Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Brass Gets Some Shine

If you’ve done any furniture shopping in the past two years or so, you may have noticed that brass has made a big comeback.  Brass can be extremely classic and timeless when done right.  It can also come off as trendy and tacky when done wrong. The goal is to not go overboard and to know where to use it.  When appointed properly, brass can be mixed with other metals for a totally chic, glam look.  I've used brass in my own space since the early 2000s in the form of mirrors and lamps and tchotchkes. I mostly prefer it when it is brushed but I do own a couple pieces that have a highly polished brass finish.  I’ve gathered a few images below of brass at its best.

                       Here you can see brass is used as the finish on the coffee table and the mirror. 
                               Interior Design by Champeau-Wilde.  Photo via
                                   In this ladies' dressing room, the antique mirrors are trimmed in brass.
                                 Interior Design by Kelly Wearstler.  Photo via
                            Here an etagere located behind a lovely Platner chair is finished in brass.
                        Interior Design by Christine Dovey Style, Ltd. Photo via
                   This teenage boy's bedroom is a perfect gentleman's retreat. The brass nightstand and                                                                       lamp complement the dark hues in the space. 
                                  Interior Design by Euro Trash.  Photo via

              I love brass plumbing fixtures, especially the brushed finished.  Here the widespread faucet                                                is elegant and stately against the cool tones of the marble top.
                                 Interior Design by Meredith Heron.  Photo via

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Thanksgiving Tablescapes

As the Thanksgiving holiday rapidly approaches and everyone bustles around finding ingredients for their favorite Turkey Day dishes, there are a few people who like myself spend time considering how to set the table.  The dilemma of deciding what to use as this year’s centerpiece, which set of china, as well as hauling out and polishing the real silver requires its own bustling and planning.  Over the years, I’ve learned that when it comes to linens and dinnerware, my tastes are relatively simple.  I prefer white.  A simple white dish with a classic shape gets me every time.  I love how the food plates on a simple white plate.  Any meal can look like a gourmet feast when you have the right type of dinnerware.   It’s been said that white dinnerware is the little black dress of the table and it is true!  Below I’ve collected some of my favorite images of tablescapes and place settings from around the web.  Take a look and comment with how you plan to dress your table this Thanksgiving holiday.
                                                  Fig Harvest Plate from William Sonoma.
                                                       Photo via The Table and Estate
                                      Love the tartan and monogram used in this place setting.
                                                           Photo via The Table and Estate
                                                Love the solemn and noble tone of this tablescape.   
                                                                Photo via Casa de Perrin
                                    Pink gives this place setting a romantic and vintage feel.  
                                                          Photo via Suite One Studio
                              You can never go wrong with simple, white dinnerware. 
                                                     Photo via Entertain At Home
                                                          Photo via Casa de Perrin 
                                                           Photo via Casa de Perrin 

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Selecting The Right Appliance

My first job out of design school was as a kitchen and bath designer for a local Washington, DC design-build company.  My job was to design the kitchen (or bathroom) layout, help clients sift through the myriad choices for cabinets, countertops, tile and fixtures and then manage the installation.  While all that may seem like a lot, it was actually pretty easy.  The hard part was helping clients determine which appliance would be appropriate for their cooking style.  During this time, I travelled out of state to visit almost every major US cabinet manufacturers’ factories and facilities. I sat through numerous trainings on the different types of countertops and the benefits of each.  I became well aware of the various gauges of stainless steel and depending on which gauge you select, how noisy it can be when you run water in the sink.  I knew about all the gadgets, soft closing doors and drawers, tilt out sink drawers, etc. and all the storage organizing solutions.  But I did not know about appliances.

It wasn’t until I went to work for a mid-sized kitchen and bath company that I began to really learn about appliances.  I not only learned how to sell them but I also learned why some appliances come with a much heftier price tag than others.  If you want to select the appliance that is right for you there needs to be an understanding of how you use your kitchen and how you expect your appliance to perform. 
                                 Kitchen design by Birmingham Home and Garden
                                                      Photo via

Refrigerators are one of the larger ticket appliances in the kitchen.  You can spend as much as 8K and up on a high-end refrigerator.  One of the main reasons for the difference in cost between a high-end refrigerator and a more economical option is that most refrigerators have one compressor that regulates the temperature in both the refrigerator and the freezer.  Higher end refrigerators like Miele and Sub-Zero have two compressors, one for the refrigerator and one for the freezer.  These two compressors work to eliminate flavor transfer and preserve produce up to 40% longer than a typical refrigerator with only one compressor.  Several of my clients have confirmed they can keep produce 3-4 weeks with these higher end models as compared to a week and a half with their previous refrigerators. 

                                              Kitchen design by Jodie Rosen Design
                                             Photo via

Other large ticket appliances in the kitchen can be the range or stove and for those who have more space, a cooktop with a separate oven.  In areas where space is a premium, most of my clients tend to stick with the freestanding or slide-in range option.  A freestanding or slide-in range features an oven and a cooktop in one appliance.  When it comes to professional cooking appliances, several important factors to consider include the BTU (British thermal unit) output for gas burners, convection and self-cleaning capability, simmering options and whether you prefer sealed versus open gas burners. 

                                          Photo via

A BTU is the amount of heat it takes to heat one pound of water one degree Fahrenheit.  Professional cooktops and range tops will offer gas burners with BTUs of 15,000 or more.  Some brands will vary the amount of BTU output allowing one or two of the burners a higher BTU to allow for more flexibility when cooking (simmering vs. high heat).  A high BTU indicates hotter cooking temperatures and faster cooking times but conversely, the ability to cook at lower temperatures, i.e. to simmer, is also important.  I mentioned that some brands offer professional ranges with one or two power burners and a low or medium capacity burner, this is helpful for those who want to cook at lower temperatures for longer periods.  Ranges with all high BTU burners may cycle on and off to achieve the lower cooking temps while some brands have developed low BTU burners that consistently cook at low temperatures without cycling on and off.

Sealed vs. open gas burners is another buzz phrase you hear when you are shopping for gas cooking appliances.  Sealed burners cover the gas flame to protect against spills and make cleaning easier.  The gas comes out the side rather than going straight up to the bottom of the pan like with open burners.  Open burners are a bit more efficient in that the gas goes directly to the pan but a disadvantage is the difficulty when cleaning up spills. 

The most efficient method of surface cooking is induction, which is similar to cooking with an electric cooktop in that the surface of the cooktop is smooth.  However, rather than using radiant heat, induction cooking uses an electromagnetic field.  Induction is the fastest and safest way to cook.  The cooking element only heats up once a pot or pan is in contact with the surface and once the pan is removed, heating stops. It should be noted that induction cooktops require special induction-capable or magnetic cookware in order to work.  You can usually tell if your pans are induction-capable by testing whether a magnet will stick strongly to the bottom. 

                                                     Photo via

When purchasing a new oven, the biggest decision is convection or conventional.  Convection or the ability to cook with heated forced air to achieve more even cooking is pretty common among professional cooking appliances.  Some manufacturers offer conventional ovens that have a convection option in addition to their convection only options.  People who bake a lot tend to prefer convection as it distributes the heat evenly and provides more control over the final baked good than does a conventional oven. 

Now that you have prepped and simmered and cooked (or at least thought about it), it is time to clean.  Between self-cleaning ovens and the myriad choices of dishwashers, there is certainly an appliance to make cleaning easier. Most professional ovens will offer self-cleaning. Although, a few gas options do not.  Some will allow you to leave the oven racks in during the self-cleaning while others require that you remove the racks and scrub them yourself to clean.  Dishwashers offer a wide array of cycles and styling options.  The most common concerns I hear about dishwashers are noise and capacity. Most dishwasher models have racks that can be raised or lowered to accommodate larger plates and glasses. A few offer additional trays that can be removed and utilized as needed.  There is a multitude of research that has been done to determine which brands offer the least noisy dishwasher and studies have shown that the most highly recommended dishwashers are those that are no louder than 50 decibels.

There is no one right answer for which appliance is the best for you.  Selecting the right appliance depends on your cooking habits and how you utilize your kitchen.  Before spending a lot of money to purchase a new appliance, take time to assess your needs, make a list of the things you like about your current appliances and the things you don’t.  Once you have your list in hand, speak with a knowledgeable salesperson that can address your concerns and help you make an informed decision.

                                                     Interior design by Aidan Design
                                                        Photo via