Category Archives: Tim Hmelar

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.

Avoid These Seven Common Bathroom Remodeling Mistakes

NKBa Bath Planning Guide

Are you giddy with excitement, getting ready to pull out the check book for your new bathroom design? Stop for just a minute and think about things for a while. It’s something that you are going to have to live with for a while, so make sure you consider everything so that your bathroom is exactly the way you want it to be. Here are some common mistakes in bathroom planning that some people often overlook.   If you want some more advice on bathroom remodeling or even someone to do the job for you, contact The Kitchen and Bath Company of Palo Alto and have a chat with Tim Hmelar  (650)888-4745.


Once we get started, it’s often hard to stop. Before you put any plans in concrete, think about a realistic budget for your bathroom. Go over your finances and figure out how much you can actually afford. Maybe even try to crunch some figures about how much value it might add to your home. Before we enter any project, especially one that can have a large range in price, it’s important to get our budget and stick to it. You can probably still have most things that you want, you just might need to be a little more creative in how you go about it.

Nutone Ventilation FanVentilation

This is something that is easy to overlook. A good ceiling fan is important for dealing with the humidity of your bathroom. If it isn’t taken care of properly, the moisture can cause mold and mildew problems that are very difficult to fix. There are different options, such as overhead fixtures or multiple units around the bathroom. You can even consider installing a window if there isn’t one already and it’s possible.  When picking a bathroom fan be sure that the fan is rated in CFM (cubic feet/minute) for your size bathroom and check for sones (sound level) of the fan.  Fans are now available with humidistats, night lights, heaters, mood lights and even wifi speakers.

Use the Right Materials

Bathrooms are high-stress rooms. They deal with heat, cold and a lot of moisture, with conditions often changing rapidly. This means that the materials in your bathroom have to be very durable in order to handle all of these extremes. Some kinds of stone and wood can’t handle it, so try to ensure that all of the materials are designed specifically for the bathroom.  Be especially careful that shower floors and bathroom floors are treated so that they aren’t too slippery when wet.  Another common trend is the addition of recessed shampoo bottle niches, shower heads placed on sliding bars and the installation of grab bars.

More Storage

It’s easy to overlook our storage needs, but doing so can make our day-to-day lives more difficult and also increase clutter on countertops. Think about the things that you use regularly and plan spaces for them. Also include all of the things you would like to keep in your bathroom. Then add even more storage space just to be safe. You won’t regret it.

Make Sure It’s Done Properly

City of Palo Alto Development Center
City of Palo Alto Development Center

Remodeling your bathroom yourself can save money and give you a sense of self-accomplishment, but bathrooms aren’t the simplest places to remodel and they don’t leave much margin for error.  Hire a professional with a proven track record- one with a solid reputation – and avoid the headaches of installation, as well as years of problems from things not being done right in the first place.  Also, go to State of California Contractor’s State License Board and check out any proposed contractors licensing, bond and insurance status.    

To see if your project will need a permit contact your local building department.  In many instances if your project does not include moving load bearing walls or an addition you should be able to get your permit “Over the Counter” where if you have the appropriate paperwork you can get your permit the same day you apply for it.   Most building departments in the Greater Palo Alto area require a building permit for your bath  remodel if you remove the tub and/or shower enclosure.  The city of Palo Alto’s Development Center phone number is (650) 329-2100.  

California Green Building StandardsSaving Water

Save the environment and money on your water and light bills. California Building code now requires toilets be rated not to exceed 1.28 gallons/flush.  Its also a great idea to consider installing water-efficient on demand water heaters, shower heads and faucets. Get energy-efficient light bulbs as well. In the long run, you will save a lot of money and do your bit for the planet.  The Guide to California Green Building Standards  Residential Code is a free downloadable pamphlet full of the State’s Green Building Code relating to water. 

Title 24 logoLighting

Great lighting is crucial in a bathroom.  Make sure that you have sufficient lighting so that you can see everything while bathing and or grooming.  Recent advancements with LED lighting have greatly increased the efficiency and brightness of lighting for bathrooms and kitchens.  Make sure if you’re putting lighting over a shower or bathtub that it is rated to be installed over a wet location.   You can also get dimmers or secondary lights for mood to keep your options open and remain functional.  UC Davis has prepared a great free downloadable pamphlet on Title 24, Section 6 of the State of California Building Code explaining lighting requirements; specifically see page 30 for bathrooms and page 26 for kitchens.

Seven Things to Keep in Mind When Planning Your Kitchen Remodel

Planning your Kitchen Remodel can be so overwhelming. There are so many different elements – appliances, sinks, tiles, colors, storage space, lighting. . . I could go on and on. This guide is to help make sure that you aren’t looking over any of the important elements.Planning YOur Kitchen KitchenCraft Cabinets

Put Function First

It’s so easy to get carried away with a design that you can completely forget about the utility of the space.  Whether you’re a fan of Shaker Cabinetry or own an Eichler, if you don’t put the functionality of your kitchen first, you are going to end up hating it, no matter how beautiful it may look. Even worse – you might never use it if it’s inefficient and a pain!  Consider which things are used most in the kitchen and design the layout to be efficient and ergonomic. The kitchen work triangle is an important concept to consider. The three points are the three most used areas of the kitchenthe fridge, the sink and the stove.   According to the National Kitchen and Bath Association kitchen specifications,  ideally none of the items in the kitchen triangle should be closer than 4′ from each other or more than 9′ from each other and the total sum of the sides should not be more that 26′.

Kitchen Triangle Kohler Work Triangle Things to Consider:

  • Try not to block your walking path between items.  The work triangle should not cut through an island or peninsula by more than 12 inches.
  • Most kitchens have one sink.  If your kitchen only has one sink it should be kept either across from or between your cooking surface, food preparation area, or refrigerator.
  • If possible, try to minimize people walking through the triangle.

Also consider where you will keep your bins, utensils and other key appliances.


Don’t Forget Your Budget

A kitchen renovation can quickly turn from something quick and cheap to a state-of-the-art facility that will take decades to pay off.  Be realistic about your kitchen budget.  A dream kitchen is a wonderful thing, but it’s not worth putting yourself into dire financial straits.   Come up with a budget of what you can afford before you start planning, then tailor your plans according to the budget. Not the other way around! You don’t want to get carried away or conned into something that you really can’t afford. You can still get a great kitchen, but you just might have to make some more compromises in the process.

Also, if your not planning on staying in your home for more than 5-7 years  its probably a good idea to remodel your kitchen with the materials and colors that will maximize the value of the home when it changes hands.  Bold materials and colors can be exciting and fun but they may actually reduce the value of you home in the mind of any future buyers.


More Storage!

drawer_new_tandemYou can never have too much. How many kitchens have you seen with an empty kitchen cupboard? I’m guessing that it’s close to zero.  Its wise to plan and maximize for as much storage as possible.   It’s a decision that you will never regret.

  • Pull outs instead of fixed shelves are nice for getting into the back areas of lower cabinets.
  • Full extention drawers
  • Lazy Susan in corner cabinets
  • 36″ high upper cabinets.
  • Deep cabinet above the refrigerator
  • Pull Out recycling bins under the sink


Bright Lights

Lighting is often an afterthought in a kitchen, but the right lighting can really change a nice kitchen into an opulent kitchen. Not only can the right lighting change the perception of the space, but proper lighting in the darker areas can help to prevent eye strain when you are cooking.  If you’re older than fifty it is strongly recommended you have under cabinet lighting installed.


The Appliances Are Part of Your Plan

GE Refrigerator Home DepotMany people will design their kitchen and then only think about which appliances they will use and where they will keep them afterwards. Appliances take up a lot of counter top or cupboard space, so it’s really not something you can figure out at the end. Consider them as part of your initial plan, so that you can have your kitchen looking good and functional with everything in place.

Planning for your appliances:

  • Do you have an ice maker line for the refrigerator.
  • Gas line in place for cooktop
  • Sink location and enough angle stops under sink
  • Location, size and noise level of cooktop hood

What Counter Space?

Maximizing counter top  space is an essential part of any kitchen remodel and not having enough will be the bane of your existence. The right kind of material can help make your kitchen look clean and neat, while giving you crucial space for food preparation or entertaining.

Cambria Quartz Counter Top

Common Counter Top Trends:

  • Pre-fabricated granite and quartz counter tops.
  • Under mount stainless steel sinks
  • Breakfast bar areas with cantilevered counters



Planning your kitchen remodel?  give Tim Hmelar  at The Kitchen and Bath Company of Palo Alto a call at (650)888-4745 or drop him an email at

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.

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.