Tamara Myers to Judge 2012 NARI Contractor of the Year CotY Awards

I am honored to have been asked to be a judge for the Contractor of the Year (CotY) 2012 Awards. These are national awards bestowed by NARI, the National Association of the Remodeling Industry, to projects that represent excellence in our industry.

This coming Monday, January 9th, I will join other NARI members to begin the 3-day job of reviewing the entries and casting our votes. Later this year, a formal ceremony — the academy awards of our industry — will take place at the Spring national meeting, which is being held this year in Dallas, Texas. I had the honor of attending the awards ceremony for 2011 in Jersey City, NJ, in April, and it was an impressive and fun evening.

As designers and remodelers, we love having the opportunity to support with our vote the projects of our peers that shine and show the melding of good design, creativity and craftsmanship. It is our idea of a good time. And it’s a win-win for the industry, for the homeowners, and for those of us who learn and grow by setting a high bar for what good, professional remodeling should be. The wonderful thing about these awards is that, by choosing from NARI members in good standing, they are already selecting from the best in the industry. NARI’s multi-faceted focus ensures its members follow best practices from their industry, maintain and follow a code of ethics, engage in continuing education, and give back to their remodeling peers and their communities.

A Few Thoughts on Brands and Quality

Over the weekend, I spent some time visiting with friends who had recently moved from Doylestown, Pa., into a newer home just north of Baltimore. Their new abode, which is about 10 years old, features a really deluxe kitchen with a giant copper-cladded hood over a huge island cooking station, among other niceties. There are also beautiful handpainted murals all over the house and a very nice entertainment room in the basement.

My friends love their new place. And they had some valuable feedback for me, as a remodeler.

The old kitchen appliances had all failed and been repaired several times. As a result, these homeowners have no confidence in the brand now. Their new Thermador appliances are bulletproof and work great. I have seen the quality of Thermador Appliances firsthand because we have remodeled many 30-40 year old or older kitchens that contain them — still in great condition. Because of the quality and longevity, I’m always sorry to toss these items when we renovate, so we put them on Craig’s List. You can get a Thermador dishwasher at the same price point as lower-quality models ($950-$1,200 and up for a top-of-the-line model). While that’s still fairly pricey, it’s well worth the investment.

Cheap microwaves wear out, and their sizes and proportions change with time. So don’t custom fit a cheap microwave in such a way that the cabinet can’t be easily reconfigured to accommodate a new microwave when it’s installed. FYI, a more expensive microwave, such as a Viking, will prescribe a trim kit to make your installation look great. Use it.

TVs and how we watch visual entertainment is changing fast. My friends’ new flat screen TV is sitting inside a cabinet that was custom built for a large projection TV. I showed them how the good quality cabinet’s components might be tweaked by a good carpenter to accommodate his more modern TV system.

Trash compactors invariably break and then become expensive garbage cans. I don’t know anyone whose trash compactor has not failed.

Top quality, hard-wearing materials — like stone for counters, tile for flooring, stainless steel for appliances — last a long time and look great with use. Lower quality “stuff” looks cheap and begins to wear out quickly.

Personal touches are appreciated by home buyers when you are ready to sell. In my friends’ kitchen, a lot of very nice custom copper detailing was used by the previous owner on the giant vent hood and elsewhere in the kitchen. The home’s lovely handpainted murals are treasured by my friends now. In fact, these personal tasteful selections sold my friends on the house. So if you want something custom, personal and smashing in your own kitchen, don’t hold back!

Don’t Need a Full Remodel? Consider a MiniMakeOver™

Most people call us for full-service kitchens, bathrooms, whole-house makeovers or additions. But what you may not realize is that we offer another option: the MiniMakeOver™. While these projects vary widely based on individual homeowner needs, they can include the following:

Swapping out dated sinks, countertops, fixtures, toilets and cabinet hardware with new, long-lasting items that won’t look dated in just a few years

Freshening up paint and wallpapers

Installing new, stylish lighting

Installing new flooring, appliances, and the new backsplash tile you always wanted

Refinishing/repainting cabinet doors, and reinstalling them with new handles and knobs

Typically, these projects are appropriate for newer homes (built in the 1980s or later) or in a room in an older home that was renovated to code during the past decade, but is now looking a bit dreary. (Note: It it wasn’t done to code, you have to get into pricey systems corrections.)

Symptoms of a home requiring a MiniMakeOver include dated fixtures and finishes. A dead giveaway is that forest-green-with-cranberry color combo from 1989. Yick!

The result? A nicely tuned kitchen (starting at $8,500*) or bathroom (starting at $5,500*).

*Prices vary by project and home. Please call for details.

Image: peapodsquadmom.

Futuro House

Mark Gisi of Tabula Creative tabulacreative.com/ sent me this video link about the Futuro House, after we saw one in person in Greenwhich NJ on one of our recent exploration trips. video

Needless to say that was a surprising sight in the middle of the flat farming country, 1600’s colonial houses and bay views of South Jersey! That’s Mark peeking inside the Futuro through the missing hatch.

We saw these other fiberglass pod like structures on the same lot at Hancock’s Marina. If anyone knows what these are called please let us know!

The Simple Side of Complex Design

Renowned graphic designer Paul Rand once said, “Design is so simple; that’s why it is so complicated.”

That quote was sent to me this morning by Mark Gisi, principal of Tabula Creative, who handles all of our marketing.

We, at Myers Constructs, agree with Rand’s statement. We believe that good design is clean, organic, seamless … and it is always a result of hard practice and discipline. A good designer not only has to “look,” but also to “see” what the proper solutions should be.

This reminds me of a thought-provoking article I read recently about Steve Jobs and how Buddhism influenced his products and business approach at Apple. Jobs was very serious about Buddhism. He would go to monasteries for weeks at a time to meditate, which would essentially “reboot” his brain, in order to keep it clear. The author connected how this practice of clearing and uncluttering the mind carried over to Jobs’ approach to running Apple and to the company’s product line itself: clear, simple, unfussy. From the start, Jobs aimed to make the functionality and interface of Apple machines disappear to their users. That, in a nutshell, is what we aim to do at Myers Constructs. We try to make the very complicated elements of good home renovation, design and construction invisible to our customers. We never want them to know or feel the complexities of our process. Instead, we want them to enjoy the experience we mean to deliver. We use great systems to develop and deliver tasteful, stylish projects that are never fussy, dated or complicated looking. We aim to make the process easy and fun, despite what goes on behind the walls or here in the office.

While we are not practicing Buddhists, we are very practiced “lookers” and “seers” of design. And that’s what makes our design solutions so “simple.”

Image: paul-rand.com

Programmable Thermostats = Cool Savings

People who work with our fake rolex company know we understand the value of great design. That’s why our marketing pro, Mark Gisi, shared this article with me today. He knew I would appreciate both the design and utility of the Nest Programmable Thermostat. The real clincher to the story was this: “… he discovered that 10 million thermostats are sold every year. Meanwhile, only 6% of programmable thermostats are actually programmed, even though a programmed thermostat can save 30-40% in heating and cooling costs. That’s was clearly a serious design problem.”

These savings are why we insist on programmable thermostats when we install new HVAC systems in the homes we renovate.

Everyone at our company knows I am the least technically proficient person on the team. I can’t program my TV remote, but I ALWAYS program my own home’s thermostats. Of course, a product this sleek and user-friendly would make my job much easier and more enjoyable!

Q&A: Vintage 101 (and a Giveaway!)

In follow up to last week’s newsletter, When Vintage Decor Meets Modern Renovation, we sat down with Natalie Rettinger, owner of Media, PA-based vintage furniture boutique Reconsidered Home, for a primer on antique furnishings and how to incorporate them into your home.

Q: How did you get started in selling vintage furnishings and antiques?

NR: I found my first chair in a thrift shop a few years ago. It was a tufted, armless chair with a dusty mustard yellow fabric. I bought the chair for $15, took it home, and immediately took it apart to see how it got its shape. I learned a lot from that chair and still have it, mostly to remind me to leave reupholstering to the professionals!

Q: What are the advantages of decorating a home with vintage finds?

NR: Vintage furniture, in combination with your existing pieces, allows you to be truly unique and actually helps you to find your style. No one else will have what you have. Of course, the other obvious reason to choose vintage is for its affordability. We have customers that often look to trade in their pieces in order to explore other shapes or styles.

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