Indoor/Outdoor Kitchen in Wellesley

 

Of course we all think about our outdoor spaces more when the weather is at its best and we find ourselves outside. Because we live in New England, it is easy to frame our outside time into 3 short months. The good news is that we actually have 3 great seasons to enjoy in our beautiful part of the country and when it is time to renovate the outdoors… think about stretching that a bit with inside/outside space that can offer protection from the bugs in the mid-summer and work when temperatures start with warm Fall days, and slowly ease into crisp fall nights.

This client in Wellesley was frustrated by having inadequate ventilation to grill inside during the winter… that is difficult to do even with the most powerful fans.  Because he already had been planning a major back yard project, he asked about using an existing covered porch for a 3-4 season kitchen/lounge that could make grilling convenient all year round; rain or shine.

Having recently purchased the home, one of the additional places that needed attention was the “too small” master bath and closet. We leveraged the work on the first floor to help make more space on the second floor to enlarge the master. This second floor worked well to provide some relief to the rear of the home, as well as provide some sense of sheltered court to the patio area.

Some things to consider in a similar project include:

  1. Make sure the floor surface and finishes feel good when the space is open to the outside and to the inside.

  2. If you are going to have refrigeration to keep the food items close by and do prep- make sure you have a sink handy so you can keep on working.

  3. Think about a possible heat source if you think you would enjoy hanging out on a winter day. We have used Infratech heaters when the application is right, and they work fast and only need to be on while you are in the space.

  4. Plan the indoor and outdoor spaces together…. The synergy of the project shows in the architectural backdrop to the patio seating

Before- Exterior Shot

 

Kitchen Remodel in Wellesley Gets an Open-Minded Opening

When this couple relocated from Washington DC to Wellesley, they knew the Cliff Estates neighborhood was great, the architecture outside was excellent and everything about the house met their needs…. except the weird galley kitchen that doubled as a hallway to the family room.  Before they committed to the purchase, a local realtor recommended they have us look at the space to see if we thought the dual purpose thoroughfare had any hope.

Before & After Floor Plans

The Owners wanted the kitchen and family room open to each other, and wanted to make sure the new space was going to work for a growing family.  We suggested taking the space from the adjacent library (not a priority space for them) and finding a way for the current space to be an added value to the kitchen, while allowing the traffic pattern to the family room to be unimpeded.  At first, the clients were concerned that they would not get a kitchen that was part of the family room, and skeptical that they would love a less direct sightline.

We devised a plan for the existing kitchen space to provide additional storage with a dinette.  This created a great bridge from the kitchen to the family room that provides casual dining, a craft and game space, as well as a place for future homework.  We discussed the fully open concept and the benefit with smaller homes where this open space is more important; however, we felt sure that the spacious family room combined with this much larger kitchen and an indirect opening would serve the family better in this case.  Even an almost silent dishwasher can project an unwelcome noise in a large room with a vaulted ceiling.

I often tell our clients that we have the benefit of not trying to resolve a design challenge while we are occupying a space.  This was another great experience for us to learn about what was ultimately important to our customer, and offer them solutions that are designed in the best interest of their lives when the project is done.  While the initial desire was to have the family room and Island more open to each other, the client loves the way the spaces work and can now enjoy open living with defined space that gives the whole family a casual “together” environment.

   

                              Existing Library                                             New Kitchen Location

   

            Existing Galley Kitchen                                     New Opening to Kitchen

 

 

Cool Modern Kitchen Remodel in Holliston

We are often asked to remove walls to help with the open concept many people are after today. This is a project that benefitted in so many ways by doing this; I am really very excited to share it with you. When I met the Owners, they were more than tired of being greeted by the refrigerator that was imposing a space constraint on the kitchen; as well as standing guard to ensure no one could see past it to the family room. The couple was hopeful there would be a solution to keep a fair amount of storage space and improve the work space, they just couldn’t see beyond the paradigm of the bearing wall.  

The requests by the Owners were that they wanted a clean modern kitchen that would still feel warm and relaxing because they wanted to open it up to the family room. The Mr. also loves to cook from scratch, and wanted a kitchen that worked hard without a big mess being part of the family room.

The Challenges were:  1.How open could the space be with the structural challenges? 2. Where would everything go and still have a good working environment when the wall was gone?  3. How could we make the space feel part of the living environment and satisfy the Owners professional level cooking style?

We started with the wall, and because of the load we needed a piece of steel that was wider than the wall itself, and we wanted the opening to be as tall as possible. This posed a bit of a dilemma because it is a pet peeve of mine not to have an obvious statement in a design that says “a wall was removed here”.  Alexandra came up with a great idea to build out the trim as wide as the beam on the walls, and this created a fantastic frame for the kitchen from the family room; a beautiful modern definition statement without any blockage of the space.

Early in the planning stage we showed the owner a few locations in concept form for placing the refrigerator. We decided to tuck it in to the corner where ingredients could be accessed easily from the work space and not be a bulky part of the view in. Refrigerators are usually best off to the side because they act as architectural anchor (good and bad). Additionally, we moved all of the storage for dry goods to the wall opposite the sink.

As for the solution to bridge the cooking and relaxing spaces, we started with a few iterations of typical ways to mask the mess on the prep counter, and when a waterfall edge came up in the discussion- we pushed the idea of this stunning high top counter that encompasses the cook and draws the eye to a spectacular furniture like piece of contemporary art and craftsmanship.

Before Images (click on images to enlarge):

After Images(click on images to enlarge):

 

Kitchen Cabinetry Trends

Trends in cabinetry are as important as fashion trends, and present in every part of home and décor. The main difference other than the obvious… you don’t wear cabinets… is that we seek long term trends for these capital improvements so that we have a longer period of enjoyment for our investment. A recent report from our Custom Line, Plato Woodwork, shows that nationally white still represents over 50% of selected finishes. Plato is the oldest cabinet manufacturer in the US and offers products from a semi-custom line through a fully custom shop making them a great source for the direction of the industry.

One of the longest running trends has been the white kitchen with the wood island. This white cabinetry is most prevalent in the North East. About 75% of our kitchen installs are some version that includes white, and that is pretty significant considering all the wood species available as well as other colors. This trend of white started out with baby boomers like me, waxing poetic about “mom’s” kitchen and the nostalgic feeling it provided. Kitchens were white in the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s because they were often built in place and often painted to match the trim. White is also very classic and bright which makes people gravitate toward what feels like it will last.

Before you give up on breaking the trend, it is important to note that any defined architectural style doesn’t lose it beauty or timelessness when it is designed well. There will be times when contemporary is in more favor than traditional, it is usually the finishes that were poorly selected that may look dated, like the wallpaper or fixtures… or avocado appliances :)

Here are a couple of kitchens that may make you think about what color is for you.

Inset Kitchen Remodel in Wellesley

White Shaker Cabinets in Wellesley Kitchen Remodel

 

How Natural Light Can Affect Your Home Renovation

There are a few more things to consider besides the kitchen lighting and where the tomatoes will grow when it comes to sunlight at your home.  I thought I would list just a few so that you can incorporate this into part of your planning and make considerations for the materials or lay-out of your next project.  One of my designers pulled up a useful online tool, www.suncalc.net and you can use this tool to get a real time look at your lot- try and make adjustments for trees and your grading slopes etc.  It is very simple to use and after you put in the address, it will let you see the typical sun angles for any time of year!

  1. Decking- For decking we see the 3 most popular choices as; exotic hard wood, composite (Trex mostly), and PVC which is a newcomer to the “reduced maintenance” products. Today I was chatting with a client who didn’t want to use wood because of the maintenance issues. The deck is in a mostly shaded area of the home. In the shade, many composite materials contain wood fiber and will spot with mold and look less than new quickly- especially in the shade so that was out. PVC decking condensates- and if you want to have your morning coffee overlooking the Charles River- you wouldn’t like the deck to be soaking wet every morning until that dries, and last- many of the issues with today’s mahogany are extreme sun. In this case, a good hardwood deck would require less maintenance than you would think to keep it looking new. Keep in mind that if you have a south facing deck that is all sun, PVC may be the right choice.

  2. Windows- Did you know you can order windows that have additional tinting for your southern exposures and less tints for your northern exposures? This will help with temperature control as well as fading that can occur on your furniture. There can be a noticeable difference when viewing from the outside, so understanding the sightlines of the home should be in the plan.

  3. Tree placement or removal- Before you remove trees to create that mini sport complex- make sure you consider the location with the inclusion of the sun angle instead of a spot that may look good because it is already flat. It might pay dividends in less water use if you remove trees on the north side of the lot and allow some shade during the day to keep the turf and the people cooler. Deciduous trees are also a great way to plan for shade in the summer and sun in the winter when the sun is lower and in more demand. Planting trees in critical sun zones will make every season more enjoyable.

 

The sliding window allows for more/less natural light to enter the cabana to suit the current need

 

 

Unique Design Challenges

We are often asked to come up with a solution to a unique problem during the design phase.  As a designer forward group, we love the challenge and brainstorm together to make sure the client can walk away with a great solution.  It is a good team building exercise and helps keep our creative juices flowing!  Below are a couple of fun requests and the end result.

During an entertainment remodel in Dover, one of the requests was to add a “cabana” area for a newly installed pool.   It was important that the cabana bar was open in the summer months and a fun space to enjoy off the game room in the winter.  After some initial concepts, we altered the layout to include bar seating both indoors and outdoors with a folding glass window between the two.  This allows for the cabana to be completely open to the outdoors without compromising the use during winter months.

                                                    

Always think outside the box! One of Ray’s pet peeves is sitting on a deck and not being able to see past the railing, which is installed at the eye blocking height of 36 inches when you sit down. We have come used to different solutions for this, from glass, cable, and even received samples of Tiger Mesh- though we only need a 200lb. lateral force to meet code :), but for this new home with a style we like to call “vacation contemporary” we wanted a more unique feel. We enlisted a commercial fabricator in Ohio to use their safety guard/grid and fabricate these galvanized panels to use as rails. Powder coating would have been possible- but we think the zinc coating pushes the casual nature of the residence. The mix of exotic and North American wood with the industrial metal also offers an interesting fusion- even if it isn’t your taste.

While remodeling a bathroom in Wellesley, the client mentioned that she was going to paint the dinette where it was a tight for space, especially when the door to the basement door is opened, to allow the cats to come and go from the kitty powder room in the basement.  By switching the out-swinging door into a gliding door we solved the space issue… and after contemplating adding a typical opening or cat door, we all chimed in… “How about a mouse hole like in a cartoon!”, “how about a hobbit hole?” then someone said- “how about a cat”?  We re-used the original door with some structural modifications, added the sliding door kit, and used a custom cutout template to create the cat access.  As you can see from the image below, Max is a big fan!

 

 

The Argument for Open Dining Rooms

I get less and less push back when I suggest opening kitchens to the dining room than I used to.  I also get more requests to take that barrier down because of the open concepts that many people want for today’s lifestyle.  As popular as open concept living has become, there are still many sceptics out there- you know who you are… so I put the top 3 objections down that people use to deny the need for open dining.  If you have a home with ample room to keep a separate formal living space- and you know you will use it, you are not the focus of this week’s blog.

One of the first objections I hear when people do not want to consider this is, “it will hurt re-sale value”. That couldn’t be farther from the truth (insert caveat) if you plan an open concept that allows the dining table to work for family meal time, and give the furniture a defined area that looks just as purposeful when the long candlesticks are glowing with ambiance. In a good design, the definition of space tells everyone- “this is where we will dine”.   And if you were selling your home today, wouldn’t you want the open plan that everyone else wants?

Another reason people tell me this will not work for them is because it is “trendy”.  If you read my blog, you know there is a difference between trendy and trends… and this is a long term trend, just like stainless appliances that were supposed to go away 15 years ago, and open kitchens that were surely a bad idea… I mean, who will really want to hang out in the kitchen, RIGHT? Open dining is just another part of casual living, which is a result of our busy lives blending with our desire to make being together as simple as possible.   When we entertain, even our friends love being part of the entire food experience.

The other (and third most common) objection I hear is that the open concept is a contemporary idea, and will not work with a traditional style.  Lately, we have done a few very beautiful contemporary kitchens, and our prospective clients have used this as ammunition against us to prove it is only for modern kitchens! :)  So we went and photographed this traditional Wellesley kitchen yesterday…. And look at how easy it is going to be for that traditional Thanksgiving Day feast, and to put some of the food on the counter in the dining room.  That counter can also work if you have the entire lacrosse team over for breakfast and need a spot for overflow muffins.  You also have a well-designed space that is easy to sit at and enjoy some family time with the open concept living you really wanted.

Please take a look at our portfolio, and see the traditional and modern kitchens that have open dining!

True Cost of Bath Remodeling

 

Bathroom renovations are more than cosmetic make-overs that include a new counter and a coat of paint.  It is common for folks to ask if I can just replace the tile and fixtures too.  Since make-overs are not my specialty, I can only comment that if you are looking to sell your home soon- that is probably the way to go.  If you need a renovation though- be warned that trying to go halfway will likely result in finding yourself in no-man’s land and you’ll have to fight your way through anyway.

 

I use the term no man’s land a lot when someone asked to replace tile and fixtures because if you start peeling the bath onion, it will usually involve uncovering all sorts of issues that need to be addressed anyway- and you end up spending more money.  The challenge is that when you remove tile, you remove the substrate, when you remove the substrate, you expose old insulation-wires-framing and discover issues that are supposed to be upgraded due to code regulations.  If you try to install only new wallboard below the old wallboard (where the tile was removed) that will cause a cold joint where you can count on a crack appearing in the near future aided by the warmer board below with new insulation meeting the less malleable board above that still gets the new England winter blowing in from outside. That is why I believe in either finding a make-over specialist for a new top and paint, or doing it properly the first time.

 

Baths are expensive for 2 primary reasons.  First, you are using more expensive and durable finishes in most of the space.  Second, the project is “small” and requires all the same players, working without economies, and being managed and dust protected as it does if you are building a whole house.  I developed a spreadsheet that won’t identify exactly what you will spend, but it will help you understand the matrix of cost variations as they relate to age of home, quality of finishes and size of project.  Many of the small family bath remodels in Wellesley/Newton from the 40’s require full gut renovations and mechanical upgrades and these baths average $35,000 while the same bath built in the 1980’s will average in the mid to high $20’s.

 

 

 

I hope the chart helps! If you are planning any type of renovation from a small bath to a large addition, call us to set up a site visit and we can help you get started with some great information on your project.

 

Join us for a Food & Wine Pairing!

 WHEN:  APRIL 30, 2015

WHERE: OUR SHOWROOM–28 N. MAIN ST.  SHERBORN, MA 01770

TIME: 6-9PM

With your help, The Wiese Company and our friends will install a much needed powder room at the Wellesley ABC house.   Wellesley A Better Chance is a great organization helping academically talented young women from underserved communities through enrollment at Wellesley High School.  We will be holding a fundraiser at our showroom on Thursday, April 30th to help raise money for the installation of a powder room.  This year our special guest is Jen Ziskin, who is the co-owner of La Morra in Brookline and recently purchased the former Sherborn Inn.   Jen and her team will be providing us with some tasty treats paired with some delicious wines and will be mingling to chat about the future of the new restaurant “Heritage of Sherborn”.  We hope that you can join us for a fun evening!  If you are unable to attend, we will also have two fabulous raffle prizes available:  One roof clearing redeemable next winter and a dinner for 2 at Heritage of Sherborn after the opening.  Follow the links below to donate or attend!

Raffle Tickets $25

Attend Event $50

  • Includes (1) raffle ticket

Silver Sponsor $100

  • Admission for (1)

  • (2) raffle tickets

Gold Sponsor $250

  • Admission for (2)

  • (6) raffle tickets

  • Donation will go towards electrical, plumbing, paint, and tile labor

Platinum Sponsor $500

  • Admission for (2)

  • (12) raffle tickets

  • Donation will go towards lighting fixtures, toilet, sink, tile, and window treatment

  •  

 

Benefits of Using Steel Beams in Residential Remodeling

I am often asked the question during a site consultation; “Is this a bearing wall”? What people want to know is, “can this wall be removed or a new entry installed”?  Most of the time it is very easy for an experienced builder or designer to determine which walls are bearing in a home and which ones are not. While it doesn’t always require a structural engineer to figure out where the bearing walls are, in Massachusetts any opening larger than the beam, header or girder sizes located in the code book require a structural engineer to specify the beam size, connections and load path.

Enough of the boring engineering (sorry engineers).   In residential remodeling we are constantly asked to open walls and it is a huge pet peeve of mine to install the easy low hanging beam that announces; “I am where the room used to end”!   Because of my penchant for better design and a stronger end result, our firm uses a lot of steel beams and therefore we often need to involve a structural engineer.

Benefits of steel:

1. Steel beams are always more compact than engineered lumber or typical lumber headers.

2. The deflection (how much the beam will bend under stress) is easier to dictate.

3. Steel can offer larger openings that other beams cannot.

Cons of Steel:

1. Cost is a little more to pay for engineering (about $500), and the material itself is a bit more pricey depending on the size.  

2. Steel should be installed by very experienced workmen who are familiar with the equipment, weight of lifting this into place, and the connections.

3. Steel installs require more hands on deck for safety and alignment.

The reason some contractors shy away from steel is that it can be intimidating to work with steel because it requires some heavy duty tools like a welder or drills that are commercial capacity. It also requires more hands on deck and is not the job typically for a carpenter and helper.

The real bottom line is that when you are going through the design phase, make sure you understand the result aesthetically of when a wall is removed and that you are comfortable with how your home is going to be held up.

Happy Renovating!