What do your sink and your mattress have in common?

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I've been doing a lot of consulting on kitchen design lately...helping clients navigate choices in countertops, cabinet colors, sinks, and appliances.  Everything comes in a color!  Flooring, walls, plumbing fixtures, hardware...all of those choices need to be made with an eye to balanced, harmonious color.  

Some of you are starting from scratch, working with a blank slate.  Others may be updating an existing kitchen, and how you combine the old and the new can make all the difference.

Anyone who's ever chatted color with me for more than a few minutes knows that I am a big believer in function.  

"Beauty without function is not beautiful!"

 So, in addition to helping clients navigate their color and finish selections, I also speak often and enthusiastically about why things work and what happens when they don't.

So, how is your sink like your mattress?  You know how they say you spend one-third of your life in bed, so you'd better invest in a good mattress?  Well, the same is true of your sink and especially your faucet.  Appliances are the Big Investment Pieces and oftentimes, the sink and faucet come last, almost as an afterthought.  

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But, think for a minute about how many times a day you go to the sink -- to wash a piece of fruit, rinse your hands, get a glass of water, soak a dish -- not to mention full-on cooking and all it entails.  So, the case I am making here is that you spend one-third of your life in bed and one-third of your kitchen time interacting with the sink.  

Rather than ending your kitchen design process with the sink, let's bump it up in the queue....give it the attention it deserves, and YES even spend up a bit on a sink that functions and a faucet that really REALLY functions.  This means a faucet that feels good in the hand, that operates smoothly, that pulls out easily and maybe even turns on with just a touch.  It may also mean paying for a better design that stays cleaner by not having those nooks and crannies that attract gook.  And getting a more durable finish that looks good longer.

I'd love to see you spend a few hundred less on your oven and divert that money to a much better faucet.  The difference between a $1000 oven and a $1300 oven will hardly be noticed in the long run.  But, jumping from a $200 faucet to a $500 faucet will improve your life in the kitchen at least a dozen times a day. 

I am not asking you to buy any particular brand or style....just asking you to think about the faucet/sink combo in a new way, giving that decision good thought, enough research and careful attention.  I bet you'll thank me.

When you think of your sink, remember your mattress! 

Looking for Undertones when selecting Wood Flooring

This week, a client asked me what I meant when I'd said to her during a color consultation,

"Make sure you pick a wood flooring material that is neutral."

She will be replacing almost all of the carpet in her home next month and wants to make her investment a wise one.  So my advice, good as it is, needs some clarification....preferably with pictures!

The backstory is that in 2002, I bought a house in Florida with almond colored ceramic tile and off-white wall-to-wall everywhere!  Pulling it all out and replacing it was our first big project....and let me tell you, they used a jackhammer on 700 square feet of that tile.  I can still hear it today!  

Bamboo was newly in style and I thought it was pretty cool, semi-tropical and environmentally friendly.  Of course, this was years before my IACC color training and I didn't know what I should be looking for when I made that choice.  

I think many homeowners hold the common misconception that Wood is a Neutral. And as a neutral, it should go with everything.  Right?  Well, after my beautiful bamboo flooring was installed, and it came time to paint my walls, I realized that the floors were yellow.  

Very yellow!  

Not that there is anything inherently wrong with yellow, but I just wasn't prepared to figure that much yellow into my color equation when decorating my home.  So, in an effort to save my clients and readers from the same surprise, I have pulled a few photos of common flooring materials and their finish colors....so you'll know what to look for when you invest in new wood floors. 

In the top row, notice how the first example looks very reddish, the second leans quite orange and the last one on the right is a bit yellow.  Remember -- what we know about wall colors and sample chips is also true of any other material used on a large surface.  When the surface area grows, so does the intensity of the color.  So, that slightly reddish tone of the Gunstock stain on the left may leave you with a room full of red.  Same goes for the orange. And you already know what happened to me with the yellow!  

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The way any material reads will depend on the lighting, what else is in the room, etc. but to be on the safe side, I always recommend choosing a floor color that doesn't suggest any particular color at all.  Notice the examples below and compare them to those above.  There is still a dark, medium, light variation going on, but without nearly as much pronounced color.  Of all three of these last samples, I think I would choose the Rich Oak.  It's not to dark, not too light and my best guess is that it's not holding any surprises!

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So, the bottom line is, choose your flooring wisely so that you:

1. Get the most out of your investment

2. Simplify your decorating choices after the floors have been installed, and

3. Ensure more flexibility in paint color by NOT putting too much color on the floors! 

I hope this was helpful and I welcome your questions and comments.  If you have a story to share -- good or bad -- about your own color choices, I'd love to hear from you!  

Five Steps to Hiring a Painting Contractor

Ready to paint?  Well...not that ready.  You've decided that DIY is not for you, so you need to hire a painter to do the job.  Here are five steps to finding and hiring the best professional.

#1 Assess the Job

First, consider the goal of the work to be done.  Are you putting your house on the market any time soon?  Or is this your forever home?  Knowing what you want out of a paint job - whether it's a quick spruce-up that will likely be painted over by new owners, or a job that needs to last a long time because you considered your colors carefully and just want to live your life - is really important.   

It's also important to think about a budget up front.  Many homeowners have no idea what it will cost to paint their home and you'd be amazed at the range of prices you'd be quoted if you asked a handful of painters you find in the phonebook.  Here is a little calculator that may help you start to think about what this project will cost.

#2 Ask Around

It almost goes without saying....but I'm going to say it.  Ask your friends, family and neighbors for recommendations.  Likely, your Color Consultant or Interior Designer will have a list of trusted contractors, but your  friends and family know YOU best.  If you are familiar with your neighbor's standards, and feel they are similar to your own, using her painting contractor would probably be a good bet.  

#3 Make the Phone Calls and Start the Process

Once you have a list of 5 - yes FIVE - painting contractors you want to consider, make the calls and ask the following questions over the phone:

How long have you been in business?  (You want someone who's been around a while.)

What paint brand do you use the most?  (Big Box Store brands need not apply.)

Will you send out a crew and/or be here on-site personally?  (How long will the job take and how many people will be buzzing around your home?  And who's going to be watching?)

Remember, this is the Courtship Stage of your relationship, a time when your prospective contractor should be going to great efforts to win your confidence.  Is she courteous?  Does he call when he says he will?  If he does not return your calls now, just think about how the relationship will go once he has landed the job.  I always tell my clients they should never have to beg someone to work for them.  If a contractor - any contractor - doesn't bother to call you back, scratch them off the list!

#4 Time to Meet In Person

Having determined that several painting contractors might be The One, it's time to have them over to see the house and talk about their process.  Ask them about prep and clean-up.  Ask about how they deal with problems when they arise on a job.  (It is a rare project that doesn't bring up an issue or two.  Mistakes happen, but how they're handled is what distinguishes the pros from the hackers.)  Ask them how they determine price, by the project or by time and materials.  Ask them how often they come in on time and on budget.  (The sad truth is that some contractors will land your job with a lowball price and then once they are there they'll start adding on all those extras that they kind of forgot to tell you about.) 

The most important part of this step is to figure out how you will feel about having this person, and his or her crew, in your home for the duration of the project.  Even more important than what it will cost in dollars, you need to be certain you're comfortable with the team you hire and won't pay an undue emotional cost because they are not professionals.  

Now for a radical proposal!  I am going to suggest that you do not automatically ask every contractor who visits your home for an estimate.  Your goal is to compare apples to apples, which means that, having assessed your specific needs (see #1 above) and figured out which of the contractors can best meet those needs, you then ask for quotes ONLY from contractors you'd actually hire.  Apples and apples.

If you are not happy with the way the painting process has been described - maybe it feels like they're going to cut corners, and this is your Forever Home - then a price from that particular contractor is irrelevant.  It is likely that he or she will come in low, which will skew your sense of what the job, done properly, should cost.  Similarly, if you're just painting to sell, then the guy who talks about his meticulous prep will probably not be the right choice and that price would also be irrelevant.

Building an estimate is time-consuming and I think the flow respect should go both ways between a homeowner and contractor.  If you really don't think this is the guy for you, and therefore the price he quotes is irrelevant to your decision, please don't ask him to waste his time or yours.

#5 Last Step: Ask For a Price

Finally, when you have decided which of those first five painting contractors might be right for you, it's time to ask for an estimate.  You may have ruled out all but one in steps #2 and #3, and I think that's okay.  So long as you did your due diligence back when you created the list, it really is just fine to just get one quote from the one contractor you truly feel most confident about.  Hopefully, you can work together to satisfy your budgetary requirements and find that sweet spot where the job will feel like a success on both sides.

Last but not least, remember this old adage from the construction industry...

Good luck and please drop me a note to let me know how it goes!