Local Interior Design Firm Takes Home Five “Contractor Of The Year” Awards
Friday, February 3, 2012 • 4:39pm
Aurora Kitchens & Interiors of Raritan, NJ (www.auroradesignsnj.com) garnered five prestigious awards from the Central Jersey Chapter of the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (CJNARI) for remodeling projects for local homeowners. Aurora is the only company in New Jersey to win awards in five different categories this year.
At its Evening of Excellence Awards Dinner at Bridgewater Manor in Bridgewater, NJ on Friday, January 20, the Association presented five of its coveted annual Contractor of the Year (CotY) Awards to Aurora for difficult remodeling projects. Three of the awards were presented exclusively to Aurora and two were presented jointly to Aurora and MSI Plumbing & Remodeling of Lebanon, NJ (www.findsolutionsonline.com) in recognition of their work together.
Two awards were for kitchen renovations, one costing under $40,000 and the other costing between $40,000 and $80,000. One award was for a bath makeover costing under $30,000, one for a laundry room renovation and one for a commercial interior. All entries were scored by an independent panel of judges in six separate areas: client satisfaction, functionality, aesthetics, craftsmanship, innovation and degree of difficulty.
“Both kitchen projects we definitely creative challenges,” says Branchburg resident Kelley Evens, Senior Designer and a Partner in Aurora Kitchens and Interiors. “With the under-$40,000 kitchen project, for example, the Flemington homeowner’s biggest complaint was the closed feeling of the small kitchen and her inability to comfortably fit a table into it. Since the home was a condominium, there was no way to expand the space so we had to do some creative space planning, especially in relocating the primary appliances, the refrigerator and stove.”
The refrigerator, for example, was positioned in such a way that when the door was open, it blocked access to the doorway. The stove was positioned against a wall, which made cooking difficult. “Our solution was to put the refrigerator where the stove used to be and move the stove to the other side of the sink with landing space on either side,” says Evens. “This created a much more efficient traffic pattern and also allowed us to move the dishwasher and create innovative cabinetry, such a pullout spice drawer, for additional storage.”
he existing kitchen table, which barely fit the space and was often cluttered due to lack of storage space, felt cramped and was uncomfortable for three. This was a problem for the homeowner, whose two small grandchildren visited often. “We put in a peninsula with an extended stone tabletop on the end and one side,” says Evens. “This not only solved the seating problem, but also created lots of additional storage space.”
The original kitchen had what is known in the industry as “blind wall corner cabinets,” which do not permit the homeowner to see or easily reach the shelves within. “We replaced them with a full size wall cabinet with mullion glass doors, which permitted full and easy access,” says Evens. “They also allowed her to display her prized rooster collection.”
Finishing touches included under cabinet lighting, extra insulation around a drafty window, a larger sink with a faucet offset to the side and more landing space around it. “Window treatments and wall accents with chickens and roosters were selected to complement the homeowner’s rooster collection,” says Evens. “When her neighbors visit, they can hardly believe it’s the same space.”
Dream Kitchen Becomes Reality
“Although we had more room to work with and a larger budget for the $40,000 to $80,000 kitchen project that we shared with MSI Plumbing & Remodeling, we faced a whole different set of challenges,” says Hillsborough resident Kolbe Clark, Senior Designer and a Partner in Aurora Kitchens and Interiors. “In the process of addressing complaints about the lack of cohesiveness of the layout and the inconvenience of the traffic patterns it created, we discovered a number of serious structural problems that needed to be corrected.”
The Hunterdon County couple’s complaints about the original kitchen included the fact that it did not have enough storage, it was not comfortable for more than one person to work in at a time and a peninsula made it difficult for people to go in and out. Since the laundry room was behind the kitchen, the lack of easy passage impacted not just preparing meals but also washing clothes. There was nowhere to sit so meal preparation quickly became tiresome. The dining room/eating area was not directly connected to the kitchen so the space felt very disjointed.
“We developed several different plans for the new kitchen, some of which involved moving walls in order to make better use of the space,” Clark recalls. “The plan we finally settled on included moving the washer and dryer to the basement, allowing us to eliminate both the laundry room wall and a hall closet in order to make the entire space a continuation of the kitchen.”
Problems arose when it was discovered that the original beam used when the house was built was undersized. There was a ¾-inch sag in the ceiling from one side of the kitchen to the other. In addition, when the laundry room division wall was removed, it was also discovered that the ceiling joists were resting on a non-load bearing wall. To overcome this situation, new ceiling joists and support beams needed to be installed.
“Removing the closet and making the laundry room a part of the kitchen completely changed how the kitchen space could be utilized,” says Clark. “We now had an entire wall of additional space to work with. One of the couple’s main complaints was that it was almost impossible for two people to be working in the kitchen at the same time. The dishwasher and oven could not be open at the same time and it was not possible for someone to be cooking at the stove while someone else was working at the sink. The additional space allowed us to solve these problems.”
The stove was moved across the room, eliminating the bottleneck and allowing more landing space on either side, while the sink was moved to the back corner to allow complete use of the base cabinets around it. The refrigerator was also moved further down the wall to a more convenient location. “This allowed us to create better cabinet utility with a pullout spice drawer near the range and a pullout trash drawer along with a pot and pan drawer on the sink side,” Clark explains. “Having the stove and sink further apart also allowed several people to work together in the kitchen at the same time.”
In order to handle the load, new framing and support was put in on the first floor and additional support was installed in the basement underneath the original hall closet location. “The additional 27 inches gained by using the space that was previously the hall closet was enough to incorporate an island in the new kitchen design instead of the original peninsula,” says Clark. “Replacing the peninsula with the island had the biggest impact on the overall kitchen traffic flow, since there were now two ways to get in and out of the kitchen instead of just one. It also provided a lot more storage and prep space.”
In addition to allowing for the island, the widening of the space brought the kitchen closer to the existing eating area, eliminating the two disjointed separate areas and making this section of the house feel much more cohesive. Finishing touches included a stainless steel faucet, sink and appliances to continue the contemporary feel, light fixtures over the island and table with metal wire on the sides and under cabinet lighting and recessed lights trimmed in silver for a completely cohesive look.
"A dark stain on the wood floor complements the stainless steel fixtures and appliances,” says Clark. “A combination metal, stone and glass backsplash blends nicely with the neutral granite countertop. The homeowners finally have their dream kitchen.”
A New Bathroom for the Kids to Grow Into
“These homeowners came to us with a long wish list for the hall bathroom used by their two young children,” Evens recalls. “The bathtub was leaking, and access to it was limited. Even though the existing vanity had two separate sinks, the children did not like sharing the space. There was also no convenient place for the children to hang their wet towels, so they wound up cluttering the floor. As if these shortcomings weren’t sufficiently challenging, they needed to be overcome within a very tight budget.”
The first step was to replace the bathtub, which was cracked and leaking into the family room below. “The homeowners told us that the children absolutely love bath time, so we replaced the old tub with a larger, more luxurious one,” says Evens. “Because it was wider than the old tub, however, the drain had to be re-centered, and because the positioning of the floor joists did not permit this from above, we had to remove part of the powder room ceiling to access the plumbing from below.”
The next challenge was to improve access to the new bathtub. “The existing door to the tub area opened in the direction of the tub, partially blocking it,” Evens explains. “So when one of the parents was bathing a child, the door had to be closed, preventing them from keeping an eye on the other child. One option was to remove the wall separating the tub area from the rest of the bathroom. The parents vetoed this option, however, because they felt that the children would need the privacy as they grew older. While more expensive solutions were available, we suggested simply reversing the swing of the door, which could easily be accomplished within the project budget.”
The problem the children had with sharing space at the vanity also required a creative yet relatively inexpensive solution. “Although there were two sinks in the bathroom, the space was not really individualized,” says Evens. “By providing separate vanity lights, mirrors, accessories and electrical receptacles, we gave both children their own separate space, thereby minimizing early morning and bed time arguments.”
To optimize storage space, the standard builder grade vanity was replaced with a unit having two sets of full opening doors, each with no vertical bar to block access to the interior of the vanity. “Full extension drawers keep small items like hair clips and ties from getting lost at the back,” says Evens. “The slow close option was included to avoid little fingers getting caught in the drawers.”
To keep wet towels off the floor, a custom towel bar was constructed using a piece matching the cabinets and chrome hooks. “Now the kids could easily hang up their towels where they belonged,” says Evens. “To make it sturdy, we fastened the bar securely into several studs so the kids can’t loosen it by pulling on the towels.”
White plumbing fixtures and chrome finishes were selected to keep costs in line with the budget. “We chose a shower curtain instead of a semi-frameless sliding shower door for budgetary reasons,” says Evens. “Mosaic glass accents in the shower and behind the vanity were an economical way to accent the neutral field tile – all within budget.”
A Laundry Room With A Place For Everything
“This laundry room presented quite a challenge,” Clark recalls. “The Hunterdon County homeowner had a long list of things she wanted to include, such as a spot to fold clothes in the laundry room itself; storage for shoes, gloves, hats, and scarves; a place where the central vacuum cleaner hose could be mounted on the wall, a utility sink, hooks for mops and coats, and a drying rack. She wanted a closet with adjustable shelves where she could hang clothes and a nook for all the laundry supplies. Finally, she wanted the materials selected for the room to coordinate with the décor in her kitchen.”
The first challenge involved the laundry room appliances. “The homeowner wanted a counter to go across the washer and dryer so she could actually fold her clothes in the laundry room itself,” says Clark. “However, since there are no standard cabinet configurations available for this, we had to fabricate a custom counter onsite that could accommodate the height and width of the appliances. This also required MSI Plumbing & Remodeling to raise the washer and dryer plumbing so the connections would be above the counter. There was also a support for the counter needed to the right of the washer and dryer. Instead of using a solid support, however, a 9” cabinet was put in for even more useful storage of things like shopping bags.”
The next challenge was the storage cabinet, which the homeowner insisted should be the same height as the closet. “She wanted several sets of drawers but did not want them to start at the bottom as they typically would,” says Clark. “Instead, she wanted to be able to store shoes at the bottom and accessories at a more comfortable height for easier access. Like the countertop, this unit also had to be custom fabricated.”
The original closet had a lot of space but much of it was not accessible, according to Clark. “There were almost 18” to the left of the door that was not being used because there was no easy access to it,” she recalls. The built-in cabinet now sits in that space. When the remaining section was reframed, it was divided to accommodate long items such as coats on the right and shorter items like shirts and folded pants on the left. A hook for the vacuum hose was added so the hose could easily hang instead of being stored on the floor. Finally, the panel in the center of the closet does not go to the ceiling so that long shallow things like fluorescent light bulbs can be stored horizontally in the space above the actual framed opening, which is slightly less than 7 feet ft. high. Literally, every inch of space can now be used in this closet.”
The homeowner also wanted several hooks on which she could hang up coats quickly, but was not sure how many or where she wanted them. “Because the hooks could also be used for heavier items like backpacks, they would need to be anchored securely,” says Clark. “Since the studs might not be positioned where hooks for heavy items were needed, however, we added extra plywood to keep the hooks from being pulled out of the drywall.”
Two things that the homeowner considered particularly unattractive were the awkward drying rack and the many bottles of detergent and other laundry supplies that were routinely needed. “We solved the first problem with an accordion hinged wall mounted drying rack that matched the new cabinets and folded up out of sight when not in use,” says Clark. “To hide the laundry supplies, we custom fabricated a special compartment within the cabinetry with a matching wood door that slid down to close it and keep the contents out of sight.”
The finishing touch was a laundry room sink with a decorative granite countertop that contoured with the washer and dryer. “The sink and the countertop were chosen for their durability as well as for their attractive appearance,” says Clark. “An adjustable open shelf cabinet with matching interior was placed to the left of the sink so that it could be used for small item storage or, with a shelf removed. to hold a laundry basket. The oil rubbed bronze faucet, sprayer and cabinet hardware were the perfect choice to finish off this warm comfortable space.”
An Unusually Attractive Auto Body Shop
“The owner of this auto body shop wanted to provide his customers with a different experience,” says Evens. “A comfortable, upscale waiting area for customers was top priority. Other amenities on the owner’s wish list included a television viewing area, a working area with free Wi-Fi for customers, a gourmet coffee/tea center, an inviting reception desk, an area for insurance adjusters to speak with clients privately, multiple employee work stations and beautiful restrooms.”
Figuring out how to keep the waiting room clean in an auto body shop environment was one of the biggest challenges. “Mechanics often track oil and grease from the shop into the waiting area when they are speaking with customers,” says Evens. “The key was a durable yet attractive concrete floor with a multi-sized tile pattern, some texture, and a color variation from gold to terra cotta. Cleaning is a breeze with just water and a mop. To make the seating area more inviting, a multi-colored jewel-toned rug was used to anchor the space. A brown leather sofa and gold leather chairs were grouped for seating. Their colors complement the concrete floor and area rug.”
A coffee and tea station was custom fabricated to fit in an old closet area. “Customers can help themselves to gourmet coffees and teas using the one cup coffee/tea maker,” says Evens. “A TV and wireless internet allow parents and kids to wirelessly connect their laptops, tablets and other devices for work or entertainment. To reduce annoying glare from the windows, custom blinds in a coordinating wood tone were selected. The cordless operation of the blinds is child friendly and safe.”
The design of the reception desk presented several challenges. “It had to be inviting for customers, yet offer the receptionist some privacy,” Evens explains. “It also had to provide work areas for one or more employees and an area where insurance adjustors could speak with their clients. To achieve this flexibility, we designed the desk area to be modular. A continuous work surface with task lighting and under cabinet storage was custom designed for the owner. File cabinets and drawers are easily moved to create multiple work stations. One end of the desk is used by insurance adjusters, who often need to stand while speaking with their customers. To accommodate them, the end of the desk curves inward to allow them to stand directly facing the customer.”
While some auto body shops have a single unisex restroom, which is often dark and dingy, this owner insisted on separate restrooms, each modern, clean and well lighted. “We achieved this through the use of mirrors and artwork, with warm paint colors to keep the restrooms from feeling cold and sterile,” says Evens. “The combination of bold colors, wall art and accent pieces created exactly the effect that the owner was trying to achieve.”
Aurora Kitchens & Interiors is a full service design firm offering a wide array of products and services from design consultation to complete project management, including both residential and commercial designs, throughout the central New Jersey area. Projects range from new furniture for a family room to complete kitchen remodeling. For additional information, contact Kolbe Clark (email@example.com) or Kelley Evens (firstname.lastname@example.org) at (908) 566-8555.