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Remodeling and Home Design

Designing Bathrooms

Feb 2, 2012 | Bathroom Remodels

I had a client ask the other day, “how did you look at this (bathroom) and come with the end results?” She suggested to me to write about it, and so hence here is a blog post on some thoughts on how to start with a design.

The beginning is the most fun- the phase of brain storming and dreaming. I ask my clients to gather images of what they like. Tear pages from magazines, snap some photos, or use Pinterest. Pinterest is a web site that allows you to capture web images and organize them into folders. It’s an easy, quick, and free tool that I highly recommend. I linked our site here so you can take a look.


So let’s start by looking at this bathroom’s before shots.

Bathroom before

It was a pretty bad space, not well taken care of (cabinet doors loose, corners chipped, dirty). It was the kind of space I love to redo as I have no guilt and no question that this bathroom needs a remodel.

The things I look at are the space, how large is the room, how is the lighting (windows and lights), are the fixtures (toilet, sink, shower) in good locations? Remodeling is already expensive, so when you can leave fixtures in the original locations that will help cut down on costs. This is especially true with toilets, as moving the stacks are usually challenging and expensive.

Bathroom before- vanity view

The size of this bathroom was large (10’4? x 7’7?). Therefore I didn’t need to look at re-framing walls to change the size. Often we take a section of an adjoining closet, hallway or room next to the bathroom to grow it a bit and make the feeling more comfortable. I also liked the locations of the fixtures, there was no interference with doors hitting knees while on the toilet, and enough room that someone could be by the toilet and someone else at the sink at the same time. You need to think about details like that and lifestyle (the way couples, families or individuals use bathrooms, you learn a lot).

Master Bath Floor Plan

We use Sketch Up Pro as a computer tool for designing the bathroom and looking at dimensions. You can see how we added the tub/shower area in the floor plan. We played with the drawing to decide how large of a tub to put in that would be comfortable to use as well as the right scale for the space.

Remodeled bathroom

We wanted an open feeling, that was natural and relaxing as well as durable and low maintenance. We choose porcelain tile which we love as there is no sealing and on going care needed. We sourced salvaged fir to bring in character and history to the room. The old bathroom had no windows. We added a satin etched (for privacy) window to get some natural light in the room. We also put in shower rated 4? cans over the tub and shower, as well as a vanity light for multiple light sources.

Floating shelves

The detail for the floating shelves was thought out during the framing. We used 5/8? ribbed dowels and cast them into the studs before sheet rock. Then after sheet rock and paint we matched the dowel ends to the wood and drilled into the wood. It’s not an easy detail as you need to be precise, but I love the end result of no visual supports.

Wall tile

In picking out tile it’s important to think about color, size, and texture. These tiles have a relief pattern on an otherwise simple white matte tile. It brought a lot of interest into the back wall, especially when the light and water hit them.


Doors: the moment of transition

Jan 2, 2012 | Remodeling

We hope that with each door you enter in 2012, whether its on vacation in a new land or to the front door of your house you enter everyday; that each threshold brings health, passion and peace.  Here is to a year of following your bliss!

As the New Year graces us, it makes me think about the various transitions of the past year.  In building, the object that represents transition, is the door.  Its quite literally the biggest symbol representing a changing of spaces.

The kind of door you use acts as a teaser for what you will see in the room you are about to enter.  I love creating the opportunity to make someone stop and assess how they are interacting with something as ordinary as a door.  Playing with the way it opens, the size, the handle, the color, the texture all of these things make each step to the future that much more original.


The perfect situation for a kitchen nook…..

Dec 21, 2011 | Kitchen Renovation

The question was, “How do we fit more than 4 people in our dining area?”  It was a fitting question seeing that these lovely clients live in a tiny cozy house of 800/sf.  They love to entertain and often made a make shift dining area in their living room when they were hosting more than 4 people for dinner.  But, that got old and Thanksgiving brought along the goal of seating a large group around 1 table.  Normally, I would leave the architectural detail they had separating a small dining area from the kitchen as seen here.

But in the case of the small house with the desire of seating 7-8 people we decided the wing walls needed to come down and a built-in dining table and benches were the solution.

We took the walls out, down to the studs, so that we could wire for the 2 pendant lights, frame the skylight in cleaner, and insulate the walls.

We got all of the salvaged fir from Salvage Works in N. Portland. (http://www.salvageworkspdx.com)  This gave the table and benches a history and character that you can’t find in new wood, plus it meets our goal of using environmental materials when possible.


Video of NE Portland remodel- eco modern design

Sep 28, 2011 | Remodeling

While putting together this video I had a flash back,  to my days in art school.  The day of the design review, when every one’s projects went up on the wall and the students in the class viewed each others work and gave feed back and critiques.

I realized that houses have become my art piece.  It’s my venue of creation on a much larger scale, and with different mediums, but the entire time I treat each stage as I would my art.

Viewing this video with the before footage, gives me a sense of pride and accomplishment.  When we first walked into this house it truly was in dire need of renovation.  Now that the work is complete I invite you to view our art piece……



Finished Remodel

Aug 19, 2011 | Remodeling

As summer comes to a close, so does our big project. We’re loving how everything turned out. The exterior of the house used to be pink vinyl. The fantastic Chad Wykhuis painted and finished the wood we found under the vinyl. We widened this front door to a gracious 42″ opening and put cedar in to warm it up.

There’s been huge transformation all over the place:

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Color color color & sparkle!

Jul 19, 2011 | Remodeling

Color is one of the best ways to change a space and wow did it help ours!  Selecting color can be a bit tricky- one of the best tips is to choose colors that all have the same value.  The reason I like YOLO Colorhouse so much is that all of the colors flow with each other so you can rest assured the end result will look good.   www.yolocolorhouse.com

The garage door paint- shows a little fun bling with the orange touches.

The garage door paint- shows a little fun bling with the orange touches.

We used YOLO leaf .01, stone .06, and water .07 to create an interesting palette in the hallway.

We used YOLO leaf .01, stone .06, and water .07 to create an interesting palette in the hallway.

The other fun element is the use of lights to cast reflections and images on the surrounding walls.  Both of these fixtures in particular do a fantastic job at adding dazzling effects to the walls.


Any fixture that can create this amazing display of light gets me every time. This fixture is from ET2 one of my favorite lighting companies

Any fixture that can create this amazing display of light gets me every time. This fixture is from ET2 one of my favorite lighting companies

Thousands of flower images on the wall pull you downstairs to the basement. YOLO water .07 creates a perfect backdrop color for fun!

Thousands of flower images on the wall pull you downstairs to the basement. YOLO water .07 creates a perfect backdrop color for fun!


Basements are normally places people don’t want to visit.  But in this house is added almost 1,000/sf of usable space so making the entrance inviting was key.  Hanging the fixture and using a cheerful color lure you into the new space.  We also used the same quality finishes in the basement so you don’t feel like you are going to, what is commonly, a lesser used area.



May 27, 2011 | Bathroom Remodels

I love bathrooms.  Probably because it’s an area where you can put so much “bling” into a space.  There is a lot going on from the toilet to the tile there are tons of details to think of and therefore tons of areas to add some creativity.

For tiles we use a lot of porcelain.  It’s through body so if you happen to chip it down the road its a bit harder to see, you never have to seal it making maintenance easy, and the designs coming out of Italy are gorgeous.  We shop a lot at Surface in SE Portland.  Kara, is a wizard.  Here is a link to the site: http://surface-home.com/

Grout has come a long way.  We specify epoxy based grout for the shower floors.  If you can’t tell I don’t like to think of doing on going maintenance.  This epoxy based grout doesn’t have to be resealed we use it on the shower floor which takes the majority of the wear and tear.

Texture is the other element that I am into.  We took a trip to Las Vegas recently where texture shines.  I love how texture can bring in a totally different element adding depth and imagination into a surface.

bathroom tile layout

This bathroom has porcelian wall and floor tile and glass tile in the shower area.

Here are some photos of the bathrooms as of today.  Keep in mind the tile hasn’t been completely grouted or caulked, those finishing touches will make things look perfect.  Next step is using reclaimed fir to build custom bathroom cabinets!

I love the subtle texture on the wall tile- this tile lines one of the walls and it looks like rain is dripping down the wall!


Apr 12, 2011 | Remodeling

The beginning of any project is by far the funnest and most back breaking part- demolition!   Demolition- must be yelled at the top of your lungs with classic rock playing at full volume in the back round.

Beyond having fun with hammers, and taking out all aggression you ever had on any wall, there are a few practical things I can share.

Mainly, its what to do with the items once they are demoed.  The wonderful thing about Portland is that there are so many places to donate things and so many people who will gladly remove things.  For instance- take out the cabinets in the kitchen and the bathroom whole.  Ie don’t go to town on them with the hammer, but break them apart spending a bit more time with the screws, and you can donate the set to The Rebuilding Center or list them on Craig’s list.  Often we take the drawer pulls and hinges off to use them on other projects.

Anything metal put outside your house in a separate area and the scrappers will come by.  We have metal collectors coming by 3 to 4 times a day.  From galvanized pipes to old stoves, and especially cast iron tubs, they will gladly haul away.

Wood- if you remove the nails and screws many people will take it.  We reuse the studs we remove to frame in the new areas.  If you don’t need them then separate that as well and put it on the street with a free sign.  Most often it gets picked up in a day.  If for some reason it doesn’t the Rebuilding Center or Salvage Works will take de-nailed wood

Wear a hepa approved face mask as many of the materials have something nasty in them- lead paint (in most houses built before 1978), asbestos (taped around ducts, in glues/adhesives holding down floors, in popcorn ceilings).  If you want to know for sure if you are surrounded by nastiness,  there is a lab in town that can test those questionable materials.  Call Lab Cor Portland and they can tell you how to bring in the samples, and usually in 4 hours, give you the results.

Lastly, our incredible regional government, Metro, has a recycling information hot line that has friendly staff with fast, helpful answers for your recycling, disposal and waste prevention questions. Call 503-234-3000 between 8:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

Resource List for Demo:

The Rebuilding Center: (accepts the region’s largest volume of used building and remodeling materials)

3625 N. Mississippi Ave.
Mon – Sat 9 – 6, Sun 10 – 5


Salvage Works:  (repair or restore your vintage house parts)

2030 N. Willis St. • Portland, Oregon 97217
Tuesday through Saturday, 9 to 5 • 503-285-2555


Lab Cor Portland:

4321 SW Corbett Ave, Ste A Portland, 97239



Metro Hotline:

503-234-3000 between 8:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday



People make the house a home

Apr 6, 2011 | Remodeling

As cheesy as it sounds its true, you need people to make a house a home.  The people add the warmth, spirit, and energy…..

Last night we had a “before” party at the house.  We invited our friends, colleagues and mentors over so they could see the house before we gutted it.  They were able to write a dream on the walls which we will lock in with paint, put items in a time capsule that we will hide in the wall framing, and help in the design process.

Having our friends there for the kick off put me in a perfect state of mind to tackle this project.  Thanks to you all for coming out and supporting us and blessing the new house!

The kids writing their dreams on the wall!


Permits are granted!

Mar 23, 2011 | Remodeling


It is so thrilling to go down to the city and have them stamp off plans.  For one, its always wonderful to know that what we are proposing to do actually works.  Klaas and I shared many hilarious moments where I would wave my hand at a wall and say, “lets just take this down”.  No worries about structural feasibility, it simply needed to go.  Now, go it will, opening up the house from box land into a freer flowing space.

I suppose that is one point I would really emphasize- adding or subtracting walls will dramatically change the look and flow of a house and really (assuming there isn’t major structural work) it isn’t too expensive.  Our guru, Diana Moosman, with MOSI architects says to always look at the big picture at first and really play with the current placement and see what isn’t working.  Don’t be afraid to think about moving stairs & walls at this planning juncture.  I will admit to thinking no way are we moving a staircase (and we aren’t).  But that’s really because it doesn’t buy us anything in space- the idea of looking into the whole house and what would work best is smart.

So permits in hand, we will begin the work the week of April 4th 2011.

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