Kitchen Islands: Done 7 Ways

Posted: August 19, 2016 at 3:17 pm by: NewHomesGuide

Kitchens have become the heart of modern-day homes. The days of mysterious cooking enclaves hidden from view are long gone. In their place, an era of open, dynamic social hubs is being ushered in. Now, the kitchen is evolving into a communal center — the primary destination for gathering and entertaining. No other single component is more impactful to the function of this space than the kitchen island. Its purpose and role within your overall kitchen design should cater to both those doing the cooking as well as the array of guests that it will host simultaneously. We’ve profiled a collection of islands suitable for nearly any kitchen and sensibility — which one could you envision in your new home?

1. The Center Sink

Kitchen photo

Photo Credit: Pavot Photography Studios

In the typical collection of kitchen fixtures, the sink is the most frequently employed. It fills, soaks, rinses and drains at all phases of preparation, serving and cleanup. Therefore, of the places you’ll be stationary in the kitchen, this is where you’ll linger the longest. By orienting it front and center, and facing an adjacent space, you’ll be able to stay engaged while being productive.

2. The Table Extension

Kitchen photo

Photo Credit: Maxine Schnitzer Photography

This island is for homeowners seeking an informal dining space that is integral to the kitchen but separate from the flurry of activity associated with meal preparation. As opposed to the more conventional bar arrangement, this configuration allows you and your guests to face one another while eating together. The lower height of the extension is more suitable to standard-sized dining chairs and provides a subtle distinction from the prep surface.
(more…)

Back-to-School Stress? Your New Home Can Help.

Posted: August 5, 2016 at 10:35 am by: NewHomesGuide

The new school year is almost upon us, and that means it’s almost time to return to the routine of getting the kids up and out the door, then back home in time for homework, dinner and bedtime. Anyone who’s a parent knows that it’s not always easy.

What if your home could help keep your family’s life more organized, efficient and simple?

Many homebuilders are designing their homes to help make that happen. Here are a few design elements to look for in your new home to make getting back to school a breeze.

Study Centers

You want to ensure the kids are getting their homework done every night, right? But dinner has to get done, too. Study centers — spacious desk areas located in or just off the kitchen — are the perfect solution, letting you cook and keep an eye on the kids. They’re also an ideal spot to organize your mail or bills when you come home each day.

Mudrooms and Drop Zones

With all the backpacks, sports bags, gym bags, purses and briefcases that fill your home, wouldn’t it be helpful to have a system to keep track of it all?

Fortunately, many new homes feature expanded mudrooms or drop zones. You can hang backpacks and bags on hooks or stored in cubbies to keep them out of the way when everyone is home, helping you keep everything organized and getting you in and out the door faster.

Charging Stations

Raise your hand if it feels like your home is overrun by cords and cables.

In today’s world, getting through your day without using your phone, tablet or laptop is pretty much out of the question. That’s why charging stations are a popular addition to many new homes. Helping you keep your home organized, these rooms include plenty of outlets and enough room to charge your devices when you’re not using them.

Looking to find a new home in time for the new school year? See all of the Move-In-Now communities in the area from some of the top builders in the region in the latest issue of New Homes Guide or by searching our website today.

photo

DR Horton — The Brandywine

Photo

DR Horton — The Easton

Photo

K. Hovnanian — The Addison

Photo

K. Hovnanian — The Tara

Photo

Pulte Homes — Pulte Planning Center — The Kingswood

Photo

Pulte Homes — Pulte Planning Center — The Sherwood

Photo

Van Metre Homes — The Barrington

Photo

Van Metre Homes — The Townsend Collection

Photo

Winchester Homes — The Milburn

Photo

Winchester Homes — The Langley II

Save

Save

Lines on Lines: A “How-To” for Reading Floorplans

Posted: July 27, 2016 at 8:49 am by: NewHomesGuide

Within a typical set of building documents, the floorplan is the most concise, informative tool for conveying and understanding the design of a home. From this drawing, it’s possible to determine not only the size and scale of the spaces within the home but also the relationship and ability to move between them.

For this reason, the floorplan is the most prolific and conventional drawing used among the various professions within the building industry (architects, engineers, builders, real estate agents, appraisers, etc.). Each of these careers requires training in drawing and/or reading plans, but these are not common skills for most homeowners. There’s a great deal of information conveyed in these drawings and it can be challenging to comprehend what’s being communicated. When designing or purchasing a new home, you’ll most definitely use floorplans to develop or select a design — this can help you gain comfort and confidence in interpreting them.

floorplan

Image Credit: W.C. Ralston Architects LLC

How do floorplans relate to a house?

To conceptualize floorplans at a fundamental level, imagine taking a horizontal slice through the house. This type of drawing is a called an orthographic projection, meaning it’s two-dimensional and all elements appear at the same scale. This can be compared to a perspective drawing, which is three-dimensional and conveys things farther away as being smaller than things closer in view. What you see in a floorplan is essentially a flat, bird’s-eye view of the “slice” through the house.

What are the parts of the drawing?

The key elements portrayed in floorplans include walls, doors, windows, stairs, appliances, fixtures, cabinets and ceilings. In addition to shaping the way you interact with your home, the configuration of these components also suggests its style. Each prominent movement in architecture has a characteristic position of rooms, arrangement of windows and connectivity between spaces which may help you identify the best fit for your personal preferences. Here’s how these elements are represented in a floorplan drawing:

Walls

  • Often the most distinguishable part of the drawing — drawn with the darkest/thickest lines.
  • Represented as two parallel lines, spaced according to their depth/thickness in reality.
  • Exterior walls will typically appear bigger than interior walls because they’re built with larger pieces of wood or include masonry, like brick or stone.
  • Contain breaks for openings like windows and doors.
  • Sometimes are colored in (or hatched/pochéd) to further distinguish them from the other elements in the drawing or to indicate new vs. existing in renovations and additions.
floorplan

Image Credit: W.C. Ralston Architects LLC

Windows

  • Drawn as a break in the wall with at least three parallel lines to illustrate the separate parts of the window: sill, glazing, stool and jambs.
  • If the windows are operable, such as casement windows, they will be drawn with a dotted line showing the direction in which they open.
floorplan

Image Credit: W.C. Ralston Architects LLC

Doors

  • Illustrated with at least one line connected to the wall to designate the panel and an arc showing the swing/hinge direction.
  • This will allow you to determine which side of the door the handle/knob is on as well as the path of travel past the opening.
  • For sliding, pocket and barn doors, an arrow will typically be drawn adjacent to the door that indicates the direction it can open.

Stairs

  • Drawn as a series of parallel lines with an arrow/note indicating path of travel (up or down).
  • Lines are spaced according to the depth of each stair tread, which is regulated by code and designed in proportion with the height of each riser.
  • Typically detailed with both nosing and riser by showing solid (nosing) and dashed (riser) lines.
  • A diagonal “cut” line is used when stairs stack vertically in the plan to show both floors simultaneously.
floorplan

Image Credit: W.C. Ralston Architects LLC

Ceilings

  • Dotted lines illustrate a change in ceiling profile, shape or depth above.
  • This convention of using dotted lines is consistent for most elements “hidden” from view, either above or below the “cut” line of the plan. Upper cabinets are represented in a similar way.
floorplan

Image Credit: W.C. Ralston Architects LLC

Fixtures & Appliances

  • There is a common set of easily identifiable symbols used to represent basic fixtures and equipment. These typically include: bathtubs, toilets, sinks, showerheads, dishwashers, ovens, ranges/cooktops, and laundry appliances.
floorplan

Image Credit: W.C. Ralston Architects LLC

Now that you can read the drawing, you can interpret the design.

The best way to digest, critique and translate floorplans is to imagine yourself in the spaces. If given the opportunity, it’s a helpful exercise to walk through a home with its plans in hand. Chart your movement through the spaces by tracing your route in the drawings. Take moments to pause — look left, right, up, and down to identify each window, opening, adjacent room, and unique details based on your position in the house.

To determine how suitable it is to your habits and lifestyle, try mentally going through the sequence of a typical day as it relates to the design. Do you enter through the garage or front door? What are you typically carrying when you enter and where do you put those items after you go in? How long do you spend and how much space do you use when preparing meals? Where do you retreat to at the end of the day? How close and accessible is that space to the others in your home? Where do you go to get the best views of your lot? How often do you entertain and where do your family and friends congregate? When equipped with an ability to understand plans, these essential questions will help guide you towards the best home for you.

Guest blog courtesy of W.C. Ralston Architects, an architecture and planning firm that has built an enduring reputation for design excellence in homes, neighborhoods and communities across the Mid-Atlantic region. Learn more at www.wcralston.com.

Professional Tips for Selecting a Homebuilder

Posted: June 27, 2016 at 2:55 pm by: NewHomesGuide

Simply put, there are a myriad of different ways to build a home. The outcome of your new home will depend heavily on the professionals you hire to build it, with the appearance, function, financial impact and emotional experience associated with your home’s construction all heavily impacted by this choice. Knowing this, it’s critical that you and your builder and/or architect are compatible. What’s right for you? In making your selection, there are some basic questions you can begin with:

1. Do you know what you want?

2. How involved do you want to be?

These fundamental considerations can chart two distinct paths in the planning of your new home, which are encapsulated in the differences between working with a small, custom home builder and a high-volume, production builder. Both have their merits and are ideal for certain types of buyers, so here are some the typical characteristics you can use to determine the best fit for you:  

Production Builders

photo

Photo Credit: Maxine Schnitzer Photography

You’ve done your research. You’ve already established at least two or three of the following criteria for your new home: size, type (attached, detached, etc.), location, style or budget. You want to personalize your home by making selections from a range of curated options. Production builders cater to this sensibility by offering a fine-tuned, step-by-step process and a full-service, consolidated package of land and construction. The key benefits of working with a production builder are:

  • Choose a lot within pre-established or master-planned communities, often with exclusive amenities for recreation and leisure
  • Large-volume purchases of materials and frequency of construction equate to cost savings for the homebuyer
  • Flexible pricing options/product offerings for first-time, upgrade/move-up and luxury homebuyers (think: “good, better, best”)
  • Ability to easily customize elevation style, exterior materials and floorplan options without a significant impact on budget or schedule
  • Tested, hyper-efficient, interchangeable designs with mechanical and structural systems optimized to work together

Custom Builders

image

Image Credit: W.C. Ralston Architects LLC

You want a one-of-kind design tailored to the nuances of your individual lifestyle. You understand your priorities but prefer to consult an expert to inform how those can be materialized in your home. It’s important that you’re fully immersed in the design process and you’re comfortable making choices about every aspect of your home — from how it’s positioned on the lot to the finish level of your drywall. This requires an intimate and time-intensive collaboration with a team of individuals, often both a builder and architect or designer. You’ll have in-depth, emotional conversations about your living habits and forge a close personal relationship together. Some of the benefits of choosing a custom builder include:

  • Freedom to build your home on a lot you own or acquire
  • Nearly unlimited amount of potential within your budget and the constraints of your lot
  • Increased transparency and opportunity for negotiating during the building process

What Should You Ask?

Whether you choose to work with a nationally acclaimed homebuilder or assemble a boutique team of an architect and luxury builder, here are some general questions you can ask to determine if the fit is right for you:

  • Are you licensed and insured?
  • Can I tour or visit any examples of your work?
  • Can you provide references of recent clients?
  • What distinguishes your work from that of your peers?
  • Do you offer a warranty?
  • Do you have a financing plan?
  • Who will I be communicating with on your team?
  • What resources do you have to help me visualize my home?
  • Can you identify any conflicts or inconsistencies with my vision for my home?
  • How long will my home take to complete?
  • How, when and what parts of the design can I change prior to construction?
  • How and when will you determine the final price of my home?
  • Who will manage the construction of my home?
  • When will I have access to my home while it’s being built?

How Can You Determine Value?

Your home is a significant personal investment that requires considerable time, resources and energy to conceive. It’s critical that you start by determining what’s most important to you. Convey this to your builder or architect at the earliest possible stage to ensure that your priorities are aligned. This is the best way to guarantee your new home will match your ideal vision.

Guest blog courtesy of W.C. Ralston Architects, an architecture and planning firm that has built an enduring reputation for design excellence in homes, neighborhoods and communities across the Mid-Atlantic region. Learn more at www.wcralston.com.

What’s My Style? 5 Trademark Examples of American Homes

Posted: May 20, 2016 at 12:00 am by: NewHomesGuide

Do you know what you like, but have trouble finding the language to describe it? Have you found it difficult to communicate your desires to your builder or architect? You’re not alone – answering the question of personal style is often not a simple one, but it is critical in bringing your vision to life. Your home is an extension of your own personal character – it reflects not only your aesthetic preferences, but your lifestyle choices as well.

Architecture jargon is notoriously exclusive, but it doesn’t have to be. To help orient you, we’ve put together this short compilation of traditional American home styles. These styles have stood the test of time and are prevalent among local communities. Identifying the common characteristics of each style can arm you with a vocabulary and insight when seeking out the perfect look and feel for your next home.

Federal

Photo Credit: David Madison Photography

  • Associated Names: Colonial, Georgian, Adam
  • Where It Started: Eastern United States; predominately New England and Savannah, Georgia
  • Why You’re Drawn to It: You’re proudly patriotic and have a strong affinity for small-town America. You embrace tradition and yearn for the comfort of familiarity. Old Town Alexandria and Georgetown are your regional callings.

Photo Credit: W.C. Ralston Architects

  • What Defines the Style:
    • Symmetrical Façade – often a “5 over 5” with a stacked central door/window and two windows flanking on either side.
    • Pronounced Entrance – Federal homes embellish the main arrival point with a gable, portico, sidelights, or pediment surrounding the front door. These details are classically derived from elements of Greek and Roman architecture.
    • Monochromatic Palette – white lap siding or bricks dominate the exterior materials of the style.
    • Double-Hung Windows – six panes per sash and adorned with dark shutters.
    • Elaborate Cornice – bulky, ornate trim where the roof meets the walls of the house. You’ll find that many homes have a swooping crown with small “teeth-like” blocks called dentils and a small roof overhang.

Farmhouse

Photo Credit: Maxine Schnitzer Photography

  • Associated Names: Lowcountry, Americana, Folk Vernacular
  • Where It Started: Rural United States; many regional variations that reflect local building traditions
  • Why You’re Drawn to It: You’ve got strong local roots and humble, idyllic aspirations. “Handcrafted” describes much of your aesthetic tastes and you possess a “do-it-yourself” attitude.

Image Credit: W.C. Ralston Architects

  • What Defines the Style:
    • Simple Massing with Prominent Gables – a rectangular footprint is common, usually with no more than one or two minor wings added to the sides or rear. A large gable on the front or sides will often be the most ornate element on the exterior.
    • Wrap-Around Porch – large, covered porches are essential. A shady spot to relax and welcome guests embodies the Farmhouse lifestyle. Simple shed roofs with exposed rafter tails and standing-seam metal are subtle, authentic features.
    • Minimalist Detailing – predominately clad in one exterior material (lap and board-and-batten siding being the most common) with simple trim, molding, and casings at openings.
    • Evolving Character – more than any style on this list, Farmhouses have seen the greatest variation over time. While the trademark elements of simplicity and craftsmanship prevail, modern materials have influenced this style dramatically – lending to combinations of rustic and Contemporary interpretations.

Craftsman

Photo Credit: Thomas H. Field Photography

  • Associated names: Arts & Crafts, Shingle, Bungalow
  • Where it Started: Western United States; influenced by both Asian and English architecture, but born specifically out of California
  • Why You’re Drawn to It: You’re whimsical, eccentric, and live by your own rules. You embody the American spirit of innovation and your personal style is best described as “eclectic.”

Image Credit: W.C. Ralston Architects

  • What Defines the Style:
    • Low Pitched, Gabled Roofs – the most prominent feature of Craftsman homes – usually simple in massing with only one gable stretching across the entire width or depth of the house.
    • Open Eaves with Exposed Structure – wide, sloped soffits are often left unenclosed, exposing the roof rafters.
    • Lavish Woodwork – brackets, stickwork, and beams are added both as decorative elements and are emphasized by enlarging or exposing.
    • Tapered Columns with Masonry Piers – short columns are sandwiched between a heavy porch roof and a solid brick or stone foundation. The more elaborate instances have battered (sloping) sides that rest directly on the ground, uninterrupted by the porch floor.
    • Assorted Materials – various types of siding, shakes, and stucco are all common. It is typical for Craftsman houses to harmoniously use multiple materials on the exterior façades.

Chateau(esque)

Image Credit: W.C. Ralston Architects

  • Associated Names: French Eclectic, Provincial, Estate
  • Where It Started: origins in the French countryside; emerged in affluent suburbs around major cities in the eastern United States
  • Why You’re Drawn to It: You have a formal sensibility, but are wowed by fantastical and storybook themes. You are luxurious and an avid supporter of the classics

Image Credit: W.C. Ralston Architects

  • What Defines the Style:
    • Steeply Pitched, Swooping Hip Roof – massive presence on the exterior, usually adorned with slate tiles and snowbirds. A flared roof edge and arched dormers are also common.
    • Strong Indoor-Outdoor Connection – full length casement windows and French doors are prolific, offering grand entrances and views to the exterior on all sides of the home.
    • Asymmetrical Massing – balanced by multiple primary and secondary volumes, vertical elements such as tall chimneys, and horizontal bands along the larger facades.
    • Elegant Masonry – brick, limestone, granite, and stucco are the characteristic exterior materials for this style. Quoins, porticos, and balustrades accentuate entrances.

Prairie

Photo Credit: Maxine Schnitzer Photography

  • Associated Names: Wrightian, Ranch, Foursquare
  • Where It Started: Chicago; derived from Asian building traditions and the flatness of the American plains
  • Why You’re Drawn to It: You appreciate both the avant-garde and hand-hewn. You’re well-traveled and may have family roots in the Midwest, growing up amid the original forerunners of this style.

Image Credit: W.C. Ralston Architects

  • What Defines the Style:
    • Broad Overhanging Hipped Roofs – pyramid in shape with large eaves shading the upper floor windows
    • Solid, Heavy Base – typically built of stone, this weighs the house down and connects it to the earth. Battered (sloped) walls give prominence to the base.
    • Strong Horizontal Lines – thin bricks, low roofs, and floating balconies emphasize the linear character of the style.
    • Window Banks – multiple windows ganged together are prominent exterior elements. They typically are casement and can wrap the corner or be filled with decorative art glass.
    • Glorified Planters – greenery is incorporated as an extension of the architecture. Planter boxes, trellises, and pedestal urns all celebrate nature and give a home for plants to grow within (and on) your home.

Guest blog courtesy of W.C. Ralston Architects, an architecture and planning firm that has built an enduring reputation for design excellence in homes, neighborhoods and communities across the Mid-Atlantic region. Learn more at www.wcralston.com.

9 Ways to Bring the Outside In

Posted: April 22, 2016 at 8:52 am by: NewHomesGuide

As we re-emerge from the dark days of winter, our yearning for the sun is at its peak. There’s something about it that’s innate to our human sensibilities — we crave a connection to nature and thrive in spaces filled with light.

A strong relationship between indoor and outdoor spaces is a fundamental design concept that can be incorporated into homes of any size, style, and location. Whether you’re seeking greater flexibility for your entertaining capabilities, trying to expand the boundaries of a small footprint or salvaging an otherwise neglected corner — bridging the gap between the inside and outside will enhance the quality of your home (and probably make you really happy, too). Here are some suggestions for how to make it happen:

1. Make it reflective.

Reflective Bath_Home Jab

Photo Credit: Home Jab

Mirrors, light-colored ceilings and surfaces with sheen help draw light into a space. Even if the size and availability of openings is limited, a strategically placed reflection can make it appear as though there are more windows in the space and emphasize the views outside.

Master Bath with Designer Soaking Tub

Photo Credit: Thomas H. Field Photography

2. Free the corner!

Corner Windows_Maxine Schnitzer Photography

Photo Credit: Maxine Schnitzer Photography

Eliminate a traditional visual barrier and create an immersive experience by surrounding yourself in the view outside. This will make any room feel as though it’s grown immensely.

3. Operable openings are “FUN-ctional.”

Sliding Doors_Maxine Schnitzer Photography

Photo Credit: Maxine Schnitzer Photography

While views are nice, ventilation and circulation are necessary to a functional home. Operable openings provide an essential means to move and get air through your home. They can also be pleasant opportunities to enhance your hosting skills. Parties can expand beyond the limits of available indoor space and spill outside with just the push of a sliding glass door.

4. Maintain materials for smooth transitions.

Using consistent materials and patterns between indoor and outdoor spaces creates a seamless flow across them. Even if you can’t employ a resilient material like slate tile, which looks good and operates well in both domains, matching the orientation of hardwood and decking planks will strengthen the connection across the threshold.

5. Taller is better.

Limiting the vertical space above and below an opening will focus your vision more towards the view outside and less on the interior frame surrounding it. Add a transom, lower the sill height or just use a door in lieu of window to maintain a visual sightline to the ground outside from across the room.

6. When you can’t see, dig.

Study with Five-pane French Doors (lower level)

Photo Credit: Thomas H. Field Photography

Grade often makes it infeasible to look at or walk outside, so excavate the site to allow for a place where light can filter in and create a focal point of your own. This is definitely a case where even a little can go a long way! Your window wells can do double-duty if they open to a space connected to other interior rooms — these glass doors allow natural light to stretch into the center of a basement buried underground.

7. Give the best views to the spaces that warrant them.

Picture Window_Hoachlander Davis Photography

Photo Credit: Hoachlander Davis Photography

Frame openings around the views you enjoy most on your lot. Look to incorporate additional windows where you tend to linger for an extended period of time — like your desk, bathtub or sink, perhaps?

8. Plant a scene.

Planter Boxes_Thomas H. Field Photography

Photo Credit: Thomas H. Field Photography

Plants can provide a living, dynamic focal point. While growing them inside isn’t always feasible, it’s possible to minimize the interior/exterior separation by planting immediately adjacent to openings. Even upper-story windows can feel more connected to the earth with planter boxes nestled below the sills.

9. Be smart with solar orientation.

Use the sun’s path to your advantage. Connected living spaces along the southern side of your home will maximize the consistency and intensity of light throughout each day and across the year as a whole.

How important is the indoor/outdoor connection in your home? Share some creative ways you’ve brought the outside in by leaving us a comment below.

Guest blog courtesy of W.C. Ralston Architects, an architecture and planning firm that has built an enduring reputation for design excellence in homes, neighborhoods and communities across the Mid-Atlantic region. Learn more at www.wcralston.com.

Four Decades and This Handy Guide is Still as Valuable as Ever

Posted: April 15, 2016 at 9:00 am by: NewHomesGuide

image24

Technology has changed over the last four decades. And with the growth of so many online resources, so has home shopping.

But what hasn’t changed, according to a report from the National Association of Realtors, is the amount of time people spend looking for a new home. The study found that, even though homebuyers have access to more outlets of information, they still spend an average of 10 to 12 weeks looking for a new home and visit 10 to 12 homes in the process.

With homebuyers experiencing three months of home shopping and close to a dozen home tours, shouldn’t they have a comprehensive, time-tested resource by their side every step of the way?

That’s why New Homes Guide was conceived more than 40 years ago. We wanted to give homebuyers a powerful, portable tool that remains relevant through their entire home search. Whether homebuyers used one of our free print editions or accessed our online tools from their phone or computer, we wanted to ensure New Homes Guide would have the longest shelf life and provide the most reliable information to the region’s homeshoppers.

So whether you’re in the third month of your new home search or you’re just getting started, start with the Mid-Atlantic region’s only complete guide to every new home community in the area. Order your FREE copy of New Homes Guide today!

The Planned Community Lifestyle

Posted: April 13, 2016 at 10:46 am by: NewHomesGuide

iStock_000007555636_Full iStock_000021615010_Large iStock_000046088188_Full iStock_000038647182_XXXLarge iStock_000016888108_XXXLarge iStock_000033209554_XXXLarge

 

Resort-style amenities and an all-inclusive lifestyle differentiate planned communities from other new home communities. Our area features a wide variety of these types of communities, each with its own personality and amenities to appeal to all types of homebuyers. Here’s a look at what kind of planned communities you can expect to find as you begin your search:

    • Urban-Style Communities
      Being able to walk to a downtown area with shops, restaurants, entertainment venues and even pocket parks is a big reason why a growing number of people are choosing communities that feature a town center. These communities provide the feeling of living in a city while offering the benefits of a suburban location.
    • Transit-Oriented Development
      Some planned communities focus on providing residents with access to Metro or other mass transit stations. On top of an impressive number of traditional amenities, these communities provide easier commutes for residents.
    • Farm-to-Table Communities
      Natural environments and healthy outdoor lifestyles come together in these communities, which feature extensive outdoor space, farmer’s markets and even community gardens or farms.
    • Waterfront Communities
      Residents living in planned communities that are centered on lakes, rivers or protected streams enjoy an increased number of amenities that other planned communities may not be able to offer. In addition to water views, canoeing, kayaking and fishing are just a few of the activities available to homeowners in these communities.
    • Equestrian Communities
      Easy access to riding facilities, stables and trails, along with other recreational amenities, make these communities ideal for those who have a passion for horses.
    • Golf Course Communities
      Golfers and nongolfers alike can enjoy the benefits of living in a home that’s close to a golf course because these communities make it easy to pursue a favorite sport or simply to enjoy the beautiful views.
    • Active Adult Communities
      For home shoppers looking to simplify their lives and make it less about maintaining a home and more about experiencing a new lifestyle, an age-restricted or multi-age active adult community provides the home designs and recreation-rich amenities that make that possible.
    • “Everything” Communities
      There are plenty of planned communities that have both open spaces and a town center, providing residents with a wide variety of sport and recreational opportunities, as well as the convenience of neighborhood schools, entertainment, shopping, offices and more.

If you’re looking to make your new home in a planned community, the D.C. region is home to more than 35 of these communities. You can find all of their profiles in the pages of our latest planned community supplement, part of your free New Homes Guide subscription. Make your search even easier by reserving your FREE copy today!

The First Step: Notes For a Textbook Front Porch

Posted: March 18, 2016 at 9:22 am by: NewHomesGuide

Spring is in the air! What better way to welcome the arrival of warm weather and longer days than to celebrate one of residential architecture’s most iconic outdoor elements? The front porch is more than a practical building component — it’s a cultural institution.

In many regions across the country and numerous architectural styles, it is a trademark piece of classical home design. The pace and use of technology in modern life have gradually reduced the prevalence of porches, but we keep building them for more than just nostalgia. The porch is a retreat from the elements, a relaxing vantage point for taking in surrounding scenery, and the perfect venue to welcome guests and entertain neighbors.

Here are some incentives and considerations for your front porch…

Tradition

The porch serves as the threshold between public and private — an arrival and transition point for your home. In this country, its lineage can be traced back to Southern architecture of the eighteenth century, with the most notable examples appearing in the Low Country and French Colonial styles of Charleston and Savannah. Here in the Mid-Atlantic, front porches that can accommodate indoor/outdoor living and capitalize on coastal breezes are characteristic of the Tidewater homes traditional to the region. As an integral part of the home’s exterior and entrance, it should be inviting to those visitors or passersby. A well-appointed brick or stone walkway, wide staircase and colonnade do well to greet your guests.

Photo

Scale

At their most fundamental core, porches serve a vital function of providing cover. The height and depth of the space will have a large impact on the amount of shade generated during the sunniest days. Generally, a ceiling height of 8 to 9 feet and a roof overhang of at least 1 foot is most suitable.

Photo

A porch is really a room of its own. It can be designed as a seamless extension of the interior or a distinct destination to relax and linger. While it should be proportional to the house as a whole, here are some good general guidelines for dimensions:

  • DEPTH — 5 feet at minimum; ideally 8 feet (from house to column)
    • Furniture will greatly impact the function of the space: Use individual chairs or a narrow bench for smaller spaces and save couches and tables for porches of a broader depth, like 10 to 12 feet. Preserve at least 3 feet for circulation and separate furniture from the path to the front door.
  • COLUMNS — Typically between 10- to 12-inches wide (both round and square)
    • Most stone or brick piers range between 18 and 24 inches but should relate to the style of the house (for example, Craftsman homes have much larger piers than Farmhouse) and not impede on the overall depth.
    • Two-story porches should have columns that are larger on the lower level than the upper level to preserve historically accurate proportions
  • ELEVATION — 8 inches minimum above grade (one step); ideally between 2 and 3 feet
    • This raised portion will provide a “perch” to look over the front yard and street — perfect for keeping an eye on young children and engaging with the neighbors as they pass by
    • Note that most building codes require a railing when the porch is more than 3 feet above grade
Photo

Materials

Porch details can vary substantially depending on the style, location, and scale of the home. Materials should be cohesive with the overall exterior and respond well the site. Consider the function of the space, too — brick, stone and concrete are much more resilient and easier to clean than wood. If the porch will see a lot of traffic and wear is a concern, it might make sense to err toward a masonry floor.

Photo

Ceilings should provide some accent to emphasize the entrance and visual appeal while relaxing (e.g., lounging on a swing or hammock). Since they are heavier, brick columns or piers will accentuate the feeling of enclosure, while Victorian wood spindles will give the porch a lighter appearance.

Photo

Do you have a porch you love or one you envy? If so, share it with us! Post a picture in the comments below with some notes about the features that appeal to you.

Guest blog courtesy of W.C. Ralston Architects, an architecture and planning firm that has built an enduring reputation for design excellence in homes, neighborhoods and communities across the Mid-Atlantic region. Learn more at www.wcralston.com.

Building Smart: A Guide to the Right-Sized Home

Posted: January 22, 2016 at 10:00 am by: NewHomesGuide

Building your new home is a significant investment. The financial cost, time commitment and environmental impact resonate with everyone. From young Millennials drawing upon their nest egg for the first time, to Boomers looking to retire in their idyllic abode, the decisions surrounding the scale of your home’s design warrant both practical and emotional considerations.

The average home size in the United States has nearly doubled in the last 60 years. Because of this, “big and bland” has become commonplace, and the end result is a largely generic home market that reflects very little of the lifestyle of today’s homebuyer.

This poses an essential question for those building a new home: “What’s right for me?”

While the answers to are (and should be) personal, there are some general principles you can use in the design process to ensure your home meets your needs and suits your sensibility.

Know Yourself.
“The best way to begin a new project is for you — the owner — to reflect on what you bring to it: knowledge, needs, desires, aspirations and personal opinions. You provide the resources to realize your expectations.” — David Haviland, American Institute of Architects

The first step to envisioning your right-sized home is a thoughtful look at what defines you. By asking yourself the following questions, you can begin shaping the spaces of your new home all on your own:

  • What is a typical day like in your current home?
  • Where do you feel the most comfortable?
  • When do you find that your needs exceed the capacity of your home? (e.g. holidays, dinner parties, sleepovers, etc.)
  • What is the one space, element or feature you cannot live without?

You should never be inhibited by the size of your home. Your physical characteristics are as important, if not more, to your design considerations. Your stature and mobility should be reflected in both the scale and layout. Consider consolidating the main rooms (owner’s suite, living room, laundry, etc.) on one floor — this is one element in ranch and cottage styles that are popular among older homebuyers. Ceiling heights should vary between rooms based on their use (think: cabinet access).

Stair runs and landings can be configured to provide a comfortable place to rest between floors. Photo Credit: Allen Kennedy Photography

Stair runs and landings can be configured to provide a comfortable place to rest between floors. Photo Credit: Allen Kennedy Photography

If You Don’t Use It, Lose It.
A quick way to hone in on the right size for your home is to eliminate spaces and design elements that are under-utilized and excessive. Is a two-story foyer, jacuzzi tub or formal living room really essential to your lifestyle? The ultimate goal should be to have no spaces that are unused, unwanted or unconsidered.

Combine. Integrate. Diversify.
No matter which word you use to describe it, finding multiple uses for everything in your home is a way to maximize functionality and character. Movable partitions, like sliding barn and pocket doors, can unify or compartmentalize spaces.

Hall Seating_Allen Kennedy Photography

Hallways are notoriously boring. Why not integrate bookshelves or bank seating to make that walk from your kitchen to your bedroom something you actually embrace? Photo Credit: Allen Kennedy Photography

Combine the functions of your office, laundry, mud room and craft room into a single space for the perfect creative and operational hub. Photo Credit: Mike Miriello Photography

Combine the functions of your office, laundry, mud room and craft room into a single space for the perfect creative and operational hub. Photo Credit: Mike Miriello Photography

Family Room Built-ins_Allen Kennedy Photography

There are also wonderful opportunities within the structure of your home to accommodate storage. Bench seating, stairs and built-ins can claim typically overlooked spaces to hold your daily essentials in a beautiful way. Photo Credit: Allen Kennedy Photography

“Right” Doesn’t Have to Mean “Small.”
While many of the design strategies for right-size living suggest consolidating, there are plenty of incentives that come from “going big” with certain elements in your home.

Sliding Doors_Maxine Schnitzer Photography

Large openings can bring the outside in, making these spaces dynamic with framed views, abundant light and natural ventilation. Photo Credit: Maxine Schnitzer Photography

For today’s homeowners, kitchens are often the epicenter of family life and social gatherings. A kitchen island that can accommodate seating, storage and meal preparation is going to be large! Photo Credit: Maxine Schnitzer Photography

For today’s homeowners, kitchens are often the epicenter of family life and social gatherings. A kitchen island that can accommodate seating, storage and meal preparation is going to be large! Photo Credit: Maxine Schnitzer Photography

Choose Wisely.
You know what you want, but designing a home often requires decisions you may not have considered. It is important that you find the right fit with your architect and builder — a team that will help guide you through the process and take care of you along the way. This will help you make sure your next home is one that you will not want to leave!

 

Guest blog courtesy of W.C. Ralston Architects, an architecture and planning firm that has built an enduring reputation for design excellence in homes, neighborhoods, and communities across the Mid-Atlantic region. Learn more at www.wcralston.com.

Older Posts »