Kitchen Layout Design Tips & Renovation Mistakes to Avoid

Many of our home activities — cooking, cleaning, eating, drinking, socializing — take place in the kitchen. Which is why a beautiful and functional kitchen is so important. Regardless of your kitchen design style, organization and layout are key components. Take a look at these 10 renovation mistakes you should avoid and design tips to try, so you’ll end up with a practical and elegant kitchen design.

Before you get started, if you’re looking for a loan to create your dream kitchen, check out these personal loan options for nearly every credit type.

1. Kitchen Triangle Obstructions

Kitchen design professionals refer to the sink, stove and refrigerator as the kitchen triangle. It’s the area of greatest activity, so designing a kitchen triangle requires careful planning and unobstructed access. Of the three, the sink typically sees the most action, though your triangle should also have easy access to the stove and refrigerator, as well as your countertop workstations.

Obviously, your sink needs to be near the plumbing. Sometimes, because of the placement of the pipes, kitchens are designed with the sinks in a poor location. If this is the case in your kitchen, consider hiring a plumber to relocate the plumbing to accommodate the best placement for the sink.

Regardless of your kitchen’s size or layout (L-shaped, galley, U-shaped or island), the sum of all the legs in a work triangle should not be less than 10 feet or greater than 25 feet. If the work triangle is too small, people will be tripping over each other. If it’s too large, food preparation could be a tiring task.

2. Wasted Storage Space

Kitchens typically contain lots of stuff. Not only that, but items concealed behind kitchen cabinets can be oddly shaped and require extra space — think food processors or stand mixers. Finding a home for your appliances while keeping them easily accessible can be tricky.

Because built-ins are expensive and the overall size of the area may be limited, one big design mistake is not including enough storage. Even small kitchens have wasted space, but this can be minimized with smart kitchen renovation planning.

If your kitchen is small, consider installing extra-long upper cabinets with molding for extra storage space. Place lighting or greenery along the molding to draw the eyes up. Always install cabinets over the refrigerator. Not utilizing this area is a waste of storage space for large or seasonal kitchen items. Finally, install shelves across the backs of the lower kitchen cabinet. This could add up to 4 square feet of extra kitchen storage space.

3. Not Enough Counter Space

One of the biggest complaints about kitchen design is the lack of counter space. Considering all the kitchen activities that require a countertop, as well as appliances that are permanently located there, you want to fit as much open horizontal surface area in a kitchen as possible. An easy way to do this is by adding an island or breakfast bar to an L-shaped kitchen.

4. Bad Lighting

The kitchen is one room where you can’t afford to have poor lighting. It’s not just a matter of good design and atmosphere. Proper kitchen task lighting is safety is important when it comes to handling sharp knives and other kitchen tools. Plus, the more light you have in the room, the better you can show off your design elements.

Rooms generally need three types of lighting:

  • General lighting for overall illumination
  • Task lighting
  • Accent lighting

For your kitchen, evaluate the work areas and focus on providing each spot with the light it needs. Consider adding lighting directly above all the main work areas.

Use pendant lights or a series of mini-pendants to enhance the beauty and functionality of the kitchen. Pendants look great above kitchen sinks, while a series of mini-pendants work well over breakfast bars and kitchen islands. Install under-cabinet lighting to make sure that the counters have sufficient lighting for common kitchen tasks.

5. Skipping the Backsplash

When budgeting or designing a new kitchen or remodel, the backsplash sometimes slips to the end of the list. Or worse, it’s left out of the plan altogether. This may save you money in the short term, but in the long run it will cost you a lot of time and effort.

Think about all the steam, water and grease in the kitchen, and you’ll understand why installing a backsplash above the cooktop and counters is a smart way to keep your kitchen clean. It’s much easier to clean grease off a backsplash made of tile, metal or plastic than paint or wallpaper.

6. Poor Ventilation

The best kitchen design fades in the presence of stinky cooking odors. If you’ve ever walked into someone’s home and smelled last night’s fish lingering in the air, you’ll understand the importance of good ventilation.

Inexpensive range hoods simply circulate dirty, stale air, while a good ventilation system will improve the quality of your indoor air. It also helps keep your kitchen cleaner and extends the life of your appliances.

Although it can be a big investment, a good ventilation system makes cooking and dining more pleasant, especially if your kitchen opens to a living area or family room.

7. Choosing the Wrong Kitchen Island

When it comes to kitchen islands, we generally think of additional storage, preparation and serving space in the kitchen.  But you may be surprised to learn that kitchen islands can waste a lot of space. Choosing the wrong island or placing it in the wrong spot can be a mess, especially in a work area that gets overly cluttered.

Islands that obstruct the flow of traffic to and from the sink, refrigerator, stove and primary workstations will create bottlenecks. An island should be at least 4 feet long and 2 feet deep and it needs enough room for people to move and work around it. Kitchen renovation experts say that unless your kitchen is at least 8 feet deep and 12 feet long, you shouldn’t even consider an island.

8. Ignoring Your Recycling

As recycling becomes even more important, dealing with trash in kitchen design has gone beyond sticking a bin under the sink. Make a plan to manage your trash efficiently and responsibly — incorporate sorting bins for recyclables into your kitchen design.

9. Going Too Trendy

Although it’s not necessarily a mistake, the latest kitchen trends and high-end equipment may not be the best choices. Trendy colors and designs have a short lifespan, and you may never see a return on your large investments in the latest kitchenware. Look for kitchen innovations and appliances that are timeless.

10. Not Working with Kitchen Design Professionals

Starting a kitchen design project to save money is a common mistake; it can actually waste more money, time and energy if you do it wrong. Professional designers have the latest ideas and information, and they can help you identify your needs and translate them into an efficient plan that fits your taste and budget.

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10 Clever Interior Design Tricks to Transform Your Home

Whether you’ve just moved or you’re looking for a quick home pick-me-up, we have some genius interior design tricks straight from the professionals. These tips are so easy, you can do them with little effort and cost.

Sometimes the smallest things make the greatest impact. It could be the addition of a mirror, a painting, a lamp or even a plant. Maybe you want to soften your walls, brighten a room, or add some warmth to your living space. Take a look at these clever design tips and see how they can inspire you!

1. Paint small rooms in soft, light colors

The living room above is a great example of how to maximize a small living space. A room this size has the tendency to seem cramped, but the large windows, light colored walls and strategic use of mirrors reflects the natural light pouring in from the doors and the windows. 

Here’s another classic interior decorating secret. Using mirrors gives the optical illusion of extra space, making a small room seem larger than it actually is. On the opposite end of the spectrum, painting a room with darker colors will make it feel smaller. Even with the abundance of natural light and the savvy placement of the mirrors, this room in a darker shade would have a more boxed-in feel to it.

2. Use decorative mirrors to add light

As you’ve seen, mirrors are great for making a small space feel larger. For larger rooms or a room with less natural light, placing mirrors directly across from the windows adds instant brightness. Decorative mirrors can also be used in lieu of art to fill empty wall space. Large or small, mirrors add light and dimension to your living space.

3. Mix patterns and textures, old and new, expensive and inexpensive

Don’t be afraid to mix it up! There’s nothing wrong with placing family heirlooms alongside your modern couch. All good interior decorators will tell you that the key goal for decorating your home is to create a design that reflects who you are, your personality and your style.

The antique Chippendale desk that was your grandfather’s tells a story. It tells the story of your past. The modern couch you fell in love with and simply had to purchase also tells a story, your present story, and there is no reason why the present and past can’t co-exist beautifully together.

The same can be said for art. Now you might not want to place a painting by Salvador Dali on the same wall next to a Monet, but there’s no reason why they can’t be in the same room together. A unique blend of furniture, rugs or pillows paired with varied colors and patterns can bring warmth and texture into your living space.

4. Try slipcovers to refresh your living room design

Need interior design ideas for your living room? Slipcovers often get a bad rap, but they’re a great way to change your furniture’s look to reflect the seasons. These easily removed coverings allow you to have a sophisticated look without constantly worrying about people and pets getting your living room furniture dirty. Slipcovers actually work great in any room, especially ones where your kids spend a lot of time! The white slip-covered couches shown above give the air of a casual, comfortable, easy and sophisticated elegance.

5. Add wicker baskets for extra storage

Wicker baskets, or baskets made from any material, are an economical and elegant way to add storage to any room. Baskets can be used to store and display books, architectural and decor magazines, toys, towels and blankets to name a few. Placing small wicker baskets filled with fruits and veggies on your countertop is a smart interior design trick for your kitchen. It doubles as storage and an eye-catching focal point.


6. Use what you have to decorate on a budget

Do you have any treasures tucked away that you’ve forgotten about? When your interior design needs accessories, take a good look at what you already have, instead of running to the home decor store. Here are some ideas to repurpose items you already have at home.

  • Place wooden, acrylic, metal or silver trays on top of carts, trunks, and bedside tables
  • Arrange candles with greenery on countertops and coffee tables
  • Hang your favorite plates to create custom wall art.
  • Frame art from children’s books for nurseries and children’s rooms
  • Stack your most beloved books to add a vertical design element

7. Hang a pot rack in your kitchen

We spend a lot of time in our kitchen preparing meals and entertaining, so it seems fitting that kitchen spaces deserve some interior design love. One of the best kitchen design tricks that’s functional and beautiful is to add a hanging pot rack.  

A hanging pot rack lets you display your cookware and frees up cabinet space. They come in many sizes and styles, so measure your kitchen space before you go shopping. Be sure to set aside a little extra money for those new pots and pans you’ll want to buy!

8. Go green with houseplants

Adding plants to your living space is an inexpensive way to accessorize by adding color and texture. Not only are plants beautiful, they can help clean the air in your house and control humidity. House plants keep your home healthy by absorbing pollutants and removing harmful gases from the air. Plus, they make your home feel more alive!

9. Paint or wallpaper your bookcases

When it comes to interior design ideas, adding a pop of color is a quick way to brighten and re-energize any room! A simple DIY project like painting a wall can instantly energize and transform your space. 

This built-in bookcase is basic and functional, but the bright blue interior brings it to life. One of the most affordable room design ideas that will transform a ho-hum space is to apply a coat of paint somewhere unexpected. Bookcases are an easy place to start, because you don’t need to paint a large area. Other fun places to add a pop of color include painting fireplace mantels, the insides of closets, hallways and ceilings.

10. Add area rugs to soften hardwood floors

Hardwood floors are easy to maintain, but they lack the comfort of carpeted floors, especially in the cooler months. A cozy home design trick is to add area rugs to your living space for extra warmth, texture, color and personality. 

Use throw rugs of varying patterns and fabrics to showcase your personal style. Or add several rugs of the same pattern and fabric, or different textures but the same color. The possibilities are endless. 

You can change your area rugs to reflect the seasons, using warmer tones and fabrics for winter and lighter ones for summertime. There are family-friendly washable area rugs that are ideal for homes with children. 

What inspired you? Personally, I adore these animal-hide rugs as an unexpected interior design element.

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The Best Renters Insurance for 2019

Having the best renters insurance is a crucial protective hedge for preserving all of the things you love about your home. Choosing the right insurance on your own can be overwhelming. Fortunately, we’ve crafted the definitive one-stop guide to finding the very best renters insurance on the market.

Our Renters Insurance Top Picks Are the Following:

Find the Best Renters Insurance Rates

Renters insurance rates can vary greatly depending on where you live, so it is important to compare all of your options. To quickly find the best rates in your area, simply enter your ZIP code below.

Enter Your ZIP Code:

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Best Renters Insurance

American Family – #1 Choice for Renters Insurance

After poring over mounds of reviews, customer ratings and speaking with an insurance agent of over 15 years, we found American Family to be the clear #1 choice for renters insurance, according to J.D. Power’s 2019 U.S. Home Insurance Study of Renters Insurance. American Family’s affordability, paired with its unrivaled customer-service interaction, policy offerings, price, billing processes and policy information, set it apart from the crowd.

In our research, much like with home insurance, we found that local and regional options like state Farm Bureaus can often be the best fit, since these companies offer unique insight into the region they cover. However, for this article we chose to focus solely on national companies, available to the majority of Americans.

Although American Family ultimately shined the brightest, many outstanding companies were in the running. Here are a few that excelled in specific areas.

State Farm – Best for Most People

Although rates are largely dependent on geographic location, State Farm tends to offer better-than-average premium rates in the United States. With a huge share of the market, rock-solid financial standing and low premiums, State Farm is a good option for anyone looking to insure their home at a great price. The only area they seem to fail a bit is customer satisfaction with the claim process. Other than that, they are right up there with American Family.

USAA – Best Overall If You Qualify

USAA is often considered the gold standard for insurance companies. The company boasts excellent add-on coverage, including identity-theft protection and flood protection, something that’s next to impossible to find elsewhere. To take advantage, you must be enlisted or have served in the United States military, but if you qualify, it’s hard to find a better option on the national market. USAA ranks high in all areas of coverage, including the claim process.

Allstate – For Online Resources & Digital Experience

Allstate comes out on top when searching for renters insurance online. For the most part, the premiums are at or below average, but if you live in a high-risk area (for theft, arson, flooding, etc.), the policies can be far more expensive than other companies. Coverage, pricing and customer service all rank high, as does the convenience of online resources. The one place Allstate’s coverage falls short is on electronics, which reimburses $1,000 per item. That means that $5,000 computer and printer won’t be covered for more than $1,000 if stolen. Even so, you can talk to an agent about additional coverage.

Nationwide – Best for Discounts

Nationwide came in below American Family in most areas of coverage. However, Nationwide’s renters policies are top-tier when covering the contents of your home or apartment. They even provide coverage for loss of use — or the out-of-pocket expenses you’ll encounter if you need to find another place to live.

Nationwide has coverage for medical payments to others, personal liability, credit card coverage for unauthorized usage and building additions and alterations. It’s website also does a nice job stating what you need to know about renters insurance. It didn’t outdo Allstate or American Family in those areas, but might give you the cheapest quote thanks to its many discounts

American Family – A Full Review

Whether you’re buying your dream house or renting your first apartment, there’s no place like home — and we believe that’s worth protecting.

In our research, we unequivocally found that American Family offers a fairly standard renter’s policy. But, their optional coverages and discounts are worth noting and quite comprehensive, fully customizable and backed by a solid company. Overall, according to Consumers Advocate, on a scale of 1 to 5, American Family renter’s insurance ranked:

  • 4.0/5 – Coverage Options
  • 4.3/5 – Add-Ons & Discounts
  • 3.5/5 – Customer Service
  • 4.3/5 – Financial Strength

Coverage

American Family offers all of the standard coverage options you’d expect for a top-ranked company, including liability, loss of use and property damage. They also have a wide selection of policy options and add-on coverages, which include travel insurance, identity theft protection, home based-businesses insurance and pet insurance.

Add-ons and Discounts

American Family Insurance offers a wide range of discounts for customers who opt to bundle their renters insurance with other policies. You’ll also receive a discount if you have been claim-free for at least five years, and started using smart technology, like devices that monitor air quality, fire, temperature, humidity, intruders, etc. You can even qualify for additional discounts if you opt for a preferred method of payment, if you become a loyal customer, or if you have a parent that is also a member of American Family Insurance.

Customer Services

On the topic of customer service and claims, data collected by the NAIC reveals that American Family received less than the national median ratio of complaints regarding their renters/homeowners insurance product in 2017. However, they do only hold an A rating with the Better Business Bureau. This is based on 42, mostly negative, customer reviews. Still, when compared to most other renters insurance companies, Americna Family ranks well within the top.

Financial Strength

Although American Family does not have a financial strength rating with Moody’s Investor Services or S&P global, the company holds an A (Excellent) rating for stable long-term issuer credit outlook and financial strength with the insurance-centered credit rating agency A.M. American Family also has over 8.3 million active members, making them financially stable with a proven ability to fulfill future policyholder obligations.

One customer we spoke with said, “The customer service is great. I even spoke to a real human. My claim was handled fairly and quickly. I really couldn’t have asked for more.”

As with any kind of insurance, we would recommend consulting with a personal agent to make sure you’re getting the biggest bang for your buck. In general, talking with an agent about your insurance policy can help you avoid financial pitfalls and find one to fit your individual needs.

Who Should Skip

American Family does not have coverage in every city or state in the nation. And, although their website is comprehensive and easy to navigate, it cannot give you a complete quote. (this is due to so many factors that determine each renters rate, discounts, qualifications, etc.). Therefore, it’s better to consider this insurance company when you have the time to sit down and speak with a local agent. Nonetheless, its comprehensive coverage at competitive prices make American Family our #1 pick.

What made American Family stand out:

  • Customer satisfaction
  • Competitive rates across the board
  • Consistently fair payouts of claims
  • Discounts and bundling opportunities
  • Top-of-the-line company with strong financial backing

How We Chose the Best Renters Insurance

We spent more than 50 hours breaking down dozens of reviews and independent ratings to get a grasp on the companies that had the most to offer. We spoke with customers of various firms to get a sense of how large enterprises treat their customers when it comes time to file a claim. Finally, we sat down with an experienced agent to gain insight on the intricacies of purchasing renters insurance, and what to look for in a policy.

Overall, we learned that renters insurance is extremely individualized. Insurance, in effect, is purchasing the peace of mind that your belongings will be protected should tragedy strike.

An important note for any renter to know: Your landlord’s homeowners insurance policy will typically only cover the actual building you live in. This essentially means that everything inside those walls is your responsibility to protect, which is why choosing the very best insurer is a must.

Final Thoughts

Whether you’re renting a house or hopping from apartment to apartment to find the perfect fit, your home is your sanctuary. It’s where you live and thrive, and we love helping you make it the best it can be.

While there’s no one-size-fits-all choices for insurance, we (along with many other reviews and reputable companies) believe that American Family is the best overall choice to shield your home and your wallet. Given how regionalized and individualized renters insurance is, we encourage you to speak with local agents and educate yourself on the specific insurance needs of a home in your area.

Sources

Interview: G.K. Pippin, North Carolina Farm Bureau insurance agent
J.D. Powers U.S. Home Insurance Study – Renters Insurance (2019): https://www.jdpower.com/business/ratings/study/U.S.-Home-Insurance-Study—Renters-Insurance/10184ENG

Consumer Advocate:
https://www.consumersadvocate.org/renters-insurance/c/american-family-renters-insurance-review

American Family Insurance: https://www.amfam.com/insurance/renters/renters-overview

Dorothy Wilson, American Family customer

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The best homeowners insurance companies in 2019

Homeowners Insurance Research

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Shopping for the best home insurance policy on your own isn’t a simple or fun process. It is, however, something that everyone needs to safeguard their home. For that reason, we wanted to show you how to pick the best home insurance and the most important things to consider when searching for a provider and policy.

After compiling research from dozens of reviews and independent-rating agencies, as well as interviewing an agent with more than 15 years of experience, we found that there’s no one-size-fits-all option.

The one national company that separates itself from the other big dogs in the pack is Amica Mutual, which ranks highest in the homeowners insurance segment for an 18th consecutive year by J.D. Power.

With something as individualized and geographical as home insurance, selecting a sole winner seemed impractical, so we decided to mention some of our favorite regional picks. We found that Erie Insurance, State Farm, Auto Owners, and Allstate all ranked high. We also found that individual Farm Bureaus were often preferable to a large company because of their region-specific knowledge.

Find the Best Home Insurance Rates

Home insurance rates can vary greatly depending on where you live, so it is important to compare all of your options. To quickly find the best rates in your area, simply enter your ZIP code below. Be sure to compare rates from at least two or three companies in order to find the very best rate for you.

Enter Your ZIP Code:

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In this article:

Important Home Insurance Facts

Before we get into our top picks for best homeowners insurance companies, we thought we’d lay some foundation about the function and importance of insuring your house, condo or apartment from outside risks, such as fires or natural disasters.

What is Home Insurance?

Homeowners insurance is a form of property insurance that financially protects owners of private homes, buildings, and contents, against damage from unforeseen circumstances.

Property insurance can protect owners from two classifications of risks: open perils and named perils. Open perils protect owners from any harm that is not specifically mentioned as an exclusion in the property insurance policy. Common exclusions include floods, earthquakes or acts of war. On the other hand, named perils specifically name the cause of loss they are protecting against in the policy. Fire insurance or flood insurance are both examples of property insurance with named perils.

Is Home Insurance Required?

Legally, homeowners do not need to obtain a home insurance policy for their property or building. With that said, lenders tend to require borrowers to obtain a home insurance policy throughout their mortgage. If the home is located in an area vulnerable to floods or earthquakes, lenders may also require borrowers to purchase additional insurance as well.

Our Methodology: How We Chose the Best Homeowners Insurance

We looked at dozens of home insurance reviews and ratings from around the web for more than 45 hours to determine where customers were consistently satisfied. We compared quotes and reviews from 10 of the top-rated national companies, as well as 15 of the highest-ranked regional companies, and referred to J.D. Power to single out the ones that are the best to deal with. We also chatted with an insurance agent of over 15 years to get a firsthand look into the expectations of consumers.

Deciding who will pay the bills in the event of a catastrophe is no small task. Everyone wants to work with a company that they can trust to have their back when they call. We decided to put most of the weight on customer-service ratings. Any company can trumpet cheap prices and discounts, but whether or not they’ll be willing to uphold their end of the deal when push comes to shove is what really counts.

Our Picks For Best Homeowners Insurance Companies

Home Insurance Top Picks

  • Best National Home Insurance Company: Amica Mutual
  • Best Cheap Home Insurance Company: Travelers
  • Best Renters Insurance Company: American Family
  • Best Home Insurance Company for Military Members: USAA
  • Best Flood Insurance Company: State Farm
  • Best Home Insurance Company for Old Homes: State Farm
  • Best Regional Home Insurance Companies: Erie Insurance & Farm Bureau

While we felt it was unfair to call any major company the best overall in this field, we did find that certain ones stood out in a number of subcategories. Here are a few of our suggestions.

Amica Mutual – Best National Homeowners Insurance

Everyone needs his or her own “fortress of solitude” after a stressful day, and your domicile is truly the last great refuge. A good home insurance company should provide the same safety, security, shelter and peace of mind that your home does.

Amica Mutual is considered to be one of the pre-eminent insurers in the United States. Holding an impressively high customer service and financial rating, as well as being J.D. Power’s overall top pick for 2019 (for the 18th consecutive year), Amica is one of the finest insurance companies in the nation.

Boasting a claims service that pays out within 24 hours of an accident and a home-repair assistance program that connects you to more than 2,000 contractors to ensure a speedy cleanup, Amica is well equipped to come to your aid. Amica may not be among the nation’s largest insurers, but this company is very strong in terms of customer satisfaction ratings. If you want insurance policies with built-in perks that you can bundle together for a discount, give Amica a look.

The company offers basic home insurance coverage, as well as some unconventional upgrades, like:

  • Catastrophic coverage pays for property damage from floods or earthquakes, both of which are not typically included in standard policies.
  • Home business coverage pays for work-related items if they’re stolen
  • Dwelling replacement is coverage that pays out if your home needs repairs exceeding the policy limit, typically up to 30%.

Amica’s Platinum Choice policy includes the coverages above (except catastrophic), plus:

  • Additional coverage for business property and theft of valuables, liability and medical payments.
  • Replacement cost reimbursement rather than depreciated value of damaged or stolen items.
  • Water backup/sump overflow coverage in case of damage up to $5,000.
  • Credit card fraud or unauthorized coverage worth up to $5,000.
  • Computer coverage, including TVs, tablets and phones.
  • Loss assessment coverage covering community property near your home.

Home Repair Assistance Program: Amica partners with Contractor Connection, a national network of 2,000 licensed and insured contractors with a Home Repair Assistance program. “Your claims process will be hassle-free and the professionals can be on the scene within hours of an emergency”, Amica says.

Amica is lacking in a few key coverage areas that would limit its overall reach. You won’t find mobile home, farm or ranch coverage at Amica, and those who reside in older homes are sure to walk away empty-handed as well. There is also a dearth of payment-plan flexibility, as you are required to make either one full payment or 10 monthly payments.

Amica had fewer than the median number of complaints to state regulators in 2018 relative to its size for home, according to the latest data from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. They also stand out for customer satisfaction, earning the highest honors in two J.D. Power studies, as well as Consumer Reports and Consumer Affairs surveys.

Travelers – Cheapest Homeowners Insurance

There’s no such thing as cheap home insurance, but everyone loves a discount, and even a ballooning premium can be offset with smart discount shopping. Travelers homeowners insurance is a great hub for diversified discount options, including multi policy, new homebuyer and LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) discounts. With some education on available discounts, Travelers can be a great option to save some big bucks.

American Family – Best Renters Insurance

While the protection of your dwelling will fall on your landlord, renters insurance will protect your personal property within the building that you rent. Otherwise known as an HO-4 renter’s insurance policy, American Family’s renters insurance boasts coverage of reimbursed living expenses, liability protection and guest medical protection. Also, you might be eligible for a discount if you bundle your auto insurance with Allstate.

USAA – Best Homeowners Insurance Military Members

The undisputed champ of customer service, this powerhouse has been serving military members for more than 90 years. Although USAA is available only to past and present service members, it is often considered to be the paramount insurance company for both home and auto. Offering an unprecedented level of personal-property coverage paired with unmatched customer loyalty, USAA is the clear choice for all who are eligible.

State Farm – Best Flood Insurance

Flood insurance is almost always sold separately from the main policy. If you live in a high-risk area, this is one of the most important purchases you can make. Like most insurers, State Farm writes its flood insurance through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). The company is lauded for its customer service, speedy payouts and top-rated agents. It’s smart to consult a local, preferably independent, agent who can help determine the level of flood protection you need where you live.

State Farm – Best Homeowners Insurance Old Homes

Insuring an old home is trickier than any other home. Many companies won’t even take them on because of the potential liability. State Farm, however, shines with affordable rates, thousands of helpful agents and a great HO-8 policy, which is designed for situations when the replacement cost of a home may be substantially higher than the current market value. There is no better place to insure your rustic abode than State Farm.

Eries Insurance & Farm Bureau- Best Regional Homeowners Insurance

What if you live in an area where State Farm’s coverage is insufficient or simply doesn’t offer the precise coverages you need? If you own oceanfront property, reside in Tornado Alley or have a home that’s on a known fault line, it’s possible that State Farm won’t offer the level of coverage you need to protect your home. In cases like these, regional insurers may offer a more complete portfolio of add-ons to address region-specific concerns. Our top picks are outlined below, but we encourage you to do a bit of research in your local market with an agent to determine which company is best suited for you.

Erie Insurance

Erie Insurance is cut from the same cloth as Amica Mutual. This company is held in high esteem and prides itself in bringing more personalized policies to its clients by staying focused on the 12 states it serves from the Midwest to the Atlantic Ocean (including the District of Columbia). Boasting a four-star J.D. Power ranking and consistently impressive customer-experience ratings, Erie offers some of the most all-encompassing coverage in the field for the greatest value.
Comprehensive discounts are what give Erie the financial edge over larger companies. It offers a wide variety of discounts from new-home and multiple policies to a price break for policyholders 45 or older. Through discounts, Erie can save you as much money as anyone.
Although Erie is available only to a small portion of Americans and doesn’t offer much in the way of learning material or mobile accessibility, it is an excellent option to check into if you live in their coverage area.

Farm Bureau

Another great option is your state’s Farm Bureau insurance. Some states offer this independently and some offer it through an existent agency. We found its service and loyalty to customers to be exemplary. Not only are state bureaus more focused on their clients, but also they hold unparalleled knowledge of area-specific pitfalls and advice. We highly recommend checking with your state’s Farm Bureau to see if you are eligible for insurance.
To sum it up, there is no way to define a single “best” home insurance provider. The beauty of owning your home is that it’s an extension of yourself, making it just as individual as you are. One company that works perfectly for one house might not be a good fit for yours. This is why finding a trusted local agent is worth more than any research you can do on your own.

Choosing the Right Type of Home Insurance for You

For the most part, we found that local and regional agencies are the best option for most homeowners. We recommend finding a local agent and letting him or her help guide you through the twists and turns of your individual policy. G.K. Pippin, a longtime agent of a regional insurance company, agreed that local is better:

I would recommend that any new customer connect with a local agent before buying. Local agents are better equipped to handle your policy with their insightful knowledge of the potential risks in the area.— G.K. Pippin

Being mostly geographically determinate, regional companies tend to be preferable when it comes to home insurance. While the major national companies archetypally deliver excellent coverage, the significance of a personal connection to your area can’t be overstated.
Regional companies are best equipped to understand the nuances of weather, crime rates, reconstruction costs, fire and police protection, etc. All of these factors play a major role in determining one’s premium and coverage level. For example, in coastal North Carolina, local insurers offer far more wind and hail coverage options than a national carrier, which could come in handy if a hurricane rolls through. We asked Pippin to walk us through some of the policy tips he has given his clients.

“I always recommend water- and sewage-damage coverage. Most policies don’t include [these], and [they are] usually skipped over. It’s an inexpensive add-on and the damage, especially on a wooden floor, can be financially [disastrous].”
G.K. Pippin

Understanding Home Insurance Coverage

Understanding the types of coverage that exist is the first step in choosing your policy. While there are dozens of optional coverage add-ons, let’s go over the basics to help simplify things.

Dwelling Coverage

This safeguards you from financial harm if your home or attached buildings are damaged by disasters such as a windstorm, lightning or vehicles. You can purchase as much as you want, but it is recommended that you buy enough to rebuild your home in the event of an accident.

Other Structures Protection

This protects structures that are disconnected from your house, such as a barn or a carport. It typically starts at around 10 percent of your dwelling coverage, but you can adjust it as you see fit.

Additional Living Expense Coverage

Finding a place to live while your home is being repaired can be a headache. This coverage helps you pay for the cost of relocating during this period. Most states allow coverage up to 12 months, but some allow it for 24 months.

Water-backup Coverage

Different than flood insurance, this covers damages from water that flows from the ground up . This is a coverage that some skip on, but could be a huge money saver.

Personal-property Insurance

Most base-level insurance policies only cover damages done to the structure of your dwelling. Personal-property insurance protects your belongings in your home. It is imperative that you get the right amount of coverage for this, and specify how much coverage you want to go toward certain items. Take the time to detail everything you would want replaced and adjust your policy to match that figure.

Family Liability Protection

Helps to cover the liability if disregard and negligence lead to the damage of others’ property. This also can assist in paying for any required legal defense.

Guest Medical Protection

This helps pay for the medical expenses of anyone injured on your property. It typically covers up to $5,000.

Fire Department Charges Coverage

Covers the costs that a fire department would charge to put out a fire at your home.

Picking An Insurance Policy

Picking the right policy to protect your home is no menial chore. Home insurance is arguably the most complex to shop for. While we all have the DIY spirit deep inside of us, it’s recommended that you seek the counsel of an agent to help guide you through the pool of policy and coverage options. An agent will not only help you find the best policy for you, but also will ensure that you don’t pay extra for unneeded coverage.
A continued dialogue with your agent can help eradicate any misunderstandings when it comes time to choose a policy. Even after you pick your policy, it’s imperative that you continue to communicate with your insurer to verify that no changes have been made to your policy, unbeknownst to you. Pippin agreed that most of the customer complaints he has heard stem from a lack of communication between parties.

“The biggest issue I see is clients not staying in contact with their agent. You should check with your company annually to verify that no changes have been made to your policy.”
G.K. Pippin

If you are an exceptionally cautious person or have a lot of personal items you would like to protect, be prepared to pay a heftier premium every month. With all insurance, you get the level of protection that you pay for. The significance of thoroughly going through your policy options with your agent can’t be overstated.
Another nugget to keep in your mind is that several factors can affect the cost of your policy. Here are some to consider:

  • Catastrophic coverage pays for property damage from floods or earthquakes, both of which are not typically included in standard policies.
  • Home business coverage pays for work-related items if they’re stolen
  • Dwelling replacement is coverage that pays out if your home needs repairs exceeding the policy limit, typically up to 30%.

Amica’s Platinum Choice policy includes the coverages above (except catastrophic), plus:

  • Owning certain items that have higher potential for risk, such as a swimming pool or trampoline, can drive your premiums up quickly.
  • Owning an aggressive breed of dog can escalate pricing.
  • Your home’s distance from a fire station or hospital plays greatly into how much you’ll pay. If you live too far away from either, some insurers won’t even write a policy for you.
  • Anything than can be perceived as a danger by your insurance company will be. Thankfully, there are discounts you can acquire to counteract this, such as installing a security system.
  • The more risk you can eliminate, the more likely you are to save money on your policy.
  • Loss assessment coverage covering community property near your home.

Common Policy Options

As complicated and overwhelming as the nuts and bolts of home insurance can be, there is a silver lining: Due to regulations from the Insurance Services Office, all insurers must provide the same types of coverage and call them by the same name. This will wholly expedite comparing policies amongst multiple competitors. To make it even simpler for you, I have put together a list of common home insurance policy options that most companies will carry.

HO-0: Dwelling & Fire

The base level of insurance policies, HO-0 is limited protection that covers damage caused by fire, smoke, explosions, lightning, windstorms, hail, civil unrest and vehicles. It should be noted that there is nothing but dwelling coverage in this policy; personal property and liability are unprotected.

HO-1: Basic Form

Not available in every state, the HO-1 home insurance policy protects your abode against 11 perils: Theft, vandalism, hail, lightning, windstorm, fire, aircraft damage, vehicle damage, volcanic eruption, civil commotion and glass breakage. This covers your dwelling, and you can add coverage of your personal items as well.

HO-2: Broad Form

This is a comprehensive form of “named perils” coverage. Any peril that is unnamed will not be covered. All in all, this policy covers your home from the 11 perils in an HO-1 policy, plus falling objects, weight of snow and rain, and malfunctioning electrical or household equipment.

HO-3: Special Form

This extensive policy is best for single-family homes and uses a different formula than the previous policies to determine the perils it covers. HO-3 home insurance covers all perils except for those that are specifically excluded.

HO-4: Tenant’s Form

Colloquially known as renters insurance, this form protects people who are renting their residence. While the responsibility of dwelling coverage will fall on your landlord, an HO-4 will provide personal property and liability coverage.

HO-5: Premium

The most extensive policy available, this is essentially an extended HO-3 policy. It takes the open-peril basis of an HO-3 and applies it to your personal property as well as your dwelling. Barring its exclusion, any damage caused by a peril to your structure or personal contents will be covered.

HO-6: Condominium Insurance

Much like an HO-4, this protects the personal property and personal liability of someone living in a condo. The perils covered are the same as an HO-2.

HO-7: Mobile-Home Insurance

This policy is the same as an HO-3 but with protection for mobile and manufactured homes.

HO-8: Older-home insurance

Insuring an older home is a greater risk because the cost of repair would be more than the market value of the home. Therefore, not every company provides this type of policy. An HO8 is similar to an HO3, with additional provisions relevant to older homes.

What Makes a Good Homeowners Insurance Company

These are the features we devoted our attention to when determining recommendations for the best home insurance companies.

  • Financial standing: The ability to pay back claims, in full, in a prompt manner.
  • Customer satisfaction: Treating customers like real people, not numbers.
  • Available local agents: Having someone to call goes a long way when your home is damaged.
  • User and market-research reviews: We compiled and distilled reviews from users and professionals.
  • Available discounts: Much like auto insurance, discounts are plentiful if you know where to look.
  • History of claims handling: You want a company that has been around for generations.
  • Online capabilities: Efficiency is key when it comes to handling claims, and a company’s digital prowess is important in today’s smartphone-driven culture.

Final Thoughts

Choosing the right home insurance is similar to choosing a home. In both instances, you are aiming to invest in stability. The right home insurance company should be as trustworthy and unshakeable as the very foundation your home rests on. Even though you hope to never use your policy, it’s worth choosing an insurer based on how they’d react if you needed to.
Home insurance is among the most complicated and individualized forms of insurance you’ll have to buy. Realizing that there will never be a one-size-fits-all solution to home insurance, it’s impossible to make a uniform recommendation. In our research, we found Amica Mutual to be the best bet, but your location may yield an entirely different result. With the help of a personal agent to help sift through the jargon, you can find a company that you feel comfortable entrusting your safe haven to.

Sources:
https://www.consumeraffairs.com/insurance/home.html#best-rated-all
https://www.jdpower.com/business/ratings/study/U.S.-Home-Insurance-Study—Homeowners-Insurance/10183ENG
https://www.amica.com/en/products/home-insurance.html
Interview, G.K. Pippin, insurance agent
“https://www.reviews.com/homeowners-insurance/amica/”
“12 Factors That Affect Your Home Insurance Rates,” ChristianPF, June 2010
“Do You Need Landslide Insurance?” Insurance Quotes, August 2013
“What Does Homeowners Insurance Cover,” Esurance
“HO4 Renter Insurance Policy,” Insurance Education Group
“HO 8 Home Policy,” American Insurance Services

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The Biggest Pinterest Home Trends for 2019

There are a whopping 250 million active Pinterest users per month. And they’re busy pinning and repinning all their favorite design inspiration photos, memes, recipes, crafts and more. Pinterest just released a report breaking down the data of which Pinterest home trends are big in 2019.

Wondering how they manage to call it correctly year after year? According to Pinterest, they track and monitor pins for an “upward trajectory [that] holds steady for 6+ months.” 250 million people must be right. According to users, these are the top ten Pinterest home trends that are going to be hot for 2019.

1. Mustard Yellow is the “It” color for 2019

pinterest home trends 2019

Add mustard yellow to a room to update and warm up your space. Image: Pinterest/decomg

Searches for mustard yellow: +45%

Mustard yellow or sunflower yellow replace last year’s favorite — sage green. Try adding a bold focal wall or add a small accent furniture piece and some accessories in the color. Here’s more on how to decorate with yellow.

2. Pinners are obsessed with fireplaces

2019 pinterest home design trends

A small, private garden was fitted with an outdoor fireplace for ambiance. Image: Pinterest/warmcozyhome

Searches for contemporary fireplace: +763%

Indoor and outdoor fireplaces are hot — and according to Pinterest, “the more modern and sleek, the better.” If you agree, you’ll love these outdoor fire pit ideas and the best indoor electric fireplaces that you can even set up in your rental.

3. Fabric walls

top pinterest home trends 2019

Hanging tapestry or textiles on the wall are an easy way to add color and pattern. Image: Pinterest/sfgirlbybay

Searches for textile art: +1718%

The idea of upholstering your walls may sound stranger than it looks. Rugs, tapestries and other hanging fabrics are hot, and give a room that boho-chic look.

4. Painted geometric wall patterns

pinterest trends 2019

Create a custom feel in your room by painting a geometric pattern on the wall. Image: Pinterest/redonline

Searches for geometric paint: +225%

Pinterest users are crafty and love a good DIY project. Save your favorite geometric paint Pin, whip out some painter’s tape and paint some geometric patterns on your wall to get in on this Pinterest home trend.

5. Wallpaper is the new paint

pinterest design trends 2019

For a more sophisticated wall, nix paint and try wallpaper. Image: Pinterest/hyggeandwest

Searches for bold print wallpaper: +401%

If painting geometric patterns on your walls isn’t your thing, bold wallpaper in bright geometric prints or tropical leaves is the answer. The best part is, there are plenty of removable wallpaper options nowadays that make it possible to wallpaper your rental walls, too. Here’s our ultimate guide to removable wallpaper.

6. Tin-spiration

pinterest design trends

Stamped tin is a stunning and low maintenance option for a backsplash. Image: Pinterest/apartmenttherapy

Searches for tin interiors: +563%

Stamped tin can work in nearly any interior style including farmhouse, industrial, vintage or modern. Paint yours to customize it further. According to the Pinterest home trends report, “From backsplashes to wallpaper, tin is in!”

7. Cactus and succulent arrangements

pinterest interior design ideas

Mix and match a cactus with succulents for a low-maintenance centerpiece. Image: Pinterest

Searches for cactus arrangements: +235%

Add some life to your space with a low-maintenance plant like a cactus or a succulent. Buy a shallow pot, fill it with soil, drop in a grouping of both cacti and succulents in different heights. Finish it off with some gravel for a cheap and chic centerpiece. Here are more ideas on how you can display your new arrangement.

8. Living walls

trending on pinterest

Cover up an unsightly wall or fence with a lush vertical garden. Image: Pinterest/sunset

Searches for vertical gardens: +287%

Vertical gardens or living walls are growing on Pinners. And we’ve been a big fan of the trend, indoors or outdoors. Here’s a roundup of our favorite vertical gardens and living walls.

9. Painted floors

trending pinterest pins

Paint over old flooring by using a geometric stencil pattern. Image: Pinterest/cuttingedgestencils

Searches for painted floor tiles: +1276%

Forget messy demolition to replace your floors and paint over your existing tile or parquet floors instead. It’s much faster, easier and cheaper. Especially if you use the latest stencils for a mosaic-tile look that are definitely a part of Pinterest home trends for the year.

10. Natural swimming pools

best pinterest home design pins

This swimming pool makes use of its natural surroundings to keep the water fresh and flowing. Image: Pinterest/babble

Searches for natural swimming pools +262%

We all love a dip in the swimming pool but can do without all the chlorine after-effects like burning eyes, bleached hair that goes green and dry skin. A salt-water pool is quickly replacing chlorine as the go-to choice for homeowners and is one of the Pinterest home trends for 2019. Here’s a roundup of some of the most beautiful swimming pools in the world.

Looks like 2019 is gonna be a big year to focus on your walls. Whether you add wallpaper, hang a tapestry or paint them in bright yellow, make sure you’ve embellished them with bold colors and prints. And don’t forget to include plants in your room’s decor.

What do you think of the Pinterest home trends for 2019? Let us know in the comments. Follow us on Pinterest!

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The Freshome Dream Living Room

dream living room

Psst! Here’s the (not so) secret Freshome recipe for a dream living room. Image: Hero Images/Getty Images

We hope you like the products we recommend. Just so you are aware, Freshome may collect a share of sales from the links on this page. 

Sometimes we take for granted that the living room is, in fact, the place where we do most of our living. It’s a space that needs to serve multiple purposes and please multiple personalities. The living room is a place for parties and the location for movie nights. It’s a harbor where you can catch your breath after a long day, and the space where families can come together through the thick and thin and enjoy each other’s company. So it’s no surprise that the Freshome team has some opinions on what makes a good living room. Let’s take a quick look at what we think the dream living room needs to really shine.

When polled, we all agreed that there are a few key elements every living room simply must contain. There’s the couch, comfortable and large enough to seat everyone in the family. Then there’s the accent furniture that makes the space pop. And we can’t forget the TV that often serves as the hearth of the home in the digital age. But what sets one living room apart from another? It’s all about the personality and the pieces you gather in the space. We polled our Freshome team to find out which pieces are absolutely critical in a dream living room and which can make all the difference when it comes to your design.

dream living room - accent sofa

Your accent sofa is the place to show off your personal design flair. The Drake Sofa in mustard yellow? Why not! Image: West Elm

#1: An accent color loveseat or sofa

One of the most fun pieces to shop for your dream living room is the accent loveseat or sofa. While you may want to go more traditional with your primary couch color (see below), this is a place to have some fun. With maximalism trending, who says you can’t get a jewel-toned sofa is a rich velvet? Or a bold, patterned upholstery? Really, this is your opportunity to dream something up in your head, then buy it for your home.

If you’re looking for a place to get started, we recommend one of our Freshome favorites: the Drake Sofa from West Elm, pictured above in Twill in Dark Horseradish. Some of our writers love the bright pop of yellow, while others prefer the more lush look of Distressed Velvet in Forest or Dusty Blush. All this to say, your accent furniture is a place to showcase your design preferences and pick a piece that will wow your friends.

dream living room - couch

A giant couch invites friends and family to gather – or gives you a place to stretch out by yourself. Image: CreativaStudio/Getty Images

#2: A giant couch

The right couch can be the centerpiece of any dream living room. When it comes to choosing your couch color, it’s tempting to want to go big and bold. After all, this is a piece that everyone’s going to be looking at – and sitting on. But don’t forget that this will be one of the biggest investments in your home (good couches aren’t cheap!) and you’re going to want to love it for years to come.

Neutral colors give you the flexibility to change the room without needing to buy a new couch. All you need are new throw pillows and you can make your couch work with virtually any theme. When it comes to the shape, try to strike a balance between interesting and classic so you choose a design that has staying power. We love a good, square sectional sofa or one that invites you to plop down, like the Hamilton Leather Sofa from West Elm. Still not sure which couch is right for you? Check out this guide on the different sofa styles for more clarity.

dream living room - gallery wall

A living room gallery wall is the ideal place to showcase what you love. Image: Photographee.eu/Shutterstock

#3: Wall art

Your living room wall art is your opportunity to really let your personality shine and have some fun! Maybe you want a bright and open feel to your living room space. In that case, an oversized mirror is just the thing to place on one of the prominent walls. It reflects light, making the space feel brighter, and adds an interesting design element.

Or maybe you want to really add some personal flair. The living room is the perfect place for a gallery wall. When putting together a gallery wall, our Freshome team says you need:

  • Art you truly love, like photos with personal meaning or paintings your kids made in class.
  • Something thought-provoking, like a mounted sculptural element, an abstract art piece or black and white photos.
  • A large piece to anchor the layout. If there’s no single piece you want to spotlight, consider adding a floating ledge to serve as your anchor.

We’ve rounded up more gallery wall hacks to help you pull the whole thing together.

When looking for art for your living room, don’t settle just because you feel like you need to get something up on the walls. Wait until something really speaks to you. Remember, you’re working to create your dream living room! And being surrounded by art you really love makes your dream living room a truly enjoyable place to spend time.

dream living room - entertainment

Your living room can easily pull double-duty when it’s simple to tuck away your TV. The Cameo 2-Piece Entertainment Center makes that easy. Image: Crate & Barrel

#4: A space for entertaining and entertainment

While a number of us at Freshome would love to have a home theater, those of us who are still waiting to make our millions and buy our mansion settle for creating a theater-like space in our dream living room. A flatscreen TV is a must (here’s a VIZIO D-Series 24″ option from Target to get you started), but it doesn’t necessarily have to be the focal point of the room. We’ve highlighted a number of ways you can seamlessly integrate your TV into the room or cleverly hide it away. For example, you can tuck it away in a polished entertainment center, like the Cameo 2-Piece Entertainment Center from Crate & Barrel.

Integrating your TV is so important because your living room needs to pull double-duty. It can’t just be a space for entertainment, it also needs to be a space for entertaining. When choosing electronics, furniture, decor and lighting for your dream living room, picture the space full of people. Will it comfortably accommodate the groups you plan to host? Sectional furniture that can be moved around can help you carve out a better entertaining area. Hideaway TVs can make the space feel more intimate and dimmable lights can create ambiance. In short, when planning your dream living room, think through how it will function whether you’re curled up on the couch solo or you’re entertaining a large group.

dream living room - chair

Give yourself a space to relax by adding a comfortable chair to your living room. Image: Photographee.eu/Shutterstock

#5: A comfortable chair

Sure, a big couch is key in every living room. But what about when you want a little more space for yourself? A big, cozy chair is the ideal place to curl up and grab the aforementioned alone time. Plus, it’s a great addition to the living room of anyone who entertains. Not every guest wants to sit side-by-side with a complete stranger – or even a close friend. Add an accent pillow and a cozy throw and you’ve created an inviting addition to your dream living room.

dream living room - coffee table

When picking furniture, remember that an interesting coffee table (like the Yukon Natural Coffee Table) makes even the simplest living room pop. Image: Crate & Barrel

#6: A memorable coffee table

No living room would be complete without a coffee table where you can place decor, books and drinks. And in our dream living room, the coffee table itself serves as a piece of decor. Go beyond the basic and look for a coffee table that will add a level of interest to your room. Here are a few of our Freshome favorites:

What would we find in your dream living room? We had a lot of fun thinking about it – and you might, too! Picture your ideal living room and tell us what sets it apart in the comments.

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4 Factors That Make All The Difference In Your Bathroom Remodel

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Remodeling your bathroom is one of the best things you can do to add value to your home. However, undertaking this process is anything but simple. There are so many little decisions to make and important factors to consider that it’s easy to get overwhelmed. With that in mind, we’ve brought you four factors that make all the difference in your bathroom remodel. Concentrate on these and you’ll end up with a final product that you’ll be in love with for years.

bathroom remodel

Plan the layout first. Image: Peshkova/Shutterstock

The layout

The layout is a key part of the remodeling process. For one, if you decide to change the layout from its existing structure, it will likely be one of the most expensive parts of the entire remodel. For another, it’s one of the least likely facets of the remodel to be able to be altered if you decide you don’t like the end result. In light of that, it’s important to take this step of the process seriously.

To do so, your first step is to think about how well your bathroom functions currently. Are you able to move through your daily routines with ease or are there certain areas where you continually get frustrated? Maybe you and a partner have trouble getting ready at the same time or there isn’t enough storage space to suit the needs of your whole family.

Whatever your pain points are with the existing layout, be sure to write them down, along with the measurements for your current space. Then, bring these notes to a qualified contractor. He or she will be able to walk you through your options for solving your current space issues and help you come up with a new layout that truly suits your needs.

lighting

Make sure to include plenty of lighting. Image: Lungkit/Shutterstock

The lighting

Lighting is often one of the most overlooked components of the remodeling process, yet — especially when you’re redoing a bathroom — it is also one of the most crucial. Don’t believe us? Just think about how hard it is to complete daily grooming tasks like shaving or putting on makeup without a proper light source. To that end, you need to make sure lighting remains a priority as you undertake this project.

We’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: the key to good lighting is layering. There are three main types of lighting that you can use and, ideally, your bathroom will include a mixture of all of them. They are as follows:

  • Ambient: Also known as general lighting, ambient light fills the majority of the room and allows you to move around safely. It usually comes from recessed lighting, track lighting or wall-mounted fixtures.
  • Accent: Accent lighting is used to highlight a particular focal point, such as a statement shower. Picture lights, wall-mounted-fixtures or track lighting are common, and dimmers are often used on these features to provide mood lighting.
  • Task: As the name suggests, task lights are used to assist you in completing a particular function. This could be anything from a lighted mirror to a pendant light that hangs over the tub.
materials

Pick your materials carefully. Image: ArchiVIZ/Shutterstock

The materials

Though the materials that you choose to use are an important consideration for any remodeling project, the materials that you choose for a bathroom remodel are even more crucial because they make up the majority of the room’s functional and aesthetic potential. Truth be told, in a bathroom, there’s little to hide behind, so you want to make sure that every material you choose is the right one.

As you plan out the remodel, you’re going to want to select materials for the following areas:

  • Flooring
  • Countertops
  • Cabinets
  • Bath Fixtures
  • Backsplashes
  • Waterproofing
  • Lighting
  • Specialty Features

For each of these materials, head to a showroom and talk to a specialist about your options. In addition to aesthetics, evaluate each one in terms of price, safety and the required upkeep. Do your best to make decisions on each one before starting the remodeling process. Otherwise, you run the risk of making a decision that accidentally overinflates your budget.

aesthetics

Don’t forget to consider the aesthetics. Image: PlusONE/Shutterstock

The aesthetics

Finally, consider the aesthetics of the room. Though a bathroom may lead with its functionality, that doesn’t mean it should be entirely devoid of aesthetic value. Use the materials that you’ve chosen as the backbone of your design and then make choices on purely aesthetic factors — like the paint color or any accessories — that complement that backdrop.

If you need help deciding on a direction to take, don’t hesitate to use sites like Freshome as a source of design inspiration. However, you can also take things to the next level by employing interior design services like Modsy or even bringing in a pro to do the job for you.

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The Beginner’s Guide to Removable Wallpaper

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You may have heard about the removable wallpaper trend and be curious about it. What is it? How does it work? Is it a good fit for my home? These are all common questions that we hear about this product. To that end, we created the beginner’s guide to removable wallpaper. Read on to learn more about this product and how to tell if it’s a good fit for you.

removal wallpaper 1

These days, removable wallpaper is also known as wall decals. Image: Photographee.eu/Shutterstock

What is removable wallpaper?

Removable wallpaper is a growing trend in the world of interior design. Renters no longer have to worry about losing their security deposit because they customized the unit to their personal tastes. Nor do homeowners have to worry about keeping up with changing trends. Removable wallpaper is the temporary decorating option that allows you to bring a touch of personality to your walls without making any permanent commitments.

As the name suggests, removable wallpaper is a piece of decor that adheres to your wall, Yet you can also easily remove it when you’re done with it. You may know this product under another name: wall decals. However, today’s company’s are working hard to ensure that their designs look as modern as possible and fit in with today’s trends.

removable wallpaper 2

Removable wallpaper simply sticks onto the wall. Image: Robert Kneschke/Shutterstock

How removable wallpaper works

The easiest way to describe how removable wallpaper works is to compare it to a sticker. Most companies use a low-tack adhesive paired with a sheet of backing that allows you to use the peel-and-stick method for installation. You can adhere removable wallpaper to the walls of your home in much the same way you would a sticker or any other kind of adhesive material.

One thing that’s important to note here is the condition of your walls will play a big role in how your end product looks. If your walls have holes in them or are otherwise pock-marked — think popcorn ceilings — those imperfections are visible underneath the wallpaper. Your best bet is to use this product on smoothly painted surfaces.

removable wallpaper 3

There are a few things to consider when using this material. Image: Robert Kneschke/Shutterstock

Removable wallpaper considerations

Now that you know a little more about removable wallpaper and how it works, it’s important to focus on using it the right way. Here are a few crucial considerations to keep in mind as you shop for wallpaper to install in your home.

Don’t skimp on aesthetics

With removable wallpaper, aesthetics are a priority. In addition to choosing a print you love, you should also double-check to make sure that the size of the print fits with the size of the room. Also, check that the colors used in the print match your color scheme as a whole.

There’s also the quality of the paper itself to consider. Ideally, you want to choose a product that is textured so it looks and feels like real wallpaper. Since most removable wallpaper companies are online and it can be hard to get a sense of texture through a computer screen, we recommend asking for a sample of the paper to be sent to you before you buy.

Take measurements twice

Like traditional wallpaper, removable wallpaper is often sold in panels. You will need to know both the measurements of the room and the panels themselves in order to know how much paper you’ll need for your project. Tread carefully when taking your measurements and do them twice so you can be sure that you’ve gotten the right result.

As always, we suggest ordering slightly more than you think you’ll need to account for any mistakes during the installation process.

Have a second pair of hands (and eyes) for the install

Yes, the peel-and-stick method seems easy. However, the reality is that removable wallpaper is much bigger than a traditional sticker and is also much more unwieldy. It can be helpful to have more than one person on hand during the installation process. We suggest having one person place the panel on its spot on the wall while the other pulls the end of the panel taut and smooths down.

In addition to providing an extra pair of hands, a second person will also be helpful in verifying that the panels line up correctly with one and other. If you’re ever unsure of how your final product will end up looking, take a step back and take in the project from afar. Sometimes all you need is a little distance to give you perspective.

Carefully make adjustments if needed

Nobody’s perfect, so it’s safe to assume that a mistake will occur at some point during the installation process. The advantage of removable wallpaper is that it makes these issues easy to fix. Often, all it takes to correct a mistake is to carefully peel the decal away from the wall. From there, you can either replace the panel or shift it into the correct position.

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Defining a House Style: What Makes A Creole Home?

Louisiana is a place like no other. It and its surrounding areas are home to a truly unique style of architecture known as the Creole home. Though you’re less likely to see this home outside of New Orleans, that in no way discounts the rich history and one-of-a-kind make up that this home style has to offer.

Take an in-depth look at the Creole home, including its complex beginnings, its two distinct sub-types and some of the defining features of the style. Read on to learn for yourself what makes this type of architecture so special.

creole home

Creole homes can be traced back to French colonization. Image: Wangkun Jia / Shutterstock

History of the Creole home

The word “Creole” has a varied and complex history. It can refer to anything from ethnic heritage to recipes or styles of music. In much the same way, the history of Creole architecture comes to us from a variety of different paths. No one knows for sure what the exact origins are.

However, we do know that rather than resulting as an adaptation to the environment, Creole architecture formed out of cultural influences from the various settlers who called the Mississippi Valley home. Some believe that Creole architecture is due largely to French Canadian settlers in the area. Others think it came directly from France. Still others argue that the architecture shows more influence from the West Indies.

To complicate matters further, after two fires in the late 1700’s destroyed many original Creole houses, Spanish settlers from the time responded by strengthening building codes and adding their own architectural influences to the mix during reconstruction.

subtypes

There are two distinct subtypes of Creole homes. Image: dejjf82 / Shutterstock

Types of Creole homes

There are two main sub-types of the Creole home. You can tell them apart in the following ways.

The Creole Cottage

The smaller of the two house types, the Creole cottage is also the oldest. These houses feature anywhere from one to four rooms with no hallways to speak of. However, unlike the similarly-built shotgun house, which is also prevalent in the area, these cottages have rooflines that run either side-to-side or parallel to the street. They also feature a second half-story for bedrooms. In rural areas, these homes are known for their sprawling front porches. However, in New Orleans, where space is at a premium, they meet the street.

The Creole Townhouse

The Creole townhouse is perhaps most well-known for its presence in New Orleans’s French Quarter. These houses date from after the Great New Orleans Fire in 1788. Made from stucco or brick, rather than wood, these homes are more fire-resistant. This type of Creole home features thick walls, open courtyards, arcades,and cast-iron balconies. Additionally, they show both Spanish and French influence with their steeply-pitched roofs and dormers.

features

Creole homes have a unique set of defining features. Image: Phuong D. Nguyen / Shutterstock

Defining features of Creole homes

Though the two sub-types of Creole homes differ from one and other, they still share many similarities.  There are as few defining features that tie this style together. Here are some of the exterior and interior features to look for in a Creole home.

Exterior

  • Large front porches on every story (also known as galleries)
  • A broad, spreading roofline that overhangs the galleries
  • Gallery roofs that are held up by colonnettes

Interior

  • Principal rooms above grade (in case of flooding)
  • A lack of hallways between rooms
  • Lots of French doors
  • Presence of French wraparound mantels

What do you think of this style of home? Let us know in the comments!

The post Defining a House Style: What Makes A Creole Home? appeared first on Freshome.com.

These are the Top 5 Moving Mistakes to Avoid

Moving can be a long and difficult process. It’s no surprise that many people make missteps along the way. Luckily, we’re here to save you the pain and frustration that comes with making those mistakes. Keep reading to learn about some of the most common moving mistakes, as well as how to fix them. With these tips you should be able to get through your move without a hitch.

moving mistakes

Don’t go into your move without a plan. Image: Photographee.eu/Shutterstock

Not scheduling it out

The Mistake: One of the biggest moving mistakes we see is people who think they can just go with the flow when it comes to packing and moving. This leads to packing at the last minute, throwing things in boxes with little sense of organization and an overall unpleasant moving experience.

The Solution: Make a schedule. Before you start packing a single box, write out a schedule of when you will pack and move the items in your home. Start a few weeks out from your final moving day in order to give yourself plenty of time. Then, break the task out into organized chunks. Tackle storage areas first, as they’re often the trickiest things to pack. Then go room-by-room to keep the process organized.

questions

Get all your questions answered before you hire a moving company. Image: JR-stock/Shutterstock

Not asking questions before hiring movers

The Mistake:  Did you know that most moving companies will only insure items that they pack themselves? Important information like that often goes unsaid during the moving process, leaving homeowners in the lurch when something goes awry. Unfortunately, in the craziness of moving, sometimes you make assumptions about a moving company’s process without anyone stopping to check the facts.

The Solution: Ask questions before you hire a moving company – and keep asking them until you’re sure you know the full story. Ask how their process works, if they’re insured, what’s covered under their insurance and what’s not, what excess fees you could incur and what their procedure is in the event of a lost or broken item. Then, once you have a contract in hand, read it over in full so that you know what you’re agreeing to before you sign on the dotted line.

estimates

Ask for in-home estimates. Image: Latkn/Shutterstock

Forgoing the in-home estimates

The Mistake: The majority of moving companies will offer you an estimate. However, they usually do these over the over the phone and vary widely. If you forget to mention a large or difficult-to-move item in your initial consultation, your estimate could end up well over the figure that was originally quoted to you. This is one of the more expensive moving mistakes.

The Solution: Ask for an in-home estimate. That way, someone from the moving company can see exactly how much stuff needs to be moved. They’ll also know if any particular items require special consideration. Armed with that information, they should be able to give you an accurate quote. To make sure you’re getting the best possible deal, aim to get estimates from at least three different companies in your area.

pack

Make sure your boxes aren’t too heavy to lift. Image: Photographee.eu/Shutterstock

Packing boxes too heavily

The Mistake: We understand the impulse to load boxes until they’re chalk-full. After all, fewer boxes means fewer trips to and from the moving van. However, overloading boxes is one of the moving mistakes that isn’t good for you or your belongings. On one hand, it could be an injury risk. On the other, the weight of your items could cause the box to break.

The Solution: Conventional wisdom states that, for your safety and the safety of your items, moving boxes should never exceed 50 pounds. Keep that figure in mind as you pack up your home. Additionally, pack heavier items – especially things like books – in smaller boxes. That way, you’ll have a built-in stop gap.

inventory

Check and double-check your inventory sheet before signing off. Image: Photographee.eu/Shutterstock

Not checking your inventory sheet

The Mistake: At the end of a long moving day, it’s only natural to want to send the movers away as fast as possible so that you can get started on the unpacking process. This impulse often leads to people signing off on their final inventory sheet – a list of everything that the movers moved into your new home – without checking to see that all their items are accounted for.

The Solution: Check and double-check to make sure all of your belongings have arrived safely before signing off on your inventory sheet. If something is missing, make sure that it’s found before signing anything. Your signature releases the moving company of responsibility for lost or damaged items so make sure you have everything you need first.

Do you know of any other moving mistakes to avoid? Let us know in the comments.

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