Thursday, June 2, 2016

Y Design Loop : When to hire an interior designer to design your new kitchen vs. hiring a kitchen cabinet company

Over the years, I have come across many instances when a client wonders if they should hire an interior designer or kitchen cabinet company to design their new kitchen. 

image courtesy  Patricia Gray Interior Design

Without further ado, there are several differences [hopefully unbiased] I'd like to share with you :  

Interior Designer
Kitchen Cabinet Company
Holistic, taking all adjacent areas, architectural features and your wish list into consideration
Usually limited to consideration of existing walls to determine where the kitchen cabinets and counters will go
Turnkey design includes everything e.g. floor plan [which may include new wall and doorway locations to correct inefficient space planning], lighting, flooring, tile locations, sizes and layout, paint colors, decor, appliance, fixture and furniture selections, and furniture layout, etc.
Designers make it a point to keep up-to-date with all new products available.
Design includes kitchen cabinet layout and cabinet wall elevations. The door style, material, and finishes options are chosen by you. Some companies may also offer tiles and plumbing fixtures.
Cabinet companies generally do not keep up-to-date with current market offerings, except for items related to cabinets [e.g. pantry pull-out shelving]
Hands-on; work on and off-site.
Work mostly off-site. Project communications with the client are usually done through a sales rep.
Needs analysis
In-depth, on-going dialogue with you
Basic understanding what your wants and needs are
5-10 years experience is recommended for a complex room such as a kitchen
Often, a junior designer [0-5 yrs experience] will be assigned to do the design
Unlimited style options, depending on your budget, architectural features and the style of the adjacent areas/rooms
Cabinet style is limited to whatever door options and box sizes are available
Design fees are extra – around 10-15% of the net cost, for turn-key full service.
A medium budget kitchen is between $50,000-75,000
Design fees are built into the price of the cabinets.
A ballpark price for 'semi-custom'* cabinets in a medium size kitchen is between $20,000-25,000
How does it work?
Approved design drawings are given to the general contractor in order for them to get quotes on everything, including pricing from a kitchen cabinet company. The quotes are then reviewed by the designer for accuracy and presented to you for approval
The kitchen cabinet company uses their own design drawings in order to give you a quote on the cabinets and counter
End Result
A stunning, cohesive, unique kitchen which is tailored to suit your lifestyle, budget and the style [or future style!] of the rest of the house
A nice basic kitchen which may have visual flow with adjacent rooms
This option may be right for you if :
- you enjoy collaborating one-on-one with a trained professional
- you have specific space planning needs which may require walls, ceiling and doorways to be changed
- you appreciate that the time and effort put into a project will result in an exceptional kitchen you are delighted to be in.

- you are planning on moving soon and do not want to invest in a specialized product
- you have an existing kitchen layout that doesn't require any new construction
- you are comfortable choosing lighting, materials, colors and styles that suit the rest of your home
- you are on a tight budget

* by semi-custom, I mean that most kitchen cabinet company's products are limited to the door styles, materials and finishes options currently in their product offering. Unusual sizes, details such as inlay, and materials such as metal are done by a full-custom cabinet workshop and up-charged accordingly.


Thursday, April 21, 2016

Y Design Loop : Fifth Avenue Kitchen Retrofit

Kitchen Upgrades Need Not Cost an Arm and a Leg

Everyone knows that the kitchen is one of the most expensive renovations ... here is a great example of what can be done on a modest budget.  My client had already updated her counter tops to quartz and flooring to clear maple hardwood a year before. These 2 items can easily account for $6,000 - $8,000 of a renovation budget depending on amount of material and number of cuts required.  Here is the before photo :


We gave her kitchen a fresh, clean look with open-back upper cabinets that show off the white fully-tiled wall and new hood vent. The cabinets are Baltic Birch plywood [ which has an interesting striped edge ], with a gloss white laminate lining the inner surfaces. :

Only the lower cabinet and pantry doors were changed, leaving the cabinet boxes as is. Another huge cost savings ! The ceiling light fixture was moved to the middle of the room, and pendants were added above the sink. The sink faucet was also replaced.

In total, these upgrades are in the $15,000 range for everything including new cabinet and pantry doors [not in photo], knobs, electrical, general contracting and design services.  If you want to update your kitchen, doing it in 2 phases like this is definitely a feasible option!

Design Tip :

If you are wanting to do any sort of renovation, it is wise to start your project at least 3-6 months ahead of time in order to secure an A-list contractor, and to ensure all new products and materials are available for installation. The very best contractors are booked anywhere from 3 - 12 months in advance!

Inspiration :

Sunbrella fabrics !  This company manufactures outdoor fabrics for use on furniture, draperies, awnings, pillows, etc.  It is made from 100% acrylic so it resists stains, fading and the elements.  And of course, the color and pattern range is amazing :

photo : Sunbrella


Thursday, February 25, 2016

Y Design Loop : Powell Avenue Loft Renovation

Closets Doubled and Serenity Returned to Powell Avenue Loft 

After enjoying their 2-bed, 2-bath, converted-school-condo for 10 years, the clients decided to tackle all the things that bugged them at once.  Their overall wish was to make better use of their central Ottawa 1,000 sq. ft. condominium for their den, bedroom and closets.  


Finding space for a lifetime of artwork, books, camera equipment and designer wardrobes is always a challenge....and what a great opportunity for improvement !  The space is open and inviting with a large wall of windows facing south. Most of the interior partitions go up 8' to the 10' high ceilings, giving the semi-industrial space a lot of interesting interior architecture to work with.


View from new bedroom looking into living room


The end result doubled the closet space by adding a Dressing Area in the "North Wing" and a new closet in the "Entry", which was a passage-way into the "South Wing" bathroom. See floor plans and photos [numbered] below showing the wish list and solutions to each area :


Wish List : Organize clutter, provide adequate storage, and brighten space including new bathroom.

Solutions : 
- switch office and bedroom
- change drywall wall to glass wall with wood Venetian blinds to better control light
- build walls up to the ceiling to create more sound privacy



Solutions :
- install wall sconces to maximize space for other furniture
- add ceiling fixture for ambient lighting

BEFORE                                                                          AFTER

- enclose space above closet to hide storage
- change closet doors from triple doors to double doors for better access
BEFORE                                                                              AFTER

4  SOUTH BATH      Inspiration : designer  Andree Putman 
Solutions :
- use light colors and classic materials such as marble mosaic flooring to provide calming environment, off of new bedroom

Solutions :
- rotate tub and close off 1 doorway, in order to create coat closet in Entry
BEFORE                                                            AFTER

Wish List : Provide better access to laundry room, create more closets for coats and shoes, upgrade and add lighting.

Solutions :
- add new coat closet on right by rotating the tub 90 degrees and building a wall
- re-purpose old bedroom closet into entry coat closet by expanding doorway in entry wall; enlarged coat closet and laundry room are on left

BEFORE                                                                                AFTER

Solutions :
- change 2 sets of swing doors to triple-panel sliding doors 13' wide
- add pot lights

Wish List : Create illusion of a larger, contemporary bathroom with a higher ceiling, add dressing area, create den comprised of tv viewing and office area.

8  NORTH BATH    Inspiration : designer Paul Smith
Solutions :
- install long narrow tiles vertically, to create illusion of height
- create seamless bathroom floor to visually enlarge the space

Solutions :
- replace acoustic ceiling tiles with punched MDF panels and paint to match walls
- create interesting, intriguing ceiling while still providing access to mechanical systems

Solutions :
- change swing door to a pocket door so it doesn't block linen shelving
- design floating vanity

BEFORE                                                                       AFTER

Solutions :
- remove linen closet door to make storage more accessible and provide opportunity to display beautiful items

BEFORE                                                                             AFTER

Solutions :
 - add 35 sq ft. of closet space for clothing and camera equipment; walk-in closet on left, shoe closet and shelving on right [not shown in photo]

1 DEN  
Solutions :
- add floating shelves for tv, books and display
- material : white-washed quarter-sawn oak

BEFORE                                                                        AFTER [Dressing area in mid-ground]

14 DEN
Solutions :
- close off unnecessary interior window to provide wall for art
- add more floating shelves for artwork

BEFORE                                                                         AFTER

15 DEN
Solutions :
- create 8' wide custom desk with slot for large format photographs
- material : white-washed quarter-sawn oak

16 DEN 
Solutions :
- source new modern sofa and pair with concrete sculpture/ coffee table 
- sits across from floating shelves and tv, making a cozy entertainment area

After months of planning and design, almost every area was redesigned, [except for the kitchen and dining], including new walls, doors, lighting and electrical, built-in cabinets & shelving and furniture.  Open spaces that flow into each other are maintained, keeping the condominium peaceful and serene. 


Thank you to Handwerk, Cadieux Interiors, Astro, Marchand Electric, Randalls, Komandor Doors, Ceragres, and JRB Construction for their part in making this project a reality!  The fabulous photography is by David Taylor Photo Studio.


See more photos at



Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Y Design Loop : Richmond Road Living Room Re-design

Working with a Blank Slate : Richmond Road Living Room

Just completed in time for Christmas - the redesign of a living/ dining room in a west end Ottawa, condominium high-rise. The chairs were re-upholstered with Robert Allen Tapir fabric, the wallpaper is Crown Gold grass cloth, the fireplace is an electric Amanti, the tallboy was purchased by the clients and hand painted by 4 Walls, and the lighting is from Found Design Ottawa [quartz base lamps], Juno and Restoration Hardware .... who doesn't love a great before and after?



Notice what a different new modern fabric makes to the clients' classic wing-back chairs.  The extra pieces were used for pillows.

Apple Red Bench

Warm up your home with a piece of red furniture ...

This is another example of what new upholstery fabric can do to an existing piece of furniture!  Here is a close-up of this really interesting fabric from one of my favorite companies, Maharam.  

It looks like a cross between snake skin and high school football jersey mesh...what a fabulous and unique combo.


And functionally, it's very durable for high use spaces such as this front foyer.

Stay cozy !

Friday, November 7, 2014

Y Design Loop : Is it Art, Furniture or Decor ?

My Latest Discovery - I'm very excited to share my latest discovery in the world of Interiors : Chinese Garden Stools !

Although the name implies outdoor use, it works just as well indoors and defies style categorization as it works well in many interior styles ranging from traditional :

to eclectic :

to transitional :

to modern :

Being a ceramic product, it naturally works in wet environments like bathrooms :

And of course your outdoor oasis :

So is it art, furniture or decor - you decide. Search online to see the vast array of colors and designs out there.
Enjoy !