12 Unique Antique Store Finds and What to Do With Them

See the accessories one decorator always buys when she spots them — as long as she gets there first.

Houzz Contributor, Charmean Neithart

I get asked fairly often where I find the accessories in my projects. More often than not my answer is antique stores. “Antiquing” is my favorite type of hunting — and sometimes my favorite contact sport, as well.

Antique stores offer one-of-a-kind objects, reasonable pricing and instant gratification. Beware, though, of competitive shoppers eyeing the object you just inquired about. It’s best to wear flats for your next stop at an antique store; you might have to do some fancy footwork.

It’s helpful to know what you are looking at as you wander through, specifically, whether a piece is truly vintage or contemporary. And there are a handful of objects that I always buy if I find them. These objects are on the “buy now, ask later” list: If I see one of these objects I just buy it and then figure out where it will go later.

For some people, this may go against sensible purchasing behavior. However, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve passed up something interesting only to find it gone 10 minutes later. Oh, if I only had a nickel for every time that happened. So here is my “buy it now” list for those of you who like to antique.

Suzanis. A Suzani is a type of textile, usually from Uzbekistan or other Central Asian countries. I prefer the vintage Suzanis and use them in many applications, such as this beautiful piece that has been mounted behind a bed. They can also be draped over sofas, used for upholstery, and made into pillows.

The circular designs are embroidered and display bright colors. The circular shapes symbolize the sun and moon and also you will typically see flowers, vines and sometimes animals in the designs. They often were used as wedding gifts as part of a dowry.

Foo dogs. If I come across a great pair of foo dogs I always leash those puppies up and bring them home. Usually bright colors, sometimes old and sometimes new, foo dogs are eye-catching accessories for many styles of room.

Headless sculptures. This is just my quirkiness coming through, but I really like a headless sculpture. Authentic and classic, this type of sculpture adds a layer of culture and sophistication to a room.

The age of a piece will be reflected in price. Typically, the older a piece the more expensive it is. Also look for sculpture that has been artistically mounted. A tabletop size piece should cost anywhere from $100 to $300; very old pieces can be quite a bit more.

Elephants. I met a beautiful, majestic elephant in Thailand many years ago. I was able to feed him and take beautiful pictures that I cherish. I’m always reminded of these animals’ peaceful, protective mannerisms when I see replicas in antique stores. I was told that, traditionally, finding an elephant with its trunk up is good luck. OK — I can use some of that.

Blanc de Chine. You can find both old and contemporary versions of these white porcelain pieces originating from Dehua, China. Old versions can date back to the 1600s; these are very expensive. Typically I come across tabletop-sized statues that depict Chinese characters and animals. The size shown here usually costs around $400.

Porcupine quill accessories. Quill accessories can be vintage or reproductions. Old pieces such as small boxes and frames will be very expensive. The vintage pieces were typically made by Native Americans who collected the porcupine needles that were shed naturally by the animals. They developed intricate styles of weaving using these needles. Modern reproductions, such as this mirror, are striking with their black and cream palette.

African stools. I often come across these stools, sometimes called King’s stools or Ashanti stools.Their organic shapes and carving details look great next to sofas and chairs in modern and traditional spaces. They can cost anywhere from $200 to $500.

Midcentury pottery. I always snatch up groupings of multicolored pottery pieces when I find good ones. I prefer ’50s and ’60s era pieces, which come in a variety of sizes. Singles can be used as vases or sculpture, and groupings are great on sideboards and mantels.

Vintage commercial signs. Vintage signs large and small can be placed in rooms for an eclectic touch that adds whimsy and nostalgia to a space. Large ones can can be propped up in a corner, and smaller ones can be mounted just about anywhere. Try mixing in smaller signs with a photo collage on a wall or over a bed.

Vintage radios. Vintage radios are easy to find and I always enjoy inspecting their knobs and dials. I look for ’50s-era radios and interesting colors and add them to sideboards, mantels and coffee tables. If they work, that’s a bonus.

Vintage suitcases. Old suitcases are best when used in groupings, but just as fun in singles. I use them as end tables, coffee tables or just as sculpture. I always open these up and check their condition, but signs of wear are good — it adds patina to a room.

Vintage globes. Another easy find in antique stores, vintage globes are great as standalone pieces or tabletop accessories. I love the very old ones that have neutral colors, but the multicolored school style is fun too, especially in homes with children learning about history and geography.

Which of These Patio Umbrellas is Right For Your Home?

Spruce up your patio with one of these stylish umbrellas.

By Abbey DeHart

What if someone could drive by your house every day and have a look inside at how you decorated, what was hung on the walls, what colors you used inside your bedrooms, as well as how neat and tidy you kept things? It would certainly make you adjust the way you decorate and clean, right?

But one aspect of your home you may forget about is the patio. Your patio space is a direct reflection of your style, and neighbors and friends can see it without even entering your home—yet it’s all too often overlooked! It can be difficult to make choices regarding your patio style or simply to find the money or desire to spruce it up the way you’d hoped, but a few small updates can really make a difference.

A drab outdoor space can quickly be transformed with the right patio umbrella and accessories. Maybe you don’t love your patio furniture, but don’t have the budget to replace it? Fear not! An affordable umbrella in a bright color or bold pattern can easily update your space and make it more warm and inviting.

Let’s consider some unique opportunities for ways to update your outdoor spaces with patio umbrella styles that are outside the norm.

The Standard Umbrella

The standard patio umbrella comes as a solid color, usually a muted neutral or a bold bright color. These patio umbrellas are the what most people gravitate to because they are safe and add class and comfort to your space in a matter of minutes. If you like the look but want to mix things up, start by adding accessories.

For example, consider hanging decorative string lights inside of your umbrella for that “wow” factor during a warm summer evening when cooking out.

Another fun way to change up the traditional umbrella is to select one with a bold pattern and mix and match the umbrella patterns with coordinating patterns on the patio cushions or pillows. This is a fun way to embolden your space without spending too much money.

The Half Umbrella

Have a smaller space? Consider a half umbrella over a couple of lounge chairs. This small umbrella has a cool, casual vibe and is particularly unexpected in an urban setting. It’s a fun option that gives even the smallest patio the dose of personality it deserves and makes your small backyard or balcony feel more like a retreat.

The Cantilever Umbrella

The cantilever umbrella is a freestanding umbrella that looks great over a set of lounge chairs. This umbrella can shift directions to create more shade and gives an impressive spa-like look for people who want to make a true statement on their patio or deck. This umbrella is best for larger spaces and larger budgets, but it’s worth the money! Pair it with some umbrella lights and you have the perfect outdoor party space.

Patio Decorating Tips

Truth be told, a few quick fixes can turn even the most boring, outdated patio or deck into a fun, vibrant entertainment space. If you have basic patio furniture and a limited budget, focus on these key tips to bring your space to life:

  1. Choose accessories that speak to your taste. Whether they’re simple or bold, patterned or plain, bright or muted is up to you!
  2. Add lights. String lights, solar-powered lanterns, torches and even fire pits to add some fun and whimsy to your space at night. There are so many fun options for lighting that create a calming ambiance your guests won’t forget.
  3. Make it comfortable. Make sure that your patio cushions are soft and clean, and don’t be afraid to mix patterns and step outside your box.
  4. Incorporate greenery. If you have extra room in your budget, pick up some oversized pots and pretty plants and set them around the sides of your deck or on the stairs. Mix the plants with options from a greenhouse or nursery, and add some spiked plants or longer vines. Pretty plants always bring coziness to a space.

And most of all? Embrace your own unique style! This is the space that shows off your style to everyone who can see it, so make it the haven you want it to be.

Abbey DeHart is passionate about decor, crafts and DIYS and writes for several publications, including  Plaid Crafts, Angie’s List, HomeRight and The Home Depot. She provides tips on improving your patio area with different outdoor furniture and cool patio umbrella ideas and options.

8 Steps You Need to Know Before Redecorating Your Home

Here’s how to prioritize your game plan for your room makeover.

Houzz Contributor, Karen Egly-Thompson

If you have a DIY decorating project on your horizon but don’t know where to start, here’s a practical guide to help you navigate the process.

1. Commit to a Budget and Timeline

First, figure out your total project budget. If you skip this step, you’ll likely spend much more than you anticipated and make poor purchasing decisions you’ll later regret.

Also pick a date to complete your project by, even if you don’t have a looming reason to do so. Creating a complete-by date will fuel your project so it can take flight. Completing one stage of a project informs the next and the next. Otherwise, approaching your project piecemeal will delay completion, if you even complete it at all.

Set up a good system to keep track of your expenditures. I use an Excel spreadsheet, but even a spiral notebook can work for smaller projects. The key is to keep it updated.

Here’s an example of how I keep a running log of project expenses. While the main goal is tracking the total amount spent, I also indicate the store (which I left off here because stores will vary based on your location and preference), method of payment, general description and any notes, such as delivery fees — useful information that may come in handy later.

Keep all of your receipts together in one location. You can refer to them easily for warranty information and returns, if needed. I use a small zip pouch made for holding pens and pencils while I’m out shopping. After I return and enter them into the spreadsheet, I stapled each receipt to a piece of paper and store that neatly in a project folder.

See more tips on creating a decorating budget

2. Evaluate Your Needs and Lifestyle

Separating wants and needs is a hard one. Prioritize your needs by first creating a list of the furniture and accessories you envision going into your space. List any work you want to do, like painting or wallpapering, too. Then rate each item 1 through 5, with 1 indicating an absolute must and 5 reflecting a nonnecessity. Reorder the items on the list with the necessities at the top and the more wishful items at the bottom. Involve other family members in this process. They may identify overlooked items.

Also, be honest about your family’s lifestyle requirements today instead of at some far-off idyllic future date. For example, if the kiddos use your family room as a playspace, include toy storage on your list. You may have some child safety needs too. Also note any special concerns about pets, such as shed fur or the potential for furniture to get clawed.

3. Decide What Stays and What Goes

Based on your list, identify any pieces of furniture or accessories that you absolutely want to keep in the space. Remove the pieces you don’t plan to reuse; consider donating them if they’re in good shape or selling them online or through a local consignment store.

4. Draw a Preliminary Furniture Plan

If your project is small, this step may not be necessary. However, if you’re buying new furniture or just considering a new configuration, it’s extremely helpful to try out pieces in different locations to see what fits and what doesn’t. The last thing you want is to end up with a too-big piece of furniture. You’ll need a tape measure or laser measuring tool to measure your space and a scale ruler to draw it to scale. A simple sketch illustrating only the outside dimensions is all that’s necessary.

If you don’t have these items or don’t feel comfortable with drawing to scale, an alternative is to “draw” the outlines of furniture with masking tape on your floor or cut furniture-size shapes out of butcher paper to maneuver around on the floor.

Don’t forget about circulation space. Ideally, you’ll want to keep 18 inches between the edge of the sofa and the coffee table. Maintain 36 inches for comfortable general circulation. Since you may not have found specific furniture pieces yet and don’t have detailed furniture dimensions, you may need to revise the size of some furniture pieces as your project progresses. Nonetheless, this exercise is a good starting point.

Also measure your entrance door and the pathway to the room, including building elevators if you live in a high-rise. Bring these notes with you when shopping. If there are any delivery dimension concerns, you can address them then and there.

See more on how to get your furniture arrangement right

5. Concentrate on Big Items First

Focus first on the big-impact items, then concentrate on smaller accessories. Too often people get hung up on a small detail that can derail the flow of the bigger items. The idea is to work from large to small.

Find furniture. Unless you’re lucky to find the furniture you want in stock, most furniture takes eight to 12 weeks for fabrication. However, even in-stock furniture may not be delivered right away. If available, get a swatch of the upholstery or finish sample to help with other room selections.

Unless you’re comfortable working with a complex color palette, minimizing your scheme to two colors, as in the space here, will make shopping easier — and your space will look sharp and put-together.

Find furniture in the Shop section

Work the walls. Compared with any other design material, wall paint gives a room the most bang for your buck. I find it easiest to select a wall paint color or wallpaper after the furniture is selected. You have much more leeway with paint color choices than furniture upholstery. Plan to get your space prepped and painted prior to the furniture delivery.

Watch now: How to Paint a Wall Faster

Hit the ceiling. Color instead of conventional white on the ceiling is another cost-effective attention-grabber, especially if you have crown molding to separate it from the walls, like in this living room.

6. Move Toward the Mediums

After you’ve figured out your furniture layout and color scheme, focus on finding the midscale items that will pull your space together, such as an area rug. Your scaled drawing will also come in handy to see how prospective rugs will work with your furniture layout.

Window treatments like Roman shades and drapery can offer lots of style compared to run-of-the-mill Venetian blinds. They can minimize less-than-perfect windows and help save on energy bills, too. New window treatments don’t have to cost an arm and a leg, either. Ribbon-trimmed cordless shades like the ones shown here here can be ordered online for $100 to $125.

A feature light fixture, like the one in this dining room, can become a stunning design focus.

 

7. Save the Small Stuff for Last

Fill in your scheme with decorative accessories toward the end of your project. You’ll be able to see what areas need attention and have a better sense of scale, especially with artwork. With the furniture in place, you’ll also have easy access to key dimensions, like the clearance between shelves.

I also like to shop for table lamps, particularly lamps that will sit behind a sofa, after the furniture is delivered so I can see how all the heights work or don’t work together. Cord lengths and switch locations are also easier to evaluate when the furniture is in place.

8. Leave Room for the Unexpected

You may come across something surprising in your decorating journey that has special meaning or even adds a bit of humor, like these Hulk hand bedpost toppers. Don’t discount originality or quirkiness; it’s what makes your home truly yours.

More
Decorating 101: How to Start a Decorating Project
28 Design Ideas Coming to Homes Near You in 2017

5 Housewarming Gift Ideas for Small Apartments

Ditch the candles. Here are 5 housewarming gifts that won’t get regifted.

Living in a small apartment requires serious Tetris skills to store items that you don’t use every day.  We can’t give the gift of extra space to our friends who move into small apartments, but we can certainly be more thoughtful when it comes to housewarming gifts. So ditch the candles and give a housewarming gift that won’t get regifted.

 

Gift Cards to Local Stores

Do some research on Yelp for brunch, coffee, dessert, spa, dry cleaning, gym, art classes or whatever your friend loves or may need. Check out the reviews and give a gift card to the top-rated business in the local area. If you are feeling generous, give your friend a tour of the new neighborhood by providing a list of things to do along with the gift cards to the top-rated businesses for each of the things to do.

 

Succulents

Trend alert! Flowers are gorgeous, but these tiny succulent plants last a long time and are easy to take care of. These charming plants can be placed on bookshelves, windowsills, coffee tables or you can even keep them floating in a hanging terrarium. These succulents have become a staple in home décor and are sold pretty much anywhere! You can find them at your local garden stores, pharmacies like CVS or Walgreens, grocery stores like Whole Foods or ShopRite and online.

 

Blankets or Slippers

Give the gift of leisure. Nothing can replace the awesome feeling of lounging on a couch under a soft blanket or walking around in fuzzy slippers. Placing a blanket on a couch or a bed is a good trick to make the room look cozier. And they can be folded and put away easily.

 

Gift Cards to Print Pictures

Giving a picture frame can be risky. What looks great on a store display may not necessarily look great with the (new) style your friend is going for. Give a gift card to a store that prints photos so your friend can finally print the pictures on his or her phone. Snapfish and Shutterfly are two websites that allow you to upload pictures and print. You can also print pictures on coasters, books, mugs, calendars and many other products that your friend can decorate the new apartment with!

 

Smart Plugs and Switches

Smart plugs connect the electrical outlet with the device you are plugging in and lets you turn the device on or off remotely or at a scheduled time.  Perfect for the chronic “did-I-leave-my-curling-iron-on” worrier or the globe trotter who wants to turn the light on and off when he or she is traveling.

 

 

Make your home smarter. Visit coldwellbanker.com/smart-home for more information.

8 Steps You Need to Know Before Redecorating Your Home

 

Here’s how to prioritize your game plan for your room makeover.

Here’s how to prioritize your game plan for your room makeover.

Houzz Contributor, Karen Egly-Thompson

If you have a DIY decorating project on your horizon but don’t know where to start, here’s a practical guide to help you navigate the process.

1. Commit to a Budget and Timeline

First, figure out your total project budget. If you skip this step, you’ll likely spend much more than you anticipated and make poor purchasing decisions you’ll later regret.

Also pick a date to complete your project by, even if you don’t have a looming reason to do so. Creating a complete-by date will fuel your project so it can take flight. Completing one stage of a project informs the next and the next. Otherwise, approaching your project piecemeal will delay completion, if you even complete it at all.

Set up a good system to keep track of your expenditures. I use an Excel spreadsheet, but even a spiral notebook can work for smaller projects. The key is to keep it updated.

Here’s an example of how I keep a running log of project expenses. While the main goal is tracking the total amount spent, I also indicate the store (which I left off here because stores will vary based on your location and preference), method of payment, general description and any notes, such as delivery fees — useful information that may come in handy later.

Keep all of your receipts together in one location. You can refer to them easily for warranty information and returns, if needed. I use a small zip pouch made for holding pens and pencils while I’m out shopping. After I return and enter them into the spreadsheet, I stapled each receipt to a piece of paper and store that neatly in a project folder.

See more tips on creating a decorating budget

2. Evaluate Your Needs and Lifestyle

Separating wants and needs is a hard one. Prioritize your needs by first creating a list of the furniture and accessories you envision going into your space. List any work you want to do, like painting or wallpapering, too. Then rate each item 1 through 5, with 1 indicating an absolute must and 5 reflecting a nonnecessity. Reorder the items on the list with the necessities at the top and the more wishful items at the bottom. Involve other family members in this process. They may identify overlooked items.

Also, be honest about your family’s lifestyle requirements today instead of at some far-off idyllic future date. For example, if the kiddos use your family room as a playspace, include toy storage on your list. You may have some child safety needs too. Also note any special concerns about pets, such as shed fur or the potential for furniture to get clawed.

3. Decide What Stays and What Goes

Based on your list, identify any pieces of furniture or accessories that you absolutely want to keep in the space. Remove the pieces you don’t plan to reuse; consider donating them if they’re in good shape or selling them online or through a local consignment store.

4. Draw a Preliminary Furniture Plan

If your project is small, this step may not be necessary. However, if you’re buying new furniture or just considering a new configuration, it’s extremely helpful to try out pieces in different locations to see what fits and what doesn’t. The last thing you want is to end up with a too-big piece of furniture. You’ll need a tape measure or laser measuring tool to measure your space and a scale ruler to draw it to scale. A simple sketch illustrating only the outside dimensions is all that’s necessary.

If you don’t have these items or don’t feel comfortable with drawing to scale, an alternative is to “draw” the outlines of furniture with masking tape on your floor or cut furniture-size shapes out of butcher paper to maneuver around on the floor.

Don’t forget about circulation space. Ideally, you’ll want to keep 18 inches between the edge of the sofa and the coffee table. Maintain 36 inches for comfortable general circulation. Since you may not have found specific furniture pieces yet and don’t have detailed furniture dimensions, you may need to revise the size of some furniture pieces as your project progresses. Nonetheless, this exercise is a good starting point.

Also measure your entrance door and the pathway to the room, including building elevators if you live in a high-rise. Bring these notes with you when shopping. If there are any delivery dimension concerns, you can address them then and there.

See more on how to get your furniture arrangement right

5. Concentrate on Big Items First

Focus first on the big-impact items, then concentrate on smaller accessories. Too often people get hung up on a small detail that can derail the flow of the bigger items. The idea is to work from large to small.

Find furniture. Unless you’re lucky to find the furniture you want in stock, most furniture takes eight to 12 weeks for fabrication. However, even in-stock furniture may not be delivered right away. If available, get a swatch of the upholstery or finish sample to help with other room selections.

Unless you’re comfortable working with a complex color palette, minimizing your scheme to two colors, as in the space here, will make shopping easier — and your space will look sharp and put-together.

Find furniture in the Shop section

Work the walls. Compared with any other design material, wall paint gives a room the most bang for your buck. I find it easiest to select a wall paint color or wallpaper after the furniture is selected. You have much more leeway with paint color choices than furniture upholstery. Plan to get your space prepped and painted prior to the furniture delivery.

Watch now: How to Paint a Wall Faster

Hit the ceiling. Color instead of conventional white on the ceiling is another cost-effective attention-grabber, especially if you have crown molding to separate it from the walls, like in this living room.

6. Move Toward the Mediums

After you’ve figured out your furniture layout and color scheme, focus on finding the midscale items that will pull your space together, such as an area rug. Your scaled drawing will also come in handy to see how prospective rugs will work with your furniture layout.

Window treatments like Roman shades and drapery can offer lots of style compared to run-of-the-mill Venetian blinds. They can minimize less-than-perfect windows and help save on energy bills, too. New window treatments don’t have to cost an arm and a leg, either. Ribbon-trimmed cordless shades like the ones shown here here can be ordered online for $100 to $125.

A feature light fixture, like the one in this dining room, can become a stunning design focus.

 

7. Save the Small Stuff for Last

Fill in your scheme with decorative accessories toward the end of your project. You’ll be able to see what areas need attention and have a better sense of scale, especially with artwork. With the furniture in place, you’ll also have easy access to key dimensions, like the clearance between shelves.

I also like to shop for table lamps, particularly lamps that will sit behind a sofa, after the furniture is delivered so I can see how all the heights work or don’t work together. Cord lengths and switch locations are also easier to evaluate when the furniture is in place.

8. Leave Room for the Unexpected

You may come across something surprising in your decorating journey that has special meaning or even adds a bit of humor, like these Hulk hand bedpost toppers. Don’t discount originality or quirkiness; it’s what makes your home truly yours.

Add a Pop of Seasonal Color to Catch a Buyer’s Eye

A touch of color can go a long way in making your home standout.

The following is guest post from Patti Stern of PJ & Company Staging and Interior Decorating. All photos are example of design and staging work by PJ & Company Staging. 

If you’re getting your home ready to sell this spring, it’s the perfect season to add pops of trending colors to attract buyers and help your showing stand out from the competition. The following are some of our favorite tips for introducing colorful accents that will grab buyers’ attention and make them feel welcome from the moment they step foot on the front porch. And once they become engaged with the property, they’ll be more inclined to make an offer!

Front Porch
After cleaning up winter debris from the yard, a great way to attract buyers past the front door is to create an inviting porch with plenty of curb appeal. The easiest way to give a quick facelift for the season is with bright accents such as a beautiful welcome mat, floral wreath, colorful pillows placed on a bench or chair and potted seasonal flowers and greenery.

Entry

staging1-updated

Once the buyer steps into the home, create a welcoming entry with an eye-catching hallway runner in a bold patterns and colors. Pair the rug with an adjacent console table vignette using floral or grassy arrangements, a beautiful lamp and hanging mirror to set the inviting tone for the rest of the property.

Family Room/Living Room

staging2-updated

After freshening walls with neutral colors for a soft back drop, add dimension with colorful wall art that not only complements the rest of the room’s décor but enhances the room’s unique features.
Bring new life to sofas and chairs by adding accent pillows in trending spring colors and bold prints such as coral, turquoise, and green. Don’t forget to layer with a soft throw draped over an armrest that complements the color palette and adds a feeling of warmth and luxury.

Fresh Bedding

staging3-updated

An easy way to embrace the spring season in your bedrooms is by putting away heavy bedding and adding a white duvet or coverlet. Layer with accent pillows, shams, and a cozy throw in fresh hues such as floral prints in soft blues, greens, corals and yellows for a spring-like, peaceful feel. To complete the fresh look of the room, pair bedding accents with nature-inspired botanical wall art in complementary colors.

Inviting Touches in the Bathroom
To create a welcoming, spa-like ambience in the bathroom, our go-to accents include layering fresh, fluffy towels on countertops and racks, hanging a fresh shower curtain with bright patterns and hues and finishing with a plush bath mat to match. Other favorite touches are silky florals in creams, green succulents, colored glass vases or bottles, liquid hand soaps, candles and of course wall art.

 

patti-sternPatti Stern, principal, interior decorator and professional stager of PJ & Company Staging and Interior Decorating, has been decorating and staging homes since 2005. She and her team provide turnkey, full service home staging and interior decorating to clients across Connecticut, New York and Massachusetts. She also developed an award winning staging program for luxury homebuilder, Toll Brothers. Her company has received Houzz 2015 and 2016 Awards for Customer Service. Patti has been featured in Connecticut Magazine, the Hartford Courant, Danbury News-Times and on NBC Connecticut and FOX TV. She is a regular contributor to the National Association of Realtor’s Blog, “Style, Staged and Sold.”

Home Renovations & Features for the 2017 Smart Home

smart home technology trends

Discover the hottest new trends in smart home technology, from voice control to security, to temperature control to lighting and even safety measures like door locks!

Is your home a smart home? If you’re like most U.S. homeowners, the answer is probably yes, or it will be soon. What were once seen only as gimmicks reserved for the tech-savvy homeowners have quickly become the norm. We conducted a survey and  found that almost half (45%) of Americans own some sort of smart home technology. More surprisingly, 36% of that group don’t consider themselves to be early adopters of technology.

Whether you’re shopping for a first home, looking to sell your home, or planning home renovations to add value to your house, smart home technology should be at the top of your must-haves list. 54% of homeowners said they would install smart home products if they were selling their home and knew that doing so would make it sell faster. In fact, about 33% of agents said homes with smart features sell faster.

What Makes a Smart Home Smart?

So, which smart features and home renovations should homeowners and home buyers be most interested in next year? Our survey found the top “smart” features were:

  • Voice Control
  • Security
  • Temperature
  • Lighting
  • Safety

Most Americans (60%) agree that a home needs to have at least three of these features to be considered “smart.”

Voice Control

One of the fastest-growing smart home features in the last year is voice control. The list of products that operate with voice control features is growing by the day, from music players to TVs to even security products, lighting, and shopping.

smart home technology trends - watch

Security

Most Americans think a home can be considered “smart” when it has smart security locks and alarm systems. Security features lead the way for smart features in terms of adoption and appeal. Even though 58% of home buyers say smart security is the most appealing type of pre-installed smart home technology, only 31% have smart security installed.

Temperature control

Smart temperature control is more widely adopted with homeowners over the age of 65 – about 40% have smart temperature products, while only 25% of 18-34 year olds have the technology installed. The favorite features of smart temperature controls are:

  • Improving the comfort of the household (71%)
  • Reducing energy consumption (68%)
  • Monitoring or controlling their device while away from home (41%)

Safety

The safety of the household should be a top priority for any homeowner. Smart technology offers new features for fire and carbon monoxide detectors, nightlights, and other renovations to make your house safer. Homeowners look for safety features that allow them to monitor and control the safety of their home either when they are away (52%), or from anywhere inside the home (30%).

The leader in smart thermostats, Nest, has also released a smart Smoke and CO Alarm, Nest Protect. One feature of this device that is quickly becoming the norm for smart technology is interconnectivity. If your Nest Protect detects smoke or carbon monoxide, it will tell your Nest Thermostat to turn off the furnace automatically.

Lighting

For homeowners looking to improve comfort with the ability to make easy changes in the mood of their home – while reducing energy consumption – smart lighting is just the thing. Many new smart technologies emerged this year for a smarter lighting experience:

  • C by GE uses Bluetooth connectivity so you can personalize your light temperature settings throughout the day. This allows your lighting to sync with your body’s circadian rhythm and improve your sleep cycle.
  • FlipFlic is a device installed on window blinds that automatically adjusts the blinds based on light, temperature and time of day. Natural lighting can play a major part in your home’s mood and vibe and this device gives you more control over it.

Our study also found that 70% of homeowners say they plan to invest more money in smart home renovations and features in the future. This new home trend is rapidly increasing and offering homeowners new ways to improve their own standard of living while raising the value of their homes.

Which smart renovations and features do you plan on adding to your home in 2017

Before You Fall Head Over Heels for a 100+ Year Old Home

04.11 buy old house - antique doorknob

If you want to buy an older home, there are a few important issues you should be aware of before you close the deal. Here are some ways to help avoid future heartache.

There can be something quite romantic about buying an older home. Prospective homebuyers are often smitten when they first encounter the unique character and charm of a 100+ year-old home. Decades of history and stories are reflected in its small imperfections and quirks. The unexpected nooks and crannies, ornate woodwork and beautiful built-ins can be hard to resist. Or perhaps it’s simply the lure of an affordable fixer-upper situated in a desirable location.

Love at first sight is a good thing when you’re shopping for a new home. But when that home is 100+ years old, you need to make sure you’re not sweeping potentially costly issues under the rug as you get swept off your feet.

If you want to buy an older home, there are a few important issues you should be aware of before you close the deal. Here are some ways to help avoid future heartache (and pocketbook pain):

1. The Dreaded Lead. Approximately 87% of homes built before 1940 contain lead-based paint. The toxic substance, known to cause a variety of health problems, especially in young children, was frequently used in household paint prior to 1978, when its use was banned by the federal government. Even if the home you’re considering has newer paint, it’s highly possible lead could still be hidden beneath the fresh paint layers.

The good news is that if the paint is in good repair, the lead usually doesn’t pose a risk. The hazard comes when lead-based paint starts breaking down, peeling or chipping. If that’s the case, or you have particular concerns about lead exposure, the best course of action is to hire a certified inspector to test for lead. According to the EPA, the average lead removal project costs about $10,000, so if the home tests positive, you need to consider that in your overall budget.

2. Energy (In)efficiency. Charm may not be the only thing oozing from those lovely double-hung 19th century windows, old steam radiators or original faucets. While charming windows, mechanicals and fixtures might match the style of an older home, they also tend to be inefficient in their energy use. That means you could be facing some surprisingly steep energy bills after you move into the home.

If possible, ask about the previous owners’ average monthly gas or electricity costs to get a sense of what to expect. You’ll also likely want to plan and budget for energy-efficient replacements (or refinishing, in the case of windows). Consider smart home products like smart thermostats that can help save you time and money.

Find out the age of major mechanicals, price out the cost of new units, and make a schedule for replacing them based on when they’ll reach the end of their useful life. Also, make sure you leave some wiggle room for unexpected discoveries, like replacing a leaky toilet or faucet.

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3. Structural struggles. Even the most well-built homes fall prey to the ails of time, meaning foundations sink, structures shift and moisture can find its way into pilings and foundation supports. You should keep a close eye out for signs of trouble, in the form of wall cracks, sloping floors, stuck windows and doors that refuse to close. If you see any signs of trouble, have your inspector take a look to provide a second opinion (ask them to pay particular attention as well). If you identify issues, you’ll want to bring in an expert, such as a structural engineer, to better assess the problem and provide an estimate for fixing the damage. A few hundred dollars may remedy small exterior cracks, while extensive repairs to the foundation could run tens of thousands of dollars.

4. Careless renovations. Sometimes an older home has remained relatively untouched over years, or has been tastefully and professionally updated. In other instances, previous owners may have attempted renovations that didn’t go so well. If there are clearly apparent additions (like a basement bedroom) or major renovations, it’s a good idea to confirm the work was permitted by the city. If it wasn’t, you may want to dig a little deeper to ensure the work was completed with a high level of quality and meets legal requirements for the space, especially when it relates to electrical systems and structural changes or additions. Also beware of partially-completed renovations. It could mean the work was a DIY project and not performed by a professional, or that the person doing the work discovered a larger issue and abandoned the problem rather than fixing it.

 

Buying an older home can be a very rewarding experience, but it’s especially important to be aware of potential issues to avoid unexpected problems in the future. Talk to your agent about finding the right home for you.

11 Smart Upgrades to Consider Before It’s Too Late

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Some upgrades are difficult or impossible to do later. Tackle these projects now to save yourself the headache.

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Houzz Contributor, Nicole Jacobs

Building a new home is a pleasure not everyone gets to experience. You get to construct your home exactly to your taste, with the components and finishes you want and can afford. Often you’ll be deciding what is worth the money to do now and what you’d prefer to save as a renovation project to do later. There are a number of factors to consider, including how long you plan to live in the home, whether you’ll be able to put upgrades directly onto your mortgage or pay out of pocket, and what upgrades are valuable for resale.

Upgrading later by doing it yourself can sometimes be a good plan allowing you to avoid paying the builder’s premium. But sometimes waiting will not only not save you money, it will cost you more in the end or create a headache when the upgrade is finally addressed.

So here is our now-or-never list: upgrades that will be difficult, costly or nearly impossible to do later. If you’re building a new home, you’d be wise to check these off the list now.

1. The Stairs

Before construction can begin, the builder has to finalize plans and submit them to your city, town or county for approval and permits. Depending on your builder and where you live, this may mean you’ll have an opportunity to make some changes to your plan prior to submission. One big element to address now is the staircase. If you’re building your home with a production builder — that is, a builder constructing a home development, usually in a suburban neighborhood — the typical builder’s-grade staircase is carpet over plywood. Unless you’re prepared to rip out the entire staircase later, which is no small feat, now is the time to request solid wood.

Wood staircases come in different varieties, so be sure to ask what your builder offers and at what additional charge. Wood upgrades are usually either oak or maple, which have very different looks. Oak has a heavier grain, while maple is smoother and more subtle in texture. These woods also differ on price, with maple being the more expensive.

Do you want a stair runner? If you’re on the fence, then wait. That way, you won’t have marks from installing the carpet left in your wood if you change your mind.

If you plan to upgrade to solid wood stairs, the other thing to consider is the flooring that abuts the staircase. The stairs are stained on site, and if you select a prefinished flooring, it’s important to ensure that the stain used on the staircase is the best possible match. Bear in mind that an exact match is unlikely, but you’ll usually be able to get pretty close. Ask questions and be involved in the stain selection process, or at least make sure the painter custom-mixes a stain to work with your flooring.

2. Recessed Lighting

While can lights themselves are generally inexpensive to buy at any big-box store, installing them is another matter. Avoid the hassle of an electrician cutting into your brand-new drywall to install the lights and switches. If your builder has an upgrade, just go for it now.

3. Tub and Shower

Two of the first elements to be installed in your home after framing are the bathtubs and showers. If you want an upgrade such as soaker tubs, jets or multiple shower heads, plan for it now. Once tubs and showers are installed and tiled, they require a sledgehammer to change out later.

4. Niches and Half Walls

Structural upgrades in the bathroom that would require a full remodel to do later are wise to tackle now. These include tiled niches — perfect for soap and shampoo bottles — as well as half walls for glass shower walls and doors.

You might also think about how you can incorporate niches and half walls in other areas of your home, perhaps for displaying art or partitioning rooms, respectively. Any remodel that requires framing and drywall is messy and disruptive, so unless you’re prepared to live with the dust, now is the time to discuss these ideas with your builder.

5. Radiant Floor Heating

Radiant floor heating is nice to have, especially in the bathroom to warm your tootsies on what would otherwise be cold tile. But this is one of those items that needs to be done before the tile is installed, so keep this in mind if it’s on your wish list. Installing it later is a big job that requires busting up the tile first and having a clean subfloor on which to install the product before tiling again.

6. Door From Garage to House

Some builders include this, while many offer it as an upgrade. Access from the garage to the house is a great feature, allowing you to avoid the elements. Because of grading, there are some circumstances where a door to the house from the garage is not possible. Be sure to ask so you aren’t surprised later.

7. Anything to Do With Windows

Have a close look at your plan and find out whether it’s possible to upgrade the windows or add more. Depending on your city’s bylaws regarding the percentage of glass you can have in correlation with the distance to the property line, your builder may be able to add a couple more windows to your plan or enlarge the ones that are already there. Also, if you like the look of windows with mullions, this may be an upgrade as well.

8. Gas Fireplace

To decide whether to tackle this project now or later, consider these facts about gas fireplace installation. For starters, you obviously need to run a gas line to the fireplace location. If you want your fireplace to be flush with the wall, you’ll usually need a foundational bump-out to support the weight of the unit, and that must be on the plans early. If you like the look of a flush fireplace wall, such as the one in this photo, building one later would become a pretty major structural renovation, so best to do it now.

If it’s too late to build the fireplace out the exterior wall, the unit must be installed into the room, usually framed into a drywall box-out. It’s possible that you’d be able to select the depth of the box-out — as in, how far into the room it will go — to accommodate flanking bookcases, for example. This is also a good opportunity to have an electrical outlet for your TV installed above the fireplace, if you desire. Also, if you require a gas line for your kitchen range, it’s best to do it now.

9. Insulation

An item that is really impossible to upgrade later is the type of insulation you have in your walls. Builders will usually use batt insulation at the minimum code requirement, but often you’re able to upgrade to a higher value batt, or a more expensive spray foam. Looking to have a future music or theater room? Ask about your soundproofing options now, as this affects both the type of insulation and drywall used.

10. A Future Basement Bathroom

One pretty valuable upgrade, in terms of function and resale value, is the basement bathroom. It’s inadvisable to finish a basement within the first year of its build. Among the reasons: The foundation needs time to settle, the concrete needs to dry and finishing it too early could void a new homeowner’s warranty. But preparing for finishing it is wise. Upgrading to add the basement bathroom rough-in, which means the ABS pipes and drains are in place and ready to go, is something that will be costly and disruptive to do later.

11. Tech Stuff

Anything that is wired in your walls is best done when the house is being built, along with your other electrical work. Think speakers, outlet placement, conduits for equipment wires, data ports, alarm systems or smart-home technologies. Again, punching holes in drywall all over your house to accommodate these items is more than an inconvenience, and it’s an expense you’ll want to dodge.

Does Samsung Have the Easiest Way to Make Any Home a Smart Home?

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SmartThings aims to be the smartest thing to make your home a bit smarter.

Everyone wants their home to be smarter. Even the biggest of Luddites can admit that the idea of your home adjusting temperatures to your personal preference upon arrival is pretty enticing. Oh and if it can fold your laundry for you? Sure, I’ll take that too.

But turning your plain, old home into a smart home can often feel like a costly and daunting task. Even if I own a few smart products that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s instantly smart. How do I get my devices to talk to each other and automate things so it’s the nirvana that everyone who talks about smart homes makes it out to be?

That’s where Samsung steps in. Samsung SmartThings seeks to be the simplest way to turn any home into a smart home. Take a look at the interview we did with Abbie Byrom of Samsung SmartThings to showcase just what can be done to make your home just a bit smarter.