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Mar 18 2014

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Faux Real: Digital image printing comes of age

When I was a girl growing up in the 60s, DIY wood paneling was all the rage for creating a quick new look at home. I remember my father paneling a kitchen in a version of ‘pickled’ oak, 4×8 sheets of it nailed over old wallpaper. My mom added her decorating touches to it with a black and white checkerboard vinyl floor and finished it off with a duet of appliances in avocado green. So chic!

So that was my initiation into faux wood, followed by the ubiquitous “walnut” desks and TV stands made of plastic. So suffice it to say, it would take a lot to change this designer’s perspective on anything that mimics real wood, but isn’t. For that matter, my opinion on anything that’s fake, or ‘faux’ as it’s now known, hasn’t been so great.

But that has all changed. Digital printing has opened up a whole new world of possibilities for creating products for the home that are insanely gorgeous – from porcelain tile, countertops, fabrics, wall covering and more. As a designer who’s focused on sustainability, preservation of our natural resources is my top priority. Being able to specify a porcelain floor tile or countertop that looks EXACTLY like stone and saves our planet gets my attention every time.

A couple of years ago I started seeing digitally printed tiles that are pretty amazing. There are some wonderful renditions of concrete floors, wood planking and stone. The beauty of these floors goes well beyond their looks. Virtually maintenance free and made to last, these tiles are a stylish, sustainable choice.

Italian tile company Ceramica Serenissima created this concrete look tile that comes in several sizes and color ways.


                                                                               “Metropolis” by Ceramica Serenissima

Crossville Tile, a Tennessee-based company, has introduced two great lines called Reclamation and Speak Easy.

Digitally printed porcelain tiles with wonderful texture, they’re a fresh take on aged wood with an urban edge. Both Speak Easy and Reclamation are manufactured in the U.S. with Crossville’s EcoCycle manufacturing process and contain a minimum of 4 percent recycled content and is Green Squared certified.

Speak Easy

                                                                                      Speak Easy Sweet Georgia Brown


                                                                                         Reclamation Whiskey Lullaby

When it comes to countertop choices, Formica’s 180 FX line of stone and wood laminates has become a real game-changer. Using digital imagery and creating large-scale formats, you can now create a beautiful surface that’s affordable, and yes, sustainable. The current trend in rare, textured woods was captured by Formica in a pattern called Black Walnut Timber. Taking a cue from the iconic furniture maker George Nakashima, it includes the natural fissures in the wood and even the butterfly joinery detail.

Formica 180 FX

                                                                                             Formica’s Black Walnut Timber

Here’s another of Formica’s 180 FX stone tops in Dolce Vita. It not only has the large-scale look of a slab of granite, but also has the company’s new Ideal Edge detail, which eliminates the tell-tale black line, delivering an even more authentic look. Adding to the beauty of this top is the stainless steel sink by Karran. Yes, you can now have an under-mount sink in a laminate top! The result:  a stunning, high-end look with an affordable price tag.

3420_DolceVita 180fx_Bullnose1

Now you can paper your walls with wood. This realistic wood wallcovering from Walls Republic would look fabulous in a beach house or a country bedroom. Dreamy! Priced at $89 for a 21-in.-wide x 33-ft. bolt, it’s a pretty, affordable way to get a great look without having to hire a carpenter (or cut down a tree!).

Walls Republic

                                                                                      Brushed wood Tuscan R1879

So call if what you will, fake or faux, I love the way this digital world we live in has changed the way we design. If we can create gorgeous interiors while saving our precious natural resources, I’ll take fake over real any day.

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Feb 20 2014

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Small, smart conveniences: A look back at Design & Construction Week

Smart move #1: Combining KBIS and IBS shows to create “Design and Construction Week” in Las Vegas. It was a huge hit, generating not only tremendous crowds, but a fresh, positive attitude about what lies ahead in the industry.

Smart move #2: Wearing comfortable shoes. Navigating all three halls of the convention center took every bit of the three-day show. So much to see, so much innovation and just plain pretty stuff. I’m torn between two worlds: that of the designer in me, who wants to keep up with the latest trends in gorgeous kitchen and bath products, and the builder/renovator chic who loves a good-looking roof shingle. A house has to be well built and beautiful both inside and out, right?

So I split my time between those two worlds and saw some pretty awesome stuff. Last year from KBIS in New Orleans, I reported a new trend toward texture and mixed finishes and the emergence of the color grey as ‘the new natural.’ These trends continued to expand at this year’s show and were even more refined. Simple, clean and uncomplicated design, now with a hidden secret: convenience. Yes, it’s all about that. Saving time, saving money, saving space and of course, looking great!

Here are some interesting finds from my hunt. Some smart, space-saving conveniences and technology that won’t break the bank.

Kohler’s “Tailored Collection” vanities
The Tailored Vanity Collection follows a basic four-step process:
1. Choose your exterior: multiple vanity styles, sizes, configurations, installations and wood finishes
2. Choose your interior: user-centric organization accessories: integrated electric outlets, bamboo storage trays and dividers, adjustable shelves and rollout drawers
3. Choose your top: variety of vanity top materials, sizes, shapes and colors
4. Choose coordinating components: finish-matched mirrored solutions, sconces, hardware, bridges and lap drawers

Untitled1 I love the interior accessories: Integrating electrical outlets inside the cabinet allows for plugging in hair dryers, electric toothbrushes, shavers, etc., and keeps the countertop uncluttered. Genius!

Leviton USB Charger devices

Plug your phones or tables in the USB port outlet and save space, conveniently locating them in one small area.


Or you can combine the outlet and ports together if you need to plug something in. Sometimes the simplest ideas make the most sense.


Brink’s Home Security “Push Pull Rotate” door lockset
Push Pull Rotate door locks make opening doors easier whether your hands are full or free. A quick bump with an elbow or hip, or a tug with a single finger, can open interior or exterior doors more easily and without having to set down groceries, babies or mobile phones. Although the Push Pull Rotate locks are easier to use, they still stay closed and locked when the user wants them to be – exactly as a traditional lock does. Push Pull Rotate handles provide a new door-opening solution and are ADA compliant.


Kichler’s LED Tape
LED light tapes have revolutionized the way we use accent and even task lighting in kitchens or, for that matter, any room in the house. So small and compact, they can virtually fit anywhere. Now, Kichler’s LED tape is available to use outside in wet areas to use as accent lighting or to light a path. Convenient, beautiful AND energy efficient!


SimpliciKey Remote Control Electronic Deadbolt
Isn’t it great that you can now open and close doors and turn on lights and appliances with your smart phone? But most of these systems require some sort of an organized whole-house wiring system, which is not only costly but also kind of confusing. I love this front door lock system. You can use it three ways: with a remote key fob, a numeric entry code or the old fashioned way: with a KEY. The door can also be accessed remotely with a phone app through their new KEYCLOUD system.


So many great products, so little time. Suffice it to say, I could have used another day!

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Feb 05 2014

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New Location, New Contacts, New Products

The second day of KBIS ended with more than sore feet for me. As I made my way around the showroom floor, I learned just how many ways companies are becoming more and more creative with addressing clients’ demands and meeting the changing industry.

At the Wellborn Cabinetry press conference, I heard from Angela Wellborn O’Neill on the company’s move towards a solution for entire homes and the new colors that have been introduced, such as the color “cloud.” My favorite part was the small space design showcasing the Portland door style. Even though it was a small space, the kitchen, banquette, entertainment center and living area were integrated in such as way that it seemed intimate but not squished. Trends such as the driftwood finish in the kitchen and the simple edged countertops showed how the cabinetry can be mixed and matched.


I was also particularly drawn to Estudio Group, LLC’s collection of green products. By taking concrete tile, brick, quarry tile and recycled glass, beautiful backsplashes and countertops could be created for a sustainable solution. EnGrain Wood Countertops also offered a gorgeous and durable eco-friendly product with a line of more than 20 wood species and color options for counters.

As usual I was awed by Rev-A-Shelf’s fun and innovative collection of shelving. It’s amazing how organization inside your cabinets can affect the rest of your kitchen. The “Cloud” blind corner cabinet organizer is still my favorite, with its sleek shape and smooth movement.


Looking forward to seeing more innovation tomorrow!

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Sep 27 2013

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While learning about the industry can be quite useful, it can also be quite filling

I recently attended a media event at the Wolf/Sub-Zero headquarters in Madison, Wis., and I have to say, I think I came back five pounds heavier. I also have to say those five pounds were worth it.

Amidst a variety of my peers – a food blogger and recipe developer, a designer with killer media skills and editors from Dwell and Traditional Home (just to name a few) – I had the opportunity to eat several delicious meals throughout the one-and-a-half-day program, some of them even twice.

The evening before the company’s New Generation appliance unveiling – and yes, we got to actually touch the refrigerators and oven units (see http://www.kbbonline.com/kbb/news-and-features/Wolf-Sub-Zero-Media–4748.shtml) – we were given a tour of the Westye F. Bakke Center, which was named after the founder. The lobby, decorated with elegant Chihuly sculptures and colorful paintings, leads into not just one, but two demonstration kitchens – one with a more traditional design in darker woods and furniture, and the other featuring a brighter, more contemporary look.

photo[2] copy 2
Contempo demo kitchen

After that is the center’s very own old-time pub, complete with leather and marble materials, as well as decorative wood details. The tour ended with a look into the facility’s actual preparation kitchen, which was completely open so we could see our meals come to life in front of our eyes.


Our dinner dining area was a grand space looking out onto the campus – the weather was very mild for my first trip to Madison – and on the other side of the space was a large, open bar and lounge-like seating area. After we all ordered a cocktail, our appetizer course included tuna tartare and various cheeses on the patio. I would have been fine with that, but dinner was still to be served, and I had to save room.

Actual Kitchen

Our entrée choice was either a juicy steak or a trout dish made with bacon crumbs and served in a Riesling butter sauce – and that was after a few rolls and a fresh salad. Some of the women at my table were stuck on which to order, so one of the company executives seated with us suggested they do half and half. If the chefs were dismayed by this idea, you couldn’t tell at all. I ordered the trout, and because I ate ALL of it, I had to forgo the mini desserts of our last course. I could barely move, and I was pretty uncomfortable. As soon as we got back to our hotel, I washed my face and crashed.

Figuring I would never be hungry again, I arrived to the breakfast planning to have coffee (a rare treat for me because I can become very animated) and some cereal. But after viewing the array of delicacies laid out for us, I added potatoes and fruit next to my steaming (big) bowl of oatmeal.

I prayed the next few hours would go by exceptionally slow to give my stomach some time to rest before lunch, where we were told we would be served in not just one, but both of the demo kitchens we had seen the night before. Surprisingly – or not, seeing as how the rest of the day had gone – I was hungry again at noon when we took our break.

Chef demo

Our first chef, who was in charge of the more traditional kitchen, taught us how to make mozzarella, spinach and prosciutto flatbreads – and then served us three of those – not bothering to tell us to save some room for the bison sliders that came next. Dessert was something I can’t even pronounce, but because I had skipped out the night before, I was all in this time.

photo[1] copy

I was almost uncomfortably full after the first lunch, so you can just imagine how I felt after being served a salad and pork tenderloin with a vegetable hash at the next lunch in the contemporary kitchen. I believe our chef was a bit disappointed in how quiet we were, but I could hear faint whispers of “food coma” being uttered in our group. Again, I had to forgo the dessert, which was a beautiful apple cider donut. I was seriously sweating.


At the end of a great day, I could still barely move, and although I felt badly that I could not accept a dinner invitation with the remainder of the group that evening, I still ended up having to order a small meal later on after regular dinner hours were over.

Thanks to all of the great chefs at Wolf/Sub-Zero – you are doing an amazing job.

- Chelsie Butler, K+BB Executive Editor

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