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February 28, 2011

Looking Back: A Monarch Kitchen & Bath Centre Client on What She'd Do Differently

One of the first things many homeowners do when considering a major renovation project is seek the advice of friends and family. After all, who better to trust than someone who's been through a similar experience before?

Janet Boccone, a Monarch Kitchen & Bath Centre client who had her kitchen redesigned in 2008, updated her Dream Kitchen Reno Diary blog recently and had this advice to offer:

February 28, 2011

A good friend recently asked me if my husband and I regretted any of the decisions we made while designing our kitchen a few years ago.

She is considering gutting her own kitchen and starting over and wanted to know what we'd learned; what, if anything, we would change and most importantly...would we do it all over again?

I told her, without hesitation, that we'd do it again. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE my kitchen. There is not a day that goes by that I don't think Wow, what a gorgeous space. Lucky me!

Would I change anything? Maybe just a few of the appliances...and maybe not for the reasons you might think...but more on that later. I did have some advice to share.

PLAN your cupboard space
If you're using a professional kitchen design company (and I highly recommend it), your designer will design the overall layout of the space and help you make hundreds of decisions--from cupboard and countertop materials to lighting and paint colours. One of the most important decisions you will make has to do with the setup of your cupboard space. Do you want drawers or shelves? How many of each? How big or how small? Where will they go? (You get the idea.) This is both an exciting process and a terrifying one. If you're redesigning your kitchen, chances are you'd like to organize your space better. I know that was one of my top priorities. I was sick of bending over and leaning into cupboards. I wanted great big drawers and lots of them!

My regret: I wish I'd planned the rest of my shelves (mostly the upper ones) out better.
My advice: Take the time to think about what you'll be storing where. Don't just assume everything will fit.

LISTEN to appliance salespeople
I have a five-burner gas cooktop with a brushed stainless steel finish. It works like a charm and I love how gas offers instant heat. It was love at first site when I saw the cooktop at the store. So blinded was I by its beauty, I ignored the saleswoman when she said to me "It can be a little difficult to clean." Oh, phooey, I thought. I'll never let this thing get dirty! I'll wipe it clean every night. And I did. And I still do, for the most part. But you know what? It's impossible to clean. I've tried everything and it no longer looks anything like it did in the beginning. I'm thrilled by its performance but disappointed in its declining appearance. My husband says I should get over it! And I am...more or less...because I am pleased with how well it works.

My regret: I should have listened to the saleswoman. Because even if we bought the same cooktop, my expectations would have been more realistic.
My advice: Decide beforehand how important this kind of thing is to you. And listen to the salespeople.

FIND a temporary home for your pet
We were very lucky to have someone to look after our dog when the teardown and construction got really intense; however, if I were to do it again, I'd try and have him out of the house even more. A house under construction is a danger zone--for humans and for pets. Your stress level during this time--even if every last little thing is going smoothly--is high. We are capable of understanding what's going on. Our pets are not.

My regret: Our dog is an important member of our family and I should have considered his needs, as well.
My advice: Find your pet a temporary home with someone you trust.

February 23, 2011

Monarch Kitchen & Bath Centre Encourages You to Ban the Bottle

If the majority of the water you drink comes from store-bought bottled water, it's time to reconsider what you're doing to your body, your planet and your pocket book.

In Solvie Karlstrom's article Tapped Out: The True Cost of Bottled Water, she explains that "not only does bottled water contribute to excessive waste, but it costs us a thousand times more than water from our faucet at home, and it is, in fact, no safer or cleaner."

To better understand our nation's obsession with bottled water, take a few minutes and watch The Story of Bottled Water, by The Story of Stuff Project, co-produced by the Polaris Institute. While the narrator refers to conditions in the U.S., Canadians will be able to easily recognize their own bottled water habits in the film.

February 18, 2011

What is Neil Samson's Favourite Design Trend for 2011?

A great room by Monarch Kitchen & Bath Centre
This Pickering "great room" is the new living room

A great room is a multi-purpose open-concept area that offers a warm and welcoming dimension to a home. Usually spacious and informal, it encourages interaction as family and friends are able to gather in a large, relaxed setting.
“While great rooms are certainly not new, it seems an increasing number of families are opting for more casual spaces in their homes,” says Neil Samson, Monarch Kitchen and Bath Centre president. “Our clients are ridding themselves of the stuffy living rooms and separate dining rooms and bringing not only the spaces together but their families, as well.”

With the emphasis on comfort and relaxation, homeowners are encouraged to furnish their great rooms with low-maintenance comfortable items in sizes that fit the scale of the room. To help the room appear less cluttered, choose neutral colours and clean lines.

“Opening up the main floor of your home can help to bring about a more casual and comfortable family atmosphere. The kitchen is no longer a space that we try to hide but the centerpiece and heartbeat of our homes,” explains Neil. “It becomes a multifunctional room where everyone can gather--to cook, do homework, work in a home office, relax or entertain.”

“So why not open up your main floor to the 'great room' kind of atmosphere?”

February 17, 2011

Universal Kitchen and Bath Design Ideas from Kohler

As a large percentage of our population approaches retirement, more and more kitchen and bath suppliers are offering not just practical solutions to staying in your home longer, but stylish ones as well.

In these videos from Kohler, Carol Schalla and Cynthia Leibrock offer suggestions on how to stylishly incorporate universal features into your kitchen and bathroom.

Videos courtesy of Kohler.

February 13, 2011

3 Must-Haves for Designing an Outdoor Living Space in Canada (Part Two)

Planning an outdoor living space for the harsher Canadian climate is obviously a bit more challenging than designing one for the sunny south.

In order to get the most use from your outdoor living space, you'll want to incorporate these three elements into your design.
photo courtesy of Weber

1. An Outdoor Fireplace
Designed to take the chill off any spring or fall evening--as well as add ambiance to a beautiful summer night--outdoor fireplaces can be freestanding or built into your patio. They use either wood or gas as their primary fuel source.

2. A Patio Heater
photo courtesy of Napoleon 
Used alone or in combination with your outdoor fireplace, you'll be able to stay outside longer with gas, propane or electric freestanding heaters that come in a variety of styles and heating capacities. Find them at Home Depot, Canadian Tire or any independent outdoor home and leisure retailer.

photo courtesy of AWE East
3. A Fully Covered Patio
Offering your grills, fireplace, furniture--and you!--protection from rain and snow, a fully covered patio extends your season outdoors. Whether you choose a pergola, awning or canopy, these covered areas help complete the look of a fully functional outdoor living space.

Next up: Choosing the right appliances for your outdoor kitchen

February 10, 2011

Dreaming of Summer? Start Planning Your Outdoor Living Space Now (Part One)

Don't let the endless snowdrifts get you down! Spring is just around the corner and as temperatures start to rise, homeowners will emerge from their winter hideaways ready to soak up the sun and some outdoor recreation. While most of us relish the idea of spending more time outside, our soggy and neglected backyards often offer little in the way of motivation.

This spring, before heading off to your local nursery for floral inspiration, stop and consider how to get the most out of your backyard. In other words, don't think garden...think outdoor living space.

No matter what the size of your backyard, more and more homeowners are taking advantage of every available bit of square footage and extending their living space outside. The easiest way to do this is to consider your outdoor living space as an extension of your inside space.

Make a plan

Whether you're hiring a professional or doing it yourself, the first thing you'll want to do is make a plan and define the space. Measure and map your backyard on grid paper, noting the direction your yard faces, and when and which area gets the most sunlight. This will help you decide where to place outdoor furniture and what kinds o plants will do best in each location. Just like the inside of your house is divided into many different rooms, the same concept can apply outdoors. Some questions you may want to answer before you proceed are:

• Do you have young children who need a place to play?

• Do you want a deck or patio for entertaning that is accessible from your dining room or kitchen?
• Is there an existing pool, hot tub or pond or are you planning to install one?

Once you decide what your family's priorities are, it makes designing the space easier and more manageable.

Maintain the flow

Think of your backyard as an outdoor room and choose materials, furniture and accessories that allow your inside space to flow effortlessly into your outside space. A great way to create the illusion that your home extends into the yard is to cover a cement patio with decking tiles comparable to your indoor flooring, or to paint the deck the same colour as your house. Outdoor furniture and appliances similar in quality to what you have indoors are popular and the ideal way to maintain the flow.

Keep it simple

Whether you need a tree to help shade your deck from the hot afternoon sun or a row of evergreens to add privacy to your backyard, don't be intimidated by the selection on display at your local nursery. Choose wisely and ask for help when necessary. You'll want to pick shrubs and flowers that will perform well under your specific lighting and lifestyle conditions. If you don't have much time to devote to your garden, ask a professional to recommend plants and flowers that require minimal watering and attention.

Set the mood with the appropriate furnishings

Choosing outdoor furnishings engineered to being outdoors may cost you a bit more, but they'll last longer and won't find their way to the landfill for years to come. Earth tones with a splash of pastel continue to be a popular colour palette. And just as you would decorate the walls of your home with artwork, don't forget to decorate your new outdoor living space with some personal touches to make it your own. 

February 4, 2011

Bathroom Design Inspiration: Walk-In Shower Wet Rooms

Photo courtesy of Duravit
Looking for the ultimate way to add the luxury of a spa to your bathroom?

Discover the latest European design trend now making a mark in North America: the walk-in shower wet room.

Walk-in shower wet rooms are bathrooms designed to function as full-room showers. With minimal use of materials, the bathing area is not segregated from the rest of the room by walls, enclosed stalls or even lips to step over. Instead, the shower is level with the rest of the floor, making the entire bathroom area easy to access and clean.

Ideal for North America's aging population, this open-concept shower experience can be made even more user-friendly and address accessibility and mobility issues with the installation of benches and handrails. In keeping with its sleek, modern design, toilet screens or separators are usually transparent and the entire bathroom area is intended to operate as a single space.

February 2, 2011

Trend Watch at the 2011 Interior Design Show

The Metro Toronto Convention Centre recently played host to the 13th annual Interior Design Show (IDS), Canada's largest contemporary design fair. This highly anticipated show is a favourite in the Canadian interior design world as designers watch for new product debuts and emerging trends.

Starck X from Duravit
"This year, it was apparent that there is a major trend starting to surface, and that trend is plumbing," says Amanda Willson-Suppa of Monarch Kitchen and Bath Centre. "All of the major brands were in attendance--Aquabrass, Blanco, Brizo, Delta, Duravit, GROHE and Hansgrohe--and they all displayed their newest and most innovative pieces. The look of 'plumbing' is evolving. Architects and designers are now behind these new creations and fresh shapes and design features are starting to from," Amanda explains. 

Arcon from Blanco
"Like the minimalist design of the Starck X toilet from Duravit, for example, or the stunning angular geometry of the Arcon line of sinks from Blanco. Plumbing pieces that rarely changed shape or design now take on an artistic flair and the consumer has so much more to choose from."

To learn more about incorporating these new products into your bathroom redesign, contact Monarch Kitchen and Bath Centre at 905-686-2001.