Yellow, but not too mellow

Yellow shone its sunny attitude all over fashion this spring and still feels fresh in the dog days of summer. Yellow’s a surprisingly versatile color. It can be fearless and fun when mixed with other brights or—paired with neutrals—edgy. In the kitchen, yellow plays a similar role, adding a cheery burst of sunshine that’s an instant update for even the drabbest space.

But yellow can feel too soft and dated if you aren’t careful. Your best bet for an effect that’s more cool than cute is to skip the overall buttering-up and go with a few targeted splashes of bold yellow: think bright yellow pendant lights, glossy yellow chairs, or a yellow-tiled backsplash, for example. The result will be a more modern look that’s also easier to swap out when you’ve transferred your affections to next year’s “it” color. And speaking of “it” colors, yellow looks super chic with gray.


Yellow tiles HGTV.comVia

yellow bar stools stylecarrot.comvia StyleCarrot

Yellow gray window treatments housebeautiful.comvia House Beautiful

yellow backsplash brit.covia

yellow cabinets skonahem.comvia

yellow cafe curtains jenwoodhouse.comvia The House of Wood

Yellow countertop interiorcollective.comvia Elle Maison

Yellow fridge smeg.comvia SMEG

Unexpected Kitchen Essentials

When I got married at the tender age of 22, I got all kinds of beautiful gifts. Some, I’d registered for—like the Baccarat double old-fashioned glasses I still love (though, sadly, only one remains of the set of 6 we received)—and some I hadn’t, like this Circulon pan:

Circulon Contempo 12" Stir-Fry Pan

Circulon Contempo 12″ Stir-Fry Pan, $40,

When we unwrapped the stir-fry pan, I remember thinking it was a particularly boring gift. Mine isn’t even as attractive as the one pictured above—in 1994, the handle was covered in clunky rubber. I probably definitely had some spoiled-brat thoughts about the relatives who bestowed this rather blah piece of cookware upon us. And yet, nearly 19 years later, I’m STILL using this pan at least three times a week. It’s the perfect size for stir-frying anything, well balanced, easier to clean than a traditional wok, the ugly handle doesn’t get hot, and the  non-stick coating hasn’t worn off. I can honestly say it’s the most useful gift I’ve ever received, and each time I pull it out of its drawer I think grateful thoughts about the relatives who bestowed this beauty upon us.

Thinking about my favorite pan made me consider the other items reach for again and again. Most of these I’ve owned nearly as long as my Circulon pan; others are newer additions. They’re not particularly sexy, but they work. And I expect to love them just as much 20 years from now as I do today.

My other favorite kitchen essentials:

Kitchen Essentials

Clockwise from top left:

1. 15″ Solid Wood Walnut Salad Bowl, $140, Holland Bowl Mill;

I have a bowl that’s very similar to this one. Also a wedding gift, I believe mine came from England, but there’s no mark on it. Unlike wood bowls that are made from many pieces joined together, this one, like mine, was turned from a single piece, and you can see the undulating grain of the wood across the surface of the bowl. I love the way my salad bowl gets more beautiful as it ages—probably from all the olive oil that’s absorbed into its surface over the years.

2. Bear Claw Salad Servers Set, $14, Ironwood Gourmet;

When the delicate wood servers that came with my salad bowl broke, I replaced them with a pair of bear claw servers (actually, I’ve always thought of them as “salad hands”, but it’s good to know the official name). Mine aren’t as curvy as these, but they’re also Acacia wood, which is not just lovely for its dynamic grain pattern, but for its sustainability.

3. Claude Dozorme French Steak Knives, $175 for six, Claude Dezorme;

My knife set (see below) didn’t come with steak knives, so a few years ago I asked for a set of Claude Dozorme knives. I’d seen them in The Birch Store, in Keene Valley, NY, and fell in love with the delicate shape and faux mother-of-pearl handles. I chose ivory for my set (ever-practical, I know), but they come in a gorgeous range of colors as shown here.

4. Cookie Dough Scoop, $13, Crate & Barrel;

I don’t usually go in for single-use tools (I even scoop ice cream with a regular spoon), but if you bake at all you’ll appreciate the precision of a cookie dough scoop. I use it most at holiday time when for some reason I descend into cookie-making madness, but it comes in handy the rest of the year too. Just this week I scooped up perfect mini-meatballs for my favorite minestrone soup with this handy helper.

5. Nespresso Essenza Manual Espresso Machine, $129, Nespresso;

Coffee is my weakness. I drink cup after cup each day, most of them made in a very basic Mr. Coffee model that does a decent job of brewing up a pot, but also drips all over the counter every time you pour from the carafe. But when I want a really, truly delicious espresso, or a superlative iced coffee, I use our Nespresso Essenza. My husband bought it three or four years ago and it quickly rose to “essential” status. We even took it on vacation with us one year! If the pods were less expensive, I’d use this machine exclusively.

6. Wusthof Classic 7-Piece Knife Block Set, $300, Wusthof;

Chefs prize their knives. I’m no chef, but I agree that a good knife is the most important tool in the kitchen. I got these knives and a slightly different block than the one pictured as shower gifts (even though it’s supposedly bad luck to give knives as a wedding gift) and after much use and many sharpenings they’re just as well balanced and comfortable in my hand as they always were.

7. Berndes® SignoCast 7-Quart Covered Dutch Oven, $135, Berndes;

My mom gave me this Dutch oven for Christmas many moons ago. It’s big and heavy, with a non-stick interior—so even after braising boeuf bourguignon for hours on the stove it’s a cinch to clean. Bonus: The glass lid fits perfectly on my Circulon pan…

8. KitchenAid Classic Plus 4.5-Quart Stand Mixer, $299, KitchenAid;

This is a kitchen icon for a good reason. I can’t even begin to imagine how many batches of mashed potatoes I’ve made in this workhorse. I’ve had mine for at least 15 years, but if I were buying one now I’d buy one of the larger models in a great color, like Tangerine.

9. Rosle Twirl Whisk, $22, Rosle;

I don’t know if I’d have spent $22 on a whisk for myself, but a friend gave me this with words akin to “this whisk will change your life”. I was dubious, I’m sure, but she was right: The twirl whisk is the ultimate antidote to lumpy gravy and clumpy mornay sauce and perfect for emulsifying vinaigrettes. Essential, most definitely.


Mountain Modern: Rustic Grows Up

When I was a kid, we spent a lot of time in Bridgehampton, on Long Island. My parents were house flippers before house flipping existed, and we were always wandering through cold, empty houses looking for their next project. Bridgehampton is fancy now, but in those days it was still at the tail end of life as a potato-farming community, a laid-back town with acres of flat, open land dotted with big old barns.

Via Sag Harbor Express

Of course, oceanfront farmland never lasts. The farmers sold their fields to developers, who put up bright, modern houses for weekend visitors, and their barns to yuppies from New York, who turned them into bright, modern homes for their weekend visits.

Sad as that transformation was, I have to admit I always loved walking through the converted barns. Something about their open floorplans and soaring spaces appealed to me then, and now. I liked the way they felt natural and rustic, but not woodsy or cutesy or dark, the way so many post-and-beam or log-style houses can.

Recently, I came across Food Network star and blogger Ree Drummond‘s kitchen on I liked it so much, I pitched it for a feature in one of the magazines I edit, Consumer Reports’ Kitchen Planning & Buying Guide. We’ll be featuring the kitchen in our spring 2013 issue. Even though Ree’s kitchen is much larger and more ranch-y in style than the converted barn kitchens I remember, it shares some of the same characteristics: An open layout, soaring ceilings, natural materials used in a contemporary way, and—perhaps most important—plenty of light.

Last month at the International Builders Show in Las Vegas I heard a term in the Delta Faucet booth that captures this balanced look perfectly. It came up when we were talking about the popularity of dark finishes for kitchen and bath faucets (and hardware, lighting, and just about anything else). My guide mentioned that Delta had extended that finish to some of their sleeker faucets as part of a bid to appeal to the “mountain modern” trend. It was a codifying moment: finally, an umbrella to cover an unexpected mix of elements. I immediately adopted the phrase and stuck all the things I love about those old barn-houses under it.

Let me show you what I think of as “mountain modern”. I’d happily move into any of these, whether they enjoyed a past barn-life or not:

Via First Sense

Via Cococozy

Via Keen & Fitting

Via San Diego Magazine

Via Small Kitchen Ideas

Via Style Estate

Into the Wood

I have a dirty little secret. I’m prejudiced against wood cabinets. I know, I know, it’s ridiculous: There are plenty of super-stylish, timeless, and timely kitchens that make the most of the warm and wonderful grain of wood. And still…I gravitate to white painted finishes.

At work, when I’m picking kitchens to feature in the magazine I edit, I have to force myself to look again (and again) at the projects with wood cabinets—because I know that while they’re not my cup of tea, they appeal to plenty of other folks.

So, in the spirit of a new year and a new attitude, here’s my round-up of (mostly) wood kitchens even I could live in. Maybe they’ll inspire me enough to head into the wood next time I remodel a kitchen (truth be told, the white painted finish on my own kitchen cabinets is chipping like crazy).

 One of the reasons I’m not usually a fan of all-wood kitchens is that they can feel somewhat claustrophobic. Not the case here: In this vaulted, windowed space (looks like a remodeled barn, doesn’t it?) the kitchen appears to float, unfettered. Actually, the medium-wood tones of the cabinets and bar stools help ground the airy room, making it feel welcoming and warm. I love the varied counter heights, too. via Sunset.

I know, this one couldn’t be more different than the first—but it’s just as successful. Here, the heavy walnut dominates the space, but it works because of the stark contrast the perimeter cabinets provide. The detailing—the scrolling supports for the breakfast bar, for example—are spot on, and the choice of range hood was brilliant. Via Amazon.

Texture is everything in this kitchen, from the complex patchwork of wood grains (three different types, on the floor, drawers and doors, and countertop) to the rough-scrubbed walls. The shine of stainless steel adds visual relief. via House Beautiful.

So, yeah, this one’s a bit of a cheat because it’s not all wood. That’s actually the point: You can use wood in your kitchen without going all wood. Color keeps the look modern and fresh and, I’d argue, actually highlights the wood in the upper cabinets. via Sunset.

The appeal of this kitchen starts with the floor: Those gorgeous herringbones remind me of apartments I visited in Paris when I lived there; I can practically hear the wood creaking underfoot. I love how the sleek, contemporary lines of the kitchen fittings contrast so completely with the classic pattern of the floor; the laboratory-like simplicity is a great counterpoint to what could otherwise be a fussy design element. via KBC Kitchen & Bathroom

Blue Kitchens: 10 Bright Ideas

Blue is my favorite color. When I play a game, I want the blue piece. My favorite fruit? Blueberries, of course. My bedroom is blue; my bathroom is blue; my sons’ rooms are blue; my living room is (mostly) blue; and my kitchen is….green. Okay, so it’s mint green, admittedly a blue-based shade, but still: not blue.

Why did I veer off track in that one, all-important room?

Because I wanted the kitchen to look warm, from the sand-colored countertops to the light oak floor—and blue just felt too crisp and cool for a space I hoped would shout “welcome”.

That’s not to say I don’t like blue kitchens. Actually, I love them. One of my all-time favorite kitchens is a study in bright white, with a backsplash of periwinkle blue subway tiles. But that kitchen was in a New Jersey Shore beach house, where the watery palette looked right at home, especially in the summer. Someday, I hope to have my own beach house to drench in all the blue and white it can take, but until then, I’ll have to live vicariously.

So, for anyone else who shares my blue mood (and I’m betting there are a lot of you; 40% of people worldwide picked blue as their favorite color, making it the most popular color on Earth), I’ve collected 10 brilliant blue kitchens. Dive into the big blue…


Southern Accents

This is similar to my all-time-favorite blue kitchen. I think the bamboo blinds are the key to the success of this space: They add just enough natural texture and color to balance all the stark white, cold glass, and shiny tile. Designed by Suzanne Kasler Interiors. Via Southern Accents

House Beautiful

Normally, when I ooh and aah over a blue kitchen, I’m drawn to paler shades of blue, but I love the near-navy cabinetry in this space. It’s so crisp and clean, and feels surprisingly contemporary. I think I would have opted for a stainless steel refrigerator instead of one paneled to match the cabinets, just to up the mod factor a bit, but still—it’s gorgeous, isn’t it? Via House Beautiful


Here’s a very different approach to blue cabinetry. Not quite as dramatic as the example above, but super-sophisticated. The linchpin of the design (Jennifer Lopez’s home, incidentally, designed by Michelle Workman and featured in Veranda) is the black La Cornue range: It grounds the light-as-air space with an unexpected dose of depth.  Via Decor*Pad

Donkee House

Here’s a solution for the blue-obsessed among us who can’t quite commit to a true-blue room: Go blue on the down-low. I love painted wood floors, and these aqua wide-plank floors are just perfect. The rooms still looks warm and inviting, thanks to the mustardy walls and the pops of red, but cool, too. Via Donkee House

Mother Nature Inspired

You might consider this kitchen “cheating”: after all, it’s not blue, it’s gray. But I chose it for the fabulous retro refrigerator—what a great way to introduce a strong color into an essentially neutral (and uber-chic) space. The flower-filled canisters on the island pull the turquoise from the fridge back into the picture just enough to make it work, without feeling too matchy-matchy. Via Mother Nature Inspired

Design Wagen

I’m a big believer in balance, in design as in everything else. So in a very sleek, contemporary space like this one, I love to see some element that provides a counterpoint to all the minimalism. The busy pattern of oblong tiles does the trick quite nicely. And kudos to the designer for choosing wood countertops and floors—imagine how clinical this kitchen would have felt if either surface had been white. Via Design Wagen


This shot is from a showroom, so the props are a little stagey (notice the weirdly placed macaroons and overabundance of chickens), but I chose it for two important reasons. First, I really like the combination of pale blue and sandstone—it’s somehow fresher than blue and white, which (much as I love it) is just sooo expected. Second, the woodgrain: Note how you can see the texture of the wood through the stain. That little detail makes the cabinetry endlessly more interesting. via Kitchen-Designing

One last take on blue cabinets. I’ve seen so many older kitchens with perfectly serviceable wood cabinets—invariably in an uninspiring shade of brown. Imagine if those dull doors were stripped and stained a soft blue, letting the wood grain show through a bit. Add some simple, contemporary hardware and inexpensive subway tiles and you’ve got a cool, modern kitchen. On a budget. Go blue…save green. Via


I hardly know where to start with this picture—there are so many great things to mention. The two shades of blue on the walls and trim are genius: close enough to highlight the architecture without looking all period. And I love the way the prints are displayed, just floating inside plain black frames. Again, a modern twist on a traditional look. But the bright red chairs are the best part. I, for one, would never think to pair tomato red with pale blue (I always go for an orange-and-blue combo, myself) but it works amazingly well—even with the hint of chartreuse on the table. Amazing! Via Interiorly

House Beautiful

Last but not least: Here’s an example of too much of a good thing. I love the patterned ceiling, and the island is fabulous—the chrome trim really makes it sing. To me, the floor, countertops, bar stools, and light fixtures are just overkill. But how great would this island look in kitchen with slate floors and stainless steel countertops? Do you agree? Let me know! Via House Beautiful

As Seen On TV: The ‘Modern Family’ Kitchen


The Dunphy Kitchen from ABC’s Modern Family

I’m not really a sitcom person, per se, but Modern Family totally cracks me up. My kids love it too, and I like watching it with them—some of the more adult themes sail right over their heads, but others bring up important questions, in a natural, organic way. Parenting gold, in other words—and in my experience that’s even harder to find than a truly funny sitcom.

Another reason to love Modern Family? The sets—particularly the Dunphys’ house. Like the iconic living room in All In The Family, the Dunphys’ kitchen is the nexus of their family drama. And it’s a pretty cute kitchen, too. A little cluttered, but cozy and welcoming: the kind of kitchen that’s just right for everything from homework to Sunday dinner.

Are you a fan, too? Of the kitchen, I meant!

I thought so.

Well, here’s my gift to you….




 Clockwise, from top left:

1. ‘Pomegranates’ by Azorin, $98, Novica;

2. 60-14 5 Light Vanguard Chandelier, $130, Nuvo;

3. Stax Colore 16-piece Dinnerware Set in Lemon Yellow, $57, ivgStores;

4. Milano Fruit Stand, $165, La Forge;

5. Color Cuisine Napoleon Side Chair in Canary, $796 for four, Broyhill; 

6. Color Cuisine Farmhouse Table in Canary, $565, Broyhill;

7. Ravella Stripe Rug Red, $139 for 42″ by 66″, Transocean;

8. Riley’s Corner Sideboard, $489, JC Penney;

9. Red Speckled Fringe Placemats and Napkins, $50 for 6 placemats and 6 napkins, Touch of Europe;

10. Tangere Fingertip Tray, $18, Lamont;


New Cabinet Knobs: The Easiest Update Ever

9 Cabinet Knobs

Refinishing your existing cabinets is one great way to refresh without replacing. A couple weekends of work and about a hundred dollars in paint will net a dramatic new look. Even faster and cheaper? Just swap out your old cabinet knobs and pulls. The results may not be quite as jaw-droppingly-different, but updating your cabinet hardware is one small change that can make a big difference. Kind of like putting a new necklace on over an old dress, you know?

A few things to keep in mind as you shop:

  • The knob should feel good in your hand. You’ll be touching it a lot as you work in your kitchen.
  • It should be easy to clean. Too many crevices trap dirt. You may want to keep ornate styles to cabinets that aren’t in close proximity to the main prep and clean-up zones.
  • The style should suit the architecture of your house, and the style of your cabinets. Ultra-sleek knobs will probably look weird in a country kitchen with knotty-pine cabinets, no?

Nine natty knobs (pulls to come next week):

1. Manor Knob, 1″ diameter, polished chrome, #BP26131-26, $4.50, Amerock;

2. Oil-Rubbed Bronze Amber Glass Cabinet Knob,  1 1/4″ diameter, $5.59, Amerock;

3. Geometric Knob with Solid Brass Construction, 1 1/4″ diameter, $13.59, Alno;

4. Toccata Weathered Nickel Knob, 1 1/4″ diameter, $6.00, Berenson;

5. Revitalize Gilded Bronze Knob with Backplate, #BP55341-GB, 1 2/7″ diameter, $3.04, Amerock;

6. Candler Rectangular Knob, oil rubbed bronze, AME-88159, 1 1/4″, $2.74, Amerock;

7. Rossi Satin Nickel Cabinet Knob, #21328, $3.31, allen + roth;

8. Fluted Collection Venetian Bronze Knobs, 1.5″, $45.99 for case of 36, Overstock;

9. Bowl Cabinet Hardware Knob, 1.5″, $3.50, Martha Stewart Living;




New Dishwasher? Shop for Energy Savings

Recycle symbol

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), a dishwasher built before 1994 wastes more than 10 gallons of water per cycle. Upgrading to a new Energy Star-qualified dishwasher will save, on average, 1,300 gallons of water over its lifetime. That’s a big deal, environmentally speaking. And it’s a good reason to replace your older dishwasher, even if it’s still running well.

Newer dishwashers save energy, too. Here’s what to look for as you shop (and how to maximize efficiency in your new appliance once it’s installed), courtesy of the California Energy Commission:


1. Look for a model with special energy-smart cycles. ”Short cycle” and “Energy Saving” options really will help your dishwasher use even less water and energy.

2. Choose a dishwasher with an air-drying option. Heat-drying expends much more energy than air-drying does.

3. Actually use the dishwasher. Research shows that a load of dishes washed in the dishwasher uses 37% less energy than a load washed by hand. And don’t rinse the dishes first. Today’s dishwashers do not require pre-rinsing.

4. If you do wash by hand, do it the old-fashioned way. Fill one bowl of a double-basin sink with soapy water, the other with clean (for rinsing) and save 50% of the water you’d use in a normal dishwasher load.


Finally, boost your earth-friendliness even more by considering a model constructed from 100% reclaimable stainless steel. As far as I know, Electrolux makes the only one on the market (see below), but I’d imagine more options will hit the stores in the not-too-distant future.


Electrolux 24” Built-In Dishwasher with IQ-Touch® controls

24” Built-In Dishwasher with IQ-Touch® controls, $1,200, Electrolux;


7 Spooky Halloween Decorating Ideas

Halloween Table Ideas


I’ve had a hard time getting into a suitably spooky mood this year. I think it’s because October has felt more like early September here in New York. I need a little chill in the air to shiver, you know? But we finally got the Halloween decorations up this weekend, and I went pumpkin shopping today (yep, all the good ones were gone, and I ended up with a ragtag collection of lumpy, stemless specimens…but I digress). So, in the spirit of the U.S.’s second-largest retail holiday (I know, I can’t believe that stat either), I thought I’d share some Halloween tabletop ideas to help get you in the trick-or-treat zone, too, whatever your weather.

Boo-tiful accessories, don’t you think?


1. Rococo Noir Pedestals, $38 for large size, Rosanna;

2. Crow’s Feet Candles, $15 for 3, Victorian Trading Co.;

3. Amber Bubble 16 oz. glasses, $40 for 4, Certified International;

4. Spooky Burlap Table Runner, $49, Pottery Barn;

5. Witch Finger Spreaders and Forks, $9 for 4, Grandin Road;

6. Halloween Appetizer Plates, $30 for 4, Williams-Sonoma;

7. Coffin Candleholder, $15, Martha Stewart Living;


Pendant Lighting: 5 Fixtures Perfect for Kitchen Dining Areas

Kitchen Pendant Fixtures

Choosing pendant lighting to hang above the kitchen dining table isn’t quite the same as choosing a fixture to illuminate the island, or a countertop. Style is important everywhere, of course, but here the look of the light is really key: Because it hangs at eye level, in a (usually) small space, the fixture is a major focal point. So, you want to get it just right, like in this great shot from House Beautiful.

Pick something you love, that makes you smile every time you see it, and that you won’t get sick of too quickly. If you’re not feeling confident about your options, a good rule of thumb is to match the style of the light to the architecture of your house—a Craftsman-style fixture would look right in a bungalow; lanterns are well-suited to Colonial-style homes. Or, you can let color guide you: Select a shade that picks up a color used elsewhere in the room—in the countertop, say, or the window treatments, or in the same metallic finish as your faucet. In an all-white or very neutral space, the fixture can add a much-needed element of personality and interest: Look for a shade with a bold pattern, or a bright hue.

And, don’t forget to consider practical matters:

  • Choose a fixture with a shade that’s easy to clean. This isn’t quite as crucial as it is in the workspace proper, where grease and dust can ruin a fabric shade right quick, but it’s still a consideration, especially if your kids, like mine, can make ketchup fly amazing distances. A metal, glass, or wood shade you can wipe clean is your lowest-maintenance choice.
  • Install a dimmer on the switch that controls the fixture, so you can raise and lower the level of light. This is important for creating ambiance (hey, it may be the kitchen, but you can still make it romantic), and for saving energy (less light, less energy—it’s that simple). Save even more energy by using a dimmable CFL or halogen bulb.
  • Hang the fixture at the right height. You want it low enough to cast a flattering glow, but high enough that it’s not blocking you view across the table. Most of the time, the bottom of the pendant should hang about 28 to 32 inches above the top of the table. The larger the table, the higher you can hang the pendant.

A few brilliant options, from left to right:

Lowell Pendant, $370, Currey & Company;

NUT S CHW-2 Large Pendant, $422, LZF by Global;

Industrial Pendant, $99, West Elm;

Tissage Ceiling Lamp, LS-19527; $124, Lite Source;

Unfold Pendant, $161, Design Within Reach;