Lifestyle, Los Angeles, USA

After you have nailed down a budget for your home improvements, you can begin to research materials and other details. (Getty Images)

The cold days of winter are the perfect time to sit down and plan the improvements, renovations and other projects you’ve been pondering for your home.

While scouring do-it-yourself blogs, Pinterest and HGTV shows may have given you a plethora of exciting ideas to tackle once the weather warms up, you have some less fun details to sort through before you’re ready to bring out the sledgehammer or paint cans.

The key to a successful home improvement project is proper planning, from the color you’d like the walls to be to the total budget for each project, the right time frame and whether you’ll need professional help.

[See: The Little Things: Small Decisions That Can Impact Your Home's Sale Price.]

Here are six things you should do now to prepare for your next renovation project.

Determine your budget. Whether you have a lot or a little money to make improvements, you need to figure out the amount to be able to allocate it accordingly.

If you’re looking to make major renovations on your house with more money than you may have on hand, you have the option of applying for a home equity loan or home equity line of credit. And while HELOCs now face more restrictions as to whether the interest rate is deductible on your taxes due to the passing of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act in December 2017, when the money is used for home improvement purposes you still have the benefit of being able to deduct that interest (for up to $750,000 of debt, including your home mortgage) each year. You can also explore other options to fund your home improvement with a reverse mortgage, contractor financing or FHA Title 1 loan, among others.

Get a realistic scope of the project. With your budget in mind, figure out what you want to see completed. Are you going to demo your 1960s kitchen and open it up to your living room? Or are you simply looking to give it a fresh look with newly painted cabinets and cabinet pulls?

Keep a careful eye on how your budget will fare with each task you hope to complete – staying mindful of the cost of materials, equipment and labor (if you’re not determined to DIY). The bigger the project, the more likely the equipment and labor required will change as well.

Kris Kiser, president and CEO of the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute, says landscape and outdoor living projects will likely require you to introduce more equipment and involved labor. “Machines are critically important if you want to move heavy stuff. A bag of mulch could be 10 pounds, no problem. Well, if you’re moving 50 of them – big problem,” he says.

Research materials. Once you’ve determined what renovations your budget will allow for, you can go back to those pinned photos of rooms and favorited furnishings. Of course, now you’ll want to keep a close eye on cost and how the materials you opt for affect your budget and the rest of your remodel.

You may have had your eye on granite countertops in your kitchen and bathrooms for the last couple of years, but engineered quartz is not only rising in popularity – it’s also more budget-friendly.

Plus, it’s easier to make engineered quartz work, says Nino Sitchinava, principal economist for home design website Houzz. “You can find it in all shapes and sizes. … It’s just a very easy material to work with, relative to natural stone,” she adds.

[See: 10 Ways to Save Energy and Reduce Utility Expenses at Home.]

Fortunately for the sake of research and your budget, online shopping for materials is becoming more common and accessible. Market information company NPD Group reports the online sales of home improvement products grew 34 percent last year, totaling nearly $20 billion. Products that accompany easy do-it-yourself projects have grown in particular, according to the NPD Group information, including hardware, lighting, storage, air filters and blinds.

Figure out what you can DIY. Unless you’re an actual contractor, you may expect some projects to be more DIY-friendly than they are in reality. “It’s based on volume and how much you can physically do,” Kiser says.

As you plan out your project, take the time to delve deep into the tasks you want to take on yourself and see if you have the skills required, how long they’ll take and if the time is worth your effort.

“A lot of people say, ‘Oh, I can tackle that.’ And then they get into it, and they can’t. It’s suddenly a little more complicated,” Kiser says. While painting, changing cabinet pulls and planting bushes are very DIY-friendly, most electrical work and plumbing should be done by licensed professionals, and a task like installing a complicated tile backsplash will likely look neater with a pro's experience behind it.

Interview professionals. Whether only part of your renovation requires a skilled helping hand or you’d prefer that a pro take on the entire project, call professionals well in advance to get a timeline, description of the work required and quote for the cost. Remodeling projects are popular in spring and summer as well, and calling before the weather warms up will help you reduce the change of missing out on a good contractor that's booked up for the season.

To avoid being disappointed in your project, it’s always important to follow up on references and interview more than one company. Avoid lowball cost estimates, and seek a project manager that can understand your vision for the space and offer recommendations to capture it best.

[See: 10 Ways to Create the Perfect Office (or Study Nook) in Your Home.]

Consider alternative options. If your budget or skill set doesn’t match up with what you have in mind for your home renovation, don’t be afraid to change the plan – it’s just best to do so in advance.

Kiser recommends seeking guidance from a contractor you’re interviewing. While labor and equipment costs may make your dream outdoor gourmet kitchen unreachable, a landscape contractor could recommend changes to the location to make the gas and electric hookups less expensive, bringing you back inside your budget.

It’s also important to keep a realistic eye on the space you’re working with – an $80,000 kitchen renovation in a bungalow valued at $150,000 doesn’t make sense. If you're planning to sell your home in the next couple years, keep your return on investment in mind. Outdoor projects that boost curb appeal are always considered good for ROI, as are kitchen cabinet updates and hardwood floors. But installing an in-ground pool, complete kitchen overhaul or putting an addition on your home likely will not add as much value to your house as you put into the project. You should also delve into trending renovations in your area, which is where you’ll likely see what’s the most valuable investment for your home.

“In bigger kitchens we’re seeing more cooktops and wall ovens. In smaller kitchens we’re seeing more ranges,” Sitchinava says.


10 Interior Design Trends for 2020

It may be time to update your decor.

A marble beige painting and a sunburst golden mirror on a gray wall with molding in a stylish living room interior with a velvet, powder pink sofa and retro furniture

(Getty Images)

You may not be moving into a new house in 2020, but you can make your home feel new again by taking stock of each room and updating the design. You may want to make your living room more functional by finding a better furniture layout, brighten up a guest bedroom with new paint or go big with a full renovation of your kitchen for a more modern style. To make any design changes a success, however, you’ll want to know what styles will become more popular in 2020 and what fads are on their way out. Here are 10 interior design trends to consider in 2020.

Updated on Dec. 6, 2019: This story was published at an earlier date and has been updated with new information.

Zen dens break up floor plans.

Zen dens break up floor plans.

Hygge, Zuhause, Entspannung, Muenchen, Bayern, Deutschland

(Getty Images)

Open floor plans may be here to stay, but many homeowners are interested in creating a room that lets you separate yourself from the goings-on in the rest of the house. For some people, open floor plans are "too open,” says Tim Bakke, publishing director of online home and design plan company The Plan Collection, based in Scarsdale, New York. “If you have the TV on in the living room, everyone in the kitchen and the dining room is hearing it and seeing it.” Bakke says separate, closed-off living spaces called “zen dens,” are ideal for reading a book or having a more private conversation, and he thinks they’ll gain popularity in the coming year. “It’s not splitting up the house, but you have someplace where you can kind of get away from it,” Bakke says.

Master suites expand.

Master suites expand.

(Getty Images)

As wellness gains emphasis, more homeowners are looking at spaces where they’ll most likely benefit. As a result, master bedrooms and bathrooms are getting more love. “Maybe a little bit of square footage is taken away from other parts of the house and put into the master suite,” Bakke says. Whether it’s to expand the bathroom and add a soaking tub or to make room for a sitting area in the bedroom, homeowners are considering their bedrooms as a space where they can spend more time beyond sleeping and getting ready for the day.

Inside and outside continue to blend.

Inside and outside continue to blend.

Friends having fun at dinner party in backyard.

(Getty Images)

Outdoor living has been gaining popularity over the last few years, and designers continue to see blurring the line between outdoor and indoor as a desire among homeowners. Gena Kirk, vice president of design for homebuilding company KB Home, based in Los Angeles, describes successful interpretations of the trend as “extending the great room into the backyard,” which not only makes entertaining easier, but also allows you to relax on comfortable seating on the patio when the weather is nice. For homes that experience colder seasons, a fire pit, outdoor fireplace or outdoor heaters allow for snuggling under a blanket while still enjoying the outdoor living space when the weather is chilly.

Organic elements are here to stay.

Organic elements are here to stay.

modern table scene restaurant urban style

(Getty Images)

Indoor plants have made a resurgence in recent years because they add life to a space. Meanwhile organic elements are expanding into furniture and decor as designers incorporate more natural wood tables, natural fiber rugs, coral, dried flowers and branches into decor. While these items are no longer living, they offer a connection to nature and the outdoors. Keep an eye out for sisal, jute or seagrass rugs, which can be found at major retailers like Home Depot, Ikea and Wayfair. While it’s easy to find faux coral tabletop decor, you need to read product descriptions carefully to find real coral for purchase.

Wallpaper and texture provide depth.

Wallpaper and texture provide depth.

Contemporary  lounge / living room with sofa and ornaments in front of large window with curtains

(Getty Images)

Rather than sticking to traditional eggshell wall finishes and basic cotton throw pillows, design experts are looking to patterns and textures to make rooms feel more dynamic and personal. Interior designers particularly encourage wallpaper in a half bathroom, where you can have a bit more fun without overwhelming the space. Wallpaper is making a comeback in other parts of the house as well. Barbara Kavovit, CEO and founder of Evergreen Construction in New York City, says wallpapering a room makes a great do-it-yourself project, requiring little skill – just the patience to do it right. You can also experiment with texture on walls, whether it means creating a faux stucco look with plaster and paint or incorporating upholstered panels or reclaimed wood.

Velvet becomes a staple.

Velvet becomes a staple.

Europe, UK, England, London, Belgravia: View Of Hand-Made Custom Fabric Couch With African Hardwood Flooring

(Getty Images)

Velvet is becoming a preferred furniture fabric over microfiber or leather, since it offers a soft texture that looks luxurious in bright, bold colors. Expect to see more bedding accessories and throw pillows in velvet, which can provide additional texture in a bedroom or living room. This trend isn’t just for winter, either – if it's the right color and paired with other textures and materials, velvet works in a room year-round. Light pink or mustard velvet pairs well with just about any color.

Blue is the color to incorporate.

Blue is the color to incorporate.

Modern interior of living room with armchairs on white flooring and dark blue wall

(Getty Images)

Both Pantone and paint company Sherwin Williams have announced that their colors of the year for 2020 are dark shades of blue: "classic blue" for Pantone and "naval" for Sherwin Williams. Dark and navy blues can serve as neutral colors for a room and pair well with lighter colors, bold jewel tones and even metallics for an art deco look. Lighter blues and greens are also popping up more in furniture, decor and paint palettes, which can make for a soft look or a bold statement in different combinations. As a wall color, navy creates a darker setting, leaving room to play around with lighter neutrals and pops of color in the decor. It can also be used as an accent in a lighter room.

Say goodbye to gray.

Say goodbye to gray.

London, England.

(Getty Images)

If you’ve been watching HGTV renovation shows or have toured homes at just about any point over the last decade, you know that gray has been the go-to neutral for walls, furniture and even home exteriors. But over the last couple of years, other neutrals have been threatening gray’s domination of the color market. “Those very cool grays – they’re dying. They’ve been dying. Everything’s starting to warm up,” Kirk says. Interior designers are seeing a return to shades of brown and beige, as well as navy, to offer a warmer palette. Don’t be afraid of looking outdated if you use gray in your color scheme for a room, but if your entire house is painted in the same gray shade, it’s time to add some variation.

Computer rooms are out; charging stations are in.

Computer rooms are out; charging stations are in.

Men connected charger to tablet computer after four digital devices already charging

(Getty Images)

If you’re still dedicating part of your kitchen to house the family desktop computer or it has its own designated room, rethink that space. With everyone using laptops, tablets and smart phones to browse the internet, do homework and pay bills, there’s no need to take up space with a bulky desktop that no one’s using. A family computer room can be converted into the "zen den" your house has been missing, a guest bedroom or another space your family would use more. But there’s still something you can do for the family electronics: “Phone, tablets – all those things need to be charged,” Bakke says. He recommends creating a charging station with enough outlets to plug in multiple devices, located in a common drop zone where people enter and exit the house like the mud room.

Minimalism moves over.

Minimalism moves over.

Living room with high ceilings and architectural featuresLiving room with high ceilings and architectural features

(Getty Images)

People still like clean lines, but these days designers are seeing more homeowners embrace eclectic decor styles, with modern vases and bowls as well as imperfect antiques that add variety. While a simplistic, uncluttered look is still popular, designers and homeowners now look to "incorporate focal points with an older piece," says Jim DiGiacomo, board member for Olde Good Things, an architectural salvage store based in New York City. Flea markets and antique stores are prime shopping targets. The opportunity to find one-of-a-kind pieces has expanded online as well, as eBay, Etsy and more specialized stores like Olde Good Things offer extensive online inventories, allowing you to find vintage prints, vases and even architectural gems like mantels, doors and ceiling tiles to incorporate in a room remodel or new home design.

Interior design trends to keep an eye out for in 2020 include:

Interior design trends to keep an eye out for in 2020 include:

Interior decor photographs of stylish luxury bohemian style home

(Getty Images)

  • Zen dens break up open floor plans.
  • Master suites expand.
  • Inside and outside continue to blend.
  • Organic elements are here to stay.
  • Wallpaper and texture provide depth.
  • Velvet becomes a staple.
  • Blue is the color to incorporate.
  • Say goodbye to gray.
  • Computer rooms are out; charging stations are in.
  • Minimalism moves over.

Read More

Tags: real estate, home improvements, personal budgets, loans


Devon Thorsby is the Real Estate editor at U.S. News & World Report, where she writes consumer-focused articles about the homebuying and selling process, home improvement, tenant rights and the state of the housing market.

She has appeared in media interviews across the U.S. including National Public Radio, WTOP (Washington, D.C.) and KOH (Reno, Nevada) and various print publications, as well as having served on panels discussing real estate development, city planning policy and homebuilding.

Previously, she served as a researcher of commercial real estate transactions and information, and is currently a member of the National Association of Real Estate Editors. Thorsby studied Political Science at the University of Michigan, where she also served as a news reporter and editor for the student newspaper The Michigan Daily. Follow her on Twitter or write to her at dthorsby@usnews.com.

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