Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Color Me Happy!

Hello Chickens!

In case you missed it, our lovely kitchen was profiled in the Washington Post!

Read the article HERE.

Things are hopping over here at the chateau, floors are being patched and refurbished, tile is going in, doors are being is very exciting!  Which means it is time for the color conversation.

For those of you who have been with me for the whole process, I will jump right in.  For those who might have missed the previous posts on paint and color choices, I refer to back to THIS and THIS.

Once again we are working with the amazing team at Sherwin-Williams.  As we did before, we looked to their current Colormix 2017 for inspiration, and they did not disappoint.  They spend the whole year looking into color trends and ideas, and while we aren't looking necessarily to do the "new best thing", since we are hoping for something timeless in this house, we have always found that the way they think about color can be really exciting and take us in unexpected directions.

As always, we look at the floor as a whole, and how it integrates into the rest of the house.  The third floor is different.  It is our sanctuary, our getaway, our oasis.  There is not a single "public" space on the third level, so the color choices here are less about how they work with the rest of the house and more about how they just work for the two of us.  From the moment you begin to ascend the stairs to the third floor, you are entering a very different space.  This has actually been somewhat freeing, since we don't have to think about guests and how they will interact with the spaces, but rather, just about the two of us.

As I have mentioned before, the functions of these spaces are pretty basic.  The master bedroom for sleeping, obviously, but also has a reading nook and a small area with a television.  We each have our own dressing room, which we are VERY excited about.  Charming Suitor is looking forward to not tripping over my endless shoes when he is getting dressed.  The commode room has the main toilet and a sink, and will also serve as my vanity space for hair and makeup.  The master bathroom has his and hers sinks, a lovely soaking tub, and a large two-person shower.  The laundry room also has tons of storage and folding space, there is a small hall closet, and then CS's office and office bathroom.

We sat down with the Colormix brochure and took a look at what direction they think color is headed right now.

The first inspiration was NOIR.  Sherwin-Williams describes it this way:

It’s among our most precious commodities: night. We’re craving a refuge from urban streetlights and glowing screens, space to turn our gaze inward and recharge the spirit. Mindful melancholy is fueling a new romanticism marked by medieval patterns, revived customs and bittersweet beauty. The Dutch masters knew the secret: dark hues set a dramatic stage for sensuous luster. This palette is rich with vineripe fruits, Nordic blues, moody neutrals and golden yellows.

We were very drawn to the soothing cool pale blue-gray called Icelandic that was part of this collection, and chose it for the master bedroom.  We wanted to keep the light airy feel in this large space, and a color that would be Zen-like and calming.  The furniture in this room will pull from taupes, straw colors, pale grays and silvers, with wood and metal accents, and the pale blue-gray will really allow all those other things to blend beautifully.  It was a bit nerve-wracking, since CS is not a fan of pale blue, so it was essential that the color have enough gray in it.  We ended up with a slightly different shade, called North Star, and it changes colors gorgeously throughout the day.  In the morning it is very light blue-gray, by midday it deepens a bit, at disk it goes more blue, sort of matching the sky, and at night it reads more gray.  CS really loves it, whew!

The second inspiration was HOLISTIC.  Sherwin-Williams says:

Sustainable design and radical transparency are the new standards. As our daily transactions move further into the cloud, acquiring experiences is becoming preferable to buying more things. “Doing good” is the new looking good, and it’s taking the form of “voluntourism,” healing retreats and eco-travel. We’re in pursuit of an elusive ideal: a fair luxury. The roads of this journey are lined with arctic neutrals, blush rose and wild browns.

We loved the ideas behind this collection, as well as the palette.  We pulled the pale gray Stardew as our inspiration for the master bathroom, and the Deep Forest brown for both Charming Suitor's dressing room and the laundry room.  CS's dressing room will be very masculine, so it felt like a terrific choice.  And the laundry room has all white cabinets and white washer/dryer, so the deep chocolately brown will make for a nice backdrop.  And we have used that sort of deep brown in other spaces in the house and really love the way it looks.

The third inspiration was INTREPID.  From Sherwin-Williams:

The virtual and the real are blurring in the form of seamless commerce and “office anywhere” collaboration. Impatient for social and political change, we’re reinventing ourselves first. Identity has never been more fluid. “You do you” is the mantra of a generation primed for self-expression, cheered on by their own #squad and tossing aside old categories. There’s a feisty energy to our present moment, arriving in fiery tones and vibrant, kimono colors.

I really loved the energy of this group of colors.  I know you have all been with me long enough to know that I'm not afraid of color, and love to be surrounded by rich vibrant color where it works...hence the deep blue guest room, the peacock teal bathroom, and the bright orange ovens in the kitchen!  While we wanted the third-floor suite to be our soothing spa-like getaway, we didn't want that to be bland and boring.  After all, when you go to a spa, it can be very energizing as well as relaxing.  So we really thought about the various spaces and what happens in them when looking at color.  The bedroom, naturally, needed to be calming since that is a place of sleep and quiet.  The master bath as well lent itself to that soothing feeling of light and cool.  But my dressing room?  That is a place I want to be fun and vibrant, and the Kimono Violet spoke to me.  I have purple hair, it should not be a surprise that I loved this one!  When we tested that particular color in the space, it didn't work very well with the light that is in that room, it made it muddy instead of luxuriously bright, so I ended up picking a color called Dynamo, which worked much better but still had that magenta/violet feel I was looking for.  Same was true for the commode room, which is where I will have my vanity for hair and makeup and the like.  I loved the Citronella color from this palette, the deep lichen green felt bright but also luxurious but it went a little too mustard yellow in the space, so we ended up picking a similar color called Grandiose, which was perfect.

The last inspiration was UNBOUNDED.  Sherwin-Williams describes it as:

Global immigration is redefining borderlands, national identity and our sense of coexistence. We’re all citizens of the world now. Brands are becoming more purpose-driven, communities more connected. Design is adapting to more diverse populations. Overconsumption is, well, over. We’re more likely to invest in the best we can afford — crafted and customized — and then keep it forever. Global consciousness is a mural painted in earthy mustards, ocean blues, corals and mud.

Charming Suitor really responded to this palette and immediately chose the deep green Saguaro for his office.  It will be a great backdrop to some of his artwork, and I think it brings out the green in his eyes!

As we have recommended before, we are unifying the space with all white on ceilings, hallway walls, as well as trim and doors, which allows us to use the various colors without making the spaces look like fruit salad.

We also chose white for the small bathroom off of CS's office, since it has a lot going on in a small space, so we wanted to keep it clean and bright.

So, here is the palette we ended up with :

You can see how all the colors work together.  I've got them laid out in my Sherwin-Williams portfolio, which I use to keep track of all of the colors for the whole house in case I need to reference it.  (Yes, I continue to be a terrible photographer, so the deep magenta of my dressing room is coming out weirdly red in this picture, but wait till you see it on the walls!)

As soon as the spaces are painted I will post the updated pics!

Much more coming soon....

Yours in Good Taste,
The Polymath

Sherwin-Williams has provided discounted product for this project, but all opinions are, as always, my own.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

One Year Anniversary of the NEW KITCHEN!

Hello Chickens-

As promised, I wanted to give you the one year anniversary update on the kitchen.  I know for many of you, and certainly for me, the kitchen was the most exciting part of our entire renovation.  Since this blog is most often a cooking and entertaining blog, it is no shock to anyone that the kitchen took the most research and was the most nerve-wracking part of the whole house to design.  In general, if you are lucky, you get one shot at your dream kitchen, and you definitely don't want to screw it up!

So I thought I would circle back one year in and let you know how things are going.

Firstly, a lot of people thought we were crazy with the layout of our kitchen.  Choosing to model a home kitchen on a zoned restaurant kitchen takes away all of the "rules" we were taught about home kitchens, that you need a triangle of space connecting the stove and the fridge and the prep area, that you should limit your need to move around the space and such.  So we were already outside the box when we created a zone for both cold and pantry storage, two zones for cooking sharing one prep space and one cleaning space and a separate zone across the room for baking, all of which does require some thought about how to organize yourself.

The good news?  It works PERFECTLY.  Again, our kitchen design is not for everyone, if you are a family with kids, especially little ones, this would probably be a nightmare.  But for us, for the way we cook, it has been a godsend.  We have officially done a full year of holiday cooking and serving, a year of eating just the two of us, and eating with friends.  We have done our everyday simple dinners, and weekend complex dinners and every permutation in between.  Yes we have continued to tweak some things about what is stored where, to help limit the running around, and have had some surprising things we hadn't needing three salt cellars so that each cooking area has its own readily accessible!  Overall, we keep saying that there is not a thing we would change about how the space works or about the materials and appliances we chose, which is pretty amazing.

Here are some of the gamechangers for us:

Our old kitchen was the size of a postage stamp, it was hard enough to cook with the two of us, let alone adding anyone else.  But the scale of this space is so lovely and well thought out that it is now a joy to bring other people into the kitchen!  I've started a regular "cooking class" days with my goddaughter, her mom, another dear friend and her daughter, and one of my besties from high school.  The six of us get together every 6 weeks or so to do a day of cooking, usually based on what the girls (11 and 12) want to learn to make.  We've done breads and soup, cupcakes, brownies, mandel bread, other cookies, and in a couple of weeks we are going to tackle eclairs!  There is plenty of room for all six of us to move and participate, and the island is a great place for us all to gather for decorating our goodies.  I never could have done this in the old kitchen, and these days are some of my favorites in the new space, I think we are building really special memories, and I hope these days continue for as long as we can convince the girls to hang out with old people.

After the election a dear friend reached out to say that he was feeling a bit adrift and asked if could we plan a super farty French dinner party where we could cook all day and make stuff he hadn't done since culinary school.  It was an easy yes on my end, and the two of us spent an entire day in the kitchen, making puff pastry from scratch and chicken galantine, Marjolaine cake and Paris Brest, stuffed breast of veal and braised endives and a potato gratin.  We had both ovens going at once, and often I was working something on the gas range while he was working the induction.  He could do a turn and fold on the puff pastry in the baking area while I was fussing over a sauce across the room, and since I was in the other section of the kitchen, his space stayed cool and uncluttered.  We knocked out an 8-course dinner for 7 people, and served and ate it in the kitchen, and the whole thing was smooth and fun, including the cleanup.  A total win!

We've also done some larger holiday meals, and our annual New Year's Eve party where we cooked upstairs in the kitchen and served downstairs in the formal dining room. This too worked even better than we anticipated.  While I do have to do some pre-planning to ensure that menus lend themselves to the arrangement, Thanksgiving, Fakesgiving, Passover and NYE all went without a hitch, and are about to get even better (stay tuned for why...). We were able to cook upstairs, and hold things in the warming drawers, cold things could get stashed in the downstairs kitchen so they were out of our way upstairs, and between the oven and burners in the downstairs kitchen and a couple of slow cookers, once we were downstairs, we never had to scamper back up till the meal was done.

And entertaining in the kitchen is wonderful.  We have done many small dinners, 4-6 people, which is beyond easy, but I also did my mom's birthday ladies luncheon for 9,  a brunch for 14 , and a cocktail party for 20 for Charming Suitor's whole office!  The "chef's table" can seat up to 10 with the leaves in, making casual dinner parties super easy, and with the four seats at the counter, we can do seated for 14!  There is enough room to move around that a standing cocktail party was totally comfortable. What has been really terrific is that when we just have one other couple over for dinner, we can do cocktails and nibbles right in the kitchen instead of the den, so we don't have to miss snippets of conversation when checking on dinner!

All in all, we could not be more delighted and would not change one thing!  Here is a roundup of the major picks we made, and how they are functioning:

Poggenpohl Cabinets:  We went with all lowers, since I am super short and I like the clean look of no uppers, and almost all drawers except for the corner cabinet solutions.  These have been a dream, they hold all the stuff we needed them to hold, up to 200 pounds per drawer!  And the smooth function and amazing organization inserts have been the stuff of genius.  Cabinets are one of those things that you really don't appreciate until you have exceptionally good ones!

Dekton Countertops:  You all know the saga of the countertops and how much we love our partners Cosentino and StoneMasters for hanging in there with us, but the results have been well worth the drama.  The counters are gorgeous, and despite our best efforts, we have not been able to stain, scratch or scorch them.  They look amazing and have been the perfect choice.  Everyone comments on how gorgeous they look and feel, with their suede finish, but I keep extolling their functionality.  I've been baking more and more, and can roll things right on the surface with about 1/4 the amount of flour as other surfaces, which means my biscuits are fluffier, and with all the sourdough I'm making lately, I don't have to flour the surface at all, giving me really good surface tension on my breads.  I can pull a cast iron Dutch oven out of a 500 degree oven and put it right down, no trivets!  This has made using our island as a buffet super easy, everything just goes right down without a worry.  And even better, on baking days with the girls, we've been able to use commerical strength food coloring powders, which notoriously get everywhere and stain permanently, and while we have stained our fingers and shirts and aprons, the counters get wiped up and not a mark on them.  I would absolutely do them again.

BlueStar Range, Hood and Ovens:  I cannot recommend this company enough.  These were the first decision we made for the kitchen, and it has proven to have been the best possible thing on every level.  The range with the four burners and 24 inch French Top has made our everyday cooking a dream, the flexibility is just amazing.  I have melted chocolate on the simmer burner with no double boiler, and have done extreme high heat wok cooking by removing the center rings from the French top.  I have done huge batches of stock on the French top, in my giant rondeau that used to have to go over two burners and never heated properly, and the high heat burners are getting great sears on our steaks.  The range is easy to clean, and we love the simple intuitive design.  The hood is super powerful, so when we are doing those steaks we don't smoke out the kitchen, and I can finally make fish at home and not stink up the place for a week!  The gas oven has been amazing for roasting, but the electric oven has really changed my life.  The flexibility of the different cooking programs are still things that I am exploring, but I am baking more and more and enjoying more than I ever have.  The built-in baking stone has been the most important thing, as I am now making sourdough breads regularly, and getting insanely crunchy crusts!  I'm about to start playing with pizza, so stay tuned for those adventures.  I have three other friends who have all purchased BlueStar ranges since we got ours, and everyone raves.  If you take only one thing away from our kitchen experience, it is whatever kitchen you are doing, check out BlueStar for sure!

Marvel Fridge Freezer, wine fridge and cheese fridge:  The 72-inch side by side has completely changed our lives for the better.  Suddenly there is room in the freezer to really sock away stuff, so I can finally make big batches of homemade stock like I always wanted to, and not take up the whole freezer.  That includes stashing old bones and carcasses and veggie scraps until I have enough for stock.  I can start prepping for holiday meals a month out.  I can put full sheet trays in the fridge!  The fridge stays organized with the help of a bunch of clear plastic bins, and I always know where everything is.  But I no longer have to remove all of the regular inhabitants when I load in groceries for a big party...everything just fits!  Glorious.  The wine fridge has been really great, Charming Suitor keeps it full of a variety of everyday wines, as well as the vermouth, Lillet, and other cocktail making supplies that used to take up a ton of room in the regular fridge.  And the cheese fridge has been wonderful, we are getting twice to three times the life out of our cheeses and charcuterie as we used to in the regular fridge!

Gaggenau Induction Cooktop, steamer and warming drawers:  Working with induction cookery has been really fun, the speed is astounding (boiling water in mere moments), but the range of temps is also amazing (perfect poached eggs), and since it puts off no heat, it has been terrific for cooking last minute stuff with guests over, since I can face them while I cook and not wilt everyone's hairdo.  The warming drawers are in almost daily use, from just gently heating our dinner plates, to holding cooked foods until dinner time, to helping me proof breads.  But it is the steamer that was the total surprise.  This thing is amazing.  From making steamed veggies for quick dinners to holding classic Chicago hot dogs and the buns nice and warm for a party, it's been making our life so much easier!  We've gotten addicted to steamed new potatoes, which taste so much more potato-y than boiled ones.  And our annual love affair with artichokes has been powerfully improved.  The ease of cleanup, just drain and wipe out the base and stick the lid and steamer insert right in the dishwasher, makes it a dream.

LaCornue Rotisserie:  You guys know that I wanted this thing like it was my JOB.  Thank goodness for a milestone birthday just preceding the kitchen project, I will be forever grateful for turning 45.  It is the gift that keeps on giving.  Super easy, we do chicken at least once a week.  Nothing fancy, straight out of the fridge with a spray of oil and a sprinkle of salt, and an hour later there is the perfect crispy-skinned super juicy chicken that somehow manages to taste seasoned to the bone despite no brining or special prep.  We will do potatoes underneath, or our new obsession, cabbage, which cooks and caramelizes in the chicken fat and juices and chars on the edges.  That and a green vegetable in the steamer and we have a quick and easy meal that practically made itself.  People can invite themselves for dinner at 4PM, and all I have to do is get this thing going and there is no sweat.  We've done leg of lamb, and even a whole pineapple for an unusual summer dessert.  The only issue for us was that even though the company swears it does not need extra ventilation?  It totally does.  When we first started cooking with it, it set off the carbon monoxide detector every time, forcing us to cook with the back door open.  So we recently installed a super quiet exhaust fan in the ceiling above it, and problem was solved.  We were lucky because having the construction happening upstairs meant that we had easy access to drop it in from above, but if you are considering one for your home, be sure to plan a ceiling exhaust fan from the start.  The true bonus is that with all these rotisserie chickens, I stash carcasses in our awesome freezer, so I never have to buy bones for stock!

Miele Dishwashers:  These things are getting constant use, and while having two of them has been really wonderful for big parties, the fact is that for everyday or smaller dinners with one other couple, one is really all we need for cleanup!  They are so well-designed and flexible that everything always manages to fit.  The silverware drawer on top mean no more picking food bits off between spoons that got stuck together, and with the moveable racks, I can fit my tallest stock pot, and sheet pans with ease.  But there is no question, if you love to cook and entertain, that second dishwasher is like a little miracle.  And even better, they run so silently, that we can have a dinner party in the kitchen with the prep stuff running, and no one notices!

Blanco sinks and faucets:  Last but not least, our pair of sinks with their professional grade faucets have finally made cleanup easy.  The deep bowls hold plenty of stuff, and make cleaning larger pots and pans and serving pieces super easy.  The elevated grates on the bottom have saved me a couple of time when I was filling pots and got a phone call!  And all of the various extras, like the inset strainers and cutting boards have made them uber functional.

Larchwood Canada custom butcher block:  This 5 inch thick butcher block has now seen a full year of slicing and dicing and chopping and it still looks amazing.  The self-healing larchwood requires only an occasional treatment of butcher block conditioner and you can barely tell that we actually chop on it.  It looks spectacular, and we love not having to pull out cutting boards every second.

We are so grateful to our partners at all of these amazing companies for helping us do the research, guiding us through the processes, and being at our sides, not only in the decision making process, but throughout delivery, install, and even checking in to be sure that everything is continuing to work well for us.  It was so much fun to work with companies who really listened to what it is we were trying to achieve, and have them guide us towards the perfect choices.  Poggenpohl even sent a wonderful photographer, Mike Kaskel, to take the amazing pics below!

That is the official one-year update on the kitchen, coming up this week...color choices for the third floor!

Yours in Good Taste,
The Polymath

Do you BELIEVE what these drawers can hold????

Happiest girl ever!

Monday, March 20, 2017

Quick tour


Get ready, because I'm about to be back with a vengeance!  Not only have I finally finished edits on the new novel, but because the third floor suite is drywalled, primed, and about to be painted!  So here is a quick tour of the blank canvas spaces, in preparation for the discussions of color choices and design elements that will be coming at you in the weeks ahead!

Also, I have some reports from the 2017 Housewares Show with some really cool new gadgets, and an update on how the first year in the new kitchen went!

So just to wet your whistles...

This is the entrance to the Master Bedroom at the top of the stairs.

This will be a small cozy place for us to watch TV.

I always wanted a bedroom with a bright sunny reading nook...
the turret is going to be the perfect place to snuggle up with a great book!

This is where the bed will go.  I'm amazed at how bright it is up here, after 22 years sleeping on the first floor,
and another two in the basement, the idea of all of this light is just delightful!

This will be Charming Suitor's dressing room.

This will be my dressing room.  Yes, CS has noticed the discrepancy in size.  I blame the shoes.

The commode room.  

The Master Bath entrance.

CS and I each have a vanity nook.

This is where the bathtub will live.

The shower.

Laundry room and storage.

Utility closet.

Bathroom for CS's office.

CS's office/music room.
That's the tour!  Stay tuned, because we have made some bold and possibly surprising color choices with our friends at Sherwin-Williams, more about that soon.

Anyone want to hazard any guesses about what colors we might have chosen for some of these spaces?  Post your thoughts in the comments.

Yours in good taste,
The Polymath

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Happy, um, Spring?

Hello Chickens!

Not sure what the weather is doing where you are, but here in Chicago it has been in the mid to high sixties for nearly a week.  You know, classic February weather.  The tree outside my window is all abud, the birds and squirrels are chattering noisily, and the work on the third floor is going

In some good news, I am delighted to share with you the cover of my new book, which will be released in August!

Isn't it cute????  I'm really excited about this book, people.  It is the story of Eloise, a personal chef who is perfectly content with her small cozy life.  She loves the quirky family she works for, with their gaggle of kids.  She dotes on her snarky other client, an elderly gay interior designer with a million opinions.  Her best gal pal Marcy provides all the girl time she needs.  She has her mom and aunt nearby and shares her comfy house with her adorable corgi.  And then she reconnects with her two best friends from high school, and when the three of them agree to a bucket list bet in honor of their impending 40th birthdays, suddenly her life is blown wide open.  There is dating and socializing and testing her boundaries, and Eloise doesn't know if it is the best or worst thing to ever happen to her.  Essentially it is a book about whether the friends of our youth can or even should be the friends of our middle years, and about whether you really can teach an old dog new tricks.  It is funny and full of good food and I think you will like it.  Feel free to pre-order now, just so you don't forget!


To give you the full Chateau update...

As we have mentioned before, since I fell in love with a three flat and not a two flat, we ended up with an excess of space.  And embarrassment of riches. After much discussion, Charming Suitor and I decided that if we were going to design the world's best house for entertaining and overnight guests, it might be smart to work in something of an oasis for ourselves.  We have put so much time and effort and thought into making spaces for the people we bring into our home, that we wanted to be sure that we were creating some sacred space just for us.  Private space.  So we have chosen to use the entire third floor as our sanctuary, a master suite that we can escape to no matter how full the house is with family and friends.

So here is the general plan:

There is a large L-shaped bedroom space, with the bed on the long part of the L, a small sitting area with a television on the short part and since they meet at our turret, a large sunny area for reading with big comfy chairs.

We each will have a walk-in dressing room, there is a commode room which will have the toilet, a sink, and an area for me to do hair and makeup.  The master bathroom will have his and hers vanities, a large two-person walk-in shower, and a soaker tub.  There is also a laundry room on this level, and CS's study/music room.

It is essentially going to be the world's best hotel suite, except we will get to live in it all the time!

We have passed our framing, HVAC, plumbing and eletrical inspections and have loaded in 153 sheets of 4'x12' drywall.  As soon as that is up, then I can start to tell you about how the spaces are coming together, design wise, which is much more fun than ductwork and insulation!  We are even putting is a secret bookshelf know, like you do.

But here are some pics of where we are now...just to catch you up!

Stay tuned for a video walk-thru as soon as drywall is up!

Yours in Good Taste,
The Polymath