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NEW HOMES NEED maintenance

brose wrote in an email. “Establishing may permeate your home and nearby a maintenance schedule is the best way walls. Special To The Washington Post to manage a home maintenance budget which will save you both time and Check the Temperature Pressure A big advantage for buyers of newly money.” Release (TPR) valve on the water built homes is the opportunity to own Ambrose suggested the following heater something no one else has lived in - a monthly maintenance tasks: brand-new property. You’re the first perThe water heater should be drained son to use the oven or take a shower in Smoke and carbon monoxide periodically. In areas with hard water, the property. You’re also free from wordetectors be sure to drain at least five gallons of r ying about repair bills and home imwater every six months to prevent sedprovement projects. Check their operation by pushing iment buildup. But just because a home is new Ambrose suggested the following doesn’t mean homeowners don’t need the test button. Check and replace the quarterly maintenance task: battery as needed. to care for their property. Clean or replace a dir ty filter in We asked Kim Ambrose, vice president of marketing at Miller & oven range hood: Your range hood Furnace filter Smith, which builds homes in the Wash- pulls smoke, steam and odors through ington region, for advice for owners of the filter and vent to help clear the air. A good rule of thumb is to change Without a clean filter and ef fective one- or two-inch furnace filters ever y newly built homes. “Even though your house is brand range hood, your smoke alarm could three months, four-inch filters ever y new, home maintenance includes reg- go off frequently because of a buildup six months and five-inch filters every 12 ular, seasonal and one-time tasks,” Am- of smoke while you cook or food smells months. If you have pets, filters should By MICHELE LERNER


be checked and/or replaced every two months. Ambrose suggested the following twice-a-year maintenance tasks:

Roof Inspect the roof for broken or missing shingles and identify anything that may cause leaks. This is especially important with unpredictable D.C.-area weather. Be sure to also inspect and clean gutters and downspouts.

Heating and air conditioning Complete seasonal maintenance on heating and air conditioning should be handled by a licensed HVAC contractor. The best scenario is to have the heating system checked in the fall and the air conditioning checked in the spring.



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Special To The Washington Post

The 30-year fixed-rate home mortgage dominates the housing market, particularly for first-time buyers who appreciate the ability to extend their home loan payments for the longest possible term. The second most common fixed-rate loan term is 15 years, but many lenders also offer loan terms of 10 or 20 years. Sometimes lenders even offer a personalized term chosen by the borrower. “There are quite a few reasons I feel more people should refinance or purchase into a 20-year fixed-rate mor tgage rather than looking at a 30-year or a 15-year fixed rate mortgage,” Jerry Robinson, broker/owner of 1st Choice Mortgage Co. in Meridian, Idaho, said in an email. Here are four reasons to consider a 20-year mortgage, according to Robin-

son: Save on interest: The most obvious reason is that the interest rate of a 20year mortgage is typically one-fourth of one point to three-eighths of one point lower than a 30-year fixed mortgage. This means, on an average, a person will save a significant amount of interest when either purchasing or refinancing into a 20-year mortgage compared to a 30-year. Because of a shorter loan term and a lower interest rate, on a $280,000 loan amount, a borrower can save approximately $85,000 in interest over the life of the loan.

Pay off the loan faster

30-year mortgage and refinance into a 20-year mortgage, which would potentially keep them on their payoff goal. Thus, they don’t have to start all over with a new 30-year mortgage.

Match the payoff to retirement goals Let’s say a borrower is in their late 30s or 40s and their retirement plan is to retire in their 60s. Applying for a 30year mortgage would push their potential payoff of their house into their 70s. Choosing a 20-year mor tgage would keep them potentially on track for having their house paid off in their 60s.

Affordable payments

When a borrower is refinancing to get a lower interest rate, instead of takA 20-year mortgage is a good altering their original 30-year mortgage and native to a 15-year mortgage, as many refinancing it into another 30-year mort- home buyers can’t stretch their budget gage, they’re able to take their original to make the higher payments required

to pay off a mortgage in 15 years, but yet they want to pay off the home faster. The borrower is still paying off the loan in 10 years less than a 30-year mortgage, and if the borrower ever wanted to, they have the ability to make extra payments.

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Special to The Washington Post

Brain research has shown how relevant sleep is to health, so it’s more important than ever to get a good night’s sleep. In the bedroom, that means not just decorating in calming colors but also minimizing stressors and optimizing conditions for a restful night. We asked some experts for advice and products to achieve that.

Minimize noise A key obstacle to uninterrupted sleep is noise. To reduce it, Brooklyn-based architect and designer Adam Meshberg, founder of Meshberg Group, recommends soundproofing the walls — building an additional thin wall in front of the original, adding a layer of QuietRock sheetrock, or sealing any cracks or gaps within the walls. To a lesser extent, wallcoverings can also absorb sound, he says, though a padded wallcovering will do more than a simple wallpaper. Cracks and gaps are also a problem when it comes to windows. Restoring or replacing drafty windows

won’t just improve your heating and cooling bills; doing so can make a huge difference in the amount of noise seeping in. If renovation isn’t an option, some companies will install a thin window behind your existing window for extra soundproofing. CitiQuiet in New York says it can eliminate 95 percent of street noise. For a simpler fix, getting an upholstered headboard (or a bed that comes with one) helps with acoustics, says Florida-based designer Adriana Hoyos. Go for fabrics at least one millimeter thick; suede, velvet, leather and leatherette are stylish options for absorbing excess noise. Andrew Bowen, director of staging at ASH NYC, suggests a combination of loose items — a large area rug (he likes the Rug Company’s Deep Pile Merino Natural Rug, $137 per square foot), floor-to-ceiling window drapery and a fully upholstered bed (he recommends Cisco Brothers’ April Modern Classic White Linen Slipcovered Bed, $2,375-$3,000 at Kathy Kuo Home) — for a quiet, relaxing environment. Alternatively, try white noise. A fan might do the trick, but Julien Baeza, assistant project manager at Four Seasons Hotel Los Angeles, suggests Spotify and soundscape machines.

Keep the lights out Lights out is essential to bedtime. In particular, avoid exposure to the blue light from LED bulbs and electronic devices, says Pablo Castillo, sleep medicine specialist at Mayo Clinic. “The body reacts to this artificial light as if it [were] still daytime,” he said in an email, “and the pineal gland will stop producing the sleep hormone melatonin, resulting in poor sleep quality.” That’s why you should stay away from bright light for at least three hours before bedtime, reduce screen time, and set devices on night mode an hour or two before bed, plus use blue-light-blocking coating on screens or glasses if you “use computers and digital devices heavily,” Castillo wrote. To lightproof the bedroom, “blackout window treatments are a must,” said Greg Roth, a designer at Home Front Build in Los Angeles, by email. “Installing a cornice box at the ceiling level can help prevent light from escaping upward from the windows and reflecting off the ceiling.” Meshberg recommends the Shade Store and Somfy for motorized shades.



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Go soft and simple Simplify your space for sleeping only. It doesn’t matter whether you live in a mansion or a studio, you can declutter for a calming effect, according to Meridith Baer, founder of staging company Meridith Baer Home. A sleep-friendly bedroom is like a “good snuggle” — one that makes you “feel embraced and safe,” like a cocoon, Alex P. White, a furniture designer and decorator based in New York and Los Angeles, said in an email. So keep things “tonal and tactile with as many luxurious materials as your budget allows.” As for decor, keep things light and uncomplicated, says New York designer Ryan Korban. He recommends using light-colored paints that are warm and not stark (he likes Lily White from Benjamin Moore) and light-wood floors. For the most soothing tone, Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute, recommends sky blue, writing in an email that it’s a “positive color” with a sense of “dependability” that can help you fall asleep. You can create a “blue sky” by painting the ceiling, Eiseman suggests. Make it high-gloss for more definition.

Regulate your schedule Not everyone needs eight hours of sleep, but to “avoid chaos in your circadian rhythms, it is suggested that you maintain the same schedule every day,” says Rachel Salas, sleep specialist and associate professor of neurology at Johns

See Bedroom, Page 19


A room with light sanded floors: Designed by Designer Ryan Korban says light floors lend themselves to a more serene sleeping environment. He used them in this New York City bedroom.

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PLAN AND PLANT FOR late winter By ADRIAN HIGGINS The Washington Post

When I’m standing outdoors in the depths of winter, I try to imagine what it’s like now, at the end of a hot and steamy summer. This isn’t to get the blood flowing in January — it’s a way of enduring the cold and reminding myself how much more bearable it is than the heat. What do I do now? I’m projecting forward to February, when the first signs are there of winter loosening its grip. One of the most conspicuous heralds is a bonny buttercup named the winter aconite. Its yellow flower is borne just above a radiating necklace of green leaves. By the time it is finished a month later, this ruffed chalice is elevated a few inches above the soil. It may dwell amid a layer of snow, which heightens the paradox of something so delicate being so tough. I’m thinking of the winter aconite not merely as a device to cool the summer-sizzled mind, but because we are on the threshold of bulb-ordering season. Some of the specialty bulbs need to be in hand soon and in the garden soon after, because they tend to be less robust out of the ground than daffodil bulbs. The winter aconite is one of the fussiest bulbs in dormancy, perhaps because it’s not a bulb but a tuber


and therefore less able to endure prolonged dormant storage. The advice is to order them now for speedy shipment and then soak them overnight before planting. Christian Curless, horticulturist with online bulb merchant Colorblends, says he hasn’t had problems with fall-planted tubers failing to grow. Still, bulb guru Brent Heath says, “it’s best to soak them overnight before planting.” Carol Long, curator of garden at Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library near Wilmington, Delaware., says she prefers to expand the display by transplanting winter aconites in growth or by sowing seed. (Sounds like a greenhouse job.) They bloom three years after germination. These approaches require you to have a colony already, or at least friends with winter aconites to share. Long oversees March Bank, the deciduous woodland at Winterthur famous for its succession of established colonies of winter aconite, snowdrops, Italian windflowers and other beauties that bridge the shift from winter to spring. Beyond its vernal beauty, such a carpet is a product of decades of unmolested increase, aided by the insects that spread the seeds. If you are up for a challenge, order winter aconite bulbs, soak them and plant them with dispatch. If only

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half of them come up this winter, you’re on your way to establishing a colony. If you want more certainty, choose other bulbs. There is one other way winter aconites, or eranthis, differ from other bulbs. They like shade and need enriched, moisture-retentive soil even as they shrink back into the ground in spring. Virtually everything else, from daffodils to crocuses, does best in free-draining soil, requiring dr yness in summer dormancy. A dry, sunny slope is ideal for most bulbs. Irrigation systems and perennial bulbs don’t get along. The obvious companion to winter aconites is the snowdrop. As with winter aconites, snowdrops have a reputation for being difficult, and the conventional wisdom is that they should only be moved “in the green” — that is, in leaf after flowering. I might do this if I paid $70 for a choice variety, but for common or garden types, this is overkill. As long as you get the little bulbs in the ground with haste, they will appear this winter. The giant snowdrop appears for me in late January, and the common snowdrop comes about three or four weeks later. Named varieties can draw you into the realm of high-priced beauties, but the lowly species and their old varieties do the trick of lifting the spirit and are perfect for bringing life to the winter display. But enough about winter, because the best season

THE WINCHESTER STAR  is just ahead of us. I would urge people to become acquainted with the autumn flowering crocus, which is similar in form and color to the early spring version but appears in late October, when the perennial garden is soft and full of the texture and unexpected beauty of decline. The crocuses are a reminder that nothing about a cherished garden is moribund; it’s just that everything has its cycle. The most famous of these is Crocus sativus, whose elongated stigmas of burnished orange give us saffron, but others abound. Heath, of Brent and Becky’s Bulbs, offers a dozen types of autumn crocus, but he particularly likes Crocus laevigatus Fontenayi, which has purple striped petals that open to reveal a pale center. These crocuses begin to grow and bloom once soil temperatures descend into the 50s. The latest bloomer is Crocus medius, which in Heath’s Gloucester, Virginia, garden appears in November and December, shrugs off light frosts, and brings an extended display. The bright orange stigmas are surrounded by petals of deep violet. As with all perennial bulbs, their first flowering season is not representative of when they will flower in future years. Once they have settled in, they usually show up earlier. As gardens become more naturalistic and gardeners are (I hope) not cutting back fading herbaceous material, it does little good to have fall crocuses smothered with other plants. One place to put them where they will be noticed, Long says, is between shrubs. She also has them in grassy areas, but Heath cautions against placing them in a lawn that gets fertilized and watered to any measure. These crocuses are perfect in

FOLIO slopes with low-growing ground covers such as mondo grass. Mice and squirrels love newly planted crocus bulbs, so plant deeply, and when they flower, you’ll have to worry about deer browsing. If you have deer, go with colchicums, which are similar but not related to crocus, even though they are sometimes misnamed fall crocus. They’re larger, and the leaves, when they appear in the spring, are far more conspicuous than those of crocus. Colchicums are more expensive than autumn crocus but cheaper than a deer fence. If you have not yet tried species and species-type tulips, now is your chance. They are reliably perennial in sunny, open sites and are shorter, daintier, earlier and generally more interesting than their big brothers and sisters. They open fully on sunny days in March to reveal inner petal markings, often with contrasting eyes. It’s a whole different tulip experience. Little Beauty is one of my favorites, a magenta red opening to reveal a blue eye. Colorblends, which specializes in designed mixtures, sells mixes of species-type tulips in a blend named Aladdin’s Carpet (this includes a variety of daffodil and three of grape hyacinth), Wildfyre, a duet in red and orange, and Votive Motif, a collection of delicate, candy striped clusiana varieties. Shipping begins in late September, Curless said. (The minimum order is $60.) Ordering and thinking about where to plant these treasures is the best way I know of getting past the grip of summer and thinking about the superior seasons.

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On the threshold of bulb-planting season, consider species-type tulips such as Lilac Wonder. Wild types are low-growing, early-flowering and reliably perennial in sunny, well-drained locations.


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A HOME IN THE country A Clarke County couple find their dream home — and land — in an 1873 farm house. An addition designed by Reader & Swartz Architects made the home perfectly theirs. By JENNY BAKER

The Winchester Star

Natalie Greenhalgh and her husband Langdon had been searching for a place to call home for a couple of years, when the perfect property was revealed to them in 2013: a 1873 Clarke County farmhouse, which sat upon a gorgeous lot of 6.8 acres with a beautiful view. Thanks to the help of a realtor family member who had had an ear to the ground for them, the couple was able to snatch up the house before it even hit the market. “We had lived in an old house from the 1770s in Clarke County, the stables of old chapel and that was a 100 years older. So we weren’t adverse to old homes. When we saw the land and how it was situated and the view of the valley – that was really what sold us,” said Natalie. The home had been owned by the same family who built it, the McKay family. The most recent inhabitants, Bryan and Lori McKay, had lovingly cared for the house over the years. But the home wasn’t quite perfect yet — it needed a few modern conveniences and updates to make it perfect for couple, who was expecting their first child at the time.

The original 1873 portion of the home is to the far right; the middle ell section wa tion (far left) is connected to the original home by a flat-roofed glass wedge.

The couple knew they wanted to work with Winchester architecture firm Reader & Swartz, and spent four to six months discussing the design. “We originally met at the site with the designers and builders and imagined how the original footprint of the home could be improved and enhanced,” said Langdon. “The challenge was how to match the reality of our budget to the constraints of renovating an existing home, while maintaining features that would ensure our home would be more functional, comfortable, and lasting.” Natalie said one of the builders they interviewed recommended an addition, which would allow them to get more mileage out of the home in the long run. “So there were two ways of thinking about it: working within the footprint and keep it all tight, or expand off the back. And Reader & Swartz also showed us the function of that,” said Natalie. Making the best of the view was one of the major goals of the project. “Our vision was to create a home that took full ad-

vantage of the view of the Shenandoah Valley,” said Langdon. “The entire structure was renovated and an addition incorporated with that in mind. We collaborated with our architects and design-builders to help bring the outside in and connect us with the beauty of the land around us.” So began the renovation, which started in October 2014 and was completed in July 2015. The couple moved to California temporarily while the work was being done — which Natalie said was probably a good thing, since they couldn’t check in on the project constantly. They visited a couple of times, which allowed them a sneak peek into the progress. The original front facade and porch of the farm house were renovated and restored, with a new main entrance created in the middle of the ell wing. The new addition was connected by a flat-roofed glass wedge, which led to the new kitchen and living room, with a master suite above. “Lodge Construction suggested slightly tilting the



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as added later. A new main entrance was added here, and the new addi-

addition, so you can see the view more directly from the kitchen when you’re making dinner. And also by doing that, you kind of tuck in the addition from view in the front of the house,” said Natalie. Natalie said when she takes their dogs for a walk at nearby Long Branch Plantation, the addition is not discernible other than the slightly higher roof line. “I think that was all very intentional on their part,” she said of the architects and builder. “I think a lot of our neighbors appreciate that too. When they come over they may appreciate that the home has more of a modern contemporar y feel, but there’s a lot of tradition too.” Natalie’s favorite place in the house is sitting on the back porch, taking in the view. “You can sit there and see the valley for a long way on a clear day. You’re up under the oak tree and you feel this breeze,” she said. “Being in the house is like being connected to the land, and to the light — we get so much light — passive solar they call it. Just flooding the space, it warms it in


Top: The kitchen, which is in the new addition, reflects the couple’s aesthetic for clean simple lines. The kitchen was designed by Jackson + Park Design.

the winter and it’s always bright and cheery.” The beauty of the new addition’s design is that you don’t have to be outside to feel that you are outside. “We have all these birds, birds of prey, hummingbirds, wildlife you can take in from your kitchen while you’re making dinner. For me, that is the appeal, being in the kitchen, or being on the back porch and being connected to nature, and yet also close to your pot of boiling water,” she said with a laugh.

Bottom: Natalie feels how one’s home is situated affects your mood and spirit. She said how this home is set in the rolling landscape is why they chose the house.


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Special To The Washington Post

When a dishwasher, refrigerator and double oven all builder-grade and all nearly 20 years old - failed in a brief span in late 2017, Dan and Marianne Casserly pondered their options. They could undertake an extensive kitchen remodel, or they could seek a new home for their five-member family. “I was intimidated by all of the potential construction and potentially being displaced from our home for a long time,” Dan Casserly said. The Casserlys had purchased their large, Craftsman-style home in Falls Church, Virginia, in 2001, raised three children there and cherished their community, which is why they opted to renovate rather than move. “There are so many people that are doing more redesigns in their homes than they are finding new houses to move around,” he said. Spurred by swelling property values, owners remaining longer in their homes and a sluggish new-construction sector, the remodeling industry has boomed since the Great Recession, more than doubling to a re-

cord $425 billion in 2017, according to the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University. Kitchens are among the most popular renovation projects. There were roughly 2 million kitchens remodeled in 2017, costing 140 percent more than they did in 1995, the center calculates in its 2019 “Improving America’s Housing” report. A minor revamp of a 200-square-foot kitchen, which is roughly the size of a one-car garage, amounts to $22,000 on average, per Remodeling Magazine’s costvs.-value analysis. An upscale renovation can surpass $130,000. The National Kitchen and Bath Association puts the average cost of a kitchen remodel, regardless of dimensions, at $34,000, according to its Lifestyle Segmentation Study. Given the amount of money homeowners spend on kitchen remodels, picking the approach that works best for you is key. Budgets, timelines and your willingness to do the work yourself will dictate the method you choose. Here are seven ways to go about it. 1. A design-build firm is a one-stop shop. Staffed with designers and craftsmen, these companies handle everything from inception to completion. This approach appealed to the Casserlys, who considered a general contractor but ultimately picked Case


Design. “My husband and I both have demanding jobs and we have three teenagers at home who are all involved in sports,” Marianne Casserly said. “We really didn’t have time to manage different contractors.” Handling projects in-house, design-build companies have a level of accountability that is rare in the fragmented remodeling industry. “We are uniquely situated as design-build to put the project together in a cohesive manner,” said Elle Hunter, Case’s director of project development. Design-build companies handle alterations to plumbing and electrical systems and modifications to load-bearing walls, services designers and even some general contractors often outsource. “We have been known for changing the rest of the space around the kitchen, maybe taking down a wall or opening up more windows or replacing floors,” said Jonas Carnemark, founder of Carnemark Design and Build. Although they don’t sell appliances, they usually have relationships with vendors, which allows them to coordinate delivery with the construction schedule. A common concern with design-build companies is that they focus too much on the overall project and not


THE WINCHESTER STAR  the finer aspects of the design. “There is attention to detail in the kitchen but not on the same level” as a kitchen designer, said Nadia Subaran, co-founder and co-owner of Aidan Design. A centralized design-build operation can be too formulaic - a trait that promotes reliability but hinders personalization. This approach is best for homeowners who seek reliability and clarity in the remodeling process but lack the time to oversee it themselves. 2. Kitchen designer. Because it is their specialty, kitchen designers bring a high level of expertise and personalization to the project. “You do a kitchen once or twice in your life and it is a whole lot of money,” said Susan Serra, designer and owner of New Yorkbased Susan Serra Associates. “I think [you] should go and interview professionals and go to one who does it every day.” Kitchen designers parse clients’ habits of cooking and entertaining, their needs and wants, their homes’ constraints and possibilities. They maximize the space’s efficiency and functionality. “You work with [a designer] to design something that is personal to you,” said Taylor Kiessig, who trusted Aidan Design in Maryland with an update of his family’s rowhouse in the District of Columbia. The benefit designers bring to a project is their knowledge of the latest trends and materials. Stacy Neri, a stay-at-home mother of five from Long Island, hadn’t heard of a galley sink until Serra suggested it. Now, she can’t live without it. “I recommend a designer because they have access to products and information that I just didn’t know about,” Neri said. The downside is that some designers associate with a select few brands and manufacturers, which could curtail choices. Another drawback is a designer only designs the kitchen. You still need to

See Kitchen, Page 14

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Kitchen designers parse client’s habits of cooking and entertaining, their needs and wants, their homes’ constraints and possibilities. Consider working with a kitchen designer if the design is something very personal to you.

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Kitchen From Page 13 hire a contractor to carry out the design. This approach is best for homeowners who may have a vision for their kitchen but struggle to translate it into the architecture of their home. It is also for renovators who do not mind spending weeks on the design phase. 3. General contractor. Homeowners who know exactly what they want may prefer to go with a general contractor. “We can just build things off a photo,” said Claud Fatu, owner of New York City-based Fatu Construction. “We do it all the time. There is no designer involved. The functionality of it falls back on us.” Dan Nistor, owner of Alumni Builders in Chicago, said he doesn’t see an advantage to hiring a kitchen designer. “You are just adding another layer of pricing,” he said. Homeowners who hire a designer and a contractor incur markups and potentially higher costs. Fatu said when he’s working for a designer rather than directly for a client, he tends to bill more. “If you are going to call me directly, you are probably going to save money and you know what you want,” Fatu said. A contractor also may have relationships with vendors and can pass along discounts to a homeowner on cabinets, materials and finishes. When Darr yl Nipps, a real estate agent with Compass in New York City, redid his kitchen, he hired Fatu because he knew what he wanted and just needed someone to execute it. “I think it is really important to find a contractor that you can trust and someone who can counsel you through the project,” Nipps said. Contractors’ breadth of services also matters. Some only do the demolition and construction, leaving clients to shop for materials and appliances themselves; others pull permits and place orders. But they often charge more. A disadvantage to this approach is that they are in such demand it can be challenging to find a reliable contractor who does quality work. Some contractors do not have a brick-and-mortar presence, which can make it difficult to track them down in case of disputes. This approach is best for homeowners who easily conceptualize what they want and can manage their kitchen remodel. 4. Big-box store. For a previous remodel, Nipps used Ikea’s online 3-D application to design his kitchen and then chose cabinets from the store, which


Fatu assembled. “The tool [also] shows you how much the kitchen will cost,” said Kathleen Wilber, Ikea’s kitchen business leader, via email. Another benefit is these stores offer financing for the project. Such of ferings position big-box stores as affordable and versatile centers for kitchen renovations. Homeowners can shop for anything they need — from mortar to microwaves - at multiple price points and receive design and construction assistance. In this sense, they are even more comprehensive than design-build companies. Big-box stores cater to a variety of homeowners who have different needs, timelines and budgets. “We have something for everybody,” said Jennifer Wagner, a kitchen and bath installations merchant with Home Depot. Both Ikea and Home Depot train employees in kitchen design. They outsource construction, but homeowners don’t have to use their vendor. The cost of labor can be cheaper through a bigbox store than a general contractor because the stores give their contractors many projects and the contractors often pass the discounts onto the homeowner. Unlike a design-build company, though, these contractors may not have the licenses to make structural changes. The stores also offer warranties for products and services. Big-box stores’ comprehensive approach suited Bruce Wasser and Fern Schumer Chapman, who redid their kitchen with Home Depot in Northern Illinois. “The house is of pretty significant value and most people would have probably chosen to go with a designer rather than Home Depot,” Chapman said. “But I refused to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for a kitchen.” Not only did Wasser and Chapman get their dream kitchen, the result earned Home Depot’s companywide “kitchen of the month” award in February. Yet, big-box stores, even the same brand, var y in the quality of ser vice. They seldom are a match for “the level of experience or commitment to the industry you will find with an independent kitchen designer,” said Sarah Robertson, principal at Studio Dearborn in New York. This approach is best for homeowners who want to save money on the design and installation while enjoying the convenience of shopping for all kitchen components under one roof. 5. Specialty kitchen store. Specialty kitchen stores are similar to big-box


retailers in that they provide an array of kitchen components including cabinets and fixtures. They also resemble design firms because they employ designers, who are often better qualified and more experienced than their counterparts at large retailers. Unlike a designer at a big-box store who perhaps transferred into the kitchen department and received some in-house training, specialty kitchen store designers tend to be nationally certified professionals. “We offer what I would consider almost a custom level of products and ser vices [at] Home Depot or Lowe’s price,” said Craig Pugh, designer with the Kitchen & Bath Shop in the District of Columbia. These stores swing from low-cost upgrades to lavish remodels, without pledging fealty to brands the way a design firm might. Moreover, for over whelmed firsttime renovators, specialty kitchen shops may reduce the anxiety of seemingly endless choices as the product selections they carry are often narrower than those of big-box stores. “If you have never done a kitchen, there are a lot of choices,” said Jeff Mittelman, designer at the Ultimate Bath & Kitchen Design Store in Westborough, Mass. “Just narrowing down manufacturers and bells and whistles and finishes, a lot of people don’t know [how].” That’s why Amy Brockway, an operations manager in Boylston, Mass., hired Mittleman to modernize her kitchen. “I had a million ideas,” she said. “I kind of knew what I wanted it to look like, what the feel to be, but I needed somebody to keep me grounded.” The drawback to specialty kitchen shops — like big-box stores — is profit may trump design in some establishments, Subaran of Aidan Design said. This approach is best for homeowners who needs expert guidance as they shop without being over whelmed by alternatives. 6. High-end design firm. If your approach to a kitchen renovation is you want the best of everything, spare no expense, then a high-end design firm is for you. “I compare it a lot with Italian fashion, where it is really the love for detail,” said Julia Walter, managing director at Italian-bred Boffi Georgetown. Like an exquisite atelier, upscale firms provide high quality but it comes at a price. Clients seek “a way of looking at


the kitchen that is different,” said Carnemark, who, independently from his design-build firm, heads Konst SieMatic, the D.C. area outpost of the German kitchen manufacturer. Conner Herman chose SieMatic for two unrelated remodels. “I will never have to get a new kitchen,” she said. “I might have to get a new oven, but this design is timeless.” While a high-end design company may have economical options, the cost of top-quality cabinets alone could exceed the entire remodel budget of some homeowners. This approach is best for homeowners who cannot only afford to splurge but who wish to do so with a heightened attention to aesthetics and function. 7. Do-it-yourself. The most cost-effective option is a do-it-yourself kitchen remodel. These renovations appeal to handy homeowners such as Nikki Boyd. A professional organizer, Boyd, together with her husband, redid the kitchen of her Charleston, South Carolina, house. They refinished the cabinets, replaced the appliances and installed a backsplash. With DIY, “you can save a tremendous amount of money,” Boyd said. Sarah Milne, a woodworker and blogger in Por tland, Ore., agreed. Leaning on expertise cultivated by flipping homes with her husband, she estimated her kitchen remodel would have cost $20,000 if she paid someone else to do it. Going the DIY route, however, she spent less than a quarter of that amount. “Labor was our one cost saver,” Milne said. With help from her spouse, she resurfaced the cabinets, built additional ones, opened a wall and laid new tiles and floors. Like the Boyds, the only task they entrusted to a contractor was the placement of countertops, which turned out to be a mistake. The installation resulted in a chip and an uneven edge. “People who want to be picky about the way they want it [done],” Milne said, should do the work themselves. Of course, they need to have the aptitude, time or even local authorization. In many jurisdictions, any renovations that tamper with plumbing or electricity in condos or co-ops require licensed professionals, Fatu said. This approach is best for homeowners who have minimal budgets or want to economize by expensing their own time, effort and creativity in a remodel.

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The OXO Good Grips Lazy Susan Turntable is recommended for storing curved items like bottles By LINDSEY M. ROBERTS

Special to The Washington Post

Every tool kit has a hammer. Every utility room a plunger. Every junk drawer a measuring tape. If you’ve ever wondered, however, how the experts get homes looking and working just right, it’s often because they have another set of tools that we don’t. We asked an organizer, designer, housecleaner, builder and plumber what tools we should add to our kits to level up to the pros. “You want to store the same shape of item in the same size bin,” round with round, and square with square, says Alejandra Costello, an organizing coach based outside of Washington who teaches through videos. She often uses the OXOGood Grips Lazy Susan Turntable, in both 11-inch and 16-inch sizes ($11.99-$17.99, amazon.com) for cans and other curved items. “You can use it in the office for office supplies or in the kitchen for spice bottles or in the bathroom for nail polish,” she says. Alessandra Wood, vice president of style at interior design site Modsy, thinks rug pads are overlooked when decorating — they prevent rugs from shifting to off-kilter angles, reduce wear and protect wood floors from scratches — not to mention the extra layer of “coosh” they offer. “Rug pads are often an afterthought, and once your space is designed, who really wants to move all of their furniture to put down a rug pad?” says Wood, who is based in San Fran-

cisco. She recommends the Floor Lock Solid Rug Pad whenever you’re moving to new digs ($6-$378, anniselkie.com). For the junk drawer, make sure to have this duo: a pocket level and museum putty. Jasmine Roth, a California-based builder and designer for the HGTV show “Hidden Potential,” keeps them on hand to have pictures where she wants them: “There’s nothing worse than walking into an other wise agreeable room only to be entirely distracted by an off-kilter picture frame.” She recommends Starrett’s Pocket Level ($35, starrett.com) and Quakehold’s Museum Putty ($5.19, amazon.com) at the bottom corners. To get to hard-to-scrub areas, Sheri Meshell, owner of Magic Mops Professional Cleaning Ser vices in Olympia, Washington, uses special brushes, such as the OXO Deep Clean Brush Set ($5.99, oxo.com). “They have harder bristles for getting around toilets and faucets,” she says. Though you’ll need to call a plumber for any sink-and-grease problems, spending money on a clogged toilet is the worst. Sam Down, plumbing manager for Michael & Son Services in Richmond, says to have Trap Snake six-foot Toilet Auger Drain Cleaning Kit ($69, homedepot.com) on hand. If the plunger doesn’t work, the toilet auger usually will, he says. “Most of the time whenever a toilet is stopped up, it’s within four or five feet of the toilet.”



HOW TO CREATE A light and bright HOME

By MICHELE LERNER The Washington Post

While many people want a home with plenty of natural light and an airy look, the reality is that not every room can face south for maximum daylight. Some rooms lack big windows, and others have natural light obstructed by trees or nearby buildings. We asked Keira St. Claire, a senior designer with Anthony Wilder Design/ Build in Cabin John, Maryland, to share some tips on how to create a light and bright home that will extend the summer season into the fall. Here are her ideas:

- Bring the outdoors in with fresh flowers and leafy greens. - Add mirrors — the bigger the better. They will not only help create the illusion of more space but also will reflect light in. If your home calls for mirrors on a smaller scale, mirrored side tables and cocktail tables can help spread light, as well. - Decorate with natural fibers and woven textures like sisal rugs, wicker and rattan to give your space a relaxed summer vibe. If you like a more vibrant energetic look, you can spray-paint old furniture in bright colors, pastels, metallics or light neutral colors. - Swap your heavier winter bedding, throw pillows, blankets and window coverings with cool, light

breathable fabrics like linens. A linen slipcover will instantly transform a chair or sofa. - Select lighter, more weathered wood finishes. Go with distressed or white painted pieces for a laidback feel. - Transparent furniture of acrylic or glass is great for making a space feel airier. - Play with bright, cheery colors or pastels for throw pillows, accents and artwork. Bright artwork is an easy way to freshen up your walls. - Fill your fruit bowls with in-season fruits in bright colors: oranges, lemons and limes - Update your table setting with bright colors, as well.

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dishes you need to prepare breakfast and make school lunches.

Many stressed-out parents have come to think of home organization in terms of major closet, kitchen and basement makeovers, requiring substantial planning and time not available to busy families. But there are a lot of small things you can do routinely, without a huge investment of time and money, that will help make your house run more smoothly and give you a sense of order and control. Over years of organizing clients and observing busy people, I’ve noticed there are certain tasks “organized people” people who don’t need to “get organized” because they already are - do every day. These tasks are done so consistently that they become second nature. Think of them almost like a set of commandments that keep you on track and lessen your mental load: the constant need to make decisions and remember details.

3. Open and sort the mail ASAP

The Washington Post

This is important - and easy. Make it your routine to open your mail every evening. It’s so much easier to manage if you spend a couple of minutes sorting each evening than it is to look through a big stack on the weekend. Recycle unwanted pieces immediately and place bills to be paid and papers to file in a designated spot.

4. Unpack boxes right away Many of us are increasingly using delivery services - for pet food, for groceries, for clothing. If a package contains items you know you’re going to keep, take the moment to unpack the box, collapse it and take it to your recycling bin. Put the items away immediately, too.

1. Tidy small messes early

5. Pack backpacks every evening

Make it a point to clean up small messes immediately. It’s much easier to take five minutes to put away a game, straighten up the pantry, put away your clothes or do a quick desk cleanup than it is to let your whole house turn into a disorganized mess that requires hours or days to clean. The phrase “mess begets mess” is absolutely true. Once your house has become cluttered and messy, it can feel too daunting to clean up and the situation can quickly spiral out of control. But the same is also true of order and organization. If things are orderly and planned, messes and clutter are less likely to pile up.

Have your kids pack their backpacks each evening and put them by the door. Place shoes and jackets for the next day nearby, and put clean lunchboxes and water bottles on the countertop so they’re ready to fill in the morning.

2. Stay on top of the dishwasher Many families go through enough dishes to fill the dishwasher daily. Make it a habit to run your dishwasher before you go to bed and to empty it each morning. (If it’s not full, feel free to skip a day.) Unloading the dishwasher takes less than five minutes, and you can do it while your coffee or tea is brewing. That way you won’t wake up to a sink full of dirty dishes, and you’ll have the clean

6. Make lists Keep updated lists, either with pen and paper or electronically. These may be a daily to-do list, a list of food and household items that need to be replaced, upcoming bir thdays, or long-term goals and plans. There is no right way to keep your lists and no correct formula. But writing things down will help you prioritize and keep track of what needs to get done each day.

7. Limit your distractions With so many distractions vying for our attention each day, it’s a wonder any of us get anything done. We’ve all sat down and planned to spend five minutes checking social media and then looked

See Clutter, Page 19



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Clutter From Page 18 up after an hour of scrolling. Just 15 minutes of that hour could have been spent tidying up around the house. If you find yourself putting off household tasks by distracting yourself with your phone, commit to doing one quick organizational project before you start scrolling. Or, better yet, use your phone to listen to a podcast or music while you’re getting something done.

8. Meal plan A huge stress on working parents is deciding what to ser ve for dinner each night and then actually being able to prepare a healthy meal. If there’s no plan, families end up eating takeout, going out to dinner or eating the same meals over and over. Plan at least three meals, and do the necessar y grocer y

shopping over the weekend.

9. Make your bed This is a demand most of us heard from our parents, and we never really understood its importance. Five years ago, in a commencement speech at the University of Texas at Austin, Adm. William McRaven neatly laid out why this habit matters. He said: “If you make your bed every morning, you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride, and it will encourage you to do another task and another and another. By the end of the day, that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed. Making your bed will also reinforce the fact that little things in life matter. If you can’t do the little things right, you will never do the big things right.” I could not agree more.

Bedroom From Page 7 Hopkins Medicine. “Lights in the bedroom should be dimmable or have the ability to adjust to a low setting,” Meshberg says. They can help your brain transition to slumber mode. Go for bedside sconces or lamps (he likes the Pennant Wall Lamp by Andrew Neyer, $200-$300 at Y Lighting, and the Convessi Sconce, $495 at Restoration Hardware). For frequent travelers and those working night shifts, a circadian lighting system, which adjusts from a warm color spectrum to a cooler spectrum and back to mimic natural light cycles, can be especially useful. Such systems can “artificially create an ambiance that minimizes jet lag and allows for deep sleep,” Baeza wrote in an email. “Some sophisticated LED systems allow for automatic dimming and color changes over time.” The brand Ketra sells lighting fixtures, bulbs and controls that can create such natural lighting and integrate with home automation systems.

Focus on the bed No doubt, the most important component is the bed. That’s why selecting the right mattress, sheets and pillows can help you get a good slumber. Meshberg recommends 200- to 300-thread-

count organic cotton sheets such as the Classic Star ter Sheet Set (star ting at $93, Brooklinen) and the Italian Vintage-Washed 464 Percale Sheet Set ($369-$429, Restoration Hardware). They “breathe well” and don’t get “too satiny and shiny” like sheets with higher thread counts. Also, “the quality and proper weight of your duvet and down comforter are essential in regulating your temperature,” Meshberg wrote. Generally, 700fill comforters are best for winter and 600-fill works well during summer. (Fill refers to down; synthetics might be labeled as heavyweight or lightweight.) He recommends the down comforters from Brooklinen ($199-$299) and the Organic Italian Vintage-Washed 464 Percale Duvet ($389-$449) from Restoration Hardware. (The National Sleep Foundation also recommends setting your thermostat at 60 to 67 degrees.) For a mattress, he suggests Casper’s Original ($595-$1,195) or Wave ($1,345$2,495) for those who prefer more support. The Beautyrest Recharge Dawson 12 1/2-inch hybrid firm mattress ($1,299$1,999, mattressfirm.com) works well for those sharing beds with restless sleepers because the memor y foam won’t move around as much, Meshberg says. As for pillows, “synthetic is the best” because you can wash it, he says.

1338449; 1338449 AIRE SERV HEATING & COOLING HOME AND GARDEN 3.00 x 9.880 4; 1712522; Color; 3 x 9.88

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