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An Off-The-Cuff Art Table

I think all of you know I’m a nut about art.  Some of you may know that my particular passion of late is encaustic art.  This particular type of painting is hot, literally.  It’s painting with beeswax, resin and pigments and you can get the full scoop here.  Last year I had the pleasure of attending the 7th International Encaustic Conference in Provincetown Mass.  You will find pics from that trip here scroll down to “Encaustic Boy”.

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The solution


Sometimes I’m called upon to do the impossible, or almost.  It’s easy for a home owner to blow the budget when purchasing a new residence or fixing up an old one.  Trust me, everything always costs more than you think it will!  If you’re starting out remember to pad that budget.  Sometimes I’ll get a perfect storm consisting of a very custom architectural arrangement and a homeowner who chooses to spend a minimal amount.  That means custom cabinetry is out.  No fear!  I had a situation recently in which this exact thing happened.  In fact I often have to make stock cabinets work to meet the budget.  It’s sort of like a puzzle, a cabinet box rubiks cube, if you will.   There are three basic components to a cabinet job and they all have to be friends with each other.  They are:

1)      Design

2)      Product

3)      Installation

In this case I had to come up with a design for a wet bar in this area utilizing stock sized cabinets and then,  most importantly, our professional installer had to make it work which did require some fancy bladework. Here’s how we solved this one.

Here’s the space. Note the angles.

We utilized two 30” high 12” by 12” upper cabinets as bases (on the bottom)  in order to avoid the nasty angles in the back.  These cabinets are fine at 12” deep as they will be used to store liquor bottles.  (You definitely don’t need to be losing your booze in the backside of an oddly shaped cabinet!) We used a 24” wide sink base cabinet to accommodate the bar sink and since there is no room for drawers in the layout we’re adding a roll out shelf on the bottom underneath the plumbing.

The top is where it gets tricky.  We used a standard glass door cabinet over the sink, raised a bit to lend a little more spaciousness over the sink.  Our installer altered the two upper cabinets on either side to accommodate those angles and I ordered an extra panel of interior cabinet material to finish the remade interior.  Crown moulding and moulding under the uppers to conceal undercabinet lights finish off the traditional look.  Yes, in this case the installation is a bit more expensive than normal but the savings from using stock cabinetry more than made up for it.


How we did it.

These are the traditional styled cabinets we used. They are all wood construction with stained and glazed maple doors.

One thing I  say is that there is always a solution and this is a prime example.  We had to give up a little space by going stock but  custom base cabinets would have been an awkward shape and I’m not sure the benefit would have been worth the extra cost.  The example you see here included cabinets, assembly, delivery, the remaking of the upper cabinets, installation and glass.  The price was $3,400. Counter tops, lighting and plumbing fixtures were by others.



Welcome to Kitchens for Living’s  first annual CRAZY KITCHEN AWARD.  Criteria include impracticality, power to confuse and disorient and of course creativity.  With that in mind this one takes the prize.  The Cubism Art Movement was the inspiration behind this wacky design by Gemelli Design Studio, out of Sofia, Bulgaria, of course.   Here’s the rationale:

“Often the kitchen design is mainly aimed to its ergonomics. However this can lead to loss of its originality. Our goal was to create a glamorous kitchen combining multiple perspectives as a masterpiece of art affected by the cubism and surrealism styles. We believe that this advanced kitchen is a part of a more coloured, spectacular and interesting world and, at the same time functional.” 

Really? What can I say? You know I’m always striving to insert anything to do with art into this blog.  As Marlene Dietrich once said, “I can’t help it.”

Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) Factory, Horta de Ebro (oil on canvas, 1909)

























Elements Converge In Dream Kitchen

The after effect

Another year is winding down.  We have been blessed  again with many interesting projects.  As we are in “finishing up mode” I thought I’d share with you one of the best of 2011.  This project was a true collaboration.  Our clients, a couple of sweet snowbirds from Chicago, were very hands on which made it fun to see this kitchen take shape.  The existing space was on the small side, the cabinets a little dated.

This is the before which is not the worst but these girls had bigger dreams...


Still before

Our assignment was to add a whole range of  state-of-the-art appliances and a clean unique contemporary feel that would flow into the existing family room.  Naturally storage and function were also of the utmost importance but the real challenge was in fitting it all in!!

Here's one of numerous perspectives during the design process.

They chose a rich coffee bean stain for the cabinets to match existing cabinetry in the family room.  The cabinet fronts were not ordinary doors, no way.  Together, with our clients, we designed the Soldono and the Soldono Pacifica Doors just for this job.  The Soldono custom door features a cherry frame around a horizontal grained oak center panel all stained in a rich espresso color.  The center panel is beveled on one end with stainless steel grip strip inset on the frame.  No hardware sticking out in this kitchen! A select few of the upper cabinets sport the Soldono Pacifica custom door which received center panels in olive ash burl veneer for a huge shot of “unique”.


Close up of the Soldono Pacifica door featuring Olive Ash Burl veneer center panel

Stainless steel serves as an accent finish and is found in the appliances and in the monster-multi-functional Hafele appliance garage.  Refrigerators are Subzero, ovens are by Gaggenau, cooktop is by Miele and the dishwasher drawers are by Fisher Paykel.  Thank you to Linda Roberts at House of Appliances for her guidance.   Counter tops are Caesarstone quartz by Stone Palace and the backsplash is painted glass by Florida Shower Door & Mirror, Inc. Clearly they do much more that shower doors!  Perhaps the “piece de resistance” however is the glass tile behind the hood.   It truly looks like water cascading down the wall behind the hood!  The sink is a Precision by Blanco and the glass theme is picked up again with the glass table.  You can find a listing of all the trades on the Local Resources page here at Kitchens for Living.



Blanco Precision Stainless Sink. We love the square bottom.


Counter between Subzeros offers handy landing space

Is it water or is it glass? I think it's sublime...



I write about a lot of varied things on this blog.   Today I’m going to open my  mind to you so you can step inside the creative (or whatever you want to call what goes on in there) process, as it pertains to cabinet design.  The thing about designing kitchens and baths is that it  doesn’t  only require vision in the aesthetic sense but also in the functional sense.  We have to be creative in terms of the space constraints while being very aware of  function.


Yikes! I prefer to believe they left in a hurry. The pressure's on with all those doll eyes upon me.


This is a nursery equipped to serve the nanny.  She’s got an under the counter refrigerator to store bottles, baby food and wine whatever she wishes for herself.  In addition there is a small sink and a microwave.  There is also storage and counter top work space (underneath all the debris).  That’s a lot of function packed into less that six lineal feet!  The lucky owners of this oceanfront abode are away for the summer, as is the custom in Palm Beach.


I have been asked to replace this set up but to keep the same foot print and function.  The cabinets are to be more in keeping for this  traditionally styled beach house.


The backsplash (area between counter and upper cabinets) is really high, about 22″.  Not only does this mean less cabinet space but it’s a bit of a stretch unless you’re a very tall nanny.  In addition, there is nothing tying the upper cabinets to the lower cabinets and since they do not go wall to wall it looks as if the uppers are just hanging out, hovering over the base cabinets, not a great look.  In general the layout is off kilter.  The microwave requires a deeper cabinet and it sticks out unattractively on the left.


The appliances are old and will appear even older surrounded by new cabinets.  Remember that if you are investing in a new kitchen it’s penny wise and pound foolish to try to build your new cabinets around your older appliances.   I will suggest that we replace the microwave with a small built-in model in stainless steel.   For this I know I must use a minimum of 24″ out of the 70″ I have available.  The refrigerator is important too.  This one is old and it’s an odd size, about 19″.  The new one will have to be 24″ and I will reccommend that we build it in for a more custom look and to unify the small space.  These types of built-in panel- accepting- under- the- counter refrigerators are either 15″ wide or 24″ wide.  I certainly can’t detract from the function by going smaller so I will give them more refrigerator space by going with 24″ wide.  Now that I know what I’m doing with the appliances I will work the cabinet layout around that.

Testing the waters...


Here’s phase one showing the larger ref, a built-in micro and an attempt to even things up and connect the uppers to the bases but it’s still not quite there yet.  I usually draw a free-hand sketch to work out my initial thoughts.  The final solution (I drew it using Chief Architect) is to use 42″ upper side cabinets instead of the existing 30″ uppers.  Then since the microwave needs a deeper cabinet (15″), I moved it to the middle and raised it up to create some design interest and to take advantage of the tall ceiling.  I made the side backsplashes 16″ high with the center at 19″.  I centered the 24″ upper microwave over a 21″ wide sink cabinet which allows the bigger refrigerator on the right and does not lessen the size of the existing drawers on the left.  I’ll need a minimum of 3/4″ panel to the right of the ref.  That makes a total of 24 3/4″ with ref and panel.  I will duplicate that on the left making the 4 drawer cabinet 24 3/4″ wide as well.  This allows the upper side cabinets to be equal at 23 1/4″ each.  Last but not least, I am going to suggest using matching wood beadboard above the 4″ backsplash to tie the uppers to the lowers and add a small crown moulding on the top to finish it off.

There you have it!


Here are the goods and why I picked them:

Kholer faucet K7342 in brushed nickel finish– It’s a traditional faucet in a finish that will blend with the stainless steel of the microwave.  The height makes it user friendly yet it will fit perfectly in the space.

If you have your hands full the handles are easy to turn on and off.

Kohler undermount entertainment sink K5848– I love the shape of this sink.  I double checked the size and it fits in our 21″ wide cabinet.  It’s a more updated undermount model but it’s still cast iron.  I’m specifying Biscuit to go with the cabinets but I will also suggest a stainless option which would also work.

SHARP R1214OVER THE COUNTER MICROWAVE– This model fits into our 24″ wide space.  It requires a 15″ deep cabinet, check.  It has a light below and I happen to know that Sharp makes a kick-ass microwave.

CABINETS BY HOLIDAY KITCHENS– flat panel with applied moulding. Finish, selected by designer, to be Snowdrift paint with Mink Wash.  I chose Holiday cabinets because we have some custom size requirements and I can order Holiday in fractional increments.  They also offer a wide array of finishes and door styles which is important in a higher end application.

Cabinets are something like this.

U-Line Under the counter refrigerator – This model offers an overlay trim kit option which will allow us to apply a door panel to match the cabinets.

What do you think?  You see there’s no mystery behind the magic of design.  Those are the steps in a nutshell.  I would love to walk you through the steps of your own potential magic.  It’s really a lot of fun when it all comes together, kind of like solving a puzzle AND you get to continue to enjoy it everyday!



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