Posted in Architects, Builders, Kitchen Storage, Kitchen Trends, Natural Lighting, Small Kitchens, Style Notes, Sustainable Design, Windows

Throw out what you know about the kitchen window

Feel constrained by your kitchen window? Lack of privacy? Do you have a sun baked kitchen in summer? Have a less than attractive view of your neighbor? Tired of conventional kitchen plans? Challenge yourself to think with a new view. You could pick up better storage, more task lighting, increased energy efficient windows, and a better view.

Start by throwing out what you know about your kitchen window. The sink does not need to be centered at the middle of the window. Once you allow yourself to throw convention “out the window”, a whole new window of possibilities for a better kitchen plan can be yours for the asking.

Here are some fabulous kitchens presented by Remodeling Magazine, one of my favorite trade publications. Follow the hyperlink to the article by Nina Patel, Back Lighting: narrow backsplash windows bring natural light to the kitchen while maintaining privacy.

And by the way, enjoy the view!

John Rogers, Rogers & Labarthe Architects

Both photos above and below: Phil Rossington, Rossington Architecture

Phil Rossington, Rossington Architecture

Alison Rainey, Merz Project

Both pictures: exterior and interior shots.
Iris Harrell, Harrell Remodeling

Click HERE to be directed to the slide show that provides written commentary by either the responsible architect, designer or builder on the project. Once there, click on the slide commentary to be directed to each company web site.

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Posted in Bathrooms, Builders, Counter tops, Lavatory sinks

Allowances

Tales from remodeling. As I review remodel proposal with clients, I explain this: I do not include allowances for plumbing fixtures, cabinet hardware or tile. The reason is simple, there is a false sense of security built into a proposal, a security bubble that is easily burst when the homeowner visits the plumbing store and starts pricing the fixtures they want on the project. The shock and frustration sets in after one realizes the contractor allowances are not close to being realistic. It can add up to thousands more than what the contractor allowed.

Here is one example from the blog, Dream Home Diaries.

Our builder, John, does not have cheap taste. Quality materials were included in the budget: granite counter tops, composite decking and Hardie Plank siding. Then why, oh why, did he allow such paltry amounts for sinks and faucets?

Paul and I were shocked to learn that John had budgeted only $20 for each bathroom sink —thinking that we would be pleased to use the kind of ugly drop-in sink one finds in spec houses.

Lesson learned: when comparing bids, request the contracting firms bidding on your project to leave out allowances for fixtures. A fixture allowance will never be realistic. Notice that John the contractor allocated funds for quality building materials because he knows his materials. This is what he does day in and day out. On the other hand, he couldn’t possibly guess what every client’s taste level will dictate. In addition, when bidding against other contractors, why would he inflate his proposal with fixture allowances for $250 sinks when a $20 sink will get the job done just the same. Even though the more expensive sink is probably closer to what you may desire.

“Do $20 sinks really exist?”

There was a time when a sink was a sink and that was it! This is not the case today. I suggest you go forth to the plumbing stores, shop, compare and get a sense of your style. Also, what is invaluable is to find a knowledgeable plumbing sales person to work with. Ask your contractor or designer who they recommend. Seasoned plumbing sales people can be a wealth of information on setting you on the right path.

Posted in Bathrooms, Builders, Consumer Protection, Counter tops, Lavatory sinks

Allowances

Tales from remodeling. As I review remodel proposal with clients, I explain this: I do not include allowances for plumbing fixtures, cabinet hardware or tile. The reason is simple, there is a false sense of security built into a proposal, a security bubble that is easily burst when the homeowner visits the plumbing store and starts pricing the fixtures they want on the project. The shock and frustration sets in after one realizes the contractor allowances are not close to being realistic. It can add up to thousands more than what the contractor allowed.

Here is one example from the blog, Dream Home Diaries.

Our builder, John, does not have cheap taste. Quality materials were included in the budget: granite counter tops, composite decking and Hardie Plank siding. Then why, oh why, did he allow such paltry amounts for sinks and faucets?

Paul and I were shocked to learn that John had budgeted only $20 for each bathroom sink —thinking that we would be pleased to use the kind of ugly drop-in sink one finds in spec houses.

Lesson learned: when comparing bids, request the contracting firms bidding on your project to leave out allowances for fixtures. A fixture allowance will never be realistic. Notice that John the contractor allocated funds for quality building materials because he knows his materials. This is what he does day in and day out. On the other hand, he couldn’t possibly guess what every client’s taste level will dictate. In addition, when bidding against other contractors, why would he inflate his proposal with fixture allowances for $250 sinks when a $20 sink will get the job done just the same. Even though the more expensive sink is probably closer to what you may desire.

“Do $20 sinks really exist?”

There was a time when a sink was a sink and that was it! This is not the case today. I suggest you go forth to the plumbing stores, shop, compare and get a sense of your style. Also, what is invaluable is to find a knowledgeable plumbing sales person to work with. Ask your contractor or designer who they recommend. Seasoned plumbing sales people can be a wealth of information on setting you on the right path.

Posted in Architects, Builders, Kitchen Zones, Kitchens Don'ts, Noteworthy Links, Planning, Windows

Learning From Others Mistakes

I must give a nod to The Kitchen Designer, Susan Serra, for her masterful opinion in her blog dated 04/06/08, Lessons Learned from New York Times “Dream House Diaries”. Susan Serra’s 14 points are a primer for anyone planning a home renovation project.

A builder who assumes the cabinets are to be built around a predetermined plumbing and mechanical plan means someone put some thought in planning the kitchen, you would think so. But to read in the “Dream House Diaries” that the builder suggested to leave the kitchen planning till the point where the floors are down is nothing but a** backwards. It indicates the builder is interested in a cabinet order taker to come in later to get it in and get it done. This causes a huge disservice to the homeowner who is intent on a “Dream Kitchen for their Dream Home”.

Whether building from the ground up or renovating an existing home, the mechanical locations for plumbing & gas lines, go hand in hand with planning the kitchen. Also, the placement or relocation of windows and doors is a critical stage in planning the kitchen. The design of the cabinetry, the doors and windows and the appliances must all be factored in at the beginning of the project, not the middle and not after drywall is up. For the do-it yourself crowd, I admire your fortitude to handle the project yourself, but it would not hurt to get a second opinion from a kitchen designer before ordering your cabinets. See the article link by one homeowner, “Did I get it right”.

You can’t leave planning the kitchen foot print to chance, thinking or hoping that the architect or builder is intent on the specifics, making sure the appliances and cabinets will fit. As much as we hope to see standards in the appliance industry, there are no “standards” when it comes to appliances. See an analytical point by point appliance comparison at the Kitchen-Exchange by Peggy Deras, Comment on Arrol Gellner’s Appliance Advice. A builder that allows a variance of (+ or -) 6″ can cheat the space with over sized cabinets and therefore cheat you by not allowing for the trash base or a proper bank of drawers or a lazy susan or a larger refrigerator. Kitchen Designers are not order takers. Planning the flow of space around appliances, cooking and clean up zones requires specialized training. A kitchen or bath designer will factor the dimensions of a space down the to the 1/8″ inch and provide the builder a detailed plan ready for installation.

As Susan Serra stated in her article, the other problem by not planning the kitchen in the beginning creates a problem of cabinet size continuity. Wall cabinets with different door widths creates disharmony. Anybody with a tape measure can fill a wall with stock cabinets and fillers. To me, this is a waste of space and a waste of money when the design is washed down to nothing more than a bunch of boxes on the wall when the home owner’s intent was a dream kitchen. Please refer to Peggy Deras excellent commentary Choosing a Residential Remodeling Architect.

The next factor the client has to be ready for is patience in planning. Don’t rush into signing a contract until you have thoroughly interviewed the candidates. Take time to interview the architect, the builder, and the designer. If you fail to plan, plan to fail. Signing a contract with a professional who starts promising he or she will throw in free enticements or prices “good today only” are red flags. See NKBA for more advice on hiring a Kitchen and Bath designer. Go to NARI and AIA to find professional Contractors and Architects in your area. Check the BBB Reports to see if the business is in good standing. As a professional, I am so frustrated when I see a client taken in by the lowest bid, and outright lies about materials. To have a client compare my all plywood cabinet construction backed by a lifetime warranty against a 45# particle board box with a 5 year warranty and be taken in by lies by the “cabinet order taker” who says they are the same quality really frustrates me. My recommendation for homeowners is to be patient in the process of finding selections. As one homeowner said, she hoped she could just breeze right through this. This is not the same as ordering take out food. Patience is required.

No one can discount the value of the Builder, an Architect and Designer; each professional has the task at hand to provide the client a beautiful project. While a builders’ interest is to get the project built on time and on budget, there is no fault in that. But, a quality builder will recommend you start working with a Kitchen and Bath specialist from the beginning so that the client can achieve their Dream Home.

Posted in Builders, Designing with pets in mind, Humor in the Kitchen, Kitchen Trends, Managing Expectations, Surviving A Remodel

Here Kitty, Kitty, kitty!

I got a call today that stressed me out.

“Your crew was working here today with the doors open and my cat got out!”

Many of the homes we work in are in areas that abut to open space hills and canyons.

I am an animal lover myself and would be devastated if my pet wound up as lunch for some hungry coyote.

So it pains me to have to remind customers that we need you to work with us to protect your cherished pets. We are in your homes to remodel. While we are there, the area we are working in is a construction zone. We section it off with Visqueen zipper walls in many instances. In other cases, when our plastic barriers come down as we near completion, caution is still required on your part to protect your pets.

In today’s instance, the dry waller had to have open doors and windows for circulation. Once it was determined that “kitty” made her escape, all hell broke loose. We worked faster than a Southern California Wildfire to get that darn cat. The Homeowners were both set to leave for work and panicked at knowing Kitty was outside and vulnerable for a coyote on the prowl. I got the call from the startled homeowners. I called my contractor and yelled at him for not letting the dry waller know about the cat in the house. He called the dry waller and yelled at him and made him start searching for Dear Kitty. The dry waller called me and said the cat walked back into the kitchen! I drove over to the house to make sure Kitty was safe and sound in an upstairs bedroom.

The moral of the story: Please make sure your pets are safe and away from the construction zone! Post signs all over your doors to make sure construction crews are aware that animals might escape from the house.

PET ALERT

A Friendly Reminder to our Clients with Pets

Pets are a cherished part of your family and we want them to be safe during remodeling. Please remember to keep pets in a separate room away from construction where they will be safe and protected during the remodel.

Although we will do our part to keep doors closed, we kindly remind our clients that a portion of your home is a construction zone and must be treated with caution. There are tools, and nails, and heavy equipment. Many times the construction crew will be opening and closing doors while working. This is a necessary part of the job and cannot be avoided.

Knowing that pets get anxious with loud sounds and new people in their home, during this stressful time you may want to pre-plan a place for your pet with food and water and bedding. Work with us by placing notices on exteriors doors reminding our crews of your little “escape artists” cats and dogs. Let’s work together and make sure that your pets are safe during a stressful time for them.

Thank you for your patience,

Management

West Coast Kitchen and Bath

Plaza Kitchens

Pancho looked at me this day when I took this picture of him, as if he was saying, “I don’t know where my water bowl is….uh, uh, uh, excuse me, don’t forget to make a place for my water bowl, I am so stressed with you in my house!”

We love you Pancho!