Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Seven Things I Like About This Kitchen

I like this kitchen. And I'm sharing it with you because if you like it, too, it might be inspirational when you decide to cook up a new look for your own cucina. Some of what the homeowner did can be done rather inexpensively. Let's go inside . . . .

#1 -- Look at the old rustic wood lintel above the window just below the open cabinetry. Nice interesting touch, don't you think? I like the copper all lined up in the cubby holes, too.

This kitchen is the heart of a 1940s home in inner city Houston. I visited it just before the homeowner-realtor put it on the market. And it was during a time the country began to feel an economic squeeze. I thought to myself what terrible timing. But she sold it almost immediately -- and at or near full price. Her remodeled kitchen fulfills my mind's eye vision of what I might find in the countryside of some small quaint European village. Its somewhat weathered casual look translates into a comfortable and inviting space. Easy living. She kept the look somewhat trendy -- the open cabinetry, stainless steel counters and farm-style sink -- but not so much so that it was over the top or a turn off to potential buyers. It is casual elegance at its best. She filled other rooms  with either slip covered chairs or Old-World antiques. I will show the rest of the house another time, but it was the kitchen that caught my eye. It felt good . . . like a hug. I want to bake bread here . . . .
#2 --She unhinged the cabinet doors and stored them away. The pick-a-boo space lightens up the overall space and nicely showcases her old yellow-gold pottery.

She said she sat on the floor one night with a wine glass and a bottle of red keeping her company. And she contemplated her plan. She wanted to use the original footprint of the space -- approximately 12x12 (my guess)-- as much as possible to save on construction costs. She also wanted to paint her wood cabinets a light, distressed gray-blue color. A friend helped her with the paint job.

#3 The porcelain farm sink is the centerpiece here. She put in the window and added the stainless steel countertops and backsplash, leaving a ledge for herbs and some greenery.

She earmarked a large part of her budget for great-looking high-end appliances.

#4 -- Viking Stove and hood makes a stylish statement.

#5 -- I love under lights. Good planning.

#6 -- Can't remember the fridge brand; thinking it's Sub Zero.
But if it makes sense and adds to the look, I say build it in.

#7 -- I personally like to find unexpected pieces like this one in a kitchen. It customizes the look without construction cost. Also ties into the look and feel she wanted to achieve.

So, what do you think? 

Friday, March 26, 2010

I Love My Engineered Hardwoods by Shaw Floors!

So, are you for solid wood, engineered or something else altogether?  You already know where I stand -- and where Sam, our 4-year-old Australian Shepherd, sits on this issue. My headline -- and his cute picture -- gave it 
away . . . . What follows is the story of how and why minds change.

Sam likes the "cool" floors

I confess to being initially wary when First Street Flooring in Salida, Colorado
-- the mountain hamlet where we live and have a home furnishings store (The Green Plum ) -- pulled out some engineered wood samples for me to see and consider. We've always had solid wood floors in previous homes, and I just knew that's what we needed this time around. But they said something that made me reconsider . . . .

A Look at Our BEFORE Spaces

This is what we had but didn't want:  Cream-colored tile in the kitchen (right or bottom -- depending on your computer's formatting), and the break between tile and carpet (left or top), which covered the floor space of the dining and living room areas. We wanted consistency in look.

Before the sales pitch; however, Shaw's "Grand Canyon" 8-inch hand-scraped solid hickory planks, had caught my eye. I liked its warm and rustic feel. Gorgeous!  Then, they showed me a sample on sale for that particular month. Hmmm . . . I liked both the look and the price. Surprise, it's engineered wood! They tell me:  It's the preferred choice for dry climates. And it does get very dry here at 7,000 feet. (I know from experience that wood furniture moved here from high-humidity areas almost always cracks a little to a lot.) So it makes sense that wood floors also can crack, buck and cup in extreme temperatures. As a side note, for our island friends, solid woods absorb moisture more readily than the engineered variety, which results in swelling and shrinking (I've seen that happen in south Texas, a high-humidity area). Well, I didn't want my floors to crack or open up.  The engineered wood began to intrigue me. And then I discovered that it's an eco-friendly way to go. I like that.

Engineered hardwood flooring is the best choice for a dry climate because it's comprised of several layers that makes it more stable with temperature and humidity changes.  (photo courtesy of Shaw Floors 

According to Shaw, all of their wood veneers (the 3/8-inch top layer of the engineered product) come from suppliers "committed to being good stewards of the environment through sound forestry practices." The inner layer of their engineered wood floors is made from sawmill by-products that would have otherwise been burned or taken to a landfill. As a result, the company says they use 50% fewer trees to make their products. Made in the U.S.A., too!

A little background information about our home in Colorado:  Another party  built this log house featuring light pine wood covering much of the wall and ceiling spaces. We bought it and just recently began some remodeling and finish work to make it our own. The white carpet in the living and dining areas, albeit plush and a nice grade, seemed outdated and impractical for high traffic. As for the tile, it always looked dirty and rather cold. Because of the open-concept areas, we wanted consistent flooring that grounded the space and created warmth. In terms of decor, think warm and cozy. Think tartan, yellow-golds. Deep green. And a rock alcove around the stove ....  Traditional -- so hence, we chose a dark stain rather than a light one for our new wood floors. (In case you're interested and don't recall, our kitchen cabinets got painted Benjamin Moore's "Enchanted Forest" green in this post .  

A small snapshot of the floors around one of our wingback chairs upholstered in Ralph Lauren wool tartan -- semi-custom items from our home furnishings boutique.

I like the hand-scraped, rich-grained texture of our floor, called Pebble Hill Hickory/ Shaw Floors. The stain is called burnt barnboard.  They can be installed below or above ground level, over radiant heated subfloors, and they are protected from UV rays. 

In the kitchen

Saturday, March 20, 2010

What Do You Think of My Meditation and Yoga Room?

It's a yurt!  I'm so loving this . . .

by Pacific Yurts  (The canvas sides roll up.)

Although, I do like the jazzy fun color of this one below (so unlike its rugged, ancient 13th century Central Asian ancestor, which focused more on practicality rather than aesthetics):

Confession: I'm still thinking about the yurts and making one my own. I don't have my yoga or meditation room -- yet.  Pacific Yurts helped me with this fantasy ruse. Forgive me . . . .
OK. Here's what happened:  My neighbors invited us to hike up to the Tennessee Pass Cookhouse , located just north of Leadville, Colorado. The gourmet restaurant, albeit decorated in "come-as-you-are-rustic-woods," is housed in a yurt. In this case, a snow-packed yurt. It got me all fired up about yurt possibilities (for art studio, guest lodging, yoga, office....), so I went online to search for inspiration.

This is me below, mugging for the camera -- dressed to hike the Artic! I had leggings and tights on underneath my insulated ski pants -- and a sweater or two hidden behind the Marmot jacket!  Overkill!!  I thought it was going to be really-really cold at 10,800 feet. Nah -- especially when you're hiking up an incline for about 1 1/2 miles:

Come with me on this little adventure . . . of exploring yurts.

First, this above is the place of our 5-course meal.... It was afterward I noticed a lingering hunger to have and decorate one of these cute wood-framed, canvas structures  According to Pacific Yurts, these circular dwellings are the modern-day adaptation of ancient shelter used by former residents of Central Asia. They possess maximum strength using minimal materials. Weathertight. Sturdy. Moveable.  And, you can customize them like crazy, if you so desire. They start at around $4,400 and go up to more than $200,000.

Yurts are essentially circular tents. They do offer some decorating challenges, especially with the interior lattice that supports the canvas exterior.  Here some of the interiors I felt more at home in:

How about painting the lattice?  Maybe cover up the "walls" with soft drapery? (Remember, in my case, I'm thinking of an extra room -- out on the land.)

Now, I'm wondering does it feel like a jail? I love the way some of these look on the outside, but this lattice continues to nag me. (But stay tuned . . . .)  Otherwise, I like the floor, the cut tapestry above the bed ... the serenity.
Home shows in both Winnepeg and London recently showcased yurts. (I wasn't familiar with them until we came to Colorado.)  Apparently, though, they're the rage in many places. Here are a few shots of the one featured at the home show in London:

Think loft-like space so these whispy white drapes not only add softness but are practical.

Not the usual look of a yurt. But, if it's your full-time, permanent place, maybe so.

Speaking of the UK, here are some photos of a company that transports portable A-rated spa-hotels, yurt style, to festivals:

Wow. Look at the chandelier!

Someone got creative with the ceiling in this one below:

In fact, I think they did the lattice this way as well.

Also from Hooe's Yurts whose mission is to provide memorable wedding destination tents:

On a completely different note, I'd like to thank Candace Manroe, senior home design editor at Traditional Home magazine, for the write-ups about our store, The Green Plum, in her blog and on the magazine's Web site. Such a nice surprise; many of the photos she posted were taken more than a year ago, just when we moved into our new space. (The ones below are recent.)  I had forgotten about it until seeing it on my own blog roll. This from her blog:
"Shopping the Green Plum -- Sweet"

The Green Plum   -- Sam (our Aussie) sits in front. In Salida, Colorado.

Sub-zero temps and knee-high snow in Iowa, which only vanished within the last two weeks and promise to return this weekend, got me dreaming…not of that secluded sunny beach in the Caribbean, but of skiing. Downhill. Swish.
If you’re thinking my way, Colorado’s the place to be. And if you’re REALLY thinking my way, no trip—ski or otherwise—is complete without a shopping component. I can’t wait to get to the Rockies to visit my friend and colleague’s boutique furniture shop in Salida, Colorado. Owner Susan Fox is a contributing editor for TRAD HOME, and she’s a peach. Her shop’s The Green Plum—“green” meaning antiques and gently used pieces (what’s easier on the planet than that?), and “plum” as in great hand-picked new products. (Think cherry-picked.)

                 Spring sale under way:  20% off furnishings and 10% all else.

Salida is a historic town in Central Colorado’s upper Arkansas Valley, and it’s a sight in itself.  In fact, it has the largest historic downtown district in the state, and Susan’s shop is smack in the center. The swift-running, trout-rising Arkansas River runs right through the heart of downtown. I don’t know about you, but for me, shopping cool boutiques in a pristine natural setting instead of a congested mall surrounded by acres of concrete is worth a trip in itself.
The Green Plum is packed—make that beautifully and cozily filled—with antiques like a French trestle table and chairs still in their original leather. As a traveler, you may want something more portable. Antique botanical prints stylishly reframed by Susan are the best.
One item I plan to fill my carry-on with are her scented soybean candles—the fragrance is just the right balance of scent and unobtrusiveness. But the ultimate dose of delicious comes later. After the candle has burned a while, blow out the flame, and dip your fingers into the melted wax. It’s the ultimate pampering (and it’s the manufacturer’s intent, lest you fear this is some hair-brain idea I’ve invented during down time). Trust me, you’ll like it.
If you can’t make it to Salida this spring, no worries. Its white-water rafting, trout-fishing, and hiking make it a multi-seasonal destination.

Click here for the full story and pics -- and give a shout out to Candace, if you like.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

I got an email about a French-designed houseboat....

Have y'all seen this?  
Our friend, Jody L., a restauranteur in Houston, sent me an email the other day containing these photos (below) and corresponding descriptions. He announced, wishfully, that this sleek vessel shall be "my next boat."  In these challenging economic times, these images, I warn, may either make you laugh or cry. It's a bit outrageous. But since it's dubbed a "green" project, heck, I owe it to you to see and judge for yourself.  
A well-known French shipbuilder (didn't get the name of the company; Jody says they're "famous") joined another company in Monaco to build this yacht with enormous dimensions: the WHY 58x38. (58 meter long and 38 meter wide) 

The yacht comprises an area of 3400 m2 with seating for 12 passengers and 20 crew.

This is a "green" yacht.  
Wally et Herm├Ęs use green energy to achieve 20% to 30% in fuel savings and utilize 40% to 50% electricity consumption on board. Therefore, there are 900 m2 equipped with solar panels, producing a daily output of 500 kW.

Three decks, a 25 meter pool, a spa helicopterpad, a 100m2 with hammam, sauna, gym and massage room, a promenade of 130 meters, a music room, a dining room, a cinema, sun decks, suites, terraces, a lounge, a bibi. The luxury is at the rendez-vous.
The decks are connected by stairs but there is also an elevator.

The suite of the owner: 
With an area of 200m2, this space completely covers the third deck. (This is the bedroom.) The sea view is great, and there is a private terrace of 25 meter long.

A sea of light. 
The horseshoe-shaped yacht has a retractable roof so everything is bathed in a sea of light.

The spacious lounge. On the lower deck are the common premises, such as lounge, piano bar and dining area ....

Dining Room.  
The dining room opens onto the sea view. 

Suites for the guests. 
Five suites with sea views (on the middle deck). There is also a reading room. (I guess this is where I will be if Jody gets this (smile).

I don't know where Jody got all of this, so there are no credits to provide. I don't know about you, but I'll stick with my cozier, smaller land home in walking distance of the sea. cheers!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Architectural Archways and Enfilades In Texas Homes

Mother Nature's own. And those designed and made by man ...  Architectural archways!  I've pulled together some of my own shots to share for both inspiration and enjoyment.  Also included are a couple of enfilades -- a series of inter-connecting rooms that you enter along one side of the home. I love the visual impact of enfilades and the repeated architectural values that arches, whether minor or grand, lend to a home's interiors and exteriors. When there is one, there should be more, don't you think?

and one for the road, taken south of Buena Vista, Colorado:

If you have a special request to see possibly more than just a room or quick look into one of these homes, let me know. 

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