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 Much is My House Worth: Understanding Home Equity
Home Projects Gallery
Improve Your Home's Value With An Outdoor Entertainment Area
Outdoor Entertainment areas now rank high on the American homeowners' wish list. Reasons range from healthful living and realizing the value of sunshine and Vitamin D, to exercise and outdoor activities, gardening, and growing great organic foods. And as always, outdoor areas are a wonderful place to unwind and relax with family or friends after a hectic day, or week at work.
The latest "Cost vs. Value" Report from Remodeling Magazine pegs an upscale outdoor deck addition as the third most popular redo with a return investment at 56.4 percent on the average improvement cost of $39,339. A slightly less expensive, mid-range deck averages $17,249 nationally and returns a higher 65.2 percent.
While watching family dollars and cents make sense, don't forget the "joy factor". The National Association of Realtors® places “joy” as equally important as investing and building equity. Every improvement isn't about resale values, but enjoying a home while you live there!
The key to planning an outdoor project is researching options and setting priorities. There are so many new designs and great new products to choose among. In addition, you may have a limited land area, as well as limited budget, so careful planning is important.
If your budget permits, consider hiring a design firm or landscape architect to help tackle your project. Sacramento, California-based landscape designer Michael Glassman, co-author of The Garden Bible: Designing your perfect outdoor space (Images Publishing), suggests that you consider spending 10 to 20 percent of the value of your home on outdoor entertainment improvements. Then, decide what will appeal most to you and your family. He starts with a master plan to see how changes relate to one another, the site and the home. Projects can be phased in over time to fit each family’s budget.
To get the biggest bang for your dollar on any improvement, Glassman suggests these following five areas, which many of his clients now request.
- The area should be large enough to accommodate seating and lounging.
- The three most popular floor materials are redwood, flagstone or textured or stained concrete.
- Consider the sun. You don't want it beating down on you all afternoon, so create covered or shaded areas. Options include a pergola with vines such as wisteria to cut glare and wind, or look into awning options, sail-shaped covers, or cabana designs.
- Outdoor kitchens have become more prevalent. However, the trend toward cloning the indoor kitchen and including everything from a barbecue grill to pizza oven, refrigerator, beer tap, running water in a sink, storage, counters, and more is fading.
- Site your outdoor kitchen near a back door to cut down on dual equipment. Check into new glass wall and door designs that open existing kitchen areas to outdoor entertaining areas.
- Feature what's most critical, Glassman says. Maybe, include one of the new hybrid grilles where you can use gas or charcoal and outdoor woks or a Hibachi, Kegerator or wine refrigerator.
- Like the whoosh of water, which is soothing? Less costly alternatives to a pond with waterfall and boulders are a bubbler or fountain that recirculate the water and can be a colorful, tall addition in your garden depending on the container. They also require far less maintenance.
- If working out is your goal and you have the space and funds, nothing beats a swimming pool. Know that the costs border around a minimum of $35,000 for an in-ground gunite design, depending on its size.
- A smaller variation of just a spa or hot tub can be constructed for about $19,000 and give you year-round enjoyment. Build it close enough to your back door so you'll venture out even when it's chilly, Glassman says.
- Another affordable alternative is to build a play pool, which is shallow on each end and deep in the center. This is a great way to play water volleyball or water polo.
- Know how much physical work you’re up for before you plant, as well as how much research you want to do. For example, you need to know what type of soil you have and if it needs amending with nutrients before you plant to be sure materials thrive.
- Also know what animals lurk nearby since they're apt to check out your veggies and fruits and devour results unless you build a tall deep fence.
- Not sure this is for you? Test your interest by planting tomatoes and other vegetables and fruits in pots or grapevines along a fence. If you do find being a farmer appeals and you want to go bigger, consider raised beds from redwood or slate or horse troughs that can be painted bright fun colors.
- Installing an outdoor water source near your garden eliminates the need to lug around a hose.
- Bocce ball courts have become one of the latest "in" additions with the court cost dependent on its size and surface material, whether masonry or wood.
- Landscape designer John Cowen likes to bring weatherproof ping-pong tables outdoors to his own and clients' homes for a fast, fun game.
- Landscape architect Steve Chepurny has installed putting greens for duffers to work on their short games in their own yard.
- Still another popular way to entertain is with a TV that's designed just for the great outdoors with its surround that’s water-resistant and a screen that cuts glare.
Final Benefit: Whatever way you go, outdoor entertainment is really all about being together with family and friends in your own special haven.
Emerging Products: Artificial Turf
From the Football Field to your Front Lawn
Part of the quintessential American dream seems to always include an expansive green lawn where our kids and pets can play out in the sunshine and fresh air. It sounds idyllic, but as homeowners quickly realize, maintenance of a lawn can be costly, time-consuming and even frustrating. While outsourcing the lawn maintenance is sometimes an option, many homeowners prefer to do it themselves to avoid the extra expense. With the inherent costs of watering and fertilizing, (especially in drought-prone areas of the country), that dream lawn ends up draining our house maintenance budget and a lot of our precious free time.
Thankfully, there are alternatives to the "American dream lawn" that virtually eliminate lawn maintenance and can significantly reduce costs. The question is: does your grass have to be real?
Not just AstroTurf anymore.
While artificial turf has been used in commercial and institutional athletic spaces for decades, you might have noticed that its use in residential spaces is becoming more common. As a viable option for homeowners who seek low-maintenance, artificial turf is an always-green lawn. What has changed to make it more appealing for residential use, and not just for athletic arenas?
One change is price. Prices for artificial turf have come down while the quality has gone up. Especially for residential artificial grass, prices have become more reasonable -- some quotes are as low as $2.50 per square foot for DIYers. The professional installation of synthetic grass will have a higher upfront cost but according to Jay Johnston, owner of Synlawn Georgia, investing in a professional installation is well worth the extra investment. "With every new customer, we come to the property to assess their lawn and help them choose the best product for their site, based on its location, size, usage and amount of shade. Then there's a four-step preparation process that can be labor intensive for a DIYer. Having a professional installation from a company like Synlawn ensures the job is going to be done right the first time, and the lawn is going to look great for a long time."
The price for synthetic grass varies widely based on your geographic region, lawn size, site requirements, etc. However, when you consider all the costs incurred for lawn care over a period of three to five years -- water, fertilizers, herbicides, and equipment -- the cost for artificial turf installation is comparable, considering the "lifespan" of artificial turf can extend to 20 years! In fact, Synlawn guarantees its products for 15 years!
But does it look real?
Other changes in synthetic grass are its quality and variety. Since the 1970s when athletic teams began using artificial turf for its durability and consistency, turf companies have continued to make advances in developing different turf styles, colors, designing different blade shapes and lengths that are more appealing for residential use. Most artificial turf companies now offer a variety of artificial grasses, based on how you plan to use it. Artificial turf is safe for animals and children, although some types can retain heat more readily than real grass; in direct sunlight it can be 5-10+ degrees hotter than regular grass. That might be due to the artificial turf's composition -- grasses that are 100 percent synthetic tend to retain heat more than grasses that are made with both synthetic and organic materials. Several of Synlawn's most popular synthetic grasses are only partially synthetic; their latest product is a turf made up of nylon and sugarcane, and their most popular turf is 78% soybean. While artificial turf can last more than a decade, it does fade and wear out over time.
Ready to stop mowing forever?
One of the main reasons that homeowners choose to install artificial turf is that it is incredibly low maintenance. Besides the cost of installation, homeowners with artificial grass no longer need to pay for watering, fertilizing, pest control and regular maintenance. Once installed, artificial grass requires very little -- no watering, no mowing. It drains as well as real grass, and can be hosed down or blown to be cleared.
Does it make sense for my lawn?
There are several factors besides cost to consider when "going artificial": lawn size, geographical location, and usage. Many artificial turf companies like Synlawn have a variety of different styles of synthetic grass that varies in length, color, blade shape and composition. A potential customer of artificial turf should consider each of these factors, in addition to the environmental considerations of installing a synthetic lawn.
How will it affect the environment?
While the use of artificial turf does conserve on costs of irrigation and maintenance (saving precious water resources and cutting down on noise and air pollution from mowers and weed-eaters), the synthetic material becomes an inorganic barrier between the soil underneath and the air above. That means birds like robins cannot access potential food like insects and worms that live in the soil. And let's not forget what we learned about photosynthesis in ninth-grade biology: live plants like grasses pull carbon dioxide from the atmosphere where it converts it into two gases; releasing oxygen into the air and carbon that becomes part of the plant and enriches the soil. It's worth noting that in the areas where artificial turf is laid, that life cycle is not happening. Areas where synthetic grass is laid can take years of soil remediation to "bring it back to life." So if you're the type who likes to renovate and change things up every few years, artificial turf might not be a worthy investment. That said, if the idea of a virtually maintenance-free, eternally green lawn sounds appealing to you, perhaps it's time to consider "going artificial."
Snap App and SnapDry by Sherwin-Williams
plus New Colors and Painting Tips
Home Painting Products: Snap App and SnapDry by Sherwin-Williams
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."
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.
Emerging Trends: Screened Porches
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.
Emerging Trends: 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.