Friday, December 1, 2017

Kitchen Islands

I remember when a kitchen island was a hot item to put in a kitchen remodel in the 1980s. My best friend's parents remodeled their kitchen when I was around 5 years old and I remember them showing the kitchen to my parents. I was eye level with the stools at the counter and I thought that the cookbook shelf in the island was so impressive.

Now here we are in 2017 and islands are a must for almost all of my clients. I have my own kitchen island and hope to expand my kitchen in a few years to have an even larger island.

What I like about my own island is the functionality. I can pivot from my stove to a large open workspace on my island and make soups, cook pasta, make a quick fudge sauce, all of the things that are easier when there is plenty of room to chop and mix the ingredients nearby.

But are we missing out on work space by not having the U shape in our kitchens any longer?

My experience has been that the U shape is frustrating for 2 reasons. First, the U shape is maddening when a few cooks are in the kitchen putting on a large meal. This is often the case in my mom's kitchen and we are constantly bumping into each other. There is about 6-8 feet between the peninsula and the oven and it fills up with people, including my mom in her wheelchair.

The second reason is that the distance between the peninsula and the oven makes the peninsula more of a snack and eating area instead of a chopping and stirring area. This puts a lot of strain on the counters adjacent to the stove. In my experience this is usually 3 feet of linear counter space with a blender and paper towel holder in the way against the backsplash.

With an island, what is gained are two access points into the main cooking area near the stove. This can be so nice for children who want to come in and get a snack or make their own lunch while an adult is also working in the kitchen. It is also incredibly nice for multiple cooks and for the chef to have some company if guests want to sit at a bar stool while dinner is being made.

Almost certainly, kitchen design will morph over the next several years and islands might be a thing of the past--just like the galley kitchen was in the 1950s.  But for now, the kitchen island suites me just fine.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

2016 Trends for 2017

2016 seems to be a year of changes for kitchen looks. Details like carriage pendant lights, oil-rubbed bronze faucets, and shabby painted cabinets have almost completely disappeared. Now a modern, industrial, and artistic style  is emerging.

Here are some details from the last few years I think will stay:

big scale lighting

open shelves

industrial seating and lighting

two tone cabinets


subway tile

Most consumers are getting used to these trends:

gold and brass

white walls

dark cabinets

lots of marble

But these are some new trends I think will take off in 2017:

slab (not Shaker) cabinets:

unique handles knobs and pulls

wood details in new places


Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Is a Steam Shower Right for Your Bathroom Remodel?

When my clients and I get ready to plan their bathroom remodel, steam showers are often on the wish list for improvements.

Markay Johnson Construction, Atherton CA Residence

Steam showers are credited with many health benefits, including better sleep, more relaxation, reducing anxiety, improving cold symptoms, sinus problems, arthritis, and some say the steam helps with the autoimmune disease AS. (sources:, and "steam showers", "sinusitis", "ankylosing spondylitis") Steam showers are also water efficient.  Steam uses about 2 gallons of water in 20 minutes compared to a water-saving shower head at 50 gallons in 20 minutes (source:

Stone Creek Builders, Fairhaven Residence

Some of my clients worry that the small size of their bathroom or shower means that a steam shower isn't possible.  Even a small shower can be fitted for a steam unit.  The Amerec AX7.5 could work for a shower as small as 3'x4' with the standard 8' ceiling.

Rasmussen Construction, Mill Valley Residence

 Popular brands for steam shower generators (the unit that creates the steam) are Mr Steam, Amerec, and Steamist.  Cedarbrook Sauna and Steam in Woodinville, WA recommends Mr. Steam for a few reasons: the repairs and service is easier because the heating elements are easy to replace (some brands you have to replace the entire unit instead of just the element), the unit has a stainless steel exterior, and there is good customer service.

When planning the steam shower, a lot of factors need to be considered., "Steam Shower: How it Works"

First, can the remodel budget handle the cost of the unit, electrician, plumber, and control panel.  This can cost anywhere from $1500 to $4000 depending on the brand of steam unit you choose, the size of the shower, and your local contractor rates. The steam shower I worked with last summer in Salt Lake was an extra $3700 for a shower that was 120 cubic feet.

Second, can the steam unit (which is usually about the size of a desktop computer tower) be hidden somewhere near plumbing and electrical in a heated attic space, shower bench, vanity cabinet, or closet and within 25' of the shower?  Most often, a nearby vanity cabinet is used, and might use up valuable storage space.

Third, will your existing plumbing and electrical work with the unit? The steam generator will have it's own electrical circuit breaker and plumbing hook ups (source: Mr. Steam).

Forth, can the remodel budget handle the special products needed for waterproofing the entire shower room?  The membrane, thin set, tile, grout, and glass installation all need to be approved for steam shower use.  These are usually more expensive products, but not always. The type of tile chosen effects the capacity of the steam unit, so pick those together.  The entire room must be enclosed, which means your glass dealer will add a transom at the top of the door and a gasket at the bottom of the shower door.  The ceiling will be tiled and sloped to send condensation back down the walls and to the drain.  Bench construction cannot have any wood (source: Slow Home Studio).

Thyme & Place Design LLC, New York Residence

The luxury of a home steam shower can sound complicated.  But at the end of the project, you get to have a shower enclosure that feels like a sauna and gives relaxation and health benefits without using so much water.

If you want help with a room that you absolutely love, contact me about my design services. 

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Traditional vs Mid Century Modern Fireplace when Decorating your Living Room

I live in a home that was built in 1960. In the living room, we have both giant picture windows and a small cut class window; we have a traditional stair railing and a giant stone modern fireplace.  Having both traditional and modern elements in the room makes decorating a challenge.

flickriver, EvangelistaLA

 A lot of us homeowners have a mid century modern fireplace.  The building boom in the US during the mid 20th century means that all of us living in the inner suburbs of cities around the US have a giant fireplace to work with in our living rooms.

Klopf Architecture via

Popular living rooms right now are based on a traditional fireplace which lend themselves to traditional and rustic decorating.  The furniture styles, furniture arrangement, art, and colors of these living rooms will not work with the mid century fireplace.  BUT it is possible to compliment a mid century fireplace with a few simple decorating ideas.

Here are my rules for making your mid century fireplace look GOOD:

1. Use airy and visually light furniture (empty spaces between floor and bottom).
2. Consider not having a couch.  A couch can often compete with the visual weight of a mid-mod fireplace.

3. Either no art on the fireplace or one large LARGE piece of art.

LA Times "Architect A Quincy Jones"

4. No carpet, yes rug.

5. Don't hide the windows.
6. No patterns.

Cube Architecture
7. Subtle color palette.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Success with Hiring a Designer to Plan your DIY Remodel

One of the smartest things you can do for a remodel or decorating project is to pay an interior designer for a plan.  It's like a map, a recipe or a doctor's prescription.  You save money by executing the plan yourself, but you get incredible results because you have an expert involved from the beginning.

But all of that can go up in flames once an innocent home owner runs into a sale, a craft fair, a decorating present from a well-meaning family member, second guessing the plan, changing your mind, not having a deadline, and substituting colors and purchases from the plan.

But there's another way.  You have to use the plan like a prescription, a recipe, or a map.  You have to do these 3 things:

1. Commit to spending all the money you told your designer you have.  A good designer will base their design on that amount of money--no more, no less.  No sale or decorating gift or craft fair should detour you from this amount of money you are going to spend.  Set the money aside in a special account, and pat yourself on the back every time you spend that money on something from the design.

2. Set a deadline for yourself.  Act like that deadline is day zero.  Picture yourself putting the finishing touches on the room on that deadline, and stepping back and looking around, amazed at how beautiful and inviting the space is.  Or throw a party set for the day after that date. Have people over to enjoy all your hard work, and this will force you to enjoy it too.  Use that vision to motivate you.

3. Relax and execute your professional design plan.  Second guessing, second opinions, and substitutions are a guarantee way to make the process miserable and delay your deadline.  Removing one piece of the puzzle will change the whole design.  If you second guess that stain color for your floors, or the curtain choice, and buy something different, the whole design has to be re-worked.  Trust that the over-all design is the goal, not "the perfect" light fixture or "the perfect" couch.  The pieces all come together to make a beautiful space.  Just like a recipe would be awful if you substituted sugar for salt, so would a design for a room.  You might even LOVE sugar (I know I do!), but as an ingredient, you have to think carefully about how it works with the rest of the recipe.

Good luck with those pitfalls!

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Moving Color Around a Room

Moving color around a room is the same goal an artist has for moving color around their canvas.


Pink is not big yet in Utah, but it's getting there, and this picture illustrates perfectly the idea of moving color around a room.  Notice how your eye bounces from the front door to the painting to the armchair?

Great artists, like George Seurat, knew how to do this effortlessly with their compositions, using a strong color like red.

See how your eye goes immediately to #1?  Then moves in a circle around the painting to each red color?  You can do this with a room in your own home. Take a picture of the room, and look at it when you're not thinking a lot about it.  Notice where your eye goes first, and see if you can repeat that in other parts of the room.

When I designed this master bath remodel, I knew that the white pedestal tub would really pop with a dark floor.  (This tile is a porcelain slate look-alike from Home Depot.  Score for my client!) Look how well this turned out!  But the dark color of the floor needed to be repeated in other parts of the room.  I added dark frames with the art work, contrasting it with a white mat board.  The bookcase is white also, and really pops the dark storage baskets.

Try it out for yourself.  Ask a pro to create the effect for you. It's the key to a well designed room.

If you want help with a room that you absolutely love, contact me about my design services. 

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Beadboard Bathrooms: Trendy or Classic?

Beadboard trends come and go.  In the late 1800s, the Victorians loved beadboard.

Beadboard stayed around until the Depression roughly, as you can see from the set of Annie.  The set designer dramatized the institutional and colored paint look that beadboard may have had in the early 1900s.

And then wood-look wall paneling took over for the next 50 years.
But in the 1980s, beadboard started a slow comeback, as a Victorian revive in the historic stained look.

By the 2000s, beadboard was back--and painted a farmhouse white.  The 2002 Martha Stewart book "Decorating with Color" has a fantastic dining room with the new rage of white beadboard.

Decorating with Color, the Best of Martha Stewart Living

And now, the beadboard is still popular, but taking a backseat to the new rage of wood plank walls.,,20413341_20830582,00.html

And who knows about 10 years from now? Maybe full walls of wallpaper will come back, or tiled wainscoting like the 1950s and 60s.  I can guarantee there will be a new trend in the future!

If you want help with a bathroom that you absolutely love, contact me about my design services.