Design Details: Why Lighting Matters

It’s not necessarily the top remodeling concern on any homeowner’s list. However, virtually no space is usable without the right lighting. Think about it a for a minute; lighting helps determine the mood of almost any area in your home. You might crave a softly lit master bathroom for unwinding, a bright and warm kitchen to welcome guests and prepare meals, or a mostly dim, but strategically lit media room for enjoying movies or the big game. The relationship with light sets the tone of each room listed above.

Moving past practicality, light fixtures are also an opportunity to make a statement about your style. The days of homes having identical dome lights in every room are long past! A glitzy chandelier might set an elegant formal dining room scene. Traditional sconces could create a classy and professional home office. And a bold and modern accent light may be the perfect touch to liven up a large entryway. Lighting is the icing on the cake; it’s the final touch that ties things together or the showstopper that makes an impression.

The best part is, no matter what your taste or design goals may be, there’s a fixture somewhere that will fit your vision. Fun and flashy accent lights is a trend that isn’t fading anytime soon! Plus, the beauty of the internet is that you can track down any unique piece or obscure style – you just need to do some hunting. In need of some serious lighting inspiration for your remodel? Browse through more of our favorite client fixture choices – we think you’ll find their picks illuminating!


Fall Remodelers Showcase Recap

What a whirlwind! The Twin Cities Fall Remodelers Showcase is already in the rearview mirror, and J. Carsten’s owner, Jason, is thankful for a busy weekend. Roughly 180 people in total stopped by his Lakeville kitchen remodel. Jason loved getting the chance to play tour guide and chat with as many visitors as possible!

In case you didn’t get the opportunity to explore or are curious about what a remodeler’s days look like during the tour, we asked Jason a few questions about how his weekend went. Scroll below to read his answers and learn his Showcase weekend snack of choice! (Necessary info, right?)

What question were you asked the most?
The most common question I received was, how do you transition from new wood cabinets to the existing (usually honey oak) millwork in the house? Answer: we will typically replace the millwork around the major windows and doors in the space (a kitchen sink window for example). But in almost all cases, it’s not feasible to replace all of the millwork in the house or area. In that situation, we will often butt the old millwork up to the new cabinets versus trying to match finishes exactly.

What element of the kitchen did visitors like the best?
People were most partial to the large porcelain floor tiles and the twelve-and-a-half foot long center island. (It does tend to make an impression!) 

What snacks did you eat? (Super serious question.)

Did anyone you know stop in to say hello? 
Yes. In fact, the past client (I redid their Lakeville bathroom) who referred me to the showcase homeowners came by to visit!

Did you enjoy acting as a tour guide?
Yes, however, it is tiring to be on your feet all day, every day for an entire weekend.

What was your favorite part of this event?
I expected to see a lot of younger people but was pleasantly surprised at the number of retired folks that came out to tour. It’s always fun to chat with more seasoned homeowners too!

Any other fun stories from the weekend?
Brenda, a friend of J. Carsten who was helping during the Showcase, opened the door to one of the upper cabinets to reveal a built-in spice rack and commented, “This is really well thought out!” My answer was, “Thanks, that is my job after all.”


Questions to Ask Remodeling Contractors at the Fall Remodelers Showcase

The Twin Cities Fall Parade of Homes has begun, but we’re still anxiously waiting for the Remodelers Showcase to start! Taking place from September 29 through October 1, the Remodelers Showcase is an ideal opportunity to meet respected local remodelers and tour their projects.

If you’re beginning a new remodeling project, we highly recommend taking advantage of this event! When else will you get the chance to meet builders and see their work with such minimal effort? Websites and social media are excellent for initially scouting out remodelers, but nothing compares to meeting someone, shaking their hand, and seeing their level of craftsmanship in person.

So let’s say you are visiting the Remodelers Showcase in hopes of finding your next contractor – what do you need to know? What questions should you be asking? After all, hiring the right team is the most important thing you can do to ensure your project’s success. To make things a little easier, we’ve compiled a list of the top questions you should ask a potential remodeler before signing any contracts or selecting samples!

Questions to Ask Remodeling Contractors
at the Fall Remodelers Showcase

  1. How long have you been in business?
  2. What is your educational and employment background?
  3. Do you collaborate with a professional designer on space planning and selecting materials?
  4. What insurance do you carry?
  5. Do you belong to any professional or industry associations – are you active with them?
  6. Where do you bank, and who is your contact person?
  7. How do you approach working with subcontractors? Do you prioritize consistency or receive bids for the lowest price?
  8. Will you provide a written timetable for project construction?
  9. Do you offer lien waivers? (A document that records payment for each trade, to avoid them filing lien rights against your home.)
  10. Who would be my daily contact person? What’s their preferred communication method?
  11. How often will my home be cleaned during the remodeling process?
  12. How many projects have you built that are similar to mine?
  13. On average, how much do your customers deviate from your budget allowances?
  14. What is your policy about order changes?
  15. What happens if you exceed our agreed upon completion date?
  16. Why should I work with your company – what sets you apart?

Want to talk remodeling with an experienced pro? Visit J. Carsten’s owner, Jason, during the Fall Remodelers Showcase – he’d love to connect and answer any of your burning construction questions!

2017 Fall Remodelers Showcase
September 29 – October 1, Noon to 6 pm
Remodel #30 – 16803 Hudson Circle, Lakeville


Fall Remodelers Showcase: Timeless Kitchen

2017 Fall Remodelers Showcase
September 29 – October 1, Noon to 6 pm
Remodel #30 – 16803 Hudson Circle, Lakeville

September is here, and arriving along with the cool weather and back to school routine is the annual Twin Cities Parade of Homes. Our favorite part of the Fall Parade? The Remodelers Showcase weekend, which is when our local remodeling industry shares the best of what we’ve been working on over the spring and summer. For the J. Carsten Remodeling team, that’s this elegant Lakeville kitchen transformation.

Ready to make significant changes, these decisive homeowners were fantastic to work with, they knew what they wanted from the start. Specifically, they were tired of their closed-off 90’s kitchen with its standard oak cabinets. We got down to work; our list included removing a wall separating the kitchen and living room, expanding the center island, and relocating the sink.

Giving the sink a new home turned out to be the greatest challenge of this project. We had to reroute all of its plumbing through the middle of the room, which meant negotiating with the heating system and completed media room located directly under the kitchen. In the end, all of the plumbing was carried out from above. To prevent the floor from flexing under the larger island, we also added 2×10 floor joists for extra reinforcement and support.

We hope you all visit us during the Remodelers Showcase and see this stunning home for yourself! The newly expanded kitchen is a host’s dream come true with its ample prep areas, serving space, and classy dry bar with double wine fridges. Can’t wait until the 29th? See more of the project in the photos below!

Cabinets: Dura Supreme in Cherry, Countertops: Cambria Quartz, Appliances: Samsung Black Stainless Steel, Fireplace: Heat-n-Glo, Floor Tile: Uni Natural


Design Trends: Family-Centered Dining Rooms

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Writing a blog about family-centered dining rooms may sound redundant, but the once underutilized dining room is finally getting more design love. As floor plans have become more open and flowing, the desire for more formal or single-use spaces has dwindled. While some still favor the traditional dining room, more and more they’re being reimagined as all-purpose, welcoming, family-friendly places.

If you’re planning a forthcoming kitchen, dining, or great room remodel, below are our top tips for creating a family-centered space for enjoying meals together.

Flexible Seating.
Want a dining room that’s ready for all manner of family events and activities? Then adding flexible seating areas should be at the top of your renovation list. A built-in breakfast nook, wet bar, or adjacent island are all excellent spots to seat more guests or serve buffet-style. You’ll never regret giving yourself more hosting options and seating arrangements! After all, current hosting trends are about relaxing the rules to offer your guest a more welcoming atmosphere.

Strategic Center Islands.
If you’re lucky enough to work with an open floor plan with a center island, then use it to your advantage! Customize your island around how you entertain. Add features or storage that cater to your day-to-day and special occasion needs. For example, you might consider a mini bar for hosting game-day parties, a charging drawer to keep family devices out of sight, or a hidden appliance garage for storing your mixer when it’s not cookie baking season. 

Durable Finishes.
Our last recommendation for ensuring a family-minded dining space is to select finishes that will stand the test of time. Remember, most parties or holiday celebrations will include people of all ages and body types, so your space should accommodate a diverse crowd. Who wants to worry about chipped granite, scuffed floors, or damaged paint? Choose dining room finishes that will hold up when sticky little fingers get mischievous, or when that Superbowl party gets a little rowdy – avoid the excess stress!


Ask a Contractor: How Do You Collaborate with Clients?

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It’s time again for our Q&A series with Jason! For our August edition, we asked Jason all about how he collaborates with clients during the remodeling process. Read on below as we cover topics ranging from Jason’s communication mindset to his budgeting process!

How do you handle communication around decision making? What’s your client communication mindset?
I do all of the job site management for every project, so all homeowner communication happens directly through me. My process has changed over the years, of course, for example, phone calls and emails were both replaced by text messages. What’s remained the same is that I try to provide enough pertinent info daily and weekly for clients, that way we don’t drop the ball or misunderstand each other on the big things.

How do you protect your client’s property and respect their space?
First off, I intentionally communicate clearly and early to let homeowners know the timeline of when rooms will be “off limits”. To further define our work site and protect client property, we bag off any areas close to where we’re building. As far as cleanliness goes, we use the Build Clean dust collection system while all work is being done, which helps us catch as much dust as possible and keep the mess under control.

How do you stay on a budget for projects – how do you balance quality products vs. cost consciousness?
To begin, in every case our clients set the budget for their project. However, my job is to help clients’ determine what budget is realistic for their renovation goals. For example, I provide information about the costs of their potential choices and the homeowners then decide what to spend where.

In regards to balancing quality products versus cost consciousness, I follow set standards that remain regardless of any client’s budget. Additionally, I require clients to select most products from a preferred vendor list, which ensures a quality investment with minimal surprises. Of course, there are plenty of cheaper options available online, but if something goes wrong, it’s going to cost you a lot more to correct the problem later. I believe it’s better to purchase a better product in the first place.

Have any more burning remodeling questions for Jason, please give us a call or send an email – we’d be happy to answer!


Kitchen Trends: Customized Kitchen Islands


At J. Carsten Remodeling, we spend a lot of time remodeling and re-imagining kitchens for our clients. The kitchen has become the center of the modern home, and islands are the hub where family life takes place. Everything happens around the island, from cooking to crafts, homework to housework, parties to play dates. As islands have risen in popularity, so too has the trend of highly customized kitchen design. Besides the basics like stoves, fridges, dishwashers, and sinks, there are no rules anymore! Read on below to discover our favorite island design trends.

Bold Finishes
More than any other kitchen space, islands are a great spot to incorporate bold and playful trends. Whether you’re adding two-tone cabinetry, patterned quartz or granite countertops, or glitzy accent lights, islands are the place to have fun with your style.


Creative Storage
Because they are the center of the kitchen, islands are an excellent catch-all storage space. Don’t be afraid to get creative and install what you’ll use. For example, you could incorporate a mini bar, baking built-ins, an extra large prep sink, or a warming drawer for hosting with ease!


Command Center
For better or worse at times, modern family life revolves around technology. Instead of finding cords, chargers, and different devices all over your home, islands are the perfect spot to keep them all organized. From charging drawers to family calendars, there are endless options to keep things orderly.


Project Feature: Family-Friendly Kitchen Update


It’s already the middle of the summer, which means our team is in the thick of remodeling season! Today we’re taking a time out from knocking down kitchen walls and installing bathroom tile to give you a glimpse of one of our most recent kitchen projects. The owners of this sixties Woodbury home had an ambitious fix-it list, we were happy to take on the challenge and give this older home some TLC.

This couple’s top renovation priorities included increasing kitchen storage, replacing the flooring, and updating the home’s many bathrooms. Careful and calculated budget management was another project guideline; relying on Jason’s experienced advice, every dollar was used wisely. One significant challenge that we faced during the remodel was relocating three heat ducts and a set of water lines to accommodate our floorplan changes. A highlight would have to be the company of the family cat, Milo, who cameoed in many of our in-process shots!

Our favorite parts of this project are the expanded kitchen pantry and the new casual bar area. In fact, to cut down on costs, the wine bar cabinets were repurposed from the previous dining room. We’re always proud when we can save a little money and make something look beautiful and new! Take a look at the photos below to see the details of this elegant, contemporary kitchen transformation.