• Whether it is an every meal thing or just the occasional inspiration, we have all been struck by the urge to go gourmet. We don the imaginary puffy white hat, sprinkle some flour across our faces and (for many us) proceed to create an absolute mess as the well justifiable means to our desired gourmet ends.

    What if it could be easier? Well, maybe not the mess part. But what if you could incorporate some gourmet design ideas into your current or next kitchen layout. It is not as difficult as you might think! Here are 4 simple design ideas that can help you go “gourmet” in your kitchen.

    Design Ideas for the Gourmet Kitchen

    1) Create a well-defined prep space – define where you do your prep work and work out from there. In most cases, it is not just about the space but about who will use it as well. Is this for one cook or two? In some cases it may be necessary to create multiple areas that will complement each in the overall flow of the kitchen.

    2) Organize! Organize! Organize! – this rules in any kitchen! In cabinet accessories to organize cooking utensils, pots, pans and lids, cooking spices and more all in the same run of cabinets are a must and keep you organized and on task without wandering about. Refrigerator placement should come into consideration as well as easily accessible mixers, processer and other hand held appliances.

    3) See the light – actually, this should really say see what you are doing! There are so many reasons good lighting is important in the kitchen, particularly as we get older. Task lighting is essential in any food prep and cooking zone not only to be able see what you are doing, but to watch your gourmet masterpieces come to life as well.

    4) A “go to” appliance – for most, the first thing that comes to mind will be a commercial grade gas powered cooktop. While this brings high-performance into your kitchen, be sure it is what you really need and if so, include the proper ventilation (and cookware!) to go with it.

    These 4 design ideas work whether you are doing a full kitchen remodel or just want to make a few key improvements to freshen up or organize your kitchen. Instead of creating of a storm in the kitchen, by combining one or all of them in your kitchen you can focus on just cooking up one!

    By Jim Grace

  • For many clients, the scariest part of the remodel isn’t seeing your kitchen torn out with just an empty space. It’s not trying to figure exactly which color cabinet finish looks best with which countertop finish that goes with the hardware finish and faucet finish and oh, yeah the floor color, wall color, etc. It’s hearing that question…

    How much are you looking to spend?

    Kitchen Remodeling Budgets

    From Qualified Remodeler Survey, August 2014

    The words most of us fear hearing when we start any remodeling project, but especially so when we start a kitchen remodeling project. We may already know what our budget is, but there is always that moment of apprehension when we go to say it out loud. Maybe it’s because a recent online survey of remodelers done by Qualified Remodeler indicated that 93% worked with clients who exceeded the budget every time, most of the time or at least half of the time.

    Why is that? There are more resources out there than ever before to get an idea of how much a kitchen remodeling project is going to cost. From television shows to online kitchen estimator tools, getting a good idea of how much a kitchen remodeling project can cost has never been easier. And if nothing else, we can always fall back on the well-worn rule of thumb that guides us to spend between 5-10% of the home’s value on your kitchen remodeling project.

    So what tempts us to “budge” it? So many things. It could be that you are in the home you plan to retire in and want to spend more on special comforts or smart staying-in-place items to help your kitchen adapt with you. It could be you find that must have cabinet wood and finish or that special piece of granite or engineered stone. Cabinet accessories that make for easier access. Under cabinet lighting, crown molding, glass doors and other items your current kitchen never had and make sense to include (or you decide you just can’t live without!). Appliances that work smarter or more quietly. It could be something found behind the walls that requires additional labor that you can’t plan for until it is found. The list goes on and on and adds up faster than you keep track.

    The good news is that it is possible to work within a budget. How you ask? Do A LOT of research. Separate wants from needs. Get input from your kitchen designer. Identify where you might want to spend a little more and figure out where you can spend a little less. In most every remodel, compromises must be made and that’s okay. Make decisions that will make you feel good regardless of whether you come in under budget or go over, as long as you know it is for the right reasons.

    By Jim Grace

  • Washing machines have come a long way from the old washboard by the river days. Before you get too overwhelmed with what is out there, here are 4 things to consider when shopping for your next washing machine:

    Size matters – today’s washing machines have gotten bigger, which means that you wash more than ever to help you reduce the number of loads you have to wash. Make sure you know the size of your current machine and what you hope to replace it with so there are no fit issues. Another tip? Put your arms in! Not too wash but to see if you can reach the back or bottom…without falling in! Seriously!

    Tips for buying washing machines

    Efficiency saves money, but not necessarily time – many of today’s washing machines boast better water performance but often times that translates into more extensive wash cycle times, ranging anywhere from 1 to almost 2 hours! A “quick” cycle is found on many machines but…you guessed it, it is a more costly and energy-using option. Make sure you understand the wash cycles available on any machine you are considering.

    Evaluate all the features – front load or top load, agitator or agitator-less, stainless or plastic tub, automatic time remaining, and more. And like all kitchen appliances the more features you want, the more you will end up paying.

    You don’t have to buy a new dryer just because you are buying a new washing machine – as long as your dryer still performs, don’t just rush to replace. A chance to go a little greener often outweighs a mismatched pair of appliances, besides who ever goes in your laundry room anyway? Drying technology has not evolved in the same way as washing technology has, so there is a good chance the dryer you are currently using is still up for getting the job done.

    Today’s washing machines offer more than ever before. Cycle through all of the options to determine what matters most to you before deciding on the right washing machine for you.

    By Jim Grace

  • Walking Habitat for Humanity Metro Maryland’s Maple Hill construction site, you immediately get the sense that it is not your typical construction site. Maybe it is seeing a 19 unit townhome community, not the typical Habitat project. It could be the large number of orange shirts on site, a testament to the strong and passionate volunteer base that Habitat has. There are as many possibilities to consider as there are opportunities that this community is about to give its’ future homeowners.

    The Maple Hill community is Habitat for Humanity Metro Maryland’s first new construction project since 2008. The motto here, like on all Habitat projects, is the same. Simple, decent and affordable. “What Habitat is trying to do at Maple Hill is make it possible for people to have improved lives through economic empowerment and stable housing options”, says Jeff Dee, Director of Development for Habitat for Humanity Metro Maryland. “We have taken a piece of property with 2 dilapidated houses on it and transformed it into a community where families can play, go to school up the street and change their lives.” Before moving into their homes, partner families put 200-500 “sweat equity” hours in by helping to build the home itself or work in a Habitat ReStore or the Habitat Metro Maryland office.

    Putting together a community of this size is a team effort supported by trades and individuals who volunteer their time, expertise, products and services. For Reico Kitchen & Bath that meant working with the Habitat team to put together the right products, design and pricing for the kitchens and the bathrooms to help Habitat get the Maple Hill Community built. According to Dee, “Every time Reico Kitchen & Bath helps us by either donating materials or helping us with pricing for the units the more savings we can pass on to our partner families.”

    The Maple Hill Community is scheduled to open in Gaithersburg, MD this September. For more information, go to http://www.maplehill-mc.org/.

  • Imagine it. Flying sharks. Everywhere. No one is safe. The terror would be overwhelming, not to mention completely illogical given that killer sharks can only fly in Sharknado movies. And while the media world gears up for Sharknado 2, for those remodeling a kitchen there is one thing you absolutely must be ready to deal with….a sharknado of emotions!

    A Sharknado of Emotions awaits

    Now, we’re not talking about flying sharks in your kitchen (or bathroom for that matter, though I would give the tub a quick check just to make sure the water’s clear before you get in next time). But the emotion one can feel when they see their old kitchen being torn out, torn up and generally torn upside down may have you feeling like you are in the middle of your own Sharknado movie.

    No matter how old or dated that kitchen might be, those cabinets and countertops have absorbed the laughs, the tears, the perfect meals, the culinary disasters and so much more. It is like saying goodbye to a family member. You are as gutted as your kitchen.

    But trust me when I say it gets better. Quick. That pain is quickly replaced with excitement and anticipation as you watch the new cabinets go in, then the appliances, new kitchen countertops, lighting, hardware…you get the picture. And all of sudden you find yourself welcoming this new “member” to the family and ready to make a whole new set of memories.

    So, be prepared for that Sharknado of emotions. If Ian Ziering and Tara Reid can survive long enough to make a Sharknado sequel, you can no doubt survive and enjoy your new kitchen.

    By Jim Grace