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December 31, 2010

Looking Back: Top Kitchen and Bath Trends for 2010

Starting next month, Monarch Kitchen and Bath Centre designers will weigh in on their favourite new kitchen and bath design trends for 2011.

Before we move forward, let's go back to last May when the National Kitchen & Bath Association (NKBA) announced the top 10 Kitchen and Bath Design Trends based on winning entries in the 2010 NKBA Design Competition. They were:

1. Concealed Kitchens
"The incorporation of integrated and concealed appliances allows the kitchen to enhance rather than intrude into other spaces. Clean structural lines coupled with sleek color palettes enable the space to establish a distinctive identity, without overpowering the surrounding rooms."

2. Beverage Stations

This includes undercounter refrigerators and wine refrigeration, coffee/cappuccino makers, and the storage of stemware, coffee cups and silverware.

3. Scaling of Elements
 "An irregularly textured pebbled wall, marbled surface in glass tile, reflective metallic material, or symmetrically hung pendant lighting directs the eye around the room and contributes to a balanced space. Distinctive wall coverings, tin ceilings and the implied texture of a pronounced wood grain are all stand-out details that are being seen as contributors to the balanced scale of current designs." 
4. Color with Energy
Vibrant colours such as rich blues, purples, greens, and citric yellow were popular choices for kitchen and bath designs in 2010. "Colors exuding emotion, acting not merely as a passive backdrop for the room, but bringing life through lighting, wall colors, and wood tones, are profoundly impacting the most innovative designs." 
5. Soft Geometry
Rounded shapes for the edge of a counter or island top or on an arch over an entryway or cooking hearth allows for a "smooth-flowing traffic pattern throughout the room, while an appropriately placed arch will bring an overall softening to the more angular fixed features that are typical in kitchens and baths."

6. Space Subtleties 
"Floating vanities and wall-mounted toilets allow an unobstructed and spacious feel to a bathroom, while appliances that are stacked and positioned within islands are contributing to functionality in the kitchen by bringing together task space with the right appliances." 
7. Design Framing
"A seemingly simple detail, such as the use of a soffit along the ceiling or a width of wall space surrounding inset cabinetry, can call out the item being framed as a focal point while also providing visual balance to the room."

8. Varying Heights
"Pairing lower desk and prep areas with higher breakfast bar surfaces provides convenient task-specific spaces, which fosters a greater level of family interaction within the kitchen. In the bathroom, this design concept not only provides function, but balances the space."

9. Japanese Influences
"The impact of Japanese design can be seen very subtly in clean lines, open spaces, and neutral color palettes with bold splashes of color in select areas...Artwork, Japanese antiques, and the traditional qualities of Japanese culture are at the core of some compelling kitchen and bath designs."

10. Art Integration
Homeowners found a way to keep their kitchen and bath designs personal in 2010 by including a favourite piece of art or an antique sculpture in the overall theme of the room. "This method of integration allows the designer to fold all other aspects of the room around the treasured piece."

For the complete NKBA article, click here

December 27, 2010

What Will Be Your Favourite Thing in Your New Kitchen?

Trying to decide which features to include in your kitchen redesign can be incredibly overwhelming. With so many elements to consider--cabinetry, countertops, flooring, appliances, sinks, faucets, lighting--it's no wonder some homeowners find it difficult to stay focused. Often, the best way to explore what's right for your kitchen is to learn from the experience of others.
A few years ago, one of Monarch's clients decided to write a blog chronicling her family's kitchen renovation process. Over several months, she recorded the reasons for the renovation, the before pictures, details and pictures of the tear down and wrote an ongoing description of how her family of four coped during that time of upheaval. One of our favourite posts--and one we're sure you'll find very useful--was written almost two years to this to day and, with her permission, we've reprinted it here:

These are a few of my favourite things
December 28, 2008

Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens
Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens
Brown paper packages tied up with strings
These are a few of my favorite things!!

We’ve been singing this song ever since we saw The Sound of Music in November. (It was wonderful, by the way.) And I can’t think of a better way to describe my kitchen than to say that it is chock FULL of my favourite things. We have hosted three dinner parties since the majority of the renovations were completed two weeks ago and I must say that people have been blown away by how incredible our kitchen has turned out. The dust and  disaster of the renovations now seems like a bad dream and in the spirit of the “12 Days of Christmas,” I’m ready to share my 12 favourite things about our new kitchen.

12. A place for everything and everything in its place – There is a ton of storage space in this kitchen and so many opportunities to store things in logical places.

11. Hidden Spice Drawers – I love the two sliding spice drawers underneath my gas cooktop. No more rifling through my cupboards; everything is at my fingertips.

10. More Countertop Space – With the addition of the island, I have a ton of countertop space. This means I can now store my mixer, espresso machine and toaster on the countertop and it doesn’t interfere with my food prep area — the island.

9. Lowered Workspace – Speaking of the island, not only is it HUGE but we had the counterop made lower than usual to accommodate our height deficiencies (translation: we’re short!). Friends, family and even Nick (in the early stages) questioned our decision to do this, but this is definitely one of our favourite features of the entire kitchen.

8. Lowered Cooktop – We also had our cooktop lowered and this makes preparing food so much easier. Instead of grabbing a stool for the final stages of my wok cooking (stop laughing, it’s not easy being short), I can actually stir big pots full of pasta or soup with ease.

7. Gas Stove – Oh, how I love my gas stove! Of course, the fact that I spent the past eight years cooking on a 30-year old almond-coloured stove may contribute to this love…but only slightly. Instant heat is a beautiful thing.

6. Breakfast Bar – This is a family favourite to be sure and a great place for guests to congregate while we mix drinks or prepare dinner. Love, love, LOVE it!

5. Lights – We have gone from three lights (in total) in our kitchen and dining room to over 20 pot lights, four pendant lights, under-cabinet lighting and a chandelier-type light fixture over our table. Needless to say, we see things a little differently now :)

4. Two Sinks – While Nick may have briefly questioned the lowered countertop on the island, I questioned whether I REALLY needed a prep sink on the island. Thank goodness I decided to keep it; I love having a sink specifically for washing fruits and vegetables…right by my food prep area. And the main sink is huge. I can stack a pile of dishes in there and it doesn’t even look full! Having two sinks is an indulgence, but hey…go big or go home!

3. Back Splash - I wanted tumbled marble, but Nick had something else in mind. We took the advice of a good friend and went to Tile Zone in Ajax and found long, narrow porcelain tiles that our pal Christian installed with black grout. The result? An urban feel that makes the cabinetry pop. I love it and I love my husband for having such great taste.

2. Roll out drawers in the pantry cupboards – I had a walk-in pantry in my old kitchen, so space wasn’t really an issue…except for the fact that I could never find anything! I love being able to pull out a drawer and see exactly what I have. It’s really quite basic…but very important.

1. Room to Move, Cook, Party and Enjoy – I had to laugh at one of the electricians that came into our home. He had been there many times since the renovation began, so he had a good feel for the space. But once the cabinets and countertops were installed, he commented that “this isn’t a kitchen, it’s a banquet hall!” Yes, our kitchen is big. One might even say huge. And this is what I love about it most. We had 12 people for dinner on the Sunday before Christmas and as everyone stood around the island and sink and stove, I realized that there was still room to move! Lots and lots of it! One of the things that I hated most about my old kitchen was that, despite its size, it didn’t make sense. The layout didn’t allow for more than two of three people in the prep area at once. I’m starting to realize that our ‘dream’ kitchen isn’t just a room for us to enjoy, but instead, it’s a place we can share with our family and friends for years to come.

To view the entire blog, visit

December 23, 2010

Think SPA not SHOWER when Remodelling Your Bathroom (Part One)

Is remodelling your bathroom on your to-do list for 2011?

Instead of just replacing your existing shower stall and accessories with updated versions of the same products, consider incorporating spa-like fixtures into your shower space.

So instead of just having a place to take your morning shower, you have a spa-like retreat that can help you unwind and relax whenever you need it.

Video courtesy of Kohler.

December 17, 2010

How to Choose a Kitchen Faucet

Designing a beautiful kitchen is all about paying attention to the details of style and functionality. In this video from Kohler, designer Erinn Valencich provides homeowners with important tips on what to consider when choosing a new faucet for your kitchen.

Video courtesy of Kohler.

December 16, 2010

Get Back Into the Kitchen with The Fridge Whisperer

So you've got a beautifully designed what?

According to local chef and cookbook author Deb Rankine, it's time to listen to the "whisper, whisper" of your new stainless steel refrigerator and start enjoying more dinners at home.

In addition to being a seasoned national food writer, caterer and personal chef, Durham Region cooking teacher Deb Rankine is also author to two cookbooks aimed at getting families back to the dinner table every night of the week.

Her first cookbook, The Fridge Whisperer: 50 Fast & Fabulous Family Faves, was inspired by her Loblaw Cooking School students, many of whom--as Deb was horrified to discover--really didn't know how to boil water.
"The Fridge Whisperer: 50 Fast & Fabulous Family Faves is chock full of nutritious, budget-friendly and easy-to-follow recipes designed to get people back into their kitchen and families back to their dinner table every night of the week," says Deb. "To make the entire process as painless as possible, I've included a list of pantry must-haves and cooking hints...ideal for students going off to university, newlyweds and parents on-the-go."

Deb's second cookbook, The Fridge Whisperer: Condiment Confidential, celebrates the return to a homemade weeknight supper with recipes the whole family will love. Using nine easy-to-find condiments--curry paste, mango chutney, basil pesto, chicken cubes, roasted red peppers, sun-dried tomato & oregano dressing, pure maple syrup, jerk seasoning paste and olive tapenade--Condiment Confidential contains over 75 recipe ideas that are as easy to prepare as they are delicious.

To learn more about the cookbooks, watch Chef Deb's cooking videos or follow "Deb's Daily Dish," visit

December 9, 2010

Five Reasons to Choose a Quartz Countertop for Your Kitchen

Although granite has been the countertop material of choice for many kitchen and bath designers over the years, the undeniable benefits of quartz are making it an increasingly popular choice for homeowners.

Monarch Kitchen and Bath Centre is proud to carry quartz countertops from Cambria. Cambria is pure natural quartz, one of the hardest and most common minerals on Earth.
With the natural look and feel of granite, homeowners love Cambria because it's...

Cambria countertops are available in a wide variety of designer colors and offer the natural beauty and variation of quarry-cut stone. Cambria's new line of colours can be found here.

Because Cambria is pure natural quartz with a small amount of pigment and an epoxy resin, it's stronger than granite and is nonporous.

Easy to Maintain
Unlike granite, a Cambria countertop does not require sealing or polishing and is resistant to stains. Simply wash it with warm water and mild soap.

Food Safe
Cambria countertops are nonporous and have been deemed as being as safe as stainless steel (by NSF International) in commercial food preparation kitchens.

Stain Resistant
Cambria countertops resist stains from such common household items as coffee, tea, and wine.

December 7, 2010

A Kitchen Design that Keeps Your Pets in Mind (Part Two)

Pepsi's Kitchen BEFORE
While it's important to keep pets safe during your kitchen renovation, you may also want to keep them in mind during the design process. After all, as the heart of the home, your kitchen should be a warm, inviting place for ALL members of your family. This includes your pets.

Pepsi's Kitchen AFTER
Take Pepsi, for example. He's a five-year-old Havanese who lives in Thornhill. Over the past two years, Pepsi has lived through two complete Monarch bathroom makeovers and a main floor redesign...including the installation of a Monarch custom kitchen.

As an important member of the family, Pepsi's needs were taken into consideration and designers Melissa Foley and Neil Samson incorporated a built-in dog bed into the kitchen cabinetry design.

Pepsi's kitchen: A stunning design that meets the needs of the ENTIRE family.

December 3, 2010

Remembering Your Pets During Renovation (Part One)

Ask any homeowner who has undergone a major renovation and they are sure to tell you how stressful and even traumatic the renovation process can be. No matter how organized or prepared you are, ultimately, you're forced to go about your daily life in a state of upheaval and plan around the presence of workmen in your home.

The mess, the noise, the dust...while we're able to understand that it's all just a temporary price we have to pay to achieve the end result, our our pets aren't able to do the same.

What they see is a home disrupted, and not surprisingly, this can result in a negative change in their behaviour. After all, their house is being invaded by "strangers" who are making a lot of noise and mess as they take it apart. Their owners may even be so distracted they're not giving them the love they deserve!

Monarch president Neil Samson has witnessed first-hand how stressed pets can become during the renovation process. "A few years ago, I was at a client's home doing the final measurements before tear down began," explains Neil. "Because the clients were doing the tear down themselves,I was demonstrating the most effective way to remove the drywall. As I lifted the hammer to the wall, their dog...sensing danger and I imagine, feeling a need to protect his owners...came up behind me and nipped at my leg. While the owners where horrified at their dog's behaviour, his reaction was completely understandable."

What can you do to ease the stress your home renovation will have on your pets? If possible, find them a temporary home during the bulk of the renovation. If this isn't an option, set them up in a quiet room or area not accessible to the many workmen who will be visiting your home. If you do need to change where your pet sleeps and eats while renovating, plan ahead and have your pet adjust to the change a few weeks before renovation begins. This way, they won't have to deal with all the changes at once.

Bathroom Remodeling: Before You Begin

If you're ready to renovate one or more of your bathrooms, it's important to do your homework before any work begins.

Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) reminds homeowners to avoid surprises:

"Before you start renovating, you’ll want to think about your bathroom, your needs and your budget. Look carefully for signs of deterioration and the possible causes. This will save you money and also help you to be better informed if you’re dealing with contractors. Reflecting on your project will also help you to decide whether you need the services of a professional. Being unsure of what needs to be done, recognizing that the job is very complicated, or that you don’t have the time or energy to do the work, are good reasons to hire a professional renovator."

Photo courtesy of Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation
While each person's reason for renovating is slightly different, CMHC notes that the majority of reasons fall into the following categories:

1. Size and design
2. Fixtures
3. Structural
4. Moisture
5. Plumbing & Electrical
6. Heating & Ventilation

For CMHC's entire checklist of items to consider before remodelling your bathroom, click here.

For design inspiration, view Monarch Kitchen and Bath Centre's bathroom gallery here.