Five Signs that It's Time to
Remodel Your Bath

Source: (Design & Create: Plan a Bathroom)

Holes in the floor, a rusty bathtub, a toilet that just won't cooperate-these are the types of big-ticket bathroom problems that require major repairs. But what about the smaller signs that it's time to upgrade your bathroom? They might not be quite what you expect.

1. The little things start to go wrong
All bathrooms are prone to everyday wear and tear, but some problems require more than a simple repair job. "When the tile grout begins to flake out of its joints, the whites in the bathroom turn yellow, or the ceiling is crumbling from moisture, it's time," says Toronto-based interior designer Tania Bortolotto. Depending on the cost of serious repairs, it may make sense to spend a little more and create a brand new bathroom.

2. You're stuck in a retro rut
While it's true that yesterday's trends often resurface, some are best left in the past. "Some people still have the avocado-and-gold color palette from the '70s," says Carol McCurdy of Galleria Bath and Kitchen Showplace in Pinellas Park, FL. "Creating a fresh look can be as simple as using a neutral color in your tub and lavatory, and accenting it with color on the wall and window treatments." If your bathroom sends you into a time warp, it's due for an update.

3. You're thinking of selling your home
Why would you remodel your bathroom if you're not planning to stay there forever? The answer is simple, says Seattle real estate broker Mike Kass: Making relatively small changes is a smart way to raise your home's value. "You can have a really upscale house, but it won't look good with cheap hardware," he says. "If the bathroom doesn't look high class, you should upgrade it. Or, if you have an older house and update an obsolete bathroom, that can add value."

4. Your family's needs shift
When your family situation changes, so does its needs. "People often remodel or add a second bathroom when they have children on the way," says Susan Templer, an interior designer in San Francisco. "They might want a bigger bathtub or need more storage for the kids' things."

But it's not just the little ones who inspire alterations to the bathroom. As older adults find their mobility changing, they may be more comfortable in rooms designed for their needs. "Older people might not want to step in and out of a tub," McCurdy says. "A lot of people replace bathtubs with walk-in showers for safety."

5. Your bathroom isn't "you"
Standard-issue faucets and fixtures may be functional, but there's nothing distinctive about them. If these details don't fit your personal aesthetic, it doesn't take much to find a look that goes with your style. "The fixtures in a bathroom are like furniture," says McCurdy. "Just as you would redesign a living room or dining room, you can create a bathroom that fits your design." Whether you prefer classic lines or sleek modern curves, a few small changes can make a big impact.

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7 Reasons to Hire
a Kitchen Designer

Source: (Design & Create: Plan a Kitchen)

Redesigning any room is a challenging venture. But redesigning a kitchen poses its own special challenges. Few rooms offer such a vast choice of styles and products and require us to make decisions that will be so permanent. And it's no small matter shutting down the heart of your home to upgrade with features that may well last a lifetime.

You're bound to feel overwhelmed at some point in the process. Your eyes may glaze over as you leaf through stacks of design magazines or when you size up your oddly shaped cooking area. Or worse, it may hit you after the work is done, as you step back to behold your design creation and spot mistakes that are now too costly to fix.

So when do you decide it's time to call in a professional? Interior designers Sandy Gordon of Madison, WI, and Nancy Hoff Barsotti of New York City and Pittsburgh, say it's when:

1. You can't communicate your vision effectively to others.
Shopping for kitchen furnishings is a time-consuming exercise, but it can be done. What can be trickier is describing to retailers the products or overall look you desire. Interior designers can help equip their clients with the right communication tools-from appropriate questions and descriptive phrases to sample products and floor plans. Or, you can relax and let the design expert-who knows both you and the market-present a limited number of product options to you.

2. A challenging space has you stumped.
Do you have too many doorways? Not enough storage? No windows? Angled walls or ceilings? If you're scratching your head over these complex design issues, it may be time to call in an expert. "It's an interior designer's forte to assess challenging spaces and see different options," Gordon says. For example, she suggests adding natural lighting to a narrow, dark kitchen by placing windows above wall cabinets-or under them, in the space normally reserved for a backsplash. If you lack storage space, an interior designer can suggest the latest or most suitable options in cabinet design and storage to help maximize your space.

3. Your head is spinning from too many product choices.
When this happens, people have a tendency to either table the project indefinitely or make costly mistakes. Why not seek some guidance from an expert? "These choices are expensive and you're not apt to change them," Barsotti says. "A consultant fee of no more than $1,000 in most areas is well worth it for a kitchen project that can easily run into the $30,000 range."

4. Temptation is tugging at your purse strings.
If you've ever stepped into a kitchen showroom or simply eyed one in a magazine, you know the seductive power of a state-of-the-art kitchen. Even the most cost-conscious consumer may be tempted to go over budget. "Interior designer are mindful of clients' budgets and know what can be done with less," Barsotti says.

5. You need personalized advice.
Experienced designers know which questions to ask to target your needs and lifestyle. Who works in the kitchen, and how? Is there a height differential between two partners who'll be cooking together? Do you love to entertain, or cook strictly for the family? Are you ready for professional-style appliances and features? The best designers have a knack for revealing details that can tailor your new kitchen to your needs.

6. You're having trouble blending styles or developing a theme.
Spouses often differ in style preferences, with one leaning toward traditional styles and the other seeking a more contemporary look. Finding the right "transitional" balance can be difficult. An interior designer can help you blend styles by using, among other techniques, a cohesive color scheme throughout your floor plan. They can also help you develop a period style and obtain products that are true to a particular era.

7. You suspect you're overlooking important details.
An interior designer will pay close attention to electrical and lighting-areas that are likely beyond the know-how of most customers. For example, Barsotti recommends placing power strips underneath upper cabinets to avoid marring beautiful backsplashes with electrical outlets. A designer can also help you make choices in cabinet hardware and finishes that will best enhance your kitchen style.