Wednesday, September 23, 2015

The Top Three Benefits of the Open Floor Plan

In many of today's homes, the kitchen is the central room, the place where the family congregates to talk and relax--and, of course, eat. To accommodate this new role, many homeowners choose to increase the kitchen size by combining the room with a dining room and/or living room.

Traditionally known as the "great room," today this combination is more often called, simply, an "open floor" plan. The open floor plan is a mainstay of today's remodeling industry.

As John Petrie, of the National Kitchen and Bath Association, says, "The kitchen was really a closed-off spot for a long time. Now people want the kitchen to be an active part of the family home." [Source].

Below we offer the top three benefits of the open floor plan.

More Room for the Cook

In its most basic sense, an open floor plan refers to a combination of several rooms, most often achieved by eliminating impeding walls or other obstructions.

The most obvious advantage of an open floor plan is increased space. Many cooks complain about crowding in the kitchen; by opening the space, family and/or guests can hang around the kitchen, in the adjoining dining room, without getting in the way.

An open floor plan also gives you the option of enlarging the kitchen itself, creating more counter space and/or room for additional appliances.

 In this Bucks County MKBD project--the open floor plan created space for the cook. Note the dining room table in the foreground, close enough (but not too close) to the hustle and bustle of the kitchen.

More Room to Hang Out 

By creating more room in the kitchen, an open floor plan can accommodate a kitchen island, the perfect spot for hanging out.

Fit your kitchen island with cozy chair for your guests to hang out.
The island can be practical, too. Most notably (for cooks, at least), the kitchen island creates a barrier between the entertainment and cooking areas. Also, the island top can be used for prep work; some cooks even enlist the help of a few industrious helpers.

You likely know the type of antsy mother-in-law who just can't help but ask, "What can I do?" Well, just sit her away from the action, at the kitchen island, and give her a small task: chop the nuts, make the salad dressing, pluck the thyme!

In this Fort Washington MKBD project, the kitchen island separates the kitchen from the dining area. It also creates a space for prep work--for the cook and his helpers! 

The Eat-in Kitchen

Instead of maintaining the relative relation between the kitchen and dining room, some open floor plans combine the two, creating a tremendous kitchen space with eat-in facilities.

The great advantage of an "eat-in" kitchen is the ease of serving and cleaning. The distance from oven to table is reduced; likewise the distance from table to sink.

This Richboro area family really took the idea of "eat-in" to heart. Here the island is really a dining room table right in the middle of the kitchen. Happily the open floor created more than enough space to accommodate the diners and the cook.
In this MKBD remodeling wonder, the dine-in area is an elegant 
addition to a stylish kitchen. 

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!

Friday, September 18, 2015

Six Key Questions for Your Remodeling Company

When working with a professional remodeling company, communication is the key to a successful project. A good remodeling company knows how to ask the right questions; a good company, too, will set appropriate expectations for each project.

Of course, communication is a two-way street. A homeowner should also ask the right questions; and even before the work begins, a homeowner should state his expectations explicitly.

Bad communication leads to unclear (or unfair) expectations. The distance between a remodeling company's and client's expectations can create scheduling chaos, price disputes, and disappointment about the finished project.

There is a danger in choosing a inexperienced or unproven company. To stick around in this business is a sign of success. By nature, an experienced company will communicate successfully.

MKBD is proud of its experience: we've served the Greater Philadelphia area since 1982. We're proud of our work, too. We refer all potential clients to our previous customers for feedback. We want to make sure a client feels good about hiring our company.

Our formula for success is simple: tedious planning and a studious devotion to detail. If you're thinking about your own kitchen remodeling project, we urge you to embrace this formula. To facilitate a communication that will achieve this goal we suggest asking your remodeling company the following key questions.

This Abington area kitchen remodeling project was a testament to good communication: only by asking the right questions, did MKBD learn that the family desired maple cabinets. For your project, take the initiative: ask the key questions below.

How Will We Communicate Once the Project Starts?

Remodeling companies are usually accessible for clients before the project begins. Unfortunately, many clients complain that this accessibility ends during the project. The trouble is the varying roles at most remodeling companies. The project designer is often not the same person who will visit your house to perform the work each day.

At MKBD, we urge our clients to communicate with the project lead at any stage of the project. Our project lead is the owner of MKBD, who is often part of the work; if not, he is keeping daily tabs on the work. Of course, too, he is easily accessible by phone.

We suggest you ask for the same accessibility from your remodeling company. At the very beginning, ask if your project will have a dedicated project lead from start to finish. And of course, ask about his or her accessibility.

Questions about the work itself: When will the project begin? What are the worker's daily hours?  And what is the estimated completion date? 

A kitchen remodeling project can disrupt your family's routine. It is crucial that you appropriately schedule.

Working with your kitchen remodeling company, schedule a specific date for your project's start date. Also note the worker's daily hours, and, of course, the estimated completion date.
One important caveat here. The completion date is always an estimate; the date might change once the project begins. This is one area where flexibility is crucial.

For this two-tone kitchen, MKBD removed the wall between the dining room and living room. Major changes like this often present unanticipated complications (see below). For this reason, it's best to be flexible about the completion date.

How Can Confirm the Project Will Meet my Expectations?

In some ways, this is the most important question. A bad remodeling company will dodge this question. For a good remodeling company, however, this question is the very essence of the work. From planning to design to the actual remodeling, confirming and meeting expectations is the key to success.

Before your project, your designer should provide you with a layout of your new kitchen. Scrutinize this layout; ask questions. Confirm the details--twice. You want to make sure that your vision matches your designer's vision precisely.

In the end, if you've confirmed all the details, the project should meet your exact expectations. If not, you can return to the original layout and ask, "What happened?"

Do you Expect any Complications?

Complications are a necessary part of all remodeling work. Once you get into the guts of a house, you might begin to discover unforeseen challenges. All good remodeling companies account for potential complications. The goal is not to avoid complications entirely, but to minimize the impact--in time and money-- of any complication.

Again, the key is proper planning and attention to detail!
In this Fort Washington, PA kitchen, MKBD removed the entire kitchen, down to the studs, and built the new kitchen from scratch. Such work can create unforeseen complications. The key to minimizing complications is proper planning!
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!

Saturday, September 12, 2015

How to Preserve the Charm of an Old Kitchen

Older homes have their charms: sturdy construction, vintage details, and original hardwood floors, to name a few. People who buy older homes love these details.For all the vintage allure, however, older homes also present certain remodeling challenges.

The difference between vintage and outdated is subtle, yet important. "Vintage" is timelessly appealing, but "outdated" just feels stodgy and tired. Sadly, the latter is often the case with the kitchens in older homes.

Today the kitchen is the center of the home, a place for the family to meet and eat. In the past, the kitchen was the provenance of the family chef, the space designed for a specific duty: to cook.

Old kitchens are smaller; and without the benefit of any serious remodeling, these kitchens often display outdated materials and appliances. Old kitchens also often share the charm of the home--even if its buried under laminate. A good remodeling project transforms an outdated space to new without losing the vintage charm.

Over the years, MKBD has remodeled more than a few outdated kitchens. For pictures and remodeling tips, read below.

 In this Fort Washington MKBD project, we refinished the original hardwood floors. 

New Floors or Refinish old Floors? 

Some older kitchen benefit from timeless materials; some do not. In the project above, we discovered beautiful hardwood floors--a perfect option for refinishing. Whether to refinish or replace is personal preference, but timeless materials like wood can often be refinished with relatively little hassle.

Beyond wood, most other old materials, like linoleum or tiles, are best replaced. Old linoleum can look stodgy, and most tile floors suffer from cracks. Ceramic tiles are prone to cracking when the floor below has structural movement. For some kitchen updates, then, we recommend replacing the subfloor, too.

A tri-color tile floor, imported from Italy, is a perfect addition to this older kitchen

New Cabinets or Refinish old Cabinets?

Like wood floors, refinishing can be a good option for cabinets, too, which are often made of wood, yet have suffered from wear and tear over the years. Some wood cabinets can look "outdated"; often a simple refacing is all that is needed to revive the vintage appeal.
The timeless simplicity of wood Shaker cabinets, which are an excellent option for refinishing. On the other hand, new Shaker cabinets like these are an investment that will last for decades.
Many older cabinets are actually more durable than today's pre-built cabinets. (At MKBD, we build our cabinets from scratch, so this is not an issue).

In many older kitchens. however, the cabinets are beyond a simple refacing. If you plan on living in your home for more than five years, new wood cabinets will evoke vintage charm yet provide years of durability.

New wood cabinets, like these cherry cabinets, are a great investment. After years of wear and tear, they might be in need of a simple refinishing.

Replace Those old Countertops

Countertops are often the stodgiest part of old kitchens. Standard laminate counters can look worn after years of use, and are good candidates for replacement.

Here's what the National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA) has to say about laminate replacement:

"If your countertops are old and generally worn over a large area, the best repair is to recover them with new laminate. While the job is not particularly difficult, it does require a wide variety of skills new to most homeowners. You'll have to disconnect the plumbing, remove the sink, and cut, apply, and trim the laminate. Then the sink has to be replaced and reconnected, and some trim may be required."

Another option, of course, is replacing the laminate altogether with a durable material like granite.

In this MKBD project, we replaced the old laminate with beautiful granite.

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!

Thursday, September 3, 2015

A Travertine Bathroom Remodeling Project

In bathroom remodeling, your choice of material should be guided by two factors: the material's visual appeal and durability. Of course, a good bathroom material should match your aesthetic vision, yet it should also withstand the elements--water, soap, and harsh cosmetics--and the daily wear and tear of the family. Porous materials, like soft wood, are not the best choice for a bathroom; ditto an easy-to-stain material, like marble.

Yes, despite its ubiquity, some believe marble is not the best bathroom material. Even so, many homeowners see marble as the best of all bathroom materials--and certainly the most beautiful. This is true. It is also true, marble can be porous. The key is to find a good, durable marble from a reputable supplier. At MKBD, we import most of our marble from Italy.

Another option that rivals marble's beauty, yet is also often cited as a "bad" bathroom material is travertine.  We love this simple, yet elegant stone. As with marble, however, quality matters. Travertine does not have to be porous. Depending on the quality of the finish and installation, travertine can be a perfectly suitable bathroom material.

We recently had the privilege of remodeling a bathroom with travertine floors, showers tiles, and countertops. If anything, this rustic project proves the point: travertine can be beautiful and durable.

Travertine tiles and countertops

Choose the Right Travertine Finish

The right finish protects travertine from the bathroom elements.When sourcing travertine, your best options will be hone-finished or tumble-finished.

Hone-finished creates a flat appearance that dulls the qualities of the stone. For homeowners who prefer uniformity of color, hone-finished travertine is the best option.

For this project, however, the homeowner chose a tumble-finished travertine.

The rustic look of tumble-finished travertine

As you can see in the photo above, tumble-finish enhances travertine's natural colors. This is why tumble-finished travertine is often said to have a rustic appearance--a perfect look for this former farm house.

Choose Experts to Install Travertine  

More than most materials, then, the installation of travertine should be performed by a remodeling expert. Travertine's rough edges can present some installation challenges--especially in the shower. The key is precision. When installing travertine in the shower, it is important, too that the tile is properly sealed.

Travertine tile for the shower walls and floors

In this project, we used travertine tiles of various sizes (yet similar colors) to create textural variation. All tiles were properly sealed and installed with the utmost care. Good news, too: properly sealed and installed travertine is an easy-to-clean shower material; better yet, the material rarely reveals soap spots.

Travertine Countertops

Travertine is a versatile material. In this project, we used tiles for the floors and shower as well as larger slabs for the vanity countertops.

Travertine countertops and brushed nickel faucets

Another view of the luxurious vanity with travertine countertops

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!