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Aug 27 2015

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Beautiful Renovations in a Florida Summer Rental


And the owners were TRULY proud of those renovations – both in the kitchen and the two bathrooms. I know this because when we tried to talk them down a bit on their rental rate, they abruptly refused – letting us know their new design is not something at which to scoff.

And it definitely was not.

My friend and I walked into an airy, open, shades of gray and white summer beach rental and never wanted to leave. Each room had a queen bed with its own master bath. The choice of master bath really depended on whether you wanted a tub or a shower. The kitchen was decked out with lovely countertops, a HUGE Sub-Zero refrigerator and some glass-fronted cabinetry.

Here are some photos for you to see:

This refrigerator was definitely too large for the space, but we loved it.

This refrigerator was definitely too large for the space, but we loved it. It was great to be able to see what was inside without having to waste energy opening the door each time. 

One bathroom had this large, barrier-free shower. I love the glass blocks - even if they are old school.

One bathroom had this large, barrier-free shower – accessible by pretty much anyone. I love the glass blocks – even if they are old school.

Both bathrooms had this sink/vanity combo, and this one had lots of charming storage.

Both bathrooms had this sink/vanity combo, and this one had lots of charming, vertical storage.

The second bathroom had a small but workable tub and a handheld shower spray. Again, loving the glass blocks.

The second bathroom had a small but workable tub (in case  you needed to bathe a child or a pet) and a handheld shower spray. Again, loving the glass blocks.

The second bathroom had a little less storage space, but the white marble on the wall was truly remarkable.

The second bathroom had a little less storage space, but the white marble on the wall was truly remarkable. It took me a few shots to get one where you could not see me in the mirror!

The owners store handmade bowls and plates from their kids in the glass-front cabinets.

The owners store handmade bowls and plates from their kids in the glass-front cabinets.

What you didn’t see was the hidden loft upstairs – complete with a ladder entry and plush, white beds and lighting fixtures. There was a great screened-in porch looking out onto the street, where we saw our “neighbors” being visited by a cabinet company. Perhaps they intend to keep up with the “Joneses.” We will definitely be going back to this place! I miss it already!


Jul 10 2015

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Localizing Success

Atlanta’s upper class Buckhead neighborhood has a new addition to inspire its homeowners: the Cambria Gallery Buckhead. Slipped between the legendary Buckhead theater and across the street from the Buckhead Atlanta retail district and a newly opened park, the gallery takes advantage of local foot traffic and the up-and-coming area.

Showroom owners know that one of the most important aspects of a gallery is location. Here, on one of the busiest intersections in Atlanta, global companies pay huge amounts for advertising on billboards, and traffic moves at a crawl in the middle of the afternoon. While there is parallel parking out front, a full parking lot in the back offers two entrances into the gallery, as well as two ways to wow a client on the first glance.photo 1 copy

The front entrance has an open lobby area with wine on display and several set-ups that show off the glittering quartz. The select designs give the gallery the opportunity to display the aspects of the product that clients might not be aware of: waterfall edges, backsplashes made of quartz and various types of edges—even curved.

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This curved wall is on the bottom floor and is the solution to a problem the designers found in building. Originally an old closet (the space had once been a restaurant and then an art gallery) it looked just like a blank hole at first. Now it’s one of the highlights of the space, with its curved quartz, backlit wall and a fun quartz table that lights up with dots when touched. Coupled with a comfortable couch, this little spot is perfect for children or bored spouses when a client is touring the gallery.

Quartz lit-up table
Another different way the gallery shows off its products is simply by furnishing the restrooms with them. A small plaque in each list the products used. The men’s room has a slightly more masculine aesthetic, while the women’s showcases more of the white and glittering products. A small kitchen on the same floor also offers another opportunity to bring the products to light while also making the space available to host cooking events.

“We wanted to make this showroom more of a destination,” said Mitch Hires, co-owner of Construction Resources and owner of the gallery.

In addition to the kitchen below, the wine area in the lobby area (which had to be constructed by digging out an old asphalt road below) and a conference/TV room upstairs makes the space flexible for a number of events. Although it just opened July 6th, the gallery has already had an event with more than 500 people.

“Deadlines are important,” said Hires. “We made a deadline to have an event by this time, and so we were further pushed to complete the space in time.”
photo 1
The gallery expects to host a number of events, including a wine night on Thursdays, several cooking events and even Braves nights where a group is driven to Turner Field and back afterwards.

Attracting locals is the thought behind the layout, where flow through the space was an essential focus. Upstairs, skylights open up the space and the previously low ceilings. The 122 designs are set out on one wall, with a large table in front so clients can set out samples.

“We’re really excited about this location and being a part of the community here,” said Hires.photo 2[1]

Jun 04 2014

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Atlanta Food and Wine Festival – A Little Something for Everyone


Being a member of the press definitely has its benefits. I was able to enjoy for the first time the Annual Atlanta Food & Wine Festival this past weekend – it’s in its fourth year, and although it called for rain, we managed to escape it. My boyfriend accompanied me, and we both highly enjoyed ourselves. If you haven’t gone, definitely make it a priority next year.

Food samples

Restaurants and drink labels from Georgia, as well as several surrounding states, were on hand to give out plenty of Southern food and drink samples, including barbeque, fresh seafood, red and white wines, craft beers, bourbon milkshakes (my boyfriend’s favorite – he went back for thirds), sweets, cheeses – you name it, it was there. While we wanted to stay for the whole three-hour program, after 90 minutes, our tummies were just too full. We took a break at the 45-minute mark but then made our way back into the crowd – after all, there were still items to be savored!

Me getting wine sample

Big Green Egg – probably a favorite appliance a lot of designers and homeowners specify in their outdoor kitchens – was a sponsor, as well as Sub-Zero/Wolf, Kingdom Woodworks Cabinetry, Brumark Total Flooring Solutions, Calphalon Cookware and Le Creuset. After eating some sausage, BBQ, Indian cuisine, fried seafood, cheese, various salads and even half of a Patron popsicle, we left with our tummies full and a lot more knowledgeable about available local food and drink – as well as some of the appliances used to provide it.


I plan to attend some of the available classes during next year’s programs so I can see how some of the exceptional talent prepares world-class dishes.

May 06 2014

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Outdoor Residential Kitchens Crave Professional-grade, Specialized Equipment

Kalamazoo 01 (2000x1487)

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.”


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