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Time For a Countertop Makeover?  Follow These Top 10 Designer Do’s and Don’ts For A Stress-Free Project

Time For a Countertop Makeover? Follow These Top 10 Designer Do’s and Don’ts For A Stress-Free Project

When you’re dreaming of a beautiful kitchen, and know that buying new cabinets is more than your budget will allow, maybe it’s time to consider a makeover that includes new countertops.  If your cabinets are in good condition and the the space plan works well for you this might be your perfect solution!

There was a time, in my old EXPO Design Center days, when I was known as the Queen of Countertop Remodels because I helped so many clients with them. And because of that, I learned exactly what to do, so that stress was kept to a minimum.

Let’s take a look at my list of Designer do’s and don’ts that will help you with your own countertop remodel.

Do:  One of your first decisions to make is what material do you want to use, because you have a few options.  There are natural stone products (granite, marble, quartzite) and there are quartz composite products (Cambria, Caesarstone, Silestone, etc.)

Do: Know what “look” you want to achieve in the space. The material you choose will help you get there.

Do: Decide if you want a lot of movement (veining) in your countertop material.

 

quartzite mont blanc

Quartzite Mont Blanc

Don’t buy a slab that has a lot of movement and imperfections if you think it will drive you crazy. Stone is a gift of nature, and definitely not perfect.  Also, if you need to have a seam because of a large area to be covered, the veins will not match.  If that is a problem for you, then choose a slab/pattern that has less movement and a quiet pattern.

Do: Decide on your fabricator (the person who will template, cut and install). They often display granite, marble, and quartzite slabs in their warehouse. But sometimes they’ll send you to look at a larger showroom that has more to offer.  These showrooms typically do not sell directly to you, the consumer.  So this means they won’t be able to quote you a price.  They’ll give the price to your fabricator who will then factor in the additional labor costs before giving you a quote.

Granite Colonial White

Granite Colonial White

Don’t visit a granite showroom without a designer, contractor, or fabricator name. They can call ahead to let the showroom know you’re coming, or they can go with you to help you select. Sometimes a showroom will recommend a fabricator if you don’t know who to use.  A few showrooms/warehouses will let consumers come in to look without an appointment.  Your fabricator will contact them for pricing.

Do: Find out your fabricator’s price levels before you visit a granite showroom. Since most of them don’t sell directly to the consumer, they won’t give you a price. But they can point you to the slabs that will be in your approximate price point.  Many large fabrication companies have enough space to have countertop slabs on display.  In that instance, they’ll be able to give you a quote.

Don’t:  Assume that the initial quote is the final one.  Your fabricator will send someone to make a template, and that will determine the final cost.  But before they schedule you, they will need a countertop plan with the shape of all your counters, and the dimensions.

Do: Make sure that you have your sink, and sometimes faucet, when they come to make your template. They will take it with them back to their shop.

Do: Know that some fabricators require you to purchase an entire slab, and some will only charge you for what you use.  Be sure to check this out in advance.  Quartz composite products seem to require purchase of an entire slab.  But this is also at the discretion of the fabricator.

Don’t: Ordering less than 25 square feet is not acceptable to most fabricators. Sometimes they have a scrap yard to choose those pieces.  If they do, it’s your luck day!!!

Don’t: Order countertops when you’re in a rush to have it installed. From the time they make the template, until the time it is installed could take anywhere from 5-15 business days.

Don’t: Have your heart set on a slab too early in the process unless you’re prepared to make a deposit so they will hold it.  Also, make sure that your fabricator is going to hold onto the unused part of your slab.  I have had slab “scraps” sold before projects were installed, only to be upset when they made a mistake cutting.  Time was lost while they waited to find another slab to match.

Don’t hang on to a sample that you love and expect it to look the same in 6 months.  The look of natural stone is determined by where it’s mined in a mountain.  Even though it has the same color name, it can look completely different in pattern and color. 

Granite sells quickly in certain markets and new shipments aren’t always cut from the same area of a mountain.  Always inspect your slab before purchasing!  If you need more than one slab for your countertop, make sure that there are more in the stack.  Sometimes they’ll be labeled by the order they’ve been cut.

granite slabs in order

Do: Know that there are options to choose from for your countertop edges. Standard edges are included in your quote.  Non-standard edges are sold by the linear foot.

granite edge profiles

There are a lot of things to think about when making your countertop selection.  And it probably seems like a lot to remember.  But Do’s and Don’ts are meant to guide us in the right direction and keep us from making painful or costly mistakes.

If you’re still confused and unsure of what to do next, feel free to leave a comment below, or email me at Randi@RandiDestefano.com with your questions.  I’m here to help!

Your Space Matters: 3 Secrets To Design A Calmer Life At Home

Your Space Matters: 3 Secrets To Design A Calmer Life At Home

Is your space dragging you down?  Imagine, just for a minute, that you’re visiting someone’s home when there’s clutter and craziness everywhere?  Dishes are piled in the sink and on the counter, and the desk is filled with unorganized stacks of papers.  How did it make you feel? 

Now picture this.  You visit another friend, a friend who’s home is organized with a place for everything.  It has colors you love, and makes you feel instantly calm and peaceful?  Has this ever happened to you?  Your Space Matters.  Our environment has a significant impact on our well-being and our mental focus.  I can relate because I’ve been there too many times!  As we go about our day, following our crazy schedules, it’s so easy to get caught up in life and ignore this place we call home.

Then one day we wake up and notice that things around us are looking a bit worn and tired. There are rooms we avoid because we don’t feel comfortable there, but we can’t figure out why.  Sometimes we’re unorganized and often late for work or carpool because we can’t find the car keys.  Maybe, like me, your desk gets piled with papers and “stuff” to the point where focusing on work is a waste of time.  Does this sound a little bit familiar?

And worst of all, because we feel this way, it starts to impact the way we act around other people and how we respond to them…even if we don’t realize it.  You know what I mean.  The kitchen counter is piled with a PTA project that needs to be finished, so you’re stressed.  Then the kids start clamoring for your attention…and you snap at them.  Or you’re embarrassed to have friends over because your kitchen “doesn’t look as good as their kitchen.”

We’ve all been there at one time or another, and it’s not a fun place to be.  Now’s the time to sit back, take a deep breath, and make a plan to design a calmer life at home.  Here are my    3 secrets to make it happen:

Secret #1:  Define your values and priorities

Start by making a list of everything that HOME means to you. Do you want it to be a retreat to come home to at the end of a long hectic day?  Do you love to welcome family and friends?  Next make a list of your priorities in order of importance.  But be sure that they fit what you value most about home.  A good example of this would be loving to cook but dreading it because your kitchen is always a mess.  Or you love bright colors and your walls are painted dark green.

Secret #2:  Discover what works for you and your lifestyle

How do you want to live in your home?  If you love to be relaxed and casual, then choose furniture styles that reflect that.  When low maintenance is something you value, a clean and simple style with few accessories might be the way to go.

How do you want to feel when you’re at home?  Do you want to feel relaxed, unhurried, and stress free?  What about energetic, organized, and carefree?  Think about the lifestyle you have now, or even the one that you’d like to have, and create your home makeover to compliment that.

What do you want more of?  For me it’s more creative time.  If I don’t make an uncluttered space for that to happen, I won’t plan creativity into my day.

What do you want less of?  Maybe you want to spend less time cleaning or staying on top of the clutter.  Less accessories and better storage solutions would be the answer.

Secret #3:  Just do it!

Too often we make excuses….
I don’t have the time.
We can’t afford it.
I can’t live through construction.
I don’t know where to start.

So many times these excuses are just us getting in our own way because we’re afraid to take that first step.  Start with something simple and begin the process with what you already have.  Get rid of the outdated floral arrangements, move lamps and pillows to another room, or re-purpose a table for another use. 

One client realized she was spending less and less time in her home office, and instead working later and later at meetings and other busy work.  Her Ah-Ha moment came the day she admitted to herself that she really hated the way her office made her feel.  She was finally ready to make a change.  And guess what?  A new paint color was enough to soothe her feelings of uneasiness, and she’s now using her office again!

Make a habit out of getting rid of the excess and simplifying your life.  De-cluttering is liberating!

 

HOW TO CREATE AN AMAZING KITCHEN DESIGN THAT WORKS FOR YOU

HOW TO CREATE AN AMAZING KITCHEN DESIGN THAT WORKS FOR YOU

 

Have you ever hosted a party at your home and everyone wants to hang out in the kitchen?  There’s laughing and talking and everyone is having a wonderful time!  Even with an open floor plan, and lots of subtle hints to move to the great room, they all want to stay in the kitchen.  The downside to this, if you’re the hostess, is that guests are in your way as you try to get the food ready.   It’s hard to move around them to grab to what you need, and you end up getting a little stressed.  At that point, you might start wishing that your kitchen had a better layout.   So how can you create an amazing kitchen design that works for YOU and your family?

One of the first things we do in a kitchen consultation is talk about what you want and what you need in your new space.  And almost always my clients’  first response is “I want our kitchen to be more functional with lots of counter space and storage.”  Sound familiar?  Everyone has their own idea of how they want to work in their space.  You want a functional kitchen design that’s been customized just for you and way you want to work and entertain.

To make this happen, always start with a plan.  Would you ever go on a trip without knowing how to get to your destination ?  I know I always check it out on WAZE.  The same thing applies to designing a kitchen that works for YOU.   When you have a vision for the end result, all the steps along the way fall into place.

Begin with making a list of everything you need in your kitchen.  This would include things like all the appliances you need (ex. refrigerator, cooktop, oven, dishwasher, etc.).  Then move on to lighting, flooring, and countertops.

Next is your dream list of wants.  On this specific list add things like a 48” refrigerator, a double oven, roll out trays in every cabinet, drawers instead of cabinets.  Don’t forget all the bells and whistles that go into a cabinet, the accessories.  Specialty cabinets like trash drawers, tray dividers, spice pullouts are always convenient things to have in a functional kitchen.

What are the specific reasons why you want each item.  For example, you want drawers because you don’t want the extra step of opening cabinet doors.  Or you prefer cabinets because you can’t stack things and find them in drawers.  Remember that this is YOUR kitchen, and it needs to be designed for the way you want to work in your space.

A place in the pantry to store serving platters in plain view.

Island utensil drawer

My friend,Jane, designed this utensil drawer for her island

island tray divider drawer

Jane’s island tray divider drawer

The last thing to consider during this planning phase is what items need to be next to or near each other.  The obvious is the sink next to the dishwasher.  But what other products do you need to be grouped together?  Do you like having your trays and cookie sheets next to the oven or closer to your work area?  This exercise might take a little longer.  But once you have it, your space planning will be much easier.

Dish drawers directly across from the dishwasher for easy unloading.

Spice pullouts next to the range.

Keep in mind that having each and every one of your “wants” isn’t always going to work, even if they do fit into your budget.   So be willing to compromise on the amount of products and even the locations of certain things.   In the end, the goal is to help you create an amazing kitchen design that’s not only beautiful, but it’s functional.

 

 

You Get What You Pay For:  The Up’s and Down’s Of Shopping On-line

You Get What You Pay For: The Up’s and Down’s Of Shopping On-line

 

Has anyone ever told you that sometimes the lowest price doesn’t always mean it’s the best choice for a project?  I know that I’ve heard it from my parents, my contractors, and other designer friends, “You get what you pay for.”  I even pass on these words of advice to my own clients.

But with the ease of internet shopping and today’s supply shortages, it’s so easy to hop on-line to find exactly the look and color you want.  With the ease of comparing prices from one vendor to another and faster delivery times, who wouldn’t want to give it a try?  After all, ordering a custom sofa, or even having your old one re-upholstered can take several months.

We all can think of a few things for our home that we would pay almost anything to have.  It’s beautiful, the quality is excellent, and the color is exactly what we need to make the room go from drab to fab!  When it’s finally ours we’re so happy and excited that we can’t wait to share! 

Then there are the other things that we need for our projects that aren’t so important to us.  They might be a filler piece to finish off the room.  Or an appliance that we know we won’t use every day.  That’s when finding a bargain really gets our excitement flowing.

A while back, my words of advice came back to haunt me when I did my own on-line shopping.  Let me tell you a story of my first experience…..

When I was staying in Singapore several years ago, I bought a beautiful  hand knotted tribal carpet runner.  It’s made with vegetable dyes, which I love, and the colors are deep and rich reds, blues, and ivories. This rug has traveled with us from house to house, and I still have wonderful memories whenever I look at it.

Tribal runner

Imagine my surprise, when I was browsing through an on-line weekly sale and saw a small area carpet in the same exact pattern and the same exact colors.  And the best part was that it was more than half of the price I paid for the runner!

While I was thinking it was too good to be true, I checked their return policy.  Good to know that not only was shipping free, the return freight was free.  Once I discovered that important fact, it took about a minute to hit the “order now” button…and it was mine!!!!

My excitement mounted as I waited for the package to arrive.  Finally, 4 days later, it made it to my front porch.  I ran for the scissors to cut the bag.  I pulled off the bag.  I unrolled the carpet.  And then…..a total disappointment over the purchase.

Online tribal rug

You see, what I couldn’t have guessed by looking at the on-line photograph, was the dull colors.  They were the same reds, blues, and ivories, but definitely not as vibrant.  The patterns are almost identical, but there are many more knots per inch on the expensive carpet than on the bargain carpet.  And lastly, the height of the tufting doesn’t compare with the runner.

By itself, the “bargain” tribal carpet would look beautiful in any home.  But because I wanted to show them in the same room, it just wouldn’t work.  The comparison in color intensity and quality would have always bothered me.

Tribal rug comparison

Since that first experience of on-line shopping for our home, I’ve made several other purchases.  Some were perfect, and others not so perfect.  Items have been returned because they didn’t look like the on-line image or the description.  An accent rug was kept simply because it met the criteria we were looking for: fast delivery, washable, inexpensive, and puppy-proofed. 

It all comes down to what you value most at the time you’re ready to purchase.  If it’s something you need to replace because the one you have is broken, waiting 3 months for a perfect quality piece might not be an option.  But if it’s an item that you really love, then waiting for a piece of furniture that is customized for your room is worth it.

on-line counter stools

When we discovered that our custom made counter stools couldn’t be repaired and the finish was discontinued, it was finally time to decide on a replacement.  With a newly renovated kitchen, and company coming, what I valued at that point in time was a swivel stool that looked good, in colors that would work with our cabinets and countertops.  For me, it was more important to have them delivered within the week than to wait months for custom stools

After carefully reading the specification to make sure they would be the correct size, the order was placed.  They arrived within the week, just in time for our guests!  Are they exactly what I would have chosen given patience to wait for custom? No.  But for now, the color is perfect and the seats will be covered soon in a fabric that coordinates with the other fabrics and colors in the space.

These stools, when compared to the custom swivel stools we had, are definitely a “you get what you pay for” purchase.  I mean, they were a lot less than a custom stool would cost.  But because I carefully read the product details, and studied the on-line image, I knew what to expect and wasn’t disappointed. 

Lessons Learned:

  • If your design project requires you to have two or more items that are identical or even remotely similar, buy them at the same time.
  • If the price is really low, it just might be too good to true.
  • Carefully read the product description and specifications for length, width, seat depth, arm height
  • Seeing a product in person so that you can touch it and feel it is a good thing.
  • On-line shopping is great!  But make sure the return policy is one you can live with.
  • Keep a list of what you need or want for your next design project.  And from that list decide what you’re willing to splurge on and what you would rather bargain shop for.
  • Don’t buy your main upholstered pieces online unless you’re familiar with the manufacturer. 

When it comes to shopping online, there are good deals to be had, especially during sales.  But remember to do your research, read the fine details, and decide if settling for less than your dream is worth it.  After all, no one wants to be told “you get what you pay for.”

 

More Joy…Less Stress: 3 Simple Steps to Avoid Holiday Chaos

More Joy…Less Stress: 3 Simple Steps to Avoid Holiday Chaos

 

I don’t know about you, but I tend to procrastinate on holiday preparations.  Sometimes it’s because I’m too busy with other things that were more important when I said “yes” to them.  Other times, the perfectionist in me keeps thinking “what if?”  What if a better table decorating idea comes to me later?  What if there won’t be enough variety of food?  Crazy, right?

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, it’s time to think about what can be done right now that will bring more joy and less stress to the holiday.  Remember, we want to avoid holiday chaos and focus on enjoying our family and friends.  The answer could be discovering the ONE THING you want to accomplish with the preparation and the meal.  For me, that would be enjoying our time together, staying calm, and living in the moment.  When I focus on this….and how long it will take to pull it all together…it’s time to get real and make a plan. 

Let’s take a look at some simple steps to avoid holiday chaos:

What can you easily accomplish in the time you have?

Remember that people typically come to a gathering for two reasons: food and funYOU are hoping to create lasting memories. But be realistic about the amount of time you can spend planning and preparing.  When you’re completely exhausted by the time you sit down to dinner, it’s hard to enjoy the meal and your guests.  Take it from me…been there, done that!  My little Thanksgiving secret is that one year I went on strike in cooking the meal.  But that’s another story for another day! LOL!!!

As you plan your meal, remember to delegate a dish or two to anyone who offers.  Your party will be easier that way.  And the bonus for your guests is that it lets them try a new recipe as well as feeling helpful.

What should you buy? What should you DIY?

Sometimes you just can’t do it all yourself.  So you need to decide what can you buy and what can you realistically do yourself.  Costco, Trader Joe’s and Fresh Market have delicious, prepared food that can fill in for side dishes you don’t have time to make.

This same mindset holds true for the table decorations.  Most of us dream of having our Thanksgiving table decorated with perfectly coordinated china, colorful linens, and beautiful centerpieces.  With a peaceful walk in the woods and a quick “shopping trip” around your own home, you can easily create a look that will wow your friends and family.

How to handle the clutter when guests are staying overnight?

I like being neat and tidy (most of the time), so a house full of overnight guests, luggage, and cramped quarters can feel a little crazy and chaotic.

Some of the ways I’ve managed to keep clutter to a minimum is to make sure everyone has a designated area for their family’s “stuff”.  At my house  that means all coolers are stored in the room off the garage and toys are kept all together.

Creating an out-of-the-way private space for guests to keep their suitcase will make them feel welcomed and keep the clutter to a minimum.

We all want the holiday to be a joyful, fun-filled and stress-free time.  We want our guests to feel welcomed and comfortable.  And most of all, we want to create cherished memories that last a lifetime as we give thanks for all of our many blessings.