Reusing Kitchen Cabinets in a New Kitchen Design

BEFORE KITCHEN PLANReusing kitchen cabinets to create a new kitchen design is both a real challenge and extremely gratifying. I've done it, albeit in an experimental way in a previous personal kitchen. In my case, it was an opportunity to try out some design ideas and at the same time hold us over until we were ready for the big remodel down the road. Here is a reader's question on the topic of reusing kitchen cabinetry:

"I read the article on reusing cabinets and there are some great tips there. You mention the fact that reusing cabinets in a new configuration can be difficult but didn't elaborate further. That is exactly what I am trying to do but need some expert advice!

I am in desperate need of a new layout in our kitchen, but our cabinets are in great shape. I have played around with the design and think I have something that will work. I am not a "handy" person so I was hoping to get some pointers on what to look at to determine if the existing cabinets could still be recycled in the new layout.

Do you have any advice on what I should do to detemine if the new kitchen design will allow for reuse of our cabinets? Or is this a project I need to get a contractor in on now to ensure they can physically do it?



Thanks for writing! The word that describes reusing kitchen cabinetry is: "puzzle." Finding the right configuration for a brand new design using existing cabinetry can be done, but it will entail very open thinking, meaning that you need to be open to new design ideas, new and different ways to add storage into your kitchen to supplement your existing cabinetry, and a good dose of positive thinking.

You will need to draw the room to scale and then the puzzle begins. An open mind will allow you to experiment with a variety of configurations. There is no absolute way to find "the" right solution. Trial and error and positive "play" in a relaxed setting is how you will find your design solutions.

Of course, you should consider where your existing cabinetry offers the best access near certain appliances and work centers. Narrow drawer cabinets will be useful near the refrigerator or sink. Wider drawer banks or cabinets with doors will be useful near the cooking area.

Watch for the size and proportion of doors and drawers. For sections which you will need to fill in with new cabinetry, do not attempt to match a new color with the old; it most likely will not work - instead, select a painted finish in a new area of the kitchen that makes sense and balances well with surrounding cabinetry.

A trained eye knows how to configure different sizes and proportions of cabinetry. My advice would be to find a local kitchen design professional who can help you on a consultation, or hourly fee, basis at least to get you a head start.

Filling in with metro shelving, curtains and furniture pieces can result in a very interesting kitchen, one which could be super chic in that bohemian/modern sort of way. I know this is true because my reused kitchen cabinetry, once transformed, was published in a national shelter magazine ... thus, the positive thinking! 


Quartz Made in USA Gets A+

Quartz Produced in the USA Gets A+

cambria%20quartz.jpgCambria produces the only quartz countertop made in the USA and lives up to their mantra: Live Green, Live Life, Live Cambria. American made quartz equals less of a carbon footprint with regard to transporting the product. “At Cambria, we are committed to environmental responsibility in both our product offerings and businesses practices,” says a Cambria spokesman.

They’re not kidding.

Their quartz is nonporous which means harsh chemicals are not necessary to seal or polish the surface. Cambria is certified GREENGUARD for children and Schools certified. GREENGUARD is a nonprofit organication that oversees acceptable indoor air standards for indoor products. In addition to their product being green, they run a very green office and plant. One hundred percent of the water used in the production process is recycled! Their fleet of vehicles is hybrid, their shipping crates are recycled and scrap material is collected and used as road base for local construction projects. I'm impressed!

In addition there is an on-site drainer pond that they use to water and beautify the plant grounds. All office waste is recycled including computers and batteries. Quartz is a popular choice for kitchen countertops because it is maintenance free and stain resistant - that means no wine stains or grape juice stains.  It's even impervious to coffee and nail polish!   In addition, as the strongest natural stone found on the Earth's surface, it is durable. Cambria gets an A+ for being kitchen friendly and for it's impressive green efforts!

Best, Maureen (Susan's assistant)



Water Filtration - Move Away From the Bottle


Here is a post from my assistant, Maureen, who is a strong advocate for green living. We'll be hearing from Maureen from time to time. Give her a little welcome too! Good work Maureen!

Thirty-Eight years after the inception of Earth Day, it has gone mainstream with events in countries all over the globe. Flooding the Blogosphere, networks and print media, Green has gone global, political and earned a former Vice President a Nobel Peace Price. It also made a strong presence at this year’s KBIS where Green was a hot theme as social consciousness entered the Kitchen Design world in a multitude of ways.

Intrinsically, we all want to lessen our environmental footprint – how does a mere mortal go about doing such (especially a SUV driving suburban mom)? Although not a terribly glam topic –we can begin our personal green campaigns in a very tangible and quantitative way. We can move away from the bottle!

An Inconvenient Truth

  • Americans used 50 billions plastic water bottles last year – 40 billion of them ended up in landfills.
  • To distribute the bottled water that’s hauled to and fro within the U.S. each week required the equivalent of 37,800 18 wheel trucks.
  • Worldwide, 2.7 million tons of plastic are used each year to make water bottles, and in the United States, less than 20% of these are recycled.
  • Americans throw away 22 billion water bottles each year, over 60 million a day.
  • The 29 billion plastic bottles manufactured in the United States each year require the equivalent of more than 17 million barrels of crude oil.
  • In 2006, American spent nearly $11 billion on over 8 billion gallons of bottled water.

Ouch! - from an environmental and financial standpoint. Plastic bottles are made from fossil fuels; fossil fuels are used to bottle the water, deliver the water to the stores, used to get consumers to the stores to buy the water and also used to get the garbage trucks to the homes to pick up the bottles. If the bottled are recycled, then you got it, more fossil fuels! Ok I am officially riddled with guilt about the countless bottles of water served to dinner guests, tucked into lunch boxes (OK bags that I didn't recycle) and taken to countless sporting events (yes in the SUV). In addition to the environmental impact, the cost is something to be considered in this teetering economy that’s gasping for air.

Helia-Faucet---Cold.gifTaking Back The Tap

Victoria Kaplan is the senior organizer with Food and Water Watch – a nonprofit that recent launched a Take Back the Tap campaign to get consumers to ditch bottled water. “The bottled water industry spends millions of dollars a year to convince us that their product is somehow safer or healthier than tap water, when in fact that is just not true,|” says Kaplan. Did you know that bottled water is subject to less-stringent government standards for quality than tap water? That’s not marketing hype, according to National Geographic Green Guide, as much as 40 percent of bottled water started out as the same tap water that we get at home. Americans are beginning to get the message that bottled water is expensive (more expensive per gallon than gasoline), not necessary safer than the H20 that flows from the tap water and burdened with incalculable environmental problems.

Everpure showcased at this year’s KBIS where they offered a powerful visual presentation of the environmental impact of bottled water. Although in the business of filtering water for restaurants for over 75 years, they now tout several products for the home. The H-300 Water Filtration System employs Everpure’s Micro-Pure® filtration removing impurities and providing what they say is the best tasting water available.

Although secondary to health issues, taste is critical when it comes to cooking and creating sauces, breads, pastries and making stocks and even cocktails.  Home filtration units are a great step forward for both concerting cooks and envrionmentals alike.  If you move away from the bottle, the results will be palpable. 

The Everpure Exubera System dispenses chilled still or sparkling water right from the tap.

For more information about water and reusable bottles and canteens:

KBIS 2008 - Green Kitchen Products

This just in...New York Times' Sunday magazine, "The Green Issue" is here:

Please take a look and register if you need to, it's worth it.

I was all set to blog about green kitchen design theory today, but Maureen, my assistant, took home a bunch of green kitchen information this weekend (on her own, just wanted to read up on it, isn't that great?) and I can't find what I'm looking for. You'll meet Maureen soon, I'm sure. Maureen brings her own container of water to work every day (yes, don't worry, I give her more water if she wants it during the day. No, I DO.) We talk about environmental issues here and there, and Maureen brings a lot of good green living insight into our company. SO, till then, I'll show you some green, or healthy living, products I saw at KBIS.


U1570LS.jpgRohl has a new triflow faucet, which offers hot, cold, and filtered water from a single faucet, offering consumers a healthy alternative and a more green alternative than drinking tap water or wasting water bottles. The faucet has a dedicated filtered waterway with no risk of contamination. The filtration system sits under the sink and produces water that tastes good.



Tempest%20Sonoma1.jpgStaron Surfaces (by Samsung) has added ten new colors to the line for 2008, but the most exciting news is the Greenguard certification Staron has just earned for their countertop products. The certification covers the full range of products by Staron. Here is one of the new colors, called Sonoma, from the Tempest line, new for 2008.



bronze%20light.jpgDid I tell you browns were everywhere? Well, take a look at this product. It's brown AND green. Kichler introduces new LED cabinet light fixture. It's energy efficient, lasts, oh, 40,000 hours or so, emitting a soft, white light. It is for use under wall cabinets, as task lighting, and it comes in a variety of sizes. It also has a very low profile, about 1/2" thick. How about a lifetime warranty and a snap together installation? And it also comes in nickel and white, as well as bronze. You're welcome in advance for this one!


That's it for the moment...I have tons of work to do! Enjoy the weekend! 

Green Planet, Green Kitchens

Nobel.jpgYesterday was the ceremony for the award of the Nobel Peace Prize. Of course, since Al Gore is the recipient, it is especially interesting to hear his speech on our planet's climate crisis, including his philosophy, ideas, and solutions. Just as interesting, and compelling, is the speech given by R. K. Pachauri, Chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Most likely, one does not hear about this second speech, only Al Gore's, so take a look.

I am not a scientist. I am also not a full fledged treehugger, nor do I have an expanse of knowledge in this area. I'd say that I am increasingly making real efforts to become aware of this issue, especially as it relates to my work. This is a very broad issue to sort through. It will take time and it will take a commitment to continually seek out knowledge and learn to apply that knowledge in my work. Take a look at the speeches given yesterday.  

It did occur to me yesterday, when I put the tv on, that CNN, and other channels gave an incredible amount of time on some murder and celebrity stories and just a moment on this year's Nobel Peace Prize awards. The planet is sick, and they are covering a murder mystery. What can I say?

On a lighter note, my daughter was in the audience at this year's ceremony in Oslo, yesterday. She said it was an incredibly moving experience and called my attention to both speeches. Tonight is the spectacular concert which will highlight Al Gore's and his colleague's contributions as well as showcase great musical acts. I was in attendance at the concert last year, and spent 5 days in Oslo, surrounding the Peace Prize award. It was a very exciting time to be in Oslo, the city was electric (no pun intended!) I'll try to update this post with youtube or other video links of the concert tomorrow.

It is so clear to me how I felt last year. I felt as it the whole world was assembling at Oslo's town hall in peace, as one car after another arrived with flags blowing in the wind. That was the feeling. It was a big feeling, coupled with what appeared to be low security (in the U.S., the entrance into the City Hall would be blocked off for a mile all around!) We stood right at the entrance and watched the dignitaries arrive, complete with a band at the entrance. Life changing.

As we speak, my daughter has my repetitive voice in her head to scoop up all the Scandinavian magazines she can get her hands on!! I should get my hands on them tomorrow. A fresh batch of Scandinavian kitchens!! Life is good!

Here's an update, a song by Kylie Minogue. This stage is probably the largest I've ever seen. It's a fantastic venue. And, the concert has musical artists from around the world, the top musical artists on the planet. In between is a short speech from the recipient (not included in this video) calling attention to the issue at hand for that particular year. It is a concert which should have very widespread attention for its global feeling, fantastic and varied musical content, as well as featuring the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in a more informal setting, just "talking" to the audience. It's perfect.

Oh, by the way, the hosts this year were Uma Thurman and Kevin Spacey.

Green Kitchen Ideas

Take a look at this green kitchen, isn't it great? I saw it on Apartment Therapy Green, and I had to show it to you. On that link, you can get lots more information in the form of an interview with the owners including some good, green tips at the end of the interview. Take a look here, for images of the kitchen. Another example of a "lite green" point of view. Well, this one  may be a moderate green remodel, but, again, it does not have to be all or nothing. Finding old things to reuse can generate lots of good design ideas.


Green Kitchen Cabinets - All Or Nothing?

This is a good opportunity to introduce my colleague and friend, Kelly, who just started her blog on, what else, kitchens! It's called Kitchen Sync.

Kelly also has that golden attribute "experience," always a good thing.  Let's add to that, good judgment, good knowledge, and good creativity, and you have an interesting blog. I had asked Kelly if she wanted me to introduce her sooner or later. She forgot to answer that question, so, based on this great post she did today, it's right NOW!

Kelly talks about some of the challenges we designers face today in both identifying what is "green" and defining "green" in methods and materials involved in kitchen remodeling. I've talked about that too, and I agree, there just is no black or white, rather, shades of green. Ultimately, our clients will decide for themselves what their definition of green is. And, I, and Kelly, in the meantime, work hard to increase our knowledge of sustainable issues relating to our clients. Good stuff, Kelly.


Green Kitchen Design Inspiration

Today's post brings to a close, this special Green Kitchen Design Week. I have learned new information in the course of writing about this topic this week, and I hope you have too. I hope you are more aware than ever before of green design issues, product resources for green kitchens and the oppoortunities available to define "green" in the context of a kitchen remodeling project.

Three easy to remember concepts in living green and creating eco friendly kitchens are the 3 R's:




This is such a broad topic, I could never cover it in a week! In the future, I will discuss energy efficient lighting, eco friendly flooring, and other building materials used in a kitchen remodel, including how to find green products. Over time, I will also be adding to my green collection of websites and blogs, found on the sidebar. To get started, here are two resources I'm crazy about: Treehugger's How to Go Green and The Lazy Environmentalist, found via K+BB Green. Till then, here is a mostly green kitchen design (remember, you can express yourself in "shades of green") from Natural Home.




























A Budget Green Kitchen Design

Our intent with this kitchen remodel, in one green philosophy, was to be resourceful.At the time we did this, the green drumbeat was yet to be heard in a significant way, but my husband and I have always been extremely resourceful throughout our lives together, so this was a natural project for us. We needed a new kitchen, had some expensive family events coming up, and could not also do the "dream" kitchen, so, we chose to be resourceful and budget oriented. I clearly remember saying these words to myself, as I contemplated our lack of a budget:"You're a designer, design something!"
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Green Kitchen Design - Things To Know

I think I'll throw out some random and useful information about designing green kitchens. These are not in any particular order, but are categorized for easy reference to get one started thinking about incorporating green kitchen design, and overall green principles.

My goal is to keep it simple! Here's why. At this point, (nearly) none of my clients, nor potential clients, are asking questions about designing a green kitchen. They are very busy people, that I know. For many, there is not much time left, with active jobs and families, to become aware of, and accumulate (quickly/easily understandable) knowledge on this issue and how it relates to the kitchen they are thinking about remodeling. Of course, it is important that the "big picture" of sustainable design has a chance to go hand in hand with one's own plans to remodel the kitchen. That's where I come in! Let's take a look at some of these principles which can be easily implemented toward designing green kitchens.


So easy. Two words: Energy Star. Household products are awarded Energy status when they meet strict energy efficiency guidelines set by the EPA and US Department of Energy. It's making a difference..."Americans, with the help of ENERGY STAR, saved enough energy in 2006 alone to avoid greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to those from 25 million cars — all while saving $14 billion on their utility bills." Quite impressive.

Water Conservation

Reducing consumption of our natural resources, thus, conserving water AND energy, merits understanding and knowledge of this issue, even for those who live in areas where the water supply is not an issue...yet. Why conserve water?

Two handy products in the kitchen to help conserve water are: a foot pedal  to prevent water from running needlessly and hands-free sensor faucets, also, to use water only when it's needed. Water savings are significant with these products.

Lighting Tips  - Take a look, and also take a good look at this great article from Treehugger on How to Green Your Lighting. And, here's a great chart to tell you exactly what to look for, as you transition your lighting from incandescent watts to flourescent lighting. Start with one light and see the difference. Flourescents are not as disappointing as they used to be.  LED lights are what you want to look for, for under cabinet lighting.

Ways To Save Energy In The Kitchen   

I think that's enough to get you going in the right direction! Tell me what you know, or what you've learned, I'd love to hear.  

Green Design - Reuse and Rejuvenate

swedishchairs.jpgAs mentioned in my previous post, there are other great ways to reuse and rejuvenate, this time, decorative items, in the kitchen!

I've seen many well worn tables and chairs in my time, dining furnishings that have done their job, taken a beating, and often, are best retired, to be donated or handed down to others for renewed appreciation.  

Therefore, again, the answer is not always to buy new! Instead, buy a new table and antique chairs, or vice versa. Look at these beauties that jumped into my email today, from 1st  


Same for lighting...the hunt is what's fun. In thrift shops, flea markets, special antique events, shops, on vacation.

Consider buying vintage, antique, for a natural patina an item can only get from time. 

Take a look at this image of a kitchen I designed with vintage lighting and tell me it doesn't enhance the whole kitchen!

I've had more phone calls from people around the country after this was published, asking where they could find this fixture! It's tough to see, but there are two globes hanging downward.

Vintage is green at its most wonderful, rediscovering those gems from yesteryear (I really hate this word, but I just had to insert it, it sounds almost poetic!)  But, there's NO disputing the sentiment!

Reusing Kitchen Cabinetry?

Continuing on the green theme this week, part of the whole green design concept is to "REUSE." There are many very easy ways that we can reuse other, perhaps, older items and get a new (and surprisingly wonderful) perspective in the kitchen.

Point being, you don't have to buy everything new!

green%20pantry.jpgFirst and foremost, you have cabinetry. Sometimes the existing cabinetry is in decent shape, sometimes it's in bad shape. And, even if you can refinish it, perhaps, an option, the interiors are usually old and worn. Of course, oftentimes, the floor plan and cabinetry configuration will substantially change, making it very difficult to adapt the old to the new.

If you want new cabinetry, you should have new cabinetry. I'm not going to pass judgment on those who choose to either hold on to their old, worn, cabinetry, hoping/planning to give it new life, or who buy all new cabinetry, which may not be as green as it could be. It is an individual choice, end of story.

In this new, green, era, I see my role being to offer guidance, education and choices...this is a fundamental philosophy of mine, well before this green issue came upon us. I can help my clients go down a green road, or, perhaps, a lite green road. Should they become more informed about green design, including its issues and products? Yes. What they do with that information is their choice. That said, here are some easy ways to go green!

pantry.jpgIt's a great idea in old homes, to hold on to, say, the butler's pantry cabinetry, which may be simple, old, yet, charming. I've recommended doing that many times.  It is not cabinetry that one uses every day, and it usually adds to the home architecturally. Weigh this type of cabinetry carefully before thinking about removing it.

Sometimes I also design a built in pantry closet rather than adding additional cabinetry to the space. A pantry can be made on site, with doors and shelves, rather than purchasing more cabinetry. A few pieces of building material as opposed to cabinets. Sometimes this idea works out, and looks great too.

Ask your designer what the alternatives are, as well as the pros and cons, to design something more simple, more integrated with the architecture of the home, or, keeping some of which is already in place. Go down that road a ways.  

(A brief disclaimer...I did not have a say on this wall opening to the right. I would have narrowed the width of the opening and put casing around the sides as well as on top, like the door, perhaps with millwork joining the two openings, and I would have made the white cabinet shorter, or to the top of the opening. It was not my choice to have a two color hutch. What I once disliked, I think I've grown to like...yet, with those changes, I would have liked it better!) 


Designing Green Kitchens 101

It occurs to me that one of my "life philosophies" translates very well to designing a green kitchen. I'm one who tries to be aware, not only of black and white, but shades of gray in relation to an issue. The shades of gray give us freedom, flexibility, and choices to find the right path toward the right solution, in this case, designing green. It is awareness.

Once one goes into the world of "green design" it's easy to become immersed in a world, not only of green products, but of ways to have a green lifestyle in general. 

You can go down that road as slowly and as near or far as you want to. I find that it is a journey. You can choose to be more "lite green" in your philosophy than "forest green." Think of it as fluid. I am finding the more I know, the more I want to know, forming my own, personal, version of a green philosophy (which is often changing.)

Here are some easy ways to begin thinking green for a kitchen remodel. You can incorporate just some of these ideas to make a difference. Find your own shade of green! Today, I will only focus on cabinetry, appliances, and countertops. Another day, I will address other areas of the kitchen.

My intent with this information is to keep it simple. To offer an easy starting point.



  • Resue/reconfigure, donate, or sell your old cabinetry, perhaps keeping some for storage elsewhere in the home
  • If you are redesigning the cabinetry in your kitchen, look for FSC certified woods, formaldehyde free plywood, as a minimum criteria. You do not need to go with a completely green cabinet if it does not make your heart sing. Again, find your right shade of green, as this is one of your most costly investments in the project.
  • Look for no or low VOC paints and finishes
  • Look for cabinetry manufactured in a 500 mile radius
  • Design cabinetry for universal design, maximum accessibility, or, multi generational use
  • Select products which will be long lasting and durable 
  • Add in a recycling center 



  • Replace old appliances to gain far better energy efficiency
  • Buy energy star appliances
  • Seriously consider induction cooktops - fyi, the major, high end, cookware manufacturers have produced beautiful, new, cookware just for induction cooking. Induction cooking is 50% more efficient than gas or electric.
  • Get pedal or sensor activated faucets



This post on green countertops will continue to expand. Take a look, ask your designer about your options, see samples, and then "beat up" the samples to check durability, as I recommend. You want to make sure your countertop can last decades! And, you really want to love it! 

Find your own path to green. I do think this is an issue that is worthy of increasing your awareness about, absolutely. You know, with all the media focus on global warming in recent years, here's my philosophy. Few of us are scientists, of course. I'm certainly not. But, my own perception of all the attention on this issue sways me to err on the side of increasing my awareness, as well as my knowledge bank, than the other way around. You'll find the way that is right for you. I do need to advise you to beware of greenwashing. Always something bad comes with something good, it seems.

I have just added another blog link section called "Green Design Blogs" and will be adding to these over time.


Tell me about your green philosophy/thoughts, I'd love to hear them! What do you know, what do you think? What can you share?


Green Kitchen Countertops

Let's take a look at what's in the marketplace for green kitchen countertops! There is a surprising selection of materials, many of which are made from recycled materials. One of the principles of designing green is to buy for durability as well as for the long term. To that end, these materials should, ideally, be sampled before purchase, with a variety of products, such as:


red wine
worscestershire sauce
balsamic vinegar
lemon juice

I would also recommend that you use sharp objects on the samples (except wood!) to determine hardness, scratch resistance, and so on. I strongly recommend living with samples under similar kitchen task conditions for a little while. It's important to see how products hold up before you purchase them! Looking at where the products are produced and their transportation path to your home is another consideration which goes along wtih any product under consideration. Following is a good start at a list of green countertop sources.  Shetkastone is a revolutionary product that has a 100% sustainable life cycle. Products that are produced from shetkaSTONE are manufactured from pre and post consumer waste paper and rely on using none of the Earth's overtapped resources. All by-products (waste created in the manufacturing process) can be recycled back into the manufacturing process.

Eleek   Eleek Recycled Aluminum Countertops are designed specifically to fit standard kitchen countertops. They are custom made to your specifications. Frontwrap, sidewrap and backsplash features can be built in, creating a sleek, modern integrated surface.

Lithistone  Environmentally appropriate technologies are combined to create our proprietary mixes, which consist of a natural mineral binder, different grades of sand and stone, recycled material, and organic mineral pigments. Lithistone can be customized to meet virtually any specifications with regards to size, shape, colors, and textural variations.

Squak Mountain Stone  A Fibrous-cement material comprised of recycled paper, recycled glass, coal fly-ash and Portland cement. Material is hand-cast into “slabs” as an alternative to natural or quarried stone. Resembles soapstone or limestones.

Trinity Glass Products   Recycled glass and concrete countertops

Eco-top  EcoTop is composed of a Forest Stewardship Council-certified 50/50 blend of bamboo fiber, a rapidly renewable resource, and recycled wood fiber salvaged from demolition sites. These materials are bound together by a water-based resin formula that is both petroleum-free and VOC-free. Because of this, EcoTop products can earn you up to six points on your next LEED project.

icestone_tuscan_sunset.jpgIceStone  IceStone® durable surfaces are strong like granite, not as porous as marble and heat-resistant like stone. The chemical composition is benign and 99.5% inorganic making it a very safe material from the standpoint of toxicity and fire resistance. Due to its high recycled content and Cradle to Cradle Certification, IceStone® materials can be used towards LEED points.

EnviroGlas  EnviroGLAS Terrazzo is made of post-consumer and post-industrial recycled glass.  Over 40 billion glass bottles are made every year, and 75% of them wind up in landfills.  Many municipalities have stopped collecting glass for recycling due to a lack of market.  We offer a solution to that problem. Each EnviroGLAS product is about 75% recycled glass and 25% binder by volume.

Richlite  Richlite Company, a manufacturer of paper-based countertops, offers a collection of warm and natural-feeling surface materials that breathe new life into the kitchen, bath and office. Richlite’s® unique paper surfaces bring a soft and comfortable ambience to a room that's rarely achieved through cold, hard stone and plastic solid surfaces. It’s made from environmentally sustainable resources and is an attractive, durable, long-lasting material that complements a variety of design tastes.

syndcrete.jpgAvonite  Avonite's solution has been to adhere to the principles of sustainable design - the art of designing and constructing building which comply with the principles of economic, social and ecological sustainability and conservation. Widely acknowledged as an innovator in solid surfacing, Avonite Surfaces has leveraged that excellence to create ecologically sound products which are cost-effective and elegant.

 Alkemi  Made from 60% post industrial aluminum waste and resins. It is strong and exquisitely beautiful to the eye. Surfaces may sanded and buffed to a matte or high gloss.

Vetrazzo  All of the glass used in Vetrazzo is recycled, and it makes up about 85% of the total material. Most of the glass comes from curbside recycling programs. Other glass comes from windows, dinnerware, stemware, windshields, stained glass, laboratory glass, reclaimed glass from building demolition, traffic lights and other unusual sources. Every Vetrazzo surface has its own history. Due to its high recycled content, using Vetrazzo can help your project qualify for LEED certification. 

Pine%20Wood%20Species1new.jpgCraft-Art Company  Wood countertops and reclaimed wood. Eight new reclaimed wood countertop options are now available from Craft-Art.  The use of beautiful wood from the 1800s and 1900s, eco-friendly and functional, supports the goal to recycle the Earth’s resources as part of the sustainable building movement. Barn Red Oak, Chestnut, Beech, Heart Pine, Cypress, Barn White Oak.

Endura Wood Products  Endura Wood Products offers a wide variety of certified and rediscovered woods and wood products for homes and business. We believe that sourcing and offering only certified and rediscovered forest products is the best way to insure that our children can still see -- and use -- both the forest and the trees.

Syndcrete  Natural cement based, pre cast product, green/sustainable, high recycled content, chemically inert, no off-gassing, aggregates: post consumer bottle glass, tempered glass, wood chips, metal shavings, shells, more. Contributes from 2-8 LEED points. 

Bio Glass  Glass is made of almost 100% crystalline silica in the form of quartz containing 70-72% weight % silicon dioxide. Bio-Glass consists of 100% recycled glass. Bio-Glass colors depend on recycled components (hollow glass, tableware, and/or factory shards)

Caeserstone  CaesarStone is the first and only quartz surface to earn the ISO 14001 Certification for its compliance and commitment to the best green manufacturing processes. The company is committed to creating a better quality environment and is implementing procedures to prevent pollution and waste reduction at its manufacturing facility. In addition, CaesarStone is also certfied ISO 9002 (Quality Management standard) and NSF 51, is LEED (new commercial construction and major renovation projects) compliant and sports the Good Housekeeping Seal.

VitraStone  We fabricate eco friendly sinks and surfaces made from a special blend of ceramic cement, fly ash, and recycled glass. VitraStone has a soft satin finish with endless color and design options. We offer a selection of standard sink and countertop systems along with a custom design service. We are available nation wide and will ship anywhere. For residential and commercial applications, VitraStone is a smart choice.

Take a look at this article on green countertops, very interesting.  I hope to work toward seeing and handling all of these products personally and will report back as I do, as well as letting you know about other materials I come across. Please let me know if YOU have come across a green countertop material! Would you consider a green countertop product?

Sustainable Design and Living

empathy.jpgMore to think about today! When I went to Copenhagen in August, I visited the Danish Design Center. There is a permanent exhibition of a FLOWmarket, a market, divided into a mindset devoted to the examination of three categories of sustainable growth:



environmental flow



A holistic point of view and movement toward sustainable growth needs to encompass these three categories.  More from the Danish Design Center:

"Sustainable growth is all about generating growth on more than just an economic and a technological level. Indeed, throughout the 20th century we have witnessed how a one-dimensional view on growth has resulted in a wide range of imbalances on 3

Man’s relation to himself (rising stress, depression, and obesity curves, addiction, eating disorders, information overload, “always-on-line”-syndromes, symptom treatment etc.)

Man’s relation to society (over-consumption, increasing violence, xenophobia, global inequality, cultural rectification, conflicts over resources, commercialisation etc.)

Man’s relation to nature (pollution, agricultural toxics, factory farming, decreasing bio-diversity etc.)

Phenomena that individually and together bear witness to an unhealthy development of our societies that we can and must seek to reverse - or at least reduce - and push in a more holistic direction."

Please take a look at the flikr slideshow of this exhibition, I found it to be very thought provoking and still do. And, here is another point of view from Apartment Therapy Green obout this exhibit. Take a look. 

How can this thinking be translated to remodeling one's kitchen? Actions can be taken toward thinking holistically about a project. From donating or selling one's cabinets rather than disposing of them, to seeking products made within a 500 mile radius, to searching for environmentally friendly products, and so much more, to be talked about in the coming days and beyond. I just wanted to share this insightful exhibition with you.


Green Kitchen Design Week!

I'm excited to start this week out on a green note! This week I will be talking about green design as it relates to kitchen design and general principles of the many ways there are to think green.

central%20park.jpgI'm happy today, to introduce you to Jeff Holloway, CKD, a force behind the new blog, K+BB Green.  It's a blog about greening our kitchens and baths. I'm late to the party introducing Jeff, although he and I have been talking since the summer! Busy schedules intervened, and I chose to wait to introduce his blog until after he attended the Green + Design Conference to hear his thoughts on the subject and connect to what he learned.

It's a blog I certainly will be watching with great interest, especially since we are both kitchen designers. I have been very remiss in writing about green kitchen design, and that will now change. There is so much to say about kitchens, other than green related topics, but, I feel privileged to have my blog as a platform to promote responsible issues such as this, and I will do much more on this issue. In that regard, I will be attending my third seminar on green kitchen design soon. I'm finding that the more I know, the more I care about the issue.

Here are a few posts about the recent conference that Jeff wrote. First is about The Lazy Environmentalist.  And, another post on first impressions.

Here's what Jeff wrote to me as a general introduction to his blog, K+BB Green:

Time To Rethink Green, by Jeff Holloway, CKD

The design community is too focused on the products of green. This feel-good approach is not going to be effective over time. Product choices are driven by trends, trends are fashion and fashion goes out of style.
Specifying green products into our designs is a great start, but designers should focus more on the actual issues that have created awareness for sustainable design and then implement products and practices that can contribute to a solution. There is a lot more to this than choosing sustainable flooring, cabinets and countertops.
The commercial building industry gets it. The LEED guidelines that they use to help design their buildings work. Instead of requiring the use of certain products or even construction techniques, the program sets certain goals for buildings. For example, a building gains points for achieving a certain percentage of water or energy reduction compared to non-green buildings. So architects and designers are forced to look at the project as a whole rather than the individual parts specified.  We can learn a lot if we look at what LEED has accomplished.
Green design is much more than compact florescent lights and the latest and greatest countertop materials fabricated from recycled material. Designers should be specifying green products for some other reason then the proverbial “because we think it’s the right thing to do.” We need to educate ourselves about the why and then implement a plan that helps us design environments that keep our clients healthy while conserving our resources.



Green Kitchens - Little By Little

Last Monday and Tuesday, I attended a series of workshops, presented by Quality Custom Cabinetry, whose custom cabinetry I use in many of my kitchens. They make a wonderful product Not only that, the entire (and I mean entire) culture of this company is something special. They will go to the very fringes of their ability to accommodate their designers. And, they will do so happily and willingly. I really love this company, and have been carrying their products since 1997.

I'm not so sure Quality would want me to shout this from the rooftops, but, I learned that they employ a Chaplain full time to attend to the needs of all of their employees, in the factory and the office building, complete with his own cubicle.  He is there to be called on as needed. Quite impressive, I thought.

One of the workshops (to Quality's credit) was on green kitchen design and thinking green, as is being implemented by Quality in their products. They referred us to and we went around the room and talked about how we are making changes to green thinking in our homes and businesses, a good start to the workshop, and here were some of what people are doing (I'm in there too!)

  • recycling
  • changing light bulbs to flourescents
  • turning lights off
  • saving energy other ways in the home
  • composing
  • recycling
  • carpooling
  • walking or biking to work
  • learning about green issues
  • talking to clients about green products
It is interesting to note that 15% of homes now include green specifications. To me, that's a WOW! In the residential kitchen and bath realm, demand for green products has yet to take hold. We are seeing designs becoming more "natural" in styling, with more interest in texture, natural products, clean lines, clearly a change from recent years. I always ask my clients if they are interested in green design and green products for the kitchen and bath, and have a prominent (green text) section on my main website about green kitchen design. I do not see mainstream thinking yet, in terms of green kitchen and bath design, at least not in my geographical area. But, it's coming, I know that.

Quality Custom Cabinetry is seriously, and always, looking at finding better ways to produce a green product. Much of their plywood is now Pure Bond, formaldehyde free. Quality is the first company to partner with Columbia Forest Products. Quality's finishes on their cabinetry are still solvent based, although the VOCs are continuously dropping, as they find new ways to make a more environmentally friendly finish. They only use FSC certified wood materials as well, guaranteeing that the wood comes from a certified well managed forest, which comes at a premium cost.

I was impressed and surprised at the continuous research being done to create, if not a completely green product at this point, then, a product which incorporates ever increasing green attributes. And, in my world, it's admirable, and I'm glad to see this very strong interest.

When I later took a tour of the factory (see the slide show here) I saw stacks and stacks of Pure Bond plywood, which was nice to see it in a big way.

One more interesting tidbit: The speaker at the green workshop noted that it is sort of a paradox that, living alongside a large Amish community for these many years, with their strong beliefs and a self sustaining and conserving lifestyle, Quality recognizes that perhaps their Amish neighbors have more valuable insight on living responsibly than previously thought...
 Enjoy the slide show of the factory, the people working there (so many women!) AND, I cannot close without showing you my pictures of the Quality trucks and vans (one of each in these images) which has a kitchen I designed a few years back, emblazoned (I must use that word) on the sides! I was not thinking of this, when our tour crossed over, via the parking lot, from the factory to the tour of the office building and WOW, there they were!



Green Kitchens - Consuming to Conserve?

Very interesting article in The New York Times, Buying Into The Green Movement. This piece talks about our eagerness to literally "buy into" the green movement, causing critics to question the fundamental issue...are we "consuming to conserve", thus, this line of thinking being a paradox? Are we eager to buy new green products, products, whether green or not green, which may not truly be needed at all, thus, creating an unnecessary environmental impact?

I can't advise new homeowners whose kitchen is 40 years old and damaged, to forego renovating their kitchen. I am not of that philosophy, although some may be. To me, THAT is an oxymoron. However, there are ways to think a little deeper as to how one can be green, with, or even without, the use of green products.  

Chelsea%20Kitchen%202a.jpgLet's take new kitchen cabinetry. A client may have an interest in designing with "green" products. One issue, which has a huge environmental impact, of course, is fuel. A homeowner may want to consider if they really want to order green cabinetry from a fabulous and highly styled eco-sensitive cabinet manufacturer, their single order being trucked in from Washington State, if they live in New York.  Is it wiser to buy cabinetry within a radius of a few nearby states, which will be delivered in a truck along with other orders for multiple local deliveries? This is one approach to thinking green in another way.

And, what about countertops? I know at least one of my suppliers will make wood kitchen countertops, which can be shipped along with the kitchen cabinetry. I also carry wood countertops that come from Atlanta, Georgia, and from far away Denmark (some woods which talk of being from sustainable sources-except for the jet fuel transporting it from one place in the world to another.) Likewise, slate countertops which I use on occasion, originating from Vermont, are relatively close by and intrinsically eco friendly.

Can a kitchen be designed in a green way to use less cabinetry but still maximize storage? Absolutely. Another way to "think green."  I did it in my own kitchen in some very clever ways, which I will describe in more detail down the road.

I am open to all ways of lowering our environmental impact, including the use of products which, while they may not be green according to one set of specifications, may indeed be green(er) than previously thought, when compared to how they are transported to their destination, how they are designed, or according to other alternative ways of defining "green."

Other ways of thinking about the green movement and consumer behavior are presented in this article. I thought it was very interesting. 


Green Kitchens - My First Post About The Subject

Up to this point in this blog, (although the major color is green on this page) I have not addressed designing green kitchens, creating a green kitchen life within whatever kitchen you have now, and green kitchen design issues overall. I am a person, in general, who is open to new ways of thinking, always, and this issue must be addressed.

green leavesWhile I am not a treehugger, I do hear the drum beat about the importance of taking care of our planet, our natural resources, and doing our part. At this point, I am probably more "Lite Green", as I have heard the term used, describing those who incorporate some form of green living into their lives, where they can. That would probably be me.

I've consciously cut down on electrical usage, recycle, bought up lots of flourescent bulbs, admittedly not for everywhere in the home, and try to be aware of my energy usage. Sometimes I am forgetful. My husband is even more on board with this than I am. Central ParkMy idealistic son is involved in this movement in a very big way, having made real lifestyle changes, and of course, telling us how we have (while not using the term he used) screwed up the planet and now he has to pay for it. He's mostly right, isn't he...

Some months ago, I began to ask my clients, as well as having inserted a small section about green kitchen design on my website, if they are interested in green products for their kitchens, and if so, we WILL go down that road. Most clients say they are not, but if there is an interesting product that appeals to them aesthetically, and IF it has proven durability, that is actually a huge issue I am hearing, then it's something they would like to hear about.

This journal entry is an open call to manufacturers to send me samples of your green products as I'd love to evaluate green products in person as opposed to just reading about them. I will have that opportunity at the KBIS show in Las Vegas in May to take a look at what's new and green and will report back. However, a quick look, or a read about a product doesn't give me much to go on. I do need to take a closer look if I am to go down that road with my clients and with my readers.
But, the paradox remains, and here's the thing...with many new types of materials and products coming out under the green umbrella, when one does a kitchen, at ANY cost, whether it is $50,000, complete with construction, cabinetry, countertops, appliances, or up to $200,000++ which many of my clients do, it is fair for all of my clients to want to know...will this product last? IMG_4429aa.jpgIs this finish durable? Having read of some green products not wearing well after having been in the marketplace for a few years, this becomes a very real concern for me, one who recommends products to those who are doing a, possibly, once in a lifetime project.  I take this issue very seriously.

In any case, I wanted to put down some preliminary thoughts on the subject as a first post, so you know where I stand on this issue. I am sure I will be showing you products that I come across, as looking interesting. More than that, I cannot guarantee (meaning promises on how long something will last or how durable it might be). I hope, when I go to KBIS in May, in Las Vegas (no, I'm not telling you what I'm doing there after the show ends every day, you know what they say...) I will find that the market has matured somewhat and that there will be more reliable information and time tested information on green products of all types for the kitchen. As cabinetry is the largest expense for a kitchen, at least for my clients, this is an area which concerns me in a big way. Countertops equally, as they REALLY tell the story in the short term in regard to durability. IMG_4437aa.jpgI look forward to becoming familiar with more and more green kitchen products.

So, this is where I fall out on this issue. It's important, I'm very interested, but also cautious as with any new product. Soon, I'll be collecting green websites and blogs for a separate category of links on green kitchen design in my sidebar. I welcome open discussions on this issue as well, plus, any information my readers wish to give to me.

This post was actually precipitated by an article I found in Oregon's Register Guard website. I also found some excellent green kitchen tips from The Jaded Vegetarian, at Green Living, and at the Green Home Guide for starters. I just subscribed to their newsletter. Update: I see you also need to go to my friend Peggy's blog, as she has good stuff on green kitchens: kitchen-exchange.

Images taken by me in Central Park!