What will the kitchens of the future look like?

You may be familiar with the term "the internet of things," which refers to everyday objects connecting with each other and your smartphone. This concept and other advanced technologies are moving into the kitchen. Here's what the future looks like for food storage, prep and cooking.

Interconnected Appliances
Expect to see sensors in refrigerators that connect with your smartphone to let you know when your food is about to expire. You'll also be notified when you're running low on milk, eggs or other essentials. Ultraviolet light in your fridge will sterilize food and keep it from spoiling, and ovens will alert you when you're about to burn the cookies. Some manufacturers are also working to synchronize ovens with microwaves so main dishes and sides are perfectly cooked and ready at the same time.

High-Tech Tools and Surfaces
You can currently buy pans that monitor the temperature of the food you're cooking, and induction cooktops that only heat the pan and not the rest of the burner are in the works. Cooking surfaces, counters and sinks will soon adjust in height to accommodate individual users, which is particularly useful for children and those with disabilities. Data from fitness-tracking devices will be used by integrated systems to give meal recommendations, such as what to eat after an intense workout.

The kitchens of tomorrow will hopefully help eliminate waste, save us money, simplify cooking and make our lives easier. And don't be surprised if you start hearing about 3-D food printing in the near future. It's already here.

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How Much Does it Cost to Remodel a Kitchen?


The kitchen serves as the heart and hearth of your home. It's where you prepare your meals and it's where all of your parties gather. Is it any wonder that kitchen remodels are so popular and have the largest payoff in terms of boosting a home's resale value? Of course, kitchen remodels are also the most complicated and can be the most expensive. The average project cost varies depending on the size of your kitchen, the quality of materials, and whether you change the layout of the room. On average, homeowners report that a kitchen remodel costs $20,556. A smaller project between $10,000 and $15,000 may include painting walls, refacing cabinets, upgrading the sink, and installing a tile backsplash. A $30,000+ renovation may include installing custom cabinets, hardwood floors, granite counters, and high-end appliances. Most homeowners spend between $12,759 and $31,733.

The Lowdown on LEDs

The Lowdown on LEDs

These ultra-efficient bulbs are the future of lighting, but they aren't without challenges. Here's what you need to know.

By Kate Tyndall

Philip Wegener PhotographyThis kitchen designed by Doug Walter uses five LED lighting circuits, all on dimmers: undercabinet lighting, recessed cans, the uplit cove, track head task lighting, and decorative pendants.

Few components of a house have changed quite as dramatically in the last 30 years as the lighting that illuminates its rooms. It’s been quite a jump from the familiar pear-shaped Edison bulb, with its tungsten filament and homey yellow light, to the high-tech light emitting diodes of energy-efficient LED bulbs.

Homeowners can be forgiven if they’re confused and want to cling to the known, even though it is woefully energy inefficient. Remodelers, who often are installing new lighting for their customers, can be confused too by some of the performance inconsistencies of LED bulbs, which are poised to pass compact fluorescent (CFL) bulbs as the most popular energy-efficient bulb choice among consumers.

Far and away, LEDs are the way to go, but they do have a learning curve, so here’s what you need to know to ensure you use the right bulb in the right place.

The Basics

  • Energy Efficient: LEDs are 25 to 35 times more efficient than incandescent light bulbs, and four times more efficient than the spiral compact fluorescent bulbs that are so roundly disliked by consumers for their wonky looks, delayed turn on, and unreliable dimming.
  • Long-Lived: LEDs are the Methuselah of light bulbs. Though they aren’t likely to attain anywhere near the 969 years of Noah’s grandfather, at 20-plus years, they will outlast more than a few homeowners. Even the best CFLs top out at 10 years.
  • Safety: Because LEDs run significantly cooler than incandescents and CFLs, there is there is less risk of burn injuries in handling them. Human skin burns at 140 degrees, notes Centennial, Colo.-based architect Doug Walter, and incandescents can reach into the 200-plus range. CFLs run at a somewhat lower temperature, but still dangerously hot. LEDs come in at a relatively cool 120 degrees. Walter sees another safety benefit to LEDs: “Especially for seniors, every time they have to get up on a stool to replace a bulb it’s a falling hazard.” With the long lifespan of LED bulbs, most homeowners can retire their ladders.
  • No Delay: Unlike CFLs, LEDs respond immediately when the switch is flicked; there is no warm-up period as the bulb gradually lights.
  • Broad Color Spectrum: LEDs are available in colors ranging from the familiar warm yellow hue of an incandescent bulb to a brighter but still warm hue, through a variety of cooler tones all the way to daylight. When they first came on the market, their bluish-white light garnered a lot of pushback from customers who didn’t like the color, finding it too stark for comfort. Engineers have been able to address the cold light of early LEDs and create bulbs that produce light on the warmer end of the lighting spectrum, replicating the hue given off by incandescent lights.
  • Environmentally Friendly: LEDs contain no hazardous chemicals, unlike CFLs, which contain small amounts of the heavy metal mercury, a known toxin that should always be disposed of through a qualified recycler. LEDs can be tossed in the regular trash for disposal—when it eventually burns out.
  • Unaffected by Cold: LEDs perform just as happily when temperatures plummet, unlike compact fluorescents, whose light output suffers when temperatures dip below freezing.

LEDs Gaining Ground
The single biggest drawback to widespread acceptance of LEDs has long been their high price. Even five years ago, consumers might have paid $20 for a single bulb; 10 years ago, the price would have approached $40.

However, as manufacturers have ramped up production, thanks to the government’s Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, which set minimum efficiency standards for light bulbs, prices have been going down. Today, consumers can buy the equivalent of a 60-watt LED bulb by a major manufacturer for $2.50, and there are LED retrofits for recessed lighting that can be had for around $25 to $30.

There is no need to traipse to a specialty lighting store to find the right LEDs for your project. Even the big box stores have multiple shelves devoted these high efficiency bulbs.

courtesy of Doug WalterAs this in-store comparison tool demonstrates, lighting' color temperature can have a big impact on a space.

What you won’t find on those shelves is a wide variety in the color of the bulbs, which is expressed in degrees Kelvin. That homey warm light so prized by many homeowners is expressed as 2700K, while the cool daylight hue of high noon comes in at 5000K. There is often little in between these two bulb hues to choose from.

That’s unfortunate, since the bright white of a 5000K bulb may be too bright—which is often the perception for bulbs on the cooler end of the spectrum—for a particular application but the 2700K bulb way too yellow. A cool white bulb with a Kelvin temperature in the 3000 to 3500 range might be just the ticket.

This is where a remodeler’s knowledge of the product—and their ability to source the less common LED bulb types and colors—can really help guide homeowners in tailoring a lighting plan to their specific tastes and needs.

The Devil's in the Details
When bidding a job, remodelers should consider the lighting, even if it’s not on the customer’s list of must-haves. As far as Walter is concerned, adding LEDs “should be a part of every remodelers’ toolkit.” As consumers become more energy conscious, “lighting is the obvious, low-hanging fruit.” Retrofitting can lights and adding task, way finding, and pathway lights can be a nice add-on.

“New lighting is always part of the conversation for new bathroom or kitchen remodels, regardless of the project size,” says Pacific Northwest remodeler Milt Rye. “I have been recommending LED fixtures and bulbs more frequently largely due to the light spectrum that is now available. People can choose from soft white, which more or less mimics the yellowy incandescent light, up to daylight spectrum, which is more of a blue-white light. With the gloominess we deal with in Seattle, the daylight spectrum is very popular.”

Kitchens and baths in particular are a perfect target for a lighting upgrade, since both are heavy task-oriented sites. Remodeler Ben Morey of Long Beach, Calif., got on board with LEDs back when the bulbs still gave customers sticker shock.

“Five years ago we moved to LED lighting as our standard,” he says. “While back then it was more difficult to find and cost more, it changed our lighting designs as well as the energy efficacy.”

Philip Wegener PhotographyDoug Walter used LEDs in three 5-inch recessed cans and bright undercabinet lighting over the sink; due to the kitchen's dark finishes, more lighting was needed to achieve the recommended levels.

Morey uses LED recessed lighting in all kitchen and bathroom jobs, as well as under cabinet and interior cabinet lighting in kitchens. “We have also used LED strip lighting under floating vanity cabinets for a focus point in some of our bathrooms when the style allows.

“The one main hurdle is still the dimming, especially with three-way switches. Even as manufacturers like Leviton come out with lighting manufacturer lists that tell you which of their switches to use, there is still humming that occurs at lower dimmer settings.”

Bethesda, Md., spec builder and remodeler Mark Leas also uses LEDs in his projects, but has encountered problems with the consistency of the product, and says some of the LEDs he’s seen “are junk.”

The problems with dimming and light consistency are well known, says Walter, but he notes that manufacturers are getting pretty good about listing which brands are compatible with their dimmers.

The trick to maintaining consistency in lighting color is to stay with the same brand, says lighting expert Mark Lien, industry relations manager with the Illuminating Engineering Society, since a 3000K bulb from one manufacturer may have a slightly different hue than a 3000K bulb from a different manufacturer.

Walters agrees, and advises remodelers to stay away from unknown manufacturers who often cut back on quality to produce bulbs at a cheap price point.

As Leas discovered to his cost, “there’s not always consistency when much of the product is made in China.” He recently shipped back to the vendor three boxes of faulty LED lights.

Understanding VOCs and Indoor Air Quality

Understanding VOCs and Indoor Air Quality

Freshly painted walls, gleaming wood floorboards, and tightly insulated attics are on many buyers’ wish lists. But some materials, processes, and finishes can make for toxic spaces. Help your buyers and sellers keep their homes healthy.

November 2016 | By Barbara Ballinger

When the TV news show “60 Minutes” reported that Lumber Liquidators’ laminate flooring, a synthetic product produced in China, failed to meet certain health and safety standards, many home owners panicked. Were their floors also releasing into the air (off-gassing) formaldehyde, a chemical commonly used in many building products?

Afterward, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission tested levels released from some of the laminate flooring that had been sold in Lumber Liquidators’ U.S. stores. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and its Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry determined exposure to the formaldehyde tested could cause irritation and breathing problems. But formaldehyde can potentially cause greater damage; it’s listed in a President’s Cancer Panel report as a known carcinogen.

Formaldehyde is just one in a huge family of chemical compounds that are lumped under the volatile organic compound umbrella. These substances raise concerns because the gasses they release can be toxic. Furthermore, VOCs are common in paints, stains, adhesives, and glues, which means that many otherwise safe building materials may make indoor air toxic because they’re paired with them.

That’s why more home owners are beginning to ask retailers, manufacturers, and contractors what VOCs may be in the materials, products, and furnishings they bring into their homes. But they also need to understand where these products originated and how they were made, installed, and finished, since unhealthy VOCs may be incorporated at various stages.

Joe Reina of No Limits Paint in Elmhurst, Ill., is among contractors already hearing these concerns and taking action. Clients ask him more frequently whether he exclusively uses paints with no or low VOCs (he does). “It started about one-and-a-half years ago and has picked up, especially with customers who have young children and are concerned about their overall health, not just if they have asthma or allergies,” says Reina.

Though the U.S. government is taking steps to outlaw many harmful chemicals in housing products, other countries like China have not moved in this direction. Also, the Environmental Protection Agency hasn’t yet set a benchmark for what’s safe. That lack of guidance means that labels that claim products are green may be misleading, says Joel Hirschberg, president and co-owner of Iowa-based Green Building Supply store, among the first in the country to focus on selling safe, environmentally friendly products to home owners and home builders.

These are just a few of the reasons why you, as a real estate professional, need to understand the issue. Advise clients to ask questions when they buy a house and when they purchase products, materials, and systems to remodel a home they already own or are thinking about selling.

Consider Common Sources of VOCs

Make sure you’re educated on this important subject. One detailed resource you might consider is Green Building Advisor, published online by The Taunton Press with information about designing, building, and remodeling sustainable, healthy homes. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission is another good source of information.


Key categories of potential off-gassing include:

  • Insulation. In the past, some options contained asbestos or fiberglass batting with formaldehyde, though neither is permitted in new construction. Smarter choices include insulation from cotton (often blue-jean scraps), paper, soybeans, and milo (a grain). Caroline Blazovsky, author, national healthy-home expert, and founder of My Healthy Home, warns that some types like cellulose may be touted as safe but then are treated with unhealthy chemicals. In other cases, the problem stems from the installer not following a manufacturer’s guidelines.
  • Paints and stains. Many manufacturers, including well-known larger companies, are debuting low- or zero-VOC lines, such as Benjamin Moore with its Aura and Natura brands. A small but growing number of manufacturers are making paints that contain no VOCs, such as Ecos and SafeCoat. Steve Skodak, executive director of the Painting and Decorating Contractors Association, says that as more consumers pay attention to and favor these low- or no-VOC options, the market will see an uptick in these types of products manufactured and sold.
  • Flooring. The key in this category is to pay attention not just to the product, which may pass muster, but also to the adhesives and varnishes that adhere layers of solid pre-engineered boards together. One easy choice is to go with reclaimed boards that lack these attached layers. But if a finish is used to protect them, make sure it too is a healthy one, such as a natural oil, says Craig Margolies, product manager at The Hudson Co., based in Pine Plains, N.Y. The same guidelines also apply to certain cabinetry, walls, and beams, he says.
  • HVAC systems appropriately vented to the outdoors will help remove unhealthy off-gassed air from a home, says Green Building Advisor senior editor Martin Holladay, who is also a former remodeler and builder. As homes have been sealed and tightened to be more energy-efficient, ventilation has become more important. Air purifiers are an additional aid, Hirschberg says. Furnaces, hot water heaters, and appliances should be serviced annually, too. “If they don’t work correctly, they put VOCs and unhealthy gases such as carbon monoxide into the air,” Blazovsky says.
  • Furnishings may contain flame-retardant foam in cushions and pillows that off-gas. Stain repellants can also pose a risk. Again, suggest home owners check labels.
  • Pesticides and household cleaning products can be another source of unhealthy chemicals, so go with nontoxic choices. Even plug-in air fresheners can release VOCs, says Holladay.

How to Minimize the Effect of VOCs

The positive news is that VOCs generally decrease over time as they evaporate into the air, and fresh air, good ventilation, and higher temperatures can speed evaporation. Some may “hang around” for varying periods depending on the level of VOC composition, air, and temperature, which is why home owners’ “behavior can make a difference,” says Blazovsky.

How home owners can be healthful occupants

Not all indoor air quality problems can be blamed on building products and a home’s tight envelope. Home owners often are the main polluters of their own environment, says Martin Holladay, editor of Green Building Advisor, which publishes methods for making a home green and healthy. He says the two biggest changes your clients can undertake to reduce unhealthy air are to avoid smoking indoors and to cook safely. A gas range can produce formaldehyde, nitrogen dioxide, and carbon monoxide, so switching to an electric or induction range may be prudent, he says. However, no matter what kind of appliances they use, they should employ an adequately sized exhaust fan to vent unsafe air outdoors. And unless it’s someone’s birthday, Holladay suggests avoiding lighting candles indoors. “They also release small particulates into the air.”

Besides making informed product choices, Hirschberg suggests you and your clients pay attention to how a room smells. “Go with your nose,” he says. “If something smells too strong, almost like a new car, it may be unhealthy. Find out what it is.”

Weigh Healthy Alternatives on the Market

It takes work to research a product’s chemical make-up by reading labels and asking experts, but your clients will appreciate your ready knowledge and sources you can recommend. The International Future Living Institute’s “Red List” cites chemicals to watch out for. Two other useful guides include the nonprofit Environmental Working Group and Tree Hugger.

Soybean-based spray foam insulation, which doesn’t rely on synthetic chemicals and which has a high R-value, can be found through a resource such as Biobased from Rhino Linings. Then there are retailers such as Hirschberg’s aforementioned Green Building Supply and Green Depot, a brick-and-mortar and online retailer based in Brooklyn, N.Y., with hundreds of products and a knowledgeable staff. Architecture and design firms such as Lake Flato in Austin, Texas, can help steer clients toward healthy choices such as formaldehyde-free cabinetry and millwork along with local products such as limestone, where there’s reduced concern about the chemical processes in the item’s country of origin.

But it’s also important to realize that just because a product is greener doesn’t mean that your clients won’t be chemically sensitive to it. “People react differently, so home owners need to find what works for them regardless of whether it’s green,” says Blazovsky.

Consider Hiring an Expert

It’s common for home buyers and sellers to bring in an inspector or structural engineer to check a listing’s stability and safety. But they can also have a home health inspector or environmental investigator assess indoor air quality. Robert Weitz, a certified microbial investigator and founder of RTK Environmental Group in Stamford, Conn., is often hired when a client detects a continuing bad odor or someone in the family develops respiratory problems or headaches. He typically charges by a home’s square footage, with an average fee between $495 and $600. Blazovsky, a certified Healthy Home Specialist and member of the Indoor Air Quality Association, performs similar inspections. Her price ranges from $400 to $800. Both will take air samples and send them to a laboratory for analysis. Blazovsky also conducts water safety and mold tests.

Weitz cautions buyers against assuming sellers will disclose indoor air quality problems. “They can make smart choices if they’re choosing, but need to know that the seller may not have all the information if they didn’t make the changes,” he says. Blazovsky agrees. “When in doubt, test!” she says. “It may be an expense up front, but it can help home owners avoid a bigger financial mistake in buying a home that could bring health problems.”

2017 Home Design Trends

2017 Home Design Trends

Learn about the latest on the residential style horizon so you can help clients meet their own needs as well as those of future buyers when it’s time to sell.

December 2016 | By Barbara Ballinger

Housing styles emerge slowly and typically appeal first to cutting-edge architects, builders, and interior designers. As a trend spreads and gains wider interest, it may go mainstream, become almost ubiquitous, and eventually lose its star power. Just look at once-favored granite, which now has been replaced by the equally durable and attractive options of quartz and quartzite.

The economy, environment, and demographics always play a big role in trend spotting. But this year there are two additional triggers: a desire for greater healthfulness and a yearning for a sense of community.

1. Community Gathering Spaces

Why it’s happening: The combination of more time spent on social media and at work and the fact that fewer people live near their family members has caused many to feel isolated and crave face-to-face interactions.

How it will impact you as a real estate pro: Multifamily buildings and even single-family residential developments are rushing to offer an array of amenity spaces to serve this need. Some popular options include clubhouses with spiffy kitchens, outdoor decks with pools and movie screens, fitness centers with group classes, and drive-up areas for food-truck socials. At its Main+Stone building in Greenville, S.C., The Beach Co. began hosting free monthly events such as its “Bingo & Brews.” Make sure you know which buildings, communities, and neighborhoods offer these sought-after social events and gathering spaces so you can help clients connect.

2. Taupe Is the New Gray

Why it’s happening: White remains the top paint color choice due to its flexibility and the fact that it comes in so many variations (PPG Paints has 80 in its inventory, according to Dee Schlotter, senior color expert). Though white has been upstaged by gray in recent years, this year many will be searching for a warmer neutral, which is why paint manufacturer Sherwin-Williams named “Poised Taupe” as its 2017 Color of the Year. “Poised Taupe celebrates everything people love about cool gray as a neutral, and also brings in the warmth of a weathered, woodsy neutral and a sense of coziness and harmony that people seek,” says Sue Wadden, the company’s director of color marketing. 

How it will impact you: Dallas-based designer Barbara Gilbert considers taupe a smart alternative since it still performs as a neutral with other colors, cool or warm. She expects to see taupe on more exteriors — blending well with roofs, doors, window frames, and surrounding landscape — but it also will turn up indoors on walls, ceilings, kitchen cabinets, furnishings, and molding. It might even work to help update a listing clad in gray, she says, as the two colors work well together.

3. More Playful Homes

Why it’s happening: Americans work harder now than ever, with many delaying retirement or starting second careers, so they want their homes to be a refuge and a place to unwind.

How it will impact you: Be sure you’re asking buyers how they like to spend their free time. Spaces that encourage play are trending higher on their wish lists, whether it’s a backyard bocce court (the latest outdoor amenity to show up in residential backyards) or a putting green. And sports don’t have to be relegated to the outdoors. says Gilbert; technological advances have allowed for rapid improvement in indoor golf simulators, for example. While some of her clients have installed modest models, she’s working on a dedicated golf room with software that gives homeowners virtual access to any golf course in the world. Though landscape architect Steve Chepurny of Beechwood Landscape Architecture in Southampton, N.J., designs putting greens with synthetic grass that range from $12,000 to $30,000, he also notes he’s seeing more playfulness outdoors in the form of non-sports amenities, such as pizza ovens.

4. Naturally Renewable, Warmer Surfaces

Why it’s happening: The pervasiveness of technology throughout homes has resulted in a corresponding yearning for more tactile surfaces and materials that convey warmth. Natural cork is a perfect expression of these needs, with the bonus of being low-maintenance.

How it will impact you: In recent years, cork, a renewable material harvested from the bark of cork oak trees, has resurfaced as a favorite for myriad uses, and for good reason. Some credit designer Ilse Crawford’s introduction of cool, edgy cork pieces in her “Sinnerlig” collection for IKEA for the resurgence. Aside from aesthetics, the material is appealing since it’s resistant to mold, mildew, water, termites, fire, cracking, and abrasions. Moreover, cork can be stained and finished with acrylic- or water-based polyurethane. Chicago designer Jessica Lagrange likes to incorporate cork to clad walls and floors. “It’s an especially effective and forgiving choice since dents bounce back and floors retain heat,” she says.

5. Surface-Deep Energy Conservation

Why it’s happening: As energy costs continue to increase, the search is on for ways to save. Incentives to do so only increase as states and municipalities enact new, stricter energy codes. While energy-wise appliances and more efficient HVAC systems are still appealing to homeowners looking to save on their utility bills, less costly surface upgrades are gaining in popularity.

How it will impact you: After New Jersey increased its requirements for insulation, architect Jason Kliwinski, principal at Designs for Life and current chair of New Jersey’s AIA Committee on the Environment, went looking for new options. He found new low-E window film that can double the performance of glass at one-fifth the cost of a full window replacement. Several options for this film are on the market now, and Kliwinski says manufacturers such as EnerLogic are producing versions that are invisible when installed. Other surface-change artists that lower energy use and that are cost-effective and relatively easy to apply include a ceramic insulating paint coating for walls and a thermal energy shield for attic interiors. Tesla, the innovative manufacturer of electric cars, is just debuting solar glass tiles that resemble traditional roof materials such as slate and terracotta, but provide passive heat gain.

6. More Authentic, Personalized Use of Space

Why it’s happening: As home prices escalate — up 5.5 percent, according to CoreLogic Case-Shiller — and baby boomers downsize to retire or cut costs, every inch of available space counts more than ever. To make the best use of space for each resident, design professionals are zeroing in on how clients want to live rather than thinking about how people use space generically. “One size doesn’t fit all any longer,” says Mary Cook, whose eponymous Chicago-based design firm specializes in amenities, public spaces, and model home interiors.

How it will impact you: You and your clients are likely to see a greater variety in terms of layouts, building materials, home systems, color palettes, and furnishing choices, both in model homes and in houses staged for sale. Listing agents can take the cue from this trend by helping sellers highlight the flexibility of their spaces when putting a home on the market. Buyers’ reps should similarly showcase a range of living options in each home-shopping session.

7. The Walkable Suburb

Why it’s happening: Urban centers have long been a magnet for residents wanting to walk rather than drive to work, shopping, and entertainment. But the trend is now spreading to the suburbs where being close to a town center — and public transit into a larger city — offers similar appeal.

How it will impact you: A high walk score has become a recognized real estate marketing tool. Real estate salesperson Stephanie Mallios of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Short Hills, N.J., has seen a huge uptick in interest and value in single-family homes and townhouses close to town centers, especially those near a train station if residents commute to a large metropolitan area. “Most homes for sale in my area list the number of blocks and steps to public transit in their marketing materials. Homes far from everything have become less valuable,” Mallios says. The most appealing towns also incorporate individually owned shops rather than chain stores.

8. Healthier Homes

Why it’s happening: Consumers have been increasingly aware of hazardous indoor environments over the last few years, but news of the lead-tainted water crisis in Flint, Mich., raised awareness to a nationwide level in 2016. Homeowners are actively seeking out healthy water supplies, purifiers, and HVAC systems, along with nontoxic paints and adhesives. A newer element to this trend in 2017 will include enhanced environmental testing.

How it will impact you: A growing number of builders, remodelers, architects, and interior designers expect health to influence their business decisions due to consumer demand, according to studies from both the Urban Land Institute and McGraw-Hill Construction. You should expect to see more buyers hiring health experts to examine listings and requiring in-home contaminant removal prior to a sale. Your clients will also have greater access to additional home products that promote healthy sleep patterns, such as those featuring UV and LED circadian lighting.

9. Shifting Hearths

Why it’s happening: The traditional log-burning fireplace has lost some appeal as homeowners realize it’s less energy-efficient and can send more particulates into the air. But there are a number of replacement options waiting in the wings.

How it will impact you: Homeowners have been switching out their log-burning fireplaces with new gas models for many years. Newer on the market are the ventless alcohol-burning fireplaces that can be placed almost anywhere and without costly construction, says Los Angeles–based designer Sarah Barnard. Another increasingly popular solution is to build a fireplace outdoors, according to landscape architect Chepurny.

10. Counter Options

Why it’s happening: Much like granite did, quartz and quartzite are predicted to be kitchen favorites until another material comes along. But other green laminate options are gaining in popularity, and they’re no longer just for the budget-minded consumer.

How it will impact you: A new countertop can make a big difference in the appeal of a room. Sally Chavez, senior product designer at Wilsonart in Temple, Texas, which manufactures engineered surfaces, says laminate options that mimic stone, wood, distressed metal, and concrete are gaining in popularity. But she recommends avoiding designs that include the “spots and dots” or speckled patterns from decades past. Some newer countertop options offer an additional perk: They lessen the time and cost of installation and also eliminate the need to discard the old countertop. Trend Transformations, an Italian manufacturer with a U.S. manufacturing facility, incorporates recycled granite, glass, and even seashells in its surfaces, which are installed over an existing countertop. Installation can be finished within a day, and prices are competitive with quartz and quartzite. Because these countertops are less porous than traditional stone, they’re also more resistant to stains and scratches.

11. The Transforming Office

Why it’s happening: Regular work-from-home time among the non–self-employed population has grown by 103 percent since 2005, according to Kate Lister, president of Global Workplace Analytics, a San Diego–based research and consulting group focused on workplace change. Her organization estimates that number will continue to grow at between 10 percent and 20 percent a year.

How it will impact you: More of your clients are likely to need a work-from-home space, but due to the diminished size and highly transient nature of technology tools, there’s less need for a dedicated, separate office. Brad Hunter, HomeAdvisor’s chief economist, says almost any area of a house can become a workplace, but the most functional ones incorporate built-ins and furnishings that serve a dual purpose. That same desire for flexibility may someday translate to layouts that can easily change to a homeowner’s whim, such as the KB Home ProjeKt movable wall concept in its “Home of 2050” at the Greenbuild Conference and Expo this past October.

Drywall Finishing Levels

Drywall Finish Levels. Photo Credit: © Lee Wallender; Licensed to About.com

Updated November 16, 2016.

Dry walling can be a haphazard, chaotic experience--all of that sanding, mudding, and screwing can merge together into a single process if you're not careful.

That's why it helps to know about drywall finishing levels, a set of professional standards codified by the gypsum industry and drywall professionals. Finishing levels tell you exactly what must be done to achieve a certain type of finish.

Not All Finishes Work Everywhere

In a perfect world, all drywall--every square inch of it--would be mudded and sanded down to a mirror-smooth surface.While this is possible, it's not cost-effective. If you're hiring out the work, every step requires an additional visit from the tradesman. If you're DIYing it, it's yet another day or two you add to the entire project.

For instance, Level 1 drywall finish is frequently used in garages and workshops. Why mud and sand a space that is rarely ever seen? On the other hand, a car aficionado or an obsessive tinkerer might enjoy having a workspace that is as clean and smooth as any other wall found within the residential part of the home (I know this: I brought my workshop walls up to a Level 4 finish because I spend a lot of time in there).

Putting in wainscot? Then you don't have to put a premium finish on the lower 45" of your walls. It will get covered up anyway.

Because kitchens are often blanketed with cabinets and appliances, much of the wall space doesn't need a Level 5 finish.

Conversely, ceilings tend to get raked by natural light through the windows, highlighting pops, bumps, and depressions.

For many homeowners, nothing less than a Level 5 will do on their ceilings.

The 5 Levels of Drywall Finishes

  1. Level 0: Level 0 implies that no finishing of any type has been done. The drywall is only fastened to the walls or ceiling.
  2. Level 1: Embed your drywall joint tape in joint compound.
  3. Level 2: Skim a thin coat of joint compound over the tape.
  4. Cover drywall screw holes. You can stop at this level if you intend to cover with tile.
  5. Level 3: Apply a coat of joint compound to the tape and screws. Walls that will receive a heavy texture, such as knockdown texture, are appropriate for Level 3.
  6. Level 4: Apply another coat of joint compound to the tape and screws. Sand.
  7. Level 5: Apply skim coat.

There are three ways to apply a skim coat:

  • Roller: Thin out the mud and roll onto the wall with a thick-nap roller. Scrape off immediately.
  • Taping Knife: Apply a series of six or eight dabs of mud, each about 3"-4" diameter. Immediately smooth the array across the surface. Then scrape the mud off.
  • Spray On: Professionals have spray equipment to allow them to spray on drywall compound.

Tip: Find out how to repair drywall "orange-peel" texture from About Home Repair.

Do You Need a Level 5 Drywall Finish?

Long story short, a level 5 finish is a skim coat of joint compound (also known as mud) applied to a finish that you would normally receive.

The two instances when you need a level 5 coating: the finish will be glossy and/or light will be coming from an angle low enough to highlight bumps and depressions.

The level 5 is like icing on the cake. It's a premium finish that you will not get by default; you'll need to discuss this with your contractor or drywall installer.

Summary: Drywall Finish Levels

Should you discuss drywall finishing levels, in those terms, with your contractor or tradesman? I recommend discussing the eventual effect you want to achieve rather than throwing around terminology.

As a DIYer, I find the concept of finishing levels valuable because it aids me in remembering that not every room needs a Level 4 finish (and certainly not a Level 5 finish). It also slows me down and helps me keep each process separate.

Texas real estate market shows strength across segments in 2016

12/01/2016 | Author: Editorial Staff

The Texas Annual Housing Report released today by the Texas Association of REALTORS® shows broad demand for Texas real estate and continued sales growth.

“Texas is a national leader in real estate growth, housing demand, and development, which attracts homebuyers from across the country and around the globe,” said TAR Chairman Leslie Rouda Smith. “Texas’s diverse economy, rapid population growth, and high quality of life continue to fuel home sales activity across the state.”

Despite economic headwinds, demand increased for multiple property types and market segments in 2016. Small land sales were the strongest segment of the Texas real estate market in 2016, with nearly 19% sales growth year over year. Condominium sales saw double-digit growth across most major metros, new-home sales activity continued at a strong pace, and sales of homes priced at $1 million and higher continued to rise in 2016. 

Texas Quarterly Housing Report editions throughout 2016 showed that total sales are on pace for a record year, and Texas homes continue to have wide appeal. The Texas International Homebuyers Report showed that one in five international homebuyers from India choose to purchase a home in Texas. The Texas Homebuyers and Sellers Report indicated that 30% of homebuyers in Texas were purchasing their first home, and single women in Texas were twice as likely to purchase a home than single men.

“The continued growth of the Texas housing market this year despite a slowing Texas economy has been remarkable," Rouda Smith said. "As in 2016, housing development and affordability will remain key areas of focus throughout the state next year.”

Real Estate Pros Divulge Top Design Features

Daily Real Estate News | Friday, November 18, 2016

BUILDER recently asked real estate professionals to share their thoughts about the top design trends their clients are currently requesting. Here are some of the top design trends that real estate pros said are in demand:

  • Open layouts
  • Neutral color schemes
  • Multi-generational floor plans
  • First-floor master suites
  • No dining rooms
  • White kitchens
  • Extra-large garages
  • Big closets
  • Finished basements with 9-foot high ceilings
  • Barn sliding doors

6 Best Tips for your Remodeling Budget

6 Best Tips for your Remodeling Budget

October 16, 2013 By Judge Fite Admin

Rather than expensive remodels or additions, consider these ways to keep your remodeling budget feasible:

Work with the original floor plan. Whenever possible, consider what remodeling or renovation you can fit in with the original floor plan. As soon as you start looking at structural remodeling, your costs increase significantly. Perhaps you can remove a closet to make more room in a bathroom. Or strategically move some cabinets in the kitchen instead of expanding the entire kitchen. Considering remodeling and enclosing a garage instead of adding a room. Or upgrade a porch to a sunroom. When you look at adding an entire room to the footprint of your existing house, you have increased costs of foundation and roofing.

Keep your current plumbing. Along with structural remodeling, any time you have to move plumbing you add significant cost to your remodeling project. Perhaps if you are wanting to expand your kitchen, you will be able to move the sink only slightly and still use the existing plumbing. Or add a project needing access to water on a wall opposite a current bathroom or kitchen. Even if you were to build an entire addition and not stick with your current floorplan (above), that would be significantly less expensive if you do not add plumbing.

Use lighting well. Sometimes strategically adding lighting is all you need to brighten up a current floorplan or make it more user-friendly. You can use lighting to accent decor or other features. Or use it inside a closet – you won’t gain closet space, but you will be able to use it more efficiently. Add lighting under kitchen cabinets to expand the use of your counter space.

Invest in quality rather than quantity. For example, well-designed kitchen cabinets can give you much more efficient use of storage space than poorly-designed cabinets; so rather than buying more cabinets, you may be able to buy a better design. Perhaps you have a lot of traffic on your floors (kids, animals); in that case, investing in quality flooring may make cleaning easier and help your floor last longer. Need more closet space? Perhaps rather than building more closets, you can invest in closet organizing systems to get better use out of the closets you already have.

Get an energy audit. While you’re considering remodeling, also consider those upgrades that can save you money in the long term. Most energy companies will do energy audits at no cost, and show you where you are losing money. Investing in some weatherstripping around your doors, or upgrading to more energy-efficient windows can provide a long-term benefit for the amount of money you spend to upgrade.

Budget extra for contingencies. Always put aside an extra 10-15% of your total budget for anything unforseen. While remodeling can end up bringing some headaches, even worse would be for you to run out of budgeted funds before it is complete. Especially on older homes, your contractor may go to tear out kitchen cabinets only to find something else that needs a repair. Those unknown circumstances can add up in the end, so it’s always best to be prepared.

Texas home sales maintain steady increases in volume and price over third quarter of 2016

Texas Association of REALTORS® releases 2016-Q3 edition of the Texas Quarterly Housing Report

CONTACT: Danielle Urban - Pierpont Communications, 512-448-4950

Nov 01 2016 — Austin

Texas home sales volume rose slightly in the third quarter of 2016 while median home prices continued to increase, according to the 2016-Q3 Texas Quarterly Housing Reportreleased today by the Texas Association of REALTORS®.

“Texas home sales in 2016 continue to edge out last year’s record-breaking sales volume, and in many local markets, growth is still very strong,” said Leslie Rouda Smith, chairman of the Texas Association of REALTORS®.

According to the report, 91,248 homes were sold in Texas in the third quarter of 2016, a 0.2% increase from 2015-Q3. In addition, the median price for homes in Texas increased in the same timeframe by 7%, to $214,000.

Dr. Jim Gaines, chief economist at the Real Estate Center at Texas A&M University, added, “Given the recent slowdown in the Texas economy, the performance of the Texas housing market in the third quarter is remarkable.

The demand for housing in Texas continues to exceed supply, driving home prices upward. We just haven’t been building homes fast enough, and the rising land and development costs have made it difficult to build new homes at lower price points.”

Housing inventory continued to edge upward in 2016-Q3 to 3.9 months, an increase of 0.1 months from the same quarter of the previous year, and active listings rose 4.2% to 103,109 active listings. Texas homes spent slightly more time on the market in 2016-Q3, averaging 53 days, which is one day longer than the same quarter of 2015.

Chairman Smith concluded, “Texas real estate and housing affordability are at the center the Texas economy and our state’s future growth. In the upcoming session of the Texas Legislature, it’s critical that we continue to take steps to keep homeownership affordable in Texas. The Texas Association of REALTORS® will continue to be the largest organization actively advocating on behalf of homeowners at the state Capitol to support that goal.”

Dallas Housing Market Forecast 2017: Will It Continue to Outpace the Nation?


Economists are calling Dallas one of the hottest real estate markets in the country. Recent forecasts suggest the city could outpace the nation in 2017 as well, in terms of home-price gains. Here are the latest housing market trends, forecasts and predictions for Dallas, Texas.

One of the Hottest Real Estate Markets in August

In August, the economists and analysts at Realtor.com created a list of the hottest real estate markets in the U.S., for that particular month. Their “hotness” rankings were based in part on how quickly homes are selling, and how much demand their is from buyers.

According to the report:

“[Chief economist Jonathan] Smoke and his team looked at the median number of days homes spent on the market to gauge the supply of homes for sale, and the number of listing views per market to arrive at a list of the 20 hottest real estate markets in the country.”

Based on their analysis, Dallas was ranked as the second-hottest real estate market in the nation for the month of August, with relatively quick sales and strong demand.

Perhaps this is why most 2017 forecasts for the Dallas housing market are calling for continued (and significant) home-price gains next year. There is a lot of demand for homes across North Texas, but limited supply. This is putting upward pressure on residential property values.

Rapidly Rising Home Prices

According to the widely cited Case-Shiller Home Price Index, house values in Dallas are higher now than ever before. In fact, they’re well above the peak reached during the last housing bubble.

The median home price in the DFW area is around $230,000, according to a report published recently by HSH.com. Several sources have reported double-digit gains in house values over the last year. That’s a much faster rate of appreciation than the national average.

Which begs the question: How much higher can home prices climb in the area? Here are some forecasts and predictions for the Dallas housing market in 2017.

Dallas Housing Market Forecast for 2017

The real estate information company Zillow recently offered a 12-month forecast for the Dallas market, projecting through August 2017. By their estimation, home prices in the city will rise by approximately 7.3% between now and this time next year.

In August, the company stated: “Dallas home values have gone up 16.6% over the past year and Zillow predicts they will rise 7.3% within the next year.” By comparison, they are predicting a gain of only 2.4% for the nation as a whole. So in this regard, the Dallas housing market is predicted to outpace the nation over the next year.

Earlier this month, the Scottsdale, Arizona-based home builder Taylor Morrison announced they would be expanding into the Dallas real estate market. The company said it would focus it’s home-building efforts on the $300,000 to $500,000 price point, “which research has shown is underserved in the Dallas real estate market.”

On the mortgage front, analysts are forecasting a continuation of the low rates we’ve seen in recent weeks, at least in the short term. The average rate for a 30-year fixed home loan has been hovering below 3.5% for the last few weeks. The Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) recently predicted that 30-year mortgage rates would rise gradually in the months ahead, but stay below for 4% for the rest of this year.

Here is the MBA’s August forecast for average 30-year mortgage rates, by quarter:

  • Q3, 2016: 3.5%
  • Q4, 2016: 3.7%
  • Q1, 2017: 3.9%
  • Q2, 2017: 4.1%
  • Q3, 2017: 4.3%
  • Q4, 2017: 4.4%

In Conclusion

The general consensus appears to be that home prices in Dallas will continue to rise steadily in 2017, but at a slower pace than the last couple of years.

Housing demand is expected to remain strong due to low mortgage rates and the relatively strong job market in the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area. Rising home prices could weaken demand, though, as affordability becomes an issue for some would-be buyers.

Disclaimer: This story includes forecasts for the Dallas housing market in 2017. Predictions were made by third parties not associated with our company. The Home Buying Institute makes no claims or assertions regarding future real estate conditions.

Read more: http://www.homebuyinginstitute.com/news/dallas-outpace-nation-737/#ixzz4Qg6y1EtS

Dallas, TX: Real Estate Market & Trends 2016

The Dallas-Fort Worth area is the commercial and cultural hub of its respective region, and it’s real estate market reflects one of the more prosperous housing markets in Texas. The median home price in the first quarter of 2016 was $210,100 for the Dallas real estate market, and it continues to grow relative to last year. Equity appreciation rates for homes in Dallas remain robust, as one year appreciation rates for real estate in Dallas has risen 9.1 percent to $20,831 compared to the national average of 6.1 percent to $15,781. While historically strong, home affordability in Dallas continues to grow stronger. The monthly mortgage payment to income in the region was 8.6 percent for Q1 2016 compared to the national average of 14.5 percent, while the median home price to income in Dallas was 1.6 compared to the national average of 2.6. Thanks to a home affordability, a growing economy and unemployment rates lower than the national average, the Dallas real estate market is primed for a big year in 2016.

Dallas, TX Real Estate Market Statistics:


The Dallas-Fort Worth housing market continues to stay red hot, and 2016 is shaping up to look like its best year since the recession. The latest real estate market statistics reflect positive growth for the city, which is home to more than seven million people. Home prices in Dallas continue to grow relative to last year. The current median home price of $210,100 is slightly under the national average of $215,767, however, total equity gained remains strong. The following highlights year-to-year equity gained through 2016 Q1 in the Dallas real estate market:

  • Homes purchased in the Dallas housing market one year ago have appreciated, on average, by $20,831. The national average was $15,781 over the same period.
  • Homes purchased in the Dallas real estate market three years ago have appreciated, on average, by $58,382. The national average was $49,356 over the same period.
  • Homes purchased in the Dallas housing market five years ago have appreciated, on average, by $77,957. The national average was $68,727 over the same period.
  • Homes purchased in the Dallas real estate market seven years ago have appreciated, on average, by $84,424. The national average was $59,758 over the same period.
  • Homes purchased in the Dallas housing market nine years ago have appreciated, on average, by $83,068. The national average increased $16,435 over the same period.

Dallas, TX: Real Estate Market Summary:


  • Current Median Home Price: $210,100
  • 1-Year Appreciation Rate: 9.1%
  • 3-Year Appreciation Rate: 31.0%
  • Unemployment Rate: 3.8%
  • 1-Year Job Growth Rate: 3.9%
  • Population: 7,102,796
  • Median Household Income: $53,849

Dallas, TX: Real Estate Market (2016) — Q1 Updates:


The first quarter of 2016 has been solid for the Dallas real estate market. Record-low mortgage rates continue to make housing affordable for homebuyers, as mortgage rates for a 30-year fixed-rate loan fell to 3.7 percent in Q1 2016 compared to 3.9 percent in the fourth quarter of 2015. Rates are expected to remain low for the duration of the year.

In terms of the city’s overall economy, Dallas is continuing to improve like other cities around the country, as unemployment and job growth continues to fare better than the national average. The current unemployment rate is 3.8 percent compared to the national average of 5.0 percent, while job growth in the last 12 months increased 3.9 percent compared to the national average of 2.0 percent.

Dallas, Texas has historically been one of the most affordable markets in the nation, with a monthly mortgage payment-to-income of 9.9 percent compared to the national average of 19.5 percent. Entering the first quarter of 2016, the monthly mortgage payment-to-income was 5.9 percent better than the national average despite dropping 0.1 in the first quarter. The median home price-to-income in Dallas was 1.6 compared to the national average of 2.6. Moving forward, investors should continue to monitor the home price-to-income in the Dallas real estate market, as this ratio is getting higher compared to historic standards.

Another component fueling the real estate market in Dallas is new construction. In the past 12 months, the number of single-family housing permits increased 15.4 percent compared to the national average of 11.3 percent, and the current level of construction is approximately 50.2 percent above the long-term average. Compared to last year, home construction is on the rise in Dallas and should continue throughout 2016. Dallas real estate investing should benefit from this news, as the new construction is a sign of strong demand.

Moving forward, the price expectation for the Dallas real estate market is anticipated to be more modest than a year ago. Realtor.org expects weaker growth for the next 12 months, but the Dallas housing market should remain competitive compared to the national average. The duration of 2016 should see the city’s market remain prosperous for Dallas real estate investors, particularly house flipping and rental properties.

*The information contained herein was pulled from third party sites. Although this information was found from sources believed to be reliable, FortuneBuilders Inc. makes no representations, warranties, or guarantees, either express or implied, as to whether the information presented is accurate, reliable, or current. Any reliance on this information is at your own risk. All information presented should be independently verified. FortuneBuilders Inc. assumes no liability for any damages whatsoever, including any direct, indirect, punitive, exemplary, incidental, special, or consequential damages arising out of or in any way connected with your use of the information presented.

Top Dallas Kitchen Remodeling Trends of 2016

One of the most exciting parts of a home remodeling and design project is choosing the style that best fits your aesthetic sensibilities. But with so many different designs to choose from – and new trends popping up all the time – it can be tough to decide what will work for you and your Dallas kitchen remodeling project.

That’s why we broke down the top Dallas remodeling trends in 2016 for one of the most frequented rooms in any house—the kitchen. Get inspired by these stylish kitchen remodeling ideas and be thinking of how they might fit into your own kitchen renovation in Dallas.

Kitchen Remodeling Trend #1: Color is the New White

White-washed kitchens are becoming a thing of the past as more and more renovators are gravitating toward color to add vibrancy to the heart of the house. If you prefer the clean look of white cabinetry, consider adding depth by opting for a warm gray instead.

Kitchen Remodeling Trend #2: Smarten Up Your Space

With the technological boom showing no signs of slowing, it’s no surprise that high-tech kitchens are beginning to pop up all over the place. Designated phone-charging stations, built-in wine coolers and automated sinks are marrying convenience and style in the modern day kitchen.

Kitchen Remodeling Trend #3: Integrate Your Style

For many, a kitchen is more than a cooking space—it’s where families convene to connect, laugh and share life’s happenings. That’s probably why a lot of folks are opting to integrate the kitchen’s style into the rest of the living space. If your kitchen feels disconnected from your home, consider using hidden appliances and streamlined designs to more closely align it with the rest of your rooms.

Kitchen Remodeling Trend #4: Make a Splash with Colorful Sinks

Plain ol’ white or stainless steel sinks are taking a backseat to this trend in favor of more colorful character. The retro greens and oranges of the 60s are popping up where neutral colors used to be the norm. Go along with your remodeler’s suggestions and consider a matching sink and backsplash for a stylish pop of color.

Kitchen Remodeling Trend #5: Luminous Kitchen Cabinetry

Not only are kitchen cabinets getting more colorful in 2016, they are becoming more illuminated, too. Homeowners are no longer settling for basic lighting, opting instead to add ambiance by way of low-voltage LED lights. Try accenting your kitchen cabinets using this illuminating trend.

Kitchen Remodeling Trend #6: Optimize Functionality

Many homeowners are using their space to the max this year by adding functionality in unexpected places. Kitchen cabinets are being optimized for storage with things like pull-out shelving, toe-kick drawers and Lazy Susans. Talk to your contractor about ways you can economize your own kitchen storage.

We love to watch design trends evolve over the years, but it’s important to remember your own style, too—after all, you’re the one who will be looking at the room day in and day out. Trends are fleeting by definition, so it’s best to use them as inspiration while customizing designs to work for your own personal aesthetic.

Six Hot Dallas Kitchen and Bath Trends for 2016


By Botond Laszlo

There are trends and there are themes. The big themes we’ve been seeing for quite some time are clean lines, simple looks, and highly functional spaces. These apply to every aspect of our home makeover projects. 

So within those general themes, what are the trends you can expect in 2016 for Dallas kitchen and bath home makeover projects? 


Here are my three big trends for kitchens:

  • White and Neutral Colors
    • The 2016 “color of the year” from all major paint companies focuses on neutral. Benjamin Moore has selected “simply white.” Behr says “ivory keys.” Sherwin Williams has chosen “alabaster.” Glidden is going with “cappuccino white.” You can see them at Color of the Year: Off-White Is on Trend for 2016 by Houzz. I can definitely attest to that with all the white cabinets alone that my team has installed over the past couple of years.
  • Professional Grade Appliances
    • We expect even more professional grade stoves, ovens, and refrigerators to be installed in our makeover kitchens. Appliance color trends are moving toward grays, blacks, and slates that contrast nicely with the neutral colors noted above. 
  • Horizontal Cabinets
    • Horizontal cabinets are becoming a big part of the layout for kitchen cabinets. They allow easier access and provide a cleaner look. In addition, people are adding “smart cabinets” to store laptops and tablets along with cords and recharging outlets, as well as special holders so that you can follow a recipe directly from your phone or tablet. I like the article 7 Kitchen Cabinet Trends to Watch in 2016. 

If those aren’t enough, you can find even more kitchen trends at Kitchen Confidential: 9 Trends to Watch for in 2016


Here are my big three trends for baths:

  • Soaking Tubs and Large Showers
    • This is a growing trend that we expect to continue throughout 2016. The variety and designs for freestanding soaking tubs are expanding and the large showers allow you to truly create a spa setting within your home.
  • Modern Wall Tiles
    • Large format tiles are quite popular right now. These come in different sheen, textures, and patterns that allow us to create a truly unique space. Even the typical subway tiles are getting an upgrade with more intersting and unique finishes.
  • Black Nickel Fixtures
    • I like the look of new metals when used for faucets and shower hardware. These include black nickel, oil-rubbed bronze, brushed nickel, and warm colored copper. Try 2016 Bathroom Remodeling Trends for more thoughts along these lines. 

If those are still not enough trends for you, I recommend 20 Hot Bathroom Trends for 2016. It will get you thinking about what to incorporate in your makeover project.

The Latest Custom Home Trends

We talked to the best builders in Dallas about what's hot in bespoke house construction.



It’s time. The quirks that once drew you to your 1930s bungalow are now filling you with hatred on a daily basis. The floor plan that was once “charming” is now suffocating. Let’s not even talk about your energy bills. You’re ready to take your house down to the studs and bring it into the 21st century or just cut your losses and start from scratch. Either way, you should begin your journey with a little information. We surveyed the 2015 Best Builders in Dallas to find out what’s happening in the world of custom home construction.


We surveyed the top builders in Dallas about what’s happening now. Let’s start with the basics.



Builders told us most people building homes today are either working professionals with kids or empty nesters. And despite the influx of folks from out of state, most business is coming from locals wanting bigger, better digs. 

“About 75 percent are from Dallas, and they’re getting younger and younger—either that, or I’m getting older.” —Mark Hayes, Hayes Signature Homes

“Basically, they are Baby Boomers who still want a nice home.” —George Davis, George Davis & Associates

“The majority of our clients are empty nesters or soon to be in that position. Many of our homeowners plan for future grandchildren and space for the aging parent.” —Tom London, Thomas Signature Homes

“The clients seem to be getting older, and they’re local DFW clientele.” —Mike Kleber, Kleber Custom Homes



In casual conversation, people talk about living smarter—and that suggests more efficient usage of space. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that houses are getting smaller. Obviously, building a 2,500-square-foot house on a lot in the Park Cities doesn’t make a lot of economic sense because the lot is so expensive. You want more bang for your buck. Most builders say their average square footage ranges from 4,000 to 7,000—although we had a few that said their average homes were in the 14,000 (!) range.

“The size really depends on the clients. We work with a lot of families and more
and more empty nesters. Obviously, they have different needs. What we hear most often is that they don’t need a lot of useless spaces. … In many cases, the land—having some space outside—is as big of a deal as house size.” —Kurt Bielawski, More Design + Build



“Clean” and “modern” are the most common words bandied about by prospective clients, but this is Dallas. Most homeowners aren’t ready to live in a Richard Meier-inspired manse. What they really mean is they want something “transitional,” which basically means cleaner lines and lots of windows. But let’s be clear: Traditional, Mediterranean, and French facades aren’t going anywhere. So if that’s what you’re feeling, go for it.

“We continue to experience a strong desire for traditional facades such as French, Tudor, and Mediterranean, however, these buyers have been migrating to more stucco and black aluminum, cladded windows, which aide in a more contemporary interior.” —Andy Clem, 
Bella Vita Custom Homes

“Depending on the client, we see anything from Country French to Austin Hill Country contemporary.” —George Davis

“Most want a more modern or contemporary style, but not stark contemporary. It could be Mediterranean with some contemporary features on the interior.” —Bob Hansen, Garvey Homes

“Regional contemporary and transitional are still very popular. We are also seeing an uptick in requests for homes that are a little more traditional.” —Mark Danuser, Tatum Brown Custom Homes



As anyone who had the misfortune to spend the winter here knows, our weather was not the best. We wondered if that, coupled with high demand for new construction, has had any effect on construction time. The resounding answer: yes. But with good planning and firm decision making by you, dear reader, it shouldn’t affect your timeline too adversely.



Now we get to the fun stuff: tile and hardware and flooring! We asked what materials our experts are seeing. Subway tile and hardwoods are still happening. Natural stone flooring and countertops are also more common. Brass is making a comeback, and homeowners seem less averse to color.

“Porcelains are becoming a desired look in some applications.” —Michael Munir, Sharif & Munir

“We have started using more brass particularly, and it really works well.” —Aaron Ipour, Oxbridge Custom Homes

“Walls of stacked stone, glass subway tiles, lighter tones of wood floors, and extraordinarily large walls of disappearing sliding doors that bring the outdoors in.” —Zachary B. Luterman, Zachary Custom Homes

“The warm gold tones are definitely making a comeback in decorative items like plumbing, lighting, and hardware.” —Tony Visconti, Bella Custom Homes


Unwilling to spend your hard-earned money on energy bills? Here are some green ideas that will save you some green.



It’s funny: Homeowners may be willing to spend $7 million on a house, but they don’t want to spend a lot on utility bills. “Energy efficiency” has become de rigueur in custom homes, but we wondered what that meant on the most basic level. As in, what are builders using for insulation? While some mentioned fiberglass, cellulose, and blown-in blanket walls, pretty much everyone we spoke to said they use foam. We also asked what features are considered “standard” these days when it comes to efficiency.


“We encourage all homeowners to do Lutron to assist in the automation of the lighting and smart-home capabilities.”


“Spray foam does a great job of providing insulation and air tightness in the hot Texas climate. We use a tankless water heater at a minimum. We look at windows—when the sun comes through, how much heat is coming in? We advise using Energy Star appliances, and most of our clients want more than that. We pay close attention to the orientation of the house—the placement of windows and doors.” —Don Ferrier, Ferrier Custom Homes


“Foam insulation, tankless water heaters, an extra layer of foam outside the house, and LED lights everywhere.” —Ellen Grasso, Ellen Grasso & Sons

“Structural sheathing with rigid insulation on exterior wall framing; foam or blown-wall insulation; higher-efficiency air and heating systems; windows; lot selection; room orientation so as to take advantage of ‘passive solar’ design.” —S. H. Malone II, Malone Custom Builders

“Foam; good windows.” —Larry Hartman, Larry Hartman Construction

“People ask for smart WiFi thermostats—Nest or Ecobee3. We get a lot of initial requests for a fully encapsulated home (foam ceiling and walls) but most change their mind after running the numbers.”—Tom Greico, Greico Homes

“Higher efficiency, two-speed AC systems.” —Michael Munir

“Foam encapsulation; regional and over engineered HVAC units such as Trane XB; low-voltage lighting; 2-by-6 framing on all exterior walls is a must.” —Andy Clem

“For us, standard would be foam, 16 SEER air conditioner, and tankless water heaters.” —David Goettsche, Desco Fine Homes

“Lutron lighting controls. We encourage all homeowners to do Lutron to assist in the automation of the lighting and smart-home capabilities. … Some of the more exotic things, like rainwater catchment systems and solar panels, we have not had those make financial sense yet.” —Les Owens, LRO Residential

“My rule of thumb is: If you can get your dollars back in three years, do it. … If you end up in the home longer than that, the technology is changing so quickly [you can] make an upgrade later and get an even more efficient home.” —Greg Alford, Alford Homes

“Tankless water heaters and air-conditioned attics to convert for storage.” —Joe B. Chamberlain, Caprock Custom Construction

“Great insulation, great windows, and low-water landscape is something people are really thinking about.” —Kurt Bielawski

“[We use] foam, full-house enclosure … vinyl low-e windows, programmable thermostats, tankless water heaters with a recirculating pump.” —Mike Kleber


Everyone knows kitchens and bathrooms sell a house, but since floor plans remain very open and the kitchen is one of the most visible rooms in the house, we decided to turn our focus there.



Dallas folks love marble. They don’t care about the hazards red wine present. They don’t want to hear about how easily they stain. They pretend not to care about the trouble of frequent polishing. They want their marble. But there are other options. Manufactured materials like Silestone and Caesarstone are sleek and require no maintenance. Other builders mentioned Dekton, Neolith, recycled glass, stainless steel, and even butcher wood. 


“We’ve started allowing for a second fridge in the pantry. I’ve had clients tell me that it’s their favorite feature.”


“Marble is trending more than granite and concrete. Quartzite types [of materials] are also popular.” —Bill Wait, Williamsburg Custom Homes


“Quartz and engineered stone seem to be the hot items these days.” —Tim Jackson, Tim Jackson Custom Homes

“We aren’t using busy, speckled granite. [It’s] more quartz with leather finish or quarzite or Caesarstone, with minimal pattern.” —Patrick Mckinley, Mckinley Built Homes

“Everyone loves white [countertops], but we have clients who are taking more risks with color in countertops, especially with marbles in darker colors like deep taupe, black, and grayish blue.”—Ben Coats, Coats Homes



Engineered cabinetry from companies such as Poggenpohl, Bulthaup, Ornare, and Bentwood of Dallas are gaining popularity for a variety of reasons: They are gorgeous, well-made, and offer cool organizational wizardry. When we asked about finishes on custom cabinets, the answers varied wildly. Some said the cabinets were mainly custom and stain-grade wood. Others said paint grade all the way. Still others said it all depends on the client.

“We’re still seeing mostly custom, but we’re starting to use more and more prefabricated cabinetry.” —Marc Kleinman, Bauhaus Custom Homes

“Light and bright paint grade. We’re also doing a weathered oak finish on our white oak as accent pieces. It gets the Restoration Hardware color tone finish that people love but on a custom cabinet.” —Les Owens

“All custom and painted with still some glazing.” —Greg Alford

“Custom and stain-grade wood, seldom painted.” —Cole Smith Jr., Crow Bar Constructors

“[We use] all custom-built cabinets in more of a white or gray color. We haven’t done even one stained cabinet in the price range over $1.5 million this year.”—Aaron Ipour



With all this talk of using less space in smarter ways, what does that mean for the pantry? The consensus: This space is more important than ever. That could mean integrating space within the kitchen or a bigger, better room off the kitchen that provides storage but also pulls double duty as a prep area, silver storage, and even home to an additional refrigerator or ice machine.

“[We’re seeing] more than one pantry—a pantry devoted strictly to baking goods, a pantry devoted to recycling, etc.” —Cole Smith Jr.

“The size has increased to allow the kitchen to be more of an entertaining space. Many pantries may include appliances that aren’t used on a daily basis.” —Michael Munir

The Wall Street Journal had an article, ‘The Rise of the Super Pantry.’ It’s so true. They are bigger with more work space and appliances integrated into space. It’s really an extension of the kitchen.” —Kurt Bielawski

“We have been designing pantries that are more than just places to store food items. We are designing them with countertops and cabinets. This provides a place for small appliances that you may not want to see every day on your kitchen counters. We are also designing space for a secondary fridge/freezer in the pantry.” —Tim Jackson

“It has become more customized, and it is utilized like a room, often situated with cabinetry, countertops, coffee makers, etc. It is becoming more utilitarian space and not just a closet for storage.” —Zachary B. Luterman

“Tailored storage and just thinking through what one is actually going to put in their pantry is huge. … Our customers don’t actually want to see doors in their kitchens, and therefore we frequently design a cookbook display wall rack that is a hidden pantry door.”—Andy Clem



With materials and storage needs addressed, we wanted to know what kind of fancy appliances Dallas builders are loving at the moment. High-end coffee makers seem to be urgently needed by Dallas families at the moment, but we also heard about steam ovens, warming drawers, ice machines, and more. And while we don’t expect the reign of stainless to end anytime soon, it is nice to know that people are opting for other finishes.

“We are all about the aesthetics when it comes to appliances. Clean lines and uncluttered controls rule. This would include just about any appliance that looks like a Miele.” —Tom Greico

“Ice makers that make fountain-drink type ice.” —David Goettsche

“We really like the new Sub-Zero Integrated Refrigeration components. We’re putting them in our personal home with some very unique configurations. ” —Les Owens

“Color options other than stainless.” —Larry Hartman

“We are sold on the Wolf/Sub-Zero product line, especially the steamer oven and countertop steamer. …  And wine refrigerators instead of wine rooms.”  —Tom London



Fans of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills are very familiar with Yolanda Foster’s amazing kitchen—and more specifically, her gorgeous glass refrigerator. We are obsessed. But we wondered: Is this a thing outside of Malibu? And exactly how organized do you have to be to have one?  

“I just installed two! I wouldn’t want people looking in my refrigerator, but they are
popular.” —Ellen Grasso

“I like them, but they’re just too visible. It requires organization.” 
—Joe B. Chamberlain

“Sounds great, but [it’s] not appealing when the first thing you see is ketchup and milk.” —Larry Nix, Nix Group, Inc.

Finally, we asked how people are making their homes secure—and more magical. Turns out, all you need to weather a storm and rule the roost is a safe room and an iPhone.



Security is a chief concern for homeowners, so we wondered how often people are putting in safe rooms. More often than they used to, as it turns out. Many of the builders could not speak to specifics for confidentiality reasons, but some folks we talked to said the spaces are often more of a protection against Mother Nature than jewel thieves. We also wondered what was in those spaces.

“It’s my wife’s dream option, but I won’t give in! However, we have a client doing one in the basement area.” —Tom London

“Our safe room is a FEMA-certified construction. We build ‘safer’ rooms. They’re probably three to four times safer than an average space where you would hide from a storm.” —Don Ferrier

“It is typically a pre-fabricated steel unit anchored to the foundation but designed in such a manner that F5 tornado winds would peel away the home around the safe room, keeping the steel container intact with occupants safe and sound.” —Zachary B. Luterman

“There’s not a lot in there other than basic electrical, phone, and television wiring.” —Tim Jackson

“[The safe room houses] outside communication, food, water, and a weapons safe.” —George Davis

“We generally suggest beefing up the walls of an existing room such as a utility or master closet. Economically, this makes the most sense; however, windows and lighting become the victims of this practice. … I have the coolest home under construction right now that has an underground tunnel that connects the study to the master closet.” —Andy Clem

“The pre-fab tornado room is very easy to install, and it can be any size and F5 rated.” —Greg Alford



You can run the world with your iPhone, so it’s not super surprising that you can run a house with it, too. You can arm and disarm a security system just as easily as you can set the DVR to record Mad Men. You can also control temperature, cameras, sound systems, and lights from anywhere. 

“I really like the audio/video side of things and what you’re able to do with the security systems and cameras these days. … Everything is being controlled by your phone. Many people are also installing water bugs and emergency water shut-off valves, so when a water leak is detected, it turns the water off.” —Larry Nix

“We are using technology in amazing ways today, including piecing all types of functionality together in app formats where security cameras, HVAC, audio/visual, pool, garage doors, lights, etc., can all be controlled and monitored at any moment with the use of any phone, computer, or iPad.” —Zachary B. Luterman

“We are using new Crestron home automation. It has become more affordable and user-friendly.” —Aaron Ipour

“WaterCop has become a standard for us. Its interaction with a monitored security system gives the homeowner peace of mind while at home or away.” —Michael Munir

“Home automation integrated with whole home
lighting—really cool stuff.” —Mark Hayes

The Latest Trends in Home Construction and Renovation

The whole point of building a custom home or doing a major renovation is to create a space that is wholly personal, which means you shouldn’t be beholden to trends. But in the interest of education, let’s talk about some things that are happening now.


Floor tiles from Porcelanosa’s Parker line. Courtesy of vendor
Step away from the super-dark, hand-scraped floors for a second. Consider engineered woods with a lighter, more natural finish. Our experts say that white, gray, and washed-wood finishes are making a comeback. Think about bleached, limed, or fumed woods with matte finishes or sealed-only floors. Don’t count out engineered products. They aren’t necessarily cheaper, but you can achieve a more exotic look. You might also consider porcelain tiles. Porcelanosa’s Parker line boasts a “wood” look. Stone floors are also showing up in unexpected places, like master bedrooms. 
Fun Fact: To get the look of steel windows, your contractor can match wood on the inside of the window to the color of the outside of the window. Steel versus wood could be a $50,000 difference in price!



Open floor plans—like this one from Sharif & Munir—are happening even in traditional homes.
Our experts say that, on the whole, new construction is going more contemporary. This doesn’t mean that everyone is moving into glorious, Rachofsky-like glass houses. But on the whole, houses have cleaner lines with less focus on turrets and more use of Austin stone and standing-seam roofs. Europhiles, relax. The Mediterranean isn’t going anywhere—this is Italy Dallas, after all.
Even those who choose to stay with more traditional exteriors are going with modern, open concepts on the inside. That means fewer hallways and tiny, wasted rooms. Open floor plans afford more useable space — the kitchen that opens to the den and possibly dining areas. An abundance of glass and lift-and-slide doors, designed to open and disappear, bring the outdoors in. Again, efficiency is key. Homeowners are better understanding that 100 percent of their spaces should be completely usable.

Powder rooms are the perfect places to try out that bold wallpaper that you’re too afraid to try anyplace else. Black Bathroom: Stephen Karlisch; White bathroom: Aimee Herring

Even the most risk-averse person should have some fun when building their dream home. Maybe you’re not ready to wallpaper all the ceilings. Fine. But get on board with the glass and metal trends and employ both on your staircase. In fact, why not create a fabulous, floating staircase? Too contemporary? Consider patterned woods, intricate wood designs, or an iron-and-steel combination. (On a side note, you might only need to do one staircase. It seems fewer new homes have two sets of stairs because they take up so much square footage.)

“Pick and choose your moments to make a statement. Not everything can be your statement piece.”
The powder bath is also a great place to try a bold wallpaper, daring paint color, or outrageous tile and hardware. There’s nothing better than stepping into an unexpected and divine powder bath. But what if you hate it? That’s a drag, but it’s not the end of the world. “It’s such a small space, so it’s not significant to change it. That’s why it’s a good place to take chances,” Michael Munir says.

There has been a lot of talk about how the formal living and dining rooms have been eradicated from new homes, but that’s simply not true. The rooms still exist; they function differently. The formal living room is now more of a “parlor” or an “away room,” as in, “I have to get away from the televisions that seem to have shown up in every flipping room, including outdoor spaces, in this house.” Many people choose to make it multi-functional — it could be a library and a bar area. It could open to the patio and be more of a party room. The point is, it doesn’t disappear from the floor plan. It just becomes something that you’ll actually use for more than fancy-but-uncomfortable furniture storage.

Likewise, the designated dining room still exists, but it’s more open and casual. It could be the serving space for even more casual parties. Add bookcases, and, it, too could become a library. 

Photography by Jill Broussard

We’ve all heard it: Kitchens (and baths) sell homes. Kitchens are the heart of the home. Grandma’s kitchen: Tasters welcome. We get it! Kitchens are important. But they’re also expensive. Jennifer Fordham of Poggenpohl Dallas says she tries to educate her clients from the beginning about what things cost and parse their needs. “I have to tell them that they don’t need drawers in every single inch of the kitchen,” she says. “You have to think about the odd-shaped things that won’t fit in a drawer.” She also says ventilation is key—folks come in the showroom and ask if there’s any way around having it at all. “They think it’s ugly, but you need it, if only to pass code,” she says with a laugh.

“I think people love options other than stainless — painted appliances work in some cases. We do a lot of integrated appliances in millwork, and we do a fair amount of painted ranges now.”
We’ve come to expect stainless steel and granite in high-end kitchens, but maybe it’s time to expand your horizons. “Granite used to be a premium, but now it’s everywhere,” Michael Munir says. “Most apartments have granite now.” Consider engineered stone and other countertop options. 
As for stainless steel, it’s still a thing. But like granite, it’s pretty standard stuff. You might want to take a chance on some of the new designs that Miele is producing — basically glassed appliances in all black, white, or chocolate. Think how fantastic they’ll look with the tasteful Ann Sacks tile and Waterworks plumbing fixtures you’ve so carefully chosen. 

For cabinets, think about some of the lighter woods or more natural-colored walnuts, or go bold with some matte lacquers. Fordham says white kitchens are coming back, too.

No matter your tastes, we can all agree that the two most important items in your kitchen will be a Hoshizaki ice maker and the Miele Whole Bean/Ground Coffee System. Sonic ice and caffeine always make everything better.

Stop shopping online. Try to use builders’ vendors—they have arranged for best pricing. your attempts to piece together vendors might add up more than you think.  

Consider multiple uses for rooms instead of an abundance of specialty rooms. Music rooms are so 2000-and-late if you’re not actually a musician. 

Your family is great. But don’t let the opinions of family and friends be the final word on your dream house. 

Don’t skimp on that pocket office off the kitchen. You will use it all the time.

Don’t delay your selections. Using a designer will help when it comes to navigating the many choices.

Don’t avoid the value-engineering process. It results in a smarter and more cost-effective design.

Don’t get impatient. The last 10 percent of the build requires patience. Focus on the positives. Don’t get hyper critical before the whole installation is complete. Enjoy the process.