AddThis Slider

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Choosing Island Pendants

Some say choosing your island pendants is one of the most important design decisions you'll make when renovating your kitchen. It's certainly one of the most visible. And it's also the fixture most likely to look dated soonest. Luckily, it's also the easiest to replace. I'm going to have fun choosing my pendants. While the rest of the kitchen will have chrome fixtures, pendants are one place that I feel I can introduce a second finish, such as bronze or burnished gold — a trend I find appealing but feel is already on it's way out. Or black, also very trendy. Here are six island pendants I'm considering. Which would you choose? Let's try them out against the backdrop of my inspiration kitchen.

1. Schoolhouse Union Pendant
This one may be the obvious choice, because I used it in our bathroom. The kitchen will be white with marble, just as our bathroom is. Using the same lighting in both kitchen and bath will bring cohesion to our home's design. There's a harmony in repetition.

2. Schoolhouse Luna Pendant
When I first began thinking about my kitchen renovation two and a half years ago, I pictured three globe pendants just like this hanging above my island. A mid-century classic, the globe's very simplicity has a timeless appeal. If I go with this light, I'd choose the natural brass finish. It was a common mid-century finish that's reflected in the brass door knobs and hardware on all the doors in our house—one of the few originals not ripped out by the previous owners.

3. Nuevo Living Harper Pendant
This black and gold beauty would be a real departure from my usual style, but somehow I feel it would work in our space. This home was built in 1946 but it was planned before the war and our building and lobby reflect art deco influences of the time. At one time our dining platform featured black wrought iron railings and our windows were black steel casements. That black would have been picked up in the square reliefs of the radiator grills, which dominate the larger living room. This would be a wild choice for me, but I think it could work.

4. Schoolhouse Isaac Pendant
While I tend to favor classics like the globe and though I'm toying with more frivolous selections like the Harper, a simple dome fixture like this one may actually be the more practical choice. Afterall, the whole purpose of island lighting is to illuminate the food prep tasks that will be happening at the island. The open canopy will provide far more light than the other options. This canopy shape is a Scandinavian classic with lasting appeal.

5. Schoolhouse Donna Pendant
Here's another dome pendant with an open canopy that I like. The bright gold with white interior would provide a flash of drama against the backdrop of this very simple kitchen design. But is it too flashy?

6. Rejuvenation Mid-Century Commercial Pendant
Rejuvenation is a company that breathes life into architectural remnants. This pendant was used in schools and factories around about the time our building was erected. It has the same simplicity and utility of the globe pendants, but the diamond shape of the canopy gives it added flair. Lights like this would have provided the brightest, most useful light possible and I think is up to the task of providing lighting over an island.

So, these are my choices. Tell me what you think!

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

How to Hack an IKEA 35" Wall Cabinet

Don't you love IKEA's new 40" wall cabinets? The longer cabinets look clean and modern, plus they turn what would formerly have been wasted space above into usable storage. But with our 90" high pantries—4-1/2" with toe kicks—dictating how high we can hang our wall cabinets, we were left with just 18-1/2" clearance above the cooktop, when the specs call for 24". Bummer.

I went into my design appointment at IKEA Brooklyn resigned to the prospect that I would have to order all three sets of wall cabinets custom. But IKEA kitchen designer Deb (callout!) came up with this genius solution: Stacked cabinets — 15s over 20s— covered by 35" doors.

Because I'm ordering the doors custom made by Scherr's, I'm not bound by IKEA's door sizes, so I can order the doors in whatever sizes I need — so 35" it is.

Sure, I could have used one shorter cabinet above the cooktop—many kitchen designers do that. But it would have ruined what is in my view the beautiful symmetry and uninterrupted line at the perimeter that makes this inspiration kitchen that I love look so harmonious:

Via Houzz
This will get us to just about 22" and my contractor will get us the rest of the way by cutting the center cabinet down a few inches to fit.

This whole design dilemma is a reminder of how important it is for me to read the specs and install instructions for all our new appliances.

Here's another thing that might have been a problem: The slide-out hood I'm using is intended to hang under 13" deep wall cabinets, but IKEA's are 15" deep. Turns out that's okay because there are products out there, like this cabinet spacer kit designed to cover the space between the back wall and where the hood starts with flame-retardant material.

This kitchen plan is coming together. Stacking 15" and 20" wall cabinets to get a combined length of 35" is just the solution we need to ensure the distance from our cooktop to rangehood is safe and up to code.

Friday, August 3, 2018

Insider Secrets to Buying Used High-End Appliances for Less

Things are heating up with the kitchen renovation project. Bids are in from three perspective contractors—and all were higher than expected. No matter which contractor I choose, it's clear that I'll need to find some cost savings. The obvious place is the appliances budget—and boy that stings. My wish list includes some high-end integrated appliances that I don't want to compromise on. I had already gotten two appliance quotes for my dream suite and as it turned out that was not a total waste of time. Knowing the real prices has helped me to quickly spot bargains, and I'm happy to say that this week I scored, big time!

Friday, June 22, 2018

The Scary Prospect of Hiring a Contractor for Your Kitchen Renovation

It's been a while since I posted about my kitchen renovation, but I have been working on it. I've finalized the design, chosen cabinets and doors, decided on two versions of appliances (high and low, in case I need to cut budget), obtained building plans from my co-op and confirmed that the wall I want to remove is not a retaining wall. Then... crickets. I know. Truth is, I'm in a quandary about the contractor. My go-to contractor's timeline has slipped. He called with his reasons, and I do understand. The same attention to detail that he gives my projects is right now laser focused on finishing up someone's brownstone in Brooklyn. The question is, do I wait for him—a known entity? Or do I hire someone I've never worked with before? There are risks both ways it seems to me. Tell me, what would you do?

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Fixer Upper Friday: 2 BR + Office in Laburnum Court - $559k

This week's Fixer Upper find is a 2BR + office, located in Laburnum Court at 37-16 80th Street, #42 in the Jackson Heights neighborhood of NYC, asking $559k. The same classic 6-room layout in this co-op building just sold for $670k in February of last year, so there is at the very least $110k of instant equity on the line—likely more, as sales prices have been climbing this past year in this architecturally significant neighborhood. For a prospective buyer willing to tap into that instant equity and renovate a home exactly to their taste, it's certainly worth a look.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

The Least Expensive "True" Counter-Depth Refrigerator Solutions

You often hear that appliances come in standard sizes—but don't believe it. A quick check of the actual cabinet dimensions of so-called "standard" 36-inch refrigerators reveals a great deal of variation. Widths vary, and so do depths. And nowhere is this more apparent than when you're shopping for a "counter-depth" fridge. A true counter-depth fridge will cost you several thousand dollars more than a conventional refrigerator, and even then there will still be a good three inches of door protruding past the countertops. (Believe it!) If you're looking for a truly streamlined look, here are your options.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Marble Maintenance: Sealing Marble Is No Big Deal

Cadogan Hotel, London, Via Hotels Combined   
When I designed the bathroom in our 1940s home, I wanted it to look classic, timeless. Not a slavish devotion to 1940s era bathrooms, but a good fit with the period of our building. In short, I wanted it to feel as if it had always been there. My inspiration was a bathroom in the Lillie Langtry suite at the Cadogan hotel in London, where I'd recently stayed. It had an old cast iron deep soaking tub, trimmed in marble. When I started to show people my design, I was surprised at all the horrified reactions. "Oh the upkeep!" "You'll be sorry!" "You'll have to seal it every year." So, I'm here to set the record straight: Sealing marble is no. big. deal.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Fixer Upper Friday: A 2BR for $399k in the Wilshire House in Jackson Heights

This week's Fixer Upper find is a 2BR located at 34-15 74th Street, 6E in the Jackson Heights neighborhood of NYC listed for just $399k. Renovated 2BR/1BA homes in this neighborhood are going for upwards of $600k, so there's a good $200k of instant equity on the line for some lucky buyer to tap and renovate a home exactly to your taste. Let's take a look.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Financing Your Renovation: What a HELOC Appraiser Is Looking For in a New York City Co-Op Home

Whether you're renovating to resell or to stay in your home and enjoy your design upgrades for years to come, a HELOC can be a good way to finance your renovation. Though it doesn't come with as rigorous a screening process as a first mortgage, a HELOC does require a bit of paperwork. And once you're pre-approved, the lender will order an appraisal. This won't be exactly like the appraisal when you sold your last home — so put down the grout cleaner. Here's what a HELOC appraiser is looking for.

If you've come this far, you've already jumped through some hoops. The lender asked questions about properties you own, your income, and expenses. They ran a credit check and you passed with flying colors. Now the appraisal.

Though hired by the lender, a HELOC appraisal can be viewed as safeguard for both borrower and lender. By providing an up-to-the-minute, accurate valuation of the equity you have in your home, it protects you from borrowing too much against the value of your home (and getting into financial trouble) and it protects the lender from loaning too much.

The Basic Calculation
Banks will generally lend 75-90% of the value of a home for a HELOC — after subtracting the amount you still owe on your mortgage.


A home appraises for $500,000.  The owner still owes $100,000 on the mortgage. Subtract what's still owed from the appraisal value and there's $400,000. The bank will lend at least 75% of that, or $360k.

So, what is the appraiser looking at in a NYC co-op?

Location and Size
What neighborhood is the home located in, how many square feet of living space, what floor it's located on, and what are the views. These can all come into play. Also, if there's any outdoor space, such as a terrace, rooftop deck, or yard.

How old is the unit and how old is the building? Are there signs of deterioration in the building? Is there work being done that could mean an assessment for the shareholders. Have renovations and upgrades been made recently, and if so, have features been added since the last appraisal?

Design and Quality of Fixtures
Once inside your unit, the appraiser will be evaluating the quality of construction and finish work that have already been done. They'll look at the makes and models of the fixed appliances, and any defining features in the current home, such as the view from the windows or architectural details like hardwood floors, cove ceilings, plaster, stone, moldings, and original woodwork.

Is the building a doorman building? Is there a parking garage, bike room, fitness room, or communal garden or rooftop?

Preparing for the Appraiser
You really don't need to do any prep work to meet your appraiser, and you can also strike most DIY tasks off your list. The number one thing on your plate is simply to tidy up the place. A clean house makes it easier for the appraiser to see the beauty and improvements in your home.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Scherr's Versus Semihandmade White Shaker Doors That Fit IKEA Sektion Cabinets

There's a growing trend in homeowners choosing IKEA cabinet boxes and organizational inserts but sourcing their doors elsewhere, and it's dominating Houzz discussion boards lately. If you're looking for doors made to fit, with the bored holes for IKEA's European style concealed hinges already carved out and ready to go, there are several companies providing custom doors for IKEA. I've looked at all of them, and with samples in, I'm proclaiming the winner in the category of already-painted white Shaker is Scherr's. Here's why.