When it comes to creating a cohesive and knock out space that’s on budget, interior designers have several tricks up their sleeve. From creative material use, budget friendly sourcing, and spatial analysis, a quality designer can blast a bland or chaotic space into the aesthetic stratosphere. This month I’ve curated a list of five situations that often arise in conversations regarding designer tips and tricks.
1.How do you create the biggest bang for you buck with a back splash?
In my September blog post DIY Kitchen Renovation, I eluded to a budget trick regarding the back splash area in a kitchen to make the most drama. Match the tile color identically and paint the remaining above portion of the wall, carrying it to the ceiling. It creates a knockout look for a budget price, particularly if you’ve chosen a bold color of tile. Look for cues from trim and flanking cabinets to decide where to stop extending the accent paint color, keeping it focused above the sink or stove.
The example below shows a pairing of red glass mosaic tile and a swatch of Benjamin Moore’s Color of the Year 2018, Caliente.
2.Is there a budget option to granite or quartz?
Solid surface counters do not get enough attention due to their bigger and more expensive siblings granite and quartz. Its a viable upgrade from laminate counters by far without breaking the bank. The colors are similar to granite and quartz and the material mimics the granular aggregate of natural stone. I recommend selecting matte finish rather than high gloss to hide the scratches on solid surface, however, review solid surface specifications like you would prior to any purchase. Common brands are Meganite, Corian, Staron, and Wilsonart, Its a sensible option for smaller budgets.
3.How do you choose the correct size faucet?
Many people don’t consider the ergonomics behind a faucet, however you will once you do dishes in that sink for the first time. Taller people with longer arms don’t need a faucet that reaches into the sink as far as smaller stature people do. However, shorter people will suffer from backache because of having to reach forward past the middle of the sink. To select a faucet correctly, measure how far forward the head will need to reach to your palms with your elbows resting on the front edge of the sink counter. This will affect your back when washing both hands and dishes. Also, if you wash large pots and pans look at the height of the faucet.
4.How do you lay out a gallery wall correctly?
This one is tricky for me, as I am such a big stickler for symmetry and uniform margins when laying out anything from a floor plan, design board, or artwork. The key to a good gallery wall layout, that’s currently on trend, is balance and spread. It should appear as one large ensemble. Nothing should overhang the area where its centered, no object should overpower the eye’s attention, and objects should be closer together than farther apart. I recommend laying it out on the floor and start with the center objects first.
In the example below, many of the frames are too small for the spacing and the eye is drawn to the meaningless ampersand sign. The mirrors reflect nothing to the viewer. With careful rearranging, the frames can be laid out in a rectangular grid, the mirrors moved to a useful location, while the “and” sign is removed.
5.Where do you find old architectural relics?
If you’re fortunate enough to live in a part of the country where antique malls and fairs occur, definitely check those out, however, one of the best places to source architectural pieces is Habitat For Humanity Restore. New and used Items are donated and then categorized into building sections, like doors, windows, cabinets, furniture, and lighting for example. These stores sell the items to the public and the profits go towards Habitat For Humanity. Check here for store locations.
Whether you’re updating a back splash or counter, changing out your faucets, or adding the finishing touches of decor with art and accessories, creating a harmonious and cohesive look is key to creating the vibe you desire. Interior designers can be a great asset while you procure items for your space. Contact my studio, I’d be happy to help.
Sarah Daricilar, NCIDQ
Studio Owner & Interior Designer
Daricilar Design Studio – Medway, MA
Join in December: “Stained Glass, Tales of Color.“
I applaud you! Taking on a kitchen renovation is like ripping at the soul of your home. Its the lifeblood that keeps your household working. Even though you aren’t doing a full blown remodel, a simpler renovation can still grind on your nerves. (To quickly distinguish the terms: a renovation is aesthetic changes like cabinetry, flooring and lighting where as a remodel also includes opening up walls and tearing into plumbing and electrical.)
You’re ready to start a DIY kitchen renovation. Now, contact a designer. Better yet, contact me. I would love to help you! Even if its simply to review your floor plan or help you brainstorm ideas and get organized. Across the miles, via email and FaceTime, I can help you save some headaches. If not me and my studio, then find a designer in a kitchen showroom, your local big box home store, at the very least ask your neighbor who just finished theirs. Don’t jump in head first alone, without a plan, a schedule, and a project outline.
So, you’re going rogue and being truly DIY, on your own. I will still help you. I’ve generated a list in the most practical order, however if your project doesn’t include one of these steps, then move onto the next one.
1. Fix ALL Repairs First.
As you plan the path of your renovation, fix the broken items. A leaky faucet, broken window, rattling exhaust hood, even bad wiring. Fixing the repairs is a must before installing new finishes. If you don’t, then down the road when the neglect has exacerbated the problem, you’ll end up tearing out your new kitchen items to fix the old problems, and you’ll kick yourself. Fix them now when its cheaper and easier.
2. Keep Appliance Locations The Same.
Many factors raise the cost of kitchen remodels and renovations with one of the biggest being the relocating of the sink, stove, or refrigerator. If your kitchen was haphazardly put together like it fell from Kansas into Oz in a bygone era, then appliance locations should be reworked to create a layout that’s current with today’s lifestyle and more importantly, building codes. Dedicated and grounded circuits need to be created. If plumbing needs to get reworked, gas lines moved, or electrical panel work is needed, its no longer a DIY job. Unless you or a loved one is a licensed contractor, leave your appliance locations alone. This is not a Do It Yourself part of the project! Hire a professional for this step.
Also, if installing professional grade appliances, these are very heavy units and the floor and support below need to be checked and if necessary reinforced. Again, hire a licensed contractor for this portion.
3. Keep Functional Appliances.
It is very tempting to want to upgrade the appliances, however, if they’re functioning then keep them. If you want to switch from white to black or stainless steel to make them all match and unify the aesthetic of the kitchen, work the numbers out on paper first. If you know that your stove is on the fritz, you should replace it. But wanting to get a new refrigerator simply because its the wrong color will wreck your budget. Creative solutions can be found online for recovering appliance fronts. Work with the color of the newest, most expensive appliance and adjust the others to that one.
4. BE The Labor.
Depending on what part of the country you live, the labor portion of a renovation estimate can run 25-40% of the costs. The DIY method is a no brainer for a job you know you can do, from demolition, re-sanding, painting, and installing new cabinets can all be done by willing and careful homeowners.
Have an expert friend or family help you, watch your how-to videos, and read manufacture’s instructions. Also think about attending workshops available in your area’s home stores and check out books at your local library and bookstore.
Become a task master. This is where your project schedule will come in handy. If you break down the renovation into smaller tasks, you won’t get burnt out nearly as fast. Its when multiple tasks get started all at once, that homeowners quickly get stressed and their project becomes overwhelming.
5. Replace, Refinish, Or Remove The Cabinets.
You’ve created your plan, outlined the project into tasks, and chosen the new direction. You’ve done the repairs, confirmed the appliance locations, now its time to get to the aesthetics. If your cabinets are in good structural shape, keep them. New cabinets are expensive. You can either get them resurfaced, repainted, new doors installed, or keep the upper cabinets open. Give the insides a good scrub and vacuum. Install drawer organizers, slide out racks, and under cabinet lighting if desired.
6. Paint the Walls & Cabinets.
Paint is the cheapest way to redo a room. Layout your color palette and assign locations. Research the proper prep work for the surface you want to paint. Below is a photo of similar profile cabinet doors. Notice the difference a coat of paint and a new counter top can do. Even without a new counter top, the cabinets go from a warm Tuscan vibe to a modern farmhouse feel.
Choose an exciting paint color for the walls and give your painted furniture a touch up. Make sure to check out my next month’s blog regarding color and how to choose the correct one.
7. Redo The Floors.
Depending on what kind of flooring you choose determines how much is DIY and whether you’ll need professional installation. If you do choose to do this step yourself, be sure to prepare the underneath properly prior to installation. Also, where specifically on the floor your first piece is placed will determine the look of the final outcome. (Traditionally, planks start at the perimeter and tile products start in the center.) Always read the manufacture’s recommendations thoroughly.
8. Select New Counters & Back Splash.
Beyond the ubiquitous glass mosaic or white subway tile options, there are many choices regarding back splashes. How about brick veneer or tin? In a future blog coming up, I’ll address how to get a knock out look for your back splash for a budget price. Stay tuned.
If you can’t afford the cost of granite or quartz counter and want to upgrade from laminate there is another option: solid surface. Solid surface is a viable budget conscious option, commonly used on counters. Second to quartz and granite lines, it provides a similar look and feel of stone without the hefty price. Don’t know whether to choose gloss or matte finish in the solid surface? Contact me, I can tell you the pros and cons of both finishes.
9. Replace Hardware, Lights, & Faucets.
I consider this the jewelry portion of the renovation outfit. These are the items that add sparkle and character to what otherwise is simply a functional space. If you can only afford one change other than paint, make it this one. As with any work related to water or electricity, shut them off at the main first. Contact me for more information regarding how to choose the best faucet for your sink, the correct lighting for your needs, and to coordinate the cabinet hardware with the rest of your home.
10. Update The Decor, Bar Stools, & Window Coverings.
A finishing touch to all of your hard work is the soft surfaces. With the decor, bar stools, and window coverings I would also add dish towels, oven mitts, place mats and rugs. These items are the “clothes” of your kitchen. They’re also an economical aesthetic option to change compared to replacing cabinet fronts or flooring.
Now, let’s generate some ideas with the following photos. Who doesn’t like looking at kitchen photos, am I right? I’ve included a variety of styles to cover all tastes.
One more bit of advice, before taking down your kitchen for the renovation; set up a temporary one in another room to preserve your sanity. An electric tea kettle, a crock pot, a hot plate, and a toaster oven can fix numerous meals. Create a dish-washing station in the laundry or bathroom and fire up the grill outside. During renovation you need a dust free counter to pour your morning coffee and in the evening to prepare your dinner. Preparation of a temporary kitchen is an absolute must!
God speed and contact me for questions. I can help you through it.
So you want to change your space, you believe you need different space or you will burst at the seams if you don’t build or remodel. PAUSE- did you purge all the unnecessary junk from your space? If not, read my last month’s blog about flexible and evolving rooms. (Blog) There’s a motivating section about sorting out your stuff. Constructing new space just to fill it with unused stuff is pointless and expensive. If you’ve already purged, please have a seat. Let’s talk…
ESTABLISH the PROJECT
The most helpful step in a construction job is to know exactly what are you wanting in the outcome. Are you painting and buying new fixtures or are you redoing the whole bathroom? Are you tearing out empty offices to pave way for an open office layout or just removing cubicles? It’s important to clearly define the boundaries of the project from the start. If you don’t, the project will “grow legs” and run away from you making your timeline unrealistic and the budget blown. The phrase “while we’re at it, why don’t we just…” is a very alluring statement. Yes it is more economical to have the work done all at once, but you don’t want to renovate the whole building if it’s just one room that really needs the work. Also, consider phasing the work, especially if you are occupying the space during construction. Enough unknowns will be uncovered while remodeling as it is to delay the project. If there is additional desired work, it’s best to discuss it with the designer and contractor to figure out when and how to add it to the original scope.
HIRING the PROFESSIONALS
In the beginning stages of contacting professionals it is important to familiarize yourself first with the correct terminology regarding construction. Below are some words that are often times confused. The subtle differences can greatly affect the impression the professional forms regarding the scope and depth of the project.
Preservation: respecting the historic property in its entirety and efforts are focused on maintaining current conditions without making modifications.
Restoration: returning a property to a specific previous time period using the original materials that are present. Other items not matching the chosen time period are removed.
Rehabilitation: similar to restoration however originals in poor condition may need to be recreated in order to complete the work.
Renovation: aesthetic updates to dated interior finishes such as flooring or wall finishes. Can also include plumbing fixtures, lighting, and appliances.
Remodel: changing physical characteristics like doors and walls as well as finishes mentioned in renovations.
New Construction: either constructing an addition to the existing structure or a new building altogether.
Once familiar with the specific term defining your project, meet with an interior designer. They will know who you need for a project, what plans need to be drawn and help you solidify your ideas. Refer to my article about hiring a professional. (Blog) Unless you are a seasoned DIY veteran many construction jobs will require professional design help. Review their portfolios, discuss past projects, and have them view your space to brainstorm ideas prior to signing a contract. This will also allow piece of mind that your ideas are aligned. Items also important to discuss when hiring a designer are your style inspirations, historic preservation items, environment/sustainability concerns, allergies/health and age range of occupants (infants and elderly specifically). The designer won’t just help design your space but also assist in managing the construction site and working with you and your contractor. Specific notes can be written into the plans to address necessary concerns for your project.
In general, you want to get as much work done on paper first before bringing in the sledgehammer. You may be anxious to get the work started, but it will always be cheaper and more beneficial to work it out on paper first. Plans, details, schematics, finish schedules, custom orders, contracts, deposits/payments, permits & insurance, workshop space, tool storage, dust mitigation and garbage removal are all items that need to be addressed prior to any hammer getting swung. A word of caution when reviewing quotes from contractors: Always get at least three different quotes. Look for the outlier (extremely high or low). If one is drastically different than the other two, don’t accept it. They’re either missing part of the scope, desperate for work, or misunderstanding the project.
SCHEDULE & BUDGET
You may have established an end date in your mind prior to meeting with your designer and contractor, however they well help fill in the details and make adjustments as necessary. What may feel like a quick job, may indeed need more time because of unconsidered factors such as plumbing or electrical updates or needing increased structural support for wall openings. If there’s a big event that the work needs to be completed by that needs to be communicated in the planning stage to have the most impact.
When creating a budget, know your financial limits firmly. Is there a loan or grant getting used or a fixed cash amount that needs to be maintained? Yes you’ll sign a quote from a contractor but contingency is there for a reason, make sure it’s part of the quote. Allocate 8-15% of your budget for contingencies as unknowns are always discovered. Remember if you “rob Peter to pay Paul” then your budget will need to be adjusted. Meaning your big ticket items need to be covered if they’re necessary and scrapped if they’re not. For an in depth remodel imagine a $100 pie; roughly a third should be for the interior work including finishes, non structural wall alterations, and windows. $5 is allocated for furnishings. Plumbing, electrical, and HVAC take another $33 of the pie. The remaining third should be roughly divided into $25 for the structure itself, and the remaining $10 of the pie for contingent expenses discovered along the way. If its just an aesthetic interior renovation the $25 for the structure can be allocated into other pie portions as needed.
A careful decision is whether to attempt to continue to use the space vs vacate during construction. Demolition is brutal, especially if nothing is being salvaged and the walls or floors need to be opened up for electrical, plumbing or HVAC work. If you must remain in the space consider construction phases or scheduled time for excessively noisy work. Dust partitions and walk off mats should be installed regardless to help reduce tracking dirt elsewhere in the property. Otherwise, set up a temporary location elsewhere, it will move the work along faster and help you keep your sanity.
Also during construction material samples should be available to select remaining finishes such as flooring or paint colors. With technology 3D models and color renderings are standard practice as well as example photos. If not possible, ask to visit a showroom or view past projects to visualize an item prior to installation. The schedule and timeline is very important to continue work progression. The construction trades follow each other in work sequence so delaying a tile decision, for example, can hold up plumbers and painters. Decisions need to be made as early as possible as lead times for many items can be 6-12 weeks if not readily available as a stock item. A single order needs to be placed for finishes to prevent different color batches to occur. If special orders or back orders occur, a faster alternate should be suggested if the delay will cause significant schedule setback.
It is best to discuss frustrations and problems as they occur to keep the aggravations at a minimum. Update meetings should occur twice a week for a project that is less than 12 weeks in duration and once a week for jobs longer than 12 weeks. Once daily phone calls and email exchanges should suffice for quick clarifications but bombarding contractors and designers with hourly issues will complicate matters and can cause more confusion in the back and forth transactions. When walking through the job site, dress appropriately especially footwear. Sturdy, closed toe shoes should always be worn to avoid tripping and injury. A dust mask and safety glasses are always wise to have on hand. A hardhat during heavy demolition and structural construction will be required by the contractor and should be announced ahead of time.
During construction feel free to document the progress with photos. Also, city inspections reports/sign-offs and permits should be posted. As the owner, copies of these should be provided to you if desired. When all work is said to be completed a final walk through should be performed. The site should appear finished, cleared of all leftover debris and professionally cleaned. Have your designer perform a “punch list” during the walk through. This list should only include small items such as paint touch ups and receiving manuals. If any major issues are evident, consider the work incomplete. Final payment to the contractor and owner occupancy shall occur after punch list items are completed.
The project is finally completed and hopefully successful. You are excited to move into the space and are pleased with the finished product. The contractor and designer aren’t finished yet. Post occupancy surveys, portfolio photos and client references are the last steps to completing your project. These are the venues to air your exaltation or grievances. Please complete the surveys, write the references/reviews, and let the photographers take the photos.
As the old adage goes, “only experience brings true confidence”. However, with the help of a qualified designer and seasoned contractor you should feel comfortable tackling any construction job. Don’t be afraid, make the jump and improve your life. After the dust settles it will be awesome!
Sarah Daricilar, NCIDQ
Studio Owner & Interior Designer
Daricilar Design Studio – Medway, MA
Join in October: “Favorite Finishes, A Designer’s Choice.”