Thursday, January 17, 2013

Kitchens: From worker to entertainer

Happy New Year from the Complete Home Team. We hope you all had wonderful summer breaks, and that you're refreshed and excited for a year of renovations, redecorating and redesigning. We definitely are.

It's been an interesting couple of years for the humble kitchen. Since starting work in this industry I feel like what I learnt about kitchens as a kid and teen has changed so much; traditionally kitchens have been about food, its preparation, mess and cleaning up this mess. It seemed very simple at first. But the world is changing, and with that kitchens are changing too.

Apparently we have bid farewell to the formal dining room, and taking its place is the previously humble kitchen. The kitchen has become the hub of entertainment, conversation, dining, and design. And of course, home designs now accommodate for this; kitchens are open plan, they flow onto the living room, or even into the outside area. Kitchens also allow far more space - long benches that run around the room, large islands with a lot of room surrounding, and endless storage options for all those many appliances we have (rice cookers and pizza ovens take up a lot of room). 

But not only is the space affected - the design itself has changed. Design in the kitchen is expected to impress and relax guests, so clean lines and minimalist colours are constant favourites. Other things are added - interesting lighting above eating spaces, bar stools along benches, and nearby music consoles. Kitchens now have to balance an appearance of effortless cool.

This is due to the change in entertaining at home; apparently the dinner party's of the 1980's are out (who would have thought) and casual (but perfect) dinners are in. With the years of the GFC, eating out has limited appeal. So instead we invite friends over for a casual stir fry or a bottle of wine with finger food. Casual entertaining is the current favourite and our kitchens reflect this.

So what are the essentials to having a kitchen that looks amazing but also makes guests feel relaxed and "at home"? 
  • What I've learnt from designers is that white is an absolute favourite - white Caesarstone benchtops, and glass topped tables work a treat. Easily wiped down, hard wearing, and with tables that look that good (and wear so well) naff tablecloths are no longer needed. Just a very simple set of placemats.
  • Large windows, hopefully showcasing your beautiful backyard, to let a lot of light and air into the room. 
  • Pop up powerpoints in your benches will also be a lifesaver with the amount of appliances we can run these days.
  • If simple white isn't interesting enough for your, consider coloured or patterned glass splash backs - there are many beautiful options nowadays, from pale pastels to striking brights.
  • Consider a tap worthy of the new millennium; there are heaps of taps now that not only give filtered water, but instant boiling, chilled, hot, cold, and sparkling filtered water (and with security locks so your kids wont touch the boiling but can happily enjoy the sparkling). Consider Zip or Billi.

An alfresco kitchen is another fantastic way of entertaining casually, especially if you have a beautiful backyard, and are blessed with good weather. A lot of kitchen designers have branched into this area, so make sure you check some of their designs out - with an outdoor kitchen you'll feel like your home is actually a resort.

For more information on kitchen designs, check out our designers and their projects at Complete Home. Also take a look at the Outdoor designers for some future alfresco inspiration.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

He Never Called? - Why Some Contractors Don't Call Back

Are you feeling unloved and not wanted because the tradie you contacted never bothered to call back with his price? Or worse, they were a no show at your pre-arranged meeting? This is a very common problem in the industry that comes down to the squeaky wheel getting oiled by he who oils the most.

Tradesmen Contacting Home improvement

From the clients perspective they need a job to be done, a leaking tap for example. The process would be to search for a plumber, contact them to arrange a meeting or to get a ballpark quote. That’s all that you think you would have to do. Right?

You've given them the opportunity, now the ball is in their court. Unfortunately as a client you can’t afford to think like that. I’m not going to paint all trades with the same brush but the best way to make sure you get that price or have them meet you is to keep doing the friendly reminder follow up calls to make sure you are on their radar.

If you’re thinking something like “Why should I do all the chasing, if they want the job they have to chase me!” Yep, I have found having to do all the chasing very frustrating until, my husband (a project manager) gave me a different point of view, it's not that they don't want the job it could be because:

  1. They usually have to wear many hats in their business such as secretary, bookkeeper etc so they may be spread out too thin
  2. Calls would be usually taken while they are in the middle of a job ie; up a ladder or jammed under a kitchen sink
  3. Contact details may be scrawled on a scrappy piece of paper or a block of timber that inevitably gets lost in the ute under a pile of empty Ice Break bottles.

While all of the above aren't acceptable excuses for poor management they are the reality. The point I’m trying to make is your job of chasing a contractor is not over after that first phone call.

Most contractors are being pushed and driven by builders and project managers, so the key to getting what you want is to appoint yourself as the project manager and start chasing to get your job done.

Giving a friendly reminder follow up call before losing your cool will go a long way to keeping the contractor onside and to the job done.

Written and illustrated by Sarah Woods, Interior Designer and Building Planner. Sarah offers courses and coaches clients to become 'Renovation Ready'.

For more advice and ideas on home projects and planning check out:
Complete Home: How to submit a development application
Expert Advice: 6 tips for working with your architect
Complete Home: Get it Right From the Start