Tuesday, November 29, 2011

AK's Gift To Our Clients: Project Photo Book

Shh....Can you keep a secret? We just made this adorable photo book as a gift for one of our clients to document her fabulous bathroom renovation from the eyes of her beloved Cocker Spaniel, Phoebe. 
We want to surprise her with it...so maybe posting it on the internet was not the best idea. 
But - we're also so excited to share it!
Visit Shutterfly.com to create your own personalized photobook.

Monday, November 28, 2011

What’s Trending in Kitchens and Baths?

Builder Online's Nigel Maynard and his posse of professional design sources offer some interesting ideas on what is IN and what is OUT in kitchens; and we don't agree with all of them. Do you?

But one thing is for sure...

A kitchen isn’t just a kitchen anymore.

Earlier this year, the National Kitchen & Bath Association  (NKBA) revealed its latest standout design trends that were garnered from the association’s 2011 Design Competition. In honor of kitchen and bath month, we decided to follow up the NKBA’s effort by interviewing some top designers to see what’s hot and what’s not.
Like politics, design trends are local. A moving target, they are often based on the region of the country, income levels, and the motivation for hiring a design professional in the first place. For New York City-based green designer and lifestyle expert Robin Wilson, it’s about health and the environment.
“My clients come to me for three things,” says the principal and CEO of Robin Wilson Home. “They want water efficiency, energy efficiency, and they want quality design—something that will last and won’t go out of style.”
Wilson, whose projects include the interiors of former-President Clinton's Harlem office and the residence of Robert F. Kennedy Jr., says middle-class families/clients aren’t asking for the same things they did three or five years ago—such as large whole-house projects with all the bells and whistles.
But they are asking for bigger great rooms that encompass kitchen, family room, and media center. More flex space is a plus, and a colored accent wall is a must. White cabinets and wood floors are hot, she says, and low-flow showerheads that still offer power are also important.
Designer Patricia Gaylor is doing more renovations as homeowners stay put and update their spaces. “The current trend is for renovating existing housing stock, which represents millions and millions of homes across the country that are here and need deep or not-so-deep energy retrofits,” says the principal of Little Falls, N.J.-based Patricia Gaylor Interior Design. “This is a great way to stay in your home, remodel and refresh it, and also gain great savings on energy bills.”
Though Gaylor does mainly renovations, her clients tend to be higher-income families or individuals who are “focused on saving money, no matter how much they have.” The designer is seeing requests for recycling centers in the cabinets, organized drawers for spices, and a strong trend for farmhouse-style sinks, even in stainless steel. “Stone tops [are hot] but not granite,” she adds. Instead, clients are asking for honed surfaces, composite quartz, and soapstone.
Designer Mick De Giulio tends not to think of what materials are hot and what styles are trending when it comes to kitchens because they eventually fade and become outdated. Instead, he focuses on the needs of the clients. “I try to concentrate on lifestyle trends and how people are living,” says the principal of Chicago-based de Giulio Kitchen Design. At the moment, he says, the kitchen is king for consumers.
“People want to live in their kitchens,” de Giulio says, which is why they are getting bigger and the adjacent formal spaces such as dining rooms are getting smaller and even disappearing. “The kitchen space is becoming the living space,” he continues. “It will be more of an area to hang out and not just cook.”
In his kitchen spaces, de Giulio is using multiple materials for countertops, quartz surfacing, and cabinetry that will endure.
One thing to remember is that in an uncertain economy, classic designs are more likely to stay fresh. “I’ve looked at architecture of the past and designs of the past,” Wilson says. “And many of the designs are still not dated. Simple is more likely to last.”

Multiple countertops in one space

White cabinets

(We're not convinced that quartz is going to be a practical or popular countertop choice for the average family's kitchen. What do you think?)

(This has BEEN In & don't think it's going anywhere anytime soon.)

Glass tiles

Farmhouse sinks
(Agree. See AK's kitchen pic above!)

Accent walls
Ice machines
(Assuming they mean ice machines separate from the frig/freezer, we agree.)

Trash compactors
(BEEN Out!)

Formal living rooms
(Not really kitchen or bath related, but we'll agree.)

(As per our previous blog, we think Wallpaper is coming BACK! Agree? Disagree?)

Granite (except exotic types) 
(Really don't agree on this one...Granite is still "King" for the quality and aesthetic you get for the price. We would agree that glass and concrete are up and comers for the secondary spot.)

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Best Bang For Your Buck

(We're referring to the banging of the hammer, of course!)

  Are you curious what is netting you the best return for your home improvement efforts these days? According to the Remodeling 2011–12 Cost vs. Value Report (www.costvsvalue.com) the top 3 remodeling projects with the highest returns are:
  1. Fiber Cement Siding Replacement
  2. Entry Door Replacement
  3. Attic Bedroom Remodel
AK Kitchen Facelift
  Previous years have had similar top 3's because exterior projects seem have a relatively smaller investment for a dramatic increase in curb appeal! It's great to hear that, this year, small kitchen remodels (kitchen facelifts) closely followed this list with a resounding 4th place finish!

  The Remodeling Cost vs. Value Report is widely recognized in the industry as one of the top publications, customized per market, to give clients and remodeling professionals alike an inside peek into project values. If resale value is a deciding factor in your remodeling plans, this report is a must-read! You can connect to it through AK's website here: Remodeling Cost Vs. Value Report 

   To answer the common question "How do they come up with these numbers?" Remodeling Magazine has posted some important information on their website to accompany the report: What The Numbers Mean  It's important to keep in mind these figures are mean to be averages and serve as well researched guidelines for comparison purposes - your project may be more or less expensive and may have a lower or higher return.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Can BAD Service Be GOOD For Sales?

  I consider myself lucky to be living at the time that I am; where gender discrimination - if not completely abolished - is at least not the norm. I've spent years in the corporate world and years in the home, and I've never been one to think any seemingly unfair treatment I may have received had anything to do with my gender. And it's possible that this experience I'm going to relay also had nothing to do with my gender...but, it really made me think.
 On a personal basis, outside my role at AK, I encountered a national home remodeling group based out of PA ("Among the Nation's Top 5 Home Remodelers") when a local sales rep rang my doorbell. Since I work in the industry, I found his offer to provide a free estimate, guaranteed in writing, that would never expire to be very unusual. The sweet but nieve looking young man on my doorstep strongly promoted the fact that I could keep this estimate and have the work done whenever I wanted. "Years!" he said. 
  Not planning on having any work done immediately I decided to go ahead and set an appointment to have them give me an estimate on replacing the windows in my home. (I always use AK for work even on my personal home, but I find it very interesting to be in the client role from time to time and I find I learn a lot from it. I highly recommend it to other remodelers.)
  When I spoke to the office staff on the phone to confirm the appointment, standing in my doorway, the man on the other end of the line asked me "So, we will meet with you and your husband?" I was in no way offended by this question as I know how important it is to have both decision makers present at a consultation. It saves a contractor time and effort, minimizes confusion and gives both parties ample time to ask all questions that come to mind. I also know that in the real world, finding time to get a husband and wife together while not eating a meal or wrangling children is next to impossible.  I told the man on the other end of the phone that, No, my husband would be unable to meet.
  "Can we set another time when he can be there?" 
  Ok, I thought, this guy is persistent, but I still figured he was just doing an exceptionally good job of sticking to his sales process. I informed him that my husband would not be able to meet due to his current work schedule and our set appointment was the only time I had available. 
   "Well, if we can't meet with him as well then you just need to know we can't guarantee the pricing."
   This statement took me aback. This is when, in my mind, the sales process started to take a discriminating turn. Having children and a meal that needed my attention I took the path of least resistance and kept the appointment. But, it was not to be.
    Six hours prior to my appointment time, a company representative called me to confirm. (Again, professional. Good process.) However, again, he asked me to confirm that "my husband would be there." I was so shocked at this point. I couldn't believe that this seemed to be all this company wanted to ask me about! They didn't want to know when I wanted the work done, if I'd had any other quotes, if I knew of any specific problems or any of the other questions that I would have asked. The only thing they seemed to want to know was if my husband was going to be there.
  I explained to the man on the phone, again, that my husband was not going to be there and we were not interested in rescheduling. We simply wanted the free estimate, as promised, to hold on to for when we would want the work done.
 "Then, thank you very much for your time today, ma'am. Why don't you call us back when you are both ready to have work done." Click.
  As I said in the beginning, I've never thought that any strange or unfair treatment I received was because of my gender. But today, that changed.
   So - what do you think?
  Was I reading too much in to this?
  Is this just a large company with a concrete sales process that would rather let one person go then to sacrifice a process they know works?
  Or is it a large company who doesn't really care if the potential customer is offended, or even discriminated against, just as long as they keep the projects flowing?
  Most interestingly, if I had been a man, would the company have been so insistent that my wife be there?
  Insult? Or smart business move? Either way, the result of this interaction will be my family never doing business with this company. I will also be sharing my story with friends and family and recommend they don't work with this company either. Whether or not this company likes it, customer service is a part of their business - a part that I make sure my company, AK, excels at - and today, the other company failed at their job.
   So, as I had hoped, it was a learning experience. It just wasn't the lesson I had planned on learning. I was reminded why exceptional service is such a huge factor in a client's buying decision; and my mission to provide AK's clients exceptional service was firmly renewed.

Emily Smith is AK's Marketing Communications Manager. Emily has a BA from Duquesne University and more than ten years of experience in the construction, remodeling & design industry.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Ready For Our CloseUps?

Let's Test Your Design Savvy

Can You Venture A Guess As To What These Close-Ups Are?

What Room?
What Material?



Leave us a response, or a FB post and register your guess! 
We'll let you know if you're close & post the pictures in full after the guessing is over!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

How To Repair Rotten Wood Ends

 Our Hometalk friend, Charles Peace, posted this fantastic tip on how to repair rotten wood ends and we wanted to share it! 

  When you come across rotted wood on your home, do you assume you must replace it? Many people automatically associate rot with replacement. However, there are many instances where  repairing it with specialty epoxy penetrants (also called consolidants) and fillers is a safe, appropriate and budget-friendly choice! Not only is this also faster than replacing the wood, but the fixed wood is actually stronger than the original. The epoxy will give the wood complete protection from moisture for decades once it is primed and painted. 

  Charles agrees that, "when faced with rotten wood ends you don't need to replace the whole piece of wood, epoxy wood filler is a very good patch. At $100./gal. it's not cheap but unlike Bondo, the material expands and contracts with the wood, never cracking around the edges. It sands very easily."

Step 1

Dig Out ALL The Soft Parts
Step 2
If The Hole Is Substantial, You Can Glue In Pieces Of PVC Trim As Filler

Step 3
Apply Epoxy Wood Filler Like A Thick Spackle

Step 4
After An Additional 'Thin' Application, Just Sand, Prime, Caulk & Paint

Images courtesy of Peace Painting of Alpharetta, GA