Fresh Bathroom Caulk

Got brown or cracked caulk around your tub?  This is a sign you have aging caulk, which if not replaced will lead to mildew and if water leaks through; it will ruin your drywall.  Caulk is inexpensive and easy to install.  In about an hour, you’re bathroom will look refreshed.

Fresh Bathroom Caulk Application

Fresh Bathroom Caulk Application

 

 

The Top 7 Home Renovations for the Money

If you’re going to go to the expense and effort of hiring a contractor, drawing up plans, and embarking on any substantial home improvement project, it’s completely understandable to be concerned about your ROI - that is, your return on investment.

Before we examine the home renovations with the best ROIs, it’s important to realize that there is no “one size fits all” answer to this question. What plays in Peoria -- or earns a great resale value in Virginia City -- may not work that well in another region of the country.

In fact, many factors can affect your resale value and how much of the cost of your project you can expect to recoup when you sell your house: climate and weather, your specific neighborhood, the housing market in general, local events and economic factors, and more.

Additionally, resale value should never be your only consideration when deciding whether to go forward with any kind of home improvement project. If you’re planning to continue living in your home, your future enjoyment of the improvement and your house in general should also be considered.

That being said, it’s definitely a good idea to include your potential return on such a substantial investment in the mix when you’re making home improvement decisions. So let’s take a look at the 7 projects that earn back the most in resale value for savvy homeowners.

1. Fix Up the Attic

Attic Insulation

Attic Insulation

Surprised? The champion home renovation project where ROI is concerned is fixing up your attic. Whether it’s simply adding fiberglass insulation to your home’s attic (108% of the cost recouped on resale) or converting the entire space to an additional bedroom (93.5%), attic improvements bear great dividends.

And remember, this is just about resale value and cost recoupment. It doesn’t include additional energy savings (in the case of installing insulation) or the significant increase in usable square feet in your home.

2. Mini-Makeover on a Bathroom

Bathroom Retile

Bathroom Retile

At 102% of its cost recouped on resale, a minor bathroom improvement project can more than earn back the project costs.

Here, we’re talking about smaller projects -- replacing a fixture, for example, or swapping out old, tired flooring for a new set of tiles.

You don’t have to replace the tub to spruce it up, though. Re-caulking and re-glazing for a new finish can also freshen up your bathroom’s look, as can a fresh coat of paint or wallpaper.

3. Improve Your Landscaping

Home Landscaping

Home Landscaping

Don’t neglect your yard! An overhaul of your home’s landscaping can earn back the full cost of the project at 100%.

With costs ranging anywhere from a few hundred for plants from your local garden center to $3000 or more for a full-blown professional landscape design, there’s a wide range of improving you can do to your great outdoors.

If you’re not the outdoors-y type, and don’t have the budget for a professional designer, start with your favorite big-box garden center or local nursery. They’ll often sponsor free workshops and design services.

4. Improve Your Home’s Exterior

Exterior Home Painting

Exterior Home Painting

While we’re thinking outside the box, take a look at your home’s facade, as well. Repairing or replacing old, worn-out vinyl siding or chipping paint, updating your porch and outdoor entry space, and freshening up the shingles can all greatly increase your home’s curb appeal

And at an average return on resale of 95.5%, it’s a sound investment in your home.

Just plan carefully before you begin, and explore new materials for even better results. For example, wrought-iron railings make for a more attractive entryway than boring old wood supports.

5. Tweak Your Kitchen

New Kitchen Backsplash

New Kitchen Backsplash

Great news: if you want to give your kitchen a new look, but aren’t interested in a complete overhaul, even a minor tweak to the busiest room in your house can earn you up to 98% on resale.

New countertops, re-facing for your old cabinets, and swapping out old, clunky appliances for more energy-efficient models will all help you recoup the cost of improvement, and perhaps even save you additional money in electricity costs going forward.

You can also give your kitchen a budget-friendly makeover with new flooring and improved lighting fixtures.

6. Overhaul a Bathroom

Bathroom Remodel

Bathroom Remodel

If your bathroom needs more than a simple spruce-up job, a major renovation can earn you 93% on resale.

Relocate or replace your major fixtures, or swap out an open or curbless shower for an old-fashioned tub. Upgrade to a ceramic tile floor and replace the exhaust fan.  Swap out old counters for a cleaner one to give your old vanity a whole new, more contemporary look.

7. Swap Out Front Door for Steel

Steel Double Doors

Steel Double Doors

For a low-cost improvement with a high-sale recoupment percentage of almost 91%, consider swapping out your old, existing door for a steel model, perhaps with decorative window panels at the top for added visual appeal.

Doors like this will cost around $1000-1500, and earn back about $900-1200 on average, so they almost pay for themselves.

Bonus: This is a simple job that won’t take a lot of time to accomplish, and if you select the right color, it can add an eye-catching visual element to your home’s exterior as well.

Ready … Set … Renovate!

If you’d like to spruce up your home, but aren’t sure which project to start with, why not consult with a qualified, experienced home contractor in your area today?

Home Inspections Help You Keep Your New Home Safe

While a home inspection will usually cost a prospective buyer several hundred dollars, it’s an investment that you should definitely make.

Here’s why. Once your realtor has helped you locate a home you’re interested in purchasing and after you’ve made an offer which the owner has accepted, you’ll sign a contract that should include a contingency clause.

This clause simply provides that if inspection reveals a serious problem within a specified period of time, you can cancel or void your purchase contract without having to pay any penalty. However, inspections will also point out the areas that might not be quite that serious, but still need to be addressed to make your new home safe for you and your family.

While the idea of a home inspection might seem to associated with older homes, you should also plan to have a thorough inspection of newly built homes before purchase. Even recently completed construction can reveal design and construction defects, which might result in serious damage and pose health risks for years.

Home Inspections for New Home Purchases

Home-Inspection-mold-electrical-plumbing-drywall-insulation-paint-miami-contractors-305-floridacontractors.JPG

The quality of your inspection will depend in large part on the inspector you select.

You’ll undoubtedly find a wide range of levels of experience, skill, and attention to detail in your area’s inspectors so it pays to get recommendations from people who have recently purchased similar types of property in your area. If you can find an inspector who has reviewed homes in your specific neighborhood, so much the better!

Once your inspector concludes the inspection, they’ll prepare a written report outlining the results.

A helpful inspection report should specify whether the issue noted is a safety issue or a major defect, as opposed to a minor one. It should also distinguish between items that need to be replaced versus items that can be safely repaired instead. Ideally, it will also note any items that may be acceptable for the immediate future, but which should be monitored over time.

Plumbing, Leaks, and Mold

A primary area of concern for new home buyers is the potential for home water damage and resulting mold. You might be able to see external water damage fairly easily -- water spots on the ceiling, for example, or pooling water near exterior walls or the foundation.

But moisture can also cause damage in places that aren’t so easy to see, such as inside your walls. And if that’s not spotted and properly cleaned up in short order, the result will be dangerous mold. Mold resistant drywall can help reduce this risk but an inspector will be able to spot problems, using tools like infrared cameras when necessary.

Another spot that can signal current or future damage is the gutter and spout system for your home. If these aren’t channeling water freely and smoothly away from your roof, walls, and foundation, the result will be a damaged foundation or leaky roof. Loose or missing roof shingles can mean that water intrusion has occurred underneath.

Finally, the home’s plumbing system should be checked thoroughly for any sign of leaks or water pressure problems. If your home is “of a certain age” and so are the pipes, your inspector might recommend a more detailed review to estimate if replacement needs to take place and how soon. Specific points of investigation include visible lines, faucets, showers/tubs and their drains, and toilets.

Electrical Wiring, Appliances, and Other Fire Risks

Another potential health hazard in a house is the risk of fire from improper wiring, malfunctioning appliances or old panels. Depending on the age of the home and whether the wiring has been upgraded since construction, that could add a significant cost to your overall investment if you move forward with the purchase -- but you definitely don’t want to ignore problems in this area.

Other specific area of concerns include checking to make sure the laundry room is well ventilated, since a blocked exhaust on your dryer can present a significant risk of fire.

Your inspector will also inspect an attached garage, if there is one, as well as testing the house’s smoke detectors to make sure they’re functional.

HVAC and Asbestos

Your home inspector should also take a close look at your heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system. The report should note how old the furnace and other HVAC elements are, whether they function properly, and to what extent any repairs or maintenance are needed or warranted.

Your inspector should also take a look at the ductwork and insulation in your home. Looking at these elements can help reveal whether there’s any asbestos that needs to be removed or whether there are any leaks that must be addressed.

What to Do After Your Inspection Report is Delivered

While an inspection might cost you more money, it’s money very well spent. If your report shows serious problems, you can walk away (assuming you have a contingency clause in your contract).

Alternatively, you can get quotes from qualified home contractors to fix the problems.

Whichever option you choose, a good home inspector is a smart investment to make in your future home’s safety!

How the Color of Your Home’s Walls Impacts Your Mood

Have you ever walked into a room with orange walls or accents and suddenly felt hungry?

Or into a room painted with soft blue tones and immediately felt calmer, for some strange reason?

If so, you’ve experienced the often powerful impact of color on moods.

You may remember the color wheel from elementary school science class. You may even know that warm colors make things feel smaller and cozier, while cooler colors make things seem larger and airier. Light colors appear to bring things closer, while darker shades make things seem to recede.

But specific colors can also have individual effects on the way people feel, especially when they’re surrounded by four walls in that shade.

How Does Color Work on Mood?

Color psychology as a field of study has been around for hundreds of years. Ever since Isaac Newton discovered the color wheel’s properties and organization in the late 17th century, we humans have noticed the various ways different colors trigger different emotional states.

Sometimes, these effects are based in personal experience, much like certain smells can evoke feelings and memories. You may feel nostalgic about a specific shade of green, for example,  because it was the color of your grandmother’s favorite dress. Or a certain shade of blue makes you feel nervous because it reminds you of the color of the walls in your high school principal’s office.

But colors also affect people in general ways, and there’s some scientific research that indicates some colors have the same effect on mood in most people.

Let’s look at some of those effects and the colors that trigger them.

Red: Passion & Intensity

Red Wall with Faux effect

Red Wall with Faux effect

Red walls can instantly make a room’s occupants feel more energetic and intense. If you plan to use a specific room for social gatherings and entertainment, especially in the evening, it’s a great choice. You can also use red anywhere you’d like to draw people out of their shells and into group conversation.

For the same reason, you’ll want to keep red out of most bedrooms, where cooler tones are generally preferable.

Red paint tones are best utilized in social rooms that will see a lot of traffic. Living rooms, dining rooms, and other rooms in which folks will gather in groups are great choices for red walls.

Blue: Peace & Tranquility

Blue Wall with Ralph Lauren Paint

Blue Wall with Ralph Lauren Paint

If you want to calm folks down and imbue a room with a sense of serenity and peace, you can’t go wrong with most shade of blue -- if you’re cautious about the exact tone. It’s also a great color for bathrooms.

Some blues, especially on the more pastel end of the spectrum, can look a little cold and icy on the walls in large chunks, especially if the room doesn’t get a lot of quality light. One way to counteract that effect is to add small accents in warmed complementary tones -- for example, in throw pillows or grouped collectibles.

The darker the blue, the less peaceful the room will feel. That might be a good thing if you’re painting a room where serious business or study will take place. In libraries and offices, a deep blue might be a great choice.

Orange: Appetite & Energy

Orange dining room wall

Orange dining room wall

If you want to stoke appetites and create more energy in a room -- say, a kitchen or dining area -- look at shades of orange such as saffron and salmon.

Orange arouses excitement, hunger, and enthusiasm. It might be too intense for a living room, and for the same reason isn’t a great choice as a leading shade for your bedroom’s color scheme. But for dining rooms, kitchens, home gyms, and other more physical and active places, orange can be a great choice.

Yellow: Happiness & Socialization

Yellow paint in Entryway

Yellow paint in Entryway

Is there any happier hue than the color of sunshine? Well, in actuality, there could be a lot of them! As it turns out, yellow is a great example of how sometimes, the effect of a color on mood can actually be counterintuitive.

To most people, yellow evokes feelings of warmth, compassion, joy, and goodwill. It’s a cheery color, which is perhaps why a lot of people choose it as a gender-neutral tone for nurseries. However, this might be self-defeating, since some studies suggest babies actually cry more in yellow rooms. Adults also aren’t necessarily immune from that feeling, since many folks report feeling angrier in yellow rooms. 

One way to maximize the happy impact of yellow without triggering that aggravating impulse in those prone to it is to restrict yellow to entryways and smaller rooms that host transitional traffic -- i.e., hallways, cloakrooms, etc.

Green: Restful & Rejuvenating

Green Wall in Bedroom

Green Wall in Bedroom

Another excellent choice for bedrooms and bathrooms, green is known to evoke feelings of restfulness and relaxation. With its evocation of the wonders of nature, green shades can also paradoxically help rejuvenate your energy.

If you’re using green as the main hue in your room’s color scheme, you can count on a peaceful, comfortable environment. That’s why it’s so perfect for bedrooms, as well as living rooms. Anywhere you need to relieve stress or help others relax, green’s a great choice.

Color Blends and Mood

And what about blended colors? Turquoise, for example, is a blend of blue and green -- does it have the mood impact of both blue and green?

It turns out blended shades have impacts all their own. For example, deep crimson is a deeper shade of red tinged with orange. You’d think it would have a peppy, cheerful impact on you and your visitors in a living room. In fact, in can make some folks downright hostile!

So if your heart is simply set on incorporating some crimson into a room that will see a lot of socialization and company, limit it to accent touches -- pillows, rug, and touches of artwork, for example.

Why Custom Cabinets Are Worth the Expense

Custom kitchen cabinets built by a local cabinetmaker.

Custom kitchen cabinets built by a local cabinetmaker.

If you’re planning a kitchen remodel any time soon, one decision that’s probably in front of you is whether to get custom kitchen cabinets, or instead go with something a little more pre-packaged.

You might think this is just a simple cost-driven budgetary choice. And it’s true that there are some good, budget-friendly alternatives at a number of price points, most of which involve a stock or “pre-fab” cabinet purchase at some big-box home store.

But for our money, the kitchen cabinets that result in the happiest homeowners are custom cabinets. We’ll tell you why, but first, let’s make sure we define some key terms:

●      Stock (pre-fab, etc.) cabinet are just that - pre-made in assorted standardized configurations and sizes usually in 2” - 3” increments. If you find an acceptable color and material combination in your local home store, you can take them home and install them usually within a few days of purchase, if not the same day. Many homeowners choose them for remodeling because -- usually -- they’re the least expensive option.

●      Custom cabinets at the other end of the spectrum are hand-made to your specifications in almost every respect, including color, hardware, materials, sizes, and shapes. If you have an oddly-shaped space in your kitchen, a stock cabinet might not work in it. Time to installation from the date of your order will vary, as will your cost.

●      Semi-custom cabinets are something of a hybrid. You order them, and then they’re built, but you’ll choose from a predetermined list of sizes and styles. Price, lead time, and customization vary just as they do with custom cabinetry.

For you as the homeowner, the major practical differences between these three options come down to two key factors: cost and degree of customization/control.

In other words, you get what you want more precisely, but you may have to pay extra for that delight.

First, though, let’s put one myth to rest: You won’t get a “handmade look” with custom cabinets. Just because they’re crafted by hand, that doesn’t mean the people making them aren’t highly skilled professionals, using sophisticated equipment and techniques.

Custom cabinets won’t require you to sacrifice consistency of finish or feel, either. Your cabinets should look “of a set” with each other, no matter what type you select.

Another advantage of custom cabinetry over stock or semi-custom options is the maximization of your available space. Professional cabinet makers can craft your cabinets to fit the available space precisely, so your kitchen benefits from greater efficiency and a cleaner aesthetic.

For example, if you need a deeper shelf on one wall, or a slightly wider fit for a specific corner, you might not find what you need in a limited supply of pre-fab cabinets. If you do, you might have to settle for your second or third choice in color and materials.

By far, however, the biggest advantage a custom cabinetry job will yield for your home kitchen project is the degree of control and customization. With stock cabinets, you’re limited to what’s literally “in stock.”

But with custom cabinets you’re in the driver’s seat all the way. You get the exact color and “look” you want, in the material and hardware combination you want, with the specific sizes you need. Your options are much more extensive.

True, you’ll probably pay a little more for that much choice, at least when compared to stock and semi-custom options -- but maybe not nearly as much as you’d think. 

Depending on the size, number, and materials used, you could be looking at a relatively small increase in price for that custom cabinetry. The increase could be a few percentage points, perhaps ten percent or less.

In some cases, though, you might even wind up paying around the same amount as you would for a stock cabinet purchase, depending on the details.

So while you may luck out and find just what you’re looking for in a stock, pre-fab cabinet purchase, if you really want to get the best possible fit, with the look you want and sizing that’s tailored to your home specifically, it’s hard to beat well-made, high-quality custom cabinetry.

Three Fabulous Bathroom Design Trends for 2017

Are you ready to liven up that tired old traditional bathroom in your home? Take advantage of one or more of these emerging bathroom design trends for maximum impact and a truly luxurious experience.

Wet Rooms

Wet rooms lend a user-friendly, easy-to-clean, stylish and streamlined modernity to your home.

Wet rooms lend a user-friendly, easy-to-clean, stylish and streamlined modernity to your home.

If you’ve never heard of this emerging trend, it might initially strike you as … well, strange. But in fact, getting rid of the separations between showers, baths, toilets, and sinks is one of the hottest bathroom design trends around these days.

When they’re well-designed (and implemented), wet rooms lend a user-friendly, easy-to-clean, stylish and streamlined modernity to your home. Of course, when they’re designed poorly, the result can be more “high-school shower room” than “high-end luxury spa.”

Generally a wet room will include shower nozzles (yes, more than one for that spa-like luxury we crave -- read the section below for more on this), a toilet, and basin. However, there’s no reason you couldn’t also include a freestanding tub, if your space allows. Remember, a crowded, heavily “decorated” feel is antithetical to the wet room aesthetic.

If you want to add a wet room to your home, hire an experienced contractor for the conversion. A wet room must be watertight and well-tiled. After all, it’s not like the moisture will be tightly contained as in more traditional bathroom construction.

Also, invest in the highest quality materials you can afford. The key to making a wet room look and feel like a high-end spa lies in the quality of the wall materials (usually tiles). Mix textures in the same color family for an earthy, glamorous feel.

Spa-Like Shower Heads

Nothing turns a boring old shower stall into a spa faster than multiple shower heads, especially if at least one provides a drenching rain-like experience!

Nothing turns a boring old shower stall into a spa faster than multiple shower heads, especially if at least one provides a drenching rain-like experience!

Speaking of spa-like bathrooms and showers, the trend of including multiple shower heads in your walk-in or wet room shower also continues to grow in popularity.

And it’s easy to see why. Nothing turns a boring old shower stall into a spa faster than multiple shower heads, especially if at least one provides a drenching rain-like experience!

But you have a number of options to help transform your standard shower stall into something more luxurious. Rain shower heads are generally top-mounted, as opposed to the traditional wall-mount, to provide a more drenching overhead flow.

Or you could add more flexibility with a sliding bar shower mount, which allows the shower head to be re-positioned along a vertical axis. The wall mount stays stationary, and you can adjust the height of the shower head to suit your needs, or pair two mounts on opposite or adjacent walls to create a more luxurious spray.

Another option to consider is the shower panel system. You can design your own, or choose one that’s been pre-assembled, for a standing-Jacuzzi shower experience. Multiple shower flows that you can adjust to suit your individualized preferences for flow type and speed offer the ultimate in customization and a truly indulgent shower experience.

Before you make a purchase, however, double-check to ensure your present water lines and hot water heater can handle the extra workload.  Adding panel systems in particular add a heavier burden to hot water heaters. Additionally, in many locales, multiple showerheads may run afoul of local water use regulations, so check with your municipal authorities before you proceed.

Furniture Pieces as Storage

Antique and well-made reproduction pieces in particular add originality and elegance to any stylish bathroom.

Antique and well-made reproduction pieces in particular add originality and elegance to any stylish bathroom.

When it comes to adding storage to your bathroom, why not look beyond the usual suspects in the home store bathroom aisles and consider actual built-for-the-rest-of-the-home furniture?

Antique and well-made reproduction pieces in particular add originality and elegance to any stylish bathroom. Vintage styles help you express your creativity, while still providing functional form, and help make the bathroom feel more like a sanctuary than a purely functional space.

Adding re-purposed vintage furniture pieces to a bathroom with a postmodern or contemporary aesthetic also helps you take advantage of another hot design trend: skillfully mixing the old with the new. Too much “antiquery” can create a staid, somber effect. Mixing it up with more contemporary lines and styles helps keep the look lighter and fresher.

One of the easiest and most common ways to incorporate vintage furniture into your bathroom is to turn a substantial piece such as a dresser, dressing table, or bureau into a vanity for your sink. Just make sure that your selected piece is sturdy and well-constructed enough to handle the added weight and stress of the basin, fixtures and pipes.

If you’re unsure about re-purposing a vintage piece of furniture as a vanity or additional storage in the damp atmosphere of your bathroom, explore reproductions offered by modern manufacturers. They’re made expressly for use in the bathroom, so you don’t need to worry about whether an expensive piece will withstand the added moisture and new function.

Alternatively, take a yard-sale or vintage consignment store find -- an armoire that’s seen better days, for example -- and turn it into a freestanding “shabby chic” piece for storing towels and toiletries.

To protect your furniture from moisture damage, apply a coat of deck sealer to wood surfaces. You can also swap out wood surfaces for sturdier materials, such as granite or other types of stone.

Is it Time to Ditch the Tub?

A recent AIA survey (PDF) shows that certain bathroom renovation trends favoring showers over bathtubs are growing in popularity. Curbless walk-in showers, doorless showers, and stall-only showers top the list of the most often requested renovations.

It makes sense to consider replacing a tub with a shower for a number of reasons. Showers use far less water than bathtubs, and save on associated energy and water costs for that reason. They’re also usually quicker to use, and can be fitted with luxury features such as non-slip tiles and benches.

Also, showers are more “user-friendly” for an aging population. Tubs can be difficult for older adults and people with injuries or disabilities to get in and out of, whereas easy-entry shower stalls are much more accessible.  As millions of Baby Boomers reach retirement age, these trends should only continue to rise in popularity.

Walk-in shower with single glass panel, wall-hung toilet and bidet. Floating vanity and mirror.

Walk-in shower with single glass panel, wall-hung toilet and bidet. Floating vanity and mirror.

Deciding Whether to Go Tub-less

Before you take the plunge and rip out that tub, give this decision some careful consideration.

First, consider use. How much use does your tub really get? If you have small children, tubs are much easier than stalls, of course. If you only have one bathroom available and your kids are under the age of 8, you might want to hold off on the project until they’re older.

Most homeowners are also concerned about resale value before making substantial changes to bathrooms and kitchens, and that’s wise. After all, your home is also an investment, and it’s only prudent to avoid making changes that can lessen its value.

Tubs are just “expected” by some home buyers, and there’s no getting around that. But the lack of a tub might not be a detriment to a later sale. It depends on your market and what buyers are willing to accept. In an area with a high demand for housing and a limited supply, a home that lacks a bathtub will still sell, all other things being equal.

One way to preserve your options in resale value is to keep one tub somewhere in the house. A shower-only house can be a tougher sale down the line. But if you have two or more bathrooms available, by all means exchange one of those tubs for a bigger and more luxurious shower stall.

Finally, look carefully at the cost. The least expensive options -- shower stall kits -- start at $200 but can rise in price dramatically, and that’s before you hire a contractor, adjust your water lines, remove the tub, or modify surrounding flooring.

If you have the budget, we’d strongly encourage you to hire a licensed, experienced contractor, especially if you’re planning to put in a curbless shower (as we discuss below). If you tackle this one on your own, expect to spend at least a full weekend at it.

How Big a Job Is It to Exchange a Tub for a Shower?

Simple one-to-one conversions -- that is, taking out a tub and installing a shower stall in the same space -- are fairly simple if you’re working with a tub in a recessed alcove. Taking out a tub will leave a working space of approximately five feet in length and anywhere from 30 to 34 inches on average deep. That’s more than adequate for a roomy shower stall. The water lines shouldn’t need much adjustment, so the total project won’t be terribly complex.

But if you’ve got a freestanding tub, or one located beneath a window (which isn’t uncommon) you’ll have a slightly tougher -- and more expensive -- job ahead of you. You may need to relocate water supply and main lines, and that could add several hundred dollars to the budget.

Space needs should be reviewed carefully. Modern building codes require a shower floor space, or shower pan, of at least 30 inches square, which should make the removed-tub space sufficient. But some industry standards suggest a minimum of at least 36 inches square, in which case you’ll have some overage if you’re working with a standard tub footprint.

You’ll also need a height clearance of at least 80 inches, and at least 15” (preferably 18”) of space should remain between the side of the toilet and the side of the shower wall. And, of course, if there’s a swinging door entrance into the shower stall, you’ll need to make sure it completely clears any possible obstructions such as cabinetry or fixtures.

What Kind of Shower? 

One of those popular choices among homeowners who are ditching the tub and moving to shower-only baths is the walk-in shower. These designs offer both ease of use -- especially for an aging homeowner -- and a more modern, streamlined aesthetic that conveys a sense of luxury.

Another consideration in choosing to replace a tub with a shower is whether to select a stall with or without a curb.

Many stalls feature a curb -- a “lip” usually constructed out of tile that protects the rest of the room’s flooring by acting as a little dam for the water before it drains through the floor. A curbless shower stall uses a shower pan that’s flush with the rest of the floor of the bathroom, without that lip.

While curbless stalls do look more modern and are definitely trending in popularity these days, they’re also more difficult to install correctly, often requiring adjustments to the existing floor height and adding to the project cost.

So if you think you’d like the curbless option, review your options with your licensed contractor carefully, and seek their input and recommendations.

 

Create Intrigue and Drama With an Accent Wall

Accent walls are great ways to break up the monotony of a large room, or call visual attention to a special design or architectural feature in the room. They don’t have to cost a lot of money or require substantial investment in materials or decor, either.

In fact you can probably create a stunning accent wall using items you already own or collect.

Based on your furniture layout and the room’s function, choose the wall you’d like to accent. You’ll only want to accent one wall, keeping the other three similarly painted and relatively simple, in order to create more contrast and excitement around the accent wall.

Wood panel wall.

Wood panel wall.

One simple, cheap way to create an accent wall is to paint it a bold color that complements the paint color of the other three walls, ceiling, and trim. Strong colors that might overpower a room if painted on every wall can be dramatic and exciting on a single accent wall.

Another paint-based approach is to create contrast between light and dark. In a room with three pale green walls, make the fourth a deep hunter green. Or if your walls are light yellow, paint your fourth accent wall a deep saffron.

Wallpaper in a complementary color scheme can create a lovely accent wall. If you’re not keen on the thought of papering, though, you can mimic the look with a tonal accent paint and simple, repeatable geometrically patterned stencil.

Wallpaper in a complementary color scheme can create a lovely accent wall

Wallpaper in a complementary color scheme can create a lovely accent wall

In a bedroom, make the wall behind your bed’s headboard the accent wall by combining strong paint choices with oversized, three-dimensional, or sculptural art above the headboard.

Or kill two birds with one stone, so to speak, by turning the headboard into the accent piece itself, perhaps by using unusual materials -- old whitewashed fencing, oversized upholstered doors or table tops, or bookshelves can all make creative headboards.

In a small or odd-sized room, you can enlarge the space and make it feel less cave-like by displaying a collection of framed mirrors on the wall in an artful cluster. Mirrors reflect the light and create an illusion of enhanced space. 

In the same vein, any collected artwork or decorative items can form the basis of a unique accent wall. Choose items that you love and that can be grouped according to a unifying theme or motif for the greatest dramatic impact.

Accent walls can also be made by installing a contrasting materials on top of the usual drywall. Brick, wooden pallets, and corkboard all add textural interest as well as visual allure, and won’t necessarily cost an arm and a leg to add.

Or consider adding a frontage of paving stones in a complementary neutral color that works well with the rest of the room’s color scheme. Stone can be sophisticated and modern, or earthy and “arts and crafts,” depending on the type and texture.

Don’t overlook fabric choices, either. A lovely textural print, for example, or a large swath of fabric with printed handwriting can add whimsy and tons of personality to the right room. Fabric can also be swapped out seasonally much more easily than other materials, making it a flexible choice.

If you’re working with a room with a built-in point of focus, such as a fireplace or uniquely sized or shaped windows, go with the flow and choose that wall as your accent wall. With built-in features like that, however, you’ll want to keep the approach simple, relying on contrasting paint or stencils to add the interest you’re looking for.

Brick wall accent over a fireplace.

Brick wall accent over a fireplace.

Something as simple as a full-wall bookshelf might be all you need for some rooms. Stack up books but don’t cram them into every available inch. Rather, leave room for another set of similarly-themed collectibles -- small, favorite photographs in silver frames, for example.

Bookshelves make a great wall decor.

Bookshelves make a great wall decor.

Above all, keep in mind the room’s purpose and function. Consider how you’d like your family and guests to feel in the room. Think outside the box with some visual inspiration, and don’t be afraid to make a bold choice. It’s just one wall!

 

Dark, Daring & Dramatic Walls

Paint is one of the easiest and least expensive ways to radically change the look of your home. It’s also one of the most forgiving home decoration projects for DIY-types, since it’s usually a fairly simple matter to correct an error or paint over an unfortunate choice.

For that reason, a lot of homeowners tend to play it safe with light, traditional neutral paint colors for home interiors.

That might suit your style just fine. But for a dramatic statement that completely changes the entire look and feel of a room, you can’t beat dark colors.

And while the thought of painting your walls deep burgundy, navy blue, or stormy grey might make you anxious, it might just be the best thing you ever did for your home.

If you’d like to explore the natural drama and intensity of a dark-color paint choice, read on for our thoughts on this timeless trend.

Choose the Right Room for Dark Paint

Not every room is built to carry off the dark-walls look. The ideal choice is a room that’s neither terribly small nor designed around social, large-group activities.

Beautiful bright rug to contrast with the dark gray walls.

Beautiful bright rug to contrast with the dark gray walls.

Why? Dark paint colors such as navy, dark brown, and deep grey do two things reliably well: (1) make a room feel smaller and more intimate, and (2) produce a more mellow, introverted vibe.

That’s great for bedrooms, but maybe not so great for a kitchen or dining room, or any room where you anticipate entertaining groups of people.

Pick the Right Dark Color

There’s no doubt that dark colors bring the drama and glamour faster than their paler neighbors on the color chart.

However, they can also bring regrets, too. That deep, bold, so-purple-it’s-almost-black may look thrilling on a swatch. But when it’s on all four walls of your home office, you might find yourself feeling unsettled and even jittery.

So how do you avoid painter’s regret? Start by evaluating the colors that you naturally gravitate towards in personal clothing, accessories, and any items you collect (art, knick knacks, etc.). If you’re drawn to earthy tones, look at deep and bold variations of the same tones -- dark chocolate or dark slate grey, for instance.

Choose colors you enjoy everyday.

Choose colors you enjoy everyday.

Consider, too, the furniture you’ll be placing in the room. It’s much easier to find a paint color to match your upholstered sofa and curtains than the other way around!

The white walls and mustard rug balance the blue wall nicely.

The white walls and mustard rug balance the blue wall nicely.

Go for Contrast

The best rooms are balanced -- neither too dark-and-heavy nor too light-and-airy. When you’re experimenting with dark colors on your walls, you’ll want to provide lighter elements to create visual contrast. This helps keep your room from feeling overwhelmingly dark, cave-like or even oppressive.

For instance, if you choose a darker Wedgwood-blue for walls, keep large furniture pieces and the floor covering (rugs, carpet, or wood) lighter in tone. Or if you’re painting a bedroom in a deep espresso brown, keep your bed linens and window treatments crisp white or pale blue.

Light doesn’t have to mean white, though. Go beyond the usual boring cream, eggshell, and taupe to provide the necessary interplay between light and dark. Light, bright colors that complement the darker paint tones can work like a single perfect piece of jewelry, accessorizing your room for a polished presentation.

Another way to add some necessary contrast and keep a dark room from becoming overly moody is to add in textural elements through fabrics and lighting. A light-toned sisal rug, for example, can brighten a room with dark grey walls. Sparkling crystal in light fixtures and sconces can help brighten walls of midnight blue.

And throw pillows and blankets of plush faux fur, thick nubby knits, and raw silk are great ways to keep a dark-toned room from becoming overbearing.

Practical Tips for Beautifully Painted Dark Walls

For the best results with dark, bold paint jobs, follow these tips below:

●      Prepare your walls as scrupulously as possible. Scrape, sand, and spackle to smooth out every imperfection, since many dark colors will only make those imperfections more noticeable.

●      Don’t skip the primer. While it might be tempting to save time andeffort by heading straight for the new, bolder color, primer is essential. Get it tinted before applying it for the best results.

●      Invest in the best tools you can find. Paint grids make for a better, less messy experience than paint trays, and adjustable extenders on rollers will help you get the job done with less frustration.

●      Consider skipping the do-it-yourself approach just this once. Deep, dark paint colors can be unforgiving on walls and intimidating to first-time users. A professional painting contractor can knock out the job in less time, with fewer errors and much less anxiety.

Easy Feng Shui Tips for Your Kitchen

Want to improve the harmony of your home and increase the prosperity in your life at the same time? Try applying some feng shui basics to your kitchen!

Feng Shui Basics for Your Home

In an earlier post, we discussed the basics of feng shui for your entrance area and front door. Let’s briefly summarize that information here before we turn to specific tips for your kitchen:

●      Feng shui is a Chinese system or philosophy of design centered around creating balance and harmony between five basic elements: water, fire, wood, metal and earth.

●      Practitioners place furnishings, art, and other items in a specific room or area of a home using a compass or bagua, based on those five elements.

●      The feng shui elements can be seen in both constructive and destructive modes. Water puts out fire (destructive) but helps wood grow (constructive).

●      The overarching principle or goal in feng shui is balance and the clear flow of energy throughout your home. So a lot of feng shui work is about removing obstacles to the natural flow of your home’s “chi,” or life energy.

As Inês Martins, a highly-respected Miami-based designer, puts it: “We always start from the client’s own essence … to know them thoroughly, to ensure that every detail, every element, every space, finds a perfect harmony with what they really are or [where] they really want to find themselves.”

That’s also the essence of feng shui.

Why the Kitchen Is Important in Feng Shui

Every room in your home governs a certain area of your life, according to feng shui. For the kitchen, that area is prosperity and wealth.

The kitchen is associated primarily with the energy, sustenance, and abundance we take from food. In feng shui, that literal energy (food into calories consumed to fuel our bodies) also symbolizes the more esoteric energy of financial wealth and abundance.

So the key to good feng shui in your kitchen is protecting the unobstructed flow of that energy of abundance.

In fact, the kitchen is so important in feng shui that it’s considered part of the “feng shui trinity” -- the bathroom, the bedroom, and the kitchen. Together, these three rooms form a crucial framework for the health and harmony of the home.

Feng Shui Tips for Your Kitchen

You can ensure a free flow of prosperity through your home by ensuring a more open floor plan for your kitchen and immediately adjacent areas, such as breakfast nooks and dining rooms. Generally speaking, if a person can move easily from one area into another, so can the energy.

Also, if at all possible, avoid having your kitchen open directly into a main point of egress (i.e., front or back door), if you want to keep that energy from flowing out of your home altogether.

Install the best lighting possible. Dark, shadowy corners and harsh, glaring fluorescent lighting are equally damaging to good feng shui and balanced energy flow. Aim for building layers and levels of lighting, depending on the appliances and functions of specific parts of your kitchen.

Although the kitchen is often a place that collects “stuff” -- gadgets, electronics, utensils, and lots of cookware -- it’s always better from a feng shui perspective to drastically reduce clutter.

There’s no need to go minimalist in your kitchen style, though. Instead, adopt a rigorous approach to organization and storage in this all-important room.

Use smaller containers to organize small items in drawers and cupboards. Invest in beautiful, well-made containers for items that will be visible (i.e., on counter tops, etc.). And avoid the trap of the “clutter drawer”!

Colors should be carefully chosen. Yellow is considered an auspicious choice for kitchens in feng shui, whether that’s the pale, soft shades of butter or a stronger, more vivacious butternut squash.

To more fully invoke the feng shui “abundance and prosperity” energy in your kitchen, add lovely fresh cut flowers in sparkling glass or crystal vases; a vibrant, healthy potted plant on a table or passthrough surface; or a bowl piled high with succulent, fresh fruit on your dining table.

And finally, no matter how large or small it may be, one of the most effective ways to enhance the feng shui of your kitchen is to keep it clean and tidy. Neglected spaces tend to accumulate dead, stagnant energy, whereas well-tended spaces keep that energy flowing smoothly.