June 2008

Always remember that light is the first element of design; without it there is no color, form, or texture…Tom Farin is founder and President of Pegasus Associates.  Pegasus Associates Lighting

I hate to get on a rant this early in the game but I have to say something about lighting in your kitchen. IT MATTERS! Not just style and selection of a fixture that may hang over your island, sink or wherever but also what/how much lighting you do for general purposes. Please do not let anyone tell you that you do not need “so much” light in your kitchen…I am not saying it needs to be lit like an operating room but you need adequate light! All too often, (read here: like today) I get into “discussions” with another designer or architect on a project regarding how many cans/where they go/where they are switched/dimmers or no/ etc etc. Often there is spirited debate. The older I get the more light I need to have…but there is a trend amongst some designers to ignore what we actually do in a kitchen…which is cook and eat. And you need to be able to see to do both. So here is a few of my thoughts on this..and this is my opinion…well, I guess because it is my blog!

  • do not be afraid of recessed cans…you can use compact flourescents in them if you like…and there are those that will dim too… check out this site:Eartheasy
  • it’s ok to NOT put  recesses cans in a line…for pete’s sake! put them where you need them to light your workspace! Most people look at a plan from the top..and they look so nicey-nice all in a grid pattern…but guess what!? When in your kitchen….you do not walk around looking up! They do not need to be little soldiers lining up for duty in a straight line!
  • watch the crown projection on your tall and deep cabinetry…nothing says “amateur”  more than having the baffle of a recessed can too close to the crown molding
  • summing it up on cans…use them where needed, switch them differently for how you might use them, and put them on dimmers!
  • forget halogens for under the cabinet lighting..they are way too hot…use xenon or led or slimline flourescents..put them as close to the front of cabinet as possible and do not leave big “gaps” in a line..or you will have shadows
  • Now, with choosing pendants or accent lights…do not let this be an afterthought!  Do not let this be a last minute purchase at the local DIY store because you are too tired/too “over it all”/don’t have time too look/ blah blah blah…It is very important to the aesthetics of your kitchen to have a good looking pendant(s) or chandelier…Style counts! Make sure they are placed properly. Look for lights with some personality to tie into the overall “look” of the project. One of my favorite lines for more traditional  is ..Hubbardton Forge but they also have some cool modern looks as well

Next time, will talk about bath lighting as it is also often misunderstood!

Here are a couple of pix that illustrate why good lighting is important!

My client was a lighting nut! She found some of the best fixtures!

A pop of color makes this kitchen awesome!


While searching for just the right shelving idea for one of my clients, I happened across several websites devoted to shelves of all sorts…I will share with you a few particularly interesting ones. This seemingly ordinary yet oh so useful everyday object can be used in a myriad of ways to add style and personality to any room and is especially useful in the bath. Check out:



Doug Mockett


Ogettii mesa sconce..this one is a winner! Click on the image

to go to a lighting guide

blog that is really good

My Fave kitchen at Kitchen and Bath show in Chicago!

What a great use of 3 form! This is awesome!

Great looking light from Vibia

Doug Mockett

Innovative solution when you need to get electrical in tough spots. This can be used on an island also when it is one level..but will warn you…it is rather wide in circumference. I am waiting for a smaller version!

Wow, it has been a crazy week! No time to think let alone blog! Lots of fun stuff going on and some really great projects coming up that I can’t wait to tell you about….many more modern kitchens and baths being done and I am grateful! I love traditional styling but it is nice to have the modern ones to really get your creativity going and I love, love, love to explore new products! We are finishing up two great baths among several and a wonderful mid century modern kitchen. I will post pix when I get them. It has been fun working on the mid century modern bath and kitchen…researching lights and materials. We are using some great 3 form with bamboo rings embedded for door panels. I can’t wait to see it done! Now, that is a fantastic product. I absolutely love the potential for using 3 form in our projects.

The kitchen and bath are small but well done. We had to be very creative in the bath and we are using a great tub from Neptune called the Wind tub. It is very unique and has a neat curve to it yet it will fit into 5 ft alcove. In the kitchen, we used metal laminate to create a “table” effect for the cooktop to sit in..so will post that pix too. It is way less expensive to do than stainless but my cabinet man said tough to work with because of the metal shavings.

The other bath that I am JUST loving is a joint effort by one of our other designers, Laura,..she may be posting here sometimes as well. It is fun and has been a treat to work on as the clients are so open to everything! Laura and I have worked hard on getting just the right light, just the right paint and just the right “look” to this 5×8 typical bath..but it anything but typical! We did some interesting things and will post pix when complete.

Bamboo rings

Today at lunch ( what’s that again?) well, the time of day usually reserved for lunch anyway…I went to return a pair of shoes at a local department store. WHAAAAAATTT? I can just tell you, there was a lot of stimulus spending in the shoe department! WHO are these people?? I mean, seriously, there were not enough sales people to handle the crowd…it was a sale but nothing earthshatteringly great. I could not even get a place to park outside. Sure gas is high, consumer confidence is down, lending is tight..BUT THERE IS A SHOE SALE AT DILLIARDS!! Priorities, right? And this is not a exclusive store…there were working women, housewives, a few husbands, some retirees…at least that is what I perceived.

Ok, so about business. Here is my pep talk. Granted, at my shop, we are busy. Can’t even keep up with the work at the moment without working into the evenings. Knock on wood, or maybe ceasarstone…but the truth is business is up 40% from last year. I may be slinging hash at Waffle House in 6 months but right now I am grateful for the busy days and (some) evenings. Some of my subs are slower…but my REALLY good ones are busy too…partly because I am busy. It seems as if the good subcontractors DO indeed stay busy. But, For what it’s worth, this has been my plan of action for past year when the media started the recession hype and fuel prices became outrageous. Since I am a small business owner it mostly applys to smaller businesses.

  • DON’T stop advertising. BUT DO evaluate each advertising dollar carefully. Make sure your staff tracks the referrals. Make this non-negotiable. You must know what is driving the customer base. Then do a report on it and really see what you are getting in return for your investment.
  • DON’T give up the marketing and PR. I am differentiating from advertising because, well, it is different! Marketing is about building your “brand”…about putting forth the image of your business. It might mean that you as the owner or manager needs to be more involved but you have to keep building your brand even in a down market. In fact, even more important to illustrate staying power in the community. Work the committees, Trade associations, neighborhood gatherings…the more the better and make sure your staff does the same. Pay for them to go to events where they can help promote your “brand”..get them out in the community as well. For my business, this means I do NOT give up submitting projects for editorial, do NOT cut the photography budget ( prof photography is key to any designer publishing their work) and keep your website up to date.
  • Cut payroll if you can but make sure key people are well taken care of…reward them for their skills and “thinking outside the box” to help promote business. Get rid of slackers. You don’t need them and they will keep you from maximizing your sales. Not only that, slackers are cancerous to the rest of the staff. Cut out the cancer. Early detection is the key.
  • Treat each potential client like they might be your last. Don’t take anything for granted. this is the secret to small business success in my opinion. I CARE. My BUSINESS cares. We try and project this to our design clients as well as the retail customers. Even if it is for a 5 dollar hinge that some scroungy guy comes in and trys to find and we spend an hour searching for….that 5 dollar hinge can represent thousands of dollars in future sales if that scroungy guy turns out to be the lead trim guy at 3 million dollar house and YOU spent the time earning his business. True story.
  • True, some people will shop you for competitive pricing on the internet. They will use and abuse you and your good nature. Stop trying to fight the internet. DO start giving people a reason to buy “local”. Work with your sales people and staff to understand how important is to support local businesses…as local businesses support the community. Many sales people don’t get this and try to fight internet pricing on THEIR level….which is simply pricing. Don’t do it. Create your USP (unique selling point) on the merits of your business relationship…and you can always, without preaching, segue into the “buy local” mantra. And practice it yourself. I only buy internet when I cannot get it local. I am religious about supporting my local businesses. I “get” it and you can help your bottom line by making sure your people “get” it too. BUY LOCAL.
  • If you are a design oriented business, invest in good looking postcards to have a “leave behind” for customers and to drop off a stack at businesses that might refer people to you. Be reciprocal too. Modern postcards http://www.modernpostcard.com/?cid=google_ppc_hp_post_cards is a great site if you do not have a local printer to work with on printing. Put some good shots on the cards then have someone go around and ask to put them out in places that make sense. Cheap cheap cheap. Also, make sure every single person who ventures into your business takes one with them…never know who might see it on their counter!  Yard signs are also good…and cheap.
  • PR is important..send out press releases on contests, publications ..anything newsworthy. It takes little time and again, it’s free.
  • Don’t forget your most important advertising source..existing customer base! Keep in contact! Send a note pertaining to something relative to “remind” them you are there…don’t be afraid to ASK for referrals either….people LIKE TO HELP OTHERS when it is genuine…I myself bend over backward to help someone when they ask or give me the idea they value my business enough to ask for a referral.

Just as illustration: Friday I have appointment with new client in neighboring community. The referral? One of those postcards dropped off at local appliance store. Yes, it works. I have now, with the initial visit paid for the entire run of postcards. Good ROI!!

Most importantly, try not to buy into the hype and “woe is us” environment. Of course it is tougher times but your attitude towards the business impacts your employees’ attitudes too. Get creative and get going!

Cherry edge

Distressed Walnut

Wenge thick top

For looks and durability, granite is an awesome choice but let’s face it…we are all a bit tired of granite, granite, granite everywhere. I really enjoy specifying quartz tops for their “green” properties as well as the more solid colors offered…when a lot of movement fights with the overall design. But, when I really want to add punch to a kitchen, I look to add some element of wood counters to the plan. There are so many options now that it boggles the mind. Reclaimed wood, parquet bamboo, end grain, edge grain, plank…the design options are endless. And wood is a terrific product that has been much maligned over the years. Make sure if you are doing a thicker top that you consider lowering the height of the cabinetry to accomodate the additonal height or some appliances may not work…as well as be a bit on the tall side! Also, consider set down stainless rods if you have a cooktop or oven nearby…wonderful “built in” trivet and looks really cool too!


From the Craft Art website:

The most common question we are asked is “How durable are wood countertops?” There are two basic measures of durability: Hardness and Serviceability.


The hardness of wood is a measure of how large a dent would be created if you dropped something on it. Obviously, stone is harder than wood. If you dropped a cast iron skillet on a granite countertop, it will not make a dent. It may chip or crack the granite, but is unlikely to dent it. The same skillet will, however, make a small dent in a wood top. How large a dent will depend on the wood species. For instance, Brazilian Cherry is a harder wood than Walnut. Please see Wood species for details about the hardness of each of the wood species we use in our countertops.

It is also true that unless you view a wood countertop with a small dent from just the right angle with just the right light, it is unlikely that you will see it.

Some of our customers like the look of a well-used top. So, Craft-Art offers a distressed finish as an option. We add a small amount of water-based dye to highlight the dents we create.


Craft-Art tops are waterproof. Water left on a Craft-Art top will sit there until it evaporates. The Paduak countertop with a sink in our break room takes the use and abuse of over 30 people every day. It has been installed for three years and has been re-oiled only once. With Craft-Art tops, you can use any sink you wish. By adding drain channels, you can use countertop dish racks.

Keep “posted” for more!

BEST Overall Kitchen Winner

Emerald Coast NKBA Design Contest 2007