Readying Your Home For A Buyer’s Market

What’s the real cost of selling a home? Sure, you are familiar with real estate agent commissions and staging fees, but do you really need to upgrade your kitchen when that 15 year old range has served your family’s needs just fine? Do you think the new owner will want to choose their own finishes and decorating touches? That’s how I, as a buyer, thought. However, a lot of people just don’t have the time to deal with a renovation and chaos after going through a move.

The New York Times just ran an interesting piece by C.J. Hughes highlighting an obstacle that I am all too familiar with. Psst, Seller: Your Stove Is Showing Its Age chronicles the tribulations of New York City sellers trying to unload their homes on a disappointing real estate market. What’s the secret to sellers’ success? According to Michael Garr of the CORE Group NYC, it’s renovating to sell.

Refinishing wood flooring, ripping out closets to make a designated eating nook, fixing shaky stairs—it’s all been done in an effort to move a property.  And in case you are wondering, the cost of the renovations (some teetering at the $100,000 mark) is not recovered in the sale price. Simply, selling a property is incentive enough.

Which made me think—yeah, maybe you only plan to be in this property for 10 years, but that’s no reason to put off a remodel since when you do list it, people expect nice and new. Might as well get some enjoyment out of it yourself!

So what can you do to ready your house for a buyer’s market?

Even though you probably won’t recoup the costs, the best place to unload your shekels is still in the kitchen and bath. Updates to these rooms give the biggest impact when showing a home. Here are 8 tips to get your kitchen and bath ready for its close-up!

1)   Change out the appliances. Yes, there is a lot of buzz in the design world whether or not stainless steel appliances have overstayed their 15 minutes of fame and date a kitchen as totally 90’s. However, that’s a rather niche conversation. For the majority of people shopping a house, stainless steel appliances are considered de rigueur. So much so, stainless steel ranges are available as low as in the $400’s to sky’s the limit pricing for big gun pro-styles like Blue Star or Viking. Choose accordingly depending on what is appropriate for your real estate market.

2)   Install new countertops. Both bathrooms and kitchens will benefit from this upgrade. Again, like stainless steel, the design world is experiencing granite fatigue. Who cares. You are not designing a space for the pages of Architectural Digest. You want to sell and people like shiny things. Granite is an easy, universal countertop choice and you can get as expensive or as budget as you like with it. Other solid surface ideas gaining popularity and prestige include quartz and concrete.

3)   Pay attention to tile. At the very least, give your grout a good scrubbing. There are professional services for hire that will save you some elbow grease. Depending on the condition of your grout, you may want to have the backsplash or shower surround regrouted. Another option is to have the tile reglazed. This will save you a lot of mess and instantly beautify your kitchen or bath. The most expensive option is to tear out the old and put up the new. Because tile is available in a vast array of materials, sizes, colors, and designs, this option can really let you make an eye catching statement and set your property apart from the others.

4)   Clean those cabinets. And paint them. Or just replace them altogether! Cabinets are usually the most expensive part of the kitchen. Again, depending on your market, it may be worth it to go the route of custom cabinetry. However, many homebuyers will be happy with well-scrubbed cabinetry in good condition. If your cabinets are old and stinky, consider replacing them with a line that will compliment the style of your home. And remember, a fresh coat of white paint can take transform dated 1990’s honey glazed maple cabinets into 2010’s on trend look.

5)   Update hardware. Maybe your cabinets are looking good after a nice scrub down with a vinegar and water solution. You saved money by saving your old cabinets but now is the time to bring it with style by splurging on new knobs and pulls. Nothing will grab a buyer’s attention like chunky polished nickel cabinet hardware.

6)   Look down. Is your flooring gross? Whether your wood is scratched, your linoleum is lackluster, or your tile is grimy, invest money in your flooring and add to a feeling of cleanliness in your kitchen and bath. Wood? Consider a new sanding. Tile?  Work on that grout. Vinyl? Tear it out!

7)   Let there be light. A well-lit kitchen or bath will definitely highlight all the good you’ve done! Show off the updated space by adding new fixtures and under cabinet lighting.

8)   Shower luxury on the bathroom. High-end showerheads that deliver a spa experience at home are an excellent selling point, catering to people looking to make their home a haven. Details like this distinguish a property.

Yup, it’s as easy as 1-2-8.

Universal Design for Multi-generational Kitchens

We all know that baby boomers are aging and that Americans are living longer, more independent lives in their own homes. Even if you are decades away from old age, remodeling with the future in mind can prove financially wise. By implementing a well thought out floorplan now, any future remodeling may only need be cosmetic, thus saving large amounts of money with simpler cosmetic updating.

Not only are people staying in their homes longer, there is also a rise in multi-generational households. With that in mind, it is smart to consider every family member’s needs when designing that new kitchen. Universal design is enhances functionality and speaks to a growing need as the homeowning population ages. It is a definite selling point for second time home buyers of a certain age.

Universal Design Sketch-up by Linda Knapp

10 Remodeling Tips for a Multi-generational Kitchen:

1)     Countertops—Vary heights so that family members of different ages can have easy access to work surfaces. Keep in mind that countertops mounted at a maximum height of 34” must have room free of cabinets underneath to accommodate someone seated in a wheelchair. Even if you are not anticipating the use of a wheelchair, design an area for seated counter work by including either bar seating or pull out cutting boards. Avoid polished surfaces that will create glare.

2)     Lighting—A variety of lighting, including overhead and task lighting, will increase visibility and reduce accidents in the kitchen. Also, it is a good idea to vary the type of bulbs used throughout the kitchen since the light quality will differ. You may want use softer, traditional bulbs for overhead lighting and brighter fluorescent or halogen bulbs for under-cabinet task lighting.

3)     Switches & Outlets—Position these at a level no higher than 44” and no lower than 15” off the floor to make them wheelchair accessible. These guidelines follow the Americans with Disabilities Act.

4)     Flooring—Many people are traditionalist and believe tile is the only way to go in the kitchen. If using tile, opt for a textured matte tile to avoid slips. Consider softer flooring choices such as wood, bamboo, cork or linoleum. These materials can be less slippery and are also easier on the knees.

5)     Base Cabinets—Think about switching from doors to drawers. Drawers allow you to pull out the contents of a cabinet, literally putting everything at your fingertips. Cabinets with doors will require you to squat down and search around, putting stress on your hips, knees and back.

6)     Appliances—Refrigerators with bottom freezers are great options for children and adults in wheelchairs. Avoid over the range microwaves, locating this frequently used appliance under a counter to make it accessible to everyone. Induction cooktops eliminate the worry of family members burning themselves on a hot stove. And elevated or drawer dishwashers take the stress off the back, making loading and unloading easier.

7)     Hardware—Cabinet hardware is often overlooked when designing a multi-generational kitchen but this small detail is quite important. Knobs and latches require the use of fine motor skills not yet developed in the young and sometimes compromised in older folks due to arthritis. To encourage independence at all ages, cabinet pulls prove the easiest hardware to grasp. Note that this refers to traditional pulls, not bin or cup pulls.

8)     Walkways—Ample room to get around is important in any kitchen. Walkways and doorways should be a minimum of 36” in width. This will accommodate wheelchairs if needed. However, if you have 42” to spare, the added space will make a huge difference for both ambulatory and wheelchair assisted family members.

9)     Faucets—Single lever faucets are easiest to adjust and facilitate a wide range of motor abilities.

10)  Hire a specialist—There are ample resources available for free online, but some people may feel they need additional help. Certified Aging In Place Specialists are available nationwide for consultations to assist you in designing a kitchen with longevity.

Check out Horton Brasses selection of cabinet pulls for reproduction period hardware that will age just as well as you!

Expanding Options for Narrow Cabinets

Going the route of custom cabinetry? Take advantage of every last inch of storage space without worrying how you will match your hardware across door fronts of varying sizes. Even some well designed RTA stock cabinets, such as Ikea’s, come in narrow widths to make the most of your kitchen space.

Whether you use choose a standard spice pullout or have your cabinet maker sneak in hidden broom storage, narrow cabinets present challenges when choosing hardware.  Some people seek out mix and match hardware for their kitchen, yet a large number of homeowners desire a uniform look, using a single style pull throughout the entire room.

House Beautiful

Vertical pulls fit the narrowest of cabinet fronts. Get the look with Horton Brasses Bakes Pull, available in 7 different finishes and made of solid brass.

But what do you do when that 8” pull simply won’t fit on a 6” cabinet? Knobs are compact enough to fit on any cabinet front but for some, knobs are not an option. That is why Horton Brasses carries the Queslett and Bakes Pulls. If you want beautiful hardware that flows with continuity througout the kitchen, these pulls are a wonderful option.

top / available in 6,7,10,15 inch sizes) & Queslett (bottom)

Art of Logic

Wouldn’t those tiny Queslett Pulls look adorable on these apothocary drawers? An unexpected departure from knobs.

Moon to Moon

A salvaged library card catalog defines this quirky space. Finger bin pulls accentuate the piece. Replicate the look with distressed custom cabinetry and tiny Quesletts in the antique finish.

Unlike other suited bin pull sets that typically run from 3.5” to 8,” The Queslett runs from under 3” to over 9.” Woo-hoo! This allows a singular hardware look from appliances to apothecary drawers. And the unique look of the Queslett’s backplate sets it apart from other bin pulls.

Don’t let the catalog pic of the Bakes Pull fool you into thinking it must be mounted horizontally. No! Do a quarter turn and mount that pull vertically for hardware that will fit anywhere.

The Cabinet Factory

Ditch the knobs and up the style ante with pulls! This small kitchen is a perfect example of maximizing storage with bespoke cabinetry. Those small cubby drawers would look darling with tiny, chunky pulls dressing them up like buckles on a pair of pilgrim shoes.

Kennebec Cabinet Company

Of course, Horton Brasses has nothing against knobs! Especially if your cabinet design is traditional, knobs on your tiny fronts will augment the look of ageless elegance. Horton Brasses has both simple, pared down knobs as well as more decorative styles.

Big Over Small : Chunky Cabinet Jewelry

Seeking Out the Perfect Canvas

Twenty years ago when I worked as a salesgirl at the Gap, the store manager drilled this fashion decree into my head: big over small. She meant baggy clothes over skinny bodies, layering a given. It was, as she put it, “The Gap Look.” So it was.

Today’s fashion is a more streamlined silhouette, yet the pared down but decked out simplicity of big over small persists in how we accessorize our look. And I’m not just talking about clothing.

As lives become more complicated, the desire to minimize the white noise at home spurs the move towards clean finishes, plain lines and blank canvases that can be easily embellished with bold accents of color and texture.

Kitchen cabinetry is not exempt. Because kitchen remodeling is an expensive undertaking, and cabinets represent the largest percentage of the cost, many homeowners favor Shaker or slab style doors in white or neutral wood colors hoping these choices will transcend time and resonate as eternally stylish.

By choosing door styles and materials that make a minimal statement, kitchen cabinets become the little black dress of the kitchen—the perfect canvas for displaying chunky cabinet jewelry.

Accessorize with Style

Door styles without a lot of beading are generally less expensive than their tricked out counterparts. Also, the more detail to a door style, the more you are marrying your kitchen to a particular look. Get the look you want, but do it with something less permanent—and expensive. Just as you would oomph up a simple black dress to carry you from day to evening, dress up your cabinets with bold pieces of solid metal hardware.

This neutral white kitchen (image decor pad) makes its biggest statement with in your face brass hardware. The large cabinet latches and exposed butterfly hinges define the look.

An oak kitchen is re-habbed with Farrow & Ball paint and new hardware. (images Cottage Living). I love how large pulls are used on drawer fronts and cabinet doors, creating a unified look. The drab neutral paint color transforms the cabinets from dated to timeless, creating a backdrop for hardware that really shines. Recreate this look in your kitchen with the Bakes Pull, available in 7 different finishes.

Here we have an exaggerated Shaker style door (Image Cozette Coffman Design), yet the principle remains true—keep it simple. And that’s a good thing considering how much other stuff there is to look at in this space.  Despite everything, the cabinet hardware immediately caught my eye when I first viewed this kitchen. Look at the cabinet to the right of the sink. Again, we see pulls instead of knobs on the doors but here the sizing and placement is unusual. Instead of a supersized pull centered on the door or the pull mounted vertically, a 6” pull is affixed to the door horizontally, taking the place of a knob.

If you are looking for cabinet hardware that is unlike any other, Horton Brasses’ newest additions to the kitchen line will surely command your attention. Streamlined styling, hidden screws and superior finishes will accentuate your kitchen in all the right places.

The Return of the Butler’s Pantry

(Don’t forget to read up on our deliciously stylish judges and check out the amazing kitchen hardware contest!)

Keeping Up With History

The Butler’s Pantry is making a comeback. New homes are built to include them while older homes are keeping this original feature when it comes time to remodel. Originally a staging room between the kitchen and dining room, the butler’s pantry housed the china and silverware. Original butler’s pantry cabinetry often has locking hardware. Some even housed large safes to keep the family’s collection secure.

The presidential butler’s pantry

From the White House Museum’s collection of photographs, here is the presidential butler’s pantry. For more images of the White House butler’s pantry, visit this link. Hardware buffs will notice that not much has been updated in the kitchen other than the knobs and pulls. Still, the choice maintains the butler pantry’s vintage aesthetic.

For another look at a butler’s pantry from a historic house, check out this post on Northern California’s Fioli estate.

A Secret Garden

Today’s butler’s pantries are often viewed as more than just added kitchen real estate. There is a certain charm that goes along with them. Let’s face it. Americans like the word “butler.” It conjures ideas of the best of British society, as well as a famously funny episode of Seinfeld.

In today’s butler’s pantries, beautiful painted cabinetry, apron front fireclay sinks and luxurious marble countertops are on display for homeowners and friends since very few of us have actual butlers these days. Yet the charm of the butler’s pantry persists.

Think of the butler’s pantry as your indoor secret garden. It is an interstitial space, offsetting the kitchen from a formal dining area. While entertaining, friends wondering in and out of the kitchen may linger in the cozier butler’s pantry, enjoying the intimate space and taking in the design details.

There is no rule that says your butler’s pantry must replicate the look of your kitchen. While it is best to avoid blatant design schizophrenia, the small footprint of the butler’s pantry provides a great opportunity to experiment with color or add certain luxury touches you may not be able to afford in your full kitchen.

This butler’s pantry designed by Miles Redd makes a statement with dark blue lacquer from Farrow & Ball. The monochromatic blue palette and polished nickel hardware contrasts with the walnut stained door and brass knob.

Inset cabinetry, cabinet latches, luxury cabinet hardware, boldly lacquered cabinetry, glass cabinet fronts, exotic stone countertops and high end lighting may break the budget when committed to a large kitchen space but in an are the size of a New York City apartment kitchen, it’s doable. Use the small space to fulfill your kitchen dreams to scale with your budget.

Modern Interpretations

Today, entertaining has taken a turn for the casual. Couples filling out their wedding registry are less likely to register for formal dinnerware sets and more likely to set their sights on a tricked out Italian coffee maker. It’s a reflection of how we live today.

Instead of housing collections of Lenox china and Waterford crystal, the butler’s pantries of today can be outfitted as a coffee bar, baking station or food pantry. There are plenty of ways to use the space to keep up with our modern way of life.

Another blue butler’s pantry by Miles Redd incorporates a bevy of luxe finishes in a small space. Sky blue painted inset cabinets with glass front uppers, a custom painted mural on the ceiling, and exotic blue stone counters make this space extremely easy on the eyes. Again, Miles contrasts brass with nickel, this time with a chandelier and cabinet hardware  Small knobs create an elegant, understated look.  Here we either have a butler with a drinking problem or a home bar for entertaining.

Interview With A Cabinet Maker : Faneuil Kitchen Cabinets

Recently I had the opportunity to speak with both Emily Levitt and Andy Bargende of Faneuil Kitchen Cabinet, designer and manufacturer of fine custom cabinetry. Based in Hingham, Massachusetts, they are as well known for creating kitchens that capture the New England look as they are for their family work ethic. Read what Emily and Andy have to say regarding such hot topics as mixing finishes in the kitchen as well as white kitchen trend. And do stop by their gallery to get better acquainted with their work and to maybe steal a few ideas for your own kitchen redesign!

Deva: I love that this is a family business, as is Horton Brasses. How does that affect the way you do business?

Faneuil Kitchen Cabinet: Most people like to deal with a family business because of a sense of stability and permanence.  You know they have been around for years and will continue on in business because to them it is more than just a job- it’s the family too.  That strong commitment to building a lasting family enterprise with shared and common values provides a stability you don’t always see everywhere.  And that stability and family values threads its way through everything we do.

I see that many of your kitchens have been featured in a variety of high profile New England publications. Do you feel there is a distinctive New England kitchen style and if so, how would you define it?

There is definitely a distinctive New England kitchen style.  Painted white beaded inset cabinets with a recessed door panel is the New England mainstay.  New England style is clean, classic, and tailored.  However, it does not have to be “stuffy.”  A simple painted white cabinet can go from traditional to very contemporary depending on hardware selection, tile, countertop material, lighting fixtures, etc.

Without doubt, your design portfolio is very diverse, running from modern to traditional to transitional and your hardware choices perfectly complement the larger mise en place of the kitchen. What guidelines can you offer readers to make sure the cabinet style and the hardware coordinate?

The most important guideline is not necessarily the hardware style, but the overall look and feel of the kitchen.  Is the client looking to achieve a transitional look, or an authentic period style?  Horton Brasses is a great choice because the polished nickel bin pull can fit perfectly in a transitional kitchen, but there is a wide selection of period hardware as well.  Many of our clients live in antique homes, or simply love that look, so this is very important for us.

The islands in the kitchens you’ve designed truly take the appearance of furniture. Many include turned legs, an expected feature.  Your use of Horton Brasses Hepplewhite Pulls and Rosette Pulls really seem to accentuate that aesthetic, taking it to the next level. These style pulls are not usually seen in the kitchen and create a very distinctive look through an obviously conscious choice. What other small details differentiate your kitchens from the typical?

Every kitchen is different, just like every family and every cook uses the kitchen differently.  I think the hallmark of a Faneuil kitchen is our attention to detail which begins when we measure the space.  The details to me that are most imperceptible, but separate our kitchens from the rest, are symmetry and balance- designing the cabinetry to create frames that attract attention to the beautiful parts of a kitchen like a custom soapstone sink, and draw attention away from the less attractive or interesting aspects, such as the microwave.

Although I noticed a fair amount of nickel hardware on your white cabinets, the look of dark hardware on white painted wood really stands out amongst your kitchens. What are your favorite hardware finishes to work with?

Our favorite is antique brass, although we like Horton Brasses’ new light antique as well.  Polished nickel is very popular at the moment.

Regarding hardware finishes, do you feel all the satin and polished nickel we are seeing right now is an enduring trend or an early 21st century fad?

We really love polished nickel- it can give a kitchen a very glamorous, high-end look.  Many clients are at first drawn to satin nickel because they think it matches their stainless steel appliances.  We usually tell our clients not to worry about matching hardware to their faucet or their oven- hardware is the jewelry of the kitchen and should be selected because the client loves it!

Many of your kitchens mix hardware styles and finishes. Can you give readers some tips on how to do that successfully?

Mixing finishes can be tricky- definitely stick with one hardware finish for each cabinetry finish, i.e. stained wood vs. painted. Choosing different hardware for a furniture-style island helps distinguish the piece from the other cabinetry.  Pay attention to scale. In our showroom we used 1” Sheraton knobs on a bank of small drawers, and went up to 1 ½” knobs on the cabinet doors.

I know I keep asking about the islands you’ve created, but they really are centerpieces. Some are quite enormous. Are they constructed as one singular piece? Has there ever been trouble getting any through the homeowner’s front door?

No, we measure the doorways before we construct the islands- like I said we are very detail-oriented!

Your website shows a wonderful example of a butler’s pantry in quartersawn oak (Hingham). It is quite striking. Do you feel wood is bound to make a comeback against all the white we’ve been seeing?

Wood is very popular right now in islands, hutches and butler’s pantries, and also in wood countertops.  White is always going to be a classic, but we are also seeing a lot of light neutral paint colors such as gray and khaki.

Finally, do you feel there are any hard and fast no-no’s in kitchen design or does everything differ from situation to situation, depending on the house and the family?

The best advice is to design the kitchen for yourself, and your family.  Listen to what you want, and don’t be pressured by your neighbor, best friend, sister-in-law, etc.  The greatest stress in a kitchen project is all of the voices that become involved.  Listen to yourself, choose what you love, and it will be a successful project.

Meet the Judges! Horton Brasses Hardware Giveaway Contest

Want to know more about the contest? One winner will receive an entire kitchen full of Horton Brasses kitchen hardware. Read more to find out how to enter.

I’m very excited to introduce to you the judges for this life changing contest. We have assembled a virtual onslaught of kitchen powerhouses who have everything covered—from what looks good on the plate to what works well in a design layout.

Who better to judge a kitchen hardware contest than professionals from both the design and cooking fields. These folks know style, function and,quite literally, good taste.

But I’ll shut up now and start introducing. We’ve got a lot of people (and blogs!) for you to mingle with! And don’t forget, you and your friends and family and co-workers and whomever else you recruit on your “vote for me” team can drop a ballot in the box by commenting on our judges blog posts that mention this contest. So do check in regularly at the sites linked!

And the judges are….


Team Atticmag!

Jane Freiman

Jane Freiman is the founder and editor of, a blog dedicated to kitchen and bathroom design and home décor. She has enjoyed a multifaceted career as an interior designer, newspaper and magazine editor and cookbook author.

Jane lives in New York City and created Atticmag after directing the award-winning arts, entertainment, life style and celebrity news coverage at the New York Daily News, the nation’s fifth largest newspaper. Previously, she was New York Newsday’s restaurant critic, a commentator on Bloomberg News Radio, contributing editor and columnist at New York Magazine, and the consulting editor at Cook’s, now Cook’s Illustrated. Jane’s experience as a syndicated food columnist, cookbook author and restaurant critic began at the Chicago Tribune. Prior to that, she had worked as an art dealer in New York and Paris.

In Los Angeles, where Jane was born, she graduated from UCLA with an AB in Art History. She also holds an Interior Design Certification from Parsons School of Design and a diploma in culinary arts from Luberon College in Avignon, France. She is the author of two award-winning cookbooks and an avid collector of Swedish antique furniture, Oriental rugs and great shoes. She and her husband, the journalist and war correspondent Sydney Schanberg, will soon move from New York City to the house they renovated in New York’s Hudson Valley.

Allison Arnett 

It was Allison Arnett’s French Gray Island Kitchen that first caught

Atticmag founder and Editor Jane Freiman’s eye.  Her obvious love of

homes and design led to her position as Shopping Editor.  Allison’s

fondness for furniture and accessories began as a child in her family’s

furniture store.  Although she has no formal training, over the years

she has built on her natural creative instincts.  Allison loves to

frequent local antique shops and is always on the look out for them when

traveling.  She has spent the last five years decorating their new “old”

stone cottage – a recent Atticmag feature was her search for a pair of

French os de mouton chairs.


Food Blogger Greg Henry of Sippitysup

I may not be a design expert. But I am a food blogger and I am in the kitchen a lot. I also survived a monster of a kitchen remodel, and learned something in the process. The biggest design challenge in my remodel was doing a modern kitchen for someone who cooks as much as I do. While still making it look and feel like it belonged in an 85-year-old Italian style house in Hollywood. But I didn’t want an “old fashioned” styled kitchen either. It needed to walk the line between historically appropriate and conveniently modern. Because my kitchen and how it looks and functions is a reflection of my life and my blog.

Sippity Sup-Serious Fun Food is about fresh takes on the familiar. My recipes & wine pairings tend to be simple, modern and colorful, with roots in traditional styles. This philosophy seems to have been embraced by the online food community. I have been a speaker at The FoodBuzz Festival and CampBlogaway. I have led cooking demonstrations in Panama & Costa Rica and developed recipes for major brands. I was even featured in Food & Wine Magazine, Angeleno and Garden Design. These experiences have allowed me to see that why I cook is every bit as important as how I cook. I’m drawn to simple pairings of diverse flavors. I think we should eat healthy, but prefer classic techniques using real ingredients. Including real fats. I think a bold hand and a deft palate allow the simple beauty of food to shine. And though I am serious in my pursuit of these things, I believe food should be fun. Serious Fun.




Designer & Author James Swan



James Swan is head of New Wall Enterprises, LLC a Beverly Hills-based design and lifestyle group focused on delivering smart-design-daily to consumers across the country and around the world.  As a lifestyle leader he has been featured in House & Garden Magazine, House Beautiful and the Los Angeles Times.  He has chronicled a Trends & Shopping column for House & Garden Magazine, as well as his own design blog, The Design Quotient. Adding author (with the new book 101 Things I Hate About Your House) and speaker (NeoCon West) to his accomplishments has further broadened his influence. 


A recently launched pre-publication Facebook Business Page features 101 Things I Hate About Your House with inspired interaction from a growing following of Swan’s work.   Swan’s career took off back in Northern California at a noted San Francisco architecture firm, where he managed residential interiors. After that, Los Angeles beckoned, specifically the prestigious firm of Frank K. Pennino & Associates, where as senior designer he managed high-profile projects, and earned a reputation for refined classical design that succinctly reflected his clients’ lives.  In 1999, Swan opened his own firm in Beverly Hills.   Recently he his talents earned him VoxVodka/Out Magazine’s Designer of the Year Award. In 2009 Ballard Designs announced their first collaboration with a nationally known designer, James Swan.  His collection of home furnishings and accessories will debut in 2011.   


From 2005-2009, Swan has been a member of the Executive Board of Directors of the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund.  His other community commitments include PAWS/LA, which assists with the care of pets for people living with disabilities, and KidSmart, an art education foundation for inner-city youth.  In his free time, Swan may be found indulging his passion for gardening, skiing and travel.  Currently he divides his time between Beverly Hills, Boston and Pemaquid, Maine.

Kitchen Designer, Blogger & Creator of the Bornholm Kitchen—Susan Serra

Susan Serra CKD has over 20 years experience as a kitchen design professional. Her blog, The Kitchen Designer, explores new ways of thinking about kitchen design. There she shares her thoughts on the process of kitchen design, explores fresh ideas, emerging trends, and also redefines (or celebrates!) tradition.

After years at the top of her field, Susan recently released her own line of exquisite Scandinavian cabinetry—the Bornholm Kitchen. A small island off the coast of Denmark, Bornholm, its architecture and its interiors are the epitome of classic Scandinavian style. The landscape and design aesthetic are, at once: rugged, soft, clean, simple, fresh and so very green. Bornholm Kitchen is an expression of Bornholm, the island’s point of view.

Strong and sturdy construction details create the legacy and determine the longevity of a Bornholm Kitchen. Natural, high quality wood species and oil finishes add uncompromising beauty. Bornholm Kitchen is proudly American made.

Bornholm is designed to be a flexible collection of kitchen and bath furniture. It can be customized as required. The collection is seamlessly interpreted in any theme or style, transitioning between open spaces with ease.

A new design line also comes with a new blog. Follow updates and adventures and all things Bornholm at the cleanly styled Simply Bornholm.

Italian-American Food Blogger Vincent Scordo focuses on food, recipes, lifestyle/culture, products, saving money, and how-to advice and tips, all from an Italian-American perspective (click here to read through some of my top articles).

I’m a first generation Italian-American and the son of immigrant parents from Pellegrina (Bagnara Calabra), Calabria in southern Italy.  My parents taught me how to eat well, save money, manage a home, use my hands, and, yes, live like an Italian (which means living a little bit differently than everyone else)!  Papa and Mamma also taught me about perseverance, craftiness, and compassion.  Here’s my view on the Italian-American experience.

I’m not a trained chef, money manager, or regular on This Old House, rather a regular guy from New Jersey who’s been influenced by his southern Italian culture and tradition.

I’ve worked as a research assistant at an Ivy league university, a project manager at an Internet start-up, an interactive media director at an advertising agency, a usability and web marketing manager at a German car company, and as a brand manager at a consumer product testing and advocacy organization.  As a teenager and college student, I worked as a garbage man, janitor, landscaper, travel agent, HTML editor for a climate change think tank, sandwich maker, and as a maintenance man at woman’s clothing shop.  My wife tells me I make sense on occasion, but please challenge my assertions and advice with a comment and email.

Oh, Scordo means both garlic and forgetful and I have both a poor short term memory and a love for garlic (my breath is fine, by the way), so the name must be appropriate!

*Vincent also used Horton Brasses hardware in his own home kitchen remodel. And of course, he blogged about it!

Kitchen Buzz: The Beehive Knob

With all the white kitchens going in these days, why not differentiate yours from your neighbors’ with remarkable hardware? Even the natural grain and beauty of stained wood cabinets can benefit from the unique details brought in by your choice in cabinet hardware.

Horton Brasses newest line of high-end hardware will take the beauty of your kitchen from the macro scale to the micro, bringing attention to the smallest details. Your kitchen puts your taste on display. Let everyone see that you take good design seriously.

The beehive knob, available in 7 different finishes, compliments a variety of kitchen styles. This knob has been around for centuries, developed during a period of design decadence.

The new beehive knob will make a style statement when used throughout an entire kitchen. However, it speaks loudest when used as accent hardware on islands, hutches and glass cabinetry—any area where you want to draw visual attention. Matching knobs in a smooth finish mounted on the rest of your cabinetry subtly contrast with the reeded grooves of the beehive.

This new knob is smooth and versatile. Use it alone or as a foil to decorative hardware pieces.

Perfect for period influenced remodels, the beehive knob came to style during the ornately decorative British Regency era. Practical as well as visually palatable—the reeded grooves act as tiny treads for your fingers, providing a better grip—the style grew in popularity and is usually thought of in association with the Victorian period. Simple yet styled, the beehive knob looks great with a variety of pulls, including the new Queslett and Horton Brasses sand casted decorative Victorian pulls. And every piece of Horton Brasses kitchen hardware is available in a range of 7 different finishes. Mix and match at will!

Milk glass depression era knobs, here pictured in blue, are typically associated with the beehive design in cabinet hardware. For a less colorful version, purchase Horton Brasses’ timeless beehive knobs in brass or nickel finishes.

A resurgence of popularity for the beehive knob coincided with the production of depression-era glass. Today, the beehive knob is most commonly associated with milk glass and is widely available from specialty hardware retailers in jadeite, blue milk glass, white milk glass and a spectrum of retro colors. The availability of such reproduction hardware really gives you a lot of options for expressing your individuality and branding your kitchen as an emblem of your creativity. Confident remodelers may use the beehive throughout their kitchen, accenting featured cabinetry pieces with standout milk glass beehive knobs.

Hollywood Regency beehive lamps

The beehive style really has true staying power. From wood lathed doorknobs dating back to the Regency era to depression era kitchenware to the blinged out Hollywood Regency style, it is a recognizable form, withstanding the test of time. Incorporate it in your kitchen design and take your place in history amongst one of the most iconic designs that has not gone out of style in centuries.

Below I’ve included pictures of more beautiful vintage objects. Each one shows the enduring elegance of the beehive.

This light shade illustrates the Art Deco take on the classic beehive. Stronger lines reflect the mathematical geometry that defined the movement.

A lustreware vase brings the beehive shape to the MCM crowd.

Hexagon tile is also referred to as a beehive pattern. Looking for a theme to tie your kitchen together without going too obvious? Go beehive!

Choosing Hardware for Wide Drawers

Drawers or Doors?

Walk through any kitchen display and take note: base cabinets  with doors are out and drawers are in. Due to ergonomics, this trend surely has staying power. It is so much easier to pull out a drawer and reach in than to open a cabinet door, squat and hunt. Drawers put the contents of your storage on display and give you an aerial view.

As you can see, a rollout shelf is nothing more than a drawer behind a door.

Some people are still caught up in the late 90’s and are talking about rollouts. I see that rollouts are still available from cabinet makers but why bother? You have to open a door to get to what is ostensibly a drawer. Cut out the middle-man and just pull that drawer open! Rollouts and drawers do have one drawback in common. Both do deal in wasted space. You get a few more inches of useable room with a cabinet. So to maximize the storage and minimize waste, you are better off going with larger width drawers.

One Pull or Two?

Wider drawers usually mean two pieces of hardware, be it knobs or pulls, requiring two-handed operation for opening the drawer. Let’s face it, that’s not always practical in the kitchen. Actually, it hardly is ever practical once you get cooking and at least one hand is crumb coated in something messy.

Pulls placed as pairs adorn a wide base cabinet drawer stack. The Antique finish cabinet handles look terrific. But be warned: you should be a conscientious drawer puller and use two hands or make sure you purchase quality built cabinetry like the custom work pictured here.

Instinct has it that you end up pulling the drawer with one hand, putting the drawer at risk of going out of plumb over time. But have you tried shopping for a larger bin pull? I have and there are not a lot of options out there.

As a general rule (oh, how I use the word “rule” with a bitter taste in my mouth), cabinet hardware tends to look good when the pull is 1/3 the width of the drawer front. That’s not difficult to do if you have a 12” drawer—4” pulls are pretty standard. But what do you do when you size up to a 30” or 36” drawer?

Singular Large Pulls


Modern European style bar pulls are widely available in longer lengths, but what’s a kitchen remodeler to do if your style is less…modern European?

Well, a year ago when I was doing my own kitchen, there really was just one place to buy bin pulls in larger sizes. I settled on 8” pulls to keep the price down and because I thought it was a good size to use over a variety of drawer widths. At the time, Horton Brasses did not carry larger sized bin pulls so they custom finished these big pulls I bought elsewhere to match the rest of my hardware.

This kitchen is a favorite of mine. Get the look with Queslett bin pulls in 10” widths.

What a difference a year makes! Now Horton Brasses has 2 pulls available in larger sizes. The Quesletta gorgeous bin pull—comes as large as 10” and in seven different finishes. That’s a lot of options.

This kitchen has a modern yet neutral look. Cabinets outfitted with bistro-style single pulls, mounted vertically and horizontally, create a simple and crisp design. Get the look with 7” Bakes pulls.

And the Bakes Pull doesn’t even go below 6.” Six inches is a pretty good sized pull. Six inches, seven inches, ten inches, fifteen inches. You’ve totally got your drawers and appliance handles covered. Whether your style is modern, vintage or transitional, the Bakes has you covered.

Now, I have that other place’s bin pulls on my cabinets. And they’re a nice bin pull. But I’ve also held the Queslett and Bakes in my hands and I must say, they are some fancy pulls. Seriously. They are heavy. They could totally beat up my pulls.

I’m Pregnant With My General Contractor’s Baby….and Other Things That Can Go Wrong With Your Kitchen Remodel

A year ago this month we began planning our knock-down, tear-out kitchen remodel.  By the end of April, a dust wall was up and there was no turning back. Out with the old, in with the new. On the cusp of improving our quality of life, we soldiered on through hot plate meals and utter disorganization. And I found out, a week into it, that I was pregnant with baby number 3.

Thankfully, our General Contractor was not the father, although he was the first person to whom I broke the news.

Severe morning sickness ensued, making the screech of power tools against cinder block that much lovelier. Decisions and details I swore would matter to me to make this the most perfect kitchen were neglected. The ounter top templater laid out his dixie sticks and I sat nearby watching him until my churning stomach allowed me to stay no longer. I didn’t hover. I didn’t chime in. I didn’t question every measurement.  I planned for the overhang a half inch deeper. I wanted the sink reveal negative. Every small detailed was accounted for in my plans. Except conception. Of mice and men, people.

But I am a roll with it kind of woman. Especially since my kitchen is very near perfect for me and my baby came in December without incident–a wonderful bonus.

Nevertheless, I thought it a great idea to make a list of common problems people face during their remodel so you can plan ahead and avoid these pitfalls.

Follow these tips and get the kitchen you love.

1) General Contractor Woes  Shop around, choose wisely and check references. The start of the relationship with a GC is often hearts and flowers but may deteriorate rapidly if the homeowner makes changes mid-remodel, the job goes longer than planned or other things that cut into the GC’s profit margin come up. Check and double check the materials you are getting and remember, just because you hired a GC doesn’t mean it is going to be an easy ride. You still need to stay on top of things and make sure you get what you are paying for. Read and re-read your contract. Make sure every detail is spelled out so there are no surprises.

2) Cabinets Dis-Order  You specifically told your kitchen designer you wanted all plywood boxes, easy close drawers and no stile in the middle. What you got was MDF boxes, drawers that slam shut when you look at them and a mix of double door cabinets with and without stiles. Now you are on the phone cursing and crying, trying to get what you paid for. First, check your contract to make sure that all these details are spelled out in black and white. Avoid agreeing to terms like “standard” without researching what the cabinet line considers standard. Buying cabinets is a lot like closing on a house. The contract is long and there are a lot of boring details, but you really need to know what you are getting ahead of time. Don’t neglect the details such as what style and size crown molding you are getting. Throw the word “standard” out the window because unless you are purchasing stock cabinetry, nothing is standard. Order door samples, look at them in the natural light of your kitchen space. Be aware that some woods, like cherry and exotics, darken as they age. The more you educate yourself on the details of your materials, the less surprised you will be when the packaging comes off your cabinet boxes.

3) Tile Trouble  Most of the problems that arise with tile are related to installation. Make sure the person doing your install is comfortable working with your specific tile choice. Not all tile is created equal. There are a varieties of thicknesses that contribute to the ease or difficulty of installation. If you have a specific pattern in mind, lay it out on graph paper for your installer. Using natural or handmade tile? Specify that you want the installer to alternate boxes when choosing tiles so the lots are properly mixed. Your tile setter should begin from the center of the wall to assure symmetry at the edges. And don’t forget to seal your tile and grout as part of the installation.

4) Counter Top Crisises  The number one complaint I see people bemoan is the placement of seams. First of all, be realistic. If you have a monster sized island and pick a stone that requires multiple slabs, you are going to have a seam. So much hullabaloo about not having seams has been made and I want you to know this: having a seam or two is not a sign of kitchen design failure. A good fabricator will closely match the color of the stone with epoxy when joining the seam. Since stone slabs are cut like a loaf of bread, the movement or design of the stone can be bookended to create symmetry and continuity. That being said, if a poor seam is done with mis-matching epoxy, do know that the epoxy can be dug out and the seam re-done. This is easiest to do when the epoxy is wet so don’t be afraid to speak up.  Another big issue with stone counters is placement and cutouts. Make sure you go to the stone yard with your design and have them blue tape the template onto the slab so you can see exactly where the cuts are going. Once the cuts are made, it is impossible to change.

5) Hardware Horrors  Placement of cabinet pulls and knobs can really make a homeowner take up drinking. So much money spent on cabinets and this final detail–the jewelry of the kitchen–can really make it or break the look. Decide ahead of time if you want the hardware centered or a bit towards the top of the drawer. Have a preference for where your knobs go? Speak up before the drill bit gets spinning. Don’t assume the installer will know what you want if you don’t speak up. While errors on wood door fronts can be puttied and stained, painted cabinets will show the damage of a misplaced pull. Better to get this right the first time.

6) Fireclay Flubs and Plumbing Pitfalls  You’ve fantasized for years about your white fireclay apron front sink and now it is finally here. The custom cabinet has been carefully cut. The heavy sink hoisted into place with a few creaks and groans but both the sink and cabinet survived. All that’s left is the installation of your garbage disposal, a no-brainer for your plumber who’s been in the business for decades. Okay. Stop right there. Does your plumber have experience installing garbage disposals on fireclay sinks?  Seriously. Go ask him now. This is not a typical installation. If he over-tightens the flange your warranty is null and void an you will be staring at a web of hairline carcks every time you wash at your high end sink. If you must have a garbage disposal on your fireclay sink, make sure the plumber does not over-tighten the flange. Hover. Nag. Repeat. Don’t worry if he rolls his eyes, talks about you on his cellphone in his truck or simply tells you flat out that you are the biggest pain in the ass. There are other plumbers out there. But this sink…once installed, it’s yours. You will have to take your countertops off to get it out. Fixing this one is a big expense that you will be on your own with so make sure it goes right the first time. The flange should be tight but just tight enough.

7) Domestic Disputes  You’ve both been looking forward to this remodel for years. You are happily married, in love and now you are about to complete the dream by getting a new kitchen. You’re having a blast shopping together, discussing details. And then one of you starts to fatigue. And then the credit card bills start arriving. And you’re both hungry. And your house is a mess. Be warned: you will fight. There is hardly a marriage that can make it through a major remodel without a down and dirty spat. Just know it is the spackle speaking. Get out of the house, get yourself a decent meal and for crying out loud, talk about something other than switch plate finishes.

8) This Old House  Remodeling an old house is both fun and rewarding–a project that definitely appeals to those of us with an inherent love for old things. However, once those ancient walls get opened up, be prepared for the unexpected. Chimneys, dumbwaiters, plumbing, dead bodies–you never know what you are going to find once the horse hair plaster is broken up and hauled away. You may discover a threatening mouse infestation that prompts you to spend money on a pest control contract as well as new wiring. Appliances may need to be relocated due to structural elements that cannot be worked around without a considerable upcharge.

9) Seasons Change  Your GC told you it was a 4 week job. That was 6 weeks ago and the walls still need to be mudded. Plan for the remodel to take longer than you could possibly imagine. Don’t plan to have Thanksgiving dinner at your house if your remodel is scheduled to start end of October.  It’s a possibility that things will go smoothly and you will have a sink and stove to cook at, but it is also a possibility that your stove is on backorder and your relatives’ plane tickets are non-refundable. Our remodel began in April. My daughter’s birthday was in June. We ended up holding her birthday party in  September. Just saying.

10) Money Matters  You are a master at the spreadsheet and think you’ve got your costs under control. Great. Still, add on an extra 10 to 20% because you will go over budge. Don’t argue with me. It is a given. Have that money on hand or at least access to it through a line of credit because the work will take longer than planned, you will be eating out longer than expected and sometimes the very thing you think is going to save you money will end up costing you. For example, that sand and finish wood floor that cost dollars less than the pre-finished is going to cost you double to install.

Think of this list as a prophylactic against unplanned…events. You can avoid costly errors that will be with you for the lifetime of the kitchen or however long you are in your house.  You may move. You may remodel again once your kitchen turns 18. But what you do during construction definitely influences the outcome of the kitchen. Everyone wants a smart, beautiful kitchen. Pay attention to the above details, eat well, get plenty of rest and exercise and you will have a healthy remodel.