Most of us love to tackle a DIY home project every once in a while. Maybe we do it to save money or to feel that sense of accomplishment that comes from a job well done. Maybe we do it because design TV makes it look so easy. Even though it can be fun (and sometimes stressful), there may come a time when you’ve messed it up and want to know how to avoid costly mistakes on your next DIY project.
As an interior designer, I often get the SOS call to fix it. You know what I mean. The sofa from an online store that looked great in the photograph, but feels like a rock when you sit on it. Or the window shades you ordered without help that don’t fit the window. These mistakes can be costly, both in money and the time it takes to fix them.
I know because it’s happened to me when I wasn’t paying attention, and then waited to long to examine my purchase. What started out in my mind as a fun window treatment sewing project soon became an energy vampire, sucking my time.
Because I know how to avoid costly mistakes that can happen on a DIY home project, my ego was more than a little bit battered. I was embarrassed to admit that I messed up. And now my goal is to help you prevent it.
Rule #1: Have a plan in place before you start…and follow your plan.
- Know what you’re goal is and write out all the steps in the process before your begin.
- Do your research. What will it cost? What quality of product are you looking for? How long will it take?
- Check all the dimensions before you order anything online.
Rule #2: Measure twice, cut/buy once
- Double check all dimensions before you cut/order the wood, fabric, or blinds.
- Custom orders can not be returned
- Will the piece of furniture fit through your doorways? Will it fit in the room?
Rule #3: Pay attention when making your purchases.
- Watch as fabric is unrolled
- Read the sales receipt before you commit to the sale. Don’t assume that the sales associate has written exactly what you asked for.
- Read the fine print, and be sure everything you’re expecting has been included
- In the image below, I hate to admit that I was so excited about getting a great price on this normally expensive fabric, that I didn’t follow my own rule. Notice how the design is printed crooked on the fabric. Fortunately there was just enough fabric to make the window treatments so the pattern matches all across the windows.
Rule #4: Have a Designer On Your Team to help you avoid costly mistakes.
- gives you advice before you make your purchases
- validates your choices…or guides you in a better direction
- tells you how much fabric, paint, etc. you need to order, as well as all the parts and pieces
- can place the orders for you
- connect you with trusted trade partners
Costly mistakes seem to be broken down into two categories. I like to call them the “Oh no! What was I thinking!!!” mistakes. Let’s take a look…
Purchases you regret later because you realize you don’t like them:
- You had a “love at first site” moment and just HAD to own it
- You didn’t really love it, but had a “hole” to fill and thought it would work. You were in a hurry to just be done with it!
- Oops! You forgot to measure.
Purchases and decisions you made because you didn’t know better or didn’t think it through:
- Appliances that will be placed against a wall and the impact that will have on opening and closing doors and drawers.
- Adding expensive new counter tops and then realizing you should have purchased new cabinets too.
- Not checking the specifications of appliances to see how they will affect the cabinet.
- Buying on line,which we all do, and realizing you don’t have all the parts and pieces to finish the job correctly.
Here are just a few examples of DIY home project mistakes (sources unknown):
Bathtub at the top of the stairs?
A mantle over a pedestal sink, complete with a towel ring
Exterior door hung upside down
A chandelier not installed in the center of the medallion or tray ceiling.
Your Design Action Steps:
1. If you’re in the “information gathering” phase of your project, remember to study everything. That means look over the plans when you have them.
2. Review the specifications and dimensions of each item you hope to purchase.
3. Hire an interior designer to be a part of your team. The peace of mind you’ll get from relying on someone you trust will be well worth the investment.
As a homeowner I never gave much thought to kitchen ventilation. I’ll admit that like most people, I thought it was noisy, and so rarely used it. But as a kitchen designer, I know the importance a beautiful vent hood plays in the kitchen. It’s necessary not only for how good it looks but also for the health and safety of you and your family. In a room where the wonderful aroma of delicious food surrounds us, there are also bad odors, grease, and steam that needs to escape.
Each home we’ve lived in over the years has had some type of kitchen ventilation. Some were efficient, and others were not. Some added to the custom design of the kitchen, and others were simply there to do a job, with no exciting design details. But we always knew that a home needs to have ventilation in the kitchen.
It wasn’t until we were relocating to a new city that I discovered every house doesn’t always have a vent hood, or a downdraft. They might have a microwave over the cook top or range. Worse yet, they might have absolutely no ventilation which leads to poor indoor air quality!
You know the saying, “once you see something you can’t un-see it?” Well, that is me! What began as a pet peeve has morphed into a mission to teach homeowners the importance of proper kitchen ventilation, how it impacts the health and safety of your kitchen, and the best type of product for your cooking needs and available space.
Wall Mounted Updraft Hood
- The cooking odors, fumes, and grease exhaust to the outside via ducting
- This type of hood requires either an external blower or an internal blower. An internal blower is directly inside your vent hood. Because it’s close to your filters and cooking space, it will pull more unwanted contaminants from your kitchen. The downside to this is that it is loud, and often the reason that most homeowners don’t like to use it.
- An external blower is a box containing the ventilator, filter and motor. Because it can be placed either on the roof or on an outside wall, it isn’t as noisy.
Telescoping Downdraft Ventilation
- Telescoping downdraft can be installed behind a cook top that is placed in an island, a peninsula, or against a wall
- Ducting is installed inside the cook top cabinet and there is usually very little room left for storage
- Ducting is then either vented through the wall, or below the kitchen, ultimately venting air outside
- The downdraft is an integral part of the cooktop
- Ducting is housed inside the base cabinet leaving very little room for storage
- It is also vented outside but through a crawl space or basement ceiling.
Under Cabinet Hood
- Mounted under a wall cabinet. The wall cabinet houses the ducting.
- Ducting either goes straight up, or has an elbow turn to go out the side of the house.
- The hood should be mounted 30″-36″ above the cooking surface
- This hood is also mounted to the bottom of a cabinet.
- There is not ducting, no ventilation to the outside. The air is simply being filtered and re-circulated into the room
- It is used primarily in apartments, town homes and condos where there is no way to vent to the outside
- A charcoal filter is used to purify the air and filter the grease
- This is not an ideal situation because most odors remain, steam still escapes into the room, and grease will scatter
Over the Cook Top Microwave
- Last resort “ventilation”
- The microwave is usually placed too close to the cooking surface. It should be no lower than 20″ above the cook top. But even then, it is too high to easily reach inside the microwave to remove a piping hot dish.
- This is also re-circulating the air and not eliminating much odor, grease or steam
- A charcoal filter is used
Island Vent Hood
- Ducting goes through the ceiling.
- Must be no lower than 30″-36″ above the cook top
- Internal and external blower options are available
The Craziest Hood and Ventilation System I’ve Seen
I have to share this, because it’s so crazy! A renovation client purchased a home that had a cook top with a downdraft. Above it was hood with a light that worked, and a wall that could house the ducting. But the previous homeowner chose to not connect the wiring so that the hood would work.
Sadly, in our search for a new home, I discovered so many houses with this same situation. A cook top with a downdraft taking up precious kitchen storage space. And a decorative wood hood that was simply there for as a light source.
The answer to making sure you have the best air quality in your kitchen is to provide adequate ventilation.
- Take into consideration the size of your cook top, and install a hood that is at least 3″ wider so that it has more area to capture the steam.
- Know how many BTU’s your cook top provides because this determines the amount of CFM’s are needed for the best ventilation
- Vent hoods can be found at many different price points. Don’t let cost determine what type of hood you buy.
- Choose your ventilation system based on your needs, your cooking patterns, and where your cook top or range will be placed in your kitchen
- Turn on the ventilation at least 5 minutes before you begin cooking to give the air in the room time to circulate.
The most important take-away is to understand that a home ventilation system, involves two related functions: removing unhealthy vapors and fumes from the home and also to introduce fresh air to replace what has been removed.
If you’re thinking about a home renovation or building a new home, please contact me, Randi@RandiDestefano.com, with any questions you might have.
All-white kitchens have certainly been popular for a while, and homeowners still love the crisp look it brings to their home, especially Farmhouse Style. But for the last several years the kitchen with two-toned cabinets has been increasing in popularity. And I love it!
What started out as a tip toe into the “world of two colors” has morphed into multiple ways to bring your favorite colors into the kitchen in a way that works for you.
A lot of color makes me happy! But since we tend to move a lot, my first thoughts are to go neutral with most improvements so that they’re something a future buyer would like. Even before we sold our last home, I remember thinking, “you love bright color, so why aren’t you using it?” And so I did!
With our new 18 year old fixer upper, I stepped totally out of the box (in the end). The entire time I was designing the kitchen I visualized white cabinets around the room with a dark navy blue island. Clean, simple, and uncluttered was the plan for this kitchen. It would still be a kitchen with two-toned cabinets, just a little ordinary. And I needed to have it finished ASAP!
You see, when we moved into our new home, the kitchen was very outdated with a lot of wasted space cabinets. Storage was minimal. The gold cabinets had so much glazing in the corners that they looked dirty. We were anxious to make a change.
MLS image of our original kitchen
But good design needs a well thought out plan, not one that’s rushed. And that’s what we were able to create..once I took a step back and slowed down. Remember, I love color and being a little bit different than everyone else. On my first trip to the cabinet showroom I found exactly what I was looking for, and it wasn’t white and navy blue! This meant taking a leap of faith and stepping out of my “play it safe” comfort zone. I had my happy colors at last!!!
Shiloh Cabinetry: taupe stain on alder and aqua stain on alder
Ta-Da! Here is the big reveal of our new kitchen, which we love. Even though the footprint is basically the same, the amount of storage space we gained is amazing. Work areas were arranged to suit the way we like to work in our kitchens. A vent hood was added where a downdraft had been. And a fun backsplash was added in my favorite shades of blues and turquoise.
Are YOU ready for a kitchen renovation? Remember that it doesn’t always need to be a full reno to make a big impact. Making simple changes like painting your island to create your own two-toned cabinet look and installing new cabinet “jewelry” can be a big improvement to a dated kitchen.
And when you’re finished, you might need a break to focus your time, energy, and money on another big project. It’s OK if your kitchen becomes a work in progress as you add the Finishing Touches like window treatments, counter stools, or rugs.
I’m here to help! Email me here: AskADesigner@randidestefano.com
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
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
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.
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.
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!
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.
My friend,Jane, designed this utensil drawer for her island
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.
Our kitchen was designed by me, with my hubby’s input, eight years ago when we were building our new house on the lake. Back then I wasn’t cooking as much as I did when our family was bigger. But we had high hopes of changing that with our new Lake Lifestyle. We poured through magazines, visited model homes and studied the kitchens of all our friends to come up with the perfect design for us. And when we moved it, we loved it, and still do today!
Fast forward to this time of Stay at Home when restaurants are closed, trips to the grocery store are limited, and stock-piling of toilet paper is the new normal. Lifestyles have changed, and life in the kitchen has become very active!!! We’re spending most of our time there working, home schooling, and cooking. If it wasn’t before, the kitchen has definitely become the Heart of the Home.
With all this extra at-home time on my hands, it’s been perfect to reflect on what’s really important. And what is not. I started out doing what most people are doing….de-cluttering and purging! The donation pile is getting bigger every day. I even found some strange things in my drawers and have no idea what they are or why I bought them! Can you relate?
The biggest surprise of all is how small, and unorganized the refrigerator and pantry seem with so much extra food and supplies. No, we aren’t hoarding toilet paper! And so with that Ah Ha moment, I created my list of What I Love About My Kitchen…and what I wish was different. Have you started making your own list of things to change? Let me share mine:
7 Things I love about my kitchen:
- The steam oven! It’s become the workhorse of the kitchen. We use it daily to reheat food, bake, thaw food, sous vide meat, etc.
- Our big island is perfect for spreading out to prep food.
- The walk-in pantry is the first one we’ve ever had!
- Dish drawers
- Spice pullouts
- Coffee/tea station
- The warming drawer is a lifesaver for dinner parties when everyone brings something hot.
What I wish was different…
- An organized space for vitamins and supplements
- A space for my ever growing essential oil collection
- Really good food preservation/refrigeration
- A larger pantry for more food and all the party platters
- More space for storing paper products
- Square containers for flours, sugar, and grains that fit better in the cabinets
- Less “stuff” on the counters
After 60 days of Stay-At-Home (but who’s counting), this is what I’ve discovered. We are blessed to be healthy, blessed to have Zoom to connect, and blessed to live in a home that we love. This time of reflection has made me realize that it’s time to press the reset button and get back to what’s truly important to each of us.
…….. have you been having your own Ah Ha’s about what needs to change in your kitchen? Maybe your dream kitchen changes are different from mine, and maybe they’re the same. I would love to hear how this Stay-at-Home time has impacted the way you look at your home today. Is it serving you or NOT? Please comment below and tell me what you love about your kitchen and what you would love to change. I promise….NO judging and NO commitments!