toto

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.

Featured Project: Bungalow Bathroom Gains New Accessibility (This week on Houzz)

"Just a Toilet"

Over the past 14 years I've helped Bay Area homeowners select the right faucets and fixtures for their bathroom remodels, the majority of the time they tell me "this will be easy, it's just a toilet". And then they walk into the showroom to start their comparison and see the options in rows upon row.

Sure, you're basic toilet needs to function in one way, remove our biological waste as fast as possible so that we leave no trace of our unmentionable left overs from our digestive systems. The options come in in a mirage of ways and asking questions is the best way to narrow them down. How tall are you? How difficult is it for you to sit and stand? What is your consciousness of water usage? How much water are you trying to save? Who cleans the bathroom? Are their small children in your home who's aim is yet to be perfected? And so many more. 

What about personal hygiene? This is where the bidet comes in. The French invention designed for bathing our lower private parts without taking a full bath. Who really wants to take off all their clothes past their ankles to sit on cold porcelain backwards so that they can splash soap and water on themselves? And who really wants to dedicate another almost 3' of space to a non-storage fixture to sit right beside the toilet that they don't want to think about in the first place? Thankfully Toto, a Japanese company, and others have designed the bidet seat or Washlet (they have even made one for travel, now thats smart!). Simply use the toilet as usual and push a button to enjoy a warm cleansing rinse without the extra work of undressing or a cold seat! 

Homeowners I work with who choose this option are typically retired and are planning to live in their home as long as possible or they have an aging parent moving in who has trouble reaching after using the toilet. Others have experienced them on their travels across the world and have found that they are a relaxing part of using the restroom. For this reason it is my practice to design an electrical outlet near the toilet for a bidet seat, even if it may be a future amenity.

Now tech enthusiasts and moms of young children will love the next phase in the bidet evolution. It's the Toto Neorest. This toilet is simple, has clean lines, no extra nooks and cranny's so it's easy wipe down to keep clean. It's as close to Jetsons age as I have seen for homes. The lid opens upon walking up to it, it's seat is warmed. It will even flush and quietly close the seat and lid when you walk away! Oh, did I mention its virtually "self-cleaning"? With ewater technology they electrolyze a mist of water which the system sends into the bowl to disinfect after each use and after an 8 hour period of stillness.

Feeling refreshed isn't reserved for shower and bath-time anymore!

ps. If you would like to test one out for your self, come by the Jack London Kitchen and Bath Gallery showroom in Oakland!