Choosing Your Perfect Sofa by Kimberly Reuther

A colleague of mine at a furniture store used to cajole customers with a spin on an used car salesman pitch, “What’s it going to take to get you in that sofa today?”  It was a nice, light-hearted approach to a process that some may equate to buying a car.  A sofa should be an investment and if chosen wisely, will continue to serve its purpose far longer than it is worth.  But how do you know what is right for you?

My approach to buying a sofa is to think of it like buying a good pair of jeans or the perfect little black dress.  You shouldn’t settle for something that doesn’t flatter you and it should be able to work in many situations.  Here are a few key criteria for my clients:

1.  Fit – This is different than what you might imagine.  I am seriously asking you to make sure it fits through the door/opening/stairs into the room you want.  You would be surprised how many people purchase a large sectional or even deep sofa and can’t get it into the house.  So, make sure you bring your measurements before you fall in love with something!

2.  Function – Consider how you like to use your sofa along with the other members of your household.  Does you husband like to put his feet up on an ottoman, could you do a chaise or sectional?  Do you need a sleeper sofa to accommodate guests? Can your whole family snuggle up to watch a movie?

3.  Fabric – This is important because the fabric often wears out before the sofa does.  Do you want easy maintenance but a soft feel?  Most people love the properties of leather but don’t like the “coldness” or how it feels agains their skin.  How do you feel about slipcovers?  They look better than you think!  Make sure to consult your husband or partner on this as I’ve seen very strong opinions on fabric selection that were unexpected.

4.  Form – Research the construction of the sofa and make sure you have customized the options to your specifications.  We all know 8 way hand-tied, kiln-dried frames are the industry standard for a quality product but there is a lot of variance in the cushions.  There are down and down-blend options and thankfully, a lot of eco-friendly alternative fills on the market today.

 5.  Flattery – Just as with the search for the perfect jeans, what works on your friend doesn’t always flatter your figure.  Evaluate the overall shape and scale of the sofa against other furniture pieces and architectural details in your home.  Does it blend nicely or stand out in a purposeful way?  Is it something you will like for the next 10-20 years or does it feel too trendy?

 Hopefully, that helps you narrow down your options and make an informed purchase that you will love and enjoy for many years!

Happy Designing!

This was previously posted on AT HOME’s website. View the original post here.  You can view more of Kimberly’s work by visiting her website.

ST. LOUIS “GREEN” – PART ONE; WHAT SHADE OF “GREEN” ARE YOU?

by Derek Maschek (MASCHEK design and fabrication, LLC)
MASCHEKd@MASCHEKdf.com

The problem; how to create a cost effective “green” home (or any other building) in the St. Louis area, and this includes renovating an existing building as well. This is ground that has been tread aplenty in recent years, and yet remains ambiguous to many home owners and professionals alike for some reason. I hope to simplify and clarify what seems to be an unnecessarily complicated and confusing topic, saving time and effort while hopefully helping to avoid predicable disappointments. As usual, there are caveats (i.e. “it depends”) that can complicate things again, but I think the overall strategy for accomplishing a cost effective “green” home is really pretty simple and straightforward, as it should be. Then again, I have a fairly practical view of the topic, not that I don’t love my trees. But if you are in the Show Me state, seems to make sense to me, to…well, show that it makes sense.

The first thing we need to do is clarify what it means to be “green”. This is an unclear and emotionally charged term, often meaning different things to different people. All the nuanced meanings are related conceptually, but are critically different when discussed and applied in reality.

Many professionals prefer “sustainable”; meeting immediate needs without jeopardizing a future ability to do so. I personal love this term, but it is a VERY high bar to truly accomplish, maybe more of an ideal than a reality. To truly be sustainable, a residence would not only need to be completely independent of any services (domestic water, sewer, non-renewable energy), it would need to give back in order to recoup losses used to construct the building.

Those more concerned with environment than return on investment (ROI) might prefer “ecological”; environmentally friendly in a “living building” sort of way. Look into the Living Building Challenge for more info on this, but prepare yourself for a college PHD-level exercise in research and calculations. This is just out of the realm of possibility for most people and businesses, but cheers to those that attempt it. We love you for you zeal and shall sing your praises to the heavens.

Those less concerned with the environment but are more focused on a quantifiable ROI prefer “high-performance”; basically meaning energy efficient. This is a great term, used more by engineers, builders, and product representatives that sell energy efficient systems. But because of the practical and simplistic nature of it, it is probably also the most befitting my approach. My only regret is its limitation in that it excludes environmental concerns beyond those directly related to energy consumption. To me, that misses the bigger picture of what it means to be “green”, and so I find it wanting.

I prefer to just say “smart”. It’s a better way of designing and building, with numerous benefits over conventional methods, both economic and environmental, and anybody can take this as far as they want to with more or less zeal. Who doesn’t want to build smart after all?! Every situation and client is unique with different wants and needs, opportunities and restrictions. Done right, it’s actually cheaper than conventional construction methods initially and performs better over the long haul to boot, regardless of location. And feel free to throw in as many of the environmentally beneficial products you feel are appropriate, and get a little warm and fuzzy along with the cost-balancing stuff.

In order to determine which variant of “green” is best for you, answer a simple question; is your priority economic or environmental? Most want a balance of the two of course, but only one can and always does prevail. I usually hear something like “we want to be as environmentally responsible as we can afford to be”, which to date has always translated to an economic priority. It is the very rare committed few that pursue “green” driven by environmental altruism, although God bless them and I hope to work with one some day.

Now, I’m begging you to please, please, please be honest with yourself. Your answer is the foundation of an entire design and construction process. Some call it “concept” or your “level of commitment”. Regardless, if it is not addressed truthfully, expect disappointment and frustration, and in all likelihood wasted time and money for all involved.

While I discuss both aspects in this series, there’s definitely an economic priority to my input as that seems to be the usual driving force behind any “green” project I’ve been involved with. Frankly it’s just less messy overall, more easily explained and understood, and filled with less ambiguity. Don’t feel guilty for not being primarily environmentally motivated, as we live in a real world with real limitations. Designing smart is still environmentally conscious, it just acknowledges and embraces the cost-benefit equation.

PART TWO (COMING SOON); THE PROGRAM

Prepare yourself by reading my blog on Designing Small is Designing Smart.

questions from a young architect by nicholas kreitler

There is something I mentioned in a previous post and I wanted to come back to the topic of urban sprawl…. We have all heard it and are increasingly aware of the problem we face. Gas continues to go up in price and I believe that we should see the density start to rise again in our major cities. But many of us will continue to say that the time we spend in the car and the amount we spend on gas is just part of the daily grind. I think that train of thought will begin to change, or I can at least hope that it will change.

Speaking for myself, I don’t like to waste my time and I don’t know many young people who do. Currently, I live forty-five minutes from the office where I work.  That means I spend between an hour and half and two hours in my car a day with traffic. Take that over a week, and that’s between six and half to ten hours. Over a month that means I will spend approximately twenty six to forty hours in my car, that’s nearly a week of work every month I am missing out on while sitting in my car.

Let’s say for the sake of this article we keep the math simple, and say I make ten dollars an hour. So in a month I waste nearly four hundred dollars in my time, and another two in the gas I burn on my way to and from the office. Now I realize we don’t get paid for the time we aren’t working but for this argument let’s say we put a value on our time like our employers do. So in the span of one month I will spend nearly six hundred dollars in time and resources going back forth to work.

Now what happens when I move closer to the city, and if I only lived a mile and a half from the office? What if I bought a bike and I could actually ride to work. I could save 95% of my time to and from the office; I would get exercise daily, and save a large amount of money. Now what if that six hundred a month I was spending could actually get invested in something more valuable? Now I realize I am only a drop in a much larger bucket, but what happens when the majority of those living more than 15 minutes from work did the same. What impact would that have on our cities? How much would the density rise, how much better could our cities be? Would we start to see a rebirth in our cities? What would we do with the money are spending on gas?

I would like to believe if we made our cities into walk able environments and reduced our dependence on our cars and trucks we could start to see pride take hold again and a concern for the built environment. What if we could walk to wherever we needed to go, would we stop being lazy? Could we start to see an increase in our activity? What about an increase in our sense of community? What if we started to invest in public space and the built environment, instead of our own private spaces with fences that make our boundaries very clear to the public? What happens when start to enjoy housing with a shared courtyard, a place where we can get to know our neighbors beyond saying hi at the mail box, a place for a community garden that could yield as much as you put into it? What if the amount we spend on gas goes down and we could spend it with our families, or giving back to amazing nonprofits that do incredible work, or taking a class or that trip we have been dreaming of?

nightmare on suburban street

What happens when we stop increasing the size of our homes? When we have a modest dwelling we begin to set priorities to what we actually need versus what we think we need. A close friend of mine reminds me that designing small means simply designing smart. I look around and have to ask, do we really live in a time of surplus? I have always thought that modesty is a good thing.  How is it that we are impressed by the square footage of our homes and not by how charitable we are, or what we are doing for the community?

I know that I have posed a lot of questions and not offered many solutions, but I hope that these thoughts and these ideas might wake something up inside of you and that you begin thinking about how this relates to your life. I feel like a hypocrite while writing about all of this, knowing that I am living in suburbia with my parents and doing nothing to change that. I know that I am just starting out and don’t have the ability to go out on my own, so I am fortunate to have the support of my family and will never take that for granted. For now I know that the drive might be long but I wouldn’t be able to make it without them in my life, a big thank you to my friends and family who are always there to support me in all that I do.

From White Box to WOW by Kimberly Reuther

Most of us love, or at least appreciate, architectural moldings and finishing touches in our homes.  However, not everyone’s home is “born” with these elements.  I am often asked how to decorate a room that looks like a white box.  Bare walls, no moulding, basically a square.  While seemingly uninspired to some, for designers this is a wonderful challenge.  We get to create!

Here are my ideas to help differentiate your space from every other “white box” on your block!

– First, you could experiment with adding simple elements such as a picture ledge.

These can be installed at various heights depending on it’s desired function.  In this instance, we did the shelf along one wall above the headboard and the pictures and objects are within reach to change out regularly.

In the second photo, the ledge was installed higher up on all 4 walls as a purely decorative element.  This is great in a contemporary home that doesn’t have crown moulding.  Make sure you allow enough space for a mirror or TV to hang on the wall.

– Another idea is to add really special elements that don’t make you miss the architectural details.  These uniquely beautiful pendants make a statement all on their own.

– Just because you don’t live in a loft doesn’t mean you can’t achieve the look.  This home is in the middle of a brand new development outside of San Jose.  No lofts for thousands of miles.  The brick wall adds a much needed urban element to the space.

– A basement is really an extension of your home and offers much needed entertaining space.  Boring white walls and extra high window sills left this vast lower level feeling lifeless even after the furnishings arrived.  My solution was to add beadboard paneling up to the windows on 2 major walls.  We painted it a rich caramel color which tied into the color scheme and immediately warmed the whole room.  Topped off with a picture ledge full of personal accessories and this room has been transformed into an inviting family space.

– Another area to consider is the coffered ceiling.  More often than not, the builder stops with just the soffits that step up.  Adding in crown moulding and even painting an accent color will make such a finished statement to the room.

Some of these projects you could tackle in a weekend, others require a professional.  With the right amount of imagination, you too can be proud of your home’s unique appeal!

Previously written by Kimberly for St. Louis AT HOME’s website.  Read more of Kimberly’s work and view her portfolio at www.kimberlyreuther.com.

diy headboard wall – part 2 by andrea beckman

At last….I’ve finally completed my ‘headboard wall’!  If you have not checked out my first post diy upholstered headboard – part 1, I started this project over two months ago and it has been on my ‘to-do’ list for about seven!  None the less it’s finally complete and I’m happy to say it turned out beautiful, it’s exactly what I wanted!  There were a couple bumps along the way, one which included me almost firing my assistant (Dad), but he pulled through!  Actually I couldn’t have done it without him.  I had the vision but he was the brains behind this operation, and together we brought it to life.

Let me quickly refresh your memory…

BEFORE

 

  1. I fell for a pair of wall lamps and purchased them for my new bedroom, which at that point was only a figment of my imagination.
  2. I found a beautiful apartment and moved in!
  3. Unfortunately, the only wall that my bed could fit on has windows located on each side, thus providing no home for my wall lights….This momentarily put a little hitch in my giddy-up, but I quickly determined that I could work with this.

Solution……

 

VISION

 

  1. Build a headboard with side extensions for my wall lights to attach to.
  2. While I’m at it, construct floating shelves to act as bedside tables.

We first created the actual upholstered headboard which was part – 1.

 

UPHOLSTERED HEADBOARD

 

Now for part – 2…

Step 1 We first built the two side extensions ahead of time.  I decided to use planks of Western Red Cedar to construct these units.  I chose Western Red Cedar because of it’s wood grain, color and it was readily available.  As I mentioned in my first post, I wanted to create a slightly rustic look while keeping it refined.  This is why I decided to leave the wood untreated and in it’s natural state.  I also liked the way it contrasted with the upholstered headboard and added to the mix of textures!

 

SIDE EXTENSIONS

 

To create these pieces we used (4) 1 x 12 planks of Cedar and attached them to a 1 x 2 (on edge) sub-frame using brad nails (head-less nail).  This gave us a clean flush look with the structural members behind.  To design the box units we used (3) 1 x 10’s on the top and sides, and a 1 x 12 for the bottom.  I originally intended on using the 1 x 10’s for the entire box, but I did not plan for enough material and we were short.  So, to prevent spending more $ and having additional waste, I decided to suck it up and put the left over 1 x 12’s to use.  Surprisingly, once in place I really liked the way it looked.  I love when this sort of thing happens…I love it when you have to get creative due to lack of funds, or a ‘mistake’ ends up turning into something great!  In some unexpected way, the deeper piece at the bottom provided this subtle detail that really added a nice touch.  In fact, I wish I could say I planned it that way!  We also used brad nails to create these box units and attached additional screws from the back and bottom to give it extra support and strength.  While this is not engineered to be used as a step ladder, it will hold somewhere between 30 – 50 pounds.

 

Step 2.  We attached the side extensions to the sub-frame of the headboard using (3) 1-5/8″ Phillips drive screws (cordless drill is a must)!

 

STEP 2

STEP 2

 

We built the ‘headboard wall’ in three separate/ modular units.  We used removable screws so that it could be easily dis-assemble or reassemble at a later date.  This also allows the different pieces to be used independently of one another, not to mention it would be extremely difficult to move as one unit.

Note: Before attaching the final section, be sure to secure a ladder behind the unit.  Because this was designed to take up the entire wall space, once you’ve attached the last section, you might have a difficult time getting out from behind!  We used the ladder numerous times!

 

Step 3.

STEP 3

 

Once the last section was installed and everything was flush with the top of the headboard, we attached a 1 x 4 board (that ran the entire length) behind the unit.  This was attached to the verticals of each section’s sub-frame and provided extra rigidity to the entire unit.  In addition, we attached a small 1 x 4 piece of lumber behind the center of the headboard.  This also attached to the 1 x 4 on the back side (see below).  This was necessary for step 4 and continued to provide extra rigidity.

 

Step 3

 

Step 4.  The final design detail included a top piece that capped off the entire structure and visually tied it all together.  Again, it also added to the overall structural support.  This was screwed into 5 places…the top of each section’s sub-frame and the center 1 x 4 piece that was just added in step 3.  This really gave it a nice finished look!

 

STEP 4

 

Below is why you need the ladder….

 

HALF an HOUR LATER.....IF YOU'RE LOOKING FOR SPEED, THIS IS NOT YOUR GUY!

 

Step 5.  Lastly, to secure the entire unit in place and ensure this bad boy wasn’t going anywhere, we used (2) 5″ – ‘L’ brackets and attached the sub-frame to the inside of each window jam, using one screw.  This last step solidified the entire unit and it’s as sturdy as a tank…oh yeah!

 

Final Steps….

 

PUTTING UP CURTAINS AND INSTALLING WALL LIGHTS

 

INSTALLING WALL LIGHTS

 

Side note…I do know how to work a power drill, but Patrick always insist on doing it himself!

 

Final Result!

 

AFTER

 

 

AFTER

 

 

AFTER

 

 

AFTER

 

I think what surprised me most with the final result, was how much larger it made my entire room feel!  That was nice and I’m not going to lie…it does add a touch of sophistication that I do enjoy!

The entire headboard definitely possesses that home-made touch and is not perfect.  It is however ‘perfectly – imperfect’ which is perfect for me!  As always, it’s about ‘blooming where you’re planted’…creating a space that you love, utilizing what you love and most of all, with the ones you love~

 


 


 

 

DIY Upholstered Headboard Wall – Part 1 by Andrea Beckman

Every design starts with a vision.  This vision is often inspired by a particular piece you love…a chair, a table or piece of artwork.  Whatever it may be, it begins to set the tone and direction in which you design; but sometimes certain things such as layout or window placement can hinder that vision.

Prior to moving into my new apartment, I had a vision for my bedroom and it included wall lights.  Refined and somewhat industrial looking is what I had in mind.  So when I came across these wall lights (on sale + coupon) it did the trick.  I bought them and set them aside for my future space.

wall lights

Now, let’s fast forward to the apartment that I found and am currently living in…..

Challenge: There is only one wall that works for the bed to go on.  That wall has windows on it…well how about that!  Now where do I hang these wall lights that I am committed to using?

before

Solution: Create a “headboard wall”.  Build a headboard that has end pieces extending past and in front of my windows.  Mount my wall lights to the side extensions.  To complete the look, cantilever shelving to act as bed-side tables.

sketch

My thought…this will create a dramatic focal point that is cozy and most of all, house my wall lights!  When I shared this with a few others, their response was, “And cover up the windows”?  Well yes,  I figure the windows are tall enough where they can still allow for plenty of light in the space, and because they are tall you’re still able to appreciate them.

This is no new concept, but it is new for me and my assistant (dad) to build.  Important Note: Whether or not this turns out is still TBD…it’s not complete yet!!  I have only completed the first phase which is the upholstered headboard.  You will have to stay tuned for my follow up post which will include the finished product.

Now we begin, DIY Headboard – part I, creating the actual upholstered headboard!

Step 1: Decide what you want your headboard to look like.  Is it going to be arched, scalloped, squared?  What material do you want to use…solid, striped, patterned? Do you want to add any details?

Because I knew this would be next to my lampshades and wood planks I wanted a material that would provide a nice contrast.  I chose a heavy textured linen in a charcoal with blue undertones.

My inspiration:

West Elm: Nailhead Upholstered Headboard

When I came across West Elm’s upholstered nailhead headboard I loved it!  It was exactly what I had in mind.  While this headboard is reasonably priced and I’d love to have the ‘real deal’, it was still more than I could afford.  I already owned a huge roll of imitation nailheads that I bought years ago and this would give me a reason to finally use them.

West Elm: Nailhead Upholstered Headboard

Step 2: Create your frame:  We created a frame out of 2×4’s.  Three verticals and two horizontal with an overall dimension of 26″ x 60″.  This is for a queen size bed.

STEP 2

We then covered the frame by running 1 x 6’s horizontally to create the face.  You could also use 3/4″ plywood along with many other material options.  We used 1×6’s because we already had it to work with.

Step 2

Step 3: We adhered 2″ foam to the face and left a 1-1/2″ perimeter along the top and two sides.  We did this to allow for the nailheads.  To attach the foam to the wood we used a heavy duty spray glue.  That baby is going no where!

Step 3

Step 4: We then stretched an inexpensive white backing material to cover and give the backside a finished look.

Step 4

Step 5: We stretched 3/4″ backing material over the foam and stapled to the backside.

Step 5

Headboard with the batting on it.

Head board with Batting

Step 6: Finally the fun part, attaching the fabric….or maybe the not so fun part, five re-dos over!  Because my material had a very distinct weave in it, it was very difficult to keep it perfectly perpendicular and strait.  When stretching it, the slightest pull too hard in any one direction would make the whole thing look crooked and off.  My material also had some natural give to it that made this even more challenging.  The more tout the material the easier!!

Step

Before adding nail heads

Finished product!

Completed Headboard

 

close up

 

Stay tuned for “DIY headboard – Part 2” to see the finished product and how it all comes together (cross my fingers)!

 

the cover-up by andrea beckman

When I recently moved into my new apartment I absolutely loved everything except for two things….

1. My extremely short bathroom sink.

2. The brick facade above my fireplace!

Now, I’m a huge fan of exposed brick and will take it wherever I can, but this…this is not your beautiful brick.  This my friends is z-brick!  For those who don’t know, z-brick is a type of wall covering.  A thin brick facing that in this case was applied over plaster.  This may not be a catastrophe to many but it becomes a slightly bigger challenge when you are renting!  As most renters know you are usually pretty limited in what you can and can’t alter.

before...bad, bad, bad!

Challenge: How to completely change the look of the z-brick wall, with out really changing it?

Solution: Build a relatively light weight structure to cover the undesirable with something desirable!   Key: Do not permanently alter or attach to the undesirable.  I chose to use wallpaper as my desirable.  With so many amazing wallpaper designs to chose from I knew I could find something to create the look I wanted.

I should probably mention..the fireplace itself was not and is not bad, in fact it’s wonderful!  It still has the original decorative tile and cast iron surround/cover that is exquisite!  It has so much detail and gives off this romantic ‘secret garden like’ vibe that you can’t help but love.  OK, so maybe I’m the only one who sees it that way but in any case it’s beautiful.  I actually felt that I owed it to the fireplace to some how rid it of the dreary facade that had been placed upon it and breathe new life into it.

cast iron cover

Step 1.

Recruit some one to help because you may need a hand.  I often select my father for such projects.  He doesn’t always have a choice so this works out well!

constructing the frame

We first built a frame out of 1 x 2’s and made it the exact size of the chimney chase wall.  I decided to build this at my parents house so that I could make use of my fathers tools and lending hand.  However,  this did raise an issue with transportation.  Due to it’s large dimensions, the only way to transport the unit was by constructing it in two sections and hinging it down the center so that we could fit it in their van.

constructing the frame

Step 2.

We attached wafer board to the face of the frame and along the sides to cover the return of the chase wall.  We chose to use wafer board because it is cheap, relatively light weight and substantial enough for the intended use.

step 2

Once that was built and eventually transported to my apartment, we placed the unit directly around the chase.  It actually stood in place by itself but for additional support we tacked a nail at the top and bottom of each side, along the return.  I did not intend on hanging much weight from it, as my goals was to have nothing screwed and nothing anchored to the wall!

unit placed around chase

Step 3.

Once in place we filled in any gaps or imperfections with spackle and smoothed the surface by applying a backing paper.  The only reason this project required spackle was to help conceal an error on our part (or mine)…oops!

backing paper applied and it already looks better!

Step 4.

We then hung the wall paper and this is where things got a little ugly for us.  Our main problem was that we were running low on glue and ended up diluting it a bit too much!  This caused the glue to dry very quickly and parts of the paper would dry before we were able to line up the design and the seams.  Despite our personal challenges in this area, overall the project was pretty simple.

dad smoothing the paper

The final result….

the cover-up complete!

There are other things I could have done using this same concept but I chose to wallpaper.  I was looking for something dramatic and graphic that complimented the already existing elements of the fireplace itself.  I like how the motifs in the paper tie in so nicely with that of the tile and the scrolls in the cast iron cover.  All of the motifs look up but then scroll back down (in both the paper and decorative tile)…it’s this beautiful medley that gracefully takes your eye all the way up and all the way back down again.

wallpaper close up

mantel close up

With a little patience and precision this can easily be done, and you can create the look you want!  Where there’s a will there’s a way to always bloom where you’re planted….bad z-brick and all!

the cover-up!

 

Kitchen Tour Exclusive #2 by Victoria Dreste

Another exciting sneak peak into this weekend’s kitchen tour event!  Click here for more info & to buy tickets!

When the Grecos purchased their home twenty years ago it needed help. The kitchen was small and had not been updated.

At that time they put on a kitchen addition.  With a young family and active lives they didn’t have their dream kitchen but they did have more space.

Twenty years later it was time for the dream.  The planning started in the fall of 2009. by the summer of 2010 the project was underway.  It was completed in November 2010. now they have the kitchen they dreamed of.

Most important was the layout and function of the new kitchen. The space includes an  l shaped island, a built in breakfront and a bar area with a sink and storage for glasses.  A wall that once held a built in desk is now a wall of storage., that includes a tall cabinet for those items we never know what to do with ( vacuum, table leaves…).

The color palette for the kitchen is soft neutrals. The traditional cabinets are painted a soft cream color or a muted khaki green.
The counters are granite in tones of white, cream, grey and tan. The suede finish on the granite gives it a unique look and makes clean up  quicker and easier.

Lion details on the cabinet hardware pay homage to the university city location.
This is a beautiful well designed kitchen. It fits perfectly in to the Greco’s classic, traditional home.

To view Vicki’s portfolio or read more of her blogs, visit her website!

Kitchen tour exclusive sneak peek by Dana King

Watch our journey to remodel Ned and Hillary’s kitchen. This video is part one. It’s the people and the craftsmanship behind the scenes. Come see the final reveal at the Junior League of St. Louis’s First Annual Kitchen Tour — A Gathering Place — on April 2. For more information about the tour click here.

YouTube Preview Image

Here is a teaser for the big reveal:

Ned and Hillary’s kitchen bridges the periods since the home was built in 1905. And for that reason I  call it eclectic vintage. Inspiration for our design came not only from the home’s character, but also from Hillary’s antique food tins she has collected for years. Here was the starting point from which it unfolded.

Art deco lighting, yet to be revealed, draws you in and sets the stage for the vintage charmer. John at “A Light Above” salvaged antique shades in three different shapes, for pendants over the peninsula. He strung them on cloth cord for a contemporary feel.

The decorations and the lights remind you of a time before. Yet a more permanent and original feature uncovered a poignant story — a story that, if walls could talk, would have so much to say.

It started with a shallow bump-out that perplexed us. We wondered what to do with it. Work around it, with it? What the heck is it?

Hillary stared at it during dinner one night and wondered if it was an old brick chimney that we could perhaps expose. We chipped at the old plaster and, sure enough, there was brick and a hole where the old stovepipe once was.

Coincidently, here was where we planned to put our new modern stove top. Joe, of Joe Bennett Construction, cleaned the bricks and then vented the new hood out of the same hole.

The once mysterious bump-out is now revealed to not only create a stunning focal point to the room, but also provides a striking historical contrast. In my mind I travel back in time to observe a woman in a long dress cooking before a wood-burning stovepipe stove. Then flash forward to Hillary who gathers her family while she cooks beside the modern cook top with its sleek hood.

Many things have changed over the years, but one thing remains the same: the human need to gather one’s family around the hearth.

And so I believe the Junior League kitchen tour is aptly named: A Gathering Place.

Kitchens speak to the core of why I do what I do. Its not about me or my design. Rather, it’s about family. And if I can help make a difference to a family, then that’s the spice in my cake, the ice in my soda and the butter on my bun!

I wish the Junior League a successful launch of the kitchen tours to celebrate hearth and home. And to Ned and Hillary, a special thank you for sharing with us. May you gather many and love much in your new kitchen!

Bottom Line: White Kitchen Countertops by Kimberly Reuther

You’ve seen them everywhere lately, it seems.  No, I’m not talking about holiday decorations (although that is true, too).  I’m talking about white countertops, mainly marble.  They are in design magazines, on TV shows, in hotels & restaurants and even your neighbor’s newly renovated kitchen.  They are beautiful and alluring yet you are wondering if they are right for your home with 3 kids, 2 pets and a less than tidy husband.  But mainly you are asking yourself, “what’s the bottom line?”.

Kitchen Inspiration

Kitchen Inspiration

Here is some insight into the more popular choices and how they work with your lifestyle and your budget.

White Marble: Marble is a very porous natural stone and is less durable than granite, which is why it is isn’t commonly used in American kitchens.  It is prone to scratching, staining and chipping.  While it is very beautiful, there is a good amount of maintenance that keeps it looking that way.

All natural stone needs to be sealed (and re-sealed periodically) to keep out moisture and resist staining but it is not an impenetrable shield.  You have to be more careful with marble and acidic liquids (lemon juice, red wine) which will stain or etch the marble.  Also, some bath products, like sugar scrubs will etch marble.  It is a good idea to always use a cutting board, both to protect the sealer and your knives as well as guard against bacteria.  Lastly, use hot pads or trivets to protect the stone from heated cookware.  Of note: most marble is available polished or honed (matte) and has a variety of edge options.

Before you get discouraged, keep in mind that Europeans have been using marble for sculptures, building facades and of course countertops for centuries.  It has proven that it will stand the test of time, it just won’t look the same as the day it was installed.  Here are two of my favorites:

Carrera Marble: This is a more readily available white marble with a slight grey cast.  Slabs will very greatly from light grey to a mid tone grey.  There is a lot of soft movement in the dark grey veining; some slabs maybe more “busy” than others.  It is very important to hand-select your slabs to your personal taste.  Carrera marble looks beautiful with polished nickel fixtures and is available in a range of coordinating tiles to complete the space.

Price Range: approx. $70 – $80/sq. ft.*

Close-up of Carrera Marble

Carrera Marble Bathroom Countertop

Calacata Marble:  If you are looking for a creamier white marble with warmer, taupe or camel colored veins, this is it.  These marble slabs are more exotic and therefore come with a much higher price tag and possibly longer lead times.  You also want to hand-select this stone as it has a lot of variation.  Nonetheless, from a designer’s perspective, Calacata marble has such an exquisite aesthetic that it almost doesn’t compare.

Price Range: approx. $120 – $150/sq. ft*

Close-up of Calacata Marble

Calacata Marble Kitchen Countertop

Quartzstone:  Manufactured quartz has become an increasingly popular choice in recent years, for both commercial and residential projects.  It is more durable than granite, does not have to be sealed, requires little or no maintenance, is anti-bacterial, has multiple edge options and some colors even include recycled content.

Manufacturing stone to give it the best possible features & benefits is a little like gene mutation to me.  However, once I saw slabs of this installed, I was very impressed.  I do think the granite-looking color choices need a bit more work but they have really excelled at the marble and limestone alternatives.  In fact, they keep getting better at it.  I often refer clients to explore these options as alternatives to white marble if maintenance is a major concern.

Price Range: approx. $65 – $95/sq. ft.*

Caesarstone Misty Carrera: One of the first of its kind and still a favorite.  It’s soft grey background with darker grey veins has a subtle movement that fools the eye into thinking it may be marble.  It is available in both honed and polished finishes.

Close-up of Caesarstone Misty Carrera

Caesarstone Countertop

Zodiaq Bianco Carrera: I love this because they have succeeded in adding large scale movement to a manufactured product.  It is also of the creamy white family which is rare to find and is equally stunning in traditional or contemporary applications.

Close-up of Zodiaq Bianca Carrera

Zodiaq Countertop

Concrete:  Want something more modern & less busy? I have to mention this because I am also a fan of this material for several reasons.  I own a white concrete countertop (2 years & counting) and it is beautiful and durable.  It was manufactured by a St. Louis company and it is made of concrete in the form of a powder.  They are able to make any color out of a paint fan deck, can make integral sinks, and have several unique edge options.  They mix it together, mold it, put a sealer on it and deliver it just like a regular countertop, no on-site pouring.  It is not porous so it doesn’t need to be resealed as often as natural stone, it is stronger than granite, has recycled content and is made here locally so it is very good for the environment.   I had them do a custom “pure white” for me and I love how the color turned out.  Of note: different finishes are available but there is no movement or veining in this product.

Price Range: approx. $70 – $80/sq. ft.*

My white concrete countertop

Bottom Line:  Americans tend to base their selections on how well things “age” and we are inclined to replace things without letting them age “gracefully”.  Keeping longevity and your budget in mind will help you make the best selection for your lifestyle.

*Note: pricing by square feet is for general use and is best for budgeting purposes.  Actual pricing for your project depends on a lot of variables including size, cutouts, edge options, color, etc.  Pricing estimates provided by CK Concrete, Hallmark Stone & ISC Surfaces

Originally written by Kimberly for AT HOME’s website.  View the post here.  You can see more of Kimberly’s work here.

 

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