Category Archives: The Kitchen and Bath Company of Palo Alto

Everything You Need to Know About Lighting Your Bathroom

Is your bathroom missing something? Is the design nearly perfect, but something’s a little bit off? Maybe it’s your lighting. Whether you are unsatisfied with your current bathroom lighting or considering some remodeling, here are some tips on how to get the optimal lighting in your bathroom. If you need any further help, contact Tim Hmelar and his team from The Kitchen and Bath Company of Palo Alto. They’ll be happy to answer any questions and give you the advice you need.

If you want your bathroom to have the perfect lighting, you need to have a lighting plan that addresses all of the roles that lighting can play.


Task Lighting

This is the first kind of lighting that we need to consider. It’s pretty straightforward. . . for doing tasks. The vanity lighting is important for being able to see the head and face for grooming purposes. Don’t put the ceiling fixture directly over the mirror if you can avoid it. It will cast shadows on the face, which can make grooming more difficult than it needs to be.

The best options are sconces or vertical fixtures on either side of the mirror. These will cast even light across the face, but unfortunately not every bathroom design can accommodate these without major renovations. If this isn’t an option, try to install a long horizontal light over the mirror – ideally over two feet long, so that it can cast an even light across the face.

The second important kind of task lighting is for the shower or tub surround. In small bathrooms with clear glass doors, it may not be necessary, however a recessed light above the shower or bath tub can really brighten things up.  Most building departments normally require that any lighting in a wet location have a lense that  has both safety glass and moisture protection properties.  The great thing about most LED lights is that they are rated to be installed in shower and tub surrounds.  


Vanity Lighting

In addition to your task lighting across the vanity, you also want to make sure that shadows for the cheeks, eyes and chin can be removed. Lights on either side of the mirror can solve these problems.


Ventiliation Fan Lighting

Most manufacturers of ventilation fans offer models with lights and night lights built in the fan.  There’s even brands of fans that are designed as a recessed light with a fan unit integrated with the light.  If you’re planning on installing a fan with a light unit in it; it is strongly recommended putting the different lights on timers or occupancy sensors.  An example of a fan with a night light and regular light would have three switches; one for the night light, one for the regular light and one for the fan.


Helpful Lighting Tips

  • Many building departments require that if you’re using incandescent light bulbs (regular light bulbs) in your bathroom that the lights have a manually activated occupancy switch that shuts off automatically when the room is vacant. Want to learn more about Occupancy Sensor switches check out our blog post What The Heck is an Occupancy Sensor Switch?  and Why You Might Need One.
  • Make sure if you are adding recessed lights to an existing space that the recessed can is rated for your application, especially if there is insulation in the ceiling space.
  • Using the wrong rated recessed light may cause a fire hazard if the light housing comes in contact with insulation.
  • Consider installing lighting in the toe kick of your vanity – it provides great lighting at the floor lighting the room up at night while being soft on the eyes.
  • Consider adding a wall outlet with an integrated night light that turns on and off automatically depending on how much light is in the room.
  • Consider installing a wall switch with a light in it for ease in locating switches when entering the bathroom.
  • Many building departments require that all wall outlets in the bathroom are dedicated outlets.  That means no other items in the bathroom may use the same electricity that is feeding the outlets.  A common mistake is for remodeling contractors to install lighting using the electricity from the outlets only to find out the building inspector won’t allow it.



Have the freedom to change the mood and install dimmers. With these, you can avoid harsh lighting when you feel like relaxing, but still have the bright lights when you need to look at something in the mirror. Dimmed lights can also help to conserve energy and make the bulbs last longer.

If you have lighting questions, give Tim Hmelar of The Kitchen and Bath Company of Palo Alto a call at (650)888-4745.

Don’t Get Caught in The Dark In Your Kitchen – 13 Must Read Tips

Cambria Quartz Counter TopIs your kitchen dark or dull? Is something missing from the design? Maybe the solution is to change the lighting. Here are some tips that will help you get the most out of your kitchen lighting. If you are looking for some more advice, or a reliable company to do some work on your kitchen, call the The Kitchen and Bath Company of Palo Alto.  Meet with  Tim Hmelar and his team and let them help you with their years of knowledge and experience.


Keep the Important Areas Well Lit

Maybe this is obvious, but sometimes people can get carried away with feature lighting and forget about lighting for functionality. Make sure that your preparation areas, walkways, sinks and stove tops are well lit. This will make using your kitchen much easier and safer. Think about functionality first, then worry about the mood lighting later.

  • Put one or two lights over the sink area that are on their own switch
  • Use dimmers whenever possible
  • All kitchen entrances  need to have a switch connected to a light.
  • If there is an exterior door in the kitchen make sure you have switched outdoor lighting.
  • Even if you have pendant lighting over a table you may want to add 2 to 4 recessed lights above table (if you have space in the ceiling)
  • Make sure if you are adding recessed lights to an existing space that the recessed can is rated for your application, especially if there is insulation in the ceiling space.
  • Consider under cabinet lighting – I’ve never had a client that doesn’t love it!
  • If installing recessed lights try to center the light with the front edge of the counter top.  If you’re using recessed lighting for general counter top lighting; don’t install it to far from the front edge of the counter top or you will get a shadow on your work area.
  • Pendant lighting (lighting suspended from the ceiling) can really add life to a remodel; especially over peninsula or island counter top areas.
  • Consider adding a wall outlet with an integrated night light that turns on and off automatically depending on how much light is in the room.
  • Don’t worry about recessed lighting being installed  perfectly symmetrical on the ceiling.  Sometimes ceiling joists prevent installing recessed lights exactly where you want them.  Most people never pay attention to the location of the recessed cans on the ceiling.
  • If your upper cabinets don’t go all the way to the ceiling you may want to consider up lighting.    It looks great and is also easy on the eyes late at night while you’re getting a midnight snack.
  • Consider installing at least one wall switch with a light in it at each entrance for ease in locating switches when entering the kitchen.


Recessed Can Light Fixture
Recessed Can Light Fixture

Today’s Kitchens Have Many Uses

Because of this, they need versatile lighting. Not only are they our meal preparing area, but they can also double as dining rooms, entertaining areas and homework or office areas.  All of these uses will need different lighting. Soft lighting for entertaining and dining, bright lighting in the right places for cooking safety and the right type of lighting for homework or office tasks to avoid eyestrain.

Use Natural Light

If you have the opportunity, embrace natural light. It can make breakfasts more appealing – artificial lights are incomparable to the warmth and brightness of the sun’s light. It can also save you a bit of money on electricity.

Hanging Island LightLight From Multiple Angles

If you only have ceiling lights in your kitchen, it is likely that cabinets can cast shadows over important areas. Mix things up and maybe get some LED under-cabinet lights or light your backsplash from behind. This can help get rid of any dark corners.

If you need help brightening up your kitchen or home give Tim Hmelar a call at (650)888-4745.

Need More Storage in Your Shower or Tub Surround? Intall a Recessed Niche
Recessed Niche with Small Horizontal Tile
Recessed Niche with Small Horizontal Tile

No room to store your soap and shampoo in the bathroom? Do you have a rusting shower caddy or a shelf that’s hard to clean? Maybe it’s time to get a recessed shower niche. If you think it’s time to do some bathroom remodeling, get in touch with Tim Hmelar and his team at The Kitchen and Bathroom Company of Palo Alto. Whether you just want advice or an experienced crew to build it for you, they can take care of it.



Recessed Niche with Two Shelves
Recessed Niche with Two Shelves


There are many benefits to a recessed shower niche, it’s just unfortunate that many builders don’t have the foresight to install them. They provide a sleek and modern look in any bathroom, while making things easier to keep clean and organized. They can provide more space and be much sturdier than a detachable shelf, without accumulating as much soap scum.





Large Recessed Niche with Large Soap Bottle
Large Recessed Niche with Large Soap Bottle

If you are considering getting a shower niche put in, the first step is figuring out which wall in your shower will be suitable. Get a professional out to have a look at it and save on the stress. They can find the ideal space for it and modify any studs that may be in the way. Shower niches can come in a range of sizes to fit different hygiene products. With personal service, you can find the one that’s right for your needs.




Recessed Niche with Schluter Trim
Recessed Niche with metal Schluter trim


Shower or bathtub niches can help to get the shampoo bottles off the floor of the shower or rim of the tub, helping to keep everything looking neat. They are especially great for more modern, minimalistic bathroom designs and reducing the clutter that can accumulate in the bathroom.




You don’t need to think of getting a shower niche as a major renovation. They are quite easy for professionals to install as long as the walls are open and they can be tiled straight over. It can cost a lot less than you might think.

Temperature and Pressure-Balance Valves For Showers and Bathtubs


At their best, temperature and pressure-balance valves will protect you from discomfort. In more serious situations, they can protect you or your children from scalding burns. They are two different options to consider if you want better control of your shower’s temperature, especially to safeguard against unexpected temperature shocks from changes in water pressure. These changes can be caused by toilets flushing, the dishwasher running or other situations. If you are considering installing either of these options, talk to Tim Hmelar and his team at The Kitchen and Bathroom Company of Palo Alto, for great advice.

In essence, both pressure-balance valves and thermostatic valves provide scald protection. They are installed in either the shower or bathtub wall, where the controls are. Pressure-balance valves have a diaphragm inside them that moves with the change in water pressure. When it changes, they immediately rebalance the pressures of hot and cold water, keeping the temperature at about two or three degrees above or below its previous level. If the cold water supply stops, they will reduce the water flow, to prevent burns from the hot water. These valves van have a problem with flows, because when the pressure of cold water dips, it reduces the pressure of hot water as well, to keep the temperature the same.

A thermostatic shower valve is a little bit more complex and more expensive, but they offer better performance. Most have 3/4 inch inlets that allow for maximum flow and volume control. They normally have two controllers, one which sets the volume and the other that controls the temperature. The scald setting on a thermostatic valve limits the actual temperature, regardless of if you turn up the temperature on the water heater.

Common Patterns For Setting Tiles


There are so many options to consider when remodeling a kitchen or bathroom – layout, what kind of sinks, color schemes, tiles and much more. One aspect that is often overlooked about tiles is the pattern that they will be laid in. Many people concentrate more on the style, color and texture of their tiles and don’t consider their options in tiling patterns. If you have a tiling job that needs to be done, talk to Tim Hmelar and his team at The Kitchen and Bath Company of Palo Alto for some great advice.

Straight Lay

The most common pattern for setting tiles is the straight lay. It’s the most simple way to lay them; uniform tiles are laid side by side in straight rows. The grout lines form a grid pattern that have a clean and modern look. The straight lay pattern is a great option if the room has a lot of other design features and you don’t want your tiling pattern to clash or seem too busy. It is also the simplest way to tile if you are planning on some DIYing. You don’t have to worry about complex patterns or angles, so it’s a great choice if you are new to tiling.


If you want another simple look that can make your room seem more spacious, perhaps the diamond pattern is the right choice for you. It’s exactly the same as the square lay, but set at a 45 ̊ angle to the walls. Diagonal lay provides an optical illusion, because the longer lines make the space seem much larger. It’s another more subdued style that can be great if the room has other features that you would like to highlight, or you would like something that’s not too challenging to try yourself. To mix things up a little more, you can even combine this pattern with accent tiles to add a little more complexity to the interior decoration.

Running Bond

The running bond is another simple pattern. It is also called the brick or offset pattern, because it is the most common way that bricks are laid. It is similar to the straight lay pattern, except that the rows are staggered, so that the ends of the tiles in one row line up with the center of the tiles in the next. It is good for uneven surfaces, because the staggered lines make it difficult for the eye to spot flaws. It is commonly used for walls and splashbacks, but it can be used anywhere. It’s another relatively simple pattern to lay, but you need to make sure that the gaps between the tiles are precise, so that the length of the overlap remains the same.


Just like a chess or checkerboard, this pattern involves two alternating colors of tiles. It is a style that was traditionally done with black and white tiles, but any colors that match each other and the rest of the room can be used. This pattern can be set either straight or diagonally depending on your preference. It is a classic look, but it needs to be considered carefully along with the design of the rest of the room. The pattern can easily look overwhelming if there are contrasting aspects in the space. It’s just as easy to install as the straight or diagonal lay patterns.


The herringbone pattern is named because it looks similar to the rib pattern of herring skeletons. It uses rectangular tiles, each laid perpendicular to each other in a V-like shape. The tiles alternate, pointing outwards, in a way that can make small rooms seem bigger. For this reason, the pattern is commonly used in narrow hallways to make them look more spacious. Laying this tile pattern isn’t too difficult, but it is certainly a step-up from the straight-lay.


Modular tile patterns incorporate tiles of different sizes. The simplest designs tend to use three different sized tiles, while some of the more complex designs use a lot more. This style is commonly used in flooring, particularly outside, because the eyes cannot simply follow the lines to the edge of the space. It can be one of the more complex tile patterns to lay.