If you have been in your home for a while you may be restless for change. The great part about having a home of your own is you can make improvements and give your home a chance to evolve over time. You just need to help your home live up to its potential! Here is a top ten list of improvements that will help you make the most of your home.
- Find your home’s purpose. Each home is as unique as its owners, so in order to fully utilize your home, consider how you view your home’s purpose. Some people like to entertain, others find it a calm space in the frenzy of daily life; some nurture their families and others nurture their creativity. Your home’s purpose can be any combination of these and more, but it helps to consider the function of your space in order to ultimately find its purpose.
- Assemble a list. A list always helps me figure out where to start or prioritize what is the most important project. Think about what you want to change in your home, inspirations, and preferences.
- Make an “inspiration board”. An “inspiration board” is a great way to visualize your home’s decor. You can create a board online with a tool like Pinterest to organize ideas you love or you can do it the old fashioned way with a board, magazine cutouts, color swatches, and fabric samples. Doing this will allow you to see all the elements you like in one place so that you can then tie it all together into a room you love.
- Create a collection. If you have items that you like to collect, think about how to transform that collection into something you can display. If you don’t already have a collection of loved objects think about what this collection would be for you. You can center a room design around your travel souvenirs, old camera collection, figurines, unique plates, or familial objects. Adding to this collection over time can be a great way to keep your spaces new while maintaining a personal feel to your decor.
- Choose a new palate. Shake up your sensibilities and think of a color that will compliment your room while making a statement. It’s easy to fall into the white/beige standby to keep our rooms neutral, but sometimes a color that provides a contrast to your décor will make the room pop.
- Repurpose an old piece of furniture. Instead of replacing your furniture give it a facelift. You can have a sofa or chairs reupholstered or make use of a slip cover. Also, Painting and staining can add new life to your wood pieces.
- Rearrange. Moving furniture around is another easy way to reinvent your space. Try placing your sofa on an angle to open up your entertaining room or move your lamps to improve lighting. You can also think about moving a piece of furniture into a room to give it new life, like using a unique dresser for a credenza or a chair as a side table.
- Make a room of your own. Find some space in your home that is uniquely yours, whether this is the corner of the guest room or an office of your own. It can be very rewarding to have a space that you can organize to fit your personal needs without the worries of others intruding
- Find an inspirational object. Have you ever fallen in love with an object that inspired you to want to completely redo a room to accommodate it? Designing a room around an inspiring object can be a great way to create a space that truly embodies your design sensibility.
- Find design motivation. Home design evolves over time and can be sustained by finding items that inspire you. Read magazines and books that inspire your interests in architecture, design, art, etc. Or find stores and flea markets that sell pieces that influence your aesthetic. Or bring a camera with you when you’re doing your favorite activities and bring back memories or inspirations. Most of all have fun!
What inspires your home design?
By Tara Sharp
When it comes time to decide if you want to downsize, there are many thoughts and emotions that go speeding through your mind. Maybe you have already decided this is your home for the rest of your life. Your home was the perfect place to meet your needs when you were in an earlier cycle of life, and will be the ideal home for all the events you see happening in your next. If you are inclined to feel that the home you currently reside in may have out-lived its purpose, you may be struggling with some of the same thoughts and emotions my husband and I had when it came to the emotional and financially sensitive decision to downsize.
In our situation, we loved our home. It provided everything we needed to raise our three children, plus nurture all the creative projects that identified who we are as a family as well as individuals. Our children were just like anyone else’s; loved, individually different, all requiring unique activities and space to help them grow, using their special talents. We loved our neighborhood and took an active part in making it an extension of our home. Considering that it had been our home for decades, deciding to leave was emotionally difficult.
We spent several years before we knew we would leave our home, looking at all the smaller options. We wondered, should we look for another single-family dwelling or check out other options like co-ops of condominiums? My husband had spent the past twenty-five years mowing our lawn and was quite willing to remove this task from his plate. I, on the other hand, still loved to garden. Was there a living environment that could satisfy both these expectations? We looked at every condominium and every co-op in the Seattle area for five years, but nothing really fulfilled everything we needed. We had a list of features including a garden spot, closets and efficient use of space, etc. I’m an Old World Charm lady, but guess what? Back in the 20’s ladies only owned three dresses. Let’s just say, I own a few more outfits than most pre-war closets were meant to hold. So the search went on.
When our children finally reached their 20’s and my husband wanted to retire, we knew it was time to make our move. Like I said, everyone loves their children, but not all the party time we now came to expect in our rec room every weekend. We were ready to have a space of our own, and it was time for our kids to begin their next cycle in-life. We also had too much of our finances tied up in a 3,000 square foot house, when in reality we needed less and could save more. We had to leave the home we had dedicated to making our unique expression of who we were, and leave very soon.
If any of this sounds familiar, your task will be a little easier than it seems! Here is some practical advice for making your move:
Define your needs: Narrow down your ideal needs. Start by deciding if you want a single-family versus multi-family dwelling. Consider your price range, and then space needs.
Downsize: We downsized a bit more than we should have, but we sure got rid of lots of items we collected over the past 25 years. Some of them were special to me. I’d purchased a beautiful wood serving tray at a yard sale with one of my dearest friends. I had to borrow money from her to buy it. I solved the problem by giving it to her when we moved, and I still see it when I visit her home. My children took much of the furniture they had a special connection to, and my nephew, who spent nearly every Christmas sitting in his favorite red chair, can now enjoy it in his own home.
Let go: Leaving the neighborhood and all our lifelong friends was the most difficult process, I think, of all the decisions we had to make. We still see them, but as I’m writing this my eyes are tearing up. It’s hard to re-visit my old neighborhood and see my old home cared for in a different way than I had lovingly done for twenty-five years. But it does give us plenty of things to talk about with old friends when we get together.
What did we end up doing? We moved into a vintage 1930’s co-op in a walkable part of town. I have just the right amount of gardening space that I share with other owners. We have made wonderful friends with some of our neighbors and get together frequently for happy hour and spur-of-the-moment gatherings. It’s a different lifestyle than we had before but, believe me, there are plus sides. In no way will any of our three wonderful, adored, adult children ever be able to move back home, since we now live in an 850-square-foot co-op with every space used on a daily basis. There were times when I wouldn’t go in one of my rooms in our old home for several weeks. This is not a problem now. Yes, maybe it’s too small, but we can always move into a larger place if and when we feel it’s time.
What are your questions about downsizing your home? What features do you require to live in a smaller, more efficient dwelling?
Pat Eskenazi is a Windermere veteran, working in marketing for the past 12 years. She has lived in Seattle since 1952. Her favorite place to walk is along Golden Gardens, and she especially loves to climb the stairs up to the Sunset Hill neighborhood where she lived with her 3 children and husband for 25 years.
On any given weekend in my house, at least a couple of hours will be spent watching the designers, craftspeople and entertainers on HGTV or its spunky sister station, the DIY Network. The premise of these home-centered television networks is that somewhere, sandwiched between long commercial breaks for paint, faucets, flooring warehouses and something called “Slab Jacking”, you’ll find programming about real people making real decisions about their homes. Sometimes those decisions are about buying a home, while other times they may be about selling or remodeling a home. In all of the situations, experts are brought in to help and a camera crew just happens to tag along, so the rest of us can enjoy the unfolding drama from the comfort of our couches.
Home improvement programming has been around for a long time and is generally considered reality TV, but a lot of the real life is lost between cuts. Here’s a quick guide of some of the more popular programs.
House Hunters – The formula is simple but always entertaining. Each episode begins with someone unhappy with their living situation, so they call an agent and look at 3 properties. After weighing the options, a home is chosen. Of course, this show is over-simplified and leaves out the long weekends the buyer spends in their agent’s car driving from listing to listing. What you do get is a sense of home values and styles in different regions, the humor of buyers’ reactions to homes, and the excitement new home owners feel as they take the keys to their dream home. You rarely get the type of tension home shopping can bring. The big climax of the show is when an offer is made: the narrator might say something like, “Though their offer was rejected the first time around, the other buyer ultimately backed out and they ended up getting the house for X amount.” But I don’t think they usually talk about it at all. For that kind of tension, you need to check out Property Virgins. The best part of the half hour happens in the last 30 seconds when you see how the new owner redecorates the home in their own style.
Property Virgins– Similar premise to House Hunters, except these first-time homebuyers walk through the basics. The best part about the show is the excitement (and sometimes clumsiness) of the virgin house-hunters. The worst part of this show is when would be homebuyers have unrealistic expectations for their first home.
House Hunters International – Comparable to House Hunters but everyone has accents and the kitchens are shockingly small.
Designed to Sell – Did you know that your spare bedroom filled with Grandpa’s taxidermy and the vintage 1950’s kitchen can be a turn-off to potential buyers? Valuable lessons like these are a just a few of the gems I’ve picked up on Designed to Sell. Each episode features a home which has been racking up days on the market but no one is interested in buying. That’s where the army of carpenters and designers step in. When they’re done, the house that looked like Grandma’s musty basement now looks like the lobby of a hip hotel, and they only spent a few hundred dollars. I love this program for the inspiration but find it short on reality. The listed prices of these improvements don’t seem realistic, and I often wonder if the costs include the lifetime of carpentry skills, design training, garage filled with power tools and time required to do the job. If you are looking for design ideas and hope for a home that isn’t attracting buyers, you’ll find some great ideas here, but take the true cost of those improvements with a grain of salt.
Real Estate Intervention – Being a real estate agent takes a lot of diplomacy, and this is never more important than that moment they suggest a market-friendly price to a home seller. On Real Estate Intervention, that diplomacy generally fails, sellers are unrealistic, and a stern man with a menacing mustache steps in for an intervention. He dishes out tough love to the seller and paints a clear picture of market reality. In a half hour he is able to change minds and make the seller feel good about the decision they made.
This Old House – This PBS staple wrote the book on home improvement programming. With TOHyou’ll trade commercials for pledge drives, but you’ll also get a more cerebral home improvement viewing experience. TOH does take patience, as it takes a full season to complete a home improvement project instead of 30 minutes on other programs. If you are looking for the same quality instruction in a more digestible format, you can check out the spin off, Ask This Old House.
Be warned that the home improvement bug often bites soon after watching any of these programs. After a long HGTV bender, I find myself wandering through the paint sample aisle and making trips to home improvement stores that aren’t on my way home from the office. Sometimes life does imitate art and the voice in the back of my head keeps saying, “They make it look so easy.”
What about you? Do you find home-improvement shows useful or do you think they set unrealistic expectations? What are your favorite home-improvement resources?
by Justin Waskow
“Staying Put” by architect and writer Duo Dickinson is not your typical architect’s book about design. There’s no obscure language nor design-for-design’s-sake ideas. It is a practical, down-to-earth guide that walks anyone through the rational process of how to remodel your house to get the home you want, from how to think about your house and overcoming hurdles to a list of “Duo’s Do’s and Don’ts” for the homeowner. Along the way, there’s plenty of nice before-and-after photos to help explain the points. Do read the book. You’ll be glad you did.
Read on for eight of Dickinson’s brightest suggestions:
Consider the compass points. The tips and illustrated examples are wonderfully straightforward. For example, we see a house that gets overheated, the siding degrades and the front door bakes in the sun because it all faces south.
Dickinson’s common-sense advice: Rework the front of the house with a new wide porch that shades the front door and some smaller, yet well-sized windows to create a lot more curb appeal while reducing maintenance and energy consumption. It’s a triple win: more beauty and comfort with less cost.
Avoid gutters. Statements such as “gutters and leaders are devout to be avoided” may sound like heresy to many, but certainly are the truth. Proving his point, Dickinson illustrates how a properly-built roof overhang can shed all the water it must without the complications, such as ice dams, caused by gutters.
Embrace small moves. Dickinson provides a wealth of simple solutions illustrated with before-and-after photos. He shows how to use small moves for big dividends, such as taking out a wall between a kitchen and a hallway to make room for more kitchen storage.
Enhance curb appeal. The book offers solutions to common problems with a particular style, such as how to improve and enhance an entrance into a split-level home.
Open up to the outside. Dickinson provides some excellent examples of how we can use modern windows and doors to strengthen the connection between inside and outside. Our homes, says Dickinson, no longer need be “later-day caves.”
Find your home. Learning more about the style of the house you have will help you avoid obstacles in remodeling and recognize the best opportunities for improving your particular home.
Open up the inside. Snippets of advice sprinkled throughout the book are like refreshing raindrops that clear the cobwebs away. One such snippet: “If you walk through a room to get to a room, something is wrong.” You know — it’s when that new great room gets added onto a modest house, and the result is some kind of dyslexic creature that’s really two houses rather than one.
So rather than even building an addition, Dickinson suggests you make the most of what you already have. In this example, widening the opening between rooms strengthens this room’s connection with the rest of the home, increasing its utility and spaciousness.
Work with what you’ve got (before): Keeping the kitchen size the same while vaulting the ceiling dramatically increases the overall spaciousness of the room, as you’ll see in the next photo.
Work with what you’ve got (after): Walls, doors, appliances, and even the skylight and kitchen sink were all left where they were. This all avoided costly plumbing, electrical and mechanical work and rework.
Working with what you’ve got (plans): Dickinson has included before-and-after floor plans for many of the examples. These plans help provide that much more context, allowing the reader to better understand what they may be able to do with the home they already have.
By Bud Dietrich AIA
Your home is a reflection of your tastes, your lifestyle and your ambition, and many of us are regularly transforming our homes one way or another to fit our adjusting needs. Whether it is refreshing a room to fit your style, reorganizing a closet to accommodate the holiday excess, going green to save the planet and a couple of bucks or a complete renovation of your kitchen- homes take maintenance. Some projects come about on a whim, but if you have any plans to make your nest nestier here are some ideas for not getting too overwhelmed by the process- no matter how large or small the changes you want to make:
Get Organized: Whether it is your closets, books, pantry or your entire basement identifying the problem is the first step. Once you know where to focus your energy think about the purpose your space should fulfill, what you want it to look like and how you can keep it organized for the long-term. Sometimes getting organized is a matter of doing a little bit every day, or it is finding the right storage solution. Once you know what the problem is you can identify your steps, timeline and budget. Ultimately, getting rid of the clutter and holding onto items you love the most and use will keep your spaces easy to manage year round.
Do a little every day: Everyone has a different method to managing home madness; some have a weekly cleaning routine, some focus room by room others pile everything in the closet until they have to deal with it. If you have a goal of getting rid of old possessions and clutter, remodeling your home office or keeping your home cleaner spend five to thirty minutes a day working to achieve your goal. Here is a good idea for keeping your home clean by doing a little every day, rather than spending your weekend playing catch up.
Beautification/ Gardening: This year my big goal is to finally start our edible garden, but I have been overwhelmed by all the steps- from finding the right containers for the garden, deciding what to plant, when to start the starts, etc. Each region has different gardening challenges; the plants that thrive in Seattle are different than Spokane or San Diego so if you are planning on a garden make sure you familiarize yourself with local resources that will give you advice specific to your area. If you have any landscaping projects, keep in mind advance planning is paramount to making this affordable, timely and sustainable. If you are planning on putting your house on the market eventually, make beautification a priority and plan your exterior in a way that will increase the curb appeal of your home in the future.
Home Improvement Projects: If you have an ongoing list of home improvement projects, make sure you have the right tools in your toolbox and prioritize and plan. You don’t want to spend every weekend working on dripping faucets so create a routine. When looking at the year ahead, think about seasonality of the projects. It is important to know when to ask for help from a professional in order to have repairs done right in the first place to avoid putting yourself at risk or the safety of your home.
Go Green: If your resolution this year is to save money and the planet by reducing your carbon footprint there are projects you can do large and small. Start with an energy audit, that way you know where your energy is actually being used- you may be surprised. Easy fixes start with replacing light bulbs with CFLs and buying energy cords that limit vampire appliances to use energy when they aren’t in use. If you are replacing your old appliances with newer energy efficient models, make sure you check into recycling programs in your area. Go here for more green resolution ideas.
Renovations: Whether you are doing the renovations yourself or working with a contractor, projects of scale are never easy. Make sure you plan for the inconvenience of going without a kitchen as well as the details of putting your new kitchen in place. Also, before investing in a renovation, make sure you will get a return on your investment when you resell. If you are looking to increase the value and marketability of your home check out this list before you start tearing down walls.
The transition from the holidays and 2018 is behind us now, and we are well into the first month of the new year. Once 2019 officially started, I believe I heard a collective sigh of relief echoing throughout the following days. 2018 was a good year, much better than we had anticipated it being–for most of us anyway. 2019 feels like a beacon of light, illuminating the path to an auspicious year ahead; a new year, a new decade and what seems to be the worst is behind us.
For some people the New Year is just a party or another day, for others it is a time of reflection and resolutions, and for others it is a benchmark–a way to remember annual projects. I am not really a resolutions person myself; I figure if I do not make it, I cannot break it. I do, however, remind myself to up the ante on what I should be doing anyway and to plan for goals and projects ahead.
The hard part is sticking to the plan after the luster of the New Year starts to fade. For the rest of January we will be offering resources on making and keeping home resolutions, whether you want to update your current home, start saving and shopping for your first house or sell the home you have. Here are some tips to get you started making your home resolutions:
Everyone’s list of things to accomplish in the upcoming year is different, but one thing is pretty universal: most of us are too ambitious for our own good. The best thing to do is make reasonable goals for yourself and work towards accomplishing them one at a time. So be realistic. You may not renovate your entire home, but in all likelihood you can finish your kitchen remodel. You may start the year with plenty of momentum; just remember to pace yourself when it comes to big goals–it’s a marathon, not a sprint. Here are some tips to keep your goals in check:
Set a goal: I find it useful to create a bucket list of all the things I want to do and prioritize the most important, most time consuming and most expensive. Your goals and what you do to accomplish them will differ whether you are making your home more your style, saving to buy or preparing to sell. From this list you can prioritize the goals in order by urgency, seasonality, and difficulty. If you cannot fit all your projects in this year, move them to the rolling 2012 bucket list.
Make a budget: Do your research and make an informed budget. If you are looking to renovate, you will want to make a plan, check resources and make an informed budget. If you are looking to save up for your down payment on a home, you will want to assess how much you need to have saved in order to have enough to put down, and create a budget plan. Creating a budget is a great way to keep your finances in check and keep your projects as affordable as possible.
Set benchmarks: If you have a big goal, breaking it up into smaller bites is the best way to stay motivated. If you can do a little bit every week to keep your home clean and tackle an organization project, you are more likely to sustain the momentum than if you attempt a complete overhaul. Also, there’s one great thing about goal setting, budget making and project planning: the more you practice, the better you become!
Stay motivated: Your resolutions may already be going by the wayside now that we are caught back up in life-as-always. It may help to write out your resolutions in a central place–a document on your computer desktop, a list on your fridge, or benchmark reminders in your mobile calendar. The key is to keep your resolutions at the top of your mind so you can work towards them a little bit every day/week. For more advice on how to keep your momentum, go here.
Warmer months are ahead, so now is the time to plan for spring cleaning and maintenance. A clean home offers a fresh start for the year, and a checklist of tasks guides your efforts towards efficiency. For many homeowners, spring cleaning can be a personal challenge. It can also be one accomplished with the help of the rest of the family or other residents. In some occasions, however, professional assistance may be advised, or even necessary. Regardless, regular home maintenance not only increases your home’s value, but it can also make your home more comfortable and enjoyable.
Check Your Attic
Once summer arrives, it can be too hot in many regions to comfortably perform an inspection. Use late winter and early spring to ensure the following: there’s ample insulation (10 to 14 inches), there are no signs of mice or rats (droppings, strong odor, nests), there are no bugs (flying, crawling, or otherwise), and there are no signs of roof leaks (water stains, etc.).
Schedule HVAC Maintenance
Annual tune-ups on your heating/cooling equipment will reduce your energy bill and help ensure you can maintain a comfortable indoor temperature.
Fix the Window Screens
It won’t be long before you’ll want to throw open the windows for fresh air, or relief on a warm afternoon. Take time now to ensure your window screens are ready for the challenge. Many traditional neighborhood hardware stores still offer re-screening services. Contractors also specialize in this service and are available for house calls.
Clean the Ceiling Fans
During the warm weather and the cold, ceiling fans can help moderate the temperature and better distribute the air. But your fans will be far more efficient if you give them a good cleaning a couple times each year. For fans mounted up to 10 feet in the air, you can use a ladder to access the tops of the fan blades. For those mounted on vaulted ceilings, use a long-handled duster.
Apply Weather Stripping
Many homeowners think of weather stripping as a cold-weather commodity, but it’s just as important during summer. To keep the cool air in and the hot air out, use any of the many filler materials available to seal gaps around windows, doors, exhaust fans, and any other point where you can see light peeking through.
Look for Damaged Roof Shingles
Use binoculars (with your feet safely planted on the ground) to scan for roof shingles that are curling, broken, or missing. If anything seems compromised, have a roofing company perform an inspection and provide a bid. If you or any members of your family are enterprising drone users, a camera-affixed drone can also be a useful aid in this reconnaissance effort.
Wash the Exterior
An easy way to extend the life of your exterior paint – and make your house look better than ever – is to give the siding a good washing. Use mostly water (to avoid harming any plants) and a stiff pole brush.
Search Out Rotten Wood
While you’re washing the exterior, keep an eye out for areas where there may be rot. Use a screwdriver to gently but firmly press on any siding or trim where you see black mold, missing paint, or exposed gray wood. If the area you’re probing feels mushy or bone-dry, contact a contractor to assess and stabilize the situation.
Clean the Gutters
All it takes is a handful of leaves to clog a gutter downspout and cause overflow and flooding. Hire a professional to give the gutters a thorough cleaning and you’ll avoid the very real dangers of working from a ladder. If you live in an area with lots of trees, consider getting quotes for some of the leaf-less gutter systems.
Prepare Your Lawn to Grow
The winter sets impediments for your lawn, and it takes preparation to help it shine. Rake away any dead grass and aerate the whole lawn to allow nutrients to access the roots. Reseed bare spots and apply a spring fertilizer to ensure your lawn has the fuel it needs to grow strong and beautiful.
Photo Credit: Pantone Color Institute
Design inspiration comes in many forms, but few carry the cache of the Pantone Color of the Year. For two decades, the Pantone Color Institute has convened to debate and determine an appropriate color that represents the current times. In a tradition harkening to the pageantry and mystique of secret societies, biannual meetings are held in private by color and design experts to determine the appropriate shade for the upcoming year. Through this deliberation, we have been delivered our next design baseline: the 2019 Pantone Color of the Year is Living Coral.
Living Coral is a mesmerizing pinkish hue with a light base that makes it a spectacular pairing with a variety of other options. Evoking the way natural coral often forms a basis for entire, vibrant ecosystems, Living Coral seeks to be eye-catching, while simultaneously drawing attention to what surrounds it. So how can Living Coral be best incorporated into your home this year? We have a few ideas.
It can be overwhelming to dive headlong into an entire stylistic renovation. Even a single feature, like a Living Coral colored chair or settee can brighten a space.
Entryway and Living Room Walls
Photo Credit: France and Son on Pinterest
Make a bold first impression by inviting guests into a space that is framed by Living Coral walls on every side.
Photo Credit: HoneyComb Studio on Pinterest
Any room can be brightened by a touch of Living Coral. From coral curtains to stylish gilded vases and accent pillows, there are numerous ways, great and small, to sprinkle this seaside shade throughout your home.
Photo Credit: Krista4Coral on Instagram
One of our favorite interior design trends pairs perfectly with Pantone’s 2019 selection. Coating one wall with Living Coral is a great way to accent a space without committing to painting an entire room.
Photo Credit: DesignStudio039 on Instagram
Whether gracing your front door or a unique space in your home, Living Coral inspires an optimistic feeling for what lies beyond.
Do you plan to incorporate Living Coral into your home this year? We’d love to hear about it!
Browsing photos and ideas can be a fun part of creating your dream room. But making your designs a reality also takes smart planning and organization. Project management is an essential part of remodeling, and there’s nothing like the feeling of implementing a plan to create something new and beautiful. These tips can help you achieve your desired results.
YourSpace Contractors, original photo on Houzz
Become a list writer. Making lists is key when it comes to project management. It’s the only way to properly organize your thoughts and prevent any details from being forgotten.
The most important list is your scope of work, or specifications, document. This is basically a detailed list of everything to be done, from start to finish. If you’re dealing with one main builder who’s organizing all the work, then you’ll need to make sure he or she gets a copy, so the goals are clear and all the information is provided.
Also, having detailed specifications makes it easier if you want to obtain multiple quotes, and you’ll know it’s a fair comparison since all the builders will be quoting using the same criteria.
frenchStef Interior Design, original photo on Houzz
Make sure you’re all on the same page. If you’re coordinating separate subcontractors (cabinetmaker, plumber, electrician), then it would be worth indicating who’s responsible for each task. Give a complete copy of the specifications to all of them, so they’re all aware of what everyone is doing. Discuss the specifications with your subcontractors since they may be able to provide help and advice. A schedule is also useful, so you can keep track of progress and everyone knows who’s going to be on-site on which day.
With prior knowledge that a partition wall will feature some lighting, for instance, the builders will know to leave the stud frame open for the electrician to run the wires through before it’s boarded up and plastered over. Trying to feed wires through after the fact is much harder, takes longer and risks unnecessary damage.
Sian Baxter Lighting Design, original photo on Houzz
Break into subsections. In addition to your main specifications, it’s a good idea to have sublists for each separate element of your design. For example, your main specifications may say “install 6 x recessed LED downlights in ceiling,” but your lighting specifications will detail where they are to be positioned, the type of bulb, the hardware finish and so on. The more information you provide, the more accurate your quote should be and the less likely it will be for mistakes or misunderstandings to occur. It will also minimize any unexpected costs.
This bathroom has a minimalist elegance, but it’s far from straightforward. This project would have required a builder’s spec, including layout and elevation drawings with dimensions, an electrical spec with lighting plan, a plumbing spec with layout drawing, and a decorating spec — phew!
Plan like a pro. Finalize your design before starting any work, rather than trying to do it as you go along. The process will be much more enjoyable without constant deadlines presenting themselves, and if you haven’t planned, you may find your options restricted based on work that’s already taken place.
Take a couple of weeks to put it all together, write your specifications, draw up the plans, get everything ready and make all the decisions before proceeding. This will save you time and money along the way, and significantly reduce stress levels during the project.
This clever design features well-thought-out lighting and custom cabinetry. Careful consideration would have been given to where to position the outlets, radiators, lights, switches and other details.
Yellow Letterbox, original photo on Houzz
Never assume. You know the saying. When writing your specifications or drawing your plans, never assume that someone else will know what you want unless you explicitly state it. Include every tiny detail, no matter how picky it may seem. As well as avoiding mistakes, it also prevents any disputes over what is and isn’t included in the quote.
This bathroom just wouldn’t have looked the same if white grout had been used, for instance. You may think it would be absurd to even consider using white grout in this case, but if you haven’t asked for dark gray, you can’t expect it and you can’t assume that you will be asked what color you want. White is standard, and a tiler may use it if nothing has been specified.
Stand by for decisions. Your builder will present many questions and decisions to you along the way. Which tiles do you want on the walls? Where do you want these wall lights? What color do you want on the baseboards?
Your best bet will be to try to pre-empt as many of these decisions as possible and have the answers ready or, even better, provide the information in advance. Making these decisions under pressure can lead to impulse moves you may regret later. However, taking too long could hold up the project, costing you time, money and the patience of your builder. No one wants an unhappy builder.
Inevitably, there will be some questions you couldn’t have anticipated, but if you communicate well with your contractors, they should, where possible, give you time to make a decision without holding up the project. Don’t be afraid to ask their opinion on the best course of action, but don’t feel pressured to compromise on the design if you don’t want to.
Brilliant Lighting, original photo on Houzz
Give yourself time to deliver. This is one of the classic pitfalls, so take note. When pulling your design ideas together and deciding which products and materials to use, make a note of the lead times. Many pieces of furniture are made to order and can have lead times of up to 12 weeks, sometimes longer. Similarly, tile and natural stone can take much longer than expected to arrive, and products from abroad can encounter holdups during transit.
This chandelier was custom-made for the project and looks fantastic. This is no last-minute, off-the-shelf, next-day-delivery job. It can be a huge shame if you’ve spent hours, days, weeks choosing the perfect product, but when you come to order it, you find that it will take too long to be delivered, perhaps time you can’t afford. Then you have to decide whether to hold up the work or pick something else based on the fact it can be delivered quickly.
Factor in a contingency. Even when you have the very best of intentions, issues that you couldn’t have predicted may arise during your project. So it’s a good idea to factor in a 10 percent contingency within your budget for these matters, especially with old buildings. Who knows what condition the walls are in behind those kitchen cabinets before you rip them out? Or what may be lurking underneath that carpet when you pull it up?
In these situations, it’s important to expect the worst and don’t let it throw you off your game. You are a project manager extraordinaire, and you’ve totally got this. Just accept that these things happen, find out what the options are and make a decision. Your contractors will be able to advise on what to do, so harness their expertise and trust them to help you find the right solution.
Elayne Barre Photography, original photo on Houzz
Call in the cavalry. If you choose to manage your project yourself, it’s certainly an enjoyable and rewarding process, but it also takes a certain type of person. You have to be organized, calm under pressure, strategic and confident — not to mention being able to afford the time to plan, coordinate and oversee the work.
If you have qualms about taking it on yourself, then consider hiring a project manager. Yes, there will be a fee, but consider that a badly managed project can cost you time and money, and you may not achieve the results you were after. A pro will take care of everything and allow you to rest easy, knowing you’re in safe hands.
By Jennifer Chong, Houzz
As we step forward into 2019, eco-friendly “green homes” are more popular than ever. Upgrading your home’s sustainability improves quality of life for those residing in it, but it is also a savvy long-term investment. As green homes become more popular, properties boasting sustainable features have become increasingly desirable targets for homebuyers. Whether designing a new home from scratch or preparing your current home for sale, accentuating a house with environmentally-friendly features can pay big dividends for everyone.
While the added value depends on the location of the home, its age, and whether it’s certified or not, three separate studies all found that newly constructed, Energy Star, or LEED-certified homes typically sell for about nine percent more than comparable, non-certified new homes. Plus, one of those studies discovered that existing homes retrofitted with green technologies, and certified as such, can command a whopping 30-percent sales-price boost.
There are dozens of eco-friendly features that can provide extra value for you as a seller. To name a few:
Cool roofs keep the houses they’re covering as much as 50 to 60 degrees cooler by reflecting the heat of the sun away from the interior, allowing the occupants to stay cooler and save on air-conditioning costs. The most common form is metal roofing. Other options include roof membranes and reflective asphalt shingles.
Fuel cells may soon offer an all-new source of electricity that would allow you to completely disconnect your home from all other sources of electricity. About the size of a dishwasher, a fuel cell connects to your home’s natural gas line and electrochemically converts methane to electricity. One unit would pack more than enough energy to power your whole home.
For many years, fuel cells have been far too expensive or unreliable. But as technology has improved, so too has reliability. Companies like Home Power Solutions and Redbox Power Systems have increased the reliability of these fuel sources while reducing their size. Much like we’ve seen computers and cell phones shrink in size while improving reliability and power, fuel cells continue to be refined.
A wind turbine (essentially a propeller spinning atop an 80- to 100-foot pole) collects kinetic energy from the wind and converts it to electricity for your home. And according to the Department of Energy, a small version can slash your electrical bill by 50 to 90 percent.
But before you get too excited, you need to know that the zoning laws in most urban areas don’t allow wind turbines. They’re too tall. The best prospects for this technology are homes located on at least an acre of land, well outside the city limits.
Another way to keep the interior of your house cooler—and save on air-conditioning costs—is to replace your traditional roof with a layer of vegetation (typically hardy groundcovers). This is more expensive than a cool roof and requires regular maintenance, but young, environmentally conscious homeowners are very attracted to the concept.
Combining a heat pump with a standard furnace to create what’s known as a “hybrid heating system” can save you somewhere between 15 and 35 percent on your heating and cooling bills.
Unlike a gas or oil furnace, a heat pump doesn’t use any fuel. Instead, the coils inside the unit absorb whatever heat exists naturally in the outside air, and distributes it via the same ductwork used by your furnace. When the outside air temperature gets too cold for the heat pump to work, the system switches over to your traditional furnace.
Geothermal heating units are like heat pumps, except instead of absorbing heat from the outside air, they absorb the heat in the soil next to your house via coils buried in the ground. The coils can be buried horizontally or, if you don’t have a wide enough yard, they can be buried vertically. While the installation price of a geothermal system can be several times that of a hybrid, air-sourced system, the cost savings on your energy bills can cover the installation costs in five to 10 years.
Solar panels capture light energy from the sun and convert it directly into electricity. Similarly to wind turbines, your geographical location may determine the feasibility of these installments. Even on cloudy days, however, solar panels typically produce 10-25% of their maximum energy output. For decades, you may have seen these panels sitting on sunny rooftops all across America. But it’s only recently that this energy-saving option has become truly affordable.
In 2010, installing a solar system on a typical mid-sized house would have set the homeowner back $30,000. But as of December 2018, the average cost after tax credits for solar panel installation was just $13,188! Plus, some companies are now offering to rent solar panels to homeowners (the company retains ownership of the panels and sells the homeowner access to the power at roughly 10 to 15 percent less than they would pay their local utility).
Solar water heaters
Rooftop solar panels can also be used to heat your home’s water. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that the average homeowner who makes this switch should see their water bills shrink by 50 to 80 percent.
Many of the innovative solutions summarized above come with big price tags attached. However, federal, state and local rebates/tax credits can often slash those expenses by as much as 50 percent. So before ruling any of these ideas out, take some time to see which incentives you may qualify for at dsireusa.org and the “tax incentives” pages at Energy.Gov.
Regardless of which option you choose, these technologies will help to conserve valuable resources and reduce your monthly utility expenses. Just as importantly, they will also add resale value that you can leverage whenever you decide it’s time to sell and move on to a new home.