Kitchen Before & After: How Take Advantage Of Your Contractor

When you have 2 months of waiting on a permit and demo that takes three quarters of a century, you have lots of time. Time to think. Time to rethink. Time to question your thinking. Time to stalk Pinterest and find all the coolest ideas that you now MUST implement or your brain will die a slow death. There was one inspiring kitchen that started it all, though. This one from House and Home Magazine's October 2015 issue. I took a photo of the page and sent it to my contractor, hence the photo quality sucki-ness. 

Then, I took advantage of my contractor. I lean on the talents of the people working on the project. If they have special skills, I use them. I use them for all they are worth. Wah-ah-ah-ah. It is helpful if you already know the contractor for hire. My contractor Joe Wood of All Around Joe is a sucker for carpentry projects. I told him my idea of chunky wood shelves and he was instantly hooked. He was especially excited because he would then be "forced" to buy a planer he had been eyeing. A win-win for all. 

NOTE: If you can, work with someone who is excited...to WORK! This should be an art project for the both of you. If they grumble and spout off reasons why it won't work (other than for safety or financial reasons), you probably aren't a good fit. For example, I had mosaic floors in a bathroom design once. The contractor complained that they wouldn't work. I looked at him like he had 3 heads. If they could lay mosaic floors 100 years ago, they can certainly do that now. This was simply a case of not wanting to do the work. Moving on....

So, off to Building Value I went to pick up some old wood. I found what was probably 100 year old floor joists. I know because I ripped the same things out of this very house and had them pitched. There just wasn't room to move! People wanted it out of the way. 

GET OFF MY BACK! 

You can't store everything. I'm not Nicole Curtis. I don't have a garage X3. I lived in a condo. You can't win everything. Anyway, found the wood. Brought it to Joe. He did his magic. 

A hood can be almost anything. All you have to do is build a box and throw an insert into it. So, in this project the box was just framed and drywalled. I didn't want a big shiny silver thing stealing the show. I wanted to mimic the chimney bump out in the living room but not draw much attention to the hood itself. From there, Joe attached our salvaged wood floating shelves on either side and trimmed out the "hood box" with some of the salvaged wood. 

In order to balance the room out, and get the coffee bar I was dreaming of (bc Pinterest and Joanna Gaines), he ripped a few more boards to span the fridge/pantry area on the neighboring wall. I didn't want to do another backsplash tile and introduce another pattern and material, so I opted for chalkboard paint. Only problem was I didn't want the chalkboard paint to just end at the top in an awkward line. So, Joe came up with the fab idea to trim out the entire coffee bar with more of the salvaged wood.

Teamwork.

BOOM. 

I personally drew the coffee bar sign. I'm no Picasso but I think it looks decent.

PRO TIP (from a pro not me): dip your chalk in water before you start writing. It makes the chalk line nice and bright.

What I love (but also hate) is designing on the fly. In some cases it's really frustrating and stressful to have some things up in the air. I'd love to say that every idea is perfectly thought out, scheduled and implemented, but it's not. I usually have a pretty good idea of what the design will be. But, inevitably I end up tweaking the idea until it is something new, original and even better than I envisioned. This is also something great about Joe and his team. They are flexible. They want it to look great. They are proud of their work. I like them. Hire people like Joe.

I think it turned out pretty well. 

Idea Sex: A Capsule Wardrobe for The Home

I hate clothes. They are a waste of effort in my opinion.

I couldn't even sift through photos of clothes to choose one for the top of this post. 

They are too tight or too itchy or make you feel ugly and frankly I can't stand the energy it takes to even think about what to put on. Add on to that the fact that you buy something and the next day you get bacon grease on it, it shrinks, or has a hole in it. What a waste of time and money. Plus, shopping sucks.

I am typically at construction sites, so I usually look like a slob with sweats on and a ponytail. I've been lucky that it doesn't matter much up until this year. I have been fortunate enough to take on several design projects for clients and I love it! Problem is that now I now have to show my face. Can someone really take me seriously looking like I just showed up from PE class? So, I've been pondering a uniform of sorts. I don't want to think, I just want to get dressed and look like a girl who might know how to design something. I don't need a closet full of polyester (none please!), just a few things that each go together despite the minute by minute changing Ohio weather. 

In comes the capsule wardrobe. Sadly, I didn't invent this like I thought I had. A capsule wardrobe is a set of clothes for a season that you can mix and match freely, no thinking. See more about capsule wardrobes here. Despite these ramblings, this is not a post about clothes. I always wondered why I could design the crap out of a room in 5 minutes but couldn't design my own outfits. Then it hit me: 

I struggle with clothes the same way my clients struggle with interior design. 

Thus, the Renovation Design Capsule was born. Want to put together a renovation design and not have to think about it? A template might help! I gathered all of my go to paint colors, materials and finishes into one design deck. Each of these I use all over the house whether it's in the bathroom, kitchen or living room. No, you don't have to worry about if you have nickel finishes in the kitchen but want to use gold in the bathroom. They can be mixed and even in the same room. You don't have to think about what color goes with what because everything on this deck can sit side-by-side with the others. 

These are the basics I like to use and am using in my current flip house to create a peaceful, yet pulled together look. See it in action in the kitchen of my latest project. Forgive the wretched photo. This house is still under construction. 

 In the above photo you can see 10 of the 20 go-to finishes at work here:

  • Behr Ultra White white walls
  • Behr Iron Mountain painted doors
  • Matte black door hardware
  • Carrara marble counter
  • Stainless steel range 
  • Brass cabinet hardware
  • Black overhead lighting
  • Natural wood trim and shelving
  • Gray shaker cabinetry
  • Wood flooring laid in a subway style pattern

"But, Wendy, what about your cement tile? That's not in your capsule!"

You are so so observant! I don't believe the capsule is meant to be taken so literally that only gray tile should be used or navy blue paint or marble counters. Mix up the aspects of each of item to maintain a cohesive look. Idea sex if you will. The colors are all present in that cement tile. It works. Here are some other options, some of which are scattered throughout the rest of this home.

  • Porcelain hexagon bathroom floor tile
  • Navy blue painted kitchen cabinetry
  • Marble subway tiled shower
  • Reclaimed plank accent wall

Another of our home designs from this year followed the same templates. 

In this kitchen we have at least 8 of the 20 capsule pieces represented:

  • Reclaimed wood on the island
  • White ceramic subway tile backsplash
  • White shaker cabinetry
  • Stainless faucet, cabinet hardware and range hood
  • Oil rubbed bronze pendant lights
  • White painted walls
  • Marble and ceramic decor

 

Now, you can go ahead and be like one of the commenters in the capsule wardrobe post I linked to that says,

"This is BS! What about color!? I need color!"

Don't be an idiot. But seriously, guys, this is not set in stone. Add one color, or two even! Do whatever you want. It's your house. Or, follow the scheme set forth and punch it up a bit in your decor. You can see we broke up much of the bright white with the natural wood tones, and black and yellow decor. 

What's even more impressive with this Design Capsule is that it can work with any style of home. Traditional, modern, transitional, you name it...it all works. The first kitchen shown at the top of the post is a transitional kitchen, the second is an industrial-modern kitchen, while the third is a rustic cottage style. You can't break this theory! It works!

Using a model like this Renovation Design Capsule keeps one from feeling complete overwhelm, venturing off into the design black hole. Sometimes it's best to work within a constraint. Not so much that you feel you won't get what you want, but enough to keep you from considering EVERYTHING on offer. 

And once again, DO NOT BE AFRAID OF THE NEUTRAL ZONE. Everything looks cozier once you add back in the furnishings and decor.

As a side note: I'm not really sure why I dated it Winter 2016 since these tried and true "rules" work in any season. The colors are neutral; the patterns are classic. I don't see this changing much over the seasons or years even. As evidence I'd like to point out that these three kitchens were all designed in different seasons and different years. Perhaps navy blue will get the heave-ho at some point and herringbone will be so last year. Who knows. If that should happen, Renovation Design Capsule 2.0 will be created with a new date or name. 

Do you have an rooms that matches this template in your house?

 

Bathroom Redesign: Modern Gray and Teal with Sneaky Storage

The Before

Jen wrote to me about her bathroom which was outdated, lacked storage space and needed to handle teenager use. The bathroom seriously lacks storage, with the only space being under the sink. I checked out the photos and quickly realized it was a small bathroom, and unfortunately, not much could be done to change it. But, with a little finagling, some storage could be added in some tricky places. Jen's budget is $10-$15,000, so there was room to add some custom elements as well as nicer finishes. She's ready to start completely over. GUT JOB! My favorite. See before photos below. 

The Design

She wanted something modern, neutral with a pop of color and worthy of teenager use. Here is the design.

The Road Map

Keeping most of the room neutral is a good call. It will allow the design to hold up over the years without becoming quickly dated. Leaving the punch of color in the decorative items, such as towels, artwork and soaps and lotions, allows you to change the color scheme easily. Tile is not as easy to change but new towels can be swapped out every season if you wished. There isn’t a way to improve the layout as that would require diminishing the size of the shower which would then be too narrow or lessening the size of the vanity, meaning less storage and counter space. I do believe some creative storage could be added next to the shower and in wall niches. Let’s dive deeper…

  1. Storage: There are two areas storage could be introduced to the space.

    1. Cubbies: Floor to ceiling storage cubbies behind the shower will add lots of vertical space to store towels. Baskets could also be added to the cubbies to hold loose items. A contractor will have to frame this to size. Accounting for the framing and drywall and leaving space for the shower, it will be pretty narrow. However,  it will be ample when considering it is utilizing the vertical space.

    2. Niches: A recessed cabinet with a full length mirror as a door will add some shallow storage space to keep items like hair products and accessories. This can fit on the wall opposite the toilet where the towel bar is currently. When the room is gutted by the contractor, they’ll remove some of the drywall and reframe to the desired cabinet size provided the wall can handle this change. If not, or if cost is an issue, there could be a smaller, narrow nook or two the size of the space between the studs. This will be a custom project so anything goes here. The new “cabinet” will be a recessed nook whatever size you and your contractor decide on. Consider white wood or glass shelves.

  2. Tile: The shower floor will be tiled which requires a mosaic for the pitch toward the drain. I recommend these marble hexagons with a gray grout. The hexagons can be carried up the back wall of the shower in a wide 3 ft. stripe to the ceiling. Consider adding a shower niche in the center of the stripe, in the same tile, for soaps and shampoos. The rest of the shower walls, as well as the bathroom floor will be in a coordinating gray plank tile. Lay the tiles in a stacked pattern for a more modern look, as well as to draw more attention to the mosaic. A Schluter strip can be used to finish off the edges where the shower tiles end on the walls.

  3. Vanity: The vanity is 36” and will sit exactly where the old one did. There is no room for improvement in size or storage here, unfortunately. The marble countertop coordinates with the accent tiles in the shower. Use the bottom shelf to store more towels, or add baskets to hold small items.

  4. Decor and Accessories: The towels, artwork and soap are your ticket to color in this bathroom. I included teal, but any color will work with the gray. The artwork is inexpensive and can easily be printed and inserted in a white Ikea frame.

  5. Toilet Seat: I added a Toto toilet seat like you wanted so we could see it in the budget and with the design. I’m not sure which one you’ll choose, but I recommend that you choose a toilet with a rounded seat. This will allow more room in front of the shower and be less intrusive in the space.

  6. Fixtures and Hardware: The finishes in the room are nickel and modern. The rain shower head will be impressive looking through the glass shower doors, as well as probably feel amazing!  The  vanity light, fan, sink faucet and towel bars all work together, but aren’t from  the same line  in order to keep from looking too matchy. Glass knobs are included in the design to replace the ones on the new vanity which don’t really work with the scheme. Their geometric shape work with the hex tiles.

  7. Paint: The paint color is Benjamin Moore’s Wickham Gray. You can buy this color anywhere you want (i.e. Home Depot or Lowes). Every paint store has other paint store’s color formulas.

If you're thinking about getting your own design, we have a Cyber Monday (week) discount for 10% off any of our virtual design products. Just use the code CYBER10 at check out. You can gift it to a friend or family member for the Holidays or keep it for yourself. Discount good until December 8, 2014.

Change some ugly.