Category Archives: Home Builders

How Historic Racial Injustices Still Impact Housing Today

For the majority of Americans, regardless of race or ethnicity, owning a home is a major goal. According to the first Zillow Housing Aspirations Report, 63 percent of whites, 63 percent of blacks and 73 percent of Hispanics believe owning a home is necessary to live the American Dream. But although they share the same dreams as whites, for blacks and Hispanics getting into a home remains as challenging as ever-in part due to financial challenges and decades of discrimination.

Historically Denied

Historically, the homeownership rate among people of color has lagged behind the homeownership rate among white Americans, in part because of institutional barriers to entry. Until the late 1960s, federal government-backed subsidies-many of them funded through the Federal Housing Administration (FHA)-were off limits to people of color. The FHA, which was established to help people remain in their homes during the Great Depression, began to promote homeownership during the years after World War II.

And the lagging homeownership rate wasn’t just the result of one program. There were others created to boost homeownership that resulted in similar outcomes for people of color. Black military veterans, for example, weren’t able to borrow money through the GI Bill to purchase homes.

Middle- and lower-income whites benefited most from federal government programs, including low-cost mortgages and subsidies for home builders to construct affordable homes in racially-segregated communities.

Even today, minorities still face more hurdles, similar to the ones they experienced in the past. When blacks and Hispanics try to secure FHA loans, they’re denied about twice as often than their white peers-denials which can sometimes be linked to injustices endured outside of housing. It shouldn’t come as a surprise, then, that fewer blacks and Hispanics apply for these programs.

But for those who do, “far fewer actually get accepted, and the groups that are highly at a loss are black potential homeowners and Hispanic potential homeowners,” said Zillow Chief Economist Dr. Svenja Gudell.

The Consequences

“Housing segregation has not been something that has been quickly changed due to personal prejudice,” said Dedrick Asante-Muhammad, director of the Racial Wealth Divide Initiative at Prosperity Now.

Yesterday’s outright discriminatory policies helped keep minority homeownership low and largely limited to less-advantaged areas. And today, those disparities persist. The Zillow Group Consumer Housing Trend Report 2017 revealed that although they each account for 13 percent of all U.S. households, blacks and Hispanics only account for 8 percent and 9 percent of U.S. homeowners.

Dedrick Asante-Muhammad, director of the Racial Wealth Divide Initiative at Prosperity Now, said low homeownership rates is connected to other disparities.

“African-Americans, in particular, still faced the income wealth disparity, legal segregation, legal job discrimination,” he said. “That continued on through the creation of the American middle class, which limited African-American participation as it pertains to homeownership.”

“Housing segregation has not been something that has been quickly changed due to personal prejudice,” he said. That’s especially true when it comes to those same FHA loans-it’s not just a problem of the past.

Discrimination Still Exists

While Asante-Muhammad says outright legal discrimination has since been outlawed, we’re still seeing the repercussions of the country’s historic discriminatory practices.

“In the 21st century, I think we’re looking more at the issue of the results of housing discrimination and discrimination as a whole,” he said. That discrimination, he added, leads to strong racial economic inequality, which, in turn, makes it harder for people of color to move into more expensive neighborhoods.

Part of the problem, he said, is there’s still market discrimination against homes in black communities.

“A home in a predominantly black neighborhood and the exact same home in a predominantly white neighborhood will have less value because it has less market appeal because people don’t want to live in neighborhoods with black populations somewhere above 20 percent,” he said.

Asante-Muhammad argues some of the discrepancies can be attributed to racial and personal animosity keeping people of color out of higher-valued neighborhoods. But the gap could also be due in part to high negative equity rates-the share of homeowners who owe more on their home than it’s worth-in largely minority communities. When a homeowner is in negative equity, it can be very difficult, if not impossible, to sell their home at all, let alone for a profit they can then use to help buy a different home in another neighborhood.

In black and Hispanic communities, home values fell farther than in white communities, and haven’t been able to fully bounce back from the recession.

Less Money, More Problems

“In terms of closing the gap of white and black homeownership, we’re not moving,” Zillow Chief Economist Dr. Svenja Gudell said.

While minority buyers are trying to enter the housing market, it’s made increasingly difficult due to their lack of wealth.

Gudell said wealth-building in predominantly black communities is hard because of yesterday’s inequalities. It’s actually impossible to point to one single event that led to gaps in wealth for minorities since there have been decades of inequality. Gudell says it’s a compounding effect and something that we “haven’t been able to figure out how to fix it yet.”

“In terms of closing the gap of white and black homeownership, we’re not moving,” Gudell said. “If you look at white homeownership, it’s increasing, while black homeownership is falling.”

Asante-Muhammad echoed those concerns.

“Wealth inequality … reinforces what had been maintained by law and by personal prejudice in the past,” he said. And that lack of wealth is only exacerbated when it comes to home buying.

“So, let’s say you’re getting a $200,000 house and want to put a 10 percent down payment, that’s $20,000. That’s much higher than the median wealth of blacks and Latinos,” he said. A 10 percent down payment is already outside the traditional norm. Typically, a down payment is 20 percent of the home’s value, so $40,000 for that same $200,000 home.

But even if these would-be buyers took advantage of some of the systems in place to help address some of these issues-including utilizing an FHA-backed loan which allows borrowers to make a down payment as low as 3.5 percent-it’s often still not enough.

Asante-Muhammad said even if these buyers got an FHA loan on a $200,000 home-the median-valued home nationwide-the down payment would still be beyond the wealth of most blacks and Latinos. For that $200,000 home, a 3.5 percent down payment would equate to $7,000-or roughly 68.5 times the wealth of African-Americans and 58.5 times Hispanic wealth.

And their wealth today is much less than it was even 10 years ago, when black and Hispanic wealth was $10,400 and $10,200, respectively.

“If things keep going the way they’ve been going, in 2053, the African-American median wealth will be zero,” Asante-Muhammad said.

And that lack of wealth has big repercussions for the future.

“I hope things will get better, but I don’t think the gap will close anytime soon,” Gudell said. “These are such big problems that you can’t just have a quick fix for them but my hope is that we would have equality and balance in the future.”


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1920s Japanese Tea House Turned Zen Retreat – House of the Week

When Larry Genovesi set out to build a home on Massachusetts’ Little Harbor, he didn’t realize he would end up saving a piece of history in the process.

It started as a typical day in 2000. He was strolling through Cohasset, a small seaside town of about 8,000, when a tiny, 1920s Japanese tea house caught his eye. The view of the harbor – and the Atlantic Ocean in the distance – was a huge selling point; the ability to fish just beyond the doorstep was another.

Photo by Brian Doherty.

Genovesi bought the place on a whim, becoming the third known owner of the property. Next on his list: convincing his wife to live in 550 square feet.

“We ended up living there for eight years. I think it’s a testimony to a great marriage if you can live with your wife in 550 square feet,” Genovesi joked. “But it was interesting and it helped us understand the property – the seasons and all that. I’ve always been a fan of Japanese architecture.”

Photo by Brian Doherty.

The couple used that inspiration when they set out to design a larger, earth-friendly house in the same spot. Genovesi wanted to save as much of the existing structure as possible while immersing something modern in the lush landscape. 

The result is a nearly 4,000-square-foot home, surrounded by the harbor on three sides. Each window in the 3-bedroom, 4-bathroom home offers a view of trees or water.

Photo by Brian Doherty.

Of note, a soaking tub in the master bathroom is positioned to take in views stretching to the Atlantic Ocean.

“It’s a great feature – probably my wife’s favorite,” Genovesi said. “It’s a calm place to soak and meditate.”

Photo by Brian Doherty.

The home has other zen features, too, including a koi pond and waterfall. A rooftop deck allows for unobstructed views of the stars. On cooler nights, the owners will cozy up near a firepit at what they’ve nicknamed “sunset point.”

Photo by Brian Doherty.

Added bonuses: the ability to kayak and canoe from the house, regular visits from deer, and blue herons and fruit trees on your front doorstep.

Glass panels in the floor of the dining room honor the surrounding landscape, too, allowing natural light to flood the lower level. There is a kitchenette, a bathroom and a game room there.

Photo by Brian Doherty.

The details are decidedly modern for a home steeped in history. Builders saved nearly 70 percent of the original house, which served as social gathering spot for a well-known New England family.

Workers salvaged three of the four original stone walls, each about two feet thick. They added a steel structure for support and salvaged some of the old-growth Douglas Fir, which Genovesi transformed into the dining table.

Photo by Brian Doherty.

The family has put the home on the market as they search for another adventure – potentially starting an agricultural school to inspire the next generation of farmers.

“It’s very much a place where if you live there, you live in the land. I think the person who buys this needs to appreciate that fact,” he said. “It isn’t one of those big massive houses that you live inside. You really live outside all year-round.”

The home is listed for $4.995 million by Gail Petersen Bell of Home Center Sotheby’s International.


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5 Reasons to Buy a Home This Fall

Real estate markets ebb and flow just like the seasons. The spring market starts hopping when the sun comes out, flowers bloom and winter is over. Conversely, fall signals the beginning of a slower market, which could be good for buyers.

If you’re in the market for a home, here are some reasons why fall can be a great time to buy.

Leftover spring inventory may result in deals

Home sellers tend to go on the market for the first time in the spring. They often list their homes too high out of the gate, which could mean that a series of price reductions follow during the spring and the summer months.

These sellers have fewer chances to capture buyers after Labor Day. By October, buyers are likely to find desperate sellers and prices that may, in fact, be below a home’s true market value.

Fewer buyers are competing

Families who want to be in a new home by the beginning of the school season are no longer shopping at this point. These families have exited the market, which means less competition. That translates into more opportunities for buyers.

Taking out an entire segment of the housing market provides millennial, single, and baby boomer buyers some breathing room. You’ll likely notice fewer buyers at open houses, which could signal a great opportunity to make an offer.

Motivated sellers want to close by the end of the year

While a home is where an owner lives and makes memories, it is also an investment – and one with tax consequences. A home seller may want to take advantage of a gain or loss during this tax year.

Buyers might find homeowners looking to make deals so they can close before December 31st and get that tax benefit. Ask why the seller is selling, and look for listings that offer incentives to close before the end of the year.

Homes for sale near the holidays signal a motivated seller

As the holidays approach, the last thing a homeowner wants is for their sale to be dragging on and interrupting their parties and events.

If a home has not sold by November, and it’s still sitting on the market, that homeowner is likely motivated to be done with the disruptions caused by their home being listed for sale.

Many homes don’t show as well once the landscaping fades

The best time to do a property inspection is in the rain and snow, because the home will be truly exposed for buyers. The same holds true for fall, when flowers die, trees start to shed their leaves, and beautiful landscapes are no longer so lovely.

Scratching the surface of the pretty spring home season and fall reveals home flaws, making it a great time to see each home’s true colors. It’s better to see the home’s flaws before making the offer, instead of being surprised months after you close.


Originally published October 19, 2015.

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This Mid-Century Home Originally Designed for a WWII Pilot Just Hit the Market

Available for the first time on the open market, and with only two owners since its construction in 1964, the DeLeeuw Residence is a beautiful mid-century example of Leroy Young and John Remington’s architectural work.

The duo designed commercial and residential buildings in and around Los Angeles in the late-1950s and 1960s, and were commissioned by Carl M. DeLeeuw, a World War II veteran and Medal of Honor recipient, to design his family’s residence in Palos Verdes Estates.

The 2,696-square-foot, post-and-beam structure features a dramatic pitched roof and floor-to-ceiling windows that highlight sweeping views from the Hollywood sign to the ocean.

Photos by Peter McMenamin

Highlights of the property include four bedrooms, three bathrooms, and expansive living areas that are framed by walls of glass. Many of the original features of the home remain intact, including a double-sided fireplace, living room built-ins, original bathrooms and closet doors, and exterior windows and glass sliders.

Courtesy of Lewy Kallas

Celebrating and preserving the original architectural elements, the current owners made very few changes, all of which were tasteful and strategic. They updated the kitchen with warm walnut cabinetry, modern Fisher & Paykel appliances, and Caesarstone quartz countertops. They also integrated functional upgrades, including a newer heating system and energy-efficient window glazing.

Courtesy of Lewy Kallas

The lower-living level, which includes a second fireplace, opens to the tastefully-landscaped backyard for indoor/outdoor livability. Drought-tolerant landscaping accents the backyard. The rear elevation features impressive spans of glass, original to the home.

Courtesy of Lewy Kallas

This article was written by Byron Loker and originally appeared on Dwell.  Check out more of their content on


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Poll: How Would You Improve Your Home With $17,850?

Ceiling fan or chandelier? New front door or smart alarm system? New kitchen appliances or new cabinets? Home improvements mean flexing your decision-making skills.

And those decisions add up. The typical U.S. homeowner can spend up to $3,021 per year on home improvement projects, such as landscaping, cleaning and maintenance, according to a Zillow analysis of the costs associated with homeownership.

Take this helpful quiz to sort out your top improvement priorities for every room in your home. Then make this your to-do list and budget starting point. (The costs below are estimated, but if you made them all, you’d spend about $17,850.)

Which quick $25 exterior pick-me-up would you choose?

A new welcome mat

Colorful annuals to plant by your front door
















How would you refresh your living room for $50?

Updated wall art

New throw pillows
















Which $75 kitchen update would you pick?

Replace kitchen cabinet hardware

Install a hanging pot rack
















Hanging pot rack photo from Zillow listing.

For $100, which improvement would make your bedroom dreamier?

Light-blocking curtains

A new bedside lamp















Which $150 bathroom makeover would you choose?

Replace the sink

Install new vanity lights















Pick the $200 bedroom update that would make you most excited for bedtime.

New bed linens

A new nightstand















If you had $250 to spend, would you get fancy or play it cool?

Fancy! Add a bedroom chandelier

Cool! Install a ceiling fan















Which $500 improvement would you pick for your home?

Replace the entry door

Install a home security system















Which update would have the biggest impact in your home for $1,500?

Refinish the hardwood floor

Retile the bathroom floor















With a $5,000 budget, how would you choose to treat yourself?

Build a shady pergola

Buy a hot tub












Hot tub photo from Zillow listing

Which $10,000 kitchen upgrade would pay off most for you?

Buy all new appliances

Replace the cabinets and countertops













New appliances photo from Zillow listing.

Get more home design inspiration on Zillow Digs.


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5 Reasons We Love This Airstream

This Malibu, CA home combines luxury and solitude in one stunning package: a remodeled Airstream atop a hillside. Here are five reasons we’re booking our ticket ASAP.

Photo by Christian Escario.

Sunsets and starry nights – in seclusion

Perched on a bluff near the Pacific Coast Highway, this retreat is close to the city while feeling like a remote getaway. It’s so private that the owners won’t publicly reveal the address. Wherever it is, it’s high above the ocean, offering expansive views of the Pacific. 

Aluminum out, view in

The owner converted one side of the Airstream into a giant ocean vista using three frameless glass panels. A large, private deck is right outside the panels, acting as an outdoor living room. It’s the perfect spot to curl up with a cup of coffee as you take in the sunrise, or sip a glass of wine as the sun sets.

Photo courtesy of Tastemade.
Photo by Christian Escario.

Off-the-grid euphoria

This sanctuary might be located just outside the second largest city in the United States, but don’t let that fool you – it’s an off-the-grid escape. There’s no cell service or WiFi, making it possible to truly disconnect. 

Photo courtesy of Tastemade.

Nestled in nature

Killer hikes? Check. Brushing your teeth with an ocean breeze? Double check. There’s an open-air bathroom with two sinks and a shower – you know, so you can freshen up while breathing in that salty ocean air. 

Photo courtesy of Tastemade.

Superstar sighting

Don’t be afraid to make this “Blank Space” yours; Taylor Swift certainly wasn’t. The megastar used the Airstream as the setting for a Vogue cover shoot. Feel free to write your own “Love Story” high atop the California coastline knowing T-Swizzle rocked out in that very same spot.

Gallery above and top photo by Christian Escario.



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Airstream Dream Team: These Women Travel the Country, Turning Retro RVs into Homes

It’s 90 degrees outside, and there’s someone with Aviators and a power tool standing in front of me.

She is undaunted by the thick Midwestern summer humidity, the mosquitoes and the deadline. It’s unclear which poses the biggest threat.

She puts on a mask and goes to work, the tiny specks of dust spraying up in a shower of little wooden pieces like confetti in Times Square on New Year’s Eve. The block of wood she sands is one tiny part of a massive jigsaw puzzle that will become a young couple’s very first home.

And Kate Oliver, the woman wielding the sander, wouldn’t have it any other way.

Kate Oliver sands wood for an Airstream she’s renovating in Indianapolis, IN.

‘Hey, how about let’s travel’

It’s a long road from where this 32-year-old was just a few years ago: living with her now ex-husband and their daughter; working as a photographer in Indianapolis, IN. But, as Oliver puts it, life has a crazy way of rerouting you toward your passion.

Fast forward to Oliver getting a divorce and falling in love with her best friend from college, Ellen Prasse (thanks, Facebook). Prasse lived in nearby Lexington, KY, but the couple didn’t want to put down roots. The were fascinated with the idea of life and home – on the road.

“I was teaching art at my old high school. We were ready to move on and get out. So, she texted me one day, ‘Hey, how about let’s travel,'” recalls Prasse. “You know, like, ‘Let’s just hit the road.'”

“We had been looking for something that would take us beyond this life that had seemingly been prescribed for us,” Oliver chimes in. “We didn’t want the commute, and we didn’t want to just work to pay our bills. We wanted to spend more time together as a family. We both deeply wanted to create and make art and we weren’t sure what that was.”

Kate Oliver and Ellen Prasse enjoy a cup of coffee inside their first client project: a 1976 Airstream Sovereign.

‘This would be fun to do for other people’

They ended up buying a vintage Airstream and fixing it up to make it livable. And they fell deeper in love – with each other, with life on the road, and with this idea that home isn’t an address. They traveled for six months to faraway places like Alaska and the Yukon Territory, and they found meaning in the miles journeyed together.

“We were so broke and we poured every last penny we had into that first Airstream,” Oliver says. “It was very simple in construction, but it was well built. We thought, ‘Hey, we’ve got something here.'”

“Toward the end of it we started saying, ‘Hey, maybe this would be fun to do for other people,'” says Prasse.

“We saw how we worked together,” adds Kate, “and how it made us both come alive and brought us joy.”

Ellen Prasse, Kate Oliver, and their daughter, Adelaide, in the doorway of a renovated Airstream.

The duo went on to sell that first Airstream to a friend (it’s now a rental lodge in Olympia, WA). They remodeled a second one and made plans to move into it. In the middle of all of this, they took what they learned and decided to translate their passion into a profession: renovating Airstreams full time as The Modern Caravan.

‘We’ve got this’

Oliver and Prasse pride themselves on carefully considering the design – as well as the functionality – of any Airstream they plan to renovate.

“We always say form and function. It has to have both,” says Oliver.

This principle predates the couple’s new business. Both women had fathers who taught them basic construction skills. Prasse’s mother was an electrical engineer, and passed along the technical knowledge to rip out old lines and turn them into modern electrical marvels.

Ellen Prasse works with a table saw outside the Airstream she and Oliver are renovating.

“We’re two women in a predominantly male industry. We notice this when we go to Lowe’s,” Oliver explains. “We always get asked if we need help. We’re like, ‘Actually no, we’ve got it. But thanks.’ You could say, ‘Oh, yeah, they’re just being nice,’ but the assumption there is that we can’t handle it because we’re women.”

The duo quickly compiled a two-year waitlist of clients. Each is willing to pay up to $90,000 in parts and labor for a Modern Caravan renovation (the exact cost depends on the year of the Airstream, the length of the project, design features and more).

Their first client project? Remodeling a 1976 Airstream Sovereign for full-time travelers and social influencers Hopscotch the Globe.

The home stretch

The duo is up against a tight deadline for the complete remodel of the 31-foot-long Sovereign. Most of their renovations take about six months. For this one, they only have three. Their clients, Kristen Sarah and Siya Zarrabi, helped gut the interior, but the rest is up to them.

Among the items on the docket: repairing a leaky, five-inch gap in the chassis, installing all new electrical wiring as well as designing and handcrafting the interior. Oliver and Prasse are making custom countertops from a piece of wood Sarah and Zarrabi hauled out of a family barn. They’re fashioning a retractable dining table using local elm (bonus: it converts into a bed!). Every corner, every couch cushion, is custom-made.

With half their normal time frame to pull the renovation off, Oliver and Prasse are up most days until 2 a.m., battling heat and exhaustion. But they don’t cut corners. They have a vision – a vision that includes rustic mink flooring (it looks just like hardwoods but is waterproof) and a blue, penny-tile shower.

The reveal

Two weeks later, the moment of truth arrives. The clients, who have spent almost every night of the past few years in hotel rooms, are about to see their transformed Airstream for the first time. 

“I think that [Siya and Kristen] will feel the passion and the love that went into this. …It’s their first home,” says Oliver. “It’s pretty incredible when we think about it like that.”

“It’s going to be where they live and they cry and where they’re human,” she continues. “That is a really, really special thing to be part of.”

As the clients board their new home-on-wheels, the tears come. And the hugs.

“Every room is like a masterpiece, every little detail,” says Zarrabi. “You nailed it. You nailed it. All of our visions, all of our dreams, everything we wanted. This is a luxury home. It’s a mobile home. It’s -“

“- It’s us,” adds Kristen.

“It’s absolutely perfect,” Siya says.

Custom photography provided by Stephen Hill of Hill Photography.

Airstream did not endorse, sponsor or authorize, nor is it otherwise associated with, this story and video.


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Bright and Bold Inside a Classic Craftsman – House of the Week

For someone who grew up in a city dominated by gray skies, Hayley Francis sure knows how to live in color.

From the blue exterior of her historic Craftsman to the emerald green palm frond wallpaper of her bedroom, the professional designer consciously chose vivid colors to brighten up the often monochrome days of the Pacific Northwest.

“The goal with the whole house was to make me feel happy, especially in Seattle. Anyone who says they don’t get down in the winter season is lying,” Francis said. “I wanted to keep the house colorful but feeling like it still belonged in Seattle.”

The result is a modern, elevated twist on a classic home using curated colors and hand-selected furniture. After purchasing the 92-year-old house a few years ago, Francis didn’t have a massive budget to make major renovations. She went about transforming the 3-bedroom, 1.75-bath home using paint and decor instead.

For a kitchen with classic black-and-white checkered floors, the Seattle native looked thousands of miles away for inspiration, choosing a color she dubbed “Caribbean green.” She wanted to complement the signature, vintage floors with a bright shade that didn’t stand out too much.

“My favorite color is green. Everyone has a favorite color, right?” she said.

In addition to the paint, Francis was drawn toward mint-colored, vintage pieces including refrigerators, toasters and mixers.

“Some would say that painting your kitchen that color is loud, but it’s really not that loud,” she added.

The master bedroom got a splash of the tropics, too, with palm wallpaper. Francis saw the print years ago and knew she’d incorporate it into her home someday.

“It’s actually in the Beverly Hills Hotel, or was. I saw that and fell in love with it,” she said. “Then I saw it online, and then in a restaurant in Seattle. Then I knew.”

“The thing with wallpaper is you have to stare at it for a long time,” she continued. “I wanted to make sure it was something I could stare at for at least 10 years. I feel good about it. I love it.”

Francis transformed an adjacent bedroom into what she dubs her “office closet” – a space for her to work from home while having clothing and accessories on display, instead of hidden behind closed doors.

“It had been a dream of mine to have my own changing room and I tend to be a little bit messy, so it contains my mess,” she joked. “It serves a dual function. With this room, I did an e-design first, which is what I do at [home furnishings website] The Mine. That was fun. It brought what I do at work into my home.”

The copper-pipe clothing racks were custom made in Europe. Francis found the vintage rug on Etsy.

Other rooms are designed around carefully chosen furniture and accent pieces. Francis painted her living room off-white and arranged it around a Louis-style couch, which she fell in love with. (Bonus: it was well within her budget and offers a cozy spot to work on her blog.)

The dining room is a mix of old and new. It features a chair handed down from Francis’ grandmother and a large wooden bar that belonged to her mother before she passed away.

Francis also pulled fabric from one of her mom’s chairs to use as wall art.

“It’s been very cool to see people’s reactions [to the home], to be honest,” she said. “People feel happy when they enter the space, especially because we live in Seattle. It’s warm and welcoming and bright, without being tropical. I love it.”

Custom photography by Yuriy Manchik.


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Enter If You Dare: Inside a Real-Life Haunted House

With no city lights for miles, The Pillars Estate stands alone in the darkest of nights.

Inside, guests are greeted by dim candlelight, a windy staircase and a gentleman from Scotland.

Tony McMurtrie purchased the Civil War-era estate in Albion, NY when it was ready to be torn down. Restoring it to its former glory over the past decade, he’s carefully curated every detail – from the grandfather clocks to the silver.

“I don’t know where it comes from,” he explains. “I just like that time and that era.”

His love of antiques and a refined way of life hasn’t gone unnoticed. Cora Goyette moved to Albion from England and bonded with McMurtrie over their shared appreciation of European culture.

Today, she takes care of the 13,286-square-foot house as if it were her own, hosting tea parties and events in the grand ballroom.

But unlike McMurtrie, Goyette won’t stay at The Pillars alone. In fact, most of McMurtrie’s friends refuse to spend the night.

“A spirit really is within the house,” Goyette says without blinking an eye. “It’s quite serious.”

From mysterious footsteps to children’s voices and a piano that plays itself, strange happenings have been reported since McMurtrie started restoring the house.

Some believe he’s unlocked a haunted past, while others remain skeptical.

The home at 13800 W Country House Rd is on the market, waiting for a buyer to set the record straight once and for all. In the meantime, we’d love to hear what you think.

Note: There is a poll embedded within this post, please visit the site to participate in this post’s poll.

Originally published October 22, 2015.

Video and photos by Awen Films.


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Designer Lookbook: Taking a Century-Old Home From Boxed Off to Bright and Open

Living in the past is almost never a good thing. For the owners of a historic craftsman bungalow in Seattle, WA, their home’s small segmented rooms, typical of the last century, were crying out for a more modern and open floor plan.

“Now some 100 years later, when we get a hold of these houses, they don’t mesh with the way we live today,” says Kim Clements, owner and creative director of JAS Design Build. “What we want is more space and relationship to our family. Those patterns of living are different now, and have to do with more modern use of space. And, we want openness.”

Before the renovation, the kitchen, dining room, and living room were divided by walls, creating poor flow from one space to the next.

With that in mind, the cozy bungalow from the early 1900s was opened up, creating more unified and flowing spaces from room to room.

First, a facelift

At the front of the bungalow, a gabled entryway was removed to make way for a large covered porch that echoes the front porches of the neighboring homes that line the street.

These modest yet charming bungalows from the early 1900s weren’t built by architects, Clements says; homeowners purchased the house plans themselves and then customized the homes to their personal tastes.

The bungalows were constructed by craftsman, not general contractors, so these houses are “craftsman” bungalows in the sense that they are describing the skill of the person who built them, not the style of the house.

Goodbye, walls

At the home’s entry, the foyer was opened up, allowing it to flow into the neighboring living room. A bench with storage drawers and wall hooks provides plenty of space for guests to place bags and hang coats. Wainscoting, built-ins, and decorative stair railing add authentic character, paying homage to the bungalow’s heyday.

When taking down walls and blending the living room, dining room, and kitchen into a flowing space, Clements wanted to ensure the separate spaces didn’t lose their “room-ness.” Therefore, built-ins topped with columns were constructed between the spaces to create boundaries without closing off each room.

“There is still enough definition that you can call it a living room, dining room and kitchen,” says Clements, “yet they aren’t completely separate. Creating openness while not losing the quality of the heritage of old houses is really what we have worked to accomplish.”

The built-ins are a nod to the bungalow’s period, and also provide thoughtful storage for the narrow home. Custom cabinetry was incorporated in the family room to tuck away the homeowners’ flat-screen television.

A working kitchen

The kitchen was enlarged by 30 feet merely by adding a cantilevered bump out into the side yard, making room for a double galley with an oversized island. The bump out, which is the depth of a counter, is now lined with a row of windows, and houses a farm sink and plenty of storage underneath. “That 30 square feet changes the entire game,” says Clements. “It was a sneaky trick to make a little more space without going whole hog.”

“Simplify and consolidate” was Clements’ guiding philosophy when planning out the kitchen layout, since she was working with a narrow space. Clements eschewed unnecessary items like an island sink, double ovens, and a built-in microwave, instead opting for more counter space and cabinet storage. “It’s a working kitchen, and it’s old-fashioned in a away, but it’s completely modern in its sensibilities.”

Past the kitchen, a contemporary mudroom boasts an oversized cupboard for food storage and cleaning supplies. “I think people need to think about how much they actually need within arms reach, and how many things don’t need to be there,” she says of the kitchen and mudroom layout. “You don’t need all of your dry goods in the kitchen. Then you have more room for windows without upper cabinets covering the walls.”

Take the full home tour:

Get the look at home

  • Evaluate what you keep in your kitchen. “Really assess what you have, what you use, and and how often you use it,” says Clements. She advises keeping the items that you use daily within reach, and storing items you use a few times a year out of sight in the basement.
  • Get rid of your upper cabinets. Unscrewing your upper cabinets and removing them from the walls, reduces visual clutter in the kitchen. “If you can reduce the number of upper cabinets you have, your kitchen feels roomier and better,” says Clements. If you’re a renter, she suggests removing cabinet doors to open up a small kitchen. Store them somewhere out of the way, and then when you move out you can easily screw them back on.
  • Artfully arrange your objects. Without cabinets concealing your items, arranging your dishes and kitchenware artfully has a big impact. “It makes it feel more familiar and comfortable and pretty,” says Clements, “and that can change the feeling of a space dramatically.”

Photos by Jesse Young.


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