A House is a House for Me

“Assisted living is so costly” … “We’d rather make ourselves more comfortable in our own home” … “I don’t want to leave our neighborhood” … “I’m just not ready to downsize” 
We hear these sentiments often and have helped many people remodel to accommodate their changing needs and lifestyles.
Customizing Kitchens where things are easily reached, avoiding hardware that is difficult for arthritic hands, selecting floor materials that offer smooth transitions and researching technological options for Smart Homes are just a few of the details that come into play. We had a client that came to us after an accident that left her feeling fragile. She wanted to start with her bathroom and needed us to come up with a plan that would make her feel more confident living by herself. The son said, “Seriously, she’ll grab anything that is in her path if she feels unstable!” No one would have ever guessed that the tissue holder, three towel bars, tub faucet and soap tray all strategically placed could each hold up to 500lbs. In this day and age, no need to bolt up the industrial grab bars everywhere. ADA compliant products can be “hidden in plain sight” in many rooms of your home to create safe, yet aesthetically beautiful spaces designed specifically for you.



All Things Natural?

A recent home show episode interviewed the homeowners during their kitchen renovation. Congratulating themselves on selecting the hand-crafted option over the more well known cabinet manufacturer, they proudly led the tour of their installed raw wood kitchen cabinetry, visibly anxious to begin the next phase of painting them. Shaking my head, I had to change the channel.

Hand-crafted is one of those words people feel must be a positive and must mean quality. Not so fast. In our industry, we see hand-crafted projects up close and personal… when we are ripping them out. Give me the furniture grade stuff over the quaint hand-crafted version any day. I want quality hardwood, not even a hint of prefinished foreign plywood. I want hardwood that is dried in a kiln to a one digit percentage moisture content.  I want engineering that shows no short cuts and deficiencies. (Look inside a hand-crafted project and see if all the wood grains are going in the correct direction. Did they short cut any thing else?) A kitchen client complained that her hand-crafted bathroom vanity panels would free float and show areas on the edges that were unfinished during seasonal changes (see image example below). AKB could have offered her an option made by one of those well known cabinet manufacturer‘s (Mouser Cabinetry) that is constructed, primed and finished so that never happens.

Paint? Go ahead, paint the cabinets in your first house, your rental property, paint flowers on your daughter’s vanity in her pink and purple bathroom… paint new cabinetry? There is a reason they don’t paint new cars and boats anymore. Paint is an inferior product. Not sure what warranty you get on the finish of the hand-crafted option, but manufacturers using the lovely Sherwin Williams product can only offer a 2 year warranty on their painted finish. If I am going through the investment of a new kitchen, sign me up for the superman version- a catalyzed conversion process. Chemical Bonding, Catalyzing, Sanding, Sealing, Curing, Finishing in a lovely Dust Proof Room…whatever any of that really means, I’ll forgo being quaint, I just want the guarantee.


Just fix it.

Wine StorageNews flash: You will encounter issues when you remodel. The good news is if you hired the right team, you’ll never really know!
Pieces and parts do not fit seamlessly into new spaces. Custom cabinetry and professional installers can make sure that you get a beautiful, professional finished look without really stressing about how your walls weren’t exactly plumb. For example, think cabinetry to the ceiling. This offers a continuous look that adds visual “height”. But is your ceiling at least close to being level and flat? If it isn’t, it requires professional carpentry skills to alter the crown molding to fit the imperfect ceiling and timing of the installation of the cabinetry below. Professional teams working fluidly together will accomplish this task without alarming the clients. At AKB, we believe that every client deserves not to be bothered with that sort of detail. Sort of like… when I go to the dealership to get my auto serviced, I don’t want to hear how you had trouble reaching the cabin air filter, just fix it. 

What’s the Diff?

I toured a luxury condo development with my mother-in-law today. “Now this one has all the bells and whistles…” said the property manager after we sashayed through one of the more expensive options. “What does that mean exactly?” MIL inquired. “This unit is all custom cabinetry and woodwork. Custom as in Mercedes-Benz quality.” Not letting on to my occupation, I enjoyed her appreciation immensely.1935164_1235916734617_1594624_n

I had already pulled open drawers, opened and closed cabinets, regarded the make and quality to realize she was correct. Being in an industry where many consumers are ill informed about cabinetry construction and finishing quality is frustrating. (I wrote a blog about the similarities between purchasing a sofa and investing in kitchen and bath cabinetry and it was well received. Seems the word cannot be expressed enough.)
Years ago, I conducted a class for a local group of realtors about assessing the actual value of any kitchen in a property they were marketing. It was a basic class designed to help them appreciate the “work triangle” and evaluating quality cabinetry. It was refreshing to hear my own thoughts out of someone else’s mouth.


Who do you hire first, Designer or Contractor?


We had a potential client a while back that met with one of our kitchen and bath specialists for an initial design consultation. By all accounts, the meeting seemed a success and the designer was excited about the project. Upon a follow up call, the client informed the designer that her contractor wanted her to go in a “different direction”. “I really liked what you offered”, she said. When asked for any helpful feedback, the client simply stated that she didn’t feel she could disagree with the contractor. What??

It’s more fun to come into a beautiful showroom where you see what’s possible… where you can touch and feel cabinetry wood, countertop, and hardware options. It’s no surprise that many customers come to us first before hiring a contractor.  How do we manage the process?  We ask, “Do you have a contractor?” Yes=”Look forward to working with them”. No=”Would you like some names to contact for bids”? “How can we be of assistance?”

Customers should always be in the drivers seat. They should always have the veto power. Unless a contractor can show you an extensive portfolio of 11902542_10207352550111958_1756067603987238508_nspaces that they have designed in-house, decisions about designing your space are best addressed by architects and kitchen and bath designers that customers  connect with.

“Pimp My Ride”?

CustomCarvesmThe show that premiered in 2004 on MTV was pretty straight forward…supersize the ordinary. Episodes featured interesting… to… well, inane customization projects. So, dear reader, what does this have to do with kitchen and bath remodeling you are wondering? Actually, quite a lot.
Client: I’m a cook and use a lot of fresh produce. Chop, Scrap, Miss the trash. Dog eats minced onions… residual not good. Would really love a system that made chopping and disposing more efficient.
AKB Designer: No problem, I can design something.

Too Little, Too Much, or Just Right?

3-bears-cardMy friends embarked on a serious kitchen remodeling project. They met with a professional designer suggested by an acquaintance. Initial meetings were amicable and ideas exchanged were well received. When the contract was signed and check deposited, the wife said all the chummy attention evaporated in a crosswind. Her goals of a “family friendly” space using materials to weather the abuse of her children as well as recycling stations she wanted to employ in the design kept being “changed” for an overall look.  When she realized the designer cared more about creating a “signature” project than a space that reflected what they wanted, she was in too deep.

Professional designers guide AND listen. A client’s personal requests create the perfect space for them… and frankly, that is the way it should be.  If she had called me first, I could have saved her the poor experience.  🙂



What is a Picture Worth?

You see a beautiful image on Houzz and it catches your eye. You’re contemplating a remodeling project, so decide to contact the company and possibly include them in your bid process. One of the first questions you should ask is,

Who designed this project?

The person that created that picture you saved in your Ideabook is more than likely a professional designer, someone with years of design education and experience.  That layout you admire in the photo was developed after many client meetings and trips to their

 home before pencil ever hit paper… and it was created specifically for that client.

That picture is worth a lot of personal hours. Don’t you deserve that attention?

Your Happy Place?

JMAY0254For the last child living at home, my current philosophy on bedroom maintenance is … close the door.  So I was a tad surprised last weekend when my youngest daughter pulled into the driveway and proceeded to unload storage containers and hanging systems from Target out of her SUV.  Offering up a heavy dose of smirk and one eyebrow raised at her, she responded, “What?? I’ve got to get organized!” Amazing. Even the evolving brain of a teenager reaches the point of wanting to bring order to chaos.

In the adult world, bringing order to chaos is one of the best things about designing spaces.  I fantasize about some of the laundry rooms, home offices, pet grooming stations, and incredible family storage projects we have done.  I remember guiding hours worth of groups through a grand remodeling project AKB played a part in with its gorgeous beamed ceilings, balustrade and banister in the upper gallery, super sizedLaundryAKB_003 fireplace… and the mudroom.  The mudroom was where everyone stopped and stared.  They envisioned, like I did, what it would be like to live there.  An elaborate family locker system with closed and open cabinetry for storage, pegs for hanging coats, backpacks and sports bags, seating and shoe storage, extra large washing tubs, floor drain, hose system and adjacent laundry room… all there to cater to the pets and people and their comings and goings.  If your happy place is an organized place, we can help.

Couch or Kitchen… My Analogy

Wolf, Sub Zero, Dacor, Miele, LaCanche, AGA, Aske, Bosche, Le Creuset, Staub, All-Clad, Shun, Wusthof.. a random list of high end kitchen items. Is their price worthy of their performance? Multiple reviews over ten renovations for my own personal spaces, I conclude that there is no lack of argument for or against many of the choices I have made. The one thing that gains the most favor, other than resell name brand recognition is performance quality. When investing in cabinetry, this is critical. I use the following analogy:
You’re hunting for a new family room couch. Comfort and style are at the top of your list. Price tag is key. Maybe your husband is a big guy and your kids are young. You have two dogs. Your couch will take heaps of abuse and you know it. At least you have options for cleaning the couch, and you can check these furniture steam cleaner reviews, so there isn’t really an excuse to make about stains or a collection of dog hair. The difference in your next step is critical. Bought cheaply and treated poorly, you will be disappointed to see the sagging springs, cracked joinery and flattened fillings in a very short time frame. Poor construction is just… poor construction.

Cabinetry is No Different. The sweet widow whose builder installed her lovely white kitchen cabinets lasted less than four years after renovation. Cabinetry sagging off the wall, drawers that were crooked closing- not what she was expecting. Moral of the story? She is happily entertaining again after we took care of her.

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