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Marbleizing your home interior, softly

Stripes, chevrons, polka dots, plaids and other common patterns aren’t the only shapes that may grace your home interior. Now marble has transcended its stony properties and made its way into a popular pattern that’s popping up on decor, fabrics and other accessories. It is no coincidence that marbleized designs have appeared on fall 2011 fashion runways, either.

If the idea of marbleized motif looks and sounds a bit 1970s (read: gaudy), think again. Today’s updated looks are colorful, classy and won’t leave your home looking like a hotel or an oversize Easter egg.

For example: Old World overlay with New World color seamlessly meet for a timeless look. A lamp like this can sit on an end table for years, without question.

A faux marble-framed mirror can make a foyer more grand, a lived-in room more formal.
These napkins will complement any solid-colored dishware at the dinner table. Plume them at the place settings for a dramatic effect.

If you’re not feeling bold yet, start out small and inexpensive, such as with a pencil cup and notepad holder. See if you get any compliments from your friends!
When done properly, adding marble touches to your home decor can impress lasting quality on the style and mood of a room.

Photo source: Elle Decor


New Ideas for Faux Paint in Homes

Can’t afford high end wood doors in your home? Need to do something interesting with your front door? I love these ideas for faux painting from Allison Cosmos:

1. A stria finish on a plain double panel door makes the door look far more high end. A high gloss black or hot color would have looked great as well!

Here is the same door in a dining room with fabulous wallcovering. Look how much better a wood finished door looks over a white!

Here is a close up of the finish. Gorgeous!

Here is another great pic of those doors in the living room. See what  a huge difference its makes?

2. I like interesting ceilings in dining rooms, so I like this darkened ceiling. It makes the room feel more intimate, and I’m sure this is some kind of pearlized copper leaf finish. It looks more finished.

3. This cute table for a hallway area gets a facelift. Before:


4. A sweet but dated bedside chest. Before:


Take stock of what you have around the house, and what could be improved with sophisticated painting techniques


Carpet Helps Prevent Allergy Problems

Tai Ping Carpet

Outdoor allergies have been affecting a lot of people this spring, but indoor allergies can be just as bad. Shaw Floors has done a really interesting article related to allergens and carpet. Although this may seem counter-intuitive, the article reports that:

“It has been demonstrated that carpet is quite efficient at keeping allergen and other small particles such as pollen out of the air. In fact, data from a Swedish government study indicates that when use of carpet declined, the number of people reporting allergy problems increased.”

Though at first you may be worried about having allergens trapped in your carpet, it’s actually going to stop allergens from affecting you. The allergens affect you when you breathe them in—when they’re airborne, which they’re not when they’re in the carpet. You can also get these allergens out of the carpet by vacuuming and cleaning. Check out the Shaw Floors article to learn more—it’s an interesting read.

Image via

The Wonderful World of Home Automation

The popularity of home automation has been spreading lately, as technology is becoming streamlined and more user-friendly. People are turning to technology for control over their home’s lighting, audio/video, home theaters, security and even energy management—and often, whole-home control systems that encompass all of these things.

Touchpanels are the part of a home automation solution that allows people to access their control systems; essentially, touchpanels are very similar to remotes. And now there are apps for your iPhone and iPad that let you use these devices as remotes as well. How cool is that?! With “snazzy controls” being named a top home automation trend, installers can import the graphics on a touchpanel into an interface on an iPad, according to Electronic House.

What do you think of the advancement of technology in the home? Do you have an automation system, or are you planning on installing one? Let us know!

Image via

Make a Record of Your Home’s Assets

Martha Stewart documents her antiques in an organized binder.

Given all the weather-related disasters that have occurred recently, we’re being constantly reminded that unexpected things can happen at any time, and we need to be prepared. Whether there’s a fire or theft—or simply for peace of mind—having a record of your home’s assets is a good idea, especially for insurance purposes.

Your house itself is considered a personal asset, and keeping track of the valuable items inside, including artwork, furniture and antiques, will help prepare you for an unexpected, unfortunate turn of events. On your list of assets, write down the items, detailed descriptions of them, their values and any ID numbers; you may also want to take pictures.

Store this record of your home’s assets somewhere safe; some suggest a firebox or a safety deposit box at the bank. If the list is a digital file, be sure to back it up. You never know when you’ll need it, but if you do, having this record will be a huge relief. And don’t keep the digital file at home. Also put in a safety deposit box.

For clients who are DIY with Mac who have numbers program on their mac, there is a preexisting template program for recording your goods. It’s certainly a tedious task but worth it !

Alternatively for the higher end clients there is a company called Asset Archives that will come in and do all the work for you. They are extremely professional and take record of everything there for the clients insurance purposes. Well worth it if you have over a million dollar home, and valuable artwork, furnishings, jewelry as well:

Image via

Pet-Friendly Fabrics

Believe it or not, you don’t have to compromise beautiful interior design to have a pet at home. ShelterPop did an expert Q&A with Mitchell Gold & Bob Williams about pet-friendly fabrics, and they had some great suggestions. After advising training your dog and keeping its paws clean, they went over a few different types of textiles great for pet owners’ interior design.

Firstly, synthetic microfibers like faux suede are especially durable and let you easily wipe up spills. If you’re searching for furniture fabric, a washable slipcover is one smart way to go. And distressed leather is another pet-friendly fabric since it already has a distressed look; plus, it can be cleaned with a damp cloth or by dusting.

Do you have a cat or dog and love great interior design? What kinds of fabrics do you use? If you want pet-friendly interior design for your Chicago-area home, contact CMR Interiors.

Photo: Mitchell Gold & Bob Williams via ShelterPop

Smarter Steps & Tips to Building Custom

At the current time, the market for builders shifted two years ago from from spec homes,  to the consumer with extra cash in hand, who doesn’t rely on mortgages alone for their  funds. Last month custom building was up 11% . While this is not a huge number, this new custom build client can often afford to outspend a typical buyer, and seeks to construct a custom home despite a plethora of less expensive real estate on the market.

By choosing a custom home, they are allowed more control over its design, and desirous that their house reflects their needs personal style,  not a builders or the previous owners.

For even the best intending clients with money make costly mistakes early on in the building process. The purpose of this article is to help people get the steps in order, and to weigh all considerations upfront. Which helps keep you laser focused when going through the process.

I recently sat down to speak to Jim Pesavento from Concord Builders and Rich Cannavino of Cannavino Construction, two builders in the Western Suburbs of Chicago that are still building frequently.  If you are considering building a custom home, Jim & Rich  recommend bearing the following tips in mind:

Step #1. Know Your Likes/Dislikes, AND Consider Your Budget, the School District, and Taxes
The more you have mapped out ahead of time, the better you will be long term in your investment.   Slow down. Consider all the pros and cons of an area BEFORE you begin building a house.  Make a point to consider the style of home you’re interested in, overall cost, space plan/layout, taxes, and the school district. You want a top school district.

Each style of home has its own advantages and disadvantages.  Knowing the existing styles will help you plan out what you’re looking for and help you in locating the appropriate lot size.
This will also help you plan out what building materials will be used in the construction and the approximate square footage of your house; all factors that go towards determining the cost of a home.  The present approximate cost for building ranges from about $100 per square foot for a standard strictly spec home, upwards to 175-250 per square foot for a more refined home.

If you already know the style of home you want, get pictures that you like of that style (check a plans magazine, a book, or the internet) and show them to a custom home builder.  They can usually help determine the costs associated with that style and its details. The area’s school district and taxes will also factor into the cost of constructing in an area, as well as the overall cost of living in an area.
Find out all this information BEFORE you begin construction, and you’ll be able to make the most out of your area and your house.

Step #2. Find a Lot That Meets Your Ideal Municipality and Building Codes
If you don’t do this, you can potentially spend thousands of dollars drawing up a plan with an architect that is acceptable for the architect’s area, but unacceptable for your lot’s municipality.
The lot’s municipality determines much of what you can build, how wide you can build on your lot, how much square footage, how high your roofline can be, and the use of the lot. It also has to do with strictness of various codes. You need to determine this before you get started on constructing a set of plans.

Custom home builders are usually very aware of lot’s particulars, as they require empty lots to construct homes.  Talk to a builder before buying any property. They can help determine the potential dangers of a property, such as if it’s on low ground and could suffer flood damage or have an environmental issue that you won’t find out about until after you buy it (if its in an area with a certain soil, you will need to treat for termites and have extra precautions not to have bad soil under the house, etc). Builders and engineers are good at spotting the pros and cons of each lot choice.

Most custom home builders have great reference lists for reasonably priced architects, as well as a list of realtor’s they’ve worked with and could recommend.

Step #3. Interview the Builder BEFORE Hiring an Architect

Builders have far more insight on value engineering a house than an architect does.  And while architects can design something on paper all day long, they don’t have the same understanding of the cost difference style types and different features (Ex. Cost different between an arched window and a square window).  This helps consumers determine cost and establish the appropriate budget for their custom home before you take steps to hire a designer, reducing any risk of revision down during construction, and ultimately saving them money.

Builders can also provide additional insight into potential plans and features, and offering advice on how to properly execute an idea (This feature will generate lots of noise, so make sure you insulate that room properly for temperature AND sound).  Architects are less likely to be aware of things like this. Fortunately, most builders can refer you to architects they recommend based off their prior working experience.

Step #4. Hire an Architect That Works on a Flat Fee by the phase, NOT by the Hour
Work with an architect who will tell you exactly what the scope will be for the cost, per phase, and what the fee will be for any revisions. Usually, an architect will give you an hourly fee for revisions, or will give you another flat fee for work on several different revisions. Be sure to get a set of plans that will be permit ready (see #2) for builders to work off of.
By getting a flat fee, consumers won’t have to worry about paying an architect hourly to create something they don’t want and can’t afford.  Talk to different builders first, and start constructing an architect referral list from there. Make sure these architects work by flat fees, so there are no out-of-control costs for a set of plans. Be bold and ask or tell them that this is how you prefer to work.

Step #5. Only Work with a Builder Who Can Quickly Provide a cost ballpark of upgrades
Work with a builder who can give you a ball park on everything and don’t work with a builder who does cost plus for small changes in the field! Work with a builder that will show you his profit upfront as a flat fee. As how much change orders will cost. Extra costs because you want something added or changed should not always require much effort from the builder or a extra 10-20% markup. That is what cost plus is.

Make sure to have an idea of the style and square footage you’d like, and provide the builder with a copy of the plans to bid off on.
Find a builder with experience: one that doesn’t constantly “get back to you” with answers to upgrade cost questions.  This means that either the builder has a lack of experience with various costs or that the  builder is going back to inquire with his subs and then adding onto the costs , totaling it so he can be accurate in his numbers. An experienced builder knows what the approximate costs are already if you want a steam shower or body spa plumbing vs regular shower plumbing. Especially if he has good relations and has worked with the same subs for years.

Cost Plus is what typically cost the client the ability to design their homes to their wishes later or decorate. You need to keep your building costs down. Not by being cheap on finishes and quality, but by having transparent costs while building. You will not achieve this if you work with builder who quotes you cheap prices upfront, only to nickel and dime you on every single change throughout the length of building the house. Nor will you be happy in the end with what you have ended up paying.

Step #6. Hire Local
Local builders, architects, and engineers tend to have tight networks and strong working relationships.  This helps the overall building process go smoothly.  In the event where problems do arise, having this relationship helps to expedite the resolution of any issues.

Also, hiring local help always has a trickle-down effect, helping to boost the local economy.

Step #7.  Interior Features are a MAJOR Cost Component to Building a House
There will always be labor costs in building, and materials/brands (interiors) that determine the costs. While builders’ budgets are pin-point accurate on installation, their interior budgets vary.  Get a second opinion and double check the builder’s “list” of allowances with your designer.

It’s important to note that in the current market, a consumer often pays for upgrades in plumbing fixtures, cabinetry, tile, and carpeting ,  out of pocket. Because the comparable’s in most neighborhoods will not appraise out as high as their house would with all the upgrades.  The house has to appraise out or anything over that appraisal will have to be paid in cash at closing. This is a major extra consideration in addition to typical building costs that consumers have to bear in mind when assembling their dream home. It’s normal for a higher end house to go to closing with 75-200+K  in cash . The sky is the limit and of course, depends on the clients and their likes and needs. And that expense doesn’t matter to people with money…..  they don’t fret over  neighborhood “comparables” if they know they will be living in the house for the next 15-20 years. They want to enjoy their home, and want a special experience of living in that house with the upgraded features that creative designers & quality builders can bring to the equation.

Thank you to both Jim and Rich for their tips!

What’s the Better Investment: Condo or Single Family Home?

Here in Illinois, with today’s real estate and housing market, making a decision between selecting a condo or a single family home isn’t easy and there are many obvious pitfalls.

The short answer that wins regarding whether to buy a condo or a single family home….my choice from here on out is the single family home. Without a doubt.

1. State of Illinois Has Out of Control Workers’ Compensation Costs
Illinois is one of the states most affected by workers’ comp. (6th worst according to, affecting condo owners, townhouse owners, community associations, and anywhere the contractors and subs are require to have high liability premiums as well as costly workers’ comp. in order to work on the premises. In simple terms, it costs a huge premium to hire expensive wage workers, which in this economy, tend to be the affiliated with the few companies that can afford to carry such insurance.

In a single family home, you should still hire qualified workers with enough insurance (depending on the overall value of your home) with workers’ comp. However, it won’t cost you the higher premium for a single family home than it costs for a condo, where many of the workers are insured to the max in order to work on the premises and costs are shared.

2. Assessments
This is something you simply don’t have in owning a home. You don’t have several workers like a door man, maintenance guy working full time, and so many laborers. Then on top of that, management fees to cover. And maintenance on everything under the sun.

These costs are shared based off the % of ownership of all the unit owners. For example, if your condo doesn’t have a deck but many others in your complex do, you may be assessed anyway because it may go considered as structural depending on its construction,  and those costs often are shared among all unit owners. I had a friend whose dry cleaning lady in her building was assessed 50K to pay for a deck when she didn’t have a deck. Not to mention that assessments only go up!  Consider that. Assessments, like property taxes, only go up. You have to really think about that when buying a condo.

In a single family home, if you are smart enough to hire a structural engineer to look very closely at all aspects of the house and you still find a good home, then what you see is what you get.  If you bought the house, then it’s yours, and there are no shared or subsidized costs or percentages of ownership.  These advantages tend to make single family home ownership a more cost conscious investment.

3. The More Systems to Maintain in the Building and Amenities
The more systems and amenities for upkeep there is in a condo, the higher the assessments and later, the special assessments will be. All areas of a condo building needs maintenance, even parking garages.

If something breaks in a condo (it doesn’t have to be yours), it’s going to cost you.  If something wears, it will cost you. Your costs are utilities , operating costs &  maintenance upkeep, and then the very expensive capital costs.  There is always work to do everyday of every week to the building and projects every month.

With single family homes there are only so many systems in a house,  and you don’t have to pay for other unit’s problems. So nice!

4. Warranty is Only as Good as the Maintenance on It
Condos often come with warranties which require additional maintenance.  For example, the builder leaves you with a decent roof….well you can’t just let it sit for 20 some years . You have to make sure that leaves and debris are clear of all the drains several times a year, the gutters if you are in a townhouse that has them, that you have heating cables for the winter for your flat roof, that you keep checking the flashing, recoat the silver coating when it starts to chip and flake and have a roofer up on the roof, once a year to walk it and make sure everything is wearing well.

So if you have hallway carpeting, you need to vacuum it weekly and then shampoo it at least one to two times yearly  to get 10-15 years out of it.

In other words, if your developer did his scope of work per the architects specifications,  and they have been confirmed to be correct specs by a structural engineer, then it up to you to make sure it continued to be maintained correctly from there on out.

5. Lawsuits Occur for Stupid Reasons in Condo Buildings
Condos have board members and management companies.  If the condo falls into a lawsuit, if they are sued, then it will end up costing the entire complex’s residents more assessment money. And there is nothing to stop a condo from being the subject of frivolous lawsuits. People not getting along, pet issues, parking issues, vendettas, a lawyer in the building who doesn’t like how the board is spending money……

Single family homes lack the board members and administrators and community drama which typically leads to these things.

6. Condo Unit Owners are Subject to Board Members Making Poor Decisions on Everyone’s Behalf
Condo board members don’t have to be qualified with an education in condo management to be on a condo board. Which I think is a problem that should be addressed when people are responsible for such large assets. There are often cases of money embezzlement from either a board member and surprisingly its happened with condo management as well.

As a unit owner, I don’t trust my management completely…I stay involved. And board members need to be armed with working knowledge in order to lead people in the building and to be able to sell budgets that need to be passed in order to properly maintain the building.

In a single family home, you decide how money should be spent in your home. There is no board for you to depend on or no management company to deal with. Your only drama will be from immediate neighbors .

7.  City population is Going Down, Not Up

The last census results came and and surprisingly show the city population level significantly down to 1920 levels.  Yes, its true.  It’s been all over the news, Chicago’s population is way down in the city.

People have choices now. They don’t have to live in the city to get sophisticated shopping and restaurants anymore.  Downtown Naperville is filled with gorgeous little shops and restaurants. Some downtowns are more charming than others, but smart entrepreneurs have opened shops and eateries focusing on those ex city dwellers who now have kids, and are craving a few hubs to hang out at. Where once there was a void, the voids have been filled.

But by far, the biggest motivator to real estate buyers for getting out of the city is the Chicago public school system. Parents want better schools for their kids and are willing to pay a premium to get them to the right areas where they feel their kids will be safer,  and will get a better education.

8. Chicago Condos are Plagued with Construction Issues
The city has often been blamed with many of the construction problems that plague city condos. But mainly, it’s the fault of the builder who ultimately is responsible to do the work to a certain standard.  For the most part, builders are either too cheap to hire structural engineers to check/verify all their plans, or the builder decides he wants to do things his way, and where the city is at fault is that they let the builder stray from a stamped , approved plan. Which usually means the builder gets to cut corners at the buyers expense later.

This has become a MAJOR problem  in the city. If see it as legal theft–why would it be anything less?

And its my final reason for encouraging buyers to stay away from condos units because they are so often ticking time bombs of assessments to come-that don’t make them affordable at all.

Photo courtesy of clarita.

Mini Cabins Providing Affordable Getaways

We recently ran across a copy of Cabin Life, which is a great magazine for those who love cabin living. In addition to sustainability, the small cabin is the new thing.

The mini cabin, which is less than 1,000 square feet and surrounded by an acre or two of land, is how many people are still fulfilling their getaway dreams without breaking their budgets these days. Here are a few examples:

A deck expands the space of The Turtle House in St. Paul, MN.

This is “the original weeHouse,” located in Pepin, WI.

And here is the Sherman Oaks weeHouse in Sherman Oaks, CA.

The magazine is full of inspirational stories of people who are building their dream getaway, so we suggest you check it out. And once you do, let us know what you think! Did you find it as inspirational as we did? Are you interested in a mini-cabinet getaway?

Photos via Alchemy Architects

6 Handy Design and Renovation Resources

Did you know April is National Decorating Month? For the occasion, we thought it’d be fun to offer some helpful design resources. Since we’ve done a number of posts that provide design guidance and solutions, we decided to look back at our blog and compile six of these in one convenient location—this very post!

  1. 5 Steps for a Great Interior Design Consultation
  2. Part 1: Building Custom Homes or Large Scale Renovations
  3. Part 2: Smart Planning for Custom Homes and Large Renovation Projects
  4. Chicago Townhouses: Renovation and Interior Design
  5. Popular Kitchen Renovation Trends
  6. How to Work with a Tiny Master Bath

Hopefully these will get you all set and ready to go with your design projects for National Decorating Month. What do you have planned for your interiors this April? Let us know! And if you need new construction selection expertise, design consultation, or turn key design for interiors, contact CMR Interiors.