Saturday, June 30, 2007

Majjie's Blog

I keep coming back to Majjie's blog.

Marian John is an independent kitchen designer in the UK with a great web site and, of course, a blog.

I like her picture.

She looks trustworthy.
And FUN too!

She's also got a great window on what's coming our way from over there.

And she's written what looks like a superb treatise called Majjie's Kitchen Design Guide, a very ambitious undertaking with a free first chapter for you to peruse.
If you can get past the unusual terminology, it should be well worth paying £50.00.
Just remember not to walk into a cabinet showroom here and ask for a pelmet ;-D


Fascinating Dream Home Diary in NYT

The New York Times is running a series and blog on their web site.
Apparently it's been going on since November of 2006.
Where have I been?

About Dream Home Diaries
They've found an idyllic tiny town in Florida, they've bought a piece of land and now Paul B. Brown and Alison Davis are setting out to build their dream house. How hard can it be, they wonder, even though they live 1,500 miles away, they've never built a home before and they don't know anything about architects, builders, local zoning laws or financing? On this blog for Great Homes, they recount their successes and failures and will chronicle their adventures to come.

What an interesting notion...following a project as complex as building a new home from concept through completion with readers meddling with their decisions all the way!

Blogbuddy Susan Serra, CKD, The Kitchen Designer, commented on their kitchen design plans and linked to the site. That's how I happened across it.

Looks like other K&B design people are also weighing in...HOW can I restrain myself????

Instead I think I'll suggest to the Chronicle a similar blog on a kitchen remodel from concept through completion. Hmmm.


Sunday, June 24, 2007

Bulthaup Creates a Really Different Kitchen

In my browsing around the Internet tonight I came across some new designs for kitchens by bulthaup, a German company manufacturing complete kitchen systems since 1949.
Stodgy they are NOT!
THIS is b3:

This stuff is truly innovative.
The cabinets seem to float in space. And the entire effect is one of ethereal light.

Those horizontal lines on the back wall are slots between engineered panels. They can support all manner of useful tools and shelves.

Even light fixtures can be mounted in the slots.

And take a look at these innovative ventilation concepts!

And a countertop with integrated sink and cooktop.

All in all, a real reason to ship a container of expensive cabinets from Europe.
I haven't seen this kind of innovation from the Continent since the mid-1980's.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

How to Measure Your Kitchen for a Kitchen Designer

I recently spoke to a (potential) client in Toronto, Canada about helping design some kitchens up there. He was unfamiliar with measuring a kitchen, so I wrote the following to help him get me what I need to do the best job possible. For local projects I do my own measurements, but long-distance requires a surrogate measurer. Here's how.


First review this link on How to Measure a Kitchen.
It details proper room measuring techniques in a video and also illustrates plan and elevation sample measurement drawings.

I do some things differently than this example.
Because 99% of my work is remodeling existing space I need to know more about the entire structure. Such detailed information also helps with new construction.

It's always a good idea to use graph paper to document measurements. The kind with 1/4" squares on it. It's easier to keep your lines straight.
You can also create a pretty accurately scaled drawing by figuring that each square equals one foot (1/4" scale) or 6" (1/2" scale), depending on the size of the room you are measuring.
It should fit on one sheet, whatever you decide. You can get graph paper at any office supply store. Some places even have oversize sheets.

In areas where there are cabinets mounted on the walls, I do not try to measure the walls. Instead I measure the cabinet faces, and depths for the width of the wall behind. As I am measuring I also draw the cabinets on the measurement document. Thus the document records the "as-built" conditions. Later, when I am drawing up the room on my computer, I duplicate the measurement drawing. Then I have an "Existing Plan", showing where existing cabinets and appliances, doors and windows, etc., are located.
Many building departments require this information on the remodeling set of plans to illustrate how the room and structure are being changed.
As I then proceed to the design part of my work, the "Existing Plan" is on a layer underneath the "Proposed Plan" I am working on. I can turn these "layers" on and off as needed to refer to what's existing.

I measure the door and window trim and actual door and window sizes, rather than just measuring from the outside of the trim to the outside of the trim as they do in the video.
I might want to change the trim sizes, and this way I know the exact conditions.
Along with measuring the width of the trim mouldings I also note if they are any thicker than the standard 3/4" out from the wall surface. A protruding window sill or door casing can block a door or drawer on an adjacent wall.

I also indicate what room/space is on the other side of each interior wall with labels, such as DINING ROOM or GARAGE or PATIO. I usually measure those rooms as well.
In a remodeling project it is important to know what these rooms are. I very often recommend that a wall be removed. It helps to know what is on the other side, especially where other walls intersect with the portion I want to remove.

I also measure the thickness of walls at door openings (usually 4-1/2" but sometimes more or less).

I go out in the living room and measure the trim mouldings there. They are quite often different. And in a remodeled kitchen, mouldings should be replaced to match the ones in the living room.
Older homes usually had simple pine mouldings in the kitchen, and more elaborate ones in the "public spaces" like the living room and dining room.

I also measure anything that drops down from the ceiling, like a beam - it's height and width and distance from the floor.

I also measure stairs adjacent to or in the room. How many steps? The depth of each step? The height of each riser? Going up, or down?

Fireplace? Measure it.

I also measure existing appliances to be retained and note Manufacturer and Model #s.

Along with my measurements I take digital pictures of the entire space and any details I need to remember. I often take 50-60 pictures, sometimes even 80+ on large projects.
They do not need to be very high quality pictures, as I am only going to use them to review the conditions as I draw up the room(s). Typical JPEGs are fine.
It's always a good idea to be sure to take a few "before" pictures in case we end up designing and building an award-winning project.

I try to be systematic about my pictures: I start at the front door and work my way toward the kitchen, taking overall shots of the context of the rooms on the way and detail shots of any mouldings I may want to repeat in the kitchen. That way I can remember what is where, because they are in order.

In the kitchen I take overall "before" shots, then more detailed pictures of electrical outlets and switches, thermostats, light fixtures, heating vents, cold air return grilles, dropped ceilings, beams, mouldings, windows, doors, closets, any odd plumbing pipes out in the open, under the sink, existing appliances, hot water heaters, furnaces, hood vent pipes.

I always try to show the context of a detail shot by including enough in the picture to be able to "place" it in the larger context pictures.

If there is a basement under the kitchen I go down and take pictures of the area below, including the ceiling and any plumbing pipes and equipment. It often helps to know which way the floor and ceiling joists run in the kitchen and surrounding rooms. A basement or crawl space can tell that story. Above, a picture of the roof rafter tails at the eaves is helpful as well.

Then I go outside and take pictures of the kitchen from the outside and the roof lines above the room(s) to be remodeled and any pipes sticking out of the roof (if I can see them).
Then I go out the front as I leave and take a few shots of the house from the front.

If there are any existing plans of the entire house, from when it was built, or from previous remodels; please take them to a local blueprint house and send copies to me. They can be very helpful.
If they vary from what was actually built (very common), please make notes on the copies explaining the differences.



Pottukadalai/porikadalai/Chutney Dal - 1 cup
Sugar - 2 cups ( can take 1 1/2 cups also if u wish to have it less sweeter)
Ghee - 1 cup
Powdered caradamom - 2 tea spn
Cashew,raisins (Optional)

1) Dry roast the pottukadalai for 2 mts. It makes powdering easier.
2)Grind the pottukadalai finely
3)Seive the powdered flour to separate the coarse ones.
4)Finely powder sugar
5) Heat a tea spoon of ghee in a kadai, roast the cashew and raisins.
6) Mix the roasted cashews,raisins, cardamon powder,powdered pottukadalai and sugar.
7) Mix well
8) Take one portion of the mixture in a bowl.
9)Heat 3 tablespoon ghee for a minute.
10) Pour ghee into the mixture taken in the bowl
11) Mix and see to that it is reached to a consistency where u can roll them into lemon sized balls.
12) Repeat steps from 8 -11 for the remaining mixture left.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Cucumber Wheat Dosa

An easy to make breakfast recipe and healthy too. This recipe will come in handy when you run out of resources for the usual idly and dosa. Also can try this for a change.

Wheat flour - 2 cups
Grated cucumber - 1 cup
Grated coconut - 1/2 cup
crushed/powdered pepper - 1 tea spn

jeera - 1 tea spn
salt - to taste
water - as required.

Make a smooth batter mixing all the ingredients. Keep it aside for 15 mts.
Make dosas. You get good soft doasas.Any type of chutney goes with it.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Broken hinge on your old(er) cabinets?

Broken hinges are a common problem with euro-hinges, and less common with old exposed hinges or knife hinges.

What do you do when a cabinet hinge breaks?

First, take the hinge off and record all of the names and numbers stamped thereon. Take some digital photos of the hinge from all angles.

Next, look to see who manufactured the cabinets.

If the cabinets were made by a manufacturer, rather than a local cabinetmaker) there should be a stamp or sticker on a drawer box.
If you find one, contact the manufacturer, if they are still in existence.
Google the name to find them.

Such hinges are usually lifetime guaranteed, so the manufacturer should provide them free of charge. They may want to see a picture to ascertain that the cabinets are theirs, if you do not have piurchase records.

Even if your cabinets were locally made you might have some recourse, although you will probably have to buy the replacement hinges once you find them.

Most cabinet dealers save old hinges and drawer slides. I did when I was a cabinet dealer.

So your next resource would be any local cabinet dealer...especially those who have been in business a long time.

Call and ask them if they have a supply of old hinges and, if they say they do, and they have yours, ask if you can buy a few.
The reason I say buy a few is that, if you have broken one, others will follow in the coming years.

Euro hinges that mount on face frames are commonly broken because they open only to 105-110 degrees.

It's very easy to stress them by opening them to the end of their swing (as in the picture at left).

Cabinet dealers learned this early on and collected them to satisfy calls from past customers.

The third option is a big city hardware store. Some older ones, like Hundley Hardware in San Francisco, stash old hinges. Don't expect to find them on a web site. You will have to call or email. Email your images.

The fourth option is a recycle yard that sells old cabinets. They will often also have boxes and drawers, full of old hinges. One that comes to mind is
Urban Ore in Berkeley, CA. It may even pay you to buy an old cabinet just to get the hinges.

I always order a few extra hinges for my clients nowadays, especially if they are euro-hinges that do not open fully. That way they have them for just this sort of problem.


Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Article on Designing and Remodeling Kitchens

Most newspaper/magazine articles on designing and remodeling a kitchen are deficient in some way or another. They usually contain misperceptions and outright errors that cloud the whole article.

I just ran across a great article called Get Cooking on a Dream Kitchen, by Matthew M. F. Miller of CTW Features, that calls me to task on my opinions. Great job Matthew!

I then Googled his name to try to figure out why he is so on-target in his writing and came up with his blog, Maybe Baby, about his ongoing attempt to become a father. He's a Chicago twenty-something who lost a lot of weight in the past and is married to a feminist. They just bought their first home. He writes well there too.

I then found his bio on Content That Works, the company that he works for. He's a content writer!

I then found another great article by Matthew called
RETRO Fit or miss for your kitchen? on the use of retro appliances and strong colors in kitchens. He's spot-on again!

Then I found another one,
Test your energy-saving savvy to save big bucks, on energy conservation in the home. Again, very well presented.

This guy is just a great researcher who really does his homework!
So great in this day of misinformation masquerading as gospel.

My faith in writers is reborn!


Thursday, June 07, 2007

Swedish Integrated Farm Sink

In my blog roaming tonight I came across this absolutely wonderful concept on the great Swedish interior design blog Tinaminastina.

It's a farm sink INTEGRATED into the countertop!!!

How cool is this?

I can't tell if it's natural stone, concrete, or a synthetic...

But it sure looks great.

MUCH better than the choppy look of a typical undermounted farmhouse sink and it's a more comfortable height. For those late night cleanup marathons.


Home Improvement Grant for the Disabled

Hi to all Home Improve Blog Readers,

I need your help!!!, we need your help...

I have returned after a shortish sabbatical from writing my blog to ask for any help or assistance or information anyone may have on finding a home improvement grant for the disabled living in the USA and elsewhere in the world.

I recently followed a line of research for a couple of families living in Texas - I was especially boosted in my search after reading a speech of a few years back, by the President about grants to help homeowners adapt their homes to their changing needs - to enable them to remain self-sufficient and stay in their own homes as long as possible.

It was such a positive speech that I blindly thought that all states must have a grant allowance for just such needy citizens. What more logical that basic home improvements to widen doors, change the bathroom suite, lower worktops and install hand rails around the home for homeowners who have suddenly found themselves to be wheelchair bound.

I found grants for all kinds of needs - for the young, families, the dependent and the elderly but nothing specifically for the disabled !

My search led me to that wonderful web site - where I searched through their long list of grants and found the:-

FY 2007 SuperNOFA: Resident Opportunity and Self-Sufficiency (ROSS) Programs

I focused in on the CFDA: 14.876
Funding Opportunity No. FR-5100-N-17
Opportunity Title: Ross Elderly/Disabled
Competition ID: RED-17
Close Date: July 19, 2007

- You can see the information here at :-

I put some people in touch with the contact person given on that page - and they were told - (despite the title at the top of the page... Resident Opportunity etc.) that this opportunity title was for business owners who could claim a grant to adapt the workplace for disabled employees. I think that is a great idea - but I though the title clearly pointed to residential buildings.

Anyway, the help I am looking for is not to gripe about the above grant - but rather to ask if anyone has been able to track down a good grant in the USA that will be useful for any readers looking for financial assistance to help them adapt their home - and enable them to remain in their homes and keep their independence for as long as they are able to - or want to.

If you know of a real home improvement grant for the disabled - we want to hear from you with as much information and contact details regarding the grant as you are able to provide.

On behalf of everyone in the world who is looking for a home improvement grant for the disabled - thank you in advance and we look forward to hearing from you.

Home Improve Blog

Rasa Kaalan


ash gourd - 1 cup
yellow Pumpkin- 1 cup
(Both cut into cubes)
drumstick - 2 nos cut into 1.5" long
brinjal - 1 (optional)
Ladies finger - 5 nos cut into 1" long pieces (optional)
powdered jaggery - 1 tspoon
blended curd - 1 cup

grated coconut - 1 cup
green chilly - 5 nos
black pepper - 8 corns
rice flour - 1 tspn ( I add rice flour for thickening of the gravy. Amount of coconut can be reduced)

Grind the above to a smooth paste and keep it aside

(no of chilly and pepper can be adjusted according to one's taste)

mustard seeds
Red chilly - 2
methi seed -1/2 tspn

Take ash gourd,pumpkin and drumstick in a vessel. Add water so that the vegetable pieces are immersed in water.
Add 1/2 tspn salt, pinch of turmeric and 1/2 tspn of red chilly powder. when these vegetables are half cooked, add brinjal and ladies finger pcs. Add powdered jaggery.
Once the vegetables are cooked, add the grinded paste. mix well.
When it starts to boil, add the blended curd. Add salt as required. (Salt added in the beginning is for the vegetables and now for the gravy).
When bubbles start forming, it should be removed.
When adding curd, it should not boil too much, else the gravy will become thin and taste also changes.

Add the seasoning and curry leaves.

Yummy gravy for rice is ready. This is one of my favorites of mom's cooking. Many a times I can't match her taste.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Choosing a Residential Remodeling Architect?

There is an interesting discussion going on over at blogbuddy Susan Serra, CKD's blog The Kitchen Designer about a long-standing feud between kitchen designers and architects.

You see, most architects throw a tape across a room and measure it within 6" and call that good enough.

They do their drawings the same way, then put disclaimers on them requiring that anybody working on the project confirm all measurements and dimensions. Thus, any experienced kitchen designer, receiving a set of architect-prepared plans from a potential client, is aware that the designs they do to bid the project can never be cast in stone until they can measure what is there.

6" might seem good enough for an architect(and it is hard for me to believe they are not trained that way since so many of them do it), but it is not nearly good enough for a kitchen designer. We are trained to measure (accurately) to the 1/8". And, since most of us are ordering products like expensive cabinets and appliances, we soon learn to check and double-check ourselves. If we don't we are not successful.

Architects also "fudge" elevation drawings. They draw existing windows, and other fixed architectural elements, as well as new items like cabinets and appliances, in such a way as to make them look "balanced" and symmetrical, when they are really not. They LIE!

Phantom inches in an architect's plan (there are almost always more shown than reality) lead kitchen designers to offer a client elements in the kitchen for which there is no room. Then, when the client decides to order the cabinets for the design we have so carefully planned with them, six weeks before their contractor needs the cabinets (if we're lucky); we go out to finally measure (because the client hasn't made a commitment until then), and find that the island won't fit and the windows are so far off from what we planned that the entire design has to be redone from scratch...And, of course, there is a price increase going into effect at midnight.

Now, THIS INDICTMENT DOES NOT INCLUDE EVERY ARCHITECT...only 99% of them. Unfortunately that means that most homeowners looking to plan an extensive residential remodel will hire someone in the 99%.

My advice on seeking out an architect who specializes in residential remodeling and realizes the importance of these issues is on my web site; on the
Kitchen Remodeling - Where Do I Start page.

Take your time. Do it right, and you will find an architect in the 1%, who will save you BIG BUCKS, that you will never have to spend, and design a masterpiece of a remodel for you. It's truly wonderful to gasp with delight every time you come into your home.

If you are in the San Francisco Bay Area you can hire one of the architects I call the Fab Four in my comment on Susan's blog. Or, if you are near Pleasantville, NY, you can hire Susan's favorite architect, Mark R. LePage, AIA, who also has a blog Living Well in Westchester.

The Fab Four (ALL of the great residential remodeling architects I have met in 25 years of designing kitchens) in alphabetical order:

Bruce Bonacker, AIA, Bonacker Associates, San Francisco, CA (415) 434-4300

Chris Ridgeway, AIA, Half Moon Bay, CA

John Rohosky, AIA, Architect, San Francisco, CA 415.442.0104

Paul Rotter, AIA, San Francisco, CA (I hear Paul is semi-retired now) (415) 661-5025

Now. We kitchen designers also have some part to play in this feud, and I must admit we play our part with GUSTO. When we do get a chance to go out and measure the existing conditions, and find that the architect has fudged the plans all over the place, we then REDESIGN the architect's design! :-D

We are trained to do that and we delight in doing that. And architects then rightfully HATE us for redesigning their well-considered plans, and convincing their clients that we are better designers than they are...This is another matter entirely. Architects, probably rightfully, claim we are sullying the overall concept they have created with such care. All in the name of giving their clients, and ours, a functional kitchen. Conflict reigns!

I myself have been sooo guilty of this transgression sooo many times it would make your head spin. Nowadays though, as an independent kitchen designer who does not sell product, I am actually in a position where I sympathize with the architects...because occasionally my clients do the same thing to me :>(

In the meantime...We architects and kitchen designers are "talking" and you get to listen in. Life is good.


Seven Cup Cake

Seven Cup Cake

An easy sweet to make. Not much of paakam etc so even beginners can take a plunge....

Milk - 1 cup
Basin - 1 cup
Sugar - 3 cups
Grated cocunut - 1 cup
Ghee - 1 cup

The ingredients add to 7 cup and hence the name. Actually if you want you can reduce the quantity of sugar to 2 1/2 cups also.

Take a kadai or a heavy bottom vessel.Boil the milk.
Add coconut to the boiling milk. Stir till the milk mixes with the coconut and no moisture is left.
Add sugar. When sugar syrup starts to thicken ( make sure no sugar crystals seen)add the besan flour slowly without forming lumps. Let it cook for 3 minutes.
Slowly add ghee to it and keep stiring.
When it starts to leave the sides of the pan, pour the mixture on a greased plate.
When it cools, cut into desired shape