Why You Should Stay Put and Improve the Home You Have

In "Staying Put," architect and writer Duo Dickinson has assembled a terrific and practical guide to help us make real improvements to our homes. Dickinson, an advocate of well-designed and affordable homes for all, has specialized in residential design for more than three decades.

This is not your typical architect's book about design. There's no obscure language nor design-for-design's-sake ideas. It is a practical, down-to-earth guide that walks anyone through the rational process of how to remodel your house to get the home you want, from how to think about your house and overcoming hurdles to a list of "Duo's Do's and Don'ts" for the homeowner. Along the way, there's plenty of nice before-and-after photos to help explain the points. Do read the book. You'll be glad you did.

 

The Taunton Press Inc, original photo on Houzz

 

The cover says it all. The ubiquitous photo of a gorgeous, award-winning home that's beyond most of us is replaced with images of a saw, cup of morning joe and a to-do list.

Are you staying put yourself? Read on for 8 of Dickinson's suggestions.

 

Mick Hales, original photo on Houzz

 

Consider the compass points. The tips and illustrated examples are wonderfully straightforward. For example, we see a house that gets overheated, the siding degrades and the front door bakes in the sun because it all faces south.

Dickinson's common-sense advice: Rework the front of the house with a new wide porch that shades the front door and some smaller, yet well-sized windows to create a lot more curb appeal while reducing maintenance and energy consumption. It's a triple win: more beauty and comfort with less cost.

Avoid gutters. Statements such as "gutters and leaders are devout to be avoided" may sound like heresy to many but certainly are the truth. Proving his point, Dickinson illustrates how a properly-built roof overhang can shed all the water it must without the complications, such as ice dams, caused by gutters.

Embrace small moves. Dickinson provides a wealth of simple solutions illustrated with before-and-after photos. He shows how to use small moves for big dividends, such as taking out a wall between a kitchen and a hallway to make room for more kitchen storage.

 

Mick Hales, original photo on Houzz

 

Enhance curb appeal. The book offers solutions to common problems with a particular style, such as how to improve and enhance an entrance into a split-level home.

Open up to the outside. Dickinson provides some excellent examples of how we can use modern windows and doors to strengthen the connection between inside and outside. Our homes, says Dickinson, no longer need be "later-day caves."

Find your home. Learning more about the style of the house you have will help you avoid obstacles in remodeling and recognize the best opportunities for improving your particular home.

 

Mick Hales, original photo on Houzz

 

Open up the inside. Snippets of advice sprinkled throughout the book are like refreshing raindrops that clear the cobwebs away. One such snippet: "If you walk through a room to get to a room, something is wrong." You know — it's when that new great room gets added to a modest house, and the result is some kind of dyslexic creature that's really two houses rather than one.

So rather than even building an addition, Dickinson suggests you make the most of what you already have. In this example, widening the opening between rooms strengthens this room's connection with the rest of the home, increasing its utility and spaciousness.

 

The Taunton Press Inc, original photo on Houzz

 

Work with what you've got (before): Keeping the kitchen size the same while vaulting the ceiling dramatically increases the overall spaciousness of the room, as you'll see in the next photo.

 

Mick Hales, original photo on Houzz

 

Work with what you've got (after): Walls, doors, appliances and even the skylight and kitchen sink were all left where they were. This all avoided costly plumbing, electrical and mechanical work and rework.

 

The Taunton Press Inc, original photo on Houzz

 

Working with what you've got (plans): Dickinson has included before-and-after floor plans for many of the examples. These plans help provide that much more context, allowing the reader to better understand what they may be able to do with the home they already have.

How to Get Back to a Balanced Housing Market

Developers are not building enough single-family homes to keep up with demand. The reason why? Cost. Windermere's Chief Economist, Matthew Gardner explains why new construction is so cost prohibitive and how to shift the trend.

 

 

Why Not White Marble?

 

Are you thinking about replacing your kitchen or bathroom countertops? The choices are endless; tile, granite, soapstone, wood, or maybe marble? White marble often gets a bad rap because it’s a more porous metamorphic stone than most (which means it’s prone to stains and scratches), but we beg to differ, and here’s why.

 

White marble is as timeless as it is modern. Adding white marble to your kitchen or bathrooms is like bringing home flowers for your significant other; always a good idea. It looks great on kitchen counters, but also just about anywhere in your bathrooms, from the floor to the shower walls.  Adding white marble countertops to a dressing vanity in bedrooms is also a great way to incorporate it throughout your house.

 

After you’ve made the decision to install white marble into your home, you’ll need to decide on a finish. Honing gives a matte finish, whereas polishing creates a shiny, reflective surface. If you want to reduce etching, choose a honed finish instead of a polish. If you don’t mind some added etching, then polished white marble is as stunning as it sounds.

 

How do you keep your marble happy? Make sure to apply a seal prior to using it. To reduce staining, wipe away spills immediately, and only use a neutral detergent to clean your marble. These simple things will keep your white marble in shipshape condition.

 

When it comes to your marble, it’s more like you than you think. Marble goes through good times and bad times and some scars fade better than others. It will never be perfect, but in the end, we think you’ll love it—imperfections and all.

 

Check out white marble looks we love on Pinterest.

 

5 Deal Breakers that can blindside home buyers

 

Purchasing a home can be a complex endeavor for even the most well-prepared home buyer.  You’ve diligently saved for your down payment, followed the market, researched agents and now you are ready to make an offer on your dream home.  Don’t let these 5 “Deal Breakers” come between you and your new home.


  1. Big Purchases on Credit. It is tempting to buy the furniture for your new home or a new car for the garage before the sale closes. Take care if you are making these purchases on credit. Large purchases on credit can have a major impact on your credit profile which effects your mortgage application. It’s a better plan to wait until after closing or pay cash for these transactions or you may be putting that furniture in a different living room than you originally picked them out for.

  2. Overpaying. Before your bank will approve your mortgage they will appraise the home you are purchasing.  If they feel you are overpaying they are likely to decline your mortgage application. If you find yourself in this situation consult with your agent on renegotiating your offer to be more in line with the bank’s appraised value.

  3. Purchasing too close to Foreclosure. If you are making an offer on a house which is facing foreclosure be sure to have a closing date set before the foreclosure date. Have your agent work with the lender to structure closing before the house goes back to the bank and into foreclosure.

  4. IRS liens. You’ve heard the old saying “Death and Taxes”.  Back taxes and liens can derail your attempts to get financing for a mortgage so be sure to have your books in order before filing your loan application.

  5. Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange (CLUE). CLUE is a database of insurance claims for both people and property.  Your home insurance rates are determined by the information about you and the property you plan to purchase which is contained in this report. Past claims for water damage, falling trees and even dog bites from present and past owners can multiply your insurance rates. Consult your agent about the CLUE report for your future home as soon as possible once your home purchase offer is accepted.

  6.  

When purchasing a home there will be challenges which you can plan for and the unexpected hurdles.  By educating yourself as a consumer and choosing a well trained real estate agent you can avoid many of the pitfalls of 21st century home ownership.

 

What about you? Tell us if you have had any “deal breaker” experiences.

 

Home Decor Through The Decades

 

As we celebrate our 45th anniversary here at Windermere, we’re feeling a bit nostalgic. The fundamentals of helping our clients buy and sell homes haven’t changed much over the past 45 years, but the way we decorate our homes sure has. Let’s take a trip down memory lane and explore interior design trends from the past four decades—the good (farmhouse sinks), the bad (macramé owls), and the ill-advised (carpeted bathrooms!).

 

1970s

Inspired by the hippie movement, interior design in the 1970s centered around bringing the outdoors inside. Wood paneling could be found in bedrooms and basements alike, and wood accents adorned appliances in the kitchen.

Earth tones dominated throughout the house. If your refrigerator wasn’t avocado or burnt sienna and your shag carpet wasn’t harvest gold, you were not keeping up with the times.

 

1980s

In the 1980s, we wanted to make homes as cozy as possible, which for a lot of folks meant chintz, Laura Ashley–inspired florals, and tons of pastels.

The “country” look gained huge popularity during this decade as well. Even high-rise city apartments were filled with objects that seemed more at home on a ranch in Texas, including bleached cow skulls and weathered-wood dining tables and chairs.

 

1990s

Perhaps as a reaction to the excess of the decade before, the 1990s saw a rise in Japanese-inspired minimalism. Sparsely furnished rooms with rock gardens, clean lines, and simple colors were all the rage.

On the opposite end of that spectrum was the shabby chic craze. Distressed furniture, soft colors, and oversized textiles combined to create this look.

Texturized walls were also a big hit. Wall paper and paint brushes were out, and sponges became the way to get the chicest look for your home.

 

2000s

It’s hard to believe, but we’re nearly a decade out from the early aughts. And that perspective makes it easier to spot trends that felt of-the-moment only a few years ago but are waning in popularity today. One example is Tuscan-style kitchens. It seemed every new home—especially homes on the upper end of the market—included a kitchen with stone tiles, granite countertops, hanging vines, and beige and tan tones.

Another popular item from the early 2000s that is now facing a bit of a backlash is mason jars. Once a staple of homes looking to incorporate a rustic feel, mason jars are now so common in decorating both homes and restaurants that they no longer feel special or nostalgic.

 

Today

Trends are always evolving, but if you’re looking for some cutting-edge interior design ideas for 2018, here are a couple to consider.

Embrace super saturated colors, especially warmer tones like yellow and red. These bold hues no longer need to be saved for accent pieces like pillows or lamps. Larger pieces of furniture and entire walls make a bigger splash.

Incorporate geometric patterns. There’s really no wrong way to get on board with this trend. Whether your couch features large circles, you add patterned backsplash in your kitchen, or you cover your ceiling with octagonal wallpaper, geometric shapes will help your home feel fresh.

Windermere Foundation by the Numbers

 

For the past 29 years, the Windermere Foundation has been helping those in need in our communities through donations to local organizations that provide services to low-income and homeless families. In 2017, the Windermere Foundation raised over $2.4 million in donations, bringing the total to over $35 million raised since we started this effort in 1989. The following infographic details exactly how these funds were dispersed in 2017 and the types of organizations that benefited from them. For more information please visit windermere.com/foundation.

 

Windermere Foundation by the Numbers

 

For the past 29 years, the Windermere Foundation has been helping those in need in our communities through donations to local organizations that provide services to low-income and homeless families. In 2017, the Windermere Foundation raised over $2.4 million in donations, bringing the total to over $35 million raised since we started this effort in 1989. The following infographic details exactly how these funds were dispersed in 2017 and the types of organizations that benefited from them. For more information please visit windermere.com/foundation.

 

How Tax Reform Affects Homeowners

 

New tax legislation was signed into law at the end of 2017, and it included some significant changes for homeowners. These changes took effect in 2018 and do not influence your 2017 taxes.  Here's a brief overview of this year's tax changes and how they may affect you*.  

 

The amount of mortgage interest you can deduct has decreased.

Under the old law, taxpayers could deduct the interest they paid on a mortgage of up to $1 million. The new law reduces the mortgage interest deduction from $1 million to $750,000. These changes do not affect mortgages taken out before December 15, 2017.

 

The home equity loan deduction has changed.

The IRS states that, despite newly-enacted restrictions on home mortgages, taxpayers can often still deduct interest on a home equity loan, home equity line of credit (HELOC) or second mortgage, regardless of how the loan is labeled. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, enacted December 22, suspends from 2018 until 2026 the deduction for interest paid on home equity loans and lines of credit, unless they are used to buy, build or substantially improve the taxpayer’s home that secures the loan.

 

The property tax deduction is capped at $10,000.

Previously taxpayers could deduct all the state, local and foreign real estate taxes they paid with no cap on the amount. The new law limits the deduction for all state and local taxes - including income, sales, real estate, and personal property taxes - to $10,000.

 

The casualty loss deduction has been repealed.

Homeowners previously could deduct unreimbursed casualty, disaster and theft losses on their property. That deduction has been repealed, with an exception for losses on property located in a federally declared disaster area. 

 

The capital gains exclusion remains unchanged.

Homeowners can continue to exclude up to $500,000 for joint filers or $250,000 for single filers for capital gains when selling their primary residence as long as they have lived in the home for two of the past five years. An earlier proposal would have increased that requirement to five out of the last eight years and phase out the exclusion for high-income households, but it was struck down. Find out more about 2018 tax reform.

 

How does tax reform affect your plans for buying or selling a home?

The changes in real estate related taxes may change your strategy. Contact your Windermere agent to learn more. If you need help finding an agent, we’re happy to help.

 

*Please consult your tax advisor if you have any questions about how the new tax reform impacts you

Artfully Organizing Your Bookshelf

 

When it comes to organizing a bookshelf, there are a multitude of directions you can go. For example, a simple Pinterest search will turn up endless results of bookshelves stylishly organized by color, but what if that entails separating books from within a series? For some of us, that’s like separating our children. Ultimately, how you organize your bookshelf is a personal choice based on your own aesthetic, but if you’re looking for inspiration, here are some tips to help give your reading space photo-worthy style.

 

Sorting by color:

  • One color per shelf (a blue shelf, a green shelf, and so on). If you're having trouble filling a shelf, wrap some of the books in craft paper.
  • A gradual "rainbow" flowing from one color to the next or from the most saturated colors to pastels.
  • A pattern that creates a flag or other simple image when the whole bookcase is filled. This is time-consuming, but impressive.

 

 

Sorting by size:

  • Large, heavy books should be shelved on sturdy shelves, below head height.
  • Start by placing the tallest and largest books on the lowest shelf, placing smaller and smaller books as you move upward. This creates a tidy, organized appearance. On some bookcases, this is a necessity to adapt to the height of each shelf.
  • Large decorative objects and oversized books look best if they are spaced out between different spots in the bookcase, leaving plenty of space between them to create separate focal points. They also make excellent bookends and will help to keep books in place. A zig-zag pattern works well.

 

 

Design effects to consider:

  • Create a dark backdrop. The bookcase will look more striking if the backdrop is darker than the surrounding walls and shelves. Consider painting the back of the bookshelves to create this vivid effect. This can be anything from basic black to pale beige. For open-backed bookshelves, hang a cloth between them and the wall.

 

 

  • Stack books on top of each other on some shelves, and vertically next to each other on others. Shelving books in different orientations by varying the position of the books is eye-catching and chic.

 

 

  • Try a pyramid of books, topped with a small trinket.

 

 

  • Leave plenty of empty space. Gaps often look better than a shelf clogged with paperbacks and origami. This is especially important for open-backed bookcases placed in the middle of a room, which need a large amount of space to let light through.

 

12 Tips for Making Your Bedroom Cozier

 

At the end of a long day, your bedroom should be a sanctuary of comfort that welcomes you in. But, as a room that guests rarely see and in which homeowners spend most of their time with their eyes closed, its upkeep frequently gets pushed to the bottom of the to-do list. Thankfully, there are some little design tricks that can make a big difference. Turn your bedroom into a restful retreat when you up its coziness factor with a few of these easy ideas.

 

  1. Layer textures. Sheepskin rugs, a down comforter, plush pillows and knit blankets can add a softness to the room that will make you want to sink right in. Lift these textures upward, with a canopy, tufted headboard, billowy curtains and hanging textiles (like a weaving) so even the walls and ceiling feel snuggly.
  2. Pick the right paint. Dark, saturated colors make a room feel like it’s embracing you, which is ideal for setting a sleepy environment. But if you’re nervous to commit to a dark color on the wall, choose a pale dusty blue, sage green or another light natural color for a soothing tone (just steer clear of energetic hues). Have you ever wanted to sleep on a cloud? Go with all-white paint and decor which makes even a basic bedroom feel soft and spa-like.
  3. Personalize it with reminders of the places and things that make you feel at home. Do you have a fondness for flowers? Bring floral patterns in on your textiles. Do you dream of vacation at the lake? Frame a photo of your favorite spot! Photos or paintings of uncluttered natural landscapes—like a sunset reflecting on water or a hammock under the shade of an oak—can rekindle memories of relaxation and are perfect for creating a sense of calm.
  4. Add mood lighting. Soften the light to mimic dusk for an intimate mood with dimmer switches, lamps, lanterns or even string lights. Just make sure you can reach the switch from bed, so you don’t have to disturb your peace to get up and turn it off when you’re ready to roll over and fall asleep.
  5. Skip metallic finishes. Choose warm natural decor options like wood and fabric instead of cold, manufactured metallics. This goes for everything from your bedroom furniture to window treatments. Faux wood blinds, especially when paired with floating curtains, fit with a cozy aesthetic and let you filter out harsh sunlight and maintain privacy for a truly sheltered slumber.
  6. Bring on the books! Stacks of good reads invite you to snuggle in and get lost in another world. A true retreat is a room with plenty of books that begs you to stay.
  7. Fix up—or fake—a fireplace. If your bed sits hearthside, embrace this romantic accent with styled logs and a decorated mantle. If you don’t have such a luxury, create a faux fireplace to add comfort and warmth through your décor: Arrange oversized candles and lanterns safely within a homemade hearth to bring in that cozy fireside feeling without changing the structure of your home.
  8. Keep the room uncluttered. When you want to settle in, a mess distracts you from finding comfort, so minimize the amount of stuff that makes it to your bedroom. Watch your nightstand, which often becomes a catch-all, by making a point to rehome any wandering wares now, and put things away as soon as they enter the room in the future. If you’re apt to let laundry pile up, keep it behind the closed doors of your closet so it doesn’t crowd your peace.
  9. Create a sense of timelessness. Tuck clocks and electronics away so they’re nearby if you need them, but their wires and harsh silhouettes aren’t reminding you of life outside your sanctuary. The hush that falls in a room devoid of gadgets will allow you to easily disengage from the stresses of reality.
  10. Rethink your bedding. Add a pillow-top pad to your mattress so it feels like your bed is hugging you when you climb in. Or, bring in a contoured body pillow which actually can hug you! Linen sheets feel luxe compared to cotton and are a simple swap to boost your bower. Many people also swear by skipping the top sheet while dressing their beds, which allows them to burrow directly into a fluffy comforter.
  11. Appeal to your sense of smell. Aromatherapy can have a huge impact on your perception of a space, so find some soothing essential oils or a sweet candle to blanket the room with an ambiance you adore. As soon as you open the door, you’ll be eager to plunge into your little oasis.
  12. Nestle into nooks. A window seat, a reading nook or an upholstered seating area are all inviting spaces that can draw you in from the doorway. The more intimate alcoves you can create, the cozier your bedroom will feel!

 

Flooded with soft lighting, plush textures and other comfy touches, your bedroom environment will envelope you at day’s end. And, perhaps even better than the idea of your bedroom refresh itself, is knowing that none of these tips take longer than a weekend to complete! So, slide into your slippers as you settle on which cozy updates you’ll select for your new favorite room of the house.