LED Lighting = $avings!

LED Lighting $aves Our Environment While $aving You Money!

Remodeled Vancouver kitchen with LED lighting

LED Lighting in Remodeled Kitchen

LED lighting technology was in its infancy eleven years ago. It wasn’t available when I was working in the San Francisco Bay Area in the 1980s until 2000. California passed laws to help energy conservation, but it was a heavy-handed approach. We did have incandescent filament lamps, but we were forced to use fluorescent lighting as the main source of light in kitchens and bathrooms.

Homeowners objected to this limitation, so we worked around the laws making fluorescent under-cabinet fixtures the main light source in kitchens. The fixtures were controlled by the switch closest to the kitchen door. These fluorescent lamps were small in diameter so the fixtures were short. There were varying lengths of the fluorescent lamps, but we were limited by which lengths were available in either warm white or cool white.  I made the mistake of mixing the lamps on my first project. Warm white looked reddish-orange and cool white looked blue-green. The backsplash in my clients’ kitchen looked like Christmas!

For a while, we could use halogen lamps in recessed and decorative fixtures. They were used because they could be dimmed. But the regulations got Then manufacturers produced fluorescent lamps with standard screw-type bases so they could be used with recessed and decorative fixtures. The EPA told us that CFLs would be the standard to replace incandescent lamps. Reluctantly, the construction industry and homeowners adopted this, but everyone hated the results. Fluorescent lamps were on or off. No dimming. The light was simultaneously flat and harsh.

My, how we’ve come a long way — and the future looks even brighter!

In 2005, LED lighting was available, but there were limitations:

  • Not dimmable.
  • Color was a cool blue-white.
  • Replacement bulbs (lamps) for many fixtures did not exist.
  • Strip and rope lighting was available, but it was very expensive ($40 per foot!).

 

 

LED lighting has improved!

To create the indirect lighting for the entry hall and hallway, dining room, living room, master bedroom, and kitchen in our new home in 2006, my husband had to buy 3,000 individual LEDs and wire them together on “perf” board. Then he connected the finished Light-Emitting-Diode (LED) strips to a dimmable transformer and plugged the transformer into a switched outlet that had been installed in the coffers. It was a lot of work for him, but it saved us thousands of dollars. We got the results we wanted and lit all of those areas with only 100 watts of power, which was reflected in our lowered electric bill. To achieve similar results in 2021, any Homeowner can purchase ready-made dimmable LED strip lighting for a multitude of purposes and a multitude of color ranges:

  • Indirect lighting in trayed/coffered ceilings or on crown molding
  • Task and accent lighting under wall cabinets and countertop overhangs in kitchens
  • Accent display lighting in unlimited applications
  • Safety night lighting in bathroom toekicks and stair edges
  • Increased-visibility lighting in pantries and closets

Comparison of LED lighting to other types of lighting

In addition to LED strip lighting, there’s a wide selection of bulbs available, replace discontinued incandescent and outdated CFL bulbs. The colors, brightness, and dimmability have been improved, to enhance all interior environments. The best news for all of us, though, is that the price of LED lighting has dropped like a rock as the technology has improved and the market has become more competitive. Early incandescent lamp replacements were as high as $50 each. In 2021, we can purchase better LED replacement lamps for as low as $5 each! Here is a chart from Earth Easy that graphically shows how cost-efficient LED lighting is:

Comparison chart for LED, CFL, and Incandescent lighting

There is more technical information available at Wikipedia.

LED Lighting has grown in popularity

Lighting designers understood the benefits that LED lighting would have on the environment. They knew that homeowners and businesses would save money on energy bills. They worked with manufacturers to develop better and varied light sources for residential and commercial use. “DOE estimates there are at least 500 million recessed downlights installed in U.S. homes, and more than 20 million are sold each year,” according to a report by energy.gov.

Armed with all of this information, I hope that you’re inspired to switch (pun intended!) your existing lighting to LEDs.

 

See before and after pictures and a description of the featured kitchen project that successfully used LED lighting.

 “See the Possibilities. Create a Positive Difference.”

 

© 2016 D. P. Design – All Rights Reserved; Revised 2/2021.

LED Lighting — The Highest Impact on Your Life

How and Why Does LED Lighting Affect Your Life?

Vancouver-peninsula and table

LED lighting has the highest impact on you and your life other than sunlight. I’m going to share facts that you may not know about lighting:

  • Insufficient lighting contributes to seasonal depression (seasonal affective disorder) and vitamin D deficiencies.
    • Up to 90% of vitamin D comes from exposure to sun – diet alone isn’t a good enough source.
    • Vitamin D can prevent or slow down the growth of tumors and even boost survival rates for cancer patients.
  • Light, especially blue wavelengths, plays a crucial role in regulating our circadian rhythm, commonly known as our body clock.
    • The Harvard Health Letter suggests that sleeping rooms should not have sources of blue light (clocks, TVs, and computers).
    • Red lights are more soothing in sleeping rooms, relating to the melatonin in our bodies, reported by health.com
  • Health effects associated with poor lighting include:
    • Headache and eyestrain.
    • Neck, back, and shoulder strain.
    • Falling, tripping, slipping.
  • Blue light can increase confidence and boost happiness levels, research suggests.
  • Without the Sun’s heat and light, the Earth would be a lifeless ball of ice-coated rock, like many of the moons around Jupiter and Saturn

LED Lighting Replaces Incandescent Sources, Better Than Fluorescent

LED Strip Lighting under Cap lights backsplash and countertop

January 1, 2014 marked the official ban on the manufacture of 40-watt and 60-watt incandescent light bulbs, after Congress passed a law in 2007. It took 7 years for people to understand that LED lamps were better than the filament incandescent bulbs invented by Thomas Edison in 1879.

One hundred years later, in 1979, California started tightening its energy laws, requiring that fluorescent lighting must be the dominant source of artificial light in kitchens. To pass final inspection, contractors and homeowners used non-dimmable compact fluorescent lamps in fixtures. As soon as they could no longer see the inspector’s tail lights, they removed the CFL’s and replaced them with dimmable incandescents they’d known and loved all their lives.

Manufacturers made it easy to use small-tube fluorescent fixtures for task lighting under wall cabinets, which made working in the kitchen safer. We all hated the artificial “cool white” and “warm white” colors produced by the early fluorescent lamps that made everything look salmon pink or green. We hated the flickering. There had to be a better alternative! But that didn’t start to happen until 2006, when manufacturers started making LED lamps.

The History of LED Lighting

We think of LEDs as new technology. But the history of LEDs goes way back. In 1907, Henry Round reported light emission from a crystal detector. It took another 20 years until Oleg Losev noted that silicon carbide crystal diodes used in radios glowed when excited by electrical current. And in 1939, two Russian scientists patented a silicon carbide electro-luminescent lighting device that’s probably the predecessor to the LEDs we know today.

In the 1960s, LEDs produced a low-efficiency red light that was used widely as indicators on lab equipment. A partnership between Monsanto and Hewlett Packard formed to make LEDs on a wide scale, but it didn’t work out, so Monsanto continued to develop LEDs until General Instrument bought the business in 1979.

I’m surprised about how long it’s taken for manufacturers to adopt LED technology in the lighting industry. Today’s LED technology is used extensively for commercial, industrial, and residential applications. LEDs’ capabilities have improved across the board: increased lifespan, increased brightness and performance, and increased energy efficiency. Now all LED lamps have warranties. National and state government agencies adopted programs and standards that ultimately led to the demise of incandescent lighting.

What’s The Major Upside to LED Lights?

]Corner range and hood in remodeled Vancouver kitchen

There are many advantages to LED lighting:

  • LEDs have an extremely long lifespan relative to every other lighting technology. LEDs can last up to 50,000 hours, and they don’t fail in the same way as older technology. The typical lifespan for a halogen bulb, by comparison, is about 1,200 hours, or 1-5% as long, at best.
  • They are extremely energy efficient relative to every other commercially available lighting technology. There are several reasons for this: they waste very little energy in the form of heat, and they emit light directionally. This means that there is no need to redirect or reflect light.
  • LEDs have faster switching with no warm-up or cool-down period.
  • They have very high light quality. Manufacturers have listened to engineers, and have improved the color that LEDs produce, in temperature and wavelength.
  • LEDs can generate the entire spectrum of visible light colors without having to use the traditional color filters required by older lighting solutions.
  • They are much smaller than other light sources.

Is there a Downside to LED Lights?

When I first began touting LEDs in 2006, the major argument against buying and using them was the up-front cost of the bulbs. Yes, they were expensive, for sure! A non-dimmable replacement for a standard “A” lamp was at least $35 each. But the technology of LEDs has followed the pattern established by other technology. As soon as people started buying the bulbs, manufacturers took notice and figured out how to produce the diodes at a considerably lower cost. Consequently, this made the investment in LED bulbs more acceptable.

There’s an unlimited selection of LEDs available to replace all kinds of lamps. Incandescent lamps are no longer available. We can buy halogen, CFL, and LED lamps only. There are differences between them, shown in the chart below. What gives LEDs the advantage is that they’re dimmable (like halogen lamps) and they save you money on the annual operating cost.

Comparison chart Halogen - LED - CFL

Light and Color: Why It’s Important

It’s impossible to have color without light!  There are two aspects to the color of the light and how we see colors:

  • Color temperature
  • Color rendering

All of the colors we see are a byproduct of light waves, as they are reflected off or absorbed into an object. An object that reflects back all of the rays of light will appear white. An object that absorbs all of the rays appears black.

Warm, yellowish light, what incandescent lamps typically produced, intensified and enhanced warm colors like red, orange, and yellow, and muted cooler hues. Cool, white light, what fluorescent and halogen lamps produce, works best with blues, violets, and greens.

Color Temperature

Color Temperature ChartYou’ve probably heard and read about color temperature developed by British physicist William Kelvin in the 1800s. He discovered the color change that occurred when he heated a block of carbon. Starting from a dim red, through shades of yellow and up to a bright blue at the hottest temperature. When you buy a package of bulbs, you’ll be able to tell how warm or cool the light is, which will affect all the colors you see by the Kelvin color temperature.

Color Rendering Index

Color Rendering Index examplesAnother reference you may see is the CRI, or color rendering index. The numbers go from 1 to 100. According to Wikipedia:

“A color rendering index (CRI) is a quantitative measure of the ability of a light source to reveal the colors of various objects faithfully in comparison with an ideal or natural light source.”

What this means to us is the ability to match colors. Hundreds, maybe thousands of times in the past 35 years, I’ve known frustrated homeowners who went shopping in showrooms lit with fluorescent or other light sources. They thought they found a product with the perfect color to match their interior, only to discover that the light in their homes is much different. Of course, the products weren’t what they wanted.

Watts and Lumens

Lumens - Watts ChartThere are two more numbers on light bulb packaging, the watts, and lumen output. We’re all familiar with watt reference, the amount of energy that a light source consumes. We’ve associated a certain level of brightness with 60 watts of incandescent light. We can’t do that anymore, because we have LEDs that give us more light with fewer watts. Instead, we need a measurement for visible light energy – lumens. Lumens per watt is a measure of how well a light source converts energy (watts) into light (lumens). Tungsten filament incandescent bulbs produced about 15 lumens/watt. LED technology can produce about 60 lumens per watt. In other words, LEDs are about 4 times more efficient at producing light than incandescent bulbs. This 4-1 ratio is a rough guide of how to calculate what LED bulb to use when replacing an incandescent bulb.

LED Lighting Options

As I said earlier, manufacturers have been on board with LEDs since 2008. Here are the nine different kinds of LED bulbs that are available on one of my favorite sites, 1000 Bulbs:

  • Remodeled Vancouver Kitchen and Family Room with LED lightingStandard Shape A19 – Designed to give the appearance and pattern of a standard incandescent bulb. Standard and A-shape LED bulbs fit the same sockets and fixtures as your current household lights.
  • 3-Way LED – A three-way bulb is a light bulb that has three brightness settings instead of the standard on or off. If your lamp or fixture says it requires a three-way bulb, this is the category for you.
  • Vintage LED Bulbs – Vintage reproduction bulbs are now available with LED filament. They have a warm orange glow with lower light levels to mimic the style of a vintage bulb on a dimmer as it transitions from yellow to orange. These Edison-style and Victorian-style bulbs make great collector items. Order yours today to make your own steampunk lighting.
  • Wet Location LED Bulbs – A wet location UL rating means these LED light bulbs can be used in humid indoor areas or outdoors where water may drop or flow against the bulb or fixture.
  • Decorative LED Bulbs – Browse LED globe lights ranging from 3 in. to 1.5 in. diameters or find LED replacement bulbs for your chandelier light bulbs. The long life of LEDs means less time on the ladder changing burnt-out bulbs. Many LED chandelier lights are dimmer switch compatible and come in a range of color temperature so you can still enjoy the ambiance of traditional bulbs but the energy savings of LEDs.
  • LED Tubes – LED tubes are the emerging standard for commercial and household lighting. Ranging in size from T5 to T12 and a variety of color temperatures, these LED tubes are an easy way to upgrade to energy-efficient lighting. Some of them work with or without an existing ballast, making the transition to LED lighting easier than ever. These LED tubes emit the same amount of light as fluorescent T8s while using a fraction of the power and lasting up to three times longer. LED tubes are especially effective in cold areas like refrigeration lockers where fluorescent tubes are less efficient at producing light.
  • LED Tape Lights – For accents, alcove, and backlighting, LED tape light is a fantastic choice. More flexible than rope light and bright enough for accent illumination, a strip of LED tape light can bring any place to life. There are countless uses and applications for this easily installed new light source.
  • Shatter Resistant LED Bulbs – Dipped in a special coating, these bulbs may still break if dropped, but they won’t shatter into pieces and fly across your floor. We recommend not dropping them, but if you do, these make cleanup quite a bit easier.
  • LED Night Lights – Keep the monsters away with LED night lights. Motion-activated, and battery-powered, these LED bulbs will light the way to the bathroom or give reassurance that nothing is lurking under the bed when your child needs to reach for a dropped retainer or teddy bear. Mounted using tape or screws, light only the area you need without waking sleeping babies.
  • Reflectors – From the powerful flood and spotlights to home-bound recessed or track lights, reflectors find excellent use indoors or out. LED reflector lamps can provide the same brilliance for less energy and will create far less heat than an incandescent or halogen lamp. As a bonus, they have a higher CRI than fluorescent reflectors for better colors. – Vintage reproduction bulbs are now available with LED filament. They have a warm orange glow with lower light levels to mimic the style of a vintage bulb on a dimmer as it transitions from yellow to orange. These Edison-style and Victorian-style bulbs make great collector items. Order yours today to make your own steampunk lighting.

A Personal Testimonial About LED Lighting

Frank  Lloyd Wright-inspired living room with LED lightingWhen we built our dream home 11 years ago, I wanted to use dimmable indirect lighting in the main hallway, the dining room, living room, and kitchen. At that time, LED strip lighting was prohibitively expensive, about $40 per foot. So my “techie” husband figured out how to build the strips using individual LEDs on “perf” board. The electrician installed switched outlets in each of the recessed coffers to make installation easy for us. Eleven years and about 35,000 hours later, the lights are still working perfectly. When we decide to replace the LEDs, we’re going to use commercially-available strip lighting that sells for about $2.50 per foot! You can see pictures of our home in my portfolio.

In Conclusion

Lighting technology can impact your life. The technology really isn’t difficult when it’s explained in terms that we can learn and understand. The bottom line is by exchanging all of your existing fluorescent and halogen bulbs for LEDs, you’re getting the following advantages:

  • No mercury, a cleaner alternative to fluorescent and CFL lamps.
  • A lifespan that is 20 times longer than traditional lighting products.
  • Light quality equal or superior to traditional lighting products.
  • Energy consumption that’s lower than any lighting product to date – you save money!

Listen to the “Today’s Home” Podcast: LED Lighting — The Highest Impact On Your Life

See Before and After Pictures of the Kitchen featured in this article.

Call me today to talk about remodeling your home that will include improvement of your lighting!

Headshot of Diane Plesset

Diane Plesset, CMKBD, C.A.P.S., NCIDQ is an Advocate who specializes in helping homeowners with remodeling and addition projects. She has been the principal of D. P. Design since April 1984. Diane is the author of the award-winning book “THE Survival Guide: Home Remodeling,” and the recipient of many design awards.

© 2016 D. P. Design – All Rights Reserved; Rev. 2021

 

 

Best Kitchen Lighting Combines Art And Science

What Is The Best Kitchen Lighting For All Your Activities?

West Linn Remodeled Kitchen Lighting

The best kitchen lighting (1/2)

. . .  and why should the best kitchen lighting combine art (the human factor) and science (the technical factor)? To achieve maximum enjoyment and function.

Here’s an example: The homeowners loved their home but disliked the dark kitchen.

  • It was large and had many angles.
  • The windows faced east which meant that the kitchen got dark early in the day.
  • They had to turn on recessed incandescent fixtures that wasted energy and increased their electric bill. Their kitchen was still dark.
  • The speculation builder used dark-stained standard cabinets that absorbed most of the light, limited the layout, and wasted space.

Several contractors said the best solution would be to add onto the kitchen. That would solve the problem with angled walls. But it wouldn’t solve lighting problems unless they went with an all-white kitchen. That’s not what they wanted. No one suggested using LED lighting.

The good news, there was only one addition needed. A 3′ by 3′ area was added to the southeast corner of the eating area. This allowed space for a sliding patio door and it created more wall space for a large picture window. This allowed more light into the room, and the homeowners got a great view of Mt. Hood! They soon became fans of LED illumination. More about this later.
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Remodeled Master Bathroom: Cabinets & Storage #2 Feature

Plumbing Is Necessary, But Bathroom Cabinets Personalize The SpaceRemodeled Tigard master bathroom with new contrasting cabinets provide lots of storage

What are two features that Homeowners request for a master bathroom? The #2 and #3 requests are for more (and better) storage, and an up-to-date look. Bathroom cabinets can satisfy both needs!

What are the features that homeowners request most often? The #1 request is for a large(r) shower.

The remodeled Tigard master bathroom is a great example!

The Homeowners requested a large two-person shower. And they both wanted more storage for:

  • Grooming paraphernalia to be put away when not in use;
  • Towels;
  • A back-up stock of tissue, hair care products, soap, and lotions (Costco overflow).

Making room for a larger lavatory

The existing lavatory area was too narrow, and the adjacent toilet room was wider than it needed to be, so space was borrowed from the toilet room to make the lavatory wider. The additional space allowed the following specialized storage in the bathroom cabinets: (more…)

Two Master Bathroom Sinks Are Desirable

Two Master Bathroom Sinks: A High PriorityNW Portland Remodeled Craftsman Bathroom

The most-often requested feature for new and remodeled master bathrooms is two sinks, followed by:

  1. Large(r) shower
  2. Separate toilet room
  3. More storage

Having two sinks is great, but they have to fit in the space available, which means that the side-by-side concept has to be bypassed if the available space for two sinks is less than 66″ wide. Below are two examples of bathrooms that are 5′ x 10′-3″ and 5′ x 11′-2″.

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Multiple-Cook Family Kitchen Transformation

“Cookie-cutter” Kitchen Had Many Problems That Became a Success Story With A Boot

Tualatin remodeled kitchen peninsulaDo you see a “boot” in the peninsula countertop? That’s what we called the peninsula — the boot — after one of the daughters gave it that name during our design discussions. I’m going to start at the beginning, so you don’t get confused.

Every great kitchen project begins with a “Why?”

Sitting in the kitchen’s adjacent eating area the first week of December, Tom and Elaine told me why they wanted to remodel their kitchen. “It doesn’t work for us.” They are a family of five, with three adult daughters. Two of them were in college, and the youngest would be graduating in six months. The family loved to cook together, but two people couldn’t be working at the same time. They had figured a way to separate the cooking chores and work in shifts. Tom said, “We want the kitchen finished so we can have a big party on July 4th.”

♦ Why do you want to remodel your kitchen? 

There are always problems and challenges!

What were the problems? Do you have similar challenges?

    1. The rectangular island was opposite the refrigerator. The aisleway between them was too narrow for anyone working at the island if someone else opened the refrigerator door.
    2. The refrigerator was too close to the adjacent wall, so it was nearly impossible to remove the chiller drawers.
    3. There was an enormous desk adjacent to a pie-cut shaped “walk-in” pantry.
    4. The kitchen had one sink, located in a corner, which allowed only one person at a time to use it.
    5. The open dishwasher door blocked the sink area, locking the user into a tiny footprint.
    6. White tiles with white grout made keeping the countertops clean.
    7. A single fluorescent fixture was the main source of light.
    8. The step down to the adjacent family room was dangerous because there wasn’t any visual contrast between the two levels. People, including members of the family, had fallen because of the hazard.

The kitchen malfunctioned, and it looked dated, although the house was only 12 years old. Oak cabinets had a finish that had yellowed. Soffits and walls were covered with blue-and-white stripe wallpaper. The off-white vinyl floor had a small tile pattern.

♦ Do you have problems that affect how you use and enjoy your kitchen? What do you want to change?

Decisions require communication: Open, honest discussion and feedback.

They knew the look they wanted, but it was the layout that had them stuck. I prepared five alternate designs for the family to discuss. Two design features required lengthy discussions because the alternatives were outside their comfort zone:

  • Replacing the island with a peninsula. I suggested placing chairs at the end of the aisleway between the island and the refrigerator to help them. They had to live with that for several weeks before they gave me their decision. At the end of the test period, they realized that walking around the island to get to the eating nook was only a problem when someone wanted to get something out of the refrigerator. Other than that, they saw the benefit of a peninsula with all of the recommended features.
  • Replacing the massive desk with accessible pantry cabinets. I showed them the elevation of the pantry wall and gave them the storage calculation. Their decision was speedy. The calculation showed that they’d get 3x the accessible storage with cabinets versus the original cramped pantry.

Every problem has multiple solutions; finding the right solution can be challenging!

Here’s how we solved all of the problems and created a functional and safe kitchen the entire family could use.Tualatin multiple-cook family kitchen before and after

    • We replaced the island with a large peninsula that had a continuous overhang adjacent to the eating nook. At the end of the peninsula, we installed a prep. sink and storage for salad-making vessels and utensils.
      • A downdraft gas cooktop was placed perpendicular to the prep. sink so that the pull-down faucet could be used as a pot filler.
      • This area allowed three people to be working at the same time without obstructing each other.
    • The desk area became a massive pantry with pull-outs and drawers. This area tripled what the family had stored in the original pantry, with better function. A built-in refrigerator was installed across from the prep. sink, with a generous 5-foot aisleway for maximum traffic flow and function.
    • One cabinet in the pantry area was used for a second microwave that could be used for food thawing and preparation, and re-warming food and drinks convenient for the nook area.
    • Deep soffits became an area for additional countertop task lighting. They were also a decorative feature, with crown molding at the top and bottom. The angled soffit above the sink became a decorative focal point because it was wood to match the doors.
    • Carefully-placed dimmable recessed LED fixtures lit aisleways and traffic patterns. Dimmable under-cabinet LED strips provided task lighting for countertops and accent lighting for the backsplashes.
    • Double ovens and a microwave oven became a wonderful baking preparation area, with drawers and rollout shelves in the base cabinets. Vertical tray dividers were installed above the ovens for muffin tins, baking sheets, cooling racks, and cutting boards.
    • A countertop between the peninsula and sink could be used for food preparation and cleanup without creating a “traffic jam.”
    • The new floor was Forest Service Certified, engineered Brazilian cherry. The step had maple nosing, which made it safer because of the color contrast.

♦ Do you get confused about all of your options? Would having options — with reasons — help you?

The family soon discovered how much fun it was to cook meals and get ready for parties together at the same time. It was exactly what they wanted. They fell in love with the new look, too.

    • Cabinets with raised-panel doors gave the kitchen an elegant traditional appearance. The natural alder prevented the kitchen from looking too formal.
    • Granite countertops and shimmering silver slate backsplash were a perfect complementary contrast to all the wood.
    • An angled display cabinet provided a focal point that was visible from the family room.
    • Blue light fixtures chosen by the wife added a unique, fanciful touch to express individuality.

Conclusion

It was wonderful to work through all of the possible solutions with the family. Everyone had an opinion, and it was delightful to see how they interacted to make the best decisions for maximum function and appearance. Fantastic communication made a big difference. The family provided honest feedback and wonderful suggestions. We all had a great time, especially after one of the daughters looked at a proposed plan and named the peninsula “the boot.” They all loved working together in the new kitchen, preparing family meals and getting ready to entertain friends.

If you are stuck trying to figure out your kitchen’s layout and details, whether you need it to function for multiple cooks or not, I’d love to help you!  I offer compassionate creativity that inspires communication. Contact me so we can talk about your specific needs!

Diane Plesset, CMKBD, C.A.P.S., NCIDQ is a Homeowner Advocate who specializes in helping homeowners with remodeling and addition projects. She has been the principal of D. P. Design since April 1984. Diane is the author of the award-winning book “THE Survival Guide: Home Remodeling” and many design awards.

Accessible Bathrooms: 8 Proven Features For Quality Of Life

Accessible bathrooms help people perform daily health and personal-care needs. Function. What’s the most important feature in a great accessible bathroom? Quality of life! There are required features, of course, but they don’t have to remind the person who needs them is in-valid.  Quality of life (self-esteem) is too often the lowest-priority when homeowners are remodeling an existing bathroom. Other terms used synonymously with accessible design are barrier-free design, aging-in-place design, and lifetime livability. To achieve a functional, safe, and beautiful accessible bathroom, it’s best to hire a Certified Aging-In-Place Specialist (C.A.P.S.).

Best quality-of-life features in any room include:

  • Occupants’ favorite colors
  • Layered lighting to make the area interesting
  • A mix of tactile and visual textures
  • Background music (may not be appropriate for hard-of-hearing occupants)
  • Natural aromatherapy (lavender is a great one for relaxation)
  • Comfortable temperature (this is achieved in bathrooms with radiant under-floor heating)

Safety Features that Accessible Bathrooms Need:

  • Doors:
    • 32″ wide, minimum.  There are offset hinges to make the net opening of 32″ wide doorways more accessible.
    • Pocket doors are good but have limitations regarding location, and pulls may be hard to grip.
    • 36″ wide doorways are better.
    • Easy-to-grip lever handles.
  • Wheelchairs and walkers:
    • 5′ turning radius (without a lot of “back and forth” maneuvering).
  • Floors:
    • Same level on both sides of a doorway.
    • A slip-resistant hard surface that will allow wheelchairs and walkers to glide effortlessly.
    • No area rugs.
  • Lavatory cabinets, countertops, sinks, and faucets:
    • Open knee well, with recessed drain pipe or wrapped drain pipe to prevent burns and injury.
    • Everything on the countertop and in drawers should be easily accessible from a seated position.
    • The countertop should be at a comfortable height, so wheelchair arms can slide under if desired.
    • Medications organized and marked for easy reading and understanding.
    • The bottom of the sink should be easily reached by someone seated or leaning against a walker.
    • Faucet controls:
      • Easily reachable, side-mount rather than rear-mount.
      • Single-lever control that’s easy to grasp.
  • Showers:
    • Curbless entry with or without a curtain or an easy-to-open door that doesn’t block access.
    • Valves:
      • Accessible from inside and outside the shower, with easy-to-understand and easy-to-operate controls.
      • Anti-scald protection.
    • Adjustable shower on a slide bar.
    • Shower seat, either fixed height or drop-down.
    • Good lighting that doesn’t produce glare.
    • Grab bars are necessary for everyone!
  • Tubs:
    • Whether a standard tub or a walk-in tub, plumbing location is critical because the valve, diverter, and personal shower must be easily accessible to the bather.
    • Standard tub: Entry and exit are important considerations. The tub should have built-in safety grab bars. If possible, the bather should sit on the edge of the tub and swing legs in, then using the grab bars, lower themself into the water.
    • Walk-in tub: New walk-in tubs have become popular. The problem I’ve had with most of them is that the bather has to enter before filling the tub and wait for the tub to drain before exiting. Kohler has introduced a new walk-in tub that eliminates the problem of the bather getting chilled. They offer a walk-in tub with a heated seat.
  • Toilets:
    • Seat 16-1/2″ to 18″ high.
    • Access for side-transfer from a wheelchair is recommended.
    • Wall-mount and/or floor-mount grab bars are very important.
  • Lighting and visual cues:
    • Non-glare, bright lighting is recommended.
    • If there is any visual impairment, it’s important to have contrast in color saturation and texture.

Excellent Resources for Accessible Bathrooms and Other Rooms:

The bathroom featured in today’s tip was a powder room in the 1970s two-story home. Three bedrooms and two full bathrooms were on the second floor. The Homeowners realized the importance of having an alternate bedroom and an accessible bathroom for emergencies on the main floor. To create the roll-in curbless shower, they were willing to abandon a hallway that led from the front door to the kitchen. Their top priority for the bathroom, in addition to accessibility, was a bathroom that didn’t scream, “You’re disabled!” Their bathroom whispers, “I’m here for you,” because it was designed for accessibility and quality of life.

“See the Possibilities. Create a Positive Difference.”

Diane Plesset, CMKBD, C.A.P.S., NCIDQ, Principal of D. P. Design

Diane Plesset, CMKBD, C.A.P.S., NCIDQ is a Homeowner Advocate and Aging-in-Place Specialist who specializes in helping homeowners with home remodeling additions. She also designs new homes. She has been the principal of D. P. Design since April 1984. Diane is the author of the award-winning book “THE Survival Guide: Home Remodeling” and many design awards.

Contact Diane today to talk about your remodeling needs and goals. Sign up to receive her newsletter that has valuable information about home remodeling and quality of life.

Creative Carnival Kitchen Sparkles Like The North Star: Case Study

Carnival Kitchen featured in Kitchen & Bath Business magazine article

Carnival Kitchen featured in Kitchen & Bath Business magazine.

I didn’t intend for the Carnival kitchen to get national attention, but that’s what happened.

Let me explain.

I worked for a local custom cabinet maker and home remodeler as a sales-designer while finishing my design schooling. The owner expected me to schedule appointments with everyone who visited the business. One afternoon in early March, a couple came to the showroom, and we talked about their goals for remodeling an outdated kitchen. It didn’t register that they could afford a luxurious, custom kitchen with unique features because they had just started thinking about remodeling. They resisted when I asked to schedule a second meeting in their home, saying that they needed to do more looking. My boss was furious.  Although he taught me a lot about cabinetry, I didn’t particularly appreciate how my boss treated his “customers” and staff. I resigned three weeks later after he yelled at me for not meeting his sales expectations. That’s when I formed D. P. Design in April 1984.

When the couple returned to the showroom, they were told that I’d left. After seeing an article in the San Jose Mercury News about me winning the Henry Adams Award during graduation, they called me and invited me to their home to talk about what they wanted. Our meeting lasted over three hours! They had a long — and exclusive — wish list.

What features did they have to have?

Homeowners’ Wish List

  • Magnetic-induction cooktop (standard equipment today, but there was only one manufacturer at that time)
  • Gas cooktop
  • Wok (only available as commercial equipment)
  • Double ovens and a microwave oven
  • Serving cart built into the cabinets
  • Triple sink
  • Small desk
  • Walk-in pantry with dutch doors
  • Display area for their collection of Red Skelton clown figurines and plates
  • Sub-Zero built-in refrigerator
  • Sub-Zero built-in freezer
  • Countertop with two seating areas
  • A rainbow of bright accent colors — primary and pastel
  • Better lighting
  • Garden windows for daylight, display, and plants

A Dreary Kitchen Dungeon Needed Help — Lots of Help!

Springtime Carnival kitchen before remodeling

Original kitchen: a dungeon

Although it was large, the original kitchen felt like a dungeon. It had dark-stained cabinets, laminate countertops, and olive-green carpeting! Yes, carpeting! The lighting was awful. Fluorescent fixtures inside the skylight provided most of the light that glared in comparison to everything around them. Floor-to-ceiling windows in the adjacent eating area provided light during the day, but cabinets over the peninsula prevented light from getting into the kitchen. It was hard to imagine anyone working in the kitchen successfully while maintaining a good mood.

Delightful Carnival Kitchen Details

Red Skelton clown plate

Red Skelton “Freddie the Golfer” plate

The Red Skelton clown figurines and plates collected by the homeowners and fabric with a wreath of colorful flowers and butterflies inspired the “Carnival” kitchen theme. Hank Corriea and his employees used the material to create custom window treatments. Peggy Spaulding transferred the wreath motif to 12″ tiles that Fasar required with their magnetic induction cooktops.

The cabinet maker and I designed an enormous six-foot-wide custom wood hood with two exhaust fans hung above the Thermador gas cooktop and the Yick wok with a single burner rated at 36,000 BTU’s. We incorporated a unique lit display cabinet in front of the two fan ducts for the figurines and plates. Oak cabinets were still trendy, but we decided to use natural straight-grain rift oak to avoid visual overload.

Springtime carnival custom stained glass insert

Carnival Kitchen stained glass panels

Yippee! We achieved all of the homeowners’ needs and wants. My creative spirit was soaring, and we defined other “carnival” kitchen details that included:

  • Custom stained-glass inserts in the dish pantry and all wall cabinets created by Dave Benoit, backlit with automobile dome lights, made the stained glass sparkle. Remember, this was 30+ years before LED strip lighting.
  • Peggy Spaulding painted a fanciful flower-and-butterfly mural for the backsplash behind the gas cooktop and wok with the same colors as the induction cooktop tiles.
  • The contractor installed “Tivoli” rope lighting around the perimeter of the skylight.
  • Jan Moyer painted an imaginative portrait of the wife on the water heater door: she’s barefoot and pregnant, dressed as a clown, sitting on a stool with a frying pan in one hand and a golf club in the other hand. The bottom of her apron reads, “I’d rather be golfing.”

 

Carnival Kitchen Wife Clown Portrait

Wife Painted As Clown

It Pays To Work With The Best . . .

This Carnival kitchen remodeling was a magnificent opportunity to start my career! My clients and I had great brainstorming sessions, and they adopted all of my recommendations! To achieve my clients’ goals, I worked with the best people in the industry:

  • Rob, the open-minded cabinet maker
  • Peggy, the experienced tile artist
  • Dave, the detailed stained-glass master
  • Gary, the friendly appliance dealer
  • Hank, the masterful window treatment manufacturer
  • Jan, the creative trompe l’oeil painter
  • Bruce, the helpful lighting expert

. . . But There Are Always Challenges!

There were problems with this Carnival kitchen project: Because the roof over the kitchen was flat, there wasn’t enough space to install recessed light fixtures. We had to use track lighting. If we were remodeling this kitchen today, there wouldn’t be a lighting problem. About three years ago, flush-mount dimmable LED ceiling fixtures became available. There were problems with the floor installation and the tile. I proved to the homeowners that I was their advocate, and all of the issues were resolved successfully.

The Whimsical Carnival Kitchen Sparkles Like The North Star

soar like an eagle carnival kitchen

Carnival kitchen finished!

With all of the difficulties resolved, the wife said she was as happy as a child on a carousel. She admitted that they had doubts about how I would “pull off” mixing Red Skelton’s clowns into a sophisticated kitchen. An avid golfer and a lady with a great sense of humor, she was delighted with her portrait on the water heater door. She said that her husband liked all the stained-glass details, how we’d made the cabinet doors sparkle. I was delighted with their reaction and asked if I could photograph the kitchen. “Of course!” was her reply.

Two weeks later, I hired Russell Abraham, a renowned architectural photographer, to take pictures of the kitchen. His fee was three times what I charged for my design services, but it proved to be a blessing in disguise. In May 1985, two months after finishing the kitchen, I was at a national trade show. Leslie Hart, the editor of Kitchen & Bath Business magazine, approached me. We had attended the first bathroom seminar offered by Ellen Cheever, a kitchen and bath design leader who had been one of my teachers in design school.

Ms. Hart told me that I had made a good impression on her with a project I did during Ellen’s seminar and asked if I had any projects that she could publish in her magazine. I barely squeaked out the words, “yes, I do.”

“Good,” she said. “Send me a complete description of the project with all of the products you used. Don’t forget to send photos.” It took me two days to create a story about the project, entitled “Springtime Carnival.” I covered the article and the 8 x 10 photos with cardboard, then slid them lovingly into the manila envelope. Standing in line at the post office, I held the envelope over my heart and said a prayer for good things to happen.

For several weeks, I couldn’t concentrate on daily tasks because I was so excited about the possibility of being included in one of the kitchen-bath industry’s premier magazines. One month passed. Then two. Then three. I’d given up about “Springtime Carnival” ever appearing in K&BB magazine. It was early September when I got a call from Michelle Tomasik, one of the magazine’s staff writers. She wanted to verify details of the “Springtime Carnival” project for an article they might publish. She didn’t give any specific dates when the article might appear.

Be Patient. Then Follow The North Star To Success!

Again, several months passed, and I forgot about the phone call. I also forgot that the K&BB magazine’s new issues arrived in the last week of the month for the following month. In late November 1986, my husband and I decided to drive to Long Beach, California, for the first West Coast Kitchen & Bath Industry Show in early December, co-hosted by the National Kitchen & Bath Association and the K&BB magazine. They shared a sizable centrally-located booth. I wanted to see if Leslie Hart was there so that I could ask her about the article. I didn’t need to, because . . .

"Carnival" kitchen on the cover of Kitchen & Bath Business magazine

Magazine cover featuring “Springtime Carnival.”

As we approached the booth, I saw the December issue fanned out on the countertop. The “Springtime Carnival” kitchen was on the cover! And there was a four-page article inside! Whoosh! My career was off to a great start!

Remembering this one-of-a-kind Carnival kitchen still gives me goosebumps. I can’t believe that I’ve been a designer for 36 years! It’s been an incredible journey of personal and professional growth while helping others achieve their dreams. I’ve been fortunate to have many wonderful clients and fabulous projects.  There have been hurdles in my business, like the recession in 2006-2009 and the recession during the pandemic. Remembering successes like this keep me inspired and motivated to help you and others. There’s still a lot of untapped creativity inside me! Every kitchen is one-of-a-kind because your needs, lifestyle, and budget are different from everyone else in the world!

It’s an honor to share stories about real people, most who’ve overcome remodeling fears and lived through the transformation of their home and life. The articles are (and will be) about how my clients coped and what we did to achieve the best results. There will always be hints, how-tos, and tips. All of the articles will be in a particular category called “Case Studies.” I invite you to read them, leave comments, and share them with family and friends. Here’s a list of case studies:

 

Here’s the article that’s 34 years old:

"Carnival" kitchen magazine article page 1"Carnival" kitchen in magazine article, Page 2"Carnival" kitchen in Kitchen & Bath Business magazine article, Page 3"Carnival" kitchen magazine article, Page 4

Professional Tip To Achieve Remodeling Success

What I learned during this project will help you achieve what you want during the first meeting with your designer: Share everything you want to include in your project, no matter how expensive it is or how whimsical and unrealistic it seems! Of course, you can always add details during the design. But it could affect the priorities on your “wish list,” and it may require you to make tradeoffs. Remember that your designer is your facilitator, helping you to achieve your remodeling goals.

In Conclusion

The Carnival kitchen was the North Star that led me in the right direction to a successful career. I’ve had hundreds of opportunities to help homeowners achieve their dreams and goals over the past 36 years. The wonderful thing is that I still have a “creative bucket” that’s full and ready to help you with your remodeling project. Contact me for a phone call or virtual meeting to discuss your needs and intentions and what may be holding you back from achieving them. I’m here to help you — always, in all ways.

Diane Plesset, CMKBD, C.A.P.S., NCIDQ is a Homeowner Advocate who specializes in helping homeowners with remodeling and addition projects. She has been the principal of D. P. Design since April 1984. Diane is the author of the award-winning book “THE Survival Guide: Home Remodeling” and many design awards.

 

A Powder Room CAN Be Different!

Your Powder Room Can Be Anything You Want It To Be!Your powder room is the one room that can be totally different from the other rooms in your home.

Remodeling your powder room can be a lot of fun, but it can be expensive! This is the only room in your home where you can break the rules of “architectural integrity”. You can choose any style that fulfills your desire to do something different.

How The Homeowners’ Journey Started

The couple fell in love with the custom vessel lavatory that they saw at a local home show. I’ll always remember hearing their discussion. My booth at the show was next to a major plumbing showroom’s booth. I walked over to the couple and we had a great discussion about how beautiful the custom green and red glass lavatory bowl was. Then I invited them to my booth, where we continued the discussion. A few minutes later, they asked me to their home to talk about remodeling all of their bathrooms. 

During the first appointment, they showed me the existing powder room, the master bathroom, and their son’s bathroom. All of the rooms in their home, except the bathrooms, had updated color schemes, furniture, and accessories. The bathrooms were caught in a 1970s time warp. We talked at length about what they wanted for the three bathrooms. The wife said, “I have to have that gorgeous sink somewhere in my home!” I agreed and said that the powder room would be the perfect spot. 

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4 Bathroom Design Ideas for Comfort and Safety

Accessible Bathroom in West LinnGreat Bathroom Design Balances Comfort, Safety, and Visual AppealYour bathroom can be any style that blends with your home and makes you feel good. Great bathroom design incorporates comfort and safety principles before anything is purchased during the planning stage.

Here are four bathroom design ideas for lighting, showers, tubs, and floors that will guarantee your comfort and safety, so you can really enjoy your new or remodeled bathroom: (more…)