Diva Design Diary

By Holly Peterson

Diva Design Diary is about bringing the latest interior design trends and tips to our existing clients, as well as future clients...enjoy!

Confessions of a Contractor

By Holly Peterson

What do you do that drives him crazy?
What's he really thinking?
How can you get the best from him?

Check out these Q & A's that were asked to an anonymous contractor...
It may be something to think about!

What judgments are you making the first time you meet with a client?
Contractor: This is like a first date — you size up who they are, how they conduct themselves. What's their personality like? Are they hot-tempered? Rude? Dismissive of your suggestions? Indecisive? If they deal with you this way right off the bat, there probably won't be a second date. You have seen the future — and it's not pretty.

What judgments do you think a client is making?
Contractor: They want to be sure you're responsible, fully involved. They’re looking for you to be attentive, direct, honest, courteous. Someone, in other words, they won't mind seeing every day for six months or longer. Can you be part of the family?

What are the worst things a client can say during an interview?
Contractor: "Let's make it quick. I have another guy coming in 20 minutes." and "Is it okay for me to bring in my own subcontractors?" It's insulting. That's why I'm there. You're adding salt to my soup without knowing the whole recipe.

What's the most unrealistic expectation a client has?
Contractor: That the job will be perfect. No such thing. Painting and tiling and brickwork aren't done by machine. They're done by craftsmen — who, yes, are human.

What's the one thing that a client does that drives contractors crazy?
Contractor: Too many change orders in midstream.

What are the warning signs for a client that there's trouble ahead?
Contractor: Simple stuff, really. Is the contractor usually late? Do you make several calls before he gets back to you? Does he delegate the job to one of his crew? Is he careless about keeping the job clean? This is your home after all, not a construction site. Construction is dirty and dusty. But a client sure as heck will be upset if you leave cigarette ashes on the floor and coffee stains on his windowsill.

How do you feel about interior designers and architects?
Contractor: I love designers. They tend to create as they go along, which often leads to a better, or should I say more personalized, job. I like architects, too, don't get me wrong. But they're more authoritative and don't deviate much from the original plans. And they'd prefer you didn't deviate from them, either. Architects pretty much give you a realistic idea from the beginning about what the job is going to end up looking like. Interior designers are more prone to improvisation. In terms of price, things tend to be a wash. Let's say a designer tells you the job will cost $70,000. Well, it might end up costing $100,000 after the changes. Architects tell you the same job will cost $100,000 and it'll wind up being about $100,000, but there won't be many, if any, changes. So their different paths will get you to about the same place.

Any tips for negotiating price?
Contractor: Get more than one bid. Start with the highest-end contractor, the best-stuff-money-can-buy guy. Ask him for a detailed proposal. Take that proposal and copy it, leaving out the costs. Pass it out to subsequent contractors you interview and ask them to fill in the costs. This will give you a good idea of what the job is worth. Be cautious: The lowest bid isn't usually the best. Also, let's say you happen to know a terrific painter who’ll do you a favor on price. Most contractors won't mind that kind of limited subcontracting, especially if you throw a small managerial fee their way. And contractors are like agents, always looking for fresh talent.

What are simple things a client can do to make your life easier?
Contractor: Allow the crew to use your bathroom. You’d be surprised how many clients ask us to go to the nearest gas station or diner. Make the work environment comfortable. If it's 97 degrees and you're remodeling an attic, and the client says don't turn on the AC — that's cruel. Also, maintain an air of diplomacy and good cheer. Please don't yell at us. We're sensitive souls. Wait 15 minutes before you discuss anything that's really upset you.

How does a dream client behave?
Contractor: Polite. Responsive. Appreciative. Pays bills on time. Doesn't make phony promises like, "Once this job is done, I'm going to recommend you to all my rich friends and you'll make lots and lots of money." But at the end of the job, give him a great big hug and say, "Thanks." A card at Christmastime wouldn't hurt, either.

Okay, what have we forgotten?
Contractor: Find out if they're licensed. Ask them to show you the license. Make sure they carry liability insurance, so if one of their guys falls off a ladder and breaks his neck, you're not sued. Likewise, if they cause any damage to your property, you won't have to pay for it. Also: Will they pull all the proper building permits? Do they offer a payment plan? Finally, do a simple gut check: Do you want this guy in your home for the next year?

Reclaimed Lumber Furniture

By Holly Peterson

Moe Design's Reclaimed Lumber Furniture

It may take two to tango, but it only takes one to prove beautiful things can come of industrial excess. That person is Andrew Moe, a New York-based designer who makes all his furniture out of reclaimed lumber (most recently from a Massachusetts textile mill). While Moe utilizes traditional wood-shaping and joinery techniques, his designs are anything but conventional. From rustic picnic tables to modern storage units, every piece has a little flare that reflects the quirkiness of a man who had originally ditched a furniture-making apprenticeship and college degree in 3D Furniture and Sculpture Design to become an Argentine tango instructor. Maybe he still does a quick shuffle between brush strokes? Who knows?! But by the looks of whimsy in his designs, we'd say it looks like the man might still have a little bounce in his step.
See for yourself at studiomoe.com

Reboot, Reuse, Recycle

By Holly Peterson

Computers With Causes

Some people don't get new shoes until they've got holes in the old ones. The prudence is commendable. Unfortunately, it can't be applied to everything we consume. Sometimes, you just need an upgrade. And that is often the case with computers. So, what can you do with that old honker so that it’s not rendered an extremely expensive paperweight? Put it in a box and send it to Computers With Causes. The non-profit will assess the usability of the machine, upgrade as necessary, and donate it to a school, veterans home, foster home, homeless shelter, or cause affiliated with their Global Education Computer Assistance Program. Anything not reusable will be dismantled and e-cycled. It's that simple. Could this be the best thing since Ctrl+Alt+Del?

After just recently needing a new laptop, I had been wondering what to do with my old laptop. (Sadly enough, by old, I mean 2-3 years old). This is the perfect place to send my old hunk of junk, I better get to shipping...

Find out how to donate computerswithcauses.org

Sales Tax to Increase...

By Holly Peterson

Here we go again, another tax increase...
Check out SBOE's website for your California City and County Sales and Use Tax Rates
State Board of Equalization

Here's what's happening in San Diego Co.
City of El Cajon 9.75%
City of La Mesa 9.50%
City of National City 9.75%
City of Vista 9.25%

Show Me The Money

By Holly Peterson


Growing up, I loved candy drives. My parents always wound up buying most of the loot and my little belly didn't mind at all. The parents, of course, hated them as much as they hated the bake sales, walk-a-thons, magazine drives, and any other money maker the schools dreamt up. But perhaps they wouldn't have been so anti if they had eco friendly fundraiser greenraising.org. The site makes raising money so simple. Schools or non-profits sign up, parents email their family and friends about the drive, potential donors peruse an awesome selection of useful green products (such as totes, chocolates, and cleaning supplies), buy what they need, and mention a group at checkout. The specified organization then gets a cut, and done. No waste, less hassle, and everybody wins.

Sign up your school at greenraising.org

Dishing It Out

By Holly Peterson

Christopher Jagmin Recycled Plates

Phoenix-based designer Christopher Jagmin often goes strolling through flea markets, thrift stores, and garage sales seeking inspiration for his dinnerware collections. One day, while out hunting and gathering, he realized how many orphan plates got discarded, started adopting them, and began forming families by hand-printing one of three designs on them – a 22k-gold bird called Trudy (named after one of his favorite aunts), a punk rocker named Spike, and a speech bubble with the word “Yeah” in it. Before he knew it, he had a line of recycled plates for which we immediately went gaga. Makes sense to me. Why draw from your findings when you can draw right on them? The final products are cute, resourceful, and one-of-a kind. And in my book, that’s plenty to “Yeah” about.

See for yourself at christopherjagmin.com

Love Me...Love My Dog

By Holly Peterson

In honor of Little Abner Peterson

From baby...

To all grown up!

We take the time to eat well, so why not the time to feed our pets well? That’s the theory behind the new interactive canine snack, Fetch’erz Ballz. We know all eating is technically interactive. But these treats are actually shaped like balls so you can toss them. Made with nutritional and easily digestible human grade ingredients such as flax seed, hemp meal, and ancient grains, these treats make bonding with your four-legged friend oh so much more fun. They are available in 4 flavors (chicken stew; fish and chips; fruit and veggie medley; and Swiss peanut butter crunch) and contain no preservatives, artificial colors, or chemicals. They even come packaged in recycled cartons. What a catch!

Available online at nuhemp.com and across the country at progressive pet food retailers.

Tie Me Up

By Holly Peterson

American Apparel Recycled Accessories

Sex sells. And American Apparel has never been shy about capitalizing on the fact. Thanks to a scandalous (and now iconic) ad campaign, the company became, in just six years, America's biggest clothing manufacturer. With all the fuss surrounding their marketing tactics, it’s easy to forget that the company first made its name not in irreverence but good doing. To this day, they still produce everything in Los Angeles and offer factory workers fair wages and benefits. But to remind us that they are nice people, they now also make organic clothing and recycled accessories. Made of 74% recycled cotton, the unisex tie is quite dapper for a company that specializes in gym shorts. We're glad they've decided to help spread the word on sustainable clothing. Now if only they can do something about making composting sexy.

See the line at americanapparelstore.com

Worth A Tumble

By Holly Peterson

La Mediterranea Recycled-Glass Tumblers
Most of us rinse and sort our juice and jam jars, throw them in with the rest of the recyclables, and call it a day. Few of us actually use items made of the glass that our recycling produces. And even fewer can imagine that trash can be turned into something worth keeping around the house. We bet that will change once you feast your eyes on the Ar├ácnea line by Spanish glassmakers, La Mediterranea. Made of 100% post-consumer recycled glass that is etched and painted by hand, the elegance of each tumbler, goblet, plate, and jar is as simply stated as the company’s philosophy: “do a good job, respecting both the environment and individuals.” Isn’t that a statement we can all live by?

Learn more at la.mediterranea.es or start shopping at biomelifestyle.co.uk