Making Over the Home’s Heart and Soul

By Dorothy Malcolm

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Article first appeared in “Home Improvement,” October issue, 2002,
CNC/Herald Media Publishing, Boston.

There’s nothing like a kitchen to cozy-up to for a heart-to-heart with a loved one or for a warm cup of cocoa on a winter night, or a frosty tumbler of iced tea on a hot day. Our kitchens are the heart of our homes. If kitchens are the home’s heart, then a luxurious bathroom is its soul. Nothing is more sybaritic and soul satisfying than the richness of a bubbling bath, wonderfully-scented candles, Castile soaps, exfoliating lufas, and thick Egyptian cotton towels.

But when the heart and soul of the house is inconvenient, outdated, or just plain uninviting, well, then, it’s time for a change. And welcome change can come in the form of a makeover for any kitchen or bath. Yes, there are those who pine after those gorgeous $100,000 kitchens and spa-like baths we see in glossy magazines, but for most of us, there are excellent alternatives—a good eye for detail, a little ingenuity and the services of a good designer or remodeler.

Throughout the metro Boston area, excellent resources and talented kitchen and bath designers can make ho-hum rooms sparkle with texture, color and style. In Quincy, the Ziegler Kitchen Design Center on Adams Street offers their clients an affordable and tasteful opportunity to either install brand new or incorporate existing kitchens and baths with a designer-look—all for those on a budget.

Richard and Maura Zielger, an innovative husband-and wife-team have been in business in Quincy for a little more than a year, yet Richard’s experience goes back 20 years in the construction, remodeling and carpentry industry. The Zieglers implement both up-to-the-minute CADD software that assists their clients in viewing, beforehand, exactly what their remodeled kitchen or bath will look like.

One project they completed about six months ago involved a 121-year-old Quincy house that had just a three-quarter bath (sink, toilet, stall shower) and a post-World War II, 1940s kitchen. The retro look is fine for some, but in this very old home, it was all wrong. Ziegler measured what was there and drew up a design on the computer.

“But first we designed the kitchen and bath in 3-D so our client would be able to see what their new kitchen and bath would look like in relation to its existing state.” Ziegler then fully gutted the kitchen and bath area, removed a 13-foot section of load-bearing wall and built a new wall 15 inches wider to accommodate a full size tub.

Ziegler explains that this remodeling job was not simply creating a fully-functional kitchen and bath, but it was especially necessary to accommodate a family of four.

“Designing a kitchen for this family that would be utilitarian was an important factor,” said Ziegler. “But I did it so that it reflected the style of this 121-year-old house. Accommodating a family yet still maintaining the architectural integrity and age of the house was our challenge.”

“We discussed cabinet style and they chose a maple cabinet with flat-paneled doors by Merrillat. We like working with Merrillat, also the Diamond Cabinet Company; they both carry a really solid and beautiful product.” Ziegler then we replaced all plumbing fixtures, installed a new vanity and medicine cabinet, and put tile on the floor and walls. In the kitchen a backsplash, was installed and floor tiles and pine wainscoting added. “And for a finishing touch, my wife and I hung the wallpaper border,” he said.

Ziegler and his wife Maura realized the house had an awkward and uninviting front entry. “We modified both the front and rear entranceways to allow for more convenient traffic patterns and flow into the house. We built a new foyer in the front and actually created a rear entranceway to the house, which was previously nonexistent. And yet we designed it so that it looks like it was original to the design of the house.”

Ziegler keeps his prices reasonable and his clients’ design goals within reach. “Yes, we are reasonably-priced, especially when compared with other contractors and designers,” Ziegler said. “The main thing is that we’re all-inclusive—not only to create and implement the design but we’re licensed to do the remodeling rather than going through another contractor. It helps to keep costs down because I am doing the whole project myself, from cabinetry to floor tiles. But there are some sub-contractors out there looking to squeeze extra money out of a client. By controlling all aspects of the project, I can better control the cost and pass the savings onto my customer,” Ziegler said.

Kitchens and baths are rooms of function for many students or young marrieds just starting out, and a kitchen or bath makeover may not be as easily achievable, especially on a “no-budget” budget. But pleasure and beauty knows no boundaries because color, texture, art and fragrance can turn a nondescript bathroom or kitchen into a fantasy retreat or workspace. Vivid paint colors or soothing pastels with faux finishes, stencils or wallpaper borders, along with serene or funky artwork or framed posters, matching or contrasting accessories, curtains, towels and soaps all work together to inspire and delight the senses. But when the resources do come, in time, the student or newlywed make-do innovations will give way to all-out renovations and makeovers. Eventually, the Home & Garden TV channel, “This Old House,” Martha Stewart and the rest of TV-land’s decorating fantasies comes full circle.

In Marshfield, Nivea Frattalone’s Nivea Kitchen and Bath Designs on Plain Street has enjoyed nine years of experience in the kitchen and bath industry. An architect by profession, Nivea worked for architects and builders and lived in Florida next to a showroom. She landed a job with them and helped them establish a focus for design areas, and met people in the industry. Nivea does medium-to-high-end work but is quick to point out, “I treat everyone equally whether my customer spends $5,000 or $50,000.”

She describes her medium-to-high-end work as both custom and semi-custom work and, being an architect, she still hand-draws her floor plans and preliminary sketches for customers. Nivea believes that anyone “can achieve a $40,000-50,000 ‘look’ for about half the price. She believes it takes a good eye and in-depth knowledge of the products available. Of course, she has designed $50,000-plus kitchens and baths for her more affluent customers but still insists the same “look” is possible for far less.

“I like working with the Cabico Company because their prices are mid-range and they do cabinets in particle board construction or solid plywood construction. They offer any door and color style imaginable and will color-match and size incrementally any cabinet perfectly.”

Nivea also likes working with the Luxor Cabinet Company because of their customer service, speediness, follow-up and back-up. For fixtures, she likes the higher-end Robern or Allied Brass for the more designer look. “Some of my customers may spend a few hundred dollars for a toilet paper roll fixture!”

What may be every designer’s and do-it-yourselfer’s dream, to have their work featured on HGTV (cable TV’s Home and Garden channel), actually materialized for Nivea.  Last November, Joan Kohn of HGTV’s “Sensible Chic” featured a gourmet kitchen in Scituate that Nivea had gutted and designed.  Host, Joan Kohn’s “Fantasy Tour” featured Nivea’s design, including a duel-level peninsula workspace that houses a large sink with brushed-nickel fixtures. The cabinets, done in hickory with Indian iron pulls creates a light, airy feeling. Terracotta floor tiles and medium-toned granite counters produce a monochromatic and calm aura in the room. A large, four-burner commercial range and griddle completes the gourmet kitchen. HGTV—the ultimate designer coup to die for! Access Nivea’s work on the net by logging on to, then “Sensible Chic,” then “Fantasy Tour,” then by typing in Episode “KDE-906” it will take you directly to the gourmet kitchen of Nivea’s design.

Because Nivea is such a people person, she will go the extra mile for her customers. “We’re here to help people design their kitchens and baths and I want them to be 100 percent happy and satisfied. I always hear: ‘This is just what I wanted!’ I love dealing with people,” she said.

Whether a homeowner is on a strict budget or has money to burn, beautiful, functional kitchens and baths are doable and necessary to make life just that little bit easier.


All material produced and maintained by Dorothy Malcolm dba Verbatim-Ink.   Not to be reproduced without permission.