8 Flooring Alternatives that Will Make You Rethink Hardwood

8 Flooring Alternatives that Will Make You Rethink Hardwood

For homeowners looking to give their home a statement update, new flooring can be a great way to make a big impact and add value. Gone are the days where wood or carpet was your only option for this major upgrade, however.

For homeowners looking to give their home a statement update, new flooring can be a great way to make a big impact and add value. Gone are the days where wood or carpet was your only option for this major upgrade, however. It seems that every year, a plethora of new options appear on the market and turn the traditional choices into a much harder decision. From tile that looks like wood to carpet that looks like tile, we’ve rounded up some of the newest in flooring options for your home.

1. Bamboo

For an eco-friendly update, bamboo can be a great real-wood alternative to hardwood. Because bamboo grows quite quickly, it is a renewable resource which can add a more modern, streamlined look to your home. And without the hefty price tag that accompanies hardwood, your wallet will feel good as well.

Closeup of Bamboo floor

Image Source: Morguefile/jackiebabe

2. Cork

No longer relegated to the wine cellar, cork, another eco-friendly choice, makes a durable, quiet, and comfortable flooring option that comes in a variety of shades and colors. Easy to install, cork makes a great DIY project and can be found in rolls, planks, or tiles.

3. Porcelain

Before you think 80s eyesore, porcelain is making a real comeback with earthy designs and modern forms like tile planks that simulate wood. This makes porcelain a perfect choice for damp areas of the home, such as bathrooms or kitchens.

Beautiful bathroom with wood-look floor

Image Source: Morguefile/melgil123

4. Vinyl

While wall to wall vinyl is still an economical and practical use, vinyl tile can be a quick update that can even be placed over some current surfaces. Several brands of vinyl tile can even be grouted to add a sophisticated look for a fraction of the price.

5. Concrete

Polished and decorative concrete floors are quickly making their way out of the industrial and into the mainstream for flooring and even countertops. Decorative concrete can be polished to a high sheen which can mimic natural stone and provide a luxe addition to any space.

Closeup of polished concrete floor

Image Source: Flickr/Mr Thinktank

6. Laminate

A good standby, laminate has come a long way in recent years, allowing for easier installation and more durable surfaces. Able to replicate virtually any natural flooring surface, including hand-scraped wood and bamboo, laminate is a quick and easy replacement for areas where time and/or money are a concern.

7. Reclaimed Wood

Even modern homes are dipping into the past for their hardwood it seems, and reclaimed wood fits the need perfectly. Salvaged floors from older homes or barns are reused or recreated into earthy flooring that harkens back to a time of intense craftsmanship and happily shows its age with knots, scratches, and color variations.

8. Carpet Tile

The perfect choice for rooms that get a lot of use, such as rec rooms or play areas, carpet tiles allows you to create a look that is as individual as you, with possibilities that are virtually endless. Durable to the core, carpet tiles can easily be removed and replaced one at a time, so spills and damage are no longer a mammoth concern.

Children

Image Source: Flickr/atravellingmom

With all of the options today, every homeowner can create the space of their dreams, with a little bit of imagination. Adding value to a home is a critical component of upgrades, so ensure your new look will suit the rest of the home before you decide and have a great time choosing the next floor in your home!

20 Egg-cellent Egg Dying Ideas for Easter

20 Creative “Out of the Carton” Easter Egg Ideas

20 Egg-cellent Egg Dying Ideas for Easter

Easter is just a few days away which means it is almost time to dye eggs!

For those who celebrate, I am sure you can remember the good old days of buying thePaas egg kit that came with those little round tablets that you had to drop into vinegar. Somehow your hands always ended up getting stained an odd greenish brown color. I really wish I had known about this GENIUS idea. Today there are so many options! Eggs kits that have glitter, stickers, sparkles and pretty much anything you can think of.

For those who want to skip the kit and think “outside the carton” here are 20 unique ideas for making beautiful Easter eggs. Want to learn how to make these eggs? Simply click the link of the blog where there egg-cellent ideas came from for instructions. 

Monogram Eggs | Lil’ Luna

Monogram Easter Eggs

Natural Dye Colored Eggs | Big Sis Lil Sis

Rubber Band Rainbow Eggs | Inkspired Musings

Watercolor Eggs | Alisa Burke

Flower Pressed Egg | The Magic Onions

String Eggs | Craftberry Bush

Glitter Eggs | Sew and the City

Edible Eggs | Barefoot Witch in the Kitchen

Chalk Eggs | Shelterness

Rhinestone Eggs | Martha Stewart

Metallic Eggs | Think Crafts

Sequin Eggs | Craft Ideas

Sweet Note Eggs | Lil’ Luna

Black and White Easter Eggs | Obviously Sweet

Tissue Paper Eggs | Aunt Peaches 

Waxed Eggs | Magic Onions

Elegant Eggs | Country Living

Punched Eggs | Lolly Chops

The ABC’s of Buying a Home

The ABC’s of Buying a Home

The spring real estate market is about to hit its seasonal high. If you will be buying a home this spring, whether for the first-time or not, it’s helpful to identify a few real estate basics that every buyer should know.

With the spring real estate market about to hit its seasonal high, buyers and sellers will be flocking onto the scene. If you will be buying a home this spring, whether for the first-time or not, it’s helpful to identify a few real estate basics that every buyer should know.

A: Appraisal

A statement that indicates the official value of a property.

B: Bridge Loan

A short-term interim loan that is made to a buyer to purchase a new home before they have sold their current home and can use the equity towards the new purchase.

C: Closing Costs

Costs paid over and above the selling price of a property — this includes legal and administrative fees to finalize a home purchase and can typically run several thousand dollars when buying a home.

D: Debt to Income Ratio

Used by lenders and is calculated by determining an individual’s total debt compared to total income.

E: Equity

In real estate terms, equity is the difference between the total value of a property and the amount left owed on the mortgage.

F: Fixture

Something movable that is physically attached to a home, such as a light fixture or wall shelf. Unless specifically excluded from a contract, a fixture is deemed to remain with the house upon sale.

G: Government Loan

A government run program that provides purchasing assistance for first-time and other qualified buyers to assist in entering the real estate market.

H: Home Inspection

One of the most important aspects of the home buying or selling process, a home inspection is a visual accounting of a home’s current condition, which is completed before the sale of a home is finalized.

I: Insurance

A must-have item for purchasers, the cost of home insurance and required coverage should be obtained by all buyers prior to purchasing a home.

J: Joint Tenancy

The ownership of a property held joint by two or more individuals to whom ownership passes upon the death of one of the parties.

K: Knob and Tube

A rudimentary system of electrical wiring, used up to the 1950s and consists of tubes held in place by porcelain knobs. A home containing knob and tube may have difficulty securing home insurance and is a consideration for potential buyers to have replaced.

L: Liens and Encumbrances

A lien is a form of security which can be held for the payment of debt. Encumbrances are other restrictions on the property including setbacks, and right-of-ways that can complicate the sale process.

M: Mortgage

A loan to cover the purchase of a home, usually amortized over several decades.

N: Non-Load Bearing Wall

When considering a home for renovation, a non-load bearing wall is one that doesn’t support the structure of a home, thus can be removed.

O: Offer

The legal contract to purchase or sell a home.

P: Property Tax

A mandatory fee paid yearly to a local government body for basic services such as garbage and street lighting.

R: Real Estate Agent

A highly skilled real estate professional who assists buyers and sellers during the sale process.

S: Survey

A map showing the official boundaries of a property.

T: Title Search

An administrative search to ensure that no liens or other encumbrances exist on a property.

U: Utilities

Fees paid for services such as water, sewer, electricity, and gas, which are part of a home’s annual operating costs.

V: Vendor

The seller of a home.

W: Walk-Through

A private, agent-guided tour of a property for sale.

Y: Yard

The physical space surrounding a house that requires upkeep and maintenance.

Z: Zoning

The regulation that determines the use of buildings and other areas, such as residential, commercial, or agricultural.

(Note: The letters Q and X were purposefully omitted.)

How to Choose the Best Type of Mortgage for You

How to Choose the Best Type of Mortgage for You

In the second post in a three-part series about deciphering mortgages, Coldwell Banker Real Estate Market Specialist Les Christie explains how to pick a mortgage rate and term that suits your financial needs.

Choosing the right mortgage rate can be difficult. There are many different options, and what’s the best choice for one person may not be for another. When borrowers begin the mortgage process, they first need to develop an understanding of mortgage rates. Then, the challenge becomes identifying what type of mortgage meets their individual needs. Here are two questions every home buyer should ask themselves when choosing a mortgage rate:

  1. Do I want a fixed rate or adjustable rate mortgage (ARM)?

Borrowers have a choice of two types of loans, fixed rate or adjustable. In short, fixed rates mean the monthly payments never change. ARMs offer fixed rate terms for, usually, five or seven years followed by rates that can change once a year after that.

Fixed versus adjustable

“I’m a big fan of fixed rate mortgages,” said Greg McBride, chief financial analyst for Bankrate.com, a leading mortgage loan information site. “For home buyers, it’s the best gauge of affordability. If you can’t afford a home with interest rates at below 4%, you can’t afford a home.”

ARMs are cheaper initially: At recent interest rates, the monthly payment for an ARM would save about $60 a month on a 30-year fixed with a $200,000 principal. But for many borrowers, that may not be enough savings to offset the uncertainty of potential adjustments.

For others, however, adjustable rate loans can make sense, according to Keith Gumbinger of HSH.com, a mortgage information provider. “ARMs work well with short-term forms of ownership,” he said. “If you think you’ll be there only five or six years, ARMs will save you money.”

Other candidates for ARMs are households whose incomes are likely to rise, such as a one-income household with a partner who plans to return to the work force in a couple of years. They could opt for a more affordable payment during the lean times, knowing that, when their costs rise, they’ll be in a better financial position to afford the higher payments.

  1. If I have a fixed rate mortgage, should I choose a 30-year or 15-year?

The shorter the term of the fixed rate mortgage, the lower the interest rate, but the higher the monthly payments. On a $200,000 loan, a 15-year fixed at current rates will cost about $1,376 a month, $460 more than the payments on a 30-year mortgage.

Of course, the loan will be paid off in half the time, saving borrowers more than $80,000 in interest over the full course of the mortgage.

According to McBride, borrowers should opt for 15-years only when they can afford to do so without harming their other financial goals.

“Handcuffing yourself to higher monthly payments is bad if it prevents you from investing in tax-advantaged retirement accounts or if you’re unable to set aside enough cash in an emergency fund,” he said.

If you can’t max out your 401(k) payments because your mortgage payments are too steep, you’ll end up costing yourself a lot of money in the long run.

But if you’re convinced that you have enough income and savings, then go for the 15-year. You may be the first one on your block to be mortgage-free.

In our third and last installment of this series, we’ll look at other money-saving tips and tricks that could help you shave down the cost of your mortgage or even get ahead on a few payments. Stay tuned!

Best Practices for Paying Off Your Mortgage

Best Practices for Paying Off Your Mortgage

Choosing the right mortgage can be challenging, but it’s really only the first of many hurdles on your trajectory to owning your home. Once you’ve locked your mortgage in, you then have to decide how to pay it off in the most efficient manner – without spreading yourself too thin. Here are some things to consider and best practices to follow.

Points: To Pay or Not to Pay?

When comparing interest rates from different lenders, don’t forget about points. These upfront payments are a percentage of the mortgage principal — one point is 1% ($2,000 on a $200,000 loan) — and are a way to reduce interest rates over the entire life of the loan.

“You’re prepaying interest,” said Greg McBride, chief financial analyst for Bankrate.com.  “And, the longer you can stay in a home, the more sense it makes.”

Paying one point will usually lower your interest rate an eighth to three-eighths of a percentage point, according to Keith Gumbinger of HSH.com, a mortgage information provider. Instead of a 4% rate, for example, buyers get 3.875% to 3.625% loans. That saves about $15 a month at 3.875% and $44 at 3.75% on $200,000 in principal. At $15 a month, it takes about 11 years to offset the upfront cost. At $44 a month, it takes less than four years, so borrowers should make sure they shop for the best deal for the points they pay.

Only pay points if you have excess cash, advises McBride. Otherwise stash the money in an emergency fund.

But if you are confident that you already have enough savings for a rainy day, and you plan to spend a long time living in the home, pay the points, said Gumbinger. “It saves you money over the long haul.”

Making Extra Payments

Borrowers always retain the option of making extra payments any time over the term of the loan. For that reason, some borrowers may opt for a 30-year mortgage even when they think they can afford a 15-year. They can make extra payments as an occasional or one-time event, or on a regular basis, but when money is tight, they can suspend them.

Making extra payments can shorten a mortgage term dramatically and save tens of thousands of dollars in interest. On a $200,000 loan at 3.65%, adding a $1,000 payment once a year can lop four years off your payments, saving nearly $20,000. When interest rates are higher, the impact is even greater.

McBride cautions, however, to only pay out surplus cash. Once it’s sent to the mortgage lender, it’s hard to access that money again.

It’s important to remember that just because

It’s important to remember that just because you’ve locked in a particular mortgage, you still have the flexibility to pay it off sooner if you can. Making extra payments and paying points can save you a lot of money in the long run.

The Ultimate Guide to Planning a Kitchen Remodel

The Ultimate Guide to Planning a Kitchen Remodel

Home Depot & Coldwell Banker Real Estate teamed up to provide you with the ultimate guide to kitchen remodeling.

Step One: How to Plan Your Kitchen Remodel

Taking the time to plan a new kitchen design is arguably the most important step in the remodeling process. A clear, well-conceived plan will guide you through each phase of the remodel and help ensure that the work progresses smoothly and stays on budget. In our first post, we show you the steps to take and provide you with some valuable remodeling design tips. Read It Here

Step Two: Creating a Budget

After deciding on a plan for your kitchen remodel, the next step is assigning a budget to the project. The easiest, most accurate way to establish a kitchen-remodeling budget is to break down the project into smaller jobs. In post #2, we show you which major remodeling expenses to calculate and other ways to keep your costs on target. Read It Here

Step Three: Put On Your Hard Hat (And Thinking Cap) Time for Construction Planning!

Kitchen-remodeling projects should follow a logical work sequence, as those that don’t are subject to problems down the line. In post #3, we provide a typical progression of work for a moderate remodeling project. Read It Here

Step Four: Picking the Right Appliances

A key component of any kitchen remodel is selecting new products that fit with your design,  budget and construction timeframe. In our final post, we take a brief look at six categories of kitchen-remodeling products. With several models, options and variations within each category, picking the right product for your specific kitchen can seem daunting. However, it’s actually a lot of fun and easier than you might think.Read It Here

4 Must-Do Home Tips to Keep You Dry This Spring

4 Must-Do Home Tips to Keep You Dry This Spring

Spring showers may bring flowers as the saying goes, but it can also bring unwanted water into your home. Fortunately, with these home tips, you can use the transition from winter to spring to assess your home from top to bottom and stay dry this spring.

Spring showers may bring flowers as the saying goes, but it can also bring unwanted water into your home, and that’s something that will put a damper on even the nicest day. Fortunately, with these home tips you can use the transition from winter to assess your home from top to bottom, and get moisture under control, before a problem starts.

1. Check the Roof

Maintaining your roof as an annual activity is essential to ensuring it continues to keep you warm and dry, and if you own a pair of binoculars or a camera with a good zoom, you can likely check your roof without having to climb to great heights to get the job done.

Look for shingles that are curled, buckling, or missing. Rust spots or missing caulk around roof flashing or on the underside of roof overhangs could also indicate a water penetration issue. In most cases, roof caulk, and a hammer can help you solve the problem yourself; however, roofing professionals can also make the repairs without having to replace the entire roof.

If you notice large patches of moss growing on the shingles, remove them with a broom and spray with an anti-fungal agent designed for roofs. If any of the signs above is accompanied by staining, peeling, or moisture in interior ceilings, call a professional to have the situation assessed.

Curled Roof Shingles

Image Source: Flickr/Steve Johnson

2. Watch the Windows and Doors

Take a moment while spring-cleaning the windows to check the caulking for areas that have cracked, dried-out, or shrunk. An easy fix to make, simply scrape off the old caulk and replace it with new — just be sure that the weather is warm enough for the caulk to set — anywhere above 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Don’t forget to replace any worn out weather stripping on doors and windows to protect against drafts and leaks while you’re at it.

If your home has wooden window frames, ensure the paint is intact and hasn’t exposed the raw wood underneath. An annual coat of paint can help protect the wood, and if any signs of rot appear, don’t panic. The bad wood can be removed and replaced with new, or scraped out and filled with a paintable compound to avoid having to replace the entire window.

3. Direct Water Away

The easiest way to stop water from pooling around your foundation is to clean the gutters and extend downspouts away from the base of the house. While clearing out gutters, check for an abundance of asphalt grit that may also indicate it’s time for your roof to be replaced. Downspout extenders can be found at any hardware store, and can easily be tipped out of the way or removed for mowing the lawn.

The next best way to direct water away is to ensure your yard doesn’t slope towards the house. A load of topsoil, some grass seed, and a rake to change the slope around your home is a great spring project that will offer a long-term solution.

Rainwater spilling over gutters in a rainstorm

Image Source: Pixabay/sandid

4. Check the Foundation

If you have a basement, check the interior for cracks wider than one-quarter inch, discoloration on foundation walls, or areas of dampness in the insulation. If your basement is finished, a dampness meter placed against the drywall can pick up any areas of concern.

On the exterior, check for cracks and staining that sink deep into the foundation and consider filling with hydraulic cement or other bondable crack filler.

Using these home tips to check your home now for problem areas will make sure you can look forward to the beautiful spring weather that’s on the way, rather than dreading the thaw.

Telltale Signs Your Home is Outdated

Despite its many flaws, you love your home—outdated wooden baseboards, disco-era living room set, purple exteriors, and all. But does anyone else love it?

If you’re considering putting your place on the market soon, it’s high time to take a step back and take a good, hard look at your decor. Dated touches might seem charming to you (wall-to-wall shag will totally be back in style soon, right?). Or maybe you don’t want to go to the trouble and expense of overhauling your decor if the new owners are going to change it anyway.

We get it, but we’re here to tell you: Stop making excuses and be a savvy seller! Your outdated decor will immediately turn off a potential buyer, lowering your home value and making the selling process that much more difficult.

And, even if you don’t plan on selling, you might be surprised what a fresh perspective does to your space (and your soul). Ditching the old-school trends for something updated and modern can make a creaky home feel new again.

Here’s where you’re going wrong—and how to fix it.

1. White appliances

White stoves look outdated.

thelinke/iStock

White stoves look outdated

You probably know stainless steel is all the rage for kitchen appliances, but if your stove is still white, now’s the time to update. Not only are white appliances harder to keep spotless, but you’re risking turning off buyers.

“White appliances make a kitchen feel very dated, and is a deal-breaker for many buyers,” says Will Johnson, a Realtor® and founder of the Sell and Stage team in Hendersonville, TN. “Upgrading to stainless steel or black appliances can make a huge difference.”

2. Glass mosaic backsplash

Once a popular look, there’s now a major kitchen-backsplash backlash.

FOTOGRAFIA INC./iStock

Kitchen backsplash backlash

You might have looked better a decade ago, but the same might very well be said about your house. The biggest tell of a 10-year-old home: That glass mosaic backsplash—probably blue-tinged—that looked oh-so-sleek at the time but now screams 2006.

“Change out the kitchen backsplash to a more classic tile,” saysSacha Nizami, a Toronto interior designer.

Nizami recommends a large-format marble tile, which is “always pleasing,” or plain white subway tile, “a design trend which never seems to go out of style.”

3. Busy wallpaper and bold paint

Busy wallpaper could scare away potential buyers.

Spiderstock/Getty Images

ugly wallpaper

Buyers care about what’s on your walls. It’s difficult to envision yourself living in a room when chintzy wallpaper and vivid walls distract you, making even the biggest spaces feel small and cramped.

“Some of the biggest turnoffs for buyers are walls covered in really busy or outdated wallpaper or bold paint colors,” says Megan Morris, a home stager and CEO of MHM Professional Staging in Orlando, FL. “They have to factor in removing wallpaper, which is a very laborious process, or repainting walls before they can even move in. These are huge costs that can be very overwhelming to think about.”

Swapping your outdated walls for neutral paint makes the home “sell quicker and possibly for more money than you expected,” Morris says.

4. Dated, boring fixtures and hardware

Gold doorknobs could close a lot of doors for potential buyers.

DonNichols/iStock

Gold doorknobs could close a lot of doors for potential buyers

2015 was the year of mixed metals, such as silver and bronze—but somehow, gold missed the memo that it wasn’t invited to the party. If you’re still sporting gold appliances and fixtures—and your surname isn’t Trump—consider a makeover before putting your home on the market.

“Gold can give a home an outdated, ’80s feel,” Johnson says. He suggests replacing it with a modern material, like brushed nickel.

While you’re at it, give your other hardware a once-over—are your doorknobs a boring chrome? Or your cabinet handles a loud, dated brass?

“Swap it all out for something with contemporary appeal,” says Emily Finch, an interior designer based in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Even exchanging beige outlet plates for white ones can make a huge difference.

“This is a detail we often overlook when it’s our own home and we see it everyday, but can go a long way in showcasing the home as fresh and move-in ready,” she says.

5. Tiled countertops

Tiled countertops

Flutter_97321/iStock

Tiled countertops

You might not give much thought to your kitchen and bathroom countertops, but potential buyers certainly will. Consider ditching your old-school tiled countertops before a sale.

“They’re dated, it’s hard to keep the grout clean, and what do you do when a tile chips or breaks?” says Beverly Hills Realtor Kary Bartmasser. “The more work a buyer has to do, the more scared they get.”

You don’t have to opt for full-on granite—materials such as quartz and silestone are attractive and unlikely to go out of style in the next 10 years.

6. Popcorn ceilings

IT CAME FROM TACKY SPACE!!

ceiling photo: Matt Gross
It Came From Outer Space: Universal

popcornceiling-scream

Come on. You know better. You should have scraped off that terrible popcorn ceiling years ago, but you’ve procrastinated, and procrastinated, and… well, just do it now. Do we really have to explain why?

“These significantly date a home and look like a giant, messy project to potential buyers,” Finch says.

Considering how simple they are to remove, there’s no reason to keep putting this off—just hire an affordable contractor, and don’t forget to check for asbestos.

7. Carpeted bathrooms

Carpet in bathrooms: No thanks!

Pamela Moore/iStock

Carpet in bathrooms NO THANKS

We’re not going to sugarcoat this one: It’s not the ’90s anymore—rip out your master-bathroom carpeting already.

“The 1990s brought us so many fine trends, and carpet in bathroom was one of them,” says Justin M. Riordan, the founder of Spade and Archer Design Agency in Portland, OR.

Yes, it’s unpleasant to tread across the cold, tiled floor—but that’s what a bathmat is for.

“You know what else is unpleasant?” Riordan asks.“Mold in your carpet pad.”Seriously unpleasant.

8. Wood paneling

Wood? We would not.

H. Armstrong Roberts/ClassicStock/Getty Images

tacky-living-room

Let’s take a step back, first: If you have a stunning Arts and Crafts home with gorgeous wooden wainscoting, that is not what we’re talking about here. Leave it alone—and treasure it.

But if your basement screams “That ’70s Show,” do something about it before listing.

“Wood paneling instantly dates a home,” Johnson says.“If you can’t afford to rip it out and replace it, paint it a neutral color to make it feel more modern and up-to-date.”

It’s amazing what white paint can do to make a dark, dreary room feel like somewhere you actually want to live.

9. Linoleum floors

Ditch the linoleum.

popovaphoto/iStock

linoleum floor

Time to say goodbye to your linoleum flooring, especially if you’ve got that faux-wood effect laminate that was so popular 15 years ago. Choose a classic stone-look tile for your kitchen or penny rounds for your bathroom, or go hardwood—always a safe option.

“Laminate flooring is what wall-to-wall carpeting was 15 years ago,” Nizami says.“Nobody likes it, and everyone wants to get rid of it. It often looks cheap and feels hollow.”

Finch recommends choosing flooring materials that are neutral and appeal to a wide range of people.

After all, everything goes out of style eventually. Aiming for neutrality is the best way to ensure your home remains fashionable—and buyers aren’t turned off by anything out of the ordinary.

Cool Tricks for Attic Space

If you’re currently using your attic as a catchall for everything from your old Beanie Baby collection to those torrid letters from your sixth-grade pen pal (what were you guys thinking, anyway?), you’re missing out. Homeowners craving some extra space can pass on a pricey addition and invest in a top-floor renovation in the rafters instead. Whether you’re on the prowl for a kid’s playroom, the walk-in closet of your wildest (and weirdest) fantasies, or a man cave with a view, the attic might just be that special ticket. Here’s how to turn this long-forgotten space into the fave new spot in your home.

Replace pull-down ladders with stairs

Converting your hideaway in the rafters into a livable space isn’t without its obstacles. The biggest hurdle is often the stairs … or lack thereof, if your attic is ladder-accessible instead. “This can be the most challenging aspect, since there just might not be enough space to build stairs,” says Kathryn Scottof Kathryn Scott Design Studio. That said, you’d be surprised at what’s possible if you get a little creative.

Tom Cirignano of South Boston, MA, would know: When he and his wife downsized from over 2,700 feet of living area to just 1,100, they quickly found themselves panicking and asking, “Where do we store our stuff?” Fortunately, their new cottage home in Lakeville offered an unused space above the garage. Seeing an opportunity, Cirignano seized it.

“It had a pull-down ladder and a few planks laid in the middle; I had some ideas and went right to work,” he says. “A contractor designed and built an actual stairway.” To avoid sacrificing living space, Cirignano’s contractor turned the stairway 90 degrees halfway up.

“Then I insulated the entire garage and went to work paneling and making storage compartments along both walls, leaving room for a cool man cave in the center,” Cirignano says.“Now, I think it’s the coolest space in the house.”

With room for a man cave amid ample storage, this attic has become Tom Cirignano’s favorite place in his new home. Perfect for an electric guitar and amp!

Tom Cirignano

Create a walk-up closet

If you’ve always dreamed of a walk-in closet/glam room worthy of a Real Housewife, here’s your chance. “Attics easily transform into wonderful walk-in closets,” Scott says. “All you have to do is install clothing rods, shelving, cabinets, and drawers.” Or go further and install semipermanent storage space that looks more polished.

“Just because it’s in an attic doesn’t mean it can’t look good,” says Keith Jajko, marketing manager for Closet Factory. “You can create a significant amount of storage space, add value to the home. Think of them as a  twofer—a project that frees up space and unclogs bedroom closets, while adding usable square footage in the attic.”

Significant usable storage space was added in this Orlando, FL home. This type of project frees up in-demand space inside bedroom closets, for a “two-fer” benefit: Use the attic and unclog bedroom closets.
Attic 2-FL

Elevate your playroom

Dreaming of the day when your living room isn’t teeming with toys? Move your playroom to the top floor, and you’ll never (or almost never) skate across the floor on a Hot Wheels Camaro again. “Attics can become a dream room for your kids,” Scott notes.

Worried it’s too hot up there—or too cold? Solutions abound. “The attic may need to be insulated from extreme weather, but there are plenty of easy-to-install options available that are environmentally safe and reasonably priced,” Scott says. Fiberglass batts, rigid foam, and spray foam all prevent heat loss in the winter and help ameliorate sweltering conditions in the summer. If you have an HVAC system in place, talk with your contractor about extending it to the attic. Or at the very least, small electric baseboard heaters could be the way to go, while window units and portable air conditioners will cool the space down nicely in the summer without costing you a fortune.

From there, go ahead and get creative with decor: Cover the slanted roof walks with chalkboards so the kids can go wild, or add a few beanbag chairs and some comfy throw pillows to make it a cozy nook kids will love. You may not see them for hours at a time. This is the natural order of things. Embrace it!

Tired of tripping over toy train tracks? Banish them to the attic.

Liz Alterman

Tired of tripping on toy train tracks? Banish them to the attic.

What Happens When you Don’t Love the Same House

What could be more romantic than shopping as a couple for the home where you’ll build a life together?

Well, the reality can be far less rosy and way more rocky than you imagine—especially if you and your snuggle puppy have markedly different dream home ideals.

To find out what bumps may be in store, we got three lovebirds to air their dirty laundry on the house-hunting trail, and how they made peace and found a property they both adore.

Scenario 1: She saw her dream home, he saw a nightmare

Cindy and Dave Stevens of Simpsonville, SC

Their story: Three years ago while house hunting, Cindy swore she’d found The One: “It was my dream home,” she says. “It had everything I hoped for—cathedral ceilings, gorgeous kitchen—plus the asking price has dropped from $495,000 to $300,000. So on top of everything, it was a deal.”

But while Cindy was swooning, her husband, Dave, was “down on my knees with a flashlight, inspecting the cracks in the walls, which were literally coming apart,” he says. “It was a catastrophe waiting to happen. And I thought the discounted price proved that there were serious structural problems.”

The cracks in a home’s foundation nearly tore this couple apart.

Cindy and Dave Stevens

TKTK

Both parties dug in their heels. But eventually Dave’s reservations overwhelmed Cindy’s fantasies. The couple eventually agreed that the home wasn’t worth the risk.

“My husband’s worked in construction, and kept saying we’d be stuck with tens of thousands of dollars in renovations,” Cindy says. And in the end, she’s glad she changed her mind—they wound up buying another place that’s a significantly less flawed version of the first.

“It’s Craftsman style like the other, with high ceilings,” she says.

“It has most everything she wants,” Dave says. “And it has what I’m seeking: a good foundation.”

Lesson learned: Don’t fall prey to the idea that there’s only one “dream home”for you—and that passing it up due to your partner’s reservations means you’ll never find love again. There are always more possibilities, and one is bound to fill both of your checklists.

Scenario 2: She wanted a fixer-upper, he wanted turnkey

Lief Simon and Kathleen Peddicord of Panama City (originally from Baltimore, MD)

Their story: “My wife and I have agreed on almost everything in our 18 years together, including the various investment properties we’ve bought in 15 countries,” says Lief. But when they decided to buy a getaway in Medellin, Colombia—a budding tourist area popular with expats—they had their first serious clash.

“He’d wanted a budget-friendly, bare-bones box,” says, Kathleen, founder of the blog Live and Invest Overseas. But she had her eye on a fixer-upper with a terrace and stunning views that was double the price.

They agreed on almost everything for 18 years—except their dream home in Colombia.

Kathleen Peddicord and Lief SImon

TKTK

Kathleen finally persuaded Lief by making a concession of her own: “He agreed to buy the place if I agreed to oversee renovations,” she says. While it wasn’t easy, her love of her new property inspired her to obsess over every upgrade, down to sourcing locally handmade tiles for their new kitchen. The result is a home they both love that they estimate could sell for 30% more than they paid.

Lesson learned: If you want a fixer-upper but your partner doesn’t, volunteering to shoulder more of the work can tempt the reluctant party to meet you halfway.

“At first, we’d planned to go there just once a year, then rent it out the rest of the time,” Lief says. “But in the end, we decided we wanted to keep the place for ourselves and use it as our romantic getaway.”

He wanted amenities, she wanted budget-friendly

Avkash Kana and Sajel Lala, New York City, NY

After Sajel landed a medical residency in New York City, she and her husband, Avkash, had to vacate their spacious 1,000-square-foot apartment in Louisiana and make some tough decisions and trade-offs about what they really wanted in a home.

“I wanted to buy near the hospital, where apartments in our price range were less than 700 square feet,” says Sajel. That was a problem for Avkash, who worked from home as a software developer.

“I wanted an apartment with room for my four monitors, whiteboards, and 5-foot desk that’s set up like a command center,” Avkash says.

Moving to a pricier housing market forced this couple to make some tough choices.

Avkash Kana and Sajel Lala

TKTK

The couple also clashed over amenities such as laundry facilities (Sajel wanted to just come home and throw her scrubs in the wash, but Avkash balked at the added price) and elevators (Avkash wanted one, Sajel was fine with a walk-up).

“We bickered back and forth for the first serious time in our four years together,” admits Avkash.

Lesson learned: Moving to a more expensive housing market is never easy—it may very well mean you must settle for a smaller space, fewer features, higher house payments, or a combination of all three. Once they realized the need to compromise, Sajel and Avkash finally found a place.

“I like that our apartment is 20 minutes from work and has laundry,” says Sajel. Meanwhile, Avkash is happy that it is budget-friendly and has an elevator—and he’s accepted that in New York, he’ll have to make do with less space: “I’ll just have to shrink the size of my command center.”