Kitchen & Bath Archive - Max Design's Interior Design Blog
I've recently worked on some kitchen and bath projects that have afforded me the opportunity to use a variety of materials in order to create some very unique looks.
One project, a 1980s home, involved updating four bathrooms that featured combinations of rose, blue, green and white. The client desired a toned-down, subtle, natural look for each of the bathrooms.
For the largest, a combination of botticino marble with beautiful peach and beige tones and a crackled tile in the softest of beige/peach created a sophisticated and light guest bathroom. Lighting was updated from simple Hollywood bulbs to strip lighting with soft, frosted glass and polished nickel accents to coordinate with new polished nickel fixtures.
The smaller bathrooms featured variations on travertine, with fantastic mosaic and pebble accents, and beautiful traverine or granite countertops. The look was transformed from cute and dated to tailored and natural.
A recent kitchen renovation centered around the color blue given the client's fondness for the color. Grey/blue slate tiles were laid on the floor in interesting patterns and size variations, and soft wedgewood blue cabinets with beadboard detailing contributed to a casual feeling. We used Blue Pearl granite on the countertops. Sounds like alot of blue but the end result was nothing short of stunning, as the different visual layers all came together in a very subtle way.
Sunny yellow and white backsplash tile accents added a cheery note, and pendant lighting with yellow/amber colored shades added whimsy. Even on dark, rainy days, the new kitchen is bright and upbeat as a result of the fun color palette and plenty of general and task lighting.
Here are some of the tiles that we used for the baths. Beautiful!
And here are some selections we used for the kitchens:
Recently, I was pointed to Justice Design Group
by an electrician that I was working with to specify exterior lighting for a home renovation. I'd seen Justice products before, but I'd not had an opportunity to use them.
Well, I've found Justice to be a great example of excellence in design and quality. The materials used and the finishes available for both exterior and interior lighting are top notch. When looking for exterior sconces for front and side entries, I was presented with choices from ADA compliant fixtures to "dark sky" (environmentally and wildlife friendly downlight only) fixtures, and choices in both metal and ceramic construction.
For interior products, the families of chandeliers, bowls, pendants, wall sconces, bath/vanity lighting and freestanding fixtures are cohesive and well made, featuring hand-cast ceramics and hand-finished metals. The array of ceramic shades available, in many appealing shapes and designs (or "impressions"), reflects Justice Design Group's fine aesthetics and commitment to quality.
Architects, designers and contractors alike are drawn to Justice Design Groups fine selections and materials. Their website is easy to use and they have a showroom finder on their site for locating a showroom near you.
Disclaimer: I receive absolutely no compensation of any kind from Justice Design Group.
This product has been available for a couple of years, but just recently caught my eye when I was researching fixtures for a bathroom renovation project that required a contemporary direction.
The Kohler "WaterTile
" shower head and body spray line features a vertical wall installation that ties in quite nicely with tile, and also features a fully adjustable, pivoting spray face.
The "WaterTile" is available in a wide range of Kohler finishes, and works well with many of their fixtures, especially the more chunky or angular fixtures such as the Memoirs, Pinstripe or Margaux lines, thereby offering a terrific way to introduce a contemporary element to a bathroom project, whether in an entirely contemporary setting or a more traditional one.
The "WaterTile" line also features a round body spray option
, which is installed virtually flush to the wall, is adjustable up and down to alter the spray angle, and coordinates well with some of the Kohler round fittings such as the Forte or Coralais lines.
I love how the WaterTile shower head and body sprays can be so easily integrated into shower wall tile, the clean lines of the products' designs, and the wide range of finish options that are available, making it a great solution for many bath renovation or new construction projects.
I recently gained heightened awareness of the importance of universal design and aging in place through the travails of a loved one. Although I've designed numerous kitchens and baths with handicap access and other universal features, the importance of these features really hit home when I cared for my mom, who sustained a vertebral compression fracture and recuperated at home. Pain from her injury limited her mobility for many weeks.
Simple construction details such as thresholds and door swing directions were suddenly obstacles, and basic items such as throw rugs became hazards to be navigated and ultimately moved. After a long walk to the bathroom via a lengthy upstairs hallway, Mom was faced with the challenge of stepping into the shower, and then keeping herself upright with the help of a shower chair and temporary grab bars.
I wished every day that she had a bedroom suite that included a bathroom, to facilitate night time bathroom use, reduce the walk to the bathroom, and to make life easier for her in general. I also wished she had a built-in shower seat that would have provided a secure and stable place to rest.
A comfort height toilet proved much easier to use than a standard height toilet, as did a 34" high vanity that allowed for less bending and less pain.
Stairs were at first impossible, and then a huge challenge until Mom was stronger and steady enough to take them on. This was a big change for someone who had mowed her own lawn with a push mower right up until her injury. Although she did not use a wheelchair at home, use of a walker brought our attention to the value of adequate door widths to enable ease of movement, and to the fact that even the lowest of thresholds can seem like an obstacle lurking to trip someone up.
Fortunately, all of the medical offices and facilities we visited were well designed for handicap access - we found that almost all of her medical appointments were quite easy to handle due to thoughtful and practical design features. We did use a wheelchair for medical appointments to make getting around easier. One doctor's waiting room was very small and provided challenges for navigating with a wheelchair, but that was the exception.
Here are some important universal design features:
- Single-story living or a first floor bedroom/bathroom suite.
- Walk-in / roll-in showers with no or very low thresholds, and a built in shower seat.
- Transfer seats for bathtubs.
- Hand sprays in showers or tubs.
- Raised vanity heights to facilitate less bending over.
- Comfort height toilets.
- Openings below kitchen counter space and/or lowered counter space to allow wheelchair or walker.
- Floor interest created by tile or hardwood patterns.
For more information about universal design, I highly recommend the North Carolina State University's Center for Universal Design
Built-in Shower Seating with a Handheld Spray Unit
With the renewed focus on "small is good"
in residential construction and renovation, galley kitchens come to mind.
In condos, apartments and homes with smaller footprints, galley kitchens can serve as wonderful spaces to incorporate first rate design elements without breaking the bank. Designs can range from urban sophistication to simple Shaker style, and can really highlight the materials used for basic elements:
Floors - Natural stone or ceramic/porcelain tile, hardwood, bamboo, cork. Hardwood or tile patterns can accent and define the space to play up the geometry and individuality of a small area. Conversely, if desired, material can flow from adjacent rooms to make small spaces seem less confined and to create a connection.
Countertops - Natural stone, man-made surfaces, concrete, recycled glass products, butcher block. In small quantities, countertop materials can seem really special and are fun to light up with accent lighting.
Backsplashes - Ceramic/porcelain, natural stone tile, metal, glass, mirror. A great place for creative and specialized designs. The fairly small area of backsplash in a galley kitchen is a terrific opportunity to give a "wow" factor.
Cabinets - Light to dark, simple to ornate. Tall upper cabinets, often in simple styles, make the most of galley space and unify the kitchen.
Ceilings - Decorative paint colors or treatments. Imagine the possibilities of murals or faux treatments on the ceiling.
Walls - Subdued or dramatic, paint or wallpaper. The wall color will wrap up and define the overall results.
Lighting - Ceiling fixtures, rail lighting systems, and pendant lighting. Selections will accent the overall look, whether it's retro, contemporary, country, or something else. Remember undercabinet lighting for tasks at countertop.
Galley kitchens may or may not include windows - advantages, of course, being the natural light provided and the openness and connection to the outdoors, and cons being that you lose cabinet or storage space.
Galley kitchens without windows can be streamlined and very tailored looking. For galley kitchens with windows, the windows can be left untreated for simplicity, or can be treated with shutters, roman shades, valances, or similar treatments that minimize clutter.
Powder Room and small bathroom design similarly offers great outlets for creativity and focus upon materials and finishes. Depending upon materials, colors and finishes, powder rooms can be dressy and dramatic, whimsical, tailored - you name it.
The key to small kitchen and bath design is attention to detail - let each element matter, and coordinate the elements and materials to work together to produce cohesive, beautiful results.
One of the most important aspects of kitchen and bath design or renovation projects is lighting. All of the other elements of a great kitchen or bath - cabinetry, plumbing fixtures, countertops, tile, paint or wallpaper - will not live up to their potential without good lighting. Kitchen tasks are much easier with good lighting, and bathroom lighting is especially important at the vanity/mirror area. Consideration for optimal lighting at different times of day is important as well.
Layered lighting for either kitchen or bath is an optimal solution. General, or ambient lighting can be provided by recessed and/or surface-mounted ceiling fixtures. It's important to avoid shadows at main task areas in the kitchen, so the placement of recessed lighting in relation to cabinets, countertops, and islands is crucial. General lighting is enhanced with task lighting for key areas.
For example, at the kitchen sink or at island/bar areas, pendant lighting or rail lighting can add just the right amount of additional illumination. The many varied options available for pendant or rail lighting present a wonderful opportunity to add interest or fun to the overall decor.
Undercabinet lighting is very useful for food prep, clean-up and other tasks at countertop areas, and can be virtually invisible in LED, line voltage or low voltage options.
To avoid shadows and dark zones in the bathroom, vanity lighting or wall sconces in addition to basic ceiling lighting are important, and offer great design options. The selections for vanity lights and wall sconces are almost endless, from simple, super low budget options to high end choices with wonderful metal and glass finishes. The coordination of plumbing fixtures, light fixtures and cabinet hardware will take the bath design to a professional, finished look.
One of the most useful articles I've read on bathrooom lighting
is from "This Old House" and I refer to it occasionally when working on bath design projects since it addresses not only types of vanity and shower/bath lighting, but bulb types, dimmers, and safety as well. It's a great summary of the key aspects of lighting.
In this sluggish economy, some people are still moving ahead with full kitchen and bath renovations that they'd planned on and for which they'd allocated funds. I've recently worked on some great kitchen and bath projects, both new construction and renovations. I've also worked with a couple of kitchen design clients that are quite budget conscious, but which have included new tile, lighting, paint and wallpaper, counter tops and cabinet hardware - not full blown renovations, but the results were beautiful nonetheless!
Tile can be one of the most cost effective materials that a client can purchase since tile can dramatically improve a kitchen's appearance. Basic tiles can be combined with accent squares in metal or glass for a great new look at affordable prices. I've had terrific results with Panaria Tile - lots of great colors and flexible sizes to allow for creative designs on a minimal budget.
New lighting can freshen up a dated kitchen or bath. Pendant lighting and rail systems add a lot of personality and color. There are so many great systems out there. Some of my favorites are Alfa Lighting, Tech Lighting and Besa Lighting, as they feature wonderful metal finishes, plus gorgeous glass selections for the pendants or directional lighting.
It's important to set aside room in the budget for key items, and lighting is one of them. I've seen clients with fairly restricted budgets fall in love with great lighting such as Hubbarton Forge, and they realize that high quality elements can make all of the dfference between modest and spectacular results.
Bathroom renovations often allow the use of stone remnants that can be purchased for very reasonable prices. At large stone yards, remnant choices and options are usually quite numerous.
Even new cabinet hardware can freshen up a kitchen or bath, especially when combined with new tile or a new paint color.
Here are links to some of the aforementioned products and vendors:
I recently had the pleasure of shopping for tile at the Ann Sacks showroom. Every time I’m there, I find something new and inspiring. From glass to metal to natural stone, each product is top of the line.
Lately, I’ve been admiring all of the fabulous glass tiles from Ann Sacks and Oceanside Glasstile. The wide range of colors and finishes from clear, sea glass like colors to dark, stormy, metallic colors is amazing. The Lake Garda
wall and floor tiles are really cool too.
The Lake Garda tile comes in 40 different matte colors and in a range of sizes from 2x2 and 12x12. Just beautiful!
I’m looking forward to using glass tiles on a couple of kitchen and bath renovations projects soon, for both flooring and wall tile in the bathroom spaces, and for backsplash accents on the kitchen job.
One would think that glass tiles for floors would be out of the question, but the Lake Garda tiles and some of the Oceanside Glasstile mosaics are manufactured for residential use, creating a new and exciting way to use glass tile.
Make sure you check out Oceanside's www.glasstile.com
pages. The Glasstile products are made from silica sand and recycled glass material, are very strong and impervious to water, and can be used for a wide variety of commercial and residential applications. Simply gorgeous!
Over the years, I've developed a great appreciation for designers in specialized areas - for example kitchen and bath designers, and lighting designers. Their expertise in their respective fields adds a great deal to the end results and overall success of a project, and should be recognized as a valuable asset when putting together project details. Rather than trying to "do it all" on a project, interior and architectural designers can benefit by bringing in a consultant who can provide design solutions for different aspects of a project.
I've highly enjoyed working with these specialized designers. For example, when working on a kitchen design project, I generally do the 'prep work' with clients to arrive at the overall look, including cabinet style and finish, countertop material selection, pendant or accent lighting selections and the like, and I then turn to the specialists to design exact layouts and dimensions. Tools such as 2020 Cabinet software and others facilitate the kitchen/bath designer's work and allow quick studies of variations in designs and dimensions (for example doors vs. drawers, cabinet interior features, and more).
With regard to lighting design, although designers usually receive a fair amount of education, and can stay current on innovations and trends, I've found it useful and valuable to consult with lighting designers who generally know products inside-out, who can evaluate spaces for most effective lighting, and who provide that extra level of expertise to assure that a projects' end result will be completely satisfactory for clients.
Once, as a fledgling designer, I was involved in a project that included a large amount of valuable original art in a gallery area of a client's home. The client requested that the design firm that I worked for bring in a lighting consultant to properly light the art. The head designer in my firm insisted that he was capable of specifying and implementing the right type of lighting, and that a lighting designer wasn't necessary. The client went along with the designer in good faith, but the end results when the art went up were less than spectacular and the client was very unhappy. It was an expensive learning experience for all involved, as lighting was removed and replaced, and ceilings and faux painted walls had to be repaired and refinished. Ultimately, it was the client's decision not to call in a lighting specialist, but the designer played a large part in that decision.
While it's important for designers to research and learn as much as possible about specialized areas of design in order to keep current with the latest technologies and trends and to be able to converse in an informed manner with clients and specialists, designers can often gain a great deal by collaborating with qualified experts.