About Me

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I have 20+ years experience in Home Furnishings and Interior Design, specializing in Kitchen and Bath Design since '01. I work for Bilotta Kitchens in the A&D Building on East 58th Street in the Mid-town Manhattan. I have a passion for learning and love the opportunity to collaberate on projects of all sizes. My strengths in the field begin with my design background, use of color and texture to bring interest to a room, spatial relationships, organizational skills, innovation, decisiveness, and planning. I have had the thrilling experience of helping hundreds...?maybe thousands of people with their projects, and what I love is it never gets boring, and no two are ever the same. Thanks for reading.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

2010---What It Was---Personally

There weren’t as many 2010 chapters as I’d hoped for written in the Life and Times of this kitchen designer . But I can tell you, I lived this year to the fullest! Writing has been slow as my girls and I have adjusted into the hustle and bustle of my new New York life.

Yesterday morning I walked from 89th and Park Avenue to a new kitchen job I accepted on East 72nd at the East River. I was bundled up against the cold; it was a brisk morning with temperatures in the 20’s and a biting New York wind. The sun was just creeping up over the buildings to cast a trickle of warm sunlight down on me as a I walked past some of the most prime real estate in New York City.  I passed buildings wherein live members of my newly expanding client family. I thought to myself “how lucky am I?” I am happy and healthy, and too busy to worry about the next kitchen, there are so many right now, the city is alive with business.

I work in the nicest neighborhoods, lucky to be welcomed and wanted in New York for something I do naturally with passion and an acquired knowledge. Lately I look at the yellow line on the subway platform as my personal Yellow Brick Road...how lucky am I?

Sometimes when I’m working, clients become abruptly demanding and border on rude, sometimes they cross that border, wanting 27 technical answers from me in an instant…and I think “am I a machine?” Then reality sets in, I try never to let them down, they have come to rely on  and expect instantaneous expert advice from me, to them that is what I am, a creative machine, and my ability to provide this service and smile and never sweat, that keeps me in this position, where I want to be…so fire away I say!

Recently as the work began to pile high on my desk, I said to an architect, someone who brought me a wonderful project, Tom Hut of HS2 Architecture, “we have a lotta work to do here in a short time, let’s get the pleases, excuse me’s and the thank you’s out of the way up front, we know we mean them, but they are killing us ion time”…he agreed…and cutting to the chase has tidied up the relationship and gotten the job done. I'm on the edge of my seat to see the final product! ans at one time I thought architects only came to my showroom to steal my ideas. (Shh...I might have said it once or twice, I might have said it to you) How wrong I was, and thank you Steve Naphtali for holding my wine while I ate crow...

When I go home my kids tell me everything I don’t know…apparently the older they get the more I don’t know! It’s a great system they have to make sure my head never swells too much. This year one of my daughter’s changed her name. Imagine,  the second thing I gave her, right after life, didn’t make the cut…she doesn't like the clothes I buy her either, but I know for a fact she is mine, she had too much hair to confuse with any of the other babies in the nursery.

On my walk yesterday, I passed several designer dogs, out for their daily constitution and many wearing nicer sneakers than any ones my 12 year old has. Lucky dogs! I thought to myself how far we have come as a family this year! Kendall’s sneakers are really fine, and these cutbacks we have experienced have given us a chance to regroup and appreciate board games, long walks, and four weeks at camp with no Facebook, Wii, or texting. And I beamed with pride over them and their strength.

Just then I passed a man as I walked from the Subway at Union Square headed towards my office. He was no more than 25 years old, quite good looking, and on his feet as "shoes" he wore paper bags, folded over many times and tied to his feet with twine. He was indescribably dirty, and on the brink of losing his toenails and I did mention how cold it was, in the 20’s? I stopped and swallowed hard, and though he wasn’t begging, I turned to go find him, but he was gone in the crowd. Where was his family, how did he end up like this, and was he given too much or not enough growing up, where was the love?

I used to only donate only to established charities,  heeding the official warnings that people in the city will rob you if you give them money. After nearly a year here, I can say I have changed my thoughts on that. I am considerate of who I give money to, but I just can’t ignore daily the poverty and sadness that walks quietly among the wealthy and splendid of New York. There is suffering here, and I always think, how did this young person become this way, how can I help. There is a young man, who is often in the Columbus Circle or Lincoln Center Subway stations, he has no arms, he politely stands with a pack attached to his chest, and I cannot pass him without giving him a dollar or two if I have it. But there must be more I can do.
This year we took in a kitten, she was too young to eat on her own and was fed through a dropper. When she tried to eat from a bowl, her back legs would scoot forward and she would fold like a card face down in her milk…we would perform the daily rescue and put her back on the bottle…now she is as vigorous and resilient as they come, and I guess since no mommy ever taught her to squawk, she doesn’t make a sound, she can mew, she just doesn’t. She doesn't have sneakers, but it’s 2010, so she does have her own Facebook, you can friend her there! She’s has a few other friends,  our neighbors dog…also on Facebook.

I’ve never felt like I had less after I volunteered time, money or food to someone in need… in fact it always makes me feel like I have way more…2011 should be a year of giving back. Last week, I went home to find my daughter has joined a community group of young volunteers who will help the elderly or those in need with household chores and snow removal etc., what a gift for me to receive, that my daughter will have the spirit of volunteering! It just goes to show you are never too old or too young to make a difference, to care about a stranger as you would for someone you love.

Be rich with the spirit of giving, no contribution is too small to make a difference. Cheers to a Happy, Healthy, and Prosperous 2011! Remember to Love thy neighbor as thyself.

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Thursday, November 18, 2010

Task Lighting In Your New Kitchen

When you're designing a new kitchen, getting the most important decisions right is crucial for the long-term contentment with which you will come to regard your new room. Lighting schemes is one such decision and it should be made prior to the construction of your kitchen. Many people leave the lighting until after the kitchen has been built and then wonder why they can't see properly when preparing food. It's worth getting hold of a kitchen planner to help you make the most important decisions while planning your new room.

Although ambient lighting and accent lighting need special consideration, task lighting is perhaps the element of your kitchen lighting scheme that can make or break the effectiveness and functionality of the room as a whole. Task lighting, for those new to kitchen design, is focused lighting that provides illumination for the areas of your kitchen in which you perform daily tasks, including the sink, cooktop/range, and kitchen worktops. When you're planning your task lighting, consider the following elements:

Under cabinet lighting: Without task lighting under your cabinets, shadows from the ceiling illumination in your room will make food preparation both tricky and dangerous. There are many styles and shades available nowadays, particularly compared to the limited range available even just ten years ago. Using this sort of lighting is an energy-efficient way to illuminate your kitchen, as the sort of slimline fluorescent lights used last a long time and don't use too much electricity to function.

If you want to introduce a slightly more futuristic feel to your kitchen, you can pick lights that provide a garish blue tone to your worktops, whilst a more traditional country-kitchen feel can be achieved by less clinical tones. Underhood lighting for your oven is also a sensible investment, as it provides additional illumination when cooking food on the cooktop or taking heavy and boiling hot items out of the oven.

Track lighting: Track lighting can be used to direct light towards the work surfaces and areas of the kitchen that you use more regularly than others. For example, the sink and kitchen worktops on which you cut your vegetables require more light than other areas of the room. One advantage of this sort of lighting is that one track can be left off while another is illuminated, meaning that it's an easy way to save both energy and money.

You can choose between free track, fixed track, and barewire track when picking your track lighting, with the first option allowing greater flexibility for those who want to reposition and move lights on a regular basis. The fixed track option, meanwhile, comes with the light fittings already in place, so provide slightly less flexibility. However, these are cheaper and the lights can be angled so don't write this option off too readily. Finally, barewire track lights make use of a pair of tensioned cables between which lights can be repositioned.

Downlights: Downlights are another option that can provide additional light to the areas of your kitchen you deem to be most important. You can buy them in a wide range of finishes depending upon the colour scheme and style of your kitchen. Downlights look particularly good in modern kitchens but bear in mind that this sort of lighting isn't particularly energy efficient, so take this into account if 'going green' while saving cash is a real concern of yours. You can buy low energy downlights but these options have their critics, with some people believing there isn't yet a viable alternative to the energy-zapping version that matches the standard downlights for price and quality of illumination.

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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Illuminated Kitchen

One of the many things that sets MCK+B apart from the other kitchen showrooms in New York City is that our kitchens are live working displays. How great is it to be in an exciting diverse city with access to all the latest greatest kitchen technology? and to be able to invite clients in on a daily basis to explore the newest technology "hands-on"? Well this month we took it one step further by inviting the public in for a live cooking demonstration every week!

Introducing Chef Jonathan “Lumino” Jamison, trained at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY; and private chef to notables around the globe. Chef Lumino will be at Manhattan Center for Kitchen and Bath at 29 East 19th Street between Broadway and Park, every Wednesday from 4pm-6pm. He will be mixing up seasonal dishes using fresh organic produce, meat and dairy from the Farmers market at Union Square and cooking to perfection in the live SubZero/Wolf Kitchen with Cabinetry by Rutt and Counter tops by Caesarstone, featuring Concetta.

These delicious demonstrations will become a weekly “Webisode” cooking show on MCKB’s YouTube channel starting in November. Clients and interested folks are welcome to stop by and become part of the fun. This week lucky by-tasters will sample pan-seared ostrich, fresh greens and an apple cobbler with locally grown apples.
So if you are in the city stop by and catch a live taping of the show titled THE ILLUMINATED KITCHEN at Manhattan Center for Kitchen & Bath. Wednesdays at 4pm.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Cork Flooring for the Kitchen

as seen on Apartment Therapy
Here is the quick how and why on cork flooring...I get so many inquiries, but few buyers...
People want to know:

"is it really a green product?" YES
"can it be washed?" YES
"Is it easy to install" YES

· Cork as a material, is harvested from the bark of living trees, so the resource isn’t diminished by the process, in fact it seems that it encourages more rapid growth. Additionally the material we offer at MCKB is made from 100% recycled material procured from the wine stopper industry.
· The composition of the material, little air filled pockets, is what makes cork naturally quiet, dent resistant, sound absorbent, and also warm.
· The cork can be installed over existing flooring, concrete or plywood
· Anti-allergenic
· The finish is applied after the floor is installed and should not need a secondary application for 5-7 years under normal residential use.
· Recommended cleaning is regular vacuuming, occasionally should be cleaned with hardwood  floor cleaner.
· The VOC measure on the product is considered negligible
· Some manufacturers offer  a 25 year warranty with limits on finish
· Expected lifetime of 25+ years.
· Qualifies for Leed points based on the following considerations:
  1.  recycled content
  2. rapidly renewable material
  3. low-emitting materials
All in it's a look you have to love, not for everyone... but certainly worth checking out and available in dozens of colors!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Exciting Neighborhood Happenings and a 10 Year Anniversary Close to my Heart!

I suddenly feel like spring is in the air all over again! We have long talked about the end of this recession/economic slowdown...I don't want ot use the "D" word! But last week, sitting with my friend having lunch at Angelo & Maxie's on the corner of  East 19th and Park Avenue NYC, CNN reported that all data  supports the conclusion that the recession  ended in June of 2009, and we have been recovering steadily and incrementally ever since. WOW!

It was enough to make a girl go back to work and sell three new jobs...and that's exactly what happened.

Walking to the train that day, I passed through the brand new pedestrian walkway that was just plunked down clear in the middle of Broadway right  on Union Square where just a couple of weeks ago you had to watch your step as cars went whizzing around the square. This is only six blocks south of a similar arrangement of bistro tables and plantings in the shadows of the great Flatiron Building, it's  quaint, inviting, free,  and a great place to relax and read, drink a latte and soak up New York...what did they do with the cars though?

To add to the little hustle and bustle just across from the Flatiron on Broadway and 23rd a slpendid new shop "Eataly" has just opened offering all sorts of delicious ready to eat gourmet fare, flavors from all over the map and of course for New Yorkers--exotic delicious varieties of freshly brewed coffee right at the front door of the shop. Although I will say the store can get quite crowded, YUM! I can't wait till the line is short enough that I can run there at lunchtime!

And in that famous blink and you miss it New York timing, I was walking to work yesterday and realized that a previously boarded/papered up building was gleaming as I passed. It was open and un-intimate as a dress shop window, but filled with tables, and bright decor, clean, fresh, and inviting, only to look up and see it's the sister of Hill Country Barbeque Just a block away...but chicken, does that make it a sister or a cousin??? Bring it on, we needed a little more hub-ub.

Near and dear to my heart, and someone who inspired me in the early years I began specializing in kitchens 10 years ago is Steve Naphtali, acclaimed Kitchen Designer, featured on HGTV, and an attorney by trade. This weekend his company Kitchen Expressions of Short Hills is celebrating 10 Years in Business! This is an accomplishment in any market, but with tough economy that has faced New Jersey over the last three years, this is a testament to his staying power, his customer loyalty and dedication to his clients. Kitchen Expressions is a full custom shop that offers installation and contracting services, but will work with any contractor or architect the client wishes. Here's a shoutout to Steve, Richard, Annette and Leah, they are a fun creative animated team of professionals and I wish them so much more success, as we all watch for business to grow again! Stop in today and celebrate with them until 5pm.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Jeff Lewis Designs this Years Kitchen of the Year in Rockefeller Center

I just wanted to say a special thanks to Jeff Lewis, Designer of this Years House Beautiful Kitchen of the Year in Rockefeller Center. Last night he took time out to stop and speak honestly about a range of topics from personal to professional.

I was fortunate to be in the kitchen last night, a  more intimate setting than it had been previously this week.  KraftMaid had taken over the venue and was hosting architects and designers as well as the company's own top executives. It was a great opportunity open every drawer, push buttons on the JennAir  appliances, and truly appreciate the minute details of the kitchen.

But the highlight of the evening was the personal time Lewis took to share a little bit about himself, growing up with two brothers, living in LA, and what drives him to success!  His 4th season of his show "Flipping Out" returns to Bravo on August 10th, I don't think he needs luck, he's obviously got what it takes and works hard for the succes he enjoys.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

House Beautiful Magazine Takes New York with "Warm Contemporary"


      Today in Rockefeller Center House Beautiful Magazine opens its third annual "Kitchen of the Year" to the public; and yesterday I was among a fortunate few to preview the handiwork of Jeff Lewis, this year's guest designer and star of Bravo TV's "Flipping Out" and his talented team. Supported by powerhouses in the industry such as Masco, Kravet and Mohawk they have brought to life design possibilities that will have small town USA putting away their raised panel door ideas and going slab!

     The kitchen sits perched above the Rockefeller Centers famous Sea Grill and is flooded with light under a glass ceiling. It's very "New York" in its styling; with strict use of clean lines and decisive finishes...there wasn't an ogee edge or a glaze hang up in sight!

     This was such a pleasure to see, since 4 out of 5 city kitchens we do at Manhattan Center for Kitchen & Bath  are contemporary. Repeatedly we heard yesterday from the representatives of House Beautiful that the magazine will be spotlighting more of what they referred to as "warm contemporary" in upcoming issues, a new bold direction for a magazine that has mass appeal in areas of the country that are known for being very traditional. Their commitment was obvious in this years show kitchen.

     The Quarter Sawn Cherry Slab door from Kraftmaid in their deeply rich Peppercorn finish offers a strong look not too dissimilar from the Dark Ebony and finely grained Wenge we feature in our showroom in Manhattan. The Caesarstone "Pure White" countertop with waterfall legs is a rich beautiful compliment and in strong contrast to the dark wood cabinetry. Quartz surface is the highest rated for lasting beauty and function in a kitchen. We find at MCKB that our clients request Caesarstone by name and are often somewhat educated on the benefits of the product before coming in to begin the design process; additionally New Yorkers seem to prefer the design palette offered for its quiet earthen toned colors over any other surface, including granite. In addition to showing many samples from the standard Caesarstone line, MCKB has just become an exclusive Concetto showroom, displaying this unique highly distinctive Caesarstone product which can be seen on display backlit for increased aesthetic effect.

     Other highly notable contributors to the show kitchen include Mohawk Industries, with their Reclaimed Elm 5" Plank  Floor in the "Zanzibar" finish, this material provided a beautiful stage for the kitchen in addition to being a "Green" material, also highly notable and a favorite design element for me personally was the peninsula created from reclaimed wood from the old Vanderbilt family estate polo pony stables. The wood was incredibly grained and worn with a deep cognac color and supported by a stunning chrome pedestal, the combined design effort of Jeff Soderbergh and Jeff Lewis. Right down to the Kohler Karbon Faucet, it is hard to find fault in all this functional beauty, and I feel confident that it's "New York" chic style makes it worth the trip. Visit and be inspired by the designers and contributors whose blod ideas are brought to life, and perhaps you will find yourself ready begin the remodeling process!

     Don't miss the opportunity to tour the House beautiful Kitchen of the Year and view some of the  demos they will be running each day this week, and remember Friday when the curtain comes down, the kitchen will be converted into "Bar 30" and run by the Sea Grill.

Thanks for the tour!

Some Photography courtesy of House Beautiful Magazine.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Kitchen and Bath Remodeling on the BIG Upswing in 2010

Being in this business for so long now, it's become easy to recognize trends in the business, certainly among product and  over the past two years, the undeniable slump the home remodeling industry has been in. Sunday when I listened to an interview of Kermit Baker,the American Institute of Architects’s chief economist as well as senior research fellow at the Joint Center for Housing Studies (JCHS) at Harvard University, my recent personal observations were confirmed. The remodleing industry is poised to experience a huge resurgence in business, and the primary focus of homeowners has returned to kitchens and bathrooms.
Mr. Baker mentioned in his interview with Maria Bartoromo of NBC News, that the home remodeling industry is now a $250 billion a year industry, still smaller than at it's peak but lager than the housing market at this time. He went on to say that 6-8 months ago homeowners were investing in siding, roofing, and windows, all retrofits and upgrades that offer immediate benefit in the reduction of home heating costs and/or energy efficiency.

This past November General Electric debuted the GE GeoSpring(TM) hybrid the first heat pump water heater to be ENERGY STAR(R) rated. Remember the commercial during the Olympic Games with the snow monkey lounging in their hot spring...this catchy advertising that has brought consumers in asking directly for the new technology. The GeoSpring promises to reduce energy expenses up to 62% and safe up to $320 annually on energy bills (in tests conducted by the Department of Energy), it was also awarded a Best of What's New Award by Popular Science.
According to Mr. Baker, the AIA has indications that nationally approximately 25% of remodels today incorporate some type of Green or renewable product technology. This growing trend is a very positive indication, since often green products require a larger initial investment than traditional building materials.

With the spring flowers came a rush of traffic to the kitchen showrooms around New York City and surrounding suburbs, like everyone else,  MCKB has been enjoying a spike in traffic. Once shoppers are in it's of course up to the designers and the showroom staff to gain the homeowners confidence and an opportunity to earn the business, but there is a willingness to spend that we haven't seen in about two years. Competition is fierce, homeowners are savvy and out looking for the best overall value: quality of product and workmanship are paramount. Its par for the course now that a prospective client will come in with a list, a sort of "walking tour" of NYC showrooms they are visiting on the same day and they will have a bag of literature to add my contribution to. The key for me is how to stay on the top of the pile.

Yesterday, I was with a couple in Garden City, Long Island. They were taking the first steps towards a kitchen remodel, we met in their home for the survey, and  I was retained for the project. The homeowners, who interviewed me in my showroom three times before inviting me into their home, made it clear they had been to every reputable shop in the city, hit all the big brand names and decided after two years on the browsing tour to work with myself and MCKB. I don't have to tell you how exciting that is as a designer.

One of the perks of the turnaround in the remodeling  market  is a byproduct of its roots in the correction in the housing industry.  Homeowners are remodeling to enjoy and stay in their homes, not to flip for quick cash and move on. This means projects have more a personal aspect, the materials chosen are of a better quality and the entire process is more thoughtful and yielding better results. People are obviously willing to invest more in a home they are committed to remaining in for 5+ years, so bring on the glass counter tops, inset and high end frameless cabinetry, exotic engineered wood veneers, and energy efficient appliances.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Social Media Gets Personal to a NYC Kitchen Designer

Part of this journey in business today is understanding that staying "current" isn't enough, you have to try to be ten steps ahead of what is current and throw out constraints of old narrowly defined roles, they just don't apply anymore. I will never again just be a Kitchen Designer thanks to Facebook, Twitter, blogging, LinkedIn, Slideshare, etc. Along with my co-Bloggers and Twitterparts, I am a writer, an advisor, a researcher, and a student of life, and on my best day: a conduit for what's about to be the latest thing, and when possible the eyes and ears to tell interested followers what pratfalls to avoid. It's up to all of us individually to to share all this with our audience in a fun colorful way, or lose you.
Staying completely "on topic" isn't always easy, the personal stuff does leak in, after all these outlets make it so easy to link posts. It's important to be careful if your goal is driving business not to play out life's drama in a self-indulgent way. When things are working the right way some of these associations do leave the web and become "business personal" and vice versa. As for the recent online debates over how intimate Twitters and status updates should become, I think it's okay to take some personal causes to your followers...but treat it like selling Girl Scout Cookies at work, it's not a condition of the relationship. If you are on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn you're inviting people to "write on your wall". In truth, I rarely write on anyone's wall unless you are a close friend.
For the record: I personally cringed when LinkedIn asked me to add my marital status to my profile.

When I entered this arena, a complete novice, not totally sure what it would do or what I would say; I was friended in some stroke of luck by Paul Anater, a Kitchen Designer from St. Petersburg, Florida. Paul's has incredible style and smooth delivery, he shares of his personal as well as his business story in a way that is engaging and thought provoking. He's an example of being in control of one's own self-growth and at the same time been a magnanimous rallier of the troops. Paul, with Charlie Kondek and Brizo was instrumental in assembling a group of writers/designers this past winter at an opportunity Brizo created to reveal the latest designs and futuristic technology they are bringing to life. We bonded as a group and became the Blogger19, there is a bustling fan page on Facebook, and if you want to keep up on the latest in Home Design it's a great place to check out. The energy of Paul and the other members has defined the network as an intimate useful open resource for all of us as we each develop our own niche on the social networking map.
Paul is one of those people whose hand is out to help and involve others in the good stuff he has going on, he has infectious energy and enthusiasm. In addition to the many other roles, he is a trainer now for Google and is at KBIS this week demonstrating their design program: SketchUp, he's is a great example of what we are here to drive and I encourage you to explore and follow Paul's Blog. Wishing Paul and the rest of the Blogger19, as well as Brizo a great week at KBIS 2010.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Diary of a New NYC Kitchen Designer

I have spent the last 9 years making my living as a kitchen and bath designer in the "Greater NYC" area...mainly Northern New Jersey and NYC, but occasionally in Connecticut, Delaware, Virginia, New York State, and even a project or two in Vermont, Georgia, Florida, South Carolina and Texas. Business for me has always been good to the point I never gave "job security" too much thought, I just gave my job my all and was rewarded with repeat business.
To go back in time, I had only accidentally "happened" into kitchen design. My background in home furnishings and interior design had put me in the right spot at the right time, just after the break up of my marriage. I was noticed by a store manager in a Home Depot as I raided his wall paper department. I was on my way to a client appointment and looking for materials. I was busy with my own project but also fielding questions from his customers. He liked my style and ability to juggle the task at hand while catering to many demanding my advice and guidance. He approached me and simply said "I need you here in my store."

And so it was done, I went back for an interview and then spent the next 6 months self training on his floor. John hired me in at a living wage, which was a huge relief. I never wore an "in training" button, I pushed myself hard, and I spent the first year running around like a mad woman satisfying customers, I was dedicated. I would finish my shift at 8pm and then head home to tuck my kids into bed. When they were asleep, I would sneak back to Home Depot to work on the 20-20 design program so it became like breathing to use it, I'd crawl into bed around 4am, and then start all over 3 hours later with the kids. I'd wake up in the morning calculating imaginary counter tops in square inches and costing them in various materials. In that first year, I hadn't seen the inside of the employee break room five times, and as I cruised through each day, I would chant in my head: "I'm gonna get fired, I'm gonna get fired", smiling all the way, because as hard as it was, it was the most fun!

While my mantra was my way of self-motivating, I also thought it was possible I could be fired, after all everyone is replaceable. And every kitchen designer stubs reputation along the way, we're only human after all.

One day my department manager took me aside about my sales. Anthony told me I was on track to be the top sales specialist in the country. I was taken aback, speechless, and for the first time in a year, I felt the tension leave my shoulders. I knew I was going to make it, and my pay scale began to reflect my success, I was given huge creative control over my projects and my time. I did kitchens for people in the entertainment business and major league sports players, and was respected throughout the company for the business I had built. I called depot my home in one form or another until November 2007.

In 2007, I began working for a small home improvement company that was striving for bigger and better, I was offered a very desirable compensation package to join his firm. The owner had worked for The Bil-Ray Group, a large scale remodeling company, and he aspired to have the same or better for himself. He concentrated on company growth and dedicated resources towards branding, lead generation and fleet expansion. I had my hands full trying to keep the clients happy, and deciphering the contracts. As summer and fall 2008 dished out increasingly terrible economic news which was compounded by the crisis in the panic stricken banking industry, this already unstable company was snagged by the undertow and dragged out to sea.

Leaving me, a self supporting single mom creative type, contemplating the next step for me and my family in the face of what seemed the worst times, with skyrocketing unemployment numbers and the friends telling me that things couldn't have blown up worse out there and no signs it was getting better soon.

Downsizing the year before had been a huge stroke of good fortune. My kids and I had previously been out numbered by our bathrooms, and it occurred to me this was way out of balance. Now, with much less to manage, I took a look at my situation at hand, and decided that the economy had given me permission to slow down and enjoy the children I had been working so hard to provide for. We cut back on the non-essentials, and we biked and swam all summer long, I forecasted my budget and how long I could survive, and tried to keep it real for the girls without causing them to have my worries. With no cabinets to haul, I let our big SUV go, and let my 10 year old pick out the family car: a Beetle convertible.

I networked and researched, and stayed in contact with clients of the failed business I had worked for. I did my best to see they got what they had paid for, and then offered of myself and my services beyond that. I established my own LLC, built my website, and made tough decisions. I stood with a friend,  a Cancer Survivor, battling the disease since she was 10 years old and again now. She has all my support, and in exchange I get great advice from her unique perspective.

January-February 2010, was crunch time for employment, I pulled out all the stops, and after one month of all nighters on Monster and LinkedIn Career pages,as well as pounding the actual pavement, I had four viable offers in my field. This was great news, and I think a sign of the turning times. I had applied beyond the scope of my field, and while I had interest and opportunity in other areas, the offers in the construction field were a relief and gift. With my children, I made the bold decision to become a full time commuter and chase my dream in NYC daily.

So, like so many others in the wake of the new economy, I am working harder, taking on some additional risk, willing to reinvent myself, push to new limits, and make a little less for a while, all to be on the up escalator once again. My new showroom is the Manhattan Center for Kitchen and Bath , an upscale and simply elegant design center, with experienced, helpful, and friendly staff, operating at the highest ethical and quality standards. It was a huge pleasure to join their ranks, and I will be chronicling my experiences and adventures in and around the city, the trends and the business direction.
Now that you have a little background, and a few of the characters, I hope you will join me.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Art in Your Kitchen- Fused Glass Backsplashes

As a designer/multi-tasker I have to admit, I have been known to let my attention wander. If something peaks my curiosity, I have been known to drop everything and pursue!

Last week I was contacted by a woman, not a kitchen client, not even a potential...a backsplash only inquiry. She was very passionate about a glass backsplash she had seen in a New York City Showroom. She was in love, enthralled, and stumped! The owner of the showroom would share no information about it, or how to get it. So she had launched a campaign to find it on her own.

Not only did i feel for her plight but she was so excited, she got me wrapped up in her fervor too. Google hadn't been easy for her since she was not from an architecture or design field and the kitchen lingo wasn't on the tip of her fingers.

So in the middle of last weeks storm that never seemed to end, I set out on the train in search of this jewel she described. Albeit I was drenched, I did find the place, and beheld her prize backsplash. It was beautiful. But, I had to admit, I felt no more love from the gentleman in the showroom than she did, so I did no sleuthing. I gave it a quick look, took mental images, and went home to Google myself.

Along the way I came across a company whose product I felt I had to share. I happened upon these folks who do such amazing work, I think it needs to be recognized! Tom and Saundra Snyder, of Charlotte NC, have a studio and design center in Pineville NC There work is detailed and precise, and completely custom.
Saundra is a renowned Watercolor Artist, who will custom design and render your project and then combines her talents with Tom's glass cutting skills to achieve a completely personal and unique piece of art for your home.
They do more than just Backsplashes, the will do wall hangings, home accessories, serving pieces, I dare say anything you can dream up. And a quick look through their online portfolio quickly dispels any thought that they have a theme to their work. Aside from Glass being the medium they work in, their style will range from contemporary abstract, contemporary geometric, landscape, still life to portrait.
I am always looking for new, unusual elements to incorporate into my designs, glass adds life to architecture and design in many ways, by allowing light to pass through, and also in its natural resemblance to water. It is a natural compliment to tile and
I would imagine that use of glass allows an opportunity to incorporate recycled material into the project, and I would encourage you to contact Tom and saundra for more information on their Art Glass works.
When I called my inquiring client back, she was so pleased with the information and the link she has promised to follow up with me when her project is complete, and likewise i will share those images with you!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Fashion Week a la Brizo-Jason Wu

Brizo, the high end designer division of Delta Faucet Company, the household name in faucets, is assembling a team of Bloggers and designers from all over the country,to meet in NYC for Fashion Week. Its's startling and flattering all at once, and an unexpexcted treat to get to see and meet the people who bring us our props, what we recommend and sell to the public everyday.
Brizo has built in a natural highlight to our trip, in between the Product Training Session, that helps us match their products to our customers, and the other activities, we'll attend the Fashion Show of acclaimed designer Jason Wu who designs a product line for Brizo, as well as Michelle Obama's inaugural gown, and a stunning couture line.

Mother nature has challenged almost all coming to NY with delays and flight cancellations as she pounded the east coast all day yesterday with weather ranging from blizzard conditions to hail. Living 25 minutes from NYC, I can tell you we have 10" of snow and there was hardly a moment all day thet we didn't have something white and wet falling on us.
But today, with sun out, and flights coming in, plans are back, on a slightly adjusted schedule, and the anticipation is even more heightened as we'll fit just as much learning and fun into a slightly shortened amount of time.
Looking forward to it all, and sharing it here!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Garbage Disposals, Batch Feed vs. Continuous Feed

The first kitchen I ever had a part in the technical design of, was my own, it was the start of the love affair I have with well designed kitchens. I thought I was going to have fun with the window treatments, and the dining table, after all, interior design was my field. Boy was I wrong, it was the appliances that charmed my socks off! Looking back, I did things in that kitchen that I will never do again, without a sign off of course!

One appliance that had me on the fence was a garbage disposal. I hadn't grown up with one, but had managed to feed nearly an entire set of cutlery to one in an apartment I had in college. So even though the designer was recommending I install one, I was skeptical. True also is that I was looking at the sweet plump fingers on my baby's hands, and the thought of her reaching in at the wrong moment, well it made me squeeze my eyes shut real fast!

When I caught my breath the designer gave me a little lesson in batch feed vs. continuous. Most people have continuous feed disposers with the black plastic flaps that give way to the food as it slides through the opening. This type usually has a switch on the backsplash or countertop that you simply flip as you are feeding the unit, it can run this way at any time, and if you drop a knife or spoon it's going in! I know it's a longshot but as a young mom, I could just envision my for year old son chucking his Thomas the Tank Engine down to here the cool noise, and well the possibilities of his retrieval method was of most concern.

What my kitchen designer recommended was what they call a Batch Feed Disposal. It has a plug that covers the opening but allows water to pass through it, the plug must be in and turned for the power to run to the unit. therefore there is zero risk of little fingers intruding on the blades, and it only slows down the feed process slightly, and just enough that you have very little risk of losing cutlery or jewelry or any of the other fun stuff that slips by.

I took his advice, and bought the Kitchen Aid Batch Feed Disposal. I was so happy for the convenience and peace of mind it offered, and I recommend the very same unit to my clients today. Batch feeds are made by many manufacturers and they all work fairly the same way.

As with all disposers, the recommendation is that you use cold running water and do put bones down. It's generally thought that this does the best job of preventing grease from buuilding up and clogging the waste line. Check with your town before installing one, as not all municipalities allow them, and if you are on a septic system check into the special enzyme treatments to assist in the decomposition of the food matter.

Friday, January 29, 2010

How Do I Choose a Good Contractor?

Choosing a contractor is not often easy, and many times fear of commitment holds homeowners back. One of the best ways to find a good reputable contractor you can trust is to ask friends and neighbors for referrals. It's even ok to stop at an ongoing job, but be careful to stay out of the way and speak directly with the homeowner. For the most part people are flattered that you noticed their project and they are proud to show off what they are having done. Strike up a pleasant conversation and you may even be invited back to see the progress.

The remodeling industry is frought with nightmare stories, so it's also important to be able to weed out the truth, the homeowner may have had a bad experience yes, but it's possible that it had nothing to do with the contractor.
One of the most daunting things about remodeling is the cost overrun factor. If you ask a neighbor who just had their kitchen remodeled and they exclaim "my kitchen was supposed to cost $50,000, but when I was done paying for the extras it was closer to $70,000...I love my new kitchen, but I won't recommend the contractor because of how the price went up." Hmmmm, what can you make of that statement, it comes down to what were the extras? Was it that the tile, which the homeowner said went completely under the cabinets really only went two inches under them?...and now with the new cabinet layout the entire floor needed replaced, and while selecting the material, the homeowner fell in love with an exotic marble tile and thought it made sense to add radiant heat, and continue the floor to the foyer?

That's a big change, they just added work and material to include:
  1. Rip out and removal (contractors pay to dump waste) of the exisitng floor
  2. Expanded the job to the foyer not just the kitchen ($50,000)
  3. Radiant heat (will invlove either plumber or elecrtrician depending on the sysytem)
  4. Labor and material for Marble floor install (more expensive than ceramic/porcelain.

This change could easily add $10,000 to the bottom line on a job. If the homeowner was warned that uniform flooring throughout was key reusing the exisiting floor in a new layout, and advised of the costs of a potential new floor, gave the go ahead, then the contractor was completely upfront and the homeowner just has remorse over the expense. The homeowner picked beautiful natural stone and wanted warm feet, no wonder they love their kitchen! Give the contractor a break here, he was doing his job.

Now take the same floor, same homeowner, they told the contractor the tile only went under the cabinets by two inches and they wanted to replace it with marble throughout the foyer and add radiant heat since the tile was cold in the winter. The homeowner still ended up with almost $8,000 in additional flooring costs, then you would look at the allowances the contractor included for labor and material, were they enough, did they include the foyer at all?? Probably not or at too low a rate, in this case the homeowner has a right to feel upset.

Unforseen conditions and exposed code violations have to be brought up to code at the homeowners expense. If you bought Pandora's box, it's unfortunate, but it's yours. In this case, the key to a good contractor is that he helps you through the process, with the right subs, and getting the work done quickly and inspected so you can put the situation behind you and your mind at ease.

Remember if you told your contractor your entire wishlist and that you wanted to spend $50,000 on your kitchen, you have to carefully read the contract that everything you want is included at your number. Full disclosure is they key to an honorable home improvement contractor. Ask for a list of what is not included in the job, or what is covered by an allowance, how much is it, and can you go to any store? What good is a $750 allowance for an Exterior French Door, when the least expensive one they sell at the approved vendor is $2000? Well, it $750 worth of good, now add $1250 to your personal bottom line.

Items typically covered by an allowance only or not included:

  • flooring material
  • cabinetry upgrades (premium woods, finishes, drawer glides, plywood const.)
  • faucets
  • appliances
  • specialty windows
  • exterior doors
  • exotic granite

Remember it IS reasonable for the contractor to cover these items by allowances, after all, you don't want to have the cost of Blue Bahai Granite built in to your kitchen when what you want is a Blue Sapphire or Blue Opal. If you know the stone you want ahead of time, you can ask that it is specifically included in the contract to avoid questions later. When it comes to a kitchen faucet you could spend anywhere from $120.00 to $1200.00, if the contractor offers you a credit to supply your own, believe me there will be noisy days you won't want to be at your house, and they will be perfect for faucet shopping!

Three reasons not to base your decision to hire a contractor:

  1. He/she said we didn't need permits or contracts because my project just direct replacement etc.
  2. He/she looked the most professional.
  3. He/she stayed for hours going over the reasons we should hire them.

You may feel more comfortable and friendly with a contractor who doesn't want to deal with paperwork, let call it a "handshake deal", but the truth is, a contract is to protect everyone and your state has laws by which the contractor must abide. This is important for both parties, and it should clearly outline all of your project specifications, allowances etc as well as your obligations for payment and cost overruns. A well written contract can save the project for all involved. With regard to permits, allow the town to tell you they aren't needed, even if you are just upgrading from electric cooking to the evermore popular dual-fuel range, you will need a plumbing inspection. This is in your best interest to get.

It's fine and good to clean up and present well after a day on the jobsite, but when a contractor sits in your home for 2-3 hours in a pressed shirt and slacks and says "you know how I know all this, it's because I make this presentation to homeowners four times a day." Now ask yourself, if that is the case, when will he/she find time to be on my job. You are talking to a professional salesman. If he really does this schpeel that many times a day, how would he ever find time to manage or supervise your project? BEWARE.

This "contractor" who took 2 1/2 painstaking hours selling you on the reasons to sign with him/her surprises you and then jams through the paperwork so quick you don't remember what you bought. Now should now sit down and read the paperwork before your time to ask questions is up. Often under the sense of relief that the commitment is made and the process is underway, homeowners tuck the contract in a drawer, unfortunately the next time they pull it out is when they face the first unexpected add-on of something they thought was included

Lastly, online contractor referral services, they are paid for and supported by the contractors. Not all the feedback customers post remain online for your eyes to see. These services are not necessarily bad, just make sure you check references carefully. Always consult the Better Business Bureau, local trade associations, ask for references, speak with the subs if possible, meet directly with the kitchen designer and go see at least one job!

I wouldn't like to make it sound like one industry has it tougher than another, but if the landscaper scalps your hedges and they look terrible, you can still take a shower and sit down to a home cooked meal. A troubled home renovation can affect how you live for many months so take the time to make a wise choice, you will be happy you did!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Cooking Under Pressure-How GREEN it is!

When I was in my twenties I was a pressure cooker, my definition: a person who cooks meals short order for a family of picky eaters on various eating schedules, while juggling school, a career, a carpool, baseball, basketball and soccer seasons, and a seemingly never-ending home renovation.

Along the way, I learned a couple things about kids:

  1. kids will eat foods they help prepare so I always recommend child safe veggie peelers as a must have in the kitchen
  2. you can slip a lot of nutrition into soup and thererby into your kids without them even suspecting what you are up to!
  3. kids love to see things close up, so don't be afraid to keep a magnifying glass or microscope nearby

As I became a little older and hopefully more savvy, I began to look for ways to economize for the sake of my time, and that led me to a store called "Fortunoff's" now gone, but was then "The Source" a destination spot for many a young homemaker looking for obscure kitchen items like my fish turner and my measuring spoons (dash, pinch, and smidge sized). It was there I purchased my first actual pressure cooker, a kitchen gadget of cartoon lore for most of my generation...I know for sure my mom never had one, and the only rare others I'd seen were in the basements of older neighbors.

This little stovetop appliance became my number one go to gadget anytime I was making soup, stew, rice, pasta, you name it, if it boiled it went in the pressure cooker. Chickens that formerly boiled for 2+ hours to make soup were ready for adding veggies in 30 minutes and tasted delicious when done. When cooking short ribs or other meats, I generally brown the meat and the onions in the bottom of the cooker with a little oil before adding water and the lid, it makes for a delicious full flavored gravy and I never worry that the meat will be tough.

Cooking accounts for approximately 10% of the energy used in a home, and pressure cookers cut cooking time by 60-70%, so by using this handy gadget, you can significantly cut you energy usage, good for you and good for the enviorment. The shortened cooking time also means that your kitchen doesn't overheat, essential if you live in a warmer climate.

The most difficult thing about using a pressure cooker is getting over the fear of buying one, if this sounds like you get a less expensive one to start $50-$60 and try it, you will wear it out in time and want a better one. By that time you will know it was worth the investment and $100-$200 will not seem like much at all. Stainless steel, in my opinion, is better than aluminum, they hold up better with no fear of leaching of mineral content and they are better for browning meats. Always remember to wash the gasket by hand even though the rest of the pot is dishwasher safe.

When designing a new kitchen always remember to discuss with your kitchen designer what types of small appliances and pots you use so they can make sure your new kitchen offers the proper storage solutions to meet your needs.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

My "Off the Wall" Wall

My daughters, ages 10 and 13, and I share a comfortable but small home. They both like to bring their friends over after school, and the place fills up with kids quickly . I LOVE IT! We go through a lot of drinks, popcorn, and of course paper.

Almost two months ago, as I was beginning to sift through this years accumulation of stuff, in preparation for the arrival of Santa's sleigh, I attempted to discard a small wipe board that was wedged under Kirstie's bed. "No Mom," she squealed, "I need that for my homework". I pushed back the bedroom door to reveal three more wipe boards of various sizes. Kirstie shrugged and began to explain the part wipe boards play in her study method. A method I am not permitted to reveal at this time. Well, honestly, she gets better grades than I did as a kid, so who am I to question her?

I left the boards, but now I was thinking. I returned to the living room and began to pick up an assortment of artwork and discarded doodles off of the floor. My kids had just been there with their friends a short time earlier. And as I walked towards the recycling bin, papers in hand, I passed my foyer wall, my personal decorating nemesis. I can't tell you how many 20 minute intervals I have logged in front of the paint samples, just not "feeling" the right color for that space. Suffice it to say, this hallway/pseudo-room is:
  • the very first thing you see when you enter
  • like Grand Central Station bustling with activity
  • got 4 doorways and two archways
  • serves as a casual dining area
  • adjoined by 5 other rooms each with a color
  • a very difficult space to define

It was at that moment an idea started to take shape, as I looked down at the bunches of paper in my hand, I was about to discard an entire logs worth again. I knew this wall was meant for a better purpose. A purpose I believed any home with kids or even kid visitors could benefit from. I was going to have a (semi) permanent memorial to my kids creativity, and make a commitment to save paper long term.

I shared my plans with my daughters, and Miss. Middle School scrunched her nose at me and asked "are you crazy Mom?", Kendall began to jump around "when can we get the paint, when can we go Mom?" Kendall has vision, I want her to stay 10 years old. I told her it would take a little planning, and that during the week I would put up the chair rail molding and sand and prepare the wipe-board section of the wall ready for the Rust-o-leum Dry Erase Paint.

The space below the wipe board section was the blank canvas for my girls artwork, and a few of their friends they had invited. In preparation for Sunday afternoons mural, Kendall and I headed down to the local Home Depot and chose 9 colors. The associates were so helpful. We chose primary colors for mixing and tinting and a few other fun shades like a lime green, pink and a purple. The convenient 8oz pots were about $3.00 each, and we grabbed a gallon of pure white that had landed on the "oops cart" (rejected paint) for $5.00. It was a great find!

On Sunday, we collected an assortment of brushes, we put plastic down and taped the area for protection...and the handiwork began. It took 7 girls three hours, a couple dozen plastic cups, and just a little adult supervision (special creative director and Dad of artists) for mixing colors and cleaning brushes, to create the happy masterpiece that replaced my blank unappealing wall.

The first chair rail was up already approx 36" AFF (above the finished floor), I left an approximately 30" space between the first and the second one I added. The space, 84"x 30" was prepped and painted as wipe board, I applied 5 coats, more than the directions suggested, but it gave a smoother finish, and then I allowed extra dry time too, 3 days for the paint to cure instead of 2 days. I closely followed the application instructions as they pertained to time between coats and how quickly the dry erase paint must be used or discarded. The results were terrific.

Now the "wipe wall" is the first place everyone goes when they come in, it's a place for open expression, frivolous doodles, important and other miscellaneous (welcome home, going to dad's this weekend. etc) messages, it was even the home of our official New Years countdown, the kids monitored the official count, and ticked off the hours leading up to 2010. It's fun, eco-friendly, whimsical, saves paper, encourages creativity (sorry TV)... and never gets boring.

My total project investment was less than $80.00 and I recommend if you have kids, get a wall like ours (no two are the same of course)...and if you don't have kids, it's still a fun useful project!

Thanks for all the beautiful work Sadie, Molly, Anna, Kendall, Kirstie, Alana, and Ariel, I love our wall.