Making Your Home Special with Creativity & Character
Stir your creativity
It’s your home so dream big or dream small, but make it your own. That’s the beauty of planning a home project, you can let your imagination lead you. Your goal is to create a look & feel that makes your home unique and charming. To stir your creativity, visit new home models in your community or visit re-sale Open Houses in your neighborhood to see what others have done. Gather ideas from paint to décor.
Home projects gallery
View our Home Projects Gallery below. Whether you’re adding a room, painting, decorating, or building an outdoor patio for entertaining, it’s helpful to see a variety of photos to get some ideas. We've included multiple images, designs, colors, and architectural selections for you to browse. As you embark on your project just remember, it’s not a sprint it’s a marathon. Take your time and focus on quality.
How to proceed
Once you’ve gained vision for your project you should meet with several reputable contractors to review your plans. Listen to their suggestions and compare their bids before you proceed. You may choose to do some of the work yourself, or hire out the entire job, that’s up to you. If budget requires you to do some of the work, seek assistance from family pros. Make sure all contractors are licensed and insured.
Take your time and expect delays
Home projects seldom run on time, or on budget. You can reduce stress with proper planning and solid communication with all parties involved in your project. Get details in writing and review them in person if possible with the contractor or others you are depending on to complete the job. If you’re doing the work yourself, proceed with caution. There’s also less risk of injury when you pace yourself.
Review plans with city or county to obtain permits
Are permits required for your project? Are you required to obtain approval from a Home Owners Association? Check with all authorities, especially if you are adding on to your home. Most municipalities require a permit for work to ensure building codes and safety measures are addressed. Fines and penalties, or removal of the structures just added are never fun so ask before you task!
When you make improvements to your home, you’re making a significant investment. Carefully evaluate the costs to complete your home projects. Inquire with a Realtor or property appraiser to determine the estimated value of your home with improvements completed. If you’re within the value range of your neighborhood, great. If your projected value will be well above your neighborhood, limit improvements.
How to Get a Home Equity Loan
Home Projects Gallery
Professional-grade Kitchen for Amateur Price
Cooking is in. If you’re among the 72 percent of Americans who cook at home four or more nights per week, you may want to upgrade your kitchen. According to a survey conducted by Peapod and ORC International in 2016, more than a third of Americans planned to cook even more in 2017. Millennials were more than twice as likely as baby boomers to make the New Year’s Resolution to cook more in 2017, at 49 percent compared to 24 percent of baby boomers.
While cooking for friends and family can be accomplished in even the most basic kitchen, cooks who fantasize about competing on Top Chef may long for a professional grade kitchen. Before you jump into a kitchen remodel, you’ll need to review your budget. Recent studies reveal the average amount spent remodeling a large kitchen is $39,000, while the average for a smaller kitchen is $27,000.
Before you despair of every having a professional-looking kitchen, you may want to look at the new Thor Kitchen appliance brand which recently introduced a pro-style, stainless-steel package of appliances that can be purchased for under $5,000.
"Our goal is to bring real pro-style products to more people," said Kyle You, managing director of Thor Kitchen. "Up until this point, pro-style appliances have always had a premium price preventing home chefs from having their dream kitchen. Now, instead of settling for just a pro-style range, you can have a full pro-style kitchen for the same price."
Essential elements of professional kitchen
While the Thor Kitchen package doesn’t include cooking lessons that could improve your technique, the affordable appliances will look good and perform the function of a chef’s realm.
The appliance package includes:
- A 30-inch Free-Standing Professional Style Gas Range in stainless-steel that features a convection oven, heavy-duty continuous cast-iron cooking grates, four burners, halogen lighting, automatic reignition and a blue porcelain oven interior. ($1,599 Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price)
- A Professional Series Under-Cabinet Range Hood in stainless-steel with an anti-fingerprint finish and includes a three-speed fan touch control and commercial-style stainless-steel baffle filters. ($399 MSRP)
- A 36-inch 4-Door French Door Freestanding Refrigerator in stainless-steel that features counter depth French doors, two freezer drawers, a full-width chiller drawer, an automatic ice maker and high-efficiency LED lighting. Through its Twin Cooling system, dual evaporators separate the refrigerator and freezer zones to prevent moisture and odor transfer, as well as freezer burn. ($1,799 MSRP)
- A 24-inch Professional Series Stainless-Steel Dishwasher that utilizes three spray arms (with a jet sprayer), a steam assist mode to help loosen soils, a soil-sensing “Smart Wash” system to determine the optimum cycle and a multiple filter system to save water and energy. It is also equipped with a water softener system to improve the longevity and maintenance of the unit by deterring calcium buildup. ($699 MSRP)
In addition to the above appliances, you may want a microwave or convection oven. To achieve a truly professional looking kitchen, you may need to upgrade your cabinets, counters and floors. But with a less-expensive appliance package, you’ll have more to spend on those other elements.
To view and order Thor Kitchen packages, click here: http://amzn.to/2A113Kp
The UpSkill Project
DIY Training from Lowe’s
While some people are fortunate enough to grow up with parents, grandparents or other relatives with home improvement and repair skills to share, many of us rely on hit-or-miss techniques or You Tube videos for home projects. Researchers for Lowe’s home improvement stores found that 35 percent of adults lack the confidence or skills to begin a do-it-yourself project. Even as home improvement spending has increased in recent years, homeowner confidence in their ability to complete projects has declined.
According to an analysis by the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University, Americans will spend nearly $400 billion on home improvements in 2017.
If you’d like to feel more confident about your DIY abilities, you could be a good candidate for the UpSkill Project launched in July by Lowe’s. Store employees, associates and specialized experts from Lowe’s, including designers, general contractors, craftsmen and teachers, are helping more than 200 homeowners in 40 cities define and plan an in-house project, purchase the right tools and materials and then master the skills to complete it. These experts don’t do the project – they teach and guide homeowners to do it themselves.
"We wanted to find a way to provide homeowners with the confidence necessary to experience their ‘I can do this!’ DIY moment, while also celebrating the skills our employees provide customers every day in the aisle and giving them another way to connect with customers in their homes," says Ruth Crowley, vice president of customer experience design at Lowe’s.
To participate in the UpSkills project, customers in select areas across the country submit a video detailing the skills they want to learn through a project. Lowe’s selects certain projects based on the submissions and then goes into their home for two days. Employees work side-by-side with the individual – and sometimes their friends and family – to teach them the skills to get their project done.
"Through this program, we’re able to leverage the expertise of Lowe’s associates and give them a platform to become a teacher and pass on their home improvement know-how to others," says Crowley.
Skills mastered with professional guidance
So far, Crowley says, “UpSkillers” have mastered creative painting, landscaping, furniture construction, kitchen backsplash installation, bathroom flooring and back garden patio building.
Approximately 67 percent of the homeowners who have signed up for the UpSkill experience have been female. The DIY training attracts a mix of age groups, with 33 percent Millennials and 25 percent Baby Boomers. The largest group (42 percent) so far has been in the Gen X age range of 38 to 52.
Once the UpSkillers have received their training and completed their project, Lowe’s will give them the opportunity to "pay their skills forward" to their friends, family and neighbors.
"At the in-store UpSkill workshops, the project doers become the teachers by demonstrating their newly learned skills and helping instruct others," says Crowley. "The majority of workshop attendees come to learn a new skill or get project advice, and 9 out of 10 attendees say they would ‘definitely recommend’ participation to a friend."
Crowley says that so far, 100 percent of the individuals that have participated have completed another DIY project in their home.
For more information on how to participate, visit www.upskillproject.com
Rooms with a View Outdoors
Home owners love seeing and being more connected with nature, from the sheer pleasure of viewing landscapes to the healthful benefits that are said to result from more sunshine and the sight of greenery. Not surprisingly, this trend is a factor influencing the look and size of windows and doors.
Marvin Windows and Doors, one of the country’s top manufacturers in Warroad, Minn., has noticed over the past five years an increase in demand for bigger windows and large window walls—many windows mulled together to create a wall of light, says Christine Marvin, director of corporate strategy design. "Letting light in allows us to feel alive and connected to spaces outside our homes," she says.
How big are the window walls? Many home owners are opting for designs that are big enough for an adult to walk through easily. For example, the Marvin Ultimate Casement is the largest operating wood/clad casement in the industry, extending up to 8 feet tall and 4 feet wide. The Marvin Ultimate Double Hung Next Generation is available in sizes up to 5 feet wide and 10 feet tall.
Another trend in the quest to connect with nature is the use of more glass or larger panes in doors, as well as doors that fold open or slide into pockets. These "scenic doors," which offer unobstructed views, also increase the feeling of seamless living with the outside.
"A large door invites people out," Marvin says. The Marvin Clad Ultimate Bi-Fold door is available in a maximum height of 10 feet, overall width exceeding 55 feet and individual panel widths up to 3 feet, 6 inches. Its Ultimate Bi-Fold door is available in more than 90 different configurations. The result of all these options is greater flexibility to incorporate a variety of applications and functions.
In addition to traditional glass, home owners are also asking for practical features that don’t interfere with a room’s design such as retractable screens in climates where home owners must contend with mosquitoes and other bugs. Several company products like the Ultimate Multi-Slide and the newer Ultimate Bi-Fold Door are available with a sliding screen built into the wall, which is completely concealed when not in use.
And because energy efficiency is a priority, the company’s new Marvin Clad Ultimate Bi-Fold door is designed to improve energy- efficiency performance so it can work in a range of climates. In addition, the Marvin Contemporary Casement features a flush exterior frame and sash as well as a narrow frame for expansive views and another top energy-performance rating.
Photo courtesy of Marvin Windows and Doors
Architect Elizabeth Herrmann's Knoll House project, Best Transitional category winner of 2017 Marvin Architects Challenge. Photographer: Jim Westphalen Photography
Architects William M. Hanley and Heli T. Mesiniemi's Shorefront Camp project, Best in Show winner of 2017 Marvin Architects. Challenge Photography: Brian Vanden Brink
Priestley + Associates Architecture's Gallery Addition project; 2017 Integrity Red Diamond Achiever Award winner; Photographer: Rachel Sieben Photography
Kersting Architecture's Surf Gallery project; 2017 Integrity Red Diamond Achiever Award winner
Cabinets: Top of the List for Every Kitchen
The biggest cost in a kitchen redo is the cabinetry. Homeowners want appealing designs and quality craftmanship, and they expect their cabinets to last for many years. They also want a functional layout to provide optimal use of space, and to accommodate all kitchen essentials. According to Remodeling magazine’s Cost vs Value Report, the average upscale kitchen remodel has gone beyond $120,000; even a mid-level redo is above $60,000.
New cabinet trends emerge yearly, and here are trends worth noting from major manufacturer MasterBrand Cabinets, according to Stephanie Pierce, Director of Design and Trends:
Cabinets go deeper. Rather than standard industry 12-inch depth, they extend 13 inches to accommodate larger plates.
Specialized interior options increase. Being organized means faster accessibility--a boon for busy lives.
Open upper shelves take over. More free space gives way to more windows and light, bigger range hoods and the look of floating storage.
Cabinets edge toward traditional. The shift is from popular Shaker and "super" plain to designs with some detail for personalization.
White still reigns supreme, but….It comes in more warm variations, along with continued popularity of khaki, taupe and gray, plus blue and green accents.
Interior variety gains momentum. In premium designs, materials expand to maple and quarter-sawn oak.
Lighting shines brighter. Bulbs are integrated into box interiors and underneath. "It's all about aging in place and having the convenience of immediate light when a door is opened, just as with the refrigerator," says Pierce. LED is pervasive for energy efficiency, along with dimmer controls for flexibility.
Laminate gains attention. It's been highly improved to compete with wood for durability, and it’s affordable.
Trendy Rustic Look the Easy Way
Rustic touches such as barn doors and reclaimed wood used in a variety of places are the trendy way to add warmth to a contemporary home, an office or a retail space. While builders can track down used wood to install in new construction, for homeowners and renters it can be more of a headache to try to source authentic material and install it or worse, try to move it.
Waddell Manufacturing, a family-owned and operated woodworking company based in Ohio for more than 100 years, found a solution to that issue and created Artis Wall, a system of removable, reusable reclaimed wood planks.
"I really liked the warm and rustic look of reclaimed wood combined with a modern living space and wanted to achieve that look in my Cleveland rental apartment," says Will Kimmerle, director of operations for Artis Wall. "However, all of the products available at the time used a permanent installation method which would destroy my walls upon removal. The last thing I wanted to do was lose my security deposit. I saw the opportunity to create a removable product which would be the only one on the market. It took about a year to figure out and patent."
A Kickstarter campaign launched to help start production reached its goal in less than one week, so Kimmerle isn’t the only one who wanted a removable yet authentic wood product.
"Artis Wall is the only removable reclaimed wood product on the market," says Kimmerle. "It can also be re-used and is the only reclaimed wood product which tells you the story behind the material."
Installation made easy
While accent walls or headboards made of wood have been developed before, Artis Walls come with "Artis Installation Method" strips that make them easier to install. The planks come in various links and are thin and lightweight, which makes them simpler to handle than thicker, heavier pieces of wood.
The planks can be cut with a utility knife, which allows buyers to customize the reclaimed wood for almost any use.
The Artis Wall kits come in various sizes and are priced from $11.45 to $19.45 per square foot. Kimmerle says the average accent wall is 80 square feet, so at an average price of $13.95 per square foot the total would be $1,116.
"We like to explain that purchasing Artis Wall is like purchasing a piece of furniture," says Kimmerle. "It’s an investment in a nice piece of décor which moves with you from home to home, unlike most wall coverings which are left behind or demolished."
Modular Construction Offers Modern Method for Remodeling
The driving force behind many innovations is to address pain points. Anyone who has undertaken a major addition to their home knows that the four major pain points are the cost, the mess, the time and the hassle of a temporary move-out. Custom modular additions can ease the stress of remodeling yet yield the same result as a traditional remodel.
Modular construction often brings to mind the image of a Sears kit house, with the parts delivered to your lot and assembled onsite by your contractor. If you’re worried about a cookie-cutter box being plopped on top of your house or in your backyard, consulting a remodeler experienced with custom modular remodeling should ease your mind.
Modular additions are designed by an architect or a design-build firm and then constructed in a climate-controlled factory. The addition is delivered to your site and installed by your builder, often complete with flooring, tiles, moldings, dry wall painted with primer, fixtures and even appliances.
Benefits of modular custom remodeling
When you begin to explore the potential of adding more space to your home, you may find that your ideas and your budget are not in sync. A modular addition could help you solve that issue as well as other potentially frustrating components of remodeling:
Disadvantages of modular custom remodeling
The biggest disadvantage of modular construction is that you can’t change your mind. While change orders are common on remodeling and new construction projects, the modular process means that everything must be decided on in advance. The factory will cut and create your addition to your specifications.
You may also be limited in the size of the addition, since a modular addition must be able to fit on a truck for shipping. Generally, modular additions can be as large as 900 to 1,000 square feet.
Another potential complication could be your choice of materials or home style. While almost any style can be accommodated, you’ll need to make sure your builder and the factory can produce an addition that blends with your existing home and the surrounding neighborhood. In some cases, you’ll need to spend extra money to get the quality you want.
If you work with a contractor with experience with modular construction, you’re more likely to be able to customize your home addition to your satisfaction.
Next Gen Makes Casual Living Space More Useful
The latest trends in home designs include bringing the outdoors in and these new designs have spurred a renewed interest in screened porches. The latest porch themes offer great amenities, allow home owners to view adjoining landscape designs or beautiful natural surroundings and provide protection from rain, over-exposure to sun and keep residents separated from insects.
In years past, screened porches were often camp-like rooms for casual living, which provided an escape from hot or cold air depending on the season. Now screened rooms are being designed as livable spaces that may reflect the style of the rest of a home. Architects and builders now devote greater attention to the building site and how to transition natural areas within the home's architecture, layout and livability – making the home stunning from either perspective, whether you’re “inside” or “outside” of the primary living area.
Here are a few things to consider about screened porches from Joe Levecchi, owner of Exterior Medics, a home remodeling company in Springfield, VA.
- What time of day will you use the space most often – in the morning when the sun is coming up or in the late afternoon or evening when the sun is going down?
- Would you prefer to expand the space off your kitchen, having a place where you enjoy morning coffee, or a place for an evening cocktail beyond the living room?
- Does your home site have natural areas for views, or have areas that provide shade?
- If the screened porch is meant to be a "getaway", consider building a freestanding structure within a short distance of the house.
- Consider how you’ll use the space. Plan for guests and allow adequate area for dining and entertaining. Determine how many people the space will accommodate.
- For a small number, a 4' x 6' room may be adequate. To seat four to six guests, a 5' x 12' area may work, and for more than six guests your space should be 15' x 20' or larger.
- Consider raising the ceiling in your screened room. A beamed or vaulted ceiling could add both a sense of open-air spaciousness and highlight your design themes.
Materials for walls, ceilings, and floors
- Consider composite or green materials that are weather resistant and require less maintenance.
- Natural materials like cedar, redwood, or stone offer a more authentic appearance, but require sealing or other ongoing maintenance.
- Your flooring may be slate, tile or luxury vinyl, or you can continue your indoor flooring material, if weather resistant, to make a seamless transition to your outdoor space.
- Finer screens keep bugs out, but confirm strength and durability of screens.
- Large frames or openings allow for better views, so consider minimum openings of 8' to 10' or more if possible.
- Some wall designs allow for glass to be added or removed from screened openings, if your climate is too cold or too hot. The added flexibility is ideal for extreme climates.
Levecchi says, "It's easier and cheaper to install heating, cooling, water or gas lines or other systems when pulling permits to build. Decide if heating or cooling is to be tied into a home's central system or be a separate unit, and if lighting will be recessed, attached to a fan, include a dimmer system, or come from table and floor lamps. Homeowners should also decide on the following":
- Do you want to include a fireplace, if local code allows and how it's going to be vented?
- Do you want a barbecue or grill, again if code allows and what kind of venting is needed?
- Will you want a built-in bar, a sink with running water, or a refrigerator or dishwasher?
- Are you going to leave furniture in the screened room all year rather than store it in a basement or elsewhere? If furniture will remain in areas subject to temperature and moisture extremes, weather-resistant products must be considered.
Kitchen Organization Tips
Whether you are building a new custom home, planning a major kitchen renovation or simply hope to make your cooking space more efficient, there are hundreds of options to maximize your storage. If a new kitchen is in your future, you may be more excited by the thought of shiny new appliances and gleaming counters, but for long-term satisfaction, smart organization is essential. While some of the suggestions here require new cabinet installations, others are simple DIY tricks that can increase your capacity for pots, pans, utensils and spices.
Think inside the cabinet. If you look closely at your cabinets, you can find a treasure trove of usable space that’s currently just dead air.
First, consider the simple step of putting in wire mesh shelves so you can stack more items without them tipping over. Stores such as The Container Store and Home Depot have numerous iterations of these shelves that you can use for more space for pans or dishes. Smaller versions can be used for pantry items so you can stack cans or other items all the way to the top of your cabinet and yet still be able to see and reach them.
Next, look at back of your cabinet doors. You can install a cork board or a series of hooks to hold measuring spoons and other gadgets.
You can also look for vertical storage space that you can customize like a filing cabinet for awkward items such as your cutting boards and cookie sheets.
Get symmetrical. One reason pantries and kitchen shelves can look so cluttered and disorganized is that products come in different sizes and shapes, some of which (like certain cereal boxes) are too tall for a standard cabinet. The fastest way to make sense of the mess is to buy a set of airtight containers that you can fill and label.
Smaller items that don’t merit an entire bin can be collected into a pull-out drawer or basket that you can take out as needed. For instance, put all your baking items such as cupcake tin liners, sprinkles, baking powder and tiny bottles of vanilla and almond extract into a container so they’re together when you need them.
Focus on your spices. Many cooks complain that their spices clutter up their space or are inaccessible. A quick look at The Container Store will prove the point: there are numerous products to solve this annoyance. Depending on your kitchen’s configuration, think about putting a Lazy Susan in a cabinet or buying an insert for a drawer with staggered, spice-bottle-sized shelves. Or just line them up in drawer and make sure you have the labels facing up where you can see them. You can also install a spice rack in unexpected places such as along the edge of your center island.
Try a slide. One popular way to make your kitchen items, especially heavy ones, more easily accessible is to add a pull-out cabinet. Over time, some homeowners have found that one weakness of pull-out base cabinets is that they can wiggle once they’re full and dislodge their contents. Look for a sturdy version such as the Hardware Resources No Wiggle Base Cabinet Pullout that’s designed to be sturdy and allow for smoother operation.
Some sliding shelves can also be added to existing cabinets to make it easier to pull out your heaviest pots and pans.
Look behind your door. If you have a door to your pantry or into your kitchen, look behind it for extra storage space. You can hang a shoe-organizer with pockets to hold kitchen gadgets, plastic wrap, napkins and clean sponges. If you have a few inches of depth on the wall, you can hang narrow shelves to fit canned goods or spices.
Taking a careful look at your kitchen storage not only gives you a chance to get more organized, but also an opportunity to be creative in your solutions. Hanging baskets, adding hooks and even repurposing small pieces of furniture from other rooms such as a narrow armoire can add space and some personality to your kitchen.