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May 06 2014

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Outdoor Residential Kitchens Crave Professional-grade, Specialized Equipment

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In the wake of the housing recovery, professional-grade equipment is becoming more prevalent in outdoor kitchens. “What we’re seeing with outdoor kitchens parallels the trend we saw with professional indoor cooking equipment,” said Brian Eskew, marketing director for Twin Eagles.

Fueled by an increased interest in artisan cooking and entertaining at home, a growing number of outdoor kitchen products are now becoming more specialized with the capabilities of restaurant kitchens. As outdoor kitchens are forecast to be one of the most popular residential outdoor design elements in the coming years – according to a recent survey of residential landscape architects by the American Society of Landscape Architects – there are no signs of this trend cooling down.

Power Heating Up 

Performance is truly the name of the game. Commercial cooking equipment is designed to cook quickly, effectively and consistently at high temperatures. Homeowners want the same thing when they cook their favorite meals in their outdoor kitchens. This is driving product innovation, and more manufacturers are finding ways to repurpose commercial products for residential use.

For example, outdoor kitchen companies have brought the salamander grill – common in many restaurant kitchens – into the backyard. These can deliver intense heat overhead to help the food avoid exposure to flare-ups or charring. Similarly, restaurant-caliber burners have hit the residential market in a big way. They create external heat, giving homeowners the firepower to do everything from searing steaks at more than 700 degrees to handling lobster pots and turkey fryers.

‘Foodie’ Revolution 

Those who want to step up their outdoor cooking game know they need the right equipment to get them there. “People are becoming more adventuresome in their cooking,” said Russ Faulk, grill master and vice president of design, Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet. “The better your equipment is, the more easily you can try out some advanced techniques, and the more you’ll enjoy the experience.”

While enthusiasm for artisan cooking has always been at a simmer in our culture, it’s now more widespread than ever, thanks in part to the rise of food bloggers and celebrity chefs. It’s not just avid cooks who seek professional-grade equipment – it’s everyone.

“Everybody just wants to get into the kitchen, whether they’re cooking from scratch and need specialty cookware or if they’re just reheating a dish and giving it their own twist with a special garnish,” said Deborah Pankey, food editor for the Daily Herald in the Chicago suburbs. “As people travel more, read food magazines and watch cooking shows, they want to bring that into their own space.”

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Today’s Special

Happening simultaneously with the heightened interest in cooking, outdoor kitchen equipment has become more specialized. As people begin to develop a more sophisticated palate through exposure to a variety of cuisines and regional dishes at restaurants, more focus is placed on recreating those recipes at home. To cook these dishes, equipment that extends beyond grilling is often necessary.

“Specialized outdoor cooking equipment is becoming more popular,” said Faulk. “For example, we’re seeing a rise in popularity of the pizza oven – a specialized piece of equipment designed for a certain type of cooking. It has capabilities that a grill does not.”

In fact, manufacturers have discovered ways to redesign commercial wood-fired brick ovens for residential use while maintaining the same performance found in a restaurant kitchen. Along with specialization, the cooking equipment has become more functional. Added capabilities allow for both endless recipe possibilities and versatility when it comes to cooking styles. By offering multiple functions for the user, grills with options such as dual-fuel capabilities, sear burners for high-temperature cooking and rotisseries have risen in popularity.

Elevating Lifestyle

Food is only half the story, and according to Eskew, “As much as it is about food, it’s even more about lifestyle – gathering and entertaining.”

Entertaining at home has taken on new life following the recession. Homeowners enjoy staying at home more often and value spending more time with family and friends. In turn, they seek the best available outdoor kitchen equipment that will help them cook restaurant-quality meals for their guests.

“The fact is that more people are eating at home now more than ever before. Therefore the ability to be able to cook for your family or for a group of people is important,” said Jim Ginocchi, president of Coyote Outdoor Living. “Homeowners are looking for quality – both in the time spent with loved ones and from the equipment they are cooking their food on.”

As the outdoor kitchen is another center for entertaining at home, consistency is one of the most important elements of the cooking equipment, according to Dawn Whyte, principal designer and owner of Designs by Dawn. “While the indoor kitchen is the heart of the home, the outdoor kitchen is the pulse of the neighborhood – it brings people together,” she said. “And when people get together, the host wants to feel confident that their dishes will be delicious every time – just like restaurant chefs.”

Beyond Cooking

While much emphasis in professional-grade performance has been placed on cooking, manufacturers also have been bolstering other parts of the outdoor kitchen. Refrigeration and cabinetry are two areas that have become more important as homeowners want their outdoor kitchens to be completely self-sufficient – and in some cases, the primary kitchen.

Storage has become more important as homeowners are using their outdoor kitchens more often.

“Not only do we have the BTUs, different styles of grilling and cooking, built-in halogens for nighttime grilling, side burners, storage, high searing options, rotisseries and all kinds of refrigeration – cabinetry also has improved. We have choices beyond stainless,” said Elaine Markoutsas, nationally syndicated design writer for Universal Uclick. She points out that Brown Jordan, a luxury furniture manufacturer, has a line of outdoor cabinetry with classic styling in a range of colors and models.

To improve functionality, some outdoor cabinetry now has the ability to protect the contents inside. For example, magnetic gaskets that create a seal to shield dry goods from the outside elements and weather-tight designs with rain gutters around door openings are becoming more commonplace. These allow homeowners to store items such as linens, pots and pans, dishes and spices outside without worrying about them getting wet.

Looking Ahead

To predict what lies ahead for outdoor kitchens, experts suggest looking inside.

“Consumers will probably see more translation from what is popular for indoor cooking,” said Ginocchi. “Trends for the outdoor usually follow what is popular for everyday use inside.”

Experts also agree that specialized equipment will continue to flourish as manufactures push the limits of innovation. We’ll likely see more specialized professional-grade products – such as fryers, dual-fuel appliances, smokers and electric grills – become popular outdoor kitchen staples over the next several years.

- By Bradley Carlson, Communications Manager, Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet

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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

                                                                               “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

                                                                                         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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Looking forward to seeing more innovation tomorrow!

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