what you mean by “nicely done.” Are you satisfied with Ikea cabinetry? Do you dream of bath fixtures from Waterworks? Or are you interested in re-purposing high-end cabinetry from a firm like Green Demolitions? Custom cabinetry, while more expensive, can often solve tricky spacial issues like diagonal walls, whereas the Home Depot product, costing less up-front, might still require retrofitting and cost more in the end than the custom product does to begin with! Does $600.00 for a powder room faucet offend you? Does $1000.00? What kind of flooring is being considered? Wood plank, vinyl, stone? Do you want hollow doors or solid? What type of hinges and pulls? What about your counter surfaces, kitchen and bath tile, appliances and lighting? Does your project require an architect? A contractor? Board approval? Department of Buildings filing fees? An interior designer? And all this before you talk about furniture!

There are myriad moving parts to any project and endless decisions to be made that will affect your life for a long time to come. Each item should be considered carefully for looks, for utility and for expense; and with professional input over the entire span of your project.

As a guideline, I would start with $400.00 per square foot; and know that the sky is the limit!

Figuring Costs for a Kitchen Renovation

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Following on the heels of  last week’s post, I thought it might be time for a refresher.  Below is a reprint of an earlier post, first published August 8, 2012.  I hope you find it helpful in making the decisions that will affect you in the years to come.  –Kent

HOW MUCH SHOULD MY KITCHEN RENOVATION COST –JK, Forest Hills NY

In a new home, purchased in the last 3 years where you are gutting the entire space, you can use the following guideline based on a medium or slightly above medium level project in the Metropolitan area:

Figure 30-40% of your purchase price for over-all design, demolition, construction and materials costs.  20% of that figure should be allotted for your kitchen.

In a home that you have lived in for more than 5 years and for which you are only renovating the kitchen, use the following guideline based on a medium or slightly above medium level project in the Metropolitan area:

Figure $600-$900 per square foot including the costs for an interior designer or kitchen and bath specialist, a registered architect, appliances & materials and all filing and contractors fees.

Materials can run in the following ranges, depending on your choices:

Appliances – $10,000-$30,000

Counters – $8000-$15,000 ($50-$150 per square foot)

Custom Cabinetry – $15,000-$50,000

Flooring – $10-$30 per square foot

Hardware – $1000-$3500

Lighting – $2000-$5000

Tile or Stone – $15-$80 per square foot

These guidelines are based on kitchens 80-150 square feet located in the Metropolitan area.  Additional costs may apply for Asbestos and Lead removal in buildings constructed through 1977 as well as any previously undetected and necessary mold removal in all construction.  In NYC many buildings require piping replacement to the branch line.  Requests for electrical upgrades must be cleared with building management and are likely to add significantly to the cost of your project.

© 2012-2013 Design Discourse / Ask Kent and Co. All Rights Reserved

I’m in the process of applying for Board approval but want to get my renovation moving. Can I get measured for my kitchen now, so that it’s ready to install when I move in in 8-12 weeks? –SF, New York NY

Well…yes…and no.

Assuming the following:

A. the seller is cooperative in allowing your designer inside their home
B. you’re not moving any walls or changing the kitchen layout in any major way
C. you’re willing to chance an imperfect result
D. you ultimately get approved by the building!

then yes, you could take some initial measurements now.

As for your kitchen then being ready for installation in a matter of weeks based on those measurements, ready for your move-in, I would have to say an emphatic NO. Generally kitchens are not made of Lego, they are generally not (though sometimes ARE) modular and they are certainly not “plug in” or “snap together.” Not even if they’re from Ikea!

Kitchen design is a complex set of steps that must all interlock (yes, like Lego and modular furniture) and function together as a whole, not unlike the inner-workings of the human body. Initial measurements are exactly that, initial measurements.

And while you may be able to order your cabinetry and appliances and have them available for delivery and installation in -sometimes as little as- eight weeks, that can only happen once a series of measurements are taken, re-taken and re-taken again. A 1/2″ mistake in a kitchen design is HUGE and could potentially leave the narrowest pass-through EVER in the middle of a wall of cabinetry. You could wind up with an inexplicable gap on one side of your dishwasher or an aluminum foil roll-sized space above your microwave!

Depending on your building, you will need to review your Alteration Agreement for allowances and restrictions, including work time start and stoppage, disposal of debris and so forth.

You may require the services of an architect, in which case you’ll have to file your plans not only with your building Board (and await their approval) but with the City. You may also go through several revisions on the drawings making adjustments or adding lighting or other details.

And demolition and construction can only begin once YOU are the proprietary lease holder.

Scheduling of trades, from the plumbers to the tile setters have to be carefully coordinated. Missing sinks, faucets or door handles have the potential to throw a project off course for 2-4 weeks…as do material discontinuations and unforeseen shipping delays.

In the open plan kitchen below, site conditions AFTER initial construction, forced a re-think of where to hang the glass cabinets: too far out into the living room would have made them difficult to reach from the kitchen side, while too far into the kitchen left a sharp corner protruding into the doorway where banged-up foreheads would have been a regular occurrence.

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These are typical problems that arise on any construction site and cannot necessarily be guessed at or anticipated from a drawing. Sometimes you have to see it “in person.” And sometimes that means a re-fit, i.e. taking the cabinets down and re-hanging them!

Too, in any building of any age, the ceiling height is likely to vary, being 7′.6 7/8″ in one place, while 4 feet away it could be 7′.3 3/4″…but the real estate agent will tell you the ceilings are 8′ even!

What you decide to do for your floor covering will also impact your design, making those ceiling heights even tighter…and they’ll raise your appliances as much as an inch too, which in turn impacts your counter and base cabinet heights!

So, like the “sand in an hour glass” or the organs of the human body, FIT is everything. Don’t take it for granted…and don’t rush the preparation stage to accommodate a move-in or you may find yourself with a half-baked souffle!

© 2012-2013 Design Discourse / Ask Kent and Co. All Rights Reserved

I’m in a retirement building and want to make some upgrades to my kitchen including new countertops and floor, a back splash and an eating bar. I don’t think this will cost more than $5,000. What do you think? –GL, New York NY

Well, my first question is whether or not you own the apartment? From your letter, I gather you don’t, which can make this tricky. Retirement communities, especially rentals that are built with religious or government money are generally not open to any structural or complex decorative changes. For example, it is unlikely that you would get approval to take down and replace existing kitchen cabinets even though you aren’t moving any walls or plumbing. Ditto the counter tops. Adding tile over tile, or even to cover a bare area of sheet rock behind the sink and the stove area will likely require some kind of approval. And, while you’ve indicated that you already have permission to change the flooring (except for adding wall-to-wall carpet), as a designer I would have to carefully question anything that would be nailed or glued down over an existing floor.

Changing a bathroom is likely a no-no unless the whole building is being upgraded and you’re allowed to have some say; but the good news is that an eating bar is probably fine! This can be bought or built to match or coordinate and can be secured to a wall with screws in a way that’s strong but not permanent

Before doing -or arranging to do- ANY work, I would suggest contacting your building manager. There may already be an Alteration Agreement in place that would outline what, exactly, you can and cannot do. If no Agreement exists, your building manager or management should be able to issue you a statement on company letterhead approving or denying your right to make the alterations you are suggesting. BE SPECIFIC in your request. If you want to add a back splash, be clear about where, i.e. “behind the stove and sink area.” I realize this seems a bit obvious, but if an inspector -with an 8th grade education- comes to your apartment and believes the tile should be ‘other’ than where you’ve located it, you could have to take it down, repair the wall and may even run the risk of loosing your lease!

Having your request and its approval in writing BEFORE any work commences protects everyone!

As to the work costing $5000. That really depends on what is allowed and the materials you choose to complete the job.

Take a step back, and get all the pieces of the puzzle laid out. Mistakes are more expensive to correct than doing the job right in the first place!!

© 2012-2013 Design Discourse / Ask Kent and Co. All Rights Reserved

The News From the 2013 International Contemporary Furniture Fair

Ok, so I lied. I said we’d get back to questions this week but pleasantly, Surprisingly, HAPPILY and UNEXPECTEDLY there’s news to report from the Fair, by which I mean the International Contemporary Furniture Fair held at the Jacob Javitz Center in New York this past week.

After the general disappointment of KBIS in New Orleans I set my sites low for this show.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the phone has begun to ring with potential projects again, the New York Times is touting the construction of dozens of luxury towers -one penthouse selling in an unfinished building for $84 million- on Park Avenue, and pent up buyer’s frustration is stretching the seams…according to vendors at the show!

The biggest surprise at the Fair (for me) was LIGHTING!! There’s always good lighting…and even a few GREAT pieces, but this time the offerings from both the US and abroad were…well…illuminating (sorry couldn’t help myself)!

The true standouts came from Portugal with prices in the reasonable to believable range. Here’s some of what we saw:

This chandelier was made entirely out of glass beads. It’s companion wall-sconces were equally beautiful and timeless.

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These were like having indoor fireworks…and made us smile!

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The young designer of these pieces is SO talented…and sweet. You want him to succeed. He sells a lot to the Russian and Middle Eastern markets which respond to his ornate, yet contemporary designs. I have to say, his work was my favorite flavor at the Fair!

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This fixture reminded me of subway cars going in multiple directions. The bulbs are neon and can be any color you like…

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Loved this…for color…for originality…because it’s made in Brooklyn and because it reminded me of eucalyptus leaves!

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The other surprise at the Fair was the use of COPPER. We saw it everywhere: in fixtures, faucets and furniture. What a refreshing change from brushed nickel and oil rubbed bronze!! Also watch out for “Champagne” finishes in appliances: a warmer, golder stainless steel…but I digress…

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Other than this, I cannot say a particular color, like lime or navy or gray stood out…

As far as furniture went, there was limited appeal; but here are the pieces that inspired envy and aspiration:

These stools were fabulous. With storage inside and a tray top that converts to a base for a cushion on top, it had hidden wheels beneath a beautifully finished wood exterior. As for the cushions -at a hefty extra charge- they didn’t look like much at first but on closer inspection, they were made like handbags with top-stitching and heavy weight leather…and manufactured with the same materials that Fendi uses…which is why they cost what they do!

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This sofa was the bees knees as far as I was concerned. Made of fiber glass, it would be great outside at the pool, in a trendy hotel lobby or on either side of a fireplace in a New York apartment. Covered in faux fur, there lots of other luscious options. Only negative: needs more padding for the bony-bottomed among you!

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And more Copper…

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Our friend, artist Pam Smilow, was at the show unveiling designs created in the 50’s and 60’s by her father. Here’s one example…

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For a bit of whimsy…or if you know the right people…Charm and Whimsy…we liked these wall-hung shapes in bright colors…and can imagine them flat on their backs marching down a dining room table!

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ICFF is not typically a kitchen and bath event, however we were impressed with this firm’s efforts to maximize unused counter and over-the-sink space. They also manufacture really cool, textured doors for older Ikea cabinets.

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Back in the copper category, we saw some GORGEOUS copper faucets. I LOVELOVELOVE this one:

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Finally, another surprise, is the resurgence of laminate products at a certain level. OCTOPUS produces some high octane beauties with life-like wood grain, snake-skin, bark, alligator and others too sensual to mention! I can see using these for pool houses, outdoor kitchens and commercial applications.

All in all a good show…and lots to inspire exciting design for years to come!

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