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3 Kitchens With Hardworking Storage Walls

Article by: Mitchell Parker

Storage is on everyone’s mind when creating a kitchen. But when smartly planned, storage can do a lot more than store your dishes, cookware and food. A multipurpose storage wall can free up room for an airier design that allows for a large island with plenty of work and eating space. These three kitchens show how it’s done.

1. Rustic and Roomy

Designers: Jean Rehkamp Larson and Amanda Kay of Rehkamp Larson Architects
Location: Deerwood, Minnesota
Size: 325 square feet (30.2 square meters)
Year built: 2015

Homeowners’ request: A generous kitchen with room for multiple generations to cook and socialize when they’re not out on the lake, where they take out their boat, swim, read books and have campfires in the evening. “This family wanted the space to feel hearty and laid-back with a nod to vintage log cabins, but still be light-filled and elegant,” architect Jean Rehkamp Larson says. 

Special feature: The integrated wall of storage, seen here on the left, includes a pantry, wall ovens and a range. “In a kitchen with lots of windows and few upper cabinets, a walk-in pantry answers the storage question,” Rehkamp Larson says. “We chose to make the pantry door and range hood disappear in order to let the symmetrical composition of windows, sinks and cabinetry be the focus and draw us into the space.”

Designer secret: Keeping the palette of colors simple. “This allows us to experience the whole space as an elegant, unified composition and leaves visual space to add elements such as unique light fixtures, glass cabinet doors, custom stainless steel-wrapped legs and an open metal dish rack,” Rehkamp Larson says. “Also, consider using small surface-mount light fixtures instead of recessed cans — it animates the ceiling.”

Splurges and savings: “Plumbing fixtures were kept simple,” Rehkamp Larson says. “We splurged on hiring an artisan to create and apply a custom finish for the wood walls and ceiling. It is, satisfyingly, both rustic and refined.”

The nitty-gritty: Floor tile: Medina pewter hexagon, Exquisite Surfaces; walls and ceilings: pine boards with resawn texture and custom white finish; ceiling trim: log with custom stain finish; cabinetry: custom; cabinet paint: Strong White, Farrow & Ball; countertop: Olympian White Danby marble with honed finish; island cabinetry: custom plain-sawn white oak with custom finish; island countertop: Lagos Blue limestone with honed finish; cabinet hardware: Ashley Norton with white bronze finish; sink: Shaw’s Original, Rohl; sink faucet: Tara in platinum matte finish, Dornbracht; lighting: Punch flush-mounts in polished nickel with bronze accents, The Urban Electric Co.; pendant: Double Prismatic Industrial, Urban Archaeology; rug: Aubry Angelo, Minneapolis (to the trade only); counter stools: custom-made locally

Team: Nor-Son (contractor); Alecia Stevens (interior designer); Bunkers & Associates (structural engineer); Frost Cabinets Furniture & Design (custom cabinetry); Otto Painting Design (custom wall and ceiling finishes); Bo Jacobsson (custom metalwork); Scott Amundson Photography

2. Contemporary and Comfortable

Designers: Pam Chandler and Patrick Ousey of FAB Architecture
Location: Austin, Texas
Size: 480 square feet (44.6 square meters), 20 by 24 feet (6 by 7.3 meters)
Year built: 2014

Homeowners’ request: Turn four 30th-floor penthouse units into one single unit with a centralized kitchen. 

Special features: A custom burnished brass shelving unit helps conceal a TV while providing display space. White oak wall cabinets hold a full-size refrigerator and freezer on one side of the work islands, and ovens, a microwave and a coffeemaker on the other. Both sides feature pullout pantries and central workspaces concealed by retractable doors. 

Why the design works: The burnished-brass shelving unit brings an opportunity for decor in an otherwise utilitarian space, while the quarter-sawn white oak walls give an ease and warmth to the space. Seating on the back sides of both islands creates a hub for gathering. 

Who uses it: Active empty nesters who split their time between Texas and Wisconsin.


“Uh-oh” moment: Architects Pam Chandler and Patrick Ousey had to transform four penthouse units into one single unit. But the building’s mechanical systems were existing, and the plumbing locations had to be reused to not disturb the condo owners below. The kitchen is where two adjacent master bathrooms were once located. “It was like a huge puzzle,” Ousey says. “At every turn we were faced with an existing condition that needed to be addressed, either deciding to reuse, cap off or relocate as needed.”

The nitty-gritty: Countertops: 3-centimeter Taj Mahal quartzite with polished finish, Architectural Tile and Stone; Venetian plaster: Sloan Montgomery Finishes; wall cabinetry: custom, white oak; island cabinets: gunmetal-gray aluminum, Bulthaup

Team: Fern Santini (interior designer); David and Kathy Escobedo of Escobedo Construction (builders); Nick Johnson Interiors (photographer)

3. Modern and Multifunctional

Designer: Donald Billinkoff of Billinkoff Architecture
Location: Amenia, New York
Size: 300 square feet (about 28 square meters); 20 feet by 14 feet, 8 inches (6 by 4.4 meters)
Year built: 2015

Homeowners’ request: The kitchen was part of a complete reconstruction of the existing 1980s house. The original layout consisted of small discrete rooms that the homeowners wanted to open up to one another and the surrounding landscape. 

Special feature: Built-in refrigerators and wine coolers in custom wood-veneer cabinetry, plus a separate wall of cabinets and glass-front case for dishes. 

Plan of attack: Moving the original laundry room to another part of the house allowed architect Donald Billinkoff to open up the kitchen to make room for a large island with an interlocking custom walnut breakfast table. New windows increased natural light. ray porcelain tile floors connect all the spaces throughout the house. 

Who uses it:  semiretired New York City couple, who use the house on weekends and throughout the summer. 

“Uh-oh” moment: “The ‘uh-oh’ moment was probably at the point the homeowners determined that tearing the house down and building new would likely cost the same or less than renovating,” Billinkoff says. “In the end however, the owners decided that given their long history with the house, they would experience greater satisfaction giving the house new life.”

Nitty-gritty: Appliances: Thermador; flooring: porcelain tile, Uneik; countertops: Chroma quartz; cabinets: wood veneer, Tabu; faucets: Hansgrohe; sinks: Lavello; seating: Poltrona Frau; paint: White Heron, Benjamin Moore

Team: Judith Melinger Design (interior designer); Chris Colomello of Ducillo Construction (general construction); Edi Silva of Silva Woodworking (cabinetmaker); Jason Buchta of Metalcraft (metalwork) 

The Case for Hidden Storage

Article by: Laura Gaskill

It’s easy to fall in love with beautifully styled open shelves, and to feel swayed by the convenience of keeping frequently used items sitting on the kitchen counter, bathroom sink and desk — but are these methods of storing your belongings really helpful? While there’s certainly nothing wrong with keeping things out in the open, I’ve recently been discovering that making fuller use of hidden storage makes for a cleaner, neater, more peaceful and easier-to-maintain space. Read on and see if you become convinced to give the surfaces in your home a clean sweep.

Gain more useful, usable space. It seems innocent enough at first with a simple canister of wooden spoons beside the stove, a knife rack, an attractive cutting board — after all, isn’t it nice to have things within reach? But when the coffeepot, teakettle, mixer, blender, toaster and dish drying rack are all vying for space, it can be hard to carve out enough room to prepare much more than a bowl of cereal. Imagine how luxurious it would feel to start dinner prep with the counters wide open and clear.

Keep items dust free. Open shelves (when carefully maintained) can be gorgeous, but they also collect dust, and in the kitchen, this is made worse by the addition of cooking oil spattering from the stovetop. If you have open shelving that you don’t plan to change, try keeping a small number of everyday dishes on the shelves, and protect the rest of your kitchen items behind closed doors.

Have less to hide when company is on the way. I recently discovered that by simply cleaning out the medicine cabinet and adjusting the shelving so it could fit some taller items inside, I can easily contain all of the toiletries and toothbrushes behind closed doors instead of on the sink. With only a pretty container of soap and vase of flowers at the sink, a quick swipe with a cloth is often all that needs to be done to get the bathroom party-ready.

Make cleaning quicker and easier. With countertops and surfaces clear, dusting and cleaning take far less time and effort than when those same surfaces are filled with items that need to be cleared off, then returned. Floors free of clutter are ready for a quick sweep or vacuuming, and you’re more likely to get into every corner when nothing is blocking the way.

Make it simpler to avoid accumulating more clutter. When piling stuff on any available surface is the storage method, there is almost no limit to the amount of stuff you can add to the teetering towers of laundry, books and papers. But when putting away is the rule, and you’ve gotten into the habit of keeping surfaces clean and clear, it’s actually easier to maintain a clutter-free home.

Find a place for everything and put everything in its place. If you come home and toss things onto the kitchen table or pile up to-dos on your desk, the clusters of items quickly run into one another, making it harder to find what you need when you need it. By dedicating a certain drawer (or section of a drawer) to each thing you own, you’ll know exactly where to get it and where to put it back when you’re done.

Tame the chaos. You know those perfectly styled photos of busy family mudrooms with cute little backpacks on hooks and rain boots lined up by the door? The reality is often much less attractive. Think muck-covered soccer cleats tossed unceremoniously in the middle of the hall, bags with their contents spilling out and hooks overflowing with all manner of rain gear and sweatshirts. Hide all of this behind neat closet and cupboard doors, and you can at least gain a visual rest from the mess.

Enjoy a more peaceful feeling at home. Even if you choose to clear off only one area in your home — your bedside table, kitchen counter, desk or bathroom sink — the head-clearing, peaceful effect might surprise you. Waking up and coming home each day to a perfectly cleared area is calming and pleasant, and makes everyday tasks and routines easier to handle.

Be Prepared With A Household Inventory

You may have heard of, or even created, a home inventory before. This record, often used to document belongings for insurance purposes, can also be a really helpful tool if you are trying to declutter, prepare for emergencies, clear space for a remodel or just get organized. Check out these tips to create a thorough home inventory and streamline your belongings at the same time.

Make Your Inventory | Choose Your Checklist

The first step in making a home inventory is getting your hands on a comprehensive checklist – one from your own insurance company is best. Review the checklist before getting started.


home_inventory_checklist.jpg

Photo: via Insurance U

Work Through Your Home, Room by Room 

Following your checklist, work your way slowly through the entire house – you may wan to divvy up the task over several weekends. Record a brief description of each item, how many you have, how much it cost and the year you purchased it. 

Don’t leave out any nooks or crannies. Craft rooms, sheds, attics, workshops, porches and garages should all be carefully examined and documented.

Supplement With Photos or Video

Using digital photos is one option, but you may find it easier to create a video tour of your home to document your belongings. Whether you are taking photos or video, start at the front and work your way through each room – try to go in the same order used on your checklist.


Simple_house_floor_plan.gif

Photo: via Wikipedia Commons

Add a Storage Map

Noting down where exactly in the house everything is stored can be incredibly useful when you need to find something, whether it’s an emergency or just time to hang the Christmas lights. 

Use an actual floor plan if you have one; if not, you can create your own simple sketch of each floor of your house. Being as specific as possible, note where in each room boxes or other items are stored. 

Keep Paperwork in One Place

Gather receipts, credit card statements, appraisal documents and the like, and keep them bundled with your other home inventory materials.

Even better, take the time to scan everything and store the digital archive in at least two places.

Use Your Home Inventory to Declutter | Get Rid of Unnecessary Multiples

Cutting back on excess multiples can free up a lot of space in your home, but actually getting rid of unneeded things is easier said than done. Your home inventory checklist can make things easier by providing emotional distance.

Read over your list and mark any items you have a lot of. Do you really need all of those extra dishes? Start a list of things you want to sell or donate. 

Highlight Valuable Items

Especially note valuable pieces you’ve been holding onto for a long time but are not necessarily using. Do online research and estimate what you could sell the pieces for. Would you rather have the extra space and money? If so, let those pieces go!

Mark Your Calendar for a Big-Junk Toss

You know that stuff you’ve been meaning to toss but haven’t found the motivation to? We all have it. Now that your know exactly what and where yours is, set a date to (finally) take care of it.

Get prepared by researching where you can take it – things in good condition may be candidates for donation, while others may need to be dropped at a special recycling center. Involving a reward at the end of your day of errands is always a good plan!

Box Everything

Now that you’ve cleared out space in your storage areas, think about ways to make your storage really work for you. One simple but effective strategy is to tuck every single item in storage – whether in closets, cupboards or in deep storage – into a box or bin.

Containers instantly make things look neater, and it’s also easier to shift items around or grab a box you need rather than trying to unload armfuls of loose stuff from a shelf. 

Use Storage for Rotating Items Too

Free up space in cupboards, closets, shelves and counters for the items you actually use daily, and pack away the rest. This is one of the best ways to make your life easier, without getting rid of a drastic amount of stuff. Simply rotate in fresh dishes, linens and decorative items seasonally.

Consider Digital Backups

Creating digital backups (photos or scans) of important paper records, photos, kids’ art and other memorabilia can offer peace of mind. For less sentimental items, you may choose to actually toss the originals and keep only the digital record. 

Remember to Also…

  • Update your inventory anytime you buy something new or get rid of something on your list, pull out that inventory and note the change. If it’s something new you are adding , use this as a cue to look for a similar item on your inventory to get rid of. It’s much easier to keep clutter at bay than deal with it after things have gotten out of hand.

  • Keep a copy of your inventory offsite. Use a safe-deposit box or an online cloud-based storage system to keep your home inventory and all supporting documents secure.

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(You are reading an article originally posted on

Houzz

)

Be Prepared With A Household Inventory – and Use It To Declutter Too

You may have heard of, or even created, a home inventory before. This record, often used to document belongings for insurance purposes, can also be a really helpful tool if you are trying to declutter, prepare for emergencies, clear space for a remodel or just get organized. Check out these tips to create a thorough home inventory and streamline your belongings at the same time.

Make Your Inventory | Choose Your Checklist

The first step in making a home inventory is getting your hands on a comprehensive checklist – one from your own insurance company is best. Review the checklist before getting started.

Photo: via Insurance U

Work Through Your Home, Room by Room 

Following your checklist, work your way slowly through the entire house – you may wan to divvy up the task over several weekends. Record a brief description of each item, how many you have, how much it cost and the year you purchased it. 

Don’t leave out any nooks or crannies. Craft rooms, sheds, attics, workshops, porches and garages should all be carefully examined and documented.

Supplement With Photos or Video

Using digital photos is one option, but you may find it easier to create a video tour of your home to document your belongings. Whether you are taking photos or video, start at the front and work your way through each room – try to go in the same order used on your checklist.

Photo: via Wikipedia Commons

Add a Storage Map

Noting down where exactly in the house everything is stored can be incredibly useful when you need to find something, whether it’s an emergency or just time to hang the Christmas lights. 

Use an actual floor plan if you have one; if not, you can create your own simple sketch of each floor of your house. Being as specific as possible, note where in each room boxes or other items are stored. 

Keep Paperwork in One Place

Gather receipts, credit card statements, appraisal documents and the like, and keep them bundled with your other home inventory materials.

Even better, take the time to scan everything and store the digital archive in at least two places.

Use Your Home Inventory to Declutter | Get Rid of Unnecessary Multiples

Cutting back on excess multiples can free up a lot of space in your home, but actually getting rid of unneeded things is easier said than done. Your home inventory checklist can make things easier by providing emotional distance.

Read over your list and mark any items you have a lot of. Do you really need all of those extra dishes? Start a list of things you want to sell or donate. 

Highlight Valuable Items

Especially note valuable pieces you’ve been holding onto for a long time but are not necessarily using. Do online research and estimate what you could sell the pieces for. Would you rather have the extra space and money? If so, let those pieces go!

Mark Your Calendar for a Big-Junk Toss

You know that stuff you’ve been meaning to toss but haven’t found the motivation to? We all have it. Now that your know exactly what and where yours is, set a date to (finally) take care of it.

Get prepared by researching where you can take it – things in good condition may be candidates for donation, while others may need to be dropped at a special recycling center. Involving a reward at the end of your day of errands is always a good plan!

Box Everything

Now that you’ve cleared out space in your storage areas, think about ways to make your storage really work for you. One simple but effective strategy is to tuck every single item in storage – whether in closets, cupboards or in deep storage – into a box or bin.

Containers instantly make things look neater, and it’s also easier to shift items around or grab a box you need rather than trying to unload armfuls of loose stuff from a shelf. 

Use Storage for Rotating Items Too

Free up space in cupboards, closets, shelves and counters for the items you actually use daily, and pack away the rest. This is one of the best ways to make your life easier, without getting rid of a drastic amount of stuff. Simply rotate in fresh dishes, linens and decorative items seasonally.

Consider Digital Backups

Creating digital backups (photos or scans) of important paper records, photos, kids’ art and other memorabilia can offer peace of mind. For less sentimental items, you may choose to actually toss the originals and keep only the digital record. 

Remember to Also…
  • Update your inventory anytime you buy something new or get rid of something on your list, pull out that inventory and note the change. If it’s something new you are adding , use this as a cue to look for a similar item on your inventory to get rid of. It’s much easier to keep clutter at bay than deal with it after things have gotten out of hand.
  • Keep a copy of your inventory offsite. Use a safe-deposit box or an online cloud-based storage system to keep your home inventory and all supporting documents secure. 

 

(You are reading an article originally posted on Houzz)

Kitchen Design: How to Avoid Standing Room Only


Standing Room Only1.jpg

Photo Credit: Dennis Jourdan Photography via Remodeling Magazine

Room for Two: Alder cabinets, honed granite countertops and a tumbled marble backsplash give this kitchen a rustic feel.

The homeowners of this 1920s house (pictured above) had been planning a kitchen remodel for a long time. They went so far as to work on a design that would enclose the porch to expand the space, then got cold feet during the market downturn, and, worrying about the return on investment for an addition, put the project on hold.

By the time designer Diane Lawson, of Diane Lawson Designs in Nashville, TN; met the couple, they had revisited the project but had opted to stay within the existing footprint. However, they presented her with a long list of desires that included: good traffic flow for two cooks, separate cooking areas, an island, increased storage, and a rustic Italian design and details that would blend with the home’s Italianate style. 

Though most homeowners today want to open up the kitchen to the rest of the house, Lawson says this couple bucked the trend, choosing to maintain the separation from the living and dining rooms.

Fitting in the long list of the client’s wants required some compromise, including a peninsula rather than an island, but Lawson viewed the project as putting a puzzle together to set all the pieces neatly in to the outline. 


Standing Room Only2.jpg

Photo Credit: Dennis Jourdan Photography via Remodeling Magazine

Window & Wall Upgrade: When the original windows were replaced with low-E units, insulation was also added to the exterior wall.

Puzzle Pieces

To help create a rustic Italian feel, the clients chose knotty alder cabinets. Lawson says that this species has increased in popularity during the last 10 years and that the wood – sometimes referred to as “poor man’s cherry” because of it’s similar grain and reddish tones – can cost 10% to 15% less than cherry.

Since not all manufacturers carry alder, Lawson opted for custom cabinetry. Going with a custom shop also had the advantage of enabling her to maximize storage and create a furniture look with cabinets that fit the age and style of the house. “[The choice] boils down to [the client’s] wish list and what they are looking to achieve,” Lawson explains. “And, of course, budget.”

The clients wanted to use the same finish throughout the kitchen – a rare choice these days, Lawson says. Currently, most of her clients are opting for a contrasting finish for the island. 

Lawson had known remodeler Michael Menn, of Michale Menn Ltd., in Chicago, for almost 20 years and brought him on to help her with the extensive remodel.  The ceiling above the sink had a soffit. Menn removed it to accommodate Lawson’s design, which took the cabinets to the ceiling to provide extra storage. 

One of Lawson’s biggest design challenges was the traffic pattern for the family’s two “heavy-duty chefs” and keeping them out of each other’s way. The original freestanding island really affected the pattern, so Lawson moved the island to abut a wall. “While you don’t have access on all four sides [of the island],” Lawson says, “it gave us more room in the busy aisle-way, which is the main entry into the kitchen and is where we needed as much space as possible” – especially when one of the cooks is standing at the island prep sink. 

The island has a small trash cabinet and a shelf for the client’s heavy stand-mixer.


Standing Room Only3.jpg

Photo Credit: Dennis Jourdan (photo) | Nicole Babcock (floorplan) via Remodeling Magazine

Into the fold: Removing the door and adding upper and lower cabinets makes this former pantry feel like part of the main kitchen.


Standing Room Only4.jpg

Photo Credit: Dennis Jourdan (photo) | Nicole Babcock (floorpan) via Remodeling Magazine

Cook Nook: The second pantry has a microwave and an oven. The existing laundry chute remains – but it has been reframed to match the cabinetry.

Separate Yet Cohesive

The existing 360-square-foot kitchen included two under-utilized pantries. Lawson thought the 18-square-foot closet next to the stove alcove would work better as a butler’s pantry, so Menn removed the door to make it part of the kitchen and replaced the wire-rack shelves with cabinets that match those in the main kitchen. The L-shaped run of cabinets has upper and lower cabinets and a countertop. An undercounter wine refrigerator is the only appliance. 

The other 24-square-foot closet is closer to the dining room. Lawson considered removing the walls to incorporate it into the dining space, but there were two obstacles to doing that: a laundry chute in the closet and a two-story chimney that runs adjacent to that pantry. “We were bound,” Menn says, but the team also thought that retaining the quaint “little pockets” of space matched the style of the 90-year-old home. As they had done with the other closet, the crew removed the door. The existing closet had some shelves, an outlet, and a hanging bulb. The new space contains an oven, counter space, and upper shelves with a microwave. The wife likes to bake, and this area gives her a space to work in while her husband prepares food in the main kitchen area.


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Photo Credit: Dennis Jourdan Photography via Remodeling Magazine

Brick or Treat

The original cooking alcove was outlined with faux brick. The clients liked the idea of a brick alcove and felt that it fit well with the new design’s rustic feel. And, Lawson says, the material ties in with the brick porch outside the kitchen.

Menn and Lawson thought the alcove could be enhanced to make more of a statement, so Menn’s team created a taller, softer arch at the top of the opening and installed real brick – cut ¾-inch thick – on the entire wall, as well as on the wall adjacent to the butler’s pantry.

The alcove also has contermporary features, including a sleek stainless steel hood, a Wolf cooktop, and a stainless steel storage drawer custom-made by the cabinet shop. The hood is actually made for an above-island installation that the clients had considered for the addition version of the project. They liked the shape, so Menn installed it here. He made custom ductwork to meet local code and vented the hood through an exterior wall. Narrow base pull-out cabinets flank the stove and hold spices. 

(You’re reading Standing Room Only originally posted on Remodeling)

Five Features That Today’s Homebuyers Want Most

Homebuyers have become more practical since the housing market crisis – they don’t want cavernous entryways but they do want plenty of storage space. They want to be close to their jobs and integrated into their communities. And they want to keep their energy costs low. In today’s market, McMansion in the exburbs may be a tough sell. Price is still primary, but if you’re thinking of buying or selling a home, you should learn how buyers’ preferences have changed since the last time you were in the market. Here are the five features today’s homebuyers want most. 


Model_Timber_Home.jpg

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

#1 Proximity to Work

During the last housing boom, people were willing to move deeper and deeper into suburban sprawl to find a home they could afford. That trend is reversing, especially among the first-time homebuyers. “At 30%, proximity to work was the most frequently cited reason for choosing a specific neighborhood,” said Dave Crowe, chief economist with the National Association of Home Builders. As you house hunt, pay attention to commute times. The Housing + Transportation Affordability Tool helps you measure a home’s true cost based on its location.

#2 Energy Efficiency

One of the hallmarks of McMansions from the boom era is the double-height entryway. But it’s going away, in part because people realize how expensive the corresponding double-height foyer is to heat and cool. That’s indicative of the demand for energy-efficient homes. Nine out of 10 buyers in the 2011 American Housing Survey said they’d rather purchase a home with energy-efficient features that lower utility bills than a home without such features that costs two to three percent less. And in the NAHB’s Home Trends & Buyer Preferences survey, Energy Star appliances were the most desired feature, picked by 94% of respondents. 

#3 Lots and Lots of Storage

Forget the whirlpool tub and six-burner stove. A linen closet, walk-in pantry, and other helpful organizers are the new selling points. This change reflects the more realistic mindset of today’s homebuyers. These savvy house hunters are thinking honestly about how they really live, day in and day out, rather than falling for some fantasy version f what life might be. In that scenario, having somewhere to stow towels, sheets, and bulk items from the warehouse club is high on their wish list. 

#4 Quality of Space, Not Quantity

Smart homebuyers understand that a well-designed 2,000-square-foot home will live larger than a poorly planned one with 3,000 square feet or more. Look for open, yet defined floor plans that foster a connection between rooms while still providing privacy as needed. If you have kids, you don’t want to have to go outside or into the garage to have a private conversation. Rooms should be easy to furnish as well. For example, in the master bedroom there should be one wall that’s big enough to anchor a king-size bed, preferably away from the door to the bathroom.

#5 Connection Outdoors and to the Community Beyond

A front porch is another feature desired most by today’s homebuyer. That tells you a couple things. First, it says people want to spend time outdoors. But they also want to engage with neighbors and the community at large by hanging out in the front of their house. Backyard patios and decks are also desirable for private meals and parties. But the increased interest in front porches is significant. A block filled with homes with active front porches is going to feel very different from one where all you see driving down the street is a line of garage doors. 

(You are reading an article originally posted on Consumer Reports.org)

10 Smart Organizing Ideas That Make Life Easier

Go beyond mere neatness by making small changes around the house that will help you out each day. When your home is primed to efficiently support common activities and tasks – from dealing with mail, bills, and memorabilia, to gifting, cleaning and more – it’s as if a little weight is lifted from your shoulders.


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Photo: Stagetecture 

Read on for ten easy (yet ingenious) organizing ideas to try today.

#1 Buy enough storage containers to fill your shelves or cabinet – even if you don’t need them all now

Having storage boxes and bins waiting for you will help avoid future clutter pileups. This is especially useful for storage of items you know you’ll be accumulating: photos, kid’s artwork, and financial records, for instance.

If you have children, consider purchasing slim plastic containers with lids that fit under a bed, and/or paper art portfolios. Limit yourself to filling one container per school year, but supplement with digital photos of large or 3D artwork that would be impractical to save.

#2 Store medicines in a labeled box in the kitchen

The medicine cabinet is actually one of the worst places to store medications. The warm, damp conditions can damage sensitive ingredients, and the bottles and tubes tend to clutter up what should ideally be a spot for getting ready in the morning.

Instead, transfer your medicines and first-aid supplies to labeled storage boxes with lids and keep them on a high shelf in the kitchen or pantry. Sort them in a way that makes sense, and label accordingly. For example: kids, first aid, cold & flu.

#3 Be prepared for birthdays and last-minute events with a grab-and-go party prep spot

Keep a yearly birthday calendar taped to the inside of the door, a basket filled with easy gifts bought in bulk (and an assortment of cards), as well as a few favorite party drinks, snacks and serving dishes.

Extra credit: choose a “signature” gift wrap and ribbon for your house and wrap all your gifts with it, no matter the occasion. People will begin to expect it, and it will certainly save you the hassle of buying themed gift wrap for every holiday and occasion. 

#4 Make a moveable baking station

Unless you bake constantly (or have a massive kitchen), it’s likely you, too, struggle with where to keep all of those specialty baking supplies. Instead of scattering them throughout the kitchen, keep baking supplies (including equipment like mixers) on a moveable cart in the pantry. Simply wheel the whole thing out when you’re ready to bake, and tuck it out of sight when you’re done.

#5 Store extra liners in the bottom of the trash can

The next time you take out the trash, put a big stack of liners at the bottom of the can. Do this for every trash can in the house, and you will never find yourself in that awful “who forgot to put in the new bag!?” situation again. Bonus: putting a dryer sheet under the pile will help absorb odors and moisture.

#6 Keep a “donations” box in your entryway

Any time you see something around the house you no longer need or want, plunk it in your donations box. When it’s full, carry it out to your car, so it will be easy to drop the contents at your local charity thrift shop the next time you run errands.

#7 Keep everything you need to pay bills under your coffee table

Stock a pretty basket or lidded box with checks, envelopes, stamps, pens, and current bills. When you sit down to watch TV, just grab the basket and write checks during the commercial breaks.

#8 Keep a second set of basic cleaning supplies in the bathroom

It is so much easier to tackle an undesirable chore like cleaning the bathroom when the supplies you need are at hand. So why do most of us keep cleaning supplies only under the kitchen sink? Store a second set of bathroom-specific products and tools in the cabinet under the bathroom sink, or in a lidded basket on a shelf or the floor.

#9 Presort your incoming mail rather than putting it all in one big tray or pile

Magazines, catalogs and other things you’d like to peruse get stashed in a magazine file; bills to pay go in you bill basket; personal correspondence goes in a toast rack or on a pretty tray; notices for upcoming events and items to file can go in another magazine file or a folder.

#10 Use photos as labels

Try snapping a pic of the contents of a box before storing it in the garage or basement, then use that photo to label  the outside. A quick glance at the photo and you’ll instantly know what’s inside.

Reclaim Your Car’s Home

The Garage Ranks as one of the most disorganized rooms in the house, according to several highly rated professional organizers across the country. Worthless junk often crowds out the family car. “They’re one of the most neglected areas and can get out of hand quickly,” says Alexis Rubin, owner of A-rated Funktional Home professional organization service in Littleton, CO. 

She estimates garages make up one quarter of her business, and she charges an average of $500 to $800 to clean and organize them. “Considering that cars are often a family’s second most expensive investment, professional help in desiging a garage that can maximize and maintain its function is a good use of money,” Rubin says. “Beyond that, a well-designed garage can expand storage for a wide variety of household items.”

Professional organizers help homeowners sort, purge, categorize and put items back in a way that makes the most sense to the individual. They will often discard unwanted items, either by donating them to a charity or consignment shop or posting items for sale online. 

Some organizers sell storage products and install them, while others handle the decluttering and bring in help to install cabinets and perform other tasks. “I consider myself project manager of other community experts, such as handymen or women who can assist with hanging,” says Melanie Raelin, owner of A-rated Wits End Organizing in Somerville, MA. “I personally set up donation pickups and yard or estate sales to help the person offset the cost.”


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Photo: Your Great Garage

Highly rated Your Great Garage in St. Petersburg, FL., sells and installs garage-specific solutions. Owner Tony Braswell says costs start at $99 for simple shelving and go up to $5,000 for multiple solutions in a large garage, such as overhead rack systems, epoxy floors and custom workspaces. 

Angie’s List member Carol Pressman of New Port Richey, FL., hired Baswell in July to clear out junk, organize her hobby paraphernalia and corral her grandchildren’s toys. The job, which took just over two days and cost $2,800, included an epoxy floor coating, overhead racks, wall storage and a customized gardening workbench. “It will make everything I do much more pleasant,” she says. “And they took away everything I didn’t want – that was a huge selling feature.”

Rubin and other organizers stress the importance of developing a system that’s easy to maintain. “Clearing out a space and making it look nice is just the beginning,” she says. “Organization is about maintenance. We can help change habits and build structures that work for you.”

Angie’s List member Cathy Flanders of Littleton, CO recently hired Funktional Home for the third time. After tackling the home office and kid’s playroom, Flanders wanted to maximize storage space for toys and bicycles and add a mudroom area in her garage. For less than $500, Rubin cleared out unwanted items and added shelving, hooks and bins to store outside toys, garden tools and other supplies. “It doesn’t just look pretty – she put in new systems that are easy to keep up,” Flanders says. “Our garage was a disaster,” Flanders says. “We could only maybe fit one care, if everyone held their breath. Now, we have a workable garage that should last.”

Flanders says her favorite part is a brightly painted accent all that Rubin suggested. “It feels like a finished space that’s an extension of the house,” Flanders says. “It makes me smile”.