Appliances: Which Package Is Right for You?

Appliances: Which Package Is Right for You?Choosing an appliance package is always a complex decision for a homeowner. Interestingly, a single appliance purchase can often provide the “tipping point” for an entire kitchen renovation. In fact, we routinely get calls from people who have put off redoing their kitchen for 20+ years, but suddenly their stove, refrigerator, or dishwasher breaks, and they jump into addressing the overall problem of the poorly designed or worn out space they have put up with for decades.

When we help clients make appliance selections, we first help them determine their overall kitchen renovation budget — this tells us what price point they should be at for both appliances and cabinets. And while the available selections run the gamut from the most basic to the very posh, here are some important things to keep in mind when making your selections.

Entry-level packages: There are many affordable, attractive, and serviceable stainless steel appliance packages from KitchenAid, GE, Frigidaire, and other manufacturers that include the four main elements that most homeowners need: a microwave/hood, refrigerator, dishwasher, and range. If you prefer a hood separate from the microwave, keep in mind that will add to the cost of the package, as will the extra wiring and ducting it requires. The biggest drawback at this price point is that the appliances sometimes have fewer bells and whistles and flimsier construction, such as feet that are prone to bending and breaking, and they can sometimes be harder to level and install.

Mid-range packages: This price point is appropriate for homeowners who are more serious about cooking and appreciate the finer elements of a well-appointed kitchen. Manufacturers targeting this range include Bosch, Viking, and JennAir — but before you invest in a mid-range package, it’s important to determine whether the items are in fact made and branded by the same company. When it comes to resale, future prospective homebuyers will appreciate that you have invested well in your kitchen.

High-end packages: You are likely looking at Sub-Zero, Wolf, Miele, Thermador, Gaggenau, or La Cornue appliances at this level. High-end appliance packages include highly sought after items like state-of-the-art, oversized, professional-grade refrigerators and dual-fuel ranges, double ovens, dual-drawer dishwashers, and other high-tech gadgets like warming trays and steamers. The upside of these appliances is they last many decades, provide exceptional performance, and have superior and impressive brand name recognition if and when you sell your house. The downside? Higher end appliances are super heavy and unwieldy to deliver and install. At one recent project, the fridge was so large it did not fit through the front door and had to come through a window. This was no small feat! Higher performance ranges will require the use of commercial-grade gas lines. And locating the electrical, water, and gas lines properly during planning and rough-in phases is crucial to the appliances fitting in their spaces later.

No matter what level appliance package you choose, it is important to understand that this purchase presents substantial logistical challenges. Aside from careful kitchen planning and design, someone has to deliver the items in perfect condition, install them, and ensure that the proper wiring and plumbing and ducting is all in the right place so everything fits and works as it should. What’s more, all of this must be done without damaging the project house or the surrounding cabinets and floors. For these reasons and more, we tend to use factory-certified installers on high-end packages. While it costs a bit more, these subs know the units, they get their work done efficiently, and the homeowners receive a better warranty in the process.

As with so many things in life, when it comes to appliances, you truly get what you pay for.

Planning the Ideal Kitchen Renovation

Planning the Ideal Kitchen RenovationThe kitchen. Everyone has their personal take on what this space means to them. For some, it serves mainly as a source of food and comfort, a gathering space for family and friends, or a central place to begin and end each day. For others, kitchens are show places, aspirational spaces, power rooms! Whatever the case may be, it’s not an exaggeration to say that the kitchen is easily the most important room in any house — and it’s our job to help our clients achieve their goals for this vital room in their homes.

We appreciate kitchens that are efficient, well planned, and designed with consideration to serve specific purposes. We have cooked in very small boat galleys, on camp stoves, in fireplaces, on wood stoves, and in lots of commercial and residential kitchens of many vintages and price levels; and we find that all of them can be great kitchen work spaces as long as they reflect the needs of the person using them. For that reason, when approaching a new kitchen renovation, we spend considerable time learning about how the homeowners like to use the space to cook, work, and live. For example, if a client bakes a lot, we plan for a great convection or wood-fired oven. If they hunt or fish and prepare game, we incorporate the special equipment and space needed for that. And if they need a lot of refrigerator, freezer, or dishwasher space, or two fridges to keep kosher, we work that in, too. We can even customize a kitchen for very short people, very tall people, or people who require wheelchair or walker accessibility.

No matter what your specific needs are, here are some of the most important considerations when planning the ideal kitchen renovation:

Cabinetry — We have a true appreciation for cabinetry that is designed specifically for the purposes it is needed to serve. For that reason, we tend to steer clients toward styles and long-lasting cabinet solutions that fit their style, optimize the flow of the room, and provide enough storage in the right places for all of the tools in the homeowner’s cooking and serving collection. We also focus on issues related to long-term maintenance and upkeep. For example, for clients who do a lot of sautéing or frying, we strategically configure cabinets in relation to the cook top area to minimize the buildup of grease and simplify cleaning over time.

Countertops — While standard counters are 36”, they can be customized to be hip height for the homeowner or main cook in the house — ideal for getting the best action from a knife or a rolling pin while you cook. If you bake, you may also want a lower and deeper stainless or marble counter so you can use your back and shoulders to roll out your dough. These non-standard heights and depths can be achieved with custom cabinetry and sometimes even with expertly planned stock units.

BacksplashPantry — We don’t know how people function without one! You can fill them with specialty items you use for seasonal baking, dry goods you found on sale, baking chocolates, liquors, herbs, spices, even oversized countertop appliances. We can create anything from a dedicated cabinet pantry to a large walk-in butler’s pantry.

Lighting — Careful consideration of ample lighting is essential. You’ll want to include general, task, and feature or decorative lighting that is sized to the space being lit, and geared towards the needs and age of the user. Keep in mind that most lighting types can multi-task for different uses. For example, under-cabinet fixtures on a dimmer provide nice mood lighting on a winter or dreary day, a soft night light for the evening, or task lighting while working. In fact, installing dimmers on all kitchen lights is a great way to get more uses and subtlety from your fixtures.

Ventilation — We find that the best hoods for proper ventilation are slightly bigger than your cook top with dishwasher-safe filters and an external motor that keeps noise in the kitchen to a minimum.

Windows — So important, not only for natural light — which makes any room nicer — but also for creating a connection with nature while you work in the kitchen. You can check on your children, the weather, or the neighbors, and then get back to the business at hand. A well-designed kitchen will include either existing or new windows in its overall design and plan.

Planning a new kitchen in 2017? Visit our Houzz page for inspiration, and then reach out to us for help!

Best,

Operation Organization — Everything in Its Place

Fall is the perfect season to think about nesting, de-cluttering, and organizing your home to make sure all of the odds and ends you accumulate throughout the year have a proper home. To that end, we’re offering a roundup of some the special customized cabinetry insert options that are available in the Myers Made™ cabinetry line to help you. See the slideshow below for some of our most popular solutions, along with details about how they can assist with your needs.

How can you choose which options are right for you? You’ll need to clearly define your goals and wishes in order to create a beautiful and well-organized space that matches your home and taste. Of course, we can work with you to cover all of the basics you’ll need — whether it’s a kitchen, bath, library, or entertainment/media room — and add value with these and many other internal solutions that help make everyday living a bit easier and happier.

Narrow but tall spice storage drawer: easy access for cooking, and out of the way when you are not.
Simple flatwear drawer with attractive maple dividers — eliminates the need for cheap, plastic flatwear organizers.
Wooden peg storage drawer with dishes.
Wooden peg storage drawer with dishes.
Just one of many recycling and garbage pull-out combinations available.
Wooden peg storage drawer with dishes.
This 2-tiered cutlery drawer organizes everyday and special-occasion flatwear and takes up no more space than a typical flatwear drawer.
A deep drawer with moveable pegs that can be configured as desired to accommodate many pots, dishes, and serving bowls without the risk of edges banging together or heavy dishes being dropped from an upper cabinet.
Drawer base cabinet with standard top drawer. The middle drawer is divided into general use on the right and storage for utensils on the left in cans, which come out for easy dishwashing and keep the countertop free from clutter.

Center City Trinity: Small Space Expert Design Solutions

pied-a-terre_small spacesWith the advent of the tiny house and sustainability movements, and the popularity of books like Marie Kondo’s “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing” and Sarah Susanka’s Not So Big series, many folks are looking to reduce their footprint and renovate smaller spaces. Here in Philadelphia, we have lots of modestly sized older homes and among them is no greater example than the original “trinity” — a small townhouse built in the 1700s or early 1800s with one room on each of three floors, typically configured with a first-floor kitchen/family room, a second-floor bedroom/bath, and a small third-floor living space. Sometimes referred to as a “Father, Son, and Holy Ghost house,” these modest but charming homes usually feature a fireplace with a pocket staircase tucked behind the chimney and overall square footage of well under 1,000 sq ft. Many of the city’s original trinities, especially those found in neighborhoods like Washington Square and Society Hill, have been modernized, expanded and sometimes combined into larger dwellings that accommodate families with larger kitchens, bathrooms, and additional bedrooms on upper levels. However, you can still find many authentic trinities in the city, commonly as rental properties in areas like Fishtown, Chinatown, and Northern Liberties.

We have been working with our clients on a genuine trinity in the historic Pine Street section of town, on what used to be Antiques Row. For our trinity, we have been asked to develop creative and efficient small-space solutions to make it comfortable by modern standards without expanding its footprint, because it’s bound on three sides by other houses. This takes strong design skills, discipline, and experience. While many features have to be specified to perform double- and triple-duty functions, any built-ins and furnishings must be scaled appropriately for the proportions of the home. But one needs to be careful to not treat the house as a miniature, as the finished space needs to serve real-sized humans! Each system needs to be specified to bring efficiency while only occupying a small piece of the overall footprint, and understanding how to use some of the options that were popularized by the sustainability movement, such as on-demand hot water heaters, has served us well. Looking for multi-function solutions can bring great value and sometimes, contrary to what some might think, we sometimes specify larger fixtures that offer multiple functions, which can net a higher functioning space.

In the end, the best design is always design that you don’t notice, but this is especially true when working with very small spaces.

With demolition starting this week, we’ll keep you in the loop on updates to this project!

tam.sig small spaces

Adaptive Reuse: A Space Fit for a Diva

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Part II in a Series on Adaptive Reuse, the basis of an upcoming presentation by Tamara Myers at the 2016 Las Vegas NKBA Kitchen and Bath Industry Show and NAHB International Builders’ Show.

In moving towards a more sustainable future, we already have a head start with claiming some adaptive reuse successes. Already integrated into our everyday thinking about what type of building can be turned into a home: the loft and the barn. Indeed, some of these transformations are so woven into our current vocabulary of building stock that ironically you will see elements of the form affecting new home design, including “barn-like” great rooms with exposed trusses, and new “loft” apartments with large windows and polished concrete floors.

Like all buildings that were originally built for another purpose, barns and lofts often come with some missing elements that need to be remedied for a successful transformation. Of course, each space is different, but it’s fairly typical to see limited sources of light and air. Understandably, buildings that were built to contain animals or farm equipment, or serve as a warehouse or manufacturing facility typically focused more on being a protective shell with limited openings to the outdoors. Letting light and air into an old building typically requires some creative infrastructure reorganization, enlarging existing openings, adding interior wells and courtyards, and so on. Those critical evaluations make all the difference when determining whether a warehouse or barn can successfully become a comfortable home for the long-term.

I recently was thinking through some of the lofts that I’ve seen in films or have visited over the years — some primitive, some quite lovely and inviting. And I asked myself what made the inviting ones successful. I laugh when I remember the loft space I romanticized from Diva, a French film from the early 1980s. Set in Paris, it had a full cast of wonderful characters, including an opera singer who didn’t believe art could be captured in a recording, and a Vespa-riding mailman named Jules that was obsessed with her. There were bootleg recordings, good guys and bad guys, lots of suspense, and, of course, wonderful arias. What I remember as much as the people are the buildings, the deteriorating opera house, and especially the loft space where the artist lived. The loft was dark with minimal appointments, and the space was open enough that one of the characters regularly roller-skated around, circling the bathtub that sat in the middle of the space. Truth is, taking a bath in middle of a cold loft is not all that fun, having had the chance to give that concept a test run on more than one occasion. Like many young art students, I coveted a space like that, but I came to understand over time that if there isn’t an intervention into these spaces to bring the vital elements of intimacy, some privacy, and essential light and air, that the building will only provide shelter and not sustenance.

We want folks to thrive in their spaces; we want their buildings to thrive. Therefore, we aren’t afraid to take on some strong design work and make the critical changes that will carry those spaces into a sustainable future.

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THE MYERS CONSTRUCTS 2015 KITCHEN & BATH EVENT GIVEAWAY

Have you been considering a kitchen or bath remodel for what seems like forever? Collecting ideas on cabinetry, finishes, and appliances, yet doing nothing with them? There’s never been a better time to take action and achieve the spaces you’ve been yearning for, thanks to these great incentives….

Standalone_1175X1290For a limited time, when you sign on to work with the Myers Constructs design team to create your dream kitchen featuring a Myers Made cabinet package, we’ll supply a free 24″ Kitchen Aid dishwasher at the construction stage, courtesy of Gerhard’s Appliances. We can help plan the perfect new kitchen for you and your home whether you currently have a small space, an open loft plan, or a large traditional kitchen.

Or:

1508251328_KMBTSH_Sign on to work with our team to create the bathroom you’ve always wanted, and we’ll supply a free Kohler Moxie bluetooth shower head at the construction stage! Our expert team will work with you to develop the right plan to meet your family’s needs, while curating the right mix of great technology options to match a wide range of styles. The Moxie bluetooth shower head is a great addition for those who don’t want to miss the latest NPR story — or their favorite tunes — even while showering!

Want to learn more about how we can help you plan, develop, and build your new kitchen or bath project? Reach out to our team today.

Shopping with the Myers Constructs Design Team

1504211017_CM_exterior_Work was recently finished on this Cape May shore cottage for a developer with which we worked, that had purchased it in foreclosure on spec and was preparing it for resale. We had some input into the design choices made. Many layers of carpets, vinyl flooring, and cheap cover ups were torn out, to reveal a really charming 1910s four-square Sears and Roebuck Arts & Crafts style kit house. The goal was to maintain and enhance the charm and comfortable character of the home. We thought you might enjoy a little “peek behind the curtain” to see the finishes and furnishings selected for this remodel.


1504211020_bar.area_Because the rooms are modestly sized in this quaint cottage, cluttering them with large furniture or ceiling fans was to be avoided. The developer also avoided the common Victorian heavy rose-colored or floral layering décor commonly found in Cape May beach homes. The finish concept was built around our Myers Made™ custom cabinetry.





1504211021_chairs_The developer then selected sleek early- and mid-century and Danish furniture that lends strong character, but maintains a light feeling in the rooms.






1504211022_light_ 1504211023_chand_Quality lighting and fixtures — mostly from Restoration Hardware — were selected to add a little glitter to each room. Nine- and 12-inch Turner® Flush Mount ceiling fixtures gave a nod to the nautical environment — without adding kitsch.






1504211025_kitch.fauc_ 1504211027_bath.fauc_Finally, the developer selected all of the water fixtures in polished chrome from the Kohler Artifacts® line, and added a deep Kohler Archer® tub.






See how all of these selections came together in the completed home, recently listed for sale. It’s quite lovely!

In Praise of Multi-Purpose Spaces

cafe.areaWe find that most of our clients lead busy lives, wearing many hats and juggling multiple tasks daily — and they need their homes to fit that lifestyle. For that reason, we like to think about spaces creatively to imagine how they can serve multiple purposes.

Case in point: When we remodeled our own kitchen, we created a little “cafe area” that sits off to the side. In this space, we eat lots of meals, relax with a glass of wine, and sometimes catch up on bills and correspondence. We find that it’s a nice place to pause during the day or relax together while cooking dinner at night. It could also easily work as a game area, arts and crafts space, or small office-on-the-go.

It’s hard to imagine, but this cafe area was once the original entryway to our house. It consisted of a 4’x16′ broken concrete pad along the front center of the home that led to a front door with a side light and a small entryway closet. Next to this were some tiny windows and a doorway to the kitchen. The front door didn’t function anymore because the slope of the broken pad caused the door to be pinched. Instead, everyone used what was the breezeway between the house and the garage to enter the home. We decided to make this the true entryway, finishing the breezeway off as a foyer/mudroom. We removed the old front wall, door, windows, hall closet, and kitchen walls to create an open plan kitchen and family room. In the process, we added about 50 square feet of floor space. That doesn’t sound like much, but it had a huge effect on the space of the kitchen and the entire first floor.

To keep the cafe area from feeling cramped, we were careful to select light-feeling furnishings, including two art deco chrome chairs we had recovered in white leather and a small, marble-topped Saarinen table. The side tables/benches are storage boxes I built many years ago with a simple combed painted finish, which do double-duty as additional seating. We finished the area simply with a painting I created in the 1990s, and clean-lined roller shades.

Diane Menke
Diane Menke, VP/Operations Manager