New Arrival: Explosion Blue

Explosion Blue Granite

Explosion Blue is a 2cm granite with a polished finish. This spectacular Italian stone is show-stopping and will be the star of any space. Explosion Blue has naturally vibrant blue in various shades, and it would be beautiful for kitchen countertops kitchen islands, bathroom counters and many other indoor applications.

Visit the Explosion Blue product page for more information.

New Arrival: Maestro Quartz Casablanca

Maestro Quartz Casablanca

Maestro Quartz Casablanca is a beautiful 3cm polished quartz with a natural speckled pattern on a gentle gray background. Maestro Quartz is a handsome and durable product that combines natural quartz, one of natures hardest materials, with high-quality polymer resin and pigment to produce a luxurious surface with the same familiar smooth feel of natural stone. Casablanca is ideal for spaces that require a sophisticated palate of neutral tones.

Visit the Maestro Quartz Casablanca product page for more information.

2018 Kitchen Renovation Trends

For many families, the kitchen is the heart of their home. This long-treasured belief helps to explain why kitchen renovation so strongly resembles major surgery, in terms of worry, cost and disruption of familiar and comforting routines. A whole web of family activities, beyond cooking and eating, center on and pass through the kitchen. And, like the bathroom, kitchen renovation is distinctive in the wide variety of functional elements to be considered and coordinated. Unlike a living room or bedroom, the cast of skilled craftsmen involved in the project is huge and varied—plumbers, electricians, masons, tile-setters, carpenters, ventilation and heating specialists, and electronics experts all have parts to play in creating a new kitchen that serves all a family’s needs.

Homeowners may ascribe the infrequency with which they update the kitchen to its expense. Redoing a kitchen can be costly. Then again, most long-term decisions are more expensive than short-term ones. The best way to weather the inconvenience of such a large and complex job and feel you have gotten your money’s worth is to put at least as much time into planning the work as you expect will take for its execution. Planning should recognize current family needs but, more important, look ahead to changes in those needs, along with the technological and materials changes that will make your renovation forward-functioning for as long as possible.  When time comes to renovate, it’s common to start planning with the notion “we’ve always wanted. . . .”  Seek out contractors, specialists and vendors who can help you determine if now is the time for “always” or if there are better, newer choices to be made. Kitchen trends for 2018 suggest some exciting new possibilities.

COME LOOK AT MY KITCHEN
Your first decisions must be the biggest ones. If you are changing the shape or size of the kitchen, those plans come first. As the children get older, supper at the breakfast bar gets tired, even though it suits their busy schedules. Kitchen designs for 2018 address the distance between a too-formal dining room  and bar-stools at the kitchen counter with a variety of seating plans, including banquettes, breakfast nooks and family tables with room for company. Adding a dining alcove can maximize your family time together. Expanding kitchen space, however, may require local permits before construction can begin. Start all reconfigurations of kitchen space by consulting your municipal building department.

Luxe Interiors + Design | Photography: Jeff McNamara

Another large-scale reconfiguration that is attracting lots of attention is hidden ventilation. The elaborate vent-hoods associated with restaurant kitchens and European country-house kitchens are giving way to simple columnar structures and overhangs that contain necessary machinery to regulate kitchen heat and humidity; this new venting arrangement may also need permitting or inspection.

The third major trend in spatial change is one you can make without permits but, like the other two trends, it may have a strong impact both on how your kitchen looks and how it functions. Forward-looking designers are modifying storage to reflect new ways to cook, entertain and relate to food overall. Open shelves have returned, to display dishes, utensils and even food items. Walls of cupboard doors provide flexible storage while preventing equipment and ingredients from disrupting a peaceful view. Most dramatically, kitchens are acquiring more natural light as designers completely remove upper wall cupboards.

Like the removal of the large, ornate range-hood, removing wall cupboards sends a strong message that time spent in the kitchen has changed. The Huffington Post notes that, in 2011, 28 percent of adults surveyed described themselves as not knowing how to cook, while in 2016, Forbes Magazine reported a study showing millennials spent 40 percent of their food dollars on food prepared and/or eaten outside the home. Numbers of people eating out vary widely, depending on age and region, but in general Americans as a whole spend significantly less time and money on home-cooking than they did even 10 years ago.

A quick view of a cooking show or commercials on a cooking channel solidify these changes even further. Specialized cooking gear, like sous-vide cookers, slow-cookers and steam ovens make specific tasks more efficient than did pots and pans. A kitchen may contain several ovens: conventional; convection; microwave. Smoking, pickling and grilling can all be managed with specialized equipment designed to bring favorite dishes back indoors from the yard. Juicers, single-serve coffee makers, espresso makers and a wide variety of indoor grills and portable cookers serve appetites honed on tastes from tahini to panini. One of the biggest messages of the future kitchen: if you’re going to do it, do it right.

Similar specialization extends to storage and to food itself. Even modest renovations can plan for wine storage, temperature accommodations for a wide variety of fruits and vegetables and correct storage for bulk cereals, spices and other staples. What storage reflects, more than anything else, is changing attitudes toward food itself. Cooking channels may still overflow with recipes that use up leftovers, but in an increasing number of households the healthy-eating message has finally gotten through. A broad spectrum of reasons stimulate home cooks to buy only what they need and treat it as fuel for activity, rather than as recreational fodder. It has dawned on even the hungriest cooks that what is chowed down needs to be run off. Good food needs to be treated with respect (hence, specialized storage) and served only in amounts needed to provide health and energy. This is one reason for the rising popularity of portion-controlled meal-kits. Entertaining can remain lavish, and everyone may have one non-negotiable treat, but new attitudes toward food have shaped kitchen design in permanent ways. Today’s kitchens are still seen as essential places to gather, socialize and enjoy each other’s company, but at many tables, that goal has attained primacy over the food on the plates.

Luxe Interiors + Design | Photography: Cynthia Lynn

WHAT THE NEW KITCHEN LOOKS LIKE
Good equipment no longer requires an industrial setting. Black and white predominate, with an increasing interest in all-black appliances. Floors and some vertical surfaces rely on rich wood tones to vary the monotone, while counters go in several directions. One wall may display a strong shot of color, which is then echoed in woodwork elsewhere in the room.

Visually, counters play a strong role in carrying both color and light through the room. The automatic choice of granite is fading, as quartz and other engineered surfaces like glass develop wider ranges of color and texture choices. These easy-to-maintain long-lived surfaces establish a visual unity throughout the entire kitchen. Whether highly or subtly polished, reflective counter surfaces work as a continuous ribbon of energy throughout a room. Matte or leather-like textures add further visual interest, and veining can contribute both color and strong new lines to both flat and vertical surfaces. Coordinate task lighting with counter surfaces to create work islands, hospitality zones and a quiet corner for a reflective and restful cup of tea.

Black and white remain a reliable choice for kitchen walls and counters, and both black-and-white and all-white kitchens can be expected to remain popular for several more years. To take the best advantage of new technologies, however, treat yourself to exploring the full range of colors available in engineered quartz counter tops before making a predictable, safe choice. The mineral richness of dark greens or blues or the sandy beiges evoking a feeling of the tropics may turn out to be the choice you want to carry your renovation into the future.

The shape and size of counters is influenced by new trends in cooking technique. Generous dimensions let a cook do basic by-hand prep chores while leaving room for selected specialized equipment, the sous vide for one meal, the juicer and a vegetable shredder/slicer at the next. Slightly deeper, wider counters make this space-sharing easier. Amplify the utility of your counters with additional sinks; a deep one for flower-arranging, perhaps, or a broad one for large amounts of produce.  Extended counters make entertaining easy; consider counters at varying heights to accommodate seated guests as well as those getting drinks or choosing from the buffet.

Once you’ve made the big choices, the seeming mountain of detail between you and a completed renovation will shrink rapidly. Glass-fronted cupboard doors have turned out to require just as much cleaning as some homeowners feared, and buffed nickel fixtures have not gained interesting patina from frequent use. So solid doors and bright brass are back. Stencils, folk-art, patterned papers and most fabrics have drifted happily into other rooms, where they can be enjoyed with far less upkeep. Watchwords for 2018 kitchen renovation are: simplicity, efficiency, respect for materials and hospitable warmth. Picture your renovation as the opportunity to create a working household center that lets family members and friends ease away from the frantic daily pace, nourished by good food, good company and a beautiful place in which to relax and recharge.

New Arrival: Bianco Del Nilo Honed

Bianco Del Nilo Honed Marble

Bianco Del Nilo is a 2cm marble with a honed finish. This appealing Italian stone has a crisp white background with subtle gray veins running throughout the slab. Bianco Del Nilo is a great choice for kitchen countertops, island, bar, fireplace surrounds, powder rooms, bathroom counters, shower surrounds, tub surrounds and many other indoor applications.

New Arrival: A-Tech Calacatta Lincoln Side A & B

A-Tech Calacatta Lincoln Side A

A-Tech Calacatta Lincoln Side A & B are 1.2cm porcelain slabs with a polished finish. These man-made Italian slabs are created using a combination of clay, sand and other natural materials to recreate patterns, designs and veining of natural stones. A-Tech Calacatta Lincoln is a durable and versatile product perfect for kitchen countertops, bathroom countertops, flooring, backsplashes and many other indoor and outdoor applications.

A-Tech Calacatta Lincoln Side B

Choosing Countertops for an Outdoor Kitchen

Although cooking outdoors was once the best way to keep your house from burning down, many cultures maintain traditions of cooking and eating out of doors as the best way to celebrate good weather, good company and great food all at the same time. It doesn’t need to be fancy—wonderful family stories center around breakfast cooked over a campfire. Fancy or plain, outdoor meals turn ordinary days into special occasions.

A great way to boost your family’s special-occasion inventory is by building an outdoor kitchen and dining area. Guests are likely to agree that the most appealing ingredient in outdoor entertaining is a feeling of relaxation. Creating a space that puts refreshments and equipment within easy reach extends that relaxation to the host and hostess as well.

What does today’s outdoor kitchen offer to families who want to entertain at home? Everything an indoor kitchen offers—and more! And, as is the case indoors, the key to a great outdoor kitchen is thoughtful planning.

Frankel Building Group

Frankel Building Group

LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION

The three Ls of successful business are critical to creating an outdoor kitchen you will use with enjoyment. Perhaps your location seems a foregone conclusion; the corner of the existing patio is perfect. Perhaps, like a theater director, you must build invisible walls around an island of open space. The calculations are similar in either instance: in addition to foot-traffic, storage and work-space you need to take into account patterns of light and air that affect your setting. Decisions take time and observation. Wheeling a small grill to another part of the yard when the breeze carries smoke over the picnic table is easy. Siting a permanently-installed grill, serving counters and seating takes more sustained planning. Glare, the heat of sun on surfaces, the most frequent paths of bad weather, and the impacts of natural and artificial shade all come into play.

Thoughtful observation prepares you to get the most out of working with an experienced designer or contractor. For example:  How much sun will your desired location get?  Take some photographs throughout a sunny day. Is the whole area soaked in sun? Is there a lot of glare? Hang a thermometer away from the direct sun and chart how hot your kitchen area can get on warm days. Will your countertops by the grill be too hot to touch? Will your serving counter be cool enough to set out salads, drinks or dessert?

Do you have some existing shade? Do you need more? Again, photos help. Some trees provide wonderful shade. Others just increase your work. The mulberry, crabapple or black walnut tree that means frequent hosing off the patio can leave permanent stains on counters and work surfaces. The cleanup factor alone can help you decide on adding a shade structure.

Travel costs money. To maximize the use of your outdoor kitchen, you need to minimize the distances between existing sources of gas, water and electricity. “Travel’ can also affect your location in other ways. Easy reentry to the house makes it easy to wash up for dinner or put away leftovers that will be used at an indoor meal. Quick access via the driveway or garage makes it easier to resupply your kitchen with heavy items like cases of beverages.

EQUIPMENT!

The popularity of outdoor entertaining has created two trends in outdoor-kitchen equipment. The first relates to quality, and the second to variety. Major appliance manufacturers, like Viking, Sub-Zero and Wolf, have brought high-end design and durability to the growing outdoor market. Leaders in outdoor grilling, like Kalamazoo, Lynx and Blaze have expanded from free-standing grills to a wealth of built-in choices and specialized cabinetry. Luxury-quality grills can be obtained for natural gas or wood-fired grilling. Grills feature insulated storage cabinets, warming drawers, carefully calibrated heat zones and other professional-grade culinary options. Custom vent fans can draw heat efficiently from built-in units, keeping smoke and strong cooking odors away from guests while reducing temperatures around the grill. Stainless steel and tempered glass produce both high performance and durability of service.

Other kitchen functions have attracted the attention of luxury-quality manufacturers, with durability and easy maintenance as high priorities. Sub-Zero, Wolf, and Kalamazoo have all made their marks on this active market, and it is hard to think of a food-preparation, service or storage area need they have left unmet. Refrigeration serves as just one illustration of the creative options open to consumers: in addition to solidly-insulated compact refrigerators, all the appurtenances of well-equipped restaurants are available in models designed for outdoor kitchens. Freezers, wine coolers, beverage cases, kegerators, and ice-makers all expand the capacities of outdoor hospitality.

Manufacturers and equipment importers have also responded to enthusiasm for cuisines beyond standard American favorites. Pizza ovens, available in modern stainless steel and more traditional masonry materials, rank high on family wish-lists. Outdoor grills offer modifications for woks and deep-fryers. Growing interest in the cuisines of Central and South America has stimulated manufacture of gaucho- or Argentine-barbecue-style grilling rigs. Specialized smoker equipment lets cooks experiment with everything from ribs to fish. A custom-installed tandoor oven brings Indian cuisine out of the restaurant and into the back yard.  Again, the watchwords are professional-grade and durable.

Jupiter Country Club Resident Spotlight

Jupiter Country Club Resident Spotlight

DESIGN DECISIONS

To make the best use of your time with a professional designer or contractor, think about the design of your kitchen in the ways they will approach the challenges of the job. Look at your planned room from the inside out: what kinds of hospitality are you likely to offer most often?  Then look from the outside in: what kinds of protection do you need to make that hospitality work?

Like indoor kitchens, outdoor ones depend on the inclusion of many permanent work-related structures in the basic design. Adequate, well-positioned counter space is critical, to the point that kitchen designers sometimes suggest potential owners walk through routines like getting a family meal or setting up for a party. The rigors of weather and outdoor activities also suggest that in an outdoor kitchen additional counter-space can be more useful than more fragile or portable furniture. In addition to a bar-height counter for adults, for example, you could also install a lower counter to accommodate snack-seeking kids—and adults—during an afternoon in the pool. For more elaborate entertaining or large-group meals, stationary tables accommodate both refreshments and guests. You may also want to create a quiet corner for small-group gatherings and solitary relaxation.

Outdoor cooking can present some unique stresses. Barbecuing introduces intense heat, smoke-stains and a whole menu of acid-based, highly-colored, fat-bonding ingredients in sauces and marinades. The informality of outdoor cooking may mean many cooks in the kitchen, more exposure of fixtures and equipment to both heat- and cold-shock, and heavy pots set down with a bang. Weather is a constant consideration. Surfaces and equipment may be subject to high temperatures, freeze-and-thaw cycles and winds freighted with dust, sand and other corrosive materials. (Anyone who has accidentally left a yard chair out all winter knows how rapidly even relatively mild changes in weather can cause deterioration.) Some choices in durability are already made by experienced manufacturers; you can’t look for outdoor kitchen equipment without seeing a lot of stainless steel. Walls, floors and counters rely on stone and concrete for long-term stability. Canopies, shade-sails and custom-made equipment covers, mostly in weatherproof marine fabrics, protect a wide variety of surfaces from ice, snow, intense sunlight, heat and wind.

In this challenging environment, materials choices matter, and stone is an excellent choice for counters that will tolerate tough conditions while retaining their beauty and low maintenance needs. Your professional designer or experienced contractor can offer excellent guidance on the best-performing stone choices for your climate and site conditions. Natural stones have some advantages over those enhanced by technology. The most durable of those, granite and quartzite, retain their sheen and integrity with periodic surface resealing and prompt clean-up of spills and possible stains. (In some areas, granite and quartzite may be joined by other natural options. Soapstone, for example, is a softer stone, more prone to staining and scratching, from human or weather activity, but the additional wear-and-tear may not discourage consumers who want a strong rustic flavor to their outdoor setting.)

Ask lots of questions if considering engineered quartz for an outdoor kitchen. Surface durability is not a consideration; as is the case indoors, engineered quartz excels in hardness, resiliance and ease of maintenance. The resins and pigments essential to quartz’s durability and beauty, however, can be U/V light-sensitive, resulting in discoloration or fading in outdoor settings. Experienced professionals can help you obtain a more detailed performance history of engineered quartz in your area. Fortunately, natural granite and natural quartzite offer beautiful, durable choices for the new, soon-to-be-favorite, room in your hospitable home.

New Arrival: Blue Venato

Blue Venato Marble

Blue Venato is a 3cm marble with a polished finish. This beautiful Italian stone has diagonal striations or light gray running throughout a dark blue-gray background. The consistency gives this stone its handsome qualities making it a sophisticated choice for any space. Blue Venato is suitable for kitchen countertops, powder rooms, bathroom countertops and many other indoor applications.

New Arrival: Arabescato Corchia

Arabescato Corchia Marble

Arabescato Corchia is a 2cm marble with a polished finish. This beautiful Italian stone has a white background with a dark gray, pencil-like veining. Arabescato Corchia is a great choice for any project wanting a classic material with wonderful visual interest, including kitchen countertops, bars, fireplaces, furniture, powder rooms, bathroom counters, showers, tub decks and many other indoor applications.