Blog Archive for April, 2016

Tub trends: What’s new in bathtub styles?

Categories: Blog | Posted: April 29, 2016

The bathroom has evolved from a purely functional space to a spa-like retreat. Cabinetry looks like fine furniture. Vessel sinks paired with cascading waterfall faucet create a gentle, Zen appeal. Bathroom lighting ranges from simple lines to elegant chandeliers. Showers are now more spacious, elegant, and pampering with rainfall shower heads and body jets.

Recently, we’re seeing more creativity in bathtub styles. And not just the look of the tub but the placement. With high design hitting the long-ignored tub, bathroom designers are making this fixture a focal point that doesn’t need to be tucked in a corner any more.

“Bathrooms are often the only place where people regularly have time to themselves,” explains Australian interior designer Sarah Davison. Bathroom design, she says, should “create a refuge of serenity and personal luxury.”

Freestanding bathtubs are leading the list of tub trends. The National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA) released its 2016 report on design trends, and 67 percent of the designers surveyed are specifying freestanding tubs; 39 percent of them said they expect to do more with these bathtubs in 2016.

You can find a freestanding tub to fit any décor, from rustic to contemporary. Choose your desired shapes—oval or rectangular, or something more artsy. Then customize it with a faucet that reflects your style. You can even place a freestanding tub within a shower if you’re short on space.

The familiar clawfoot bathtub has made a big comeback. Manufacturers have driven this bathroom design trend by refining and redefining the clawfoot tub’s shape, color, and material—like acrylic, cast iron, and copper.

Another popular tub trend is the Japanese soaking tub. The NKBA survey showed that 61 percent of the designers used a soaking tub in 2015, and 36 percent plan to use them more often in 2016. A soaking tub is designed for relaxation—a long, leisurely soak. A Japanese soaking tub takes up less space. They tend towards being more narrow and round, but deeper than a conventional bathtub. This soaking tub features a built-in seat, much like a hot tub, but without the jets. They reflect the Japanese custom of ritually cleansing the body and soul. In a soaking tub, you can submerge yourself comfortably up to your neck, because of the tub’s depth. Also known as “Ofuro” (Japanese for “bath”), this bathtub style is available in a wide variety of styles that allow it to fit well into your bathroom design.

For a truly unique bathroom design, consider an infinity bathtub. Picture that time you left the bathtub faucet running, and the water overflowed the edges—except in this case, you don’t need to panic! There’s a channel that collects the overflow and a pump that recirculates the water. If your bathroom has a window with a view, the infinity tub allows you to enjoy your soak while feeling like you’re outdoors in a stream. Your infinity tub can be elevated, like many bathtubs, or level with the floor, giving you the feeling of stepping into a lake.

With today’s bathtub styles, you forget about that tub hidden behind a shower curtain. Treat yourself to the joy of relaxing in a tub after a stressful day.

Kitchen island design tips

Categories: Blog | Posted: April 21, 2016

Kitchen island design tips

A kitchen island adds valuable work, storage, and serving space. From the extra counter space to a sink, cooktop, or cabinets, even a small kitchen benefits from an island. When designed right, you can maximize the look and function.

To get you started here are some kitchen island design tips.

Measure your space. The primary purpose of a kitchen island is to enhance the workflow and space in this essential area. Squeezing in an island that doesn’t allow for comfortable workflow will cause a lot of frustration—and traffic jams. Measure the kitchen. Allow three feet of clearance between the island and your other countertops and appliances. Remember, you need to be able to open the island’s various doors (cabinet, oven, dishwasher).

Think proportionally. The size of your kitchen island should be in proportion to the rest of the room. A small island will be dwarfed inside a spacious kitchen, but going too large makes your kitchen inefficient and cramped. While you need about three feet of clearance around your island, having too much of this space will require more walking than you might like. You should also be able to reach across your island. If it’s so wide that you have to walk around it, you compromise the efficiency.

Determine the function. Some people want a kitchen island for additional workspace, while others are looking for a storage or eating area. What functions do you want your island to give you? A prep station should have a pull-out trash can or trash compacter. If you plan to incorporate a sink, dishwasher, cooktop, or oven, you need to have enough room, plus, you’ll need to do the additional plumbing and wiring required (if you want to plug in any small appliances, you’ll need electrical outlets). Maybe you have the space to extend the counter and want to create an eating area. Add 14 to 18 inches to the width of the countertop, and be sure the height will accommodate chairs or stools, which come in standard 36- and 42-inch heights.

Map out your storage needs. Do you need deep cabinets or drawers to store pots, pans, and small appliances? Would you like to keep your cookbooks handy on your island? Think about the items you want to stash in your island’s storage space so that you have the right dimensions for easy access.

Determine the lighting. Since the island is a kitchen workspace, plan on installing a light fixture above it. Pendant lights look great and offer a broad variety of styles and choices. Be sure to use a dimmer switch to get the right mood—brighter for working, softer for serving.

Kitchen islands are often customized from standard kitchen cabinets. You can add the countertop and cabinet doors you want, and accents like ball feet or specialty trim to create the look of fine furniture. For a smaller kitchen, you might discover a flea market find (like a desk, console, table) can be upcycled to suit your needs.

Small back yard, big ideas

Categories: Blog | Posted: April 15, 2016

Big ideas for a small back yard

Just because you don’t have a sprawling landscape behind your home doesn’t mean you have to limit your vision for back yard fun. With a little creativity, you can apply some big ideas for a small back yard and turn it into your outdoor oasis.

Go up against the wall.

Use the wall space to hang planters, rather than take up ground space. Attach pots or mason jars, upcycle a colander and hang it from a hook or tree branch. Put up shelves to display your colorful pots and plants.

Do double-duty.

Choose furniture that provides storage as well as seating, like an ottoman with a lift-off cushion for keeping games or extra pillows. Add a coffee table where you can stash candles, paper plates, linens, and other items for outdoor entertaining.


Create one focal point in your back yard, like a small water feature, container garden, or sculpture. A small memory garden makes a great focal point.

Scale it down.

Large outdoor furniture will dwarf a small back yard. Choose a bistro set with two chairs, or a table that can be expanded, as needed, for entertaining. And, while those big comfy cushioned chairs are attractive, they’ll make your space look crammed. Opt for simple lines and smaller sizes.

Don’t shut me out.

While you certainly want some shade to escape the heat, avoid the temptation to provide too much cover, either with greenery, pergola, or canopy. Open up your outdoor living space to let the sun shine in so you’re not closing in your back yard.

Simplify your colors.

A varied color palette can overpower a small back yard. Limit your color choices for your furnishings, and carry it over to your accents. Use the burst of colors in nature’s beauty, like the flowers in your garden, to add the splash you want.

Table your heat.

Don’t have room for a fire pit? Place a fire bowl on your table. You’ll get the cozy feel of the outdoor fireplace without taking up space.

When you’re working with limited outdoor living space, you’re only real limit is your creativity. Think simple and cozy—for size, color, and volume—and you’ll make the most of a small back yard.

Country life or city dwelling: Which lifestyle works for you?

Categories: Blog | Posted: April 7, 2016

Country life or city dwelling: Which lifestyle works for you?

You could fit the entire population of Vermont in the city of Las Vegas, with plenty of room to spare. Of course, most Vermonters would run screaming from the city. And city dwellers would probably feel restless in a rural setting for an extended period of time.

Each environment—urban and rural—offers its own unique pros and cons. Your life situation—single, married, parent or no kids—has a big impact on your choice of living in the city or the country.

So, which lifestyle works for you? Let’s look at the pros and cons of urban versus rural.

City life: So much choice packed into tight space.

People who like living in the city enjoy the energy that pulsates there. You can live car-free and walk or take public transportation to everything you need—shopping, dining, entertainment, school, and work. In one block, you can choose from a variety of restaurant choices, from your favorite café to the pizza place that delivers. On any weekend, you can take your pick of things to do—movies, theatre, art galleries, comedy clubs, museums, street festivals, and more. You’re never far from fun.

That’s also a con. You’re in the midst of all this charged-up activity. Stress levels are higher in the city. Privacy is less. Your home is separated from your neighbor’s by a wall, not a yard. If you choose to own a car, parking can be hard to find, or expensive. Crime is more prevalent in the city, which makes sense when you consider there are so many more people there.

Most cities aren’t far from a rural area, so when you feel the need to escape, you can rent a car or hop on a bus for a country retreat.

Country life: Take it slow and easy.

People who choose to live in rural areas prefer the open space that is afforded outside the confines of a city. They are less enchanted by the choices afforded to city dwellers and prefer the simple pleasures. A hammock in the back yard. A vegetable or flower garden. Farmer’s markets with locally grown produce. Paddling down a river or hiking through the woods.

Country dwellers aren’t as enamored with designer labels—from the clothes they wear to the kitchen cookware. They prefer a casual lifestyle that’s uncomplicated. The choices are fewer than the city offers, but they don’t care.

With today’s technology, country dwellers aren’t as isolated as they used to be. The Internet, Wi-Fi hot spots, digital and cable television, and cell phone towers have spread to the outer confines of our society. So, moving to the country doesn’t mean you have to forego your favorite cable television series or rely on a (shudder!) land line for calling people.

Suburbia: The comfortable compromise

The suburbs surround the outskirts of cities, a cushion between those hubs and the rural areas beyond. They offer easy access, via highways and public transportation to all of the action in the city, but residents can escape the bustle to their peaceful homes. Suburbanites like the blend of urban conveniences with rural solitude. Although the yards are small, they at least create a small boundary between neighbors, and a place for kids to play and their parents to entertain.

As more city dwellers move outward from the city, the suburbs grow deeper into the outlying areas. As one suburb fills up (and prices rise accordingly), homeowners look for the next “up and coming” community. The commute to the city becomes a bit longer, along with the distance to the desired amenities. But that’s the trade-off for compromise.

Which lifestyle is most appealing to you? And why?

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