Archive for Kitchen design

As promised, here is the second in the series of  “Be the Designer” challenges. Today you will need to select the tile grout color for the kitchen backsplash at the Chalk house. This may seem an easy task but here are a few things to consider when selecting a grout color.

  1. Color of the tile.  Sometimes tile has a mingle of color so it may be more than one color.
  2. Color of the cabinetry.  Because the cabinets and backsplash have a very intimate relation you need to include both is selecting a color.
  3. Color of the countertop.  Once again the backsplash and the countertop are very symbiotic.  They often meet face to face.  Consider them both.

Let’s re-cap from past posts.  Here is the countertop, cabinetry and the backsplash tile.backsplash_tile_cabinetfinish_countertop

We fell in love with the geometric design of this tile call Louvre Marfel by Elysium. Here is a close up of the backsplash tile so you can see the color and detail.  This picture was taken with the tile installed but not grouted.tile-grout-color-designer-challenge-lourvemarfil-elysium_kitchen_backsplash

You have three choices of tile grout colors:

  1. Jade
  2. Light smoke
  3. Linen


#3 Linen (top)—#2 Light Smoke (bottom)tile-grout-color-designer-challenge-lourvemarfil-elysium_kitchen_backsplash-001

#2 Light smoke (top)—#1 Jade (bottom)

Remember to consider all the above elements in your decision.

  • Will you be brave enough to select #1 Jade that brings out the beautiful color of the countertop?
  • Do you want to show off the pattern of the tile by selecting a slightly darker grout color for contrast, #2 Light Smoke?
  • Do you want the grout to virtually disappear by selecting #3 Linen?

Make your choice:  #1 Jade, #2 Light Smoke or #3 Linen and tell us why you would pick that color.  The owner has made her selection.  Let’s see if you agree!

For all of you who respond I will randomly select one name and send you a special gift for Mary Sherwood Art Glass.  Good luck!

Have fun with it!

All the best!


Mary Sherwood Lifestyles


PS:  We recently ran a Facebook contest to get the Mary Sherwood Art Glass page shared with friends.  The winner of that contest is Aletha Hudson!  Congratulations!  Thank you Aletha for sharing our page.

Share the love and the new Christmas Art Glass collection with your friends and family.  Hint, hint it is not too early to add something to your wish list! 🙂



How to “Stretch” A House!

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I am so excited to finally share a work in progress update for the Chalk house. We started planning the renovation in March and finally we are about to begin adding the interior finishes.  It always seems to take a long time to get from demolition to finished sheetrock.  For this house we are finally there!  By removing walls and adding some space we did indeed “stretch” this house from 1750 sf to 2100 sf on a small lot.

Here is the original floor plan when the house was constructed in the 90’s.  It had lots of chopped up, small spaces.


After many revisions below is the finished plan.  The expansion focused on the back wall of the house which fronts the golf course and has a beautiful view of the Catalina Mountains.   To enhance the view two 12′ wide atrium sliding doors were added on back. The gourmet kitchen was stretched by 10′. The additional space is amazing.  The master bedroom was bumped out to add more closet space and a laundry area (the laundry was formerly in the garage).


Removal of the interior walls created a wonderful open plan.  My oh my what a difference!

open_floor_plan_wallsremoved_twelve foot atrium doors

With the space wide open and sheetrock nearing completion its time to get this show on the road.  Paint, wallcovering, cabinetry, granite and lots more are on the way!  This is the exciting part.

A few months back we showed you a glimpse of the bath finishes for this house in our post, Spa-like Showers.  Also, I have to add some glass art here and there with pulls in the master bedroom/bath and embellished light fixtures in the guest bath.  I’ll share these shortly.

I have so much more to show you about this house, so stay tuned.

What do you think of the expanded open space so far?  If you are thinking of opening up you interior space we can show you how to make it happen.

Until next week…


Mary Sherwood Lifestyles


***Don’t forget to check out our brand new website Mary Sherwood Art Glass***  There is cool glass art to purchase, a peek at the coming soon holiday collection(it’s in the kiln) and an upcoming give-a-way for all who like our new Facebook Page. Hope to see you join us on our new sites.

BTW: We will continue to post the weekly Wednesday blogs and also circulate news about additions to the art glass web store.

Thanks so much for hanging in with me through the past year.  I miss seeing many of your smiling faces but hope we connect by working together in the future on art glass and/or interior design.








6 Kitchen Materials NOT to Use

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I recently came across an article on a blog site called  They often post great renovation tips.  Here is an article I want to share with you about Six Materials to Never Use in Your Kitchen.  I agree with most of the authors comments.

Here is my take on the 6 Materials NOT to use in your kitchen:

  1. Plastic Laminate Countertops.  Use only if that is all the budget will allow or in task oriented spaces such as laundry or craft rooms.  Here is a picture of a laminate top that was in place about ten years.  With careful use and quality material, laminate can function for some time.  Better choices for the kitchen are granite or quartz.laminate_countertop_textured_moderate_quality
  2. Inexpensive Sheet Vinyl Flooring.  Agree completely with the author. I searched our old files and found an example of budget sheet vinyl vs. LVT.  I rarely use LVT or sheet vinyl.  Wood plank porcelain tile is my product of choice.  It gives you the look of hardwood with the easy care of tile.Blog 07202016 Kitchen Don'ts
  3. Laminate Cabinet Fronts.  The thermofoil white laminate doors of the eighties did often start to peel and warp.  Today thermofoil products have improved and offer a contemporary feel. There are good quality choices for laminated cabinet doors. This a more recent kitchen that has sleek contemporary lines because of the flat laminated wood veneer cabinet doors.  kitchen_contemporary_wood_laminate_sleek_slab_door
  4.  High Gloss Lacquered Doors  I have never used a high gloss lacquer finish in a kitchen.  I know it is difficult to repair on furniture so enough said about NOT using it for a high traffic area like a kitchen.
  5. Flat Paint  Flat paint is definitely a no-no.  How many time have you tried to wipe finger prints off a wall with flat paint and ended up having more of a problem? There are so many new paints to choose from with great wearability.  If the area is around a work surface, satin or semi-gloss will wear and clean better.  Ask your painter for his best wearing paint suggestion.
  6. Trendy Backsplash  There is something to be said for not being too trendy but with limitations.  If you love a particle pattern or color of tile backsplash and plan to reside in your home for sometime, go for it.  It seems the “safe” white subway tile look has been way over done but it does transcend time better than too much pattern.  Use what you love as a backsplash trendy or not.  Here is one from circa 2002 that has trended out.

Remember most of these picture came from our archives and do not represent our current work.  They are used here to illustrate some of the 6 materials.

There are more kitchen remodeling tips at and our previous blogs.

Start planning how to re-model your kitchen with some of these tips.  We’re here to help!


Mary Sherwood Lifestyles

Working with you to create your lifestyle!



NOTE: Special thanks to for the basic idea of this blog.



Cottage Style with Pops of Red

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Finally a small peek at the little cottage project we started last Fall!


The most dramatic change in this little house was the removal of the wall separating the living space and the kitchen.  This house is only 1000 sf.  We needed to give it as much open space as possible.

We did several posts about this project while in process.  Here is a link for a look at the original kitchen (before)!  Here is the after:


The kitchen renovation in such a small space turned out great!  Very functional and easy to clean with painted white cabinets, marble-like quartz countertops and porcelain wood-look tile throughout.  The red Viking range is really brighter than shown and sets this white kitchen apart from all the others.  (Sorry the photos in this post are not the best)


“Touches of red” accents are used throughout the space to give it the pop.


This red framed Monopoly board fit perfect on the dining nook wall.  It was created by the owner’s father who recently past away.  It was nice to incorporate this special, sentimental piece.

To see a few more back scene shots during construction go to the Cottage Re-do post.

The house is small but great for a couple or as a weekend get-a-way!  Comfy furnishings with deep sea blue and red accents complete the living space.



I think I could live here!  How about you?

We are so busy here with work and play!  Stay tuned for more to come!


Working with you to create your lifestyle!

Mary Sherwood Lifestyles, Inc.












An Anniversary and the New Chapter

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Today’s blog is not about design trends, gardening or travel.  It is about how wonderful it feels to celebrate the first year of our new personal journey.

On May 15, 2015 Charlotte Webb Smith purchased Mary Sherwood Lake Living.  That business was our heart and soul for 28 years.  It was difficult to let it go.  It was exciting at the same time to be given the opportunity to create a new chapter(s) in our lives.  Thank you Charlotte and all our loyal friends for such a wonderful experience at Lake Gaston. There is not another place I would have rather been.  Working and living at Lake Gaston was a gift!

In our new Tucson location there was a lot to write about in our first chapter.   Scroll back through the blogs on our web site to catch up with some interest reading of our new adventures and experiences.

Here is the beginning of Chapter 2.  Paul and I are becoming engaged with life outside of owning and operating a business.  He continues to explore the backroads of AZ and the surrounding areas on his motorcycle.  He is volunteering with the Aquaponics Project at the University of AZ’s Biosphere 2.   His computer skills has enabled him to help set up a new network system for our community computer club.biosphere2_aquaponics-gardening

I have found there is a life outside of MSLL.  For so many years my world revolved around that business.  Today I have a nice mix.  Number one, I am exercising more and enjoying every minute.  I am learning all about how to grow and nurture plants in the desert.  I have found a new artistic outlet creating fused glass art. I take on interior design projects that keep me professionally engaged and excited about design.  I enjoy blogging to keep connected with all my loyal followers and friends.  Reading your comments makes me feel the attachment with my NC family and our new found friends.design_kitchen_remodel_



I think a big part of the up-coming chapter is an opportunity Paul and I have to help mentor a young female physician open a new practice in the Tucson area.  Pooling our skills of healthcare, small business and design along with a few other very smart business friends we hope to guide and enable this young woman to be all she can be in her profession.  She is enthusiastic about being a primary care physician and seeking a better way to have more interaction with her patients.  We applaud her efforts.  Here is a recent article about Direct Primary Care Medicine to give you more information about this type of health care practice.

We hope to have her ready to launch her new practice in the next few months. Brainstorming about the location, the business management, the build-out of the office site and the marketing is exciting!  I will keep you updated as the plans progress.

So as you can see there is never a dull moment.  We are so grateful to each and everyone of you who helped us grow in our business and personal life.  Now hopefully we can do the same for this young professional woman.

New exotic granite finds or the medical office design or a whole house renovation are topics all rolling around in my head for next week’s blog.

Any preference of what you would like to hear about next?

In business and in life every day is a new adventure.  Don’t let it pass you by!

Love you all!


Mary Sherwood Lifestyles

Working with you to create your lifestyle!


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Tiny House Living on Wheels

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We recently had a visit from Paul’s sister, Mary Lindner, her husband Kyle, and their teenage daughter Kathryn.  They have spent the last five years (full time) traveling the country in their 34′ Airstream Classic trailer. They have been living in a “Tiny House” on wheels long before it became “hip”.  Kyle works remotely anywhere he has an internet connection.  Mary home schools Kathryn who plans to complete high school two years early.

34' Airstream Classic

34′ Airstream Classic

I was truly amazed at the strategic planning and creative design that goes into outfitting a tiny house.  The home is 256 sf and every square inch is utilized.  As many of us may be thinking of down-sizing or just re-organizing here are some interesting elements Kyle (the design master) included in their Airstream.

Dual monitors for Kyle's mobile office - workstation by day and dining table by night.

Dual monitors for Kyle’s mobile office – workstation by day and dining table by night

Dining table designed by Kyle for multipurpose use-desk and dining.

Dining table designed by Kyle for multipurpose use-desk and dining.

Looking into the kitchen with a covered cook top for more counter space. Kyle's table?desk is to the left.Looking into the kitchen toward the sleeping quarters in the rear. Kyle’s table/desk is to the left.

Compact but very functional kitchen! Covered cooktop provides extra counter space.

Covered cooktop adds extra countertop space.Blog 01 26 2016 Airstream1Clever space saving kitchen utensils. The top shows how all the pieces nest to conserve storage. The bottom shows all the pieces laid out. Never thought you could get so many pieces to fit so compactly!airstream-sofa-storage-convertible-southwest

Two tables are hidden beside each end of the

The two table open provide extra dining and school work space.

Sofa extra storage in the arms and below.

The sofa’s extra storage is in the arms and below.


Folding chairs that stow easily.Blog 01 26 2016 AirstreamSchool supply storage in the ottoman.

Kathryn's bunk on top of built-in dresser storage.

Kathryn’s bunk on top of built-in clothing storage.

Even a cubby for Raven, the poodle. She likes her cozy niche in the trailer.

Even a cubby for Raven, the poodle. She likes her cozy niche in the trailer.

There is still room for a tiny Christmas tree in this tiny house.

There is still room for a tiny Christmas tree in this tiny house.

This house was certainly not too tiny for seven to dine. The Sherwoods, Webers and Linders enjoying a great Italian dinner in the Airstream.

This house was certainly not too tiny for seven to dine. Here are the Sherwoods, Webers and Lindners enjoying a great Italian dinner in the Airstream.

Mary L. says some of the highlights of their journey have been seeing the Grand Canyon for the first time, the many state parks along the coast of Oregon, and the never-ending beautiful sunrises and sunsets of the Southwest.  

Thank you, Mary, Kyle and Kathryn for sharing your home.  You are making a once in a lifetime journey many of us will never experience. Everyday for you is a new adventure!

This home really makes you think that we could all probably do with less.

What is your favorite space saving feature?

Happy trails in tiny houses!


Mary Sherwood Lifestyles                                   252-308-2694


In preparing this article I researched the history of the Airstream and found this interesting article.  Airstream History

Here are a couple of other articles if you would like to explore Tiny Houses and Radical Revamps of Airstreams.

Thanks for following our posts!





Small House Kitchen Project Planning

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I started working on a small house project in our new neighborhood.  It will not be used as a full time dwelling but more like a weekend hide-a-way!  The plan was to keep it simple but it continued to grow (as they all do).  We are updating the entire 1000 sf but this week I focused on the kitchen.  The client wanted white cabinets, white stone countertops and white subway tile.  Somewhere along the way a 30″ red Viking range jumped into the plan.  So cool!

Here are pictures of the exterior, the “BEFORE” and the proposed “AFTER”.  There is still much to do but this is a start on the plans.  Walls will be painted, hardware to select, etc., etc., etc.  In case you are wondering; a few walls will be removed and the existing laundry room will be turned into a refrigerator/pantry space with counters for buffet service.  More on that part of the project later.

Exterior of this small home for weekend get-a-ways!

Exterior of this small home for weekend get-a-ways!

BEFORE-Kitchen that has to go!

BEFORE-Kitchen that has to go!

Perspective of new kitchen with RED Viking range!

Perspective of new kitchen with RED Viking range!

The white kitchen needed that RED pop!  It was the client’s idea.  I can’t take credit.

Do you love or hate the red range?  What would you do to add color to the space?  Let’s hear your thoughts!

Happy dreaming and scheming about your next project!


PS:  For the next two weeks I am traveling to NY, VA and NC including LKG.  Really looking forward to it.  After visiting our son in NY, my brother and family in Blacksburg, my BFFL, Patsy, for the High Point Furniture market I will take a few days to rest and recuperate with friends at Lake Gaston. 🙂  With all of this I will post a little on FaceBook but can’t promise the weekly blog (we’ll see).  Until next time don’t stop reading and sharing this blog.  I love your comments!!!!!


Mary Sherwood Lifestyles





We are working with a client who wants to renovate her kitchen to be more functional. She loves to entertain and cook.  I thought it would be neat to share some of our preliminary planning for this kitchen that you may not always get to see. We often share before and after photos, but we do not always share the in-between parts that get us to the final layout.

It is our job as interior designers to come up with the best possible scenarios that meet all or most of the client’s needs. This is not always an easy task.  A lot goes into this design development and planning phase before presenting design options to the client.

First things 1st: Before sketching and drawing up new plans we first take measurements of the existing space. 


Mary and I met with the client to go over their initial needs and take measurements. These measurements include interior dimensions, window and door placement, outlets, and appliance sizes (if keeping). Here are the rough on-site sketches taken for this project!  (I always hope we can make sense of all these doodles!)


After the initial consultation with the client and the site visit, it’s to the drawing board. With this we have all the information we need to move forward to create possible scenarios to improve this kitchen. The client was also open to exploring an option of expanding the kitchen with an addition off the back of the house. The first plan features the kitchen and total first floor renovation. The second plan features a large expanded kitchen off the back of the house facing the lake!  (Ooh la la!  This expanded plan helps the client to visualize the possibilities!)

To-Expand-Or-Not-To Expand-Exisiting-Plan



Voila! Here is all the scribbles and doodles converted into a more manageable form. Above is the client’s existing first floor plan.

Here are the Two Preliminary Plans: 



Plan 1: (without expansion)

Includes a spacious new kitchen, wet bar and relocation of the dining and living areas.  The living area was relocated because the existing space was very narrow and limited the furniture arrangement.  A small conversation seating area (shown as Living II) in front of the fireplace works better in the narrow space. The relocation of the laundry area opens up the kitchen.  Additional windows were added to the back of the home for maximum views of the lake. The added wet bar will increase the ease of entertaining. By taking down a few walls, we opened up this kitchen and created a well-functioning living space for entertaining.




Plan 2: (with expansion)

The addition off the back of house facilitates the expansion of the kitchen with a large island and additional storage. This plan keeps the formal dining area and central area (around the staircase) as drawn in the original plan. The living space is rearranged to include a TV viewing area adjacent to the lake and a small seating area in front of the fireplace. The laundry room is expanded slightly for more storage. The kitchen is the focus of this renovation. This plan also includes a large bar/buffet area for entertaining. Large windows are added to maximize views of the lake.  An additional less formal dining area is placed off the kitchen.  This plan truly is for a host that likes to entertain and cook!


After viewing both plans which do you prefer? Would you Expand (Plan 2) or Not Expand(Plan 1)? 

Leave a comment below telling us which is your favorite! I can’t wait to see what the client decides! Stay tuned to see!

-Happy Design Wisdom Wednesday! 

-See you next week!

-Dixie K




Beautiful and Exotic Stones

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Exotic stones are such an amazing work of nature.  When selecting natural stone for a project, I am always drawn to the unusual and rare.  Not all budgets and applications will allow the use of exotic stone but let’s explore the possibilities.

There are basically two types of stone compositions used for interiors.

Siliceous Stone is composed of silica and quartz-like particles.  It is very durable.  Granite, slate, sandstone and quartzite are a few examples:


Calcareous Stone is composed of calcium carbonate.    Marble, travertine, limestone and onyx are stones in this category. These stones are more sensitive to acidic foods and cleansers.


Josh Garskofthis from This Old House Magazine expresses my sentiments about natural stone:  “Every rock pulled from the earth has its own mineral color, veining, and speckles, brought vividly to life by stone-workers’ saws and polishing wheels. It will be as distinctive as an original work of art. A stone countertop will last as long as your house—maybe even longer.   It needs only a little routine care and forethought to ward off water marks, stains, and etching typically caused by acidic foods. But even if the worst happens—a chipped edge, a red wine spill—most stones can be restored by a professional. Unlike almost every other building material, stone does not decay. Rather, its natural beauty only enhances through years of use.”

Here are some larger images of amazing exotic, natural stones.

Granite can have incredible depth, visual texture and color.  The “movement” or the flow of the veining in the stone and the contrast of light and dark  mineral deposits place these granites in the exotic category.







Onyx has patterns and colors not available in many other stones.  Some onyx, like the Honey onyx, has translucent characteristics that are great for backlighting countertops for a dramatic visual effect.





Marble is softer than granite. It will age and develop its own patina over time.  Although not always recommended for kitchen countertops, with proper care it will retain its beauty for years.  The more “visual texture” marble has, the better for camouflaging any minor small imperfections.  One of my favorites is the pattern of Rainforest marble, resembling the limbs and twigs of trees.







So dream big with these exotic stones from far-away places! In your dream, which is your favorite and where would you put it?


Mary Sherwood Lake Living – Working with you to create your lifestyle! 


Lighting is so important in creating the mood and function of the interior of your home.  Lighting that is too bright and harsh creates an uncomfortable glare that is hard to live with.  Lighting that is too dim can create other problems such as difficulty reading, safely working in the kitchen and navigating stairs.   So how do the 2014 Consumer Bulb regulations really affect us?   It certainly makes shopping for light bulbs more challenging.

Only 10% of consumers feel knowledgable about the new lighting bulb options.

Only 10% of consumers feel knowledgable about the new lighting bulb options.

Here are some insights provided by Lutron Electronics:

  1.  Only 10% of adults feel very knowledgeable about bulb options after the latest phase-out.
  2.  There seems to be a lot of resistance from consumers to use anything that resembles fluorescent light.
  3.  72% of consumers do not realize that not all CFL and LED lamps are dimmable.
  4.  Almost two-thirds (65%) of consumers say that they are likely to use new technology bulbs (such as CFLs, LEDs, and halogens).

As of January 1, 2014 the final phase of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 went into effect banning 60 and 40 watt incandescent bulbs.  There is a myth that incandescent bulbs are disappearing altogether.  This is not true.  Most decorative bulbs  such as candelabra bulbs and three way bulbs will remain the same.   It simply means the 100, 75, 60 and 40 watt will no longer be manufactured or imported into the U.S.  Many retail sources will still have these bulbs available through 2014, but isn’t it time to help save the planet.

So what are the choices?  It can be really confusing. The common incandescent light bulb is inexpensive, dimmable and produces warm light, but it uses more electricity and has a very short life span.

A few examples of light bulb choices with kelvin rating and approximate costs.

A few examples of light bulb choices with kelvin rating and approximate costs.

Here are some of the pros and cons of three replacement options as compared to incandescent bulbs.

Compact Fluorescent Bulbs-CFLs:

Pros-use 75% less energy than incandescent, last 7 – 10 times longer

Cons- Often take longer to warm up, most are not dimmable, contains mercury, & provides marginal light quality.

Halogens Bulbs

Pros- These are a form of incandescent bulb (not being phased out) that give off instant light and good color rendition. Most are dimmable

Cons – Create heat, have a short life span and are more expensive than CFLs

Light-emitting Diode Bulbs-LEDs

Pros- Use less energy than CFLs.  Last 18-46 years. Instantly brighten. Some are dimmable

Cons- Unusual shapes, heavy fixtures, expensive (but prices are coming down)

What else do you need to know about making the right bulb choice?

  1.  Not all types of bulbs will fit all fixtures.  A-type bulbs will fit standard screw-in fixtures.
  2.  Not all are dimmable, check the label.
  3.  Check the lumens (the measure of brightness).  450 lumens replace the 40 watt bulb.  800 lumens replace the 60 watt bulb.  1100 lumens replace the  75 watt bulb.
  4.  Choose color of light by the Kelvin number.  For example: Warm light is 2700K. Bright White light is 3000-3500K.  Cool bright light is 4000- 4100K.    For the best general effect use 3000-3500K bulbs.
From warm to cool LED lighting and Kelvin ratings.

From warm to cool LED lighting and Kelvin ratings.

LED’s are the best options for variations in brightness, color rendering, energy conservation and long lasting.  In all of our recent kitchen design work we have been specifying LED accent and task lighting.  Here is an example of a beautiful wall of cherry cabinetry and onyx countertop/backsplash totally illuminated by various types of LED lighting.

A beautiful wall of cabinetry  illuminated with LED lighting.

A beautiful wall of cabinetry illuminated with LED lighting.

 If you would like to try simulating the differences in lighting options here is a useful app, LightSmart, available for:



that lets you see the effects of changes in Lumens and Kelvin numbers.

For more information about light bulb choices go to these links:,2817,2428279,00.asp

The abundance of new lighting choices presents a wealth of creative possibilities.  We are constantly learning new ways to incorporate more lighting into your home for function and beauty.

Do you have a lighting issue that may benefit from some creative lighting options?  Let us know and we will see what Brilliant Ideas we can suggest.

Don’t be left in the Dark!


Mary Sherwood Lake Living – working with you to create your lifestyle!


Everyone always loves “before” and “after” shots of project work.  I searched the archives of thousands of pictures to show you some of the kitchen projects we have done over the years.  Some of these projects go back about 10 years but still seem almost timeless today.  When a project can stand the test of “style” time you have done your job.  Yes, cabinet finishes, countertop preferences, backsplash tile trends and lighting are constantly changing.  But it was amazing to me see how many of these kitchens still work today.


Contemporary Kitchen for 2003 and Today Transitional KitchenTraditional Kitchen with Timeless Elements

Greensboro Traditional Kitchen

If you know your comfort zone (of style and color) when planning your kitchen it will be something you can enjoy for many years.  Good planning is the key. There are lots of options to consider.  Making the right choices are critical.  Working with a knowledgeable kitchen designer can insure your kitchen will easily stand the test of “style” time.

Let us work with you to fine tune your likes to create your style!

Show us pictures of what is in your kitchen or “dream” file that illustrates your style!


Mary Sherwood Lake Living – working with you to create your lifestyle! 




Lighting is one of the most vital elements of kitchen design.  Here’s a link to a previous post about the 5 Ways to Light Up Your Kitchen.  While functional lighting is truly important, accent lighting really pumps up the “WOW Factor”. Pendant lighting over an island, peninsula, or small dining table is a great way to add style and shine.  Here are 3 different styles of pendants to consider when designing your kitchen.

Series of Pendant Lights in Lake Gaston Kitchen DesignIndividual Pendant Lighting

Pendant lights come in a wide range of colors, styles, and sizes.  A series of pendants over an island or peninsula act as suspended jewels in your kitchen.  Depending on the light chosen, pendants may not be enough light to be functional on their own, but they really add detail and life that draws your eye upward.  They can be hung all at the same level or they can be arranged at different heights, depending on the look you are trying to achieve.  Pendants are truly a versatile and engaging design feature.




Linear lighting in Lake Gaston kitchen designLinear Suspension Lighting

Linear suspension pendants can hang beautifully over kitchen islands or over rectangular dining tables. They work best in kitchens that are spacious enough to handle a fixture with more length and presence. For both bright task and decorative kitchen lighting, use a decorative suspension along with recessed lights and undercabinet lighting.


drum shade lighting in lake gaston kitchen designDrum Pendant Lighting

Instead of mini pendants, consider placing 2 or 3 drum pendants over a kitchen island.  Drum pendants are a current trend in kitchen design for their beautiful touch of elegance–elevating the charm and warmth of your kitchen when entertaining guests.

What is your style of pendant lighting?  We’d love to hear about it and see it in the comments below!


Mary Sherwood Lake Living – working with you to create your lifestyle!


Top Pics from the 2014 KBIS/IBS

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We’re back from the 2014 IBS/KBIS/IWCE (International Builders’ Show/Kitchen and Bath Industry Show/International Window Coverings Expo) in Las Vegas.  By combining these shows, we were very pleased to see so many dealers and attendees this year.  Here are just a few of our favorite products and kitchen design ideas.

Freedom Induction Cooktop by Thermador and Benchmark FlexInduction Cooktop by Bosch 

Induction Cooktops from the 2014 KBIS

Brand new options for induction cooking with limitless options for the size and shape of your cooking vessels.  You no longer have to use a round pot the size of the designated circle on your cooking surface.  These cooktops give you the option to adjust the surface for your needs.  For example, you could use a griddle that could be evenly heated or divided into two separate zones.

New advances and application for LED lighting

LED Lighting from 2014 KBIS

LED Lighting has continued to advance with new design applications.  Interior cabinet lighting options have expanded to illuminate every dark corner in your home.  Beyond strips of light for undercabinet use, you can envision these same strips as decorative accent light all over your space.

QMotion – motorized drapery rod that is silent

This revolutionary new drapery rod changes everything we new about motorized window treatments.  The leading drapery ring of each panel rides along a groove which pulls the drapery open and closed as it rotates.  The motor and batteries are concealed inside the rod itself.  Plus, it is completely silent!  This is amazingly functional and beautiful!

Fun in Las Vegas We also had a lot of fun after the shows.  We attended a high energy performance of “Recycled Percussion”, complete with a random cookie break (YUM!).  We experienced the unique and elaborate characters at “Divas”.  We also toured the Bellagio’s Foyer with Chihuly Glass Ceiling and Courtyard with Chinese New Year theme garden.

Here is a sampling of the Fountains outside the Bellagio:

Mary Sherwood Lake Living – Working with you to create your lifestyle at Lake Gaston and Beyond!

A few months ago, I wrote about some great budget friendly updates you can make to your kitchen.  Check out the original post here.

Yep, I’m still dreaming of the kitchen I hope to have one day.  We’re heading to KBIS (the Kitchen and Bath Industry Show) in a few weeks, so I’m sure to get even more inspiration.  In the mean time, Ryan and I have spruced up our current kitchen to add some style and appeal.  So here’s a recap of some of the ideas from before and how we used them.

Kitchen Before:

Kitchen Before Update Inside and OutWe have site built cabinets, painted white with a single black knob.  The counter tends to get cluttered, so we wanted to see if we could reassess what we need and where everything lives.  I also wanted to see about opening up some of our closed storage and liven it up with some new paint.

Kitchen Updates Inside Organization PlanningRe-organize and Clean – We started by taking a good hard look at everything (and I mean everything) and narrowing down what we need and how often we use it.  Everything came out and the cabinets got a deep cleaning.  Every item got assigned a home based on where it gets used and how often.  Things that don’t get used much would get relocated to above the refrigerator.  Quite a bit got donated or pitched.

Next, I took off the doors of a section of cabinets I wanted to open up.  I did this as an experiment –  I set up what I wanted to display and see if I was happy with it.  We then lived with it for a few days to see if it was organized how we could function.  If it didn’t work, then I could just put the doors back on.  Happily it worked great!  I took a picture to document the arrangement and then cleared it off again to prep for painting.

NKitchen Update New Hardware Templateew Hardware – Before painting, we drilled for all the new hardware.  That way, we could patch the old and touch up if we had any drilling mishaps.

The process went quickly with the use of a template.  Simply use two scrap pieces of wood to make a T shape.  Shown here, the short side will rest along the edge of the door.  Then drill your template with the desired placement for your hardware.  Mine may look messy, but I used the same board for doors and drawers in hardware of different sizes.  Just make sure you remember or label which holes are for which location.

I changed all the black knobs to linear pulls in a stainless finish for a more contemporary look.  It is also much more comfortable to open large drawers with the long pull compared to the tiny single knob we had before.

Kitchen Updates Painted Open CabinetsPaint – The very old cabinets needed a fresh coat of paint and a new look.  I still love the brightness of white, so we planned to brightened it up since it had yellowed with age.  I also wanted to add more interest to the open shelves by painting the back wall a light grey.

But first, I filled and repaired any flaws and holes from the doors that we removed.  Then we sanded everything!  Sanding is a very important step to make sure that the oils from cooking and your hands are removed so the new paint can adhere properly.  Once again clean all the surface of any dust.

I used paint with a semi-gloss finish because it wipes clean easily in the kitchen.  I also used an angled brush which makes it easy to cut in close to edges and details.

Kitchen Update FinishedHere is the finish product:

  • Cleaner counter space (Hey, some counter accessories are a must – like the Oscar the Grouch Cookie Jar for our doggy treats)
  • Organized zones (I even have a tea zone for the amazing amount of flavored teas I found when we were sorting – organized neatly in an old soda crate with dividers.)
  •  Brighter look with the interior cabinet paint.
  • New look and function with updated hardware.

I am very happy with the results.  I’m still dreaming of the future, but I’m sleeping more soundly with the kitchen I have.

Need more ideas to update your kitchen?  Every space is different, so we’d love the opportunity to come up with solutions for you!


Mary Sherwood Lake Living – working with you to create your lifestyle!


Five Ways to Light Up Your Kitchen

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Your kitchen is the hardest working room in your home.  Lighting for the kitchen should be more than utilitarian.  Consider general, task and accent lighting when developing a lighting plan.  This kitchen illustrates five ways to get the most functional and stylish illumination.

Beautiful lighting in a beautiful kitchen!

Undercabinet recessed LED lighting


  • Recessed lighting:  This type of lighting is used for general illumination.  Plan the placement of these lights for the best overall effect.  Avoid using too many recessed cans which can give a ceiling the “Swiss cheese” effect.
  • Task lighting is the most important lighting and most often overlooked.  While recessed cans can provide the general lighting, task lighting focuses on the work areas.  One of the newest (and my favorite) way to light the countertop surfaces is with undercabinet LED fixtures.   Range hood lights are also a form of task lighting.
  • Pendants can provide task lighting as well as adding a decorative element.  Use multiple pendants if illuminating a large work surface, like this island.
  • Chandeliers serve as task, decorative and general lighting.  Adding a dimmer switch will improve its multi-tasking.  Dimming a chandelier and adding candlelight creates a soft ambiance for dining.
  • Interior cabinet accent lighting can add drama and pizzazz to a kitchen.  It is often used to highlight decorative items displayed within the cabinets.  When used alone at night, it adds a soft gentle illumination to the space.

Lighting fixture selection can require a lot of research.  The lighting industry is constantly changing with the enactment of United States Lighting Energy Policy. This policy aims to phase out some incandescent light bulbs for general lighting in favor of more energy-efficient lighting alternatives.  We are seeing the increased use of compact fluorescent lamps (CFL).  The up and coming leader in energy efficient lighting and lighting quality is the Light Emitting Diode (LED).  The advantages of using LED’s are its efficiency, long lasting properties, and low heat output.

To get the most out of your kitchen illumination, consult a design professional to assist you in working through the many choices available in today’s market. Your kitchen lighting should be considered an important investment in the function, aesthetics and value of your home.

Send us your best kitchen lighting project.  We would love to share it!



Mary Sherwood Lake Living – Working with you to create your lifestyle at Lake Gaston and beyond!


Budget Friendly Updates For Your Kitchen

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Do you have a dream kitchen, and I mean dream, as in you’re still dreaming?  I know I do.  It’s a hazard of working in this field.  I have my kitchen planned out to the tiniest detail, but my current budget is not so dreamy.  But there’s hope!  You can make small modifications that add up to big style to the kitchen you have.  This helps keep you feeling positive, at least until you finally achieve your goal.

Organize your kitchen

1) Re-organize and Clean – I know this seems like a minor detail, but it’s amazingly refreshing to have everything in it’s place.

Our very talented Chef Yvonne just posted on her blog some tips to organize your kitchen by zones and how often you use the items.  Check it out here:

Kitchen Organization Tools

2) Storage solutions – As an extension of the first suggestion, adding storage solutions can make a huge difference for how you use the space.  There are many options that can be fitted into your existing cabinets.  Watch the video here to really drool over some of the storage solutions out there:

3) Update Hardware – Swapping out your hardware can make a big difference.  And if you go with the same size, you won’t have to do any drilling.  Or, if you currently have all knobs, you can change to long pulls on all your doors just by drilling one more hole.  This requires a steady hand and precise measurements, but can be done on any budget.

Painted accents in Kitchen


4) Paint – A little paint goes a long way.  Yes, you can paint all the walls and cabinets, but you’d be surprised how a small change can add some pizzazz.  Try just painting the island.  Or pick a few select cabinets to feature and paint them.  You could also take the doors off a few and just paint the inside for display space.






Update Kitchen Back Splash

5) Back Splash – Tile is available in a variety of sizes, colors, materials and prices.  If you don’t have a full back splash and want it done for even less, you could also use this opportunity to paint something really creative.  Just make sure you use a semi-gloss paint – it will hold up well to cooking messes and clean-up.  You could paint a pattern or an overall texture.




Colorful Accent Lighting in the Kitchen

6) Lighting – Adding lighting always makes a huge impact, especially by making your work spaces more visible and functional.  You can also simply swap out the accent lighting for something more eye-catching.




7) Window Treatments – Brighten up your source of natural light with a new window treatment.  You can add softness with a fabric treatment.  A small valence can do just the trick and takes very little fabric, so very budget friendly.  If you need to control the sun, a shading product of some kind would do the trick.  Or you could do both and hide the shade when it’s rolled up.

Accessorize your Kitchen with Color

8) Accessories – Like jewelry putting the finishing touches on your favorite outfit, try new accessories in your kitchen.  If you have a neutral kitchen, experiment with a new color in your accents.  A little flair goes a long way.


I’m planning to use some of these suggestions in my own kitchen.  Stay posted for Part II of Budget Friendly Updates for Your Kitchen when I share what I come up with.



Need more ideas to update your kitchen?  We’d love to help – give us the challenge!


Mary Sherwood Lake Living – working with you to create your lifestyle!


Kitchen Organization with Panache!

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Organization is the best way to make your kitchen a pleasurable and efficient work space.  Whether you are contemplating a new kitchen or re-organizing your existing one, here are some lessons I recently learned from my interior designer/daughter-in-law, Elif.

The planning of this kitchen started over two years ago. During one of our visits to California, Elif and I explored options for their future kitchen re-model.  We spent a number of hours at the local IKEA store playing with their design program to rough out a design. We perused the cabinet styles, finishes, and accessories.  I was particularly interested in the cabinet organization tools.

Elif tweaked and re-tweaked the kitchen design many times over to make the most efficient use of the existing space.  Moving a wall was not an option. Because of the limited footprint most of the appliances had to remain in the same location with one exception.  The sink and dishwasher were moved about two feet to improve function and access for multiple cooks.  Keeping appliances in the original location also saved some expense.

We have just returned from California where the new kitchen has been unveiled! Jake and Elif did not post any pictures of the finished product before our visit so we could see for ourselves. (Thanks guys!)  Arriving at their place the kitchen was my first stop. All I can say is WOW!  The sleek design fits the open loft feel of the contemporary condo.


Beautiful Contemporary Kitchen with Exceptional Organization

The tour of the new kitchen included the nifty options such as LED lighting, touch latch wall cabinet hardware, self closing drawer glides and the amazing organization tools.  Elif’s well planned placement of all the essentials in all the right size compartments is the best I have ever seen.

Here is her mastermind organization!  Everything has a place.


A place for all the little cooking utensils and serving pieces!


Flatware neat and tidy!


Dividing a drawer makes it the perfect spot for plates.

kitchen-organization-cups-small plates

Tapas plates and cappuccino cups nestled in this drawer!


Drawers can share functions with dividers! Large platters fit nicely with large utensils.


Neat and Tidy Cookbook Corner

Appearance of the kitchen is usually the first and foremost thought when redesigning.  But kitchen organization has really proved its importance after using this efficient space.

Beauty inside and out is the way your newly organized kitchen should be!

What is your favorite kitchen organization tip?


Mary Sherwood Lake Living – working with you to create your lifestyle on Lake Gaston and Beyond


Note: My talented daughter-in-law, Elif Karacay, is a practicing interior designer with Norman Design Group in Torrence, CA.  Thank you Elif and Jake for sharing your new kitchen and its organization!


Ever ask yourself where something is in your kitchen?  What you should be asking is “Where should it be?”.

Here’s a video that demonstrates some great organization tools, but also discusses the thought that should go into kitchen work areas.

Every cook is different, so there are many different ways to organize a kitchen.  “What do you use most?” and “Where are you going to use it?” are key questions to ask when organizing your space.

Tools like roll-out trays are wonderful anywhere in the kitchen but can also be very valuable in laundry rooms or bathrooms.  What about the pull-out spice cabinet in a vanity space for your make-up bottles and hairspray.  Be creative for the most rewarding results.

How could you use some help in the organization department?

Thanks! – Autumn


Mary Sherwood Lake Living – working with you to create your lifestyle!

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Check out this video of a recent kitchen project!  Stay tuned for the bloopers at the end!  It’s my favorite part!

This kitchen is a beautiful example of using a neutral color palette with a pop of color.  We developed the plan for this kitchen based on these three goals:

  1. Improve the style and layout of the space.
  2. Update the appliances and fixtures.
  3. Enhance the appearance and function for casual dining.

The neutral color palette developed around the Cold Spring granite countertops.  The perimeter cabinet finish of Polar White w/Slate Glaze and the island finish of Black were the perfect compliments for this granite.

Once the kitchen construction was complete we added decorative glass accessories to the lighted upper cabinets for the pop of red to spice up the room.

We hope you enjoyed the video!

Let us know if we can work with you to add some updating and spice to your space!!!



Mary Sherwood Lake Living – working with you to create your lifestyle!

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Top This! Winner Announced

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Thanks to all of our contest entrants for voting for their top pick in the Mary Sherwood Lake Living Top This! contest. The countertop choices were recycled glass, granite, bamboo, and stainless. The Vetrazzo® recycled glass countertop beat out granite by 5 votes for top honors, with bamboo coming in third and stainless last.

vertrazzo counter top

Through the random drawing, Krystal Carter was awarded as contest winner and the recipient of a $50 MSLL gift card. Congratulations to Krystal and thanks again to all for voting & commenting!

Some of our favorite comments regarding the countertop winner:

Brian’s Steak House
“Recycled is the way to go! We always don’t do the best we can by recycling, but this is a way everyone can do something! Love the diversity! Used to be a granite fan, but like this better!”

Jackie Greene
“Recycled materials! Hooray and sooo cute…would love this in a beach house bath. FUN!”

Judy Stanley
“Really love the idea of recycling and saving the enviornment from waste. It is the right thing to do.”

For more comments and the full voting rundown, please visit


Mary Sherwood Lake Living working with you to create your lifestyle!

Categories : Design, Kitchen design
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formica countertop

Before photo of original countertop

Lake Gaston is a great place to live!  Living on the lake attracts lots of family and friends which provide lots of reasons to entertain.

In this project, to help our client entertain in style, we updated this wet bar.

We replaced the standard Formica countertop with this gorgeous piece of glass, then backlit the countertop with warm LED lighting.  We added a ceramic and glass mosaic tile backsplash to complete the look.  The results are stunning!

glass counter top installed with backlighting

Glass countertop with LED lighting

Whether you’re looking for a conversation starter or it’s just time to update your wet bar, man cave, or even your counter down at the dock, this is a great way to transform a countertop into a unique component in your design.

How would you incorporate a backlit countertop into a  project?

Let’s hear your ideas!

Happy lake living!

glass countertop, LED lighting, wet bar, renovation

Close up view of this gorgeous countertop

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Loving Tile Dots!

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In our new demonstration kitchen we found a wonderful new accent tile to incorporate in our design. Tile Dots are created by ceramic artist Kim McGinnis of Rocky Mount, NC. This is a truly custom product. There are over 30 colors to choose from. Mix and match the size and colors of the dots. Add an accent shape for a coastal or nature look. We can help you create the perfect tile accent design for your kitchen or bath project. But don’t stop with the kitchen or bath…how about a table top of tile dots or a small accent wall in a niche? Let’s explore the possibilities!

Watch this video as Autumn tells us all about Tile Dots!

How creative can you be?  How would you like to use Tile Dots?

We love your comments!



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MSLL’s top picks from KBIS 2010
Autumn and I recently had a quick trip to Chicago to the National Kitchen and Bath Industry Show (KBIS). It is always an experience to see the latest introductions and prototypes of new appliances and fixtures.
Here are our top picks!

GE Monogram Integrated Dishwasher, Appliance Panel, Asian Style Cabinet Hardware

Find the Dishwasher

Integrated dish washer, GE Monogram, Fully integrated with cabinet panel

Here is the dishwasher

Outdoor bar, stainless steel bar, fully appointed bar unit, cutting board, ice bin

Fully appointed outdoor stainless steel and stone bar cabinet

Safety tub, standard tub modification, fire engine motif

Fire Engine Child's Safety Tub

Vanity, carved design, marble top, undermount sink, small scale

Beautiful carved trim, compact vanity. Great for a small powder room.

Kohler, vessel sink, clear glass, faceted glass

Kohler Faceted Glass Vessel Sink

What do you think?


Looking forward to your favorite pick and your comments.

Working with you to create your lifestyle!

Mary Sherwood Lake Living

Lake Gaston

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Tetris Kitchen Design

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tetris blocks, kitchen blocksKitchen Design, Cabinet Layout

After going cross-eyed from working on a kitchen design, I have decided it is time for me to finally take my turn at this thing called blogging.  In an earlier blog post, Mary told you the kinds of questions we ask when tackling a kitchen project.  I thought I would share how an unlikely childhood activity gave me practice on how to process these answers to create a kitchen design.

Have you seen the recent outbreak of gamers clicking away at their handheld game systems?  People young and old are playing on their phones, their PSP’s, their Nintendo DS’s, and an array of other devises.  And they are playing everywhere, like in waiting rooms, on trains, waiting in line at the grocery store, anywhere there isn’t anything better to do.

This phenomenon has been evolving for decades.  When I was a kid, I got my brother’s hand-me-down gameboy with a collection of games to choose from.  The main game I latched onto was Tetris.  If you’re not familiar with the game, the basic idea is fitting together a series of different shaped blocks that fall from the top of the screen.  You can move the different shapes to fit together very well, or it can all become a big mess and stacks up on top of each other.  It’s a pretty addictive game to the point that you start seeing the same shapes in the tile pattern in a bathroom floor or in brick buildings.

Now I am not a serious gamer by any definition, but my amateur experience with Tetris has actually given me practice for working on kitchens.  With the answers to your questions, I am presented with a series of “boxes” or cabinets and appliances, and I put them together to relate to one another.  Appliances have to be positioned so that they have a relationship with one another, but still have functional workspace between them.  I also have to take into consideration existing obstacles in the space like the placement of windows, doors, electrical outlets, and plumbing lines.

Playing Tetris and laying out a kitchen has trained my brain to continue to look for those same patterns and configurations in my surroundings.  Kitchen design is truly addictive for me.  But luckily I think it’s a good thing for me to take my work home with me.

Have you ever had an unexpected link between your professional and personal life?  Or maybe even between your childhood and future career choices?  Comment below and tells us about your connections.

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Simple but efficient!

Planning a kitchen project?

How do you determine your kitchen style?  There are so many things to consider.  Even after designing kitchens for over twenty years I still have to remind myself to ask my clients some of these questions.  There is so much that influences the planning.  These questions are some that may be overlooked.  In future posts I will address the answers to some of these questions in more detail.  If you are contemplating a kitchen project, start answering these questions.  If you have other suggestions for things not to overlook, please comment.

  1. What is your is your cooking style? Do you cook for two or for twenty?  The space plan of the kitchen will depend greatly on your cooking volume.
  2. Are you a neat or messy cook? Do you put things away as you go or when you are finished?  The type of storage and countertop space is influence by these answers.
  3. How many cooks and helpers are involved with food prep?  The more people in the space dictate the layout of work and clean-up spaces.
  4. What is the age range of the individuals using the kitchen?  Is accessibility a concern?  Will you age in the house and use this kitchen as you get older?  Answering these questions helps to determine the height of countertop, the need for open space for wheelchair accessibility and seating space needed for food prep.
  5. Are you an intricate cook using a recipe with many ingredients or are you a simple cook using fewer products?  The location of your spices and other frequently used items is determined by this answer.
  6. Do you like to bake bread or pastries?  Do you prefer to cook sauces, soups and chili?  The types of foods you most often prepare require different work surfaces, different cooking utensils and different storage components.
  7. How do you entertain? Do you have very simple potluck dinners or formal dinner parties?  Work areas, storage space and the style of the kitchen are affected by this information.
  8. How do you shop? Do you shop daily for the freshest produce and meat?  Do you shop weekly or monthly?  Do you buy in volume from warehouse stores?   The volume of products purchased determines you storage needs.
  9. How do you store food? Do you buy local and preserve fresh products?  Do you buy local meat and need large freezer capacity?  Do you only need storage for two people or a large family?  Your storage style greatly affects the type and size of your refrigerated appliances.
  10. Do you prefer a certain type of cooking surface? Is energy efficiency important?  Is gas or electric a preference?  Is safety for elders, children or other with special needs important?  The answers to these questions determine the type of cooking surface most appropriate for your kitchen.

Working With You to Create Your Lifestyle!

Categories : Design, Kitchen design
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