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Archive for Bath Design

May 03 2018

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10 Ways Smart Lighting Can Enhance the Kitchen & Bath

System design and installation by Gramophone, Timonium, Md.

So much happens in the kitchen and bath that it’s often difficult to have the lights at the right intensity levels at all times. When you’re clients are cooking, they need the lights brighter; lower when they sit down to eat. As they apply makeup or shave, they’ll want the lights bright, but when unwinding in a hot bath at the end of the day, an intensity level that mimics candlelight is apropos.

In the past, we’ve relied on dimmer switches to adjust the intensity levels of the lights. While this approach still works well, smart lighting products have introduced a whole new level of convenience and control to the management of home lighting. Plus, these solutions are so much more cosmetically pleasing than the switches of yesteryear.

Here are 10 ways smart lighting can add value to the kitchen and bath:

1. Clears “Wall Acne.” It’s not unusual to see kitchen and bath walls blanketed with huge banks of light switches. There are two problems with this setup: It’s difficult to remember which switch controls which group of lights, and the numerous faceplates eat up a big chunk of wall space. Lighting keypads, by contrast, provide six to eight pushbuttons that can control all of the lights and take up only the space of a single-gang junction box.

2. Creates Activity-Based Preset Lighting Levels. Each pushbutton on a keypad can be programmed to set the intensity level of a predetermined group of lights, called a lighting “scene.” For example, a morning button on a kitchen keypad can brighten the undercabinet lights to 50 percent and the fixture over the island to 30. A cleaning button can raise every light to full intensity, and a romantic button can lower the lights to an intimate 25 percent. Likewise, in the bathroom, specific lights can adjust on the fly based on whichever button is engaged: morning, night, relaxation and so on.

Home systems design and installation by Global Custom Integrations, Hawthorne, N.Y., in this and below photo

3. Showcases Decorative Details. The wood grain of fine cabinetry, the mix of colors of a granite countertop and other visually stunning architectural details look even better with the right lighting. You designer who specializes in lighting can choose the best light source, fixture and placement, while a home systems installer can suggest the best levels of brightness.

4. Improves Comfort. With standard, non-smart lighting, the lights can feel blinding during midnight trips to the bathroom or the kitchen. A smart lighting system ensures that the lights are easy on the eyes during certain hours of the night.

5. Adds an Element of Automation. Imagine having your clients’ kitchen lights set at the perfect level when they arrive home from work. It’s possible with a smart lighting system. Driven by sophisticated microprocessors, it can adjust the lights automatically based on conditions like the time of day, occupancy and even the location of their smartphone (a feature called geofencing).

6. Personalizes the Space. Some people like a room brightly lit; others prefer an atmosphere that’s soft and subdued. A smart lighting system has the intelligence to set the lights based on who’s at home.

7. Sets the Mood. The biggest trends in home lighting are color and tunable white light. Smart LED bulbs are available that can glow in a rainbow of hues. This is all controllable through a mobile app, keypad or even voice commands. The bathroom can bask in a sea of blue to promote relaxation; a red hue can evoke a festive atmosphere when entertaining guests in the kitchen. If infusing the kitchen and bath with colored lighting seems too drastic of an approach, a subtler mood-setting alternative is “tunable white lighting.” These LED bulbs adjust their color temperature – as well as their brightness levels – to mimic daylight patterns. This can have a huge impact on the look and feel of the kitchen and bath.

8. Boosts Energy Efficiency. Dimming a light by 25 percent can cut electricity costs by 20 percent, according to Lutron Electronics. You can save even more if that light source is an LED, which uses significantly less electricity than an incandescent bulb. LED bulbs also last years longer – a huge perk if the kitchen or bath has hard-to-reach light fixtures.

9. Synchs with Music and Other Systems. Lights can go a long way toward setting the mood of a room; when a smart lighting system has been programmed to synchronize with a music system, the kitchen and bath can take on a whole new attitude. Classic music can play when the lights are dim; hip-hop when they are bright, for example. This can be easily accomplished by pressing a single button on a keypad or launching a command from a mobile app. A security system, thermostats and motorized shading can be integrated, as well, to completely alter the atmosphere of the room.

10. Provides Peace of Mind. Nobody intends to leave the lights on when they leave the house or go to bed. Lighting systems can be accessed and controlled remotely from a mobile app so that the kitchen and bath are always illuminated (or not illuminated) perfectly

Lisa Montgomery is the editor of Electronic House

Mar 26 2018

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Why It’s Important to Have a Great Plumbing Supplier

So you’re a kitchen and bathroom designer, you went to KBIS, and you saw all these amazing fixtures you want use. Or, you just signed your first kitchen/bathroom client, and you are wanting to find the best fixtures for them. Many designers head online to purchase fixtures or order them through a company that sells fixtures. Me? I head to my plumbing showroom, and here’s why.

For my first kitchen, my client indicated that they wanted a granite sink. I went online and found what I thought was a good one on a big-box site. I ordered it and took it over to my client’s home. Days later, he asked for the flange and the disposal switch, and I had completely forgotten to purchase those. Had I specified the sink through my plumbing supplier, my rep would have asked me the question about the flange, etc. Also, I later discovered that she had a professional-grade granite sink that came with a better warranty for my client.

Then there was the time I specified a wand and an overhead shower for a client’s bathroom, and she wanted to use each separately and then use them together. Guess what? Because of the recent drought in California, the code has changed, and that’s no longer allowed. Do you know who I learned that from? My plumber supplier, who had just taken a course on it.

Of course, there have been many times I’ve walked in with a specific budget, and my plumbing supplier has been able to steer me in the direction of a line that would fit the overall design but still allow my client to buy soap and towels for the bathroom or kitchen. I could continue to list reasons to find yourself a great plumbing supplier, but you get the gist!

By Sarah C. Wilson, Chansaerae Designs, LLC

Feb 12 2018

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11 Ways to Add Value to the Bathroom

By Leneiva Head

As the principal broker/owner of a real estate firm, part of my job is to give homeowners and designers tips on preparing a home to sell.  So here I am with data and statistics to support my input on proposed modifications.

The National Association of Realtors’ “2017 Remodeling Impact Report” shows that a renovated bathroom was second-most appealing to buyers and second-most likely to add resale value to the home. Unlike other rooms in a house, the bathroom is pretty much what it’s going to be. You have a sink, toilet, bathtub and possibly a separate shower. What adds value is the presentation, the perception and the experience.

Change how you view the bathroom. This is where you go to start and end the day.  Think for a moment: what comes to mind when you say bathroom? Now, say spa. Admit it, thoughts of serenity and an entirely different set of images came to mind, right? Now, let’s add value!

1. Create a Theme. What images help you relax? Is it the beach, Paris or New York? Bring on the pictures and accent pieces like towels, shelving, candles, a small book or a magazine rack with books.

2. Add Color: Gray is the new white. The hue is trending toward charcoal this year, but be sure to choose a calming shade that doesn’t make the room feel tiny.

3. Make Lighting Fun! Overhead pendant lights at the vanity would be a true showstopper. Because full lighting is not always needed and ambiance matters, add dimmers.

4. Update the Fixtures. People absolutely love pretty faucets. How about a square vanity sink vs. round? Better yet, make it a work of art and install an above-counter unit.

5. Install a Rain Shower. Be sure it comes with a handheld head as well.

6. Update the Vanity. This can be as simple as re-staining or painting the existing cabinetry and updating the knobs/drawer pulls.

7. Feel the Flooring: Luxury vinyl tile is amazing. You can create the illusion of hardwood floors while enjoying the freedom of choosing different colors and textures.

8. Tout the Toilet. Install a tall, elongated toilet with the push-button flushing mechanism. Top it off with a quiet-close seat.

9. Include Seating. One mini chaise or a small chair with a throw changes everything. The toilet need not be the only seat in the room.

10. Add Sound. Bluetooth technology abounds, and music changes the atmosphere of any space. Your transformation will be incomplete without it.

I mentioned that bathroom renovations are second-most appealing to buyers. The kicker is, you only recoup half of your remodeling investment; it adds more value for the existing owner. So, create an amazing spa for personal enjoyment and enjoy it!

Leneiva Head owns Nashville’s top-performing real estate management company, Welcome Home Realty. After her nightmare first-home buying experience, she  was inspired to create her own real estate solution to help first-time homeowners into the home of their dreams and guide them every step of the way.

Dec 04 2017

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Designing in San Francisco


This past week I had the opportunity to travel to San Francisco for the grand opening of a unique showroom concept. While there was not enough time for me to explore the city myself, I was able to speak with the design team behind an award-winning kitchen in the Pacific Heights section of San Francisco.

This historic mansion had lots of overall square footage, but the kitchen was an awkward combination of spaces that had been rearranged over the years. Designers Jennifer Howard of Rye, N.Y.-based JWH Design & Cabinetry and San Francisco-based Jon de la Cruz of De La Cruz Architecture + Design worked in the eight-week time frame to give the homeowners – a family with eight children – a more beautiful and functional space.


The Look. For a twist on the traditional San Francisco kitchen, the design team chose a mixture of concrete-look countertops and two cabinetry finishes: weathered-white oak for the island and modern white perimeter cabinets. The vent hood, designed by de la Cruz, is zinc with a blackened finish, which complements the glossy black backsplash tiles. All of these gray, white and black colors are reminiscent of the fog and clouds rolling in from the water in the city.

Challenges. The new 36-in. column refrigerator and freezer, as well as the 60-in. steam oven, were good sizes for the big family, but they did not fit where originally intended. The solution was closing off the window from the inside, while maintaining the exterior appearance, and putting the appliances on that wall.


“Since this was not one of the windows that overlooked the beautiful San Francisco skyline, the solution was accepted and worked out really well,” said Howard. “The result was a dramatic look with the 36-in. units on either end of the wall, and there was still room left over for cabinetry storage.”


Functionality for the Family. Practical additions include double trash units, cutlery dividers, stainless door protectors on the sink and trash cabinets. An appliance garage also reduces countertop clutter. These all will make a difference in the usability and durability of this family kitchen.