Designing a new space

How to design a new space and what you should consider when creating a vision board.

Green Building

Ecofriendly construction products that can help save money and energy while also making your home healthy for your family.

Selecting A Contractor

Top mistakes that homeowners make when choosing a contractor for their project.

First Time Homebuyers

There's more to think about than square footage when you're debating about moving into a home, especially in this market


A money saving water preserving alternative to traditional landscaping.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

DIY Quiz - Should you really do it yourself or hire a professional?

Great resource from the National Association of the Remodeling Industry -NARI.

Should you save money by doing the job yourself? Do-it-yourself (DIY) jobs are a popular trend in the home improvement industry; however, before you grab a hammer and start swinging, you should know that this is a trend with a few potential problems. Before you decide to do-it-yourself, the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) recommends taking this DIY quiz:

Take the full quiz over at NARI and see if it's wise for you to tackle your home improvement project yourself or whether it's best to leave it to the professionals. Here's a peek at some of the questions you should ask yourself before deciding to do things like take a sledge hammer to your bathroom...

Yes or No:

  • Do you enjoy physical work?
  • Are you persistent and patient?
  • Do you have reliable work habits—meaning that once the project is started, will it get finished?
  • Do you have all the tools needed and, more importantly, the skills required to do the job?
  • What quality level do you need for this project? Are your skills at that level?
  • Do you have the time that will be required to complete the project? (Always double or triple the time estimated for a DIY project, unless you are highly skilled and familiar with that particular project.)
  • Will it matter if the project remains unfinished for a period of time?
  • Are you prepared to handle the kind of stress this project will create in your family relationships?
  • Do you know all of the steps involved in the project?
  • Have you gotten the installation instructions from the manufacturer to determine whether this is a project you still want to undertake? (Most manufacturers will send you installation instructions before purchase to determine whether the product will meet your needs.)

Monday, December 13, 2010

Color Match Phone App from Benjamin Moore

Thanks to Ben Color Capture you can save yourself a headache when choosing the perfect color match for your home design projects. Whether you need to match an existing color on your walls or you want your living room to resemble a fresh picked melon in your fridge you can use this app to match the exact color for you from the 3,000 Benjamin Moore paint colors!

All you do is snap the photo, tap the screen on the color area you want to match, and voila it pulls up a full range of matching colors. You can even give the phone a little shake and it will show you complimentary colors! Oh and it'll show you where the closest BM location is.

You can thank me later... check out all the details here and pick up the app in your app store.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Room Envy: 2010 Home of the year

Well this edition of Room Envy is actually more like Home Envy because I just want the whole thing! Found this gem in Mountain Living and I drool over it every time I see the pictures. This is truly my ideal home and it's here in Vail, Colorado.... It combines a very sleek and modern look with rustic and raw mountain finishes, the result is truly breathtaking.

5280 Lady

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

First Time Buyers: How to Shop for your First Home

Great article over at AOL Real Estate on tips for buying your first home. There's more to think about than square footage when you're debating about moving into a home, especially in this market. Here's a good gameplan to follow.

It's tempting to just go out and start shopping. After all, that's the ultimate goal and the most fun part. But doing your homework first will pay off in less stress and more savings. If you're house-hunting, whether for tax reasons, more space or just for the chance to have your own washer and dryer, here are tips to get you started.

1. Know how much you can afford
This should be the first step in buying a house so you don't waste your time, or a real estate agent's, by looking at homes that you can't afford a mortgage on. The Fitzsimmonses visited a real estate broker who helped them determine how much of a loan they would qualify for, based on their income and credit. They also factored in property taxes, maintenance, utilities, insurance and possible homeowner-association dues. They totaled those expected costs and set up an experiment: After paying the rent on their apartment, they set aside money equaling the difference between their rent and the projected cost of homeownership. They did this for a few months so they could get used to making the payments. A loan calculator will help figure out how much a home loan will be.
2. How long will you stay in the home?
The longer you live in a home, the better the savings because you're spreading out the upfront costs of buying a house. They include a real estate agent's fee, closing costs, inspection fees and loan fees -- which can add up to 10 percent of the sale price, or approximately 18 months of rent.

3. Get a loan
Getting preapproved for a home loan helps make buying a home faster and easier, especially if there are multiple offers on a home. Your mortgage lender or broker should be able to give you an estimate, down to the penny, of how much money you'll need in closing costs. Then you'll know how much of your savings to set aside for a down payment, which will help determine how much your loan -- and the monthly mortgage -- will be. Putting down 20 percent will eliminate the need for mortgage insurance, although your lender or broker might be able to find loans at good rates that don't require 20 percent down. This is where it really pays to shop around for the best loan rate and terms.
4. Know the market
After determining where your finances stand, the fun part begins in finding out what you can afford and where you want to buy a house . Research neighborhoods that interest you and find out the median price of homes there. You can research homes on websites such as AOL Real Estate, Zillow,, or others you trust. Finding homes similar to the kind you want, and in the same neighborhood, will give you an idea of how fair the price is when you are ready to buy;
5. Shop around
Every house buy requires sacrifices, and you won't get everything you want. There are many factors to consider, such as how much room you need. Does it have to be a single-family home or will a condo work? Is it near transportation, good schools, parks, shopping and your other essentials? Does the home have the amenities you want, such as a fireplace, dining room, backyard, pool or deck?

Find a real estate agent to represent you, or if you're brave and want to do it on your own, go out and shop on your own. Either way, stick to these five steps and you should be fine.

Buying a house, whether your first home or severl down the line, is one of the most stressful and expensive transactions you'll ever undertake. But if you do your homework and prepare for it with the above steps -- figuring out how much you can afford, how long you'll stay, getting a loan, studying the local market, and shopping for a house -- it should be a lot easier.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Re-Designing a Space? How to Create a Design Board

One of the most important things you can do when thinking of re-designing a space is to create a Design Board. This will allow you to get all of your ideas in one place and make sure that all of the elements will be cohesive. The process is relatively simple and Ikea has created a nice article to walk you through the process. They also point out the difference between a design board and an inspiration board.

You have two options when creating your board, you can do a tangible board with real finish samples and fabrics or a virtual board which consists solely of pictures of the finish samples. Either way you choose will give you a good starting place to practice your design ideas before jumping in and throwing paint on the walls.

Some good things to include on your board
  • An overall picture of your ideal space, what is the feeling you want to achieve- sleek and clean, warm and cozy, organized and functional, etc.
  • Paint colors and samples. Also consider paint finishes such as faux, whitewashing, stippling, etc.
  • Architectural details like crown moulding or special trim work
  • Fabric swatches in both neutrals and accent colors
  • Lighting fixtures
  • Furniture and furniture placement
  • Accent pieces such as lamps, vases, plants, and other individual details
  • Finish samples such as tile, flooring material, wallpaper, etc.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

10 Cities with Fast Growing Home Buyer Interest

So a little bit of real estate info here thanks to CNBC

Florida seemed to sweep the list with several locations but taking the #1 spot was Fort Lauderdale with a nearly 100% increase in home sales over last year. Surprisingly, Beverly Hills took second place which is quite interesting given the economic recession. The average home sale price in the ritzy city is mere $1,350,000.

There were other unexpected cities that made the list. Detroit has seen a  39% increase in home buyer interest. Houston Texas and Mesa Arizona both have a growing interest and it's easy to see why when the average home prices are well below $130,000.

See if your city made the top 10 over at CNBC.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Easy tips for winterizing your home

Check your furnace, make sure filters are fresh and clean. If you have an older furnace, consider having  it inspected and tuned to make sure it is in proper working order and running as efficiently as possible. If it is more than 10 years old you may be wasting a lot of energy and money than it's worth, consider upgrading to a new furnace.

Clean your gutters. Clogged gutters allow rain and snow to pool up on your roof creating a chance for leaks. Also be sure that down spouts are properly attached and draining out and away from the home, preferably 10 feet away from the foundation.

Check attic insulation. If you can see the joists you need more insulation, add a layer to the existing insulation. Make sure to use NON paper backed insulation.

Clean your chimney. It's important to make sure the chimney is clean and free of debris before using it during the cool winter. You can hire a professional to sweep and inspect your chimney. Also make sure your chimney has a screened cap to keep unwanted items and animals out!

Replace batteries on smoke and carbon monoxide alarms.

Check for drafts and leaks by walking your home with a lit candle checking doors and windows. Replace old weatherstripping if needed and employ the use of door sweeps to keep cold air out.

Switch the direction of ceiling fans. Did you know that your ceiling fan runs two separate ways? Well they do! In the winter change the direction to clockwise allowing air to push downward into the room recirculating the hot air that rises to the ceiling.

Drain water lines. Make sure those sprinklers are blown out and outdoor spigots are turned off. Detach hoses and store them properly. This will keep water from freezing your pipes and creating costly repairs.

Turn down your water heater. Most household heaters are set to 140 degrees which is a lot higher than you really need, by lowering the temperature to 120 you can save 6-10% on heating costs!

Use a programmable thermostat. This will keep your home energy costs down by operating the heating consistently. It will allow you to decrease the temperature when no one is home and save on your heating bill.

Close off vents in un-used rooms. No sense in heating a room that no one is using!

Throw on a sweater and some slippers and enjoy Old Man Winter.

~5280 Lady

Friday, October 29, 2010

Home Gadget Fest: Gizmos and goodies for your home!

A few of the latest and greatest gadgets for your home! Some for simplicity, some for convenience, and some just because they're cool, which ones will you add to your wish list?

Hidden flat screen tv's. Very 'Sherlock Homes' yet functional if you like a more tailored and sophisticated living space. Slide the art in place until you're ready for some tv time.

Toe kick vacuum. By far the most useful of new home gizmos, this 'vacuum' is mounted right underneath your cabinetry and instead of bending over to sweep up with a dustpan you just sweep the mess right into the vacuum space and it's picked up by your central vac.

Wall mounted garage door opener. For those garages that don't allow for a traditional garage door opener, there are no rails required, the unit simply mounts to the wall.

Electronic dog/cat doors. There are a variety of these on the market. Basically your pet wears a collar that contains either a magnetic or infrared device that unlocks the dog door allowing them in and keeping strays and unwanted animals out.

Fingerprint door locks. For extra security there are dozens of fingerprint door locks. Use them on your front door, garage door, or even an office to keep unwanted visitors out.

Automatic blinds and curtains. No need to mention the convenience of having remote controlled window shades but especially great for tall windows or skylights that are out of reach. What's even better is that you can get cordless electric blinds which have added security for small children that like to play with strings and cords.

-5280 Lady

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Room Envy: Master Bedroom

Whether you go with a classic, romantic, or modern design, the master bedroom should be a retreat. This is a place that you recharge and relax so take care when designing this space for yourself. Consider things like lighting both natural and artificial, paint color, window treatments, and furniture placement and keep them all conducive to sleeping.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Money Saver: Xeriscaping the alternative landscape

Another money saving idea for you, Xeriscaping. Heard of it? Basically it's landscaping that is specifically designed to save water aka save money. But the other huge benefit is that it typically requires far less maintenance. It's very common here in the Denver area, we apparently coined the term back in 1978.

So what is it and what does it look like? Well it can be a complex process if you take it to the extreme. There's the plan and design that takes into account things like curb appeal, sun direction, etc. Then you've got different soils to choose from, compost being the best. Then we look at the irrigation system, regular sprinkler heads vs drip lines all tailored to the specific plants and evaporation. Now for the important part, the plants, turf, and mulch all of which have various options suited for optimal efficiency.

My thought of Xeriscaping was always a barren looking brown and dry yard. I figured you plant a bunch of cactus and cover everything in rock...not exactly my idea of a nice looking yard. I was completely surprised at the variety of plant and design options available that actually look good! So if your yard is needing an overhaul why not go with something that will save you money and time.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Live in your hobby... the Airpark Residence

In case you own an airplane that you need to house you don't need to bother renting a hangar... just pull up your runway driveway and park it! This is one of the most innovative designs I've seen in the architectural world in a while and it's right here in our backyard in Colorado.

The Airpark Residence belongs to a spinal surgeon from Boulder, she's (yes I said SHE, go girl!) a pilot and decided that she wanted to live and breathe airplanes, her ultimate hobby. So she did what anyone would do... naturally, she built  her very own residence on Cessna Drive at the Erie municipal airport complete with her own runway and airplane hanger!

The home is quite beautiful... take a peek... talk about integrating your hobby into your life!

See more pics and read the full article over at Colorado Homes and Lifestyles!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Room Envy: Patio edition

With summer coming to an end it's time to get ready for Fall and in Colorado that means a lot of opportunities to enjoy your patio. The moderate temperatures and cool breezes make it a perfect time to head outside without the scorching summer sun and before the chilly winter arrives.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Get financing for your home & renovation: FHA 203k Loan

Purchasing a home in need of renovation can seem like a daunting task for a lot of reasons. One of which is the idea of financing the renovation costs. It's hard enough these days to qualify for the mortgage alone but tack on an additional loan to renovate and it can appear impossible. Well there's no need to worry about that anymore! The latest thing to hit the mortgage world is called a 203k loan which allows you to incorporate the cost of renovation straight into your mortgage, one loan, one payment, one process. It's actually been around for a while but now more and more homeowners are being informed of this loan.

It's amazing that it's taken this long to come up with a 203k loan. To give you all of the details I'll leave it to an article from because they sum it up very simply. I can also testify that the loan is legitimate, we have gone through the process on the contracting end for a handful of projects using it. On our end it is quite the pain, the paperwork for the contractor is beyond complex and over the top to say the least, but in the end it's a win win situation. The homeowner is able to get into the house and do the renovations they desire and we stay busy with work in a less than ideal economy.

Alright, the loan details...

Foreclosed properties can offer some great bargains, but they often require a fair amount of repairs to make them livable. Fortunately, there's an FHA program - the 203(k) loan - that enables home buyers to roll the purchase price and estimated cost of repairs into a single mortgage right up front.

The FHA 203(k) mortgage can cover repairs, improvements or both on a residential property. Unlike traditional financing, which typically requires separate loans to purchase the property, finance repairs and refinance everything into a long-term mortgage when the work is done, the 203(k) program allows everything to be financed through a single transaction.

Find a property, prepare an estimate
To qualify, a homebuyer needs to identify a property they wish to purchase, then come up with an estimate of the cost of the work that needs to be done. For this reason, the program can't be used for homes purchased at a foreclosure auction - you won't be able to fully inspect the property and come up with a reliable estimate beforehand. But it can be used to purchase an REO (real estate-owned) foreclosed property that's being offered on the market - a real estate agent who specializes in REO sales can be helpful here.

There are a variety of service that provide local listings of foreclosed properties available for sale, including the online listings of properties reclaimed by the four major government-affiliated agencies that insure mortgages - Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) - the FHA's parent agency.

A 203(k) is not limited to the purchase of foreclosed properties - it can be used for the purchase of any single-family home that needs repairs or that the buyer wishes to improve.

Loan based on improved value of property
Once a sales price has been agreed to and an estimate prepared of the cost of the repairs or improvements, an appraisal will often be required. Usually, an appraisal of the property's value after repairs or improvements are completed is all that is needed, but sometimes an appraisal of the as-is value will be required as well. In the case of HUD-owned properties, an appraisal may not be necessary - the agency's own listing of the market value, along with an estimate of needed improvements, is often adequate.
The loan is usually set to cover the appraised value plus the cost of the improvements, or 110 percent of the predicted appraised value of the rehabilitated property. In the case of older homes, a 10-20 percent contingency fee must often be included in the estimate of repairs.

Can cover home expansion
The rehabilitation work can be fairly extensive. These may involve adding extra rooms, converting a multi-unit building to a single-family home, or a single-family property to multiple units. Luxury items may not be covered in the improvements, but the work may include certain amenities such as the addition of a patio or deck.

Buyers can do some or all of the work themselves, but must be able to show they are qualified to do so. Self-contracting can also drag out the application process - using a licensed contractor will make things go much more quickly, though the homebuyer can still do some of the work once the contractor has prepared the estimate.

Streamline option for minor upgrades
For properties which need only minor work, the FHA offers a variation called a 203(k) Streamline, which provides loans of $5,000-$35,000. These can include painting, window replacement, basement refinishing, floor replacement or other improvements for which plans, consultants or engineers are not generally required.

Room Envy: Wine Cellar edition

Bring on the VINO! Whether you're looking for function or design or both the options are endless with wine cellars... like accessing it through a trap door in the floor like this one...

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Room Envy, Kitchen edition

Light bright and airy these are perfect examples of a dream for anyone who loves to cook and entertain...

Luxury Homes in Disney World!

According to the Wall Street Journal, it's the latest idea from Disney, creating a development of luxury homes allowing for a new way to experience "Disney" and the Orlando area. The Golden Oak housing development will offer homes from $1.5 to $8 million. It is expected to hold 450 homes and a new Four Seasons hotel. There are plans for a clubhouse, parks, walkways, and a wet lands conservation all of which is expected to be completed in 8-10 years. Considering the fact that the area holds one of the highest foreclosure rates in the nation it is quite an interesting marketing idea, no?

But it isn't the first time that Disney has created a housing development. Celebration was a 4900 acre community built adjacent to the theme parks in the mid 1990's. But it was a much different idea, there were apartments available for $600 a month all the way up to single family homes at $4 million. It encompassed an opportunity for a larger variety of people to move in, unlike the highly inflated Golden Oak resort community.

I'm not sure that I would take as big of a gamble considering the state of the economy and the housing market in general let alone the horrid housing market in the Orlando area! But it IS Disney... if anyone could succeed in such a venture it would be Disney, Oprah, or Donald Trump right?! So we shall see how this plays out.

All you need is a $25,000 deposit to get on the sales reservation list.

Planet Reuse: Reclaimed & Salvaged Materials for your project!

Stumbled onto a fantastic website today thanks to the NAHB. Planet Reuse is an excellent resource for builders, designers, and homeowners looking to find salvaged and reclaimed materials for their projects. I am a big fan of antiques and vintage goods. I love the idea of repurposing an old and unusual item or material and turning it into something new and relevant. Pair that with the green attitude of the country and you end up with a company like Planet Reuse.

Essentially they provide a place to track down and find materials that are taken from demolition sites. It's a win win for contractors, they can find a use for your project waste and turn one mans's trash into another man's treasure. They even document this for your LEED waste management program and will handle all of the shipping and storing.

On the other end of the spectrum, designers homeowners or builders looking for unique materials or just looking to save some money by buying recycled goods can check out their listings of available materials. They have all kinds of unexpected things like recycled granite that has been turned into pavers, hand hewn beams from old barns, you can even find old gym floor tiles! If you're looking for something in particular you can submit a request for materials.

As a wannabe designer myself I see it as a gold mine... the recycled clay tiles, the antique marble slabs, the cypress logs, the recycled church pews... it's like a creative designers dream and I can think of a million ways to turn these materials into a work of art in any home.

So support the green movement, builders check off your LEED standards of building, and take advantage of the vast amount of salvaged materials out there!

~5280 Lady

Monday, August 16, 2010

What does $258 Million buy you?

Well here in the Denver area it buys you an outstanding new judicial complex to house our Supreme Court, Court of Appeals, and Attorney Generals office! There was a massive demolition today of the previous building. The previous building was the victim of outdated and shoddy building practice from years ago and was therefore destroyed to lend way to a new complex that will be up to date and up to the standards that Denverites expect, especially in a goverment building that our precious tax dollars are funding!

It just goes to show that even the big dogs and government gurus aren't exempt to poor contracting practices. That's why we keep hounding our clients and audience to do their due diligence and research the contractor for your project so that you don't end up on the short end of the stick.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Less Is More: a new approach in home trends

Here's a great video from the Today Show. It's a good take on the changes we're seeing in home construction. Less is more seems to be the new approach. Plus some great insight from Barbara Corcoran on what home improvements will add value vs the ones that wont.

Does It Add Value? Home Improvement Tips & Insight

A change in the tide: Renovation & Remodeling trends 2010-2011

As a result of the times people are changing the way they do things in their every day lives and those changes have now translated into the home improvement realm. There is an overall change in the tide with construction these days...

One of the biggest trends we've seen this past year has been the green movement. It started as a catch phrase but has grown into an actual movement since the downturn of the economy and job market. People are changing not only their lifestyles with food choices and exercise plans but they're also desiring a clean and healthy home for their family. Sustainable flooring and recycled building materials are a common request.

The next biggest trend we've seen in the industry is a scaling back of home improvement projects. In the past homeowners didn't put any thought into the future when they splurged on major home renovations. With the economy today homeowners are cautious of the future and want to make sure that they aren't going to lose their investment in their remodeling projects. They realize the possibility that they could become a victim of the poor job market and don't want to find themselves upside down, having to sell their home for less than they've put into it.

So with this cautious attitude we're seeing more and more small scale projects instead of the big home additions. Instead of gutting kitchens, tearing down walls, and purchasing top of the line appliances we're seeing more of a facelift approach. A lot of homeowners are re-purposing and reusing their exisiting cabinetry and flooring, updating only the countertops and fixtures. The same goes for bathroom remodels, adding some tile flooring, a new tub, and a fresh coat of paint is enough to get a noticeable update with a quarter of the cost.

Along those same lines of scaling back the focus of improvement projects has become "maintenance" projects. Replacing siding, windows, roofing, and doors to uphold the integrity of the home are common practice now according to Martin Conneely of Conneely Contracting.

Color is the new black! The color trends that are popping up seem to follow this overall lifestyle change to get back to the basics and back to our roots. The color pallets are broadening and earth tones and deep rich colors are popular. On the design side we're seeing these colors paired with a global influence in fabrics and decor. As the new year approaches expect to see a move toward simplicity and clean lines with more vivid and rich colors. "In 2010-2011, we’ll see a trend toward consumers choosing livelier colours to reflect their optimism in their quest for a brighter future.” says St├ęphanie Pelland, Marketing Communication Manager for the Sico brand and member of the international colour forecaster Color Marketing Group.

Check out the Home Renovation Guide for more insight into the upcoming design trends.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Room Envy: Cozy Great Room

I saw this picture and fell in love with the design and architecture. My favorite parts are the wood clad windows, the architectural beams, and the grand yet subtle fireplace. I love the simple color pallet, it allows for the room to stand alone without overdoing it. It feels cozy and bright and very homey!

Courtesy of Keith Waters & Associates, Inc.

~5280 Lady

Friday, August 6, 2010

Building for Energy Savings: 9 great tips

So I have to say thank you to Stewart Perry over at Planting Acorns for this list. He attended a U.S. Green Building Council and listened to a lecture from architect Norbert Lechner. Lechner is an energy expert who discussed energy efficiency and green building with the audience. Here's the 9 tips he gave to save energy straight from the building process.

Now before I go into the list I think it's important to realize here that it is crucial to start with the building blocks when making this transition to energy conservation. It is much harder and less effective to remediate problems after the building or home is already in place. A homeowner can switch out appliances, put in different windows, and add skylights after the fact but this is far more costly and your return on energy savings is far from ideal. The key is to make the home as efficient as possible DURING construction.

And from the guru, here's Lechner's take...

1. Building orientation/positioning (can reduce energy consumption by up to 50%) Just by positioning the building in a particular way on the lot and at the appropriate angle we can drop the consumption in half!

2. Building color (reduction up to 20%)

3. Window placement
4. Window size

5. Shading

6. Passive solar heating

7. Day lighting

8. Active solar heating

9. Photovoltaics (PV)