real estate, Stamford

It’s All About the Journey … Finishing off – In the Basement!

Finishing a basement can bring you a double bonus.  It provides additional living space for a fraction of the cost of an addition to the house – the walls are already there, electrical and plumbing lines are easily accessible, and no additional foundation supports are necessary to start construction.  Also, a well-finished basement can add value to your house when you go to sell it – just don’t expect to get back all the money that went into it.

The average basement remodel recoups about 69% of the original cost, according to the “2015 Remodeling Impact Report” from the National Association of Realtors.  As with most remodeling projects, rarely does anyone get a 100% return on their investment.  Improvements should be done to both enhance your lifestyle and to increase your homes’ selling potential.

Finished basements are particularly conducive for use as  media rooms, music rooms, a home office or a recreation room.  In all of these spaces, separation from the main living areas can be a plus!

Before you get started on your renovation, here are several things you need to know:

Know the Code

 

It would be great to convert unused space to additional living space, but does your basement meet the building code requirements for livable space?   You must be in compliance with codes for ceiling height, and egress windows and/or doors.    It’s also time to check with your local municipality to see if you’ll be required to get any permits. This is particularly important if you’re planning plumbing, heating and electrical work, which most likely will need to be inspected.

Keep It Dry

Check for any water issues in your basement before beginning the planning process. Obvious signs are pools of water or drips coming through the below-grade walls or around windows and the bilco door. Check outside to make sure the ground is graded away from your foundation. Also look for cracks in your foundation walls and repair that damage if necessary. If there is a continuing water issue, there are a number of remedies available – from sump pumps to perimeter French drainage systems.

Ceiling Heights/Options

As mentioned above, ALWAYS get necessary permits and know the building codes before you start a basement renovation (even if your contractor says it might not be necessary – it will become necessary when it’s time to sell).  If you have concerns about ceiling height, consider installing a drywall ceiling rather than a drop ceiling.  Drywall ceilings will give you a few more inches of headroom. Costs are comparable.   Inserting plastic access panels into a drywall ceiling will provide easier access to valves in the pipes above.

A drop or suspended ceiling offers a way to both conceal and provide access to electrical and plumbing lines via the removable tiles.  These ceilings will reduce the amount of overhead space available, so keep that in mind when planning.

Egress Windows and Doors

Basement living space requires emergency escape and rescue openings. Whether it is an egress window or an egress door, it has to open to the outside and open easily without the use of keys or tools.  It must also follow code requirements for the height and width of basement egress windows.

Keep Out the Cold

Even after taking care of any moisture issues, your basement can become a damp place. Check with your contractor to see if you’ll need to add a vapor barrier to the walls and/or  floors prior to framing and finishing off these surfaces.   You may also choose an insulation that includes a vapor barrier on both sides.  Adding insulation will not only help control the temperature inside your basement, it may also add another layer of moisture control.  Other options include a spray foam insulation. Be sure to check code requirements for this type.

 

Recessed Lighting

Recessed lighting in a basement is a good option because it doesn’t take up valuable overhead space that a light fixture would. It’s also easy to install if you decide to opt for a drop ceiling.

 

The Utility Room is Not for Finishing

Any space housing an HVAC (heating, ventilation, air conditioning) unit or units and water heaters need to remain clear, open, unfinished and ventilated. These spaces have specific code requirements for spacing and framing, plus you’ll need access for inspection and/or repairs.

A finished basement can be terrific “found space” but before you start daydreaming about all its’ potential, make sure your basement is a  good candidate for renovation –  if not, there’s nothing wrong with extra storage! 

 

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CT, home, real estate, Stamford

It’s All About the Journey … A Bedroom or A Spare Room for Spare Time?

One of the first thing buyers’ mention when purchasing a home is the number of bedrooms and bathrooms they want.  No matter what the preference, when considering auxilliary bedrooms, certain things remain constant. Buyers usually hope to find bedrooms that will fit a double bed, dresser, possibly a desk and as much storage space as possible!

If your bedrooms satisfy those requirements, that’s great…but what if your current living situation doesn’t require one of the bedrooms to be used on a daily basis?  Without changing structural elements, you could use that square footage to pursue personal interests or activities.   Here are some easy ideas to turn that spare bedroom into a space you can enjoy until you’re ready to sell.

Media Room

A big flat screen TV, a comfortable couch and a nice stereo system can be just the beginning of a place to get comfortable and read or watch a movie.  It can become a private space that allows you to get the television out of the living room and turns that space into a conversation and entertaining room.

Quiet Room or Library

If you’ve collected too many books over the years and have no place to put them, a library can be a good use for a spare bedroom. It can also be used as a designated “quiet room” to meditate and relax in.

Home Office

One of the most popular uses for a spare bedroom is a home office.  Adding lights, furniture and desks can convert the space into a practical home office with privacy. Make sure you have a reliable internet or WiFi connection.

Home Gym

No excuses!  It’s right next door.  Your workout routine can be personalized with any equipment you prefer.  Medicine balls, treadmills, weights, or video workout routines can all be accomplished in the square footage of a spare bedroom.

Yoga Studio

Another variation on the home gym could be turning a spare room into a yoga studio and save money by not going to someone else’s studio. Find a large mirror, bring in a fan, your favorite yoga mat and you’re ready to go.  If you want to take your home studio to the next level, add hardwood flooring, a small TV to follow along with yoga instruction videos, and a radio.

Craft Room

Whether you’re knitting, painting, working on a stamp collection or want more room to work on your favorite hobby, a spare bedroom can easily be converted into a craft room.

Guest Room/Den

It’s always great to have a dual purpose room.  A daybed or sleep sofa will easily accommodate the occasional overnight guest.  When you don’t have guests, it becomes a room to get away from it all and curl up with a good book or watch a TV show your significant other wants no part of!

Lounge/Study Area

Setting up a spare bedroom as a lounge or study area eliminates overcrowding when both these spaces are allocated to individual bedrooms.  The rooms are also dedicated for specific purposes making clean-up and organization a lot easier.

Music Room

If you’ve ever wanted space in your home that’s devoted to music, turning a spare bedroom into a music room is a good idea. It can serve as an individual’s private space to spend time practicing or enjoying their own personal musical interests.

A spare bedroom doesn’t need to become a warehouse of stuff you don’t know where else to put. The good news is you don’t need a mansion to incorporate any of these ideas.

Every room can be a place to relax, rewind, and enjoy!

 

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home, real estate, Stamford

It’s All About the Journey … Treat Yourself to a Spa Day!

With downtime at a premium, it’s no surprise that people are investing in luxurious amenities to enjoy in the comfort of their own home.  Perhaps the most common of these upgrades is the inclusion of a spa-like master bath.

Hydrotherapy, steam, light, heat, and aroma can create an experience at home that can compete with the world’s best spas. However, with so many options, it can be hard to decide where to start and what to pick.    Here are a few ideas for creating your own spa Master Bath.

LUXURY SHOWER

   A Steam Shower is one of the most enjoyable ways to de-stress and can be partnered with aromatherapy, chromatherapy (the science of the light spectrum’s improvements and positive effects on tissue and body systems).   Additional massage elements can be incorporated into the shower through body sprays and jets that can be added to shower walls and operated independently or in conjunction with other shower heads.  Overhead rainfall showers are also a popular additional to a luxury shower.

EXTRA-LARGE BATHTUB

If adding space in the shower isn’t enough, adding an extra-large bathtub will surely do the trick.  Serving as your own private oasis after a long day, homeowners can’t go wrong with this added feature. There are two schools of thought on this.   Freestanding tubs are all the rage today and can certainly create a peaceful, quiet soaking experience but built-in Modern-day therapy tubs are also a popular option.  Many luxury therapy tubs include other health enhancing features like massage, hydrotherapy, or aromatherapy.

HEATED FLOORS AND TOWEL RACKS

  Heated towel warmers and/or heated floors are a great addition. These features ensure that the relaxation doesn’t end once you leave your shower and tub, and your comfort is never disrupted by cold floors or chilly towels. Both add a luxury touch to a spa bath.

CALMING COLOR PALETTE

Since the master bath is a space that is supposed to offer serenity and calming factors, a soft neutral color palette will surely set the tone.  Warm or cool neutrals are both popular.  Warm palettes provide a more zen, organic feel, while cool palettes enhance light and airy spaces.

DOUBLE SINKS

This can be accomplished with a double vanity or two separate sink areas.  Quartz or stone surrounds and the sleek appearance of an under mount sink in square or rectangular shapes add a modern touch. Vessel sinks or large pedestal sinks are other popular options.

RAISE THE HEIGHT

 Newer toilet and vanities are a little taller now for added comfort.  Be sure to check out the difference when you visit your local home supply store.

LUXURY CAN COME IN SMALL PACKAGES

 Not every house has room for a sprawling master bath, but luxury can come in small packages, too. Glass fixed shower panels, floating vanities, and larger, light colored tile floors can open up a smaller bath.  Adding pampering shower features such as:  hand held plumbing fixtures, built in niches or a shower bench can elevate the spa experience.

Plush towels, specialty bath soaps and salts, and a large candle are quick, inexpensive accessories that add a feeling of luxury.

By incorporating some of these elements in your own Master Bath, the spa bath of your dreams could be the one you wake up to every day!

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home, real estate, Stamford

It’s All About the Journey … Retreat to the Master Bedroom

The chaos of the day has ended, all the your chores are finished and you’ve watched just enough TV to put you to sleep.  It’s time to retreat to your private sanctuary, the Master Bedroom.  Ah, the thought of a perfect, serene haven with everything just so, sounds enticing doesn’t it?  You walk down the hall ready to snuggle up in your cozy lair, and the reality smacks you in the face. Where is my serene sanctuary?

You’re not alone, Master Bedroom updates often take a back seat to other rooms, which becomes evident when it’s time to prepare your home to sell (kitchens and bathrooms usually get the most attention). The fact is buyers scrutinize the Master more so than any of the other bedrooms. “Does the closet have enough storage space? Will it fit my bed? Is there room for my double dressers? etc.”

Taking some time to make the most of this space will help create a restful environment your  buyers will appreciate.

  Here are some ideas to help get you started:

Paint the Walls

A cool and soothing color palette creates a relaxing atmosphere.  Soft blues, greens and creamy whites give the bedroom a fresh and airy feel.

Add Wall Decor

Once you’ve got your walls painted, add some decorative accessories.  Things like mirrors, wall accents and photos can add more character to your bedroom.

Arrange Furniture 

When you walk into a bedroom, especially the Master, the bed should be one of the 1st things you see.

Start with learning standard bed sizes, and which one will work in your plan. Other bedroom furniture comes in all kinds of sizes. Once you determine your room and bed dimensions, you can make good decisions about dressers, chests, nightstands and so on. Pay attention to scale and avoid over sized furniture that doesn’t fit the space.  You want to make the bedroom feel airy and comfortable.

The ancient Chinese method of Feng Shui helps to balance our homes.  Following some simple feng shui strategies can turn your chaotic and uninspiring bedroom into the serene  sanctuary of your dreams.

If you have a large Bedroom or a Master Suite

Benches and/or chairs

Add  a bench at the foot of your bed; it’s a perfect spot for putting on your shoes and socks without disturbing a freshly made bed.

Small, comfortable upholstered chairs provide an added dimension to a bedroom. It is easy to overlook this element, but it shows the bedroom can become a nice retreat from the rest of the household.

Whatever the size, make sure you don’t overcrowd the space – as in all rooms, less is more.

Lighting

As with any space, lighting plays an important role in delivering the desired atmosphere. After all, it’s hard to have a romantic environment with a fluorescent light flickering overhead. Consider adding a ceiling fan as well. Despite the fact that some people say ceiling fans are unfashionable, many home buyers appreciate their energy savings.

Upgraded Electronics

Wall mounted TV’s are a popular feature, and can help your space to appear larger, especially if your bedroom is on the smaller side.

Luxury

 A touch of luxury gives the master bedroom refined elegance that can bring a soothing note to the space.  Sumptuous bedding, plush pillows and a beautiful chandelier all add luxury, which can be quite serene.

Combine Masculine and Feminine Details

Neutral palettes and clean lines are appealing to all.  Stay away from window coverings and bed coverings that scream “I am woman hear me roar” or “It’s a man’s world”!
Both individuals need to feel comfortable  and that the environment suits them.

Closets

A master Bedroom with a walk-in closet is always the most preferred option but organizing a smaller closet can also have a dramatic effect.  Good wall closets include: Spaces for long and short hanging items, several open shelves of varying heights, a bank of drawers (optional), a spot for shoes, places to hang ties and belts, and to stow handkerchiefs and scarfs.  The most important thing to remember on closets is that your buyer will remember what they see.  Try to keep hangers all the same with space in between and floors free of clutter. A general rule is that you should only have shelves filled to approximately 1/3 of their height.

These tips can transform your Master Bedroom into the oasis you’ve always envisioned and create a retreat buyers will remember.

Sweet dreams!

 

 

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CT, home, real estate, Stamford

It’s All About The Journey … Powder Rooms – Small Spaces Capable of Making a Big Statement!

Powder rooms are intimate and private spaces that reflect the style of your home.  They are also the great equalizers.  No matter how large or small your home is, powder rooms (generally), are approximately the same size.  Adding the right embellishments and detail provides another opportunity to show buyers you care about your home.

Here are some considerations:

Create a focal point

Your goal is to draw attention toward the sink area.  One option is to apply a new paint finish to the existing cabinetry.  This is usually more cost effective than changing out the whole vanity, sink and fixtures.  Adding updated hardware can transform a standard cabinet to look like a custom vanity.

If the budget allows, a new countertop and sink can update a vanity that is in good shape.  A great way to cut costs is to purchase a leftover piece of quartz or stone from a local distributor for a new countertop.  They often have popular remnants in neutral colors leftover from bigger projects.   The entire installation process can be done for a fraction of the cost of an entirely new custom vanity.

Adding a new sink – whether it’s a state-of-the-art vessel sink or an under mount sink or molded sink/counter combination can complete the entire design element.

Pedestal sinks are another cost effective option. Be sure there is adequate storage for additional toiletries nearby.

Flooring

 Ceramic or porcelain tiles as well as natural stone floors are always popular choices in a bathroom, but if you have existing wood flooring, it’s not necessary to change.  A powder room receives less traffic, and a properly treated wood floor can be resistant to moisture penetration and less prone to scratches.

Embellishments

A decorative framed mirror can serve to further accent the vanity.  You can either purchase a new one, or a frame can be built around a wall mounted mirror using trim molding placed around the edges.

Just like any other space, lighting is critical.  Changing out the fixture can add both style and mood to this intimate space (especially if you still have the old “Hollywood Lights” screaming 1970’s & 1980’s!).  Consider sconces on either side of the mirror, or a light fixture above the mirror.  If the only light source is on the ceiling, consider a stylish little chandelier.

A fresh coat of paint on the walls goes a long way.  Light and brightly colored walls are more reflective, making any space feel open and airy.  Additionally, light colors amplify the effect of natural light. (which everyone loves!) The opposite can work as well, deep colors can give a rich and intimate feel to a small space.

Little Amenities Make a Big Impact

Toilet tissue dispensers can be hung on the wall, but should be up to date.   Other options are to place some rolls in a pretty container (like a basket) or a toilet tissue stand near the commode.

Most people prefer to use hand cleanser out of a dispenser.  A decorative dispenser is more sanitary and eliminates the mess of a bar of soap.

Placing luxurious hand towels nearby, either on a shelf or in a basket on the sink will create a spa like environment.

A pretty rug in front of the vanity, beautiful bath accessories and a special piece of artwork is all that is needed to complete the picture and provide a lasting impression.

Toilet bowl brushes or plungers are not decorative accessories!  Keep this little room clean and free of clutter.  Store any necessary tools behind closed doors in an accessible location.

A waste basket should be convenient but not the center of attention.

 

A powder room can be a fun project to update!  For a small space, it can make a big impact on buyers.  Create something that will make you smile!

 

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CT, home, real estate, Stamford

It’s All About The Journey … The Gang’s All Here!

Family rooms are an integral part of any home whether the living room acts a multi-function space in a small home or apartment, or you have a separate family room in a sprawling abode, these are the spaces where everyone can gather and enjoy each other’s company. There are a few key elements every family room should have: ample and comfortable seating, attractive storage, somewhere to put your feet up – such as an ottoman, (which has a dual purpose for extra seating if space is tight and can provide possible storage) and great lighting  – overhead lighting illuminates the space, but you will also need task lighting for reading, playing games, etc.

The three main categories that will create a warm and welcoming family room are: a successful design plan, inexpensive updates and unique decorating ideas.  By incorporating some of these elements into your space, everyone will want to kick their shoes off and stay awhile!

Designing Your Family Room

  • Opening your family room to adjoining spaces so the room is visible, ultimately invites everyone in.

  • Define the open spaces by introducing some architectural elements such as arches, columns or you can use furniture as a divider.

  • Plan your home entertainment system early on in the design phase to ensure that all electrical wiring and any integrated systems meet your needs.

  • Create one major focal point within this space. Whether you install your large screen plasma TV on the fireplace wall or have windows overlooking a pretty outdoor space.

  • The furniture layout should be oriented toward the focal point of the space and feel cozy. Try to ignore the impulse to line your furniture pieces up against the wall thinking it creates more space.  It doesn’t.

  • Keep traffic patterns in mind when planning a furniture layout. The ability to walk through the room without navigating through a maze of furniture is essential.

Easy & Inexpensive Updates for Your Family Room

  • Swap out throw pillows. Add deep velvet fabric pillows, tapestry and rich colors in fall and winter, then you can swap these out for bright colored, cotton or canvas pillows in spring and summer.

  • Freshen up old furniture by adding cozy, beautiful throws and blankets in colder months. This not only gives color and texture but can hide rips and stains!

  • Let the sun shine in! Clean windows inside and out, add new curtains, swags or drapes. If privacy isn’t an issue, lose the blinds and sheers and let light pour in!

Clever & Unique Family Room Ideas

  • Get rid of clutter by adding multi-functional storage pieces. Think ottomans with hinged lids, coffee tables with drawers, photo boxes to hold odds and ends, which will fit beautifully in a bookcase.

  • Create the illusion of space and light by grouping a collection of mirrors with decorative frames.

  • Spray paint is your best friend! Take old, mismatched picture frames and give them a new life with a coat of flat black spray paint. The texture of each frame gives dimension while the monochromatic color gives your items the look of a collection, not clutter!

  • Swap out those energy draining bulbs with compact fluorescents or LEDs that create a soft light from your lamps without breaking your budget.

  • Raise your curtain rods, and extend them well past the windows! The illusion of huge windows is created by adding additional ‘framing’ around the ones you have

      Inviting, comfortable and relaxing! 

    No wonder the gang’s all here –

    Is it Super Bowl Sunday already?

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It’s All About The Journey … Choosing Kitchen Appliances – Consider the Current Cook and Potential Buyers!

What is a kitchen without it’s appliances?   After all, the primary function of a kitchen is for cooking and preparing meals, (unless you’re my mother who once looked at an apartment in NYC and didn’t realize there wasn’t a kitchen!).  Functionally obsolete appliances can turn the joy of cooking into the agony of defeat, they’re also one of the first things a buyer will notice about your kitchen.  A little paint can refresh tired looking wood cabinets but there’s no hiding that harvest gold range!

If your appliances could use an update, here are some tips on how to choose the right cooktop, fridge and more.

Cooktops – Gas, Electric or Induction

   The choice is personal, but the preferences are fierce!  Gas is very popular because there is more control of the temperature settings. With gas  you can turn the heat up or down immediately  & with more precision, as opposed to electric units which adjust more slowly.  When shopping for gas cooktops  ask about BTU’s which is an energy measurement and is short for british thermal units, and variable control which addresses how long you can maintain “simmer” without the flame going out.  Burner grates made of cast iron or metal allow for better heat transfer from the burner to the pan.  Choices for fuel are either natural gas or propane, so  if you are not in an area with gas available, propane is the way to go.

Electric is the most common option – these are flat top models which tend to be the least expensive option and what you will find in most homes.

Induction heat  is a flat cooktop like electric that performs like fast-heating gas stoves and is gaining popularity in todays’ kitchen.  With induction cooking you lose the least amount of heat from burner to pan.   It’s also a time-saver because you can bring a pan of water to boiling faster than you can on a high performing BTU gas range top.

Range Hood 

Any cooktop demands a proper ventilation system that will usher exhaust out of the kitchen. Recirculating fans may take out some of the cooking steam, but they don’t move out any heat.  Exterior blowers and inline blowers provide high-performance ventilation.  Noise levels can vary, if you hear the sound of suction (and not the motor running) this is a good thing.  No one wants to turn on the range hood and think a Cessna is about to land in their kitchen.

Ovens

 Conventional ovens  can be gas or electric (there are even dual energy range options where you have a gas cooktop and an electric oven). Styles vary from an all-in-one  cooktop/oven range to wall mounted double or single oven units. Interior size is an important factor when shopping – you should make sure the Thanksgiving turkey is going to fit!

Convection ovens are often an option within a conventional oven (or sometimes microwave-we’ll get to that later).  They circulate heat with a fan to cook food faster and more evenly and will help you get dinner on the table faster than a traditional oven.  The downside is you don’t get the standard bake/roast/broil settings.

Refrigerators/Freezers

 Freestanding models slide into a space and generally protrude 6 to 7 inches beyond counter depth (a 24 inch depth is standard).  Counter-depth units will look more like built-in units but be careful not to sacrifice form for function.  Check out the interior cubic feet of storage for each unit.

As for configuration, French-door refrigerators (on top) with freezer drawer (on bottom) are very popular.  They allow you to store pizza boxes, sheet cakes, deli trays, etc. that are difficult to fit into a side by side refrigerator. You can also choose the traditional freezer on the top/refrigerator on the bottom or a side-by-side option.

Another consideration is if you want a water/ice in the door dispenser. If you  are focused on water purification, there are units that will accomplish this.  Otherwise the systems simply pass water through a copper pipe in the unit and out your refrigerator door.

Microwaves

Microwaves can consume a lot of counter space.  Microwaves built into the cabinetry are becoming very popular as well as microwave drawers which nestle among base cabinets and are very handy. Built-in microwaves over the range can also act as a venting mechanism.  As mentioned above, there are many models that also have a convection oven cooking feature.

Dishwashers

Traditional dishwashers with doors that pull from the top down are the most popular style and they can be paneled to blend with the cabinetry for a seamless look.  Drawer dishwashers are another trend on the rise because they are easier to load and can be installed at various heights, based on your needs.  Because they can handle smaller loads, they are also more efficient.

This is another appliance where noise levels can vary.  If you want to have a conversation while the dishwasher is running, make sure to check out the decibel level on the spec sheet to see how quietly it will operate.

Finishes

                             Now that you’ve considered your appliances, think about finish.  Stainless steel is still the most popular but now comes in more varieties than the traditional polished finish.  Black stainless has a more muted tone and smudge free has a more brushed appearance. Both eliminate the common “finger prints” complaint when considering stainless steel appliances. Whatever look you prefer, stainless is still the most requested finish among buyers.

Energy Efficiency

Last but certainly not least, consider energy ratings when purchasing appliances.  The higher the rating the more you will save on your electric bill and energy consumption. A factor any home owner will appreciate!

 What time is dinner?

 

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