Creating your own private retreat

Your master bedroom is not only a bedroom meant for sleeping and storing your personal effects, but your private retreat in your home. It is a place you can unwind and relax after a long day. So, your master bedroom/bath designs should be an extension of this retreat.

Remember, this is your private space, so it should meet all of your needs. Creating an atmosphere and living area that is more spacious and accommodating are two important factors for the master bedroom/bath. Practical features for daily use and spa-like relaxation additions are now being combined in many master bedroom/bath plans to provide the ultimate design and functionality and the best retreat for the homeowner.

Finding balance in your design

So how does one achieve such a combination? As you conceptualize your plan and layout the room, focus on two main goals: functionality and practicality. Once you have determined the layout and size of the space where the master bath will go, you’re ready to begin planning and design. What’s the best way to achieve balance between essential aspects and luxury additions? Just keep in mind all the parts of your master bathroom design that appeals to your everyday basic needs first and then incorporate the luxury items to accompany them.

Planning the layout of your master bedroom/bath is critical for both function and enjoyment. A professional designer can really help in this area. The latest trend is for large, open bathroom spaces. This allows couples more space to complete essential morning tasks without getting in each other’s way. Separate vanities are also a great design option and very practical for couples and allows each person their own space for grooming and storage of personal care products. Many master bedroom bath designs now design an open space leading directly into walk-in closets.

One of the most important decisions you will have to make in the master bedroom/bath design is the type of shower and tub you want to install. Do you want a separate tub and shower, a combination of the two or just a shower? Combination showers can even have a steam option for luxury purposes. Or you can incorporate a shower with separate tub with water jets for a hot tub feel indoors. Many people opt for a shower, which is practical, and a luxury bathtub for when they want to relax.

Anyone can incorporate luxury items into their design

Before making final decisions on your design check out all your options. Visit a showroom and talk to a professional about the various design elements and special features. There are many great new features for bathtubs, showers, and whirlpools. Newer and more efficient luxury appliances are now being made at reasonable prices and are giving homeowners spa like choices that have not been previously available to the average homeowner or incorporated in older custom home designs.

In general, master bedroom bath designs are no longer a small space with a tub/shower combo and a toilet. More and more master bedroom bath designs are being created to make a place to unwind, pamper and relax. Combine those functions with practical designs for the busy mornings before work and you will have a winning bedroom/bathroom making your home more enjoyable and desirable for resale down the road.

Staging Your Home for Sale  

You know the saying: You never have a second chance to make a first impression. Staging your home is one of the hottest trends in marketing your home for sale. In larger metro areas you can even hire a professional to come in and stage your home for you.

Below are some simple tips to help home sellers better position themselves in a sluggish market.

Curb Appeal - This is probably one of the most important aspects in staging and selling a home. You must draw that person out of the car, onto the sidewalk and up to the front door. So cut the grass, trim the hedges, remove overgrowth or overly mature landscaping, rake those leaves, sweep the sidewalks, and power-wash the driveway.

Potted plants should be grouped in 1’s, 3’s or 5’s and not scattered around the property. Remove your wilted and dead plants. Your home must look pristine from the street to the doorknob. A fresh coat of paint on the front door is a great investment!

Conquer your clutter – A cluttered room will appear smaller to buyers. Go through each room of the house and divide your belongings into two piles: "keep" and "give up." Items in the "keep" pile will be used to stage the room, while those in the "give up" pile should be stored elsewhere. Remove family photos and personal artifacts.

De-cluttered rooms may appear bare to the seller, but the buyer won't think so. After all, you are not selling your things.... you are selling the space. A Potential buyer cannot visualize when there is too much “stuff” in the room." De-cluttering a home's outdoor spaces is important, too.

Color me contemporary – What does your interior and exterior paint colors say about you, the homeowner? Remember your decorating style and taste may not be what the prospective homebuyer is looking for. It is best to stick with neutral tones, such as beiges, creams and oatmeal. You are presenting a canvas that the prospective buyers will embellish with their own style and flair.

Float your furniture - If your couches are clinging to your walls, you're not alone. It's a typical decorating mistake. The belief is that a room will feel larger and be easier to use if all the furniture is pushed up against the walls, but it's simply not true.

Instead, float furniture away from walls, reposition it into cozy conversational groups, and place pieces so that the traffic flow in the room is obvious. In most cases, this means keeping the perimeters clear and envision a figure-eight or the letter H in the middle, with clear pathways around it. This makes the space more user-friendly and opens up the room to make it seem larger.

When staging a particular room, it's essential to have a good balance of hard surfaces, such as a coffee table, and soft surfaces, like a carpet. For example, a room with a cushy sofa, a love seat, and four recliners has too many soft surfaces and not enough hard surfaces. This makes the room have a heavy, sinking feeling. Instead, consider getting rid of the recliners and the love seat, replacing them with two wingback chairs. If you have hardwood floors and no rugs, you get the opposite effect and create an atmosphere that is too hard, so you’ll want to add a rug.

Arrangements in ones or threes - Arranging your items on top of hard surfaces in ones or threes keeps the décor neat and tidy without overdoing and getting a cluttered look.

For example, place three items—say, a lamp, a plant, and a knick-knack or book—on top of a larger hard surface, like an end table or coffee table. If you take away the plant and the book, it's too bare. If you put 10 things on it, it's overdone and cluttered. The three items should be closely grouped together in a triangle shape. For hard surfaces with less area, however, a single item will do.

Decide from the doorway - Since would-be buyers will get their first impression of each room from the doorway, homeowners should use that perspective to judge their staging work. Do your work, go back to the doorway, do some more, go back to the doorway. That way, you'll be better able to ensure that each room appeals to buyers.

Mrs. Clean lives here - A properly staged home should be immaculate—Q-Tip clean. From cleaning out your windowsills to re-caulking around your tubs, sinks and toilet, the purpose of ensuring the house is spotless in every nook and cranny is more than simply making it presentable. If a home is unkempt, a buyer will wonder what other, less visible problems may come with the property.

If you need help, check with your Realtor®. He or she may be able to give you some pointers as well as recommend a professional that can assist you in staging your home. Get feedback from your Realtor® too. Your realtor will be able to provide you with prospective buyer’s comments after a showing.

Adding Value to Your Home  

Americans spent over $216 billion on home remodeling in 2008, according to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB). In 2009, remodeling projects continued to rise and even more homeowners plan to stay in and remodel their existing homes in 2010.

Deciding which home remodeling project is best for you and your family depends on several different factors. What are your family’s immediate needs, lifestyle, budget and what sort of return on your investment will come of the remodel?
Here are some top ways to add value and increase the livability of your home:

· A Home Office Remodel
Home offices are becoming a necessity, with more people working from home or telecommuting. The number of Americans that work from home or take work home is in the millions, and that number has continued to grow every year.

Also, the use of computers and other digital equipment has become the norm for school age and college students alike. The digital age is here and all members of the family are using technology in their everyday lives. Making sure that your home has a state-of-the-art space to support technology and telecommuting is a surefire way to increase your home’s value and its appeal to a potential buyer down the road.

· Renovate or Add a Family Room.
Open floor plans are very desirable for today’s American family. A family room is an excellent way to give an existing home more appeal and livable space.

Remember, it’s a good idea to keep in mind what homes in your area are like. People like to purchase homes that blend with other homes around them. Chances are you’ll find many of your neighbors are investing in family rooms as well.

· Landscape Your Yard and Add Outdoor Living Space.
Backyard landscaping can transform ordinary spaces into incredible entertaining and outdoor living space that can be used year round. Consider the area’s climate and add a pergola or sunroom that can be enjoyed by all. Outdoor kitchens have become a huge hit for entertaining outdoors. You’ll find that these types of improvements will add value to your home and increase the over-all living space of your home.

· Replace Old Windows.
Thirty percent of a home’s energy is lost through its windows. Replacing old windows with energy-efficient windows will not only save you money down the road but will reflect on the quality of the house as a whole.

· Remodel Your Basement.
Do you have unused space that serves as a black hole for all things without a home? Remodeled basements can make excellent game rooms, multi-media rooms, multi-generational living quarters for college students. This type of remodel will add value to your home without needing to build additional space.

· Paint, Paint, Paint.
Updating the interior design and feel of your home is as simple as updating the color pallet of your walls and trim. But remember to hire a professional if you need help and keep the colors neutral if you’re looking to sell. Nothing looks worse than a poorly done paint job in bright fuchsia.

· Remodel Your Kitchen.
Small changes to your kitchen can result in increased work areas, entertaining or family gathering area and big value. Upgrading appliances, door handles, countertops and painting tired walls can add new life to your kitchen, and add value to your home.

The general rule when doing a remodel is not to overdo it…unless it’s the kitchen. The kitchen is one room that can really sell a home, and in this case, size does matter. You will see the biggest return on investment for a kitchen remodel. And if you are a “do-it-yourselfer”, know your limits. Sometimes doing it your self can save money, but always bring in a professional for the big jobs. You want your remodel to look like it has always belonged and doesn’t give the appearance of a “scabbed-in” look.

· Remodel or Add a Bathroom.
A bathroom remodel can often mean simply making the most of your current space, by upgrading fixtures, flooring and lighting. Have a little more money in the budget? Turn your bathroom into your own personal spa retreat.

Adding an additional bathroom is a great way to increase the value of your home. Is your only bathroom upstairs and not convenient for dinner guests? Often the area under a set of stairs is the perfect place for a powder room.

Attend a local home show to glean ideas for your remodel. Most local professionals exhibit their trade during these events and it’s a great way to view a sampling of the latest products and building materials used today.

How to Choose a Reputable Contractor

When it comes to building your new home or a successful home renovation project, choosing the right contractor for your project is an important first step. If you do a little research and ask the right questions, then you can prevent shoddy workmanship - or worse yet - being swindled and ending up having to hire someone else to finish the job.

Protect your investment by exerting your rights as a consumer. Do a little research, and ask these very important questions before you enter into a contract.

How long have they been in business?
Longevity is a key indicator that a contractor is experienced and established, ensuring the successful completion of your project.

Are they financially stable?
Check with their bank and title companies to determine financial health and verify past projects are free of liens. This will give you confidence that your project will not be negatively impacted by poor project management in the past.

Do they have a process to ensure your satisfaction? Ask for a list of client references
Talk to past clients to find out if they delivered as promised in terms of budget, craftsmanship and timeliness. Was the project kept clean, organized and well managed? How smooth was the process and communication? Did they provide detailed project specifications?

What is their reputation?
Talk to their subcontractors who have unique insight into the quality, integrity and practices of a contractor. This gives you an inside perspective of how you can expect to be treated.

Are they licensed and are they members of any trade organizations?
Builder registration and association membership indicates professionalism and provides regulation. Checking this prevents being burned by a “fly by night” contractor.

Are they compatible with your expectations?
Do they employ the building methods and have standards that are important to you? Are they committed to energy efficiency, design, attention to detail, etc.?

Remember your selection today directly impacts your satisfaction and enjoyment for years to come.
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