Saturday, December 13, 2008

SMALL SPACE FIX: Big ideas for small bathrooms

Just like our office cubicles, cars and economy, our bathrooms are shrinking. But how do you make a tiny room work all that bit harder? Try these tips.

* Streamlined vanities and basins with separate shelving, and cabinetry with storage space for cosmetics and toiletries, are essential inclusions for small bathrooms.

* Less is more and subtle storage provides the best solutions to allow for this. Glass and floating timber shelves on plain walls dress up the room and add instant storage space for towels.
* Embrace the trend towards smaller or wall-hung vanities. Wall-hung products such as toilets and vanities are gaining in popularity because they take up much less room than larger units and create a modern-looking bathroom.

* When it comes to tiles, the bigger the better - larger tiles make a room appear bigger than it actually is. Wall tiles laid vertically and extending to the ceiling can make a small bathroom feel larger by drawing the eye upwards. If you want to create a sense of a wider space, tiles can be placed horizontally.

* Mirrors also create depth and distribute light throughout the room. The colour scheme can also create the illusion of space, especially with a colour palette of whites, creams or pastels.
* Keep things simple and avoid large patterns as these will make the room appear more cluttered.
* Corners and gaps between shower recesses and basins can often be dead space. There are products that maximise these areas and make the most of every inch of the room.
* Bathrooms have also become multi-purpose, incorporating rooms such as laundries, so clever storage prevents cramping.

Pictures: LJT bathrooms

Friday, December 5, 2008

Install your own kitchen and save!

Installing your own kitchen is all about details. So many it will make your head spin. But it's worth coming to grips with the hassle of installing your own kitchen if you want a swanky-looking room for a fraction of the price.

Yes, we all adore those sleek Leicht and Poggenpohl kitchens (why are the Germans so good at kitchens?) but you can get a similarly schmick kitchen by shopping around and having a willing screwdriver operator to install it. What you save on the installation, you can spend on the pull-out pantry or the stone benchtop.

Installing cabinets and benchtops yourself will save about 15 to 20 per cent of the cost of a kitchen, says Michael Caminer, the chief executive of Alsa Manufacturing, which makes Smartpack Kitchens. Design-and-install kitchen companies rarely specify the exact cost of installation, but you pay a premium to the company that has the headache of overseeing and scheduling tradespeople.

"We have had people say they were quoted $25,000 or $30,000 for a kitchen that we can offer to them for $10,000 or $12,000 if they install it themselves," Caminer says.

That's a big enough saving to allow you to line up at David Jones for the Chloe instead of making do with Witchery. Now comes the bad part: all the things you have to remember. It's not worth bothering with this self-installing caper unless you can juggle details, deal with tradespeople and remain calm during the dust, mess and chaos of a renovation.

Oh, and you can't oversee the entire kitchen renovation with only a screwdriver. You'll probably need a drill, too. And a level. And a tape measure. If you are the kind of person who can't assemble an Ikea bookshelf, please don't attempt this.

Each kitchen renovation has different requirements but the basics of scheduling the job are as follows
  1. Plumbing The bits that make the dishwasher do its job and allow the gas cooktop to light up can only be overseen by a licensed plumber. And the plumber needs to visit twice - once in the early stage to rough-in, then again after stage 4 to finish off and/or install the appliances and taps.
  2. Electricals As with the plumber, the sparky may have to come twice, first to rough-in and later to install light fittings, power switches and appliances. If you don't already have an electric oven installed, you may need a new circuit to run the appliance.
  3. Cabinetry Base and wall cabinets need to be ordered weeks or even months in advance of the installation date. These are assembled first and lined up in position, waiting to be topped by ...
  4. Benchtops Customised stone benchtops can take a long, long time to arrive after ordering. It's best to order and schedule the benchtop to coincide with the arrival of the cabinets.
  5. Splashbacks Whether you choose tiles, coloured glass, timber or stone, the splashbacks make the kitchen look finished. And don't forget the silicone seal between the splashback and the benchtop.
  6. Flooring This can be done now or before the cabinets are in, depending on the type of flooring you need and whether you want it to continue underneath the cabinets.
  7. Painting-finishing The final touch. You can sigh with relief when the dust is gone and the doorhandles are on. And invest in a drill jig to get the cupboard door handles in the right position.
  • There are plenty of companies selling flatpack kitchens, which renovators can install themselves. For starters look at Ikea, A-Plan Kitchens and Smartpack.
  • Self-assemble kitchens are often on sale at auction houses such as Laws Auctions, sometimes in fixed U- or L-shapes. Keep an eye out for ex-display kitchens or kitchens for sale in the Trading Post or on eBay.
  • Not all kitchen-supply companies have a self-installation option. Many insist on providing a full installation service (and charging the mark-up) to retain quality control. Check the fine print of contracts before committing to anything.
  • Not all flatpack kitchens are created equal - check the material used in the cabinets, the type of hinges and drawer runners used and the edging on the doors.
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