Conversation: Professional Contractor and Designer
The Conversation Begins
The conversation between Larry Mock, a professional contractor, began over 13 years ago. I met him at a local NKBA meeting where we discovered that our attitude, experience and goals were similar. I knew that there would be opportunities for us to work together in the future.
Parallel Paths Reconnect
Larry and I worked together on projects, then our individual paths led in different directions for several years. Most of my new clients had already hired a contractor, and I did my best to work with them. But a good percentage of the contractors had undesirable business practices that led to problems during construction. I was working with contractors who would promise the earth and the stars, but their follow-through was severly lacking. Additionally, most of the contractors were bad communicators with my clients and me, which made the home remodeling experience frustrating for everyone. I vowed not to refer clients to these contractors. Then the opportunity to reconnect with Larry arose, when I was hired by wonderful homeowners in Hillsboro. I felt they deserved the best, so I contacted Larry. Fortunately, he was available. Our paths again connected.
With confidence, I referred Larry to the homeowners. He gave them a detailed preliminary estimate based on the plans I provided him, and he prepared a comprehensive schedule for my clients and all of the subcontractors. They told me later that during their first conversation with Larry, he guaranteed transparency. This meant that there would be no surprises during their construction. He promised a lot, and he delivered everything he promised. Our clients were happy with the entire process, and they achieved the home remodeling results they wanted.
Podcast Interview: A Natural Progression of Ongoing Conversation
When I decided to re-launch the “Today’s Home” podcast several months ago, I sent Larry an email asking if he’d be interested in doing an interview. I was excited when he agreed to do it. It has been over four years since the last interview. I was nervous about the technology involved in recording a phone interview with good sound quality. The conversation with Larry went well, but there’s room for improvement. Fortunately, I have Jay (my business and life partner), who is the best sound and technology resource. We’ll work together to improve the “Today’s Home” interviews. For me, everything is about improvement, personally and professionally!
Interview Take-aways for Homeowners
This is why Larry and I feel that this interview is important, because it informs homeowners about important
Be proactive; don’t expect someone else to take care of you
Ask questions (I’ve prepared a free whitepaper report you can download below)
Check contractors’ license status
Call all references
Avoid doing any work on your home without permits; I’ve written about this before:
During the interview, Larry told us about his career and experience. He’s been a contractor for 45 years, starting out in Morgan Hill as a project manager for a company that built multi-million-dollar homes. He plans to turn his company over to his new employee when he retires, so he’ll have more time to volunteer with the SPCA. One particularly refreshing aspect of Larry’s personality is that he doesn’t let the drama of politics and the negative influences of our world de-focus his commitment to excellence. His professional goals are consistent: Provide the best service to all of his clients. This includes transparency, honesty, and excellent communication. Here is how you can contact Larry:
Amazing Products For Your Home is the theme for this week’s blog and podcast. Last week, I covered 11 of 21 top home products that got attention at this year’s Kitchen and Bath Industry Show, the International Builders’ Show, and magazines for construction professionals. This week, I’m going to cover the last 10 of the group. It’s been a lot of fun, exploring and discovering these products that I’m sharing with you. Hope that you have found several that are interesting enough to incorporate into your home, or recommend to someone else. The “Today’s Home” logo (and mascot, “Homer”) seemed to be a perfect fit for these two segments. Two thumbs up!
WONDERFUL LED PRODUCT WITHOUT HOUSING (#1)
Recently, a contractor told me about surface-mount LED light fixtures that don’t require a housing. But the fixtures from Kichler, one of my favorite lighting manufacturers, do require a square or octagonal ceiling J-Box to snap into. If you’re remodeling your home, check out these fixtures before you spend a lot of money on recessed cans and trim. They’re UL-approved for wet areas, and because LEDs produce less heat than other types of light sources, you’ll ultimately save money with the snap-in, flush-with-ceiling LED down lights. https://www.kichler.com/tips-guides/indoor-lighting-guide/horizon-led-downlights/
NOVEL BATHROOM TISSUE HOLDER (#2)
I must admit that my husband and I aren’t among people who have their cell phones with them everywhere they go. Yes, I guess you could call us fogies, or ludites. When we come home, our phones get attached to the charging station in the back hallway until we leave again. One thing we do have is a landline phone in our bathroom. But for those of you who don’t have landlines, like us, and feel lost without your cell phones, even in the bathroom, I’ve got an amazing product for your home! It’s a toilet tissue holder with glass shelf for your phone, made by Dezi Home. It’s available in polished chrome, polished nickel, satin nickel, old-world bronze, and matte black. https://dezihome.com/harmoni/6-paper-holder-d1-201.html
BEST ENERGY-EFFICIENT FIREPLACE (#3)
If you want the look and feel of a fireplace without burning wood or gas, I’ve got a wonderful product for you that I recently discovered, from Modern Flames. It’s a steam fireplace that complies with the strict California energy laws. This is applying old “steam” technology with new technology for maximum enjoyment of your home. It’s the “FusionFire” Steam Fireplace that harnesses the power of commercial steam flame technology seen in the likes of Disney and Universal Studio.
The “Fusion Fire” was designed to handle the rigors of everyday use and consumes extremely small amounts of water when running. Because it is safe to touch and uses clean steam energy, no clearance is required for builders or homeowner. Requiring only 120v of electricity, home builders who are struggling to install gas fireplaces to meet the rigid parameters of modern green building codes (the new “Net Zero” requirements) don’t need to look further. The “Fusion Fire” Features the most life-like flame ever developed, and it is the first fireplace on the market that provides homeowners with the best aspects of both gas and electric while saving money on energy bills. https://www.modernflames.com/steam-fireplaces/built-in/fusionfire/
FANTASTIC RECESSED LIGHT THAT ELIMINATES BACTERIA AND GERMS (#4)
I’m really excited about this next product! If you’ve ever fought mold and mildew in your home, especially in your bathroom, there’s a new light fixture that safely eliminates up to 99% of bacteria and over 25 germs while illuminating your room. There is no UV light or chemicals used in the “Ellumi” line of products; it ensures the safety of your family & pets. It’s proven to be effective on strep, staph/mrsa, E. coli, salmonella, and many other bacteria hiding on commonly-used surfaces like countertops, cutting boards, desks, bathtubs and showers.
Safely kill up to 99% of bacteria and inhibit the re-growth of mold and fungi on surfaces with just a flip of a switch, using the patented integrated LED continuous disinfection mode. They have recessed lights for bathrooms, kitchens, laundry rooms, mud rooms, basement family rooms, and home offices. They also make under-cabinet lights for your kitchen, a great way to keep your countertops free from harmful bacteria. https://www.ellumilighting.com/
PHENOMENAL BATHROOM MIRROR (#5)
Since I discovered bathroom mirrors with integrated LED lighting about a year ago, I’m seeing many more similar products offered by manufacturers. But the one that has the most flexibility and best function is offered by Hafele, a company known for great innovative home products. Here are the features I love about this mirror: It provides task lighting and mood lighting. It has a de-mister to prevent the mirror from steaming up. And it has a sound system!
The Hafele lighted mirror easy to install, and can be mounted vertically or horizontally. The integrated touch switch on the mirror surface makes it easy to clean. Available in 24×36, 36×36 and 36×48 inches. You can select from three different wattages and three different lumen outputs. The only drawback is that the LED lamps are not replaceable, but LED lamps should last at least 35,000 hours. If left on for 8 hours a day 7 days a week, that’s almost 12 years! https://www.hafele.com/us/en/product/lighted-mirror-multifunctional/0000013400016d3b00010023/
DAZZLING MODERN CHANDELIER (#6)
I’m going to admit that a good portion of today’s segment is about LED lighting. My immediate response when I saw this next product was pure delight, but it’s not for everyone. It’s a contemporary wood and metal chandelier that looks like wind chimes, manufactured by Stickbulb. Each Stickbulb — a solid piece of wood with an embedded LED — can rotate 360 degrees and sway in the breeze thanks to its balljoint connector.
The “Chime” collection is available in reclaimed heart pine and NYC water tower redwood (!), sustainably sourced American walnut and maple, and ebonized oak. Yes, these fixtures are expensive. But if you’re looking for a very unique focal-point light fixture for your home, the Stickbulb “Chime” may be perfect. In the past several years, I’ve seen hundreds of beautiful LED fixtures. The wonderful thing about LEDs is that they can be used anywhere, in any style of fixture. The possibilities are endless! In the very near future, I’m excited to do an entire segment on LED lighting. https://stickbulb.com/
AMAZINGLY DIFFERENT CUSTOMIZABLE APPLIANCES (#7)
I have clients who want white appliances in their remodeled kitchen. It was disappointing and discouraging when my appliance specialist told me that white is being discontinued by most manufacturers. Yes, I’ve heard and read about the “new” trend in appliances: color. Manufacturers have been trying for years to get trends started for colored appliances, but the trends haven’t lasted because it limits the selection of appliances to one brand if homeowners want coordinating colors in their kitchen. As much as I love the colors, I’m reluctant to spend a lot of my clients’ money on products that may be passe in a year or two.
G.E. is keeping white appliances in its lineup for now — the “Cafe” — but they’re offering different accent colors for the handles, control knobs, and feet: brushed copper, brushed bronze, brushed stainless, and brushed black. The investment is what I consider to be very high: almost $25,000 for a full kitchen of these appliances (range, hood, dishwasher, refrigerator, and microwave oven). They do offer a $1,600 rebate, which will bring the investment down, but the numbers may be out of reach for a lot of peopleto pay for white appliances. https://www.cafeappliances.com/
FANTASTIC PAINT-ON RUBBER MASKING (#8)
My mother taught me how to handle a paint brush at a very early age. Although my hands aren’t as steady as they used to be, I still get great pleasure in “cutting in” paint in corners without masking tape. Not everyone is as crazy as I am, that’s why I’m recommending a product I just discovered: Peel-Tek paint-on masking that peels off easily. Imagine, painting wood against a rough surface like brick, with no paint bleeding and no messy clean-up! The manufacturer says that one container of Peel-Tek will give you the same coverage as four rolls of regular painter’s masking tape. It protects surfaces such as wood, porcelain, stone, ceramic tile, cement, stucco, brick, aluminum, and glass. It adheres easily to both porous and non-porous surfaces while leaving no messy residue. If you’re a D-I-Yer or a crafter, you should check out their website. https://www.peel-tek.com/
BEAUTIFUL FORM AND FUNCTION SHOWERHEADS (#9)
There’s no shortage of beautiful and functional showerheads available from virtually every plumbing manufacturer. But one recently caught my attention: The Moen “Nebia.” I love what they have to say, that it’s an “innovative and artfully designed product that allows you to better enjoy your showering experience and conserve the earth’s most precious resource. Water conservation has never looked or felt so good.”
The patented technology atomizes water into millions of tiny droplets that create 10-times more surface area of water. This creates a shower experience that is enveloping, relaxing, and also extremely effective at rinsing. The “Nebia” has 2 times the coverage compared to conventional showers. And it’s more powerful. The water droplets come into contact with your skin 3 times faster than standard showerheads. It works well in homes with below-average water pressure (as little as 20 psi) while still providing a great shower experience. The only negative thing about this showerhead is that it’s only available in matte silver and matte black, which requires creatively mixing it with other plumbing and accessories in your bathroom.. https://www.moen.com/nebia
BEST HOME TECHNOLOGY FOR LIGHT AND SOUND (#10)
The Lithonia LED wireless speaker downlight provides an easy and efficient way to light up a room, and enjoy music for the entire family. Wirelessly stream audio from Bluetooth enabled devices. Pair up to 8 units together for an enhanced sound experience. These fixtures retrofit into most standard 6″ recessed housings or new construction and remodel applications. The diffused lens surrounding the speaker provides even light distribution for general illumination for at least 35,000 hours. It has a wide flood beam angle at 45⁰.
The fixture is dimmable down to 10% with most standard incandescent, magnetic low voltage and electronic low voltage dimmers. A rechargeable lithium ion battery lasts up to 6 hours when the light is off. The battery charges when light is turned on and takes approximately 4 hours to fully charge. This fixture was featured in the Remodeling Pro’s list for new products. I was really excited to see it and share it with my husband, who was in the audio industry for over 20 years. He’s an admitted audiophile — a snob! His rating of the speaker was important, so I can share it with you. Because the speaker is small, 3-7/16” in diameter, my husband advises not to expect top-quality sound, or any bass. This is a great speaker for background sound, but to have a full range of sound, he recommends using it with other speakers when you’re wanting to seriously listen to music. https://www.acuitybrands.com/en/products/detail/766222/lithonia-lighting/6sl-speaker-downlight/6sl-led-6-downlight-with-integrated-speaker
You’ve read (and heard about) 21 amazing products. This is just the tip of the iceberg! It was difficult to select only 21 products from several hundred that I found on professional construction magazine websites. Before choosing a product, I investigated it. I also did a Google search for “best new home building products,” that yielded 3,580,000,000 results! It’s more than a lifetime of blogs and podcasts! If I do nothing but introduce 10 or 11 products a week until December 31, there will be thousands — maybe millions — more products introduced. Feels like painting the Golden Gate Bridge, a never-ending task. But I wouldn’t do it if it wasn’t fun, and gratifying to know that my efforts will help homeowners.
I appreciate your support of my blog and podcast. If you have any suggestions about how I can improve either, please email me, or write a comment below. If you have an interesting product that you’d like to share, let me know. Please let everyone you know about this blog and my podcast, which is now on iTunes, Spotify, and YouTube.
PODCAST: AMAZING PRODUCTS FOR YOUR HOME
Are you thinking about remodeling your existing home, or building a new home? Are you overwhelmed with all your choices? I can help you select the right products for your lifestyle and budget, then prepare detailed plans that reflect all of your decisions. Contact me today to get more information!
Great home products is a subject I love to talk and write about. This week’s blog features 11 of the over 20 great home products I discovered in the past several weeks. Some of them are meant for remodeling and new construction, while others don’t require major changes to your existing home. A couple of the products easily qualify for D-I-Y projects. Of course, I’ll let you know, and I’ll include the suggested retail price if I have it. We’ll complete the journey of product discovery next week.
UNIQUE BATHROOM INVENTION (#1)
Do you have a “groaty” glass in your bathroom? Think about all the germs that build up if you don’t sanitize the glass in your dishwasher frequently. Yuck! Have you ever taken a pill only to discover that you can’t find the [BLEEP] glass? Now there’s a great product for you: It’s a bathroom faucet that turns into a water fountain! The Nasoni “Fontain” won the “best of show” award at the Kitchen and Bath Industry Show. It’s got graceful, minimalist lines to complement all bathroom styles, and it’s available in brushed nickel or blackl, as well as chrome. A perfect retrofit for your bathroom, whether you have a 4” centerset faucet or an 8” widespread faucet. One thing I really like about this faucet: It has an aerator, preventing water from splashing on your mirror and clothes. https://nasoni.com/
STATE-OF-THE-ART SMART-HOME PRODUCT(#2)
If you’re building a new home, remodeling your existing home, or want to make your home smarter, a WIFI-enabled circuit breaker is a great product to include! It’s manufactured by Leviton, one of my favorite brands for outlets and switches. They have many models to choose from. I love the fact that this is a great-looking white circuit box, with a glass door. No more industrial tan, hiding in the garage or mechanical room! View real time energy consumption and trends, including total energy cost per month. Get alerts when a circuit breaker trips, or even trip one remotely. It’s the only residential circuit breaker on the market today that exceeds UL requirements for ground-fault protection. It prevents you from resetting the circuit breaker if ground-fault protection is lost. This important safety feature helps protect against electric shock and electrocution for a safer living environment. Of course, the circuit breaker panel must be installed with appropriate permits by a licensed electrician. https://www.leviton.com/en/products/residential/load-centers
FANTASTIC HOME LIGHTING DEVICE (#3)
I started touting LED lighting way back in 2004, when I was the co-host of a local talk show. It’s come a long way, and prices have dropped significantly, so everyone can afford LED lighting. Tresco Lighting has over 25 years of “Innovation Through Illumination.” The company proudly designs and manufactures a full line of superior quality L.E.D. lighting options that are UL listed. One of their fixtures recently caught my eye for its flexible installation: It’s a 12×12 panel that can be broken into 3×3 pieces. This will help you light dark areas in your home, including pantries, closets, cabinets, storage areas under stairways. You need only 1″ – 2″ separation between the front of the fixture and whatever it’s lighting. The possibilities are unlimited! The dimmable panels are available in four different color temperatures. I’ve requested more detailed information and will share it with you when I get it. https://www.trescolighting.com/
DIFFERENT HOME TREND REFINEMENT (#4)
Have you fallen for the shiplap trend that Joanna Gaines started? Some experts in remodeling and decorating say that it’s still popular, while others say that the “shiplap trend has sailed.” I’ve not been a fan of this product, but do admit that it has its place. This week, while doing research for the “Today’s Home” podcast, I discovered a very interesting shiplap product. It offers you flexibility of choice, and better installation than gluing old wood to your walls. Artis Wall gathers authentic reclaimed wood from old barns and other structures around the US and crafts them into planks. Their patented installation system allows the planks to be easily installed, removed, and reused in any room. One of the things that I really like about this product is the configuration, like the picture I’ve shown (right), which is from a real installation. There appears to be at least five different woods and colors mixed into a great geometric pattern. Yes, it could enhance even our Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired home! https://www.artiswall.com/
BEST HOME INSULATION PRODUCT(#5)
Do you have old insulation, or no insulation in your home? Another product I discovered has received accolades from the International Builders’ Show for best spray foam insulation: Demilec. Its branding is really catchy, “No Status Quo,” and they mean it. You can insulate with an air barrier in one application. The foam fills all cracks, gaps, and voids. With insulation, you save money on energy. This foam contains no chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), formaldehyde, or fibrous materials. We’ve heard about radon, how dangerous it is and how it can get into our homes. Heatlok HFO High Lift and Heatlok Pro are produced in the U.S. from 12.5% post-consumer recycled products. To date, Demilec has recycled more than 360 million large plastic bottles. The installation of this insulation generates no waste, no jobsite trash. There is no packaging. The product is sold in liquid form in returnable recycled containers. It’s recognized by the National Association of Home Builders as a green product. If you’re building a home or remodeling your existing home, tell your contractor about Demilec spray foam products. https://nostatusquo.info/ Demilec
STUPENDOUS HOME LAUNDRY EQUIPMENT (#6)
Are you thinking about replacing your washer and dryer? I was pleasantly surprised, being a relatively new fan of Samsung appliances, to learn about the Samsung Flex-wash and Flex-dry laundry equipment. FlexWash combines a 5 cu.ft. lower with a 1 cu.ft. upper washer. The “super speed” cycle can power through laundry in just 30 minutes. You can use the power of steam to remove stains without pre-treating. Innovative design reduces vibration, so heavy loads stay balanced and quiet even at high speeds.
The FlexDry is also two dryers in one, letting you dry delicates and everyday garments at the same time, or independently. It uses the power of steam to freshen and sanitize garments, reduce odors and static, and relax wrinkles, so you spend less time ironing. Sensor dry automatically optimizes the time and temperature of the drying cycle so clothes are always thoroughly dry without being damaged, and you avoid excessive energy use.
You can remotely control your Samsung washer and dryer from anywhere using your mobile devices. You can monitor the remaining cycle time, receive alerts when the cycle is complete, and schedule cycles. Eco-friendly and energy-efficient, the washer and dryer meet the strict EPA standards for EnergyStar® certification. https://www.samsung.com/us/explore/flex-wash/
Over the years, I’ve talked with homeowners who want to do a quick facelift to an existing bathroom. One of the problems is their outdated, plain-Jane bathroom mirrors. One company, Precision Frameworks, has come up with an elegant solution, frames that you can attach to the face of your mirror to update your bathroom. There are 28 different frame styles from which to choose, available in a plethora of different colors and finishes. Updating your bathroom mirror will probably lead to updating the over-mirror light fixture, but the good news is that there is a great selection of these fixtures. Precision Frameworks offers more than instant frames for bathroom mirrors, including custom framed mirrors and mirrors that have integrated LED lighting. Check out their website to learn more. https://www.precisionframeworks.com/
DESIRABLE TUB AND SHOWER DOOR ADVANCEMENT (#8)
This next product caught my attention! We’ve been living with shower curtains for almost 11 years, and I’m really tired of it! If you’re in the same position, check out the products from Maglev Glide. Imagine, no more ugly tub and shower door tracks that are hard to clean! No more tracks that prevent you from sitting on the edge of your tub to get in, or leaning on the edge of your tub while you bathe your children! Here are some of the features and benefits of the MagLev Gliding shower doors: The gliding (not sliding!) door floats in the air without supporting rollers or hinges. There’s no friction, no noise, no moving or mechanical parts. It’s no surprise that this product got top honors in the International Builders’ Show. https://maglevglide.com/
UNIQUE HOME CONCEALED DOOR (#9)
Several months ago, I had clients who wanted to hide the door to their “safe” room where they keep their guns, ammunition, valuables, and important papers. I designed a custom bookcase on concealed casters that attached to the outside of the solid-core door, but the estimate from the cabinet maker was more than my clients were willing to pay. Too bad that I didn’t know about the Murphy Door Company, which has doors that are disguised. The doors can look like decorative shelving, bookcases, cabinets with drawers, a cue rack, a wine rack, a shoe rack, or a pantry! It’s a big investment, a higher price than a regular 6-panel solid wood door. It gives you a feeling of security, knowing that your possessions are hidden from everyone’s view, yet there’s something great to look at that functions beautifully. They make units for single doors, french doors, and bifold doors, in a wide variety of woods and finishes. They even provide kits for D-I-Yers! https://murphydoor.com/
FANTASTIC CUTTING-EDGE GROUT (#10)
Two grout manufacturers have introduced translucent grout that picks up the color of the tile. Over the years, my clients have labored over the decision about grout colors. From here on, I’m going to recommend the translucent epoxy-based grout that is stain- and mold-resistant. It’s a definite advantage for showers and tubs, and kitchen backsplashes. It is not a D-I-Y product, because the amount of time you have to work with it is limited. Additionally, it must be installed within a specific temperature range. I’ve seen many botched tile installations that homeowners attempted. It takes a lot of skill to learn how to apply grout successfully. But once epoxy-based grout is installed, you’ll never have to get down on your hands and knees, or lean on your countertops, to clean your grout with a toothbrush! I’m particularly intrigued with the grout from Laticrete that offers grout that can glow in the dark, or sparkle! The only requirement is that the tile setter must add the proprietary product, “Dazzle” to the grout before applying it to the joints. Translucent grout: https://www.flooranddecor.com/site-articles/mapei-flexcolor-cq-innovative-new-grout-product.html
The next product is in the very expensive category, approximately $1,300 per linear foot for the folding doors. But if you’re interested in a totally open, uninterrupted feeling of inside-out in your home, I recommend the folding doors and windows from Nana Wall. They have a new product that’s particularly interesting. It creates a pass-through from your kitchen countertops to an adjacent deck or patio, in addition to opening up the space between the inside and outside. Transform fixed walls into flexible openings that invite the outside in and remove visual and physical barriers. Enjoy the expanded sense of space, yet stay comfortable with a transparent barrier that protects you no matter what the climate or seasonal extreme. I believe that they hit a home run with the new product. Check out their website to see details! https://www.nanawall.com/home-owners
TO SUMMARIZE: GREAT HOME PRODUCTS ENHANCE OUR LIVES
I believe that it’s human nature in all capitalist societies like ours to want the best and to be the best, however each of us defines “best.” It’s my quest, to do my best in some way, every day. When deciding whether or not to re-launch my podcast and create this series of correlating blogs, my objective was — and is — to bring the best, most honest and relevant home remodeling information to my audience. Researching all of these products was a labor of love, and I hope you’ve discovered at least one great home product that will enhance your life for years. Thank you for your support and encouragement. Thank you for listening to my podcasts and reading my blogs, for recommending both to everyone you know. Next week, our journey of discovery will continue. For now, enjoy your week!
THE “TODAY’S HOME” PODCAST: GREAT HOME PRODUCTS
Remember, I’m available to:
Help you find the best products for your home building or remodeling projects.
Work with you to achieve the living environment that fits your lifestyle and your budget.
Prepare detailed plans that are the building and remodeling GPS from the beginning to the end of your project.
Two important remodeling questions happen during first meetings with homeowners. They’re great questions! Sometimes I have to do research to answer a remodeling question specifically, but I love to do research because it provides information and builds confidence. For the two important remodeling questions, I have answers that I’ve already researched and proved to be accurate.
REMODELING QUESTION #1:
“How long will it take to complete our project?”
There are two parts to the answer. The answer to the first part of the “how long will it take?” remodeling question focuses on how long it will take to complete the design phase of a project. There is no pat answer for this question, because it depends totally on the following four reasons:
Reason #1: How long it takes for homeowners to make decisions.
I’ve had clients who made decisions at lightning speed, and other clients who needed to think about every aspect of a decision. It’s totally personal. If you’re the type of person who needs all available information before you make a decision, then the design process will take longer, which will ultimately affect the start and finish dates for construction.
Reason #2: Meeting schedules.
In the perfect world, homeowners and their design professional should have regular meetings to stay on track. I like to meet with my clients weekly, but sometimes it’s not possible. I remember one couple who had very busy career schedules that involved a lot of travel. We were lucky to have one meeting a month! Unfortunately, a good percentage of the time was spent recapping what we’d discussed at the last meeting before we could proceed talking about other aspects of their project.
Reason #3: Building the “team.”
I like to get a contractor involved in the process as early as possible, so he or she can offer valuable information about the project. Scheduling meetings with contractors can consume a significant amount of time, but it’s necessary to help homeowners select who they’re going to hire.
Reason #4: Financing.
If you need or want to finance your project, start talking with financial institutions as soon as possible. Getting approved for a home equity loan can take a month or more, as current clients are discovering.
Specific Answers to Remodeling Question #1:
How long construction will take depends upon the size of your project. Allow at least:
6 weeks for a guest bathroom or a powder room.
8 weeks (minimum) for a master bathroom.
8 – 10 weeks for a kitchen without an addition.
12- 16 weeks for a kitchen with an addition.
6 – 10 months for a major whole-house remodel with an addition.
Variables That Affect How Long Construction Will Take
Unseasonable storms can play havoc with a project schedule. Weather in other parts of the country (or world) can affect transport of a particular product.
Order all products well in advance of the construction start date and store them at the jobsite or get a definite delivery date for appliances, cabinets, and large plumbing fixtures. This is advice that many homeowners take lightly. Several times in my career, clients delayed their project because they neglected to select and order products. For some reason, light fixtures cause a lot of anxiety.
When a supplier tells you that a product is “in stock,” it’s important to find out where it’s stocked and how long it will take to get the product to your home.
All of the contractor’s employees and subcontractors got the flu. This delayed clients’ project for almost two months. The HVAC contractor caused delay of new home construction when his employee forgot to renew his boiler license.
Unforeseen framing problems
During demolition, discovering things like dry rot, termites, and poor framing can seriously affect the schedule, depending on the severity of the problem.
“While you’re here . . .”
When homeowners change their minds or add to the project scope, it can seriously affect the finish date. Contractors can also delay the project when they make recommendations that they know will increase the homeowners’ investment. Several years ago, my client’s contractor said to him, “We can easily add a rooftop deck so you can enjoy the sunsets.” Fortunately, I learned about the conversation and asked the contractor to provide a written change order for the additional materials and labor plus an estimate of how much time it would add to the project completion. After seeing the change order, my client decided not to go ahead with the roof deck.
REMODELING QUESTION #2: “How much will our project cost?”
The second important remodeling question that homeowners ask at the first meeting is, “How much will my project cost?” I recommend a shift in thinking from “cost” to “investment.” You are, after all, making an investment to improve your home, and improve your lifestyle. That’s a worthwhile investment!
While I’m on the subject of changing your mindset, I’d like to recommend that you think of financial numbers you get from a contractor as an estimate, not a bid. There is a lot of competition among contractors who want you to hire them, but it should never become a bidding war.
Specific Answer to Remodeling Question #2 — A Great Tool
We’re fortunate to have a wonderful tool available to all of us, called the Cost vs. Value Report that’s been produced yearly since around 2001. Why is it such a valuable tool? It provides:
A complete list of different home improvement projects, large and small.
Valuable investment and return-on-investment information for every region, and major cities within that region. You can see how your investment compares in your city to other cities in the region, and how your investment compares to national averages.
A description of the materials that are included and the square footage of the project. You can then derive a reasonable square footage investment for your project and do some basic math to help you define your budget.
When you click on the link to access the Cost vs. Value Report, after you select the city, the website will divert you to a page that requests demographic information. In all the years I’ve been using this report and referring it to hundreds of homeowners, no one has ever complained about ending up in a “sales cycle” by sponsors of the report. If you do get unwanted sales contacts from any of the advertisers, please let me know and I’ll intercede on your behalf.
Remodeling Questions and Answers: A True Story
What follows is a true story about one project that was as good as it can get from beginning to end.
I met with homeowners in early April two years ago. They’d been thinking about and talking about remodeling their 1970s kitchen for several years and were prepared to get started immediately. After telling me how they wanted their new kitchen to function and look, they asked the two important remodeling questions that I’m accustomed to hearing.
When the wife asked remodeling question #1, “How long is it going to take to remodel our kitchen?” I had to preface my answer with a warning. Most contractors I knew were already scheduling projects to start in the fall and later, so they may not achieve their new kitchen until the following year. Their facial expressions clearly showed their disappointment, but the husband’s follow-up comment was optimistic, “I’m sure the right contractor is out there.” This motivated me to work hard and find the right contractor for them. Because their project also included updating the rest of their home, I told them that their project would probably take three to four months instead of the normal eight to ten weeks. We agreed that it would be great to find an available contractor who was also a good project manager.
Then the husband asked remodeling question #2, “How much will we pay for all of this?,” I shared what I knew from the “Cost vs. Value” report, that their kitchen remodeling project would be around $70,000, but the investment in the additional updating would bring the total to $130,000 or more. They were surprised that the number was so high, but took this information graciously. Honestly, at the end of the meeting, I wasn’t sure whether they would proceed with their project or not, but I really wanted to help them.
For the next several days, I contacted every contractor who had worked with me on projects in the past ten years, except the ones who I vowed to never work with again. You may know the type; they don’t:
Provide accurate investment estimates.
Know how to schedule a project and keep it on track.
Have good communication skills.
Have employees or subs that work on all their projects.
Follow the details in design plans.
Respect homeowners’ property.
Yes, it’s true that I’ve worked with the best and the worst. The best will take the most challenging project and turn it into a dream-come-true. The worst will take any project they touch into a nightmare.
Found: A Great Contractor!
One of the contractors I contacted, Larry Mock, the principal of Cascade Custom Remodeling, had a large project fall through at the last minute because his clients got transferred to Southern California. He was available! Not only that, but I rediscovered what a professional he is. I was so excited, I called the homeowners. The wife answered and immediately said, “I was just about to call you and schedule our next appointment so you can take measurements of our home!” Talk about pieces of a puzzle falling together!
Larry met with the homeowners three weeks later, after I finished the preliminary plan, elevations, and perspectives. He prepared a detailed eight-page breakdown of their investment, and gave them a preliminary schedule.
The Project: On Time, Within A Reasonable Budget
In the three weeks that followed, I worked with the homeowners to select all of the products for their home. It was a real joy working with them! They were always upbeat and optimistic about everything! And they made quick decisions! At the same time, I finalized the design plans that included several virtual-reality perspectives. Here’s one of the perspectives I prepared:
Larry finalized his estimate. Construction proceeded smoothly. Larry stayed on top of the schedule and communicated with everyone daily. It looked as if the project would be completed on schedule, in late September, until one of the fabricator’s employees dropped the table top. This meant that the fabricator had to re-make the table top using a new slab. The fabricator squeezed new the table into their schedule and installed the replacement slab in less than a week.
The design phase for this remodeling project took only six weeks from the day I took measurements until I gave the final plans to the homeowners and Larry. Construction started on July 7 and final inspection happened on October 5, three months from beginning to completion. The homeowners’ total investment was $135,350.00.
Remember The Results
It’s gratifying when a project finishes on time within a reasonable budget, and gives homeowners the results they want. I’m happiest when I provide honest, reliable information that helps homeowners make informed decisions. This was one of the projects that I’ll always remember as an achievable goal when all of the stars align. It started with two important remodeling questions about “When?” and “How much?”
See the before and after photos of this project in my Portfolio.
“Don’t follow a trend. Follow your heart.” (Krist Novoselic)
Trends are an important part of our life, 24/7/365. It was fun to investigate the history of trends and read expert opinions about how trends change our lives. Research is fun, and gives me an opportunity to learn!
There’s an unlimited number of trends that influence us every waking minute, every day. Some are obvious, like advertising. We use Google, Pinterest, and Houzz to search for trends, or we may discover them while we’re searching for other things. Other influencers may be subtle, like seeing clothing worn by celebrities, or food packaging.
TRENDS: HOME DESIGN (What’s “in” now?)
SMALLER HOMES WITH MORE DETAIL
McMansions are out. Smaller homes are in. But small doesn’t have to mean stripped down. Today’s homeowners, especially millenials, expect detail-packed, optimally-designed homes, where every inch of space is maximized. When you reduce square footage in a home, how can you maintain storage and detailing? Get creative! For example, use storage under staircases and nooks throughout the home. Focus on design elements that reinforce quality and a feeling of space, such as skylights and sliding doors. The smaller the space, the more you want to give it an airy feel.
As interest in smaller homes grows, demand for infill housing in urban living increases. Many homeowners want the convenience and walkability or bikeability of an urban community. As a result, accessory dwelling units, loft-style homes, and pre-fabricated homes are popular for all age groups.
BUILDING SYSTEMS THAT SAVE NATURAL RESOURCES
Despite what some government officials say, global warming and saving natural resources is important to the majority of homeowners. With the focus on energy and conservation, homeowners want features that offer value as well as style. Here are some sustainable design trends that continue to be “in:”
Roof solar panels and passive solar design
Thermostatically controlled skylights that open when the home reaches a certain temperature
Using sustainable building materials, such as restored wood for flooring and products that contain a high percentage of post-consumer waste
On-demand water heating
Radiant heated flooring
Rain chains that filter and reuse rainwater
Air and water filtration systems
LIFETIME LIVABILITY FEATURES FOR ALL AGES (NOT JUST SENIORS!)
The country’s demographics are changing. As the baby boomer population gets older, homeowners demand senior-friendly features in their homes. Consequently, universal design will continue to be an important concept when building new homes or remodeling existing homes. Here are four important features for everyone, not just seniors:
♦ Accessibility. Homeowners are looking for features that enhance mobility, such as built-in elevators and one-story floor plans. ♦ Safety. Features that offer convenience and security are popular, including low-level access showers and grab bars. ♦ Caregiver Comfort. Many homeowners want features that offer comfort for caregivers, such as a private space separate from the rest of the home. ♦ Community. Common outdoor areas like gardens and courtyards offer older homeowners a chance to congregate and enjoy companionship.
Now I’ll explore specific trends for your home, starting with your kitchen:
TRENDS FOR YOUR KITCHEN:
Abstract island and peninsula shapes. Modifying the shape of an island or peninsula can open up circulation paths, improving work and storage space. The aisleways around an island should maintain a 42” minimum space between countertops (NKBA guidelines).
Backsplash tile feature walls. Including areas behind floating shelves and flanking chimney-style range hoods. It creates a striking feature wall and transforms an okay wall into a focal point.
Black. Black stainless steel appliances are popular, because the finish is fingerprint-resistant, and has an iridescent sheen to enhance the other surfaces.
Contrasting island. Darker colors have caught on, becoming a bona fide trend.
Cream-colored cabinets. No matter what style, stark white cabinets have been overdone in the past 5-10 years.
Great room concept. Homeowners are still opening up their kitchens to adjacent interior spaces.
Quartz countertops. Engineered quartz remains a popular countertop material because it’s lower maintenance and stronger than most real stone, available in a plethora of colors and styles.
Subway tile. Rectangular 3″ x 6″ subway tile is still popular, but it’s being installed in a herringbone or vertical pattern. Alternative rectangular tiles (up to 12″ x 24″) are popular because there are fewer grout joints.
Window walls and glass doors. Wider windows and doors provide natural light and views of a garden. It’s important to consider the compass orientation and view year round. Also consider any loss of storage before you demolish your kitchen.
Wood. Homeowners are increasingly demanding medium-tone woods, especially in kitchens.
TRENDS FOR YOUR BATHROOMS:
Easy-reach shower controls. Being bombarded with icy water is no way to start a shower. The valve should be placed where you can control the water easily from outside and the inside.
Freestanding bathtubs. The trendy freestanding tub is still popular, but it has more room around it. Maybe it’s in a room of its own, if you have the space and a great private view. If you lack a view, how about installing an electric fireplace? These tubs, like all other trends, aren’t for everyone, though. People with bad backs, hips, and knees should definitely consider a tub that’s safer to enter and exit. Think about your investment, too, that can easily exceed $15,000. You gotta love bathing!
Natural wood “furniture” vanities. Instead of the tried-and-true cabinets, furniture-looking vanities are preferred by many homeowners. They look great, but how much will they store? And, how accessible will all of your personal-care products be?
Painted shiplap. Painted shiplap is popular because it adds texture, dimension and character in a room that can often feel sterile.
Patterned tile floors. Patterned tile is showing up in areas to resemble area rugs. You get the clean feel of tile with all the color and style of a bold rug. It can be warm as a rug, too, if you install radiant heating under the tile.
Wet room. This is a great use of space, where you can shower before and after you use the bathtub. It’s important, though, to select floor tiles that have a rough texture for safety.
Appliance and cabinet manufacturers have gone out on a limb to introduce new, bolder colors. This has occurred many times before. Maybe now is the time for the new colors to be accepted into the mainstream. Technology has made it possible for tile manufacturers to produce a wide variety of products in different sizes with interesting textures and a broad selection of colors. Hooray for more choices!
What about other rooms in your home? Here are some current trends:
TRENDS: OTHER ROOMS IN YOUR HOME
Big, bold plants. A dragon tree, a rubber tree or a palm tree can make an eye-catching statement. Before spending a lot of money, though, verify whether it’s dangerous if children or pets munch on the leaves.
Multi-functional spaces. An office or hobby room that doubles as a guest room is the best example. Murphy beds are preferred over slumpy-looking futons.
Bold colors. Navy blue, deep red, and burnt orange to bring some excitement into a room. Pair your bold color with calmer, neutral hues. Use strong colors sparingly, either as a statement piece or an accent. Please, no accent walls! They’re out!
Period-style details. Find ways to inject more character into a room. Successfully paying homage to a certain style is about incorporating small touches of it, rather than trying to copy the look in its entirety.
Biophilia. Biophilia emphasizes the relationship and connections between humankind and nature. We are calmed by the sight of greenery in the form of live plants and living walls, the sight and sound of water, access to views of natural settings, and tactile organic materials such as wood and stone.
DEAD AND DYING TRENDS
“Trendy is the last stage before Tacky.” (Karl Lagerfeld)
We’ve all made trendy choices that we regretted – trends that have (or should have) died since the 1970s. Be honest: How many of these outdated trends have made an appearance in your home? Here’s a quick list of 45 dead and dying trends:
Mason jar mania
Wicker furniture (inside)
Hollywood mirror lights
Bean bag chairs
Giant silk plants
Lace tablecloths and doilies
White quartz countertops.
Mid-century everything (unless you have an authentic mid-century modern home)
LOVE YOUR HOME AND BELONGINGS
All of us have given in to trends since we were young children. We grew up in homes that were influenced by popular trends chosen by our parents and their parents. There is a certain comfort we can derive from being on the inside of a trend; it helps us feel like we fit in. That’s what advertisers count on. Trends drive our economy. Trends can become dangerous, though, when they’re taken too seriously by consumers who must have the latest and greatest. I believe that trends are merely a snapshot in time; they don’t last. I also believe that trends aren’t for everyone. This is what I ask of myself and of you: Think about every decision you make. Is it something you genuinely want, or is it an artificial need created by an outside influence? What’s the financial impact of your decision? How long must you keep it in order to recoup your investment? Nate Berkus says:
“I believe your home tells a story about who you are and who you aspire to be. We represent ourselves through the things we own. I don’t believe in trends. I believe in collecting things that you connect with. We should surround ourselves with things we care about, that have meaning.”
For the most important rooms in your home, your kitchen and bathrooms, you must make informed decisions to last for years. Falling prey to today’s trend may mean that your home is going to scream “Outdated!” Use a color or style that you love now because you love it, not because it’s a current trend. If you can, project yourself into the future. Visualize your home the way you want it. Get in touch with how you feel about it at a point in the future. I know it’s hard to do, but the time you spend getting in touch with those feelings will help you make an informed decision now. Ask yourself, “How am I going to feel when business associates visit my home in 2024 and say, ‘Oh, you remodeled your kitchen in 2019!’”
These words may be difficult to read (and hear), but my commitment is to help you make informed decisions so you can enjoy your home for years to come. Experience has taught me to listen to the voice inside — my real self, not ego. This quote has been with me for many years, and I share it because I care:
“Be yourself; everyone else is taken.”
Here’s the podcast that’s based on this blog post:
If you are unsure about what to do to update your bathrooms or kitchen, or transform your entire home so it has integrity, I can and will help you! Contact me today to talk about what we can do together!
Today, I’m writing about smart home technology — where it came from and where it is, according to experts who know.
SMART HOME TECHNOLOGY — HISTORY
Remember when home technology was in its infancy? If you’re my age, you were probably in your infancy. Or maybe you weren’t born yet.
In 1950, inventor Emil Mathias built his “Push Button Manor” in Jackson, Michigan. It had many of the smart home features we have today, although they were primitive in operation. Mr. Mathias could control his windows and window coverings, and door locks. He and his family felt safe and secure with their burglar alarm. They could control music in their home and turn on specific lights. Their home even had a dinner bell control!
“Push Button Manor” was built 12 years before the Jetsons aired on TV. Rosie, the robot, did everything with an arrogant attitude for George and Jane, their two children Judy and Elroy, and the family dog, Astro. Today’s voice-controlled smart homes just listen, unless we ask them specific questions. This makes me wonder how we’d feel if “Alexa” or “Siri” developed an attitude like Rosie had.
“House of the Future” in Disneyland
Between 1957 and 1967, Disneyland featured a smart home called “The House of the Future,” designed by architect Marvin Goody for Monsanto. The floor, ceiling and walls were made entirely of plastic. The famous conversation from the 1967 movie “The Graduate” might have been inspired by “The House of the Future:”
Mr. McGuire: I want to say one word to you. Just one word. Are you listening? Benjamin: Yes, I am. Mr. McGuire: Plastics. There’s a great future in plastics. Think about it.
The “House of the Future” kitchen had a state-of-the-art microwave oven. Refrigerated shelves dropped down from the ceiling. An ultrasonic-wave dishwasher saved water. It worked because the dishes and drinking vessels were plastic. The plastic ceiling panels could be set to various levels for task or mood lighting. A climate control panel heated or cooled the house. It could provide what we know now as aromatherapy, making the house smell like the seashore or a garden of roses. The built-in TV and HiFi hid from view when not in use, and a push-button speaker phones provided hands-free calls.
A SMART HOME WILL HELP YOU NOW
In the 1950s and ’60s, most homeowners didn’t know or care about home technology, but we’ve become so accustomed to a high-tech world, we forget that our present was defined and designed over 62 years ago! The “smart home” in Disneyland was perfect for that time and location. It was the only one of its kind. Technology has been and is improving and is becoming affordable so your home can now have features that can be easily controlled by your cell phone, pad, computer, or a simple voice command. Are you:
Expecting a delivery at your home but no one is there to receive it?
Unsure whether you turned on the security system or closed the garage door before you left?
Coming back from vacation and want to reset your HVAC system the day before?
Confused about what to fix for dinner with food you have in your refrigerator and pantry?
Additionally, do you want to:
Turn on music and lights when you’re on your way home from work?
See what’s going on in your home while you’re away, or just have fun with your pets?
Be alerted if an appliance fails or your home develops a plumbing leak?
SMART HOME FEATURES
These are all possible with technology that’s readily available. Here’s a description of what smart home features can do to make your life easier and more enjoyable:
You can control and monitor access to your home with smart door locks, cameras and intercom systems. A camera picture or email shows up on your cell phone to let you know when your children arrive home from school, or when someone rings your doorbell. You don’t have to answer the door in person.
AUDIO and VIDEO
You can distribute music and movies throughout your home and hide all of the equipment in a closet. Family and friends can enjoy different types of AV media in different areas of your home at the same time. You have simple control of complex systems, and save money by reducing the number of cable or satellite boxes at every TV. A movie or TV show can be paused in one room while it continues to play in another room. Digital media stores and catalogs your collection; you can sort or filter thousands of titles with instant access.
Building departments have required automatic setback thermostats for many years. They work with a clock, but you have to tell it what time you want the HVAC system to turn on and off. You may have to adjust the clock for daylight saving time. You don’t have to heat or cool every room in your home, because with occupancy sensors, the room can adjust the temperature for a specific activity or the exterior temperature, to reduce the solar gain or loss and save you money on energy bills. Skylights can open or close and exhaust fans can turn automatically on based on the temperature and humidity. Window treatments can open and close spontaneously for light and privacy, as well as helping to control solar gain or loss.
With an energy monitor, it’s possible to see how your home is performing, to help you save money while you help the environment. There is a range of smart home devices that will show you energy consumption. The most expensive, of course, will break down which appliances are energy hogs, what time of the day you use the most electricity, etc.. Did you ever watch the “Living With Ed” TV series? It was one of my favorite shows, because it was entertaining while I learned about smart home technology. Ed Begley, Jr. inspired and motivated my husband and me to incorporate and plan for many of the smart home features he already had. He is one of many celebreties who live conservation every day.
This is the major feature that can enhance every activity in your home at any hour of the day or night. Good lighting can help in five important ways:
Create a safe pathway when you come home, walk from room to room, and navigate in each room.
Adjust with activities. A kitchen must have good task light so you can see what you’re doing, and a family room must have sufficient light to play board games, but you don’t need as much light when you’re eating, entertaining, or watching TV.
Reduce eye strain in your home office caused by too much contrast between your monitor and light fixtures in the room.
Save you money when you use dimmable LEDs. Using dimmer switches instead of regular on-off switches reduces your energy consumption and saves the light bulbs that you’re dimming.
Produce a festive atmosphere in your home for the holidays and other celebrations.
My husband and I attended a holiday housewarming party at clients’ newly-completed whole-house remodeling. “Steve” knows more about smart home technology than anyone I’ve met who isn’t in the business of helping others with their smart homes. The focal point of the living room was the smart LED Christmas tree that could be operated from a cell phone. It could change colors and change the speed of twinkling. It added a festive glow to the party!
There are many manufacturers of lighting control that integrate with smart home technology. I’m a long-time fan of Lutron controls, but they can be at or near the top of your investment. It depends on how sophisticated and integrated you want your lighting controls to be. Knowing the features you want (including integration with other smart home devices) will help you find exactly what’s right for your lifestyle and your home.
Although water conversation is an important part of green technology, there are smart devices to help you water your garden. We just purchased a landscape irrigation tool that won’t turn on the sprinklers if it’s raining, or will give our precious plants an extra drink of water if we have a heat wave. This device can be operated by cell phone, computer, or voice command. This is smart home technology at its best. It protects our investment in plants and saves time and energy. My husband loves not having to get up at dawn to turn the sprinklers on manually!
SMART HOME ADVICE
You can hire a company to help you turn your home sweet home into a home smart home, or you can transform your home yourself, if you understand how smart technology works and you’re handy with tools. You can make the task easier by breaking it down into smaller pieces. If you’re at the entry level of a smart home, here are expert recommendations:
Start with one or two gadgets and build from there as you become familiar with how the products work.
Get products with the widest compatibility.
Opt for user-friendly, wallet-friendly gadgets from tech companies like Amazon, Google, and Samsung.
Sell “mistakes” on Craig’s List or Ebay if something doesn’t fit in, to recoup some of your investment.
HOW SMART DEVICES WORK
While smart home devices can do a lot, they’re really not as smart as you are! A smart home isn’t just about fancy Wi-Fi devices that you control from your cell phone. Don’t get frustrated if things don’t work as smoothly as you want, or were led to believe. There isn’t a single app that controls everything, and the devices may not intertwine seamlessly. As your smart home gets smarter, you’ll find workarounds to get devices to talk to one another so you can have inter-device automations like “When I unlock the door, turn on the lights in the entry and make a path of light to the kitchen.”
All devices that control your smart home have something in common: a radio. Voice assistants are a great buy early in your smart home journey. They give you the flexibility you may desire. It’s reported that 20 million households in the U.S. have voice-control devices. Your voice command is transmitted to the manufacturer’s server. Without this process, voice assistants don’t understand a word you say. The servers and hubs are the brains of your smart home. That’s where the intelligence is, not in the gadgets and not in the apps or physical remote controllers you use. But there is one thing about voice assistants that nags at me, though – this is a personal opinion – that the devices have to be listening, always. Here’s a link to a news report that I saw on NBC news about the security of voice controls: https://www.nbcnews.com/tech/security/hey-alexa-how-secure-are-voice-activated-assistants-you-n824566. An online search for the subject of “security of voice-activated controls” got over 31,000,000 results.
IMPORTANCE OF THE “CLOUD”
What if you want all of your devices to connect to the internet, communicate, take your commands, and send you information? This isn’t science fiction, or rocket science. The “Internet of Things” (IoT) is a key component of home automation and smart homes, but each additional device in the chain of connection introduces points of failure and chances of lag. A local system will work more quickly than a system that uses the cloud, although not using the cloud may limit what devices you can use. It may prevent voice control which relies on cloud servers to work. Before you start acquiring devices, it’s a good idea to invest valuable time to do research.
SMART HOME IS STILL STUPID
A writer’s personal story about the battle with her smart home might scare you away from technology or verify that this can happen to anyone else but you. Written four years ago by Stacey Higginbotham, the article is still very entertaining and enlightening: “5 Reasons Why The Smart Home is Still Stupid” in the August 15, 2015 issue of Fortune Magazine.
Smart homes that were created in the 1950s and ’60s were a dream for a small handful of forward thinkers. We’ve benefitted by the advancements of technology in the past 65-plus years. It’s difficult to think about the future of smart homes in the next 65 years, 2084, just as it was difficult for the Wright brothers to envision that we’d be exploring outer space when they flew their simple airplane in December of 1903. We’ve come a long way, but we have a long journey ahead of us. I hope that technology will be a tool we can use to save and protect our precious home, Earth.
Listen to the 6/25/19 Podcast: “Smart Home Technology”
I can (and will!) help you define your smart home needs and refer you to people who can help you achieve your goals! Contact me today for an initial phone call about your smart home needs.
There are many things you can do to prepare for home remodeling.. In this blog, I’m going to focus on what you can do before you call contractors and design professionals. As I stated in last week’s segment of “Today’s Home,” most people think about remodeling their home for several years, unless they’ve just bought a home that they intend to remodel immediately. You’re in the majority of homeowners if you’ve been thinking about remodeling for two years or more. You chances for success increase exponentially when you embrace change.
3 Things Confuse and Overwhelm Homeowners
One: Went shopping and got confused by all the choices.
It’s not uncommon for homeowners to go shopping for tile and countertops before they do anything else. I’ve seen homeowners wandering the aisles at big-box stores and showrooms with a glazed look on their face that rivaled the glaze on the tile. The same confusion can happen if you go to appliance, plumbing, or lighting showrooms and see all your choices. It can be a great tool if your goal is to shop for ideas and inspiration, not for final products. The additional stress associated with making final decisions without professional guidance can overwhelm you and make you lose interest in remodeling your home.
Two: Watched home improvement programs that provide very little reliable information.
Most of these programs show you what other people have achieved, but no one tells you how long it took from beginning to end, how much the homeowners invested in this project, and how much of the project was “free.” The programs feature named suppliers and products that financially support the show, but they do not tell you how much the advertisers gave to the project in exchange for being featured. The problem I have with all TV remodeling shows is how much of the project ends up on the editing room floor. We’re shown what the advertisers, directors, and producers want us to see. If we can watch these programs for entertainment, we’ll be much better off. Unfortunately, many of us get hooked and believe everything the programs want us to believe.
Three: Read blogs and magazines about home remodeling that don’t say where to start and how to walk through the logical steps.
Magazine writers and editors are limited by the number of words and images, and they have to appeal to a wide audience to sell their advertisers’ products. Each of the magazines has at least 50 competitors for the commerce. You can easily spend $100 or more on home remodeling and renovation magazines to gather all the information you need to plan and execute your project successfully.
Online searches cost nothing, but you may spend hours searching for the information that will really help you. Using the right search terms is critical not only for you but also people (like me) who want to share knowledge and experience. It doesn’t help us that search engine algorithms change frequently. Paid internet advertising can be as expensive for entrepreneurs as print media – and it’s a crap shoot!
Yes, Lists DO Help You Achieve Amazing Home Remodeling Success!
Confusion happens to all of us when we try to keep everything in our brains. You’re probably tired of me harping about lists, especially if you’re not a list person. In the re-launch segment of “Today’s Home,” I stressed the importance of using the Homeowner Surveys to help you select products. Last week, I talked about remodeling priorities which includes making lists. Here’s a recap of the basic priorities you have when you’re in the “thinking” preparation for home remodeling:
What do you want to achieve with your remodeling project?
An updated kitchen or bathroom?
An addition that includes what rooms?
How much do you want to invest in your project?
When do you want your project to start and finish?
What specific products or features are most important?
It’s hard for me to be honest about whether I really need something or merely want it. Does this happen to you, too? I’ve learned that my wants turn into needs when I’m trying to satisfy my ego. It’s the “wants” that can drive up an investment, because it’s human nature to justify our wants and believe that they’re actually needs.
Visualize and Dream Your Amazing Success: Two Simple Steps!
It’s fun to visualize and dream. Collect pictures of projects or products that are interesting, online or from magazines. Make a note about why the picture excites you, makes you feel all tingly when you think that you can have something similar in your home. Over the years, homeowners have shared their pictures with me. It helps me to understand what they want to achieve. Clients with the most successful remodeling projects have been the ones who found a way to organize the information they gathered so it was easy to find and share. Here are ideas I’ve gotten from them:
1. Get a simple multi-pocket file folder and assign categories to each pocket such as:
Pictures (It may be hard for you to tear up magazines. You don’t have to, if you use “sticky notes” on the pages. If you keep the magazine in tact, you’ll have the name of the magazine and publish date for reference)
Miscellaneous (this can be like the junk drawer in your kitchen!)
2. Set up a file folder for your project in your email inbox.
You can have one folder for everything, or you can set up a main folder with multiple sub-folders that are similar to the pockets in Example #1 above. When you see anything interesting on the internet, copy the URL and send it to yourself in an email. The great thing about this system is that you have a subject line as a reminder or a way to search, and you have the body of the email where you can describe what you like. The wonderful thing about using this technology is that you can send anything to anyone at any time. After I learned this trick from a client years ago, this is the system I use for all of my clients’ projects
This sounds like a lot of work, but believe me, it will pay off when you have successfully finished your remodeling project without disappointments and hassles! Homeowners who have used one or both of these systems have proven the validity of the recommendations! They knew more about the details of their project, talked more knowledgeably with everyone, and actually enjoyed their project from beginning to end!
Get Ready To Talk With Remodeling Professionals
After you’ve completed these tasks, you’ll be able to talk with contractors and design professionals. You can actually start getting names and contact information while you’re working on the information-gathering tasks. There are several ways you can find the people who will help you achieve your home remodeling dream. Here are six ways that have been successful for homeowners:
Let family, friends, neighbors – everyone! – know that you’re thinking about remodeling your home. They’ll offer advice and may refer you to the right people! A referral from a satisfied homeowner is platinum for everyone in the remodeling industry. Contact a local remodeling organization like:
Angie’s List, Home Advisor, and Houzz are free for you, but they may collect a referral fee or charge for prominent display of a company. There’s nothing wrong with this. It’s an important part of our capitalist economy. It doesn’t mean that the company with a a full-page, full-bleed color ad is any better than the company with a well-done quarter-page ad. Both companies have to establish and maintain an advertising and marketing budget that’s a percentage of their income. Would you rather bring your business to a company with a smaller ad, or would you rather hire a company that can afford a glitzy ad? What’s the real message that each company is saying? Call them to find out!
I hope you won’t be lured by companies that offer (or guarantee) the lowest rates or fees! Only you can decide what’s best for you now, and for years to come. Benjamin Franklin said it best:
“The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten.”
Questions For Remodeling Professionals
After you get the names of contractors and designers, your next step is to call them and ask questions that will help you decide if they’re the right person or company to help you achieve your home remodeling project. I’ve developed a list of qualifying questions that you can use in phone or in- person interviews with construction professionals. If you ask the same questions, it will help you make informed decisions. The qualifying questions are a guideline, an aid to help you stay on track with your remodeling goals. Of course, they’re free!
Amazing Home Remodeling Success: It’s All About Love!
Remodeling (or building) your home is one of the most important things you’ll do in your life. It falls in line with choosing a life partner, having children, and buying a home. All of these life experiences revolve around love. You bought the home you’re in because you fell in love with it. It was perfect for you at that time. But things have changed. Change is inevitable. It’s the personification of life. Every decision we make – as many as 35,000 a day! – involves change.
Remember why you fell in love with your home. Do you want to fall in love with it again? You wouldn’t be thinking about remodeling your home if you didn’t want it to fulfill your current and future needs. This is why I’m here to help you with “Today’s Home” podcasts and my blog, because I care.
“Change” Quotations and Final Words
“Any change, even a change for the better, is always accompanied by discomforts.” (Arnold Bennett)
“Change is inevitable – except from a vending machine.” (Robert C. Gallagher)
In conclusion, I want to share an observation. Everyone who embraces change seems to struggle with life (and decisions) less. I’ve personally experienced the difference that embracing change has made in my life. The homeowners who embrace change and prepare for home remodeling enjoy their projects, and get better results. Remember to take a deep breath and remind yourself that change can be good!
Next week’s program is going to be about a subject that we love or hate, but cannot live without: Technology.
Here is the “Today’s Home” podcast: How To Prepare for Home Remodeling
I can (and will!) help you navigate the often-confusing road to remodeling your home or building a new home. Contact me to talk about your project! Follow me on Facebook (D. P. Design and “Today’s Home”), Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube. Thank you for recommending the “Today’s Home” podcasts to everyone you know!
This blog is going to help you understand your remodeling priorities — what they are, and how to achieve them. No matter what you’re doing every day, your priorities are present, even if you’re not conscious about them. That’s how we make decisions!
In the last segment of “Today’s Home,” I talked about making lists to help you decide between staying and remodeling your existing home or moving to a new home. I offered a free copy of the Homeowner Surveys, which are focused on helping you select and prioritize your product choices to help you make informed decisions. You can still get a free copy of the 27-page Homeowner Surveys. You can request a copy of the Homeowner Surveys at any time!
I intended write about a different subject for this blog, but a call from a contractor kicked me in a different direction. I’m so grateful for his call! Here’s why he called:
A Change In Priorities For Homeowners?
The cabinet maker for my clients’ kitchen project is running behind schedule, and he probably won’t have the cabinets ready for installation until August instead of early July. So my clients may get upset. They have the right to be upset, because they signed the contract and paid the deposit thinking that the cabinet maker was agreeing to the schedule. We won’t know what’s going to happen until after the contractor talks with the cabinet maker and sends a message to my clients and me. The contractor and I agreed that all homeowners have three major remodeling priorities. Here’s what they want:
To remodel NOW (although they may have been thinking about their remodeling project for several years)
Results similar to pictures they’ve seen online and exactly what’s shown in their design plans
Their investment to be as low as possible
Only ONE #1 Priority
These are all important priorities for homeowners. Life, and 35 years of experience in remodeling has taught me that we can have only ONE #1 priority at any time. Other priorities have to fall in line behind the #1 priority. For this reason, I’m an advocate for lists! If you make a list first, no matter how long it is, your next step is to assign priority numbers to that list to help you make informed decisions.
Priorities CanBe Changed!
The contractor and I agreed that if our clients want to remodel their kitchen now, they’ll have to:
Pay more money to move to the top of the cabinet maker’s projects, or
Find a cabinet maker who’s immediately available
In today’s hot remodeling market, and considering my clients’ budget, neither of these options are possible. This is why I’m going to talk about contractors and custom products not being available immediately in an upcoming segment of “Today’s Home.” Many homeowners are facing the reality of having to postpone their remodeling projects until sometime in the Spring of 2020 because the great contractors are booked that far in advance..
If my clients are willing to wait a month or two, they’ll get the same results they wanted for the same investment. It’s that simple. All they have to do is to adjust their priorities and move their project start date to later. We’re not talking about asking them to put off their kitchen remodeling project until next year. If my clients’ kitchen project doesn’t start until August, their new kitchen will be finished by the holidays so they can entertain! Starting their project in August won’t impact their decision to cook meals on their barbecue, but it might impact other activities and events they’ve scheduled.
Communicate About Priorities; They’re Important!
We’ll discover and explore the reality, reasons and ramifications of the project delay in discussions and messages over the next several days. I don’t know their whole story, why they want and need to remodel their kitchen right now. I want to understand so I can help them get through a challenging time. It’s all about Communication: speaking honestly and listening compassionately. Communication is going to be another topic in an upcoming segment of “Today’s Home.”
Why are remodeling priorities so important? They will:
Help you set and maintain a realistic budget, a realistic time frame, and realistic expectations
Open up conversation with family members who have different priorities
Benefit your communication with design professionals and contractors
What’s Your #1 Remodeling Priority?
If you’re planning to remodel your home, think about your priorities. What’s more important:
Starting and completing your project on your schedule?
Getting the results you want? -or-
Staying within your maximum budget?
The bottom line is: You have choices, always! But every choice, every decision has priorities attached. What’s your #1 remodeling priority?
If you’re overwhelmed by your choices, I can help you! Contact methrough my website. I’m also on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Houzz. Follow me, and subscribe to my emails about Today’s Home!
“Remodel Our Existing Home, or Move To A New Home?”
Remodel? –OR– New?
“Do we stay and remodel our home, or move to a new home?” This question has come up many times in my career, and I’ve lived it personally. The answer is difficult, because it depends on individual circumstances. I’m going to share the same recommendation now as I have in the past: Make lists!
In 35 years as a professional designer, homeowners have asked so many interesting questions! I love to answer questions! In the coming weeks and months, I’ll share often-asked questions and some of the interesting “back stories” of the homeowners. The questions may be similar, but they require custom answers to fit individualized needs.
Are you a list person? I hope you are, because this is the best way to discover and uncover hidden truths. Get a lined pad and a pencil. The reason I prefer a pad with real paper is that it’s available, even in the middle of the night. You can write notes or add to your lists whenever you think of them.
Draw a vertical line down the middle of the first page – it doesn’t have to be perfect! If you are compelled to use a ruler, it’s okay. At the top of the page, on the left, write “Reasons to Stay,” what you love about your home and neighborhood. On the right-hand side, write “Reasons to move,” what you hate about your home and neighborhood. Don’t edit or over-think your list. No one is going to grade you on your exercise.
There are things you can do to stay in your home, but they’re not going to be inexpensive, especially if your existing home is too small or needs major renovations. But neither is selling your home and moving to a new home! Answering the question about staying or moving is going to require homework. There’s more homework involved in thinking about your project than you imagined. But I don’t want you to get overwhelmed. Just take it a step at a time – that’s the only way to get from here to there. Give yourself time to think about your list and create it. Include everyone in the immediate family who has a stake in the outcome.
After you’ve got your lists of reasons, you’ll need to gather information to help you make an informed decision. Having information will give you peace of mind – I guarantee it! After your initial list, the next several pages of your notepad will be dedicated to gathering financial information about your existing home. Get ready to create another list!
What do you need to do to your home – deferred maintenance?
Roof repair or replacement?
HVAC repair or replacement?
What do you want to do to your home to make it more liveable? This list is going to be easy, because I’ve done the work for you! You can get a free copy of the new and improved Homeowner Surveys that I originally created for my book, “THE Survival Guide: Home Remodeling.” The Homeowner Survey is a total of 27 pages and may take several days to complete. Once you have completed the Homeowner Survey , you can get a preliminary guesstimate from contractors about the range of your investment for what you want to do. If you want more than a guesstimate, here’s what you should do:
Hire a professional designer to create as-built and proposed plans of your home. More details = higher fee. The fee could be as low as $2,500 or more than $6,000. We’ll talk about professional designers’ fees in another segment of “Today’s Home.”
Pay a contractor for an estimate, based on your homeowner survey and the plans.
Homework Required: Buying A New Home
You’ll now have the first half of your question answered, how much you will need to invest to get what you need and want, to stay in your existing home. The rest is relatively simple math. Here are the logical steps to help you arrive at a complete picture for your investment in a new home. Answer these questions:
What is your existing home worth, as is?
What’s the balance of your mortgage?
How many years before you own your home?
What do you pay monthly for your mortgage, taxes and insurance?
How much have you spent on fixing and repairing “deferred maintenance” in the past year or two? You can use the previous list about deferred maintenance that you created. If you haven’t spent anything on deferred maintenance, contact the contractor who did the estimate for home remodeling and get estimates for the necessary work.
Lists Complete! What’s Next?
Next, contact a trustworthy real estate agent or look online for comparables from recently-sold homes in your area that will help you answer these questions:
What can you reasonably get for your home as is or with minimum repairs?
How much will it cost to sell your home? Here’s what to include:
Capital gains or losses
Real estate fees
Contingencies and unforeseen emergencies
Now you’re ready to gather information about a new home. You can use the same Homeowner Survey to help you find a new home that fulfills your needs and wants. It’s great that there is so much information available online to help you define and decide where you want to move to, and how much you want to pay for a new home. In the greater Portland, Oregon area, I like the John L. Scott website that’s easy to navigate, but you may have a favorite.
Here’s a hint that will help you save information: In the past, what I’ve done to save information is to copy the url of a site and email it to myself with the same subject (i.e., “new home information,” etc.). Most of the real estate sales sites have information about your mortgage payment as it relates to your down payment. There may or may not be information about property taxes and insurance, but you can calculate that using your current mortgage based on the percentages. Write down your estimate for the monthly mortgage, taxes and insurance, then make comparisons:
What’s the difference between your new monthly payment and what you’re currently paying? Will your income support the move?
What’s the difference between remodeling your existing home and moving to a new home?
Next, weigh other factors, such as:
School location and reputation for quality education
Proximity to shopping, places of worship, parks and recreation, and public transportation
Your existing neighborhood compared to new neighborhoods
Make Your Decision: Remodel Your Existing Home, or Buy A New Home
After you’ve completed this exercise, you are armed with written information that will help you decide whether you should stay and remodel your existing home or move to a new home. It’s a big decision! The great thing about all of this documentation is that it prevents you from getting confused! Selling and buying homes, and home remodeling, is filled with emotions you never knew you had.
To avoid confusion and unwanted emotions, try your best to maintain a level-headed, logical approach. Don’t let anyone whip you into a frenzy of emotions to get you to do something that isn’t in your best long-term interest. This is the advice of a homeowner advocate with 35 years of experience. I’ve had four clients who decided to stay and remodel, and three who decided to move to a new home. My husband and I have done both: Stayed and remodeled, and moved to a new home. We know all about the emotional roller coaster ride to make an informed decision!
Bottom line: Whatever decision you make, your goal is to improve your life. I’m here to help you!
If you’re confused about whether to remodel your existing home or move to a new home, I can (and will) help you make the decision that’s right for you! Contact me to talk about your future.
While working with a young couple, a serious issue arose about code compliance.
During our first meeting, I was told that the entire extended family enjoys working in the kitchen together. As a designer, I immediately consider what this means when safety, functionality, and overall concept is included. So, in my reply, I cited the aisleway clearances recommended by the National Kitchen & Bath Association (NKBA) and said that the minimum for a one-person access between countertops is 42” and increases to a minimum of 48” if multiple people are working in the kitchen simultaneously. This allows safe usage of appliances, and unlimited access to everything stored in cabinets.
As part of the design meeting, the homeowners requested a four-foot wide by eight-foot long island. Their kitchen is narrow – only 13′-11” wide, with no room for an addition. Fortunately, the length of the kitchen is generous.
Back in my office, the first thing I did was to calculate the kitchen island size that would be safe and functional as well as beautiful. Here is my math:
167” (width of the total available space in inches)
– 51” (cabinets and countertops on both sides)
116” (space available in the center of the room)
-84” (two 42” wide aisleways)
32” (2′-8” available space for the island)
I sent an email with these unfortunate results of my calculations. They were not happy, and repeated the desire for a four-foot wide island. I shared information about the appliances which would be on both sides of the kitchen. Each appliance needs space for accessibility, which I took into consideration as I worked out the numbers above. This is actually one of the many aspects where my years of design experience comes in handy as years ago, I learned from Ellen Cheever to show all appliance doors open in my plans, so homeowners can see how much clearance they have between objects. Oven and dishwasher doors can take 24” or more from an aisleway. Refrigerator doors vary from as little as 18” to over 36”, depending on the manufacturer and model.
Although my clients wanted the larger island, we were able to proceed through the logical design steps. With careful planning, I was able to give the homeowners 42” aisleways on both sides of the island by reducing one partial wall of cabinetry to 12” deep for a wine bar and pantry. The double ovens were placed adjacent to the end of the island, showing that someone could access the oven door head-on, which is normal and safe. It is especially important to provide this head-on access so that a homeowner can cook and access something heavy, like a Thanksgiving turkey, or something awkward, like a casserole or a large sheet of cookies. I allowed an aisleway of 4′-10” along the cooktop wall, from the oven to the main sink on the opposite wall, knowing that this area could become seriously congested with more than one user.
I use the guidelines developed by the NKBA as a standard practice in every kitchen (or bathroom) design. I learned them over 25 years ago when preparing for the certification tests, and I still use them because they verify industry standards for safety and function. I have discussed this in articles I’ve written in the past. In “The Kitchen Triangle: A Guideline,” I state that Function and Safety have to be designed into a project from the get-go, that appearance should be determined after everything is deemed to be functional and safe. I later wrote another article, “Kitchen Islands May Not Be Appropriate For Every Home,” in which I share the guidelines for walkways and island design.
Recently, this client requested that I move the island closer to the cooktop, which would eliminate frontal access to the oven, requiring her and other family members to access the oven from the side, tweaking their backs while using the oven..Now, no matter how young and healthy or agile one feels, others using the kitchen (parents, aunts, uncles, etc.) may not have the strength to use the oven without injury if there is no head-on access. Additionally, changing access can affect the resalability of the home, as the kitchen is a huge selling point in any home. So, I was unable to acquiesce to this request. I shared the NKBA Guideline #6 which has graphics to show the intent of the guideline. Here’s the text of this guideline:
Work Aisle – Recommended: The width of a work aisle should be at least 42” for one cook and at least 48” for multiple cooks. Measure between the counter frontage, tall cabinets, and/or appliances.
Access Standard – Recommended: Kitchen Guideline recommendation meets Access Standard recommendation. See Code References for specific applications.
Code Reference: A clear floor space of at least 30” x 48” should be provided at each kitchen appliance. Clear floor spaces can overlap. (ANSI A 117.1 305.3, 804.6.1)
As a Certified Master Kitchen-Bath Designer, I consider myself an extension of the Building Department, to protect the health, safety, and welfare of homeowners. It’s my duty and responsibility to be familiar with and to comply with all codes. I cannot, and will not, turn my back on these duties and responsibilities for any client. But first, I try to help them understand that I’m not a stubborn bureaucrat, that I have their best interests in my mind and heart. Theodore Roosevelt said it best:
“Nobody cares howmuch you know, until they know how much you care.”
Yes, I care — a lot! That’s why I am sharing this story to help you understand that professional designers have to balance creativity and code knowledge, while trying to give their clients what the clients want, often within a limited budget. It sure isn’t an easy career path, but I still love it!
You’ve hired a professional designer to help you. Listen to them, and take their recommendations seriously, because they have your best interest as a goal.
If the design professional gives a recommendation without a valid reason, ask for the reason. A valid reason IS NOT: “This is the way we always do it.” A valid reason IS: “This is the code,” or “This is based on the NKBA Guidelines for function and safety.”
Remember that Function and Safety are the #1 priority in all remodeling, especially bathrooms and kitchens. Appearance can be any color or style after function and safety are verified.
If you’re thinking about remodeling your kitchen (or bathroom), please call me! I care about your health, safety, and welfare, and I want to help you achieve your remodeling goals!