6 Design Trends for 2015

Home decorating…just about the time you get the entire house “done” it’s time to start over again.  While many of us update our wardrobes with some frequency to follow the fashion trends, changing out our home decor is a slightly more complicated (and costly).  Whether you are thinking of redoing a room or just enjoy seeing what’s new in the decorating world, here are some of the trends in interior home design for 2015.

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Design Trend #1:  Color…Marsala, Saturated Blues and Guilford Green

What the “hot” colors are in home design depends on who you listen to.  The 2015 Pantone “color of the year” is Marsala, described as an “earthy wine red.”  Expect to see this color pop up in clothing this year, but also in home decor.  Paint is one of the cheaper ways to change or update a room.  In this article, This Old House shows how you can incorporate marsala-like colors in your home through wall paint and pendant lighting.

 

On Houzz (one of my favorite sites for home inspiration) they are calling for saturated blues to begin making a strong statement in home design in 2015.  Described as having a calming effect, selecting a deep blue for a room can make a statement and set the mood.

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Benjamin Moore (my favorite paint) has declared “Guilford Green” (HC-116) their color of the year.  Described as a “silvery green that works well with everything,” it looks lovely above against the white trim.  If green is not your thing, Benjamin Moore has a total of 23 paint colors they describe as “trending”…not surprisingly they include numerous blues and colors in the same palate as marsala.

Design Trend #2: Wallpaper…

No, I am not kidding.  All that wallpaper you tore down when you moved into your house?  It’s coming back.  Although no worries, most likely those country prints you stripped off the walls still belong in the trash.  When it comes to wallpaper, less is more…pick a room (not every room in the house) or an accent wall…geometrics and textured wallpapers are what is trending, but search “wallpaper” on Houzz and you will see a lot of variation.  I have to admit I have always loved a bit of wallpaper in a house and am happy to see it making a comeback.  Some of my favorite places for wallpaper are dining rooms, powder rooms and foyers.

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Design Trend #3:  Statement Lighting

I love this trend and have been incorporating it into my own house.  It is amazing what an interesting light fixture can do for a space…especially in a dining room, foyer or over a kitchen island.  The right fixture looks lovely both when it is lit and when it is not.  Some of my favorite resources for lighting fixtures are Lumens, Arhaus and Pottery Barn.  Restoration Hardware also has beautiful (but often very pricey) fixtures…but be cognizant of their size…many of them are enormous and made for grand spaces with very high ceilings.  Shown above is a beautiful fixture from Arhaus called the Darcel Chandelier…when lit it truly sparkles, creating a magical feel to the space.

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Design Trend #4: Driftwood Finishes

This design trend is popping up in furniture, beams, barn doors (inside the house!) and more.  Blame it on Restoration Hardware, IMO the king of the driftwood/rustic finish.  While RH has been touting this look for a while (at premium prices), it has now trickled down to the masses and you can find less expensive pieces that mimic the look at RH for sometimes a fraction of the price.

 

While adding driftwood furniture to your home decor is the least expensive way of getting the look, you can also add more permanent design elements, like a wall of driftwood finished planks…

 

…or kitchen cabinets with a gray weathered finish.

 

Other places you might incorporate the look is in overhead beams, flooring and the addition of sliding barn wood doors, all the rage now.  While you can do a lot or a little, there are many ways to incorporate this design trend into your home.

Design Trend #5: Cowhide

While the most obvious use of cowhide is in a rug, cowhide is also showing up on furniture…ottomans, benches and chairs.  And cowhide isn’t just for those looking for a “ranch” look…cowhide is very versatile and can work in both a contemporary setting and with a more traditional look.

 

Cowhide is best used as an accent…a touch here or there.  I love the bar stools pictured above.

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Even Flor, the floor tiles company, has gotten into the trend by offering black and white cow-hide-look floor squares.  As long as you keep the cowhide to an accent, there are no real restrictions on how you can use it.

Design Trend #6: Mixing Styles

This is another one of those “a little goes a long way” kinds of things…in the photo above we have a fairly traditional looking dining room, but the chairs are very modern.

 

Here mid-century modern furniture decorates a very traditional window nook.

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Another look I am seeing (and loving) is mixing glitzy with rustic.  Again I turn to Restoration Hardware for highlighting this trend in their latest catalogue.  One of my favorite ways to pull off this look is with the glitzy chandelier (also a statement piece, see #3 above) with a more rustic dining table.  In the photo above they have actually added a chandelier to a living room, a bit less expected (and note the driftwood hardwoods and modern design elements).  (If you are in love with the Crystal Halo chandelier, it comes in three sizes, starting at $3225…I told you RH lighting was expensive!).

So there you have it, 6 design trends you can consider when decorating for 2015…whether you are just changing paint color or doing a major overhaul of your house, one or more of these ideas might inspire you.  I leave you with a photo from Houzz that incorporates a number of the design trends discussed…a glitzy light fixture, driftwood finish traditional table, modern chairs and a wall color in the vein of the hot color for 2015, marsala.  Now go have some fun!

 

 

 

 

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Online Real Estate Photo “Don’ts”

The most recent stats indicate that 96% of home buyers start their search on the internet…with websites like realtor.com, Zillow and Trulia available this probably isn’t much of a surprise.  And as you might expect, buyers make decisions about which homes they would actually like to see based on the photos displayed online.  I look at listings online every single day…and I am amazed at what is out there.  I thought I would list some of my recent favorites…most of these are actually from Maine, where I am looking at vacation property…I won’t name where it is as I don’t want to call out any agents, but some of these fall into the WTH are they thinking category.

Probably my all time biggest pet peeve is the toilet lid that is up (and I have even seen ones with the toilet seat up).  Look, it’s bad enough that a toilet has to be in the photo, it isn’t that hard to put the lid down.   This photo isn’t even actually from Maine, it is from the greater Boston area…because I see this all the time.  PUT THE LID DOWN!!

 

 

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I know it can sometimes be difficult to get sellers to cooperate with reducing the clutter and clearing off counter space but these next two photos from the same property make me want to cringe.

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Then there is the out-of-focus photo…seriously, what does this accomplish other than to make one feel dizzy?

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This photo is actually from Belgium but I had to include it because it just cracks me up…and trust me, I see photos of homes in the US posted with people in them too.  You are trying to help a buyer imagine themselves in your home…do not include photos with you or your relatives hanging out, no matter how awesome you might think the photo is.

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Then there are the ones that you really don’t get their purpose…is this photo going to make me want to see the house?

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And this one, from the same house…are you trying to show us the water damage on the ceiling?
l7abd3a45-m30xd-w640_h480_q80 And finally (and you see this ALL THE TIME)…photos that are so dark you can’t even tell what is going on.  This one just kind of creeps me out.  l7abd3a45-m12o

 

If you are thinking of listing your home for sale, make sure the agent plans to get a professional in to take the shots unless the agent is really, really good with a camera…I was told unless you have a camera that you can operate in manual mode and you have a tripod, you have no business taking the photos for your listing.  Now I’m going to cut my Maine friends some slack here, it’s different when you are listing property for sale in the remote corners of Maine…there probably aren’t even people who take professional real estate photos.  But some of these are still inexcusable.  Would YOU buy a property based on these photos?

If you would like to discuss buying or selling a home, I would love to talk to you!  And I promise to use a professional!

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7 Great American Road Trips

Here in Massachusetts we have had some unusually warm weather (we were just shy of 90 degrees on Mother’s Day!).  While many people are probably aware of the record-setting amount of snow we had, it was also an especially cold winter.  So the sudden appearance of summer-like weather is welcome (very, very welcome).

Friends are posting pictures on Facebook of their kids all dressed up for prom and graduation is just around the corner, which means summer isn’t far behind.  Have you made your summer vacation plans?  Many around here spend some or all of their summer on the Cape and Islands (Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard)…we are lucky to have a vacation paradise practically steps out the door.  But with gas prices staying well below $3 a gallon, have you considered a road trip?  There really is nothing more American than hopping into your car and taking off on some kind of journey.  To help inspire you, I have gathered a few ideas to get you started…some road trips take more planning than others, some take more time.  But the flexibility offered by a road trip, and the chance to explore another part of the country can’t be beat.

Let’s start off with the classic road trip, Route 66.

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Route 66

Where: Beginning in Chicago and ending in Los Angeles, this route passes through Illinois, Missouri, a corner of Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California.

How Long: 2,448 miles

Highlights: While Route 66 actually existed, over time new highways were built that bypassed it; in 1985 is was officially “decommissioned.”  To travel the route now is a slower paced activity that allows for stops at both natural wonders like Meramec Caverns and the Petrified Forest, along with manmade attractions such as the Big Blue Whale, reptile farms and Indian curio shops.

Website to Get You Started:  Driving Route 66

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The Lower 48

Where: This road trip hits every one of the lower 48 states.  This trip is a loop, so you can start at the point nearest you and continue through to every state before winding back up at your starting point.

How Long: 13,699 miles…you might have to take a sabbatical from your job to get through this one, which realistically would take 2-3 months to complete.

Highlights: This trip was planned using an algorithm to find the optimal route that would allow you to visit a National Natural Wonder, a National Historic Sight, a National Park or a National Monument in each state, along with a stop in Washington, D.C. (to see, of course, The White House) and two stops in California (because they’re special).  (I am originally from Michigan so I have to also include this road trip, formulated by the same person using the same algorithm…it is 2,098 miles and hits all of the “Pure Michigan” hot spots.)

Website to Get You Started: Computing the Optimal Road Trip Across the U.S.

 

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Overseas Highway

Where: Route 1 from Miami to Key West, Florida, passing through Key Largo, Islamorada, Marathon & Big Pine Key.

How Long: 127.5 miles, including a 7 mile long bridge; can be traveled in as little as 4 hours

Highlights: Started in the 1930’s on the right-of-way of a former railroad, this route crosses over 42 bridges.  As you might expect, this route offers all manner of water activities…fishing, sailing,kayaking, diving and snorkeling options abound, but don’t forget to include time to visit the giant flea market on Big Pine Key.

Website to Get You Started: The Florida Keys and Key West.  And don’t forget to watch the movie “True Lies” with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jamie Lee Curtis for a great action scene on the overseas highway.

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Grand Canyon to Moab

Where: Covering six national parks in Arizona and Utah

How Long: 862 miles, the suggested trip is for 10 days

Highlights: Starting at the Grand Canyon, this route crosses over into Utah to hit Zion, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands & Arches National Parks, along with Dead Horse Point State Park.  Great for those who enjoy hiking, camping and mountain biking, this is certainly a trip to remember.

Website to Get You Started: A Classic Road Trip from Utah to Arizona

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Coastal New England

Where: Starting in Mystic, Connecticut and traveling through Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine, ending at Bar Harbor, ME

How Long: Approximately 400 miles

Highlights: Starting at Mystic Seaport and hitting highlights like Newport, RI, Boston and Portland, Maine, this route ends at Acadia National Park, with 47,000 acres to explore.

Website to Get You Started: Discover Coastal New England

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Kenai Peninsula and The Big Island Loop

Where: This isn’t a single trip, but rather two different trips, one on the Kenai Peninsula of Alaska and one on the Big Island of Hawaii…traveling beyond the lower 48 brings some breathtaking scenery.

How Long: Kenai Peninsula trip, approximately 500 miles; Big Island Loop, approximately 300 miles.

Highlights: The Alaskan road trip travels through Chugach State Park and the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge and offers mountain biking, fishing, kayaking and lots of wildlife.  The Hawaiian trip circles the Big Island of Hawaii and includes Volcanoes National Park and a side trip to climb the 13,796 foot Mauna Kea.

Websites to Get You Started: Alaskan Road to Nowhere and Hawaiian Sea to Summit Road Trip.

We have such a wealth of travel options within our own borders, from seacoast to mountains, canyons to prairies…hop in your car and go do some exploring!

For other travel options, check out the links below:

10 All-American Summer Road Trips

America’s Best Road Trips

10 Best U.S. Road Trips to Take This Summer

 

 

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What you get for $1,000,000…

The New York Times does a regular feature in its real estate section which is one of my favorites.  It is called “What You Get For…” and highlights 3 homes in different parts of the country for a certain dollar amount (which changes).  I like this feature so much that I  am going to replicate the format, albeit highlighting properties that are local.  Today I am featuring five homes, each around $1 million dollars.  A millions dollars sounds like a lot of money…a million dollars IS a lot of money.  But in the greater Boston area, $1M doesn’t always buy you as much as you might think it should.  The Boston area counts as one of the more expensive housing markets in the US, with Wellesley, MA cited as the 10th most expensive town in the country (as of this writing there are 92 properties listed for sale in Wellesley, of which 75 are listed at more than $1 million).  Today I will include properties listed for sale in Dover, Natick, Needham, Sherborn and Wellesley, all of which share some borders in the area west of Boston.

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18 Normandie Rd in Dover, MA.

What: A 1926 home with 4 bedrooms and 2 baths.

How Much: $998,800

Size: 3009 square feet

Price per square foot: $332

Features: Beautifully landscaped .92 acres with in-ground pool, Tiki bar and putting green on a dead-end street (Note: home recently went contingent.)

 

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46 Western Ave, Sherborn, MA

What: A 1928 farmhouse with 4 bedrooms and 2 baths

How Much: $995,000

Size: 2100 square feet

Price per Square Foot: $474

Features: Over 15 acres of open fields with an active blueberry farm.

 

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215 Eliot St, Lot 3, Natick, MA

What: 4 bedroom, 2 1/2 bath new construction in South Natick

How Much: $995,000

Size: 2700 square feet

Price per Square Foot: $369

Outdoor Space: 1.19 acres in Eliot Acres, surrounded by more expensive homes.

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29 Wareland Rd, Wellesley, MA

What: Contemporary Cape with 4 bedrooms and 2 1/2 baths

How Much: $990,000

Size: 2144 square feet

Price per Square Foot: $462

Features: Approximately 1/3 acre of professionally landscaped grounds in a walk-to-train location.

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749 Charles River St, Needham, MA

What: 5 bedroom, 3 1/2 bath ranch conveniently located near Dover, Wellesley and South Natick

How Much: $995,000

Size: 4162 square feet

Price per Square Foot: $239

Features: One level living with full finished basement on one acre.

If you are interested in seeing any of these homes or need help buying or selling in the area, please feel free to contact me!  

 

 

 

 

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Real Estate Reading

178779186-Real-EstateToday I want to share with you some interesting articles related to real estate that appeal to anyone with a general interest in what is going on in the market.  These are all fairly quick reads that are perfect for your lunch break or when you just need a brief distraction.  I hope to make this a regular feature of my blog…I come across a lot of good content and I think many people share an interest in some aspect of real estate, whether you sell real estate for a living or whether you are a homeowner (or a homeowner wanna be).  Take a look at some of my favorite features from the New York Times, along with a few other articles of general interest.  I will have more in the upcoming weeks.

From the New York Times, a regular feature that is one of my favorites…this week is House Hunting in…Bali.  A beautiful home for $435,000…yes please.

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And another favorite feature from the New York Times, What You Get For….  This week three homes are featured, all listing for about $1.35 M.  One is in Montana, one in Houston and one in Virginia Beach…note the taxes for Houston…YIKES!

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One of the reasons many sellers are not putting their homes on the market…In Hot Market, Sellers Left With No Place To Goa real concern for many in the Boston area.

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And if you are looking to buy, this is worth reading…It Doesn’t Pay to Wait to Buy A Home.

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A shout out to all of my friends in Ann Arbor, Michigan, #3 on the list…These Are the 20 Hottest Housing Markets in the US Right Now.

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This should keep you busy, I will have some more good articles in the upcoming weeks.

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5 Ways to Create a Beautiful Outdoor Living Space

11175002_10204354166271278_4758310620820574253_nA friend posted a picture on Facebook the other day of a tiny patch of snow with the caption “Some people just don’t know when to leave.”  As of Saturday I had a teeny tiny patch left in a spot that doesn’t get much sun…but with all the rain we have had the past 24 hours (poor Boston marathoners) it is finally gone.  Finally.  For those of us in the Boston area, it has been a brutal winter that made up for its very late start by pounding us with snowstorm after snowstorm for about 5 weeks, then finished out the winter with record-setting low temperatures.  In New England you can never really count on winter being over until May, but I think we are pretty safe at this point.

So now that it seems like spring is here, that must mean summer is just around the corner, right?  Memorial Day, the “unofficial start to summer,” is a mere 34 days away.  My landscapers have already been by to do the spring clean-up and the other day I hauled some of my outdoor furniture onto my deck (a bit of wishful thinking at this point but I like seeing it there).  With that in mind I thought I would focus today on the outdoor living space, which is becoming more and more elaborate.   These spaces are becoming an extension of the house, often providing fire pits or fireplaces, outdoor cooking stations that go far beyond a simple grill, televisions, pools and more.  And while it would be nice to have a space that looks like this…

PCdqgK_C…I am instead going to focus on more practical things you can do to add spark to your outdoor space.

#1…Add a Covered Space

Having some covered outdoor space can be nice in order to keep out of the sun and the heat of the day.  Covered space can be achieved very simply with an umbrella, some of which are quite large and provide wonderful shading for your seating area.

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Then there is a canvas gazebo.  I love the transformation this woman did…she started out with a crappy looking cement pad.  She did a LOT of DIY…if you are crafty and have the time, go at it.  But you could easily mimic this look without breaking the bank even if you bought things instead of made them.  The gazebo is only $199 from Home Depot (currently on backorder until mid-June, still plenty of time for summer).  I think it really helps define the space and makes it feel like a cozy room.

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Having the covered space also allows you to add some lighting…I LOVE strung lights…

#2…Outdoor Lighting

One of my favorite things about the holiday season is driving around and seeing all the beautiful Christmas lights.  I always wonder why we don’t have outdoor lights like that year round (although admittedly, my lights are still outside although unplugged…time to bring them in until next December).  Just as it is inside your home, lighting can have a huge impact on how things look and the overall mood.  String lights are great and finding ones that are approved for outdoor use is easy (Home Depot has a whole selection of cool outdoor string lights at reasonable prices).  If you have covered space you can also use lamps and overhead fixtures…just make sure they are approved for outdoor use, like this overhead fixture from Ballard Designs that is UL Listed for damp locations.  Here are a few ideas for inspiration.  This looks positively magical…

9-string-lights-diy-ideasAnd this is relatively simple…even I can wrap lights around a tree trunk.

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#3…Fireplaces/Fire Pits

Outdoor fireplaces and fire pits seem to have really taken off lately.  Certainly if you are looking at taking on a big outdoor makeover, adding a custom fireplace would be terrific. These can be wood burning…

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or gas…

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depending on your preference (I am a huge lover of gas fireplaces…I have one of each inside my house and I used the gas one almost every day this winter and never, not once, used the wood burning one…but maybe I am just lazy).  Even if you aren’t doing a big outdoor makeover you can still get the fireplace effect with minimal (or at least a much lower) investment.   You can spend under $200 and buy what essentially amounts to a metal basin in which you build your fire.  Some models also have a mesh top and some are both a fire pit and a statement piece, like this model from Frontgate (for a mere $2300…and you still have to build your own fire).

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Or, if you are like me and don’t really enjoy the effort involved in building a fire (I was a Girl Scout, believe it or not), then there are fire pits that are fueled by propane.  I bought this version a few years ago from Frontgate…it has little rocks and fake logs and lights up at the flick of a switch (yes, I have the furniture too, sue me).  The propane tank is hidden underneath.  LOVE IT.

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I know Frontgate is pricey, but they do have some beautiful fire pits.  Adding a fireplace or fire pit gives everyone a place to gather round and it adds that level of ambiance that makes people want to stay. (Sidebar…looking at those sofa cushions reminded me of this tip to help spruce them up after the long winter…a little homemade cleaning solution.)

#4…Plants

You’re outside, plant some flowers and greenery.  Once again this can be elaborately done with lined beds and meticulous landscaping that requires a crew to maintain, or it can involve simply planting some flowers in a pot or hanging basket.  I thought this was  a cool idea…planting containers within the ground to keep things literally “contained” and neat looking.  I also love the low grassy plant used as edging.

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I also like the idea of growing some mosquito repelling plants…lemongrass is one and you can easily root it and grow it in containers (here in New England it will not survive the winter…I would suggest starting it indoors in the spring) ~ you can usually find lemongrass in the fresh herb section of the supermarket.  Here is a great “how-to”  on getting started.  Other plants that are reportedly mosquito repelling are lemon balm, catnip, marigold, basil, lavender, peppermint, rosemary and geranium.

Then of course there is the simple pot with flowers…make sure to add something taller in the back and something that spills over the edge.  Mine never look like this…

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Finally, here is a great how-to for hanging baskets that will help you achieve a full, lush look.

#5…Miscellaneous Outdoor Decor

There is so much you can do to add warmth and color to your outdoor space…it isn’t much different from decorating a room inside…you add outdoor rugs, decorative pillows, curtains, wall art, clocks, lanterns and wreaths…be creative.  Make it feel like a room that just happens to be outdoors…

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So…there you have it.  I think you have some work to do…better get going, summer will be here before you know it.  3049898_orig

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8 Popular Countertop Materials, the Pros and the Cons

what-do-i-choose-too-many-options.jpgA few weeks ago I posted a two-part series called “8 Tips on Choosing Kitchen Countertops” (see here for Part 1 and Part 2).  Those posts walked through what to do before you look at materials, things to consider when selecting a material and what to do when you have found a material that you like.  Now I want to talk about some of your actual material choices.

When thinking about countertop materials the obvious choices are granite and quartz.  But when you really start digging into it there are an almost endless number of options.  Making a choice comes down to the three (or maybe it is 4) “P’s”…Personal Preference, Price and Properties…what do you like, what can you afford, and how are you going to use your kitchen (which will dictate the properties you are looking for in your countertop).  Today I will discuss 8 of the keep-calm-and-love-number-8-7countertop options that are the most common…ones most people have seen or at least heard of.  This post is not meant to be a recommendation of any one material…it really depends on you and the 3(4?) P’s.   When I was looking for my countertops I considered granite, quartz, marble, soapstone, wood, concrete and quartzite, all of which are discussed today.  In a post next week I will cover an additional 8 materials that are less common but certainly worth consideration (don’t you love how everything about these posts is “8”?).

Before we get started, please note that I have tried to provide ballpark cost per square foot for the materials…understand these are rough estimates…costs can vary by region due to availability and labor costs, and there’s almost always an option that is more expensive than the range given.  So, let’s get started…

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Granite    $35 a square foot and up

Everyone is familiar with granite and it is getting to the point where people almost expect it, even in a lower price-point kitchen (if you watch House Hunters you will see people reject kitchens out-of-hand if they don’t have granite countertops and stainless steel appliances, even for starter homes).  Growing up no one had granite countertops…we all had formica (which believe it or not is still around).  And we all turned out okay.  :)  Granite has proliferated in the last 15 years to where it is now almost the defacto choice.  And there is nothing wrong with that…granite has many wonderful properties.  For one, there is a granite for almost any budget.  The very uniform (dare I say “generic”) granites can be had at around $35 a square foot installed and it can go up (and up and up) from there (the granite pictured above is one of my favorites, called Costa Esmeralda…it is a higher price-point granite).  Granite also comes in an endless array of colors and patterns, and can be done in a honed (matte) finish or a leathered (textured) finish for a more unique look.  Granite is very durable, is heat-reistant and low maintenance.  The negatives are that it is everywhere…your granite may look like your neighbors.  There are also some negative environmental aspects of granite, both from the quarrying process and the impacts from shipping these large slabs of stone all over the world (much of the granite comes from Brazil and India).

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Marble   $70 – $100 a square foot (or more)

Marble is becoming the new granite…it is showing up in kitchens everywhere.  With the current trend towards white kitchens and gray paint tones, marble works well design-wise.  I think marble is absolutely gorgeous.  But marble comes at a price…and I don’t just mean dollars and cents (it can actually be less expensive than many other countertop materials).  While marble is touted as being great for rolling out doughs and working with pastry (um, how often do you do that?), it is also highly susceptible to scratching, etching and staining and will develop a “patina” that may look worn (which some people like).  Like granite, it is generally considered to be heat-resistant and easy maintenance (outside of constantly having to worry about staining, etc).  When I was looking at the granite warehouse I wandered into the marble section…it is easy to be swayed by it’s beauty and relatively reasonable price point…but I knew I didn’t want to be worried about the staining and scratching…it is a trade-off, one that obviously many people are willing to make.

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Soapstone   $80 – $100 a square foot

Soapstone has been around for years…I have read about old soapstone sinks being found and repurposed.  This is another stone that I considered when looking for a countertop material…while it is more limited in color and design (from deep green black to black to gray), some of the stone has very interesting veining and can be quite beautiful.  Soapstone is heat resistant and nonporous (and therefore resists staining).  The main reason I decided against it is that similar to marble, it is subject to scratching, chips & dents.  Soapstone is part talc, hence this susceptibility.  Friends who have soapstone said it can look worn after a time…some people may not mind this, or may actually like this…just be aware.  Soapstone also requires regular oiling (monthly).  Soapstone is generally a matte (non-shiny finish).

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Quartzite   $150 a square foot and up

Quartzite is a natural stone, not to be confused with quartz, which generally refers to the manmade material (discussed below).  Quartzite has become very popular of late because one of its variations looks a lot like marble (often referred to as “Super White” or “Fantastic White” as in the photo above).  This is the material I ended up with (as I loved the look of marble but didn’t want the headaches).  My personal experience was that while it is available, if you see a slab you like, tag it…it doesn’t last long in the warehouse.  Also be aware that there is a lot of variation in the slabs…some have a lot more white and less gray (which can actually drive up the price point) and some have more “filler,” which if not done well, can look yellow (quartzite has natural gaps that are filled before being used as a countertop material).  Quartzite is very hard (harder than granite), is heat resistant and low maintenance.  However,  like marble, quartzite is subject to etching from acidic foods…etching is where the acid actually eats away at the surface…this can leave a mark and/or noticeable dull spot in the countertop (essentially etching away the shiny surface).   You need to be conscious of things like citrus and tomato juices sitting on the countertop for too long a period of time.  I have had my countertops for 6 months and haven’t noticed any issues, but I also do most of my prep work on my island which is wood.

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Wood   $35 – $200 per square foot

Wood countertops have a warm look to them and come in a variety of options…maple is generally priced at the lower end, walnut and cherry will be more, and some exotic woods will be even more than that.  Many people think of butcher block when they think of wood, but wood countertops have come a long way from butcher block.  While warm in look with relatively inexpensive price points available, wood is not heat resistant and is subject to scratches, swelling and darkening if not properly maintained.  Wood, like soapstone, requires more regular maintenance with frequent oiling recommended to maintain the surface.  Wood allows for some creative variations, like using reclaimed/distressed wood or allowing the countertop to take the natural shape of the wood.  Wood can also be a nice complement to another stone, for example on an island or bar top (which is what I have done).

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Concrete   $70 – $150 per square foot

The use of concrete, both in countertops and in flooring, seems to be growing.  Concrete in countertops can be a relatively reasonable option as far as price point, and it can be so much more than gray…in fact it can be made in virtually any color by adding pigments, stains and dyes…although gray still seems to be the most common.  Concrete can also be fashioned into almost any shape by virtue of the forms used.  Concrete’s disadvantages are that it is porous and therefore subject to staining.  It is also subject to cracking.  However polymers are now being added to some concrete products to help resist cracking and some manufacturers are claiming that their sealers make concrete virtually non-staining.  And while concrete countertops can be heavy, again, new technologies are coming up with lighter weight materials.  The popularity of concrete is relatively new, so if this material appeals to you I would ask a lot of questions of the installer.

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Engineered Quartz   $100 – $185 per square foot

Engineered Quartz or engineered stone, commonly referred to as just “quartz” is a manmade product made from crushed quartz and a resin that binds the material together.  It comes in a variety of colors and patterns.  In general it has a more uniform look to it, but manufacturers (such as Caesarstone and Silestone) continue to play around with patterns that mimic real stone…some of the most popular are ones that mimic marble.  Like natural stone, engineered quartz is made in slabs and will require seams if your countertops are longer than the slab size.  Because the material is more uniform the matching at a seam, however, is much easier.  Quartz is basically maintenance free and non-porous, another advantage.  While “heat-tolerable” these countertops are not “heat-resistant” and hot pans should not be placed directly on a quartz countertop.

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Solid Surface   $75 – $125

Commonly referred to Corian (although that is just one of the manufacturers), this manmade material was all the rage before everyone wanted granite.  You will still find it in kitchens and bathrooms, and it has it’s advantages. Like engineered quartz, it can be found in a myriad of colors and patterns (many mimicking natural stone) and has a uniform look.  Unlike quartz, corian is seamless (you will often see an integrated seamless sink in a bathroom installation).  It is non-porous (i.e. won’t stain) and is very durable.  It is, however, subject to scratching and is not heat-resistant.

So there you have it, 8 options to consider.  Next week I will discuss stainless steel, glass,  recycled paper (really), recycled glass, sodalite, limestone, lava stone (get out your checkbook!) and zinc as countertop options.  See you then1

 

 

 

 

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