Kitchen Island with Seating

Bringing Down Walls: The Modern Open-Concept Home

What’s your home’s story — and how has it changed through the years? Home design trends vary significantly from generation to generation (and not just the décor). Modified open-concept spaces tend to be the gold standard today, but how did we get there? Let’s take a look back through history to learn more.

How It Started

Function has always dictated the layout of homes, and a lot of evolving trends were (and still are) the result of how American families chose to entertain and spend time together. For example, prior to 1950, most home gatherings were very formal. Kitchens were off-limits to guests and tended to be at the back of the home, serving as purely functional spaces. A formal dining room was typically used for all meals.

Kitchen Island with Seating

Post-WWII and the dawn of the baby-boomer era saw trends leaning toward a more casual way of living. Open floor plans began to emerge, along with the original mid-century design style. Walls with a fireplace spanning both sides and centrally located kitchens were more commonplace, paving the way to a more open house.

The ’80s and ’90s saw an increase in the size of homes and luxurious features such as whirlpool baths, high ceilings, and home offices. Half-walls were a popular way to divide rooms with a hint of openness. Eat-in kitchens were preferred over formal dining rooms, and the trend of the kitchen, dining, and living room area as one space began to pick up speed.

How It’s Going

From the 2000s through today, we see open-concept layouts not only trending but expected. It’s easy to see why. Better flow, multifunctional rooms, natural lighting, and endless entertainment possibilities are just some benefits of an open floorplan. The kitchen is now a central gathering location, where guests can sit and chat and even enjoy a meal at gorgeous center islands. Smaller homes are in demand as people search for efficient and eco-friendly living options, and open-concept spaces prevent homeowners from feeling cramped and crowded.

While open spaces are a top priority, modern homes feel more comfortable and less cavernous. We’ve heard many homeowners request open-concept layouts with distinct areas. Careful placement of furniture, flooring changes, varied color palettes, light fixtures, and ceiling accents such as beams and bulkheads define spaces without walls.

Blue Kitchen Island

Whether you’re opening up a compartmentalized 1980s bi-level or dividing up a too-open millennium mansion, we’re here to help you create a fresh layout that preserves your home’s character — so your home can still tell its story. Contact us today to get started.

Basement wet bar

Winning Wet Bars: Exploring Custom Features and Uses

Convenient, classy, and completely customizable, wet bars are trending in more and more Montgomery County homes. Like dry bars, they provide the perfect place to grab a beverage, are excellent for entertaining, and add class and elegance to any room — with the added bonus of a sink.
Let’s explore how to incorporate a wet bar into your next remodeling project, including some fun ways to customize it to your unique style:

Wet Bar

Classy in the Kitchen

A kitchen wet bar is the perfect place for a beverage or coffee station. These homeowners opted for both, including everything they need for the perfect morning brew and happy hour cocktail. A deep, 10” bar sink keeps the area splash-free, and glass doors on the cabinets allow for the attractive display of glassware.

Separate Wet Bar

This wet bar serves as a seamless extension to the main part of the kitchen, making it easy for two people to cook and serve guests simultaneously. A beverage fridge is discreetly concealed with a panel that matches the cabinets. The same backsplash found in the kitchen was used in this space to tie the look together.

Wet Bar in Dining Room

Accessibility in the Dining Room

It happens without fail — at parties, everyone ends up in the kitchen, making it difficult for the person cooking to move around. These homeowners cleverly solved this problem by bringing their wet bar into the dining room. Now, guests can refill their drinks and socialize while keeping the kitchen clear. This elegant area also features a custom accent tile backsplash and glass door upper cabinets with built-in lighting.

Basement wet bar

These homeowners crafted the ultimate entertaining area in their basement. Their full wet bar has a beverage fridge, kegerator, wine fridge, and lots of storage space. Gorgeous bar stools ensure a comfortable spot for every guest.

Convenience in the Mudroom

Wet bars can be for more than entertaining. These homeowners have a passion for gardening, but coming back into the house with dirty hands and tools was becoming a problem. Forgoing the traditional, unattractive utility sink, they chose an elegant wet bar complete with a champagne bronze faucet and hardware and a marble-look quartz countertop. Now, they have a beautiful area right in their mudroom to clean up or grab a drink of water.

Wondering how a wet bar would work in your space? We can help. Contact us to get started planning your perfect beverage bar, entertainment spot, or elegant washing station.

While you’re on our website, don’t forget to check out our home remodel cost estimator that breaks down how much you can expect to spend on different types of projects.

Remote Work Might Be Here to Stay for Many Companies. Here’s How to Build or Upgrade Your Home Office to Maximize Productivity

Even when social distancing ends, remote work will likely remain intact for many people in the coming months, as we continue dealing with the unknowns of the coronavirus and its impact on our personal and professional lives. Some have even predicted that this is the end of the office as we know it, as many companies have realized employees can do their jobs just as well from home. A new study from the Institute for Corporate Productivity found that more than half of companies surveyed plan to expand or increase flexible work arrangements on a more permanent basis. Additionally, The New York Times reported that the president of Global Workplace Analytics expects more than 25 percent of employees will continue working from home multiple days a week, which is up from fewer than four percent who did so before the pandemic.

As the workforce plans for this potential “new normal,” many will look to upgrade their work from home office setup, or build one if they haven’t already. In either case, we’ve pulled together some recommendations on creating a space that will make you feel focused, productive, and inspired.

Strategize the location and size of the space
If you don’t already have a dedicated space for an office, ask yourself the following questions. Your answers should help you determine the amount of space you’ll need and the ideal location:

  • Is there an underutilized space in your home that you could transform into an office? 
  • Do you need complete quiet? Do you take phone or video calls often? 
  • If you’re a working parent who often needs to multi-task, would it be better to set up your office near particular rooms in the house? Or closer to a common area?
  • Do you need a strong Internet connection?
  • Will you ever host clients or colleagues in the long-term future?
  • How much storage will you need?
  • Which spaces in your home have natural lighting?

Ideally, you’ll want a more secluded space to optimize your focus, but we know that may not be realistic depending on the existing structure of your home as well as other day-to-day responsibilities you have.

Choose the right lighting
Natural light is ideal. Without it, you may experience eyestrain, decreased energy, and migraines, which will inhibit your productivity and overall health. If you already have a home office that lacks windows, check out these tips to “fake” natural light. Additionally, determine the right task lighting you’ll need, depending on the nature of your work (i.e. desk lamps, light fixtures, etc.)

Decorate and personalize your space

Choose home office color schemes that will make you more productive or feel inspired. If there are certain things you like to have surrounding you – whether its photos of family, artwork, or plants – be sure to include those. If you have the space, you might also consider creating a separate spot, like lounge seating, for brainstorming or completing other tasks.

Optimize with shelving and storage
Once you’ve identified your remote work necessities, you’ll be able to determine how much storage you’ll need, whether you need to file paperwork, organize office supplies, store books, create space for a printer, etc.

Optimize for both function & ergonomics
Do you like to stand while you work, or do you prefer to be seated? Do you do most of your work on the computer or do you need space for writing/reviewing paperwork? Which materials/supplies should be within easy reach? The answers to these questions will help you determine which kind of desk you should have (there are various kinds!) and how to organize your shelving/storage. Whatever your needs are, we recommend designing your space in a way that will enable efficiency. If you spend a lot of time on a computer, select a desk and chair that will minimize neck, back, and eye strain, and position the height of your monitor properly

Prioritize according to your budget
You don’t have to perfectly outfit your office from the start; you can continue to add to the space based on your budget (and time!). Prioritize the must-haves or mission-critical elements first. For example, if you like the option to stand while working, perhaps you prioritize a standing desk over setting up a separate area for brainstorming. 

If you’re looking for more home office inspiration or seeking a home office contractor, please contact us for a virtual consultation! We can help you create a space that makes you feel inspired and excited for work. We’re also available for any general inquiries about home remodeling. We’re open and have strict protocols in place in light of the coronavirus. 

House Renovation During the Coronavirus: Plan Now, Build Later!

Before the coronavirus outbreak, did you have thoughts of starting a new house renovation project? If so, did you decide to put it on hold because of social distancing? We’d love to help you keep your design dreams moving! Although we’ve temporarily stopped active construction and closed our in-person Design Center, we can still work together virtually on project planning and design and development. 

At Custom Craft, we have a thorough preparation process that precedes production. Thoughtful design is at the heart of everything we do and ensures that we create a space that is tailored to your wants and needs, and is executed with care, high-quality craftsmanship, and efficiency. By planning now, you will: 

  • Get ahead of other prospective customers and avoid a crowded market. When the pandemic ends, many people will start requesting renovation projects at once. By getting started now, you’re far less likely to experience construction delays down the line. We’ll hit the ground running right away.
  • Focus on perfecting the details. Many homeowners get excited when they kick off a renovation project and want to rush right into construction. We’re just as excited as you are, but we encourage the opposite approach. Rushing may result in an end product that doesn’t match your vision. Since you’re spending far more time at home right now – and given that we can’t even begin construction – it’s likely you’ll be more engaged in our planning process by starting now. This will help us produce the highest-quality outcome that exceeds your expectations.

We do recognize the economic impact that the coronavirus has had on families in our community and that financially, a home renovation may not be a feasible project to take on right now. However, for those who do feel positioned to consider it, we encourage you to read on to learn more about our virtual design process and how to get started.

Phase 1: Virtual Introductions & Project Planning

Over the course of a few virtual meetings, we will:

  • Discuss your goals and objectives for the renovation and potential challenges
  • Take a virtual tour of the impacted areas in your home
  • Review and align on an initial design proposal
  • Review a preliminary scope of work (including timing and budget)

Ultimately, we consider this a partnership, so our goal in this phase is to determine whether Custom Craft is the right fit for you, and that you’re the right fit for us!

Phase 2: Virtual Design and Development Process

Once we’ve agreed to move forward, we’ll dig deeper into the project (virtually) with one of our designers. We call this your “At-Home Design Center.” We will:

  • Present a schematic drawing of your new space and a palette of finishes so you can see how the materials look side-by-side.
  • Package all of our recommended finishes and materials, which we can drop off on your doorstep, or you can pick up curbside.
  • Create a 3D rendering based on the finishes you select. This will help you visualize the new space.

Once we’ve aligned on design and budget, we’ll prep for production! We’ll create a tentative schedule, contingent upon us receiving formal approval from the government to resume construction. Important to note, even when the quarantine ends, we will continue to provide a safe environment for you and our staff, and will follow all guidelines from the CDC. Read more on our precautions here.

So, are you feeling inspired to start planning your next project? Or perhaps you just want to brainstorm some preliminary ideas? Please contact us. We’d love to hear from you!

Wishing you and your families lasting health and safety as we navigate this difficult time together.

home office with built-in cabinetry

Built-ins Provide Both Form and Function

Built-in Cabinetry and Shelving Add Form and Function

home office with built-in cabinetryWhen we meet with homeowners to assess their remodeling needs, lack of storage is a frequent complaint we hear. One of the ways we help our clients resolve these challenges is through the creative use of built-in cabinetry and shelving. Beyond providing storage, built-ins offer a host of benefits. Adding these features to any room of the home will improve the functionality, aesthetics, and organization of the space as well.

Are built-ins the solution for your home? Take this quiz and find out.

  1. Does your home lack storage space?
  2. Are your countertops frequently cluttered with mail and other papers?
  3. Do shoes and miscellaneous gear litter entry areas?
  4. Are there sufficient locations for handheld electronic devices to be charged near a counter?
  5. Do you have an underutilized area of your home, while the rest of the space feels cramped?

If you were able to answer “yes” to any of these questions, then a renovation featuring built-in cabinetry and shelving may be the solution for you. For ideas and inspiration, check out this Houzz Ideabook I prepared. It highlights many clever and subtle ways built-ins can be used throughout the home.

How We Can Help

Whether you need a well-designed kitchen pantry, mudroom, laundry room, or home office like the one featured above, Custom Craft Contractors has the expertise to design and build the right solution for your needs. We have been designing and installing built-in cabinetry for clients for more than 30 years. Our talented team stays current on the latest trends and product innovations. We will help you select the right door styles, finishes, mouldings, and features to create a stylish and functional space that will stand the test of time.

Questions About Built-ins?

If you have questions about how built-ins can enhance your home, I invite you to contact me directly at (610) 584-0665, or feel free to email your questions to me.

fireplace renovation

Fabulous Fireplace Ideas

fireplace renovationWhen it comes to adding warmth to a home, nothing does it quite so well as a fireplace–both literally and figuratively. Fireplaces are the focal point of any room and offer a wide variety of benefits including:

  • Versatility! A fireplace can be installed anywhere in a home, from family rooms to outdoor living areas
  • Fireplaces can reflect any style, from traditional to modern
  • They offer a cozy place to congregate with family and friends
  • Gas fireplaces offer a cleaner heat source than their traditional wood-burning counterparts and can be used to create heat efficiency in strategic areas of the home

On the downside, old fireplaces are often a significant source of heat loss. When we perform energy audits in homes, we frequently find that fireplaces are a major source of drafts. The good news is that they can easily be updated to be more energy efficient and attractive.

I’ve pulled together some of my favorite fireplace photos in a Houzz Ideabook for you. Check it out for some design inspiration. If you have any questions about updating your fireplace, feel free to give us a call at (610) 584-0665.

Make a Stylish Statement with a Tile Backsplash

backsplash with subway tileWhen I renovated my kitchen last year I wanted to be classic in style. I was tired of my current backsplash and this time around wanted something timeless. I have white cabinets with dark granite countertops so I ended up choosing Grecian white marble 3” x 6” subway tiles. There’s so much interest in the each piece of marble and I love the way it looks in the simple brick pattern. I capped of the ends with vertical marble pencils.

Tile backsplashes can truly make a statement in a kitchen whether you go with a simple classic design or a more dramatic look. It is a way to bring all of the other materials together such as the countertops, cabinetry and flooring. There are many options to choose from as far as shape, size, type of material and color. If you go with a simple subway tile in a brick or herringbone design for example, there are many types of materials to choose from such as marble, travertine, glass, and ceramic.

When you peruse through our Pinterest Kitchen Backsplash Ideas Board, you will see a trend toward subway tiles in many materials. It is a great way to go whether your taste is classic, contemporary, transitional or traditional. A framed accent can be used above the cooktop to add more detail if desired.

For those of you who like color and something a little different, there are ideas using Arabesque and patterned tiles. A tile backsplash does more than simply protect your walls from splashed and stains, it is a way to make your design unique and express your personal style.


Basement Finishing Basics

basementsIf you are interested in adding an exercise room, entertainment area, or playroom to your home, the perfect space may be beneath your feet. If your home has an unfinished basement, remodeling the basement might be the most cost-effective way to incorporate these features.

When considering a basement remodel, start by using a piece of grid paper to make a rough floor plan, marking the locations of major appliances, like your furnace, washer and dryer, and water heater. Next, you will want to note any of the following:

  • Interior and exterior access points
  • Existing plumbing locations, which are important to know about in case you want to include an additional bathroom, or wet bar
  • Location of vertical support columns
  • Locations of windows and doors
  • Floor, ceiling, and wall materials

Given their location underground, basements are vulnerable to dampness, which makes basement remodeling a bit more challenging than first meets the eye. But, with the right materials in place, your basement will be protected from moisture, as well as the mold and mildew that can come with an improperly finished underground space.

Most basements have low ceilings and few windows, which can create a dark and cramped feeling if not addressed properly. Fortunately, there are many creative ways to make your basement light and airy.

Here are some tricks-of-the-trade for transforming your basement:

  • Stay away from dark wood paneling and instead consider drywall painted in light tones to make the room brighter. Semi-gloss paint will gently reflect even more light into the room.
  • Open up the visual space. Consider glass double doors, a rounded archway, or a pass-through area between rooms to create smooth transitions from one area to another.
  • Check to see if existing windows can be enlarged. Or, consider installing a small boxed window for a mini-garden to grow herbs or start plant seedlings.
  • Add depth with built-in bookcases and entertainment units. Light them strategically with interior lights, or from the top, to cast light downwards.
  • Disguise vertical support beams and horizontal ceiling pipes or floor joists by covering them. Alternatively, you can use pipes and beams as interesting accents by painting them with bold colors for added flair.

Unfinished basements are much like a diamond in the rough—unexplored splendor awaiting your discovery.

Considerations for Creating a Home Office

Creating a work space at home can be as simple as arranging a kitchen ‘command’ center with space for mail, a calendar, and other household documents.  If greater functionality and privacy are required, designating a separate area of the home as an office is generally a better solution. Whatever the need, there are a few considerations that should be addressed when integrating a workspace into the home.

One of the first questions we ask our clients is: How will the space be used?  Understanding who will be using the space and for what purpose can help identify an appropriate location in the home.  A homework area for the kids and small household tasks like bill paying might be appropriately integrated into a family space like the kitchen.  This way the parent can provide assistance or keep tabs on the family as needed. If more privacy is required for a home-based business, then a dedicated room or outbuilding may be necessary.

Once an area for the workspace is identified, it’s important to make sure the area is functional for users.  This means making sure there is adequate desk area for a computer – we recommend a desk about 24” to 30” deep, 30” high, with at least 36” of work area.  Also making sure there is plenty of room for storage with file drawers, bookshelves, and closed storage for supplies.
Adequate lighting is integral to the functionality and comfort of the space.  To some extent, the amount and type of light depends on the work but we recommend maximizing natural light to the space whenever possible.  The ambient lighting in the room can often be accommodated through a combination of recessed ceiling fixtures and table lamps.  A smaller desk lamp with a multi-directional head can be adjusted based on the specific task.

With all the electronic equipment that we use today, managing the power to the space becomes important.  For a home office room, typically a 20 Amp dedicated circuit at 120 V is adequate for power needs.  Putting the office on a dedicated circuit minimizes the chances that someone in an adjacent room will overload a shared circuit resulting in a power loss.  Locating outlets based on power needs and managing cords also helps to maintain an organized workspace. Surge protectors are another important feature of a home office and should be included to protect the electronic devices kept in this room, from computers to printers.

Whatever your needs are, a functional workspace at home starts with a well thought out design. If you need assistance designing and building your new home office, please contact us at (610) 762-1632. Click here to view photos of a home office renovation we recently completed for one of our clients.