Mindfullness in Remodeling


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

Image courtesy from Dreamstime.com

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 Cabinets, Contemporary Kitchens, Managing Expectations, Maple Cabinets, Mineral Streaks, Style Notes

Critiquing Kitchen Design and Cabinetry



As a blogger who’s primary focus is that of all things kitchen and bath related, I get excited when I see a kitchen or a bath that has been carefully designed and executed with all the right design elements. Well, alright, maybe there are one or two things I would have done differently, but not by much. Overall I give this contemporary kitchen two thumbs up. Quiet elegance is what I call this. 

The home is located in Scottsdale Arizona. The neutral color palette and “tone on tone” scheme fits into it’s overall desert surroundings. What I mean is that the design is not contrived. They did not impose a Tuscan- themed design in a contemporary home. The kitchen is fairly large and the use of two islands is a stroke of ingenuity. They stayed away from the mistake of using one monster sized island and instead divided the space into two islands. The interior island, approx 6 1/2′ x 4′ is the workhorse island and includes the main clean up sink and dishwasher. (I wish they didn’t place that ridiculously over sized plant on the counter that blocks my view of the space). The opposite side of this island with 24″ deep cabinets allows for plenty of storage. This is a dream kitchen for entertaining. Who wouldn’t love this kitchen? 
The outer island is open to the living area and yet has a 42″ pony wall that prevents your eye level view landing directly onto the kitchen counters. Smart idea when company is over. You don’t want your guests focusing on the clutter in the kitchen. I like this, if I can hide clutter from view, I will do it. 
One of the most commonly overlooked elements in kitchen design is the ceiling. This kitchen added the drywall clad beams in the slightly  darker paint color. The addition of the beams adds an important element in the design. It prevents the large room from looking too generic and sterile. The one thing I see that I would have done differently is the placement of the microwave. Most kitchen designers have an opinion or two, or three about the microwave. If you are a tall person, let’s say 6 feet tall or so, placing a microwave 54″ above a finished floor is acceptable if you are this tall. But for the rest of us who are height challenged, 54″ a.f.f. is too high up for comfort. Actually, 54″ is the bottom of the wall cabinet. The bottom of the microwave starts at about 55 1/2″ the center of the microwave winds up at about 60″ tall. If the average height for women is 5′-6″ tall, the center height of a  microwave at 60″ is too high. You should never be pulling hot objects out in the direction of your face and above shoulder height. It is dangerous and can lead to severe burns if the container explodes in your hands as you are pulling it out. Argue with me if you insist, that you do not like a microwave lowered from the rest of the wall cabinets, but in the picture above, you can clearly see this microwave wall cabinet is located between two 24″ deep appliances and could have been lowered 6″ for the sake of comfort of shorter users, kids included. Actually, the microwave is usually a child’s first introduction to helping out in the kitchen, why not make it more convenient for the young set?  
I also like the use of 24″ stone floors. 12″or 13″ tiles would have been the wrong scale for this room. I wish there were more pictures of this kitchen to show the cook top section but sorry, this is it. 
The irregularities in maple wood is more noticeable on medium to dark stains.
Here is another important factor in the design. The cabinets shown here are maple in a medium tone and it looks like they they might be finished with a brown glaze wiped into the surface grooves in the door panels. Maple stained darker becomes more ruddy, more blotchy in appearance. You may look at this sample door shown and reject it for the blotchy appearance on face value alone. I picked apart this kitchen above with red circles the way a homeowner would before giving the cabinets a fair chance before the kitchen is completed. The number one sales call a cabinet sales reps receives has to do with the perception of what a finished cabinet should look like. Avoid over analyzing your cabinets with a clear grid sheet by picking apart the highs and lows in the graining and mineral steaks that are naturally occurring features in wood. This is not the problem of the wood itself but the problem of the sales person not properly explaining to the customer the inherent characteristics found in the wood species they selected. There is nothing wrong with the maple wood shown in this example and it should not  be considered a flaw requiring all the doors to be replaced. My intent with this example is to show  that when the maple is viewed in perspective in a completed design, the ruddiness becomes less of a factor. Look back at the first picture. Your eye is not focusing on the blotchiness of the cabinets, your eye is looking at the overall beauty in this kitchen design. If you look hard enough and close enough, you will find flaws in anything. Anyone who holds a 10x magnifying mirror to their own face can testify to that! Oh lord do I know that! Yikes! 

Mineral streaks found in wood cabinets are beauty marks not flaws. 
The most beautiful women in the world have beauty marks. 

You should never expect perfection in wood graining just as you can never achieve true perfection in your own skin’s pores. Before your cabinets were…”cabinets”, before the lumber from which your cabinets were built, they were once upon a time trees in a forest. How much light the trees received, the natural elements in which the trees grew are a forever reminder that your cabinets were once a living, breathing part of our natural environment. The demarcations on your cabinets tell a story of your cabinets history or pedigree. These natural characteristics cannot be air brushed away, cannot be removed with lasers or bleach lightening agents. What should not be accepted are burn marks from over sanding, thumb prints in the stain, mars in the finish, and rough finishes are not acceptable and should be brought to the attention of your sales person for replacement. Mineral streaks and mineral flecks are naturally occurring in wood and should be considered beauty marks not flaws. If you can not accept this fact, you need to look at thermofoil and plastic laminate that will provide you more consistency and repeat pattern in graining. But then again, if this kitchen was done in either, I would not consider it as beautiful as it is, would you? 

When all is said and done, this kitchen is really a beautiful example in elegant simplicity. 
Posted in Managing Expectations, Working with a Contractor, Working with a Kitchen Designer

Follow Fridays

Sometimes I just nod my head in agreement when reading a fellow Designer’s blog post. So with no further ado, I divert your attention from my blog to go read what Kelly is talking about in her blog Kitchen Sync. 

Managing Stealth Costs

Very well said Kelly! Thank you so much for pointing out the obvious to us but not so obvious to first time remodel types.

Posted in Managing Expectations, Surviving A Remodel, Working with a Contractor

University Creates Catharsis Chambers for Stress Release

University Creates Catharsis Chambers for Stress Release
The Epoch Times released a report on October 6, 2009 about Universities in China installing emotional release rooms. Could they be on to something? Wouldn’t we all like an emotional release from the stress of …. (fill in the blank). Or is this a bad idea leading to more anger and range…I meant rage. (Sorry, still thinking about an annoying spec detail on a range). And exhaustion too! These catharsis chambers sound like an exhausting experience leading to more stress and anxiety.

Remodeling can bring on stress and I find that a long walk works quite well. Maintaining a sense of humor also works well. When ever stressed out, I imagine how Robin Williams would respond to the issue at hand and I wind up making myself laugh.  

image by BrittneyBush

Posted in Designing with pets in mind, Hot Topics, Humor in the Kitchen, Kitchen Faucets, Managing Expectations, Who Knew, Working with a Kitchen Designer

Managing Design Expectations: The Client -Designer Relationship

The Kitchen Designer: Hello, this is Laurie. How may I help you?

Client: Oh Hello, before you come out to my house to take measurements, I have one other request for my kitchen design. At our first meeting you asked us if there was one primary cook or two and if we had any special needs we want you to take into consideration.
The Kitchen Designer: Yes?
Client: Well, yes, we thought about your question and realize we do have a family member that uses the kitchen quite frequently and we think we need to take his special needs into consideration.
The Kitchen Designer: Oh?
Client: Yes, you see we have a cat that won’t drink from his bowl. He drinks from the kitchen faucet. Actually, our cat is very fond of water. The only problem we have with this is that he can’t turn the faucet off when he’s finished. We need you to help us with this. Can you specify a sensor into the faucet that will turn off when there is no motion?
The Kitchen Designer: Well… sensor faucets are on the market and they are becoming more popular…I would have to check specs to see how we could make this work…I suppose…can I get back to you with an answer?
Client: Sure, that would be fine. Here is a video we took of our cat, perhaps it would be easier if we could just show you what we mean. If you can just review this, and maybe if you can also show this around to your vendors to get the best deal, we want the faucet to be triggered by a sensor…our water bill is getting pretty high with the faucet on all day. Can you show us all the best possible options to help us out?

This is a hypothetical story, of course, using a very funny cat video submitted on line by Kim Tasky at You Tube. (She is neither a client nor the person in the above scenario.) I use this very amusing cat story to make a “tongue in cheek” point about a universal problem regarding the client-designer relationship.

The point is this:
There are some clients working under the impression that Kitchen Designers should spend time on your project researching, sourcing, evaluating, planning the best possible options to incorporate a client’s every last desire on the wish list before paying for services. There are no professions that work for free. So why do people expect to be dazzled with a design before paying for it?

You can call a plumber for a service call and he will charge you $75.00 just for the trip charge before he pulls out his plumber’s wrench.

You wouldn’t call your attorney and ask him to review your lease agreement
without expecting a bill would you?
And you wouldn’t tell your attorney “I want to see what ideas you can come up with first and then I will let you know if I will hire you.”
Perry Mason

Kitchen Designers receive a myriad of special requests for a remodel project. Some details more complex then the next to specify and execute. And most every time, the client is on a deadline because they did not budget the time to allow for the design details to be fleshed out. All projects, no matter the size, require thought and research before recommendations can be made. Here in lies the problem. How do you value your designer’s time?

How much free design do you think you are owed before paying a retainer?

Solving Design Problems: What is this service worth to you?
There is a perception problem about what a design is worth to the client. Here is the issue Designers are continually facing: a prospective client has a design problem they want their Kitchen Designer to solve for them. Designers expect a prospective client to interview with two or three designers before making a final selection. Qualified designers expect to be interviewed and are able and ready to prove their qualifications to prospective clients. But ask a Designer to pull out the “dog and pony show” for you and you may get a polite response declining your request. Internally the dialogue going through that Designer’s head may be something to the effect of “I have been doing this for 30 years, I don’t need any more practice to prove I can design.”

Ask a Kitchen Designer their opinion about “HGTV” type shows where three designers are trotted out for the client to compare three fully detailed designs and you will get very opinionated answers.

“Ideas are free but designs must be paid for.” Laurie Burke

Home improvement shows have done a disservice to the design community and have built up unrealistic expectations for clients. You would be surprised to know that a majority of potential clients expect that several design options be presented in detail before paying a retainer to contract for design services. It happens at all ends of the spectrum from the high end client to the budget minded client.

A fully detailed dimensioned design plan with elevations and renderings, before a retainer is paid is just not a workable business model for designers as it involves time without money, and giving ideas away with the ‘hope’ of getting the business is just bad business.

Charles Schulz

Hiring your Kitchen Designer should be based on several factors, creativity being one if them. Secondly, the ability to complete projects in a timely manner and within budget. Third, the ability to communicate with you, your architect, your engineer, your GC or subs throughout the job as needed. Fourth, the ability to manage obstacles as they arise, and lastly the ability to see a project to it’s completion.

Posted in Happenings around the Blog, Managing Expectations, Planning, Surviving A Remodel, Working with a Contractor, Working with a Kitchen Designer

A Renovation Check List

Getting ready to remodel? I will point my readers in the direction of a “MUST READ” article posted by my friend Paul Anater of Kitchen and Residential Design about renovation expectations. I too have received the phone calls from clients who are in a state of panic over the tile going up, the color of the cabinets, the floor, the paint and so forth. Paul has made sane points, so with no further ado, I point you to Ready To Renovate? Take A Moment And Breathe First.

I highly recommend you print out these “10 Points of Reason ” when you feel like you are going to loose your mind. Print it, post it where you can see it, your bathroom mirror, outside the plastic wall of your remodel zone, your check book.

Remind yourself that long after the remodel is over with, the dust and muss is gone, what remains is a beautiful space. And above all else, remind yourself to breathe! Thanks Paul!

Posted in Choosing a Designer, Discount Remodeling, Kitchens Don'ts, Managing Expectations, Planning, Remodeling Contracts, Working with a Contractor, Working with a Kitchen Designer

Asking for a discount:: How not to do it.

Kelly at KitchenSync posted this first, and she found it at another site. Spreading fast through the internet; I had to revisit this You Tube Video again for grins. Haven’t we all been there with clients? There are better ways to negotiate price. This video is a prime example of what not to do.

There are ways to save money so be up front about it. Your service provider will appreciate your honesty if you are up front about your budget and be able to look for ways to save you money. Looking for angles to get a discount after the fact is just bad behavior.