Posted in Cost V Value

3 Home Improvements That Pay Off Big Time (and One That Doesn’t)

Would you be surprised to know that one particular type of bathroom remodel, a bathroom addition, actually reaps 56.2%, the worst return on investment? 
That is according to Remodeling magazine’s 2016 Cost vs. Value Report. If you are planning on selling your house in the next few months, plan on improvements where you’ll recoup an average of 64% of what you paid for a renovation. For the full article at, click the link: 10 Home Renovations That Offer the Best (and Worst) Return on Investment

Best way to get your house ready for sale: 

  1. Make it ship shape with all repairs taken care of. Call in a home inspector in advance of putting your home on the market for a thorough report of what needs to be done. 
  2. Depersonalize and declutter. Rent a storage locker to rid all extraneous clutter taking up space in the closets, bedrooms and garage. 
  3. Focus on curb appeal. Manicure your front, side and back yard. 
  4. Call in a home stager. Set aside pride. Surround yourself with advisors who’s business it is to get your home sold fast. 

If you’re ready to buy a home and thinking of ripping out and redoing it but not sure how much it’s going to cost to update the master bath, kitchen or other home-improvement project, call in a trusted design/build remodeling contractor before you put in an offer. If you’re moving from another state into California, many homeowners are faced with sticker shock at how much it costs to remodel in comparison to their home state. Knowing how much it costs to get that dream kitchen or bath, not just financially, there is also the burden of time and disruption to your families daily life that may make it more appealing to find a home that’s move-in ready. 


Mindfullness in Remodeling


definition: the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something.

Image courtesy from

Mindfulness is a word that has gone mainstream. Have you read about it? Similar to meditation, it requires one to simply pay attention to our present being, to our thoughts and feelings. The benefit of practicing mindfulness reduces stress and who doesn’t want that? Studies on mindfulness report a myriad of benefits in the physical, psychological and social arenas.

It occurred to me that mindfulness plays a very important role for clients in their design decision process.  Remodeling is stressful enough with the fuss and dust during a remodel so who wouldn’t want to benefit from a little stress reducing mindfulness practice during the design phase. I know, I know, some of you get bored looking at floor plans or picking materials.  I recognize that glazed over look during a design meeting from either the husband or wife, the one who really isn’t into selecting materials, but is dragged along anyways because they need to get the project done or just focused on the $ botton line. The last thing your Design Pro wants to hear from a client is “I didn’t think it would look like that.”  I really dislike hearing this, and when it does happen, it’s rare, but it does come up on occasion with a client who isn’t mindful and complains after the fact.

Buying a new kitchen is more complicated than buying a car or even a house because ultimately you get to choose all the materials and the details can be a bit overwhelming for some. While some dig right in and relish the thought of choosing between counter depth refrigerators and built-in’s or deciding between 12 shades of white, this process can numb others out.

For the most part clients who are remodeling are generally excited about it all. I love it when clients are engaged in the process, ask questions and really get into the design decisions. It makes for the best outcome.

The client I worry about is the one who isn’t mindful of the design decisions. Ordering materials that is in direct conflict with what they truly want is not the fault of your Design Pro. They are there to guide and explain, but ultimately when you select a material, your Design Pro is working on the assumption that this is what you are approving. It is a 100% certainty that the client who complains later about the outcome not meeting his desired look is the client who is not mindful during the design process. Whether it’s just RUSHING to get it done and blowing off the details or the single focus of BUDGET driving the decisions, if you let either of these two drivers, (1) rushing and (2) budget, get in the way of your vision, you will certainly be disappointed if you have not (a) resolved that you are buying materials not in alignment with your vision and (b) you have not communicated your true vision to your kitchen designer who is building in these details for the project. Mind readers we are not!

Having a budget or being on a tight deadline is not an issue for the Design Pro, as long as the client has come to terms that beer budget and champagne taste are truly not the same.

My Top 5 Mindfulness Techniques when working with a Kitchen & Bath Designer:

  1. Don’t rush the details. Commit the details to a plan. Give yourself time to understand the plan: the placement of your appliances, cabinets, switches, lighting, storage or whatever is important to you. Mindfulness Technique: Ask yourself what you want. 
  2. Ask questions. Is there anything you are not certain of? What is it made out of, what is the maintenance like, how big is it? I have been know to be the blue tape Queen, mapping out what the new space will look like on the floor for my clients. It’s important to familiarize yourself with the scale of your new kitchen through design drawings, renderings and if possible, actually plotting it out full scale with blue painter’s tape in the existing space.
  3. Compare the actual design to your vision. Whether it’s a vision committed to memory or a notebook of ideas, ask yourself if the plan drawn up by your Design Pro is jiving with your vision. Designer’s do not have a third eye or psychic ability to read minds although we try. We ask many questions and do our best to get to know you, your style, your family so we can best recommend solutions to fit your lifestyle. Mindfulness Technique: Be truthful with yourself about what you want and communicate that to your design pro.
  4. Avoid shortcuts. The #1 complaint I hear from people I talk to who have remodeled in the past is they wish didn’t compromise. If it means postponing a project until you can afford what you really want, do it. Use this time to plan and do it right later when you can afford it.
  5. Test it out. I live in a major metropolitan area where we have access to exciting showrooms that offer fully equipped live demonstration kitchens. I can send my clients to these showrooms for complete meal demonstrations so they can test out what it’s like cooking on these appliances. Also, check with your local appliance store for more information on when they offer appliance demonstration days. Ask about “After purchase consultations” where some brands actually have a dedicated person that will walk you through the features of your new appliances.

Above all else…be mindful of your choices. Remodeling is not for the faint of heart and mindfulness in remodeling will calm the body, it will decrease (your designer’s) stress as well as your own, it will cut your anxiety of your decisions, and it will create joyful emotions with the outcome.

And lastly your kitchen designer will thank you!

Posted in Appliances, Dishwashers, Style Notes

Miele vs. GE Monogram Dishwashers (Reviews/Ratings/Prices)

Source: Miele vs. GE Monogram Dishwashers (Reviews/Ratings/Prices)

Yale Appliances Blog comes out with great up-to-date comparisons on the latest appliance brands. I highly recommend you read their comprehensive reviews if you’re considering purchasing a new dishwasher.

Eight Quick FAQ’s when considering a new dishwasher: 

  1. Package deals with a suite of appliances will net a better price, check out the rebates.
  2. Don’t over buy features you may never use, most people use only one or two settings and forget to use the others.
  3. Decibels (42-44db or less) are rated as the quietest, quiet dishwashers are a nice feature.
  4. Fully integrated panels are sleeker (controls on the top not on the face) versus less expensive controls on the face
  5. Tubs: Plastic (less expensive) v Stainless steel tubs (stain & odor resistant)
  6. Racks: look for convenience features like adjustable top rack and adjustable tines for accommodating bulky pots and pans.
  7. Additional Flatware rack is an added convenience with some brands.
  8. Flush panel and panel ready: do you want your dishwasher to be indistinguishable from the cabinet next to it? A flush panel (or fully integrated) design allows for a cabinet panel to sit in line with adjacent cabinets. (A single matching cabinet panel the full height of the dishwasher is ordered through your cabinet supplier. You can also design it with a false drawer front and door to make it look truly indistinguishable from your cabinet next to it). Panel ready doesn’t necessarily means it’s flush. Most American brands stick out 2″ beyond the adjacent cabinets. And some brands have the controls on the face so the panel is applied below the face, a little old fashion in my opinion.

I’d love to hear what you think. Tell me about your favorite dishwasher you’ve purchased in the comments below. What is your favorite feature in a dishwasher?

Posted in Back splashes, cabinet hardware, Cabinets, Counter tops, Kitchen Trends, Kitchens, Kitchens Don'ts, Maple Cabinets, Oak Cabinets, Paint, Resale Value, Return on Investment, Traditional Kitchens, Trends in Tile, White Kitchens

Musings on when to paint your cabinets

So your house is not selling. It’s sitting on the market without offers while other houses in the neighborhood are selling while your home continues to linger. Feedback from your realtor says that potential buyers don’t like the kitchen. Realtors advise depersonalizing your home, (remove family photos and personal “clutter”), so buyers can get a better sense for how this home would fit their lifestyle.  But how do you depersonalize your dated kitchen? Your father may have built or installed these cabinets or you may have selected your favorite maple wood stain but does that matter to the buyer?  Remember, they are not buying for sentimental value.

Do you dig in and wait for the buyer who likes your taste to come along months down the line or do you appeal to more home buyers who desire the current trends and get your house sold quicker?

Kitchen Circa 1990’s. Floors Circa 2015. Fresh coat of paint, hardware, new counter tops and splash and this kitchen would be charming!

A former client was shocked that their house is still sitting on the market with really insulting low ball offers while the cheaply renovated neighbors house sold in 10 days. This is a sad case of letting your personal style getting in the way of selling your home. It doesn’t pay to be annoyed that your dated cabinets are better quality than your neighbor’s cheap but cute “ok-Ikea” kitchen. If it’s dated, even though it was in style when you remodeled 10, 20 or 30 years ago, facts are facts: out of style kitchens are a big fat negative for the buyer who wants a move-in ready home.

Are you ready to drop $100,000 or more off of your asking price so you can sell your house? Ready for a change?  Or for a modest investment in paint, cabinet hardware and new counter tops, you can update for kitchen for a quicker sale.

Let’s get started:  Consider what’s fresh and timeless versus what home-buyers consider dated and dreary.

# 1: Consider painting your wood cabinets, (yes I said it, paint your wood cabinets!). It’s ok to paint wood. Hire a professional painter to get the job done fast and efficiently.

Bright white and wood look charcoal plank tile floors as shown in a model home at the Oaks at Portola Hills.

Take a tour of model homes in your area to get a sense of what is trending in your town.

# 2: For a bit more elbow grease, route out the door panels and add clear glass for a vibrant change in your wall cabinets.

# 3: Add cabinet hardware to your cabinets. It’s the jewelry in the kitchen. Brushed nickel or polished chrome knobs and pulls add a nice touch.


Caesarstone Shitake Counter tops, Brookhaven by Wood-Mode Cabinetry

#4: Are your wood stained cabinets in good shape but the counters are Uba Tuba or Baltic Brown granite? Rip out the counters and splash! Install new counter tops in a light quartz. Back splashes with a little pizzazz becomes a focal point in the kitchen.

Cherry wood with Mosaic stone and glass tile for the splash and quartz counter top.
Paint White Cabinets, mosaic & subway backsplash, quartzite slab, polished chrome pulls

Pick up any kitchen magazine and you’ll find a majority of the covers show kitchens with quartz or quartzite counters. Dark & busy counter tops appeal to fewer people.

Even the quartz manufacturer’s weed out dated colors. I just threw out 10 sample blocks from one of my vendors that discontinued colors that were popular 4 years ago but not today. Edit out what doesn’t work.

Solid color quartz counter tops or marble and “marble-like” are in high demand for most of my clients.


3 x 6 white subway tile and honed quartz counter top.

And finally tip # 5: The most popular back splash today: Subway tile! Painted kitchens and subway tile are always a classic winner! A client came to us after seeing our fabulous contemporary display in an appliance showroom, but once they saw our classic white display with subway tile, the decision was done. This style evokes immediate love for classic good looks.

Update the back splash with a classic white subway tile! It is timeless and one of the more affordable back splash tiles available. Paired with new counter tops, paint white cabinets, new hardware, a new faucet and stainless steel sink will transform a kitchen into an appealing space for a home buyer to consider.

And if you are in the Orange County area and need help with your dated kitchen, please give me a call for an estimate. 949.448.9627.





Posted in Residential Wine Cellar, Residential Wine Rooms, Wine Racks

Planning a Home Wine Cellar


Ever dream of converting a closet or alcove under the stairs into a wine room in your home?

Wine Storage Capacity: 277 Bottles

file_002 Questions to consider in planning your wine cellar:

  • How many bottles of wine do you anticipate storing? (Most people under estimate this number).
  • Do you want to store champagne/sparkling wines?
  • Do you purchase large format bottles (magnums or perhaps even larger)?
  • Is this cellar for personal consumption wine, or is it for investment wine storage purposes?
  • What type of cooling system will work best for your cellar? Will it be a passive cellar or a climate controlled cellar?
  • Do you want decorative display areas?
  • Do you want any case storage?
  • Humidor storage?

The photos above are from a recent project I designed for a wine cellar in a model home in Rancho Santa Margarita, CA. The room is temperature controlled by a split cooling system that keeps the room permanently and evenly cooled at 55° F all year long. This room has a sealed gasket single lite clear door to view the wine room but other door options can be considered as shown below in previous jobs we’ve completed. There is much to be considered when planning for your conversion. The conversion for an existing closet requires taking the drywall down to the studs and properly insulating the room with closed cell insulation and moisture barrier protection.

Additionally, other materials need to be considered when planning a wine cellar. What type of floor is used, the lighting, vintage racking, metal, redwood, mahogany, alder wood racking. The options available are many! I love Vintage wood floors made from reclaimed staves from the actual wine barrel staves. So unique; so much character.

Vintage Barrel Staves for counter surface

LED accent lighting to display the racking system, a pretty wall sconce or chandelier, perhaps wine staves on the wall, or a beautiful mosaic tile?    The entrance to the wine room, if large enough, perhaps a stunning wrought iron door?    The possibilities are endless.


If you are located in Orange County, CA, our team at Roomscapes will walk you through all of the options available for your custom wine cellar. Please contact us at 949.448.9627


Posted in Avoid rip offs, Consumer Protection, How to Hire a Contractor

Avoiding In-Home Appointment Scams

It’s a typical scenario: the phone rings and on the other end is an appointment setter announcing she represents a home improvement company working in your area. She asks you a few questions and sure enough, her company can have a salesman come out to meet with you about your project. 

The happened to my elderly mother, who had a visit from the salesperson who spent two hours in her house for a high pressure sales call for a patio enclosure. It seems the older one gets the more the phone rings with cold-callers wanting to sell you something! 

Fortunately she didn’t sign a contract but unfortunately not before he got her ID and Social Security number to check her credit for instant approval. 

With a swift search I found out this is a slick operation that prays upon unsuspecting elderly people. He left no business card, no written estimate or company brochure.  That was suspicious. It’s unnerving to think my mom willingly gave out her social security number so easily to a company she had no knowledge of prior to the cold-call. It happens all the time to senior citizens. 

I called this company back, (thank you Caller ID), after I heard about this from my mother. The man who answered refused to identify his company name or contractors license number until I revealed our phone number first and he ended up hanging up on me when I asked why is it so difficult to tell me what the name of your company is. 

The reason why the person working in the cold-call center wouldn’t reveal his company is that they have several company names they operate under. It’s a nasty truth that when a construction company gets so many complaints and they lose their license, they start up again under another name, all those sales people move over to the next company and so it goes, they reinvent themselves several times over with the same scams under different names. 

What to watch out for when you get a home-improvement cold-caller: 

  • A legitimate construction company won’t be cold-calling you for work. Be suspicious and not so willing to accept an in-home appointment from a cold-caller.
  • Do not agree to an appointment with a cold-caller without first checking them out to see if this is a legitimate contractor in good standing. Tell them you’ll call them back, if they are not legitimate like the company that came calling at my moms,  they will hang up with you and not reveal their information. 
  • Ask the cold-caller for their company name, address, web-site, and most importantly their contractors license number so you can check them out before an appointment. 
  • Contact your local state contractors board’s web site. You can search by contractors number or business name. You want to check out the contractor’s company to see if they are in good standing or not. Google the company name or phone number to see what pulls up. Usually that will lead to Yelp reviews, Rip-Off Report or Reverse Caller Look Up information. If they don’t look legitimate, you’re probably right. 

Ways to identify a reputable construction company: 

  1. They identify themselves by business name when you call them. This should be simple enough but oddly the bad companies won’t tell you their name. Wow!
  2. They willingly will provide a contractors license #, a business location, and referrals when asked. Legitimate companies proudly will show you a copy of their license in their presentation book with photos of their work and referral letters from previous clients. 
  3. They maintain a local business address and may invite you to visit  them if they maintain a showroom to display their products. Other legitimate nationwide construction companies may not have a local showroom but maintain a website to review their services and products and the salesperson will bring an array of samples with him or her to the in-home appointment. They will also provide excellent customer service with telephone agents willing to help with any questions you may have before or after an in-home appointment. 
  4. The salesperson will furnish a written proposal with a price, a description of the work to be done, a lead time for the work and materials included in the proposal. This proposal will be left with you at the time of the visit or they will leave a brochure and a business card while they work up a proposal back at the office and get back to you on a timely basis. 
  5. If they offer financing, they will provide you a copy of the finance paperwork. 

And lastly, no matter how excited you are to get started; always do your research first.