Kitchen and Bath Specialists Share Ideas, Opinions

Have a question and looking for feedback from industry peers? This month, Kitchen & Bath Design News listens in on dialogue between industry professionals as excerpted from the KitchenBathPros.com online Design Discussion Forum.

In-Cabinet Lighting

Question
We’re currently specifying linear lighting such as Trac 12 for in-cabinet lighting. This works very well for single-door inset cabinets, where the fixture can be installed vertically behind the face frame on the non-hinge side with the lights facing toward the back of the cabinet.

However, when the size of the area behind the rail is limited by a hinge – as with a two-door cabinet – this does not work. With a full-overlay door, the lights are only visible from certain angles, and when installed facing toward the back, they look horrible when installed facing inward on a two-door cabinet.

Any ideas out there for how to address this?
—susan27

Response 1
I always use 10w Hafele pucks. They have Halogen and Xenon options available. I’ve mostly used the halogen, although some of our inspectors are leaning toward the Xenon these days. I think I might be in a lighting rut because I’m used to this system and more importantly my electrician is happy with it. I’ll be interested to see what everyone else is using.

I prefer using linear lighting because pucks only illuminate the top shelf, unless you use glass cabinets. And, even with glass, the light intensity slowly dissipates from top to bottom. I do prefer pucks for cabinets that have no shelving.
—Khat

Response 2
In my built-in dining room cabinets, I installed Tresco’s Cold Cathode Lighting vertically on either side of my butt doors. I have an old home, so I didn’t want to use glass shelves. I just prefer the wood shelves.

I’ve had my fixtures on constantly for three years now and I use it as a night light. The light that it gives off will alter some colors (similar to fluorescent), but I heard that they now have a warm bulb as well.
—Kompy

Response 3
My issue is that what works with inset does not work with full overlay. With inset doors you essentially get a double-width shield (one for the face frame and one for the door frame), but with full overlay the door overlaps the face frame so the little bulbs are not as well shielded. This results in being able to see the bulb from certain angles.
—Kompy

Response 4
What about strip lights (individual bulbs similar to low-voltage setups) that sit in a U-channel? That would hide the lights from view and you could paint the channel to match the cabinet color?
—MCR

Designer’s Block

Question
I am at the beginning of designing three new projects (one small kitchen and two master bathrooms) and find myself “blocked” and feeling very uncreative. Everything I do seems like the same old thing and not different at all.

Usually when I get like this, I resort to my trade magazines to see what else is out there and how I can incorporate those ideas into my designs. So now after doing just that, I have seen a few ideas, most of which seem to not be applicable to these design situations.

So my question is what do you do when you get stagnant and the ideas don’t flow?
—chrisc&d

Response 1
A lot depends on how much time you have before a deadline. Sometimes, when I just haven’t been ready for an upcoming meeting, I’ve said to a client, “I’m not fully prepared and I don’t want to rush.” They respect that. I don’t do it often, only when I have to.

Try working hours that you don’t normally work, maybe when it’s much quieter. I think quiet is an important piece to creativity. Being in a relaxed state is important for me, as well. You have to get yourself fully into the zone, and then good ideas start flowing.
—susanckd

Response 2
A few years ago, I started my own ‘inspiration album’ on my computer. I have a ton of categories, such as old house kitchens, hood designs, two-tone kitchens, etc. Over the years, when I see a jpeg online, I just copy it to my inspiration folder.

Another thing you can do is when you receive brochures from cold-calling sales representatives and from high-end manufacturers, keep the brochures. I have a shelf full of high-end brochures.

I would also check online resources. I love www.ratemyspace.com at HGTV. Personally, I have received patio design inspiration there for my own home. It’s a great place to surf for inspiration and a fun break from work. Most of the spaces are really nice, but it’s odd to see what some people will post there.
—Kompy

Response 3
I, too, have been faced with your dilemma. The idea for quiet time is great – that really works for me. Sometimes I’ll have some quiet music playing.

Another trick is to take plain paper and pencil and just sketch. Don’t worry about scale or dimensions; simply free flow. You may be surprised at what appears. For details, walk through an antique or salvage place. There is some amazing stuff out there! Good luck.
—Elizabeth.h.ckd

Response 4
Try to really get outside of your comfort zone. Go to an art gallery, a furniture store or a botanical garden. Look at things that are not kitchens and baths. I know I get too focused sometimes, but I’ll see something out of the ordinary and it gets my brain wheels clinking.
—mccabgal

Response 5
It might seem kind of silly, but get yourself in a happy-goofy mood. It seems like when I’m chipper and happy, I can see things differently.

It also helps to play really fun music, the kind that makes me want to be-bop around or at least nod my head and sing along. In other words, just let yourself feel that positive energy for a few minutes and take a look at your design. And try different things: things that you know won’t work. Sometimes that will prompt a chain reaction or jog a thought. I’ll also look through very old designs sometimes.
—Tinkerbell

Response 6
Personally, I’ve been visiting every showroom I can. Fortunately I have a day off on Mondays and can just drive to different showrooms.

I always tell them who I am and why I’m there and I have not been turned away; usually I’m left alone to roam around and while they get back to “real” work.

I am always humbled at what fabulous talent we have in Chicago.
—jkelkitchen

Response 7
I tend to have a hard time being creative under pressure. Beyond a primal scream, there are techniques I use to push through the creativity block.

When stuck, I force myself to draw it out, regardless of how basic it is at the beginning. Creativity happens at unusual times. Once it is in, I print it and set it aside for review when I can start penciling in my notes and changes. I bring my drawings in my “padfolio,” so when an idea strikes me, I scribble in those ideas as they come to me.

Then I review my client questionnaire again and review what innovative things I can add to meet my client’s needs.

I always have my clients fill out a questionnaire. I need to know who I am designing for, and what their needs are before I start drawing. That helps getting the juices flowing for me.
—KB Design1

Response 8
In the past I have found that blocks lead to a time of growth, although I’m not sure why it works exactly.

I’ll have a block on a design, and be driving down the highway, and an idea will hit me. Then the ideas start to flow for me.
Trying to push past them at the computer has never worked for me. I always have to walk away from the design. Then ideas start.
—KarH

Response 9
Thanks for the inspiring thoughts and ideas. It’s nice to know others out there have the same problem. I guess misery loves company.

I have managed to push through the kitchen and one of the master suites for the first set of designs. I am now just working on the last master suite which has angled walls and restrictions on what cannot move. But the ideas are certainly flowing better these days for me.

Sometimes I think I am my own worst critic and I am sure you can all relate to that. As I do more and more projects, they start to get ho-hum to me, when in fact it would probably look fine to the client. But I always prefer to feel really “pumped” about a design when I present it. Maybe I am expecting too much.

[Overall], it is the layouts I am having more problems with much more than the aesthetics. I did pull out the last couple of years of magazines featuring the NKBA Design Competition finalists. I am continuously in awe at how creative some of these designers are with space.
– chrisc&d

Countertop Supports

Question
What is the spacing requirement for countertop supports? I am getting two different answers from my fabricators. One says 2', and the other says 2-1/2".

My question is whether there would be a difference between a raised bar versus a non-raised bar? Would acrylics require less than granite or vice versa? Thanks so much for any insight you can share about this topic!
—BTWKitchens02

Response 1
I have always heard that the spacing on acrylics and quartz can be wider than granite. I think that I would follow the recommendations of the person doing the installation; that way if something happens to the top they will not have that argument.
—MCR

Response 2
I would go with the recommendations of the fabricators for the material you are going to use. Each of the fabricators I use has a different recommendation. The only way they’ll back a warranty claim is if meet the requirements for their material.
—ScottFL

Response 3
I got guidelines from the Marble Institute, which are outlined. No more than 36" between supports and a maximum of 8" overhang for 3cm stone (24" and 6" overhangs for 2cm) on a 24" base cabinet.
—susan27

Travertine Edges

Question
I got a call from a client whose bathroom I had designed and specified materials for. The client has her own contractor. Basically, the contractor’s tile installer is installing travertine on the walls and expressed concern to the client about the cut edges showing. After a little research, I discovered that the edges should be polished with a special bit to give them a more finished look. I guess my own installers must know to do this automatically as we’ve installed plenty of travertine with no issue.

Is it unusual for a tile installer to be unaware of this or is this something I should have called out?
—susan27

Response 1
The installer should know this, however it could be difficult and time consuming to do this on site. They should at least file the edge. Is it possible to run a pencil edge around?
—MCR

Response 2
He could run a pencil edge if we had the material to do this, but we don’t, plus those pencils are very expensive and I really feel uncomfortable going back to ask the client for more money at this point of the process.
—susan27

Response 3
That is a good point because they actually are quite expensive. Could you trim it out with a wood trim that matches cabinetry?
—MCR

Response 4
No, unfortunately because it’s for a wet area. I think we’re going to try to hit it with a tile enhancer to see if this will even out the color. If not, I can always buy the polishing bit if it is needed.
—susan27

Response 5
I would also suggest that you try clear nail polish on the edge. We do that on granite and Silestone edges and it works well.
—powbath

Response 6
Yes, that is a great idea! The tile installer used varnish, which is kind of the same idea, and it looks absolutely terrific. My only concern is that I hope varnish holds up over time for the client.
—susan27

Island Panels

Question
I have a project that features a small island with end panel, dishwasher, sink base and standard base.

Along with that, I have a 1-1/2" end panel with toe kick to go on the side of the dishwasher (which is already at the job site).
My installer (who is opinionated about the entire design) suggested that I order a panel that extends to the floor, and have no toe kick incorporated. I can see his point. Basically, what is the point behind having a 1-1/2" toe kick?

However, the other side of the island does not extend to the floor, so I feel it should be the same on both ends of the island. I would really appreciate to hear some of you thoughts.
—BTWKitchens01

Response 1
I have done this before and I have to say I agree with your installer. The 1-1/2" panel looks much “beefier” if it goes to the floor and – I would think – would offer much better support for that end of the countertop.

That is not to mention how is he supposed to support this size panel in place if it’s so short?

I suppose he could attach it off the back, but he can’t attach it to the side of the dishwasher. He can try to build some kind of deck on the floor, but how does he do that without it showing?

When I did it, I had the other end of the island match it with a similar panel to the floor, which you could add after the fact. But, you don’t mention if the extra width on the cabinet end would affect anything else on the backside of the island or just space in general.

Assuming neither of these things matter, I would add it in. Even if you got the toe kick recessed on the side, he could fudge that out and run toe kick material over it to hide it.
—chrisc&d

Response 2
In my opinion, a panel without toe kick will make it easier for installation and look better. I think it will still look fine if that panel has a toe kick, however.

In this case I will have the cabinet on the other side flush toe kick. But price might also be an issue for the client as well, so that is certainly a consideration.
—tzhen

Response 3
I appreciate both of your responses. I just simply did not think of it when I ordered the cabinetry. I have been designing for two years and surprisingly, this is my first end of run dishwasher.

I am going to talk to the client and ask if she would like me to order additional flush toe panels for both ends of the island or leave the 1-1/2" toe kick.
—BTWKitchens02

Response 4
If you decide to use the full-height end panel, how will the now visible “inside” be finished? Most of the manufacturers that I work with make the end panel like the side of the cabinet, with the exterior color on one side and the standard “natural maple” or white interior color on the other.

In my opinion, the space should be boxed out so the exposed area looks like the finished end. The problem I have found is that many installers don’t bother to cover the recessed area with toe kick cover material, much less build out the area.
I really love opinionated installers. I generally tell them if they don’t like the design that has been agonized over by the person writing the check, then they should put down their screw gun and pick up a cell phone and laptop and have at it.
—gastonmike

Response 5
It’s so interesting to see how installers can come along and try to change things after the kitchen is ordered. Sometimes, I may agree with them and actually go ahead with their plan.

Usually, I can convince them of why I ordered a product the way I did and why it will work. But, I think speaking with your customer is the best option regardless, much like you have mentioned.

If the client agrees with your design, then the installer should install it that way. If not, then it’s a pretty minor change in the grand scheme of things.

In the future, I would go over any plans ahead of time with this installer.
—KarH

Job site Conditions

Question
One of my pet peeves when inspecting my kitchen jobs is the messy condition some jobs are in. I am curious, do your installers leave the interiors of the cabinets full of construction dust?

Is it standard practice for cabinet installers to leave the shelves out and for someone else to install?

I guess what I want to know is how much work should be left for the end?
—KB Design1

Response 1
My normal installers make it a policy to vacuum the cabinets before they leave. They also sweep and tidy up every night before they go home. The customers always comment on it. But, it’s probably one of the reasons why they are “so expensive.”

I’ve generally found that new construction carpenters and those that come from that end of the business are used to having cleaning crews coming in at the end of the job. I don’t think it occurs to them that the cabinets aren’t self-cleaning!

It’s sometimes hard to explain to customers the difference in price between two quotes. But stuff like this enters into it, definitely.
—Khat

Response 2
Vacuuming out the cabinets and installing the shelves are automatics on my installations.

Another installer I sometimes work with doesn’t install the shelves. He stacks them in the cabinets and leaves the shelf rests on top of them. His reasoning is that the homeowners are going to have to adjust them to suit their needs anyway so why install them.

As far as daily clean up, it depends on the situation. If the homeowners are living in the house, I sweep and collect the debris and vacuum the room every day.

On new construction projects or if the house is not being lived in, I sweep up every day into a pile in an adjacent open area so it can be easily removed by the clean up crew. I do vacuum the room on my last day.

Could it be a case of, you get what you pay for?
—dcdci

Response 3
When we work in a home, we vacuum the cabinets as well as the floors and clean any countertops with a disinfectant. However, we’re almost always remodeling kitchens, and most times the kitchen can still be used. In my opinion, it is easier to work in a clean environment, and I think customers expect and deserve that type of service.
—MCR

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