Saturday, September 24, 2011

Rebecca Ryan Design - Dollars and Sense: Breakdown of a Great Budget Kitchen

Great Budget Conscious Kitchen
This great budget kitchen has a ton of style and function and looks much more expensive that it is. Here's how they did it:

No Wall Cabinets: Obviously eliminating half of the cabinets in this kitchen saves a ton of money. Open shelf storage is easy to access, with no worries about opening /closing doors, clearances and the additional expense of hardware. It forces people to eliminate the junk they collect but don't need (like all those novelty coffee mugs). And it provides an opportunity for merchandising and personalizing a space. This kitchen features long lengths of  standard white melamine closet shelving and basic L brackets spray painted black. Both are available at big box stores for just a few bucks. 
Savings: $65-$500+ per linear foot of cabinets, depending on wood species, door style, configuration, brand, etc.

Laminate Countertop: Yep this is laminate. Laminate looks best when it's in a dark color like this. There are some great products that look a lot like granite at a fraction of the cost. This one has an integral backsplash. Most big box stores carry a few colors (including a dark, near black) for about $60 for an 8' length - super cheap. You can't do an undermount sink with laminate, but this gorgeous black enameled sink blends nicely into the countertop and is economical. Savings: $55-$150 per square foot for granite, solid surface, quartz, paperstone etc.

No Tile on Backsplash: This kitchen has ingenious wall treatment that makes a stylish statement and is super inexpensive. They have lined the entire wall will v-groove panels from countertop to ceiling resembling the look of real beadboard. These paintable or stainable panels come in 4' x 8' sheets (make sure you order grooves running the 8' length NOT the 4'height) and run anywhere from about $35/sheet to $100/sheet for a stainable cherry veneer. They are more inexpensive to purchase and install than the authentic beadboard which is applied in individual strips. 
Savings: Tile backsplash and wall treatments run around $15 - $300 per square foot + installation.

Black or White Appliances: It seems that people have forgotten that black and white are even options any more. If you have white cabinets, white appliances blend in seamlessly. Black appliances work well with all wood toned and painted cabinets (yes even white, if the countertop is also dark). The exception to this is that rarely do black refrigerators look good - go stainless or paneled. Or in this kitchen photo, do something clever -have your old frig electrostatically painted with chalkboard paint for a couple hundred bucks.
 Savings: Stainless steel look will add $100-$300 per appliance.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Rebecca Ryan Design - Get a grip

Cabinet Hardware is a critical design element that helps define the style of a room. 

Considerations when selecting knobs and pulls are:

  • Style - traditional, rustic, whimsical, clean, historic, transitional, chunky, refined
  • Material - metal, glass, wood, leather, stone
  • Projection - Esp. in corners, will it interfere with the operation of other cabinets, prohibit doors from opening fully or bang into walls?
  • Width - Does it fit the hand size of all people using the cabinetry
  • Color - Will it be high contrast and stand out or low contrast and blend in to cabinets?
  • Feel - How does it fell when you use it? Are there sharp edges? Is it awkward to use?
  • Cleanability - More ornate equals more opportunity for gunk to get stuck. Also, bin pulls look great, but considering hands leave residues up inside of them, they are hard to clean.
  • Expense - Ranging from a couple bucks a piece to hundreds of dollars a piece. Especially appliance handles. Paneled appliances require large expensive handles that start at about $100 per piece. Paneling that French Door Refrigerator will add anther $300+ dollars to your hardware expense.

I am always on the hunt for good design at a great price. I am bananas for the Spaan cabinet pull from IKEA.
Let me tell you why it's so great. 
  1. Style- Clean lines make it work in all but the most traditional settings
  2. Large size - At over 9" long it conveys substance and presence. Hung horizontally it can double as a towel bar. It has the heft to functionally open large and heavy drawers/doors.
  3. Backplate - This pull is a "D" shape. The backplate on it meas it works in any remodel situation without having to consider the length of the previous knobs or pulls that were there. There is no need to fill and re-drill holes, the backplate just covers them.
  4. Rounded grip - When you reach in to use this handle the inside has a rounded profile that is smooth and comfortable on the hand.
  5. Price - Most handles of this size would start at $12-15 per piece and go up from there to more than $80 per piece. IKEA offers The Spaan handle at 2 pieces for $9.99.

ALL KNOBS - on doors and drawers.
Black color is high contrast but small size prevents them from overwhelming the kitchen
ALL PULLS - Vertically Oriented

ALL PULLS - Horizontally Oriented
Can I mix hardware types in the same kitchen? 
1. Keep the finish the same
2. Don't change style, just change shape. For example, the kitchen on the left is traditional and so are all the hardware components - knob with backplate, knob only and pulls. Caveat:The only time it's okay to completely change the style of the hardware within the same room is when there is a piece of cabinetry styled as furniture. For instance, and Asian tonsu inspired armoire in a contemporary kitchen. The armoir could have asian hardware while the rest of the kitchen had simple bar pulls.

This is a beautiful, contemporary kitchen. It's got great sleek lines and whoever selected the hardware didn't want to detract from that aesthetic. The problem is, the tiny little black knobs they chose for all of the cabinets are way too small. Visually they are off in scale and functionally - forget about it. Those drawers are huge and likely heavy too. Can you imagine pulling those open with your thumb and forefinger?

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Rebecca Ryan Design - Top Bathroom Trend: Freestanding Tubs

Large freestanding tubs are the new show stoppers of bathrooms. 
Gone are the large, multi-person jacuzzi tubs of the 90's. Enter the new era of soaking tubs prominently situated in the center of room as sculptural focal point.

Chrome tub $5-10k

Granite tub $10-18k
*Floor must be reinforced to accommodate weight

Refurbished clawfoot tub $1000

Glass tub $8-12k
Concrete Tub $10-20k

New Clawfoot Tub $2-4k

Contemporary Ceramic Tub $5-10k

Custom Wood Tub $10-20k

Acrylic pedestal tub $3-6k

Copper tub $10-18k


Thursday, September 8, 2011

Rebecca Ryan Design - Don't waste your money on these 5 things

According to research conducted by The National Kitchen and Bath Association, homeowners can expect to spend 29% of their remodeling budget on cabinets and hardware. This is the single biggest expense, even more than construction/labor. 

I sell cabinets, so I can tell you where the expense begins to add up, where you should spend and where you should pass. Remember though - this is a list of generalizations geared toward the budget conscious. 

  1. Wood Species: Whether working with custom cabinets or manufactured cabinets, every maker offers certain wood species at "standard pricing". The offering is not the same everywhere. By selecting cabinets built from wood species other than the standard offering, "wood species premiums" can add an additional 5-15% to your total bill. 
  2. Elaborate cabinet door styles: Mitered door frames, decorative applied moldings, extra thick center panels, and other door embellishments can be simply translated as $$$$$$$. There are so many different decorative elements going on in any kitchen that many of these expensive details just don't get noticed, at least not enough to warrant the extra cost. They are what I call "low impact, high dollar" extras. If you're on a budget, these should be one of the first to go. Simpler door styles also have the advantage that they work in a great number of styles and don't become "dated" as quickly.
  3. Artisan or Decorative Finishes: A simple paint or stain is appropriate, beautiful and affordable in most kitchens. Decorative finishes go by many different names such as glazing, brushing, distressing, worm-holing, rub-through, antique, heritage etc. These finishes are done by hand - yes by humans, even in manufactured cabinetry lines. As such, they are extremely labor intensive. Some processes involve up to 15 different layers or steps. Anyone care to guess what kind of a premium this adds to the bottom line? It's somewhere close to an arm and a leg, but more specifically 20-40% of the total cabinet cost. If you are absolutely in love with one of these finishes, do it only on one piece of cabinetry - a hutch-like piece or small island - to keep your budget in tact.
  4. Specialized storage fittings: The brochures are so enticing with every matching spice bottle neatly lined up in a skinny little pull out leg next to the range. Don't fall prey to marketing! This and so many of the specialty storage components made to fit inside cabinets are very expensive - sometimes costing more than the cabinet itself! They also tend to be very limiting and sometimes downright impractical. Do you really want to bend down to knee height to look at a 3" spice bottle? Are all of your spices the same size? And since when is it prudent to store spices near heat sources anyways? Interior organizers are great. I encourage clients to buy them - at Target, Storganize, Home Depot and the like. They work just as well and cost a fraction of the price. The exception to this rule is a pullout garbage/recycling unit and roll-out trays. These are a must have for every kitchen.
  5. Open front cabinets: Someone told someone once that buying cabinets without doors was less expensive that cabinets with doors - and apparently that rumor has spread like wildfire. It's not true. Most backs and sides of cabinets that have doors are constructed of a material like medium density fiberboard (MDF). They are finished with a white or maple - look melamine film that is light, bright and easy to clean. MDF and melamine are relatively inexpensive materials. When a cabinet is ordered without doors, the sides and back now must be constructed of a real wood veneered product. Additionally, they have to be finished to match the exteriors of the cabinets. This equals more money for product and more money for the extra labor and time involved in finishing. If you want open storage, lose the cabinet box altogether and just use shelves.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Rebecca Ryan Design - What's your favorite kind of counter top?

I've been asked this question twice in the past month. Maybe it seems like a perfectly normal question, but to my ears it carries the same ring as asking me which one of my children I like best.  I would answer that they are "each special in their own ways - each excels in certain criteria".

I mean it. Every individual, every design, every budget needs to consider the uniqueness of their own situation. I can honestly say I love and use all of the different types of counter tops you know about, and some you may not have considered.

 I am especially fond of using several different types of materials in a single space. This adds depth and complexity.

Granite: Natural stone is created over millions of years under intense heat and pressure. If you are worried about "sealing" it and staining and putting hot things on it - don't be. A good rule of thumb is that the darker the stone, the denser the stone, and therefore the less maintenance required.  Most homeowners don't leave a spill of red wine on the counter overnight. If you do, then periodic applications of sealant should be yearly. There are about a dozen "standard colors" of granite that can be purchased very inexpensively - $55/sf and the price goes up from there to about $350/sf for the rare and exotic types. 

Soapstone w/ integrated drain board

Soapstone is in a class of its own because it's inert. This means it does not react with acids and bases (like lemon juice). It has been used by science as lab tops for hundreds of years specifically for this reason. Not to mention it cannot be damaged by high heat. It comes in dark charcoal type colors, often with a soft white veining. It does not need to be sealed ever, and it is not polished. It has a lovely soft matte finish that can be darkened with mineral oil.

Other natural stones that often get lumped in the category of granite are quartzite, marble, travertine/limestone and soapstone. While these are all natural stone they are significantly different in their cost and maintenance requirements. Quartzite is the strongest and densest of all, and tends to be more expensive than granite. It can be found in colors that are hard to believe naturally occur in nature. Marble, travertine and limestone are all extremely porous, brittle and inclined to chip or crack along natural vein lines - when compared to other types of stone. At the end of the day they are still stone and still make gorgeous, functional countertops for the right areas of the kitchen or bath. 

Quartz: Man made stone consisting of 99% quartz and 1% resin. There are at least 7 different manufacturers of this type of material. Some of the more common name brands are Cambria, Silestone, Zodiac, Caesarstone, and Hanstone, but there are others. Quartz in general does NOT look like granite. I t runs between $65-$100/sf. The main benefit I see for this material is that it is completely nonporous. It cannot stain and it is antimicrobial. I think it looks best when it is used in one of it's more solid colors and isn't trying to pretend to be granite. Quartz manufacturers have been trying forever to simulate the look of granite, and some claim to have done so. I disagree - not even close. Dont' be fooled. Acrylic is not cashmere, quartz is not natural stone. 


Solid Surfaces/Plastics: Corian is probably the most well known in this category, but some others are Avonite and Wilsonart Solid Surface. These products have taken a backseat to the stone type products in the minds of the general consumer public. They just are not perceived to be as "sexy" as stone or some of the other choices. But I would counsel people to take a second look. There are literally hundreds of new colors and patterns to choose from that are unique and sophisticated. They are very easy to maintain, although hot pans cannot be put directly on them. Stains and scratches are rare, but can be sanded out in the even they do occur. One of the best things about them is that they are warm to the touch. Unlike stone, which literally feels cold and hard, plastics are truly soft and warm (as warm as the air around them). For this reason they are great in offices, as well as kitchens and baths.

Contemporary styled wood tops

Wood: The possibilities here are as endless as the species of wood. Wood tops can be flat grain like a table top, or end grain or edge grain like a butcher block top. They can be light in color or dark, or a combination or pattern of both. They can be thin or super thick, rustic, oiled or finished in a matte, semi gloss or high gloss finish. 

Wood Vanity

With the right finish, they can even be used in water environments, like islands with sinks or even in showers. Grothouse Lumber makes a patented Durata finish specifically for this application. Wood adds visual texture and warmth to any space. 

Mahogany top with ogee edge

Wood tops can be built from any wood species, any thickness and any edge detailing.

Concrete: Starting about $100/sf, concrete is like art. It can be poured/molded into any shape or size, including integral sinks. It can have pigment added for custom colors. It can have glass, marbles, money, anything you wish, added to it for further customization. It has a "cool" factor that speaks to a certain kind of individual. It is very hard and heat resistant. It can stain and form small hairline cracks, which we in the design biz refer to as "patina".

Shattered Glass - Great drama and texture

Glass: Glass is the current belle at the designer's ball. This is the hot trend countertop. It works well with almost every other type of material and it can be cut, shaped, molded, crackled, colored, lit up, embedded with stuff and the list goes on. Because it's so customizable, the pricing is all over the place - it really depends on the specific application. Glass is durable and easy to clean (although it needs to be cleaned often as it does show dust and fingerprints).

Offset glass vanity top with chiseled edge detail
Custom Color Glass Island Top

Zinc Top

Stainless Steel: This material is durable, flexible, easy to clean and antimicrobial. That's why its the first choice in restaurants and public kitchens. It can be mixed with more traditional materials to create an eclectic or transitional environment. Sinks are easily integrated into these tops. People who want customized sink sizes and configurations benefit from stainless steel counters. You can expect to start in the $100/sf range for stainless steel tops.

Copper Top
Other metals that work great for countertops are zinc, pewter and copper. Pewter is extremely expensive, but if money is not an issue, it may be for you. If you love the metallic look of stainless or other metals but can't afford the price tag, laminates are a great facsimile. There are some that you would never know the difference. Try Chemetal brand.


Laminate: This is not your grandma's laminate. The print and patterns are much more sophisticated, the colors are endless, and let's face it - not every area of your home warrants spending $50+/sf for countertops. Laminate can go from about $16/lineal foot to $35/lineal foot depending on color, backsplash and edge treatment. The material is durable and easy to clean, but you can't put hot stuff on it.

Paperstone: Made from recycled paper, this is a great "green" choice. It has a soft matte surface and resembles soapstone. Unfortunately it only comes in a few dark colors. But one good thing is that the color runs all the way through the material. This means scratches are harder to see. If you do get scratches they can be easily buffed out. This isn't cheap, starting at about $110/sf.