Monday, September 22, 2014

7 Ways to Design Your Kitchen to Help You Lose Weight

by Mitchell Parker

In his new book, Slim by Design, eating-behavior expert
Brian Wansink shows us how to get our kitchens working better

Your kitchen might be the workhorse room in your home, but it also might be working against you and your waistline. That’s the scenario Brian Wansink (pictured) — a professor at Cornell University and the director of Cornell’s Food and Brand Lab, where he’s the leading expert in eating behavior — presents in his new book, Slim by Design: Mindless Eating Solutions for Everyday Life (September 23, 2014, HarperCollins, $26.99). 

The book is divided into chapters on how the design of restaurants, supermarkets, lunchrooms and our home kitchens affects our mindless eating habits, those triggers that cause us to eat more, snack more and eventually gain weight. 

Have an all-white kitchen? Do you keep cereal in view? Got a TV and big comfy chairs in your kitchen? Then you’ve got several booby traps that might cause you to eat more without even realizing it. 

“Things aren’t determined by our tastebuds’ being fixed,” Wansink says. “It’s factors around us. Color, light, the size of our plates, a cereal box — knowing how these things influence us, we can reengineer our environments to mindlessly eat better and eat less instead of relying on willpower alone.”

Here are a few tips from the book:

1. Take all food off the counter unless it’s fruit. In what’s referred to as the Syracuse study, Wansink and his research team visited 240 homes and measured and photographed everything. They documented plate size, whether there were TVs in the kitchen, spice racks, radios, you name it. 

After eight months of analyzing the photos and data, one of the things they found was that food on the counter is really bad. Women who had a box of cereal visible anywhere on average weighed 21 pounds more than a neighbor who didn’t. 

In another study the team moved the candy dishes from on top of the desks of 40 administrative assistants to inside their desks. The average assistant ate 74 fewer calories each day. “The equivalent of not gaining 5 or 6 pounds over the next year,” Wansink writes. “The best thing you can do is not to have food sitting out in the kitchen, unless it rhymes with roots and wedgies.”

2. Get rid of the clutter. It’s not just food working against you, either. All those piles of mail and newspapers and gadgets aren’t doing you any good. Wansink has found that in cluttered environments, people eat 44 percent more snacks than those in a clutter-free environments. 

3. Paint your kitchen anything but white. OK, this is a tough one. According to a Houzz survey, almost 75 percent of homeowners prefer a soft and neutral kitchen. But Wansink has found that white and bright spaces tend to stimulate eating.

But the opposite spaces are bad too. Really dark rooms with low lighting and soft music tend to slow people down, causing them to linger and eat for an average of nine minutes longer. “The darker the space, the longer you stick around and the more likely you are to break down and have another serving,” says Wansink, adding that an in-between color is best. His own kitchen is pumpkin colored. “It’s in between two evils,” he says. “Gold, green, blue, tan, earth tones — those are all good. Any color seems to work other than white or cream.”

Another trend is the decline of the dining room. Wansink says one of the best strategies is to eat in the dining room, because you’re farther from the food. 

4. Make your kitchen less lounge friendly. This is another suggestion that goes against what many homeowners seem to want in their kitchens.

These days the kitchen is the hub of the home, where kids do homework, where messages get posted and, yes, even where TV watching occurs. But, according to Wansink, this all creates a pitfall when it comes to snacking. “The more you hang out in your kitchen, the more you’ll eat,” he writes.

When people removed things like TVs, iPads and comfortable chairs, they reported that they spent 18 fewer minutes in the kitchen each day. “That’s less munching on cereal, chips and Samoa cookies,” he writes. 
5. Make it easier to cook. Wansink admits that the science isn’t as strong here, but it’s based on a few trends he and his team have observed about what people say they do.

Things like making it easy to prep food, especially vegetables, making sure your fridge door swings directly open to the sink and having bright halogen spotlights, music playing and a prep space for a helpful friend, spouse or kid — these things entice people to cook more fresh food at home.

6. Rearrange your food. You’re three times more likely to eat the first food you see in the cupboard than the fifth one, Wansink has found. That means if the first thing you see is a bag of chips, look out. Instead, make sure the healthy foods are the first ones you see and toss the chips and cookies in the back.

After people moved their fruits and veggies from the crisper to the top shelf in the fridge and the less healthy foods into the crisper, they reported eating three times as many fruits and veggies.

Wansink sometimes even suggests moving the pantry to another room far away from the kitchen. (The pantry becomes the coatroom, say, and the coatroom becomes the pantry.) Or putting shelves or cabinets in a laundry room — or in a basement, which is what Wansink and his family did to make the pantry less browsable for snacks, and to give them a few more steps of exercise.

Why not just vanquish tempting foods? “First, it’s fine to have an occasional treat,” he writes. “Second, it’s not realistic if you have growing kids who constantly forage and bring friends over to feast.” For this try setting up a designated “kids’ cupboard that’s off-limits to you,” he recommends.

7. Reconsider your plate size. Most dinner plates are 11 to 12 inches in diameter. Since we subconsciously fill up our plates — and we tend to eat more than 90 percent of what’s on our plates — plate size can affect the amount of calories you’re eating. It works like this: “Two ounces of cooked pasta is about 1 cup, has around 300 calories and looks huge on a 10-inch plate,” Wansink writes. “The same 2 ounces on a 12-inch plate — the size most of us have — looks like a measly appetizer, so we serve ourselves another spoonful. If we do that just once a day, we’ll eat about 80 extra calories. If we eat off these plates for three meals a day, it quickly adds up.”

A small difference can make a big impact, though. A 9- to 10-inch plate will allow you to eat less. Wansink warns that if you go below 9 inches, you will likely realize you’re being fooled and will go back for more servings. If you use a larger serving bowl, you’ll end up dishing out 17 percent more. Use a large serving spoon, and you’ll take on 14 percent more calories. Glasses, too. You’ll pour more juice or wine into a bigger glass than a smaller one. You’ll pour more into a wider one than a narrow one. “When it comes to setting your dining room table, think small,” Wansink writes.

Wansink is the first to admit that nobody is perfect and that it’s impossible to do everything. He’s developed a 100-point checklist, featured in the book, that allows homeowners to gauge how well their kitchen is working for them. It contains phrases like, “There is a blender on the counter” and “A fruit bowl is visible.” Check fewer than 40, and your kitchen is working against you. Above 60 and it’s working for you. (I scored a 48. Wansink’s family got an 83.)

“People who don’t have a microwave or keep their microwave in a different room tend to weigh less,” he says. “They cook more from scratch and eat fewer pre-prepared foods. So you can move your microwave to another room. But not everyone is going to do that. That’s fine. There are 99 other things you can do too.”

And Wansink knows what you’re thinking: Now that you know all of this, you won’t snack so much, right? Wrong. “During the day’s chaos, our automatic behaviors lead us to make the same mindless eating mistakes we’ve always made,” he says. “We suffer — and so do our kids. It’s really difficult to become slim by willpower. It’s a lot easier to become slim by design. You change it once and forget about it.”

Cabinet-S-Top, 1977 Medina Road, Medina, OH  44256 330.239.3630 ~

Monday, September 15, 2014

The Kitchen Storage Space That Hides at Floor Level

by Yanic Simard

Cabinet toe kicks can cleverly house a bank of wide drawers 
— or be dressed up to add a flourish to your kitchen design

The humble toe kick is an often-overlooked design detail, and maybe for good reason: It stands practically underfoot, serving in fact only to give our feet a place to rest while we’re working at the counters and cupboards above. However, whether in the kitchen, bathroom or elsewhere, there is much you can do with a toe kick, so it’s worth taking a moment to think about this small design detail. Here are a few helpful design tips for the last place you’d ever think about looking.

Toe kicks are, as a rule, typically 3 to 4 inches high, and recessed 3 inches underneath a cabinet. This gives you room for your feet — or your toes, anyway — while you’re standing at the counter without wasting cabinet space or creating a pocket that’s too deep to clean.

However, a toe kick doesn't have to be wasted space.  Drawers for extra storage are the perfect use for this overlooked space.

They work great for wide, flat items, like specialty pans you don’t use every day …

… or a stepladder for when you need to reach those tall upper cabinets.

A toe-kick drawer can also house your pet food if you prefer to keep it out of the way between meals — or if your pet is a bit of an overeater!

Get a clean, classic look by matching the cabinets to avoid a visual break (especially perfect with statement wood floors).

For a richer, traditional look, add faux feet to the cabinet fronts to give built-ins a furniture-inspired feel.

Stainless steel (especially with stainless steel appliances) will let your toe kicks make a subtly modern statement.

Or you can use a hint of color or repeat a beautiful tile — both work great in darker spaces to add some life.

Underlighting isn’t just for cabinets. Glowing toe kicks look great in a space with other modern LED light sources (like in a ceiling alcove).

To make toe kicks disappear, try painting them black or using a dark material …

… or give them a mirrored finish, and your cabinets will appear to float.

Want other uses for your toe kick? Try a modern central vacuum system. You can incorporate a hidden suction port in the toe kick so crumbs and dust can be swept away without your even bending over.

And a toe-kick heat vent will keep you toasty during a meal in your breakfast nook or banquette.

Your guests (and you) will appreciate the extra effort, even if they have no idea that your toe kick packs such a design punch!

Cabinet-S-Top can help you design a kitchen utilizing these toe-kick storage ideas.  Stop by our showroom located at 1977 Medina Road, Medina, OH  44256 ~ 330.239.3630 ~

Monday, September 8, 2014

Bathroom Workbook: The Right Height for Your Sinks, Mirrors and More

Making some bathroom upgrades? Here’s how to place all your main features for the most comfortable, personalized fit

A bathroom layout is mostly a pretty easy decision. If the plumbing is already in place and you’re using standard-size pieces, like a typical 60-inch bathtub, there aren’t a whole lot of options for rearranging that floor plan. However, when bringing your dream design into the real world, you have to consider the third dimension and figure out what height is right for everything you bring into your room. Consider this your guide to hanging, installing and aligning the many small features of your bathroom.


The counter height is typically 32 to 34 in., but what’s actually more important is your sink height.

An above-counter vessel sink will naturally sit much higher than an inset below-counter sink, and so a vessel should be placed on a lowered cabinet to compensate. Ultimately, you should try a few different sinks (in store or in bathrooms you like) and figure out the height that feels most comfortable for you.


Likewise, the height of mirrors should be based on your own height. Find an average eyeline for everyone using the mirrors and make sure this height is well within the upper and lower borders of the mirror (5 ft., 6 in. is average, but your household may vary).

In many situations a centerline can be created between the counter and the ceiling for the most symmetrical look. (Using this same centerline for sconces reinforces the effect, as seen here.)

People often place the bottom edge of the mirror above the faucet, but in fact allowing the two to visually overlap can create a very elegant effect.

Makeup Stations

When combining a standing vanity with a sit-down makeup station, you’ll need to adjust the height down to about 28 in. or lower (minimum: about 24in.).

Try sitting at a real desk or vanity and see if it feels comfortable, considering you’ll be applying makeup rather than typing — going on the low side is better for leaning forward.

Showers Enclosures. I prefer to run shower enclosure glass to the full ceiling height (with the door just slightly below, to allow for a free swing), as I did in the bathroom shown here. An 18-in.-wide fixed panel and a 24-in.-wide door panel work well for a typical 60-in. tub. Place the doorknob at about 36 in. off the floor or wherever is comfortable for you to reach. (Follow the placement of knobs in other rooms that work well for you.)

Benches. Shower benches have lots of practical uses, such as giving you a place to perch your leg when shaving. Thus, the top can sit a bit lower (16in.) than typical seat height.

Showerheads. A showerhead, even a rainshower one, shouldn’t sit so low that you must crouch or so high that the water pelts you rather than gently raining down. A height of 6 ft., 6 in. is typical, but this can be adjusted for taller or shorter bathers. Also keep in mind that it must project far enough for you to stand under it, which is especially important to remember when you have a shower bench or a tub-shower combination.

Niches. I love adding niches to shower areas, for the practical storage capabilities and the beautiful accent. For a tub they make sense just above the tub surface, as you’ll be lying down when you reach for that shampoo, but in a shower they should be much higher, around 48 in., so you don’t have to lean down to reach anything.

Place your shower controls around 42 to 48 in. at the center, and a tub filler 4 to 6 in. above the top of the tub.

Toilet Paper Holders

When placing the paper holder, the tendency can be to picture the roll as hanging lower than it really should. Standard height is about 26 in. off the floor, which is closer to the height of the top of the tank than to the seat, so I recommend placing it on this level for a clean line, like I’ve done in this bathroom. Attaching it to the side of the vanity (toward the front rather than centered, for reachability) is another option for tighter spaces.

Towel Bars and Hooks

For other accessories, like towel hooks and robe hooks, the height is flexible, but consider the length of what will hang. Towels need at least 36 in. typically; washcloths, 18 in.; and robes, 60 in. — it’s best not to eyeball it. A standard towel rail is 48 in. above the floor, but it can be adjusted to line up with something else (like the knob on the shower door or the towel hooks over the vanity) without being too hard to reach.

Designer secret: One of the items that I found often goes the most overlooked in bathroom design is actually one that ironically is best left unseen: the electrical outlets.

Here you’ll notice that the electrical for the vanity seems, well, to not exist at all. That’s because the outlet is actually tucked next to the vanity cabinet, just below the lower edge of the sink counter. This way it’s still conveniently positioned for plugging in a blow-dryer or electric shaver but is visually hidden from many angles.

Need help with your bathroom remodeling project?  Let one of our professional designers help you with every detail to personalize your bathroom.  Cabinet-S-Top is located at 1977 Medina Road, Medina, OH 44256 ~ 330.239.3630 ~

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

The Absolute Right Way to Hang Toilet Paper. Maybe

by Mitchell Parker

Find out whether over or under is ahead in our poll and
see some unusual roll hangers, shelves and nooks

Confession: I’m hung over. No, I didn’t drink too much alcohol last night. What I mean is, my toilet paper hangs over the front of the roll, rather than under (or behind) it. And according to a recent, I’m in the majority.

As of this writing, the poll has topped well over 13,000 votes, with nearly 11,500 (around 85 percent) saying they prefer (demand?) that the roll hangs over. But almost 2,000 people still say they want the sheets to hang under the roll. Maybe they have a point?

Let’s take a look at the most common viewpoints in the over-under debate.

The Case for Over

The fine print.
 If you buy printed or patterned toilet paper, the design usually shows up on only one side of the sheets. If you hang the toilet paper over, then this design is clearly visible as you pull the sheets out and tear them off. If you were to hang the toilet paper under, or behind, you won’t see the design as you unroll the paper. This leads many to believe that the proper way to hang is over.

But maybe they’re all making the same mistake. And if 15 percent of people are hanging their rolls under, toilet paper manufacturers are missing a large market. Someone should come out with a line of toilet paper printed on both sides — or, better yet, on just the underside of the sheets.

Etiquette. Similarly, users say that because hotels hang it over — and neatly fold the tip — this means that over is the proper way. Also, one user commented that this method was even taught in her prep school.

Then maybe hanging under is a form of rebellion, something the cool kids do? For Mitch Wong, the way it’s hung is all a matter of keeping sane. “Over, because of family peace,” he says.

The Case for Under

Cats and babies. Apparently the most popular reason for hanging toilet paper under is that it’s more difficult for tiny creatures to unspool it that way. 

A New Dilemna

But not everyone (gulp) hangs the toilet paper horizontally. Many people now buy hangers that hold rolls vertically, which opens up another huge can of worms. Do you hang it to the left, as seen here?

Or to the right? Or does it depend on which side of the toilet the roll is on? Should it go toward or away from you?

Should it hang to the right but with the sheets gracefully flapping back to the left? Should the sheets go behind altogether?

Or what about those who don’t hang their toilet paper at all? What’s the correct placement here? Is it a matter of which finger you spool the roll on?

And what about here? Are you supposed to give a celebratory low-five slap after each use? Which brings up another point: Some people just want the roll hung. Period.

“My husband has a tendency to set a new roll on top of the old empty tube without actually putting it on the holder,” comments bluenan.  “Really, dude? You can’t stick the thing on while you’re sitting there?! In that case I would just like the new roll put on, and if it’s the wrong way, I can change it later!”

I think I’m just going to hide the roll completely. That way it just doesn’t matter which way it’s hung. (Or does it?)

Cabinet-S-Top, 1977 Medina Road, Medina, OH 44256
330.239.3630 ~