Making Your Great Room Truly Great

“Tomorrow, you may roam; but while you’re here, just feel at home.”
Unknown
The “great room” is such an amazing name! Who wouldn’t want to be in a room like that? This should be a room that welcomes, inspires, and comforts you – a gathering space where friends and family are drawn and feel at home. So how do we create this evocative “great room”?
I like to begin by deciding what location on the site will invite the best views. Perhaps you have an ocean or river view, or a pool or yard you’d like to see. Sometimes it might simply be avoiding the view you don’t want to see! The views into the yard need to be considered – specifically, how you want to frame those views. What style window and/or doors, and what size and layout would work best? Basically, how much glass and what shape will make a huge difference in the feel of the space, and will also dictate how much the outdoors becomes an extension of the room. Other design items that can be considered are ceiling designs, such as a simple crown molding, applied trim, coffer details, or wood beams – these can draw the eye upward or add that “wow” factor.

How can you create the great room that you love? One of the most unifying and comforting pieces is a fireplace. This can be wood-burning for the hearty, adventurous type, or gas-burning when that is more practical. The fireplace serves as an anchor in the room, and with the right design, can be a true joy to behold.

Now, think about which rooms you want adjacent to this space. The most popular layout is open to the kitchen, the other common gathering space for family and friends. This connection makes sense and allows for a smooth flow, both of people and of conversations.

Cabinetry and shelving are another option that adds style to your space. I advise selecting books and family pictures you love. Shelving and cabinetry can be as simple or ornate as you choose; it’s up to your taste and the feeling you want to create.

Flooring for the great room presents another opportunity to do something different. Whether you like wood and want a simple border with another color, or a pattern, or possibly tile designed to look like wood, make sure it complements the style you are creating and welcomes you to the space. Throw rugs are a great way to add charm and fresh texture to your room as well.

Whatever you choose for your great room, make sure it is you. This is your house – your personal space – so let it be an extension of your personality! That’s the only way you will truly enjoy it. We look forward to the opportunity to help you design your dream space! Call us at 732-830-3366 or email paul@pdrdesigns.com to get started today.
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Design Your Dream Retreat: The Master Bedroom

“My bedroom is my sanctuary.”
Vera Wang
Many years after I built my house, my master bedroom was still not completed. The trim was put up quickly just to get it in and the walls were only partially painted. Finally, one day I was fed up of going to bed and waking up to see an unfinished room! I needed a place to relax – an escape – so I decided to finally create the retreat I’d always wanted. I added a small bar for morning coffee or a nightly glass of wine. I installed beadboard and trim on the ceiling. I added lighting, picked up a few new pieces of furniture, and repainted the walls and ceiling. What a difference it made – both for the room and for my attitude! Now, every night, I see a calming, relaxing space before I go to sleep. When I wake, I look around and find myself thankful for my peaceful retreat and ready to start the day.
I’m by no means the only person who’s had this issue. In fact, it’s one that plagues many people. They’ll update rooms in the rest of the house, but they never get around to the master suite – after all, this is an area “nobody sees,” so they focus on the entertaining and “public” spaces first. The master suite is the one area where you should always feel truly relaxed, and yet many people feel the least relaxed there because it has been neglected and stuffed full of furniture and other odds and ends over the years!
The best way to start this project is to take pictures of your existing room. Then, grab a Sharpie and start marking anything that detracts from the space with a big X! Don’t get caught up thinking about “where will it go, we have no other place to put it” right now. At this point we’re focusing on the end result, the solution, not the problems.

Next, look at websites and/or magazines to determine what you like. Consider colors, textures, bedspreads, curtains, and storage ideas. There’s no need to copy a room you like exactly – get creative! Mix and match elements from different pictures to create your unique, personalized space.

Now that you have an idea of what you don’t want in the room and what you want the room to look like, tackle those items that you need to get rid of. Can they be stored somewhere else in the house? Would they work in a different room? Consider investing in a storage facility or donating/selling items that have been gathering dust. Ultimately, you want to be sure that they are out of the way and no longer cluttering up your relaxing retreat.

Determine what you like and set about repainting, changing the curtains, getting a new bedspread, and find new storage solutions for all those unnecessary items. Clear the dressers and buy some decorative candles and new picture frames. Add a throw rug in for a splash of color. Only allow items that are needed for the room to function and you to feel relaxed in there. Your comfort is the goal.

Now that you understand what is involved, start planning that room – open a bottle of wine and let the ideas flow.  Set a timeframe for completing your project and stick to it.  This is an awesome project because every night you can relax and enjoy your new retreat!

We look forward to the opportunity to help you design your dream space! Call us at 732-830-3366 or email paul@pdrdesigns.com to get started today.

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Designing Your Dream Outdoor Kitchen

An Excerpt from Paul D. Rugarber’s Forthcoming Book,
Architecture to Construction and Everything in Between

“To sit in the shade on a fine day, and look upon verdure, is the most perfect refreshment.”
– Jane Austen

Outdoor kitchens and grilling areas have gone from luxury pieces that only a few homes had to popular space additions. For many homes, the backyard has become an extension of the indoor living space.  Creating unique and relaxing exterior spaces enhances the home and provides a place to enjoy the outdoors while entertaining family and friends.  You will need to create a list of items that you want incorporated into the design such as a grill, counter space, storage, refrigerator, sink, fire pit or fireplace, pizza oven, pergola, umbrellas, and seating for guests.  Add lighting for use at night and speakers for some relaxing music.

The location of the space will be tied to the amenities you would like to have in your outdoor kitchen project.  Most towns will allow a patio, grill, and cabinetry to be located almost anywhere, as long as the grill is kept away from combustible materials.  If you are planning to add a roof or pergola to this space, there will be more stringent guidelines to follow.  As with all projects, if you are not sure, consult the local zoning office to see what codes you need to be aware of that may affect your design and location.  Your next thoughts should be what you want to see while you are in this space. Is there a pool you would like to face, attractive landscaping to look at, or – on the other hand – possibly a neighbor you do not want to see?  Screening can be incorporated to obscure unwanted views, and seating/bar space can be set up to direct your gaze to the pool or yard.

The material selection is critical to this type of project so that it does not become a maintenance nightmare.  The area near the grill will be susceptible to grease stains, so pavers or concrete with a sealer is a better choice than wood decking.  Cabinetry needs to be weather resistant, so choose materials like plastic, concrete, or stone. The countertop material will get the most use and needs to be highly durable.  Granite, other natural stones, or manmade synthetics are a good choice; the darker the color the better, as it will not show stains from food or nature.  Apply a sealer each year to keep your beautiful top looking fresh.  If you are using metal doors or drawers, get good quality units made from stainless steel.  Using the correct materials will ensure that your gorgeous project will last for years to come!

As always, proper planning is the key to success with your project.  Look online or in magazines and books for ideas, get creative, and have fun with it!  Remember you are the one using it, so create the space you want and your outdoor space will be a success.  Your new outdoor kitchen will add to the value of your home and provide you with years of enjoyment!

We look forward to the opportunity to help you design your dream space! Call us at732-830-3366 or email paul@pdrdesigns.com to get started today.

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Why Do I Write?

“Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.”
Benjamin Franklin
In today’s post I wanted to do something a little bit different. I wanted to tackle the topic of why I write and produce this blog, and eventually the book I’m working on, to help you better understand my motivation. It really all comes down to consumer education and helping others.

As a client, you are most powerful when you have knowledge readily available, constantly at your fingertips. By reading these articles, you will find yourself more informed about what you need to do and what you can expect from your professionals during the process. It amazes me that some people will begin a major financial investment such as the construction of an addition or a new home without the proper knowledge to complete it successfully.

I began writing articles and my book because I realized that clients and homeowners have the same questions about every project. I wanted to be able to provide answers in writing that they could reference at any time, to help them throughout the process. That was, and still is, my main writing goal.

I want to thank everyone for taking this journey with me and for all the encouragement and support I have received through the years.

I also want to thank all of our veterans and servicemen on this Memorial Day weekend for protecting our great country and making sacrifices for all of us!

Enjoy the articles and let me know if you have any questions.

God bless!

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Designing Your Home Office

An Excerpt from Paul D. Rugarber’s Forthcoming Book,
Architecture to Construction and Everything in Between

Design is, in my opinion, the most fun of any construction project. You finally get to let your creativity loose! There are a few simple steps I recommend to start your design process. First, get a binder to label and save all of your ideas.  If you prefer a more “modern” approach, create an online Ideabook on Houzz or a board on Pinterest. Feel free to add pictures and designs that express your style.  Remember this is supposed to be fun – so enjoy yourself!

In today’s post, we’re going to focus specifically on the design of one of the more recent developments in home design: the home office. We’re going to discuss why it’s needed, where it should be located, and what should be in it.

So first off… why would I need a home office?

As working from home and entrepreneurial endeavors become more and more common in this economy, a home office is a room that is being incorporated into more houses. This is a room that can be closed off from the rest of the house for the privacy needed to conduct business, and to keep little hands from using important documents as coloring books!

Additionally, a dedicated home office space, within very specific guidelines, can often be utilized as a tax write-off, so it’s worth considering if you often work from home or have your own home-based business. Be sure to consult your tax professional for more information on what can be classified as a “home office” within IRS regulations.

Where is the best place to put a home office in my house?

I can personally speak to the advantages of having a home office space. For a long time, I had my office on the third floor of my house, which gave me my own space and a (mostly!) quiet environment in which to get my work done.

Many of my clients prefer an office adjacent to the master bedroom or on the first floor, set away from the main gathering rooms. Consider whether you plan to see clients on a regular basis, and whether you would prefer a separate entrance to the office apart from the main entrance to the house. You should also take into consideration where in the house you can get privacy as well as natural light, so that it feels both welcoming and conducive to productivity.

What should I put in a home office?

You should plan at the very least for a desk, chairs, and some cabinetry. Make sure you have enough lighting, whether natural, artificial, or a combination of both – you don’t want to be working in the dark! Also check for proper internet/phone hookups and electrical outlet placement so that you can easily connect all of your various electronic devices required to run your business smoothly and efficiently. Allot space for your computer, printer, wireless router, and even a shredder if needed.

It’s also a good idea to have some kind of additional desk or table space for meeting with clients without having a computer separating you, offering the opportunity for that one-on-one connection that is so important in business relationships. If you have awards, diplomas, or certificates of achievements, display them proudly! They serve as great conversation starters when you have friends or clients over. And of course, don’t forget storage space for the basics – manila folders, legal pads, printer paper, pens… all of the regular business supplies you’d need in a “normal” office setting!

A home office can be a wonderful addition to a house. By providing a private, comfortable place to work, you can focus more on the job at hand without worrying about interruptions or outside noise. If you are an entrepreneur with a “day job,” you’ll find yourself drawn to your home office to grow your own business. On top of all that, there are often also tax incentives involved, so it’s very worthwhile to investigate whether a dedicated home office is the right choice for you and your family.

We look forward to the opportunity to help you design your dream home office space! Call us at 732-830-3366 or email paul@pdrdesigns.com to get started today.

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Zoning and Insurance Requirements

An Excerpt from Paul D. Rugarber’s Forthcoming Book,
Architecture to Construction and Everything in Between

Dig the well before you are thirsty.
– Proverb

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, the planning part of your project can be the most fun – I find the dreaming and hoping and wishing brings you back to the happy anticipation of your childhood.  Remember dreaming of the castle you would have? Or your beautiful boat? Or the dashing prince or radiant princess you’d marry?  These are the types of images that should come to mind when you begin a project. After all, you’re making changes that will impact your life in a very substantial way and you should be excited!

Having said that, there are aspects of the process that you might not find particularly appealing, or might even find anxiety-inducing! We’re going to tackle two of those issues head-on in this newsletter, in the hopes of showing you that they’re not as intimidating as they might sound.

Site Zoning
If you are looking to add another floor to your house, are there height restrictions in your town?  If you want to expand your house footprint, are there mandatory setbacks from property lines that will limit your project?  If you’re looking to build a new home, are there limits (such as environmental issues) to where on the property you can build or how high? All of these questions should be answered in the planning portion of your project.  The best resource for answers is a local architect; due to their experience, they will be aware of the specific site requirements that the various towns in your area impose.   If you are the adventurous type, you can call the town zoning department yourself to find out what you can and cannot do.  A word of caution, though: Keep in mind that, as a layperson and not a professional architect or contractor, there may be questions you don’t know to ask the town or even the wording you use that could affect the answers you receive.  It’s not uncommon for clients to come to me with a misunderstanding about what they can or cannot do due to misinformation from the building or zoning departments.  How you ask the question is critical!
Insurance Requirements
Speak to your homeowners’ insurance company to understand what you will need to provide during the project.  Typically a Builders’ Risk policy is needed to protect the home during construction, but it will depend on the project scope.  Addressing this issue early on is well worth your time, as many people don’t go to the trouble to understand the insurance ramifications until there is a problem – at which point it is usually too late.  Spend the time necessary to understand what contractors’ insurance covers (typically construction defects and injury to personnel on the property), and then know where your insurance will need to fill in the gaps.  Also keep in mind that your contractors’ insurance will not cover sloppy work or issues dealing with poor workmanship, so be sure to spend the money to get a good contractor that will do high-quality work!  As always, you get what you pay for. Remember: If the price seems too good to be true, it probably is!
These are commonly considered the “boring” or “intimidating” parts of the process, but as you see, with the right tools and the guidance of professionals you can easily handle these issues and make sure you are fully covered. After all, it’s far better to handle them now than when it’s too late!
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Designing Your Front Entry

Pulling up to your home, you look at the front entry and a smile creeps onto your face.  Why?  Because it just feels right – it’s your home and you LOVE it!

So how do we create that feeling for you?  There are three basic steps to designing that “WOW factor” space that will make you want to come home, and which invites others into your home!  It starts with the emotion you want to evoke; next is the approach; and last is your style.

Emotion: This is the most difficult and obscure step to pin down, but the most important.  Think about what and how you want to feel as you look at your front entry…. then also consider how you want your guests to feel.  Is the feeling you’re thinking of relaxed? Inspired? Amazed, welcomed, impressed? I have a country house in the woods with a big front porch with rocking chairs and every time I pull up, I get that feeling of relaxing while sipping coffee on the front porch that instantly puts my mind at ease! When you come to terms with how you want to feel, as well as what feelings you want to evoke in your guests, then you are ready to move onto the next stage.

The approach is our next element to design and this covers everything from the walkway and landscaping to the covered porch at the door.  If you are trying to get a formal feel, then use more elegant landscaping – patterns to the plantings, a well-manicured lawn, balanced lighting, a decorative walkway, and elegant steps with a porch.  The front overhang can be trimmed simply, or you can elect for an ornate look with extra crown molding trim.

The roof over your entry is essential to protect you and the front door from the weather. This can be as simple as a small covered stoop or it could be a large deck across the front of the house! Consider what type of door you’d like as well – solid wood may give you a feeling of protection; or perhaps you would prefer glass, which is more welcoming. Maybe you’d even like a combination of the two!

Consider also: When you step inside, what do you want to see and how do you want to feel? Do you want open views to the great room and kitchen? Is this a two-story entry? Is there a staircase leading your eyes upward? This will all affect the approach!

Now the last step to the perfect entry design is style.  To let your own style shine through, you need to make it pop!  This can be done with materials, layout, trim, columns, light fixtures, ceiling trims, railing designs, and flooring patterns to create that sense of your own style. Do you have a favorite bench on the porch or inside the entry hall, perhaps covered with colorful throw pillows?  Show off a mirror, piece of furniture, throw rug, or anything else that speaks to your style and emotions.

As an example, I worked on a house design where the client had been to the Four Seasons Hotel in Boston and loved the railing detail on the steps. We recreated that railing on a sweeping staircase in the entry. Now, every time the owner walks upstairs, they have an emotional association with luxury and relaxation. How we feel is what really transforms a house into a home!  Get started on your dream entry design now with the emotion, approach, and style that you will love to see every day!

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