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10 Bathroom Design Features Pros Always Recommend

1. Heated Floors

By far, the most recommended bathroom feature from design and building pros is heated floors. “Most people would assume the must-have bathroom amenity is a giant tiled shower or a freestanding tub,” says home builder Stephen Alexander. “We do recommend those, but the one feature that’s always overlooked is the cold tile floor that can diminish the spa experience. So we always specify heated floors.”

Many pros say the feature is relatively inexpensive and easy to install. “Every client who makes the investment absolutely loves the feature and will never go back to cold floors if they build again,” says designer Kathryn Chaplow.

2. The Right Lighting

Attention to lighting is also high on bathroom remodeling pros’ recommendation lists. They encourage a layered approach with overhead lights, accent lights like sconces and decorative lighting like chandeliers.

If you get up frequently during the night, don’t forget to include a nightlight. “I like to do these at the toe kick or underside of a floating vanity,” says designer Jamie Leonard of Vertical Interior Design. “This light is set on a sensor so that it’s only on at night or when the room is dark. This helps with those middle-of-the-night bathroom breaks so you don’t blind yourself.”

If possible, a skylight over the shower, preferably operable for ventilation, is something you’ll never regret. And a dimmer switch for light fixtures is a must, pros say. “Sometimes you want it to be dim, sometimes you need to shave or put on makeup,” says architect Tim Barber. “We strive for several different choices of lighting to set a mood.”

And be sure to cast yourself in the best light. “Always install lighting on the sides of the mirror so there aren’t shadows on your face,” says designer Tiffany Waugh.

3. In-Drawer Outlets

Most of us use some sort of plug-in gadget in the bathroom. Hiding an outlet in a drawer or cabinet helps keep those hair dryers and other items off the countertop and can prevent them from encountering pooled water and creating a hazard. “With bathroom technology moving more and more electric, I always recommend storage with outlets in it for electric toothbrushes and razors,” says designer Selena Fitch. “That way they are off the counter and hidden. It can be a medicine cabinet that has been designed with outlets, or even a plug strip inside a vanity cabinet.”

This approach also keeps unsightly outlets from diminishing the look of a backsplash or other feature.

4. Storage, Storage, Storage

A bathroom can’t function without proper storage. And most pros recommend a mix of open, closed, drawer, cabinet, niche or any other necessary solutions. “You always need a lot of storage for towels and other bathroom accessories, and there are so many ways to include bathroom storage in a beautiful and functional way with gorgeous cabinetry,” says designer Christie Veres of CDV Interiors.

Designer Melvin Stoltzfus often recommends a hidden hamper near a shower, either in a vanity or linen cabinet, to prevent dirty clothes and towels from piling up.

5. Shower Niche

Speaking of storage, few pros these days design and build showers without dedicated space for shampoo bottles and other products. And a niche recessed into a shower wall is by far the most popular solution.

There are many different designs to consider, but you’ll want to make sure the dimensions can accommodate the height and amount of products you typically keep in the shower, and maybe a little extra room for overflow. “I recommend that clients include a middle shelf inside the typical rectangular cutout, but place it in the bottom third of the space, so that the bottom is a smaller compartment for soap and razors,” says designer Sheila Mayden. “The upper shelf is for taller items like shampoo, conditioner and body wash.”

A niche also offers an opportunity to introduce some extra style into the shower with a contrasting accent tile or other material.

6. Natural Materials

Many people feel, either consciously or subconsciously, that natural materials have an inherent quality that’s hard to put into words. They provide a feel-good something that seems absent in synthetic materials. “Our bathrooms represent rest, relaxation and self care,” says designer Kymberlea Earnshaw. “For these spaces, I always look to nature. I recommend using natural materials whenever possible — real stone, wood, plants, etc. The earthy elements balance out the water element, and together they create that spa-like feel that is so nourishing for our mind, body and souls.”

Consider wood vanities, natural woven elements or, many pros’ favorite, marble. “Marble is our No. 1 favorite material,” says designer Tracy Huntington. “If a client can enjoy a few marks and some wear, marble patinas beautifully over time. It’s a total classic. You can’t go wrong with marble.”

7. Handheld Sprayer

A handheld sprayer might seem like a small detail, but its inclusion can have an enormous effect on the shower experience. They are great for rinsing shaved legs, cleaning shower walls and more. “I always recommend adding a handheld in the shower,” says designer Chloe Rideout of Cummings Architecture + Interiors. “It makes cleaning pets, kids or the walls so much easier.”

8. A ‘Wow’ Moment

Every space needs a focal point or feature that makes you smile or say “wow” every time you see it. It could be a wall treatment, a decorative light fixture, a graphic floor tile, a standout vanity or anything else that keeps things interesting. “I always try to incorporate something unexpected,” says designer Whitley Wirkkala of Oak & Linen Interiors. “This could be wallpaper or a funky light fixture. This keeps the room fresh and brings in a little flair.”

9. Quality Plumbing

Don’t judge faucets and other plumbing fixtures on looks alone. The inner components are vital to how these pieces function and how long they will last. Poorly made fixtures often have plastic gaskets and other pieces inside that quickly break down, affecting water flow and other performance features.

“High-quality plumbing fixtures are an absolute must,” says designer Carmit Oron. “This is not an area where it’s wise to save money. I usually explain this to my clients during our initial meeting, which takes place in a plumbing showroom. For me, quality plumbing is the starting point for everything, and where my design process begins.”

Bathroom remodelers know a thing or two about which design features make homeowners really happy. So we asked 50 design and building professionals to share the bathroom elements they confidently recommend to everyone. Here are the 10 bathroom details that came up again and again.

This content was originally published here.

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Fix It or Not? What to Know When Prepping Your Home for Sale

General Questions

These first three questions will help you take the temperature of the real estate market in your area and assess the competition.

1. How hot or cold is the market in your area? Are homes being snapped up after the first open house, or are they languishing on the market for months? Are homes being sold at or near the asking price, or for much lower? Are open houses bustling with people, or is attendance sparse? Get a feel for the market in your area by talking with your real estate agent and checking local listings. If it’s a seller’s market, you may be able to get away with doing fewer repairs and modifications before selling, and still have good results — in a buyer’s market, expect to do more work to make a positive impression on buyers.

2. How fast are you looking to sell? If you need to sell your home immediately — say, because you have already committed to buying another home or need to move because of work — it is in your best interest to do everything in your power to ensure a quick sale at the highest price possible. If you have more flexibility, and you feel uncomfortable making too many pricey changes to your home before selling, it may make more sense to focus on cleaning, decluttering and making small cosmetic changes (like painting) — particularly if the market is hot and favors the seller. If you aren’t getting the offers you would like, you can always decide to spring for a few bigger changes later and relist your home.
3. What is the condition of comparable homes on the market? It can be quite helpful to know a little about the homes that buyers in your area are looking at. Examine photos of homes for sale in your area or even attend a few open houses, and make a mental note of how the other homes compare to yours. Are the kitchens updated? Are the floors in good shape? If all of the other homes you see have a certain feature (for instance, an updated kitchen) that yours lacks, consider making that a priority. You don’t need to make your home exactly like all the other homes on the market; just make sure there isn’t a single factor that could give your home a disadvantage.

To Fix or Not to Fix: Deciding Which Repairs Are Worth Tackling

The next five questions will help you assess whether or not to make a specific repair or change before selling your home.

4. Does the faulty item give the impression the property has not been well cared for?Leaky faucets, cracked tiles, an overgrown lawn, broken appliances or anything else that doesn’t work as it should can immediately turn off buyers. At an open house, people often zip through quite quickly, and if they notice one or two things that send up red flags, they may not give your home another chance.

5. Can you find a less expensive fix? Let’s say you scoped out the comparable homes on the market in your neighborhood, and they all have updated kitchens but yours hasn’t been touched for some time. Rather than spend big on a full kitchen remodel, why not give your kitchen a less costly refresh? For instance, you could paint the cabinets, swap out cabinet hardware, change the light fixtures and upgrade the appliances to something current and functional but not top-of-the-line. You will put some money into it but not nearly as much as with a full remodel — well worth it if it gets your home in the running in a competitive market.

6. How much will you realistically need to lower the price if you don’t fix it? If you have a lot of costly repairs to tackle to get your home ready to sell, you may be considering selling it as is. But keep in mind that buyers looking for a fixer-upper will also be looking to discount the selling price for the repairs plus the hassle. In other words, you won’t be able to simply estimate how much the repairs will cost and deduct that from the selling price; you’ll need to deduct even more to make it worth the buyer’s time and effort. Discuss this with your Realtor and look into other fixer-uppers for sale in your area to come up with an appropriate selling price.

7. Is it one of the first things potential buyers will see? First impressions are key, and that is never more true than in the real estate business! If you have a repair you are unsure about tackling, use this as a litmus test: Is it something the buyer will see as he or she approaches your house and walks through the front door? If so, fix it.

8. Could it be a deal breaker? Some home repairs, like a new roof, are just so major that they will scare off all but the most determined buyers. If the market in your area is hot (see No. 1) and you have ample time (see No. 2), there’s no harm in trying to sell without making the big repair, as long as you are willing to price it accordingly (see No. 6). If it’s a buyer’s market but you don’t have time to make the repair before listing, you could offer to pay for it as part of the sales agreement — otherwise it’s probably best to make the change first and then put your home on the market.

Tell us: Are you selling or have you recently sold your home? What has worked or not worked for you? Share your experiences in the Comments.

When you make the decision to sell your home, it can be tricky to know which changes would make your home sell more quickly or boost the sale price — and which would be a waste of your time and resources. Each home (and each homeowner) is different; that’s why we’ve come up with eight key questions to ask yourself before making any changes to prep your home for sale.

This content was originally published here.

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What to Know About Adding a Garden Arbor

How to Use an Arbor

An arbor can take on many roles in a landscape, such as defining an entry or passageway, adding support for climbing plants, framing a garden feature and creating a shady spot to relax. Arbors often play several of these roles at once.

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Entry. Use an arbor to highlight entry points to your yard. Combining an entry gate and an arbor at the front of your home or as the entry point to your backyard is a classic look that works with any style or material.

Stand-in for a door. Equally effective is the use of an arbor to indicate transitions between different areas of your landscape, such as to separate a vegetable garden, a children’s play area of your own secret garden.

Passageway. Expand the depth of an arbor or combine several smaller arbor structures in a row to define a path or walkway. Installing a series of arbors allows you to stretch the look for some distance.

Shade structure. Arbors also can give you a shady spot to grow plants that prefer a little less sun. Set one against a fence or wall to provide filtered light and some protection for plants such as ferns, hostas and hydrangeas.

Frame. Place an arbor around a garden fountain or other landscape feature to show it off. The arbor will immediately draw the eye and give the feature even more prominence in your space.

Another option is to use an arbor to frame a part of your home. A full or partial arbor over a garage door or along a wall helps soften the look and adds a three-dimensional element.

Seating area. Rather than adding plants or a garden focal point beneath an arbor, create a seating area. A simple bench or a swing can fill the space. Another option is to make the arbor deep enough to have benches facing each other on both sides, with access through the middle.

Support for plants.No matter what other purpose your arbor serves, adapt the time-honored tradition of using it as a way to highlight your prized plants. Vines, roses and climbing perennials and shrubs all appreciate the chance to stretch out toward the sun.

Grapes have long been used as a topper on arbors, but consider branching out with other fruits, such as kiwis (as long as your arbor is sturdy). You can also use an arbor as a support for vegetables, such as tomatoes or pole beans. Think about being able to pluck a ripe tomato every time you enter your garden!

Hiring a Pro

Many arbors, especially those purchased from a nursery or the outdoor section of a large retailer, can be assembled and set in place by a homeowner. You can set the arbor on a solid surface or place it on or slightly in the ground. For more stability, though, you’ll need to add footings or anchors to keep it in place.

Shape. Wood and wood-look arbors can vary from a simple structure of two posts with lattice between them and on top to elaborate structures with individualized design elements.

Using beams and rafters overhead is an easy way to add interest to a basic arbor design. Finishing the corners with decorative bracing or changing the supports to rounded pillars are other ways to customize your arbor design.

If you want to take your arbor design to the next level, turn the flat roof into a peak or an arch. Extending the arbor on either side or making it deeper will give it more presence in your yard.

Many metal arbors are topped with a gentle, continuous arch, which works well for almost any landscape design. Squaring off the top is another popular option. If you’re looking for a more elegant style, a gothic-inspired arch at the top might be for you. To add more interest, look for double arches that incorporate a design between the two edges.

A semicircular or full-circle metal arch is a contemporary take on a metal arbor (or version of a moon gate). Either a single- or double-arch design will create a garden focal point. A double arch has the added advantage of providing support for any number of plants.

There’s no rule that your arbor needs to be anchored directly to the ground. Create a more stately look, especially at an entrance, by installing stone, concrete or masonry pillars as the base.

Size. The size of your arbor depends on how you plan to use it.

  • Height: Most arbors are 7 to 8 feet tall.
  • Width: The width can vary, from 3 to 4 feet for over a gate, a bit less to show off a garden fountain, and up to 10 feet or more to stretch along a wall or create a focal point in a space. If you’re opting for a longer arbor, consider a row of connected arbors to keep the structure stable, or add supports every few feet.
  • Depth: Most arbors are fairly shallow, perhaps the depth of a lattice panel, but you can adapt to fit your needs. A deeper arbor will allow you to add a seat or seats, provide the feel of a true passageway or cover a garden path or specimen plant.

Material Options for an Arbor

Wood has long been the typical material for arbors, with metal a close second. New options include wood composites and vinyl. You can also mix different materials for a custom look.

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Wood. A classic wood arbor is a landscape staple. Wood is a top choice for outdoor projects and is often the least expensive option. Wood generally lasts at least 10 years, and even 20 or more if you maintain it.

When possible, choose locally grown and naturally rot-resistant woods, such as cedar or redwood. Other options include Southern pine, spruce and fir, although these may need to be treated to use for outdoor structures, and treated wood is not available in some areas. Teak, mahogany and ipe are tropical hardwoods that are known for their resistance to rot and weather, especially in coastal climates. They are usually more expensive than locally grown wood. Whatever your wood choice, look for sustainably harvested lumber.

Boards and posts are usually the first choices for arbors, but you can add a more informal or natural feel by using unfinished branches or tree limbs.

Wood requires more maintenance than most other outdoor materials. Sealing natural wood will protect it from turning gray. For more protection, stain or paint it. All of these treatments will need to be redone every year or so.

You’ll also want to check annually for any damage, such as broken boards or chips, and for rot. Wood can also be damaged by the humidity and moisture of plants growing on it or even by the vines themselves. Choosing a twining vine rather than one that clings or wraps around the wood can lessen the damage.

Wood composite. This option, which is a blend of different materials, including recycled plastic, has come a long way in both looks and color choices. Wood composite is more expensive than wood, but it’s more durable, can handle harsher weather, is easier to care for and will last longer, usually around 25 years or more.

Maintenance usually consists of rinsing the composite with water and scrubbing any stubborn grime with a diluted dish soap solution. You should also check periodically for any damage and make repairs.

Metal. Metal arbors can be deceptively fragile-looking but in reality they’re very tough. You can use almost any metal to form an arbor: aluminum, stainless steel, wrought iron, weathering steel, even pipes or rebar.

Metal, except for the last two options, is usually more expensive than wood, but it’s extremely durable — a quality metal arbor lasts 20 years or more. Metal is good for harsh climates and is easy to care for.

Metal arbors can be fabricated to almost any size and shape. The metal won’t fade and generally can be cleaned periodically with water to preserve its looks.

Aluminum and stainless steel are popular midpriced options.They’re also easy to care for, generally requiring only a rinse with a hose and perhaps scrubbing with a diluted dish soap solution for stubborn spots. Aluminum is lightweight and rust-resistant and is good for damp climates. You can also find powder-coated aluminum, which will allow you to choose a color you love. Its light weight does mean it won’t be as sturdy as other options. Stainless steel is heavier and stronger than aluminum but with the same rust resistance. Stainless steel can chip, making it vulnerable to rust, so repair any damage as soon as you can.

Wrought-iron arbors are more expensive than aluminum and steel, but they add a sense of permanence and tradition to the garden. Wrought iron is highly durable, but chips will need to be sanded and refinished to prevent rust. Expect wrought iron to last for decades.

For a more casual look, pipes and rebar are inexpensive choices that add an industrial touch. On the other end of the scale, weathering steel, while one of the most expensive options, will give you a rustic-contemporary look.

Vinyl. Vinyl gets great marks for its durability in the garden. It won’t rot or shrink, can handle diverse weather, including areas that are warm and damp, and will last 30 years or more. It cleans up with periodic hosing and tackling of stubborn grime with a diluted dish soap mixture. A drawback for many has been a limited color choice, but that is also improving.

Vinyl is more expensive than wood, although its life span can offset that. It’s difficult to damage, but repairs can be tricky.

Other Considerations for Adding an Arbor

Permitting and codes.
While most arbors, especially those that you purchase directly, probably won’t require a permit, it’s always wise to check first. Building codes can vary widely, even in neighboring towns. Your arbor should be covered under the required permits if it’s part of a larger project.

You should also check with any homeowner association regulations regarding heights, setbacks and locations.

Project duration. Most arbors should take only a few days to build and install. This generally includes the time required for any concrete to set. A more complex design will take longer, as will an installation that involves concrete or masonry posts. If you want a custom-order metal design, you’ll need to check on the fabrication time.

This content was originally published here.

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Yard of the Week: Elegant Poolside Retreat and Front Yard Lounge

Photos by Julie MacCalus

Yard at a Glance
Who lives here: A couple and their daughter
Location: Haddonfield, New Jersey
Lot size: About half an acre
Designer and builder: Ledden Palimeno

The pool itself was in great shape, but everything around it needed an upgrade. For the pool decking, Palimeno chose Blu 60 slate slab pavers by Techo-Bloc in beige and cream, which feel cool underfoot on hot summer days. His crew salvaged the original brick pavers and incorporated them around the pool and the perimeter of the property to add color and contrast.

Before: Here’s a look at the pool before the renovation.

After: Palimeno made use of a spot against the garage, where there had been some plantings, to place two chaise lounges where they would receive sun during the day. “We were able to take that space and make it really functional where it wasn’t before,” says Palimeno, owner and lead designer at Ledden Palimeno.

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While it can be tricky to work around an existing pool, Palimeno says defining functional areas on different levels proved challenging as well. “It’s kind of strange to walk out of your house, down off your deck to grade and then walk back up to your pool. That’s not a typical design for us,” he says. “We would have set that pool elevation down when it was originally built and have some walls around that, so keeping those different levels was our biggest challenge.”

To ease the path and create interest, Palimeno put in two semicircular stairs topped with Pennsylvania bluestone and edged with the repurposed brick.

Cozy Outdoor Kitchen

A new ipe wood deck and integrated grilling station — featuring soapstone countertops, undermount lighting and a brick surround — create an ideal setup for family meals and entertaining. “The brick surround also acts as a separation from their driveway,” Palimeno says. An ipe slat wall adds more warmth to the space.

Inviting Front Yard Seating

Before:
Here’s a view of the front yard before Palimeno redesigned it. In the front of the house, which faces a quiet street, the homeowners wanted another sitting area where they could relax while their daughter played in the yard.

After: Palimeno created an intimate patio furnished with Adirondack chairs. “It’s what you would have if you built a porch on the front of your house,” he says.

Before: A straight brick pathway used to lead from the driveway to the front door.

Low-Maintenance Plantings

To complement the hardscaping, Palimeno chose a variety of regionally appropriate plants that require little maintenance. “This is a palette that we use all the time in our designs; we know which plants do well in our soil, our climate and our zone,” he says. “We use a lot of ‘Green Velvet’ boxwood (Buxus ‘Green Velvet’) and Incrediball smooth hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens), a hybrid variety of Annabelle, that has big white flowers and stands up more firmly than an Annabelle, which flops when there’s lots of rain.”

Several varieties of ornamental grasses were added to soften the overall look. “Grasses are just nice; you’ll see them moving in the breeze, and they make for easy gardening because you’re not pruning — all you’re doing is cutting it down in spring or fall, whenever you choose to,” Palimeno says.

Perimeter Fencing

Palimeno designed a custom cedar fence that brings a modern flair to the yard. “It’s hard to find a ready-made fence that has a horizontal slat look like that, and we also designed a hollow post system so we were able to fish wire through for the lighting,” he says.

Palimeno welcomes clients doing plenty of online research prior to beginning a large project. “We use Houzz as a resource all the time, and almost every client shares an ideabook with us,” he says. “Houzz is such a great resource to quickly get a sense and feel for the client’s taste and their style.”

This content was originally published here.

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Bathroom of the Week: A Pro’s Own Nature-Inspired Space

“After” photos by Dandelion Dreams Photography

Bathroom at a Glance
Who lives here:
Interior designer Susan Wintersteen of Savvy Interiors and her husband, along with their daughter and dog
Location:
Del Mar, California
Size: 90 square feet (8.4 square meters)

Before: The house was built in the mid-1990s, and typical of that era, it had a large tub surround, low vanities and a small shower stall. “We aren’t really bathtub people, and we were getting a hot tub for the backyard. We knew we’d never use that tub,” Wintersteen says.

The bathroom also had a small, cave-like shower stall. “We really wanted a bigger shower,” Wintersteen says.

After: “I knew the best place to put the shower would be in front of the windows where the bathtub was, but my husband was concerned about that,” Wintersteen says. As it turned out, that corner of the house is quite private, but to be on the safe side, the designer added a tree outside to thoroughly block any view into the shower.

“The windows in the shower have become one of my favorite features. I love all the natural light and being able to see outside from the shower,” Wintersteen says.

She knew that at 6 by 6 feet, the shower might appear overly large. She used her designer’s eye and playing with scale to address that. She created a smaller square of white hexagonal tiles in the center of the shower pan, then surrounded that with a wide border of the large-format gray tiles she used on the bathroom floor.

Wintersteen covered the shower surround in a zellige-inspired tile from Bedrosians. The handmade texture and subtle variety of colors in the tiles add an organic feel to the shower.

Here’s a close-up of where the shower stall’s threshold meets the bathroom floor. Wintersteen covered the threshold in the same zellige-inspired tiles used on the shower walls.

Designers often use their own homes as laboratories to test out ideas for their clients. Look to the right of the photo to see where Wintersteen added half-inch penny rounds in the grout lines between the bathroom floor’s large-format tiles. “I had never done this before, or seen it done before, so it was a real risk,” she says. It was the kind of risk designers are willing to take on their own homes to make sure it will work for clients in the future, and it paid off.

Finding a great tile professional was key. “I had the tile installer cut these lines of dots from 12-by-12-inch penny round tiles,” she says. “Good tile installers get excited about trying something new and different.”

Wintersteen also put her tile installer to the test on the shower walls. She had him create wide, horizontal lines in the composition with grout. “In order to grout this way you need to go heavier on the sand in the grout mix to prevent cracking,” she says.

Using a neutral color palette on the walls puts the focus on the windows. The windows also help balance the large scale of the shower. “The teak bench also helped break up the space,” Wintersteen says. “And it’s far enough from the shower head that it doesn’t ever get very wet.”

She covered the area over the vanity with a gorgeous green grasscloth wallcovering. “Because the shower stall is so big and because of the windows, we don’t get much moisture in here. So I wasn’t worried about using it,” she says. The color and texture of the wallcovering kicked off a nature-inspired, organic color and material palette.

Wintersteen designed custom cabinetry for the vanity and adjacent towers. The wood is white oak with a custom white stain.

The door and drawer fronts have a reeded texture. The inset cabinetry lends a streamlined element to the textured piece. The hardware finish is brushed champagne.

This photo also provides a closer look at the floor tiles. They’re made of digitally printed porcelain that looks like cement, another organic material.

The designer bookended the double vanity with tall mirrored cabinets that serve as medicine cabinets. “This is not a big bathroom but we have more storage than we even know what to do with now,” she says. After living in the house for several months, the couple find they still have a few empty drawers.

The mirrored door at the left in this photo leads to a closet.

The countertops are marble, the faucets are polished nickel and the light fixtures are brushed gold. “I like to use polished nickel when mixing with warmer metals because it will take on the reflection of the cabinets. And polished nickel reads warmer than chrome does,” Wintersteen says. She also notes that mixing metals is a good way to stay trend-proof, avoiding a dated look in the future.

The faucets are from Brizo. “I like to use one-hole faucets for universal design reasons. They are so much easier to use than faucets with an 8-inch spread, and they work well in a small space,” Wintersteen says.

The toilet room used to contain both the toilet and the dark, cramped shower stall. That shower was the main impetus for the renovation.

After relocating the shower, Wintersteen had room to install additional cabinetry for storing items such as toilet paper. A painting of lotuses plays off the rich range of greens in the wallcovering.

With their youngest daughter about to head off to college, interior designer Susan Wintersteen and her husband decided to downsize to a house about half the size of the one where they’d raised their children. With her ability to create beautiful spaces, Wintersteen transformed the Southern California home into one that felt exactly the right size for them. In the en suite bathroom the couple share, she replaced a bathtub she knew they would never use with a roomy shower stall, added lots of storage and created a nature-inspired palette that relaxes her the moment she walks into the room.

This content was originally published here.

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Your Guide to 6 Kitchen Island Styles

1. L-Shaped

This type of island can ebb and flow with the shape of your kitchen or fill in the blank space with more storage and prep space.

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Pros. L-shaped islands tend to be large with correspondingly generous storage. Their sprawling design ensures that workspace isn’t crowded, a huge perk for households with avid chefs or more than one cook. You won’t have an issue finding room for bar-style seating. If you aren’t a fan of clean lines, L-shaped islands bring some intrigue to the table.

Cons. While L-shaped islands may be larger and provide more prep space, they aren’t exactly open-concept. They can chop up your kitchen design, which can hamper efficiency during meal prep. The shape may be too spread out for some homeowners, and it doesn’t always maximize storage space since corners tend to decrease accessibility.

2. Galley

With fewer frills and a straightforward design, galley islands are built to be workhorses. They can be a good fit for any type of kitchen layout, assuming that there’s enough space for one.

Pros. Often considered the quintessential island design for open-concept kitchens, galley islands ensure that your space has flow and remains efficient with their streamlined design. They usually maximize storage space because there aren’t any corners or curves. Appliances and stored items are always accessible. The design also favors bar-style seating.

Cons. Yes, galley islands are simple and efficient, but some homeowners may think they’re boring. They certainly won’t wow the eye unless they’re larger than life or have an intricate exterior. Sometimes they’re too small to comfortably fit an appliance, which can create problems with your layout.

3. Circular or Curved

If you’re looking to add personality to your kitchen layout, a circular island may be for you. The design can go full circle or feature a half-moon.

Pros. Circular and curved islands add an interesting visual dynamic to kitchens. They’re a go-to option if you don’t want a run-of-the-mill island design. Like L-shaped islands, they’re packed with prep space. There’s more than enough room to operate during meal prep. Circular designs can incorporate expansive seating areas that leave enough room for four-plus guests to comfortably eat and socialize.

Cons. Prep and storage space aren’t always efficient with circular islands. Your counter is spread out and curved, which can limit the way you cook. Storage units can be harder to access in some designs (they may be underneath a countertop overhang, for instance). Plan on wasted storage space unless your cabinets are customized to include creative options.

4. Furniture-Style

A unconventional choice, furniture islands can make your kitchen feel like your home’s premier hangout spot. Wide-ranging options can include a custom piece designed by a local carpenter and an antique table or chest of drawers.

Pros. It doesn’t matter if it’s custom-built, an age-old heirloom or store-bought — a furniture piece adds character to your kitchen. It’s one way to put your personal touch on your space and make it your own. The detail and decorative nature of the furniture will catch the eye of guests. These pieces usually aren’t bulky and fit seamlessly within your kitchen. Open-style designs can create fine displays for your decor.

Cons. Furniture pieces weren’t always built for storage, so that antique you had to have may not hold much of your cookware. There’s also the issue of durability. Older pieces may not last in the hustle and bustle of a modern kitchen. Wear and tear can take its toll. Furniture tops can’t take a beating the way granite or quartz can.

5. U-Shaped

U-shaped islands may be a chef’s dream. Three walls of cabinetry and appliances are enough to increase the efficiency of any kitchen.

Pros. Both highly functional and spacious, U-shaped islands are perhaps the largest and most accommodating. Extra storage space? Check. More workspace? You got it. Room for seating? There’s even that too. They can house more than one appliance if they’re big enough. You may not have to leave your island when you’re prepping food.

Cons. Their sheer size can also be the U-shaped islands’ biggest downfall. Some homeowners may find cooking and cleaning less efficient, and may hate going the distance from one side to the other. These islands are bulky and can close off your kitchen from the rest of your home. The double corners will sacrifice accessible storage space unless they feature a Lazy Susan or swing-out device.

6. Rolling

No room for a built-in island? No problem. Rolling islands are a convenient alternative. You can whisk them around as you roam your kitchen and then tuck them neatly aside when you’re finished cooking.

Pros. Rolling islands are the crème de la crème in versatility. A godsend for smaller kitchens that lack adequate prep space, they can function as a worktop, food tray or a spare surface to place your ingredients. Depending on their size, they’re easy to stow and move. Best of all, they’re extremely affordable compared with cabinetry

Cons. Whipping up meals on wheels isn’t for everyone. Rolling islands are compact, which simply won’t work for some homeowners, even ones who are short on space. They can be a hassle to roll out during meals or to store. Bigger designs may be hard to move for some homeowners. They offer little to no storage.

Feeling Inspired? Shop for Similar Products

There are plenty of reasons to include an island in your kitchen — extra storage, seating and workspace, for example. But there are also several reasons why you might want to choose one island shape and style over another. This guide to six popular kitchen island styles will help you determine which one is right for you.

This content was originally published here.

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How to Light Your Living Room

The five layers of light are as follows: Light for “doing” helps you read magazines and play games. Light for “knowing” helps you carry on conversations and move through the space. Light for “feeling” makes it easier to relax after a long day at work. Light for “changing” helps you adjust to the time of day and the task at hand. And light to help “tell your story” highlights your personal style and the items you cherish most.

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Layer 1: Light for Doing

We all use our living rooms differently, and that means you can benefit from carefully considering what common tasks you and your family perform in the living room before choosing lighting. Do you like to read? If so, good table lamps or floor lamps are a must. Prefer to watch television? Lamps might reflect on the screen, so dimmable downlights might offer a better solution. Playing games with friends? A brighter living room illuminated with both lamps and downlights can make interactions more enjoyable.

Layer 2: Light for Knowing

It’s important to know where you are and where you are going, and general ambient light can help. If you live with other people or have company in your living room, it is equally important to be able to see their faces. In a living room, good ambient light can come from wall sconces, which help define the scope of the room, from a few well-placed lamps at head-level to better see faces and from a ceiling cove overhead that diffuses light throughout the room.

Layer 3: Light for Feeling

During a sunny day, a living room with abundant natural light flowing through windows can help us feel good. At night, however, we need to replace daylight with a layer of light that will make our space feel more comfortable and relaxing. Light for feeling can come from accent lamps, wall sconces, recessed downlights that highlight stone features, fireplaces and even from table lamps with soft, glowing shades. Sit in your favorite chair and look straight ahead of you. Is there an accent light in your line of sight? If not, consider adding it to make your living room more inviting.

Layer 4: Light for Changing

We watch movies, read books, play games, work on our laptops, enjoy a fire and converse with friends in our living room. We keep the lights low for movies, higher for playing games and in between when relaxing with friends. Light for changing helps us adapt to tasks, the location of the sun and aging eyes. This might mean different lamps for different tasks and different times of day, or it can be achieved by adding dimmers that allow you to customize light from moment to moment.

Layer 5: Light for Telling Your Story

Finally, the lights in your living room can help tell your story, revealing your style and the items you cherish most. A spotlight on a painting by a friend lets everyone know you value both art and friendship, while a beautiful Tiffany lampshade might tell of your appreciation for artistry and color.

Choosing the style of decorative fixtures that fits you best is a great way to reveal your style, but decorative fixtures are not the only way to tell your story. Carefully hidden lights on a timber-framed ceiling disappear into the woodwork but highlight the craftsmanship of the structure without adding visual clutter to a room. Concealed lights in bookcases showcase collected items while adding a beautiful glow to the space.

When I was growing up, my childhood living room was strictly off-limits to kids and reserved for my parents and their friends. In my current home, however, we do quite a bit of living in our living room. Therefore, having a lighting plan that covers all of my family’s activities in our living room is essential. My plan for a well-lit living room requires five layers of light.