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February 2016

Small Space Remodeling

Most of us wish that our homes were larger, but the obvious solutions like building an addition or moving to a bigger place are simply not an option in many cases due to budget restraints. There are, however, some excellent small space solutions out there that can either physically increase your living space inexpensively, or at least give an area the appearance of being bigger.

Making Small Spaces Look Bigger

For many people, the most cost-effective remodeling ideas are focused on increasing living space without increasing the size of the home. Sound impossible? It’s not. One way to make small spaces look bigger is to better integrate indoor and outdoor living areas. In many homes, especially those that are a decade old or more, the indoor and outdoor areas are completely cut off from each other, but by blurring the line between inside and outside, you can give the feel of more space without actually having to add on.

Small Room Ideas: Windows and Glass Doors

Architects and designers have understood for years that, when creating physical space is just not practical, the illusion of more space can really go a long way. If you take a 10 ft. x 15 ft. room with windows and another without and ask people who’ve just been in both rooms, “Which room was larger?”, nearly everyone will say the one with windows. Of course it isn’t larger, it just feels larger. So, the simplest way to combine indoor and outdoor spaces is to add or enlarge windows. The bigger the window, the greater the feel of added space. A similar effect can be achieved with groups of windows. If you take an existing window and add sidelights (vertical windows flanking either side) or a semicircular top light, you can really open up and brighten a room.

Sliding glass patio doors are a small space solution that will enhance the look of a room and provide the option of physically connecting the inside with the outdoors, as well. Glass doors not only increase the feeling of space, they also allow you to move freely into the outside; add an awning or even some patio furniture and you’ll essentially be expanding the living space of your home. When you find yourself heading outside to open the mail or relax with a glass of iced tea, you’ll begin to fully appreciate the benefits of integrating the spaces.

Small Room Ideas: Painting

Proper color choice is another tool in making a small room look bigger. Lighter colors open a space up and darker colors pull a space in, so if you’re dealing with an already small space, dark paint or dark stained wood paneling are your enemies. While painting a solid color on walls or ceilings can make a difference in how big a room feels, some folks have combined this small space solution with the openness provided by windows by actually painting a large window on the wall. It sounds a bit silly, but you’d really be amazed at how much bigger a room feels with even a faux window. While your painted window won’t have all of the same benefits of a real one, faux windows offer one very interesting perk: the view from them isn’t limited to your location. If you want a painted window to overlook the Eiffel Tower, the Great Pyramids, or even a sunset from a memorable vacation, it is well within your reach.

Small Room Ideas: Furniture

One of the biggest factors in making a small room look bigger is the furniture you choose. Putting a full-sized couch in a cramped space only serves to make the room less navigable; opting for a loveseat frees up space and allows you more room to breathe. Storage is a must in small rooms, but a busy bookshelf can scream clutter; choosing end-tables, coffee tables, and foot rests that also provide storage space kills two birds with one stone. For a more permanent solution, consider custom made built-in furniture; it’s expensive, but there’s simply no better space saver on the market.

Most of all, remember that the most effective small space solution is good planning. Almost any room can be made to function better if it is planned out before it gets outfitted, and in a small space, getting the most from what you’ve got is essential. If you’re working on a small space that is new to you, keep it empty until you know exactly how everything should fit together; if you’re dealing with an existing small space, clearing it out completely will give you clean palette and a better idea of what options are possible. A good interior decorator or designer can be very beneficial, but if you take your time and consider your choices carefully, just about every homeowner can come up with a few small space solutions that will fit perfectly with his or her tastes!

To Remodel or Not: 5 Deciding Factors

For most of us, homes are not only where we live but also our single biggest investment. As a living space, a home’s design and condition impact our lives day in and day out. As an investment, we seek to preserve and enhance value in the marketplace.

When considering remodeling and improvement projects, we must consider both roles. In general, a well-maintained home yields better day-to-day service and long-term financial returns. Taking care of repairs as they arise makes sense, so problems are solved while still small, and the home remains a safe and comfortable place in which to live. Renovations, remodeling and other major home improvements are more complex.

The best starting point is your own home improvement needs. How much more do you think you will enjoy your home if you remodel or put in an addition? How long do you think you’ll stay in the house?

If you are planning to stay in the house ten years or more, most of your decision should be made based on how much the enhancements will improve your lifestyle.

If your length of stay is shorter, uncertain, or a contemplated project is quite large, you have to pay more attention to the improvement’s impact on probable resale value.

While every real estate market is different, you probably already know quite a bit about your area’s real estate market simply because you live there. With that knowledge and an understanding of the 5 D’s of remodeling, you should be in a position to sort out all the advice you’ll get from general contractors, neighbors, home magazines and family members. The five D’s are:

  • Distance
  • Deficiency
  • Distinctiveness
  • Demand
  • Degree

Remodeling Factor #1: Distance

Distance, or curb appeal, has to do with how well the property looks from the street before a person gets out of a car and takes a closer look. If someone doesn’t have any interest at first glance, you’ll never get them inside.

Things that give your home better curb appeal generally have a high rate of return. Landscaping, the front entrance, and the condition of the paint or siding are the biggest factors in curb appeal.

When it comes to landscaping, nothing elaborate is necessary. Well-trimmed foundation plantings, potted plants at the corners of the front porch, a groomed lawn and mulched flower beds all contribute to the house’s appeal. Flowers certainly add to curb appeal, but it may be better to add them at the last minute depending on seasonal considerations.

The front entrance can be a big draw and seems to play a large role in curb appeal. The door should be in good shape with a fresh coat of paint. New hardware can also upgrade its appearance. If the houses on your street look alike, it might be worth adding more elaborate door trim, flanking windows and/or a sharp looking stoop or porch.

The paint should be in good shape. Sometimes a thorough washing can freshen the look of paint or siding. Also, make sure the shutters are in good shape and hung straight.

Remodeling Factor #2: Deficiency

Deficiency has to do with whether or not your house is flawed compared to nearby homes.

If you have one bath, for example, and everyone else in the neighborhood has three, adding a bath is likely to have a relatively high return.

Obvious deficiencies substantially reduce the value of the home. People tend to lower the offering price by an amount greater than the actual cost of the remodel or addition. Taking care of such problems not only makes sense in terms of resale value but also will make your stay in the home more pleasant.

Remodeling Factor #3: Distinctiveness

Distinctiveness is the one thing most people talk about. In fact, it’s what your realtor and you talk about when you describe the house to others.

When people buy a house, they tend to buy on emotion and then back up the decision with rational considerations. A key to selling a house at a good price is to get the buyer emotionally interested in the home.

Homes generally sell better if they have two or three special or distinctive features. A walk-in closet, a whirlpool bath, a fireplace, attractive landscaping or a grand foyer can separate your home from the crowd and stir interest for buyers. These special features become very important in a competitive real estate market where a lot of similar homes are on the market.

Remodeling Factor #4: Demand

While the special features that make up distinctiveness are important, they are of no help and can even lower the value if these features are not widely in demand.

You may think a whirlpool in the living room will give your home a terrifically distinctive character, but if those looking to buy your house don’t see that as valuable, you may actually reduce the value of your home by adding the feature.

Anything zany or out of character with the neighborhood should be avoided. For example, an ornate fireplace with a sculpted marble mantel may add plenty of value in an upscale neighborhood of $500,000 homes. But the same fireplace may be seen as difficult to clean and not energy efficient in a working class neighborhood.

Limit improvements to those for which there is documented demand.

Look at new model homes to verify that features you’re considering adding are present in those homes. If the builders, with all their market research and surveys, aren’t including the feature, you can bet that the market for it is limited.

Remodeling Factor #5: Degree

Remember things need to be done by degrees. No matter what you do, don’t overdo it. If the front entrance is attractive already, renovating it in a new color will rarely be worth the cost.

Whether enhancing how your home looks from a distance, adding distinctiveness, or addressing deficiencies, one can usually get a fairly high rate of return up to some point. After that the rate of return drops off markedly.

If your house is the only one on the street with only one bath, spending $35,000 on a bathroom addition might yield a return of $6,000 to $8,000 in terms of resale value. However, adding a bath that costs $50,000 or more may also yield an increased value of only $6,000 to $8,000.

If the house already has a number of special features, each added one would have a relatively smaller impact on resale value.

The best resource for getting more information on how various improvements might affect resale value is a real estate professional who knows the market in your neighborhood. Discuss the five D’s with them, and you should come away with a pretty good idea of where you stand.

Just keep in mind that only you can determine what the improvement means in terms of your enjoyment of the house while you continue to live there.

Keeping Room as Center for Your Home Life

Back in the Colonial period of American history, the chores and tasks that went into everyday life were something that was shared among family members. Families would gather together to cook, clean, and do laundry. Colonial architecture reflected this lifestyle, through a common area called a “keeping room” that connected to the kitchen and was situated at the center of the house. It was a place where families could gather, work, talk, and laugh.

Keeping rooms disappeared in the 20th century as Americans became more affluent, housework became automated, and people became more private. But these days, the keeping room is making a comeback in home design, fueled by families’ desire for a place where they can reconnect in the midst of their busy, hectic lives.

Keeping Room Design
There are as many keeping room designs as there are individual tastes. A common factor is that most keeping rooms combine the kitchen with a living area in a setting that is less formal than a parlor or living room. The features of your particular keeping room design should reflect your lifestyle. For example:

  • The Family and Business Center: For families in which one or more spouse works at home, it often makes sense to move features such as a desk or computer armoire into the keeping room. A telephone, fax, and photocopier might even adorn your space. This way, spending weekend hours on a last-minute report or work project doesn’t need to keep you from also spending time with the kids. For their part, children need computer access more and more often these days in order to complete their homework. This is another way in which a business-oriented keeping room can accommodate the working needs of the entire family.
  • The Entertainment Center: Many families use the keeping room as a place to gather to watch television and movies together. In this case, the room might incorporate couches, a big-screen, and surround sound. And you can make popcorn without missing a scene.
  • The Oasis: On the other hand, the bombardment of modern technology and the ever-expanding work week may have you looking for a place where you can leave work behind and just enjoy the lost art of conversation. In this case, your keeping room might contain comfortable couches and chairs, a dinner table, and perhaps the supplies for a few chosen hobbies that you can enjoy as a family. The keeping room can also be a great place to entertain guests, as you can cook or mix drinks without losing contact.

Once you’ve determined the function of your keeping room, you can begin to think about form. Traditionalists may want to stick with a country/colonial theme, in keeping with the room’s roots, but if this isn’t your style, you can go with anything from rustic to ultra-modern. You will find that your keeping room will be a place where the whole family spends lots of time, so be sure to choose d?cor that makes you comfortable.

Big and Small Home Renovation Ideas

Big and Small Home Renovation IdeasHome renovation is a large, lumbering term that can encompass many different kinds of home improvement projects. While home renovation and home remodeling are similar terms and overlap in any number of different areas, there also conceptual differences. Home renovation involves repairing and/or upgrading your home to increase its amenities, functionality and energy-efficiency. Home remodeling is often more about upgrading décor, style, space and fixtures.

In the bathroom, for example, replacing your old laminate countertop with a new granite counter is home remodeling. Installing a bathroom ventilation fan is a home renovation. Major home remodeling projects often involve elements of home renovation, but neither kind of project necessarily means you have to spend a fortune. Both projects will add value to your home.

Home renovations come in many different shapes and sizes. Here’s a brief list of home renovation ideas for small and major investments in your home.

Doors and Windows
One of the most popular home renovation ideas is replacement doors and windows. Relatively cheap — replacing a door can cost around $800 — upgrading these small areas of your home can increase your home’s efficiency and décor. These projects almost always pay for themselves in a short amount of time and help the environment and your home. An incredible high percentage of heat loss occurs through window openings. Installing double- or triple-paned windows will increase your windows U-Factor several times over. Heat gain, air leakage and condensation resistance can also be improved.

Over time, wood doors can shrink, swell or bow. This can cause your entry door to stick, make it difficult to open and close or create an uncomfortable draft coming from under the door. Doors can be sanded down or extended to fix these problems, but it may simply be time for a new door. Wood is the traditional, timeless option, but fiberglass or steel may offer better performance and durability.

Insulate and Ventilate
Roof insulation is one of the most overlooked and vital parts of insulating your home. Heat rises and much of it works its way up and out through the roof. Roof insulation will help keep this heat inside your home, directly affecting the overall insulation performance of most homes more than any other insulation project. The key is to make sure you install proper ventilation with your roof insulation to prevent wood rot and ice dams.

Basement insulation is another great home renovation idea. The best plan is usually to install basement insulation along your basement walls. Many homeowners install basement insulation in their basement ceiling to prevent cold floors upstairs. This type of insulation can work, but it also means cutting the basement off from the rest of the home, resulting in an ultra cold, damp basement. Basement wall insulation can help keep your upstairs floors warm and may reclaim your basement as a livable space at the same time.

Add Storage Cabinets and Reorganize
Few people like the idea of spring cleaning, regardless of the season or the need. If your home is being overrun by simple clutter, the sheer psychological weight of trying to clean the house can be overwhelming. Worse, you may not know where exactly your clutter can be stowed, forcing you to spend countless hours, trying to reorganize everything, knowing that in just a few weeks everything is going to have once again run amok. Installing extra storage cabinets and hiring an interior designer to come in and reorganize your home will give you a plan to stow your common household items in a way that will allow you to maintain a clean house. Custom-built storage cabinets will help motivate you to clean house and cut down and the time-consuming and psychological baggage of clutter removal.