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So, the purge of the kitchen is done. I’ve recovered from the trauma and have it on good authority that the poor Waste Management folks who hauled away the garbage are recovering nicely from their hernias.

I’m starting to get used to my stuff being relocated, though I think I’ll be battling the muscle memory for a while yet. The reorganization HAS made my cooking much more zenlike. I love having my stuff within easy reach. (The problem with the stand mixer and food processor remains, but everything else has much improved.)

So now, it’s time to give the kitchen a facelift. Get out the paint brushes!

Beth swears by the expertise of the folks at DuraPaint, and she’s absolutely right to. We went in with one idea, and came out with different paint. I will admit to being a bit trepidatious about the wall color, but I got over it. The end result was and is fabulous – and once again, something I would NOT have gotten to on my own. Ah, the power of professionals. They’re worth their weight in gold!

So here’s the before, where the walls are blue and the cabinets are an oatmeal off white (and this is actually a really old picture – the bookcase was relocated to the hallway several months ago, because the spines of my cookbooks were getting sun bleached, thus making me sad):

One of the things Beth suggested that I would NEVER have thought of was painting the bottom cabinets a darker color than the top cabinets. Since my motto is, “It’s only paint!” I figured, what the heck. If I didn’t like it, I could change it, right? (My motto has now changed somewhat. It’s now only paint if someone else is doing the work! At least until the memory of the hugeness of this part of our redesign fades!)

So, the project begins. This involves taping stuff. Lots of taping stuff. And then removing doors. My painting tarps went mysteriously (and very inconveniently!) missing, something I didn’t discover until I was ready to start. So I improvised with trash bags.

People, learn from my pain. Find the tarps. Or go buy more. There. I have spoken. Ignore me at your own risk.

So the painting of the cabinets was the biggest pain. In the past, we removed the hinges on the cabinet doors. This time, I taped them off. Taping them off actually took longer, but it was much less problematic than trying to get the hinges back in the perfect position – particularly since I was doing all of this on my own. I would say that this, for me, was the biggest “issue”. I am NOT a patient person by any stretch, and taping the hinges requires both patience and a steady hand. The application of my iPod with a whole slew of Kim Harrison books did help this immensely. As did constant reminders of the arguments I got into with my husband the last time we did the cabinets and removed the hinges. 🙂

The bottom cabinets got a coat of primer and then two coats of paint. I probably didn’t NEED the second coat of paint, but I was SO not going to decide that I did after rehanging those cabinet doors. The top cabinets got two coats of paint. The walls got one coat of paint – mainly, I think, because the Benjamin Moore paint is SO good. I had anticipated needing two coats and was utterly delighted when it was quickly obvious that a second coat was unnecessary. This was my first experience with Benjamin Moore paint, and I’m pretty well a convert now. It’s not cheap compared to the stuff we were buying before at Home Depot or Lowe’s, but the quality is evident and worth the additional money. Particularly if, as I expect, the quality extends into durability.

By the time the cabinets were painted, I had decided that Beth is, in fact, a designing genius, and was trying to figure out exactly what sort of baked goods to offer up to her in thanks. I think I decided on chocolate truffles. She’s THAT good. The two toned cabinets looked spectacular. The wall color took a bit more time to grow on me, but by the time I was done painting, it had settled in and I loved it. My kitchen was starting to look like the island of zen I wanted it to be.

I was too “in the painting zone” to remember to take pictures of the wall painting part of the project. (Okay, really, I just wanted it done. And to not have to look at paint again for a long, long, LONG time.) For the cabinets, I used a paintbrush – and another bit o’advice here – suck it up and pay for the good paint brush. It really is worth it. If you take good care of it, you’ll have it around for years to come, and the difference in paint application is very noticeable. For the walls, I used rollers. Since I knew part of the project would involve painting the ceiling (which now makes me want to curl up in a ball and cry), I didn’t worry overmuch about the occasional paint splotch up there.

The whole painting project took 3 days of pretty solid work – again, it was only me doing this. It’s not that my husband wouldn’t have helped. It’s that I’m not patient enough to wait for him to not have paying clients and thus the time to help me. Even if it means more work and aggravation for me. Waiting is more vexing, in my world.

So, I’ll cease my yammering and show you the finished paint project. (Or so I thought. We’d have to get out the paint again – and that is a blog for another day!)

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So, before I decided to follow my dream and work in design, I was a marriage and family counselor. Yeah, quite the career change, but let me tell you, that past experience comes in quite handy when I’m starting a new project.

Now, I can’t speak for all designers out there, but it’s fairly safe to say that we all have a process that we go through in getting to know our clients and in getting the information we need from you in order to do our job. Based on my previous vocation, I tend to tailor my approach to the client after the initial contact.

Because enquiring minds want to know (and really? I just wanted to use that phrase…), here’s what you can expect when we’re getting a project kicked off.

You have reached a tipping point. A point of pain you simply must have addressed, or a point where you are able to move forward with a project you’ve long had in mind. You know you want *something* done, and you recognize that hiring a professional is the way to go. You may contact several designers. Or you may just pick one. Either way, you’ve let your fingers do the walking and you’ve either found my website or learned about me from a friend or colleague, or our paths have somehow crossed. We chat on the phone. During the initial phone screening, I’ll ask questions about timeframe and loose budget parameters. There’s got to be trust and rapport – I’m not going to spend every last cent; that’s not my goal. The budget is framework – I’ll know my limits this way. If you’re on a leaner budget, I’m not going to seek out the highest end fabrics, etc. I’m going to get a feel for how much of this process you want or need to do on your own. And I’m going to assign you some homework in preparation for our first face to face meeting. That homework is going to involve research – you’re going to go through magazines and websites and whatever media you have at your fingertips to identify both what you like, and what you don’t, if something like that really sticks out.

The reason I have you do this is that, like setting a budget, identifying what you love and what you loathe gives me a framework. None of the designing I’m going to do for you happens in a vacuum – I need to have boundaries identified both in dollars and in tastes.

Now, once you’ve done your homework and perhaps learned something about yourself along the way, we have our first face to face. This meeting is crucial – and since you’re providing me with much needed information, I’ll be filling in some blanks for myself, such as listening for what is going to make this feel like a home for that person/couple/family. Its oftentimes difficult to get that feeling into a verbal description – how do you translate warm & cozy into decor? So, it’s my job to interpret for you what it is that you mean. Many times it’s a matter of “I can’t tell you what I like, but I can tell you what I don’t like”, which is a great start.

Once I have this information, the meeting is all about giving you much needed information about the process you’ll be facing. In my opinion, there’s no such thing as too much information about what to expect – knowledge in this case is both power and sanity. Remodeling, for instance, has portions of job that are really stressful. Drywall, wires, all over the place – total chaos – it can be really stressful. While I do use a very tidy crew, and we leave as little mess as possible, it is still disruptive. You know yourself well enough to know how you’ll handle this – will you be able to deal by escaping to another part of your home? Will you look at the disruption as exciting evidence of change being afoot? Will you be better off staying elsewhere? Will you need to make arrangements for pets? One thing I can’t stress enough about any process is that there will most likely be something that doesn’t go how you expected it to go. And here’s where the knowledge imparting portion of the face to face meeting is so important. Above all, even though there will be mis-steps, you need to know that I will be there the whole way and hold your hand. If it’s wrong, we’ll make it right.

Ultimately, after the interview and meeting, it’s a collaborative process. 2nd appointment is for logistics. I come over and measure and photograph, and have another sit-down to make sure we’re on the same page – iron out likes and dislikes. Then I go to the drawing board. If it’s a smallish job, it could take a week, if it’s a huge job, it could take six weeks. I go to my sources for inspiration – look at fabrics, fixtures, colors, for inspiration. At first, it’s a chaotic soup. There are moments of the designers equivalent of writers block, but getting through that is what makes the planning process. The dust settles, I pick a direction, come up with a space plan (dimensions of room with furniture, rugs, lighting, etc. Laid out where I think they’ll be best suited.) This is important because when people do this on their own, they buy furniture that they think will fit and it ends up being the wrong scale for the space it’s in. This is an expensive mistake that you don’t make when you’ve hired a designer. I take into consideration the traffic through the room, etc. Then I start having fun and pick the fabrics and the color palate and the furniture style. Once I have all that together, it’s time for meeting #3, where I present the plan I’ve arrived at.

After this, I get feedback – love this, love this, want different here, etc. I go make the minor tweaks. My goal is to have interviewed so well during the phone consult and initial meetings that I leave the presentation with only minor changes.

Redesigns, like the kitchen project in progress described in an earlier blog post, are a bit different. For instance, we have to work with existing materials – flooring, counters, etc. So color palate must coordinate with those things. In this instance, the counters were a terra cotta color with a backsplash with bronze accents, and the rest of the house is leaning toward a decidedly contemporary look, so I decided to follow suit with the kitchen. The initial interview highlighted what wasn’t working. The organization and flow wasn’t working that great – space was an issue, so I needed to come up with a way to create more space in the existing space. The client letting go of the coat closet, which isn’t a total necessity in southern California, would be better used as a secondary pantry for a kitchen that is used heavily for both cooking and baking.

Came up with the idea to put a cart on wheels that pulls out with the workhorses and allows you to plug that stuff in. Then you roll it away. So I try to find the ingenious solution. We decided that a built in banquette with storage in the seats and a bookcase on the other side would provide additional space and much needed storage.

The pot rack, while necessary, was interrupting the flow of the kitchen and making it feel smaller, so relocating it to over the sink will make the kitchen seem larger and less cluttered. Then, dropping in lighting over the island will provide both ambiance and task lighting for baking prep. These ideas were embraced by the homeowner, who was delighted and indicated that she’d never have come up with them on her own. The redesign is a project where I’m working with someone who is very much a hands on, do it yourself type person. However, if she and her husband don’t know how to do something, I’ve got a wide array of painters, carpenters, electricians, you name it – who can step in and make that portion of the project happen.

So now you have an idea of what to expect. It’s a collaboration between you and me. A journey we’ll be taking together – and as with all adventures, good communication and rapport make for smoother sailing toward that goal. It’s my job to chart the course by asking the right questions; it’s your job to make sure that you give the answers all the consideration they deserve – after all, this is your space we’re making better!