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Jun. 17, 2019
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Design & Remodel

Moving vs. Remodeling - Deciding which is best for you

There are times when remodeling your home is the best option, and there are other times where moving is the best option to getting your dream home. The decision can be a difficult one so it’s important to consider all the factors.
The first thing you will want to consider is your budget. The money you are willing and able to spend can be a big deciding factor on whether you choose to purchase a new home or decide to remodel your existing home. Remodeling often requires cash, or a home equity or renovation loan requiring a higher down payment. If you don’t have as much money up front, looking for a new home loan may be easier. Make sure to research and evaluate all the options that are available to you when making your decision.
Next, you will want to decide if more space or rooms is a priority. If your children are getting older and the home feels cramped, you may need some additional space that a remodel would provide. If you have kids and/or grandkids coming back home for holidays, maybe it’s time to convert a bonus room or unfinished basement into additional living and sleeping spaces. Alternately, if your property allows, you may consider an addition to gain more square footage. If your family is young and growing, moving to a larger home may make more sense so you have plenty of space to grow into without having to worry about the construction process.
One aspect of this decision that many homeowners often forget to consider is the timeline. A kitchen remodel can mean going without access to important appliances for a few months, while a move can mean living out of boxes or in a temporary home for a time. If you are considering a remodel, make sure you are well prepared for the construction and temporary inconvenience.  If you are able, move to an area in your home away from where the work will be conducted.  If you are looking to move, consider all of the inconveniences this will cause as well, i.e. showing your home, home shopping, packing, and living out of boxes. You will have to decide which option is best for your family and situation.
Before you make your final decision, take the time to consider your return on investment. If you are remodeling for resale, find out how much a remodel can increase curb appeal, add much-needed square footage or updates that will help you sell your home for more.  Know that you will not likely get back a 100 percent return, but the return on the investment is not always monetary. If you are not thinking about moving right away, it is just as important to consider whether the investment will make your home more enjoyable and comfortable for you to live in, as well. Just make sure you are not putting so much money into your home that you are pricing your home out of your neighborhood for the future. If that is the case, moving may be the better option.
Real Estate Market
When considering whether to move or remodel, be sure to do research on the real estate market in both the area where you are selling and where you are looking to move. This will help you see what to prepare for, i.e. whether you might need to stay somewhere temporarily before you find your new home or if you can afford two house payments if you find your dream home before your current home sells. If you think it will be difficult to either sell your current home or find the right new home, then remodeling would be a better option.  
Emotional attachment
Finally, you will want to consider the relationship you have built with your neighbors, how much your location means to you and how emotionally attached you are to your home. Studies and research estimate that 70 percent of homeowners considering a remodel or move ultimately decide to stay and update their home. Are you willing to give up your property, neighborhood, or view? If not, remodeling is the best option so that the home you already own can become your dream home.
Everyone’s situation is different when it comes to whether you should move or remodel. Carefully consider all your options and what fits your family best. It’s also a great idea to get the opinions of a trusted design/build contractor or real estate agent in your area to help with the decision.

Sara Bagwell is a designer for Tracy Tesmer Design/Remodeling in Gainesville.

May 2019 column

Spring offers perfect opportunity for home improvement

The past couple of months we’ve focused on cleaning and organizing. But now it’s time to talk about updating your home.  When it comes to making updates, there are so many options out there, but which options will have the most impact?
Let’s start on the interior of your home. One of the best updates you can make to the interior of your home is new paint. If your home’s walls are tired or dated, freshen them up with a new color.  Color “trends” are typically short-lived, so make sure you pick out a color that is true to your style and personality. Whites and grays are not for everyone, and that’s OK!  There are an infinite number of options out there. I recommend using a premium grade paint, such as Benjamin Moore, PPG, or Sherwin Williams to get the best results. Cost will vary depending on whether you’re willing to do the work yourself or if you prefer to hire a professional. When painting the walls, don’t forget about trim and doors; chipped, yellowed, or dingy trim needs an update too.  This will help your home feeler fresher, brighter, and cleaner.
Other updates you can make to the interior of your home are new window and floor coverings.  Spring is a great time to switch out heavy curtains or blinds with something lighter and brighter. Cotton, linen, and silk are all great materials for curtains, and if you’re looking to block out light for sleeping, these can be found with blackout panels, as well. When it comes to floors, hardwoods or other wood-look materials continue to be the most popular.

If you want to add some warmth to your wood floors, consider adding or changing out a rug. A rug, along with other accessories, is the best places to bring in “trendy” patterns or colors since they can be changed out easily. You can go with lots of different materials for your rugs as well: wool, polyester, jute, or cotton, and don’t be afraid to mix up textures.
Furniture is another item that can use a fresh update in the spring. If your pieces are looking worn or outdated, consider replacing them with new pieces. There are so many great furniture stores out there for all budgets, and many offer sales this time of year. If you love the style and “bones” of your furniture, such as couches and chairs, another option is to have them re-upholstered. Re-upholstering allows you to pick out a new pattern and/or color for your room, but you don’t have to break in anything new.
In addition to the interior of your home, there are also many things you can do to update the exterior. Same as inside, painting can give your home a significant facelift. If it’s been 10 years or more since your home was painted last and you like the color, you may just consider a fresh coat.  Otherwise, if it’s time to repaint and you’re tired of the color, now is the time to change it up. Just make sure you get the necessary approvals from your HOA, if applicable. And when you’re painting the exterior, don’t forget the trim, as well. If you have vinyl siding that cannot be painted, a good pressure-washing will help clean and brighten up your home.
Changing up your front door can bring a new look to your home and add curb appeal. This could either mean replacing your door with a new one or painting your existing door a new, bold color. If you have trouble deciding what color to go with, talk with a local designer or visit Benjamin Moore or Sherwin Williams online and you can find recommendations as to what colors will coordinate with your existing color.
Lastly, now is the time to clean up your yard before the summer heat hits. New landscaping can help change the look of your home as well as give your home some major curb appeal. If you don’t have the budget for new plants, just weeding your yard, putting out new mulch or pine needles and pruning can have a big impact. You don’t want overgrown trees or bushes covering up your beautiful home.
When it comes to updating your home, the sky is the limit. Updates can range from new accessories to new paint to a completely re-designed exterior. Just don’t forget, for more time-consuming work or work beyond your skill set, reach out to a local professional for help.  It will save you both time and money in the long-run.

April 2019 column

An organized kitchen reduces stress, makes life easier

Last month, we talked about spring cleaning and organizing your whole home. This month let’s focus on organizing your kitchen.  When I meet with clients who are looking to remodel their kitchen, one of the main complaints I hear is that their kitchen does not have functional storage and is too difficult to organize. They tell me things get lost in the back of cabinets and they just have stacks of cooking and baking items that require constant shuffling and rearranging.
Kitchen organization is key to helping reduce stress both in the mornings when you are getting ready for work or getting kids to school and in the evening after a long day and you need to get dinner made quickly. Even if cooking is not your thing, an organized kitchen can still make life easier.  There are many companies out there that offer a plethora of kitchen organization solutions.  Some require going through a certified dealer, but others, like Rev-a-Shelf or The Container Store, sell items direct.
Let’s talk about organizing base cabinets. There are so many solutions out there, it’s hard to know where to start, but some of the items I recommend often are roll-out shelves, tray dividers, peg dividers and corner lazy Susan cabinets. Everyone knows the typical base cabinet layout: a deep shelf on the bottom and that short shelf set back about halfway up. 

This layout is not very conducive to small appliances or other larger items. I love replacing this layout with a roll-out shelf mounted on the bottom shelf of the cabinet; with the option of a full-depth adjustable height shelf. The roll-out shelf does exactly as its name implies, it rolls out of the cabinet so that you have full access to everything on the shelf. This allows you to put things like a large stand mixer, Instant Pot, crock-pot, etc. on the roll-out with easy access. If you have extra space above the larger items, that’s where the adjustable shelf can be placed to eliminate wasted space and give you an extra storage spot.
Tray and peg dividers are great for keeping items stacked and easy to access without all the contents of the cabinet tumbling out. Tray dividers are wire or wood vertical dividers that can be placed in base cabinets to help organize items like baking sheets, cutting boards, and even pot lids. When these are stored vertically, they are easier to get to and open shelf space for other items. Peg dividers, on the other hand, are used in deep base drawers. They are dowel rods that are placed on a peg board in the bottom of the drawer. They are great for organizing plastic containers and lids by size, as well as everyday plates, bowls, or serving dishes. Most people are fixed on the idea that everyday dishes must go in an upper cabinet but having these in a drawer under the counter makes them easier to access for anyone, including kids and those who are aging and have difficulty getting plates or bowls from above.
One major complaint I hear is about the dreaded ‘blind’ corner cabinets. They really are just wasted space that is not accessible. This includes both upper and lower cabinets. Besides the fact that the space is useless, when you have these cabinets in your kitchen, there’s a good chance that cabinet doors and/or drawers collide with each other because of the poor layout. To solve this issue, I love functional corner cabinets, like a lazy Susan base cabinet. This type of cabinet has a door that opens fully to give you access to two shelves that spin for full access to everything in the cabinet. On the lower end, these shelves are made of a sturdy plastic, and on the higher end, they are made from wood to blend in with the interior of the cabinet. If you don’t have the funds to replace your cabinets now and just need to make a blind corner usable, there are also shelves that can be installed that pivot out for full access to the back of the cabinet; you can find these made for both upper and lower cabinets.
This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to ways to organize your kitchen cabinets. If you like your cabinets and the layout of your kitchen, you can look for solutions that can be retro-fitted into existing cabinets. If your kitchen does not have an efficient layout, then it may be time for a remodel. With good planning and design, you can have a beautiful and functional kitchen.

March 2019 column

Yes, it's spring cleaning time again

It’s that time of year again, time for spring cleaning. Some people love it and some hate it, but it really is so important to keep your home fresh and organized. With the rise in popularity of Marie Kondo and her KonMari method of organizing, a lot of people have a new appreciation for decluttering and cleaning their home. It may feel like a daunting task, but there are ways to approach cleaning that can help make the chore easier.
Step 1: Declutter
The KonMari method recommends tackling the task of cleaning a little differently. Instead of going room-by-room, she recommends, cleaning based on category, i.e. clothing, books, papers, etc. Start by going through all the clothes in your home, then once that’s finished, mark it off the list and move to the next category. I, personally, like to create piles; one to keep, one to donate, and one to throw away, especially when it comes to things like clothes, kitchen items, and decorations that may not be used often. Keep what you love and use frequently, if it’s still in good shape. That doesn’t mean you have to get rid of all your sentimental items, but take the time to decide what means the most to you and what you can let go.
Decluttering is especially important in the kitchen. Cleaning off your countertops will help your kitchen look clean and open, as well as maximize prep space. Go through everything on your countertops and get rid of everything you don’t use or don’t need. This includes stacks of paper or junk mail, that you just haven’t had the time to go through, as well as small appliances or knick-knacks. Next, go through your cabinets and get rid of items that are either worn out or that have never been used, like that punch bowl set you got as a wedding gift years ago but have never taken out of the box.  Another item that’s important to clean out regularly is food. Food can get lost easily in a deep pantry or even in the refrigerator, so make sure you are cleaning out regularly so you have room for new items and don’t have stale or rotten food lurking on the back of shelves.   
Step 2: Clean
The next step is cleaning. I know you clean your house throughout the year, but make sure you take this time to deep clean forgotten areas, like your refrigerator, freezer, and oven. Check all HVAC vents and grills to make sure they are clean of dust and debris. Also, make sure you change out your filter in your HVAC unit so it can run efficiently and the air in your home is clean. Wipe down cabinets in your kitchen and bathrooms to make sure they are clean, both inside and out. If you have granite or other natural stone countertops, now is a great time to clean and seal the tops. Spring is also a good time to clean out your laundry room, and make sure you don’t miss the area behind the washer and dryer. You may even find that missing sock!

Step 3: Organize
The final step after decluttering and cleaning is to organize what’s left. Everyone has their own system for getting organized that works for them, but the most important thing is that your storage is efficient and functional. In closets and pantries, I often recommend a shelving system in place of wire shelving. Wire shelving is OK if you are on a tight budget but doesn’t offer any flexibility. A shelving system can give you more options like adjustable shelving, baskets or drawers, and different levels for hanging. This can help you organize by category and make finding things much easier.
Another area I recommend focusing on organization is in cabinetry. There are so many stores out there that offer lots of organizing solutions for cabinets in the form of accessories and inserts. You can get drawer inserts to organize spices, utensils, and cutlery; you can even get inserts to help organize your junk drawer! There are hanging pot racks that go inside base cabinets, pull out cutting boards, and roll-out shelves for deep, base cabinets. We’re seeing more solutions for bathroom cabinet organization, as well; inserts for makeup, jewelry, and styling tools are popular on Houzz and Pinterest right now. I’m also incorporating in my designs more hidden outlets for styling tools, charging mobile devices, and small kitchen appliances so your countertops can be clear of messy cords.
Spring cleaning can be daunting, but if you set up a system or method before you start, the task will seem less overwhelming.  Happy organizing! 

February 2019 column

Smart home technology makes living easier

You keep hearing the term everywhere: smart home. But what exactly is a smart home? A smart home, also known as home automation, is a term that describes using internet connected devices to monitor and manage your home.  This includes things like security, lighting, heating and cooling, and appliances. This trend has been gaining in popularity for some time now, especially since home hubs or voice assistants, like Google Home or the Amazon Echo (Alexa), came onto the market. To some, it may feel like something straight out of a sci-fi movie, but we’re seeing this trend taking over as most people are always looking for ways to live more comfortably and efficiently.  There are many ways these products can be incorporated into your home and lifestyle.
Making your home “smart” offers a more convenient, and potentially safer, way to live.  Home security systems are getting smarter. Brands like Ring and Nest make video doorbells so that you can see who is at your door – whether you’re home or not.  When the cameras are connected to wi-fi, you’re able to check the feed from your smart phone wherever you are. You can also set up to get alerts on your phone when someone comes to your door when you’re not home, helping give you peace of mind while you’re away.  These companies also offer indoor and outdoor cameras for added security. This is another way to monitor your home and make sure it stays safe while you’re away.

Nest, along with ecobee, also offers smart thermostats to help control the temperature and comfort of your home. Smart thermostats can learn your habits over time and automatically adjust your home’s temperature based on your schedule. They also connect to wi-fi in your home and integrate with your voice assistant so that you don’t even have to lift a finger to adjust your home’s temperature. These devices can help your home run more efficiently by going to an energy-saving mode when you’re out of town or allowing you to adjust your home’s temperature from an app on your phone no matter where you are.
Smart lighting is a feature that’s really been gaining in popularity recently. Companies like GE and Philips offer light bulbs and dimmer switches that can be controlled from your phone or voice assistant.  Now, you can adjust the ambiance of your room or whole home with minimal effort. The smart bulbs come in different hues and the dimmers allow you to adjust the brightness with just your voice or the tap of a finger. Again, these devices just have to be connected to your home’s wi-fi to communicate. Another benefit of having smart lighting is that you never have to worry if you remembered to turn the lights off after you leave the house. Just open the app and double-check. Speaking of worrying about your home after you leave, you can also get smart garage doors, so you’ll never have to wonder if you closed the door again.
Smart appliances have been around for a little while, but they continue to evolve and improve.  LG and Samsung lead the way when it comes to smart appliances, but other brands, such as Bosch, Frigidaire, GE, and Whirlpool also now offer smart products. Now, you can start your laundry from your smart phone or pre-heat your oven from work so it’s ready when you get home. You can even set your smart refrigerator to keep inventory of what you have and what you’re getting low on. Or set up your Amazon Dash button with your smart dishwasher to automatically order dishwashing detergent when you’re getting low.
There are so many smart home innovations that make living easier, this is just the tip of the iceberg. These innovations are becoming more streamlined and the designs are sleek so that they can easily be integrated into any home design. If you’re nervous or skeptical about going all “smart,” start by incorporating one feature that is most important to you: lighting, security, energy efficiency, smart appliances, etc. If you have an Amazon Echo or Google Home, you’re already one step ahead. Smart home technology is still relatively new, so just be sure to do your research on products before you buy. Look for products that are simple to set up and use, because the whole point of adding these smart products to your life is to make living easier. 

January 2019 column

Design trends coming up for 2019

The holiday season is over, which means it is time to start fresh with a new year. Everyone talks about new year’s resolutions this time of year, which can also include your home. Maybe you’re ready to update your home’s style or maybe you’ve been through a big change this past year and want to change up your home, as well.  There are simple design changes you can make, without having to go for a full-out remodel. Here are some of the design trends that we’ve seen pick up recently and are predicted to take over in 2019.
Natural elements
Concrete has been popular for a while now, but the trend is predicted to continue. This doesn’t mean you have to go all out with concrete countertops – they’re high maintenance and certainly not for everyone. But you can bring in concrete in a subtler way; think concrete planters or concrete-look tile. Stone is also a popular material, whether on fireplaces, in tile form, or on countertops. It is both durable and beautiful. Metal accents, like iron and copper, can be seen in the form of sinks, range hoods, and lighting. The colors add interest, especially when mixed with other metals. Fur (or faux fur) rugs have also been popular for a little while. A lot of people have moved away from carpet and toward hardwood floors, but still want the warmth of a rug. A fur or faux fur rug can work with lots of different styles, from farmhouse to industrial to mid-century modern. All these natural elements help bring the outside in and add texture and dimension to your décor. 
Warm tones
Grays have been popular for years now, but we’ve been seeing warmer tones coming back. If you look on design sites, you’ll see more pops of yellow, gold, or green. Even pantone’s color of the year for 2019 is Living Coral.  That’s not to say grays and cool blues are out, but you’ll likely see them mixed with a complementary warm tone, like gray with yellow accents or blue with coral. If you prefer neutrals to bold colors and don’t want to commit to a green sofa or gold accent wall, that’s OK.  You can bring in bolder color as accents in throws or throw pillows, flowers, or artwork.   
Wallpaper tends to be a polarizing subject; either you love it, or you hate it. But either way, we’ve been seeing wallpaper come back, and the trend is expected to continue. However, wallpaper is not what you picture from decades past.  People are using wallpaper as an accent; either on one wall, in the back of bookcases, or above wainscoting. Florals are expected to make a return, but mostly you see wallpaper with geometric patterns or solid with subtle texture like rice paper or seagrass. Again, these just add dimension or texture to an otherwise flat space. If you’re not thinking about selling your house soon, wallpaper can be fun to experiment with, but keep in mind it still lacks mass appeal.
Mix and match furniture
Gone are the days of matching furniture suites. The trend in furniture now-a-days is to mix and match finishes and materials, so that your space looks carefully curated rather than straight off a showroom floor. If your furniture all matches exactly, it can be boring and give off the impression that you haven’t put your own personality into your space. Look for pieces that coordinate but also have character and style.
Statement lighting
This trend has been around for some time and we see it continuing. Lighting adds so much interest to your home and can help define your style as much as furniture choices or other décor. There are thousands of options available when it comes to lighting. Just keep in mind the style of the rest of your home when choosing lighting; whether it be traditional, farmhouse, industrial, or contemporary. Lighting can really help tie everything together. Just like furniture, if you keep the overall style consistent, it’s also OK to mix and match lighting throughout your home. In fact, mixed metals are popular in lighting right now as well, which makes it even easier to coordinate with your existing lighting.
Although it’s fun to track trends, don’t forget that your home should reflect your personal taste and style. Trendy items and colors should be mixed in with more classic pieces to give your home an updated look, but also stand the test of time. 

December 2018 column

Designing for entertaining

The holidays are officially here and that means it’s hosting and entertaining season. This is the time of year when you really get to see how your home’s layout works and what might need to be changed. When thinking about entertaining in your home, the two most important things to think about are space and function.  
Do you have enough space to host guests and is that space functional? For those that have overnight guests, you of course must think about sleeping arrangements. But, for everyone, the most important areas to think about are the kitchen and living/entertaining spaces. These are the areas where you and your guests will spend most of your time.
When thinking about your space and a possible redesign or remodel, the first question to think about is: what is your entertaining style?  Some people have large gatherings of friends and family, while others prefer more intimate groups. Will your guests stay inside, or do you want to use exterior entertaining space, as well? This, of course, also depends on the weather. 
Do you like to host formal dinner parties for the holidays or are your gatherings more informal?  Will your guests be bringing food for a potluck meal or will you be cooking or having the meal catered? These are all important to ask yourself to determine what type of space you need. The best space for entertaining is a space that matches your style of entertaining.
For those that like to host large, informal gatherings, an open concept plan would make the most sense. An open concept plan is one that has a large, open living space that is open to the kitchen and dining area. This space allows guests more room to freely move around and mingle but also makes sure the host(s) still feel like they are part of the party. This type of plan tends to also lend itself to a kitchen with an island or large peninsula. An island or peninsula is a great area to put out food and drinks or place additional seating. This style opens up the seating options for guests.  

Everyone doesn’t have to feel crammed into one space and you likely won’t need to bring in many additional chairs, if any, if you have seating in your dining room, kitchen and living room. One thing to keep in mind with an open floor plan is that you will want the lighting style to flow throughout the space, as well as the wall color and flooring. If you have too many styles or colors in an open space, that visually breaks up the space and can make it feel smaller.
For those that like to have smaller, more formal gatherings, like dinner parties, an open concept might not be the best plan for you.  When hosting a formal gathering or dinner party, you likely will want a formal dining area. Having a separate dining area from the kitchen keeps the cooking process out of guests’ sight or allows you to bring in a caterer or private chef, and the dining room stays clean and quiet where guests can talk.  
While the open concept plan is certainly very popular right now, it’s not for everyone. Some people still prefer formal, defined spaces and don’t want everyone to see into their kitchen that can get messy from all the cooking and baking. And just because your kitchen is not open to other areas of your home doesn’t mean you can’t have a beautiful, updated kitchen. You may want to consider updating cabinets, lighting, work surfaces, and storage so that you have a functional space.  
In the South, we’re fortunate enough to be able to be outside a lot of the year. Having a covered deck or screened porch adds to your entertaining square footage and allows guests to utilize space outside. However, if you want a space that truly is for any season or all-weather, then a sunroom is a great option. Adding a sunroom or converting a deck or porch into a sunroom will give you additional space to host guests. Plus, it will give you a space to enjoy and entertain in all year long. 
If this holiday season leaves you feeling cramped and wishing for more space, consider a floor plan or kitchen remodel or even an addition. That way, you’ll be prepared to host a bigger, and even more spectacular party next year.  Merry Christmas and happy entertaining!  

November 2018 column

Aligning your remodel dreams and your budget

Budgets can be a sensitive subject when it comes to remodeling, but it’s one of, if not the most important conversation to have early in the process. Many homeowners that have a budget do not want to disclose their budget to a contractor up-front thinking that if they do, the contractor will automatically come back with an estimate equal to their budget no matter the scope of work. Even if you don’t want to disclose your exact budget, it’s important to at least provide your contractor or designer with a ballpark of what you’re looking to spend. This will help guide the design process and will let you know if you can afford everything you want or if your plans need some fine-tuning.
More often though, I come across homeowners who don’t have enough experience with building or remodeling to know what they should expect to spend on a project. TV shows can be misleading because they rarely show you all the costs associated with the project and, often, materials have been donated for promotional purposes. Also, some shows are centered around “DIY” remodels where the homeowners provide most of the labor, so if you are looking for a turn-key renovation, you can expect to pay a considerable amount more than these shows. 
Another important consideration when looking at remodeling costs is location; material and labor costs vary greatly in different areas of the country. Lastly, the internet is a dangerous place to try to find out what you “should” spend on a remodel. There are a lot of opinions and calculations out there, but unfortunately, there are too many factors involved to go by a simplified equation.
In determining if your budget and dreams are in-line, it’s important to meet with an experienced professional as a first step. This initial consultation should not cost you anything and can give you some guidance as to what you can expect to spend on your remodel project. If the number is higher than you were expecting, then you still have the option to refine your design ideas and talk with your contractor or designer about areas to save.  
After the initial consultation, the next step is the creation of design plans. If you’re planning for a major remodel, as-built drawings will need to be created first. As-built plans are detailed drawings of the existing structure and floor plan. From there, your designer will create design plans for you based on your wants and needs.  Make sure you discuss your must-haves with your architect or designer early so these can be incorporated into the designs. This will also allow your designer to suggest ways to save in other areas, if necessary. If you haven’t yet come up with ideas, don’t worry. Collaborate with your designer by looking on sites like Houzz or Pinterest and save those you like.
Once you’ve agreed upon the best plans, next comes pricing. If you’re working with a design-build firm, the design will be followed by an in-house estimate based on the approved plans. If you are working with an independent designer or architect, you will want to send plans to one or more general contractors to provide an estimate. Just be careful if you go this route; make sure you provide a consistent list of details to each contractor to make sure you are comparing apples-to-apples.
If the pricing comes back in line with what you are willing to spend, then it’s on to a formal agreement and construction. If not, then it is time to revise your plans. Maybe you don’t want to modify that structural wall after all, or maybe you’re willing to look at other material options. Whatever the case, your designer or contractor should be willing to collaborate with you to make sure you are happy with the final plans.  
Here’s the key: talk budgets early with your designer and contractor and be honest. This will guide everything from the design and scope of work to materials and construction. Let them know what you might be willing to negotiate on or if you are willing to do any of the work. Alternatively, make sure you are working with a contractor you trust. Working with a respectable contractor or designer, they will help guide you to what you can afford and come up with the best design solution for you in the end.  
October 2018 column

'Aging in place' becomes more popular

As the population is aging, trends in remodeling and design are adapting. ‘Aging in Place’ design or adaptable design are becoming more and more popular and manufacturers are making products to accommodate. Currently, about 15 percent of the US population is age 65 and older, but that number is predicted to rise to 22 percent by 2050. Here in Hall County, the 65-plus population is predicted to outpace the national average and rise to 30 percent by 2030. We have been seeing many Active Adult or Assisted Living communities pop up in Hall County lately.

The alternative, when feasible, is aging in place.  Aging in place design is centered around the idea that a home can be built or modified to accommodate someone who is aging so that they can continue to live comfortably in their own home. This could be as simple as adding ramps and grab bars to more complicated changes like adding an elevator or remodeling a kitchen or bathroom to make it completely accessible for a wheelchair.  
Small changes can make a big difference when it comes to designing for aging in place.  Things that you hadn’t thought about before, like knobs on doors and cabinets, can make it more difficult to access what you need.  Instead, replace knobs with levers or pulls for easier accessibility.  This is also true for faucets or other fixtures, choose options with lever handles versus knobs. Door width is another consideration when you’re looking for better accessibility. Door widths should be 36 inches (both interior and exterior) to allow for a minimum of 32 inches of clearance. Hallways should also be a minimum of 36 inches wide and well lit.
Regarding the exterior and layout of a home designed for aging in place, materials should be low maintenance, including siding materials, windows, doors, and flooring. There should be at least one step-less, covered entry. If a step-less entry is not an option, then at least one of the following should be added: sturdy handrail, ramp or chair lift. When it is an option, the main living areas and master suite should be on the main level. If your home was not originally built this way, that may mean reconfiguring your existing space or building an addition.
Bathrooms are important areas to consider when accommodating for aging in place. In bathrooms, entries should be 36 inches wide, with plenty of clear space to turn in front of sinks, commodes, and showers. Showers should be barrier free, meaning a low curb or curb-less entry, and incorporate grab bars, a built-in or fold-down bench, and a hand-held shower fixture.  The current trend in master bathroom design is to remove large jetted or garden tubs in the master bathroom to create space for a larger, accessible shower. This change makes the space more comfortable and functional for those that do not use a bathtub but is also a way to plan ahead for wheelchair or walker accessibility.

Another standard that we incorporate into all our bathroom remodels are comfort height toilets and comfort height vanities. The comfort height toilets are a few inches above the old standard height and comfort height vanities are 36 inches versus the old 31 inch height. The height difference doesn’t change the look but makes a big difference for comfort.
In kitchens, aging in place design is also very important.  Installing pull-out shelves in a pantry or in base cabinets makes items more accessible and easier to organize; we also recommend incorporating more base cabinets with drawers. A comfortable distance between cabinet areas or between cabinets and appliances is also a necessity, ideally 36-42 inches, or more if you are designing for wheelchair clearance and turnaround.

Along the same lines, it’s important to round corners of countertops so there are no sharp edges to bump into, and you can also incorporate pull out countertops or cutting boards for work space at a more comfortable height for someone in a wheelchair. Also, keeping the main sink close to the stove keeps the distance necessary to carry pots full of water as short as possible. Other things we recommend are counter-depth appliances, non-slip floors options, and good lighting.
When it comes to aging in place design, it’s not just for seniors. It’s important for anyone to make sure their home is comfortable and functional. Your home environment should not be stressful or unsafe, but rather, relaxing and one of the best ways to make it that way is through better design.

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