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

Why are designers' fees so frightening?
 

We Can’t Afford To Pay Designers’ Fees!

Bath and Kitchen Designers’ fees can be frightening. “Sticker shock” is not uncommon for homeowners. So I’ve answered five frequently asked questions about how much a designer may charge you for their services and how they calculate their fee.

 

 

Has This Happened To You?

You call a designer to help you with your kitchen or bathroom remodeling. They tell you their fee is “X” amount per hour, but you 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 say to you that their fee is a percentage of your investment. It’s confusing and frustrating. If you’re thinking of spending only $10,000 to remodel your bathroom or $20,000 to remodel 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.

 

Do you need someone to help you design a bathroom or kitchen?#1: “Do I Need Someone To Help Me?”

That’s a great question! You may not need a bath and kitchen 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. So 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: “Can I Hire A Decorator To Help Me?”do I need a decorator or a bath-kitchen designer

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 the best recommendations 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.

 

Kitchen plan created by a bath-kitchen designer#3: “When Do I Need A Designer?”

You should hire a professional bath and kitchen designer if you want to:
  • Do more than freshen up — new cabinets, new appliances, new plumbing fixtures, 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 $45,000 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 building codes. Design plans should show all your decisions.
  • Refer you to qualified contractors and suppliers.

The third question will help you refine who to hire.

 

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

People ask the fourth question most frequently. It’s frustrating because there isn’t much specific information about fees. But keep reading! You will need more information to understand how designers calculate their fees. 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 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 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 are hidden gotchas with some designers' feesThere’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 makes on products and referral fees. Of course, you should get a written agreement that states:
                • What services they do include for the fee they charge.
                • What services they don’t include for the fee they charge.
                • A description of how they calculate their fee.
                • Their maximum-not-to-exceed total fee.
                • How they will invoice you for their services.
 
Now, the fifth question:

 

Why are designers so secretive about their fee?#5: “Why Are Designers’ Fees So Secretive?”

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 will 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 informative Newsletter filled with remodeling hints, tips, and special offers.

Variable Remodeling cost factorsVariables That Will Drive Up Your Investment

There’s one part of any remodeling project that will increase designers’ fees and the overall investment. It’s the complexity of the project. Here are some examples:

  • Non-standard cabinets loaded with storage accessories
  • Imported appliances, plumbing fixtures, and tile
  • Custom backsplashes and tile layouts
  • Changing your mind after the designer has finalized your plans

Up-front, honest communication about expectations is the best way to prevent problems. For example, if a designer has quoted a maximum fee based on what you’ve told them, you may have to re-negotiate their price if your project becomes more complex during the design phase.

Ethics, Honesty, IntegrityYou Ask For Total Honesty and Transparency. Here It Is!

Now I’m going to share my information with you. You deserve it! Here are the guarantees you get when I work with you:

  • 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. You’ll get the results you want for the lowest possible investment. I am transparent about what you’re paying for my services and provide a detailed written proposal immediately after a meeting with you.
  • I’ll help you select all the products for your remodeling project.
  • I’ll recommend contractors, manufacturers, and suppliers to you who I know are honest and ethical.
  • I’ll be available to you every day during the process! Yes, from 7:00 a.m. until 9:00 p.m., I’ll be available to answer questions and reassure you. Yes, we always answer the phone — unless we both happen to be in the middle of a call already.
  • I’ll reply to email within a 24-hour period.
  • I’ll provide detailed plans that include all of your decisions.
  • I’ll create Virtual-reality “photographs” of your finished project starting early in the design process, so you can make informed decisions about how it looks, feels, and functions.
 
Here is how I calculate my fee: After seeing your home and talking with you, my total fee is calculated compared to other similar projects I’ve had recently at my hourly rate of $135 multiplied by the number of hours I estimate your project will require. Here are two projects that are great 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 was $3,645.
 

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

Why are designers' fees so frightening?
  • 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. So my total maximum-not-to-exceed fee for all my professional services was $5,265 at $135 an hour.
 
I send invoices at least once a month. I calculate my fee to the nearest 15 minutes. You’ll pay only for the time I devote to your project. My total price remains the same unless you request more services or the scope of your project changes. My goal is to help you achieve your goals. Get information about my creative design process.
I hope that what I’ve written in this article answers your questions. Call me today if you still have questions or want to talk with me about your project.

 

In Conclusion

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

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

You can call other designers and ask questions about how they work and how they charge for their services. Will you get honest information? Maybe and maybe not. Do they understand (and care) about your situation? Maybe and maybe not. Will they have similar guarantees to reassure you that you’re getting the best value? Maybe and maybe not. So why take a chance? Call me today and discover the positive influence I will have in your home and in your life!

Free download How to find and hire a professional designerGet a FREE Book Excerpt About Designers

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Photo of Diane Plesset, Bath-Kitchen DesignerDiane Plesset, CMKBD, CAPS, NCIDQ is a Homeowner Advocate specializing in helping homeowners with remodeling and addition projects. She has been the principal of D. P. Design since April 1984. Diane wrote the award-winning book “THE Survival Guide: Home Remodeling” and has won many design awards.

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Tired of Frustration? 5+5 Outstanding Tips To Help You Plan For Your Home Remodeling

Frustration!

Are you tired of feeling frustrated during the pandemic? Are you feeling “pandemic overwhelm?”Frustration and Fear About Remodeling during the pandemic

Are you frustrated about how your home looks and works for you now? Is your home:

  • Cluttered, hard to organize and keep clean?
    • Is the pantry overflowing because you’re fixing at least three meals a day?
    • Are you buying and storing more snack foods?
    • Are there computers on the dining table with wires everywhere?
    • Is the entire family crowded around computers on the dining room table, leaving no place to eat?
    • Are school supplies and hobby paraphernalia everywhere except where they’re supposed to be?
  • Showing its age?
    • Have you been noticing all the deferred maintenance that you need to do?
    • Paint chipping and stained?
    • Appliances working poorly?
    • Old countertops and flooring showing years of wear?
    • Broken hinges and permanent stains on your dark wood cabinets?

Here you are, wanting or needing to freshen up your home. But you don’t know what to do or how to do it. Frustration has got you stuck! Maybe you were thinking about remodeling your kitchen, but the pandemic stopped you. Now you have to wait for the pandemic to end, right? Maybe and maybe not. More about that later.

First, I want to talk about what frustration is.

Exactly What Is Frustration?

Here’s a great definition: “The feeling of being upset or annoyed, because of an inability to change or achieve something. It’s the prevention of the progress, success, or fulfillment of something we want.”

We always have options, but we don’t see them.

Fear and Frustration Are Connected

First, fear takes over. It’s like a curtain drops in our mind, hiding all our options. We play the “What if?” game in our heads. When this happens to me, I envision the worst possible outcome.

Fear prevents us from making the right decisions about the present and the future. Then frustration enters the picture because we feel stuck and uncertain. I felt uncertain about the future until a friend helped me. “Fear and frustration are like a jumbo loan, with compound interest that accrues daily. This leaves us feeling stuck.

Here and Now

We are in the middle of very uncertain times. The pandemic is controlling everything in our lives. You know how your life has changed, and you don’t like it. You’re frustrated because you can’t have what you want:

  • To go back to work away from home and talk with co-workers in person.
  • To have your children back in school.
  • To go shopping without fear.
  • To fix and renovate your home so you can invite people to be with you in a comfortable environment.

You want everything to get back to the familiar normal. You’re not alone! So do I! But there may be a new normal when the pandemic ends. Not knowing, not being in control, becomes the fuel that feeds our frustration.

Conscious Decisions To Reduce Frustration’s Hold

I decided that fear and frustration weren’t going to control my life when the pandemic became a reality in February. Instead, I decided to take classes. I’m learning how to work on my business rather than working at my company. I’ve read more books in the past nine months than I have in the past several years. All the books have one thing in common. The stories are about people rising above whatever it was that was holding them back. They made conscious decisions to move forward and try new things.

5 Tips About How To Control Frustration (And Other Negative Feelings)

There are many ways that we can control our negative feelings. Here are some helpful tips from experts that will take about five minutes:

  1. Breathe. Take deeper, slower breaths for one or two minutes. I’ve learned to count to four as I inhale, then hold my breath to a count of four before exhaling while counting to four. I also use the phrase “I am at peace” when inhaling and “I let go” when I exhale. Here’s another breathing technique I use. I take in a very deep breath, hold it as long as possible, and then exhale forcefully like I’m blowing out a candle several feet away. During the pandemic, I’ve been breathing a lot!
  2. Take a couple of minutes to stop what you’re doing and look outside. Notice the light and shadow in the trees, or birds flying from branch to branch. Listen to your breath and notice your body relaxing. This has gotten me back to the present and “out of my head,” where frustration lives.
  3. Before you go back to what you were doing before, think of something — anything — that fills you with gratitude. For me, it’s the sky, no matter what the weather is. Nature has a calming influence on me. So do my cats when they’re not asleep in the other room.
  4. Gratitude opens the door to accept or at least acknowledge that the situation (pandemic) will not last forever. Change happens every day, even if we’re not aware of it.
  5. The next step is to say an affirmation in the present tense. What worked for me is: “I choose to transform my [feeling name] into positive action.”

I’ve been lucky to work with clients during this time. One couple is actually planning a new home to help them simplify their lives! The other homeowners want (and need) to remodel their homes. There’s one major similarity between these homeowners. They’re all planning now, so they’ll be ready for construction when the pandemic no longer controls their lives.

The other side of fear and frustration

It’s true! Everything you want is on the other side of Fear — and Frustration!

Here is how they’re preparing. This is something that you can do, too!

Planning For The Future

  • We met virtually, and they told me about their goals. We talked about what they don’t like and want to change and the specific details they want.
  • I asked about their budget for the entire project. I also asked when they’d like to start construction and when they want the project finished.
  • We talked about the options to begin the design process. I asked if they want me to take measurements of the areas they want to remodel. Or do they feel comfortable taking measurements and providing pictures? When I take measurements during the pandemic, I always follow guidelines. CDC and State regulations protect everyone’s health. Only one couple wanted to take their own measurements. They provided electronic copies of the sketch plus photos of the existing conditions.
  • Then I explained how I work. I gave them an estimate of my fee for preliminary plans only. This would allow them to get rough budget estimates from contractors. I also gave them an estimate of my fee for the entire project to end any surprises.
  • After the virtual meeting, I prepared and sent the homeowners a proposal. It included what we had discussed and verified that I had listened to them to remember what they said.

No one wants to remodel their home during the pandemic unless they plan to be living somewhere else. I agree with people’s reluctance about having strangers in their home now. A general contractor and his crew should perform a kitchen or bathroom remodeling. This can take several months. Now isn’t a good time for exposure to the virus.

Everything has proceeded very well with my clients. We’re all looking forward to the end of the pandemic! I’m excited about working with my client who lives in Clark County, Washington. It’s a master bathroom project. I’ve prepared two alternative plans for him and sent links to manufacturers’ websites. He’s selected most of the plumbing already. As soon as plumbing showrooms are open, we’ll make an appointment so he can see and touch when he’s chosen. Then we’ll visit other showrooms to look at countertop options and tile for the shower and floor.

Remodeling projects can be smooth, but there can be unforeseen problems. If homeowners aren’t familiar with the remodeling process, it can cause problems.

Fears and Frustrations During A Home Remodeling ProjectBiggest fears in home renovation graphic

In the past 36 years, I’ve worked with hundreds of homeowners. They’ve had different lifestyles, needs, and budgets. But many of them share two common feelings: fear and frustration.

Here are common fears I’ve observed that were confirmed in a recent online survey:

  • They won’t get their desired results or the products they want.
  • They’ll hire the wrong contractor.
  • They’ll hire the wrong designer.
  • They’ll spend more than they want. Several respondents decided to do the work themselves, D-I-Y. I’m going to check back in several months to ask questions about their projects and the results they got.

Homeowners can feel frustrated about time and money. Frustration happens to everyone, as we discovered earlier, if there are unrealistic expectations. Here’s what I’ve observed:

  • They want everything, including expensive luxury products, but their budget limits them.
  • They want the project to end by a specific date, often for a special occasion. But these tasks take months until completion:
    • Homeowners have to make decisions about the scope of their project and all products.
    • The designer has to get the plans ready.
    • Contractors have to prepare estimates.
    • The plan-check process for permits can take a month or more.
    • Construction from start to finish requires much longer.
  • One mistake can turn a remodeling project upside-down: Homeowners hire the contractor with the lowest estimate. But they’re frustrated by the workmanship that doesn’t meet their standards.

Yes, this is a simplified overview, but the similarity is pretty remarkable!

I’ve experienced fears and frustrations myself, so it makes me sad when it happens to other people. I try to help homeowners avoid fears and frustrations with honest communication.

We create our own frustration with unrealistic expectations and how we react to reality.

When we take responsibility for our lives, it reduces the chances of frustration.

Writing about fear and frustration reminds me of a project I had several years ago.

Case History

My client, “Barbara,” had a 1600-square foot home with three bedrooms and one bathroom. During our first appointment, Barbara told me about her kitchen remodeling project. It happened five years before we met. Her voice quivered, and she often paused when she talked about her kitchen remodeling. “The original kitchen didn’t fit my needs. I hired a contractor referred to me by neighbors who were very happy with what he did for them. The contractor said that I didn’t need a designer to help me.”

Her mouth became contorted, and her eyes squinted with anger. “My contractor did an excellent job but didn’t give any advice about details. He sent me to different showrooms to find the products. I was responsible for making all the decisions by myself.”

I asked, “Did you make any changes?”

“Yes,” she said, pounding her fist in the air. “It started when he asked me if I wanted to expand the kitchen into the family room to have an island. If I didn’t do that, he suggested a peninsula. First, I had to choose between a range or a cooktop with separate double ovens.”

Her frown softened, and she looked at me, like a child who’s lost their favorite toy. “I felt so alone, making all those decisions. I was afraid of making a mistake. I didn’t know what the project would cost.”

I knew that she was talking about feeling overwhelmed. Every kitchen remodeling project involves hundreds of choices. Here’s a shortlist of kitchen products that homeowners need to select:

  • Appliances
    • Type?
    • Manufacturer, model, and features?
    • Color (white? black? stainless steel?)
    • Size?
  • Cabinets
    • Wood and finish?
    • Style?
    • Storage?
      • Deep drawers?
      • Rollout shelves?
      • Corner lazy susans?
      • Pantry?
      • Utensil drawers?
  • Flooring
    • Wood?
    • Vinyl?
    • Tile?
    • Color?
    • Pattern?

Barbara said the work proceeded better than she expected. But two product decisions caused her to lose sleep: the countertop and backsplash. “The contractor got frustrated because it took so long for me to decide. He didn’t understand or care how overwhelmed I was. He wanted to get the job finished so he could move to his next project.”

Five years later, she was still enjoying her remodeled kitchen without any regrets. Now she was thinking about converting the smallest bedroom into a master bathroom.

“Are you ready to do this project?” I asked.

She answered with hesitation. “Yes, but I’m nervous about how much it’s going to cost. I’m fed up with my daily routine. I have to cram my skin-care products and makeup into a small drawer. I have to store my dryer, curling iron, brushes, and hairspray in a basket under the sink. I hate taking a shower in my tub. I’ve slipped several times, getting in and out, stepping over the tub.”

I reassured her that I’d be there for her during the bathroom project, beginning to end. I’d help her make all the decisions and communicate with her contractor. I’ll share the rest of Barbara’s story later. I want to lay a good foundation for your home remodeling.

Your Proposed Project and Overcoming Fears

Here you are, during the pandemic, anxious to embark on your home remodeling project. But you’re fearful. Are you ready, or are you still stuck in some ways? I understand and care how you feel. There are several essential questions that I want to ask you to think about:

  • How has the pandemic affected you and your lifestyle?
  • What makes you feel afraid?
  • Is your fear one about making an expensive mistake, or something else that has you stuck, unable to move forward?

Your project is unique. Your needs, lifestyle, and budget are individual, unlike any other homeowner I’ve known. But like I said earlier, there are similarities. I discovered that the best way to end negative feelings like fear is to be proactive.

Break your project into logical steps. Here are five significant steps that will help you. Each step has many phases that will help you achieve remodeling success.

“What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?”

Step 1: Do Some Homework About Your Goals

  • Figure out your goals and what you want to achieve.
  • Family members’ input is essential.
  • Buy two or three magazines containing articles and pictures relating to what you want to do. Attach a “post-it” note to pictures and write what appeals to you about the image.
  • Visit the Houzz website (https://www.houzz.com), set up one or more portfolios, and start adding pictures. Contact the designer to ask questions about products, etc.

Step 2: Set A Budget

Figuring out how much to invest in your project is challenging! 87% of homeowners wanting to remodel don’t know what their investment will be. They don’t know how to establish a budget. They don’t have a clue!

  • I recommend the Cost vs. Value Report (https://www.remodeling.hw.net/cost-vs-value/2020/). Remodeling professionals create the report for specific cities all over America. It’s easy to navigate. Don’t be upset because they ask you to register. No one has ever complained about sponsors contacting them.

Step 3: Interview Design Professionals and Hire The Best Candidate

  • Get referrals from neighbors, friends, and business associates. If no one can help you, you can contact the following organizations for referrals:

National Association of Home Builders (https://www.nahb.org)
National Association of the Remodeling Industry (https://www.nari.org)
National Kitchen & Bath Association (https://nkba.org)

  • Interview design professionals.
  • Talk about your expectations and listen to their advice. Communication is the only way to get what you want. Or the way to discover different (or better) results.
  • Ask for and call all references given by the candidates.
  • Hire a design professional who listens to you and understands what you want. S/he should be someone who:
    • Has experience with similar projects to yours.
    • Understands building codes for your area.
    • Offers virtual meetings.
    • Uses Computer-Aided Drafting and creates virtual-reality “pictures” of your project.
    • Will prepare many preliminary plans for labor and materials estimates.
    • Will help you make adjustments to stay within your budget.
    • Will help you define your project’s scope.
    • Will refer you to qualified contractors.
    • Will prepare final plans and specifications for permits and construction.
    • Will communicate and work with everyone.

Step 4: Interview Contractors and Hire The Best Candidate

  • Ask your designer for referrals to contractors. Or get referrals from neighbors, friends, and business associates. You can also contact the professional organizations above.
  • Contractors may be busy, unavailable to help you. You may disqualify them if you sense a disconnect in communication.
  • Interview contractors and communicate about your project and your expectations. Verify that the contractors respect your designer’s role in your project’s success. (Unfortunately, many contractors don’t understand how to work with a designer).
  • Ask about the candidates’ ability and willingness to communicate daily, as needed, and their preferred tool (phone, email,  text, or a combination).
  • Ask for and call all references given to verify the candidates’ qualifications.
  • Verify that the candidate is licensed and bonded for the work they’ll be performing.
  • Hire a contractor who listens to you and understands what you want. Trust your “gut” and avoid hiring someone who guarantees to do your job for less than everyone else.

Step 5: The Design Process

During the design process, you’ll be making important decisions. Your project’s scope and your products need thought and consideration. Here are tips to help you:

  • Stay in touch with how you’re feeling. Be honest and share your feelings with your designer. Your designer should understand and help you.
  • Make timely decisions. Delaying decisions might create artificial anxiety. Products you want may have a long lead-time or have unexpected freight costs.
  • Order your products immediately. Arrange to store them until your contractor is ready for them. Access to installation manuals included with products is essential. The crew needs to read manuals so they can prepare the job site for the products.

The next step is construction. I’ve prepared a separate whitepaper that covers this.

There are many more steps until you achieve a finished remodeling project. With the designer and contractor working as a team, your project should be successful. I’m not going to deny that there may be challenges. Almost every remodeling project has unexpected challenges. To reassure you, I’ve never seen a problem that didn’t have many solutions. But the result has to be right for your circumstances. The goal is to make informed decisions during your remodeling journey.

Now, The Rest Of The Story — A Synopsis

Barbara’s bedroom-to-bathroom conversion project finished on time, within 2% of her target budget. It was a significant undertaking! I helped her select every product for her new bathroom and closet. Then I prepared several preliminary plans showing her the options. Her contractor provided estimates, and she made the right decisions for her budget. Yes, there were challenges, but we resolved them to Barbara’s satisfaction. I’ve attached a copy of the preliminary plans, elevations, and perspectives. You can see that this was a large project.

–o0o–

Now you know a little about how I work. You’ve learned about my philosophy. You’ll learn more when you read my newsletters. When you are ready to remodel, I want to be the design professional for your project. Call me so that we can talk about your goals, your concerns, your anxiety, and fears.

As-built plan eliminates fear and frustrationProposed Plan eliminates fear and frustrationElevation 1 eliminates fear and frustration

Elevation 2 eliminates fear and frustration

Elevation 3 eliminates fear and frustration

Elevation 4 eliminates fear and frustration

Elevation 5 eliminates fewar and frustration

Bathroom remodel eliminates fear and frustration

New master bathroom eliminates fear and frustration

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

LED Lighting — The Highest Impact on Your Life

How and Why Does LED Lighting Affect Your Life?

Vancouver-peninsula and table

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

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

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.
  • 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.

 

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.