Getting in the Remodeling Mindset

side yard after 1

Remodeling is a complicated process, especially for homeowners taking the DIY route. Luckily, with a little foresight you can organize your project, minimize anxiety and create a comfortable home for years to come.

Need help getting started? Check out these stress-busting tips from fellow DIY aficionados.

Visualize your new design

Begin by envisioning your future space. What will be the focal point? Which colors and textures would you like to incorporate into the design?

Magazines are a classic source for ideas, but these days, DIY enthusiasts use online design boards, social media platforms and renovation blogs to get their creative juices flowing.

Historical architecture, modern art and even local buildings also can inspire flair at home.

“Sometimes a unique storefront display, or the architecture and lines of a cityscape can create a concept for the perfect look,” said Dina Riccobono of Pfister Faucets.

Rely on your intuition. Aaron Schoenberger of Fix & Flip Network keeps future owners in mind before making definitive plans for a fixer-upper.

“When looking to remodel a home I am inspired by a variety of things. For one, I consider the purpose of the remodel (i.e., will the home be my primary residence or rented/sold) and base the project on that. The purpose gives me inspiration,” the house-flipping expert said.

If you’re planning to sell in the near future, avoid overly-unique features. Ultra-modern or excessively ornate interiors may deter potential home buyers looking for classic styles.

Consider function and lifestyle

Aside from aesthetic preferences such as paint colors and textiles, remodeled spaces must function properly for the home’s residents.

“Deciding to want to change something comes from my need to want my family’s house to feel like home. If something isn’t working with who we are and our style, it’s a goner,” said Selene Galindo, a mother and home decor writer.

Owners of older homes with dated or potentially dangerous fixtures should prioritize safety upgrades. Samantha Pregenzer, a professional organizer, tackled her home’s most unfavorable features first.

“Since we have three small children, I worked on and have completed a lot of the jobs that were bumped to the top of the list, like the swimming pool for safety reasons,” the Bay Area mom said.

Create a budget and then some

Lidy Dipert of Hello Lidy recommends always budgeting for additional costs, especially because DIY mishaps sometimes require professional assistance to fix.

“I think the most stressful part of a remodel for us is the money. The budget always seems to end up being a lot more than you plan for, so we always expect to go over,” the mother of three said.

Scarlet Paolicchi of Family Focus Blog faces the same issue but has learned to cope with the unexpected. “Planning ahead is a good way to deal with this so that you know exactly what to expect and in terms of money and time,” she advises.

Completing a project yourself can save a significant amount of money, but the work is not always easy, as Debbie Westbrooks of Refresh Restyle learned. “The first time I laid tile on a patio, I thought it was difficult. Before the job was over I realized it wasn’t that bad, except on the knees!”

Tackle one job at a time

DIY writer Nicki Parrish says she minimizes stress by focusing on one project at a time. This has allowed her to stay in her home during major DIY renovations.

Kayla Janachovsky, who is currently on her own remodeling journey, says the clutter and dysfunction during a renovation are tiresome. She advises to stay social.

“Spend time away from the house — restaurants, friends’ houses, yoga classes — anything that makes you happy and gets you out of the clutter for short bursts of time,” she said. “Then just keep reminding yourself that once this is all done your house is going to become a home, and you’re going to LOVE it!”

Sometimes, bypassing your own doubts can be the most difficult part of remodeling. “The decision to go ahead with a remodel is the hardest thing,” said Shellie Wilson, founder of Craftbits. ”Once you have made that commitment, everything else is easy.”

Whatever the project, plan wisely. With a reasonable blueprint and potential costs in mind, you can alleviate the hassles and create a space you’ll love for years to come.



5 Ways to Dress Up your Front Door

By Michael Franco

Ostensibly, a home’s front door is there for one reason and one reason only: to let people come and go while keeping the inside environment secure and separate from the outside. But a front door is so much more than that. It is often the first thing that draws the eye of a passerby or visitor. It also sets the style and mood of your home, welcoming guests with an air of elegance, friendliness, whimsy or warmth.

If your front door is not setting the tone you want, here are some fun, easy and rewarding ways to make it the arresting centerpiece it deserves to be.

1. Decorate it

Source: Verge Architecture

There are nearly limitless possibilities for decorating your front door. You could simply paint it a different color (or colors), hang a wreath in the center or add a dramatic house number above or to the side. Other options include installing long shutters on either side or adding a playful, historic or decorative specialty door knocker. Online retailer Architectural Depot sells a wide range of knockers, from chili peppers to poodles, that are sure to make you smile when you come home at the end of a long day.

2. Replace it

A study commissioned by door manufacturer Therma-Tru found that replacing a home’s front door can increase the perceived value of the home. In the study, enhancing an entryway upped a home’s perceived value by as much as five times the cost of the new door.

Source: Zillow

When replacing your door, don’t think only about swapping one door for another — although that alone could dramatically increase the appeal of your entrance. Instead, look to enlarge the entryway by installing a door with windows on either side or above. This will add a sense of grandeur to the front of the house and create a more pleasant atmosphere inside, thanks to the added natural light.

3. Light it up

Source: Suzanne Tucker of Tucker & Marks Inc.

If you don’t already have lights at your front door, installing them can be a big presentation booster. If you do have lights, consider replacing them to update the look of your entry. Wall sconces are available in a myriad of designs, from traditional lanterns to sleek modern steel models. You can find thousands of sconces at online retailers such as Destination Lighting. If you have a porch, install a hanging fixture to cast a welcoming pool of light on the front door. Finally, to add dramatic flair, place outdoor spotlights on the ground and aim them at the door, so it can truly take center stage.

4. Add planters

One of the quickest ways to enhance your entryway is to set a plantercontaining a variety of different colored and textured plants and flowers on either side of the door. You can create an Old World look with vase-like cement planters, go Zen with simple geometric-glazed pots or strike a whimsical note with old tin or wooden buckets. A common approach is to place a tall plant, such as a grass, in the center of the pot, then surround it by a low-grower like ivy. If you live in a cold climate, after the growing season has passed, use the planters to display seasonal decor, such as pumpkins for Halloween or painted white branches withtwinkle lights for Christmas.

5. Go high tech

The front door isn’t necessarily the most technologically advanced part of the house, but with the IS7121-2 Audio/Video Door Answering System, a doorbell and phone combo from VTech, you can change that. You simply install a doorbell module beside the front door, then indoors, plug in the two video phone receivers wherever you’d like. When someone rings the doorbell, the module automatically snaps his picture and sends it to the handset. You can then choose to stream video and have a conversation with the visitor or go answer the door in person. Or if you’re not feeling very social, pretend you’re not home. The system stores up to 100 images, so at the end of the day or a week later, you can review who’s stopped by.

As a phone, the IS7121-2 includes Voice Announce caller ID, HD audio, speakerphone, last 10-number redial, caller ID for both the current call and call waiting and many other features. It’s a system that’s sure to banish the phrase “dumb as a doornail” forever!

While style and budget will be considerations, any improvement you can make to your home’s most prominent feature is likely worth the investment of time and money. Remember, your front door makes the first and last impression of your home for anyone who comes knocking.

This post has been brought to you by VTech. Its facts and opinions are those of

Bob Vila is the home improvement expert widely known as host of TV’s This Old House, Bob Vila’s Home Again, and Bob Vila. Today, Bob continues his mission to help people upgrade their homes and improve their lives with advice online at His video-rich site offers a full range of fresh, authoritative content – practical tips, inspirational ideas, and more than 1,000 videos from Bob Vila television.


8 Tips for Building Your Own Treehouses

Whether it’s sleeping under the stars, telling ghost stories or simply enjoying the great outdoors, treehouses are where summer memories are made.


Now is a perfect time to build your own backyard treehouse just in time for summer. But before grabbing a hammer and nails, there are a few things you should consider to ensure your treehouse is built to last.

Check out these eight tips from the pros at California-based O2 Treehouse and Fall City, WA-based Nelson Treehouse and Supply.

1. Make sure you have a good tree. Consider hiring an arborist to check the health of the tree to make sure it’s going to last. Find out which pests are associated with that type of tree.

2. Assess how much weight your tree can handle and whether your structure can be suspended or will need additional supports.

3. Do your homework with regard to regulations. Make sure you are within the square-footage limit outlined in your area’s building code. Sometimes the structure can’t exceed the height of the main residence.

4. Talk to your neighbors. If your treehouse is going to overlook your neighbors’ backyard, they’ll likely have something to say about it. It’s better to be open and communicative with your neighbors because often, that respect is all they want.

5. Consider buying treehouse hardware or even a pre-fab treehouse kit (they typically cost thousands less than a custom design) to make the construction phase easier.

6. For the interior, imagine you are designing a boat that is always moving. If, for example, you are hanging a picture on the wall, make sure it will actually stay there.

7. Use flexible and multi-functional furniture. For example, a sectional sofa that can be carried up in pieces and assembled in the treehouse is ideal.

8. Play with different patterns and textures. Things that are flat and 2D can have a big impact in a tree and they’re easy to transport.


Treehouses: They’re Not Just for Kids Anymore

The Leaf House by O2 Treehouse is dubbed the 'floating lantern'  because of its striking silhouette against the night sky.

With the days getting longer, now is the perfect time to build a backyard treehouse for your kids — or for yourself. Treehouses are no longer just play spaces for children; they’re also places for adults to unwind, pursue their hobbies and even make their primary residence.

Today, about 15 companies are in the “treehouse business,” with specialized teams of engineers and interior designers building custom-designed backyard escapes and providing kits and tools for homeowners looking to construct their own.

Here’s a look at the growing trend.


Fall City, WA-based Nelson Treehouse and Supply, featured on Animal Planet’s “Treehouse Masters,” has built everything from breweries and recording studios to spas with steam showers — all suspended in trees.

“A lot of people think of treehouses and children, but 9 out of 10 treehouses we build are for adults,” said Daryl McDonald, the team’s foreman. “People want an escape pod — a way to get out of the busyness of being in a home.”

Pete Nelson, owner of Nelson Treehouse and Supply, poses by a Ohio brewery treehouse he designed on Animal Planet's "Treehouse Masters." New episodes of the popular TV show begin on May 30.

Ohio brewery treehouse (interior)

Tory Jones, the TV show’s interior designer, says the sky is the limit when it comes to designing a treehouse. But first you must think about what you need that extra space to be and how you want it to function.

“Design follows function,” she said. “I’ve literally done everything from mid-century modern to contemporary and mission craftsman style.”

CeeLo Green stopped by the Record-High Recording Studio built by Nelson Treehouse & Supply to lay down a track.

Inside the Ohio Butterfly treehouse by Nelson Treehouse & Supply.


O2 Treehouse, a California-based company that will be appearing in an upcoming episode of “Treehouse Masters,” is experimenting with not only function but design.

“I’ve gotten into more complex forms in the geodesic family,” said Justin Feider, the company’s owner and lead builder. “One of my favorites is the honeysphere with 200 openings.”

The Honey Sphere by O2 Treehouse.

Feider says the geodesic shape makes sense for a treehouse because of its strength. The design is also a reflection of architecture and nature, he says.

“People’s consciousness of the green movement and their inherent responsibility in that story has been on the rise,” Feider explained. “Treehouses are part of that. They’re the poster child for living sustainably in a natural structure — a symbiotic relationship with a tree.”


This Austin, TX treehouse designed by Nelson's team has a spa inside.

Both Nelson and O2 provide treehouse consultations, construction and installation in the U.S. and abroad. The process typically takes between two days and nine months, depending on the size and complexity of the project.

“If you want installation, we quote on a custom basis because every tree is different,” Feider explained. His custom structures normally cost between $35,000 and $100,000. Treehouses built by Nelson Treehouse and Supply typically fall in the $80,000-$200,000 range, but their prices also vary depending on the project.

“We do a lot of little ones. A ‘kid deck’ up in a tree would take us 2-3 days,” McDonald said. “The finished product is big enough so you could pitch a tent but nice enough so you could just sleep under the stars. It’s fun because of the immediate gratification.”

At the other end of the spectrum, the biggest project McDonald completed was a 1,000-square-foot treehouse with a 500-square-foot deck. “It had a clawfoot tub,” he said. “It was the most extreme one I’ve worked on.”


Up Your Home’s Curb Appeal with Front Yard Landscaping


By Larry Bilotti

Tropical plants and palm trees fit the climate and architecture of this Hawaii home. Landscaping by Suzman Design Associates

Your front yard, regardless of its size, plays an important role in your home’s overall curb appeal. Your landscaping, however, goes well beyond just a beautiful lawn. It should take into account the style and size of your house, how it’s sited on the property, the amount of sunlight the yard receives and how to best enhance it with plantings, bushes, shrubs and trees. It should also include hardscaping features, from walkways and driveways to raised beds, planters and decorative containers.

What are the best practices for front-yard landscaping? To learn more, we reached out to Dorian Winslow, a certified landscape designer and the owner and president of Womanswork, an online retailer of gardening apparel and supplies. Here are her 12 tips for successful front yard landscaping.

1. Find your focus

Every view in your landscape should have a focal point. “For your front yard, the focal point is the front door, so be sure you don’t hide it,” advises Winslow. If you are considering major plantings such as trees, think about how they will frame the front door as you approach your house.

2. Use ground covers

Ground covers are a low-maintenance alternative — and complement — to grass. “Because they’re low to the ground and dense, they give a neat appearance with very little maintenance,” says Winslow. “They also allow you to introduce spring bulbs to your landscape because the ground cover hides the dead leaves after the bulbs bloom.” Be sure you research what ground covers work (culturally) with the trees in your yard.

The path to the front door of this home is curved but not meandering. Source: Eduardo Mendoza

3. Set the right path

When considering the pathway from the driveway to your front door, Winslow says to “remember that our natural instinct is to take the most direct route to where we’re going.” A curved path to the front door is nice, but a meandering path may not be. “If you want to take your visitors on a circuitous route, be sure you plant densely along each side of your path,” she adds. “Otherwise, your guests will cut their own path across your grass to get to the front door.”

4. Rethink foundation plants

“Avoid treating foundation plants as if they were little soldiers pressed up along the perimeter of your house,” advises Winslow. “For a two-story house, foundation plantings should extend at least 8 feet out from the house.” And remember, a curved garden bed can soften the lines of your house in a pleasing way. Be sure the shrubs that are placed closest to your house are not taller than the windows, or they will block the light coming into your house and the view from inside looking out. When you’re planting shrubs, think about how they will look in three to five years. “You don’t want to select varieties that will block your windows,” she adds.

5. Add some privacy

If you are looking to add some privacy in your yard, consider a buffer of shrubs, suggests Winslow. “A buffer that includes multiple plants at varying heights can accomplish the same thing as a solid hedge or a fence but is far more welcoming,” says Winslow. Alternatively, if you are just trying to block the view from a particular room — or a part of your yard from your neighbors — plant a couple of trees or shrubs with strategic precision.

6. Deter the deer

If deer are an issue, select shrubs that are deciduous (lose their leaves in the winter) but retain their form even when their leaves are gone. This will help preserve the structure of your garden in all seasons.

7. Consider the light

“Your house is a large object that will block the sun for part of every day,” notes Winslow. If your house faces north, the front yard is never going to get great light. If it faces east or west, it may get searing sun for part of the day and then no sun for the remainder. Make your plant choices with that in mind, advises Winslow.

Pavers dress up the edge of this driveway. Source: All Oregon Landscaping

8. Think long term

If you’re planting trees in front of your house, plan 12 to 15 years out. They are considered a permanent fixture of the landscape, so you want to be sure they are not too close to the house. “If you are thinking of selling your house, a tree can be an asset — unless it is one that prospective owners think they will have to remove; then it’s a liability,” cautions Winslow.

9. Dress up the drive

If you have a standard asphalt driveway that you want to enhance, install a border of Belgian blocks (more expensive) or cement pavers (less expensive) along the edges of your driveway. A border gives the driveway a more finished and rich look.

10. Create an entrance

“If your driveway is a straight line from the street to the house,” says Winslow, “soften the line with a curved planting bed where thedriveway meets the front corner of your yard.” This will create a pleasing, sweeping effect as you approach the house.

11. Add a flowering tree

A flowering tree provides wonderful curb appeal and is welcoming for those few weeks in spring when it’s in bloom. Flowering varieties provide fragrance and usually don’t block the house, because they tend to be smaller trees.

12. Keep it simple

Don’t crowd your front yard with lots of objects or plants. Have a clear structure to the design and a focal point.


5 Spring Home Maintenance Musts

By Michael Franco

House from Digs
Nothing renews that feeling of pride of ownership more than attending to annual home maintenance tasks (especially once they are completed and behind you). Now that spring has arrived, it’s time to investigate the condition of your home’s exterior — everything from the roof, gutters, siding, and foundation to the lawn, shrubs, trees and garden. The chore isn’t so bad, and with a plan — and the right tools — you can make short work of many of these common tasks:


Spring is a good time to see what damage winter storms, snow and ice may have done to the exterior of your home. Take this time to inspect the roof; you can do it easily and safely from the ground with a pair of binoculars. Look for loose, curled or missing shingles and any bent or damaged flashing around chimneys, skylights or points where the roof makes contact with the house. Note where repairs are in order and make sure to get them done. Next, clean out your gutters and downspouts. With those spring showers on the way, you definitely want to make sure your gutters are clear of debris so that they function properly. Also use this time to inspect your home’s foundation and chimney; repair any cracks or crumbles. Small fixes now could save you money and headaches later.


Your trees and bushes will look and grow a lot better if you remove dead, damaged or overhanging branches. The main thing to remember here is to cut the entire branch off at the branch collar, which is the point where the branch connects to the trunk or another branch. Don’t leave little half branches or big stubs. You’ll get the best results using a handsaw or hand pruner, and it’s well worth investing in an extendable pruning saw with clippers if you have some branches that are just out of reach. Be sure to wear safety glasses and a hard hat if you are cutting branches directly overhead.


There’s certainly no shortage of things to clean outside when the spring season hits. A hose attachment like the HYDE PivotJet Pro can help with almost any cleaning task and lets you get the job done with ease since there’s no bulky or noisy engine to cart around or an electric cord to wrestle. Its powerful spray provides superior cleaning without the risk of damage associated with pressure washers. Use it to clean siding, windows, foundations, decks, gutters, patio furniture, grills, driveways, pool areas, fences, mowers and more. The spray wand with a pivot nozzle head gets into hard-to-reach spots, and a built-in liquid cleaner reservoir can be adjusted or turned completely off as needed. It’s much easier to use than a pressure washer, and much more affordable as well.

Touch-up painting

Exterior paint takes a beating throughout the year, so touching up those areas of your house, fence or shed where paint is starting to fail is a good way to avoid long-term damage and make everything look new and fresh. This isn’t a task you want to revisit every year, so it is crucial to follow the proper steps for prepping, priming and repainting.

Garden prepping

If you enjoy growing a vegetable or flower garden, then you have some prep work to do before it’s ready for seed or seedlings. Removing weeds and leaves, tilling or turning the soil, testing the soil and adding the appropriate fertilizers are just a few tasks you can start doing now. You might want to consider adding a motorized tiller to your arsenal of tools if you plan on keeping a good-size garden every year. If you get a jump on prepping your garden early in the season, you will have more time later to enjoy the fun part — watching your garden grow!


Designing for Small Spaces: American Dream Builders

This week on American Dream Builders, the teams were temporarily disbanded and the contestants partnered up to work on an empty modular home. Their new spaces would be voted on by the neighborhood council — as well as a discerning group of editors from Better Homes and Gardens magazine. Like previous weeks, the homes came with a set of challenges, and this time it was a lack of space. The modular houses had a narrow living room and kitchen and one small bathroom and bedroom, forcing each team to get creative in their space planning. Here’s how you can recreate some of their looks.

Darren and Elaine’s Living Room

Darren and Elaine changed their living room both structurally and decor-wise. They took out a section of countertop, moving the fridge several inches over and greatly expanding the living room area. Even without the room’s rearrangement, there are several things to be learned from their soothing living room design, which Elaine described as “Malibu beach house meets Upper East Side.”

"It's delicious! Delicious," judge Monica Pederson said.

Get the look:

1. Hang curtains from the ceiling. This makes ceilings and windows appear taller.


2. Choose simple, small furniture in matching tones, which will not overwhelm the space.

Neutral furniture doesn't overwhelm a room.

3. Add accessories sparingly, as to not clutter the room.

Just a few accent pieces add a lot of personality.

Erinn and Lukas’ Modern Cottage Kitchen

Erinn and Lukas chose to transform their modular home into a “modern cottage,” complete with white plank walls and simple features.

"Look at the details. The walls are planked!" judge Nate Berkus said.

Get the look:

1. Open shelving, rather than closed cabinets, makes the kitchen feel spacious.

Get creative with what you display on open shelving.

2. Keep the color palette light. White gives a room an expansive feeling.

An all-white kitchen appears light and spacious.

3. Create an eat-in kitchen. The need for a formal dining room is becoming less and less important for Americans and combining the space makes sense for smaller homes.

The pop of yellow is fun in the otherwise white kitchen.

Get more design inspiration from “American Dream Builders” contestants on Zillow Digs!