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Design Dilemma: Three Things to Consider Before You Remodel Your Kitchen

transitional kitchen how to tips advice

So you’re thinking of remodeling your kitchen. But before you let that contractor rip out your old cabinets, stop for a second. Ask yourself these questions:

1. How will you use the kitchen?

contemporary kitchen how to tips advice
tropical kitchen how to tips advice

Will it be for entertaining, or mostly solo use? It may sound basic, but think long and hard about how much space you’ll really need, as it will affect every appliance and storage choice you make. If you entertain a lot, your cabinets and appliances will need to handle multiple sets of plates and serving platters. You might think about a bigger refrigerator to hold lots and lots of food, and maybe double ovens and double sinks. Extra counter space, an extra dishwasher, a wine cooler, may also factor into the equation.  The two kitchens above are an example of entertaining kitchens. In the second kitchen in this post, three ovens mean you can cook lots of dishes all at once. The second kitchen opens directly onto an open patio and dining area, allowing guests to wander between kitchen and other areas. The cook doesn’t feel isolated while the party is going on.

And what if you seldom entertain? Enjoy the compact convenience of a smaller galley kitchen with a small footprint, as below.  Small can often be more comfortable and convenient than large, but not if you love entertaining.

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2. How much value does a change bring, versus the cost of making the change?

farmhouse kitchen how to tips advice

Some changes may cost a lot, but you think they’re worth it— the extra large farmhouse sink, above, is not only beautiful to look at, but it’s perfect for cleaning the goose you like to prepare each Christmas. Is it worth it for that one-time big event? You decide.  Ask yourself if the change will really improve your everyday life. Will the change improve a problem that bugs you every time you use your kitchen? Then make it! Finally, and lastly, will it improve the value of your home? If you’re only so-so about the need for a change and you think it’s too personal to appeal to too many potential buyers, then your decision is clear — better off saving your money for something else!

One good way to figure out how much to spend on a given project is to prioritize your desires by analyzing the frequency and duration of the cooking tasks you must perform. Tasks you do frequently or spend more time on should get more weight than those you seldom do, or don’t mind doing. If you use, for instance, your cooktop 80 percent of the time and your oven only 20 percent, prioritize a great cooktop over a wall oven. Below, a splurge to remove the upper cabinets on one side of the kitchen and to build a storage cabinet in one corner, lends the kitchen a feeling of spaciousness and makes shelves easier to reach. It was worth it to the homeowner.

industrial kitchen how to tips advice

3. Is it functional or aesthetic? And which is more important to you?

transitional kitchen how to tips advice

Aesthetics refers to high-end finishes, marble countertops, stainless steel appliances, custom tile backsplashes. These things are beautiful but not necessary to make your kitchen function well. Function refers to layout, among other things. Do refrigerator and kitchen doors open easily, or do they block doors? Is there enough space to allow two people to attend to kitchen tasks at the same time? Some people may decide to put their money into aesthetics, particularly if they seldom use the kitchen, so it’s more about look than functionality. In many cases, these homeowners may choose countertops that are beautiful but easily damaged, and it’s no problem. Those who love cooking, however, may never cede on functionality. They are the types who may spend lots of money to change the plumbing to allow for two sinks, but don’t care about extra fancy stainless steel appliances. It’s a change that means a lot to them, but that remains virtually unseen. So it all boils down to, what’s your priority?

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Design Dilemma: 5 Ways to Redecorate Lite

midcentury bathroom how to tips advice

Recently, I wanted to redo the bathroom. Completely. My thought was to change every surface — new tile in the shower, new tile floor, new vanity, new bathroom fixtures, minor repainting. It was a tiny bathroom, so I figured our budget could handle it. Until, that is, we had a contractor take a look at the job. The estimate for redoing our simple little bathroom rang up at a staggering $18,000. And I just couldn’t figure out where the money was going, since we were not planning on doing anything to the actual plumbing.

Knowing that an $18,000 remodeling job was totally out of our budget, we downsized the scale of our project and decided to do something I’m calling “redecorating lite.” Instead of changing out the tiles and the floors, the shower kit and the toilet, we opted to focus our hard-earned dollars on the areas that were most in need of some help, and that would provide the biggest bang for the buck. This meant reducing the reining in the work to simply replacing the vanity and faucet, and giving the bathroom a fresh coat of paint. Final cost of the project: about $1,000. On this much smaller sum, the bathroom looked fresh and revitalized and we were happy and relieved that we had chosen the simpler path.

Moral of the story is this: sometimes a lite remodel is all you really need. If you want to redo the kitchen, you may not need to totally revise the floor plan and go for all new appliances. Maybe you just need a new backsplash. If you want to redo your living room, maybe you only need to change the wall color. Wondering what a “lite” remodel might mean? Here are a few ideas:

  1. Rearrange the furniture.


transitional family room how to tips advice

It’s the simplest and easiest way of all to get a totally different look without spending a dime: Play around with your room’s configuration for dramatic results. In the picture above, a fainting couch is the type of unique piece that has immense flexibility. While here it’s placed in the middle of the room, it could just as easily be placed near the window, or moved onto a diagonal in a corner of the room.


transitional dining room how to tips advice

Can’t afford new furniture? Reupholster what you have! While reupholstering can sometimes cost as much or more than buying new furniture, there are certain changes you can make to textiles and fabrics that are pretty inexpensive. In the photo above, for example, putting a fresh, vibrant fabric on each chair seat could be a simple Saturday afternoon do-it-yourself project. So, too, with the patterned drapes that lend this dining area a youthful, punchy vibrancy.

3. Rearrange your art.

transitional living room how to tips advice

Here’s another free way to dramatically change any room’s look in record time. You can switch out multiple pieces of artwork and create a gallery wall, which can make any room feel “curated.” Or you can do the opposite, you can move one dramatic piece of art you may own — a painting or sculpture, from one room or location to another. If you don’t have much art to work with, you can create really nice pieces by framing magazine covers, botanical prints or old photos. If you are looking for larger scale, original art, check out numerous online sources for original art.
4. Repurpose.

southwestern bedroom how to tips advice

Chances are, you’ve got items floating around in your garage, basement or storage room that aren’t living their best life. Why not drag them out into the sunshine and find new uses? Clever and innovative ways of using old items can revitalize a space. For example, in the bedroom above, an old milk crate has been turned into a fun and funky bedside stand — a bedside table with character.

5. Swap out or invest in a new area rug.

eclectic dining room how to tips advice

In my opinion, this is the number one change you can make for the biggest, most dramatic change of atmosphere. Area rugs define spaces in one powerful punch. Through color and pattern, they can breathe new life into a room.

So the takeaway is simple: you don’t have to spend thousands of dollars if you are looking to revitalize your home — repurpose, reuse, rearrange, and you may be surprised at how fresh and new your home feels!

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Design Dilemma: Lagom, the art of not too much, not too little

scandinavian bathroom how to tips advice

“Lagom” is a Swedish word meaning “just the right amount.” Living lagom means you’re living in balance, in moderation, with not too little and not too much. It’s a concept that particularly resonates in 2018, in an era in which many of us are awash in too much stuff that we can’t use or take care of while the earth suffers mightily for it. Not just by happenstance, lagom became a concept that arose into world consciousness last year, with several magazines and books dedicated to the concept. And we’re betting that given its emphasis on living a happier, more balanced and more sustainable lifestyle,  lagom will also be much in vogue in 2018, much the way that the Danish word “hygge” hit it big in 2016.

“Lagom is very much a part of everyday life, including the home,” Niki Brantmark, founder of My Scandinavian Home and author of Modern Pastoral ” told MyDomaine.com. “The Scandinavian home strikes the perfect balance between minimalism and over-cluttered, resulting in a clean, calm space that is also warm and inviting.”

Are you interested in making your own home a little more “lagom?”

Here are some tips to getting there.

  1. Eliminate something.
    midcentury dining room how to tips advice

    Most of us have much more than we need. The reality of life is that stuff accumulates, and if you never purge, eventually your home will be overwhelmed. One step to lagom means eliminating something that really isn’t necessary. In fact, you might start by not collecting the unnecessary to begin with. Scandinavians typically invest in far fewer furniture pieces, but they choose better quality pieces that have style without being too trendy. Scandinavian design, of course, makes this all so much easier. In the dining room above, for instance, the typical American impulse would be to add a buffet or a china cabinet or to include large, bulky chairs. But not in Sweden. Resist the urge to fill corners and empty spaces and buy over-sized furniture. Opening up a little more space at home often improves your home’s functionality.


2.  Get practical.

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The Swedes are a practical people, and one clever way they’ve developed of making a home “lagom” is to make use of storage as decor. In that way, you fulfill two purposes at once. A clever bookcase, above, of vintage milk crates strikes just the right vintage note in a country house. Below, in a child’s bedroom, 4-H ribbons won at the local fair also act as brightly-colored streamers in a child’s bedroom.

eclectic kids how to tips advice


3. Choose calm colors.

traditional bedroom how to tips advice

It’s rare to find a Scandinavian home that is a riot of color. Instead, Swedes go for whites and grays with touches of blue here and there.  The effect is soothing and never feels cluttered. Above we see a white bedroom with a touch of blue, below, soft gray with blue chairs.

scandinavian dining room how to tips advice

And here, more soft colors and quiet, monochromatic artwork :

scandinavian living room how to tips advice
scandinavian living room how to tips advice

And below, an all-white kitchen with light oak floors couldn’t be more scandy.

scandinavian kitchen how to tips advice


4. Go wabi-sabi.

Part of the beauty of lagom is that it embraces the used, the worn, the reclaimed. These things have soul and show that you are not trading in good furniture just for fashion’s sake. So enjoy worn leather, reclaimed wood, and don’t fuss too much over little nicks and scratches. And be sure to incorporate some slatted wood into your home somewhere!

farmhouse bathroom how to tips advice

Below, worn leather makes a statement of timelessness and resilience.

contemporary family room how to tips advice

5. Enjoy the small things and keep the curation going.

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Enjoy the small pleasures in your home, like a vase of fresh flowers, or tea out of a special tea pot. Constantly edit your collections and keep a wary eye out for when it’s time to pare down. If you do this, we guarantee that your home will always feel fresh and inviting and you’ll feel lighter and happier too!