Category Archives: Remodel

The Art of the Punch List

Yesterday I had a phone call from my mother.

This isn’t irregular as we’re known to talk to each other every other day.

I can’t help it.  When she calls….

You answer. Sometimes.

Anyway, she’s in the process of cleaning up what is left of my grandparent’s estate in order to put the house on the market.  New paint, new carpet, and a few other miscellany in order to make the house more presentable.  Honestly I’d rather it have been a gut remodel and a new blog post called #ProjectVerdant but the goal is to move the house, not play Jeff Lewis and go all hog wild.

The premise behind the phone call was that the selected contractor has been less than capable with regards to his finishing skills and she needed to vent a little.  Not like I haven’t heard these vents before, though usually it is me doing the venting.  Needless to say I gave her a few tips for handling the close out and thought I’d share my tips for a successful punch list with you dear readers.

Be prepared because I’m kinda blunt. But you already knew that.

1. “Punch List” is not code word for “Beat the hell out of the contractor”.  Not every task is the result of being lazy or being less than capable.  Sometimes other trades get in the way.  Sometimes things get overlooked.  Sometimes it’s the end of the day and a 12 hours on a summer construction site means he just wants a beer.  Either way, start from neutral.

2. Ask Questions DURING Construction.  If something doesn’t look right – say a receptacle is too far to one side – ask.  It is easier to fix something while the trades are on site rather than after the fact.  Side note: This goes for changes in the field as well.  If you’re contemplating moving a light fixture or adding a receptacle, tell us designers when the mood strikes rather than later.  I can make your change orders feel better if I don’t have to call the electrician out a second time.

3. Blue Painter’s Tape.  Take a walk through the project after the trades have left and use your tape liberally.  Mars in paint, issues with texture, hardware upside down.  Mark it. For some reason, the mark of the Blue Painter’s Tape has become the international code for “problem here”.

4. Make a List (and yes, check it twice!). Normally your designer is doing this but if you’re handling your own remodel, a very detailed list goes a very long way.  Be as specific as possible.  Ie: “Closet door handles mounted upside down”, “peeling paint at windowsill in master bedroom”, or my new personal favorite “painter sprayed over cobwebs in living room”.  Provide a resolution where possible. I understand you may not know what the resolution might not be but note your expectations.  There is nothing worse than two parties with two different sets of expectations.

5. Check your Attitude. I know, blunt right?  But seriously, the punch list is not the time for name calling or just being overall rude.  Manners count.  Say please, thank you.  Watch your body language. Put your contractor at ease rather than making him take the defensive.

6. Set a Timeframe for Completion.  Again, expectations are key.  But make it a discussion.  It’s quite often that your contractor is juggling other projects and as much as he’s going to try to make you his most important client, he has to make the other clients feel the same way.  Is it imperative that the outlet cover be installed no later than tomorrow or can it wait until week’s end?  Make a date for a final walk through and stick to it.

7. Don’t Step on Your Designer’s Toes.  If you’re working with a designer or architect, let them take the upper hand.  Communicate your concerns to your designer first before jumping the gun.  Oftentimes, we’ve spotted the issue already and have taken the necessary steps to ensure that it’s being taken care of.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten calls from trades because of hot headed overbearing clients.  They’re not fun and just make the process more difficult.

8. And lastly – You Get What You Pay For.  I can not stress enough just how imperative it is to select your contractor and tradesmen on quality as well as price.  All too often projects are horribly hinged on price alone and in the end, quality suffers.  If you chose your contractor based solely on price, you can not expect perfection in the end.

Who knew remodeling had to be so damned hard? HA!

So instead of trying to handle your remodel on your own….

Just give me a ring instead.

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#Project Hartford – Now the Fun Can Begin

On any remodel there are a number of favorite moments.

The moment when the client signs the contract and hands you the retainer fee. The moment when they have that “AHA!” moment and the design clicks. Or the moment when you hand the keys back to the client and let them enjoy their fully finishes *fill in the blank*.

But over time, one of my favorite moments is that period after the majority of the demolition has occurred.  The debris removed. That moment where you can walk through the blank slate of a space and know that something decent is finally going to happen in this now gutted space.

Earlier this week, that moment occurred at Hartford, the single family house in San Diego with the hideous mansard roof (more on that mansard roof in another post). The client and I had been going over kitchen and bathroom layouts using the basis that we’d be removing it all. Right down to the studs.

And within a day, just like that, it was all gone.

The appliances and cabinets and drywall and hideous tile counters were gone.  Zap.  A distant memory in the back of a very big dumpster.

Bliss.  Pure and utter bliss.  Can I just say that where there is nothing in the space it looks sooooo much bigger!

And now that we’ve settled on the layout?  Permit time…..

The real fun can begin.

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When it Rains it Pours…..

Is it Friday yet?

I hope that you all had a great weekend?  I kinda miss it already.  But then again, I like coming back to a very full in-box too.

Remember that Morton commercial?  Something about raining and pouring and bad drainage and a blue box with something yellow on it.  I remember it like it was yesterday.  I represent that commercial quite well now. 

Because I came home to not one.  Not two.  But three new projects to jump head first into.  Am I complaining?  No.  But I could use an assistant now.

And just in case you think they’re going to be easy…. let me show you what they look like on the outside……

Santa Florencia – Will receive a full exterior treatment as well as a new kitchen and master suite.  Great things in store for this one.

Hartford – Luckily it was gutted when I saw it this afternoon.  Let’s just say there isn’t a surface that won’t be touched.

Bloch – An exterior refresh and completion of the interior finishes.

Stick around the blog because we’ll be posting progress shots. Not only that, we might just give away a few tips along the way.

Am I crazy?  I must be….

Someone pass me a drink.

And by the way…. why haven’t you registered for our Giveaway yet?  You know you want a new showerhead.  And it’s taking up room on my desk.

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The Family Room – Tips from Renovation Expert Lori Gilder


Did you just say you’re mad at me because there weren’t real cookies involved in yesterday’s post?

Fine.  I’m not going to talk to you.  Instead I’ll let my dear friend Lori Gilder or the uber-popular Diary of a Renovation talk to you.  Better listen up.

I heard the grumble. There might be wine at the end.

Just kidding.  I already drank it.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Hi everyone! I’m Lori Gilder from Diary of a Renovation and this week’s guest blogger on the D.Coop Bloggie.  Just to give you a little background – I’m an architectural interior designer specializing in the re-design, renovation and decoration of high-end homes in LA and beyond.  I’ve been writing my own blog for almost two years now, and this is my very first “guest post”. Thank you Brandon for the invitation to join the D.Coop Alumni (edit: You’re welcome Lori!) .

Last week I met with a potential new client who is interested in gutting their kitchen and family room to create a more open floor plan – which they feel is more conducive to entertaining their family and friends.

The kitchen and family room rank #1 and#2 as the most popular spaces in the home.   Today I wanted to talk about the Family Room.  It serves as a multi-functional place for entertaining family and friends, gathering for movie night or just curling up with your favorite novel.  Ultimately it is a space where quality time is spent together as a family. It is about creating a mood and style that speaks to your family’s lifestyle. So it is time to get your design vision down on paper, call a contractor and make it happen in time for summer!

Here are some great design tips and guidelines to help get you started.

Open your family room to adjoining spaces so the room is visible from the kitchen and dining room, ultimately inviting everyone in.

Define these open spaces by introducing some architectural elements such as arches, columns, ceiling beams and other details.

If possible add floor-to-ceiling windows along the entire length of the exterior wall to introduce more natural light while maximizing your view.

The furniture layout should be oriented toward the focal point of the space.  Don’t be inclined to line up your furniture pieces up against the wall thinking it creates more space.  It doesn’t.

Create good conversation groupings and layout your furniture to focus inward where people actually face each other.  Also be aware of traffic patterns when planning a furniture layout.  The ability to walk through the room without navigating through a maze of furniture is key.

Custom design or purchase comfortable seating and have them upholstered in durable and forgiving fabrics. This informal and relaxing gathering space should function exactly the way you really need it to.

Plan for your family room to have multiple light sources. The combination of general, task, and accent lighting (all on dimmers) creates drama and produces an amazing effect over the entire space.

So why not implement any or all of these design tips and tricks and  spruce up your family room just in time for summer.

Thanks Brandon. 

Stay Inspired!

Check out Lori’s blog!  She’s always dishing on important remodel stuff.  Seriously.  Go look.  Now. I told you to do it.

Images via: Houzz (WA Design), Elle Decor (Billy Blanco Designs), Crate & Barrel, Houzz (Ellen Grasso), and Veranda (Windsor Smith)

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Cookies – The Importance of the Contingency

Mmmmmm….. Cookies.

Hungry aren’t you?  I was, up until about fifteen minutes ago when I ordered a sandwhich.  Food posts make me that way.  My stomach kinda curls up and starts screaming until I throw in something a little more than the cube of cheese I consumed for breakfast.  (and now you know the secret to my very small physique….)

But alas, this isn’t a post about food.

No no.  I tricked you by luring you in with cookies.  I’m bad that way.  And yet you continue to stick around and endure my abuse.

And this is why I love you.

So anyway.  Where was I?  Oh yeah.  Cookies.  Problems.

Once upon a time I heard it said that Oprah (ie: God) recommended eating your dessert first.  And while I understood her reasoning since sure, eating dessert first meant that you didn’t pressure yourself into eating the rest of your meal (not that a bit of broccoli wouldn’t do you any good) I didn’t agree with it.  Think about it.  Eating your dessert first only means that you’re filling your body up with the extras.  The cookies.  And in the end, you’re missing out on the essentials.  Then after a few years when you’re suffering from “The Sugars” as the Queen of Butter calls it, you realize that you missed the heart of the problem.

The same goes for any remodel, redesign or refresh.  Sure, we all love the good stuff.  Picking out awesome fabrics, great art, beautiful furniture.  I love it too.  Something about watching a transformation happen before my eyes.  Walking into a blank room and leaving a finished environment.  But the reality is that all of this, all of the finishing, the furnishings, the art.  All of it is the Cookies.  And we all love the cookies.

But the truth is that as designers we can not get to the cookies until we’ve had a chance to tackle the main meal.  I know.  Plumbing and electrical work and HVAC and foundations and ….. It isn’t fun.  It isn’t pretty (unless you hire my plumber!).  And nine times out of ten it isn’t cheap.  In fact, half the time you don’t even know it’s going to pop up until it does.  I had a recent client who after they moved in (it was the night of) to their new fixer upper found that they could turn off all of the lights on the second floor of their house by flipping the switch to the garage door in their garage (which was in a building not even connected to the main house). Reworking wiring on the second floor took a major cut out of the budget for their master suite remodel but it had to be done.  Nothing like having a great master suite but oops, I just shut off the power, again.

It really (excuse my teenage slang) bites to have to take the money you’d put away for the awesome Samuel Heath antiqued brass Edwardian shower fixtures into something like Romex. Or light switches. Or shoring up the foundation of your house because a group of racoons decided to gnaw at your center post for the last three decades.  But…. never fear!  See there is this little step that you can take during the budgeting period that might help things along just a bit.

What?  A solution?

It’s called a contingency.  And it’s super important.  I won’t go into details about hows and whys and whats but will say that as soon as you have determined what it is you want to spend on your master bath or kitchen or addition, and lop 10% right off the top.  Put it into a savings account.  Pretend like it doesn’t exist.  Because it doesn’t.  Forgot about it already didn’t you?  Exactly.  Then when the time comes (and it will…. have your replaced your toilet recently?) and that rainy day happens (ok, more like breaching the levee type of day) you’ll have a little cash put away.  You can still get your amazeballs in-mirror tv without sweating bullets because the Other Half told you to lose something.  And if you don’t need it (lucky you!) you’ve got a little cash put away for an add on or two (did someone say towel warmer?).

One day when X-Ray vision is invented we might be able to avoid the non-cookie stuff.  We can inspect for it. We can budget for it.  We can keep it from happening long before it actually happens.  But until then, when visiting the grocery store of the remodeling world, we have to save room next to the cookies for the other stuff.

For the broccoli.

Now eat up.  I hear the Girl Scouts knocking.

This blog post is just one of the dozens of super-excellent blogs participating in this week’s theme “Cookies”.  To see the other great blogger’s take, click here to take you to the Let’s Blog Off page.

Images via: (1), (2)

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The Big P Word


You’re beginning a remodel.  Like how I made that sound all sarcastic and stuff?  The amazing things you can do with punctuation these days (though I have a feeling Hemingway or Scott or the Apostles figured it out long before I). Pour yourself a drink and have a seat.  You see, having a remodel is like having a child and then compressing the 18 years (or 22 if you were my parents) into one three to five month long process. There’s always a big mess, random crap shoved in the weirdest of places, and your sex life practically disappears. And that isn’t even the worst of your problems.  I’m sure you think you’ve thought of them all – how you’re going to pay for it, who’s going to do the work, which divorce attorney you’re going to keep on speed dial.  But I bet you forgot the big one.

Privacy. The Big P Word.

I see you grimacing, being very aware that you might be watched.  By watched I mean your home is going to be a virtual whore house of construction activity and there will be no fewer than a minor-league baseball team’s worth of people coming in and out of your home.  Didn’t think of that did you?

On Friday, over a bottle glass of wine I discussed expectations with new clients, prepping them for the remodel of their 1920’s bungalow.  Let me just say that this couple is awesome. Before I’d parked the car, they had a bottle of wine un-corked, poured and ready for me (they could have stuck a straw in the bottle and I would have been fine too, I’m not picky). Even better, they understand my obscure movie references. Maybe it was the wine, maybe they are just a little kooky like me (are you reading this Rob?).  But ultimately the conversation hit on The Money Pit.  For those of you that don’t know, The Money Pit should be a must watch for every remodel virgin. It’s like watching the one botched pregnancy movie doctors (and veteran mothers) urge you to watch before you actually give birth (except by the time you’re watching said movie you can’t back out… you can try but try carrying a teenageer in your womb!). Tom Hanks, Shelley Long, and one HELL of a remodel. Yes, it’s every adult’s scary campfire story (right up there with “Hair grows where?” and “Taxes”).

Just to refresh, there is a scene in which Shelley Long’s character opens her medicine cabinet and the contractor on the OUTSIDE of the house hands her birth control pills, warning her that she’s almost out. Yeah… it can get like that. Like seriously.

Don’t like that idea?  Did I paint a really bad picture in your head (like when you caught mom and dad… um… dancing)?  Then read on…..

Move Out

This is one of the easiest ways to ensure privacy (and sanity) during a remodel.  Seriously though, if you either a) can’t stand the sight of plumber’s crack or b) your remodel is so big that you will not have walls during part of the process, get out of there.  Pack your things and find a Ho-Jos or a Four Seasons.  For your convenience here is the Four Seasons reservations page.

If this is your house during renovation. Get out.

Ok, so you’ve decided to reside in your construction hell project. I understand.  Hotels aren’t everyone’s cup of tea and you probably have an uncle’s best-friend’s cousin that has a pretty big divide at the top end of his jeans.  Or you’re just into S&M and your wife is really a dominatrix.  Meow.

Set Boundaries and Expectations Before Starting Construction

Ignorance is bliss.  Well, not for you of course.  Before you start construction, sit down with your contractor and make up set some rules.  Before rather than during construction is the best time to do this.  Discuss hours (no construction before 8am, forget Saturdays, yoga time is at noon and mats are not provided), boundaries (stay out of the trophy room), and expectations.  And by all means, please ask questions.  The stupid question is the one that goes un-asked (or any question asked of Ms. Cleo).

Make a Schedule and Stick to it

This ties in with setting boundaries.  Time things like showers, meals, and laundry around your construction schedule.  If you’re awake, showered, and dressed before the contractor arrives at eight am, then you’re sure not to have any Who’s the Boss moments.

Designate a “No Construction Zone”

Important!  Sit down with your contractor and give him the No Play Zones. Let him know which areas of the house are off-limits.  Plainly mark them with Do Not Enter signs and if you must, temporarily change out doorknobs with locks (your bathroom should have one already!).  I especially encourage you to make a space somewhere for yourself and your family.  Make this a space where you can relax after work, prepare your meals, watch porn….

Give Contractors Their Own Facilities 

Everyone needs their own potty space.  You need one.  Your contractor (and his subs) will need one.  I’m sure you don’t want your contractor combing through your drawers and finding the medicated itch pads or tampons or prescription for that case of herpes you got during a random trip to Vegas (and they say what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas). The key?  Separate facilities. If you’re lucky enough to have more than one bathroom (and the other one isn’t being renovated) give your guys a facility of their own.  If a second bathroom isn’t available, splurge on a bright blue Port-A-Potty.  You don’t need to put out potpourri and guest towels but at least you know that you won’t have to worry about a “Sorry ma’am” moment.

*Side note, if you do order a Port-A-Potty for your trades, please be aware of your neighbors.  There seriously is nothing worse than that familiar odor wafting from a neighbor’s construction activity.*

Relocate the Skeletons

Storage Units and Safe Deposit Boxes exist for this very purpose.  Worried that your electrician might find the Playboys?  Your flooring contractor might dig up boxes of love letters from old girlfriends?  Gain a little piece of mind and just get them out of the house entirely.  Lock up the important secrets in a 9×9 at the Self Storage and worries be gone.

Had enough?  I’m sorry to have scared you.  I’m only looking out for your well being.

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It’s an LED frenzy! The IES 2011 Lighting Showcase

I’m coining 2011 the year of the LED.  With LightFair in Philly having ended, manufacturers and their reps are letting the new products trickle back to those of us waiting patiently on the West Coast.  Having happened the same week as the Hospitality Design Expo in Las Vegas, there wasn’t much of a showing of great (not so decorative) lighting from the MFG crowd and for that, I was a bit disappointed in this years HDExpo festivities (minus the dinner with Wolf Gordon which I kinda remember but not completely due to no fewer than three Golden Dragons or Ornate Dragons or STRONG Dragons…. something like that.  A story for another time).

ANYWAY (do I go off on tangents or what?) those who know me know I am a major proponent of the push for LEDs in commercial and residential spaces.  As a result I either a) tend to quickly sell my clients on the benefits of the LED market, b) have a working LED module from Elite on the front seat of the Beast, and c) will specify LEDs in my designs whether the clients as for them or not.  After completing the BendBroadband Vault late last year, I have a massive knowledge base of just how difficult it is to find a quality product in the LED marketplace.  This year, however, proved that it might just be getting easier. Even more so, the good stuff is finally coming down in price so you can upgrade your door hardware (did I show you the great stuff from HD? … Sorry, another tangent) AND go LED instead of feeling guilty about giving up one for the other.  So on to my three faves for last night’s showing…..(By the way, clicking the titles will link you to the actual product)

1. Philips’ Capri LED Display Fixture

Image Courtesty Philips Lighting

Personally I am a big fan of the Philips brand and what they’re doing for LEDs.  BBVault was completed using some 40 Philips Omega square LED downlights in conjunction with the other 260 fixtures.  This year, they’ve upped the ante with their LED display luminaire which I’ve been told (and can imagine) is not just limited to display fixtures.  Coming in 12, 24, 36, and 48 inch lengths and temperatures of 4000K and 3000K (Cool white and warm white respectively), these fixtures can serve a multitude of uses.  I think my fave from the rep is that a designer used these under the toekicks of millwork in an assisted living facility.  Plug and Play connections (think round peg in round hole and you’re done) allow for a combination of up to 60 watts worth in a single run (did I mention that 60 watts will easily cover some 8 feet of these things?).

2. Cooper Lighting’s Linear LED Platform

Courtesy Cooper Industries

Courtesy Cooper Industries

Instead of picking out just one fixture from Cooper’s line up I’m going straight for the platform because of its multitude of uses. Many companies already have the quintessential linear LED fixture (I should know, I needed them for the Oregon project) but fewer excel in two places – 1) the ability to change out the LED circuit board should it fail without replacing the entire fixture (think: waste) and 2) the availability of Lay-In troffers for suspended ceilings in commercial applications.  Cooper Lighting is one of the few that have thought of both.  Teaming up with Neo-Ray, Fail-Safe and Ametrix, the Cooper Linear LED Platform incorporates linear recessed fixtures (which can be installed as lit corners and Ls), cove fixtures, and most importantly TROFFERS!  According to the literature your lumens per watt is nearly 76 on a 2×2 fixture which is huge considering the same fixture as a T5HO fluorescent is only 57 lumens per watt.  Hello Ms. Savings! This is big for the world of Tenant Improvements.  Pair with a Lutron system and you might as well get paid by the power company.

3. Visa Lighting’s Mystique Collection

Courtesty Visa Lighting

Courtesy Visa Lighting

Ok… enough with the boring stuff right?  I like fun interesting fixtures and Visa did not disappoint this year. In fact, I was pleasantly suprised since I’m always weary of lesser known companies trying to make their mark in the LED world.  They’ve created a fixture which, when paired with their recessed light box, looks like acrylic bubbles in ellipse, teardrop, straight, frame and several other shapes popping out from the wall.  More so, the back plates are paintable (order a pre-primed unit) or come in 32 standard finishes so no one ever knows the housing is there. For kicks, if you send them a design in any number of file types, they can custom cut back plates for your own design.  Can someone say hotel room numbers?  Heck, throw it on an emergency back up and have EXIT signs made in your own fonts.

Fun stuff right?  If anyone has any questions about LEDs in commercial spaces please feel free to contact me.  I’ve spent a lot of time combing materials and would love to help out where I can.

A Tale of Before and During – The Rhodes Remodel Part 1

It’s Day 2 of my stint in the Blog-o-sphere and I wasn’t sure what exactly I wanted to bore you with today.  That is until my wonderful stainless steel fabricator sent me a photo of the templates in place for our countertops at the Rhodes House.  Since we aren’t exactly at “after” just quite yet (give me about three weeks) I thought I might regail you with photos of the during.

The expository (told you there would be dictionary words in my posts!): Rhodes is a Naval-retired bachelor with a typical 1970’s track home.  His house had a typical 1970’s track home kitchen (with added painted details from a prior owner).  Seriously…. how anyone in the 70’s was able to concoct full meals in these types of kitchens I can’t even begin to imagine.  Even I need no fewer than three pots and or pans to boil water!  Subtracting the range and the sink there was maybe five lineal feet of counterspace, two of which was obscured by his working microwave.  The rest of the counterspace was eaten (no pun intended) by the other minor appliances of a bachelor – coffee maker, toaster, tie press…..

How is that for counterspace?!

So this whole thing started when he wandered into the local green building supply store (Olive Branch Green Building Supply) with the intentions of replacing his carpet with EcoTimber bamboo flooring.  They in turn referred him to me and in true designer fashion we were tearing down walls shortly thereafter.

Originally the plan was to open up the kitchen to the neighboring family room, incorporate the dining room, and expand the actual kitchen itself into the adjoining sunroom.  However, as with many good intentions, the all mighty dollar crept in and an asking price of around $110,000 (USD… don’t make me translate into Euro or CAD).  Back to the drawing board and out came a great little galley kitchen with a nice sized island.  I think that my favorite part of the design is the built in pantry/dining banquette that is going in on the opposite of the kitchen. A nice way to eliminate some furniture and get in more storage, not to mention we incorporated three new 18″square windows above to bring in even more natural light.  More on that later…. His favorite part?  Well it’s a trifecta of a big piece of stone selected for the island and fireplace hearth, the faucet from Aquabrass (I thought he was going to hurt himself with that smile!), and the fact that his cabinetry all opens correctly.

ANYWAY…. one of the star attractions of the kitchen is the fabricated stainless steel counters with the integrated 18 inch backsplash and welded in single bowl sink.  Today the templates went in and now I’m a bit giddy because that means they’re getting ready to cut the actual steel.  Woot woot!  Once those puppies are in then the plumbing, electrical, and appliances can go in followed by none other than the floor that started it all.  So here, in all it’s glory – the stainless steel templates 😀

Here it is... MATCHING cabinetry and the templates for the stainless steel.