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Keys to Designing a More Beautiful and Functional Bath - July 1, 2019

Space is a premium in most bathrooms that we remodel in South shore, South Coast and the Cape & Islands, and it’s essential to create realistic expectations for how to best use space. In tighter spaces, often is it not realistic or practical to include both a separate shower stall and a dedicated space for a tub. Some bathrooms would look crowded with a double vanity and double sinks. When thinking about a bath remodel consider the area and how much room you and your family need to maneuver after a shower or bath to prepare for the day or a night on the town.

A well-designed bathroom is an organized bathroom. Toiletries, hair dryers, curling irons, makeup, brushes, etc. can quickly clutter a countertop, making the bathroom look unattractive and feel uncomfortable. A tip for designing a more functional, organized and pleasurable bath is to determine what you need to store during the design stage and specify storage solutions to meet those needs.

We understand that time is our customers’ most valuable asset. Their days are hectic, and they don’t want to waste time searching for a favorite tube of lipstick or wait for a curling iron to heat up. Manufacturers have responded, offering vanities and storage solutions with interior adjustable shelving, pull-out trays, interior lighting, hairdryer/curling iron holders, interior electric receptacles, USB port charging stations and drawer dividers to keep baths organized and to increase their functionality.

In addition to adequate storage solutions, another functional criterion to consider when planning a new bath includes cleaning. The legs or base of the furniture placed in front of the baseboard might create a gap between the wall and the cabinet. This may not be a concern aesthetically, but it does create a challenge to clean the gap space. The issue may be addressed if the furniture has a solid base that can be notched around the baseboard to eliminate the gap or notch the baseboard to dead end into the base of the cabinet.

In planning a new bath, we never lose sight of the need for fixtures and features to accommodate different family members. This is especially important when specifying mirrors, sinks and shower fixtures.

Lighting is another key, and often overlooked, component of a functional and aesthetically pleasing bath. Good lighting makes a bathroom more enjoyable and bad lighting just the opposite. We understand how light interacts with materials, users and tasks to enable recommendations that are most appropriate for a new bath project. We often will look at the potential to add or expand natural light to a bath renovation project because natural light helps to make smaller baths appear larger. This often involves identifying opportunities for new a new skylight, especially in bathrooms without windows.

Effective lighting illuminates a space in layers using different components and strategies to paint the final picture. You can buy a functional $40 faucet in a home center, but most likely that faucet will not add much to the beauty of the bath. A similar analogy holds true for lighting. Merely placing a flush-mounted fixture in the center of the bathroom and a light bar over the mirror can provide functional light, but a single fixture or bath light bar may do little to beautify the space, create a mood or evoke a favorable emotional response. Layers of light contribute not only to the functionality of the bath but also to its design and beauty.

When we help our clients in South shore, South Coast and the Cape & Islands to create the bath of their dreams, we recommend a focal point which could be a sculptural freestanding soaking tub, dramatic light fixture, unique floor covering or vanity.

If you would like additional ideas and suggestions to help design and build the new bath or your dreams, call our showroom at (508) 295-1311 or visit the Thomas Michaels Design Center, at 3127 Cranberry Highway, East Wareham, MA

How Much Should Your Kitchen Renovation Cost? - May 8, 2019

"How much will it cost to renovate a kitchen or bath?", is the number one question we are asked by first-time visitors to our showroom. The response is always the same: It depends. Cost is dependent upon a number of factors that include:

  • Size of the kitchen
  • Scope of the renovation
  • Quality of materials and finishes selected
  • Quality of the renovation plan

To help you budget for a potential renovation, here are guidelines based on a medium sized kitchen of 125 square feet with good, better and best price ranges for major renovation costs. These costs also are based on not changing the footprint of the kitchen or needing to reconfigure plumbing, electrical or ventilation (making changes for code compliance are factored into the budget ranges presented).

Good Better Best
Design $1,000 $3,000 $4,000
Cabinets $5,000 $10,000 $20,000+
Appliances $2,500 $5,000 $10,000+
Plumbing $3,000 $4,000 $6,000
Ventilation $1,000 $2,000 $3,000
Electrical $2,500 $3,500 $5,000
Floor Coverings $1,200 $3,000 $6,000
Paint $1,000 $2,000 $2,750
Lighting $1,000 $2,000 $3,000
Countertops $1,000 $3,000 $5,000
Hardware $200 $750 $1,500
Trim $1,500 $3,000 $4,000


Other "average" costs include the following:

  • Permit: $1,000
  • Demolition: $2,500
  • Drywall: $2,000

Additionally, there is a range between 23 to 30 percent of overall costs for project management and overhead. These average costs should be used as a guideline and may be less or more depending on the location of the project, the size of the kitchen and scope. If your renovation involves relocating plumbing that could add $3,000 to $8,000 to the project. If you want to move windows, the cost could be as high as $5,000 per window. If you want to knock down walls, that could add another $2,000 to $3,000 to the job.

A surefire way to help ensure that budgets are maintained is to have a well developed plan and schedule for your renovation. This is where a professional showroom can make all of the difference. Designing and renovating kitchens and baths is what we do every day professionally. We know the obstacles that need to be addressed, problem areas to avoid and how to stretch budget dollars to help assure successful outcomes that allow our clients to create the kitchen of their dreams. If you need assistance with developing a realistic budget for your kitchen renovation, please give us a call at 508-295-1311 or make an appointment to visit our showroom at Thomas Michaels Design Center, 3127 Cranberry Highway, East Wareham, MA 02538

How to Budget Effectively for a Bathroom Remodel - May 7, 2019

The budget necessary to create the new bathroom of your dreams depends on several key factors. The first is the goal that you want to achieve. Are you looking to upgrade to increase the value of your home because you will be selling it in the near future? Is your goal to create a personal haven in an in-home spa where you can wash away the stresses of the day? Are you simply sick and tired of a dated fixtures, dulled grout and limited functionality?

The age of your home and previous improvements to the bathroom, if any, also affect budget. Our experience indicates that it is typically less costly to renovate a bathroom built in 2000 than it is to renovate one constructed in 1900. Typically more surprises arise in older homes as generally those homes may have been renovated multiple times already.

The National Kitchen and Bath Association provides the following guidelines as to what categories you will spend your funds on for a new bath:

  • Design fees: 4 percent
  • Installation: 20 percent
  • Fixtures: 15 percent
  • Cabinetry and hardware: 16 percent
  • Countertops: 7 percent
  • Lighting and ventilation: 5 percent
  • Flooring: 9 percent
  • Doors and windows: 4 percent
  • Walls and ceilings: 5 percent
  • Faucets and plumbing: 14 percent
  • Other: 1 percent

This is a good starting point. Most of our customers have specific goals and preferences that require them to spend more or less in some categories. We also recommend to our clients to budget an additional 20% for contingencies and unexpected occurrences during construction.

The Good Option ($5,000 to $15,000)

A good renovation often involves replacing older fixtures such as the shower, water closet, sinks, lighting, faucetry, hardware and accessories with off-the-shelf products that are featured in home centers. A bath remodel in this price range generally uses the existing plumbing configuration, features paint instead of tiled or stone surfaced walls, lower-priced granite countertops and involves resurfacing or painting existing cabinets instead of replacing them. Faucets in this price range are not made of solid metal. Their plastic parts will wear out every five to seven years and will need to be replaced. This renovation will give you a new bath that will look nice and serve its functional purposes.

Better Options ($15,000-$50,000)

Increasing the budget to $15,000 to $50,000 will enable you to improve the quality of almost all of the components in the bath. A number of our clients select this budget range if they are remodeling to make their lives better.

Even though the budget is more than the good option, there will be limitations when it comes to changing the existing footprint. The big pluses are finish options, fixtures and cabinets. Your water closet will not only function more effectively, it can also be more water efficient. Your shower fixtures and faucets will be made from solid brass. Faucets will have ceramic disk cartridges that prevent dripping for years unless they get scratched by debris in the water. You will be able to add new flooring, vanities, window treatments, a framed mirror that matches the vanity, a recessed medicine cabinet and you will enjoy quality levels considerably higher than what you find at home centers.

A larger budget provides more flexibility, and you can make a few more adjustments to the layout. You may want to allow for a freestanding soaker tub by reducing the size of the shower stall. You may want to reconfigure the space to accommodate a double vanity and additional storage. Maybe you’ll put in a slightly smaller bathtub to make way for a slightly larger shower. You could slide a sink down and move the plumbing slightly to add a tall linen cabinet. Toilet placement has an impact on costs too. If you move the toilet across the bath, you are likely to be required to change the locations of the showerheads, drains and faucets.

With this budget, you will also be able to buy semi-custom cabinetry with different finish options and decorative details.

Best Option ($50,000-$100,000+)

Higher-end budgets provide a blank canvas. You can install thermostatic shower valves that enable you to preset water temperature and achieve that temperature in a matter of seconds. You can install a linear drain that not only eliminates the need for a threshold but also eliminates the need for a shower enclosure. You may opt for a steam unit that includes music, color and aromatherapies. You could select a sculptural freestanding tub or a system bath, or you may enjoy multiple showerheads and body sprays.

You can tile the entire bath or opt for stone floor and wall coverings. Countertops options at this budget include granite or engineered stone. Cabinets will likely be made from solid wood with custom finishes. Don’t overlook heated floors and multiple finish options for fixtures.

A higher end bathroom will increase the value of your home. More importantly, it will create tremendous value because you will derive great joy and satisfaction every time you use your new bath.

Need help developing a budget to fit your goals and dreams? Please call our showroom at 508-295-1311 or make an appointment to visit us at Thomas Michaels Design Center, 3127 Cranberry Highway, East Wareham, MA 02538.

The Paradox of Unlimited Choice - May 6, 2019

The paradox of the unlimited choices available through online search is that it’s almost impossible for anyone to make the best buying decision because of the nearly infinite number of options presented. If you searched on a Houzz.com, Pinterest or Instagram to get ideas for a new bathroom sink, you would be given tens of thousands of choices. How can you confidently make the best decision with so much sensory overload? The answer for most is that most times you can’t. The following is a guide to make the selection process easier for homeowners, designers and builders in the South Shore, South Coast, and the Cape & Islands.

When selecting a bathroom sink, begin by considering your lifestyle and space:

  • Who will use the sink, how often and for what purposes?
  • What are the ages of users and their mobility capabilities?
  • What are the ages of users and their mobility capabilities?
  • How much countertop and storage space do you need/want?
  • How much space is there to work with?
  • Would you like a single or double bowl?

Next, give some thought to aesthetics:

  • What type of sink do you like?
  • What style do you prefer (e.g., contemporary, traditional, transitional)?
  • What type of faucet do you like?
  • How will the sink material influence your bathroom style? How durable will the sink be and what maintenance will it require?

As you identify your functional needs and aesthetic preferences, you may consider the following sink types:

Console Sink

Console sinks can either be freestanding supported by four legs or mounted to the wall and supported by two or four legs. Leg materials can span the gamut of styles and aesthetic options from hollow steel pipes to posts made from the same material as the sink.
Console Sink Pros:

  • Provide almost unlimited options in terms of shape and design.
  • If the legs are wide enough, they can provide comfortable wheelchair access
  • Easy to maintain and clean
  • Durable
Console Sink Cons:
  • Limited countertop space
  • They are best suited for larger bathrooms because they typically require considerable floor space
  • Not a lot of storage space underneath

Pedestal Sink

Pedestal sinks resemble birdbaths. They feature a wall-mounted sink sitting on top of a pedestal secured to the floor. The pedestal is open in the back to provide access for the drainpipe and supply lines.
Pedestal Sink Pros:

  • Pedestal sinks hide the pipework
  • Best suited for smaller spaces, e.g., powder rooms.
  • Easy to maintain and clean.
  • An endless array of design and aesthetic options from traditional to contemporary
  • Shorter than a free-standing
  • Durable
Pedestal Sink Cons:
  • Limited countertop space
  • No storage space underneath

Wall-Mounted Sink

Wall-mounted sinks are installed directly against the wall.
Wall-Mounted Sink Pros:

  • Does not take up floor space, and are a great option when space is at a premium
  • Typically wheelchair accessible
Wall-Mounted Sink Cons:
  • Minimal countertop space
  • No storage space underneath
  • Plumbing must be inside the wall to achieve a clean look

Integrated Sink

An integrated sink is a countertop with a built-in sink made out of the same material.
Integrated Sink Pros:

  • Easy to clean
  • Available in a variety of colors that can look and feel like stone
  • Repaired easily
Integrated Sink Cons:
  • To replace the sink, you have to replace the countertop
  • Compromises some countertop space
  • Must be the same material and color as the countertop

Drop-In Sink

A drop-in sink fits into a hole cut into the countertop. Typically, the sink sits below the counter with the rim at the top of the counter.
Drop-In Sink Pros:

  • Easy to install on all types of materials
  • Available in a variety of sizes, colors and materials
  • Integral raised rim prevents overflow on double bowl sinks
  • Hides waste and supply lines in the cabinet underneath
Drop-In Sink Cons:
  • The raised lip makes it challenging to wipe water and soap from the countertop into the sink
  • Limited depth options

Vessel Sink

A vessel sink sits on top of the countertop.
Vessel Sink Pros:

  • Opportunity to make a personal design statement
  • Offers the capacity to hold a lot of water
  • The counter can serve to complement the sink visually rather than just providing a place where it is located.
Vessel Sink Cons:
  • Because the sink sits on top of the countertop, you need to consider how high the countertop and vanity should be carefully
  • Can be more difficult to clean, especially around the base and back of the sink

Undermount Sink

An undermount sink is installed from underneath a solid surface countertop.
Undermount Sink Pros:

  • Clean lines
  • Easy to clean as water, soap and other materials can be easily swept from the countertop to the sink bowl
  • More minimal appearance than drop-in sink
Undermount Sink Cons:
  • Typically, these sinks are made of stone, quartz, marble or another solid surface material and are not suitable for laminate countertops because they can be completely sealed.
  • More difficult to install than drop-in sinks


With so many choices and factors to consider, homeowners in South Shore, South Coast, and the Cape & Islands are best served with the help of a showroom professional who specifies bathroom sinks daily. If you would like assistance to assure that you make the best purchasing decision for your new bathroom, please call us at 508-295-1311 or visit our showroom at Thomas Michaels Design Ctr, 3127 Cranberry Highway, East Wareham, MA 02538.

The Best Reason to Renovate Your Kitchen - April 29, 2019

If you're like most homeowners here in Southern Massachusetts, you spend a great deal of time in your kitchen, and in that time you're not just cooking, eating and cleaning up. A compelling study by the Research Institute for Cooking & Kitchen Intelligence reports that nearly 20 percent of homeowners spend an average of three hours per day in the kitchen. The RICKI study confirms what we have known for a long time at Thomas Michaels Design Center - homeowners in Southern Massachusetts use their kitchen for a vast array of activities that have nothing to do with a kitchen’s traditional role. Instead, our clients are asking us to design kitchens that serve as a multifunctional space to listen to music, share quality time with family and friends, watch television, stream videos, care for pets, pay bills, read, play games, study, work and more.

The amount of time that homeowners spend in the kitchen is expected to continue to increase. Technological advances are transforming the kitchen from an independent living space into a hyper-connected, multipurpose hub for cooking, eating, entertaining, relaxing and working from home.

As the kitchen's role continues to evolve, there is a new emphasis on design, and it's becoming increasingly valuable to work with professionals who understand how to transform a traditional kitchen space into an area that accommodates a diverse array of nontraditional kitchen functions. As Eliot Sefrin, publisher emeritus of Kitchen & Bath Design News, points out, "A growing number of kitchens are occupying larger, more open footprints. ‘Smart' features are being built into cabinetry, appliances, countertops and other kitchen components." Smart kitchen lighting, hardware, virtual assistants and other products are coming to market to address consumer demand for Wi-Fi/Bluetooth capabilities. Manufacturers are bringing to market creative solutions to incorporate docking stations for smart devices into cabinets, drawers, countertops and other spaces. Appliances also offer smart options and Bluetooth connectivity that enable remote operation and are synched with digital assistants.

Your kitchen is the hub of your home, you and your family spend a lot of time in that space, and as such it's essential that it is arranged in a manner that best suits your lifestyle and needs. If you want to discuss your dream kitchen of tomorrow, please call our showroom at 508-295-1311 or visit our showroom at 3127 Cranberry Highway, Wareham, MA.