The New Addition is Great! What Now?

So, you are all moved into your new kitchen and the company that did the job talked to you about how to get those warranty cards into the manufacturers, and mentioned what would need adjustments. But who needs to worry about all that, you have a new renovation to enjoy!! That can be done later after the first few meals are cooked or you finally get to enjoy that long hot bath in the new tub. Then, all of a sudden you wish you had a list of all those things to help with what needs to be done, and that well-tuned company isn’t there anymore to help…….GUILTY!

Wellesley Kitchen Renovation; days after completion

Just recently our staff recognized that a final walkthrough meeting and a “90 days post completion” follow up call wasn’t good enough. So we put a checklist together for our clients to bring to that follow up meeting; and we will also keep a record of it for them. Without boring you with a checklist, here are a few of the things that you should keep in mind after your project is complete: 

1. Stone and tile care and maintenance will depend on what product you have. Natural stone like Limestone or Marble needs to be re-sealed regularly (every 6-12 months depending on how soft or porous). Porcelain tiles need nothing at all, unless you didn’t use a high quality grout that self-seals- then that should be sealed annually. Be careful not to purchase metal toilet brush containers that are left on the floor- they will rust if they’re steel and leave a mark that is practically impossible to remove. A caulking is used at all the joints to allow for settling and expansions where a tile backsplash meets the counter, or the shower walls meet the shower floor. This will usually show signs of separation in the 90 day window, and should be re-done-but should only need annual maintenance at the most.
2. Warranties on the manufactured goods are important for obvious reasons. If a manufacturer asks for a purchase date, I recommend also including an install date. If there is a problem with any of the manufactured products in the project, the builder isn’t responsible for the warranty, but can likely help if there is a dispute about the install vs. purchase dates. It is common for appliances to be purchased in advance of a project completion, and you should expect the warranty period to start when you move in. In other cases, a reputable contractor with good purchasing power can advocate on your behalf if something isn’t being taken care of. If you have a number of warranty issues with something, it may be reasonable to receive an extended warranty or demand a replacement.
3. Heating and cooling systems may have been upgraded or modified for your project. I think one of the most important items is getting familiar with the new thermostat…. Yes, that programmable thingy. You could be living more comfortably for less expense if you set that up and also use less energy. There are some other items that require different maintenance- like filter changes if you converted or added warm air heating.
4. Not the last item, just the last for this discussion. Those new appliances with convection microwaves or induction, or updated features in general will offer time saving and improved cooking, and there are services available to have someone come teach you, or shortcuts in the manual for speed pre-heating. I have a few clients that actually learned how to use their speed oven, and now only go to their conventional oven for bigger tasks such as the bake sale or a holiday meal- don’t wait to start saving time and add convenience!

Not to worry if you don’t have a checklist, it is OK to call the builder to get answers to any questions that come up. Happy Remodeling! 

Modern Design vs. Paper Architecture

I recently returned from a trip to Berlin, Germany. I picked the destination because my wife was traveling on business and I could mooch off the hotel room and the breakfast she wasn’t eating :). I also wanted to have a look at some of our world’s recent history and a different lifestyle and design world. To be fair, it was the middle of February with clouds most of the week and temperatures around 40 degrees Fahrenheit- so that can create a less blissful mood and also aid in what was a melancholy feeling as I wandered the streets.

Even giving the city the benefit of the doubt on the overcast weather, there was a sense of economy to the architecture that left me wanting, especially on the east side. Post war housing in European cities had to be done with some haste, especially Berlin which was completely leveled. In the photo below, on the right; you’ll see the clay tiled roof of the communist regime housing built circa 1950. These were very common throughout former East Berlin. To the left, a more modern building in yellow is also unadorned and strict in its simplicity. In the foreground, the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, ironically (and disappointingly) poorly constructed of concrete and already showing signs of decay- as if it needed to be quickly and efficiently built. 

Berlin Architecture

Modern is more popular in countries that were affected by WWII, but not all cities share the basic approach as I saw. If you google images of modern architecture and put in Holland, or Boston Massachusetts and then Berlin, you can see a difference in color pallet, shapes and a bigger push on engineering.

I was looking for answers on why, and even had a prejudicial theory that my modern day ancestors were simply just too efficient to care about aesthetic intent. After a half day of surfing and reading, I think I was able to satisfy my curiosity. The history in Berlin has an abundance of golden (and not so golden) moments. There was a drive to build monuments in the late 17th – 18th Centuries and a fair amount of Roman/Greek styled buildings were constructed until the early 19th century. I also found that art rich cultures are also more free societies, and if you look at cities around the world with more freedom of thought, you will see a more creative expression of the way they live.

Post WWI, the Bauhaus Movement thrived in Germany through the end of a dictatorship, and then was suppressed again when Hitler gained power. Post WWII, West Germany found more freedom while East Berlin was stifled by a communist regime more intent on using construction to build inexpensive housing and a very large wall. There is a renaissance of art happening as can be witnessed in the redevelopment of Berlin, but the backdrop is large and it will take some time. For now, I will enjoy the great country I am from and better appreciate my design profession more, and the freedom of expression in my work.

Private Chef Unveils Spring Canape Delights!

Want to enjoy a fun event with a private chef?  This year, we welcome back Chef Kurt von Kahle; to cook delicious food on site, and offer a chance to win dinner for 6 prepared at your home!  Chef Kurt is an amazing talent and he will be showing how a single convection oven and 30″ induction cook top can feed a party of 50! Chef will be recommending which wine works with his creations, and sharing his expertise on how to make these beautiful dishes as well as how to maximize the tools you have to make entertaining easier!  This will be another educational, exciting and delicious way to welcome in the start of the spring season.  The date is April 7th from 6-9pm at our showroom in Sherborn.  Here is what you will be helping us achieve:

This year we will be helping the volunteers that help those who are less fortunate.  My relationship with A Place To Turn food pantry started when my son was a young Scout.  Because I own a pick-up, I usually made the transfer of the Boy Scouts food drive from Sherborn to Natick.  Joanne Barry, the director is always there to greet us with some of their volunteers.  On My first visit, Joanne made time to give me, and 2 of my young children a private tour of the pantry and explain their mission.  I learned about the difference in this regional treasure, and how they help referred clients, most of who are going through a temporary challenge and need help to feed their family.

We have already helped the pantry with some renovation on the second floor, and Joanne tells me that the biggest impact has been to the volunteers who spend full days there.  It makes their job easier, and allows them to help those in need with a more respectful “Place to Turn”.  This winter, Joanne called and needed help with the powder room.  Of course anyone who needs to use the space can, however; the volunteers are typically the ones using the facility, and it is in desperate need of repair.  Our belief is that any funds the pantry has can be better used to keep this vital part of the community’s fabric on good ground, so we are hoping to help raise enough funds to make this a 100% community funded project.

The Wiese Company will donate more than $10,000 in labor and materials.  We have had several vendors offer free or much discounted services (our electrician-Steve Pacewicz, demolition man-Jeff McNulty and painter-Kevin Carlson are working for free).  Unfortunately, the space has Asbestos that requires abatement and the plumbing required is commercial in nature and will be very expensive, making the project total approximately $5,000 more than a typical residential project of this size.  Any and all donations made will go directly to A Place To Turn- and if we raise more than the goal of $8,500- they can use this toward their next capitol project!

The price to attend the event is $50, and all the costs of the event will be covered by The Wiese Company.  100% of your ticket or other donations will go to A Place To Turn.  I hope to see you, but if your calendar is full, we can still use a hand.  Please follow this link and help us create a safer and more enjoyable environment for the volunteers at A Place To Turn.

Fireplace Makeovers for a Transitional Generation

You may have a natural brick fireplace like the ones pictured below, or at least may have seen one or two. We are seeing more of them as the 1970’s and 80’s homes they are in become due for improvements. We are often asked what we can do with them, and the answer is that there are endless amounts of ways to re-adorn this gathering spot. I thought I would show you 2 ideas that demonstrate what a little paint can do as well as a more tailored way to dress a raised brick hearth.

The first before and after is a recently completed makeover in Dover, MA. The client had a couple of inspiration photos, and she really liked one that had a more up to date honed stone surround with simple lines. Because her fireplace had a raised hearth, we had the stone fabricator make the base as monolithic as possible instead of a more traditional layering with the hearth top hanging over. Because they also wanted a TV above, we had to frame out the wall above to allow space for wiring.


The second idea was part of a major kitchen renovation in Sherborn, MA that we completed a few years back. We removed the wall between the kitchen and family room and installed a kitchen that leaned more contemporary than the brick fireplace in the existing family room. We suggested a deeper tone paint to allow the fireplace to remain a focal point and also offer a nice textural, sophisticated and simple accent against the wall.


First Floor Bedroom Suites

I found it interesting that just last week: I met with a former client that put in a first floor master in 1999, I met with a couple that downsized to a beautiful home with a first floor master (post the children moving off to college) and I started construction of a first floor bedroom suite at my own house. This is probably more coincidental than it is proof of a big trend; however, it does point out the diverse reasons this type of space can be beneficial and how it can help the evolution of home.

In the case of my forward thinking couple that built theirs in 1999, they wanted to add on a master suite. At the time, their children were old enough to be upstairs without them… and they knew they would likely be staying in this neighborhood for a while. The first floor suite offered an easy lifestyle then… and now offers the option to stay comfortably for as long as makes sense. We are currently designing a bigger kitchen for them to provide better entertaining and family gathering areas when they have guests. They intend on staying for the next decade or more, as they are conveniently located near work. Their foresight then and now will provide them with a collective quarter century of a better lifestyle, and who knows, maybe they will retire right in Wellesley someday? 

The couple I met with to re-designing the public rooms of their home had a 1st floor master when they moved in. They really enjoyed having the layout this way even though it wasn’t on their list of must-haves when they moved in. Because their children are older, they too are looking to redesign the first floor for a more updated open floor plan, as well as make the master suite and bath more comfortable. This home is a 1950’s cape that is relatively untouched, and it has 2 bedrooms and 2 baths on the first floor as well as 2 bedrooms and a bath upstairs. I am curious in this established neighborhood who built the home this way about 60 years ago.

So why am I… the designer, adding a first floor bedroom suite to my Sherborn home? The first most relevant reason is that I am currently short a bedroom´üŐ I have a 3 bedroom home with 2 girls and a boy still there. Luke is 13 years old, Rachel and Charlotte are 12 and 6 respectively. It will make life easier if they are not all sharing a bath when we need to get ready for school. In the evolution of family, here is a list of things I have or had in my life where a first floor bedroom suite like this will pay dividends:
1. The au pair (not a need for us anymore- but a life saver for working families)
2. The guests (Then, now, and in the future)
3. The teenage boy will get some space away from pink everything, and long gazes in the mirror.
4. A room for aging guests (short or long term) without a trip up the stairs.
5. A room for my wife and I to age in place if our children settle down close to us. (One can hope!)

Just another reason to give your renovation plan (whatever it is) some thought beyond the current need. Happy Renovating!