Multiple-Cook Family Kitchen Transformation

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

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

Every great kitchen project begins with a “Why?”

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

♦ Why do you want to remodel your kitchen? 

There are always problems and challenges!

What were the problems? Do you have similar challenges?

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

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

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

Decisions require communication: Open, honest discussion and feedback.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

Best Bathroom Ideas: 9 Fantastic Goals For You

Remodeled Master Bathroom in Vancouver

Follow These Steps For The Best  Bathroom Remodeling Results

Why do you need this information?

To help you:

  1. Avoid confusion and frustration.
  2. Make great decisions.
  3. Create a safe, functional, and beautiful area for you, your family, and/or your guests.
  4. Stay within a reasonable budget.

There’s so much that you can include in your remodeled master or guest bathroom, so many details to think about. It can be confusing and frustrating! Do you know that remodeling a master bathroom can be a higher investment per square foot than remodeling a kitchen? That’s why it’s important to follow my suggestions, so you make informed decisions about everything, and avoid expensive mistakes!

The goals of all remodeling are to improve — your home and your life. You’ve probably been thinking about this project for a long time. The average is 3 – 5 years. During the pandemic, though, it’s possible that you delayed remodeling. You are not alone! When everything settles down and you’re confident about proceeding, I’ve developed these steps to help you finish your project in a reasonable time, within a reasonable budget. Without unwanted hassles and frustrations. You deserve to get what you want and you deserve to be happy during and after your bathroom remodeling.

A standard bathroom is 5 feet by 8 feet and requires many decisions, many opportunities to make mistakes.

What’s the first mistake that homeowners often make?

Homeowners’ first inclination is to look at countertop materials and tile immediately. This is okay, but it may lead to confusion and it may delay other more important decisions like plumbing, cabinetry, and lighting.
Designer talking about a bathroom remodelWhere do you start? Why?

If you want to achieve all of the four goals I listed above, your first and most important decision is to hire a professional specializing in designing bathrooms. The National Kitchen and Bath Association has a great article about the importance of hiring a design specialist. It’s important because s/he will help you make important decisions that a contractor needs to give you a reliable estimate. It’s okay to call contractors, but you’ll probably hear that they need a set of plans and specifications to provide you information about your investment.

Years ago, I was at a plumbing showroom to check on a client’s order. The manager acknowledged me although he was helping another designer and her client. Honestly, I wasn’t trying to eavesdrop, but I was close enough to hear the gist of their conversation. They were looking at a sketch that the manager had drawn of the bathroom, and they were talking about the whirlpool tub that the homeowner wanted. There was a long silence after the manager asked, “Where do you intend to put the pump access?” The designer asked, “Where would you recommend it? We don’t want it to get in the way of the front that’s going to be decorative tile.” Later, the manager confided that he’d prefer to work with experienced bath designers any day. I felt sorry for him, and for the homeowner.

 Step #2: Hire a remodeling contractor

Call a contractor to talk about your bathroom remodeling project

If you don’t have a contractor, it’s possible that your designer can refer you to someone who’s worked on her/his projects. There are several resources available to you to find a qualified, experienced local contractor. Local building/remodeling organizations affiliated with national organizations that have excellent websites:

I’ve included a link to an e-book at the bottom of this blog that will help you ask the right questions before hiring a designer or a contractor.
Houzz is a great website to get bathroom remodeling information and ideas

Deciding your style is Step #3

This step helps you answer this question: What style of bathroom do you want? Houzz.com has over 1.5 million pictures! You can select which style appeals to you:

Contemporary   *   Modern   *   Traditional   *   Mid-century Modern   *   Farmhouse   *   Transitional    *   Industrial   *   Scandinavian   *   Coastal

There are other filters, too, besides style:

  • Color
  • Size
  • Vanity color
  • Shower type
  • Shower enclosure
  • Bathtub
  • Wall tile color

The great thing about Houzz is that you can easily share everything with your designer by setting up a project folder on the Houzz website.

It can be confusing and frustrating to set a realistic budget for a bathroom remodeling project

Step #4: Determine a realistic bathroom remodeling budget

With help from your designer and contractor, establish a realistic budget. There’s an excellent resource to help you, the Cost vs. Value Report, where you can obtain up-to-date, local information for a bathroom remodeling project to help you decide how much you want to invest. They list the typical materials used for the size and project investment as a guideline.

Visit a local plumbing showroom to see all of the options for your remodeled bathroom

Step #5: Select ALL your plumbing!

Your designer may send links to plumbing manufacturers’ sites so you can pre-select what appeals to you. Next, visit a local plumbing supply showroom, not a “big box” store* with your designer to see (and feel) everything. There, you’ll see:

  • Toilets
  • Lavatory sinks
  • Tubs and/or shower bases
  • Lavatory faucets
  • Tub/shower plumbing
  • Valves and diverters
    • Showerheads
    • Tub fillers
  • Accessories
  • Towel bars
  • Grab bars (they’re crucial for safety!)
  • Mirrors
  • Vanity lighting
  • Exhaust fans
  • Tub/shower enclosures

Get an estimate for all the plumbing you’ve selected and see how it fits into your budget. You may have to make adjustments to what you’ve selected, but the good news is that you’re making tradeoffs before it becomes an emergency. Your designer and contractor will have recommendations to help you choose good-quality products that won’t break your budget.

*Why not a “big box” store?

♦ The employees may or may not have all the knowledge to really help you; they’re just there to take your order.

♦ The quality and selection of products are more limited than a specialty showroom; they show and sell only what’s most popular and profitable, known for making “deals” with manufacturers to keep the price low and their profit margin high.

A virtual-reality perspective of your remodeled bathroom is helpful for making decisions

Bathroom cabinet decisions: Step #6

Your designer can help you define how you will store all of your personal-care equipment and products, towels, and toiletries. S/he should help you make final decisions about the style and color using Virtual Reality Perspectives.  Your designer and contractor will also help find the right cabinet manufacturer to supply what you want.

Visit a dedicated tile and countertop showroom to see all your bathroom options

​Step #7: Finally (!) select your bathroom surface finishes

Visit a showroom with your designer, not a “big box” store* to select everything that will make your remodeled bathroom special:

  • Wall tile
  • Decorative tile
  • Shampoo/soap niches
  • Backsplash (it may be tile or the same material as your countertop)
  • Floor tile — think about radiant heating as a necessity, not a luxury.
  • Engineered stone countertop**

** If you prefer natural stone, visit a showroom that specializes in this material

Get an estimate for all the products you’ve selected and see how the numbers fit into your established budget. Make adjustments to what you’ve selected, if necessary, keeping your #1 priority items at the top of your “wish list.” It’s human nature to forget low-priority choices. We feel cheated if we have to give up something we really want.A dedicated file keeps all bathroom remodeling ideas, estimates, and information in one place

Step #8: Tie up your remodeling details

The last step before you actually start construction is several steps:

  • Verify all information on the plans that your designer has prepared, especially all of your product decisions
  • Obtain a preliminary-final estimate from the contractor that includes:
    • All products
    • All labor
    • Fees and expenses

Compare the estimate to your budget, and make final adjustments to your choices, as needed, especially if you’ve got a limited budget. Homeowners who use a spreadsheet to help them define and maintain their budget have the greatest chance for success without regrets.

Step #9: Get your remodeling construction started!

You’ve made it this far! In twelve weeks (or less), you’ll be able to enjoy your newly-remodeled bathroom! Congratulations!

There’s much more to bathroom remodeling than most people realize. Hope you haven’t found this blog too boring. Most of us dislike the process, especially when we want to leap ahead to the results. In a normal working relationship with my clients, I walk them through each step without making a big deal about it. When I write articles like this, I’m trying to protect everyone who wants to remodel a bathroom. Yes, that’s unrealistic. But if I help only one person — you — then I’ve been successful! Wishing you the best of luck with your bathroom remodeling project. I’m here, rooting for your success!

Get the FREE e-book (an excerpt from “THE Survival Guide: Home Remodeling”):

Questions about your bathroom remodeling project? I will help you! I’m only one phone call or one email message away! Contact me today!

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.

Gratitude for Awesome Awards and Accolades

Top 50 Innovators Award

The phone rang at 7:15 am on October 4, not an unusual time for a client or contractor to call. My husband answered then said, “It’s a lady from Kitchen-Bath Design News.”

I thought, “They probably want to renew my subscription.”

“Hello, this is Diane.”

“Good Morning, Diane, this is Autumn McGarr. I’m an editor with Kitchen-Bath Design News. I’m calling to tell you that you’ve been included in this year’s ‘Top 50 Innovators.’ Congratulations!”

This couldn’t have come at a better time. I was in the final stages of a kitchen project that had taken a toll on my confidence, working with a difficult contractor. It would soon be over.  I’ve been fortunate in my 36-year career to work with great clients and contractors, to win awards, prizes, and accolades. In the few minutes after the phone call, I re-visited my very first project after establishing D. P. Design.

The trouble with most stories is that there are too many details, so I’m going to lay the foundation quickly.

Brief History — Inspiration To Become A Designer

In 1979, my husband and I bought stereo stores in San Francisco and Palo Alto. I really enjoyed working with our customers, helping them rearrange furniture for the “sweet spot” of realistic stereo effect. We’d developed a satellite+subwoofer system that people loved. They could have great sound in their homes without looking like a professional recording studio. That’s when I decided to take classes at the local college offering interior design. I knew that this would be my future, helping homeowners enjoy their living environments. I loved the architectural drafting and kitchen-bath classes the most.

Then a major recession happened in 1982 that forced us to close both stores. I continued with school and was hired by a local custom cabinet manufacturer. This experience verified that my future would be designing kitchens and bathrooms. I graduated with multiple degrees in interior design, kitchen and bath design, and lighting design. During the last semester, I hired an architect to help me hone my drafting skills because the college professor believed that all interior designers weren’t qualified.

Architectural drafting is one example of what I did to learn what I’d be using for years. For every assignment, I was compelled to work harder and longer to get what I believed to be barely-acceptable results, comparing myself to the other students.  I was continually shocked by high grades and accolades I received for the assignments and tests. In my mind, I really didn’t deserve it.

Interior Design Education, Graduation and First Award

I admired and respected all of the teachers, but there was one in particular that I’ll never forget, Hub McDaniel. I’m grateful for his impact on my professional life. He was an advocate for the Americans with Disabilities Act. He advised us frequently, “Learn everything you can about accessibility and start using it in all of your projects.” His advice stuck with me, one of the major reasons I became a Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist. He also said, “Pass the NCIDQ examination. It’s the best way for you to prove a high level of professionalism with education, examination, and experience.” I added the NCIDQ to the Certified Bath Designer and Certified Kitchen Designer examinations and successfully passed all three. Passing tests and earning credentials is a small part of my commitment. Applying what I’ve learned to help Homeowners achieve their goals is 99.9% of my commitment. Learning about and sharing Frank Lloyd Wright’s design philosophy is a major driving force in my career.

Accolades FLW DoghouseIt was Hub’s admission about his passion for Frank Lloyd Wright’s work and philosophy that had an impact on me. He found ways to include examples of Mr. Wright’s genius often during class . The final exam for his class was to design dog houses that showed a knowledge of different types of roof styles. One of my examples had a flat roof with deep eaves. There were banks of side-by-side narrow windows on three sides, and a doorway on the fourth side flanked with two flat bowls on pedestal bases. The “architect” signed the perspective: Frank Lloyd Woof. Hub’s influence on me is the reason that my husband and I are living in our dream home, inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright’s “Gordon House” in the Oregon Garden.

Every year, teachers and students in the Interior Design Department selected one person to receive the “Henry Adams Award,” for exemplary skills and talents. There were many students who I felt were top contenders. All of them had way more talent and ability than I did. When they chose me for the award, I was sure they had made a mistake, or I was having a dream. When Clarellen Adams announced the award, she said that the person receiving the award had proven a higher commitment to being a professional interior designer than other students. That’s when it sunk in that attitude and effort guarantee better results. It’s a lesson I’ve never forgotten.

I was lucky to have a few minutes of a private conversation with Mrs. Adams, who had developed the famous Design Center in San Francisco with her late husband, Henry. They were dynamos in the interior design community, and masters of marketing. She gave me advice that I followed immediately, “Send out press releases about your award to all local newspapers and magazines. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised with the results.” She was absolutely right!

The Birth of D. P. Design and First Clients

It was hard to believe how many people read the articles and called me to help them redesign a kitchen or bathroom. It was time to quit my job at the cabinet shop and establish D. P. Design. One lady who called reminded me about meeting with her and her husband when I was still employed with the cabinet maker. “I saw the article about you in the Mercury News. We haven’t remodeled our kitchen yet, and we’d like you to help us.”

Accolade kitchen beforeThe original kitchen felt like a dungeon. It had dark stained cabinets, olive-green carpeting, and olive-green tile counters. The only light source was a glaring fluorescent fixture that encircled a large skylight. We worked together to achieve a well-lit kitchen where they could display their collection of Red Skelton clown figurines and plates. The couple also collected original Red Skelton clown paintings which were used as inspiration for colorful accessories.

Accolade kitchen in magazineThe remodeled kitchen included a custom induction cooktop, a commercial wok, a gas cooktop, Sub-Zero refrigerator, and a Thermador micro-thermal oven. Induction cooktops are popular now, but at the time this kitchen was created, there was only one manufacturer of induction cooktops, “Fasar.” The couple hired a local artist to paint the hot water heater door in the walk-in pantry. It was a portrait of the wife, who was pregnant at the time, a golf enthusiast, dressed up like a clown. She’s sitting barefoot on a stool, in front of a window, with a frying pan in one hand and a golf club in the other hand. The bottom of her apron reads, “I’d rather be golfing.”

I was lucky to find a Brunshwig fabric that had a circle of flowers for window treatments in the adjoining eating nook. The same fabric was the inspiration for hand-painted 12×12 “Fasar” tiles and a mural behind the gas cooktop and wok. The same fabric provided inspiration for three-dimensional custom stained-glass doors in the wall and pantry cabinets, created by an artist in San Francisco. He duplicated the flowers and butterflies beautifully! This kitchen was remodeled over 25 years before LED strip lights, so I devised a way to light the stained glass with automobile dome lights.

I had an itchy-twitchy feeling about this project, a feeling that I’ve had many times since that often precedes an accolade or award. A well-known architectural photographer took 4×5 pictures of the kitchen. Again, remembering Clarellen Adams’ advice, I sent press releases to local newspapers and magazines. No one was interested. Then I remembered a discussion with the editor of Kitchen & Bath Business magazine at a seminar I’d attended. She said, “We’re always interested in projects. Send us copies of photos and detailed information.”

First Major Accolade

Accolade Kitchen PantryI sent everything about the project to the magazine in April 1986. Five months went by and I was ready to give up until one of the editors called in mid-September. “We’re thinking about including your kitchen project in an upcoming issue. Do you have time to answer a few questions?” That phone call lasted for over an hour. I anxiously anticipated the arrival of the October issue. Nothing about the project. The November issue didn’t include my project either. “Okay,” I thought, “this project wasn’t good enough for such a well-known publication after all.”

In December, the first west-coast Kitchen-Bath Industry Show was being held in Long Beach. The huge convention hall was packed with hundreds of exhibits featuring the latest technology and design elements. Thousands of attendees from all over the country and several foreign countries played “bumper bodies” in the aisles, trying to see the exhibits. Kitchen & Bath Business magazine had a large booth at the center of the exhibits. As we approached, I saw a continuous row of their December issue displayed on every inch of the countertop. Then I saw the cover. There was my kitchen project!

The Impact of Awards, Accolades, Medals, and Prizes

Ever since that wonderful day in December, receiving third-party acknowledgment for a job well done, I know the gratitude that athletes feel when they win gold medals at the Olympics. Or how medical researchers feel when they discover a cure for an insidious disease. The pride and gratitude that Nobel Prize winners feel. How performers feel when they are given a lifetime achievement award. The over-the-moon joy that new parents feel.

This is how I felt when Autumn McGarr called in October. The inclusion in the Top 50 Innovators doesn’t mean that I’m better than anyone else in my profession. It’s an acknowledgment of commitment to excellence in all ways, at all times. An accomplishment, award, prize, or medal for one of us is a major achievement for all of us — inspiration and motivation to be better and do better. And use everything I’ve earned and learned to help my clients achieve their goals. It’s a wonderful upward spiral!

See a pictures of all Awards and Press that D. P. Design has received.  If you want to update your home with a home addition, a remodeled kitchen or bathroom, call today! I’d love to chat with you about your goals!

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.

© Copyright 2019 D. P. Design — All Rights Reserved. Rev. 1/21

Essential Details Are Crucial For Your New Kitchen

Award-winning kitchen with many essential details

Many essential details are crucial to achieving your ideal kitchen.  What details are necessary to consider when you’re thinking about remodeling your kitchen? The first is style.

Fundamental Detail #1: What style appeals to you?

  • Asian: Emphasis on natural materials, strong horizontal lines, and a mix of textures. The color scheme can be monochromatic (aka “shibui”) or high contrast.
  • Beach: Crisp white or aged driftwood cabinets with sand-colored countertops. Aqua blue and turquoise accent colors.
  • Contemporary: Clean and uncluttered, practical. European-style cabinets made of wood or high-gloss solid colors, or a combination. Backsplash accented with geometric shapes.
  • Craftsman: Simple straight lines, quality construction, and minimal ornamentation. Emphasis on natural materials. This style originated with the Arts and Crafts movement, often confused with the Shaker style.
  • Eclectic: These kitchens have a mixture of textures, time periods, trends, and colors. Keep in mind that there shouldn’t be too many focal points.
  • Farmhouse: Rough-hewn beams and old-world appearance is the appeal of a farmhouse kitchen. Cabinets are a simple style, often distressed; some cabinets may look like old repurposed furniture. Wood floors are popular for this style.
  • Industrial: Characterized by high ceilings, large windows, wide-open space. Exposed brick and concrete, piping, and structural supports.
  • Mediterranean: There’s nothing shy about a Mediterranean kitchen; it’s full of saturated colors, strong lines, and ornate details. It often includes rough-hewn beams and dark wood cabinets.
  • Modern: Features flat surfaces, geometric forms, and little or no ornamentation or adornments. Cabinets are flat panels made of wood or laminate with solid-color countertops.
  • Traditional: Embellished cabinets have raised-panel doors and drawers with heavy moldings; mix cabinet finishes and counter depths for a custom, furniture-style look.

The style of your kitchen is important. However, it’s more important — especially if you have an open floor plan — for your kitchen to blend with your home’s style and color scheme. You can see examples of these kitchen styles at Houzz.com. It’s the best resource to see examples and find information. The great thing about this site is the ability to save and send pictures to others. It’s a great communication tool! You can also find professionals in your area and select products from the Houzz extensive catalogs.

Essential Kitchen Details: Homeowner Survey Sample

How To Define And Prioritize The Necessary Details

During the design and layout phase, you’ll be making hundreds of product decisions! To help you define the essential details you want to include in your new kitchen, I’ve created the 15-page Homeowner Kitchen Survey checklist.  It’s easy to download the Kitchen Survey: click the link below and fill out the simple form. The Kitchen Survey includes extensive lists about the following major topics to help you, in an easy-to-use format:

  • Architectural Features (doors, windows, skylights, HVAC, exterior walls, roof)
  • Appliances
  • Plumbing
  • Cabinets
  • Countertops and backsplashes
  • Flooring

The Kitchen Survey has other information to define your lifestyle, color preferences, and ergonomics that may affect the layout. Your new kitchen should meet your needs for a specific style. But it must also be functional and safe. If any of the essential details that define function and safety get overlooked, they could negatively impact your results.

Most of us use our kitchen differently from the way it was originally designed to be used. This is one of the major motivators for kitchen remodeling. Homeowners typically ask for more and better storage, more countertop area, and appliances that make kitchen chores easier. There is often a request for custom features that fit the occupants’ unique lifestyle.

Appliance Placement Is The Most Important Detail

I ask about the food that the family likes and how they prepare it. I also ask about how meal preparation and cleanup chores are shared. As we chat,  I observe and ask about their dominant hand because we always move towards our dominant hand. This is important when placing appliances in relationship to countertop landing areas.  Years ago, NKBA did motion studies and determined that someone with a dominant right-hand wastes more time when the dishwasher is on the right-hand side of the sink. Why? Here’s what happens:

Right-handers will pick up a glass, dish, or utensil with their right hand. Then they transfer it to their left hand and use their right hand to scrape and rinse the item. Then they put down the scraper or sponge and transfer the item to their right hand to place the item in the dishwasher. Then they repeat the same motions with the next item. That’s many transfers per load! This equates to time wasted doing the dishes! When you’re cleaning up after meals, observe how many times you have to transfer from one hand to the other. Now you have something to think about when you’re layout out your new kitchen!

When I was attending kitchen design classes, I had an “old-school” teacher who emphasized the working triangle’s importance. It’s still a reference used by the NKBA: “. . .  an imaginary straight line drawn from the center of the sink to the center of the cooktop, to the center of the refrigerator and finally back to the sink. It should be no more than 26′ total.  No single leg of the triangle should be less than 4′ or longer than 9′.”

The working triangle assumes that only one person will be using the kitchen, which doesn’t align with current multiple-user trends.  The original triangle didn’t include a microwave.  A microwave oven is used more often than a cooktop because it uses less energy and heats food faster.  A microwave-convection oven is used more often than a standard oven. It cooks food faster and uses less energy because the oven cavity is smaller. Instead of using the work triangle solely, I prefer to use a customized work station layout that is defined by the activity and the family’s lifestyle: 

♦  Main course preparation

♦  Salad and vegetable preparation

♦  Baking preparation

♦  Serving

♦  Cleanup

An Overlooked Essential Detail: Appliance Doors

There is an essential detail to consider when placing appliances: Do the open doors create a conflict with traffic or another appliance? Years ago, I learned a simple step to avert problems: on the floor plan, show all of the appliance doors open, using dotted lines.

Many older homes have ovens that are placed adjacent to a doorway. This is very dangerous, especially if young children live in or visit the home. It’s normal to leave an oven door open after we’ve moved the food to a countertop. When children come dashing into the kitchen full-tilt, they don’t see the open oven door. It’s a catastrophe waiting to happen. This is a good reason to show all appliance doors open on the floor plan.

But appliance placement is just part of your new kitchen. The appliances you choose are affected by your lifestyle. In recent years, I’ve seen increased interest in a single oven with a separate microwave-convection oven.  French-door refrigerators with a bottom freezer drawer generally provide better storage than side-by-side refrigerators. They’re a better option than refrigerators with full-sized doors because the door swing can block an aisleway.

Light Is A Key Detail For Success

Award-winning kitchen and lower family room with many essential detailsLighting is an essential detail that not only enhances your beautiful new kitchen but makes it functional and safe. To be effective, lighting must be designed to work in layers. This is achieved by using three or four dimmers. The quantity and quality of light are different for preparation, serving, eating, entertaining, and cleanup. We’re lucky to have dimmable LED fixtures to light our kitchen. Lighting falls into four categories:

1.  Ambient or General: It usually refers to natural light coming through windows, etc. It can also mean artificial lights such as recessed fixtures used to light walkways.

2.  Task: Increasing illuminance to accomplish a specific activity. General lighting can be reduced because task lighting provides focused light where needed.

3.  Mood: This is often overlooked. But it’s easy to achieve with dimmers that provide the flexibility of use.

4.  Accent: This focuses light on a particular area or object, like a painting on the wall or beautiful accents inside a display cabinet. It can also be an object of interest, like beautiful blown-glass pendant fixtures over an island or peninsula. Accent lighting creates visual interest in a room.

Recap: Essential Details For Your Kitchen

Your new kitchen requires a lot of thought about all of the essential details, starting with style to be successful. Then there are all of the products that will be included in your kitchen. The placement of your appliances determines the layout, how you’ll use your kitchen. Lighting is the final necessary detail in your kitchen. Can you achieve everything on your own? Only a certified professional kitchen designer who has the education, training, and experience can help you make all of the decisions ahead. And a professional kitchen designer will prepare detailed plans for estimates, permits, and construction. You can find certified kitchen designers in your area with a search on the NKBA site.

PODCAST: Essential Details For Your Kitchen

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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. Contact Diane today, to talk about your kitchen remodeling project.

 


How Can You Avoid Construction Horror Stories?

How can you avoid construction horror stories? You can do it! These are not the typical ghost stories you hear around a campfire. But you may have heard your family and acquaintances talk about construction horror stories at social gatherings.  Exceeding the budget. Not meeting the deadline. Contractors not showing up, or doing lousy work. D-I-Y disasters. In 35 years, I’ve heard and read about and experienced similar horror stories. What makes me sad is that most of the problems encountered could have been avoided.

Avoidable Horror Story: Wallpaper That Ended Up On the Floor, Not The Wall

I worked for a custom cabinet and remodeling company after finishing design school. It was fall and business had slowed down from the peak summertime projects. A couple in Half Moon Bay, California had been saving for years and hired my employer to remodel their master bathroom. I helped them make all the product decisions which included heavily-textured vinyl wallcovering. The husband worked swing shift at the San Francisco Airport and normally got home between 1:00 and 2:00 a.m. Knowing that the project was winding down, he went into the bathroom to see what had been done when he got home from work. Later, I found out that he sat on the toilet for over four hours, watching the wallpaper slide down the walls like a slithering snake. When he called me at 6:00 a.m., it was easy to tell that he had a hard time controlling his anger.  What had happened?

I learned later that my boss had sent two of the cabinet manufacturing employees to install the wallcovering. They assumed that it was prepasted, and soaked it in water then applied it to the walls. The only thing that made the wallpaper stick to the wall was the heavy texture that acted like tiny suction cups! My boss had to replace the wallcovering, and hire a professional wallpaper hanger to redo the job that his employees had botched.  The homeowners were satisfied with the results, but not without frustration and hassles. They had done absolutely nothing wrong, assuming that my employer would take care of them in every way.

How to avoid this nightmare: Unfortunately, there’s no way for homeowners to know who a contractor has hired, unless they ask for a list of everyone who’s going to be working in their home. The important lesson is — whether it’s a contractor or a homeowner — don’t let the lure of saving money cloud an important decision that has a high probability of negative results.

A Ghoulish Tale About Lack of Communication

With my first client after establishing D. P. Design, I learned the importance of communication among the remodeling team members. The homeowners had a general contractor who they wanted to hire. They demanded to hire an independent electrician for their project instead of letting the general use one of his subs.  I didn’t realize until later what a problem it would create. The G.C. and the electrician refused to communicate. Everything seemed to be progressing smoothly until a heavy storm system rolled through our area. The day before, the electrician was penetrating the roof and running wires into the kitchen and didn’t tell anyone about the holes he’d created. The contractor called me to report that the new custom cabinets were all wet. He demanded that I call the electrician and the homeowners to report what had happened, to let them know that he wasn’t going to clean up the mess.

The homeowners were caught in the middle of a dog fight.  They demanded that the electrician pay the G.C. for cleaning up the job site and repairing the roof. Fortunately, the cabinets weren’t damaged.

How to avoid horror stories like this: Ask questions — lots of them! Discover if the contractor you’re hiring has employees and regular subcontractors. More important, talk with the contractor about tradespeople or suppliers you know. Be especially careful about hiring friends or family members to work on your project. These relationships have a high failure rate.

The Root of Most Construction Horror Stories: D-I-Y

In the past 35-plus years, I’ve heard and read about D-I-Y horror stories, and I’ve lived them firsthand. Often, the decision to tackle a project is driven by the need or desire to save money. But homeowners can also be lulled into a false sense of  “I/we can do this!” — especially after watching how easy a project seems to be on TV or videos on the internet.  My husband and I have had our share of construction horror stories. Most of these nightmares happened because we thought we could save money. We didn’t!

I’ve written about D-I-Y remodeling disasters before! Read this blog for more information! I’ve also written about the problems created by remodeling reality shows setting homeowners up for serious problems.

Floors are a BIG Challenge For D-I-Yers!

We had major problems refinishing the wood floors in our first home.  Looking back on it, we can laugh. But at the time, it was not funny. The first disaster was when we were refinishing the floors in a den adjacent to the entry hall that we intended to convert to a dining room. The oak strip floor had been covered with carpeting and needed to be freshened up. My husband did the sanding around the perimeter of the room. I decided to sand the middle of the room with the drum sander we’d rented, while he was at work.  Everything was going fine until I had to change the sandpaper and didn’t pay attention to how the metal plate held the sandpaper in place. When I turned on the machine again and started moving the sander across the floor, I noticed big chunks of the floor were being spewed out. The screws that held the plate in place were digging and carving the floor with every pass! There was nothing to do but pay a flooring company to extend the parquet from the entry hall into the dining room.  It turned out beautiful, but it was an expensive learning lesson.

Did we learn a lesson? Yes, and no. We didn’t make the same mistake when we refinished the floors in my home office, but that project turned into a horror story, too. After we sanded the floor, we decided to work together to apply the urethane. I was on my hands and knees with a wide brush intended for refinishing floors. My husband stood over my shoulder and carefully poured puddles of urethane that I then spread uniformly. So what was the problem? I noticed that no matter how hard I tried, there were millions of “fuzzies” in the finish. My husband was wearing wooly socks! We had to re-sand the floor and vacuum it thoroughly before applying the urethane. This time, my husband was barefoot! We got the results we wanted, but it cost more for extra days for the drum sander rental, plus more urethane. And it nearly tripled the amount of time we’d allotted to do this project.

A friend of ours had a floor refinishing disaster when he was doing repair and maintenance for his landlord in exchange for a lower rent. He lived in a beautiful Victorian three-story home that had been converted into apartments. Victorian homes are known for rich and ornate woodworking that includes heavily-carved wainscoting and moldings. Everything seemed to be going fine — didn’t we just read this? — until the drum sander stopped working. Dead. Then Ed remembered the age of the building and realized that he’d probably blown a fuse. So he went down to the electrical panel in the basement and verified that he had blown a fuse. Fortunately, there were spare fuses available, so he replaced the bad fuse with a good one. Immediately after the last turn of the fuse, he heard the drum sander come to life over his head. Although he immediately ran up the stairs, he was too late to stop the mess that the sander had created. It had bounced off the walls, tearing up all the beautiful woodwork, and dug a trench in the floor.

“Let’s Take Out This Wall” D-I-Y Near-Disaster

Homeowners called me to help them solve a problem they’d created. Empty-nesters with a five-bedroom home, they decided to convert a bedroom that was adjacent to their master bedroom into a sitting room. They bought or borrowed a sledgehammer, and on a Saturday morning, the husband started swinging the massive tool of destruction at the wall between the two rooms. After removing several studs, he heard the ceiling and roof creaking and groaning, and he could see the ceiling sagging. He realized that he was taking out a bearing wall! He immediately grabbed a hammer and nails and reinstalled the studs to stabilize the structure. When I met with the couple, we talked about what needed to be done: hire a structural engineer and a contractor so they could have the master suite they desired. It was relatively easy, and the end results were wonderful. They didn’t know what they didn’t know, and they hadn’t thought about everything before they started removing the bearing wall. They ended up replacing the carpeting in both rooms because they didn’t realize that there would be a gap where the wall had been.

Hints, How-To, and Tips for D-I-Yers

How To Avoid D-I-Y Disasters: Yes, it’s difficult. But not impossible! Before tackling any D-I-Y project, we need to research the logical steps involved and the tools required. We also need to read about other people’s experience with a similar project. The biggest challenge to overcome is our mindset.  What’s really driving the need to do the work instead of hiring a professional? There are many reasons why homeowners get trapped by D-I-Y projects, but the most obvious one is money, or the lack of funds to hire a professional. Before doing the work, think about how much you have for the project, and how much you think you’re going to save. Statistics verify that most D-I-Y projects end up being a higher investment than the budget allotted. Often, the actual investment exceeds what homeowners would pay a professional to do the work. Additionally, it usually takes three to four times as long for homeowners to achieve the results they think they want.

One of my first instructors in design school frequently said, “There are only two ways to pay for anything. You can take it out of your bank account, or take it out of your hide.”  Not all D-I-Y projects are disasters. Successful projects are most often done by people who know their strengths and weaknesses. My husband is an excellent tile setter. Slow, yes. But he takes his time to do it right and gets consistently straight grout joints. And he’s a master with a spray gun, whether it’s applying paint to a room or lacquer to cabinets. But I don’t let him lay his hands on rollers and brushes!  He’s also very knowledgeable about anything electrical or electronic. Because of his talents, we’ve saved a bundle of money over the years.

I’m going to be brutally honest. As a D-I-Yer, you’re not likely to achieve the same results that a professional would, in the amount of time it would take a professional to do the job. What is your time worth? Are you willing to live with a daily reminder of a botched job? My husband says this often, mostly in reply to a “honey-do” request: “If you want a professional job, hire a professional.” Here’s one of my favorite quotes that apply to virtually all construction horror stories:

The bitterness of poor quality lingers long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten.”

In Conclusion

What I shared with you is a very small sampling of construction nightmares that I’ve heard and read about. To satisfy curiosity before writing this blog, I did an internet search for “construction horror stories” which yielded millions of results. But reviewing the past 35 years in this business, the number of successes that my colleagues and I have achieved exceeds horror stories by a ten-to-one ratio.  To be perfectly honest, I believe that there are very few absolute successes and absolute failures.  The desire, the hope for success is what keeps us all moving forward.

Listen To The Podcast: Construction Horror Stories

I can and will help you with your home building or remodeling project! I truly care about helping you stay within a reasonable budget and achieve the best results possible. Contact me today! Let’s talk about your goals.

Kitchen Remodeling Expectations: Honest, Reliable Input

Carlton Kitchen

Kitchen Remodeling Expectations: Honest, Reliable Input

Kitchen remodeling expectations is a subject I talk about with homeowners at every first meeting with them. It’s not uncommon to hear this comment, “We’ve called several contractors about our kitchen, but they’re all busy right now.” The logical follow-up question is, “When do you want to start your project, and when do you want it finished?”

“When Do You Want Your Kitchen Remodeling Project Finished?”

Often, I hear this reply, “We want to start immediately, because we want our kitchen finished by the Holidays,” which usually means Thanksgiving. If you’ve just started on the journey to a remodeled kitchen and want your kitchen completed by Thanksgiving 2019, I’m sorry to tell you that it’s too late to be contacting contractors. Why?

How Long Does a Standard Kitchen Remodeling Project Take?

From start to finish, a standard kitchen remodeling project takes about 8 weeks to complete, if there are no structural changes, special features, or unforeseen challenges to overcome. To finish your kitchen the week before Thanksgiving, the contractor has to begin construction no later than October 3. If you’ve hired your design professional and contractor, and start planning today, August 6, you have less than a month to make hundreds of decisions about your kitchen remodeling for your designer to complete the plans before September 3 to allow time for plan check.

Here is a list of what happens before construction:

  1. Decide what you want, how much you want to invest, and when you want your remodeling project completed.
  2. Interview kitchen design professionals to find the best match for your needs.
  3. Make decisions about the scope of work and products that will be included in your kitchen remodeling.
  4. Interview contractors to find the best match for your needs.
  5. Prepare plans for estimates, permits, and construction.
  6. Get permits.

The Value of a Professional Kitchen Designer

Why should you hire a professional kitchen designer first? When you call contractors, they’ll ask if you have plans. Contractors know that you’ll expect an estimate. They also know that plans will help them prepare the estimate with more accuracy. Without plans, all they can give you is a “guesstimate,” a wide range of investment based on their experience, or the “Cost vs. Value” report. A kitchen designer has the training and experience to help you with all of your decisions and prepare the necessary plans, and much more, according to the National Kitchen & Bath Association (NKBA). I’ll write and talk more about this in the very near future.

Realistic Time Allowances

Assuming that you’ve already hired a kitchen design professional who’s working on your plans, how long do you think it takes to hire a contractor? The quickest turnaround time I’ve ever experienced is three weeks from the first meeting until my clients hired the contractor who I recommended. We gave him a set of the preliminary plans, then he gave copies of the plans to his electrician, plumber, cabinet maker, and countertop fabricator for reliable numbers. Then he compiled the information into a detailed written estimate. If you’re interviewing multiple contractors, this step could stretch to several months.

It can take as little as one month to finalize the plans for permits and construction, but it can take longer than six months. Why? This relates to the amount of time you need to make decisions about all of the products for your kitchen remodeling project. The final plans should reflect every decision you’ve made. This assures that you’ll get the results you expect from your remodeling team. Here’s a list of your major decisions that should be included in the plans that are submitted for permits and construction:

  • Scope of your project (what you want to achieve, your goals)
  • Windows, doors, and skylights
  • Appliances
  • Cabinets
  • Plumbing fixtures
  • Countertops and backsplash
  • Flooring and other surface finishes
  • Lighting
  • Special details

Decisions! Decisions! Decisions!

Bottom line, you need to make decisions about all of the products, and the products should be ordered as soon as possible. Everything should be at the jobsite the day your contractor arrives with sledgehammer in hand to start demolition.

Everyone makes decisions in their own way. Only you know how easy or difficult it is for you to make decisions. This isn’t going to change. It’s part of your nature, and it’s okay. Do you like to take time to think about and investigate all options before making a decision? Or do you know that you want “Option A” the minute you see it? The amount of time required to make decisions directly impacts how long it takes to finalize your plans.

Allow Time For Plan Check

After your plans are completed, the Building Department has to check the plans so they can issue permits. It takes them about one month to review plans for “standard” projects. If your contractor is going to start construction on October 3, your plans must be submitted to the Building Department before September 3. If you can bear to read/hear this, I highly recommend that you take time to plan ahead for your home remodeling, and really be ready to “rock and roll” after the first of the year, or even into the springtime when the weather will be more cooperative.

Current Kitchen Remodeling Project

I just went through this process with current clients who decided to wait until spring to remodel their kitchen. It’s a good thing they did, because we ran into a challenge that caused delays in their appliance decision. In our first meeting, they expressed the desire for white appliances, including an induction range and a 33” wide french door refrigerator without ice and water in the door. After two weeks of searching and shopping, trying to find a white induction range, they decided to switch to stainless steel appliances. They finalized their decision about the range, hood, dishwasher, and the microwave oven, but the refrigerator became our next hurdle. The wife took on the monumental task of making a detailed spreadsheet of all the refrigerators available in their preferred style and size. Her spreadsheet included:

  • Dimensions
  • Storage area (cubic feet)
  • Fingerprint shield, yes or no
  • Consumer Report rating
  • Number of buyer reviews and overall rating

This is the type of research that I gladly do for my clients, to help them make informed decisions. It’s wonderful when clients take on a proactive task like this, but many homeowners don’t have the time or inclination, and prefer to pay me to do the research.

Kitchen Remodeling Schedule Setbacks

The timelines I’ve used assumes that construction will proceed smoothly. It might, but it might not. There are many unforeseen challenges that can affect a project at any time. Working within such a tight schedule, under pressure, important details can fall through the cracks, especially as we approach the holidays.

My award-winning book, “THE Survival Guide: Home Remodeling,” contains a multitude of stories about clients’ remodeling projects. I’m reminded of one kitchen in particular, that was scheduled to be finished before Thanksgiving: Homeowners made decisions about all of the products for their new kitchen. They hired a contractor and ordered all of the products. I finished the plans and the Building Department took only two weeks to issue permits. The contractor started work the week after Labor Day. Everything was going smoothly, until one of the subcontractors came to work although he wasn’t feeling well. He had the flu. Everyone involved with the project, including yours truly and the homeowners, got the bug. Of course, this set the project back about three weeks. The homeowners and their son celebrated Thanksgiving with the husband’s family.

Summary: Kitchen Remodeling Requires Realistic Expectations

In conclusion, it’s very important to plan ahead for your kitchen remodeling project, to follow logical steps I’ve outlined from the day you decide that you want to remodel. Allow yourself valuable time to make all your decisions. If you do this, you’re increasing your chances for successful results without hassles and regrets.

8/6/19 Podcast: Kitchen Remodeling Expectations: Honest, Reliable Input

I’m available to personally walk you through all of the steps of your kitchen remodeling project! Call me today! Let’s chat about what you want, when you want it, and how much you want to invest.