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.

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. 

 

Curb Appeal for Your Budget

It’s not the outside appearance, it’s the inside that counts. Except when it comes to your house. Even if you’ve got Italian carrera marble bathrooms and a custom-built kitchen upgrade, potential buyers see an ugly façade and won’t manage to click on the inside photos. Even if your home isn’t on the market, you’re that house, the one with the cringe moniker or the butt of neighborhood jokes. Or even. . . dum dum dum dum . . the one bringing all the property values down. 

For everything you’ve done on the inside, it’s time to take a few steps back and look at the outside. No matter your budget, there are things you can do to improve the curb appeal of your home and make another house on your street the butt of all the neighborhood jokes. 

 

Minimal

The first step in any budget is to give your yard a great trim—weed eat, mow, and freshen any beds with flowers, perennials or even just a fresh layer of mulch. For one afternoon and under a hundred dollars you can make your yard and exterior fresh and neat. A little more time and planning, and you can highlight architectural features of your exterior with window-boxes or hanging ferns. Nothing is more appealing than a front porch with lush ferns. Another cheap option to freshen up your exterior is to paint your front door. Pick a bold color that complements the rest of your exterior. For about the same amount of money you can replace your mailbox and house numbers. Other cheap ways to freshen up your exterior are by adding a wreath, power-washing your driveway and siding, or change out your door handles. 

 

Modest

Once you decide to put some money and time into your exterior, there’s a wide range of options—both DIY and professional. You can start investing in your landscaping—professional landscaping design, sprinkler maintenance, new plants or simply hiring consistent lawn care. A couple hundred dollars will also replace your lighting, paint trim and shutters, freshen gutters and add a porch swing or furniture, reseal your driveway, add slate tile in small concrete areas in the front, fence in the garbage cans or any visible AC units.  

 

Maximizer 

It’s always easy to think a renovation becomes easier with more money, but with more options comes more decisions. Even on the most expansive budgets, it’s important to focus on what brings the most value—whether that value is joy or ROI. For a larger budget there are all sorts of options—retaining walls, patios, more complicated landscaping and lighting schemes. You can also invest in changing the entire exterior of the home, whether by painting, replacing siding or adding stone veneer. New porches, decks, garage doors, and windows are also options, as well as adding decorative architectural pieces that fit with the overall design of your home. Really the sky is the limit. You can spend thousands in irrigation, sod, water features, or privacy fencing.

 

Just remember, whomever you decide to work with, at whatever budget, make sure you check insurance, licenses and references to ensure you are working with a reputable company and don’t come up short in the end. With a little time and planning, at whatever budget, you can make changes to benefit the curb appeal of your home.

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!)

Troubleshooting Your Water Heater

 

Is home ownership easy? Nope. Is it worth it? Absolutely. Here are some common problems that come up with water heaters.

 

“My water is rusty.” If the water only turns rusty when you are running hot water, your water heater may be rusting inside the tank. If your water is rusty whether you are running hot or cold water, the problem is likely in galvanized pipes that are rusting. Commonly the tank itself hasn’t begun rusting, but the anode rod is going bad and will sacrifice itself before corroding through the tank. You can have a professional replace the anode, screwed into the top of the tank. But for a temporary solution to rusty hot water, you can clean out your water heater. Drain some of the water, add hydrogen peroxide to the tank and allow the water and peroxide to sit. Then flush the water heater until the water runs clear. The peroxide chemically reacts with the rust to loosen the corrosion and allow it to be rinsed out, prolonging the life of your water heater. But I recommend allowing a licensed plumber to do this for you. Feel free to contact me for a recommendation.

 

“My water heater is making weird noises.” If your water heater is starting to sound like a scary monster in your basement, a la Home Alone, you may rightly begin side-eyeing it. As water heats up the sediment on the bottom is hardened after a long time of heating and reheating. It’s this hard sediment layer expanding from reheating that makes a noise. This may mean leaks are soon to follow as the sediment leads to more brittle metal.  

 

“There’s no visible leak, but it’s damp around the water heater.” First, double check your fittings and connections. Are they damp or do they show signs of a possible leak? Make sure the pressure overflow pipe isn’t leaking as well. But if those are all dry, it means the water heater is leaking. The leak may be so small as to avoid obvious detection. As the metal heats and expands, it can create tiny holes in brittle metal that are only open when it’s expanded from heat. As it cools, the holes will close.  

 

“My water heater just looks old, when should I replace it?” Water heaters older than ten years should be watched closely (or you should start saving for the replacement, if your tank is in a place where it won’t cause any damage). You can determine the age of your water heater by looking at the serial number on the manufacturer’s sticker. The first letter indicates the month (A-Jan, B-Feb, C-Mar, D-April, E-May, F-June, H-July, I-August, J-September, K-October, L-November, M- December). The next two digits represent the year. If in doubt, check the manufacturer’s website.

 

Feel free to reach out if you have any other concerns with your water heater that weren’t mentioned above. I’d love to help!

 

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

7 Things To Do Before Listing Your House

 

As soon as you know you’re moving, it’s hard to look around your current home and want to do anything but future house search with a bag of chips. But paying attention to your current home can pay dividends when it comes to getting the price you want. These are seven suggestions for improving the value of your home.

 

1. Change the lighting—Each room should be well lit. A good rule of thumb is three points of light per room. For example: an overhead light, a table lamp and a task light. For inexpensive lighting options, try Target and Ikea.
2. Clear Clutter—If there’s only one thing you can do to improve the look of your home, it’s this. Now is the time to clear everything from your surfaces including books, clothes from packed closets, and everything personal from your bathroom.
3. Deep Clean—hire a company or do it yourself, but a deep clean of your home will go a long way for showing it at it’s best.
4. Speaking of the Bathroom—Replace any missing tiles, fix the caulk on the tub and sink, consider swapping out fixtures if they are dated and bringing an otherwise neutral bathroom down. Add new towels and a neutral shower curtain for finishing touches.
5. Address the Floors—No, not refinishing—but a simple clean and buff can do wonders for hardwood. If you have carpet, get them professionally steam cleaned.
6. Paint—Nothing beats the freshness of a fresh coat of soft white paint and it’s an easy way to make a house feel new.
7. Upgrade the Kitchen—Don’t worry, you can make kitchen upgrades without remolding. A fresh coat of paint, new hardware, and peel and stick wall tiles can all transform a space without costing a fortune in time or money. If you’re feeling more ambitious, there are options for resurfacing your countertops or upgrading your appliances.

 

Whatever you do, start with an honest talk with a real estate agent—who can help you focus your priorities for selling a home in your area.

 

Photo by Cody Hughes @clhughes21

Selling a City Home

 

The art of selling a quirky home, especially one in the city where real estate can be…extra quirky…is more than writing an adjective laden listing. After all, everyone knows cute means small. Instead, here are a few real solutions for common real estate quirks.

 

Low Ceilings—make sure your ceilings are white and the walls are light to draw the eye upward. The finish on molding should be matte and the same color as the ceiling. If you don’t have molding, add cove molding to elongate the wall. Floor to ceiling sheers over the windows also give a tall illusion. Low profile, minimalist furniture tops off a clean, bright look.

 

Windows that face another building (or no windows!)—if a window faces a brick or otherwise dark wall, one solution is to place a high-wattage daylight bulb behind the curtains, giving the illusion of sunlight. Another solution is the old standby of bright pops of color or white venation blinds to reflect light and obscure an unattractive view. Another option is a stained glass window or window film.

 

An awkward layout- the only solution is to rework the layout. This doesn’t mean you have to do the construction, by having your real estate agent show the potential buyers a vision of the space potential, you can sell an awkward floor plan.

 

A ground floor facing the street—The key to selling ground floor units is live plants in window boxes. The color and greenery add a garden feel to a city space. Combine with bottom up curtains that are sheer at the top and opaque at the floor, and you are covered inside and out.

 

Photo by Cody Hughes @clhughes21

Renting or Selling

Maybe it was the second glass of wine, but when you had to listen Rob Schmobb talk about how he converted his former home into an income property, it seemed like a tempting idea. Forgo the hassle and risk of selling your current home, use it as an income property and move on while improving your finances. What’s the downside? Well, there’s six things to think about first.

  1. Do you want to be a landlord? Being a landlord is different than being a homeowner. The expectations of a renter are going to be place more demands on your time and finances.
  2. Research the rental market—estimate how much rent you could get with the help of a broker and if it would cover the mortgage, taxes, and expenses.
  3. Ask an accountant about tax implications.
  4. Do you need a property manager? If you are moving out of town, you need to hire someone to take care of the property and tenants.
  5. Crunch the numbers– estimate your rental profit and compare it with cash you would get for selling your home.
  6. Do you really want to be a landlord? It’s a thing.

Using your current home as a rental property can be quite successful and rewarding. Check the numbers and see if it’s a situation that can work for you.

 

Photo by Cody Hughes @clhughes21