Monday, July 14th, 2014

We are here: Summer Break

We Are Here - summer 2014

Busy busy busy but still here but busy busy busy. Find us on twitter or Pinterest if you need an EcoMod fix. And occasionally we pen a blog post over at beshcabinets.com.

Wednesday, June 4th, 2014

Formaldehyde: here’s the thing

Formaldehyde MoleculeIt’s everywhere! Remain calm.

Formaldehyde is a naturally occurring compound that is basically all around us in varying amounts, from the planet’s surface to its atmosphere and out into interstellar space. To learn more about it, here’s a link to the Wikipedia article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Formaldehyde

 

It’s also used heavily in no-iron clothing material and is present in a LOT of the foods we eat:
http://www.cfs.gov.hk/english/whatsnew/whatsnew_fa/files/formaldehyde.pdf

It sounds like the trouble starts when it gets combined with other compounds to make resins & glues, which is why it has been regulated so closely in the last 10-15 years. There are innumerable other products it’s used to make as well, both inside & outside the construction industry.

Besh cabinets do use California compliant materials, which have the strictest regulations in the US, but does not use 100% formaldehyde free *anything*. You can read the consumer FAQ on the California Air Resources Board page at this link: http://www.arb.ca.gov/toxics/compwood/consumer_faq.pdf  The short version is, there is no such thing as 100% formaldehyde free plywood.

All that being said, the best info I could find in response to health concerns is this one from Joel Hirschberg, Green Building Supply Center in Fairfield IA on the Green Home Guide:
http://greenhomeguide.com/askapro/question/how-long-does-it-take-for-oil-based-wood-stain-minwax-to-finish-off-gasing

From that response, basically, applying an encapsulated sealer is the best thing that can block formaldehyde outgassing.

The challenge with all the risk minimization is twofold:

1) Sensitivity levels vary from individual to individual, so a certain level may not affect one person as much as the next. And because formaldehyde is so ubiquitous, it’s difficult to isolate the source, even with an allergy patch test.
2) There is significant added cost for products that minimize outgassing, both in terms of labor (to apply multiple coats of AFM safecoat for example) and materials (specialty produced bamboo or other exotic woods, for example).

My guess is that outgassing is less of a concern in older homes because they aren’t as tightly enclosed as new ones.

Not a black & white easy answer, but there it is.

Monday, May 5th, 2014

Newsflash: NO IKEA Projects after May 30, 2014

Mark your calendars

Due to the impending rollout of IKEA’s new kitchen cabinet system in 2015, we will NOT take any new IKEA kitchen project requests after May 30, 2014. There will be NO exceptions to this cutoff date.

After May 30 all Ecomod projects will be done using Besh Cabinets exclusively.

Update: To read about why we are discontinuing our use of IKEA in our projects, this post explains more.

Friday, April 25th, 2014

New product alert! Level entry shower system

VIM Products - level entry shower system

From VIM Products, Inc.

I can NOT wait to use this product in a master bath I’m designing for some folks! Up until now, everyone has told me:

  • “You have to have 2″ difference in elevation to slope a shower floor to drain correctly.”
  • “You can’t have a curbless shower without modifying joists or lowering the floor slab.”

The above statements are now FALSE I am happy to report.

Back in the day when I was doing commercial building design, we would specify as little as 1/8″ per foot slope toward the roof drains. If that is sufficient for a roof, why in the world would you need 16 times that amount for a shower floor?  You don’t.

3/4″ is all you need

Which is great, because that’s the thickness of most subfloor material.  And unlike linear drains, cutting into multiple joists (when the span perpendicular to the shower floor) isn’t required to seat the drain cavity. Happily, we can still have a square ornamental drain plate cleverly disguising a conventional round drain fitting.

Level entry showers are great not only for accessibility, but also they’re just plain easier to walk in & out of. No curb to step over. Or trip over. Less material & labor to install, and it makes for a nice seamless appearance & transition from the rest of the bathroom.

Not to mention if you’re a klutzy idiot like me who regularly sprains ankles & endures the torture of crutches, it’s way easier to maneuver in & out of a shower that you don’t catch crutch tips on.

VIM Products will also be at the Coverings show, coming up next week in Vegas.

Monday, March 17th, 2014

State of the Cabinets Address

YAY!2 lines, no waiting

So about a month ago, we broke the news that we’re now offering a 2nd cabinet line called Besh with our kitchen & bath design projects. We’re happy to report thus far that we’ve had an overwhelmingly positive reception of Besh from homeowners, architects & designers and builders & developers alike.

A quick number crunch revealed that out of 14 active projects, 12 of them are using Besh, not IKEA. That’s a whopping 86%!! Early in the game, yes, but numbers are numbers.

2014 & beyond

Up until this point, we specialized in design & installation using only IKEA’s kitchen cabinet line. There’s a change afoot with IKEA’s kitchen cabinet line. That change has already been rolled out in Europe, and is set to roll out in North America in 2015. Here’s a link to some of the chatter on the IKEAFans forums about it.

Because we do still get requests for IKEA kitchens, we are still providing those services through 2014.  UPDATE: we will NOT be doing any IKEA projects for the remainder of 2014.

However, we’re not at all convinced that the new IKEA line – to be called SEKTION in the States – is an improvement. That being said,  we have and will always stand behind only robust, quality products. For that reason we will not yet commit to using IKEA’s kitchen line beyond 2014. If IKEA’s new line proves to be a continuing level of quality as in the past, we may consider projects on a case-by-case basis with it.

Long story short: we’re using  Besh exclusively for the remainder of 2014.  In 2015,  Besh will be our primary cabinet line until we can evaluate IKEA’s new system.

Besh: Modern cabinets for work and play

Sunday, March 9th, 2014

Giving Back: GS Troop 52 Little Free Library Project

Show me the ropes

Most of my skills came from watching my Dad do small projects around the house. Later I just taught myself, & gleaned what I could working alongside both good and bad carpenters & contractors. I asked a  lot of questions. No one seemed to mind that at all.

I don’t run across many women on construction sites. I’m not sure if it’s because

  • they’re not wired that way, or
  • because it’s a stereotype that only guys swing hammers or
  • because they want to but are afraid or don’t know how.
  • Or some combination of all of those.

Cookies to Libraries!

I scarfed up several boxes of Girl Scout cookies from a local setup a few weeks ago. While I was there I asked if they would be interested in learning how to use tools like drills & saws.  The response was a resounding YES!

When they told me an upcoming project for their troop was a Little Free Library, & asked if I’d like to volunteer, I said “Sure!”.

LFL’s are just cool things, all the way around. The troop leaders explained that girls & women who read are more likely to go on to higher education & ultimately have more success in their lifetimes. (I didn’t know that!) These libraries are dotted all over the world (& even have their locations mapped).

Fast forward

A few email exchanges later, with plans & materials in hand, we got together for our first LFL building meeting. First, I showed them how to measure & mark the cuts we were going to make.

Measure twice!

 

After a few practice cuts to get the feel & weight of the saw, they went to it!

Skil saw skilz

GS52-LFLbuilding-pic1

 

The two hours blew by & we did get all the pieces cut, but only had a few minutes for assembly:

assembly beginnings

 

Just look at those faces! So focused & eager to help – really good kids. They were observant, careful, very safe & conscientious. A few were too timid to try the circular saw, but they jumped all over using the drill once I got the first screws started.

Next meeting is in April where we’ll finish assembly! Stay tuned for a write up on that one.

Friday, February 7th, 2014

Now offering Besh Cabinets

Cat = out of bag!

Out of the bag!

After almost 7 years of designing with Ikea kitchen cabinets, we are happy to announce that we’re now offering a new line of cabinets called Besh!

Besh: The deets!

Besh is made in the US and is fabricated locally to each project site. It’s got a combined core plywood construction for the boxes themselves. That gives it the structural heft for support & reliable bite for hardware, while having the uber smooth skin ideal for both painting and veneers.

Besh is truly modular in design based on 3″ increments. No more random skipping of sizes in the lineup! That means we can maximize available space you have for storage, not fillers, and without modifying stock components!

Besh: Modern cabinets for work and play

Swappable Fronts!

Besh utilizes genuine, robust hardware from Blum and Hafele, and get this:  it has a SWAPPABLE FRONT system option!! This is huge! Up until now, you could change all kinds of things in the room: paint, wallpaper, plumbing & lighting fixtures, & wall decor. With Besh, you can now change out the door & drawer fronts easily, because it’s modular!

So let’s say next fall, you know winter’s coming, right? You can swap in some bright gloss doors to keep it cheery on those short gloomy days. Or, if you get the dream job on the west coast & suddenly have to sell, the cabinet fronts are now fair game for staging. So if you like those high gloss Back the Pack red doors, but a potential buyer doesn’t, swap in some neutrals.

The greenest strategy of all: use as little as possible

Everyone knows a kitchen sells a house. Now we can change the looks without yanking out the whole carcass. And all of it can stay out of the landfill. Win-win-win.

We are super excited to be able to offer another option to folks who are fans of modern at a modest price point! For now, Ecomod is the official US Besh dealer.

We’d be remiss not to let folks know that we know Besh inside & out, because we created it. And we’ll continue to improve and innovate it: we see it as a living system. Something indeed you’ll be proud to use daily and keep our collective footprint as light as possible.

Go check it out!

Friday, January 17th, 2014

New material alert! Environite

New green countertop option!

My good friends over at Common Ground Green now carry a countertop material called Environite. Locally made from a proprietary recipe of epoxies, recycled glass, refractory and other commonly discarded post consumer and post industrial materials.

According to their FAQs, Environite is scratch resistant, non porous, and heat resistant (though they do recommend use of trivets). We’re liking the color options, also! Check them out:

Environite Countertops Bossa-Nova Environite Countertops MORE-ROCKIN-RED Environite Countertops Laid-Back Environite Countertops GLACIER Environite Countertops Urban-E2 Environite Countertops Urban-E1

Sunday, January 12th, 2014

Kitchen design tip: plugmold.

Ugly but necessary

undercabinet plugmoldThis post on houzz prompted me to share this design tidbit. Gotta have power in a kitchen for countertop appliances. They might not be out all the time (counter clutter Do Not Want), but when they are, you can’t just drape power cords all over the place. (A story about that in a minute.)

Outlets are just plain ugly, whether you can see them or not.  Here’s how we handle it: we spec under cabinet outlet strips commonly referred to as plugmold. It gets you plenty of plug in options, but because it’s nestled on the underside of the cabinet, it’s not visible.

Unless you’re crawling on the floor. & if you are, then I want an invitation to your next party, please.

I told you it was ugly. In this shot the end coverpanel on the wall cabinet hasn’t been installed yet. When that goes up, the end of the plugmold is covered (which is why it’s mounted flush with the edge of the cabinet).

The other great thing about having outlets like these? You don’t have to interrupt your backsplash for wall outlets.undercab plugmold

& if you wire tie most of the length of the power cord in a bundle, it keeps the cord at the outlet & appliance, not all over the counter.

Oh yeah, that story.

Back in my college days, we partied in people’s apartments that had older appliances. They still worked, why not? Rent money is rent money.

Check out this gem of an appliance from the late 50’s.

1950's GE push button range

Like lore says, the party ends up in the kitchen. Imagine lots of drunk college kids parked in a tiny kitchen with one of these. Buttons on the front that get turned on & off by butts leaning on them.

Thankfully someone noticed the smoke rising from the range top. It was the power cord from the hot weenie crock pot that was draped across the glowing orange burner. Good times.

No flames, and the party rolled on, but oh, what could have been that was not.  Cord control, people.

Thursday, January 2nd, 2014

To 2014!

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