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.
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!
Homemade Teriyaki Beef Jerky
This tasty treat is one that was made by our very own Eric Thorson but comes courtesy of the Wolf’s “Mastering the Convection Steam Oven” Cookbook. You see, Eric & Stacy underwent a renovation of their own recently and in the process learned alot about the Subzero and Wolf appliances that they chose to use in their newly renovated kitchen. The process of selecting their appliances took them to the Clarke Showroom in Milford, MA which if you have never experienced is a showroom unlike any other. What makes it so unique is the no-pressure atmosphere and the focus on education and the client experience. No appliances are actually sold there (hence the lack of pushy sales people) but the showroom features a plethora of fully functioning appliances that you can “test drive” on the spot or do as Eric & Stacy did and join in one of their regularly scheduled cooking demonstrations that help you understand how to use the many functions of your Sub zero & Wolf Appliances all while watching a master chef at work (and getting to eat the resulting gourmet treats)!
The journey to discover the many functions of each appliance and which would be of most use to Eric & Stacy in their day to day cooking endeavors was one that actually helped them to better serve our clients as well. Both Eric and Stacy have shared their new found appliance knowledge with our clients so they too can make educated decisions on which appliances would be the best fit in their new kitchens.
The Wolf Convection Steam oven has created the most buzz by far; for an appliance with a bad reputation for being a “uni-tasker” (to quote Alton Brown) -or an appliance that only does one thing, like steam vegetables, this steam oven proved that wrong on so many counts and has turned out to be Eric & Stacy’s new go-to appliance. They have tested the oven with everything from risotto (that doesn’t need a babysitter) to perfectly “boiled” eggs and even, yes, beef jerky!
Stacy noticed that their new appliance knowledge has inspired Eric to be more active in the kitchen and try new things that they otherwise may not have thought of. One such occasion was the day she happened upon Eric whipping up some homemade teriyaki beef jerky. The photos here were not staged, Eric, armed with the Wolf Cookbook and the eagerness of a child learning a new skill was happily arranging his pre-marinated steak pieces artfully on the gleamingly new integrated cooking rack. After 4-6 hours in the Wolf Convection Steam Oven on the “convection mode” …Voilla! Eric had himself a perfect pound of tasty home made teriyaki beef jerky that admittedly didn’t last long in their household.
So in honor of this magical real life moment we thought we’d share with you the recipe!
Teriyaki Beef Jerky
Makes 10 Servings
Cooking Time 4-6 Hours
INGREDIENTS 2-21⁄2 pounds beef round or flank, thinly
¼ cup soy sauce
¼ cup Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon onion powder
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon celery salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon brown sugar
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
1 tablespoon freshly grated garlic
(to replace garlic powder)
2 teaspoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon Korean chili paste
½ teaspoon sesame oil
Zest of 1 orange
Juice of 1 orange
1. Have the meat sliced very thin by a butcher at time of purchase, rather than attempting it by hand.
2. In a large bowl, combine all marinade ingredients and mix well to combine.
3. Dip each piece of meat individually into the bowl to ensure an even coating.
4. Allow to sit for at least 3-4 hours or overnight.
5. When ready to cook, drain off excess marinade and lightly pat meat dry with a paper towel.
6. Lay strips out flat on the wire racks. The edges of the meat can touch, but the meat should not overlap or
be folded in any way.
7. Place the racks into the oven on positions 2 and 4. Place the solid pan on rack position 1 to catch any drips.
8. Leave the door slightly ajar and select the Convection Mode set to 150°F. Dehydrate for 1 hour.
9. After an hour, flip over the meat and rotate the racks.
10. Continue to cook until the meat develops a stiff, leathery texture. Thicker cuts of meat can take an additional 3-5
hours or longer to dehydrate and cooking rates vary if using a conventional oven.
11. Continue to flip and rotate the meat every 1-2 hours to ensure the jerky has a uniform texture.
12. Cool and store in an airtight container. The jerky can also be stored in the refrigerator or freezer.
BEFORE YOU START
You will need both of the wire racks that came with your Wolf Convection Steam oven (or any oven safe wire racks if using a conventional oven). It is also helpful to have the solid oven pan to catch drips as you lay out the strips of meat across the racks. Surprisingly, you will also need a colander to drain off the excess marinade. This provides a much cleaner way of handling the strips of meat than removing them one at a time from the zip-top bag.
Recipe courtesy of Wolf’s “Mastering the Convection Steam Oven” guide
Mitered Edge Countertops
We are seeing more homeowners who want their counters to be thicker in appearance. A substantial edge on a counter creates a modern look but the aesthetic has crept into even some of the most traditional kitchens and baths and adds impact regardless of the style of the space.
What most don’t know about these thicker counters is that they are actually a mitered edge. It is very uncommon (and costly) to have a stone slab cut at a thicker depth. It would make the stone almost unmanageable for installation and may even be too heavy for most cabinetry that would support it.
A standard counter thickness ranges anywhere from 3/4″ – 1 1/8″. To achieve the thicker edge two pieces of stone are cut at a 45 degree angle and joined together on all visible sides of the counter. The joints are barely visible even upon close inspection and give the appearance of a solid slab of stone. When done correctly the veining in the stone appears to continue over the edge, adding to the illusion. Because each counter is custom fabricated you can make the edge any thickness you desire but proper planning is key.
If you are considering a mitered edge counter for your next project you’ll have to inform your cabinet designer early in the planning process. Cabinet heights are usually based on standard counter thicknesses. If your counters are approaching 2+ inches or more in thickness it may affect the feel of the finished height of the counter. You will need to factor in your height and preference for a comfortable working height of your counters. If the height difference doesn’t bother you then you may be able to stick with standard height cabinets but dependent upon the thickness you choose you may need a more custom cabinet base option to account for the added thickness. Your preferences should be worked out well in advance with your design and building professionals so all factors can be considered.
Many of our clients opt for the mitered edge detail on only a portion of the counters in their kitchen. The photos below from our Lincoln Kitchen & Interior Project are an example of a mitered edge just on the island but standard edge thickness on the perimeter. The white quartz center island becomes a beautiful focal point and the thick mitered edge is even more dramatic against the warm walnut wood tones of the island.
If you’d like to incorporate a mitered edge countertop into your next project, contact us to start planning!
When a prospective client calls our office they have two main questions that often become the determining factor in whether we can work together or not; When can you start? and how much will it cost? Although these two questions are important and valid, they often can only be answered after we ask a few questions of our own;
How far along in the planning process are you?
Do you have a clearly defined scope of work?
Have you checked your local town laws and regulations regarding ability to perform the work?
Are architectural plans prepared and contain enough information to provide an accurate cost estimate?
Have you thought about the materials and finishes your project will include?
Many homeowners are very focused on cost and timing and forget the many details that need to be considered before they even begin to obtain pricing for a project.
The reality is that the planning portion should be the longest phase of the entire building or renovation project. The planning phase is a multi-step process that should not be rushed. So before you take the leap and call a contractor to ask the two ever important questions (how much? & how long?) take a moment and review the 5 steps to planning any building or remodeling project below and arm yourself with the information you need to have a successful and well planned project!
Determine your objective & budget
Keeping in mind why you are remodeling start to determine the scope of the project. Will you add on to the home or work within the existing footprint? Are you planning significant structural changes to the home or just looking to update finishes and fixtures? These questions will help you determine the right professionals to contact first.
Having clear budgetary goals will help when determining scope also, obviously the more involved a project is, the more it will cost so your budget may to a degree drive the scope of the project. Many homeowners don’t know what a project in their area would cost so have a hard time with this step. They may try to get a bid for the project as a first step, but we advise against this because this early in the process it is almost impossible to project an accurate budget number.
Instead, we point prospective clients to Remodeling Magazine’s Cost vs. Value report to get a general sense of where their budget should be. The report lists cost ranges for 35 of the most popular renovations and the data is separated by region so the numbers are more accurate than a national average or regional study. An alternative would be to ask a trusted friend or relative who has remodeled recently or at least in the last 1-3 years. Armed with a general idea of what your project may cost will help you to better refine the scope and determine exactly what your budget will allow.
Gather information & ideas
If an addition or structural changes are in the plan then you will likely have some zoning, historical or conservation regulations to abide by. In some historic locations any change to the home’s exterior warrant a check in with the Historical Commision to ensure your plans are in compliance.
You can gather necessary documents like site plans, septic plans and as built plans from your local town offices. These documents will help you determine the area you have to work within to add on to a structure and will be necessary for the design & permitting phase. You will likely also need to enlist the services of a site/civil engineer to draft new site plans showing your proposed changes if you will be altering the footprint or height of your home.
Now is also the time to start gathering ideas about your style & material preferences. Use online resources like Pinterest and Houzz to create digital idea books about spaces, designs and products that you like. The more specific you can be about the style, finishes and products you prefer the easier it will be for the professionals to plan for and price your project as accurately as possible.
Hire an Architect or Designer
If structural changes are in the plan, an architect will be the next step. If only interior renovations are planned you may just want to enlist the help of an interior designer. Architects and designers have inherently unique styles and strengths so do your homework and find one that tends to have an aesthetic that you are drawn to. Contact them and use all of the information you’ve gathered to discuss the parameters, scope and style & material preferences.
Once preliminary drawings are complete you are ready to begin taking the plans to builders and contractors in order to get the estimating process started but remember that the more complete and comprehensive your plans are the more accurate your bidding process will be.
Obtain Estimates from Contractors
Your architect will advise you when plans are ready to be submitted for bid. However, if your plans are incomplete or missing key features like framing & foundation plans, window & door schedules, structural specifications etc. then your contractor may want to wait until those are included before even beginning to estimate your project. Leaving these details up to the contractor to determine will mean that it will be hard to compare one quote to another. One contractor may factor in sub par materials, cheap windows/doors while another includes higher quality materials and those minor differences will quickly add up to a major cost discrepancies between bids.
Some architects have a list of preferred contractors or you can do your own research and determine which companies you are interested in quoting the project with. When vetting companies consider all of the factors; too often homeowners make a decision based on price and timing. They want the project done for the lowest cost and/or the earliest start date. Basing decisions on these factors often leads to hiring a contractor who perhaps just wasn’t very detailed with their cost estimation process so hadn’t included all factors. It stands to reason that the most qualified and professional companies that do the best quality work will have a bit of a backlog so plan for that and be flexible with the timing of the project.
Read all bids and scope details carefully and be wary of vague or missing information and never make assumptions that anything not in writing is included in the overall cost of the project. A qualified company will provide a detailed scope with an outline of the types of materials they will use for your project. They will also be able to answer any questions you have about a process, product or cost. Open communication at this phase is key. Knowing what materials & methods are being proposed in the project can help determine the reason for any variances in cost from one company to the next.
Keep these questions in mind when selecting a contractor:
- Are they a professional company with all of the proper licences, insurance & certifications?
- How long have they been in business?
- Have they completed recent projects similar in scope to what you are proposing?
- Do they have a team of qualified office & in-house staff that will bring experience and knowledge to the table?
- Does their proposal/contract include a detailed scope and material specifications?
- How do they manage a project? Will you have access to updates, schedules, financials via a client portal?
- What portions of the project, if any, will you be responsible for managing or supplying materials or fixtures?
- How do they communicate? Will they be available via phone, text and email?
- Can you contact past clients to discuss their experience in working with them?Once you’ve selected your contractor be sure to sign a formal contract or agreement about the specific scope and payment terms and have a general discussion about their availability to begin the work and how long the project will take so you have a realistic expectation about start date & timing going forward.
Permitting & Product Selection
You’ve selected your professionals and signed your contract and your contractor begins pulling permits and processing all of the paperwork to prepare for the start of your project. Before you hand your project over to them there are still many decisions to be made before your project can begin. Product selections will be your next big task. Your contractor will likely provide you with vendor resources to make your selections with and an idea of which selections take priority, typically the first on the list is windows, doors, siding & roofing, followed closely with appliances, cabinetry, plumbing fixtures, flooring, tile, paint colors etc. Each project is unique so be sure you have an idea of what choices need to be made and by when. Once your choices have been finalized your contractor will then confirm when products will be available for delivery and build your project schedule and start date around those lead times.
The last thing you or your contractor want is to have a project in progress be held up by a product that is backordered or has long lead times that no one anticipated. This is why planning and preparation are key to a successful project. With everyone doing their part to ensure products are selected, permits are pulled and schedules are created to coordinate with available product dates your project can move along swiftly with no bottlenecks or surprises.
So whether you are building a new custom home, adding an addition or remodeling an existing space taking the time to properly plan your project will be the difference between a pleasant and stress free project and one riddled with problems and unforeseen costs and delays. Everyone wants their project done as quickly and cost effective as possible including your building professionals so take a team approach to the process and work along with your design & building team to meet the deadlines for product selections, make timely decisions on any design changes and communicate openly and often.