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Design & Remodel

'Aging in place' becomes more popular

As the population is aging, trends in remodeling and design are adapting. ‘Aging in Place’ design or adaptable design are becoming more and more popular and manufacturers are making products to accommodate. Currently, about 15 percent of the US population is age 65 and older, but that number is predicted to rise to 22 percent by 2050. Here in Hall County, the 65-plus population is predicted to outpace the national average and rise to 30 percent by 2030. We have been seeing many Active Adult or Assisted Living communities pop up in Hall County lately.

The alternative, when feasible, is aging in place.  Aging in place design is centered around the idea that a home can be built or modified to accommodate someone who is aging so that they can continue to live comfortably in their own home. This could be as simple as adding ramps and grab bars to more complicated changes like adding an elevator or remodeling a kitchen or bathroom to make it completely accessible for a wheelchair.  
 
Small changes can make a big difference when it comes to designing for aging in place.  Things that you hadn’t thought about before, like knobs on doors and cabinets, can make it more difficult to access what you need.  Instead, replace knobs with levers or pulls for easier accessibility.  This is also true for faucets or other fixtures, choose options with lever handles versus knobs. Door width is another consideration when you’re looking for better accessibility. Door widths should be 36 inches (both interior and exterior) to allow for a minimum of 32 inches of clearance. Hallways should also be a minimum of 36 inches wide and well lit.
 
Regarding the exterior and layout of a home designed for aging in place, materials should be low maintenance, including siding materials, windows, doors, and flooring. There should be at least one step-less, covered entry. If a step-less entry is not an option, then at least one of the following should be added: sturdy handrail, ramp or chair lift. When it is an option, the main living areas and master suite should be on the main level. If your home was not originally built this way, that may mean reconfiguring your existing space or building an addition.
 
Bathrooms are important areas to consider when accommodating for aging in place. In bathrooms, entries should be 36 inches wide, with plenty of clear space to turn in front of sinks, commodes, and showers. Showers should be barrier free, meaning a low curb or curb-less entry, and incorporate grab bars, a built-in or fold-down bench, and a hand-held shower fixture.  The current trend in master bathroom design is to remove large jetted or garden tubs in the master bathroom to create space for a larger, accessible shower. This change makes the space more comfortable and functional for those that do not use a bathtub but is also a way to plan ahead for wheelchair or walker accessibility.

Another standard that we incorporate into all our bathroom remodels are comfort height toilets and comfort height vanities. The comfort height toilets are a few inches above the old standard height and comfort height vanities are 36 inches versus the old 31 inch height. The height difference doesn’t change the look but makes a big difference for comfort.
 
In kitchens, aging in place design is also very important.  Installing pull-out shelves in a pantry or in base cabinets makes items more accessible and easier to organize; we also recommend incorporating more base cabinets with drawers. A comfortable distance between cabinet areas or between cabinets and appliances is also a necessity, ideally 36-42 inches, or more if you are designing for wheelchair clearance and turnaround.

Along the same lines, it’s important to round corners of countertops so there are no sharp edges to bump into, and you can also incorporate pull out countertops or cutting boards for work space at a more comfortable height for someone in a wheelchair. Also, keeping the main sink close to the stove keeps the distance necessary to carry pots full of water as short as possible. Other things we recommend are counter-depth appliances, non-slip floors options, and good lighting.
 
When it comes to aging in place design, it’s not just for seniors. It’s important for anyone to make sure their home is comfortable and functional. Your home environment should not be stressful or unsafe, but rather, relaxing and one of the best ways to make it that way is through better design.


Sara Bagwell is a designer for Tracy Tesmer Design/Remodeling in Gainesville.








September 2018 column

Bathroom design and remodeling trends for 2018

Last month, we looked at kitchen design and remodeling trends, but another popular area to remodel right now are bathrooms; specifically, master bathrooms.  The request I get the most from clients looking to remodel their bathroom is that they want their master bath to feel like a spa.  What does that mean? They want large, luxurious showers, updated fixtures and lighting, transitional or modern style and, most importantly, an open, clean feel. Technology is also being integrated into the master bathroom more and more, and many people are planning ahead and redesigning their bathroom to allow for comfort and aging in place.
 
First, let’s discuss showers.  Many people are taking their oversized garden tubs or outdated jetted tubs out of the master bath and replacing them with a large, tiled shower. That means gone also are the cultured marble shower units that tend to dull and yellow over time. We’re installing more oversized showers then ever, often with multiple shower heads, hand showers, or body sprays, or even steam ports. Tile showers can really create a statement in the bathroom with hundreds of tile options out there, making your space more personalized. For those that do use a bathtub or want to keep a tub in the master for resale value, I recommend a free-standing tub that is more aesthetically appealing or a drop-in tub with bubble massage instead of jets. These options are more sanitary and look more up-to-date.
 
When it comes to tile for the master bath (or any bathroom, for that matter), porcelain is number one right now. This is because of its durability against wear and tear and moisture and the amount of options out there. With porcelain tile, you can get an industrial style with concrete-look tile or you can go more traditional with natural stone-look tile, and everything in between. Porcelain tile allows you to get the expensive look of real concrete, travertine, or marble, but without the maintenance. Another trend in tile right now is bold tile, including hand-painted Mediterranean style or 3D. These tiles add a lot of interest but be sure to use them in moderation as an accent so as not to overwhelm. 
 
As mentioned earlier, technology is being integrated in the home, including the bathroom. Companies are making sensor-activated, self-cleaning toilets. People are also making their master bathroom more comfortable by adding heated floors, heated toilet seats, and heated towel warmers. Even in Georgia, these features get a lot of use on those cold mornings.  We’ve even seen more wireless or Bluetooth speakers in bathrooms and USB ports or docking station for electronic devices. But if you’re looking for the “spa-feeling,” you may want to skip these features.
 
For those looking to stay in their home as they age, also known as ‘aging in place,’ there are many updates that can be made to make your space more comfortable and accessible. One option is a curb-less, or zero-entry, shower. This creates a barrier-free space that doesn’t have the trip hazard of a curb and allows a walker or wheelchair into the shower. Comfort-height toilets are popular, as well. These are slightly higher than traditional toilets so they’re easier to use. I also recommend comfort-height vanities, which are 4-5” taller than older vanities and require less bending. A well-designed wheelchair-accessible vanity is also an option now and doesn’t have to look commercial or cold. Another feature that be easily integrated, but doesn’t have to look commercial, are grab bars. If you’re not ready for grab bars, then you can still install blocking behind the wall for support for future grab bars, especially in a shower or water closet.
 
Color trends come and go, but white is a classic when it comes to the bathroom, whether that be white walls, white cabinets, or white tile (but not all three together, unless you’re going ultra-modern). White has a clean, classic feel that never seems to go out of style.  For the master bath, you can create a timeless look with clean lines, simple design, and classic, neutral colors. And don’t be afraid to bring in some warmth with wood or tile accents. Also think about bringing in your personality through towel colors, accessories, or trendy lights and plumbing fixtures, as these items can be changed out easily when you tire of them. Most importantly, if you’re thinking about a master bath remodel, look for an experienced designer or remodeler to help with planning the perfect, personalized space. 

August 2018 column

Kitchen design trends with staying power

People ask me often what the current trends are in kitchen design, but my response is not always what they are expecting. As a designer, it’s obviously important to follow trends to keep up with what’s new. But, on the other hand the word “trend” makes me think of a time-stamp. Most trends are likely to go out of style in five to 10 years; think wood paneling, gold and avocado green of the ’70s or country blue, dusty rose, and floral wallpaper everywhere in the ’90s. I like to recommend trends that have proven the test of time and become classics, but maybe incorporate a trendy material here and there that can be changed out easily, like lighting or backsplash. There are several current trends in kitchen design that I see as having staying power and won’t require another remodel in 10 years. 
 
Incorporating technology
While technology in the kitchen obviously isn’t new to 2018, it has been advancing and continuing to go mainstream. People are requesting more docking stations or USB chargers for their devices in the kitchen. This allows them to still be in reach, but you can easily hide the devices and cords away in a drawer for a less cluttered look.
 
Another innovation introduced at the Consumer Electronics Show this year are wireless appliances. Most people are now familiar with wireless charging for your electronic devices (cell phone, laptop, etc.), but soon you’ll be able to get wireless kitchen appliances, as well. Wireless appliances are run by magnetic power coils installed underneath your countertops that connect with a coil inside the appliance. App powered devices continue to gain in popularity, as well, including smart refrigerators and ovens. The appliances can be controlled by an app on your phone or tablet which can allow you to control temperatures, know when something’s been left on or open, keep up with expiration dates, and more.
 
Colors
Like I already mentioned, colors go in and out of style quickly. But there are some that we’ve seen last the test of time. White is one color that is likely to remain classic.  White for a backsplash, white kitchen cabinets, or white walls seem to maintain popularity. White goes well with stained wood, whether floors or cabinets, and it doesn’t have to be stark white; there are hundreds of shades of white out there, so you can find the one that’s right for you. Gray and greige are becoming classics, as well. These shades work well with most design styles and accent colors, and they can go either cool or warm, depending on preference.  
 
Materials
For countertops, most homeowners continue to go with quartz or granite. Quartz has overtaken granite as the most popular nationwide recently, due to the variety of colors and options available and durability. Granite is still the second most popular countertop material, as many people still prefer the traditional look and character of a natural stone. Ceramic or porcelain tile is the most preferred material for backsplashes. And for floors, the wood look is most popular. That includes real hardwood, wood-look porcelain tile, or engineered wood. Since open concept homes are still very popular, you typically see wood floors carried into the kitchen from the surrounding rooms to create a flowing, cohesive look.
 
Organization and storage
One thing that I don’t see ever going out of style in the kitchen is organization and functional storage. Everyone I talk with wants to be able to store and find things easily in their kitchen. That’s why we’ve seen specialty storage on the rise. I already mentioned in-drawer charging stations, but we also install a lot of pull-out trash and recycling cabinets, tray and cutting board dividers, spice drawers, and hidden or multi-level utensil storage. Another place where we’ve seen more emphasis on organization is in the kitchen pantry. When your pantry is organized, it’s much easier to keep an inventory of what you have and know when things are going bad to help prevent food waste. Organization and better storage in the kitchen also helps keep away clutter. When you don’t have clutter on your countertops, you can much more easily use and enjoy your space.
 
Trends come and go, but functionality, ease of use, and beauty in the kitchen will never go out of style. Keep up with trends to know what’s out there, but most importantly, make sure your space is functional and true to your personal style.

July 2018 column

How to prepare for a kitchen remodel

With the economy booming and consumer confidence the highest it’s been in several years, more people are considering renovations to their homes. Among the most popular updates is a kitchen remodel.  
 
Many people have been thinking about such a remodel for years, and now that they finally have the means, or no more kids at home, they have decided now is the time.  While a kitchen remodel can be stressful and temporarily disruptive, as long as you hire a good designer and contractor, it will be well worth it in the end.
 
First, the most important part of any remodel is to make sure you have a plan. This will come from you working with a designer and contractor to determine the new layout of the kitchen and how much work will be involved. If you start the project without a plan, things are much more likely to go wrong. Too many times, I’ve gone into a home where an inexperienced contractor or homeowner has started a project with no plan and no design, and ended up causing more work than they wanted in the first place (not to mention, the blown budget). Make sure you have thought about what parts of your current kitchen you like and what you don’t like, look up ideas of colors and design styles on sites like Houzz or Pinterest, and determine your budget. Once you have those in place, make sure you have plans and drawings that show the detail of the new design.  
  
After the design has been finalized and contractor hired, there are a few other things to consider when preparing for a kitchen remodel. First of all, think about what you may be able to salvage and use elsewhere or donate.  Maybe you would benefit from having some extra storage in your basement or garage, and could repurpose your base cabinets. Or maybe your range is only a few years old, but just doesn’t fit in the new design; consider donating appliances that are still in good shape to a local charity or organization. Contrary to what you see on TV, a good contractor will not come in with a sledgehammer and destroy everything that’s being replaced. That’s just for theatrics on TV, but that method is not practical in real life. Just be sure to let your contractor know at the beginning of the project what you plan to keep or donate.
 
Secondly, make sure you designate a place in your home away from the area being remodeled for a temporary kitchen. Typically, this will include a few small appliances, such as a microwave, coffee maker, toaster or toaster oven, and a refrigerator. This will allow you space to make simple meals during the remodel and not have to eat out all the time. Some may be lucky enough to have a second kitchen in their basement or a family member nearby who might share a kitchen.
 
Thirdly, know that there will be dust; however, a good contractor will take extra care in providing ‘dust protection.’ This means that the kitchen will be closed off from the rest of the house, as much as possible, using zippered plastic sheeting. Furniture should also be covered in connected rooms with plastic, and a plastic or paper path put down for workers to walk on from the entry-point to the work area. This helps keep dust contained, but I still typically recommend a good cleaning service come in as soon as the project is complete. That’s especially important in an area like a kitchen, where food will be prepared.
 
Lastly, if you are able to, plan a short trip or vacation during the remodel. This will help alleviate some of the stress of living in the space while the work is going on.  Some people may not feel comfortable leaving their home with strangers, but if you’ve hired someone with a good reputation and that you can trust, consider leaving your home in their hands for a few days. Just make sure you go over any details they may need like access to the home, alarm systems, lawn care service, etc.  
 
A remodel can be stressful, but hiring a contractor and/or designer that you trust and respect will help give you peace of mind. While the thought of a kitchen remodel can be daunting, never lose sight of the big picture and the final product: a beautiful, functional kitchen!   


June 2018 column

Design should be a result of inspiration

Design inspires me. Design inspires me because it is a way of connecting with people and creating functional and organized space.  Design is a mode of solving problems, an art form, and a way of bringing a home together. Some people may be inspired by a color or a style or a piece of furniture or artwork. Whatever your design inspiration may be, it helps make your house a home. Maybe you’re not sure exactly what your style is.  Let’s take a look at some options.
 
There are an endless number of design styles out there, from traditional to eclectic to contemporary and everything in between.  Finding your style involves an understanding of the differences and understanding what “feel” you want to give your home. Some differences between design styles are subtle, while others are apparent. Traditional, transitional, and contemporary styles tend to be the most popular when it comes to interior design.
 
Traditional style has its roots in 18th century English, 19th century neoclassic and French country and British colonial revival. The traditional style is still one of the most popular styles today. Traditional style evokes a warm and welcoming feel, with mainly neutral tones in the brown, red, green, and blue families. Warm pastels and tone-on-tone colors can also work with a traditional style. Wood tones on furniture, floors, railing or other accents are popular, along with ornate finishes; i.e. trim, arches, ceiling beams, turned legs, moldings, and detailed mantels. These ornate finishes and trim work help add visual weight and contribute to the feeling of warmth. Patterns in upholstery and drapery, such as plaids, florals, and stripes, are often seen mixed in. Traditional style lighting is often very decorative, and sometimes antique or ornate. Think of chandeliers, unique pendants, or foyer lighting that acts as a focal point or centerpiece.
 
Another design style that has recently overtaken traditional as the most popular is transitional. Transitional design bridges the gap between traditional and contemporary. This design style typically includes clean lines, simple details and timeless furnishings. In transitional design, you’ll most often see soft neutral colors, whites and ivory, as well as all shades of gray.  To keep the look from feeling too cool, you may also see warm wood tones or wood touches mixed in, such as wood flooring or simple wooden floating shelves. Cabinets in transitional styled kitchens and bathrooms are most often white or gray and typically shaker or another simple recessed panel door style.  The transitional style tends to feel slightly more minimalistic compared to traditional, but you will still see some accessories, decorative lighting, and lighter-weight drapery. Transitional style tends to age well because of classic, timeless lines and neutral colors.
 
Finally, contemporary is another popular design style, especially on the West Coast or in large cities.  Contemporary design features straight, clean lines, minimal or very subtle detail, and mixed finishes. For example, in a contemporary kitchen, you may see colored slab cabinet doors with a high gloss finish with metal legs and concrete countertops, giving a slight industrial feel. Or you may see wood grain slab cabinets, with leathered or suede quartz countertops. You may also see muted neutrals contrasted with a punch of bold color. But the connecting factor that makes these options contemporary is the minimalism and use of texture and space to define the style. In traditional and transitional design styles, you will see more detail in the furniture and accessories; however, in contemporary design, furniture is often made with basic shapes, simple metal frames and may sit low to the ground. It can feel more informal or even stark, when compared to other design styles.
 
Although these are the three most common design styles, there are many others to consider: art deco, craftsman, mid century modern, industrial, minimalist, bohemian, shabby chic, glam, coastal, etc.  These subcategories can fall under one of the three most common styles to a degree or can be combined to create a unique style that’s all your own. When choosing or deciding on a design style for your home, just make sure you pick something that matches your personality and lifestyle so that it feels authentic.
 
So what’s your inspiration?


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