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

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!

 

 

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.

 

3 Takeaways From the Kitchen and Bath Show

Kitchen and Bath projects have a great deal of product choices involved in the process. It should be no surprise that the Kitchen and Bath Industry Show (KBIS), held annually, has a great deal of vendors vying to impress the attendees, and influence them; as well as the consumer on their goods. I just returned from KBIS and there were a lot of new and interesting things to see, but I emerged with something more valuable for you than a new product- knowledge :).

One of my pet peeves in my industry of design is the designer that hides behind the cloak of the product. It can be easy to impress some folks with your design savvy if you can rattle the names of famous designers and suggest only “the finest” wares. Just as annoying is a masterpiece of a tub, Maybe hand struck from a solid cube of copper, then gently (or not) placed into a space without consideration of the user, the ergonomics or the entirety of the design aesthetic. Remember the Kohler ad? “Design my house around this.” The client says, holding the faucet out to the architect.

A word of caution to anyone embarking on a renovation involving a kitchen or bath; the suppliers want your choices to be product driven, and a good designer knows that your choices should be lifestyle driven. Here are the 3 lifestyle choices I think hit the mark with a good explanation.

Ergonomics on lifestyle

When it comes to selecting a bathtub, the first question should be: Who is the tub for? You and the children? Just the adult runner in the family who trains annually for a marathon, aging parents who the new suite is for. Those questions result in narrowing the sizing and utility of the right tub.

Quality of the lifestyle

There are tubs available from $250-$20,000 and more. If you have 3 boys and the oldest is 4… cast iron is in your future :) so plan on spending $1-$2k. If you are building your dream retreat that you have been waiting for to be your sanctuary that you have earned the right to be “selective” with, then maybe it is a volcanic ash tub, that maintains a terrific consistent heat, even if it retails for $5,000 or more without the tub filler. Understanding your needs, your value proposition and the time you’ll use something are the right next questions for the designer.

Your Style in your lifestyle

After you and your designer discuss the top 2, then it’s time to put the “look” together, and a knowledgeable designer knows what brands meet the requirements while putting all of these together (Ergonomics, Quality and style) without designing around a faucet.

Happy shopping!