| Nov 6, 2020
The hardest-working rooms in a home are the kitchen and bathroom. Both rooms receive a steady flow of traffic, so it’s not surprising that homeowners are always looking for ways to update them and keep the design looking fresh.
But updating your kitchen or bathroom doesn’t need to entail a full-on renovation.
Sure, expanding your kitchen or installing a new bathtub would be exciting, but it’s not exactly the most practical—or affordable—solution for many of us. But the good news is you don’t have to think big to make a big difference.
“In these popular areas of the house, making small changes to finishes can be impactful and change the whole look and feel of the room,” says Gena Kirk, vice president of KB Home Design Studio. Bathroom and kitchen fixtures can include door handles, cabinet pulls, and wall colors.
So if you’re itching for an interior refresh, why not start with something quick and easy like the finishes in your kitchen or bathroom? Here are the colors and metal finishes experts say are going to be big in 2021.
1. Greige is the new gray
Design experts say warm greige, or a color that’s a combination gray and beige, is replacing cool gray tones in cabinetry and flooring.
“Even before COVID-19, this change was afoot,” says Kirk. “Gray was ubiquitous, and people were seeking a reboot and refresh. Homeowners are seeking warmer, calming surroundings. While gray remains popular, grays infused with yellow or beige tones are more inviting and relaxing.”
Kirk says the right paint, like Sherwin-Williams Perfect Greige, can easily transform a room. She says this paint color is less harsh than white and softer and warmer overall.
This color “works well with everything, but when combined with blues, soft greens, cream, taupe, natural stone, light wood, it evokes a nurturing and transformative spirit,” Kirk says.
Another way to make the tone come alive is to add accessories like a greige wicker basket ($39.99, Target) on a pantry or bathroom shelf.
2. Brass with a brushed-gold finish
Brass as a material for lighting and plumbing fixtures can create an enduring, classic style. But in the new year, brass is going in a fun new direction when it comes to finishes.
“Since stainless steel and nickel have been the norm for so long, brushed-gold finish is a refreshing alternative. It has the look of a handmade piece, crafted by an artisan,” says Kirk.
“Brass with a brushed-gold finish is warm, and it sparkles like jewelry,” says Laura Bohn of Laura Bohn Design Associates. “While chrome finishes disappear, brushed-gold finishes are much more noticeable.”
She says homeowners can achieve the look by installing new cabinet handles, drawer pulls, or faucet ($296.25, Home Depot) for an easy swap and instant update. Or select a bowl ($150, Target) in the same finish and fill with fruit.
3. Matte black
“We haven’t really seen black fixtures or fittings that much until recently,” says Kirk. “Black’s simplicity and contrast adds depth to any room and provides a dramatic and expensive-looking accent.”
Matte black for backsplashes, tiles, and hardware can be a sophisticated addition and can be combined with brushed-gold elements for a more modern look.
Bohn agrees, saying that black can serve as a great neutral backdrop and that homeowners can add white and brushed-gold elements so that the look is bright and fresh—for example, black cabinets plus a white counter plus a brush-gold faucet.
“Matte black is elegant and chic, and makes an impact when paired with nearly any color or hue,” says Kirk.
Kirk says black and white Spanish-inspired floor tiles are hugely popular now and is seeing these types of tiles in bathrooms and on kitchen backsplashes.
Kirk also recommends painting a black square in the kitchen using chalkboard paint. You can write on the square to create a family calendar or keep track of your grocery list.
In a guest bathroom, try going for all-black walls or cabinets for a dose of drama.
4. Weathered nickel finish
Anyone looking to achieve a more understated vibe should consider fixtures and lighting options in a weathered nickel finish.
“Weathered antique nickel is actually a gray metal, which is a fresh look. Both weathered nickel and brass are softer items; neither are flashy,” says Bohn.
Kirk says these additions are versatile and can work well with traditional, transitional, or modern styles.
“Weathered nickel hardware offers a gorgeous and sophisticated look,” says Kirk. “Adding cabinet hardware (starting at $12.50, Pottery Barn) or a great pendant light ($53.96, Home Depot) in this finish can take the room up a notch with instant warmth.”
To make every area of your home tempting to buyers, consider these musts:
- Manicured lawn and planting beds (with mulch added to neaten up less-than-perfect zones)
- Handsome planters or boxes with colorful blooms
- Clean, neutral exterior—power wash or paint if needed
- Smoothly functioning door locks, knobs, bell, and latches
- New or spotless house numbers and mailbox
- Good exterior lighting
- Trash and recycling out of sight
- Countertops clear of all small appliances
- Updated hardware
- Spotless (inside and out) and depersonalized fridge—no magnets, memos, or drawings
- No visible trash cans or recycling bins
- Bold centerpiece on the table—either a large vase, an orchid, or greenery
- Matching, minimal items in any open or glass shelving pieces, such as a hutch
- Keep-it-simple furniture. You can’t go wrong with a solid off-white linen track arm sofa and a curved or rectangular coffee table. Avoid overstuffed, patterned, or detailed pieces.
- Use slipcovers in white or soft, pale colors on any couch or chair past its prime.
- White bedding, with a fluffy white duvet cover. For interest, a gray or blue throw on the bed.
- Large matching lamps
- Soft, neutral area rug
- Minimal clothing in closets (will make them look larger) and no mismatched hangers
- No exercise equipment, laundry baskets, or other extraneous items
- Sparkling clean
- Simple and pristine shower curtain
- Rolled-up washcloths and fluffy, white towels
- Simple greenery or single well-groomed plant
- No personal care or grooming products in sight
- Neatly made bed
- No toys lying around
- Nothing with your children’s names visible
- No posters on the walls
- Clean, simple, comfortable outdoor furniture
Every October, the National Fire Prevention Association (NFPA) observes Fire Prevention Safety Week for families to plan, prepare and think about the importance of fire safety. Of course, every week is a good week to talk about fire safety because you never know when a fire emergency can strike. Here are a few fire safety tips and facts for you and your family to keep in mind.
Did You Know? Fire Safety Facts & Statistics
- On average, seven people die in home fires every day.
- Fire departments respond to an average of 355,400 home fires each year.
- Cooking appliances are the leading cause of home fires.
- 65 percent of fire deaths occur in homes without working smoke detectors.
- It only takes 30 seconds for a small fire to spread.
Kids Fire Safety Tips & To-Dos
Fire Prevention Tips
- Don’t play with matches, lighters or candles.
- Stay away from fireplaces and stoves.
- Never cook or use appliances without adult supervision.
- Be careful not to plug too many devices into one outlet or power strip.
- Don’t put clothes, toys or flammable items near heat.
Home Safety Checklist
- Check to see if each room has a smoke alarm. If not, tell a parent.
- Look for smoke alarms in hallways or stairwells.
- Ask your parents to let you hear what your smoke alarm sounds like.
- Make sure your home’s windows and doors are free of clutter, toys and furniture.
Parents Fire Safety Tips & To-Dos
Fire Prevention Tips
- Keep lighters and candles out of children’s reach.
- Test your home’s smoke detectors at least once a month.
- Keep fire safety equipment in your home. Fire extinguishers, smoke alarms, and escape ladders are common home fire safety items.
- Identify any fire safety hazards, such as lint left in dryers, plugged in heating appliances, and cleaning your chimney.
Home Safety Checklist
- Make sure your smoke alarm and batteries are working each month.
- Get interconnected smoke alarms so when one sounds, they’ll all sound.
- Create a home fire escape plan that shows two ways out of each room.
- Practice your family’s fire escape plan at least twice a year.
Making a Fire Evacuation Plan
- Find all of your home’s possible exits. Start by drawing your home’s floor plan. Spot at least two exits in each room. Make sure each exit is clear from clutter and easy to open in case of an emergency.
- Install smoke detectors in your home. Alarms should be installed in hallways and inside of every bedroom on every level of your home so it’s easy to hear when sleeping.
- Be prepared when you hear the alarm. If you hear your smoke alarm sound, leave immediately. When exiting, stay low to the ground to inhale less of the rising smoke.
- Keep loved ones in mind. If you have elders or infants in the home, have a plan to get them to safety and assign one family member to help them ahead of time.
- Stop, drop and roll. If your clothes catch on fire during an evacuation, Stop, Drop and Roll. Stop where you are, drop to the floor, and roll while covering your hands and eyes until the flames are gone.
- Choose a place for everyone to meet safely. Make sure everyone knows how to get there. Call 9-1-1 once you’re in a safe place. Memorize phone numbers just in case you’re not at the meeting location to let family members know you’re safe.
- Don’t go back inside. If you left family members or valuables behind, don’t go back towards the fire. When you call, let the dispatcher know so firefighters can handle the rescue. Wait until firefighters say it’s safe to go back to the home.
Practice the Family Fire Drill
Follow these easy steps to practice your fire drill. Remember to review your family’s plan at least twice a year.
- Let your family know that you are going to practice the fire drill.
- Explain that when the smoke alarm goes off, everyone should quickly and carefully leave the home and go to the Outside Meeting Place.
- Ask everyone to go to a different room and wait for the alarm. After several minutes, set off the smoke alarm by pushing the test button and watch your family’s actions.
- When everyone reassembles at the Outside Meeting Place, ask each family member to explain exactly what they did when the alarm went off.
- Review any questions.
Find budget-friendly ideas for a home makeover.
Submitted by ScS
The hottest new trends aren’t always affordable. But if you want to give a space an update, rest assured that you can do so on a budget and still be trendy. U.K-based sofa and carpet specialist, ScS(link is external), provides six tips from interior designers on renovations to consider.
1. Traditional prints in modern spaces.
2. Curved sofas.
Curved sofas have been trending in 2020. This style combines a modern look with a comfy twist that can fit into most design styles.
3. Dark kitchens.
Dark colors are growing more popular in the kitchen. Try this trend on a smaller scale by giving your cupboards a new lease on life. Sand them down, and use wood paint to achieve the color you’re looking for. Don’t forget to use a primer and a top coat for the perfect finish, and try changing up your handles to complete the look. Avoid emulsion or generic paints, as these will be too thick and could become gloopy on the wood.
4. Grandmillennial style
A design that’s been a hot topic this year is the “grandmillennial style.” Combine classic looks with a contemporary edge. This look can be tailored to every color palette and preference, and it can be done by making just one or two simple swaps.
Replace your flooring with a traditional patterned carpet (pictured the Roger Feels Richmond design from ScS), which can help transform a space. You can make a smaller commitment to this trend by including fringe accessories and velvet furnishings.
5. Contrasting doors
Crisp white walls and other light tones are complemented perfectly by dark woods. This look can easily be achieved by incorporating darker doors. While changing the doors in your home can sound like an expensive job, it doesn’t have to be. But don’t discard your current doors just to achieve a new color.
Remove the doors, and sand them down until they’re nice and smooth. Before painting, apply a primer and top with a hard-wearing top coat to ensure they’re durable against marks and scrapes. If you’re using black paint, don’t forget to apply two or three layers to achieve the rich look you’re after.
6. Fun bathrooms.
While many are turning to funky tiling and walls, it can be an expensive choice. Instead, incorporate bright, patterned accessories, such as bath mats, shower curtains, and mirrors. Finalize the look with an indoor plant and wall prints.
Young prospective home buyers in their 20s and 30s who were once reluctant to purchase are now driving the housing market recovery during the pandemic, The Wall Street Journal reports.
Even prior to the pandemic, millennial buyers were starting to increase in number, accounting for more than half of all new-home loans early last year. They have consistently stayed above that level in the first months of this year, too, realtor.com® data shows.
The large size of this generation has prompted predictions that they will make a lasting impact on the housing market. Millennials have now surpassed baby boomers as the largest living adult generation in the U.S., Pew Research Center data shows. The largest segment of millennial births occurred in 1990, so that cohort is turning 30 this year. “We anticipate as they turn 31 and 32, we’ll just see homebuying demand grow,” Odeta Kushi, deputy chief economist at First American Financial Corp., told the Journal.
First American predicts millennials could purchase at least 15 million homes over the next decade.
Existing-home sales surged nearly 25% in July, reaching their highest seasonally adjusted annual rate since December 2006, according to the National Association of REALTORS®. First-time buyers comprised 34% of sales in July, up from 32% a year earlier.
The pandemic and low interest rates—which are under 3%—may be offering incentive for more young adults to finally buy. “Millennials, they’re roaring into home buying age,” Rick Arvielo, chief executive of mortgage lender New American Funding, told the Journal. “What the industry’s been talking about for a decade is whether they’re going to follow their predecessor generations in terms of their desire to own homes. … They have the same desires.”
5 Design Trends Emerging During the Pandemic
COVID-19 likely will have a lasting influence on home styles.
The pandemic has influenced so many areas of our lives these past few months. It’s not surprising that it’s also affecting the design of our homes. Let’s look at some of the biggest home design trends influenced by the pandemic.
5. The waning appeal of open floor plans.
A growing complaint with the open floor plan: It’s noisy. As many people transitioned to remote work, a lack of barriers to buffer noise became a real problem.
The open floor plan combines the kitchen and living space to form one big, open room. It isn’t exactly the best for privacy or concentration. Add in hardwood flooring, and sounds can really echo.
But homeowners aren’t rushing to add walls just yet. Instead, they’re turning to privacy screens to section off areas, or they’re adding in large area rugs or artwork to help absorb noise.
If the open floor plan really wanes in popularity, it will become apparent first in new-home construction and then in home remodeling. In new homes, we may start to see more pocket doors used to close off open spaces, kitchens slightly angled off from the living room, and privacy nooks.
4. More storage, particularly in the kitchen.
During the pandemic, the nation rushed to stock up on food, toilet paper, and hand sanitizer. So, the need for storage became greater. Homeowners added extra shelving to pantries or overflow storage in laundry rooms and garages.
Realtor.com® recently called out a new trend: the kitchen island rolling cart. These carts on wheels can be added into your kitchen to add storage and counterspace. Roll them to wherever you need more storage.
3. Gardening as a new favorite hobby.
The backyard is getting more attention while we spend more time at home. One re-emerging trend is the “victory garden,” which first started in World War I in response to food shortages.
Homeowners are now planting their own victory gardens. They can be expansive or fit in the tightest of spots, such as a vertical garden or inside a patio container. Homeowners may favor some of the fastest-growing vegetables in their victory gardens, such as lettuce, radishes, carrots, spinach, and bell peppers.
2. Expansive outdoor spaces.
Homeowners are looking to extend their indoor space to the outdoors in multiple ways. The front porch, for example, has become important as a place where you can be outside and connect with neighbors from afar. It’s also a popular backdrop for family photos.
Backyards both big and small also are getting spruced up. Fire pits are particularly popular. Outdoor furnishings are being used to create cozier spaces, and hammocks add to a serene ambience. A pergola can provide a covered space overhead, or homeowners can use an overgrown tree in their yard as a canopy for a small dining space or cozy seating area.
1. The growth of home offices.
With more homeowners working remotely, the home office has grown in importance. In fact, many households are finding that having just one home office isn’t enough. The pop-up home office is emerging, turning small closets into an extra office nook or sectioning off corners of a room to add a workspace that blends in with the rest of the space.
As remote work surges, the home office will likely remain important and become a huge selling point in real estate moving forward.
What Greener Homes Are Made Of
Tune in to the materials and practices fueling resilient, eco-friendly construction.
“Being green” has become more than a catchphrase. It’s a filter through which some people, including real estate buyers, are making life choices.
As consumer interest grows in the benefits of eco-friendly, resilient commercial and residential properties, REALTORS® are getting the message. In the 2020 REALTORS® & Sustainability Report, 70% of residential agents and 74% of commercial practitioners found that promoting energy efficiency in their listings was somewhat or very valuable. Almost 60% of commercial pros said they are comfortable answering questions from clients about building performance.
In addition to finding properties that meet clients’ wants, savvy real estate pros are paying attention to construction practices and materials that are being used for sustainability features in both new and older structures.
Which green building practices should you showcase? Which cutting-edge and resilient materials are most popular now? And what’s the potential return on investment? As you share information with clients, consider three factors: location, consumer priorities, and building trends.
Know Your Area
While some things—like low-VOC paint and energy-efficient lighting—are important no matter where one is located, other aspects of green building are more location-specific. Considerations differ for building in, say, Alaska versus Alabama.
As an example, the majority of homes in Tennessee have below-ground crawl spaces rather than full basements, notes Alan Looney, president of Castle Homes in Brentwood, Tenn. They can be damp and musty despite vents to the outdoors.
To prevent moisture and increase efficiency, Looney says, owners should seal crawl spaces and floors and then place foam around the foundation. Likewise, it’s useful to bolster the insulation in attics. “By foaming the roof deck and having your mechanical systems in an air-conditioned space, the system doesn’t have to work as hard to cool the entire house,” Looney notes. The bottom line: When you’re serving green clients, you need expertise on the housing stock, as well as the green practices and materials, common in your area.
Providing a cost-benefit analysis can help determine the payoff for homeowners keen on adapting efficient systems. Looney notes that while underground rain harvesting, geothermal, and solar systems are all options, it can take years to see a return on investment. For instance, a recent geothermal project cost approximately $85,000, Looney explains, whereas a standard air-source HVAC system would have been closer to $45,000. The EPA estimates that homeowners save 30% to 70% on heating bills and 20% to 50% on cooling costs by choosing geothermal over conventional systems. With a 30% tax rebate (a federal incentive that drops to 26% in 2020 and 22% in 2021), the system will take an estimated 12 years to see a financial benefit.
With so many environmental considerations, how do you help clients sort through competing priorities? Kate Stephenson, a partner at Helm Construction Solutions in Montpelier, Vt., believes the top concern for both residential and commercial clients should be air quality. Why? It affects all aspects of life, from the quality of sleep one gets at home to an employee’s ability to concentrate at work, says Stephenson, whose company focuses on sustainable project management.
Air quality issues should be addressed when older buildings are retrofitted. “As air leakage is reduced to save energy and improve comfort, adding mechanical ventilation brings in fresh air,” Stephenson says. These systems are most important in kitchens and bathrooms, where air can be stale or moist.
Castle Homes targets another overlooked part of homes for air cleaning: closets. Installing exhaust fans in closets clears the air of chemicals used by dry cleaners.
Eyes on Mass Timber
An up-and-coming construction material with potential to reduce the industry’s carbon footprint is known as mass timber. This category of engineered wood is gaining attention in the U.S. for its resiliency and efficiency—so far, mostly for large-scale construction projects. Mass timber products consist of fibers, shavings, and other thin layers of wood bound together using resin or industrial glues to make large slabs that fit together easily. The layering process makes an engineered wood stronger than traditional wood, as well as fire- and earthquake-resistant.
Though mass timber, also known as cross-laminated timber, was introduced in Europe in the 1990s, the U.S. construction industry is still learning about it. Projects using the material are moving forward, especially in the multifamily sector, but building code and supply issues remain impediments to major expansion. At the start of 2020, the U.S. had 784 mass timber multifamily, commercial, or institutional projects constructed or in design, according to the Wood Products Council.
Industry observers say as familiarity increases and materials become more available, mass timber has the potential to replace masonry, concrete, and even steel as a go-to material for flooring, walls, or entire buildings. It’s also cost-effective, as large prefabricated panels can be assembled quickly at a building site. Akin to giant Lego pieces, the panels are constructed to fit the precise dimensions needed for a project.
“We had to find a way to build smarter with science and innovation to create engineered wood products,” says Scott McIntyre, North American business director for performance materials manufacturer Hexion. The company creates resins for engineered wood products that are environmentally responsible and thermally stable. “In building and construction, we manufacture resins that allow you to use a solid tree,” notes Sydney Lindquist, sustainability leader at Hexion. “Prior to engineered wood products, only about 60% of the tree was used and the rest would be waste.”
A common environmental question around mass timber is whether forests are being cleared to produce it. Lindquist says that’s not an issue. “Sustainably harvested wood is grown very quickly. It’s not a well-known fact that sustainable forestry helps increase new growth,” she says.
These sliding doors can free up to 14 square feet of usable floor space.
The sliding barn door can be a statement piece and open up precious floor space when rooms are tight. Making the space for a swinging door moot, you also can give the barn door a trendy hue, such as blue or green, to make it a focal point in your décor.
The sliding barn door grew in popularity during the farmhouse trend in recent years. But even though farmhouse décor is showing some signs of waning, the barn door is sticking around because it’s a solution for saving space. For example, in a kitchen pantry or a playroom, homeowners can gain precious wall space and square footage by swapping out a swinging door for a mounted gliding door.
With no door swing to account for, sliding doors can add up to 14 square feet of floor space. It allows for more flexible furniture arrangement and opens up spots for extra shelving.
But one complaint of these sliding doors is that closing them tends to be a bumpy, unsteady, and noisy experience. Companies are coming out with new wall-mounted sliding door hardware that allows these doors to be opened and closed more smoothly. For example, the company Johnson touts that its wall mount hardware gently slows the door’s travel speed to softly pull it into the fully open or fully closed position. The hardware works similarly to a cabinet door closer and allows doors to open and close more quietly and securely.
Concrete painting is trickier than painting most surfaces: It breathes, transports moisture, and sucks up paint.
While you can paint drywall in a day or two, you’ll need a week or more to finish painting concrete. Continue reading below for tips — plus costs — on how to paint concrete surfaces:
1. Clean the Concrete
Cleaning concrete is a vital first step because the porous surface tends to trap dirt, grease, and oil.
1. Remove dirt and grease with trisodium phosphate ($6.30 per quart concentrate), or choose a more Earth-friendly cleaner like Krud Kutter’s pre-paint cleaner ($10 for 32 ounces).
2. Yank off vines and moss growing on the foundation. Use a pressure washer to finish off remaining roots and dirt.
3. Remove efflorescence, a white powder that forms on moist concrete. Try Krud Kutter Concrete Clean & Etch ($8.50 for 32 ounces); if you need more cleaning muscle, try phosphoric acid masonry cleaner ($27 per gallon).
2. Strip Old Paint
Strip peeling or blistering paint indoors with a wire brush ($3 to $5), a paint scraper ($10 to $20), and lots of elbow grease.
Outdoors, get rid of old paint with a power washer (rents for $40 to $75 per day).
3. Seal Interior Concrete
Water moves easily through porous concrete, so sealing interior walls is necessary to prevent moisture from seeping in, promoting mold growth and that cold, damp basement feel. Use a masonry sealer, such as ThoroSeal, that also patches cracks ($35 for a 50-pound bag).
Carefully follow directions for mixing, applying, and curing the sealer. ThoroSeal, for example, requires two coats; the manufacturer recommends curing for five to seven days before applying the second coat.
4. Prime the Concrete
Concrete primer, called block primer, fills pores and evens out the surface. For exterior foundations and walls, use exterior-grade block filler, such as Behr’s Concrete and Masonry Bonding Primer, which also is good for interior concrete ($17.98 per gallon). Primer dries in two hours; wait at least eight hours, but no more than 30 days, to paint.
5. Paint the Concrete
Masonry paint (also called elastomeric paint or elastomeric wall coating) is a good choice for concrete painting because it contains binders that contract and expand with the concrete. Exterior house paint can crack and peel on concrete.
Masonry paint ($20 per gallon) can be tinted and is much thicker than exterior paint. Apply it with a masonry brush ($5 to $8), a high-capacity (3/4-inch or higher) roller, or a texture roller ($5.50).
Some masonry paint is thicker than exterior paint and contains fine particles that can clog air sprayers. If you want to spray-paint cement, ask your local paint store for a product that will work well in a sprayer ($300).
No matter how you apply paint, let it dry for a day between coats. You’ll probably need two to three coats, so check the long-range weather forecast before you begin.