Saturday, July 30, 2011

Gallery: Loving the Green Life

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I've been finishing a lot of projects lately, so my camera has been extra busy!  This North Vancouver project is a great example of what happens when the client has a plan before they come to see me.  Before I drew single line the client knew the appliances they would be using, the colours they wanted to use, and a general idea as to where things should be located.  With all that information the design process was relatively easy ... I was mostly concerned with clearances and visual balance.

The cabinetry is a simple shaker style, painted in Benjamin Moore "Ranchwood" and the quartz countertops are Cambria "Aragon".  We think you'll agree this kitchen makes it very easy to enjoy a green lifestyle.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Food Friday: Long Weekend Special - Get a Smoker Already!

This is the beginning of a long weekend in British Columbia.  We call it "BC Day"  (clever eh?) but other provinces will call it something else; "Family Day" or  "Regatta Day" for example.  This is where I will be spending my long weekend. This is my Man Cave. Some Man Caves have massive flat screen televisions and insanely complicated sound systems. Some include bars, beer fridges, pool tables … anything suitable for having “the guys” over for some R&R.

Mine is much simpler (and much more like a kitchen now that I think of it) than all of that. The “room” is a Grill-Zebo, and instead of flat screens and speakers I have 3 smokers (the bullet looking things), 1 kettle grill (the squat grill on 3 legs) and a flexible LED lamp. I also have a 36” gas grill up on my patio … I just don’t let it play with the charcoal grill. (Charcoal v. Gas is a subject for another post!). I have several Adirondack chairs nearby and easy access to a small beer fridge. This place is heaven to me.

I’ve been asked many times why I even have the smokers. Isn’t cooking over charcoal good enough? Obviously these people have never had a properly smoked rack of ribs, or a pulled pork sandwich ... they're missed out on the joy of BARBECUE. Grilling is NOT barbecue. The chemistry (or alchemy if you like) is completely different. With grilling, it’s all about searing the meat over high heat to contain the juices. Once the searing is done, the residual heat in the kettle (or whichever grill you are using) cooks the meat. The charcoal adds flavour for sure, but mostly in the form of caramelization (the yummy burnt bits) on the surface of the meat.

Barbecue is something completely different. Like grilling, smoking is about using charcoal and wood to cook and infuse flavour into meat. The difference is with the cooking temperature. Barbecue uses a much lower heat (225°F / 108°C) and a much longer cooking times. Low and slow … music to my ears! By using the lower heat, the meat spends more time in the smoker and so absorbs more smoky goodness than if it were grilled. In addition, the lower heat allows the connective tissue in tougher cuts of meat to simply melt away. Try eating a piece of pork butt that hasn’t been cooked low and slow and you’ll understand the difference.

I've been told that with a little practice that the kettle grills can be used as a “low and slow” smoker. Honestly I’ve never seen the need since the Weber Smokey Mountain (aka The Bullet) does such an exceptional job of smoking. It’s seriously fool-proof … and with the help of great web-sites like The Virtual Weber Bullet, you’ll be experiencing excellent BBQ in no time.

If however you still feel like you can save a buck by dual-purposing your kettle, I direct your attention to this article on Serious Eats where a side by side comparison of smoking with a kettle and a bullet is made. Spoiler: the kettle doesn’t do so well.

So have at it ... and then when you're serious about barbecue, get yourself a smoker.  In the meantime, I’ll be sitting in my Adirondack, enjoying a beer in my man cave.  Have a great long weekend whatever you're doing.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Excel-ing At Efficicency

I've always believed that we North Americans had a tendency to build things bigger than other places in the world. Now I have proof, in the form of a nifty looking chart (someone has some mad Excel skills!):

Source:  BBC
This chart (courtesy of the BBC) graphically represents the size of the average home in several different countries. Canada's not on the list, but I think it's pretty safe to assume that we're going to be somewhere close to the USA.  

What caught my eye on this chart was little Denmark who's average home size was almost double that of the UK.  Because I'm the inquisitive type, and because I have some mad Excel skills myself, I came up with this little beauty:

This chart shows the relationship between the size of the average home, and the size of the country the homes were built in.  What does it tell us?  For one, I had too much time on my hands when I wrote this post.  But more importantly it shows that North America is clearly under-performing in the home:country area ratio!  Our homes could easily be 10 times larger based on what's happening in Europe.  

All kidding aside, North Americans (and apparently Australians) can learn something from this.  Because we have all this space, there is little concern for efficiency.  Need more room for your stuff?  Build a bigger house!  Elsewhere in the world this isn't an option because there just isn't more space.  Is it any wonder that the best kitchen accessories, the ones that make the best use of space (I'm looking at YOU Magic Corner) are engineered in Europe?  

Something to keep in mind the next time you think the only option you have in your home remodel is to add on, or build something bigger.  

Monday, July 25, 2011

NIM: Tile Purge Courtesy of Petracer

In the process of doing research for Useful Spaces, I bookmark a lot of articles, web sites and images as inspiration for future articles.  Over time these bookmarks become a bit unruly, so I'll spend some time purging them and leaving the stuff that I find truly inspirational.  While going through a purge today I realized that 3 of the articles I had bookmarked all featured tile from Petracer Tile in Italy.  If you like tile that is just a little outside of the ordinary, I strongly urge you to check out their web site.  As a teaser, here are the tiles featured in the three articles I discovered.

The Savana series brings a bit of jungle love into your project.  Leopard, Zebra and Crocodile textures are featured in a series of bright, inspiring colours.  Petracer's catalogue shows mostly bathroom applications, but I could easily see this in a kitchen.

Tango Rock is a new addition to Petracer's catalogue.  The textured tile is suitable for wall or floor applications.  The patterns also come in contrasting colours (to highlight the raised part of the pattern) but I think I prefer the subtleness of a single colour.

Petracer's Capitonne collection features a tufted diamond design to create that Victorian era bathroom you've always dreamed of.  The series also includes the little button detail, which is available in red, gold or silver.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Gallery: West Side Kitchen - Before & After

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I debuted this kitchen on the Paradigm Kitchen Design blog last week, but since it's one of my projects I wanted to expand on it a bit here.

I have adopted the habit of photographing all of my projects before they start, while they are taking place (see my WIP series for some examples) and of course once they're complete.  The visual impact of a set of "Before & After" photographs is pretty big, especially if, as in this situation, the "before" needed a lot of work.

As you scroll through the pictures featured here from one of my recent projects, think about the changes you could make to make your kitchen the dream space you'd like it to be.  Make a set of your own "before" pictures, then meet with your local kitchen designer to see what's possible.

Friday, July 22, 2011

WIP - False Creek Remodel - Part 7

This week is where we really start seeing the result of all the work the client and I have done in advance of the project.  By this stage, if there were any issues with the layout (space planning) we'd have experienced them by now.  The drain pipe we discovered hidden in one of the walls is an example of that.  But until now, the client has had no proof that the colours and materials we've chosen for the project are really going to work together.

True, we had a flooring sample, and were able to look at it with the door sample, countertops, etc., but for many clients translating this into a full room is difficult, if not impossible. This is where working with a qualified designer really pays off.  A good designer should have the experience to know what's going to work, and what's not.

The client selected the Cabreuva flooring from Stile's Stilnova line.  This is a pre-finished floor that features a 3.5mm layer of solid wood on top of a formaldehyde free birch substrate.  The top layer is finished with 8 coats of very resistant solvent-free acrylic varnish.  The Cabrueva looks a lot like Walnut and will add some real warmth to this room while still retaining the modern aesthetic.

The flooring is simply glued to the sub-floor ... concrete in this case.  As is the case with any installation that involves a substrate, a high quality substrate is essential to a good installation.  The installer spent the better part of a day grinding irregularities out of the concrete, and adding levelling compound to depressions.

Here's the kitchen after the first full day of flooring installation.  My iPhone camera doesn't do the colours justice.  The combination is stunning!  The blue tape you see on the floor is there to hold the joints tight together until the adhesive sets.  You'll also notice a yellow pole in the background.  This pole is "wedged" between the ceiling and the floor to hold the leading edge in place, again until the adhesive sets.

If you've been following this series from the beginning you may also notice that the panels from the back of the peninsula have been removed, and that no toe kicks (plinths) have been installed.  Once the floor is finished, the installer will trim the panels & kicks to fit and install them.  Having the flooring finish underneath these panels results in a much "cleaner" looking installation.

We're now at the stage of the remodel where things are going to start happening very quickly.  Countertops are scheduled to be installed next week.  Soon afterwards, final electrical, plumbing, tiling, painting ... all happening one after the other.  This is what I refer to as being critical path sensitive.  To ensure things continue as smoothly as possible, I'm starting to arrive on the job site with fixtures and materials so the trades will have what they need when they need it.  Yesterday, my little Subaru Impreza was full of plumbing fixtures.  Tomorrow, floor covering to protect the new hardwood.  The next day ceramic tile.

The design world is glamorous, no?

WIP: False Creek Remodel is an actual remodel project of mine that I'm blogging in real time.  To see all the entries in this series just click the FOLLOW ME buttons at the top right of this page.  If there's any part of the project you're interested in, leave me a note in the comments section.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Death to the Microwave Oven!

I remember our first microwave. It was a beast of an appliance; about 30” wide, 18” high and at least 20” deep. The first thing we cooked in it was a hot dog. We set the power to 9 and the timer to one minute and I got to press “START”.

We had read that food continued to cook after leaving the oven, so when the hot dog emerged stone cold after a minute, my brother, my mother and I sat and watched the hot dog for about a minute, waiting for it to get hotter.  It turns out that this microwave had not 10 power levels, but 100. Level 9 wasn’t going to cook that hotdog in a minute, no matter how long we watched it.

Today, the microwave is as much a part of our day to day kitchen life as a toaster. Yet, the standard radiant (or convection) oven the microwave oven was supposed to replace remains because the microwave does an incredibly poor job of cooking. Foods don’t brown, and in many situations the texture of the food is ruined.

So why does the microwave oven persist? An impromptu survey of my clients suggests the microwave exists exclusively to reheat our coffee (or tea) and to make popcorn. In simple terms, that’s 2.25 cubic feet of appliance dedicated to two, infrequently used kitchen tasks. I won’t even discuss power consumption …

It’s time to sound the death knoll for the stand alone microwave – to turn it into the toaster oven of our generation; barely adequate at the task it’s designed for and found almost exclusively in college dorm rooms. When assembling the appliance package for your dream kitchen, remember you don’t have to have a microwave just because you’ve always had one. There are much better cooking technologies out there (GE’s Advantium for one) and you can always go get yourself a fresh cup of coffee.

If you insist of keeping your microwave oven, the guys at Microwave This may be able to help you out with some new uses.

Monday, July 18, 2011

NIM: Three New Colourful Consoles

In terms of trends in the bathroom, console vanities have been extremely popular over the past few years.  A "console" is a vanity cabinet that is designed like a separate piece of furniture, as opposed to the "built-in" modular units most cabinet companies use.  They truly add a sense of elegance that fitted cabinetry just cannot approach.  I've collected some images over the past few months of some of my favourites.

The "Doll" suite from Meneghello Paolleli does a fabulous job of incorporating some classic elements into a very modern look.  The turned legs of these consoles provide just the right amount of class to the high gloss doors to allow them to bridge a wide variety of design styles.  My favourite part of the suite?  No, not the model ... the Aqua Blue!  Okay, not quite Aqua, but it's amazing, and the way it contrasts with the white (countertops, legs, etc.) plays on the "balance" as well.

These consoles are a perfect example of what would have happened if designers for the Sun King had access to the big box of Crayola crayons we had as kids.  From Ypsilon, the vanities are "small and pretty, a real bon bon to be savoured and enjoyed in total glamour. Available in different colours, glossy or matt lacquered or with gold or silver leaf." And if the colours weren't perfect enough, the line is called Bon-Bon.

I tend to go more traditional when I select console vanities.  The style just seems to fit the application better.  Then again, this console from Omvivo seems to embrace modernity quite well don't you think?  The turned legs are beautiful, but the real start for me in this piece is the sink.  It features an etched glass bottom, and because the sink itself is raised from the countertop, the light passing through the water will cast some amazing images.  No points for ease of cleaning, but full marks for WOW.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

More Clever Storage Solutions

I've addressed knife storage in an early article on Useful Spaces, but I really wish I'd run across this accessory beforehand.  From Viola Park cabinets, the Pivot Storage system is designed to work underneath table-style island.  Available in 3 different configurations (knife block, single tub, quad tub) the Pivot Storage makes good use of space beneath a countertop, and looks good doing it!
Source:  Viola Park, kbculture

Friday, July 15, 2011

Sketchup: Divide and Conquer, Multiply & Be Fruitful

This post was originally featured over on Eric Schimelpfenig's terrific Sketchup Blog, Sketch This!  Eric asked me to write a guest post, which was truly an honour since Eric has been one of my go-to guys for Sketchup for about a year now.  I encourage you to check out his blog and his web site for all sorts of great information.  

For me, Sketchup's benefit comes in the form of speed.  The functions contained within the programme duplicate tasks I would perform while hand-drafting, and do so with more speed and accuracy.  Two of my favourites are the "divide" and "multiply" functions.

"Divide" is useful when you have a fixed amount of space you want to divide into an equal number of spaces.  To illustrate, I'm showing a bar back panel that I want to make into a door style with five, equally sized recessed panels.  I start by creating some guidelines around the outside of my panel, set 3" (the width of my rails and stiles) in from the edge.  There's also a guideline on the left edge.

To outline where my panels will be I simply select the first two guidelines and copy (not move) them being sure to select the left guideline as my starting point.  These guidelines are then placed so select point lines up with the guideline set in from the right edge.

To create my panels I simply type "/5".  This will make 5 copies of what I have just moved, and space them equally over the distance I have moved them.  Now I simply have to use the guidelines to draw in my panels knowing they are all exactly the same size.

The opposite function to this is "Multiply".  Multiply is used when the space between a group of items is the important part.  A very common example of this is framing.  Typically the framing member is a wall are spaced 16" apart.  Here, I show an object (representing a 2x4 framing member) being copied in line to a new location.  If I simply type in "16" while I'm moving the object, then hit the Return key, the object will be moved exactly 16" (This assumes you're working in inches.  If not, just add " after 16 and you're set!).

To repeat the move, simply type "*" followed by the number of times you'd like the move repeated, and voila!  Your wall is framed.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

WIP - False Creek Remodel - Part 6

At last! The cabinets for the False Creek Remodel arrived on site Monday morning.  Steve (the installer) and I met as the cabinets were being brought in as we do for every job, just to make sure the cabinets are placed in the room in some sort of order.  This may not seem like a big deal, but it makes life so much simpler for the installer if he doesn't have to spend half the day trying to find the sink cabinet, or digging it out from a pile of wall cabinets.

We're very fortunate on this project in that we have lots of space in which to work.  Cabinets that aren't needed right away can be stored in the "living room" along with the kicks and crowns, and the installer's saw is set up without any impediments.  Trust me when I tell you, "a happy installer means a happy installation."

The majority of Day 1 is spent organizing cabinets, marking the cabinet layout on the walls and making sure all the parts have been shipped.  On this project we also have to build a "ladder-box" for the kicks.  Typically we use adjustable cabinet legs, but for this kitchen we've raising the cabinets and going with a 7" kick.  Did I mention the client is quite tall?  The raised countertop height will make using the kitchen that much more comfortable for him, and by raising the kick height we avoided additional costs for customizing the base cabinets.

So here's where we're at at the beginning of Day 2:

The new bathroom.  Notice the addition of a drawer to the bottom of the sink cabinet.  I like using this feature when there's only enough room for a small vanity as it gives much more storage space than if we tried to fit drawers in beside the sink.  Careful planning with your plumber is required for this application ... water lines coming up through the floor of the cabinet would present a bit of a problem!

The Foyer.  The pantry on the right nicely hides a conduit chase in the corner (the cabinet is only as deep as the notch on the side panel), and the wall cabinets (yet to be installed) will hide the plumbing chase above.  The cabinetry down below will provide seating while the client puts on the shoes he will store in the pantry.

The kitchen being assembled in what once was the den.  The aluminium pole you see in the middle of the room holds a laser level ensuring as close to perfect an install as possible.  Level cabinetry really comes into play when the countertops are installed.  Large sheets of quartz cannot be bent to accommodate cabinetry that's out of level. An ounce of cure equals a pound of prevention ... or something like that.

This is where the cooktop will eventually be installed.  The cabinet for the cooktop will be to the right of the tall skinny cabinet (which will hold spices and oils).  But I've shown this photo for a couple other reasons.  You'll notice there's a piece of paper taped to the wall.  This is the elevation for this wall.  Elevation drawings for the other walls are similarly placed.  It's a quick and easy reference for the installer, and it also helps the client visualize what's going on.

On the floor to the right of the skinny cabinet you'll see an example of a "ladder-box" kick.  Very simply its a box that from the top resembles a ladder.  The installer simply builds the ladder box based on the plans and then levels it.  Cabinets installed on the kick are now ensured to be plumb and level.  This system also allows services (electrical and gas in this case) to run beneath the cabinetry.

Countertops are scheduled to be templated later this week, and the flooring contractor will start work next week. Sometime this week I'll also be selecting paint colours for the walls ... pictures to follow!

WIP: False Creek Remodel is an actual remodel project of mine that I'm blogging in real time.  To see all the entries in this series just click the FOLLOW ME buttons at the top right of this page.  If there's any part of the project you're interested in, leave me a note in the comments section.

Monday, July 11, 2011

NIM - Hygienic Hardware

This notice from Richelieu Hardware arrived in my inbox this week.  In the name of healthier homes and offices, they've taken some of their more popular pieces of hardware and treated them with an anti-bacterial finish.  Purported benefits include:

  • Reduce risks and costs associated to HAIs (Healthcare Associated Infections).
  • Improve hygiene at home, in workplace or in any traffic area by minimizing bacteria and risks of cross contamination.
  • Lessen the use of biological agents to which bacteria's resistance can be developed.

Colour me sceptical and firmly in the "wash your hands with soap and water" camp.  I'm going to lump this one in with Silestone's Microban treatment.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Community Building w/ LEGO

I’m a big believer in the power of “play”. As proof, I offer my fascination with LEGO. But my love of the Danish building toy is nothing when compared to Krads. The Scandinavian architectural and design firm recently teamed up with LEGO to present “playtime” at the DesignMarch show in Reykjavik, Iceland.

The exhibit, called playtime, featured a series of pre-built LEGO “architectural scenarios”, surrounded by thousands of loose LEGO bricks. The idea was to encourage interaction with the existing structures as well as with the other builders.

Source: Designboom

Friday, July 8, 2011

The Ageing Suit & Designing for Ageing in Place

Designing for multiple abilities is not a new idea.  "Universal design" was the hot design theme back in 2000 when I was studying for my CKD exam. The fact is, I rarely have the opportunity to employ universal design since very few of my clients have been of limited abilities.  That is not to say the guidelines aren't worthwhile.  In fact many universal design guidelines are simply good design.  But many are specific to those with limited mobility and are not the best solution for other able-bodied members of the house.

Recently I've seen a shift from universal design to designing for ageing in place.  The so-called Baby-Boomer generation is approaching its senior years and design issues are beginning to arise.  To explore these issues the folk at Blum have invested the "Ageing Suit" to help better understand these issues in relation to kitchen and bathroom design.  The suit restricts the wearer's ability to move, feel, see and hear ... mimicking the abilities of someone in their middle seventies.

I had the opportunity to watch the Ageing Suit at work at KBIS this year as part of the Universal Design Today seminar.  The seminar, presented by Mary Jo Peterson, addressed many of the design solutions available today, but the highlight was watching why these solutions needed to be created.  Fellow designer and good friend Roberta Kravette donned the suit and was asked to perform a number of simple tasks.  Roberta gave commentary as she attempted each task, but it was obvious to all who were watching that even the simplest task was extremely difficult.

What I took away from the seminar was the importance of little details in design to making it suitable for all ages.  Contrasts between surfaces, cabinet handles that are comfortable and easy to grab and even something as simple as roll-out shelves can make all the difference for someone with poor eyesight or arthritis.  When choosing materials for your kitchen project, be sure to work with a kitchen design professional to ensure these little details are considered in your design.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

WIP - False Creek Remodel - Part 5

It's been a while since I last updated the False Creek remodel, and there's good reason for it.  The weather Gods are angry with Vancouver.  If you think back to last year's Winter Olympics, Vancouver was blessed with some pretty terrific weather. Not much in the way of snow, but gorgeous blue skies and unseasonably warm weather.

Well we're paying for it now.  It feels like it's been raining since May, which for the average Vancouverite is no big deal. However, for a Vancouverite waiting for drywall mud to dry, damp weather is a very big deal.  The flood we had didn't help our cause much either.  The suite has been home to no fewer than two fans, and for all of last week one dehumidifier.  It's been wet.

We've delayed the cabinet installation to allow sufficient drying time which inadvertently gave us some time to look after some other things:  repairing the drywall damaged by the flood, and getting a head start on tiling the new shower enclosure.  The drywall was one of those perfect "while we're at it" sort of things that fit nicely in with the contractor's schedule.

Tiling anything is a messy endeavour, so having the opportunity to look after it in an empty suite with no flooring was an opportunity much to good to pass up.  The red on the walls of the shower is a water-proofing treatment we add on top of the concrete board. This ensures a water-tight enclosure and no future issues with tiles popping off the wall.  The floor has been laid ... a simple 2x2 mosaic (from Daltile) with a slight texture to it.  The wall tile will be installed later today and the floor tile will wait until the hardwood is installed in a couple weeks.  More on that in a future post.

So while we wait for the cabinetry to arrive (Monday the 11th!) we're also giving the floors a scrape and a wash.  Have I mentioned how messy drywall mud is? Big globs of the stuff were everywhere, which would make installing the hardwood impossible.  Best to have that handles before the flooring installers arrive.  Once the floors are scraped, we also give them a quick wash with some water & vinegar.  This cleans things a little, keeps the dust down, and kills any mould spores that could be hanging around.  The walls will also be primed later this week to further reduce the dust.

This is where the new kitchen will be.  Some of the appliances and all the plumbing fixtures are on site in a tidy pile.  Whenever possible I like to have the appliances on site for the cabinet installation.  This helps take the guess work about things like openings for the fridge or dishwasher.  It also allows the cabinet installer to make any modifications to the cabinetry to allow for any electrical or gas fittings.  On smaller projects this isn't always possible.  But here ... lots of room!

Next week ... and I really mean it this time ... the cabinets arrive!  We'll also be templating for the new quartz countertops and getting ready for the new wood floors.  I'll also be showing off the new hardware I've located for the bi-pass doors in the closets.

WIP: False Creek Remodel is an actual remodel project of mine that I'm blogging in real time.  To see all the entries in this series just click the FOLLOW ME buttons at the top right of this page.  If there's any part of the project you're interested in, leave me a note in the comments section.

Monday, July 4, 2011

NIM - Sustainable House Boat

Photo:  3 Buoys
In honour of the Independence Day celebrations being held by our neighbours to the south, today's New Idea Monday features something summery.  Nothing quite as summery as living on the water!

Growing up in British Columbia, whenever somebody mentions the word "houseboat", I immediately conjure up images of these fibreglass beasts on Shuswap Lake. I don't dislike houseboats.  On the contrary.  I think it's a perfectly great way to live.  In fact any major urban centre that has a large body of water as part of its urban core will also likely have a collection of houseboats.

The challenge with living on the water is how to minimize the impact you have on the environment.  You can't pack 10 people into a vacation home and  not think that they won't be creating waste.  The concern is even greater for a year-round situation.

The U-Boat is a concept created by designer Wyatt Little which explores the idea of living on the water while paying very close attention to the impact that this living situation has on the environment.

Electricity is handled through solar cells, and sewage is incinerated rather than dumped into the watery depths.  The temperature inside the U-Boat is regulated through a geothermal pond loop which runs from the bottom of the water source through a piling supporting the dock and into the floor of the boat.

Strangely, water is a big issue when living on the water.  Or more to the point, drinking water is an issue.  The U-Boat would utilize rain water as its source of drinking water, while using other sources for grey water ... water water everywhere, but not a drop to drink.

The U-Boat features a living roof, along with the solar panels.  It linear shape may be seen as less interesting than other forms of water living, I find it quite pleasing.  After all, it's the surroundings of a houseboat that will garner the most attention anyway. Keeping the shape simple also allows the interior to be used to maximum efficiency.

Source:  Wyatt Little

Saturday, July 2, 2011

The Horn - Sound Form & Function

Before the iPhone became the centre of my universe (sad but true), the iPod was my favourite piece of technology, hands down.  The ability to carry my entire music library with me was (and still is) very appealing to this music hound. One of the iPod's shortcomings, the lack of speakers, has given rise to some pretty great add-ons.

One of the coolest speaker systems I've seen is the Horn.  Created by Korean architect Shi-hyung Jeon and LG Hausys this stylish speaker uses the solid surface material HI-MACS.  HI-MACS is post-formable, and is translucent when back lit, making it the perfect material for this product.  

Friday, July 1, 2011

Putting GE Monogram to the Test

GE Appliances have been on my radar for a long time, primarily with their Profile line. Well made, and well priced, Profile is a brand I would suggest for clients looking for something better than “spec” appliances. Monogram was introduced to me a couple years ago as GE’s “high end” line. I’ve seen a couple fridges, but quite frankly Monogram doesn’t really register in my area (Attention GE! Marketing opportunity available for you!)  At the GE Monogram Experience Center we were introduced to the full line of Monogram appliances: ranges, cooktops, wall ovens, ventilation, dishwashers and refrigeration. Very few high end manufacturers can boast a complete appliance suite. It’s not essential for every kitchen, but it’s a really nice option to have.

After two days of cooking and learning, one thing became abundantly clear: GE has done their homework. When Monogram introduces a new appliance, they do so knowing that it possesses features its competitors do not. We spent the better part of an afternoon examining 3 of Monograms competitors in the Pro-Style Range category, and suffice to say Monogram came out well ahead in several areas

  • A “true” simmer that will cook your Béarnaise sauce at a “food-safe” 140°F
  • Porcelain coated grates and full-extensions racks that can be cleaned using the “self-clean” function in the oven.
  • The ability to be levelled in place! All adjustments are accessible without having to move the range.
Don’t underestimate that last item. Easily the biggest challenge I have when dealing with a monstrous pro-style range is the installation. Hundreds of appliance installers have just breathed a huge sigh of relief. And it’s that sort of attention to detail than allows me to say that the GE Monogram Professional range is the best I have seen.

When we were introduced to GE’s Advantium Speed Oven, I was sceptical. An oven that can cook foods four to eight times faster than a conventional oven must have some pitfalls, right? I expected results similar to a microwave oven: foods not browning, tough texture, uneven cooking, etc. We had the opportunity to cook with the Advantium and I can confirm that this is not just a dressed up microwave.

True, the Advantium does feature a 950W microwave, but that is just part of a system that includes a true European convection oven, a radiant ceramic heater and halogen light cooking. All these elements combine to create an oven that can cook a 5 pound chicken in 35 minutes, and give it a delicious crispy skin in the process. There are 175 pre-programmed foods to get you started, but there’s also the ability to customize the cooking process to suite your needs.

High end refrigerator manufacturers like to fill their product catalogues with multiple sizes and configurations. Flexibility is seen as a good thing, but in my experience it really just creates confusion for my clients. GE’s Fully Integrated Refrigerator is available in three configurations (bottom drawer fridge, bottom drawer freezer or bottom drawer wine storage) and three styles (Custom Panel, Professional or European). The thing is, they’re all the same fridge. The conversion for the bottom drawer is internal to the fridge, and how you want your fridge to look will depend on the panels you order. The same options are also available with a glass door.

I really appreciate the simplicity of this fridge from a design point of view. The fully-integrated installation is top notch, the drawers will line up with a standard base cabinet, and the interior fit and finish is as nice as anything I’ve seen on the market. Interior lighting (LED) is even throughout the fridge compartment, and the glass shelves are sleek and uncluttered with heavy supports. The only shortcoming I see (and I’m about to contradict myself) is the lack of an all-fridge and all-freezer model. We were asked about that while at the Experience Centre so I expect we’ll see some additions to this line in the near future.

For any designer wanting to understand the appliance they spec a little better, or for the home-owner selecting appliances for their dream kitchen, the opportunity to use the appliances first is invaluable. My time at GE’s Monogram Experience Center was invaluable on all fronts. After two days of hands on experience, I can safely say this is a line that deserves your attention.

*My trip and expenses are paid for by GE but my words, opinions, tweets, quips, etc. are nothing but my own.
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