Creating a Cozy Fireplace Scene

By Kerrie Kelly, ASID

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The modern fireplace is more than just a place that provides warmth in the winter—it’s a natural focal point for any room. Whether it’s in the bedroom, dining room or living room, a fireplace is prime real estate for introducing more style and comfort to your home. From simple additions like accessories and bold artwork, to more complex alterations like new facing, there’s a way to create a cozy fireplace scene within every budget. Grab some cocoa and a snuggly blanket—let’s take a look at a few favorite ways you can create a cozy fireplace scene.

Fix Up the Facing

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A new facing can completely change the look and feel of a space. It is a more complex option, but a new facing can go a long way. This is also a fantastic option for those wishing to truly overhaul the style of a room or the entire home—swap that outdated granite for a classic marble, or get the contemporary feel you’ve always wanted by introducing some funky tile. As a focal point, it can instantly elevate a room to its new potential. Cheaper alternatives are also an option for those looking for noticeable alterations without the major price tag. Simply painting brick a crisp neutral can add airiness to a dreary room, so don’t underestimate the magic of a can of paint for creating your new vision.

Update the Mantle

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Similar to facing, changing up the fireplace mantle can help create a cohesive, updated look. Play around with materials and styles to make your fireplace your own. A simple, floating beam adds just the right amount of warmth for a rustic vibe, while a sleek and minimal mantle is perfect for a contemporary room. Add detailing to a bathroom or lush transitional living room with an intricate mantle—you’ll be sure to turn heads with your show-stopping focal point. For an easy yet significant change, consider painting your mantle a different color. An updated neutral is a wonderful go-to for a clean look, while an unexpected color adds depth and pizazz that is stunning all year round.

Play Around with Accessories

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Adding just a few accessories can make all the difference when it comes to elevating the fireplace area into a cozy yet functional scene. Fireplace screens not only keep your surrounding area clean and safe, they’re an easy way to add another interesting pattern and/or material to the room. Firewood racks filled with logs add instant warmth and charm, and they aren’t just for rustic interiors—mid-century admirers will love a modern rack filled with decorative birch logs, while a more transitional interior is a great candidate for a simple yet elegant rack. Top off your cozy space with an antique fireplace tool set and you’re ready for winter entertaining around the fire.  

Add Some Dashing Decor

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Take your cozy fireplace scene to a whole new level with some dynamic decor. The jewelry of the space, fireplace decor is all about adding a bow on the finished project and making your statement. Plush floor cushions or snuggly flokati rugs are fantastic for winter huddles by the fire. A welcoming fireplace scene wouldn’t be complete without fun decor on the mantle or hearth—from apothecary jars to glittering vases to branches or fresh flowers, decor options are endless with a wide range of color palettes and styles. Top off your fireplace scene with a bold art piece or a favorite mirror above the mantel and you’ve got yourself a warm and welcoming area.

What are your favorite elements of your cozy fireplace?

** Home design specialist Kerrie Kelly shares her decor tips online for The Home Depot. Kerrie’s interior design firm Kerrie Kelly Design Lab, regularly advises clients on decor solutions for all parts of their homes. For various fireplace options, visit the Home Depot website.

Top 2017 Home Improvement Projects and How to Afford Them

By: Elizabeth Trach

When you own your own home, it seems like there’s always a list of projects to complete to keep it both beautiful and functional. Sometimes a broken air conditioner or garage door will force your hand and you’ll have to make a repair, but usually the decisions about which projects to tackle are all yours. Choose wisely, and you’ll reap the benefits when you sell your home for top dollar in the future.

So how’s a cost-conscious homeowner supposed to know which home improvement projects will bring the great return on investment for 2017? Each year, Remodeling magazine conducts a study about the cost of the most popular home improvement projects, and they calculate how much of the costs homeowners make back when they sell those properties. The 2016 results are the best way to plan your 2017 home improvement spending to get the most for your money.

Top 5 Home Projects for 2017

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It’s not surprising that some of the best investments you can make in your home are ones that add to its efficiency and curb appeal. Making your home more energy-efficient by adding insulation and blocking drafts will lower your heating and cooling costs so much that these projects almost pay for themselves. Additionally, making your house look great from the street will attract future buyers. Each of Remodeling’s top five projects will bring back some of the money you invest:

  • Adding Insulation: This is the only home improvement project that consistently pays for itself — and then some. You can’t see the results, but you’ll feel them every time you turn on the heat or open your electricity bill.
  • Adding Stone Veneer: Sprucing up your home’s exterior with luxury materials really pays off. If stone veneer would be out of place with your home’s architectural style, replacing the siding also provides an excellent return on investment.
  • Replacing Garage Doors: Upgrading garage doors provides an instant facelift and can boost your quality of life when you don’t have to worry about them getting stuck in inclement weather anymore.
  • Replacing Exterior Doors: Replacing exterior doors with steel or fiberglass models is a one-two punch that lets you improve the look of your entryway while stopping drafts in their tracks.
  • Remodeling the Kitchen: A minor kitchen remodel that includes cabinet refacing, efficient appliances, new fixtures and a clean color scheme will really pay off. You’ll enjoy cooking much more in a room you love, and future buyers will appreciate your good taste in this all-important room.

How to Cover the Costs of Your Remodeling Projects

Once you’ve chosen which home improvement project you’re ready to invest in this year, you’ll need to plan how to finance it. Depending on the total cost and your credit score, one of these popular payment methods should work for these mid-range projects:

  • Cash Savings: If a quick kitchen update is under $1,000, or if your state provides rebates for energy efficient projects, as some do according to Energy.gov, paying in cash can be easier than you think. Avoiding interest charges will save you money in the long run, so it’s a good option if you can afford it.
  • Credit Cards: Financing your home improvement project with a new credit card is a good way to take advantage of an interest-free period and/or bonus points. If you’ve received a pre-approved credit card offer recently, you could get a good deal if you do your research before signing up.
  • HELOC: A Home Equity Line of Credit typically offers low interest rates and a long payback period for homeowners, but you need to have paid off a certain percentage of your mortgage to qualify. If you’ve lived in your home for several years, it’s worth talking to a mortgage specialist to see if you should apply.
  • Mortgage Refinance: If you’re currently paying a high interest rate on your mortgage, you might be able to refinance your loan at a lower rate and cash out some home improvement money without raising your monthly payment. Talk to a specialist to weigh your options.

**Elizabeth Trach is a professional writer and editor living in Newburyport, MA. In addition to scrupulously saving her pennies, she also sings in a band, grows almost all her own food, and occasionally even cooks it. You can catch up on all her adventures in extreme gardening at Port Potager.

Convert Your Garage Into a Bedroom – 12 Creative Ways

In the hope of making every space in your home valuable, garage conversions have become pretty common. Many homeowners convert unused garages to usable spaces like offices or bedrooms.

If you want more living spaces in your home, you might want to toy around with the idea of converting your garage into a bedroom. This bedroom can be a good spare room for guests or a new room for a new member of the family.

Here are some ideas to get you started:

  1. Install large windows. The usual mistake made by homeowners converting their garages is keeping the garage look in their new bedroom. To remedy this, install big windows. This gives a roomy and livable kind of feel to your newly converted garage.

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  1. Transform it to a tropical paradise. Your original garage might look dry and sad, but your new bedroom does not have to suffer that same fate! Make your new space sunnier by adding tropical details. Go for pillows with palm trees and furniture that mimics tropical resorts. Wooden and rattan chairs make your space look classy and vacation-esque.

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  1. Turn it into a comfortable guest room. An extra bedroom in your house can be a comfortable guest room if you frequently have family or friends over at home. You can even put two beds to accommodate more people.

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  1. Insulation. This is an absolute necessary if you are converting a garage to a living space. Normally, garages don’t have adequate insulation. Installing insulation during conversion is an absolute necessity to keep guests or your family comfortable during the cold winters or hot summers.

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  1. Add a homey vintage feel. If you are already starting to decorate your new space, you might want to stay away from the old feel of your garage. Create a homey feel to your new living space by utilizing vintage pieces.

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  1. Go for colors. Ditch the dreary colors of your old garage by adding pops of colors all throughout your space. The easiest way to incorporate color in the bedroom is choosing bright sheets and pillowcases. If you are feeling adventurous and want to be bold, a brightly colored wall can add flair as well!

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  1. Change up the door opening. Nothing shouts “I’m an old garage” more than having the usual garage door still in place. When converting your garage, make it a point to replace the doors. You can experiment and go for interesting ones. Large sliding doors can make your bedroom look classy and more spacious. Depending on the look of your home, you can change up your door to match its architecture and design.

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  1. Keep it simple. After doing all the necessary steps in converting your home, the key to finishing it off is keeping things simple. You don’t need to go overboard with your bedroom (save your money for structural changes like larger windows, insulation, and changing your door). Just purchase the basic needs in a bedroom. Make sure you have a bed, mattress, dresser, and a bedside table. Once you get the basic needs covered, you can build on from there.

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  1. Go modular. If you had a small garage and you want to make every inch matter, you can go modular. Incorporate storage spaces under the bed and create multiple uses for some furniture. This ensures that you have everything that you need in one small space.

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  1. Turn it into a master bedroom. Large garages can be great for a master bedroom, especially if you need more space than what your home is already providing you. Transform it into a comfortable haven complete with a king-size bed and a nice dresser.

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  1. Incorporate modern pieces. One way to make your room look like it wasn’t even a garage is to add modern furniture. Industrial and contemporary decorations can make the room feel more current instead of drab.

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  1. Add rooftop elements. If you have money to spend, some rooftop design elements can make a huge difference in your garage conversion. You can add a roof deck or a simple dormer window to really mimic a livable space. This can be a fun addition to your home that your family will enjoy.

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** Written by Kristy Jones,the blog author of A Click Away Remotes – Garage Door Opener and Remotes Blog.

Wood Floors: Light vs. Dark

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Choosing the color and finish of the wood—whether on the floors or furniture—is one of the most important considerations in designing a new space. More so than the many species of wood available, the color of wood alone can make a huge impact. Read on to see some of the pros and cons of both light and dark wood to help you decide between these two stylish options.

Light Wood.

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A breath of fresh air in terms of flooring options, light wood offers airiness and ease with its upbeat and modern look. Some of the reasons to use light wood include:

  • It’s stylish. A simple but important point. Light wood is a chic alternative to other flooring, as it offers a modern, uptown loft feel to a space. It pairs well with several modern fixtures and furnishings.
  • Master of disguise. Contrary to popular belief, light wood flooring is very forgiving. For those with pets or small children, light flooring masks smalls scratches and scuffs. Forgot to sweep last week? That’s alright—light wood takes one for the team by hiding dust bunnies and debris in its light and bright layout.
  • The contemporary option. As mentioned above, light flooring is incredibly attractive in contemporary or modern spaces. It pairs beautifully with most modern design details and gives any room an instantly refreshed look.
  • It adds contrast as needed. One of light wood flooring’s most redeeming qualities is its ability to contrast well with nearly all finishes, especially darker ones. If you’re going for a moody tone, light flooring adds just the right amount of balance to make your space feel inviting but totally masculine.
  • Let the light in. Do you have floor-to-ceiling windows? Lots of natural light? Then light wood flooring might be your best bet. Perfectly accented by floods of light, blonde woods help create added visual interest when paired with dramatic windows.

While there are many reasons to love light wood, buyers should still be cautious of a few points:

  • Hard to choose. A good light wood can be difficult to find if you don’t know what you’re looking for. Our advice? Select a style that doesn’t have any sort of red, orange or yellow undertone for the most refreshed look.
  • Living with it. While this may seem like an obvious point, it’s especially pertinent when it comes to a light wood floor. Unlike dark wood flooring, you will see every grain and rivet clearly, so it’s important that you really love your selection.

Dark Wood.

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A favorite among designers and homeowners everywhere, dark wood is the go-to selection for nearly every home of every style. Most appreciated in a transitional or traditional space, dark wood flooring is sophisticated and timeless. Some of our favorite aspects of dark wood flooring include:

  • Lots of variety. When you think of a dark wood floor, you don’t necessarily think of all of the different options you have. Between all of the types of wood, the grain of the wood, and the coloration, you have plenty of variety to select the perfect shade for your home.
  • It adds dimension. One of our favorite features of dark wood is its ability to create dimension wherever it’s installed. Pair it with a dark wood ceiling or one with beautiful exposed beams and you’ve got yourself a winning design.
  • Easy to match. Have we mentioned how easy it is to work with dark wood flooring? If you aren’t convinced, you should know that dark wood is very easy to match to your existing furniture. Nearly any finish—natural wood, metal, acrylic, glass—looks great atop a dark wood floor.

As you can tell, we’re big fans of dark wood. Some things to keep in mind:

  • You’ll see the mess. Unlike light wood, dark wood is not so forgiving. If sweeping escapes you, you and your guests will be able to notice quickly. This is also true for tiny hand prints or puppy paw prints.
  • Casts a shadow. If light is your problem, don’t go dark. Dark wood tends to make the area around it a bit moodier, and that can be a problem if you love your emerald green walls. If you’re looking to add a touch of brightness, look for medium or light wood tones instead.

Have you installed wood flooring recently? Which team are you on: light wood or dark wood?

**Hardwood flooring is a favorite design element for Kerrie Kelly, who heads up Kerrie Kelly Design Lab in Sacramento, Ca. Kerrie writes on her interior design ideas for The Home Depot. To research both the dark and light wood flooring discussed by Kerrie, you can visit Home Depot’s website.

Why Should Homeowners Care About Conserving Energy?

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Have you heard the buzz about going green? Homeowners across the country have started to embrace a greener lifestyle, but what’s in it for them? Here are just a few of the reasons why homeowners should be concerned with energy conservation!

Improves your quality of life.

Everyone wants to feel comfortable in his or her home, and energy efficiency can help homeowners reach a new level of comfort. Do you have to snuggle up under blankets to stay warm or turn on a ceiling fan for extra cooling? Do you have to wear socks around the house because of icy cold floors? These problems can easily be fixed with insulation, which will reduce your energy use and make you more comfortable. This is just one way energy efficiency can improve the quality of your life. The opportunities to make your home more comfortable are endless, which is why so many homeowners love tackling green home improvement projects.

Saves you money.

Perhaps the main reason why homeowners start to conserve energy is to save money. Most homeowners spend around $2,000 a year on home energy bills, but this can be reduced by 20-30% if you make energy efficient upgrades in the home. The less energy you consume, the less you will have to spend on water and electric bills every month. This means you will have more money in your pocket to allocate towards your mortgage, savings, or paying down student loan debt.

Helps the environment.

The less energy that is consumed by homeowners, the more society can save valuable natural resources. Energy conservation can also reduce air pollution. Everything from cars to power plants contribute to air pollution, so the less you rely on these things, the more you can help keep the air clean.

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Improves the economy.

Besides the benefits it can bring to you personally, becoming more energy efficient at home can also help the economy. Energy efficient projects, such as installing solar panels on the roof of a building for example, can build jobs. In fact, in 2010 alone, there were over 800,000 jobs in America related to energy efficiency. As more homeowners begin to conserve energy, manufacturers are forced to adjust to this new type of consumer demand, thus conserving energy sparks innovation. If every homeowner made an effort to be more energy efficient, the results would be huge and far-reaching.

Now that you know why you should care about conserving energy, are you ready to start living green? Here are a few easy ways you can get started:

  • Switch to energy efficient light bulbs, which use 25-80% less energy than traditional bulbs.
  • Install a power strip. Leaving devices on can waste energy, but did you know that devices plugged directly into the wall can still waste energy while they’re off? Plug as many devices as you can into a power strip, and then turn the entire strip off when it’s not in use to cut energy off at the source.
  • Install a programmable thermostat, which can help you make sure you are not unnecessarily heating or cooling your home and wasting energy when no one is there.

As you can see, it doesn’t take much to start conserving energy in your home, so why not start today?

M/I Homes takes many steps to ensure that your new home is energy efficient. We build all of our homes to our Whole Home Building Standards, and always work to make sure that our homes are up to the best energy ratings.

** Uma Campbell is a green loving yoga instructor and freelance writer. She currently lives in Southern California where she enjoys writing about natural living, health, and home design.@Umajcampbell www.umajcampbell.wordpress.com

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