Dress Up Your Dining Room

During the holidays, the dining room takes the spotlight. Could yours use an update?

comfort-dining-room

Formal or informal, elegant or cottage cozy, dining rooms get dressed up for the holidays as family feasts take center stage. But here are some ideas that could make your dining room even more welcoming.

The Appetizer

At this time of year in New England, good lighting is vital. Ceiling lighting such as a chandelier puts the spotlight on your table, whether one spectacular brass or crystal chandelier, blown-glass pendants, or metal track lighting for that industrial vibe. Overhead lighting can really highlight the table, which is the focal point of the room.  A chandelier with arms is perfect for a garland or for hanging crystal glass ornaments for the holidays.

Be sure to include a rheostat switch to dining room lighting. Being able to raise or lower the lights adds an extra touch of ambience. A chandelier with candle-style bulbs that can be dimmed for evening meals won’t overwhelm table candles and lets them twinkle.

If your dining room has high, tray or cove ceilings, you have additional opportunities to light up the room and add atmosphere. Wall sconces add a formal, classic touch with candle bulbs. And crown moulding is literally the crowning touch for traditional rooms.

The Main Course

What’s your style of dining room table: classic cherry, walnut or oak, or contemporary/industrial acrylic, glass or metal? A beautiful table—preferably one that can glass-table-topbe extended with leaves for special occasions—is a blank canvas.

Contemporary or classic, rectangular or round, the table is the gathering place. If yours is looking the worse for wear or perhaps a “well-loved” family heirloom, you may want to refinish it. Luckily, a tablecloth—or a couple of them of different lengths draped over each other—is a quick fix.

Every great dining room deserves a firm foundation. Hardwood? Laminate? Carpeting? Chances are your dining room isn’t an island unto itself; other rooms flow in and out through doorways. So you probably have coordinating flooring. But you can differentiate your dining room and warm it up with a beautiful area rug beneath the table. Rugs or carpet also soften sound.

A Choice of Sides

Along the walls, chair rails complement crown moulding, or if your style of home décor warrants it, consider wainscoting.

Draperies are classic window treatments. Go big with long panels that “puddle” on the hardwood floor, and rods just below the ceiling to lengthen and expand the appearance of any size window.

If you have a view, of course you should showcase it. Just realize that for several months each year, if you dine after 5:00 p.m., it will be pitch black outside.

Or swap window dressings out according to the season: heavy, insulating drapes in the winter, and light billowy sheers in the summer. For a different but still stylish look, especially if the view isn’t great, consider shutters.

Furnishings that act as “sides” to the dining table can include a hutch or china cabinet, sideboard/buffet table, and/or an attractive wine rack or bar table combination.

Artwork on the walls shouldn’t be hung too high since you and your guests will most often view it while seated.

Pull Up a Chair

Comfortable seating and atmospheric lighting encourage guests to linger after dinner. When it comes to chairs, no matter what your style, they don’t all have to match. But they country-dining-roomshould be at the same seating height, so no one’s at chest level to the table.

If there’s room, upholstered chairs with arms at the head and foot of the table (master and mistress chairs) are a nice touch. A bench is great to pull up for kids or extra guests, but unless it has a back it’s not comfortable for everyday use.

For the holidays, elegant slipcovers dress up plain chairs, and you can toss them in the washer when wine or gravy gets spilled.

Room for Dessert

Music adds to every occasion, but if your sound system is in another room, pipe in the music with remote or wireless speakers. And, every celebration deserves a festive centerpiece. Natural materials suitable for the season are traditional but the Internet and decorating magazines have endless ideas.

If your dining room needs a makeover, talk to the space planning experts at 3W Design. Then get ready to entertain in style.

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Your Laundry Room: No Longer a Dirty Secret

Shades of Gray

 

Imagine feeling delighted, excited even, to enter your laundry room! It could happen with a thoughtful, well-planned, redesigned room from 3W Design.

Laundry rooms are often neglected parts of the home. But laundry won’t feel like such a chore if you create a welcoming, efficient, functioning environment. Here are some ideas for “destination” laundry rooms that will leave you feeling anything but wishy-washy about washing day.

Why remodel your laundry area? Maybe your old washer drained all over the floor, leaving pounds of unspun towels sopping wet at the bottom. Your dryer died. If these major appliances are old, they can be a real energy drain. If you’re replacing these appliances for more efficient Energy Star-rated ones, it may be the perfect time to reconfigure your utility room, mud room or laundry closet.

What do you want this space to be? Will it be a multi-purpose room with a sink, counter space, recycling center, mud room for coats and boots, or pet area? Is there room to include a desk for bill paying and/or homework, or for a table to fold out for crafting?

At Home

 

Is your laundry area in a bathroom, or is there room to incorporate a powder room into or next to the laundry? Flooring should be practical and easy to clean (a laundry area is not the place for carpet) but that doesn’t mean it can’t be attractive and there are lots of nice-looking, durable flooring materials and finishes to choose from.

An ironing board can be folded away in a slotted closet. A seat on a bench above a cubby or bin can be used for pulling boots on and off. Tired of unfolding a drying rack in the middle of the floor? Consider rods for hanging, perhaps above the counter or sink.

Dress it up

For a utility room that looks anything but utilitarian, when it comes to decorating, have fun! Large white or neutral appliances don’t leave a lot of wall space, depending on the size of the room. So you can go a little wild to make a big impact with a beautiful glass tile backsplash or funky wallpaper—whatever makes you smile when you enter. Especially if there are no windows, choose bright colors or classic white with bright accents.

For storage of cleaning supplies, incorporate custom built-in cabinets to complement a contemporary style home, or do open shelves with rustic baskets for a cottage or farmhouse feel. Simple touches can make any space special, like using a single color for all hangers, and coordinating bins for storage and supplies.

Nashville Farmhouse

 

Hide and seek

If your laundry room is near the main living space, there are other considerations. How quiet and vibration-free are the appliances?

If off the kitchen, in a pantry, or in a mudroom, front-loading machines can be tucked into elegant cabinetry. Consider a pocket door or one with glass panes if in keeping with the house style. Louvred doors can let some of the warm air from the dryer through–but the noise comes with it.

Take things UP a notch 

The days of hauling heavy baskets up and down the stairs from a dark basement are over. For convenience, nothing beats an upstairs laundry space. Since the bulk of the laundry—and the bulkiest laundry—is bed and bath linens and towels, this makes a lot of sense.

Of course, you probably can’t add on upstairs, so where to put it? A linen closet could work, especially if it’s adjacent to upstairs bathrooms and plumbing. You can stack things in your favor by putting a front-loading washer and dryer on top of each other.

Things you’ll need to consider with your design/builder for an upstairs laundry include:

  • Where will the dryer vent?
  • What will the noise level be like? (Select appliances that don’t have a lot of vibration.)
  • Will extra precautions have to be taken due to moisture being produced?
  • How deep are the appliances? Front loaders tend to be deeper than top-loading machines (which may be wider). Don’t forget to account for hoses, faucets and pipes at the rear or on the side.)
  • Is there enough vertical space to consider putting the machines on a pedestal for storage drawers underneath?

Some “destination” laundry rooms even include a dog washing and grooming station. After all, it kind of makes sense to keep those furry coats clean in the same place you wash all of your outer wear.

You still may not want to air your dirty laundry when guests come over…but if you work with a designer like 3W design, you’ll certainly want to show them your beautiful, functional spaces including your very livable laundry room!

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Make Your Kitchen Work for You – Beautifully!

kitchen-remodeling-nh

A kitchen remodeling project can be fun, especially when you work with experienced design/builders. But it’s also daunting: so many details! Before you get to the fun part such as style and décor and choosing new appliances, consider function first.

Of course, the function will be a beautiful, well-planned, efficient place to cook. But what else do you require from a kitchen space? Since remodels are costly investments meant to last from a couple of decades or until you move to another home, you want to make the most of this opportunity.

Try this exercise: take out your favorite note-taking device and try to make a list of everything that happened in your kitchen in the last 24 hours. That list is likely to be pretty long. Now put a check mark next to the functions your kitchen currently serves pretty well, and a minus sign next to the functions it struggles to support. The negative functions are the ones you’ll want to address in your remodel. If you’re not sure how, ask a professional.

Kitchen remodels need to last a long time, so consider how your life will evolve over time. If you have children, will they still be living at home in 15 years? A wall with chalkboard paint for kids’ masterpieces, menus and lists can easily be painted over when your style has changed from easy-to-clean and child-proof to sleek stainless or French country.

kitchen-islandBut more permanent fixtures and surfaces—countertops, cabinets—must stand the test of time, not only for function but for attractiveness. This is not the place to go retro with a boomerang-patterned red-and-black sparkle counter a la 1960s diner, no matter how fun it seems today – unless of course that is what you really want! Just be aware that come time to sell, it could be a turn-off to an otherwise interested buyer.

Centuries ago, the kitchen was the hub of the home because of the hearth, which provided warmth. More than that, it was the cooking, drying and even bathing area. We don’t bathe in washtubs anymore, but we do practically everything else in today’s larger kitchens. A few examples…

  • Besides cooking and food preparation, there’s food storage
  • Children may do homework there
  • A desk may serve for meal planning, bill-paying
  • You could have a mini office with a computer
  • There could be an adjacent laundry room
  • You may have a collection of cookbooks or glassware to display
  • An island may serve as a buffet table for entertaining
  • The kitchen may be open to adjoining spaces so you can keep an eye on children and guests.

Speaking of guests, because it’s impossible to keep them out of your kitchen, the heart of the home needs to be beautiful enough to show off, but also allow you to entertain the way entertaining-in-kitchenyou want to. One key design element is a clear delineation between guests and host, typically an island or peninsula that can serve as a buffet and/or bar. This way you can engage with your guests while keeping them out of your way.

A kitchen remodel is, of course, a significant investment. It’s important that you design, plan and build a space that serves the needs of your entire household for the life of the kitchen. Once you’ve plotted how it needs to serve your functional needs, it’s easier to choose the layout and design elements to make it a beautifully functional space for years to come.

Engaging an interior designer doesn’t have to feel like a big commitment. We offer what we call a Design Agreement. For a minimal upfront cost, you get to tap into the knowledge, experience, and resources of our team. At the end, you will have a picture of the proposed design and a layout plan to keep. If you see the value in what we offer, we put the cost of the Design Agreement towards your project budget for the build out. It’s that simple—and the results will be simply stunning!

Feel free to call the pros at 3W design at (603) 226-3399 if you have kitchen design questions. It’s why we’re here!

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Build Green to Save Resources & Money

home-solar-panels

Any home building or remodeling project can benefit from a little green thinking, as in saving resources and saving greenbacks to boot.

In fact, you can adapt your home or remodeling project, even if already under-construction, to be more environmentally friendly without spending a lot of extra green. Many energy-efficient home improvements save you lots of money in the long run—and you may even be eligible for a federal tax rebate. Perhaps the best thing is you won’t have to compromise on designing and building beautiful spaces to enjoy.

First, think about the Four R’s: reduce, reuse, recycle, and repurpose.

  • What materials can you use to reduce your environmental impact?
  • Can you reuse barn board, beams, shiplap, or reclaimed flooring?
  • Can you save that cast-iron bathtub, or re-wire and recycle a funky light fixture?
  • Can old wood paneling be used for bookshelves or slate roof tiles to make a path?
  • Your old cabinets, carefully removed, could be just the thing for someone’s camp or cabin—and your walls aren’t destroyed in the demolition.

Maybe you don’t have things to salvage, but other people do. Check out architectural salvage yards and Habitat for Humanity’s ReStores. There are several in New Hampshire. (And, if you’re remodeling, think about donating useful items to the ReStores.)

Sign up for an audit

Not an IRS audit, a good kind: a free energy audit. It will be well worth your time because any improvements you make will help your home feel warmer in the winter, cooler in the summer, and your energy bills will be lower.

solar-panel-installationNHSaves, in collaboration with the NH Public Utilities Commission and local electric and natural gas utilities (Eversource, Liberty Utilities, New Hampshire Electric Co-Op and Unitil), provides information and incentives to reduce energy costs and help save the environment at no cost to consumers.

OK, it’s not really free—you pay for energy efficient initiatives when you pay your utility bill. So why not take advantage of it? And ask about federal tax rebates for using things such as compact fluorescent light bulbs while you’re at it.

Let’s take a look at some practical ways you can significantly improve energy efficiency at home:

  • Contact your power company to have an energy audit done. They can recommend simple fixes, and there may even be money available under energy grants to help pay for them.
  • Solar panels enable you to not only get cheap electricity, but in some areas putting panels on your roof may pay, through programs which sell electricity back to the power company. Or maybe geothermal energy is available from the ground up.
  • Live in a condo townhouse, or can’t consider panels on the roof of that 1800s home? Practice simple “passive” solar solutions, such as opening and closing blinds at strategic times on certain sides of the house.
  • When remodeling, ask the experts at 3W Design if installing radiant heat underneath your new flooring is a good option. This warms rooms from the floor up, keeping you feeling warmer, and eliminating a lot of waste from heat rising to the ceiling.
  • While you’re on the ceiling, add a fan to move warm or cool air around. It’s old-fashioned but effective.
  • Replacing windows? Of course, you’ll want well-insulated ones. See if the contractor can blow extra insulation into the walls around the windows, especially if you have an older home that may not be well insulated.
  • If you’re reusing old windows that are single-paned, add storm windows in the winter to keep the heat inside, and add weather-stripping. You may even be able to find old storm windows to reuse.

Another major item to consider when remodeling or building is plumbing fixtures and appliances such as hot water heaters, and washers and dryers. Low-flow fixtures (showerheads, toilets, dishwashers) can reduce water usage by as much as 50%.

Look for Energy Star appliances for the best efficiency. How much can you save by updating appliances? New dishwashers use less than 6 gallons of water to get your dishes clean, versus 10 gallons per wash cycle of a 10-year-old model, for savings all around.

efficient-gas-fireplaceTankless hot water heaters don’t waste energy by constantly reheating the water in the tank. Hot water comes out instantly, never runs out, and there are federal tax rebates for them. Ask your bathroom and kitchen remodeler at 3W Design for details.

Outside, investigate drought-proof landscaping (known as xeriscaping, and practiced frequently in the U.S. Southwest), or leave areas wild for insects and wildlife. You won’t need noise-polluting power tools (leaf blowers, mowers) that use gas, and the birds, bees and butterflies will enjoy the natural habitat.

Look up the Green Building Council at www.usgbc.org for more ideas. The designers and builders at 3W Design can help you bring your ideas for an energy efficient, environmentally friendly lifestyle to life—beautifully.

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Design a Master Bath for the Ages

Large Master Bathroom

What’s the number one must-have people want in a master bath makeover these days?

Large spaces!

According to Houzz Bathroom Trends Study, in 2015 30% of those remodeling a bathroom wanted to enlarge their shower by 50% or more; 19% were looking for 25 to 50% more room. Are you looking for more space, comfort, ease, and safety in a spa-like bathroom? First, you need to determine your budget.

In southern New Hampshire, remodeling a basic bathroom starts at about $11,000. For a nice master bathroom, you can expect to pay $20,000 and up. If the value of your home is in the $500,000 range and higher, expect to pay significantly more to do your master bathroom—and your home–justice.

Danahy Master AfterOf course, if you’re considering adding on a master bathroom as part of a new master bedroom suite, the cost would be more. But the investment is well worth it.

Redoing a bathroom is not for amateurs. Aside from the challenges of moving or adding plumbing fixtures, if you want to enlarge the room you have to take space from someplace else. Can you steal a few feet from a walk-in closet, or a hallway? Bump out a wall into an adjacent room? An experienced design/build team can show you possibilities (and pitfalls) you may not be aware of.

A firm foundation

Start from the bottom up. Tile floors—ceramic and stone or tiles disguised as stone—is classic. Another timeless look is a palette of black and white squares or diamonds. Newer looks include travertine marble and even wood. How about radiant (under-floor) heating? This warms the room from the floor up, makes toes feel toasty, and is more efficient. To visually expand and unify the room, particularly with walk-in showers, you can “flow” tile flooring into the shower basin.

Lighting is important, not just for tasks such as shaving. Consider recessed or can lighting to open your bathroom up, and include a strategically placed heat lamp and dimmer switches. Make the most of any natural light. Does the house layout give you a skylight option?

Binder 30 (1)Larger showers are trendy, but are you willing to sacrifice a tub? Or will the master be large enough to feature a soaker tub? For traditional or transitional homes, clawfoot and similar style tubs fit right in. Soaker or slipper-shaped tubs are deeper than but not as long as other tubs.

For that spa ambiance, nothing beats a whirlpool or air-jet tub, but they use a lot of power, water, and can be heavy and noisy. So think carefully about how much you’ll use it. Maybe a steam shower is more practical.

Vanities offer furniture-like features with feet, vertical slide-out drawers for bottles and jars, and open storage areas like cubbies. These nooks can relieve the look and feel of solid, hard surfaces, especially when rolled towels are tucked inside. (Some vanities are furniture, old dressers opened up on top for a vessel sink, for example, for a true custom piece.)

Dual sinks are the norm these days in new construction, but do they fit your lifestyle? Maybe you and your significant other rarely use the bathroom at the same time. If so, that’s valuable space you can use for something else, like more storage.

What are your privacy preferences? Is there room for a privacy wall or alcove to set off the toilet area? Some contemporary bathrooms feature curved walls that “hide” showers or toilets behind them, without walling them off completely.

Think about comfort besides style. Imagine wrapping yourself in a warm towel from a heated rack on winter mornings. Is the bathroom easy to clean? (Hanging vanities and toilets mounted on the wall free up floor space and make mopping a cinch.)

The future is now.

As the Chinese proverb says, the best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second best time is now. What does this mean? Consider the future while redesigning or remodeling your home. According to AARP’s 2012 United States of Aging Survey, 90% of Americans, plan on “aging in place,” that is, in their home. Therefore, plan ahead when doing any building or remodeling project. That means considering the principles of universal design.

Universal design principles allow for beautiful spaces now and, looking toward the future, safety and accessibility for when you may not be as agile or strong. Maybe you may have an elder parent living with you, or you may eventually need to accommodate a walker or wheelchair.

For a major master bath remodel, consider the following carefully:

  • A master bedroom and bath on the first floor
  • Incorporating a walk-in or curb-less shower stall
  • Making sure there are no sharp edges or tight squeezes
  • Installing wider doorways
  • Lighting the cabinet toe-kick for nighttime bathroom trips
  • Touch-free plumbing fixtures
  • Scald guard on the hot water heater
  • Including seating in the shower
  • Nonslip flooring to prevent falls
  • Smooth, easy-to-clean surfaces
  • Door and cabinet handles that are easy to grip or push
  • A hand-held shower head that can easily slide down or up for access when standing or sitting.

home-spa

Whether you’re remodeling a master bath for your comfort now and for decades to come, or thinking of resale value, the right details can make all the difference. Well-designed fixtures will complement your home’s style, and be functional without looking institutional—such as towel bars that are sturdy enough to double as grab bars.

The 3W Design team has plenty of experience building and performing master bathroom makeovers, so please feel free to give us a call! (603) 226-3399

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2016 Kitchen Trends for “Always in the Kitchen” People

French Country Kitchen

 

The kitchen is the heart of the home and though trends come and go, some things are timeless: like white appliances, clean, uncluttered lines and clean design.

According to the National Kitchen and Bath Association, a traditional look is only one of the reasons why 67% of consumers today say they prefer a classic white-on-white kitchen. But white doesn’t have to be boring or sterile. For a pop of color in a classic white kitchen, rely on colorful china or stoneware in a glass-front cabinet, eye-catching hardware – things like whimsical knobs, etc.

So, you’re not an old-fashioned kind of homeowner? White works with contemporary designs too, and you don’t have to give up style. One of the buzzwords today is “transitional design,” a combination of traditional and contemporary.

White subway tile backsplashes are one trend that’s come back around again this century. But for a newer look in your contemporary kitchen, try gray grout–and it won’t show every little speck like white can. In fact, gray–in shades of charcoal, fog, ash, shadow, dove gray, slate, stone, smoke and silver–is being called the “new white” or “new neutral.” Other hues that can function as neutrals in the palest pastel shades include pale blue, a green or sage gray, and tinted whites.

When it comes to our love affair with stainless steel appliances (which work with both white and gray color schemes), the honeymoon may be over. Though still popular, contemporary and sleek with a slightly industrial vibe, they’re also notoriously tough to keep shiny and fingerprint-free.

Living in black and white

For a touch of drama, black on white livens things up: black granite countertops with a harlequin black-and-white diamond floor, for example. (How classic a combo is this? Think Venetian palaces.)

Granite is still king and tops most people’s want list. But this solid stone has to be sealed regularly, whereas lighter, brighter quartz is easier to care for.

This makes quartz the latest contender in the counter craze. Made of crushed quartz stone with resin, the material is rated toughest by Consumer Reports. And there are dozens of color options.

French Country Kitchen

 

Still on trend with a traditional flare is the kitchen island, peninsula and cabinetry-as-furniture look. So that floating island may sport corbels, claw or bun feet, and carvings. This works seamlessly if the “furniture” touches match the home’s overall feel.

A perennial classic touch, even in the kitchen, is hardwood flooring. Especially if you have the much-desired “open concept” layout where the kitchen is open to and integrated into the dining room and/or a great room, matching flooring creates a sense of flow. And if a kitchen is all white, or has a contemporary, cooler feel, wood floors in any color or stain add a feeling of warmth.

Looking to change it up a little? Consider a newer, sustainable flooring material such as bamboo, a softer and quieter product like cork, or a wood or laminate in gray stain palette instead of the familiar maple or oak.

Pore over magazines, and drool over specialty websites like www.Houzz.com, www.HGTV.com, and of course www.3Wdesigninc.com for inspiration and ideas when you’re planning your build or renovation.

Rye Seacoast Living Home

 

A kitchen remodeling project is the perfect opportunity to consider the extras you always wanted—even if you didn’t know you wanted them. Think about a warming drawer, for example, or under-counter, hands-free, slide-out trash and recycling bins.

Bring in more light with a larger window or skylight. Hide electrical outlets under the cabinets instead of interrupting the backsplash, which could be solid stone. Under-cabinet lighting can reflect off a shiny counter to add a touch of elegance while providing better task lighting, and acting as night lighting.

Trends and what’s popular are one thing, but…

What’s most important, though, is what you want, which isn’t necessarily what “everyone else is doing.” What works for you? Different levels of counter workspace? Smooth surfaces that are easy to clean, or do you want more “gingerbread” in your Victorian? A prep sink in an island? (Consider adding a disposal to it.)

The professionals at 3W Design can help you check every item off of your wish list, whether you’re updating or doing an extreme makeover from the floor up. So picture yourself in the kitchen of your dreams—and expect to have lots of company there.

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Designing a Second Home: Are you ready?

You’ll know after reading this article…

 

lake-house

Thinking of a second home? Many people do this time of year, especially after enjoying a vacation in a favorite spot. And with interest rates still low, this could be a good time to take the leap. According to the National Association of Realtors, in 2014, 21% of residential home sales were for vacation homes.

But put down that pina colada or microbrew and stop dreaming for a moment to consider the practical issues: time and money. You’ll need both.

Why do you want a second home?

A weekend getaway, far-away vacation spot, income or investment property? How far do you want to go to get away? This is important for a number of reasons. The foremost question is what do you plan to do with the property?

vacation-home-chairsObviously, if you want a place to escape to every weekend, it needs to be close enough. You’ll have to determine your tolerance for drive time and traffic.

Be realistic about how often you’ll use the property. If you have children, as they get older they may lose interest, and activity and sports schedules can interfere.

Do you envision it as a future retirement home? You may want single-floor living (or at least a master suite on the first floor), and to be closer to a town or city for convenience.

Payouts, Payoffs and Return on Investment

Buying it while you’re still working can make it easier to qualify for a mortgage, which brings us to finances. Financing a vacation home is different from a primary residence. Not only will you have to be able to afford two mortgages if your primary residence isn’t paid off, but income or investment property is subject to different rules.

Typically investment properties require a larger down payment of 20% to as much as 25%.

There could be tax advantages to using a second home as rental property in between vacation stays, and renting it out can help pay your mortgage. But being an absentee landlord has its own challenges and concerns.

If you’re thinking of recouping your investment by renting it out, think about:

  • Is it in a desirable resort-type area that’s easily accessible for vacationers?
  • If it’s in a community or association, are there limits on the length of time you can rent it out?
  • The place will have to be fully furnished including some “toys” appropriate for beach-going or boating, snowmobiling or skiing, for example. (And you can expect lots of wear and tear on the furnishings.)
  • Each time you leave, you’ll have to lock up personal property in a closet or storage area.
  • Will you need a property manager to rent it out for you, do credit checks on potential renters, advertise, etc.?
  • Who will oversee the changeover and cleaning in between guests?
  • The extra insurance you’ll need: usually more liability and medical.
  • What happens when something breaks?
  • You can’t be sure of having good renters regularly.
  • What if the property sits empty for a long period of time?

Maybe you don’t need to earn income from your second home, or don’t want the hassles of lake-shore-homehosting strangers. You still need to consider who will keep an eye on the property when you’re not around for weeks or months at a time.

A second home located hours away might need, if not a local caretaker, at least an electronic security system with connected fire or burst pipe alarms. Insuring a second home may cost about 20% more, because it’s considered a bigger risk when empty much of the time.

In some beach towns that become ghost towns in the winter, for example, you may see red lights attached high up on the house. When the power goes out, the light turns on to notify neighbors or authorities to notify you that there’s a potential for burst pipes.

A turn-key condominium on the ocean with hurricane shutters ensures you can close the door behind you when you have to leave, virtually without a care. The same with a ski chalet condo. (This is why you pay condominium maintenance fees.)

What will you do at your vacation home?

Ahh, now the fun part of owning a second home: relaxing & recreation!

What do you envision yourself doing at your getaway place? Lounging in a hammock, fishing, hiking or beachcombing? Entertaining family and friends?

vacation-homeIf you don’t see yourself pruning bushes or mowing a lawn, look for something with no-maintenance landscaping or plan on paying someone else.

Chances are you won’t find a house or property that totally fills the bill. That’s where 3W Design comes in. With a custom vacation home design, we can give you the special touches to make your second house feel like home—only easier to care for, so you can relax.

The ultimate test of a second home is: do you enjoy it? 3W Design’s builders and designers can make your visions of the ideal vacation home into a reality.

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Tiny Houses – Cozy or Crazy?

tiny-house

Photo: CountryLiving.com

Is bigger always better? When it comes to a house, not necessarily. A bigger house means a bigger mortgage, more taxes, more upkeep and maintenance costs, larger energy bills, and more outdoor and indoor chores to keep it looking nice.

These are some of the considerations behind what’s being called the “tiny house movement” in the U.S. Google tiny houses and you get more than 8.5 million results, including sites selling a complete tiny house kit, plans, or even the house for $3,000 to $12,000.

What is a tiny house? Generally it’s a house that has less than 600 square feet of actual living space. In real estate, living area is defined as space that is finished (floors, walls, ceilings), enclosed (carports and porches don’t count), and heated (neither do garages).

Loft spaces reachable by ladders (often where the sleeping space is) don’t count either. There must be direct access to all the living space, and lofts typically don’t have the minimum 7-feet of height to qualify as a room.

Compare that to the median house size in the U.S. at 2,384 square feet (U.S. Census).

Tiny house aficionados are not only looking to save money, to soften their carbon footprint, live more sustainably and simplify their lives; often they’re looking for flexibility and the option to get up and go—literally. They are often built on a flatbed truck platform or 8-foot by 20-foot trailer, even coming with wheels.

While most tiny houses are designed with sewer and plumbing hook ups, others are totally off the grid, using solar power and composting toilets. Look online and you’ll see photos where the solar panels are almost as big as the tiny house. There are even some “houses” made from metal shipping containers.

Tiny house living is a very concentrated, distilled way of living, where everything does double duty, has a dual purpose (at least) with no clutter. You have to quite literally make the most of every inch. A kitchen table is for eating and food prep, for a desk or a workstation.

The fridge may be dorm-room style; there may be only two stove burners, and they might be fueled by propane. The one—count ‘em, one—bathroom may offer a shower stall only.

Because wall space is limited, you need to plan windows carefully for placement, heat transfer, energy efficiency, and privacy. If the sleeping area is an upstairs loft, the tight quarters may get too hot without its own ventilation, and again you sacrifice privacy.

Love to entertain? You can still do it, if you have a good-sized lot and good weather most of the time. Hosting the extended family for Thanksgiving in a tiny house in the Granite State? Good luck with that.

Still, a wrap-around farmer’s porch or deck can add outdoor living space. But if your little dollhouse is on a large piece of land, you may need another tiny house: a shed or outbuilding for tools and a tractor.

Some mini houses are just like fishing or lakeside cabins, upgraded for all-season occupancy, and with a sleeping “nook” instead of a separate bedroom.

Could you live in one?

toy-houseConsider how much stuff you have and how much you’re willing to let go of. How many people? A couple is one thing—and two can be too much when you’re in such close contact all day, every day. Add a child or children and pets into the mix, each with their own accompanying needs for space and accessories and it’s probably a deal breaker.

Can’t live with only one tiny bathroom, or without that walk-in closet? Need your privacy? Want a home office? Have an issue with clutter? A tiny house is not for you!

Not ready to do an extreme downsize, but want to maximize the space you have? Maybe you have a cottage or bungalow where you could incorporate some micro-house ideas. Our designers can help. Elements such as under-the-stairs storage or pull-out drawers in a staircase, a rolling ladder attached to floor-to-ceiling book and display shelves, can be incorporated.

To make spaces look bigger, use smaller-scale furniture (if it’s movable, even better) and built-ins for a sleeker, less-cluttered look.

  • An open floor plan helps make rooms multi-purpose
  • Use glass walls or room dividers to visually open the space
  • Light colors also expand space
  • Sliding walls (like the popular barn doors) and curtains can add privacy
  • For interior rooms, use frosted or semi-opaque glass or skylights to let light in
  • Adding height helps, and gives you room for shelves.

Will the tiny house movement last, or is it just a backlash against the McMansions that used to spring up like Monopoly houses in zero-lot-line developments of years past?

Time will tell. But in 2013, the National Home Builders Association reported that in the previous decade, new houses grew bigger by 25 square feet a year. There is still a market for four-bedroom homes with three or more full baths.

So take your pick: supersize, mini, or in-between. Either way, the 3W Design team can bring your vision to life beautifully.

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The living is easy… with an outdoor space plan!

landscape-architecture

We New Englanders love being outside (with exceptions of course). We do love our gardens and pack a lot into a short growing season, so get inspired! You can make the most of your home with an outdoor space as beautiful and welcoming as your house’s interior. Landscape architecture takes your creativity for space planning outdoors.

Designing for the great outdoors, in your own backyard, can be even more challenging than doing an interior room because over the span of several months, the “living” landscape of plants and shrubs changes dramatically. If you decide that part of the landscaping didn’t “work” for whatever reason, you can make a fresh start with something different next season. It can actually be exciting to anticipate how a new garden-landscape plan will take root.

When is the best time to plant a tree?

According to the Chinese proverb the best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago. The second-best time is today. So work with professionals to design your outdoor living space for the long-term. For example, give your plan several years to allow plantings to mature.

Anyone can head to their favorite nursery and pick up a bunch of flats of annuals and a few hearty shrubs, but you really need to know your horticulture for good results. For an outdoor oasis that endures, you need to plan strategically with an experienced designer or landscape architect.

The first step is determining how you’ll use your outdoor space:

  • Do you do a lot of entertaining?
  • Are there children who need a play space?
  • Do you want a cutting garden, or a “kitchen” (herb) garden?
  • Maybe you’d like a soothing sanctuary with sculpture, or a water feature.
  • Will you encourage birds and wildlife, or do you prefer they keep their distance?
  • Will you do the gardening, or hire landscapers?
  • Do you want a low- or high-maintenance garden?
  • What is the soil like, and what type of garden is it suited for?
  • Do you want a flat lawn for croquet, or a landscape of foliage shrubs and rocks?
  • Will you need irrigation?

Kick your imagination into gear!

As with any room, you’ll have walls: the side of the house, fences, woods and other property boundaries. You also have floors (a wooden or composite deck, a tile, concrete or stone patio) and furnishings (seating and dining areas). Architectural features you may want to consider for interest and function include a pergola for shade, a gazebo for covered seating, a trellis or arbor for vining plants or to mark the entrance to a garden or wooded path.

home-and-gardenYou’ll want other design features that lead your eye around at different levels—or that draw you toward a unique land feature or sunset view, for example. Hanging plants or vines that climb a column supporting a roof overhang with a ceiling fan or porch swing, whimsical topiary or statuary, even bird feeders are ways to draw your eyes upward.

Always keep your eyes on ambiance. For evening entertaining or relaxation, make sure to include accent lighting. How about strategically placed “up” lighting at the base of a 100-year-old oak or majestic white pine? Line a stone walkway with solar-powered ground fixtures for safe steps and a lovely glow. Or plan a stone wall to have inset lights. Pipe music outside with protected, hidden speakers.

A warming fire pit extends the outdoor entertaining season. Or, if summer means that you grill more often than not, go all out with an outdoor kitchen featuring a versatile grill, a fridge and/or beer cooler. Cap the project with your own smoker for “to-die-for” barbeque feasts.

What kind of seating will you have? Benches built into the hardscaping, or patio furniture? Why not both? You’ll still have a place to relax on those occasional warmer days when the outdoor furniture is stored away. Is the seating area covered? Will you need a place to store patio furniture cushions away from rain?

Down the garden path…

If your backyard rambles, or leads to a pond, lake or spectacular vista, you have more choices to make to direct your steps away from the house. Paths can be made of brick or stone pavers, pea gravel or crushed stone, or slate stepping stones.

Woodchips may be more appropriate for very rustic settings, such as a mountain getaway or cabin by a lake.

If you enjoy gardening, do you like a traditional English cottage garden, or will you grow vegetables? Raised flower beds save your back, and with a wide ledge, can double as seating surrounding a patio.

Garden planning includes thinking of colors, textures, heights, even fragrance of plants. What kind of care do plants need, how much work do you want to do? There are so many options and color possibilities. How about a “moonlight” garden by the patio, with all white flowers that appear to glow by night?

Xeriscaping uses plants that don’t require a lot of water for drought-prone areas. An old-fashioned rain barrel adds charm to a less formal garden, and provides for watering. (Make sure it’s not a breeding ground for mosquitos.)

Don’t bulldoze that glacial boulder—work around it with wildflowers or make it the focal point of a rock garden. Build a wooden bench around that chestnut tree.

For the birds and the bees…

You’ve seen the headlines about the disappearing bees due to loss of or toxic habitat. Why not create your own oasis for bees, birds—including hummingbirds—and butterflies?

Birds, bees and butterflies add motion, sound and visual interest to any outdoor setting. A bubbling fountain or flowing waterfall provides refreshment for wildlife as well as soothing sounds. An ornamental birdbath can do the same on a smaller scale.

3W Design can help you create a vision for your personal great outdoors. Just look outside and imagine… Then plan on spending more quality time in your own backyard. “Go outside and play” is something you’ll be telling yourself instead of remembering the phrase from childhood.

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Spring Cleaning or Spring Fling?

home-exterior-design

Have a seasonal makeover at your house!

Spring in New England comes in fits and starts. As newspaper editor Doug Larson once wrote, “Spring is when you feel like whistling even with a shoe full of slush.” Every winter has its spring and maybe ours is finally coming a little early. Who can ignore the urge—on one of those first warm days—to throw open the windows and let the breeze blow through?

After the initial jubilation, you’ll notice: dulled windows, dingy drapes, scuffed and scratched entryways and floors from wet boots and sandy grit. Then there’s that doormat that’s given up the ghost.

Your home’s exterior may still be dressed in winter drab, at least until spring shrubs bloom. So spruce up the main entrance which, as New Englanders know, may not have been used since Thanksgiving. So spring forward! Sweep the steps, get a new welcome mat, and think about a brilliant splash of color (Chinese lacquer red? Cobalt blue?) for the door. Polish the hardware—your front door’s “jewelry.”

While you’re inspired, tackle those windows. Take down the window dressings first, window-treatmentsespecially those heavy insulated drapery panels. The sheers underneath—if not shabby or faded—will let the sun shine in. Or consider something new and lighter for your windows through the warm weather months. Just have the drapes cleaned before putting them away for next November.

Take a good look at your screens too—if they need repair, act before black fly season!

Speaking of screens, did you spend any of those cold dark days of winter hatching plans for major home improvements? What about adding a three-season room or screened porch?

Maybe your cabin fever dream was about a kitchen re-do, creating a spa-like bathroom, or bumping out a back wall to create that open floor plan you always wanted. Now’s the time to collaborate with 3W’s designers to make your dreams come true.

This is the perfect time to put your tax refund (if you have one coming) to work for you on something longer-lasting than a weekend getaway or vacation.

Meanwhile, keep up the momentum

In a few hours you can clear away the detritus of winter:

  • Make room in the coat closet by clearing winter parkas, boots and gloves.
  • Tuck away the wool throws and ditch that balsam-scented candle that’s been out since the holidays.
  • Clean out your fireplace, but don’t leave it looking like a black hole. Put a big copper or brass pot or basket arrangement of flowers there.

3W furniture interior - CopyThen take a good look at your floors and walls. Do you have rugs that need to be cleaned? Once you roll them up, examine your hardwood or tile floors. Do they need to be refinished, or does the grout need cleaning or to be redone? Maybe you have carpet that needs a professional cleaning.

If your floors haven’t fallen victim to winter’s woes, you may prefer to show them off for the next 7 months. Bare floors visually open up your living space for a more expansive, less cluttered look.

Next, examine your walls: do they need a wall wake-up call? One of the quickest ways to brighten up a room is a fresh coat of paint. Crisp white trim is always in style.

For that fresh-as-a-daisy look, consider a spring palette of bright green and white, with a splash of pink or rose, and/or daffodil yellow.

One cool tip…

To create a fresh effect in minutes, swap out some accessories, and use slipcovers. Today’s designs are way more chic-looking and well-fitted than your grandmother’s slipcovers, and easily washed. Add some decorative, spring-themed throw pillows, and presto change-o, you’re done!

The slipcover idea is particularly practical if you have a pool or are on the water, and have to deal with wet family, guests, and pets frequently.

Give your bedrooms and bath a seasonal switcheroo with light-colored, lacy or floral-patterned linens, a new duvet cover or pretty comforter.

As it warms up, don’t neglect your outdoor living spaces when hauling out the deck furniture. Give that wicker a fresh coat of paint and sand the rust off your wrought iron.

There, you’re done! Now, while you’re enjoying the fruits of your labors with an ice-cold beverage on the patio, you can get back to dreaming about plans for that spa, new kitchen or bedroom re-do.

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