Author Archives: Rebecca Thienes Cherny

5 Simple Ways to Modernize Your Bath

Update Bathroom - Minimalist Bath Design


Without a major renovation, it might not be possible to create the minimalist, modern bath of your dreams, but you can get pretty darn close by making these low-effort, big-impact changes.



Update Bathroom - Geberit Monolith


Ditch the traditional floor-mount toilet in favor of a model that mimics the look of a tankless wall-mount. DIY the installation of Geberit’s Monolith using a pencil, drill, hand saw, file, screwdriver, and caulk—that’s all you need! No expensive new plumbing required.



Update Bathroom - Silicone Hanging Line

Photo: Kontextür

Available in red, white, or black as part of Kontextür’s Hanging Line collection, silicone bands are an innovative method of hanging bath towels and toilet tissue in a visually interesting, lightweight way.


3.  Mirror, Mirror

Update Bathroom - Wall Mounted Medicine Cabinet

Photo: Restoration Hardware

Install a surface-mount medicine cabinet to gain storage and achieve clutter-free look. Shown here in a white, powder coat finish, the Pharmacy cabinet from Restoration Hardware boasts an appealing combination of modern lines and classic details.


4.  Quick Change

Update Bathroom - Modern Faucet

Photo: American Standard

American Standard has simplified what used to be so very uncomfortable and time-consuming: faucet replacement. An avid DIYer using the Speed Connect system is able to complete a switch-out in no time, making it easier than ever to match the faucet to other modern touches around the room.


5. Lighten Up

Update Bathroom - Porcelain Light Fixture

Photo: Rejuvenation

An inconspicuous porcelain light fixture finished with a mirrored incandescent bulb is the ultimate minimalist statement. The Hannah fixture by Rejuvenation is clean, simple, and elegant.


For more on bathroom remodeling, consider:

15 Ways to Create a Spa Bath at Home
Nate Berkus on Updating a Dated Bath
9 Designer Tips to Maximize Small Bathroom Design

Top Tips for Better Kitchen Organization

messy kitchen in need or organization

Photo: HometownDumpsterRental

Now that the new year is in full swing, it would be easy to lose the resolve with which we started 2013. But let’s keep up the momentum and train our thoughts (within reason) on cultivating better versions of ourselves… and our kitchens.

Related: 10 New Ways to Store Kitchen Necessities

Few things are more satisfying than having a place for everything and keeping everything in its place. Right now—before it suddenly becomes 2014—revolutionize life in the busiest room of your house with these simple kitchen organization tips.


Easy Access

Kitchen Organization Tips - Easy Access

Photo: IKEA

You may think space constraints mean that you can’t get the organization you want in your existing kitchen, but even small switch-outs can make a big difference. Many home stores offer wood or metal vessels with integrated compartments for taming cutlery, linens, and the inevitable kitchen “junk drawer.”


Think Vertical

Kitchen Organization Tips - Think Vertical

Photo: Martha Stewart

The most common waste of space within cabinets is not using their full volume. Wire racks, like those shown in this Martha Stewart kitchen, create tiers allowing kitchen users take advantage of vertical space—without making it difficult to access stacked items.


Play Tetris

Kitchen Organization Ideas - Play Tetris

Photo: LifeHacker

Decanting storebought items into clear canisters helps you answer the ever-present question, “What am I running out of?” Make the most efficient use of available space with rectangular containers whose shape allows for easy stacking. Good options abound at places like The Container Store and The Brooklyn Kitchen.


Go Deep

Kitchen Organization Ideas - Go Deep

Photo: Chez Larsson

Consider using deep, pull-out drawers in place of traditional base cabinets with hinged doors. The latter are fine for large pots and pans, but what about smaller items? Outfitting pull-outs with plastic bins is a great way to tame loose kitchen essentials, such as batteries and garbage bags.


Awkward Spaces

Kitchen Organization Tips - Awkward Spaces

Photo: Chef's Catalog

Cabinets that house plumbing are always difficult places to establish order. Rolling shelves and baskets can help you steer clear of the pipes that make this area so troublesome for organization fanatics.


Clear the Counter

Kitchen Organization Tips - Clear the Counter


Having a clutter-free kitchen workspace makes all the difference when preparing meals. Mounting paper towel rolls under the cabinet, adding a magnetic knife holder, and wall-mounting racks for spices and oils are all great options for keeping counters clear.

By carefully considering the best use of cabinet interiors, utilizing some innovative inserts, and implementing sound strategies for organization, you can make much better use of the precious space you have.


For more on kitchen organization and storage, consider:

5 ‘Upcycled’ Pot Racks and Cookware Storage Ideas
DIY Spice Racks and Kitchen Organizing Solutions
5 Creative Alternatives to Kitchen Cabinetry

Galley Kitchens: Unique, Compact, and Efficient

Galley Kitchens - Katie Hastings Design

Photo: Katie Hastings Design

The term “galley kitchen” originally referred to kitchens aboard ships, trains, and planes—compact spaces with tight footprints allowing for maximum efficiency.

Home kitchens can also be galley-like, typically featuring two lines of parallel cabinets separated by a central aisle and, occasionally, a U-shaped return at one end. Galley layouts promote ideal work conditions, requiring minimal movement while working. Though efficient, galley kitchens are tight on space and do best with a single chef at the helm.

Slideshow: 11 Gorgeous Galley Kitchens

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Beyond the Farm: Using Barn Doors at Home

Using Barn Doors at Home - Yellow Panel

Photo: House*Tweaking

Barn doors are notable for their distinctive use of space. Rather than hang on vertical hinges and swing open, they go on horizontal tracks and roll open, remaining relatively flat against adjoining walls.

Since the weight of a barn door is distributed over the width of its track, a heavier- or larger-than-usual door can be accommodated.

Using barn doors at home is a common practice of architects, designers, and homeowners whose aim is to create a better “flow” without sacrificing the ability to partition spaces for private use. Where floor space is limited, barn doors are an ideal solution.

Slideshow: 10 Chic New Ideas in Barn Doors

To choose the correct hardware, match the weight of the barn door/panel you plan to use with the weight-bearing capacity of the hardware.

Before deciding on your application, be sure that there is enough wall space available (to the right or left of the door opening) to accommodate the track and the open door. Standard track lengths are typically about 70 to 94 inches, but custom lengths are also available.

The most industrial-looking version is I-beam, or box rail, hardware, available from such supply sources as the Elmhurst, IL-based vendor McMaster-Carr.

Using Barn Doors at Home - Black Enamel

Standard Flat Track from Barn Door Hardware

Flat track hardware is simple and unassuming; take for example the product above, with its black enamel finish and vertical bar-style hangers.

Rustic, hammered finishes are also available. A spoked wheel can be chosen for a more down-home look, and some kits even come with a Western horseshoe-shaped hanger.

Using Barn Doors at Home - Stainless Steel

ODEN Tubular Hanging Door Track in Stainless steel from Barn Door Hardware

Modernists need not shy away from using barn doors at home. A stainless finish is an easy way to update the look, making it cleaner and lighter than those black finishes that are designed to mimic iron. The product from Bartels pictured below even seems futuristic.

Using Barn Doors at Home - Bartels Protec

Bartels Protec Hardware

For more on doors and windows, consider:

30 Inspiring Front Door Designs
Quick Tip: Pocket Door Solutions
Know Your Window Styles: 10 Popular Designs

Hang Time: Making a Case for Picture Rails

Picture Rails - Fougeron Architecture

Photo: Fougeron Architecture

Picture rails are strips of molding that adhere to walls and run horizontally around the room, typically aligning with the tops of any windows. This type of molding was once an elegant way of hanging artwork on hard-to-penetrate plaster walls.

Popular in New England and Southern townhouses during the Victorian era, picture rails may seem like a quaint throwback, but they can also look fresh today and serve a purpose.

For an art collector who often rotates works, rental houses and apartments with frequent tenant changes, and those who simply like walls free of nail holes, picture rails offer a practical solution.

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Hot Fireplace Inserts



Fireplace inserts are a great way to update an existing masonry fireplace.

A traditional open-front wood-burning fireplace usually has an efficiency rating of just 5-10%, according to the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association. A new fireplace insert constructed of durable steel or cast iron utilizes an insulated closed-combustion system that increases heat output and promotes efficiency.

To be a candidate for a fireplace insert, you must have an existing masonry or factory-built fireplace with a working chimney, and you’ll select the insert’s size based on the existing opening.

The type of venting required by a new insert varies. Natural venting through the existing chimney is possible; direct vent and vent-free options are options as well, depending on your fuel choice.

The cost and availability of fuel in your area, the overall maintenance required, and the desired look are all factors to consider when choosing an insert. Wood, gas (natural or propane), and pellets are the most common fuel sources for fireplace inserts.



Fireplace Inserts - Lennox

Montlake Wood-Burning Fireplace Insert from Lennox

When searching out a wood-burning insert, look for an EPA-certified appliance to help protect the environment and your indoor air quality. Made of heavy gauge steel, Lennox’s rustic Montlake 230 insert features an airwash system to keep the taller-than-usual glass panel clean and clear. An optional 150 CFM blower with multiple speed options makes it easy to quickly heat spaces ranging from 1,200 to 2,200 square feet. The Montlake vents through a 6″ pipe and comes in black, brushed nickel, or nickel trim options.



Fireplace Inserts - Heat & Glo

The Cosmo I30 Fireplace Insert from Heat & Glo

The Cosmo gas insert by Heat & Glo fits well in modern interiors and comes in two sizes, 30” and 35”, depending on your existing opening. The reflective black glass interior and linear flame contribute to its sleek appearance. Direct venting ensures combustion exhaust and fumes are fully removed from your home’s interior, and a smart intermittent pilot ignition system adds an extra level of safety and energy savings.



Fireplace Inserts - Napoleon

NPI45 Pellet Insert from Napoleon

Thanks to its use of recycled sawdust pellets as fuel, Napoleon’s NPI45 Pellet Insert heats things up in an environmentally friendly way. With a 120 CFM convection blower, auto igniter, and airwash system to keep the glass crystal clear, this unit offers the efficiency of a pellet stove housed in a recessed fireplace opening. The hopper holds a whopping 45 pounds of pellets, making refueling unnecessary for 45 hours of burn time. And if you’re worried you’ll miss the traditional look of logs on a fire, an optional decorative ceramic log set is available.


For more on fireplaces, consider:

12 “Different” Ways to Store Firewood
Firewood: What Type Should You Use?
10 Accessories for the Fashionable Fireplace

Smoke Detectors for the Design Set

Designer Smoke Detectors

Overgrown insect or smoke detector? Surprisingly, both.

The long arm of design reaches new territory with the advent of designer smoke alarms. Why shouldn’t this safety product also be stylish (as long as code is met)? Forward thinking designers in Finland and the Netherlands have applied their talents in the art of beautifying the functional.

Designer Smoke Detectors - Lento

Jalo's insect-inspired "Lento" photoelectric smoke detector

Finnish designer Paola Suhonen enters the smoke detector market with her own design from manufacturer Jalo. Suhonen introduced her “Lento” smoke detector in the form of a giant, paint-splattered fly—a surreal take on the once staid detector. The unit operates on photoelectric technology, meaning that the alarm sounds if smoke enters the sensor chamber and disturbs the angle of a light source (more info available from NFPA). This product is available online through Finnish Design Shop.


Designer Smoke Detectors - Chick-a-Dee

Chick-a-Dee Smoke Detector from Neo Utility

Australian company Chick-a-Dee takes the lead with a bird-shaped version set atop a tiny plastic branch. Dutch designer Louise van der Veld took inspiration from a bird’s propensity for warning calls as well as the traditional use of canaries in mine shafts for detecting danger. The battery-operated alarms are currently available in white or white/black at Neo-Utility for $75.


Designer Smoke Detectors - Kupu

Jalo's fabric-covered "Kupu" photoelectric smoke alarm

Another Finish designer, Harri Koskinen, is responsible for the “Kupu” detector (also from Jalo), a sleek square with rounded corners covered in five fabric options (a chrome hard-surface version is also available). Its form is soft and elegant, and yet function is also key to the design, since the entire exterior surface acts as the shut-off button in the event of a false alarm. Kupu installs with 3M tape and has a five-year battery life. Available through Finnish Design Shop.


Designer Smoke Deteors - Kupu in Green

Jalo's fabric-covered "Kupu" photoelectric smoke alarm in green

For more on home safety, consider:

Workshop Safety
Bob Vila Radio: Fire Extinguishers
9 Ways to Boost Your Fire-Preparedness

Luxuriating on Kitchen Islands


A chic kitchen by Jessica Helgerson Interior Design showcases a large multi-functional island.

Cursed with a galley kitchen like most apartment dwellers, I dream of the day I’ll upgrade to a space big enough for a luxurious kitchen island. First popular in the mid-twentieth century during the Modern movement, these freestanding dividers often separate grand open-plan spaces that include dining and living areas.

The key to good island design is first considering the best possible use. Make a list of all the functions you’d like the island to perform. Storage is a top need for homeowners, making cabinets on at least part of the island a capital idea. Adding utilitarian details like recessed bookcases for holding favorite cookbooks and linens close at hand should also be explored.

Slideshow: 12 Outstanding Kitchen Island Storage Options

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Give Your Facade a Facelift: Simple, Affordable Ways to Boost Curb Appeal

Curb Appeal Ideas

Photo: Benjamin Moore

Just like windows are the eyes to the soul, the outside of a home gives viewers a first impression of what’s inside.

This fall, take the time to improve your home’s exterior entry area. The National Association of Realtors says curb appeal sells 49% of all houses, but you don’t need to have your house on the market to try out a few easy and affordable change-outs.

Slideshow: 10 Simple “Under $60″ Curb Appeal Updates for Any Home

First things first, pick up a can of paint! A punch of color on the front door is sometimes all it takes to make a dramatic impact on passersby.

Benjamin Moore recently introduced their Grand Entrance line, developed specifically for front doors and trim. Sold in quarts—the perfect quantity for a project of this size—they run $43.99 each and come in a Satin or High Gloss finish.

Designer Lucianna Samu proves the difference color can make by simulating how Benjamin Moore’s Tangerine Fusion (above) would look if applied to her own front door (below).

BenjaminMoore-ColorChats-What Color


But why stop there? Click here for more “under $60″ curb appeal updates that you can do this weekend.

For more on curb appeal, consider:

Bob Vila Radio: Curb Appeal 
Curb Appeal by the Block
10 Eye-Catching Options for Your Front Door

Fab Doghouses

Doghouse Design

"Frank Lloyd Bite" doghouse from the 1999 Barkitecture exhibit at Stan Hywet Hall and Gardens in Akron, OH. Photo:

We dog owners are a strange breed. We obsess about the day-to-day comfort, happiness, and health of our pets. We own multiple pet beds so Fido always has a soft place to relax; we’re always trying to find him the perfect toy; and some of us even make sure Fido adheres to a doggy diet not unlike a human being’s gluten-free regimen. But since dogs are purportedly man’s best friend, shouldn’t we treat them as we ourselves would like to be treated?

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