Wednesday, December 7, 2011

I Can Do That!

Have you ever walked into a store, looked at a catalog, or seen something online and said, “I could make that!”?

Yeah, me too.

So often, I really want t0, and have every intention to, but reality sets in and the cool thing “I just know I could make” never gets made.

Well, here is something so simple and smart, aside from the hassle of driving over to your local salvage store, or having a few of these puppies on hand, it’s practically a no-brainer DIY project and something the most novice DIYer could get a handle on.

Here’s what you’ll need:
  • 1-3 (or as many as you want) vintage or antique door knobs
  • screws to fasten the knobbies to the wall or surface you're mounting them
  • screwdriver or drill
  • optional: paint and brush
Here’s what you do:

  • If you’d like a more "modern" look, paint each door knob the same color (or complementary tint) as your walls. It’s best to complete two coats for full coverage. Allow to dry. NOW, you don't have to paint them at all if you want a more classic-contemporary look...but, really what turn of the century home (the 19th into 20th century that is) had doorknobs mounted to the wall for hanging things....
  • You can secure the knobs with a touch of glue from behind so the don't wobble (like all of my door knobs do)
  • Find the screw or mounting holes on the top and bottom of each door knob plate.
  • Screw to wall either vertically or horizontally.
  • Hang your stuff....

Monday, August 1, 2011

Will My Renovations Pay Off?

I am going to go against every marketing strategy in the book now. What I am about to tell you could ruin every potential home renovation contract I may ever get involved in.

What you don't know about home renovations: Most of them don't pay off.

That's right. According to Remodeling Magazine's 2010 annual cost/value survey, only replacing a garage door can be counted on to boost home value enough to recoup 100% of your costs. Obviously, the value of a renovation doesn't depend on your home resale price alone. This is why deciding if you're going to do a renovation project more complicated than just crunching numbers.

If the purchaser walks into a home and says, 'Wow, look at this kitchen, it's great,' and if that home sells quicker, the seller still gets value from the renovation, whether or not they get the return on investment. A home might sell quicker, or the buyer might be so excited about a particular feature that they ignore other issues, like water damage or other necessary maintenance in other parts of the home.

If you are trying to decide whether to take on a home renovation, here are five simple tips to remember that might help make your decision a little easier:

1. Think about what you, as the current homeowner, want from your home.

As a homeowner, you can find a lot of value with renovations or upgrades before they even put the home on the market. If you have a dated kitchen or an appliance that doesn't work, you can invest money now to glean some enjoyment as well as make the home more appealing when you sell it.

Some simple ideas for your home is to upgrade or replace baseboards, window trim, or floors. You can also upgraded the cabinet hardware in the kitchen and bath. For a little more expense, install new fixtures in your bathroom, or new lighting fixtures. Dated ceiling & wall lights can be a deterrent when a potential buyer walks into the home, the light coming from older fixtures isn't as brilliant and it is often a strange yellow glow - making everything in the room look....well....yellow.

2. Consider maintenance costs separately from renovations.

If a roof needs to be fixed, that must be looked at that as routine maintenance rather than a renovation. That means it might just help the home sell for its existing market value, as opposed to adding extra value. Similarly, if parts of the home are in disrepair and in need of maintenance, sellers can subtract the cost of those upgrades from what they consider the home to be worth.

3. Don't forget about cheaper upgrades, like landscaping and staging.

Realtors don't slip apple pies into the oven before an open house just in case they get hungry you know. Inviting smells, sights, and sounds are believed to put buyers in a home-purchasing mood. So, do what you can to make your home look AND smell inviting when potential buyers are going to be walking through. (I don't need to go into great detail about that do I?)

When looking at homes, many people form an opinion from the sidewalk. If potential buyers see weeds, broken sidewalks, and unkempt shrubbery, then they might not even want to go inside. But if they see a well-cared-for exterior, they might get excited about the property before they even see the kitchen or master bedroom.

This is why renovations that affect your "curb appeal" (see BHG's 20 ways to add curb appeal or watch HGTV's Curb Appeal for some ideas) can go the farthest. According to Remodeling Magazine, replacing a home's siding can recoup up to 80 percent of its costs, on average, and window replacements replace just over 70 percent of costs. Both of those types of renovations are mostly visible from the road and leave a lasting initial impact. While the average kitchen remodel recouped only 60% of its cost, with an average cost of around $113,000. Similarly, master suite additions, bathroom renovations, and deck additions also recouped less than 60%.

4. Cleaning up can help as much as building bigger closets.

Buyers like to see clear spaces without a lot of clutter. When selling and staging your home, can I suggest getting rid of clothes and other items you are no longer using to make your homes seem bigger, without doing a single dollar's worth of renovating. This also helps when you are ready to move. If your things are already packed and in storage - then you only need to pack those things that you are currently using in your home.

5. Think like a buyer.

When you walk into your home, think as if you were the buyer.

What are the things you notice when you are walking up to the home? You should focus on the kitchen, appliances, and curb appeal. Today's buyers are particularly interested in common spaces for the family to gather, such as outdoor living area and family rooms, as well as open-floor plan kitchens. That way, parents who are preparing meals can keep an eye on their children as they play or do homework. Buyers seem to care less about formal spaces today, which means a formal dining room could offer more value as a study or playroom.

In conclusion:

I have been involved with a number of home renovation projects. Some are intended for the current homeowner, while others have renovated with the resale in mind. We need to remember that home renovations aren't just about the numbers and making the sale. But if we follow a few basic guidelines we can help homeowners decide how to get the best value for your dollar.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Woah to Renovating Woes

So you've decided to embark on a renovation. Congratulations! But like anything else in life that is a benefit, you may have to endure a bit of hassle before you can realize the benefit. During the process of remodeling, dealing with inconveniences is one thing but having your house ripped apart needn't involve outright suffering.

The key to avoiding unnecessary suffering is really two fold.
First, understand and manage your expectations. Then make preparations to help you through the rough patches.

Lately, I have been dealing with kitchen and basement renovations more than any other type of remodel. Living through a kitchen renovation is probably the most common experience of home-owner renovations that most people have. We recently renovated our own kitchen, and while our renovation process was an extra-ordinary one, it still had its moments of discontent and inconveniences. I cannot promise that it will be an easy process, but as with anything else in life, your memory of the inconvenience will never be as bad as the actual experience. Remember that and take comfort in it. This is by no means an exhaustive list, it is however, a few things I've learned over the years.

Talk to your contractor before any work starts.
Ask for a realistic time frame of how long you can expect to be without the full use of your home. If it's a kitchen renovation, prepare yourself to be functioning kitchen-free for at least four weeks (often times more). Don't get too attached to that number though. Psych yourself up for a longer period of time and you'll get a happy surprise at the end rather than the opposite.

Ask your contractor to help.
Sometimes, you homeowners find they are able to set up a temporary kitchen somewhere else in the house. I have seen some where a simple under-counter fridge, and a microwave or toaster oven can save a lot of heartache, especially for those light breakfasts or lunches. Often times, a 220 line can be set up in a garage so that you can move your range out of the kitchen and into the garage to use temporarily (as well as the fridge). Ask your contractor too if its feasible to set up a temporary sink out there too (I mean, why not?). All you need are water supply lines, a waste line, some saw horses, a sheet of plywood and your old sink and faucet which are headed to the landfill anyway. Making yourself a temporary in the garage can be a life saver.

If setting up a range and a sink in the garage won't work, move the functions of a kitchen into the laundry room or a bathroom. A coffee maker, a microwave oven can be set up nearly any place in the home. Just try to plan anything else you need to help you create some semblance of normalcy. If you can establish a routine and try to continue to live as you normally would, you'll be ahead of the game.

Don't minimize the amount of time you'll be camping in your own home. A couple of weeks doesn't sound like a lot, but in practice it's a long time. What you're about to live through will be lousy, BUT IT'S TEMPORARY.

Realize, your house will be a mess for a while.
You are going to have to accept and live with it. Seal off the area that's under construction to try to minimize the dust drift into the rest of the house. You can minimize it, but you cannot eliminate it. Declare your bedroom as a safe room. Keep your bedroom exactly the way it was before the renovation started, unless of course your bedroom is a cluttered pile to begin with - then do whatever you need to do to un-clutter it and make it as restful as possible during this time. Don't pile stuff you've moved from around the house into your bedroom. Keep it so that when you close the bedroom door, everything will seem normal.

If you have sensitive electronics and valuable, fragile possessions; store them before work starts.

Your regular routines will be disrupted.
Leave extra time and understanding to cope with the changes. Everyone in your household will be affected so be gentle with your family and ask them to be gentle with each other. You may not realize now how much a routine affects people, but once that routine is mixed up you start to notice. Try to keep the routine as much as possible.

Don't spend too much time looking over the work in progress.
Set up regular meetings with your contractor and get a guided tour of the work in progress. Ask as many questions as you can think of, but remember that things look a lot worse before they can look better.

When it's all over, hire a service to come in clean.
Your contractor's crew will clean up after themselves, but they won't scrub. Hire someone to come in and do the scrubbing.

Again,this is not an exhaustive list but it's a good start. Positive experiences start inside and work their way outward. Try it!

Adapted from Paul Anater at Kitchen and Residential Design Blog.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

See It Before You Build It.

It is not often that I get to see my design projects when they come to completion. So, it is nice when I get progress pictures sent from the homeowners.

I just received some pictures emailed to me of a house that I worked on sometime throughout 2010.

This house is being built in Wilmington, North Carolina.

They broke ground sometime over the Winter months.

Below are three images.

The foundation under the main house (taken in January 2011).

This is my conceptual computer generated rendering from June 2010.

This is a photo of the front of the house as it is now - from about the same angle as my rendering.

There are more trees in the photo than my rendering, and the bay behind the house isn't as much of an open water-way as I have in the rendering - but the house looks nice. :)

Over all, the process of design can be lengthy. But, if you are able to work out your design "kinks" and issues before the first nail is hammered, before the first block is laid, before the first hole is dug...even before your building permit, you will save yourself time, money, and problems later. Certainly, changes can happen along the way - there are always unexpected things to come up - but the overall process of design will return the favor "in the field".

And, it is always exciting to see the project unfold in reality.