Universal has a lovely showroom where you can see just about anything in person, as well as the best appliance website I've seen. My appliances are mostly of the manufacturer contract specified price variety, but where there was wiggle room, I found the best prices there as well. That, along with knowlegable, friendly, helpful sales staff, made Universal a great pick. They also have a great web operation for those who don't live near a good bricks and mortar showroom like theirs.
Snyder Diamond have upscale plumbing as well as kitchen appliances (including outdoor kitchens). They have been catching up to Universal on their variety, and they have a few things Universal doesn't. This is a great place for sinks and faucets, though they no longer sell Kohler faucets. I ended up getting mine online because the people at the rival upscale plumbing store waere so rude. Snyder Diamond's prices for sinks and faucets are mostly better than what I've seen online. I got all of my plumbing fixtures from them, except the Kohler faucet.
I have lighting issues. California Title 24 legal requirements are that at least half the wattage of new lighting be energy efficient. Fluorescents tend to bother my eyes unless they're indirect or well diffused. I hate recessed cans both for the swiss cheese ceilings and the pools of light and shadow. I hate the look of undercabinet lights reflected in shiny counters, and I hate the shadows between UC fixtures. I put a plaintive plea on the GW Lighting Forum (see below) and was referred to Walters newish branch in Culver City, where they have a showroom with many lights installed. There I met Bw, a lighting designer whose wife has simmilar issues to which he'd already found solutions. I'm very grateful to Mrs. Bw, who made my kitchen lighting possible. There are lots of fluorescents, but they have sleeves with theatrical gels which lower the color temperature to a level similar to incandescent. It's still washy light with less definition, but much better than straight fluorescent. Because I'm using matte materials for the counters, the whole reflection thing isn't an issue. For the undercabinet lighting, I'm using LED's that have multiple colors, which combine to make a decent color light. They also blend across spaces so don't have those awful shadows. For the corners and butler's pantry (hall), there are 35W halogens with glass diffusers. These keep the hot spots and shadows down. The laundry room has a "cloud" fixture, which is just a flat, long fluorescent fixture, with good guts. The first thing I learned from Bw is that Walters doesn't even sell the fixtures I'd seen online because most of the compliant stuff on the market doesn't actually work, or has a high failure rate. Having Bw do my lighting plan was in all ways worth it.
epOxyGreen is a treasure. It's a small showroom with a large variety of intriguing finishes. They specialize in "green" items, but have a broad enough definition to be useful. Unlike the flaky people I'd met before, who carry items like Bioglass, epOxyGreen are well staffed, available, creative, pleasant, and have lots of great stuff. I just couldn't justify the expense of the Bioglass, but it's a great product. After haunting I don't know how many tile stores I finally found a floor with the right color and texture with the help of the staff here. They also found me a discount on the Bioglass, which I still couldn't afford, and let me borrow samples of all kinds of good things, including locally made recycled slab glass and recycled marble. I would never have heard about sunflower seed husk board without them. And did I mention, they're very nice?
Mission Tile West is the place to go for tile. It's not the biggest. It's for sure not the cheapest. But it's the place where the tile lives. When I needed trim tile for raising my master sink, this is the only place that had something good. When I was looking for countertop tile, they too were the only place. They also had some options for the floor. It's just luck that I found the right thing elsewhere first. MTW has so many tiles that just getting to the right thing can be an issue. They have quite a bit of display area devoted to my countertop tiles, by Architerra Northwest, and have samples of the whole line. That made falling in love easy, because I love them as a whole as well as individually. They also have good, helpful, people, who know their stuff and help one figure out just what's needed.
I learned about this place on Garden Web. They have the most unusual stone I've seen. Some really amazing stuff. Also some standard stuff. Lots of stuff. The most marble. And my hard green soapstone. I knew I'd heard about a hard green soapstone but when I decided to look for it, I couldn't find out what or where. I had already picked the Architerra Northwest tile, and was looking for something to put on the island. All the great things at epOxyGreen didn't suit me--I didn't want resin. That includes resined granite. At one point I thought I'd found just the right granite, but it was sold, and when they got new pieces in I realized I really didn't like the resin from cutting. And thought that all the pieces were too busy and would compete with the tile. So I went back to GW and searched for soapstone. And found a mention of Marble Unlimited. When I first got there it was just after 4 p.m. I didn't realize they closed at 4:30, nor that they didn't deal with consumers. A very nice salesman showed me around, showed me which granites and marbles were porous, and how soapstone shed water. He showed me which stones were easily scratched by using a large nail on corners. And he showed me the "green soapstone" from Finland. It's very hard for soapstone. In fact, the hammer he was using to break off a corner for a sample for me barely made a dent. I flirted with the thought of using the soapstone for the perimeter and another stone for the island, and got some granite samples, but didn't like them enough, even honed, leathered, or antiqued. And changing to soapstone would change so much about the rest of the design. I, as well as OO, worried about the 3 cm soapstone with my narrow sink, but I saw a picture on GW of a similar trough in 3cm which looked great and OO talked to Es, the fabricator, who said it was no problem. M/U, apparently, is one of the top yards and OO's fabricator has a relationship with them. But he doesn't know soapstone. G knew someone, Es, who knows soapstone who also has a relationship there. The price was very good, and M/U will take the payment on behalf of the fabricator so that the stone can be released right away. It's a great place where the people are very nice.
The windows became an issue. Finding the garden window was easy. JT, aluminum clad outside, locally made, good quality, douglas fir, with removable grid and casement sides with screens. The only garden window M1 is willing to tile. I think there's even sufficient clearance for soapstone. But we kept going round and round on the other window. I thought a slider from JT to match, but it only slides on one side. Then we talked about french casements (and cremone bolts, see below)), outswing casements, bifolds, etc., but never found anything that really suited, and things were dragging on. So, speaking of dragging, I dragged OO to Westside Door. It's where the studio door is from. They have a very large variety. I also warned OO that while they're very good, they aren't big on the service with a smile friendliness, and kept saying, as I could see heat building under his collar, "It's okay. That's the way it is here." They're not unfriendly, but while they have a sign posted that drop-ins are welcome, when the salesmen are busy they point down the line and pass the buck. You have to spend some time trolling for someone to talk to. We ended up with Cwd, the sales manager according to one of the buck passers, who was the first person available to talk to us. Very nice man. Really knows his stuff. Said there was no problem with getting the garden window, and he had a source who could turn around a double slider very quickly. OO seems to have established a good working relationship with Cwd. The interior measurements were very important to get the right heights with the countertops, since the windows were going in first. OO seems happy.
Cox paint in Culver City is the place to go for paint. Always has been. They have Benjamin Moore, which is everybody's favorite paint. So I went there to look for samples. They had a color chip, in Fine Paints of Europe, that was exactly the color I'd been imagining. Well. That was easy. They also have sample pots. Yeah. But they didn't have my color. They had it in the Santa Monica store, and rather than sending me over there, they had their runner bring it to Culver City. I went over to Walters for my appointment there, and the paint had arrived by the time I got back to Cox. Great service. And computer matching. I'm hoping there won't be any trouble matching my hand mixed woodwork color from 2001.
This is where I found my knobs. It's like a design center showrooms, but online. Really excellent for variety.
This is where my knobs and pulls actually come from. Artist Leilani Norman-Young makes beautiful hardware using environmentally friendly and recycled materials. I was actually trolling Home Portfolio (above) for appliance pulls because I needed to know if I was going to get casement windows with cremone bolts (btw, if you need them, try cremonebolt.com for a good variety). I was at it for hours. Click. Roll. Scroll. Click. Roll. Scroll. Eyes glazed over. And then I saw them. The Beach Pebble knobs! I just knew they'd be perfect. Ms. Norman-Young loaned me some samples by mail so that I could see how they really looked, and they were just like the pictures overall, though perhaps even better. The Spruce color wasn't too blue after all, and the Turtle was darker than I expected (I ended up with fewer of them). The Spectra Decor Fusion 2 also ended up the best appliance pull I'd seen! I wasn't sure about the rectangles with the stripiness of the bamboo, and the assymetry of the inlay, but grew to like them more and more as I looked for alternatives. Turns out I found my pulls, indirectly, on Home Portfolio after all! I also borrowed a sample sheet with the shell inlay for the appliance pulls and drawer pulls. I knew I wanted shell inlay but wasn't sure about color. I was so surprised when the natural abalone was the one that looked best. So many of the colors are lovely, but the abalone goes with both the Beach Pebble glass and my tiles. I would have thought it was too blue, but there's enough other color in the shell that it really works. I sure hope it looks like I think it will when it's installed!! I decided to use all Fusion 2 on the island, except on the sink door, for which I got an Anne at Home bee knob through a listing on Amazon.
Great stuff. Excellent decorative brackets. I wanted brass, decorative, slender. Before I found the Beach Pebble knobs I thought I was going to get hummingbirds, but with so much color, etc., going on, I went for a simpler, kind of art nouveau design.
Although I'm sure I could have found glass locally, I didn't like any of the samples I saw at the door stores. Bendheim sells nice sized samples for $3 each. They come packed in a jewelry style box, and arrive quickly. The site is well laid out and shows how a wine bottle looks behine the glass. Most types come in annealed and laminated, and a large portion come in tempered, as well. They have clear instructions for measuring and will cut custom orders if provided with a template.
I didn't think I needed a lot of construction help. Just some trenches and a new door. I had a great cabinet maker, electrician, etc. But when I interviewed contractors recommended by tradesmen I trusted, they didn't ask the right questions and they underbid the job. E had found Pacific Blue (OO) through G whom she'd had recommended from somewhere. OO's bid for just the rough was triple what the others were. But it was comprehensive, detailed, well thought out, and complete. And he not only asked questions, and the right questions, he really inspected the job site to have a true sense of what waa going on. To me, the biggest issue was to get the fall for the new drains right. That was a big issue for OO as well, and he said on that interview day that he'd send the robot camera down to be sure of what was going on. I know those robots of old and I thought that was a very good idea. It took working with OO for awhile to become comfortable with him on other levels. I really wanted my great cabinet maker, but would be on my own. OO only works with people he knows. So he took me to meet G, and get comfortable with him. I could tell that he was as good as my guy, but it still took me awhile to come around to the idea. Having OO in charge of the whole job, rather than just the remodelling meant spending more (but also being able to undertake more), but I'm glad I did it. OO earned his fee before we even had a fully signed contract. The amount of time and attention he put into chasing down the details and getting the job put together, is unheard of. Plus, he has a design background so is a good consultant on finishes, and he created the idea and design for the main lighting structure The really great thing about working with OO is that, while he is very detail oriented and runs a tight calendar, once a decision is made he doesn't rehash it. When M1's schedule had the tiling starting a good 10 days later than OO would have liked, he planned around it. When that was further delayed three days, which turned into a week, OO shrugged and said, "No problem." He doesn't fight things that can't be fought or repine when things don't work out as planned. He just accepts them, makes new plans, and moves on.
The word on G is that if you show him anything he can make it. Seems to be true. My mother invented her kitchen with an excellent Norweigian carpenter, back in the 1960's. She had pull-out shelves and a spice pullout, horizontal and vertical tray cabinets, and I wanted them. I also wanted no VOC because I'm allregic to formaldehyde (and it's better for the environment, the new law, etc., but mostly for me). And I wanted things just so to suit me. G always says, "no problem" and means it. He also had inventive solutions for various problems, and came up with the peak design for where the stairs show in the doorway. Plus, G started with the highend standard which I'd learned about on GW. That is, all drawers on the lowers, Blum soft close, etc. I said "corner drawres?"--G said, "No problem." I said I wanted full extension hinges, and G just warned me about the cost. And talked me into glass shelves for the glass front cabinets. (Can you make those from the bamboo? No problem.) I learned to trust G's input, which is stingily given and always right on when given. We had one four hour meeting in the beginning, where we hashed out the depths of drawers, etc. And when I wanted every inch of counterspace I could get, G found me a couple more on each side. When I wanted a 14" deep drawer, G's solution was to do a deep drawer with a shallow pullout inside. It was OO's father who came up with the interleaved island drawers, but it's G who made them work. G is also the inventor of the corner pullouts that are attached to the adjustable shelves.
Michael Schweit, with his partner Robin Nicholas, wrote the book on tiling. Literally. I found them through my real estate agent when I first bought the house. They put tiles in the two bathrooms that had been carpeted, raised the master sink, and tiled the trim, and arranged for the stone fabricators who did my hearths and sinktops. If the latter hadn't been through Michael I wouldn't have put up with them, but they did an amazing job. Even though my projects at that time were small and not particularly demanding, I knew that this was the real deal, and trusted, rightly, Michael's judgement on the fabricators. Similarly, I knew that I needed Michael's expertise for my countertops. When they did my antique tumbled travertine tiles in the powder room area, Michael and Robin spent a lot of time with me, lay out exactly which tiles went where facing which direction. My counters will be the same thing. OO agreed that that was a finish and pretty much post-construction, and also that it wasn't the kind of thing his guys do, so said that was okay, even though he had told me he uses only his own people. Then there's the expertise thing. Michael saw the repeating pattern I was trying to work out and said, "You should let me do the floor. I can do a random pattern for you." OO wants me to be happy, so was willing to go along with this. He gave me a credit for that part of the contract. Michael also talked about things like anti-fracture membranes. And when things got going and the floor needed levelling, Michael was able to make it happen without too much fuss or delay.
When I couldn't find a car and couldn't figure out my kitchen, I decided to just jump in and put in solar electric. This makes up for all the gozno electric appliances I'm putting in. California Solar were recommended by S at Bonded Electric. The salesman "smelled right". The refrernces checked out. I tried to find some comps, but the best I found was the online solar calculator. I'm very happy! The job was way delayed for lack of solar panels, but it finally got installed and turned on. Very nice people, as well.
The first thing I did for the kitchen remodel, while I was dithering about what I wanted and learning as much as I could, was complete the whole house audio system that I'd put in the bare bones of before I moved in. Also a recommendation from Bonded, Roberts are great. I got a little worked up because they assumed that I had networked internet, and the "jukebox" needed access to get all its data. The solution was to use the wall controller I already had downstairs, and to get a cheap laptop, instead, that I could plug in to my modem for the data. It also works as a controller. It's a good solution. I got what I wanted and needed without having to expand the budget.
Well, it helps that our fathers were building together back in the day. Excellent electricians. Put in the new 400 amp service before the solar went in. OO has his own electrician, Re, so Bonded didn't do the kitchen.Blogs