Dos and Don’ts of Bathroom Renovations

We could spend days going over all the basics of home improvement, focusing on DIY to professional service. First, you have to have a need before you begin to decide who gets to do the work. Most people have multiple areas of concern. The roof is old, and the line outdated; the garage could be converted to family space; the kitchen is beyond belief with no counter or cupboard space. We could mention small closets, missing patios, and bathrooms ready to demolish. In fact, why not start there.

A nice bathroom is a luxury and only the new homes and apartments have sufficient space. Thus, bathroom renovation is at the top of most lists. The easy part is picking nice tile, a prefab cabinet, and state-of-the art sink and toilet. Unless you push out a wall, it is probably mandatory where everything is placed. You can, however, remove a tub and enlarge a shower. Removing tiny medicine chests is easy but putting a solid wall of mirror takes some expertise. In fact, it all takes time, money, and skill. Unless you or a friend has some construction experience, it is wise to consider a pro. A good handyman might even be enough.

A plumber, however, might be required for a new water heater to go along with all the renovations. If the old one is conking out, consider the new tankless systems that save money and space. I wouldn’t try installing it yourself after reading about professional installation at Tankless Center. It is like a mini computer and you might not be able to program it. But if you want to get involved, design the color scheme and purchase cool accessories. After all, your home is a reflection of your taste.

Make It Last

People often ask us how much they should spend on a “quality piece” and how to find something that’s quality made. Our answer depends on the room and the individual item you’re thinking of buying. For example, we would tell you to avoid those fridges with all the bells and whistles and screens. While they are cool, there are so many more things that can break or go wrong, and if it doesn’t make your food any cooler what is the point?

But here are some quick and dirty rules to remember when you’re shopping: think about your lifestyle. If you move a lot, then you might want to avoid big heavy pieces. You might just want to stick with particleboard stuff that goes together with allen wrenches so that if it gets damaged in transit, you’re not crying. But that’s up to you. If you’ve got kids or pets, get washable fabrics in forgiving colors. No white leather, sharp edges, glass, and stainless steel. The amount of cleaning and stain-guarding you will have to do will not be worth it.

If you’re in the market for a piece of real furniture, check out what it is made from. You’re going to want solid materials, not laminate or pressed wood. Check the back – is it one of those nail-on pieces of colored cardboard, or is it the same material as the rest of it? How are pieces connected: did they use nails, screws, or glue? Check the joints if you can. Quality construction will have pieces that interlock like a puzzle. If there are drawers, take them out and look at the shelves and the hardware – does it move smoothly? Is the drawer solid wood? If there are feet or legs, are they hollow? Are they centered and sturdy? Does the piece balance on them well?

When you have found a piece of furniture that checks all of your boxes, the next step is to keep it in top shape. If you’re purchasing an antique or a high quality piece from a furniture or antique store, you should ask the salesperson what they recommend you use to clean it – there are all kinds of cleaning products out there, from the natural to the synthetic, and not everything will respond to a cleaner in the same way. You don’t want to ruin the finish or damage the material because you use the wrong type of cleaner on it. Wood finishes can be very specific, and there’s a reason for that – be careful! If you don’t know what kind of finish it is, you should start with a very mild cleanser that is wood-safe and only work your way up to something stronger if the first one does not work. For glass and metal, we recommend using a natural cleanser without ammonia and a microfiber cloth.

Even if you’re keeping it clean and dust-free, there are other things that can damage a good piece of furniture. Putting fabrics in direct sunlight (and even some wood finishes) will cause them to fade, so keep that in mind as you are arranging your room. If you are displaying items on it, make sure that there are felt feet on anything that could possibly scratch or damage the surface. Keep moisture away from wood by using coasters and avoiding high humidity.

And remember, if you are ever not sure, contact your friendly neighborhood furniture salesperson and they can help!

Common Bedroom Mistakes

Most people don’t spend a lot of time awake in their bedrooms, but that is not an excuse to have an ugly or unfunctional place to rest. You need a retreat, a place where you can unwind from the rest of the world, and get a good night’s rest. Here are some things most people do wrong, and what you can do differently.

First: keep the electronics out of the bedroom. That means no tv, no tablets, no computers. Don’t charge your phone at the side of the bed. Noises, alerts, and screens that seem to randomly brighten at all hours of the night will disturb your precious shut-eye. Plus all those cords and clutter are just unsightly. Leave them somewhere else. And please, please, keep the exercise equipment out of there. Your bedroom is not a gym. There’s only one kind of exercise acceptable in there!

Second: your lighting is probably wrong. Make sure you have soft wattage bulbs in your bedroom. You’re not going to be performing surgery in there, nor is it going to look flattering or set the mood when it is sexy time. Soft lighting. Soft lighting fixtures, too, with fabric shades. You don’t need curtains made with heavy materials, but there is a reason you sleep so well in hotel rooms – they have blackout curtains. You should get some too.

Third: don’t make the room too busy. Too many knickknacks make your eye restless, which will in turn make YOU restless. Have a well-organized closet so that you can find the things you need when you want them and they’re not strewn all around the room. Have a place for your accessories and things like keys, wallets, and jewelry: it will help your room stay neat and orderly as well as prevent you from losing them. Also think about your textiles. If you have a busy print on the curtains, don’t also have a busy print on the bedspread. Don’t have bright and loud colors on the wall, either. Bedrooms are places for muted colors, pastels, and cool tones. There is a reason you’ve never been in a spa with bright red or orange on the walls!

Fourth: make the room practical. If you know you’re not going to walk all the way to the other side of the room to put your clothes in the hamper at night, put the hamper where you’re going to use it. Get a pretty one if you’re afraid it will be “unsightly” (although we ask you, which is more unsightly, a hamper or dirty clothes everywhere?). If you read lots of books at night, get a nightstand with shelves or buy yourself an ereader to cut down on book piles. Like to set your clothes out the night before? Get a handsome valet to hold your clothes without wrinkling them.

These are the biggest issues we have noticed when we’ve been making over our client’s bedrooms. Got a specific bedroom design question? Drop us a line and we’ll see if we can help out!

Trends We Hate

Interior design goes through phases just like fashion. There will be good years and great trends and other times there will be things that make us cringe years down the line. There are plenty of current trends that we love: reclaimed wood, pattern mixing, retro light fixtures. But there are some we could do without.

Everyone seems to be putting their books on shelves backward. We don’t understand this. From a design standpoint, it makes the books all look the same color. But from a utilitarian standpoint, you have to turn every single book around to figure out which one it is. We are against displaying things just to display them. We believe that items should be visually interesting, have personal significance, or be functional. Books backward on a shelf do none of those things.

Everyone loves an open floor plan, but there is such a thing as a too-open floor plan. For example, there are now some master suites that don’t have doors or walls between the bedroom and bath area. There is absolutely no reason for this. Keep these two areas separate and keep the mystery alive.

Another big trend lately is minimalist. Everyone is decluttering everything. That’s great, we don’t want a room filled with junk you don’t care about or rarely use. However, there can be too little in a room as well. Having personal touches, some art, or family photos around the room makes it look lived in and welcoming. You don’t want your home looking like a hotel room, completely void of all personality, do you? Display at least a couple of things to show people that someone with a  personality lives there.

Then there’s throw pillows. All anyone hears about is adding pillows with colors and patterns will make a room pop! And yes, they will. However, if you add too many, you’re making the room overwhelming and the sofa, chair, or bed, will make it hard to sit or sleep comfortably. The pillows will probably end up on the floor, and then you’re defeating the whole purpose. While we absolutely encourage the use of throw pillows as room accents, make sure that you use this design technique sparingly.

The last one on our list is the farmhouse sink. Now, a farmhouse sink can look fantastic in some kitchens. Some people, however, just know that it is the newest thing in kitchen décor and so they want one, even if their kitchen is closet sized or shaped like a hallway. They don’t care if everything else is modern and sleek or rounded and retro, they want that farmhouse sink. You really need to have a nice sized room and a complementary design in order for a farmhouse sink to work in your space. Talk with an expert who designs kitchens before you get your heart set on one. There might be something much better looking and more practical for your space.

Not every trend is right for every room, and there’s no reason for you to keep up with them all. You have to choose things based on your room size and desired function as well as your own personal tastes. Are there trends that we overlooked that you cannot stand? Or have we judged these too harshly?

Design Ideas for Apartments

If you are living in a rented apartment, you don’t have the same ability to design your space as if you owned it. We know it can be hard to personalize your rooms and have them reflect who you are. You often cannot paint or choose flooring, and any holes you make will eat away at your security deposit. So what can you do? When we were first married, we lived in a few different apartments and developed a few tricks we want to pass along.

First: area rugs. It might seem silly if your apartment already has wall-to-wall carpet, but an area rug can really make a room pop, especially if you cannot add color to the walls and the carpet is that utilitarian beige color. Added bonus: covering up their carpet saves it from stains and dirt. It’s a win-win. Get something big enough to clearly mark off a space, especially if you live in a studio apartment.

Second: window dressing! Many places will come with ugly blinds that just collect dust. Adding curtains can help cut down on utility bills and make the room look better. Some windowpanes are magnetized and you may be able to get magnetic rods. For others, you will have to make holes. But once those great curtains are hung, the room will look totally different. And it will be worth it!

Third: buy versatile furniture. Don’t get a king sized bed because the bedroom is big. If you aren’t staying there permanently, who knows what the next sized bedroom you get will be? Another great investment is modular sofas, because you can rearrange them to fit the room. Same goes for ottomans. Buy multipurpose and flexible pieces to get the most out of them when you’re renting.

Fourth: get creative with wall decoration. Nowadays they make decals and even wallpaper that is both peel-and-stick and easily removable. Whether you’re adding just a little life to the walls or papering a whole room, these easy on, easy off products will make your place feel more like home. There are so many design choices out there. Choose something that reflects your personality or try something fun like a faux window!

Fifth: be smart with storage. You may not be able to put up shelving, so you’ll have to think differently. Bins that double as seating, or sofas with storage underneath will be useful. Bookcases and breakfast carts are other ideas you can add. Modular storage is also perfect in apartments, because you can set it up however you need and add to it as time goes on.

Finally, use those removable wall hooks for everything from hanging posters and artwork to coat hooks, potholders, and guest towels. They come in a variety of colors and styles, aren’t very expensive, and really do come off cleanly. It will help you add the finishing touches to your space while making sure you don’t spend the last days in your apartment spackling lots of holes!

Don’t let the fact that it is a temporary home dissuade you from decorating a rented apartment. If you’re going to be living there, you deserve to be happy in the space, no matter who has to foot the bill when the dishwasher breaks!

What to Do With All Your Stuff

Clutter and chaos is not a design aesthetic. It ruins everything you try to do with your home: it prevents things from being functional, makes it difficult to clean, does not provide comfort, rest, or peace, and it does not make people feel welcome.

There is a lot of advice out there regarding how to get rid of clutter, from simply getting rid of all of it to storage containers to holding onto only the things that bring you joy. Paring down is work, we won’t lie. Before you attempt to cut back on the amount of stuff you own, we have some advice.

First, start small. Pick a bookcase, a closet, a corner, or even a shelf. If you start too big too fast, you’re going to overwhelm yourself and give up before you have even made a dent. Don’t buy containers before you pare down, because you won’t know what you need to store until you know what you have left. Choose storage containers fit for the room you’re putting them in. Items in the basement or garage don’t have to look pretty but it might be good for them to be waterproof. Baskets in the living room for toys have to be easily identifiable and simple to open, or your kids are going to dump everything out to find what they want or never put things away. Just keep going, the process is time consuming and awful but at the end, it will be worth it.

Then, resist adding things back in to your newly decluttered home. Just because you have space does not mean you need to fill it. Bookshelves do not need to be packed full of items. A few treasured books and knickknacks creates more of a visual interest than shoving every single book you own into one case. You don’t live in a library or museum, there’s no reason to have the same amount of stuff they do.

Think creatively. Go vertical whenever possible – even shelves over the top of doorframes can be useful for out-of-the-way storage. The same goes for under the sink and in kitchen cabinets. Ottomans with storage provide extra seating and are a good place to stash items like extra pillows or bedding. Vacuum-sealed bags are a great way to store out of season items like heavy drapes, sheer curtains, flannel sheets, and other things you only use at certain times of the year. They’ll work for your heavy coats and bathing suits as well.

Be smart with how you store things and they will remain easy to find, simple to access, and allow you to enjoy the space you’re in, regardless of its size. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, hire a professional organizer or interior decorator to help you make the most of your square footage and all the stuff you need to have in it.