What’s Your Inspiration?

Living Room

Every great design has a starting point. Where we take our inspiration from depends on a number of different factors. Anything from the purpose or function of a space, to paint colors, to our own individual experiences and preferences all influence our design decisions. The one thing I’ve learned is not to be scared to try something. Let your personality shine through and have fun with a space!

Frequently when we are planning a design for a Home Staging project we have to work with some existing features. If the home is vacant, quite often the paint color or material finishes will dictate what would look better and often becomes the starting point for the design. Certain color tones simply work well together and allow us to quickly go from A to B in the design process smoothly. Working with the features of a space will always give you a better finished product than trying to force a design that is inconsistent with the features or colors of the space. You’ll see this when someone uses ultramodern design in a very traditional space. Forcing a design will look exactly like what it is. There is a way to blend certain aspects of different design “look”, but it needs to be done cautiously and very well!

We often stage occupied homes. Sometimes it is with just an accessory package or occasionally with a combination of furniture and accessories. In cases like this we may take inspiration from their furniture, paint colors, an area rug, or even a nice piece of artwork. Whatever color tones draw our attention in the space will always be the starting point for the design scheme. We take what speaks to us in the space and build on it and run with it for the whole space! The beauty of working with a Professional Stager is that we have a wide range of selection of décor and accessories to compliment any color scheme and any “look”. So, if you need a little more of a certain color or theme – chances are pretty good I can find something in our warehouse to expand and complete the design to perfection!

For staging projects we typically like to layer the colors in a space to provide depth and dimension in the photographs. A monochromatic color scheme can look elegant and sophisticated but it can be a real challenge to photograph to show a space well. Very few Realtors use Professional Photographers with the skill to make a space look like it should be on the cover of a magazine. That is why we usually use a small pop of color to provide interest and dimension. It draws the eye to the things we want you to focus on. Just the right amount of pop, in the right color tones that all flow beautifully within a space and buyers are automatically drawn into a room, and through the home simply by their desire to “see more”. In this way a home will sell itself! Too many colors in a space or a blend of the wrong colors create a different reaction. Buyers know something is off but may not be able to put their finger on what. They just know the home left them unsettled.

When designing your own space, take your time to find what gives you the most inspiration in the space. Is it a fireplace? The view? The function of the room like a sunroom? Maybe it’s the paint colors or the existing furniture that you need to incorporate in the design. What does it say to you? What mood does it set? Cooler colors tend to the calming effect. Lots of white can have a sterile effect that some people love and others are uncomfortable in. Warm colors are often inviting and soothing. Bright colors can be lively, exciting and exhilarating. What is the architecture style of the space? Is it turn of the century traditional or sleek and ultra-modern?

What is the function of the space? Is it a space you want to use for relaxing or for exercising? Do you want quiet contemplation or a fun space for the family to hang out that will energize you? How you intend to use the space should influence the way you design it. What furniture must the space accommodate and what color is the furniture? You should choose colors that balance and compliment the other color tones in the space, this includes anything from flooring and paint to the tones of the granite tile or carpeting.

Finally, have fun. If you just love the shabby chic look, then have fun with some fabulous décor to give your space the right pieces. Remember lighting plays an important role in setting a mood so choose your lighting with purpose and design in mind. The right accent pieces in your accessories can pull a space together beautifully. Less is always more in a good rule. An understated space will always have more impact than one that is overdone. The first impression people get of an overdone room is being overwhelmed and not knowing where to look. This leaves people uncomfortable and looking for a way out. So, choose your design with care, with just the right touches in the right place. Something I always do if I’m unsure what I want in a space is I’ll try a piece there for a while and see if I like it. Sometimes it looks fabulous and I love it and it “stays”. Sometimes is grows on me as I rearrange a few other pieces in the space until it “works”. Occasionally it just does nothing for me and I need to try something else. When it’s your home you have the luxury of time to determine if you like something or not. So, take you time and try something new. Stick with your inspiration as your main design scheme. This will keep you on track and true to your plan. 

If you really need some help, bring some photos and feel free to stop by our booth at the Home Expressions Show or stop by for our Stage Presentation on Sunday at 3:00 pm! Hope to see you there! I always find tonnes of inspiration at the show! Enjoy!

Space Planning, Big and Small

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Planning and designing rooms has become so second nature I rarely struggle with the details. However, I have learned that planning and organizing spaces for myself is SO much more challenging! We’re moving into our new warehouse this week and the move in itself is massive, but planning all the storage necessary to exact measurements was a huge job!

I still follow the same principles, what are the “must haves” that you need to plan space for? How much space will they require today and will you be adding to them – so how much space do I need to allow for those items in the future? Designing a space is all about the planning. Right down to the last detail.

I had to plan out exactly what I needed for storage to accommodate all our artwork, accessories, bedding and bath linens, drapery and hardware, furniture, area rugs, etc… I had to build the shelving to accommodate multiple sofa/loveseats – to exacting measurements. Then I allowed for additional storage above for smaller furniture. Artwork shelving, had to be multiple heights to accommodate everything from large mirrors and artwork to small accent pieces. So many details to consider. I also know we’ll need room to grow, so building to accommodate what I have now would not work. It would be so much more difficult to add-on after the fact so we wanted to ensure we built for now and a few years into the future at least!!

This is really not much different than planning a kitchen or bath renovation. What items do you need to have storage for? Do you need easy access on a pull our drawer vs. below counter stationary shelves? Custom height counters for taller or shorter individuals? What do you need to keep handy and readily accessible for daily/weekly use vs. those items that may only be used a few times a year? How much will you be adding to what you have, how much space must we allow for additional items, dry/canned food goods, or hair/skin care products? Some people use just a few and replace when they run out. Other people need to have a large selection to choose from. We need to determine how they need to use the space and then plan the space so it works for them. There is nothing worse than going through the time, effort and expense of a reno to find you forgot to plan for something and now have no place to put it!

Although I’m anxious with anticipation to move into the warehouse I’m also quite anxious about whether I’ve remembered to plan for all the storage we will need. My husband is already asking me how long it will take me to “fill up this space?” I guess we’ll just have to wait and see…. In the meantime, planning this level of detail was excellent practice to keep my planning and design skills sharp! 

Biggest Tip:  When planning what storage you will need, continually look through the stuff you need to store and make sure you’ve got a place for everything. Then go back and double check, and then triple check! Then allow some additional space for growth. After all we all end up accumulating more than what we have, and I know my hubby is right. I will always get more décor and accessories and furniture. We’ll just have to see how long it takes me to outgrow the new space!

What is “Aging in Place?”

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Although “Aging in Place” is a well-recognized term in The United States, it is a relatively new term here in Manitoba. I was fortunate enough to be part of the first class through the Manitoba Home Builder’s Association to complete the course for the “Certified Aging in Place Specialist” (CAPS) designation here in Manitoba. We are only the second province to offer this program Canada wide. So what exactly is “Aging in Place?”

A CAPS Professional recognized the needs of an aging population, today and tomorrow. We are in a society where the number of seniors is growing faster than any other generation. Concerns like home care, extended health care, and assisted living alternatives are urgent topics of planning for every level of government. The CAPS program bridges the gap between the planners and the actual designers/builders and renovators.

It allows us to make small adjustments to building designs and renovation plans to allow the home to become consistent with “Universal Design” principles. These principles take into account the needs of a family at the time of the renovation, but also in the future. It allows home owners, as partners in planning, to make small modifications to renovations plans to allow for anything from a future in-law suite to a potential elevator, and everything in between. This does NOT mean your renovation budget suddenly doubles or triples! It means that as part of the bathroom renovation we may put additional supports or blocking in the walls where you may require support for grab bars down the road, cost of labour and materials at most $10, however, the savings is to you so you do not have to demolish and re-do a shower in 5 – 10 years; it can be anywhere from $10,000 – $20,000!!! That is a significant savings!! In the case of an elevator, if you build stacked closets between floors that are framed for what an elevator would require – it suddenly becomes very easy to install an elevator for someone in a wheelchair – and the overall savings is again, tens of thousands of dollars. The cost in the initials design and building plans is minimal. 

Universal design is built on the principle of planning for the future. Let’s face it, no one knows what the future holds. Everyday someone is suddenly faced with a drastic change in the lifestyle due to a sudden traumatic life event. Be it illness or injury, it can happen at any age, and a sudden event can change your entire life in a split second. You and your family are now faced with the emotional, financial and physical challenges of going on and learning how to adapt to your new life. Well, imagine for a moment that you lived in a home that was planned with universal design. Your doorways were wide enough to accommodate a wheelchair. The walls had been properly reinforced are required to allow for chair lifts, grab bars, ramps, etc. to allow you or your family member the ability to maintain as much independence as they possibly could. Instead of having to now face a tremendous hardship of thousands of dollars in renovations – you could simply purchase and have the equipment installed and minor modifications made to your universally designed home…what peace of mind would this be worth to you and your family? If you didn’t have to suddenly sell your home and look for a new one, how much would that mean to you? If your elderly parent suddenly became ill and needed to move in with you, could they do so tomorrow? If you had worked with a CAPS professional when you designed your home, or completed your recent renovation, you would be able to accommodate your family member with relatively little modifications and cost for a calm and smooth transition for everyone in the family. Let’s face it when dealing with any traumatic event, there is enough stress on everyone involved, the last thing a family needs is major renovations required urgently so Mom or Dad, or your child can come home from the hospital.

We also plan for medical conditions that are progressive. When you have a chronic condition that will cause your health, mobility and/or independence to deteriorate over time, you should work with a CAPS professional. We can help plan for your requirements for today, tomorrow and into the future. We team with your family/caregivers, the builders, medical team and occupational therapists to determine exactly what your needs are today, what they will be in the future and how we can minimize disruption to your home and life while allowing the modifications to be made that you require, when you require them. It’s all about planning and foresight at the onset so as changes occur in your medical situation your contractor can come in and make that next small change that you need. At the initial planning, maybe having electrical and supports in the wall at the tops and bottom of the stairs, so you can have a chair lift installed for nothing more than the cost of the chairs lift and labour. There’s no need to rip apart the walls or stairs, etc.

Finally, many people think about “Again in Place” as someone who is “handicapped”. Although this is often the case, it also refers to anyone with a mobility issue. Bad knees or hips that may need replacing but cause difficulty with stairs. You have a mobility issue. Chronic arthritis? You may need some modifications to cupboard doors and handles to make things easier for you to open/close. Starting to have a hard time hearing your spouse? Not the “selective hearing” many of us choose to have but real challenges hearing conversations, the TV or in situations with background noise? There are modifications that can be made to ensure at the bare minimum your life safety is protected. CO2 and smoke alarms can be connected to lighting or buzzers that can wake sleeping parents to ensure they have adequate time to escape a dangerous situation! Mom or Dad have issues with falling? Did you know once an elderly parent experiences a serious fall and recovers, the chances of them recovering from a second serious fall and less than 50%? Did you also know there are things that can be done to provide them more safety? Small modification to their home that will allow them to remain in their home longer and more importantly in a safe environment that provides peace of mind to everyone in the family! I know I have issues with arthritis in my knees and am already starting to consider the consequences down the road.

As a small side note, I have personal experience with life surprises. Our youngest daughter was born blind, has limited mobility and requires a wheelchair for long distances, is developmentally delayed and would not understand what a smoke or CO2 detector was, and also has a seizure disorder. We had no idea when I was pregnant and it seems we have a rare gene combination that was a surprise to all. She is our sunshine and a blessing in our home every day. However, planning our home so it helps her function independently has been a challenge at times. Life surprises can come at any time, suddenly or over time but as we age, one thing is certain, our bodies change! What was once easy can become a real challenge.

We often tend to think of all the “issues” as normal parts of aging, and they are! As medical breakthroughs continue to happen, our life expectancy also continues to climb. The chances that we will be faced with an “Aging Issue” with parents or ourselves is almost inevitable! However, your quality of life should never have to be compromised as your life situation and life needs change! There is nothing more heartbreaking than a parent being moved out of their home before they are ready or more importantly, before they really need to be! So explore the options! Consult with a CAPS Professional and look at all the options! You may be surprised what can be done! More importantly, providing a safe, easily accessible environment that continues to allow independence is what we all dream of as we age! This is the bare minimum of what we should strive to achieve for any loved one! 

Angie Kendel, Maximum Impact Plus, CSP, CID, CAPS

 

Highlights from IDS 2015 and CGTA Show 2015

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We had a fabulous time learning about all the new great new decor and trends in the building industry coming for 2015. Such an exciting time to be working in the residential design and renovation industry! We have so many new goodies coming for the Staging side of the business, just can’t wait for them to start arriving. I must admit, I got a little carried away ordering! Felt like the proverbial “kid in a candy store”. So many wonderful decor pieces I “just HAD to have!” We were looking for a new warehouse when we left, now the urgency is really there! We need more room for all the wonderful décor pieces!

One of the most intriguing trends this year is LED lighting. We still see every form of under counter lighting. A new trend is a wonderful strip of LED lights just under your countertop. This can be from a cool white to an eye stopping blue. What colors do you want to see and how “fab” do you want your kitchen design to be? There are 2 main places we see this lighting – actually between the counter and the top of the lower cabinetry – or so it appears…hehe – … it’s all in the expertise of the installation but the effect is so COOL! The effect is quite outstanding creating an “other worldly” appeal that is very “new age”. 

The other option for installing the LED lighting is at the junction of the counter and the inside corner of the cabinetry below the seating area of the island. We see this effect quite often in bars, restaurants and lounges and now we are witnessing the slow migration into residential homes. The lighting illuminates the lower side of your beautiful cabinetry on the island, making it look that much better. Wonderful “mood lighting” effect that really creates an interesting focal point and an amazing conservation piece.

Lighting itself has gone from some really neat designs that worked well to works of art that have now become the highlight and the focal point of many spaces. You may spend a bit more on it, but then, when simplicity is the key and you want that wow factor, lighting is certainly the way to go. Understated design utilizes the magic of décor lighting to provide the space with that finishing touch of high end impact! So don’t be scared to look at what’s out there, you may just be surprised by what you find.

Another repeating trend that has only gotten stronger is the “old is new”. Anything retro or weathered and distressed is the way to go. We have seen this in anything from building materials, to décor! Old weathered “barn” flooring, “aged” tile, reclaimed materials for furniture – everything old is new and in hot demand! Of course some always have that unique little spin on it and mix old with a little bling for that real outstanding piece! The amount of furniture and décor that we saw in this theme was overwhelming, so expect so keep seeing more of it at your favourite retail locations and in my designs!

Natural building products are making a huge statement in design. Whether it is metals, natural stone, or woods! Natural is the way to go! We saw large slabs of trees with the bark still on, used as coffee and dining tables, fireplace mantles, chairs, almost anything you can imagine! There was even one vendor at the IDS show featuring prehistoric building materials! Imagine a sink carved out of a “petrified” fossilized tree that turned to stone! Or décor pieces that had fossils imbedded in the piece itself! Nothing seems to be off limits in our quest for “natural” design elements we bring into our homes. Metals are back in everything from showers and baths to wall panels and even in furniture! We saw a lot of copper and brushed nickel and even the odd bit of iron. 

Finally, wall paper, is coming back stronger each year. The styles and color/design options seems to be getting more appealing and versatile. I even saw a home recently that had wallpaper on the ceiling, a common practice in Europe! It really added a warmth to the space versus the standard cold drywall and ceiling paint. If done in the right fabric/texture it can even add an acoustic quality to the space, absorbing sound and making a large space feel more intimate and muffling the echo. So if you are looking for something neat and different for that accent wall, you may wish to consider some wall paper options for your next renovation.

We are so blessed to work in such an incredible industry! Always so many options available to suit any taste and any budget. Our only limitation is often our imagination. It’s always so fun to look at a space and just imagine the possibilities… Enjoy!

Yes, We Can Complete Staging for Your Deadline…

 

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So often we are asked if we can meet a staging deadline for an open house or a photo date. If we can do so, I will always tell the client up front. If we are booked I will also tell you we simply cannot make that deadline, but will always give you the next available date when we can do so. In all my years staging, I have never had to re-schedule a stage date because we could not meet the agreed deadline. We have, however, been re-scheduled by the client from time to time who was simply not ready to list/stage just yet. There is a booking process we must follow to ensure jobs proceed smoothly.

We are often contacted by the Realtor on behalf of the homeowner for a staging estimate. We always determine who will be paying for the staging, the Realtor or the Homeowner? We need to know who our client is. We do not charge to provide an estimate. An estimate consists only of a proposal for staging a property. We will not give any advice on improvements, furniture placement, paint colors, etc…. that is part of a staging consult and we do charge for our professional consultations, which last anywhere from 1 to 2 hours on average. 

We always provide a firm written staging estimate with a contract detailing the scope of the project, the furniture to be rented, the rooms to be staged, the length of the contract, the full staging cost and the monthly rental cost. Before we can proceed, we require a signed contract along with a deposit. Once we have this in place, we proceed with the booking, confirm with our movers, and arrange any furniture or stock rentals required for the project. When we complete our proposal we know what furniture we will bring in and how we will set up the large pieces and accent pieces. The décor and color scheme is determined after the job is confirmed. We confirm the fine details of the design after a contract is signed and we have received a deposit. It is at this time that we will actually finalize the design and begin to set aside décor and furniture pieces specifically for this project. 

Unfortunately we cannot confirm a booking or proceed with a job with only a verbal confirmation without anything in writing from the Homeowner. If the Homeowner is paying for the job, we need to ensure the Homeowner is fully aware and in agreement with our contract terms. I have actually had cases where I am asked to proceed without the names or any contact information for the Homeowners, even though they are “supposed” to be paying for the service. No business would deliver thousands of dollars of furniture or equipment to any home without a signed agreement and payment terms up front. It shocks me how often I am “asked” to complete a project without even the Homeowner’s names/contact information. Sorry, not possible….

Approximately 50-60% of the work is completed before we ever arrive on a job site on staging day. It takes time to plan a design, arrange for or book the right size, color and style of furniture for the space. Then to complete the design with décor and accessories that go well with the furniture color and style that was available for the job. Then we need to coordinate movers, pack, and load all furniture and accessories. Once we arrive on site we simply unload, unpack and set up. We already know where everything goes! Set up is a relatively quick process compared to the rest. This is similar to obtaining a listing and marketing it vs. negotiating a solid offer. Most of the “work” has been done well in advance of the offer. Weeks or months preparing a property for listing, finally obtaining a listing agreement, all marketing required to generate the showings to finally receive an offer. I have yet to meet a Realtor who would market a property, at their own expense, without a firm listing agreement in place. So, why would you expect your Stager to move in ten or fifteen thousand dollars of furniture and décor with no signed agreement?

There are rare cases where someone will “confirm” with us verbally, and actually try to “book” a date without a contract. I simply will not do so, we just do not work for free. We are quite happy for our staff or a courier to pick up a signed contract and deposit if need be. I have had situations in the past where we have given clients the benefit of the doubt, only to have them cancel at the last minute. Sometimes they receive an offer, and are unsure if they wish to proceed with the offer or staging. Now we wait until the client is certain and we have a signed contract and deposit. The last thing we want is to have a cancellation, after we have put in all that time in design and planning, and packing. Everyone should be paid for the time spent.

We have learned, it is simply not in our benefit to move on to this planning stage without a signed agreement. We have a number of full time staff and we are always busy with one project or another. The beauty is that some projects have firm deadlines and others do not. I have the benefit of fitting staged jobs in between my time spent on design projects, when deadlines require. This ensures all work gets completed but we never seem to have “down” time. However, with multiple projects always on the go, I do have to be careful how I spend my time. I have clients waiting for my time so I cannot be spending my time on clients who are not certain they wish to proceed, just yet! Whenever you are ready, I will be more than happy to look after you to the very best of my creative skills!  Until then, we have work to do!

Welcome to the Kitchen, Bath and Renovation Show! Planning your Kitchen or Bathroom Reno!

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http://www.kitchenandbathshow.com/

Hard to believe we are already in full swing with the New Year! Nothing like hitting the ground running! Here is wishing everyone a Happy, Healthy and Prosperous 2015!! What better way to start the New Year than to get some wonderful Inspiration for your home at the 2015 Kitchen Bath and Renovation Show!

Kat Reno and Maximum Impact Plus will be there to answer all your renovation and design questions. The Show hours run Friday 12 noon – 9:00 pm, Saturday 10:00 am – 8:00pm, and Sunday 12:00 noon – 5:00pm. We are offering 2 stage presentations, Friday at 5:00pm and Sunday at 3:00 pm. If you are thinking about a kitchen or bath renovation, it’s an excellent way to get some free advice!

One of the biggest mistakes people make is not planning out the details well in advance. So you want new cabinets? That’s great, but do you need them or can you save money and still have the new kitchen you dream of? Are you reconfiguring your kitchen space or floor plan? Potentially removing walls? Changing lighting or adding lighting? Switching from a free standing range to a cooktop and built in oven? Updating your fridge – should it be counter depth? These are just some of the common renovations and changes people make. 

Depending on where you go and who you speak to, you may or may not have a salesperson who will take functional design decisions into account. I had one client who had a “Professional” design her kitchen with the fridge facing the island in a bank of wall cabinetry. She was reusing her existing fridge she had recently purchased, however, there was simply not adequate space for her to actually stand in front of the fridge and open the fridge without having to sit on top of the island to do so! In terms of space planning (making sure everything will fit in the space) must also include functional use of the space. If you are dealing with someone who does not take this into consideration you can run into a multitude of problems. Considering this client was opening walls and completing updating the space with some beautiful custom cabinetry functional use of the space is critical in the planning and design stages. The last thing you want is to have the cabinetry delivered and then discover you need modifications because of an oversight! This can be quite costly!!

You would be surprised by how many people rip out old cabinets just to replace them with the exact same configuration. Then because they have a limited budget, they go with a laminate countertop when they really want granite! Cabinet re-facing may be a better and more economical option, allowing you to stretch the budget for those granite countertops or other little luxuries. They have a wide range of colors and can add things like pull out drawers or shelves to make your kitchen more functional. Explore all the options available to you before running down to the store in excitement and committing to a salesperson.

You’ve decided to go with pot lights, under counter lighting, maybe some task lighting, and of course a new cooktop and built in double range – have you checked your electrical panel? Do you have adequate space on your panel for the additional requirements? Do you need to budget for a new electrical panel upgrade? This cost can come as a shock to the homeowner after the fact and impact the final project cost significantly! It’s so much easier to find this out before your have run out and bought a bunch of custom goodies in your initial excitement!

Removing walls or expanding a room by moving a wall over must be done properly by someone who knows what they are doing. Is it a support wall? You need to ensure what you are doing is going to work without creating structural problems down the road. Your contractor must be familiar with the building codes and requirements. I cannot count the number of houses I’ve seen that had support walls removed without the proper procedure and evidence of stress cracks and bows in the ceiling structure are clearly evident! There are ways to accomplish most open concept designs. However, planning and design must take into account the correct procedure and corresponding costs! This is one the main reasons choosing a contractor with the lowest quote (who may or may not be in business 5 years from now) is a bad idea! Once you see evidence of problems – they can no longer be located! Now all costly repairs have to be covered by the home owner!

At the end of the day, there are many little details that need to be considered in the initial planning stages of any renovation. From which direction to run the hardwood flooring, to structural changes to final details for appropriate appliances for your space and required use. Having everything planned out in advance, prevents unwelcome surprises. It also allows you to order products well in advance so you can start a project on time knowing all products are in and ready for installation! No unforeseen delays, no hassles and no additional costs! Come out and learn the step by step process for planning your next kitchen or bath renovation. Presentation Times again are Friday January 9th at 5:00 pm and Sunday January 11th at 3:00 pm. Hope you enjoy the show and get some inspirational ideas!!!!

Happy Holidays Everyone!

Christmas

What an incredibly busy year! I can’t believe it’s already Christmas! So many wonderful projects and even better clients to look back on over this last year! This is the perfect time to reflect on all the blessings we have had this past year. It is a time for taking a moment to remember what is really important to you. Being thankful for the special people in our lives, both personally and professionally. After all, the Holidays are all about celebrating the relationships in our lives, family, friends and our spiritual relationships.

Over the years, we have found that people come and go. Some people are just always there. You can count on them just like they can count on you. These are the most special people in our lives, as the strength of these relationships is not affected by life’s trials. They are always there to help you ride out the storm and you are there to provide calm when they need it, as well. These are the most precious relationships and we are so very thankful and blessed to have these amazing people in our lives.

This year we have found a number of new people that have just clicked with our business family and with us personally. We are looking forward to building on these relationships and are so very Thankful for finding such wonderful people this year!

I always try to shut work down over the Holidays to re-charge and spend some quality time with my family. Last night I enjoyed sharing some Christmas baking with my daughters and husband, while being serenaded by my daughter on the piano while I baked. What a wonderful way to spend a Sunday! I’ve been behind in work and stressed out but decided yesterday was family time and could not have made a better choice. Seeing the smiles on my little girl’s face as I gave her a piece of biscotti was much more rewarding than anything I could have accomplished in my office! I always make deadlines for myself and push harder than necessary. There really is nothing left that is a deadline before Christmas right now – everything else can wait – without me feeling any guilt! Sometimes we need to ask “does it have to be done or do I just want it done?”

Sometimes I think business owners, or individuals who are self-employed, expect too much of themselves. Yes, we have to work when the business is coming in, but we also need to take care of ourselves and our loved ones. This was a goal of mine at the beginning of 2014 – balance.  I believe I was successful in some ways – I did manage to maintain more balance in my work/personal life especially over the last half of the year. I made a decision to work a solid week, usually 10 – 12 hours a day – I start early, but to keep evenings and weekends for family. It’s worked wonderfully! Without guilt, and resulted in many smiles. Yes, there is the odd exception when I catch up on paperwork Saturday morning but that is rare and not a rule. 

This year, I’ve learned that family and relationships are my priorities. I am committed to work and my clients and will give them 110% during the work week, but after work is the time I look forward to the most. Nothing beats a smile and hug from little girl while we read stories together, or sitting and hearing about my older daughter’s day at University, or just enjoying sitting by the fire with my husband. This is what matters and this is what we tend to forget to enjoy with all the Holiday bustle. So, my wish for you all for the Holidays is to take the time to enjoy the special people in your lives! Don’t let the stress of the Holidays overtake you and rob you of the precious time and memories that are so special this time of year. Allow yourself to slow down long enough to just enjoy those most important to you! You’ll be so glad you did! Happy Holidays everyone!

Decorating for the Holidays

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Every year it seems there is a new “trendy” color for the holidays. I honestly do not know anyone who decorates with the latest and greatest color, not in my circle of family or friends. Seems most of us have our traditional décor scheme, which has often developed over years. Many of us tend to make small new additions each year as items break or simply become recycled due to age. After all, we always find that one piece that we just “have to have”!! It’ll be the “perfect” addition! I am SO BAD for that!!!! I just LOVE holiday decorating! Thank goodness I have a patient and indulgent husband who also loves the holidays!

What’s the big thing every year? Lights, lights, and more lights! Exterior lights, interior lights, lights wrapped in garlands, lights on the tree and countless décor and ornaments all lit up! The options seem countless and mostly beautiful! My husband enjoys his outdoor Christmas lights so we have “cascading icicle lights” on the house and I must admit, they do look beautiful! Seems the holidays wouldn’t be the holidays without all the lights! I know we certainly use our share of lit décor in our household! Nothing quite says “holidays” like dimming the overhead lights in a room and enjoying the tree and Christmas décor lighting with candles all aglow and lights shimmering and sparkling through the décor! Perfect to sit back and enjoy with a nice glass of wine, eggnog or spiced apple cider! 

One of the most visible trends in retail stores is the “vintage” décor. Everything “old” is the new thing! This is great for people who never de-clutter! LOL!!  I love my rustic theme decorating so I really enjoy the rustic themed décor items. These have been popular for the last number of years now and I must admit I have had quite a bit of Christmas fun “topping” off my holiday décor with new additions each year! Especially since I love to decorate both my home and my cottage for the holidays in a bit of a rustic theme! My fireplace mantles are all decked out and the trees are traditional with a few new touches each year, there is no room in our home left untouched by a small hint of Christmas.

Some of the new colors I’ve seen for holiday’s décor include teal blues and purples. Very “peacock trendy” as those peacock colors have been prominent in much of the décor over the last year or so! This coupled with whites, gold’s, silvers all make for some stunning holiday looks! It’s easy to just add a few touches here and there when your main décor theme is a beautiful neutral! If you usually go gold, silver or white – adding just the right touch of color can certainly add some interest and give your room just the right touch of contemporary decorating! Don’t do something because you think you “should” – you really should love it! Enjoy it! It’s your special space so make the most of it!

When it comes to decorating your home for the holidays – there simply are no rules! If it makes you happy, that’s all that matters! After all who really cares what your second cousin twice removed may think? With all the stress and craziness that the Holidays can sometimes bring, the perfect way to de-stress and relax after a long day “getting ready for the holidays” is to be able to turn the room lights off and just relax with your favourite drink as you enjoy your own special holiday “twinkling light show” in your favourite room! So, make sure it makes you happy and gives you everything you need to de-stress and relax after a long day!

Benefits of a General Contractor vs. Small Independent

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Quite often, my clients ask me would I recommend a General Contractor (or larger Renovation company) vs. a small independent contractor. There are pros and cons to both. The biggest difference is a larger pool of talented employees to pull from to get a job done well and on time. There is also a lot to be said for peace of mind knowing your contractor is fully insured for all contingencies. The biggest con – is that a small independent guy will usually (but not always) cost less.

Even the best handyman or independent contractor has skills he is really good at and skills that he can do but not to the same quality or standard. For example, he may be an excellent painter but maybe not so good at tiling or installing flooring. If you hire him to do the complete job, you may have parts of the job that are much better than others. However, it does effect the overall quality of the job as a whole. Let’s be honest, very few guys are exceptional in a full cross section of skills that are required for a typical renovation. They may be familiar with plumbing or electrical, but are they qualified to do the work? If they are not fully qualified and do not carry the proper insurance for plumbing or electrical work and a fire were to occur because of faulty workmanship, the responsibility would fall back on the home owner for allowing someone who was not qualified to do the work. Another downside is if he works alone, and he gets sick or has an emergency – suddenly your job comes to an abrupt halt until he is again available. This can be very frustrating for the average home owner.

Insurance is a huge factor I warn my clients about. Ultimately it is always the home owner who is responsible. However, if the Contractor has business insurance and liability insurance then your home insurance company would go after the Contractor’s insurance, and as the error was his, he should be held responsible. Now, if you go with a small independent who does not have business/liability insurance then you are out of luck! You will be left responsible and potentially footing a large repair bill. Another insurance factor not many people consider is Worker’s Compensation. You should always ensure your Contractor is covered by Worker’s Compensation – regardless of the size of the company, even if he is a sole proprietor! If anyone were ever to be seriously injured while working in/on your home, your home insurance would again have to cover the situation. There are rare cases where a contractor has fallen and become paralyzed as a result of the fall in your home. If you have a small independent with no insurance again – the responsibility falls on the homeowner. Most General Contractors have business insurance, with anywhere from $2,000,000 – $5,000,000 liability coverage. In addition, they have coverage through The Worker’s Compensation Board. They follow safe work practices. Finally, many of the larger companies also have additional health benefit plans that cover employees for additional disability (and a full range of health plan) coverages. Essentially, the General Contractor makes sure their employees will be taken care of in any scenario! This is how my husband and I operate Kat Reno, we ensure our employees are well insured and looked after and our clients do not have to worry when they deal with us! It is just simply not the Home Owners job!

When it comes to jobs requiring multiple talents, most General Contractors have a highly skilled pool of employees to choose from to get your job done to a high standard of quality workmanship and ensure employees are available to complete the job, even if someone is sick! They may send one guy in to do the painting, because that is his area of expertise and it will give you the best quality of job! A different guy may do the tiling because that is his specialty. A third may do the finishing carpentry as that is his specialty! The beauty is that larger companies have multiple guys skilled in each area of renovations! Does this mean that they can’t all tile or paint, no – it just means that you will get the contractor with the best skills to complete that part of the job for you! This means a much better quality finished job overall! It also means there are more guys available to cover for sick time or other “emergencies”. So your job progresses faster than with a single or smaller contractor.

Last month we had one customer who chose to “save” by going with a small independent contractor. He was skilled in some areas but tiling the bathroom was not his thing. The client had spent money on good tiles and the tile job was simply not acceptable. After a number of weeks of frustrations and delays, the client let him go and called us back in to fix the job. This ended up being more costly than doing it the first time because many of the materials could not be salvaged and needed to be re-ordered. In addition, the cost for the labour for the first contractor now added to the original job made it much more costly. The client really regretted trying to “save” learning it cost him much more in time, money and additional frustration! However, he was thrilled with the job when completed and has already referred us to friends! 

Best advice is to ensure you have referrals and recommendations from friends and family who have used them to do the same work you need done!  If they can build a fence or deck – it doesn’t mean they can build and renovate a bathroom!! Always ask for recommendations from clients and ask if you can go see the contractors work! Many of our clients have had prospective clients come to see the renovations we have completed for them and ensured the experience with us was positive before they hire us. Happy clients are always happy to show off our work and refer us to new clients! So ask for referrals and go see the contractors work! Referrals over the phone are never reliable – you just don’t know who they are, client or friend of the contractor?! Due diligence in who you hire will make or break your renovation experience, so take the time to ensure your experience will be a good one!

The Renovation “Hump” Phenomenon

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After being involved in the renovation industry for more than 20 years, trends and designs change but one thing always stays the same. The renovation “HUMP”! It’s an interesting phenomenon. It doesn’t matter the size of the project, big or small, it’s still there. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a commercial or residential project. It always rears its ugly head.

Very similar to “hump” day, the Renovation Hump is that point in time when clients just want to see the work completed and move onto settling into their new space. Just like most of us see “hump day” as the point in time when the weekend is closer than it was before and we just want Friday at 5:00 pm to roll around, clients get frustrated and just want the project to conclude.

The initial stages of any project are both exciting and at times, frustrating, and often full of anticipation. First comes the planning and design phase. Everyone loves this part – new possibilities are always exhilarating. Long before the first hammer swings, we need to know what we are doing and ensure it will work with the space. Once the design and floor plan are approved, we order any items that have a delivery requirement and purchase any other items to ensure they are available when the work commences. Once we have confirmed the delivery of items, we coordinate the demolition phase to ensure we minimize down time/disruption in your space. Then we begin demo. This is often where we find any surprises that we were not aware of previously, as they were hidden from everyone’s knowledge behind the walls, especially if the client doesn’t have the original architectural plans for the space. We may need to make some modifications to the initial plans, or we may find we do not have to do something we thought we might. This is also where we can experience delays, waiting for other trades to complete what they need to so we can move in and complete what we need to.  

Once the work is in full swing and we start to see a good portion of the work completed, everyone gets so excited to see the design and new layout begin to unfold. Seeing the colors come together, then the lighting and the flooring go in, then tile, vanities, fixtures, furniture and the floor plan comes alive and the excitement is thick in the air. Then the Renovation Hump hits!

Suddenly the end is in sight, but still seems so far away! Clients and sometimes even the contractors get frustrated. The fine finishing details that honestly are not obvious on first quick glance begin to take a tremendous amount of time! Detailing is one of the most important and under rated parts of a renovation job! It can make or break a good project if it is rushed! However, doing a proper detailing job simply takes time. Trim, touch ups, sealing tile, attaching door pulls and door stops are all things that you really do not see at a quick glance, but go in for a good inspection and you will sure notice the difference between a top notch job and a shabby one! Depending on the job, I usually tell the clients to allow 20 – 25% for the detailing work time wise. It is very finicky and time consuming to do it right and to a high standard of quality!

Unfortunately, installing doorstops or sealing tile isn’t something that is quickly visible when someone walks into the rooms. It can be frustrating when you “see” little change over the course of a day. However, this is time when the finishing touches are all being completed with the greatest attention to detail. This is also where we go through the space with the client and ensure they are completely satisfied with the space! 

Unfortunately, the “hump” is as real as part of any renovation project as the materials or the design! I always tease my clients when the “hump” hits and let them know it’s perfectly normal and part of any job! They will be free to enjoy their new space soon and we will be out of their hair and onto the next project before we all know it!