New: Products of the Week, 7.23.14

This week’s picks: Modern outdoor light fixtures, corner windows, an impact wrench, handcrafted tiles, and flowing kitchen faucets.

Kichler Rosewell outdoor sconce

The Rosewell outdoor wall sconce from Kichler offers a modern shape with a rustic Olde Bronze finish. The inside of each fixture is brushed with shimmering gold paint to create a subtle, soft contemporary look. Two sizes are available.

Kolbe_Vista Luxe 90-degree window

New to Kolbe’s VistaLuxe collection of contemporary wood windows, which utilize multiple units to create large expanses of glass, this 90-degree corner direct-set window appears to transcend structural boundaries, opening up the home to even more expansive views. The windows feature a wood interior in a choice of species and an aluminum-clad exterior available in standard, custom, and new mica colors. Several profiles and a range of glass options are available.

Porter-Cable PCE210_2 Impact Wrench

Porter-Cable’s new 7.5-amp, ½-inch impact wrench combines performance and value, boasting a price point below $120 while offering 240-foot-pounds of torque, 2,700 impacts-per-minute, and up to 2,200 rpm. The tool’s forward/reverse rocker trigger switch offers easy transitioning between fastening and loosening applications. Other features include a cast metal gear housing to help dissipate heat buildup, a hog ring anvil for easy accessory changing, an ergonomic soft-grip handle, and a compact size.

Handpainted Fireclay Tile_3

Handpainted Collections artisanal tiles from Fireclay Tile include the Contemporary, Moroccan, and Mediterranean lines boasting modern aesthetics, sophisticated textures, and pure finishes. The tiles, which are handcrafted in California, come in 8-inch-by-8-inch and 6-inch-by-12-inch formats for a range of applications.

Graff Bollero Bar Faucet
Bollero kitchen and bar faucets, new from Graff, feature unique, flowing lines and a swiveling spout. The faucets come in polished chrome, silver nickel, olive bronze, and polished nickel finishes. All of the units operate at 1.8 gpm and have a dual spray/stream; the kitchen models include a pull-down sprayhead.

Buzz: Product News Roundup, Uniqueness Underfoot Edition

Creative floor tile layouts, luxurious ceilings, Lego-style concrete blocks, and more product news from the past week.

Faro tiles from Beaumont.

Faro tiles from Beaumont.

12 creative floor tile designs.

• Tensile strength stronger than steel? Slow burning? Could bamboo be the next big building material?

• From domes to barrel vaults to wood beams, here are 5 uber-luxe ways to dress up a ceiling.

• A British firm wants to simplify the way we install concrete with blocks that emulate Lego. The real question is: Will they still hurt like mad when you step on them in the middle of the night?

• How it’s made: A day in the life of a paint factory.

• Ductless mini-split air conditioners are an efficient alternative to central AC. But they can be a bit of an eyesore. Here are 10 tips to better integrate these units into a design.

• Finally, hand tools and grout are in the pop culture spotlight, thanks to Weird Al Yankovic and his rap parody “Handy.”

How to use cloud computing to stay better connected on the jobsite.


In Practice: Reclaimed Wood Offers Rustic Touch to Urban Distillery

The centerpiece of the Westland Distillery in downtown Seattle isn’t just the single-malt whiskey, it’s the gleaming, colossal copper and stainless steel stills. Unfortunately, local regulations requiring a two-hour fire enclosure didn’t permit the owners to showcase the equipment front and center in the tasting room like it so richly deserves.

The architects at Urbanadd created a two-hour enclosure using metal studs, drywall, wood sheathing, and randomly interspersed panels of two-hour fire-resistant glass, thereby meeting the dueling needs of both safety and spectacle.

westland distillery

To ensure the enclosure itself didn’t look out of place nor take away from the vibe of the space, an early 1900s warehouse that thoughtfully melds both wood and industrial steel elements, the choice of façade material was also vital. The team opted for reclaimed timber, which they acquired from the teardown of an old Boise Cascade mill in nearby Yakima, Wash.

A local woodworker cut the 6-inch-by-12-inch beams in half, sanding down the cut side while leaving the raw side untouched to create a unique patchwork of smooth and worn. The robust timbers and rugged edges are the ideal complement to the hefty wood beams throughout the building as well as to the reception desk in front, which is crafted of a massive steel beam with a wood top.

westland distillery2

New: Products of the Week, 7.14.14

This week’s picks: An elegant kitchen faucet, jobsite-tough tech bags, a compact bath vessel, robust 5.0-Ah batteries, and wood-look fiber cement siding

Hansgrohe Metris Kitchen Faucet

The Metris kitchen faucet from Hansgrohe is a study in subtle contrasts, with a gently rounded square base tapering into a pyramid from which the gently curving body arcs high and out into a circular spout; the single lever handle similarly moves from sharper angles into a gentle curve. The extended spout surface offers ample contact areas for hands and fingers for easy operation and temperature adjustment. The pull-out spray features two spray options and a MagFit holder for a secure fit; an outward extension ensures plenty of hose length.

Klein Tools Tech Bags

Part of Klein Tools‘ Tradesman Pro Organizers line, these new tech bags are designed for building pros who need to carry laptops, tablets, and other gadgets on the jobsite, combining protective materials and features with a variety of smart storage. The Tech Backpack features 25 pockets, including a hard, molded front pocket for safety glasses, and a durable molded bottom. The Tech Bag boasts 22 pockets, including a zipper pocket for files, and protective guards and water-resistant bottom. Smartphone and Meter cases also are available.

Victoria + Albert Maru 42

Inspired by the Japanese word for “circle,” the Maru 42 basin offers a “perfectcircular” shape that is beautiful and sleek in its simplicity. Its compact design is ideal for his-and-hers bathrooms, powder rooms, or other space-challenged areas; yet despite its small stature, the Maru 42 is Victoria + Albert’s deepest basin—at 7 inches—and has the thickest rim at 1 inch. The sink can be used for freestanding or semi-recessed applications. The seamless unit is made with Englishcast, comprised of finely ground volcanic limestone and resin.

Bosch BAT621 5.0-Ah battery

Bosch now offers a 5.0-amp-hour battery for its 18-volt lithium-ion cordless power tools, offering contractors greater runtime and better tool performance. The BAT621 is identical in size and weight to the company’s 4.0- and 3.0-Ah batteries, yet is the lightest, most compact, and longest-running FatPack-style battery on the market, the company says. The battery’s CoolPack heat-conductive housing helps keep internal temperatures lower, allowing for up to 100 times longer recharge life.

Nichiha Sierra Premium Shake fiber cement siding

Nichiha’s* newly enhanced Sierra Premium Shake fiber cement siding features a rich, variegated look, with deeply defined grooves and keyways. Its ½-inch thickness also provides for the depth and shadows of real wood. The siding features a machine-applied Duracolor ST Semi-Transparent Finish that delivers enhanced pigments for long-lasting color, increased durability, and consistency. Terra, Hazelnut, and Shadow hues are available.


*Nichiha is a client of this blog’s parent company.

Buzz: Product News Roundup, Red-White-and-Blue Edition

American-made products, wooden light bulbs, meteorological pendants, and other product news from the past week.

Wolf Range• July 4th got you feeling patriotic? Several publications were feeling that way too last week, publishing lists of Made in the USA products for your viewing pleasure:

• You shouldn’t take wooden nickels, but perhaps a wooden light bulb? A Japanese designer has created one out of pine veneer–for the bargain price of $2,700 (that’s a lot of nickels).

• Giving new meaning to the concept of bringing the outdoors in, the Cloud pendant light provides the audio-visual sensation of a thunderstorm.

• Americans are cutting the cord in droves. New research shows that 41% of households now use only wireless phones.

• In the wake of the innovative Nest, major manufacturers are following suit with smart thermostats of their own. A Wall Street Journal reporter puts them to the test.

• Everything you every wanted to know about log homes in one handy infographic.

• Good news: Builders are paying closer attention to the building envelope. Research from Professional Builder outlines the performance-enhancing products and methods they’re investing in most.

30 splashy kitchen backsplashes.

• Bored of glass and metal, a Harvard student invented way to weave facades out of clay. It looks like macramé, but it’s still pretty nifty.


Buzz: Product News Roundup, Hardware Everywhere Edition

New products from the National Hardware Show, burning appliance questions, jaw-dropping showers, and more product news from the past week.

Triton• 9 cool tools from the Hardware Show, including a snazzy folding utility knife and several burly demo bars.

• The Money Pit hosts also offered up their favorite finds from the show, including a smarter sump pump and a DIY-friendly laser distance meter.

• 7 products to please (and warm and relax) the mom of the house.

• Germaphobes rejoice! Kohler unveils a touch-free toilet that flushes with the wave of a hand.

• Norwegian project sets out to become the world’s tallest timber building at 14 stories.

• 11 natural boundaries that offer an alternative to fences.

• 10 walk-in showers that will make you forget about the bathtub.

• Does expensive really mean better? How high should the range hood be? A professional cook answers homeowners’ burning appliance questions.

• From single bowls to high-tech faucets, here’s a look at the latest trends in kitchen water stations.

• Tech startup Chui is upping the home-security ante with a doorbell unit with built-in facial recognition.


New: Kohler Brings Touch-Free Operation to Toilet Flushing

Kohler Touchless ToiletElectronic, hands-free, touch-free technologies have already been migrating steadily from airports and other commercial spaces to the home, with numerous kitchen and bath faucets that operate by touch or by sensor. Now, Kohler has taken the concept even further, with the introduction of the Touchless Toilet.

Instead of a traditional lever handle (or high-end push button), the new technology has a sensor in the tank; wave your hand over the sensor to activate the flush. According to the company, the sensor projects an electromagnetic field that is more accurate and reliable than technologies that rely on breaking a beam of light.

The device operates on four AA batteries that should last from six to 12 months.

Touchless Toilet technology is available on new Cimarron or San Souci toilets or can be ordered as a retrofit kit that will work on nearly all single-flush toilets with a canister or flapper-style flush mechanism.

Buzz: Product News Roundup, Penny for Your Thoughts Edition

Penny tiles, composting-straw walls, wine storage for the rest of us, long-lasting cement, and other product news from around the web this week.

• Lucky indeed. These 15 projects showcase the beauty and diversity of penny-round tiles.

• You’ve heard of straw bale houses, but what about straw houses that also eliminate the need for a furnace? Students in Japan have developed a prototype house with straw walls that compost to heat and cool the space.

• Never repaint again? Harvard is working on “structural color” technology, which never fades.

• Let’s face it: Most of us can’t afford the wine cellar of our dreams. Here’s some advice and ideas for vino storage for the other 99%.

• Frank Lloyd Wright’s grandson is setting his sights on mainstream shipping container houses that are practical and beautiful.

• Breaking up may get a little harder to do: A graduate student has invented a cement composite with a service life of 120 years or more.

• New window regulations are coming. Here’s what to expect.

• The energy gurus are weighing in: Will open-cell spray foam really rot the roof?

Image: Traditional Bathroom by San Francisco Interior Designers & Decorators Kelly Scanlon Interior Design


New: Products of the Week, 4.10.14

One-handed band saws, black toilets, and three other products that caught our eye this week.

Makita XBP01 LXT 18-Volt Band Saw

Makita’s new XBP01 18-volt LXT lithium-ion compact band saw weighs only 7.5 pounds—up to 25% less than competitors, according to the company—and has a cover over the blade, allowing for one-handed operation. The saw also offers a category-leading 630-feet-per-minute blade speed for faster, more efficient cutting, and has a 2 ½-inch cutting capacity ideal for cutting conduit, Unistrut, copper pipe, threaded rod, angle iron, and channel. It includes a built-in LED light, protective bumper, tool-free blade change, and adjustable foot. LXT batteries reach full charge in 30 minutes.

Victoria + Albert Wessex clawfoot tub

The Wessex claw- or ball-foot tub offers an Edwardian look, with a transitional style and classic freestanding design suitable for a range of bathrooms. The bathtub is cast by Victoria + Albert in a single piece of Englishcast, a combination of volcanic limestone and resins that is durable, stain resistant, and naturally insulating to keep water warm longer. It measures 59 7/8 inches long by 30 1/8 inches wide by 15 3/4 inches deep.

Spark Modern Fires Fire Ribbon

Spark Modern Fires’ Outdoor Vent-Free Fire Ribbon is ideal for outdoor installations into walls without a chimney or flue. The built-in stainless steel unit, available in 3- or 4-foot models, burns natural gas or propane. Optional fire objects, media tray, and safety screen are available.

Icera Cadence toilet in black

Icera now offers most of its premium toilet models, including the modern Cadence (shown) and the transitional Riose, in high-gloss black for a bold, sophisticated, contemporary statement. The WaterSense-certified units use less than 1.28 gpf, with a fully glazed 2 1/8-inch trapway, quiet Hyperion flushing technology, precision-rim jets, large water spot, and a MicroGlaze non-staining, anti-microbial finish. They also feature silent-close toilet seats.

Feeney DesignRail aluminum deck railing kits

DesignRail aluminum railing kits offer an affordable alternative to wood or composite railings, says manufacturer Feeney, installing easily between wood posts. The pre-engineered aluminum railing system, which includes all required components and connecting brackets, is sized for 36-inch-high residential systems with up to 6 feet of spacing between posts. The railings come with a bronze matte powder-coat finish. They are suitable for decks, fences, privacy panels, and barriers.



10 Design Trends for 2014

What products and design elements are in hot demand this year? Some are surprising: quartz moving in on granite, master bath tubs falling out of favor. Others are extensions of what’s already popular: open floor plans getting more open, universal design continuing to gain ground.

These were among the trends shared by Denise Dersin, editor-in-chief of Professional Builder magazine, during a presentation at the International Builders’ Show Feb. 4. Based on her discussions with builders and what she observed among the winners of Professional Builder’s 2014 Design Awards, here’s what she sees dominating wish lists this year:

This floor plan from Professional Builder's Show Village offers a fresh approach to the open floor plan.

This floor plan from Professional Builder’s Show Village offers a fresh approach to the open floor plan.

1. Open Wide(r)
The demand for open floor plans is here to stay—and getting bigger. The kitchen, great room, dining areas, and workspace are more and more essentially the same room. Kitchens are shedding their upper cabinets, with open shelving and larger pantries making up the storage difference.

2. Flex Appeal
It’s no secret—with the rise in open floor plans has come an abandonment of the formal dining room and living room. But families still need those spaces a couple times a year. Flex areas—rooms that serve multiple functions and can shift over time—are taking a more prominent place in the home, Dersin said. Minimal changes allow the space to morph from den to dining room to mother-in-law suite.

3. Islands: Large and in Charge
Busy homes revolve around the kitchen island, which now must serve as cooking prep zone, eating area, and homework station. Naturally, this means they’re getting bigger. To keep larger islands from becoming “aircraft carriers,” Dersin sees designers employing elements such as varied heights, contrasting colors, and fold-down leafs.

Pardee Homes uses transom and clerestory windows to bring in plenty of natural light to its Alta Del Mar model in Del Mar Mesa, Calif.

Pardee Homes uses transom and clerestory windows to bring in plenty of natural light to its Alta Del Mar model in Del Mar Mesa, Calif.

4. Let There Be Light
Demand for daylight is a trend that’s been hot for some time, particularly as energy costs rise. Builders and designers must continue to incorporate ways to allow natural light further into the home, such as with larger window walls and through creative use of transoms on exterior and interior walls.

5. A Place for Everything
Open floor plans can lead to clutter, so storage near the door has become a must-have, whether a full-on mudroom with cubbies and laundry or a simple drop-zone with a desk, phone-charging station, and coat hooks.

6. Counter Evolution
Though granite is still in demand, Dersin sees buyers also leaning heavily toward solid surfacing, quartz, soapstone, and even paper composites. She also sees color preferences headed in two opposite directions: softer and lighter or solid black.

7. Slab on the Back
Single-slab backsplashes, such as those made from marble or glass, are replacing the once-popular subway-tile look in the kitchen.

8. Bye, Bye Bathtubs?
At one time, a master bathroom without a tub/shower combo was unthinkable. But Dersin is observing a reversal, with many new homes doing away with tubs in the master entirely (provided there’s a tub somewhere else in the house). If there is a tub in the master, it’s generally a stand-alone version rather than a built-in, she said.

This universal design bathroom by Tier 1 proves that accessibility need not sacrifice style.

9. Easier Aging
Luckily for baby boomers, universal design products such as grab bars and lever-handle faucets have shed much of their cold, industrial appearance, allowing for aging in place without losing the feeling of home. Other elements, such as wider doorways, low-threshold showers with stylish built-in benches, and drawer appliances, are hardly noticeable at all.

10. Defining Outdoors
Where the inside is getting more open, Dersin sees the outside space becoming more segmented, with smaller, dedicated entertaining spaces replacing vast expanses of lawn. Add heaters and partial enclosures to make those spaces useable nearly year-round.

To see more examples of trends, check out the winners of Professional Builder’s 2014 Design Awards.


Bottom image: Contemporary Bathroom by Leander Kitchen & Bath Remodelers Tier1 Group, LLC 

Buzz: Product News Roundup, Bridging the Gap Edition

Bay Bridge-turned-bungalow, manly walk-in closets, dramatic light fixtures, and other product news from around the Web this week.

Bay_Bridge_House_Design_front1-805x525• The old San Francisco Bay Bridge lives on: I-beams, concrete, girders, trusses, and roadways from the bridge, which was recently replaced, will be used to build a three-story house.

• Batting zero? A New Zealand study found that 100% of batt insulation installations have failures.

• Men need a place for their clothes too. Here are 30 ideas for walk-in closets with masculine appeal.

• The U.S. government is throwing its muscle behind tall wood buildings.

• 15 ways to create drama with light fixtures.

• That giant tarp? You’re folding it wrong.

• 10 tips to help your clients choose the right windows.

• Scientists are developing “microstructural lightweight construction materials” that have a stability relative to their weight that exceeds materials such as steel.

New: Products of the Week, 3.13.14

An elegant tub, durable demo blades, a shearwall solution, and two other products that caught our eye this week.

MTI Baths Parisian Tub

The Parisian tub from MTI Baths captures the glamour of 1800s Paris, boasting an oval shape with flowing curves and exaggerated rounded areas. Inside, softly curved backrests promote relaxation. The Lucite cast acrylic tub is available as a soaker or an air bath, and also can be specified with the MTI Radiance heating system or chromatherapy. It is available in two sizes.

Diablo Demo Demon Reciprocating Saw Blade

Diablo Tools has enhanced its Demo Demon carbide-tipped reciprocating saw blade with an improved tip design for more efficient plunge cutting, an optimized carbide tip bond for better performance and lifespan, and enhanced grinding geometry for durability. The first carbide recip blades designed for nail-embedded wood, they offer double the cutting speed for those applications and last 10 times longer than standard blades. A 1-inch oversized blade body contributes to straighter cuts and less vibration, while a Perma-Shield non-stick aluminum alloy coating reduces heat, gumming, and corrosion. Three sizes are available.


The new field-trimmable, pre-fabricated Strong-Wall SB shearwall from Simpson Strong-Tie provides greater lateral-force resistance for a range of installations, including garage portals and large openings. It comes in sizes from 12 inches by 7 feet to 24 inches by 20 feet for standard, portal, two-story stacked, balloon framing, and rake-wall applications. The wall, which is code listed to the 2012 IBC, includes drill zones for easy fastening to headers and a wire chase.

Therma-Tru Fiber Classic Mahogany

Therma-Tru has expanded its Fiber-Classic Mahogany fiberglass door collection with a two-panel square-top door, a two-panel plank soft arch door, a two-panel Craftsman door, a flush door, and a flush sidelite. The doors feature a deep grain and high-definition panel embossments for an authentic wood look. A range of decorative, privacy, specialty, low-E, and clear glass options are available.

Skil wet-tile saw

Skil’s new 7-inch Wet Tile Saw 3550 features a HydroLock System that keeps water splash to a minimum, reducing mess and allowing tiles to be cut indoors. The saw features a rust-resistant aluminum table top, with a sliding side extension that can be used on the right or left side to support tiles up to 18 inches by 18 inches. It also includes an adjustable aluminum rip fence and miter gauge, and a built-in cord wrap.