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Making Your Home Special with Creativity & Character

Stir your creativity

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

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

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

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

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!

Don’t over-improve

Don’t over-improve

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.


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Emerging Products:
Snap App and SnapDry by Sherwin-Williams
plus New Colors and Painting Tips

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Home Painting Products: Snap App and SnapDry by Sherwin-Williams

by Barbara Ballinger & Margaret Crane

Selling a home? Just bought a home? Paint is the easiest and least expensive decorating tool to help homeowners transform a house when moving out – and often before moving in. Fortunately to avoid spending dollars on hiring a painting contractor, many homeowners can paint themselves. However, choosing the right paint color can be intimidating. No worries – there are several ways to find help, from apps and visualizers to specific color charts.

On the inside

Selecting a color with universal appeal can be tricky. Many real-estate salespeople recommend going neutral (white or beige). We asked paint and color expert Sue Wadden, Director of Color Marketing at manufacturer Sherwin-Williams, based in Cleveland, which paint color works best on walls, ceilings, and trim for resale, as well as which type of finish to use.

"You can definitely go white for a blank-canvas look, but I prefer going with a neutral for a somewhat stronger look," she says. And here's why." Too many will find the white too institutional looking and antiseptic and will think they'll have to hire a painter to make their home feel like a home," she says.

But don't think you have to use just one neutral color. Consider a series of grays that are trending now or some taupes that will help personalize the home and rooms. And to curtail the cost, you don't have to paint every single room. Focus instead on the main living spaces plus the master bedroom, which are the rooms most buyers care about when they view homes.

Which neutrals are most likely to appeal? Wadden likes her company's Accessible Beige, #7036, which falls in between being warm and cool, has a bit of gray, and looks well with all styles of furnishings. If you don't want all the rooms in the same hue, she suggests going "up" or a bit darker on a color strip to Tony Taupe, #7037, for an adjoining room such as a dining room or family room. It offers a similar feeling but is a bit darker and richer. For yet another room – maybe, a kitchen or the master bedroom, consider going a bit lighter with Aesthetic White, #7035. Using paint on the kitchen cabinets can refresh the room without investing in a renovation when you don't plan to stay. If sellers want to be hip, they might consider the company's recently named 2017 Color of the Year, which is Poised Taupe, #6039, and a bit darker and more modern.

When it comes to trim and ceilings, a good idea is to be consistent throughout. Even if buyers don't like the color of your walls, they may find they like the trim and ceiling choices. This means they won't feel compelled to repaint, which can be time consuming and costly. One classic color that works for both is the company's Pure White, #7005.

What about the finish? Part of the decision should hinge on the condition of the surfaces. If your house is older and may have some bumpy areas, consider a flat finish that tends to mask imperfections. It also works well on ceilings to make them fade away and not reflect sunlight. For trim, consider semi-gloss, which adds a bit of sheen and is also very durable if baseboards get dinged or scuffed. If you're concerned about scrubability – in a hallway or busy trafficked area, consider going with a satin or eggshell finish, which are easier to wipe down, Wadden says.

On the outside

Curb appeal – or what buyers see right away – does ring true. The front door and any shutters should look clean and fresh. If homeowners want to go classic, a dark color such as a black, red, or deep green is a safe choice, particularly in the Northeast, Wadden says. In warmer areas such as the Southwest, they might go a bit bolder with a coral or turquoise, depending on the rest of the house, including its facade frame, which usually should be in a neutral that appeals to a wide market.

Use a Snap app

For either the interior or exterior, sellers can take real-world colors and turn them into paint-color swatches on their smartphone or ipad with the company's "ColorSnap(R) Visualizer."

Fast-drying paint

Finally, if time is of the essence, and home owners need to make a quick fix, they should use the company's new "SnapDry (TM)" line of semi-gloss door and trim paint, which dries and cures within an hour. The door can be closed without sticking.

The goal of any paint color is to visually tell a story about your home and make it feel lived in and loved.

Expert Advice

Home Projects & Contractors

by Barbara Ballinger & Margaret Crane

Expert Advice

Do-it-Yourself or Hire a Professional?

You’ve moved into your new home, and you’re primed and ready to start making improvements. The bathtubs need caulking. A floor in the kitchen is buckling and needs to be replaced. Wallpaper in the master bedroom is yellowing, needs to be stripped, and the walls painted.

Are you a do-it-yourselfer or do you need some professional expertise? Know your limits before you proceed, even if you’ve watched dozens of HGTV shows and think you’re ready to take the plunge. "For certain projects such as electricity, carpentry and plumbing, which are skills for which you need greater expertise, even a license, it might be prudent to hire a pro," says Jennifer Sieber, president, Jennifer Sieber Rennovations, St. Louis. "People always think they can do their own plumbing, for instance. One big mistake is when people try to replace tiles in a shower without replacing the shower pan to make it water tight. It looks great until it stars leaking."

Before you begin a project, whether you do-it-yourself or hire a pro, always set a budget and have an idea of a completion date, particularly if you’re going to take on a project in your spare time. You don’t want that deck to be left unfinished when nasty weather comes because you got so busy with your "real job" or family demands.

Whether you go with a contractor (ask for recommendations, obtain several bids, sign a contract, and put down a deposit, not the full amount) or do the work yourself, first determine if you need approval from your community (home association), or a permit to ensure you or your contractor adhere to all city or county building codes.

You don’t want to get the job finished and then find you have to remove that fence because it was erected too high or not built with acceptable materials. You may also want to find out if constructing a swimming pool, adding on a room or screened porch will increase your tax assessment if that’s a concern.

Consult a real estate professional to be sure your completed job won’t price your house out of the market unless you plan to stay there a long time to enjoy your improvements. Although it’s tough to forecast the exact payback, guides such as Remodeling Magazine’s "Cost vs. Value" survey can provide estimates for the most typical projects. For example, a major kitchen remodel on an upscale level might cost near $120,000, but only offer a return investment of 61.5 percent or close to $74,000. For a less costly mid-range remodel of about $20,000, the return is a higher 83.1 percent or near $17,000. The ROI will depend on several factors like the economy, your neighborhood, housing values, and the quality of the work done.

As much as you want to start work once you move in, sometimes it’s best to live in your home for a while before tackling a project. For example, you may discover you rarely use a formal dining room and by knocking out a wall that area could become a combination kitchen-family room. Your children may not venture downstairs very often, so there’s no point in improving that area if they are content using their bedrooms or the family room to play.

Some projects are also much simpler and less costly, such as painting a room. Seiber says that many clients do a nice job painting and some consider it therapy, but cautions homeowners to do their homework. This means measure the room for the right amount of paint, choose the finish—mat, semi-glossy, or gloss – and line up the supplies. You’ll need to buy brushes, rollers, mixing pans, drop cloths to protect floors and furniture, and tape to be sure your lines are straight or to protect adjoining baseboards, moldings or other surfaces with different paint colors. Ask for ideas or tips at the paint store, or watch a YouTube video to compare paint application methods.

Though painting can seem simple, finding the right color can be difficult. The color may to be appear ideal on a color swatch or paint strip, yet look entirely different when applied to walls or trim in your home. That’s why it’s a good idea to buy a sample or two and try out a few hues on a large area. Look at them during the day and at night once they are dry to make sure you have the look you want before painting the entire area.

Even what’s in a room will influence the way the color appears. For example, we asked experts at Benjamin Moore about good choices for a powder room, and they asked: What colors are the tiles? The floor? What about the color of the fittings and fixtures? How much natural light is there and how much artificial? Certain colors present additional dilemmas. Beige, for example, has such a range of undertones that it’s hard to tell what tones will come out once it’s interacting with a room’s other elements.

Every project you undertake should be well thought out and planned so it produces a joyful addition in your home that you’ll enjoy for a long time. Regardless of what you do, keep this cliché in mind: Haste makes waste.

Barbara Ballinger

Barbara Ballinger is a professional writer, author, blogger and speaker who has long focused on real estate, design, and personal finance. She has co-authored many books, including Successful Homebuilding and Remodeling, The Kitchen Bible: Designing the perfect culinary space, and The Garden Bible: Designing the perfect outdoor space. She regularly contributes to the National Association of Realtors® Website and magazine.

Margaret Crane

Margaret Crane is a nationally known freelance writer, blogger and journalist who has co-authored with Barbara Ballinger several books and articles on real estate, design and family business. Her byline has appeared in Realtor® magazine. With more than a half-dozen titles to her credit, Margaret’s latest design book is The Kitchen Bible: Designing the perfect culinary space.

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