Great Home Products!

GREAT HOME PRODUCTS!

(#1 of 2)

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)

Great Home Products Faucet + FountainDo 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)

Great Home Products -- Leviton Circuit BoxIf 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)

Great Home Producst 12x12 LED FixtureI 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)

Great Home Products Artis Wall ShiplapHave 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)

Great Spray Foam InsulationDo 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)

Great Laundry EquipmentAre 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/   

https://www.samsung.com/us/explore/flex-dry/

MARVELOUS BATHROOM MIRROR UPDATE (#7)

Great Bathroom Mirror FramesOver 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)

Magnetic Gliding Shower DoorThis 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)

Concealed DoorSeveral 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)

Grout that glows in the darkTwo 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

Translucent grout: https://cdn.laticrete.com/en/tile-and-stone-installation/grouts/epoxy-grouts/spectralock-pro-premium-translucent-grout

Addative that makes grout sparkle or glow in the dark: https://cdn.laticrete.com/en/tile-and-stone-installation/grouts/epoxy-grouts/spectralock-dazzle

LUXURY FOLDING DOORS AND WINDOWS BRING OUTSIDE IN

Doors-Windows Opening ViewThe 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.

Contact me today!

Remodeling Questions and Answers

Remodeling Questions

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

Weather conditions

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.

Product availability

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.

Unforeseen emergencies

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:

Virtual-Reality Perspective

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?”

–oOo–

See the before and after photos of this project in my Portfolio.

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“Today’s Home” Podcast: Remodeling Questions and Answers

Also remember that I’m available to help you with your project, from beginning to end! Contact me today to talk about your remodeling (or building) project.

Home Trends, In and Out

Kitchen with latest trends

HOME TRENDS, IN and OUT

“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!

In a previous segment, I talked about wants versus needs. Trends, I believe, turn our wants into needs, because we want to fit in. We may not have the courage to decide for ourselves what to wear, or how to furnish and accessorize our homes. We turn to others who have done it, whatever “it” is. “The trends we’re dying to keep up with were all started by someone somehow. That’s their identity. Not necessarily ours.”

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.

URBAN LIVING

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
  • LED lighting
  • 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:

Tile countertops

Over-the-range microwaves

Eclectic clutter

Shag carpet

Wood paneling

Tiffany lamps

Word art

Futons

Fast furniture

Nautical motifs

Edison bulbs

Tufted headboards

Tuscan kitchens

Damask

Wallpaper borders

Window valances

 

Mason jar mania

Wicker furniture (inside)

Dusty pastels

Hollywood mirror lights

Avocado green

Harvest gold

Ferns everywhere

Plaid

Pine furniture

Vertical blinds

Bean bag chairs

Giant silk plants

Fake fruit

Sponge-painted walls

Glass blocks

Popcorn ceiling

Ruffled bedskirts

Heavy headboards

Floral everything

Lace tablecloths and doilies

Cherry cabinets

White quartz countertops.

Gendered rooms

Cool grays

Terazzo tile

Fiber art

Overdone brass

Accent walls

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!

Kitchen Remodeling Codes

Function and Safety Are #1!

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):

  • The minimum for a one-person access between countertops is 42”;
  • Access increases to a minimum of 48” if multiple people are working in the kitchen simultaneously.

These guidelines allow safe usage of appliances, and unlimited access to everything stored in cabinets.

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.

Important Calculation For Island Function & Safety

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 education and design experience comes in handy. In an NKBA seminar, I learned from Ellen Cheever to show all appliance doors open in my plans. 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. I reduced 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.  Someone can now 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. This area could become seriously congested with multiple users.

NKBA Guidelines for Kitchen Aisleways

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 my 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. 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. This would require 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 to the oven can affect the resalability of the home. 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 and the code:

Citation: Guidelines and Code

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 how much 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!

Homeowner Tips:

  • 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!

Remodeling A 1970s Home For Special Needs

A family of six lived in a 1970s home that needed major remodeling, Here are the challenges and solutions that would transform the home totally:

Challenges and Solutions

#1: The youngest son has muscular dystrophy and cannot get to the large basement playroom without being carried by the father.

A residential elevator would allow the son to travel easily to and from the main floor to the basement. The best location for the elevator shaft was at the rear of the home, with entries to the elevator in the living room and the play room.

#2: The front had an uninviting stone wall that hid the entry door.

Removing the wall and changing the front of the house would make the home more inviting for guests.

#3: The existing kitchen was too small, especially for entertaining.

The kitchen would be moved to the existing family room, so the existing kitchen could become the dining room, allowing the homeowners to entertain more frequently.

#4: The existing master suite was typical for a 1970s home, with a small shower and a one-person lavatory. Closets were small, with limited storage. The only linen storage was a small closet in the main hallway.

An addition solved all of the problems. The master bedroom is bigger, and there are two large closets with lots of storage. The new bathroom has a two-person shower, a separate toilet room, and large separate lavatories. There’s also a 6-foot wide linen closet.

BONUS: The addition also created a great bedroom for the oldest daughter in the basement area that gave her the privacy she needed; it has a wonderful view of the garden.

#5: The youngest son’s bedroom and the guest bathroom needed to be remodeled to be accessible. The bathroom also needed to look nice for guests.

Transforming a 30” door into a 36” door required borrowing space from the existing small linen closet. The bathroom remodel became part of the master suite addition, making room for a 5-foot wheelchair turnaround, and easy access to the tub/shower and the toilet.

*DESIGN TIP: A “handicap” bathroom doesn’t need to look or feel like a hospital! There are many beautiful products available that blend with a home’s style and the family’s preferences.

The Design And Value Engineering

I worked with the family for about three months to develop the preliminary plans and prepare virtual-reality renderings to show them what their remodeled home could look like. They loved it! Before we got involved with choosing products, I recommended a contractor who could provide a detailed estimate. We call this “value engineering.” This would help the couple know what their investment would be. Estimates this early in the process helps homeowners make important decisions about the scope of their project before they get too excited about their project.

The preliminary estimate, with allowances for products and finishes, approached $500,000. Talking with the couple honestly, we all agreed that if they remodeled this home, it would most likely be their final home.  The reason: they wouldn’t be able to get any return of their investment when comparing their home to neighboring properties. They admitted that it was important to go through the initial process like we did, although it involved an investment of about $3,000. But it helped them make the important decision to look for a home that had all of the amenities they needed and wanted. Fortunately, they found a new home in a neighboring community that had everything, including a residential elevator! Their investment in the new home was more than their total investment of the existing remodeled home would have been.  But considering the disruption of their lives during a major remodel, they decided it was worth selling their home and moving to the new home.

A Special Bonus For The Homeowners

What we didn’t realize was that the proposed plans and virtual-reality renderings that I had put into a binder for them would help to sell their home in three days for the full asking price! This was confirmation that it’s hard for most people to visualize the possibilities and see past the existing reality. I’m so grateful to have a career, where my ability to see the possibilities helps people to move forward.

Design Tips From This Project

It’s best to get a contractor involved early in the process, to provide value engineering for the project, and verify that what you want is within your budget. Most contractors charge a fee for this service, but many apply all or part of the fee towards construction of your project. There will be tradeoffs involved, but tit’s important for you to:

* Establish a realistic, reasonable budget.
* Make informed decisions about the scope of your project and all products.
* Be flexible, and be open to the possibilities.

 If you’re thinking about remodeling your home. if your family has special needs,  but you’re confused about the possibilities, call me today! With virtual-reality renderings, I can show you what your home can look like!

Whole-House Remodeling Project

Homeowners’ Wishes Become My Goals

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, enlarge the kitchen, and possibly enlarge the master suite above the kitchen. Shortly after they bought the home, they called me to 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 playroom 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 go ahead and assume that everything will be okay. But in this case, it wasn’t. The 760 square-foot addition came too close to the floodplain. The planning official said that he definitely needed to see a soil report. The homeowners weren’t happy with the situation, but they hired a soil engineer. The engineer drilled several holes down to 50 feet in the proposed addition area and discovered that the “soil” was mostly sand. The homeowners were devastated. They had bought a home, thinking it would be everything they always wanted. They had two choices: To resell the home, find another home, 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. After getting that message, the first part of the meeting 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 weren’t a problem, but the rest of the list was challenging.

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 on 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 that 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 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 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 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.

PLAYROOM: 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 to talk with the building inspector. 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 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, see the homeowners enjoying their new home, and witness the transformation’s guests’ reaction. 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.

See all of the virtual-reality renderings I prepared for the project.

“See the Possibilities. Create a Positive Difference.”

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!

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

© 10/2016 D. P. Design – All Rights Reserved; Rev. 1/2021