Aanensens News and Updates

From time to time we'll share some of our new work, along with updates and news about the business.

Warm Modern Kitchen in Walnut


We just completed this stunning kitchen transformation in Freehold, NJ.  It was a substantial project, a complete gut remodel down to the studs and the subfloor.  But the final product is impressive and the space sings now.  The modern look is both warm, with perimeter cabinets in beautifully grained walnut wood, and clean with a massive center island in white acrylic.  The quartz counters are white with a light veining, and the backsplash walls were finished in polished white quartz for ease of cleaning. New LED lighting and light grey tile flooring keeps the space bright and airy.

The biggest transformation architecturally was the back wall of the house. The wall was partially closed in the center, and had an unbalanced window layout.  We blew out the entire back of the house and installed a nearly 12' wide picture window in the space. But the change is absolutely remarkable and connects the kitchen with the outside space no matter where you are in it. 

DSC_1470 2

Here is a photo of the back wall before the work for reference. We had to relocate some ducting and of course the electrical panel was located directly below in the basement so there were some home-run feeds that needed to be rewired as well. 

Before window

At the back corner, we installed three smaller windows, which were originally intended to have walnut shelves installed between them.  But when we put them up, they closed the space in, so we opted not to use them. So now the rhythm of the three little windows plays off the three unit wide picture window and creates a nice harmony.  This is an important lesson, you need to be able to adapt on projects as they progress and see how things actually look and work in the space.  In this case, omitting something actually made the project better!

Also – note how we installed the white quartz on this entire wall, around the windows and even down the side of the outermost cabinet.  We then made a special low profile trim to finish the windows, and stained them to match the cabinetry, for a very dramatic effect.


The other significant change was at the other side of the room, where there was a walk-in pantry that projected four feet into the room.  We eliminated that so that we could make the island as big as possible.  In its place, we installed a series of 24" deep tall pantry cabinets, half-way recessed into the wall so they didn't project out into the room too much. Each pantry was fitted with full depth solid maple roll out shelves for maximum storage.  It was a very similar amount of storage but done in a much more beautiful way, so we could carry the wood tones to that back wall, and architecturally enlarge the space.



The center island itself is massive, clocking in at 90" x 76".  But what was most impressive, is that we were able to find a white quartz in the correct color, that was available in a large enough size so that we didn't need to have any seams.  With the amount of overhead lighting, and natural light from the window, we were afraid that a seam would really stand out.  So glad we were able to find large enough material, and a special thank you to Statewide Granite and Marble for helping us!

On the corner of the island, we wanted to break up all the white and introduced an open walnut cabinet. It actually helps your eye turn the corner and gives the island some interest.  We were debating it as a spot for a toaster oven or not, and its wired for that, but decide it might be better off as display and the fruit bowl! The island also holds the Wolf microwave drawer, a mixer lift mechanism, and plate organizers in several of the drawers.

DSC_1475 2

The appliances are the best available, a Wolf dual fuel 48" range with 6 burners and a griddle.  The homeowner said his tea has never been ready quicker since he's started using the 18,000 BTU burners!  There is a Wolf ventilation hood above, which, at 1200 CFM, will take away any smells generated by cooking pretty instantly.  But to cut down on the noise that kind of motor makes, we mounted it remotely on the roof of the garage.  It also had to be wired for "make up air" a new building code requirement that says you must bring fresh air into the house when the hood is on.  This doesn't make a lot of sense in older homes where there are normal air exchanges, but in some of the "airtight" new homes that are getting built with closed cell spray foam insulation, it's probably appropriate.  But the law applies to every exhaust vent over 400 CFM, which is basically anything stronger than microwave-hood, so keep that in mind when planning projects!

DSC_1471 2

The refrigerator is a classic stainless 48" Sub Zero, and we installed a Sub Zero beverage refrigerator right next to it, which we opted to panel, so as not to detract from the power of the stainless on the refrigerator.  It pops much more this way.  And the panel of the door is of course split to mimic the split door immediately above.  These little details make a huge difference in the final look and feel of the kitchen, especially in modern design.

DSC_1482 2

The sink is a double bowl under mount Franke, and a special Dornbracht faucet with a sprayer like one might find in a commercial kitchen.  The disposal button is also by Dornbracht, so all the trims of the fixtures match.

DSC_1481 copy

A word on the cabinets themselves. They were manufactured by Quality Custom Cabinetry in Pennsylvania, a company we have had an almost 40 year relationship with.  They are made by real craftsmen to the highest standards, with all plywood box construction, solid maple drawer boxes, soft close hardware, etc.  They set a standard for excellence and are built to last (sadly, many cabinets people buy today are not). We chose a lightly stained warm toned real wood walnut veneer, inspired by some of the great mid-century modern spaces, such as the the old Four Seasons Restaurant in the Seagram Building (now The Grill).  Each veneer flitch is continuous, so the grain continues from top to bottom of each cabinet, whether it is a base, upper, or tall cabinet, and adjacent doors were attempted to grain match and sequence where possible, a stunning detail. The upper doors that are up high were installed with pressure sensitive touch latches so there we didn't need to install the handles on them, which would have been too busy visually.

DSC_1458 2

The island is a gloss white acrylic, and has a very high polish that is easy to clean.  There is space at the end of island for stools, and the top is so large than an 18" unsupported cantilever is not a problem at all.

DSC_1463 2

Inside the cabinets, there are some interesting inserts, and everything is in the proper place for maximum efficiency.  The homeowners are talented cooks and use a variety of globally sourced ingredients, so on both sides of the range we installed pullouts for oils and spice racks in the top drawers so everything is visible at once.

Spice drawer pullout

At the sink, the Miele dishwasher is paneled on the left, with the double stainless bin garbage pullout on the right. Also in the picture below you can see a close up of the white quartz that clads the entire wall around the window.

DSC_1461 2

And to take advantage of the corner space, we used a unique mechanism called a magic corner cabinet, which pulls out and rotates out of the way so the back trays can slide forward as well.  Its an amazing piece of engineering, a far cry from lazy-susans of old (though, nothing wrong with those!).

DSC_1466 2

To see how it works, here's a short video:

So, this was a very rewarding project.  The best projects tend to be the best collaborations with your clients, and this was exactly that.  They had the vision of what they wanted, and Aanensen's helped them at each step of the way so that is exactly what they got in the end.  We wish them many happy years in their new kitchen!

A few more pictures of this stunning space:

DSC_1452 2


DSC_1459 2

DSC_1473 2

DSC_1464 2 Rollouts


An Ode to the Bunk Bed, Keeping Childhood Magical for Generations

In THE LEGO MOVIE (by far the best animated feature of last year in my opinion), Emmet, the  “ordinary guy as hero” is asked to describe his greatest Lego creation ever. He talks about inviting all his friends over to watch TV, but when they can’t all fit on his couch, he builds a strange double decker couch he describes as a “bunk bed…. but as a couch.  So everyone can watch TV together and be buddies!”

This line is hilariously delivered by Chris Pratt, and it had my daughter and I bent over in laughter.  Of course, Emmet’s couch is widely panned as the worst idea in the history of cognitive thought by his fellow “master builders”.  Yet, if the audience reflects on this, and you  grew up with a bunk bed, or had one at summer camp, or even in a dorm room, you know that Emmet is right!  Bunk beds do kindle and nurture memories and “being buddies” in a way that no mere “A-frame-bed-in-a-corner” could do. 


So last year when a client came to us with a concept for built-in bunk beds for children and grandchildren at their beach house at the Jersey Shore, we were excited to develop the idea with them.  We decided on using 4 queen sized mattresses, thinking they were big enough to sleep at least 2 in each, while not being too deep to overwhelm the width of the room, or reach the back of the bed to make it.  So a minimum of 8 could stay here, though if you used Emmet’s logic or ever heard John Denver’s goofy and nostalgic song “Grandma’s Featherbed” there’s no telling how many creatures could slumber here. If you’ve never heard the song, check it out on Spotify.  I think Emmet would’ve loved it.  Come to think of it, I imagine he’d of identified with most of John Denver’s catalog.


Structurally, we knew that this bed had to be strong since the nature of the basic concept ensured horse play.  So we built the frame out of dimensional lumber with metal hangers and lag bolted everything to the wall, then glued and screwed on plywood cladding.  If there’s ever an earthquake at the Jersey Shore, I’d feel safer sheltering in here.

To develop the nautical theme, we installed horizontal custom tongue and groove boards with a very small space between each, to evoke the lines of an old wooden ship’s hull.  We toyed with the idea of “portholes” between the beds and at the ends, but decided we needed to strike a balance between the design and kids actually sleeping at night.  So we sunk that idea. 


Emmet would be especially happy with the TV on the wall opposite the beds.  Who gets the remote control will be another story.  Below that, we custom made a dresser, clad with the same material as the beds and built it into the wall.  A freestanding piece of furniture would not make sense on this ship! Built in window seats flank the dresser.

There are some storage drawers for blankets the bottom of each bed, and each also has its own reading light, but my personal favorite “piece of resistance” (watch the Lego Movie now if you haven’t to get that reference) are the two sets of railings we had custom made in oil rubbed bronze.   They are gorgeous, and their smooth metal rungs complete the illusion of crawling into your berth after a long day at the beach, still feeling the rocking of the waves as you set sail for your next destination, which in this case might just be the kitchen island for crumb buns from the local bakery for breakfast.  But that’s not a bad place to be headed, and I imagine the children who pass through here in years to come will hold a special place in their hearts for it, just like Emmet did for his double-decker couch.   


Two Baths in the Same Materials with Dramatically Different Results

We recently did two baths simultaneously, one was a guest bath, and one a child's bath. To keep things simple, we used to exact same tile, vanity style and color, and stone in each. But MAN did they come out like complete opposites! And it was all in the decor and some small details. More on that later. First, to their mutually shared materials.
In both, we used a classic white and gray color combination. Timeless in bags especially. On the floor, this was accomplished with a white Thassos marble border, and a Carerra hex tile mosaic field like this:
On the walls, we used another classic- running bond subway tile with a molded cap and base profile. Very elegant, an old fashioned "sanitary" look.
We used white painted vanities and Carrera marble counters and thresholds, Kohler fixtures in polished chrome. But that's where the similarity ends. The trick was in the finishing, and it this case it came down to wallpaper – yes wallpaper. It really gave each their own strong identity. Take a look below and see if you can tell which is the guest bath and which is a young girl's dream bathroom.
I guess the night light gives it away ?

Are We Stronger Than The Storm? We Are Now!

Craning in

Last year in the aftermath of Sandy, people were made way more familiar with household generators, whether by the drone of the portable units rattling away in the days immediately following the storm and then standing in line for gas for portable ones, or by developing a burning resentment for the neighbor whose house was still running almost normally if they had a stand-by, natural gas powered generator.  Maybe hating them a little less if they shared their shower or an extension cord.   But seeing the TV flickering from their windows at night was still too much.
After the storm there was an onslaught of advertising for these stand by (built in) units on TV, and demand skyrocketed.  Lead time for them was in the months, and I'm told quality of build also took a hit.
We've installed several of these units for customers over the past year, typically in the 20-30KW range, capable of powering most of a medium sized house panel, and usually about the size of a smallish refrigerator laid down on its side.  But this week, we installed the grand daddy of all generators and it was worth mentioning.
Generator set
This unit is 210KW, that's right – about 10 times the size of a typical household unit, and it is the size of an SUV without the wheels.  Think Escalade, or maybe one of those god-awful Hummer stretch limos, but definitely not your tyical Honda CRV.  Is this overkill? Absolutely not.  This is for a large property with a 400 AMP main house panel, but also several outbuildings, barns, and many scattered subpanels throughout. So rather than using a smaller unit and getting into a bunch of rewiring inside the house to feed only important circuits (never mind with block walls this would've been next to impossible) we decided to just feed the entire system with this unit.  
Generator back view with tank
It is powered by a diesel engine with believe it or not very similar specs to the Europe-only BMW M50D engine it sells in the X5 and 5 series.  Over three hundred HP! So if it did have wheels it would be way faster than that Escalade.  We have a stand alone 1000 gallon tank that should last almost 5 days at 50% power, so it should be fine for most typical outages.  During a Sandy – type event, it might need a fill up or two. 
So it was is an unusual project, but very exciting.  It's not done yet, still have to mount the transfer switch.  That alone weighs almost 500 lbs, and the final kicker: the power company needs to shut down the entire block in order for us to wire it in and turn it on 🙂

New Wine Cellar and Tasting Room

Wine cellar door and bar cabinet

This project was really transformative, completely repurposing the existing space from a "Florida Room" with wrap around glass windows and an exterior covered porch into an intimate tasting room and wine cellar all done in matching stained mahogany.  Here's what we started with, a view from the back of the house outside:


We enclosed the back porch with a new floor and walls, which became the climate controlled wine cellar, then removed all the windows and replaced them with new Marvin units to match the rest of the house, and align with the existing units above.  We resided the first floor with new cedar shakes and it looks like it's always been there.

Inside, we designed a beautiful bar cabinet as seen in the photo below.  The base cabinet doors on the right hide a fully integrated beverage refrigerator, then a copper sink in the center, and deep roll outs for liquor bottle storage on the left.  Storage for stemware and glasses up above.  We did an leather finished absolute black granite counter for durability, but added a solid wood edge to match the cabinetry to dress it up.

Bar cabinet with chairs, front window

For the cellar itself, we installed a 9 foot wide set of glass and mahogany doors, so the cellar felt more like a part of the tasting room, and the collection could be admired without having to be inside the 55 degree climate controlled room (though with the summer we've been having, I would be sleeping in there for sure).  We added decorative pilasters and a pediment top and had it stained and finished to match the adjacent bar cabinet.

Wine cellar door, looking in

Inside the cellar, we did a custom racking system in stained mahogany courtesty of the Wine Enthusiast.  Most of the collection is single bottle storage, which is really impressive visually, but added touches like a display row running around the room and some magnum storage shelves for interest.  We installed a small counter of the same black granite as a work surface and tiled the floor with a coppery, bronze tile that continues the tones of the wood floor through the cellar. 

Interior wine cellar, display and counter

It was a tricky project, but a great final result, especially since the two spaces that were not being used to their fullest potential will now give the homeowners a really great entertaining space for years to come.





Our Solution to the “TV over the Mantel” Dilemma

Mantel, doors closed

Back in the not too distant past when TV's were as large as an oven, manufacturers used to build elaborate cabinets around them so they would look more like furniture than an appliance.  It was a natural extension of what they had done with radios.  But since the 70's people have been trying more and more to "build in" the TV into wall units or bookcases to conceal their bulk.  This has gotten a lot easier in recent years with the invention of flat panel TV's.

But, it has given rise to another dilemma: how to incorporate a flat panel TV into a formal room?  They look great on their own in family rooms, home theaters, or rooms with a more relaxed setting.  But above the fireplace, as the focal point of a room with antique furniture and nice artwork? Not so much.

Our solution was to remove the existing typical mantel and build a new, ultra thin "cabinet" around it, all the way up to the ceiling, flanked with fluted pilasters to mimic an old-fashinoned paneled chimney breast.  It is more formal than what was there before, but that's a good thing in this case.  The panels in the center of the unit are actually retractable doors that fold back to reveal the 65" TV.  It was a balancing act between the code clearance from the top of the firebox to the bottom of the wood, and the projection of the wood itself. But with TV's being so thin now, we were able to accomplish it all within a 4' space (soundbar included!).  We also kept the TV at the bottom of the opening so it was closer to eye level and less of a neck strain (another issue when people mount TV's over the mantel – they can be too high!).  Equipment was remotely located in a closet.

So, we think it came out great.  When closed it blends with the formal decor, and when open, brings a full blown entertainment system into a room where you wouldn't expect it!

Mantel, doors open, tv on


We Lose an Old Friend


Harry Kruse (1928-2011)

Yesterday we lost an old friend and longtime employee, Harry Kruse.  Harry was many things we should all aspire to be in life: a gentleman, a professional, a craftsman, an honest friend.  He made our business better, and embodied everything we came to stand for in our work.  There were never any problems with Harry, only solutions.  Work was taken seriously, but with the greatest sense of humor and calm perspective for it all. 

Once, as a young man, I watched Harry stand in the middle of the room on a project we were about to start, slowly drawing on a pipe, lost in thought.  Later, I asked my father what exactly was going on here.  My father answered, "that's just Harry, figuring out every cut he needed to make, solving every problem he knew would arise, before he starts to do anything."  This amazed me then and continues to inspire me today.

Harry worked for over 35 years at Aanensen's, with all three generations of owners, well into his 70's.  He has been in thousands of our customers homes, who, if they ever happen to read this, would instantly remember him.  Even after he "retired," we called him back frequently for difficult or special projects that needed his level of skill and experience.  And during his time with us, he inspired and taught many other employees that will continue to spread his legacy of craft for years to come.

So on behalf of the entire Aanensen's family, and past and present staff, we thank you Harry.  One could not have a higher level of respect and regard for another, than we do for you.  You are a part of our family, and we will miss you.



Harding Land Trust House Tour

Harding house tour 2011 

On June 6th, the home of one of our long time customers will be on the Harding Land Trust house tour.  We are  very proud of our long relationship with the family and of all the different work we have done over the years, everything from building the kitchen wing addition and remodeling bathrooms, to changing door hardware and coordinating all the different home maintenance needs.  If you would like to see this and some other of New Jersey's finest homes, follow the link below for ticket information.



We are not immune to disasters!

Often when you open walls during construction, you are suprised by what you find.  Sometimes there are good suprises: the urban legend of a bag full of money never seems to materialize, but often a vintage newspaper or some an old tools do pop up, and they are interesting and fun for a little while.  But more often than not, the suprises one finds are, in a word, disastrous.

read more…

Kitchen Design: The Pantry

Although I am in the business of designing and selling kitchen cabinets, there is simply no substitute for a traditional walk-in kitchen pantry for efficient storage.  For the average homeowner it is just easier to find ingredients and tools quickly, and for the serious cook/"Foodie"/hoarder, it is a great place to hang out with the exotic ingredients and gadgets that are the object of their obsession. 

The problem is that houses that were built or remodeled after the middle of the last century, which are most of them, did away with pantry spaces.  In fact, over the course of our 60 years in business we've removed our fair share of pantries to make kitchens bigger so we to fit islands or some other design element built around cabinetry.  But I think pantries are making a comeback, especially now that I see less emphasis on upper cabinet storage in some of the more modern kitchens being published.  

The pantry doesn't have to be big either.  One just the size of an ordinary coat closet, lined on three sides with shallow shelves, can make a huge difference in how the whole kitchen works.

An example:

read more…