Developer Vs. Custom Kitchen

Wellesley Kitchen Remodel

Wellesley Kitchen Remodel

It seems that the West coast method of determining home value (by the square foot) is reaching the East coast. I hear it referred to more and more lately without regard to location or land, and even more important; quality. I am often asked what I would charge for new home construction and typically get immediate feedback…..”that it seems high”. Below we will show you kitchen examples, but I would like to note that I have re-sided, retrofitted and replaced windows on many homes only a decade old because of poor material selections.

Featured below is a fine home in Wellesley that had the original kitchen as provided by the developer. The home was about a decade old and the cabinets were not in bad shape, but the design forced appliances that were oversized for the space. That translated to too many appliances and not enough room to cook, gather or move around the house. The original builder did what they thought was required to be competitively priced in the higher end market, and many buyers won’t know whether the design will work until they move in and start using the space. Call me silly, but when you are building homes in the $1m-$3m market, discount cabinets and marginal design shouldn’t be part of the value proposition.

Our first challenge was figuring out how to make the kitchen work well with the rest of the house. After a few discussions with the owners, one of the concepts we provided (and went with!) meant moving the kitchen to the family room, the family room to the dining room and the dining room to the kitchen. Yes, really.

A few custom touches meant actually lowering the vaulted ceiling to have a more purposeful and beautiful oak coffer (suggested by the client). We eliminated the gas fireplace to create an anchor and focal point with the range. And more important than giving this family the quality their home deserved, we made the space work better for their everyday life!

Kitchen Remodel

Before

Wellesley Kitchen Remodel

After

Tailored Bath Design

         Chestnut Hill Bath Remodel

I often use the term “tailored” when describing some of the parts and process we use in kitchen and bath design.  Even though tailors have little to do with renovating, it is a good metaphor for the difference between a generic developer’s bath circa 1995, and a fully developed plan.

A fully developed, or “tailored plan” uses interior architecture as well as interior design to create a plan where the details have a multi-prong synergy.

  1. The first step is drawing an improved and maximized space that takes full advantage of the real estate available. The existing bath in this study only fit one sink and vanity because of an arbitrary installation of a large tub deck The new bath has his and hers vanities with a larger shower, and still fits a large tub for soaking.
  2. Designing details that create a safe and lasting design is often an unnoticed aspect of the big picture. The existing plan in our example did not have tempered glass (required by code) near the tub. An important safety factor near a slippery surface. The design should also account for small items such as running tile high enough in a shower if the client is extra tall so the walls plaster and paint don’t deteriorate at an accelerated pace.
  3. Where one design element starts and another begins is just as important. If you look at the marriage of the tile floor inlay, how the tile climbs to and above the shower threshold; as well as the continuity of the horizontal planes with tile and crown molding, they all work equally effective at the sink, in the shower and around the tub.

Contact us here for more details on our bath remodeling services!

Happy Tailoring!

                                                                                          

 

How to Improve Your Home’s Efficiency

Energy performance should be a discussion in any home renovation where there is an opportunity to make improvements in energy consumption and improved comfort. While it should be part of the conversation, the outcome may be that additional insulation in a small sub-component of the home could actually be a bad thing to do.

Good building science works well when different components are assembled with synergy. In the 70’s during an energy crisis, insulation factors were significantly increased without simultaneously modifying the components it worked with. This resulted in premature exterior paint failure from vapor trapped in the structure, and required ventilation retrofits to make the system work “better”. 

I have also seen the “green movement” in building science morph into a few camps based on ideology instead of a simpler health, and energy science. If you want to improve the energy performance of your home, start with increased insulation value while accounting for the rest of the building system. Second, change all the lighting in the home to LED.  This will reduce excess heat in the summer and will reduce your electric bill right away with a short term payback. The third place to look is the heat plant. If you have older low efficient heating and cooling equipment, the change in efficiency from 80% to 94% will show up right away. Last but not least… if you are doing an entire exterior make-over… replace the windows. One at a time this doesn’t really change things. If you want to know what to do next… INSULATE MOREJ!

Here is a project we just completed in Wellesley. As part of a kitchen expansion, we did a complete exterior (and interior) make over. With blown in insulation in the budget along with all new windows, we discovered that a less effective insulation (about R9) had been installed by the last owner when they installed aluminum siding. We couldn’t get more insulation in the cavity so for the price of the blown in budget (about $5k) we suggested a one inch foam board to provide a thermal break. This pretty metallic red board does more than add 25-40% more to the insulation factor, but delivers a contiguous external thermal blanket that reduced hot and cold spots. This project with attic insulation and a new high efficient gas boiler shows the proof is in the pudding. Check out the comparison of last year’s energy report that came with the EverSource bill and the recent report!

The pictures of the home show the 3 phases of the exterior renovation (paint starts in a month or so).

Step one, strip to bare sheathing boards.

Step two, install a vapor barrier with 1” of foam board (they did finish the whole house… I showed up during that for the photo).

Step three, we sided with Hari Plank siding and Azek trim for a long lasting and beautiful low maintenance exterior that can be painted every 10-15 years.

How To Properly Install Shutters

Exterior makeovers are nothing new to our company.  One item that always adds a quality and charming feel to a home are authentic window shutters.  I am not talking about the screwed to the house variety-I mean the shutters that sit on offset hinges and come with an assortment of hold backs, properly known as “shutter dogs”.  The difference in the aesthetic is easy to see when you drive by a home that has authentic hardware.  The shutter stands off the home enough to see the relief in the siding which will produce a shadow line that adds extra elegance.

Something I am often asked about when we are ordering or installing shutters is the durability. My preference in New England is the historically common louvered shutter.  They’re constructed with cedar and pre-painted by the shutter maker.  Cedar will make the shutter last much longer than pine. Unfortunately pine is often used, in case you are wondering why you have to paint your shutters every five years, that’s probably why.  Another reason I prefer cedar shutters has to do with the more authentic appearance they have close up compared to composites and their ability to accept the hardware installation.

We are also often asked if the shutters are backwards when we install them.  You may notice that most homes have the bottom of each louver sloping away from the home which is usually a selection the painter makes when screwing shutters back on the house; and commonly found in the vinyl variety.  However, shutters were once a necessity and had to work properly.  Back when glass was so fragile and windows not so watertight, the shutters needed to be closed in advance of the storm and the louvers needed to shed water away from the window.  So when opened, shutters should display with the louvers in the opposite direction draining toward the siding if you want an authentic installation.

There are some composite shutters that look nice and claim to be lower maintenance. The ones I have seen are best used for a paneled shutter- not as common in our area because the wood ones take on water at the joints easier.  If you’re looking for that style, which is more appropriate on an English or French Country style home, I would suggest using composite.

If you are looking to buy shutters and are not renovating, we recommend contacting a company that specializes in this, and locally that is New England Shutter.  When we are installing ourselves, we like to buy from Exterior Solutions where we can order them easily with the finish, size and hardware all in one spot. If you’re wondering what they cost, each pair will set you back about $600-$800 installed, pre-painted and with cedar.

Happy shopping! 

2017 Kitchen and Bath Trends

Every year the National Kitchen and Bath Association holds our annual trade show. I have been attending most years for the past quarter century to keep up on new building science, trends and innovation. The conference has become product centric in many ways and many reasons. First, the great recession led to publishers and show managers turning their focus to the deeper pockets of manufacturers, over designers’ education. Then, the publishers of home design content were lured (rightfully so) by the craving for design photos shown in places like Pinterest and Houzz. Because we don’t want to bore you with what we think is more important to our clients, design and business acumen, we gathered a few photos of some interesting insights.

First of note, we saw the growing choices in hardware finishes. Holy Cow, Rose gold plumbing fixtures? I personally wouldn’t buy that on an iPhone so I probably won’t be recommending it. And before you decide that black plumbing fixtures, think about how much soap spots will bother you in between cleaning.

Another strong theme throughout was natural wood. Rustic may be in for a while, but in a different and more modern way. Think about this walnut wood with rustic knots, in more tailored higher end woodwork.  It could work for traditional and contemporary styles. This is from our trade partner, Plato Woodwork

Making your cabinetry exactly what you want. Fully custom cabinetry offers interesting opportunities. We are often asked about ways to add and hide drying racks- we loved this! 

And what if you just want to smile every time you open the vanity drawer. Ok, maybe “interior painted pink” isn’t for you, but we thought it was a great way for the cabinet maker to show off their willingness to do whatever it takes. 

Another strong movement in design is patterned tile. We saw a lot of geometrics. Almost every tile manufacturer was showing off unique patterns and textures. 

Our design team will be having great fun with upcoming projects and all these new cool ideas. I hope you enjoyed the pics! Don’t worry; we attended many educational seminars on management and design. As well as presented two educational seminars to the industry to help them help their clients with more than product. Alexandra and Lisa presented a class on helping people improve their design to benefit the clients daily lifestyle (while making it beautiful), and I presented a class on how to provide clients with an accurate budget, without relying on change orders. 

If you would like to speak to our design team about incorporating these trends into your upcoming renovations, contact us here