From landscaping to home entertainment, paint colors and kitchen upgrades, here are our tips for improving your home and yard this spring.
Ideas for Creating A Tranquil Outdoor Space
By Chelsea Sherman
This is the time of year when you want to spend as much time outdoors as possible. Whether you regularly entertain guests in your backyard or you simply like to enjoy quiet time in your outdoor space, creating an aesthetically appealing, tranquil ambiance is a must.
Here are some backyard landscaping tips you can use to create a tranquil outdoor space for your home:
- Fireplaces and Fire Pits: There is nothing quite like cozying up to a warm fire with your loved ones at the end a summer day. It’s no surprise, then, that fireplaces and fire pits are a popular landscaping feature these days. Whether you want a basic wood fire pit to roast s’mores with your kids or a large gas fireplace to provide gorgeous ambiance on summer nights, a fire pit makes for a wonderful addition to your outdoor living space.
- Water Features: The soft trickling of water adds such a tranquil ambience to your landscape, and it can be as simple or grandiose as you desire. From a small waterfall or pond, to a complex and artistic dry stream bed, the options for water features in your outdoor space are boundless. Water features can include several types of materials, such as metal, stones and glass, depending on the look you are going for. Your water feature can even be incorporated into your pool, in the form of a water spout or waterfall that flows into the pool.
- Rain Gardens: Not only are rain gardens a great way to eliminate drainage issues, but they also double as a beautiful aesthetic for your outdoor space. Creating a rain garden can be a simple undertaking, such as using a rain barrel to collect rain and reusing it to irrigate your plants. Or it can be a more involved underground harvesting system that feeds into a water feature, like a fountain.
- Repeat Bloomers: To get the most bang for your buck for the least amount of maintenance, look for flowers that bloom twice a year. Encore azaleas bloom in both the spring and fall and are a popular choice in Coastal Virginia. Endless Summer hydrangeas are another vibrant choice that bloom twice a year.
- Mulch Alternatives: If you want a change from the traditional mulch look, consider using a substitute like river rock or Mexican pebbles.
- Outdoor Kitchens: The perfect choice for entertainers, outdoor kitchens allow you to prepare food and drinks outside with your guests, so you don’t miss a moment of the fun. These spaces can be large or small, depending on the space you have available.
- Edible Landscaping: Nothing compares to growing your own fresh fruits, veggies and herbs right in your backyard. Growing your own food is not only healthy, but it can also add beautiful shapes and colors to your landscaping. Fruits that grow well in Coastal Virginia include peaches, blueberries, apricots, persimmons and raspberries. For vegetable plants, consider chard, spinach and tomatoes.
- Lighting: Outdoor lighting has come a long way since the days of floodlights. Today’s outdoor lighting can be an artistic way of illuminating your landscape and a practical way to keep the party going after the sun goes down. Lighting can be any color you can think of, so it can perfectly match the vibe of your outdoor space. You can even get creative and sync your lighting up to music.
Transforming your backyard into a welcoming oasis can be a challenge, but the reward will be well worth the effort. Special thanks to Cristina Fletcher of Visionscapes Land Design for the helpful tips.
Home Entertainment That Takes You Out Of This World
By Kristen De Deyn Kirk
Once upon a time, home entertainment meant a television. You’d add a comfy chair, a DVD player and a decent-enough sound system, and you couldn’t imagine needing anything else besides your Blockbuster card.
But now, well, some people reading this might not have ever stepped into a Blockbuster. Home entertainment means so much more than movies; it means being connected to everything outside the home, in the easiest, most visual, smartest way possible. In other words, in my mind, Apple’s HomePod, Intel’s True VR, Sling TV and well, OK, an insanely cool LG Wallpaper TV:
Easiest: Apple HomePod As it usually does, Apple waited for other creators to design and manufacture voice assistants, even though it introduced Siri nearly seven years ago. Finally in February 2018, they took a stab at their own version, and early reviews place them at the head of the pack—minus a fault or two. Plusses are the HomePod’s small, blend-in design at just over six inches high and a blackish hue that can fade into most decors. (Those preferring to show off can choose white.) The sound and “listening” reception (its ability to hear you!) is supposed to be better than other assistants. Reviewers report that music is concert-quality and that commands are understood immediately. On the negative side: Voice command only connect you to Apple Music (if you want Spotify or something similar, you’ll need to work through your phone’s Airplay), and repair costs are criminal: The HomePod is priced around $350; repairs are $279.
Most Visual: Intel True VR The Olympics presented the perfect opportunity for Intel to step up its effort to connect more people with virtual reality systems, and they did so with a partnership that delivered 30 events in virtual reality. All you needed was a phone (and in one case, a laptop) and one of their ski goggle-like sets (prices around $400 and up for a complete system), and you were snowboarding with Shaun White. Last year, March Madness was extra fast and sweaty for those who took advantage of the same Intel virtual reality access, and per game prices were mere dollars each. In a few years, we might not remember watching sports without a head/eye-set.
Smartest: Sling TV Saying goodbye to cable, although it’s not really “cable” anymore, takes courage. Can another service give you what you need without making you miss that long list of possibilities you see daily on the guide—yet always scroll by? More people are finding the courage to say yes, and Sling TV could be a cost-effective way to do so. Sling offers three main options—$20 for Sling Orange (would work nicely for someone who watches news staples CNN and FOX; sports necessities ACC Network, ESPN, ESPN 2, ESPN3; and decorating-inspiring HGTV) and $25 for Sling Blue (a must-have if you like mind-numbing stations such as BRAVO and Lifetime) or Sling Orange and Blue for $40. A handful of other options—bundles for kids, news junkies and sports junkies—are offered as well. You’ll still need the Internet and will probably want an antenna for local stations, but your monthly expenses can be closer to $100 rather than $200.
Coolest: LG Wallpaper TV If ever there’s an extra $8,000 you need to spend, consider the LG Wallpaper TV. The screen is as big as most TVs you’ve drooled over: 65 inches. But it’s the small features that make this one so desirable. In depth, it measures about 1/10 of an inch. That’s smaller than the thinnest iPhone, and it weighs only 16 pounds. The trick: All the components are located in the sound bar.
Tips for Choosing the Perfect Paint Colors This Spring
By Chelsea Sherman
This year, neutrals continue to trend heavily in interior design. In keeping with our area’s coastal vibe, warm grays with blue and green undertones are still popular paint color choices. Variations of taupe are also trending. But there is a different color that is not overtly coastal coming onto the scene this season: lavender.
“Lavender is big this year,” says Michelle Nettles, owner of MJN & Associates Interiors in Virginia Beach. “There are so many purples out in fabrics now that we haven’t seen in recent years. Lavender pairs well with the neutrals and grays we have been seeing and is just a really nice touch of color for spring and summer.”
It isn’t all that surprising that lavender is having a moment this year, considering the Pantone color for 2018 is ultraviolet, a deep, blue-based purple.
Are you ready to spiff up your space with a new paint job? Here are some tips for getting your colors just right, courtesy of MJN & Associates Interiors:
- When you’re considering a color on a paint fan, be sure to pay attention to the colors around it. For instance, on the Sherwin-Williams “Fundamentally Neutral” fan, you can choose colors to pair with your chosen neutral by selecting colors that complement it on the color wheel. The color might be gray, but it might have pink, blue or green undertones that you want to pair with complementary colors.
- Want to use a variety of colors throughout the house? That’s fine, but make sure there is a flow to the house. “You don’t want to walk one room to another and go, ‘Where did this come from?’ You want there to be a connection from one room to the next,” says Nettles. The flow can just be a single color that you carry from room to room, and the palette can vary a little bit.
- Don’t be afraid to add depth with darker colors. You don’t always have to pick the top two colors on the paint fan (the lightest). If you go further down, you can choose colors that will add depth to the room. Always going for the lightest color can wash a room out. Using deeper paint colors with lighter colored furniture and drapery, or vice versa, can create a nice pop of color for your space.
- Even though painting is the first thing you do when decorating a home, paint color should be the last piece of the decor you choose. The choices for paint colors are limitless, because paint can be tweaked into any color imaginable. The same is not true for rugs, fabrics, pillows and window treatments. Choose the most limiting pieces first, then choose your paint, because the paint color can truly be anything you want.
Regardless of current trends and colors you’ve seen in other homes, make sure you choose paint colors that make you feel peaceful and happy. Remember, it is your space, and you should select the colors that make you feel the most at home.
Cooking With Innovation
Ingredients For An Up-To-Date Kitchen
By Kristen De Deyn Kirk
David Alderman, owner of Dave’s Cabinet Inc. in Chesapeake and former president of the National Kitchen and Bath Association, laughs every time someone comments on the countertop slab on display in his office.
“‘That’s beautiful granite!,’ they say. ‘Top quality,’” he shares. “I have to correct them and tell them, no, it’s quartz. Quartz has improved a lot and is more durable. It copies granite in every way and gives you a consistency in design, which some people prefer.”
Alderman’s lesson: Keep an open mind when you’re creating your dream kitchen, and talk to a professional.
“Some people are saving for years to do this,” Alderman notes. “You have to know what you’re doing. Look for someone who is an AKBD (associate kitchen and bath designer); CKD (certified kitchen designer), or CMKBD (certified master kitchen and bath designer).”
The National Kitchen and Bath Association awards each certification; the first requires a minimum of two years experience; the second, seven and the third, 17, along with other qualifications.
As a kitchen designer for nearly 40 years, Alderman has seen trends change more than a dozen times. In addition to quartz, he’s recently worked on more projects with these features:
- Wood-topped islands and raised bars
- Thick countertops—about 1 1/3-inch thick or more
- Single-bowl sinks versus the once-popular two bowls. “If a customer wants a two-bowl, it’s a newer design with a short divide between the two bowls, 2 to 2 1/2 inches high only,” he says.
Cabinets used to take the largest chunk of customers’ budgets, when they’d select the most expensive woods and designs. Now, Alderman sees homeowners preferring to invest a greater portion of their money in sleek and nearly self-operating appliances.
“Voice-activated stoves, phone-operated ovens you can set from a distance and camera-installed fridges are popular,” he says. “You can talk from across the room to turn on your stove or start your oven on the way home from work, or if you’re in the store and can’t remember if you’re out of something in the fridge, you can access your fridge camera and literally see what you have.”
As impressive as they are, Paula Kinney, lead designer with Love Your Nest, advises that the appliances you choose shouldn’t dominate your kitchen. Her advice:
- Incorporate a microwave drawer (a microwave with a bottom drawer that opens like a traditional drawer) below cabinet height or at least place a traditional microwave in a base cabinet, not at or above counter height.
- Choose a slide-in range: They are convection, and the look allows the backsplash to be featured because the setting buttons aren’t located perpendicularly against the wall.
- Purchase a counter-depth fridge (one that lines up with the depth of the counters). “The regular-depth, huge monstrosities are no longer the best bet,” says Kinney. “A counter-depth fridge fits seamlessly into the design without taking over.”
Beth Gilbert, owner of Gilbert Interiors and a 21-year veteran designer at Tidewater Builders’ annual Homearama shows, is also seeing refrigerated drawers gaining in popularity along with large drawers—versus cabinets with doors—throughout the kitchen.
“People, including myself, prefer drawer base cabinets instead of the traditional door style,” says Gilbert. “Access to the whole area is much easier.”
Overall, customers prefer sleeker, more streamlined cabinets, and white remains the most popular choice.
“We don’t do nearly as many corbels or decorative accents as we used to,” Gilbert adds.
So as is often the best advice in life, the guideline to “K.I.S.S.,” keep it simple, silly, applies to your new kitchen—except, maybe, when it comes to your appliances.
Design Tips To Make Your Patio And Backyard Your Favorite “Rooms”
By Kristen De Deyn Kirk
The time is coming, even if you’re reading this after wearing warm layers and a heavy winter jacket today and nearly every day for months: You will want to go outside again. In fact, you’ll yearn for hours on end outdoors, soaking up the sunshine—or moonlight—in beautiful surroundings that you created with your taste and your friends’ in mind. If you haven’t already, now is an ideal time to perfect your patio or backyard (both if budget allows), with the weather not too cold nor too hot, and your favorite stores offering spring sales. Two top designers, one from Coastal Virginia and one from New York City, share their ideas to get you started:
Beth Gilbert, owner of Gilbert Interiors of Virginia Beach, a designer with 20-plus years of experience serving Coastal Virginia:
- Think about cooking: Outdoor gas grills remain the most popular cooking method, although more people are adding extras like a pizza oven or a charcoal pit. If keeping the grill under roof, please be sure that there is proper ventilation.
- Consider how the space will be used. If you plan on dining in the outdoor space, include tables and enough chairs to accommodate family members and guests. Also include other seating so that guests or family can sit and linger comfortably after dinner. If you have sunny spaces or a pool in the yard, lounge chairs are a must.
- Coordinate the overall look. On-trend colors are navy blue, medium blues and aqua. Turn to pinks and corals to brighten the mood and deep, saturated colors like peacock blue and lime green to add sophistication to the setting. Most of these colors work with the grayed color palette that has been growing in popularity over the last few years. Keep an eye on golds and beiges. They’re coming along with new brushed brass or bronze finishes.
- Select materials that will stand up to the elements but still add style. Powder-coated aluminum, teak and resin tend to be the most popular, but people do still like the look of wicker or rattan. Make sure it is all-weather rattan if staying outside. Check that upholstery is weather resistant, too.
- Set the mood with appropriate lighting. It’s important in an outdoor space, especially if you plan on entertaining at night. Choose recessed lighting if your outdoor space is under roof. They offer several benefits: One, they are dimmable. Two, they keep the bugs that are attracted to the light up high and not at face height. Third, they hold up best in harsh elements. Don’t forget about landscape lighting either. It adds a nice touch to yard and pool areas.
- Budget for extras that add a wow factor or indoor comforts. Fire pits, TVs and sound systems are growing in popularity. Waterfalls, ponds and spa pools are still up there on the list, but those require a little more space as well as maintenance.
- Add a rug to anchor the seating area or table.
- Include pillows or throws to invite curling up and lingering for awhile.
- Hang iron or artwork if there is a wall available to hang it on.
- Feature candles and luminaries to add a touch of romance to the space.
- Bring the inside colors out to the outdoor space as if it is a continuation of the indoor space. It will make the spaces feel connected and tied together.
Lisa Melone Cloughen from Melone Cloughen Interiors, Inc., a New York City area residential design firm specializing in luxurious and sophisticated interiors:
- Consider your budget and proceed accordingly: A grill and appliances such as a refrigerator are the obvious place to start, and prefabricated kits allow you to construct your outdoor kitchen for much less cost than a totally custom design. There are many design options, such as wood and stone, contemporary or traditional and even prefab modular concrete kits. Many of the kits include appliances as well. While you may be able to do much of the construction on your own, consult a contractor for the electrical and plumbing requirements. They can also help you locate your work area close to existing plumbing and electrical lines.
- Feature an island so you and you guests can enjoy the experience together. It isn’t necessary to build one, though. Look at some of the bar-height tables and place one like you would an island. Longer, rectangular tables can act as a bar, dining area or serving table. Add a couple of great-looking, maybe brightly-colored, barstools, and it's time for the party.
- Add garden seats. While they have become a bit of a cliché, they continue to be a great addition. Look for unique shapes, sizes and glazes and feel free to mix contemporary and traditional styles. Consider grouping them in a corner and surrounding them with a variety of plants, lanterns and sculptural garden elements. It creates a beautiful and relaxing focal point and a great backdrop to your seating area.
- Focus on greenery. It’s a must for an outdoor space. Choose container gardening for a patio and mix a variety of urn and planter styles. Mix larger-scale, classically inspired urns with mid-century drip glaze pots and sleek glazed or zinc contemporary urns. Fill the larger urns and some smaller ones, too, with a variety of plants based on color, texture and dimension. Consider mixing taller plants with ivy and moss spilling over the sides. Bold color combinations such as orange and purple look really great too, and for smaller, tabletop arrangements consider a mix of succulents, all of which add to the visual interest of the space.