Plumbing Is Necessary, But Bathroom Cabinets Personalize The Space
What are two features that Homeowners request for a master bathroom? The #2 and #3 requests are for more (and better) storage, and an up-to-date look. Bathroom cabinets can satisfy both needs!
What are the features that homeowners request most often? The #1 request is for a large(r) shower.
The remodeled Tigard master bathroom is a great example!
The Homeowners requested a large two-person shower. And they both wanted more storage for:
Grooming paraphernalia to be put away when not in use;
A back-up stock of tissue, hair care products, soap, and lotions (Costco overflow).
Making room for a larger lavatory
The existing lavatory area was too narrow, and the adjacent toilet room was wider than it needed to be, so space was borrowed from the toilet room to make the lavatory wider. The additional space allowed the following specialized storage in the bathroom cabinets: (more…)
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 howmuch 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!
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!
Homeowners, 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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
My client, a retired California contractor, bought this 1970s rental home at the base of Mt. Hood because he loves outdoor activities with his two dogs. His #1 priority was to make the home brighter and more cheerful, while updating everything. What follows is a description of the challenges we encountered and the solutions that make this home unique.
CHALLENGE #1, LIVING ROOM: A long, slender room, aka “the bowling alley,” that was dark even on bright days.
SOLUTION: Add two “trayed” ceiling coffers so dimmable indirect LED lighting could break up the “bowling alley” look. It provided the right amount of ambiance for reading, watching TV, or enjoying the warmth of the wood-burning stove. Carefully-placed dimmable LED recessed lighting makes use of this room more flexible. A custom bookshelf and storage cabinet was designed to replace a bargain-furniture purchase when the gentleman bought the home.
*DESIGN ADVICE: A solution used to change apparent proportion of odd-sized rectangular rooms is to paint the end walls a darker, warmer color because these colors appear to advance. The contrast doesn’t have to be drastic – one or two shades will make a big difference. It has been popular off and on to choose one wall to be an artificial focal point by painting it a wildly-contrasting color. Be very careful if you’re thinking about doing this in your home, unless you’re prepared to paint your walls frequently. Fortunately, this trend never stays around very long.
CHALLENGE #2, KITCHEN: The existing kitchen had red laminate countertops, inexpensive appliances, and dark oak “builder” cabinets. The window over the sink faced the side of a neighbor’s home — ugly!
SOLUTIONS: The sink was moved to the new peninsula, which provided a great view of the front garden, and allowed a large countertop for food preparation. The homeowner fell in love with natural birch, a combination of heartwood and sapwood. He selected a Cambria engineered-stone countertop. The backsplash and floors are the same tile, with an accent of natural river rock behind the range. For architectural continuity, the same river rock was used for the entry hall flooring.
CHALLENGE #3, BATHROOMS: Both bathrooms showed years of wear and tear by renters, and desperately needed updating. The guest bathroom was cobbled together by a previous owner, who framed an area for a small one-piece shower using fake paneleing attached directly to the studs, with no drywall. It was no surprise that the project manager ran into a massive amount of dry rot in the guest bathroom.
SOLUTIONS, MASTER BATHROOM: The homeowner selected blue for the master bathroom. His eyes lit up when I showed him a sample of Vetrazzo “Float Blue” glass countertop and a unique blue glass mosaic tile for the backsplash and shower accent. He selected a large rectangular porcelain tile with a soft mixed gray stripe for the shower walls and the floor; the same tile in a 2×2 mosaic was used for the shower floor. A pale blue was used for the walls, and all bathroom fittings are polished chrome. The custom cabinets are natural birch, with two pull-out pantries for personal-care products.
SOLUTIONS, GUEST BATHROOM: The homeowner wanted bright yellow and orange for the color scheme. I suggested a creamy pale yellow for the engineered-stone countertop and the tile used in the shower and on the floors. Bright yellow tile was chosen for the backsplash field tile, with a 1/2” stripe of bright orange tile at the top and bottom of the accent stripe. Custom natural birch cabinets blend with the color scheme beautifully, and polished-chrome plumbing fittings are like jewelry for this stunningly-beautiful bathroom.
The homeowner got everything he asked for: a bright and cheerful new home with custom touches that exemplify his unique personality and taste. There’s no way to tell that this was ever a rental property!
Do you have a hard time visualizing what remodeling results are best for you? Are you paralyzed with fear about selecting the right products for your home and lifestyle? I can help you! Contact me today!
Accessory Dwelling Units Can Provide Good Quality of Life
Sisters in Dundee, Oregon contacted me because I’m a Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist, although they didn’t know what a C.A.P.S. designer normally does to improve the quality of life for residents.
I learned that one of the sisters was willing to dedicate a portion of her home’s property for a new accessory dwelling unit (ADU) for their parents. Their father has been living with Parkinson’s Disease for several years, and his wife can no longer take care of him in their San Diego home. They had explored alternatives and decided that building an ADU would be the best solution, but they didn’t know about anything that might be involved in getting the ADU built.
Timing is Everything!
Fortunately, the City of Dundee was in the process of creating land-use regulations for ADU’s. We hoped that this would speed the permit approval process. I attended Planning Commission and City Council meetings as an advocate for quality-of-life issues and accessibility for elderly and disabled people. If adopted, the regulations would limit the size of an ADU to a maximum of 800 square feet. I provided plans with documentation about the space required for wheelchair mobility and made a case for increasing the size of ADU’s to 900 square feet. The additional 100 square feet would allow the space for a guest bedroom.
There was also the issue of separation between existing homes and ADU’s. The concern of building and city officials was that most units would be used for rental, or for family. A good example of this is students who want a feeling of autonomy without paying exorbitant rental fees. City Council members were concerned that the parents’ ADU would have a full kitchen and we were requesting direct access from the existing home to the unit for convenience and emergency health issues. One of the council members asked if we would be willing to have adjacent exterior walls be special firewalls, with a covered breezeway between the home and the ADU. That suggestion was the key that unlocked the door for our ADU! I’d already planned a covered breezeway, so adding the required firewalls wouldn’t cause a problem.
The Lessons Learned
We proceeded with the plans and my clients engaged a structural engineer to prepare the framing details and required calculations for the new structure. The plans were approved and my clients hired a local contractor they found who prepared a detailed estimate. The sisters moved their parents to Dundee so their home in San Diego could be sold and the money could be used to fund the ADU. We are all hoping that their parents’ home will sell. The 897-square-foot ADU was scheduled for construction in 2019. The housing market in southern California had been in freefall since early 2018, and the family had to reduce the asking price three times. It lingered on the market for almost nine months. Unfortunately, this made moving ahead with the project unrealistic. The sisters and their parents made the difficult decision to rent an apartment in a senior center in Dundee.
Although this story didn’t end the way any of us wanted it to for the family, we all feel grateful for the opportunity to have a positive impact on accessory dwelling units that will be built in Yamhill County in the future. This experience verified that it’s worthwhile to fight for things you believe in. Members of the County Commission and the Planning Department learned about the importance of providing good quality of life for everyone. Hopefully, they’ll use what they learned to help other counties adopt humane regulations.
If you are considering an ADU or wondering how to create an accessory dwelling unit for family use or rental, I can help you. If you want to stay in your home and make it accessible, I can provide you with the information you need to make it livable and safe while maintaining the feel and look of your home. Call me today, so we can chat about your 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.
Necessary cookies are absolutely essential for the website to function properly. This category only includes cookies that ensures basic functionalities and security features of the website. These cookies do not store any personal information.
Any cookies that may not be particularly necessary for the website to function and is used specifically to collect user personal data via analytics, ads, other embedded contents are termed as non-necessary cookies. It is mandatory to procure user consent prior to running these cookies on your website.