Best Bathroom Details Help to Make Great Decisions

Best bathroom details for a personal retreat

Best Bathroom Details Help To Make Great Decisions

You need the best bathroom details to help you avoid confusion and frustration, to 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 authoritative 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 and plumbing fittings, and cabinetry. Your first decision for your bathroom remodel is: what style do you want? If you didn’t read my last 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 fiinishes (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 which will save you money. Your investment can be less than $200 for a white, two-piece, short-front toilet with 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 (can be installed at any height; easy to clean underneath);
  • Floor-mount with a skirt that hides the ugly P-trap (easier to clean);
  • Elongated bowl (provides better ergonomics);
  • Dual-flush buttons (extra water saving);
  • Bidet seat (better personal hygiene and 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 (set into the countertop with the rim exposed);
  • Top-mount “vessel” (the entire sink sits on top of the countertop);
  • Under-mount (installed under the countertop; rim must be flat and unfinished);
  • Under-mount with front edge overhang (often referred to as “European”);
  • Integral (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 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.

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
    • Rainhead wall mount
    • Rainhead ceiling mount
  • Adjustable shower heads
  • Personal shower heads on a slide bar
  • Body sprays

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

BATHROOM FINISHES – COUNTERTOP:

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 – BACKSPLASH, FLOOR, WALLS:

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. Click on the link to see details.

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 education, training and experience to personally guide you through all of the important decisions, and to prepare detailed plans reflecting all of your decisions.  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. My goal is to help you achieve a personal haven of tranquility and safety that reflects your lifestyle and priorities within a reasonable budget.

LISTEN TO THE PODCAST: BEST BATHROOM DETAILS HELP TO MAKE GREAT DECISIONS


As a Certified Master Kitchen-Bath Designer, I can (and will) help you make all layout and product decisions for your remodeled bathroom. Read more about me, then call 503-632-8801 so we can talk about your remodeling needs.

Kitchen Remodeling Expectations: Honest, Reliable Input

Kitchen Remodeling Expectations: Honest, Reliable Input 1

Kitchen Remodeling Expectations: Honest, Reliable Input

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

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

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

How Long Does a Standard Kitchen Remodeling Project Take?

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

Here is a list of what happens before construction:

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

The Value of a Professional Kitchen Designer

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

Realistic Time Allowances

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

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

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

Decisions! Decisions! Decisions!

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

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

Allow Time For Plan Check

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

Current Kitchen Remodeling Project

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

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

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

Kitchen Remodeling Schedule Setbacks

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

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

Summary: Kitchen Remodeling Requires Realistic Expectations

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

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

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

Home Trends, In and Out

Kitchen with latest trends

HOME TRENDS, IN and OUT

“Don’t follow a trend. Follow your heart.” (Krist Novoselic)

Trends are an important part of our life, 24/7/365. It was fun to investigate the history of trends and read expert opinions about how trends change our lives. Research is fun, and gives me an opportunity to learn!

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

There’s an unlimited number of trends that influence us every waking minute, every day. Some are obvious, like advertising. We use Google, Pinterest, and Houzz to search for trends, or we may discover them while we’re searching for other things. Other influencers may be subtle, like seeing clothing worn by celebrities, or food packaging.

TRENDS: HOME DESIGN (What’s “in” now?)

SMALLER HOMES WITH MORE DETAIL

McMansions are out. Smaller homes are in. But small doesn’t have to mean stripped down. Today’s homeowners, especially millenials, expect detail-packed, optimally-designed homes, where every inch of space is maximized. When you reduce square footage in a home, how can you maintain storage and detailing? Get creative! For example, use storage under staircases and nooks throughout the home. Focus on design elements that reinforce quality and a feeling of space, such as skylights and sliding doors. The smaller the space, the more you want to give it an airy feel.

URBAN LIVING

As interest in smaller homes grows, demand for infill housing in urban living increases. Many homeowners want the convenience and walkability or bikeability of an urban community. As a result, accessory dwelling units, loft-style homes, and pre-fabricated homes are popular for all age groups.

BUILDING SYSTEMS THAT SAVE NATURAL RESOURCES

Despite what some government officials say, global warming and saving natural resources is important to the majority of homeowners. With the focus on energy and conservation, homeowners want features that offer value as well as style. Here are some sustainable design trends that continue to be “in:”

  • Roof solar panels and passive solar design
  • Thermostatically controlled skylights that open when the home reaches a certain temperature
  • Using sustainable building materials, such as restored wood for flooring and products that contain a high percentage of post-consumer waste
  • LED lighting
  • On-demand water heating
  • Radiant heated flooring
  • Rain chains that filter and reuse rainwater
  • Air and water filtration systems

LIFETIME LIVABILITY FEATURES FOR  ALL AGES (NOT JUST SENIORS!)

The country’s demographics are changing. As the baby boomer population gets older, homeowners demand senior-friendly features in their homes. Consequently, universal design will continue to be an important concept when building new homes or remodeling existing homes. Here are four important features for everyone, not just seniors:

Accessibility. Homeowners are looking for features that enhance mobility, such as built-in elevators and one-story floor plans.
Safety. Features that offer convenience and security are popular, including low-level access showers and grab bars.
Caregiver Comfort. Many homeowners want features that offer comfort for caregivers, such as a private space separate from the rest of the home.
Community. Common outdoor areas like gardens and courtyards offer older homeowners a chance to congregate and enjoy companionship.

Now I’ll explore specific trends for your home, starting with your kitchen:

TRENDS FOR YOUR KITCHEN:

  • Abstract island and peninsula shapes. Modifying the shape of an island or peninsula can open up circulation paths,  improving work and storage space. The aisleways around an island should maintain a 42” minimum space between countertops (NKBA guidelines).
  • Backsplash tile feature walls. Including areas behind floating shelves and flanking chimney-style range hoods. It creates a striking feature wall and transforms an okay wall into a focal point.
  • Black.  Black stainless steel appliances are popular, because the finish is fingerprint-resistant, and has an iridescent sheen to enhance the other surfaces.
  • Contrasting island. Darker colors have caught on, becoming a bona fide trend.
  • Cream-colored cabinets. No matter what style, stark white cabinets have been overdone in the past 5-10 years.
  • Great room concept. Homeowners are still opening up their kitchens to adjacent interior spaces.
  • Quartz countertops. Engineered quartz remains a popular countertop material because it’s lower maintenance and stronger than most real stone, available in a plethora of colors and styles.
  • Subway tile. Rectangular 3″ x 6″ subway tile is still popular, but  it’s being installed in a herringbone  or vertical pattern. Alternative rectangular tiles (up to 12″ x 24″) are popular because there are fewer grout joints.
  • Window walls and glass doors. Wider windows and doors provide natural light and views of a garden. It’s important to consider the compass orientation and view year round. Also consider any loss of storage before you demolish your kitchen.
  • Wood. Homeowners are increasingly demanding medium-tone woods, especially in kitchens.

TRENDS FOR YOUR BATHROOMS:

  • Easy-reach shower controls. Being bombarded with icy water is no way to start a shower. The valve should be placed where you can control the water easily from outside and the inside.
  • Freestanding bathtubs. The trendy freestanding tub is still popular, but it has more room around it. Maybe it’s in a room of its own, if you have the space and a great private view. If you lack a view, how about installing an electric fireplace? These tubs, like all other trends, aren’t for everyone, though. People with bad backs, hips, and knees should definitely consider a tub that’s safer to enter and exit. Think about your investment, too, that can easily exceed $15,000. You gotta love bathing!
  • Natural wood “furniture” vanities. Instead of the tried-and-true cabinets, furniture-looking vanities are preferred by many homeowners. They look great, but how much will they store? And, how accessible will all of your personal-care products be?
  • Painted shiplap. Painted shiplap is popular because it adds texture, dimension and character in a room that can often feel sterile.
  • Patterned tile floors. Patterned tile is showing up in areas to resemble area rugs. You get the clean feel of tile with all the color and style of a bold rug. It can be warm as a rug, too, if you install radiant heating under the tile.
  • Wet room. This is a great use of space, where you can shower before and after you use the bathtub. It’s important, though, to select floor tiles that have a rough texture for safety.

Appliance and cabinet manufacturers have gone out on a limb to introduce new, bolder colors.  This has occurred many times before. Maybe now is the time for the new colors to be accepted into the mainstream. Technology has made it possible for tile manufacturers to produce a wide variety of products in different sizes with interesting textures and a broad selection of colors. Hooray for more choices!

What about other rooms in your home? Here are some current trends:

TRENDS: OTHER ROOMS IN YOUR HOME

  • Big, bold plants. A dragon tree, a rubber tree or a palm tree can make an eye-catching statement. Before spending a lot of money, though, verify whether it’s dangerous if children or pets munch on the leaves.
  • Multi-functional spaces. An office or hobby room that doubles as a guest room is the best example. Murphy beds are preferred over slumpy-looking futons.
  • Bold colors. Navy blue, deep red, and burnt orange to bring some excitement into a room. Pair your bold color with calmer,  neutral hues. Use strong colors sparingly, either as a statement piece or an accent. Please, no accent walls! They’re out!
  • Period-style details. Find ways to inject more character into a room. Successfully paying homage to a certain style is about incorporating small touches of it, rather than trying to copy the look in its entirety.
  • Biophilia. Biophilia emphasizes the relationship and connections between humankind and nature. We are calmed by the sight of greenery in the form of live plants and living walls, the sight and sound of water, access to views of natural settings, and tactile organic materials such as wood and stone.

DEAD AND DYING TRENDS

“Trendy is the last stage before Tacky.” (Karl Lagerfeld)

We’ve all made trendy choices that we regretted – trends that have (or should have) died since the 1970s. Be honest: How many of these outdated trends have made an appearance in your home? Here’s a quick list of 45 dead and dying trends:

Tile countertops

Over-the-range microwaves

Eclectic clutter

Shag carpet

Wood paneling

Tiffany lamps

Word art

Futons

Fast furniture

Nautical motifs

Edison bulbs

Tufted headboards

Tuscan kitchens

Damask

Wallpaper borders

Window valances

 

Mason jar mania

Wicker furniture (inside)

Dusty pastels

Hollywood mirror lights

Avocado green

Harvest gold

Ferns everywhere

Plaid

Pine furniture

Vertical blinds

Bean bag chairs

Giant silk plants

Fake fruit

Sponge-painted walls

Glass blocks

Popcorn ceiling

Ruffled bedskirts

Heavy headboards

Floral everything

Lace tablecloths and doilies

Cherry cabinets

White quartz countertops.

Gendered rooms

Cool grays

Terazzo tile

Fiber art

Overdone brass

Accent walls

Mid-century everything (unless you have an authentic mid-century modern home)

LOVE YOUR HOME AND BELONGINGS

All of us have given in to trends since we were young children. We grew up in homes that were influenced by popular trends chosen by our parents and their parents. There is a certain comfort we can derive from being on the inside of a trend; it helps us feel like we fit in. That’s what advertisers count on. Trends drive our economy. Trends can become dangerous, though, when they’re taken too seriously by consumers who must have the latest and greatest. I believe that trends are merely a snapshot in time; they don’t last. I also believe that trends aren’t for everyone. This is what I ask of myself and of you: Think about every decision you make. Is it something you genuinely want, or is it an artificial need created by an outside influence? What’s the financial impact of your decision? How long must you keep it in order to recoup your investment? Nate Berkus says:

“I believe your home tells a story about who you are and who you aspire to be. We represent ourselves through the things we own. I don’t believe in trends. I believe in collecting things that you connect with. We should surround ourselves with things we care about, that have meaning.”

For the most important rooms in your home, your kitchen and bathrooms, you must make informed decisions to last for years. Falling prey to today’s trend may mean that your home is going to scream “Outdated!” Use a color or style that you love now because you love it, not because it’s a current trend. If you can, project yourself into the future. Visualize your home the way you want it. Get in touch with how you feel about it at a point in the future. I know it’s hard to do, but the time you spend getting in touch with those feelings will help you make an informed decision now. Ask yourself, “How am I going to feel when business associates visit my home in 2024 and say, ‘Oh, you remodeled your kitchen in 2019!’”

These words may be difficult to read (and hear), but my commitment is to help you make informed decisions so you can enjoy your home for years to come. Experience has taught me to listen to the voice inside — my real self, not ego. This quote has been with me for many years, and I share it because I care:

“Be yourself; everyone else is taken.”

Here’s the podcast that’s based on this blog post:

If you are unsure about what to do to update your bathrooms or kitchen, or transform your entire home so it has integrity, I can and will help you!  Contact me today to talk about what we can do together!

Kitchen Remodeling Codes

Function and Safety Are #1!

Kitchen Remodeling Codes 2

While working with a young couple, a serious issue arose about code compliance.

During our first meeting, I was told that the entire extended family enjoys working in the kitchen together. As a designer, I immediately consider what this means when safety, functionality, and overall concept is included. So, in my reply, I cited the aisleway clearances recommended by the National Kitchen & Bath Association (NKBA):

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

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

The homeowners requested a four-foot wide by eight-foot long island. Their kitchen is narrow – only 13′-11” wide, with no room for an addition. Fortunately, the length of the kitchen is generous.

Important Calculation For Island Function & Safety

Back in my office, the first thing I did was to calculate the kitchen island size that would be safe and functional as well as beautiful. Here is my math:

167” (width of the total available space in inches)

– 51” (cabinets and countertops on both sides)

116” (space available in the center of the room)

-84” (two 42” wide aisleways)

32”   (2′-8” available space for the island)

I sent an email with these unfortunate results of my calculations. They were not happy, and repeated the desire for a four-foot wide island. I shared information about the appliances which would be on both sides of the kitchen. Each appliance needs space for accessibility, which I took into consideration as I worked out the numbers above. This is actually one of the many aspects where my years of education and design experience comes in handy. In an NKBA seminar, I learned from Ellen Cheever to show all appliance doors open in my plans. Homeowners can see how much clearance they have between objects. Oven and dishwasher doors can take 24” or more from an aisleway. Refrigerator doors vary from as little as 18” to over 36”, depending on the manufacturer and model.

Although my clients wanted the larger island, we were able to proceed through the logical design steps. With careful planning, I was able to give the homeowners 42” aisleways on both sides of the island. I reduced one partial wall of cabinetry to 12” deep for a wine bar and pantry. The double ovens were placed adjacent to the end of the island.  Someone can now access the oven door head-on, which is normal and safe. It is especially important to provide this head-on access so that a homeowner can cook and access something heavy, like a Thanksgiving turkey, or something awkward, like a casserole or a large sheet of cookies. I allowed an aisleway of 4′-10” along the cooktop wall, from the oven to the main sink on the opposite wall. This area could become seriously congested with multiple users.

NKBA Guidelines for Kitchen Aisleways

I use the guidelines developed by the NKBA as a standard practice in every kitchen (or bathroom) design. I learned them over 25 years ago when preparing for my certification tests. And I still use them because they verify industry standards for safety and function. I have discussed this in articles I’ve written in the past. In “The Kitchen Triangle: A Guideline,” I state that Function and Safety have to be designed into a project from the get-go. Appearance should be determined after everything is deemed to be functional and safe. I later wrote another article, “Kitchen Islands May Not Be Appropriate For Every Home,” in which I share the guidelines for walkways and island design.

Recently, this client requested that I move the island closer to the cooktop, which would eliminate frontal access to the oven. This would require her and other family members to access the oven from the side, tweaking their backs while using the oven. Now, no matter how young and healthy or agile one feels, others using the kitchen (parents, aunts, uncles, etc.) may not have the strength to use the oven without injury if there is no head-on access. Additionally, changing access to the oven can affect the resalability of the home. The kitchen is a huge selling point in any home. So, I was unable to acquiesce to this request. I shared the NKBA Guideline #6 which has graphics to show the intent of the guideline. Here’s the text of this guideline and the code:

Citation: Guidelines and Code

Work Aisle – Recommended: The width of a work aisle should be at least 42” for one cook and at least 48” for multiple cooks. Measure between the counter frontage, tall cabinets, and/or appliances.

Access Standard – Recommended: Kitchen Guideline recommendation meets Access Standard recommendation. See Code References for specific applications.

Code Reference: A clear floor space of at least 30” x 48” should be provided at each kitchen appliance. Clear floor spaces can overlap. (ANSI A 117.1 305.3, 804.6.1)

As a Certified Master Kitchen-Bath Designer, I consider myself an extension of the Building Department, to protect the health, safety, and welfare of homeowners. It’s my duty and responsibility to be familiar with and to comply with all codes. I cannot, and will not, turn my back on these duties and responsibilities for any client. But first, I try to help them understand that I’m not a stubborn bureaucrat, that I have their best interests in my mind and heart. Theodore Roosevelt said it best:

“Nobody cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.”

Yes, I care — a lot! That’s why I am sharing this story to help you understand that professional designers have to balance creativity and code knowledge, while trying to give their clients what the clients want, often within a limited budget. It sure isn’t an easy career path, but I still love it!

Homeowner Tips:

  • You’ve hired a professional designer to help you. Listen to them, and take their recommendations seriously, because they have your best interest as a goal.
  • If the design professional gives a recommendation without a valid reason, ask for the reason. A valid reason IS NOT: “This is the way we always do it.” A valid reason IS: “This is the code,” or “This is based on the NKBA Guidelines for function and safety.”
  • Remember that Function and Safety are the #1 priority in all remodeling, especially bathrooms and kitchens. Appearance can be any color or style after function and safety are verified.

If you’re thinking about remodeling your kitchen (or bathroom), please call me! I care about your health, safety, and welfare, and I want to help you achieve your remodeling goals!

A Bright New Kitchen For Grandparents

A Bright New Kitchen For Grandparents 3Homeowners, who are grandparents, love to entertain their family and friends. They especially love to take care of their grandchildren. Although the kitchen had an upscale remodeling by previous owners, many things about the kitchen didn’t fit my clients’ needs. Main problem: It was very dark. We created a bright new kitchen for the grandparents! I was pleased to use virtual-reality renderings to help the couple make important decisions, to create an ideal space for family and friends.

The Challenges:

  • Lighting was insufficient, and the dark cherry cabinets and granite countertops soaked up most of the light.
  • A pantry closet dictated the placement of appliances and limited available countertop space for food preparation.
  • The only place for the cooktop was in the island; it was a downdraft with a pot rack above, which created an ongoing cleaning problem from grease that escaped the surface-mount downdraft.
  • There was no place in the kitchen for sorting mail or charging phones and pads.
  • There were very few storage accessories inside the existing cabinets.

The Solutions:

  • Dimmable LED strip lighting was added below and above the wall cabinets to provide great task and indirect light. Dimmable LED recessed fixtures were placed in a 4′ grid, providing aisleway lighting. The same fixtures were installed above the new island.
  • Turning the closet pantry 900 gave more space for the ovens and cooktop, and freed up the island countertop for food preparation.
  • Custom alder cabinets with storage accessories provided what the homeowners needed for storage. A new pantry cabinet with chrome wire pullout shelves provided more storage than the previous closet pantry had. Other cabinet accessories included:
    • Rollouts for small appliances and pots and pans
    • Tray dividers above the ovens
    • Dual-level utensil drawer
    • Deep drawers, as requested by the homeowners for special needs
    • A custom cubbyhole niche for sorting mail and charging electronic devices
    • A wine rack and bookshelf in the back of the island
    • Cabinets around the perimeter were natural alder; the island was stained darker for visual interest.

Design Advice:

  • Stain the crown molding at the top of the cabinets and the light baffle below the wall cabinets to be stained the same color as the island to tie everything together. I showed them two alternatives in virtual-reality renderings.  The homeowners chose not to follow my advice, even after I showed them the difference.
  • Install a prep. sink in the island. During the value engineering by the contractor, we discovered that this feature was more than the homeowners wanted to pay, but they were able to make an informed decision without any regrets.

I give advice to show clients the possibilities and to make informed decisions. I listen to their needs and work with them to achieve what they want within a reasonable budget. I honor all of my clients’ decisions. It’s their home, and their budget. The kitchen was transformed and we created a bright new kitchen for the grandparents!

If you know what you want in and for your new kitchen, but don’t know how to pull it together, I can help you select the right products and offer alternatives, so you won’t have any regrets down the road about your decisions. Call me today, so we can talk about your kitchen!

Product Specifications:

APPLIANCES

Convection oven and convection microwave: Bosch

French-door refrigerator: LG

Gas cooktop: Bosch 36”

Hood: Zephyr “Anzio” 42”

Dishwasher: Reinstalled existing that was only 2 years old

CABINETS

Custom, with special storage and function features, natural alder (around perimeter)

Custom island, with wine rack and bookshelf on back side; rollouts and drawers on front side.

COUNTERTOPS

“Crystal Gold” granite; all outside corners had a 2” radius for safety

BACKSPLASH

Elysium “Inga Gray” glass tiles, 3”x12”

LIGHTING

Dimmable LED self-adhesive strip lighting behind upper and lower crown molding for indirect illumination

Halo 5” dimmable LED recessed fixtures over aisleways and the island (the clients chose not to have the popular pendant fixtures over the island)

FLOORING

Existing floors were patched as needed and refinished

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Remodeling A 1970s Home For Special Needs

Remodeling A 1970s Home For Special Needs 4

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

Challenges and Solutions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Design And Value Engineering

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

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

A Special Bonus For The Homeowners

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

Design Tips From This Project

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

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

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