The Ultimate Guide to Home Remodeling and Renovation | Stone & Tile Shoppe

The Living Room

Posted by Anja Logozar on

  Whether you’re watching TV, reading a book, playing a video game, or doing any other activity, as long as you aren’t sleeping, you’re spending most of your time in the living room. Additionally, this is the only room that most of your guests will ever get to see. As a result, we need to pay special attention to this room and make sure that it represents us. With this in mind, this chapter will focus on how you can organize your living room to be captivating and relaxing at the same time.   Creating a Focal Point Looking back...

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The Living Room

Posted by Anja Logozar on

Chapter 6: The Living Room


Whether you’re watching TV, reading a book, playing a video game, or doing any other activity, as long as you aren’t sleeping, you’re spending most of your time in the living room. Additionally, this is the only room that most of your guests will ever get to see. As a result, we need to pay special attention to this room and make sure that it represents us.
With this in mind, this chapter will focus on how you can organize your living room to be captivating and relaxing at the same time.


Creating a Focal Point

Looking back at the second chapter of this guide, you’ll find that we talked about several different design concepts that you should incorporate into designing your rooms. One of these concepts was emphasis, which stated that, in every room, there should be a central piece which attracts people’s attention the second they set foot into the room in question. This central piece could range from a fireplace to a painting to a bookcase brimming with books, as long as it was vibrant and appealing. Afterwards, you were supposed to design around the central piece, bringing the rest of the room together. Nowhere is this more relevant or more pertinent than in your living room.

So, how do you create a focal point?

You can start by trying to find any focal points that lend themselves naturally to the space, and all you have to do is to make them shine for all to see. For instance, a group of windows that overlook a magnificent landscape are prime candidates for becoming your room’s focal point. In that case, you’ll want to position the furniture both inside and outside the living room to benefit from this focal point. Alternatively, if you have a fire place, it is another prime candidate for the spot of focal point. Besides those options, you can search for any architectural detail that stands out, such as an exposed brick wall. Even the ceiling or the fixtures dangling from it have the potential to make gorgeous focal points.

Image courtesy of, licensed under CC0 Public Domain.

Conversely, in the event that you are unable to find a focal point in the living room whatsoever, you can just create one of your own. A perfect example is featured walls. You see, walls give you the opportunity to inject plenty of color, pattern, and visual appeal into your living room. And doing it is a cinch: you can paint the wall, create a gallery wall riddled with pictures, or install wallpaper.

Assuming that you’ve set your mind on creating a feature wall, the first question you have to answer is which wall you are going to use. In this regard, there are numerous ways you can answer that question; however, your best choice is usually to go with the wall that can easily grab the attention of the rest of the room, which can be the wall behind the sofa in your living room. Whatever you do, make sure to steer away from walls that have windows and doors in them, seeing as windows and doors can distract the viewer from the overall effect you’re going for. Also, keep away from small walls because accentuating them just makes the room feel crowded and crammed. On the other hand, if you have a wall that already contains a unique feature, like a mantelpiece, you can capitalize on that feature and produce a remarkable wall.

Other objects you can use as your focal point include oversized furniture, whose size alone is enough of a guarantee that people’s attention will be grabbed; a large mirror, which can form a lovely focal point when placed within a beautiful artistic grouping; and the ceiling, which has the power to make your room bold. As a matter of fact, by painting your ceiling in a bold color, you can create a striking focal point that can captivate the room when everything else fails. For a stronger effect, you can pair the ceiling with a pronounced chandelier that will only accentuate its prominence. The caveat to all this is that once you settle on the ceiling as your focal point, you should make sure to keep the rest of the room as subdued as possible: avoid using too many colors or patterns. After all, you don’t want other elements to compete with your ceiling.

Speaking of chandeliers, you should always think of how you can make your focal point, whether it is a ceiling or something else, stand out even more with the use of lighting. A few ideas you might want to try out to this end are a picture light, a track light, and a wall washer fixture that is affixed onto a painting or wall display.

One more idea that you should consider, especially if you’re the kind of family that huddles around the TV periodically, is to make your media center your focal point as well. This media center could be housed in a built-in bookcase for example, and it would serve your purposes just fine.

Now, seeing as we’ve thoroughly talked about everything focal point related, we are only left with discussing the one thing that you should never do: have two focal points in the same room. This creates a subtle competition between both focal points which results in a sense of discomfort by the person using the room. Should you find yourself in the position that two points in your room are begging to be chosen as focal points, a spectacular view and an astonishing fireplace let’s say, you have to choose one of these options as the primary, dominant focal point and the other as the secondary focal point.


Visual and Physical Comfort

Living rooms play different roles in different households: they can be the hub that brings the family together on a daily basis or they can be used on occasion when a guest drops by. Regardless, the need to have a comfortable, functional space that is easy on the eyes remains unchanged. Moreover, we have previously discussed how the concept of unity applies to your entire home in the sense that there shouldn’t be a large dissonance between the style of any two rooms. Hence, your living room’s style can very well play a role in dictating how you end up shaping the rest of your house.

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Seeing as your living room should embody the fusion between comfort, beauty, and practicality, the furniture in there should boast of the same qualities. This can be accomplished through the use of pieces that accent a specific aesthetic as well as floor coverings that emanate a sense of comfort. Additionally, due to the fact that a lot of people will be going and coming through your living room, you should splurge a bit and buy durable furniture that will live for a considerable time without needing consistent maintenance.

Realizing that the furniture and its arrangement can play a pivotal role in the ambience of a room, you should put some effort in finding the perfect layout for your living room. For instance, by keeping the furniture close together, you can create an intimate setting that can encourage conversation without the need for any individual to strain themselves to be heard. In case you think that this might be difficult to accomplish given how spacious your living room is, you can just separate the room into several smaller conversation circles, each maintaining the same level of intimacy.

A normal corollary to keeping the furniture close together is to keep it off the walls. This is worth mentioning because a lot of home owners make the mistake of pushing their furniture up against the nearest wall every chance they get, and this just serves to alienate everybody using the room from one another. Assuming that the backs of your furniture are done, you can display them to the world proudly.

Another important way that the furniture’s arrangement can contribute to the overall feeling of comfort in the room is how the arrangement affects traffic flow within the room. You need to give people plenty of room to maneuver around the room and allow them to traverse with ease from one end to another if need be. Otherwise, the room will feel cramped, and the people inside will feel like a jack-in-the-box waiting to pop out of their confinement the first chance they get.


Choosing Furniture

Just as we scrutinized the details that matter with regards to arranging your furniture, we’ll do the same for picking out the furniture itself.

  • Sofa and chairs - Some of the more expensive constituents of your living room, you should make sure that they fit in with their surroundings. The first thing to do is to make sure that they are neither too big nor too small. You can achieve this by measuring the space in which you’ll place them and drawing up a floor plan. A sketch of the room can aid you in placing both the sofa and the chairs in various spots and see how they suit the space. Just remember what we said in the last section about leaving adequate space for people to move around.
  • Coffee table - The best place for a coffee table is smack in the middle of a conversation area, where it can do the most good. When buying one, try to go for something that is a bit lower than the rest of the seats enveloping it. Its length is, ideally, anywhere from a half to two thirds that of the sofa. A viable alternative to a coffee table is the use of smaller tables or benches as long as they aren’t too small that they are no longer convenient. Regardless of what you use in the middle, what matters is that the people sitting on the chairs and sofa can reach it without having to get up and that you leave enough clearance for people to move their legs freely: between 14 and 18 inches should be just fine.
  • Side tables - You wouldn’t guess it, but side tables are more crucial than they look. The amount you’ll need is contingent upon the number of seats you have in the room. Just like the coffee table, the main tenet to be observed here is that everybody sitting should have a table within reach; no one should have to get up to reach a table. An approximate way for figuring out how many you could use is to consider placing a table on either side of the sofa as well as between every two chairs. Just don’t go overboard and accidentally overcrowd the room, and don’t forget that you also have the coffee table to help with the heavy lifting. As for the height of the table, try to make it equal in height to the arm of the chair or sofa adjacent to the table.
  • Storage space - If you’re looking for a place to store your books, then shelves are the solution for you. Conversely, storing board games and seasonal items might be something more suited to cabinets. Additionally, you can increase the amount of available storage space by purchasing an ottoman or coffee table with storage space underneath it.
  • Wall-mounted shelves - Open shelves help make the room retain a sense of spaciousness. Moreover, you can get the shelves in a color that complements the rest of your living room plus your TV unit.
  • Convertible furniture - These come in handy in compact rooms. For instance, you can get a pull-out sofa if you’re the kind of person who gets plenty of guests for sleepovers; check out the Corner Suite Vento and the Clei Desk (which is a desk that transforms into a bed). Conversely, if you’re the studious kind who is either short on desk space or a place to store their books, then you’d be well served by buying a shelf that can serve as a desk at the same time, like the Booken. Sometimes you don’t need a piece of furniture that can perform two functions; what you’d rather have is something that you can use and store once you’re done with it. A set of folding TV tables is a perfect example of this, where you can store them when not in use and bring them out during any parties or dinners.



Out of everything that can speak about your personality, the decorations you use will always have the loudest voice. Hence, you should aim for something that is indicative of who you are, yet still meshes with the general style of the house. For instance, an antiquated piece would feel very out of place in a house that’s completely modern.

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To begin with, you can set up some of your favorite art pieces. Moreover, you can put them in a group together to maximize their impact. The thing to look out for though is to avoid hanging your pictures too high for them to be admired by anyone in the living room. Instead, you should try to put them at a level where they can relate to the rest of the room.

Rugs have an amazing power when it comes to defining the space they are in. Yet, putting a rug that’s too small for the space it’s in is a mistake which is surprisingly common. So, the next time you’re installing a rug in a space, make sure that it can take all the surrounding furniture and still spare some room.

Despite being a relic from the past, using a soothing shade along with draperies that go from the floor to the ceiling can add a sense of subtle elegance to your living room. Over and above, the drapes will provide you with a sense of privacy whenever you so please, giving it a utilitarian function in addition to its aesthetic one. Besides, living rooms are the best place to create a luxurious, opulent aesthetic in the first place. There are a few exceptions, however, where opulence can detract from the overall effect rather than add to it. A perfect example is when you want to design your home in a minimalist fashion because then the luxury of the drapes will contrast sharply with the rest of the house. In this case, you’re better off installing roman shades or blinds made of bamboo.

Finally, your use of colors can have a great influence on the end result and its feel: Natural colors, such as sky blue and leaf green, are soothing, whereas red can be an enticing color. As for yellow, it is known for being uplifting. Furthermore, the ability to use different shades of the same color gives you plenty of room to play and vary the tones in the room. Plus, playing with colors provides you with the perfect opportunity to showcase your personality.

Throughout this chapter, we’ve seen everything it takes to make your living room embody the ideal space for you and your family. In the next chapter, we’ll take a look at the bedroom, which is the most important room in the house: You may spend most of your waking time in the living room, but you spend most of your time at home sleeping in your bedroom to begin with.

For a full list of chapters, click here.

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The Bathroom

Posted by Anja Logozar on

  Having covered the kitchen, it’s time for us to talk about its close cousin, the bathroom. In this chapter, we will discuss the different remodeling trends out there so that you can find the most suitable style for you. We will also explore what a Jack and Jill bathroom is and what benefits this configuration offers. Additionally, we will look at some of the elements that will populate your bathroom, including the shower, the sink, and the toilet. At the end of the chapter, we will discuss your bathroom’s storage space and see how you can maximize it.  ...

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The Bathroom

Posted by Anja Logozar on

Chapter 5: The Bathroom


Having covered the kitchen, it’s time for us to talk about its close cousin, the bathroom. In this chapter, we will discuss the different remodeling trends out there so that you can find the most suitable style for you. We will also explore what a Jack and Jill bathroom is and what benefits this configuration offers. Additionally, we will look at some of the elements that will populate your bathroom, including the shower, the sink, and the toilet. At the end of the chapter, we will discuss your bathroom’s storage space and see how you can maximize it.


Bathroom Remodeling Trends

When it comes to remodeling your bathroom, you want to balance between two opposing forces: on the one hand, you want to make your bathroom trendy and fashionable. This requires you to keep up with the latest trends and know what’s in this season. On the other hand, you want to make something timeless because the alternative of redoing your bathroom every year can be very expensive. Additionally, whatever look you decide to give to your bathroom, you have to actually like it seeing as you’ll be the one using it. Without further ado, let’s take a look at some of the popular trends for this year.


One of the most prominent trends this year is to incorporate as much technology as possible into your bathroom, be it in your toilet, your shower, or the counter. For instance, you could install wireless speakers into your showerhead; imagine that, standing underneath your shower while listening to some of your songs pouring down on you along with the water. Moreover, you could install Bluetooth devices and docking stations in your bathroom space, and if you want more entertainment in your bathroom, you could set up a TV. With this set-up, you could watch your favorite shows while soaking in a relaxing bubble bath.

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Apart from playing music, smart showerheads can now learn your favorite temperature. The toilets themselves have seen some major tech upgrades in the past few years. High-tech toilets come with seat warmers installed, automatic lid openers, and slow close features. You can also have them come with adjustable air dryers and built-in deodorizers.

Another addition found in high-tech bathrooms is in-floor heat. The basic idea is simple enough: a heating system is placed underneath your bathroom floor and is turned on when you’re in there, keeping your feet, and by extension you, warm during those cold months of winter. If the cost of an in-floor heat proves too steep for you, you can always revert to its distant relative towel warmers; you might not enjoy warm feet, but you can enjoy being wrapped in a cocoon of warmth instead.

On the opposite side of the spectrum, you can put a small fridge beneath a counter to keep your medication cool. This can be an excellent substitute for your conventional medicine cabinet, or it can supplement it. Plus, it never hurts to have a few chilled drinks lying around.


Juxtaposing simplicity with something organic is all the rage these days. The end goal is to make your bathroom feel as a part of nature while still being partially modern. Hence, wood and stone are meshed together to give off a stylish look.

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To start with, try using clean colors, those that lean towards the neutral part of the spectrum, like your whites, creams, and beiges. This will make it ideal for you to use hints of darker shades of grey and to give the overall color scheme some contrast. You shouldn’t be afraid to insert some organic colors in the mix as well, like organic brown and blue.

A big part of the natural trend is about the usage of materials, with a focus on wood and stone. Where you can use wood is entirely up to you, but the possibilities are endless. For instance, you can get a bath tub made out of wood; it will look luxurious and sensual. The same goes for the stone. You can also incorporate other natural materials, such as clay, and into the design of your bathroom.

Moreover, you can make use of different alternatives to natural wood as long as you give off the same look. For example, there are porcelain tiles on the market that look identical to hardwood flooring. They come in all shapes and sizes, giving you the versatility to turn your bathroom into a modern masterpiece or a homage to the rustic aesthetic. Since these tiles are inorganic, you never have to worry about them getting wet.

Should you feel the need to make your bathroom even more organic, you can adorn it with a few plants here and there. The good thing about plants is that they can go almost anywhere and they’ll look good: you could have plants hanging in the shower, you could have plants sticking to the walls, or you could sprinkle a few potted plants around the space. In all cases, the space will look livelier for it.


The third entry on our list is the trend towards making your bathroom the epitome of practicality. This trend is usually more suited for people who live in the city in cramped spaces. The main idea here is to reduce the size of the bathroom and increase its privacy without harming its functionality or sense of luxury. This mentality is applied to the entire bathroom.

So, how can space be saved? The first tenet is to focus on using every square inch as efficiently as possible. For example, you can put in a freestanding single-person tub in place of a regular tub. As a matter of fact, changing your bathtub for a walk-in shower would be a great move on your part. An even greater move would be to design a shower without borders, where the entire bathroom is used as your shower; it might be a bit messy, but it’ll save you a ton of space. When it comes to toilets and sink bowls, you can make do with small but effective ones.

However, just because something is smaller doesn’t mean that it’ll be harder to use. If anything, an important caveat of practical design is ease of use and ease of cleaning. And for something to be easy to use, it needs to be accessible, which is especially important if you’re planning to spend your retirement years there. Also, accessibility helps bump up your resale value. To make matters more concrete, you can increase accessibility by replacing a built-in bathtub with a combination of bathtub/shower wet room or utilizing floating vanities, as their heights are adjustable.

To top all of that, the bathroom’s small size shouldn’t preclude you from enjoying plenty of storage as long as you come up with smart solutions. You can make use of the vertical space by building your cabinetry on top of one another. You can also explore built-in cabinetry, open shelving, and an antique piece of furniture with storage space inside.


A bold bathroom is meant to stand out and pop. It should capture the user’s attention with its tiles, furniture, and decorations.

Let’s first talk about your tiles. Whether you choose to go with something playful or something that stands out by being mismatched (yes, that’s a thing), it’s important for your tiles to make a statement. You can choose to go with Mediterranean styled tiles that fuse old Spanish, Moroccan, and Portuguese sensibilities, such as in hand-painted terracotta, with more glamorous, modern day tastes, which tends to include plenty of metallics.

Image courtesy of, licensed under CC0 Public Domain.

Alternatively, you may wish to try three-dimensional tiles, which exude a sense of high-style. These tiles can come in different shapes and patterns, giving you plenty of leeway on how you’d like the finished result to look like. Speaking of which, you can install tiles that have unique shapes and geometries, others that make fun patterns once they’re set-up, or perhaps tiles that combine their one-of-a-kind shape with a quirky pattern to give you the best of both worlds. As for mismatched tiles, you can put together several different types of tiles within the same space, presenting you with a cool looking, custom bathroom in the end.

When it comes to color, dark and moody tones seem to be on the rise. Be it dark flooring or grey cabinets, dark colors that contrast against natural textures, in the form of wooden frames and jut rugs, can produce timeless looks.

One further avenue you can use to try something dashing is the bathroom’s lighting. You can use groovy chandeliers or ornate pendants to make a statement. You can also place lighting fixtures in the cleverest of places, such as up-lights to illuminate the vanity and give it a dramatic flair.

A bold bathroom admits of numerous other features that make it stand out. For one thing, you can set up a ventless fire feature, which can keep your entire bathroom warm along plus add a touch of romance in the air. Another thing you might want to try out is a handsome throw rug instead of your run-of-the-mill bath mat. One third thing is to actually hang a piece of quirky wall art that is memorable in place of your boring picture of a goldfish with puckered lips.


Retro bathrooms are the final contenders on our list, and they are definitely in this season. They harken back to an older time with their use of vintage and opulent fixtures. Take for example how retro bathrooms use free-standing tubs like the claw-foot, a classic that has withstood the test of time. Furthermore, retro bathrooms use large round mirrors that make the space seem grander than it already is. This is an option that is definitely worth checking out.


Jack and Jill Bathrooms

Ever since the days of the Brady Bunch first aired on TV, the concept of a Jack and Jill bathroom has been popularized by the media. So, let’s see what exactly is a Jack and Jill bathroom and what it had to offer?

In short, when a bathroom accommodates more than an individual user by having separate sinks but shared bath/ shower and toilet areas, it is dubbed a Jack and Jill bathroom. This type of bathroom can be placed in one of two places: out in the hallway or between two rooms.

  • Benefits: To be sure, Jack and Jill bathrooms offer numerous benefits over your standard alternative. To start with, Jack and Jill bathrooms can save you money, space, and time. Bathrooms are expensive given all the required plumbing and fixtures. Therefore, letting one bathroom do the job can be a life-saver. Over and above, there is less to clean. A second benefit provided by Jack and Jill bathrooms is that although they offer a shared bathroom space for different individuals, they still grant everyone their own privacy. Also, Jack and Jill bathrooms that are placed between two rooms allow each room equal access to it, making life easier for the people in those rooms.
  • Drawbacks: The main issue that comes up time and again when it comes to Jack and Jill bathrooms is the privacy of its users. However, there are numerous ways to solve this problem, including locks, LED lights, and translucent panels.

Things to Take into Consideration

Here are a couple of things to remember when doing your bathrooms:

  • To ensure the user’s privacy, it’s imperative to install locks where they are needed. For example, if a bathroom is shared between two rooms, there should be locks on either door of the bathroom as well as on the room doors. What’s more, everybody using the bathroom should get in the habit of locking all the necessary locks when they enter the bathroom and unlocking the locks the minute they are done.
  • An extra way of giving the toilet and shower an extra sense of privacy is to put them in a private space of their own. In such a manner, an individual could be using the shower while another would be using the sink.
  • Each user of the bathroom should have their own storage space. This would help them feel that they own part of the bathroom. Ideally, they should each have their own vanity mirror as well.
  • When designing the bathroom, you should let the individuals using the space have some input in how the finished project will look like.
  • Should you wish to give each individual using the bathroom even more space, you can put a dedicated vanity in each of their rooms, giving them as much time as they’d like without being hassled by the other person.
  • Removing the bathtub in favor of a shower will give you more space to work with.


Bathroom Fixtures


Despite the unique look and feel of a bathtub, people have begun to flock towards showers due in the most part to their smaller size and water efficiency. Nevertheless, here are some pointers you should keep with you when installing a shower.

  • Even though you might want to have a shower replace every bathtub in your house, this is a bad idea; you’re better off leaving at least one bathtub in the house. This is in order for you to preserve the resale value of your property seeing as most people expect the place to have at least one tub, if nothing more than for the children.
  • The majority of building codes agree on the fact that the minimum dimensions for a shower stall should be 30 inches by 30 inches. Better still, you could install a 36 inch by 36 inch stall and follow the National Kitchen and Bath Association’s recommendation.
  • When installing a shower door swing, bear in mind that there shouldn’t be any obstacles in its way, particularly the toilet and vanity. An easy fix in order to avoid this problem completely is to use a sliding glass door.
  • There are several types of shower doors out there, each with its positives and negatives. For example, rounded doors give you plenty of shower space, whereas sliding shower doors making cleaning a relatively easier job. Pivot doors open outwards more often than not but might be problematic due to how wet it can get the rest of the bathroom.
  • A big part of your shower’s style and cost is the shower floor, which needs plenty of attention during the design phase. You have two choices: you could have a shower stall with curbs or you could have a curbless shower stall. The former type is cheaper and easier to install, whereas the latter offer you a more elegant look at the expense of their cost and intricacy of installation.
  • When removing your old tub and getting ready to put in your new shower, you should check on the condition of the plumbing in the wall that you’ll be using and have it replaced if need be. Also, given that your shower will be using the same plumbing used by that of your tub, you should be positive that your shower will get placed in a spot where the pipes can get to it.
  • If, at any point, you would like to upgrade from your conventional shower to something a little bit fancier, you can always try a deluxe shower. A deluxe shower usually comes with all the bells and whistles: his and her showerheads, body sprays, water jets, and steam generators. You can add a bench to sit on while enjoying your steam shower for good measure. It’s like having your own spa and the only guest there will always be you.

Types of showers

There are four main types of showers you’ll come across when shopping for the perfect one for you.

  • Instant electric. This is probably the most popular type of shower that can give you instant hot water out there. You can buy one of two types of electric showers: one that gets its water from the main water supply and the other gets its water supply from a storage tank somewhere above it.
  • Mixer valves. All mixer valves work by mixing cold and hot water in their valve and then giving you the result. The hot water can come from a water heater, for instance. Unlike the instant electric shower, you have to wait for hot water a bit.
  • Power showers. They may look like an electric shower, but they resemble a mixer valve in the way they operate. The difference between them and mixer valves is that they are equipped with an internal pump that helps increase the water pressure that you receive as a user.
  • Pumped showers. Rather than having the pump inside the shower unit like power showers, pumped showers separate the showerhead from the pump, placing the showerhead in the shower stall while situating the pump anywhere else, maybe even out of the house.


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When picking a sink, there are several options to choose from.

  • Pedestal sink. This is an affordable option that adds to your bathroom a sense of style. Its small size makes it very popular in small bathrooms and powder rooms. The negative here is that it gives you neither much storage space nor any deck space.
  • Vessel sink. It is a bit pricier than your pedestal sink, yet it offers a touch of eloquence and uniqueness. They also come in a wide array of materials, giving you plenty of options to choose from. The look is simple enough: a bowl rests on a counter, offering you storage space below. The downside is that they are a bit difficult to clean.
  • Drop-in sink. Out of all the sinks on our list, this one is the easiest to install and set-up. It is also cheap, so you don’t have to worry about paying through nose. It is also present in several colors and materials.
  • Undermount sink. This alternative is a higher quality sink over the drop-in sink, yet you pay for the higher quality. Nevertheless, it is not more expensive than the vessel sink. It is durable, doesn’t require too much care, and gives off a sleek look.


When getting a toilet, you first want to check its capabilities, the same way you would check how strong a car’s motor is before buying the car. A toilet’s strength is measured by a MaP (Maximum Performance), which measures the amount of solid waste removal. This strength is measured by qualified individuals in third party laboratories. With this in mind, you can set your minimum threshold of MaP at 350 grams, and just to be safe, you can raise that minimum threshold to 500 grams.

Once you’ve decided to get a strong toilet, the next thing you want to do is find a toilet that is comfortable to use for you and your family, which is dictated by its shape and fit. For instance, toilets with elongated bowls tend to be more comfortable, whereas round bowls are cheaper and more conservative space-wise. Also, for taller family members, they might enjoy toilets that are higher than the standard 14 inches off the floor.

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An important distinction you should bear in mind is the difference between a one piece and two piece toilet. What is meant by one piece versus two piece is whether the seat base and the tank are a single entity or the seat base and tank are two separate things that are made to fit together, as in a two piece toilet. Even though one piece toilets are easier to clean and give off a seamless look, two piece toilets are cheaper and easier to transport from one place to another.

A pricier option still is that of an in-wall toilet, where the tank is hid inside the wall. They require more construction work than your average toilet, and it may not always be possible to erect one, especially if the wall is too thin. Having said that, their unique look and dramatic flair are felt in any bathroom they are in.

You also ought to look at a toilet’s flushing mechanism. Some toilets flush using the simple force of gravity, called gravity-based toilets, or utilize a little pressure to help with the flushing process, aptly named pressure-assisted toilets. Besides flushing mechanism, look at how you can activate the flusher in the first place. There are numerous mechanisms out there, but the two most commonly used are push buttons, which exude a modern feeling, and levers, which are cheaper and more classic.


Storage Space

In a world where we’re all scrambling for that little bit of extra space, here are a few ideas that can help you maximize the amount of space have in your bathroom.

  • As an alternative to over-crowding your shower space with plenty of toiletries, you can make use of a recessed cubby to put all your shampoos, soaps, and conditioners.
  • Vanities with sinks can present you with plenty of storage space, on average a 30 inch vanity can offer 15 cubic feet to satisfy all your storage needs. Just be sure to clear a path for the vanity’s cabinet doors. Moreover, adding pullout shelves to your vanity only increases its utility and makes your stuff more accessible. As for your cosmetics, jewelry, and other items, you can use drawer dividers to help you keep things organized and segregated. Speaking of drawers, you can try out a vanity with tilt-out drawers that can carry your hair brushes, combs, or tooth brushes. Also, try to find a vanity with a hamper for dirty clothes.
  • If your bathroom is smaller than usual, you can still install compact vanity cabinets.
  • Medicine cabinets are a staple of most bathrooms. Simply put, they are cabinets with narrow depth hiding behind a mirror. Stock your bathroom with one.
  • If you’re looking for a place to store your cosmetics, you can purchase countertop level cabinets. This is a good solution seeing as the packaging of plenty of everyday cosmetics makes them hard to put on an exposed shelf.
  • Given that your family goes through its fair share of towels and bed linens, you need a space to store all these pieces of cloth. This is where something like built-in linen closets with shelves can be of great use to you.
  • Wondering about where you can put a few extra shelves in your bathroom? Well, anywhere you want is the answer. You can affix shelves to a wall to use for your grooming products along with your towels, magazines, and other bathroom must haves. Shelves can even go on to the back of the door should you want so.
  • Additionally, the door can offer you storage space if you were to hang up a few hooks for bathrobes on its back.
  • In the event that you can’t find a place to put your shelves, you can buy freestanding furniture that offers you all the storage space you’ll need. You can buy etageres, which give you open shelving to do with as you please, or storage benches, which look fashionable, give you a place to sit, and allow you to store some of your things inside them.
  • One final idea is to use baskets or crates to help store and organize your everyday essentials. And you don’t have to worry about them being unsightly; with a little bit of creativity, you can color them to make them fit with the entire bathrooms’ style.


Throughout this chapter, we’ve delved into everything bathroom related. In the next chapter, we’ll see how you can arrange the living room with the goal of exploring how you can make it comfortable and practical, while retaining its beauty.

For a full list of chapters, click here.

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The Kitchen and the Dining Room

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    Out of all the rooms you will renovate, your kitchen will probably cost you the most and have the biggest impact on your resale value. So, it should come as no surprise when we scrutinize every detail in the kitchen in order to figure out how we can make the most out of that space. With this in mind, we will take a look at the possible layouts for your kitchen along with the use of islands and other storage solutions. Afterwards, we will discuss the kind of appliances dining room to complement your kitchen.   The Kitchen...

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The Kitchen and the Dining Room

Posted by Anja Logozar on

Chapter 4: The Kitchen and the Dining Room


Out of all the rooms you will renovate, your kitchen will probably cost you the most and have the biggest impact on your resale value. So, it should come as no surprise when we scrutinize every detail in the kitchen in order to figure out how we can make the most out of that space.

With this in mind, we will take a look at the possible layouts for your kitchen along with the use of islands and other storage solutions. Afterwards, we will discuss the kind of appliances dining room to complement your kitchen.


The Kitchen Layout

Image courtesy of, licensed under CC0 Public Domain.

When it comes to the layout of your kitchen, there are a few things you should take into consideration: figuring out what you need, understanding basic design philosophies, and appreciating different layouts.


Figuring Out What You Need

Before you start choosing cabinets or figuring out where the fridge should go, you need to assess how you use your kitchen and how you want it to accommodate your daily life style. Some of the questions you should ask yourself include the following:

  • Do you and your family use the kitchen for cooking purposes only or for more social purposes as well?
  • If you do cook, are you a professional who will need special appliances, or can common ones do the trick for you?
  • In your current kitchen, what works well and what needs fixing?

The basic point behind all these questions is to better guide all your renovation efforts and to help you tailor your kitchen to your needs. After all, just as you should know why you’re renovating your house before a single nail has been struck, you should be fully clear on why you’re redoing your kitchen. Additionally, these questions help you keep the bigger picture in mind instead of getting lost in the details. This makes even more sense when you realize that during your renovation, you’ll be caught up in so many details that it will be easy for you to see your kitchen as several separate parts rather than a connected whole, which may lead to an end result that is disjointed and doesn’t serve the purposes you need.


Basic Design Philosophies

There are two main concepts with which you should be familiar: the concept of the golden triangle and the concept of zone design.

The Golden Triangle

As anyone who’s spent time in a kitchen will tell you, the three most used appliances are the sink, the fridge, and the stove. Ergo, the closer these three are together, the easier things are for whoever is using the space. It is with this insight in mind that the concept of the golden triangle, also known as the kitchen work triangle, became an integral part of the design of any kitchen.

Understanding the golden triangle is easy. Assuming that each one of the three appliances formed a vertex of a triangle, you should be able to see that drawing an imaginary line from one vertex to the next will form our triangle.

Nevertheless, it is not enough to draw the triangle; you must also make sure that it follows a few rules for it to be functional.

  • Each side of the triangle should be longer than 4 feet yet shorter than 9.
  • When the lengths of all the sides are added together, their sum should be larger than 13 feet but smaller than 26 feet.
  • No traffic should interrupt the triangle; otherwise, the triangle will feel too crowded.
  • You would do well to avoid placing any appliances or cabinetry in a way that cuts one of the triangle’s legs.

Although the ideal situation is to have the golden triangle with all its caveats, this may not always be possible due to modern designers having to contend with plenty of other considerations that might impede setting up a perfect triangle. However, the spirit of the golden triangle is preserved: for example, designers might establish two triangles, one for the adults and one for the kids. Another option is for designers to break up plenty of the appliances that usually come together, such as placing the stove in one place and the oven in another. The main factor that will decide what constraints the designer has to take into consideration is the list of needs and requirements you hand him at the beginning of the project.

Zone Design

Aside from the golden triangle, designers take another consideration when plotting out your kitchen: work zones and activities. In a nutshell, they make sure to plot out specific spaces, or zones, dedicated to the activities that you want to do in your kitchen. Usually, you have your basic zones that have to be present in any kitchen:

  • Food zoneThis zone is for storing groceries and using your fridge.
  • Dishes and other zone This space is used for storing your dishes, cups, cutlery, and anything else of the sort.
  • Cleaning zone - This zone is meant for the garbage bags, the recycling area, and any items used for cleaning.
  • Food preparation zoneThis zone is used for cleaning, cutting, mixing, and preparing the food.
  • Cooking zone -  This zone is where all the pots and pans lie, along with the stove they are used on.

Apart from the basics, your kitchen can accommodate a few extra zones, depending on what you want. Some of the possibilities are as follows:

  • You can entertain guests in your kitchen, especially if you have a bar of some sorts.
  • You can use the kitchen as a dining space as well. This is becoming more and more in demand these days.
  • You can use the kitchen as a work space, or even a study space for your kids. This can come in handy for the busy parent who’s trying to juggle several roles simultaneously.
  • You can use the kitchen for almost any other domestic activity of your choosing.


Basic Kitchen Layouts

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Now that you know what you want and what design principles to look out for, let’s take a quick look at some of the standard kitchen layouts out there.

  • I-Shaped Layout - When it comes to small apartments and tight setups, look no further than the I-configuration, also known as the single galley kitchen. This is when the entire kitchen resides on a single wall, taking up as little space as possible. Its simplicity and affordability make it an attractive solution.
  • The Galley Shape (corridor-style) - As the name would suggest, this type of kitchen is comprised of two straight runs with a pathway in the middle. Unfortunately, the main drawback of this configuration is that the traffic passing through it can make it seem a bit crowded. On the other hand, it gives you more space than the I-shaped kitchen. Speaking of which, you can transform an I-shape into a galley shape by adding an island in front of the wall, which is a convenient solution if you need the space.
  • L-Shaped Layout - An L configuration is short hand for describing a kitchen that takes up two perpendicular walls and the corner between them. It affords the user a sense of privacy when cooking as the traffic isn’t as disruptive as it is with the galley-shaped kitchen. Again, you can add an island for good measure.
  • C-Shaped Layout - Should the L-shape provide insufficient space, be it counter or storage, you can always resort to the C-shape, also known as the U-shaped layout. It consists of an L-shape with a peninsula added at either end.
  • G-Shaped Layout - Finally, the most expansive of the bunch is the G-shaped layout, which is the same as the U-shape but with a little leg added at the end. It offers the most space and seclusion for the cook, making it perfect for people who like to cook alone without anyone disrupting their work space.



Islands, Cabinets, and Countertops

The next thing we will look at is the different appendages of you kitchen. Let’s start by talking about islands.


Of all the complaints that people level against their kitchen, insufficient counter space is one of the most common. This is where islands and all of their relatives (including peninsulas and rolling islands) enter stage right.

The beauty of islands is their ability to accommodate different functions: they play the role of a countertop for cooking, a bar for entertaining guests, a workspace for your children to use, and so much more. Additionally, by installing electric sockets beneath the lip of the island counter, you can make it serve even more functions, like charging phones and laptops. None of this is to mention the immense storage capabilities an island can bring to your kitchen.

Besides the versatility of the island, it also serves to delineate your kitchen from the rest of the living space, especially if you have an I-shaped or L-shaped kitchen, while, at the same time, enabling you to interact with others outside of the kitchen.

Having said all that, there are a few considerations you should keep in mind when using an island:

  • An island should be at least 4 feet long and 2 feet wide. Bear in mind that these numbers are the bare minimum.
  • Your island should be surrounded by 3.5 feet of circulation, at least.
  • Given the numbers above, it should come as no surprise that some kitchens are too small to accommodate the installation of an island. As a result, it is best if the kitchen has at least 11 square feet of extra space. Regardless, if your mind is set on having an island installed in your kitchen, make sure that your kitchen dimensions are 8x12 feet at the very least.
  • When it comes to placing the island, be sure to remember that sight lines play an important role. By keeping the sight lines from key views and entrances clear, you can make the space feel open.


The main concern when it comes to countertops is the kind of materials you’ll be using, and since countertops play an enormous role in dictating the tone and feel of your kitchen, you need to be very selective.

  • Having gained plenty of popularity in the past, granite can be bought in all shapes and sizes. Keeping this in mind, a price of a slab of granite can vary greatly, depending on the thickness of the slab, the grade of the granite, and other factors.
  • Engineered stone products These are made mostly of quartz. They are also becoming popular with home owners, thanks to their stain resistance, durability, sleekness, and consistency. As a result, they often provide the perfect solution to give off a unique aesthetic.
  • It can be poured to fit all shapes and sizes, making this type of counter very versatile. Additionally, it is also durable and stain resistant.
  • Stainless steel - For a sleek, modern look, you might want to consider using industrial strength steel. Cleaning it is a cinch, and it can take hot pots and pans on it. Unfortunately, it does scratch and dent, making it difficult to cut on this kind of surface.


Picking your cabinets will probably constitute one of the most important decisions that you’ll have to make when it comes to remodeling your kitchen. Fittingly, they will devour half of the budget you’ve set for your kitchen. Because of all this, it stands to reason that you should be careful come time to select your cabinets.

  • The difference between stock and customWhen purchasing cabinets, there are three main types to choose from: stock, custom, and semi-custom. In a nutshell, stock cabinets are made in bulk by a manufacturer and produced in a set shape and design. You just pick them off the shelf and leave. Conversely, custom cabinets are made from scratch according to your specifications and order; think of them more as a tailored suit as opposed to one you’d pick off the rack. Hence, custom cabinets are considerably more expensive than stock ones. Finally, semi-custom cabinets are made in bulk by a manufacturer, like stock cabinets, but they can be fit and partially customized to your need.
  • The style of the door - What kind of cabinet doors do you want to install? Are you looking for something classic? Or would you prefer something more modern? What about how your door opens: do you want it to flip up or swing outwards? There are a plethora of options to suit every taste and desire. For instance, frameless cabinets can offer you more storage space when compared to rail-style cabinets. It all hinges on what you want and what you’re looking for. An important notion to take into consideration is that you should try to make your door style match the general style of both your kitchen and your house.
  • Regardless of the kind of cabinets you choose to install, the hardware you add can make or break the final look. Consequently, it is important to choose hardware that fits with the style and type of cabinets you’ve chosen. So, the next time you are shopping for cabinet handles and hinges, remember that the devil is in the details.



Approximately 8% of the money you’ve set for your kitchen renovation will go into purchasing appliances. Nevertheless, there is still room for you to save money through keeping the major appliances, particularly the ones that connect to the utilities, and working around them. Alternatively, you can start by planning out the layout of your kitchen, after which you can pick the appliances that suit this set-up. It all depends on what your budget is and how willing you are to haggle. Assuming that you intend to buy a few new appliances, let’s take a look at your options.

  • Cooktops There are three main types of cooktops: gas, electric, and induction. Each person has their own preference, but on an efficiency basis, induction cooktops lose the least amount of heat. Additionally, you can explore the option of having a cooktop that is separate from your oven, especially if you enjoy wall ovens.
  • Ovens - How you use your oven and how experienced of a cook you are will dictate the kind of oven you can buy. You can either buy a convection oven or a conventional one. A convection oven draws more energy than its alternative but gives you a more even distribution of heat while cooking your meal faster. Naturally, choosing a more modular setup where the cooktop and oven are separated means that you can have more than one oven, depending on your needs.
  • Ventilation systemPlenty of people redoing their kitchen tend to forget about their ventilation system. Nevertheless, they are extremely important, particularly for those of us who rely on their cooktops a lot. Something to keep in mind is that your ventilation hood ought to be larger than the surface of your cooktop should you want to get rid of that exhaust effectively.
  • Refrigerators and freezers - Picking out a refrigerator entails figuring out how much food you want to store, the amount of space available for the refrigerator, and its shape and design among other things. When judging a refrigerator and its efficacy, the most important component to scrutinize is the compressor. How many compressors does your refrigerator have? How strong is each one? Furthermore, some refrigerators offer extra amenities, such as water or ice from the door, yet these types of units typically require more maintenance than their simpler counterparts.
  • Microwaves - The power of a microwave is calculated in wattage. In simple terms, the bigger the wattage number, the more cooking power you can expect your unit to have. There are also convection microwaves, which function as quick oven.
  • Dishwasher - Contingent upon your family’s lifestyle, you will eventually have to decide the kind of dishwasher that is most suitable for you. There are numerous options out there that range from the overly simplistic to the extremely advanced. For instance, you can choose a dishwasher that has an internal water heating system, hence reducing the load on your water heater.
  • Sinks Sinks literally come in all shapes and sizes. Over and above, the materials that they are made from can vary widely. Consequently, be sure to pick a sink that complements the rest of your kitchen while remaining functional. Speaking of functionality, a sink’s depth plays a big role in how it is used, so try to go for something that is at least 8 inches deep.
  • Warming drawers - For those of us who enjoy entertaining guests, warming drawers can come in handy. They can be used to warm up your plates before being served to guests, or they can be used to prepare food and help it keep its moisture.


The Dining Room

Dining rooms are well on their way to being obsolete and being replaced by a spacious kitchen with an island.

Image courtesy of, licensed under CC0 Public Domain.

Nevertheless, whether you have a large family or you host plenty of guests, a dining room setup may be right for you. Ergo, let’s end this chapter by looking at some of the tenets surrounding dining room design.

The Basics

Rather than getting ahead of ourselves and discussing the kind of table you should be installing, we need to decide on a few key things first.

  • Color palette - Knowing that natural light will probably not be the chief illuminator of your dining room - after all, most families dine after the sun sets - should help make this decision for you.
  • Lighting - Be it through a chandelier or any other means, the lighting of your dining room is imperative for creating the right ambience. And let’s be honest, a big part of the dining experience is all about the ambience.
  • Style You need to decide beforehand the kind of style you want to design your dining room in. Just remember that whatever style you choose, it must mesh well with the remaining parts of the house.


The dining room layout is comprised of several different elements as well as their relation to one another.

  • Table - Some of the questions you should answer when choosing a table are: How big is your dining room? How many guests do you normally host? What kind of parties/events do you host in the first place? Answering these questions will help you figure out whether a rectangular table or an elongated oval one would better suit your needs. Be careful though because the dining room table tends to be the centerpiece of that entire space.
  • Table placement - Don’t let your table get in the way of the natural traffic of the space. It should be placed so as to maintain adequate to the wall.
  • Chairs - The main things to look out for when picking chairs are style, clearance beneath table, and elbow room. Don’t be afraid to mix and match different styles if you want to, as long as they don’t clash with one another.
  • Rug - Rugs can be the perfect tool to help define a room. They can add warmth along with accentuating your style. Be sure to use a rug that is a bit larger than the table plus the chairs; otherwise, the chairs will keep getting caught on the rug’s edge.


To conclude, having thoroughly discussed the kitchen and its details, we will now move on to the bathroom. In the next chapter, we will explore different trends and scrutinize different bathroom elements.

For a full list of chapters, click here. 

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The Groundwork

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Now, it’s time for us to roll up our sleeves and get down to the actual work. In this chapter, we will begin by taking a look at some of the major renovations that you might have to do at one point or another.   Major Repairs When redoing your house, you’ll find that some parts require more attention than others, especially due to their big effect on the rest of your household. For example, your roof keeps your house cool by protecting you from direct sunlight in the summer while keeping the rain and snow out during the cold...

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The Groundwork

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Chapter 3: The Groundwork

Now, it’s time for us to roll up our sleeves and get down to the actual work. In this chapter, we will begin by taking a look at some of the major renovations that you might have to do at one point or another.


Major Repairs

When redoing your house, you’ll find that some parts require more attention than others, especially due to their big effect on the rest of your household. For example, your roof keeps your house cool by protecting you from direct sunlight in the summer while keeping the rain and snow out during the cold season. Similarly, your home’s sidings and windows both affect your home’s internal climate, be it by controlling the amount of sunlight that enters your home or by modulating the amount of air that circulates inside your place. On the other hand, your home’s foundations are what keep it structurally standing in the first place. Therefore, before worrying about the aesthetics of your kitchen, these elements should be high on your priority list. Let’s look at them one at a time.


1. The Roof

Besides keeping you warm and dry, your roof is responsible for protecting the rest of your home from the whims of Mother Nature; any other part of your home that is renovated before your roof is liable to get damaged by a few minutes of rain. Consequently, if your roof has a problem of any sorts, you should start your renovation efforts with it.

Image courtesy of, licensed under CC0 Public Domain.

So, does your roof need renovating?

These are the situations in which the answer is “Yes”.

  • Your roof is turning 25 years of age (a quarter of a century in roof years is a life time in human terms).
  • The shingles are curling in one of two ways: at the edges or in the middle.
  • A lot of shingles need replacing. Since it’s very difficult to find new shingles that match your old ones in color, especially due to the old ones being baked out in the sun for the past few years, you’re better off redoing your entire roof.
  • You find granules in your gutters often (this means that your roof has reached half of its life and needs you to keep your eyes peeled).
  • The sunlight is seeping through your roof and hitting your attic (seeping sunlight means that rain and snow will soon follow and find their way into your home).
  • Your roof is sagging, which means there is a structural issue that needs your attention.

What do you need to know before replacing the roof?

Armed with the knowledge of what to look for when inspecting your roof, we can now look at a few other basics you should keep in the back of your mind. You have to choose between 5 main materials used in roofing.

  1. Asphalt composition shingles: cheap and available, but not as visually appealing as some of the other options on this list
  2. Wood Shake: expensive shingles, but they make up for their higher price through their attractive look
  3. Metal roofing: hard to come by, and not many professionals are adept at installing it; specialized institutions are required for this job
  4. Slate roofing: offers an attractive look, albeit a bit pricey (just be careful if you install it, it can be quite slippery)
  5. Rubber slate or “faux” slate: have been gaining in popularity recently, especially due to the fact that they are made from recycled material

There are several factors that will affect your choice of shingles besides your personal preference. Among said factors is the location of where you live and the weather conditions there. You also have to take into consideration the pitch of your roof, which is its angle. For instance, wood shake shingles are more appropriate for steep pitches than low pitches.

Another decision you have to make is whether you want the roofers to remove your old shingles and replace them with new ones or to cover the old shingles with the new ones. There are a few things you’ll need to take into consideration, including the added weight of two layers of shingles, the transmittance of problems from one layer of shingles to the other, and then the amount of work each option entails.

A decent roofing team can renovate your roof within a few days. Nevertheless, you can help them by hiring them from late spring to early autumn, which usually offers the ideal weather conditions for them to work.

If you want to maximize your resale value as well as make worrying about your roof a thing of the past, then focus on buying materials of the highest quality.

Just as you need to be selective about your contractors and architects, so too does this logic apply to you roofers, if not more so. You see, you’ll probably work with your roofers just once within your entire life. Therefore, most roofers don’t place customer service that high up on their priority list.

Given the amount of liability involved in roofing, you need to have your paperwork in order, just to be safe. The three most important documents to focus on are a building permit for your work, a written contract that defines all the details, and a letter from an insurance company assuring you that the roofing project is covered.

A roofing job involves plenty of nails, some of which will fall in your lawn and create a hazard for your family unless dealt with. Insist on having your contractor bring with them a tool to pick up these nails come pay day.


2. The Foundation

Having taken a look at the top of your house, let’s scrutinize the very bottom of it as well.
The first thing to understand is that we are all liable to have foundation problems. For example, if the soil beneath your house shrinks or becomes unable to support the weight of your place, your home will move and you will experience what is known as foundation settlement. Conversely, a clay-rich soil that gets wet can easily expand causing your walls to buckle.

The point is that regardless of whether the soil beneath your feet is shrinking or expanding, you need to address the problem straight away. Otherwise, the problem will get exacerbated with time, thanks to the repetitive cycles of wetness and dryness that affects your soil. So, what can you do? 

You have two main options: replace your foundations or repair them.

  • Replacing your foundations - Should you choose to replace your foundations, you’ll need to get heavy machinery to lift your entire home, remove the soil around your foundations to expose them, remove your old foundations along with any structure attached to them, and replace them with new ones. Afterwards, your home is lowered once more, and the soil is returned beneath it to cover the foundations. As you might have guessed, the process is costly, it can disrupt your everyday life, and a lot of things can get broken along the way.
  • Repairing your foundations - Repairing your foundations is a much simpler task than replacing them altogether. All you have to do is have your foundations inspected and, with the use of the proper materials and techniques, have them permanently repaired. Additionally, foundations can be repaired any time of the year, and all they need is a day or two.

Is it better to replace or repair your foundations?

Unless the foundation is beyond saving, you should repair your foundation rather than replace it. It is worth noting that when your foundation does break, the problem resides in the soil, as we pointed out earlier. Thus, replacing the foundation doesn’t fix the root of the problem; it only deals with its manifestations. The end result is that your new foundations will likely crack again should the soil problem remain unaddressed. Hence, your best bet is to hire a good contractor who will fix the soil problem in addition to repairing your foundations.


3. House Siding

The siding of your house is the exterior that the world sees, and just as you would do your best to wear clothes that both keep you warm and express your personality, you should make sure that your house’s sidings are doing the same for you.

With that in mind, you should be aware that your house’s sidings are prone to several problems, mostly due to external weather, smog, cars, and Father Time. Here are a few of the things that can come up.

  • Rotting sidings - Occasionally, a part of your siding can begin to rot, while the rest is in perfect condition. In such an event, your best course of action is to replace the rotting parts. The areas you should take care of the most are the ones nearest to the foundation because they get hit by water splashing from the ground. Replacing the rotten siding with hardboard should prove to be a very efficient solution as hardboards can live up to 30 or 40 years.
  • Problems with the paint - There are numerous problems that can plague your siding’s paint job; however, the solution is usually one and the same. First, the source of the problem is identified and dealt with. Subsequently, the damaged paint is removed, and assuming that the underlying boards are fine, a new paint job is done. And by choosing to paint your entire house instead of the affected area only can give your home a fresh, vibrant look.


    4. Windows

    The last of the major repairs that we’ll be looking at is what to do about your windows. So, let’s get familiar with what renovating your windows entail.

    To start with, it’s important that you understand that replacing a window doesn’t mean taking the old one out completely. Instead, it means that you are getting rid of the old sash and other parts. Yet, a few other parts remain mostly due to the impossibility of their removal. The end result is a window that’s a hybrid between a new window and the old one. Given the intricacy involved in replacing windows, it is usually an expensive job, which makes you wonder whether you need it in the first place.

    Reasons for Replacing your Window

    There are countless reasons that would compel you to replace your windows. Here are just a few of them.

    • The first function of a window is to protect you and your loved ones from the cold weather outside. Consequently, having leaky windows that allow cold breezes to sift through is a clear indicator that it is time for revamping them.
    • Apart from keeping you warm, windows are integral in moderating your home’s ventilation, making it important for you to be able to open and close them with ease. Thus, if you’re having difficulty using your windows and they seem to be beyond repair, then go forth and replace them.
    • There comes a time when a window has gotten so old that it would be cheaper for you to replace than to repair it. Alligatored paint and rotting wood should get you considering your alternatives.
    • Double pane windows are supposed to protect you from the weather outside by virtue of the vacuum between both panes. Therefore, you should replace your double pane windows if they feel cold to the touch in the middle of winter.
    • High energy bills are a sign that you have a leak somewhere in the house, which makes you wonder where the leak is coming from. Maybe the window?

    One of the constant questions thrifty homeowners ask themselves is whether they can do a specific repair themselves or they need a professional’s assistance. When it comes to windows, you will be better served if you let someone else do the job for you. First of all, replacement windows are hard to come by if you’re not a professional. Additionally, you might not be prepared for plenty of peripheral work that comes with replacing windows, like installing exterior cladding for insulation.



    HVAC Ductwork, Electrical, and Plumbing

    Now, we take a look at your pipes, beginning with the ones that carry air throughout your home.


    1. Ductwork

    On average, 30 percent of the air that circulates through your ducts is lost to leaks, pressure imbalances, and thermal loss. However, by properly designing your ducts and following a few guidelines, you can reduce the amount of lost air. For starters, ducts should be designed with the use of professional software and constructed with high grade materials. Also, it never hurts to have routine inspections. So long as you take duct design seriously and focus on efficiency early on, you can save up a lot on your energy bills. Over and above, here are a few pointers for you to bear in mind:

    • When it comes to ducts, short and straight is better than long and twisted. Shorter ducts don’t resist airflow as much and the number of spots that can cause leakage is minimized. Also, twists and turns tend to be vulnerable spots that are susceptible to leakages.
    • You ought to make sure that your ducts pass through places that are themselves conditioned. The alternative is having your ducts that carry cold air pass through an abnormally hot area or vice versa.
    • Each room should have two vents: one for letting the air in (supply vent) and one for letting the air out (exhaust vent). The exhaust vent should lead to a return duct that takes the air back to the air handler.
    • Should you need to insert tees, joints, and elbows for your ducts, you should make sure that they are sealed shut.
    • No matter what your contractor tells you, it is an unacceptable practice to have structural voids in your house used as channels for air flow. It is an antiquated wasteful construction practice that deserves to go the way of the dinosaurs: extinct.

    Once you have your ductwork installed, you should have it pressure tested, which includes passing air under pressure through the system and monitoring its efficiency. However, even if you don’t need to replace your ducts, you should still clean them.


    2. Electrical Wiring

    Electrical wiring, both old and new, can easily go bad and need repair. The infrastructure that powers all your gadgets hides behind the walls and you should remind yourself to capitalize on the opportunity of you renovating the house and get some electrical work done while you’re at it. Here are a few reasons why you should seriously consider redoing your house’s wiring:

    • As your family grows, you’ll probably need more electrical outlets to power your devices.
    • Outlets age like anything else in your house, maybe they aren’t able to hold a plug anymore, so you might need to replace them.
    • If you don’t have GFCIs (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters), install them for your safety. These have one purpose and one purpose only: to shut off the electricity should any of the plugged in devices come into contact with water.
    • Sometimes you just need to enhance the amount of power surging through your house in order to keep up with the modern devices.


    3. Plumbing

    Plumbing repairs are also best done during renovations. Some of the common problems you can tackle are as follows.

    • Leaks in plumbing (visible and hidden). Proper connection between the water supply and waste line fittings can ensure you a minimization of leakages, and it is the best way to prevent this problem from appearing in the first place.
    • Clogged toilet. These are easy to fix, and you don’t have to worry about a mess if it does done correctly.
    • Leaking water heater. Whether the water is seeping from a pressure relief valve or a heater drain, the problem can be fixed.

    Another adjustment you might want to do to your plumbing has to do with changing the layout of your kitchens or bathrooms. You can change the location of a toilet or a sink, but you have to take a couple of things into consideration: the code restrictions and the constraints of your own house’s layout. Other than that, rerouting supply lines and drains is an easy job. In either case, you’ll have to piggy back off of your house’s current infrastructure.



    Changing Your House’s Layout

    The ability to add or remove walls can revolutionize the way your house looks, whether by creating wider and more expansive spaces or giving you more rooms to work with.

    Image courtesy of, licensed under CC0 Public Domain.

    The end result is the ability to transform your house into a brand new one without ever having to move. The only caveat you need to be careful of is that any structural changes have to be approved by Building Control.


    1. Demolishing Walls

    Demolishing walls may alter your house’s structural constitution if you have load-bearing walls. Speaking of which, there are a few types of walls we should acquaint ourselves with before we start swinging sledgehammers.

    • Stud partition walls. These types of walls are erected to separate the space into multiple rooms. They’re made from a frame of timber covered with plaster board. They’re non-bearing, so you can go ahead demolish away.
    • Partition wall. Usually they are made from brick or blocks, and they can either be load-bearing or not. As a result, you need to have them checked, preferably by a structural engineer.
    • External wall. Thicker than your internal wall, external walls are usually load-bearing and are difficult to take down. You’ll probably need heavy machinery for the job.

    With all our talk about load-bearing walls, let’s take a look at how you can try to identify them on your own.

    Although load-bearing walls look identical to any other wall, there are a few indicators that can give you a fair idea of whether a wall is playing a part in keeping your home standing or not:

    • Load-bearing walls tend to be built one above the other, which means that a load-bearing wall will start from the foundation and shoot through your entire home till the roof.
    • A load bearing wall has to rest its weight on something, usually on a metal or multi-board wooden beam at the foundation level.
    • The direction of your floor joists can give you a good idea of which walls are carrying loads and which aren’t. Typically, load-bearing walls are built perpendicularly to floor joists, so look out for that.

    In spite of having a few indicators of what might be load-bearing and what might not be, none of this is a good substitute for hiring a professional to do the inspection for you. When it comes to your home’s structural integrity, you need to take guess work out of it and let the professionals do their job.

    Assuming that you have correctly identified your load-bearing walls and want to remove some of them, what now?

    Load-bearing walls can be removed, but the process can be a bit of a hassle. To begin with, you’ll need a structural engineer to help you calculate the load carried by the wall you’re about to demolish. Afterwards, the same engineer will have to calculate the size, shape, and material of a beam that will replace your wall and take over its responsibility of carrying the load above it. Even during the job, something has to carry the load-bearing wall’s load before you install the new beam, which will probably be a temporary support wall.

    The finished result will substitute an entire wall for a beam, giving you an option of two: you can either let that beam show for everyone to see or hide it through one means or another.


    2. Adding Walls

    At the other end of the spectrum, you can add new walls and partitions to your place. A partition stud should prove more than enough when you want to divide an open space into several smaller spaces. Partition studs can affect your house’s traffic as well, dictating the first thing your guests see when they walk into your home or separating the kids’ area from the adults’ area. It is worth noting that it is considerably easier to remove a wall than to install one.


    3. Ideas Regarding Changing Your Floor Plan

    Now that you can add and remove walls as you please, let’s take a look at some of the things you can do.

    • Changing one room into two - Should you want to transform one big room into two smaller rooms, you have two options. First, you can install a partition wall. This is an elegant solution, but you’ll need to watch out for any electrical wiring you might have to reroute. Second, you can use a movable wall that gives you the versatility of having a wall when you need one and opening the space up when you choose to.
    • Exposing a ceiling - Even though this doesn’t count as changing your house’s layout, exposing a ceiling can have a dramatic effect on a space. It will imbue the space with a sense of majesty and luminescence. Additionally, it’s easy to pull off, yet you might need help if you choose to install new lighting fixtures or have a vaulted ceiling re-drywalled.
    • Creating an open-space - Open floor spaces are very popular these days: they’re great for entertaining guests and the larger sizes can do a lot of good for your resale value. However, you should be careful when demolishing walls and have a structural engineer walk you through it. You see, the larger the open space you create, the greater your need is for a professional who can do the math and tell you how to keep you house standing strong. You also should take into consideration the differences in ventilation requirements and how a wide, open space can help affect your heating and cooling systems.



    Flooring and Backsplash


    1. Flooring

    The first thing worth knowing about flooring is that there are several materials you can use to create the exact ambience you’re looking for. We’ll take a look at a few, exploring their positives as well as their negatives.

    • Ceramic tile. A waterproof material that can function as both floor tiles and countertops. The problem is that some types of ceramic tiles can scratch, or even get chipped altogether. Also, grout lines can be problematic on occasion and prove difficult to clean.
    • Hardwood flooring. One of the more popular types of flooring, it is a versatile material whose aesthetic appeal and durability make it a solid choice for any homeowner. Nevertheless, some types of hardwood can get darker with time, while other types change in size, affecting the overall look of your floor.
    • Laminate flooring. A cheap alternative whose strength and durability make it easy to preserve. It is a suitable option when it comes to a zone in your home that experiences plenty of traffic. The drawback here is that this type of flooring is easy to scratch and cannot be refinished.
    • Marble flooring. The epitome of durability and versatility, marble tiles can be placed anywhere, be it the wall, the floor, or a hallway column. You can also engrave them with texts and designs of your choosing.
    • Cork flooring. This is an excellent choice for areas where kids play or for areas where you want to create an atmosphere of comfort and serenity. The catch here is that this type of material can be expensive.
    • Bamboo flooring: This is a greener solution than other flooring alternatives. Bamboo trees grow quickly, and bamboo is a strong, durable material that can bestow elegance on any space. Just make sure not to leave the floors wet and to avoid exposing them to direct sunlight. Otherwise, they may change shape, color, or both.
    • Natural stone. Natural stone is a broad category that covers several different types of stones underneath it: slate, marble, limestone, and many more. The uniqueness of each stone makes each flooring job unique. These are eco-friendly tiles that can make your space feel more in tune with the natural world.

    Doing your flooring requires that you take into account multiple factors in order to achieve the best result for you. With that in mind, here are some of the factors you should bear in mind.

    • Always take into account your home’s layout. For example, in the event of you having a wide, open space, it is advisable for you to use the same material for your flooring throughout said space so as to give off a clean, continuous look.
    • Along with the layout, you should be careful of your home’s architectural style and try to match your flooring with it. After all, any sharp dissonance within your home will affect the end look as well as your resale value. This is why it is never a bad idea to go with hardwood floors: they go with almost any architectural style.
    • If you’re worried about durability, you should factor in the local climate along with the local foot traffic in your house into any decision you make. Therefore, look out for damp or humid weather should you be thinking of using hardwood.
    • Another thing to try to aim for is a comfortable floor, particularly if you spend a lot of your time standing. An excellent candidate for this is cork. Just be sure to steer away from any floors that can pollute your home’s air, such as vinyl flooring and anything that pumps your house’s air full of VOCs (Volatile Organic compound).
    • Speaking of comfort, another little element that can add plenty to your house is a good carpet. It’s soft on the feet, looks good, and brings the room together.


    2. Backsplash

    A backsplash is used to protect your walls from water and other liquids, especially in the kitchen and bathroom areas. It isn’t a necessity to have, but it does a lot to the spaces it gets installed in: their practicality mixed with their aesthetic look makes them a good choice more often than not. Let’s take a look at a few things you should take into consideration.

    • Color. You should aim to choose a color that represents your personality. To make matters easier, you can choose colors that fall into one of two categories: vibrant or neutral. Each one of them comes with its ups and downs, with vibrant colors bringing life to the space in it’s in, while neutral colors create a sense of serenity. You also need to think about how your backsplash is going to tie in to the remaining elements in your kitchen. For instance, think about how your backsplash will play off of your countertops and how you can use the two to make an even more nuanced statement. A colorful countertop can be complemented by a neutral backsplash. Conversely, in the event that you have neutral countertops, pick backsplash tiles that play well with the texture and feel of the countertop material.
    • Material. The material you pick for your backsplash can play just a big a role as the color you choose. You have numerous types to choose from, including ceramic, brick, quartz, and even mirror, which can give your backsplash that extra something. Just remember that the main deciding factors are your personal disposition, the overall look you hope to achieve, and the style of the house you inhabit.
    • Shape and pattern. You can either go with classic shapes or fun novel patterns. Classic tiles give your kitchen a timeless feel, whereas fun patterns have the benefit of being hip and trendy. Nevertheless, it is very possible to do a pattern that is itself timeless. This can add a lot of aesthetic appeal to your home, assuming that you’ve made sure that the pattern fits well with the rest of the house’s architecture.
    • Budget. A tight budget will drive you towards more standardized shapes and sizes. Regardless, you can still add clever details, even when using classic tiles. Additionally, using natural stone, such as travertine tile, can allow you to use the leftovers in another smaller project later down the road. Over and above, you can save money by buying from a direct importer rather than from a retailer.
    • Getting professional help. Whoever installs your backsplash should be an experienced professional in order to give you the finished look you’re looking for.



    Going Eco-Friendly

    The last part of this chapter is going to explore how you can look towards the future and make your house greener. Not only will this lower your energy bill down the line, but it will also help in conserving Mother Nature. Furthermore, eco-friendly houses have higher resale value than their not-so-green counterparts.

    Image courtesy of, licensed under CC0 Public Domain.

    There are two main routes you can take when it comes to going greener: you can turn your house into a passive one, or you can focus on buying recycled materials, energy saving appliances, and water conserving fixtures.


    1. Passive Design

    Passive design is the term used to describe how some architects aim to design a house that can utilize all the natural resources at its disposal so as to moderate the temperature inside of it. The ideal situation is one where a homeowner can completely do without any auxiliary heating or cooling, which would normally use 40% or more of their energy consumption.

    The best time for you to design your house in a passive fashion is at the very beginning, when the architect is still putting the plans on paper. Fortunately, you can still upgrade your home’s design during a renovation.

    Additionally, a passive home requires residents who understand how the home interacts with the surrounding environment and what to do accordingly. This entails a sense of proactivity on the part of the house’s residents.

    With all of that in mind, let’s see what passive design involves.

    • Passive design takes account of the surrounding climate as well as its seasonality. Therefore, there has to be a sense of familiarity with the climate zone in which your house is situated.
    • The orientation of your house plays an integral role in the amount of sunlight that is allowed into any given room along with the breezes that manage to seep in.
    • Good shading can reduce the amount of heat hitting your home up to 90%. Whether it comes in the form of physical shades (such as shutters and pergolas) or shaded glass, shading can be a valuable asset in the arsenal of the architect giving your house a passive design.
    • Sealing your home can be an excellent way to prevent energy loss that occurs due to air leakage.
    • Insulation is like a big thick jacket that you’d wear in the middle of a snow storm but for your house. And just as a jacket, it can isolate your house from what’s happening outside of it, effectively slashing your energy bills in half.
    • Thermal mass can be most easily described as a material’s ability to absorb and store heat energy. The best way to think of it is how long it takes to heat up a slab of concrete versus how long it takes to heat up a block of timber. Materials that require plenty of heat energy to heat up are considered to have high thermal mass, whereas materials that don’t need a lot of heat are described as having low thermal mass, and knowing when to use one of those materials and when to use the other is a hallmark of a good designer.
    • Windows are an important part of any household, and it’s imperative that you appreciate their effect on your house’s climate. Normally, they are the gateways through which both light and fresh air make their way into your home. However, they can be a harbinger of unwelcome heat gain or heat loss should the glazing on them be inappropriate.
    • Skylights are a double-edged sword. On the one hand, they can admit more than three times the amount of light that a vertical window would. They can also help with your home’s ventilation and air circulation. On the other hand, they can cause heat and cold to creep into your house when they are unwanted or to escape when they are most needed.
    • Using bright colors in your home can be an excellent way to increase the luminescence inside without having to add any light bulbs.


    2. Buying Eco-Friendly Products and Appliances

    Having thoroughly explored the consequences of utilizing a passive design for your home, we will now look at the other alternative.

    Recycled Materials

    The first thing we will do is to look at a few products that you can buy today and that are made from recycled material.

    • Composite decking. This decking is manufactured from a mixture of wood waste and recycled plastic, yet it offers impressive strength, durability, and overall stability. What’s more, it doesn’t warp, crack, splinter, or rot as wood would.
    • Recycled plastic carpet. Although they are made from plastic beverage bottles, you would never suspect it from the look of them.
    • Repurposed furniture. If you have a piece of old furniture that you don’t use anymore, instead of throwing it away, you might want to investigate other possible uses for it.
    • Formaldehyde-free cabinets. You do not want anything that has formaldehyde in your house seeing as it is a toxic substance. So, do yourself and the environment a favor: steer clear of this chemical as much as you can.
    • Paint with low-VOC or VOC-free paint. VOC stands for volatile organic compounds, which (as the name suggests) are volatile. They tend to emit dangerous molecules into the air.

    Conserving water usage

    There are multiple appliances and fixture that can help you reduce the amount of water you use on a daily basis.

    • A low-flow toilet can reduce the amount of water used up with each flush. Given that your toilet is one of the biggest water wasters in your entire bathroom, this seems like a good fixture to have.
    • Aerators and flow reducers can be added to you shower head and faucets to reduce the amount of water flowing out of them while giving you the feeling that nothing has changed.
    • Water filters can help relieve of you the need to buy mineral water all the time.

    Other considerations

    Besides what has been said above, there are a few more things you can do to help preserve our environment.

    • Buying energy efficient appliances is always a smart decision. To help you in this quest, energy guide labels can give you a clear idea of the efficiency of a particular appliance when compared to other appliances that do the same thing. You can also buy appliances that have the Energy Star logo on them.
    • One of the best ways to be green is to minimize your waste as much as possible. In this vein, you should think about what you plan to do with the demolished materials during your remodeling project. Can these materials be repurposed for something else? Can they be sold or salvaged in any way?


    After covering all the groundwork you need to do at the beginning of your remodeling project, we will start focusing on each and every room in your house and see the kind of renovations we can do there. We’ll start with the kitchen in the next chapter, and look into the basic layouts that it can have along with how an island and cabinetry affect it. We will also investigate some of the appliances that your kitchen will need and will end the chapter by a discussion of what to do with your dining room. 

    For a full list of chapters, click here.

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    The Design

    Posted by Anja Logozar on

      With all of our preparations done (assuming that you’ve read the previous chapter), it’s time for us to consider how we’ll design your renovations. To start with, we need to assess whether you need a professional, be it an architect or a designer, to help you with your designs or you could just do it yourself. This chapter discusses the process of hiring a professional, as well as the fundamental concepts for every DIY designer out there, including design principles, different design styles, tools and programs that can aid in the design process, and the best room with which...

    Read more

    The Design

    Posted by Anja Logozar on

    Chapter 2: The Design


    With all of our preparations done (assuming that you’ve read the previous chapter), it’s time for us to consider how we’ll design your renovations. To start with, we need to assess whether you need a professional, be it an architect or a designer, to help you with your designs or you could just do it yourself.

    This chapter discusses the process of hiring a professional, as well as the fundamental concepts for every DIY designer out there, including design principles, different design styles, tools and programs that can aid in the design process, and the best room with which to start renovation project.


    Professional Help

    It’s safe to say that for any small scale project, such as enlarging a window opening or demolishing a non-bearing wall, you don’t need a professional; you and your contractor can just go ahead and get the job done. On the other hand, more complicated projects, whole-house renovations and house extensions come to mind, might require the assistance of a professional.

    Image courtesy of, licensed under CC0 Public Domain.

    Before discussing the pros and cons of having a professional in your corner during the renovation project, let’s understand what the difference is between the various kinds of professionals out there, particularly the two main types: architects and designers.


    The Difference Between an Architect and a Designer

    So, what do architects do?

    They are skilled professionals who have spent a considerable amount of time learning about building design, engineering, and ergonomics. In other words, they specialize in designing homes that merge functionality with aesthetics. This allows them to have creative ideas when it comes to intricate problems that pertain to design as well as a unique ability to see how the whole project will come together when it’s done and how to maintain that vision throughout the whole ordeal.

    Architects come to your house and inspect it, they then hear what you have to say and what you wish to do, and, finally, they figure out how they can best make your home conform to your dreams in an inventive and cost-efficient way.

    What about designers?

    Designers lack the formal training enjoyed by architects, both in architecture and engineering. Nevertheless, they tend to have an area of expertise, which tends to be interior space planning. Therefore, when a project is a bit too complicated for you to handle by your lonesome, yet it isn’t big enough to warrant bringing an architect on board, a designer is the perfect individual for the job. Given how cheap designers are compared to architects, this makes intuitive sense.

    Interestingly, there are several types of different designers, each one specializing in a type of space: there are certified kitchen and bath designers, and interior designers. So, you do have some variety to choose from. A specialized designer has their own set of pros and cons. Where on the one hand they offer a certain focus that other professionals might lack, they might fall short when it comes to other important skills.


    This is all fine, but which one do I need for my project?” I hear you say.


    Well, it depends. First of all, you need to know how big your project is and how complicated it is going to be; the size and scope of the project will play a huge role in defining who comes on board later on. For instance, some municipalities require a stamp by a licensed architect on any residential plans. A good rule of thumb to follow is that if you’re changing a single room, then you should get a designer. Conversely, if you’re contemplating a larger change, especially a change that will drastically affect your house, the space within it, and the traffic, then you should hire an architect.


    Do You Need Help in the First Place?

    Having understood the different types of professionals out there willing to help you with your project, we can now determine whether you actually need the assistance of these professionals. The best way we can do that is to weigh the pros and cons of hiring a professional and to determine, accordingly, which one is more suited to our needs.

    Hiring a Professional

    • If you want, you can have the professional oversee the construction phase and monitor the contractor’s work. Naturally, this will cost you more than having the professional simply design your project for you, but the ease of mind and time freed up can more than offset this cost. Additionally, a savvy architect can help your contractor find cheap and effective solutions for any problem that might come along the way.
    • You can rest easy knowing that whatever the design the professional comes up with, it will probably be better and more cost-efficient than your solution. Moreover, designing something on your own puts you at risk of making several errors and mistakes that a seasoned professional would never make.
    • Not only will architects produce better designs, they will also give far more details than you ever could. This high level of detail is important for contractors when they start working.
    • Seeing as an experienced architect has been in the construction business for a while, they probably know the best places to purchase the materials you need, the best contractors to work with on specific projects, and the best time to start working on something.
    • Architects can do all the negotiating on your behalf, and their experience in the market can help get you bottom prices.
    • The first and biggest drawback is the increased cost of the project. Aside from the professional’s fee, costs can be raised because some professionals will be so involved in the project that their aspiration to deliver something truly unique will drive them to purchase custom products and materials and to include convoluted designs that will cost you more to realize. And there is always a chance that you’ll hire an architect whose head’s up in the clouds and who will design something that belongs in a fantasy novel.
    • Legally speaking, an architect isn’t liable for mistakes in both the plans and the actual construction, even if they were the ones responsible for overseeing the contractor’s work.

    The Fees Associated with Hiring a Professional

    There are numerous ways you can compensate your architect, and it all depends on the project, the degree of involvement of the architect, and the agreement between you and the architect. For instance, you can agree to pay the architect a fixed per hour fee that will range between $50 to $150. Alternatively, should you choose to have your architect oversee the construction phase, the architect will probably demand a percentage of the total project cost, which will range from 5% to 20%. Furthermore, your architect can demand a flat fee that will be somehow proportional to the total project cost. Interestingly, you can agree with the architect to pay them a flat fee for one phase of the job, the design phase for example, while paying them on a per hour basis when it comes to the oversight phase.

    Compensation alternatives for designers are very similar to the alternatives available to architects; the only difference is that designers get paid less than architects. Conversely, when hiring a designer, you might have to still get an architect along with a structural engineer to give their stamp of approval on the designer’s drawings. Just keep that in mind.

    Finally, regardless of whether you choose to go with an architect or a designer, it’s important for you to follow the same steps required for finding the perfect contractor, which were outlined in the previous chapter. In a nutshell, do your research, perform interviews, look at their previous work, and do the whole nine yards.


    The Design Principles

    What’s left of this chapter will entertain the idea of you wanting to do the design process yourself and will look at some of the fundamentals you need to produce an aesthetically pleasing yet functional design.

    Firstly, you need to understand the kinds of concepts that govern how you should arrange the elements and shapes in your design, otherwise known as design principles. Understanding these principles is like learning a new language: it allows you to express yourself in a coherent and eloquent fashion. With this in mind, let’s take a look at the main design principles.

    1. Balance - When designing a room, you should strive for a sense of visual equilibrium. You should try to create a room that is visually stable, which can be accomplished in one of two ways: symmetry or asymmetry.
    2. Proportion - Aside from creating a sense of symmetry (or asymmetry), you should take into consideration the relative size of the objects and shapes to one another. You ought to aim for a room where nothing stands out as being too big or too miniscule.
    3. Rhythm - Just as in music where the individual notes when put together create a rhythm, the various objects in a room can create a visual rhythm through their shapes, colors, and patterns. By arranging the elements of a room in such a way that it becomes easy to follow them with your eyes, you are creating visual rhythm.
    4. Emphasis - Every room should have an emphasis (also known as point of focus), an element that stands out from the rest of its peers. Otherwise, the space will seem cluttered and bland. However, the caveat is that each space should have only one primary emphasis, with other emphases playing a secondary role.
    5. Unity - The principle of unity is the culmination of all the other principles: it signifies the coherence of the whole. It means that you should design the space to give off the feeling that all the elements in said space are working towards the same goal - sort of like the players in an orchestra.


    Design Considerations

    Apart from the aforementioned design principles that focus on aesthetics, there are a few design considerations you should keep in mind.

    1. Function - More important than what a room looks like is how functional and how comfortable it is for the people using it. This comes down to choosing the right furniture, adjusting the proper lighting, and finding the optimal furniture arrangement.
    2. Mood - Every space gives off a feeling, a certain ambiance that is unique to it. This ambiance is defined by the colors used in the room, furnishings and their style, the type of texture that is predominantly used in the room, and so on. Hence, you should develop a theme early on and stick to it. In such a manner, you’ll find it easier to create a sense of unity, as we talked about earlier.
    3. Personality - Along with mood, a room gives off a certain personality that is indicative of the people using it. Therefore, accessorizing the space to give off the sort of character you would like to represent is instrumental in making your living quarters feel more like home.


    Design Styles

    When filling a space, you only have three main elements to manipulate: shapes, colors, and textures. Yet the possible varieties available through the use of these elements are nearly infinite. For example, color schemes can help achieve that coveted sense of unity we discussed earlier.

    Image courtesy of, licensed under CC0 Public Domain.

    Fortunately, throughout history, particular styles have developed that merge all three elements in one manner or another, and we can rely on these styles and draw inspiration from them whenever we want. As a matter of fact, you can choose a single style to be the dominant one and another two to act in the background. Usually, one of the styles that are effective in the background is related to the style of the house itself in order to preserve your home’s unity.

    Picking a Style

    Before exploring some of the different styles out there, we should take a look at how you should best choose the primary style.

    • Don’t get lured by current trends and fads. Instead, try to establish something that is more timeless so that when it comes time for you to sell your house, you’re not left regretting your decision.
    • Strive for consistency between the different rooms in your home. Unity isn’t only between the elements of a single space, but it is also a concept that applies to different rooms inside the same home and different homes on the same neighborhood. This sense of cohesion should apply to the color scheme as well.
    • Speaking of unity, try to focus on the smallest of details and even match the door handles, light switches, etc.
    • As for colors, aim for a controlled color palette that uses a maximum of three colors. You can always play with the different shades of these colors while preserving the sense of consistency.
    • You might not be able to accurately describe the style you’d like to renovate your home in, but, through the use of images and photos, you can have your contractor understand better your overall vision.

      Different Styles to Choose From

      There are countless styles for you to choose from, and here is a small sampling of the possibilities.

      • American Traditional - This is a more formal and elegant style that is characterized with the use of plenty of woodwork.
      • Minimalist - As the name suggests, the less you use, the more eloquent you make the space. It is the perfect style for anyone trying to avoid clutter and to streamline their lives.
      • Shabby Chic - It is a more romantic way of filling up a space by focusing on furnishings that display signs of wear and tear. The whole vibe is supposed to feel old and antiquated.
      • Art Deco - Bold and flashy, it is an elegant style that utilizes lighting, shiny surfaces, and geometric shapes to create the right atmosphere.
      • Modern - A style that focuses on the uses of shapes, specifically clean, neat shapes like perfect circles and rigid squares.
      • Zen - This is a style that focuses heavily on balance and rhythm. It has gained plenty of popularity lately due to its ability to promote relaxation.
      • Other Styles - Naturally, there are plenty of other styles that are worth exploring. Some worth mentioning are rustic, bohemian, Scandinavian modern, classical, Arabian, French, and gothic.


      The Use of Technology

      Luckily, there are numerous programs and apps out there that can help you design your dream home. However, before we can take a look at all the available options, there are a few questions we should answer.

      1. What device do you plan to use in the designing phase? The programs available to a computer are different than the ones available to tablet or a cellphone. Over and above, the specifications of a particular device will dictate which programs you can use and which programs might be too demanding.
      2. How quick of a study do you consider yourself? You need to bear in mind that some programs take longer to learn than others and some programs are technically more complicated than others.
      3. What is it that you plan to do? Each program has its own capabilities, and you won’t be doing anybody any favors by using a program whose capabilities far exceed your needs.

      Having figured out the sort of specifications you need, you can now begin to survey the programs that you can use.

      If You’re Looking for Inspiration:

      • Houzz Interior Design Ideas - An app geared for those looking for different design ideas, it is the perfect tool to help you pick out the house of your dreams.
      • Master- Design Furnish - This is a piece of software that helps you draw your room with the furnishings in it. It can greatly help with your furniture options, particularly if you want to design something.

      If You Want To Draw Floor Plans:

      • ROOMSCAN - Usable on an iPhone or iPad, it is a very simple program that is both fun and easy to use. It helps draw floor plans with the use of your phone’s GPS as well as gyroscope functions.
      • MagicPlan - This app also draws your floor plan for you, but, rather than using the GPS, it relies more on your phone’s camera.
      • Floorplanner - This program is one of the best ways to share floor plans via the Internet.
      • Gliffy - An intuitive program that functions like a floor planner and helps you share your floor plans using the World Wide Web.
      Image courtesy of, licensed under CC0 Public Domain.

      If You Need to Pick Colors:

      • Benjamin Moore Personal Color Viewer - This free app allows you to visualize how a particular color will look on a particular wall.
      • Colorjive By Colorjinn BV - Another app that permits you to experiment with different colors on your walls without having to use a single brush stroke.
      • Sherwin-Williams ColorSnap Visualizer - This is a fun app that lets you try out different colors on different house styles.

      If You are Looking for a More Intricate Job:

      • Google SketchUp - A free program that offers a wide array of functions that would entertain even the most experienced of designers. You can also share your designs with others and print them.
      • TurboCAD TurboFloorPlan Home & Landscape Pro - An extremely easy to use program that can be learned quickly. Fortunately, it still is a very functional program that can be used for a wide array of things.
      • Home Designer Chief Architect Software - This is a line of software products that is aimed at the amateur who enjoys DIY projects. They are considerably cheaper than their more professional counterparts, yet the amount of things that they can teach you is impressive.


      The Order of Rooms to Remodel

      Having covered the basics of designing your home renovations, we are left with one last question: which room should we start with? This question may seem superfluous at first glance, but upon thinking about it, you’ll find that it addresses an important issue: priorities. After all, it may very well be the case that you don’t have the financial liquidity to redo your entire home right now, and you need to figure out where is the best place to start for the time being. To make this decision, you are best served by taking several factors into consideration.

      1. Which room gives you the most bang for your buck? In other words, if you were to remodel a single room in your home today only to sell the whole place tomorrow, which room would help increase the value of your property the most? Generally speaking, kitchens are usually the best yielders when it comes to return on investment.
      2. Where do you and your family spend the most amount of time? Usually, it is a good idea to start by renovating the place that you and your family enjoy the most, which will allow all of you to reap the rewards of this renovation.
      3. Which space do your guests see the most when they visit your home? When all is said and done, every house owner wants to impress their guests, and what better way is there to do that than by renovating the space your guests spend their most time in. You might also want to consider redoing the space that your guests see when they first step foot into your home.
      4. Which space are you fine living without for the coming couple of months? Realizing that renovating a room will lead to it being inaccessible to the entire family should help you weigh the consequences of choosing one room over another.

      More often than not, the answer to all of the previous questions tends to be the kitchen. Apart from increasing the resale value of your property, it is where most families enjoy breakfast, lunch, and dinner; it is where guests tend to come and go, particularly during parties; and it is where a family can make do without for a month or two should they have a handy microwave and a mini-fridge available.

      In the event that these questions are not enough for you to know which room to begin hacking, here are a few final thoughts that might settle the matter for you.

      1. Which room do you have enough money to renovate right now? Occasionally, your financial constraints may not only dictate the amount of rooms you can start working on but also which rooms to start working on.
      2. Why are you renovating the house in the first place? This harkens back to the previous chapter and shows how important it is for you to be clear on your motivations during every step of the way.

      Naturally, there is no right answer, and choosing one room or another is more a matter of preference than anything else. Nevertheless, you should not let that detract from the importance of guiding your choice with a set of practical questions.

      Throughout this chapter, we have covered most of the basics that pertain to designing your home’s renovations. We are now ready to take our first look at actual work. In the next chapter, we will start with major works like major repairs, the addition of elements, flooring, exploring how you can make your home more eco-friendly should you choose to.

      For a full list of chapters, click here.

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