Category Archives: Home Builders

Katy Perry Lists Her Post-Divorce Mulholland Drive Compound

In 2013, Katy Perry scooped up not one, but two new neighboring homes shortly after her divorce from Russell Brand. Now, just four years later, the pop princess is ready to divorce herself from one of the homes. Listed by, Ernie Carswell, her long-term partner in all things real estate Perry is hoping to unload the Mediterranean-inspired estate for a cool $9.45 million.

Consisting of four separate residential structures, the Hollywood Heights home is actually more like a compound than a single house. In addition to a main residence, the 2.33-acre lot is also home to a two-story guest house, a fitness center, a security guardhouse, and a garage that can comfortably fit a limousine (a must-have for every California Girl).

The estate is atop Runyon Canyon Park, and any lucky visitors are treated to an opulent gated entrance, followed by a hand-hewn stone driveway leading up to the 4-bed, 6-bath home. Framed by lush greenery, the white facade of the 7,418-square-foot residence provides a cheerful contrast with the red tones of the Spanish tile roof.

Photos from Zillow listing

Inside the home, there’s no shortage of luxury (and comfort). Light-colored wood beams run across the ceilings throughout, and oversized windows shower the entire main floor with natural light. The kitchen features a stunning patterned white, red, and grey tile with a matching backsplash behind a professional kitchen-grade Wolf range and state-of-the-art oven. Upstairs, the sprawling master suite occupies the entire floor. A Roman bath sits underneath the skylight in an oversized bathroom, which-luxuriously-also boasts a fireplace of its own.

A large pool is tucked in behind the house, bordered by Italian quarried stone, and with a breathtaking hilltop view of Los Angeles. The outdoor opulence doesn’t end there; among the 2+ acre grounds are an amphitheater, multiple terraces, an orchard of fruit trees, fountains, a Buddha statue, a wood-fired oven, and more.

Ernie Carswell of Carswell & Partners holds the listing.

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How to Actually Afford to Buy A Home in America

Home buyers today face tough challenges-housing prices have soared, a dollar doesn’t go as far as it once did and rent is more expensive than the past. How are people today making such a large purchase in spite of these hurdles? With more flexibility and a bit of creativity when it comes to financing, today’s buyers are finding ways to achieve homeownership.

Make Enough Money

With fewer resources to pull from than their older, wealthier counterparts, renters wanting to be buyers face tough financial headwinds. According to the Zillow Group Consumer Housing Trends Report 2017, renter households typically earn a median income of $37,500 annually, which is $50,000 less than the median household income netted by households who recently bought a home (of whom the median household income is $87,500 annually). While there are ways to enter into homeownership without making $87,500 in household income, it’s hard to afford to buy if you make significantly less. “If you’re making $37,500 per year, it’s probably not feasible for you to buy in almost any market,” says Zillow Chief Economist Dr. Svenja Gudell.

Only 29 percent of Americans do make $87,500 or more, per U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey 2016 data. For perspective, only one of the top 10 most common jobs in the United States carries a salary above $37,500, meaning the jobs that the majority of Americans hold-fast food workers, cashiers, retail salespersons, customer service representatives, secretaries, housekeepers among others-bring in less money than the median renter household. While households purchasing homes are more likely to have two incomes than renter households (and thus a higher median household income combined), even two-income households struggle to afford to buy in competitive markets.

Save Up Enough Cash (But Not As Much As You Think)

One of the most daunting parts of homebuying? The down payment. In fact, two-thirds of renters cite saving for a down payment as the biggest hurdle to buying a home, according to the Zillow Housing Aspirations Report. Per findings from the Zillow Group Consumer Housing Trends Report 2017, almost one-third (29 percent) of buyers active in the market express difficulty saving for the down payment.

For people buying the national median home valued at $201,900, with the traditional 20 percent down payment, that’s $40,380 up front-just to move in.

“The down payment remains a hurdle for a lot of people,” says Gudell. “Although, they should know they don’t have to put 20 percent down.” Although putting down less than 20 percent means additional considerations, such as the cost for private mortgage insurance (PMI), some find it worth the hassle. In fact, only one-quarter of buyers (24 percent) put 20 percent down, and just over half of buyers (55 percent) put less than the traditional 20 percent down.

Buyers are also getting creative about piecing together a down payment from multiple sources. According to the report findings, nearly 1 in 4 buyers (24 percent) build a down payment from two or more sources, including saving, gifts, loans, the sale of a previous home, stocks, retirement funds and other resources.

Know Your Deal Breakers, But Be Flexible

In order to get into a home-even if it’s not the home of their dreams-some of today’s buyers are considering homes and locations outside of their initial wish list, and are having to get increasingly flexible when it comes to neighborhood, house condition, and even type of home.

Although single-family homes remain a dream for most home seekers, buyers today consider and buy condos and townhouses-in order to secure a home in their ideal location. Buyers with household incomes under $50,000 are more likely to consider homes outside of the traditional single-family residence (40 percent), compared to those with incomes of $50,000 or above (24 percent). “I do think people get discouraged when they look in their target neighborhood and they see homes around $170,000 when they’re looking for a $110,000 home,” Gudell says.

Affordably-priced homes do, in fact, exist. But in popular areas, where people most often want to live, it’s going to be harder to find that cheaper home, Gudell says. “If you’re willing to take a longer commute and make a couple tradeoffs, you might be able to find a home that is further out that might be cheaper,” Gudell explains. “You have to leave the paved path before you can find cheaper choices.”

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Designer Lookbook: Wendy Berry's Beach-Chic Condo

In the Naples, FL Kalea Bay high-rise, interior designer Wendy Berry of W Design Interiors outfitted a 3,600-square-foot condo in sandy and white hues, creating a sophisticated beach-chic vibe.

“We kept it clean, fresh, and not overly decorated,” says Berry. “We wanted it to feel expensive, but we also wanted it to be a home you could comfortably sit down in.”

Rich oak floors from Vincenzo by Legno Bastone warm up the light and airy 4-bedroom, 4-bathroom condo. Playing off the floor’s color, Berry used a monochromatic palette throughout.

“I always load things up with texture – using different shades of creams with different textiles and patterns,” she says of the colors used throughout the home. Berry furnished the home with her custom furniture line, W Home Collection.

The home features an open floor plan, so Berry used various architectural elements to delineate spaces. In the great room, for instance, a wooden herringbone ceiling defines the space, which is bordered by the bar, dinette, and kitchen.

A custom built-in wooden entertainment unit was centered under the ceiling treatment to further define the space, and a mirrored backsplash bounces light around, since there’s only one wall of windows.

When you get off the elevator and enter the condo, a large floor-to-ceiling mirror is framed in a stack of bleached walnut. “I took the mirror from the ceiling to the floor with no molding so it has the appearance of a doorway,” says Berry.

Berry had a beautiful custom wood wine cabinet constructed, which also sits in the entryway. Wine is displayed on pegs and encased in glass.

In the bright and cheery kitchen, Shaker-style cabinets are painted a crisp white and paired with Victoria quartz countertops that have a marble appearance. The backsplash features hand-glazed Erin Adams Designs tile that has a pearly sea glass look to it.

Contemporary pendant lights over the bar complement the chandelier hanging above the dining room table.

In one of the guest rooms, Berry created a nautical vibe by covering the walls in a cost-effective faux shiplap. She applied 1-by-1-inch strips horizontally across the walls and painted them in White Dove OC-17 from Benjamin Moore.

In another guest room, Berry saved money by painting two-toned panels on the walls in lieu of using actual wood molding. Benjamin Moore’s White Dove OC-17 was used to create a 4-inch perimeter on the wall, with the center painted in Sherwin Williams 7029 Agreeable Gray.

Bathrooms throughout the condo were covered in bold printed wall coverings – nautical Bold Chains by Wallquest, black-and-white Treasure Collection in Feather from Zimmer + Rohde, and dragon fly-printed Demoiselle in Graphite/Almond from Harlequin. And in the laundry room, a subtle gray boat-printed wallpaper – Yacht Blueprint from Wallquest – adds character to the walls.

One of the bedrooms was transformed into a den, with two oversized chaise lounges that double as twin beds. Berry infused the room with Native American-inspired decor, like feather fabric, tribal artwork, and an Aztec-patterned rug. The ceiling was covered in a wood grain wallpaper – Chene from Nobilis.

“We always give our master [bedrooms] a very calm, soft feeling so people feel ready to sleep and relax,” says Berry of the tranquil space that’s decorated in blue and white.

To complement the relaxing master bedroom, Berry created a bathroom that resembles a spa-like sanctuary, with white cabinetry, quartz countertops, polished floors, an oversized shower, and a freestanding tub.

Take the full home tour:

Get the look at home

  • To achieve the shiplap look for less, apply 1-by-1-inch strips to walls horizontally, approximately 8 inches apart around the room, and then paint the wall white.
  • For the appearance of two-tone wall paneling, tape off a pattern of panel molding on the walls, then paint the inside panels in a darker shade and the perimeter area white.
  • “Brighten small bathrooms with daring and fun wallpaper for a big look in a small space,” Berry says.
  • “Accessories make the room design come to life,” says Berry. With shelving, she advises layering decorative pieces, like book stacks, decorative glass bowls, artifacts, and picture frames. “Then balance the the next shelf with something simple, like one larger bowl or sculpture.”

See more design inspiration on Zillow Digs.

Photos by Doug Thompson.

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4 Homes With Jaw-Dropping Floor-to-Ceiling Windows

When it comes to creating an indoor/outdoor feeling in your home, a set of floor-to-ceiling windows is the key ingredient to success. Along with being a visual connector to your surroundings, they bring in boatloads of natural light while providing a streamlined backdrop for your interiors. Take a look at our favorite homes of this week that feature expansive floor-to-ceiling windows.

Seclusion

Location: Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

From Caroline Wallis: “The challenge, predictably, was preserving the unique facade while both increasing the amount of natural light and adding modern amenities. After collaborating with the client to understand and meet their long-term needs, the remodel successfully bridges the old and the new. Details like reused doors, original skirting boards, and bricks maintain the visual integrity of the original home, while a sleek new kitchen and concrete backyard unfold behind the original facade.”

Photo by Shannon McGrath. Architect: Robson Rak Architects. Landscape Designer: Weller Landscapes. Interior Designer: Made by Cohen.

Brooklyn Brownstone

Location: Brooklyn, New York

From the architect: “Located on a tree-lined street in Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, this late-1800s, three-story brownstone had been held within a family for decades-and fell into disrepair and in desperate need of renovation. Windows had decayed, leaving large gaping holes to the elements beyond. The previous ad-hoc renovations in the 1980s and ’90s carved up the kitchen and bathrooms, creating awkward circulation and dated finishes. This gut renovation aimed to sensitively restore historical details, while introducing contemporary architectural elements and finishes.”

Photo courtesy of Sonya Lee Architect llc.

1st Avenue Residence

Location: Montreal, Quebec, Canada

From Leibal:1st Avenue Residence is a minimalist house located in Montreal, Canada, and was designed by Microclimat. As you step through the door, your eye is drawn to the back of the home, where the kitchen and living spaces extend outside, thanks to impressive windows that frame the backyard. A kitchen counter naturally flows onto the terrace, visually and concretely uniting the two spaces. Cantilevered overhangs in white parging shelter the counter from the elements throughout the seasons and offer a signature look to the back of the building.”

Photo courtesy of Microclimat and Leibal. Architect: Microclimat.

Rudolph House

Location: Cambridge, Massachusetts

From the architect: “Our work included the redesign of the exterior walls and glazing to include a new wall of 10-foot-high, triple-paneled sliding doors and windows on the main facade. These doors open the home to the adjacent courtyard and provide excellent natural ventilation. The roof and the other three exterior walls, which are largely below grade, received insulation in excess of what code requires. All new energy-efficient heating and cooling equipment, including heat-recovery ventilation, was installed to bring the home up to modern standards. The result was a much greater energy efficiency and thermal comfort for the family.”

Photo: Tony Luong. Architect: Ruhl Walker Architects.

This article was written by Katie Jacobs-Romero and originally appeared on Dwell. Check out more of their content on Dwell.com.

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Our New, Old Kitchen: How We Rose to the Remodeling Challenge

If the kitchen is the heart of the home, then ours was in need of a triple bypass.

When we bought a house halfway across the country – without having set foot in it – we knew there would be projects. Walls to paint, old carpet to pull up, a dingy bathroom to tackle.

And while the kitchen was certainly on the to-do list, we assumed we could live with the old appliances and chipped tile countertop for a time.

We were sorely mistaken.

With my husband Roger staying behind in New York to finalize the sale of our previous house, our dog Buck and I had already arrived in Omaha to handle the closing on the new home. (Well, Buck wasn’t involved in the closing. He’s not great with paperwork.)

After signing on the dotted line, I began exploring the house and discovered the many broken appliances that had been curiously omitted from the seller’s property disclosure form.

“The dishwasher doesn’t work,” I told Roger over the phone.

“We knew that, right?” he replied.

“Yes, but now I know why it doesn’t work – the garbage disposal also doesn’t work,” I explained. “And the garbage disposal doesn’t work because the drain doesn’t work.”

“Well, that can all be fixed,” he assured me.

“Maybe. But I don’t know if the smell can.”

Before: With broken appliances and dingy cupboards, this dated kitchen was screaming for a facelift.

The home’s last thorough cleaning had been sometime during the Bush administration (the first one). Aggressive dusting, vacuuming, and mopping improved the situation, but the suspect plumbing and appliances put up a fight.

Consequently, we soon reprioritized the kitchen from a six-months-from-now project to an ASAP project.

Out with (some of) the old

Roger and I have renovated dozens of kitchens for clients. We’ve reconfigured, rearranged, and repurposed kitchens in homes around the country. We even designed a line of cabinetry.

So, our biggest challenge in devising a plan for our charming Tudor wasn’t how to renovate, but how much to renovate.

The relatively small space could only be configured so many ways, so pulling out the original cabinets would likely mean replacing them with new cabinets of similar configuration and capacity. While they needed a good cleaning, they were all structurally sound, and the finish on the upper cabinets was still good, so we opted to keep them.

Other distinctive elements, like the convenient laundry chute and the breakfast nook’s original storage benches and bookshelves, were must-keeps.

So, what was on the chopping block? We ditched all the appliances – clogged disposal, broken dishwasher, rattling fridge, and a stove with what seemed to be a small gas leak – right away. The chipped tile countertops and backsplash had to go, too.

Finally, we removed the dinky cabinets around the stove that had been added in the ’80s. We had better ideas for that area.

Before: An old, leaky stove ready to be replaced with brighter, better things.

Renovation discoveries

Roger got to work meticulously painting the cabinets and drawers. We used black to create contrast with the white walls, bead board, and quartz countertops.

Open the drawers, however, and you’re greeted with a happy shade of robin’s-egg blue – a bright surprise and a practical choice that makes locating the proper utensil easier.

After: With new appliances, freshly painted cabinets, and sparkling countertops.

My dad (the true MVP of this project) and I pulled out the grease-splattered vent hood and upper cabinets above the stove. We had a hunch that the low soffit above these was hollow, so we cut into it for a peek.

The home’s original plaster hood had been boxed in, so we opened it up and incorporated it into the design. Roger painted black-and-white stripes (a recurring theme for this home) on the inside of the hood, and I designed laser-cut scalloped trim to finish it off.

After: Personalized touches like the special-order Italian stove completed the transformation.

The frustrating realities of product availability

Kitchen appliances are a longtime grievance of mine. I wish manufacturers would give us a broader range of colors and sizes that are scaled appropriately for older homes.

So, it is with some sadness that I – the guy who has been bored with stainless steel for a decade – ended up with a bunch of stainless steel appliances.

But you try finding a French door refrigerator with a pullout freezer that fits into an opening 4 inches narrower and 3 inches shorter than the current standard. That’s right – there’s literally one such fridge on the market. Guess what? It’s stainless.

We did manage to include one appliance that definitely stands out: our bright orange range. We special ordered it from Italy, and it took forever to arrive.

It lacks modern conveniences like a preheat function, a baking timer, or even a clock. But it’s stunning and fun, and painted in the same factory that paints Ferraris, and hey, I never told you we were rational people anyway.

Current but not characterless

The finished room incorporates everything Roger and I need in a modern kitchen – plenty of storage, LED under-cabinet lighting that makes the countertops glow, a functional ice maker, and even a garbage disposal that doesn’t smell like the La Brea Tar Pits.

But at the same time, it retains all the character we love about the home – charming cabinetry, adorable breakfast nook, and hardwood floors.

Do we occasionally long for features you’d find in new cabinetry, like a pullout spice rack or soft-close drawers? Sure. But we’ll take these squeaky old drawers and continue enjoying our one-of-a-kind new, old kitchen.

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1800s Estate Proves History Is Anything But Drab – House of the Week

Steven Favreau is the type to go big – and go home.

When he set out to put down roots near his hometown of Boston, Favreau fell in love with an old country estate in quaint Chelsea, VT. It was the perfect place for this interior designer to escape from the hubbub of big city life after working with celebrity clients and more.

“It was a quintessential Vermont house in a quintessential Vermont town,” said Favreau, about spotting the house in 2012. “I hopped on a plane and bought it the next week.”

Built in 1832, the house was once owned by a man named Aaron Davis, whose family lived in it for at least 100 years. Davis’ granddaughter eventually sold the 23-acre property in the 1980s, and the new owner converted it into a bed and breakfast. (There’s still a portrait of Davis above one of the home’s five fireplaces.)

After Favreau purchased the 5-bed, 5-bath home, he sought to restore it to its original grandeur – at a frenetic pace. A contractor brought in a crew to rework everything from the wiring (it was a fire waiting to happen) to the wallpaper (there were 8 layers throughout the house). The workers even put in a massive new beam to support the house and keep it from sinking.

“The house sprung back to life and all the old Lally columns fell to the ground,” Favreau remembered. “They heard, ‘Bam-bam! Clank-clank!’ as they jacked it back to life.”

Up next on the designer’s list: keeping the look, feel and integrity of the antique touches, while updating the space to accommodate today’s trends. He tore out a downstairs wall to expand the kitchen to 700 square feet; the master suite got a modern bath with a soaking tub.

Favreau painted walls in his signature bright colors and added bold wallpaper. In a tip-of-the-hat to the history of the Green Mountain State, he lined the master bathroom with tree-print wallpaper. The dining room got a splash of flamingo pink with a print of Victorian-looking cake plates – a nod to the era in which the house was built.

“What I wanted to use for inspiration was the house and the period of the house, so nodding to the period and updating it with a contemporary aesthetic,” Favreau said. “It says today, but it also says yesterday.”

Some things are distinctly New England. A wooden footbridge connects the main property to 22 secluded acres on the other side of the White River. On warm summer nights, Favreau’s family will pull a dining room table out onto the bridge and dine al fresco.

In the winter, the adjacent land allows for snowshoeing or cross-country skiing.

There’s also an old wood barn, which Favreau envisions becoming an event space for weddings or storage. The possibilities for the next owner are limitless, he said.

“It’s a big glorious house, and my family is a big glorious family. We’ve enjoyed it,” he added. “I feel like I’ve loved my time being there and up in Vermont, but it’s time to find the next one. Maybe an oceanside property.”

The home is on the market for $695,000. Zoe Hathorn Washburn of Snyder Donegan carries the listing.

Interior photos courtesy of Jim Mauchly of Mountain Graphics Photography. Exterior photos courtesy of Andrew Holson with Snyder Donegan Real Estate Group.

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Can Houseplants Really Clean the Air?

Houseplants can improve your life in many ways (more on that later), but if you’re expecting that peace lily on your desk to rid your home of toxins, you’re in for a surprise.

A 1989 NASA study attempted to find new ways to clean the air in space stations. Despite some pretty neat findings, it never claimed houseplants are great at removing chemicals from your home’s air — although countless articles have since cited the study as proof of that point.

And the headline “Houseplants Remove Toxins” does sound a lot more exciting than the report’s actual statement:

“Low-light-requiring houseplants, along with activated carbon plant filters, have demonstrated the potential for improving indoor air quality by removing trace organic pollutants from the air in energy-efficient buildings.”

And if you thought that was a buzzkill, the paper’s summary continues to disappoint:

“Activated carbon filters containing fans have the capacity for rapidly filtering large volumes of polluted air and should be considered an integral part of any plan using houseplants for solving indoor air pollution problems.”

In other words, even if your dracaena had the potential to remove trace toxins from your energy-efficient home, you’d still need to recreate NASA’s complicated system, which blows air through the activated carbon in the plant’s root zone.

Furthermore, if you see a list of the best plants for removing toxins, it’s nothing more than a list of the plants used in the study.

So can houseplants purify my air or not?

In theory, yes. But if you’re thinking of making your own botanical air filtration system, you’ve got a lot of work to do.

As an EPA reviewer explained in 1992, “To achieve the same pollutant removal rate reached in the NASA chamber study,” you would need “680 plants in a typical house.”

You’d be better off buying an actual air filtration system or, at the very least, vacuuming more often.

Yes, it’s true that some plants in the NASA list were more effective at removing benzene, trichloroethylene, and/or formaldehyde than others, but the amount is so negligible that neither the American Lung Association nor the EPA recommends using houseplants to improve your air.

Taking it a step further, both organizations warn that houseplants can worsen your air quality, introducing bacteria that grows in damp potting mix or pesticides used by the nursery.

Don’t let that discourage you from indoor gardening, though. If you’re that worried about your air quality, you’d never step outside in the first place.

In any case, here’s how to keep your houseplants squeaky clean:

  • Dust those leaves! While you’re at it, dust the house.
  • Keep potting mix in its place with an ornamental mulch of river rocks or gravel.
  • Avoid using pesticides whenever possible.
  • Place saucers under each plant to catch excess potting mix.
  • To prevent mold, water plants only when the top half inch of the potting mix is dry.
  • Remove any diseased, yellowed, damaged, or fallen leaves.

Grow houseplants for happiness

True story: I once grew over a hundred plants in my tiny apartment, and I can attest that there was nothing clean about the experience – at all.

Dust filled the air, tree frogs and lizards leaped out of the foliage, and some plants even had stinky fertilizers in the potting mix. Those plants may not have made my air any cleaner, but cultivating a rainforest in the comfort of my home definitely made me a happier person.

Houseplants are a lot more exciting than you’d think. I was actually excited to wake up every morning, because each day brought the promise of a fresh new leaf, a different flower to admire, or another thick orchid root to mist with water.

Helping these living plants grow and thrive gave me a sense of purpose and a connection to the natural world. They also made me sneeze, but only because I spilled potting mix on the floor fairly often.

The only reason you need to grow a houseplant is to be happy. There are, of course, studies suggesting that living with plants improves your concentration, calmness, and productivity, but there’s no point in proving what we already know.

Nobody would bother growing houseplants if they didn’t make us happy.

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Design Pros' Secrets for Finding and Using Reclaimed Materials

When you ask Seattle-based house flippers Lora Lindberg and Debbie Cederlind where to find the best home-restoration materials, they quickly reply in unison, “Craigslist.”

Lindberg and Cederlind of Urban Squirrel Residential Restoration have been flipping houses and using reclaimed materials cleverly since 2010, when they purchased their first renovation house in Everett, WA.

Debbie Cederlind (left) and Lora Lindberg (right), the brilliant design minds behind Urban Squirrel.

Although many people are flipping houses these days, Lindberg and Cederlind take a unique approach: a design-first attitude using reclaimed pieces found anywhere, from Craigslist to salvage yards to the side of the road.

“I think what people really want is character – they want a house that’s unusual,” Cederlind says. “A new tract house in Mississippi looks like a new tract house in Minnesota. People want to add character back in.”

Lindberg adds, “I think a lot of builders are good at construction, but they’re not design people. That’s where we feel we’re different – we’re design people first.”

A creative approach to both flipping and using reclaimed materials involves seeing potential others might overlook – and being willing to undertake a transformation. “Twice now we’ve bought an old, beautiful table with big, curvy gorgeous legs,” recalls Lindberg. “We cut it in half, and then we made double vanities. It makes a pedestal sink, so the two legs are out in the room, and the cut part is against the wall.”

Once an old table, now a one-of-a-kind double vanity.

The duo’s interest and work in renovation started when they met through a church project called Trading Graces. The project entailed a small renovation for a church-nominated family, and an all-volunteer renovation team collaborated on the design and construction. Because the project didn’t have a large budget, the team learned how to maximize their renovation budget with inexpensive, used materials.

With a couple of Trading Graces projects under their tool belts, the pair decided to flip houses, and Urban Squirrel was born.

They’ve now completed 14 flips, and have become true experts on all things renovation. Here, Lindberg and Cederlind offer great advice on finding unique reclaimed materials, the best pieces to look for, and DIY strategies.

Where to find pieces for a renovation

 So, where’s the best place to find renovation materials? The answer is wherever you can find materials that inspire you.

“We have great salvage yards in Seattle, but I know those aren’t available everywhere,” says Lindberg. “If you’re in a smaller city without a salvage yard, try Craigslist. We’ve gotten a lot of things there.”

The duo scored a wooden screen on Craigslist. With a little love and paint, the screen became a pair of charming pantry doors that now lend a pop of character to the clean-lined space.

In addition to Craigslist, the duo suggests trying Etsy for interesting lighting and hardware, as well as eBay and garage sales.

“If you see anything cool or unusual, no matter where it is – on the side of the road, at the garage sale – just say to yourself, ‘What can I do with this?’” Cederlind says.

“Sometimes you have to mull it over for a couple days before you come up with something,” Lindberg notes. “But if it speaks to you, and it’s interesting, it’s worth finding a use for it.”

Before: The duo spotted these rustic tin panels and felt certain they could repurpose them.
After: Once dusty and unloved, the tin panels now make the perfect cozy-chic statement in this entryway.

The best types of reclaimed pieces

When hunting for unique reclaimed materials, Cederlind and Lindberg suggest watching for quality pieces of furniture made of solid wood, such as dressers, which often feature intricate carvings or other unique details..

“One of the pieces we’ve used the most is buffets,” Lindberg says. “We use them for islands in kitchens.”

If you find an interesting piece while you’re out shopping, make sure it fits your home’s style. Although Cederlind and Lindberg don’t call themselves design purists, they say it’s best to avoid a style disconnect. If you have a Tudor home, you probably don’t want to put a bunch of mid-century modern pieces in it.

You also want high-quality pieces. “Avoid it if it’s stinky,” Lindberg says.

Some DIY best practices

An important point to remember when working with reclaimed materials: Gather all your materials before you (or a contractor) start the work.

“Let’s say you’re creating a pantry, and [your contractor] makes a doorway,” explains Lindberg. “It’s going to be impossible to find a door that exactly fits that size. You have to have all your materials first, and then have your contractor fit the doorway accordingly.”

Cederlind and Lindberg discovered the antique windowpane on the left in an architectural salvage yard.
Now serving as an interior window, the old windowpane breathes new life and light into the living room and office.

Before installing any reclaimed pieces, such as an old dresser turned into a vanity, be sure you can safely secure it, including finding the studs when attaching pieces to the walls. You may also have to modify the height of pieces to be functional for their new usage.

Above all else, the best DIY practice is just to try, the duo says.

“With all the amazing tools now, like pancake compressors and air nailers, you’d be surprised at how easy it is,” says Cederlind. “There are so many tutorials on YouTube. If somebody is really interested and wants to learn to do this, they can teach themselves.”

If you aren’t the handiest person in the world, reach out to a local handyperson or contractor. You can easily search for a quality craftsperson, but it’s always best to get recommendations from friends and family, Cederlind and Lindberg advise.

Ultimately, a great renovation project is about taking risks and creating a design that you love.

“Be brave. Most people are intimidated or timid about trying things – even paint,” Lindberg says. “But you can always repaint!”

See how Lindberg and Cederlind used reclaimed materials to create a cozy home office while renovating an abandoned 1920s Craftsman home:

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With This DIY Sporting Goods Catch-all, Game Day Is No Sweat

This project will help you organize your garage and become the LeBron James of DIY projects. With all your gear in the same place, you’ll always be prepared when someone yells, “Where’s my basketball?” (Or volleyball, hockey stick, tennis racket, etc.)

See how it’s done, then follow the step-by-step instructions to build one of your own.

1. Find a bookcase

Choose a bookcase with at least three wide shelves so you can store gear in a variety of sizes.

2. Add locking wheels

Attach locking wheels to the bottom of the bookcase so you can easily move it around the mudroom or the garage.

3. Drill holes

Drill evenly spaced holes (about four or five, depending on the width of the bookcase) along the top surface of one of the shelves. You’ll want the holes to be fairly close to the edge – about one-half inch away or less.

On the underside of the shelf below, drill holes to match up exactly with the holes on the shelf above.

4. Attach bungee cords

Place the bungee cord hooks in the drilled holes, and arrange the cords vertically so they create a net. You want the cords to be pretty taut, so be sure to get the right size for your bookcase.

5. Mount peg boards

Frame the sides of your bookcase with 1x2s to support peg boards that have been cut to size. Secure the peg boards with a few nails on the top and bottom.

6. Customize with hooks and holders

Place hooks and holders on the peg board so you can hang your tennis rackets, baseball gloves, jerseys, helmets, and more.

7. Load up your catchall, MVP!

Grab your gear and organize the bins like you’re Russell Westbrook going for another triple-double. Now all you have to worry about is scoring the winning goal.

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Van? RV? School Bus? 6 Questions to Ask Before Choosing a Home on Wheels

We’ve all seen photos of the perfectly manicured home on wheels: the reclaimed wood-lined walls, the occupants dreamily sipping coffee and watching a sunrise. People of all ages are asking themselves, “Can I do that, too?” Myself, included.

When I first saw the van that would one day be mine on Craigslist, I thought it was perfect for me. The 1986 GMC vandura had a comfy bed, turquoise cabinets and twinkle lights that made me weak in the knees.

But a mobile life can involve just as much work as a stationary one – sometimes, even more. You won’t have to pay a mortgage, but you might need new brakes. You won’t have to rely on neighbors to water your plants when you travel, but you will have to keep a tiny space organized and livable on the road.

If those things don’t scare you off, the rewards can far outweigh the work. Here are some important questions to consider, first.

Which home is right for you?

There are various names for homes on wheels and recreational vehicles, along with more unique and specific categories like Westfalia campervans.

The RV is a self-contained, manufactured home on wheels. It typically contains a bathroom and kitchen and, depending on the version you choose, it can be driven or towed. If you own a vehicle with towing capacity, a towable RV allows you to park and move around more freely – without dragging the kitchen sink.

Campervans are more compact but offer fewer amenities. They might have a small kitchenette, but rarely contain a bathroom. If you’re willing to rough it on the road, the campervan can be a more affordable option.

Then there are the more creative approaches to mobile living. People have converted school buses, vintage Airstreams and even a mail truck into living quarters. Choosing the vessel for your life on wheels is an important decision, so weigh your options carefully.

How will you use it?

Once upon a time, people bought mobile homes when they retired. These days, the options for remote work allow younger people to embrace a mobile lifestyle, with many variations. Some people want to travel regularly, while others park their homes and only occasionally switch locations.

My motivation for buying a van was the freedom to spend month-long stints on the road and rent out my house whenever I left. As a freelance writer, I often travel in search of stories and this seemed like a perfect way to do so. I could have the comforts of home and the freedom of wheels.

However, since dropping $5,500 on the initial purchase and about $1,000 in repairs, I’ve landed a full-time job. It’s now more of a weekend camping vehicle than a home. The extra headspace that once seemed luxurious now feels cumbersome, especially when I’m driving over windy mountain passes and spending $60 to fill up my tank. Also, the $80-per-month insurance has come to seem extra expensive since I’m paying for something I don’t often use.

I’ll travel regularly in my van someday, but my experience illustrates the importance of knowing how your van will facilitate the life you wish to lead. Where will you go, how often will you go, and what will you do? Looking back, I would have gone for something a little smaller and lower maintenance.

Freedom can become debilitating if you don’t know how you’ll use it.

Where will you park?

Campgrounds, RV parks, Walmart parking lots and city streets have all become temporary homes for people who live on the road. But you must consider parking laws, safety and cost – every single night.

RV parks and many campgrounds offer hookups for electricity and water. If your home is designed to accommodate those amenities, they’re nice to have. It helps to research campground details before you hit the road. 

If you’re freeing yourself from rent or a mortgage, you might not want to dump that money back into parking each night. National forests offer free camping, as long as you’re 100-200 feet away from any road, trail or water source. Ask local ranger stations about access to dispersed camping and local regulations. 

While mobile life is often celebrated with a backdrop of ocean beaches or beloved national parks, cities are something to consider, too. They just require a little extra consideration.

Vans have a leg up on bigger, flashier RVs when it comes to cities, especially if your van doesn’t look like someone lives in it. Urban van-dwellers go to great lengths to keep their living quarters quiet to prevent curious visitors and theft.

The most important piece of advice when considering where to park: do your research. Reserve a spot when heading to popular parks, call ranger stations for information about parking in the area, join local forums, and always collect information ahead of time so you you’re not searching for a place to sleep when it’s dark and there’s no cell service.

How much does it cost?

Simplifying your life by paring down your belongings can be a great way to save money. But, don’t be fooled into thinking that mobile living is always cheap.

First, there’s the cost of your vehicle, which can vary considerably. If you go for a van, the Ford E series is a popular option. Donovan Jenkins, a nursing student and outdoors enthusiast bought his Ford cargo van for just $2,700 and spent about $2,500 more converting the bare interior into a cozy home. His carpentry skills allowed him to save big bucks on labor.

Conversions – van, Airstream, school bus, etc. – can be expensive, even if you’re doing the work yourself. For example, this stylish Sprinter van conversion cost $64,120You’ll see a huge range on RV prices as well, from several thousand to millions of dollars.

Once you find a home that’s right for your budget, you’ll need to consider living costs, too.

Camping fees are about $20 per night, which can be alleviated by free parking. But, you won’t get water and electrical hook-ups unless you pay for them.

Vehicle insurance will add a few hundred to several thousand dollars in yearly costs. Comprehensive auto insurance, while more expensive than bare-boned liability plans, will protect your home and belongings from vandalism and theft.

I learned the hard way that an RV insurance plan is required of any vehicle that’s been converted into a living space. Even though my van isn’t technically an RV, AAA initially refused to tow me when I broke down in Seattle because I didn’t have RV insurance. I’ve since upgraded, which has been worth it for the peace of mind. AAA’s premier RV insurance includes unlimited 100-mile tows, and once per year, you can have your vehicle towed up to 200 miles.

Depending on the age and condition of your vehicle, you’ll also need to factor in regular repairs. And, don’t forget gas money! You’ll spend a lot more on gas for your mobile home than you will on filling up your regular car. And the more toys you carry with your mobile home, the more your gas bills will climb.

Where will you go to the bathroom?

Unless you’re able to find a mobile home with a built-in shower and toilet, personal hygiene can be a challenge on the road. But there are plenty of creative ways to make it work.

A membership to a gym chain with locations across the country, like Planet Fitness or L.A. Fitness, will allow you to access showers and bathrooms – not to mention a workout, which can be vital when your living space only allows you to walk a few feet in either direction.

Campgrounds and truck stops also provide facilities to the traveler looking to freshen up.

If you don’t have a toilet, you’ll likely find yourself using truck-stop and Starbucks bathrooms. But a late-night bathroom break could mean toilets aren’t available, and you’ll have to make due with whatever is around.

Can you work on the road?

Remote work opportunities have freed many people from the constraints of a typical office job. But working from a mobile home is much different than a home office.

First, consider how often you’ll need to work, and where you’ll be able to do so. It might be helpful to stay close to developed areas where there are plenty of establishments offering free Wi-Fi.

If you can work comfortably inside of your mobile home, you can use your mobile device as a Wi-Fi hotspot, or purchase a dedicated Wi-Fi hotspot for $100-150. Whichever option you go with, you’ll need to sign up for a service plan with data. Check on the coverage area of service providers before you pick one – they’re no use when you’re in a dead zone!

Working from the road also means you’ll need electricity, which is nice to have for other uses, too, like charging your cell phone or running a fan to stay cool when your engine is off.

Solar panels are a convenient, rechargeable and environmentally-friendly energy source. And, this portable power station will let you plug in all sorts of devices.

I can see my van parked on the street, from the window of my house right now. I’m still not entirely sure what a mobile life will look like, but figuring it out is half the fun.

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