Design Information at the Speed of Light

When I opened the doors of The Wiese Company 25 years ago, the way people communicated about their needs was very different.  I would visit with potential clients and be greeted with a binder full of inspiration photos cut from the pages of Better Homes and Gardens or kitchen idea books. I think the fact that we had to spend more time together to communicate the need and look benefitted the prospective client.  It gave them the opportunity to understand more about the person they were talking with, and gave me more time to understand the full desires of the client. We would then spend even more time confirming we were making deliberate changes because it isn’t easy to erase 6 hours of work that was hand drawn to move something 6 inches. :)

Today when I show up, most people have done a lot more research.  With Pinterest and Houzz , everyone can collect a file of ideas and solutions to see if they will work in their design, making it easier to convey their desired look without having to spend as much time communicating with their prospective contractor. Another change in technology is that we don’t have to wait for a cocktail party to find out who’s renovating. Your friends are on Instagram and you know who is doing a project like the one you want, or you can ask for referrals on the local neighborhood sites like Nextdoor.

Design Instagram

With all the great new ways to obtain information about what we want and where to find it, I still believe that the best projects begin when we have a chance to talk with our clients after looking through their inspiration pictures.  Post-conversation we can create a design that is cohesive to their lifestyle and taste.  And while CAD software expedites the speed of the drawing, we end up with better results when we take the time to think through the unique space that is your future home.

Happy online shopping! We hope to have a chance to talk, 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

Developer Vs. Custom Kitchen

Wellesley Kitchen Remodel

Wellesley Kitchen Remodel

It seems that the West coast method of determining home value (by the square foot) is reaching the East coast. I hear it referred to more and more lately without regard to location or land, and even more important; quality. I am often asked what I would charge for new home construction and typically get immediate feedback…..”that it seems high”. Below we will show you kitchen examples, but I would like to note that I have re-sided, retrofitted and replaced windows on many homes only a decade old because of poor material selections.

Featured below is a fine home in Wellesley that had the original kitchen as provided by the developer. The home was about a decade old and the cabinets were not in bad shape, but the design forced appliances that were oversized for the space. That translated to too many appliances and not enough room to cook, gather or move around the house. The original builder did what they thought was required to be competitively priced in the higher end market, and many buyers won’t know whether the design will work until they move in and start using the space. Call me silly, but when you are building homes in the $1m-$3m market, discount cabinets and marginal design shouldn’t be part of the value proposition.

Our first challenge was figuring out how to make the kitchen work well with the rest of the house. After a few discussions with the owners, one of the concepts we provided (and went with!) meant moving the kitchen to the family room, the family room to the dining room and the dining room to the kitchen. Yes, really.

A few custom touches meant actually lowering the vaulted ceiling to have a more purposeful and beautiful oak coffer (suggested by the client). We eliminated the gas fireplace to create an anchor and focal point with the range. And more important than giving this family the quality their home deserved, we made the space work better for their everyday life!

Kitchen Remodel

Before

Wellesley Kitchen Remodel

After

Tailored Bath Design

         Chestnut Hill Bath Remodel

I often use the term “tailored” when describing some of the parts and process we use in kitchen and bath design.  Even though tailors have little to do with renovating, it is a good metaphor for the difference between a generic developer’s bath circa 1995, and a fully developed plan.

A fully developed, or “tailored plan” uses interior architecture as well as interior design to create a plan where the details have a multi-prong synergy.

  1. The first step is drawing an improved and maximized space that takes full advantage of the real estate available. The existing bath in this study only fit one sink and vanity because of an arbitrary installation of a large tub deck The new bath has his and hers vanities with a larger shower, and still fits a large tub for soaking.
  2. Designing details that create a safe and lasting design is often an unnoticed aspect of the big picture. The existing plan in our example did not have tempered glass (required by code) near the tub. An important safety factor near a slippery surface. The design should also account for small items such as running tile high enough in a shower if the client is extra tall so the walls plaster and paint don’t deteriorate at an accelerated pace.
  3. Where one design element starts and another begins is just as important. If you look at the marriage of the tile floor inlay, how the tile climbs to and above the shower threshold; as well as the continuity of the horizontal planes with tile and crown molding, they all work equally effective at the sink, in the shower and around the tub.

Contact us here for more details on our bath remodeling services!

Happy Tailoring!

                                                                                          

 

How to Improve Your Home’s Efficiency

Energy performance should be a discussion in any home renovation where there is an opportunity to make improvements in energy consumption and improved comfort. While it should be part of the conversation, the outcome may be that additional insulation in a small sub-component of the home could actually be a bad thing to do.

Good building science works well when different components are assembled with synergy. In the 70’s during an energy crisis, insulation factors were significantly increased without simultaneously modifying the components it worked with. This resulted in premature exterior paint failure from vapor trapped in the structure, and required ventilation retrofits to make the system work “better”. 

I have also seen the “green movement” in building science morph into a few camps based on ideology instead of a simpler health, and energy science. If you want to improve the energy performance of your home, start with increased insulation value while accounting for the rest of the building system. Second, change all the lighting in the home to LED.  This will reduce excess heat in the summer and will reduce your electric bill right away with a short term payback. The third place to look is the heat plant. If you have older low efficient heating and cooling equipment, the change in efficiency from 80% to 94% will show up right away. Last but not least… if you are doing an entire exterior make-over… replace the windows. One at a time this doesn’t really change things. If you want to know what to do next… INSULATE MOREJ!

Here is a project we just completed in Wellesley. As part of a kitchen expansion, we did a complete exterior (and interior) make over. With blown in insulation in the budget along with all new windows, we discovered that a less effective insulation (about R9) had been installed by the last owner when they installed aluminum siding. We couldn’t get more insulation in the cavity so for the price of the blown in budget (about $5k) we suggested a one inch foam board to provide a thermal break. This pretty metallic red board does more than add 25-40% more to the insulation factor, but delivers a contiguous external thermal blanket that reduced hot and cold spots. This project with attic insulation and a new high efficient gas boiler shows the proof is in the pudding. Check out the comparison of last year’s energy report that came with the EverSource bill and the recent report!

The pictures of the home show the 3 phases of the exterior renovation (paint starts in a month or so).

Step one, strip to bare sheathing boards.

Step two, install a vapor barrier with 1” of foam board (they did finish the whole house… I showed up during that for the photo).

Step three, we sided with Hari Plank siding and Azek trim for a long lasting and beautiful low maintenance exterior that can be painted every 10-15 years.