Master Bathroom

Aging in Place Bathroom Design – Six Important Factors to Consider

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No one likes to talk about getting old, or even older. I’ve learned that many of my clients do not want to be reminded of their mortality. But, as their interior designer, I feel like it’s my job to raise the issue, especially in the case of bathroom remodel.

If you are in your sixties and planning a major renovation of your master bathroom, then it is worth thinking about optimizing the new bathroom design for aging in place so that you can remain in your home as long as possible. I wouldn’t be serving my clients if I created a bathroom for them that didn’t meet their needs for at least the next 15 to 20 years.

WHY SHOULD I CONSIDER AGING IN PLACE WHEN REMODELING MY MASTER BATHROOM?​

Design for Aging in Place draws on the tenets of Universal Design. Many people think that Universal Design is about creating handicapped accessible spaces, but it’s actually much broader in its application. When I mention Aging in Place to my clients, their minds immediately jump to being wheelchair bound, and they kind of freak out. It’s possible to be guided by Universal Design principles in your home and not extend them as far as creating a wheelchair accessible space. It’s all about your particular needs for your home.

SO HOW DO YOU IMPLEMENT UNIVERSAL DESIGN OR AGING IN PLACE IN A BATHROOM REMODEL?

#1 Start at the Entrance

Many older homes have bathrooms with doors that are only 28″ wide. If there is enough room for framing, consider enlarging the door to at least 32″. Although we aren’t talking specifically about wheelchair access, 32″ is the minimum door opening to accommodate a wheelchair. And, it’s actually easier to navigate a wider opening with a walker or assistant as well. And, while you’re at it, switch out any round door knobs for lever handles.

#2 Install Blocking for Grab Bars

The best time to install blocking in your walls for grab bars at your toilet and in your shower is during a major remodel. Especially in your shower. If you should need a grab bar later, it will be impossible to install it without blocking, and you don’t want to rip out all that pretty tile you just installed. You don’t need to install the grab bars right away. Make sure the contractor notes their location on your plans, and you can add them later when they become necessary.

Aging in Place Bathroom Remodel - accessible shower design Barbara Grushow Designs
Barbara Grushow Designs

#3 Optimize Your Shower

Aside from grab bar blocking, there are a few other design elements you should include in your shower. You will want to enlarge the shower to at least 5′ x 3′ even if it means eliminating your tub. 

Discuss installing a curbless shower with your contractor. A curbless shower has no threshold to step over, reducing your likelihood of falling. And, FYI, I actually fell stepping over the curb in our shower while pregnant, so this issue doesn’t only affect older people.

If your bathroom is large enough, consider eliminating the shower door altogether. If a door is necessary, then enlarge it from the standard 24″ to 32″. A sliding barn door style is a perfect solution rather than a swinging glass door.

Kohler Sliding Glass Shower Door - Aging in Place Bathroom Remodel
Kohler Sliding Shower Doors

Include a bench that is at least 18″ deep and 18″ high. I would also make it wider, spanning the width of the shower. There may come a time when you do actually want to sit while you shower, and it might not have anything to do with getting old. You could break your ankle or have your hip replaced. Corner benches are not optimal for this scenario. And, make sure you add a recessed wall niche that is accessible from a seated position at the bench.

Delta Dryden Hand Shower
Delta Dryden Hand Shower

Add a separate hand shower on an adjustable bar close to the bench. I always specify a hand shower for cleaning anyway.

Use an anti-slip mosaic tile for the shower floor. Mosaics, by nature, are less slippery because there are so many grout lines. Often a curbless shower is installed with a linear drain, the purpose of which is to continue the main bathroom floor seamlessly into the shower. It’s a cool look, but I would not do it in this situation.

Finally, choose plumbing fixtures with lever handles instead of cross handles. Yes, the cross handles look cool but they are harder to operate if you develop joint issues.

#4 Choose Finishes & Materials Thoughtfully

As you age, your vision will naturally degenerate. One way to compensate for the loss of vision in design is by incorporating high contrast at changes in plane (horizontal to vertical). For instance, if you select a medium to dark floor, you may want to paint your baseboards white so that the change in plane from floor to wall is obvious. If you choose dark cabinets, then select light countertops.

Next, make sure your floor tile has a high coefficient of friction and use smaller tiles so that you have more grout lines. I think the wood look tiles are actually perfect for a Universal Design bathroom because many of them are textured and only 6″ wide. Avoid high-contrast patterned mosaics which can seem to vibrate.

#5 Float the Vanity

studio mcgee floating vanity
Studio McGee

If you raise your vanity off the floor by 9″, it will make your bathroom feel larger and add a contemporary vibe to the design. It will also accommodate the wheels of a walker. This is definitely one of those Universal Design principles no one will ever think twice about. Guests will just think you have a cool modern bathroom. You should install the countertop height at 34″, which is 2″ lower than standard height.

Floating Vanity Aging in Place Bathroom Remodel
Double Floating Vanity

Some other vanity features that are great for Universal Design and Aging in Place are:

  • Create a seated makeup counter. If it gets harder for you to stand as you age, or if you have a mobility issue, you may prefer to dry your hair and apply your makeup while seated.
  • Install a swing-out, lighted makeup mirror with a magnifying option. These are great for shaving too, completely illuminate your face, and make everything easier to see (good and bad). You also don’t have to lean over the counter to see yourself.
  • Install pulls instead of knobs. Pulls are easier to grasp than knobs, especially for arthritic fingers.
  • Select a faucet for your sink that has a single lever handle, which is the easiest style to operate.

#6 Design Your Lighting with Intention

In order to use your bathroom safely, you need to be able to see properly. Install a variety of lighting including scones on either side of the mirror, recessed can lights both inside and outside of the shower, and LED strip lighting under the floating vanity or in the toe kick of a regular vanity.

What about the bathtub?

If you don’t have room to create a large shower with all of the features I described unless you eliminate the tub, then get rid of the tub.

If you do have room for a tub, then consider a model that is shallower to reduce the perils of stepping over the side and keep the thickness of the side as narrow as possible.

If you absolutely must have a tub and do plan to use it for as long as possible, then you may want to consider investing in a walk-in version.

American Standard Walk In Tub
American Standard Walk-In Tub

When do Aging in Place design considerations become less important for a bathroom remodel?

This is a very good question. I think there are a couple circumstances in which it would be less important to consider Aging in Place for a bathroom remodel.

First, if your master suite is on the second floor of your home, then it’s less likely you’ll remain in your home if mobility becomes a serious issue. You may want to consider creating a more accessible bathroom and bedroom suite on your main level instead.

Second, if you are in your sixties but planning to move within the next five years, then it sounds like your remodel might be driven more by resale considerations than your personal preferences. But, it’s never a bad idea to use Universal Design principles whenever possible. As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, if you thoughtfully approach your bathroom remodel from a Universal Design perspective, then it probably will not affect the aesthetics of the design.  You can still achieve a beautiful new bathroom that can serve you for many years to come.

I believe it’s possible to consider Universal Design in a bathroom remodel project given each client’s particular situation to create a flexible space that adapts to their changing needs as they age while making it beautiful and meeting their aesthetic vision. When executed thoughtfully, many people wouldn’t even realize that a space incorporates Universal Design principles. The whole point of Universal Design, in my opinion, is to minimize the differences in our physical abilities, not to call attention to them.

I hope you found this post on remodeling your bathroom for Aging in Place helpful. Let me know in the comments if you have any questions on how you can incorporate these ideas into your bathroom remodeling project.

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Aging in Place Bathroom Remodel
fireplace with built ins on each side, fireplace with tv above

Design Dilemmas: How to Design a Great Room Fireplace Wall with Built-Ins and Television

Today I want to talk about a challenge that I encounter frequently – designing a living room fireplace with built ins on each side, specifically the fireplace with TV above it on in cabinetry beside it.

This feature wall may seem like a straightforward solution to the issue of multiple focal points (TV vs. fireplace), but many times it isn’t. These walls can be super tricky! Often the fireplace wall is adjacent to a wall with large two-story windows, and that complicates the living room layout even further.

If you are building a new home and still in framing or hopefully haven’t broken ground yet, this article is for you. Stop what you are doing and insist that your builder, architect, or designer draws a floor plan with furniture of your living room that shows the depth of the fireplace wall.

You will also want to see an elevation of the fireplace wall that indicates the height of the television if you are planning to hang it above the fireplace. And, you will need an elevation of the window wall to understand how the fireplace and built-ins affect your perception of the windows and how they are balanced in the space.

ISSUE #1: SYMMETRY ON THE ADJACENT WINDOW WALL

Coastal white living room design by Blackband Design
Blackband Design

In two new construction homes I’ve worked on recently, the person who created the house plans (not me!) designed the window wall to be symmetrical with equal amounts of drywall on either side. Great!

Actually, it’s not great. In the first house, the plans didn’t account for the depth of the fireplace or built-ins on the fireplace wall. So, once the fireplace was framed out and the built-in cabinetry installed, we had two feet of drywall on the left side of the windows and about 6″ visible on the right. If you are a highly symmetrical person like me, this will drive you crazy.

fireplace wall ideas, chief architect rendering transitional stone fireplace with tv above
Conceptual Rendering by JLID

This house was more transitional, and the clients didn’t want a ton of built-ins or a completely built-in cabinetry look on their fireplace wall. They wanted something more simple and modern. I designed the wall with two smaller niches for some built-in storage and display, but we left the drywall exposed so the paint color continues back into the niche.

The second house didn’t account for the built-in cabinetry depth either. It was the same problem but much worse. There were only 20″ from the fireplace wall to the first window opening. When the trim was completed, there was no wall space between the built-in cabinetry and the window trim.

I bring this issue up because clients often have a vision of how a room will look based on the floor plans and the inspiration images they’ve gathered. If the floor plans aren’t fully developed with all of the elements before construction starts, they might be disappointed when it doesn’t look the way they pictured it in their head.

Issue #2: Television Height

I have been surprised at how passionate people are about incorporating a raised hearth into their fireplace design. I am not a huge fan because they jut out into the room and make furniture placement difficult. I’m also a clumsy person and often bang my shin on their sharp corners, so maybe I am just biased.

M. Architecture Group, neutral living room stone fireplace place shiplap beams
Markalunas Architecture Group

My lack of grace aside, a hearth creates a fresh set of problems for mounting the TV over the fireplace, as if there weren’t already enough (more on that another time).

A seat-height hearth, which seems to be what most clients are after for the “cozy” factor, is around 18″ high. Then the fireplace sits on top of the hearth. A large fireplace box is 42″ high. I like to have the same amount of stone (or other fire retardant material) around the top of the fireplace as the sides if possible, so that’s another 6″ at least. If you are keeping track, we are already at 66″ from the ground.

Once we add the mantel, which is probably another 6″ high, and some space from the mantel to the bottom of the TV, we’ve gained another foot. So, the bottom of our TV is now at 6’6″ from the ground, and the top is around 9’6″. That is pretty high considering the optimal TV viewing height is eye level when seated – around 30-36″.

If you are going to mount your TV above the fireplace, making it the focal point of the room, consider buying one that looks fabulous all the time, like the Samsung Frame.

Issue #3: The Two-Story Great room Ceiling

Scott Christopher Homes Stone Fireplace with built ins on one side
Scott Christopher Homes

I am also not a huge fan of the two-story ceiling in the living room. I love tall ceilings, but 18′ is really high and can often feel cavernous depending on the room proportions. In the context of the fireplace wall, it creates another conundrum – what do I do with all that space above the fireplace?

Depending on the roof design and second-floor layout, you may need to run the fireplace framing to the ceiling so the fireplace can vent through the roof. So, do you run stone 18′ high? Do you combine stone and paneling? Paneling and drywall? There are several options but my main objective is always to keep the room feeling balanced and not top-heavy.

Then there are the built-ins. If you have a two-story room, how tall should the built-ins be? I personally dislike built-in cabinetry that results in a shelf for dust to collect especially if it can be viewed from the second floor. But, sometimes this is the best solution and can’t be avoided.

 

fireplace wall ideas, two options for fireplace wall built ins
Conceptual renderings for a fireplace with TV above

In the pair of images above, I’m showing two options that I created for a client’s living room fireplace wall. In the top version, we eliminated the shelf and styled the wall above the base cabinets with art. In the bottom version, the shelf remains and is visible from the second floor landing. Here’s another look…

Living Room Built In Wall Units Fireplace with TV above
Conceptual fireplace rendering

In the living room below, you can also look down into the living room from the catwalk above. Luckily, this living room was designed properly by the architect. He or she incorporated space to recess the built-ins, avoiding the shelf issue, and maintaining symmetry on the window wall. Win-win.

Modern marble fireplace with built ins on each side, linear fireplace with Samsung Frame TV by Jillian Lare Des Moines Interior Designer
Living Room Design by JLID

We chose to extend the marble surround high enough to feel proportional in the space but not all the way to the 18′ ceiling. 

Issue #4: Symmetry around the fireplace

Like I mentioned earlier, I love symmetry. I’m a huge fan. But, in the end, symmetry is not the only way to achieve balance. Asymmetrical balance is definitely an option, but it needs to be considerate of the room proportion to actually feel balanced. Asymmetrical balance is more challenging to create than symmetrical balance.

So, why is this an issue? If you don’t want your TV over the fireplace, then it will need to be off to the side, hanging on a wall or mounted inside a cabinet. Today’s televisions are fairly wide and require more horizontal hanging space. If your room isn’t very wide, then you will need to offset your fireplace to one side to provide the appropriate amount of space for the TV.

If you don’t think this through carefully before your foundation is poured, it might not even be possible to shift the fireplace left or right in the room. This is yet another reason why it is SO important to take your time when building a house and think through all the details.

fireplace with built ins on one side House of Jade Interiors
House of Jade

I love this asymmetrical design by House of Jade Interiors, especially the bench seat detail. By using the same white on the entire wall, they created a strong sense of unity even with the varying materials.

white brick fireplace with built-ins on one side by Studio McGee
Studio McGee

This is another asymmetrical design by Studio McGee that solves the TV issue beautifully. The television is at the optimal viewing height, and the built-in cabinetry below has mesh fronts so that the remote can talk to the components. It’s functional and beautiful.

If you are a symmetrical person, you may HATE it if your fireplace isn’t centered in the room. In that case, you can buy a smaller TV or you can mount it over the fireplace.

fireplace with built ins on each side, fireplace with tv above
Symmetrical Fireplace Wall Conceptual Rendering

I created this design concept for the house with only 20″ to the window opening on one side. The fireplace wall has symmetrical built ins on both sides which are wrapped with drywall, solving the dust-collecting shelf issue.

great room fireplace wall with asymmetrical built-ins on one side for flat screen TV
Asymmetrical Fireplace Wall Conceptual Rendering

An asymmetrical option for the same room is shown above. If I were designing another iteration for this fireplace wall, I might bring the drywall down to the tops of the built-ins. In this version, the hearth is at seat height and the TV is at the optimal viewing height. For a strongly symmetrical person, this fireplace wall idea probably wouldn’t work. It didn’t for my clients.

So What Should You do?

#1

Study lots of inspiration images of fireplace walls and identify what you like about them. It may turn out that you really love built-ins encased in drywall. You need to know this at the earliest stages of planning – it’s very difficult to add later on and sometimes impossible.

#2

Analyze your personal preferences to determine if you are a person who prefers (maybe even needs symmetry) to feel like a room is balanced.

#3

Decide if you can live with or even prefer to mount your TV over the fireplace.

#4

Determine if you absolutely need that hearth.

#5

Pick a fireplace box. If your style leans modern, maybe you would prefer a linear fireplace style, which helps with the height of the mantel.

#6

Insist on interior elevation drawings and furniture floor plans before you break ground. Read more about why this important in this post.

#7

Understand your technology needs. If your TV components have to live near the TV versus a remote location, the built-in cabinetry will need to accommodate them appropriately.

#8

Settle on an aesthetic vision. Do you like some stone or all stone? Do you like the paneled look or shiplap? Is it a formal room or casual? Is it modern and spare or traditional and maximalist? Your designer can provide drawings to help you understand how material placement and color affect the balance and proportion of the wall.

Do you have one of these fireplace feature walls in your home? Do you struggle with any of these issues or have any regrets? Are there other tips I should incorporate into this article?

Let me know in the comments!

Original Abstract Painting

Easy Ways to Update Your Home Decor for Spring

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I don’t know about you, but I am dying for warm sunshine, long walks that don’t involve boots or overcoats, a shiny clean car, and open-toed shoes. Here in Iowa, it isn’t looking anything like Spring. In fact, we have snow in our forecast today!

But even if it’s still gray and gloomy outside, we can infuse a little Springtime into our interiors. In this post, I’ve rounded up some easy ways you can brighten up your home in preparation for the warmer months ahead from some of my favorite Etsy shops.

Mix it up with Pillows

First up is my tried and true favorite – throw pillows. Pillows are such an easy way to bring color and pattern into your space without a huge commitment. I love the idea of having one set of pillows for winter and another for the warmer months. Consider switching out heavy knits and thick velvets for lightweight linen and cotton covers in soft and pretty neutral hues or delicate patterns.

spring home decor, boho pillows light pillows spring pillows

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Light & Modern Pottery

I am a bit of a houseplant collector. I have ten just in my living room and am always thinking about what type of plant I’d like to add next. If you’re not great with succulents (like me), try tiny tropicals and begonias. I love finding decorative planters and choosing the perfect plants to pair with them. I’m fond of anything blue and white, as well as vintage cermaics in shades of green and yellow.

By planting interesting pottery in light colors with interesting textures, you get the added boost of the pretty ceramics in combination with the fresh greenery. Or simply swap any heavy or dark pottery on your shelves with simple white forms like the lovely vases I’ve pictured below. Etsy is one of my favorite sources for planters, along with West Elm, and of course, our family garden center, which just opened for the season.

Spring Home Decor - Light Modern Pottery - Handmade on Etsy

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Add Colorful Happy Art

There are so many sources for affordable artwork online, with Etsy and Minted being two of my favorites.  I painted all of the walls in our new house white because I knew I wanted to make artwork a focal point. I have several spots where it’s very easy to rotate the art in and out with the seasons just like I would pillows. If you want to cheer yourself up while we’re waiting for this dreary season to end, you can hang a bright poppy print for a dose of cheerful color.

home decor for spring, bright happy art

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Do you have any decor that you rotate with the seasons? Please share in the comments!

Modern kitchen, marble backsplash, brass hardware, IKEA kitchen

Five Simple Ways to Make IKEA Cabinets Look Expensive

It’s no secret that I am a huge fan of IKEA kitchen cabinets. I’ve used them in three of my own houses and specified them for several clients over the years. They are incredibly affordable for what you get, which includes some of the bells and whistles you’ll find in the highest end European cabinets. But, this post isn’t a love letter to IKEA…I’ll save that for another time. This post is about how you can make IKEA cabinets look expensive with a few simple design tricks.

Add Legs to Your Island

Many of my clients request a “furniture” look for their island. I interpret that to mean they want legs, base molding, or panels – or a combination of all three. Legs can anchor the countertop overhang, avoiding the floating look and providing balance. They also allow you to create a deeper overhang. The max countertop overhang without legs is 12″, but with legs you can easily extend that to 15″ or deeper. It’s best to check with your stone fabricator on what they recommend.

IKEA doesn’t sell furniture style legs for their islands, but it’s pretty easy to order them online in a variety of styles. You can buy them in person at Lowes or Home Depot or even make your own out of stock plywood and molding pieces. They are available in a variety of woods, and a good painter should be able to finish them to match your doors.

In my Fells Point IKEA Kitchen Remodel, we used custom island legs and base molding to create a custom look on the large island.

White IKEA kitchen with BODBYN door, large island, white quartz countertops, and slate floor.

Incorporate Custom Moldings

If you are considering a traditional or transitional style IKEA kitchen, you can make it look more polished and finished by adding stock molding from your local big box store in a few areas.

Crown or cove molding can help build your cabinetry up to the ceiling for a fully built-in look. It’s important to understand a frameless cabinet box like IKEA SEKTION doesn’t have a place to attach the crown molding, so you actually need a two-part crown. This sounds more complicated than it is. The first part is a straight or L-shaped piece that is attached to the top of the cabinet, which gives you a vertical surface to attached your angled crown. It also helps when trying to close the gap to the ceiling because ceilings are rarely level. The straight piece allows you to manipulate the crown if needed and avoid unsightly gaps.

white kitchen cabinets, white quartz countertops, lantern style pendant lights, subway tile

We used a two-part crown in the Fells Point IKEA kitchen remodel.

Light rail molding is attached to the bottom of the wall cabinet to conceal any undercabinet lighting. The height will be determined by the style of lighting you choose. I prefer to specify the LED tape lights because they have a very small profile. IKEA sells matching deco strips for their cabinet doors that are meant to be used as light rail molding.

Base molding builds up the base of the island to create that furniture look. You can also wrap it around the bottom of the cabinet at the end of a run and return it into the toe kick. You generally want your base molding to be shorter than the height of the toe kick (the recess at the bottom of a base cabinet) so that you can make that return if necessary. IKEA toe kicks are designed to be 4.5″ tall (the 30″ high box plus 4.5″ to bring you to the 34.5″ standard height), which gives you some nice options for molding styles.

If you are doing a “painted” IKEA door like BODBYN, you can bring a drawer front to the paint counter and have it color matched to a semi-gloss paint. Stains are a little trickier, especially if this is a DIY project. A good painter should be able to stain moldings to match. Be aware that stain grade moldings will be more expensive than paint grade.

Get Creative with Cover Panels

Cover panels are a must when designing with IKEA cabinets. The boxes are unfinished – white or dark brown – and don’t match the door finish. Cover panels match the door finish and are attached to the side of the cabinet box so everything appears seamless. There are a few ways I use cover panels to make my IKEA kitchens look more expensive.

First, I always cut or purchase my panels at a size so that they will extend past the edge of the box to cover the thickness of the door. The doors are 3/4″ thick (7/8″ when you add the little bumper dot). So, if a wall cabinet is 15″ deep, I specify the panel at 15.75″ wide so that it will hide the door from the side. This little trick instantly gives a more finished, custom look.

Unfortunately, IKEA cover panels only extend 5/8″ so they won’t fully cover the door thickness. I usually instruct my clients to purchase several of the large refrigerator panels and have them cut to size on site instead of purchasing the stock panels.

You can also use cover panels to simulate a cabinet “leg” by adding them to your base and tall cabinets in certain locations. I sometimes add a full-height panel (meaning it touches the ground vs. stopping at the toe kick) to the sides of base cabinets at the end of a run or an island. I almost always add them to full-height pantries on both sides. Sometimes I will use them to define a specific cabinet, like on either side of a sink base.

Upgrade to Custom Doors

I so wish this option existed when I installed my own IKEA kitchens in 2006 and 2008. Today there are several companies providing gorgeous custom doors that you can install on your IKEA cabinets. IKEA cabinets are completely modular, meaning every piece is purchased separately. You do not have to purchase the IKEA doors, drawer fronts, panels, and toe-kicks.

Modern kitchen, marble backsplash, brass hardware, IKEA kitchen

Semihandmade doors by Sarah Sherman Samuel for Design Milk

Instead, you can order your doors, drawer fronts, panels, and toe kicks from another company like Semihandmade for a truly custom look. If you choose this route, no one will ever know that your kitchen is from IKEA. Of course, there will be an upcharge over the standard IKEA doors, but I think it’s worth the cost if you can afford it.

Modern IKEA kitchen, custom drawers by Reform, modern kitchen island, colorful kitchen

This modern style by Reform has gold edges, revealed only when the cabinet is open.

Don’t Forget Overlay Fillers

You might be wondering what a filler is let alone an overlay filler. Stock cabinets come in specific widths that are usually in 3″ increments. For example, 12″, 15″, 18″, etc. Fillers are needed in certain instances:

  • When a run of cabinetry is not exactly divisible by 3″.
  • When a frameless style cabinet (like IKEA) is being placed next to a wall.
  • When a frameless style cabinet (like IKEA) is being placed next to another cabinet or panel that is significantly deeper. For example, a wall cabinet next to a refrigerator panel or a pantry.

IKEA boxes are a little weird in that they don’t sell a 27″ or a 33″ cabinet box, jumping from 24″ to 30″ and 30″ to 36″. Don’t ask me why, but it complicates things even further and requires a little extra creativity when planning your layout.

Fillers help us solve certain problems, but why do we need the overlay filler and what the heck is it anyway? A filler is just a flat strip of material painted or stained to match the cabinetry doors. When it is installed, it is placed in between the box and the wall or the box and the adjacent cabinet creating a seamless transition.

BUT…frameless cabinet doors sit proud (ie. on top of) the cabinet box and are usually 3/4″ thick (7/8″ when you add those little bumper dots). When they are all installed properly, you should not see the front of the cabinet boxes at all. The overlay filler is installed on top of the filler piece and sits almost flush with the face of the cabinet doors and drawers. Then the fillers aren’t as noticeable because you have a smooth transition from door to wall (or cabinet) and no change in depth, which can create a shadow effect and distracts the eye.

Whew! I feel like I should write a whole post just on fillers and how to deal with them now.


I really hope you enjoyed this post on how you can make IKEA cabinets look expensive with a few simple hacks to create a custom looking kitchen. If you need help planning your IKEA kitchen, I would be happy to help, and it doesn’t matter where you live. Just send me a quick note, and we’ll schedule a time to talk.

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white-eames-chair

Houzz Ideabooks Tutorial: A Step-by-Step Guide for Using Houzz to Communicate with Your Interior Designer

Houzz.com is a website that started out with architects and interior designers sharing their portfolios online in a searchable database that users could save to albums called Ideabooks. It has now expanded to include a wide array of home improvement professionals and vendors as well as the products you need to complete those projects, articles, forums, and more. It can be a little overwhelming for the newly initiated homeowner looking to find inspiration for their remodeling or decorating project. This Houzz Ideabooks tutorial will walk you step-by-step through the process of creating an Ideabook, sharing it with your interior designer, adding photos, and commenting on the photos.

First, why should you use Houzz instead of Pinterest when gathering inspiration images? It’s not really an either/or question – Pinterest has tons of interior design inspiration. But, Houzz was created with homeowners and designers specifically in mind while Pinterest can be a rabbit hole of recipes, outfits, and all kinds of things that have nothing to do with your design project. In my experience, it’s a lot easier to find high-quality photos of interiors on Houzz. The photos are uploaded by the designer herself, so when you click on them, you will find links to more images of the same project. There might even be details listed with the photo about the items used, the paint colors, and the vendors. Houzz also has a robust design-specific search engine that lets you filter by style, size, budget, color, and more.

Whenever I start a new project with a client, I ask her (or him) to setup a Houzz Ideabook or Ideabooks, add photos to it of interiors that they like, and comment on those photos with what specifically appealed to them. These Ideabooks are incredibly helpful for me in deciphering my client’s style as well as keeping a visual log of the different elements that they want to include. But, it’s not always obvious to a client who has never visited the site on how to get started, so I created this easy tutorial. Let’s get started!

Create a Houzz Profile

If you don’t already have a Houzz.com profile, it’s very easy to create one. Once you go to the website, click on the Sign In button in the top right corner. You can create a specific user id and password or login with your Facebook or Google account.

Create a separate Ideabook for each major area of your project

Once you create a Houzz profile, you can start adding Ideabooks to your profile and saving photos to those Ideabooks. Ideabooks are similar to Pinterest boards.

From the Houzz homepage, click on Your Houzz in the top right corner of the window and select Your Ideabooks from the drop-down menu.

Houzz Ideabooks Tutorial - How to use Houzz to communicate effectively with your interior designer - Jillian Lare Interior Design

Click on the big plus sign to create a new Ideabook.

Houzz Tutorial - How to use Houzz to communicate effectively with your interior designer - Jillian Lare Interior Design

Give your Ideabook a name. If you are starting a large project like a full house remodel or building a new home, you might want to create several Ideabooks to keep your photos organized. In that case, you might call them something like: “New House – Exterior”, “New House – Overall Style”, “New House – Kitchen”, etc.

If you are currently planning a single room, you can keep it simple with a name like “My Kitchen Remodel.” You can also choose to organize a small project with multiple Ideabooks like “My Kitchen Remodel –  Cabinets”, “My Kitchen Remodel – Lighting,” etc, but that could also be overkill if you only save a few photos to each.

Make sure to add a description for your Ideabook so your designer knows what the photos in this particular album are for. Then, click on the radio button to make the Ideabook private. Finally, click on the green Create button.

Houzz Tutorial - How to use Houzz to communicate effectively with your interior designer - Jillian Lare Interior Design

By setting your Ideabooks to private, you ensure that your comments will remain private as well.

Share the Ideabook with Your Designer

Once you click that green Create button, you will be prompted to share your Ideabook. First, enter the email address of your designer (it’s also a great idea to share with your partner). If the designer already has a Houzz profile, you may see their profile pop up automatically. If you don’t, just finish typing – it’s totally ok. Then click the Add button.

Once you click the Add button, you will see your designer’s email address listed below. Click the drop-down next to their email address and make sure it is set to Can Edit. Now she can add photos and comment on the photos you have added as well. You can add as many people as you like at once. When you are finished, click the green Share button.

Houzz Tutorial - How to use Houzz to communicate effectively with your interior designer - Jillian Lare Interior Design

If you look at the Ideabooks section of your profile page, you will see your new Ideabook listed. It will probably be gray since you haven’t added any photos to it yet. Remember you can access all of your Ideabooks from any page on Houzz by clicking Your Houzz in the top right corner.

Houzz Tutorial - How to use Houzz to communicate effectively with your interior designer - Jillian Lare Interior Design

Add photos from Houzz

Click on your new Ideabook to open it up. Now for the fun part! You can search Houzz for photos to add to your Ideabooks using the search bar at the top of the site. You can also click on the Photos icon at the bottom of your Ideabook.

Tip: If you want to add additional people to your Ideabook, you can click on the Invite button next to your profile photo on the Ideabook page.

Houzz Tutorial - How to use Houzz to communicate effectively with your interior designer - Jillian Lare Interior Design

Start scrolling through the photos in the Houzz feed. When you see one with a feature or detail that you like, hover over the photo. You will see two buttons pop up at the bottom – Save and Email. Click on the Save button.

Houzz Ideabooks Tutorial - How to use Houzz to communicate effectively with your interior designer - Jillian Lare Interior Design

A white box will pop up. Select the appropriate Ideabook from the drop-down menu. Then add your comments in the text box in the middle. Last, click on the green Save to Ideabook button.

Houzz Ideabooks Tutorial - How to use Houzz to communicate effectively with your interior designer - Jillian Lare Interior Design

You might notice an Upload File button on the right side of the Ideabook. This button is for uploading photos to your Ideabook from your computer, but they should only be photos that you own or took yourself. It is against Houzz’s policy to upload photos without permission.

Commenting on Photos Effectively

You can add comments to each photo as you save them to your Ideabook. Or you can edit your comments from the Ideabook page by clicking on the comment below the photos.

The key to using Houzz Ideabooks for effectively communicating with your interior designer is the comments. Without your comments, your designer has no way of knowing why you saved that photo. Did you like the wall color? The overall vibe? Or just the light fixture?

Comments are especially important if have saved a bunch of photos that have no obvious correlation to one another. You may have told your designer that you wanted a traditional kitchen and then saved several photos of kitchens with flat style doors, no moldings, and minimal detailing because you liked their color or the layout, but your designer has no way of knowing that unless you tell her in the comments.

Houzz Ideabooks Tutorial - How to use Houzz to communicate effectively with your interior designer - Jillian Lare Interior Design

Remember when we made your Ideabook private? The reason we want to keep our Ideabooks private is so that our comments remain private as well. Sometimes it can be just as helpful (if not more helpful!) for you to tell your designer what you dislike about a room or style. But, you want to make sure that those types of comments remain between yourself and your designer so that you don’t hurt anyone’s feelings.

Let’s say that you saved this photo, which is from my master bathroom remodel, to your Ideabook.

Master Bathroom Remodel - Photo by Cassandra Monroe

You might comment something like: “Love the contrast of the dark cabinetry with the white countertops and the shape of the mirrors. Would prefer a different style for the sconces. Not wild about brass hardware.”

Now I know that you like strong contrast, dark cabinet, white or light colored countertops and modern geometric shapes. I also know to look for a different style for the light fixtures and not to specify brass hardware. That’s incredibly helpful. Remember, it’s important to be specific as possible.

If you find a photo you like but aren’t sure why, just say so. The reason will probably become apparent to your designer if you save many other photos with more specific comments.

Review with your interior designer.

Once my clients have added a good number of photos to the Ideabook for their project (at least fifteen to twenty is ideal), I go through each photo and study it along with their comments while making notes. During our next meeting, I like to review those photos with the client and discuss the different aspects of them, along with any common themes that I noticed. This review makes sure that we are on the same page and that I didn’t misinterpret any of their comments or reasons for saving the photos.

Here is a screenshot of one of my clients’ Ideabooks for their kitchen remodel. They really embraced using Houzz as a communication tool.

Houzz Ideabooks Tutorial - How to use Houzz to communicate effectively with your interior designer - Jillian Lare Interior Design

First, the wife saved photos that she liked with her comments. Then the husband took his turn. After he had made his contributions, they commented on each other’s photos and initialed their comments. They put a ton of thought into what they liked or disliked about each photo, and it made my job incredibly easy. A designer’s dream come true!


I hope you enjoyed this tutorial on how to use Houzz Ideabooks to communicate effectively with your interior designer. Houzz is an amazing resource, and if you use it properly, it can be a valuable asset in making sure you get the results you want for your interior design project.

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Houzz Tutorial - How to use Houzz to communicate effectively with your interior designer - Jillian Lare Interior Design