The current slow real estate market may have some homeowners feeling trapped in their current property, and others looking to purchase finding their buying power diminished. How can we enjoy the home we live in when it is not our dream home? Tackle those small and medium sized renovation projects while the market is slow, and you can enjoy your home for the next few years while selling it may not be a possibility. And when it is time to sell, you’ll have an updated, freshly renovated home.
More storage, more light, bigger family areas and gourmet kitchens are the most popular requests for homes today. More square footage, hardwood floors and large rooms make vintage homes prime candidates for updating – they can be a bargain even after the cost of renovations are factored in. Better prices make an older home an appealing prospect for renovation, but how do we take a home built 40 or 50 years ago and bring it into the modern age? Here are some of my favorite design ideas:
- Lighten and brighten- add skylights or solar tubes if light is lacking, or change a ho-hum window to a patio door.
- Paint! Most paint over seven years old is faded or dirty enough to be repainted. Choose up to date, upbeat colors. For neutrals, stay away from off-whites with a yellow tint as they look dingy more quickly – choose a cool gray-white or putty tone with fresh bright white trim.
- Paint ceilings – use ceiling white paint for a clean, fresh look, or paint them sky blue for an airy cottage feeling. Avoid dark colors on the ceiling as they have a heavy look.
- Replace carpet or vinyl with an upgraded floor – carpet is worn out at the 10 year mark, and vinyl is out of style. Go for one of the durable wood laminates or tile and never replace flooring again. Wide plank looks and larger tiles are the current trend and make spaces look larger.
- Remove outdated architectural details, such as built-in room dividers, spindle screens, half walls and interior windows. The less divided a space is, the more modern it will seem.
- Change interior door hardware – even the base-priced brand doorknobs at the local store will look much better than those worn out, discolored, antique brass doorknobs, and they are easy to install yourself.
- Take down old window treatments and replace with light-admitting styles; get rid of those cheap-looking mini blinds. For privacy facing the street, wide slat blinds have become very affordable, and you can still add draperies and valances over them for decoration. Simple long panels hung off the glass and sheers are fashionable now.
- To renovate a kitchen without starting over, replace countertops and appliances and add more lighting – a large fluorescent unit in the center is inexpensive, and you can also add pot lights if budget permits. Cabinets can be refaced yourself by ordering replacement doors in a current style. Having the new doors and old cabinet frames professionally spray painted can make your kitchen look brand new. Think about replacing an island with a big table, or cutting out the bar overhang for more space if you never sit there.
- Address your true storage needs. If you are drowning in books, build shelves. If DVD’s and games are the problem, the house will be far less cluttered if the mess is behind doors. Having the proper storage close to where the items are used works wonders to control mess.
- Replace metal-framed sliding doors with swinging patio doors for a traditional look at a relatively low cost. Patio doors can be bought at the home improvement store and installed in a day or two.
- In bathrooms, keep as much of the old tile as possible when on a tight budget. When stuck with old, funky colored tile, you may be able to replace only the worst feature. In many older bathrooms a funky floor tile pattern is the worst feature and usually in the worst condition. Replace just the floors with something neutral and find a pretty fabric to coordinate with the old wall tile for a shower curtain. Replace the commode and sink with an up-to-date white.
- Replace ceiling light fixtures. Center ceiling lights in bedrooms can be replaced with fans, and a wall switch can be wired to turn on lamps instead. Go for a current looking finish like oiled bronze or pewter for that new-construction feel.
- Have the closets re-done with organizing shelves. You can buy a wide assortment of components to create your own closet system. For resale, this will help an older home compete with the storage features of new homes, and make you more comfortable in the meantime.
Little by little, completing those home renovation projects over the years can add up to an almost fully renovated home when you are finished. It may make the home market-ready when it is finally time to sell, or it may just make you decide that you are going to stay, in the home of your dreams.
Kerry Ann Dame is an interior designer and co-owner of Posh Living on Business 17 in Surfside Beach; 843-238-0078.
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