Chapter 1 - IKEA, I'm sorry
IKEA is closed. I'm sad.
I'm sorry that I did not appreciate you enough. I miss being taken for a ride around your store by self-following arrows while gathering little functional chachkas and putting them in an oversized yellow bag. I miss being able to quickly switch between different sofas, throwing my body mindlessly around - fun times with children will never be the same.
IKEA diner was my second office, a home away from home. That bottomless $1 coffee kept me going many mornings while I was designing, drafting and measuring tape in hand, confirming actual dimensions on actual products. It was SUPER fun times.
I knew the kitchen design team well - their confused faces of always seeing me there working with the planner or looking at doors.
To be continued...
PS. I think if there is going to be one victim of this Corona virus pandemic it will the AS-IS Section. Yup, I think it is gone for good.
Sunday, May 3, 2020
Thursday, April 2, 2020
Picture shows a piece of ceramic flooring found on rocky shores of Lake Ontario, Toronto, Canada.
Chapter 1 - Change my VIEW: Tiles are the most EXCITING part of any project.
I think tiles are the most exciting part of any project and I will tell you why. There is only very few tiles that will satisfy the requirements of your particular project. I know that showrooms are full of - what seems to many - endless opportunities to cover your floor or wall or whatever with pretty ceramics in various shapes and sizes and that is the precisely the challenge.
One of my mentors, a Chinese shop floorman at commercial millwork place I worked at, told me to always start my design process with my most limiting element. In my opinion, the most limiting aspect on any project are the ceramic options. That's right, ceramic options.
I think people who just chose tiles for colour or tone are missing out on a great part of their design experience - you can do a LOT, even with large format. I also consider the colour and tone of my tiles, but another category that I ALWAYS consider is rhythm.
Think of it like this - everyone has a different taste in music and all songs have a beat. Sometimes that beat is fast and sometimes that beat is slow. Sometimes songs are energetic and sometimes they are mellow. Now imagine playing a song - or maybe even better yet! a playlist! - and that music bounces off the hard tiled surface and hits yours ears back. Sometimes you want the space to have a busy, useful vibe and sometimes you want calm serenity spa thing going. Theoretically both spaces could use a 'green tile' - but that 'green tile' would be dramatically opposite of each other. An energetic, useful green would have more rhythm to it - like telling your special other to 'hurry up with the dinner because the kids are hungry and you might even step in to help with it'. A spa green would be more like sage and silver and the tile would have to be longer that wider - the psychology of design is quite fun to do!
Always make sure you have enough room to 'develop the pattern'. This is especially true for backsplash tiles! I've seen some really spectacular [but still tasteful!] little mosaics that just completely capture you - at a $$$$. BUT if you don't have the space - meaning the pattern should be able to repeat itself at least 2, better 3 times - then there is no point purchasing it. Exactly as I just said - you have to be able to repeat 'the pattern' at least 2-3 times for it to look good. ALSO, consider adjacent surfaces - mitering and matching small mosaics will a dramatically LOOOOONG way for it to look spectacular. My 2cents.
Have fun with your tiles.
Wednesday, February 12, 2020
[picture shows a series of IKEA door in an IKEA showroom, with the NEW Gray Axstad door being pointed out]
I have not been this excited since IKEA introduced the WHITE AXSTAD. I think the Gray AXSTAD is a perfect choice for designer kitchen - add three of these simple [simple, in relation to the kitchen] elements and you have taken your project OUT of the IKEA kitchen planner language [so it doesn't look like every other generic Gray Axstad kitchen]; you retain the amazing 25 year warranty [no more worries about replacement doors or drawer fronts] AND you made it yours AND it looks like a million buck$!
Stay tuned for the video!
Thursday, February 6, 2020
[picture shows a failed tile installation, all tiles failed and it took approximately 2 years for all the failures to occur - a large, 12x12 tile popped off cleanly from the middle of the floor with no sign of adhesive on the back. This failure occured because of the improperly prepared sub-floor that has too much flex as well as failure of the adhesive to bond to the tile because it was mixed too dry, as well as not 'back-buttering' of the bonding surface. 'Back-buttering' refers to a practice of applying a thin, wet layer of adhesive to the back of large and 'large-format' tiles before placing it into the adhesive on the floor].
[picture shows an octagonal, marble-like tile installed properly, and in a visually optimum fashion. The grout lines are skinniest that the irregular, paver-type allows for; the shower curb is finished and capped in identical tiles that have been beveled at 45 degrees mitre joints to ensure cleanest and minimalist look. Studio Kosnik considers this type of installation optimized, as it results in cleanest and most unobtrusive look for small spaces - almost required]
Chapter 1 - Toronto Reno Challenges
The Toronto renovation scene is a cluster-f*ck. You heard me right. I will start off by saying that one indication of such situation is the tool rental scene - it is next to impossible to rent-out a tile-chipper from my favourite tool rental place. The manager said that it is cheaper for trades to hold on to the tool and pay the penalties then to return it and rent it again. Whaaat....?!!!
Another anecdote I can share with you was that I was recently invited to quote a project at a very, very prestigious location in Toronto - virtually the heart of Toronto. Imagine that back in the day Toronto started as a series of concentric circular roads, with the circles growing larger and larger, until they grew too big and the city planners started using 'the grid' [look it up on Google Maps, it's TRUE!]. I go into this house to take measurements while the movers are hurriedly bringing in the wares and I start chatting up the client - what are her plans for this space, what's the split between functional and display storage.... you know, the usual. After the chat we break and I start measuring. And as I am walking around measuring I start noticing all the deficiencies.
Don't get me wrong - there definitely was a designer on the project - the floors are really nice, the cabinetry is nice, a glass clad staircase leading upstairs.... But..... the painting - it's easy to roll a roller but it is infinitely more challenging when 'cutting' a dark colour against a white ceiling, and in this instance, honestly, it looks like the painter took the shirt off his back, dipped in paint and ran it on the wall against the ceiling. Clearly the second coat was not done. Then I walk by the kitchen cabinets.... I can see that the grain is matched vertically on the doors, but there is this hazy residue along all the edges. You know what that is? - every part of the manufacturing process requires hand labour - and it was skipped in this instance - the buffers on the edgebander did great job at removing most of the excess adhesive but nobody bothered to wipe it of completely off the edges. Uh-oh..... the housekeeper will definitely be spending time trying to polish this off, while this should have been caught at the quality control level before it left the shop. AND this was a custom kitchen, AND this is what I was able to gather just visually in 1hr....
SO what is the problem?
I will tell you - there is shortage of skilled trades.
While the General Contractor grabs your contract he will have to sub all the work out, and his 'great relationship with 40 other trades people' is NOT a good indicator of the quality of work that you will end up with. Clearly the above mentioned 'prestige project' - because this is how I would classify it - did not get the attention of his '40 trades'.
There are some trades that translate well to low-cost labour. Things like painting or demolition, or even drywalling are great for that. All it is, is a lot of hand labour or heavy lifting that needs to be closely and carefully supervised. The key being 'closely and carefully'. I can say it with certainty that there was no oversight on the above project - trades came and went and made their own decisions - for better or worse.
Chapter 2 - BIG challenge for little projects
Do you want to know what the BIGGEST challenge is for little projects? It is precisely that your project is small. Any trade out there want to grab BIG contracts - many times ads on Kijiji [that is where I advertise] will have a minimum - electrician will specify that he or she is looking to install minimum 10 potlights. The moment he or she hears that:
A] it is just 2 pot lights + vanity mirror and move the GFI;
B] Electrical Safety Authority inspections required;
C] License and Insurance required before stepping onto property
and they are OUT! Ghosting you on the phone and not responding to texts. And this is personal experience.
The moment the tile installer hears that it is a tiny powder room of 50 square feet - even in a 'million dollar condo' - they are OUT! Nobody wants to take on such tiny projects, well, because they pay tiny relative to the size. So say the installer is weighing his prospects and he has two choices:
A] tiny powder room in a difficult to access condominium building with terrible and expensive parking; he or she will be required spend 3 half days on-site to finish the project - AND if you are doing half-days then you might as well be doing full days; tiles picked for the project are incredibly fussy and expensive and require lots of skill and prep AND setting up the wet-tile saw on the balcony of the unit AND the client already lives there...
B] A nice big open, empty, easy access, large house in a suburb with no work hours limits; we are talking acres and acres of large, easy to lay tiles AND you can work on the weekends.
So? Which one do you think it is going to be?
Yup, that is the dilemma - SIZE of the projects ALWAYS matters.
Trades are only motivated by money, friends. Any relationship that a General Contractor, as a manager, has with the sub-trades is purely financial and related directly to how well and how timely he/she pays. I always pay my trades on time and will often pre-pay them a portion of the project just to coax them ahead of anybody else they might consider. OR, I just do it myself.
Chapter 3 - Timing of the project
Timelines are completely arbitrary. In today's Toronto reno markets trades show up when it is convenient for them - ask anyone who already renovated their space and they will confirm. If you want more 'stability and predictability' then you need to pay more. Why? You are paying for all the overhead of managing - there is boss, who tells his employees to go THERE and do THIS. But the boss also wants to take his cut - probably around 20%, but at least you have somebody to complain to about when things go south.
To be continued....
PS. Oh! and if you don't believe me that things like that routinely happen, then check out this instagram page that I follow out of curiosity. This is a great example that clearly illustrates the lack of standards across the industry. And the funny/sad part is that the 'luxury builder' is attempting to justify ALL those things - yes! he provides 'rebuttals'! It would be funny if it was not so sad.
A million dollar home built without any oversight, right here in the GTA.... by a 'luxury builder'....