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 (Maybe this is where some historical references to finishes could come in or come up with some design point of view from one of the designers on how metals can pair nicely).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

Upscale and Modern Exterior Renovation: October 2017

5 siding rear after
4siding rear before
3 siding front after
2 siding front during
1 siding front before

If it is time to renovate your exterior, why not put a little more time into an upscale appearance with lasting qualities. Here is some food for thought.

The first to consider is what other parts of the home are part of the exterior cladding that may affect future renovations.  Windows, trim and other items can be improved now or in phases if you plan ahead. The contemporary featured here has some elegant and custom window frames that were original to the home. Custom made and really cool, but many frames had signs of fatigue. Any operable window needed new frames and impacted the interior of the home. The Owner wanted that to be addressed as part of the big picture without major disruption, so we worked on that about a year before the siding.

When it was time to re-clothe the home, it was also time to give the home a fresh undergarment. Calking was done in obvious places as well as some suspect areas where the Owner was aware of air leaks. A vapor barrier was put over the existing and repaired plywood. We use a crinkly “Tyvek Drain wrap” often in lieu of traditional flat house wrap because it has a vertical groove that provides added protection against water by enhancing drainage away from the wall. Because metal siding was part of the install with a vertical cedar, this extra expense was well worth it. The new house wrap that is taped at all the joints provides an all new wind blanket and rain coat.

Add some style! I mean… if you are going to set up staging and pay for the labor and materials, why not talk to a designer about options for your home.  This home is so great, although it had some existing siding elements that screamed 1970’s, like the areas that were sided on an angle… “Marsha? Marssshha!”  There were other beautiful angles and forms that follow a more strict form of 3D art in architecture which were under represented or not celebrated well by the monolithic repeat of vertical siding and single color. When the Owner showed us an inspiration photo with metal siding, we were so excited to design a mix of wood and metal that was perfect for this homes architecture. My favorite items on the project are the dual horizontal and vertical pieces with contrasting neutral bold horizontal planes and the warm natural vertical cedar. And now the door says…”Come on in!”

Happy renovating… and Fall! Ray

How to Avoid Construction Surprises

If you have read my blog, you will know that I believe there are no real surprises in the estimating of construction. There is a thing called inexperience… and that usually results in surprise costs. I had to stop watching HGTV because the programs almost always result in the designer and contractor meeting with the Owner to let them know about an “unforeseen” issue that was going to break the budget. Also in most cases I would wonder why they didn’t know they would need a beam, that they couldn’t move the plumbing without additional expense, etc., etc.

A hidden cost in construction, that shouldn’t be a surprise is rotting sills. It doesn’t matter how expensive the home is, we are constantly finding wood rot behind the front stoop. So much so, that we already know we are likely to find it even when there are no visible signs; and we can find evidence pre-budget. The primary culprit is typically poor coordination between the builder, the person siding or the mason.

In the picture below we were performing an interior renovation in Wellesley. The client had hired a well-intentioned landscape mason to renew the front stoop, making it wider and using natural stone. Because the mason wasn’t familiar with this type of work (connecting masonry to the home), they left portions of a pine water table in place and were building up against it. They were creating a future rot and insect issue as well as leaving some rot that was pre-existing. Fortunately, they were truly interested in doing the right thing and waited for us to get a carpenter there to remove the water table and install flashing.

I know these are not sexy photos- but hopefully it will help if you are planning to replace the front stoop. Below we moved a large granite landing away from a house in Dover getting a new porch. We and found the rot we expected… about 9 feet of rotted sill plate. No problem! 2 hours, 2 carpenters, 18′ of 2×6 pressure treated lumber and NO INVOICE to the client. I can’t wait to show you the beautiful porch that will be here in a few weeks.

Happy renovating, 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