Designing a European Spa in suburban Atlanta

Home Rebuilders delivers a luxury bathroom solution

March 31, 2009
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Company Snapshot
The Financials

Talk about well-prepared clients. Gerald Dupre and Keith Kyle compiled bathroom design ideas and knew what they wanted six months before contacting any contractors. In their first meeting with David LeCourt of Home Rebuilders, Atlanta, they presented a three-page list of wants and needs and even a sketch of the design they had in mind. But even in remodeling projects headed for perfection, things happen.


Home Rebuilders angled the extra-large tub into the space between the shower and the water closet. The stylishly curved tub surround incorporates a seating/transfer area while preserving floor space.
After photos by John Umberger, Real Images

Clear Goals

Frequent travelers, Dupre and Kyle wanted to bring the beauty and fine appointments of luxurious "European spa" hotel bathrooms into their 1993 suburban Atlanta home via a master suite remodel. They hoped to incorporate a large shower, air-jet tub, private water closet, enhanced bathroom storage and better closets in an airy, elegant space, all without adding on.

They picked up more ideas from HGTV and the local home improvement magazine. When they were ready to get started, they contacted three design-build contractors whose ads in that magazine caught their eye. "We wanted a design-build firm," says Dupre, because "we wanted one party to be responsible for everything. The whole design-build concept gives us peace of mind." The Home Rebuilders ad impressed him because it announced an award the company had received. Another point in the company's favor: "They were in town," says Dupre. "They had a place where we could go to meet with them and a showroom, which allowed us to visualize."

Though Home Rebuilders had the edge, all the work they showed to Dupre and Kyle was traditional in style. The homeowners wanted a clean, contemporary look.

When they came to the showroom for a first meeting, Home Rebuilders bathroom designer Kim Wingard won them over. "I had past experience doing contemporary kitchens and baths," she says. She pulled together materials that create a soft, contemporary palette, and immediately the trio was on the same page.

Plans and Surprises

Staff intern architect Stephanie Ives faced a twofold challenge in rearranging the bathing area. She needed not only to incorporate large fixtures and features but also to make the space what Dupre calls "AARP friendly" — with wide doorways, generous circulation room, clear access, accessible storage and shadow-free lighting. The 217-square-foot existing space included a 115-square-foot bathroom, two walk-in closets, a linen closet and a 22-square-foot entry alcove. Ives relocated the bathroom entry, absorbed the alcove area into the room and centered the closet entry door between separate vanities. By positioning the closet door between the vanities, she created wide, straight access into the room. Absorbing the alcove space enabled Ives to squeeze a large shower, water closet and tub into the room without constricting the circulation area.

Before

The original bathroom wasted space, with a needless entry alcove on one side and an overly long vanity. Intern architect Stephanie Ives absorbed the alcove into the bathroom and centered the entry, creating separate vanities and room for a larger shower and water closet.

New vanities plus cabinets over the toilet boost storage capacity. Grab bars and a built-in bench prepare the shower for use by a person with mobility issues. More handrails in the water closet and on the tub deck also anticipate the homeowners' needs as they age. The new plan encompasses a 137-square-foot bathroom — including a bonus foot gleaned when some small walls came out — and a single, storage-rich, 81-square-foot walk-in closet. Dupre and Kyle signed a construction contract with almost no changes to the design.

Soon after demolition began, Home Rebuilders faced the first challenge of the job. Crews tore open the old vanity wall to discover plumbing pipes from the bathroom above and an HVAC chase. With finished space above and below, Ives had little room for adjustment. Planning for this possible problem, Ives had made a place for the plumbing inside slim wing walls inserted by the vanities. "It was an opportunity to make each vanity to feel separate," she says, "and that would allow us to conceal the plumbing if required."

However, the chase could not be relocated so easily. Ives enclosed it in a soffit and used the resulting wall area between vanities as the location for one of the homeowners' must-haves: a flat screen television.

Another surprise centered on the beige, chair-height toilet the clients had chosen. A toilet was delivered. It leaked. No more were available. It would be three months — too long to wait — before others in that color would be produced. As a gesture of good will, the manufacturer sent a fancier model at no extra charge. The problem was that it required an electrical connection, and the water closet area had none. Luckily the access panel for the tub was nearby, so project manager Mike Meagher put the toilet wiring there.

Supersize Tub

The biggest surprise of the project involved the air jet tub. Early on, the clients had selected an oval unit 6 feet long to accommodate his tall frame. Ives managed to position the large tub under the existing etched glass window, between the shower and toilet, only by carefully angling it into the room. Once construction was under way yet before signing off on all the plumbing selections, Dupre went shopping one last time. He found an even larger tub, wider and more rectangular than the first one. "It's huge," he admits. The close tolerances of the tub placement instantly went from small to microscopic.

"It was too tight to do on CAD," Ives says. Instead they made a template of the new tub. To fit the tub in, "We went from 6½ inches between tub and wall to maybe an inch and a half," says Ives. And the giant tub cuts somewhat more sharply into the circulation space. Dupre sees the adjustment as lemonade, not a lemon. "It took a lot of the straight lines out of the bathroom," he says. "It's really cool."

Pre-matted mosaic tiles wrap smoothly around the sinuous tub surround. Solid surfacing, not tile, made it easier to fabricate the curved deck.

The benefits of the new bathroom design spill into the adjacent bedroom. Moving the bathroom entry some 4 feet to the center of the wall "created a nice balance between the sleeping side of the bedroom and the relaxing side," says Ives. The "relaxing side," which before barely had room for a chair, now houses a chaise lounge where the clients can stretch out and read after a soothing shower or bath.


Dec. 28, 2007 Contract signed
2008
Jan. 24 Permits pulled
Feb. 21 Demolition begins
Feb. 25 Framing begins
Feb. 28 Rough-ins complete
March 6 Insulation and drywall installed
March 25 Tile installed
April 11 Counter tops and tub decking installed
April 18 Plumbing fixtures installed
April 25 Electrical fixtures installed
May 6 Painting completed
May 12 Punch list walk-through
May 16 Project completed
Client payment schedule:
Dec. 28, 2007 $2,403
Jan. 24, 2008 $1,602
Feb. 21, 2008 $4,005
Biweekly cost-plus payments after construction began

 

Products List

Cabinets: Diamond Cabinets Ceramic tile: Noche, Medici Commode, shower and tub fittings: Kohler Countertops and tub deck: Cambria Door hardware: Baldwin Grab bars: Ginger Grout: Laticrete Lighting: Ryan Lighting Tub: Amerech



Company Snapshot

Home Rebuilders 
Owner: William A. Bartlett
Location: Atlanta
2008 volume: $6,422,596
Projected 2009 volume: $5 million
Web site: www.homerebuilders.com 
Biggest challenge of this project: Accommodating an extra-large tub midway through the project


The Financials

As it does with most clients, Home Rebuilders gave Gerald Dupre and Keith Kyle a choice of fixed price or a cost-plus contract that incorporates draws when the contract is signed, permits are pulled and demo begins, then it shifts to biweekly cost plus payments. Offering this choice "makes us different than many of our competitors," says Account Manager David LeCourt, and it's "absolutely one of the reasons some people call us. Clients who see cost-plus as more risky are more comfortable with fixed-price. But if they like the idea of saving money," they choose the cost-plus approach.

Dupre opted for cost-plus, believing the fixed-price contract incorporated "too much safety net" while cost plus held out the possibility of savings. Each itemized cost-plus invoice showed bills Home Rebuilders had received, hours worked, plus the company's standard 20 percent gross profit. "We were able to see exactly what was going on," Dupre says. "It worked out fine."

For his part, LeCourt was happy with cost-plus because it largely protected his gross profit. After paying for a flower urn that a sub had damaged and giving the clients a credit to make up for delays in receiving their new tub, LeCourt says gross profit stayed close to target.

Since the Dupre-Kyle project, the design-build company has added another incentive for clients to go cost-plus: the company provides a "not to exceed" price on cost-plus projects.

For Budget History, see the April issue of Professional Remodeler.

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