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Fall 2015



Fall lawn care

New water heater regulations

What’s up with wallpaper?

Is it time to replace your HvAC system?

Your Home Inside & Out SOUTHSIDE

fall 2015

Remain Cool


When should you replace your HVAC system?

Getting Artsy


Furniture taking on sculptural feel.

It’s a Cover-up


Wallpaper gets modern twist

It’s Green, They Say

Take these tips now for a healthy lawn next spring

New Rules


Regulations make water heaters more efficient

A Loan Again Going Up

Some grand ideas for staircases

All Your Home’s a Stage

Get more for your house when you sell


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Your Home Inside and Out / FALL 2015



Repair or replace?

How do you know when it’s time to get a new HVAC system? By AMY MAY Staff writer


he purpose of a home’s heating, ventilation and air conditioning system is comfort. If your HVAC is no longer making you comfortable — including in your wallet area — then it’s time to replace it. EnergyStar, an Environmental Protection Agency program that helps businesses and individuals save money and protect the environment through improved energy efficiency, recommends replacing the air conditioner and heat pump after 10 years and furnace after 15 years. Local licensed contractors don’t necessarily agree with that specific number, but say HVAC systems do have a limited lifespan, which depends on a variety of factors, including the cost of repairs. “Typically, an HVAC has a 12- to 13-year life cycle,” said Bill Miller, owner of Bill Miller Heating & Cooling in Franklin. “The problem is that like with your car, if it’s 10 years old with 30,000 miles or 10 years old with 300,000 miles. The more miles dictate how long it has.” He recommends replacement after 12 or 13 years. Shawn Keith, a designer with Johnson Heating & Cooling in Greenwood, said with proper maintenance, an HVAC can last 12 to 15 years. He does not advise customers replace theirs at any specific time. They should take into account age, use and condition of the unit, as well as the customer’s financial situation and preferences. If your furnace is working fine, there is little incentive to get a new one. But if it’s dinging your wallet with frequent or large repair costs, you may want to replace it. “With a 10-year-old furnace, major repairs can be in the $600 or $700 range. I recommend you don’t spend that on a 10-year-old furnace or air conditioner. It’s not worth it,” Miller said. One issue for an older unit, Miller added, is

that multiple parts can break down. He said he might replace an expensive part for a customer. The new part comes with a guarantee, which sometimes gives the customer a false sense of security. “But the other parts on it are just as old (as the replaced one). There’s other components on there that can fail,” he said. Replacement cost for a HVAC averages $4,000 to $10,000, depending on the size, brand and extras. Generally, if a repair costs 20 percent of the price of a new HVAC, a homeowner should lean toward getting a new one, Keith said. However, if the customer has kids in college or some other significant expense, he may want to delay

replacement and just go for the repair. “Any time the system is costing you a significant amount of money to own is a good time to consider replacing it,” Keith said. “But do it when your family budget allows, when it’s best for you. Start thinking about it at the 15-year mark. But there comes a time in a system’s life when it costs more to operate than it does to replace it.” It takes about a day to replace the system, and the work doesn’t usually mess up the client’s house or cause much of an intrusion, Miller said. The parts to be replaced include the furnace and blower unit, which is usually in the basement or utility room, the condenser, which is

outdoors on a concrete pad, and the thermostat, which is located in a central area of the home. Usually, the duct work is OK and does not need replacing. “It’s all moving components. Every component that has function gets replaced with new materials that are up to code,” Keith said.

Safety issues Safety is another consideration when deciding to repair or replace, both contractors said. Electric HVAC systems don’t have any inherent safety issues as they age, but gas furnaces can. Burning gas creates carbon monoxide as its exhaust product, which can kill if it accumulates in a home. A properly working furnace vents the

“With a 10-year-old furnace, major repairs can be in the $600 or $700 range. I recommend you don’t spend that on a 10-year-old furnace or air conditioner. It’s not worth it.” Bill Miller Owner, Bill Miller Heating & Cooling

Your Home Inside and Out / FALL 2015


“If it’s functioning but not keeping you comfortable, it’s not working because it’s not keeping you comfortable, which is its purpose.” Shawn Keith Johnson Heating & Cooling


exhaust out of the home. sumed vs. output, used to be 13. Now, you can “When it’s working right, it’s as safe as anyget units with a SEER rating of 23. thing else,” Miller said. “But the heat exchanger “It will cost you more initially, but it will use can develop a crack and leak carbon monoxide. less electricity,” Miller said. That’s why it’s important to have annual inspecMiller encourages his customers to purchase a tions. In the winter, you seal the house up and furnace with easy-to-access filters. A replacement there’s no exiting of air. You could go to sleep is also a good time to upgrade to a unit with betone night and not wake up.” ter filters. Unburned natural gas has a rotten egg smell EnergyStar also encourages use of the prothat is purposely added grammable thermostat, When is it time to replace? to alert people nearby of but both contractors say Certain telltale signs indicate it’s time to a leak, Miller said. those offer energy savreplace heating and cooling equipment, or Carbon monoxide is improve the performance of your system. It ings in specific situamay be time to call a professional contractor to odorless and tasteless. tions. help you make a change if: In addition to the reg• Your heat pump or air conditioner is more “It’s good to have if than 10 years old. ular professional inspecyou work 12-hour shifts, • Your furnace or boiler is more than 15 tions, Keith said a carfor example, but it’s not years old. bon monoxide detector • Your equipment needs frequent repairs my No. 1 concern ... but and your energy bills are going up. is essential if you have it’s not a bad option,” • Some rooms in your home are too hot or gas appliances. Like a Keith said. too cold. smoke detector, it will • No one is home for long periods of the day Miller said they are and you do not have a programmable thermoalarm if it detects CO. good for people with a stat. There are numerous • Your home has humidity problems. vacation home or someother issues that might • Your home has excessive dust. one who is gone from • Your heating or cooling system is noisy. indicate the system is on home a lot. But the • Your score on the Home Energy Yardstick its last legs or at least is below five. problem with programneeds to be looked at by — EnergyStar mable thermostats is a professional, Keith said. most people don’t know If the home has higher than normal humidity, how to program them properly, which offsets any the air conditioner’s dehumidifier is probably energy savings they might reap. He said constantnot working. ly adjusting the thermostat wastes money because “That is most important for comfort in coolthe HVAC system has to work harder to bring ing. If it’s a cave-like atmosphere, cold and damp, temperature up or down. the air conditioner is not at 100 percent,” Keith “I always say set it on one temperature and said. leave it alone. Forget you even have a thermostat If there’s more dust than usual, the system vs. yo-yo-ing it up and down.” could be adding particulates to the air stream or there could be problems with the duct work. And if it starts making an unusual noise, that Make it last usually indicates a mechanical issue; some movTo get the maximum life out of your HVAC, ing part is malfunctioning. be sure to give it proper maintenance. A profes-

Newer is better One advantage of replacing the HVAC is being able to take advantage of more efficient technology, which keeps the home comfortable for less money by reducing energy use. EnergyStar has a labeling system to tell consumers which products it considers the best. Fifteen years ago, a brand new HVAC was considered top of the line if it was 90 percent efficient. Now, the standard is 95 percent, Miller said. The Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating, a manufacturers’ rating that measures energy con-

sional contractor should inspect it yearly. The general rule of thumb is to change or clean the filter once a month depending on use, air conditions, etc. The contractor can show the homeowner how to maintain the filter and discuss the frequency. But no matter how lovingly maintained, every machine will eventually fail. But just because it’s running doesn’t mean it’s working property, Keith said. “If it’s functioning but not keeping you comfortable, it’s not working because it’s not keeping you comfortable, which is its purpose.” H


Your Home Inside and Out / FALL 2015


Sculptural influences seen on new furniture designs By Patricia Sheridan Pittsburgh Post-Gazette


ichelangelo might have been tempted to pick up a few things at this year’s Spring High Point (N.C.) Market. There was a clear sculptural influence on the home furnishings on display — some subtle, some obvious. From undulating lines to strong angles, both upholstery and case-goods showed off their artistic sides. Less a trend than a design direction, the look can have the swirly lines of art nouveau or the hard edges of Bauhaus. Vanguard’s Spot table is modern contemporary with an ancient Japanese wood treatment called Sho Sugi Ban. Controlled scorching of the wood’s surface was done to prevent frame houses from catching fire and now makes a great finish. Norwalk’s Celeste sofa and headboard put conventional to rest with an unexpected asymmetrical curve appealing to the nonconformist in all of us. “We wanted a modern update to the parlor settee. The key to its popularity is that it is wellscaled and comfortable,” said Caroline Hipple, a member of the Norwalk design team and Hb2

CEO. “Can’t you imagine its wavelike profile in an elegant beach house?” Well suited for any environment is Kelly Wearstler’s carved marble side table for E.J. Victor. Sturdy, solid yet somehow sleek. Alden Parkes’ Scalloped end table echoes a classic Greek column with its reeded base. A more chiseled approach is the Triton Stone side table by Palecek done in a champagne marble tile inlaid over fiberglass. “Sculptural tables like the Triton Stone side table immediately capture our attention by reflecting man’s ability to translate immutable stone into the ethereal visions of his imagination,” said Andrew Palecek. “To communicate this idea, crystal stones are thinly sliced and inlaid at strong angles.” Thomas O’Brien’s low fireplace chair for Century brings to mind works by Swiss sculptor Alberto Giacometti, thanks to its long, lean profile. The Winston credenza from Bernhardt Interiors, like the Scalloped table, has an architectural bent with its wavy facade clad in a metal alloy. H

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Your Home Inside and Out / FALL 2015



This is not your grandparents’ wallpaper

Today’s styles are modern, edgy By JENN WILLHITE Correspondent


he idea of wallpaper may make you twitch. You may even experience flashbacks to your grandmother’s flowerpatterned walls of embossed lavender and olive green velvet. But don’t judge a wallcovering by its outdated pattern. Wallpaper is coming back and today’s styles are bringing an edgy, modern flare. In 2014, wallpaper began rolling back into mainstream popularity with trendy sites such as, and Angie’s List. Although it’s enjoying a newfound popularity in large metropolitan areas, regionally speaking, it hasn’t exactly returned with flare. But that doesn’t mean it won’t. Gerard Lehner, owner of Lehner Designs in Greenwood, said his company hasn’t had too many requests for wallpaper installation. “Not that they’re not making new introductions or products,” he said. “We just haven’t had much of a demand with our customers.” Part of the hesitancy can possibly be attributed to cost. As wallpaper is considered an upgrade from painting, there are several factors that can influence the cost of a project. First there’s the cost of the paper itself, which can vary greatly depending on the type of pattern and location. Then you have to consider the labor

costs that involve not only application, but preparing the paper for installation. Having straight panels applied is much cheaper than projects that involve a lot of intricate cutting to fit the space, Lehner said. A wallpaper installation cost calculator at says the total cost for papering a 500-square-foot room in Johnson County should run between $1,300 and $2,900, depending on the type of wallpaper, number of hours required to do the job and other factors. As wallcovering companies introduce new patterns, they’ve also made changes to the chemical composition of the adhesive used to apply the coverings. Like paint, which has become more environmentally friendly in recent years, wallpaper is taking the same road. “The newest thing is the type of adhesive they’re using,” Lehner said. “The VOC (volatile organic compounds) levels are a lot lower and green.” If you think a greener product may impact durability, think again. Like traditional wallpaper, these new styles – when installed correctly – will last just as long. In fact, you’re more likely to tire of the pattern before it becomes outdated. Wallpaper is a great way to add texture, accent and color to any room, Lehner said. It offers a uniqueness you can’t get with simply painting drywall.

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It’s important to remember that in some ways, wallpaper demands a bit more commitment than painting. After all, have you ever tried to remove wallpaper? Today’s wallpapers offer more options than old-school paper wallpaper. Vinyl wallpaper not only offers durability, but is easy to clean and maintain. There are also self-adhesive options, including decals. When choosing the right wallpaper type and pattern for your home, remember it is an expression of your style. And you don’t have to paper an entire room; you can use wallcovering on specific walls or as an accent statement or border. According to the design blog Walls Republic, faux finishes and wood paneled styles are ideal for any neutral space that needs depth and dimension. If you’re looking for a little shimmer and sass, contemporary textured and tactile patterns and glass bead wallpapers certainly fit the bill. And, of course, if you are a fan of floral, new geometric and natural patterns offer a new interpretation of old classics. “The wallcoverings that have been shown to us, the new introductions, offer lots of bolder colors, bigger patterns, retro designs, and a lot of texture and embossing,” Lehner said. “There are also metallics and pearlescent-type wallcoverings. There’s a lot in the market

that is unique and can add a unique accent feature to a dining room or bedroom.” If your grandmother’s velvet embossed wallpaper didn’t traumatize you, odds are the large murals of mountain ranges and waterfalls from the 1960s and 70s may have. As cringe-worthy as you may believe those to be, new technologies have made it possible to offer a trendier nod to the days of nature scenes on the den wall. Today, there are numerous styles available, including art replications, cityscapes and abstract patterns that can offer a room not

7 only a conversation piece, but a striking background. Should you decide to go with wallpaper for your next remodel, there are numerous resources, both online and at paint and wallpaper or home improvement stores, to help you find the wallpaper that suits your style and need. “Usually if there’s something you see online, it’s just doing the research and finding out who the manufacturer of the wallcovering is,” Lehner said. “And see if you can purchase it directly or need to go through a distributor. Many wallcovering companies only sell to distributors.” If you have existing wallpaper that simply must go, you could tackle the removal yourself, but it may be best to call in the experts. Most design companies who install wallpaper will readily remove the existing wallcovering, but there is a cost depending on the type of wallcovering. “True wallpaper, versus a vinyl product, is harder to get down because it comes off in little pieces basically,” Lehner said. “You need to do a really good job of removing anything that is there, whether you are going to go back with another wallcovering or paint.” H

“The wallcoverings that have been shown to us, the new introductions, offer lots of bolder colors, bigger patterns, retro designs, and a lot of texture and embossing.”


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Your Home Inside and Out / FALL 2015



What can you do this fall to ensure a healthy lawn next spring?


grass CAN INDEED BE GREENER By Steve McClure




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dormant, but they come back over a period of eady to close the summer curtain on taking care of your lawn? time.” Before putting away those lawn Prior to this season’s heavy rainfalls were three mowers, edgers and other lawn accessummers of drought. sories, let’s take a look at preventive maintenance Recovery time is always slowed under these kind recommendations for the of extreme heat conditions. Fall Lawn Care Checklist fall and winter to ensure But Robards, who has 37 1. Keep mowing. But adjust mowing spring’s best results. years in the lawn care busiheight to about 2 inches, then drop the You’ll need to take into ness, said home owners blade to its lowest setting for the last two cuttings of the year. That will allow more account this season’s weathhave become more educatsunlight to reach the crown of the grass ed about what steps to foler when deciding what to and there will be less leaf to turn brown low at the beginning of fall. do for your lawn this fall. during the winter. 2. Continue watering as needed. “There’s always someSpring and summer in 2. Aerate the soil so that oxygen, water thing new to learn every Central Indiana had record and fertilizer can easily reach the grass year, and the good thing roots. rainfalls and not as many 3. Rake the leaves as they fall. If you wait about our business is cus90-plus degree days as in until they’ve all fallen, the leaves will tomer education and sharnormal years. become wet and form an impenetrable mat. This will breed fungal diseases. ing those new discoveries,” “Going into this time of 4. Fertilize for future growth. he said. year with the extensive rains 5. Fill in bald spots. The evolution of lawn we’ve experienced, there 6. Control weeds. 7. De-thatch, if necessary. care over the last decade have been constant issues 8. Monitor for insects and insect damage. hasn’t really changed all with a lot more crab grass 9. Winterize mowers, trimmers and that much. than normal,” said Dave hand tools. 10. Winterize irrigation system; drain There are new fertilizer Robards of Robards & and store hoses and sprinklers. chemicals on the market, Sons Lawn Care in SOURCES: www.popularmechanices. but for the most part, steps com and Greenwood. “That’s creatto follow in the fall for a ed somewhat of a problem, healthy start-up in the but with the kind of effective applications we have spring remain the same. with fertilizers and weed killers, speedy recoveries Robards said if lawns are thin at the end of are ensured. summer, reseeding becomes necessary. “By spending a little extra time with aerations “Bluegrass needs about three weeks to germiand reseeding, grasses will fill themselves in. Blue nate,” he said. “September is a good time for that and rye grasses are very resilient. They may look


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all the way up to even Thanksgiving. It’s also a good time to rid your lawns of broadleaf weeds like those pesky dandelions. Applying an herbicide in the fall is highly recommended or you’ll have a sea ofyellow in April.” You won’t want to just take the fall off when it comes to your lawn. “You’ve just got to keep on top of things,” Robards said. “One of the biggest mistakes homeowners make at the beginning of fall is they grow tired of messing with their lawns and let everything go,” Robards said. “When people leave their grass too tall and winter arrives, there’s a chance of snow-mold and grasses mat over.” Turf Tips, a publication of the Purdue University Department of Horticulture, reports that cool-season turf grass species should be fertilized mainly in the autumn. September and November are the best two times to fertilize lawns in Indiana. According to the publication, “Fall nitrogen promotes good root development, enhances storage of energy reserves and extended color retention. Most of the benefits will be seen next spring and summer with earlier green-up, improved turf density and improved tolerance to spring diseases such as red thread, pink patch and reduced weeds.” Turf Tips also reports that late summer and early fall provide adequate soil moisture and limited weed pressure for excellent seeding growth. Seeding early allows the turf to maximize its establishment and rooting prior to next summer’s heat and drought. H

Your Home Inside and Out / FALL 2015



Experts recommend raking your leaves as they fall. If you wait until they’ve all fallen, the leaves will become wet and form an impenetrable mat. This will breed fungal diseases.




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Your Home Inside and Out / FALL 2015



Water heater rules raise efficiency, won’t affect you until you replace By GREG SEITER Correspondent


ews of the new water heater regulations that went into effect this spring seems to have trickled slowly. Even those working in the industry are only now becoming truly familiar with changes in U.S. Department of Energy standards that are intended to help consumers save money. “Manufacturers kept very tight lips on this until April 16,” said Jamie Carter, owner of Carter Plumbing in Greenwood. “We, as contractors, knew a little about the new heaters before then but we really didn’t have a good idea on how they’re different until we received a shipment, opened the box and took a look at them.” According to the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, the vast majority of homeowners, assuming they use a standard 55-gallon tank or smaller, will notice only minimal physical changes in water heaters when the time comes

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“A lot of people thought the government was trying to force them into tankless units, and others thought the price of water heaters was going to go up crazy high. But that’s not the case.” Roger Kean Plumbers Supply Co. to shop for a replacement. However, those modest modifications, applicable to gas, electric and oil residential tank units, should make the average water heater 4 percent more efficient. Most tankless water heaters reportedly already meet efficiency standards. “Basically, they had to put more insulation on the tank and slightly increase the diameter,” Carter said. The change in dimensions shouldn’t affect the majority of homeowners, but there could be exceptions.

“One problem we might get into is if an existing heater was in a closet without much room to begin with,” Carter continued. “However, we haven’t run into that yet.” The lack of advance regulatory information made available to the public prior to the April 16 conversion deadline apparently created some degree of consumer confusion. “A lot of people thought the government was trying to force them into tankless units, and others thought the price of water heaters was going to go up crazy high. But that’s not the case,” said Roger Kean, branch manager at Plumber’s Supply Co. in Franklin. “We even had some people buy water heaters in advance while anticipating the failure of their current one.” However, Carter is quick to point out that water heaters have, in fact, increased in price. “Some went up 10 percent and others went up 20 to 30 percent, depending on size and volume,” See WATER, Page 15

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Your Home Inside and Out / FALL 2015



How to select the best type of mortgage for you By JACK GUTTENTAG The Mortgage Professor


ortgage borrowers choosing between different types of mortgages face a puzzle, and that puzzle may be particularly perplexing today. Interest rates remain low by historic standards, and the spread between fixed- and adjustable-rate mortgages remains large. But there are widespread expectations that all rates will soon increase — unless of course the current stock market troubles cause rates to drop again. The challenge to borrowers who must choose a type of mortgage in this environment is also a challenge to anyone presumptuous enough to offer them advice. My response to that challenge has been to develop rules that indicate the circumstances under which each of the major mortgage types should be selected. I will illustrate with a hypothetical mortgage of $405,000 on a $450,000 single-family home to a high-credit-score borrower. The interest rates cited are for loans carrying zero or close to zero origination fees. The numbers

used have been chosen to provide readers with a feel for the magnitudes involved, but the rules are not dependent on these particular numbers. l Fixed versus adjustable rate: In general, adjustable rate mortgages are for borrowers who don’t expect to have their mortgage longer than

borrower doesn’t care to invest any time considering alternatives. Even if it is not the best choice, it won’t be a terrible one. l 15-year fixed-rate: The interest rate was 2.875 percent and the payment $2,773. Comparing the 15-year option with the 30-year option, the deci-

In general, adjustable rate mortgages are for borrowers who don’t expect to have their mortgage longer than 12 years. 12 years. Beyond that, the cumulative effect of rate increases will probably outweigh the benefits of low rates in the early years. Taking an adjustable solely because of the lower initial payment is risky because of the potential for sizeable payment increases. It should be avoided — unless the borrower has solid reasons for expecting significant increases in future income. l 30-year fixed-rate: The interest rate on my 30-year fixed-rate mortgage on Aug. 21 was 3.625 percent and the payment was $1,847. The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage is the default choice, meaning it is the type of mortgage selected if there is no compelling reason to select another type or if the

sion process is simple and straightforward. The payment on the 15-year mortgage is 50 percent higher, but the borrower becomes debt-free in half the time. In my book, if you can afford the payment on the 15, you take it. l 5-1 adjustable-rate mortgage: The initial rate is 2.5 percent and the payment $1,600. All adjustable-rate mortgages have 30-year terms. The prefix numbers 5-1 used in this case, however, indicate that the initial rate holds for five years, after which it adjusts every year. The rate on the 5-1 thus adjusts in months 61, 73, 84 and so on. Borrowers who know they won’t be in their house for more than five years will minimize their

costs by selecting the 5-1. The risk is that their tenure will turn out to be longer than five years, and interest rates will escalate. In the worst case, where the rate on the 5-1 increases by the maximum amount possible, the payment will increase by 24 percent to $1,983 in month 61, by another 21 percent to $2,395 in month 73, and by 9 percent to $2,608 in month 85. Another useful measure is the total cost of the 5-1 over every period exceeding five years assuming the worst possible interest rate escalation, compared to that of the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage. The adjustable-rate mortgage has lower costs over five years but higher costs thereafter, which means that there must be a break-even period. It turns out to be eight years. If the borrower is out within eight years, the 5-1 adjustable-rate mortgage will save the borrower money relative to the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage even if interest rates explode. The above suggests the following rule: take the 5-1 adjustable-rate mortgage if: l You are 80 percent sure you won’t have the See MORTGAGE, Page 15

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Your Home Inside and Out / FALL 2015



Here’s how to help your staircase rise to the top By BARBARA BALLINGER Chicago Tribune


n entry hall offers a home its interior curb appeal. And while the front door, foyer dimensions, flooring, furnishings and colors can combine to provide a gracious welcome, the staircase is key in making a statement. Yet too often it’s among a home’s last-decorated features. “So many clients say we have to get to it, but put it off until stage two,” said suburban New York designer Lori Elder Dyner, who writes a blog, Return to Home Interiors. One reason may be that deciding what to do gets complicated. Do you want to go all wood, or wood treads and painted risers, or all painted? Do you want to match lower and upper hallway floors, or do something different? If you prefer carpet, do you want fully carpeted stairs or just the central section with runner, now considered the fresher look but more expensive. SCRIPPS HOWARD How about the banister and spindles? Stain or Left: In her own suburban New York home, designer Lori Elder Dyner tried out various carpet color paint both if wood? Finally, should you paint or and pattern samples and selected one lighter than she anticipated for her front stairway. Wood treads wallpaper the interior stair wall, or build in storand white painted risers complete the transitional look. Right: Get all the stuff out of the hall and off the floor neatly into cubbies. age cubbies, which California Closets said is a

growing trend. Many designers and architects recommend letting your home’s style, budget and amount of traffic guide you. “We’re definitely influenced by the architecture and client’s style,” said Chicago architect Elissa Morgante of Morgante-Wilson Architects. But a stairway can also be an opportunity to bring light into a home’s center with clerestory or skylight at the top. Here are 10 steps to guide you: 1. If the stairway doesn’t work — isn’t visually graceful or was constructed poorly — consider replacing it if you can afford to, said Los Angeles designer Christopher Grubb of Arch-Interiors Group. His goal is for homeowners to enjoy the view from downstairs looking up as well as upstairs looking down. 2. If you desire a contemporary look, think about a floating stair, especially within an open space. Architect Chris Berg of Berg & Moss Architects in Beacon, N.Y., did so in a Tribeca loft with old-growth salvaged wood, which was sanded and stained, left bare and paired with a steel cable railing.

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Your Home Inside and Out / FALL 2015


Dream Big. Use the equity in your home for: Home Improvements College Education Consolidate Debt Unexpected Expenses

Home Equity Line of Credit Rates as low as Architect Christopher Berg of Berg + Moss Architects in Beacon, N.Y., opened a Tribeca city loft upwards and used salvaged, stained wood treads to connect the levels; a cable-style railing keeps the feeling edgy.

3. Oak and walnut hold up better than pine, and medium to darker stains show less dirt than lighter hues, as well as expand space visually, said New York Decorating Den Interiors designer Marinna Collelo. But don’t go too dark, warned Grubb, who considers dark espresso passé. The guiding principle: consistency. “The hallway stairs should be treated as a continuation of surrounding floors and not a separate space,” said Chicago designer Michael Del Pero. 4. Dyner thinks that homeowners with young children and dogs should add a runner. “I learned the hard way, slipping with my infant in my arms, and having my toddler slip only minutes after I did,” she said. The runner also deadens noise and looks best with 3 to 5 inches of wood or other flooring on either side. To save funds, Dyner used a narrow banding and stopped the runner at the lip of her upstairs stairs. Others may prefer wider bands, maybe with a contrasting material like leather. 5. Go with top quality carpeting, which often means 100 percent wool. “It holds up well with foot traffic, especially if you allow shoes on stairs,” Dyner said. Wool is also the most crush-resistant fiber and softest on bare feet,” said California designer S.A. “Sam” Jernigan of Renaissance Design Consultations.

6. For carpet color, the gray-beige family is a hot trend that works as a neutral, but go with darker choices if you allow shoes beyond the front door, Dyner said. Don’t go with the very darkest that show more soil, but try for a 7 on a scale of 10, said Phil Liss of Peerless Imported Rugs in Chicago. To find the right color and pattern, test samples at home. And make a carpet work with choices in adjoining spaces, said Nader Bolour, owner of New York carpet company Doris Leslie Blau. 7. Painting treads and risers or a faux runner in a bold color can be whimsical, but beware that results may look casual, said Janet Bertin, with Decorating Den Interiors, Alexandria, Va. 8. Another hot trend is lacquering a banister black and painting spindles semi-gloss white. If risers are also painted, they can be the same white, though experts disagree whether to go flat or glossy. 9. For more storage, open the area underneath stairs and outfit with cubicles, said Ginny Snook Scott, chief design officer, California Closets. 10. If painting the interior stair wall, use a premium, scrubbable paint since the area can get dirty, said Jernigan. Most important, love your choices. Stair design costs — materials and labor — can add up steeply. H



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The APR is a variable rate based on the Prime rate plus or minus a margin and can change monthly, but will never be more than 25%. This rate includes a .25% discount for automatic payments from a deposit account. Your actual APR may be higher based upon your credit score and combined loan to value. There is no annual fee the first year, then $79 per year thereafter. If the account is terminated within 36 months of the contract date, we will add a fee equal to $400 or 2% of the outstanding principal balance, whichever is less.

Your Home Inside and Out / FALL 2015



Staging homes fattens sale prices By RICHARD SCHEININ San Jose Mercury News


riced at just under $4 million, the English manor-style house with its exemplary country gardens on a wooded half-acre will undoubtedly sell itself in the runaway real estate market here in the Bay Area. “But just how much can it bring?” asked Robert Graves, the interior designer called in to stage the sale. “Just how much excitement can we bring to it?” Twenty years ago, in the Pleistocene Era, sellers would pop bread in the oven to create that homey touch for prospective buyers attending an open house. How quaint. To help speed deals along and incite the inevitable bidding wars, today’s sales are staged by designers like Graves, who calls his company Napoleon at Home and serves up dreams to the house-buying gentry of Silicon Valley. He does it three times a week, filling empty or nearly empty houses with sofas and throw pillows, with flowers, mirrors and area rugs, with sleek deck furniture and tall lemonade glasses, set just so on the outdoor patio. He watches for spatial flow. He introduces “pops” of color, as he puts it, to catch a buyer’s eye amid the chic taupes, creams and grays that dominate his schemes — the “neutralist” colors of the current market. “We want people to come in and feel like they should stay awhile,” Graves said, while positioning a large tiered mirror in the manor’s living room so that it would catch the reflection of the garden scene just outside the window. “It’s a mood that we’re creating.” Staging has “exploded over the last 10 years,” said Billy McNair, the 4,000-square-foot property’s listing agent with Coldwell Banker. McNair tapped Graves for the job and draws on an array of stagers, matching their aesthetics to the architectural styles of houses. “Staging’s not cheap. But would you rather invest $5,000 in staging and sell the house for $30,000 more? I think it’s a good return on investment.” Mainstream media have helped establish staging in the popular vocabulary. The HGTV series “Flip It to Win It” last year featured


Cathy Lee Cibelli stages a home in San Ramon, Calif. Cibelli is the California president of the Real Estate Staging Association and runs C.L. Design Services, a home staging service.

Bay Area stager Cathy Lee Cibelli, the California president of the Real Estate Staging Association, a national trade organization with more than 2,000 members. She said a deft staging brings a touch that “stirs the imagination” of buyers. “What sells a house is an emotional response: ‘I want to live here,’” said Menlo Park interior designer Jo Ann James, who stages high-end homes, mostly in Silicon Valley and often for techies. “The buying public right now is extremely young. And frequently these people have not owned a home and have no furniture. They’ve made millions very young, but without much life experience.” Via the staging, James gives them a sense of scale and perspective, she said, so the client can gauge whether a sofa will fit here or a queen bed there. James added that “young people today really like contemporary furniture. And they like clean looks. They don’t want a lot of accessories. It should be comfortable, for active lifestyles.” Generally priced between $3,000 and $20,000 — though the cost can go much higher for estates — staging is now part of an essential



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marketing package that includes online video tours covering every inch of a property. “The better it’s exposed,” McNair explained, “the sooner the property should sell.” A 2013 study by academics at the College of William & Mary, Johns Hopkins University and Old Dominion University found that good staging may influence buyers’ overall impressions of a property, but that staging alone doesn’t convince them to pay more. But a Coldwell Banker survey shows that staged properties sell twice as quickly as unstaged properties. A 2015 survey by the National Association of Realtors reported that buyers often offer a 1 to 5 percent increase on the value of a staged home, with some agents putting the increase as high as 10 percent. Most agents seem convinced. “Imagine if you were to try to sell your car without having it detailed and washed,” said Casey Sternsmith, a Coldwell Banker agent in the area. “You’re going to do everything you can so it presents well and so people will want to pay top dollar for that commodity. That’s exactly what we’re doing with staging.” She recently sold a 2,400-square-foot house where Maria Burrington and her late husband, David Burrington, a longtime NBC News foreign correspondent, lived for 30 years and raised their children. The house — which listed for $2.4 million and is in escrow, having drawn an over-asking price bid — first had to be decluttered: “Opium pipes from David’s travels, a camel saddle, a few rugs from Beirut, even a hand grenade that we think the Viet Cong made,” said Maria Burrington. “I did call the bomb squad.” David Burrington loved exposed wood, but the stagers went for the neutral look, painting ceiling beams white, and doing the same to the kitchen cabinets. And most of the book collection had to go as well. “And do you know what?” Maria Burrington asked. “It looks better. It made me see my house as much more marketable, frankly. It brought out the spirit of the home, but without our individual taste of decorating. “Trying to detach and let go from the house — the staging let me do that more easily in some respect. I’ll still miss the garden.” H

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Your Home Inside and Out / FALL 2015



From Page 11

mortgage more than five years, and … l You

are 98 percent sure you won’t have the

mortgage more than eight years, and … l If

necessary, you will be able to manage a 24

percent increase in payment in month 61, a 29 percent increase in month 73, and a 9 percent increase in month 84. Rules for 7-1 and 10-1 adjustable-rate mortgag-


From Page 10 he said. “So, if you couple the increased price of the product with the increased price of installation, especially if you have to put a drain in or make changes to get more air into a room, suddenly you’re potentially talking about a fairly significant increase.” Kean agreed. “Obviously, if we’re paying a higher price for heaters and the contractors we use are, too, the end user is going to pay a little more,” he said. In the long run, the energy-related savings could easily offset the additional up-front charges for a new unit.

es were developed in the same way. For the 7-1 adjustable-rate mortgage, the initial rate is 2.625 percent and the payment $1,627. The decision rule is that the 7-1 adjustable-rate mortgage should be selected if: l The 5-1 is not a good choice, and … l You are 80 percent sure you won’t have the mortgage more than seven years, and … l You are 98 percent sure you won’t have the mortgage more than 10 years, and …

necessary, you will be able to manage a 59 percent increase in payment in month 85. For the 10-1 adjustable-rate mortgage, the initial rate is 3 percent and the payment $1,707. The rule is that the 10-1 adjustable-rate mortgage should be selected if: l The 5-1 and 7-1 options are not good choices, and … l You are 80 percent sure you won’t have the mortgage more than 10 years, and … l You are 98 percent sure you won’t have the

mortgage more than 12 years, and … l If necessary, you will be able to manage a 51 percent increase in payment in month 121. I would be delighted to hear from anyone who chooses a particular type of mortgage after reading this article. H

Industry experts say water heating accounts for nearly 20 percent of a given home’s overall energy costs. “If you have city water without a water softener, a typical water heater will probably last about six years,” Carter said. “However, if you have city water and it’s treated with a softener, it could go anywhere from nine to 12 years. And if you have treated well water, you can easily get 12 to 15 years out of a good heater. “On average, we tell people nine years, and if you’re able to get that, you’ve gotten your money’s worth out of it.” Based on the new regulatory standards, the largest efficiency gains will be seen by those who have water heaters that hold 55 gallons or more.

However, those situations may also come with significantly higher installation charges based on space-related challenges. According to Carter, 55-gallon electric water heaters now have to incorporate a heat pump that will, in turn, take up a lot more space than what previous models did. As a result, buyers should expect to pay significantly more for a larger heater than they have in the past and additional money for potential room modifications. Gas models have been changed to condensing water heaters that require a drain for water to be discharged into. Carter said most homes already have a drain in place, even if it’s not apparent to the owner. However, if one is not present or near the location of a heater, physical changes will have

to be made. “Most homes are designed to have a pressure release valve, so they need a drain anyway,” he said. While Carter and Kean agree that most consumers will notice nothing more than an initial price increase the next time they shop for a water heater, Carter is quick to point out that business owners, particularly those who own apartments, may have substantial hurdles to overcome now. “I’m very concerned about apartments because most take an electric 30-gallon water heater that is very compact and positioned in a tight spot,” he said. “That’s probably going to be a problem because the new models just won’t fit where the old ones were.” H

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Jack Guttentag is professor emeritus of finance at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. Comments and questions can be left at

Your Home Inside and Out / FALL 2015



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Your Home Inside & Out - Fall 2015  

Your Home Inside & Out - Fall 2015