After decades of popularity, open floor plans have proven themselves to be more than just a fad. But as homeowners seek their own sanctuaries of solitude to escape from an increasingly noisy world, alternate home and living styles are quickly gaining ground in home design.
Traditionally, homes built prior to the 1990s were designed with lots of separate rooms in mind. But fast forward a couple decades, and spacious homes with fewer walls are more popular than ever. Open floor plans, where walls are removed from the main living space, kitchen and dining room to open them all up to each other, have become the go-to style for family homes. Think of just about every episode of HGTV’s Fixer Upper and you can hear them saying, “All we need to do is take out these walls and open up the space.”
However, just because open floor plans are popular, doesn’t mean they are for everyone. There are pros and cons to both ways of living, and deciding on what’s right comes down to each family and their specific needs.
One of the pros for an open floor plans is the ability to socialize, or keep an eye on, other people in nearby spaces. Parties and guests can be seen and heard easily, and mothers cooking in the kitchen can keep an eye on children doing homework in the living area. Homeowners who desire lots of light and a generally more spacious feel are also drawn to open floor plans.
For people who value their privacy, and crave moments of peace, quiet and solitude, however, a home designed with separate rooms will have much more appeal. Sometimes it’s nice to sit and read a book without distractions. Or escape from the noise of shoot-em-up action films or SpongeBob cartoons for a bit.
Modern aesthetics and the digital world we live in are also changing people’s attitudes toward open floor plans. People no longer want or need giant flat-screen TVs as the focal point of their living space, with teens streaming to their own devices, and parents escaping to their own spaces as well.
Separate spaces provide the function and privacy needed to deal with different needs of today’s family. Parents who work from home need a distraction-free zone that supports focus and productivity. Children need play spaces where they can make a mess, and parents love that separate zone so they don’t have to worry about people seeing the mess. Teens, well, we all know teens crave their privacy. And at the end of the day, Dad’s love their man caves and Mom’s love their mom caves.
When it comes to home design, open areas still have value for bringing everyone all together. But to best meet the needs of today’s homeowners, construction and design trends are slowly turning away from exclusively open spaces to creating the right mix of open space and separate zones that fit each family best.
Basements can be a gold mine when it comes to optimizing the space – and value – of your home. In fact, did you know that basement remodels typically recoup about 70 percent of their costs at resale, adding tremendous value to your home? Forget about stuffy storage space, cobwebs, and spooky dark corners. We’ve gathered five ideas for fixing up basements to create fun, useful, and attractive spaces that will prove a welcome addition to your home.
#1: In-Home Theater
Basements tend to be dark, so leverage that low lighting to create a home theater perfect for movies, gaming, or even watching old home movies with the grandparents. Creating a home theater isn’t as complicated as it sounds, or as costly. A large television with a wall mount, surround sound speakers, and comfortable seating can be purchased and set for much less than a full basement remodel, which can average between $35,000 and $50,000.
#2: Children’s Play Area
Dark and scary? Not when you get through with it. Your basement can become a kid paradise with just a few creative DIY projects. First, make sure the entrance (usually stairs) is safe for children. That’s a must. Next, have a professional contractor or home inspector make sure that the basement is safe. You’ll want to check for mold, make sure supporting walls or beams are secure, etc. Finally, have fun! Install carpet or rubber mat type flooring so kids can get comfy on the floor. Use bright and light paint colors and install good lighting to keep the shadows away. Set up toy areas, gaming areas and crafting areas. Be sure to let kids have a say in what they want, as this space is for them. And if they balk at first, remind them that the kids in Stranger Things spent most of their fun time in the basement, so it’s got to be cool.
#3: Adult Happy Hour and Entertaining
No kids in the house to cater too? Great! That means you get to use the basement to create a grown-up paradise perfect for entertaining. If you love wine, it’s the perfect place to install a wine cellar. Then go the extra mile and create a beautiful bar and lounge worthy of cocktail hour. Basements that have a walk-out entrance to a patio can be ideal for entertaining, giving guests a choice as the party flows both inside and out. Consider putting in a tile for easy cleaning and to give it a finished look, then scatter indoor/outdoor rugs around to soften the look. Finally, make sure the space is finished off with attractive lighting, art, and even mirrors placed throughout to brighten the space and entertain guests.
#4: Home Office / Craft Room / Photography and Art Studio
If you have a home business, hobby, or just love to get super crafty in your spare time a basement is perfect for each of these, or even all three at once! Installing permanent walls requires permits, inspections, tax assessments and the cost of hiring professionals to do the job, so save money and stress by creating your own room dividers using palettes, screens or room dividers. (Check out Pinterest for lots of great ideas). With the right lighting, furniture and lots of space to play with you can create several areas that cater to your passions without taking up valuable space in the living areas upstairs.
If you love the inside of your home, but feeling kind of “meh” about the outside, consider sprucing up unused patio or deck areas to create spaces that add pizzazz to your property while also boosting the value of your home. Outdoor rooms are a great way to increase the feel of your home’s square footage as you let what you love to do inside spill over into adjacent spaces outside. If you love the ideas, but are unsure how to get started, we’ve rounded up a few tips to help you get started.
First, define your space.
Choose a space that is easy to access, either right out the door or within very close distance to the home. Now define the area by deciding what activities will take place in it. When you picture yourself in the new space, do you see it as a place to relax with cocktails surrounded by luxurious seating with a crackling fire as the center focus? Or maybe you see yourself cooking dinners al fresco, tending container gardens, or painting on an easel in the fresh air. The best way to define an outdoor room is by the activity that will take place in it.
Next, define your style.
An outdoor room should be functional, but it also needs to be attractive, interesting, and a pleasure to be in or you’ll never use it. Once you’ve defined what the space will be used for, think about the style of décor you’d like to follow whether it be Tuscan farmhouse, Napa vineyard, or your own personal mix of style.
No matter what you’ve decided to do with your patio or deck, there are a few classic design elements you can incorporate to punch up the wow factor. Water, for instance. The sound of water can set the scene for anything from a fun BBQ with the kids to a dinner party under the stars. You don’t have to bust your budget on having a waterfall installed, though, as even a simple birdbath or tinkling tabletop fountain can do the trick.
Every room inside has a floor, so outdoor rooms need them too. This element of your hardscape is worth thinking about as well. You can use flagstones, tile, brick, or concrete stamped or stained to look like just about anything. Another hardscape idea is to install a fireplace or fire pit in your outdoor room. They give your outdoor space a nice place to gather round, and can extend the practicality of spending more time outdoors by several months.
Whether you are transforming a spacious deck or a tiny patio, creating outdoor rooms that fit your lifestyle are a great way to ensure you’ll enjoy your home just that much more.
Home stagers have a talent for making real estate look its best when it’s on the market. If you’ve ever walked through an open house and wished your own home could be spruced up like they did, here’s the secret. You can use many of the exact same tactics professional home staging companies use to freshen up your own home, update your decor, or create the ambiance you really want. All without breaking your back – or your budget.
As a licensed Realtor who has worked in the Arlington, VA area for more than 30 years, I’ve had the opportunity to work with talented home stagers through the years. As I watched them transform homes for sale and turn them into buyer’s dreams, I realized that many of the tactics they use can easily translate for all homeowners, whether selling their homes or not. Here’s a list of the best ideas I’ve seen, perfect for making your own home feel very new-to-you.
FRONT ENTRANCE / ENTRY
First impressions are everything, and you deserve to love what you see every time you come home. Take a cue from home staging 101 and spruce up your front entrance both inside and out. Give your front door a fresh coat of paint. Hang shiny new numbers in a fun style. One of the best bangs for your buck is to purchase a new welcome mat, which can cost as little as $10. Add some flowers or potted topiaries and you’ve got the wow factor ready to go.
A welcoming, warm entry is the next step in home staging strategy. If the walls just inside your front door are looking shabby, consider repainting them in a bright, warm color. Add a small table for holding items, baskets underneath to keep things clutter free, a mirror on the wall to add light and function, and a small vase of flowers for a beautiful touch.
Wood floors can be given new life with a professional cleaning – or it’s easy to buff and sand out nicks and scratches yourself followed by a thorough polishing to make your floors shine. If you have area rugs in your home, here’s a neat trick. Instead of replacing the rug, have it cleaned, then add a very thick pad underneath which will make it appear much more luxurious.
BED & BATH
Here’s where you can really have some fun. Let’s start with the bedroom. For your walls, stick with one neutral color in the bedroom, perhaps all white, grey, or cream, for example. To make your bedroom feel like a luxury hotel or the fantastic home you just toured, tuck your comforter into the end of your mattress. Add more pillows to the bed, starting with the ones that you usually use but adding a few more in fun colors and patterns for a luxurious feel. Hang some artwork above the headboard, or a grouping of art.
Now let’s move on to the bathroom. Yes, you really can have a spa-like bathroom, it only takes a few tweaks. Invest in all-white towels, bath mats, and shower curtains. They are actually much easier to clean than you think, and they give the room a luxury spa feel without the big price tag. Clear the clutter from your counters, and reposition some of the things you use just like they do in spa displays. For example, you can roll and stack bath towels on the tub, and hand towels near the sink. Add a small vase of flowers, an arrangement of candles, or a pretty dish to hold your collection of colorful bath bombs ready for your next soak.
When was the last time you walked into an open house and saw any clutter? I’m guessing never! If it’s overwhelming to tackle your whole house at once, go through one room each day on a mission to declutter. Ask yourself, “Do I really need all this?” Then recycle, trash, donate or store for a more spacious look.
Rethink your color palette. Home stagers look to neutral palettes to make rooms seem larger, balanced and timeless. Colors such as cream, white or light grey are universally flattering. Then you can add your own unique flair with colorful furniture, accessories, or decorative elements.
Mirrors on the wall really can be magical. Well, they can make a room seem bigger and brighter than it is, anyway. Mirrors are relatively inexpensive and come in so many shapes and sizes to fit any preference. If you want to make a room seem brighter, hang a mirror across from a window so that it catches the light. Here’s something I’ve seen home stagers do as well, instead of hanging one large mirror, arrange a grouping of smaller mirrors on the wall, creating art as well as bringing light.
Whether you’re selling your home, or just want to freshen up the home you love and live in right now, I hope you’ve found some fun ideas you’re excited to start working on. And the next time you tour an open house or look at a beautiful new home on the market take a moment to recognize some of these tactics used by the pros and prepare to be inspired for even more.
All-white kitchens have been the go-to design choice for homeowners and design professionals for many years now. But as we all know, design trends are just that – trends. The ultra-white palette that became almost standard for the past decade is evolving to meet the preferences and needs of new generations seeking color, contrast, and lots more pizzazz in the heart of their homes.
Many homeowners love their all-white kitchens for the ease of decorating and simple, clean style. The good news for those who want to stay on trend is that you don’t have to add shocking patterned wallpaper or brilliant colors to update your kitchen’s look. Whether you’re doing a total remodel of your kitchen from floor to ceiling, or just implementing some minor tweaks to update the space, there are a lot of ways to add some of the fresh ideas we’re seeing without abandoning the simple, clean aesthetic you’ve grown to love.
Bring in natural wood elements: You don’t need to turn your kitchen into a forest. But a splash of natural wood here and there can add an element of warmth to an all-white kitchen. Forget about the log cabin look. And don’t even think about the wood paneling your grandparents used. Today’s design experts are using wood in all shades and styles to complement every style from cozy country to ultra-modern chic. Wood elements can be used in flooring, wrapped around an island, as part of countertops, and in statement walls or cabinets.
Or go with stone: If you’re not sure about wood, try another natural element that adds surprising warmth and character – stone. Try using stone in a statement wall, as part of a kitchen island, or work it into the breakfast nook. Or try a backsplash with elements of stone. Stone can work with different style such as Tuscan, French, or Country, while sticking to the clean lines and look you love in the rest of your all-white kitchen.
Pendant lights: Another easy way to update your all-white kitchen is to add some fun, funky or elegant pendant lights over your island, breakfast bar or dining table and voila, instant personality! Pendants are easy to find, come in almost endless styles to ensure you find something that exactly fits your style, and are easy to install. With the bonus of being an extremely budget-friendly way to update a kitchen in just a day.
All-white kitchens have been a design favorite for so long for a reason. Their simple, clean lines and easy-going style are universal. So while trends change, and we love the new ideas we see in kitchen design, we think a few changes like these are perfect for combining a little of the new with the classics to create endless possibilities for freshening up all-white kitchens, truly the heart of every home.
Kitchens have long been hailed as the heart of the home, a place where family and friends gather, memories and meals are made, and the business of life takes place. But even in the happiest of homes, all of that activity can cause a few clashes between the heads of household, and that’s where the latest trend I’m seeing comes in: His and hers kitchens.
We’ve heard of his-and-hers bathrooms. And his-and-hers closets have been around a long time, too. But when it comes to kitchens, this is a new and unique trend that is showing up in higher end real estate and luxury homes here in Arlington, Virginia and all across the country.
I first heard of this in a Wall Street Journal article highlighting a Napa Valley home for sale that featured a specially designed his and hers kitchen including four islands, three sinks, and two pairs of fridge and freezer columns, all in a 1,150-square-foot space. Looking at other high-end homes for sale closer to home in Arlington and along the East Coast I’m seeing more and more this trend.
Kitchens have been getting larger over the years, as homeowners indulge their love of cooking and entertaining. But the increased interest in his-and-hers spaces might be attributed to a larger number of men who, as they retire, are finding new passions to pursue cooking and entertaining in the kitchen.
In the latest release from the American Time Use Survey, an annual report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 43% of men said they cook at home—the highest share in 30 years. They also spent more time doing it: an average 49 minutes a day in 2015, the most time in at least 50 years. Some 70% of women cook, but that number has fallen steadily since 1965, when 92% cooked. They, too, are spending more time cooking—71 minutes a day in 2015, the longest in 20 years.
Sharing is caring, as the old saying goes, but too much sharing in the kitchen must not be working quite as expected, as domain boundaries blur and too many cooks in the kitchen create tension.
Home designers and builders are recognizing this growing need for separate cooking spaces and are creating kitchens with distinct separate spaces, letting homeowners sharing the joy of cooking in the kitchen, without stepping on each other’s toes.
If you like this idea, but don’t have thousands of square feet to spare, there are ways to incorporate some of these ideas into your own home. Last year on my blog I talked about the “Disappearing Dining Room.” If you decide to convert unused formal dining space into something more usable, there is always the option of using that space to expand your kitchen and create separate working spaces.
His and hers kitchens may have their appeal, but when it comes to your own home, be sure to consider what’s right for you before following the latest trend. In the long run what’s important is to create a functional, pleasant environment that will truly add heart to your home.
When you want to get away from it all, without actually going that far, how about creating a themed retreat in your own home? From backyards to basements and everywhere in between, this is a fun home trend I’ve noticed gaining popularity lately where homeowners are creating their own unique and creative getaway zones in the comfort of their own home.
In today’s fast-paced world, getting away is a luxury that time often precludes us from taking. Packing, airline travel, rental cars, and navigating unfamiliar surroundings can take so much time that a weekend retreat really only means that you get a few hours treating yourself before its back to the daily grind.
While man caves and she sheds are nothing new, homeowners have taken the idea of creating a special place within the home to new levels by creating luxury retreats that cater to their particular interests and give them a place that feels like they are removed from the cares of the world, without extensive travel or reservations required.
Take for example, this “Art Barn” retreat created by a local McLean, Virginia couple. This 600-square-foot, century old barn was remodeled from floor to ceiling to create a separate 2-story work-and-play space on their 1/5-acre property that includes a working art studio with ample wall space for displaying the owner’s artwork, a sitting area, and lots of light-filled space for sitting, relaxing and watching their bee-filled apiary.
Another wonderful example I saw recently is from this Arlington, Virginia couple who built a luxury 280-square-foot Garden Studio that’s a short stroll from the main house. The tiny retreat is heated and cooled with a wall-mounted, ductless HVAC system. It has no kitchen or bathroom, but it is equipped with TV, Internet and a solid oak work desk.
From extravagant Mediterranean-themed day spas set in an unused corner of the home, to over-the-garage game or sports rooms to luxurious libraries, movie theaters and more, why not feel like you’re getting the royal treatment, all while in the comfort of your own home? Today’s homeowners love indulgence as much as anyone else – and creating these special places to spoil oneself can actually be a budget-friendly, low-stress solution to the high cost of luxury travel and 5-star retreats.
For people who are selling their homes, the home inspection process can often unveil some costly issues. As a licensed Realtor with more than 30 years of experience helping my clients buy and sell homes in the Arlington, Virginia area, I’ve seen thousands of home inspections and am familiar with what often comes up. While you might expect to hear about plumbing or roofing problems, there are a few other under-the-radar issues you might be surprised that often show up. I’ve shared a few of them here, along with some good news for home sellers: Most of these can be easily addressed with a little foresight and easy DIY maintenance:
When Gutter Covers Go Bad: According to a recent article in Arlington Now, when your neighborhood is “leafy” (as most neighborhoods in Arlington are), gutter covers may seem like a good idea for keeping leaves and debris from clogging exterior drainage. Think again. According to the article, they aren’t as maintenance-free as advertised and can actually increase roof runoff, especially on medium- to steep-pitched roofs, adding to moisture buildup around the foundation of the house and leaving basements vulnerable. Oh, and the debris you’re trying to keep out can still build up underneath those gutter guards, hiding a problem as it continually compounds itself. Whether you have gutter guards or not, regular cleaning and maintenance is the best policy.
Failing Sealant: Contrary to what the salespeople at your local home improvement store may say, silicone is not the answer to everything. It may seem like an easy fix to apply silicone sealant around leaky faucets, drafty windows or even to adhere loose tiles, but it’s not permanent and only serves as a temporary fix that will alert the suspicions of home inspectors for potential problems hiding beneath. A better choice is to use paintable caulk for easy home repairs like these.
Odor: It’s a good practice to pay attention when visitors mention any off-putting or suspicious smells, or if you notice anything usual in your home. Musty odors can signal wet basements, plumbing, mold, or problems with your HVAC. Also, when trying to sell a home, nothing is more off-putting than offensive odors from pets, smoking, cooking or damp. Scent sells, but stink can kill the sale, or at least really hurt your profit. If you have pets, past moisture issues, love to cook exotic foods, or even a hint of odors might be offensive to others, a thorough cleaning will go a long way to increasing the attractiveness of your home. For more ideas about how scent can help sell your home, check out THIS ARTICLE.
Soggy Basements: Many homes here in the Arlington area have basements. Some have been converted into useable spaces for everything from spirited family pool tournaments to dedicated oenophile’s wine cellars. Others are used simply for storage and extra space. No matter what you use your basement for, they are all susceptible to the damages that moisture seepage can cause. Everything from winter’s thaw to errant landscape irrigation systems to the gutter covers we mentioned earlier can cause mold, flooding, or damage to your foundation – all costly issues. Keep an eye out for any indication of these issues, and find licensed contractors experience in basement waterproofing to give you a bid on repairing minor issues and protecting your basement before moisture problems get out of control.
Homeowner Neglect: This may surprise you, but one of the biggest issues that home inspections spotlight is homeowner neglect. A poorly maintained home is the cause of many issues that home inspectors are looking for including dryer vents or air filters that have never been cleaned, wood rot that has been allowed to fester for years, overtaxed garbage disposals, HVAC systems that have never been serviced, and more.
Here’s a cold, hard fact for improving your profit potential when selling a home: All those little repairs you’ve been meaning to do will actually cost less if done BEFORE the sale. Once buyers notice that repairs are needed, or inspectors point them out in excruciating detail, it can start causing issues. Buyers might wonder “what else needs fixing that we didn’t find?” They might wonder if the home has been maintained properly, and it could affect their offer. Or they could even request extensive repairs as part of the negotiation process that will cost much more than if you’d done the simple repair earlier on. Regular maintenance and servicing is the key to keeping the repairman from your door – and increasing your profit potential when you decide to sell.