Designing Charlotte in Every Style

If you’re looking to build or planning an extensive home renovation, you probably already have a strong idea of what kind of style you envision. Browsing through designer portfolio’s you are are looking for an architect or designer who understands your vision and who’s work feels instinctually YES. Here are some of Charlotte’s best architecture and design firms for every style. 

 

Classic

Pursley Dixon Architecture 

“Beauty matters”

Pursley Dixon approaches both modernism and classicism as two halves of the same conversation, and this philosophy lends itself to their breathtaking visions of classic homes. They are an architecture and interior design firm specializing in custom residential work, creating spaces that are unique and beautiful as individual as each client.  Their thirteen-member firm focuses on creating fresh and forward design. 

Featured in: 

  • Traditional Home
  • Luxe Interiors + Design
  • Garden & Gun
  • House Beautiful
  • Southern Accents
  • Southern Living
  • Renovation Style
  • Elegant Homes
  • Decor Magazine
  • Southern Home
  • The Classicist
  • Beautiful Homes

Instagram: @pursleydixon

Historic

Ruard Veltman Architecture

“Experience the spaces we’ve imagined” 

Ruard Veltman Architecture is a firm that has cultivated a deep understanding of historic, traditional design while also incorporating the best of modern elements. Their vision for designing in traditional residential neighborhoods are putting inspired homes in pristine natural environments.

Featured in: 

 

  • Southern Homes
  • Wall Street Journal
  • Southern Living
  • House Beautiful
  • Coastal Living
  • Elegant Homes
  • Country Living

 

Instagram: @ruardveltmanarchitecture

Modern

Greg Perry Design

“Applying art and classic principles to modern times”

Coming from an unpretentious, unconventional design education is just part of the DNA of this designer. Greg Perry‘s design reflects his clients, and his clients are eclectic, confident and possessing a strong vision. Driven by the principles of scale and proportion of the 16th century Andrea Palladio, and taking influences from the Gilded Age, his designs are perfect for the modern client. A successful project will “please the client, understand the fabric of the neighborhood and abide by architectural civic responsibility.”

Featured in: 

 

  • QC Magazine
  • Better Homes & Gardens
  • Luxury Home Magazine
  • Southpark Magazine

 

Instagram: @gregperrydesign 

 

Modest Maximizer

Garrett P. Nelson Studio

“Creating home” 

Garrett P. Nelson is a professor, design review chairman and a rising star in the design world. His firm creates beautiful homes where people can live and grow deep roots, from cottages and bungalows to larger homes. 

Featured in : 

 

  • 2011 Historic Charlotte Preservation Infill Project of the Year

 

Instagram: @garrettpnelsonstudio

 

Charlotte truly is a city for everyone and no matter what style you are drawn to, there is an architect and designer here who can make your vision come alive.

Budget Bangs for Your Buck

Putting money into the curb appeal of your home has a decidedly less glamorous feel than the idea of redoing your bathroom or kitchen. It’s much harder to care about picking out drought resistance ground cover than it is to pick out granite countertops. You know you want to spend your money on something that creates a great impression, transforms your home’s exterior and is a great return on investment, but you also know you don’t want to spend luxury bathroom remodel money on your exterior. It’s not like you can bubble bath in your new sod. Here are some options for a major exterior renovation that doesn’t feel as major to your budget. 

 

Roof, Siding & Gutters

A roof is one of those things that is completely unsexy to buy, but is really important both for your home’s curb appeal and also for its salability. It’s hard to sell a beautiful house with a bad roof—everything is at risk. Fully replacing your roof actually has a little more average return on investment than even a bathroom remodel. It typically costs between $1.50 and $10 per square foot. Even if you can’t replace the roof completely, having a professional look at your roof and suggest options for a refreshment can help get a long life out of your current roof. 

 

New gutters are a much cheaper option—the cost usually lands between $500-$2,000 for replacing your gutters and it’s over in a few days. Gutters are another unsexy exterior component, but gutters do so much heavy lifting to keep your home weatherproof and snug. Also, nothing mars an otherwise pleasant exterior like a broken gutter. 

 

Replacing siding, painting your brick, or adding a veneer, are all options for your exterior that start to get more exciting (colors!) but most options are starting to creep toward more expensive. Replacing siding costs around $10,000, depending on the price of the materials. Painting or refreshing brick costs around $7,000 and adding any kind of veneer interest can run you between $6-9 per square foot. Keep in mind this is another area that recoups value very well. If you see your siding bubbling, blistering, coming loose or otherwise damaged, it’s time to prioritize this upgrade, but a siding professional can help you decide. 

 

Decks & Patio 

Building a deck or patio is another great option for a project with a good return on your investment. People are drawn to homes with those collective spaces where everyone can gather. No matter how simple a project, these spaces are an extension of the spaces inside. A wood deck will cost an average of $7,000 and a stone patio will run between $8-$20 per square foot. A contractor or landscaper is a great person to begin a conversation about creating an outdoor space. 

 

Garage Door

If you’re not ready to change the whole exterior but something has to happen, consider replacing the garage door. The average cost is around $1,000-$1,500 and has an almost 100% return on investment. Replacing the garage door hits a sweet spot between your budget and the need for a visible change in the exterior. 

 

At the end of the day, it’s tough to make decisions about things that don’t have the appeal of something as fun as new kitchen cabinets or a wallpaper in the powder room, but spending some time with a contractor or designer and deciding what investment is needed will go a long way toward picking the right project for your home’s exterior. 

Budget Busters

Ever experience sticker shock in a store? You are just browsing with a sweating Starbucks cup, maybe to get out of the heat for a bit and you see something that looks interesting and reasonable and maybe you know people that have something like it. Reasonable people! You find the little dangly price tag and turn it over and. . . 

Die. 

Okay, you don’t die, but you definitely take a big step back and try to walk away before you accidentally break it. It seemed so reasonable!

When starting on a home renovation, especially with a sizable budget that you’ve spent time preparing, you feel prepared to turn over the price tag. It seems reasonable! But often times, the actual cost gives us the rush of panic as seeing an unexpected price tag in the store. Suddenly, your well-prepared budget can seem small and your dreams still out of reach. 

 

Kitchens

Expect granite, cabinets, and design to be your biggest costs. Hiring a designer can be around half that cost. Something as simple as installing an appliance can be around $200. Installing cabinets will average out to about $5,000. All told, an average kitchen remodel costs a little over $20,000. When you are sitting down to decide your budget, it’s best to keep your kitchen renovation budget between 5-15% of your home’s value. 

 

Bathroom

Hiring a plumber for either kitchen or bathroom starts at $300 and can go from there. If you are installing a shower or bath, especially with tile work, you can expect around $3,000 for an average size project. Most bathroom remodels total around $10,000. A reasonable bathroom remodel budget should be 5-10% of your home value and you can expect around 60% of the value to be retained. 

 

Flooring

Aside from the cost of the actual materials, usually calculated by price per square foot, different materials will have a wide variation of installation costs. Carpets will often be installed for free, but things like hardwood or tile will have higher installation costs and the subfloor may even need preparation before installation can begin. An average flooring remodel will come in around $3,000. 

 

Electrical work 

Needing to run wires, install fixtures, or fix existing problems with a licensed electrician will often start at $400. Expect this to be an additional cost to what you’re expecting to spend on the project. 

 

Overall, materials stay consistent pretty much no matter where you are, but labor prices can fluctuate by 20%. Prepare a budget that can accommodate the known and the unknown, and you’ll be on your way to a smooth renovation project. No surprises needed.

Money Trees

Money doesn’t grow on trees, which is unfortunate because anytime you even sneeze at a tree in your yard, it’s basically going to cost money. The cost of managing the trees around your home or in your yard depends on factors that you may not even realize—such as the type of tree or where it’s located on your property. The cost can also depend on whether you hire an arborist or a tree specialist, and the kind of equipment they need to use.  The good news is, most places offer a free, on-site estimate. Here is a quick rundown of what you can expect

 

Removing a Tree

The most expensive situation is going to be removing a tree. It means cutting it down one piece at a time, hauling it all away and the extra cost of grinding down or removing the stump. Depending on the tree, it’s height, and where it’s located, you would pay between a few hundred or over a thousand dollars. 

Worst case scenario, you have a tall, hardwood tree growing close to a house or a hard to reach place or near power lines, and it needs to come down. You are looking at the top end of price. 

After the tree is brought down, it can be hauled away, chipped, or cut for firewood, although sometimes at an extra cost. 

 

Pruning a Tree

Sometimes a tree can be pruned instead of being removed. This option definitely costs less, but is still dependent on the same factors as removal. A hardwood tree, for example, is always more expensive to touch and even just pruning a tall oak, for example, will run around $500. 

If your troubled tree is touching the power lines you will need to contact your utilities provider, but in this instance, they will trim the tree for free. 

 

Stump Removal

Surprise! The removal of the stump is not included! Even in cases of full removal, the stump will need ground down or dug out and it is an additional cost. Is often an extra $50 to $400 depending on its depth and solidity.

 

Fallen or Dead Trees

Finally, it gets cheaper. If your tree is dead or already fallen (hopefully not on anything important), it will be easier to haul away. Expect this service to run between $75 and $150.

 

DIY

If you feel like you can tackle your tree on your own, you can get an extendable pruner for $30 and go to town. At your local hardware center, you could also rent a pruner, or a stump grinder. If you decide to do it on your own, make sure to schedule it in late fall or winter to minimize the impact on the growing cycle of the tree.

 

As with every service you hire, make sure the company is reputable, licensed and knowledgeable. Always check references. When dealing with trees, you will also want to make sure to have someone come out and give you a quote in writing. If you only get a quote over the phone or verbally, the price will be subject to change—sometimes drastically. But in the case of trees, money spent managing prevents more money spent on disasters. 

 

Teamwork Makes The (Home Renovation) Dream Work!

In a home renovation, the contractor is like the lead actor in a play. Your contractor is Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz. Your contractor is Henry Higgins in My Fair Lady. They’re the star power. The one you are oh-so-careful to choose. But just as in a classic musical, a home renovation requires some great supporting cast members. A dazzling general contractor will make everyone they bring on stage look good.

 

Insurance Agent 

A surprising cast member is your insurance agent!  It’s important to talk to your agent when starting a home renovation, because your insurance policy is current for the state of your home when you enacted the policy. Once you begin changing the house, you run the risk of gaps in policy coverage. Another thing to talk with your agent about while you’re on the phone is any policy requirements during the remodel, such as hiring licensed tradesmen or having an agent inspect the home. Staying in conversation with your insurance agent ensures there are no surprises, from start to finish. 

 

Tradesmen 

Tradesmen include jobs such as plumbers, electricians, or plaster specialists. Even if your renovation doesn’t include huge electrical revamps or plumbing lines, it’s important to check in with these professionals to avoid major pitfalls. Your contractor likely has relationships with these sub-contractors, but it’s important to check-in in such critical areas of your home. 

 

Interior Designer

In a home renovation with a limited budget, it might be easy to eliminate an interior designer, but consulting with one, even on a limited basis, will go a long way toward making sure the changes you are making really, truly work—both for the space and your life. There are many affordable options for interior designers, so don’t automatically rule it out of your budget. 

 

Architect/Structural Engineer

An open floor plan is a great idea, until someone rips down the load bearing wall and you hear your ceiling creaking.  Even your contractor doesn’t always know what’s inside the walls. It’s important, when making major changes, to consult with a structural engineer. This will prevent any costly, unnecessary repairs. 

 

Insulation Professional

Not something you might think about, but anytime you open walls or move things around is a great time to reassess your insulation needs. Just a few extra dollars of insulation while the walls are open go a long way toward your overall energy savings. Consulting with a professional before you begin the project can make it part of your plan and part of your budget. 

 

Home Inspector

If you only think of a home inspector when buying or selling a home, you’re missing out on an important function. Having a home inspector come in before the project is finished makes sure that everything has been done correctly, the permits were pulled in order, and there are no issues your contractor has missed. A home inspector has your back. 

 

If you’re looking at this list and feeling overwhelmed, don’t. Making sure your project goes smoothly is just a few extra phone calls or conversations with your general contractor. It’s your show and you have your star, just don’t forget about all the parts that make up the rest of the experience.

How to Find a Real Estate Agent

The hardest part of any task is getting started, and buying and selling real estate is no exception. Before you begin ‘Marie-Kondo-ing’, packing boxes, or even browsing online for a future home, you should be looking for a real estate agent. A good real estate agent can make the difference between getting a house you love or settling for a house you like. They can make the difference between a smooth process and a process that makes you swear off real estate ever again. Whatever your price point, there are some basic things to look for when it comes to shopping for a real estate agent. You need someone on your team who knows your area, how to price a property, how to market it, and how to negotiate.

Sellers: 

  • Start the search by getting recommendations from friends or colleagues. 
  • Interview at least three brokers. Questions like: Have you sold in my neighborhood? Have you sold in my building? 
  • Ask what deals they’ve recently made and how long they’ve been in the business. If someone is new, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Other things like connections and passion can compensate for experience. 
  • Get references and check them.
  • Ask for a listing presentation — a pitch that includes data on comparable sales and the specific plan the broker has for marketing your property.  
  • Ask your top candidates to show you some other properties they’re representing. It will give you a sense of how they will handle your property. Would you buy from them?
  • Beware of the broker who tells you only what you want to hear. If one realtor estimates your property at the number you want, not the number the others have estimated, there’s a reason and it’s not because the other ones are wrong. If one realtor says you need to make no changes, and the rest say you should update the bathroom, again. . . it’s not everyone else that’s wrong. At the end of the day, the market determines the price your property will sell, not your realtor. 
  • Finally, do you like them? You will have to work with them over a long process, with moving pieces and other people involved. And if you don’t like your realtor, probably potential buyers won’t like working with them either. 

Buyers

  • Instead of asking the right questions, when looking to buy a property you want to pay attention to a realtor who asks the right questions. A conscientious realtor will ask you: What’s your timing? Are you prequalified for a mortgage? What’s your financial picture?
  • A good realtor will be familiar with your area. If they don’t often work in the location you are considering buying, they may not know how to get you the best deal or negotiate as well. 
  • Pay attention to the details. A great realtor will listen to your needs and also be intuitive to what you really want. Good instincts and listening skills go a long way in buying and selling. Look for that realtor who’s going to say “This isn’t what you were originally looking for, but I think we should take a look anyway. . .” After all, if it was as simple as shopping online for a house, you wouldn’t need a realtor. But a finding the right home in the right neighborhood is so much more complicated. A great realtor will make it feel as easy as loading your amazon cart.
  • Weigh the pros and cons of going with a solo realtor versus a team. The advantage of the team is the idea that someone will always be available. But on the flip-side, if multiple people are handling your experience there’s a risk of getting disjointed and inconsistent service.
  • Don’t be afraid to go with someone else if you get into the process and find the fit isn’t right.  There’s no contract. (And don’t sign one!)

How to Pick the Right Flooring

 

Go to any flooring store and it’s easy to be overwhelmed with options for your home. What might be worse is having a specific idea of what you want and finding it might be the wrong fit for the area of your home you’d like to put it in. Read on for a rundown of the types of flooring and where they are best suited in your home.   

 

Hardwood—Hardwood is the most popular choice these days, with nearly endless options, and a classic choice that is nearly always in style. In high traffic areas such as kitchens or entry’s it’s best to go with a durable hardwood such as oak. But if you’re looking at covering something like the bedrooms, you could consider a cheaper, softer alternative such as pine. Whatever you chose, you will need to be mindful of dents and scratches and expect to refinish the floors every ten years or so to keep them looking fresh.  

 

Carpet—Classic and comfortable, carpet is still a great inexpensive choice for places like bedrooms where comfort is valued over everything. Just whatever you do, don’t put carpet in the bathroom (this was a trend back in the day!).  

 

Concrete—Concrete can actually be a great option for homes, especially in high traffic wet areas such as laundry rooms, entries, basements, or large rooms off a pool area. Glazed concrete has a beautiful, rich sheen and can be installed with tile scores to resemble large tile or left as a solid, unbroken piece. It’s a modern, relatively inexpensive, and long-lasting choice.  

 

Laminate—These days laminate is not the roll of yellowing vinyl you remember from your grandmother’s kitchen. This solid, cheap workhorse, has been reborn. Laminate now comes in wood-like and tile options and can be a cheap, nice looking alternative to wood, especially in high traffic or water prone areas such as bathrooms and mudrooms.  

 

Tile—Another versatile option for your floors. Tile comes in a wide range of options, from economical choices like ceramic to luxury options like granite, and everything in between. Tile is easy to clean and maintain and provides a durable, long lasting floor. It can potentially be a DIY project, but if you have any doubt or a large project it’s best to hire an experience professional.

 

Photo by Cody Hughes @clhughes21

Road Map to Renovation

 

Knowing you want to renovate is often the easiest step of the home improvement process. Deciding what to renovate, where to spend your money, and whether or not to do it yourself are more complex parts of the process. Here are other things to consider as you begin to make your home improvement plan.  

 

Determine your end goal. What do you envision for your end space? What are your long-term plans for your home? Take measurements, collect images and refine your idea so that regardless if you are doing it yourself or hiring someone there is a clear vision to follow. 

 

What tools will you need? If you are planning to DIY any portion of your project, consider the tools you may need beyond just materials and time. For example, if you are going to lay a tile floor, do you have a wet saw? If you do not, would you buy or can you rent?  

 

How much plumbing and electricity are involved? Anytime you start moving pipes or wires, things can get dicey. It’s best to leave these parts of a home improvement project to a professional and get a consultation in advance. Contrary to what often happens on television, it can be very expensive or impossible to move some plumbing or wires. Your project may also need a permit, depending on the scale—something a licensed contractor needs to obtain.  

 

How much time will your project take? Are you looking at a five-year plan, broken down into stages? Or is this something that could be done in a long weekend? Setting a realistic expectation now can help prevent undue stress later on. Generally, everything takes longer than you anticipate.  

 

Does this make financial sense outside of your budget? A common pitfall of home improvement is putting more money into your home than you are able to get out of it.  If you are spending less than five years in this current home, you should consider smaller projects. Have a real estate agent check comps in your area to make sure your plan doesn’t outpace your home value.  

 

Do your contractor homework. Ask specific questions and expect specific answers. Check their references. Ask for pictures of previous projects. Ask friends and family for recommendations. Take your time to compile estimates in order to feel comfortable that the person you hire is both reputable and understands what you are trying to achieve.  

 

Sign a contract. Don’t do work without a contract as it protects both you and your contractor and lays out the expectations. The contract should include a detailed project description, required permits, license and inspections, and insurance or property damage liability. It will state warranties, lien waivers and a clear timeline plus allowances, as well as the ways and circumstances you would receive any money back for unfinished work.  

 

Will my insurance be affected? Check in with your insurance agent to determine if any changes you’ve made to the house affect your policy. You don’t want to get caught being underinsured.

 

Photo by Cody Hughes @clhughes21

The Countertop Crossroads

 

You’re done. Done “decorating” with a carefully positioned pot-holder or vase. Done apologizing for your mauve countertop circa The Golden Girls. You just want your scratched, gouged, burnt, or simply hideous countertop to be new. Unfortunately, your budget has other ideas. Don’t lose hope just yet! There may be an option you haven’t considered. You may be able to repair your old or damaged countertop.  

 

What Can Be Repaired? Solid surfaces, laminate and tile.  

 

What Are the Repair Options? Solid surfaces were popular in the eighties and are extremely durable and seamless, they are the easiest to repair because of how durable they are. Laminate, solid surface or tile can also be re-covered with a composite material. The material goes on as a liquid and dries into a hard, new surface.  

 

Can I Choose Different Colors? It’s all well and good to repair a mauve countertop from 1992, but you’re still left with the same countertop. Don’t worry! If you choose the composite material, you can choose both different colors and finishes—from something resembling granite to something as simple as a different color solid surface.  

 

Will I have To Remove My Cabinets or Sink? Typically, no.  

 

How Long Does It Take? Anywhere from one to three days.  

 

What does it cost? Solid surface repair can run between $200-600, depending on the problems. Composite material will run around $1200.

 

Photo by Cody Hughes @clhughes21

Four Mortgage Misconceptions to Watch For

The process of buying a house feels like trying to finish a level on Super Mario World—one minute you’re bumping along on Yoshi and the next minute you miscalculate and sink into a bottomless pit. Here are four things to watch out for before you run out of lives.

  1. Your credit score doesn’t matter for anything other than approval. Ouch! That’s not a Koopa but it’s close—your credit score determines not just your approval but your rate. The rate you’re going to have to live with for the duration of the loan. Make sure your credit score is looking healthy using these tips. (link)
  2. Your payment is 30% of your income, next level! Not so fast. The rule that your mortgage payment should not equal more than 30% of your income is more complex than it seems. Think of it this way—there’s more to home ownership than just the mortgage payment. There are maintenance expenses, taxes and homeowner’s insurance. If you fail to calculate those expenses into this thirty percent, you will be putting yourself in a sticky financial situation.
  3. You don’t really need a down payment. While this may be factually true—you aren’t required to put down 20% –it’s not a good idea for long term financial house. If you don’t put down a down payment, you will be required to purchase private mortgage insurance, which can be a substantial extra cost in your monthly mortgage payment.
  4. A traditional 30-year mortgage is the way to go. The 30-year mortgage is certainly the most common choice for mortgages, but it may not be the best choice. If you can afford a larger monthly payment for a 15-year loan, you will end up spending a lot less money over the life of your loan. Adjustable rate mortgages can be a good option if you are in a vigorous housing market and only plan to be in a house for a few years—before the rate resets, you will have moved.

We don’t all have to fall into the bottomless pits—in many cases a good real estate and mortgage broker can help you get through these levels and rescue Princess….I mean, buy the house of your dreams.

 

Photo by Cody Hughes @clhughes21