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IMPROVING THE QUALITY OF THE LIVING SPACES of your home can be as simple as rearranging furniture and applying a fresh coat of paint, or as demanding as tearing down walls and installing new windows. Whether you opt for basic surface treatments or a substantial rehab will depend upon your budget, of course, as well as your short- and long-term goals. But whatever the case, it helps to begin by studying your room’s strengths and weaknesses and looking to the experience of others for ways to play up its attributes and minimize or eliminate its shortcomings.
Your home may be in a wonderful location with spectacular views and yet be completely devoid of character. On the other hand, it may be brimming with character but have oddly configured rooms or spaces that are too small. Or the living areas in your home may be too large, or they simply may not suit your style or your lifestyle.
On the pages that follow, you’ll see how various designers and homeowners turned less-than-ideal living rooms, family rooms, dens and home offices into uplifting, functional spaces that accommodate their needs and reflect their tastes. Some projects involved substantial investments aimed at improving the long-term value of the home. Others involved minor upgrades or modest investments in furnishings to make the rooms more livable and enhance the owners’ immediate quality of life. All offer solutions to common problems that can be applied to rooms of any style or size in most any location.
Not every home needs a grand entrance, but a welcoming one is always good. The front door of your home—the primary link between outdoors and in—offers an opportunity to establish an appealing first impression. A good front door should not only harmonize with the exterior character of a home but also reflect something of the spirit of the interior and the personal style of its inhabitants.
Painting a door a cheerful shade of red or an interesting shade of blue is one of the simplest ways to add personality to the face of your home and turn your front door into a focal point. Other low-cost, modest upgrades that will enhance the character of a front door and make it more welcoming include brightening it with lanterns, lending it personality with a creative doorknocker, increasing its stature with a substantial door handle, or making it more inviting with sidelights or a transom. Installing a new door altogether will enrich the character of your home as well as save you money over the long haul by making it more energy-efficient, too. And if you do so before the end of 2010, you may also qualify for a federal tax credit (see sidebar page 18).
Regardless of the style of your front door, it serves as a segue between the exterior and interior, and as such acts as a stylistic transition element into the entrance hall, foyer or landing of your home. Ideally, the character of the front door—or side or back doors or even interior doors leading to and from a garage, for that matter—will complement not only the exterior of your home but also the wall surfaces, furnishings and flooring in the area just beyond it. And the surfaces and furnishings of entrance areas should also be chosen and placed to ease the transition from the outdoors in, or indoors out. You can affordably add style and function to a foyer, entrance hall or mudroom, for example, with simple accents and furnishings, such as pendant light fixtures or chandeliers, peg rails, boot bins, door mats, runners, umbrella stands, storage benches, consoles and hall tables. More ambitious entrance area projects that cost more but can add more value include installing durable stone flooring, adding wall paneling or wainscoting, and building in closets, benches and storage shelves.
Installing new garage doors can also add value by enhancing the character and curb appeal of your home, as well as its energy efficiency. And now that two- and even three-car garages are commonplace, the primary entrance to many American households is through an interior garage door. As such, upgrades to the interior of the garage itself, such as staining or coating concrete floors (see page 135 in chapter 6 for more information) or installing lockers, ceiling racks and other storage elements, can make everyday access to the home more appealing and manageable. You can also cost-effectively enhance the safety of your home at its entry points with technological advancements, such as upgraded garage door openers or integrated security systems, which can cost as little as $100.
For most of us, our entryway is just a place we pass through, leaving a trail of shoes and bags behind us. But it’s often the first and last thing guests see when they visit, so it sets the tone for the rest of your home. How do you reclaim your mudroom and give it an attractive, welcoming atmosphere?
First step: Create a blank slate. Remove everything and purge—be ruthless and donate things you don’t use. Next, corral and conceal what’s left over with a storage system and cleaning routine that’s right for you. Whether you have an entire room or an entryway wall, here are some ideas to get you started.
Get your coats in check. Replace flimsy, mismatched hangers with a sturdy wooden set for a uniform look.
Designate a pretty ceramic dish or a row of hooks near the front door as the parking space for keys.
Treat your pooch to a cute canine catchall—a container to store leashes, toys and other accoutrements.
Install slim brackets and a curtain rod on the back of the closet door. Draped scarves look decorative, not messy.
Prevent mail from piling up. Recycle junk mail right away and cancel unwanted catalogs at catalogchoice.org
Repurpose an old bureau as a place to store winter garb. Use acrylic drawer dividers or cardboard boxes to separate scarves, hats and gloves.
EIGHT PERIOD-APPROPRIATE ARCHITECTURAL DOOR STYLES
Just like clothing, the front of a house can make a memorable first impression. Everything from roofing to shutters contributes to a house’s vibe, or what real estate brokers call curb appeal. And the front door is often the center of attention. It is, after all, where visitors first make contact with your home.
Your door also provides important architectural clues to what’s inside—or at least it should. Whether your house is Federal or Dutch Colonial, the front door is an integral part of the design package.
Doors also have an obvious practical role. A door that can’t control temperature extremes isn’t much good, no matter how appealing it may be visually. As with many products for the home, exterior doors are given ratings through the federal government’s Energy Star program. But keep in mind that ratings are based on climate zone—so a door that is Energy Star–rated for Florida may not be right for your home in Vermont. Check the label to see if the door you’re interested in is right for your climate. Here’s what you need to know to narrow your options.
WOOD In part due to architectural tradition, wood has long been the material of choice for exterior doors. But wood is also a favored choice because it is available in such a wide range of colors, textures and grain patterns. Since wood is relatively easy to work with, custom wooden doors can be ordered from a local millwork shop as well as from large manufacturers. Size, glass inserts, molding and trim can all be individually specified.
There are drawbacks, though, to wooden doors. Long-term exposure to sunlight, rain and snow exacts its price on wood, particularly those doors with southern and western exposures. Some types of wood, such as mahogany and cedar, are naturally more weather-resistant than others, but all wood is susceptible to warping and decay over time.
As a hedge against the weather, manufacturers such as Kolbe & Kolbe offer wooden doors clad in aluminum with a factory-applied paint finish on the outside and a choice of wood species on the inside. Manufacturers also may combine solid and engineered wood products to reduce the risk of warping. TruStile makes exterior doors entirely from medium-density fiberboard, or MDF. The keys to long life for a natural or engineered-wood door? Maintain the finish and protect it from extreme sun and rain.
FIBERGLASS Thanks to realistic grain rendering and colors that mimic natural wood tones, fiberglass doors look a lot like wood.
But fiberglass is not nearly as likely to be damaged by weather exposure as wood. Fiberglass doors typically cost less than top-of-the-line wood styles, and a foam core makes them much better insulators than plain wood. This tough and resilient material also holds up well to bumps and dings, making it a low-maintenance option with plenty of eye appeal.
However, because of the way fiberglass doors are manufactured, they can’t be customized as easily as wood. Yet there are scores of styles to choose from and plenty of options for sidelights, glass inserts and transoms.
STEEL Steel doors have two advantages: They’re usually the least expensive and, like fiberglass doors, they have a foam core that makes them much better thermal insulators than wood.
The main complaint about steel doors is that the outer faces are relatively thin, meaning dings and dents are always a risk. Minor flaws can be repaired, but the material is inherently less resilient than the other options. Rust is a risk if the finish is damaged and not repaired or if the door isn’t protected from rain and snow by a porch or portico.
All but the most basic doors come with a choice of windows, sidelights and transoms, not to mention hardware. Once you know the material that best suits your climate and budget, it’ll be easier to find a door that will keep out the elements—and suit your house’s style.
Excerpted from Money-Wise Makeovers by Nayar, Jean Copyright © 2010 by Nayar, Jean. Excerpted by permission.
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