Monday, January 19, 2015

Kitchen countertop ideas: The best countertop material to warm up a kitchen

There are so many countertop materials to choose from these days that the options can seem overwhelming. I've had granite and in my opinion, it is overdone and can look dated. When I embarked on my last two kitchen designs, I wanted something different, something rich and warm that harkened back to an earlier time. More important, I didn't want anything that would appear dated in another 10 or 15 years.

That's why I chose wood when I designed the kitchen in my current as well as my previous home. Visit the earliest American homes in colonial days and you'll find that wood was the countertop material of choice. For that reason alone, you never need to be afraid that your wood countertop will  look dated like Avocado Green or Harvest Gold appliances do today.

Now, let's talk durability. Surprisingly, wood countertops are more resilient than you might think, especially the countertops manufactured by Craft-Art Elegant Surfaces. I like Craft-Art because it offers dozens of choices of wood species and you can choose among various construction styles, such as having the boards laid out in plank style, which is what I chose for both of my kitchen designs; edge grain, which is more forgiving of scratches, and end grain, which is best used for cutting boards.

You can also choose to have the wood finished with or without hand distressing. I chose to have it distressed for a more aged look. Best of all, contrary to popular belief, wood countertops, especially those from Craft-Art, can be waterproof, so there's no need to be afraid of having it near a sink. When treated with a finish that can be best described as the finish used on wood boats, water just "beads up" on the surface and wipes away.

Yes, the surface is more prone to scratching, but so is soapstone, marble, concrete and any number of other countertop surfaces. To avoid scratches, I simply place felt pads on any item that sits on my wood counters and I always make a point to use trivets to protect the surface from heat. The only real precaution I take is to avoid dragging any unglazed ceramic bowls, bakers or plates across the countertop because that rough, unglazed surface on the bottom of the ceramic piece will cause scratch the wood surface. However, that same action will also scratch almost any other surface as well, so "don't drag but lift" is a good motto to remember if you want to protect any countertop.

I like to mix up my materials a bit. So I chose to use green slate on the island, which houses the sink. I did this, not because of fear of the water, but the kitchen opens to my great room which has a lot of rich, wood accents. I wanted another color and texture, so while, I have Craft-Art's Distressed Black Walnut on the straightaways along the wall, the slate island top provides a nice contrast.

Here is how they look together in my finished kitchen.

Here you can see the juxtaposition of the green slate island alongside the warm wood countertops.
Image copyright Norman Sizemore

We ordered Craft-Art's Distressed Black Walnut with plank construction, so there are various nicks and dents,
which happily were all intentional. Don't worry about matching your wood countertop to your hardwood floor, if you have one. They don't have to match.

Another view of the countertop, which may actually give a better view of the plank construction and distressed finish. Notice the floor planks run perpendicular to the countertop planks. By the way, the floor is white quarter sawn oak.
Here are two photos of the wood countertops being installed. Both pieces were laser-measured and professionally installed.

Here is a makeover of my previous kitchen where I had a turquoise Corian countertop and matching backsplash and replaced them with a Craft-Art wood countertop in distressed American Cherry and topped it off with a stacked stone backsplash.

It really is an amazing before and after.

Before. I enjoyed the color scheme with the turquoise and I remember it broke my heart a little to replace it.

While it may have been a little sad, I really did enjoy the outcome of the makeover. It simply created a warmer kitchen.
Here's another corner of the kitchen, before...
And after.
What are your favorite choices of countertops? I also like soapstone, concrete, quartz surfaces like Caesarstone and even glass and concrete. I'm all for being different. How about you?

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Exquisite personalized gifts for baby, toddler, wedding or just because

If you are looking for a personalized gift, whether it be for Valentine's Day, Mother's Day, a baby shower, wedding or birthday, consider a gift from Swell Forever.

I've written about personalized gifts before, specifically, custom pillows and artwork, as seen here, from Finch & Cotter. Now, I have come across another terrific option for custom gifts.

Swell Forever, founded by Brooke Henze, in Atlanta, GA, offers original gifts that are sure to become family heirlooms. The products are made in the U.S. and the company strives to source as much of its fabric, materials and packaging in America as possible.

When giving a gift from Swell Forever, the giver can give the recipient a lasting message that they will treasure always.

Best of all, Swell Forever is a company on a mission. Its goal is to raise awareness for children in foster care, especially youth who have aged out and children in need of an adoptive family. To that end, Swell Forever sets aside 10 to 20% of sales to go into the Swell Forever Adoption Fund.

If that wasn't great enough, check out these exquisite gift ideas.

Swell Forever founder Brooke Henze and her daughter showcase the company's Forever Shoe Collection.
Photo copyright Swell Forever.

The Forever Dress and Forever Shoe Collection includes personalizes message labels and keepsakes bags for the shoes. Retail price is $50 and up. Photo copyright Swell Forever.
The Forever Blanket Cotton Collection for baby ranges from $65 to $80 and includes a personalized message tag. It comes in two styles and seven options of French satin. Photo copyright Swell Forever.
The Millie Forever Dress with a personalized message label.Photo copyright Swell Forever.
The Forever Blanket Alpaca Collection is a throw with a personalized message tag. Price is $240 and includes the custom message. It comes in three styles/colors. Photo copyright Swell Forever.
Forever Blanket Cotton Collection runs $150-170 and includes five styles and the personalized message tag. Photo copyright Swell Forever. 
The Forever Bird Collection includes handmade glass hummingbirds. They comes with a personalized card and gift packaging for $25. Buy a Sunshine Edition and Swell Forever donates one to a family grieving the loss of an infant through Project Leo William &. Photo copyright Swell Forever.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

19 great ideas for colorful entry doors

We all want our homes to have curb appeal and we may enjoy watching the home makeover shows on television that create it, but sometimes it is hard to go about creating curb appeal all on your own.

Obviously, changing the color of your brick or siding isn't a viable option. But you can change the color of your entry door.

I've written time and again about how the color of your entry door can go a long way to creating curb appeal. I've written about what the color of your door says about you here and here and the hot, new trending colors--both bold and soft--for entry doors.

Now, I wanted to take a moment and showcase some doors I've found that make great use of color and might just provide you with the inspiration you need to take the plunge. Some are bold, others are tame. They are all beautiful. What's more, beautiful entry doors like these just make you wonder what lies behind the door. The interiors must be spectacular.

I love the blue of this door against the pale yellow/ivory walls.

I have always loved a red front door. This one doesn't stand out as well as some others I've included below do, but nevertheless, having the white framework around the door helps contrast with the red brick.

This door is stained brown, so it is not what I would call a bold color.
However, the stained glass window and transom propel this door into the stratosphere. Love it!

This red door is beautiful and here, it is decked out for the holidays. I love how a red door makes a very traditional, and in this case, colonial, statement.

Again, this isn't exactly a bold color, but then again, you don't see many black doors anymore. They are traditionally regulated to historic homes. Maybe black doors should make a comeback.

Here's an olive door. Different enough to standout, but not so out there that it would intimidate anyone looking for a different color that plays it safe.

I absolutely love the color of the blue framework around this entryway.

Ordinarily, I wouldn't think of mustard for the color of my front door,
but on this creamy white background, it looks oh, so elegant.

A red door on a modest home. There are no embellishments here yet it is still striking.
Imagine how it would look if it was dressed up a bit.

Green...not the muted shade of olive green shown on the door fourth door above here, but a bold, nearly grass green looks wonderful here against traditional brick and framed in white.

Call this color black cherry or burgundy. Either way, it looks warm and inviting.

This is a marine blue hue and again, the white framing draws in the eye. Look how it contrasts with equally bold red walls.

See I didn't lie when I said I love red doors. This one dresses up a white and gray framed house.
Love the traditional curb appeal. It makes you want to see what the house looks like inside.

Unfortunately, this photo doesn't do this door justice because it is actually a cross between a pale pink and a lilac shade. It is very understated and muted for those wanting a change but looking for a low-risk hue.

Here's the third shade of green door I found. The first was a muted olive, the second almost a grass green and this one is a soft green but not so muted that it borders on sage. Which one is for you?

Another red door, this one with more of an orange undertone. It jazzes up the beige house nicely.

This door is tone on tone but it works. One might think of going with a white screen door to match the white gingerbread trim on this Victorian home, but the yellow is cheery and welcoming, just like the house.

Another red door, this one looks very stately. In this case, because the brick is red, the door blends in and doesn't appear so bold--even though it is red.
Lastly, this is my back entry door. I had it painted in Benjamin Moore's Razzle Dazzle 1348. Our front door  is mahogany, so we stained it dark. We never would have painted the mahogany so, as it turned out, I didn't get my whimsical entry door, but I did manage to have fun with the back door.

How bold are you willing to go with your entry door? Or have you gone bold with your house color? Let me know.