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How to turn your home into a place of peace & relaxation

With more and more Americans focused on wellness, a new home trend is emerging – finding ways to put some more “om” in your home. From Zen gardens to meditation rooms, homeowners are creating unique spaces both inside and out perfect for getting away from it all.

If you like the idea of creating a relaxing retreat in your home, here’s a few ways I’ve seen friends and clients here in Arlington, Virginia make it happen.

Relaxation / Zen Gardens: As research continues to show that nature can boost healthfulness, the idea of creating relaxation gardens at home has gained some serious traction. Garden retreats don’t have to be large. In fact, a small footprint makes them easier and less costly to create and maintain. Chose a location where privacy, noise and light levels, and the view are favorable for creating the right atmosphere. Beyond that, the details will be very personal according to who the garden is for. Pinterest is a great place to start for ideas, and touring local botanical gardens and nurseries is too.

Firepits and Indoor Fire Features: Firepits with comfortable seating outdoors are very popular these days and provide a great place to unwind. Indoor fire features and fireplaces can also be used inside a home to provide a place for people to “unplug” by focusing on the flames as a sort of meditation technique.

Yoga / Mediation Sanctuary: Doing yoga at home is becoming very popular but figuring out where to lay out your mat with no distractions can be hard. Pushing furniture out of the way in the living just isn’t cutting it anymore. That’s why many people are turning guest rooms or unused spaces into private studios for a more focused practice. The beauty of yoga retreats is their simplicity. All you need to get started are yoga mats and props, muted lighting and soothing paint colors. Aromatherapy, plants and Bluetooth speakers can also add to the mood.

Traditional Libraries: One recurring theme throughout all of these ideas is the concept of removing technology to unplug from the stresses of the daily world. Old-school libraries are still a popular choice for homeowners wanting a space that’s comfortable, peaceful and where they can surround themselves with the things they love.

The important thing to remember when creating your own personal retreat is that you know what’s best for you. Remember that this space is all yours. When you take time to create a dedicated relaxation zone in your home (or backyard), the experience will be more fulfilling and calm only a few breaths away.

What to ask listing agents at an open house

When you’re ready to buy a home, an open house is a great opportunity to get first-hand information in a short amount of time. Once you get through the front door, though, it’s easy to get caught up in the moment. The house will be staged beautifully, smell great and there’s a friendly agent pointing out all the lovely details. But no matter if you’re touring a home in Waco, Texas or Arlington, Virginia, it’s important to have a few questions ready to ask to help guide your decision. That’s why we gathered the following short list of the best questions you can ask to decide if you should make an offer or just keep looking.

Q: Have there been any changes in the price of the home?

Knowing the history of the asking price of the home can tell you a lot of different things. If there have been multiple drops in the price, this could be a flag of possible issues, making it a good idea to look more carefully at the home before you make an offer. It could also help gauge if the seller is flexible, motivated and able to come down in price or not.

Q: How long has the house been on the market?

While this is information you or your agent can easily find on your own, asking the listing agent this question opens the door to a more detailed discussion that can give you a peek into the seller’s motivation as well as a advantage if you decide to make an offer. If a home is listed for too long, it can become harder to sell, which can give you bargaining power

Q: What are the comps in the neighborhood?

If you are just starting out on your home-buying quest and haven’t worked with a Realtor yet, this is a good question to open dialog with the listing agent. Understanding the values and sales statistics of the immediate and surrounding areas helps you to know if the home you are looking at is priced fairly and worth a closer look.

Q: Has the house has any recent renovations or upgrades? HVAC, roof, electrical, etc.

Asking questions about big-ticket items in a home such as the HVAC system, roof, electrical and plumbing will give you a better understanding of how well the home has been taken care of and any potential large expenses that could come up in the future. Knowing if the home you’re looking at has recently upgraded any or all of these systems can be a big factor when you’re deciding on your offer.

Q: Have there been any offers on the home?

If you think this is the one, it’s good to know if there’s any competition. Listing agents are often all too excited to let you know that one or more offers have been made because it can spark a bidding war and drive up the final sale price. On the other hand, if you know that the home has been on the market for quite some time and there have been no offers, it’s worth a deeper look to find out if there are any issues. Not very many offers doesn’t necessarily mean problems with the home, however. Sometimes it can be a simple as the owner passing on an offer when the home first went on the market as they hoped for more, and then kicking themselves when no more came in.

Q: What is the neighborhood like?

Location, location, location is one of the foundational mottos of real estate for a reason. The homes you are looking at are more than what you see on the tour. It’s a good idea to tour the neighborhood of a home that’s caught your interest and ask the listing agent to share details about the people who live around you and the dynamics of the neighborhood that would affect your quality of life and fit your lifestyle.

Q: Where is the nearest Starbucks?

OK, we’re joking here, but only a little. Asking questions about things like the nearest stores, shopping centers, restaurants, schools and places you visit every day can give you a good idea if this home is a good fit for you and your family. Not only is this a good way to help choose the right neighborhood, it’s can also be an indicator of how well the home will hold its value. (To learn more, read “Surprising Factors that Affect Home Values.”).

If you want to buy a home in Arlington, VA or the surrounding area and are ready to start your search, please feel free to give me a call. I can help you narrow your search to areas and homes that fit your vision and guide you in finding the best values and best fit for your unique needs. Give me a call at (703) 593-6320 or email me at for ideas, information, free resources and all the help you need.

Six ways to prepare for buying a home

Ready to become a homeowner? When it comes to purchasing a home, there are a few things you can do before you start touring open houses and finding a local Realtor to guide your search. Applying for a mortgage puts a spotlight on your finances, so making sure they are in good shape is important for helping the process go smoothly once you do put an offer on a home. Here are six ways to get yourself (and your finances) in tip-top shape for buying a home.

#1 Build a solid credit history

One of the first things a lender looks at is credit history. To build a good credit history, you’ll need a history of paying off debts, like car loans or credit cards, plus paying bills like rent and utilities on time as well. This signals that you’re a responsible borrower.

#2 Check your credit

Your credit score can have a significant impact on your ability to buy a home. A low credit score can negatively affect how much money a lender is willing to loan you, as well as your interest rate. If you haven’t lately, request your credit score through one of the official agencies online. You are able to get one free one per year.

#3 Reduce credit card spending

Your credit score plays a big part in your mortgage application process. The better your score, the most likely you are to be approved at a lower interest rate. A big part of credit scores is determined by something called your utilization ratio. (All credit card balances ÷ total credit limit on all cards = utilization ratio). The lower your utilization ratio, the better. If your ratio is high, try to put extra money toward paying down balances. And definitely reduce spending on credit cards as well.

#4 Build up your savings account

Boosting your savings is very important, and we’re not talking about just for a down payment here. Mortgage lenders like to see that you’re not living paycheck to paycheck. Best case scenario is to have 3 to 5 months’ salary set aside, which will make you a much better loan candidate.

#5 Avoid large purchases

Avoid making any large purchases, such as buying a car or booking an expensive tropical vacation, just before you buy a house. When you apply for a mortgage, lenders will be looking closely at your financial history and can get nervous if they see big-ticket purchases that might affect your ability to you’re your monthly payments in the future.

#6 Avoid job hopping

Employment history and a steady income are two of the biggest factors lenders look at when evaluating you for a mortgage. If you plan on purchasing a new home sometime in the next year or two, a steady job with reliable income on the books looks best to lenders. If you’re offered something you just can’t pass up, however, you don’t have to put off your home search. Just be prepared to show extra documentation.

Advice from experienced home sellers

In today’s market, it’s highly unlikely that the first home you live in will be your “forever” home. Changes in employment, families, and lifestyle make it no surprise that the average American moves more than 11 times during their life. Meaning it’s highly likely that you’ll sell a home more than a few times yourself and will want to get the best price possible. Experienced home sellers know that there are a lot of details that can make a big difference when it comes to attracting buyers and increasing profit potential. So the next time you’re getting ready to sell your home, be sure to consider the following:

Don’t list too fast

If you’ve got time to plan ahead before you list your home for sale, do so. Once the decision has been made to sell, it’s understandable that you’d want to get your home listed as quickly as possible. However, taking the time to set the stage for the best home sale experience is one of the most important steps in the sales process. After all, you only get one chance to make a first impression, and a great first impression is something that can translate to actual dollars.

It’s never too early to talk to your Realtor. They can help you decide what can be done to improve your home’s value and attractiveness for potential buyers. Take the time to paint, store away clutter, get repairs done, freshen up the landscaping, and maybe even do some home staging.

Use images that catch the eye – and make the sale

When the National Association of Realtors surveyed home buyers to choose what was most important in their home search process, home buyers said online pictures were more important than price, description, or location. Working with an experienced photographer who can take images of your home that are attractive and show it off to its very best is essential in today’s real estate market. Most buyers look at homes for sale online first, making up their minds about what homes they will even look at by the images they see online. If your house is gorgeous, but your photos dark and blurry, you risk losing potential buyers before they have a chance to enter the door.

Set the right price

Correctly pricing a house can be confusing for sellers. Finding the right balance between pricing it high enough to allow for more profit, versus low enough to attract sellers, is a tricky balancing act. This is another situation where working with an experienced Realtor who is familiar with the area and has access to information like local comps will help you set the right price. A correctly-priced home has the potential to receive multiple offers early in the process. Plus, you might also have a chance of receiving more than the asking price, with multiple buyers willing to negotiate with increased offers.

Know your “wow” factor

Identify what makes your home stand out from others for sale in your community and use that information in your marketing to catch attention and draw buyers your way. It could be award-winning schools, jaw-dropping landscaping, impressive views, and extras such as home offices, crafting rooms, or outdoor spaces.  The special characteristics and features of your home for sale might be just the thing to catch the right buyer’s eye.

Be flexible for showings

If you turn down requests for showings because they are not convenient, you might be turning away a buyer on the verge of making an offer. Showings often take place when buyers aren’t at work – which means weekends and evenings throughout the week. Time is tight for everyone these days, and busy buyers sometimes won’t take the trouble to reschedule if they are not able to see a home at their convenience. Have the house ready at all times, and a plan for quickly vacating when the next call comes in.

If you’re ready to buy, sell, or learn more about the real estate market in Arlington and the surrounding Northern Virginia area, I invite you to give me a call at 703-593-6320. (Email’s good too at

Surprising factors that increase home value

Deciding how much your home is worth is based on many different factors. Most of them are well-known and understood, such as the home’s condition, state of maintenance, upgrades and improvement. But there are a few other things that can also boost a home’s value and sale price that just might surprise you, including:

The Starbucks factor

How close you are to your favorite Frappuccino can actually have an affect on your home’s value. A 2015 Zillow report found that homes near a Starbucks generally appreciated more than all other homes. That same report also showed that the Starbucks affect was most prevalent in the metro areas of Boston, Philadelphia and Washington DC – good news for those of us who live here in Arlington, VA.

How close you are to a city

Living in Northern Virginia gives homeowners another value boost due to proximity to Washington, DC. According to a recent study, if you own a home in a major metropolitan area in America, you’re most likely sitting on a significant (and rapidly appreciating) financial asset. The average urban home is now worth 35 percent more than the average suburban home. Since 2012, the median home value in urban areas have increased by 54 percent, while in suburban areas the median home value is up 38 percent.

Blue kitchens and bathrooms

We know that color can play a significant factor in attracting, or repelling, prospective buyers. But the common practice of sticking to whites and neutrals may not always be the best choice. According to Zillow’s 2017 Paint Color Analysis, which examined more than 32,000 photos from sold homes around the country, homes that used blue or blue-grey paint colors in kitchens and bathrooms sold for thousands more than similar homes that used white paint.

Cleanliness leads to more money too

There’s sorta clean – and then there’s sparkling clean. Making an effort to keep a home for sale clean, uncluttered and mess-free has a lot of power to boost both its value and potential for a quick and lucrative sale. A very clean house helps homeowners spot and stay on top of maintenance issues before they become expensive. Buyers trust that the home is well-maintained and that issues such as mold or damage aren’t hiding behind any clutter. Also, buyers with sensitivities or allergies will value a home that is spotless much more than a dingy, cluttered home.

Front door first impressions

Don’t underestimate the power of a first impression. Right after curb appeal, the next big impression potential buyers will have of a home happens at the front door. In the time it takes to unlock and enter a home, usually less than 10 seconds, people have subconsciously formed their opinion of the home’s value. An attractive paint color is a good start, and don’t forget to clean the entire door inside and out. Make sure the doorbell or intercom is clean and works well. Attractive lighting, simple fresh greenery in pots or seating with colorful outdoor cushions (again, very clean) are also attractive and welcoming touches.

Accessible for all ages

By 2040, there are expected to be almost 80 million seniors accounting for 21 percent of the population. Many home on the market aren’t equipped to accommodate the aging, so those with walk-in showers and master suites on the main floor or features such as comfort-height toilets will have a great perceived value and attract a wider range of buyers.

If you live in Arlington, VA and are planning on selling your home, you’re one of the lucky ones with the access and ability to take advantage of all I’ve shared with you here. For more information about selling your home, increasing its value, or setting the right price that will attract buyers while giving you the maximum profit, give me a call at (703) 593-6320 or email me at

Emergency and disaster preparation tips for Virginia homeowners

posted by: Mike in Home Owner Tips

Hurricanes, fire, flood, earthquake, and even the occasional polar vortex. If you aren’t ready for a natural disaster, take a look at the events of the last two years as great motivation for emergency preparation. Emergencies can happen quickly and without warning, and they can force you to evacuate or they can require that you stay in your home for an extended period of time. That’s why home emergency preparedness is a must and should be done now so that you will be ready if and when something happens. Here are a few ways homeowners in Virginia can start preparing now.

Personal Family Emergency Plan

Being prepared means making a plan. Sit down with your family, turn off cell phones, and discuss the most likely scenarios in your area (fire, flood, blizzards, hurricanes, etc.). For each one, form a basic plan of what your family will do, assigning duties to each member of the family, and outlining actions to take.

Designate places to meet in case you can’t return to your home. And have a plan for communicating with each other (see more on that below). Plan for your pets. Also take into account babies, young children, seniors and people with special needs. Write down your plan, give each member a copy that includes their individual duties, and make it part of your emergency supply kit.

The Virginia Department of Emergency Management has printable cards and worksheets you can use for each family member to be sure you’re all clear on the steps each person should take if disaster strikes near you.

And finally, here are a few links to resources that can help people in Virginia with their emergency planning.

Let your family know you’re safe

Chaos is a part of any disaster, and if one hits it’s often hard to get in touch with friends, family and loved ones directly. Have a plan for communicating during an emergency. If cell networks are overloaded, texts, emails or even social media posts can get through when calls cannot.

Another quirk of cell networks during emergencies is that long-distance calls can often go through when local ones do not. Ask an out-of-town friend or family member to be your command central for people to check in with if the family is separated.

Another alternative to let people know you’re safe is to register on the American Red Cross Safe and Well website. If you don’t have internet access, you can call 1-866-GET-INFO to register or check on others.

Home emergency preparedness kits

Having an emergency supply kit is essential for surviving a disaster. Make sure to have supplies on hand to last each person at least three days. Here’s a good list to get your started:

START WITH: Food and water, enough for each person to last 3 days. And a battery or hand-crank powered radio.

NEXT, add these to your emergency kit:

  • Cash (in a safe and secure location)
  • Flashlight with extra batteries
  • Necessary medications / prescriptions
  • First aid kit
  • Personal sanitation items
  • Diapers
  • Pet food, medication, extra leash and collar
  • Change of clothes and spare pair of shoes for each person
  • Whistle (to signal for help if needed)
  • Fire extinguisher

FINALLY, you can add these materials to really be ready for whatever comes your way:

  • Basic tools such as pliers and screwdrivers that can be used to turn off utilities
  • Materials that can be used to create shelter such as plastic sheeting and duct tape

Emergencies and disasters can strike anyone, anytime and anywhere. That’s why being prepared is so important. We’ve seen our share of hurricanes, floods and other emergencies here in the Arlington, Virginia area. And we understand the value of planning ahead, and the comfort of knowing that we are prepared for whatever comes our way, safe and sound in this community we love.

7 common home sales tactics that can backfire

When you list your home for sale, there are a lot of tactics you can put to use for attracting homebuyers and negotiating a quick and stress-free outcome. Some, like improving curb appeal and staging your home to look its best are good. Others, however, can actually harm your chances of a successful sale. Over the years I’ve seen what works, and what doesn’t, and rounded up the top 7 tactics to avoid the next time you put your home on the market.

#1: Haggling over repairs

Often, after an offer has been accepted and the buyer receives their inspection report, they will send a list of requested repairs to the seller. Some repairs are legitimate, but often buyers will send you their own personal wish list that goes above and beyond simple safety or functional issues. While you may feel that some of their requests are unnecessary, don’t be too quick to reject them all. Run the numbers and you might see that the cost of doing a few of the repairs they ask for is worth it when it comes to keeping the buyer happy and moving the sale forward.

#2: Trying to create a bidding war

Bidding wars are a home sellers’ dream. There’s nothing wrong with potential buyers feeling a sense of competition that can drive the price up. But be careful because mishandling this situation can easily backfire and leave you, the seller, on the losing end. If you receive multiple offers at the same time, an experienced Realtor on your side who has navigated this type of situation before is priceless. Here are a few pitfalls to watch out for that can turn a bidding war into a veritable battleground:

  • Setting an offer deadline that is too far away. Trying to draw more people in can seem greedy, make buyers nervous, and even result in them withdrawing their offers and leaving you with nothing.
  • Keeping buyers in the dark about how you will handle the situation. Set clear offer and acceptance deadlines, and keep communications open.
  • Ignoring a strong offer in an attempt to force weaker ones to increase their numbers and join in the game. A bird in the hand… well, you know the rest.

#3: Inflexible closing dates

Buyer and seller moving dates seldom line up perfectly. Your buyer may want to move in on a certain date in order for their kids to be ready for their new school. But it’s a week too early for the new home you will be moving to. Instead of digging in your heels and refusing to budge you might need to rent a hotel, stay with a friend, or take a short impromptu vacation to ensure the sale goes through.

#4: Getting too attached to “things”

Unless specified up front as a condition of the sale, custom fixtures, lighting, etc. are considered a part of the sale. If sellers fall in love with a special feature of the home and you decide after the fact that you’d rather take it with you, think carefully about how stubborn you want to be. This can cause trouble at the negotiation table. Avoid the situation altogether by removing or storing precious items that aren’t a part of the sale, or be willing to negotiate a replacement to keep both parties happy.

#5: Not paying closing costs

You’re almost done and then out of the blue, the buyer asks you to pay the closing costs. Don’t be too quick to say no. An experienced Realtor knows that there are several ways to handle this, from adjusting the offer to agreeing to a 2-way split. Again, do the math, and it might be worth it to ensure a smooth closing.

#6: Bad pictures

Between the internet and social media, nearly all potential buyers start their home search online and make snap judgements based purely on the photos they see. Blurry photos, dark images, and bad angles can torpedo interest in your home instantly, keeping potential buyers from ever crossing your doorstep.

#7: Overpricing

By far, one of the biggest mistakes sellers make is to set their home price too high. Do this, and you risk buyers skimming past your listing and looking for ones that are more in line with comparable homes in the area. Plus, homes that are overpriced tend to stay on the market longer, which makes buyers suspicious that there is something wrong with it. Working with an experienced Realtor is an invaluable resource for deciding on a fair price that offers the best of both worlds to both buyer and seller. Price it correctly and you’ll get people through the door and give them a chance to fall in love with it.

If you liked these tips, be sure to check out our article “6 Mistakes to Avoid When Selling Your Home,” for even more home-selling tips. And if you are interested in selling or buying a home in the Arlington, Virginia area, please give me a call at 703.593.6320. I’m here to help!

Home design predictions for 2018

Between floral prints, statement floors, and Pantone declaring Ultraviolet as the color of the year, 2018 is shaping up to be a big year for color when it comes to home design and décor. Whether you want a total makeover, or maybe just a few new twists to freshen up your home, I’ve rounded up a few trends and predictions that I know homeowners here in Arlington, Virginia might want to explore.

To make room for all that’s new, Trulia predicts the list of things that are “out” this year includes exposed lighting, granite countertops and bamboo flooring. Zillow added to that list as well, naming succulents, bar carts and all-white kitchens as trends that will be fading away.

Home décor trends to watch for in 2018 are an interesting mix of old-school design, (think floral prints and grandma’s wallpaper), and cutting-edge décor that’s social-media ready, including:

  • Bar cart redo. If you’re looking for something simple to update your home, don’t throw out your bar cart, just transition it to what’s in trend – coffee! Resurface your cart and restock it with all your coffee essentials for something that will be much more functional for daily use in your home.
  • Floral prints are showing up everywhere, but in home design you’ll see this especially in items such as statement chairs, draperies and throw pillows.
  • Statement floors. Classic hardwood floors get an update with lighter woods in different rooms, herringbone settings, or bold tile “rugs” inset into the floors that make a big statement.
  • Strong accent rugs fit perfectly with the trend of statement floors, especially in dining and family rooms, libraries, offices and dens. Bold colors and patterns, and even layered rugs have been catching eyes and making statements in homes for sale in Arlington already this year.
  • Light wood cabinets will be warming up all-white kitchens this year, particularly with flat fronts and clean lines.
  • Matte metal hardware goes great with light wood cabinets, plus it has a warmer feel that shiny gold or silver, so predictions are strong for matte hardware in 2018.
  • Wallpaper is back, but don’t worry, it’s not your grandma’s wallpaper. Contemporary patterns that fit every homeowner’s style are a great way to create a statement wall in a large room, or to turn smaller rooms, such as a guest bathroom, into a statement all its own.

Six mistakes to avoid when selling your house

When you put your house on the market it’s easy to find lots of advice for all the things you can do to increase your chances of a quick and lucrative sale. I find that often missing from those lists are a few things you should NOT do that can actually harm your home’s attractiveness to potential buyers. With more than 30 years of helping people buy and sell homes in the Arlington, Virginia area I’ve seen just about everything, so I rounded up these 6 common mistakes to help future home-sellers (and buyers) when it’s time to put their house on the market.

#1: Overpricing: Ask too much and your property won’t sell. Working with an experienced Realtor is an invaluable resource for deciding on a fair price that offers the best of both worlds to both buyer and seller. Comparing similar properties nearby and experience with the local area are both necessary parts of deciding on the right asking price.

#2 Getting in the Way: While you want to be helpful and able to answer questions quickly, there is such a thing as being too present, especially when potential buyers are touring the home. For open houses and scheduled showings, it’s best for you, your family and even your pets to vacate the home. Buyers need to feel at home, able to ask questions or make comments without worrying you’ll overhear them, and be comfortable imagining themselves as the new owners. If you stick around it creates an awkward situation that could cost you the sale. Let your Realtor handle showing the house, and enjoy a cup of coffee or a walk to the local park while they are there.

#3 Dirty, Cluttered Homes: A little mess never hurt anyone, but it can definitely harm the home-selling process. While your house is on the market make it a priority to keep it clean, neat and uncluttered. A dirty, messy, or even smelly home will leave a bad impression right from the start. If your home is cluttered with too much furniture, kid’s toys, or rampant tchotchke collections, it can make the home seem smaller and less welcoming.

#4 Too Much Empty Space: A totally empty home also puts some obstacles in your way to a quick sale. If you’ve already moved out, ask your agent to recommend a staging service that can turn those empty rooms into a warm, inviting space. Staging a house with furniture and decor gives buyers a better idea of the space and potential of each room, allowing them to picture themselves living there.

#5 Too Much Personality: When buyers tour your home for sale, you want them to be able to picture themselves living there. Family portraits, personal décor, and lots of personal items such as trophies and certificates everywhere you look can get in the way of that. Remove a good percentage of your personal décor throughout the home so that buyers can have an easier time imagining themselves living there.

#6 Choosing the Wrong Realtor: Choosing the right real estate professional is simply the most important decision you will make when selling your home. You want to work with someone who is experienced in the industry and the local community. An experienced Realtor will help you every step of the way from setting the asking price to advice on staging to getting the word out to prospective buyers in the best way possible. They will also be your voice in sharing the value of your home and highlighting key attributes that make it more likely to attract offers that will benefit your bottom line.

While this list is full of tips for what NOT to do, I hope you can also see between the lines for what CAN be done to support a great home selling experience. If you are interested in selling or buying a home in the Arlington, Virginia area please give me a call. I’m here to help!

How to give outdated built-ins new life

While 80’s-era big hair and Miami Vice fashions have come and gone, one thing from that decade still lives on in many homes – oversize built-ins. Once valued as an element of luxury and superior design, these combination bookshelves and cabinetry are still often found in everything from kitchens to living rooms to grand master suites. Unfortunately, all that 80’s glamour tends to give homes a dated look. Homeowners aren’t sure what to do with them, and potential buyers are not impressed, moving on to the next house for sale.

All that’s needed, however, are a few simple alterations and some fresh new thinking to transform built-ins into an attractive and functional feature. Thanks to the design minds prevalent on places like Pinterest and Houzz, you can find any number of ideas to fit your design style, function of the room, and all that the modern world demands.

Here’s a round-up of ideas I’ve seen in homes here in the Arlington, Virginia area that fit every type of home and family. I hope one of them stands out for you.

>> Simplify: Fancy molding and overly detailed scrolls and curlicues are just too much. Remove all those elaborations and get down to the foundation of your built-ins. You’ll probably find classic woods that can be stained or painted to create a simple, classic, streamlined look that will complement any style.

>> Paint, stain or paper: A coat of paint, a new shade of stain, or even some creative paper wallpaper inserts can instantly, and inexpensively, transform built-ins. Try colors that match your rugs, furniture or even art in the room to make the built-in seem like a recent addition. And put some pizzazz in your built-in by papering the back of cubbies with patterned wallpapers.

>> Transform doors and drawers:  Update your built-in by adding new hardware. Change the look by replacing solid doors with see-through glass, or even just removing them entirely.

>> Use creative lighting: Add light fixtures to highlight displays in your built-in and add ambiance for the room. If outlets are a problem, there are other options such as battery-powered LED lights that are inexpensive and long-lasting.

>> Go undercover: Have some fun and create a secret space for fun or functional activities. Re-arrange shelving and have special doors installed that can cover and close off the built-in until you want to use it. Inside you can create anything from a gaming or entertainment center to home office, art or crafting space for special activities you want to keep all to yourself.