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  • Writer's pictureMarni Jameson

YOUNG COUPLE REMODEL Part 1: She Wanted a New Shower. It Came with a New Kitchen and Bath

When my daughter and son-in-law bought their first home together two years ago, the young couple had three dreams: a new kitchen, a nicer bathroom, and a baby.


Last month they got all three.


Except for the outdated kitchen and tired main bath, the 15-year-old Craftsman-style house had everything Paige and Adam wanted for what they hoped would be their growing family — great location, good schools, and enough bedrooms. They decided they would either learn to live with the home’s shortcomings, remodel, or, if those plans failed, eventually move.


The worst part of the home was the shower, which Paige, who gets her patience from her mother, wanted to replace the second she moved in. “My college dorm had a better shower,” I remember her saying day one. Indeed, the small cubicle smelled like a mushroom farm, had a calcified door, and would have fit right in at a campground.


How quickly could they fix that? The answer came two years later.


From that first day, Paige heard from not just me, whose opinion ranks just below her neighbor cat’s, but also from an interior designer and a contractor, that if they wanted to replace the shower, they would need to replace the adjoining bathtub. If they replaced the bathtub, they would need to replace the floor, and might as well update the vanity.


Anyone who has ever remodeled knows how a small change leads to a big change which leads to a total gut, which bleeds into at least one more room.


See, even if they did remodel the whole bath, in the Denver area where they live, between the labor shortage and the building boom, most contractors would not want a job that small, though the project did not seem small to them. If they remodeled the kitchen, too, then they had a better shot at attracting a contractor, and they would “save” money, because the trades — carpenters, electricians, plumbers and tilers — could do both jobs at once. In other words, do it all or not at all.


Welcome to the world of home remodeling.



Disheartened, Paige and Adam pressed pause. They lived in and with the house as it was and continued to imagine what having a nice shower and upgraded kitchen might be like.


That was not wasted time. Over the next two years, they envisioned what they really wanted in these rooms. They separated the must-haves (an eat-in kitchen with room for counter stools and a gas cooktop) from the nice-to haves (more counter space). They created a Pinterest board. They dreamed. They planned. They got pregnant. They hired a designer.


After “a discovery call” to get a sense of the project’s scope, time frame and budget, interior designer Kate Clapp, owner of Kate Saige Interiors, met with Paige and Adam at their home. She shared her ideas and assured them they could get what they wanted. Knowing that Clapp works on many high-end projects, Paige and Adam made clear that this was a starter home, and they had a finite budget.


“She got it,” Paige said. The decision to move forward was easy. “By this point, we were just so happy that someone knew what we wanted and had a hand on the wheel, especially with a baby on the way.”


“I appreciated that they trusted me and the process,” Clapp said. “Not every client can do that, but it’s important.”


Clapp replaced the door between the primary bedroom and bath with a classic arch, then added a larger glass shower featuring Spanish ivory subway tile, a soaker undermount tub surrounded by a quartz deck, and an updated vanity with the same quartz countertop over cabinets repainted in Sherwin-Williams Accessible Beige. The remodeled bathroom also has slate plank flooring, and new light fixtures, mirrors, faucets and sinks. (I’ll share the kitchen improvements next week.)


The change, in Adam’s word, was “existential.”


“It all started because of the shower,” Paige said, shaking her head over the odyssey, as she sat in her new kitchen holding her newborn. “At first, I just wanted to replace the shower glass. I’ve since learned to be cautious of what you think are simple fixes. They’re not so simple. They unravel.”


Here’s what else they learned:

·      Paint a picture. Paige made a Pinterest board, largely inspired by Studio McGee, which Clapp used as a jumping off point. “I love a client Pinterest board,” Clapp said. “It helps me see inside their brain.” She could see that Paige leans toward classic clean design with neutral foundations, wood, and accents of blues and greens. “When I saw her Pinterest, I thought, ‘I can work with this.’ I call her look modern organic, with a classic umbrella.’”

·      Dial in design and price. Clapp followed up with her own design board for each room, including finishes and lighting, a detailed budget, a timeline, and contractor recommendations, so the couple could proceed with financial certainty.

·      Save here, splurge there. You can get beautiful design without breaking the bank, if you allocate money in the right spots, Clapp said. One of those spots is lighting, which is worth a splurge. Less expensive but also critical to the finished look are cabinet knobs and pulls. Keeping the same footprint will save.

·      Focus on kitchens and baths. “I felt good knowing we improved what builders and Realtors know are the two most important areas of a home in terms of value: The kitchen and primary bath. Not only will Paige and Adam enjoy their upgraded home, but they will also get their money back whenever they sell.” But for now, they’re home.


Join me next week to find out which came first, the baby or the finished kitchen, and more lessons learned.


CAPTION: Pandora’s Bathroom — What started as the desire for a nicer shower, turned into a completely renovated bathroom (pictured here before and after) and kitchen for this young couple. Before photo Marni Jameson. After photo Kate Saige Interiors.

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