3 Ways to Get a Whole New Look With Just a Coat of Paint

Itching for a new look? Paint can transform so much more than just your walls.

Paint is easily one of the biggest home design tools at your disposal. It has the ability to take a room from dark and dingy to light and bright — and from small and cramped to spacious and airy.

To find out exactly how to change the look of a room with paint, we asked house-flipping pros and owners of Seattle-based Urban Squirrel, Lora Lindberg and Debbie Cederlind, for some pointers.

“Paint can lend a feeling you want to evoke,” says Cederlind. “The walls are the biggest surface for the biggest impact.” But you can get a new look without committing to painting a whole room.

Here are Lindberg’s and Cederlind’s tips for transforming your space with just a little paint.

1. Paint your furniture

Your first instinct may be to look at the walls for a drastic change in your home, but painting your furniture can pack just as much punch — if not more.

Not only is this a more renter-friendly solution, but it’s also a good way to break up the monotony of furniture that came in a set or that matches the flooring.

Photo courtesy of The Design Firm.

“It’s definitely more interesting to mix in a painted piece of furniture rather than have everything wood,” says Cederlind.

If you’re a renter and aren’t allowed to splash any color on the walls, go for a bold color on your furniture that will brighten up the room — particularly if you have white or off-white walls in your rental home.

2. Don’t be afraid to paint paneling

If you live in an older home that has been blessed with the gift of wood paneling, it may look dark, outdated and cavernous. Although it might be tempting to rip it out and start over, Lindberg and Cederlind suggest painting over the woodinstead.

“We see so many houses that haven’t sold because of paneling. Painting the paneling is one of the most dramatic changes you can make,” says Lindberg. “Some people say it’s a sin to paint wood, but a paneled room can look incredible with a lighter paint.”

Photo courtesy of Tyler Whitmore.

When you choose the paint color for your wood paneling, Lindberg and Cederlind suggest painting it a muted color and saving the pops of brighter color for artwork and area rugs.

3. Limit bold color choices to a room or two

Painting a dramatic color in one or two smaller spaces, like a powder room or a dining room, will make them stand out and be more memorable to visitors.

Photo from Zillow listing.

Although adding bold color to your walls is a great way to change up your space immediately, don’t go overboard with dramatic colors.

“The thing that drives me the craziest is painting every room a different bold color. Paint the whole house the same color, then pick one or two special rooms to get an accent, like a dining room or powder room or den,” says Lindberg. “A trend I’ve been noticing a lot is dark walls. You definitely don’t want to do that everywhere.”

This tip is especially important if you live in a home with an open concept living or dining space. The house will seem bigger and flow better when there’s continuity in the paint color throughout the home, Lindberg and Cederlind say.

Remember: Finding the right paint color takes time

Whether you decide to paint your walls in just one space or all of them, make sure you choose the right color before you tape off the baseboards and prep the room to paint.

“Picking out colors is the hardest,” says Cederlind. “We spend a lot of time getting samples and trying them physically in the room, but it’s worth every penny. Don’t go and get the paint chip and then buy a gallon of $60 paint. The chances of getting the color right the first time are pretty slim.”

 

Posted by Jamie Birdwell-Branson on Zillow

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5 Signs You Need to Upgrade Your Kitchen

Brighten it, expand it, organize it — whatever it needs, your kitchen is an update away from ideal.

Your kitchen is likely the most loved room in your home — and the wear and tear proves it. It’s the hangout for hungry teenagers, the conversation station during the holidays and the catch-up room after a busy workday.

A functional and appealing kitchen is important not only for your family but for your guests, too. After all, a delicious meal is only so appealing in a messy and cluttered kitchen.

Here are five signs that your kitchen may need an upgrade.

1. Outdated appliances

Perhaps they were there when you moved in, or maybe they came with you decades ago when you bought the home. Either way, outdated appliances are usually less attractive and drain more energy than newer models on the market.

Consider their safety, too. If you have to press a secret combination of buttons and chant a spell to light your range, it’s time to upgrade to newer, safer appliances.

When you do upgrade, consult a professional electrician to make sure everything is wired properly and up to code.

2. Damage and wear

Nobody expects your kitchen to stay in like-new condition forever, but damage beyond normal wear and tear needs addressing.

Water damage from a leaking fridge or dishwasher can cause mold on and underneath the flooring or peeling on the countertops, floors and walls, depending on the materials.

Cracked, peeling or chipped countertops and floors are prime spots for dangerous bacteria to reside — and hide from cleaning supplies. Even clean counters and floors with stains can cause your guests to think twice when they’re invited over a second time.

Upgrading to newer counters made from a durable material like granite is a good investment that can last practically a lifetime.

3. Not enough counter space

If your counters are covered with appliances, utensils and food, you need an upgrade. Ideally, your counters should always be clutter-free, and everything should have an easily accessible place.

Adding more counter space doesn’t have to mean tearing down walls and rehauling the layout. If your floor plan allows, installing an island is a great and relatively simple way to add counter space.

If it’s not the space but the clutter that’s the problem, larger cabinets or deeper drawers will increase storage so you can reclaim your counters.

4. You can’t find anything

Do you look forward to cooking or dread the time commitment? How much time is actually spent on food prep versus searching for the right utensils, appliances and dishware?

A disorganized kitchen makes it difficult to find anything, which can cause anxiety over cooking and render your kitchen useless. A fresh design and organization strategy is a worthy investment to get you eating in your own home again and enjoying the cooking process.

5. Your house won’t sell

Saving for your new home is often the priority when moving. But upgrading your current kitchen before you go is an investment that may very well pay for itself.

Home shoppers often gravitate first toward the kitchen. So, if you’ve been having trouble selling your home and the kitchen’s outdated — that could be the reason.

Buyers are usually more interested in move-in ready homes that require little or no remodeling. A more appealing, upgraded kitchen can be a motivating factor for buyers, hopefully resulting in less time on the market and a better selling price.

Make the necessary upgrades when the time comes, and your kitchen will reclaim its rightful place as the heart of the home.

 

Posted by Luke Caldwell on Zillow

9 Signs It’s Time to Update Your Bathroom

If a bad layout, poor lighting and leaky fixtures are getting in the way, it might be time for some changes.

A bathroom should be a place of comfort — the optimal environment for a relaxing soak or getting ready efficiently during a harried morning.

“You’re going to spend time in there every day,” says Sarah Hurd, part of the mother-daughter team behind Short Story Renovations, a Baltimore-area design, rehab and staging company. “You should not hate your bathroom.”

If a bad layout, poor lighting and leaky fixtures are getting in the way, it might be time for some changes.

Here are nine signs that your bathroom could use a little work.

1. Not photogenic

“It’s weird how you can see in a picture what you can’t see anymore with your own eyes,” says Angela Hurd of Short Story Renovations.

The fix: She and her daughter, Sarah, recommend that clients take a photograph of their bathroom to get a better sense of what they might not otherwise notice. People can become blind to the discord — from a mismatched color palette to accumulated junk on the vanity counter, she says.

2. Outdated colors

Funky hues can be one of the most noticeable signs that a bathroom is out of date.

The fix: White, gray and black palettes will lend an element of ageless beauty to any space, says Michael Merschat, an architect with high-end residential design-build firm Wentworth Inc. of Chevy Chase, MD.

People are coming back to “that white, timeless look, be it a very modern-style white or something with a little more traditional flare,” he says.

 

Crisp, neutral palettes can lend calm sophistication to any bathroom. Photo from Zillow listing.

3. Smells like a bathroom

“With some bathrooms, you walk in and they just have an old bathroom smell,” Sarah Hurd notes. It’s another indication that it’s time for a renovation.

The fix: Replacing a toilet’s wax seal, fixing a persistent, mold-causing sink leak, or adding better ventilation to a windowless bathroom can all be sure fixes for a fresher-smelling experience.

4. Bad layout

Awkward bathroom layout is another indication that it’s time for an update. Odd arrangements, such as a toilet directly next to the bathtub, are typical in bungalows and houses built in the 1920s, ’30s and ’40s, when plumbing was a new phenomenon.

The fix: Installing a separate water closet can be a winning move, Merschat says. “It gives a nice bit of refinement to the room when the toilet isn’t sitting out in the middle of the space.”

An outside-the-box arrangement can refine an otherwise predictable space. Photo from Zillow listing.

5. Leaks

When brown water stains appear on the ceiling below the bathroom, it’s definitely time to make repairs and update.

The fix: Take the opportunity to put in modern fixtures that conserve water and speak to your style, Merschat advises.

6. Poor lighting

“If you’re either blinded by the lights that are overhead, or it’s so dim you can barely see yourself in the mirror, that’s a problem,” says Sarah Hurd.

The fix: Better light fixtures and brighter light bulbs may be the first step on your path to a bathroom redo.

New light fixtures easily brighten and modernize the space. Photo from Zillow listing.

7. Stylistic relics

If you have wallpaper or popcorn ceilings still hanging around from decades past, your bathroom is due for an update.

The fix: Wallpaper is making a comeback, so think about using it in a new way. “We’ve actually redone powder rooms where we’ve put wallpaper on the ceiling to give it a different pop,” Merschat says.

8. Low on storage

Can’t store all the things you need in the bathroom? This calls for action.

The fix: Install a larger vanity, or add shelves above the toilet. You could even knock out a wall and steal a little space from another room to create a linen closet.

Install a new vanity with broadened storage options, like open shelving. Photo from Zillow listing.

9. Time to sell

If you’re not interested in fixing up your bathroom for yourself, do it for your home’s next tenants.

The fix: A fancy new washroom can add just the right panache to spur potential buyers to action. “Redoing a bathroom that’s just an eyesore within the house might make a huge difference,” Merschat says.

If you’re ready to renovate, start thinking about the look you want for your new bathroom. At Short Story Renovations, the Hurds use Pinterest to share ideas with their clients.

“[We] start a board that all of us can put stuff on,” Angela Hurd explains. “That way [our clients aren’t] in the dark about what we’re trying to do.” This practice helps everyone involved get a feel for one look and stick with it.

 

Posted by Becca Milfeld on Zillow

 

How Do I Find a Home Sale Price in My Neighborhood?

 

If you’ve seen some “for sale” signs in your neighborhood slapped with “sold” banners, you may wonder just how much money your own house is worth. Perhaps you’ve been considering selling, or could be convinced to sell if the price was right. But how do you know at which price they were sold?

For starters, you can go to realtor.com®, select the “Just Sold” tab and plug in your ZIP code. A list of homes that recently sold will pop up, along with the prices for which they sold. That’s a start, but it doesn’t give you the big picture you need to know exactly what your home might be worth. That’s where your real estate agent comes in.

“Agents can discuss pricing of other sales or pending sales in our area with other agents to help you estimate home values,” says Michele Lerner, author of “HomebuyingTough Times, First Time, Any Time.” “A [real estate agent] can also provide you with a free comparable market analysis to help you decide if you want to sell your home. And while it’s a great idea to find out about recent home sales in your community, you also should recognize your home may not sell for a similar price.”

Lerner says there are a variety of factors that may make your home sell for a significantly different price than those surrounding it. For example, your home could be in better or worse condition than other homes recently sold, or there may be other factors that influence desirability, such as lot location or even the direction rooms in the house face.

In general, the real estate market changes rapidly, and timing is a large factor in a sale price. Many of the factors of the larger market are out of your hands—mortgage rates, the local economy, the national economy, consumer confidence and the availability of homes for sale all influence a final price.

Rick Snow, a Realtor® with Exit West Realty in El Paso, TX, says when determining comp prices, you have to compare apples to apples.

“I try to find properties within 150 square feet either side of the subject property with similar features,” Snow says. “The number of bedrooms doesn’t really matter because they are all figured into the square footage, but baths, 1/2, 3/4 or full give more value. For example a three-bedroom, two-bath home that is 1,800 square feet would come out the same as a four-bedroom, two-bath home that’s 1,800 square feet, but a three-bedroom, 2 1/2 bath would be worth more.”

Will home improvements help?

If you look through the listings and feel like your house isn’t up to snuff, you may think about remodeling. Before you do, though, you should determine if the cost of remodeling will be worth the amount a renovation will add to your property.  For example, if you remodel your bathroom, it will cost you anywhere from $10,000 to $30,000, and you’ll gain back an average of 66% of the money you spent. Beyond that, however, will the shiny new bathroom be the tipping point for a buyer to select your home over another? You can’t know for sure.

Snow says home improvements can be challenging.

“Homeowners often believe they can recapture money that is spent on improvements dollar for dollar, and that just isn’t the case. Many improvements add marketability but not additional value. Even projects that add value typically don’t bring back a dollar-for-dollar return on investment. The other ‘drawback’ to improvements is personal taste. The things you like and are willing to spend money on to make your home more pleasing to you, I might not like. Then when I am looking at the house, in my mind I’m thinking how much it will cost me to get rid of this or that. Many buyers then base their offer on value minus what it’s going to cost me to make it the way I want it.”

If you are going to make some improvements with the hopes of increasing your home’s value, just be careful not to do too much remodeling.

“Be sure to consider the potential negative consequences of ‘over-improving’ your home for the neighborhood,” Lerner says. “It could be harder to sell your home in the future if it’s much larger or more expensive than the surrounding homes.”

Bottom line: The price houses are going for in your neighborhood definitely provide some insight into how much you might be able to get for yours. Just remember, that there are a lot of factors that go into how much people will pay for a house, and digging deeper will help you get the best picture of what yours may be worth.

Posted by Julie Ryan Evans on realtor.com

Click HERE to find out how much your home is worth!

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

Best Home Improvements For Every Month Of The Year

The best time of year to buy a refrigerator is right around the corner.

Does it feel as if your home improvement to-do list never ends? Try organizing your projects by month. Then knock these 12 items off your list.

Once you become a homeowner, the number of things you need (or want) to improve increases exponentially. There’s always something to be done. But certain times of year are better to tackle specific projects, whether your goal is to save money or sanity. Not sure where to begin? We’ve laid out a schedule below.

January: Clean your carpets and rugs

It may seem counterintuitive to do this when it’s cold out, but according to Jonathan Barnett, founder of Oxi Fresh Carpet Cleaning in Lakewood, CO, your flooring gets really dirty during the winter. Waiting until spring to remove all that grime can make it harder to get stains out. “Plus, the lack of humidity during the winter months allows moisture to evaporate quickly so wet carpets dry faster,” Barnett says. “And a clean carpet provides a healthier and better-smelling home, which is especially important during the winter, when most people spend the majority of their time indoors.”

February: Paint a room or two

Now is the perfect time to tackle an indoor project that you can enjoy year-round. “Indoor projects aren’t weather-dependent; it’s more of a supply and demand thing,” says Shaun McCarthy, president and owner of Handyman Connection in Colorado Springs, CO. If you’re hiring someone to paint for you, winter is a good time to do it. You’re likely to get a much better price than you’d get during the spring and summer, when many people book exterior painting jobs. But even if you’re planning to do it yourself, there are still benefits. Brisk winter air is good for curing paint, so cracking that window for ventilation serves a double purpose. (Unlike humid summer air, it won’t make your paint take longer to dry.) While you’re at it, if you haven’t weather-stripped or caulked your windows and doors, do it in February before the winds of March set in, says McCarthy.

March: Clean your gutters

“The most common problem I see in my home inspections is a wet basement or crawl space,” says Marc Shanley, a certified master inspector at Trinity Inspection, which services homes in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. One common culprit? Clogged gutters, which do an ineffective job of directing runoff away from your home’s foundation. All that moisture can cause major foundation problems. Depending on your gutters (and whether you have overhanging trees), you may need to tackle this task more than once a year. Even so, it’s best to do this before the April rains hit.

April: Refinish your hardwood floors

If you’ve discovered hardwoods beneath your new home’s carpeting, wait until spring to complete this labor-intensive but transformative task. “If you wait until it’s really hot out, the finish can cure too quickly and the sheen might not dry properly, which leads to a glossy, uneven finish,” says Arne Johansson, owner of Arne’s Floor Sanding in Minneapolis, MN.

May: Buy a new refrigerator

Although most large appliances go on sale later in the year, refrigerators have their moment in May, in preparation for the summer. To make room for that new inventory, the older versions usually go on sale, which can mean big discounts for consumers. Want even more savings? Consider energy efficiency (look for the Energy Star certification) and ask if you can buy the floor model. Don’t forget to haggle!

June: Freshen up your exterior

Now’s the time to wash your windows (or pay someone to do it), power-wash your siding, and install screens in your windows. Before you power-wash, be sure that all your weatherstripping and caulking is secure (and your windows are closed). Otherwise, you risk shooting the cleaning liquid into your house, says McCarthy. He also advises testing the washer’s power on an inconspicuous area of your exterior beforehand. “You want to clean your house, not take the paint off of it,” he says.

July: Fertilize your lawn

“Your lawn needs a solid four to six fertilization applications throughout the year to keep it healthy and growing,” says Gene Caballero, co-founder of GreenPal, an app that matches customers with landscapers. “Fertilizing in July will give your lawn the vitamins and nutrients it needs to get through the rest of the hot summer months. Also, this midsummer application helps to prevent weeds from germinating — setting you up for less weed pulling in the fall.”

August: Paint your home’s exterior

The best time to paint your home’s exterior is when temperatures remain consistent from day to day and don’t drastically dip overnight. “The real key,” says McCarthy, is “to work your way around the house so that you’re always painting in the shade.” First, map out what time of day the sun hits each side of your home, then paint accordingly. Of course, you could always hire a pro for this task. You might want to get some estimates, especially for a multistory house. Investing in the equipment (including a tall ladder or two) might not be worth the cost or the hassle.

September: Replace your windows

Caulk adheres better when the temperature is between 40 and 80 degrees, so those glorious days of late summer and early fall are an ideal time to replace your windows. Plus, when the cold weather does hit, new windows will keep the heat where it belongs — inside your house.

October: Buy new appliances

Big-ticket appliances such as stoves, washing machines, and dishwashers debut their newest models around this time of year. That frequently means deep discounts on the old ones. Some retailers will even start their holiday sales early. Double savings!

November: Remodel your bathroom

Contractors are entering their slow season this month, so they’re more willing to jump on a small project and get it done quickly, says McCarthy. “A powder room is a good way to test a contractor out, especially if you’re in the market for a larger renovation like a kitchen,” he says. “If you like the way it turns out, great; if you don’t, it’s low risk.”

December: Build a deck

You’ll probably get a good deal, because deck builders will be winding down for the winter. But adding a deck onto your house when it’s cold out makes sense from a building perspective too. December is less humid, so if you’re using pressure-treated wood, it’ll dry more consistently and evenly. Also, the hot sun won’t beat down on it, which can cause warping and cracking.

Posted by Michelle Hainer on Truila