March 22, 2021
A couple in Utah were renting a condo in 100-year-old building downtown, and they were looking to purchase a different unit in the property that needed a kitchen and bath renovation. They reached out to Rachel Hutchens, CKD, with Maven Home Interiors after they had hired a first designer who didn’t grasp their needs. Hutchens, like the couple, had moved to the area from California, so they had something in common from the start.
The couple was open to a bolder look for their kitchen and master bath, which both needed a complete gut, but first the designer and her contractor had to overcome several obstacles inside and outside the dated building.
Challenge 1: Dealing with Building Age & Access
At the project start, the design team discovered that there were pipes in the kitchen wall that could not be moved but that definitely needed to be concealed. There was also a concrete post behind the pipes that had to stay.
“We worked in a tower cabinet, which is essentially an upper cabinet that sits on the countertop and goes to the ceiling,” said Hutchens, who explained that the cabinet makers installed the base unit without a back that wrapped the lower section, then installed the countertops and notched around the plumbing and finally installed the tower cabinet on the countertop.
The master bath had its own issues, including accommodating a washer and dryer in a small footprint. The designer was able to accomplish this with a stackable, compact unit that is only 24 inches deep by 24 inches wide. Hutchens said venting was also a challenge because the contractor, Jared Reesor, had to drill into 24 inches of concrete and brick to reach the exterior.
“During the drilling, his bit was sheared off, so he got about 20 inches through and had to call an outside company to cut through the last four,” said the designer.
Another challenge they had to overcome was delivering materials in small elevators original to the building. The designer said when the longer pieces of molding, boxes of tile and flooring came in, they had to carry several loads up the three flights of stairs.
Although the condo is located on a busy street downtown, there was reduced traffic because of COVID restrictions. The city allowed the team to block the street for drywall delivery without major disruptions, which Hutchens said was definitely a plus because they had to crane the stack of drywall through the window on the third floor.
“We were able to block the sidewalk below the building, and fewer people out and about meant more available parking spaces,” said Reesor, who is with Briarglen Construction. “Traffic enforcement was also suspended, allowing for free parking.”
Although the team didn’t have to pay for parking, there were only four spaces, and Hutchens said with the nearby major construction taking place, the alley behind the building was often blocked off.
Challenge 2: Finding a Suitable Contractor
A lot of the contractors Hutchens originally talked to submitted bids that were too high and/or decided the kitchen and bath renovation was over their heads before anything could get started. She eventually found Reesor through an appliance specialist and was pleased to learn that he was not only reasonable and organized, but he also had his own opinions about the project.
The challenge here was that the contractor’s partner is in a high-risk category for COVID standards, so he had to complete the project without his help. Reesor decided to suspend work on any other jobs during this tight timeframe so he could instead allow a greater focus on this single project.
Challenge 3: Dancing Around COVID
Hutchens selected the contractor in March 2020 – just as everything was shutting down because of the pandemic. As such, they had to make fast decisions on selections before the showrooms started to close down and to allow more time for delivery.
“Even with advance ordering, there were items that couldn’t be delivered in a timely manner for completing the project,” said Reesor. He explained that when material delivery services stopped coming into residences, he had to make separate arrangements to get certain products into the condo. “For some items, we put temporary fixtures and finishes into place to allow the owners to move in sooner.”
Hutchens said they were able to pull a few strings and had preplanned the cabinets, but that when products became available, they had to jump on those.
“Thankfully, having a designer who could manage the minute decisions with the homeowner took the time off my hands for other aspects of the project,” said the contractor, who explained that many of the subcontractors wanted to minimize COVID exposure and would not work in the small spaces with other tradespeople. “Having a good working relationship with the subcontractors was essential in being kept at the front of the scheduling line.”
Near the end of the kitchen and bath renovation project, they homeowners had to move out of their temporary housing, and some of their furnishings had to take up the space before the team was finished. Reesor explained that to maintain a workable space, quite a bit of juggling took place.
“It was so hard toward the end because we did not make their original move-in date with the three month-delay; luckily the landlord extended the lease of the unit they were renting,” said Hutchens. “They were incredibly understanding and gave me a lot of design freedom. The wife has told me that she can’t believe she gets to live there.”
Design Team: Rachel Hutchens, CKD (designer & owner) & Jenette DiFazio, AKBD (design assistant), Maven Home Interiors, Jared Reesor, Briarglen Construction (contractor)
Photographer: Ann Parris Photography
Cabinets: Peppertree Kitchen and Bath
Flooring: Artistic Tile
Hardware: Top Knobs
Mirrored Tile: Bedrosians
Faucet & Shower Fixtures: Brizo
Mirror, Hardware & Sconces: Restoration Hardware
Vanities: Peppertree Kitchen & Bath & Restoration Hardware
Washer & Dryer: Asko