Is Cabinet Hardware Worth the Cost?

Tis the season for the trimming your tree and deciding on all that decorations that that accent its branches. What’s your look? Gold or silver? Glass or metal? Understated or bold? For one month of living with this design moment in our home many of us give it a lot of consideration. Do we do the same when picking hardware for our newly finished space that will typically be with us for a decade or more?

We have all heard the phrase, “the devil is in the details” and when it comes to home improvement many of the details are the parts that you don’t even see, but make the space function for years to come. This is somewhere homeowners typically will spend their money because they want their investment to last. But questions arise when choosing details like hardware and the inevitable question of “is it worth the money?” 

Hardware will generally do what it is intended to do- allow you to open and close things and turn things on and off, but have you ever considered that experience and how many times in your life you will repeat these actions? But more importantly the visceral response you encounter while doing it. Or how the detail of a knob can further enhance the design of your cabinets by punctuating it with a pop of shine and a distinct architectural look. It is the ultimate in form and function.

With so many options to choose from it can be overwhelming and feel that stepping out of your comfort zone will lead to regret, but we encourage you to have a little fun. First, there are no rules. Gone are the days that the metals in your space must all match. It will give your space warmth and a personalized feel when you pair polished nickel with some oiled bronze accents or understated satin nickel with modern black. (Maybe this is where some historical references to finishes could come in or come up with some design point of view from one of the designers on how metals can pair nicely).   

Functionally, you want it to look handsome, but also feel great in your hand and believe me there is a difference when you have felt the weight of a beautifully cast knob or handle and your garden variety. We can also add to the formula who will be using the hardware because something that fits in a woman’s hand nicely may feel too diminutive when used by a man. On a recent Newton remodel the client opted for a minimalist faucet selection that works well for everyone in the family including the kids!

 

Do we have favorite lines? Of course, because a little bit of our personality can come to life in the details that surround us. Hardware has become such a hot design trend that many traditional furniture retailers like Anthropologie and CB2 are getting in the on action adding a little more fashion to the industry. Below are some of our staff’s favorites.

Alexandra’s pick: This pull, in look and feel, with very feminine and smooth lines reminds me of the infamous Elsa Peretti Teardrop pendant designed for Tiffany over a quarter of a century ago. A polished nickel finish accentuates the rounded corners. It would make a beautiful addition to someone wanting a timeless and more feminine bath.  


Alexis’ pick: Growing up in the Caribbean, this latch feels nautical in nature and reminds me of the latches found on sailboats and yachts. It’s a nice reminder on cold winter’s days that summers on the water will come again. I like when a design feature has the ability to evoke a feeling of time and place. In polished chrome it feels like just the right crisp detail on bright white cabinets in a kitchen.

Annie’s pick: Modern accents can sometimes fall short on functionality. The streamlined look of this pull face on does not disappoint. With wet hands, often found in the kitchen, such a slender pull can be challenging causing you to lose your grip. The subtle smooth lip (which this side view captures) allows you the grip you need without sacrificing usability. The warmth of the oiled bronze finish can warm any modern space.

Ray’s pick: What could feel more luxurious in hand than a crystal knob. This material became popular in America over a century ago and this knob takes the traditional material and gives it a modern twist with its rectangular shape. Fastened to a satin nickel rosette it offers an understated finish. I admire this knob’s ability to be both feminine and masculine and could see it working well in a master suite.

Noteworthy surprise: CB2 may not be considered high-end, but it is high in fashion delivering new looks to the ever-expanding hardware industry by adding non-traditional materials, texture and more organic silhouettes.

May your holidays be bright! Ray

Upscale and Modern Exterior Renovation: October 2017

5 siding rear after
4siding rear before
3 siding front after
2 siding front during
1 siding front before

If it is time to renovate your exterior, why not put a little more time into an upscale appearance with lasting qualities. Here is some food for thought.

The first to consider is what other parts of the home are part of the exterior cladding that may affect future renovations.  Windows, trim and other items can be improved now or in phases if you plan ahead. The contemporary featured here has some elegant and custom window frames that were original to the home. Custom made and really cool, but many frames had signs of fatigue. Any operable window needed new frames and impacted the interior of the home. The Owner wanted that to be addressed as part of the big picture without major disruption, so we worked on that about a year before the siding.

When it was time to re-clothe the home, it was also time to give the home a fresh undergarment. Calking was done in obvious places as well as some suspect areas where the Owner was aware of air leaks. A vapor barrier was put over the existing and repaired plywood. We use a crinkly “Tyvek Drain wrap” often in lieu of traditional flat house wrap because it has a vertical groove that provides added protection against water by enhancing drainage away from the wall. Because metal siding was part of the install with a vertical cedar, this extra expense was well worth it. The new house wrap that is taped at all the joints provides an all new wind blanket and rain coat.

Add some style! I mean… if you are going to set up staging and pay for the labor and materials, why not talk to a designer about options for your home.  This home is so great, although it had some existing siding elements that screamed 1970’s, like the areas that were sided on an angle… “Marsha? Marssshha!”  There were other beautiful angles and forms that follow a more strict form of 3D art in architecture which were under represented or not celebrated well by the monolithic repeat of vertical siding and single color. When the Owner showed us an inspiration photo with metal siding, we were so excited to design a mix of wood and metal that was perfect for this homes architecture. My favorite items on the project are the dual horizontal and vertical pieces with contrasting neutral bold horizontal planes and the warm natural vertical cedar. And now the door says…”Come on in!”

Happy renovating… and Fall! Ray

How to Avoid Construction Surprises

If you have read my blog, you will know that I believe there are no real surprises in the estimating of construction. There is a thing called inexperience… and that usually results in surprise costs. I had to stop watching HGTV because the programs almost always result in the designer and contractor meeting with the Owner to let them know about an “unforeseen” issue that was going to break the budget. Also in most cases I would wonder why they didn’t know they would need a beam, that they couldn’t move the plumbing without additional expense, etc., etc.

A hidden cost in construction, that shouldn’t be a surprise is rotting sills. It doesn’t matter how expensive the home is, we are constantly finding wood rot behind the front stoop. So much so, that we already know we are likely to find it even when there are no visible signs; and we can find evidence pre-budget. The primary culprit is typically poor coordination between the builder, the person siding or the mason.

In the picture below we were performing an interior renovation in Wellesley. The client had hired a well-intentioned landscape mason to renew the front stoop, making it wider and using natural stone. Because the mason wasn’t familiar with this type of work (connecting masonry to the home), they left portions of a pine water table in place and were building up against it. They were creating a future rot and insect issue as well as leaving some rot that was pre-existing. Fortunately, they were truly interested in doing the right thing and waited for us to get a carpenter there to remove the water table and install flashing.

I know these are not sexy photos- but hopefully it will help if you are planning to replace the front stoop. Below we moved a large granite landing away from a house in Dover getting a new porch. We and found the rot we expected… about 9 feet of rotted sill plate. No problem! 2 hours, 2 carpenters, 18′ of 2×6 pressure treated lumber and NO INVOICE to the client. I can’t wait to show you the beautiful porch that will be here in a few weeks.

Happy renovating, Ray

Adding a 2nd Floor in Newton

We are excited to wrap up the frame of this project in Newton. Not just so we can reduce the anxiety of the client, also because the owners will begin to fully understand the improvement that this master retreat and newly designed 2nd floor will provide for their family.

We are often asked when we think the best time to take a roof off is. My silly answer… “when it isn’t raining”. The fact in New England is, that weather is subject to change most times of the year. Here it is early September and we have had several days of rain and the remnants of one hurricane with another on the way. The most important part in removing a roof structure is the planning so don’t be afraid to ask your remodeler what their plan is.

  • Plan the weather as close as possible with every weather app on hand! We do want a decent window of opportunity.
  • Have contingency plan to weather tight if the weather forecast is “not what you heard on the news”. The dismantling may be partial to aid in shorter weather windows.
  • Hire expert Carpenters that know how to make this process an expeditious one.

There are many reasons to go up! Newton Renovations often involve going up because the closer we get to Boston, the lots become smaller. There are also economies to this type of renovation because we do not need a foundation and sometimes going up is more elementary. In this case we had to design a somewhat complex roof system that involved a crane to get the beams up, create the open space, and not only add a master suite- complete with walk in closet and master bath- we had to create a proper laundry and larger bath for the growing young ladies.

I can’t wait to show you the after photos! Thanks to Jeremy and team for your hard work getting the roof on, Ray‚Äč

Newton addition
newton construction
newton remodel
newton remodel

Tips on Hiring a Contractor; Part 1

Electricians

Our skilled (and friendly) electricians taking a lunch break 

One of the many important parts of hiring a contractor is to know what type of subcontractors they use, how often they use them, and why they use them. Some General Contractors (GC’s) sub-contract everything, and this is common in the new home market because there is very little service required to owners, and things are more often done one piece at a time. Unfortunately, it often results in the contractor shopping by price (not quality), and sometimes less oversight from one phase to another. If you are hiring a GC that subcontracts everything, it is a good idea to understand the level of their management on the project. We use a Project Lead Carpenter at our firm where a highly skilled craftsperson can produce great carpentry while managing and working with the required trades.

The “what” subcontracting at our firm is everything except the carpentry we are doing. The obvious trades we have to employ are the licensed ones. In Massachusetts, that is the plumber, electrician and HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning). If we have a lot of roofing, flooring, demolition, etc., we do work with some great folks….. but if we need a small amount of these items, it is more efficient to do it ourselves. That leaves the specialty trades. Because of a specific skillset or equipment, we sometime need people to bring heavy machinery to excavate and install foundations, and specialists that are excellent plasterers, painters and tile installers.

How often a contractor hires the same folks is also important. I believe that while our sub-contractors are not our employees, they are part of our family that will deliver the same good work and service that our firm does. I understand the need to be budget conscious and some would argue that the best way to do that is to bid everything to multiples. If you have expertise in remodeling and your sub-contractors are good honest business people, the GC should be able to manage any sub-creep in pricing and get a fair price for the project. The client will benefit long after the project is done with any follow up service and lasting quality.

Why I choose the items to sub out and subcontractors boils down to delivery of great quality at a high value. I sometimes hear in interviews for carpenters that they can do everything from light electrical to all the tile work. Understanding how something is done, or being able to do something is not the same as being the master of something. Any fantastic carpenter is probably not a fantastic tile man. If the quality is matched, the time to execute is likely longer- and more costly.

While you are interviewing for the right company for your family, ask a few more questions about who else will be in your home.

Happy renovations!

Ray