Thursday, February 26, 2015

The Bathroom Sink: A Simple Buyer's Guide

In the world of bathroom remodeling, we pay a lot of attention to the bathroom vanity--and for good reason. As we wrote recently, "the choice of a vanity can certainly make or break your bathroom's design...the bathroom vanity is often the most glamorous part of a bathroom remodel." Yet with all the attention paid to the vanity, many homeowners tend to overlook the most basic of bathroom elements: the bathroom sink.

Please read: "The Bathroom Vanity: Glamour & Function."

With all due respect to the vanity, the bathroom sink can also contend for the coveted spot of "most glamorous part of the bathroom." This is especially true if you're remodeling a smaller space, where an outsized vanity just won't work. Despite the sink's appeal, though, our experience at MKBD has revealed an odd fact: many homeowners treat the sink as an afterthought. Some have even asked, "Can you choose the sink?"

Believe it or not, it is not typically a remodeling company's preference to choose the details of a client's project. We prefer to gently guide you to the choices that make the most sense for you.

With this in mind, we've created a simple bathroom sink guide. The information and inspiration below should empower you to choose a perfectly suitable bathroom sink.

This little blue gem of sink is a riff on the classic vessel sink--
a perfect choice for a smaller space.

Types of Bathroom Sinks

While timeless and popular, the vessel sink (above) is only one of many sink types. Your choice of type will be defined by your available space and plumbing requirements as well as your personal preference.

The classic pedestal sink consists of a single basin supported by a pole. This sink is best suited for small bathrooms, but its timeless and simple appeal can work in any bathroom.

The wall mounted sink, a basin connected to the wall, is also good for smaller bathrooms. Instead of the pedestal sink's pole, you might need to invest in some sort of screen or shroud to cover the pipes.

A vessel sink (above) is simply a basin that sits directly atop a counter. As noted here, this style is "based on the centuries-old design of Chinese washbasins used in the days before running water." The vessel sink is easily adapted to many bathroom designs, small and large.

The under-mount and drop-in sinks are similar with one notable difference: both sinks are mounted beneath the counter, yet the drop-in includes a rim that rests above the counter. Both will work with vanities. The under-mount offers a more seamless appearance, yet the drop-in, perfect for bathroom renovations (as opposed to a full-scale remodeling project)  can easily be retro-fitted to most countertops.

Two under-mount sinks from Toto offer a seamless presentation in this Eastern Montgomery County bathroom remodel

Bathroom Sink Materials

Bathroom sinks come in a variety of materials including the ever-popular porcelain (often called vitreous china), enameled cast iron, brass, copper, nickel, marble, granite, and stainless steel. Phew. And that's just the most popular materials.

You might be tempted to default to porcelain, and we wouldn't blame you. Porcelain is both beautiful and durable. It's also easy to clean. Consumer Reports, however, offers a different view:

"Porcelain may be the first thing you think of for bathroom sinks. But think again: Our tests of eight materials found several that stood up to our barrage of everyday wear and tear even better than porcelain for about the same price."

For an interesting view of bathroom sink materials, read, "Bathroom sinks, traditional to trendy."

After reading that article, you might be tempted to try a new material, but our suggestion is to limit your choices by considering, first, a material's durability and ease-of-cleaning. You just might find that porcelain is the best bet for your money.

A porcelain pedestal sink from Kohler is the perfect match for this marble powder room. 

Faucets for Your Bathroom Sink

Your choice of faucet can determine the look of your sink as much as the choice of the sink (basin) itself. At MKBD, we love today's stylized faucets, which come in a variety of materials and, well, styles.

To complement this simple vessel sink, a brushed nickel wall-mounted faucet also looks amazing against the white and charcoal grey porcelain tile.

The choice of faucet, however, shouldn't entirely be limited to aesthetic concerns. Talk to your remodeling company about appropriate faucet shapes and sizes for your basin.

Free In-Home Remodeling Estimate

If you have any questions about your next remodeling project, please feel free to call MKBD for an individualized consultation. Let's talk bathroom design and more! Call now! 215-355-4747. Better yet, check out our Free In-Home Remodeling Estimate on this very blog!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The Kitchen Backsplash: Attractive Colors & Interesting Textures

It struck as recently while dressing for a friend's wedding that a colorful tie or pocket square serves much the same function as a kitchen backsplash. In the booming world of men's style, for example, a central look is the classic, well-tailored outfit accented with a statement accessory--like that tie or pocket square. The key to this look is maintaining the classicism of, say, a wool navy suit, while showing a flash of inventiveness.

A textured houndstooth tie and a colorful pocket square colorfully complement a navy suit without overwhelming the look. [Picture Source]

At MKBD, we follow a similar outline with our kitchen remodeling projects: a classical, well-designed space accented with an inventive element. And more often than not, that inventive element is the kitchen backsplash. As our projects below prove, the backsplash offers more than mere protection against cooking spills and stains. A backsplash can enliven a kitchen with a pop of color or an interesting textural contrast.

If you're seeking backsplash ideas, look no further! Check out our projects below for inspiration and some helpful tips.

A truly spectacular backsplash will provide both color and textural variation.

Kitchen Backsplash Materials

Tile is the most popular backsplash material, yet your choices are only really limited by your contractor's skills. A talented contractor can easily install a backsplash made of any number of materials, including a multitude of tiles, from ceramic to glass, to stainless steel, soapstone, plate glass, limestone, granite, brick, tumbled stone--well, you get the point!

In this MKBD project, the decorative backsplash element is a fusion of glass, stone, and porcelain crafted into a harlequin mosaic tile.

This tile mosaic backsplash (also shown above) provides a striking yet companionable contrast to the cherrywood cabinets and lime green wall paint. 

Texture and Color

Since your choice of materials is seemingly endless, you might want to first consider how the backsplash will complement your kitchen design. Most backsplash designs are meant to provide a subtle (or sometimes striking: see above) contrast to the kitchen cabinets and wall paint. When thinking about this contrast, consider both the material's texture and color.

This porcelain tile backsplash maintains the warm color palette of the cabinets and countertop, yet provides an intriguing textural contrast to the wood and granite.  

The houndstooth tie in the picture above illustrates how texture adds visual distinction to an otherwise simple, yet refined look. Like a houndstooth tie, the kitchen backsplash offers the same opportunity to experiment with unique, textured materials.

This tumbled Travertine tile backsplash provides a a wonderfully gritty texture to contrast a kitchen otherwise populated with smooth surfaces and clean lines.

Beyond the unique texture, the Travertine tiles above reveal how a backsplash can also influence the kitchen's palette. In this project, the grey tiles help to soften the distinction between the orange walls and dark granite countertops.

Backsplashes can also provide an intriguing color contrast. In the MKBD project below, the stark two-toned palette is relieved by the warm color notes of the backsplash.

Click here for more pictures of this kitchen backsplash.

Kitchen Backsplash Installation

A kitchen backsplash is relatively easy to install. No wonder many homeowners choose to make the backsplash a DIY project. If you're the DIY-type, check out this handy guide from This Old House.

For ease and synergy of elements, however, MKBD suggests installing a new backsplash as part of a larger kitchen renovation or kitchen remodeling project. And remember, if you are performing a larger remodeling project, you can save cash by using the same materials for your counters and backsplash--or your floors and backsplash.

In this MKBD project (also shown above), the same porcelain tiles used for the backsplash line the floor.  

Remember, however, if you prefer subtle (or striking) contrast, you can customize your backsplash with a myriad of materials, textures, and colors.

FREE In-Home Remodeling Estimate

If you have any questions about your next remodeling project, please feel free to call MKBD for an individualized consultation. Let's talk the kitchen backsplash and more! Call now! 215-355-4747. Better yet, check out our Free In-Home Remodeling Estimate on this very blog!

Thursday, February 5, 2015

The Bathroom Vanity: Glamour & Function

In researching today's blog on bathroom vanities, we happened to come across this line from the popular home remodeling site, Houzz:

"It's not always the most glamorous part of a bathroom remodel, but choosing the right vanity can make or break your bathroom's design."

We agree with part of this statement: the choice of a vanity can certainly make or break your bathroom's design. However, we have to respectively disagree with the second part of the statement: the bathroom vanity is often the most glamorous part of a bathroom remodel.

After all, if not the vanity, what is the most glamorous part of the bathroom remodel? The toilet? The bathtub? We vote for the glamour of the vanity--and we have the pictures to prove it! Just take a look below.

You want glamour? In this MKBD project, the luxurious double sink vanity proves the point: a vanity can be glamorous.
Big or Small: Choosing the Best Vanity for Your Bathroom Design

As we noted above, Houzz is certainly correct in saying that the choice of vanity can make or break your bathroom design. The vanity is often the central point of a bathroom's design. This is why we usually advise our clients to choose a vanity first--and then to design the bathroom around the vanity.

But first things first: don't go too big. In our experience, many bathrooms suffer from over-sized vanities. If your vanity is too big, it will impede traffic and crowd other important design elements. An over-sized vanity will also make your bathroom feel smaller.

For vanities, then, remember Goldilocks Principle (which is actually an astronomical term that we're appropriating for our own use): not too big, not too small, but just right.

This vanity proves that a smaller unit need not skimp on glamour. With solid wood maple cabinets, a glazed granite counter, and Moen Brantford faucets in gleaming chrome, this vanity's beauty is apparent from first glance. 

Cracking the Code: What is "Just Right"? 

We understand: "Choose the right one" can be a frustrating piece of advice, easier said than done. Remember, however, we're speaking strictly about size--not style. A competent remodeling company (like MKBD!) can easily help you choose a perfect fit for your bathroom size. But it might be helpful for you to know that much of a bathroom's design is dictated by code--the International Residence Code (IRC), to be exact.

The code mandates that a toilet’s centerline lie at least 15-inches from walls or other fixtures--like the vanity! The code also mandates “clear floor space” in front of a toilet or tub (at least 18-inches), and in front of a shower (at least 24-inches). These are minimum requirements.

The National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA) recommends even more space: at least 18-inches from a toilet’s centerline and 30-inches in front of the shower.

To accommodate the code, many bathroom designs place the vanity and toilet side-by-side. In this MKBD project, the beautiful cherry vanity complements the granite countertop and brushed nickel faucets. Did somebody say, "Glamorous?"

Glamour and Function: Why the Vanity is Not All About Vanity

When most people hear the word vanity, they might think of, say, the "vanity" of Narcissus, the ancient Greek hunter renown for his beauty--a beauty that even he could not resist. You might know that Narcissus, upon seeing his reflection in a pool, fell in love, and drowned in pursuit of, well, himself. Talk about vanity!

Caravaggio's famous image of Narcissus

Following this definition of vanity, the bathroom vanity is indeed, the spot for grooming and preening. However, in the remodeling industry, when we refer to the "vanity" we mean, simply, a sink and basin with accompanying storage. And this, in fact, is the key to the vanity's function: bathroom storage is crucial!

When space is a premium, the vanity can provide essential storage space. In this MKBD project, we're especially fond of the cabinet between the dual sinks. This is an inventive use of space for the tight quarters.

FREE In-Home Remodeling Estimate

If you have any questions about your next remodeling project, please feel free to call MKBD for an individualized consultation. Let's talk bathroom design and more! Call now! 215-355-4747. Better yet, check out our Free In-Home Remodeling Estimate on this very blog!