The 2018 Bathroom: Less Is More

Your home’s bathroom can be more than a place to shower and brush your teeth. It can be your own personal spa where you can relax, decompress, and make sure you’re looking fresh. It’s the first place you go when you wake up and the last stop before bed. Don’t you owe it to yourself to make sure it’s not only tailored perfectly to your needs but also looks as good as you feel when you step out of a nice hot shower?

The days of enormous Jacuzzi tubs, massive marble flooring, and lavish his & her cabinets are better left in the luxury magazines and Hollywood films. 2018 bathrooms are all about achieving the same results on a more efficient smaller-scale. It’s important to make the most of the space you’ve got without making it feel cramped, so every inch should be utilized. There’s a great emphasis on ditching excess for minimalism and the integration of smart home technology. Before, any type of electrical appliances in the bathroom were a dangerous game. Now gadgets and items to make life easier and the bathroom more comfortable are embraced as the future.

Let’s start with the actual commode. You may have heard about the features that newer toilets are equipped with. They’ve been a staple of European bathrooms, and they’re finally starting to come to the United States. These artfully designed toilets can come equipped with everything from seat warmers, customizable slow close lid options, automatic openers, built-in deodorizers, adjustable air dryers, and even wireless music players.

Next is the arguable centerpiece of the bathroom. Hexagon, diamond, arabesque, Moroccan fish scales, or chevron tile patterns are a beautiful choice to liven up walk-in showers. Freestanding tubs are becoming trendy since they save room and can be decked out with green energy-saving faucets to reduce water consumption. Putting a sleek and modern tub in a space that’s designed to look more rustic creates a popular contemporary complementary scheme.

Having large pieces of clunky furniture or bulky appliances are wasteful and counter intuitive to the progressive approach homeowners are choosing for their designing needs. Storage areas are economizing as well. Vanities can hang as free floating wall mounted pieces, rather than as part of a large or cumbersome cabinet structure. All of the plumbing is still hidden neatly for a clean, simplified counter area.

Similarly, sink bowls are going smaller. A contemporary style is expressed with brass and gold tones on automatic faucets triggered by hand sensors and warming drawers for linens and towels. Of course, wireless music systems and televisions are being combined into these appliances so you can stay entertained and multitask throughout your daily routines.

We’re stressing pathway lighting more than overhead, not just for safety but for aesthetics. New techniques to keep the bathroom lit properly are getting even more creative to get the most use out of everything. There’s a rise in light bars and wall sconces and natural lighting, where some renovators are carving out a skylight. And as for those walls, nature inspired patterns and graphics are in. Exposed brick, wood accent pieces, and leaf tile mosaics are dominating the consumer market. While we don’t always enjoy year-round sun in Ohio, don’t forget natural light. Sunshine streaming through large or high mounted windows can open your bathroom and make it look and feel more spacious.

Neutral, natural colors like whites, grays, and warm browns are being utilized the most, but some people are injecting a burst of personality with blues and reds on their walls or floors. Underfloor heating systems are a great comfort item. These work best with tile, vinyl, concrete, and wood materials and not only keep you toasty on cold winter mornings, but also help with noise control and are beneficial for those with allergies since they reduce air flow that would typically stir up dust. You can take it a step further. Add to the natural look/feel, by incorporating live plants into your floor plan (they’ll love the floor heating system too).

You don’t have to settle for the stark cookie cutter bathrooms of the past. The key thing to keep in mind is identifying colors, features, and comforts that fit your style. A good designer or contractor can help you identify an organizing theme, so your new bathroom remodel has a clean streamlined style and feel – both functional and beautiful.

Lastly, be sure to consider what you need now and what may want in the future. It’s not uncommon for homeowners to start attaching wiring and hook ups for technologies and gadgets that they might need someday down the line. Likewise, attractive barrier free bathrooms and decorative grab bars can be aesthetically appealing today, and functional tomorrow.

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Welcome to The New “Counter-Culture”: Quartz, Marble, And Laminate Options for Your Kitchen Remodel.

Kitchen renovations remain one of the most popular projects for 2018.  It makes sense to renovate or upgrade what may be one of the most important rooms in a home. This is true for everyone, whether you are a great chef and baker or don’t cook at all. After all, where do your coffee maker, frozen pizza, and wine chest live? An attractive kitchen is a great place to host a casual happy hour or morning meeting if you work from home.

Still, knowing where to start can be a challenge. Surf any site on the internet (like Pinterest) or walk into any home renovation store and you’ll soon be overwhelmed with choices and possibilities. We suggest an easier place to start is your kitchen countertop.  Big or small, all modern kitchens are anchored by their countertops and islands.  These surfaces are the main components that determine both the functionality and primary aesthetic of the kitchen.  Homeowners should weigh four main considerations before choosing their countertops: appearance, durability, maintenance, and resale value. But what about color? That falls under “appearance”, and your color choices will be driven in part by some of the accent trends of 2018.

One of the main kitchen trends of 2018 centers around color.  Gone are bold black or gold accents or statement walls.  In their place, homeowners are opting for a more soothing oasis feel for their kitchens.  Most people are choosing soft blues or neutrals like greys, beige, ash, or even white. These color choices may seem uninspiring until they are paired with the second (and continuing from 2017) trend of the year, counter to ceiling mosaic tiles. An elegantly neutral countertop or kitchen island perfectly complements a bold color or pattern on a mosaic backsplash or tiled wall. A neutral color scheme for counters also works well with our modern preference for natural lighting from better windows or even skylights in the kitchen. Homeowners oftentimes find themselves balancing their need to integrate color into their kitchen that is harmonious with natural lighting but simultaneously not bland.  The answer is to look for a countertop color that works well with a backsplash and the existing lighting in your kitchen. Don’t automatically shy away from a neutral countertop until you consider how everything will look together in your kitchen.

No matter what style kitchen you have, granite is always the top choice in terms of natural beauty and increased resale value. Most people consider the cost of granite counters, plus the intrinsic risk of its installation, worth it in the long run. Granite adds value to a home because of its universal appeal. It is also ideal for larger kitchens since it is the only natural material that is available in wide slabs (usually up to 70 inches wide) that make it possible to create counters and islands with no seams, thus creating a smooth and beautiful surface that showcases the natural dramatic veining in the rock.  The one caveat for homeowners is that although granite is very strong it is also brittle.  Installation can sometimes result in cracks or chips.  Small accidents can be repaired by the contractor but larger cracks mean ordering (and waiting) for a new piece of granite to arrive. Since no two pieces are alike, the second replacement piece may not exactly resemble the original one. Is it worth the risk? People say “yes” in order to have a valuable upgrade for their kitchen.  In addition, granite is also the only material, natural or otherwise, to be used for outdoor kitchens.  It will not fade in sunlight and can withstand weather extremes.

Counter tops of varying height are a functional option making it easy for the whole family to use the kitchen. Plus, they’re a great aesthetic!

Quartz is the main alternative to granite. Unlike granite, it is a manufactured material but can be customized to come in colors that are more in line with today’s trend of neutrals.  The natural veining of granite is gorgeous on its own but might compete with a tile backsplash. You won’t have that issue with quartz since it tends to be more uniform in color.  Also, unlike granite, quartz is nonporous so that means that there is less maintenance when it comes to spills and water rings. It will never need to be sealed either (like granite) and most soaps and detergents are safe to use. The drawbacks? Quartz usually comes in narrower slabs of approximately 56-65 inches.  A larger kitchen may have surfaces with seams joining the counters but this will not be an issue for smaller spaces or islands. It is also not a natural material, so it has less intrinsic value than granite. But the installation is easier and less nerve-wracking than dealing with a potentially large cracked piece of granite.  You can weigh the pros and cons of these two popular building materials (and others) for yourself, or you can read the chart below for a comprehensive summary.

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As you can see, there are many things to think about when it comes to starting your home renovation. In the end, balance your aesthetic with your lifestyle. A Pinterest ready kitchen outfitted with marble counters may not be ideal for a large and growing family.  On the other hand, a laminate kitchen that you don’t find attractive won’t be where you want to linger for your morning coffee or be an end of the day retreat.  Really take your time to think about your ideal kitchen and research the options that will fit your immediate and future needs.  As you design your kitchen countertop and island, don’t forget other considerations. If you like a clean minimalist approach, an integrated sink might be right for you.  They’re also functional because you easily wipe down the counters to the sink without a watery pool left over. While your contractor may suggest a Corian countertop to be paired with an integrated sink, they’re also available in marble, poured concrete, and even stainless steel (so many choices!).

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When upgrading your kitchen, don’t forget fixtures! A new faucet will complement your new island well. You may be able to save on renovation costs by bundling upgrades together, so ask your contractor if he can obtain a professional discount for you when buying hardware. If this is the case, don’t shy away from looking into a hands-free or fashionable high-arc faucet. A fresh look for your kitchen is not an impossible task!  Simply find a reliable contractor and write down your most important concerns for your new space. Begin there and you’ll be on your way to a new kitchen that’s perfect for you, your friends, and family!

Faucets can add an appealing accent to your new kitchen.
There are even more sink and countertop options than what we covered here. Contact us to schedule a consultation to learn more!

Walking The Plank: Choosing Decking Materials That Best Suit You

The weather is finally warmer and sunnier here in Ohio. Let’s let ourselves imagine that Summer is actually around the corner (and take those snow shovels out of your car now!). This is the perfect time to start thinking about building a deck for your yard—BBQ season is right around the corner! Where to start?

First, contact a licensed professional renovation and installation service. You may have a friend or family member who is great, but will they know if they need to pull permits or not? Probably not. A professional will also know how to ensure your deck is structurally sound and will weather the years. Professionals (hopefully) also know what materials and design is going to work best for YOU and how you’ll use your deck.

Once you’re ready to start, do some research with your contractor about what materials are best for your new outdoor space. One of the primary considerations should center on the best materials for your home in the northeast climate.

There are an abundance of materials on the market but all choices vary in terms of quality, safety, and value. In general, there are two main categories of materials for you to consider.

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When most people think about construction, the material that comes to mind is wood. It’s a natural material that’s used for everything around the home including fences and backyard furniture (think Adirondack chairs). Real wood decks always win hands down for looks because wood is naturally beautiful. Treated wood is also insect and rot resistant. Hardwoods, like redwood, are stable and warp resistant. The downside? They’re sourced from old growth trees which make them non-sustainable and expensive. Softwoods, like cedar, have an almost light honeyed warmth but tend to be soft and susceptible to splinters and scratches—think about that if you like bare feet outside or will move furniture and a grill around.

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Pressure treated lumber is widely available and has all of the durability of natural wood. Just keep in mind to do your research well because quality can vary with price. Cheaper pressure treated wood will distort when faced with weather changes like extreme cold and heat. Untreated pine is the least expensive option. DIY homeowners often find this material the most attractive because they can keep costs down with some annual elbow grease.

Is it as simple as pressure washing and applying a marine stain like Rustoleum every year? No. Sadly, the truth is that untreated pine ends up costing the homeowner in the long run. On average, untreated pine decks will need to be replaced (sometimes as often as every 2-3 years) because they cannot stand up to Ohio cold and wet as well as their pressure treated counterparts. No amount of staining and maintenance will protect an untreated deck in our climate.

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Next on our list are the latest in wood alternatives. These are either composite materials (a mixture of wood and plastic) or entirely plastic. Trex is arguably one of the highest quality and an industry standard for composite decking materials. It’s sustainable since it is 95% recycled wood. It also offers some of the best durability and appearance (there’s a wide array of patterns and styles to choose from). Maintenance is limited to a quick soap and water cleanup if needed – so no power washing. It’s mold resistant and comes in a variety of colors. This makes Trex an ideal material for high traffic decks because it will withstand heavy use without showing as much wear and tear. Trex will initially cost more to purchase, but the payoff is that there is little maintenance on your part for a beautiful natural wood finish deck, and you’re increasing the resale value of your home by using a trusted brand that is low maintenance.

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For the environmental and green conscious, another advantage of this composite material over wood: you’re limiting your carbon footprint.

Trex has many competitors but the main alternative to it is PVC (polyvinyl chloride). This material is 100% recyclable since it is entirely made of plastic. Like Trex, it mimics the look of real wood and is nearly maintenance free. The downside is that PVC is susceptible to fading and staining. Wait too long to clean up after that barbecue and you’ll be disappointed! Things like spilled wine, coffee, and sunscreen will stain a PVC deck if it is not cleaned up and left in the hot sun. PVC will also change with the weather.  Direct summer sun will make the material heat up uncomfortably underfoot and your deck will actually expand and contract with weather extremes. The result is that you’ll need to watch to make sure decking isn’t loosening over time.

Don’t let the multitude of choices overwhelm you! Here’s a handy summary chart with the pros and cons of each deck material.  Read it then talk to your contractor. In the meantime, plan for a long and enjoyable summer with your friends and family on your outdoor space! Just do a little research and you’ll be on your way to enjoying your new deck that’ll last you for years to come.


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