Carpenter or Contractor? Why should I select one or the other?

Often people use these terms interchangeably. Knowing the difference between the two can be the difference between success and frustration in a construction project. A carpenter is an individual with unique skills in building with wood. A contractor, (General Contractor) on the other hand is an individual who is essentially a manager of people who build. So to boil it down to two simple words, a carpenter builds while a contractor manages. Why, you might ask, is this difference critical. To avoid frustration in a construction project it is essential to match the skills to the task, or quite simply, the task will not get done properly … or worse yet, not get done at all.

Some carpenters can function as contractors. Some contractors can function also as carpenters. Even if an individual can indeed wear multiple hats, as a project gets bigger, that becomes too many hats to try to wear at once.  That is where the challenges can begin. When a project is small, such as a bathroom or kitchen renovation, it is possible to wear both hats effectively and not compromise quality or lose efficiency. As a project gets larger, such as a whole house renovation, or a new house, it is unrealistic to expect both responsibilities to be served well by one individual.

Construction of new home

 

Many times, as I have helped someone embark on a new project, I have heard “oh, he is an amazing finish carpenter. His work is beautiful. We should hire him to build our house.” This is equivalent to saying “oh he is an amazing chef. His meals are delicious. We should hire him to organize our 2,000 person awards banquet.” While it is true that at an awards banquet you do value, and tend to remember, good food. But do you want a chef in charge of organizing scheduling, venue selection, promotion, tickets, parking, directions, security, decorations, awards, guest speakers, timing, emcees, lighting, audio, recording, ushers, serving, clearing, cleanup, etc,? Even if the chef had all these skills, when would there even be time to cook. Obviously you would hire an events coordinator, not a chef. This sounds like an absurd example but it is really not that different from hiring a carpenter to build your house. The management component of this size project precludes ever picking up a hammer. So then what difference does it make what his actual finish carpentry skills are? A more effective pre-qualification is to evaluate management skills that might include the following:

  • Communication abilities
  • Bookkeeping skills
  • Organizations skills
  • Ability to price out a complex project
  • Ability to schedule a complex project (and stay on schedule)
  • Ability to understand a complex process and visualize 20 to 30 steps ahead
  • Ability to settle misunderstandings in a calm and neutral manner
  • understand the technical and scheduling interdependencies of 20 to 30 different sub-trades as they collaborate on a single project
  • know when to ask you as the owner about a judgement call versus make his own judgement call.
  • Understand building codes and other regulatory requirements
  • Ability to solve technical problems within all the different sub-trades
  • Ability to maintain a safe and clean job site with all the sub-trades at work in one space
  • Sensitivity to your design priorities
  • Oh… and if he is a great finish carpenter, and actually has the time … do a couple carpentry tasks along the way.

the_end1

 

Curb Appeal

Poore and Company is in this month’s Design New England with an article about the renovation of the Agusti Residence in Gloucester.

Here is a link to the article:

Renovation: Face Lift

Curb Appeal

Renovation of a simple summer cottage with a voluptuously detailed new porch to add garden amenities and curb appeal.

 

Step-by-Step Checklist for Selecting Interior Colors

Posted in ColorInterior Design on 02/09/2009 10:30 am by Jonathan Poore

Proportion of color and a sky mural bring a feeling of lightness to this bedroom.Small amounts of accent color and a sky mural bring a feeling of lightness and whimsy to this bedroom.

(from Interior Color by Design, by Jonathan Poore)

Consider Context

  1. Orientation of space and light – north/west/east/west
  2. Proportions and shape of space – what are the assets and what are the design problems to solve?
  3. Think in suites
  4. Consider existing materials
  5. Consider existing furnishings and belongings

Set Design Goals

  1. Set the emotional tone – warm and cozy, cool and atmospheric, quite and restful, vibrant and energetic, sensuous, serious, silly
  2. Focus color attention – decide what to play up and what to play down
  3. Unify or identify – determine if the space needs to be unified with one color or if it needs to be broken down into its individual design components and identified with different colors
  4. Warm or cool tonality – decide if the tonality should be warm or cool; often dependent on orientation of the space

Preliminary Color Selection

  1. Select tonality – decide which hue will dominate and set the tone of the space
  2. Select subordinate colors and accent colors
  3. Check interaction of colors – check overall relationships of the dominant color, the subordinate colors, and the accent colors with all the existing colors in the space
  4. Adjust and tune – adjust the colors until all relationships look harmonious
  5. Check colors in the correct light and orientation – check the color relationships in the light and orientation (floor, wall, ceiling) in which they will actually appear

Varying shades of green create a sense of height on this flat ceilingGraduated shades of green create an illusion of a vaulted ceiling on this otherwise flat surface.

Dominant Colors

  1. Dominant hues – warm colors advance and dominate; cool colors recede and are subordinate
  2. Dominant chroma – purer colors advance and dominate; muted colors recede and are subordinate
  3. Dominant values – lighter values advance and dominate; darker values recede and are subordinate

Hints and Tips

Hint #1
Strong color relationships – not strong colors. Select the intensity of a color based on how it looks with adjacent colors rather than how interesting it looks by itself.

Color is used to create a more inimate bedroom space in a room with a high ceiling.Horizontal bands of color are used to create an intimate scale in this bedroom with a high ceiling.

Hint #2
Use the strongest color in the smallest amount.

Hint #3
The larger the area, the stronger the color will appear.

Hint #4
The safest way to select a color from a relatively small sample swatch is to choose the color you prefer and then make the color less intense by lightening the value a step or two, or by graying the color a step or two.

Hint #5
Vary only one color attribute at a time.
• Similar hue and value – Keep hue and value similar and vary chroma.
• Similar hue and chroma – Keep hue and chroma similar and vary value.
• Similar value and chroma – Keep value and chroma similar and vary hue.

Rely on your newly learned design tools…But trust your intuition and…Above all, have fun!

GLOSSARY

 

The Three Dimensions of ColorThe Three Dimensions of Color

ADDITIVE COLOR
Process of mixing colored light. The primary colors of red, green, and blue light make white light when mixed together.

ANALOGOUS COLORS
Analogous colors are adjacent to each other on the color wheel.

CHROMA
Also referred to as saturation. Chroma is the relative strength or weakness of a color.

COMPLEMENTARY COLORS
Colors which are opposite each other on the color wheel, such as red and green.

COOL COLORS
Blue-green, blue, and blue-purple are cool colors.

HUE
Hue is the name of a color.

MONOCHROMATIC
A monochromatic color scheme employs various tints and shades of a single color.

MONOTONE
A monotone or neutral color scheme consists of various tints and shades of a neutral color.

NEUTRAL COLOR

 

A playful mural, wainscotting and lamps with shades that match the goldfish create a playful sink alcove.A playful mural and wainscotting create a series of horizontal bands which widen this narrow sink alcove. The accent color on the lamp shades play off the warm golds and reds of the goldfish.

A color that appears neither warm nor cool, such as gray.

PARTITIVE COLOR
Color which is created by mixing many small dots of color which then appear to the eye as a single new color.

PRIMARY COLORS
The primary colors of pigments and dyes are red, yellow, and blue. All other colors are derived from these three.

SATURATION
Also referred to as chroma, see CHROMA.

SHADE
A color created by adding black to a hue.

SPLIT COMPLEMENTARY COLORS
Split complementary colors are made up of any color combined with the two colors on either side of its complement.

SUBTRACTIVE COLOR
The process of mixing pigments, inks, or dyes. The primary subtractive colors are red, yellow, and blue from which all other colors are derived.

TETRAD
A tetrad is any two pairs of complementary colors.

TINT
A color created by adding white to a hue.

TONE
A color created by adding gray to a hue.

TONALITY
The overall impression made by the dominant color in a color scheme.

TRIAD
A triad of colors is any three equidistant colors on the color wheel. The primary colors, red, yellow, and blue form a triad.

VALUE
The relative lightness or darkness of a color.

WARM COLOR
Red, orange, and yellow are warm colors.the_end1

 

E x p a n d i n g your kitchen in a shrinking economy

Posted in Interior DesignKitchen Design on 02/10/2009 10:21 am by Jonathan Poore

Doing more with less – a way to think and design differently

Today’s shrinking economy offers up new opportunities to rethink how we approach home design. If you have been planning on renovating your kitchen and the economy has challenged your ability to move ahead with any significant projects, there are other ways to meet your needs. This can be done in a comprehensive and expansive way without being costly. The first question is whether the space feels small or is it that the space is functionally small. This breaks the task down into two categories. The way the space feels I will call “psychological space”. The way the space functions I will call “physical space”. Physical space is easily measured, such as how many square feet of floor area or how many linear feet of countertop. Psychological space is a little harder to quantify but is just as important as physical space as it directly affects how we feel, move, and act in the space. For this discussion I will focus on the creative manipulation of physical space and save the subject of psychological space for a future article.

 

Kitchen storage tucked under a stairKitchen storage tucked under a stair

Some cost-effective strategies to address physical space limitations in your kitchen include:

•    Define the problem – lead with the need not the solution

•    Tune what you have - before you add to it

•    Creativity and efficiency- rather than size and volume

•    Think big, think long-term– but spend small… creativity is not bound by budget

•    Create a master plan – Helps you move toward an affordable, incremental execution and avoids half-steps that must be undone

Examples of how to apply these principles:

You might identify the task as “I need a bigger kitchen” – but this states the solution not the problem. The only solution that fits this strategy is to spend a lot of money and build a bigger kitchen. This is limiting you to one solution, and a costly one at that, when we don’t really know what the actual problem is yet.

Define the problem

Let’s first clearly define the problem. The problem in one case, for example, might be stated as: I don’t have enough storage – First questions are how and why, or more importantly what do I need to store?

Tune what you have

Try going through your kitchen and look in each cupboard, drawer, closet, and shelf. Make a mental note or a list of which items you use once a day, once a week, once a month, once a year, even once a decade. Things you need once a day, or week, ought to be within easy reach of the main work area. In an ideally efficient kitchen the other items, not in the “once a day” category, might be located outside the main work area of the kitchen, in what you might describe as concentric rings surrounding the kitchen. The less you use the item, the more steps away from the kitchen the item would be placed.

If this is not the case in your particular kitchen you might now state the problem as: In all likelihood, my kitchen does not have enough storage because it is filled with things that I use infrequently but still must have access to on occasion. One effective strategy to try is something I call satellite storage.

This decorative cabinet contributes welcoming light and interest to the entry but is actually a butler’s pantry and is an integral part of the working kitchen. In this case the satellite storage cabinet performs multiple functions.1. This decorative cabinet contributes welcoming light and interest to the entry but is actually a butler’s pantry and is an integral part of the working kitchen. In this case the satellite storage cabinet performs multiple functions.

Kitchen Plan: Red= Kitchen, Blue= Satellite storage, Yellow= Virtual or effective kitchenKitchen Plan: Red= Kitchen, Blue= Satellite storage, Yellow= Virtual or effective kitchen

Creativity and efficiency

Start by putting the things you need once a day, or week, within easy reach of the work area. Now see how much storage space you have left. If you have already run out of space in the kitchen, the next thing to do is to look at the surrounding rooms for creative storage opportunities. These may include pantries, closets, hutches, and miscellaneous furniture pieces. If a furniture piece provides closed storage, what difference does it make if it is not in the kitchen proper and does not look like a kitchen cabinet? The wonderful bonus with this strategy is that usually, a natural consequence of physically enlarging a kitchen is that it starts to make the surrounding spaces feel smaller. This is especially true if kitchen cabinets start creeping into other rooms. If, instead, these satellite storage needs are hidden away in living room or dining room type furniture the kitchen has not visually or psychologically encroached on these spaces. No one will experience these strategies as a compromise of the surrounding spaces.

Kitchen using satellite storage as part of its design strategy.2. This is an example of a satellite storage strategy. The dark cherry cabinets are the working kitchen. The satellite kitchen storage consists of paint grade cabinets designed as simple built-ins that blend seamlessly with the adjacent rooms and give no hint that they contain kitchen storage.

If all these satellite storage opportunities are already full, it is often possible to go through the same once a day, week, month … analysis of the non-kitchen items stored in these areas and move things around accordingly.  Another bonus in this process is that by ripple effect your whole house will start to become naturally organized to meet your true needs.

Think big, think long term, and create a master plan

Any alterations that you make will benefit you most if they are in the service of a long term plan. This can be achieved with a master plan. A master plan need not be expensive and it will in all likelihood save you money in the long run by avoiding the need to undo work to accomplish future improvements.

For example, by planning ahead you may very well be able to replace that leaky window now, but select the right size and location to blend seamlessly with the future kitchen renovation. Piecemeal problem solving on the other hand often creates more problems than it solves. For example, if instead you just replace the window in kind without looking ahead, you have solved one problem, the leaking window, but inadvertently created several new problems, because the window is the wrong size and in the wrong place to take the next alteration steps.

A more dramatic example of the value of master planning may come to light when future renovations are in spaces adjacent to the kitchen. Below is an example of how thinking ahead need not require expensive alterations but in this case by simply moving a door, the future potential of two rooms is unlocked. Without a master plan both spaces remain stuck with permanent dysfunction and limitations.

1. Existing kitchen layout1. Existing kitchen layout

2.	Kitchen Renovation without master plan 2. Kitchen Renovation without master plan

The existing kitchen suffers from small and disconnected spaces. Circulation cuts diagonally through the middle of the kitchen and the counter surfaces are somewhat chopped up. If one was to go ahead and fix the kitchen without a master plan, one might open the kitchen up to connect the space with the dining room. This solves the kitchen feeling too small but nothing has been done to remedy the circulation issues nor the chopped up counter space.

3.	Kitchen Renovation with master plan 3. Kitchen Renovation with master plan

Another option would be to analyze the design problem as a whole suite of spaces and then by simply relocating one door, a major transformation is possible. This gesture increases usable counter space, eliminates awkward, wasteful diagonal circulation through both the mudroom and kitchen. It also makes room for pantry and storage amenities in the mudroom where none were previously possible.

So in summary, if you follow the principles outlined in this article, there are many incremental design strategies available which can dramatically transform your space.  The alterations need not be extensive, expensive, or intrusive. By using the tools and techniques outlined here, combined with design forethought you can do more with less.  As the tasks get more complex, it is often helpful to also enlist the help of a design professional.  the_end1

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Should I buy direct

Posted in Interior DesignKitchen Design on 12/01/2009 03:52 pm by Jonathan Poore

Or let the contractor buy everything?

 

In any construction project it is tempting to think that there are great savings to be gained by direct buying materials, fixtures, and building components for the contractor to install. In theory this saves the contractor’s markup which might be anywhere from 5 to 20%. Sounds good so far. Let’s look at the bigger picture for a moment.

 

Typically the contractor receives a deeper discount price, often wholesale, than any discount offered to you as a retail transaction. Even when a vendor tries to lure you with a sale or special offer, it is still generally more than the contractor’s price. The very best case scenario is that you may on occasion be able to match the contractor’s price. Even if this were the case, it is helpful to examine the process a little more closely.

The contractor is responsible for much more than just getting the item at a fair price. He is also responsible for:

1. Lead time - ordering the item early enough so that it arrives at the right time in the construction sequence

2. Verifying order - Making sure the right item is ordered, including the correct finish, details, options, installation kits, etc.

3. Receiving delivery - Being available to receive the delivery even if it does not arrive on the agreed upon day or time

4. Checking delivery - Checking to be sure it is the correct item, it is complete, and that it has not been damaged

5. Rectifying order problems - Contacting the shipper, vendor, and / or manufacturer if there is a problem

6. Tracking progress - Tracking the problem to be sure it is fully resolved

7. Storing items - and safely storing an item that might arrive too early

8. Testing - Checking to be sure it is functioning properly

9. Corrections - Rectifying any additional problems or deficiencies

10. Warranty - Being available during the entire construction warranty period to correct any problems that arise

In general, on a construction project, these needs arise on a frequent basis and the contractor is responsible to manage the process.

This list of responsibilities is why the contractor charges his markup and, in general, a contractor works hard to earn this money. If you feel inclined to take on the responsibilities listed above and you either enjoy the process or are willing to work hard for the cost savings then direct buying is a good idea for you. If however you have a busy life with other responsibilities then it is often best to leave this work to the contractor. the_end1