We Asked Interior Designers: What Small Changes Make the Biggest Difference?

Give your rooms a fresh look with these designers’ best tips. Image: Catherine Staples Interiors

Sometimes interiors need change. Whether your style feels a little too outdated or your tastes have changed, making over the rooms in your home is a great way to give yourself a fresh start. However, for most of us, taking on the cost of a complete redesign is not always feasible, even if an update is sorely needed.

With that in mind, we called in the pros. We asked top interior designers to share their best tips on which small design changes make a big difference. Keep reading to learn how you can make a huge impact on your home without breaking the bank.

 

Go bold with your accent wall. Image: LMB Interiors

1. Add an accent wall

“To drastically change the look and feel of a room without spending a lot of money, paint an accent wall,” advises Todd W. G. Corder, the founder of Deja vu Decor. “A pop of color will instantly draw the eye and is a great way to liven up a room with no more than the cost of a can of paint.”

Where accent walls are concerned, there are a few details to keep in mind. The first is placement. Technically, any wall can be used as an accent, but it really should highlight your focal point. In living rooms, this can mean placing the accenting color around a mantle or some built-in shelving. In bedrooms, by the headboard is best.

Aesthetics are the other consideration. A bright paint color certainly does the job, but it’s not the only option. Darker neutrals like black or chocolate brown serve the same purpose. Contrasting materials can also be used. Wallpaper is an excellent choice, as is a patterned tile or even wood paneling.

 

Use texture to add visual interest. Image: Thomas Towne Reavey Inc

2. Vary the texture of accessories

“Texturizing a room is a game changer. Accent pillows in varying fabrics and shades can add another layer of depth to a room. Another opportunity to add texture is through the materials that your accessories are made from. Consider using metals, woven baskets and blankets,” says Dawn Stafford, the owner of Gathering Souls, a concierge design service in Fairfax, VA.

Conceptually, texture can be a bit hard to pin down. The best way to think of it is by evaluating how an item looks like it feels. Take the picture above, for example. Consider how you’re easily able to tell that the surface of the coffee table feels rough, while the blanket on the couch is soft.

Successful interior design is all about layering these contrasts. When you’re sprucing up a room on a budget, take stock of the textures in the accessories you already own. Then, look for additional items that would serve as their opposite. If need be, consider moving your existing accessories to different rooms as a way of giving your home an update that’s free of charge.

 

Include various types of lighting. Image: Black and Milk

3. Re-evaluate lighting

“You’ll need lighting in all the corners of the room; try to avoid just one ceiling light,” says Sarah Elsley, the voice behind Dream of Home. “Use wall lights and floor lights together, so the lighting isn’t concentrated to one place and spreads in an even glow around the room.”

There are four distinct types of lighting you can incorporate into a space. They are:

  • Natural: Any light that comes into your home from the outside via doors and windows.
  • Ambient: Light meant to illuminate the entire room, usually from an overhead source.
  • Accent: A light source that’s meant to highlight a particular feature of the room.
  • Task: Lighting used for a specific purpose, such as desk lamps or reading lights.

Ideally, a room involves a combination of these light sources. Take stock of the lighting you have in place and then look for which types are missing. Fill in the gaps where needed and you’ll be surprised how much of a difference you’ll see.

 

Styled surfaces give your home a curated look. Image: Alvhem Mäkleri & Interiör

4. Give surfaces deliberate style

“Coffee tables, side boards and bookshelves scream to be styled. It is amazing what you can pull together from the items in your own home. No need to go shopping for knickknacks; try shopping in your home first,” suggests Ana Cummings, the owner of ANA Interiors.

Pulling off this tip is all about having the arrangement look intentional. In all honesty, the items you put on these surfaces aren’t as important as how you display them. Do your best to lay out your items in groupings, stick to odd numbers and be sure to vary the pieces in terms of their direction, size and color. If need be, you can always look for some design inspiration to help you get started.

 

Sometimes small changes make a big difference. Image: International Custom Designs

No matter what your personal style is, at some point, you’re probably going to want to change things up. When that happens, there’s no need to wait until you’ve saved enough money to redo the whole room. Even the pros say small design changes can make all the difference. Keep their advice on hand for the next time you need to shake up your interiors. Their tips will help you make a huge impact at an affordable price.

Posted by Tara Mastroeni on Freshome

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What Would You Sacrifice to Save For Your Next Home? [INFOGRAPHIC]

 

Some Highlights:

  • 95% of first-time homebuyers are willing to sacrifice to make homeownership a reality.
  • The top item that buyers sacrifice is new clothes, at 54%.
  • Even repeat or experienced buyers say they sacrificed taking a vacation or buying a new car to buy their last home.

 

Posted by The KCM Crew

New To Budgeting? Try The 50-20-30 Rule

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The 50-20-30 Rule makes budgeting simple so you can pay your bills, add to your savings, and set aside money for fun.

Budgeting isn’t always as complicated as it may seem — this simple formula makes it easy to allocate your money each month.

If you’re new to budgeting, figuring out how to manage your money each month can feel overwhelming. Not only do you need to organize, but you also have to make difficult decisions about how to spend your cash. Relying on the advice from others can help only so much, because your income and expenses are unique. Someone may be able to spend $4,000 per month on rent in Manhattan, NY, but that kind of spending may not work for you.

But there’s good news: You don’t need fancy finance apps on your phone, or complicated spreadsheets with countless spending categories to understand how much you can spend. You simply need to follow the 50-20-30 Rule.

 

What is the 50-20-30 Rule?

The 50-20-30 Rule helps you build a budget by using three spending categories:

  1. 50% of your income should go to living expenses and essentials. This includes your rent, utilities, and things like groceries and transportation for work.
  2. 20% of your income should go to financial goals, meaning your savings, investments, and debt-reduction payments (if you have debt, such as credit card payments).
  3. 30% of your income should be used for flexible spending. This is everything you buy that you want but don’t necessarily need (like money spent on movies and travel).

Keep in mind that the percentages for essentials and flexible spending are the maximum you should spend. Falling under those guidelines can leave more money for other financial goals.

How to start a 50-20-30 budget

Figure out what’s currently happening with your spending habits. First, look at your pay stubs to determine exactly how much money you bring home each month. That’s your income and what you’ll base your 50-20-30 split on. (If you’re self-employed, be careful to track your earnings and understand your average income per month so you can budget accordingly.)

Next, track your spending. Yes, every cent, from the big stuff such as rent, to the coffee that you grab on the way to work. (If you spend most of your income through credit and debit cards, these reports are easy to generate). Each of these should be categorized into the three 50-30-20 buckets mentioned above: essentials, financial goals, and flexible spending. From here, adjust your spending to ensure you’re falling into the 50-20-30 parameters. You may find that you’re overspending on stuff you want but don’t need, and that’s when it’s time to cut back.

Why the 50-20-30 Rule works

This budgeting plan keeps your personal finances simple so you can pay your bills, add to your savings, and have the freedom to use some money just for fun. And for the novice, the 50-20-30 Rule is a great starting point for learning the basics. There’s no uncertainty, your action steps are clear, and it even provides for savings, investments, and other financial goals. This makes it much more likely that you’ll stay the course over time, ultimately reaching your desired financial stability.

The 50-20-30 Rule also offers some flexibility. Do you spend more than 50% of your income on essentials? You can bend it a bit by altering the percentages to make it work better for you.

“It’s not about the exact percentage breakdown, because all budgets will be slightly different,” says Eric Roberge, a financial planner who specializes in helping professionals and entrepreneurs at Beyond Your Hammock. “The key is to take action and use a system to help you stay consistent in managing your money every month, and making sure you’re covering your expenses, being responsible by saving for tomorrow, and giving yourself some room to enjoy life today.”

 

Posted by Kali Hawlk on Trulia

 

Why Pre-Approval Should Be Your First Step

In many markets across the country, the number of buyers searching for their dream homes greatly outnumbers the amount of homes for sale. This has led to a competitive marketplace where buyers often need to stand out. One way to show you are serious about buying your dream home is to get pre-qualified or pre-approved for a mortgage before starting your search.

Even if you are in a market that is not as competitive, knowing your budget will give you the confidence of knowing if your dream home is within your reach. 

Freddie Mac lays out the advantages of pre-approval in the My Home section of their website:

“It’s highly recommended that you work with your lender to get pre-approved before you begin house hunting. Pre-approval will tell you how much home you can afford and can help you move faster, and with greater confidence, in competitive markets.”

One of the many advantages of working with a local real estate professional is that many have relationships with lenders who will be able to help you with this process. Once you have selected a lender, you will need to fill out their loan application and provide them with important information regarding “your credit, debt, work history, down payment and residential history.” 

Freddie Mac describes the 4 Cs that help determine the amount you will be qualified to borrow:

  1. Capacity: Your current and future ability to make your payments
  2. Capital or cash reserves: The money, savings and investments you have that can be sold quickly for cash
  3. Collateral: The home, or type of home, that you would like to purchase
  4. Credit: Your history of paying bills and other debts on time

Getting pre-approved is one of many steps that will show home sellers that you are serious about buying, and it often helps speed up the process once your offer has been accepted.

Bottom Line

Many potential home buyers overestimate the down payment and credit scores needed to qualify for a mortgage today. If you are ready and willing to buy, you may be pleasantly surprised at your ability to do so as well.

 

Posted by The KCM Crew

Why Getting Pre-Approved Should Be Your First Step

In many markets across the country, the amount of buyers searching for their dream homes greatly outnumbers the amount of homes for sale. This has led to a competitive marketplace where buyers often need to stand out. One way to show you are serious about buying your dream home is to get pre-qualified or pre-approved for a mortgage before starting your search.

Even if you are in a market that is not as competitive, knowing your budget will give you the confidence of knowing if your dream home is within your reach.

Freddie Mac lays out the advantages of pre-approval in the My Home section of their website:

“It’s highly recommended that you work with your lender to get pre-approved before you begin house hunting. Pre-approval will tell you how much home you can afford and can help you move faster, and with greater confidence, in competitive markets.”

One of the many advantages of working with a local real estate professional is that many have relationships with lenders who will be able to help you with this process. Once you have selected a lender, you will need to fill out their loan application and provide them with important information regarding “your credit, debt, work history, down payment and residential history.”

Freddie Mac describes the 4 Cs that help determine the amount you will be qualified to borrow:

  1. Capacity: Your current and future ability to make your payments
  2. Capital or cash reserves: The money, savings and investments you have that can be sold quickly for cash
  3. Collateral: The home, or type of home, that you would like to purchase
  4. Credit: Your history of paying bills and other debts on time

Getting pre-approved is one of many steps that will show home sellers that you are serious about buying, and it often helps speed up the process once your offer has been accepted.

Bottom Line

Many potential home buyers overestimate the down payment and credit scores needed to qualify for a mortgage today. If you are ready and willing to buy, you may be pleasantly surprised at your ability to do so as well.

Posted by The KCM Crew

Planning for the Hidden Costs of Buying Your First Home

There’s only one way to be totally prepared for all the costs of buying a home.

You’re excited because you just found the perfect home. The neighborhood is great, the house is charming, and the price is right.

But if you’re a first-time home buyer, you might find out that the price is pretty far from perfect.

If you’re shopping for your first home, additional — and often unexpected — home-buying costs should be top of mind. These costs catch many home buyers unaware, and can quickly leave you underwater on your new home.

The best way to deal with this is by preparing yourself and making sure you have enough cash tucked away for a rainy day.

Costs coming out of the woodwork

For almost every person who buys a home, the spending doesn’t stop with the down payment. Homeowners insurance and closing costs, like appraisal and lender fees, are typically easy to plan for because they are lumped into the home-buying process, but most costs beyond those vary.

The previous owners of your home are the biggest factor that goes into your move-in costs. If they take their refrigerator when they move out, you’ll have to buy one to replace it. The same goes for any large appliance.

And while these may seem like a small purchase compared to buying a home, a few thousand-dollar appliances quickly add up — especially if you just spent most of your cash on a down payment.

Similarly, unless you negotiate it as part of your home purchase agreement, you’ll also be on the hook for any immediate improvements the home needs.

Unfortunately, these costs are the least hidden you may encounter.

When purchasing a home, it’s strongly recommended that you hire a home inspector(this costs money, too!) to ensure the home isn’t going to collapse the next time it rains. Inspectors look for bad electrical wiring, weak foundations, wood rot, and countless other problems.

Worse still, these problems are rarely covered by home insurance. If an inspector discovers a serious problem, you’ll then have to decide if you still want to purchase the home. Either way, you’ll be out the cost of hiring the inspector.

Creature comforts

Another cost is your own comfort. It’s easy to not think fully about what you are expecting from your new home until after you move in.

Are you used to having cable television? If so, is your new home wired for cable? It’s much harder to watch a technician crawling around punching holes in your walls when you own those walls.

Courtesy of Zillow Digs

Because you’re likely moving from the world of renting to the world of homeownership, you’ll probably be faced with much higher utility bills. Further, you could find yourself paying for utilities once covered by a landlord, like water and garbage pickup.

Plan ahead

The only way to face the unexpected and unknowns of home buying is with research and planning. This starts with budgeting before house hunting, and should continue throughout your search.

Look at homes in your budget that need improvements, then research how much those improvements could cost.

Nothing is worse than buying a home thinking you can fix the yard for a few hundred dollars and then realizing it will cost thousands.

There is really no upper limit to how prepared you can be. Say you find a nice home that’s priced lower than others in the area because of its age. You may save money on the list price, but with an older house you could be slapped with a much higher home insurance payment, effectively making the house more expensive in the long run.

This is where preparation comes in. Research home insurance and property prices in the areas you’re house-hunting to make more educated decisions before you ever make that first offer.

Clearly define how much you intend to put toward your down payment, then look at how much cash that leaves you with for improvements and even minor costs, like changing the locks. That way when you find a house at the high end of your range, you’ll know to walk away if it requires you to buy a new washer and dryer or upgrade the HVAC system.

Establish a rough estimate for as many costs as you can think of, and be extremely critical of homes at the top of your budget, or you could easily end up being house poor.

Know your budget and plan ahead. Buying a home is a lot less scary when you know what you’re getting into.

Posted by Jonathan Deesing on Zillow