Thursday, September 25, 2014

Vintage Bathroom Remodeling: The Essentials

The bathroom is a perfect spot for the charm of vintage designs and fixtures. It's no surprise, then, that many homeowners choose to go retro with their bathroom remodeling projects.

But what does a "vintage" remodeling project really mean? The words "vintage," "retro," and "traditional" are often used interchangeably in home remodeling circles; yet, often these words are meant to describe entirely different styles. Of course, these words all refer to a distant past, but some homeowners might prefer a "retro" 1970's-style, while others prefer "vintage" 1790's style.

Thankfully, the bathroom, more than any room in the house, looks back to a specific past for most of its inspiration. We might not use the old brick stoves of yesteryear, but the porcelain bath is a true classic that remains as viable today as when it was first put to wide use--in the Victorian Era! Pedestal sinks are still the standard for elegance and charm. And vintage tiles can lend any bathroom character and style.

And so, with the first bathrooms in mind, we offer three vintage-inspired must-haves for your next bathroom remodeling project.

A porcelain bath was an essential element of this vintage-inspired MKBD project.

The Porcelain Tub 

Before the nineteenth century, only wealthy homeowners bathed in free-standing tubs. Yet, as the Victorian Era welcomed a new sensibility about cleanliness and hygiene, the free-standing tub became more widely available.

These tubs were simple affairs, formed from steel or cast iron and enameled with brilliant white porcelain. They were distinguished, at first, by roll tops with ball or claw cast iron feet. Even today, free-standing porcelain tubs might also be called "roll top tubs" of "claw foot tubs." The first tubs did not include taps; in fact, early tubs did not enjoy the benefit of plumbing. In most homes, hot water was supplied by a bucket of water heated in the kitchen. With the advent of plumbing, however, faucets (see below) became an essential element of the free-standing tub.

Today, the porcelain tub is an excellent retro addition to any bathroom remodeling project--old or new. And, of course, the classical design of the porcelain tub is a definite must for a vintage theme.

Happily, the porcelain tub is an investment worthy of your budget. Porcelain tubs are durable and very heavy. They're beautiful, too. And they're perfect for soaking--which is another name for this classical design: the soaking tub.

Jut note: because of the weight, you might need extra floor support. And although the tubs can be expensive to fix, the porcelain is very resistant to cracks and chips.

Stylized faucets, like this one from Victoria Elizabeth Barnes bathroom remodeling project, can add a vintage appeal to any bathroom.

The Pedestal Sink

The Victorian emphasis on cleanliness and hygiene meant that most vintage bathrooms were styled simply, in white themes. The lack of indoor plumbing, however, meant that freestanding fixtures like the porcelain tub and pedestal sink fit both the theme and the needs of the home.

Like the earliest tubs, pedestal sinks were originally made of cast iron enameled with porcelain, but, according to This Old Home, "in 1915 manufacturers began fabricating them from vitreous china, a glass-like porcelain."

Today, the pedestal sink is simply known as a freestanding sink with a bowl sitting on a column which hides the plumbing. In the past, pedestal sinks were truly "free-standing" but today most pedestals are attached to the bathroom wall. The great advantage of the fixture (beyond its vintage appeal) is its space-saving design. Yet, of course, the vintage appeal of this piece makes it a de-facto choice for any retro-inspired bathroom remodeling project.

A pedestal sink from Kohler was an elegant and efficient choice for this Langhorne-area powder room

Vintage Flooring & Walls: Tiles

With Victorian elements like a clawfoot tub and a pedestal sink, you're vintage remodeling project will be set for success. However, the most transformative element of a retro remodeling project is the flooring and walls.

The de-facto vintage choice is tile, which traditionally covered not only the floor but the walls and showers of most 19th century and early-to-mid 20 century bathrooms. Some bathrooms used the same tile, from floor to ceiling, but wainscoting on the lower walls was the norm for most bathrooms.

If you're set on another floor or walling material, however, think tiles accents, like the colorful ceramic trim on this vintage-inspired MKBD project (also pictured above).

Unlike the porcelain bath and the clawfoot tub, products of the Victorian Era, vintage tiles might suggest a diversity of eras. Home Guides has a wonderful breakdown of "The Best Colors and Patterns for Vintage Flooring in a Bathroom." We suggest reading this article for inspiration from the 20th century.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Kitchen Remodeling Tips for the Serious Cook: Part Two

Last week we posted the first part of a two-part blog with some kitchen remodeling tips for the serious cook. If you're looking for chef-worthy advice on kitchen layouts, kitchen appliances, and kitchen cabinets please read "Kitchen Remodeling Tips for the Serious Cook: Part One."

Today we will speak about the best cook-savvy options for kitchen sinks, floors, and countertops.

If you have any questions about your next kitchen remodeling project, please feel free to call MKBD for an individualized consultation. MKBD is currently offering a FREE Kitchen remodeling estimate, FREE design, and FREE custom layout to all new customers.

Let's talk cooking and more!

Call now! 215-355-4747 or visit us online at

A Kitchen Sink for the Cook: Clean as You Go!

Efficiency is the cook's mantra, and no idea expresses this mantra as much as mise en place, a French term that means "to put in place." This term is used in professional kitchens to illustrate an simple, yet crucial practice: the organization of ingredients and utensils required for each given meal.

Some cooks might dispute the value of mise en place, but no serious cook disputes the value of organization. And to be organized, a cook needs to work in a clean kitchen. Some wayward family members might dispute this notion, but no cook will doubt the singular edict that goes hand-in-hand with mise en place: clean as you go!

More than the cooking range or oven, the sink is the real kitchen work center. The simple truth is that the more you cook the more dishes you create. For this reason, we suggest that serious cooks add a large sink to any kitchen remodeling project--the largest that fits; large enough even to hold a big baby. 

A large sink is the best option for cooks--and babies!

Instead of a double sink, we often suggest a single large bowl. In a double sink, the dividing line cuts down on much-needed space. A single bowl, on the other hand, will naturally hold more dishes at once, making before and after cleaning easier. A large sink bowl will also hide any last-minute dirty dishes while also leaving some room to strain the pasta.

Square shapes are best. Rounded designs, while attractive, might reduce the work area.

Finally, you might follow the knowledge of certain busy home cooks, who install two sinks in two different areas!

In this French Country-style remodeling project, MKBD installed two large square bowls, side-by-side, to maximize the crucial work area.

The Best Kitchen Floor for the Serious Cook

Quarry tile is the floor material of choice for professional kitchens. Made from red clay that is fired to make it durable and long-lasting, quarry tile is a practical choice for serious wear and tear. The problem with an extremely durable floor like quarry tile--or any other non-resistant surface, like stone or ceramic tile--is that the very durability of the material might mean discomfort for the home cook.

Tough materials also mean tough times for the feet, knees, and joints. If you've ever worked in a professional kitchen, you'll understand the feeling of standing for hours on a hard surface. It's not fun--and indeed, this is why most kitchen install mats to ease the burden of standing.

Obviously, a hard material like quarry tile is not good for a home kitchen. But take the hint from quarry tile and ditch the stone or ceramic tile. If you spend a lot of time in your home kitchen, you want comfort! After all, it's your home--not a restaurant.

A kitchen floor for the home cook, then, should be both durable and comfortable. Fortunately, the kitchen remodeling industry offers plenty of comfortable, yet resilient flooring options.

For the serious home cook, the best flooring options include wood, bamboo, cork, linoleum, or vinyl. Wood, especially, is our favored choice. A favorite among home cooks is wood strip flooring, which is attractive and easy on your knees and joints. With proper care, wood floor can offer the perfect blend of functionality and comfort. Just remember: water damage can warp wooden floors so cooks need to be diligent about wiping up spills.

Hard wood floor--like this tigerwood flooring--is both beautiful and practical.

A Kitchen Countertop for the Cook

Choosing a good countertop material for the cook is not as straightforward as you might assume. A good countertop material for a busy cook must be heat-resistant, yet it should also be impervious to stains and easy-to-clean. The problem is that certain countertop materials, like ceramic, excel at heat-resistance, while other materials are easier to clean.

Once only found in professional kitchens, stainless steel countertops are now finding their way into the kitchens of serious cooks. The great advantage of this professional kitchen workhorse is its perfect combination of durability and heat resistance. Stainless steel is nearly impervious to stains, too.

Just know: Stainless steel requires a bit more cleaning know-how than other materials. And you will need to clean your stainless often to achieve a natural luster. 

Rather than choosing simply stainless steel, however, you might opt for a mix of materials. We like the advice of This Old House for countertops for the cook:

"The best solution is to use a mix. For instance, ceramic tile is a great heatproof surface around the range, but you don't have to tile all your counters. You can even drop a square of tile into a laminate countertop. Your choices will depend on how and what you cook."

In this Hatboro area MKBD project, the savvy homeowner opted for solid granite countertops. Granite offers a certain level of heat and scratch-resistance and is easy to clean.

FREE In-Home Remodeling Estimate!

If you have any questions about your next kitchen remodeling project, please feel free to call MKBD for an individualized consultation. Let's talk budget and more! Call now! 215-355-4747.

Better yet, check out our Free In-Home Remodeling Estimate on this very blog!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Kitchen Remodeling Tips for the Serious Home Cook: Part One

At MKBD, we work with a variety of client tastes. Some homeowners want purely stylish kitchens with beautiful amenities like hardwood cabinets and granite countertops. Other homeowners simply want a basic space suitable for a busy family, with just enough storage and work space to be efficient and economical.

Of course, for MKBD, each family and each unique preference deserves a special attentiveness. Yet, in our experience, no preference requires as much attentiveness as the demands of a serious home cook.

A serious home cook's kitchen must be easy-to-navigate and easy-to-clean. The serious cook requires plenty of counter and storage space. Of course, most cooks enjoy company, but when space is a premium, the serious cook also demands efficiency. Yet, efficiency is not the only goal. The serious cook rarely skimps on quality or beauty.

Perhaps most importantly: the serious cook's kitchen must make him/her feel happy. After all, they'll likely be spending a lot of time in the space.

If you’re a serious home cook, or live with a serious home cook, and you’re considering a kitchen remodeling project, you'll want to read our first installment of Kitchen Remodeling Tips for the Serious Home Cook. And remember, if you have any questions about your next kitchen remodeling project, please feel free to call MKBD for an individualized consultation. MKBD is currently offering a FREE Kitchen remodeling estimate, FREE design, and FREE custom layout to all new customers.

Let's talk cooking and more!

Call now! 215-355-4747 or visit us online at

Many cooks believe that a perfect work triangle--like this MKBD-exclusive professional kitchen-style project--is a design must.

A Kitchen Layout for the Cook

By far, the most important element of a cook-friendly kitchen design is the layout. So if you're working with a professional remodeling company or kitchen designer make sure you express your needs clearly. Ideally, you want the efficiency of a professional kitchen scaled down to your available space.

Professional kitchen are organized around the concept of the work triangle: the three-point work station, from the range, to the refrigerator and/or pantry, to the sink, and back to the range. Many cooks believe the work triangle is a must as it segregates the three functions of kitchen work: cooking, storage, and cleaning. However, as we've noted before, disputes this doctrine:

"The work triangle isn't without its flaws though...It assumes that a kitchen will only have three major work stations and one person cooking. As kitchens grow in size, and feature more than three workspaces, the regular work triangle isn't always practical. And in many households today, two or more people share cooking duties. Because of these issues, designers do not always play by the triangle's rules when it comes to drafting kitchen plans."

Your kitchen layout, then, will be largely defined by size and the number of cooks. If you have one serious cook and limited space, we suggest a design with a traditional work triangle. If you have more cooks or space, however, you might choose to add additional work spaces for preparation and/or cooking.

A gas range is a must for the serious home cook. In this Philadelphia MKBD project, the client demanded only professional-grade appliances, and this range certainly fits the bill!

Kitchen Appliances for the Cook

A cook-friendly kitchen design is a must, but most cooks get really excited about the appliances, especially the range. Obviously, ranges come in a variety of price levels with a seemingly infinite number of options, but for the serious cook the most important option is the energy source.

Any cook worth his/her salt will tell you this simple truth: gas is preferable to electric. You'll want to look for sealed burners, cast-iron grates, and easy ignition controls. And keep it simple. A true cook doesn't really need extra features--all he or she really needs is a reliable flame with steady temperature control--the true advantage of a gas range. 

Many serious home cooks opt for separate ovens with convection option for perfect, even baking. Look for an ample oven space with easy-to-remove grates and a powerful broiler with 3000+ watts of power.

A quality refrigerator is not only the provenance of the serious cook--homeowners across the country demand refrigerators with abundant storage space.However, remember, larger is not always better. A refrigerator might take precious countertop space, and if you have a small family, you simply might not need a large refrigerator. And don't waste your money on a built-in unit. A free-standing model will be deeper, which can be helpful when the holidays roll around and you need a place to store your brined turkey!

Finally, a cook's dishwasher merely needs to perform its function--and stay out of the way! Serious cooks should opt for better ranges and basic dishwashers, although it's nice to have cleaning options for heavy duty jobs like pots and pans. 

Ample cabinet space is a must--especially for smaller kitchens like this Center City MKBD project.

Cabinets for the Cook

Serious home cooks, by nature, need more storage space for the tools of the trade. The cook will have more pots and pans, more ingredients, and more seemingly obscure gadgets, like potato ricers or food mills. (Please don't tell your home cook that we called the potato ricer and food mill obscure!)

Choose simple closed cabinets with deep shelves for storing larger plates and bowls. Skip the ornate patterns that might prove hard to clean; ditto decorative hardware. Install adjustable shelves. And for the most efficient use of space, build your cabinets all the way to the ceiling.

Your choice of material should be guided by efficiency and durability. For an in-depth look at some of the most popular cabinet materials, please read "Kitchen Cabinet Materials: Learn What's Best for Your Kitchen Remodeling Project."


Want more remodeling tips for the serious home cook. Stay tuned next week for our next installment of Kitchen Remodeling Tips for the Serious Home Cook!

 FREE In-Home Remodeling Estimate!

If you have any questions about your next kitchen remodeling project, please feel free to call MKBD for an individualized consultation. Let's talk budget and more! Call now! 215-355-4747.

Better yet, check out our Free In-Home Remodeling Estimate on this very blog!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

A Bathroom Remodeling Lookbook

For many homeowners, planning a bathroom remodeling project is all about the big-ticket items: the porcelain bath, tile floors, or dual vanity. In the end, though, it's often the simplest element that defines a homeowners experience of his/her new space: color.

Whether you choose an airy azure blue or a a vintage yellow ocher, the color of your bathroom will have a tremendous influence on your daily mood. By choosing colors that complement your unique lifestyle, you can create a space that inspires a spa-like relaxation or an exhilarating excitement.

Of course, your bathroom's palette will be largely defined by your choice of paint or tiles, but your fixtures will complete the look, so you want to think like a painter. Mixing and matching colors and patterns to achieve a desired feeling is the best way to ensure that you truly love your bathroom.

But how do you choose the right color palette for your lifestyle? If you're looking for inspiration, simply browse our Bathroom Remodeling Lookbook below. For a more information about bathroom paint, read "Three Essential Tips for Your Next Bathroom Paint Job."

Looking for more inspiration? Visit our website,, and check out our Designer Portfolio!

Earth Tones

 In this masculine yet elegant bathroom design, MKBD used porcelain tiles to imitate slate. A black vanity cabinet with a black granite vanity top complements the earthy tile. The matching white toilet and white porcelain sink create a sharp contrast to the black granite. Finally, the polished chrome faucet and shower fixtures add a contemporary flair.

Earth tones are adaptive to a variety of complementary colors. In this project, the homeowner opted to include stark contrasts for a masculine flair, yet many homeowners use earth tones as a base for a warm and sumptuous spa-like retreat.

In this MKBD project from Doylestown, earth tones are used to different effect. We especially like how the crème Bordeaux granite  countertop houses the white porcelain Kohler sinks with the brush nickel fixtures from Moen.

Marble Tiles

Marble tile has been a popular choice for bathrooms since Roman times--and for good reason! True marble elicits a feeling of elegance and calm hard to replicate in other colors or materials. The key is discovering the marble color that is best for you: white, grey, or black? 

In this MKBD project from Elkins Park, imported marble envelops the space from floor to ceiling! The white marble veined with black streaks creates a substantial elegance that the homeowner has chosen to offset with two sprightly blue dolphins (on the toilet seat). The large black tiles lining the floor truly ground the space in a feeling of permanence, while the black mosaic tiles on the shower floor provide an elegant visual contrast. The white pedestal sink, positioned next to the white elongated toilet for space purposes, adds a classic touch. 

French Country Green

We love the colors in this French Country project

For this project, the homeowner chose an antique green that speaks of subdued countryside mornings. For a true country look, seek antique colors and fixtures, like this porcelain vintage clawfoot tub, to add a charming rusticity. The checkered tiles create a unique dash of personality in an otherwise rustic space.

Beyond the green walls and vintage tub, the fixtures here speak more explicitly of a French sense of style. From the French mirror to the simple yet elegant vanity with the marble top, this bathroom inspires thoughts of our vacation in Brittany or Lower Normandy! And while we're speaking of France, how about an inspiring picture of our favorite Francophile, the Spanish-born painter, Pablo Picasso? 

Picasso in His Studio

[Source: The New Savagery]
When researching a palette for your next bathroom remodeling project, don't limit yourselves to pictures of bathrooms! Look to the world's great artists for inspiration--both in their work and in their studios. In this picture, Picasso's fiery personality is hinted at by his red outfit and cubist paintings, but note how the studio is grounded in the colors of Picasso's homeland: the humble burnt red of Spain.

Multi Colors

In this Phildelphia MKBD project, we transformed the old space by adding a shower with a bench, multi-colored tiles in natural stone, and river rock pebbles for the custom shower pan.

The color palette, here hints at the warmth and vivacity of a great Cézanne still life!

Cézanne can be a wonderful inspiration for color!

FREE In-Home Remodeling Estimate!

If you have any questions about your next kitchen remodeling project, please feel free to call MKBD for an individualized consultation. Let's talk budget and more! Call now! 215-355-4747.

Better yet, check out our Free In-Home Remodeling Estimate on this very blog!