Light Up Your Style!

kitchen-lighting

You only have to think about your reaction to daylight time changes in the fall and spring to realize how important light is to our mood and feelings. Aesthetics enhance our daily experience of life and sometimes, all you need to do is adjust a switch to change the look and feel of a room as home lighting options are blazing new design trails.

LED Technology Now Mainstream

Back in 2014 we wrote about how technology advances, especially in the area of LED (light emitting diode) lighting, room illuminating options were truly innovative. And now, today’s LED lights are extremely versatile and used everywhere. With this advanced technology, you can cover a wide range of color temperatures and fit just about any fixture in your home or office. LED lighting is highly adaptable and lets you create light in your space designs – virtually anywhere!

Do you want outdoor flood lights for your driveway? There are LED PAR lamps that can have motion sensors added. What about the chandelier in your entryway? LED Decos will fit and match the décor. Even holiday lighting can become brighter, more colorful and more efficient with LED string lighting.

Rather than just being functional sources of illumination, the newest lighting fixtures are taking some of the design spotlight. With the wide variety of overhead and recessed lighting fixtures to choose from, you could say things are looking up in terms of lighting trends.

More than Illumination

led-823383_1280Most overhead lights serve as general or ambient lighting as their purpose is to illuminate a room. But the standard, nondescript round white or frosted globes placed dead-center of the ceiling are a long way from today’s striking assortment.

From modern sphere and bubbles to sparkling glass dripping with crystal beads, loops and teardrop prisms, chandeliers are statement pieces. They add drama and draw the eyes up, visually lengthening the room from floor to ceiling.

Not just for dining rooms anymore

Chandeliers are taking center stage in bedrooms and even bathrooms. Besides glamour and bling with dangling crystals, there are round baubles, discs, tubes, and a variety of metals.

Gold, copper, brass, nickel, and medieval iron and bronze arms can feature candlelight bulbs, or choose a funky bohemian style draped in colorful beads. Then there are farmhouse woods or rustic antlers -  whatever the decor, you can customize for the room.

Recess Success

Want overall illumination that doesn’t draw attention to itself and fades into the background? Consider recessed lighting but work with a design professional to get the right fixtures, level of illumination, and placement. Otherwise, you could end up with concentrated beams of light that leave your family room or with something like a distracting lightshow. This is one of those things only the pros tend to know about. And if you want directional lighting, read on.

Proper Spotlighting

There is a purpose for directional or positional lighting, which focuses illumination where you want it, as opposed to general diffuse room lighting. This includes track lighting for highlighting a wall of fame, artwork or built-ins. Sconces add atmosphere and are mounted on the wall, typically in pairs on either side of a painting, mirror or statement piece of furniture.

However, a new technique called “wall washing,” also mounted on walls floods the wall with light from the side, sometimes from behind a panel or architectural detail. This is becoming more popular because the most flattering light on faces comes from the side. Think of it as “up-lighting” from mid wall instead of on the floor. It adds an artistic, moody touch. (Some torchieres can mimic this effect, depending on their height.)

More Bright Ideas

Other accessory-style lighting includes task lighting; reading lamps such as adjustable goose necks or the classic green-shaded banker’s desk lamp. Under-cabinet kitchen lighting is another type. Even more specific are the thin horizontal tube-like bulbs designed to spotlight a painting, and there are picture frames with built-in illumination.

To boost the amount of light—artificial or natural—in a room without using electricity, use strategically placed mirrors to reflect all sources of light. Other energy-efficient ways to make the most of longer daylight hours in season are replacing heavy drapes with sheers for more sunlight while maintaining privacy.

The designers at 3W design know there’s more to lighting than meets the eye.  So, whether you go modern, formal or funky, we’ll help you personalize your home and express your style in lights!

Posted in Design, Lighting | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Dare to Color Outside the Lines?

david-pisnoy-660309-unsplashWhat better way is there to emerge from a cold and gray New England winter than to welcome spring with vibrant, blooming colors?

Dove grays and whispers of lavender are cool, elegant and sophisticated, but why not break free with a splash of Pantone’s Color of the Year, Living Coral, last year’s Ultra Violet, or that teal or fuchsia that you see hanging in your closet reflecting your favorite outfits and color.

Some of us are old enough to recall what a game-changer Disney’s “Wonderful World of Color” was, a kaleidoscope of color bursting from a black-and-white world. The excitement also reflected the fertile, free-wheeling imagination of Walt Disney.

Start with the exterior. Some things you can’t change: your foundation, brick front, stone, stucco, clapboard or gray shingles. But, unless in a historic district with restrictions, and without repainting the whole house, why not highlight your front door with Chinese lacquer red, sunshine yellow or something fun from the Crayola crayon box. Just make sure it harmonizes with the static materials (get a second opinion if unsure).

exeterior-colors

If the exterior needs a total refresh, avoid the white-with black-shutters old New England standard. Drive around and see what you like, look at decorating magazines. Think about the “Painted Ladies” of San Francisco—there’s nothing stodgy or staid about Victorian paint colors. (Since repainting your home is a major investment, work closely with a designer such as the pros at 3W so you don’t make an expensive, off-color mistake.)

Pop a Shot of Color

If your interior décor is stuck in neutral but you’re timid about change, rev it up with living color in small doses. Choose accessories in hues like daffodil, tulip red, plum, or whatever strikes your fancy to get you going. Boost the wattage in your contemporary condo with a sizzling electric blue or neon green ottoman or cube.

candy-1961536_1920Pops of color can be very effective in cabinetry and built-ins. Put a burgundy brocade fabric or wallpaper behind bookshelves, or robin’s-egg blue above fresh white wainscoting.

Think you have to limit deep, saturated colors to large rooms? Think again.

“Conventional wisdom states that small spaces — especially those facing north — should be lightened to increase the sense of space,” said Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute. (They’re the people behind the Color of the Year.)

“However, painting trim a lighter color in an area painted with darker hues can actually increase the illusion of space,” she said, because it creates a “greater impression of height or width in the space.”

(For more on color and its power to change your environment and mood, see the January 2019 blog post, Design Trends for 2019.)

If you’re ready to bust outside of your color comfort zone, it’s time to look at paint samples: big ones. Get a quart-sized paint can and paint a couple of coats of big swaths on poster board and hang it on the wall in a couple of places. See how the color changes at different times of day.

Beware of the Dark Side

If you’re considering going to the dark side of colors, here are a few important caveats, and these are reasons enough to justify hiring professionals. If your walls are uneven, have layers of old paint on them, or have been patched, leave surface prep and painting to a pro. Although it seems counter-intuitive, darker paint reveals unevenness and surface flaws more easily than lighter shades. This includes uneven paint application and even brush strokes, particularly if the paint has a sheen.

Besides preparing the wall for painting very carefully to smooth out any imperfections, choose the highest quality and count on applying multiple coats. Your consultant at 3W design has the professionals to do the job right and protect your investment.

interior-colorsOf course, not everyone has a fear of dark colors; some people love them. If you’re in that camp, then, by all means, drench your home in saturated colors. Emerald and jade, sapphire, garnet, aquamarine and antique golds can make your home feel more luxurious and psychologically comforting.

Whether in distinct punches through art or accessories, or full-on peacock mode in furnishings and wall coverings, a blaze of color is one sure way to banish the winter blues and grays to welcome spring!

Posted in Color, Design | Tagged | Leave a comment

A bad design costs more than a great one!

remodeling design failureYou’ve decided to remodel or add on to your home. Where do you start? Unless you hire a professional design-build team, you may be asking for trouble. Instead of adding value, you could be turning the home into a “white elephant.”

RealEstate.com notes that bad design can actually reduce the value of your home, and Architectural Digest says the biggest design mistake people make is not hiring a designer from the very beginning.

“Especially during the eighties and nineties, houses were being built so fast, there were not a lot of choices being offered,” explains 3W design, inc. owner Cheryl Tufts. “Today these homes look very dated.”

Even worse, many cookie-cutter houses and condos aren’t very functional. Take kitchens, for example. 3W design is doing a lot of kitchen remodels as clients place a high value on the most used room in the house.

“Kitchens were poorly planned, or developers were just not thinking. You have a range on the right and a dishwasher on the left but you can’t open the dishwasher without first closing the doors of an adjacent cabinet. Or you have an entire kitchen with only one drawer for silverware, or it ends up being the ‘junk drawer,’” Tufts said. “Or a refrigerator may be located away from counters or in an alcove, with no “landing spot, no place to unload groceries… Unless someone is looking to add on, I tell people we can’t give then more physical space when remodeling, but we can—and do—give them more function.”

Expensive Design Fails

Some common design mistakes that cost homeowners money and wasted time include:

  • Falling in love with and buying appliances and fixtures before you have professional design specs for the space
  • Buying undersized rugs
  • Cutting corners by hiring unlicensed contractors and subcontractors with no insurance
  • Failing to obtain required permits (you could be forced to demolish the work and start over)
  • Customizing to great extent only to your eclectic tastes; that no one else would appreciate—or would want to tear out

One of the biggest mistakes people make when redoing a kitchen themselves is skimping on cabinet space and storage, kitchen-island-traditionalwhich may be a prime reason for a kitchen re-do in the first place, according to MarthaStewart.com. Martha Stewart’s advice? Use a kitchen design professional. A kitchen is so important to a home and its potential resale value it makes no sense to leave it to an amateur.

The Property Brothers of HGTV fame said not measuring the space for cabinets properly is “one of the worst design mistakes you can make during a renovation.” Measure 10 times and cut once is their advice.

 Planning Includes Scheduling

One hazard of working with a handyman or a contractor who isn’t totally focused on your job is not knowing when they’ll show up. Schedules matter! Time is money, and when a drywall contractor shows up before the electrician has finished the wiring, who knows when they can show up again to get the job done.

Even redecorating and rearranging your living or family room is better if you have a design professional on the job. It’s not that unusual for people to go out and buy oversized furniture for their great room that doesn’t fit through the standard-size door.

Starting projects in too many rooms at once is another common mistake, and a recipe for “scope creep” and a busted budget. Professionals who design and build for a living, such as 3W design inc. have tight-knit, well-functioning teams who can plan, design, and execute a remodeling project on time and within your specified budget.

Materials Matter

Another important service a design professional provides is education. Someone may ask for a certain type of countertop, but it may be inappropriate for their kitchen or lifestyle. Marble, for example, is porous and needs to be resealed regularly. Otherwise, a red wine spill will leave the counter looking like a crime scene. Another stone or material may be more appropriate.

A professional can explain the why and how or the appropriateness of materials. As Cheryl Tufts said, “Someone might want a glossy tile in the bathroom, which could be too slippery and dangerous because of their age or physical condition.”

A Place for Everything

Back to the kitchen, one of 3W design’s fixes for dated kitchens includes more drawers that are bigger. “We find a home for everything,” said Tufts, “So the newer kitchens have a lot more drawers” to be more family friendly. “We’re also adding vertical pull-outs or tray dividers for things like baking sheets, trays, and racks. This way you don’t have to pull out all of them to get the one on the bottom of the pile.”

A lot of older kitchens are U-shaped, and open in the center. The space is too small for a table, but too big to be comfortable walking back and forth with heavy pots, dishes or food from the refrigerator. So 3W design may draw up a plan for an island, which itself can be a multi-tasking feature. (See blog post from November 2015.)

beautiful kitchen design

The bottom line? Avoid expensive mistakes! Whatever your home remodeling challenges, 3W design has the experience, talent and skills to bring your vision to life in the most pleasing and cost-effective way.

Posted in Design, Kitchens, Redmodeling | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Design Trends for 2019 – Do they fit your style?

design-showroom

Gun-metal gray, smoke, and greige… your time has come—and gone. It’s back to nature with warm and forest greens, live greenery, earth tones, and florals. So go the latest color palette ideas that are trending this year.

Shades of gray are still suitable for sophisticated settings and are go-to neutrals, though cool in feel. But the trend for 2019 is pointing toward warmer, more organic materials and colors, including the new Pantone Color of the Year: Living Coral.pantone-color-2019

While the color would not be considered “New England-y,” it certainly throws off a certain vibe.

Spring has already sprung

Floral patterns are again taking center stage in vivid, vibrant hues, whether in wallpaper, upholstery, drapes, area rugs, or to provide a pop of color in an accent piece such as artwork, throw pillows, lamps, or a fringed, puffy ottoman.

Flooring, cabinetry and millwork are lightening up as well, with cherry and mahogany yielding to lighter, blonder woods. Yesterday’s rose gold is taking it up a notch: into copper or brass.

Think this means everything’s going to be fussy and feminine? Not to worry. Bold is also back, from strong, contrasting colors to the most dramatic contrast of all: blocks of black and white.

Oddly, in contrast to the bloom of color and lighter floors and cabinets, something you’ll see more of in fixtures is matte black, as opposed to nickel or pewter. (This goes along with makeup fashion, which is featuring matte lipsticks and shadows.)

The looks and feels

For a serene space, many enjoy the quiet elegance of a white or cream-colored room. But colors and textureseven a monochromatic room can come alive with a variety of textures, and today’s inspiration comes from natural materials such as bamboo, straw, linen, and stone. (Concrete, while not natural per se, has a texture of its own and is being used in unique tables, counters, and plant containers.)

One tactile-rich fabric, velvet, is making a comeback. Considered old-fashioned but also luxurious, velvet is returning in sofas, loveseats and drapes, coming in deep jewel tones and greens from moss to emerald to modern teal.

Will it actually fit in?

Before buying a pricey statement piece, especially in a striking color, work with a trusted designer to avoid making an expensive mistake. It’s easy to fall in love with something in a magazine or showroom, but will it work with other pieces in the room in terms of scale, proportion, color, shape and style?

Those of us old enough to recall avocado refrigerators and mustard stoves may shudder at the thought, but today’s more vibrant palette includes a coral/pumpkin-y or eggplant stove or other appliances. If a “wow” piece like this sounds fun to you, don’t worry, it can hold its own next to the stainless-steel fridge.

In line with the return to nature, indoor plants in groupings are fashionable (and add a little welcome humidity to rooms dried out from central heating in the winter).

If you remember avocado appliances, you may also remember wall murals above the sofa of Japanese cherry blossoms or a strutting peacock. Believe it or not, murals are hot again, but they’re not your grandmother’s mural. For instant drama even in a small space, you can’t beat a dramatic mural. Instead of a scene, one trendy mural features a cross-section of a piece of agate in blue hues.

Sustainability is a big buzz word right now, and bamboo—in everything from fabrics to flooring—is just the ticket. Anyone who’s ever tried to get rid of a bamboo plant in the yard knows how stubborn and what fast growers these reeds are. Bamboo flooring is also lighter colored, in keeping with the trend away from dark woods.

Obviously, you’re not going to redecorate each year according to the latest trend or forecast. But if you’re considering remodeling, adding on to your home, have just bought a house, or maybe just want a fresh new look, you may want to consider design that’s on trend.

Just remember, a fabulous area rug or showpiece can be integrated into whatever else you have, virtually seamlessly, – if you work with a skilled designer/remodeler or builder like 3W design, inc. So happy new year, and don’t be afraid to try something new!

Posted in Color, Trends | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Interior Design to Beat the Winter Blues

bedroom-in-winter

How do you view the transition from the holidays into the new year once the decorations and lights are tucked back into boxes in the attic or garage? Is it a letdown, or do you welcome the streamlined look?

Whatever your thoughts, the fact is that we tend to spend a lot more time indoors during the cold and often dreary “dead of winter.” Though the calendar shows the days are gradually lengthening, January and February feel like the darkest, coldest parts of the winter (no wonder some New Englanders leave their holiday lights up so long while others flee to Florida and Arizona).

interior-design-winter-cozy

With limited daylight hours, freezing and even subzero temps outdoors, no wonder we get cabin fever! The more you look at your walls or stare at your décor, the more you feel restless. Maybe it’s time for a change and this can be a simple, inside job.

Post-Holiday Reset

Use this post-holiday tidying-up time as an excuse to pare down holiday décor. Let adult kids take what’s special to them and keep what’s precious. As you do this annual exercise, start to think about what’s important to you. What do you want your home environment to say about you?

Once the tree and decorative tableaux have been taken down and the last of the needles swept up, things may look spare and or like a blank slate and this is a good thing. But you may also suddenly become aware of things like dingy walls and threadbare or stained carpets or rugs.

winter-windowEarly winter is a perfect time to take a close look at your home’s interior.

Simplify

First, find ways to conquer clutter. Clear surfaces of paperwork, let subscriptions run out if you don’t read the publications, ditch catalogs, refresh your tabletops and other surfaces.

Then consult an interior designer you can trust and feel a rapport with, lest your cabin fever get the best of you and you make expensive mistakes. Do you want your interior change to be subtle and sophisticated or do you feel like making a dramatic overhaul?

Working with a professional designer such as 3W here in Concord opens your eyes to new possibilities (what happens if you remove this wall, or orientate the entry in a different direction?), while at the same time keeping a realistic look at your home improvement budget.

Plan to avoid “scope creep”

Painting is an easy, low risk and fairly inexpensive way to update a room.  If you choose the wrong color, you can simply do it over.

But this choice has ramifications you may not think about. If you have an open floor plan, for example, how will you handle transitions between rooms, trim, etc.? How different do you want individual rooms and hallways to be from each other, or will you “flow” variations of the chosen color from room to room? Will the color work with the furnishings in the room?

If moving or downsizing is on the horizon, stick with a neutral palette to appeal to potential buyers. Molding or millwork trim painted in a contrasting color makes a room “pop” and adds an elegant touch.

If you have fairly high ceilings, painting the ceiling a color can be a refreshing change—for high drama, consider a high-gloss or textured finish.

Working with the professionals at 3W design can also help you avoid the dreaded “scope creep.” You know, it’s when you paint one wall and then the others look drab so you begin another area, get busy with life and before you know it, things are out of hand with no room actually finished. A designer can help you create a plan, with reasonable goals, budget, and even a strict timeline.

Set the stage

A designer can also help you with staging: adding or subtracting and rearranging one or two strategic pieces to change the feel of a room, even swapping out furniture, lighting and house-in-winteraccessories from other rooms.  An objective eye can present a new arrangement for a fresh perspective that will make you wonder, “Why didn’t we think of that?” (Try unexpected arrangements yourself—it just takes a little muscle.)

Place a mirror opposite windows or doors, or position them to reflect a crystal chandelier. (Don’t be afraid to go big—magazines are showing mirrors from floor to three-quarters up the wall—not for a home with little kids.)

Fresh window treatments and shiny accessories can brighten a room also. From top to bottom: how about a new rug, a seasonal one you can switch out, or a statement piece. Or strip out old carpet for hardwood or easy-care laminate.

Ever notice how different things look when seen in a reflection, through a window or in a photo? Take a photo of your room for a new perspective. And don’t forget before, during and after pictures.

From a new look for walls to floors and ceilings, the design/build professionals at 3W design, inc. can help you design the home you’ll want to stay in, whether you need a full remodel or a single room makeover. So if skiing or snowshoeing isn’t your thing, just enjoy being at home and think about spring!

Posted in interior Design | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Designed for Entertaining in Every Season

kitchen-upgrade

Another season of holiday hosting and once again you’re hauling patio chairs and card tables from the basement, scrambling to figure out the timing of multiple dishes in and out of your old oven, and chilling beverages in a cooler outside.

Now imagine this:  Next year at this time—or even by Easter or Passover—you could be entertaining in a brand-new dining room and kitchen that is functional and beautiful, where everything you need is all there and preparing for guests becomes fun. This is possible when you work with a design/build team like 3W design, inc.

Traditional Home magazine calls kitchens “the social hub” of a home, so when remodeling or redesigning, think of these three things: beauty, comfort, and function.

3w-design-inc-kitchen-design

An open floor plan flowing between the kitchen and dining area naturally lends itself to hosting guests, and gives lots of options for new seating, milling around and socializing.

Since they always end up in the kitchen anyway, give guests a ringside seat at an island. With a big enough kitchen, you can do double islands—or bring back the banquette around a corner table.

The benefits of a well-designed kitchen island include:

  • More space for food prep
  • Another grill or cooktop (induction cooktop is best, to prevent burns)
  • Breakfast bar with a toaster or toaster oven for sleepovers
  • Buffet area when entertaining
  • Wet bar with sink

A kitchen remodel pays off in many ways, from greater convenience and functionality, to upgraded energy-efficiency appliances, to aesthetics—which adds up to resale value down the road.

Look out below!

Make the most of your island’s foundation. Include a mini fridge or ice maker, wine rack and/or wine “captain” (cooler), slide-out drawers for table linens, vertical slots for large serving trays, or a microwave or warming drawer.

Still a favorite feature for entertaining and families, islands are multi-taskers. With an overhanging tabletop guests can pull up a seat while you prepare food, and it doubles as a breakfast bar. These days there are many seating options that put tacky bar stools to shame.

kitchen-island-design

The National Kitchen and Bath Association recommends having a workspace “aisle” of 42 inches between the island and your other counter. But don’t sweat the math. 3W’s designers will ensure you have enough space also to pull up captain’s chairs, with elbow room for seating, and comfortable pull-out room.

Go with the traffic flow.

And of course, you should be able to move through the “aisles” between the island and countertop and major appliances easily—even when doors are opened.

While we’re at it…

Other welcome additions include two sinks (including one on the island, so you don’t have your back to your guests while prepping or bartending), a couple of work stations, and the latest in cabinetry: with lighting, easy-glide drawers, etc.

When designing for entertaining, think outside the box, that is, the room. Windows (even a bay window in the dining room) can be transformed to French doors, for fair-weather entertaining in- and outdoors.

Make a statement with a dining room chandelier and floor-to-ceiling drapes. But be sure to incorporate the colors of both rooms—and a great room, if that’s part of the open floor plan—into the design for a coordinated look.

A butler’s pantry adds valuable cabinet and counter space for large serving pieces, glassware and china, as well as a staging area for caterers. Dirty dishes can be hidden away there for after-party clean-up.

Nice extras include a wet bar or beverage station/coffee bar, cabinets up high with glass-fronts and back lighting to display crystal used less often, a wine fridge, stacked ovens, an indoor grill or char broiler with exhaust hood.

Remodeling means making many choices, from flooring to lighting to wall color. So consider your entertaining and dining area tastes. Whether elegant and formal, sophisticated yet understated, or casual and laid-back, there are furnishings and fixtures to suit your style.

Clearly a kitchen-dining-entertaining remodel is an investment in your home. Trust it the kitchen experts at 3W design to bring your vision to life, and make your own home the life of the party!

Posted in Kitchens, Redmodeling | Tagged | Leave a comment

The Business of Renting Your Vacation Home

lake-shore-homeDepending on the desirability of your vacation property, it could generate enough income to pay the mortgage for much of the year or cover property taxes if you rent it out during peak seasons. Does this sound like an opportunity?

You may want to obtain a copy of IRS Publication 527, which is all about rental income and expenses (including depreciation), and it explains how to report them on your tax return. It also covers casualty losses on rental property and renting out vacation property.

But don’t stop there; consult a tax professional for how renting your vacation house or condo will affect your personal tax situation.

The Forbes.com Real Estate Council has questions to consider before deciding to put your getaway place on the rental market. First, what is your goal? Are you trying to generate income (cash flow), or build equity (as an investment property)?

If not using your retreat year ‘round, it could make sense to turn it into a “hybrid”: a second home you can enjoy and a source of rental income.

Another important consideration is, what are the property/association rules if any? If your lake hideaway is part of a gated community, a condominium or homeowner’s association, pull out your documents. Many limit rentals to only a few weeks a year or may prohibit them entirely.

If leasing is permitted, you need to determine if there’s a market for the rental, and if what lake-houseyou could potentially earn. Realize that you’ll be giving up the option of personal use for a period, and will have extra costs, such as liability insurance, property management fees, and the inconvenience of having to leave it pristine when you vacate, which may mean hiring cleaners. Then there’s New Hampshire’s meals and rooms (rentals) tax. (If doing short-term rentals through Airbnb, they will extract this 9% fee for you.)

A good resource for market potential is a Realtor, and if you plan on having your property managed for you, this is the place to go. They can tell you what luxury rentals go for in the area, market the listing for you, and handle rental contracts (which includes vetting potential renters)—for a fee, of course.

Types of Rentals

Michael Joseph is CEO of InvitedHome.com, which specializes in luxury vacation rentals. “Make no mistake,” he said, “you’re taking on a business.” Managing a vacation property is “a lot more work than people anticipate,” he said, especially since guest expectations are “becoming higher.” Jon Gray of HomeAway.com, which owns VRBO (Vacation Rentals by Owner), said that “It starts with a commitment to customer service.”

Think you want to go it alone? People expect to be able to use credit cards. Who will screen tenants? Who will clean between guests if doing short-term rentals? Who will market your place? You’ll need great photos. Realtors also have lists of plumbers, electricians, appliance repair people in case of an emergency—such as when your long-term tenant takes a Caribbean vacation mid-winter, turns off the heat, and the pipes burst.

Long-term Tenants

Ready to be a landlord? You’ll need a contract, to check out potential tenants; credit landlord-paperworkrecords, and a set of house rules (smoking? sublet? pets?). Although you will get some money up front for a security deposit, if the renter doesn’t work out the eviction process is lengthy and can get nasty (which is why it’s worth getting a credit and background check). Plus, a lease will probably be a minimum of six months (maybe nine in university or college communities) during which you won’t have the use of your second home.

Short-term Rentals

Companies that help you rent your place for a weekend or week or month do the marketing, money collecting, and in some cases collect security deposits for you. But host versus landlord, the responsibilities are the same, with additional changeover chores in between guests. And, unlike typical landlord/tenant relationships, you as the host and your property will be reviewed, with those reviews prominently displayed on your online listing.

Since you set the price, you can ask more for prime summer or ski months, or holidays such as July 4th or Labor Day weekend. And with online home-sharing companies, there are plenty of opportunities to see what the market will bear plus a lot more flexibility in pricing.

But even with a company like VRBO or Airbnb, there’s a lot to keep abreast of. If you don’t do the cleaning/set up in between guests yourself, you’ll need to furnish extra sets of towels and sheets. You’ll need to pay attention to your phone app when you get inquiries and bookings and set up a calendar to block the dates.

The good news about short-term rentals is that if you find it doesn’t work for you, all you do is take your listing off the market and the place is all yours again.

Personal and Privacy Considerations

country-dining-roomThere are things you’ll want to keep in your second home when you’re not there so you don’t have to haul them all up each time you visit. Linens, extra clothes, personal photos, out-of-season accessories or outerwear, spices, canned goods, liquor, medicine, tools, touch-up paint, laundry detergent, etc. And if you don’t want renters using them, you’ll need to lock certain items away such as electronics, bikes, fishing or boating gear.

If you have a good-size walk-in closet (one under the stairs, for example), put a lock on it and fit what you can in there.  (If you’re very personal about your space and favorite items, renting out your second home is probably not for you. There will eventually be accidental breakage or damage, beyond the extra wear and tear on the furnishings and appliances.)

Fulfilling Expectations

lakefront-rental-with-dockThen there are those expectations and demands consumers have when paying to rent a luxury home. You’ll need fast Wi-Fi, entertainment options including cable TV. Will you share your boat, pool or hot tub? Is there a great golf course nearby?

If you’re a spur-of-the-moment planner or frequent weekender, you probably won’t want to rent your valued retreat to strangers. But there are lots of business options and considerable revenue benefits for those who do—if they’re smart about it and plan accordingly.

Posted in vacation homes | Tagged | Leave a comment

Winter’s Coming. Start Making Your Home Cozier Now!

Jack Frost has just started prowling the pumpkin patches here and there which means now’s the time to prepare for winter’s snow and ice. That includes scheduling any remodeling projects to button your home up tight.

farmhouse-winter

Do you have major projects in mind: new windows, a mudroom or insulation, a new furnace or HVAC system? You may be surprised to know that the cost of these improvements can be significantly offset by the energy savings—even rebates you get from installing brand-new, energy-efficient systems.

The Heat is On!

The heat may be on—but is it going out the window? There are tips below to weather-proof your home and cut down on heating costs. But if your New England colonial, farmhouse or contemporary is still relying on an old oil burner, you should know there are alternatives that may offer greater efficiency at reduced cost.

There may even be a rebate or tax credit available to offset the costs of a replacement HVAC system. Eversource, for example, offers anywhere from $400 to $600 rebate on heat pump technology, such as that used in a ductless “mini-split” unit.

Heat pumps rely on electricity to run, but the newer ones can generate two to three times as much heat as an electric boiler or a baseboard heater, using the same amount of electricity. You may also reduce your oil consumption by upwards of 35%, according to some energy websites.

Even if you’re not ready to replace that behemoth furnace in your basement, a mini-split can extend the season comfortably and efficiently in a three-season room, or at your unheated camp.

A mini-split has benefits year-round, so you can have your heat and enjoy a cool summer too. The same technology that warms your home can also cool it with air conditioning—and these units are smaller and quieter than most air conditioning compressors and unsightly window units.

Let the Sun Shine In!

Not every property is suitable for solar panels but if you’re planning a major remodel and/or a new roof, it could be worth looking into. The New Hampshire Public Utilities Commission and certain utilities, such as New Hampshire Electric Co-Op, offer significant rebates on solar upgrades. However, you must apply for these programs before installing any solar panels, so investigate your options thoroughly.

When You Do Windows…

If you saw moisture in between your windowpanes last winter, it’s time to replace them. thermal-windowsSeals break over time, letting in cold and letting out heat. There are many options but in New England it pays to get the most energy efficient ones you can afford. New double-paned windows can lower your energy bill by as much as 10%.

Take this opportunity to examine the sills and exterior for wood rot, and, when replacing windows, pack extra insulation around the frames before they’re trimmed and framed in.

HVAC systems, solar energy systems, and windows are major investments in your house’s function, and pay off over a relatively short time in energy savings. But these improvements also visibly impact the appearance of your home. That’s why it’s imperative to work with experienced professionals like the designers and builders at 3W design throughout the process, to avoid expensive and unattractive mistakes.

Tweaks from the outside in:

  • Clean out gutters to prevent freezing and ice dams which can damage the siding and roof.
  • Add more insulation to the attic if needed. (Check also for minute openings that are invitations for critters to come in and get cozy. Seal them.)
  • Block air leaks, including sealing any unused chimneys (cap if permanently unused). Check fireplace dampers for tightness too. Weather-strip doors and caulk windows.
  • Insulate your pipes.
  •  Install digital, programmable thermostats: each degree you lower the thermostat can save you between 1 and 3% of heating costs. The smartest thermostats can be programmed from your phone, so you don’t have to walk into a cold house at the end of the day—or run the heat too high while away.
  • Have your heating system serviced. It’s no picnic losing heat mid-winter, especially if you’re not home and your pipes freeze and burst.
  • Replace central air and heating system filters.
  • Flip direction of ceiling fans to clockwise, to push heated air at ceiling back down.
  • Finally (insert your dad’s voice here), put on a sweater! Every degree raised on the thermostat costs you money.

If you know that your home needs energy upgrades and have decided it’s time, but you’re not sure where to begin, there’s no need to be overwhelmed by all the options. The build-design professionals at 3W design can help guide you to solutions that work, ensuring that your home is cozy and warm all winter, and more beautiful than ever!

Posted in Energy Efficiency | Tagged | Leave a comment

Late Summer is Outdoor Space Planning Time

By now, your garden may be looking a little disheveled, bedraggled, brown or burnt. “The bloom is off the rose,” which makes this a good time to take a thoughtful look at your garden, patio and plantings, and picture how you’d like your outdoor space to look and feel next year.

outdoor-space-planning

Start next year’s outdoor space planning now!

Did you enjoy your outdoor space this summer? If not, why not? Not enough shade or comfortable seating? Too buggy? Maybe there was too much shade, so plants didn’t thrive.

Walk around your entire house and take lots of photos with a “real” camera, so they don’t get forgotten behind family holidays, selfies with your pet, sunsets, and restaurant meals on your phone. These will be helpful to reference as you plan over the winter.

Look at the exterior and all hardscape and plantings with a critical eye. Do the pavers or bricks to the front door need attention? Is the decking in bad shape, or need to be re-sealed? Has the gravel in a walkway wandered all over the lawn?

How about the foundation shrubs? Are they too leggy, or blocking a window? Do they need replacement or just a serious pruning?

When to call in the pros 

Are there any dead trees on your property, or limbs hanging over or touching your roof? These are invitations to disaster and should be dealt with by professionals.

Now take a seat on your patio or deck, wherever you like to relax outside. What is working for you and your family, and what needs work? What is your goal for your outdoor environment: to get sun, to entertain, to attract birds and bees with a garden and water feature, to barbecue, grow herbs or food, play, have a private retreat?

Do you enjoy gardening and the elegance of an old English cutting garden complete with hedges and paths, or do you want a meadow of wildflowers with a rainbow of colors throughout the season?

Perennials reappear, but planting bright annuals lets you change up colors from year to year. Some plants, you’ll discover, aren’t “happy” where planted, but may thrive in another corner of the yard. So, before you toss that flower on the compost heap, transplant it someplace else. Oh, and how’s the drainage? With the rains this summer, did you have screened-porch-deckponding or puddling on the patio or erosion of soil or mulch? Or maybe you need some variable automatic irrigation.

How comfortable are you sitting on your porch or deck? Are there splinters or nails popping out on the decking? Does the patio grout, stone dust or sand need replacement? If you have to drag furniture cushions and/or furniture out of the garage or shed, what about seating or built-ins that double as storage space?

If your plain backyard could use a refresh, you may want to add architectural and functional elements:

  • A pergola
  • An awning
  • An arbor
  • Lighting
  • Benches, table, seating
  • Firepit, barbecue or pizza oven
  • Outdoor covered kitchen

These are just some ideas. And remember, if you want everything to come out according to your expectations, you’ll probably want to hire design professionals for anything major or structural.

Simplify

If you don’t want to spend hours digging in the dirt or perhaps travel frequently, think about a raised bed garden, They’re another way of adding architectural interest, hardscape (stone wall, wood, brick) and a variety of heights for added drama. Even easier are backyard-gardencontainer gardens, where you can add and subtract annuals for quick color through the season.

Lining the beds with newspapers or weed-blocking fabric can cut down or even eliminate weed and keeps groundhogs from digging up from below. Plus, your nutrient-rich soil won’t drain off.

This is a lot of food for thought, so take your time and use your photos for reference. Some programs let you call them up on your computer and redraw and rearrange to show you what changes would look like, including Better Homes & Gardens’ free Plan-a-Garden at www.bhg.com.

The design/build team at 3W design inc. can help your outdoor space dreams take root, so feel free to consult us if you’re planning any outdoor add-ons or structural changes.

Posted in Outdoor living, Seasonal Design Tips | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Designed to Be Cool

cool-in-summerMany people escape the steamy South for the cool mountains in the summer, but sometimes, such as this year, even Northern New England feels the heat. It’s especially tough because many Granite Staters don’t have air conditioning.

But you don’t have to sit there and sweat. Here are some tips to help you beat the heat, no matter what style home you have.

Inside Job

When it comes to energy savings and comfort no matter what the temperature, having enough and the proper grade of insulation is very important. It’s also a relatively easy fix. (While you’re in the attic, consider an attic fan to draw heat up and out of the house.)

Our Biggest Fan

Ceiling or paddle fans are a Southern staple, but they are an efficient way to help cool a room and can even help distribute heat in the winter. Today there are styles to suit any décor or era of home. A gently whirring fan can make the room temperature feel as much as 5 degrees cooler than it actually is, according to Green Building Advisor.

Keeping air moving is key to feeling cooler. Ceiling fans that rotate “forward” or counterclockwise circulate hot air upward and create a breeze. (In the winter, reverse direction at a low speed to move heated air back down to keep you warm.) But you’ll need a fan that reverses. Some new fans even have wireless controls including apps for your phone.

Look out!

mountain-lake-view…Especially when you have a mountain or lake view. When it comes to windows, the bigger the better. Southwest-style haciendas that feature smaller windows to prevent heat from baking your house are no good for views. But you can savor your Western sunset without breaking a sweat with a few simple strategies that follow.

First, when building or remodeling and replacing windows, be savvy. Besides choosing the right insulation value, consider UV-blocking glass. Windows that block the sun’s damaging ultraviolet rays not only keep your AC from running all day, but prevent fading of furniture, rugs or carpet.

Not getting new windows? There are effective window films that install easily and function in much the same way. Plus, once installed, you’ll forget they’re there. Some films add security or privacy too. One manufacturer says the film can block 99% of UV rays, and can reduce heat by 78%.

Made for the Shade

Shades and blinds—maybe with liners—are another option. That way you can see through the blinds or shades when you wish but block out the sunlight (or cold) as desired. Plantation shutters can be a dramatic addition to large vertical windows.

Speaking of light, compact fluorescent light bulbs put out about 70% less heat than incandescent bulbs. Don’t worry–the light is no longer the sterile blue flicker you think of when you hear fluorescent.

There are many exterior options to tame the sun’s rays, from awnings, pergolas, external blinds (big in Europe—they reflect heat before it enters window glass), to light-colored roofing. Sturdy shade trees (think elms, sycamores and oaks) on the southwest side of your home are a sound investment.

poolsideA water feature can be cooling if only psychologically. Center a fountain within a tile, brick or pavered courtyard for a Mediterranean vibe.

When building your home or putting on an addition, cross-ventilation is key. Situate bedrooms on corners whenever possible so there are a couple of windows to catch a breeze and cool the room at night.

The roof can be designed in a lighter color to reflect heat, with an overhang or eave to shade windows and entrances. (But make sure it has a good pitch; snow lasts longer on light versus dark-colored roofing materials.) Overhangs have the added plus of enabling you to leave the windows open even when a cooling rain squall blows through.

Then there are passive solar basics:

  • Close West-facing window treatments and shades or blinds in the afternoon
  • Take up rugs from hardwood or laminate floors to make it feel cooler
  • Close windows in the morning to keep the house cool during the day
  • Open them at night when it’s cooler.

When contemplating new construction or a remodel, the design-build professionals at 3W design have the know-how you need to do everything right. If heat and high energy bills get you down, there’s no need to lose your cool. Just give us a call and soon you can be chilling out in comfort, all summer long!

Posted in Seasonal Design Tips | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment