About Me

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I have 20+ years experience in Home Furnishings and Interior Design, specializing in Kitchen and Bath Design since '01. I work for Bilotta Kitchens in the A&D Building on East 58th Street in the Mid-town Manhattan. I have a passion for learning and love the opportunity to collaberate on projects of all sizes. My strengths in the field begin with my design background, use of color and texture to bring interest to a room, spatial relationships, organizational skills, innovation, decisiveness, and planning. I have had the thrilling experience of helping hundreds...?maybe thousands of people with their projects, and what I love is it never gets boring, and no two are ever the same. Thanks for reading.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Diary of a Bathroom Remodel "Go ahead and rip out both bathrooms, I'll shower at the Gym"

You know that famous interview question "what is your greatest distinctive attribute?" we have all heard it! As a kitchen designer, I had a great answer for that one--my age. Young enough to be seen as "hip" "in touch" "with it" and old enough to know better, not a rookie.

At The Kitchendeziner, we don't start a remodeling project until everything we need for it is inventoried in our warehouse. All stamped with Mr. or Mrs Happy Kitchen-Customer's name on it. Before we start the project we lay out a timeline with the clients that works for both parties. When I have more than just a kitchen remodel (kitchen+ 1 or more bathrooms), before we turn a screw in any room, we establish a sequence. My goal: balancing continuous job progress against access to facilities i.e.: shower, water closet etc. I never want a client running in the house after being stuck in rush hour traffic for 45 minutes and scrambling up the stairs to use a bathroom that doesn't exist anymore!

Last October, I started a kitchen and bath renovation I was really excited about. The job was a kitchen and two bathrooms in a two and half bath townhouse. That left Ms. Happy Kitchen-Customer with a half bathroom all to herself for the duration and my commitment that she would always have a shower. I thought about my options, knowing I had an excited and anxious homeowner on my hands. She had the desire to choose beautiful things and followed her heart. This was obviously a fun pleasureable undertaking, and I wanted to do everything to keep it that way. Keep in mind even kitchen remodleing customers who take six months to decide to move forward on a project have one question after they sign the paperwork, and that is: "How quickly can this all be done?"

The Plan for the Townhouse:

  • rip out the kitchen
  • rip out the hall bathroom
  • leave the master bathroom intact
  • get kitchen and hall bath past rough inspections and tile/install fixtures in hall bathroom
  • hall bathroom working/rip out master bathroom(trade one shower for another)

We were projecting a job completion date 10 weeks after initial demolition, on all phases. Everything was running ahead of schedule, I found I had Ms. Extra Happy Kitchen-Customer on my hands now.

With the holidays approaching, and work sending her out of town for a week, my client, who I am very fond of to this day, came and asked me to make a change. She said "Aston, while I am away will you rip out my master bathroom? I know, the schedule doesn't call for it, but I can 'shower at the gym'(words I won't forget) until the bathrooms are ready." I was reluctant, I warned against, and then I made like a neanderthal and caved.

I should have had my head examined! As a seasoned kitchen and bath designer, I know better than to take away all the bathrooms at once! but, I did it, fingers crossed.

And wouldn't you know, that the the very next thing that happened? Ms. Happy Kitchen-Customer's neighbor had a leak that flooded her unit, old buried un-neighborly disputes rose up again, the neighbor declined to allow the proper firestopping remediation that was now necessary, and my cherished client, came down with pneumonia. You can't make this up. I was in a tailspin.

Well, I have to say that without my plumber's tactful intervention (I didn't realize he was a part time "therapist"), the township inspector bending over backwards to schedule the inspections in a tight timeframe, and some Divine intervention, undoubtedly my client would have been bathing in her kitchen sink...which thankfully was as scheduled, back in action, her hall bath only two days from completion, on time, not too bad.

The key to keeping the situation under control was remember you don't get what you don't ask for, and you need to ask nice, people will go out of their way to help, if you are polite. Equally paramount: communication, with the town, the trades, and most importantly the homeowner. Don't let a day go without checking in, you may not always have answers, but a client in this situation is reliant on you, trip up and it can be a disaster, once you lose their trust it can very hard to recover. Let them know you have been to their house, you aren't just taking other people's word for it. Copy your homeowner on imporatant emails, don't make their project their part time job, just keep them in the loop.

And put your experience in your mental file for the future, the next time that the happiest customer you have ever met asks you to tread this close to the line remember from this little anecdote, no one with pneumonia wants "to shower at the gym".


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