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You Too Could Have a Self-Cleaning Home, If You Give Up Everything You Love

Illustration via Classic Film

A belated New York Times obituary pays tribute to inventor Frances Gabe, who designed, built, and lived in “the world’s only self-cleaning home.” Gabe comes across as a delightful and ingenious crank in a home full of “Honey I Shrunk the Kids” contraptions. Her big idea: Turn the average home into a giant dishwasher.

Gabe used her house as the prototype for a technology she hoped to spread across the country. It was a messy execution, hacked together with existing materials and a cement mixer in the yard, with ceiling sprinklers that rained down on waterproofed rooms. The floors were slightly sloped and coated in varnish, the bed covered in a canopy, the books protected by “waterproof jackets.” And the pipes would burst, spraying water in unwanted directions, as caught on video by the local news:

But this is the nature of prototypes. They haven’t been run through the design department; no one has picked a consumer-friendly color; they don’t come with accessories to fill in the gaps.



Cleaning is not easy. It means putting dirt, or “matter out of place,” back where it belongs. Fundamentally, it’s a fight against entropy, a losing battle that creates its own temporary mess with soap and water and bags full of garbage. This most difficult work is assigned overwhelmingly to women, then devalued as a subservient role. The 3 million Americans working as janitors and maids make well under $30,000 on average; millions of stay-at-home spouses work for whatever their partners grant them; and millions more take on cleaning as a thankless “second shift” in their off-hours from full-time jobs.

While housework technology has made massive strides over the past century, it remains highly un-automated. The existing innovations involve trade-offs. The washing machine and dishwasher are less precise and more aggressive than hand-washing. The Swiffer requires refills and creates trash. The Roomba has trouble with complex floor-carpet topography. We make allowances for these machines; we buy dishwasher-safe glassware and easy-to-wipe countertops. All Gabe asked for were a few more of these allowances, in exchange for a life free of scouring and scrubbing and stooping.

In certain cases, this is an excellent trade-off. Ovens bake their own grime off; Teflon-treated clothes and cookware wick away unwanted grime. Cities like Paris, Boston, and San Francisco maintain self-cleaning public toilets, which hose themselves down much like Gabe’s kitchen. An example from Dresden:

A self-cleaning public bathroom is Gabe’s vision brought to life where it matters most. The demo video above looks a lot like the following tongue-in-cheek simulation of Gabe’s house, made by artist Lily Benson after a visit to the real thing.



In this low-fi CGI treatment, comically unrealistic blobs of water pour chaotically over the kitchen furniture. It makes the downsides obvious, but it also shows just how much Gabe’s vision resembles other grand concepts like space elevators or Elon Musk’s Hyperloop. Every big idea looks ridiculous in its early stages.

In the case of Gabe’s house, even the basic concepts can seem ludicrous. It asks you to entirely rethink your priorities. Would you fill your house only with waterproof items, just to avoid mopping and dusting? Would you constantly drench all your dishes in water to avoid unloading the dishwasher?

These don’t seem so extreme when compared to the compromises we already agree to: Would you buy lettuce in a bag so you didn’t have to wash it? Would you maintain a database of your friends so you could keep in touch? Would you cover the earth in pavement to move around it faster? Would you spend your life staring into lights, to make more time for staring into more lights?

Ultimately, the public wasn’t ready to make Gabe’s proposed tradeoffs, but like the nuclear car, the supersonic airliner, and the modular phone, they were still important to consider. The self-cleaning house doesn’t exist as a template for the home of the future. It exists to teach us a lesson: There’s always room to increase efficiency, if you’re ready to lower your standards.

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Franke Reimagines Contemporary Luxury with New Italian-Inspired Pescara Collection

SMYRNA, TN–(Marketwired – Jul 20, 2017) – Franke is introducing to North American clientele its new Pescara Collection, a contemporary family of sinks and faucets with clean lines and a large, open workspace inspired by Italian tradition and its artisan culture. Now available in showrooms nationwide from a global leader in the manufacture of luxury sinks and faucets, Pescara sinks are made from the highest quality Franke stainless steel; exceptionally resistant to staining, rust and corrosion; remarkably durable; and an embodiment of contemporary elegance. Pescara faucets redefine functionality from the inside out, particularly the Semi-Professional model which features an innovative rear-docking spray head.

“Franke envisions the sink and faucet as the center of the kitchen, the appliances we use most often and the point where we congregate most naturally. Our Pescara Collection elevates the sink and faucet experience to its rightful place in the heart of the home,” said Oliver Bahr, president, Franke Kitchen Systems North America. “Designed with the simplicity and style of Italian seaside resorts in mind, Pescara delivers true flexibility and flow — making sink spaces more expansive, water use more environmentally sensitive, and luxury more functional.”

Franke Pescara sinks — available in seven sizes that range from a 14-inch prep sink to a 31-inch single bowl sink –feature 18-gauge Franke stainless steel; tight corners; square drain designs; and Franke’s patented integral ledge system that incorporates a shelf grid to create a raised surface, making it easier and more comfortable to work at the sink.

Pescara accessories offer endless practicality for cooking, prepping and cleaning. Consumers can transform Pescara sinks into multifunctional workstations with optional accessories designed for the countertop ledge or integral ledge, including:

  • Square Drain Cover – Franke’s signature square drain cover is more than attractive; it keeps the sink bowl flat so stemware and other dishes don’t tip.
  • Stainless Steel Bottom Grid – Protect your sink against scratches, and ensure easy access to the sink’s unique and stylish square drain cover.
  • Tempered Glass Cutting Board – Prep your meal or use the cutting board as a serving tray for entertaining.
  • Stainless Steel Sink Butler – Store food scraps, cleaning utensils and more with this unique, vented-bottom bin designed to sit on the countertop ledge and fit perfectly in the corner of the sink.
  • Dual Purpose Shelf Grid – Use the grid on the integrated ledge to rinse vegetables or as a trivet.
  • Extra-large colander – Rinse produce or drain pasta with this custom colander.

Franke’s award-winning Pescara faucets have architecturally precise lines and are sold in a variety of styles. Pescara’s Semi-Professional faucets — available in three sizes — feature 360-degree spout swivel ranges and intuitive switches that allow users to easily toggle between full and needle spray. One Pescara Semi-Professional faucet model (available in either satin nickel or polished chrome) features an innovative, dual-function hose: water flows effortlessly from the spout when it’s in its magnetic docking station; simply remove the hose from its dock, touch a toggle switch, and it transforms into a spray hose that has extended reach to every corner of the sink. Once finished, simply set the hose back into the dock, and the faucet spray reverts to its original full flow path. This unique feature doubles the spray reach and minimizes the hose length. Additional Pescara faucet styles include: the Prep Faucet with a 360-degree spout swivel range; the Deck Mount Pot Filler with both hot and cold water inputs; and the Wall Mount Pot Filler.

Franke’s Pescara sinks are sold exclusively at Franke retailers for an MSRP between $549 and $949 (depending on size). Similarly, Franke’s Pescara faucets are sold exclusively at Franke retailers for an MSRP between $395 and $795 (depending on style and finish). For more details on Franke’s new Pescara sinks and faucets or to find a store near you, visit

About Franke Group

Franke belongs to the Artemis Group and is a world-leading provider of solutions for residential kitchens and bathrooms, public washrooms, professional foodservice and coffee preparation. The Group operates worldwide and employs around 9,000 people in 40 countries. For more information, visit

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Can an electric fireplace revive this forgettable living room?

(The Washington Post)

Katie Ryan wants to make the 13-by-15-foot living room of her Silver Spring Cape Cod feel more like an attractive and comfortable place to relax, and less like a pass-through from the front door to the kitchen and family room. None of the furniture or accessories need to stay in the space, and she is open to a variety of design styles. Ryan would like to add a mantel or similar shelving to create a focal point, as hers is one of a few houses in the neighborhood without a fireplace.

(Leah L. Jones/For The Washington Post)

Designer Regan Botts Ruiz suggests removing the chair rail and painting the walls one color for a more streamlined, contemporary look. She chooses smaller accessories and furnishings that better fit the space.

(Interior rendering by Rodney Co/3D Storm Studio/for The Washington Post)

Choose an open-style bookcase to display art, books and photos without weighing down the room. An L-shaped sectional fits the rectangular shape of the room well while also providing ample comfortable seating. Give the room a cozier feeling with warm beige paint. Try Stone House by Benjamin Moore. Deep jewel tones on the seating, textiles and window treatments add warmth. Add an electric fireplace to anchor the space and serve as a beautiful and functional focal point. Brushed finishes on the tables and bookcase give the room a vintage vibe. A large framed mirror in front of the sofa adds dimension and reflects light.

(Courtesy of Regan Botts Ruiz; The Washington Post)

Ruiz, with Regan Ruiz Inc. (, 202-581-8100), is based in the District.

(Wayfair; American Freight)

SPLURGE: Wath-Upon-Dearne sectional in navy ($1,295.17,, left. SAVE: Nile blue two-piece sectional sofa ($598, american

(World Market; Wayfair)

SPLURGE: Rustic metal Bryson truss shelf ($999.99,, left. SAVE: 66-inch étagère bookcase ($283.99,

Furniture: Dillon cocktail ottoman in Milan chocolate ($838,; Colton mix-and-match desk in burnished gold ($199.99 for base and $129.99 for glass top), Palomino Paige round-back dining chairs ($399.98 for two) and blue linen Paige backless counter stool ($149.99), all from; teal nesting tables ($199.95,

Accessories: Vibrant paisley grommet curtain ($44.95-$59.95,; Vienna Full Spectrum glimmer crystal orb floor lamps ($179.99 each) and set of two 31-inch square stained-glass wall art ($393.80), both from; 32-by-66-inch barn wood wall or floor mirror in blond/brown ($230.16,; Martins 8-by-10-foot area rug in ivory/beige ( $334.74) and “Pure Love” 26-by-38-inch print with white frame ($217.20), both from Materials: Simulated electric fireplace ($689.99,

More from House Calls:

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See answers to frequently asked questions about House Calls here

Tell us about your own design challenge here

See past room makeovers by local designers here

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Selling? Look at a home from buyer’s perspective.

Rick Bisson“You’ll never get a second chance to create a great first impression,” rings true as ever when it comes to selling a home. No matter how good the interior of a home looks, buyers judge a home before they walk through the door. Simply mowing the lawn, raking fallen leaves and pulling weeds can do wonders to improve the overall appearance of the home’s exterior. Go above and beyond by adding a new doormat, a potted or hanging plant and new house numbers.

Most buyers decide if they want to buy a house within the first few minutes of entering it. The entryway sets the tone for the whole house. That’s a big responsibility for what is generally a small space. Staging the entryway communicates the desired feelings potential buyers should have as they walk through the home. Add a runner and a mirror that match the home’s aesthetic to make the space look bigger. Add a few finishing touches by putting in a small bench, a vase of fresh-cut flowers or even some cookies.

For potential buyers, the kitchen is the room that can make or break the sale. An upgraded, attractive kitchen can make the home irresistible. Countertops are highly visible, so if any kind of rip-and-replace work will be done, this is the place. Fixtures and hardware are also surprisingly effective kitchen upgrades. Polish off the kitchen by clearing extra appliances off the counters, removing all messages and clippings from the refrigerator and adding a new throw rug.

When buyers tour homes for sale, they’re taking a close look at the bathrooms. For some, the sheer number of bathrooms in a home is critical – for others it is the condition of the existing bathrooms. If the bathroom is outdated, consider replacing the vanity and sink with a more updated look. Much like in the kitchen, fixtures and hardware are also surprisingly effective kitchen upgrades. Give the bathroom a new feel by replacing the old shower curtain, adding coordinated towels and accessories and organizing the linen closet.

As homey and warm as a bedroom may be, a personalized, lived-in look won’t help it sell the house. Consider swapping out window dressings and bedding for a more spacious, calm, neat and elegant look. Storage is something every buyer is looking for and can never have enough of. Take half the stuff out of the closets then neatly organize what’s left in there. Round out the bedrooms by adding a few elegant decorative pillows and a new accent rug.

The living areas are often the focal point as they may be the main entertaining spaces in the home. If the room tends to be dark and crowded, consider adding additional lamps and removing excess furniture. If applicable, consider cleaning the fireplace. Add a few finishing touches by displaying linens on the table, adding a new area rug, and adding a vase of fresh-cut flowers.

To some buyers, the basement and garage are expendable. To others, these areas are indispensable. If the home has these areas, capitalize on them. Box up and store any unnecessary items, organize all areas and broom sweep the floor areas. Finish up by removing any cobwebs and adding additional storage systems.

First impressions are everything. If you are considering selling your home, be sure to get in touch with your local Realtor, who can take a look at your home through fresh eyes and advise you which updates will help your home create the strongest impression for potential buyers.

This column is produced by Rick Bisson and his family, who own Bisson Real Estate with Keller Williams Realty of Midcoast and Sugarloaf.





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Create an endless summer in your kitchen remodel


Whether it’s one of your first summers in Colorado, or you’ve weathered the seasons for a long time, Coloradans love their 300 days of sunshine a year.  If you dream of dinners on the patio during cold winter months, why not bring elements of summer into your kitchen remodel?  While enjoying the long days and nice weather, take a moment to consider what aspects of summer could be brought into your kitchen.

Light and color

Including color that evokes summer nostalgia is a great way to bring touches of the outside into the inside year-round.  Whether done through the addition of custom painted cabinets or with accessories placed throughout the kitchen, natural light will accentuate the color palette of your design.  Think skylights, large windows and dramatic floor-to-ceiling glass doors to bring in as much sunlight as possible to highlight your cabinets and keep your kitchen feeling open and airy.

Continuous elements

Create an extended sense of space by adding continuity between the inside and the outside of your home.  Ask your kitchen designer about incorporating exterior cabinets constructed to withstand heat, cold, and moisture.  Having an outdoor kitchen area that connects to your indoor kitchen is a great way to entertain during the summer and will provide more options for cooking and grilling.  Outdoor cabinets are equally useful for storing seasonal items when not in use.  To further develop a cohesive look, choose flooring, tile and countertops that showcase natural elements, such as stone, pebbles, recycled glass and wood.   

Outlets to the outside

During summer, a large glass doorway leading to the backyard can ease traffic flow. In winter, this doorway can bring extra light and warmth to your kitchen.  Oversized doors are great for adding a sense of continuity between your home and the natural world outside without compromising on comfort.

While you’re enjoying your summer cookouts and relishing in the sunshine, think about how you can bring elements of the outdoors into your kitchen remodel.

For more information and design assistance, contact us.

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Odd Fellows plan fundraiser Sunday to benefit many

The Athens Odd Fellows Lodge No. 961 has the skillets handy for a fundraiser on Sunday.

The organization will be cooking up chicken fried steak and some sides from 11:30 a.m. until 2 p.m. The Odd Fellows Lodge is located at 1301 Cayuga Dr. on the southwest side of Athens.

“After church, you can come by, and join us for some good food and fellowship,” Odd Fellows member Dan Reynolds said.

The chicken fried steaks and gravy head up the menu that also includes mashed potatoes, a vegetable and bread. The cost is $8 for adults, and $5 for children 12 and under.

“The money raised will benefit the scholarship fund, local food pantries, volunteer fire departments and other charities,” Reynolds said.

For more than 25 years, the Athens Odd Fellows and Rebekah Lodges have been presenting scholarships to graduating seniors from local high schools. The Odd Fellows team up with Trinity Valley Community College to fund the scholarships.

In May, the lodge presented checks to seven students who will be attending Trinity Valley Community College in 2017-2018.

Odd Fellows recently presented a check to the Henderson County Food Pantry in Athens, and from time-to-time gives checks to other area food pantries.

The Odd Fellows No. 961 website said the organization offers “a unique environment of caring and supportive folks to learn and grow with. We strive to become better people. Odd Fellowship is a way to support many local, national and international charities.”

The Independent Order of Odd Fellows or Odd Fellows is a non-political and non-sectarian international fraternal order founded in 1819.

Some goals of the organization are to improve and elevate the character of mankind by promoting the principles of friendship, love, truth, faith, hope, charity and universal justice, and to help by aiding each other in times of need. That’s done through organizing charitable projects and activities to benefit the less fortunate, the youth, the elderly, the environment and the community.

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Turn the kitchen sink into a beautiful, functional focal point

(BPT) – When you’re updating a kitchen, it’s time to ignore that old adage “everything but the kitchen sink.” Many homeowners don’t think about replacing their kitchen sink unless it’s broken, ancient or they’re upgrading countertops. However, the sink has the potential to be the perfect focal point of beauty and functionality in any kitchen.

Whether you’re undertaking a full kitchen renovation, or simply looking for a cost-effective way to freshen an existing room, replacing the sink offers many benefits.

Reasons to replace

Swapping out an old kitchen sink with a new one allows you to:

Change a key style element in the kitchen – The style of sink should underscore the overall design theme of the kitchen. If you have a white porcelain apron sink in a modern kitchen, a stainless steel sink like the Ludington line from Sterling might better match your decor.

Add features and functions – Do you always run out of working room in your single-bowl sink? Replacing it with a dual-bowl unit can increase your work area, plus give you the opportunity to add a garbage disposal on one side. When you replace your sink, it’s also natural to replace the faucet, allowing you to choose one that better meets your needs, such as a pull-down or touch-free unit.

Improve performance – Perhaps the existing sink is too shallow to comfortably allow for filling large cook pots. Or, overmount installation makes it difficult to keep the sink and surrounding countertop as clean as you would like. Replacing an underperforming sink with a new one allows you to increase sink depth and create an easier environment for cleaning.

Top kitchen sink trends

Some sink styles are timeless, like stainless steel. Still, trends constantly emerge in sink design and in how homeowners incorporate sinks into their kitchens. If you’re considering replacing your kitchen sink, here are some trends to keep in mind:

Two sinks can be better than one – Houzz reports a growing number of builders are including two kitchen sinks in new homes. The design improves workflow, allowing one sink to work for food prep and the second for cleanup. A typical arrangement is to have one sink in a kitchen island and a second in the wall-hugging countertop area.

Stainless steel still has staying power – Stainless is the most popular sink material, according to the National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA). In terms of durability, it’s difficult to beat stainless steel. What’s more, the finish blends well with virtually any kitchen design theme, especially if you also have stainless steel appliances. Options like Sterling’s Ludington series offer deep basins, single- or double-basin styles, undermount installation, and SilentShield sound-absorbing technology. Visit to learn more.

Integrated accessories mean the sink has it all – Of course, accessories can make an already great sink even better, and the NKBA reports demand is growing for sinks with integrated accessories. In addition to built-in garbage disposals, homeowners want sinks with soap dispensers, water filters and hot water dispensers, the organization says.

Subtle or stunning – Sinks attach to countertops in different ways. Drop-in or self-rimming sinks fit into a hole cut in the countertop and rest there courtesy of a lip – or rim – that sits on top of the counter material. Undermount sinks only work with solid surface countertops such as granite, marble or quartz, and attach to the underside of the countertop. Undermount design allows the countertops to shine, and also makes it easier to keep the countertop area around the sink cleaner. Sinks with apron-front designs calls attention to the sink and showcases the beauty of the stainless steel.

Every kitchen needs at least one sink; after all, it’s a critical point in the work triangle. Upgrading a kitchen sink can be a simple, cost-effective and visually appealing way to help transform the entire room.

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