LED Lighting — The Highest Impact on Your Life

How and Why Does LED Lighting Affect Your Life?

Remodeled Vancouver kitchen with LED lighting

LED Lighting in Remodeled Kitchen

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

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

LED Lighting Replaces Incandescent Sources, Better Than Fluorescent

LED Strip Lighting under Cap lights backsplash and countertop

LED strip lighting under cap overhang

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

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

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

The History of LED Lighting

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

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

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

What’s The Major Upside to LED Lights?

Corner range and hood in remodeled Vancouver kitchen

LED strips light niche between range and hood

There are many advantages to LED lighting:

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

Is there a Downside to LED Lights?

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

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

Comparison chart Halogen - LED - CFL

Light and Color: Why It’s Important

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

  • Color temperature
  • Color rendering

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

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

Color Temperature

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

Color Rendering Index

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

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

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

Watts and Lumens

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

LED Lighting Options

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

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

A Personal Testimonial About LED Lighting

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

In Conclusion

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

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

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

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

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

Headshot of Diane Plesset

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

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

 

 

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.

Creative Carnival Kitchen Sparkles Like The North Star: Case Study

Carnival Kitchen featured in Kitchen & Bath Business magazine article

Carnival Kitchen featured in Kitchen & Bath Business magazine.

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

Let me explain.

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

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

What features did they have to have?

Homeowners’ Wish List

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

A Dreary Kitchen Dungeon Needed Help — Lots of Help!

Springtime Carnival kitchen before remodeling

Original kitchen: a dungeon

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

Delightful Carnival Kitchen Details

Red Skelton clown plate

Red Skelton “Freddie the Golfer” plate

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

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

Springtime carnival custom stained glass insert

Carnival Kitchen stained glass panels

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

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

 

Carnival Kitchen Wife Clown Portrait

Wife Painted As Clown

It Pays To Work With The Best . . .

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

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

. . . But There Are Always Challenges!

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

The Whimsical Carnival Kitchen Sparkles Like The North Star

soar like an eagle carnival kitchen

Carnival kitchen finished!

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

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

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

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

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

Be Patient. Then Follow The North Star To Success!

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

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

Magazine cover featuring “Springtime Carnival.”

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

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

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

 

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

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

Professional Tip To Achieve Remodeling Success

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

In Conclusion

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

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

 

Bathroom Remodeling: 9 Awesome Steps For Success

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.

Best Bathroom Details Help to Make Great Decisions

Best bathroom details for a personal retreat

Bathroom Details — Who Needs Them, And Why?

You need to know what bathroom details you want to help you avoid confusion and frustration.  So you make great decisions for a safe, functional, and relaxing personal retreat! There’s so much that you can include in your new master or guest bathroom, so many details to think about. Do you know that remodeling a master bathroom can be a higher investment per square foot than a kitchen? That’s why it’s important to use these important bathroom details, to make informed decisions about everything, and avoid expensive mistakes!

When homeowners are thinking about remodeling a master (or guest) bathroom, the first inclination is to look at countertop materials and tile immediately. This is okay, but it may lead to confusion and delay other more important decisions, like plumbing fixtures and plumbing fittings, and cabinetry. Your first decision for your bathroom remodel is: what style do you want? If you didn’t read my blog (or listen to my podcast), “Essential Details Are Critical For Your New Kitchen,” I suggest that you read at least the first part, where I list the different styles to choose from.

A standard bathroom includes a toilet, a lavatory sink, cabinetry, a tub and/or shower, plumbing fittings, and finishes (countertop/backsplash, floors, walls). What’s the big deal about bathroom details? Let’s look at each one of these items separately:

Toilet Details:

Yes, you can have a toilet that’s similar to the one you have now, but your new toilet will be equipped with water-saving features that will save you money. Your investment can be less than $200 for a white, two-piece, short-front toilet with an exposed P-trap on the side below the bowl. Your investment can grow exponentially if you want a toilet with the following features and benefits:

  • Wall-mount that can be installed at any height, and easy to clean underneath;
  • Floor-mount with a skirt that hides the ugly P-trap that’s easier to clean than a non-skirted toilet;
  • An elongated bowl that provides better ergonomics;
  • Dual-flush buttons that provide extra water-saving;
  • Bidet seat that provides better personal hygiene and is healthier than using tissue;
  • High-fashion color;
  • Composting.

Several manufacturers offer a wide range of toilet styles, including models that provide ultimate personal hygiene and luxury:

If you want to be scandalized by really expensive toilets, here’s the article to read: https://moneyinc.com/the-five-most-expensive-toilets-in-the-world/

Lavatory-Sink Details:

The word “lavatory” is derived from 1325–75 Middle English lavatorie which came from Late Latin lavātōrium washing-place, equivalent to Latin lavā(re) to wash. “Lavatory” in Britain refers to a flushing toilet. Americans use “sink,” whether it’s for a kitchen or a bathroom. Sinks are available in four shapes: (1) Oval; (2) Rectangular; (3) Round; and (4) Square.

There are six specific installation methods:

  • Top-mount that’s set into the countertop with the rim exposed;
  • Top-mount “vessel” that has the entire sink sits on top of the countertop;
  • Under-mount  that’s installed under the countertop (NOTE: the rim must be flat and unfinished;
  • Under-mount with front edge overhang that’s often referred to as “European” style;
  • Integral  that’s manufactured from and part of a solid surface countertop, i.e., Corian;
  • Wall-mount with or without a supporting pedestal or legs.

Vessel Sinks:

Vessel sinks have been very popular for several years. Vessel sinks are wonderful for powder rooms that don’t get used often – and they make a great focal point. There are limitations or requirements to keep in mind if you’re interested in vessel sinks:

  • If the bowl is tall, you’ll need to lower your countertop so the top of the bowl is at the height your countertop would be (more about this in the cabinet section).
  • They require a taller faucet than normal or mounting the filler and valves on the wall.
  • Think about how difficult it might be to clean the base of the vessel sink; I recommend that you resist the typical round (or oval) bowl that creates a tight “V” where the sink meets the countertop because you’ll have to use a Q-tip to clean the area.

Sinks can be made from a plethora of materials: Brass, bronze, ceramic, copper, glass, porcelain,  resin,  solid surface (i.e., Corian), stainless steel, stone, and wood. Your investment in a lavatory sink can range from a low of $150 to over $1,000.

Cabinets:

Cabinets can be any style, made of natural wood or painted wood. Homeowners prefer kitchen-height cabinets (36” finished countertop height) over shorter heights (30” – 33” finished countertop height) for two main reasons:

  • Provides more storage, equivalent to one more drawer;
  • Reduces back strain, no cantilevering of the body when bending over the sink.

All-in-one units that include the cabinet, countertop, lavatory sink, and faucet have grown in popularity because the decision-making time can be greatly reduced, and these units are competitively priced. But you may have to forego one or more features (like the countertop material or cabinet color) to get other features. An online search for “lavatory vanity cabinets” yielded 2,380,000 results! Popularity verified!

Tub or Shower:

The majority of homeowners remodeling a master bathroom prefer a large (two-person) shower to a tub-shower combination unless bathing is a necessity (usually requested by the wife). House Beautiful has an excellent article about this subject. If you have the room for a large shower and a separate tub, that’s great! However, your tub decision is a critical detail to consider. The popularity of free-standing tubs has grown in the past five years. Yes, they’re beautiful, but they’re unsafe because they require the bather to straddle the tub while getting in or out. Think about this: What if the floor or the tub is wet and slippery? The best way to enter and exit a tub is to sit on the edge and swing your legs in or out while you’re holding onto a grab bar. Most free-standing tubs do not support sitting on the edge.

Yes, grab bars are an essential bathroom detail to include. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, every year about 235,000 people over age 15 visit emergency rooms because of injuries suffered in the bathroom, and almost 14 percent are hospitalized. More than a third of the injuries – about 78,000 – happen while bathing or showering.

Plumbing Fittings:

These include your sink faucet and tub-shower water supply and water controls (valves). Your sink faucet is named by the type of water control:

  • Dual control (valves on both sides)
  • Single control (valve on the top or on the side)

Your investment in a sink faucet can range from $300 to over $1,500. It’s popular to have an electronic control in addition to the valve(s) that turns the water on or off when you wave your hand in front of it. Of course, you’ll pay extra for this feature, and it requires a dedicated outlet.

There are hundreds of different styles of plumbing fittings available, from ultra-contemporary to ultra-traditional and everything in between. The available finishes are also part of your decision, especially if you want all of your bathroom fittings to match. Not all manufacturers have the finish you like in the style that appeals to you, so you may end up buying all of your plumbing fittings from one manufacturer. Here’s a list of finishes to consider:

  • Brass (antique, burnished, polished, satin); should have a “lifetime protective finish” to prevent tarnishing.
  • Bronze (the finish may be affected by exposure to hard water).
  • Chrome (brushed, polished, satin).
  • Copper (the finish may be affected by exposure to hard water).
  • Nickel (antique, black, brushed, polished).
  • Powder-coated (black, red, white, and other colors).
  • Stainless steel.

Shower Fittings:

If your bathroom will include a new shower, you have many options available that can be confusing. Understanding the Different Types of Tub & Shower Valves is an excellent article to explain what valves are and how they work. There are also diverter valves that can switch different water supplies on and off for maximum control. Diverters can be a separate valve or they may be included with the temperature and pressure valve that turns the water on and off. Then there are choices for water distribution:

  • Fixed shower heads with multiple types of spray
    • “Standard” wall mount
    • “Standard” wall mount with a removable personal showerhead (held in place with a magnet)
    • Rainhead wall mount
    • Rainhead ceiling mount
  • Adjustable shower heads
  • Personal shower heads on a slide bar; the latest innovation is a two-piece unit that’s held together magnetically
  • Bodysprays

Here’s a list of bathroom plumbing manufacturers that I recommend to my clients:

Bathroom Finishes – Countertops:

Confusion creeps in when you think about all of your available choices and patterns for your bathroom countertop. You have to think about your color scheme, whether you want your countertop to blend or contrast. Of course, you must consider your investment, too, because your decision has to fit into your target budget. Several years ago, I wrote a blog entitled “Bathroom and Kitchen) Countertops – An Overview” that had three follow-up sections that detailed the pros and cons of the different types of countertops: 1/3, 2/3, and 3/3.

Bathroom Finishes – Floor, Walls, Backsplashes:

Your bathroom finishes can be anything you want them to be. For inspiration, visit the Houzz website, where you can see inspirational pictures. A certified bathroom designer knows about the best materials for your lifestyle and budget. You can find a certified bathroom designer at the National Kitchen and Bath Association website.

Safety and Accessibility:

Bathroom safety should be your highest priority, followed by function and appearance. Your bathroom flooring should have a texture for safety. Shiny tile or polished stone will become slippery like ice when wet. Matte or honed finishes can also be dangerous, as I discovered two weeks ago when I fell in our bathroom because there was a wet spot on the floor. A previous blog talks about why bathroom safety is so important. Curbless showers with linear drains are being requested by many homeowners. A recent project converted a powder room into a fully-accessible bathroom.

In Conclusion:

In this blog, I’ve covered the best bathroom details to help you. Remodeling a bathroom can be confusing and frustrating if you don’t have access to an experienced, certified bathroom designer.  A qualified designer has the education, training, and experience to personally guide you through all of the important decisions. They will help you avoid all the negative feelings that you would have felt. A professional designer will prepare detailed plans reflecting all of your decisions, making the permit and construction easier.  I hope my podcasts and blogs help you make informed decisions about all of the important details for your remodeling and building projects, to reduce stress, limit confusion and frustration.

Listen to the Podcast: Best Bathroom Details Help To Make Great Decisions

As a Certified Master Kitchen-Bath Designer, I  will help you make all decisions for your remodeled bathroom. My goal is to help you achieve a personal haven of tranquility that reflects your lifestyle and priorities within a reasonable budget. I’d love to talk with you about your bathroom remodeling goals! Call 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.

Why Are Designers’ Fees So Distressing? 5 F-A-Qs Answered

 
Why are designers' fees so distressing?
 

We Can’t Afford To Pay Designers’ Fees!

Designers’ fees can be frightening. “Sticker shock” is not uncommon for homeowners. I’ve got answers to five frequently asked questions about how much a designer may charge you for their services, and how their fee is calculated.
 

Has This Happened To You?

You call a designer to help you with your kitchen or bathroom remodeling. They may say their fee is “X” amount per hour, but you really don’t know how much you’re going to pay that designer in total. They may tell you that their fee starts at $2,500 and goes up from there. Or they’ll tell you that their fee is a percentage of your investment. It’s confusing and frustrating.  If you’re thinking of spending only $10,000 in your bathroom or $20,000 in your kitchen, you don’t know how much you’ll need or want to pay for a designer to help you.
 
The first question is critical for helping you decide how you want to proceed with your project.
 

#1: “Do I Need Someone To Help Me?”

That’s a great question! You may not need a designer if you’re:

  • Thinking about freshening up with a new color scheme
  • Painting your existing cabinets
  • Installing a new countertop and backsplash
  • Installing new flooring
A contractor can accomplish these types of projects without a designer. But they cannot advise you about the color and style, other than their personal preferences. You’re on your own to make these decisions. Or you’ll have to hire a decorator.
 
The second question is a good follow-up:
 

#2: “When Do I Need A Designer?”

You should hire a professional designer if you want to:
  • Do more than freshen up — new cabinets, new appliances, etc..
  • Change the layout within the same footprint.
  • Enlarge your bathroom or kitchen.
It’s reasonable to pay a designer to help you if your target budget for a bathroom remodel is $20,000 or more, or if your budget for a completely remodeled kitchen is $35,000 or more. Why? You’re going to need someone to:
  • Help you select the right products for your budget and lifestyle.
  • Create detailed plans that follow codes and show all your decisions.
  • Refer you to qualified contractors and suppliers.

The third question will help you refine who to hire.

#3: “Can I Hire A Decorator To Help Me?”

Not necessarily. Unfortunately, most homeowners (and many contractors) don’t understand the difference between:
  • Decorators: People who can help with colors, furniture, window treatments, and accessories. They do not have the education, training, and experience with building systems to draft plans and specifications. They need specific technical knowledge to make recommendations that are best for you and your budget.
  • Designers: People who have education, training, and experience. They can draft plans for a project. But they may not have the specific knowledge of products and codes to prepare detailed plans and specifications for your remodeling project.
  • Kitchen-Bath Designers: People who have education, specific training, and experience related to remodeling. They can draft detailed plans and prepare specifications for contractors’ estimates and permits. Some kitchen-bath design specialists have become certified to prove their knowledge and dedication to help you. Get more information about these designers at the National Kitchen & Bath Association website.
  • Architects: People who have the most education but may lack the training and experience to help you with specific details for your kitchen or bathroom remodeling project.

#4: “Okay,” you say, “I get it. But what is a kitchen-bathroom designer going to cost me?”

 
The fourth question is asked most frequently. It’s frustrating because there isn’t a lot of specific information about fees. But keep reading! You will need more information to understand how fees are calculated. There are three basic systems that designers use:
  • Hourly rate
  • Flat fee
  • Percentage of the project cost

Hourly Rate

Jill Geisdorf of Chic on the Cheap was recently quoted on houzz.com,  “No two projects are the same, and no two designers charge the same.” Bob Vila says, “Most independent kitchen designers charge by the hour with rates that can range from $65 to $250 an hour, and $125 to $150 is typical. If your designer charges by the hour, you’ll want an estimate of how many hours the designer expects your project will require.”

Flat Fee

This system gives designers the most flexibility because they can charge whatever they want for every project. You must know:

  • When the designer will expect payments.
  • What percentage of the fee they’ll expect you to pay for each interval.

Percentage Of The Project Total

The percentage system is based on a percentage of your total investment. The problem with this fee structure is that it’s in the designer’s best interest to increase your investment. Who’s going to be your advocate? Unfortunately, it will be you.
 

There’s A hidden “Gotcha.”

Some decorators, designers, and kitchen-bath designers may charge a lower fee. But they’ll want to sell products to you so they can mark up how much you pay for those products.  Also, they may receive referral or finder’s fees from contractors, manufacturers, and suppliers. Selling products and receiving finders’ fees increase their bottom-line income. You have a right to know how much the designer is making on products and referral fees. Of course, you should get a written agreement that states what services are included, what services are not included, a breakdown of what they charge, and how they will invoice you for their services.
 
Now, the fifth question:
 

#5: “Why Are Designers So Secretive About Their Fees?”

 
I understand your dilemma. Everyone cites a range, but no one wants to be locked into a specific fee — publicly. I hear your frustration. But there are two reasons for the secrecy:
  • Designers do not want their competition to know what they charge homeowners.
  • Months or years after the fee is stated, someone may demand that fee, creating a potential dispute.

You’ll have to call candidates to gather information, including how much they charge so that you can make an informed decision. Wouldn’t it be nice to know what and how they charge and be able to write it down on a comparison list? I’m going to give you a free chapter from my award-winning book to help you! You can get a copy of the chapter immediately by simply filling out the request form below. Filling out the form will also subscribe you to my friendly newsletter that’s filled with great information, remodeling hints and tips, and special offers.

Now I’m going to share my information with you because you deserve it. It’s one aspect of being a Homeowner Advocate.

You Ask For Total Honesty and Transparency. Here It Is!

I never sell products. Never!  My responsibility is to help you find the best value for the products you buy.  I have never received nor paid referral fees and never will, helping you get the results you want for the lowest possible investment. I am totally transparent about what you’re paying for my services.
 
Here is how I calculate my fee: After seeing your home and talking with you, I’ll tell you — in writing! — that my total fee is a calculated comparison with other similar projects I’ve had recently. Here are two projects that are good examples:
 

A Master Bathroom that was 168 square feet (11′ x 14′), with the following features:

Designer Fee for Master Bathroom in Vancouver was $3,645

  • Minor changes to the layout
  • A private toilet room
  • Two sinks
  • Storage for all personal-care items and linens
  • A whirlpool tub
  • A large, separate tiled shower with fixed and personal showerheads, a shampoo niche, and a bench
  • Dimmable LED lighting
  • Powerful, quiet exhaust fans
I devoted about 27 hours to that and similar projects. At $135 an hour, my total fee for all my professional services would be $3,645.
 

A Kitchen that was 250 square feet (15.5′ x 16′) with the following features:

Designer Fee for remodeled kitchen in Oregon City was $5,805
  • Minor changes to the layout
  • New appliances (range, hood, refrigerator, dishwasher, microwave oven)
  • Quality plumbing fixtures
  • New custom cabinets
  • Stone countertops and custom backsplashes
  • Dimmable LED lighting
  • Ventilation that complies with current codes
  • Wood flooring
I devoted about 39 hours to that and similar projects. My total maximum-not-to-exceed fee for all my professional services would be $5,265 at $135 an hour.
 
Invoices are sent at least once a month and they’re calculated to the nearest 15 minutes. You’ll pay only for the time I devote to your project. My maximum fee remains the same unless the scope of your project changes or you request more services.  My goal is to help you achieve your goals. Get information about my creative design process, then call me today to chat about a project you’re planning.

In Conclusion

How much you pay a professional designer is going to be an essential part of your total investment. Their fee is only one aspect of your decision about who to hire. The relationship you have with your designer will last from the day you meet until after your project is finished. Therefore, it should be based on:

  • Mutual trust and understanding.
  • A common goal.
  • Stellar communication.

 

Get the FREE chapter of my book about designers.

 

 

 
 
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.
 

Your comments are welcomed!