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Designing a Light Bright Kitchen That Entertains

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Part 2 of “Design Tips for a Yummy, Sunny Kitchen”

Starting from Scratch

In modern home, the kitchen is the social hub where people spend the most time

Custom Kitchen that Entertains and Infuses Lots of Natural Light

interacting with each other. Today’s kitchen needs to have easy, open access and it has to be functional. All these factors play a big role in the design of the kitchen. Custom Builder Jorge Ulibarri has designed and built kitchens in homes of all sizes and price ranges and says there are basic must-haves for any modern kitchen:

  • The kitchen must be near the garage for bringing in groceries
  • The kitchen must be open and accessible to the main living areas such as the family room
  • The kitchen must be oriented in the home to maximize views and natural light
  • The kitchen must balance open areas with linear footage of wall space for cabinets

Kitchen Placement:

When designing a new home, Jorge considers two basic criteria that define the placement and orientation of the kitchen: the view from each room and the natural light entering each room.

“When you think about light, you have to think how the whole house will be laid out to achieve the goals in each room. Light infused in one room affects the orientations of other rooms in the home.” For optimal views and natural light, Jorge advises that homebuyers select a wide, horizontal lot as opposed to a vertical lot. “If the lot is thin, all the rooms are stacked behind each other limiting opportunities for a view. A wider lot allows me to design plenty of natural light in the kitchen and other rooms.”

Balancing Cabinet Space with Open Areas

With any kitchen, Jorge says that windows are a challenge because they sacrifice cabinet space. Window placement depends on the size of the kitchen and the amount of cabinet space available. “It’s not always possible to place windows in the kitchen.  It depends on the linear footage of cabinetry. This is a perfect example of some of the decisions that a homeowner has to make- functionality versus aesthetics.”

In homes that Jorge has designed with 12-foot ceilings, he adds small windows above the cabinetry that are 16 -by 16-inches in size.  “I accent those windows with wrought iron details to give them an old-world flavor that ties into the design of the island light fixture. “

Another solution for infusing natural light while preserving cabinet space is to add a glass cabinet that does double duty as a window and storage.

Don’t Cramp the Kitchen

When Jorge designs a kitchen, he creates a minimum of three and a half feet

A kitchen designed with at least 42″ of space around the island for plenty of room to socialize and cook

clearance all the way around the kitchen island. “If you don’t have that, make the island smaller or reconfigure the kitchen so it’s bigger. Don’t cramp the kitchen; you’ll regret it. “ The island surface area needs to be large enough to accommodate seating so family members and guests can sit around it cooking and conversing.

Create Kitchen Focal Points

The kitchen is the most visited and visible room of the home so it takes priority in the budget and design. Jorge encourages homeowners to talk about accents, finishes, and features that pull the open spaces together. “Ceilings are an eye-catching opportunity to add architectural elements such as beams, barrel ceilings, and vaulted ceilings with arches. For ceiling finishes, I like to add travertine or brick to create rustic warmth and old world ambiance.”

The range hood is another high-profile feature that becomes an eye-catching focal

A copper range hood adds a stunning focal point to a kitchen

point. Jorge often puts copper range hoods in his kitchens and compliments them with copper sinks and copper accents on the backsplashes. Jorge says a copper range hood costs approximately $3,500.  The copper sinks runs about $800.

A more affordable option is a concrete precast range hood that costs approximately $900.  A designer range hood creates a kitchen that serves as a functional showpiece.

Throughout the kitchen, stone is an affordable architectural element that can integrate with the rest of the home. For example, the same stone used in a travertine backsplash and stove range niche can appear adorn the family room fireplace.

Choosing the cabinetry hardware is the final accent that ties everything together. Jorge suggests bold, heavy, timeworn hardware that compliments the old world feel. “When selecting the hardware for the cabinets, always go big. A homeowner can make a statement with the hardware and it’s worth every penny.”

Don’t Blow the Budget on Cabinets

When it comes to cabinetry, it’s all about maximizing the budget with strategic choices.  Jorge says it’s not necessary to spend thousands of dollars on high-end cabinets. There are quality lines that offer designer finishes and details without the expensive price tag.  “Don’t blow the budget on cabinetry. Cabinets are one of the first selections a homeowner makes and by the time, he or she selects the granite, there is little money left. “  Jorge suggests saving money in the budget for an exotic piece of granite for the island. “It’s worth the extra $1000 because it will turn the island into a conversation piece. It’s not expensive to upgrade the granite to a designer finished edge such as a double-edged, waterfall, or full bull nose.”

Homeowners can also take the savings on cabinetry and spend it on architectural

a well-designed kitchen balances cabinet space with windows for natural light

features such as stone, travertine and granite, ceiling treatments, range hoods, sinks and other kitchen features.

The kitchen has an energy of it’s own. Designing a functional kitchen filled with natural light that is comfortable, open and inviting will set the tone of a home’s lifestyle. A well-designed kitchen doesn’t have to be bigger to be better. It has to maximize space and natural light. For homeowners, the return on investment isn’t just monetary; it enriches their quality of life.

For more kitchen design tips check out “Trade Secrets by Jorge,” on YouTube and www.imyourbuilder.com

If you have questions or comments about your own kitchen design, post us a picture and write us on facebook

Design Tips for a Yummy, Sunny Kitchen

By | Custom Home Construction, Custom Home Design, Kitchen Design | One Comment

Old World kitchen designed and built by Jorge Ulibarri, Custom Home Builder

People gravitate to the kitchen no matter what the design and layout of the home.  The gold standard in today’s kitchen design is the open concept with family room and eat-in breakfast nook co-existing as one large social center. Gone are the boxed-in spaces that isolate the cook in the kitchen away from the chatter and activity in the home’s social spaces.  If your kitchen doesn’t open up to the home, then there are a few strategic tweaks you can do to make it appear more inviting and accommodating.

New Tricks for an Old Kitchen-

Let the Sunshine In

The easiest way to open up a kitchen is to infuse natural light to create the illusion of space. Custom Home Builder Jorge Ulibarri says strategic use of natural light in a kitchen can create the perception of more square footage. He offers several tips for lighting up an older, outdated kitchen.

Open up a closed, small kitchen with plenty of natural light and windows

Add Windows and Open Up the View

If the kitchen has 12-foot ceilings, then it is easy to add windows above the cabinetry to infuse natural light. Jorge says depending on whether the walls are made of block or frame, the cost to add four windows that are 16-inch by 16-inch in size is approximately $2,000-$2,500 with labor and materials.  Another way to let the sunshine in is to enlarge existing windows that look out to a view.

For smaller kitchens, create the illusion of more space with a light colored backsplash

If the kitchen has a dark colored backsplash, Jorge suggests changing out the existing backsplash for one with lighter colors and textures. The backsplash offers an opportunity for a kitchen upgrade in architectural features. There are several affordable options including travertine mosaics, stone or granite.  Jorge says the cost is approximately $750 to $1000 for labor and materials to resurface a kitchen backsplash with quality materials.

Open Up a Wall with a Framed Arch

Open up a wall with a framed arch to create an open floor plan in the kitchen

An easy and affordable solution to a closed kitchen is to open up a wall adjacent to the family room or dining room to create an arched open space. “The framed arch adds character and light to the kitchen. However, one of the biggest challenges with this type of remodel is the loss of cabinet space. So, the homeowner has to weigh the benefits of opening the space with the loss of storage areas,” explains Jorge. He estimates the price to create an open arched wall is approximately $900 for labor and materials.

Creating the illusion of higher ceilings also works to lighten and open up the kitchen. Some older kitchens have soffits that tend to make the ceilings appear lower thus closing in the kitchen. Jorge suggests removing those soffits to add height and open up the area. “It’s a cost-effective fix to remove soffits and refinish the ceilings to add instant height to the kitchen. You can add beams or barrel ceilings during the renovation to update the space above as well.”  Jorge you can expect to pay at least $1000 for the removal of soffits.

Add beams, barrel ceilings and stone or brick to embellish the kitchen ceilings for a custom look

The kitchen has an energy of it’s own. Designing a functional kitchen filled with natural light that is comfortable, open and inviting will set the tone of a home’s lifestyle. A well-designed kitchen doesn’t have to be bigger to be better. It has to maximize space and natural light. For homeowners, the return on investment isn’t just monetary; it enriches their quality of life.

For more kitchen design tips check out “Trade Secrets by Jorge,” on YouTube and www.imyourbuilder.com

If you have questions or comments about your own kitchen design, post us a picture and write us on facebook

Check back for part two of this article as we discuss new kitchen design in our next installment of  Tips for Designing Yummy, Sunny Kitchens.

Smart Use of Small Spaces

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Strategically designed small spaces are the mark of a well-built home and can add a lot of character for minimal cost. Custom Home Builder Jorge Ulibarri has designed and built many custom residences and in each one, he looks for ways to  maximize every inch of the home visually and functionally. “Small spaces hold tremendous architectural power when carefully crafted as wineries, niches, built-ins and  bar areas. These design elements assure that there is no wasted space in a home,” says Jorge, owner of Cornerstone Custom Construction, based in Heathrow, Florida.

Niche in Vestibule, an example of Smart Use of Small Space

Take a close look around your home, and perhaps you’ll discover that there are unused spaces with great potential. Here are a few ideas for turning those small spaces into beautiful features in your home. Consider a winery for your home. Jorge creates wineries in all of the homes that he designs and builds. A winery is affordable and easy to create because it requires a very small space, at least 18 inches.

a winery crafted from a recessed wall
a winery crafted from a recessed wall

There are several ways to find the right space for your winery. Consider an old closet or underneath the staircase or any room where you can bump out a wall to create an additional 18 inches of space. In one of his homes, Jorge created a winery from an oversized guest bath because it shared a wall with the formal living room. This made it easy to frame out the extra space in the guest bath and create access from the formal living room.  Once the 3-foot by 2-foot enclosure is framed and has drywall installed, you can embellish the winery with a wrought iron door.

Winery Featuring Barrel Holders for Bottles

Inside the winery, there are many options for wine racks including wood shelves, iron or wood racks, and wine barrels.  Finishes for the interior walls include options such as stone, brick or faux painting. Depending on the location of the winery, you can expect to pay anywhere from $4000 to $5000.

The niche is another great architectural use for small, unused spaces. There are many different finishes for the back wall of the niche including stone, tile or faux painting. Look for corners of the house that you can frame out or walls that you can thicken out to create a recessed niche. The cost is minimal, under $1000 to frame, finish, and embellish a niche. It’s a great investment that adds a lot of character to the house.

Formal Living Room Built-Ins
Formal Living Room Built-Ins
Built-ins are another way to optimize square footage in a home. When Jorge designs a home, he looks at existing walls of certain rooms where he can create a 24-inch recessed area. This recessed space has many uses depending on the room. For example, in a dining room, this 24-inch recessed space could be used for a built-in credenza with cabinetry.  Jorge typically creates an arch or wood beam overhead to highlight the space.  Another functional space for built-ins is in the office. In a 24-inch recessed space, Jorge creates a built-in desk and cabinetry. In several of his homes, Jorge has designed and built bar areas out of the recessed space.  These spaces are functional and can serve as architectural focal points. For additional design tips and money saving ideas, check out the videos series, Trade Secrets by Jorge, at www.imyourbuilder.com  For questions or comments, please post on to his Facebook page.

Faux Wood Beams for Affordable Architectural Details

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“Another Affordable Idea to Enhance Your Living Space”

Good taste can be affordable with smart design and strategic use of materials to add elegance and character. Luxury Homebuilder Jorge Ulibarri says faux beams are cost effective architectural elements that create a custom, old-world look on a budget.  “Faux wood beams are the best buy for your design dollar because they are dramatic but cost one-fifth the price of a real wood beam,” explains Jorge, who has designed and built custom homes for all budgets for more than a decade.

Faux Wood Beams in Formal Living Room

Jorge’s best money-saving advice is to plan ahead if it’s new construction. “The beams should be shown in the home’s drawings as with everything else that involves framing, so the framer includes them in the price of the framing package to avoid extra charges.” For homeowners thinking about adding faux wood beams to an existing home, the cost savings are still substantial. Homeowners should have an understanding of how these beams are made in order to hire the right person for the job. Here’s a “how-to” breakdown for creating faux wood beams.

Faux Wood Vaulted Beams in Family Room

Step one is to have a carpenter frame the skeleton of the beam with 2 by 4s. Let the drywall contractor wrap the beams in drywall as he does the rest of the house.

Faux Wood Beams Wrapped in Drywall

Step two is the distressing of the beams. The craftsman will age and season the drywall with special tools. He can get even more creative by adding termite holes or gouges.

Step three is the application of the first coat of paint. This will determine how light or dark the finished wood beam will be.  Next, the craftsman applies a gel stain. Jorge recommends using the color Chestnut for the gel stain for a more realistic finish.

Faux Wood Beams Primed and Ready for Painting

Step four is creating the beam details. Using a special tool, the craftsman creates the grain and the knots in the drywall beam. Once this is done, the beams will sit for 24 hours and then he will apply a light coat of the same gel stain to give it the final look.

The cost to create these faux wood beams depends on volume. For example, in a home where there are 30 to 40 beams, Jorge says the price to finish them can be as low as 60 to 70 dollars per beam. Now if you only do a handful of beams, you can expect to pay a hundred dollars per beam.

“The beams are a good example of what I tell homeowners: better to spend your money on rich architectural elements than on pricey overdone décor. A beautifully built home showcases itself.

For more home design and construction trade secrets and tips, check out the video series, “Trade Secrets by Jorge,” on YouTube at www.youtube.com/user/jorgeulibarri  You can also post your questions or comments to his Facebook page: www.facebook.com/Jorge.Ulibarri.Luxury.home.Builder.

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Designing the Details Above

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“Another Affordable Idea to Enhance Your Living Space”

Ceilings in a home are an ideal canvas to add custom touches that define your home’s architectural style, from Tuscan to contemporary or any variation in between. Luxury Homebuilder Jorge Ulibarri suggests corbels and beams as another great design buy for your bucks. “They look like real wood but cost half the price,” says Jorge, who has more than a decade of experience designing and building custom homes in all price ranges.

The corbels and shutters that Jorge uses on his homes are made of foam but look like real wood. “I use these design features to accent my homes for that authentic old world look,” says Jorge.

Faux Wood Corbel Made of Foam

The foam corbels pictured in this article cost approximately $22 each and installation runs $5 each.  A set of foam shutters retails for $180 with installation at $40 a pair.

Faux Wood Shutters Made of Foam

These products are easy to maintain and come with a lifetime warranty. I buy them from the manufacturer, Ackue International at www.ackue.com

“These products work well on my homes because the textures and finishes are very realistic.”  Jorge uses corbels on the exterior and interior of his homes in high profile areas such as the tower entry. Here, the 24-foot-high ceiling features corbels surrounding rustic beams every two feet.

Tower Entry with Corbels and Beams

The effect is very affordable to create. Jorge explains that the rustic wood beams are actually framed lumber that is covered in drywall, faux painted, and distressed to look like real wood. “This is a great builder trade secret because I only pay $70 per beam.” Other costs associated with the faux wood beams are included in the packages for framing and drywall that get negotiated into the total price of house.

Beams with Barrel Ceiling

The barrel ceiling is another architectural feature that draws the eye upward. This type of ceiling gets its name because it looks like the inside half of a barrel. Again, it’s done affordably in the framing stage. Barrel ceilings lend themselves to many styles and finishes including faux painting, brick, travertine, or stone. “Travertine is a very good deal in sizes 4-inch by 4-inch or 6-inch by 4-inch. The cost of the material is $4 per square foot. The installation requires two craftsmen a day of labor, which runs approximately $400. “

To bring warm up a room, tongue and groove ceilings made of southern yellow pine wood can instantly upgrade a living space.

Tongue and Groove Ceiling

Jorge says the material to create tongue and groove ceilings runs approximately $3 per square foot and includes the wood staining. The labor is $2 per square foot.  “Think strategically about where you add in tongue and groove ceilings. It’s cost-effective to accent small, highly visible areas as opposed to larger areas to maximize the “wow” factor and your budget.”

For more home design and construction trade secrets and tips, check out the video series, Trade Secrets by Jorge, on YouTube at www.youtube.com/user/jorgeulibarri  Post your questions or comments to his Facebook page: www.facebook.com/Jorge.Ulibarri.Luxury.home.Builder.

Ceiling Details-Designing the Look Above

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In this episode of Trade Secrets by Jorge, learn how to enhance your overhead living space with strategic architectural ceiling details. Luxury Custom HomeBuilder Jorge Ulibarri shows you various ceiling designs he uses in his homes and offers honest cost breakdowns and tips on how to create rooms that make you look up and go “Wow.” Also, for the latest tips, design finds and other useful information on home design, architecture and homebuilding, be sure and “like” his Facebook page at www.facebook.com/Jorge.Ulibarri.Luxury.Home.Builder and register to win a free custom made wrought iron winery door valued at $3000.


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Home Design with Wrought Iron

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In this episode of Trade Secrets by Jorge, Luxury Custom Homebuilder Jorge Ulibarri shares design ideas on the use of wrought iron doors and accents to customize your home. Learn money-saving tips on creating an old world custom look with strategic architectural touches using wrought iron. Jorge shows you various locations and uses for wrought iron including winery doors, window treatments and stairwells. For more information, go to www.imyourbuilder.com

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Design Tips for Wrought Iron Details

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“Another Affordable Idea to Enhance Your Living Space”

Wrought iron goes with any architectural style and it never goes out of style. It’s one of those architectural and decorative elements that instills a sense of legacy in a home. Whether wrought iron takes the shape of a chandelier, staircase or front door, the material symbolizes something solid with a storied past as if it has endured for generations. Wrought iron can showcase a homeowner’s personal expression or add period charm. Strategically incorporating wrought iron accents into a home’s décor can add character and ambiance for an affordable price. Here are a few suggestions.

The front door is one of the most highly visible architectural elements that defines the style of a home. A custom-made wrought iron door can make a statement and add to the home’s curb appeal.

The double-door wrought iron entry is a trademark of Custom Homebuilder, Jorge Ulibarri. “The beauty of wrought iron is that it can carry the design theme throughout the house from the front door, railings, winery door, windows and so on,” explains Jorge.

Oftentimes, the homeowner designs the wrought iron details of the front door and Jorge orders it custom-made and imported from an artisan in Monterey, Mexico. There is a significant cost savings Jorge can get by working directly with artisans in Mexico. Jorge is able to pass on the savings to his clients. “I’ve had clients who have added their initials to the scrollwork of front door and the hand railing design.” One example pictured here showcases a front door with matching scrollwork on the floating staircase.

Wrought Iron Front Door with Matching Scrollwork on Staircase

Homeowners can expect to pay approximately $6,000 to $8,000 for one of these doors depending on the size and the design. “I do caution homeowners to make sure they are purchasing from a reputable company and that the door is certified and tested. I’ve seen very poorly crafted doors that can be a nightmare,” says Jorge.

Wrought Iron Winery Door with Grapes and Leaves Theme

The winery door is another highly visible opportunity to showcase wrought iron. The doors to the winery can feature a theme such as leaves and grapes or perhaps the homeowner wants his or her initials. Jorge says the cost to design, handcraft and import a winery door is approximately $1,800.

Wrought Iron Winery Door with Scrollwork

The master bath is an ideal area of the home to add a touch of wrought iron as well. One example pictured here is the window in the master bath overlooking the tub. This window is made of frosted glass for privacy and serves as the backdrop for wrought iron detail. Jorge says the cost to create this wrought iron decorative window is approximately $300 to $350 depending on the window size.

Master Bath Wrought Iron Decorative Window

Master Bath Wrought Iron Window

For more design ideas with wrought iron accents including various locations and uses, watch Trade Secrets by Jorge, a video series that offers money-saving tips to create that custom-home look on a budget.

Trade Secrets by Jorge, Designing with Wrought Iron

To learn more about Jorge’s work, visit www.imyourbuilder.com

Fireplace Design Tips from Trade Secrets by Jorge

By | Custom Home Construction, Custom Home Design, Fireplace design | 2 Comments

In this episode of Trade Secrets by Jorge, Luxury Custom Homebuilder Jorge Ulibarri shares tips and design ideas for creating a fireplace that is both functional and a focal point of the room. Learn about various materials, labor costs and design considerations when adding a fireplace to an existing room or including one in your design plans. As always, Jorge welcomes any questions or comments. For more information go to www.imyourbuilder.com.

Watch the latest episode of Trade Secrets by Jorge for “Another Affordable Idea to Enhance Your Living Space”

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Fireplace Design Tips to Light Up a Room

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The fireplace has evolved from purely functional to a decorative showpiece in the home. It transforms the room and becomes a focal point adding character and enhancing the home’s architectural theme. Even in hot climates such as Florida where Luxury Homebuilder Jorge Ulibarri designs and builds homes for all budgets, the fireplace is an essential feature. “A well-designed fireplace has a commanding presence. It serves as a social gathering spot inviting people to gather around the hearth to enjoy and admire one of the most dramatic spaces in the home,” says Jorge. He has several tips for designing a fireplace that makes a statement in any room.  There are three elements to consider when designing a fireplace: the shape, the surround, and the tower finishes.

Fireplace shape: The basic design of a fireplace is a towering box. The first design challenge is to create movement. “The fireplace should be multi-dimensional, incorporating niches, arches, columns, and mantles to create a fireplace with movement.”

Fireplace surround: There are many fireplace surrounds to define the architectural style. Some of the most common materials for surrounds include travertine, marble, precast and wood. Jorge typically uses fireplace surrounds made out of travertine or precast to suit the old-world style of his homes.

Fireplace tower finishes: The selection of the tower finishes can be the hardest choice to make because they are the most visible elements of the fireplace. Depending on the size of the fireplace, cost will dictate the final selection.

One example that incorporates these three design elements is the formal fireplace pictured here that Jorge created.

It soars 24 feet with a travertine mantle and two columns sitting on a hearth. “This is a good example of how to spend money on the design and framing rather than expensive finishes. The total cost of this fireplace is $1,600. A money-saving alternative is to use precast stone instead of travertine, which will cost half the price.” Another option for this soaring fireplace is to plaster the whole thing all the way to the ceiling giving the room a Tuscan feel. The price to plaster the whole fireplace all the way up to the ceiling is $1,000 and it’s worth every penny,” says Jorge.

Another example of a well-designed fireplace is pictured here in the family room.

This stone fireplace features a wood beam as the mantle. An arched niche above the fireplace with tongue and groove as a backdrop serves as a built-in for the flat screen TV.  Jorge says the fireplace finishes here cost between $2,500 to $3,000 and required two days of labor to construct.

Another cost effective tip is to use a stucco finish on the fireplace surround and tower and use stone and wood as accents in key places such as a mantle, header or a heart. This will cut the cost down of the stone to a minimum and will still give it an authentic Tuscan-aged look.

For homes already built, the homeowner can add in a ventless fireplace, which will not require cutting through the existing roof. Installation is simple. The unit costs approximately $2,500 and the installation runs $500. Depending on the design and finishes, the unit could cost an additional $3,000 to $4,000.  For more information, check out the latest episode of Trade Secrets by Jorge which focuses on Fireplace design. Click here to watch. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JHl2iSwkk94&feature=plcp&context=C34762abUDOEgsToPDskKcL8XZguL9xpNV6ChK62kB