What’s Your New Home Personality?

What’s Your New Home Personality?

Would you guess that your taste in jewelry…flowers…or travel could also predict your preferences in your home’s design, style and even product choices?

As the Woman-Centric Matters!® team at Design Basics has identified, women tend to exhibit one of four primary home buyer personalities. And it’s amazing just how much of our core personality is reflected in our homes! Once you’ve identified your strongest personality type, you, your builder, or your remodeling contractor can focus on things that will likely be very meaningful to you and avoid wasting time with things that probably aren’t very important.

Let’s meet the buyers:


Margo is the name given by Design Basics to women whose style tends to be modern. In Margo’s home you’re likely to see clean lines, interesting geometric shapes, and a penchant for new and unconventional. From products such as faucets and lighting, to flooring, cabinets and counter tops, “contemporary” is Margo’s inclination. Margo also tends to work—a lot—and appreciates innovative solutions for working at home.


Elise is traditional, in every sense of the word. Traditional architecture, proven products, and comfortable furnishings. Elise’s family is at the center of everything. Family Photos and memorabilia, are displayed proudly, alongside Grandma’s hutch. Elise looks for value in practical room arrangements and dependable, long lasting products. There’s just no place she would rather be than home!


Claire’s home is sophisticated. It is obvious when looking at Claire’s home that someone paid close attention to detail. Outside, Claire’s landscaping compliments her home’s exterior. Inside, Claire’s home is superbly coordinated. Claire has an eye for quality and is very knowledgeable about products and design. Claire is a natural-born planner, and has a vision of what she wants to achieve.


Maggie is casual…and eclectic. Maggie tends to be passionately involved in life—her interests, hobbies, projects and activities will often dictate how her home “lives.” Maggie thrives on flexible spaces for her and her family’s varied interests. Entertaining revolves around FUN at Maggie’s home, so Space for games and media is a high priority, as is anything low-maintenance that gives her back a little more time.

So, what do flowers, jewelry and vacations have to do with her home? It appears that our core personalities are evidenced in numerous facets of our lives. In fact, not looking at square footage, bedroom locations or the number of baths just might yield some of the most revealing discoveries in your pursuit of the perfect home!

What’s Your Personality Type?

My favorite flower group is closest to:

A. Daisy/tulip

B. Hydrangea/iris

C. Bird of paradise/calla lily

D. Rose/Carnation

Which of the following wedding rings would you likely wear?





What type of 3-Day Trip Interests You Most?

A. Theme Park (Disney World or Six Flags)

B. Hotel Stay and Play (golf, spa, water sports)

C. Theatre package (NY or Chicago)

D. Cruise (Caribbean, Alaskan)

Now, see which profile your answers match!

This is just a sampling of the 16-question Finally About Me® Quiz. Don’t be concerned if you didn’t answer all three questions with the same letter. That’s okay, because when taking the full Finally About Me quiz your strongest personality profile will be revealed. It’s a great time saver, as you will be able to more quickly focus on what interests you and not waste time on design, amenity or product issues which likely aren’t important to you at all.

If you’re closest to Margo, you probably want your home to be unique. Your home will be full of items that make you feel good. Everywhere you look in your home, you’ll like what you see! From cutting-edge home design to innovative products and unique finishing touches, you want a home with great style.

Are you an Elise? “Light, bright and airy” well describe your new home’s comfortable, uncluttered appearance. Elise homes seem to say “Welcome, we’re glad you’re here!” And, just as your home can’t have too much storage space, it’s also a much-needed respite from stress, because Elise’s home is her haven. Is Claire most similar to your personality? For you, creating a wonderful home is like creating a wonderful, accessorized wardrobe. It’s all about your life and your style. It will be well-thought-out. For example, storage can be beautiful, but organization is a nonnegotiable.

Claire’s home is a showcase, or is in the process of becoming one. And if you feel a kinship to Maggie, you want a home that caters to your lifestyle, enhancing everything you do. Fun, functional and flexible are the hallmarks of your home. Whether it’s movie night, a scrap booking party or the big game, casual entertaining and spur-of-the-moment get-togethers are commonplace because Maggie’s home is carefree.

Our homes and the products in the homes are all public expressions of ourselves. You already know Her Home Magazine was founded on the premise of empowering women to make wise, informed decisions regarding their homes. The personality profiles, and the insights that can be gleaned from them, fit that premise beautifully!

Finally About Me® Resources

Finally About Me® – As the Woman-Centric Matters!® team at Design Basics has identified, women tend to exhibit one of four primary home buyer personalities. And it’s amazing just how much of our core personality is reflected in our homes!

Finally About Me® Quiz – TAKE THE QUIZ! What’s Your New Home Personality? Would you guess that your taste in jewelry, flowers, or travel could also predict your preferences in your home’s design styles and even product choices?

Finally About Me® Profiles – So you are a Maggie or a Claire, or a Margo or Elise. Learn more about your new home personality!

“A Home That’s Truly Your” From the myriad choices available, the specific selections you make when you are remodeling or building a new home reveal a lot about you, your values and desires.

“Design reveals Desires” From the myriad choices available, the specific selections you make when you are remodeling or building a new home reveal a lot about you, your values and desires.

The Three Faces Of Design

The Three Faces Of Design

How form, function, and social design elements influence our product purchase decisions.

Her Home Magazine spoke with some unlikely bedfellows: Kohler (plumbing products), ThermaTru (exterior doors,) InSinkErator (food waste disposers,) and Wilsonart (counter tops,) to identify the appeals designed into some of their products for the home. Though the ingredients were different, their recipes were similar: one part art; one part science; and one part your story.

What do you want to feel in your personal space?


Ahhh, the look and feel of a product is a quality all its own. Beautiful…sensual…solid…form can make a product a joy to behold or leave you form can make a product a joy to behold or leave you wondering What were they thinking when they designed this?wondering “What were they thinking when they designed this?” Form is actually preconscious. You notice something. Instinctively, you’re attracted to it. It elicits an emotional response—perhaps “ Wow!” It captures your imagination while stirring something deep inside you.

Diana Schrage is the Senior Interior Designer at Kohler’s wonderful Design Center on the company’s campus in Kohler, Wisconsin. More than 160,000 visitors come through their Design Center annually and— get this—Kohler Design Center staff provides their design service expertise free to their visitors!

According to Diana, “Kohler customers have a high appreciation for art.” It’s evident in the obvious (sinks, tubs, faucets) to the more discrete, such as toilets designed without the obvious P-trap. But as important as form is by individual product, Diana and her team take great pride in coordinating everything to achieve the look you’re after. For those who can’t make it to the Design Center, Kohler has published helpful selections guides on their website and provides extensive training for staffs at plumbing showrooms who offer Kohler’s products. At the Design Center, online, or in your local plumbing showroom the goal is the same helping people pull everything together, by room and by price point, so they can envision the finished home while managing their investment.

Frank Lin is ThermaTru Doors’ Manager of Market Insights. Lin knows the importance of first impressions. Both the Home Improvement Research Institute as well as ThermaTru’s in-house studies identify that “attractive appearance” is the #1 factor when it comes to selecting a door. In both fiberglass and steel doors, ThermaTru prides itself on offering tremendous variety in door styles, finishes, decorative glass inserts and complimentary sidelites and transoms.

Lin is particularly proud of ThermaTru’s Classic Craft series of doors. “Classic Craft is a high-performance fiberglass door incorporating our Acu-Grain technology which gives these doors the appearance of high grade mahogany or oak doors. They are architecturally correct with styles ranging from Craftsman to European and the widest selection of glass styles. Typically made-to-order, the doors can be personalized to individual preferences. They also have a solid, hefty feel and in January, we introduced a smooth (no wood grain) version of this door line for homeowners who prefer a smooth finish, painted door.”

While some people might think it a stretch to consider a food waste disposer “art”, they haven’t met Eric Schultz, Director of Brand and Channel Management for InSinkErator’s household disposers. In fact, the company created their entire line of Evolution disposers with what Schultz calls “a more stylized, performance look.” Schultz went on to explain, “Each model in the Evolution series has specific visual design cues. We put tremendous emphasis on the physical design of these disposers, because their design conveys signals such as strength; reliability; that it’s up to the task; quiet and a premium look.”

Form can make a product a joy to behold or leave you wondering “What were they thinking when they designed this?”

Wilsonart® unleveled the playing field for laminate countertops with the introduction of their Wilsonart® HD® High Definition® surfaces. Wilsonart’s Manager Premium Laminate and Specialty Products, Michael Lallo, talked about the role form played in making this line of countertops a game-changer.“ High Definition focuses on the in-demand looks most popular for today’s countertops: quartz, slate, travertine, granite and marble. Our new technology endows HD countertops with optical dimension and stunning clarity. You can frame your choices with a decorative edge profile, an extra touch that shows off your new countertop at its absolute best.” In addition, Wilsonart has developed a method of fusing their HD sinks to the HD countertops, allowing the sinks to be undermount—the first time this seamless look has been available in laminate countertops. Lallo also pointed out form, as an element of design, is more than visual. “Warm to the touch, with textures unavailable in other luxury materials, Wilsonart HD is a welcome alternative; there is simply no other surface like it.”


High design is more than visually appealing. It also means that the product does what it’s supposed to do, that it does it well and reliably. It means the product is easy to use and maintain. Plus, it means great technology, whether that’s in terms of cutting edge performance or environmental stewardship.

For Lin and ThermaTru, there seemed to be a sequence of purchase priorities. Lin said“ Women more often initiate the entry door selection or replacement project. Early on, she’s more design oriented, looking for a door that matches her home and interior style, overall shape and finishes. Once the style has been identified, her attention turns toward the functional and performance issues and if a guy is part of the decision making process, this is typically where he gets involved.”

According to Lin, the most important functional aspects of entry doors for consumers are long lasting, followed by the product materials and price. ThermaTru’s steel doors and fiberglass doors are insulated, offering better energy performance than solid wood doors and exceeding 2010 Energy Star performance standards for entry doors. Steel entry doors are less expensive than fiberglass but can dent. The company’s steel doors are backed by 5 to 10-year warranties, while the fiberglass doors offer a limited lifetime warranty. The doors are also tested for water infiltration and high winds, and the fiberglass doors offer the highest protection against forced break-in for enhanced personal security.

Performance and convenience are what buyers of food waste disposers value. Interestingly, InSinkErator identified quiet as a critical aspect of performance. So the company’s Evolution series disposers were designed to reduce noise by up to 60% compared to standard disposers. According to Schultz, homeowners surveyed by the company after having the Evolution series disposers installed have high praise for the sound reduction measures taken.

InSinkErator’s research identified homeowners did not want to have to be overly concerned about what types of food were put into the disposers. They addressed this issue in numerous ways. First was the size of the motor. Essentially, bigger motors better handle larger volumes of food waste. Second, some of the disposers were designed to grind food in multiple stages, which meant they could basically liquefy more types of food as it passes through the disposer. Their top of the line Excel disposer can sense if the disposer is about to jam, drawing on extra power reserves to break through any food waste. Some disposers have an auto reversing system to reduce jams, others have a manual reversing system.

A final aspect of functional design for InSinkErator is their in-home warranty. If one of their disposers fail during the warranty period, the company sends a service technician to the home at no cost to the consumer. Peace of mind is great functional design!

The theme of innovation continued from Wilsonart’s Lallo as he moved from addressing form to function. “Wilsonart HD countertops are a whole new kind of laminate. Our new technology provides four times more wear resistance than traditional laminate and five times more scuff resistance, for a countertop that keeps its good looks longer.”

Easy-care is another aspect of practical design. According to Lallo, the company’s High Definition laminate is nonporous – so there’s no need for sealing as with many other materials. He told us “It’s as close to “maintenance-free” as a hard surface can get. It’s not quite self-cleaning, but our HD countertops are one of the easiest to care for surfaces you’ll ever own. For everyday cleaning, simply use a damp cloth or sponge and a mild soap or detergent.”

Function was also a priority for the Wilsonart’s HD sinks, as evidenced by their thoughtfulness in locating the drain at the back of the sink rather than the center, freeing up more space in the cabinet underneath. Along the top and at the back, Wilsonart designers integrated a shelf (for soap and sponges) designed to ensure water flows downward into the sink.

When asked what makes Kohler’s residential products “Woman-Centric”, Donna Schrage answered “Fantastic function without compromising aesthetics.” Notice that even for a recognized design leader like Kohler, function was mentioned first.

A high priority for Kohler has been water conservation. Important, yes, but so is a satisfying shower experience. Don’t you hate wimpy showers? Kohler’s solution has been in the design of low-flow aerators for their faucets and shower heads which truly do cut water use without sacrificing performance. Similarly, Kohler offers low water consumption toilets and has made a priority of getting the word out (including practical tips for everyone) on water conservation via their website.

Schrage identified product quality, as an element of functional design, in a way that resonates deeply. She explains “We are a disposable society, but Kohler’s products have stood the test of time. The Kohler brand is almost an anti-statement against disposable consumerism.”


Your Story

Sometimes overlooked, the social side of design deals with how a product makes you feel and what it communicates about you to others. Is it important? Well, Toyota hired a firm to survey its buyers of their hybrid Prius model. The top 3 reasons given for purchasing that 50 mpg car:
3] “gas mileage”
2] “good for the environment”
1] “what it says about me”

So, what does the humble kitchen food waste disposer say about the homeowner? According to Schultz, plenty! “Buyers who opt for the Evolution series of disposers put more thought into the design of their kitchens. They value their appliances more, because the overall kitchen experience is more important to them. It’s a reflection on the buyer—someone who’s an accomplished cook/homemaker/entertainer and who places a premium value on her kitchen.”

Lallo says, “HD counter tops give any kitchen that “I have arrived” look without a huge investment,” further suggesting HD is a surprising value when compared to other luxury surfaces. And should you want to change the look of your kitchen in a few years, Lallo adds “due to the high initial cost of many other counter top materials, you would really wrestle with changing out those old counter tops to enhance your new décor.”

“Kohler products,” says Schrage, “are aspirational but attainable.” She referred to social design in terms of how it makes one feel, using one of the Designer Rooms at Kohler’s Design Center as an example – Del Mar designed by Bella Mancini Zakarian. “ I feel elegant and immersed in luxury in that room. The designer’s inspiration came from ‘growing up with an ocean view, loving the feel of wiggling her toes in the sand while wearing a ball gown!’ and the details in this space tell that story.”

Says Schrage, “Our values and beliefs are also part of important buying decisions. We have a sense of empowerment when we support businesses in alignment with our values and beliefs. This is reinforced each time we interact with cast iron and know it is from 93% recycled materials – vitreous and glass are recyclable. We expect, and obtain the aesthetic that delights us and on a subliminal level have a sense of peace about making a difference by the choices we have made.” She asks, “What do you want to feel in your personal space?”

Finally, few products in a home say as much about you as the entry door. Because, at most every price point, there are a great many entry door choices to accentuate your (and your home’s) style. Lin suggests an individual’s choice in an entry door indicates whether or not they are in tune with their home’s style. “The entry system is often the first thing people see when they come to your home to visit. Selecting the right door style shows discernment and the right materials an appreciation for craftsmanship. Just ask REALTORS®. REALTORS® know the first impression and curb appeal set the expectation for what they’ll likely see inside and often dictates if a prospective buyer will even be interested in going in the home.”

As you can see, the design professionals at leading home product companies are intimately involved with all three elements of design. You may have not thought too much about it before. Again, form, especially visual appeal, is initially preconscious. You’re simply attracted to something the moment you see it. Function is largely left-brained (logic, reasoning.) But social design is highly contemplative — it’s one way we reveal who we are to the world.

Ranking these three facets of design is also intertwined with your personality and core values. If you walk into a home and your first thoughts are boring…predictable…then you’ll value form and social design cues more. Similarly, when walking into a home with soaring ceilings and a dramatic wall of windows, if you find yourself asking “how would you clean those windows/how would you change those light bulbs?” then functional design elements will be more important to you. One is not “better” than the other—but ignoring any of the design elements is a sure recipe for regret!

The Practical Side Of Design

The Practical Side Of Design

Beethoven had his piano. Picasso his brushes. Similarly, today’s homebuyers tend to initially judge builders on their“ artistic” architecture—with blueprints their sheet music and their 3-D canvas of wood, glass and stone. But beyond the visual and social appeals, it is often the thoughtful, practical side of good design which helps buyers choose one home over others on the market.

Careful study is sometimes required to discover these practical design aspects—precisely because they just make sense and would only be noticed by their absence.

Let’s start with what happens when someone arrives home. Is there a coat closet or hooks nearby? Hopefully you’re not thinking those little 18”-wide entry closets that are expensive to trim out and offer little practical storage. Or, what about grocery traffic in from the garage? Is the kitchen nearby, or would you have to haul groceries half way across the home? Similarly, while most designs offer integrated or adjacent kitchen/breakfast areas, if your home has a formal dining room, how close is it to the kitchen?

When it comes to kitchens, you probably think of the ‘working triangle’—the relationship between where the oven, refrigerator and sink are located. That’s important. But so is storage! In response to our fast-paced lifestyle, we’re consuming more and more processed foods. (60% of working women, at 4:00 pm, don’t know what they’re serving for dinner that evening!) Hence, the tremendous popularity of bigger pantries. You gotta have ‘em! In the example floorplan, roll-out drawers in the wall pantry add a higher level of functionality and ease of organization.

Continuing in the kitchen, sink placement is a dead giveaway to looking at the practical side of design. (see below illustration) Comparing the two kitchen layouts shown in this illustration, the one with the corner sink and views outside in two directions seems a little more ‘inspired’—until you realize that you cannot open the dishwasher door and stand at the sink! Looks great on paper, but doesn’t work in the real world.

Option AOption B

Typical dishwasher placement is right next to the sink, but with a corner sink, inserting a tall vertical cabinet next to the dishwasher (for cookie sheets, etc.) provides room to stand in front of the sink and have the dishwasher door open.

With our increasingly green-conscious society, kitchen recycling centers are getting lots of attention. Wouldn’t life be easier if space was provided to sort and hold paper, glass and aluminum products? We all want to do our part to make the world a better place.

Island sinks sometimes suffer from the same thoughtlessness. While it may solve the issue of where to place the sink, today’s trend towards uniform-height islands (no raised snack bar) means the flooring around that island sink is going to get wet—there’s no backsplash!

Near the kitchen (but not part of it) household planning/communication centers are one of today’s hottest amenities. Large enough for a computer, activities from downloading recipes to managing household expenses finds a home here. Importantly, with kitchens doubling as entertaining space, these planning centers need to be able to be closed off when guests arrive to keep clutter out of view.


Pet shower for gardening

A pet shower is also great for gardening!

According to closet organization system professionals, well-designed closet storage systems can accommodate twice as many items as the standard closet rod and shelf approach. “Bigger closets” and “more storage” are often cited by buyers as prime criteria for buying a new home. Make the most of their space without defaulting to simply making the home bigger. The same holds true for laundry areas and garages. Organization and storage solutions may not be as glamorous as stone countertops, but will absolutely be something you value.

Hard surface flooring at all exterior doors lessens the need to deep clean carpeting. Not having to walk through one room to get to another is more convenient and can mean fewer interruptions. We don’t believe it’s a stretch to consider practical design an art form—because truly great art that we call “home” is lacking if it doesn’t enhance livability.

The Organized Kitchen

The Organized Kitchen

For many years, dishes, utensils, cookware and supplies were organized by groups. Since today’s kitchens are often arranged by zones determined by function (e.g., prep, cooking, baking, serving, clean-up zones), point-ofuse storage has become a practical way to save steps and time. Of course, the storage requirements for each zone vary from family to family. To determine the optimal arrangement for your kitchen, take the following steps:

  1. Analyze your shopping patterns. Do you stock up on staples, stop for fresh produce daily or shop as needed? How you shop and what items you keep on hand determine the best place to locate and how to structure your pantry.
  2. Know your cooking habits. Are weekday dinners microwave affairs or three courses from scratch? Do you bake often? Is the pressure cooker or slow cooker used regularly? This will provide insight into how to effectively store your pans, pots and equipment.
  3. Take stock of the contents of your cupboards. Are you big on canned foods, or are frozen foods a mainstay of the menu? Do you like to toss a pinch or two of exotic seasonings into foods as they cook, or is a bottle of Tabasco about as wild as tastes go in your home? Do leftovers play a recurring role? Do you favor the large economy size for your family of five or six? Must you store food for two finicky cats and a 90-pound dog along with the human members of your family?
  4. Scrutinize your cleanup methods. Do dishes air-dry on a sink-side rack after being hand washed? Do you fill up the dishwasher over the course of the day and run it every night? Your answers will indicate dish and glassware storage needs.

Cabinet Options

A European innovation that is now finding a more appreciative audience on this side of the pond is the storage plinth. Also known as the toekick, this 5-inch-tall slot of space beneath the base cabinets can be put to work by incorporating shallow drawers. These drawers can hold flat articles that are fairly large – examples include cookie sheets and wire cooling racks, serving platters, a collapsible stepstool, folded kitchen towels and newspapers or magazines bound for recycling.

Base Cabinets

Moving up to examine the foundation of kitchen storage, base cabinets have undergone some progressive changes in the past few years. Comprised of cupboards, drawers and hybrid pullout units, these are the best and most likely places for storing heavy and bulky items. Small appliances that aren’t used daily (such as blenders and food processors) pots, pans and bakeware are the most popular occupants of these cabinets.

There are two types of cabinet configurations: straight runs and corner units. Standard straight-run base units measure 24 inches deep, and their widths are set in 3-inch increments that range from 9 to 45 inches. Fixed shelves – which have subjected cooks to spine-twisting contortions for too many years – are becoming a thing of the past, with more ergonomically sensitive and sensible rollout shelves or trays taking their place. These optional enhancements are inexpensive and easy to retrofit into existing cabinets. Adding them will immediately improve the storage performance of any kitchen without undergoing a major renovation.

sturdy cabinet drawers

These sturdy cabinet drawers can store heavy dishes. Removable dividers let you configure interiors.
photo courtesy of Kraftmaid Cabinetry

Dish up storage

For everyday dishes, here are several appealing approaches to storage:

  • Store them in large, deep drawers. Line the bottom of the drawers with pegboard, and use moveable pegs to corral plates and bowls in neat stacks.
  • Plate racks, on their own or integrated into a bank of cabinetry, put your dishware on display while keeping it handy.
  • If you intend to use a built-in plate rack for drying your dishes, make sure it’s installed where the wet dishes can drip intot he sink either directly or by means of adrainboard.
  • Should you choose to keep dishes in a cupboard, check out the array of minishelves that allow you to separately stack plates of different diameters so that you can easily get access to them one at a time. A word about glass-fronted cabinets: unless you have immaculately kept cupboards, artfully filled with beautiful glassware and dishes, think twice before giving the allclear on this door-style option. Instead, consider using seeded, ribbed, frosted or tinted glass panels on the door. You’ll still reap the benefits from a lighter look, but you won’t have to suffer the full exposure of your cabinets’ not too neat or attractive contents.
Drawer dividers

These sturdy cabinet drawers can store heavy dishes. Removable dividers let you configure interiors.
photo courtesy of Kraftmaid Cabinetry,
photo courtesy of Tony Giammarino/Giammarino
& Dworkin, Design: Marge Thomas


Within a straight expanse of cabinetry, deep drawers are increasingly offered as an appealing alternative to cupboards for several reasons. First, they conserve motion: only one action is required to get access to drawers, versus two – opening the door and bending to see inside – for cabinets with doors. Full-extension glides that allow the drawers to be pulled all the way out, thus bringing the contents to you, make it easier to see and reach what’s inside. Finally, deep drawers can generally support more weight than slide-out shelves.

Drawers can also be fitted with quite an assortment of accessories. Bakers will find covered breadbox inserts in clay or metal handy for keeping the fruits of their labors fresh. Acrylic or stainless-steel bins for flour and grains keep canisters off the counter and a ready supply on hand.


Some cabinet manufacturers offer woven baskets dropped into a wooden frame that fits into side-mounted drawer slides. In a kitchen with a rustic or traditional theme, a stack of two or three of these can provide convenient pull-out ventilated storage for certain varieties of produce while adding an interesting note of texture to the room.


Herbs and spices are stowed stove side, where they’re frequently used during cooking. Photos courtesy Mark Samu, Design: Jean Stoffer Designs, Ltd.


Standard 5-inch-deep drawers remain a vital stap le in the kitchen. Scaled for utensils and silverware, even existing drawer storage can be maximized with segmented or tiered cutlery inserts. For maximum flexibility, look for trays with adjustable compartments or use individual bins that hook together.

Pullout cabinets

Pullout cabinets combine the convenience of drawers with the capacity of cupboards. They can range from a pair of narrow base-cabinet spice units that conveniently flank the stove to a towering 6-foot-tall pantry that can house just about anything.

full-height pantry cabinet

A full-height pantry cabinet reclaims an otherwise underutilized corner of the kitchen. Photo courtesy of Plain & Fancy Custom Cabinetry.

Such full-height cabinets should be organized with larger, heavier articles at the bottom and frequently used items on the shelves at knee-to-shoulder height. If possible, opt for adjustable shelving so you have maximum storage flexibility. Store food staples in groups with separate shelves for baking ingredients, breakfast items, snacks and dry items, such as rice, grains and pasta.

Even awkward angles can supply a slice of productive storage

Even awkward angles can supply a slice of productive storage. Photo courtesy of Plain & Fancy Custom Cabinetry.


The 90-degree, turn-of-a-corner cabinet is by nature space squandering, leaving the curved wedge of room at the rear of the corner almost completely out of reach. A 45-degree corner base cabinet is more forgiving, but its primary benefit is really felt at the countertop level, where the additional surface area can accommodate a cooktop or sink.

The door treatments for corner cabinets differ on a case-by-case basis and may affect how efficiently you can utilize the cabinet. A pair of doors may split open down the center. In kitchens with clearance issues, a doublehinged door can open, fold in on itself andthen swing aside. In some instances, there may be only one door to a corner cabinet, a particularly uncomfortable condition that’s known as a “blind corner.”

While this may sound ominous for storage possibilities, the situation is salvageable. Inserts – those wire, plastic or wood shelves, spinners and sliders that can convert an empty-box cabinet into a shining example of custom-made storage – will rescue the most recalcitrant corner.

There are numerous forms of cornercentric inserts. One solution to a blind corner is to fit it with what’s sometimes called a “magic corner.” This is a set of shelves that’s joined in the middle; with one end attached to the corner-cabinet door, the shelves automatically unfold outside the cabinet when the door is opened. Other examples of angular space saviors include two- or three-level carousels and lazy Susans. The former, which is also fastened to the inside of a cabinet door, rotates 270 degrees; the latter spins a full 360 degrees.

Finally, a spinning, three-bin recycling center may be the best use of a corner base cabinet. Accessibility isn’t an issue, as each container rotates to the fore of the cupboard. Trash talking. Because trash and recycling bins are used several times each day, the location of each is an important consideration. Here are some tips to make them more convenient:

Plan a cutout in the countertop that allows you to drop vegetable peels and other non-protein food scraps into an undercounter bin that can be carried to the
compost pile daily.

Concealed trash bins that tilt out or pull out on a platform installed on drawer slides not only save floor space and keep pets out of the trash, but conserve time and motion. You’ll find many configurations, including models that hide behind a single cabinet door and conceal from one to three bins, so you can recycle at the same spot where you dispose of trash.

If your kitchen has a pullout chopping board, consider installing a pullout trash bin in the cupboard below it. Clearing cuttings off the board becomes a one-step operation.

Countertop Storage

To prevent countertop storage space from looking too jumbled, consider an appliance garage. When this cabinetry concept was first introduced, it wasn’t a particularly pretty sight: a clunky box pushed into the corner of the counter that usually featured a wooden tambour door, which had a tendency to stick. But with advances in cabinet hardware come advances in design. Hinged panel doors that flip up to open, or doors that slide back along the sides of the cabinet, have opened up more attractive appliance garage possibilities. If building codes in your area allow, you may be able to put an electrical outlet inside the garage.

Here’s a novel, more architectural twist on countertop storage. Lately, there’s been a lot of interest in setting a couple of shallow drawers right on the counter, topping them with an elongated hanging wall cabinet. This column-like design not only adds a vertical note to the kitchen, but the assembly is a deft combination of storage types that’s responsive to the needs of the user.

Wall Storage

A simple way to get more storage mileage out of a standard 4-inch-tall backsplash is to top it with a 3-inch-wide ledge. This makes a fine perch for small collectibles or jars of herbs and seasonings and lends a custom finish to an otherwise boring detail.

Rails and rods

Rail or rod systems are not at all difficult to install (even on tiled surfaces), but give some thought to the best place to locate them. While having ladles, tongs and mixing spoons suspended close to the cooktop sounds likes a great idea, there’s a potential drawback. They’ll be directly exposed to steam and grease. If you don’t mind the additional cleanup, you’ll appreciate the convenience; if you do, look elsewhere for this kind of storage.

Wall cabinets

Several different paths are available for installing wall cabinets. The soffits can be boxed in to be flush with the face of the cabinets or remain open. The first treatment gives a clean, built-in look to the cabinetry but eliminates what amounts to a commodious, yet inaccessible shelf. An open soffit, on the other hand, leaves the tops of the wall cabinets unenclosed, and so depending on which way you tend to look at collectibles on display, provides either a spacious band of high-level display space or a roosting spot for dirt and grime.

small wine rack and an open shelf for cookbooks

A small wine rack and an open shelf for cookbooks creates interest while providing maximum accessibility. Photo courtesy of www.AlanShortall.com

Open shelves

While they are perfect for putting your collection of majolica platters or antique coffee grinders on exhibit, open shelves are also suspectible to collecting dust. Used as an accent element, they give visual relief to the monolithic look of solid-front cabinets.

Even though they’re just 12 inches deep, wall cupboards have an uncanny way of swallowing up the item you’re trying to find. Luckily, there’s now an abundance of storage-supplementing inserts available for wall-hung cabinets.

Bottle and jar organizers

Bottles and jars revolve into view when placed on a mini lazy Susan. Stair-step organizers literally boost the visibility of back-of-the-cabinet contents. For those who need a bit of extra help in reaching upper shelves, there’s a double-decker insert that pulls down and out of the cabinet to make life easier.

Herbs and spices are stowed stove side

Herbs and spices are stowed stove side, where they’re frequently used during cooking. Photos courtesy Mark Samu, Design: Jean Stoffer Designs, Ltd.

Storage for spices

The inside of the upper cabinet doors is a great spot for storing spices. Look in retail storage supply stores and catalogs for a variety of bins and baskets designed to attach to the inside of the doors. Before installing, make sure the unit is positioned clear of the shelves inside the cabinet, or the door won’t close properly.

Pot racks

Best suspended over an island or peninsula to avoid banging your head, hanging pot racks offer practical storage as well as an eye-pleasing focal point. If you’ve got lots of pots, shop around for a model that has a center shelf as well as hooks, or divvy up your collection on more than one rack. Make sure any hanging rack is secured to structural members in the ceiling, and resist the urge to position it too close to burners, or your pans will be enveloped by greasy cooking vapors.

Carefully prioritizing your personal storage needs, considering your available space and exploring the latest organizational components will ensure your new or revamped kitchen makes cooking easier and more enjoyable!

The Craftsman House

The Craftsman House

Design Elements of the Craftsman House

If traced far enough, the roots of Arts and Crafts homes began with Hindi bangalas, thatched roof cottages with porches and low, heavily overhung roofs. British officers occupying India in the late 19th century brought the Indian architecture to England and adapted it to build summer retreats known as bungalows.

Initially used as resort lodging in England, the bungalow style crossed the Atlantic and experienced a heyday in the early 1900s during the mass migration to California. With their low, extended roofs and shaded porches, bungalows were particularly suited to the warm climate; and Greene and Greene, two California architects, created designs that became hugely popular.

At the same time, Gustav Stickley was publishing his influential magazine, The Craftsman. Expounding the philosophy of the English Arts and Crafts movement, it advocated a revolt against the presumed evils of the Industrial Revolution – namely, mass-produced, shoddy goods – and espoused a return to honest, hand craftsmanship. Working with architect Harvey Ellis, Stickley (also an architect and a furniture maker) designed 221 house plans which he published in The Craftsman. Soon mail order companies like Montgomery Wards and Sears, Roebuck and Company made the homes affordable by selling complete kits that included all of the building components right down to the paint and finishing nails. Shipped by railcar, some 30,000 pre-milled and numbered pieces were delivered to a homeowner’s lot, along with a comprehensive instruction manual.

Craftsman House column

Regional Variations

The original Craftsman bungalows were generally modest homes with a single story or an abbreviated second floor with one or two bedrooms, commonly with sloping ceilings and dormer windows. They were a wide departure from the ornate elegance of Victorian design and were also more rugged than their English Arts and Crafts counterparts– appealing to our nation’s frontier history.
Wide porches were supported by simple rails or stocky, tapered columns atop brick or stone pedestals.
In true Craftsman style, this yellow ochre porch says WELCOME!

Stalwart proportions created a sense of stability and security. Wide porches were supported by simple rails or stocky, tapered columns atop brick or stone pedestals. Low slung, gabled roofs featured overhanging eaves. Walls were often divided into horizontal bands – brick or stone along the bottom, topped with combinations of stucco, split wood shingles and horizontal, vertical or shake siding. Wood elements framing the home, usually concealed in other architectural styles, were not only exposed but became celebrated, decorative details, as seen in brackets supporting roofs.

As the Arts and Crafts style spread across the country between 1905 and 1930, it was expressed in a wider variety to accommodate varying budgets and express regional differences.

In California, Texas and Florida, it frequently included elements inspired by Spanish missions – tile roofs; rounded arches, windows and doors; stucco walls with brick or masonry with rough-cut stones.

Frank Lloyd Wright and his school of Architects popularized the Prairie home in the Midwest. Typically two stories high, it featured a flat or low-hipped roof, alternating bands of brick and concrete, and art or beveled glass in doors and select windows. A relative of the Prairie home, the Foursquare or Box House became one of the most popular house styles in America. Its simple cube shape featured a front porch of varying dimensions and was topped with a hipped roof and a front roof dormer.

Windows were often grouped in pairs. Arts and Crafts homes were constructed in harmony with their landscape; wood materials were often painted or stained brown or dark green. They also utilized local materials. Consequently, these homes featured yellow brick in Chicago, dark red brick in Milwaukee, wood and brick in the North and shingle sheathed bays and gable ends in the Northeast.

Warm Interiors

In the late twentieth century, the Craftsman style, in particular, began enjoying a resurgence that is still going strong – with architects remodeling historic homes and design firms offering updated plans for new construction. Today’s homeowners are captivated by charming elevations evoking images of quiet, tree-lined streets and these homes’ warm, comfortable interiors. Compared to their Victorian predecessors’ stuffy, segregated rooms, Craftsman homes’ casual floor plans encourage informality and family togetherness.

Double columns top display cabinets in this historic Craftman home.

Double columns top display cabinets in this historic Craftman home.

Their efficient design makes them a highly practical choice as well. The long hallways and entryways found in Victorian homes were eliminated; in Craftsman Style Homes, family and friends pass from room to room directly.

Built-ins provide storage and make the most of available space. In historic Craftsman homes, living and dining rooms are divided by low display cabinets topped with tapered columns. There may also be a built-in sideboard in the dining room. Banquettes in kitchens and window seats in bedrooms provide picturesque seating and storage. Rear entries often include a mud room. Pocket doors add flexibility, allowing homeowners to combine or segregate spaces, closing a living room off from a foyer or dining room, or revealing additional sleeping, study or work spaces.

Another attribute that makes Craftsman design so popular in today’s market is its connection to nature. Most homes were positioned to greet the sun and surrounded by a generous garden. Large, shady front porches and sleeping porches in the rear blurred the distinctions between inside and outside living. An abundance of windows grouped in units of two or three brought in natural light and cross breezes.

Sunlight streams through beveled, leaded glass windows – creating whimsical prisms on the dining room floor.

Sunlight streams through beveled, leaded glass windows – creating whimsical prisms on the dining room floor.

Windows themselves contribute to a Craftsman home’s charm and beauty. With the exception of clerestory windows located above built-in cabinetry, most of the windows are double hung with divided light panels in the upper sash and a large pane in the lower sash (providing a cleaner view). Selected windows in the front entry, living room and dining room feature sparkling, beveled glass or colorful, stained glass in geometric or botanical patterns.

Perhaps Craftsman homes are best known for their warm woodwork. Ceilings are trimmed with crown moldings, boxed beams, running beams or geometrically arranged moldings. Kitchens, bathrooms and porches feature tongue-and-groove paneling.

Living rooms sport built-in shelves or cabinets surrounding the fireplace and tapered pillars on top of display cabinets. Fireplace mantels and surrounds display unique, individualized details. In addition to built-in buffets or china cabinets, dining rooms often feature geometric paneling or wainscoting with wide caps (that double as display shelves). Picture rails and chair rails, generous baseboards and window trim all add character throughout the home.

Front entry doors are usually a focal point in and outside the home, from picturesque board-and-batten doors to a variety of panel configurations with art glass windows. In addition to pocket doors, interior doors include French doors with Prairie grid panes and doors with recessed or raised, vertical or horizontal panels; the most common being five horizontal recessed panels.

Originally, woodwork was oak, red pine, gumwood, fir or cypress. Higher end homes used quarter sawn oak. Wood was often exposed to ammonia fumes or stained in a dark finish to give it an aged patina. Influenced by the Neo-Colonial style, painted trim became more common by the 1920s, particularly in the South and Southwest. Warm colors and textures make homes cozy and inviting. In newer homes, walls may be faux painted to look like plaster work in saturated terra cottas, delicate sage greens and golden yellows. Lincrusta and anaglypta wallpapers (heavily embossed papers) can provide the look of tooled leather. Historically, walls were also covered with burlap, grass cloth or nature-inspired wallpapers.

Remodeling Challenges

With their unique, handcrafted charm, historic Craftsman homes can present some common challenges, including stripping and refinishing woodwork and undoing makeshift changes previous homeowners made that may have diminished the home’s original charm. Another major concern is space. Let’s face it. We have a lot more stuff today than families had in the early 1900’s: computers, electronics, microwaves and considerably more clothes. Easier updates include building a new closet in the corner of a bedroom, installing drawers under staircases and adding shelving at the end of a narrow hallway. Built-in cabinets and bookcases surrounding fireplaces may be modified to accommodate stereo equipment and a small television.

Creating extra space requires more extensive projects, such as: enclosing a sleeping porch to gain room for a master bedroom or bath, finishing off an attic or adding a second bath. Few original bungalows had a casual family room. One possible solution is to convert first-floor bedrooms into a family room and new kitchen and turn unfinished attic space into bedrooms.

One of the difficulties in remodeling is matching original woodwork. When adding on, the challenge is often finding space. Bungalows, in particular, were often built on tight lots, so the only way to add on is up. With their distinctively low roofs, it can be a challenge to raise the roof and maintain the home’s original character.

Two Craftsman Fans

Huge fans of the Craftsman home style, Chris and David Knight have lived in a home built in 1905 using a kit ordered from the Sears and Roebuck catalog and now reside in a home designed and built to their specifications.

“My husband and I both love antiques,” Chris Knight explains, “so I suppose it’s natural to appreciate Craftsman architectural details. Most of the windows in our previous home were leaded glass and the woodwork was amazing. A plate rail circled the entire dining room, which also had a built-in buffet. The dining and living rooms were divided by wood columns set on cabinets with leaded glass. The living room had a wood burning stove with leaded glass cabinets on both sides and a two-foot-wide mantle. There were also beautiful French doors leading to a three season porch.

“For a home of its age, it was in surprisingly good condition, but we did undertake some remodeling when we moved in. The previous owners had closed off half of the home’s sleeping porch. We restored it to its original dimensions, removed some paneling that had been added and had the walls re-plastered. We painted throughout the home, re-carpeted and refinished the parquet wood floors in the kitchen.

“When we relocated, we decided to build a new home incorporating many of the features we loved from our historic home. We didn’t want to be faced with replacing plumbing, electrical and HVAC systems. Our new home was actually built using Insulated Concrete Forms (ICFs), so it is extremely energy efficient.

“Because we loved the warmth of our first Craftsman house, we recreated a lot of the woodwork in our new house. We have wood columns on top of glass-fronted cabinets at the entrance to our office (off the front entry). The fireplace in the great room is surrounded with built-in cabinetry. We included an updated, individualized touch by mirroring the exterior columns inside our entry. They’re tapered wood on top of stone pedestals. (The pedestals on the outside of the home are topped with stucco columns.)

“Our personal tastes follow the ‘less is more’ approach, so we streamlined some of the details. Too much trim can make rooms look smaller and somewhat cluttered. I think we found a very peaceful compromise. Finally, we chose warm, fall colors for walls and furnishings.”

The Best of Old and New

“Building a new Craftsman house allows homeowners to enjoy traditional, architectural charm along with modern comfort,” notes Design Basics’ Custom Home Designer Marshall Wallman. “We can create more open floor plans, bigger rooms and larger closets. Rather than the historic eight to nine foot ceilings, we can incorporate ten foot ceilings. With beams or wood paneling, even cathedral ceilings can look at home in a new Craftsman home.

“It’s important to balance modern design with historic features. Even with an open floor plan, for example, you can define the rooms with an opening supported by columns or some short cabinets. In larger spaces, it’s important not to skimp on trim, since generous woodwork replicates the historic architecture and provides warmth.

“Many of the homeowners I’ve worked with have chosen medium-tone maple or cherry woodwork to give their homes a lighter look. For those who prefer oak, I recommend either quarter sawn plywood or solid oak. Normal oak plywood often has a long, drawn out grain that repeats itself because it’s created with a rotary cut. Using an oil finish, instead of polyurethane, can also tone the grain down and provide a rich, aged look.“ Even with all of the modern appliances, it’s fairly easy to maintain the Craftsman feel in the kitchen. I often use recessed panel cabinet doors and cover the floors with wood or a slate tile; I’ve also seen linoleum or cork used effectively.

“In the bathroom, it can be tricky to achieve a historic look and still provide all of the storage we require today. In one home, I placed a nice storage cabinet between two pedestal sinks and put mirrored cabinets above the sinks. That bath also had a free-standing tub, white subway tile on the walls and white hexagonal tiles on the floor. Traditionally, baths in Craftsman homes used a lot of white because it created a sense of cleanliness.

“Ironically, Craftsman homes originally came about in protest of mass-produced goods but today’s modern technology makes replicating the style easier and more affordable,” observes Wallman. “For instance, cultured stone is available at a fraction of the cost of real stone. If you’re looking for low maintenance, James Hardie® fiber cement siding comes in vertical, horizontal and shingle styles – and looks more like real wood and stucco than similar vinyl products. There are a variety of authentic looking shingles available, from shake composites to attractive asphalt shingles. Many of the major window and door manufacturers have Craftsman lines, including Andersen, Pella and Marvin.

“The Internet makes research easier and provides instant access to resources all over the country. One of my favorite sites for period lighting and hardware is www.Rejuvenation.com. Kichyyler® Lighting also has an extensive new line of Tiffany fixtures. Sites such as www.CraftHome.com and www.Craftsmanhome.com offer everything from door knobs, mail slots and heat registers to tiles, towel bars and ceiling fans.”

With its unpretentious, time-honored elements, solid sense of security and cozy atmosphere, the Craftsman home has become an American classic that adds character to any neighborhood.

Craftsman Style House Plans

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