Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Tips to navigate the real estate landscape and find the perfect home





Annette Lawrence, academic director of design programs, at The Art Institute of Ohio - Cincinnati, and Marissa Alexander, interior design program coordinator at The Art Institutes International Minnesota, offer these tips to navigate the real estate landscape.



Before you ever step out of your current home, make a list says Alexander. Your list should include one column for "must haves" and another for "wants." "The wants you can compromise on," advises Alexander. If you know what you are looking for and what you can't live without, it's a lot easier to find it.



Many people get caught up on the basic aesthetics of a home. "The paint is not a big deal," says Lawrence. "Countertops are not a reason to choose a home or cross it off your list." The shag carpeting can be ripped out and replaced. These are all easy fixes.



You should beware of the fixes that can break the bank. Will the roof need to be replaced? What about other big-ticket items like the heating and cooling system? Does the perimeter of the house slope toward it? That could mean flooding during a heavy rain. And what about the structural integrity of the foundation? A good inspector will spot the red flags and could keep you from making a costly mistake. That inspector will also check the chimney, the insulation in the attic and the gutters and spouts.



And there are things you can check on before you call in an inspector. "If you want to know whether a floor is warping, just take a ball and roll it across the room," says Alexander. If it doesn't roll straight across, it could signal issues with the foundation.



Figure out what kind of layout you want for your house. "Ask yourself what kind of floor plan you like," says Lawrence. "Those are the kinds of things that are costly to change." If the floor plan is right for you, the cosmetics will be a fairly easy and inexpensive fix.



While you may think that this home purchase will be one of many, you should consider the possibility that this could be your home for decades to come. That's why Lawrence is a big proponent of finding a home that allows you to "age in place." She suggests you find a home with a first floor master bedroom and laundry room. Also consider how many steps there are from the driveway into the home. Are the hallways and doorways wide enough for a wheelchair or a walker?



Even if you do not think you'll need these accommodations, consider your home's "visitability." If you have elderly relatives or friends with disabilities, are they going to be able to come to your new home? "My grandmother was one of my most frequent guests," explains Lawrence. "I had low lighting and had painted the walls dark colors. Consequently, she couldn't see too well when visiting."



Creating an island paradise: Tips for adding an island in your kitchen renovation



(BPT) - Custom cabinetry, granite countertops, reclaimed wood flooring and accents, and top-of-the-line, high-tech appliances - what more do you need to make your kitchen renovation perfect? How about adding an island? Designers and builders across the country are pointing to the addition of an island as the must-have upgrade for kitchen renovations this year.



Homeowners are embracing the island, and what's not to love about it? Adding an island can dramatically alter a kitchen's appearance, provide additional storage space and work area, and create a fresh focal point for family meals. What's more, common challenges that have historically held homeowners back from adding islands - such as the difficulty and high costs associated with adding plumbing drainage in the center of the room - are easier to solve than ever.



Plumbing problem solved



While you could add an island without plumbing, having a sink in an island can improve the workflow in a kitchen and open up counter space elsewhere. Plumbing an island can be problematic, however, if your home is built on a slab or a crawl space. The cost of cutting through concrete and adding piping can be prohibitive.



Above-floor plumbing can solve the problem. Manufacturers make a variety of pumping systems that can eliminate the need to cut concrete and reduce the cost of installing plumbing in a new island.



"Cutting through concrete to install plumbing can easily account for 50 percent of a renovation budget," says Chris Peterson of Saniflo. "Homeowners may decide to abandon the idea of an island altogether when they face that kind of cost. Above-floor plumbing allows them to add an island, hide a single drain pipe in a decorative column, and achieve the kitchen of their dreams at a fraction of the cost of traditional plumbing options."



Top island trends



Islands are increasingly becoming the focal point of kitchen renovations, serving both practical purposes and as design statements.



More homeowners are replacing traditional dining tables and breakfast nooks with spacious islands that feature seating. "Islands are replacing tables," said Audrey Macdonald of Creative Interiors By Audrey in Mississauga, Ontario, in the National Kitchen & Bath Association's 2015 Kitchen & Bath Style Report.



In addition to seating, homeowners are incorporating restaurant-quality fittings into islands, adding charging stations for the family's personal digital devices. They're also choosing architectural and design touches such as decorative legs, and countertops and cabinetry that contrast with those around the perimeter of the kitchen.



Kitchen renovations continue to be among the most popular home improvement projects and can offer homeowners a high return on their investments. A major kitchen remodel costing about $56,000 can recoup nearly 68 percent of its cost when you sell your home, while a minor remodel in the range of $19,000 can yield a 79 percent ROI upon resale, according to Remodeling Magazine's Cost vs. Value Report.



Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Five smart steps to maximize bathroom space





In spite of its heavy use, bathrooms are often some of the smallest areas in a home. Cross tight square footage with limited storage, and it quickly becomes cluttered and cramped - far from a pleasant place to start and end each day. Adding function doesn't require changing your bathroom's footprint. To maximize your bathroom storage and make it work best for you, consider these design and organizational tips.



Tip 1: Install a floating vanity

A big trend in small bathroom design is the floating vanity; its wall-mount installation leaves floor space below open and uninterrupted, which tricks the human eye into reading the space as larger than it actually is. Floating vanities come in a variety of materials and designs that offer plenty of counter top space and storage solutions.



Tip 2: Make your mirror work harder

Is your bathroom sporting an old bulky medicine cabinet? Replace it with a smarter option designed with innovative storage that makes life easier. Robern, the industry leader in bathroom storage and grooming, recently introduced the R3 Series Mirrored Cabinets, a perfect solution for DIY-ers looking for a fast, affordable fix. The 1-inch flange around the cabinet's perimeter covers imperfections, eliminating the hassle of re-tiling or re-plastering, making it a project you can easily complete in a day.



Tip 3: Use hidden space to your advantage

In a small bathroom it might be hard to imagine where you might find even an inch of extra space, but there's one secret area you can access and use to your advantage. If you have a blank wall, the space between the studs offers a plethora of potential storage space. You can build shelves directly between the studs, which adds lots of extra space for items like washcloths and toiletries, all within the existing footprint.



Tip 4: Get wired for modern practicality

Your morning routine charges you for the day ahead, so make sure items like electric razors and toothbrushes are fully charged, too. Cabinets equipped with outletskeep personal care items fully juiced and concealed, leaving counter tops and sink surfaces clutter-free for a clean and organized space both you and guests to enjoy.



Tip 5: Revamp the storage drawer

Vanity drawers in disarray steal precious time from your morning and evening routine. First step to function: Purge. Toss old or unused cosmetics, personal supplies, grooming tools or other items you don't use. Next, reorganize with inserts that transform drawers into organizational powerhouses. Look for inserts that will streamline how you use your bathroom, such as options with different sized compartments or even one made specifically for your hair dryer.



Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Beyond the beach: Great ideas for outdoor activities this summer



Basking on the beach or playing in the surf are high points of summer vacation for many people. In fact, going to the beach is among the top five activities for American leisure travelers, according to the U.S. Travel Association.



While beach time will always have its place in the hearts of anyone who loves being outside in summer, there are plenty more ways to enjoy the great outdoors beyond the surf and sand. Consider these tips from the outdoor fun experts at the Myrtle Beach Area



Convention & Visitors Bureau:
* Warm up to wildlife - Look for an outdoor destination that will afford the opportunity to see native wildlife in its natural habitat. From dolphin watching to critter spotting, getting an eyeful of the local wildlife can be a fun, exciting way to enjoy the outdoors. Choose a spot that offers variety. For example, Huntington Beach State Park in the Myrtle Beach area of South Carolina is home to more than 300 species of birds, making it a favorite birding spot for both beginners and dedicated birders. Further south, the Center for Birds of Prey also offers weekly flight demonstrations of wild birds.

* Play on and in the water - When you want to really enjoy all the water has to offer, look for a beach destination that offers an array of water sports, from windsurfing and parasailing to kayaking or fly fishing.

* Romp under the water - Splashing in the surf is great fun, but don't overlook the cool things that wait beneath the surface. Snorkeling for brightly colored fish and coral is great for the whole family or, if you're more adventurous, shipwrecks serve as homes to underwater sea creatures and make interesting viewing for explorers. Look for outfitters like Coastal Scuba in Murrells Inlet, S.C., that offer scuba adventures for divers of varying experience levels.

Beyond%20the%20beach%3A%20Great%20ideas%20for%20outdoor%20activities%20this%20summer * Get the lay of the land - When you want to wander away from the water, look for a destination that offers interesting landscape beyond the beach. The best destinations will offer a variety of interesting hiking and biking trails, appropriate for people of varying skill levels.

* Go guided and organized - You can work up a sweat and enjoy the great outdoors with more sophisticated fun, too. Golf is the ultimate refined sport and a healthy way to savor time outside. It can even be an opportunity for family time. In Myrtle Beach, 46 courses offer free play for children during the summer months, including Arrowhead Country Club, which is renowned for its scenic Intracoastal Waterway views and all-day tee times. Another unique Myrtle Beach opportunity is "paddle board yoga." Surf the Earth, a gear shop in Myrtle Beach, leads a paddle to a secluded beach where participants enjoy core-focused yoga.

When it comes to outdoor fun in the summer sun, no one wants to miss the beach. But when you're ready to get off the beach towel, keep in mind the plethora of other activities and opportunities the great outdoors offer.



Think of lighting as art for your home



Lighting is possibly the most powerful tool you have when it comes to interior design. It does not make sense to invest in beautiful furniture, rugs, paintings and accessories if they are in the dark. The perfect light fixture not only illuminates a space - it is also a beautiful, decorative design element.



"When looking for a light fixture, think of yourself as a curator looking for a perfect piece of art," says interior designer Laurie Smith, known for her role as a featured designer on the hit television show Trading Spaces. Smith says, "Like art, a fabulous fixture can make a strong design statement, as well as provide illumination for your space."



Often consumers do not realize the difference updated lighting can make in their homes. Smith suggests finding one special piece and building a room around it. "In design school, we learned that lighting is the most exciting and mysterious medium in design. Lighting is sculptural; it's textural, it's exciting," she says.

"There are so many varying styles and designs in lighting today that the possibilities are endless. Different materials and shapes are just part of what goes into determining that perfect fixture," says Smith. "For instance, do you want the shape of your piece to contrast with your room's schematic or coordinate with it? Taking a traditional fixture and placing it into a modern setting creates interest through contrast, while taking a sleek modern fixture and putting it into a traditional setting infuses new vitality and a sophisticated accent."

With so many choices on the market, the task of selecting a light fixture can be difficult and overwhelming for many homeowners. It's just a matter of developing a plan or one idea. To help consumers get started, Smith talks about the importance of lighting to interior design in a new video series. Each minute-long video focuses on a different aspect of lighting and ways to incorporate it into every homeowner's design plan.

Videos in the series include:
* Choosing the Right Lighting Fixture
* Find an Object of Inspiration
* The Impact of a Single Lamp
* Lighting Fixtures as Art

Whether looking for one fixture or a complete lighting design plan, a great place to start is at a lighting retail showroom. There you will find professionally trained staff to help you select the perfect light for your space.