Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Who Do You Trust With Your Home, Family, and Things?

Can I brag a little, please? Not about myself, about the Santosuosso's!
I love working for Lenny and Lisa!  They do not compromise quality or customer satisfaction. They tell you the truth, price competitively, and follow through. The finished product will be as agreed. You will be happy and proud of the results. You will enjoy the peace of mind working with honest, committed, hard working professionals brings. You will trust that your home, family, and belongings are safe.  

We all want to be work for people our integrity and sensibilities are aligned with. That can be hard to find, unfortunately. I am so grateful to be employed at Apple Wood Kitchen and Bath for that very reason. I am Cynthia, the girl answering the phone and greeting you when you visit our showroom after 1 PM Tuesdays through Thursdays and all day Friday. 

I have been a Design/Sales professional in the remodeling and design industry in Southern California, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire for twenty years.  I began to learn kitchen bath design at Lowe's Home Improvement Centers in Orange County,CA.. I wanted to provide more excellent Customer Service to clients, so I began to pursue positions in privately owned Kitchen and Bath showrooms. Growing in expertise prepared me to design for exclusive Design Build firms in Boston and Southern New Hampshire. I am very blessed to work with Lenny and Lisa who epitomize excellence on design,craftsmanship, and building acumen surpassing many I have been previously employed by. My experience has taught me how the industry works, who is skilled and trustworthy, who is not.    

The title of this post, who do you trust, is very important! Why? Selecting the professional you award a remodeling project to impacts your life very personally. It is easy to get tunnel vision in your excitement about upgrading your home, especially if all you are considering is cost. The cost versus value percentages are extremely important while considering any projects you want completed in your home. Please stop and think about this! You are trusting this person and their employees in your home, around your mate, your children, pets,and all your belongings.

Projects take months. There is a  common mistake made by busy homeowners. Perhaps you had some plumbing, electrical, or carpentry issue happen. You needed someone to come fix whatever needed attention. A local handyman or carpenter took care of it in less than a day. It is only natural to consider them again for more work. However, the scope of a design and build remodeling project requires a much higher level of experience, most handymen do not possess.

A new kitchen, bath, basement finish project has multi steps that require sophisticated applications. They are not the same thing as taking a few hours or a day off from work to have a handyman to fix something in your house. The choice you make about who you award a big project to has to be accomplished very purposely. Here is why. Can you trust them to care for your home, be interacting with your family, children and pets? Are they part of the community, dependable, and available for any issues after the job is complete? What is their reputation?

Rather then a enduring an upset to your normal schedule and functionality in your house for a few hours, a remodeling project takes months. Do they take pride in workmanship and leaving your home as neat as possible every night when they leave for the day? Are they bonded and insured?
What is their reputation with local inspectors and the community building license board? Are they known to complete the jobs they start? We have all heard the nightmare stories of homeowners being duped by supposed  professionals who take a large deposit, show up a few days to start the job, then disappear! Yes, unfortunately, this is common. Homeowners must seriously and research anyone they consider awarding their project too.

Every homeowner MUST ponder and seriously consider who they will hire to remodel their home.  Yes, price is important! I am not minimizing the importance of cost.  Apple Wood Construction and Apple Wood Kitchen and Bath are competitively priced. If there is any business where the old adage, "You get what you pay for." , is true, it is in the design and construction business. The products are important and often drive price. Beautiful kitchens and baths can be designed and built in many price ranges, depending on product selection. The selection process is daunting, especially for us gals. When you walk into the the tile, appliance, granite or quartz, or lighting showroom, practicing self control is the only way to stay on target for your budget.The quantity of choices is overwhelming when you see all the options. It is very easy to blow your budget if controlling your emotions and practicing self control is difficult.

Here comes the bragging! Details plus organization are key to producing excellent results. The comparison between awarding your project to a Design Build Firm such as Apple Wood versus a 
big box retailer or Handyman type carpentry business is critical. Peace of mind during the months it takes to begin and complete your project will have stress filled moments. If you are acting as your own general building contractor expect to be frustrated and stressed out. As a Design Build
company we handle all the scheduling, ordering or supplies, and management of installations for you.

As a Designer, handing over my clients and the paperwork to the build team was hard for me.
This was especially true when working at Lowe's. Why? Well, they rely on whoever approaches them claiming they are experienced installers, etc. They are not Lowe's employees, they are 
freelance carpenters, handymen, plumbers, and other sub contractors. Sometimes they were not as skilled as they claimed. This is very scary for the Design Sales person and the homeowner. You lose your interaction with the designer your confidence was established with. The other weaknesses I have seen in the industry includes good contractors who take on more work then they can handle excellently. Money can become the focus rather than craftsmanship.  Cutting corners is tempting when you have made contracts with more homeowners than you have time or adequate crew to handle the load.  Hopefully none of these scenarios happen to you. However, I could tell you stories! 

Lenny is a straight shooter and a perfectionist. He will not promise something he cannot follow through with. He does not tolerate sloppy work. He is very precise and demands precision and excellence from any subcontractor working in your home to complete your project. He is neat and fast! Lenny hates clutter and messes. He will tidy up the work area every night  in your home. 
His stamina, craftsmanship and skill is unsurpassed. He is an excellent time manager who knows what he can handle and will not compromise. He does not take on more work than he can handle to the best of his ability. He is dependable, thorough, and a perfectionist focused on details.

As I said, I love working for Apple Wood Construction and Apple Wood Kitchen and Bath. I love the confidence I enjoy recommending Lenny and Lisa to clients. I know they will keep their word and take care of every family and home as if it was their own.  


Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Combining the Old, New, and Not Yet

My husband is currently jacking up the Mudroom of our house! What does that mean?
For a year or two our back door is getting harder to open. The door is dragging across the
wood floor scratching it. I am so thankful to be married to man who knows what is wrong and how to fix it. There are so many things to maintain, add to, or change in our homes to make them functional.

Driving through the rural towns of New Hampshire, especially in the Fall season fills our hearts with joy as we enjoy historical as well as newly constructed homes nestled in our forests. What a variety we enjoy here!

Older homes require special care and the expertise to keep them beautifully functional. How about you? Are you in love with New Hampshire or Massachusetts old Colonials, New Englander's, Post and Beam Homes or barns converted into houses? Do you live in a family home handed down through the generations? We cannot rebuild as they did in years past. However, we can update them .  New kitchens, baths, mudrooms, bedroom or family room additions can be designed and built seamlessly marrying the charm of the old with the convenient function of new methods. New products complimenting and enhancing the beauty of  an older home create the updated technological improvements we all enjoy in 2017. 

One of the fun things about a career in remodeling is seeing so many of  historical homes with original features. Some have kitchen hearths and bun ovens. I have designed and coordinated the installation of kitchen additions fortunate enough to "keep" the historical items in place while designing and building a new kitchen with all the conveniences of this century within the same room or very close by. These homes take the warmth and nostalgia of our rich history to a higher level. Being invited to special Holiday Events by the owners of an Historical Home is truly a special treat!

Built in china cabinets, bathroom shelves and drawers surrounded with original moldings are still in excellent condition in some older homes. Many Craftsman homes have this type of built in cabinetry throughout the house.

Many of these Historical Homes are in some of New Hampshire's cities, some in the country, or little villages between the two. We are surrounded with a rich tapestry of beautiful homes of all sizes and design styles. The homes that happen to have acreage are especially beautiful. I love seeing gardens, horses, livestock, and family pets.

 Mud Rooms are an integral and important addition to New England homes. "Mud" being a very appropriate term, especially for homes with land, gardens, and animals to care for. Most animals do not enter the house. Dogs are the exception. I want to share some fairly new features many homeowners are considering and installing when remodeling these days.  Function is key yet cabinet manufacturers, along with plumbers and tile designers and retailers have met a need very creatively! What could that be?

Let me set the scene. Often the mudroom is near the kitchen entrance and pantry or laundry area. These "necessary " rooms, especially in New England are set apart from the living or dining room areas where you socialize with friends and gather as a family. These functional areas are perfect for receiving the homeowner after working outside. Generally located near a back door and or the garage they help keep other rooms tidy, neat, and clean. Mud Room is the perfect description.

What special features are designed for this space? For awhile now, designing a wall or corner configuration of cabinets to hang coats, hats, scarves, gloves and umbrellas has become very popular.
Since our winters can be raw we are in need of multi layers of jackets to heavy coats, hats, gloves, the more room you can spare for this practical space, the better! Here are a couple of ideas my clients have found key.
1. Seating that functions as hidden storage is perfect. It gives you a place to sit for ease taking off
2. Tall cabinets to anchor cabinets on two walls meeting in a corner allow more hidden storage.
3. Wall Panels like Bead Board add a country rural feel. If your home is more formal a Raised or
    Recessed Panel to match your kitchen cabinet doors works perfectly too. Picture the anchor Tall
    Cabinets connected at the base to the seating cabinets. The wall panels connect it all finished off
    with beautifully stained Solid Stock installed horizontally accessorized with sturdy coat hooks. The     final touch being crown molding on the tall cabinets as well as the expanse of the solid stock trim.
4. If the square footage allows, some deep "Pots and Pans " Drawer bases are perfect for hat, scarf,
    and gloves storage.
5. This is also a perfect place for some Trash and Recycling Cabinets.
6. A handy and convenient black board or bulletin board to keep track of dates for activities would be
    a great addition too.
7. I have actually designed a work space with shelves into Mud Rooms occasionally. They became
    excellent drop off points for the kids homework assignments , books , etc. The routine of  knowing     that is where everything is can help keep the kitchen counters and island less cluttered.
It may not be practical or possible to integrate all these options. It is a great idea to consider  what would be best for your lifestyle.

Okay, are you ready for a fairly new trend? I think the practicality of it will win you over, if you have four legged family members, especially big dogs. Recently there has been an interest in a new focus in these rooms as well. It is a practical "luxury" that also keeps the rest of your home free and safe from dirt or mud being tracked in by your pets.

Building in a corner doggie shower is the new rage! People who have them do not know how they managed with out them before! What? A dog shower? Okay stay with me, I will explain.
Have you had to clean up your bathroom walls, tub, shower after "finally " breaking down and bathing your dog? Yeah, how did you like that?

Adding a shower pan in a corner of your mudroom, with tile extending up the walls 3 to 5 feet is a perfect dedicated place to bathe your pets , "BEFORE" they walk  through your clean house with mud all over them or their feet. This is a mini shower with plumbing and a faucet you can extend to wash and rinse "Buddy" as you get all the yuck taken care of in one easy convenient place.

As I said , our clients who have them wonder why they did not think of this years ago! Once again the quote Necessity is the mother of invention" rings true!

If you have a mud room or any other area of your home, new or historical or anywhere in between that needs some updating and attention. Give us a call. We love to listen to your ideas, dreams, and wish list. Even better, we can , do and will help you make it all come true!

Monday, September 25, 2017

A Little History

Did you know we do EVERYTHING?

What? Really? Yes, really!

Most of the blog posts I do are about our kitchen, bath, and other remodeling projects. I'm going to diversify today. There are endless projects homeowners need and want so please bare with me while I clue you in to the exciting truth of all Apple Wood can accomplish for you.

 I know that is uncommon. How can that be? Well, it is past time for me to let you know ANY need, interest, or improvement to your home inside or out can be accomplished here by Apple Wood Construction or Apple Wood Kitchen and Bath. Yes, it is true! Our showroom was created to help our new home construction clients have an opportunity to see the quality of our products and craftsmanship.

Apple Wood Kitchen and Bath was created only 5 years ago. Lenny was diligently searching for a kitchen and bath remodeling company he felt confident to refer the clients he was building custom homes for or remodeling to work with. He partnered up with a few professionals hoping to find a synergistic match with so they could team up and benefit his new custom home customers. The process was not successful for various reasons. The primary one was Lenny's commitment to excellent craftsmanship, work habits, and caring for his clients and their property was not duplicated to his satisfaction. Lenny is a perfectionist and does not accept shoddy habits or workmanship.

 Apple Wood Kitchen and Bath was established to provide our clients the quality we stand for in all our businesses. After being disappointed a few times trusting the remodeling professionals he hoped would work well with him, Lenny realized there was only one way to insure excellence. He needed to open the remodeling kitchen and bath division of Apple Wood to compliment his original construction company Apple Wood Construction. 

Lenny is a true renaissance man who learned his trade as an apprentice after going to a vocational high school to learn the construction trade. By the time Lenny was seventeen, he was an experienced carpenter and craftsman. The family pride in helping home owners has continued for generations in the Santosuosso family. Now, Lenny the fourth is learning the business along side his Dad. You gotta love that! It is so rare these days to encourage our youth to pursue a career of craftsmanship and creativity.

In addition to our Design Build approach to building new homes, remodeling older homes, kitchens, and baths, Lenny also does decks, additions, siding, windows, fireplaces, flooring, remove supporting walls to create open concept homes. If you want something done around the house chances are Apple Wood can do it for you.

Referral and repeat business is what all construction professionals hope for. Apple Wood thrives on repeat business. Once a homeowner experiences our design expertise and Lenny's craftsmanship, their wish list for home improvement projects expands. It is very common for our clients to tell us to get ready and prepare to get the thumbs up to do the bath, or kitchen, or a garage, or the deck next.

Think about the importance and value of working with a contractor who can do any and everything you want or need. It is extremely rare for one homeowner to afford every project they want to do all at the same time. However, to have the freedom to brainstorm and prioritize the current project keeping future ones in mind saves time, stress and money. Working with one company , hopefully Apple Wood,  helps eliminate the issues that may arise hiring different companies for different projects.

So how did our Kitchen Bath Showroom come into being? Why is it what everyone associates  Apple Wood with? Let me explain. When you are a General Contractor you are overseeing every component needed to build a complete home or business building. You build a team of sub contractors you trust , rely on and hire to build your clients home or business. The GC has to research, contact, and develop a working relationship with electricians, plumbers, roofers, siding companies, flooring, tile, and kitchen and bath designers and showrooms. The Contractor works hard to find synergistic  partnerships with subs he can count on to be committed to the same level of quality he is. That can be quite a challenge.  

 Initially, Lenny endeavored to find Kitchen and Bath showrooms and professionals he was confident in. They needed to be ethical, dependable, organized, and detailed. They needed to have the same commitment to excellence Lenny has. After having difficulty finding someone to work the decision was made to open his own cabinet showroom. Too many compromises were happening working with outside Kitchen and Bath professionals and showrooms. That is how Apple Wood Kitchen and Bath was born. We have been much happier and so have our clients.

If there is any profession where being OCD and a perfectionist is a good thing, it is remodeling. In fact , I would go so far as to say, those attributes should be present in anyone remodeling homes.
Think about it. Remodeling an existing space is a combination of art, creativity, math , and craftsmanship. If any of those ingredients are missing, the results will be lacking.

I love working for the Santosouosso's for many reasons. They are people of their word, dependable, honest and excellent at their craft. Your project will be competitively priced, on budget, and on time. You will not be disappointed. I would be so bold to say, you will be a client for life.

Come see us and find out for yourself!

Monday, August 28, 2017

Why Is Design Fee Charged?

I started in this business years ago. Those were the days Home Depot and Lowe's NEVER charged a Design fee. Now they charge $150 just to send someone out for a measure. Why would they switch policies? Thousands, perhaps millions of dollars ( across the country ) have been lost to inaccurate measuring.

As big box retailers began to spring up in America's neighborhoods they were challenged with the task of building a brand homeowners would trust enough to switch from custom cabinet makers and local hardware stores. Free Design was a powerful lure to attract curious customers. This was also beneficial to Home Depot and Lowe's. They needed to train employees to design on CAD ( Computer Assisted Design ) software being launched. The big box retailers did not send their "trainees" to specialized CAD classes or schools. Since "practice makes perfect" ( well, at least hopefully) the more designs each was given to do was seen as great training. This was how most kitchen bath designers began their careers in the late 80's to early 90's. Yes, it is true. Customers would walk in with a piece of notebook paper they sketched a elementary "design" of their current space , with or without measurements and ask you to design a new kitchen for them. We as newbies were happy to do so. We were working our shift and were being paid so why not practice designing. Are you shocked? I am telling the truth. Obviously, this approach was potentially disastrous.

Times have changed thankfully. However, it is important you understand how to determine what is fair and what is not.

Whatever your profession happens to be the truth is, time equals money. Time is the only thing so valuable that it can never be replaced. In the constructions business , especially in the remodeling genre, measurements are critical! Accuracy is key. Why? The answer is 1/8th of an inch can make the difference between the design and cabinets in it fitting your space. Yes, it is that important!

There is some flexibility in new construction because you have more options starting from scratch. You can change the placement of a door, opening, or window in the process of building a new home.
Once a house is built all of those important placements are permanent unless you are replacing a wall for a kitchen or bath addition.

Here at Apple Wood Kitchen and Bath our design fee is the lowest I am personally aware of in the area. It is only $300. It is non refundable yet fully deducted from the cost of your cabinetry if you decide to award your job to us. I have worked for many Remodeling Construction Companies in New England and in California. There are various levels of expertise and design ability represented in this area.  It is critical for a homeowner to do their due diligence and vet the "professionals " they consider possible to award their project to. You can search through this blogs archives to find my articles on the distinctions between various levels of professionals people consider hiring.

The top level is a Design Build Company, which Apple Wood Kitchen and Bath is. We surpass being only a handyman, finish carpenter , or big box retailer that hires outside installers. We are a complete full service soup to nuts approach. Design Build means from the very start until the last moment of your project, we manage every detail for you. You are not spending a minute trying to schedule, find, check on or follow up with a subcontractor. From the Design phase to through the build phase the design and build team are synergistic and connected to ensure excellence with the least possible
stress or inconvenience to the homeowner.

Truthfully, this level of professionalism typically requires a minimum of $2500 to $5000 deposit before the designer even begins working on a design. This is the standard from the Boston Area up to Concord, and the Sea Coasts of Massachusetts and New Hampshire. As you can see $300 is very low amount to invest for the time consuming work of  creating a design of your project. For that low fee which will be deducted from your cabinetry you will spend valuable time sharing your dream project with our design and build team experts. The definition of what you envision will be accomplished through questions, measurements, going over ideas you may have collected in your dream folder, views of the design in the showroom with a 3D digital presentation, and some design changes to the project, if you want them. $300 is a nominal fee for the time spent to help you discover exactly what your perfect project is.

We do have another option for clients who are confident they can measure, hand draw, and present us
a plan that will fit the space they have measured themselves based on our Online Option, Measuring Guide.  For only $150 we will take your specific measurements place it in the CAD software for you. We will email you a 360 degree design for you to review. If you are confident it will fit and is your final selection, the pricing will be done and you will meet with the designer for your final acceptance and approval to place the order based on your measurements.

You can check out our two options: The Convenient Online Option or The Full Service Option at

Friday, August 4, 2017

How BUSY Families Find Time to Remodel

Today's family is typically made up of two parents employed full time. Most have lengthy commutes as well. Once the kids come along, parents can feel they are Uber Drivers. That is American life now.
Every member of a family have multiple opportunities to express their talents and interests. All of them require the most important yet limited asset, time.

Like anything there are positives and negatives to how family life is, no matter the generation or time frame. The American dream of owning your own home is still key in our culture. We love our homes. We want to improve the the nest we work hard to buy, own, and maintain. Sometimes, we are fortunate and find the perfect house in the perfect community. However, most find a home they can
turn into the dream home with some patience, TLC, and remodeling projects.

Here we face the time constraint issue square in the face. Few homeowners are prepared for the time and details required to seek the right professional they can trust. Then the appointments that need to be scheduled when both decision makers are available to go to a showroom to discuss their dream project, approve designs, make revisions, and then, start the time eating selection process. It is daunting for a single person. Scheduling a couple with two careers can multiply the complexity.

The traditional full service way remodeling projects have been handled is available. However, for the technically savvy newer generations, we have a wonderful new internet approach. Our clients who buy and do everything on the internet love the Convenient Online Option we offer at Apple Wood Kitchen and Bath. This option saves a minimum of two in showroom appointments required for the normal Full Service Option.

Both options produce excellent results. For clients who trust purchasing online, we have simplified the process by having the homeowner fill out a questionnaire, take pictures of the kitchen or bath and email them to us along with measurements taken by themselves. A design is completed based on the information provided with a very reasonable design fee. We help you select your cabinets. If you want us to bid installation, we will. Or you can DIY or find any contractor you wish.  

We are ready to help you create your dream project. Just go online to www.applewoodkitchen.net to get started.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Make a Dream Home Out of your Current Home

Is your kitchen too small? Are you wanting to transform your small Cape or Ranch Style house to Open Concept? Are you asking, "Is that even possible? The answer is , Yes, it is.

At some point most homeowners end up analyzing the best solution for their living space as their needs shift and change. There are many things to be considered. Some families are completely ready for a complete change, new locale, different style house or perhaps the easier maintenance of owning a condo. Freeing myself from home exterior upkeep, lawn and garden care is tempting at times. Yet, being free to plant your own garden is very nice too. 

All these considerations are especially true of retirees facing whether to stay in their current home or downsize. Once the kids are grown and on their own a smaller living space is possible and easier to clean and maintain. However, those little ones will arrive and we grandparents love the idea of big family times together in our spacious homes. 

So many New England neighborhoods filled with small Capes, Ranch homes, and New Englander's 
were built in the 40s to 60's. The homes were built with a hall connecting to the living areas, bath , and bedrooms. It can feel very confining and closed off. What can you do about that? 

Many options exist. Opening up the wall between the living room and kitchen dining area opens up the house to feel much more spacious. Most likely the wall is a "bearing wall" supporting the second floor. No problem! Once the wall is down, the upper floor can be equally supported by installing a thick beam across the expanse. This beam can become a beautiful wood design element or be hidden
under drywall and painted and sometimes even hidden in the ceiling for a seamless design.

A second option is an addition! Depending on your property , additions can add square feet to make your home wider, deeper or both. Need more storage and closet space. Have you always dreamed of an "en suite" master bath/spa off your Master Bedroom? We can help you design and make selections to enhance your home that make it the dream you've imagined for decades. 

There are endless options! Come talk to us and get started. Get on our calendar so that you can enjoy your new Dream House for years to come!

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

" I know what I want! " The Fun yet confusing "Selection" Phase!

It is natural to believe we already know our taste, preferences, and exactly what we want. After all, the first step of any remodeling dream is usually months, perhaps years of wanting and considering all the possibilities. Yes, we, especially us ladies, are very clear on what we like. Right?

When it comes to our home , our nest, it is easy for the woman to assume she will be the decision maker. After all, if it is a kitchen project, she is the queen of that space. Correct? Hold on, maybe not! Many families enjoy the joy of Dad being the chef. It is not the majority of households but is  getting very common. Let me throw you a curve ball! Perhaps, whoever is the person utilizing the kitchen should have their preferences prioritized. What do you think about that?

The reality is the two homeowners plus other older kids or adults, who live in the home, will all have opinions. Each will voice different ideas about what is important to them. This can be the first indication selections may take longer than anticipated.  Each family has to sort out who has the final say. Welcome to the negotiation process of your project.

Being in the remodeling business for two decades has proven to be an opportunity to experience what being a marriage councilor must be like. Once the time has arrived where a couple determines the money is available to begin a project, the personal taste of the two becomes very important. It is common for a husband and wife to come into the showroom with their individual vision for the cabinetry, colors, styles firmly set in their minds.

The moment each begins to touch and consider the door samples often reveals the two visions are very different. I often experience the female longingly focused on painted glazed inset door and drawer cabinet styles. She can see the entire new kitchen in her heart and mind. Her husband seems to be in another world. Perhaps the kitchen he is dreaming of would be perfect in a mountain cabin. Men love wood with texture. The more grain , knots, and rugged appeal the better! Time to sort these choices and decisions out is critical for you. We are committed to helping you make choices you will be happy with for years to come. I think you are getting the picture of how such considerations can impact the date your project will be completed.

I am so proud of you who have started their Design Folder. It is going to help you stay on target better than couples without one. However, other factors that delay the selection process are friends and family. We love to talk to our loved ones about such a great event finally happening. That is an important and smart part of the process. Feedback and questions help you fine tune what the finished project should include. It is easy to get caught up in the excitement and find later you left out something you did not know about or consider during the design and selection process. No one can think of it all. Even more true is the fact none of us can typically afford or have the space to include everything available. Choices must be made.

There it is the "C" word, CHOICES!  I do not want to belabor and repeat prior blogs. Just remember the thrill of going to various showrooms to select the cabinets, flooring, plumbing fixtures, lighting, tile, and counter tops repeat and multiply possibilities exponentially! The possibilities are unlimited. It is very difficult to stay focused when you are exposed to so many choices.  Be prepared! This is why starting as early as March to May to cook and entertain in your new kitchen this Thanksgiving must be emphasized! We are always here to help!