Can Your Home Kill You? 6 Home Improvement Projects to Prevent Disasters

From not hiring the right general contractor to the devastation resulting from natural disasters like the current LA fires, a lot of things can go wrong with the construction of your home. But you can minimize damage done by taking the proper precautions. Here are 6 unglamorous (but totally necessary) home improvement projects for optimizing the safety, structure, and sustainability of your home:


With the Rye fire blazing in Los Angeles right now, this is a big one on everyone’s minds in Southern California right now: the importance of fire-proofing your home. The key to preventing fire damage is in flame resistant roofing and siding and the use of ICFs (Insulated Concrete Forms: flame resistant, inter-locking concrete traditionally used in the construction of commercial properties). If fire safety is a concern, as it pertains to the interior design of your home, work with an interior designer to find flame-resistant fabrics and furnishings. 


Just a few years ago, hillside homes in Southern California were sliding down and those at the bottom were flooding. If your home is one of those at risk for flooding, one of the best ways to prevent such an occurrence is to work with a general contractor to make sure your doors, windows, and walls are sealed properly. Conversely, another method is to minimize the water damage done if any is to get inside by installing electrical outlets higher up the walls and installing a solid, rather than wood flooring. This brings us to our next home improvement project to prevent disasters later on…

Mold Prevention

The process of preventing mold growth prior to or during construction is referred to as “Drying in the walls.” Unfortunately when you mix dry wall and ceiling tiles with heat and water, you get the perfect recipe for mold growth. The best ways to prevent is to have the home properly sealed to keep moisture out and that the construction site is properly dehumidified throughout the process. Another way to preserve the dryness is to stay on schedule as much as possible. When a site has to shut down for any reason, you run the risk of mold growth.  

Electrical Wiring

Strangely, electrical wiring is a project that people feel comfortable often doing themselves, but so many little mistakes can be made: from installing wires too tightly or wires of the wrong size entirely or making too loose of wire connections and overloading outlets, which can easily ignite electrical fires. These are tasks that are easy for your electrician or contractor to do quickly and taking the time to work with a profession is well worth the investment!

Gas Leak Prevention

Gas leaks are another easily preventable problem: They are so often the result of a homeowner who’s improperly installed an appliance and can lead to fires and explosions. This is another instance where having a well-vetted professional install boilers and cookers, and check them regularly, will worth the time and investment for the safety of your home and family.


This is something we have to be very careful about here in Southern California. The state has strict build codes, that are updated and improved upon after any devastating earthquake, to help mitigate the effects of an earthquake, but it is worth it for the safety of your family to have a general contractor or design team do a home inspection to make sure everything is built to code, especially if you have an older property that needs to be retrofitted.

4 Major Ways to Transform Productivity in Your Home Office

Workspaces, whether they’re your home study or a commercial office space have to prioritize a few key areas in ways that other rooms do not, namely productivity. Considering many of us spend the majority of our waking hours in our workspaces, they also need to be comfortable, (but not so cozy you fall asleep).

From the flow of the space to the lighting, storage, and technology, a great designer or remodeling company thinks of every little detail to make your workspaces fun and functional.


Workspaces are often high traffic areas. Think about how you move about in the space: A bustling commercial office may have clients and employees coming and going, by contrast a home office may not have as many people trekking through, but perhaps you pace back and forth on the phone. Clearly define walkways with rugs and be sure to secure with reg mats to prevent slippage.


Since you spend a lot of time in an office, you need to include a variety of lighting sources. Consider how the daylight pouring in from outside changes throughout the day, or how tired your eyes may get from staring at a computer screen all day. We always suggest including as much natural lighting as possible and then supplementing with warm-tinted LED bulbs, which are both environmentally friendly and easier on the eyes than bolder alternatives. And op’t for lamps and chandeliers over canned or track lighting with everything on dimmers for maximum customization.  

Seating & Comfort

Ergonomic office chairs are a MUST. If you’re seated behind your desk for hours on end, you want to be sure selecting that seat is one of the items you’re investing in. By contrast, you’re unlikely to spend much time in other seating in the room; an important thing to keep in mind in designing your seating area.

Storage & Technology

We often talk about how nothing ruins a great design quite like unsightly cables sticking out like a sore thumb. Aesthetics aside, they can often be a safety risk, if they’re hanging down in the middle of walkways. We often design built-in’s with the ability to keep electronics and cables safely stowed away or suggest under-table clasps to keep them secured.

For even more tips on creating a stylish and productive home office, read up on these 10 tips from our partners at Lori Dennis Inc.


Designing Hygienic & Sustainable Bathrooms

Bathrooms are one of our favorite rooms to renovate and they always result in high returns on investment. Since our designers are LEED AP certified, that means we care a lot about protecting the environment when we design. We wanted to share some tips on designing better bathrooms to meet hygienic and sustainable standards.  

Green Building Materials for Tile & Countertops

Not only is natural stone sustainable but it’s also aesthetically beautiful, especially in a bathroom where you need something that can withstand water and changing temperatures, and want to create a spa-like oasis at home. Delve further in depth about flooring materials and types of tile in this post we wrote here.

Green Bath/Shower Appliances

There are some incredible luxurious shower options you could install including smart shower heads that can be set to particular temperatures and put on timers to conserve water. Low-flow shower heads will use less water with the same amount of pressure.

Green Faucets

Similarly to your shower, you’ll want to find a low-flow option for your sink faucets to cut back on water waste. Another option is to install a motion-sensored faucet. We’ve all left the faucet on while brushing our teeth, and a motion-sensor faucet will fix that!

Green Toilets

More than every other appliance in the home, toilets use the most water so in order to conserve as best you can, you’ll want to install a low-flow toilet, either with automatic flush or multiple settings.

Toto Toilets – Whole Bathroom

Green Lighting for Bathrooms

We love a naturally lit bathroom, preferably with a view from the shower or perhaps a skylight to filter in the sun. But if that’s a non-option, op’t for LED bulbs to conserve energy. Opt for warmer LED bulbs lend that warm, tungsten glow.

Green Paint for Bathrooms

If you’re painting your bathroom, look for low-VOC if not Zero VOC paints. Avoid paints with formaldehyde. Acrylic or water-based paint is great, unless it lists toxic chemicals such as cadmium, cobalt, magnesium, chromium, and, of course, lead.

Green Bathroom Accessories

Now this is the easiest fix! It involves no construction and you can do it today to make your home a little more green: From your soaps to your towels and toothbrushes, shop around for certified organic products from companies that promote zero or no-waste policies.

Hiring a General Contractor: Vet Your General Contractor and Hire the Best Home Builders

There are a couple questions we’ve been getting a lot we felt would be perfect to address together on the blog: How do you choose a general contractor or home builder? And what makes one home remodeling company different from another? These are both very broad, but we’ll address them in five parts: 1. Vetting your contractor or other home improvement expert, 2. Being flexible, 3. Property Inspection and what to look for, 4. Contracts and 5. How you can expect contractors to charge for their services.

  1. Vetting Your Contractor

You want to have trust in your contractor, but you also shouldn’t be afraid to speak up. They’ll be working for you so be sure to address any concerns or additional services you may want/need prior to signing a contract.

Here are a few of the questions you’ll want to have in mind when vetting your contractor:

  • When can the contractor start and do they have enough resources/bandwidth to commit to your job?  
  • Do you like this person?/Do your personalities jive well together?
  • How long has the contractor been working in this industry?
  • How many projects have they worked on and what type of projects?
  • Has the contractor attended any type of formal training or continuing education?  
  • Is the contractor licensed to practice as a general contractor?
  • Does the contractor have a valid workman’s comp insurance policy for their employees that will be on your site?
  • If the contractor  only employs subcontractors, do they have valid insurance and licenses?
  • Does the contractor  have insurance in case something in your home gets broken in the renovation and/or construction process?
  • What is the projected timeline for the project?  
  • What happens if the construction goes past the stated finish date?
  • How often will the contractor or his project manager stop by to check on the progress?
  • Does the contractor plan to work on the project personally or assign a supervisor?  
  • How often should I be updated on progress?  
  • Who pulls the permits for a project?
  • Who meets with the inspectors?
  • What hours should I expect a contractor to work?
  • Has the contractor been involved with any legal disputed following a previous job?  
  • Has the contractor previously operated as a contractor under a different name? I
  • What is the payment schedule?  

To go more in-depth in answering these questions, read here.

  1. Be Flexible

Knowing your schedule gives you a big-picture view of sequencing and deadlines- Are you planning a big event at the house, a wedding, an anniversary party? Is a new baby on the way? It’s already stressful to plan an event, not knowing if you’re going to make the deadline is adding unnecessary stress.  Be mentally prepared for things to be delayed.  

  1. Property Inspection

If someone tells you nothing will go wrong, hire someone else.  Something always goes wrong in construction and the best defensive is a good offense.  If your contractor can think on their feet and feels confident problem solving, they will work it out.  Ask if them what the most challenging aspect of a project has been, and how they worked through the challenge. Have they ever worked on the problems they see occurring at your project?

  1. Contracts with Your Home Remodeling Company

When the scope of work changes the process starts with what is called a “change order.” Change orders are a reality throughout projects because it’s likely you’ll change your mind about

what you want, add things or the project or financing takes a turn. Have a very clear clause in your contract about how the contractor will record, handle and bill for the change orders.

A contract is a good communication tool to make your project run as smoothly as possible, as it is a written understanding of what is expected from each side.  It should be referred to throughout the process. Common contracts include elements like: a detailed work scope, line items for materials, the cost, and a termination clause.  Any special requests, concerns or agreements should be written in the contract.

What are the termination terms?  Either party, you or your contractor, should be able to stop work and a good contract will have written terms as to how this plays out.  

  1. How Contractors Should Charge

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.

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, which will cost more time and money.

For more detail about how contractors charge, read here.

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!

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.


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.


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.