homeowner

My “Cheap” Mistake

I recently made a mistake when I tried to “save money”. A few weeks ago, I traveled to Chicago for a small business education class with other kitchen and bath design companies to learn techniques to run Design Set Match more efficiently. Not being a frequent flier, I simply did what has worked well for me in the past. I went to one of the travel websites and then a couple of others to discover that they’ve been bought up by the same company and are essentially all the same site now. Ok, so I didn’t see as much variety as I have before, but the rates looked reasonable.

A previous homeowner "saved" money by adding multiple pipes to raise this shower head

A previous homeowner "saved" money by adding multiple pipes to raise this shower head

The trouble is what I didn’t see coming. I booked a cheap flight on a “young” airline. I’ve done this before without any trouble from other airlines. Sure, I usually sit towards the back in economy, but that's not a big deal, I almost always get a window seat. Then I went on to select my hotel room. It was a little more than the cheap hotels, but it was within walking distance to the Häfele showroom where the training classes were to take place. I even upgraded because I didn’t want to be in a “dorm style room”. I felt good, paid for the trip, and was all set.

Not so fast, I immediately got an email from the airline about their “bare fare” to discover that they charge extra for everything! Ok, so I need to pay for a meal, that's pretty typical, I prefer the airport restaurants… wait, now I need pay for my carry-on luggage too, it's a basic essential for a 4-night 5-day trip! So I fork it over… select a seat? Forget that, it is additional money for even the farthest back seat! If I was flying with my family I would have needed to do it though (to be able to sit together), so I opted for a “random” seat. There’s more… or I should say less. They don’t even provide the most basic human necessity of water on this 4.5 hour flight without charging for it! And just to grind in the nickel-and-dime insult they have billboard advertisements on the interior walls and they have a long-winded flight attendant trying to “sell” their MasterCard at the end of the flight to get a discount on the food they just charged an arm and a leg for! Ok, rant over. 

What does this mean for remodeling? What can a homeowner like yourself take away from this? Learn from my mistake. Ask questions

1960's Blind Lazy Susan

1960's Blind Lazy Susan

When a contractor, cabinet company or plumbing shop says they can do your kitchen for less what does “less” mean? What are they removing to make it a “bare fare” like my flight? Often with cabinets they haven’t paid attention to the details of functions that have been painstakingly poured over by you and your kitchen or bath designer. 

Häfele Lemans Blind Corner Solution

Häfele Lemans Blind Corner Solution

Homeowners in the San Francisco Bay Area trust me as their kitchen and bath designer to review their orders before they spend $20,000+ on cabinetry or $150,000+ on their remodel. I often find that from the outside cabinets or other items “look the same”. What they’re actually being sold isn’t a solution to the problems that brought them into me in the first place. Lower cost cabinets usually function like their 1960’s cabinets do now. My clients will continue to lose pantry items in the back of the corner cabinet or deep pantry only to discover them years after they’ve expired. Or they’d be purchasing plumbing fixtures like a Toto wall-mounted toilet with the Geberit in-wall tank through an online retailer only to discover their plumber hasn’t installed one before and needs to spend hours on the phone with customer service because he thinks its “broken” and he can’t get a local manufacturer’s representative to talk him through the process which will prevent leaks in your walls. And worst of all is getting a general contractor who doesn’t meet expectations. They usually are unlicensed, have poor communication during construction, draw out construction longer than expected (even if there are no unforeseen circumstances) are careless with other rooms of your home and nickel-and-dime you because “they didn’t plan to install crown moulding” or the “wall-mounted toilet took more time to install than I had planned”.

Homeowner beware. Ask questions, get detailed written agreements spelling out what will actually be done, get a written construction schedule. It's worth the savings in valuable time and stress to pay a little more for the proper management and quality materials your trusted remodeling professionals will provide.

There's a difference between "frugal" and "cheap". Don’t make a “cheap” mistake of your own.

Yes, I “Drank the Kool-Aid”

San Francisco Duboce Triangle Edwardian Master Bath  NARI Members involved in this project include      General Contractor: Jeff King & Company      Vanities & Plumbing Fixtures: Jack London Kitchen and Bath Gallery     Shower Enclosure: California Shower Doors      Photography: Treve Johnson Photography

San Francisco Duboce Triangle Edwardian Master Bath

NARI Members involved in this project include     General Contractor: Jeff King & Company     Vanities & Plumbing Fixtures: Jack London Kitchen and Bath Gallery     Shower Enclosure: California Shower Doors     Photography: Treve Johnson Photography

A few months ago at a NARI (Nation Association of the Remodeling Industry) chapter meeting this came up in conversation. It was said in a lovingly snarky way by a regular guest and it made me think to myself, “why do I participate fully and joyfully in NARI?”

It’s not my religion, but it is part of my faith structure. I realized that just as I am involved at All Souls Parish in Berkeley in helping members get meals and rides, and in my leadership responsibilities in Bible Study Fellowship International (BSF) to have a deeper relationship with God and my church community; I fully believe that making connections at the monthly San Francisco Bay Area (SFBA) and North Bay meetings is valuable for me, for the contractors, architects, showrooms, and other remodeling industry professionals and homeowners.

San Francisco Duboce Triangle Edwardian Laundry Nook   NARI Members involved in this project include       General Contractor: Jeff King & Company       Electrical Fixtures: Berkeley Lighting       Photography: Treve Johnson Photography

San Francisco Duboce Triangle Edwardian Laundry Nook

NARI Members involved in this project include     General Contractor: Jeff King & Company     Electrical Fixtures: Berkeley Lighting     Photography: Treve Johnson Photography

Since starting Design Set Match five years ago, I desired to make connections that had meaning, connections that could take root. I’m skeptical by nature, but I knew some of what Paul and Nina Winans had poured into the organization and that there is often value that words can not describe so at the end of my first year as an entrepreneur I took a step of faith and became a NARI member. Now some might ask if I “got any business” from other members that first year, I don’t think I did, and that's ok.

I became a board member so that I could know and fully understand more about the organization for myself. And I’ve since become the board secretary, taking notes of each meeting, and I’ve joined Dave Freer of the Collier Warehouse on the Membership Committee after having an opportunity to watch and listen to see where I felt that best fit for personal and association growth.

So what do I get out of NARI? Nothing. Well not completely. I love that even if the topic was about concrete or something else that might bore me, the SFBA meetings are in showrooms so that every meeting is four-fold with great locations, educational topics, networking and industry politics (I’m glad others can represent me in this). I probably put more into NARI than I receive in “instant gratification”, but I believe that with small steps of faith, the services I can offer to homeowners in San Francisco, Berkeley, and Marin, will grow in quality. I attend meetings, invite new comers and reach out to members to build relationships with the company owner(s) and their staff. I find it is critical to know who I will actually be working with. I nurture those relationships each month and look for opportunities to improve my businesses quality of service by introducing homeowners to General Contractors I can trust and introducing contractors to showrooms and trade or sub-contractors that I believe they can trust too. Is it perfect? Nothing in remodeling is, but integrity and passion for remodeling is key for any professional I trust.

 
 

Investing in a strong building industry is the foundation for success in remodeling for homeowners and business owners a like.

Featured Project: San Francisco Inner Sunset Victorian

As an interior designer, having a portfolio of work is important for homeowners to see spaces that they can relate to, compare against and dream about. What's usually missing is the story behind the changes. What was "wrong" with the kitchen or bathroom in the first place? What difference did the changes make? Who was the contractor and other team members involved in the beautiful result? This week I've decided to highlight a San Francisco kitchen remodel that was done a few years ago.   

San Francisco is known world wide for her cable cars, steep hills and painted ladies. She and other Bay Area homes are known for their small closets, antique built-ins, formal dining rooms and too many doors connecting small rooms as though they were related to the Winchester Mystery House. This kitchen was no different. Having 5 doors in roughly a 12'x12' space resulted in the refrigerator being located in the breakfast nook (through one of the doors) and the pantry door not opening all the way plus needing to squeeze into a small space just to get to the pantry items. 

San Francisco Inner Sunset Victorian, Dining Room Wall (Before)

San Francisco Inner Sunset Victorian, Dining Room Wall (Before)

San Francisco Inner Sunset Victorian, Dining Room Wall (After)

San Francisco Inner Sunset Victorian, Dining Room Wall (After)

Why was this kitchen so poorly planned? For starters, refrigeration technology didn't exist. Victorian era people had ice delivered to keep cold items cold for a few days, and here in the Bay Area many used their "California Cooler" which was essentially a dry pantry with circular birdhouse sized holes to allow the foggy cool air regulate temperature. Milk and eggs were delivered regularly and many of the more affluent families had a couple of servants which were to remain hidden from guests while they prepared the food. Our culture has changed significantly from the days of Downton Abbey. Families today who have hired help want open kitchens and are not ashamed of the au pair or the housekeeper who work for them.  Why? It's simple, as humans we desire to be connected. Most families are working full time and being together for a few precious hours at home while preparing a meal and doing homework is just what we need.

San Francisco Inner Sunset Victorian, Kitchen Pantry (Before)

San Francisco Inner Sunset Victorian, Kitchen Pantry (Before)

San Francisco Inner Sunset Victorian, Kitchen (After)

San Francisco Inner Sunset Victorian, Kitchen (After)

In redesigning this San Francisco Victorian to be more warm, inviting and useable, the first thing that needed to change was to eliminate a few doors. This was achieved by removing the pantry closet and a duplicate door to the powder room, voila, a place for the refrigerator in the kitchen! The pantry storage was incorporated into cabinetry with easily accessible pullout shelves, lazy Suzan's and other kitchen cabinet storage solutions. The three doors that remained became doorways instead, which removed the hazard of opening a door on someone as you entered the kitchen blindly. (There is a reason restaurant employees yell out "corner" and have rules about which door to go in and which to exit.) 

San Francisco Inner Sunset Victorian, Kitchen Door from Entry (Before)

San Francisco Inner Sunset Victorian, Kitchen Door from Entry (Before)

San Francisco Inner Sunset Victorian, Kitchen Door from Entry (After)

San Francisco Inner Sunset Victorian, Kitchen Door from Entry (After)

The next design challenge was to simultaneously maintain the size of the kitchen while maximize its storage and making it more manageable for 2-3 people working in it. Being that there wasn't any room to expand, without losing the integrity of the formal dining room, this did take a little structural engineering and creative thinking on the part of the plumber, the heating duct specialist, and the carpenter but it was well worth it. We were able to keep the original heating location and painted wood paneling in the dining room and by providing a peninsula instead of an island we increased useable counter space, created work zones for a 3-person kitchen and invited guests to participate in the meal preparations without crowding the cook. 

San Francisco Inner Sunset Victorian, Kitchen (Before)

San Francisco Inner Sunset Victorian, Kitchen (Before)

San Francisco Inner Sunset Victorian, Kitchen (After)

San Francisco Inner Sunset Victorian, Kitchen (After)

Imagine, holiday dinners with the whole family, children rolling dough and cutting cookies, grandma roasting turkey and making her famous macaroni-n-cheese, dad washing dishes while talkative aunts and uncles are sitting at the counter with the latest "news" all without bumping elbows, stepping on toes or colliding with a serving platter full of delicious home-made goodies sliding off onto the floor!

View more photos and storage details in this project's portfolio

San Francisco Design Center's Historic Preservation on Pause

San Francisco Design Center

San Francisco Design Center

About a month ago I had discovered that the San Francisco Design Center was in a land development pickle. Now I am pleased to see that district supervisor Malia Cohen has stood her ground! 

She also agrees that the design district buildings deserve landmark designation but not at the cost of its current tenants. 

While I love Pintrest, this issue has nothing to do with them except that they were the big name tech company in the running for this space. These couple of blocks of street was named after Henry Adams for a reason, and that history for the design center is key for all in the remodeling industry and homeowners too. 

This follow-up story by SF Gate is clearly stating everything. Check it out. Oh and if you are in her voting district, I hear she is up for re-election, please consider supporting her in the polls for doing there right thing for her community and yours!