Trend Alert: Dark Wood Countertops

We covered the pros and cons of different butcher block countertops in 2018, but we just couldn’t help ourselves this time around. It feels like everywhere we look, we’re seeing this rustic element making a comeback in new ways. Most of all, we’re noticing butcher block countertops stained dark, a design choice that is intriguing and exciting for several reasons.

Visually, kitchens are composed mostly of cabinets. Cabinets these days are composed mostly of white or off-white colors. To bring some contrast to the kitchen, you need a centerpiece that balances out the surrounding cabinets and drawers.

Any wood countertop can bring that much-needed warmth and contrast to your space. For those with a taste for the dramatic, however, a dark wood countertop can be the perfect combination of rustic and modern.

Though it takes a step away from the “all-natural” feeling of unstained wood, a dark stain is a simple way to flair up your kitchen, no matter the style. Bright cabinets obviously benefit from the contrast of a dark wood counter. On the flip side, dark cabinets require a more subtle balance.

There is no “one size fits all” stain for your counter, though. As with most details, it depends on your personal taste. All we can tell you is a dark stained wood countertop will fit most stylistic needs, and there is a huge range of tones to choose from. A butcher block island especially serves as a great centerpiece for hosting guests, prepping food, or just looking at and thinking, “Yup, I’m glad we went with that.”

Trend Alert: Vertical Opening Systems

Every kitchen designer knows the cabinets make the kitchen. They’re usually the first thing you notice when you walk in, and almost nothing can be done in any kitchen without opening and closing at least a few doors. With the right design, construction, and installation, they can make your kitchen flow either effortless or disastrous.

Obviously most cabinet doors open horizontally, swinging outward to the side. Most door and hinge systems are designed this way, from cars to barns. Now we are seeing more and more cabinet systems designed with doors that open vertically.

From a design standpoint, we love them. Corner cabinets can be tricky, and here we have a quick fix.

Cabinet makers are absolutely noticing this trend too. Everywhere we look, there are new hinge and door designs. There are double doors, downward doors, and even pneumatic hinges.

There is not much else to say about this trend because it’s pretty self-explanatory. All we can say is we are excited to see where it goes and what cabinet designers will come up with next.

2020 Color Forecast

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Well we’re halfway through 2019 (already?), and we stand by the color trends we sent earlier this year. On the other hand, some of us are ready to see what 2020 will bring. Sure we may be jumping the gun a bit here, but companies like Sherwin-Williams have already released color forecasts for next year, so… This month’s blog post is on next year’s colors.

Sherwin-Williams released a list of 45 colors, mixed into five comprehensive color palettes. Like always, there are some we agree with and some we don’t. Here are a few of our favorites from that list:

“RIPE OLIVE SW 6209”

Here we have a deep and moody green. At a time when we usually see green used as an accent, bright and somewhat muted, we are overjoyed to see a return to this majestic shade. We work a lot with wood, and this green compliments most wood finishes wonderfully.

“BREATHLESS SW 6022”

This is a color we’re seeing a lot, not just in interiors but everywhere. There’s something comforting about this soft pink hue and we’re not sure how to word it. It’s just a feeling. Nothing about it says “Traditional,” and everything says “Cool,” and it reminds us of cherry blossoms. In terms of complimentary colors, it goes well with any sort of neutral off-white or grey.

“GAMBOL GOLD SW 6690”

Now this one might just be personal preference. A little too bold for full spaces, we would reserve this for accents only, but boy does it do the job. If you’re in need of a little brightness to balance out a neutral paint or if your living room is just feeling a little empty, try adding this bright color in the form of an end table or lighting fixture.

“GRANITE PEAK SW 6250”

We love colors that hover in the (literally) grey area in between your primaries, colors that make you think, “Wait, is that even blue?”. What we love most is the versatility. Any space, any accent, any time, colors like this one just seem to fit nicely.

So that’s what Sherwin-Williams thinks 2020 is going to look like. What do you think?

Trend Alert: Smart Sleep

If you’re having problems getting to sleep, staying asleep, or waking up in the morning, this article is for you. 

Two months ago we talked about “Smart Lights,” an easy way to “smarten” up your home without taking any drastic steps. One improvement we mentioned but didn’t go into detail on was a light that replicates the natural progression of the sun, allowing for more comfort and better sleep.

Following up on that, we have this month’s topic: “Smart Sleep,” or ways you can use technology to improve your sleep quality. Installing smart lights in your bedroom is one way to achieve this.

Our bodies operate on a circadian rhythm, meaning pretty much everything we do is according to the sun (or light that our bodies think is sunlight). Every single one of us will sleep, eat, work, and sleep again depending on the time of day. Poor sleep leads to poor feelings the next day, then to health issues if the problem continues. If you’re having problems getting to sleep, staying asleep, or waking up in the morning, this article is for you.

Everyone sleeps and wakes according to different factors. Some might prefer silence, some might prefer noise, some complete darkness, some light. That being said, sleep solutions have to be adjustable in order to work. Pretty much every sleep-related product we’ve seen recently can be adjusted.

Take blackout shades, for example. Traditional blackout curtains were “one-size-fits-all,” bulky and unattractive. Modern ones can be thin, lightweight and nearly unnoticable, able to be used in combination with any style of curtain or shade you choose. This gives you complete control of your look and lighting simultaneously.

Next is noise. Most people can achieve sleep despite natural, chaotic sound, but a large percentage of people need some sort of white noise or noise-cancelling effect in order to sleep restfully. Thankfully modern technology has brought us noise-cancelling headphones and white noise generators. You can find efficient white noise generators online or purchase a standalone device to keep near your bedside. Most higher-end wireless headphones are now also outfitted with a noise-cancelling feature, meaning you can have quiet wherever and whenever you need.

It may not seem like it but aroma plays a huge part in our mood and physiology. Certain aromas can induce feelings of relaxation or stress. Lavender, vanilla, valerian, and jasmine have all proven to be effective in helping people sleep. An aroma diffuser is an easy and affordable way to maintain this control.

Finally we have the covers. Your choice in sheets and blankets will directly impact your bedtime comfort. Breathable, high-thread-count sheets are a must for those who possess a tendency to overheat in their sleep, while weighted blankets can influence your nervous system into a more relaxed and restful state.

All-in-all there are many factors that affect our sleep. Finding your personal preference is a process that can take a very long time, but restful is sleep is absolutely worth it. Not everyone needs blackout curtains and fancy noise machines to sleep well, but most everyone could use a higher quality of sleep. For more tips on healthy living, check out this blog post, the first in a series by our founder and principal designer, Richard L. Ourso, CKD, CAPS.

Tis the Season: For Outdoor Sittin’

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With this weather, it’s hard to stay indoors. It is essential for our physical and mental well being that we stay connected with the outdoors. And these days, the outdoor living space is becoming just as essential as the indoor living space. An out door living space may be limited to just include a comfortable spot in the back yard with a place to sit and possibly an overhang for cover, but it can also be as inclusive as a full kitchen and living space. There are some things to keep in mind when designing an outdoor space.

Ourso Designs

The first thing is to consider where the sun rises and sets, more importantly where the sun sets, because we tend to spend more time in our outdoor spaces in the evening. Is your overhang low enough to protect from direct sun? Or do you have the proper shading partitions in place?

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Another consideration is the direction of wind and blowing rains. Like, shading from the sun, you must also consider buffering from wind and rain. Closing in one side of your space or the use of shudders can help.

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Materials used in the space are important too. They must be able to hold up to the elements. Some manufactured stones (quartz) will fade in the sun.

Ourso Designs

There are 3 key areas to an inclusive outdoor living space. The cooking area, the dining area, and the seating area. There are many different types of cooking to incorporate into your kitchen; a charcoal grill, a gas grill, an egg, etc. You will also want to incorporate a sink and a fridge.

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There are a few different options for cabinet/storage material. Masonry, stucco, wood, or manufactured cabinet made from a weatherproof resin. With masonry and stucco you can incorporate stainless steel inserts. This is one of your more durable options, but not the most efficient. Wood cabinets are the most efficient, but are not as weather resistant. The resin cabinets, are efficient and durable, but may not have the “natural” look and feel you are looking for.

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Depending on your roof type, you have to consider air circulation. Is the hot air able to escape? Ceiling fans can help. Also a pergola is good way to release trapped hot air as it rises.

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Typically your outdoor space will include a fireplace or some type of fire pit for warmth in the colder months.

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The details are important to make your space the most comfortable and enjoyable it can be!

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Raising the Bar: Home Bars

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Home design is, firstly, all about how the user operates their space on a daily basis. Secondly, home design is all about how the user operates their space when they entertain. The home bar has steadily become a standard component found in homes today.

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Features often found in a home bar include: an under counter fridge for wine and beverages, an ice maker, a small sink, lockable liquor drawers, and visible shelving.

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Hospitality, especially in the south, is valuable as well as influential. And having a space that caters to this is imperative. Secondary spaces, like the home bar, keeps your kitchen reserved for cooking, while guests can mingle in other areas reserved for drinks and hors d’oeuvres. 

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Home bars don’t have to be very big, and have been known to be retrofitted from closets and even under the stairs. They can always be visible or close off when not in use. They also create more storage for glasses and dishes.

We are raising the bar on home standards everyday!

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Trend Alert: Waterfall Island Countertops

A traditional countertop design extends the lip of the countertop just a few inches beyond the edge of the actual counter. A waterfall countertop continues the past the edge of the counter, vertically down to the floor, extending the material to all sides of the island.

What seemed like a temporary trend at first is becoming a staple in modern kitchens. By far the most popular material used is stone, but we are also seeing wood and concrete countertops getting the waterfall treatment. 
As with most concept and trends, people are finding ways to challenge the classic method. We are seeing partial, offset and live edge waterfalls becoming more common as well.

New Year, New Colors

A new year means out with the old and in with the new color. With 2019’s announcement of these leading design companies color of the year reports, its time to get painting! Pantone’s “Living Coral”, Benjamin Moore’s “Metropolitan”, and Sherwin William’s “Cavern Clay” will bring warmth and vibrancy to any drab space.

1. Pantone

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Living Coral

“Vibrant, yet mellow PANTONE 16-1546 Living Coral embraces us with warmth and nourishment to provide comfort and buoyancy in our continually shifting environment.
In reaction to the onslaught of digital technology and social media increasingly embedding into daily life, we are seeking authentic and immersive experiences that enable connection and intimacy. Sociable and spirited, the engaging nature of PANTONE 16-1546 Living Coral welcomes and encourages lighthearted activity. Symbolizing our innate need for optimism and joyful pursuits, PANTONE 16-1546 Living Coral embodies our desire for playful expression.
Representing the fusion of modern life, PANTONE Living Coral is a nurturing color that appears in our natural surroundings and at the same time, displays a lively presence within social media.”
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1. Benjamin Moore

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Metropolitan

“Calm, composed and effortlessly sophisticated, Benjamin Moore’s Color of the Year 2019, Metropolitan AF-690, exudes glamour, beauty and balance.”
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3. Sherwin Williams

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Cavern Clay

“A warm terracotta color with ancient, elemental roots, Cavern Clay SW 7701, is our 2019 Color of the Year. Cavern Clay is a nod to midcentury modern style, but with the soul of the American Southwest, which together creates a desert modern aesthetic.
This warm, earthy hue is both casual and refined. It can be the backdrop of a playful, welcoming dining room or kitchen when paired with bright tiles, warm stone and sculptural greenery. Complementary materials include leather, simple woodgrains and indigenous cacti in contemporary, sleek gardening planters.
Cavern Clay is an easy way to bring the warmth of the outdoors in. Envision beaches, canyons and deserts, and sun-washed late summer afternoons—all of this embodied in one color.”
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Trend Alert: Monochrome

One of the first design concepts you learn is contrast. Complementary colors are located on opposing sides of the color wheel. Finding colors that go together but create contrast is a key step in designing a space. Therefore it may seem counterintuitive to do it with only one color. However, we are seeing more and more rooms that play on variations of a single color. These spaces are immersive, moody and shocking.

Monochromatic rooms set the mood immediately and without question. That mood, depending on the color, can range anywhere from bright and whimsical to sleek ultramodern. Monochrome also brings the added benefit of allowing your accents and fixtures to stand out where they might otherwise go unnoticed.

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Your Countertop Guide: Butcher Block

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Last month, it was stone. This month, we’re back, taking you through the ins and outs of butcher block countertops. These naturally beautiful wood countertops have a lot going for them: they are eco-friendly, anti-microbial, and even citrus resistant (unlike granite and some stone countertops). It’s easy to see why these countertops are so popular.

What are Butcher Block Countertops? 

Butcher block is one of the oldest materials used for countertops. Its use evolved very naturally; kitchen chefs would use thick slabs of wood as for cutting and chopping in their kitchens. Eventually, instead of just having a slab, kitchen designers thought to use long, thick planks of wood as countertop material.
Today’s butcher block countertops are made of long, thin pieces of wood fused together. This method gives you, the consumer, more control over the configuration of your countertop, as well as better quality material. You don’t have to follow the natural grain of the wood or include imperfections in your design. 

The four most popular types of butcher block countertops are made from maple, oak, bamboo, and antique pine. Each type of wood has its own pros and cons. Learning about each will help you make a more informed decision when you are thinking about adding butcher block countertops to your next new build, renovation, or remodeling project.

Maple Countertops

This most popular butcher block material today is maple. This hardwood is a natural choice for a couple of reasons. First, this wood has a simple, straight grain, which gives off an overall appearance of elegance. It also a beautiful blond to light-brown coloration, which goes well with many styles. Staining tends to bring out the spectrum of this wood’s coloration, making it an eye-catcher in any setting. 

These maple countertops from Lumber Liquidators would be perfect in our laundry room and the desk area we'll build in the kitchen.

Oak Countertops

My DIY kitchen oak cabinets painted Annie Sloan pure white chalk paint, ikea domsjo farm sink, butcherblock countertops sealed with waterlox, and white matte subway tile with oyster grey grout.

Oak countertops aren’t quite as durable as maple, but they do have their own perks. Oak gives you the greatest range of color variation, thanks to the numerous species of oak that can be used. You can have from rich dark honey tones of a red oak all the way to the subtle corn and hay tones in a white oak.

Bamboo Countertops

How to Create a Custom Bamboo Countertop in a Bathroom : How-To : DIY Network

You might have heard that wood countertops are impossible to sanitize. This is a myth. Most wood countertops naturally kill bacteria. Germs like salmonella and listeria need water to grow; wood binds up water, making it difficult for bacteria to grow. Wood consistently outperforms materials like plastic when it comes to controlling the spread of bacteria.And of the wood countertops, bamboo countertops are the most bacteria resistant.

 Eco-friendly Kitchen Countertops - Sunset.com endgrain bamboo counter

Bamboo is also a great choice if you’re looking for an eco-friendly wood option. Bamboo takes only a few years to reach full maturity, making it a sustainable resource.

Antique Pine Countertops

Last but not least are antique pine countertops. These countertops have a unique look, thanks to their 100+ years of maturation. This gives the wood a close-grained texture and a super hard, durable surface. It also makes the wood more stable than young woods. The color will not change over the years as dramatically as with  other woods.

Reclaimed White Pine Kitchen Island Counter - yes please! In love! Not super fond of the white though.

Antique pine countertops are easy to clean and maintain.