02 Apr 2017

Rest Assured

Whether you are planning a full bathroom renovation or making small improvements to an existing bath, shower seating can increase the safety and comfort of your room. Installing a shower bench decreases the amount of time you stand in the shower which eases the strain on your body but most importantly, as part of aging-in-place design, it reduces the chances of slipping and falling.

The majority of falls within a house result in relatively minor injuries, but falls in the bathroom are often more serious. A study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that almost 200,000 Americans a year are treated in the emergency room for bathroom-related falls. This is because bathrooms present a number of additional hazards over most areas of the home; the surfaces are slippery and there are very few well-anchored items to grasp. While it is certainly possible that anyone can slip and fall in a bathroom or shower, the elderly and disabled are particularly susceptible. Having poor balance or muscle strength makes it harder to catch oneself when falling, increasing the risk of injury.

At any age, a shower bench is an affordable and functional design feature. In addition to its safety benefits, a shower bench provides space to store extra accessories, a place to sit to wash feet, lather hair, or shave legs or simply a place to sit to relax and recharge.

There are two options for shower seating — Freestanding or Built-in — and your choice will depend on the size of your shower, the style of your bathroom, and your budget.


The easiest and least expensive option is a Free-standing bench that may be purchased through various bath retailers. Typically, they are made of kiln-dried teak which is sanded to a smooth finish and then treated to maintain its color. However, left untreated, teak will weather to a beautiful silver-gray color.

Alternately, various plastic and corrosion-resistant metal benches are available, and while functional, they typically have a medical look and feel. This rectangular teak shower stool in the photo to the left is from Frontgate and retails for $200.

Additionally, free-standing benches can be found in local stores and online at retailers including Bed Bath and Beyond and Home Depot as well as higher-end designer showrooms such as Signature Hardware.

This corner shower stool from Signature Hardware saves space and provides functional seating as well as a storage shelf for bathroom accessories. It is ADA compliant and runs approximately $175.


Built-in benches are the second option for shower seating. We offer three different ways to incorporate built-in seating in your bathroom design.

  • Built-in, tiled, and permanently attached to the wall.

    • In this master bath HCI recently completed (photo 1 below), the bench is incorporated as part of the shower enclosure and extends the width of the shower (4ft) providing a generous seating area. It is finished with the same bronze-matte 24’ x 24’ tiles as the shower walls for a seamless, integrated look.
    • Some homeowners choose a contrasting accent color for the bench top such as the black marble bench top shown in photo 2.
  • Built-in “Floating” Bench

    • A floating bench (photo 3) is securely attached to the wall but is open underneath. It can be made of waterproofed wood, a solid surface material like quartz, or natural stone such as marble, granite, or limestone.
  • Folding Bench

    • For a small space, a folding bench (photo 4) provides the convenience of easily folding the seat down while showering or dressing then folding it up and away for extra space when not in use. Folding benches are typically made of teak or other water-resistant wood. Another advantage of using wood is that it isn’t as cold to sit on as tile. Both floating and folding shower benches require additional blocking in a stud wall and anchor hardware. Installed with the proper supports, seats can hold from 250 to 400 lbs., but in any case are only as strong as the walls and mounting hardware used.

Size and Location

Placement of the bench will most likely be determined by the size and configuration of your shower. It’s best to place the bench within reach of your shower controls, install a hand-held shower head and install grab bars for safety and ease of use. To meet most guidelines, shower benches should be mounted between 17 and 19 inches off the finished shower floor. An aging-in-place designer or occupational therapist may be consulted to customize your shower to meet your specific needs. There are also many reference books available such as Residential Design for Aging in Place that provide specific guidelines for aging-in-place bathroom design.

HCI Project

In 2013, we helped transform a cramped 70’s era master bathroom into a sleek, contemporary bathroom with an open configuration and curbless shower to allow for wheelchair access. The curved shower seat provides an accessible place to sit for showering and keeps toiletries in easy reach. Fabricated from a single quartz slab, the seamless bench seat with a bullnose edge is more comfortable against the skin than grouted tile with squared edges.

Photos courtesy of: Dave Edwards


For inspiration visit architecture art design for 30 irreplaceable shower seat design and ideas, like this Teak Shower Seat Collection from Jack London Kitchen Bath

Visit Teakworks4u for a variety of ADA Compliant Teak Seats, Wall mounted, fold down or Freestanding Benches and much more.


Moen products like this folding seat can be found at Home Depot and Lowes



12 Feb 2015

Playing It Safe

We all want our homes to be safe havens—places where we can relax in comfort and security. But every year, home-related accidents result in medical visits and sometimes death to thousands of people in the United States. The top three causes of these injuries are: 1) falls, 2) poisonings, and 3) fires and burns. Many of these accidents take place in the bathroom. The average person uses the bathroom six times a day. With such a high level of usage, it is important for this room to be as safe as possible. We recommend these home improvements to help keep you and your loved ones safe while using your bathroom.

1. Falls: Eliminate!

• Wet, slippery tubs and shower floors can lead to some of the most serious injuries in the bathroom. Select non-slip floor surfaces for your bathroom and install grab bars.Many grab bars today are cleverly designed to avoid giving your bathroom an institutional appearance. Check out the new ToiletRollHolder-Healthcraft-Feature-1256-150x150products from Invisia, that integrate a toilet paper holder with a grab bar, or a towel bar with a grab bar—effectively hiding the grab bar in plain sight.

• A comfort height toilet provides a seat height that is the same as that of a standard chair, maximizing your ease and comfort when sitting down or standing up.

• An LED light sensor night light in the bathroom will automatically turn on in low light levels. The night light will softly illuminate the path for safe nighttime visits to the bathroom, helping you avoid any tripping hazards along the away. It will also provide enough light to safely complete all normal bathroom tasks.

2. Poisonings: Eradicate!

• More than two million poisonings are reported to poison control centers each year—with the highest rates among children under age five. To help prevent poisoning, all medications and other poisonous items should be locked up and placed out of reach of children and pets. This may be accomplished by adding child-proof locks on the doors of cabinets where cleaning solutions are stored, as well as by installing a medicine cabinet with a built-in lock box for added safety.

• Keep all medications and bathroom cleaning solutions in their original containers with labels attached, to ensure they are used properly and not mistaken for another product. Never mix one medication with another.

3. Burns: Exterminate!

Innovation_Detail_iodigital_02_large• Although 96 percent of all homes in the United      States have at least one smoke alarm, some burns occur without any smoke! Each year, about 112,000 people are treated in hospital emergency rooms with scald burns, many of which are a result of household water heaters being set at temperatures above 120 degrees F. To prevent these burns, turn down your water heater to 120 degrees and install an anti-scald regulator fixture in the shower, tub and vanity sink. (This article features the ioDIGITAL from Moen)

• Never leave potential fire hazards, such as space heaters, candles or curling irons, unattended. Replace lit candles with battery-powered “flameless” candles and purchase a curling iron with an auto shut-off function.

Article courtesy of Plamar USA, Inc.


So you’re remodeling your kitchen or bathroom and have decided you want engineered quartz for your countertop. What now?  With the many quartz products available today, how do you choose the best one for your countertop?

As countertop experts, we have been asked this question many times and can confidently answer that there is really no how-to-guide in choosing the right engineered quartz material. Our advice is to look at the range of products available in the market – Caesarstone, Silestone, Cambria, Pental Quartz, Color Quartz, Hanstone, Zodiaq, Icestone, Vetrazzo, and LG Viatera to get an idea of the range of choices. Educate yourself by visiting their websites to learn the features of each brand and how they differ from one another. In doing so, you’ll be able to identify each brand’s its composition, the range of colors and patterns available and how each brand compares to the others.

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By Mark Lesnick
Founder, Mark Concrete

When I dream about remodeling my bathroom, I think about the new tub, maybe a steam shower, and certainly a gleaming new showpiece-of-a-vanity. I start the planning in my head – the textures, colors and styles. And then the demolition, the chaos, the mess! You may ask yourself, “How can I get the bathroom I’m envisioning with the least amount of mess and stress?” One way is a “Turn-key” bathroom vanity. It is a remarkable concept we developed to create a gorgeous work-of-art in a bathroom vanity that is simple to install and impresses the most discerning eye.

The “Turn-key” vanity system features a concrete surround with integrated sink and pre-installed cabinetry. All that is required is to set the complete vanity structure in place, install the fixture of your choice, and hook up the supply and drain lines and you are done with that portion of your new bathroom. One example of these turn-key vanities is pictured here with an “Erosion” sink mold.

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Whether you have a traditional home yearning for classic impressionism, a contemporary home with a large wall needing a dramatic focal point, or a minimalist home seeking “the one perfect piece,” art can be the finishing touch that transforms your home into a reflection of your personal style.

While some may consider selecting art an exciting adventure, for others it is confusing and overwhelming. Adding art can be easy and manageable and it will add interest and warmth to a room. Here are a few suggestions that will get you started in the right direction.

  1. Explore your tastes by checking out museums, local galleries, and art in the public spaces such as banks, restaurants, and libraries.
  2. Select art by size to fit a particular space. Measure the area and make sure to leave enough “white space” so that the art will not feel crowded. Conversely, art that is too small will be lost and look like it’s floating.
  3. Select by color, choosing one or two of the boldest colors in your room and look for art that incorporates those colors. You’re not looking for an exact match – picking up one or two of the same colors will send a message that the painting belongs in the space.
  4. Consider a gallery wall or cluster of wall decor taking up a large space. A gallery wall can be so many things, genuinely representing your lifestyle, travels, pursuits, passion, nostalgia – you get the picture.

Give the Gift of Art

This time of year, finding a unique and personal gift can be a challenge. We came across Greenbox Art, a company that helps make the process of finding art for others as gifts or for your own home, less stressful and loads of fun.

Here is the process they suggest:

  1. Make a list. Describe the recipient in a few words. Funny? Serious? Stylish? Traditional? When you look at a piece of art, determine whether this same list can be used to describe the piece of art. If so, you’re on the right track.
  2. Visualize. What does this person’s home look like? Lots of reds, or tons of antiques, or Danish modern furniture? How would a particular piece of art fit into that decor?
  3. Size it up. There are many options for canvas size. At Greenbox Art, pieces are available in a variety of sizes and shapes that will make it easy to customer the art to your recipient’s space.
  4. Search the website starting with color, subject matter, or price range. Or, find an artist whose work reminds you of the recipient and discover the variety of pieces he or she has created.

Your bathroom is a wet environment, where moisture is constantly pumped into the air. This is made evident by the condensation covering mirrors and windows after someone takes a shower. Less obvious is the additional moisture infused every time a toilet is flushed or a faucet is turned on. If this moisture is not completely removed from the air, it can result in mold and mildew growth on bathroom walls and ceiling. Your bathroom may have an unpleasant, musty smell, even though you use air fresheners. This can be a signal that your bathroom is not properly ventilated.

One of the best ways to ventilate your bathroom is to install a high quality fan. The Home Ventilation Institute (HVI) provides helpful suggestions for choosing the right fan for your particular bathroom. HVI guidelines take into account 1) the square footage of your bathroom, 2) the number of moisture-producing fixtures in the room, and 3) the cubic foot per minute (cfm) airflow rating of the fan. A large bathroom may require more than one fan-perhaps one next to the shower and one in the toilet area. You could also consider a fan system that utilizes a remote-mount motor that connects to multiple ceiling grills installed throughout your bathroom.

If you hesitate to install a noisy fan, then pay attention to the fan’s sone rating. This is the measurement of the way the human ear senses the loudness of the fan. An inexpensive fan may have a sone rating of 4, which is similar to human speech. A high-quality fan with a sone rating of 1.0 or less is barely audible. Of course, the sound of a remote-mount motor will be muffled by the distance.

To ensure that excess moisture is removed from your bathroom, let the fan run at least 20 minutes after you finish using the room. If you are concerned that you will forget to turn the fan off, one easy solution is to install a timer. Another option is to purchase a humidity-sensing fan that switches on whenever it detects an increase in humidity, and then turns off again automatically. There are also multi-speed models that operate continuously at lower cfm levels to provide whole-house ventilation, but when a motion detector senses someone entering the room, the fan switches to higher cfm levels. The benefit of a whole-house ventilation system is that it works constantly to remove contaminants-such as dust, pet dander and various chemicals-that may be lodged inside your home.

You can select from a wide variety of fan styles to fit your taste and bathroom décor. Some fans have heating features, while others include supplemental lighting. There are fan/lights that also function as decorative light fixtures, featuring glass globes and a variety of finishes. Other fan/lights look just like standard recessed light fixtures. When choosing your fan, look for a model that is Energy Star qualified, which means it excels at energy savings, quiet operation and level of performance.

Homeowners have very individual tastes and preferences when it comes to describing their favorite bathroom environment. It is important to realize that if you desire a relaxing, spa-inspired master bathroom in your home, there is no one standard look and feel for that room. The most important requirement is that it be a place where your personal comfort and enjoyment is a priority.
The gorgeous master bathrooms pictured here run the style gamut from Asian/Contemporary, to Transitional, to European/Modern. What ties these three bathrooms together, however, is the attention given to the 10 spa-inspired details below:

1. Calming hues that harmonize with each other and are flattering to your natural skin tones. Surrounding yourself with favorable colors can enhance your mood.

2. Elegant natural materials that are also eco-friendly—promotes pure pleasure. Experiencing the natural beauty of wood, bamboo, glass, stone and metal is even more satisfying when you know your selections are sustainable.

3. Straighter, less complicated cabinet exteriors, with highly-functional interior organizational systems to optimize storage. An uncluttered environment helps refresh and rejuvenate your mind.

4. Dual sinks, cabinets and closets that provide room for more than one person to use the master bathroom. If you share the room with someone else, having your own personal space will increase your feeling of tranquility.

5. Plenty of natural and artificial light for safety and a sense of well-being. Light plays an important role in helping you avoid accidents; plus, the amount of time you are exposed to light can affect your emotions.

6. Commodious zero-threshold shower and deep soaking tub—for all eventualities. Sometimes relaxation means a lengthy soak; sometimes it means hydro massage body sprays and rain showerhead in the shower.

7. Underfloor radiant heating and heated towel racks that ward off the shivers. Staying toasty warm as you exit the tub or shower prolongs your enjoyment.

8. WaterSense labeled plumbing fixtures, ENERGY STAR qualified appliances, and LED light fixtures that reduce water and energy usage. It feels great knowing you chose wisely and saved money, all the while helping protect the environment.

9. Easily adjustable pre-set temperature controls for shower, bath and underfloor heating that removes all the guess-work. When you are tired, how nice not to have to think—just enjoy.

10. Audio/visual enhancements. Waterproof audio devices can be installed into your shower- head or tub, allowing you to play music through a blue-tooth enabled device, like an iPod or smartphone. A waterproof flat screen TV can be placed in your shower or on the wall next to your tub. You will not have to miss your favorite podcast while you are relaxing in the shower!

15 Nov 2012

Less is More

If you are remodeling your kitchen or bathroom and contemplating what material to select for your backsplash, consider the sleek and contemporary alternative to tile or stone–simple, classic, architectural glass. While an elaborate tile or stone backsplash may provide a focal point for your room, sometimes less is more. Back-painted glass slabs provide more than a focal point; they can change the whole feeling in the room, providing a sense of depth and vibrancy in a clean, uncluttered way.

It can be used virtually anywhere you currently use glass, tile, or stone: kitchen backsplashes, bathroom vanity tops, tub and shower walls, fireplaces, accent walls, and refrigerator and cabinet door panels.

Maintenance is easy; back-painted glass is non-porous and seamless and outlasts many architectural products such as tiles and laminates. It doesn’t allow mold or bacteria to form; it is water-proof or water-resistant and it is easy to clean.

  1. Fast & easy installation. Has to be tempered but this can be done by the glass company you choose. The glass is optically clear and the thickness is typically 1/4″, 3/8″, or 3/4″.
  2. It can blend well with the colors you have already chosen for your remodeled room. Instead of trying to find the perfect size, color and textured tile pieces, glass slabs can be painted to match the color codes of all leading paint manufacturers.
  3. The simplicity of a glass wall allows you to get creative and fun as well. Glass is the perfect surface to tape decorations, stick cling-ones, and best of all dry-erase markers can be used to draw on the walls! It wipes right off! Chalkboard paint is fun, but the kids will love this too.

How long does it take you to find your favorite hairspray or body lotion as you’re getting ready in the morning? If you’re like most Americans, trying to locate things you own but can’t find takes up almost an hour of each day. This lost time can result in missed deadlines, which only adds to the stress. For your own peace of mind, make the decision to start organizing your bathroom today!

The first thing to do is to make an inventory of all the items found in your bathroom and decide which need to stay there. Divide everything into three piles: keep, donate and discard. Will you ever use those brand new burgundy-colored towels a friend gave you years ago? Doubtful, since they no longer match your color scheme. Donate them! If you have expired medications, or half-used products that you don’t like, discard them.

Once you have whittled your pile of “keep” items down to the essentials, decide where in the bathroom they should be located. If they are décor items, they can go back on your countertop. Other items should be organized carefully in drawers or cabinets.

Interior cabinet storage solutions, similar to those designed for kitchens, are just as convenient in bathroom vanities. A drawer with dividers is perfect for smaller make-up products. Pull-outs, like those in the photo above, make larger items easily accessible. Slide-out under-sink organizers are great for storing cleaning supplies, but lock the cabinet if you have children in your home. Consider installing a separate wall hung medicine cabinet to help keep medications out of the reach of children. Robern offers a mirrored cabinet with an integrated cold storage unit, making it possible for you to keep all your medications together in one place.


The holidays will soon be here. Have you looked around your home to see if there are ways it could function better for family gatherings and feel more inviting? Even if you haven’t the budget for a major remodel, there are less expensive ways to make a big impact. We are here to help you get those projects completed.

Fall is a great time for having remodeling work done, so prepare your home now for welcoming holiday visitors. Our workload starts to loosen up a bit, which means we may be able to begin your project sooner than at other times of the year. Also, our vendors often offer special sale prices on their products in the fall with savings we can pass on to you.

Entrance Foyer

Here’s where your guests catch their first glimpse of your home’s interior, and you want it to be visually appealing. Have those tired walls covered with a fresh coat of paint. Choose a zero-VOC product, so there are no lingering, harmful fumes. Add interest to the door and ceilings with decorative wood trim in an unusual pattern. If your foyer has a low ceiling, consider track lighting instead of a chandelier.


As various family members get involved in preparing those holiday meals, you’ll want your kitchen to provide a functional workspace, as well as attractive surroundings. Now would be the perfect time to upgrade to a range with two separate ovens so multiple dishes may be cooking at different temperatures at the same time. Install a new faucet with a pull-down spray so both food prep and clean up can go faster. Have your scratched and stained plastic laminate countertops replaced with beautiful new solid surface or granite. Likewise, replace your worn vinyl flooring with engineered hardwood flooring-a product that not only is durable, but also handles moisture well.

Family Room

There never seems to be enough storage space for all the games, toys, magazines, DVDs, pillows etc. that accumulate in the family room. You will want to clear up the clutter before your holiday guests arrive. We can help suggest places where you can easily tuck some additional cabinets or shelves, such as below a bay window, beneath a stairway or against an empty wall.


If your bathroom lighting is limited to an overhead ceiling fixture, install additional fixtures, such as stylish pendants or sconces at the vanity. This is convenient for guests applying make-up at the mirror, but more importantly, it helps prevent accidents for those with diminished eyesight. Update a basic plate-glass mirror by adhering decorative molding around the outer edges to form a frame. New hardware can greatly enhance the look of your existing cabinets. Choose hardware with a creative design or unique color that also coordinates with the existing finishes.

There’s No Law that Says You Have to Do it All at Once

The unstable economy has forced many people to put their larger remodeling plans on hold. However, a number of homeowners are completing their projects one stage at a time. Additionally, some are doing updates in lieu of complete remodels. Below is a list of budget-friendly projects that can increase the enjoyment of your home now but also contribute to its long-term value. Some require professional remodeling services (that’s us) while others are DIY. Find more budget- friendly before and after photos on the Sunset website.

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