Sunday, June 28, 2009

Even the Barefoot Contessa Prefers a Small Kitchen!

The Barefoot Contessa Ina Garten's small kitchen
in her Manhattan apartment which she prefers to her big kitchen.

Americans Love Big Kitchens

Americans' have a love affair with big kitchens. Over the last decade gourmet kitchens have transitioned from a casual luxury to a necessity. A central island combined with a separate countertop where family and guests can sit and enjoy the latest in home cooking is now common place and indeed expected in most houses. Kitchens now must be spacious enough for multiple cooks and often feature two sinks - a double sink on the counter and a sink on the central island.

"Magazines and television programs feature "dream" kitchen renovations, while fancy catalogs sell thousand-dollar sets of knives and equally expensive sets of cookware. Among families that can afford it, the dream kitchen may go unused, while the family dines in a restaurant, all the while expressing a level of food knowledge and sensitivity they've garnered from hours spent viewing "home cooking" television shows. The kitchen in such a case may find its best use for snack and sandwich preparation, for reheating meals prepared outside the home, for occassional holiday or social entertaining. Life in the USA, America Eats, Elliot Essman 2007.

Ironically, the supersizing of the American kitchen is happening at the same time Americans are experiencing a a substantial drop in home cooking. Since 1993, the percentage of American households cooking even once a day has fallen markedly. According to a survey by the Department of Energy, the decline in home cooking can be seen in households of all sizes. "Americans find that in their world of multitasking and daily time crisis, food preparation at home becomes more of a chore, less of a pleasure."

(I've also noticed that as American kitchens have increased in size, so has America's problem with obesity. This is just an observation - I'm not drawing any conclusions. But it is an interesting parallel.)

Small Kitchens Win

So why am I telling you all this about big kitchens? Because although Americans may think bigger is better, small kitchens will always win any 'throw down' as Bobby Flay fondly calls a head-to-head competition.

How is this possible? In smaller kitchens, food preparation and cooking are the priority. Form follows function. This is not a family room, entertainment center, study and cooking area rolled into one space. Small home kitchens work because they do not try to be everything to everybody.

Let's look at the basics of pulling a small kitchen together.

Kitchen Furniture
Appliances Start with the standard kitchen appliances—a refrigerator, stovetop, oven and dishwasher. Treat the sink as a kitchen appliance. I like stainless steel for the small kitchen. It reflects light and opens the space visually. Form a triangle between the refrigerator, stovetop/oven and the sink. Put the dishwasher next to the sink and you have an efficient work area. This is your kitchen foundation. My kitchen is tiny; eight feet by eight feet (including countertop space) and this triangular arrangement works wonders.
Cabinets Choose your cabinets after deciding on appliances. Why? Appliances are the foundation of your kitchen, build the cabinets around them. Natural woods or painted cabinets work equally well. Just keep the look simple and clean.
Countertops Choose a countertop that compliments your cabinets. Granite is my favorite countertop surface and is worth the cost. Engineered stone countertops are also good options. Concrete countertops have become a popular option, but I think they are too porous and require too much upkeep.
Lighting For kitchen lighting, the best choices are recessed canisters in the ceiling and over work areas. Also make sure to have lighting under the cabinets. Kitchen work demands good light.
If there is space, I like to keep a small freestanding cabinet by the kitchen entry. This is nice for extra storage.

Hard Working Beautiful Small Kitchens

Now take a look at some hard working beautiful small kitchens from the July 2009 issue of House Beautiful. Ina Garten's tiny kitchen from her Manhattan apartment is featured and shown at the top of this post. Ina says about her small kitchen, "In a funny way, I actually like a smaller kitchen. It's much more efficient." I couldn't agree more!

Not really small, but the cabinets would work beautifully in a smaller space. Also, the chandelier is a very nice touch.

Small kitchens leave room in the budget for high end appliances like this oven and hood.

Very nice French Country look in a galley kitchen. Again, note the high end range.

For those who like color, these cabinets are a nice choice. Notice how the stainless steel appliances reflect light and visually open the room.

The black and white contrast works here along with the Asian ginger jars.

The backsplash is a mirror which helps open up this tiny galley kitchen.

The light oak wood in the cabinets is used for the open shelves and on the walls up to the ceiling. This monochromatic scheme is ideal for small spaces because it creates a single visual flow rather than chopping up the space.

Again, using the same wood in the cabinetry, on the walls and even the ceiling creates a nice visual flow.

I just love the cherry cabinets with the silver pulls. The cherry color is also echoed in the tiles on the floor.

Until next time!


Sunday, June 21, 2009

Happy Fathers Day!

In honor of Fathers' Day, this post is dedicated to one of the most recent interior design developments 'The Man Cave'. If you want to keep your man and/or father happy, set aside space for a Man Cave.

Defined as a room, space or corner of a dwelling specifically reserved for the man of the house, a Man Cave is also a personal refuge and an emotional sanctuary away from females, the pressures of family life and other responsibilities. As far as I can tell, the use of the term Man Cave first appeared in 1992 and has gained steam ever since. Man Caves are now so popular that a weekly television show is dedicated to creating, renovating and decorating this male space.

Traditional decorating rules do not apply to Man Caves. Instead of choosing between a modern, Asian or French country theme, these rooms revolve around a favorite sports team or hobby. Memorabilia and guy toys take center stage.

What are the most coveted Man Cave features? The most highly rated gear and gadgets were listed in The Boston Globe article 12 Man-tastic Man Caves.

  • Flat screen TV (75%)
  • Recliner (69%)
  • Stereo (68%)
  • Refrigerator (67%)
  • DVD player (67%)
  • Computer (65%)
  • Bar (64%)
Is there room for a Man Cave in a smaller Jewel Box® Home? Absolutely! Pick a comfortable corner for a lounge or easy chair. Put a side table to the right of the chair and a magazine holder to the left and let your husband stake this out as his personal space. When your honey is in this room, the kids, dogs and even you are not allowed within the Man-space corner. And to make your guy's space a little nicer, buy an inexpensive back massager that fits in the lounge chair which he can use while relaxing. At least my husband seems to like it!

Enjoy the gallery below of Man Caves. All photos come from 12 Man-tastic Man Caves.

Every room in a Man Cave needs a flat screen TV.

Tasteful stripper pole theme. But my guy
will have to live without this.

Not only for lounging, this Man Cave has a climbing wall.

Very nice! The garage as Man Cave for a guy with many interests.
Notice the motorcycle, football gear, beer collectibles and guitar.

Gotta love the custom Caddilac couch!

The perfect Man Cave baseball lounge.

There are no rules about color combinations in the Man Cave.
If he likes it, then it works.

A great Man Cave for the golfing afficionado.

Even a corner can become a Man Cave.

Football Loving Man Cave.

A great screening room, but maybe a little too nice for a 'real' Man Cave.

The James Bond look.

A proud Man Cave owner!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Two For the Price of One: Decorating with Yellow and What Qualifies as Small?

Decorating with Yellow

Let the sunshine in!

There is nothing like the right shade of yellow to bring warmth and light into a room or space. Take a peek at the photos below to see how a soft shade of yellow shade was used to revive and bring light to a New York apartment. The yellow theme is also reflected in the richness of cherry and maple furniture and subtle fabrics used throughout the apartment. These looks are courtesy of Martha Stewart Living magazine. Enjoy!

A lovely table setting that also brings in the warm yellow theme.

This is the only room I'm not crazy about. The plant on the left is a bit distracting and I don't think the side chair on the right compliments the sofa. But the red Chinese trunk is a nice touch and the open bookcases, which can overwhelm a room, work nicely here.

What a beautiful grandfather clock and the stenciling on the wall is nice.

Even though the photos vary in size, the look is cohesive because the same frame is used throughout.
The rich color of the wood in this cabinet picks up the gold tones in the color palette.

A clever use of gold toned frames that are similar in design pull this art collection together. Also, the rolled arms on the side chairs add to inviting feeling of this seating area and nicely mimic the round lines of the lamp.

What Qualifies as Small?

I must point out that the apartment above is not small in size. So why am I using it as an example of good design for smaller spaces? Because many of the hallmarks of small home decorating on are display. The same color palette is used in all common areas creating a beautiful visual flow, the 'legs' show on all the sofas and chairs, floor coverings are simple and functional with subtle patterns, fresh flowers add bursts of color and accessorizing is not overdone - although I would have preferred fewer objects on the antique chest in the living room. The bronze bust is so lovely it deserves to be the center piece along with the yellow and orange tulips.

But I also mention the larger size of the apartment for another reason, it opens the door to discuss a comment I received just the other day on the March post 'Decorating a Smaller Home: The Traditional Look Done Right!'. In her comment, Omama said "Bo-ring. Correct, perhaps, but dull, dull, dull. And, 1500 sq ft isn't actually "smallhouse living".

As the saying goes, beauty is in the eye of the beholder and so too with interior design styles and looks. And I'm quite sure that Omamma is not alone in her opinion of the traditional look as a bit dull. But I raise her comment because of its reference to 1500 square feet falling outside the definition of a small house.

Since the small house movement began, what qualifies as a small residence has been discussed endlessly. Sarah Susanka, who arguably started the small revolution with her 'Not So Big House' books, was the architect of the original 'Not So Big House' which measures over 2440 square feet and the 2004 Showhouse totals 3476 square feet. In 'Not So Big' Ms. Susanka says, "While you might not be able to afford a 6,000-sq.-ft. house, you may find that building a 3,000-sq.-ft. house that fits your lifestyle actually gives you more space to live in." It appears that by Ms. Susanka's definition, any house under 3,000 square feet might be considered small.

The 2004 Show Case house by Susanka at 3476 square feet

On the other hand, Apartment Therapy which runs the annual Small Cool Contest has the following categories for living spaces:

TEENY-TINY 300 Square Feet and under
TINY 600 Square Feet and under (but over 300 Square Feet)
LITTLE 900 Square Feet and under (but over 600 Square Feet)
SMALL 1,200 Square Feet and under (but over 900 Square Feet)
INTERNATIONAL All non-US entries (under 1,200 Square Feet)

As defined by Apartment Therapy, anything over 1200 square feet is not small. Before going any further, I have to add that I do love the Apartment Therapy mission espoused by its founder Maxwell Gillingham-Ryan. "A calm, healthy, beautiful home is a necessary foundation for happiness and success in the world."

To cloud the issue further, the Small House Society, where Jewel Box is listed as a 'Resource for Life' has members with houses ranging in size from under 100 square feet to over 3000 square feet. What I like about the Small House Society is the open discussion it promotes that focuses not about people claiming to be “tinier than thou” but rather people making their own choices toward simpler and smaller living however they feel best fits their life.

Tumbleweed Tiny Houses range in size from 85 square feet to 837 square feet.

So where does Jewel Box fall in the small house size category? Rather than tiny houses measuring 1,000 square feet or less, a size too novel and impractical for many people - especially families with children - Jewel Box concentrates on homes in the 1,000 to 2,500 square foot range, a modest living space by American standards, but "doable" for most households.

As important as size, is the philosophy of a Jewel Box Home. These living spaces are designed to meet the needs of home life, rather than follow trends or impress neighbors. The comfort of family and friends takes center stage. Beauty and function are valued over accumulating space and things. Just as a jewel box displays the gem inside to its best advantage, a Jewel Box Home enriches the lives of its people.

I am quite sure many people will consider Jewel Box dimensions too large for the small home category. But I am hopeful that those households living in much larger homes, might see a beautiful 2000 square foot Jewel Box as a reasonable and achievable shift toward living more lightly on the Earth.

Until next time!


Saturday, June 6, 2009

More Reasons to Feel Good About Smaller Homes

Some may have simply woken up one day, looked around at their annexes, sunken baths and media rooms, and asked themselves, “Why are we doing this?”
- 'Downsizing is Worth Cheering For', Spokesman Review, June 6, 2009

"We call it 'going minimalist,'" Mr. Gall says. "It's the financing and debt that pushes these people to the wall. But they're also saying that they've had it with buying and collecting. It's like a great purging."
-'At Estates of the Fabulously Rich, the Gilded Era is Going, Going, Gone, Robert Frank, Wall Street Journal, May 19, 2009

A very short post, but I wanted to share two articles that should make everyone feel better about living in a smaller house. Yes, the house pictured above is beautiful, but the couple who owns it are dying to get rid of it.

(Actually, the photo of the real house is copyrighted and I could not afford to buy it for posting on the blog. But the image above is very close to the real thing.)

Richard and Amanda Peacock, the couple profiled in both articles are examples of the rich who are attempting to downsize in what is becoming known as 'lifestyle liquidation'.

You all know that I have struggled desperately with big-house envy. But thank goodness my husband insisted on staying small. The Peacock lifestyle looks like a nightmare. Here are the links to both articles
Until next time!