Fall in Wisconsin

It has been a very warm year, and JUST MAYBE we’ll have a warm fall too, but with Halloween approaching next week, it’s now time to think about preparing your home for the colder winter months ahead. Here’s what you need to do to in the weeks ahead to protect your home :

CHIMNEY & FIREPLACES. Fireplaces add to the ambiance of a chilly evening. Call a professional to inspect and clean your chimney in order to prevent a chimney fire. Also check your flue for a tight seal when closed in order to prevent a breeze.

GUTTERS & DOWNSPOUTS: Clean and keep these free from a buildup of leaves and debris. Neglected gutters can cause roof and wood trim damage and pest invasion. Verify that water is not coming down behind the gutters and the support brackets are secure. Ensure that water drains properly to avoid foundation, drive and walkway damage.

WINDOWS & DOORS: Inspect to ensure there are no drafts around windows and doors. Applying caulk and new weather stripping can enhance the seal to help with lowering heating bills.

HEATING SYSTEMS: Call a professional to inspect your furnace to ensure the system is clean and in good condition. Replace all filters.

PLUMBING: Disconnect the water hoses and turn off the water inside the house to the outside faucets.

LANDSCAPE: Prune trees and shrubs to ensure healthy spring growth.(Easier to do without leaves on the plants too.) Fertilize your lawn as roots grow deeper to perpare for winter. Trim back all trees from the house or roof.

For more information – or a recommedation on which local professionals to contact,  just call us! (262) 723-3588

Lake view from the screen porch

Have you ever noticed that some homes are placed on their lots like they were dropped from outer space with little or no consideration given to what can be seen from the interior?

Windows are generally located in the middle of the wall of each room and no one has stopped to think about the quality of the view from within the space.

Most of us love to feel connected to nature and benefit greatly from access to daylight and the beauty of the natural world. To imbue our homes with these “Inside Outside” connections, we design both environments together: Arranging windows, doors, decks, patios, and porches to take advantage of key features of the evolving scenic landscape, and to minimize undesirable views as well.

By planning the home and the surrounding landscape as a single integrated whole, rather than two separate environments, there will be constant interplay between the natural and the man-made, and between the inside and the outside.

The result is a home that extends far beyond its actual walls.

Mud Room with built in bench and cubby

Back entry Mud Room a perfect place to contain the clutter.

Gone are the days when you’d walk into a home with no place to deposit shoes, jackets, hats, backpacks and recreational gear.

That’s where the importance of Mud Rooms comes into play.  We design Mud Rooms to organize your chaos and contain the clutter that could otherwise drift into other rooms of the home.

Today’s Mud Rooms are spacious and functional spaces, which are usually separate from the Laundry Room. (Muddy shoes and clean clothes do not mix very well!) Tile floors make for easy clean up and custom cabinetry with lockers, hooks, and benches with storage provide a place for everything imaginable. Another change is the incorporation of natural light.

Since the Mud Room is the place where families collect and shed their belongings, you want the space to be comfortable and bright. This feature also bodes well with gardeners who can have a space in the   Mud Room for potting and getting seedlings started. And don’t forget about your pets. Base cabinets can be modified to include a “cat door” to the kitty litter pan; keeping it out-of-sight and tidy.

We’ve included convenient and comfortable “doggie showers” in Mud Rooms or in the Laundry Room too.  The options are as unique and as varied as the families that use them.

There is a trend towards larger and more efficient Mud Rooms. Not surprising, as people have come to realize the importance of this space over a potentially unused living or dining room.

Custom Built Home

The U.S. housing market is taking small steps towards a full recovery.

The top five housing markets had an average gain 20.8% in mediam price.  For the most parts these are markets with rapidly declining inventory and growing levels of demand.

The Santa Barbara California region experienced the largest spike in median home price between July 2011 to July 2012  –  31.53%. Close to home, according to the Wisconsin Realtors Association, home sales rose 17.3% in July and the state registered its fifth straignt month of increasing home prices. The seven- county southeast Wisconsin region had a 23.2% jump in sales in July compared with the same month in 2011. Statewide, the median home price registered a 2.1% increase over July 2011. Nationwide, home prices shot up 3.8% in July, making their largest year-over-year leap since 2006, according to real estate data provider CoreLogic.

The gain marks the fifth straight rise – part of a positive swing following a year and a half of slumps. Without distressed sales, including foreclosures and short sales, national prices were up 4.3% compared to last July.

That’s good news! A lot of people have been waiting to sell their home before building a new one.

With mortgage interest rates remaining low, this may be the opportunity they’ve been waiting for to move ahead with their new home dreams.

Elevator in home in Lake Geneva

An Elevator can complement your decor

A new home with an elevator used to be considered very high-end. Now we’ve noticed a trend over the last few years where homeowners are seeing elevators as a very smart and practical investment. It allows them to stay in their multi-story home, and also increase the resale value of their property.

Several homes we’ve designed recently include an elevator. A number of them that don’t are designed with “stacked” closets (one on the first floor and one on the second floor directly over the first). Planning for a future elevator does add a little more cost initially in labor and building materials. But isn’t it reassuring to know the space can easily be used to install an elevator if any of the family member’s physical condition requires it?

The National Association of Homebuilders has also noticed a growing interest in elevators from homeowners. In 2001 only 8% of homeowners said an elevator was a must or a want. In 2011, 25% of those surveyed listed an elevator as desirable or essential. Although it’s seen as a luxury, including an elevator in your home may add as much as 10% to the value of your home. (Think of resale and how many more buyers would be attracted to your multi-story home!) Hydraulic elevator units can range from $20,000 to over $100,000.

We see elevators and other elements of universal design as great ways to expand the usefulness of your home. In future blogs I’ll talk more on the topic of universal design. After all, if a home can be designed to be safer, easier to maneuver in and equally accessible for anyone from the able bodied, small children, older adults and the mobility challenged, why not do so?