Are you ready to put your deck on the best-dressed list this summer, but hesitant to dent your savings? With these simple design ideas, you can make your deck the perfect place for summer festivities.
1. Accessorize with railings.
An easy way to give your deck a beauty boost is to update the railing. The decorative details of this safety feature are easy to overlook during the initial deck building process. Thankfully, with today’s products, it’s easy and affordable to turn this eyesore into an accessory.
For example, by replacing outdated railings with those that complement your deck boards and home’s exterior trim, you can create an outdoor living space that’s a well-styled extension of your home. If you have a non-traditional deck, cable rails or mixed medium infills like tempered glass panels may be your style. Or, if you want to mix modern with traditional elements, consider letting guests lean on attractive, but affordable aluminum rail systems.
The sleek lines of aluminum railing are the perfect counterpart to today’s contemporary spaces. They’re a less obtrusive railing option and give decks a high-end, custom feel without the high-end price tag, and tend to be backed with long-term warranties.
2. Block the sun beautifully.
Another way to balance form with function is to shade your deck in style. Fortunately, there are a number of beautiful, low-cost ways to block the sun that go beyond the patio umbrella.
Pergolas are a popular way to shade your space without breaking the bank. You can vary the direction of the beams to create interest, weave fabric panels across the top to create a cozy respite or use the structure to frame a view.
Screening trellises are another affordable option for relief from direct sunlight. They can disguise an unsightly view, soften your deck or provide an attractive backsplash for an outdoor kitchen, while adding shade and privacy. You can even bend high performance decking materials, like composite decking, to curve around existing trees to let nature act as your canopy.
3. Plant a deck-adent garden
Deckscaping is a timeless, low-cost way to turn your outdoor living space into a backyard beauty. Placing shrubs or a curving flowerbed along the perimeter of your deck can soften its edges and add colorful accents. Alternatively, bringing planters on deck with a mix of annuals and perennials can quickly turn a bland deck into a garden retreat full of seasonal blooms.
If your deck is small, consider keeping floor space free with a gorgeous overhead garden. Hanging flower baskets and trellises with climbing vines are simple and affordable space-savers that can make covered deck spaces resemble a spa-like retreat.
4. Dress your deck to impress
To finish your deck and give it that one-of-a-kind feel, outfit it the same way you would an interior room, thinking about color and texture. While this may sound expensive, there are plenty of practical, budget friendly ways to make your deck a stylish extension of your home.
You can easily spice it up with painted furniture and fun accents. Pretty and durable accent pillows made from outdoor fabrics are an inexpensive way to add pops of color. Or if you find an outdoor fabric that you love you can make bench cushions to give your outdoor seating a cozy feel. Accents like an outdoor rug can tie it all together by adding texture underfoot, keeping dirt from being tracked inside your home, and defining areas for different uses.
5. Light up your evenings in style
Finally, don’t neglect how your deck looks when the sun goes down. With the right lighting, you can extend your hours outside and keep your deck as charming in the nighttime as it is during the day.
From subtle post lights that cast a magical evening glow to understated recessed lights and rail strip lights that help guide guests’ steps, today’s deck lighting choices are both functional and affordable. And, with the emergence of energy-efficient LEDs, you can use them liberally with little effect on your monthly electricity bill. So, let your imagination roam with nighttime illumination options to add after-dark ambience to your outdoor retreat.
When you’re in the process of buying or building a home, you’re constantly researching trends and technology that will set your home apart. Fast forward a few years and you probably don’t have your finger on the pulse of home advancements like before.
It’s good you’ve settled in to your home, but a lot can change in just a handful of years. If you’re finally thinking about finishing the basement, updating the kitchen or investing in landscaping, there’s probably a lot of new processes and products available since you’ve last been in the market.
Get up to speed by learning about the top home improvement trends that are getting lots of attention in 2016:
Homeowners are taking action to improve indoor air quality by choosing smart products like drywall boards that clean the air. Ideal when remodeling or finishing basements and bathrooms, these boards feature the industry’s first formaldehyde-absorbing technology. That means they actively remove volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from the air, converting them into a safe compound that improves indoor air quality. VOCs are prevalent in bathroom spaces due to personal hygiene products like hair spray and the use of cleaning chemicals.
Acid stained concrete
Homeowners are looking beyond concrete’s core strength and durability to discover its beauty when treated with acid staining techniques. Specialty stains are used to add stunning depth and color that closely mimics stone, including marble. Perfect for basements and patio spaces, concrete experts pour the slab and then after it has cured, return to apply the stain treatment. The result is completely customizable and often closely resembles upscale applications at a fraction of the cost.
As technology continues to advance at a rapid pace, homeowners need the option of mounting and remounting the newest televisions, speaker systems and other home electronics. By thoughtfully selecting drywall, you can say goodbye to anchors and stud finders for good.
Medium density fiberboard (MDF) is a high-grade, composite material that is used to create cabinetry for kitchens, bars and bathrooms. Made from wood fibers and resin, MDF is dried and pressed to create an incredibly durable material. Homeowners are choosing MDF cabinets because they do not expand and contract like solid wood, which means it better withstands seasonal changes in temperature and humidity.
Today’s approach to home design goes beyond appearances to look at how the spaces affect every one of the senses. Homeowners in particular are paying close attention to the acoustics of a home. Knowing how sounds can be manipulated and controlled within a house is important for functionality and livability. A professional can assist in the details of acoustics design, but basic features that best control sound are insulation, ceiling material and flooring design.
High tech knows no bounds because more homes are incorporating smart spaces into each room. These are special areas where you can store and charge devices so that they are always operable. For example, a drawer in the kitchen will have built-in USB chargers. The cabinet in your master bath will hold and charge your tablet. The living room built-in will feature a smartphone dock. Personal technology continues to grow and today’s home is growing with it.
When your family outgrows your home’s available space, moving to bigger digs isn’t always the best option. Maybe you really love your current home. Perhaps you can’t find a bigger home in your price range in the area of your choice. Whatever your reason for staying in place, expanding the home you already have can be a cost-effective option when your family needs more room.
Converting an unused attic into usable living area is a reliable, cost-effective way to gain more space in a home. It’s also a good investment; when you add an attic bedroom, you can expect to recoup about 77 percent of the construction cost when you resell the house.
Three time-tested techniques can help you turn an empty attic into the extra space you dream of:
1. Rely on natural light for beauty, visibility and cost savings.
Attics don’t usually have many windows, and adding them can be difficult if the ceiling is sloped. Adding dormers – a typical solution – can be costly and time-consuming, and eat up wall space that is often at a premium in attics.
Skylights or roof windows can be a better, more cost-effective way to bring natural light and fresh air into an attic. Installation is faster and cheaper than adding dormers, and they work well on slanted ceilings. Solar-powered, fresh-air skylights make it easy and affordable to bring natural light and fresh air into an attic space.
Add solar-powered blinds in designer colors and patterns, and the skylight becomes an even more valuable piece of the room’s overall decor. Solar-powered skylights close automatically in case of rain. They, and the blinds, are operated by programmable remote control, making it easy to adjust the amount of sunlight that enters the space.
2. Pay close attention to insulation.
In any home, the attic is often the hottest spot in the summer and the coldest in the winter. The amount and quality of insulation in the attic directly affects the comfort level in the space – and the overall energy efficiency of your home.
Have an insulation pro evaluate the insulation in your home’s attic before you begin planning your conversion. You may need to add insulation or even replace older, inefficient types – a move well worth the investment since insulation is so important to your home’s overall comfort and energy efficiency. Many insulation pros will recommend spray insulation for attics because it goes easily between existing joists. Plus, it can create a tight air barrier without losing the inches of space required for thick fiberglass batt insulation.
3. Get smart about plumbing.
If your attic conversion will incorporate a bathroom, good for you! Bathroom additions return more than 56 percent of your initial investment when you resell.
If pipes are already present in your attic, adding a bathroom can be simple. If no plumbing exists, consider cost-effective alternatives that will have less impact on the space, like up-flush plumbing. Because it fits into the kind of tight spaces that often occur in attics, up-flush plumbing can be an easy, cheaper way to plumb a sink, toilet or shower stall in an attic space.
Converting an unused attic into living area can be a great way to expand your space without moving. Plus, when you finally are ready to move one day, that attic renovation may end up paying for itself by boosting the sale price of your home.
Kitchen renovation is a common theme of home improvement shows, and it’s typical for the host and designer to talk about removing interior walls and “bumping out” exterior ones in order to gain more space. Everyone wants a big, beautiful kitchen, but changing the footprint of yours isn’t always practical, especially if you lack the budget of a home improvement show!
You can make your snug kitchen feel bigger and fresher with a few smart improvements that don’t involve wads of cash and tearing out walls. Here are four ways to create a brighter, more expansive feeling in any kitchen, no matter how small the square footage:
Increase natural light
Everything looks bigger and better in the daylight, but if your kitchen has just one small window over the sink or no windows at all, it can look dark and feel even smaller. Adding windows isn’t always possible in a kitchen where you need to reserve wall space for cabinets and appliances. Skylights can be a cost-effective and quick way to bring more natural light into a kitchen – even if it doesn’t have direct roof access.
By adding solar-powered, fresh-air skylights, you can greatly increase the amount of natural light while keeping functional wall space. For times when you want less light, the addition of solar-powered blinds, available in designer colors and patterns, allow you to attractively shade your skylights. Operated with a programmable touchpad remote control, today’s skylights also feature a sensor that will automatically close them in case of rain.
As a cost-effective and easily installed alternative to traditional skylights, tubular skylights deliver natural light to spaces that don’t have direct roof access. Optional light kits make them functional both day and night.
Take control of cabinets
Who doesn’t want more cabinet space? Storage is essential in a kitchen, but too many cabinets or too dark cabinetry can make an already small kitchen feel downright miniscule.
Take a long, hard look at your kitchen cabinets. Do you really need all of them? If you decide you can make more efficient use of fewer cabinets, consider removing some to make the kitchen feel larger.
If you just can’t give up any cabinet space, you can still make your kitchen feel brighter by painting or staining them a lighter hue and using bright, reflective hardware in modern styles. Glass cabinet doors can also visually open up a kitchen – and inspire you to greater organization so that the inside of your cabinets always look guest-ready.
You may fantasize about a six-burner professional range or a massive built-in refrigerator, but appliances that are too big for a room fail on multiple levels. They not only make the room look smaller by virtue of their dominating size, they can hinder usability by obstructing other work areas like cabinets, counters and other appliances when the doors are open.
Fortunately, appliance makers offer products in multiple sizes and finishes to fit any space and design preference. Before you appliance shop, be sure to measure the spaces where the new pieces will reside in your kitchen. Further, keep in mind the overall scale of the room, too. If your kitchen is small, a massive refrigerator will overwhelm the space, even if designated cutout for the fridge is big enough to accommodate a large one.
Choosing lighter colors and finishes is the easiest, most cost-effective way to make any space look bigger. If you’ve already addressed the cabinets, you can further expand the visual feel of the kitchen by painting walls a light color. Replace dark floors and counters with brighter colors and upgrade faucets, cabinet hardware and light fixtures to be brighter and more reflective.
Finally, try adding under-cabinet lighting above work spaces. Not only will task lighting put more illumination where you need it most when working in the kitchen, but when combined with abundant natural light from skylights it will enhance the overall effect of a lighter, brighter and bigger space.
Think of a door opening and closing.
Chances are you pictured it swinging on hinges, since that’s how most doors operate. But, more homeowners are choosing other door hanging hardware for a unique look with their interior and exterior doors.
If you’re looking for a way to make visitors to your home say “wow,” consider alternatives to hinged doors for an unexpected twist.
“Once you’ve chosen the door that’s perfect for you, it can be hung in a number of distinctive ways,” says Brad Loveless, marketing and product development manager for Simpson Door Company. “A pocket door, sliding barn door or a pivot door can add some personality and pizzazz to your home.”
Similar to closet doors hung on a track, pocket doors slide open and closed, but disappear into the wall when closed. Popular in home offices, bathrooms and utility rooms, pocket doors save space and can make a room feel more open. Using a pocket door in place of a hinged door saves about 10 square feet of floor space, notes home improvement expert Tim Carter.
Depending on the width of the opening, you can use either a single pocket door, or double pocket doors that slide into opposite walls and meet in the middle when closed. Because they don’t seal as tightly as hinged doors, pocket doors are largely limited to use inside the home, instead of as entry doors.
Sliding barn doors
Barn doors are a bit like pocket doors in that they slide open and closed, but they’re hung on tracks that are visible. When opened, the doors are located on one side of the wall, instead of disappearing into the wall. For large openings, such as between dining rooms and living rooms, you can even hang multiple barn doors on tracks in order to divide the spaces.
A number of companies offer high-end barn door track hardware, in a range of styles and colors. “People like the unexpected look of a barn door,” says John Golesh, president of door hardware manufacturer Goldberg Brothers. “They’re a great way to add a rustic, yet elegant look to your home. And with the wide variety of door hangers and handles, a barn door can complement any interior décor.”
In addition to the chic look barn doors offer, homes for sale with “barn door” in their listing sold for 13 percent more than expected and 57 days faster, according to research by Zillow Diggs.
Common in ancient buildings, pivot mounted doors are virtually unseen in North American homes. For homeowners who want an element of surprise, a pivot door is a good choice. In place of hinges or overhead sliders and tracks, pivot doors rotate open and closed around pins installed in the top and bottom of the door frame. The pins are set several inches in from the door frame, depending on the door’s size.
“For high-end homes with extra-wide doors, pivots are a great way to handle the additional weight, and will be unlike anything your visitors have seen before,” Loveless says. “We are making many different super-sized doors for this exact application.”
Some of these doors are huge – measuring up to four feet wide or more. As “large, simple rectangles,” pivot doors can be designed to look like the surrounding wall, so fit well in modern style homes, notes architect Bud Dietrich. Unlike pocket doors and barn doors, pivot doors can seal tightly to their frame when closed, so can be used as entry doors.
Many people feel working from home would be a dream job, and more than one-third are already living that dream; 37 percent of workers telecommute, according to Gallup. However, unless you’re a full-time telecommuter or an entrepreneur running a business from your home, it may be hard to justify dedicating an entire room in your house for home office space.
Today’s home offices must be able to multi-task as efficiently and effectively as the people who work in them – and that’s something you should keep in mind when making renovation plans.
“We see fewer and fewer buyers requiring a dedicated home office when setting their search criteria for buying a new home,” writes Gwen Daubenmeyer, a real estate professional. Daubenmeyer notes that laptops, cloud storage and online filing services have made it possible to work from virtually any room in the house, so it’s no longer necessary to have a room dedicated solely as office space.
Instead of turning that spare bedroom into a space strictly used for work, why not consider improvements that will help the room multi-task? With a few smart upgrades, spaces such as attics, basements, spare bedrooms and other smaller areas can serve as multi-functional spaces for work, play, working out and socializing.
Tips for multi-tasking offices
Good lighting is essential for any home office, but if you want to avoid the institutional look of traditional office lights, consider increasing the amount of natural light that enters your multi-purpose office space. Adding Energy Star-qualified, solar-powered, fresh-air skylights is a cost-effective way to bring natural light, as well as passive ventilation, into any home office space. Solar-powered blinds in designer colors and patterns enhance the blended decor of a multi-use room, while allowing you to control the amount of light entering the room with a programmable touchpad remote control. Plus, a 30 percent federal tax credit is available to homeowners on solar-powered skylights, blinds and installation costs. Roof windows, which are very similar to skylights but are in-reach and operated by hand, are another popular option, especially in attics.
Divide the room visually to define functional areas. You can do this in several ways, including using a folding screen to partition off the room’s work area, or hanging curtains to conceal lesser-used sections of the room when they’re not in use. You can also use the room’s layout to create a natural flow. For example, tuck a desk and shelving into an attic dormer area as office space.
Many home offices need to double as a guest bedroom. If working beside an inviting bed all day makes it difficult to resist the temptation of a nap, consider alternative bed styles. A daybed can be dressed up with pillows to serve as a sofa where you can comfortably read reports. Or, completely hide the sleeping area by adding a Murphy bed to available wall space.
Make it easy to rearrange furnishings in the room by putting your desk on coasters just like your office chair. Whenever you need the room to function as a workout space, home theater or social center, just roll the office furniture out of the way.
If you’re turning a bedroom into a multi-purpose office, no one should need the closet for hanging clothes. Instead, convert the closet into a cozy spot for a workspace. You can place a small desk inside, or hang wide shelving that can function as a workspace for your laptop, printer and files. When you’re not working, simply close the closet doors!
Whenever a room has to serve more than one purpose, organization is critical. If you don’t have the space for filing cabinets, or simply don’t like the way they look, bookcases and shelving can be a great alternative. Don’t overlook the possibilities presented by extra wall space; you can layer shelves to maximize storage space above your desk/work area.
Daubenmeyer says that following the housing bubble, homeowners are smarter and want more functional space. The multi-function home office is one solution that is gaining popularity.
Kitchens and bathrooms are not only two of the most highly used rooms in your home, they’re also two of the most popular rooms to renovate, according to home style experts.
With any kitchen or bath renovation, there are many aspects to consider – cabinets, counters, floors, etc. And whether you’re making small updates or completely gutting the room, make sure to include window replacement in your list of must-haves.
How can new windows benefit a room? With a style that fits your personality, the right window provides natural light and ventilation to help create a beautiful, functional and comfortable living space.
Keep three key elements in mind when choosing a window for your kitchen or bath:
Choose a window style with function in mind.
Kitchen windows are often placed above counters or sinks, while bathroom windows tend to be located above tubs, beside showers or above bathroom counters. The placement of these windows can sometimes make them hard to reach, so choosing a window style that’s easy to open and close is a must.
Sliding windows or casement windows – which crank open and closed – are good options for hard-to-reach areas like above a counter or sink.
Ventilation is another key consideration for kitchens and bathrooms. A properly placed window can help decrease the amount of heat and moisture retained from cooking or showering. Awning windows, which can be pulled in or pushed out, are a good option for ventilation, and perform best when placed close to the ceiling or above eye level.
Select a window material that fits your needs.
Kitchens and baths require windows that are easy to clean and can withstand moisture, so materials like vinyl or fiberglass are ideal.
Fiberglass windows can withstand extreme heat and cold, are energy-efficient and can have the quality look of painted wood. Vinyl windows are easy to care for and don’t require additional painting or staining.
However, if wood is a better fit for the style of your home, make sure to select a finish that will hold up against stains and moisture, and be prepared to do a little more cleaning and upkeep.
Consider additional features and options.
If you want to maintain privacy while maximizing natural light in the bathroom, choose a window with obscure or opaque glass.
Or, you can streamline the look and function of your kitchen or bath with between-the-glass cordless blinds or shades, which minimize allergens and eliminate clutter. Because these window coverings are tucked between the panes of glass, you won’t have to worry about moisture or stains.
Take it one step further and motorize the blinds or shades. Controlled via a remote or home automation system, the blinds or shades can customize the level of light in the bathroom or kitchen.
Have you ever picked a paint color you loved in the store, only to hate it when it’s on the walls at home? Or purchased throw pillows that you thought would be delightful on your neutral-hued couch, only to decide they look positively garish there? In both cases, you loved the colors when you first saw them, so what happened between the store and home? The problem is simple – the light changed.
Every color looks different depending on the type of light by which you view it. You probably first viewed that ultimately disappointing paint color and throw pillows under fluorescent light bulbs in the store. When you got home, your light bulbs are all old-fashioned incandescent bulbs or (if you’re eco-minded) compact fluorescent lights (CFLs).
This effect is one reason why so many people hesitate to decorate with rich, dark or vibrant colors in their home, opting instead to stick with neutrals. While neutral tones can be a wonderful background that allows the beauty of a home’s architectural bones to shine through, decorating with neutrals atop neutrals can leave a room looking bland and lifeless. Your neutral background still needs pops of color, and wouldn’t you secretly love to have a dark plum wall or two in your dining room or hot pink accents in the family room?
How can you make the most of color in your home while minimizing the risk of disappointment? The solution is as simple as the problem – decorate your home with natural light.
Daylight contains all the colors in the visible spectrum, so hues of every depth and saturation always look their best in natural light. That’s because the essence of that color is already present in natural light, whereas certain colors dominate different types of artificial light. For example, LEDs are highly energy efficient, but blue is the dominant shade in most LEDs. Halogens emit more light in red wavelengths, while fluorescent bulbs are heavier with green light.
Only natural light perfectly blends all colors in a pleasing balance. Chances are good, if you just re-position those couch pillows slightly to capture the light from the living room skylight, you’ll love the color again.
Bringing more color-friendly natural light into your home can be as basic or as grand as you wish. Simply opening blinds and drapes can alter how colors look in a room. Or, if you want to maximize natural light with a tactic that’s also a stunning design element, try installing skylights.
Skylights can admit ample natural light into your home, enhancing not only the colors of your home decor, but your mood as well. Place a remote-controlled, solar-powered fresh-air skylight in a kitchen or bath and you may feel more comfortable taking a bold color risk, plus you can reap the benefits of passive ventilation. The skylights carry a no-leak warranty and close automatically in case of rain. Add solar-powered blinds, and it’s easy to give a room a whole new look simply by closing or opening the blinds. What’s more, light blocking or light filtering blinds – available in a variety of designer colors and patterns – further enhance the energy efficiency.
If you have the opportunity to strategically place skylights in your home, they will make a world of difference. Skylights are a terrific and easy way to bring natural light and ventilation into a home.
It makes sense for homeowners to think about how to keep their home comfortable and performing optimally throughout the colder months. Putting off winterization efforts can lead to higher utility bills and fluctuating indoor temperatures over the cold winter months.
Drafts and gaps in insulation coverage can be a major contributing factor to higher utility bills and can hinder the performance of your furnace. Warm air continually escapes the home due to these gaps, forcing the furnace to work overtime to compensate. In addition to this, it’s suggested that air leakage contributes to potential moisture problems that can affect occupant health and the home’s durability.
So how can you ensure that your home stays warm and your family remains comfortable throughout winter? Caulking and weather-stripping are two of the most popular and common techniques that can help address air leaks. Additionally, having your furnace equipment professionally maintained is another simple measure. However, building experts will suggest solutions that go further in terms of air-sealing.
High performance insulation
One of the most effective methods to eliminate air leakage and live comfortably during the colder months is ensuring your home is insulated with a high performance insulation solution. Traditional insulation is prone to leaving gaps and absorbing moisture, which in turn can have a significant impact on occupants while allowing for significant energy loss. Replacing your home’s insulation with a high-performance material such as spray foam insulation, will both insulate and air seal the home and lead to immediate cost savings, which continue over the long-term.
Installed by professionals, spray foam insulation, works well in all climates to completely seal the building, filling gaps to stop air leakage and help reduce the strain on your furnace (or air conditioner during warmer months). As a long-term solution, spray foam insulation helps maintain a comfortable temperature year round while helping to control monthly heating and cooling expenses. Thanks to spray foam insulation’s air-sealing qualities, homeowners can reduce the size of their heating and cooling equipment since less effort is required to heat or cool the home, according to InsulationSmart.com.
While air leakage can cause energy bills to sky-rocket, a well-insulated home and economical winterizing can help you get through the cold winter months.
It’s coming – the white, windy weather of winter. Are you ready? Is your home? Now is the time to protect your home and wallet with a quick window and door checkup to make needed repairs and reduce costs.
Clear sills and moving parts of dirt and debris. Debris like sand, dirt or leaves can get caught in window sills and moving parts of windows or doors. Clean these areas with a dry paintbrush to create a tighter seal and enhance window and door performance.
Check weather stripping. Re-attach or replace loose or worn weather stripping around windows and doors. Loose weather stripping can let cold air in, reducing energy efficiency.
Reapply caulk or sealant around windows and doors. To help reduce potential drafts and leaks, reseal areas around windows and doors that may have been exposed to heavy weather or extreme sunlight, creating breaks in caulk or sealant.
Install snap-in blinds or shades. Snap-in between-the-glass blinds or shades help insulate your home from cold outdoor temperatures. Pella Designer Series windows and patio doors feature convenient between-the-glass options to add energy efficiency and privacy.
Repair or replace damaged exterior surfaces. Cracked or deteriorated wood on the roof or near the foundation is typically associated with water penetration and may allow moisture or cold air to leak into your home. Look closely for signs of moisture leakage and replace damaged wood. Consult a professional to help correct any roof or drainage problems around your home.
Install storm doors. Storm doors add an extra layer of protection and help reduce air and moisture leakage.
Replace old windows and doors with energy-efficient ones. If you have single-pane glass or older windows or doors, you may be paying more to heat your home in the winter. Replace them now with energy-efficient, double- or triple-pane glass versions, made with insulating argon, or install new durable fiberglass doors to help save money and energy year round.