What’s the Best Wall Color for Living Rooms?

Choosing the best color for your living room — the most public space in your home — can be daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. To offer some inspiration, we reached out to five experts who know a thing or two about paint colors to discover some of their favorite hues.

Versatile blue

Source: hayneedle

Source: hayneedle

A perennial favorite for living rooms, blue is thought to evoke a sense of calm and order, but it’s also appreciated for its versatility. “Blue is a color that works well with many styles of furniture, from traditional to modern,” confirms Andrea Magno, color and design expert for Benjamin Moore.

Which variety of blue to choose is a highly personal consideration. “Some people want a deeper shade with warm undertones to create a cozy feeling in a room, something like Van Deusen Blue from our Historical Colors collection,” says Magno, “while others might go for something light and airy like Breath of Fresh Air, which is our 2014 Color of the Year.”

Energetic red

Source: Zillow Digs

Source: Zillow Digs

“Red is one of the most powerful colors,” says interior designer Kristine Robinson, principal of Robinson Interiors in Jenkintown, PA and a teacher of color psychology and interior design at Temple University. “It adds energy and life to a living room.”

To avoid an overload of this vibrant hue, however, Robinson often focuses it on one wall.

“Accent walls are terrific when you want to use a bold color like red but don’t want it to completely overpower a room,” she says. Pinpointing the best shade for your home may depend on the room’s lighting and architectural elements.

Atmospheric gray

Source: Stephanie Dyer

Source: Stephanie Dyer

Deep charcoal grays are gaining popularity in interior design these days. One fan is design blogger Holly Becker, founder of decor8blog.com and author of “Decorate Workshop: Design and Style Your Space in 8 Creative Steps.”

“I love Farrow & Ball’s Down Pipe for living rooms,” Becker shares. “It’s a moody, soot-like gray that looks stunning on a focal wall behind a sofa or on all four walls to cozy up a room.”

If you find yourself choosing between a few shades of gray, Becker advises getting samples and painting poster boards that you can tape up and live with for a few days. “Watch how the colors look at different times of the day and move the boards around to see how light affects them.”

Vibrant yellow

Source: Scott Campbell

Source: Scott Campbell

classically appointed living room in a cheerful yellow hue is a common sight in historic houses, perhaps because candlelight may have illuminated this color in an especially pleasing way. Today, yellow continues to attract homeowners who appreciate its vibrancy.

“Yellow living rooms can be welcoming, embracing, and even sophisticated for both formal and family-style settings,” reports color consultant Barbara Jacobs, owner of Barbara Jacobs Color and Design, in Medfield, Massachusetts.

“Warm golds tend to look better in more saturated variations, while the more lemony, cooler yellows look best when kept paler and less saturated,” she adds.

Enduring white

Source: The Corcoran Group

Source: The Corcoran Group

“White is a perfect backdrop for any style of living room,” says Jackie Jordan, director of color marketing for Sherwin-Williams. “And because it is highly light reflective, it will make a room that may not have a lot of natural light appear brighter.”

Evidence of white’s enduring presence in American decorating can be seen in the growing number of paint colors that fall within the category of white — enchanting hues with touches of green, gray, pink and other tints.

Sherwin-Williams counts more than 100 individual whites in its collections. Among their best-sellers are Dover White (shown here) and Snowbound. “Dover White has just a hint of yellow to make it very livable and warm,” Jordan points out, “while Snowbound is a cooler white that is perfect for more modern interiors.”

This article was originally published by Marie Proeller Hueston of BobVila.com on Zillow Digs. For the original article, click here.

Bob Vila is the home improvement expert widely known as host of TV’s This Old House, Bob Vila’s Home Again, and Bob Vila. Today, Bob continues his mission to help people upgrade their homes and improve their lives with advice online at BobVila.com. His video-rich site offers a full range of fresh, authoritative content – practical tips, inspirational ideas, and more than 1,000 videos from Bob Vila television.

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5 Things to Consider Before Buying a Condo

If you’re in the market for a new home, a condominium can be a charming choice. Condos are often less costly to purchase than houses or townhouses, and they can offer conveniences you might not otherwise be able to afford. Yet there are caveats to condo ownership, too.

5 Things to Consider Before Buying a Condo

Here are five things to think about before buying a condo.

1. You Don’t Own the Land

A condo is a building consisting of multiple apartments that are individually owned. Each owner contributes to the cost and upkeep of the exterior structure and any common areas and amenities. Condo owners do not hold title to the land on which the structure sits.

2. Condos Offer Convenience

For the homebuyer, the advantages of condos are many. In some built-up neighborhoods, condos may be the only available option for homebuyers, or the most practical given their proximity to shopping centers and work.
Condo communities also may offer amenities that you may not otherwise be able to afford if purchasing a townhouse or stand-alone house, such as pools, play areas or tennis courts.

Additionally, condos can relieve you of the need to manage the building maintenance and any amenities. Some interior issues, such as plumbing and electricity, may be managed by the complex’s community association.

3. Built-In Social Network

Socially, condos can be great for singles, couples and families. Your proximity to your neighbors and shared access areas means greater opportunities for you to meet new people.

You’re likely to have less privacy, however, with neighbors in close proximity, sharing walls and building access. Neighbors might be able to hear your conversations or the music you play, while watching the movements you and others make to and from your condo unit.

Before buying, check to see that the other condo owners are friendly and seem likely to be people with whom you would get along.

4. Calculate Costs

Condos are often cheaper than townhouses or stand-alone houses, as use of the available space has been maximized, with many condos built on a piece of land. However, in a declining market, condos can be more difficult to sell if the condominium community association is difficult to deal with or the association fees are high.

Some associations can be politicized and hold you accountable for any perceived infringement of rules. Most associations will impose fees for building maintenance, whereas in another type of home you pay for expensive renovations or maintenance projects at a time when you can afford them.

Look at the minutes of the community association’s meetings to see if there are outstanding maintenance issues that are likely to be expensive. Also, obtain a copy of the building’s certificate of insurance and see if building development costs will be covered.

Take your time perusing a condo’s contract, looking at all the association fees.

5. Don’t Rush to a Decision

When considering a condo purchase, take your time to look at the building. Do you like its size? Is it in the right neighborhood? Is the building properly maintained and are the amenities to your liking?

Be wary if there are many condos for sale in the building. This could mean that there is a high level of dissatisfaction with the building and living conditions.

On the other hand, you may find a condominium that has everything you want in a home with the added conveniences of reduced maintenance and a network of new friends.

This article was published by Patricia-Anne Tom on Realtor.com. To see it, click here. It had been updated from a previous version by Ben Apple.

12 Naturally Beautiful Hot Tubs

How VA Loans Work, and How to Get One

How VA Loans Work, and How to Get One

The VA loan program isn’t quite like any other on the market. Yes, there’s a limited audience, but even limited, millions of people are eligible. And it can get a lot of people into their own homes that they otherwise wouldn’t be able to purchase. And there’s an extra hand should the mortgage payments prove too much.

Who qualifies: 

  • Those who served 90 consecutive days during wartime (as defined by the VA) or 181 days during peacetime
  • National guardsmen and women or reservists who served six years
  • Vets wounded in service, even if they served less than the specified time
  • Widows or widowers of those who died in action, or from injuries suffered while on duty

Veterans will need to get a certificate of eligibility proving they meet all the requirements.

How it works: 

The VA loan program doesn’t offer the mortgage itself. Instead, the Department of Veterans Affairs acts as an insurer, guaranteeing the loan should the homeowner default.

The VA backing allows buyers to purchase with no down-payment and without having to buy private mortgage insurance.

Compare that to FHA loans, another government-backed mortgage, which can require as little as 3.5 percent down — but also requires mortgage insurance premiums that could add up to a couple hundred dollars a month in payments.

The program is also self-funded, says Chris Birk, the author of The Book on VA Loans through a fee paid when the loan is closed, a fee that can also be wrapped into loan payments. Veterans disabled during their service can waive the fee. 

More requirements: 

  • The VA has its own appraisal process.
  • Borrowers will need to meet VA and lender guidelines for credit score, debt-to-income ratio and other underwriting requirements.
  • No investment properties — there are residency requirements, although a spouse maybe be able to meet them.
  • The VA will want to check out the house being purchased. This isn’t a 5-point inspection, Birk says, but a general check to make sure the porch doesn’t hide termites and the roof has a few solid years left. Basically, the VA wants to make sure the odds remain high that the house is safe and salable

And a safeguard:

The VA also offers foreclosure help. They’ll negotiate with banks when things get troubled, Birk says. The VA has helped more than 320,000 veterans avoid foreclosure since 2008, saving $11 billion in claim payments, according to Veterans United. 

The specialists can help modify the loan, reduce payments or work some other kind of forbearance, he says.

This article was originally published by Anne Miller on Realtor.com. To see the original article, click here.

How to Fulfill Your Fantasy With a Custom Home

If you dreamed as a child of someday owning a home with your own dance studio and ballet barre, or a personal game room with a Skee-Ball machine alongside an indoor putting green, then a custom home may be your best option to making that dream come true.

How to Fulfill Your Fantasy With a Custom Home

While buying a home fulfills a big part of the American Dream, building a home to your specifications elevates the experience. Before you begin to make decisions about your future home, you will need to spend significant time learning about the custom-home building process.

Organize Your Financing

Building a custom home isn’t necessarily more expensive than buying a newly built or existing home since it’s possible to build a small custom home, but sourcing all materials on an individual basis rather than in bulk can raise the price above production homes. The important thing to understand is that your decisions about the land you buy, and the design and quality of construction you choose will impact the final price.

Financing a custom home requires a construction loan, something not all lenders offer. If you don’t already own land, you will have to finance the land purchase and then the construction. Often you will have two closings, each incurring settlement fees.

Since building a custom home is considered risky by lenders, you typically need excellent credit and a down payment of at least 20% to 25% to qualify for a construction loan. In addition, lenders typically require more cash reserves for borrowers who are building a custom home to ensure that they have funds in place for any glitches that extend the construction period.

Make sure you check into appropriate insurance, too, during the construction period.

Interview Architects and Builders

If you already have a sense of the type of home you want to build, you can begin searching for architects in your area who design similar residences. Some custom-home buyers opt to find a builder first who can then recommend an architect, while others choose to hire an architect first. There are also design/build firms that handle the entire project. No matter which route you choose it’s important to check references, interview potential partners and visit examples of their work to see the quality before you finalize your choice.

Start With Land and a Plan

If you already own land, you should meet with potential builders and architects at the site so you can discuss potential issues and plans. If you don’t own land, some builders can help you find a site or they can direct you to a REALTOR® who can help. It’s essential that your home design and land plan match: You wouldn’t want to design a residence and then find that the site you’ve purchased can’t accommodate it.

Your builder should walk the property with you and determine how much preconstruction work is required, such as the placement of utilities, a septic system and a driveway.

Consider the Neighborhood

Most people who build a custom home believe they will never sell it, but eventually you may want to move to a different area or even build another custom home. It’s always wise to consider resale value when building a home. In particular, you want to match the price range and general size of your custom home to others in the neighborhood so that your house doesn’t stand out as oversized or overpriced.

Avoid Delays and Cost Overruns

Planning your home from the foundation to the roof and every single item in between can save you time and money when you are building a custom home. Your decisions about every detail in your home should be made before construction begins so you can reduce the possibility that materials won’t be available when needed, or that you will need to rip out things already built to accommodate a change order.

Good planning and hiring a good team can make the custom-home experience as easy as dreaming.

This article was originally published by Michele Lerner on Realtor.com. To see the original article, click here.

6 Tips for Successful Container Gardening

When she’s not sharing her knowledge of container gardening as a guide on About.com or photographing New England gardens for a forthcoming book from Timber Press, you’re likely to find Kerry Michaels tending to the nearly 100 potted plants that surround her home in coastal Maine. “No matter how hectic life can be,” she muses, “I get such enormous pleasure from these pots!” Here, Michaels offers six tips to boost your own container gardening know-how.

6 Tips for Successful Container Gardening

Source: Better Landscape and Gardens

1. Water properly

“It still surprises me how much water a good-sized container needs to get to the roots of a plant,” says Michaels. Don’t just wet the top of the soil, she advises. Rather, continue until you see water dripping out from the holes at the bottom of the pot.

2. Supplement nutrients

“There are no nutrients in most potting soils, and even those that have some will need to be supplemented throughout the growing season,” Michaels says. If your potting soil doesn’t have any (check the bag), then augment with slow-release fertilizer every couple of weeks. Be sure to follow the directions closely, whether you choose to use diluted liquid fertilizer or granular fertilizer.

3. Pay attention to pot size

Pots that are too small can be a problem for container gardeners, Michaels reports. “Small pots mean less soil, and less soil means that there isn’t much margin for error when watering, because the pots dry out so fast,” she says.

4. Add some holes

If your pot is skimpy on drainage, don’t be afraid to make a few extra holes in the bottom. You can either use a drill with a special bit for ceramic pots (because these pots can crack, always wear safety goggles and make sure the pot and bit do not overheat), a regular bit for plastic pots, or an awl or nail and hammer for metal pots. “Sometimes my pots look like Swiss cheese, because I put so many holes in them,” Michaels says. “The more drainage, the better.”

5. Skip the gravel

“It’s a myth that stones or shells at the bottom of a container help keep your plants from getting waterlogged,” Michaels reveals. To keep soil from escaping the bottom of your pot, place window screening, a coffee filter or a paper towel over the holes of your container before adding soil.

6. Elevate pots

“When containers are set flat on nonporous surfaces, drainage can be affected,” says Michaels. “And on a deck, the constant moisture can damage the wood. Air circulation below pots is beneficial to both the plants and your deck.” She suggests using commercially made pot feet, like Potrisers or Pot Pads. Depending on the weight of your containers, you might also consider teacups, shot glasses or small terra-cotta pots to elevate them.

This article was originally published by Marie Proeller Hueston of BobVila.com on Zillow Blog. To see the original article, click here.

 Bob Vila is the home improvement expert widely known as host of TV’s This Old House, Bob Vila’s Home Again, and Bob Vila. Today, Bob continues his mission to help people upgrade their homes and improve their lives with advice online at BobVila.com. His video-rich site offers a full range of fresh, authoritative content – practical tips, inspirational ideas, and more than 1,000 videos from Bob Vila television.

 

5 Ways to Dress Up Your Front Door

Ostensibly, a home’s front door is there for one reason and one reason only: to let people come and go while keeping the inside environment secure and separate from the outside. But a front door is so much more than that. It is often the first thing that draws the eye of a passerby or visitor. It also sets the style and mood of your home, welcoming guests with an air of elegance, friendliness, whimsy or warmth.

If your front door is not setting the tone you want, here are some fun, easy and rewarding ways to make it the arresting centerpiece it deserves to be.

1. Decorate it

Source: Verge Architecture

Source: Verge Architecture

There are nearly limitless possibilities for decorating your front door. You could simply paint it a different color (or colors), hang a wreath in the center or add a dramatic house number above or to the side. Other options include installing long shutters on either side or adding a playful, historic or decorative specialty door knocker. Online retailer Architectural Depot sells a wide range of knockers, from chili peppers to poodles, that are sure to make you smile when you come home at the end of a long day.

2. Replace it

A study commissioned by door manufacturer Therma-Tru found that replacing a home’s front door can increase the perceived value of the home. In the study, enhancing an entryway upped a home’s perceived value by as much as five times the cost of the new door.

Source: Zillow

Source: Zillow

When replacing your door, don’t think only about swapping one door for another — although that alone could dramatically increase the appeal of your entrance. Instead, look to enlarge the entryway by installing a door with windows on either side or above. This will add a sense of grandeur to the front of the house and create a more pleasant atmosphere inside, thanks to the added natural light.

3. Light it up

Source: Suzanne Tucker of Tucker & Marks Inc.

Source: Suzanne Tucker of Tucker & Marks Inc.

If you don’t already have lights at your front door, installing them can be a big presentation booster. If you do have lights, consider replacing them to update the look of your entry. Wall sconces are available in a myriad of designs, from traditional lanterns to sleek modern steel models. You can find thousands of sconces at online retailers such as Destination Lighting. If you have a porch, install a hanging fixture to cast a welcoming pool of light on the front door. Finally, to add dramatic flair, place outdoor spotlights on the ground and aim them at the door, so it can truly take center stage.

4. Add planters

One of the quickest ways to enhance your entryway is to set a plantercontaining a variety of different colored and textured plants and flowers on either side of the door. You can create an Old World look with vase-like cement planters, go Zen with simple geometric-glazed pots or strike a whimsical note with old tin or wooden buckets. A common approach is to place a tall plant, such as a grass, in the center of the pot, then surround it by a low-grower like ivy. If you live in a cold climate, after the growing season has passed, use the planters to display seasonal decor, such as pumpkins for Halloween or painted white branches withtwinkle lights for Christmas.

5. Go high tech

The front door isn’t necessarily the most technologically advanced part of the house, but with the IS7121-2 Audio/Video Door Answering System, a doorbell and phone combo from VTech, you can change that. You simply install a doorbell module beside the front door, then indoors, plug in the two video phone receivers wherever you’d like. When someone rings the doorbell, the module automatically snaps his picture and sends it to the handset. You can then choose to stream video and have a conversation with the visitor or go answer the door in person. Or if you’re not feeling very social, pretend you’re not home. The system stores up to 100 images, so at the end of the day or a week later, you can review who’s stopped by.

As a phone, the IS7121-2 includes Voice Announce caller ID, HD audio, speakerphone, last 10-number redial, caller ID for both the current call and call waiting and many other features. It’s a system that’s sure to banish the phrase “dumb as a doornail” forever!

While style and budget will be considerations, any improvement you can make to your home’s most prominent feature is likely worth the investment of time and money. Remember, your front door makes the first and last impression of your home for anyone who comes knocking.

This article was originally published by Michael Franco of BobVila.com on Zillow Blog. To see the original article, click here.

Bob Vila is the home improvement expert widely known as host of TV’s This Old House, Bob Vila’s Home Again, and Bob Vila. Today, Bob continues his mission to help people upgrade their homes and improve their lives with advice online at BobVila.com. His video-rich site offers a full range of fresh, authoritative content – practical tips, inspirational ideas, and more than 1,000 videos from Bob Vila television.