Author Archives: BHS

Home Renovation 101

By Robin De Groot 

With the plethora of Home and Garden Television Programs currently on the air, many of us have caught the “Renovation bug”, that inexplicable desire to gut and rebuild our homes and create our dream home. Whether you are contemplating renovating, restoring or redecorating your home, in essence what you are really striving to do is to create the proper stage for your lives and the lives of our families and friends.

Changing your home can be an incredibly enjoyable process that frees your inner creativity while expanding our understanding of ourselves, our families and our aspirations. The key to a successful renovation can be broken down into your planning, adaptability and research.

Of course the big question everyone asks prior to a renovation is “Will my renovation wreak Havoc on my life and family?” The honest answer to this is “Yes”, but often in a great and unexpected way! Renovations or redesigning our homes allows us to grow, to learn more about ourselves and to create the proper setting for our lives that we envision living within.


• Be Realistic – If you live in a bungalow and you’re redoing the basement family room and you love urban loft living, 14’ ceilings and downtown views – you’re not going to get it. However, if you want it to have a contemporary flair with warmth, sexiness and edge, then that is completely achievable.

• Have a detailed budget for your project. – Calculate EVERYTHING from the nuts and bolts to the silks and light plates. Make sure that your Designer and/or Contractor know what the budgetary ceiling for each project and item is and if you go over on one of them, that it means you will need to either cut back elsewhere or accept the increased budget.

• Research the best contractor for you. – Find the best contractor that suits your project, your personality and shares your design vision. Make sure to meet with at least 3 Designers or Contractors prior to making a decision.

• Understand waiting times – Custom sofas can take up to 12 to 14 weeks. Custom Cabinetry is often 10 to 16 weeks – some fabrics can take up to 3 months. RESEARCH your selections so there are no misunderstandings.

• Put a positive spin on the process – The reality is that there will be inconvenient ugly days with no water or no kitchen or both. If you have kids make it a fun experience, set up a tent and go camping in an area in the house so that it’s fun for them and budget for a hotel suite for the worst period and have all the ugly bits done during your absence. Make sure to think creatively on how to put the best “spin” on the rough times to your family and yourself.

• Don’t sweat the small stuff – If for some reason something is delayed beyond anyone’s expectations its not going to do you any good to explode and send your blood pressure through the ceiling. In the case of the “no show” item, either reselect the item or accept that it is delayed. Literally those are the only choices so make life easier on yourself (and your family) and learn to adapt your design plan (I always recommend having a back up selection just in case to prevent losing time and money).

Of course before you can begin ANY renovation, you need to find out “who you are” and “what is your style”. Are you passionate about Traditional, Contemporary, Transitional, Modern, Urban, Zen, Ethnic or Eclectic styles? You can not successfully begin this process without being able to firmly state what your style is and what the goal for your renovation is and how you live your life. You will also need the help of a good designer to hone what it is you are trying to create. Make sure to go out and see what is available; go to as many showrooms and suppliers as possible. You will find these trips to be inspiring and also a great learning experience as well.

As we all know, the biggest, most expensive and most detailed project in renovating your home is your Kitchen. When planning the design for your new kitchen, determine what suits your lifestyle; you’re growing needs and your aesthetics. Always keep in mind as well that your kitchen is critical to the resale of your home, so plan wisely. Plan out not just the big ticket items, such as appliances, flooring, cabinetry and counters but the small details that truly make a design great such hardware, lighting, hidden and built in storage and items that reflect your personality and style. Think about whether you LOVE to cook (then add a spigot over your stove), do you entertain frequently (then put a trough sink in the island), do you have a large family (then open up some walls and really make it the heart of your home. The answers to these questions will guide the fixtures and appliances you choose for your kitchen.

When plotting out the design of the kitchen don’t just take the kitchen planner or designers word that the space is ideal for you and your family. Carefully examine your plan and think about how to best maximize the space in your kitchen as well as make your life easier. No one knows your needs and the needs of your family as well as you do. What about adding a multi purpose island with sinks storage prep and seating? What about the new and stunning professional sinks with pasta cookers built in?

When speaking of Kitchen design we are really speaking about choices, hundreds and hundreds of choices for every aspect of your kitchen. For example, when selecting your counter tops you can have tile, granite (the designer fave), marble (stunning but not child friendly), solid surface, stainless steel (sleek and modern), wood, concrete (perfect for an ultra modern condo or home), glass, laminate (the most affordable and readily available) and many more, not to mention the hundreds of options within each material. Don’t get overwhelmed by the choices, always keep in mind what works best for your style, your lifestyle and your BUDGET

A small kitchen can be just as much a work of art as a big family kitchen. It just means you need to plan and research twice as hard, but often they can be the most dramatic because you can put more money per square foot and make higher grade selections then you would with a big barn sized kitchen. Details are what will make a small kitchen sizzle. Add pull our drawers with stainless glides and pull out components and a double door pantry with full interior access.

An often forgotten but critical component to great design, in your kitchen, bath or anywhere in your home is your Lighting plan. Good lighting is what separates a beautiful room from a spectacular room. Incorporate under counter lighting pucks, overhead lighting in a cove moulding, lighting in glass fronted cabinetry, a beautiful fixture over the island or table, rope lighting hidden in a recessed tray detail in the ceiling, the options are endless. Remember when speaking of lighting you need to consider the 3 components of a great lighting plan: Task, Accent and Ambient lighting.


• Use quality materials whenever possible
• Determine your Cabinet heights – floor to ceiling whenever possible
• To paint or to stain
• Select the best countertop you can afford
• Install a Kitchen Island
• Don’t overdo the adornments or details
• Add interest – Add your personality


• Paint your kitchen – walls, ceiling, trim, cabinets
• Change your backsplash
• Change all your Kitchen Hardware
• Change the Kitchen Faucet
• Add Crown Mouldings and beef up millwork
• Update your accessories and small appliances
• EDIT – EDIT – EDIT clutter and unused items

The next most important area in a home renovation and nearly as complicated as a Kitchen with its endless choices, selections and style is your Bathroom.


• Doors should never impede the use of any fixture
• All receptacles should be GFCI
• Allow a min. of 6” between fixtures
• Select non slip flooring
• Provide ambient, task and accent lighting
• Designate areas for storage
• Consider how to encourage sense of privacy

Our bathrooms are our personal haven to rejuvenate our spirit and our energy; they are home Spa’s that act as a refuge after a trying day. Critical to this is the design of your shower, now the most coveted aspect in a great bathroom design and an important detail on resale. Don’t forget “SPA” is the key word. Go to a variety of showrooms, the options are endless from steam, waterfall, multi jet and massage options. Remember to pamper yourself and treat yourself as well as you do a guest. Always select the best fixtures that your budget will allow and really research the best deal. I have seen products at showrooms for 2500 dollars for a product and then shopped online and gotten the exact same product for less than half! Look around, research and shop smartly and don’t forget to always sit in your bath tub or Jacuzzi before you buy it. What is comfortable for one is not always comfortable for another.

Always keep in mind while renovating your kitchen, your bathroom or any other room in your home that the goal is to create the proper stage for our lives, our family and friends that best exemplifies your spirit and expresses who you want to be and how you want to live. Inspire yourself, challenge yourself and ENJOY yourself and those you love and don’t ever be afraid of change.

Great Design in essence is about the creation of an exquisite stage for the beauty and quality of life we all desire. From ultra urban to ornate opulence, Robin and his team have passionately and successfully designed it all. Robin’s interiors have graced the pages of magazines Worldwide. Robin has designed interiors for feature films, major retailers such as Home Depot (Style Ideas Magazine) and the Designer Showhouse. From smaller scale interior projects to full scale restorations and developments, Robin’s passionate and creative eye overseas all aspects. While fluent in all design trends and philosophies, Robin is most passionate about historic preservation and the creation of elegant, functional and memorable spaces that convey the best attributes of each owner while respecting and celebrating the architecture that encompasses them. Visit

Seeking Balance in Your Home Decor

By Indra Books
In our homes, as in other parts of our lives, we are happier when we live with balance and harmony. Just like the rest of our lives, balance in the rooms of our homes is sometimes hard to create.

For many years, decorators and home owners tried to create this physical balance by having pairs of everything: 2 matching end tables, a matched pair of wing chairs, even sets of twin beds in the master bedroom. This certainly created a balanced room. It also created rooms that were sterile, formal and visually boring. In a formal setting or a Federal or Georgian home, this is still the way things should be to look ‘right.’ Our ancestors valued this perfect balance so highly that they created false doors in hallways so that both sides matched or doors that looked like windows so that the right and left sides of the back of a house matched perfectly. This can still be seen if you go to visit some of our historic homes. A notable example is the Hammond-Harwood House in Annapolis, Md. We, however, tend to prefer a more relaxed approach to our homes.

So how do we create a feeling of balance without matched pairs of everything? You can use:
ColorDark colors have more ‘weight’ than light colors.
Actual sizeHeight, depth and width of an object
MassA thick bulky looking object has more ‘weight’ than a fragile, delicate one. Just visualize a blown glass vase and a terracotta pot of the same size.
NumberA group of several like objects in different sizes grouped together creates ‘weight.’ Think of an assortment of silver candlesticks.
LightA dark corner has more ‘weight’ than one filled with light.

If you want to prove this to yourself, gather together a group of assorted objects and use a tabletop/mantel and try out different scenarios. Be sure you have different sizes, colors, textures and shapes. You can put a larger framed picture against one end and a slightly smaller one in front of it. On the other end of your table put a heavy pot. Do the same thing with a matching pot at each end. Try pairing the picture group with an assortment of candles in candlesticks. Each time you create an arrangement, step back and look at it. In fact, if you have a digital camera, take a picture of it. If you do this for a while you will start to get a feel for balance. You can actually give the illusion that the tabletop is tilted slightly by throwing off the visual balance.

The same effect can occur in your room arrangements. If you doubt this, close your eyes and try to ‘see’ a room in which you felt physically uncomfortable or slightly disoriented even though there was no obvious reason. A room in which the heavy items are all on one side of the room, almost feels as though the floor tilts. Once you have a feel for balance you can start to create a harmonious home.

Stand in the doorway of any room in your house that you feel isn’t ‘right.’ What do you see? Does the burgundy chair stick out like there is a spotlight on it? Does the entertainment center overwhelm the room? Do you have a TV and a fireplace battling for focal point? Do your easy chairs look like they were made for children next to your mammoth sofa? Does your fireplace mantel look like you are setting up for a tag sale? Your room is out of balance.

Move the furniture around and try different arrangements until you have one that works. Unless you have a room that is just for show like a Victorian parlor, you need to be able to use the room comfortably. Once the practical set-up is done, look at the room from different angles. If the room is out of balance use color and accessories, plants and pictures, groups of like objects, light and volume to create an illusion of balance.

Try grouping the accessories on your mantels and tabletops. Balance the entertainment center on one side of the fireplace with a tall plant or group of plants on the other. Note: avoid having the tops of everything at the same height. You might as well draw a line around your room. Repeat the color of the chair in pillows, throws, lampshades or the matting around a group of pictures. You really will be amazed at the difference it makes.

We may all be born craving balance but except for the lucky few, we have to learn to achieve it. There is a myriad of books on the subject and it can help to read them and look at the pictures, but the best way to get a feel for balance is ‘hands on.’ Experiment with portable objects until you get a feel for what works and then enjoy creating your harmonious home.

Indra A Books, author of this and many other lifestyle articles is the owner and founder of ON THE GO 4 U, Personal Shoppers & Concierge Service in the Washington DC metropolitan area. The company’s creed is to provide its clients with the ultimate life management experience. In addition to its shopping and concierge services, ON THE GO 4 U also publishes a monthly e-zine and conducts workshops on wardrobe, entertaining and decorating. For more information about the author and ON THE GO 4 U, please visit

Content for this article was provided by Suzanne Copenhaver, Design Consultant to ON THE GO 4 U. Suzanne has years of experience decorating in less than ideal situations and always provides us with tons of insight.

© 2005 Indra Books for ON THE GO 4 U

Home Repair Improvement Advice

 by: Tom Laing

Our homes are our precious possessions – to own a home for oneself is a goal many people aim for in life, even from childhood. After making a home for oneself and the family, it needs to be kept clean and well maintained. Home repair improvement plays a big role in the duties of owning a home. Home repair improvement is something that should be handled with care and planning. If not, the whole effort is going to be counter productive and it will require another phase of home repair to set everything right.

While embarking upon a whole series of home repair improvement work, do a bit of thinking on how you are going to do the things. There are hundreds of sites on the web suggesting tips about effective home repair improvement and there are contractors who boast themselves to be the final word in the art of home repair improvement. The point is, while hiring someone for the home repair improvement work, make sure that the person under consideration is a competent expert in the trade. After all, your home is a major financial asset and it is your duty to ensure that all home repair improvement goes well.

In home repair improvement plans, there will be a lot of contractors coming forward offering their expert services at varying rates. You could easily find the contact information of such people in yellow pages, news papers and TV and Radio. But in such cases, there is no way by which we could assess their credibility regarding their expertise in home repair improvement work.

The best rule of thumb is to check it with your friends, neighbors, or co-workers who have had home repair improvement work done. Ask them if they were satisfied with the end product and get the name of the contractor they used. Get written estimates from several firms and ask for explanations for price variations. Don’t automatically choose the lowest bidder.

Depending upon the scope and size of the home repair improvement project you have, select a general contractor or a specialist. Design/Build Contractors provide one-stop service – they see everything from start to finish. Make sure that the home repair improvement contractor you contact is reputable because not all contractors work ethically. Be aware of the following red flags – your contractor offers you discounts for referrals; he just happens to have materials left over from a previous job; he only accepts cash payments; he pressures you for an immediate decision; he offers exceptionally long guarantees and asks you to pay for the entire job up-front.

Before hiring a home repair improvement contractor it will be worthwhile to ask him a few questions. Ask how long he has been in business, if he is licensed and registered with the state, if he has a list of references, if he has a portfolio the projects done recently and what type insurance he carries. Any flaw in any of these factors invariably proves the point that the home repair improvement contractor is a phony or works without a valid license.

Regarding the payment options in the home repair improvement work, make sure that you have an idea about the limit of down payment. Try to make payments during the project contingent upon completion of a defined amount of work. Don’t make the final payment or sign an affidavit of final release until you are satisfied with the work and know that the subcontractors and suppliers have been paid.

Make it a point to make a written contract signed by both the parties before starting the home repair improvement work. See carefully that every term and condition is agreed upon and is free of any loop holes. Keep track of all the relevant paper work concerning all the activities done during the home repair improvement work. Before you sign off and make the final payment, ensure yourself that every detail and everything is in place and accounted for. Make sure that all standards have been met and you have relevant proof that all subcontractors and suppliers have been paid. Above all, walk around and see that the home repair improvement work has been done satisfactorily.

During or after the home repair improvement work, if you have any difference of opinion, try to solve it by speaking with the contractor directly. If you are not able to resolve at that level, contact State and local consumer protection offices, state or local Builders Association and/or Remodelor’s Council, the Local Better Business Bureau, Action line and consumer reporters or Local dispute resolution programs.

About The Author
Tom Laing, Copyright 2005
Home Apprasial Resources

Home Improvement Remodeling

By Alison Cole

Remodeling the home is a tedious task that involves a lot of money. In order to make the most of the remodeling of your house, it is important to be sure of what you want and to clearly communicate this to your general contractor or through a plan which do-it-yourselfers can follow clearly. It is also important to prioritize what your needs are for the particular project and to compare prices before you even shop for materials.

For most people, cost is be the primary consideration when remodeling; it is inevitable that you will need to compromise some of your intended plans in exchange for a more sensible and workable budget. These points may come in handy when remodeling your home. It is important to consider whether or not aesthetic changes are actually needed in a room, as function must always come before beauty. It is also important to keep remodeling plans within existing walls and the roof.

In planning bathrooms and kitchens, efficient remodeling properly shares existing major drains and pipes to reduce plumbing labor and material costs. Installing fixtures in only one or two walls also makes for more efficient remodeling.

Choosing to remodel a part of the home that has a high investment return is a sure winner. This type of plan not only works well while you are living in your house but may also add to its resale value when you decide to sell it later on. Kitchen and bath remodeling, as well as projects than brighten the home (installing more windows or sky roofs) are excellent investments.

Considering cheaper alternatives when shopping for materials is also a salient part of effectively remodeling the home. Saving on highly visible parts such as detail work and surfaces may go a long way in remodeling your house. Hiring qualified and reliable workers also makes for an effective remodeling project.

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Tropical Living Magazine : Featured article, September 2010 issue.

David Knowles has over 20 years of experience in the building trade, and 10 of those were spent here in Thailand. He operates his own independent building company, and he chats to Tropical Living about renovating and adding value to your home.

Can you explain Hua Hin Home Services and the services that you offer?

“We will consider anything from changing a bathroom or kitchen, up to the complete building of a house, but we don’t do ‘handyman’ work because it’s tricky to control costs on small jobs, and there is a lot of competition for this type of work. We also do visual surveys; it’s not a full structural survey, it’s more a case of ‘s there any sinkage , does it have termites, is everything working?

We are also starting a new service where we look at a property that someone may be considering buying and consult with the buyer to see what renovation work they want to do post-purchase. This puts them in a position where they can push for a discount on the sale price. Our change for this service will be small because we would hope the client will use us to complete the work.”

What is your background and experience in the trade?

“My initial was with British Gas as a gas and heating engineer, so I’m very used to the service industry. Builders are typically not interested in the end user’s wishes; in fact, many I have met in the past have been quite ignorant to their needs. In 1989, one of my friends offered me an opportunity to work with him as an apprentice builder. It was sold to me on the basic that, ‘building is an easy game made complicated by idiots! Once you’ve learned how to read a drawing, it’s really very easy. “ It wasn’t quite as easy as he made out! I spent nine years with Berkeley Homes in total. I did not want to set up on my own unit a friend pressured me into agreeing to do his extension; it was a 6000 sq foot extension on a 6000 foot house! So I said, ‘yes’. Regarding my eventual move to Thailand in 2000, I can cite two reasons; golf and food! I was here on holiday to begin with and I just loved it.”

What are the easiest ways to update a home, to make a more enjoyable place to live and to add value?

“In a nutshell, kitchens and bathroom. Most houses over here have what would consider adequate floors, either hardwood floors or tile floors, so the sort of thing that would be prohibitively expensive back in the UK. You can’t beat changing a bathroom to update a house for style. A lot of the house is ‘window-dressing’, and you need to make sure you get this right. Sometime I have clients ask me to swap out their beautiful floor, and I will say, ‘no, change the dressing. This will be a more cost-effective option’.

We use 3D modeling to render life like graphics of what the finished room will look like, and clients can often make a decision based on the computer drawing. The quality of the installation, of course, is key to longevity. You cannot cut corners, and you need to make sure all of the preparation work is perfect. For some of our windows, for example, we work with Project Supplies Direct in Phuket, who are the best in the region. Their attention to the work is incredibly detailed.”

What type are most common residential renovations you are asked to do?

“Condominiums. There is only one reason; all of our clients are Americans or Europeans. Foreigners can own condos in their own name but obviously not houses, so that is the reason. Even when a foreigner buys a condo, there are certain stipulations. You must buy in a building which has at least 51% Thai occupancy an also prove that the money has come in from abroad. We’ve done a lot of work with studios, one-bed and two-bed. The most common is the two-bed, two-bathroom type, and some of these are a nice size. We get spoit over here in terms of not realizing how big 140 sq m actually is. Back in the UK, it,s ‘make it smaller, I want to save money!’”

Living amongst mess and escalating costs are reasons why home-owners are put off renovating. What advice can you give to those who are considering renovation?

“Anybody considering doing any contact work should get an absolute guarantee from their contractor that they will clean every night before they go home, and that they protect every single piece that they can in the house. As a matter of policy , we make cover all floors with protective sheets, and shield baths and bathroom, doors and windows; we make sure everything is protected and it’s clean. We have teams constantly cleaning up and taking rubbish away so the house does not look like a building site. One of the good things about Thailand is that a lot of the client are already renting a property while we do the one they have just bought, although we have actually done full renovations with people living in the condo. This would be highly typical in the UK, but it’s rare here. We like clients to visit a site and think, ‘wow, this is clean’, because you get more work this way.”

What is the typical process clients go through when they use your services?

“We don’t take every job, but we do always meet the potential client, because it’s important that it works in terms of personality. We meet, we assess the needs, and we go through the wants and needs. We make sure it’s something we want to do, and we make sure that we can definitely help them. We then take them through all the choices, then pricing, the acceptance. It should always be this simple.”