The 3 Percent

Reviews

It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who has worked in or with the remodeling industry that we live and die based on case studies, testimonials…and, of course, reviews.

All of which have served STRITE design + remodeling well over our 40-year history. Very well, indeed. So much so, that when asked how we differentiate ourselves from our competitors, we typically defer to our clients’ experiences. It is not hyperbole to observe that those experiences are stated far more eloquently than anything we say about ourselves (at least publicly). They are, in fact, representative of what we like to call “the STRITE experience.”

Such is the ubiquity of that experience that of the many reviews posted on the industry association website, Guild Quality, 97 percent stated that they would refer us to a friend or family member. Of the 3 percent that would not, it’s worth noting that none of their reviews were based on a failure to fulfill our contractual obligations. Instead, they were based on a negative experience of the fulfillment process.

To think of our “approval rating” more colloquially, image being in a room of 100 people, all of whom have done business with you. Now, imagine that 97 of those people would unhesitatingly recommend doing business with you to a loved one. With that amount of collective endorsement, you might wonder how the other three could have had such a conflicting experience. It would be easy to dismiss this minority as some dubious anomaly — or an affirmation of the conventionally accepted truth that you can’t be all things to all people.

Instead, we find the 3% to be the exception that proves the rule: the rule being that you deviate from proven processes at your own peril. When you do, you risk something more important than falling short of your clients’ expectations. You fall short of your own.

The most recent case in point is a review we received on the residential construction and remodeling website Houzz. There amidst all the five-star reviews is a scathing one-star criticism that is, hands down, the worst thing a client has ever said about us. It hurts…but there it is…and it’s hard not to get defensive about it. But a client’s experience is their experience — and when that experience fails to reach the five-star level we base our brand on, we have to look hard at when and how the disconnect took place.

At the heart of any client experience — good or bad — is communication. How well we keep our clients engaged in the remodel process is critical to their experience of it. In the case of those experiences that fall short of our goal, we typically find a disconnect between how we communicated with a client and that client’s communication style. In the case of our one-star review, our project manager provided the client with twice daily project updates by phone, at her request, rather than generate written reports following each communication. In retrospect, it would have been far better, when it came to resolving subsequent disputes, if we had maintained a more rigorous “paper trail.” Memories of what is said in verbal conversation can, after all, be faulty on all sides of the exchange.

The repairs referred to in the Houzz review had to do with dust that infiltrated the client’s wardrobe — for which we were presented with a nearly $4,000 dry cleaning estimate. We should here state for the record that we were not given the opportunity to assess this damage first hand. Although mitigation of demolition and construction impacts on a home throughout the remodel process is something on which we pride ourselves — and despite having isolated the construction area from the rest of the home — we took the client at her word and credited the amount requested in full.

One of our takeaways from this experience was a re-evaluation of our dust protection methods. Tools and techniques change over the years, and part of our job as an industry leader is to constantly improve on how we do what we do. In the case of our techniques for dust protection, we came away from this one-star project with a mitigation scheme that is far more rigorous — which only goes to show that people who cause you to do better work are to be appreciated, regardless of what they may say about you.

And this brings us to a final reflection on the other 3%. Yes, you can’t please all the people all the time — but as long as you make that your aim rather than dismiss it as a unrealistic objective, you’re more likely to end up with 97 out of 100 people who would refer you to a friend or family member. In the end, it’s what we learn from the three percent of folks who weren’t completely satisfied about working with us that makes the other 97% happy they did.

New Design for an Oddly Shaped Bath

Bathroom Remodel

It was bad enough that this ‘80s style bathroom was weighed down in oak and somber finishes — it was also strangely configured.  We breathed new life into its design by opening it up and letting the light shine in!

Vision

Here was a master bathroom that enjoyed a killer view of downtown Boise — but the spatial constraints of its layout hardly did justice to the expansive view from its foothills perch.  Our goal was to not only create a sense of spaciousness, but to further enhance this with a lighter and cleaner look and feel.

Challenge

Two major factors to the choppy layout of this bathroom were the peninsula vanity in its center and the large spa tub that took up an entire corner.  An existing shower that was enclosed in a 3’x3’ space added to a claustrophobic feeling.  To dramatically change the layout of this room, the vanity and the tub had to go.

Accomplishment

Removing the peninsula vanity and the spa tub dramatically opened up this room.  We kept the location of the existing shower, but increased its size and installed a glass enclosure.  This gave the space a transparency that complimented the room’s newly discovered openness.  We created a half wall for the shower to give it some privacy, and installed the shower controls in this wall.  In place of the spa tub we added a stylish free standing tub.  We replaced the existing brown carpet with lighter colored tile.  What had formerly been a single vanity against the wall became a double vanity with new cabinetry and a full tile backsplash.

Highlights

It was our good fortune that a skylight already existed in this room — but thanks to the changes we made to its layout and fixtures, its light was no longer swallowed up in a morass of dark wood, tile, and carpeting.  At last, the open dimensions of the space inside did justice to scene it overlooked outside.

 Click on photos to enlarge. 

Every Picture Tells a Story

Whole House Remodel

Every picture tells a story…and the pictures associated with this remodel tell quite a few — which should come as no surprise given the history of this home.  Our job was to bring those disparate stories together into one seamless tale of beauty, comfort, and grace.  Mission accomplished!

Vision

This home was moved to its present location in the Boise foothills in the 1960s, at which time an addition was built.  Some 20 years later a second level was added.  The ground floor living space was subsequently divided into several areas, out of which our vision was to open up and integrate an updated kitchen, dining room, and family room.  The dramatic transformation that followed was based on yet another collaboration with Gina Wagner of Seed Interiors.

Challenge

It’s not often that a floor is the starting point for all the elements in a remodel, but the structural reality of this project was that we were dealing with different floor systems from the home’s past.  An even more significant structural challenge that we faced was in removing the posts and walls of the main living area — no small feat when you consider that they were supporting the second level!

Accomplishment

We unified the floor system by starting at its highest point and leveling it using a laser, then laying down a roasted oak hardwood (the color that you see in the photos is natural, not a stain).  We removed the walls and posts of the former kitchen area and spanned it with a steel beam for structural support, then reframed the entire system to raise the ceiling height as much as possible.  By taking out a wall system we created a dining area separated from the kitchen by a large cabinet unit, with a pocket door added for additional separation if desired.  We converted a space that had formerly been a large closet accessible off the main hallway into a kitchen pantry.  For the adjoining family room we kept the fireplace in the same location, but installed a new unit and surround, then wrapped the ceiling beams so that we could stain them the same color as the mantle and flooring.  We also updated the lighting and redid the ceiling texture.

Highlights

To say that this remodel involved some focused effort is an understatement, but the before and after results speak for themselves.  After all, a picture is worth a thousand words.

Click photos to enlarge:

Behold the Power of Finishes!

Bathroom Remodel

The most obvious way to dramatically affect the look of a room is to change its layout — whether the goal is functional improvement or simply a makeover.  That said, one should never underestimate the power of “finishes” to transform a living space.

Vision

The master bathroom in this home was already stylish, and its layout worked effectively for our client.  The goal of this remodel was to update that style and give the room a more understated elegance.  We accomplished this with well designed finishes, rather than through reconstruction.

Challenge

Glass blocks have a timeless appeal, but they simply didn’t work with the look our client was going for.  The biggest change we needed to make, however, was the transformation of the vanity, which we wanted to reflect a more contemporary sense of elegance.

Accomplishment

We replaced the glass block it in this room with clear tempered glazing to allow more light, and complimented its transparency with mirrored doors on the closet facing the tub.  We framed the new tub deck with openings for cabinetry behind the tub face panels to be used for towel storage.  We removed the soffit from above the vanity — not only because of how it affected the look of the room, but because the lighting was ineffective.  In its place we installed custom designed mirrors (can you find the one that is hinged for an inset medicine cabinet?) and new light fixtures.  We constructed new cabinets and added a marble vanity top with matching backsplash, as well as new sinks and fixtures.  To tie the look of the bathroom in with the master bedroom, we replaced the carpeting in both rooms with a dark hardwood that complimented the bathroom cabinetry. The visual “flow” between bedroom and bathroom was dramatic.

Highlights

Not long after we completed this remodel, our client put the home up for sale.  It sold within a matter of days, and our client assures us that one of the features that “sealed the deal” was our remodeled bathroom.  We would never encourage anyone to remodel a home strictly with an eye to “return on investment” — but a well designed and executed remodel sure doesn’t hurt a home’s resale value!

Click on photos to enlarge. 

As part of this remodel, we also completed a Powder Room remodel which turned out just as beautiful, visit the Powder Room post here.

 

 

A Dramatic Kitchen Remodel

Kitchen Remodel
Most folks would be forgiven for thinking that the ultimate in customization is to build from scratch. Granted, from both a design and construction perspective, a remodel always poses some constraints — for reasons of budget, if nothing else.  The sign of a great remodel project, however, is to make the “after” appear as though the “before” posed no limitations.  Here’s dramatic proof.

Vision

When the rooms you live in most are too confining, it’s time to think about annexing some interior real estate from the rooms you live in least.  Our client liked to entertain, but the kitchen was too cramped, the dining room was tucked awkwardly behind a partition wall, and the space occupied by the kitchen table obstructed the flow of traffic to the outside of the house.  Our goal was to improve the livability of all these rooms, while updating the look of the kitchen.

Challenge

Adding space to the kitchen meant taking it from the adjoining dining room — which meant taking out a wall.  With a full-fledged second story above the kitchen, this also meant relocating plumbing and duct work.  While we preserved the basic layout of the room, we shifted its location to open up more space between it and the family room.  In the process, we removed one window and enlarged and moved a second and centered it over the new sink.

Accomplishment

Moving the wall back between the kitchen and the dining room gave us an additional five feet of kitchen area.  In the remaining space from the former dining room we created a spacious and far more useful walk-in pantry.  We complimented the added sense of openness in the kitchen by removing the drop down soffits from the ceiling and replacing the old florescent lighting with can lights.  In place of the former sit down bar we created a larger, two-tiered counter that was more appropriate for entertaining.  Rather than the more expensive option of replacing the hardwood flooring, we refinished and stained ti to go with the new cabinetry we installed.  We even had a stainless steel facade fabricated to replace the panel on the existing refrigerator.  Why replace a perfectly good appliance just for the sake of making it “fit in” with its new surroundings?

Highlights

The new kitchen was a stunning success, and redefined the look of the home.  We should mention, however, that one of the children in the family had severe allergies.  We’re pleased to say that because of our efforts in isolating the construction area, no one experienced any ill effects.  We also set up a temporary kitchen in the garage, complete with carpet, so the family could maintain some normalcy in their lives.  When it comes to transforming a family’s living space, we believe in taking the trauma out of the drama.

Click photos to enlarge:

Also, a picture video can be viewed on YouTube.

 

A Bathroom Remodel that Played Well with Others

Bathroom Remodel

We love a good collaborative effort — which is how we typically think of our relationships with our clients.  But we also enjoy working with other industry professionals.  One such professional is Gina Wegner, a talented designer with Seed Interiors.

Our client had hired Gina for the interior design of their bathroom update, which was carried out as part of a larger remodel effort, and we were pleased to be the partner that was entrusted with bringing Gina’s vision to life.

Vision

Our client had decided to convert a child’s room into the master bedroom, and in the process convert the existing bathroom into something befitting this transformation.  Seed Interior’s design for the room included a frameless shower that required some structural changes to the floor, as well moving a lot of plumbing.

Challenge

To fulfill the vision of the interior designer, our biggest challenge was structural.  To create the frameless shower, we needed to slope the bathroom floor.  This meant notching out a floor joist that went down about three inches.  Fortunately, we had a partition wall with a full basement underneath that served as a load bearing wall for the space we created.

Accomplishment

By sloping the bathroom floor to the shower we were able to keep the same tile as the rest of the bathroom.  By taking out a wall and shortening an existing vanity, we were also able to add sufficient space to put in a huge walk-in closet, a double vanity with counter top, and a powder room.  Additional designer touches included the use of hanging pendants that provided more precise lighting for the wider mirror we installed.  We also added a window for additional natural light and airiness.

Highlights

What started as a kid’s room and adjoining bathroom became a beautifully designed master bedroom and bath combination that flowed attractively together into a more private space for the parents.  This was a great design that was fun to work on, despite the structural challenges that had to be overcome to pull it together.  Of course, one of the hallmarks of a great remodel project is to make it appear effortless — no matter the reality.

Click on photos to enlarge.