Archive for the ‘Innovative Features’ Category

Sharp microwave drawers

January 12, 2011

When appliances claim to “revolutionize” kitchen design, skepticism is only fair — except in the case of Sharp’s microwave drawer.

Microwave placement poses a problem (it’s an ongoing series for a favorite blogger of mine, Sarah Lloyd of Kitchen Clarity) for many concerned with the aesthetics and functionality of their kitchen.

Standard microwaves easily clutter an otherwise beautiful design, especially within kitchen islands and open-plan kitchens, when placed near eye-level.

And — I’m sorry — but who in her right mind would put a standard microwave under the counter? Retrieving hot and possibly heavy items while bent down begs for trouble.

So when Sharp introduced the first microwave drawer, it truly did offer a solution to what many consider a problem.

The newest 24″ microwave drawer and 30″ microwave drawer models expand capacity (now 1.2 cu. ft and tall enough for 20 oz. coffee cup) within their existing footprints and include new, feedback-driven functions:

  • Short cut options such as “Warm” to heat maple syrup and dessert sauces
  • Keep Warm function maintains the serving temperature for up to 30 minutes
  • Soften and Melt functions keep me from having to press my face up to the microwave glass to make sure I don’t make a buttery mess all over my microwave
  • Sensor Cook settings expanded to include popular items such as brown rice and sweet potatoes
  • Defrost options available for both boneless and bone-in poultry
  • Opens quietly and smoothly (minimizes messes!) automatically at the touch of a button

I’d personally love to have one of these. I use my microwave mostly for defrosting meats, steaming veggies and softening ingredients while cooking, so I like the idea of keeping it tucked away yet accessible.

What do you use your microwave for?

Does the idea of a microwave drawer seem like a novelty or practicality to you?

DIY Network to feature our kitchen showroom on remodel show

December 30, 2010

Appliance specialist Joe Warner suggested this LG gas range for Carrie and Robert, who enjoy cooking and baking.

The DIY Network filmed again yesterday at our Warners’ Stellian Edina showroom, this time for “I Hate My Kitchen.”

Each episode, homeowners receive smart design help to maximize their budget to make their dream kitchens a reality.

>>See photos of the filming

It was fun to watch the crews document the shopping experience of our customers, homeowners Carrie and Robert.

Carrie and Robert are doing a “gut job” of the kitchen in their South Minneapolis home. (Carrie joked that she didn’t let Robert buy a snow blower last winter because she was so set on saving for their kitchen remodel!)

First, we learn about Carrie and Robert:

  • They enjoy cooking (lots of soups!) and baking, and are ready to move from electric to gas cooking.
  • While still a good size for a South Minneapolis kitchen (the home was built in the 1920s), they still want to maximize their space.
  • The current dishwasher is too noisy and doesn’t really offer them much versatility.
  • Carrie and Robert plan on spending a good deal of time in this current house.
  • The appliances will need to complement custom cabinetry, new floors and counter tops.

Based on what he found out from Carrie and Robert, our appliance specialist (and my brother!) Joe Warner suggested the following:

LG 5-burner gas range in stainless steel (LRG3093ST)

Carrie and Robert currently has an LG ceramic top electric range. They like the brand, but want the power and responsiveness of gas cooking. The four main burners offer a range of temperatures, for a low simmer at 5,000 BTUs to a power boil at 17,000 BTUs — and the burners can all be rearranged. So, Carrie can simmer two soups on the back burners while using higher heat on the front-most burners. Also, the fifth burner offers a place to heat oblong pans or place a skillet for breakfast items. The heavy-duty grates offer a continuous surface to easily move pots and pans around.

The oven, with a gorgeous blue finish, is a big, 5.4 cu. ft. capacity, which can accommodate pretty much anything Carrie and Robert will throw at it.

Basically, I’m super jealous.

LG fully integrated steam dishwasher (LDF7932ST)

At 50 decibels, it doesn’t get much quieter than this LG dishwasher. It’s so quiet, in fact, that LED lights tell you when it’s operating and when it’s not. Adjustable racks will accommodate nearly any size pot or pan Carrie and Robert throw at it, and there are even wineglass holders (which Carrie noted will get plenty of use).

Steam bursts through hardened on messes for pots and pans, yet is gentle enough to use with those wineglasses.

Perhaps best of all, the fully integrated finish tucks away the control panel on top of the door and the stainless interior means Carrie and Robert can enjoy the looks for a long time.

How gorgeous is that? Robert and Carrie like this model because:

  • An automatic ice maker means Robert can retire that title from his own name :)
  • The freezer on the bottom configuration and wide, two-door refrigerator allows for plenty of eye-level fresh storage within easy reach
  • The shallow, counter top-depth maximizes the space in their 10′-12′ kitchen

I’m so excited for Carrie and Robert to get delivery on the appliances they picked out. I’ll post pictures afterward in a couple weeks, but unfortunately, we’ll have to wait until the episode airs in September for the big reveal of their custom kitchen remodel.

Christmas-Holiday gift ideas

December 15, 2010

Because most people don’t shop till now anyway, I’m not even going to call this last-minute. But here’s a roundup of unique gift ideas for the people in your life worth gifting to!

For the wine lover, a 16-bottle countertop wine cooler:

For your wino friends (or wannabe winos), this compact wine cooler ($150) stores and displays 16 bottles behind a sleek, mirrored finish door. Adjust temperatures for various wines with the soft touch controls with digital display.

For the tailgater, a mini LP grill:

How awesome would this Weber Q gas grill ($150) be for all those early morning grill outs and picnics? It’s also a very discreet option for those whose apartments or condos don’t allow grills (speaking from experience). This mini grill crams 889 sq. inches of cooking space into a 27″x16″ footprint of only 60 pounds. And you can purchase the optional Weber Q Grill rolling cart for $45.

For the new homeowner or pet owner, a HEPA vacuum cleaner:

For friends and family who’ve recently gained a furry friend, the Dyson Animal DC25 ($550) is probably the ultimate gift. This root cyclone vacuum is designed for homes with pets and is certified asthma and allergy friendly with a washable lifetime HEPA filter.

Miele vacuums, rated to last 20 years, are a great gift for someone just starting out in her home. Plus, they come in cute colors, like this Miele Polaris vacuum in light blue ($399). I’ve blogged about them before, because I love how quiet they are, how well they clean, and how long they last.

Plus, all of our vacuums ship for free nationwide. If you hurry, you could still get it by Christmas!

For the grilling enthusiast, the ultimate smoker:

There aren’t many grills that produce the a fanatic with their own name, like the Big Green Egg does. “Eggheads” rave that this ceramic smoker is the ultimate for meats, fish, vegetables and any other creation grillers cook up.

The Large Big Green Egg (shown, $750) — which is the most popular size — can cook:

  • 20-pound turkey
  • 12 burgers
  • 6 chickens vertically
  • 8 steaks
  • 7 racks of ribs vertically

For the cigar aficionado, a sophisticated stainless steel humidor:



The Liebherr humidor XS-200 is definitely one of those big, spendy holiday gifts, at $2,599. But it’s completely distinctive, with European-style stainless steel and glass displaying cigars housed with premium preservation elements (humidity, temperature and hygienic conditions).

>>See Liebherr cigar humidor blows no smoke

Outdoor kitchen ideas: Part 2

January 18, 2010

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As Susan Serra, CKD pointed out in Outdoor kitchen ideas: Part 1, it’s easy to choose outdoor kitchen appliances like a geek in an Apple store (my words).

We Minnesotans get so excited when we get to spend time outside that doesn’t involve snow shoveling, it’s hard not to want it all when designing our three-months-out-of-the-year haven.

Be smart and think about your own entertaining and lifestyle needs when considering all the options in outdoor kitchen appliances.

Do you want a second kitchen or simply a spot to grill a burger and grab a beer while enjoying the great outdoors?

Gas grill

The workhorse of an outdoor kitchen, gas grills’ speed and convenience work best for weeknight dinners and impromptu get-togethers. If you’re looking to do more, some brands offer innovative features such as:

  • Searing zone to reach high temperatures (700 degrees!) quickly to give your meat a steakhouse-quality exterior
  • Rear infrared burner to deliver consistent, evenly distributed heat for rotisserie cooking
  • Smoker boxes to fill prepackaged hickory or mesquite chips, which give foods a distinctive, smoky flavor
  • Side burners to prepare sauces and sides like beans or vegetables or to keep food warm until it is ready to be served
  • Lighting to illuminate the cooking surface for late-night grilling

Charcoal grill/smoker

As our own grilling guru Stu Glock (also our rep for Holland Grill and the Big Green Egg) says, “You have two cars. Why not two grills?”

Charcoal grills, smokers  and/or cookers deliver flavor you can’t get in a gas grill — if you have hours to get it. Owners of the Big Green Egg rave about the unique flavor of their ribs, brisket and roasts they get in this ceramic cooker. Viking also makes a ceramic cooker, but with a stainless steel finish.

If you have the time to kick back and just grill, the extra time is definitely worth the flavor.

Warming drawers

Cut down on the running back back and forth from your main kitchen. Warming drawers keep grilled food warm (and sanitary) once prepared and work great for make-ahead dishes from your main oven.

I’d probably end up throwing some towels in mine to keep them cozy after a late-night swim. Now if I only had a pool..

Kegerator/beer tapper

Arguably as important as the grill itself is beer on-demand. Aside from the convenience, an outdoor keg fridge makes an unbeatable conversation (and party) starter. DCS, Viking and Marvel make draft beer dispensers specifically for the outdoors.

Outdoor kegerators come in built-in or freestanding. Again, if I only had a pool...

Wine chiller/beverage center

If you’re more of a wine-o than a beer gal like me, you might consider storing your bottles outside, in the proper wine chiller, of course. Look for models with precise temperature controls, racks to accommodate various bottle sizes and minimum vibration.

This Marvel Wine Cellar holds 54 bottles.

Beverage centers, though less precise in temperature control, make a viable option for combination beer/wine/soda, etc. storage.

Refrigeration

“But I already have a wine fridge!”

But your wine fridge is 55 degrees, remember? Even your beverage center isn’t designed to refrigerate food and condiments. Please don’t keep your barbecue meats in a beverage fridge!

Ice maker

If mixed drinks and soda are more your thing, maybe you’d like an ice maker. Marvel‘s and U-line‘s have UL Listed suitable for outdoor use clear ice makers that store 25-30 pounds of ice.

Patio heaters

Denial: it ain't just a river in Africa. It's an outdoor barbecue in St. Paul in October.

I might not have a pool, but living in Minnesota, you better believe I have a patio heater. Fueled by a the same kind gas tank you use for your grill, these easily extend construction season into early winter (or “fall”).

Steam dryer: Not just hot air

December 31, 2009

Iron-a-aphobia? Don't worry, there's help.

Tell me if this has happened to you: You work all day, come home for a quick wardrobe change for a night out (especially on a day like New Year’s Eve) only to find your dress or dress shirt more crinkled than an Ore-Ida — and you don’t have time (or refuse) to iron!

What now? Hang it on the door and turn on a hot shower? I think we’ve all tried that.

Electrolux EIMD551RR, though I prefer to use its middle name, "Lifesaver."

Now I just toss it in my Electrolux steam dryer for a refresh and throw it on 15 minutes later. This one has rescued me so many times.

In steam refresh cycles, a small amount of water is sprayed into the dryer drum after several minutes of tumbling with heat. The dryer will continue to tumble at regular heat for the duration of the cycle to reduce wrinkles, static and odors in fabrics. Of course, some fabrics release wrinkles easier than others, but I like prepping heavily wrinkled clothes with a steam cycle so they’re easier to iron.

But steam dryers aren’t just for procrastinators/wrinkled-clothes wearers.

LG DLEX2501V

The LG TrueSteam Dryer (among others) has a SteamSanitary™ cycle, which is NSF certified to eliminate 99.3% of 3 common infectious bacteria. Think of all those decorative pillows, comforters and children’s toys and stuffed animals that can’t be washed, but need to be sanitized for allergy-sufferers and to ward off cold/flu this season.

Whirlpool WED9500TW

While not cheap, steam models aren’t too much of upgrade from a comparable model, money-wise. The LG steam electric dryer  in white is on sale for $999 until Monday, Jan. 4, and the Whirlpool steam electric dryer pictured to the right is on sale for $799 while quantities last.

Next week, I’ll be in hot water…talking about steam washers. OK, no more bad idioms until the New Year, I promise :) .

Photo credit (wrinkled shirt): http://www.flickr.com/photos/foshie/ / CC BY 2.0


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