Pay Trades People Well To Ensure the Best Remodeling Outcome

Pay Trades People Well To Ensure the Best Remodeling Outcome

Sandra Brannock, Expert Kitchen Designs

When planning a kitchen remodel or other home renovation project, it is important to leave room in your budget for quality and reputable tradespeople.

Over the course of my career, I have witnessed homeowners invest in the finest appliances, cabinetry, flooring, and fixtures yet tighten their wallet when paying the tradespeople responsible for installing these products. Experience has proven that homeowners who skimp on labor costs will regret it.

Lately I have been reflecting on the conversations I overhear from the tradespeople working on home renovation and kitchen remodeling projects. These are dedicated, skilled professionals who face numerous challenges every day with project situations beyond their control.

Their lives are stressful, too. They have families to return home to, mouths to feed, cars that break down . . . in short, the same stresses and challenges that everyone has.

Therefore, I believe in compensating generously those who work conscientiously to deliver an end product that meets high quality standards. It saddens me when I encounter clients who, although they pay top dollar for the products that go into their remodeling project, take perverse pride in pinching pennies in paying the people who are doing the work on their home.

In my experience, most trades people who come into your home care very much about the quality of work that they do. The better you treat these critical workers, the more they will be motivated to take ownership of the outcome. This will make your life easier and smooth the way for problem solving when issues arise. Homeowners who treat their trades people with disdain contribute to a negative dynamic that leads to sub-par results.

The fine details involved in remodeling are endless. There are times when unforeseen difficulties arise; this is where success hinges upon the talents and problem-solving abilities of the installation crew. If you compensate them poorly, they will be tempted to shift the blame to others and avoid participating in solving problems well and properly. Time is wasted, frustration increases exponentially, and tempers flare. I assure you, this is not fun and will create additional stress.


Sandra Brannock, Owner, Expert Kitchen Designs

Sandra Brannock, Owner, Expert Kitchen Designs, Virginia

Sandra Brannock designs beautiful, timeless, functional kitchens that reflect your personal style, within your budget. She helps discerning homeowners throughout Northern and Central Virginia, Maryland and Washington DC get the kitchen of their dreams and select the perfect cabinetry, fixtures, flooring, lighting, and appliances to make their dream kitchen a reality.

Call Sandra today at (703) 801-6402 to schedule a kitchen remodeling consultation. Sandra will help you get the most value out of your kitchen remodeling budget and ensure that all the details of your kitchen renovation proceed smoothly, on time and within budget.

A Chef-Worthy $50,000 Kitchen Remodel

A Chef-Worthy $50,000 Kitchen Remodel

Sandra Brannock, Expert Kitchen Designs

I was honored to be invited to contribute to the Trulia real estate blog recently on the topic of how to get a chef-worthy kitchen on a $50,000 budget.

According to Remodeling Magazine, the average cost nationally in the United States for a 200-square-foot major kitchen remodel in 2015 is $56,278. And this falls into the category of a “low budget” kitchen remodel.

Start By Talking With Your Kitchen Designer

Often, homeowners don’t understand the cost-saving benefits of hiring an expert kitchen designer at the outset of your planning process. Your kitchen designer will ask the questions needed to clarify your vision, your goals, your time frame, your style and your budget, so you will know what is and what is not realistic within your budget.

Share your ideas and your priorities with your kitchen designer and ask them to help you clarify your kitchen remodeling ideas and direction. If your kitchen designer suggests that something you want is not cost-worthy, heed his or her advice.

Another advantage of working with a kitchen designer is that he or she will usually be able to provide you with higher quality cabinetry and appliances at better price points than you will find at big box home improvement stores.

Best Places to Splurge in a Kitchen Remodeling Project

The best places to splurge on your kitchen remodeling project are cabinets (estimated cost: $20,000 – $25,000) and quality appliances (estimated cost: $10,000 – $14,000).

Kitchen Cabinetry

Your kitchen cabinetry will endure the most abuse, so look for all-plywood construction along with a superior finish and top-notch door and drawer hardware. While your initial investment will be 20% to 30% more upfront, you will realize a positive return on your investment in five or more years when your cabinetry looks and feels as great as when it was first installed.

If you’re looking to trim costs, cabinets with MDF construction will save you approximately 12%. Oak, knotty alder, and hickory are no-upcharge wood species that will save you 6% to 22%. Consider high-pressure laminate for a contemporary look.

High End Dishwashers

A high-end dishwasher is a luxury worth considering, especially if it also offers the custom panel option. Hoods can be customized to suit the overall design.

Induction Ranges

If you’re currently using an electric range, don’t worry about converting to gas for a pro-caliber kitchen. Instead, replace the old stove with an induction model. There are many high-end professional kitchens using this marvelous method. It is instantaneous, efficient, and also minimizes the extra heat generated in a hardworking kitchen.

For more ideas on how to get a luxurious kitchen on a budget of $50,000 or less, visit the Trulia blog at: How to Create a Chef Worthy Kitchen Remodel for $50,000 or Less.


Sandra Brannock, Owner, Expert Kitchen Designs

Sandra Brannock, Owner, Expert Kitchen Designs, Virginia

Sandra Brannock designs beautiful, timeless, functional kitchens that reflect your personal style, within your budget. She helps discerning homeowners throughout Northern and Central Virginia, Maryland and Washington DC get the kitchen of their dreams and select the perfect cabinetry, fixtures, flooring, lighting, and appliances to make their dream kitchen a reality.

Call Sandra today at (703) 801-6402 to schedule a kitchen remodeling consultation. Sandra will help you get the most value out of your kitchen remodeling budget and ensure that all the details of your kitchen renovation proceed smoothly, on time and within budget.

Expert Kitchen Design Tips: Keeping Cool During the Hot Remodeling Season

Expert Kitchen Design Tips: Keeping Cool During the Hot Remodeling Season

Sandra Brannock, Expert Kitchen Designer

Sandra Brannock, Expert Kitchen Designer

After nervously weathering a lull in business this past winter, I’ve been blessed with a “flash flood” of kitchen design clients over the past eight weeks.

I am not alone in the “feast or famine” home improvement business cycle. Just about everyone in the home remodeling industry experiences a sharp upturn in business during the April – October peak season when homeowners decide they are ready to get started on the home improvements they’ve been dreaming about through the holiday season and winter months.

The spring and summer seasons are a thrilling time of year, when I get to apply my unique talents and skill sets in service to a variety of clients, each with their own unique vision, budget, space constraints, design tastes, and expectations.

It is also a crazy-making time of year when I and my team members are challenged to manage homeowner expectations while keeping each kitchen remodeling project on schedule, within budget, and tend to the hundreds of details involved in every kitchen remodeling project.

A kitchen designer’s job is akin to an orchestral conductor who must ensure that each member of the orchestra is properly rehearsed, cued to play their part at the exact right point in time, and in perfect balance with their fellow musicians from the beginning to the end of the symphony.

When a new client hires me, they are usually eager to get started on their kitchen remodeling project immediately. And I am eager to please them with a kitchen design that delights and exceeds their expectations.

My tasks as a kitchen designer include:

  • an initial consultation with each client where I ask clarifying questions and listen deeply to identify the client’s vision, goals and budget,
  • evaluating existing space constraints,
  • perfect measurement taking,
  • project documentation,
  • drawing,
  • aesthetic prowess,
  • attention to details when ordering, and
  • the ability to accommodate the client’s change requests at any point in time without losing focus and momentum

… all while maintaining sanity in my own personal life.

Remodeling partnersMy own job is complicated by the availability of my trade partners who, like me, are working with other clients who each have their own set of needs and scheduling expectations.

During the peak remodeling season from April – October, cabinet manufacturers, appliance and plumbing suppliers, countertop fabricators, and tile shops are all operating at full or capacity, striving to meet the demand and deliver their products and services on schedule to each and every customer.

When consumer demand is at its peak, and each service provider and manufacturer is working at full capacity to meet the demand while the market is “hot,” it is inevitable that mistakes will be made.

So if you, dear prospective client, want to ensure the best outcome for your kitchen remodeling project, here are my suggestions:

  1. Start early, well before the peak season hits. Home remodeling contractors have plenty of time from October – February to give you the undivided attention you want and deserve. A successful kitchen or home remodeling project takes months to complete. You need to allow a realistic amount of time for advance planning, mid-stream changes of plans, and contractor scheduling, especially if you want your remodeling project completed in time for the holiday season.
  2. When you meet with a designer and contractor, know that their cost estimates and estimated completion time are just estimates. It is impossible to accurately determine the final cost and time frame for your project until all key elements have been identified, including fixture, appliance and finish selections, permitting, manufacturing schedules, subcontractor availability, and delays due to weather or unforeseen construction circumstances.
  3. Be flexible. I have found that by the time a client is ready to leap into the process, a sense of urgency overwhelms them. Everyone involved in your project wants to be efficient and get the job done on time, on budget, and in a way that leaves you thrilled and delighted. But the reality is that planning any remodeling project will take much longer than you expect. You will be happier when you align your expectations with reality.
  4. Do not impose your unrealistic expectations for a speedy and perfect delivery on your remodeling team. When remodeling contractors pressure their employees and subcontractors to “hurry up” to please you, mistakes will be made and you will not be happy with the final outcome.

Sandra Brannock, Owner, Expert Kitchen Designs

Sandra Brannock, Owner, Expert Kitchen Designs, Virginia

Sandra Brannock designs beautiful, timeless, functional kitchens that reflect your personal style, within your budget. She helps discerning homeowners throughout Northern and Central Virginia, Maryland and Washington DC get the kitchen of their dreams and select the perfect cabinetry, fixtures, flooring, lighting, and appliances to make their dream kitchen a reality.

Call Sandra today at (703) 801-6402 to schedule a kitchen remodeling consultation. Sandra will help you get the most value out of your kitchen remodeling budget and ensure that all the details of your kitchen renovation proceed smoothly, on time and within budget.

KBIS 2015 in Las Vegas Part Two —Color, Finishes and Form

KBIS 2015 in Las Vegas Part Two —Color, Finishes and Form

Sandra Brannock, Expert Kitchen Designer

Sandra Brannock, Expert Kitchen Designer

As promised, here is the second article about what I learned and observed at the Las Vegas 2015 Kitchen and Bath Industry Show (KBIS) and International Building Show (IBS).

Today, I touch upon my impressions regarding color, finishes, and form trends. All four at the show were combined in different ways perhaps described best as: the rustic with the sleek, the industrial with extremely polished, something vintage with something brand new, commercial styles morphing into residential. Of course, my blog below could never capture every impression made upon me. But all below made significant impressions on me making them all “blogworthy”.

Kitchen Color Trends

Neutrality is Still “In”
Would you be surprised if I told you that the palette of neutral colors gray, white, and brown are still going strong? And that this palette consistently appears in cabinetry, countertops, and flooring-—the three main building blocks of any kitchen?

A neutral color palette remains, at least at for now, de rigueur.

At the show, almost all kitchen (and bathroom) vignettes featured these neutral color schemes. They dominated the “canvas” and, then, on occasion, bright “pops” of color would be introduced in the space, such as a tile backsplash or a single furniture piece in a bold color such as red or orange.

The guideline followed is: fixtures that are not easily changed remain neutral in color. If color vibrancy is needed, it is found in items that are changed more easily, such as these stools:
ORANGE STOOLS

Finishes

Hardware — A Slight Surprise
For metal finishes such as decorative cabinet hardware, pulls, knobs and the like, the standard polished chrome and nickel, brushed nickel, black, oil rubbed bronze types were displayed in booths as always.

What made a bold “new” entrance was something that most have considered forever in the history books: antique and polished brass.

The pulls and knobs on display this year were not in their traditional form, but rather presented in contemporary or modern ones:
brass pullbrass hardwarebrass hardware on cabinetsSimply by changing the form, but not the finish, the whole feel is transformed. Applying this concept to almost anything sheds light on how something old can be new again.

Appliances — The Continuing “Go To” Finish

stainless refrigeratorAs for appliance finishes, if you heard a rumor that stainless is going “out”, this is not entirely true. It is true that more and more appliance manufacturers offer “panel” ready appliances — meaning you can have a matching cabinet panel made to make the appliance look like the front of a cabinet. But, outside of this option, stainless is still the most popular appliance finish. Although there continue to be a few appliance manufacturers, Viking, La Cornue and Big Chill, to name a few, seeking to distinguish themselves with bold vibrant colors, the standard “go to” is stainless. It remains so because it is neutral in color.

Engineered Quartz Finishes

raw concrete CaesarstoneCaesarstone, an engineered quartz countertop manufacturer from Israel, displayed some of its new finishes that mimic concrete: Raw Concrete, Sleek Concrete & Fresh Concrete. They also have improved their “art imitates life” with their Concetto series. If you are one who needs color, take a peek at this:

caesarstone profondo

Laminates

Another “wow” at the show was revealed to me when I explored Lab Designs’ booth. Incredible samples of high pressure laminates, one after another, were displayed, and many I had ever seen before. Some of these laminates were so compelling, you wanted to touch and feel them — because they had a 3-D quality to them.

honey cayman rattan laminatelaminate sage

Tile: Art Imitates Life

If you are in the mood to stretch your creative brain even more, the tile industry is not lacking for material to help you do so. Tile has truly become “art”, and the choices are infinite for anyone wishing to expand their options to be creative. A few examples:

Kitchen wood tile floor example

Porcelain Tile with Wood Finish

In the world of porcelain tile, the wood look is exploding. These tiles actually have “grooves” that look like the characteristics of real wood.

Weathered Concrete Tile

Weathered Concrete Tile

Another hot trend: tile that looks like weathered concrete. This trend is due to the industrial/commercial look that is making its way into residential interior design.

And then, if you are tired of tiles offering repetition with 90 degree angles, you can enter the world of Ann Sacks. Below is a photo of Sakura tiles which create an Asian inspired wall.

tile mural

Form

If I had to assign a “gender” to the type of form trends I saw at the show, I would say without hesitation: masculine.

  • Countertops—thick, simply in form in edge detail, often 6 cm thick.
  • Kitchen sinks and faucets—straight, linear, minimalistic
    Cabinetry—rustic or sleek. Less details.
  • Hardware—minimalistic with right angles. Some outright “rustic.”

Stay tuned for my next and last article on the show. This one will cover new storage solutions for the kitchen.


Sandra Brannock, Owner, Expert Kitchen Designs

Sandra Brannock, Owner, Expert Kitchen Designs, Virginia

Sandra Brannock designs beautiful, timeless, functional kitchens that reflect your personal style, within your budget. She helps discerning homeowners throughout Northern and Central Virginia, Maryland and Washington DC get the kitchen of their dreams and select the perfect cabinetry, fixtures, flooring, lighting, and appliances to make their dream kitchen a reality.

Call Sandra today at (703) 801-6402 to schedule a kitchen remodeling consultation. Sandra will help you get the most value out of your kitchen remodeling budget and ensure that all the details of your kitchen renovation proceed smoothly, on time and within budget.

Kitchen Remodeling Arlington Virginia: Tudor Home Restoration Project

Kitchen Remodeling Arlington Virginia: Tudor Home Restoration Project

Getting to Know Paul, Tom and Their “New” Old Home

Sandra Brannock, Owner, Expert Kitchen Designs

Sandra Brannock, Owner, Expert Kitchen Designs

Last January 2014 (just before we had that wicked polar vortex descend upon us), I was asked by Commonwealth Restorations to contact Paul and Tom about their kitchen remodel. They had just purchased a neglected Tudor home (circa 1904) in North Arlington.

My meeting with Paul, on a sunny brisk day a few days later, revealed a house possessing tremendous character: tall ceilings, unique moldings, wainscot panels on the walls, and the little quirky parts of the home that cannot be easily replicated. The entire home, including the kitchen, required restorative work to make it livable by today’s standards.

When I spoke with Tom and Paul on the phone a few days later, they told me the story about their decision to purchase the home. Paul said: “When I told Tom there was a house to look at on Glebe, he said he wasn’t going to live on that street. However, on first sight while standing in the rear garden, Tom said he wanted to buy the house having not even seen the inside.”

Obviously, the key ingredient for Tom was the mature and very carefully crafted backyard garden whose elements and style made one feel, while standing there, that one was in Old World Europe one hundred years earlier.

Unfortunately, unlike the garden, the existing kitchen lacked any style at all. It was dark with wood paneling. The floor was “busy”– laid with linoleum. The cabinets were an off white laminate. The appliances were white. A bit of a dichotomy in comparison to the garden’s class and sophistication.

The Original Kitchen

Paolini Kitchen Back Corner Before Paolini Kitchen Entry BeforeIn spite of its flaws, this “bad” kitchen had its good points. A saving grace was its fairly large rectangular footprint and access to the backyard garden. For this second reason, Paul and Tom stressed the importance of a beautiful kitchen which shared easy access to the garden below.

Kitchen Demolition and Planning

The actual kitchen demolition work commenced in February. Paul, Tom and I met several times to discuss conceptual ideas. Because the kitchen footprint was longer than it was wide, and one of the walls would house a sliding glass door onto the deck above the garden, we agreed on an L-shape perimeter footprint for the main working parts of the space. A 48” Thermador refrigerator and 48” Wolf range took up some “real estate ” on the longest part of the “L”.

paolini-kitchen-range

Regarding cabinetry, Tom and Paul weren’t familiar with flush inset framed construction. Upon my recommendation, and to further enhance the period of the house’s style, we agreed this was the way to go with a Sherwin Williams paint “Snowbound”. The overall goal of increasing natural light in the kitchen was paramount, thus the plan included a large picture window. This would become the “anchor” for the main cleanup sink. The island would offer a prep sink across from the cooktop and near the fridge allowing efficient food prep without creating additional traffic at the clean up sink.

paolini-kitchen-view

Initially, seating on one side of the long island was part of the plan. Further discussion created concerns as, due to the length of the island, such a layout would contribute to an unfavorable “cafeteria” feeling. I suggested creating an “L-shape” seating plan on the end closest to the refrigerator. Paul took this a step further by allowing the side opposite the fridge to be open as well to accommodate three or more people if they needed seating for informal gatherings. The stool on the refrigerator side could be easily tucked underneath that side without interference at other times.

Rohl sinks and polished-nickel faucets were mainstays for this kitchen, along with matching decorative cabinet hardware from Hardware Restorations. The floors, which were antique heart pine, were too red for Tom’s taste. The desire for darker floors seemed natural for this house—the floors were stained a dark brown.

paolini-kitchen-sink-dishwasher-view
Tile was selected in crackle porcelain finish—in Champagne and Cocoa colors hue to pick up these element in the granite tops.

Because we had a great team — meaning client, contractor, and kitchen designer — we completed the house by Memorial Day weekend. Paul and Tom continue to email me and let me know how happy they are with their kitchen.

Arlington VA Tudor Home kitchen restoration

Sandra Brannock, Expert Kitchen Designer, in the remodeled kitchen

Client Feedback:

Following a work assignment of two years overseas, we began living in our friends’ home last September while they were away for ten months. Their own home was expertly renovated by Commonwealth Restorations. When Paul and I bought our 110 year old home in December, we knew Commonwealth was a firm we should consider. Commonwealth’s owner Bob Strunk took on the renovation project for our home and from the outset, he suggested we would want to work with Sandra Brannock of Expert Kitchen Designs.

Paul and I had gone through many books and visited several kitchen design locations and were overwhelmed by the choices and the “cookie cutter” approach the designers offered us. We were renovating a historic property and wanted all of our ultimate selections to be integrated and cohesive in their entirety. While there were many nice components available at the design centers, it was an overwhelming decision process to achieve the “total fit” without the assistance of someone who could offer us a great deal of informed guidance. We quickly realized we needed such a knowledgeable guide who could work with us very closely throughout the entire kitchen design process.

Sandra’s first visit occurred at our house and she quickly grasped the basics of what we hoped to achieve. The size of our planned kitchen was large and Sandra guided us to the best design and function attributes from a broad perspective. She helped us to maintain proportionality so that “less really is more”.

Sandra also “spoke” the contractor’s language so it was no surprise to us that Bob had strongly suggested we use her. We learned to appreciate very much the importance of her knowledge of a contractor’s perspective. As a result, she anticipated and helped to forestall many issues before they became problems as she worked very harmoniously with Bob and his subcontractors.

Sandra guided us through the entire decision process and met with us at multiple distributors to have us see and feel the products we were deciding upon. She brought a great deal of intuitive insight to the process and worked extensively with Paul and I to bridge our often different goals.

Once the general layout, cabinets, and appliance decisions were made she developed very detailed and precise schematics. These went through several iterations and served several purposes. Sandra incorporated exact dimensions into the schematics and thereby “translated” our plans into the right language that the contractors could understand. Plus, the schematics gave us visuals into what our individual choices would look like when all combined into one cohesive product.

We would refer Sandra to anyone facing a kitchen redesign project. She was always available for to answer questions and to give gentle guidance for grey areas. She helped us make the right decisions and to pull together our dream kitchen. Sandra:

  • Worked as our guide
  • Made the difficult process easier
  • Was always ready to consult
  • Knows the industry’s standard metrics for functional kitchen design. (Space between island and adjacent counters, etc.)
  • Offered intuitive insights as to what we both sought but were unable to individually articulate.
  • Processed our goals and choices well and came back with appropriate suggestions.

We had gone through many books on our own to establish styles and concepts we both liked, but pulling those into a cohesive whole would have been very difficult on our own.

We visited several kitchen design centers where a cookie cutter approach was offered to us, which wouldn’t have amounted to much in the way of a cohesive finished product.

Sandra offered gentle guidance to steer us away from ideas that were either too big or otherwise not really good for our home. She has extensive design talent and architectural knowledge.

She asked the right questions to get us to identify our likes and dislikes and our goals. She then refined these into a workable and cohesive whole through an iterative process.

She was cognizant of the perspectives of contractors and anticipated issues that might arise. She went to bat for us as needed.

She meticulously assessed the ultimate kitchen appliance choices we made for functionality and suitability and then assessed them for their physical fit into the planned layout. She informed us where we would have to adapt space configurations, and she developed beautiful schematics that enabled us to visualize the finished kitchen in its entirety.

All decisions were made with space considerations in mind.

She worked to help identify common goals and preferences of two strong willed individuals who couldn’t always agree.

She quickly returned our calls and responded to our messages. She was a delight to wrk with throughout the process.

She is proud and knowledgable of her work and it shows in the beauty and integrity of our kitchen.

The size of our kitchen impresses on its own, but Sandra’s assistance in guiding us to suitable design features helped us to keep from choices that would have overwhelmed and exaggerated the space to the detriment of the overall effect.

She focuses on proportionality in her design which is very important. Less is more.

Sandra Brannock, Owner, Expert Kitchen Designs

Sandra Brannock, Owner, Expert Kitchen Designs, Virginia

Sandra Brannock designs beautiful, timeless, functional kitchens that reflect your personal style, within your budget. She helps discerning homeowners throughout Northern and Central Virginia, Maryland and Washington DC get the kitchen of their dreams and select the perfect cabinetry, fixtures, flooring, lighting, and appliances to make their dream kitchen a reality.

Call Sandra today at (703) 801-6402 to schedule a kitchen remodeling consultation. Sandra will help you get the most value out of your kitchen remodeling budget and ensure that all the details of your kitchen renovation proceed smoothly, on time and within budget.