Friday, February 20, 2015

Design Progress

The husband and I had date night last night.  (Side note, we seriously have the best nanny in the world.  My boys adore her and she is incredible.  I came home from date night to all the boys laundry washed and folded, without even asking her to do it!  Now if that isn't the cherry on top of date night, I'm not sure what is!). Hubs and I checked out a sushi restaurant in town, Yabu, which was awesome! Then we went across the street to Taste and See for coffee, dessert and some kitchen designing!

So my basic "requirements" for this kitchen renovation are rather simple: I want a place where the boys or friends can sit and chat (or help, or drink red wine - well, friends, not the boys) while I'm cooking. Preferably, I'd love this to be in the form of a big ole island.  I want a white with gray spec countertop, white cabinets (maybe gray or aqua-ish on the bottoms), updated appliances and a bigger window over the sink.  Otherwise, I figure anything will look and function better than our current setup!  

So as a reminder, let's see where we started with a picture of the kitchen when we bought the house.  It's lovely, right?  We have since taken down the wallpaper and painted the walls light gray.  (P.S. Notice the bright red walls peeking through from the dining room? They are gone now too, thankyouverymuch.)

So thanks to hubby's computer skillz, we came up with three great options.  One involves renovating our downstairs bath to create more room in the, money, money!!!  I need to win the lotto. (Although I did quickly let go of my idea to also ADD a new full bath downstairs in the guest room.  I am somewhat realistic about our budget.  Then again, we did dodge that $6,000 bullet, so maybe we should bring that idea back to the table!)   A second plan is basically our current configuration, just better and a tad more open.  And the third is based off my inspiration photo from yesterday.

As a reminder here's the dream kitchen:

Here's the "current configuration just better" plan (imagine there are bar stools along the L, with white/gray counter tops):

The three different designs plans (or should I say "drawings"???):

A close up of my favorite (which includes the bath remodel...):

3D of my fave with drawing and reconfigured bathroom:

And then laying in bed last night I came up with a totally new idea, thanks to Pinterest!  This plan would open up the kitchen into the dining room, which is something we hadn't really considered (I know, duh, right?)  Here's my new fave inspiration!!

What do you think??

Oh, and did I mention we decided to tear up the pantry floor to see what was underneath???  Yeah, we did...we just couldn't help ourselves!  We discovered parquet underneath a layer of level-er and the lovely tile!  But at least it's progress, right?!

Thursday, February 19, 2015

The Disaster with the Designer

I fell in love with our house the day I saw it online. I instinctively knew it would be ours despite my whole "the house must be move-in-ready" comment to our realtor. We'd already been in and out of lots of houses and they all had something wrong. Except that one we put an offer in and lost to another couple. So we decided to buy the big Tudor despite it's flaws. Most of the issues were cosmetic and could be fixed before we even moved in. Dark wood paneling just needed a coat of paint. The laundry room peeling floor was an easy fix (although my husband may not agree since he installed the new floor - a tip for the single ladies, marry a do-er). The brown tile in the bathrooms wasn't that bad and could eventually be replaced. Details, details.

But the kitchen. She was another story. She was ugly.  On day 1 we opened her up by knocking down a hanging cabinet in the middle of the room. But the demo left a lovely rectangular mark on the ceiling which was quickly joined alongside by a water stain from an unfortunate bathtub drainage incident. The floor is vinyl tiles and the cabinets are original to the 1970s. They've extended past their useful life. The oven isn't calibrated, the electric stove-top always looks dirty no matter the amount of cleaner applied and yet another prong falls off the dishwasher every day. We also don't have a microwave and the refrigerator is of the large, white eyesore variety.

I consider myself a cook, so this less than desirable kitchen has got to go. We knew we'd do a complete renovation when we bought the house and have set aside the money to do so. But a complete gut job and renovation is overwhelming. We've never done something like this and didn't know where to begin. Should we go it alone or through a big box store or a general contractor or a designer?  Or some combination of the above.

After talking about the renovation and throwing ideas around (and lots of pinning on pinterest), we decided we needed to do something. I figured we needed a plan of attack so I researched interior designers in the area. A few Google searches and Better Business Bureau reviews later and I had a name of a local designer who seemed like a good fit based on her online persona.

We spoke on the phone where she explained the initial consultation would cost $350. (The other designer I'd found cost a minimum of $500 for this initial design but would reimburse you if you hired them to manage your renovation. Always one to save a buck, I figured the $350 option was better.) So we chatted more and she explained that she'd come take measurements and come up with a design plan which she'd present at a second meeting that was included in the price of the initial fee.  And she asked our budget, which I gave to her and she said OK and kept on talking for a bit.

Her assistant emailed me before the appointment to confirm and included this statement: "The cost is $350 and includes a complimentary follow up appointment where [designer] will present her  recommended custom design plan for you." Ok, great. So we'll get the design plan on the 2nd visit.  Fabulous.

Fast forward to the appointment. The designer arrives and is polite and friendly. She picks apart the kitchen which was fine - we knew it was bad. But at some point she starts talking about how small our kitchen is and then keeps referring to these ginormous kitchen's she's remodeled.  Okay, not helpful, but whatever, we get it, you're a big deal.  Then comes the awkward part.  She proceeds to explain that she charges $6000 for the design.

I'm sorry, what? And she charged another 10% of all costs if we wanted her to manage the whole installation process.  

Once I picked my mouth up off the floor, I somehow got the words out that this obviously was not going to work.  I pressed her to admit that there was no way it would work to pay her $6000 and still complete the project on our budget, which she eventually admitted. And then I just sort of lost it. I was so utterly embarrassed that I had to admit to this woman that we couldn't afford her.  And all my excitement about finally getting the project started just came crashing down around me. I literally had to excuse myself from the room to compose myself (remember, I'm a crier....) and the husband let the ladies out.  I was taken aback by my rush of emotions but think I was really just so embarrassed.  It is not easy to admit to someone that you just don't have the money.  I wonder how many people this designer has met with who've just agreed to her price because it is awkward not to.  Embarrassing or not, we were not about to spend $6000 just for the design.

However, she was kind enough to not charge us the $350 for the visit.  Well, thank you. {insert sarcasm here}

And then to make matters worse, she called me the next day under the guise of apologizing to actually find out where the mis-communication occurred.  Turns out "design plan" in her mind does not mean the actual drawings - it meant her plan for designing your renovation. (Just sit with that for a minute.)  I think she realized how I didn't get that from her assistant's email or her own words. Design plans doesn't actually mean plans.  Who knew?!  (And as we learned in English class way back when, always remember your audience! Things mean different things to different people.)  I also added that I felt like she wasted my time since I'd given her my budget over the phone and she knew the whole time it would never work.  I assume she figured she'd get us to up our budget (since she knew we were two lawyers and flash, a two lawyer couple isn't necessarily rolling in dough especially if they have over $1000 a month in student loans to pay back!)

So we're back to square one.  Well, we were back to square one.  My do-er husband decided to spend $70 to buy some design software (since the designer was kind enough not to charge us the $350 initial-consultation-does-not-include-design-plan fee) and he's been working away every night. We have some ideas and we're excited again.  We still may meet with some other designers or general contractors, but we'll be sure to ask lots of questions.  And just to be safe, I think we'll err on the side of finding a designer who offers free initial consultations.

Our favorite current plan/layout! (photo cred: