K+BB Collective | The Designers' Corner

Archive for Bath Design

Mar 10 2017

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Times Are Changing in the Kitchen and Bath Industry

It’s striking to me how much has changed in the kitchen and bath industry over the past 10 years.

There have been many changes in communication, product sourcing, smart technology and consumer awareness, and they can all be traced back to the release of the first iPhone in 2007. Smartphones have changed the ways we communicate, shop and learn, and they have changed the way we live in our kitchens. Mal Corboy, a well-known Auckland, New Zealand, kitchen designer says all of this evolution has changed the design process. (http://i.stuff.co.nz/lifestyle/home-property/83715964/howmuch-has-the-modern-kitchen-changedin-the-past-10-years)

Most residential design/build project communications used to be done in person, by phone and by email. Dream Kitchen Builders still uses those tools, but now we also use messaging and social media apps, and we use these business tools to communicate via mobile devices.

The amount of kitchen and bath information that’s available to consumers is enormous and growing larger every day. This has made us all educated buyers and given consumers more control of each aspect of a design/build project.

We’re now experimenting with smart appliances and wireless devices in the kitchen and bathroom that use artificial intelligence to help us get things done. I cook, so I give voice commands to Siri to set a timer to adjust my music and more while I’m cooking. I’m hands free, so I don’t have to stop what I’m doing. Smart technology hasn’t gone mainstream yet, but appliance and device makers are designing and producing amazing new kitchen and bath products, and early adopters are trying them out and talking about them to their friends.

Last but not least, every kitchen and bath product seems to have almost limitless options and price points and many include free shipping. Clients are now buying kitchen and bath products online and sourcing them internationally. Kitchens and bathrooms have always evolved, but the changes we are now seeing are so revolutionary that they are disrupting the way kitchen and bath business is done – changing the relationship between professionals and consumers and changing the way we live.

 Scott Koehler is the owner of Dream Kitchen Builders, a design-build firm in North Carolina.

Feb 01 2017

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He Said/She Said: Successfully Designing for Couples

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In a relationship, many situations require compromise. Designing a dream space for two shouldn’t be one of them. Award-winning interior designer, Christopher Grubb, believes that designing for two is all about successful negotiation and never about compromise. As a Beverly Hills-based designer accustomed to demanding clientele, Grubb draws on his experience to explain to designers, contactors and remodelers what it takes to make both partners feel they’re being heard and that both of their needs are being met.

Some tips he uses when working with couples include:

Have them pull inspiration images separately. I will joke that I’ve seen in some relationships there is a design override between couples. I’m not saying my clients have that, but it helps me understand what they BOTH want. We as designers can quickly see the commonality of their desires in their images to guide the design to satisfy both of their desires.

Answering the question: “What are the trends?” I don’t exactly subscribe to trends but do see “movements” in design. I can point some trends I see but usually ask them what do YOU see as trends? It gives me a chance to hear what they think and what they like and seem excited about. Of course the next question is how on trend do you want your space to be or how timeless to see how much they really want to be trendy.

Never take sides – no matter who signs the check. Designing for a couple becomes a very intimate relationship, and remodels are stressful. I’ve been in emotional situations often, and to disarm the situation, I will respond with my observations of what each has said they like during the process and remind them we are designing as a team effort.

– Playing therapist. Remodels create a lot of stress with the interruption of ones living space, the financial investment, strangers in their home, etc. We all want to design, and the process of the final result is arduous to say the least. Many calls are the client simply venting and wanting someone who will listen. Another successful action I use is to call and ask, “How are you and how are things going?” This reiterates that I care both about the project and my clients’ mental wellbeing.

– Never compromise – always negotiate. Many clients see the grand total or a project, and their first question is “Can we find materials that are less money?” I remind them that the construction is the majority of the cost, and I don’t want them to compromise on a material and later regret they didn’t get what they wanted. They will walk into their space everyday and be disappointed they didn’t get what they really wanted. Another situation is when one of the couples wants something that is more expensive or the other partner feels is unnecessary. One may like the gorgeous tub fill and the other balks. IF you’ve listened, you can negotiate and remind the other that they wanted the towel warmer and add that it is beautiful and functional. They have both gotten what they want.

– Avoid stereotyping. Many think the husband will be all about the cost or succumb to the old adage “Whatever she wants.” Or that the wife will want a bathtub (that actually only 25 percent of people use). My success is listening and not going into a project with any pre-conceived ideas.

Top image courtesy of nenetus at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Jan 26 2017

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The Schizophrenia of Design

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One of my jobs as an interior designer is selecting paint colors and related design materials (plumbing fixtures, tile, lighting, etc.) for a homebuilder in Florida. This particular company builds around a dozen spec homes a year, all of which are traditional in style. Not a heavy ‘traditional’ look; one geared more toward young family buyers – with open floor plans and simple, clean lines – which is the current ‘trend.”

There’s that word again…

I have a little difficulty with the word trend, only because I remember trends from years past I’d rather not ever see again. But they come back, in different forms, as basically just a re-worked old ‘trend.’ For example, what was once called a Tuscan look has returned in a cleaned-up version called Napa style. Less ornamentation, lighter in feel, but with all the same elements.

I’m asked countless times to write articles and speak about current design trends. This is the reason I go to trade shows – so I can see all the beautiful new products that are the style of the moment. And that’s the problem – our ‘moment’ has become just that. Because of social media and related outlets, trends are reported instantly and unfortunately change just as rapidly.

The builder I work for was showing the latest home they built to a realtor, who mentioned that the barn door slider we used on the first- floor room that is used for an office and doubles as a guest room was so “2016.” And as I write this, it’s January of 2017. So one month into a new year, and I’m already out of style?

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A few months ago, I wrote a blog about Benjamin Moore’s Color of the Year being Simply White and how a ‘non-color’ can work beautifully by building texture and contrast around it. This year’s B. Moore’s color is the polar opposite, a dark, beautiful shade of dusky purple called Shadow.

So there’s the split. Every time I open a magazine or go on my computer, there’s a newer trend. This could be a real problem for the average person who’s re-decorating or remodeling their home and attempts to make a decision they can stick with. What’s the solution for us designers and specifiers who see it all and have to make a living doing it?

First, whatever you do, do it well. Nothing goes out of style more quickly than a cheap, hastily done design. Follow trends, but make them your own. Add your own style. Tread lightly, don’t kill it. My personal style is clean traditional, but I’ve done contemporary, urban farmhouse, industrial, craftsman, etc. The key to a long-lasting design is simplicity and quality, which never go out of style.

So whatever the trending style is, or the color of the year or even the minute may be, just do it well. It’s our business to promote styles and trends, after all.

Jan 22 2017

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The New Bathroom

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It was obvious at KBIS last week – the bathroom is no longer just a utilitarian space. Designers are turning it around and making this room into a spa, an escape and a place for fun. We spoke with one designer, Fenton, Mich.-based Mark Mangapora, who had this in mind when he completed the winning Duravit Design Bath in his own home.

KBB: What was your goal in this project?
MM: I wanted to reimagine the bathroom and transform it into something unrecognizable from its previous state. The new design was to be more open and functional without sacrificing any amenities while also improving storage capabilities.

KBB: What were your challenges and how did you solve them?
MM: The existing bathroom felt like a bunch of items clumsily crammed into one area with an awkwardly shaped master closet as leftover space.  The first solution was to include the closet in the design scope and thus have more floor area to work with. However, the total footprint was still relatively small and presented a big challenge. Combining the shower and tub into one “wet area” greatly helped to free up the layout and also allowed for a significantly larger tub and an additional shower bench.

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KBB: How did you prioritize openness, clarity and warmth?
MM: The basic concept is a quadrant of four distinct areas without the compartmentalization of the original bathroom. The concept is quite evident upon entry: the “wet” area and the “prep” area are to each side but in a completely open and transparent space. The eye is drawn straight ahead by the oak-finished storage units at the end of a short hall containing entries of the more private spaces: the toilet room and the master closet. A mix of natural light and a variety of concealed and exposed artificial lighting brighten the bathroom day and night.

KBB: Talk about the different materials that you used.
MM: I started off with by choosing Duravit’s Mediterranean Oak finish for the vanity and storage units for its visual texture and warmth.  The color palette is intentionally minimalist to let the oak objects really stand out as focal points.  The walls are a simple bright white with a minimal base and trim detail. 

 The “wet area” has a matte ceramic tile in a stacked pattern to complement the geometric forms of the vanity and storage units. The stone shower bench and niches are a white and gray marble with a naturally uniform character, and their edge profiles were cut to match the radius of the Duravit tub and shower tray. The floor is oversized, staggered porcelain tile with subtle differences in tone and a textured finish, which provides some character and a slightly rough natural feel but does not overpower the space.  

I would also say light has a very material-like quality in the space.  The bright walls maximize reflections and allow diffused sunlight from the small frosted window to penetrate and naturally light the whole bathroom.

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KBB: What was your favorite part of this project?
MM: Seeing the project become a reality was really quite satisfying. I enjoyed the opportunity to work out the details on paper and later with the builder during construction. As of now, it is still somewhat surreal when I step into the bathroom, as it feels like I’m stepping out of my house and into a high-end spa.