“Kitchen of the Year” Isn’t New, Say Remodeling Contractors

Every year, kitchen remodeling contractors – including us – pore over awards programs and magazine features showcasing the “Kitchen of the Year.” It’s a great way to stay current about the freshest trends in appliances, cabinets, colors, flooring, countertops and kitchen space-savers. But frankly, the three most important features of a great “Kitchen of the Year” never change.

Layout, for example, is always critical. Even when remodeling a large kitchen, we advise homeowners to keep the actual “cooking triangle” – stove, sink, refrigerator – compact so it is efficient for the cook.

New appliances make it much easier to create this efficiency without “cramping” the look of the layout. For instance, under-counter refrigerator drawers can tuck in almost anywhere. So can new microwaves that can be built in right under the counters of an island or other working area. That gives our kitchen designer more freedom to create a highly efficient layout while still creating a clean, open look.

The need for storage is another “Kitchen of the Year” feature that never changes. The good news is that there are always wonderful new gadgets, space-savers and built-ins that can keep all that kitchenware neat and accessible. That’s getting more and more important today since many of our clients want space that would once have gone to upper cabinets kept free for windows, wall space for displaying artwork, or room for a flat screen TV. So, while it’s true that storage is always at the top of new-kitchen priorities, as contractors we are being challenged to be ever more creative in coming up with solutions.

Finally, maintenance has always been – and will always be –essential for a great kitchen. So yes, every kitchen should be fairly easy to keep clean without a lot of extra products or extraordinary care. From the finishes on cabinets to choices for flooring, a new kitchen should be carefully designed to stand up to the family’s lifestyle. Otherwise, that shiny new kitchen will quickly start to look tired and worn. That’s why an experienced kitchen remodeler always discusses materials and maintenance with homeowners to find the right fit not just for the design, but for the family’s lifestyle.

No matter what kind of fixtures and finishes you choose, if you pay careful attention to layout, storage and maintenance, the result is almost certain to get your own enthusiastic vote as “Kitchen of the Year!”

Visit our website to learn more about our kitchen remodeling services!

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A New Trend in Bathroom Remodeling

When you call in a bathroom remodeling contractor, you want more than just a new bathroom. You want a bathroom that looks new, too. Achieving that means doing more than just having new cabinets and fixtures. You also want a fresh look for the “footprint” of your bathroom.

Remodeling today is about opening up floor space so that rooms feel airier. In the bathroom, this trend can be seen in a variety of ways. Here are three ideas to consider for updating your own bathroom to have a more open, spa-like feel:

  • A free-standing tub. Bathroom remodeling today often means rethinking those built-in Jacuzzi tubs. Today, these big, blocky elements can look clumsy and dated. Instead, like many bathroom remodeling contractors, we have more and more clients asking for elegant free-standing tubs. These can be sculpted and ultra modern, or contemporary takes on the classic claw-footed tub. What makes the look especially fresh is having the tub “float” by placing it on an angle with space on all sides rather than flat against the bathroom wall.
  • A large, open shower. Again, many of the bathrooms we’re remodeling have a dated look because the showers are too small and blocky. Even having a glass door and a glass wall look old-fashioned today. What updates the look is going larger and with a much more open feel. Some of the extra space can often come from removing the large built-in tub as described above. Showers also include amenities like a built-in bench with walls of seamless glass (none of those outdated brass or chrome edges from the ’80s and ’90s!). Another trend is doing away with shower doors by constructing the enclosure to contain the water.
  • Cabinets and vanities that float. Today’s freshest looks for bathroom remodeling include cabinets that have legs instead of having doors go all the way to the floor. Vanities themselves sometimes have no legs at all – they are constructed as ledges without floor supports. Open shelving adds to the open feel. Vessel sinks remain popular because they also lift up the look of the bathroom instead of weighing it down.
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Kitchen Remodeling You Can Love “Forever”

One of the most interesting trends I’m seeing as a kitchen remodeling contractor is this: couples in their 40s and 50s designing kitchens today so the counters, lighting and layouts will continue to accommodate them when they’re in their 70s and 80s. Even if you don’t necessarily plan on being in your current home forever, the reasons behind this trend are solid – and worth considering as part of your own kitchen remodeling project.

For starters, the features that make the kitchen friendly to people who may have disabilities or mobility issues when they’re older also make the kitchen friendlier to the whole family today. Kitchen counters of variable heights that might one day accommodate a cook in a wheelchair, for instance, are also the perfect height for adults of different heights and for inviting children to help in the kitchen. Activities like kneading bread and chopping are also easier with counter heights of 30″ rather than the standard 36″.

Lighting is another factor to consider. The more natural light you can bring into the kitchen, the better. Aging eyes need far more light to see well, and today’s cooks can enjoy a sunshine-filled kitchen. In addition to windows, glass blocks, skylights and other sources of daylight, a forward-looking kitchen remodel should also include a variety of lighting: ambient sources for general lighting and brighter, more focused lighting for tasks.

With thoughtful design, today’s kitchen remodeling can even find elegant ways to incorporate safety features. Today, for example, the sturdy bar across the front of a sink holds kitchen towels. Down the road, it will also become a grab bar that can steady the balance while reaching down to pick up something that has fallen to the floor. Contrast is another key to safety. As our eyesight dims, it can be harder to see where the floor ends and cabinets, doorways or even stairs begin. By looking ahead now, you can use colors and textures to create strong contrasts – and extremely handsome designs as well!

Remember that today’s kitchen remodeling contractors have access to an amazing array of fixtures, finishes, products and materials. So a kitchen that’s designed for “forever” can still look stylish – and gorgeous – today.

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What’s the ROI on Exterior Remodeling?

Does lack of curb appeal or the need to replace windows or siding have you thinking about exterior remodeling? Contractors always look at both the up-front cost of the remodeling and the pay back over time. Here’s what we see:

What you’ll pay depends on the scope of the exterior remodeling you have in mind, from simply replacing and updating what you have to rethinking the entire look and configuration of your home. We’re always happy to help you explore options – including options you might not even know are possible within your budget. And, once you’ve picked specific products, finishes and materials, we can give you a very specific cost. But that’s just the starting point. You also want to see what that investment will buy you.

For starters, we always think in terms of the “daily dividend” – the everyday enjoyment you get from a home that is more beautiful and that works perfectly for your family and lifestyle. That has a value, but of course it’s hard to quantify in dollars and cents. Still, it’s a major part of the pay-back on exterior remodeling.

You can quantify other types of ROI, however.

For starters, installing new windows and energy-efficient siding can immediately begin paying you back in terms of lower heating and cooling bills. They can cut the time and expense of maintenance, too. We have a great deal of experience as exterior remodeling contractors and can share data on average energy savings associated with all types of projects, materials and building techniques. It’s worthwhile to see what those savings could be this year … and each year thereafter.

Next, consider how much today’s exterior remodeling can add to tomorrow’s resale value on home. It can be substantial. In fact, four exterior remodeling projects top the list of Remodeling Magazine‘s Cost vs. Value Report. Here’s the estimated resale value:

  1. Remodeling your front door: 102.1%
  2. Remodeling your garage/garage door: 83.9%
  3. Installing fiber-cement siding: 80%
  4. Remodeling/installing a wood deck: 72.8%

You might be surprised at how your perspective on the cost changes when you factor in the savings and eventual resale value!

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What Type of Home Addition is Right for You?

When home addition contractors ask what type of addition you’d like to build, we don’t expect you to say, “A shed two-dormer pop top.” Instead, what we’re really asking about is the functionality of the home addition you’re looking for.

Examples: Do you want to expand your entire kitchen, or just add space for a mudroom or a sunny breakfast nook? Do you want to build an all-new great room, or just loosen up the space of an existing family room? Do you just want to turn a carport into a garage, or also turn the space over the new garage into a separate wing for teenagers, guests or in-laws?

The more you can tell us about what you want the space to do, the better job we can do of mapping out initial ideas. For instance, if you tell us you want to add two bedrooms and a bath to your house, we can explore many different options to see what is the best type of home addition for you.

Second-story home additions – including attic conversions and “pop-tops” – can be a very good solution since they don’t require building a new foundation. But if you want larger rooms or more flexibility in the windows and floor plan, it might be better to build a full second-story addition.

There are also cases where “while you’re at it” thinking can reward you with major extra living space. For example, if you have a two-story home and you’re thinking of doing a first-floor kitchen/family room addition, “while you’re at it” you might want to build the addition as a two-story structure and add a spacious new master suite over the newly expanded kitchen.

We’ve been a home addition contractor for years, and in our experience the best home additions come from taking the time to get a clear focus on what kinds of spaces you’d like to add to your home, as well as the “feel” you’d like them to have in terms of windows, openness, and architectural interest. Then, from small bump-outs, porches, sunrooms, two-story additions or entire wings, we can design the most functional and the most beautiful home addition for your needs, your lot, your existing home, and your budget.

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Home Remodeling for the “Sandwich” Generation

I just came across a statistic showing that the number of multi-generational homes in the US has risen to a 50-year high. As a home remodeling contractor, this trend isn’t exactly news to me.

Even before the recession, more and more home remodeling projects involved creating suites for college grads who returned to live with Mom and Dad for several years while “getting on their feet.” We were also doing a number of projects to create extra space to accommodate elderly parents moving in – with remodeling being a far friendlier (and economical) solution than putting Grandma or Grandpa into assisted living facilities.

Moving in together also makes good sense in our “post-recession” world when different generations may need to pull together to overcome economic challenges.

No matter why people come together, there can be enormous rewards to multi-generational living. Now, of course I’m a home remodeling contractor, but from my perspective the secret to success seems to be to adapting the house with the right blend of private and “together” spaces.

Here are three home remodeling tips that seem to make a big difference when multiple generations live together:

Bathrooms: The more bathrooms, the fewer frustrations. Ideally, bathrooms would be “in suite,” associated with each bedroom. When bathrooms are shared, good storage space is critical in creating comfort and minimizing arguments over mess and clutter.

Sitting rooms: Even small bedrooms can be remodeled to include a separate sitting area. This creates a valuable retreat where family members can enjoy a little private time away from the rest of the busy, noisy household.

Gathering rooms: It’s important to create gathering rooms – kitchens, dining rooms and family rooms – that are spacious enough to welcome the whole family. Within a great room, for example, it’s a good idea to design different areas so that the kids can enjoy jumping up and down with their video games without being right on top of Gran who’s trying to finish the crossword. The kitchen should have space for the kids to do homework or enjoy a snack while the adults are sharing cooking duties.

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Ideas from a Professional Bathroom Remodeler

What would a professional bathroom remodeler do with your bathroom? A bathroom remodeler with years of experience as should be able to suggest creative ways to use new and traditional products, layout, and design to achieve the look and functionality you want. Here are a few things we like to suggest when working on a bathroom remodeling project:

  • Get a great look that’s also a great value. Hand-painted porcelain tiles, for example, are a beautiful choice for a bathroom. Remodelers love to work with them, but they may take up too much of your total budget, especially if you’re remodeling a large bathroom. Often, however, there are very fine alternatives that can satisfy your design concept by giving you the same look and coloring of high-end materials. You can also design the bathroom to use the more expensive materials as an accent so that you still get the “wow” factor.
  • Splurge a little. It’s true that you might not necessarily need “extras” like a steam shower or a towel warming drawer, but you may find that these luxuries create a pampering, spa-like environment that you enjoy day after day.
  • Design for how you really live. Quiet, luxurious soaking tubs seem to be replacing the noisier Jacuzzis as the first choice for today’s bath lovers. But while soaking tubs tend to be smaller than Jacuzzis, they still take up considerable floor space. The question to ask yourself before you reflexively install a tub when remodeling is will you use it. For many people – including many older couples – the answer is “no.” If that’s the case, why install both a tub and a shower? Instead, you might consider saving the space (and money) you’d spend on a tub – or using that same budget to enjoy a larger, more luxurious shower with seats, a no barrier design and extra room for storage. If you are remodeling with resale as a high priority, you may wish to include a tub in your plans even if you don’t plan on using it yourself. However, you might not have the tub in your bathroom.
  • Think universal design. No matter how young and fit you are, a bathroom designed for safety and effortless access will be a smart investment. If you’re older, features such as walk-in tubs can let you enjoy baths without worrying about climbing in and out of a traditional tub. Curbless showers are another good feature. A good bathroom remodeler can integrate grab bars, good lighting, non-slippery floors, and other universal design features beautifully into any style of bathroom so that you can enjoy your home longer while still being safer from slips and falls.
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What Kitchen Remodelers Know About Kitchens

As professional kitchen remodelers, we’ve designed and built many different styles of kitchens for many different types of clients here throughout the area west of Los Angeles. When we’re discussing a new kitchen, remodeler experience can often help clients think about things they might not otherwise consider. Here are a few examples:

Kitchen remodelers know the value of space planning. For example, in designing a dream kitchen, “remodeler experience” often prompts us to suggest keeping the actual cooking area compact to eliminate long walks from the fridge to the sink. We also emphasize planning up front for how you’ll actually use your space so that things work for the kitchen remodel ergonomically and practically as well as from a design point of view.

Separate “stations” can add ease and functionality. One of our jobs as a kitchen remodeler is to create a kitchen that makes life easier for our clients. A “station” can help. For example, a beverage center is great for parties and for getting drinks poured for dinner without being underfoot as the cook finishes up meal preparation. A breakfast station can make mornings easier by locating cabinets for cereals and bowls right above counter space designed to hold an elegant coffeemaker and retro-style toaster.

Lighting is so important — from natural light flowing in through windows and skylights, to layered lighting plans that combine under-counter and task lighting with ambient lighting on dimmer switches to go bright for meal prep or dim for dining and parties.

Explore new countertop options. All kitchen remodelers know that granite is a popular choice. But before you decide, you might want to consider the colors and designability of solid surfaces like Corian, as well as eco-friendly choices like concrete or “wow factor” materials such as thick glass countertops complete with LED lighting systems that can change the color and brightness of the counters.

As one of the area’s most experienced kitchen remodelers, we’ve done just about every type and size of kitchen. Ideas like the ones we’ve offered here can be of great help in the early stages of planning your kitchen remodel. For more inspiration, take a look at our photo gallery!

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Secrets of Low-Maintenance Exterior Remodeling

Exterior remodeling is a great way to cut home maintenance time, cost and effort. In fact, a good exterior remodeling strategy can not only improve the value of your home, it can help prevent expensive repairs – and even fires. Here are a few secrets to keep in mind:

Low-Maintenance Siding

Painting is a chore. Plus, in the LA area, wooden siding raises fire concerns. Consider remodeling with brick and stone siding. Stucco is also fire-resistant and can last the lifetime of your home. Fiber cement siding looks like wood but resists insects and can last 50 years. Vinyl siding can last 40 years with an occasional hosing.

A New Slant on Roofing

Wood shingles are high-maintenance and not fire-resistant. Composite shingles are fire-resistant (rated A, B, or C, with A being the most fire-resistant). Metal is increasingly popular and can last at least 50 years. Tile and slate are durable and low-maintenance.

Windows

New windows make a big difference to a home’s exterior. Remodeling with wood windows looks good, and the new stained wood windows don’t need much work to keep them in good shape. Fiberglass, vinyl, and composite frames tend to be somewhat lower-maintenance. And, with good-quality installation and caulking, windows bought today can last 20-25 years!

Decks

Wooden decks can become hazards during LA’s wildfire season, and fire-retardant treatments won’t prevent wood from actually burning. Composites offer varying degrees of fire-resistance and give you a wood look without the fire hazard or the annual sanding, staining and sealing. Capped composites like Trex and Timbertech resist fading and stains and clean with just soap and water. PVC (like Azek) is another alternative for exterior remodeling that reduces maintenance!

Driveways

If you’re thinking about exterior remodeling, it’s an ideal time to rethink your driveway. Traditional asphalt driveways typically only last 10 years. Concrete can last up to 50 years — don’t make the surface too smooth or it will be slippery when wet. In our area, earthquakes are a consideration. A paving stone driveway won’t crack and doesn’t have to be sealed, though there will be weeds. Grass has become an eco-friendly choice — other than mowing, it’s good to go! New on the exterior remodeling scene are water-permeable solutions such as FilterPave, a glittery surface made from recycled beer bottles that lets through even more water than grass does!

The best way to create your own unique low-maintenance home is to work with an experienced exterior remodeling contractor, like us. We can suggest low-maintenance solutions for the specific chores you hate and the expenses you dread.

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Home Remodeler Tips for “Always Fresh” Kitchen Cabinets

As part of re-doing your kitchen, your home remodeler will ask you to select cabinets. There are so many styles to choose from that you won’t find it hard to zero in on cabinets that are perfect for your budget, tastes, and the configuration of your new kitchen. But a question we get a lot from our clients is this: “How do I choose cabinets that won’t look dated in a few years?”

It’s an important question. As home remodeling contractors, we can tell you that cabinets are a big portion of your kitchen remodeling budget. When you make that investment, you want to feel confident that your kitchen retains its “wow” even as styles change – and you can be sure they will! Here are two bits of advice to help you pick cabinets today that will continue to look stylish down the road.

Go with what you love. Today’s home remodeler magazines are brimming with a “new” look in kitchens where cabinets are painted or stained in everything from soft grays and greens to vibrant yellows and blues. If you love colored cabinets, then by all means go with a stained or painted finish rather than maple, cherry, oak or other wood finishes. You may, however, want to stick with softer, more neutral shades for the cabinets themselves – you can always add a punch of color by painting the walls, which is much easier to update than your cabinets.

Consider choosing a minimum of detail. We’re not talking about plain cabinets – after all, we’re home remodelers so it’s our job to give your new kitchen plenty of pizazz! But remember that the more details, the more your cabinets are locked into a particular look. For example, if you decide you want a sleeker, more modern look but have arched-paneled cabinets with elaborately carved moldings, it’s going to be a challenge to achieve the fresh new look you seek. If cabinets have less pronounced detailing, you have more options. In fact, you may be able to make over your kitchen – even take it from classic to contemporary – simply by switching out cabinet hardware and updating your countertop accessories.

Always opt for quality. When it comes to home remodeler tips for cabinets, this is the most important. That’s because nothing dates a kitchen more than cabinets that start to sag, chip, or lose their finish. For cabinets that continue to look good year after year, buy the best cabinets you can within your budget today.

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