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 (Maybe this is where some historical references to finishes could come in or come up with some design point of view from one of the designers on how metals can pair nicely).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

Have a Little Fun with your Renovation!

blue vanity

Our showroom bath was all original from 1929, except for the sink and toilet. It would be kind to say that it was the area of our showroom that had the most “deferred maintenance” and we found ourselves apologizing whenver a client asked to use it.And when you hear “be careful, the toilet is a little wobbly”, it doesn’t spark much confidence.

 

Don’t take life (or every home project) too seriously. If there is something you can do in your renovation that makes you smile every time you see it, then it’s worth doing. In our showroom we have to show the things that are most used and try to add a bit of flair so that folks can push their comfort level just a bit. We often hear people say that they would love to do colored cabinets, but are concerned they will fall out of love in a couple of years. If the kitchen or bath is designed with synergy of color and texture, the colored cabinets will have a lasting and pleasing aesthetic.

 

We have a few more things to add to our bath… but “the cobbler’s shoes”. Here is a sneak peak of the starter kit, with fun blue cabinets! The hardware is mixed but complimentary and we decided to play on the current trend of wood looking porcelain tile in a different geometric pattern. Our team decided that a unique and silly restroom sign was in order for our newly renovated powder room. We found some very interesting things online ranging from goofy to downright inappropriate. With no consensus, we declared Alexandra (a talented designer, Spartan racer and jewelry maker) the official restroom sign finder. We hope you like it… she couldn’t find something just right so she made it herself :)

 

restroom sign

What are the Costs vs Value of Remodeling?

Every year, Remodeling Magazine publishes a Cost vs. Value report and tries to estimate the return on investment to different home projects so consumers will have an idea of what the total investment is.  While I am obviously not going to look like an objective source in these matters, I would like to point out a few flaws with the report, as well as provide you with what I know makes our clients glad they renovated.

The primary factual concerns I have with the report are that the cost is averaged out in very different geographic and economic areas. Our higher end projects are typically a bit more expensive, and if you live in a community where custom fixtures are not part of the spec., you get lumped into the “New England” market anyway. I have done $25k bath renovations in Holliston and $150k master baths in Chestnut Hill. I have installed $10k tubs in Holliston, and $500 tubs in Newton…. you get the idea.

Next, the source of the report is a survey of realtors. Nothing against the Real Estate Community; however, about 10 years ago a very distinguished realtor in my area told a prospective buyer her master bath renovation in Wellesley would probably cost $25k. We ended up helping the buyer with the project they wanted for $59k, and needless to say they had to shop around a bit to get to the bottom of the discrepancy.  Additionally, the Realtors Association is large, and the average experience delta from new agent to seasoned pro is pretty big.

Wellesley Bath Remodel

Here is the other part of the cost/value equation.  Imagine you live in a house and the bath is about 60-70 years old and has to be renovated due to “catastrophic delayed maintenance”.  You have a few choices:

  1. Patch the leak and sell low!
  2. Do a substandard renovation and sell with a bit of guilt, or re-do the bath again in 5 years.
  3. Repair it properly, enjoy the new space the way you want it.

The other major value changer is in the savings of staying where you are. Homes need maintenance, and eventually renovation. If you like your neighborhood and lot, and you can have a space tailored to your family; you will save the realty commission and the moving expense and get to live where you love. As an added bonus, the longer you stay in your home (I recommend a 5 year minimum) the monetary cost/value delta shrinks. The actual ROI, not the hypothetical return as if you would sell your home the day after completing a renovation, is the appreciation of the real estate at the new home value.

The real danger is for the serial career movers out there.  If you change states often for greener job pastures, perhaps buying a new house in each place is a better idea. Happy Remodeling!

boston bath remodel

Why is Bath Remodeling so Expensive?

Bathroom renovations are not inexpensive; and that is one reason we believe it is a good idea to meet with clients at their home initially to see the size and condition of the space. By looking and putting our eyes on it, we can provide a verbal ballpark and explain the design budget process before we start designing away. One common reaction I get when I talk budget is “How could it possibly cost so much?” Understandably, most folks mentally simplify the budget using the cost of installing new tile plus what the local plumbing store quoted for new fixtures. Unfortunately, there is a bit more to it when you add all the line items together- and don’t forget the plumber! As a point of reference in our area, a family bath about 5×8 will cost typically between $25k and $35k. The big delta on the budget range is a combination of how old the home is and what you will selects for finishes.  Master baths vary more because the space, size, interior architecture, and the clients desired outcome have more variables. Master bathroom projects in this area can cost from $40k to just below six figures. Remember, there are tubs for $1k and tubs for over $10K.

There are a few factors for bath pricing that make the cost of this project one of the most expensive per square foot.  I know there is no square foot price in renovation, however there are a few main reasons baths top the chart:

  1. Every specialty trade involved in large projects will participate in the bath renovation.
  2. There are no economies of scale.
  3. The finishes are a larger portion of this type of project.
  4. Good tile work always requires excellent preparation and execution, and is worth paying more for.
  5. Plumbers. ?

I was traveling over Memorial Day weekend and discovered a photo example of what the most important part of any renovation is.  These photos were taken in a 4-star bed and breakfast with beautiful finished and handmade wallpaper, so clearly the Owner wasn’t new to higher end work. It is the work you don’t see at the end of the project when the tile looks great and the fixtures selected are beautiful. A successful renovation is when the electric and plumbing didn’t leave any time bombs behind, the carpenter fastens the subfloor and underlayment properly, and the tile installer professionally waterproofs and sets the tile. The cracks in the marble tile photo show thin white lines in the marble which are cracks developed by improper preparation of the underlayment below. The failure of the shower tile is likely the use of a poor underlayment or lack of waterproofing. Unfortunately, the renovations to this magnificent Inn were only about 6 years old.  

cracked subway tileCracked marble tile

 

Contact us here for more information if you are interested in renovating your bathroom.

Happy remodeling!
Ray

Aging in Place; Renovating as we get “wiser”

I serve on the editorial Board for Kitchen and Bath Business Magazine, and often get questions for various design and trend information. Today I received a list of 5 questions about demand and designing for aging in place. The questions varied from how often our clients bring it up, how we handle this, and what recommendations we make. I am a “baby boomer” myself- on the end of the run born in 1964, so I just made it! I remember going to aging in place seminars as long as 20 years ago. The theory or prediction based on that large demographic population was that aging in place was going to be the next big thing for the remodeling industry.

A couple of things have disproved this theory. I will start with the unexpected improved health and vitality of my generation. It’s not just me planning adventure vacations and training for the next peak I am going to climb, it is a large group of folks over 65.  The other market share issue that remains true is that the majority of renovating is still a result of growing families that love their neighborhood, but need more room and updates to their home. This is especially true in the North East because of the aging housing stock-not the people inside?. That said, we are seeing an uptick in renovating for empty nesters. They don’t want to “age in place” (that sounds like giving up)… they want to “live in place”, and be mindful of what they can do later in life if they decide to stay in the current home.

Wellesley Kitchen Remodel

Wellesley Kitchen Remodel with Oven/Microwave Combo

Here are few things we do in kitchen and baths regardless of health or age that make living in place easier.

 

  1.  Leave room around the island so that everyone can enjoy hanging out with each other, and anyone that needs a wheelchair or crutches can get a drink.  
  2.  We love wall ovens because it is always easier and safer to remove a 25lb bird that is already 18” closer to the counter top.
  3. We always suggest a non -skid tile in the bath and mudroom. Rushing out the door and being on time for a pickup or drop off is hard enough without slipping on top of that.
  4. Install a shaving stoop in the shower to allow leg shaving without falling.

Wellesley Master Bath

Shaving Stoop in Shower

There are a few other incremental changes that make it easier to use your space a day after that ½ marathon.

  1.  Make a spot to slide in a stool where you prep in the kitchen. This is where I catch the news while I am cooking dinner for the family; I’ll need this in the next renovation for sure.
  2.  In the bath, instead of a freestanding tub for all the living in placers, install a deck mounted tub that is easy to sit on the edge and swing your legs around.
  3.  Maybe that shaving stoop is a bench.  A current design we are working on the client told me she would prefer to have a bench big enough to sit and swing her legs up to make shaving easier- ingenious (I will be stealing that one).
  4.  Add blocking in the walls of your bath and shower now so that if you decide to add some grab bars later- no problem.
  5.  Ask your designer for a list of Accessible kitchen and bath requirements and use that as a guide for where you want to end up.

Lastly, many of us may be far from needing to think about the need, but perhaps we can make our own place easier for mom and dad when they visit- or prepare for our future so our own kids do not have to.  Don’t forget to put something fun and adventurous on your list too!

Happy remodeling,

Ray