Home Sweet Home – Part 35 – High Glass Design

Of course windows play an amazing role in the design, livability, and enjoyment of our homes as they let in natural light and help to expand the space. High glass brings in light without compromising privacy which is important here at the beach. But there are several nuances when it comes to high glass including where to use it and what size is appropriate.

Which rooms benefit the most from high glass?

For obvious reasons, bathrooms greatly benefit from high glass as it is a room that demands privacy. Perhaps you remember when it was common to show a large 4′ by 4′ window above the soaking tub in the primary bath. While it looked awesome and let in incredible light, it offered no privacy. To address this concern, frosted glass or glass block was installed. We’ve long since moved on from those faded fads, and found the perfect application for high glass.

Over The Shower

Although soaking tubs are still popular should your primary bath be large enough, many homeowners have switched to a spa-like shower. If your home has 10′ ceilings, then you have plenty of options to add high glass in the shower area.
If your home has a 9′ ceiling, you could sneak a piece of high glass up at an 8′ head height. A two-foot-tall piece of glass with a sill at 6′ adds a lot of light and still maintains privacy.

Over The Vanities

Another popular spot for high glass is over the vanities. Again, this is easy with 10′ ceilings. But as the ceilings get lower, the amount and size of glass gets compressed. Now you have to consider the top of the mirror. If your light fixtures are placed over mirrors, a good solution is to place high glass between the vanities and their corresponding mirrors.

Dining Rooms

Another popular place to add high glass is to the dining room. Oftentimes this is supplemental glass that acts as an accent/design element.
Many times the dining room is on the side of the house where we have another house about 10′ away. While dining rooms don’t require the same amount of privacy as a bathroom – no one wants to see their neighbor staring into their home while you host a dinner party.

The good news here is the size of the glass in the dining room isn’t constricted by mirrors. Adding three 2′ by 2′ pieces of glass along the dining room wall creates a great look. I recently visited a home where they added only two larger pieces of glass at 3′ by 3′. The result was a larger area of glass and less labor to install. Sounds like a win win!

High glass serves a crucial role in bringing natural light into spaces where we want to maintain privacy. Thoughtful sizing and placement will bring cheer to even the most challenging rooms in the home. So whether you are designing a new home, or remodeling an existing one, be sure to give high glass some careful consideration.

Adapted from Housing Design Matters Blog

Home Sweet Home – Part 34 – Don’t Forget The Basics: The Niche & Bench

The house I grew up in had a tub/shower combo in my bathroom. Inset in the tile wall was one soap dish. I guess the builders of my house wanted me to wash my hair with soap… Of course, my family used shampoo, which we ended up cramming into the corner of the tub. The truth is that today’s homes are well thought out and considerable attention is given to bathrooms. Whether you are building a new home or remodeling an older home, other than the kitchen, the primary bath is where to put your money.

So, I think it should go without saying that a single soap dish is no longer going to cut it. At a minimum, we need space for soap, shampoo, conditioner, and body wash. On top of that, men and women tend to have their own body wash – they may also want different shampoo. And then there’s the guys who like to shave in the shower. They need shaving cream.

Bottom line – it takes a lot of “stuff” to make us beautiful and fresh smelling! This means our showers need an adequate spot to house all these items.

Welcome the niche!


Fortunately, the plumbing industry understands this and has started including shampoo niches in their prefab tubs and showers. While some of the prefab shower enclosures of the past have been uninspiring (to put it mildly), the industry has stepped up their game.

You can find a tub enclosure that looks like tile, has a shampoo shelf running the entire length of the tub, and you can also add accent tile to the recess for a more custom look.

And speaking of a custom look, if you’re installing tile only to your shower or tub walls, you can get a prefabricated leak-proof shampoo niche ready for tile or accent tiles. Accenting the shampoo niche with contrasting tile is a great design concept. These extra touches confirm just how important a great shower experience is to kick off the day on a good note.


Of course, every shower must have a seat – right? The answer is, absolutely, if possible. However, most shower seats aren’t for sitting. Many are there to enable woman to shave their legs and all bathers to wash their feet and ankles…

If you have the room, consider a shower seat that runs the entire width of the shower.
Better yet – how about the entire length of the shower? Now we’re talking! This shower seat is multi-functional. Great for shaving your legs, large enough if you must sit down, and can hold body wash, shampoo, conditioner, shaving cream, razors – and even soap!

Of course, today’s showers are fabulous for a variety of other reasons. Incorporating elements like an elegant frameless enclosure, a transom window, making it zero-entry, adding a cool linear drain or a spa-like rainhead are but a few items that make today’s bathrooms shine. Gone are the days of the basic shower, here to stay is the luxury bathroom, which is not only beautiful to look at, but highly functional!

Adapted from Housing Design Matters Blog

Home Sweet Home – Part 33 – The Nuances of Closet Lighting

The other day, I walked into my closet and hit the light switch. Nothing changed. No, the light wasn’t burnt out. There wasn’t an electrical problem either. My closet was simply too dark for my 55+ eyes.

As many of you know, the lens of our eyes thickens as we age. It starts in our thirties. As the lens thickens, it lets in less light. A sixty-year-old needs six times as much light as a twenty-year-old. This is a gradual process, and before you know it, you’re in a “romantically” dim restaurant and can’t read the menu without blinding other guests with your iPhone flashlight. In addition to emitting less light, the thickened lens can’t bend and flex like it used to, making it harder to focus on items up close.

But back to my closet. During the walk through of our home several years ago (please note–I was pre-50), my closet with white walls, white shelves, and lightly colored carpet was brightly lit. We thought we had made a smart lighting decision as we didn’t want one of those ugly fluorescent lights because we knew they didn’t provide full spectrum light. Full spectrum allows you to more accurately see color, helping you avoid wearing mismatched colors.

We also didn’t elect to hang a pretty pendant fixture in our closets, deciding to stay utilitarian with our closet lighting and save the decorative lighting for other rooms. Based upon its size, we installed two fixtures in my closet, each with two sixty-watt incandescent lights.

What could possibly go wrong? Five years older and a lot of shopping – that’s what. I happen to wear a lot of dark colors – especially black. These dark colors consume precious light to the point that my bright and airy closet was more like a cave. To make matters worse, the top row of clothes was blocking the light to the bottom row of clothes where all my black tops were hung. Once again, I would find myself bringing out flashlight feature on my phone just to be able to select a garment from the bottom row – always a humbling experience.

Of course, the best option for closet lighting is the LED rope light above each rod. However, this is not always easy to add after the fact! And adding a higher wattage incandescent bulb could work, but it also produces more heat than the fixture was designed for, creating a possible fire hazard. Fortunately, it isn’t difficult to find an LED fixture that fits the same size. This was my solution, swap the fixtures out and voila–there was good light in my closet again. The old sixty-watt incandescent bulb only gave off 800 lumens of light and were amber in color. My new LED fixture emits 2000 lumens resulting in more light, fuller spectrum, less heat and energy consumption.

Whether you are building a new home or remodeling an older one, adequate closet lighting is a must.

And while you are at, think about the configuration of your shelving and built-ins. Making the most of your primary bedroom closet will serve you well for years to come!

Adapted from Housing Design Matters Blog

Home Sweet Home – Part 32 – The Timeless Appeal Of A Flickering Fire

It is finally fall. The air is cooler, and the days are getting shorter.
It is the perfect season for enjoying the fireplace!

Of course a fireplace brings warmth to a chilly morning or evening, but in reality, it does so much more. The timeless quality of the light coming from the fire is simply magical as it adds an ever-changing glow to the surroundings. The flickering flame seems to be alive as it twists and turns and changes shape. Like flowing water, the flame is never the same shape twice. Truly amazing and mesmerizing.

Fireplaces have long been a tradition in our homes. Initially, they provided most of the heat in our homes and large estates had fireplaces in all the main rooms. Of course, those large estates also had help stocking and cleaning out the fireplaces. We no longer need fireplaces to heat our entire home, but they are still sought after for that enchanting quality of warmth and light.

Wood used to be the primary source of fuel for our fireplaces. Indeed, some today still prefer a wood burning fire because of the smell and distinctive snap, crackle, pop sound. However, a wood burning fireplace comes with several negatives. First, there’s the smoke. Secondly, they are constantly in need of more wood to keep the fire going, and clean up afterwards is a chore. The introduction of gas – whether propane or natural gas – has become the de facto low maintenance alternative to wood. Many gas fireplaces come with a remote or button to start and stop them, making lighting a fire quick and easy. Now that it is no longer an effort to build a fire, many homeowners find themselves using their fireplaces more often!

Alcohol (ethanol & gel) is also used for fireplaces. These fireplaces don’t give off the same amount of heat as a gas fireplace which makes them perfect for warmer climates. Electric linear fireplaces are also gaining popularity. Both of these are perfect for adding the ambiance of a fire without the heat.

The fire pit or outdoor fireplace has helped transform outdoor living. This wonderful gathering place provides just enough heat to keep everyone toasty. A wood burning fire pit does produce smoke making chair placement critical depending on the wind. If that is a concern, these outdoor units are also available with gas or propane options eliminating the smoke factor.

Housing has long moved past needing to burn wood to heat a home, but nothing brings people together quite like the warm glow and comfort of a flickering fire. What better way to welcome family and friends, particularly on a lovely fall day.

Adapted from Housing Design Matters Blog


Home Sweet Home – Part 31 – Bringing Color To Our Windows

Of the seemingly endless decisions one has to make when designing, building or remodeling a house, window color has to be one of the most overlooked and underappreciated. The response most often heard is “Just give me the standard window color.”

Of course, the color of your window depends on what your window is made of. In production homes, this often means a vinyl window. Depending on your manufacturer, the color selections include white, beige, and darker beige. If you spring for an upgraded vinyl window, you can now get them in dark bronze or black. The latter colors have become very popular as we trend towards more modern looking exteriors. The beauty of a vinyl window is that it doesn’t need to be painted. That is – unless you decide you want to change the color of your window.

Colored Windows

If you’re looking at an aluminum clad wood window, your color choices are greatly expanded. Ply Gem offers 8 standard colors, including, taupe, cottage red, and evergreen. If you opt for their signature colors – the list expands to 38!

Selecting the right color window for your home depends on the overall color palette, its style, and the trim color around your window. The last thing you want to do is install the wrong color windows. Unfortunately, during the pandemic home buying frenzy, often the only color that was available was white, and sometimes beige. Colors are once again becoming an option and are more readily available.

Over the past couple of weeks, I have been on a window color photo safari. In some cases, the window and the surrounding trim are one in the same – further enforcing the strength and impact of color.

In other cases, the window and its trim are a contrast making the color of the window pop. And since many homes and buildings have multiple exterior finishes, it is important to select a color that works with all materials.

White and Black

Of course, the building industry is one of trends, and lately the trend is to move away from the infamous “builder beige.” Enter the farmhouse era with its white paint and black windows. Whether the style is farmhouse or not, a white home with black windows definitely makes a statement–high contrast creates impact for sure.
Of course, black pairs nicely with this soft gray home too.

Let’s face it, windows are a big expense and a vital part of the design of our homes. Take time to consider all the color choices before you make a long-lasting impression on your home.

Adapted from Housing Design Matters Blog


Home Sweet Home – Part 30 – Mirror, Mirror On The Wall

Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all? Answer: The homeowner whose bathroom mirrors and lighting work together!

It seems simple, but if you are getting ready to remodel your bathroom, or build a new home, the design, placement, and lighting of the vanity mirror is vital. After all, you will look into this mirror multiple times each day, every day, 365 days a year. Shouldn’t this warrant more consideration than “What’s the least expensive mirror and light I can hang the bathroom?”

Bathroom Mirror


We all know mirrors can be expensive, and with housing affordability at the forefront of conversation today, it is important to be strategic about the size of the mirror. If constrained by a budget, it is neither practical, nor affordable, to run the mirror from counter to ceiling and wall to wall. One alternative is to frame the mirror like the expensive artwork that it is. This provides a nice look and is certainly less expensive than wall-to-wall glass. I love the strategy of two mirrors in the master bath, one over each sink, enhancing the His and Her vanity separation.

Bronze Mirror


Mirror size and placement is only half the of the design challenge. Lighting is just as critical. Placing lights in the ceiling is great for general room illumination, but not for making us look our best. This type of lighting is as bad as shining a flashlight under your chin and seeing how creepy you look – effective when telling a scary story to the kids around a campfire, but not much of a confidence booster. The most useful and flattering lighting comes when mounted at eye level. The lights really need to be wall mounted so they can adequately light up our faces in the most flattering way – but where? The default solution lately has been to add wall sconces above the mirror; however, this can be tricky. If the mirror is tall because the room has a tall ceiling, say 10’, the light is too high, and we’re back to looking like the “Crypt Keeper.” Keeping the mirror shorter is better for the lighting, but then it looks out of proportion with the taller ceilings, cheapening the look.

White Framed Mirror


I love running mirrors vertically. This gives a rich, elegant look and accentuates the tall ceilings. This also creates room on either side of the mirror for lighting at eye level. A brilliant have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too strategy if you ask me. Don’t forget to add additional light somewhere else in the room. This can be a single recessed can which is easily affordable or a lovely pendant fixture which is more costly but adds a level of luxury to the bathroom.

Lighted Mirror


Today, the ultimate cake-and-eat-it solutions are the lighted mirrors, now found in most hotels. They may not be the most cost-effective solution, but prices are coming down as they become more abundant, coming in a variety of shapes and sizes. I like the tall ovals which accentuate the height of the room, elegantly. They even have them with Bluetooth speakers for those who really like to splurge.

Oval Mirror

Who would have thought there was so much to think about when it comes to mirrors and lights in our bathrooms, particularly the primary bath? Let me know if you don’t think about this blog tomorrow when you wake up and look at yourself in your own bathroom mirror. You will either be glad you did your bathroom properly or you will begin to desire a mirror/lighting “facelift” even if it’s not time for a full-blown remodel.

Adapted from Housing Design Matters Blog

Home Sweet Home – Part 29 – Is The Farmhouse Party Coming To An End?

Perhaps you’ve noticed a proliferation of Farmhouse and Modern Farmhouse elevations. I was recently asked why I thought that’s the case. Could it be all because of a popular TV show? Perhaps there is more to the popularity.

Farmhouse Exterior


I believe the farmhouse style is the perfect blend of nostalgia and modern-day vibe. It is nostalgic with its iconic gable forms. Ask any first grader to draw a house and nine times out of ten, you’ll get a house with a gable. The style also has a current vibe that we see throughout the design – both inside and out. Simple clean lines and not overly ornate. These clean lines are also evident in kitchen cabinets, appliances – even fabrics.


Not all, but most farmhouse elevations have a front porch – which makes them very welcoming. Whether the home has roughhewn columns or ones painted white, the depth of the porch on a farmhouse is important and generally ample. A minimum of 6′ in depth is considered usable.


I believe another contributing factor to its popularity is that these homes are not typically painted “builder beige.” Picture an entire street of earth tone in various shades of beige. Hey – I get it. Beige was safe. No one wanted to go out on a limb and pick an outrageous color for a home. It was also a byproduct of the popularity of the craftsman style – which the farmhouse will quickly replace as the most preferred style. However, an entire street of white farmhouse elevations is just as lifeless as an all-beige streetscape and will also not stand the test of time.


Perhaps the biggest reason for the style’s popularity is its ability to be either traditional or modern and everything in between. Furthermore, what is considered modern in one location may be considered moderate in another location. We see a lot of white paired with black window frames. Note how the elevation below uses black to accentuate the board and batten, allowing the white stucco to also stand out and highlight the entry. Intentionality matters!


For me, as previously stated, it all starts with a prominent gable element. Mind you, this is not the nineties where the house with the most gables wins. Think simple, clean lines. Then add board and batten siding. Or for a more modern interpretation, the vertical siding could be metal. To complement the verticality of the siding, I like a two over two window grid pattern. A steeper roof pitch for the front facing gable will further accentuate the verticality of the style.

So how long before we get tired of the farmhouse? In some regions, that has already happened, but I think the farmhouse is here to stay. With that said, we need to see more variety in the style and explore more possibilities. To me, the first step in keeping any style fresh is to add color! I believe we will be seeing various forms of farmhouse elevations for some time to come.

Are you ready to take FARMHOUSE to the next level?

Adapted from Housing Design Matters Blog

Home Sweet Home – Part 28 – Ringing In The Summer Solstice

The first day of summer was about a week ago. That day is officially the longest day of the year. How will you ring in the new season? If you live in the very warm south, summer means escaping the heat – typically with water. Taking a dip in the ocean, floating in a pool, swimming in a lake – even frolicking at a splash park at a nearby amenity center. If you live up north – summer means super long days and enjoying the warmth of the sunshine. Regardless of where you are in the country, summer is made better with outdoor grilling and family vacations. Let’s look at how this relates to home design.

Beating the heat

When it’s hot and humid, water is the perfect escape. I’m guessing more pools are sold in the summer than any time of the year. Florida and California have the most pools if we’re talking about sheer volume. But when compared to the state’s population, Florida, Arizona, and New Mexico have the most swimming pools per capita (Wyoming has the least number of pools). Pools provide relief from the heat, but they have many other qualities. The sound of moving water is very soothing and can drown out unwanted noises of a nearby road or highway. Moving water, when illuminated at night, takes on a magical quality, enhancing any outdoor space, particularly after dusk!

Capturing the Sun

Long days and warm nights mean lots of outdoor activities. Outdoor living continues to be the rage and is a must in new homes. Of course, a covered back porch is ideal, but don’t forget outdoor living can extend beyond the roof line of your homes. This is especially desirable as summer gives way to fall, and cooler nights offer the perfect scenario for outdoor gatherings.

Grilling Season

To me, summer means outdoor grilling. Everyone enjoys a summer bar-b-que. If your grill is under cover of the porch, consider adding a hood to capture the smoke.
Built-in free-standing grills are also popular without the worry of the smoke. If your grill isn’t under a covered porch, no worries–there are many rain-free summer days to show off your grilling skills! Isn’t it funny how the smell from grilling always brings back happy memories…


Summer is also synonymous with family vacations. For some, that means trips to visit grandparents, aunts, and uncles. For others, it could mean a trip to some amazing destination. But for the times that you are home, why not make your own backyard a vacation destination? Indeed, since the pandemic, travel has become more expensive and less convenient, so why not staycation!

Putting Green

Creating an awesome backyard with pools, putting greens, waterfalls, fire pits, grilling stations, and beautiful landscaping is a great way to make the most of your home. Outdoor living truly adds to our quality of life.

How do you plan to make the most out of summer? ENJOY!

Adapted from Housing Design Matters Blog

Home Sweet Home – Part 27 – Preparing Your House For Resale – To Renovate or Not?

I was having a conversation with my hairdresser who said they were going to sell their house in the next couple of years. But as he looked around, he noticed there were several things that would need to be updated or repaired. And like many homeowners, he is a procrastinator – and wasn’t going to start the projects until they were ready to sell.

Sorry – but that makes no sense to me. Why spend all that money for the benefit of an unknown buyer (who might have different tastes to begin with) with the alleged promise of a faster sale or higher selling price? Why not make a list of all the home improvements and start implementing them now? That way, he and his wife could enjoy their improvements now and hopefully reap the benefits when they do eventually sell.

The four areas I would recommend making improvements to would be:

Outdoor living
Owner’s Bath
Work from Home space

Let’s start outside. What can be done to improve or expand our outdoor living?
A few improvement suggestions:
• Can the flooring be upgraded with tile?
• Can you add an outdoor TV or electric fireplace?
• How about the ceiling? Is it old, yellowing, sagging vinyl? A new, bead board looking ceiling would be a nice improvement.
• While you’re looking at the ceiling – you could add speakers. What about the lighting? Is it adjustable for evening ambiance?

As for expanding the outdoor living, consider living beyond the drip line of the house:
• Can you add a patio that visually expands the outdoor living experience into the backyard?
• What about adding pavers into the yard and add a built-in grill.
• Perhaps you could add a fire pit or fire table. While the idea of keeping it wood burning may have some appeal to keep the cost down, I recommended gas (natural or propane) to minimize the smoke.

Talk about the black hole of remodeling. To keep it affordable, I would see if the current layout of the kitchen can be maintained. Many homeowners are stuck with the super dated, bat-wing island or peninsula with the 42” raised countertop surrounding it.

At a minimum, I would get new countertops and drop the countertop to 36”. A one-level island will expand the space dramatically and there are so many solid surface materials available that would give the kitchen a fresh clean look. Complete the transformation with some fun new pendant fixtures above the bar and you’ve made it out unscathed!

But what about the appliances? So much for keeping it affordable… If there is one appliance I would recommend replacing, it is the microwave that sits over the cooktop or stove. Instead, try to relocate the microwave to the walk-in pantry if you have one.

You know that grand “Roman” tub that eats into half of your bathroom and never gets used? So, put your dollars towards an awesome shower! Without the big bathtub, perhaps a private toilet room could be added. Splurge on a frameless shower enclosure and don’t forget to include a seat in the shower and niches for shampoo and body wash. Consider large format tile for the walls – even if the budget dictates a shower pan. This is a home improvement that will be enjoyed daily, and it’s so worth it. Can’t live without the tub? I would still recommend a sleek and beautiful vessel tub that requires less square footage and creates a soothing ambiance.

If the house has unused formal rooms, can one of them be converted into a work from home space? I recently saw someone take their formal dining room and make it into their home office. These spaces need acoustical privacy so adding doors is a must – just don’t waste your money on acoustically-worthless barn doors.

I hear there are several real estate companies that will give you a guaranteed cash offer without the expense of repairs or hassle of showings. Let’s face it, houses will inevitably become dated and living through a remodel – especially the kitchen – is a pain. Small improvements like paint and countertops can go a long way. However, at some point you have to ask yourself, are you really making up the difference? Is the stress really worth it?

Adapted from Housing Design Matters Blog

Home Sweet Home – Part 26 – TV Trays and The Evolution of Where We Eat In The Home

Today, watching TV and eating seem to go hand in hand. Whether just snacking while watching the Super Bowl or consuming the evening meal in front of your favorite show. But so much has changed in the design of our homes and our TVs since the 1950s.

Raise your hand if you remember TV trays. Chances are that the younger crowd hasn’t seen one outside of a sitcom or perhaps in their grandparents’ living room. TV trays have been around since the fifties. This coincides closely with the introduction of the “TV Dinner,” the catchy name that Swanson had for their frozen food dinners.

TV Dinners

Houses in the fifties and early sixties had only one black and white TV. It was often small and was in either the living room or family room. Indeed, some even called that room the TV room. Early TVs were small and sat on top of furniture. They were so small that you had to sit close to watch them. Luxury models were encased like a piece of furniture to match the décor of the living room.

Eating In Front of the TV

Decades ago, there were mainly two places to eat in the home – the formal dining room or the table in the kitchen. Both rooms were closed off to other rooms. This made eating while watching TV challenging, as food balanced on one’s lap often doesn’t end well – especially with kids. Spilling an entire dinner in the living room was grounds for punishment or going to bed without dinner. The invention of the TV tray was brilliant and offered a third dining option in the home.

Many argue that dining should be time to interact with family and friends. Fair enough! Fortunately, today with on-demand viewing, it lets us pause our favorite shows so we can have our cake, eat it, and watch TV too.

TV Over Mantle

It’s an age-old debate – where do you put the TV when there is a fireplace? Once upon a time, when TV screens were small, but the “box” was big, TVs were placed in a built-in on either side of the fireplace. As TV screens kept getting bigger, the “box” got smaller and ultimately went away. Today, the TV is a flat screen that can hang on the wall. But should the TV be the focal point of the family room? Or should the fireplace take precedent? Many opt to put the TV over the fireplace – but you want to be careful not to place it too high or viewers will get a stiff neck trying to watch it. Most folks like the TV front and center for the best viewing. The fireplace creates ambiance and doesn’t have to be viewed straight on.

TV On porch

Back in the fifties and sixties, there was only one TV in the house. Now it seems they are everywhere. And it is a good thing too if you don’t want to want to watch the same thing as your spouse or kids.

Many say they need a TV to fall asleep at night – so no surprise, you can find them in almost every bedroom in the house. Some folks have gone as far as to install a TVs in the bathroom.

TV In the Bathroom

If you’re feeling retro, you can still buy TV trays at Walmart or online. One advertiser showed a laptop on the TV tray instead of a Swanson dinner. That’s one great way to market and repurpose an old concept in today’s high tech society!

Adapted from Housing Design Matters Blog