From Tuscan to Contemporary: a Whole House Remodel

Our clients loved their Southeast Boise neighborhood, and while the Tuscan-inspired exterior of their house was attractive, the carry over of that theme into its interior created a number of issues for the couple from the day they bought it.  Although our initial focus was the kitchen, this ambitious remodel soon extended well beyond.

Vision

Our clients’ home was certainly large enough from the standpoint of floor plan, but it always felt crowded to them — particularly when more than one person was in the kitchen.  Beyond updating the look of their home’s interior to reflect a more contemporary European style, what our clients wanted was a greater sense of spaciousness, and straighter, cleaner lines throughout.

Challenge

One of the drawbacks of the original kitchen was inefficient workflow, especially between the cooktop, the preparation space, and the refrigerator.  Our clients also wanted to improve the efficiency of their cabinetry as well.  Besides the kitchen, several other spaces suffered from what our clients repeatedly described as being “cramped” and dark.”  For one thing, the home had a beautiful backyard and patio area, but there was virtually no visual connection to it from inside.  The house had a separate dining room, but it wasn’t large enough to host the family gatherings they had envisioned — while the dining area next to the kitchen gave the term “nook” a meaning more synonymous with “cramped” than “cozy.”  Although it came as something of an afterthought, our clients asked us to address their home’s staircase, which while visually striking, also added to a bulky and dark look that plagued other areas of the home’s interior.

Accomplishment

Addressing our clients’ issues resulted in nothing less than a virtual gutting of their home’s interior, beginning with the transformation of their kitchen and dining area into contiguous spaces in which form followed function with a contemporary European sensibility.  Although we didn’t significantly change the footprint of the kitchen, we profoundly changed the nature of the space and visually opened it up — partly by adding a bank of windows over the kitchen sink.  This effect that was repeated in the former breakfast nook, which was squared off to pick up enough additional square footage to make it a viable family dining room (the former dining area has since become a cozy sitting room alternative to the family room adjoining the kitchen).  The bank of windows installed in the reconfigured breakfast nook also had the effect of bringing in views of the backyard to enhance the overall feeling of light and space in the home.  This effect was further heightened in the evening, thanks to the outdoor lighting.  The flow of the great room/kitchen/dining area was further enhanced by continuous cork flooring.

The staircase redesign took many hours to figure out.  The original had a half wall that went all the way up the stairs, and our clients had proposed taking out that wall to create an open bannister with a custom rail to match the curve of the stairs.  This would have been very costly, so we instead proposed demolishing the old staircase and reframing it to create the straight, clean lines that the couple was looking for as a consistent theme of their remodel.

In its original layout, guests who wanted to use the downstairs bathroom/powder room had to walk through a narrow passage way that led to the laundry room, and ultimately to the garage.  We relocated this bathroom to make it more accessible, then expanded the walls and ceiling of the laundry room area to make it a more practical workspace and quasi-mudroom.  We also remodeled the master bathroom, removing the soffits, updating the cabinets and fixtures, replacing the spa tub with a free standing model, and installed a more contemporary looking shower.  By removing the space that had been a separate toilet area, we were also able to expand the size of the walk-in closet, while adding to the overall sense of spaciousness in the master bath and giving it a sense of symmetry consistent with the rest of the remodel.

Highlights

Overall, this was a project that involved not only issues of esthetics and flow, but also a number of structural challenges as well — most notably with the staircase and dining room remodels.  Although Strite brought the best of its design and construction acumen to bear on the successful conclusion of this whole house remodel, that success was due in no small part to our clients’ participation in the design process.  The old adage in our profession remains true: the best work is engendered by the best customers.

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What Are the Advantages to Working With STRITE design + remodel?

It’s important to keep in mind that retrofitting a space is more complex than building something from the ground up. This is true even when adding onto your home, as it will still require blending the new structure into an existing one and connecting all the necessary services (e.g., electrical, heating and plumbing, etc.) to the original home.

Other factors involved include maintaining the livability of the existing home for family and pets throughout the process — which is a situation unique to remodeling, and one that STRITE is experienced at handling.

There are many advantages to working with STRITE when considering the above. Among these are:

  • STRITE design + remodel incorporates design and planning into all of our remodeling projects, and we have in-depth remodeling experience as well as a thorough understanding of its cost.
  • Having in-house design professionals allows STRITE to keep the budget in mind throughout the design process. This solidifies the cost effectiveness of STRITE’s systems and processes.
  • STRITE has a reputation for excellence. We invite you to view our client list and talk to past clients about their experience with us.
  • STRITE’s team approach — maintaining its core team members for the past 20 years — has been a primary factor in providing excellent customer service.
  • STRITE is a local and national award-winning company that has served the remodeling needs of Treasure Valley residents since 1975.
  • STRITE is a member of GuildQuality, a third-party customer satisfaction survey and reporting company, and has been recognized as a Guildmaster or Guildmaster with Distinction for the last five years in a row. According to GuildQuality, over 97% of our customers surveyed since 2006 would recommend STRITE design + remodel to others, compared to a national average of 60%.

The Emotional Roller-coaster of Your Remodel

Ever wonder how you might feel while remodeling your home?

 

We understand the difficulty making decisions, allowing newly-met people into your home, seeing your house under demolition and construction, and above all trusting a remodel contractor with your investment. Understanding what you’re going through helps us cater to your needs and our unique process allows us to work together on your remodel.

A Few Feet from Functional to Fantastic

Kitchen Remodel

A little extra square footage can make a huge difference in the functionality of a space — as can the addition of high-end amenities and finishes.  In the case of this remodel, the combination of the two transformed a kitchen from barely adequate into an exceptional entertainment area.  

Vision

Our clients enjoyed entertaining, but their existing kitchen allowed little standing room for gatherings.  It also had low ceilings and was closed off from the rest of the home.  With a little “borrowed” space, and some contemporary zest, we saw the potential to change all that.

Challenge

The former kitchen’s nook was too small to be of much utility to the family, so the most obvious step in the remodel was to incorporate this space into the new kitchen (which also meant removing a fireplace).  To further increase the size of the kitchen area, however, we would have to move some walls while keeping the same roof line and using the same trusses.

Accomplishment

While preserving the basic U-shaped layout of the kitchen, we bumped out one wall by three feet, and another by two (we adapted this structural change into a gable on the home’s exterior).  This created a wide open space inside for a large central island with seating for four.  To further increase the sense of spaciousness, we also removed the former kitchen’s drop down ceiling.  We replaced the original windows in the kitchen and adjoining dining nook with new, commercial-grade windows.  Along with the kitchen’s expansion, we installed a main sink and a prep sink, two dishwashers, a huge single level island, and a separate fridge/freezer side-by-side setup.

Highlights

This remodel, which was featured in the Idaho Statesman, effectively doubled the size of our clients’ kitchen.  In addition to ensuring that they will be able to entertain not only in comfort but also in style, the high quality products and sleek, contemporary design will bring years of enjoyment.  We’d be remiss without acknowledging the some great local companies we worked with to make this project a success: Jaymark cabinets (cabinetry), Seed Interiors (interior design), and Jim’s Appliances (Thermadore appliance package).  We like to think that we’re known by the company we keep.

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What to do?

When folks are considering remodeling, the question that often arises is should we stay and remodel, or should we find what we want and move.

Lets assume your home is a 3 bed, 3 bath, 2,100 square foot home.  You would like to add another bedroom and bathroom because one of your bedrooms is small and is being used as an office.  The size of this addition would be about 200 – 250 square feet (bedroom, closet, bath).

Several factors to consider:

  • Costs of moving, inconveniences, neighbors.

Costs:

  • Listing and commission costs.  Showing your home.  Moving costs.  Fix up prior to selling.  Buying new furniture for new home.  Typically 6% of the home’s price.
  • Surprises – you know what you have now, but what are you getting?  Even a good inspection will miss something, we see often (see this post about shower).
  • Packing and moving costs: we called Chris Borchers who is the manager of Crosstown Movers (many of our clients have used and have great things to say), and he states that a 2,000 square foot home will cost about $1,560 plus materials estimated in the $400 range.  This includes packing up the contents, loading onto truck, and unloading at new home – but not unpacking (you get to do that…);
  • Larger house, more property taxes.
  • Larger house, more operating costs – insurance, gas, electrical, landscaping, etc…
  • Other fees – closing costs, change in address,
  • Fixing up existing home for resale, estimate $2,000 (can vary widely);
  • New furniture/appliances, blinds, etc.  for new home, estimate $2,000.
  • Neighbors, school district.  One level home.
  • Depending on situation, home equity may be eaten up in new purchase.

Not Just Another Pretty Face

Award

We are pleased to announce that STRITE design + remodel has once again been recognized by NARI Idaho as “Remodeler of the Year” in the category of completed projects totaling $1 million or more over the past 12 months. We’re certainly no strangers to this recognition, and you might imagine that receiving this news from our local chapter of the National Association of the Remodeling Industry would be an occasion for high fives, fist bumps, and a few “booyahs.” And you’d be right. After all, as the man said, “It ain’t braggin’ if you done it.”

But aside from the bragging rights that go with the award, which STRITE has won repeatedly since its creation, we are sharing our triumph with you for reasons that are more subtle and, we believe, more important to anyone in the Gem State who might consider embarking on a remodeling project somewhere down the road. These reasons have more to do with the state of our industry and what that means to homeowners. Let’s just put it this way: if you hear us shouting, “We’re number one, baby!”, we are being VERY inclusive.

To begin with, it is significant for our industry in the great State of Idaho that we even have a company in the “over $1 million” category — let alone that there were two other local remodelers besides us in that category in 2014. In 2010, given the economic doldrums we continued to find ourselves in, we were barely able to hit the million dollar mark — and there were no other Idaho companies in that category at all. It’s welcome news to our industry and the clients we serve that our market is once again healthy enough to support the talented and dedicated people who offer some very valuable skills to our community. This return to health was also recently evident in the story we shared a few months back about the continued uptick in the “cost vs. value ratio” — an index that bodes well for homeowners and remodelers alike after years in decline.

Even more important, we see our Remodeler of the Year award as a validation of the work that NARI has done nationwide to raise the standards of our industry. We can make so bold as to say this because the annual NARI awards are not a beauty contest. Earning the designation “remodeler of the year” isn’t based on impressive “before” and “after” pictures, however many we’re willing to offer — it is based on feedback from clients, suppliers, contractors, and vendors. This feedback is generated via questionnaires that are scored to rate not only the quality of work of participating remodelers, but the quality of the experience of working with them. The highest score wins.

Jim Strite -- the remodeler who founded not only the company named after him, but NARI of Idaho as well!

Jim Strite — the remodeler who founded not only the company named after him, but NARI of Idaho as well!

Given the selection criteria, you can appreciate how achieving first place status over the course of more than a million dollars earned from satisfied customers would put a little spring in our step — something I recently confirmed with our founder, Jim Strite, whose comment was, “I’m elated — it shows that our company is continuing to do the kind of work that it was intended to do for the public we serve. It makes us stand out as significant.”

Of course, you would expect the founder of our company to say just that…or words to that effect. What is surprising is that Jim actually went on to say that he’s just as delighted to see other companies besides STRITE receive the same recognition. That sentiment would probably seem hopelessly altruistic if it weren’t for the fact that Jim Strite founded the Idaho chapter of NARI some 25 years ago. As far as Jim is concerned, every Remodeler of the Year award that NARI Idaho hands out is proof that the organization’s mission is thriving.

“Being the founder of our NARI chapter, it’s gratifying to see anyone win,” says Jim. “Our mission has always been to educate remodelers on what it means to run a professional business, and to educate consumers on what it means to hire a professional remodeler. The award is really a recognition of achieving high standards, and if the same company continually won, it wouldn’t say much for our success in proliferating the value of professional business practices.”

Every NARI member is required by the organization to sign a Code of Ethics in which they agree to adhere to good business practices and performance specifications. This is especially significant in a state like Idaho, which does not require contractors to be licensed (they are required to register with the Bureau of Occupational Licensing). As the NARI website explains, “By using a NARI member, you can rest assured that you are working with a remodeling professional who is willing to stake his or her reputation on providing the best of service excellence.” To further its mission, NARI also offers certification programs for critical trades such as lead carpenter.

To Jim, however, the most important contribution that NARI Idaho has made since its founding has been helping remodeling companies “understand their numbers.”

Brad Milspaugh, STRITE's vice president, and a man who knows his numbers.

Brad Milspaugh, STRITE’s vice president, and a man who knows his numbers.

“When people hire a remodeler, they typically think in terms of product, deadline, and cost,” says Jim. “But the real question is how well the remodeler understands the business of remodeling. Most individuals entering the market locally are very talented technicians, with a great amount of technical knowledge, but they haven’t had the exposure to the financial portion of the business. It’s a service business, not a production business — and it doesn’t follow the same pricing models as new construction. Understanding this is ultimately beneficial to the client, since it makes it more likely that the remodeler will be around to do the warranty work and won’t saddle the client with the burden of an unfinished job or unpaid bills. You don’t want to pay the price twice.” You also don’t want a construction lien on your home.

Although retired from STRITE, Jim remains actively involved in NARI Idaho, and will probably teach another “numbers class” this summer through the organization. In the meantime, he’ll savor the success of the company he founded winning the most prestigious award offered by the trade organization he founded.

“I think the industry is definitely improving, and I think this is great. For STRITE, winning this award indicates that our business acuity is there, since our clients were obviously satisfied with not only the product but the process that created it — and NARI Idaho’s success will continue to mean that we are competing against people who similarly understand what it means to be successful in our industry…and that’s good for everyone.”

Of course, when you consider that the criteria for the NARI Remodeler of the Year awards focus on the experience of the homeowner, receiving an award is a testament to the people charged with delivering that experience on a daily basis.  In the case of STRITE, this starts from the top with Bob Mundy, STRITE’s current president, and the the project management team he oversees.  Matt Mundy, Ed Lee, and Bob himself are the faces that greet STRITE’s customers at virtually every step of the remodel project, along with folks like Michael Snow and Caitlin Tucker, whose guiding hands shape the design goals that realize the lifestyle aspirations that drive a remodel to begin with.  And, of course, there is the oversight of office administrator Rita Galbreaith who makes sure that the “i’s” get dotted and the “t’s” get crossed along the way.  The truth is that at STRITE there is no such thing as a job position that doesn’t touch the client, which makes all of our staff the true Remodelers of the Year.

Designing Minds: Worth the Wait

Whole House Remodel

Like so many homebuyers, Janet and Russ had to carefully weigh the allure of their ideal home against its affordability — and like so many homebuyers, their decision was to stretch their budget to accommodate a house they knew they could live in and love for many years.

There was indeed plenty to love about their north Eagle home.  Built in the early 1900s, the two-story house was situated on four acres with mature trees and a beautiful view, and it was close to Hewlett-Packard, where both Russ and Janet were employed.  But after 30 years, they were ready to rekindle the love affair with their home, and that meant addressing its imperfections — some of which dated back to when they first moved in, and some that simply reflected the toll of passing years.

It wasn’t as if Janet and Russ hadn’t made home improvements along the way.  Twenty years earlier they had put in an office/closet/bathroom addition, and in 2005 they added a full basement, bringing their house up to 2,600 square feet of living space that better accommodated guests and hobbies.  A few years ago they created a large patio with pavers, leaving additional footers for an eventual roof.

Unfortunately, their initial remodel project created an exterior appearance that didn’t match the rest of the home.  As Russ describes it, “It left an ugly wall on the east side of the house that clearly looked like an addition.”  For Janet, one of the biggest drawbacks to her aging home was its kitchen.  “We had redone the kitchen when we first bought our home, but hadn’t touched it since. We had formica and linoleum that was worn through, and the appliances were getting very old.”  The couple was ready as well for some changes to their bedroom, which Janet described somewhat charitably as “old and dark.”

“It was faded and dingy,” she states more bluntly, “and the only source of light was a fixture we bought for $5.99 when we moved in.  It was just not a place you wanted to be.”  Clearly, it was time to make some improvements — and time was an additional concern of the now retired couple, who wanted to spend the rest of their lives loving their home as much as they had three decades earlier.

Russ and Janet had first talked to STRITE when they considered doing their patio addition — but this was prior to the economic downturn that caused many would-be home renovations to be put on the back burner.

“We ran into STRITE every year at the Tour of Remodeled Homes,” Janet remembers, “and we thought they were very nice people, and we admired the quality and creativity of their work.  They clearly know how to remodel challenging spaces.”  By the end of 2013, however, Janet and Russ were ready to do more than just talk to the nice people.  They were ready to make some major changes of their own.

Russ and Janet’s remodel project, which began just before Christmas 2013, started with the master bedroom.  Constrained by odd angles that made the room feel more like a cave (Russ’s description) than a living space, STRITE set about solving some structural challenges — challenges that the couple could especially appreciate given their engineering backgrounds.  As Janet recalls, “In every spot STRITE had to do some pretty miraculous figuring — and figuring out how to make all those angles come together in a nice cohesive look was a lot of hard work.”  To bring additional light into the room, STRITE replaced an attic vent with a window.

Moving into the kitchen, the project hit a delay when it was discovered during the demolition phase that the floor joist system would have to be replaced.  “It was a mess,” says Janet.  “We were putting in a slate floor, and you want that to be well supported.  The more layers of old house we got down to, the worse it was.”  Ah, the charms of an older home.

Other than rebuilding the floor joists, the main work in the kitchen had to do with updating rather than reconfiguring.  Russ and Janet liked the existing cabinets made with quarter-sawn white oak, and elected to add to rather than replace them.  “The biggest changes to the kitchen were going from formica to granite and from linoleum to slate,” says Janet.  Perhaps the most challenging aspect of the kitchen remodel was choosing the appliances.  “We wanted to avoid the stainless look,” Russ says.  “Big surfaces of cold stainless steel don’t go very well with the warmth of natural wood cabinets.”

The couple painstakingly detailed their appliance options in a 20×30 spreadsheet, and eventually decided to hide their refrigerator and dishwasher behind wood panels, while choosing burgundy for the color of a new stove and range.  “Nobody wanted us to do this because they said we’d get tired of it,” Russ recalls.  “Instead, we get amazing compliments.”

Janet had long wanted a gas range and an additional oven to facilitate entertaining, which the couple loves.  To enhance their culinary pursuits, STRITE added a prep sink and an under-the-counter refrigerator, both of which Janet describes as “invaluable.”  To further improve the kitchen’s functionality, STRITE removed a built-in desk (these typically serve better as clutter magnets than work spaces) and replaced a countertop microwave with a built-in model.  STRITE also installed a large window as the backsplash above the gas range to bring in another necessary component to great cooking: light.  “It is wonderful to look outside while cooking and it’s very easy to clean,” Janet notes

As their remodel project progressed from indoors to outdoors, STRITE worked with Janet and Russ to find a single solution to a twofold problem: improving the esthetics of their home’s eastern facade and maximizing the view from that perspective.  The breakthrough was in rethinking the couple’s original concept of a patio rooftop, and instead creating a rooftop patio.

“Short of putting a tower out in the field, there was no way to expand our view,” says Russ, “and I had a dream of being able to sit up on the roof with a glass of wine and look out over the valley — so Janet suggested making the roof a patio.”  To better understand the esthetic impact of this option, STRITE prepared a set of engineering drawings for the couple to review.  As Russ recalls, “We were able to look at it from different elevations, and it really helped us to make decisions.”

Helping with decisions turned out to be one of the benefits that Russ and Janet valued most about working with STRITE.  For Russ, navigating the universe of options (“there are an amazing number”) proved to be the most challenging aspect of his remodel experience.  For his wife, the challenge was less daunting.  “Decisions weren’t so hard for me because I found that I could rely on the STRITE people to make the right call,” Janet says.  “We spent a lot of time with (designer) Michael Snow talking through what we wanted, and I really appreciated the degree of process involved — which appealed to someone with my management background.”

Conversely, interacting with the STRITE team and participating in the decision making process was also the most enjoyable aspect of the couple’s remodel experience.  Notes Russ, “The value they provide is the insight and expertise to ask, ‘Have you thought about doing it this way…or if you want to do it this way, have you considered this approach?’  They bring a wealth of experience that gets you to a better place than you would by having someone do exactly what you wanted them to do.”  Janet sees her experience with STRITE through a slightly different prism.  “For me, the most enjoyable part was just getting to know them.  They just have such a nice way about them.  They were present, responsive, helpful — everything you could want.”

As pleasant as Russ and Janet’s experience may have been during the five months their remodel project took place (which included a requested hiatus for the holidays and an out-of-town vacation), it is overshadowed by the pleasure the couple now takes from a home they have again fallen in love with.  Looking at the master bedroom, Russ talks about “sleeping in a room that is much more open and inviting.”  The downside?  “It’s hard to sleep late with the morning sun streaming in now.”  In the kitchen, Janet no longer borrows her neighbor’s oven when company comes over.  “It’s a really nice space, and I love working in it.

Thinking back to Russ’s fantasy of sipping a glass of wine from the rooftop patio on the east side of their home while taking in a vista that includes Bogus Basin, Stack Rock, and sunsets worthy of a Maxfield Parrish print, you can think of his and Janet’s remodel experience as literally a dream come true.  “We love it!  We’re ready to stay here for a long time,” Janet says.  In our industry, that assessment is the equivalent of 10 point scores from all judges…and sticking the landing to boot.

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A Question of Balance

How STRITE returned an HVAC system to its comfort zone

The paradox of remodeling is finding limitless opportunity in constraint. It’s kind of a zen thing — and if you’ve been doing it for four decades, it definitely colors the way you look at so called obstacles. Just ask STRITE president and “field marshal” Bob Mundy — a man for whom challenges are but thinly disguised opportunities.

Take a recent Southeast Boise project, for example. To realize our clients’ vision of opening up their floor plan to bring their kitchen, dining, and family rooms into a more unified space (the better in which to entertain, now that their nest was empty), we had to first remove load bearing walls. While the most obvious challenge in doing this (one we face quite often) was in finding structural support alternatives, we also needed to reroute the hidden infrastructure of wires, pipes, and ducts.

For the most part, finding new paths for plumbing and electrical conduits is a fairly mundane, if not always expeditious, exercise — one in which matters of efficiency typically rule the day. In the case of this project, however, Bob saw an opportunity to improve on the home’s comfort as well as its esthetics. To appreciate the challenge in which that opportunity was embedded, there are some things you first need to know about the world of HVAC. We’ll let Bob explain.

“Most two-story homes built in the ‘70s, as was the case with our clients’ house, have an HVAC design that does a poor job of balancing climate. In short, the upstairs is generally too hot in the summer and too cold in the winter. Trying to correct this with control units that are typically on the ground floor means making the downstairs, where people generally live during the day, uncomfortable…not to mention driving up utility costs. The answer, in most cases, is to add a secondary system for a dual zone approach — but that option just wasn’t in the budget with this project.”

The HVAC ductwork in our clients’ home — what we call a “3×10” ducting system — went up through stud walls that we were taking out. For Bob, rerouting the ducts was unavoidable, but he wanted to do it in a way that would address the system’s inefficiencies. Following a brainstorming session with our HVAC trades folk, he came up the breakthrough concept of relocating the system’s trunk line, which had previously been located in a downstairs crawl space, to the attic by going up through the floor system via a downstairs pantry and then through an upstairs bedroom closet (both of which we then closed off). From this new location upstairs the system branched off to condition the house through vents we added under the home to replace those in the walls we removed. Since the return air and thermostat wasn’t balancing the upper floor with the newly opened area below, we moved the thermostat to the top of the stairs.

“We ended up with a system that far exceeds our clients’ air conditioning needs,” Bob reports. “Their master suite upstairs is very cool and we got a balance throughout the house without replacing or adding another unit — just by revamping the ducting. We probably saved between $5,000 and $7,000 with that approach, which we’ve since used again in another similar situation. We could have taken the attitude that since the ideal solution wasn’t in the budget, we’d simply walk away from it. As it was, we found an alternative that worked out beautifully.”

As it turns out, there’s thinking outside the box…and then there’s thinking outside the crawlspace.

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A “Treehouse” Gets New Bathrooms

Bathrooms Remodeled

Even after 30 years, our clients loved their home in the foothills above Warm Springs Avenue in Boise.  The floor plan gave it an intimacy that one of them described as like “living in a treehouse.”  Eventually, however, one aspect of any home that can become not only outdated but dysfunctional are its bathrooms.  It was time to rekindle the magic with a master bath and guest bath makeover.

Vision

Our clients had never really cared for the bathrooms in their home from the day they moved in, and as the years went by, both the master and guest bathrooms became increasingly outdated.  The original plan was to update the master bathroom, but on closer inspection of the tile in the guest bath/powder room, we discovered that the wall behind it was rotting out.  Fortunately, our clients had had thirty years of thinking about how they would ideally like both rooms to look that they could share with us.

Challenge

The master bathroom was cramped and dark, a feeling that both he original wallpaper (which was beginning to peel away) and the dark brown tile in the shower and tub areas contributed to.  While we wanted to give the room a more spacious and lighter feeling, keeping the costs of the remodel to a minimum dictated that we stay with the same layout — which was fortunately a good one.  In the case of the guest bath/powder room, our client wanted the update to reflect a feeling of water through softer colors and more light.  A Google search using the words “zen bathrooms” yielded plenty of inspiration when it came time to choose tile, cabinetry, and finishes.

Accomplishment

To open up the master bath space, we removed full height walls, including the shower wall, and put in a new window.  The vanity and toilet stayed in the same location, but we shifted the shower just enough to install a custom pan, while keeping the new tub in same location. New cabinets, sinks, floors, and fixtures not only gave the room a more contemporary look, but contributed to the overall feeling of light and space.  For the guest bathroom, our project manager painstakingly ferreted out the elements that fit with our client’s design vision, including exactly the tile to achieve the “water effect” she was looking for.

Highlights

Among the happy surprises with the guest bathroom remodel was our discovery of an affordable frameless glass shower enclosure and a frameless mirror that created what our client described as a “floating” effect.  How zen is that?

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Good Design = Solving Problems

Kitchen Remodel

It’s tempting to believe that award winning design is all about epic transformation.  The true “design aficionado,” however, appreciates that great remodel design is first and foremost about solving problems in an esthetically satisfying way.  Think of it as the perfect union of right and left brain — and then read about this North End kitchen remodel that resulted in a first place award.

Vision

The kitchen of this North End home had not been updated for decades, and its current owners wanted not only to give it a more contemporary look, but solve some issues that impeded its functionality — while staying within a tight budget.

Challenge

There were a number of problems with this kitchen that had less to do with its size and layout than with its basic design.  To begin with, it was impossible to get to the sink when the dishwasher was open.  In addition, the relative isolation of the range, which we quite often see in North End kitchens, did nothing to make it “cook friendly.”  Finally, some of the kitchen cabinets were awkwardly placed, and the kitchen itself was especially chilly on cold days (you’ll soon discover why).  Due to size constraints and bearing wall placement, we needed to contain our remodel within the existing footprint of the former kitchen — which meant that relocating appliances and moving the sink location was simply not an option.

Accomplishment

Despite the above constraints, we were able to slide the dishwasher two feet to create more space at the sink — which meant that the owners could now actually stand at the sink and load dishes into the dishwasher…at the same time!  We installed a new range and positioned it so that it was centered between two new counter tops and cabinets, which made for a much improved cooking experience.  On the esthetic front, we refinished the existing fir flooring (a typical floor for homes of this era) and updated everything else in the space, which included new (and in some cases, better designed) cabinets.

Highlights

This was a simple upgrade with a couple of modifications that made for a more functional AND attractive kitchen.  While removing the old cabinetry, we did come across a surprise (not that uncommon in older homes): there was no insulation behind the lathe and plaster of the exterior walls.  Needless to say, we added it — making the overall effect a heart warming one for our clients in more than just a figurative sense.

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