Monday, August 10, 2009

Bathroom Rehab-Do's and Don'ts

The DO....


This bathroom project was a perfect DO! The homeowners wanted a new bath utilizing the existing space. They knew they needed help with the design even though they had a clear idea of the style that they wanted. During the planning phase we identified the following space savers and cost reductions-

1. None of the plumbing needed to be moved saving lots-o-$'s.

2. Although originally thinking a linen closet would be built where the old shower was (to the left of the tub), we added a linen tower to the larger vanity and added a second vanity in place of the old shower, adding immediate resale return.

3. The toilet area was cramped by the old door that opened against it and would have blocked the new vanity area. A pocket door was added, making the space much more functional.

4. By designing a custom look for standard cabinets from Merrillat, the bath has designer style with very economical cabinetry.

5. The homeowners love color and were considering painting the room in a bold hue. I suggested bold accessories and a neutral paint. They listened a love it.

The "design phase" of this project cost about $800 and more than paid for itself by the end of the project.

Now for the DON'T....

This bath is in a home that we own but was "renovated" before we purchased it. There are several points to note that we would have done much differently (and probably eventually will).

1. The minimum space (per code) for a toilet is 30". This means there should be 15" from the center line of the fixture to any wall or other element. This one has about a 24" area which makes it way too tight.

2. The industrial looking wall-hung sink is just plain ugly. Because the space is just too small for these elements, it encroaches on the shower curb meaning that no other type of sink can really be used.

3. To the shower, since the sink encroaches on the curb, a shower curtain is the only option. A glass door would have opened the space greatly and been much more functional.

4. Although you can't see it, new plumbing fixtures were installed on old iron water lines. Periodically the shower valve will clog from the pipe sediment. To fix the problem, one entire wall of shower tile would have to be removed, the pipes replaced and new tile installed. NEVER cover old plumbing with new finishes.

5. And finally, the medicine cabinet above the sink was a great idea for storage but a larger one could have been used giving the small room better balance and more storage.

When considering a bathroom rehab, even though the cost of planning seems high, it makes the construction process much more efficient, reducing if not eliminating the dreaded Change Order. Good planning can also save lots of money in finishes if your designer charges by the hour and passes on his/her discount to clients (which we do at Environs). Lastly, using a licensed, insured contractor who will TELL YOU if what you want to do will cause you problems in the future (i.e. failure to replace old pipes) will save you heart-ache down the line.

Next week-Smaller Kitchens

'Til then...


Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Celebrate a Sustainable, Local Valentine's Day!

OK, I know the title sounds goofy but I think it's high time we really do what's best for our earth, our country, our neighbors and our loved ones and of course, ourselves. Instead of rushing out to purchase those roses shipped in from some other country, Belgium chocolate or lingerie from China consider some of these options:

1. A rosebush or plant from a local grower.

2. An antique vase from your neighborhood antique market with greenery from your yard (or your neighbor's yard if your yard looks like mine!)

3. A yummy chocolate desert from a neighborhood bakery (Alon's or the Atlanta Cupcake Factory come to mind in my neck of the woods)

4. A bright red mechanical juicer with which you make fresh squeezed OJ for the Valentine's Day wake up. Find a OJex cast iron juicer at Cooks Warehouse or I just saw a red one on Amazon.

A little digression on #4. I have committed to purchasing items that are mechanical rather than electronic when that option is available. This juicer, for example (I do have one in white) will most like pass to my grandchildren. I can't imagine it breaking, it certainly doesn't use any energy other than my arm and it juices beautifully. Have you ever had margaritas with fresh-squeezed lime juice? Same goes for can openers and other electric gadgets that we have all purchased over the years. Before buying another one, consider if there is a mechanical alternative. Sometimes there's not. I LOVE my food processor and have purchased replacement parts a time or two to avoid have to replace it. No mechanical alternative on that one. My knife skills just aren't that good. Back to the list....

5. Hire a local handyman or painter to paint a wall red (or some fun color to cheer you up in these tough times). The painter will be grateful (please pay a fair wage) and you will brighten up a room or two.

6.Pull out some of the lingerie you have purchased over the years, spruce it up with some great jewelry, shoes etc. and well, you have to take it from there....

7.Pour yourselves a glass of wine (domestic if possible), take the hand of your Valentine and go for a nice walk around your neighborhood. Isn't this day supposed to be about togetherness anyway?

Just make sure you smile a lot no matter what you choose to do ;-)

This blog is dedicated to my Valentine, Terry. Everyday (almost) is Valentine's Day with you.

Love Always,

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

On the Porch...

Last fall, we were featured in the Atlanta Journal and Constitution Homefinder in an article on front porches. Walkablity, New Urbanism and It Takes a Village all sound great in theory, but unless there is some sort of avenue for connection within a neighborhood, none of these great ideas get us anywhere. In the recent issue of Dwell (Feb 2009) magazine on page 36, Drew Himmelstien writes an article regarding the absence of front porches on Modern, sustainable homes. He speaks of a time when the streets were safe and children played outside until dusk. To quote the last paragraph of the article

"But there is another reason why porches are sustainable: They build communitity. When neighbors sit out front, they get to know each other, provide eyes on the street and create safer, more pleasant, more walkable neighborhoods. It's enough to make you thirst for a tall, icy glass of lemonaide."

So, when considering your next renovation or face lift, ask yourself if you need a porch. Ours is our favorite room in the house 8 months out of the year. We know all our neighbors (and their pets) and will continue to encourage our friends and clients to add this often forgotten but charming element of architecuture back to their homes.

'til next week...

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Happy New Year!

OK, I'm going to make a resolution (albeit a late one) to Blog every Tuesday so here we go...

I've included a photo of the completed bathroom in Colorado. It is terrific. The photo doesn't do it justice. You can view the website for the house at Most likely the kitchen is next. I will definitely plan that one ahead of time!

Other news, both construction calls and interest in real estate purchases seem to be picking up. If you are planning to renovate or to buy a house, now is the time. Prices are excellent on purchases interest rates are low and contractors are hungry (yes, that includes us) but this too shall pass. Keep in mind it takes from 1 to 6 months to PLAN a project and you can not lock into a price until planning is complete. We would love to do your work but are also interested in our industry bouncing back from this slump so call us, or someone else, if you are considering a renovation in the next 6 months or so.

The other opportunity in the market now that will be gone very shortly, I hope, is the glut of foreclosures and short sales. Most of these need work. No matter what the listing says, I have yet to see one that was really "move in ready" and I have looked at a lot. Until now, investors were buying these properties and "flipping" them. Since that market has dried up, home buyers with some vision and an appetite for construction can really capitalize. I have seen houses in ALL the Intown neighborhoods that are screaming for a buyer willing to partner with a contractor and turn a hovel into a home. We are working on a couple of deals now and completed one in Reynoldstown in November. It takes some trust and patience but at the end of the day you have a great house with equity out of the gate if you do your homework.

I am also going to try to include one item of general interest on each Blog. Today's is an organization that was featured on the Today Show this morning. The website is They send used eyeglasses to countries in need. Their next shipment is to an ophthalmology office in Sierra Leone, West Africa. The deadline is Feb 15 to have the glasses to them. It sounds like a great cause and can put to use something that many of us have lying around in drawers. If you are in Atlanta and want to include any old glasses or cases that you have with my shipment, drop me an email at and we can figure out how to get them to me.

Until next Tuesday....

Friday, December 5, 2008

Catching Up...

OK, so I am new to this, have gotten distracted and failed to update my BLOG. After a few technical delays with the closing on our recent project in Reynoldstown (not construction related) we handed off the newly renovated house to its final residents. Then, off we went to Breckenridge, CO for Thanksgiving. A little skiing and turkey you would expect? Not for us! Although we did ski a bit with my son and ate some large roasted fowl with Terry's brother and sister-in-law, it was just days later that we ripped out our one-and-only bathroom in our tiny ski house. No rest for the weary! And, we hate to admit, we did so with very little planning and budgeting. We are the experts, so of course we could renovate a little bathroom and do some upgrades to the house, no problem. Since we never do this to our clients, we are fine with admiting our foibles and their consequenses for two reasons. One, you DIY'ers will enjoy laughing at the mistakes of a pro and for those of you hiring contractors, maybe you can understand why we press so hard to get finish selections, fixture choices and cabinetry plans completed. Lead times drive schedules that drive cost... you get the picture. Here they are-

1. Always have all your plumbing parts available before tearing out your shower. We had the trim for the shower fixture but knew we needed the shower valve. No big deal we thought, it's a Hansgrohe and readily available. Ha! Calling to schedule the pick up with a Denver supplier, I found out it was on back order and 3 weeks out. Yikes! I race to my computer and find one in Minnesota that was shiped overnight. Consequence = 1 day delay $50 shipping. We were lucky.

2. These bankruptcy's are creating delays in getting parts for common items. Needing a converter to switch our gas service from propane to natural gas (which just became available to our neighborhood) we stopped into our fireplace supplier to place the order. "Oh, that part is only about $50 and stocked by the manufacturer but they are in bankruptcy and so are not shipping normally. It could be 3-4 weeks for delivery. " After a lot of begging we are supposed to get it next week before we have to head back to Atanta. We'll see. Consequence = still don't have the part, could have to order more propane at top dollar.

3. Athough it is great to be able to pick up cabinets, fixtures and tile/stone off-the-shelf it is much more cost efficient and quality conscious to research and order. We are happy with the overall design of the bath, but settled for a vanity cabinet we don't love. Also, we probably could have done better on some of the stone accents pieces. We ALWAYS do this stuff ahead of time for our clients and are reminded of why. With the internet and easy shipping, you can get great finishes and fixtures and nice prices by giving yourself some lead time. Consequence = Average vanity cabinet and increased cost of probably $200 or so.

All-in-all we are having a great time. The powder was awsome this morning. We had to take a break and we couldn't shower anyway so why not pile on the clothes and play in the snow. We are back at it now and hoping for a shower (water, not snow) soon. The cold weather is working in our favor :-)

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

New Website!

The new website is live! We tried to keep the same look and feel but added a few new pages that we hope are of interest to our clients. The Home Buyer Programs are the most exciting. Lots of stuff is in the works to make it a really great market for first time buyers. Prices are right but properties need work so we are at the ready! HUD is dumping money in the system and we are watching it closely, attending meetings and making sure we are ready to participate.

Terry didn't fix anything unusual this week that I know of but we are heading to our Colorado house next week and I'm sure will have lots to report on from there. A minor bathroom renovation is planned along with a few structural repairs. No telling what will happen. Hopefully we will get to ski a bit too! Keep an eye on our website for photos...

Now is a great opportunity to make sure the deferred maintenance on your home is brought current. You can benefit from good pricing due to the slow construction market and enjoy your improvements in the interim. So many of these projects get deferred until it's time to sell the house. Painting, flooring, electical and plumbing upgrades always have a good return on investment. There is the added benefit of keeping good subs in business. We are happy to refer ours for your small project.

Always (playing house),