Friday, November 30, 2012

Small Kitchen Makeover

Do you have a tiny kitchen, but your current setup is not working with the space you have? Here are some tips and tricks for redesigning a small kitchen for functionality and appearance:

Choose smaller appliances. European appliances tend to be thinner than US appliances, so their smaller spaces are better designed. Look for a European brand when shopping for a smartly designed dishwasher to keep all the modern conveniences with the same cleaning capacity.

Move the faucet. In addition to having a smaller basin, get rid of the faucet built into the sink and mount it to the wall.

Switch out the oven. A convection/electrical oven will allow you to double burner size with a turn of the knob instead of having burners that you never use. Opt for a narrow model, about 24", which is still wide enough for a turkey, and often has the ability to rotisserie a chicken by moving the drawers.

Chill out. Your refrigerator is the bulkiest appliance in the kitchen. Search for under-counter fridge or freezer drawers for tight spaces, or replace your existing fridge with a narrow model that may be taller.

Lay it out well. The most important space in a kitchen is the area between the cooking surface and the sink. As long as this space is at least 36” you won’t feel cramped during meal preparation. Even if the cook top has to be within 6-9” of a tiled wall, it’s good to maintain these measurements for ease of cooking

Open up. Avoid wall cabinets which can make the space feel boxed in. Instead, use floating shelves for storing and displaying dishes.

Declutter. Keep only the gadgets and items that you truly need and use on a regular basis. After all, a professional chef can whip up a gourmet meal with just basic kitchen items. You can, too.

Source: Cultivate

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Paver Driveway

A paver driveway will lend a sophisticated appearance to any style of home. Interlocking pavers come in a wide array of colors and shapes and can be laid in many different patterns. You can choose from concrete pavers or clay brick pavers, both are very durable. One of the main benefits of a paver driveway is that it will not crack because of the flexibility the joints between each paver provide. Additionally, repairs are simple because specific areas can be targeted without having to redo the entire drive.

 Better Brick   The part of a driveway where visitors park is among the most important parts of an entry landscape. It's also the largest expanse of paving, which becomes costly when poured in place. Traditional brick is not always strong enough to become a driving surface unless it is laid on a concrete slab, which is very expensive since this involves literally paving the area twice. Precast concrete pavers made to look like brick provide the perfect alternative. Here reddish coloring is blended with dark steel gray accents that undulate through the paving. This is an excellent relief for an otherwise too-red surface, but more importantly is a strategy for concealing discoloration from oil spots and tire tread marks, both unique to driveways.

Turf Lattice   This innovative driveway utilizes lattice pattern turf pavers to create a highly permeable driving surface. What would have disappeared beneath a lawn is fully visible in this application, but its subgrade installation detail is much the same. Gaps that would otherwise be filled with soil and planted are packed with tiny gravel to create a highly permeable surface for coastal conditions where regulations strictly deny runoff. This unique application demonstrates how precast concrete pavers can be the stuff of truly innovative green modern design.

Exact Match   This beautiful new home with its sandy color palette features real stack stone veneer. To apply stone to the driveway to pick up the same tones as the stone would not be worth the high expense. The huge color range of precast pavers allows this driveway to become a perfect match to the overall palette without custom manufacturing. The variations give this driveway the same values of light and dark that real stone would have provided at a fraction of the cost. Add this to the potential for permeability and the solution proves to be the perfect contemporary use of the product.

Source: Landscaping Network

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Renovation ROI

Beyond curb appeal, certain projects will provide higher returns than others. U.S. News asked real estate agents and home contractors for their recommendations:

Attic bedrooms. 
According to Remodeling, you'll recoup 73 percent of your investment when turning the attic into a bedroom. However, this also ranks as one of the most expensive projects, averaging $50,148 nationally. But if you have the money, an attic bedroom is a desirable feature among homebuyers. "Any time you add additional square footage like that can have a very positive effect on the selling price," says Paul Wyman, a real estate agent with Wyman Group in Kokomo, Ind.

Although a kitchen remodel returns only 66 percent, on average, Chris Dossman, a real estate agent with Century 21 Scheetz in Indianapolis, says kitchens are one of the first things homebuyers look at. "If you have a house that doesn't have an updated kitchen but you have a remodeled attic, that's not what people are looking for," she says.

The cost of a major kitchen remodel varies widely depending on the region. Nonetheless, it's important not to go overboard, as you don't want to price your home out of the local market. For example, if you're in a neighborhood where the average home value is $200,000 and you put in a $50,000 kitchen, you're out-pricing your house.

A major kitchen redesign may not be a good decision if the space only requires a facelift. "You don't have to completely gut your kitchen if it's in good working shape," says Adam Taffel, a real estate broker with Centre Realty Group in Newton, Mass. In many cases, less-drastic updates like refinishing surfaces, upgrading appliances, and installing new light fixtures will cut it.

But making the mistake of opting for a facelift when the space does, in fact, need a full-scale remodel will cost you. "You need to ask yourself questions like, 'Are the cabinets structurally sound enough that if I spend a significant amount of money refacing them, are they going to just fall apart anyway?'" says Darius Baker, a contractor with D&J Kitchen & Baths, Inc. in Sacramento, Calif.

Investing in a bathroom remodel yields a 62 percent return, on average, but you've got to do it right. Many homebuyers are looking for a master bathroom with two sinks, custom showers, and great lighting. You'll turn off buyers if you only put in the minimal amount of work. "A lot of folks, when they buy a home, don't want to have put a lot of work into it," says agent Wyman. "An outdated bathroom requires a lot of work." Since bathrooms are especially prone to looking dated, pick neutral colors and finishings.

Also consider bumping out the size of a bathroom. Many buyers looking for a three-bedroom home want two full baths rather than one full and one half bath, says bath contractor Baker.

And sometimes less is more. "Giving it new paint, a new toilet, a new shower faucet, and a new [shower]head is probably the best bang for your buck. But that's assuming the flooring is nice and the walls around the tub and shower are in good standing condition," says contractor Dennis Gehman of Gehman Design Remodeling in Harleysville, Penn.

As you aim for the best ROI, don't squander money with these renovations:

Home offices. 
A number of people work from home, but most don't need a full-blown office. If you do convert a spare room to an office, opt for removable furniture rather than built-in cabinets. Built-in furniture gives the buyer fewer options with what they can do with the room, says Gehman. A home-office remodel recoups only 43 percent, on average.

Sunroom additions. 
You may recoup a fair amount if you live in a region where the sunroom can be used all four seasons, but in most cases, adding a sunroom will get you nowhere near a dollar-for-dollar return. Sunroom additions were among the lowest on Remodeling's list in terms of recouping costs—a paltry 46 percent. "We always try to get [buyers] their top three 'must haves' and a sunroom is rarely one of them," says agent Dossman.

"I see almost no sunrooms going in right now," says Daniel Steinkoler, president of Superior Home Services, Inc. in Washington, D.C. "More people these days are working within their existing footprint to improve their home."

Friday, November 9, 2012


Look out for these big problems when homeowners design things without the help of an architect or contractor:

Dysfunctional floor plans
One Frankenhome owner constructed an addition that made the traffic flow in the home a nightmare. The only way from the living room to the kitchen was through a bedroom. Imagine stumbling through a bedroom for a midnight snack!

Room ratios gone awry
One of the signs that a home was remodeled without much thought is a five-bedroom-to-one-bathroom ratio. That makes for a scary morning schedule! A similar problem is a home with inadequate infrastructure. This would be an existing kitchen and/or dining area that is too small to support the crowd that can be gathered in a huge, new family room or the family members that fill up a newly added suite of bedrooms. Make sure you keep the big picture in mind and don't get carried away with "fixing" only one area of your home. Remodeled areas or additions must be carefully balanced with your existing home.

The bad garage conversion
Converting the garage to extra living space can be one way to add space while minimizing costs. However, thoughtless conversions ruin curb appeal when the new residential wing still looks like the old garage. In addition, you should also carefully consider a major consequence of this type of remodeling: You don't have a garage anymore, which can seriously affect your home's value and appeal.

Unbalanced floor plans
While you may want to devote more space in your home to your hobbies or areas of interest, don't do it at the expense of everything else. For instance, one home we saw had a huge kitchen, complete with a beautiful island, but no living room. That doesn't make sense for most families! Even if you think it works for you, you must keep an eye to resale — even if you anticipate that it will be years in the future. No one will want a house that is too intensely personalized.

Bedrooms with no closets
Bedrooms may end up with no closets for a couple of reasons. A previous renovation could have removed closets to increase the bedroom's floor space, or could have reallocated the square footage of the closet to an adjoining room. (For instance, they could have used the closet space to add a separate shower to an existing bathroom or to maximize the closet space in a master bedroom. Whatever the cause, this is not a good design solution. It negatively affects resale value since rooms without closets cannot be considered bedrooms, as well as reducing the functionality of your home for your own family.

The house that ate your neighborhood
Monster houses are aptly named for this season. Homeowners or speculators who try to force too much onto a residential lot cause many problems for those nearby. Views are blocked, sunlight is restricted, and neighborly relations are strained to the breaking point. While variety in design styles or elements can add interest to a neighborhood, make sure your remodel takes into account the context of its immediate environment.

Jungle landscaping
No matter how lovely the inside of your home, when the landscaping is taking over the yard and sometimes the house, it creates a dark, scary feeling. Keep the landscaping under control and you will avoid the appearance of a Frankenhouse.

Source: Desert News