My Dinner with Miles, Thomas and Vicente


If you were asked to create the guest list for a fantasy dinner party, who would you invite?  Dreaming up interesting combinations of dinner companions is one of my favorite past times. If asked to base my guest list on the designers I would like to meet, I would choose Miles Redd, Thomas O’Brien and Vicente Wolf, three handsome, world-renowned designers who live interesting lives and create rooms in which I want to live.

Vicente Wolf

Vicente Wolf is a Cuban-born world traveler and photographer who has created an eclectic but curated approach to interior design that celebrates the cultures he has visits in his travels. He has published three books, “Learning to See”, “Crossing Boundaries: A Global Vision of Design” and “Lifting the Curtain on Design” that inspire the reader to see the world and the world of design through his eyes.  Vicente’s view of design is a unique one that juxtaposes ornate with simple, ancient with modern and luxurious with austere. His signature look is comprised of interesting and sometimes startling combinations of chairs, large leaning mirrors, ancient artifacts, the Saarinen tulip table and furniture arrangements that float in the middle of the room surrounded by modern artwork and beautiful photography. He has developed an international style that looks at home anywhere in the world.

 

Thomas_O'Brien(1)Thomas O’Brien is an interior and home furnishings designer known for his loft-inspired, vintage modern designs. He is the founder of AERO, an interior design studio and unique retail store located in Soho, the neighborhood that inspires much of his work. Thomas has published two books, “American Modern” and “AERO, Beginning to Now” which illustrate how he creates rooms that are inspired by the vintage past and yet feel modern and entirely relevant for today.  O’Brien combines industrial elements from the early twentieth century with furnishings from a range of periods to formulate a look that he calls “warm modern.” He has helped translate the loft lifestyle and into a design philosophy that works in Soho as well as neighborhoods throughout the country. Thomas O’Brien is also known for the fabulous lighting fixtures he designs for Circa Lighting as well as the very affordable home products he designs for Target.

 

MIles Redd Photo ShootMiles Redd brings an entirely different design philosophy to the (dinner) table with his quirky brand of glamour. His unique aesthetic vision combines traditional design with whimsical splashes of color, exotic finishes and modern gestures to enliven and invigorate his rooms with boldness, fantasy, and sophistication.  Miles is responsible for one of my favorite tomes, “The Big Book of Chic” which showcases his design work and provides a humorous glimpse into Redd’s vivid imagination.  As you flip through the pages of his book, you see vibrant shades of red, turquoise and green, animal prints, lacquered and mirrored surfaces and bold pattern play.  Rooms designed by Miles Redd never cease to surprise and delight.

The invitation list in complete, the table is set and the guests have been introduced.  Now it’s time to sit back and enjoy.

 

 

 

 

Miles Redd and the Big Book of Chic

Miles Redd and the Big Book of Chic

Interior design by Thomas O'Brien

Interior design by Thomas O’Brien

Interior design by Vicente Wolf

Interior design by Vicente Wolf

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10 Common Pitfalls of Remodeling Part 2


We are told at a very early age to “learn from other people’s mistakes”, good advice that some of us follow better than others. In remodeling, there are many things you can do to avoid the common mistakes that delay and sometimes derail projects. Last month I covered the first five of these pitfalls which included:
1. Out of Sync-Getting the decision makers on the same page before the project begins
2. Budget Denial-Embracing the need for a detailed budget and accepting that things will cost more than you think.
3. Risk Aversion-Recognizing the importance of keeping a contingency fund for unexpected expenses
4. False Impressions-Doing your homework before signing on with a contractor or designer
5. Foregone conclusion-Remaining open to new design solutions all the way through the process
This month I am covering remaining five pitfalls on the list.
6. Fantasy Life: Just because you are going to have a new kitchen, bathroom or family room doesn’t mean that your family is going to morph into the fantasy version of itself. Super-minimal interiors look great in magazines but don’t work for most active families. Design your new space for real life, not your fantasy life
7. The Lowest Bidder: When interviewing designers and contractors, make sure to get a detailed written summary of what’s included in their quotes. Take the time to compare and contrast the quotes to understand the differences and evaluate the value equation for each. If a contractor claims to operate with very low overhead, make sure that they are fully insured and that they have the resources to handle your project. A low bid at the start of the project does not always translate to a low cost when it is completed.
8. Permit Phobia: Permits are required for most remodeling projects except for cosmetic changes like painting and new flooring. It is a very good idea to have construction work done in your home documented and inspected by the building department. Permits are a very good investment to help manage financial risk, protect your home and maximize the return on your remodeling investment. Remodels that are done with permits add more value to your house at time of sale than those that are done without
9. Are we there yet? Patience is a virtue, especially in remodeling. Once you have made the decision to embark on a project, give yourself the time to explore options and make smart decisions. Typically, the more time and resources that you invest in the design and planning phase, the more likely you will avoid delays and costly overruns during production.
10. Perfection Anxiety: As a homeowner and customer, you should expect quality craftsmanship that is commensurate with the investment you are making in the remodel. That said you should also recognize that quality craftsmanship is not the same thing as perfection. The goal of remodeling is not to eradicate all of the idiosyncrasies that you give your home its character. Nor is it to make the work of the craftspeople look as if it was done by precision machinery. Set and maintain high standards for the project but be realistic about the finished product.
Remodeling is an expensive, complex and stressful endeavor. Hopefully this list will help you proactively avoid these common pitfalls and avoid the hassle and expense of learning the painful lessons first hand.

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Smart Growth for the Bay Area-Accessory Dwelling Units


The demand for housing in the metro Bay Area is far outpacing the supply, a phenomenon that is driving inflated real estate prices even higher. There are high-rise apartment buildings popping up all over San Francisco to meet the housing needs of the upwardly mobile and affluent.  The trend that is gaining momentum in the East Bay is the construction of cottages, studios and accessory buildings in the back yards of single-family homes to help meet the housing needs of those that have been priced out of the market elsewhere.

Housing demand in the East Bay is enormous, especially in walkable neighborhoods with convenient commercial districts and public transportation where residents can reduce their reliance on cars. The premise that these desirable, well-established, single-family home neighborhoods should continue to be zero-growth zones is being challenged.  Many city planners agree that small backyard accessory buildings represent part of the solution for promoting “Smart Growth” by providing more affordable housing for the swelling population without resorting to unsustainable suburban sprawl.Studio

Berkeley has taken a proactive stance in leading this housing trend. “We favor increasing the number of secondary units” says Debra Sanderson, Planning Manager at the City of Berkeley.  Regardless of its architectural form (backyard cottage, converted garage or pre-fabricated studio.), legally an ADU (Accessory Dwelling Units) is part of the same property as the main home and cannot be bought or sold separately, as a condominium or a mobile home might be. These types of buildings appeal to homeowners looking for more space without relocating or going through the disruption of a major remodeling in their primary residence.Modern Shed 2

On the smaller end of the ADU spectrum, are the single-room studios that supplement the living space of the primary residence versus functioning as independent dwellings.  The most cost-effective ways to add one of these units to your backyard is to remodel a detached garage or purchase and construct a refabricated studio from brands such as Studio Shed (http://www.studio-shed.com/), Summerwood (http://www.summerwood.com/) and Modern Shed (http://modern-shed.com/).  These structures are usually between 120 and 200 square feet of conditioned space and include electricity, insulation, drywall, flooring and sometimes plumbing.  Prices range from $20,000-$50,000 depending on the size and the amenities that are included.  Completing one of these projects is at least a 4-6 month process when you factor in planning, permits, fabrication, construction and city inspections.Modern Shed

On the larger and more costly end of the spectrum are backyard cottages that function as permanent, self-contained dwellings. These take about six months to build after permitting (which can take up to a year depending on the city) and cost between $80,000 to $250,000. These cottages serve as good starter homes for children who return to the area after college, first homes for newlyweds, safe and secure housing for aging parents, retirement homes and in some cases, rental property.

Accessory Dwelling Units are a smart way for communities to meet the housing needs of the growing population.   ADU’s are also a smart way for families to meet their own changing needs and significantly increase the value of their homes in the process.   Studio 2

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10 Common Pitfalls of Remodeling, Part 1


It is true in remodeling, as it is in world history that people are likely to repeat the mistakes of those that have gone before them. To help address this issue, I have compiled a list of the 10 most common remodeling pitfalls and what you can do to minimize or avoid these mistakes in your remodeling projects. This is such a robust topic that I covering the first five pitfalls this month and the remaining five next month.

 

Out of Sync

Out of Sync

1. Out of Sync: I am amazed at the number of couples who start a remodeling project without clarifying what they want to carry out and how much money they want to invest.   Don’t assume that your spouse shares your love of vaulted ceilings without asking him or her. Work together to create a list of project goals that you agree on and those that you don’t.   You don’t have to be completely aligned at the start of a project but it helps to know where you stand.

 

 

 

Budget Denial

Budget Denial

2. Budget Denial: Unless you have limitless wealth, a budget is a “must have” for any remodeling project.  Take firm control of the budget at the start of the project before it takes control of you and your bank account. Even if you don’t have a clue about how much things cost, you should have a very clear idea of what you can afford to spend. In most cases, what you can afford will not cover what you want, so be ready to make compromises.

 

Risk Aversion

Risk Aversion

3. Risk Aversion: There is another group of homeowners who carefully plan their budget in advance but leave nothing in reserve for contingencies and change orders.   They want to spend every dime on the fixtures and finishes without accounting for the risk inherent in any remodeling project. You should earmark about 5-10% of your budget to take care of concealed conditions and to make code-required upgrades.

 

 

 

False Impressions

False Impressions

4. False Impressions: Don’t assume that because a contractor has a business card that he or she is licensed. Ask for their contractor’s license and confirm it with the Contractors Licensing Board. Likewise, don’t assume that your contractor’s liability and workers comp insurance is current just because they give you a policy number. If a contractor working on your home is not fully insured, you may be financially responsible for any property damage or injuries that occur during construction.

 

 

Forgone Conclusion

Forgone Conclusion

5. Foregone Conclusion: Although it is helpful to have a clear point of view when starting a new project, you need to stay open to the ideas that will be generated during the design process. Don’t get committed to one option and then miss out on the other design possibilities that await you.

 

 

 

Next month I will cover the remaining five remodeling pitfalls on my list.

6. Fantasy Life: Design your new space for real life, not your fantasy life.

7. The Lowest Bidder: There is more to choosing a contractor than selecting the lowest bidder

8. Permit Phobia: Why you should embrace the permit process

9. Are we there yet?: Patience is a virtue, especially in remodeling

10. Perfection Anxiety: For the money you paid you expect perfection. Right? Wrong!

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Elsie de Wolfe, William Haines, Philip Johnson: Design Icons and Leaders of Social Change


As we celebrate Pride each June, it’s easy to overlook those courageous souls who forged the path for LGBT rights well in advance of the Stonewall Riots in 1968.   Elsie de Wolfe, William Haines and Philip Johnson are three people who are known primarily as iconic designers and who should also be recognized as for the courageous way they chose to live their lives.

Elsie de Wolfe and Elisabeth Marbury

Elsie de Wolfe and Elisabeth Marbury

Elsie de Wolfe(1859–1950) is said to have created the field of interior design at the turn of the 20th century.  As the country’s first female interior decorator, she introduced a fresh and stylish aesthetic that defied the dark Victorian fashion of the day. De Wolfe embraced simplicity and comfort as her credo and in doing so, set the tone for American home decorating for the next 100 years.

In 1891, Elsie de Wolfe fell in love with Elisabeth Marbury, a successful New York theatrical agent who represented Oscar Wilde and George Bernard Shaw and other famous playwrights.  Both women created successful careers in an era when society women didn’t typically work, especially not in occupations dominated by men.  Elsie and Elisabeth remained together as inseparable companions for forty-two years until Marbury’s death in 1933.

William Haines in his Hollywood Heyday

William Haines in his Hollywood Heyday

William “Billy” Haines (1900-1973) ran away from his Virginia home at the age of 14 with his first boyfriend and landed in Hollywood at the start of the silent film era.   With his good looks and “wisecracking” personality, Haines quickly becoming a major star and number one box office draw.  In 1926, William Haines met Jimmy Shields and the two started living openly as a couple despite major objections from M.G.M, the studio that held Haines’s contract.  In 1932, Haines refused the studio’s mandate that he leave Shields and marry a woman, bringing an abrupt end to his film career.

Haines and Shields leveraged their connections to start an interior design business working with clients such as Joan CrawfordGloria SwansonCarole LombardMarion Davies and George Cukor.  William Haines went on to create a sleek, modern aesthetic that became the prevailing look for Hollywood homes in the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s.    Many of his iconic furniture pieces look as modern today as they did when he first designed them, 60-70 years ago.

The sleek and modern William Haines style

The sleek and modern William Haines style

William Haines and Jimmy Shields remained together for forty-seven years.  Joan Crawford described them as “the happiest married couple in Hollywood.”

101 California Street designed by Philip Johnson

101 California Street designed by Philip Johnson

Philip Johnson (1906 –2005) was a Harvard-educated, Pritzker Prize-winning, American architect who founded the Department of Architecture and Design at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.   During his prolific career, Johnson designed the Seagram Building and MOMA (New York City), the JFK Memorial (Dallas), 101 California Street (San Francisco) and the Glass House (Connecticut) and many other famous buildings.

In 1960, Philip Johnson met David Whitneyand the two settled into a forty-five year relationship that lasted for the rest of their lives.   Philip Johnson came out publicly in 1993 and was a vocal advocate for LGBT rights until his death in 2005 at the age of 99.

We should be grateful to people like Elsie de Wolfe, William Haines and Philip Johnson for defying the social codes of their day, setting a courageous example for the generations that would follow in their footsteps.

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Five Home Design Trends for Today and Tomorrow


An important part of my job as a designer is to spot emerging trends in the marketplace and to help my clients decide if these trends are right for their homes.   The tricky part of the process is differentiating the trends that have lasting power from the fads that will become quickly dated.

These are some of the emerging trends that I predict will stand the test of time.  

Nifty Shades of Gray: After a twenty year hiatus, the color gray has made a major comeback in a variety of categories.   As a wall color, gray looks great in a wide range of options from pearl to charcoal especially with crisp white trim to set it off.   I am also seeing some beautiful interpretations of gray-tone stains on kitchen cabinets as well as wood flooring.  

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Top Brass: Brass is another decorative finish that has been absent from the design scene for many decades  The brass finish that is trend-right today is not the polished brass of the 1970’s but instead is a mellow, burnished brass that brings a warm accent to your living space.  The brass trend is making its mark in light fixtures as well as cabinet hardware of all types.

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Two-tone Kitchens: Another trend that has quickly taken hold is the use of multiple cabinet finishes or colors in the same kitchen.   The two most common interpretation of this trend is to differentiate the color of the wall cabinets from the island or peninsula cabinets.   Another variation of this trend is to use base cabinets in a darker color to help ground the space with the upper cabinets in a lighter color to create a feeling of openness at eye level. 

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R and R: One of the best ways to preserve the environment and add a lot of character to your home is to repurpose and reinvent fixtures and furniture for your newly remodeled space.  Light fixtures, bathroom vanities, sink cabinets, kitchen islands and countertops are among the most common places in your home to interpret this trend. If you are a do-it-yourselfer, there are some really cool projects that will enhance your home and allow you to express your DIY creativity.

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Industrial Chic: People of all ages have really embraced the industrial look of early twentieth century factories for their homes.   Even in the suburbs, homeowners are converting to loft floor plans with exposed beams and industrial hardware and light fixtures.  The prevalent use of the Edison light bulb (clear bulb with a visible filament) is an example of a vintage, industrial look that has really caught on.  The industrial trend is important not so much because it is emerging but because it is one of the most influential trends in home design today.

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 Incorporating any of these five trends into your home will update and modernize your living space for today while keeping it relevant for years to come.

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Remodeling Return on Investment


Return on Investment (ROI) is a common financial term that can be easily misinterpreted when used in a remodeling context. The simple definition of ROI is “the profit or cost savings realized for a given use of money.”  ROI is usually expressed as a percentage that is calculated by dividing the profit (or cost saving) by the amount of the investment times 100.   A $100 investment that produces a $25 profit is said to deliver a 25% Return on Investment.

Remodeling Return on Investment includes both quantitative and qualitative factors that should be considered when making a budget decision.  The quantitative results are measured by the increase in property value related to a remodeling project while the qualitative results are determined by the increased enjoyment derived from living in the improved space.   Both quantitative and qualitative criteria should be considered but their relative importance will vary based on your intended length of stay in the house.

Less than Five Years:   If you are planning to sell your home in the next five years, it is smart to spend your money on improvements that will maximize the resale value of the house.  In this scenario that quantitative factors will be probably outweigh the qualitative.   Consult with a real estate agent before finalizing the scope of work and budget for the projects you are considering.

Five to Ten Years:  With this timeframe you want to optimize the combination of quantitative and qualitative factors to inform your decision-making.      A ten year horizon gives you plenty of time to enjoy the results of the remodel while gaining some financial benefit when you sell the house. 

Over Ten Years: If you plan on staying in your home for more than ten years, prioritize your remodeling decisions based on your family’s needs and what you can afford versus focusing on heavily on resale considerations. 

If you want to learn more about the types of projects that produce a high financial return on investment, refer to the Remodeling Magazine Cost vs. Value report for guidance.   This report provides a wealth of information about remodeling costs and ROI at the national, state and regional level.   Remodeling ROI calculates the increase in property value as a percentage of the cost of the remodel.  For instance, a $30,000 bathroom remodel that increases the value of the house by $36,000 has a 20% ROI ($6,000/$30,000).

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This a sample of the high producing remodeling projects for homes in the San Francisco Bay Area based on the recently released data. 

Window Replacement 20-30% ROI                           Major Kitchen Remodel 12-35% ROI

Major Bathroom Remodel 18-35% ROI                   Deck Addition 26-77% ROI

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Remodeling projects that convert unconditioned space (garage, basement or attic) into living space (home office, home gym or guest room) are the projects with the highest ROI.

The real estate market in the Bay Area is very strong right now which makes it an ideal time to recoup a significant return on the money that you invest in remodeling especially if you are planning to sell your home in the near future. 

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The Art of French Kitchen Design


Philip and I just returned from a “fabuleux” two-week vacation in Paris.  In order to have a richer and more varied experience, we rented an apartment near the Eiffel Tower for the first week and then moved to an apartment in Le Marais for the second week.   This strategy was a great way to experience two distinct neighborhoods in Paris and it also gave me the opportunity to try out two European-style kitchens in person.

First off, let me clarify what is unique about European kitchens.  Anyone that has traveled abroad knows that European hotel rooms tend to be smaller than those in the U.S.   The same is true for residential spaces and kitchens, especially in urban centers like Paris.   Most of the existing residential buildings in Paris were built in the late 19th century as part of the Haussmann renovation plan commissioned by Napoleon III.   Fortunately, the city planners of Paris were not influenced by the urban renewal craze that swept most American cities in the 50’s and 60’s. As a result, kitchens in Europe are designed for smaller, more compact 19th century spaces versus the larger spaces that have become the norm in the U.S.

There are several specific qualities that European designed kitchens share:

Boldly efficient kitchen design

Boldly efficient kitchen design

Ease of accessibility-The main premise of European design is to bring the kitchen to the user as opposed to the user having to visit multiple work stations to prepare a meal.  A floor plan that positions the most often used items within easy reach is the primary aim.

Effective use of space-Since space is at a premium, European kitchens are designed to be highly efficient.   Parisians shop more often and buy locally from the plethora of markets that are scattered about the city.  Kitchens are not designed for the bulk shopping that is prevalent in the U.S.

Integrated, small-scale refrigerator

Integrated, small-scale refrigerator

Compact appliances-One of the most noticeable differences in European kitchens is the use 24” wide appliances versus the 30-36” appliances used in America.   I did most of the cooking in Paris and was pleasantly surprised by the comfort of using a 24” cooktop, refrigerator and oven.    Another key difference is the lack of a garbage disposal which opens up a host of possibilities for optimizing the space under the sink.  Europeans have also embraced the use of a combination washer/dryer which eliminates one appliance from the mix.

Energy efficiency-The cost of electricity in Europe is between 50% and 300% higher than the cost of electricity in the United States.   Europeans are accustomed to using highly efficient appliances that take longer to complete their tasks.  This is especially true for dishwashers, washers and dryers that are used frequently.

Cost efficiency-Because the physical space is smaller, the cost of a kitchen renovation is less in Europe than in the U.S.   Europeans tend to invest in better quality fixtures and finishes to create a visually striking space that is also designed for optimal convenience, accessibility and efficiency, a strategy that would benefit many American homes as well.

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The Legacy of Morgan and Mizner


I have long been fascinated by the work of Julia Morgan and Addison Mizner, two Bay Area architects who made an indelible mark on the architecture of California and Florida in the early twentieth century.   Although there is no record that these two iconic architects ever met, they share a legacy of startling similarities (and some distinct differences).

Julia Morgan and Addison Mizner were both born in the Bay Area in 1872 and spent their formative years in Oakland and Benicia respectively.   They both came from highly respected families of substantial means and social standing.

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Julia Morgan was a feminist trailblazer who was the first woman to receive a degree in architecture at l’Ecole Beaux-Arts in Paris and the first woman architect to be licensed in the state of California.  Julia Morgan’s design aesthetic was greatly influenced by her mentor, Bernard Maybeck, and by her exposure to European architecture as a student in Paris.

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Addison Mizner, on the other hand, did not receive a formal education in architecture but became an apprentice and eventually a partner with a successful San Francisco architecture firm.    Mizner traveled extensively in Europe, South America and the South Pacific during the early part of his career and incorporated these international influences into his designs.  

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1919 was a milestone year for both Julia Morgan and Addison Mizner.  That was the year that Julia Morgan was introduced to William Randolph Hearst and began work on La Cuesta Encantada, better known as Hearst Castle, and Addison Mizner was introduced to Edward T. Stotesbury and began work on El Mirasol, a 37-room mansion in Palm Beach, Florida.

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Both of these palatial and over-the-top homes combine Spanish, Italian, Mediterranean and Gothic influences in a manner that didn’t exist in American residential architecture at that time.  It is remarkable that these two Bay Area architects, working on projects at opposite sides of the continent, came up with very similar design solutions that would change the face of high-end residential architecture for years to come.    Morgan would develop and evolve this style throughout her career and Mizner would become famous for the Palm Beach style of architecture that he introduced with El Mirasol. 

The other similarity between Julia Morgan and Addison Mizner is that they are both assumed to be gay.    Both of them had same-sex “companions” who played an important and yet discreet role in their lives.  Neither of them opted to hide behind a marriage of convenience which was a courageous life choice for two such sought-after architects.

Julia Morgan would go on to have a prolific and successful career, leaving behind a rich legacy of buildings that have survived to the present.   Addison Mizner reached incredible career heights but ultimately died broke and disgraced because of his involvement in the Boca Raton development scandal.   He is remembered for the Palm Beach style he created even though there are very few of his buildings still standing. Those of you who saw the recent production of Stephen Sondheim’s “Road Show” at Theatre Rhinoceros got an entertaining introduction to Addison Mizner and his notorious brother, Wilson, who are the protagonists of the show.

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Remodeling Trends for 2014


Have you noticed all of the construction sites popping up around the Bay Area these days? The pent-up demand from the recession has resulted in a building boom that is projected to continue through 2014. These are some of the other key trends that will be impacting the market in the coming year.

Prices are going UP↑

As the demand for remodeling and new construction increases so does the cost of labor and materials.   The recession drove prices down in most major categories, especially labor.  The resurgence in demand is reversing that trend and driving construction costs up by 10-20% in the coming year.     If you are considering a home improvement project, you will be better off financially to do it sooner versus later.  The project that you postpone will definitely cost you more a year from now.

Water Conservation

Water-conserving Vanity Faucets

Water-conserving Vanity Faucets

As most of you know, we are heading into a serious drought so water conservation is going to be a hot topic in the Bay Area.   A new California Green Building Code went into effect on January 1, 2014 that sets a new standard of compliance for residential water conservation.   The prior code required that you update the plumbing fixtures in any room that was being remodeled.  Now you have to update all non-compliant fixtures throughout the house when making permit-related improvements. Noncompliant plumbing fixtures include:

  1. Toilets that use more than 1.6 gallons of water per flush
  2. Showerheads with a flow of more than 2.5 gallons per minute
  3. Faucets that emit more than 2.2 gallons per minute

The implementation of this new code will undoubtedly vary from city to city.  I recommend that you leave an allowance for these plumbing updates in your remodeling budget until you find out otherwise.

Water-conserving shower fixtures

Water-conserving shower fixtures

Smart Home Systems

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The integration of home systems and our hand-held devices is another trend that is really gaining momentum.    This is not just for tech-savvy, early adopters but for anyone who is interested in using technology to help simplify their lives.

At least-expensive end of the spectrum is the U-socket wall plug that has two- built-in USB ports to power devices such as iPhones, iPads, gaming devices, digital cameras and Kindles. The U-Socket also has a smart sensor that allows it to shut off when the device is fully charged.

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There is a broad range of smart home systems that provide you with remote access from the touch screen of your phone or tablet and range in cost from about $5,000 to over $100,000 depending on the complexity of the system.   These are the most common features available today.

  • Programmable lighting systems that allow you control the lighting throughout your house from your hand-held device.
  • Computerized thermostats that let you adjust the temperature setting remotely when you are leaving or heading home.

Security systems that call your smartphone if there’s an intruder and allow you to view the images from your security cameras remotely.

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