Whole-House Remodeling Project

My clients were a couple who bought a new home in the location they wanted. They knew the whole house needed remodeling. Their blended family includes six adult children. They wanted to achieve a large addition for a dining room and to enlarge the kitchen, and possibly enlarge the master suite above the kitchen. Very shortly after they bought the home, they called me to help them design their whole-house remodeling project with major additions.

Homeowners’ Wish List:

  • A smart home, controlled by phones and pads
  • A dining room that would easily seat 16-18 people;
  • A larger kitchen with a dedicated coffee bar and more storage, and more usable countertop space
  • A larger deck for entertaining and a hot tub for the family
  • An updated living room with stacking doors
  • A home office for the wife
  • An updated master bathroom with a two-person shower and a separate makeup area
  • A multi-purpose guest bedroom and bathroom
  • A laundry room that’s accessible by everyone
  • More storage
  • A dedicated play room with a large projector TV and theater seats
  • A storage area above the husband’s workshop in the garage

Challenges to Prevent The Whole-House Remodeling

I learned years ago to check with the building and planning departments before starting to design an addition. The planning official said that this home was close to a floodplain, and he’d need to see two things before giving us the go-ahead with the major additions:

◊ Preliminary plans of the proposed addition and deck;

◊ A positive report from a soils engineer that the proposed addition was okay.

It’s human to just go ahead and assume that everything will be okay — that’s a normal expectation. Unfortunately, the 760 square-foot proposed addition had too many complications on multiple levels. The addition wasn’t feasible. The homeowners had two choices: To resell the home and find another home, or stay in this home and make the best of it.

Challenges Overcome!

The Whole-House Remodeling Project Forged Ahead!

They took several weeks to talk about their alternatives and make a decision. I received an email telling me that they wanted to proceed, but scale back their whole-house remodeling project severely. The first part of the meeting after getting that message was uncomfortable for all of us, like trying to speak and understand a foreign language to build a strong bridge of communication. I felt the anguish they had experienced, and listened to their story to gather information about our direction moving forward. By the end of the meeting, we had achieved a new level of understanding and compassion.

I went back to work to see how we could achieve what they wanted, using the original wish list we had compiled. The smart home and the workshop with a storage mezzanine above wasn’t a problem, but the rest of the list was a challenge.

Whole-House Remodeling Project Details Room By Room:

DINING ROOM: There was no way that the existing dining room would comfortably seat 16-18 people, because it was landlocked. When I asked the homeowners if they would ever seat that many friends at the dining table, they responded that the only reason for needing a large dining room was for family gatherings. I widened the doorway between the adjacent entry hall. If two tables were placed next to each other and extended to the maximum possible into the entry hall, it would seat 18 people. A custom cantilevered cabinet is a beautiful display hutch with a granite countertop.

LARGER KITCHEN: The kitchen was expanded to be in the same plane as the garage, approximately five feet. We achieved this by cantilevering the floor joists and creatively framing a new roof over the kitchen, so the ceiling could be extended at the same height. This additional space gave the homeowners what they wanted. They chose custom gray cabinets, granite countertops, and porcelain tile with glass tile accents. A bonus in the kitchen is the heated countertop where they can sit for casual meals.

LARGER DECK: The planning department didn’t balk when we submitted the plans that included a new deck that was three times larger than the original deck, because a structural engineer designed it for stability on unstable soil. The new deck has two sets of stairs: The large main stairway leads to the rear garden, and a side stairway leads to a concrete pad for the family hot tub.

LIVING ROOM: The homeowners found a manufacturer of stacking patio doors that met their requirements. They selected a new fireplace, and we designed the surround, mantel, and recessed AV controls that would be hidden by the flat-screen TV mounted on a heavy-duty swing-arm support.

WIFE’S OFFICE: The original den, adjacent to the entry hall, became the wife’s office. She requested a larger side window so she could see the floodplain and the wildlife.

MASTER BATHROOM: New cabinets, countertops, plumbing and lighting was designed to replace the existing double lavatories. A two-person shower replaced the existing 6-foot whirlpool tub. We replaced the double doors with a single 3-foot wide door that allowed the master shower to be amply deep. The existing window remained, and a new window was installed adjacent to the wife’s new generous makeup area.

WASTED SPACE CONVERTED TO A GUEST BEDROOM AND BATHROOM: This home had a large open area on the second floor, about 170 square feet, that was useless wasted space. The laundry room was adjacent to this room. I designed a wall along the upstairs hallway to enclose the room, and converted the laundry room to a bathroom with a neo-angle shower.

LAUNDRY ROOM: Borrowing about 10 feet from the large room allowed enough space for a laundry room that was accessible from the hallway. It has storage cabinets, a large single sink, a built-in ironing center, and pull-down rods for air drying clothes.

PLAY ROOM: The perfect location for this was a large corner bedroom separated from other bedrooms. A state-of-the-art ceiling projector and built-in speakers are the heart of the environment. We added a platform for two levels of comfy theater seats to watch TV, movies, and play video games on the humongous screen.

MORE STORAGE: One storage area is a cabinet that’s cantilevered into the garage, for bulk purchases. It’s high enough so no one will bump their head. Another storage area was achieved by redesigning the upstairs hallway to allow the addition of two deep closets. The loft above the husband’s garage workshop will also provide a lot of storage for seasonal accessories, luggage, and more.

Success!

We worked on this whole-house remodeling project for 15 months. The plans I prepared totaled 26 pages on 24” x 36” paper. The plans included 40 interior elevations, four exterior elevations, and eight virtual-reality perspectives. The general contractor called me the day he went to the building department. He said with excitement, “The plans were approved with no comments and no red marks!” He told me this is the first time in over 40 years that plans were approved so quickly without requiring additional information or revisions. I was happy to hear this, but this has happened with my plans many times. Details are important!

It was a joy to attend the housewarming party, to see the homeowners enjoying their new home and witness the guests’ reaction to the transformation. One of the guests was the agent who helped the couple find this home. He told us he couldn’t believe that it was the same home. It was a major transformation that the couple will love and enjoy for years. This is what makes me happy, when I know we’ve achieved my clients’ goals.

If you have an existing or new home that you’d like to transform, I can help you! I listen, and give honest feedback. I prepare detailed plans to help everyone involved in your project help you achieve your goals. Call me today to chat about your home remodeling desires!

Remodeled Kitchen For Empty-Nester Foodies

With their children enjoying successful careers after college, this couple could finally invest money in the remodeled kitchen they’ve wanted for a long time. The wife is a superior cook with a great sense of humor. While we worked together, I’d refer to her as an “Empty-nester Foodie.”

The Design Process

The couple knew it was time to remodel when their appliances died, starting with the refrigerator. The wife fell in love with a black stainless french-door refrigerator made by Samsung. The has a plethora of baking and cooking vessels, as well as numerous small appliances. Meetings at their home have been mouth-watering, hunger-making experiences. There was always something being cooked or baked, and I’ve often left our meeting with a full container of irresistible nibbles.

When the couple was looking for a new refrigerator, two years before they called me, the wife fell in love with black stainless steel, and decided that all of her new appliances would be that finish. These appliances look striking and the manufacturer, Samsung, has figured out how to make the finish impervious to fingerprints.

I helped them with the layout, and suggested installing the cooktop, hood, and below-counter oven on a 45-degree angle across the corner, which gave more room for cabinets and countertops on both sides. I also suggested moving the refrigerator to an opposite wall, so a microwave could be placed next to the refrigerator enclosure panels, to minimize the depth of the microwave cabinet. Here are challenges and solutions that transformed the kitchen:

Challenges and Solutions Exclusively for Empty-Nester Foodies

#1: The existing builder-grade oak cabinets had useless base corners, and the wall cabinets were dropped down from the ceiling 12”. Both features wasted potential storage.

The wife selected natural Forest Service Certified* Lyptus for the cabinets. The new wall cabinets and tall cabinets will go to the ceiling, providing more storage. The custom cabinets have soft-close doors and drawers and include:

◊  A pantry with rollout shelves for food and small appliances

◊  An angled pantry with a special area for key storage and electricity to charge phones and pads

◊  A standard-depth drawer with two layers for multiple sets of utensils

◊  A heavy-duty pop-up shelf for a stand mixer

◊  Dividers for serving trays, cookie sheets, muffin tins, etc.

◊  Rollout shelves in every base cabinet that isn’t a stack of drawers

◊  A swing-glide half lazy susan for accessible corner storage

◊  Two dedicated spice drawers (holding approx. 40 containers each)

#2: The existing countertop was “Pepto-Bismal” pink laminate.

The homeowners chose an off-white quartzite countertop that will allow the kitchen sink to be mounted below the countertop. Quartzite is natural stone that’s harder and more impervious to stains than granite. It’s also more expensive than other natural or man-made stones.

#3: A 42” table with four chairs was always in the way, especially if the wife needed to access small appliances she stored on a bookshelf adjacent to the back of the peninsula.

A built in “table” made of the countertop material was attached to the back of the peninsula, allowing the peninsula to be moved toward existing windows approximately 12” – this gave more area for storage, and more countertops for preparation and cleanup.

#4: Kitchen lighting was one surface-mounted fluorescent strip which led to shadows where the family needed to work on the countertops.

The new kitchen was improved with dimmable LED self-adhesive strip lighting to light the countertops and provide indirect lighting. There are three dimmable LED pendant fixtures over the peninsula, and six dimmable LED recessed fixtures, in addition to a new dimmable LED chandelier in the eating area.

Products Chosen

All the appliances are black stainless steel, except the dishwasher, which will have a custom panel to match the cabinets. Here’s a list of what they selected:

36″ Magnetic Induction Cooktop

42″ Hood

30″ Oven (installed below the cooktop)

Microwave-convection Oven

Dishwasher

Success for a Deserving Couple!

The couple made sacrifices to educate their children. They provided the best meals possible in a dysfunctional, outdated kitchen. It was finally time to do something for themselves, so they can prepare five-star meals for their family and friends without hassles. It’s a unique remodeled kitchen for empty-nester foodies!

*DESIGN TIP: Many wood species, especially exotic imported ones, are grown in controlled forests so they don’t deplete the trees growing in rain forests. If you are interested in using an exotic wood for cabinets and furniture, please verify that it has the authentic Forest Service Certified (FSC) designation, and verification of where the trees are grown.

If you’re finally ready to remodel your kitchen and want to maximize every inch of space, call me today to talk about your project and hear how I can help you!

Remodeled Home For A Single Man

My client, a retired California contractor, bought this 1970s rental home at the base of Mt. Hood because he loves outdoor activities with his two dogs. His #1 priority was to make the home brighter and more cheerful, while updating everything. What follows is a description of the challenges we encountered and the solutions that make this home unique.

CHALLENGE #1, LIVING ROOM: A long, slender room, aka “the bowling alley,” that was dark even on bright days.

 SOLUTION: Add two “trayed” ceiling coffers so dimmable indirect LED lighting could break up the “bowling alley” look. It provided the right amount of ambiance for reading, watching TV, or enjoying the warmth of the wood-burning stove. Carefully-placed dimmable LED recessed lighting makes use of this room more flexible. A custom bookshelf and storage cabinet was designed to replace a bargain-furniture purchase when the gentleman bought the home.

*DESIGN ADVICE: A solution used to change apparent proportion of odd-sized rectangular rooms is to paint the end walls a darker, warmer color because these colors appear to advance. The contrast doesn’t have to be drastic – one or two shades will make a big difference. It has been popular off and on to choose one wall to be an artificial focal point by painting it a wildly-contrasting color. Be very careful if you’re thinking about doing this in your home, unless you’re prepared to paint your walls frequently. Fortunately, this trend never stays around very long.

 CHALLENGE #2, KITCHEN: The existing kitchen had red laminate countertops, inexpensive appliances, and dark oak “builder” cabinets. The window over the sink faced the side of a neighbor’s home — ugly!

SOLUTIONS: The sink was moved to the new peninsula, which provided a great view of the front garden, and allowed a large countertop for food preparation. The homeowner fell in love with natural birch, a combination of heartwood and sapwood. He selected a Cambria engineered-stone countertop. The backsplash and floors are the same tile, with an accent of natural river rock behind the range. For architectural continuity, the same river rock was used for the entry hall flooring.

CHALLENGE #3, BATHROOMS: Both bathrooms showed years of wear and tear by renters, and desperately needed updating. The guest bathroom was cobbled together by a previous owner, who framed an area for a small one-piece shower using fake paneleing attached directly to the studs, with no drywall. It was no surprise that the project manager ran into a massive amount of dry rot in the guest bathroom.

SOLUTIONS, MASTER BATHROOM: The homeowner selected blue for the master bathroom. His eyes lit up when I showed him a sample of Vetrazzo “Float Blue” glass countertop and a unique blue glass mosaic tile for the backsplash and shower accent. He selected a large rectangular porcelain tile with a soft mixed gray stripe for the shower walls and the floor; the same tile in a 2×2 mosaic was used for the shower floor. A pale blue was used for the walls, and all bathroom fittings are polished chrome. The custom cabinets are natural birch, with two pull-out pantries for personal-care products.

SOLUTIONS, GUEST BATHROOM: The homeowner wanted bright yellow and orange for the color scheme. I suggested a creamy pale yellow for the engineered-stone countertop and the tile used in the shower and on the floors. Bright yellow tile was chosen for the backsplash field tile, with a 1/2” stripe of bright orange tile at the top and bottom of the accent stripe. Custom natural birch cabinets blend with the color scheme beautifully, and polished-chrome plumbing fittings are like jewelry for this stunningly-beautiful bathroom.

The homeowner got everything he asked for: a bright and cheerful new home with custom touches that exemplify his unique personality and taste. There’s no way to tell that this was ever a rental property!

Do you have a hard time visualizing what remodeling results are best for you? Are you paralyzed with fear about selecting the right products for your home and lifestyle? I can help you! Contact me today!

PRODUCT SPECIFICATIONS:

KITCHEN

Countertops: Cambria “Buckingham”

Backsplash: Marazzi “Marfil Cream” 3”x6”

Backsplash behind range: Emser “River Pebbles,” 4-color blend

Floor: Marazzi “Marfil Cream” 12”x12”

Cabinets: Custom, Natural Birch

Appliances:

Range: Jenn-Air all electric

Refrigerator: Kitchenaid (french door)

Dishwasher: Kitchenaid

Microwave: Frigidaire (installed below countertop)

 MASTER BATHROOM

Shower walls field tile: Surface Art Blu Stone ”Silver Gray” 12”x24” (horizontal stacked)

Accent tiles and backsplash: Lunada Bay “Umbria” 1”x1” mosaic

Countertop: Vetrazzo “Float Blue”

Floor tile: Surface Art Blu Stone “Silver Gray” 12”x24”

Shower floor tile: Surface Art Blu Stone “Silver Gray” 2”x2” mosaic

Cabinets: Custom, Natural Birch (includes 2 base pantry pullouts)

Plumbing Fixtures:

Toilet: Toto “Drake”

Lavatory sink: Kohler “Caxton” undermount

Lavatory faucet and Shower: Delta

 GUEST BATHROOM

Shower walls field tile: Florida Tile “Botticcino” 18”x18”

Countertop: Silestone “Tigris Sand”

Accent tiles: DalTile “Totally Tangerine” 1/2”x4” and “Sunflorwer” 4”x4”

Floor tile: Florida Tile “Botticcino” 18”x18”

Shower floor tile: Florida Tile “Botticcino” 2-1/2”x2-1/2” mosaic

Cabinets: Custom, Natural Birch (includes 1 base pantry pullout)

Plumbing Fixtures:

Toilet: Toto “Drake”

Lavatory sink: Kohler “Caxton” undermount

Lavatory faucet and Shower: Delta

Accessory Dwelling Unit For Parents

Sisters who live in Dundee, Oregon contacted me because I’m a Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist, although they didn’t know what I could do for them before our first meeting.

I learned that one of the sisters was willing to dedicate a portion of her home’s property for a new accessory dwelling unit (ADU) for their parents. Their father has been living with Parkinson’s Disease for several years, and his wife can no longer take care of him in their San Diego home. They had explored alternatives and decided that building an ADU would be the best solution, but they didn’t know about anything that might be involved in getting the ADU built.

Fortunately, the City of Dundee was in the process of creating land-use regulations for ADU’s. We hoped that this would speed the permit approval process. I attended Planning Commission and City Council meetings as an advocate for quality-of-life issues and accessibility for elderly and disabled people. If adopted, the regulations would limit the size of an ADU to a maximum of 800 square feet. I provided plans with documentation about the space required for wheelchair mobility, and made a case for increasing the size of ADU’s to 900 square feet, which would allow a small guest bedroom and combination guest bathroom and laundry room.

There was also the issue of separation between existing homes and ADU’s. The concern of building and city officials was that most units would be used for rental, or for family – like students who wanted a feeling of autonomy without paying exorbitant rental fees. City Council members were concerned that the parents’ ADU would have a full kitchen and we were requesting direct access from the home to the unit for convenience and emergency health issues. One of the council members asked if we would be willing to have adjacent exterior walls be special fire walls, with a covered breezeway between the home and the ADU. That suggestion was the key that unlocked the door for our ADU! (I would love more details here -it’s not clear immediately if the ADU was going to be designed with the breezeway in mind.)

So, we proceeded with the plans and my clients engaged a structural engineer to prepare the framing details and required calculations for the new structure. The plans were approved and my clients hired a contractor who prepared a detailed estimate. (Did you recommend the contractor? If not, how did they find him/her? The sisters moved their parents to Dundee so the home in San Diego could be sold and the money could be used to fund the ADU. We are all hoping that their parents’ home will sell. The 897-square-foot ADU is scheduled for construction in 2019.

If you are considering an ADU or wondering how to create an accessory dwelling unit for family use or rental, I can help you. If you want to stay in your home and make it accessible, I can provide you with the information you need to make it livable and safe while maintaining the feel and look of your home. Call me today, so we can chat about your needs!

 

Thanksgiving Prayer and Blessing

Thanksgiving-Prayer

Thanksgiving week, 1974.

 

It was the Monday before Thanksgiving. I had made the choice to move from Portland to San Francisco right after Labor Day, to start a new chapter of my life. It didn’t take long to become acquainted with people at work, at my new church, and through the local Glen Park Homeowners’ Association.

Two weeks before, I had started thinking about how I was going to spend Thanksgiving, and had been asking everyone if they had plans, hoping that someone would either invite me to share the day with them, or leave the door open for me to suggest a group potluck. Everyone had plans. I felt awkward about inviting myself, so I’d usually reply, “That’s wonderful,” or something similar. By Monday, I was feeling very alone, and sad. (more…)

Contractors Want Respect (Just Like You!)

Contractors , Communication and Respect

 

Part 1 contained information about how to find your contractor. Now we’re going to discuss what happens next.

First Meeting and Follow-up

Meetings with contractors should include the major decision-maker(s) when the appointments are scheduled, because communication, compatibility and respect areContractors need Communication and Respect, too! important parts of the working relationship.

When contractors come to your home for the first time, it should be during daylight hours, if possible, so they can see details inside and out that may affect your project.  You may have to accommodate a very early morning appointment, or you may have to take time away from work for the meeting.  They will  want to see your electrical panel and other utility connections, in addition to seeing all areas adjacent to the areas you’re planning to remodel or add.  They  may want to quickly inspect the attic and crawl space (or basement); problems in these areas could also affect your investment. (more…)

Remodeling Horror Story Not Just For Halloween

Remodeling Horror Story: Trick Or Treat?

Remodeling horror story isn't just for Halloween!

The title of this blog is seasonal, but unfortunately, a “Trick or Treat” remodeling horror story happens year ’round. It’s not limited to one type of remodeling project. Here  is a  remodeling “horror” story list, bad experiences that were avoidable:

  • A D-I-Y basement renovation that got out of hand.
  • A master bathroom project that was totally bungled by a designer who acted as the general contractor.
  • A D-I-Y master bedroom expansion into an adjoining bedroom; taking out a bearing wall is a NO-NO!
  • A bad deck replacement done by an unlicensed contractor that left the Homeowners with no legal recourse.
  • A new home that had all of the hot and cold lines swapped by the plumber.
  • A D-I-Y floor refinishing project that ended up with the floor being replaced after the sanding drum was installed backwards, chewing up the floor.
  • Homeowners who had purchased appliances ten years before the actual remodeling, and ended up donating the appliances because they wouldn’t fit in the new kitchen.

(more…)

Your Contractor Is Waiting For Your Call!

Your Contractor Wants You To Find Him/Her!

Your contractor is just a phone call away!

The best way to find your contractor is referrals — from neighbors, friends, family, or business associates.  These are your best resources, especially people who’ve remodeled recently.  You can also get referrals from the showrooms you’ve visited.  Don’t rely on advertisements.  They can be misleading.  You’ll be better off to contact your local professional remodeling organizations (NAHB, NARI, or NKBA) for several names and phone numbers.  Most local building departments will not refer contractors. It’s a conflict of interest.

Two Warnings About Referrals:

  • Don’t hire a one-person contractor who says he/she does everything.  An unforeseen family emergency, illness or injury can ruin time projections.  There aren’t enough hours in the day for a general contractor to draw plans, manufacture cabinets, and  work on your project. Overall quality of your project will suffer.

(more…)

A Professional Designer Is Easy To Find

A Professional Designer Will Help you In Many Ways

A professional designer is easy to find!

The right professional designer knows where to find the products that reflect your personal taste, products that are compatible with your home. He or she can help you fit each product into your budget priorities. Designers like this do make a difference. How do you find the right designer for your project?

The best way to find a professional designer is referrals from family, business associates, friends, and neighbors. The next best way is through professional organizations such as NAHB, NARI, IDS, or NKBA. There may also be local design organizations, or local chapters of the national organizations that you can find in an internet search. Tell them the type of remodeling project you want, and they will provide names and contact information for up to three professional designers.

You can contact the designers by phone or through an email message. Provide detailed information about what you want to achieve, how much you want to invest, and when you want your project completed. Here’s an example: (more…)

Bathroom Artwork Adds Character, Tells A Story

Express Yourself With Bathroom Artwork!

Bathroom artwork adds character, don't be afraid to use it.

If you’re remodeling your home, or just freshening up, don’t overlook bathroom artwork! It doesn’t have to be an expensive original, but art can establish or complete a theme. It can be a personal expression of something you care about. Or it can be simply art for art’s sake: the colors and textures that complement, contrast, or add the pizzazz you want.

If you’re unsure about what art to use in the bathroom, it’s important to determine first who will see it. If it’s the master bathroom that only you will see, you can choose anything. But if it’s a bathroom that others will see, it’s best to err on the side of “politically correct,” unless you desire to start a conversation.

Years ago, an architect friend of mine redid two bathrooms in his home. He and his partner had been collecting autographed photos of famous people for years. Tom decided to get all of the 8×10 black and white pictures put into simple black frames, and he hung them next to each other on all four walls of the powder room. His bathroom artwork was a fantastic effect! But he once confided to me that when they would have a party, guests weren’t allowed to “camp out” in the bathroom while they looked at all of the photos. (more…)