HOME 2019

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SP R I N G 201 9


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Plants breathe new life into your décor

16 UP FRONT ENTRANCES 12 Showcase your 14

personality with playful doormats Accessories spruce up your front porch

PAINT 16 Hot hues to choose 18

in 2019 A coat of color can transform any space

DESIGN & DÉCOR 20 Fresh trends add 24


ON THE COVER: Allard + Roberts Interior Design Inc.; Builder: Thompson Properties

O paline

GOOD BONES Mother-daughter TV show rehabbers remake a Midwest neighborhood

flair to your décor Pros offer DIY do’s and don’ts

Br own sugar




BATHROOM MAKEOVER Easy updates to modernize one of your most-used rooms




TECHNOLOGY 34 Latest smart tools

Stylish additions redefine the heart of your home

Home improvement retailers find new ways to woo shoppers



C hartreuse 28

Get creative when styling with tile Spring cleaning tips hail from the past

lend convenience

PHOTO BY: David Dietrich

All product prices and availability are subject to change.

6 HOME | SPRING 2019

72 76 82 88






BRIAN BARTH Brian Barth’s writing on the intersections of culture, environment and design has appeared in publications including Modern Farmer, NewYorker. com, Horticulture and Landscape Architecture Magazine. In a previous career, he designed and built gardens for residential clients in California, experience he brought to his article on landscape design (PAGE 72). “I love writing about gardens almost as much as creating them,” he says.

CHRYSTLE FIEDLER Journalist and author Chrystle Fiedler’s work has appeared in Better Homes & Gardens, This Old House, Woman’s Day and more. Fiedler loves talking to talented rehabbers at the top of their game, like the stars of HGTV’s Good Bones (PAGE 38). “Not only are Karen (Laine) and Mina (Starsiak-Hawk) smart and innovative, they’re not afraid to get their hands dirty and be real. Their can-do attitude has inspired me to try new things in my own cottage and garden.”

DIRECTOR Jeanette Barrett-Stokes jbstokes@usatoday.com CREATIVE DIRECTOR Jerald Council jcouncil@usatoday.com MANAGING EDITOR Michelle Washington mjwashington@usatoday.com EDITORS Amy Sinatra Ayres Tracy Scott Forson Sara Schwartz Debbie Williams ISSUE DESIGNER Lisa M. Zilka DESIGNERS Hayleigh Corkey Amira Martin Gina Toole Saunders INTERN Katherine Gardner CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Cindy Bailen, Brian Barth, Debra Bass, Jeb Breithaupt, Mary Helen Berg, Courtney Campbell, Chrystle Fiedler, Valerie Finholm, Maureen Gilmer, Peggy J. Noonan, Rina Rapuano, Marc Selinger, Debbie Swanson


VP, ADVERTISING Patrick Burke (703) 854-5914 pburke@usatoday.com

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RINA RAPUANO Rina Rapuano is a Washington, D.C.based freelance writer whose work has been published by outlets including The Washington Post, Food Network and NPR. As an urban homeowner with a tiny backyard, she was envious of the gorgeous pools, patios and outdoor kitchens she saw while researching her stories in this issue (PAGES 76 and 82). “Expansive outdoor spaces are a rarity in the city, and these chic pools and entertaining areas beg for a party — or relaxing with a book as if you’re on vacation.”


BILLING COORDINATOR Julie Marco Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved herein, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or reproduced in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by means electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise without the written consent of USA TODAY. The editors and publisher are not responsible for any unsolicited materials.

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VALERIE FINHOLM Journalist Valerie Finholm has written for HGTV.com, Realtor. com, Woman’s Day and The Washington Post, among other publications. She combined her passion for home and love of history for her story on spring cleaning (PAGE 30). Her story about DIY do’s and don’ts (PAGE 24) came from her own failed home improvement projects, most recently installing a backsplash that ended up crooked. “I had to hire a professional to chip out the tiles and grout and redo the entire thing,” she says.

ACCOUNT DIRECTOR Justine Madden (703) 854-5444 jmadden@usatoday.com

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New house plus an Accredited Buyer’s Representative (ABR®) — that’s a winning combination. Buying a home is no small matter. It’s one of the most complex transactions you’ll have, and you can’t be expected to know all the ins-and-outs of it. A REALTOR® with an ABR® designation will help to create a no pressure home buying experience. Working with an ABR® means you are not only in the hands of a top notch real estate agent, but you also get their services at no additional cost.

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Tile Transformations

This bold, blue penny tile is among trending options that will elevate any room.





WORDS OF WELCOME Fun doormats invite visitors to peek at your personality BY DEBRA BASS

HUM OR Share your family’s affinity for casual time at home with this cheeky mat. $36, etsy.com/shop/foxandclover boutique


irst impressions set the mood, so let’s get things off on the right foot — starting with your welcome mat. Are you really an all-caps formal script “WELCOME” kind of household? Or is yours more of an “I see London; I see France,” type of home? Unless you’ve got Jeeves answering the door for you (and Jeeves is not your basset hound), there’s no reason for your welcome mat to be so serious. Try one of these options to let your individuality shine through:


N AT U R E Put your best paw forward with this Animal Tracks mat, featuring life-size claws, hooves, paws and feet. Your purchase includes a cheat sheet of the tracks, which include an African elephant and a North American beaver. $30, uncommongoods.com

12 HOME | SPRING 2019

Your guests might not forgive you for getting this Young MC tune stuck in their heads, but they might greet you with a little jig anyway. $28, etsy. com/shop/heartandhumor

RE MINDE R Who says doormats have to address your visitors? This Little Reminders mat could be the checklist you need on those mad dashes to your car. $32, uncommongoods.com



If ’80s rap hits and humor are big in your home, this Push It Real Good — The Doorbell mat could definitely set the right tone. $36, etsy.com/shop/ foxandcloverboutique

C U LTU R E Perhaps a festive Spanish salutation could provide the appropriate greeting. $39, fabhabitat.com

SPORTS Baseball fans can imagine crossing home plate for the win every time they walk through the front door. $30, uncommongoods.com 13


ENTRY POINTS Liven up your front porch with fun, colorful décor BY DEBRA BASS


aking your porch an extension of your home will not only make your guests feel welcome before they walk through the door, it also provides an opportunity to entertain beyond the square footage of your home’s interior. And a charming entrance boosts curb appeal and makes your porch a place where you and visitors will want to stay a while. Try one — or all — of these items to take your porch from drab to fab:

A splash of color can be incorporated with easy-to-carefor greenery in a durable, stylish planter like this Stockholm Carmine resin decorative vase. $29.98, homedepot.com

A breeze and a glass of iced lemonade can do wonders when temperatures rise. The Bentley II 18-inch indoor/outdoor tarnished bronze oscillating ceiling fan with distressed oak blades and three-speed wall control can help cool things off. $139, homedepot.com

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A great floor covering can make an outdoor space feel more like a room. Safavieh’s Veranda Red/Natural 6-foot, 7-inch x 9-foot, 6-inch indoor/ outdoor area rug comes in four color styles. $138.39, overstock.com

Hampton Bay's Cane patio swing has a natural wood finish and square-back cushions. $699, homedepot.com


A wreath can enliven any entryway with a bit of visual interest. This 20-inch Nearly Natural green succulent wreath offers a mix of textures and a realistic touch. $52.41, amazon.com

Lighting literally sets the stage for your entrance, so having a bright option is key. The Troy RLM Deep Reflector 26-inch outdoor wall light offers an industrial upgraded barn-style design. $187.20, lampsplus.com

A swing is a great place for lazy conversations, but a rocking chair can be a refuge for more solitary relaxation. The Tortuga Outdoor Sea Pines Tortoise wicker rocking chair comes in multiple colors and cushion options. $469, homedepot.com

The Honeywell Decor wireless surface-mount doorbell grabs your visitors’ attention as they beckon you to open the door. $22.16, amazon.com


U P F R O N T | PA I N T


HUES FOR YOUR HOME Wake up your walls — and anything else — with the 2019 Colors of the Year

by Pantone




f you’re looking to paint your space, you don’t have to reach for white or pastels. The pendulum has swung, and the hottest colors for 2019 are warm, earthy and jewel-toned. Think dark green, cool blue, warm copper, soft coral — colors you may be using as accents now take center stage. Here are shades that some of the leading paint brands have selected as this year’s trending hues and how to use them to wake up your home:


GA RDE N PATC H by Dutch Boy

CAV E RN CLAY by Sherwin-Williams

ME TROP OLITA N by Benjamin Moore

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Living Coral is a gorgeous shade to fall in love with, a golden member of the orange family with a softer edge. Pantone, the company that proclaims itself the color authority, says this color reaches out to embrace you. Last year’s pick, Ultra Violet, explored the cosmos. Living Coral reminds us to look to nature in the ocean, sunrises and sunsets. Pillows, rugs and curtains that highlight this hue will definitely liven up a bland couch or bedroom. Pair with: other warm colors and any shade of cool green or blue. Rose gold metals are also complementary.

This dark green brings the relaxing power of nature into the home. It has a little bit of a blue undertone, so it comes across as a deep evergreen. And if a room with four walls of this dark hue is too much for you, use it on a focal wall. Or, try it on your front door and wait for compliments to roll in. Pair with: neutrals like black and greige (a gray and beige combo), and metallic accents to add shine.

Blueprint is a midtone, overcast blue with a touch of teal that’s as comfortable as a favorite sweater. Picture this on kitchen cabinets or bedroom walls. Imagine it on the inside or outside of your house — it’s pure heaven. Pair with: other blues, neutral earth tones and jewel tones.

This lighter, tranquil, optimistic shade of green is straight from the garden or the succulent bowl. It’s fresh and cheerful, and you can use it in a kitchen, family space or kid’s room with equal success. It brings the outdoors in, even if the room has no view. Pair with: soft neutrals and bright pink accents to evoke a flower garden’s leaves and blossoms.

It’s been many years since terracotta was in style, but it’s definitely back. Cavern Clay is reminiscent of the desert Southwest, but it will bring warmth to a home in any area. This color is ’70s retro, down-to-earth (literally), free-spirited and bohemian. If you’re adventurous, this is the color to use in your living room. Pair with: other desert shades such as taupe, blue-gray, black and tan to extend the Western flair.


If your room calls out for a sophisticated hue, use this cool, lustrous gray. It is ever classic, perfect for a sleek, contemporary kitchen, a dreamy, relaxing bedroom or a spalike bath. Actually, it works beautifully in every room of the house. Pair with: classic navy blue, charcoal or dark green to add contrast.


U P F R O N T | PA I N T



An innovative use of paint can prove a refreshing alternative to an otherwise extensive renovation. For example, when faced with a client’s scratched and discolored pine wood floor in a newly remodeled living room, designer Debbe Daley chose a white-wash look. “Once the (old) finish was removed and the floor was sanded down to the bare wood, the naked pine was beautiful,” says Daley, of Portsmouth, N.H.-based Debbe Daley Designs LLC. “It was fast and easy. Wiping off the stain as soon as it seeped into the clean wood created a wash effect of white translucently.” The result added color without obscuring the wood’s character and saved the homeowner thousands of dollars, she adds.

Applying a coat can change a room’s look and personality


hether it’s raising the look of a low ceiling, brightening a dimly lit room or providing a distraction from an awkward architectural design, interior paint has long been credited with having nearmagical, illusionary properties. When you want to transform a space in your home, but have limited money, time or energy for a major project, look no further than a can of color. Pick a weekend, grab a drop cloth and paintbrush (magic wand?) and teach your interior some new tricks.

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PRES TO! Part of paint’s appeal is its vast array of colors, sometimes making it difficult to choose just one. Good news: You don’t have to. Painting a single wall in a bold or contrasting color is a fun way to exercise your creativity, and it’s not a big job to change direction if the result doesn’t match your vision. When choosing the accent wall, look for the room’s natural focal point — typically the wall hosting the bed’s headboard, a fireplace or attention-worthy piece of furniture. Color not only adds style, but can provide a completely different look, says Marcelle Guilbeau, owner of Marcelle Guilbeau Interior Design in Nashville, Tenn. “Light paint colors open up a room, making it airy,” says Guilbeau. “Warm colors make the room feel energetic and cozy.” Choose the latter when faced with trying to give a vast room or open floor plan a homey feeling.


ABRACADABRA ! Don’t stop at walls — paint can tackle other problem areas, suggests Christina Harris, certified architectural color consultant at Colorific in the Santa Barbara, Calif., area. “Paint your kitchen table and chairs instead of replacing them. Paint and new hardware on cabinets and drawers will feel pretty close to a new kitchen,” she says. And although white lends that traditional clean and crisp feeling to cabinets, don’t feel limited, she encourages. “How about a sunny yellow?”



DÉCOR TO EXPLORE Home design trends that inspire and transform BY CINDY BAILEN


opular choices in home design keep changing, and let’s face it, it’s fun to have an excuse to freshen things up. After a tough day at work, we want to come home to a place that makes us happy and helps us disconnect. Celebrity designers on Instagram, mood boards on Pinterest and TV design shows inspire us and help to determine our style, but watch out for fads — did someone say barn doors? Though it may seem overwhelming, don’t be afraid to try some new décor in 2019. Update your kitchen, your bedroom or any room in the house. If you’re ready to jump into the latest trends, here are some to try:



We enjoy our relationship with the natural world, and we’re not about to leave it outdoors. We’re bringing nature into our homes. We can paint our walls in earthy shades, like dark greens and coppery browns. Paint is an easy update and a welcome change from plain vanilla.

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Taking steps towards owning a home

Homeownership is woven into the soul of America. Owning a home puts down roots in the community and grows strong families where people are invested in and care about each other. Our goal is to help you take steps towards homeownership. We’ll work together with people and programs to educate and prepare you as a homebuyer and support you as a homeowner.

We’re here for you. Let’s take that first step. Call to learn more: 1-866-875-7068. Information is accurate as of the date of printing and is subject to change without notice. Wells Fargo Home Mortgage is a division of Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. ©2018 Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. All rights reserved. NMLSR ID 399801.

THE NEW BLACK WINDOWS Black window frames have received mixed reviews, but they’re trending for 2019. Black windows pop against gray or white walls and work best where privacy isn’t an issue — don’t install them only to cover them with curtains.

THE BIG PICTURE ACCESSORY Take down that fussy gallery wall and replace all those little pictures with one great big piece of art. This is the year to choose art you love, and seriously, it’s fine if the painting doesn’t match the couch.



Terrazzo is having a moment. The chips of marble, granite and glass ensure that it will always look interesting, and it works on walls, ceilings and floors. It was popular in the ’70s, and it’s back big time this year.

Yes, subway tile is a classic, but don’t rule out newer tile styles to add pattern and texture, such as 3D marble orchids and blue ombre fish scales accented with brass. The latest tiles are made of more than one material, with amazing stone and metal combinations. If a bathroom renovation is in the plan, there are beautiful tile designs available at every price point.

A TWO-TONE KITCHEN FOR SWEETER MEAL PREP Whether you choose a tuxedo kitchen in black and white or introduce some natural wood into a white meal-prep space, your kitchen can look more delicious than ever. For example, accenting an otherwise gray and white kitchen with a warm wood island creates a very on-trend, but classic look.

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A CURVY, SHAPELY SOFA Curved furniture is bringing an updated vibe to living rooms. This year, couches have rounded edges that look modern and midcentury at the same time.



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Consider the pros and cons before tackling a home improvement project BY VALERIE FINHOLM

24 HOME | SPRING 2019




here was the guy who hung the door upside down. And the crown molding, too. As the longtime host of the television show This Old House, Kevin O’Connor has seen firsthand the pitfalls of DIY projects tackled by novices who think: “I can do that!” The truth is not everyone can do it themselves — despite the TV shows and YouTube videos that make them think otherwise. And those who can’t often end up spending a lot of money to hire professionals to clean up and redo their projects. “There are many people out there who try and fail or try and half-fail,” says O’Connor. “They think, ‘I can do molding and trim work’ but then there are gaps. They shake their heads and say, ‘Yeah, I used a lot of caulk to cover up the gap there,’ ” O’Connor says. The professionals who are called on to fix do-it-yourself catastrophes have seen it all. Gary Mack, a 60-yearold handyman in Denver, figures 50 percent of his jobs are fixing mistakes made by homeowners who tried to save money by doing it themselves. “A lot of husbands think they can do it. Then the wife says it looks horrible and calls me to fix it,” he says. Mack has fixed everything from crooked tiles, doors and door frames to drywall disasters and improperly installed toilets. Whether the botched work was performed by a dubious contractor or a well-intentioned spouse, correcting the problem often involves starting over, which Mack says tends to cost more than if a qualified professional had been hired for the project from the start. But there are plenty of projects that can be completed by DIYers, with a little ingenuity and inspiration. Here are some factors to consider when deciding whether to go it alone or go with the pros for your next big (or small) endeavor: >

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Installing a new kitchen backsplash can be a relatively straightforward task. A good online tutorial will teach you the basic techniques and walk you through the supplies needed. A top-tobottom remodel of your kitchen is another story. You’ll need to plan for and install flooring, cabinets, countertops and appliances, and may need to relocate gas and plumbing lines. That’s a lot of moving parts, especially for novices. “When it gets to be more complex, it’s always good to have someone who is overseeing the project,” says Kelly Barrett, senior vice president of home services at The Home Depot. That’s when it pays to hire a professional.

The biggest mistake DIYers make is skimping on the prep work, Mack says. Even painting walls — often considered an easy task for novices — requires that walls be repaired, cleaned and sanded before painting. “The surface has to be prepared,” Mack says; if it isn’t, the paint will peel.

There are some jobs you shouldn’t tackle because they’re dangerous. Stay away from electrical wiring and plumbing if you’re not an expert, Mack says. Improperly installed wiring can shock or fatally injure someone. Making a mistake with plumbing can flood a house. Hot water heaters can scald if not properly installed. And not venting a furnace correctly can cause toxic fumes to leak, which can prove deadly to a home’s occupants. “Make sure you’re safe,” says Brittany Bailey, a licensed general contractor and DIY educator through her Pretty Handy Girl blog. “If you’re taking out a load-bearing wall and don’t know what you’re doing, that’s risking your life, your family’s life.”

TOOLS Mack’s DIY advice: Don’t start a project until you have the tools and products you need. You may need a tile-cutter for that project that looks so easy on TV. If you don’t know how to do something, ask someone who knows. If you make a mistake, stop and change course.

— Kelsey Sheehy contributed to this article.

26 HOME | SPRING 2019



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STYLING WITH TILE With a bounty of options, show off your creativity when covering surfaces BY MARY HELEN BERG

28 HOME | SPRING 2019


ile isn’t just for the bathroom floor or kitchen backsplash anymore. While white ceramic subway tile is still a reliable and popular standard, today’s designs pop with fresh shades, shapes and patterns that offer inspira-

tion for every space, says Nicole Whitley, president and partner at the online store Modwalls Tile Company. Tile provides an “opportunity to bring color and texture and life to the room,” Whitley says. So, why relegate it to the background when it can be the star of the show?


6 Types of Tile 1

W OOD Tile that mimics the look of fabric or the grain and color of wood flooring offers warmth and elegance without the maintenance. For a rustic look, use driftwood tile made from porcelain or reclaimed wood.


R ETRO Another option to consider is a blast from the past. Classic terrazzo, widely used in the 1970s, is having a resurgence. The mashup of marble, quartz, granite and glass can be used on walls, ceilings, floors and more.


TI MELESS The texture of timeless penny-round tile makes floors slip-resistant, and it comes in sheets that make it relatively simple to install. Available in countless colors, it also comes in cork and sheets of shiny, copper pennies.


TR ADI TI ONAL Traditional subway tile is now available in a variety of sizes. The timehonored brick pattern remains a staple, but subway tile can also be used to create herringbone, windmill, crosshatch and other patterns.


S HAPES Specialty shapes, such as a mermaid scale design for a splash of nautical whimsy or Modwalls Tile Company’s chevron, wedge, minnow, I-beam or stretch hex, add playfulness and personality to any room.




3D tile lends tactile drama that can replace wall art, but beware it isn’t flat, so it’s more challenging to clean and prevents objects from hanging flush against the wall.

When choosing tile, “Make sure it’s the one that you want to spend the next 20 years with,” because it’s an investment that’s meant to last, says Sam Dewick, general manager for TileBar in Manhattan. Shop and compare as

tile prices can range widely. Machine-made ceramic tile can cost less than a dollar per square foot, while intricate or custom tile can cost hundreds of dollars. Should you attempt a tile project on your own? That depends, experts say. Flat

areas are easier to tile than nooks and crannies. Tile backed with mesh is simpler to install than loose tile. Large-format tile is a breeze compared with irregularly shaped half-inch mosaic. When in doubt, consult a professional installer.

The wide selection of tile might be overwhelming to the average homeowner. Here are some factors to consider: u Wall and floor tile look alike, but they can differ in weight and thickness, cautions Nicole Whitley, president of the online store Modwalls Tile Company. Some tile may be too heavy to hang on a wall, and foot traffic can crack tile that is too thin. u Live with samples of tile at home before committing to a color scheme, says Sam Dewick, general manager for TileBar in Manhattan. A room’s lighting and other finishes will affect the color and appearance of tile. u Make sure the tile you love is practical for the space. For example, copper or stainless steel has a clean contemporary look but may rust if submerged in a shower or tub or constantly exposed to water. u Contrasting grout color adds dimension to design and makes cleaning a breeze. Epoxy-based grout is durable, waterproof and nearly stainproof, according to the Tile Council of North America. u Large-format tile affords a seamless look and can be easier to maintain, says Gwendolyn Purdom, associate home design editor for Houzz. — Mary Helen Berg



TIMELESS ADVICE Spring cleaning tips from the 1800s still ring true today


have a love/hate relationship with spring cleaning. I love the idea of cleaning my house from top to bottom, but hate the guilt that comes with failing to live up to the ideals of the latest housecleaning books. So this year, for my cleaning routine I’m relying on a classic: The American Woman’s Home: Or, Principles Of Domestic Science, a 500-page bestseller written in 1869 packed with practical advice on cleaning and keeping house. Written by Catharine Beecher and her famous

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abolitionist/author sister, Harriet Beecher Stowe, this book takes a common-sense approach to tackling the drudgery of spring cleaning. Dedicated to the “women of America,” the book offers advice on many tasks, including how to clean a fireplace hearth and the importance of opening windows for fresh air and ventilation. Its value lies less in its instructions on cleaning (it was written before vacuums were invented) than in its wisdom on making a house a home.

Specifically, it warns against becoming perfectionists — which was apparently a thing in the 19th century, long before HGTV and Instagram made us uptight about our imperfect homes. The authors recognized that the seductive appeal of perfection comes with a price. A housekeeper striving for perfection at all costs tends to “awaken a slight apprehension in every mind around,” they wrote, which can make family and friends feel uneasy. “System, economy and neatness are

valuable, only so far as they tend to promote the comfort and well-being of those affected.” The book recommends devising a schedule for cleaning by assigning duties to certain days and making a to-do list every morning. “At least aim at accomplishing it,” the authors advise. And pace yourself. “Begin a little at a time,” they caution, or readers risk becoming “baffled, discouraged and disheartened, and finally relapse into their former desultory ways.” Got it! >



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BEDROOMS uStrip beds and let them air out. uDust. uWash glass and mirrors, wipe lightswitch, plates, doorknobs and doors. uVacuum. uMake beds. BATHROOMS uClean toilet and let soak. uClean tiles and walls around sink, shower and tub including shower curtains and doors. uClean tub/shower. uClean mirror, cabinet doors, doors, light-switch plates and doorknobs. uClean countertops and sinks. uSweep and clean the floor. KITCHEN uClean stove and refrigerator. uEmpty cabinets and drawers that are dirty or disorganized, wipe them out and neatly replace contents.

When it comes to specifics on how to approach spring cleaning, one of the best modern books on housekeeping, Cheryl Mendelson’s Home Comforts, The Art and Science of Keeping House (first published in 1999 but still top-notch) offers these guidelines: Start cleaning upstairs

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and move your way downstairs. In general, clean higher places in each room before lower ones. “A carefully planned sequence will let you avoid turning the entire house topsy-turvy at once and will keep you from disturbing clean areas while doing uncleaned ones,” Mendelson writes.

Start with the interior of spaces such as closets, cabinets and refrigerators, then proceed to the outside. Start cleaning in dry rooms without sinks, tubs and toilets. Dust before vacuuming and clean the floors last. Here are some roomspecific tips:

uClean backsplashes and cabinets, doors and doorknobs, lightswitch plates. uClean table and countertops. uClean sink. uSweep and clean the floor. — Valerie Finholm



The towels that CLEAN LIKE CLOTH.



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POWER TOOLS Upgrade your home with smart products that won’t break the bank BY COURTNEY CAMPBELL


sing smart technology can help give your home a modern feel as well as make it more energy efficient. And the good news is that upgrading to the digital age doesn’t have to be expensive — these handy gadgets all cost less than $50:

A BRIGHTE R HOME Some smart bulbs that can change color and have Alexa connectivity can cost more than $40 apiece, but you can still find great options for less than $20. This bulb from TP-Link allows you to dim the light and set a schedule, which means you can program it to turn off when you leave for work and turn back on before you get home in the evening. TP-Link LB100 smart bulb, $19.99, walmart.com

Whether you want peace of mind while you’re away on vacation or like to keep an eye on the cat while you’re at work, the Yi Dome 720p camera produces good video quality, tracks subjects and tilts, and you get seven days of free cloud storage. Plus, it’ll make your home more secure without the hassle and cost that comes with installing a whole-house security system. Yi Dome indoor smart camera, $37.99, amazon.com

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BE TTE R TV There’s probably only a handful of TV shows you’re dedicated to, and it’s much cheaper to watch them on services like Netflix and Hulu than on cable. Thanks to streaming sticks, you can still catch your faves on the small screen in your living room (and it’s mostly commercial-free). If you can do without 4K or HDR content, the Roku Streaming Stick is one of the best on the market, and it’s at a great price. Roku streaming stick, $49.99, target.com

MAKE A N Y TH I N G S M ARTER Life is easier when you’re able to control things from your smartphone. With a smart plug, you can easily turn on and off your TV, lights, coffee machine and more from an app, which saves you from having to purchase a “smart” version of these products. The Eufy smart plug works with Alexa and Google Assistant and has energy-monitoring capabilities so you can see how much power your devices are really using. Eufy smart plug, $29.99, bestbuy.com

With electric kettles, you can boil water faster and free up room on the stove for cooking. This one from Hamilton Beach can’t boil water to a specific temperature or beep when it’s ready, but it’s still a great choice for the average user. Hamilton Beach 1.7liter electric kettle, $29.99, walmart.com

A V IRTUA L P E RS ONA L A S S IS TA NT Smart speakers can make it feel like you have a personal assistant to do your bidding. The Echo Dot is the smallest and most inexpensive Echo of the Alexa-enabled bunch, but it can be quite useful in your daily life. You can use it to set a timer, check the weather, play music, make calls and more. Amazon recently upgraded the Dot to improve its sound quality, making it even more appealing. Echo Dot (3rd generation), $49.99, amazon.com

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Mother-daughter team’s rehab mission hits close to home BY CHRYSTLE FIEDLER


ther fixer-upper shows on television today feature husband-and-wife teams, siblings or a solo rehabber. But at the heart of HGTV’s Good Bones is a mother-daughter pairing, namely, Karen E. Laine, 57, and her daughter Mina Starsiak-Hawk, 32. The duo brings an honest, down-to-earth approach to renovating homes. And they take on some real diamonds in the rough. As Laine puts it, Good Bones is one of the few shows “that starts with the messes we do, does a complete gut and rebuilds the entire house.” >


A twist to the show’s storyline is the women’s mission to revitalize the southeast side of their hometown of Indianapolis, one property at a time. “Our goal is to buy the worst house on the block, demo it to its good bones and rehab it into the best home it can be,” says Laine. To date, they have renovated 73 dilapidated homes and transformed them into stunning remodels.

The Road to Renovation



After Starsiak-Hawk graduated from Indianapolis University in 2007, she was working as a waitress and looking for a way to mark her passage into adulthood. “She didn’t want to be confined to a 9-to-5 job, but she wanted to feel grown-up, so she decided to buy a house,” says Laine, who co-signed the $37,500 loan and agreed to help fix it up. “We didn’t have money, but we had time, so we did most of the renovation

work ourselves with our own hands,” says Laine. The two were entirely self-taught, learning through books, YouTube tutorials and their own renovation experiments. They also had complete confidence in their ability to do the job. “I grew up in a family where we did everything ourselves,” says Laine, a former defense attorney. “So being self-reliant has been part of my nature. It never dawned on us that we couldn’t do it.” When it came time for house No. 2, Laine suggested they look in the historic Fountain Square neighborhood of Indianapolis where her law office was based. “I loved the neighborhood so much, we decided to buy another house there.” In 2009, after house No. 4, Starsiak-Hawk realized that it wasn’t just a hobby, it was a business. “I came up with the name Two Chicks and a Hammer and went to my mom and said, ‘We can do this.’”


HGTV Likes Two Chicks

Laine and Starsiak-Hawk kept their day jobs and renovated 22 houses by the time HGTV noticed them in 2014. A talent scout at the production company High Noon Entertainment — the development company behind Fixer-Upper and House Hunters — spotted their Facebook page and sent them a message. At first, Starsiak-Hawk >


“Our goal is to buy the worst house on the block, demo it to its good bones and rehab it into the best home it can be.” — KAREN E. LAINE

thought it was a scam. “They asked a lot of questions about our business, and we’d been burned before for sharing knowledge, so I was dubious,” she says. “But then I looked at the company’s website.” High Noon filmed a pilot but told them that HGTV green-lighting a series was unlikely. “Neither of us was really excited because the producers set our expectations so low,” says Starsiak-Hawk. But the show debuted in 2016, drawing 14 million viewers in its first season. Today, after four seasons, the pair remain unfazed. “We love what we do, but we’d never dreamed of having a TV show,” says Laine. “Now, we just happen to do it in front of a camera.”

Making a House a Home

From the beginning, Starsiak-Hawk has taken the lead when it comes to finding properties to rehab. She even got her real estate license so she would no longer have to pay fees to other Realtors. “We don’t have deep pockets,” she says. “So, we usually end up with the properties that are so bad that no one else wants them.” Each renovation project requires an average of a $220,000 to $250,000, investment and the profit margin is thin. Families often contact them before putting their home on the market. “It’s nice because they know that we’ll respect the property,” says Starsiak-Hawk. Once they own it, the pair assesses the home and decides what work needs to be done. “Lots of times I can walk through the space, and I just know what will work,” says Starsiak-Hawk. Each design is ultimately dictated by the bones. “A house is a lot like a haiku; it comes with a structure,” says Laine. “Most of the time we have to work with that footprint, and it informs how the space is utilized. We can’t change it because of zoning laws and other parameters.” People often want open-plan living but it’s not always possible to do that. “The two things that inform our design are the structure and how people actually live,” says Laine. The structure also dictates the interior design of the home. “We have very different styles,” says Starsiak-Hawk. “I’m more about clean lines, and she’s more eclectic. But the vibe — whether it’s cozy or fresh and open — really depends on the house.”

Rehabbing a house is tough work and unlike some shows, on Good Bones, there’s no need to manufacture problems. “One of the things that frustrates me about watching other renovation shows is that they always act surprised when something goes wrong,” says Laine. “We know there’s going to be a problem. We just don’t know exactly what it will be until after demo.” Challenges have included rotting foundations, dumpsters full of trash, termites, mummified spiders, cockroaches, a python, bats and more. Laine, an animal lover, is on hand to help. “Recently, I rescued a tarantula and found a home for him,” she says. The two have also learned to navigate the mother-daughter dynamic. “We respect one another’s talents,” says Laine. “It works well for us.” Starsiak-Hawk is more practical, looks at the big picture and helps keep the reno on track. Laine, who left her law practice but still acts as the lawyer for the Two Chicks and a Hammer brand, is a free spirit and self-proclaimed “treasure bug” who nabs interesting finds and has lots of quirky projects for them to consider. “My brain is a ridiculous mess of ideas but every now and then Mina says, ‘That’s good. We should do that.’” In August, Starsiak-Hawk became a mother herself when she and her husband, Steve Hawk, welcomed baby Jack. The couple met thanks to mutual friends on Facebook and married in 2016. As for Laine, she loves being a grandmother for the

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No-Drama Rehab

ADVICE FROM GOOD BONES You can learn a lot by watching Mina Starsiak-Hawk and Karen E. Laine tackle the challenges of renovating a home on Good Bones. Want to do it yourself? Here are some tips to keep in mind:

11th time. “They call me BeGe, which stands for Best Grandma Ever,” says Laine.

Revitalizing Neighborhoods On & Off Screen

The two are so good at what they do that after five years, they’ve priced themselves out of the Fountain Square neighborhood and have moved into nearby Bates-Hendricks. Property values have risen in both neighborhoods. “It’s surprising what houses are selling for now, ones that we could buy for $5,000 are now selling for $100,000,” says Laine. “But there are still plenty of homes that still need saving.” The pair’s work has not only enticed other fixer-uppers to the area but also has renewed interest in the 8-mile-long Indianapolis Cultural Trail, which connects Fountain Square to other neighborhoods.

Fountain Square has a robust retail community with restaurants, antique shops, vintage clothing stores and more. Laine and Starsiak-Hawk hope the same thing will happen in the Bates-Hendricks area, where their Two Chicks and a Hammer District Co. store, slated to open by summer, will carry their furniture and soft goods line. “Hopefully our store will encourage other retail businesses to open,” says Laine, who plans “Craft with Karen” nights at the store. The women also run two area Airbnb properties: The Farm, a one-bedroom home, and the House that Two Chicks Built, which sleeps eight and is pet-friendly. “The people in the community love and care about their neighborhoods,” says Laine. “Which is what allows rehabbers like us to ... try and make it even better.” l

Assess your skill set honestly. If you’re not handy, you can still make changes with fabrics, pillows, wallpaper, rugs and paint. If you’re more advanced, use tools to put up wainscoting, tile the bathroom or make built-in shelves. Find your own style. Walk around your home and identify the things that you love. Ask yourself what you love so much about them? Is it the color, the shape, the memory those items evoke? Don’t be afraid to use color. A fresh coat of paint can make all the difference in how a room feels and how you feel in it. Blues and greens tend to be peaceful and calming; yellows, oranges and pink are vibrant, energetic colors. Improve your ROI. Redoing your kitchen or bathroom gives you an 85 percent return on investment, says Laine. This means that if you spend $10,000 redoing your kitchen, you can sell your house for $8,500 more. Before you start. Make sure you have a reserve of time, money and patience. Even if you have the skill set to rehab your kitchen, it’s still going to cost more, take longer and probably be more annoying than you thought. — Chrystle Fiedler


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POWER This year, let your home ‘go green’ with foliage



lants, plants and more plants” are expected to be one of 2019’s hottest design trends, says Amanda Gates, an energy design expert, award-winning interior designer, advanced feng shui practitioner and host of the popular podcast Home Energy Design. Placing plants and flowers in our homes boosts mood, cleans air, encourages mindfulness and enhances feng shui, she adds.


THE POSSIBILITIES ARE ENDLESS Plants and flowers in your home’s entry greet guests with beauty and a calming welcome. Start with a single plant and put it where you’ll see it when you step into your home or enter a room, suggests Baylor Chapman, author of Decorating with Plants, published by Artisan Books, and owner of Lila B. Design, a plant design studio in San Francisco. “It > 45



and the darling of interior designers everywhere,” says Claire Akin, founder of the San Diego-based Fiddle Leaf Fig Resource. It thrives in a bright space with filtered light.

Place plants throughout your home where they will thrive and bring beauty to the décor. 46 HOME | SPRING 2019

could be one tiny little plant where you set your mail and keys or a large tree across the room,” says Chapman. That first sight provides a “connection to nature and helps you slow down and settle in,” she explains. A fiddle leaf fig is an option that looks great solo and when grouped with other greenery if you want to add more plants later. “Fiddle leaf fig is the trendiest indoor plant right now

One of the great benefits of plants is that they pull toxins out of the air, including the chemicals released by furniture, carpet and paint in our homes, says Gates. When we’re not breathing in those toxins, we’re happier because we feel better, Gates explains. “A golden pothos is especially great because it pulls formaldehyde out of the air,” Gates adds, referring to the fast-growing house plant. And they’re easy to find at local nurseries or “at a big box store like The Home Depot.” Fiddle leaf fig plants also remove toxins in the air, release oxygen, increase humidity and reduce fatigue, colds, headaches, coughs, sore throats and flulike symptoms, according to a 1989 NASA study on how well interior plants abated air pollution, Akin adds. Consider putting airpurifying plants in the bedroom to clean the air where you sleep, too. Chapman suggests sansevieria, or snake plant, any type of ivy and chrysanthemum. Although mums don’t last long, “their effect is really beautiful,” Chapman says, and they “rated really high on the NASA study.”



ATTRACTIVE ARRANGEMENTS When you have several plants, “group them in threes for a really strong effect,” Chapman advises. Threes are engaging, effective and efficient, whether you’re positioning plants, arranging furniture or grouping other objects, Chapman says. Trios are pleasing to the eye, and they create a powerful and a memorable structure, she adds. Make plant arrays more visually interesting with varying sizes, shapes, textures and colors. Chapman’s “easy recipe”: one light, fluffy and “airy” plant, such as an asparagus fern or maidenhair fern; one draping plant such as a Hoya, spider plant or vine; and one plant that’s bold and structured such as a sansevieria. “Those combinations look really nice together,” she says. She also suggests incorporating varied colors including shades and tones of greens. “When you’re arranging your plants, you want the effect to be cohesive, comfortable and pleasing to the eye,” Chapman adds.

BLOOMING BOOST Enhance your morning mood by placing flowers or flowering plants in your bedroom or bathroom. Gates likes to keep cut flowers on her desk because she feels the fragrance will “lift your chi,” or personal energy, elevate your mood

and make you feel better. “The smell is important, but so is their beauty,” Gates notes. “They light us up when we see them.” You might try potted jasmine, gardenia and orchids such as the trailing cymbidium and “Sharry Baby” oncidium to add sweet fragrance, Chapman suggests. Although orchids require different care than most plants, she says they’re not as demanding as one might think. “Orchids are great,” Gates agrees. “They’re very popular in feng shui because they have a royal energy and gentility, so they’re great for boosting money,” she adds. According to the bagua, or feng shui energy map, “the back left corner of our homes represents the energy of money,” Gates says, adding that if you >

Don’t fear a fail Even if you think you have a “black thumb,” you can have plants in your home. Gates tells her clients to go to their local nursery or big-box store such as The Home Depot or Lowe’s and ask what “super-hardy plant” they recommend for your area that doesn’t require much water or care. Chapman recommends three plants that tolerate spotty care, poor light and iffy maintenance and watering: Air plants that draw nutrients from the air around them and don’t require soil. Chapman calls them “dirt-defying plants.” Marimo Moss Ball plants that thrive in darkness. “Just keep it in water and it’s fine,” Chapman says. Resurrection plant, which dries up if left uncared for (great for travelers), then revives when placed in a dish of water. — Peggy J. Noonan



put a money-boosting orchid in a money-boosting location (the back left corner of your home, room or desk) “in a spot where you’ll see it all the time, it will help magnify that (money increase) intention.” Aromatic herbs such as rosemary, thyme, sage and basil scent the air and add beauty to any room, whether in tiny pots or larger containers. They’re great on windowsills and shelves and also work well in hanging baskets or wallmounted containers.

THE RIGHT LIGHT “When you boil it down

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to the essentials, plants are fairly easy to take care of,” says Eric Westerduin, a green walls industry expert and co-founder and partner of Suite Plants, a living walls company based in New York City. “They need light, water and carbon dioxide.” The latter two are simple, Westerduin says. Plants get CO2 from air, and you provide water as needed. Light “is where most problems happen,” he says. In general, Westerduin says, colorful and blooming plants fare better in more light while plants like ferns that naturally grow under forest canopies prefer shadier spots. Think about

where the plant naturally grows, he suggests. A cactus that thrives in the 110-degree heat of a cloudless Arizona desert isn’t likely to thrive in a dusky corner of your home or an entry subject to cold air blasts in winter. Find the right plant for the right lighting conditions. “You can buy a simple light meter on Amazon for $15,” Westerduin tells customers. Use it to check the light before you put in a plant “and save yourself a lot of headache.” “You can always bring in LED lights to help,” but Chapman says “if your plant needs a super sunny



window, don’t stick it in a dark corner. You can test its limits but don’t go to extremes.”

PLANT A WALL Plant-covered picture frames and walls create beautiful living works of art. First used commercially, living pictures and green walls have been used in hotels, airports and offices for about 15 years, says Westerduin. Living pictures are the easiest way to get started, Westerduin says. You’ll find many different units available that vary in ease of installation and care.

In addition to being a good option for families with small children and pets because it’s mounted high on a wall and out of reach, Suite Plants’ LivePicture system is easy to maintain, Westerduin says. “All you need to do is add the plants, hang it on the wall and add water,” he says. “It’s as simple to put up as a picture frame.” (Mounting hardware is included.) No electrical connection or water supply is needed. Each unit has a built-in watering system that holds enough water to last four to six weeks. “You only need to water it about once a month” using the provided funnel, “and you’re good to go,” Westerduin says. The company’s newest line, LivePicture GO, comes in gray, black, white or red to add a color accent to the wall-mounted plant “pictures.” Textured frames are coming soon. Ready to go bigger? Cover a wall with plants for a stunning display. Green wall systems can be used to cover a difficultto-decorate space, enhance privacy, buffer noise or break up open space. The systems made by Suite Plants come in different sizes and applications, including LiveDivider, a freestanding indoor room divider that holds plants on both sides, LiveHedge ivy walls for the garden and LivePanel Green Wall modular units that protrude fewer than 4 inches from the wall, need no waterproofing,

require no structural support and are do-it-yourself easy to install. “It doesn’t matter how much space you have. The important thing is that you should always incorporate plants in your life because they just make you feel better, whether it’s flowers or plants or small trees,” says Gates. “You don’t have to have a jungle,” says Chapman. An abundance of plants is great but fewer is fine, too. “You could have (just) one or two plants in your house.” The plants you do have should make you smile, help calm you, clean the air and look beautiful, he adds. The right flower or plant for you may not be ideal for someone else and vice versa, so choose plants you love, says Gates. You’ll know you’ve chosen well “when you walk into that space and think ‘I just love having that flower or those herbs or that tree here,’ ” he adds. l

choose plants that work best for you and your home.


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Kitchens REDEFINED Create your future living space today with on-trend ideas BY CINDY BAILEN


lthough 2019 is already in full bloom, it’s not too late to think about giving your kitchen a spring makeover. Yes, you’re dreaming about the wall color (gray), the countertops (low-maintenance quartz), the backsplash (ever-popular subway tile) and the black stainless steel appliances. That’s a good start toward creating an excellent space, but there are new elements you’ll want to consider. Here are some ideas to add to the wish list for your future kitchen:


APPLIANCES THAT DO NEW TRICKS The popular Anova sous vide cooker, which allows you to vacuum seal food and cook it in a water bath, has started a sous vide trend. Options include a 48inch range by Signature Kitchen Suite (a division of LG) with built-in sous vide and Electrolux’s new 30inch electric wall oven offering air sous vide. And Gaggenau manufactures a vacuuming drawer that seals your food, so you can use it for sous vide cooking, and it even reseals wine bottles.


THE HANDLELESS KITCHEN Refrigerators or cabinets that open when you press against them with your hip. Dishwashers that open when you knock. Because your hands are often full while you’re cooking, these innovations could be a convenience in any kitchen.

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Is your current dishwasher driving you crazy? Maybe it doesn’t have room for the items you use most, redeposits food particles, or worst of all, fails to actually dry the dishes. New versions are addressing all of these issues. This goes way beyond the coveted third rack, which more and more dishwashers are including, even on budget models. After five years, Sub-Zero and Wolf have finally released the Cove dishwasher, the machine that aspires to do everything. Its three spray arms and 43 jets ensure that food particles are washed away. The racks and tines adjust to make room for square dishes and tall glasses. The angled second rack lets water run off. And to get dishes really dry, Cove has a hotter last rinse and a fan. There are also high-end dishwashers to meet specialized needs. For people who appreciate a perfectly aged red to share with friends, Thermador offers the Star-Sapphire, the entertainer’s dishwasher, which has room for 26 wine glasses.

SURFACES THAT MERGE THE BEST OF NEW AND OLD Terrazzo, which dates back to ancient times, is making a major comeback. You’ve probably seen it on the floors of old buildings — the ones that have chips of glass, marble and other materials embedded in them. New porcelain terrazzo styles look amazing and are available in polished and matte finishes. The patterns are interesting, and you can use it on the backsplash, walls or floor.



METAL MIX-UPS It used to be that most faucets were chrome. Then came the ’90s, which brought tons of shiny brass hardware. Satin nickel heralded the 2000s. Now, you can have any color fixtures you’d like, from velvety matte black to gorgeous rose gold, and you can pick more than one finish for the same space. A warm gold tone can complement cool colors in today’s kitchens.

Your sink is the most functional spot in your kitchen — the heart of the heart. You use it to rinse your salad greens, fill a pasta pot and wash the dishes. And now, your sink can go the extra mile with a system like the ones offered by Franke. A sink system creates an integrated workspace with accessories that include a sliding glass cutting board, multilevel sink grids, a colander that sits on the edge of the sink and a compost bin/scrap collector with a drain that makes it easier to prep and clean up.



TALL COLUMN REFRIGERATORS Column refrigeration has been popular in commercial and luxury markets for a while, but with more brands getting into the game, kitchen designers are recommending them for eager clients’ homes. The brilliance of these stand-alone columns is their adaptability. If you have a side-by-side fridge, and the skinny freezer side doesn’t have room to store frozen pizzas and lasagna pans, columns can take you to the next level with wider freezers. You don’t even have to place the fridge and freezer next to one another, so you have more flexibility in your kitchen’s design.

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EVERYTHING SMART We want connected appliances to add value and run as seamlessly as possible. Some of the apps available for smart appliances are disappointing, but we can expect them to keep improving. In the meantime, Alexa and Google Home can help manage our appliances, too. Among them are connected refrigerators, ranges, microwaves and dishwashers from major brands such as GE, LG, Kenmore, Jenn-Air, Samsung and Whirlpool.


Hidden induction cooking is a game changer. The induction elements are installed beneath a durable countertop, and when you’re not cooking, you can use the counter to serve. Many professional chefs have fully embraced induction cooking, which uses electromagnetism to heat pots and pans efficiently. The general public hasn’t come around in large numbers, but one stand-out advantage of this kind of cooktop is that children (or adults) won’t get burned if they put their hands directly on the cooking surface.

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Bathroom Reboot BREATHE NEW LIFE INTO ONE OF YOUR HOME’S MOST-USED SPACES WITH SOME EASY UPDATES BY JEB BREITHAUPT If your master bathroom looks more like it belongs in a museum than in a modern home, it’s time to do some major upgrading. Many homebuilders in the 1950s, ’60s, ’70s and even ’80s treated bathrooms as utilitarian spaces and designed most of them to be the size of a closet, with the sink, toilet and bathtub all lined up in a row. Back then, the bathroom wasn’t viewed as a place where people spent an hour or more getting ready for work in the morning or a destination for relaxing in the evening. Today, in addition to the obvious uses, homeowners like to use their bathrooms as multipurpose rooms — for primping, dressing and unwinding — but their spaces are sometimes stuck in those bygone decades. Here are ways to bring your bathroom into the 21st century:

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1. Nothing ages a room faster than dated wallpaper, especially if it’s flocked, mauve or avocado green. You could choose to apply a stylish new wallpaper, but consider painting instead. A fresh coat in a light color will make the room look fresh and modern.

2. Boxy light fixtures that conceal harsh fluorescent bulbs over the vanity mirror were popular midcentury, but that look is no longer trendy (and fluorescent fixtures aren’t flattering to the person looking in the mirror). Replace the fixtures with recessed lighting or with decorative sconces on both sides of the mirror. Install lighting that has a low “color temperature” to soften the glare.

3. It’s likely that at least a few of those 4-inch by 4-inch shower tiles that were so popular when your house was built are missing or have cracked by now. And chances are good that the color is Mamie pink (named for First Lady Mamie Eisenhower) or an off-color of blue, yellow, green or brown that was favored way back when. Today, there is a vast selection


of tile sizes, colors, sheens and materials for the shower, walls and floor of your bathroom. >


Bathroom Reboot


4. When you remove the old shower, wall and floor tiles, don’t be surprised if you find a few water-related problems, such as wood rot and mold. A bathroom that hasn’t been remodeled since the house was built probably has sprung a leak or two over the years. A remodeling

project gives you an opportunity to clean up the damage and properly seal new wall and floor coverings.


Try custom-cut panels rather than tile for your shower to reduce water damage to grout and caulking.

5. If you have a shower/bathtub combo in your master bathroom and you haven’t used the tub since your kids were toddlers (or there’s a tub in another bathroom), tear it out. A renovated shower will have a lower threshold that’s a lot easier to step over than the edge of a bathtub. 6. A new toilet not only will

can opt for an ultra low-flow model, which uses far less water. Look for the WaterSense label on your new faucets and showerheads to further save on water bills.

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look nicer in your freshly remodeled master bath than your older model, but you’ll have the chance to buy a taller one that’s easier on the legs and back. Plus, you

7. A granite or quartz vanity countertop can become the centerpiece of your bathroom. Nearly every midcentury home features a cultured marble vanity counter and integrated sink. If yours is scuffed and dull, now’s your chance to make the change. Look for a sink bowl with a bit of flourish and set the pair atop cabinets painted white or another light color to make the room look clean, bright and roomy. 8. Perhaps the most useful improvement you can make to a master bathroom is enlarging it. If you don’t mind sacrificing some space in the bedroom, consider

expanding the bathroom so it’s large enough for two sinks, an extra-large shower and a bit more room to move around. If you’re open to adding on to your home, you can make both the bathroom and the bedroom larger, and incorporate roomy, walk-in closets into the suite. >



Stay away from “shiny” when you choose faucets and hardware for the bathroom. Muted, brushed metals have a timeless appeal.


Bathroom Reboot Tip:

Removing walls isn’t a DIY job; you’ll need a professional’s assistance.

9. Another way to make the space roomier — or at least feel that way — is to reorganize the layout. The master bathrooms in most older homes are compartmentalized, with a small room or niche for the toilet, and sometimes include other closetlike spaces near the tub. Tearing down the walls that enclose the toilet and tub will open up the room, making it look larger and giving you more space to move around — even if the room isn’t actually bigger. Of course, whenever you remodel a bathroom, you can add safety and convenience features, including grab bars, wider doorways and curbless showers, that will be useful if you decide to stay in your home during your golden years.

Remodel To-Dos

Spring is a big season for remodeling. If your bathroom is ready for an overhaul, think outside of the box. Here are some trends that might work well in a master bath or powder room: Go big. The bathroom has become more than a place to begin and end the day. A big bathroom can be a sort of in-home spa, with a roomy, stand-alone bathtub or a huge shower stall with lots of sprays and space. Or small. Do you love luxurious touches, but find they stretch your budget? Dress up a tiny bathroom with granite or marble countertops and shower walls. Ask

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your contractor to help you with a space-saving walk-in shower and choose a small toilet and sink bowl. Hang open shelves in place of cabinets, and ask your designer to create a patterned graphic on your tile floor. It will make the small bathroom look larger. Mashup. A jumble of materials in one room can create an interesting space. Consider upgrading

to a quartz vanity top surrounding a natural stone sink. Quartz can also dress up floors and walls. Brass and gold — long overlooked in favor of brushed nickel and stainless steel hardware — are making a comeback. Other trends for the bathroom: Warm. Gold tones aren’t the only warming trend in the bathroom. Electric underfloor heating systems are making a comeback. Underfloor heating keeps your toes warm on a floor made of concrete, vinyl, tile or wood. And check out

the latest warming drawers for your towels and robes. Blue. Nothing says spa like blue walls and accents. The calming hue brings water to mind; choose it for bathroom furniture, countertops and even cabinets. The warm tones contrast — yet complement — popular gray walls and add a touch of luxury to the bathroom. Industrial. Show off your modern style by leaving plumbing pipes exposed and covering interior walls with brick. A metal sink or tub and a concrete countertop

will complete the look. Tech. The latest mirrors control the lights and temperature in a high-tech bathroom. Motion detectors brighten the room as you walk in. High-tech toilets have seat warmers, air dryers and deodorizers. Some even play music. Wood. It’s not the easiest material to live with in a damp room, but wood on floors, countertops and as backsplashes makes a room look more natural. Choose a wood with a water-based urethane for texture and warmth. — Jeb Breithaupt


Jeb Breithaupt is president of JEB Design/ Build in Shreveport, La.

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Retailers use apps, driverless delivery and robots to attract shoppers BY MARC SELINGER

62 HOME | SPRING 2019



n the world of retail, competition is the name of the game. And it’s no different for purveyors of home décor and design products. Home improvement stores across the nation are investing in online shopping enhancements, driverless delivery and other high-tech tools to attract and retain customers in a highly competitive market. Retailers say they are offering these features because convenienceminded consumers increasingly demand it — and will go elsewhere if they don’t get what they want. “We’re not implementing this technology for technology’s sake,” says

Matt Jones, The Home Depot’s senior director for online/mobile product. “The customer is indicating that we can answer a question or solve a problem by applying this” technology. Bryan Gildenberg, retail analyst at Kantar Consulting, says technology helps small retailers compete with larger ones and helps all home improvement companies hold their ground against aggressive mass-market retailers. “They’re all, obviously, trying to compete with Amazon,” Gildenberg says.

THE BIG GUYS The Home Depot, which has more than 2,200 stores across North America >



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THE HOME DEPOT $91.9 billion

LOWE’S $63.1 billion

ACE HARDWARE $16.6 billion

MENARDS $11 billion SOURCE: Kantar Consulting


and is the world’s largest home improvement retailer by revenue, plans to spend $2.9 billion over three years on technology upgrades across the company, including enhancements to its smartphone app. “Well over 50 percent of our traffic is on mobile devices these days,” Jones says. “Every single quarter, it seems like we hit a new high point. So we’ve been leaning in on the mobile experience for a number of years here.” With The Home Depot mobile app, shoppers can speak to their phones or use a store map to find items. They can scan a barcode to get details on a product, or scan a photo of an item to see similar products for sale. The app’s three-dimensional “augmented reality” technology allows shoppers to see how products would look in their homes. The Home Depot recently revised its chat function so customers can start a conversation with an online associate, or employee, take a break and then resume the discussion at their convenience. The conversation thread is maintained indefinitely. “You may be chatting or messaging back and forth with an agent today,” Jones says. “Tomorrow, you may pick it back up when you’re back on the job site or you’re in front of the sink that you’re trying to replace.” The Home Depot, which has incorporated Apple and Google technology into its app, expects to continue drawing on such rapid innovators to refine the feature. “We’re pretty bullish about the direction that this is going,” Jones says. >

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Lowe’s, which has almost 2,400 stores across North America, recently tried several technology pilots in stores, including LoweBot, a mobile robot that helps shoppers find products, and the Holoroom Test Drive, which allows customers to try out power tools in a virtual reality environment. LoweBot and the Holoroom emerged from an in-house technology incubator, Lowe’s Innovation Labs. While they are no longer in stores, Lowe’s expects the pilots will guide future efforts. “As with all Lowe’s Innovation Labs projects, once a pilot is concluded, we remove the technology from our stores, assess learnings, evaluate potential iterations and apply takeaways across the organization,” says company spokeswoman Amy Allison.

website can confirm whether a particular store has a product in stock, and it can complete online orders for in-store pickup in as little as a minute. The company’s loyalty program, which rewards frequent customers with discounts, is integrated with its website, so it “will work just as seamlessly online as at the register,” Aubuchon says. Online product reviews provide feedback that helps the company refine its product catalog. This year, a new feature will allow customers to see online where every product can be found in each store. Customers also will be able to view an online history of the paint they’ve previously ordered, so they can reorder the correct color. “We want to really be the best in the world at convenience when it comes to local hardware,” Aubuchon says. The 111-year-old company is considering using its technology to launch local delivery. It is also exploring helping other hardware stores that cannot afford major technology upgrades on their own. “We’re purposely making (technology investments) so that they work not only for the Aubuchon brand but for other brands as well,” he says. Hassett Hardware, an Ace Hardware affiliate with five stores in the San Francisco Bay Area, is testing self-driving vans provided by software developer ThorDrive. Hassett Hardware is initially offering free delivery from one >

LOWE’S LoweBot

Smaller home improvement chains, many of them family-owned, are not shying away from this technological arms race. Aubuchon Hardware, which has 105 stores in New England and upstate New York, has pumped “millions of dollars” into technology, according to Will Aubuchon, president and CEO. “If we’re going to stay relevant, we need to make these investments, and we need to be creative about how to make it happen,” he says. The Aubuchon Hardware

66 HOME | SPRING 2019




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store to a small group of customers. If the trial goes well, the company could expand the service. “We wanted to start small and grow the area we deliver to, so initially we are delivering to our local firehouse and a senior center,” co-owner Eric Hassett says. “We aim to shortly be able to offer free daily delivery to many of our business accounts who we see daily, sometimes multiple times a day.” The vans are not truly unmanned just yet — each vehicle has a human driver to monitor it and intervene when necesHARDWARE sary. While it is unclear when ThorDrive will be able to operate autonomous vehicles, the technology is cuttingedge, and Hassett is pleased he can offer it to his customers. “Being in the heart of the Silicon Valley, we are continually approached with interesting and exciting ideas,” he says. “What intrigued me about ThorDrive is (developers) saw the value in approaching a small, community-focused business and really wanted to use the miles the vehicle needs to drive for some good use, not just data collection.” Woods Hardware, which has six stores in the Cincinnati area,

is creating 3D maps of its stores so customers can order directly from a virtual walk-through feature and have products delivered locally the same day. For the True Value affiliate, the idea is to have an e-commerce site that better replicates the brick-andmortar shopping experience. “When you go into a store, you might just be coming in for a roll of duct tape, but you end up leaving with caulk and five other items,” CEO Matt Woods says. “When you virtually tour our store, you’ll be able to see additional items that kind of add back to that impulsivity of the retail experience.” The company plans to roll out the feature at its downtown store first, by early February, and add the other stores at a pace of about one a month. It intends to refresh the maps twice a year, so they show the latest products. To pay for the project, Woods Hardware is tapping a $100,000 prize it won in the Reimagine Retail contest at the annual National Hardware Show in Las Vegas in May 2018. Woods says his company used a simple message in the competition. “Our concept was: This is how we beat Amazon.” l





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Backyard Delights

New outdoor kitchen trends can make your space the envy of the neighborhood.





THE ART OF LANDSCAPE DESIGN Taking your yard beyond the standard lawn and flowerbed

Incorporating greenery into the landscaping for outdoor spaces adds color and layers to the aesthetic. These patio spaces in various areas of New York City, designed by the Harrison Green firm, reflect ways to make plants, shrubs and trees part of the overall feel and ambience.


hen it comes to landscape design, sometimes it seems as though maintaining a simple lawn and replanting the pansies and petunias are all you can manage. But what if someone told you that the best thing you can do for inspiration is to put down your spade and take a hike? Expert garden designers urge their clients to step back and reassess

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what they truly want and need in a landscape — and then look to nature, and other people’s gardens, for ideas. Consider: Do you really need that huge lawn, or would a smaller patch of turf surrounded by soft tufts of buff-colored meadow grasses suffice? Flower beds are high-maintenance and require constant primping and pruning. Perhaps a few artfully placed boulders with succulent groundcovers cascading around them would be more rewarding. (It would certainly require less upkeep.) 2019 is the year of yardscape minimalism, says Joseph Huettl, founder of Huettl Landscape Architecture in Walnut Creek, Calif. Not in the sense of austerity, but in clean lines, zero clutter and contemporary vibes. Huettl’s designs start with a “simple, open architectural layout” of pathways, planting areas and hardscape, such as patios and walls. Experiment with the design using a paper outline of your garden by trying out different configurations of intersecting rectangles and ovals. Then add the plant layer — with restraint. Huettl recommends

fewer species massed over larger areas to create washes of color and texture that provide a counterpoint to the strong lines of the layout. “We’re always trying to edit down the plant palette to the most simple, graceful design possible.” Flowering plants are used sparingly in Huettl’s designs, like a seasonal exclamation point. “Flowers are ephemeral. We focus on texture because it’s year-round.”

RANDOM, BUT RHYTHMIC The landscape that Huettl designed for a Napa Valley home, which won an award from the Northern California Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects, contains a modest lawn and a courtyard of oversize white pavers arranged in a bed of small, dark pebbles. It’s a slightly random, yet organized layout reminiscent of the black-and-white keys of a piano. A white triptych wall forms a focal point at one end of the landscape, echoing the shape of the pavers. A lone pair of papyrus plants — tall, thin stalks topped with soft, grassy tufts — are framed by the wall. A few other papyrus >

The use of varying sizes of pavers and minimal flowering plants are trademarks of Huettl Landscape Architecture in Walnut Creek, Calif. The landscaping design company recommends starting with a layout of your outdoor space using a series of intersecting shapes, then utilizing plants sparingly to fill out the design.



— JOSEPH HUETTL, founder of Huettl Landscape Architecture

plants create accents here and there, but the plants consist mostly of low, clumping grasses — soothing to the eyes, easy on the budget and requiring little in the way of water, fertilizer or maintenance. There’s an abundance of empty space occupied by little more than a groundcover of smooth gray pebbles. Pavers and custom deck work is expensive, notes Huettl. But you can minimize the square footage of those big-ticket items with the thoughtful use of stones, fine gravel and crushed rock, also known as decomposed granite. He calls the look “warm contemporary” or “minimalism mixed with regionalism,” a nod to the sparsely vegetated hills common to that area of California. In New York, landscape designer Jacqueline Harrison, a partner in the husband-wife firm Harrison Green, employs similar

74 HOME | SPRING 2019

principles, although the resulting look is a bit more lush in this wetter side of the country where modernist architecture is less of a norm.

LANDSCAPE DESTINATIONS Harrison is a fan of creating carefully curated outdoor “rooms.” Sometimes garden rooms are defined by walls or other clearly delineated boundaries and serve as a destination in the landscape — a way to individualize a garden and divide up the space according to practical purposes. Those purposes could include outdoor grilling, herb growing, sun-tanning, bird-watching or just kicking back and enjoying the views. Although the term “minimalist” is not likely to be applied to Harrison Green designs, the firm exercises restraint in form, texture and color. “I like to remind our clients that green is a color,” says Harrison. “Green is the first and most important color in your garden, and sometimes you don’t even need to go far beyond that to create a really incredible space,” she adds, listing its many

Green is a prominent color that can anchor any outdoor design or even stand alone, says Jacqueline Harrison of the New York-based Harrison Green landscaping firm.


2019 is the year of yardscape minimalism.”

Don’t let weed woes take root

Outdoor rooms, like this one at a home on New York’s Upper West Side can be defined by walls that create distinct spaces for grilling, gardening, relaxing or other activities.

shades from lime and chartreuse to jade and olive. Shades of burgundy, red and brown are also options. Add variegated foliage to the mix and it’s possible to paint a vibrant image without employing a single blossom. “Flowers are the icing on the cake,” says Harrison. “It’s the trees, shrubs and other large elements that you build the

landscape with.” She encourages her clients to start the brainstorming process by making a ranked list of the things they want and need in the space, along with photos that capture the way they want it to feel. These can be gleaned online, though she urges people to go out in nature, or at least their neighborhood, and snap photos of

landscapes they like. “What do you respond to? And why? Do you like the color? The texture? Do you like the privacy that something provides?” Most importantly, she says, go for what feels like you. “For us, the design of a garden starts with the clients themselves. Their personal style is what informs our process. Because a garden is a very personal thing.” l

A patch of bare earth speckled with scraggly half-dead weeds can seem like an impossible situation to remedy. But there’s a simple solution to almost any unkempt garden space. Consider covering the area with landscape fabric, also referred to as weed cloth, holding down the edges with metal stakes (sold at most garden centers), making sure to overlap each piece by at least 6 inches. Then cut small holes just big enough to plant small groundcover “plugs.” These species, including succulents such as sedum and trailing vines such as ivy, are typically sold in small containers, but they grow quickly to cover large areas. Ask your local nursery about native species that will thrive in your region.




O U T D O O R | E N T E R TA I N I N G


Backyard kitchen trends provide budget-friendly options for alfresco cooking and entertaining BY RINA RAPUANO

76 HOME | SPRING 2019


ou might think a decked-out backyard kitchen in Maine, North Dakota or Michigan defies logic, but thanks to new technological advancements, yearround patio dinner parties are now well within reach — no matter the climate where you live. “It used to be just the purview of the Sun Belt, but it has spread because of the improvement of materials and design of the components,” says Russ Faulk, chief designer and head of product for Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet, an outdoor kitchen equipment manufacturer based in Chicago and Galesburg, Mich. “In a very high-end home, you might have radiant heating under the bathroom floor, and people will do that for their countertop. Flip a switch, melt the snow and


use the outdoor kitchen.” Of course, someone willing to install a counterwarming snow-buster would be on the “pointy end of the budget stick,” as Faulk puts it. The reality is that not everyone can afford all the bells and whistles, such as a cocktail station, a countertop fire feature, custom granite or a grill burner for cooking sauces.

GO FOR THE GRILL David Bond, president of Florida-based U.S. Brick & Block Systems, which installs pavers, pools, outdoor kitchens and more, says the grill is the cornerstone for your budget. To stay within your price range, you might have to pass on luxuries, such as a sear zone, a griddle or infrared rotisserie. “That can bring the cost down,” he says, adding that size is less important than quality. “It’s always best to get a good grill brand than to have a big grill that’s not going to last.” Faulk, who also authored the recently released cookbook Food + Fire: Cooking Outside with Kalamazoo Outdoor Grillmaster Russ Faulk, agrees that the grill is the most important feature of any outdoor cooking space.

“Where I tell people not to scrimp is the grill, especially if it’s being built into masonry,” he says. “If you hate your grill, you’re probably not going to love your outdoor kitchen. And they’re tough to swap out because they don’t come in standardized sizes.” Some outFaulk door kitchen adds that amenities, such opting for as smokers, movable are intended compospecifically for exterior use. nents like tables and countertops rather than large stone kitchens with built-in grills is an increasing trend, somewhat driven by budget-minded homeowners who like the idea of growing their outdoor kitchens gradually. “Instead of making your design decisions permanent and literally set in stone, there are a lot of other options to change and evolve your kitchen over time.” >


O U T D O O R | E N T E R TA I N I N G

When it comes to design, the next thing to consider with built-in kitchen spaces is what type of accent materials you’re interested in for countertops and cabinets, which often feature some type of masonry. “Typically, the thing with the most impact is the type of stone used on the cabinet,” says Bond. “Most everything else is just stainless steel appliances, so your stone and countertop will make the most difference.” Despite efforts to rein in the spending, the urge to splurge on alfresco cooking and dining isn’t going anywhere. “People are using the outdoor of their homes more than ever,” says Bond. “There are certainly instances of people spending more time and money on their outdoor kitchens than they are on their indoor kitchen.” For those who really want to go all out, popular add-ons include entertainment zones like bars, dedicated cleanup areas and specialty refrigeration like wine coolers, freezers and under-counter refrigerator drawers to keep meat and produce separate. Faulk says smokers and wood-fired grills are especially hot right now, following the cooking trends popping up in restaurants across the country. “What’s great about the outdoor kitchen, especially how it relates to the enthusiast, is it’s really difficult to implement

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this specialty equipment in an inside kitchen,” he says of restaurant trends influencing home trends. He points to the rise in home pizza ovens after

More home cooks are choosing pizza ovens for outdoor kitchens.



chefs across America fell in love with Neapolitan pies. “You have to be cooking those pizzas at 800 degrees, and that was really hard to implement in your home, so it went outdoors, naturally,” says Faulk, who adds that he expects Argentinian-style grills, which are equipped with an adjustable height and a sloped V-shaped grate surface to allow more precise temperature control and uniform cooking, to gain in popularity this year. Perhaps the best splurges, however, are those that make your outdoor kitchen available whenever the mood strikes, such as weather-proof cabinetry so you can keep everything you need stocked and handy — or maybe even that fancy countertop warmer. “If you feel like you have to spend three to four hours to get your outdoor kitchen ready just to use it, you’re not going to be excited about using it,” says Faulk. “It should be always ready to go, always easy.” l

O U T D O O R | E N T E R TA I N I N G

Great Grills For those who don’t have the space or budget for a built-in outdoor kitchen, here are a few standalone grills recommended by experts:

uThe Weber Spirit Ii E-310 threeburner liquid propane gas grill is compatible with a Bluetooth thermometer system. $499, Lowe’s

uChar-Broil’s Performance stainless fourburner liquid propane gas grill has a side burner that’s perfect for grilling veggies. $269, Lowe’s

80 HOME | SPRING 2019

uThe Nexgrill four-burner propane gas grill has a side burner and stainless steel doors and shelves. $269, The Home Depot

uThe Weber Original Premium 22inch black kettle charcoal grill has a heat-shield lid and spacious cooking area. $149, amazon.com


uTraeger’s Renegade Pro Pellet Grill uses hardwood pellets for cooking tasks from smoking ribs to baking a pie. $599, The Home Depot

uThe Big Green Egg can grill, smoke, bake and roast and comes in seven sizes. $399 to $2,999, biggreenegg.com

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Builders deliver plentiful choices for decked-out pools and deluxe outdoor spaces


ackyards have evolved into full-blown outdoor living spaces, complete with patios, full kitchens and expansive entertaining areas with surround sound, flat-screen TVs and internet access.

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But the darling of a backyard space is often — you guessed it — the swimming pool. Unless you install these aquatic attractions for a living, you probably never considered that pool trends vary widely across America. Weather, regional preferences and even

soil type can influence which style a homeowner chooses. “In Florida, you’re doing a white and beige and contemporary look,” says David Bond, president of U.S. Brick & Block Systems in Dania Beach, Fla. His company handles backyard design projects including >



outdoor kitchens, tiki huts and fireplaces. Bond notes that the sandy soil of Florida is a good fit for those bright whites, which would end up looking messy and muddy in an area with more clay in the soil. “If you go to Northern California, you’re doing the darker grays and browns, warmer colors similar to the Northeast. Southern California and Texas and all along the Midwest, they’re more into the Mediterranean colors — reds, yellows, some of the browns.” — ALAN LOONEY, While pools channel the feeling of a resort President, Castle Homes in your backyard, Alan Looney, president of custom homebuilder Castle Homes in Brentwood, Tenn., says it’s not the only water feature some homeowners focus on these days. “Younger families like to have the pool for their children,

The outdoor living space is always an area of focus on the front end during the (home) design phase because it is such a popular feature right now.”

84 HOME | SPRING 2019

but I have had some empty nesters say they don’t need the pool anymore; they just want a spa with their outdoor kitchen area,” he says. Those families with younger children are driving one of the pool industry’s biggest trends: safety. “Out here in California, safety is a big issue, so the trend in the pools is a safety cover,” says Greg Lopes, owner of G Lopes 3-D Designs, which designs swimming pools, hardscapes and landscapes in the Bay Area. He adds that the newer safety covers are so sturdy, you could almost walk on them. Plus, they help reduce evaporation, keep the pool warm and prevent animals from falling in and getting stuck. According to Lopes, other big trends include lanes complete with a turnaround cross at each end for swimming laps; an expanded ledge at the edge of the pool that allows bathers to get their feet wet or sit in shallow water with a child; decorative water features such as jets, fountains and waterfalls along the back wall, sometimes with LED lighting that changes color; and travertine pool pavers, which provide a cooler surface that’s naturally slip-resistant because of its porous surface. What’s out? Beach entry, or zero entry, pools with sand leading into the water, slate pavers and diving boards, Lopes says. “Diving >



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Patio spaces and pools top the wish list of many homeowners designing an outdoor space.

boards are a thing of the past,” he adds. “(Homeowners) want to keep the diving board but don’t want to pay for the insurance.”

BEYOND THE POOL Aside from pools, backyard builders agree that outdoor living spaces are more desirable than ever. “I would say 50 percent of the homes we build, the clients express interest in a pool/

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spa/outdoor kitchen area,” Lopes says. And those luxury amenities can come with a hefty price tag. Looney says although pricing can vary, a full-blown outdoor living space can cost upwards of $400,000. “Whenever we approach the process of designing a home, the outdoor living space is always an area of focus on the front end during the design phase because it is such a popular feature right now. Outdoor cooking is huge.” Lopes agrees, but adds that the trend now goes well beyond outdoor kitchens. He’s seeing full-size fireplaces — not just a fire pit — as well as covered spaces that create an outdoor living room with TVs, heating, fans, coffee tables and throw rugs. “It’s almost like an addition to the house,” he says. l




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Ancient technique still works for your green space BY MAUREEN GILMER

Do it Y oursel f! Even if you’re not a master gardener, you can easily create a gabion using simple materials.

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YouTube to see it done firsthand and learn tips, tricks and design ideas that other gardeners have discovered and perfected. Where the budget allows, gabions can be filled with distinctly colored stone that works with your overall palette. Broken bricks, block and concrete can also be used. Uncommon natural minerals such as mica that feature beautiful colors and textures result in a one-of-a-kind element. Some gardeners use glistening recycled slag glass in gabions to create landscape partitions that offer visual lighting changes throughout the day. These can also be constructed with interior uplighting so the glass can be illuminated after dark. What really matters with gabions is making sure the mesh you choose has holes small enough to prevent the rocks from falling through. When possible, choose local rock sources to limit the cost of hauling fieldstone. Also, try to stick with indigenous stones so they blend in with the local landscape. Modern gabions are an example of a technique that draws utility from the past and incorporates design aesthetics for today’s gardens. Maureen Gilmer is a horticultural journalist, author and weekly gardening columnist for The (Palm Springs, Calif.) Desert Sun.



hat’s that? You’ve never heard of gabions? They are a legacy of trench warfare and of Nile shore stabilization. In ancient times, gabions were huge wicker baskets of willows woven to create stable protective barriers before the invention of concrete. Each basket was filled with rocks if available, or soil if not. Rock-filled gabions remained long after their “baskets” rotted away. Eventually they would become bound by roots of trees and shrubs that naturalized there. This ensured that bank protections would last far longer than the baskets, solving future erosion issues. Today’s gabion has come out of the engineer’s tool box and into our gardens. This age-old yet simple technology is a great building idea for your garden or landscape because there’s no footing required. All you need are rocks and woven wire mesh. The process creates a standing tube or square out of your wire panels. Piece them together and secure with wire, then fill tightly with rocks. Anchor with stakes deep into the ground and voilà, you have a stone column centerpiece for that new herb garden. Because gabions are created with smaller rocks, they’re an affordable choice for home gardens. Search “how to make a gabion” on

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