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It Was a Dark and Stormy Night – For Kitchen Cabinets

Everything old is new again. That age-old adage is proving itself to be true in the kitchen cabinet world according to a recent BuilderOnline.com article, which stated, “… after years of white or neutral tones, and the emergence …of brightly colored cabinets, dark finishes [on kitchen cabinetry] appear to be making a comeback with home buyers.”

The article suggests that this return to kitchen cabinet yesteryear may be attributable to: 1) today’s open floor plans and 2) the upscale look dark cabinetry conveys. “No longer separated from other living areas by walls … home buyers looking for a seamless transition between spaces might be inclined to use cabinets that complement other home furnishings,” the article rationalizes of the first reason. Of the second, it suggests, “For some buyers, white cabinets suggest entry-level melamine kitchens or those found in multifamily rental apartments, while darker finishes project luxury.”

A leading manufacturer of kitchen cabinets, including a selection of wood door styles, finishes, and decorative cabinet hardware, can afford homeowners a full spectrum of cabinetry choices. In terms of wood species, cherry, an elegant, multi-colored hardwood, is a nice option. In its raw state, it has a pinkish-brown hue with occasional shades of white, green, pink or even gray. Natural or light stains accent these color variations. Small gum pockets, streaks, pin knots and figures are common. Cherry wood will darken or “mellow” with age. This mellowing is a natural occurrence and a benefit of owning solid cherry cabinetry.

However, the same darkened effect can be achieved with lighter woods through various finishing techniques. Stained finishes like cognac, cabernet, chestnut, chocolate kafee and peppercorn provide a rich look to kitchen cabinets. To create the look of freshly restored heirloom cabinetry, homeowners may want to consider an antique glaze finish like antique chocolate with mocha glaze.

Traditional glazed finishes like chocolate with mocha glaze, garnet with ebony blaze and chocolate with ebony glaze lend sophistication to kitchen cabinets as well. During this process, a base stain is applied to the wood and followed by a glaze flood coat to add richness and warmth.

For those homeowners who are seeking upscale appeal, burnished finishes are a nice option. A base stain is applied to the wood, which is then followed by a glaze flood coat to add richness and warmth. Burnished chestnut, chocolate, autumn blush and cabernet burnished finishes look as attractive as they sound.

Finally, a cost-effective way of achieving the dark wood effect is with painting. Several coats of heavily pigmented stain saturate the wood for rich, beautiful color. These finishes are semi-opaque, meaning some of the natural beauty of the wood grain may be visible.

Homeowners who would like to darken up their kitchen cabinets have a lot of choices to choose from. They can opt for wood that has a natural dark finish or they can choose a lighter wood and obtain the same effect with various finishing techniques. A kitchen cabinet manufacturer that specializes in wood door styles and finishes can help them select the rich cabinetry they’re craving.

Avoid the Remodeling Nightmare – 5 Things You Can Do to Keep Your Project on Track

Why Renovate Instead Of Building?

When economic issues are keeping you from making the move up to a larger, more accommodating home, maybe the thing to do is add on that extra living space you’ve been needing. Or perhaps a new master suite with the huge tiled shower and spa tub is just the ticket. While you may not be willing, or able, to spend the money on an entirely new home to get those things, you can usually recreate the space you live in to achieve the same results with a lot less outlay of money. If you decide to take on a renovation or expansion, there are some things to keep in mind that will keep you sane through the entire project and give you what you want.

For over 21 years, I’ve been involved in the residential building and remodeling business. Throughout the time that I’ve worked, building houses and performing renovation work, I’ve been witness to a lot of poor workmanship and delayed projects. Often what has happened is that a homeowner will attempt to undertake a fairly large remodeling effort, only to find they have gotten themselves into a real mess. Every project has setbacks, challenges and deficiencies, however there are steps you can take to prevent getting in over your head. Follow some simple guidelines and you will achieve a result you can be proud of. Let me share some of my experience with you and give you 5 steps to achieving what you want in your next renovation effort.

I – Set Your Objective

Determining your objective is crucial. Weigh the merits of what you want versus what you need. All of us can imagine living in a mansion with the finest of amenities and furnishings, and unless you have determined what you need, you can easily get off track and spend much more than you should. It is important to get the job done without going broke otherwise you might end up with a half-completed project and no money. I’ve seen this before, so determine your objectives, weigh the costs and stick with them through the planning process. The time to decide the scope of work is at the beginning of the project, not in the middle.

Determine what you can’t live without. Do you really need the expensive light fixtures right now, or can you wait? Plan for future upgrades. One way you can do this is to pre-wire for an audio/visual system and leave the components for a later date. By thinking through this process, you can save yourself money up front, and keep from having an unfinished, or over budget project, or worse yet, both.

Something important to note here is that any item not easily replaced, like a shower valve in a tiled shower wall, or the tile itself, needs to be carefully thought out for cost and appeal. If something can easily be replaced, like a commode or the carpet, don’t go overboard to start with. You can upgrade your expectations when you see how actual costs are trending.

II – Form A Plan

This may seem like a no brainer, but I’ve been amazed,over the years, at the number of people who attempt to undertake a fairly large project without a finalized plan. Without a plan, you cannot measure progress, cost or compliance and you certainly cannot give the sub-contractors working for you any solid information. Without a plan, you are constantly being called upon to explain things or make decisions and the project becomes a full time job with a lot of stress.

A plan does not have to be complex, it can be simple and effective. There are three elements to a simple plan and they are:

  1. Drawings showing dimensions and relative look of the finished product. You don’t need an architect, just a tape measure and some 11″ x 17″ graph paper. If you can’t draw a straight line with a ruler, you might want to ask for some help, but get your idea down in black and white and make copies. Your sub-contractors need something to guide them and it can’t always be you making decisions on the spur of the moment while everyone is waiting for an answer. There will always be questions, but with some decent drawings, there will be a lot less of them.
  2. A cost estimate for the project. To determine the projects’ cost, you will need a cost estimate for each phase. Determine the phases and get at least two quotes for each phase, from reputable sub-contractors. Use these quotes to formulate an overall project cost estimate. It is important to have this so that you can track expenditures and see where you can cut costs if necessary. Without the cost estimate (and the Objective mentioned above) you can, and probably will, exceed costs and blow your budget. It’s very easy to get talked into more expensive choices in the “heat of the moment”. Stick with your objective and stay within your budget.
  3. The final element to any plan is the time factor, or schedule. Although you won’t be completely accurate in creating a full project schedule, with the drawings and objective completed, you should be able to get a fairly close estimate of the overall time for each phase and develop a general project timeline. The reason this is crucial is that if you are wanting to be using your new facilities by Christmas, you can’t leave it to chance that you will have the project done by then, you need know when the start and finish dates will be. By developing a timeline, you at least have a targeted finish date.

III – Get Quotes Early

When you’ve determined what you need (your objective) and have completed a plan, it’s time to start getting quotes; notice I did not say estimates. You need solid, accurate quotes and you need to hold the sub-contractor to his or her quote. There are times when costs will exceed the quote, and these should be addressed immediately before work continues, but for the most part, each sub-contractor must be made aware that the quote he/she is providing you is the amount of money he/she will be paid, with no variances except in circumstances which are clearly outlined. Again it’s important to state, if you’ve developed your objective and plan, getting accurate quotes should not be a problem. Any sub-contractor that won’t provide you with a fixed quote should be eliminated from consideration. There are plenty of good, reputable sub-contractors who will be glad to do the work for a set price.

One area where a variance in a quote is justifiable is when you are working on a home and find extensive moisture damage or termite damage that needs to be repaired. When this happens, stop work, get the cost for fixing that problem, make a decision and move forward. The higher costs may be justified by un-forseen situations like those above, however never allow someone to bill you more than his or her quote and try to talk you into paying the higher costs. Each sub-contractor should know enough about his or her trade to provide accurate quotes for work he/she usually performs. Get the quotes in writing and have potential areas of variance listed in the quote. Any sub-contractor worth dealing with is going to appreciate the details being worked out ahead of time.

Get quotes early because most reputable sub-contractors are not standing by ready to work within a day of giving you the quote. You have to schedule the work as far in advance as possible and keep them posted on progress so they are aware of when they need to begin work.

Make certain the quotes you receive contain the length of time to complete the work and make it clear that financial penalties will be incurred if the phase takes longer than quoted. Keep in mind, though, the length of time cannot always be controlled. There will be unforeseen and allowable variables (like termite and moisture problems) in the length of time some things take. However I have heard horror stories where projects took a lot longer than necessary to complete. For instance, I knew of a man, building a 5,000 square foot house who had drywall crews, being paid hourly, hanging around for four months when it should have taken two weeks. Don’t let this happen to you.

IV – Don’t Let The Sub-contractors Run The Job

One of the worst mistakes you can make during the entire process, and one that is easily avoided, is allowing sub-contractors to run the job. You are the person in charge, it’s your home and you will live in it. As the homeowner, you should take the time and make the effort to research the process so that you are familiar with what is happening on the job. When allowed to control the flow of the job, the sub-contractors may push to do what is convenient for them and will not necessarily have your best interests at heart. This isn’t true of everyone, but there are some who will tell you what they want you to hear in order to get what they want. You must always remain in the drivers seat. If a subcontractor will not listen to your requests, or tries to make excuses for why he or she cannot do what you want, hire a different subcontractor.

And finally…..

V – Bring In An Independent Consultant If Needed

When all is said and done, executing a large remodeling or renovation project is time consuming and management intensive. When you have sub-contractors who are skilled, careful and honest, it makes the job go more smoothly with less hassles. There are times, though, when you just need to have some confirmation and direction to help you through the project. This is when hiring an independent consultant/manager can be a life saver. A well experienced consultant/manager is one who has had experience in both field operations and project oversight. He, or she, will have the ability to assess the quality of work and all aspects of the project and should, for a reasonable fee, give you a detailed report on the status of the project at any given moment. Having another pair of experienced eyes on the project can also help point out potential problems before they are too late to easily correct.

An independent assessment can sometimes not only save you headaches, but time and money as well. It may even be in your best interests to sign with a consultant/project manager to oversee the project for you on an ongoing basis. Fees can range from 2% to 5% of the total project cost and can keep you from going over budget by that much or more. Considering the overhead you will pay a builder to contract the entire job (10% to 20% or even more), the 2% to 5% you pay a consultant/project manager will be a deal. Sometimes the money a consultant/manager can save you with their experience will cover the entire cost of their fees.

When hiring a consultant/manager, check credentials and references. Is he/she licensed, insured and recommended? Does he/she have testimonials or referrals? The qualified consultant/manager can run the job for you from beginning to end leaving you time to put your feet up and daydream of your new digs, while the work gets done smoothly and efficiently.

Final Thoughts

As a final note, remember that every project is simply small pieces put together in the right order. With proper planning and preparation, you can handle any renovation effort. Contrary to popular opinion, most of the subcontractors engaged in making a living, are honest, hardworking people and will give you the work you are looking for. By planning carefully and following these simple guidelines, you can be certain you won’t lose control of your renovation project. You will finish on time and on budget. So go ahead and start planning now, you could be using that new kitchen or soaking in that big spa tub sooner than you think for less money than you might believe.

Green Design 101 With Verde Home

Determine the Project Scope
The scope of the project you are undertaking will affect the decisions you make about Green Design. We generally look at the scope of a project as being one of three types in ascending complexity.

  • Redecorate – Re-designing an existing room with no new construction will be the least intensive. The option of re-use is generally greater with existing spaces.
  • Re-model – Re-models often open up living areas and require more “net new” materials, however the potential for re-use is still an option.
  • New Home – Designing a new home will most likely require more “net new” materials than a remodel or redecoration. This “clean slate” offers opportunities to incorporate more sustainable design elements but the potential for higher environmental impact is also greater if not managed.

Determine Project Goals

Once you have determined the general scope of a project the next step would be to decide what the primary goal of your green project is. Goals will vary from project to project but can generally be broken into one of two categories:

  • Reduce the overall environmental impact that your home has. i.e. reduce the environmental footprint.
  • Create a healthy living environment, free of potential toxins.

It is important to note that these two are not necessarily mutually exclusive. However, when deciding between the pros and cons of multiple product choices it is helpful to keep in mind the ultimate goal.

An example of this trade off may occur when redecorating a living room. If your goal is to design for a healthy living environment it may be necessary to replace the old sofa, which is most likely made using toxic glues and cushions. However, replacing old item with new items is not always the “greenest” thing to do, as it creates more waste. A similar project with an environmental impact focus may opt to have the existing piece re-upholstered. Depending on the budget and needs of the project this process may encompass the use of organic fabrics as well as re-stuffing of the frame to capture some healthy living environment benefits or it may stay strictly focused on environmental impact and use a fabric made from recycled materials.

Tips for Environmental Impact Focused Design
A good starting point for any Environmental Impact Focused Design is to take stock of what you already have. The more that you can Re-use or Re-purpose the less new material you will have to buy, this will both save money and reduce the impact of making new goods. Some basic ideas to consider would include:

  • Have kitchen cabinets faux painted to give them a new look. Replace pulls with unique salvaged pieces or items made from recycled material.
  • Consider having countertops veneered instead of replaced.
  • Reupholster pieces that are not completely thread bare or talk to a good upholsterer about altering the lines of a piece.
  • Repurpose old rugs. Old kilim and other rug fragments can often be washed and cut down to make great pillow covers or even use as upholstery fabric.
  • Re-use old fabric. If you are having a sofa recovered, consider trying to use portions of the old fabric if possible on smaller projects.

After going through everything that you can re-use inevitably there will be some new pieces that you will need to buy in order to complete your decor. Below are some considerations when buying new items.

  • Look for local first. Items that are produced or obtained regionally generally will have a smaller environmental impact from a transportation standpoint. The added benefit is that they generally are delivered quicker and support the local economy.
  • Look for vintage pieces. No new energy will go into the production of something that has already been made (aside from transport).
  • Pay attention to what new items are made from. If it is an item made from wood, ask where the wood came from. Ideally the item will be made from FSC (Forest Stewardship Certified), reclaimed woods, or urban hardwoods (trees felled as a result of storm or other natural reasons). If these are not available look for abundant native wood species which tend to be grown in a sustainable manner.
  • Although carpet companies have made great strides in the last few years to become “green” they still don’t match the age old natural wool rug. Look for all wool rugs, preferably handmade. Unfortunately few handmade rugs are woven locally which means that they must travel distances to get here, but wool is rapidly renewable, anti microbial, naturally resistant to mold mildew and bacteria. If maintained properly a well made handwoven rug will also last a lifetime.

Tips for Healthy Living Environment Focused Design
When designing a space with a focus on healthy living a few more considerations may come into play. The designer must first take note if the client has any special allergies or chemical sensitivities that will affect the design. Below are some general tips to consider:

  • Use organic wherever possible. Where chemical sensitivity, allergies or other health issues are concerned it is always best to use natural product components. Today there are organic options available for most home furnishing products.
  • Again we would recommend wool area rugs, unless there is an allergy involved. As noted above wool rugs are anti microbial, and naturally resistant to mold mildew and bacteria. They also have the added benefit of being able to be removed and thoroughly cleaned to remove dust and dirt.
  • Using low VOC paints is recommended any time recovering a wall is required. Most major paint companies offer these now. When possible use premixed low VOC colors as VOC’s tend to be added as tints are injected to the base.
  • Look for furniture assembled with water based glues. Most manufactures are making the switch but the alternative is a formaldehyde base which becomes a gas at room temperature and can “off gas” in your home for years.
  • Where dyes are used in fabrics and rugs, look for low impact (or no) chrome dyes or natural dyes. Also referred as Swiss Dyes low impact dyes are made with high absorption rates to readily bond with the fiber requiring less dye and minimizing the use of heavy metals. Vegetable dyes on the other hand are 100% natural to the point where they are bonded with the rug. There is some debate over the “green-ness” of vegetable dyes but in all they are better than standard chrome dyes.

Getting rid of the old
If you are buying some new items you are most likely doing away with some old pieces as well. The question then becomes what to do with your old pieces. If they are still useful try one of the following:

  • Donating them to the salvation army (who will come and get them in many cases).
  • Post them on Freecycle.org if you wish to give them away
  • Sell them locally on Craiglist
  • Contact a vintage furniture store or consignment shop to see if they are interested in buying or taking the piece in on consignment.