Sunday, August 4, 2013

Fun at the Pool!

Cabana storage cabinets 

Several years ago our clients had built a cabana beside their pool including a family size couch, exterior grade TV and two niches for future storage cabinets for their pool toys and life preservers, etc.

They wanted the two cabinets to weather well in our summer’s hot & humid environment, and also would be protected from the harsh winter’s cold & dry elements. They must be very airy so stored items would dry and they had to match their existing poolside furniture.


Our solution was to create two cabinets that could be broken down with out tools or skills, the Teak surfaces could be stored for winter with the other furniture while the stainless steel structural frame could remain outside all year with out rusting and staining their natural stone pavers. Each cabinet is basically a solid countertop and a front frame with doors in a lower slatted shelf for the stored items.

Since the existing furniture were gray and washed out it would be impossible to match so we washed and sanded them down to bare wood and re-oiled them by hand with three or more coats of Teak oil to replenish the woods natural oils and color.  The new Teak, which is naturally oily to the touch, only required one to two coats.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Master Bath Problem and Solution

I recently finished a beautiful master bath remodel. It's always fun to be able to help my customers turn a problem into a solution! Read on.. 



Our client wanted to remodel their 1960’s master bath. Although the bathroom was a decent size and included two separate closets, the space was poorly utilized; the 36” square shower basin was actually a bathtub as well.  Well, maybe a bathtub for a very small child or the family dog! The main room with the closets had a small vanity with a single bowl sink with no exhaust fan to keep the shower steam from the clothes.

Our client  wanted a large walk-in custom tiled shower, which would be also a steam bath. Two separate vanities and a single large walk-in closet. Large enough for two users and heated floors to keep those toes warm on a chilly night.

Our solution was to steal a few feet from their spacious master bedroom for the walk-in closet and take over one of two 6-foot wide closets in the guest bedroom to make the shower more spacious. We were able to furnish them with all their needs and have a spacious bath where two can pass and comfortably use the bathroom at the same time.

One way to keep within budget, the client prudently chose to build out the shower for use as a steam room, bring in the plunbing supply and drains and electrical service even though the steam system would be added the following year.

For more information on this project or how we can assist you, call Jim Butz at 847-205-9844 or visit our website at

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Top 5 home improvement projects for summer!

Summer is a great time for tackling those home improvement projects you’ve been thinking about.  Certain home improvement projects will increase the value of your home and those upgrades will make your home more enjoyable for you not to mention marketable if you are selling your home. I’ve put together a list of the top five improvement projects for summer. Consider one or all but remember most of all to enjoy your summer!

1. Add a Deck or Sun Room

Love the outdoors?  Enjoy your outdoor spaces and consider adding a deck or a screened in porch addition.  We did this a few years ago and I can say that everyone in my family would agree that the screened in porch has become the most favorite room in our house.  We hang out all summer and even into the fall here for quiet time, dinners and entertaining! Bonus- No bugs!

Build a deck: This is a project best left to professionals because of structural and safety components but you can participate by discussing your family needs to create the best design and material with the contractor.

Put in a patio: Although you can hire landscapers to put in a brick or paver patio, this is a doable DIY project if you want to take on the challenge. Consult with your local home improvement store on where to begin.

2. Kitchen Makeover

You cannot go wrong with upgrading your kitchen. The most important thing is to create a space that works for you and your family. See my Kitchen Remodeling Tips.  If you do not have the money to do a complete kitchen remodel, there are smaller kitchen improvements that increase your home’s value as well. Work with your contractor to determine the best solutions for you. You can consider these smaller improvements.

Cabinet facelift: You should replace cabinets if the new cabinets will yield better use of space or give you a completely new look. If replacement doesn't improve functionality and the cabinet box is in good shape, cabinet refacing would be a cost effective approach to a completely new look. Pick out some new hardware too.

New countertop: Check out some of the newer, affordable composite counter materials. There is a lot out there now to choose from. Just updating the counter can add a whole new focal point.

Paint: A new coat of paint in your kitchen can do wonders!

3. Lighting/ Fixtures

Replace fixtures: Brass or gold-tone fixtures like doorknobs, faucets and other hardware seem to be outdated and not popular anymore. This ages a home. Finishes like brushed nickel, copper or bronze are the norm and will give your house an updated feel.  Older light fixtures also date a home. Save money on your energy bills with newer styles.

Increase lighting: Again, think about how your family uses or might use a room with better lighting. The correct lighting really brightens a room and is better for reading and other activities. Recessed/can lights and pendant lighting can add a lot to a room.  There have been major advances in CFL and LED lighting with rapid start bulbs, dimmable CFLs and color corrected lighting choices. Our family room originally had one center ceiling fixture and a corner hanging lamp. It just never was bright enough when you needed it to be and made the room uninviting. I installed recessed lighting with a dimmer and it changed the look and feel of the whole room.We enjoy it much more now.

4. Change Out a Room

Go through your house and consider changing the function of rooms in your house. If your kids have left for college or you’re downsizing within your current home, you may want to determine a better use for the space. With the new concept of Aging In Place and homeowners staying in their homes longer It’s a fix that will increase enjoyment of your living environment.

Home office: Although people make do with a corner in the kitchen as a makeshift office, why not designate an entire room? If you have a guestroom that is not used often, turn it into a home office or add a built-in desk space in the guest room. You can use it and your guests will love it too.

Study or den: With all the electronic connections and media in our lives, a quiet space to read or just sit and reflect is very appealing. You can do built-in shelves for books or create an office space here too. I recently created such a space in a family room closet!  

Stick with the room’s original purpose but make it multi-functional:  The key to dual use rooms is to be organized and avoid clutter which will deter you from using your new space. Simple design concepts can make your space more useful and meaningful to you. Browse through Houzz for ideas.

5.  Landscaping

There’s something soothing about digging around in the dirt (I know our dog loves it!) but not everyone has a green thumb! When planning our yard we asked our Landscape designer, Lynette Rodriguez owner of A Finer Touch, to only plant local to our area with easy care, low maintenance plants.  If you plan and use the right materials, a beautifully landscaped yard is worth it. By the way, if you need help with your green thumb, Lynette can be reached at 847.309.1657.

Learn how Archispeak can help you with your next project by calling 847.205.9844 for a free consultation or email

Friday, February 1, 2013

Architecturally Speaking Published in Fine Homebuilding

Creative design by Jim Butz, Architecturally Speaking, to construct a built-in space for a flat TV in a restored farmhouse, is featured in an article in the March issue of Fine Homebuilding magazine, the premiere publication for carpenters and homebuilders. The design successfully blended modern technology with the existing 1940’s cabin character of the room, and integrated a variety of woods and stains to match the existing look.
Here is the articles comment on our project:
Is It Old or New?
When the owners of this 75-year-old farmhouse purchased a flat-screen television for their family room, they challenged architect Jim Butz to create a built-in entertainment center to match the room’s 50-year-old knotty cedar paneling. The unit was to be located perpendicular to the fireplace, along a wall that created a 6-ft.-long, 33-in.-wide closet. Butz was concerned that the wall did not contain enough space to house the 58-in. television, components, and storage areas, so he lengthened the wall by 31⁄2 ft. To match the paneling, Butz used the stock that lined the inside of the closet. His next challenge was to finish the wood taken from the closet to match the color and warmth of the room’s paneling. With many samples and a lot of trial and error, he was able to get a close match. The homeowners were thrilled with the results, especially because many of their friends can’t believe the built-in is not original to the room.
For more information on this project or how we can assist you, call Jim Butz at 847-205-9844 or visit our website at
“Flat-screen built-ins” article appeared in Fine Homebuilding magazine’s issue #233, March 2013. “Reprinted with permission © 2013, The Taunton Press, Inc.