KBB Collective | The Designers' Corner

Archive for August, 2013

Aug 27 2013

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Common materials, uncommon eye

kitchen counter top view

Have you ever seen a piece of art in a gallery or museum and thought, “I could have done that?” Frequently and often, I make that remark within earshot of a wise friend who retorts, “But you didn’t!”

Just because something seems simple or obvious doesn’t mean that it is. And while the finished product may seem unremarkable, the initiative to make it is what counts. The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step!

Similarly, people often walk into a space and say, “I could have designed this,” particularly if the products used are recognizable from familiar sources – say Pottery Barn or Ikea. Yet the same response holds true in this scenario as well: “But you didn’t!”

Often, some of the very best design or architecture is well done because it looks effortless, simple and yes, perhaps obvious. Without knowing the background of the clients, designer, the direction given to the designer or the budget, it is presumptuous to suggest that something is simple or easy to do just because the resources used are available to the public.

The design industry had maintained a certain allure for many decades by utilizing sources that were available only to qualified design professionals. There still are many stores, workshops and studios that will only (or at least truly prefer to) work with design professionals because it is easier to do so. They would rather have orders placed for custom products and services by people who understand what they are asking for, know how to ask for it and can envision the outcome.

This is vastly different from the retail model, which usually has ready-made product that can be viewed and acquired on the spot. Unless the merchandise is damaged in transit or while being delivered, the buyer gets what he sees. This is not the case with custom orders, which take time and vision in order to be placed and received.

So for a variety of reasons, such as timeliness, cost and certainty of what is being purchased, design professionals and consumers increasingly prefer retail sources for interior design projects.

Here’s the rub: Just because a consumer can buy an item from a store doesn’t mean that they would have selected it or paired it in the way that a designer would. Therefore, the end result of a project – whether sourced from all retail stores or a combination of retail and custom sources – is neither easy nor obvious, though it may seem that way.

If we can agree on the preceding points, then the natural extension of this is design fees and pricing. There are many ways in which a design professional can charge for their services, from a percentage of an entire project, to time and materials, to cost plus merchandise and so on. Any option that utilizes a mark-up on a designer’s best net cost is entirely reasonable. That means if the source is Williams-Sonoma and the product is $1,000 less a 10 percent discount to the designer, and then a 35 percent mark-up is applied, the final cost is $1,215 (plus tax). It doesn’t matter that a consumer can walk in and buy the product for $1,000 – they didn’t. The $215 is the service charge that covers creative talent, selection time, placement in the home and whatever is agreed upon.

Remember, everything is agreed upon in advance, and as a customer of a design professional, your job is to give direction, provide feedback, write the checks and then get out of the way and just enjoy the process and the end result! Period.

Lloyd Princeton is a business consultant and motivational speaker devoted to interior design and architecture. Princeton frequently speaks in North America and has lectured internationally. For more, visit www.dmcnyc.com and www.imatchdesigners.com.

Aug 23 2013

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Flooring challenges solved in design of luxury bathroom

Northern Virginia is the highest income region in its state, having seven of the 20 highest personal income counties in the entire U.S., including the top three as of 2009. It’s not out of context, therefore, that when homeowners residing in this region decide to have a bathroom remodeled, they decide to learn as much as possible about the process and then contract a professional team with strong credentials to handle this work, expecting nothing less than total excellence.


Such was the case for a major remodeling project of a master 350-sq.-ft. bath, where the homeowners wanted to transform the original space built in 1999 into a more spa-like environment with very special appointments. Collins Tile and Stone, a company in northern Virginia that specializes in custom tile work and kitchen and bathroom remodels, was tasked with the project. The bathroom’s well-thought-out overall design plans called for having a steam shower with a vertical wall spa and separate handheld shower, an air tub, a beautifully detailed tray ceiling, Roman Corinthian columns and LED lighting. From a performance standpoint, porcelain tile was the best choice for the steam shower; the material chosen combined impeccably with the originally selected stone floor and decorative wainscoting. And for the room’s floor, the owners were very focused on having the best possible electric floor-warming system installed, as well.


The stately house itself was only 13 years old, so conventional wisdom would ostensibly state this remodeling project shouldn’t have any of the major obstacles that surface when a dignified older home is about to be remodeled.

Not so in this case.

“This house was built with floor joists that were 24 inches (on center) apart from each other,” said Buck Collins, president of Collins Tile and Stone. “That size is almost unheard of, so we decided to get some expert advice prior to installing the flooring.”

According to Collins, it was collectively decided that initially they would both glue and then screw in an additional layer of plywood underlayment to the existing ¾-in. subfloor to mitigate any deflection whatsoever.

Another installation challenge arose with the bathroom floor’s stone “rug.” It’s border and inside marble tiles were of different thicknesses; the basket-weave design inside the border consisted of material that was 1/8-in. thinner than that which made up the border. To best meet this challenge, the installers flash-backed the inside stone to ensure that both materials were perfectly level with each other, eliminating any possible lippage. Lippage occurs when stone or tiles are not installed with a uniform level and their side-by-side edges do not result in a completely flat surface. This can result in discomfort when walking, especially barefoot in a bathroom and can be potentially injurious, as well.


The new steam shower was constructed with 13-in. x 1-in. porcelain tiles set diagonally on the walls and ceiling. Proper accommodation/movement joints were also installed.

Photos courtesy of Collins Tile & Stone and LATICRETE International, Inc.

Aug 12 2013

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Making the most of your bathroom

A bubble bathHome renovation projects are popular this time of year, and revamping an existing bathroom or adding a cloakroom or en-suite can add considerable value to your property.

The bathroom is one of the most used rooms in the house and can have a big impact on a decision to buy a property. Location may be the most important factor in deciding the value of your property, but improvements such as additional bathrooms and toilets also play an important part in raising the value of what is probably the most expensive thing you own.

Property specialists advise that you don’t develop a property out of its neighborhood; for example, it is not a good investment to install a very expensive kitchen in a house located in an area where the maximum selling price isn’t particularly high.

However, most property experts advise adding a bathroom as a great way to up your property’s value – particularly if you are aiming for the family market, although bedrooms should not be sacrificed for bathrooms most of the time.

Whatever you decide to do, a lovely bathroom will affect the value of your property, so a bathroom should always be finished to a high standard. The space should be planned well, and the toilet, bath or shower enclosure should be high-quality products.

So what are the current bathroom trends and what can you do to create a top class bathroom that appeals to potential homebuyers?

– Pastel Colors – Decorate your bathroom with paint or tiles in pale, seaside shades like light sky blue, vanilla or pastel pink. Pale colors are popular this season, and they match most styles of bathroom suite – traditional or modern – and age well.

– Showers – Installing a freestanding shower enclosure will provide extra space in most bathrooms, but if you still want the option of a bath, then a P-shaped shower/bath is the best of both worlds.

– Bathroom suites – Minimal, contemporary styles and natural materials are still big sellers for bathroom suites. Some manufacturers claim sales of colored ceramic bathroom suites are rising – in particular grey – though white is still the safest bet to appeal to a wider taste.

– Shower Trays – To add some color to your bathroom suite, consider a shower tray in a natural material or colored finish to make your shower enclosure stand out and compliment your bathroom suite.

– Furniture – Smart storage solutions are essential in modern bathrooms to hide clutter and maximize space. Vanity units, laundry units, cupboards and integrated bathroom suites are ideal to create space in more compact bathrooms and can be used as stylish features in larger rooms.

-Under-floor heating – With the rise in popularity of walk-in showers and wet rooms, under-floor heating is practical and invisible. It not only saves space but is an efficient way to heat and dry most bathrooms. We know you won’t need it in this weather, but under-floor heating is a godsend in the winter.

Modern, light and natural styles are dominating bathroom design this year. The great thing about these trends is they will not look dated quickly, they are suitable for bathrooms of all sizes, and they can be adapted to match both modern and traditional design styles.

With a water-saving shower enclosure and smart bathroom storage solutions, the latest bathroom trends will add value to your quality of life and your property.

– Lynne Wilson, WD Bathrooms

Aug 05 2013

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Happy Kitchens: Designing for Millennials


There’s something about looking at old pictures of kitchens from the 1950’s that makes me happy. Maybe it’s because it was arguably a happier time in our history. World War II was over, housing was booming, and the country was getting back to the business of living and having fun. Drive-in movies, big cars, rock and roll music – not to mention some crazy clothes and colorful house interiors – make me look back at that era and smile. Besides, who wouldn’t love a pink kitchen?

Pink Kitchen

Or a turquoise kitchen?

Turquiose kitchen

I still like to collect funky 50’s textiles and other cool stuff from my childhood like colorful tablecloths (I own at least 30 of them).


Or some cool retro kitchen accessories…

Retro accessories

Even though I lived through that time, there seems to be a growing interest in this era among the younger set (also known as THE MILLENNIALS) – although it has somewhat of a twist. The twist is: a little more modern and sleek and still colorful, but also should be energy efficient, sustainable and yes, AFFORDABLE. After all, this particular group of up-and-coming citizens, described as Millennnials – a generation born from 1980 onward, brought up using digital technology and mass media – is still paying off college loans, getting into the business world and coping with the current economy. So it’s a pretty tall order to try and satisfy this group of consumers, which is growing by leaps and bounds.

There are some great products out there that fit the bill for designing a fabulous kitchen for Millennials, starting with an amazing new introduction due out this fall from GE called the Artistry Series. Here’s how GE describes it: With the introduction of the GE Artistry Series, GE’s designers focus on the needs of today’s generation of Millennials and their desire to uniquely express themselves. Created by a 27-year-old GE industrial designer with his own generation in mind, the Artistry Series provides first-time homebuyers with a distinctive and cool appearance at a price they can afford. This new line of stylishly sensible kitchen products includes: a gas range, electric range, bottom-freezer refrigerator, over-the-range microwave and top-control dishwasher.

Artistry series

A price tag of under $2500 for all 4 appliances is pretty sweet.

For affordable countertops, a fresh approach from Formica’s anniversary collection in “Endless Graytone” has a retro vibe but still delivers sleek, modern design.

Formica Gray

Or ‘red ellipse’ can deliver a ‘diner’ style vibe with a modern twist.

Formica red

For some lighting choices, West Elm has a bent wood line that’s great looking and priced well at $ 169.

West Elm

The ‘Corona’ pendant from Rejuvenation Lighting is great in the color ‘Neptune Blue’ and is only $ 275.00.


For door and drawer hardware, Ikea’s “Bastig” knob in brushed stainless is simple and affordable at $ 4.99 for two.


Rejuvenation’s cabinet knob with star backplate is cool and sells for $10 each.

Last pic

Back to work!



– Patricia Galyor