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LITTLE GREEN THUMBS How to get children interested in gardening


Many adults love gardening. They enjoy the outdoors, the peace and the produce. But children view gardening differently: Some think the dirt and bugs are gross, while others think the long timeline and chore-like tasks are boring. By making a few changes, adults can make gardening fun and educational for children. Julia Parker-Dickerson, the Youth Education Program Director at the National Gardening Association, said the key is to “let children express their ideas, to empower them, and to let them create and 2

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envision something.” Anne Gibson, the author of the website TheMicroGardener.com, agreed. “One of the most important keys to success with a child’s garden is allowing them to take ownership.” Parker-Dickerson said one of the best ways to give children ownership of the garden is to “work with a child to help plan the garden .... Look through seed catalogs or magazines with them. Let the child do some artwork to envision a garden.” Gibson suggested incorporating color and creativity. “Let children choose their own pot, paint or decorate it, or make a sign to brighten up their special space. A favorite toy they no longer use may

make a perfect repurposed shallow garden bed.” Gibson also points out that children are also more likely to use child-sized tools. Try planting with vibrant colors and mixing flowers with produce. “Planting a rainbow of vegetables and fruits can help a child eat a variety of foods, or at least give them an opportunity to try them out,” said Parker-Dickerson. “Children are far more likely to eat produce they grow themselves.” “Flowers, on the other hand, add color, fragrance, beauty and bring in pollinating insects, like bees, that help increase the yield of food crops, and predator insects that reduce pests,” said Gibson.

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how many weeds they pulled or how many pollinators they spotted. Encourage them to name their plants, and then ask about those plants by name. Post a checklist on the refrigerator. Finally, plan for success, but don’t worry about mistakes or failure. Avoid using “out-of-date seeds or unhealthy seedlings,” said Gibson. “Know what to plant, [and] when, in your climate zone so the children enjoy the experience and have the best chance of success.” If things go wrong, use that as a life lesson, said Parker-Dickerson. “If you don’t know the answer to a question, it’s completely OK, and best to admit that you don’t know. If you’re working with a child, say, ‘Let’s work together.’” Take your child to a library or garden center and let him ask the questions. “Empower them to talk to somebody about plants.” The key, Parker-Dickerson said, is “staying positive and staying curious.” Gibson also reminds parents, “Enthusiasm and praise for a job well done work wonders.” -Creators.com

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Witnessing this “gives children a better understanding of an ecosystem as a whole. They get to see in one place that things are dependent on one another,” said Parker-Dickerson. “Respect for life is a hugely valuable lesson.” Planning and planting are very exciting, but children can often grow bored with gardening before harvesting. Gibson suggested incorporating bean sprouts because “They are so easy to grow and mature in a matter of days.” Similarly, “Include cut-and-come again lettuces, radishes, beans and peas, rainbow chard, herbs (especially lemon balm and mint) and edible flowers.” Additionally, use “succession planting”—sowing small amounts often—to help children maintain interest. “If a child has a particular job in the garden, then they often feel a sense of ownership and obligation. The garden is theirs and the consequences are obvious,” said Parker-Dickerson. But Gibson warned about referring to these tasks as jobs or work. Instead, create games to encourage consistency and conversation, she said. Ask children


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SEED or Sod?

What you need to know about growing your lawn


Growing grass is challenging, time consuming and rewarding if you do it right. So should you plant seeds or lay down sod? It all depends on your budget and timetable for results. Planting seed is cheaper, but it takes time for the new grass to grow. Sod gets quick results, but it’s pricey. SEEDING KNOW-HOW If you decide to plant seeds, know that you have to do a lot of prep work before you can spread them. “It’s prepping the lawn area that takes time, and that comes down to how bad the existing surface is,” said David Marciniak, owner and lead designer at Revolutionary Gardens in McLean, Va. According to ScottsMiracle-Gro, a company that makes lawn, garden and outdoor living products, you need to rake the lawn to “rough up” the soil before applying seed so that the seedlings take root. Make sure the area is clean and free of debris and rocks. The best time to plant grass is mid- to late-fall in temperate climates, said Marciniak, noting this timeframe gives seed “time to germinate and get established before entering winter dormancy.” The next best timeframe is now in early spring, but you have to consider the cold weather in a late winter or early heat in a warm spring. “Weather is probably the biggest challenge,” said Marciniak. “Rain can wash away the seed, heat can dry it out, and cold will prevent germination.” START PLANTING How much seed will you need? Check out online seed calculators on home improvement websites. Once you have the seed, decide how you’re going to spread it. Using a wheeled spreader to distribute the seed works best for large areas, but it’s not the only option. “When I’m doing a small patch, for example, a narrow strip along the edge of a new walkway, I’ll scatter seed by hand,” said Marciniak. “For a slightly larger area, they make hoppers where you hold it with one hand and crank it with the other. It gives more even coverage than hand-seeding.” No matter how you do the seeding, don’t overdo it. ScottsMiracle-Gro encourages adjusting the spreader settings so the seed will be evenly and adequately dispersed. Too much seed often results in poor grass growth. While it might be tempting to drench the new grass with water, it’s a better idea to “water gently but not deeply” until the grass is about two inches tall, 4

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according to ScottsMiracle-Gro. Water consistently, about twice daily, to keep the soil moist. New grass typically begins germinating within a week or two and grows well by weeks three and four. Once your grass begins growing, don’t cut it too short, because doing so could mean your new lawn won’t be able to develop deep roots. LAYING SOD With sod, you’re working with the same timeframe as with planting seeds. Optimal times are midto late-fall and again in spring. Prepare the space the same as you would for planting seeds, raking the area to make sure it’s free of leaves, clumps and debris. The Home Depot Garden Club recommends laying sod on moist soil, said spokeswoman Margaret Watters. Sod is usually delivered on pallets, and you should begin the job as soon as it arrives. Lay the sod in rows perpendicular to the yard’s slope, starting against a straight edge such as a sidewalk. By doing this, you’ll ensure the first row is straight, which will make it easier to keep all of the other pieces of sod in line. Next, roll out the sod and “butt it up tightly to the next piece, being very careful not to overlap pieces,” said Marciniak. “When going around obstacles or beds, lay a piece bigger than you need and trim to fit.” Don’t use sod that’s smaller than one third of a full piece, because it tends to dry out fast, he said.

As soon as it arrives, lay sod on moist soil.


The Home Depot advises using a roller to lightly compress the sod, which will help the roots make contact with the soil. Be sure to water within half an hour of installation. That’ll keep the new grass from drying out. “Sod is more forgiving of the weather, as it’s already germinated, but keeping it moist until it can root in is the biggest challenge,” said Marciniak. Water the sod up to three times a day, but don’t let grass stay wet at night, when it’s more susceptible to disease. After a few weeks, mow the lawn, but not too short. Fertilize it after six weeks. -Creators.com Special Supplement to The Fairfax County Times | April 2014


April 2014 | Special Supplement to The Fairfax County Times

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BEFORE The old family room was cramped and narrow. Sun Design showed the Borers that a mid-house bearing wall could be removed to allow more natural light into the area.


Like many homeowners, Cindy and Chris Borer of Burke assumed the only way to gain more usable living space on the main level of their circa-1980s center hall Colonial was to build an addition. At just over 800 square feet, the existing plan was something of a paradox—restricted, yet curiously underutilized. A formal dining room and den on opposite sides of the front-facing foyer were scarcely used. On the other hand, the rear family room was dark, clutter-prone and cramped. “Everything was dated,” Cindy Borer said, “including our early American-style furniture. I just wasn’t sure what kinds of changes I was looking for.” Considering options, the retired teacher speculated on which rooms might feasibly be enlarged. She also wondered if some of her home’s interior walls could be modified to allow for more natural light. It was at this juncture that Craig Durosko, founder of Burke-based Sun Design Remodeling, was called in to discuss possible space improvement scenarios. 6

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In short order, Durosko pointed out that the main level’s square footage was less of a shortcoming than its poorly configured space plan. The constraints imposed by a traditional center-hall floor plan meant rooms that were cut off and, thus, likely to be used less often. This, in turn, accounted for traffic patterns that didn’t work as well as they might. He also confirmed that the mid-house, floor-to-ceiling bearing wall dividing the front and rear sections of the home

AFTER The plan implemented by Sun Design Remodeling reconciles traditional architecture with the spatial freedom of an open floor plan.

Special Supplement to The Fairfax County Times | April 2014

could be effectively deleted by installing concealed vertical supports at strategic intervals. Such a move would dramatically increase natural light, he noted, creating the floor space needed for an alternative layout that would be much more effective for both daily use and entertaining. “Craig pretty much solved our space plan problem on the first visit,” Borer said. “At this point, I was really beginning to think about the design details.” Borer’s meeting with Sun Design’s lead designer Jon Benson proved fruitful from the start. A veteran home remodeling specialist who is also a nationally recognized furniture designer, Benson created the vital floor space refinements needed to accommodate several custom built-ins that give the new plan its essential symmetry. To create a more functional relationship between the kitchen and dining room, for instance, the designer replaced an interior pantry with a 27.5-square-foot food preparation surface and dining counter that serves both rooms equally. By borrowing a mere 9 square feet from the dining room, he also found a footprint for a small mudroom with bench immediately to the right of the kitchen’s side entrance. Resituating the front hall closet to the right of the front door not only widened the front foyer, but also created dramatic front-to-back sightlines that make the entire house now seem much larger. Measured in square feet, the changes are small. Yet such revisions completely liberated the first-level circulation plan, reorganizing the home’s primary living area into rooms that are both interactive and distinctly articulated.

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COMPLETELY LIBERATED THE FIRST-LEVEL CIRCULATION PLAN, REORGANIZING THE HOME’S PRIMARY LIVING AREA INTO ROOMS THAT ARE BOTH INTERACTIVE AND DISTINCTLY ARTICULATED. To visually differentiate the front-facing library from the family room, the designer converted existing overhead beams into an elegant tray ceiling supported by Craftsmanstyle piers. A new floor-to-ceiling bookcase—also a Benson original—provided an elegant yet highly functional wall elevation for the new reading room. The new family room fireplace hearth was, likewise, custom-designed so as to accommodate the plasma TV screen that now hangs above it. Additional interior design decisions largely emerged from Borer’s collaboration with Sun Design’s Jessica Page. “Jessica helped me discover the design style I’d been looking for,” Borer said. “She opened up a lot of resources. Ideas that I liked were added to a project scrapbook, which we both referenced regularly to keep the decision process on track.” As space plan modifications proceeded, Borer’s research revealed a strong personal attraction to “transitional”-style interior design—a contemporary idiom that means designers reconcile traditional architecture with the spatial free-

dom of an open floor plan. The furniture acquisition process, in turn, informed final finish-work considerations. On this score, Benson’s original floor plan sketch anticipated the use of love seats as space dividers between the family room and the den. Meanwhile, Borer’s preference for soft white and grey duotones inspired an interior paint scheme that deftly combines sharp white and khaki as seminal color schemes throughout the main level. In the kitchen, Giallo Fioriato granite surfaces are set off by a vividly original glass tile and stone backsplash, which lends an invigorating streak of color to the broader visual panorama. “It’s a very comfortable balance of traditional and open [that] really works well for us,” Borer said. “I found the whole process really enlightening.” Sun Design Remodeling frequently sponsors tours of recently remodeled homes, as well as workshops on home improvement topics. Headquartered in Burke, the firm recently opened a second office in McLean. For more information, call 703-425-5588 or visit SunDesignInc.com.

Home & Garden



Three major new-home companies offer options aplenty in Northern Virginia



At the Pulte Homes community of MetroWest, townhouses feature brick exteriors and two-car garages.


The Preston at Marrwood displays the brick-and-stone exterior that distinguishes Van Metre’s homes in Stone Ridge. 8

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“New home sales in Northern Virginia are doing OK,” said Brian Kenning, president of the Builders’ Realty Council in Reston. “Sales under $500,000 are especially brisk, especially in the Ashburn and Aldie communities of Loudoun County,” he said. “Fairfax County is becoming built out,” he added, pointing out that the least expensive new single-family homes are usually priced over $700,000, with the greater percentage over $800,000. As a result, he said, more townhouses are being constructed instead. He also said that builders are responding to the demand for main-floor master suites, due largely to the aging population. “People aged 55 and over tend to have cash, rather than debts,” he said. The builders are also attracting buyers with other popular features, including energy efficiency, attached garages, condo elevators and brick exteriors. PULTE BLENDS LUXURY AND LOCATION Luxury townhouses and elevator condos in a convenient location have added up to success for the MetroWest community in Vienna. Named for its location next to the Vienna-Fairfax GMU Metro Station, it is also within walking distance of the Pan Am Shopping Center. “An increasing number of today’s buyers are looking for homes that offer minimal commutes and maximum amenities,” according to a press release from Lewis Birnbaum, president of Pulte Homes’ Mid-Atlantic Division. Released for sale in January, Pulte’s Flats at MetroWest condos feature two bedrooms, two baths and between 1,256 and 1,685 square feet of living space in buildings with brick exteriors and underground parking. They are priced from the mid $400,000s. The complex also includes brick townhouses like the Stuart model, starting at $645,990 for three bedrooms, 2 1/2 baths, 1,942 square feet of living space and an attached two-car garage. For more information, call 888817-2201. Special Supplement to The Fairfax County Times | April 2014

Townhouse sales began in 2011, and future plans call for office and retail space. Providing features like programmable thermostats and efficient furnaces, Pulte Homes also boasts an impressive score of 30 on the Home Energy Rating System (HERS) index, where the lower the score, the better. Scores run from 0 to about 150. “The U.S. Department of Energy has determined that a typical resale home scores 130 on the HERS Index while a standard new home is rated at 100,” according to the Residential Energy Services Network website. RYAN HOMES’ ECLECTIC OFFERINGS All of the houses from Ryan Homes can display the Energy Star certification. They include insulated exterior doors and Low-E coated windows to reduce energy costs. At Hampton Reserve in Fairfax Station, the classic brick Colonial and eclectic dwellings showcase 1-acre wooded lots and side-loading three-car garages. Among the four single-family models still available at press time, the Oberlin Terrace features a standard four bedrooms, two baths and 2,737 square-feet of living space, with many additional options available. Prices start in the low $870,000s. Call 540-940-9397. Ryan Homes is also offering townhomes at Discovery Square in Oak Hill. Priced in the $400,000 range, they provide a minimum of three bedrooms and 2 1/2 baths,


Ryan Homes’ Waverly model at Hampton Reserve showcases a pillared portico and multipaned windows. with additional options available, in up to 2,641 square feet of living space. They include one-car garages and brick exteriors. Located off Centreville Road and Route 28, the community is close to Historic Downtown Herndon, as well a wide range of department stores. Call 571223-1841. VAN METRE’S CHOICES The Van Metre EcoSystem includes weather-resistant exterior barriers and energy-saving, compact, fluorescent lightbulbs.

Van Metre offers a wide range of home choices at its Stone Ridge community in Loudoun County. Those include single-family Colonial and eclectic houses with exteriors of brick, stone or a blending of both. In addition, the dwellings feature two- and three-car attached garages, plus optional main-floor bedrooms and baths. In the Marrwood section of Stone Ridge, single-family homes are priced from the low $600,000s. The largest of the eight models is the Avery, with four bedrooms and 4 1/2 baths in 4,314 square feet of living space. Call 703-764-5414. Another seven single-family models are available in Village Run, priced from the mid $500,000s. The largest is the Portsmouth, with five bedrooms and three baths in its 3,692 square feet. Call 703-764-5462. Starting from the low $400,000s, the Berkeley Grove Villas & Towns and the Village Square townhouses provide two-car garages. At Berkeley Grove, the largest of the models is the Waverly, with three bedrooms and baths in its 2,495 square feet. Call 703-764-5486. In Village Square, the newest model is the Andover. It showcases four bedrooms and 3 1/3 baths in its 2,820 See BUILDERS on page 19


April 2014 | Special Supplement to The Fairfax County Times

Home & Garden



At county facilities, yard waste is ground into mulch, aged, and then used in a variety of applications. BY JIM MAHAFFIE

Do you put out your yard waste curbside for pickup? Keep a pile of it in your yard to decompose and add to your garden beds? Do you “grasscycle,” leaving your clippings on the ground to break down and feed the soil? Do you compost your peelings from vegetables and fruit and other food scraps? Used coffee grounds? Fireplace ashes? In 2012, Fairfax County managed 244,000 tons of yard waste, leaves, grass and brush from homeowners, land-clearing companies and construction sites, said Pamela Gratton, director of recycling, engineering and environmental compliance for the Fairfax County Department of Public Works and Environmental Services. According to Fairfax County law, since 1994, compostable yard waste must be separated and either composted at home or put curbside in special containers to be collected and turned into mulch, she said. 10

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NOT The how-to’s and benefits of composting

Curbside brush collection is a regular service in Fairfax County. Brush from storm damage, for instance, is collected and turned into mulch in county facilities. MULCH AND COMPOST are two different things. Mulch is made from yard waste and is used as a top dressing for garden beds and landscaping. “Compost is different,” said Gratton. “Organic material is brought to facilities, put in a large, aerated, static pile and turned on a regular basis. It becomes a rich, soil-like material that is sold to landscapers and horticulturists.” One brand of this material is called Leafgro, and is available at Home Depot and other retailers. Some people compost waste and kitchen scraps at home, as well. “But composting of food waste is not highly practiced by Fairfax residents,” said Gratton. First, she said that Northern Virginia has limited food-waste-processing capacity, though a small facility in Prince William County does take limited commercial loads from grocery stores. “The other reason is folks aren’t yet familiar with kitchen scrap composting and there’s no real push to get them to do it,” she said.

TED WELCH OF FAIRFAX is a passionate home composter. The retired contractor and teacher admits that he’s “fascinated with the process of rot.” Welch knows the exact science behind decomposition of organic materials and uses his knowledge to speed the process. “You need a buildup of heat energy that creates the right amount of bacteria growth,” he said. “You can also chop up materials into small bits to quicken decomposition, and stir materials to aerate them.” Composting creates heat, and temperature is key. Using a compost thermometer (available at garden centers), he likes his piles of compost to be 105 to 107 degrees for bacteria to do their best work breaking down material, he said. Composting requires a careful balance of carbon and nitrogen, which are present in the various materials you add to your compost pile. Unpleasant smells don’t happen if you practice aerobic composting by aerating your piles and ma-

Special Supplement to The Fairfax County Times | April 2014

At a recent composter workshop, Conservation District Executive Director Laura Grape and her sons Sean and Ryan built a home composter frame.

terial, said Welch. Anaerobic composting gives off smelly gases, like when you seal grass clippings in a plastic bag and they sit in the sun for a few days. There are many positive aspects of composting, Welch said, not the least of which is the improving the health of area watersheds. “By adding compost to your soil, you get better percolation of stormwater around your house. When water soaks into the aquifer, it doesn’t run down concrete driveways and roads and wash oil scum and film and into the Chesapeake.” “I encourage anyone with curiosity or a scientific bent to get into total home composting. It’s quite satisfying,” he said. “SOME HOMEOWNERS DON’T want to bother with the hassle [of composting], but it’s really very easy,” said Dan Schwartz, a soil technician for the Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District, a “self-governing political subdivision” of Virginia, according to its website. “We try to emphasize the simplicity of composting. There are a thousand different pieces of advice. But it’s so basic—you just put organic matter in a container or a big pile in your yard and it will eventually become compost. You don’t really have to do too much to it.”

composters under supervision. “We provide all materials, and it takes about three hours,” he said. Workshop information can be found by searching fairfaxcounty.gov.

“The county would like people to compost and recycle everything,” said Schwartz. “The more people do it, the less burden there is on county trucks and transfer stations.” There is a wide variety of off-the-shelf composting products to make things easier. “You can buy an expensive composter, but you can also put chicken wire and boards together and make your own,” said Schwartz. He manages build-your-own composter workshops, where homeowners can put together 55-gallon rotating tumbler

BEN BOXER, PUBLIC INFORMATION officer for Fairfax County, said mulched yard waste is available free to county residents. It’s double-shredded, which Gratton said helps it break down more easily in gardens. It is usually available at the I-66 Recycling and Disposal Center at 4618 West Ox Road in Fairfax, as well as the I-95 Recycling and Disposal Center at 9850 Furnace Road in Lorton. Mulch may also be distributed to various park sites in the county, according to the county website. Gratton suggested calling 703-324-5995 to check on mulch availability. Fairfax County’s Division of Solid Waste Collection and Recycling maintains the Fairfax County Recycling Info Line at 703-324-5052, which provides information on mulch, compost and various related programs.



April 2014 | Special Supplement to The Fairfax County Times


Home & Garden


Let the

SUNSHINE IN Time to replace your home’s windows?



Home & Garden

Looking for a home improvement project that is both a short- and long-term investment? One easy upgrade that can help you save money on your energy bills today, as well as increase your home’s value in the future, is replacing the windows in your house. But how do you know it’s time to give your current windows the boot? An annual performance check is good practice. “Virtually every building component in a home needs to be replaced at some point, and windows are no exception,” said Matt Minerd of Simonton Windows. Minerd offered these do-it-yourself tips to determine how well your current windows and patio doors are functioning. • Examine the inside of your windows and patio doors for hot and cold drafty spots. These indicate air infiltration, which can lead to reduced energy efficiency. • Check every window for adequate weather stripping and caulking around the units, which help eliminate air infiltration and ensure a weather-tight seal. • Look for burned-out or faded areas on your furnishings and carpeting. These could indicate that excessive, damaging UV rays are entering your home through windows and glass doors. You may want to consider more energy efficient windows containing Low E, which is a special glass coating designed to reduce heat transfer. • If your windows no longer open or close easily, or if they need to be propped open, it could mean key components within the units are damaged or need adjustment. It could also mean the unit needs to be replaced entirely. • If you have wood window frames, look carefully at them for signs of rotting, warped wood or other problems with the frames themselves. These are an indication the window has exceeded its lifespan. Should your evaluation turn up one or more problem areas, and it’s time to replace your windows, do your homework. While price is important, it shouldn’t be the sole deciding factor, as functionality is a critical consideration. Look for low-maintenance materials that offer energy efficiency. For example, vinyl is an excellent insulator and many people choose low-maintenance vinyl frames with a Low E glass coating and an argon or krypton gas fill. These harmless gases are denser than air and serve as a good thermal barrier. -StatePoint Special Supplement to The Fairfax County Times | April 2014


April 2014 | Special Supplement to The Fairfax County Times

Home & Garden



WHEELBARROWS Find new artsy homes for your favorite plants BY SHARON NAYLOR


While garden centers show off concrete and ceramic planters and wooden boxes that can serve as homes for your flowers and plants, there are other creative vessels in which to place your garden and landscape blooms. Here are some of the top trends in artsy homes for your plants: • Wheelbarrows. Ideally aged and weathered ones, perhaps those found for a few dollars at a flea market or yard sale, filled with treated soil. Your plants might even benefit from the iron of the wheelbarrow’s metal. If you’d like to grow edibles in your wheelbarrow, you might place already potted herbs and items such as



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Special Supplement to The Fairfax County Times | April 2014

jalapeno pepper plants in it, and then fill it up with soil for a natural, earthy presentation. • Wagons. Don’t use a valuable heirloom Radio Flyer for this garden project, since antique wagons can fetch a fine price at yard sales. An aged, metal wagon— again, from the flea market—makes a playful display vehicle for your potted miniplants and flowers. • Birdbaths. A thin layer of soil may be enough for wildflowers to grow, or you can place small potted plants on top of the ceramic or metal birdbath for a custom cluster of colorful garden pieces. • Tin buckets. Flea markets have these in plentiful supply. Old tin buckets may have once been the receptacles for the milkman’s deliveries or they might have once held firewood. Now they can hold your plants and flowers and add a metallic accent to your garden. • Watering cans. For smaller bunches of flowers or herbs, a wide-mouthed metal watering can—perhaps last season’s that has lost a bit of its vibrant color from prolonged sun exposure—is an ideal gardenthemed vessel. • Rubber boots. Last season’s colorful or patterned gardening boots can be transferred from your garage into your garden as a whimsical, bright holder for a single potted plant. And if you have several pairs of these, you might place one floral-filled boot on the side of each step leading down from your deck into your

LAST SEASON’S COLORFUL OR PATTERNED GARDENING BOOTS CAN BE TRANSFERRED FROM YOUR GARAGE INTO YOUR GARDEN AS A WHIMSICAL, BRIGHT HOLDER FOR A SINGLE POTTED PLANT. backyard. Use large boots for parents and small boots for kids, and each member of the family can plant his or her own. • Rubber clogs. Small plants can be placed in these colorful shoes as well after you’ve nail-gunned the shoes artistically into the sides of a wood shed or onto a wood garden post. • Terrarium bowls. Or old fishbowls. The glass may be stained or clouded, which makes them perfect for being filled with soil and then with flowers, herbs or green plants. • Tricycle basket. An old tricycle gets new life when you wheel it out under a tree or into your landscaping by your garage door or on the side of your walkway and fill the handlebar basket with potted flowers or green plants. • Vintage suitcase. An inexpensive flea-market find, old suitcases can be perched on a stone wall and filled with an array of colorful seasonal blooms. Since the suitcases were so budget-friendly, you won’t mind if they get wet outdoors. • Desk with open drawers. Set this one on your covered or screened-in porch, with those open drawers

holding cascading green plants and potted flowers. Small metal decor pieces will add further texture and color. • Bench with the seat removed. An old unusable garden bench can have its seat removed and replaced by planter boxes filled with seasonal flowers, herbs or even climbing plants that will grow up the back of the bench. • Wooden pallets. These are a top trend in garden design, with some gardeners making furniture out of them. If you’re not up for making couches, you can flip yours upside down and fill them with soil and wildflower seeds. • Teapots and teacups. These tiny accents add a pop of color on a table or on an outdoor display shelf, and they can hold a small potted flower, cactus, succulent plant, mini-ivy or ferns. Look through the storage space in your garage and basement and you might find the perfect tin boxes or other containers that can find new life outside in the sun, holding your pretty floral plantings and adding a touch of creativity, artistry and whimsy to your garden and lawn. -Creators.com

ALL Select styles of Karastan’s most popular carpets are going on sale soon. It’s the perfect time to add the Karastan touch to your home and live more beautifully.


April 2014 | Special Supplement to The Fairfax County Times

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REMODELING on a Tight Budget 10 Ways to Save Money BY KAREN FINUCAN CLARKSON

If your kitchen is looking a little timeworn or lacking in contemporary capabilities, an update may be in order. But with the average midrange cost of a minor kitchen remodel running $16,689 in the Washington, D.C., area and a full remodel exceeding $54,000, according to 2014 figures from remodeling magazine, homeowners often are looking for ways to save. Before embarking on a kitchen remodel, there are several questions you should ask. The first is whether you are doing this for yourself or to sell the property, said Dave Minor, owner of Handyman Connection of Fairfax. Area homeowners recoup 99.9 percent of their investment in a minor kitchen remodel but only 91 percent of the more expensive, major overhaul, according to remodeling magazine. That said, those selling their homes shouldn’t discount the value of a whole kitchen remodel, noted Jim McCoy, president and CEO of The Kitchen Guild in Fairfax and McLean, who once completely reconfigured and updated his own kitchen. “I moved the kitchen back 15 feet and turned the existing kitchen area into a café with a booth. I dropped a pretty penny. Did I get back everything I put in? I don’t know. But the house sold in a day.” If you are remodeling for your personal use, the next question is: why? “Is there an issue with functionality—you need to be able to do something you’re not able to now—or aesthetics—you say to yourself, ‘If I have to look at this kitchen one more time…,” said Minor. “The answer will drive your decisions and simplify things quickly.” Once you’ve identified the problem with your kitchen, do a little research, said McCoy, who recommended houzz.com. Replete with articles, 16

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In this very large kitchen, The Kitchen Guild installed all new cherry cabinetry, cork flooring, Silestone countertops and stainless steel appliances for around $30,000. photos and recommendations, the website “has become the de facto standard for getting ideas,” he said. But be careful, as “it’s easy to get addicted. There are so many great ideas.” Each of those ideas, however, comes with a price tag. And if you are operating on a tight budget, you should keep the following in mind.

website, or you may end up spending more than you intended. But do build in a cushion for nasty surprises. Many contractors and home-improvement websites suggest 20 percent. That amount will help keep you within budget should unanticipated plumbing, electrical or design issues arise.

1 Be realistic about your budget. “Do some research and get a feel for what it will cost” to remodel—in part or in full, said McCoy. “It helps avoid sticker shock. When I tell people that what they’re dreaming of will cost $30,000, $50,000 or $100,000, some are taken off guard.” Once you settle on the parameters of your project, stick to them. Changes can add to the cost. And, “banish the words ‘while you’re at it’ from your vocabulary,’” suggested the This Old House

2 Limit the scope of the project to replacement of materials within the existing footprint. “When you start knocking down walls or moving plumbing and electrical, the cost starts to run up,” said McCoy. Reconfiguring the space “is more complex and calls for permits and inspections, which add time and money.” 3 Be careful with cabinetry. “Cabinets often account for a third of the remodel price,” said

Special Supplement to The Fairfax County Times | April 2014

McCoy. “If you can find cabinets you like that are of a reasonable quality, you can save money.” To save more, reface rather than replace, a good choice if your existing cabinets are structurally sound. Refacing involves covering the cabinet box with wood or synthetic veneers and installing matching doors and drawers. A less expensive option is to replace just the doors, drawers and hardware. “Go with glass doors,” suggested Minor. “Glass is very contemporary. You’ll save significantly on labor and make a major change aesthetically.”

4 Avoid exotic granites and tile. There are many moderately priced materials that work well for countertops, backsplashes and flooring, said McCoy, though granite is considered the standard for countertops. Beautiful and durable, granite begins at about $50 per square foot installed and runs upwards of $85 for higher grades, according to homewyse.com. Other, often less expensive countertop materials include solid surfacing—sold under the brand name Corian, among others—quartz, tile and laminate. 5 Illuminate the space. “Improved lighting, especially if there’s not much natural light, can transform the room,” said Minor. Consider adding “under-thecabinet lights, which, from a materials standpoint, are very inexpensive.”

6 Incorporate existing appliances. “If you can keep your appliances and incorporate a new design strategy around them, the cost savings are huge,” said Minor. If, however, your appliances are worn or look tired, replace them. “There are good appliances to be had in the lower to midrange. Be smart. Do your homework. Look at ratings and reviews,” said McCoy. “KitchenAid does good stuff. It’s not Wolf, Sub-Zero or Viking, but it’s good. Look at GE and Kenmore, too.” Stainless steel remains the standard, according to McCoy. “I think that trend has legs. People are attracted to commercial-looking appliances. I have, however, seen plenty of beautiful black appliances.” 7 Salvage materials from other sources. Inquire as to whether your contractor or subcontractor has oddsand-ends left from other jobs, suggested This Old House. Even if the color or style is not your favorite, it may be possible to incorporate it into the kitchen design in an aesthetically pleasing way. Consider buying items that are discontinued or gently used. Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore in Chantilly sells new and used fixtures and building materials at 50 to 90 percent off retail prices. Before purchasing such items, check with your contractor. “Many contractors won’t work with salvaged items, or homeownerSee REMODELING on page 19

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Home & Garden




EFFICIENTLY There are certain ingredients vital to the survival of your landscaping. One of the most important is water; it’s the lifeblood of plants, trees and lawns. Still, as simple as watering your lawn and garden may seem, there is in fact a science behind doing so correctly and efficiently. 1. KNOW YOUR SOIL Depending on what type of soil you have, watering needs will be varied. Plus, soil should be loosened around plants to allow water to penetrate more easily. The best type of soil is loam. It features a combination of sand, silt and clay, which allows water to penetrate and then stores it for plants to use. Clay soil absorbs water slowly, so water only as fast as the clay can absorb. You should also mix in peat moss or organic compost to improve the soil. Sandy soil can pose a challenge, as water can run through it very quickly, making it difficult for roots to get what they need. Add organic matter to supplement it.



Home & Garden

2. WHEN TO WATER Watering in early morning or evening is best. This reduces the amount that will evaporate from sun exposure. Try to water when the wind is calm, otherwise you might not be able to control where the water goes.

3. TIPS FOR WATER USE Watering deeply once is better than shallow watering several times per day. Watering to a depth of 4 to 6 inches promotes stronger, deeper root growth and development, and you can go longer between watering. To measure how much water a lawn or garden is getting, the U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends placing an empty tuna fish can (or cat food can) on the lawn while watering. When the can is full, stop watering. 4. CHOOSING A SPRINKLER OR HOSE Many homeowners prefer the convenience of underground sprinkler systems that water set areas on a timer. There are other sprinklers that attach to a garden hose that can water a lawn efficiently. Cascading sprinklers are more effective than the rotating shoot-shoot-shoot types because they’ll saturate the ground more quickly and there’s less chance of water being wasted on sidewalks and driveways. It is difficult and time consuming to water a larger lawn by hand with a hose and spray nozzle, and you might not water long or deeply enough. 5. HOW OFTEN? You should be safe watering a lawn and garden every five to seven days in moderate weather. During extremely hot spells, or when there hasn’t been adequate rain, water every three days. -(MS)

Special Supplement to The Fairfax County Times | April 2014

BUILDERS from page 9 square feet. It also has a two-car garage. Call 703-764-5493. The newest offerings are the two-story villa homes at Towne Centre Crossing, priced from the low $400,000s. The largest of the four models here is the Rosedale, with three bedrooms and 2.5 baths in its 2,604 square feet. It provides a two-car garage. Call 703-764-5492. Priced from the low $300,000s, the Centre Park elevator condos include onecar garages. The largest of the five models is the Nichols, with its three bedrooms and two baths in 1,789 square feet. Call 703-764-5487. Mercer Park Metropolitan Flats & Towns includes townhouse-style condos

priced from the low $200,000s. The larger model is the Peyton, with three bedrooms, two baths, 2,534 square feet and a one-car garage. Call 703-764-5491. Having celebrated its 10th anniversary last year, Stone Ridge now features a clubhouse, two swimming pools, tennis courts, a library, a shopping center and public schools. A new pool and clubhouse are under construction in the WestEnd section of Stone Ridge. According to Merle Phillips, Van Metre’s vice president of sales and marketing, new single-family and townhouse communities are scheduled to open in late summer, providing even more choices for homebuyers.

REMODELING supplied materials in general, because they don’t want to assume the liability if something goes wrong,” noted This Old House.

8 Donate your discarded fixtures and materials. Not only will you save landfill space, but you can take a tax deduction while helping a charitable cause. ReStore, which lists acceptable donations on its website, will pick them up from your home. 9

Invest in sweat equity. But take on only those things you have the time, knowledge and talent to do, recommended This Old House. If you can tile, consider doing the backsplash yourself. If you can paint, tackle the ceiling or the walls.

10 Find the right contractor. “The quickest way to spend, lose or squander your budget—regardless of whether the job is big or small—is engaging the wrong contractor,” said Minor. Do some research and ask for referrals. Consider beginning that research with the National Association of the Remodeling Industry Metro DC Chapter website, narimetrodc.org. Meet with contractors and look at samples of their work. Ascertain that they are licensed, bonded and insured. Ask for references and check them. “If all you look at is price, you become susceptible to unscrupulous contractors.”

from page 17

You can save significantly by serving as your own general contractor. But, if you do, go in with your eyes open, both McCoy and Minor said. “If you don’t do it right, it may wind up costing you more,” said McCoy, noting that “all the components in the kitchen are interdependent.” BE PREPARED to “manage the process. Things need to be done in a certain order. Most homeowners are capable of figuring it out or the trades will tell them,” said Minor. The bigger issue is resolving conflicts. “If the cabinet guy hangs them wrong and the tile guy can’t do what he was going to do, you’ll be responsible for working it out.” Another advantage to working with a general contractor is that “I can get four people—the electrician, plumber, cabinet guy and tile guy—in there consecutively, saving time and money. For some people, on-time completion and efficiency is as important as cost,” said Minor. Ultimately, the key to a successful kitchen remodel, regardless of scope or budget, is education. “Read up on what things cost” and think about the resources you have available, said McCoy. “Bring your ideas to us and we’ll help you figure out what you can accomplish …. and we can share ideas of our own,” many of which can help you reduce costs while enhancing the appearance and functionality of your kitchen.

April 2014 | Special Supplement to The Fairfax County Times



Home & Garden




Home & Garden

Special Supplement to The Fairfax County Times | April 2014

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