Kitchens get a face lift in 2014

The 3 Biggest Kitchen Trends Of 2014 Might Surprise You

Huffington Post | December 15 2014 | link

Kitchen upgrades topped homeowners’ list of renovation projects in 2013, and the trend doesn’t seem to be slowing, according to a new report released by real estate website Zillow earlier this month that names the big kitchen trends of 2014.

Like the insight we got from our friends over at Houzz on what people’s dream kitchens look like, Zillow’s report reveals that upgrades will focus more on flourishes, than on function, with these preferences rounding out the top three:

Black Countertops
Popular materials to achieve this look will include quartz and black granite that has been honed to give it a leathery finish, Zillow says, adding that black is likely to be paired with a lighter counter such as marble or light gray for contrast.
black countertops

Open Shelving
Kitchen cabinets used to be the place to stash dinnerware out of sight, but according to Zillow’s survey, upgrades will put kitchenwares on display in the coming year. “It is now fashionable to display almost everything in the kitchen — from dishes to pots and pans to gourmet oils and vinegars,” Zillow Digs Board of Designers member Kerrie Kelly says.
glass kitchen cabinets

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Smarten up your home in the New Year…

5 of the Smartest New Smart-Home Gadgets

Reuters  | Dec 3rd 2013 | link


lockitron remote electronic doorlock

From Entrepreneur

We might not quite be in the age of “The Jetsons” yet, but there are quite a few gadgets on the market than can make you feel a little more like you’re living in the future. More than something to just keep you connected the web, your wireless network can now be used to keep you connected to your home or home office while you’re out on town, ensuring that your home stays safe and even making sure you have what you need to make breakfast in the morning. Here are five of our favorite gadgets in the growing connected-home market that would even give the Jetsons’ robot assistant Rosie a run for her money:

1. Lockitron: The Lockitron is a Wi-Fi-connected door lock that allows you to lock and unlock your door using your smartphone. The $179 lock is simple to install and works with any smartphone — as well as older phones via SMS message — to lock and unlock your door on command. As an admin, you can grant access to whomever you want, for any time period you want. So, you can give your neighbor a virtual key to go let your dog out when a meeting runs late, or pass out virtual keys to your whole family while they’re visiting. An online log lets you see when your door is locked and unlocked and by whom. [See more about it in the video below.]

2. Dropcam Pro: This nifty gadget is a $199 Wi-Fi-connected camera that can be used as everything from a baby monitor to a home surveillance system. With Dropcam Pro, you can tune in to a live feed from the camera from your smartphone or computer no matter where you are in the world, and a built-in speaker and microphone allow you to communicate through the camera. Push-notifications alert you when there’s movement in the camera’s view — for instance, your front door opening — and an optional subscription service records and stores the video feed from your camera in the cloud. Since video is stored off-site in the cloud, you’ll be able to access it even if your camera is stolen in a burglary, a feature that has already help nap a few criminals.

3. Belkin WeMo Switch: Belkin’s $49.99 WeMo switch turns any outlet in your home into a “smart” outlet. The device plugs into your standard electrical outlet, allowing you to control it from anywhere on the planet through Belkin’s free WeMo app. You can use the app to turn on a light when you’re not at home, or even just turn on a fan that’s located across the room. Outlets can also be programmed to turn on and off at any time you specify. [See more about it in the video below.]

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What’s Hot and What’s Not In Luxury Amenities

Mallory Farrugia | Curbed | Tuesday, November 12, 2013 | link

Trulia has released new analysis of what’s trending up and down in luxury real estate amenities, shedding light on what affluent buyers really care about when purchasing a new home, with surprising results.

Of the 20 amenities that have gained the most traction in the last year, marble baths, roof decks, and oversized windows are currently the most desirable amenities in luxury properties. Windows and views (floor-to-ceiling windows, panoramic views, etc) occupied a whopping five other spots on the top-20 list, suggesting that luxury buyers are more interested in what’s outside the property than what’s inside.

The list of the 20 amenities on the steepest decline suggests the same. Kitchen and cooking amenities occupy seven spots on the list, with BBQs being the amenity that buyers care least about. Other indoor amenities like hardwood (surprisingly!), fireplaces, surround sound, and a large master suite are also trending down.

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Finding buyers their perfect design…

10 Principles of Good Home Design (and the Ugliest Car in the World)

Richard Taylor | Zillow Blog | September 4, 2013 | link


There’s a lot of good home design out there, and unfortunately, a lot of bad.

But when poorly designed homes are selling well, as they were in 2007 (heck, you could sell anything in 2007), it’s challenging to argue for better design.

The year 2007, however, was followed by 2008 and the famous collapse of the American housing market.

Really bad news, but it also created an opportunity for architects, home builders and homeowners to rethink how we design and build family homes in this country.

An opportunity to reconnect to the meaning of “home,” “family,” “neighborhood” and “community” in our lives.

We need to do that.

For too long we’ve built homes that have little relationship to the lifestyles they’re meant to support; that deliberately turn their backs on the world outside, and do far more to separate the occupants from their community than they do to connect them.

As the housing market continues on a long, slow recovery we have a chance to “reboot” homebuilding in America.

We have a responsibility to start designing and building the best homes we’ve ever made. Homes of character and quality, and free of the ridiculous waste of space, materials and energy in many homes today.

We need to do that, too.

American homes used to be all about character and quality design. But then we started building houses — and forgot to build homes.

Maybe that’s because we’ve been taught to think of our homes as investments first, showcases for our personal status second, and only then as homes for our families.

That’s probably why some 3,000-square-foot homes dedicate almost 10 percent of their floor area to a two-story entry foyer. Really? Is the rest of the house so well-planned that 10 percent can be wasted on one of the least-used areas?

The answer of course is no, but we’ve become so accustomed to poorly-planned homes that we often don’t recognize one when we see it.

Pontiac Aztek (Source: Wikipedia)

Pontiac Aztek (Source: Wikipedia)

It’s the same reason that now-defunct Pontiac managed to sell 115,000 Aztecs, voted “the ugliest car in the world” by a British newspaper in 2008, and ranked as the 47th worst car of all time by Time magazine. For fans of AMC’s hit TV series “Breaking Bad,” you will immediately recognize this car as the one Walter White drove. (See homes featured in “Breaking Bad“).


Any design process (cars, homes, T-shirts, coffee makers) is usually guided by recognized values of some sort. How those values are interpreted by the designer is what makes the difference between good and bad design.

Good home design is …

1. Shaped by the individuals who live in it

This is No. 1 on my list for a reason — the primary purpose of a home is to serve the specific, individual needs of the home’s occupants, rather than the needs of a generalized house market.

2. Shaped by its environment

At first glance this would seem to be the opposite of the previous definition, but it’s not. In addition to serving its occupants, a home should recognize the influence that climate, topography, solar access, vegetation, culture, etc., can and should have on its design.

3. Recognizes and works with its context

Context and environment are similar, but in this definition, “context” means the other homes in the area. When a home fits in well with its neighbors it helps build the fabric of the community. But that doesn’t mean it has to look like the other houses in the area.

4. Uses building materials efficiently

A carefully planned home doesn’t use any more material than necessary for function and aesthetics, and uses construction systems that are appropriate for the home’s site.

5. Has visual harmony

We’ve all seen houses that just didn’t look quite right — most often that’s a result of not using principles of massing, rhythm, texture and scale to create harmony. Great-looking homes result when these principles are used with skill and imagination.

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Finding a second home…next door to your home?

A Getaway Apartment, in Your Own Building

Joanne Kaufman | New York Times  | August 9, 2013 | link

Béatrice de Géa for The New York Times

Freddie and Myrna Gershon have added to their holdings in a building in Midtown East. A few flights down from their penthouse is another in-house purchase, a one-bedroom that will serve as his writing studio.

Freddie Gershon lives with his wife, Myrna, and his dog in a penthouse duplex with a terrace in Midtown East. The space is plenty big, he concedes — 6,500 square feet.

But apparently not quite big enough. Last month, Mr. Gershon, the chief executive of Music Theatre International, a licensing agency, closed on some additional real estate in his co-op: a one-bedroom 1,000-square-foot unit on the fourth floor.

“I have reached a point in my life where I want to write,” he said. “I have a book in mind, and I wanted a sanctuary that didn’t require me to get dressed and go outside. I wanted to go to the passenger or service elevator and just go to a different floor.”

Mr. Gershon said he had tried working at home. “But then I’d hear the phones,” he said. “Or I’d get distracted by the view of the river.”

New Yorkers who need more space, but would rather not move, generally try to make a deal with the departing next-door neighbor — oh, for a departing next-door neighbor — or with the people who live directly above or below. Deal done, they get busy punching through walls and ceilings to combine their holdings into a single flowing residence.

But some, like Mr. Gershon, while they are eager for more room, really don’t want that room to be right in the next room. They’d prefer something that’s an elevator ride or a few flights of stairs removed from the mother ship. A noncontiguous apartment — typically, a studio or a one-bedroom — whether used as a writing or an art studio, an office, a man-cave or an escape hatch, allows its owners or renters to be so near and yet so far.

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Trend alert! Clouds INSIDE your house…

What Micro Structure Needs Furniture When it’s Got a Cloud?

Amy Schellenbaum | Curbed SF | Friday, August 9, 2013 | link

dezeen_Cloudscapes-at-MOT-by-Tetsuo-Kondo-Architects_ss_1.jpgPhoto via Dezeen

Apparently manufacturing clouds inside interiors is now becoming a thing. Besides the work of Dutch artist Berndnaut Smilde, who engineers puffs of cloud inside Beaux Arts buildings and abandoned castles-turned-military-hospitals, there is Japanese studio Tetsuo Kondo Architects, which recently teamed up with the engineers at Transsolar to create a cloud inside a glass box over at the Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo. This cloud, more a foggy marine layer type than the cottony cumulonimbus variety Smilde creates, is made by pumping three types of air into the box. On the bottom: cold, dry air; the middle: hot, wet air; and the top: hot, dry air. The layers create a cloud that bisects the box, and a single set of stairs allows visitors to climb through it.

51e49808e8e44e9f6800010d_museum-of-contemporary-art-tokyo-tetsuo-kondo-architects_cmot05.jpgPhoto via Arch Daily

From the architect:

When you climb beyond the clouds to reach the top, the museum,
the surrounding buildings, and the sky stretch out above the clouds. The edges of the clouds are sharp yet soft, and always in motion. Their color, density and brightness are constantly changing in tune with the weather and time of day. The temperature and humidity inside the container are controlled to keep the clouds at their designed height.

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Making an entrance…

Welcoming Front Doors

Artistic entryways made of wood, glass and metal.

Molly Hensley-Clancy | Wall Street Journal | July 25, 2013 | link

Your guest’s first impression starts at the front door. To make a statement, many high-end homeowners seek custom designs that use wood, metal, glass and other materials in creative ways to reflect the home’s luxurious interiors.

In recent years, entry doors have gotten wider and sleeker, with clean lines and artful lighting. Here are some examples of custom designs:

All Aglow

Paul BardagjyLighting contrasts with the home’s stone walls.

Backlit onyx panels are featured in this pivot door, which means that it is mounted at the center of the door frame instead of hinged on one side. Designed by Austin, Texas-based Dick Clark Architecture and builder Gary McFarland, the lighting contrasts with the home’s stone walls and has a handle that is recessed into the door. ‘It keeps the onyx the focal point,’ Mr. Clark said.

Cost: about $25,000



Sans SoucieGlass door called ‘Branching Out’

Taking Root

Sans Soucie’s glass doors are hand-etched and sandblasted to give the designs a deep, textured look. This colored glass door, called ‘Branching Out,’ was custom-designed by the Palm Desert, Calif., company to blend natural elements with a sleek, modern look.

Cost: about $7,000

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