Nowadays, we are seeing the celebration of the pantry (and adaptations of it) and it is finally getting the accolades it deserves. With soapstone or marble shelving, beautiful soft-closing drawers, great lighting, and plenty of space to stock your spices, canned or dry goods, it is a highlight of many new or renovated homes.
Being in this business, we see a lot of different trends and “looks”; some aren’t able to hang around too long (remember shag carpets?) but others are deserving of the spotlight and should be given their due attention. One of them is “living finishes” or “organic finishes”, for plumbing fixtures.
After hearing about faucets of this type a couple of times from clients, I wanted to know more about this product. What I’ve learned is that sinks or faucets with this finish are beautiful, wear well and add a lot of character to your space.
Unlike traditional plumbing fixtures, pieces with living finishes are un-sealed or un-lacquered and are allowed to change over the years and with use, allowing a gorgeous patina to be revealed (in other words, oxidation). When talking about these fixtures, it is referring to any metal, usually copper, brass, bronze or nickel silver (nickel is sometimes considered non-living but will actually patina over time). Stainless steel is typically considered non-living as well, though the surfaces can dull or change over time depending on how they are cared for.
So, what’s actually happening to the metal? Well, over time, the original layers of metal will show through, depending on the application and environment that it’s being used in. Everyday things like humidity, cleaning solutions, water hardness, salt air, etc can bring out the patina to your sink and faucet and really bring out its beauty over time. And since it’s “living”, it will continue to change through the years, bringing you different shades of patina and lots of character over its lifetime.
To care for a living finish is actually pretty simple: soap and water – a good scrubbing here and there will keep it looking great and will allow the patina process to continue. If you are finding that you aren’t crazy about the changes and you have a sink that is copper or brass, you can find a cleaner for those materials and revert the patina right back to its original state. Of course, you’ll need to do this every few months to fight the oxidation process.
Next time you are in the market for plumbing fixtures, give these a glance. Think of them like you see yourself, aging gracefully and only getting better over the years!
Design & Detail Spotlight
Kitchens: Form follows function
Louis Sullivan a 19th Century Chicago based Architect held the belief that “form follows function”, in essence saying that the shape and design of a building should be directly related to or even dictated by it’s intended function. This axiom has become a cornerstone of many design & architectural firms principles.
A kitchen designer often takes this same approach to designing your kitchen, creating a space that functions as well as it looks and is catered to the way the space will be used. After all what good is a beautifully designed space if it doesn’t function well? From the overall layout, inserts and unique cabinet modules to varying operation of cabinet doors and drawers, all of the so-called bells and whistles contribute to the increased functionality of a new kitchen.
Deep drawers instead of cabinet doors.
The full extension soft close drawers allow for easy access to all of its contents without having to open a door bend down and reach in.
The old kitchen work triangle concept dictated that you should keep your fridge, sink and cooktop in close proximity to each other, but not everyone uses their kitchen the same way and with kitchens becoming larger and more of a social gathering spot homeowners are breaking the rules. This client from our Plymouth Summer Retreat project opted for two islands, one with seating and storage (the gathering spot LEFT) and the other a more utilitarian application with the cooktop, prep sink beverage center and ice maker door (RIGHT). This keeps the prep and cooking mess away from the island seating area.
Fridge Drawers & Microwave Garages
This Fridge (below left) has a main upper door and two lower drawers that are individually temperature controlled, great for storing items you use often and want quick access to or to allow younger members of the family to be able to help themselves to healthy snacks. Also pictured are some handy appliance garages, in this case to house the microwave but really these top closing “garages” could be used to hide any appliance you’d prefer not to look at on a daily basis. They keep them out of sight but still readily accessible when needed.
Food Storage & Paper Towel Dispensers
Storing your potatoes & onions and paper towels are not what most think of when creating their dream kitchen, in fact these details can often be overlooked. Good design however will factor in even the little things that can add to the overall functionality of the space. The client from our Lincoln Kitchen & Interior project preferred not to have her counter cluttered with a paper towel dispenser and this handy dispensing drawer located just beside the sink solved the dilemma. You can even store additional rolls behind the main dispenser for easy change out to a new roll!
The metal mesh drawers & cabinet doors allow for storage of items like potatoes & onions that would benefit from some additional ventilation but the feature also adds a unique decorative element.
Want to incorporate some of these clever solutions into your next project? Contact us and we will pair you with one of our trusted Kitchen design partners to get started in planning your dream kitchen!
What is a Linear Drain you ask? Well they go by many other names including trough drain, channel drain & slot drain all of which are correct and simply refer to the shape of the grate & drain body. Instead of a round or square drain grate in a central location where all areas of the shower floor are pitched toward the drain; a “linear” drain is linear in shape and the attached drain body is a trough that channels water to one central exit port using a slope in only one direction. Linear drains can be installed in various locations in a shower but the most common is at either an outside wall or at the shower entry point. Drains of this type have been used in commercial applications and overseas for decades but have emerged more prominently on the US residential market in the last decade or so.
We’ve noticed that requests for linear drains are on the rise and they have been incorporated into many of our recent projects. Curbless showers are also gaining in popularity whether it be for better access as a homeowner ages in place or to fit a more modern and streamlined aesthetic. These two features are often combined although it is possible to have one without the other; you can opt for the look of a linear drain but still want the peace of mind that a shower curb brings in terms of containing water in the showering area. There are also alternative “curbless” or “level entry” drain systems that employ a standard center drain but are installed recessed into a subfloor to be able to eliminate the curb. Depending on the reasons for wanting either a linear drain or curbless shower entry a number of factors need to be considered to determine if they’re right for your home & project.
Many homeowners main objective in selecting a linear drain is to achieve a “look”. They perhaps saw one featured in a home design magazine or website and fell in love with the sleek modern feel. Some though, have more practical objectives like handicap accessibility or reducing tripping hazards. Whatever the end goal; there are pros and cons to consider.
- Option for Curbless Shower entry
Although linear drains don’t need to be installed in a level entry application, they do allow for this. Do note however that not all linear drains are recommended to be installed at a level entry point, check with your drain supplier & manufacturer for recommended applications of your specific drain.
- Option for multiple drain exit ports
Linear drains also allow for additional drain ports within the same drain body. Some states require additional drains by code if the gallon per minute rate of water flowing from multiple fixtures exceeds a predetermined amount. When a shower has multiple heads & body sprays etc. a second drain outlet is usually required. Having two standard drains is typically undesirable but the trough design of a linear drain allows for multiple exit points to be installed in line with the same main trunk, creating the look of only one linear style drain.
- Nicer on the feet
Because linear drains are typically installed at the edge of the shower floor it allows for a clear footpath at the showering area and makes it so the person doesn’t have to continually step on the drain underfoot.
- Design Flexibility
In a standard shower the floor tile is usually required to be smaller to be able to contour to a floor that pitches in multiple directions toward a central drain. With a linear drain the floor need only pitch in one direction, this allows for a larger format tile to be installed on the shower floor if desired. In some cases even continuing the main bathroom floor right into the shower if installed without a curb. No longer limited by the shower slope you can choose a tile floor of any size and shape meaning the design possibilities are endless! A variety of drain grates are also available on the market today in multiple patterns and finishes to suit any style.
- Higher Cost
While a standard drain is pretty nominal in cost, a linear drain or any level entry drain system can multiply that cost significantly in some cases reaching in to the thousands when all material & labor costs are factored in. The product itself is more expensive and typically the installation, prep work & coordination is bit higher as well.
- Installation Limitations
Because of the size and requirements to install a linear drain you may be limited on where it can be installed. When working within an existing structure for a renovation the sub floor material, depth of the joists and path for running a drain line all factor into the feasibility of such drains. This style of drain in general is much more difficult to incorporate into an existing structure as a retrofit. Even in a new construction the placement and planning will require much forethought, sometimes well before the engineering and framing phases commence.
- Longer lead times & added planning time
Because of all of the additional planning involved and the custom nature of some linear drains or level entry drain systems the coordination time is longer and products are often custom ordered with longer lead times to arrive in. Be sure to notify your building professionals far enough in advance so all details can be worked out and products ordered in time for the rough plumbing phase of your project.
- Reduced Water Retention
when installing a curbless or level entry drain of any type there is an increased risk of water escaping the showering area. Simply put, water doesn’t always flow where you want it, splashing is inevitable and drains sometimes get clogged. A shower with a curb would at least retain any backup but a curbless shower would not, causing water to migrate to other areas of the bathroom.
Whatever your reason for considering a curbless or linear drain there’s much to research & discuss before pulling the trigger. Every project is different and although one bathroom in a home may be a good candidate for a linear drain , another in the same home may not, so speak with your qualified building or remodeling professional well in advance to discuss your options and allow ample time to plan for a proper installation.
Design & Detail Spotlight
Living in a coastal community as we do here in the Northeast means that many design details in a home are catered to the coastal lifestyle. Whether you are planning for your main residence or a summer home, any home in proximity to a beach is often going to have (or want) an outdoor shower. It’s a matter of practicality really; the comings and goings from the beach can get messy and having a space to rinse off before entering the home means less of that sand and grit make it into your living space. Plus taking a shower out in the open air with a view of the sky & stars is just plain AWESOME. If you’ve never had the opportunity to do it then you’re missing out, but back to the topic at hand. When planning for an outdoor shower why not take it a step further and amp up that functionality ten-fold with an indoor/outdoor bathroom.
While not a new idea this one is definitely one we don’t see too often. This design detail was incorporated into one of our Plymouth Whole House Renovation projects that architect Jennifer Drain of Archiplicity worked with the homeowner to develop the layout that essentially combines an outdoor shower with an adjacent half bath accessible from the showering area on the exterior. I have to admit that it’s not too often you see an exterior door that leads directly into a bathroom but in this case it’s just pure genius. Let’s face it when you are gearing up for a shower there are inevitably other areas of the bathroom that are needed.
This particular home has the toilet and sink portion of the bath on the interior and the mahogany enclosed shower & changing area on the exterior. The frosted glass door allows light to flow to the interior while still providing a measure of privacy to the showering area. Another bonus is the ability to have direct access to a bathroom from the exterior. Perhaps the kids are having fun in the mud and you ask them to come in and get cleaned up for dinner. Instead of trailing that mud through the house they rinse their feet off in the shower and hands in the sink and are cleaned up and ready for dinner before even setting foot in the main living space.
Keep in mind though that an outdoor shower will require a bit more maintenance than the indoor variety especially if you live in the Northeast or any other cool weather climates. The piping will have to be winterized to prevent freezing so the outdoor portion of the bathroom will be out of commission during freezing temperatures. Even with limited use in the winter months we feel an indoor/outdoor bathroom should be on most coastal New England homeowner’s wish lists.
If an indoor/outdoor bathroom is on your wish list, contact us to get the planning process started and let’s make that wish list a reality!
Featured Builder of the Month!
Builder + Architect Magazine
We’re proud to announce that we have been selected as the featured Builder of the Month in Builder+Architect Magazine. This business and lifestyle publication which has been in production since 1937 has chronicled some of the most successful builders and remodelers in the Nation.
The August 2018 issue features not only several of our projects but chronicles how Eric built a loyal list of clientele through insight, dedication, fortitude and trust. The photos beautifully represent a sampling of our latest work to build, renovate & restore some of the finest homes on the New England coastline. We’d like to thank all of our loyal clients, suppliers & trade partners who helped make this feature possible!
Design & Detail Spotlight
Lighting or lack thereof can really make or break a space. Many people think of lighting in terms of what is appropriate for performing specific tasks but strategically placed accent lighting can create drama & increase the impact of a specific design element.
From our projects…
The custom mahogany floating shelves pictured here from our Jerusalem Kitchen & Interior were outfitted with recessed LED lights that illuminate and highlight the glassware & decorative accessories but they are very low profile allowing the shelves and their contents to be the star.
The directional recessed lighting in the custom bookshelf photo from one of our latest basement renovations (bottom left) really brings a sense of drama to the bookshelf architecture. The backlit bathroom vanity mirror (bottom center) creates a soft ambient glow and makes the mirror appear to float off of the wall.
Accent lighting can also be it’s own design element creating visual interest and even focal points within a room, as is the case with the crystal chandelier(bottom right).
Planning is key…
Nickel Gap Shiplap
From our projects…
Nickel gap bench & wainscoting
White painted Nickel gap shiplap was paired with a custom natural walnut seat to create this unique built-in bench from our Lincoln Kitchen Remodel. The Nickel gap spills over from the bench onto wainscoting that carries around the rest of the eat-in portion of this kitchen.
Nickel gap fireplace surround
White oak nickel gap with a rubio oil finish was used to surround this Hingham Master suitefireplace, creating a clean modern feel. Although a less common application, the nickel gap in the natural finish becomes the focal point in this master bedroom.
Classic Nickel gap wall paneling
In the most classic applications nickel gap is used as a horizontal wall paneling in one of our recent Century Lane kitchen Remodel & Addition projects. This mudroom gets a clean fresh feel taking the shiplap from floor to ceiling.
Design & Detail Spotlight
Arches have been used in classic architecture for Centuries. Dating back to Roman times arches were used as a means to span large distances and create structural integrity that was hard to achieve before the use of modern steel & engineered lumber were available.
Today arches are still used but typically more for decorative purposes. The Elliptical arched doorway has become a popular choice in many of the projects we complete. This classic detail can add depth & drama to an entryway as shown above or be a decorative transitional element between two spaces.
The execution of the detail is not quite as simple as you might think however. Most building materials don’t naturally bend to conform to a curved or arched shape. With a little know how, some precise math and a whole lot of glue & clamps the Thorson Team is able to create this beautiful & timeless finish detail at many of our projects.
Industry wide there seems to have been a resurgence in the use of wallpaper and we are certainly seeing this trend reflected in many of our recent projects and also in some articles on Houzz.com.
Although most homeowners are still hesitant to commit to a wallpaper in a large great room they are willing to take the risk in smaller areas like powder rooms, entries, halls and even bedrooms. In many cases these smaller spaces are being used to make a design statement. With the wide range of new modern patterns and graphic print papers to choose from, there truly is a paper for every style.
Custom options are also becoming popular with hand printed patterns, full scale mural installations and even design your own options that are fully customizable!