Success Story (and a new service option)


BEFORE (left) & AFTER (right)

BEFORE (left) & AFTER (right)

Remodeled years ago, complete with an acoustical ceiling tile grid with fluorescent lights, this Craftsman Bungalow kitchen was long overdue for an overhaul. There was very little original charm left, other than the leaded glass doors in the breakfast nook.  Our goal was to restore vintage character while creating a highly functional kitchen that will eventually appeal to buyers.

The leaded glass doors were reused in the design of the custom china armoire, seen in the 'AFTER' image (above, right).

A new, widened opening from the kitchen to the dining room features a bar-height mahogany peninsula to make visiting while cooking effortless and to double as a serving counter. The opening was curved to match the existing openings exactly.

The antique telephone and mixer both work and are used frequently.

The antique telephone and mixer both work and are used frequently.

The retro-style fridge, vintage telephone, farmhouse apron sink, linoleum floors, and mix of reproduction and vintage light fixtures bring the charm to the foreground of what is now a functionally modern kitchen.

To see more photos, visit Houzz.


I was contacted by this homeowner after he attended my "Kitchen Remodeling for Vintage Homes" lecture at Historic Seattle.  The project had been on his mind for years, and he had already completed several other restoration/remodel projects in the house.  But, the kitchen posed a lot of design challenges and he knew he wanted to get it "right"... and by "right" I mean have it feel special and historic when he was done, not screaming remodeled now and outdated in 10 years.


What the homeowner needed here was for me to pull together the big vision, draw a detailed set of drawings that would get him off to a good start with his builder, and chime in on how to make semi-custom cabinets look custom and vintage before pulling the trigger on the cabinet order. He was comfortable taking on the shopping, daily supervision, and decision-making. And, his contractor was able to facilitate the permits.  So, really he just needed my help "getting it right."


As you can see, the results were fabulous!  Which has inspired me to offer design-only services to other projects that are well-suited for it.  Think that might be your project?  Contact me to talk it over.

Featured in SNAP magazine

Magnolia Mid-Mod continues to get noticed for its innovative design solutions, especially in the kitchen where ergonomics and workflow were carefully considered together with the different abilities of standing and seated users. Most recently, it was featured in SNAP magazine  (Sweets News and Products), published by Architectural Record.

In the pre-internet era, you would not have found an architect's office without current copies of the Sweets catalogs in their resource library. So, it's especially flattering to have been included in the Product Specs "Accessible Design Solutions" section of this publication, which serves as a "yellow pages" and inspiration source for other architects.

(The products editor, Sheila Kim, also included a handwritten note with my copy that made my day: "Your project truly demonstrates how beauty & accessibility can coexist.")


  1. Elkay Drain Fitting - This offset drain creates an additional 12-3/4" of knee clearance for sinks without garbage disposals. ($114)

  2. Elkay Gourmet (Lustertone) Stainless Steel Single Bowl Undermount Sink - The center rear drain position installed together with an offset drain provide additional knee clearance. The Perfect Drain is an edgeless drain that eliminates the accumulation of crumbs and gunk. Undermount, 23-1/2" x 18-1/4" x 5-3/8". ($662, sink only)

  3. Rachiele custom-made apron front stainless steel sink with offset drain - Similar to the ever-popular custom sink seen in my Magnolia Mid-Mod and Pioneer Square projects, Rachiele sinks are available in standard brushed or rustic matte stainless steel with the option to add a hammered texture to the apron only or to the entire sink. The sinks can also be made with "signature ledges" which allow you to set cutting boards onto the ledges for ultimate flexibility. For those who desire a garbage disposal, a custom sink will allow you to place the disposal as close to the rear wall as and far out of the knee space as possible. Apron-front, custom-sized. (Price varies.)

  4. Moen 1800 Series - The rear corner drain is helpful when a garbage disposal is desired. Undermount, 23" x 18" x 5-1/2". ($294)  

  5. Kohler Vault - Clean lines and square corners coordinate with modern architecture.  The super-slim edge can be top-mounted or under-mounted. At 6-5/16" deep, this sink basin is deeper than the Moen and Elkay options. Use in combination an offset drain for maximum knee clearance. Dual-mount, 25" x 22" x 6-5/16". ($679, sink only)  

Note:  Prices listed are estimated retail prices.  Actual purchase price varies.

Video Tour: Magnolia Mid-Mod

There is a lot more story to tell (and stuff to show) about this wonderfully livable and accessible home than photos alone can capture.  

So, when the fabulous Chibi Moku team decided to film in the Pacific Northwest for a few weeks this summer, Karen and I jumped at the opportunity.  Enjoy!

How a small splurge may become a big expense (and how to maintain control)


You probably don't realize it, but the same tricks used in grocery stores to entice you to spend more are used in showrooms for construction materials and products.  In a grocery store, the sugary cereal is placed at childrens' eye level to grab their attention (and begin the begging process).  The guilty-pleasure cereals that camouflage as healthier options are at adult eye level.  And, the really healthy stuff?  On the top or very bottom shelf, collecting dust.  

When you walk in a showroom, the most popular luxury goods will be front and center, and you will surely find yourself in "love" with some expensive (and probably trendy) goodies.  


With any construction material, the cost of labor must be included to determine the actual price difference.  Labor rates can sometimes eclipse the unit cost savings.   


When selecting the backsplash for the kitchen at our Laurelhurst project, we immediately loved the classic look of the 1x3 statuary white marble herringbone pattern mosaic tile.  But, at about $21 per square foot, the material cost was significantly more than a $4 per square foot matte white subway tile we also liked.

So, we came up with two options:

  • Option 1- All herringbone mosaic

  • Option 2 - Inexpensive white subway tile with matching trim pieces and a narrow accent band of a marble tile

We asked our general contractor to give us a total installed price for both options.  Surprisingly, the additional labor to install the less expensive tile made Option 2 MORE expensive than Option 1.  The labor to install each piece individually, plus additional time to determine the best layout in the field (to minimize small pieces), more than closed the price gap of the materials per square foot.  This would  not have been true if Option 1 also required piece-by-piece installation and fussy layout calculations in the field, but since the herringbone mosaic came mounted on a mesh in 12"x12" interlocking pieces, the labor factor was significantly less.


Some materials have an even larger price difference between the material cost and the total installed cost.  One reason is that some items must be purchased in certain increments, regardless of the amount needed -- such as certain tiles that are sold by the box and stones that are sold in whole slabs.

When fragile or difficult to fabricate materials are being handled and shaped, there will also be a liability factor in the subcontractor's pricing.  After all, if they break the slab, they will have to purchase and fabricate a replacement.  


Upgrading to manufactured quartz from plastic laminate may seem like a small splurge if you rely upon square foot costs to make your judgment (see the yellow highlighted cells in the spreadsheet, below).  However, once labor, fabrication, and mark-ups are added, the multiplier is much higher (green cells vs. yellow cells, below).  



You may also have to purchase more slabs because of the shapes of un-spliced pieces required that can be cut from a single slab.   In contrast, plastic laminate can be continuously applied to a substrate in much longer pieces, so a purchase increment is less likely to trigger a significant overall price swing.


Appointments are recommended (and required at many showrooms) so that you get individualized attention and answers to your questions, but you will have a true insider's advantage when your architect/designer is either by your side or has called to brief the salesperson regarding the design objectives and budget expectations before your appointment.  

If you find yourself captivated by a more expensive option, collect the information needed to price it, but spend time to find a less expensive option that would also work, keeping labor, purchase increments, and subcontractor liability in mind.