Archive for November, 2011

Countertops for Kitchens and Bathrooms

Monday, November 28th, 2011

Any real estate sales person will tell you that it is kitchens and bathrooms that sell a house, so this was no time to be cutting back on budget – however, I still believe that one can get a high quality product for a good price with a little time invested. There is a vast range of products available and it comes down to getting value, rather than cost reduction. Since the countertops are the ‘work zone’ in both bathrooms and kitchens I decided to start validating my design theme by looking at options in this area – as i felt there would be more constraints here than in cabinetry and hardware.

To get a sleek, contemporary look in either white or brushed aluminum look I sought out:

  • Laminates
  • Acrylic
  • Engineered stone
  • Granite

Laminates

The high gloss laminates look much better today than a few years ago as they now have complimentary backing colors and finer edge joins so that one gets a near seamless look – not too different from the edge of stone.
The drawbacks were that over a large surface, gloss laminates still appear to have ‘bubbling’ in the surface and according to many sources scratch a lot easier than the manufacturers claim. Even though my look was to have a ‘brushed’ look to it anyway, the bubbling was a problem on all the horizontal surfaces I saw. To date I have not seen this problem with the vertical laminates – I don’t know why this is so as I imagine the process is similar, but they seem to be less apparent.

Acrylic

I was not keen to return to acrylic worktops – I have previously had Corian benchtops and they were not successful.
The final choice was down to engineered stone and granite. To get a ‘speckled-free’ look is quite difficult but not impossible. There is a big range in quality in these products so it pays to check them out carefully and ascertain the differences.

Engineered Stone

The sample I found I preferred was from Quantum Quartz – it contains 93% natural quartz, with bonding agent, pigment and additives making up the other 7%. The color range is extensive [50 colors].

  • Non-porous
  • High resistance to scratching & chipping
  • High abrasion resistance
  • High resistance to acids & oils
  • Strong resistance to staining
  • High flexural strength
  • Heat resistant

Design considerations:

  • 10 year limited warranty
  • Fabricate your design to suit sheets of 1400 x 3000mm x 20mm thick

Standard range
For a small flake – Luna white or new Diamond white
For a large flake – polar

Deluxe range
Alpine white
Dawn [grey] – for bathroom vanities

The Designer and Boutique ranges have large flakes and steel which are outside the design scope of this project.

Check out the product Gallery for Quantum Quartz

Selecting a Design Theme

Friday, November 18th, 2011

Selecting a design theme is the NUMBER ONE task that must be agreed before any other design decision are made.
In this instance i wanted to reflect the harbour-side environment, the expensive, quality homes in the area and add a twist of modern Italian sophistication [read expensive looking]. The house had to integrate high energy efficiency, low maintenance and low cost of ownership.

As the house structural design is very contemporary, stepping down the side of a hill, the interior needs to reflect this to provide an harmonious bridge between inside and out. Accepting that I have loved some very modern interiors within the walls of solid traditional structures, this is not one of those structures, and the ‘opposites attract’ does not apply.

My main aim was to differentiate this house from the very nice, but very bland offerings currently in the new home market for this suburb. To take it up a pinch, to give it more edge, without increasing the cost beyond the target price bracket. With some design sense, we can all achieve anything we want with unlimited budget, but the budget limit on this house is 100% unmovable, so I needed to tread carefully.

The final look:

Exterior cladding – white Palliside weatherboards with soft grey joinery – a light and lofty look, with a large honed polished block walls at the entrance anchoring the house with some weight.

Decks – are composite wood; giving a no screws or nails clean sleek look with very even color and texture. Take care in selecting the right product here to ensure you are not skirting your house with highly toxic materials. Some are excellent – some are supposedly recycled cellphones.

Roofing – Long run iron suited to the minimal pitch roof.

Scheduling

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2011

Scheduling a building program is a daunting enough task for the builder – but most overlook the scheduling required by the homeowner. This is especially so when the house being built or rebuilt is the one the homeowner is living in at present.

  • Concept plans
  • Estimated pricing
  • Surveyor levels
  • Detailed drawings – pre-engineering
  • Engineering design
  • Detailed drawings – post engineering
  • Specification
  • Final Pricing
  • Building Contract
  • Find temporary accomodation
  • Building permit submission
  • Move out
  • Storage
  • Disconnect services
  • Forward phone communications
  • Demolition
  • Site works
  • Building

Alongside these all of these tasks, the home owner has to research all the building materials, finishings, appliances, lighting, heating and ventilation systems, landscape design, hardware, kitchen and bathroom design and materials, flooring, cabinetry….this list goes on and on.

Each one of these items must be confirmed before the detailed drawings are complete if you want to avoid making changes during the build phase. For example, different types of flooring require different substrata thus requiring a change in design, specification, timing and price. Many building companies charge an administration fee for every change.

I have just started this phase and have allowed 2 months to complete my detailed specification. This will then be forwarded to the design team to be used as a guide to the detailed design.

Building a house is a draining experience and can be very demanding on relationships and existing work committments. If you can take time out to work through these decisions on a full time basis, this is recommended.