Posts Tagged ‘kitchen design’

VANGUARD Kitchen Designers

June 12th, 2015

I think it is time to refresh the term and our perception of Kitchen Designers and award proper recognition to the modern, progressively unconventional, VANGUARD Kitchen Designers of today, and tomorrow’s.

To do this, I dare to differentiate Vanguard Kitchen Designers from the traditional Kitchen (sales) Designers.

Sales representatives work with customers to find what they want, create solutions and ensure and ensure a smooth and profitable sales process for the business they represent.
Kitchen (sales) Designers, know their products and how to put them together to create a user-safe, functional and attractive space for their customers with the main goal of profiting the business.  They have the option to choose what products they represent, but their measure of success is -only- in the quality of sales and its profit. Kitchen (sales) designers rely on suppliers t provide affordable green choices.

This sounds good, business as usual.  After all, when a business is successful, it is good for the economy and with excess there is the opportunity to help charities and so on.

I invite you to a new chapter of thinking when kitchen designers come to mind. I also hope to influence you and change the way you want to see kitchens and their designers in the future.

But first, what is Vanguard? It means any creative group actively in the forefront of INNOVATION and APPLICATION OF NEW CONCEPTS and technologies in a given field. Vanguard is an old variation of the French word avant-garde, meaning “front-guard”.

I see Vanguard Kitchen Designers as responsible design activists, progressive decision makers, with a special attention to the changing world. They positively influence businesses, introduce and develop new ways of thinking, and drive new and better technologies to emerge. Vanguard Kitchen Designers are also customer oriented, but are very critical with  products and recommend only those that are future-friendly. In addition, Vanguard Kitchen Designers are genuinely sensitive and attentive to the ecological complexity of their design  *** Vanguard Kitchen Designers see and approach design as an ethical business practice for the benefit of all, rather than a user-centred, consumer driven privilege and indulgence. They are constantly evolving and revolutionizing their design applications to meet a much broader spectrum of social and environmental issues, beyond its traditional professional territory.

The good news for the kitchen & bath industry is that products are getting jazzier, greener and more efficient. However, Vanguard Kitchen Designers don’t take the product’s solo offerings at face-value. They consider the product from multiple angles, including its impact on society and the environment.

(TIPs for responsible kitchen design)

  • consider the environmental and social impacts of everything they design
  • think strategically instead of traditionally: see sustainability as a non-negotiable way of doing business
  • are a force in moving from well-intentioned but lightweight ‘greening’ to a deeper and  more impactful sustainability and resilience (Rob Fleming: Design Education for a Sustainable Future) Request companies to clearly identify the origin and ingredients of their product, and how to recycle/reuse them (Sustainble Products are those that provide environmental, social and economic benefits while protecting public health and environment over their whole life cycle, from extraction of raw materials until the final disposal -wikipedia)
  • they are CRITICAL OF appliances: *critical of their ever-growing size in relation to combination of waste; *critical of the positioning of appliances in their design for energy-saving purposes; *critical of the appliance built-in offerings and those increased energy-draw consequences; * critical of their potential IAQ hazards/Indoor Air Quality (see my blog
  • they are CRITICAL OF EVERY MATERIAL that goes into a kitchen and bath space from construction to decoration, and consider all aspects of a product: materials, manufacturing, packaging, distribution, usage, disposal = CO2 reduction, toxicity, less waste, renewable materials
  • ask for transparency. Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) is a standardised (ISO 14025) and LCA (Life Cycle Assessment) based tool to communicate the environmental performance of a product or system
  • provide transparency via design statement and back-up documentation
  • see luxury in a totally different /vanguard value system (i will write on this in more detail) promote sustainable consumption and production
  • provide COST EFFECTIVE DESIGN *optimise site potential, design to maximise energy independence to reduce energy load, increase efficiency and maximise the use of renewable energy sources:
  • identify the building’s operating and maintenance issue(s) during preliminary design for reduced energy and resource costs and prevented system failures. Specify materials and systems that simplify and reduce maintenance requirements-
  • design to protect and conserve water, reuse and recycle water for on-site use
  • design to maximise energy consumption, maximise daylighting, provide appropriate ventilation and moisture control
  • design for the future. Create beauty, flexibility that serves long-lasting satisfaction on any budget ( )
  • create ‘timeless’ that saves our planet’s resources
  • prefer local manufacturers-contributing to local economy, while save energy and resources and decrease transportation related air pollution
  • celebrate and protect history via creative solutions of re-use of existing materials for a truly unique and personal space
  • reject/boycott materials containing toxins —and with that:
  • help growing competition for healthy choices —and with that:
  • speed up the availability of more and better choices at more affordable prices, contribute to the green economy
  • enjoy sustainable choices privately and professionally

Cheers to All VANGUARD Kitchen Designers!

What is Non-Toxic Kitchen Cabinetry and Where Do I Get it (in Toronto)?

March 4th, 2015

I received a letter from a reader asking where he could find non-toxic kitchen cabinetry in Toronto. The question’s a bit more complex than it sounds. What does “non-toxic” mean? It could mean (which I think it probably does), something that doesn’t off-gas harmful chemicals, known as VOCs or volatile organic compounds. But just because something doesn’t off-gas doesn’t mean it’s non-toxic. There are lots of products out there with all kinds of poisonous chemicals in them that don’t off-gas, but you’d never want to drink them. To me, something that is truly non-toxic means that you could ingest it and it wouldn’t poison you.

So, here are my suggestions for cabinetmakers in the Toronto area whose products are low VOC. If you have any you’d like to add, please feel free to do so in the comments section.

» Read more: What is Non-Toxic Kitchen Cabinetry and Where Do I Get it (in Toronto)?

A “Green” Kitchen Renovation

September 9th, 2013


Kitchen "before"

Kitchen “before”

The current version of our kitchen in our new-to-us 1928 house has a Band-Aid solution going on — you can tell that they were going to get to the kitchen eventually, but they ran out of time, money or patience (renovations will do that to you).  They put nice handles and hinges on the original cupboards and bought top of the line appliances. Somewhere along the way, someone ripped up the original linoleum flooring to expose and stain the beautiful original pine sub-floor. But they left the pantry in, which takes up about a third of the kitchen. There is also a significant functional problem, if you’re a cook like I am, which is that the kitchen has zero counter space, so prep work is a challenge at best. I often use the stove as a counter — not a particularly safe idea!

Pantry and doorway to diningroom.

Pantry and doorway to diningroom.


Pantry - notice small window

Pantry – notice small window

In the grand scheme of things, I suppose that not renovating  is likely the greenest thing I can do. It would create no waste and use no new materials. It would also mean that I’d have to put up with a sub-standard set-up. Besides, renovating the kitchen means I will be employing local trades to make cabinets, refinish the floor, do the electrical and plumbing work, etc. We are putting money into the local economy and improving the value of our home (I can hear my husband’s eyes rolling).

Patio doors and wonderful radiator that is being saved.

Patio doors and wonderful radiator that is being saved.

Here are the areas I’m addressing:


That's it for counter space, plus the microwave sat beside the fridge.

That’s it for counter space, plus the microwave sat beside the fridge.

1. Footprint and design: As I’ve mentioned in numerous posts, design is the most important part of any successful renovation. A thoughtful design will produce a functional space that will last well into the future. I spent a lot of time with my kitchen designer, making sure the design was what we needed. Surprisingly, the final design kept the layout similar to what it currently is, except that we added significant counter space by putting in an island, and more natural light by taking down the pantry and exposing a window. However, the sink, stove and fridge will all remain within a few feet of their current locations, which also keeps construction costs down too.

2. Waste generation (both during the renovation and once the kitchen is completed): My goal is to avoid landfill wherever possible. That involves recycling what can’t be reused, and finding homes for what can be reused.

3. Material Selection other than cabinets: I am looking to use materials that are as locally made as possible, from companies that have sustainability practices in place. My goal is to support local companies to support the local economy and keep transportation miles low. But I will also be choosing materials that have a significant amount of recycled material in them and/or can be recycled at end of life. All paints, sealants and adhesives will be low or zero VOC, and water and/or plant-based where possible.

4. Cabinet selection: admittedly, this is not easy. There are so many pros and cons to choosing the right type of kitchen cabinets it’s not even funny. Do you go with No Urea Formaldehyde Added Medium Density Fibreboard (NAUF MDF), local FSC (Forestry Stewardship Council Certified) solid wood, local FSC Plywood or engineered wood, wood alternatives such as wheat board, soy board or sugarcane board? What about metal? Or some combination thereof. You see what I mean? There are no real measuring sticks to choose something that is “better” than the next.

5. Lighting: The kitchen is probably the one area I can justify the expense of LED lighting. In the winter the lights are on all the time, especially when it also doubles as my office. All undermount lighting will be LED strips, and I will replace the overhead 50W halogen potlights with equivalent LED lights. To give you an example of the difference, I installed 8 LED potlights in the living room (formerly no overhead lighting at all). Each light uses 4 Watts of electricity — so 32 Watts altogether. If I had used halogen, it would have been 400 Watts, and the bulbs would have needed constant enough replacement.

6. Indoor Air Quality: this is an area to consider both during construction and after completion. We will get an overhead vent as I haven’t been impressed with the in-stove vent that came with the stove. For one thing, it sucks the gas flame towards it at the back of the stove, so I’m sure we’re even less efficient than a gas stove is already (only 40% of the energy produced by a gas stove ends up cooking the food). For another, it doesn’t even seem to capture the front burners.  I should change out the gas stove as well, but I can’t get rid of such a good quality (Thermador) appliance. I will have to wait for it to wear out.  I’ve also requested low and zero VOC adhesives and paints.

So, there you go, my adventure for the next….month (?). That’s wishful thinking, isn’t it?


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