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The Ins and Outs of Your Bathroom Remodel: An Interview with Robert Frank of Robert Frank Design

By Robert Frank

Tell us a little bit about your company and the services you offer.

Robert Frank Design is a full-service interior design firm. About 50% of our business is interior design and 50% of our business is kitchen and bath design and construction. As well as design, we also do project management and work hand-in-hand with our contractors, cabinet makers and carpenters as a design-build firm.

When people want to remodel their bathroom, where should they start?

While not as fun as the fixture and finish selections and design process, as a first step to any project we always work with our clients to develop a line-item budget. This allows clients to determine what is and is not possible. If the budget is too high, we can work to get it lower by proposing alternate fixture and finish selections and, possibly, to scale back construction. Having a budget in place is a critical aspect to any project as it allows the client keep focus and on track with their total costs. A remodel is a big ticket item, so eliminating future financial surprises always helps to make the process less stressful.

What are some of the most important decisions homeowners will need to make during the bathroom design process?

Aside from keeping an eye on the overall project budget and timeline, critical to a smooth construction process is a timeline that would consist of selecting and purchasing the fixtures and finishes and having them onsite when construction begins. This would include all fixture and finishes selections, from the bath and shower valves to the tile and paint selections and right down to the vanity knobs and pulls. Having these decisions made and items purchased at the onset of the project will always help to keep the contractor on task.

How is the budget typically set? What are some ways to help stay within budget?

Most typically the budget is set by the client and the general driver of the budget is the home itself. I say this because most clients will factor in their home's future resale value as part of their budgeting process. If, for example, a client plans to only stay in a home for a year or two, then their focus may be to complete the project in a less expensive way than another client who is living in her dream home and doesn't plan on moving in the foreseeable future.

It's easy to stay on track financially as long as our clients have a detailed budget and they stay focused on the budget for the duration of the project. It's easy to get side-tracked along the way. But, the most successful projects are those where the budget was created up front and monitored every step of the way.

    Other suggestions for staying on budget:
  • Be a bargain shopper, but never sacrifice quality for price
  • Negotiate with vendors to obtain their best pricing
  • If your strength is not design, budgeting or project management, us a designer to coordinate this for you.
    • Is there anything that a homeowner should know about working with a contractor during the remodel that they might not know?

      Always use a licensed contractor who, in turn, only uses licensed subcontractors. Just because someone calls himself a contractor does not mean that he is actually licensed and has the educational background and insurance that is required as a licensed contractor. I always suggest that homeowners logon to the Contractor's State License Board (https://www2.cslb.ca.gov/OnlineServices/CheckLicenseII/CheckLicense.aspx) to check on a contractor before they make any decisions. Additionally, homeowners should view working examples of the contractor's work and talk to current (not past) clients about the contractor's performance.

      What is one of the most challenging parts of the remodel for a homeowner and do you have any advice about that?

      Remodeling can be very stressful and the best way to limit the stress is to plan accordingly. For example, with a major remodel, I might recommend that a client actually moves out of the home for a certain period of time so they won't have to deal with the noise, dust and general disruption that goes along with the construction process. Another example, if timing is critical, consider the timing of the project so you can avoid slow-downs that may occur at certain times or the year or around certain holidays.

      Setting expectations up front with the contractor is very important as well. This would include obtaining a written timeline (ideally within the contractor's contract) and meeting regularly to discuss any project changes or challenges that might occur along the way. Over the course of the project, the contractor and designer will work in sync with the homeowner so it's critical that everyone understands their role and stays on task.

      What's the best way for people to contact you and your company?

      Most prospective clients start their search online so they can see examples of projects and design styles. For us, that's a great way for prospective clients to see our work and determine if our style suits them. Clients can always contact our office directly and we are happy to provide a consultation for interior design services, kitchen and bath design and construction. Visit us on the web at www.robertfrankdesign.com.

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About The Author

Robert Frank is a proud member of ASID, NKBA, and ICAA.

Phone: 626-765-1750

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