Something Different

The V6B Design Group of Vancouver, the only Western Canadian firm to capture not one but three awards at Art of the Industry, the 2007 National Kitchen and Bath Association Design Competition, is back at work designing the type of knock-out kitchens that have earned the company international acclaim.

Earl Lawson of V6B explains that the project here, a West Side kitchen makeover, called for a a natural, comfortable combination of antique furniture, modern conveniences, and folk art.

Left: Existing kitchen area was quite confined.

The area was quite confined so a lot of thought had to go into pulling the various finishes together. As it turned out, the client had an eclectic sense and was anxious to do something different, he said.

V6B certainly did something different. The kitchen became a combination of traditional painted inset cabinetry and dark stained European style wood cabinets, and a butcher block peninsula, all bridged with a stainless sink, and clean up centre, dropped into a stainless countertop.

All In The Details

A finalist in the 2009 Georgie competition for “Renovation under $100,000,” the refurbishing of this Burnaby home included the makeover of two bathrooms, with the master ensuite shown here.

The project reveals that overall costs can be kept reasonable while creating a sophisticated and more efficient space through smart design and the use of disparate materials. The room was first opened up visually by removing oversized and misplaced fixtures, such as the cumbersome bathtub, which was replaced with a contemporary freestanding tub.

The custom millwork, in a dark natural rift-cut walnut, was designed to frame the room and add a style element but also to dramatically increase storage, which now extends to a ceiling-height, yet unobtrusive, linen cabinet, and extra shelves and drawers beneath the counters.

The flooring is finished in affordable and long-wearing ceramic tile, while the countertops are high-quality Travertine marble. The raised rectangular sink is from Duravit, equipped with high-tech Toto faucets, creating a “wow” factor.

What could have been a basic shower stall is livened with a ribbon of recycled glass tiles, which are also used for the countertop backsplash.

“The goal was to upgrade an existing space and to elevate the overall design and feel of the room,” explained John Friswell of North Vancouver-based CCI Renovations Ltd., which handled the project.

The ceramic tile floor, for example, is set with alternating accent tiles, and the colour palettes are carefully co-ordinated to complement the dark stained wood, brushed nickel and chrome fixtures.

Sustainable features include low-flow toilets, the use of halogen and other low-voltage lighting and the upgrading of in-floor radiant heating.

Suite It Is

While not a true makeover – it was created from the whole cloth of a top-floor addition to a Coquitlam home – this ensuite treatment by My House Design Build of Vancouver is certainly an inspiring bathroom project.

We like the details of matching the fireplace surround to the windows, creating an appealing visual punch. The muted colours also work well, tying in a large room through the choice of wall paint and furniture colours.

Countertops are in marble cream marfil; cabinets are dark; and all faucets are from Kohler.

The bathroom countertops are marble cream marfil, a luxury touch, while the large sunken bathtub sports rim-mounted Kohler faucets including spray nozzle. As designer Linda Jones explained, the gas fireplace was originally meant to be a two-sided version that could be viewed from the bathtub and the bed.

“Privacy won out over aesthetics,” Jones said, and the fireplace remained facing only into the bedroom.

The dark cabinets are solid maple, and the porcelain large-format tile floor has tumbled marble mosaics insets, which are also used in the shower stall floor and walls. Floors are equipped with in-floor radiant heating.

The shower stall has tumbled marble floor and wall mosaics, which are also used as insets for the bathroom tile

The glass-sheathed shower is equipped with a giant Kohler rainhead shower.
To capture a view, the windows are covered in “bottom up” Levellor blinds that still allow privacy.

This master ensuite is among the My House Design entries in the 2008 Georgie competition.

Zen And The Art Of Renovation

Buddhist teachings say the key to overcoming obstacles is to face them with confidence and creativity.

So when Yee Jee Tso of ArtiZEN Renovations Inc. received a picture of a kitchen torn from a magazine to use as a point of reference to make over two outdated bathrooms in a West Vancouver home, he readily accepted the challenge.

Before: With its fading wallpaper and hard-to-clean carpeting, the original ensuite was in desperate need of a makeover.

“Essentially, the entire renovation stemmed from that single image,” Tso explained of the project at the home of Henry and Hanna Tong. “We used it to glean more information from the homeowners about their needs and desires for the rooms.”

With his friendly, easy attitude and dedication to customer service, Tso, who co-founded ArtiZEN with his carpenter partner in 2005, helped the Tongs define a vision for their dream home.

“They wanted clean lines and a modern look, but not ultra-modern or unlivable,” said interior designer Leanne Poon, who collaborated on the British Properties home the Tongs share with their two sons. “We guided them through the process step by step and helped them choose beautiful, natural materials – lots of wood and texture.”

With fading wallpaper and hard-to-clean carpeting, the master and shared baths in the house hadn’t been updated since the 1980s. Partition walls separated the toilets from the tubs, blocking sunlight and making the rooms feel cramped. The old-fashioned vanities and ancient storage cabinets added to the shabby look of both spaces.

“At first, we considered making the rooms bigger and brighter with entirely new layouts,” said Tso. “But we had a budget to stick to, so we took both partition walls out and replaced them with glass.”

Then came new appliances, fixtures, cabinetry and décor, and the Tongs had what ArtiZEN’s marketing and communications manager, Ashleigh Franklin, called “a whole new bath.”

With the new glass divider filling the boys’ bath with natural light, ArtiZEN removed the old enamel tub and built a walk-in, custom-tiled shower. “It was right up our alley,” said Tso, a former tile installer. “Totally waterproof, with a frameless glass enclosure, we felt it suited two growing, active boys more than a bathtub.”

Indeed, upon completion of the renovation, the Tongs’ sons called their new bathroom “cooler” and “more masculine” than its former incarnation.

Featuring the same tiles as the smaller bath but a completely different look and feel, the master bath was transformed into a soothing space with a spa-like feel – a perfect place in which the man and lady of the house can relax.

“We’re so happy,” said Hanna. “Both bathrooms are absolutely gorgeous, and the staff were extremely professional and thoughtful. They made us feel at ease throughout the entire process.”

Along with the rest of his team, Tso accepts the praise with quiet modesty, pointing back to the basic principal that drove him to create ArtiZEN: “When you show up on time, are easy to deal with and do a good job, the work speaks for itself.”

Condo Bath On A Budget

Looks like granite, but the countertop is two-inch-thick laminate, at a cost of about $375 to cover six feet

Yet the bathroom is a small space and, with the variety of bath-related products on today’s market, you can refresh yours to look fantastic on a very slim budget, said a cost-conscious consultant.

It’s the same idea as transforming your office-appropriate look to night-on-the-town glam.

First, says Jeffrey Rebiffe, of the My House Design Build team, think of creating a focal point for your bathroom makeover.

“Because the bathroom is small, pay attention to details where the eye will look first,” he said. As such, cabinets may not be as important as countertops.

A high-end imported granite or marble can cost $1,500 to cover six feet of counter. But Rebiffe explains that laminate countertops wear extremely well and are available in any style, including marble or granite designs. For a standard laminate of 1.25 inches thick, the cost to cover six feet would be about $225. Go crazy and upgrade to a two-inch thick super laminate, and the cost is only about $150 more. Plus you’ll save on the labour costs of installing vinyl laminate.

You can save on faucets by ignoring both expensive designer styles and very low-cost knockoffs. Instead, Rebiffe said, choose products from established, mass-produced brands like Delta and Moen, who not only compete in styles with the European designer labels, but are low-maintenance and usually fit right into existing plumbing.

Plumbing, in fact, is a key factor in a budget bathroom makeover, Rebiffe said. In general, do not move any of the plumbing fixtures, just replace faucets and showerheads. For the toilet, go with proven brands and don’t get too fancy. “Honestly, people aren’t wowed by a designer toilet,” Rebiffe said.

For low-cost, high-quality floor tiles, Rebiffe recommends heading to “tile central” around Burnaby’s Boundary-Lougheed area, home to wholesalers Tierra Sol, Julian Tile and Ames Tile. “You can save 90 per cent off the regular price on incredible tiles,” he said. Imported slate border tiles that can cost up to $9 each can be found for $1 to $2.

Also, check building-supply dealers. The sudden downturn in condo building has left some with large inventories of bath items.

Rebiffe also recommends bright paint, perhaps two contrasting shades to get a wow look. He also notes that many lighting stores have low-cost mirrors, and the combination of the right lights and mirrors can truly transform a bath at low cost.

Other tips: go with standard sinks or porcelain vessels – undermounted sinks can be expensive to install. Never opt for a steel enamel sink, no matter how inexpensive. “They always look cheap,” he said.

According to Rebiffe, a standard six-foot-by-eight-foot condo bathroom can be changed completely for less than $2,000 with planning and some legwork.

How to save money

  • Use marble- or granite-design thick laminates for countertops.
  • Buy local, brand-name faucets.
  • Scout Burnaby tile wholesalers for great deals on imports.
  • Paint in vibrant colours.
  • Match lighting and mirrors.
  • Buy quality towels and light accessories for a finishing touch.

Alpha Faucets

Once a modest appendage, faucets have become an alpha design feature in bathroom makeovers, often seducing the rest of the renovation.

Sleek, bold and sensual, the expressive designs released to bath decor outlets this spring are extending the European-inspired minimalism that has characterized the faucet evolution over the last few seasons.

German designer Arefakt, which captured the 2007 International Forum Design GmbH Award for its Moments line for American Standard, uses simple shapes, yet with a startling stark character. The faucet is meant to “always represent a modern image,”
according to lead designer Achim Pohl.

Pohl’s comment is telling: some of the new designer faucets are so cutting-edge they may appear dated tomorrow. It takes courage to choose a tap that may cost more than your Prada bag, and could slip out of style next spring.

That it is why it is important to go with well-known, respected manufacturers where even the dramatic designs are backed with durability – and the assurance the style will remain in the market mix.

On these pages, we present three of the best of the new contemporary faucet designs, from American Standard, Moen and Canada’s own AquaBrass, all stoic names that have, apparently, unleashed their design team. Moen, playing it safe, allows most of their faucets to be changed or updated easily with a near snap-out system.

Step Into Luxury

Bathroom makeover

Bathrooms often pose the most difficult challenges when it comes to renovations. The limitations of space make it hard to feel free in choosing design elements; and the fact that we spend a smaller fraction of our time in the bathroom than in any other room in the house can make it hard to justify spending the money that quality bathroom renos demand.
So, perhaps not so surprisingly, a shift is occurring where people are actually treating the “tub ‘n’ tile” room as more of a refuge in which they can enjoy spending time; a place to pamper themselves after a long day that is well suited to bathrooms’ new mantra – “Indulge!”
The bath as spa is moving into reno-consciousness, and it’s showing up in a variety of ways – from the overall impact of the décor to the choice of soaker tub to the selection of floor tile.

Bathroom makeover

“People are moving to a spa environment,” said Paul Coker of Innova interior design. “They’re returning from trips where they’ve experienced body-jets, steam rooms and the calming elements of nature.” And it’s those effects that they are trying to recreate in their own homes.
The question is, can you achieve that look without the need to mortgage the house to create it?

“You can get a tremendous amount done to turn your bathroom into a luxurious room for around $5,000,” said Jade Allen, co-owner of DirectBuy. “You can get fixtures, a new shower, even a Jacuzzi tub. Some people come in looking for specific brands, others are more concerned about money, but people can get any need taken care of.”

Bathroom makeoverFor those with a bit of space to play with, setting up separate areas for a soaker tub and for the shower space is important to create a feeling of lavishness, said Allen. Large rainshower heads in shower areas that have barely-there enclosures, soaker tubs with one-piece surrounds, and vanity sinks as opposed to
pedestals all add to the comfort that people are now looking for in what has traditionally been a purely functional room.

Bathroom makeover

While what goes in the room is obviously crucial, what goes on the walls is as important in achieving the right feel. You can get tiles that look like leather, porcelain, silk or linen, said Tracy Wheeler of Powerhouse Tiles. These days, according to Wheeler, the look is moving toward a cleaner, more linear edge that results in a more classic look.

Bathroom makeover

“People are considering wainscotting, a chair rail, a mosaic floor,” said Wheeler. “Think Jackie Kennedy; the ’50s and ’60s era.”

Shapes are changing, too. The tiles have moved from the standard four-inch by four-inch square to rectangles up to two feet by four feet.
“The taste of the consumer is becoming more adventuresome, so it makes it more fun for us,” said Wheeler.

Bathroom makeover


The key issues to keep in mind when looking at bathroom tile is the difference between the durability of wall and floor tiles (floor tiles can go anywhere because they are designed to be tough); and the type of backing that’s going to be needed to hold the tile in place. A larger tile, 12 inches by 16 inches, for example, might need a special backing to hold it to a wall, as opposed to keeping it in place on the floor.

Bathroom makeover”That’s where choosing a good installation company comes in,” said Wheeler. “Get detailed, written estimates. No estimates over the phone or ballpark figures.”
The reason for a site visit by an installer is that they should be able to identify possible problems in floor deflection. Should a house begin to settle a little, the floor might twist, causing tiles to crack.

“We’ve seen that in as little as two months,” Wheeler said, adding that scrimping in this area of a renovation can lead to really major headaches. “Tile is not the type of thing you want to be redoing every two weeks.”

Bathroom makeover

Along with considerations for cost and quality, consumers wanting to create a special retreat in their bathroom are still concerned about environmental issues. Those calming elements of nature aren’t going to feel too calming if you’re wondering which old-growth rainforest tree had to be cut down to make your cabinets.

As consumers renovate, they’re constantly asking the green questions, said Coker. “In the past, we would have to initiate the conversation, but now, people are much more informed. It means people are more open to investigating new options.”

Bathroom makeover

Some of those options include water-based, non-VOC-off-gassing stains and grout; bamboo floors that are baked, not stained; recovered-glass countertops; and PaperStone vanities that use 100 per cent post-consumer recycled paper. Yet another way to make yourself feel good at the end of the day.

Softly Green

The makeover of this 15-year-old Coquitlam kitchen proved sensitive to environmental issues but also to the underlying reasons for the renovation: to create a contemporary space that had to look and work great.

ROn all points it proved a success, and a lesson in what should perhaps be known as “soft green” – sustainable yet stylish, green but not preachy about it.

The hardwood floor, for example, is handsome, hand-scraped, engineered Brazilian cherry, 6 1/8 inches wide. Engineered wood has double environmental credits because it only uses a portion of the wood, and it is extremely durable.

The cabinets are solid maple – a natural, green choice – and are hand-painted to complement the walls done in Benjamin Moore’s Spanish Olive, part of the company’s Natura line of environmentally friendly paint. Plus, all of the sealants used in the extensive cabinets are low-VOC, which means they do not emit volatile organic compounds.

Natural light pours in through new kitchen windows, which are all low-E, argon-filled, high-performance models that provide nearly the insulation level of a solid wall.

And all of the appliances are EnerGuide-rated for energy savings, including the six-burner, gas-fired, 48-inch Wolf Range. An energy-efficient Bosch 24-inch refrigerator and integrated Bosch 18-inch freezer are modestly hidden behind matching cabinetry.

The countertops are absolute black granite, a natural material, and the backsplash is made of long-wearing, hand-pressed Italian subway tiles, contrasting in bold white.

Tucked beneath the Kindred sink and its stainless-steel apron is a complete recycling station.

Best of all, perhaps, that is the renovation shows that superior sustainable features can be included without sacrificing design or practicality.

This kitchen makeover is by Barone Developments Ltd. of Coquitlam, which is a finalist for this project in the 2009 Georgie Awards for best kitchen renovation under $100,000.

Take 2

As part of a complete house makeover, West Vancouver-based Interior Solutions Design Group designer Tiffany Karlson was asked to turn an unused bedroom into a luxurious master bathroom, and to upgrade the guest bathroom into a more welcoming space.

Explains Karlson: “The clients wanted a natural and modern West Coast look highlighting simplicity, balance and warmth. Influenced by Asian design, they wanted the home to have a serene and calm “Zen-like” feel with a clean, linear style.”

The vacant bedroom of the 1970s North Vancouver house provided ample space to add the ensuite bathroom and a walk-through closet to the master bedroom. The new spa-like master bath features a Japanese soaker tub, tile-based shower with frameless glass enclosure and rain shower, twin under-mounted sinks and a three-inch thick granite counter top.

One challenge, according to Karlson, was the over-sized, 45-inch high soaker tub. It was so large it had to be brought in through a window and so high that Karlson had a solid-wood Asian-inspired stool custom made to allow the owners to reach the tub. It also required the installation of a larger hot water tank.

The tub sits on a granite deck with millwork wrapping that blends into a full-height cabinet with open shelving that serves as a backdrop for the toilet. All millwork was done in a riff-cut white oak laid horizontal, with one and half-inch black reveals around the tub to create interest as well as mimic and modernize the look of a traditional Japanese soaker tub.

Large format 12-inch by 24-inch porcelain tiles in black, grey and white, were used for the flooring, atop a heated floor warming system. Kohler fixtures, including a low-flow toilet, and faucets were specified.

Pampered guests

In the guest bath, the vanity, which has the same millwork as in the master bath, sits in front of a feature wall tiled in a linear naturally tumbled marble tile. The guest bath, Karlson explains, mirrors elements from the rest of the renovation, but was designed with a unique palette to make it a special space that would give guests a sense it was created just for them.

The new Evoke sink from Kohler sits like a work of art on three-inch thick marble countertops. The floor of the frameless glass enclosure shower is a profusion of leaves in tumbled marble, reflecting the room’s colour palate. The walls of the shower feature 12-inch by 18-inch porcelain tiles in charcoal grey with mauve highlights, colours that are repeated in the wall tiles and counter top. •

Subtly Accessible

British Columbia has one of the fastest-aging populations in Canada, and the physical limitations that age can bring is being reflected in bathroom makeovers.

Yet, as the team at Kenorah Construction and Design Ltd. found recently, the challenge is to design a modern, stylish and accessible bath that in no way is to look like a bathroom serving a physical handicap, explained design leader Gordon Taylor.

The South Surrey client, in his 60s, had ailments that restricted mobility in his 1970s rancher. He wanted a European-style luxury bath that would not only look great but also allow easy access now and into the future.

Kenorah replied with a design that virtually eliminates barriers, by removing the shower door and curb and adjusting the floor joists to accommodate a gradual slope for drainage. The bathroom was expanded by 14 inches and a tempered glass pony wall, anchored to the foundation, was installed to separate the shower from the rest of the space.

The shower system is a fully adjustable Grohe eight-inch Rain shower head, wand and shower bar. Radiant heating is installed beneath the over-sized porcelain floor tiles.

A cirrus white Corian bench running the full length of the bathroom enables the client to easily access the shower, which is equipped with a Grohe eight-inch Rain shower head, wand, and shower bar.

Kenorah replied with a design that virtually eliminates barriers, by removing the shower door and curb and adjusting the floor joists to accommodate a gradual slope for drainage. The bathroom was expanded by 14 inches and a tempered glass pony wall, anchored to the foundation, was installed to separate the shower from the rest of the space.

A cirrus white Corian bench running the full length of the bathroom enables the client to easily access the shower, which is equipped with a Grohe eight-inch Rain shower head, wand, and shower bar.