10 Hidden Costs of Home Renovations

Whether you’re renovating your very first home or you’re a seasoned veteran onto your 10th property, unexpected projects always pop up. This can be incredibly frustrating–but manageable! And the sooner you work with your designer or general contractor to get these projects out of the way, the smoother the rest of your renovation will be. Here are some of the most common hidden home renovation projects we run into:

Home Renovation: Expect the Unexpected

1 Building Permits

Dependent upon where you live, building permits may or may not be fixed costs. Sometimes they exist on a sliding scale or as a percentage of the overall cost of your home renovation. They can also take time to secure, and time is money!

10 Hidden Costs of Home Renovations

2 Temporary Displacement

If you’re doing more than painting a few rooms, you and your family will likely have to move out of your house for a few weeks or even a few months. Consider these accommodations when evaluating your overall budget. Even if you are able to stay in your home, if your kitchen is being redone, you likely won’t be able to prepare your own meals, which can involve an added expense as well.

10 Hidden Costs of Home Renovations

3 The Gross Stuff

If you’ve bought a beautiful older property and intend to maintain it, you’ll be discouraged to learn you may have mold, water damage from plumbing issues, or asbestos. These issues greatly impact the structure of a home and the health of its inhabitants, which is why we always always always insist upon a thorough home inspection prior to getting to the fun projects so we can take care of the necessary evils first.

10 Hidden Costs of Home Renovations

4 Shoddy Wiring or Other Code Updates

An older home may be improperly wired, or generally not up to code. Building codes vary from city to city, and though you may not be planning on it, you may find your home needs requiring to be brought up to code. Luckily this won’t take too long and you can move onto more exciting cosmetic projects quickly!

10 Hidden Costs of Home Renovations

5 Outdoor Maintenance

It takes a lot to maintain a gorgeous yard, especially if you have a lot of land. Talk to your landscape architect about yard maintenance so you’re aware of all your options, like automatic sprinklers and water reduction systems that help limit or recycle your water usage.

10 Hidden Costs of Home Renovations

6 Clean Up

Construction sites get messy! It can be discouraging to have your beautiful new home finished but have left over materials strewn about. Be clear up front about who is responsible for clean-up and clean-up costs after a construction project or design installation. Cities charge different amounts to have dumpsters parked on the street. And after having installers track dirt around, you’ll likely need new flooring professionally cleaned.

10 Hidden Costs of Home Renovations

7 New Walls

If you want to remove a beam or other structural element of the home, that can usually be done, but it will cost you. In order to maintain the home’s structural integrity, added walls or reinforcement have the potential to inflate your overall budget by 15-20%.

10 Hidden Costs of Home Renovations

8 Hourly Fees

Use your consultation time wisely! Many (if not most) designers will charge an hourly rate, similar to that of a lawyer. If new necessary projects are discovered or there are delays, it can inflate your overall budget.

10 Hidden Costs of Home Renovations

9 Moving Furniture & Storage

During a giant overhaul, you may need to remove any existing furniture and have it placed in storage for the duration of construction. Consider the logistics and timeline that moving and storing existing belongings entails in determining your overall budget.

10 Hidden Costs of Home Renovations

10 Changing Your Mind

Once a design/build plan has been decided upon, a clearer picture of how much it will cost will begin to fall into place, closing the gaps in the price ranges designers or contractors give you. Because of that, if you change your mind it will cost you. Your designer will have to go back to the drawing board, implement the design change, put in new orders for materials, which will likely have either longer lead times or will cost more for rush shipping.

10 Hidden Costs of Home Renovations

Our Advice: 3 Tips for Managing Expectations

  1. Your home is never really completely “done.” Accept that. Even with impeccable design and structural integrity, things around the home will always require upkeep whether that’s in the form of replacement or slight upgrade so ask your designer and contractor questions about down the line: 5  years out, 10 years out.
  2. Consult with a general contractor or designer who can give you realistic budgets and timelines for your home improvement projects: if a designer or contractor gives you too firm a budget or timeline, rather than a range, without having first done a deep home inspection into your personal needs, run for the hills and find someone who will!
  3. Take your time! We’ve written before about how overwhelming home renovations can be, especially when you try to do everything at once. Most design projects can wait, so be sure to prioritize. We shared even more specific tips on how to prioritize your home improvement projects in last week’s blog: Read it here.

How to Prioritize Your Home Improvement Projects

So you’re all moved in and ready to renovate your home… but where to begin? It’s tempting to focus on cosmetic repairs, or overhauling the shared spaces of your home like kitchens and living rooms, or starting with what’s most or least expensive, but we have some other tips for prioritizing your home improvement projects:

How to Prioritize Your Home Improvement Projects

Beyond First Sight

You’re going to want to have a general contractor assess the condition of the home’s structure before anything else. Before you start adding new furniture and installing new lighting or even before you slap a fresh coat of paint on the walls, have a contractor assess whether you have any water damage or other non-cosmetic issues to take care of first. These projects are going to make everything else go much smoother.

How to Prioritize Your Home Improvement Projects

Access Your Budget & Start With Your Needs

Once you know if there are any structural issues you need to take care of, you can get an estimate as to how much of your budget that is going to consume. From there, you can begin making a to-do list of everything else you want upgraded. You can begin ranking projects by what needs to get done immediately, and what can wait (and truthfully, most projects can wait), and what you need to hire a contractor or designer to do vs. what you can do yourself. Generally what needs to get done immediately are going to be the things you need a contractor for, including:

  • Structural projects, which, if left unchecked, can cause permanent damage (leaky gutters, etc)
  • Safety priorities (child-proofing, alarm systems, etc.)  
  • Energy Savers (Windows/Doors, AC, Water tanks, etc.)

How to Prioritize Your Home Improvement Projects

Developing a Strategy

Once you have your list of priorities, you can begin working with a designer and contractor to develop an efficient timeline. Do you want to tackle one room at a time? Or is it better for your work flow to conquer larger, general projects like painting every room, or reflooring the entire home? Designers and builders work with project managers whose job it is to keep projects running smoothly and answer those questions to fit your specific needs.They can provide you with a lot of excellent advice about the workflow of your home improvement projects.

How to Prioritize Your Home Improvement Projects

Energy Reduction

A huge priority of our firm, that is a win-win for everyone and the environment, is prioritizing energy-efficiency in home improvement projects. This extends from the zero-waste processes and sustainable materials we use to the outcome for homeowners: lower electric bills, more temperature-regulated homes, and homes that are built to last! If this is also a priority of yours, consider moving up projects like new roofs, new windows and doors, new water tanks up on your list.

How to Prioritize Your Home Improvement Projects

Remodeling for Resale

If you are remodeling to increase the property value of your home, however, your priorities are going to be different: This is an instance in which you may want to go project by project, focusing on the high-ticket rooms that are going to immediately increase your property value like full kitchen and bath remodels.

We wrote all about home improvement projects for resale value, read it here.

Hack Your Home: 10 Tips for Hiding All the Ugly Stuff in Your Home & Keeping Your House Clean

ahh…That feeling you get when your house has been spotlessly clean. It’s refreshing, relaxing, it feels like your home is brand new. It’s ready to grace the pages of Architectural Digest. But then the kids come home from school and litter countertops with school papers; you have to make dinner in a rush and have another new sink full of dishes, then the dog tracks mud through the living room, and that wonderful, accomplished feeling of cleanliness subsides. But it doesn’t have to be that way! What if we told you there were ways to maintain a tidy home? Here are 10 tips to implement in your space:

10 Tips for Hiding the Ugly Stuff in Your Home and Keeping Your House Tidy

1 Cord Corrals & Hooks  

We’ve written before about how easily untamed bundles of cords can ruin an otherwise beautifully designed room. For media rooms, home offices, or other spaces where you have ugly cords, consider taming them with cord corrals and desk hooks to keep your home’s streamlined aesthetic.

Ultra Charging Station & Cord Coral

2 Utilize Art

Install art or a mirror on hinges so it swings like a door over unsightly thermostats or home security systems installed in walls.

3 Varied Cabinets

Include a variety of storage options in kitchens and bathrooms for organizational purposes and maximum functionality. Clear-front storage will entice you to keep both the interior and exterior of the cabinets clean. And you want to be sure your shelving is not too deep, so you don’t run the risk of accumulating expired products that might get neglected at the back.

4 Drawer Charging Stations

Top Desk Drawer charging stations: Install a charging strip at the back of the top desk drawer to utilize as a charging station that keeps devices and chargers off your desktop.

5 A Place for Everything Mentality

Embrace an ‘everything has a place’ mentality to aid in habit building, purge everything else, which includes pets, shoes, things that come and go from your home like keys and bags.

6 Custom Built-In’s

Consider working with a designer and contractor to design custom built-in’s for odd items that don’t need to sit out on counters, but don’t usually fit in general storage space, like printers or computer routers in home offices, purses and shoes in closets, trash cans and smaller appliances in kitchens, laundry baskets or hampers in laundry rooms, etc.

7 Easily-Maintained Building Materials

Consider that in the design of your home, the storage materials, countertops, and flooring should be as easily cleanable as their contents. Avoid dust collectors or things that show spots. Ensuring everything is installed and sealed correctly, by a professional contractor, will make maintaining your home easy.

8 Accessible Cleaners

Keep a green, all-purpose cleaner within reach of places in your home that need them most frequently, rather than with the other cleaning supplies, hidden away in a closet or the garage far away, which you don’t use all the time, like wood or mirror cleaners.

Gabriella System from Pottery Barn

9 Think Vertically

Don’t waste any space! Embrace vertical wall space with wall hooks for coats and hats and install a collapsable wall drying rack in laundry rooms, hand ironing boards on a wall or build one into a closet that can retract.

10 Decorative Organizers  

Decorative chotchkies and art objects or books and magazines should fit on or in your coffee top table tray, and any that don’t, have to go. Similarly, keys should go in a catch all tray or hung on a key hook by the door so they’re never lost!

8 Design Trends in Luxury Kitchen Remodeling

Whether your kitchen style is traditional or more modern, a few common trends carry throughout the new luxury kitchen. The kitchen continues to be everyone’s favorite room to makeover! It’s a central hang-out spot in the home, frequently used, and a good kitchen greatly increases property value. Here are the latest in luxury kitchen design trends:

Whether your kitchen style is traditional or more modern, a few common trends carry throughout the new luxury kitchen. The kitchen continues to be everyone’s favorite room to makeover! It’s a central hang-out spot in the home, frequently used, and a good kitchen greatly increases property value. Here are the latest in luxury kitchen design trend

8. Multiples (of Everything!)

Dual ovens, dual sinks, and dual pendant lights over dual kitchen islands. Having two ovens is helpful when you’re cooking multiple dishes for one meal. Ditto for dual sinks — having a main, deep, double-bowl sink, complete with a pot filler to pair with a small prep sink on one of your kitchen islands makes meal prep more efficient!

Dual ovens, dual sinks, and dual pendant lights over dual kitchen islands. Having two ovens is helpful when you’re cooking multiple dishes for one meal. Ditto for dual sinks -- having a main, deep, double-bowl sink, complete with a pot filler to pair with a small prep sink on one of your kitchen islands makes meal prep more efficient!

Dual ovens, dual sinks, and dual pendant lights over dual kitchen islands. Having two ovens is helpful when you’re cooking multiple dishes for one meal. Ditto for dual sinks -- having a main, deep, double-bowl sink, complete with a pot filler to pair with a small prep sink on one of your kitchen islands makes meal prep more efficient!

7. Slim Seating

We are seeing a lot of second kitchen islands replacing the traditional kitchen dining nook: homeowners are opting for the extra counter space with barstool seating over table and chairs. Among the kitchens that maintain a traditional breakfast nook, we are seeing a lot of bench seating. Both of these space-saving slim seating options make the kitchen both more of a relaxing hangout and more like a restaurant.

We are seeing a lot of second kitchen islands replacing the traditional kitchen dining nook: homeowners are opting for the extra counter space with barstool seating over table and chairs. Among the kitchens that maintain a traditional breakfast nook, we are seeing a lot of bench seating. Both of these space-saving slim seating options make the kitchen both more of a relaxing hangout and more like a restaurant.

We are seeing a lot of second kitchen islands replacing the traditional kitchen dining nook: homeowners are opting for the extra counter space with barstool seating over table and chairs. Among the kitchens that maintain a traditional breakfast nook, we are seeing a lot of bench seating. Both of these space-saving slim seating options make the kitchen both more of a relaxing hangout and more like a restaurant.

6. Seamless Surfaces

From touch-tap, no-pull cabinetry, and induction stovetops, to hidden outlet strips installed beneath grout-less, marble-slab countertops, sleek, clean surfaces are trending. Seamless design helps keep the kitchen tidy.

From touch-tap, no-pull cabinetry, and induction stovetops, to hidden outlet strips installed beneath grout-less, marble-slab countertops, sleek, clean surfaces are trending. Seamless design helps keep the kitchen tidy.

From touch-tap, no-pull cabinetry, and induction stovetops, to hidden outlet strips installed beneath grout-less, marble-slab countertops, sleek, clean surfaces are trending. Seamless design helps keep the kitchen tidy.

5. Display Storage

Wine storage is a popular addition and comes in many forms. An elegant glass-front wine fridge is a great way to show off your collection! Also popular: A mix of traditional cabinetry, appliance ‘garages,’ and some glass-front cabinets to display decorative dishware or a cookbook collection!

Wine storage is a popular addition and comes in many forms. An elegant glass-front wine fridge is a great way to show off your collection! Also popular: A mix of traditional cabinetry, appliance ‘garages,’ and some glass-front cabinets to display decorative dishware or a cookbook collection!

Source: Sub Zero Wolf

4. Out of Sight, Out Of Mind

In addition to the hidden outlets, new luxury kitchens are optimizing the use of the walk in pantry, housing smaller appliances like microwaves and coffee machines or trash cans.

Source: Zillow
Source: Pinterest

3. Varied Lighting Sources

A lot of different types of tasks have to take place in the kitchen, which means one single light source isn’t going to do the space justice: a mixture of under counter lighting, skylights, island pendants, and overhead recessed lighting help to optimize meal prep, dining, and manage to conserve energy!

2. Niche Heating Appliances

Steam heat ovens, warming drawers, pizza ovens, insta-hot sink nozzles: custom kitchens are catering to very specific dietary needs and finding ways to conserve energy.

1. Tech in the Kitchen

From built in TVs and speakers so you can watch HGTV all day long while you cook (just kidding!) to smart appliances like smart ovens, dishwashers, and refrigerators, technology is becoming an intrinsic part of the modern, luxury kitchen.

Samsung Family Hub Refrigerator

10 Unconventional Ways to Increase Your Home’s Resale Value

  1. Have Your Home Inspected for the Hidden Projects

This first tip isn’t glamorous, but it is super important: You’re going to want to work with a pro to have your home inspected. Not all improvements you make to your real estate are going to be fun and cosmetic, some are just plain necessary: Consider for example that parts of your home may be water damaged and you don’t even know it unless it’s been inspected by a certified home inspection professional. Or maybe your home is missing some necessary insulation. Perhaps your plumbing needs replacement? But enough about that, onto the fun part:

  1. Increase Your Home’s Curb Appeal

This can mean a lot of things: New roof, new doors and windows, new mailbox, new house numbers, new paint, new driveway tile and garage doors, fresh front lawn, etc. We wrote in great detail about the various ways to increase your home’s curb appeal in a recent post you can read here.

  1. Paint Everything!

This is such a simple update whose importance cannot be overstated. When it doubt, put a coat of paint on it! Add curb appeal with a fresh coat of paint on your home’s exterior, and brighten up your interior with lighter, neutral shades that will help your home sell.

  1. Cut Costs & Help the Environment with Energy-Efficient Features

Find ways, from a design perspective, to lower energy costs– the home’s next buyers will thank you! There are a number of ways to achieve this such as: improving the home’s landscape architecture by planting some shade trees, installing solar roof panels, or new doors and windows that help maintain the home’s temperature. All of these options can significantly cut cooling costs and are so helpful for the environment as well. Win-win!

  1. Bathroom Updates

Even minimal updates to your bathrooms yield BIG returns for home sellers. Update toilets and tile, get rid of outdated wallpaper, faucets, and other hardware like drawer pulls, and replace with sleek, durable, modern upgrades. You may even want to consider ripping out bathtubs and instead building  large, luxurious walk-in showers. Another quick upgrade is taking out your overhead lighting and installing attractive wall-mounted sconces on either side of the mirrors.

  1. Kitchen Updates

Ditto for kitchens! Whether or not you makeover your entire kitchen, upgrades to the space mean big returns on investment. The kitchen is the hearth of the home, so maximizing your home’s potential starts here. Upgrade appliances and cabinetry (sometimes all cabinets need is a few heavy-duty coats of paint and new hardware to look brand new!), flooring tile and backsplashes, and give lighting an upgrade.

  1. Get Rid of Carpet, Tile Instead!

Carpets are pesky to maintain and more often than not, dated. Op’t instead for tiling throughout your home. We frequently write about the benefits of tile flooring and how customizable all the options building materials for flooring are. A surefire way to increase your home’s value is with updates to its flooring materials. Learn more at this recent post about choosing flooring materials here.

  1. Create Visual Space

Adding on square footage to your home can be a great idea, but it can be prohibitive for a number of reasons, including costs or building restrictions, but there are other alternatives than can increase your home’s value. Create visual space by restructuring the existing home a bit: Consider knocking out a wall and opening up a space into a great room. Another way to create visual space that’s a bit simpler is to brighten up your space with light, neutral shades of paint and fabrics, and by making better lighting choices. Which deserves it’s own point…

  1. Brighten It Up!

A great, underrated place to begin making over any room in your home is with the lighting: installing dimmer switches and sun tubes throughout your home create a customizable, aesthetic experience that can greatly increase a home’s value. Installing sky lights is another great way to open up a space, let the outdoors in, and increase value.

  1. Ceiling Update

This one is totally easy: If you have old, dated, popcorn ceilings, its time to call in a pro to come scrape those clean and drywall over them!  

5 Design Tips to Makeover Your Fireplace

1. Accents Around a Fireplace

Some of the tips we’ll give you will be more time consuming and involve construction or more intense design efforts to implement. This first one, though, is easy: accessorize the space around your fireplace –maybe even with items you already have: create symmetry with planters or sculptural objects on the mantle or on either side of your fireplace. 

If you’re a fan of a cleaner, more minimalist aesthetic, consider one large-scale work of statement art for above your fireplace. Think about log storage as well: if you want to take your fireplace to the next level, consider built-in log storage.

2. New Fireplace Surrounds

Plaster, cement, tile, stone, and brick– we love the variety and creativity that redesigning the space around a fireplace allows us. As far as construction/home improvement projects go, making over your fireplace surround is one of the easiest things to do to completely transform a space and make a loud design statement.

Putting a little extra attention into revamping your outdoor fireplace is a great way to create an outdoor dining or living room that’s as luxe as an interior space!

3. New Paint

Painting is perhaps the easiest and most cost-effective upgrade in any space, and it’s a great way to revamp a fireplace, making a statement with color! People often shy away from painting a whole room a bold color because that’s a lot of change– painting a fireplace or the area just around it is a great way to begin experimenting with color and implementing a big design choice.

4. Make a Style Statement 

Consider an ultra modern OR vintage fireplace to contrast with the surrounding space for a dramatic, highly stylized design statement. EcoSmart Fires, for example, are one of our new favorite fire-features that completely transforms a space. This is a gas fireplace for which you don’t needing a gas line.

They’re great for condos and small spaces, a modern shape as a room’s centerpiece can also work in more traditional spaces as well as deliberate design statement. If you do have a traditional fireplace, but want to give it a modern twist, consider utilizing something other than traditional logs, like chic concrete fire balls.

5. Mix Materials

Mixing materials is a popular design trend right now, that we don’t anticipate going anywhere anytime soon! Contrary to the popular matchy design stylings of the 80s and 90s, mixing materials in the kitchen, baths, and around fireplaces elevate the rooms with an extra designer touch. Use this as an opportunity to play with patterns in the same colors to give your space a monochromatic look or starkly contrast materials AND colors for high drama!

How Much Should I Be Paying My Contractor?

Are you being overcharged? Or shopping around for the ‘best deal’ but don’t really know what to look for? We certainly don’t advocate handing over your costly design/build project to the lowest builder-bider, but we do want you to do your research before hiring your contractor. Read on: We’ve broken down how contractors are charging for their services, what to expect, and when to run and hire someone else:

How Much Contractors Charge

Some contractors take as little as $1,000, the maximum by their state law, and up to 10% of the estimated contract to be retained. Once the contract is written, you and the contractor will work out a payment schedule that will keep the job moving forward and meet your financial capabilities.

Financing

Having a contractor help finance your project is a great solution because not only can you get what you want but the contractor is financially incentivized to complete your job in a satisfactory manner, and your partnership is further solidified.

The financing process is often much easier than a traditional bank loan process, and it’s definitely much faster. You could also end up with more favorable terms.

Estimates

A good contractor should be able to give you some very broad ranges of what past projects with similar scopes cost, but will not be able to give you an accurate estimate until you provide a specific set of plans from a designer or architect detailing exactly what will be done and what types of materials will be used. If someone gives you a firm quote without seeing plans, be careful. You could have a lot of change orders in your future.

15 Ways to Add Instant Curb Appeal to Your Home

Ready to sell your home or just ready to upgrade? Starting with the first things people see when they drive by your home or walk up to your house you’ll find there are plenty of ways to instantly increase the curb appeal of your home, and the good news is: none of these home improvement projects will take very long at all!

15 Ways to Add Instant Curb Appeal to Your Home  Ready to sell your home or just ready to upgrade? Starting with the first things people see when they drive by your home or walk up to your house you’ll find there are plenty of ways to instantly increase the curb appeal of your home, and the good news is: none of these home improvement projects will take very long at all!

  1. Add Outdoor Art

Think of sculptural and colorful ways to increase your home’s curb appeal. Think about the elements: add a water feature, a fire feature (maybe pathway lanterns, or a fire pit), stone statues, or even tile.

15 Ways to Add Instant Curb Appeal to Your Home  Ready to sell your home or just ready to upgrade? Starting with the first things people see when they drive by your home or walk up to your house you’ll find there are plenty of ways to instantly increase the curb appeal of your home, and the good news is: none of these home improvement projects will take very long at all!

  1. Add Arbors & Garden Gates

Arbors and garden gates are an elegant way to section off your outdoor space, essentially creating vignettes as you would with your interior spaces. This can also be done at a variety of price points. There are plenty of inexpensive, prefabricated options on the market, but for a price, this is also a great way to get creative and customize your outdoor space.

15 Ways to Add Instant Curb Appeal to Your Home  Ready to sell your home or just ready to upgrade? Starting with the first things people see when they drive by your home or walk up to your house you’ll find there are plenty of ways to instantly increase the curb appeal of your home, and the good news is: none of these home improvement projects will take very long at all!

  1. Replace Old Door & Window Hardware

If they’re dated or just plain dirty from weather and typical wear and tear, replacing your door and window hardware can be an easy and inexpensive place to start with increasing the curb appeal of your home.

15 Ways to Add Instant Curb Appeal to Your Home  Ready to sell your home or just ready to upgrade? Starting with the first things people see when they drive by your home or walk up to your house you’ll find there are plenty of ways to instantly increase the curb appeal of your home, and the good news is: none of these home improvement projects will take very long at all!

  1. New House Numbers

Installing new house numbers with a stylized aesthetic is another easy and inexpensive way to update your home. Particularly if your home address is difficult to spot, this is also one of the more useful ways you can increase the curb appeal of your home. For added flair, consider backlit house numbers or an uplight that illuminates at night.

Installing new house numbers with a stylized aesthetic is another easy and inexpensive way to update your home. Particularly if your home address is difficult to spot, this is also one of the more useful ways you can increase the curb appeal of your home. For added flair, consider backlit house numbers or an uplight that illuminates at night.

  1. Planters and Lanterns for Symmetry

Vary up the greenery with some potted as well as planted flowers and plants. Potted plants can be great to accent either side of the front door. Additionally, lanterns are a great front porch accessory that can double as an additional light source. Adding planters and lanterns on either side of your front door can help create that comforting symmetry that is really attractive to guests and potential homebuyers.

Vary up the greenery with some potted as well as planted flowers and plants. Potted plants can be great to accent either side of the front door. Additionally, lanterns are a great front porch accessory that can double as an additional light source. Adding planters and lanterns on either side of your front door can help create that comforting symmetry that is really attractive to guests and potential homebuyers.

  1. Color Splash

There are a couple of great ways to introduce color in a decorative and functional way with your home including a home’s trim, colorful mailbox, flowers, or a front door. Adding a bright front door is one of our favorite and easiest ways to instantly improve the curb appeal of a home. It’s also a great way to take a bit of a design risk because it’s easy to fix!

There are a couple of great ways to introduce color in a decorative and functional way with your home including a home’s trim, colorful mailbox, flowers, or a front door. Adding a bright front door is one of our favorite and easiest ways to instantly improve the curb appeal of a home. It’s also a great way to take a bit of a design risk because it’s easy to fix!

There are a couple of great ways to introduce color in a decorative and functional way with your home including a home’s trim, colorful mailbox, flowers, or a front door. Adding a bright front door is one of our favorite and easiest ways to instantly improve the curb appeal of a home. It’s also a great way to take a bit of a design risk because it’s easy to fix!

  1. Path and Uplights

Properly lighting the exterior of your home is both inviting and a good security measure. Pathlights are a great, decorative way to lead guests in the right direction towards your front door from the street, and uplights can function similarly to art lights, highlighting accents, drawing the eye upward towards trees and windows and other details.

Pathlights are a great, decorative way to lead guests in the right direction towards your front door from the street, and uplights can function similarly to art lights, highlighting accents, drawing the eye upward towards trees and windows and other details.

  1. Keep That Lawn Manicured

Although the drought is officially over, with Californian water in short supply, we’ve all been trying to continually reduce our usage. But it’s a double-edged sword because keeping a well maintained lawn is good for more than just the aesthetic curb appeal of your home: It also helps reduce erosion and runoff and purifies the environment. Contrary to popular belief, your lawn may can actually go awhile without water and may not need as much as you think it does, if properly trimmed. Opt for a system that catched runoff and utilizes recycled water to maintain your lawn and be sure its properly fertilized.

keeping a well maintained lawn is good for more than just the aesthetic curb appeal of your home: It also helps reduce erosion and runoff and purifies the environment.

  1. Match the Landscape Architecture to the Home’s Style

You might love your succulents and segos, but if you have a more traditional home, op’t for a more tame landscape that compliments the style of your home. Of course, if you’re a rule-breaker like us, you read that and instantly want to rebel against it. As with all rules, design rules are also meant to be broken; what’s important is that they’re broken in a deliberate fashion.

if you have a more traditional home, op’t for a more tame landscape that compliments the style of your home.

  1. Add Seating

Too often in Southern California, we don’t fully utilize all of the outdoor space in front of our homes. Take a page out of the Southerner’s handbook and put a rocking chair or keep in typical So-Cal cool  with an eclectic space to lounge on the front porch or deck complete with seating and garden stools. Few things are more welcoming than a cozy chair.

Take a page out of the Southerner’s handbook and put a rocking chair or keep in typical So-Cal cool  with an eclectic space to lounge on the front porch or deck complete with seating and garden stools. Few things are more welcoming than a cozy chair.

  1. Upgrade Gutters & Downspouts

This is an area of the home you probably haven’t thought about in a while, but left unmaintained, it’s a surefire way to decrease your property value with shown signs of neglect. From snap-fit vinyl, to copper, there are a multiple ways to upgrade gutters and downspouts at various price points.

From snap-fit vinyl, to copper, there are a multiple ways to upgrade gutters and downspouts at various price points.

Tile Your Doorstep, or Your Door, Walkways, and Patios

  1. Tile Your Doorstep, or Your Door, Walkways, and Patios

We’re huge proponents of the architectural style that tile adds to a home. In many of our indoor-outdoor focused Southern California projects, we love a tile that starts outside and continues inside the home. We’re also always looking for new, innovative ways to utilize tile: as a walkway trim, or to frame a doorway.

Tile Your Doorstep, or Your Door, Walkways, and Patios Tile Your Doorstep, or Your Door, Walkways, and Patios

  1. Dress Up Your Driveway and Garage Door

Driveways take quite a beating. They’re often one of the first things we’d suggest sprucing up whether with new concrete or planters framing the outside. Adding a new garage door can be a pricey upgrade, but is always well worth the investment, especially with newer construction that has the garage and driveway prominently on display at the front of the home, as many SoCal homes do.

Driveways take quite a beating. They’re often one of the first things we’d suggest sprucing up whether with new concrete or planters framing the outside. Adding a new garage door can be a pricey upgrade, but is always well worth the investment, especially with newer construction that has the garage and driveway prominently on display at the front of the home, as many SoCal homes do.

  1. Add a Stone Veneer (With Caution)

You’ll want to work with an experienced architect or contractor to avoid that stone stick-on look of early aughts McMansions, but adding some stone to your home’s exterior is a great way to add style and texture.

You’ll want to work with an experienced architect or contractor to avoid that stone stick-on look of early aughts McMansions, but adding some stone to your home’s exterior is a great way to add style and texture.Repaint, Repaint, Repaint

Perhaps the single BEST way to increase your home’s curb appeal is with a fresh coat or paint, and trim. Need we say more?

How to Light Every Room in Your Home

Lighting in Layers

Lighting is decorative, yes, but it’s also a practical necessity in every home. When you’re picking out lighting for your home, you’ll want to think like a designer: think of lighting a room in three layers: The first layer is your general or ambient light, this is the source for most of the light in a room. Secondly, think about the smaller sections, or vignettes in your rooms where you’ll need task lighting. These are spaces where you may find yourself reading, cleaning, cooking, applying makeup, etc. Lastly, think about lighting as decorative accents– these are more architectural light sources that serve as much decorative purpose as plants or art, while still illuminating the space. Read on for more specific tips about choosing lighting for every room in your home:

Read on for specific tips about choosing lighting for every room in your home

Bathrooms

In lighting your bathroom, it’s best to avoid overhead sconces because they cast shadows on your face making you appear tired, giving you big bags under your eyes. Op’t instead for sconces, which should be wall mounted at the same level as your face, typically that measures 66” from the floor, with one on each side of the mirror. This direct and balanced light on your face which will make you look your best. For an ambient night light, undercounter light strips allow you to see without turning on the lights full blast. This is great for those midnight bathroom breaks.

Read on for specific tips about choosing lighting for every room in your home

Kitchen

The kitchen is the heart of the home and needs the most variety of light for cooking, cleaning and just showing off, so you’ll want to use a variety of task and ambient lights. This includes under cabinet (at the counter and floor level, recessed lights, or ceiling mounted fixtures like Chandeliers or Pendants above island). While cooking and cleaning, having overhead and under cabinet lighting will help you see what you’re doing. The under cabinet light strip will add more light to the work surface of the counter.  Without them, sometimes the cabinets cast a shadow on the counter making it difficult to see what you’re doing and you could chop your finger off.  (Trust me, I’ve done that! But it was also after a bloody mary, so…. Perhaps that’s a story for a separate blog post on kitchen safety!)  

Read on for specific tips about choosing lighting for every room in your home

And when you’re not in the kitchen, keeping the under cabinet LED light strip, inner cabinet with glass doors, and Island lights on dim, allows the kitchen to be the highlight of the home: a star even while it’s in the background. A natural approach is to center the sink between 2 windows for natural light along with installing a can light or pendant directly above the sink so you can see what you’re doing when cleaning dishes.

Read on for specific tips about choosing lighting for every room in your home

Dining Room

The dining room is where you are encouraged to bring on the drama! This is a room where you’ll want your lighting on controllable dimers. Beautiful lighting from a chandelier will cast gorgeous light on dinner guests so that everyone looks stunning. Wall sconces, and decorative mirrors will also help to bounce dimmed light around the room.

Read on for specific tips about choosing lighting for every room in your home

Living Rooms

Although it’s popular, we’re not a big fan of multiple recessed can lights in rooms, because they can make a ceiling look like swiss cheese.  Again, it’s best to think in layers of lighting.  Floor lamps, table lamps, chandelier, ambient like a reading lamp, directional plant lighting, or art lights. Consider how much natural light sources might come from the windows, candles, or the fireplace as well. And much like in the dining room, chandeliers are great for bouncing light up and off the ceiling rather than casting light directly on someone’s face casting shadows.  

Read on for specific tips about choosing lighting for every room in your home

Bedrooms

Think soft, subtle, and simple in the bedroom: Nightstand lamps or hanging pendants on either side of the bed, a chandelier above the bed. In closets, choose lighting above the rods or inside the cabinetry. Op’t for either a pretty pendant, ceiling mounted fixture, or recessed lighting.

Read on for specific tips about choosing lighting for every room in your home

Focal Points, Hallways, and Stairs


In choosing lighting, think like caveman: Light is the source that helped them navigate in the right direction, towards safety. If you have a long hallway, have a light at the end. If you have beautiful art, light it in a way that will highlight its depth of color. If you have stairs, make sure the steps are lit to prevent anyone from accidentally falling.

Read on for specific tips about choosing lighting for every room in your home

Landscape

Think of lighting in terms of distance – the house or close to the house, mid range and street level. Don’t forget to light the street numbers so visitors can see your address. Consider uplights on plants and trees, path lights to guide guests from the street to the front door, wall sconces around the perimeter (perhaps, on motion sensor), front door chandelier or sconces on each side of front door.

Read on for specific tips about choosing lighting for every room in your home

Entry

First impressions are everything. Make it big and bold, illuminate the entryway. If you have a tall ceiling with a window above the door, hang a chandelier so it’s completely visible from the exterior.

A Couple Lighting Terms You Should Know:

LED Lighting
Use warm white light, staying away from anything that feels unnatural with a cold blue undertone to it.

Dimmers

Dimmers are great. They save energy and offer flexibility in bright lighting for cleaning and working, or low ambient lighting.

10 Home Renovation Tips for New Home Buyers

So you’ve got the keys for your new home–now what? It’s time to get to work renovating your new house, but you don’t know where to begin. Home renovations can be extremely overwhelming, especially to new home buyers. So read on for our top 10 tips to keep in mind when renovating your new place.

  1. Plan Appropriately

Budget, design, and schedule ahead of time. You don’t want to get impatient and dive in head first, or you’ll inevitably find yourself overwhelmed and over-budget! With that said, you do want to be flexible. Various issues often arise throughout the design-build process, which we wrote about in a separate post here.

2. Prioritize

Separate ‘wants’ and ‘needs.’ Some home improvement projects are purely for vanity’s sake, which is fine, but don’t prioritize these over those that will improve the function of your space.

10 Home Renovation Tips for New Home Buyers

3. Keep a Contingency

Keep a realistic contingency (will vary based on the scope and age of your home) 7%-10%. If you don’t use it, you don’t lose it – buy new furniture or go on vacation from renovating your home.

4. Test for Toxins

Before beginning any home renovation, you’ll want to have your contractor test for lead and asbestos. 

10 Home Renovation Tips for New Home Buyers

5. Think Outside

Don’t forget the outside of your home! Add some curb appeal with some custom landscaping and utilize your outdoor space as a living space. Outdoor kitchens and living rooms are among the most in-demand outdoor renovations. We wrote all about how you can revamp your outdoor space here.

6. Small Facelift Vs. Major Overhaul

It is tempting to want to do everything at once and get a little overzealous in doing so. Realize when something just needs a small facelift instead of a complete redo. Consulting with a designer or general contractor can help you figure this out, which can save you lots of time and money in the long run.

10 Home Renovation Tips for New Home Buyers

7. Take Your Time

Do it right – don’t rush things and cut the wrong corners by doing things like buying cheap materials that won’t stand the test of time. Consult with your general contractor who can help you come up with a realistic timeline for your renovation.

8. Add Value

Consider what is adding value to your home. Adding a pool in your backyard may be tempting, but it’s more likely that kitchen or bath renovation will better increase the value of your home, if renovating is all about getting return on your investment.

10 Home Renovation Tips for New Home Buyers9. Think Long-Term

Part of adding value to a home is making sure it’s built to last! You don’t want to be too trendy – think classic in terms of style and materials, especially if you’re renovation with reselling your home in mind.  

10. Hire a Great Team!

Home renovations can be incredibly stressful when you try to do it all yourself. Leave it to a professional but make sure you’re hiring the perfect contractor for the job. We wrote all about how to vet your general contractor before you hire them in a separate blog post here.