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3 Home Improvements that Appeal to Modern-Day Buyers

partnered post • by Tali Wee of Zillow

Given the wide variety of home upgrades available today, house hunters are even pickier about what they are looking for in a potential home. Without the proper fittings, a standard home can get lost among those with voice-activated garage doors and state-of-the-art wine cellars. A Better Homes & Gardens Real Estate study found that 77 percent of young to middle-age homebuyers expect properties to reflect the technologies and upgrades seen in mass media.

In order to keep up with high expectations, consider these three home upgrades to attract home shoppers in the ever-growing real estate market.

HomeofficeHome Office

It seems as though more entrepreneurs, web developers and professional bloggers are entering the workforce each day. Sellers who implement organizational tools and work-related technologies – like charging stations for electronics – into their homes help professionals envision living and working in the space. Consider converting unused square footage into a home office with built-in shelving, a new desk with ample storage and décor to inspire creativity and productivity.

According to Remodeling Magazine’s Cost vs. Value 2013 Report, a home office remodel typically costs around $27,292. While expensive, the potential return on the investment is $11,911. Homeowners concerned about taking away a spare bedroom and potentially reducing the number of interested parties should install temporary home office essentials such as a lightweight desk and rolling chair. This way, the room can be transitioned back into an extra bedroom to suit the needs of future homeowners.

HardwoodfloorsHardwood Floors

Wall-to-wall carpeting was popular decades ago because of its heating qualities and comfortable design. However, today’s homebuyers aren’t interested in purchasing a home with used carpet. Plus, hardwood floors are much more aesthetically pleasing as a modern design trend. If a home has carpeting, it may be worth investigating the material underneath. With refinishing, the original hardwood floors can look as good as new. However, homes built in the latter half of the 20th century may not have hardwood floors underneath, making this project slightly more labor-intensive for homeowners. Pre-finished wood floors cost $8-12 per square foot after installation. The National Wood Flooring Association conducted a national survey amongst real estate agents and 90 percent of those agents stated homes with wood floors sold faster. Regardless of refinishing flooring or fitting brand new planks, sleek and modern hardwood floors impress house hunters.

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Technology-Equipped Rooms

Media rooms have been popular in the housing market for more than a decade. However, technology has come so far that standard home theatres just don’t cut it anymore. Automated locks, HVAC touch screen controls, bowling alleys, webcams and home audio systems are just some of the newer features homeowners should consider installing. Companies like Smarthome feature a variety of home automation gadgets, from wireless plant sensors that regulate garden health to hidden security cameras monitored via homeowners’ smart phones. It seems like a risky investment considering how quickly technology changes over time, but incorporating some of these features help homes stand out in today’s competitive market.

Depending on how intricate the office is, the type of hardwood floors used and the number of tech gadgets installed in the home, these upgrades can range from low cost to extremely pricey. However, even the slightest improvements can leave lasting impressions on home shoppers.


Arts & Crafts Hotels

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pictured: the Brewery Gulch Inn in Mencodino, CA

A recent thread at American Bungalow's online forums gives very truncated run-down of Craftsman-style hotels throughout the United States; I've started there and added a number of others. Take a look at the list below, and add any of your personal favorites by commenting on this entry.

The Grove Park Inn Resort & Spa sits on a ridge in the mountains above Asheville, NC.

The Black Dog Inn B&B is in Estest Park CO. The Pitcher Inn, in Warren VT.

The Brewery Gulch Inn is located along California's beautiful North Coast in Medocino, CA.

The Lodge at Torrey Pines, near San Diego CA, site right aside the famous golf course.

There are a number of pleasant very pleasant Spanish-revival and Mission style B&Bs and hotels on Catalina Island, off the coast of Long Beach, CA; The Avalon Hotel is the ritziest of the new development on the hill up above the bay.

The historic Hotel Pattee is in Perry, IA.

The Hotel Elliott in Astoria WA has recently been completely refinished.

The Cooney Mansion Inn is located in Cosmopolis WA, just a bit north from Astoria.

The Settlers Inn B&B is in the heart of the Pocono Mountains of PA.

Dickens House B&B is located in St. Petersburg, FL.

Alexander's Inn B&B is located in Santa Fe, NM.

The Amber House B&B is just down the street from me, here in Sacramento, CA.

The very pretty villas at El Encanto, in Santa Barbara CA, are a sort of Craftsman-cottage / Spanish Colonial revival style; also in Santa Barbara is The Pierpont Inn.

The Eureka Street Inn is located in Sutter Creek, in the heart of California's old Gold Country.

Rhythm of the Sea is a small B&B on the beach in Cape May, NJ.

Disney's opulent Grand Californian Hotel in Anaheim CA is Craftsman in appearance and, unfortunately, anti-craftsman in reality.

RiverPlace, in Portland OR, is another huge quasi-boutique hotel whose management, like that of the Grand Californian, believes that to decorate in a vaguely Craftsman style somehow authenticates a very non-Craftsman experience.

new additions: reader Merideth of Housemade suggests the Gaslight Inn in Seattle. Thanks, Merideth!


book review: Bungalow: The Ultimate A&C Home

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Jane Powell and Linda Svendsen's Bungalow: The Ultimate Arts & Crafts Home is certainly the most attractive in their series (Bungalow Bathrooms, Kitchens, Exteriors) of coffee table picture books / fairy-tale idea books. In this new volume, the author and photographer have composed more of a paean to the Arts & Crafts bungalow than any type of descriptive deconstruction of the style and its endless permutations.

Powell & Svendsen's obvious fondness toward this particular building style is evident on every page, in the images and the descriptions of the many homes chosen. Those homes range from the strictest single-story examples to a wide array of homes imbued with the local style of their own communities throughout the United States, Canada, England and elsewhere in the world.

Part of the book is broken up into sections focusing specifically on regions and neighborhoods that embraced the bungalow and lent their own particular flavor: the suburbs of Chicago and Milwaukee and their Prairie-influenced bungalows; the Mission revival-influenced homes of Southern California (and the famous ultimate bungalows of Pasadena) and the wood-shingled homes of the San Francisco area that blend into that area's redwood and oak-filled hills; the wide-porched and columned stone-detailed homes of Memphis and the ornate and brightly-painted highwaters of Vancouver.

However, the authors do recognize that bungalow style reached its fruition here in California, with such ingredients as clinker brick, the high-grain oaks of the Craftsman furniture movement, wrought iron and hammered copper, decorative stencil and tilework and even Victorian wallpapers all coming together at the right time to truly embody the best aspects of the Craftsman tradition in homes that are far more examples of a philosophy than just places to live.

California, then, offers many of the finest examples of the interiors that fill the latter portion of the book - lush living and dining rooms, kitchens and baths that are sometimes spare and sometimes lavish in their decoration. It is here that the photography really shines: the rich colors, wood grain and other hallmarks of the Craftsman style are all on display, and Svendsen takes advantage of the lushness of these spaces in her well-lit and -composed images.

The book is written with humor and warmth, never taking its subject matter too seriously, which is a welcome alternative to many other books in the genre that treat these buildings as museum exhibits before their original purpose (and, in most cases, only purpose) as homes. The A&C movement is predicated on the usefulness and comfort of these spaces, elements that are wasted on houses that are not actually lived in, and it is wonderful that the authors recognize this and put the vast majority of their attention on structures that have evolved inside and out since their initial construction, constantly changing and becoming even better examples of this last of the humanistic architectural styles.

Certainly the finest examples of bungalow architecture are often well-served today as museums in their own right, and several restored masterworks that are now open to visitors are profiled in the last part of the book. Aside from the wear of years - negated in many cases by excellent restoration efforts - most of these homes did not age after their initial habitation, and have been frozen in time. Not so much examples of the A&C philosophy made alive as so many of the other homes in the book are, these are better seen as snapshots of the movement as it once was, or as some of the early and great architects and designers of bungalows wanted it to be.

All in all, Bungalow: The Ultimate Arts & Crafts Home is a very large volume, perhaps better suited for table than shelf, as it is certainly more fun to leaf through its pages and imagine your own project becoming, over time, the kind of home that is pictured within its pages. It is a good read and an even better picture book, a great tool for planning a home or remodel. I am sure it would make a very attractive holiday gift for anyone even moderately interested in the Craftsman aesthetic.

The only criticism I have is a petty one, something that only a graphic designer could see: with so many great typefaces and layout models coming out of the movement, why choose typefaces and a general style of typesetting that are in many ways the antithesis of the movement? But again, this is petty certainly not something that should detract from your enjoyment of this beautifully-written and illustrated book.


How to Maximise Your Living Space on a Budget

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Note: this is a partnered post and consideration was received for its publication.

Decorating a small home or cosy apartment is never easy. From tight corners to tiny hallways, choosing furniture and accessories that make your home feel bigger than it really is requires a creative mind and an eye for detail.

From carefully placed mirrors to intelligent furniture selection, read on to learn four tips that will help you get more living from less space when decorating your home.

Using mirrors to your advantage

While mirrors obviously can’t make a room physically larger, than can be used as a helpful tool to increase the amount of visual space inside a room. Interior designers have long used mirrors to ‘expand’ small rooms – now, you can too.

In a living room, mirrors should be placed on a wall that is perpendicular to your TV or digital display. In a bedroom, they’re best installed on the doors of your closet or on the bedroom side of your door – two places that combine style and function.

Creating ‘perceived space’ with light

Mirrors create visual space by reflecting light, but they’re of little value if your room is poorly lit in the first place. One of the easiest ways to ‘expand’ your room is with a strategically placed window.

Try to maximise the amount of light that enters your room while minimizing glare and excess heat. Large windows are doubly good for creating space – not only do they allow light to enter, they also open your room up to the outside and make it seem more spacious than it really is.

Choosing the perfect furniture

Picking the right furniture is tricky, especially when you’re starting from scratch. In the living room, focus on furniture that’s the right size for your room – a sofa that’s too big will do far more harm than a loveseat that’s slightly too small.

In the bedroom, look for furniture that serves a dual purpose. Bed frames can have built-in storage, closets can have mirrors for makeup and hair styling, and shelving can be mounted on the wall so that it doesn’t take up valuable floor space.

Decorating around a focal point

Focal points are just as important in interior design as they are in painting. Choose a single focal point for every room in your home – it could be a doorway, a television, or a staircase – and use it as a magnetic force that guides your furniture placement.

In the living room, this could mean arranging your sofas, recliners, and coffee table to point towards a television or fireplace. In the bedroom, it could mean using your bed – particularly if it’s a very large bed – as the centrepiece of your furniture.


Vertical or Horizontal Blinds: Which One Should You Pick?

Note: this is a partnered post and consideration was received for its publication.

Among the window treatments available in the market, window blinds remain popular among homeowners for good reasons. When properly selected and installed, they can make a big difference in the overall interior aesthetic of a home. They can also significantly reduce heat transfer and reflect most natural light streaming into a space, thereby reducing heating and cooling costs, not to mention help enhance the privacy of a home.

When it is time to purchase window blinds from blinds.com, your final decision will likely involve choosing between two popular options: vertical or horizontal. So how will you know which one to pick?

As both types of blinds look and perform differently, it is a good idea to carefully understand their advantages and disadvantages and use them as a basis to guide you through your choice.

Vertical blinds

Neat and elegant, vertical blinds are characterized by slats that hang vertically from a head rail that houses mechanical components that control the slats when they are adjusted. The individual slats can be rotated 180 degrees or can also be completely pulled out of the way.

One of the main advantages of vertical blinds is that they can cover large expanses of glass. They also help elongate the height of a room, allow for better air circulation and provide sufficient privacy and light control. Vertical blinds are also easier to clean, as their slats don’t easily collect dirt or dust. You can also find them in a number of colours and sizes, with some verticals having the capability to be aesthetically improved by slipping strips of materials into the vanes, thereby making them design flexible.

The problem with vertical blinds is that if you purchase cheap ones, their slats will clank together and the components that operate them are visible if there is no headrail in place. When not properly chosen they can be imposing in a room and may even make the space look too corporate.

Horizontal blinds

Horizontal blinds are the exact opposite of vertical blinds. Also referred to as Venetian blinds, these treatments are made up of long horizontal strips that hang on top of each other through a ladder system that is connected to a rotating drum that is used to rotate the slats. They also feature a pull cord or wand which when pulled or rotated raises and stacks the slats together at the top of the hang rail. The same cord or wand is used to drop the slats down when privacy is needed or when natural light has to be blocked.

The good thing about horizontal blinds is that they work well for almost all types of windows, including those that are compact or thin. They can also control light direction by twisting their slats. Like vertical blinds, they are available in a wide variety of colours, sizes and materials. Hidden brackets and no valance options for these blinds allow them to easily disappear into the inner window frames.

If you will be opting for horizontal blinds, one of the major issues associated with them is that they clank against windows when breeze enters the room. Those with route hole in the centre may also allow anyone to peek inside your home. The slats also tend to accumulate dust, making them a bit difficult to clean.

Making the choice

There are a number of factors that you’ll need to take into account to arrive at an informed choice. These include the size and shape of your windows your need for privacy and light control, the style of the room where the blinds would be involved, and your budget.

However, there are cases where vertical and horizontal blinds perform better than the other. For instance, large individual windows are a prime territory for vertical blinds as the vertical nature of the slats will provide proper coverage against prying eyes and sunlight. They will also emphasize the height of the windows. Vertical blinds are also suitable to use for areas that receive a lot of foot traffic since they are easier to clean.

Horizontal blinds, on the other hand, suit smaller and deep windows best as well as those windows whose panes are opened by raising or lowering. They also work well for less used areas, such as the bedroom.


Home Remodelling the Green Way

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Note: this is a partnered post and consideration was received for its publication. Creative Commons-licensed photograph by Jeremy Levine Design.

If you are remodelling your home, then making eco-friendly considerations is an excellent way to make sure that any additions or modifications to your home are not only long lasting, but also energy efficient and carbon friendly. Although the most commonly held conception of a green home is one that is ugly and low powered, this is actually not the case. Green home improvements have taken advanced a great deal over the last few years, and as a result most green options for home remodelling not only look great, but do a great job of lowering household energy bills, are recyclable and eco-friendly as well. So let’s have a look at what those home improvements are.

Windows

If you are remodelling your home, usually one of the main and most important considerations is the windows. Windows are exceptionally important for any overall home design and look and so if you are conducting major works of any kind on an area of your home with windows, then now is the time to make those windows green! Windows are responsible for the level of natural light that can come into a room. They can be a beautiful focal point, or a dark and dingy light absorber. They can either insulate a room, sending your bills skyrocketing whilst leaving you cold and shivering all winter, or they can insulate and crank up the heat notches whilst saving you money and keeping you warm. For this reason, if you are remodelling your home, and windows are part of your overall plan, then make sure you go for eco-friendly options and opt for windows that allow for plenty of natural light, save heat and insulate your home as well.

Insulation

If you are remodelling your home, now is a good time to add insulation to your home improvement to do list. Insulation is the adding of cold resistant foam like material into cavity walls in your home. Although many people would like to insulate their homes, the truth is that it is a lot of hard work and noise to do. But, if you are remodelling, then make sure you include insulation. In some UK areas, your local council will do this for free if you qualify, and as you are already making a mess and a noise, a little more to insulate your home will go a long way towards making your home more eco-friendly.

Power usage

If you are remodelling and you are using power tools, generators and external power supplies then of course you are at risk of producing more waste than necessary. Fear not. No matter how powerful the tools you are using, todays generator market has excellent, eco-friendly options for powering tools and other heavy equipment so you don’t have to feel guilty each time you switch the generator on.

Recycle, reuse and recycle

When remodelling it is quite amazing how many things that can be recycled or reused end up in the tip or the dumpster. Rather than throw everything you don’t need away, consider using a green company for your waste instead of a traditional skip. As well as this, send reusable items to second hand stores, or hold a yard sale to get rid of them in a green way, and use recycled materials like 100% recycled rubber cable protection, where you can to up the green points in your home.