The Microwave And The Shelf

The microwave, trust me as a kitchen design professional for many years, is an appliance that is very tricky to place in the kitchen. One of the pros of the microwave as opposed to other appliances is that there are quite a wide range of sizes available to either build it into cabinetry or, in the case of the countertop model, simply put it on a shelf. You also want to try to place it near the refrigerator since you commonly take something out of the refrigerator and pop it into the microwave.

The cons begin with microwaves needing extra depth to install, making it difficult to position it above countertop height where it is most easily accessible. Some microwaves have trim kits that allow them to be built into cabinetry and many do not. It takes SO much space to just place it on a countertop and is not the best look. 

The over-the-range microwave serves a purpose, yes, but the cons overwhelm the single pro of it being off the countertop. Ineffective venting and awkward and dangerous access (imagine foods cooking in pots below) make this installation a worst case scenario, sorry to say.

But, there's another solution!

 Sometimes a microwave on a shelf just works. It can be designed to hide in plain sight!

Sometimes a microwave on a shelf just works. It can be designed to hide in plain sight!

It's the shelf. Sometimes, simply putting a microwave on a shelf just works. You have to first check the depth of both the shelf and the microwave to verify it will fit. In the case of the image above, the shelves are 14" in depth and the microwave is 12" deep. The outlet is recessed into the wall so that the microwave fits.

This is actually a microwave that I've been using on my projects for well over 20 years and it's still as popular as ever! It's the GE Profile Countertop microwave and it's in a stylish, nearly invisible Slate color but it comes in a range of colors. 

Hang it from underneath a wall cabinet or place it on a shelf between standard wall cabinets and it will be close in depth to surrounding cabinetry. That's the beauty of this appliance. It even has a turntable and all the most important functions a microwave needs. I just love this stylish, functional, convenient microwave. It works!

 

Architectural Digest Home Design Show - BlueStar Range Colors

I've gone to the Architectural Digest Home Design Show since its inception and what a fantastic show it is. Here's the thing about the AD show:

There is a fantastic mix of equal numbers, it seems, of small, medium, and large companies exhibiting at the show. Products range from one-of-a-kind handmade decorative works from small studios to uber-technologically advanced products from global companies which makes the show exciting and inspiring. The MADE section of the show consists solely of handmade decorative products. The design and technological innovation seen at this show is abundant.

I'll start out my coverage of the show with some images of BlueStar, a professional range for the home, which includes separate ovens and hoods. They just keep getting better and better in their design and features. There were always so many people at the booth, I had to take snippets of the products (I hate random people in my shots!) A new boost up to 24,000 btus for their gas burners is impressive; their French door ovens just make sense ergonomically, and their new electric ovens solve the energy choice issue for many. A selection of 750 colors isn't bad either.

Choose from 750 colors & mix the metal finishes!

Coordinate the hood color with your BlueStar range for a perfect match

Hello Gorgeous!

A beautiful, different, finish on the range

Again, a matching hood with a smart, matte, finish

Here it is, top to bottom-a sunny yellow accent can do so much

For the pink lover

A baking stone that fits perfectly inside

The controls of the new electric oven

Yes, I also had a green cupcake at the BlueStar booth!

I just felt like starting coverage of the show with color from BlueStar, but trust me, there are so many wonderful products I'll be sharing with you.

By the way, some months back, I was talking to someone from a major appliance brand and I predicted that the next thing we will see in appliances is a matte finish. The matte finish will emerge in response to those who want a more "quiet" look to their appliances for any number of reasons, not the least of which is the movement of many homeowners toward the open floorplan concept. I saw two appliance brands with matte finishes at the AD Show, both of which were new.

In addition, a matte finish, done well, can often be viewed as a more sophisticated finish, more furniture like, if you will, or let's say, compatible with a furniture look. AND, given the recent trend toward simple, basic finishes, for example, in woods which are more frequently seen in a matte finish, appliances will follow. Bye-bye fingerprints too!

You heard it here first!

Kelly's Kitchen Series - Appliances by Bosch

Kelly's turn.....

We are so excited to begin our series on my kitchen renovation!  The entire experience has been a wonderful learning process, an opportunity to collaborate with my mom, and only a slight exercise in patience! Following is an overview of the beating heart of the kitchen - the appliances. 

Since we couldn't design the kitchen without knowing which appliances we would be using, we enthusiastically jumped into the appliance world. There's something about appliances that gets this girl - and I suspect most homeowners - excited to learn about all the new features, modern technology and sleek designs. My interest in fashion temporarily took a sharp right turn in favor of an appliance obsession! Bosch appliances were the perfect match for our aesthetic and functional needs.

My husband, Dave, and I, assessed our needs and wants, while keeping in mind how each appliance would fit in with the overall design and function of the finished space. Here's what we chose and why.  In a later post I'll follow up with performance notes.

We finished our kitchen just 2 months ago and in that time, my cooking processes have changed in a number of surprising ways I'll get into soon!

Refrigerator

We had a few requirements entering into this decision. 

  • We knew we wanted a side-by-side refrigerator to give us easier access to the freezer without having to bend down and dig through a single crowded drawer, and 
  • We had to have more space than our current 30" refrigerator provided.  
  • A counter depth easily semi-built in design 
  • Functional interior accessories and features

Enter the Bosch 36" Side by Side!  This refrigerator fit the bill perfectly, offering many great features such as easily customizable digital programming, filtered water and ice maker, and an energy efficient cooling system. This was a dramatic improvement over our previous, much smaller, refrigerator.

Bosch 36" Counter Depth Side by Side Refrigerator - 800 Series, Stainless Steel
 


Oven

We debated briefly between a slide-in range vs. an under counter oven with separate cooktop.  We chose the latter in order to achieve a more built-in, streamlined look to complement the minimalist design of the cabinetry. We loved how the continuous form of the countertop allowed the eye to flow uninterrupted.

But, Friday night pizza night? More about that shortly-including convection drama (my mom would call me - um, repeatedly - and ask "are you using the convection settings???")

Bosch 30" Single Wall Oven - 800 Series, Stainless Steel
 

Cooktop

Once we decided on a separate oven and cooktop type of installation, we knew an induction cooktop was the way to go.  Bosch's impressive induction offerings were right up our alley with their AutoChef sensor, easy to use touch controls, and super fast heating ability.  We chose the 30" size instead of 36" to maximize our counter space which, given our lifestyle, was a higher priority.

Bosch 30" Induction Cooktop with SteelTouch Control and AutoChef - 800 Series, Black & Stainless

Hood

We debated between designing in a low profile hood (used in typical under cabinet installations) vs. a very cool chimney-style hood.  Originally, I thought I wanted a more substantial-looking hood that would signal "serious cook with serious ventilation needs," but after consulting with my mom, we set out to re-imagine and subsequently design-in a fresh look for this otherwise functional workhorse that typically sits obediently around wall cabinets above and alongside the hood.

More on this later, which was one of the more exciting and innovative elements to design into the kitchen.

Bosch 30" Under Cabinet Ventilation - 800 Series, Stainless Steel

Dishwasher

Our existing dishwasher was loud, leaky, and as unattractive as you can get, and it didn't fully clean the dishes! Yuk! Dishwashers have come a very long way in performance and aesthetics since ours was installed in the "dawn of kitchens age", it seems.

We chose a custom-panel dishwasher to support a visual flow of our cabinetry, and not disrupt our goal of a "furniture" feel kitchen.  We also needed it to be quiet, as our sofa is situated a mere few feet away from the dishwasher and we often run it during our prime-time TV viewing hours. But, what we discovered in its functional abilities went so much further than good looks - more later on that.

Bosch 24" Panel Ready Dishwasher - 800 Plus Series
 

I can't wait to elaborate on the performance of these appliances.  In short, we couldn't be more pleased, and are blown away by the tremendous enhancement they've been to our lives.  Ultimately, I'm really glad we followed a few important guidelines when choosing appliances and didn't get swept up in either the aesthetics or current trends when making our decisions.  

Here's what we kept in mind to make the most educated decisions possible: 

  • Bigger is not always better - really evaluate if, for example, you will use a full 6 burners often enough to sacrifice the necessary counter space. 
  • Energy-efficient may not seem like an exciting feature, but over time, you will appreciate the cost savings in your electric bill
  • Think about your overall lifestyle when evaluating appliance needs - for example, our need for a quiet dishwasher, due to the positioning of our kitchen or a low profile hood
  • Look at the overall footprint of your space in terms of whether minimalist, sleek appliances designing in appliances as focal points works for you.

Our thanks to Bosch for donating appliances in support of this kitchen renovation. More, soon, on my kitchen renovation - details, products, design issues, and what kept us awake at night!

 

Bosch Appliances + BLANCO = The Perfect Couple

The two German brands, Bosch and Blanco, came together logically and flawlessly throughout the new Bosch, Thermador, and Gaggenau showroom in Irvine, California. I was invited, along with others from the media, to attend the opening of this big, beautiful, state of the art showroom.

The reception area of the Bosch/Thermador/Gaggenau showroom

Two words: German Engineering. It's immediately apparent how perfectly these two brands go together aesthetically, not to mention their beautiful, precise, engineering-the fit and finish is superb. 

But, here's the thing -  although the Bosch portion of the showroom is quite minimalist and of wholly modern design, if you look past that, it's easy to see that both of these brands' products (most of them) can transition easily and logically to a range of kitchen design themes, from modern to traditional and beyond. Some faucets are more clearly suited to one style or another. Others play very well in a variety of styles.

For the price point, you get a WHOLE lot of style, substance, precision and performance. More pretty pictures from this fabulous showroom...

Did you know that Bosch has a slide in range? Allows the design of a clean backsplash

Note the sink cutout - it's interesting to see the sink section. I like that look.

Blanco and Bosch are the happy couple!

Sleek, simply designed built-in appliances

Note the small stainless sink detail surrounding the countertop cutout - cool

My absolute FAVE combination of Blanco faucet finishes and I love Blanco's silgranite sink-talk about performance!

Perfection in the details

Try this combination - Truffle (color) and a traditional Blanco faucet

I always love a cooktop and under cabinet oven combination-so elegant

Note the lower divider in the sink and the rich, beautiful, faucet finish

A combination kitchen/display area for multiple appliances

Yes, Blanco does a stainless apron sink + the beautiful, sculptural Culina faucet

Can you see the quality shine through in these pictures?

 

Bosch Appliances - Cooking Up A Storm!

I just returned from the fabulous new Bosch showroom in Irvine, California, a beautiful facility that includes state of the art appliances and beautiful kitchen vignettes which showcase the full line of Bosch appliances. 

There is a hallway describing and celebrating the Bosch commitment to precision engineering and sustainability, specific areas for training purposes including a theatre with chairs one can take a nap in easily, and the centerpiece...a huge (huge) kitchen outfitted with Bosch appliances including an amazing wall mounted herb garden. One can test appliances...and then clean up using the gorgeous BLANCO sinks and faucets, seen throughout the entire showroom.

The Bosch central testing kitchen

The kitchen images will follow in my next post with lots more good information on Bosch appliances, but I think you'll understand that my instinct in writing this first post follows with my wanting to show you the result of all of these precision and user friendlly appliances - the food!!! Let's go there first. Below are Carmen Natschke and Andie Day hard at work!

Carmen Natschke from Decorating Diva and Andie Day from Lifestyle blog

Together, we all (members of the media invited for the very first look at the Bosch showroom, flown in from around the country) cooked lunch together and wow, many types of food were cooked fast and with precision. It was an incredibly delicious lunch - after all, that's what the appliances are all about: performance, ease of use, and we need the fun factor in there too that operating great appliances bring to the party!

An upward look at a floating, nearly floor to ceiling herb garden

And, below, this is how a good number of us cook....

Oh yes, I do love to go to these brand retreats - I come back wiser (most important) and definitely well fed! More soon on Bosch appliances and BLANCO sinks and faucets AND gorgeous kitchen shots from this beautiful showroom.

Gaggenau CX480 Full Surface Induction

Last week I attended an event in New York City to introduce the Gaggenau CX480 full surface induction cooktop to the US. I had seen this amazing cooktop at The Living Kitchen show in Cologne, Germany just over a year ago, and I would not be overstating it to say that it was the buzz of that show.

Here's what this amazing piece of cooking equipment does:

 It is full surface induction which makes the entire cooktop into one big cooking zone

  • It has TFT touch display - This means it has LCD touchscreen technology
  • Cookware is automatically recognized by shape, size, and position
  • Heat is produced only where it is needed
  • The booster function increases heat output by 50%
  • If cookware is moved, the cooktop detects the new position
  • Cooking settings can then be immediately transferred
  • It has intuitive operation

The ability to create a good (hot/fast) sear, in my cooking repertoire, is important - I sear meat or fish at least once a week. It is one of the easiest and most "professional" ways that any homeowner can cook just like a celeb chef. Nice sear...

Gaggenau introduced the CX480 at a pop up location that I cannot "not" show you. Gaggenau truly exemplifies fantastic design and product innovation at its best.

I have followed Gaggenau's product line since the mid 80s and have owned some of their products. They perform. They last. They are gorgeous!

Likewise, Gaggenau creates amazing (not an overstated word) displays in showrooms, shows and events. So, take a look at this fabulous pop up showroom which was only open for less than a week! 

I do love Gaggenau - there is "nothing not to like" as we say in New York, so New York was the perfect place to introduce this cooktop. 

 

Thermador Freedom Induction Cooktop

"Heat without boundaries", the holy grail for cooks, chefs, heater-uppers ... Thermador introduces a new cooktop with revolutionary natural mapping technology. What is that and what does it mean?

Imagine the following: you are sauteeing ingredients for Thanksgiving stuffing-let's say onions, celery, and sausage (I'll also add apple chuncks in mine) in a large pan. Another spot on the cooktop is needed to cook the fresh cranberry sauce. Don't forget the turkey stock - the stock pot needs a place too.

At different times of the cooking process each piece of cookware needs to be the center of attention, maybe moved to the front or off to the side to simmer or have more intense heat. The ability to move cookware around a cooktop at will is flexibility and freedom for any kind or type of cook. It's what you can do with the new Thermador Freedom Induction cooktop

 I saw this technology first hand at IMM Cologne, Germany, last year, and thought it would be quite awhile before we saw this technology in the US. This is big news, as this Thermador cooktop is the first cooktop with this innovative technology in the US, complete with 30 international patents.

Other features per Thermador's press release:

  • "A 6.5-inch, full-color touchscreen display that recognizes pot shape, size, and controls power setting and cooking time   
  • Surface area to accommodate a 21-inch x 13-inch pan with the largest cooking surface in the industry
  • A range of 4,600-watt maximum power output with Boost feature and 15-watt minimum power output

The Thermador Freedom Induction Cooktop surface is made from transparent ceramic glass, which allows for the integration of the color touchscreen. In additional to the touchscreen interface showing the position of all cookware on the cooking surface, the touchscreen also performs live updates as cookware is moved to a different position, giving the home cook an intuitive cooking experience." MSRP is $4949.

A game changer!

Thermador Pro Grand Steam Range

In June I attended a press event at the fabulous Thermador facility in Scottsdale, Arizona to be among the first to view their new, stunningly bold pro range, the new Pro Grand Steam Range. Manufacturers of the first pro range ever in 1950, not to mention in stainless steel at that time, Thermador's latest pro range has features in this new version one would not have dreamed of back then.

Did I say this range is bold? I like bold. I mean, if you're going to do something, be bold! Be awesome and be innovative too, for goodness sakes. Push the envelope, think out of the box and all that. Here's what we have in terms of features:

Steam Oven - If you want to cook in one of the most fabulous ways to achieve superb quality for your cooking efforts, steam oven technology provides the best of all worlds ... namely, a healthy cooking method, moist, flavorful foods with a crisp crust as required. Plumbing? None - just fill the handy reservoir.

Star Burners - Quite simply, the star burner gives you more real estate within the flame. Add 22,000 BTUs for the power star burner, and the impatient will be impatient no more. For me, that would mean a killer sear on my filet mignon and salmon. I like power! Extra low simmer technology too.

Spacious Oven - A 5.1 cubic foot convection oven offers ample cooking space with nine cooking modes.

Universal Design Features - Soft close hinges, full access racks, easy grip handles and a wonderful electronic oven display and light feature to illuminate words and numbers on the knobs just below. It's also just a little bit sexy - that blue light.

Warming Drawer - I almost forgot! If that's not all, coddle your freshly cooked food in the warming drawer - PERFECT for all those holiday sides and just about anytime something needs to sit ... without losing its wonderfulness.

Grill/Griddle Option - Sweet. Why should I have to decide between grilling the perfect burger and the great features of a griddle? Sauteeing vegetables, making pancakes, home fries and so on.

The fit and finish is of very high quality. I am especially in favor of the universal design features. Yes, it's a bloody fortune at nearly $14,000 MSRP, but this is clearly an investment product. Some things, in my philosophy, are just worth the lifestyle enhancement not to mention longevity, that is purchased along with the basic functions of the product. I've spent a bundle on a few products that were, let's say, seemingly above my financial demographic. I never regretted it, ever. So, a lesson in budgetary restraint? Not from me. If you feel it, it just may enhance your life - that is, if you can swing it financially. If you can, go for it, it's a ridiculously beautiful cooking center.

 

Induction Cooking - Electrolux Icon 36" Cooktop

Electrolux invited me to review their Icon 36" induction cooktop in my personal kitchen. I accepted the invitation, looking forward to begin cooking with induction and with gratitude for the opportunity to replace my 20 year old gas cooktop with induction. I have cooked briefly on induction before, but I was very interested in cooking on an induction cooktop over a period of time, to truly understand its properties. I am approaching this review on several fronts.

AESTHETICS

Around this time, I was due to exhibit my new line of kitchen furniture, Bornholm Kitchen, at the Architectural Digest Show in New York. I thought it would be a good idea to incorporate an island into the show which would have a cooktop installed.

As Bornholm Kitchen is easily experienced as furniture and was designed as such, nonetheless, it was fun to see the reaction of visitors to my booth. The Electrolux Icon cooktop has such a low profile that many visitors to the booth were surprised that the island was meant to be designed into a kitchen and was not a dresser or other type of furniture. Their eyes lit up and we saw a smile, or heard a "wow". It is a response that made perfect sense, was fun to see, and confirmed to me that this type of cooktop is a real advantage for the open kitchen floorplan.

The point? Sleek = nearly invisible = aesthetically clean, especially in an open floorplan situation.

CONTROLS

The controls were very quickly and easily understood. I don't remember even looking at the manual before I started cooking; the cooktop is very intuitive. One more note about aesthetics - please remove the word "Induction" from the burners - it's simply not necessary and takes away from an otherwise GORG (gorgeous) stunning cooktop design. That said, I don't even notice it at all anymore - I have other things to think about when I'm cooking, but it's worth a mention.

If I'm going into another level of detail, I'll note that the design of the controls is, well, beautiful. The controls are simple in design and very cool. Less is more aesthetically, and all that. Well done.

COOKING!

I couldn't wait to cook my favorite things on this cooktop. I like to sear meat and fish, like filet mignon or salmon, then finish it in the oven for a perfect medium rare (especially for salmon, yum!) I also use grill pans to grill asparagas or other vegetables or to saute brocolli rabe, steam veggies or putting that pot of water on to boil, which I want done fast! We (my husband and I) cook with fresh foods all week and the induction cooktop has made the cooking experience a pleasure in all these ways mentioned.

The cooktop is fast. Very fast. Much faster than my gas cooktop. I'm impatient, so I like that, a lot! I'm also fundamentally lazy in some respects, so I like that all I have to do is to put my finger on either high or low, keep it there to control the heat, end of story. Fast, easy, intuitive. One of the very best features of induction cooking is that it has instant response - same as gas. So far, we have instant response to heat control, and more power than gas (see "power boost"). I'm happy. Is it more powerful than the most powerful gas btu burners? I'd love to see a test done. I do not know the answer to that.

A "Keep Warm" feature, multiple low heat 1/2 heat number selections, and a timer round out useful cooktop controls.

I love the versatility of the cooking zones and how different size pots can be used. I like flexibility. Take a look: 

Induction cooking is THE safest method of cooking, the most energy efficient way to cook, perhaps the fastest method and certainly the most understated in terms of aesthetics. These features are compelling reasons to seriously consider induction cooking. I have the utmost confidence in Electrolux Icon as a brand, based on my clients having purchased Electrolux products over the years and being very pleased with the products...and I hear feedback. 

I love induction cooking, and I'm NOT looking back at my much less powerful (and small) gas burners!

 

Bosch Appliances–Beauty and Brains!

I was delighted to be invited to the Bosch training and showroom facility in beautiful Scottsdale, Arizona. I so welcome these opportunities to travel to corporate showrooms around the country (and abroad) for focused product training, which always adds another dimension of insight into a brand’s unique history and philosophy.

Robert BoschWho knew the founder’s name was Robert Bosch (1861-1942) who was equal parts socialist and capitalist, botanist and inventor, pacifist and philanthropist … whose company was one of the first to provide health care to its employees as well as the eight hour work day … who worked with Thomas Edison for a year here in the US and who had a commitment in theory and in practice to (what we now fashionably call) Reuse, Recycle and Reduce - in extreme ways? Bosch (the corporation) has recently celebrated 125 years of being in business as well as celebrating their equally long tradition to social commitment.

Half of the profit that Bosch generates each year goes toward philanthropic and environmental endeavors-nearly astounding! Since 1964 the Robert Bosch foundation has funded more than one billion euros toward the company’s social and environmental commitment. What an inspiring piece of “corporate history.”

BOSCH SHOWROOM DELIGHTS

I will have more information on some of the great features of Bosch appliances in another post. Quite frankly, I lost track of all the #1 awards Bosch has won, but it is impressive. Half the fun of going to these events is to enjoy the beautiful showroom design! I’ll take you for a short tour. Let’s take a look, and note the appliance integration. Enjoy the view.

Below: A look at the Bosch reception area just past the front desk. Tranquil and serene, connected to the feeling of the Arizona landscape 

bosch showroom 1

Below: A wide shot (with the exception of one leg of the “U” shape) of the kitchen we cooked in, with a complete suite of Bosch appliances. A simple design with just a touch of coolness in the countertop and tile backsplash, accented with cool (toned as well as featured) stainless steel appliances.

Bosch showroom 2

Below: The tall wall of appliances and storage – so popular in European kitchen design, it serves as a visual foundation to the kitchen.

Bosch showroom 3

bosch showroom 10

Below: We were all “Engineers in Training” for the day with real Bosch product engineers! Taking a short break in between learning all sorts of mathematical equations and theories-exhausting! Winking smile

bosch showroom 4

Below: A nice tight integration with cabinetry and countertop – the Bosch slide-in range. A slide-in range is a superb and elegant solution (and less costly than the purchase of a separate cooktop and oven) to what could otherwise be the bulky look of a freestanding range. An often forgotten product solution, the slide-in range provides a “flow” to your kitchen

bosch showroom 5

Below: A fantastic and delicious artisan focaccia, just out of the Bosch true convection oven. It was delicious! Part of our experience cooking with Bosch appliances

bosch showroom 6

Below: Now, let’s take a peak at a few other kitchens in the Bosch facility with either Thermador or Gaggenau appliances, both under the Bosch corporate umbrella

bosch showroom 7

bosch showroom 8

bosch showroom 9

bosch showroom 11

bosch showroom 12

Bye, Scottsdale! (sniff...)

bosch showroom 12a

Appliance Spotting At IMM Cologne - The Living Kitchen

As anyone who has even remotely followed European kitchen design knows, appliances are virtually engineered into the most seamless fit within cabinetry to create as seamless a look as humanly possible.

To me, built in appliances are a special type of beauty to behold. It's sculptural, often a look of architectural permanance in the home and the design just flows. But, it's certainly not all about appliances being built in...some of the coolest appliances were freestanding or top mounted.  Let's take a look at some appliance awesomeness.

Below, Liebherr's experiment with texture-I was told it was a concept

Below, a sleek built-in Gaggenau oven...just fits in there so snugly!

Below, a very cool downdraft fan that glows - I did not get the name of this appliance, but I'll attempt to find out and report back!

Below, I just loved the knobs of this Siemen's cooktop...enjoy!

Below, love the stacked, super built in Miele ovens, don't you?

Below, an elegant drop in gas cooktop by Foster

Below, how about this curved range by Lofra

Below, uber built in cooktop in stainless steel by Bora - note the flush installation

Below, sexy built in Miele ovens once again!

Below, I really love this cooktop by Foster that is a long span of one cooktop wide, front to back

This is pure eye candy (at least for me!) I like many of the details. I have more appliances to show, which I will, soon! Much more to come from the IMM Cologne Living Kitchen show in Germany, especially the fantastic design of kitchens and furnishings...not to mention the displays within the exhibits!

 

IMM Cologne - Living Kitchen Overview

The Living Kitchen show at IMM Cologne, held in Germany less than less than 2 weeks ago was kitchen heaven, purely and absolutely. The exhibits “told” many visual stories – whole stories, as the displays were large, some, enormous. I was a guest of Blanco (a bigger player in the global sink and faucet scene in terms of design and product presence than I realized) and was invited as a member of the Blanco Design Council. Here are some of the most compelling chapters in the book of today’s kitchen!

Chapter I Overview – The Living Kitchen was a very appropriate name for this show. Lowered “platforms” and varying levels for alternative living in the kitchen, a more “living room-like” aesthetic, the warmth of wood or faux wood, are a few of the specific features  which define this movement. Sinks and faucets are going along for the “living kitchen” ride and fabulous examples will follow. It is clear that style and function have met, fallen in love, and are planning for the future. Simply, it’s about living in the kitchen…see how:

livingkitchen1a

Chapter 2 – Cabinetry designed as sculpture is a traditional strong point of European kitchen design but seems to take another step into integration with surrounding rooms, which is VERY exciting visually yet may also make that connection in a quiet and elegant way, the result of which can be a space which appears more expansive.

nolte_32

Chapter 3 – Appliance Integration and Technology – European kitchen design has always been the leader in integrating appliances (seamlessly.) Appliances, any type, are now fully concealed into cabinetry which replicates truly invisible cabinetry, and I would not even say they are integrated into pantry cabinetry; I would call it the built in closet look! In addition, exposed appliances are showing super seamless integration into countertop design.

One appliance which is not so much about integration is the hood – the hoods total transformation into a design element is complete. Whether your style is pretty, modern, super stylized or elegantly low profile, the hood is a wonderful opportunity to express oneself and I think that’s one of the feel good stories here!

Appliance technology is about energy efficiency, a variety of neutral color choices (very exciting to see) healthy cooking, and the ultimate: personal cooking flexibility-where would you like the burner positioned on the cooktop? And there’s more! A food preparation appliance that allows food to last in a refrigerator for 2-3 weeks – surely, a game changer! Examples to be shown soon!

Germany II 878

Chapter 4 – Natural real or natural faux materials – What this means is that natural wood grain rules…sometimes, the more textured the better, which adds visual interest, sometimes a little whimsy too. But, the story here is about an appreciation of nature in many forms.

Chapter 5 – Color - Well, the fun news is that the accent colors were clearly lime green. There were accents of magenta as well. The biggest color story was the greige, beige, mushroom neutral, which I have mentioned before. It seems that quiet and serene has spoken more loudly than color at this show, at this time. But, that is not to say that color was not present in bold, fun, ways. I'd say that its presence felt more focused than broad. I'd call it: "color optional." 

 

Sooooooo much more to talk about, all coming soon!!! Do you want to see more??

IMM Cologne Living Kitchen - Germany, January 2011

A simple post with images to share of the Living Kitchen show in Germany. I am not able to elaborate more at this moment as time does not permit, but surely you can ooh and ahh at the images, no? I am here courtesy of Blanco America. I visited the factory and headquarters today. How do you say "7 patents" in German? I was beyond impressed AND inspired. Look at Blanco. SO-Just for you...

Lechner Countertops - Made of Glass - Trend Alert: sinks in rectilinear "boxes" sit atop countertops Another example of concealed ovens and I will be showing you others Love this cooktop and its grates - by Smeg Gaggenau's awesome booth - a factory type grunge look going on simple, elegant, and note the thin countertopos Clever storage, simple, clean lines, restorative neutrals And last, but possibly my "Best of Show for 2011": Last but not least, the cooktop that I BELIEVE will change cooking forever: Gaggenau's cooktop - put your pot WHERE YOU WANT...anywhere on the cooktop and the cooktop will respond. Image shows the pots at each side of the cooktop to illustrate the burner-less glass

Images From IMM_Cologne - Living Kitchen Trade Fair in Germany

Here are some random images I would like to share with you. Truth be told, I uploaded 1054 images yesterday evening...one day's obsession with kitchen design (what else would you call it?)

Fresh Update On White - Blanco Beautiful Sink - Indestructible Silgranite II Blanco Concealed Ovens Pop Up Backsplash Organizer Hafele Incredibly cool matching glass and cabinetry - Bosch and Alno Position your cooktop to where you need it! Hettich Very cool oven "framing? Lots more to come, LOTS!

Holiday Cooking

Holiday Cooking has everything to do with flexible kitchen design. Flexibility in kitchen design, as I define it, is having the foresight to plan adequately for multiple lifestyle scenarios such as holiday cooking...as simple as that. Foresight is security!

I do a lot of thinking and observing in and immediately around the borders of my kitchen, both as the action is happening and in later reflection. I am nearly always taking a fresh as well as an analytical look at what happens in my own kitchen. I'd like to share some thoughts about what happened in my kitchen over last weekend which was very revealing.

My husband and I hosted a dinner for our friends, just one other couple. I chose the menu, not for the number of pots and pans to be used, but for the food I wished to serve. Nothing unusual about that. I have a 36" gas cooktop in my kitchen which I inherited when I moved to this home a year ago.

A question: Is there anyone who feels that a 36" five burner cooktop is truly useful? If you find this cooktop useful, please comment, I'm waiting to be enlightened! Me, I'm convinced it's not useful beyond four burners and has few advantages over a 30" size cooktop...and this weekend was my final realization of that. The small extra space between the side burners is of little advantage. That said, it's a completely subjective statement, I know.

Needing numerous pieces of cooking equipment in the course of preparing the main course, I found myself stacking one pan on top of another as dishes needed to be removed from the heat and/or replaced with another pot since the surrounding countertop was only partially available. It felt like, and was, near chaos, as I think back.  It was the antithesis of enjoyable, and I love to cook.

This past weekend's cooking experience surely illustrated the importance of countertop space! But, in giving thought to how a kitchen can be, perhaps, more orderly and efficient during the cooking process, flexibility came to mind. One flexible solution? A portable induction cooktop. I'd like to share two good brand name portable induction cooktops with you. Let's also compare a few of the more important specs. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Viking Portable Induction Cooker and Fagor's Portable Induction Cooktop

POWER:

  • Viking: 1800 watts
  • Fagor: 1300 watts

Comment:  Be aware that the watts of a typical induction burner on a cooktop is in the area of 3000. That said, even at 1800 watts, it may not be the best idea to keep a dish cooking on that level for extended periods, given the likelihood of a lack of exhaust ventilation where the portable cooktop is placed. Think about how much power you need...is it for low heat/simmering which could be very helpful, or to boil that pot of water, or both?

SIZE/WEIGHT: 

  • Viking: 12"x15" 17 lbs
  • Fagor: 12"x14" 7 lbs

 CONTROLS: 

  • Viking: Knob with six power levels including simmer/infinite settings between levels
  • Fagor: Touch Pad (with timer, counts down from 180 minutes) Has six power levels beginning at 190 degrees

Don't forget that cooking equipment used with induction cooktops will hold a normal household magnet as a test of its suitability. If it does not hold a magnet, it will not work with induction. Leave adequate space around a portable unit too so it does not overheat. Take a look to see if there is a particularly good spot in the kitchen that could be a designated "second cooking" area when your cooking is under pressure. Amazon has more portable induction cooktops for sale, but I know these two appliances as good, reliable, brands. 

Had I had a portable unit, I think I would have been very much more organized in the kitchen and felt more in control. Portable induction cooktops have a viable place in many kitchens truly offering the ultimate in flexible cooking. Being in control feels goooood.

First image from Fagor, second...Viking.

 

Sears Appliances - Kenmore Too!

Yesterday, just outside of Chicago, I attended a multi-brand appliance event, hosted by Sears. It was quite an eye opening experience, as Sears appliances, quite honestly, have not been on the radar in my business. Exactly why I needed to get with the program increase my awareness, so I welcomed this opportunity.

First, my conclusions: Sears understands their appliance-purchasing customer and has responded with an on-target, modern, line-up of appliances as they completely rebrand the 60 year old Kenmore line.

They also understand that it is beneficial to interact more closely with their customer and we will be seeing more of that commitment, hopefully in the very near future in some very interesting ways. The Sears Blue Appliance Crew is Sears' answer to providing all of the assistance that today's VERY busy families need surrounding the purchase of an appliance. The numbers are showing that the Sears Blue Appliance Crew is addressing those needs. That's a good start!

One of the most interesting pieces that I came away with is that Sears management team "knows what they don't know" and they recognize kitchen designers as a group with a few valuable brain cells from whom Sears, and their treasured customers, can learn...but you knew THAT, didn't you? Kudos, props, high five and a fist bump!

I was impressed by the Heroes at Home a charitable initiative helping military service families.

One more headline: they have a female appliance designer who recently revamped the Kenmore laundry line to stunning (yes, stunning) results (I did not remember her name) and she exudes all passion, all art, all design (odd grammar, but it fits). Very impressive. 

So, without consulting my notes or other information for this post, I wanted to be guided by my takeaway thoughts at this moment. More on Sears' appliance news in a little while...can you say "20,000 btu gas burner?"

Thermador Appliances - Stepping It Up

A couple of days ago I went to an event hosted by Thermador at their showroom in Dumbo, Brooklyn, which, if you haven't been to either the showroom or Dumbo, I can tell you that they are both great destinations (well, you can go to Dumbo without going to the showroom, but you can't go to the showroom without going to Dumbo...I'm confused!) I've included images of the showroom...it's in one of those great, old, waterfront factories, steps away from crazy views of the Brooklyn bridge. 

The event was to showcase a myriad of recent developments...in a couple of cases I'd call them details, but, details are everything, especially to a blogger who is also a kitchen designer. My work is all about the details. No detail is unimportant, I've always said. They build on one another. So, here they are. 

 

Thermador is reintroducing their star burner (developed 11 years ago by Thermador) by elevating its position on the cooking surface, providing increased btu power with low simmer ability, and a quick clean surface below. Flexible cooking/effortless cleanup. 

The combination of Thermador's Sensor Dome infrared sensor technology and the industry's most powerful induction element, at 4600 watts and an expandable 13" wide diameter triple zone element monitors the temperature inside the pan, cycling it on and off to maintain a precise temperature.

The introduction of a dishwasher is Thermador's entry into high performance dishwashing. A 3 step "Rackmatic System", chef tool drawer, hand wash cycle, extra dry, and a very sexy sapphire glow lighting system (interior blue lighting) among other notable features, make this a dishwasher which must be considered...this is a "finally" for Thermador, to have a strong dishwasher in their line. 

A new easy installation system for Thermador's stainless steel refrigerators is now here. Built in modular refrigeration can now come with framed and pre-assembled panels and trims which offer a speedy installation and a new finished design, once installed. The fully flush collection continues to offer a completely seamless installation and design. It's about design flexibility...one of those details which makes the difference in how your refrigeration system is visually experienced. 

I took a good shot of the Brooklyn bridge while I was going into the city after the event with my iphone...while driving (I couldn't resist) Enjoy!

GE Monogram Appliance Adventure

I had an eventful past couple of days, being immersed in GE Monogram appliances via invitation to GE Monogram's headquarters in Louisville, Kentucky. 

Louisville (Loo-uh-vuhl or Loo-ee-vuhl or Loo-ee-vill) is a great place to visit! Home of the Louisville Slugger, really great old architecture, a mix of old/new food, arts, architecture, nestled alongside the Ohio River, if it had to be renamed, I'd rename it Pleasantville (or vuhl). I just love going to places I have not been to before. This is one sweet city, emphasis on sweet, as in charm.

The hotel we all stayed at was, simply, fantastic. The second day of training actually started at the Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft. I had a few burning questions...do they have a gift shop, do they take Amex and do they ship? $400 later, the answers are yes.  I love handmade crafts, and the prices at the gift shop were very good (shhh!)

The group was a mix of professional kitchen designers and a few remodelers and design professionals from architectural firms. Sure, it's immersion in a brand for nearly 2 days (3 full, including travel) and that's a good thing. I'm not a kool-aid drinker, although I do look for positive information and try to listen to my inner voice if details/issues crop up that I'm not in tune with. I can report that the product details that I learned about felt overall, solid to me. They will hear from me on one issue in particular that did not sit well with me, but no one is perfect.

I'm impressed, most of all, with GE Monogram's pro range. I've never been, believe it or not, a super fan of pro ranges of any ilk. The logical thought process about my view (one would THINK) might be that I pooh pooh them as being status symbols, which I'm sure they may be to some. However, my concerns have always been rooted toward the concern for those who are immediately seduced by several features...their size, power, brand name, not to mention being influenced by the sex appeal of the ads. In other words, I think a large number of homeowners just lose all logic when they see these cooking monsters in an appliance showroom. I've always thought that. Does the kitchen design follow the appliance package or vice versa? See what I mean?

Am I a total buzzkill?? 

So, my advice is to think of the feeling you want your kitchen to convey as you begin to design it, even before that process begins. A pro range, its large volume, has everything to do with the design message that your kitchen will send to those who enter it, in a positive or negative way, depending on what your vision is...if you are truly connected to it. But, that's also a bigger discussion for another day. 

Let's assume you're on track, after careful consideration, to purchase a pro range. The GE Monogram pro range has been recently completely redesigned...from scratch...and was introduced just last year. 

The design and the features are impressive, beginning with the installation...having four wheels and a power cord, it's an easy installation. And, if you care for your floors, you should care about these 4 wheels and an easy installation!

Here's a rundown of some cool features: Do you have a need for power? Maybe 72,000 btus over 4 burners should do it. Covers for the grill and griddle are included, full extension pull out racks, burner grates that turn upside down to accommodate a wok (see image), the grill grate that has a groove in it on one side to drain fat and a flat surface on the other side for fish/veggies, and a griddle that's adjustable in height are good places to start. 

I love the grain on the stainless steel. It's very consistent in color and finish all around the range. The knobs are a nice, modern design and color. The range is beveled on the corners, which makes for another nice installation detail and each knob has an indicator light. 

Another great product, which you can see in the cooking image (that's our group cooking-we were slaves and cooked 3 meals throughout this training...from scratch) is the induction cooktop. GE Monogram has one of the most powerful induction cooktops around. I cannot expand on this too much at this moment, but two things come to mind...power and instant response...ok, three, incredibly easy clean-up. 

Gotta run...the GE Experience Center, as it's called was a good experience. Did you know GE has their own zip code? Yeesh! GE people, feel free to answer comments and questions. 

Thermador High Performance Cooktops Sizzle!

I spent the day in the city yesterday, always a good thing. I spent the morning at the Danish Consulate in a meeting with a New York architect regarding Hansen, where we have a showroom space for this fabulous kitchen furniture. I love going to the Consulate. Since the Danes are reportedly the happiest people on earth, who wouldn't want to spend time at the Consulate?? 

After the meeting, I went downtown to an event given by Thermador, to showcase their new line of high performance cooktops. Those Thermadorees are smart people. To arrange an event that is both entertaining and informative is the definition of capturing one's attention. To add a few celeb chefs to the mix, well, everyone was all ears and eyes. It was awesome. 

Tom Colicchio, the lead judge on Bravo's "Top Chef" was the MC, and introduced the chefs.  Michael Psilakis, executive chef and owner, Anthos, and Alexandra Guarnaschelli, executive chef, Butter, and star of "The Cooking Loft" on the Food Network were the chefs in this challenge...15 minutes to create something wonderful with a secret ingredient, chocolate! 

Cooking and commenting on the cooktops ensued, but better than TV, one could smell the fantastic aromas! Michael insisted that he had to have the Thermador induction cooktop he was cooking on, in his professional kitchen. Alexandra was fully confident and completely calm, with four different size pots at various heat settings going at once, with her Thermador electric sensor cooktop. Tom looked like he either wanted to jump in or was glad he wasn't under the gun.

A couple of new hoods hung on the wall beside the cooking station, the Pivot-Lift Glass Canopy, which can be lowered or lifted as needed, and the 36" Chimney Drawer Hood, which slides forward up to an extra 12", great for a low profile (shallow) look in its "back" position. 

The cooktops offer some very cool features. In the electric sensor models, you'll use the "Sensor Dome" technology that continually measures the heat from the cookware! It maintains the precise temperature needed, not to mention the keep warm function, always a desired feature. Induction cooktops by Thermador has a power boost function, a 10 step power micro adjustment, offering a wide range of simmering needs and a silver finish! Gas cooktops offer a larger cooking surface, the star burner design and a powerful 52,000BTU output. All of these have other features worth looking at.

Oh, and let me not forget the fabulous luncheon after the presentation! Fun and informative makes me happy, not cranky. The food and so much chocolate was a good thing too. See the pictures that follow!