In my not so humble opinion, (This is 'The House Judge' blog after all) countertops can make or break a kitchen design. They are the workhorse of the kitchen, being used and abused daily but have to look good at the same time. One of the most, if not THE MOST versatile countertop materials is quartz. I’m excited that I’ve been able to develop a longtime partnership with my favorite quartz countertop manufacturer HanStone, and thrilled to reveal to you today the high-rise kitchen design in which I used HanStone throughout. I'm going to just touch a little on what quartz is and how quartz countertops are made, and then take you through the kitchen design.
First off, what is quartz and how do you make quartz countertops? In short, quartz is a natural occurring mineral. When you mine quartz, crush it, and combine it with resin you can form quartz countertops. It is one of the hardest surfaces you can find for countertops, even harder than granite. Out of a scale of 1-10 on Mohs Hardness Scale (used to identify hardness of minerals) quartz comes in at a 7, and granite 6. Marble is way down at between 3-5. So yeah quartz is a pretty darn tough countertop material.
For the high-rise condo my over all design goal was modern elegance. In the kitchen I opened up things as much as possible to maximize views and create as much counter space as possible. I used continuous lines to elongate and elevate the space to make it feel more luxurious. The star of the show in this space is really the Montauk quartz countertops from HanStone, which I sourced via ESI. The color is ever so slightly warm with a soft marbling pattern. Have you ever hugged countertops because they were so beautiful? I haven’t either ;).
Did I mention how versatile quartz is? Why stop at using it for countertops when you can also use it as a backsplash and exhaust hood. How good does that quartz wrapped hood look over that Viking induction range?
With a lot of gray from the floors, and white in the quartz and painted ceiling, I wanted to bring in some warmth to the kitchen via the cabinets. I selected two cabinet finishes from Better Homes. For the perimeter cabinets I chose this gray/taupe finish that has a subtle textured pattern on it. For the island cabinets I choose walnut as a way to pay homage to the mid century vibe the entire building has. I've always loved incorporating two cabinet colors or finishes into my projects.
Another cool element I brought into the kitchen is a limestone wash backsplash from Limestrong, which is actually a continuation from the fireplace on the other side. Stay tuned for the living room reveal!
Every kitchen needs a sink (obviously) but I couldn’t move the location of the sink for this project. Instead I utilized a generously sized white under mount sink from Kraus, which blends pretty seamlessly with the countertops. The sink before was a stainless steel farmhouse sink that stood out like a sore thumb. The crowning jewel of this whole sink area is the Kraus faucet. Chefs kiss, don’t you agree?
Finishing kitchen touches include an amazing chandelier from CB2, table from IKEA, custom art from Juniper Print Shop, cabinet hardware from Amazon and barstools from Living Spaces. What is your favorite part of this kitchen?
Photo Credit: Emily Henderson
Back when I talked about the best paint colors to use to sell your home, I asked if it would be helpful to talk about how to pick white paint colors. A few of you said yes! So, today I’m telling you my two big tips on selecting white paint colors, showing you my four favorite white paints to use, and giving some other tips for picking any paint color.
My biggest tip in selecting a white paint is to take cues from the rest of the space and pick a white that plays off the color tones of everything else. Every white paint color is going to have some sort of a color undertone. For example if your room has very warm and rich wood floors, and furnishings, you’d want to pick a white that has a slight warm undertone to it (red, orange, yellow). Creating a spa bathroom with cool colored tiles? You guessed it, select a white that has a cooler undertone (blue, green, purple). If you keep this basic principal in mind, you’ve already pretty much won the battle of picking a white paint color.
My second big tip is in the vast majority of cases you don’t want to use a pure bright white paint color. Why not? Well, it will feel too stark and cold, or if you’re painting a dark room it will look blue and dingy. Pick a white paint that is a shade down (darker) from pure white.
Some of my favorite white paints are used in the images below. Normally I’d just show you a swatch of each paint color, but how boring would it be to just look at one white swatch after another?
Oxford White CC-30 Benjamin Moore
This is a good neutral white that can be used with both warm and cool tones.
Image Credit: sfgirlbybay
Polar Bear 75 Behr
Another neutral white that leans a little more on the warm side.
Image Credit: Behr
Paper White OC-55 Benjamin Moore
A brighter white with a gray/green undertones
Photo Credit: Benjamin Moore
Alabaster SW 7008 Sherwin Williams
A creamy white with a slight yellow undertone.
Photo Credit: Studio McGee
Hot Tips On Selecting Any Paint Color:
Personally I love the crispness of an all white room. There is so much versatility in how you can design the rest of the room. Do you have a favorite white paint color you swear by? Let me know down in the comments below.
Fall is here which just means far fewer 100-degree plus days in phoenix, but everywhere else it’s time to get cozy! I’m in the process of finalizing design elements for the ‘Rustic Ranch’ project like furniture, lighting and décor. I’m going for rustic elegance and what that will look like exactly is TBD. So, today I’m showing you some of my favorite items from fall product launches that I’m playing around with using at the ‘Rustic Ranch’. Grab you PSL and continue on below!
1. Wood And Metal Side Table $189
2. Arbon Wood Dowel Accent Chair $300
3. Hamilton Leather Sofa $2199
4. Woven Seagrass Raelyn Dining Armchair $339.98
5. Upholstered Natural Wood Accent Bench $199.99
6. Malcolm Round Nesting Coffee Tables $1398
1. Metal Farmhouse Pendant Black $80
2. Covington Faux Leather Sconce $50
3. Imari Arch Table Lamp $99
4. Embossed Geometric Erin Table Lamp $129.99
5. Large All Across Africa Natural Fiber Disc Pendant Shade $99.99
6. Trace Chandelier $399
1. Metal Log Holder with Leather Sling $75
2. Channel Faux Fur Oat Pillow $39.95
3. SIN Duo Candlestick Holder $58
4. Wrapped Leather Knobs $6.95
5. Stoneware Exposed Rim Mini Bowl $15.99
6. Red Clay Piggy Bowls $35
When you look at these finds in totality, it's clear I'm drawn to rich wood, leather, texture, and a little green. It's also very clear I like Target, but that's no big surprise!
Ok, I’m going to go light my favorite Cozy Nights candle now. What’s your favorite way to warm up a space as fall settles in?
Last week on one of my Instagram posts I had you guess how heavy the tile was that I shoved into my carry-on luggage (120lbs FYI). I got a great deal on those amazing golden yellow Heath Dimensional tiles (see picture above) because they were in the seconds section of the Heath Tile factory. So, today I thought it would be fun AND helpful to do a blog about places you can source tile from. You have more options these days than just that orange big-box store. Not hating on them, I shop there all the time! This list is by no means all encompassing but just some places I've sourced tile from before.
In the past few years, big-box stores like Home Depot, Lowe’s, and Menards (shout out to my home state of Wisconsin) have worked hard to improve and enlarge their selection of tile. You can now find reasonably priced tile that is on trend AND in stock that previously you would have had to order from a specialty tile store.
Floor & Décor is another big-box store that I love and source tile from all the time. I mean it’s nothing but a big warehouse full of tile and flooring! What more does one need? However, they are not in every state. . .yet. I'm really into this aqua hexagon Adessi tile shown in the bathroom below.
Yes, you can totally order tile online these days and have it shipped directly to your door. Depending on how much tile you buy, it may get delivered by UPS, FedEx, or a specialty freight company.
A lot of popular tile companies these days are primarily online. They might have a showroom or two you can go to and see the tile in person before making your selection. My current favorites, in no particular order are: Heath, Fireclay Tile, TileBar, Mecury Mosaics, and Zia Tile. I may or may not be collaborating with one of these brands in the near future so stay tuned!
You can also find some good deals on trendy tile at places like Wayfair and Overstock. I love the handmade look of these black square tiles from Ivy Hill Tile found on Wayfair. Believe it or not, $8.29 per sq. ft. for this tile is reasonable considering some other places it would be upwards of $20 per sq. ft. The price we pay for trends, am I right?
It’s worth it to do a little research and see if you have any tile makers in you area. I’m a fan of supporting local businesses when possible. Handcrafted Tile, Inc is a Phoenix company that offers a large range of Mexican tile and hand carved stone. They also have a dedicated department that can create custom tiles and murals! I love their San Miguel Series Star and Cross tile as seen below in the bathroom designed by Kate Williams Design.
I love to think outside the box and get materials from unexpected places. Almost every large city has at least one building material salvage store. They are literally just warehouses full of stuff that has been pulled out of homes and buildings during demo. Locally, I like to go to Stardust to see what gems I can find. Habitat for Humanity ReStore stores are all over the country and another great place to look for salvaged tile. These types of places typically have smaller amounts of tile, so they are perfect for smaller projects like a bar backsplash or powder room. Bonus, you're saving tile from going into the landfill.
Lastly, check out online market places like Craigslist, Facebook, and OfferUp. You can often find people trying to get rid of left over, brand new tile.
Tips and Tricks When Tile Shopping
Is there somewhere you love to get tile from that I didn't mention above? Let me know in the comments below.
When I featured my last “Design To Sell” home on my Instagram, so many of you asked for a guide on painting cabinets. So, today's blog is all about that! I love painting existing cabinets for two big reasons. It saves waste from going into the landfill, and saves SO much money. I like to use that money for other parts of a project, like beautiful tile and appliances. My hope is that the tips and tricks below will help your cabinet painting experience go as smooth as possible.
Tools and Supplies
The first thing you need to do before even touching your cabinets is gather all your tools and supplies. The tools needed will vary a little depending if you are going to roll/brush on the paint or use a paint sprayer. I personally like the results of a paint sprayer but there is a bit of a learning curve to getting the hang of using one.
If you are going to use rollers and paint brushes, getting the highest quality that falls within your budget is really important. Higher quality brushes don’t shed bristles and allow for the smoothest finish possible. The first time I painted cabinets I used some pretty crappy brushes and had to pick so many bristles out of the wet paint. It was maddening! Purdy is the go to brand for professional painters and the Nylox line gives the smoothest finish.
For paint, I love the durability of Behr's Satin Enamel Interior/Exterior paint. If you are painting cabinets that are not solid wood or don’t have a wood veneer, like metal or plastic, I’d recommend talking to your local paint store for suggestions on the best primer and paint for your particular cabinet material. For primer, you can’t go wrong with Kilz.
Other items you’ll need include drop cloths, medium and fine grit sandpaper, painters tape, cleaning rags, screwdriver, paint can opener, containers to hold paint, and some kind of cleaning solution. I prefer using TSP.
Ok, NOW we can go over how to paint cabinets.
Step 1: Prepare
Spending the extra time to really make sure your work area is set up and cabinets are ready for paint will ensure you get the best results possible. You’ll want to remove all your cabinet doors and drawers, and remove all the hardware. Could you try painting your cabinets with everything in place? Sure, but it’ll take you twice as long and you won’t like the final results.
If you are spraying your cabinets you will also want tape plastic sheeting or paper everywhere you don’t want paint to go! You can see in the two videos below what it looks like with everything taped and protected.
Next, you need to do a really good cleaning of the cabinets to remove any built up residue and dirt. Use whatever cleaner you prefer and give a good scrub to all the doors, drawers and cabinet fronts. Then, lightly sand everything so the primer and paint have a rough surface to adhere to. Don’t forget to take a damp rag and wipe off all the dust that accumulates from sanding. You could also try using a liquid sander/deglosser like this one from Jasco. I don’t have any experience using this but if you’re a fan of the blog 'Chris Loves Julia', you know they swear by it. If you try it out, let me know how it works!
If your cabinets have imperfections like scrapes and holes, you’ll want to take the extra step of filling them with wood filler. Otherwise those imperfections will show through the final paint finish. Don’t forget to sand those areas really well once the wood filler dries.
Step 2: Prime
Priming gets it’s own section because it’s that important! A lot of people skip this step because they think all in one paint (paint and primer) is enough, but it’s not! Cabinets go through a lot of wear and tear so you want the most durable finish possible. Primer allows this by ensuring a really good bond of the paint to the cabinets. Also, primer is really cheap compared to paint. You’re going to save money doing one coat of primer and two coats of paint vs. three to four coats of paint alone.
Step 3: Paint
Finally, time to paint! You should only have to do two coats if you pick a high quality paint and primed like I told you to. Most paint requires two hours between coats but depending on the temperature and moisture in the air, you may have to wait longer. Read the directions on the paint can for further guidance.
To ensure a really smooth and durable finish, you may want to lightly sand between coats of paint with very fine grit sandpaper. This will help cut down on imperfections and ensure good adhesion between coats. Take a dry, soft towel to wipe down everything before applying the second coat.
One really helpful thing to do when painting the doors is to do two coats on the backside THEN flip them over to paint the front. I find these little pyramid things really helpful to lay the doors on. There is virtually no surface area for the paint to stick to.
A big first time DIY cabinet painter mistake is not giving enough time for the paint to fully dry and cure before putting doors and drawers back in place. If you don't wait, the doors and drawers will stick to the cabinet fronts and lift off the layers of paint. Again, consult the paint can to see how long you need to wait. While waiting for the paint to fully cure you'll also want to avoid cleaning or wiping the cabinets.
Step 4: Reassemble
Finally, you can put your cabinets back together! Add some snazzy new knobs or pulls, and your cabinets will look brand new. I love the hardware from Rejuvenation. If you are looking for more budget friendly options, Amazon is a great place to look. I love these brass pulls!
If you decide to tackle painting your cabinets I would love to see the before and after pictures! Who knows, maybe I’ll feature them sometime on the blog or Instagram.
Whether I’m working on a “Design To Sell” property, a renovation, or one of my own homes, I always try to work with as much of the existing finishes as possible. I believe this is important for a few reasons: it prevents waste from going into the landfill, it can save you A LOT of money, and most importantly with older homes it preserves historical details. I’ve saved and worked with the original tile in many bathrooms over the years. Most of you would walk into these bathrooms before they were updated and think, “For sure this all needs to be ripped out”, but I will show you again and again with before and after pictures that you can update a bathroom by changing everything but the tile.
For the duplex project below you can see the lovely pink and green tile was in fantastic shape to begin with. All I did here was put a fresh coat of crisp white paint on the walls, added a molding detail and painted it a neutral gray, updated the lighting, and put in a new shower head. Now how cool does that tile look?
The midcentury modern cutie below had amazing powder blue tile for the tub surround and countertops. All I needed to add was a unique lighting fixture and mirror, new shower system, modern glass shower door, and a fresh coat of paint on the vanity.
The tile in the bathroom below is a classic and actually inspired what we did for tile in the other bathroom and kitchen. As with the other bathrooms I updated the lighting, mirror, and plumbing fixtures but also added a totally new vanity. This is probably my favorite tile saving bathroom! Which do you like most?
As you can see with these bathrooms doing simple updates like getting new lighting, plumbing fixtures, and a good paint job can make old tile feel new again.
Below is a sneak peak at some of the existing tile I’m working with on a new project. I can’t wait to show you the full before and after!
As you already know staging is a part of my "Design To Sell" process and my Mesa project needed a ton of staging as it was empty to start with.
There are several reasons why staging your home before selling is important.
Helps buyers envision themselves living in the space
It can be really hard to gauge what furniture will fit in a room when it is empty. Also, people have the tendency to underestimate the size of rooms when not furnished. A well staged home takes out all the guessing buyers have to do on what furniture will fit where. All they have to do is imagine themselves living in your home.
Makes your home stand out online.
Where does the hunt for a new home usually start? Online of course! Photos are very important to selling your home since people are going to preview it first online. No one wants to look at picture after picture of empty rooms. I always have my houses professional photographed after being staged.
Increase the value of your home
The 2021 Profile of Home Staging report from the National Association of Realtors found that 23% of seller’s agents reported an increase of one to five percent of the dollar value offered by buyers compared to homes that were not staged. While 1-5% might not seem like a lot, that’s $3,000 to $15,000 on a $300,000 home. A word of caution, it is important to closely track how much you spend on staging so you don't cancel out the increase in the value of your home. Staging is something I do as a courtesy for my clients as part of the listing process. I'll work with some of the things they have and then bring the rest at no cost to them because I know it makes such a big impact! But if you don't have a James Judge near you, work with your listing agent to understand costs and options accordingly.
Shortens time on market
The 2021 Profile of Home Staging also found that 31% of agents stated staging greatly decreased time on market and 22% said slightly. I mean, who wouldn’t want to immediately snatch up a beautifully staged home that looks move-in ready? Many times now I've staged homes that previously wallowed on the market with other agents, and received offers quickly after re-listing. Often times over asking!
Hot Staging Tips and Tricks
It is always a good idea to roll on a fresh coat of paint throughout your home before selling. A crisp paint job can do wonders in helping your home look its best and neutral paint colors are the way to go. Not only do neutral colors help brighten up a space, but they also allow the other features in a room to shine. Below are the six Benjamin Moore paint colors I love to use when getting a house ready for the market.
I used several of these paint shades for my Design To Sell project in Mesa. This house had a sponge paint effect in many of the rooms which made the spaces feel dingy and outdated. You can see in the before and afters below how much of a difference paint can make in helping a space look fresh and clean.
Some of you are probably thinking neutral is so boring, where’s the color!? You can still have color in your home when trying to sell but keep it to small doses and do it via accessories and artwork. Staging is where I bring color in with all of my projects.
A quick note on choosing a white paint color: Never, EVER do a pure white! Usually pure white comes off looking cold and even a little blue, especially in rooms with little to no natural light. Would you like me to do a blog about picking the best white paint colors? Let me know in the comments below.
I don’t just list a house to sell, I design it to sell so it gets top dollar and sells fast. People struggle with putting money into their home when they are on the way out the door but it is amazing how some small changes can make a BIG impact. This is why as a part of my selling process I "Design To Sell" all of my listings. Think of "Design To Sell" as a mini house facelift to get it ready for market.
I left my little bubble in Central Phoenix, shocking I know, to list a home in Mesa that was formerly used as a rental property. Only staging the space (more on this in another blog) wouldn’t have been enough to get top dollar, as it really needed some design updates to function for today’s buyers.
"Design To Sell" starts in the front yard. Curb appeal is a home’s first impression and potential homebuyers definitely judge a book by its cover. When able I make changes to the front so when people step out of their car they are excited to be there. Unfortunately this home was in a planned community with an HOA that didn’t allow many changes. I did make sure landscaping was on point and all little exterior maintenance items were taken care of. Things I would typically do to the front of other homes include painting the front door, adding shutters, refreshing the landscaping, adding potted plants, and if possible create a seating area. It’s all about creating a destination in the front that pulls people in.
Inside it is key to focus on people’s favorite spaces: kitchens and bathrooms.
In this kitchen I did a few things. To freshen up the cabinets I painted the lowers a mid-tone gray and the uppers white. I also made sure all the appliances matched for continuity. To finish off the space I added new countertops, backsplash, and cabinet hardware. It may not be a brand new kitchen but it does appeal much more to the style of kitchens buyers are looking for today.
The primary bathroom needed some simple updates to bring it more inline with today’s bathroom design trends. This included painting the vanity, installing new sink faucets, and swapping out the vanity light. Oh, let’s not forget about painting over the sponge painted walls with a soothing light gray. Not a lot of money was spent in this bathroom to make a big impact.
If the budget doesn’t allow you to change a design element, work with it or around it. The fireplace in the living room had really ugly beige tile that looked outdated when surrounded by all the beige walls. I simply pained the fireplace surround a darker accent color more similar to the tile, and the walls a light gray. When I added curtains and accessories, the existing tile just blended in with the updated surroundings.
With Design To Sell there are three design elements I focus on throughout the entire home: lighting, curtains, and paint.
Lighting is a really easy way to add updated style to a home. Having enough light is also important so buyers can really see each room and envision themselves living there. There are so many sources for great lighting and you can always find fixtures that align with today’s current trends for a reasonable price. My go to place is Amazon. Who doesn’t love two day shipping?
Curtains can add a ton of style to a space. They also soften sound, add texture and allow you to play with color in a low risk way. Hot tip, extend curtains to the ceiling when you can. It makes the windows seem bigger and can also help if your windows are different sizes/heights like they were with this Mesa project.
A fresh coat of paint does wonders for freshening up a space, and making it look crisp and clean. In this home we put a fresh coat of paint on every wall, and painted the cabinets in the kitchen and bathrooms. Sticking with neutral colors will appeal to more buyers but it also makes rooms brighter and feel more spacious.
The last thing I make sure gets done during "Design To Sell" is basic maintenance and repair. This is the least fun part of the process and isn’t really related to design but it is important that all the little details are taken care of. You don’t want to give buyers a reason to de-value your home when basic maintenance is quick and generally inexpensive.
Ok so I just rambled on about "Design To Sell" and all its glory but you might be wondering with this current housing market here in Phoenix, and in most of other parts of the country, is "Design To Sell" even necessary? Sure, homes can sell themselves but they aren’t getting top dollar. People are willing to pay extra for an updated home. Also, people don’t want to buy a house; they want to buy a home. I think "Design To Sell" achieves this and why in this market I still do it for all of my listings.
Midcentury modern (MCM) design is one of my favorite styles to work with. I'm pretty sure it will never go out of style and I fully support that!
While midcentury modern design can be a little difficult to define in concrete terms, it is generally accepted that this period of design lasted from the mid-1930s to the mid-1960s, and spanned architecture, furniture and graphic design. Some main key characteristics of midcentury modern design include clean lines, simple forms, and an emphasis on function.
I injected some MCM style into this ranch that had just been flipped. Yes, I flipped a flip! The home was still not living up to its full potential after the first go around.
The front of the house was first up. You know by now I love using wood slats and they were a perfect use in this project. It's a cheap design element with high visual impact. Painting this feature light blue was an easy way to incorporate a pop of MCM color. I continued the use of long clean horizontal lines with the alternating sections of turf and crushed granite. I also added additional outdoor living space by creating a front patio. Who wouldn't want to sit on that patio and watch gorgeous Phoenix sun sets? Lets not forgot the cute pendent light and large house numbers I used to round out the front curb appeal.
Inside I used a neutral color palette for the walls and floor. Warmth and visual interest was achieved by bringing in brass fixtures and MCM furniture. The great thing about midcentury modern furniture is that you can find great pieces at all prices points. You can spend the big bucks and hunt for authentic stuff at retro stores, or find new pieces at pretty much any furniture retailer. If you're like me and love a good deal, you can head to your local thrift store or you might even find a gem on the side of the road. You wouldn't believe some of the MCM furniture people have thrown out here in Phoenix during bulk trash time. That's right, I've been known to drive the alleys of Phoenix a time or two in search of furniture castoffs.
I think one of the easiest ways to incorporate midcentury modern design is through color. So many great colors were used during the time period. I used a very MCM shade of powdered blue throughout this project by painting the front and back door, and scoring these reasonably priced Eames style barstools on Amazon.
If you're looking for some good MCM paint colors, I really like this palette from Benjamin Moore. Tell me which is your favorite in the comments below!