This is a quick article on kitchen design, assuming you are lucky enough to be able to plan your own kitchen layout or redesign a poorly laid out kitchen. Where your appliances are located will determine how easily you can work in the kitchen or how crowded it will feel if too many people are in there at the same time. If you have the flexibility, separate your kitchen space into three sections. Place your food storage (refrigerator, freezer and pantry) apart from your cooking appliances (range, oven, cookware), and apart from your clean-up area (sink, dishwasher and dish storage). See below for some common examples.

Also consider the symmetry of your layout and select base and wall cabinets that align with each other vertically as much as possible. For instance, place a 36-inch wall cabinet directly above a 36-inch base cabinet. Try not to choose too many different sizes of cabinets or it will look more like a puzzle than a well laid out row of cabinets.

Many kitchens or wall units include glass doors for places where you may want to display your kitchenware, photos, or other objects, but don’t want them completely exposed. Bookcases can also have glass doors to cover electronic components without interfering with the infra-red remote control signal. An alternative is wire mesh, which allows you to see what is inside, but provides a more decorative appearance.

Below is an example of a bookcase made with glass doors where the glass has been replaced with an oil-rubbed bronze wire mesh.

Bookcase with glass doors converted to wire mesh

To install the mesh, the glass was first removed and replaced with a custom-cut piece of wire mesh. Most glass doors have clips that hold the glass panel in place, but we use plastic material that is inserted into a slot along the inside edge of the door frame. The plastic strip can hold either a glass panel or the wire mesh, or probably any other kind of thin panel.

Plastic strip used to hold panel in door frame (back view of door).

The wire mesh used in this piece is a 1/4″ thick round wire that has been crimped and has an opening size of 1/2″, which makes it fairly easy to see through without making it too open.

Wire mesh is generally sold in sheets that are at least 36″ x 48″, so you would need to cut it to fit your door openings with a good wire cutter.

Wire cutter to cut 1/4″ wire mesh.

Adding a good quality wire mesh to a door isn’t cheap, but it can dramatically enhance the look of your cabinets or bookcases!

Small-business owners and entrepreneurs who work from home could save big money on their taxes by taking the home office deduction, as long as they meet the IRS’ requirements and keep good records.

If you use part of your home regularly and exclusively for business-related activity, the IRS lets you write off associated rent, utilities, real estate taxes, repairs, maintenance and other related expenses. Here’s what small businesses should know about the home office deduction.

Who qualifies for the home office deduction

You can claim the deduction whether you’re a homeowner or a renter, and you can use the deduction for any type of home where you reside: a single-family home, an apartment, a condo or a houseboat. You can’t use it for a hotel or other temporary lodging.

The home office deduction rules also apply to freestanding structures. You can use a studio, garage or barn space as your home office as long as the structure meets the “exclusive and regular use” requirements.

Here are the conditions you’ll need to meet:

Regular and exclusive use: The space you’re using for business must be used exclusively for conducting business. For example, using a spare bedroom as both your office and a playroom for your children likely makes you ineligible.

There are two exceptions. If you provide day care services for children, elderly (65 or older) or handicapped individuals in that part of the house, you can probably still claim business deductions, as long as you have a license, certification or approval as a day care center under state law, according to the IRS. The other exception is if you use the office for storage of inventory or product samples you sell in your business.

Principal place of business: Although your home office doesn’t have to be the only place you meet your clients or customers, it must be your principal place of business. That means you use the space exclusively and regularly for administrative or management activities, such as billing customers, setting up appointments and keeping books and records, according to the IRS.

» Ready to work with a financial planner? The form below will put you in touch with an advisor at Facet Wealth, a fee-only, fiduciary online planning firm. They aren’t tax preparers, but they can help you with tax and estate planning.

How to determine your home office deduction

You can determine the value of your deduction the easy way or the hard way.

  • With the simplified option, you aren’t deducting actual expenses. Instead, the square footage of your space is multiplied by a prescribed rate. The rate is $5 per square foot for up to 300 square feet of space.
  • The regular, more difficult method values your home office by measuring actual expenditures against your overall residence expenses. You can deduct mortgage interest, taxes, maintenance and repairs, insurance, utilities and other expenses.

You can use Form 8829 to figure out the expenses you can deduct.

Simplified version vs. actual expense deduction

The choice whether to use the simplified deduction, if you’re eligible for it, or to deduct actual expenses depends mainly on which would net you the bigger tax deduction.

The actual expense method

If you use the actual-expenses method, you can deduct direct expenses — such as painting or repairs solely in the home office — in full. Indirect expenses — mortgage interest, insurance, home utilities, real estate taxes, general home repairs — are deductible based on the percentage of your home used for business.

Example: Let’s say you paid $3,000 in mortgage interest, $1,000 in insurance premiums and $3,000 in utilities (all indirect expenses) plus $500 on a home office paint job (direct expense) during the year. Your home office takes up 300 square feet in a 2,000-square-foot home, so may be eligible to deduct indirect expenses on 15% of your home.

That could mean a deduction of $1,050 in indirect expenses ($7,000 in expenses, multiplied by the 15% of space used in the home), plus $500 for the direct expense of painting the home office, for a total deduction of $1,550.»

The simplified version

If your home office is 300 square feet or less and you opt to take the simplified deduction, the IRS gives you a deduction of $5 per square foot of your home that is used for business, up to a maximum of $1,500 for a 300-square-foot space.

In this case, using the simplified method could make more sense because you’d get only $50 more in deductions by documenting actual expenses. You should also consider the time it will take you to gather receipts and records.

  • The simplified method can work well for single-room offices and small operations.
  • The actual-expenses method might work better if the business makes up a large part of the home.

Things to watch out for

  • Receipts. If you plan on deducting actual expenses, keep detailed records of all the business expenses you think you’ll deduct, such as receipts for equipment purchases, electric bills, utility bills and repairs. If you’re ever audited by the IRS, you’ll be prepared to back up your claims.
  • Anxiety. Don’t let the fear of an audit keep you from taking the home office deduction.
  • Home sales. If you’re a homeowner and you take the home office deduction using the actual-expenses method, it could cancel out your ability to avoid capital gains tax when selling your primary residence. People who sell their primary residence after having lived in it for at least two of the five years before the sale generally don’t have to pay taxes on up to $250,000 in profit on the sale, or $500,000 if married filing jointly, according to IRS Publication 523.
  • Depreciation. If you use the actual-expenses method, you’re required to depreciate the value of your home. Depreciation refers to an income tax deduction that lets taxpayers recover the costs of property, due to wear and tear, deterioration or obsolescence of the property, according to the IRS. The depreciation you’re required to take in home office deductions is subject to capital gains tax when you sell your home. For example, if you own your home, use 20% of it as a home office and deduct depreciation, 20% of your profit on the home’s sale may be subject to capital gains tax. However, if you use the simplified method, depreciation isn’t a factor and you may not be subject to the tax.

The rules on tax deductions for a home office can be hard to digest. Consult with a tax advisor or use the appropriate online tax software if you’re unsure about how to proceed.

Read more at: https://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/taxes/home-office-tax-deductions-small-business/

COVID-19 has brought unprecedented human and humanitarian challenges. Many companies around the world have risen to the occasion, acting swiftly to safeguard employees and migrate to a new way of working that even the most extreme business-continuity plans hadn’t envisioned. Across industries, leaders will use the lessons from this large-scale work-from-home experiment to reimagine how work is done—and what role offices should play—in creative and bold ways.

Before the pandemic, the conventional wisdom had been that offices were critical to productivity, culture, and winning the war for talent. Companies competed intensely for prime office space in major urban centers around the world, and many focused on solutions that were seen to promote collaboration. Densification, open-office designs, hoteling, and co-working were the battle cries.

But estimates suggest that early this April, 62 percent of employed Americans worked at home during the crisis,1 compared with about 25 percent a couple of years ago. During the pandemic, many people have been surprised by how quickly and effectively technologies for videoconferencing and other forms of digital collaboration were adopted. For many, the results have been better than imagined.

According to McKinsey research, 80 percent of people questioned report that they enjoy working from home. Forty-one percent say that they are more productive than they had been before and 28 percent that they are as productive. Many employees liberated from long commutes and travel have found more productive ways to spend that time, enjoyed greater flexibility in balancing their personal and professional lives, and decided that they prefer to work from home rather than the office. Many organizations think they can access new pools of talent with fewer locational constraints, adopt innovative processes to boost productivity, create an even stronger culture, and significantly reduce real-estate costs.

These same organizations are looking ahead to the reopening and its challenges. Before a vaccine is available, the office experience probably won’t remain as it was before the pandemic. Many companies will require employees to wear masks at all times, redesign spaces to ensure physical distancing, and restrict movement in congested areas (for instance, elevator banks and pantries). As a result, even after the reopening, attitudes toward offices will probably continue to evolve.

But is it possible that the satisfaction and productivity people experience working from homes is the product of the social capital built up through countless hours of water-cooler conversations, meetings, and social engagements before the onset of the crisis? Will corporate cultures and communities erode over time without physical interaction? Will planned and unplanned moments of collaboration become impaired? Will there be less mentorship and talent development? Has working from home succeeded only because it is viewed as temporary, not permanent?

The reality is that both sides of the argument are probably right. Every organization and culture is different, and so are the circumstances of every individual employee. Many have enjoyed this new experience; others are fatigued by it. Sometimes, the same people have experienced different emotions and levels of happiness or unhappiness at different times. The productivity of the employees who do many kinds of jobs has increased; for others it has declined. Many forms of virtual collaboration are working well; others are not. Some people are getting mentorship and participating in casual, unplanned, and important conversations with colleagues; others are missing out.

Read more at:

https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/organization/our-insights/reimagining-the-office-and-work-life-after-covid-19#

1. Remove the doors and drawer fronts

Mark them with a number or location, so you know where each cabinet door or drawer front goes when you complete the job. Remove the hinges and hardware with a screwdriver. To remove the drawer front, take a screwdriver, and remove the screws from the back of the wood panel.

2. Prepare the surfaces

Unfinished cabinets might have some unfilled nail holes or imperfections, so they may need a little wood putty. If you plan to stain, use a stainable putty. If you plan to paint, a white putty would be good. You might need to lightly sand and prepare the surface before applying your first coat of stain or paint.

Most manufacturers will have already done the majority of sanding. Some light sanding with fine-grit sandpaper (about 200-400 grit) will help you get the smooth finish you desire. If the surface is not already smooth or you have to remove imperfections, start with 120 grit sandpaper and then switch to a more fine grit. As you start to prep your drawer fronts and cabinet doors, there are a couple of things you’ll want to focus on:

  • Wear protective glasses and a mask to protect you from getting the fine sawdust in your eyes or lungs.
  • Always sand with the grain, whether it’s vertical or horizontal.
  • Sand gently by hand. You’re trying to get a clean, smooth finish.
  • If you prefer to use a powered hand sander, be very careful. You don’t want to sand unevenly or leave some indents or scratches on your door surface.
  • Make sure you wipe off all the wood dust on the cabinet doors and drawer fronts once completed. Wipe the cabinet components with a damp cloth to remove any dirt or debris.
  • Each time you sand the panels, use a hand vacuum and a tack cloth to remove the dust left over from sanding.

3. Choose a finish or paint color

Choose a finish color for your cabinets and drawer or enhance the natural pattern in the wood grain with a colorless polyurethane finish.

  • Leave your existing wood unfinished: If you like the current natural wood color of your cabinets, you could apply a finish without painting or staining them. A colorless polyurethane finish protects your wood cabinetry from moisture and stain damage.
  • Complement the color of your rooms: Most kitchens and bathrooms are monochromatic for a clean, modern look. You can add a mix of colors to change up the look of your living space. Consider making your cabinet doors a contrasting color to your cabinets. You could also choose different colors for high and low cabinets.
  • Choose between natural wood or a different paint color: One natural wood panel is different from others that look like it. If you’d rather have a bold, uniform look, use any color paint you want on your wood cabinet doors and drawer fronts. White cabinets add a modern, clean look to your bathroom or kitchen. Before you choose a paint color, check the paint’s label to find out if you can use it on wood.
  • Consider the texture of your finish: You could choose between matte, semi-gloss and glossy. A matte finish creates a more opaque appearance. A glossy finish adds a reflection to your wood cabinet doors and drawer fronts. How you want to stain unfinished drawer fronts depends on your style.

4. See below for details about painting or staining.

What is the best way to paint unfinished kitchen cabinets?

The best way to paint kitchen cabinets is with a paintbrush and a small roller. Spray painting is also an option if you want the process to move more quickly, but it can be tricky. Done improperly, you can have thicker spots that will not sand evenly or thin spots where the paint does not evenly cover the surface. 

Start by removing all of the hinges, hardware, doors and drawers from your cabinets. Label each door with masking tape so you’ll remember which one goes where and put all of the hardware in plastic bags so you don’t lose anything. If you can fit a worktable in your kitchen, it will be much easier to paint the doors. 2×4 wood boards propped on buckets, boxes, or work horses will also do. If you don’t have those materials, work on top of a drop cloth.

You’ll want to prep all of the doors and drawers properly to ensure your paint will stick. Start this process by scrubbing your cabinets to get rid of any grease or residue. If you’re planning to use new hardware, cover the current holes with wood filler. Next, use 100-grit sandpaper to make all of the surfaces smooth and make sure to wipe away any dust with a tack cloth before drilling your new holes. To ensure a nice finish, use caulk to fill in any gaps or seams.

If you want professional-style results, it’s imperative to prime the boxes, door fronts and drawers before you begin painting. Once your primer has dried, use an angled brush and a mini foam roller to apply your paint. A latex satin finish works well on kitchen cabinets and it isn’t as hard to work with as oil paint. Start working in sections with your angled brush and go over your work with the roller for a perfect finish. When you’re done painting, you can also use very fine grit sandpaper for a final sanding and even a coat of a satin polycrylic for extra durability as well. Once your paint has dried, reinstall the doors and drawers and install your hardware.

Spray paint is another option for painting kitchen cabinets, but this process is best done outside or in a designated workspace so you don’t have to worry about overspray. If spray painting your cabinets, you’ll follow the same process as above but instead of working with a paint brush and roller you’ll use spray paint instead.

What is the best way to stain unfinished kitchen cabinets?

There are liquid and gel-based stains. Liquid stains are applied similar to how you paint. Start by sanding and conditioning the wood, then apply the stain with a bristle or foam brush. After that’s dry, put on two coats of polyurethane and your cabinets will look just as good as any professional could have done for you.

  • After sanding, apply a wood conditioner to seal the wood and allow it to better accept the stain.
  • Apply liquid stain with a bristle or foam brush or a rag.
  • Use a rag to work stain down into the pores of the wood.
  • Make a final pass working in the grain of the wood.
  • Once the stain has dried, lightly sand again with a very fine sandpaper.
  • Apply a clear polyurethane top coat with a brush, taking care not to brush too quickly, which could create bubbles in the finish. Use an oil-based polyurethane with an oil-based stain or a water-based product with water-based stain.
  • Once the polyurethane has dried, lightly sand again with a very fine sandpaper.

Instead of a traditional liquid stain, try a gel stain, which is thick like pudding. Gel stain is applied to the surface of the wood but not rubbed-in like traditional stains; the application is more comparable to painting on multiple thin layers.

  • While gel stain does go on thick and sit on the surface of the wood, I found that you can still see and feel the natural wood grain beneath, unlike paint.
  • Gel stain will not require you to sand the product to a raw wood finish. It can be applied over only lightly sanded pieces just as well.
  • The condition of the wood does not play as big of a role in the finished result of the gel stain. For instance, the knots in your knotty pines will look less pronounced when the job is done.
  • Gel stain is more forgiving. Because you will need to do multiple coats, you can even out the finish over time.
  • The first coat of stain is an important one. Specialists and makers of the product advise one to apply a thick first coat — so thick that you could theoretically finger paint in it. Do not wipe it clean like you would a normal stain, but also do not leave it so heavy that it is inclined to drip. Wipe the excess gel off with a rag after it has had time to soak in. 
  • Apply 3-4 coats of gel stain. Each coat of stain needs about 24 hours to dry, so plan accordingly. Continue doing daily layers of stain in the same way until you can no longer see streaks in the finish.
  • Once the final coat of stain is dry, you may want to apply a polyurethane finish to seal the stain. Roughly 1-2 coats will do.

Furniture tariffs are soon to hit consumers (possibly by October 2018), so the time to buy is now! According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, new tariffs have been proposed on $200 billion of Chinese imports, including many types of furniture and materials. Some economists say that “at least some Chinese factories, fueled by government subsidies and a devalued currency, are selling products at or below what it costs to make them.”

While our products are all made in the USA, some raw materials, such as plywood, are processed in China. It sounds crazy, but wood is often shipped from the US to Chinese factories that are able to process it into plywood and ship it back at a lower price than manufacturers in the USA are able to achieve. With fuel prices up and tariffs on top of that, it will be more expensive to export and re-import such materials.

The good news is that American companies will be better able to compete, so tariffs could support more American jobs. The bad news is that it will cost more for almost all kinds of furniture. So, I would suggest buying soon before prices jump!

For more information, check out these articles:
https://www.cnbc.com/2018/07/25/tariffs-are-about-to-hit-consumers-and-it-wont-be-pretty.html
https://www.floordaily.net/floorfocus/chinese-furniture-may-face-us-tariffs