As consumers, we are always fearful that we will be taken for  a ride.  Remodeling is one of those places where, inevitably, the dollar amount charged is not what you expected and then there are the little things that carry a big price tag.  

After repeat requests about “how much does a remodel cost,” we created this educational series highlighting places where expenditures rise.  Sometimes these expenditures can be avoided, sometimes not; however, the more prepared you are when it is time to remodel your home, the more confident you will be in your relationship with your contractor and your design decisions.

Tile

As a material, tile comes with a price tag  starting at $1.25 on up to hundreds of dollars per square foot.  This is pretty obvious when you have the material in hand.  What is not so obvious is the labor cost involved for the tile you are looking at.  Our first thought is that the cost to install tile is a flat rate no matter what tile we choose.  This is a mistake.

Floor and Wall Patterns

If you want to have your tile installed in a pattern, the floor on a diagonal for example, your investment goes up.  When tile is installed 90-degrees to the room, tile edges will line up with the wall; when the pattern is put on a diagonal, every tile that meets the wall will need to be cut.  This requires more material and more time for the installer to make these cuts.  As such, you will be looking at paying more.

The more intricate the pattern, the more time the installer will need to take during the install and the more expensive the project.

Odd Shaped Tile

The same thing applies to any tile that is not rectangular in shape.  Where floor meet the wall, every tile will need to be cut.

Mosaics

Mosaics are typically 1×1 tiles and come on a 12×12 mesh sheet.  These can be relatively easy to install.  But… here it comes.  If you are looking at a tile that is a hexagon you will want to be sure that the tile line carries “points.”  Points are pre-cut portions of the tile.  Remember, when you get to the wall you will need 1/2 of a 1″ piece of tile to fill the void.  Paying for your tile expert to cut 1″ pieces of tile is going to add up in a hurry.  If the tile doesn’t come with points and you really love it but don’t want pay your tile setter for the additional tile, you may opt to have the 1/2″ void grouted in.  Once the baseboard is installed it will be hardly noticeable.

Large Format Tile

Large format tile is anything over 12″x12″.  Large format tile is quickly gaining in popularity, and for good reason.  Why look at grout lines when you could be looking at a pretty tile?

However, the gaps between tiles is where installers find room for adjustment.  Perhaps the room isn’t perfectly square (most rooms aren’t perfectly square) or the wall/floor isn’t perfectly flat (most walls/floors aren’t perfectly flat), adjustments made in small increments are undetectable to the eye and, at the same time, hides the imperfections of the room’s construction.  (The reason why old homes feature mosaic floors is more than just a design statement.)

Now, compare the installation of  a 12×24 versus a 12×12.  Instead of making an adjustment every foot you are making an adjustment every 2 feet, this doubles the adjustment.  What may have been 1/16″ adjustment is now 1/8″ – and it is no longer undetectable.  However, if the adjustment isn’t made, your room will look out of square.

Every contractor wants repeat business and they aren’t keen on a shoddy looking room.  The resolution is to start with as near perfect room as you can.  This means more shimming, more skimming and possibly even a coat of self leveling floor compound.  This prep work is time-consuming.

If you are installing large format tile on the walls you can expect an added layer of cost.  The larger the tile, the heavier it is.  When working with small tiles, an entire wall can be set at once.  As the tiles get heavier, the more they want to slide down the wall.  Bottom rows of tiles need to set and cure before you can add height.  Your installer may only be able to set a few rows of tile (or just one row of tile it is very large tile) per day.

You may be trying to pinch your pennies during this economy.  In the past, there was a vast price gap between porcelain tile and ceramic.  Today, the difference in price is negligable.  For durability and longevity, invest in the porcelain.  And then, keep your tile rectangular and 12×12 or under in size.  Nothing feels worse than to buy a tile on clearance thinking you’re getting a deal, just to find out it will cost you double in labor… and when it comes to tile, the labor is usually the more expensive portion of the project.

As a side note, if you are looking for something truely unique but want to keep life simple for your tile setter, there are companies that will precut extensive tile patterns.  Your contractor can provide to this kind of company your tile and your pattern.  If you have a unique shaped tub of shower base, you contractor can give them a scribe or pattern of the shapes and they can cut your tiles to fit.  This will not only be a cleaner look, but may also be less expensive than having your contractor cut each piece on the jobsite. 

Written by staff designer Stephanie Bullwinkel, CBD for Imperial Kitchens and Baths, Inc.

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As consumers, we are always fearful that we will be taken for  a ride.  Remodeling is one of those places where, inevitably, the dollar amount charged is not what you expected and then there are the little things that carry a big price tag.  

After repeat requests about “how much does a remodel cost,” we created this educational series highlighting places where expenditures rise.  Sometimes these expenditures can be avoided, sometimes not; however, the more prepared you are when it is time to remodel your home, the more confident you will be in your relationship with your contractor and your design decisions.

Demolition

On average, newer homes are easier and less expensive to demo.  The plumbing and electric is generally up to code and building materials are in good condition.  So I will be addressing the cost of doing work in a pre-1978 home.

US EPA RRP Lead Laws

Right from the start, your contractor should be EPA Lead RRP certified.  When permits are pulled for your project, your local government will require it.  Homes that we’re built prior to 1978 have a higher chance of being painted with lead-based paint.  If your contractor is disrupting painted surfaces, they will need to partition off the area with plastic and vacuum the area with a HEPA rated vacuum.  This should lower the risk of contaminating the rest of the home with lead paint dust.

You can expect a fee of a few hundred dollars for the material and labor for this service.  The exact amount will be determined by the size of the area to be shielded in plastic.  Once the area has been taped-off, stay out.  If you do not like the way the plastic has been hung, talk to your contractor – do not remove the plastic on your own.  Not only could this make you responsible for any damage the contractor’s adhesive may cause your ceiling, walls or floor – but the contractor will probably charge you a second fee for having to reinstallation the plastic.

Glass Tile

Vitrolite: The bathrooms of older homes often have this beautiful glass tile in large format.  It can be just in the shower/bath area, or all around the room.  The biggest problem with this tile is that it is heavy and it is not tempered.  Carefully removing this kind of tile is time-consuming and therefore costly.  Many of our clients opt to save money by doing their own demo; however, removal of this kind of tile is not a DIY project.

(As a word of caution, if you currently have this kind of tile in your home and it is loose or falling off the walls, but you are not ready to renovate just yet; remove the few tiles in question carefully, or have a professional do it for you.  If you have another bathroom in the home, use it exclusively until you can have the room updated.)

Disruption of a “Seemingly Fine” Room

During demo is when problems with a room rise to the surface.  Walls are opened and mold is exposed, floors and soffits hide iron drain pipes where the top halves are rusted away.  If the room has never seen a renovation, or it has been several decades since the last remodel, be prepared for surprises.  It would be wise to budget for unseen expenditures, as your contractor will not know what these costs will be until they are uncovered.  Once you know what you can afford for your remodel, take 90% of it and give that number to your contractor or designer and save the remaining 10% as your cushion to pay for the unseen.

Can you save money on a demolition?  Yes!  But it will probably require you to take responsibility for the labor of removing and disposing of product and building materials.

Written by Imperial Kitchens and Baths, Inc. staff designer Stephanie Bullwinkel, CBD.

As consumers, we are always fearful that we will be taken for  a ride.  Remodeling is one of those places where, inevitably, the dollar amount charged is not what you expected and then there are the little things that carry a big price tag. 

Change Orders

Many builders and remodelers charge a fee for change orders.  This fee can be a flat price or a percentage.  Regardless of whether you are adding to a project or deducting from a project, this fee will probably hold.  Be sure to ask your contractor about this fee and scan your paperwork for it prior to signing anything; they need to be upfront about it in order to charge for it.

Once a project is sold, the office will start to process the finalized paperwork.  This process includes the obvious of ordering materials and scheduling trades.  The not-so-obvious part is the distribution of information.  Your salesperson/designer is your contact, but that person disseminates information to a team of people who distributes that information to their team of people.

Here’s an example to illustrate this:  The salesperson gives a copy of the contract and all supporting documentation to the comptroller (to enter all information into the company’s system), to the accountant (to figure out payment schedules to the various vendors), to the scheduling department, to the supervisor and to the material handler.  The comptroller pulls permits and other licenses, bonds, etc.; the scheduling department organizes all the various trades according to availability of labor and the availability of product; the supervisor looks over the plans and creates a work order for each trade and the material handler calls all the vendors necessary to get the products in-house when needed.

When a change order comes from a client, everyone needs to be alerted to the change.  Even something as small as changing the finish on a faucet can cause turmoil.  Time, effort and due diligence is required of all staff members and the risk of an error is raised substantially.

These are all factors that are considered when a contractor accepts a client’s change order.  Without involving a fee for this disruption in the process, a contractor could easily go broke.  And, of course, this is just for the service end of a change order.  By removing product from a project, you can also expect a restocking fee (25% is standard) for the unexpected shipping, handling and additional paperwork on the part of the warehouse.  Beware, custom and special ordered product is usually non-refundable.

Of course, things happen on job sites.  A wall is opened and surprise!  These kind of things are par for the course and you should not be charged an additional premium for a change order.

It can be said that change order fees discourage clients from changing their minds.  From a contractor’s stand point, that’s not a bad thing.   If you desire the smoothest project for the least amount of money, stay committed to the agreed to project.

Written by staff designer Stephanie Bullwinkel, CBD for Imperial Kitchens and Baths, Inc.

Defining Style

November 16, 2010

What is the “current design trend?”

This year, article after article (in both retail and to-the-trade magazines) designers are contradicting themselves before they even get to penning the final paragraph.  As you read, experts are saying black and white combos are so now.  However, neutrals and earth tones are hotter than they’ve ever been.  Bold colors like hot pink and chartuese are timely.  But dark green is selling with clients.

Basically, anything goes… and it’s a blessing and a curse.

How fun it is to say that you can have almost anything you want and it is current with today’s style trends.  But what about tomorrow?

It’s enough to drive a designer insane, let alone a homeowner trying to update their house to sell (or live in for that matter).  With the economy strapped for cash, we want to spend our dollars on design that will last.

While the design industry seems to be saying “Anything goes!  Just spend money;”  consumers keep asking, “What design direction should I go in that is the best choice for longevity and resale value?”

So, adding our voice to all the other experts writing about home design, here is our take on how to focus yourself on a design for your home. 

  • Keep the architecture of your home in mind.  If you have a home with a predisposed historical design, then follow it (ie. owners of bungalows should look to 1920’s designs and materials for inspiration). 
  • Then be daring, go to the extreme.  High contrast or minimal contrast.  Stay way from the middle ground or the “safe zone.”  While, it does not need to shout, a home should make a clear statement.  
  • Finally, look for balance.  Some women need to take off a piece of jewelry before they leave the house while others need to put a piece on – designing a room is no different.

If you’re still finding yourself dazed and confused, even with a designer in tow as you visit the Merchandise Mart week after week, take heart.  You can never go wrong with buying design that you like… after all, you live there.  And if anyone asks you to define your home’s style, tell them it’s “eclectic” – after all, it’s all the rage.

Written by staff designer Stephanie Bullwinkel, CBD for Imperial Kitchens and Baths, Inc.

Show Me Your Work

August 18, 2010

I love to look at the work of other designers.  I have subscriptions to atleast 10 magazines showcasing either design trends for the general public or ideas and knowledge for industry professionals.  Those fleeting moments when I’m waiting for applications to load on my computer, I’m surfing the internet studying the competition.

While our company is located in the midwest, I look at sites for designers and remodelers all over the world.  The ideas that can accumulate in one’s brain is amazing!  And while a popular design trend in Miami will probably never fly with my Chicago client, a solution to a design challenge can sometimes rise to the top.

Designers and remodelers should always be learning from each other.  But as I have been surfing often lately, I have been coming across a disturbing trend more and more… Photo galleries that are not necessarily reflective of a company’s portfolio of work.

The most natural thing when shopping for a designer or contractor is to investigate their website.  You see a link called “Photos” and wow!  Amazing photographs of amazing rooms.  The first question you need to ask… is this a “portfolio of work?”  Or is it a “photo gallery?”  The later being a collection of photos freely downloaded from the internet that has no relationship to the work performed by this company or individual.

Sad as it may seem, while not blatantly saying ‘this is my work’ when it is not – posting photos on a website gives the impression that this is the product of this particular company, especially when the source of the photo is not acknowledged.  With unemployment so high, many people are trying their hand at flying solo and an impressive website is a good start to finding clients.  The old adage of “fake it until your make it” comes in here.

There is nothing wrong with using a first time designer or remodeler on your project – as long as you know, up front, that you are a guinea pig and your investment reflects the inconveniences that you will inevitably encounter.

If you find a website where the photos are professionally shot and there are no acknowledgements attached to the pictures, ask them in an email or phone call if the photos of are their work.  If the answer is that it is not their work but they can replicate that look, ask to see a portfolio of their actual work.  Don’t be afraid to even ask for references for those photos.  Trust is earned, not given – and in this business, you are dealing with one of your biggest investments, your home.  Never assume anything.

Written for Imperial Kitchens and Baths, Inc. by staff designer Stephanie Bullwinkel, CBD.

Renovate Right

March 24, 2010

On April 22, 2010 the US EPA’s law on “Renovation, Repair and Painting” (RRP) will go into effect.  This new law will affect you, if:

  • You live in a home that was built prior to 1978.
  • Your children (age 6 or younger) attend a facility that was built prior to 1978.

Why 1978?  Lead-based paint was used in more than 38 million homes and buildings until it was banned for residential use in 1978.  Once ingested, lead, like other heavy elements, has a way of hanging around in our bodies – this can cause biological disturbances.  In large doses, it can lead to toxicity – affecting our brains and nervous systems.  Children, in their developing stages, are the most susceptible to lead toxicity.

Lead in paint that is adhered to an object does not propose a danger – it does not out-gas or radiate.  If you live in a home that contains lead paint, you do not necessarily need to have a costly abatement team remove all paint from your home.  Disrupting lead paint is where the EPA’s concern is.

Lead gets into our bodies via nose and mouth.  Paint chips and dust particles are the biggest culprits to ingesting lead paint.  If you are renovating an older building, paint disruption is due to occur.

The EPA is requiring by federal law that all contractors who work in buildings built before 1978 and disrupt more than 6 square feet of interior paint or 20 square feet of exterior paint to be Certified.  This includes, but is not limited to:

  • Renovators
  • Remodelers
  • Plumbers
  • Painters
  • Electricians
  • Window and Door Contractors
  • General Contractors
  • Landlords and Property Managers
  • Some Building Engineers

Your contractor should provide for you, before the renovation begins, a copy of the EPA’s Renovate Right pamphlet.  You will also need to sign documentation for your contractor’s files saying that you received the pamphlet.  This documentation also outlines options available if you would like to opt out of the RRP procedures.

Certified professionals have been through training in how to properly handle spaces where lead paint may be present.  Containment of lead paint chips and dust are a primary concern.  These procedures are time-consuming and require additional job materials.  You can expect your renovator to line item this procedure for your home project (this small cost may vary depending on the space, project and your geographical location).  The added time and cost to your contract is worth the sense of mind in knowing that your health and wellbeing is being protected.  The federal government is currently experiencing a backlog as US contractors rush to get their certification.  If your contractor cannot produce a RRP Certification, ask to see proof of their RRP training.

Property owners who opt to DIY are excluded from this new law.  However, it highly recommended that homeowners take steps to keep themselves safe with these best practices.

  • Tape off with plastic the area you are working in.
  • Limit leaving the work area to go to other areas of the home.
  • Do not eat in the work area.
  • Keep children and animal out of the area until it has been throughly cleaned.
  • If you have them, use power tools that are connected to a vacuum system.
  • Do not sand lead-based paint.  If you must sand an area, wear a face mask.  When done, mist the area with a spray bottle of water to bring the dust out of the air.
  • When cleaning up the area, mist down all drop cloths.  Fold drop clothes edges in first to keep dust and particles from escaping.
  • Clean the area with a HEPA vacuum.  Remove the vacuum bag from the vacuum outside of the building and tape shut.
  • Promptly remove clothing and wash before walking through your home or coming in contact with other family members.

If you are not planning a major renovation, but you have paint flaking in your home, a fresh coat of paint will keep more paint from coming off.  And of course… teach your children to NEVER EAT PAINT FLAKES OR CHEW ON PAINTED SURFACES  (this includes furniture and window sills).

If you have further questions about this new law, you can add your comment below or visit www.epa.gov/lead/index.html.

Written by Stephanie Bullwinkel, CBD for Imperial Kitchens and Baths, Inc.  Imperial Kitchens and Baths, Inc. is proud to have completed their RRP required training.  As of March 18, 2010, Imperial is in compliance with the US EPA’s RRP rule and IDPH.  Pending official notice from the EPA, the company will be a RRP Lead Certified Renovator in the Chicago area.

An addition should not feel like someone took part of another home and just stuck it on.  But too often, that is exactly what happens.  Inside and outside the home – roof lines, walls, floors, ceilings – everything should line up and make sense.  But contractors who rush often ignore subtile details.

We all are familiar with the saying “God is in the details.”  Regardless of whether you are religious or not, I think we all can agree that it is the details that make the difference.

We recently completed work on a Berwyn Bungalow where the client is a stained glass artisan.  The details of this project were not to be overlooked.

Larry Rych designed the space to open up to the dining room and also incorporate the back porch.  The new space had to made sense with the rest of the home.  The cabinetry, tile and counter have an understated elegance with simple craftsman style.  Crown molding around the ceiling elevates the stature of the room.  Our client then added his personal touch, and the focal point of the room, with his own custom stained glass.

While traditionally, a home of this vintage would not have the kitchen open to the rest of the home (nor would it have a kitchen of such magnitude), the new kitchen feels appropriate because many design elements of the period were recreated and the new construction was seamlessly integrated with the old.

When you are shopping for a remodeling contractor, ask to see their portfolio; if you can visit a site, all the better.  At first glance, you should see any glaring issues, then look closer.  These details will make the difference, not in just how you feel about your home when the project is complete but also its resale value if you ever decide to move.

There are plenty of companies that offer tub liners.  The familiar catch phrases “1/2 the cost of new,” “no mess” and “a new bath in one day” ring out over the radio, television and in print ads.  But…

The true cost of a bath liner goes far beyond dollars.

Many of us have the good sense to know that to cover up a problem does not make the problem go away.  Yet, so many people look at bathtub liners as the inexpensive answer to a problematic tub/shower.  They may look nice, offer a quick remodel with minimal inconvenience and fit a meager budget, but the true cost of a bath liner goes far beyond dollars.

Bath liners are thin, preformed plastic pieces that are placed over the existing tub and shower walls… as is.  This creates two problems.  Any existing water damage is given the opportunity to thrive.  Uncontrolled mold growth takes off at lighting speed in the moist darkness, wrecking havoc on the health of the occupants.  Headaches, coughing fits, nausea are all common complaints of homeowners whose homes are infected with mold.  Any pipes leaking in walls continue to feed the mold and degrade the surrounding structure of the home.

The second issue comes from the liner directly.  Since the liners are preformed plastic, it will not fit your tub tightly.  A small gap may form between the tub drain assembly, your tub and the liner.  As you shower, each step you take causes a shifting to take place and water is inevitably sucked up between the tub and the liner.  This water will exchange itself with progressive showering, but the area will never dry.  This creates an unhealthy environment where mold and bacteria proliferate.

By the time you are aware that there is a problem, the price of cleaning up the area has grown exponentially.  What was once a $7,000 tub/shower project is now a complete gutting of the bathroom and possibly nearby rooms.  The dollars add up, your health is in compromised and, in all probablity, your homeowners insurance will not cover the damages.

How is it that these companies can knowingly provide you a product that can compromise your home?  Easy.  They take no responsiblity for existing conditions.  They promise nothing but a gimmick – “a new bath in one day” for less than what it would take to do the project right.  You will not get a refund for the service or product because they delivered exactly what was requested of them as per their contract.  If you have them remove the product, they will charge you for the added service.

Your best defence is to be educated and then vote with your dollars – you get what you pay for.  If there wasn’t a market for this charade of home improvement, these companies would not exist.

Normal wear and tear on a bathroom is going to happen.  But don’t be fooled,  the signs of water damage are distinctly different than the signs of use:

  1. Tiles falling of the wall.
  2. Soft or mushy areas on the wall.
  3. Sour or musty smells, especially after a shower.
  4. Grout discoloration in select areas.
  5. Salt peter or calcium build up in the grout.
  6. Difficulty keeping the bathroom mold free.

If you find any of these issues, call a reliable contractor to come out to your home to assess the space.  The problem will not get better on its own and the sooner you have a repair, the less expensive it will be.

If you don’t have water damage and are just looking for a way to zip up an outdated bathroom without the expense of tearing the room apart, I would recommend looking into tub spraying.  Instead of covering up the area, tub spraying is essentially painting the tub with a fresh coat of enamel.  This treatment can also be done to the wall tiles.  The effect lasts for about 5-10 years, depending on the level of use the room sees.

Is there any bathroom that is a good candidate for a tub liner?  If the tub/shower area is terribly outdated in a bathroom that sees limited to no use – then yes, a tub liner is an option.  Otherwise, save your money, time and health.

Written for Imperial Kitchens and Baths Inc, by designer Stephanie Bullwinkel, CBD.

We’re always looking for ways to save money when we are remodeling. Dare say it, no one want to be the one who pays too much for their remodel. However, you also don’t want to be the one who pays too little and ends up with nothing or a project gone wrong. Some of us have fairy godmothers looking over us as we shell out half of what the project should cost and the job is a success – the other 80% of us? Well, our angels took a coffee break at the wrong time.

Typically, good contractors are expensive – just as good products are expensive. And as an added FYI – when you are buying home improvement products (just like everything else) the less expensive the product, the more likely it is not made in the US or Europe. Just because the brand name says “American” to you doesn’t mean that the product is physically built here. Developing countries do not have to conform to the same eco-regulations as developed countries do – corporations do use this to their benefit.  If MADE IN THE USA is important to you, then make sure the product is made here.  Being a US company is not enough.

Getting back to our topic – you may have a remodeling contractor in your area that you have heard great things about, but you are concerned that they are just too expensive for you and your home. Not necessarily so. You can get “deals” from high-class establishments, but there is a price for it. First, educate yourself by going online – go to the websites of well-known brands and see if they are having any promotions. Then, negotiating for a rock bottom remodel begins with these questions to your remodeler:

  • Do you have any manufacturers that are currently offering incentives?
  • Do you have anything in stock that you are looking to move on?
  • My budget is only “x”, but I need a new “y”. Can you help me?

There is always at least one manufacturer, that the store represents, that is having an incentive program. If you have done your online homework, then you will be better apt to ask detailed questions like, “If I order a Corian counter made from one of the twelve promotional colors, do I still qualify for the free sink? And if not, which is the better deal for me? Is there a product similar to Corian that I should be looking at that could give me a better price point?”

Remodeling companies do sometimes have things in stock. We try hard not to, but it happens. Tile, in particular, has a way of hanging around the back rooms. Returning tile can be expensive and you have a short window to get it back to the warehouse (they don’t want it back once they have sold off the dye-lot because it may not match their current lot). Non-returnable custom orders sit in corners because someone made a mistake on the color, size, etc (this can be common for vanities). Countertop shops alway have remnant pieces hanging around. If you are looking for stone tops, tell your remodeler that you are not interested in going to the stone dealer warehouse – you want to go to the fabricator’s shop to see their off-fall (this usually only works for small tops). And then you have the few unfortunate cases where the client disappeared and never paid for the order.

Communication is key with your designer, remodeler, showroom sales, contractor – anyone and everyone you are dealing with for your project. If you share with them at the very start what your financial needs are then they can point you in the right direction.

So what is the catch? You lose some control in your project. Perhaps you envisioned your new bathroom in blue and cream with a large double bowl cherry vanity. The designer at your local remodeling company recommends two white pedestal sinks that have been discontinued and being sold at 60% and for storage they have a chocolate-colored linen cabinet in the back that was ordered for another client who changed their mind at the last-minute. You have a talented designer and you know that the new design would work well and look good – but it is not your dream room.  However, this could save you hundreds, maybe even thousands of dollars. You have to decide what is more important – the vision or the money.

Written for Imperial Kitchens and Baths, Inc. by Stephanie Bullwinkel, CBD.

Note:  If you are interested in seeing an example of some of the current promotions available right now, take a look at this page on our website.  Your local dealer may be able to offer something similar to you or they may have something completely different.  The key is that there is always something going on with some manufacturer – you just need to ask.

Sometimes when I walk into a home, I really wonder what the architect was thinking.  I would take a guess that at least 30% of American homes have the awkward situation of a hall that ends with a bathroom.  If you’re fortunate, the view is of a towel bar or blank wall.  If you are unfortunate, the view is of a toilet.  Many of us choose to ignore and accept this vision, or we leave the door closed.

 I remember one home we worked on about ten years ago, as you walked up the stairs to the second floor the first thing that welcomed you was the commode in the bathroom across from the landing.  When we remodeled that bathroom, one of the things we did was move the toilet across the room to a more private location.  Suddenly the view of the trees through the window took precedence.

 Not everyone has the option to move a toilet.  It can be very expensive or even architecturally impossible to relocate a toilet.  So what other alternatives are available besides closing the door?

 First off, think of the doorway as a frame.  What are you framing?  Many times, towels and towel bars are a part of the picture.  While we try to make them look as pretty as we can, towels are just not interesting.  Something needs to pull focus.

 If you aren’t dealing with a view of the commode, place art work within the space – preferably something long and narrow that will fill the door frame.  Since the doorway is your “frame,” I recommend something on canvas without a frame.  The surrounding wall area becomes your “matting.”  If you want to draw attention to this space, then paint the wall a dynamic color that contrasts the walls of the hallway.  If you want this space to blend with the surrounding hall, then paint the wall a color similar to hall color.  I would not recommend wallpapering this wall, most “mattes” around paintings and photos are solid colors, not patterns.

 Take this a step further by adding an “Art light” to showcase the artwork.  (This is great if you entertain and you find people asking where your powder room is.)  A low-voltage MR-11 or MR-16 placed in the ceiling typically works best.  Housings with an adjustable socket allow for maximum control in illuminating the artwork.  For added drama, put the light on a dimmer instead of a switch.

 The same applies, if you have a view of the toilet through the doorway.  This time, hang a framed piece of art above the commode.  The “Art light” should be aimed so that no light spills on the toilet.  The sought-over effect is to draw attention away from the fixture.

 You may be tempted to install the lighting yourself.  However, I would recommend you find a contractor or electrician who has a history of installing these lights.  The size of your artwork and the angle of light along with its beam spread will determine the type and placement of the housing.  An incorrect housing and/or placement could result in a less than desirable result.

Written by Imperial Kitchens and Baths, Inc. designer, Stephanie Bullwinkel, CBD.