Design Forecast: 4 Big Ideas for 2017

Posted: January 3, 2017 at 3:26 pm by: NewHomesGuide

A new year is upon us! As we leave 2016 behind and set our sights forward, we’ve compiled our list of the top residential design concepts that are ready to make an impact in the year ahead.

1. Clean & Modern

When it comes to home exteriors, this sentiment represents the preference of the overwhelming majority of prospective homebuyers. While one’s interpretation of “modern” seems to differ from person to person, this tends to suggest a couple key elements: clean lines and many (often large) openings. As general concepts, these are not exclusive to the contemporary style and can enhance the appearance and quality of any home.


Image Credit: W.C. Ralston Architects LLC

As a prime example, Modern Farmhouse is a prolific style that is inherently both traditional and progressive. With roots derived from humble rural vernacular of the American South, these are simple houses with subtle detailing. The monochrome color palette, minimal trim, corrugated metal roof, dark windows, and mitered siding all give them a refined edge while preserving the qualities of their forebearers.

Tricks of the Trade: Creating the Ideal Exterior Palette for Your Home

Posted: November 27, 2016 at 2:44 pm by: NewHomesGuide

As the dark and dreary days of winter begin to bear upon you, a feature on color is just the remedy you need. We’ve put together the following ideas and tips on everything you need to know when selecting the exterior materials and finishes for your home.

1. Site & Landscape

It’s important to consider factors that are beyond your immediate control – the land around your home typically falls into the category. When approaching or passing your home from the street, what effect do you want to convey? Is it more muted and nestled within the landscape (like the home below) or do you desire a stark contrast to the home’s surroundings? Color is a decisive factor for this consideration – adjusting the brightness and darkness of the hue will affect its visual impact among trees and other plantings.


Photo Credit: Hoachlander Davis Photography

If you live in an area that experiences a dynamic range of seasons, you’ll find that this decision is one that should be made with a variety of conditions in mind. The creamy almond color of the parged brick on the home below is well-suited to “pop” against lush green grass, vibrant oranges and red leaves in fall, and a stark white, snow-covered yard during winter. (more…)

How to Measure and Understand Your Home’s Square Footage

Posted: October 27, 2016 at 11:19 am by: NewHomesGuide

Square footage is an elusive unit of measure. Because it factors in multiple dimensions, it can be inherently difficult to visualize or estimate. In the world of real estate comps, lender appraisals, and construction costs, this figure is a commanding factor in assessing the value of your home. Because it commands so much influence and the actual methods of accurately computing it can vary, there is a lot of merit in having an intuitive ability to comprehend it.

Without training or familiarity though, this can be a frustrating endeavor to take on as a homeowner. Have you had an experience buying or selling your home when you have faced important decisions armed only with what feels like an over-simplified number and no context for how it was determined? Let us help you by breaking down the “what” and “how” in calculating square footage.

Let’s do the math.

The math behind determining square footage is relatively simple. Does the formula A = L x W ring a bell? To compute a room’s square footage, multiply the measurements from two opposing walls – the length and width of the room. You can acquire a fairly accurate overall total for your home by just adding the areas of individual rooms together.

Unfortunately, this is where the calculation tends to get obscured. Real estate agents, zoning municipalities, and contractors all use slightly different methods to determine square footage. Among these trades, there is a generally accepted standard, but no completely consistent or universal point from which the measurements are taken. In most cases though, the exterior footprint is the most reliable and widely applicable figure to use. This is potentially deceiving, however, because it includes the thickness of the house’s walls, which are not readily visible or experienced when inside the house’s living spaces.

Make it real.

The easiest way to conceptualize this abstract unit is to compare the square footages of more familiar things you use and inhabit on a regular basis. Here are some good examples to put it in terms that are more readily understandable:

Photo Credit: Hoachlander Davis Photography

Photo Credit: Hoachlander Davis Photography

King-sized Bed: 42 square feet. Most master bedrooms vary between 200 and 400 square feet OR a rough equivalent of 5-10 king beds.

Photo Credit: TruPlace Inc.

Photo Credit: TruPlace Inc.

Two-car Garage: One of the most consistent and regulated measurements in contemporary home building, 20’-0” x 20’-0” or 400 square feet is the standard protocol for this space.

Photo Credit: W.C. Ralston Architects LLC

Photo Credit: W.C. Ralston Architects LLC

Drop-ceiling tiles: Browsing listings on New Homes Guide from the office? Odds are that your building has at least a few spaces with prolific white acoustical ceiling tiles. These almost always come in the same 2’-0” x 2’-0” dimension. Add up the number of tiles in each direction and multiply them together to determine the square footage of your conference room for an easy comparison.

Image Credit: W.C. Ralston Architects LLC

Image Credit: W.C. Ralston Architects LLC

Three-fixture bathroom: This is one of the most conventional and efficient bathroom layouts around. Modern standards of code clearances and product dimensions put this room at an approximate minimum of 5’-0” x 8’-0” or 40 square feet. Would you have guessed that your bathroom is roughly the same size as your bed? This just demonstrates how abstract the raw number can feel.

Not all spaces are created equal.

In determining the overall square footage total of your home, there are a few exceptions and distinctions worth noting:

Photo Credit: TruPlace Inc.

Photo Credit: TruPlace Inc.

Finished vs. unfinished: Garages, Mechanical rooms, and Basements that are unconditioned (and/or generally unsuitable for year-round use) and not equipped with walls, floors, and ceilings similar to the rest of the house are excluded.

Photo Credit: JTC Photography

Photo Credit: JTC Photography

Above-grade vs. below-grade: Basements that are buried both wholly and partially (i.e. a walk-out basement) below ground are usually listed separately.

Photo Credit: Maxine Schnitzer Photography

Photo Credit: Maxine Schnitzer Photography

Double-height spaces: Foyers and Great Rooms with ceilings that extend multiple floor levels are only counted once.

Photo Credit: JTC Photography

Photo Credit: JTC Photography

Floor area: Bay windows and chimneys, which do not have space on the floor for you to “occupy” do not count towards square footage.

Photo Credit: Allen Kennedy Photography

Photo Credit: Allen Kennedy Photography

Stairs: Runs/treads and landings both count in square footage totals. They are measured as a part of the floor “from which they descend,” so are generally counted twice in a typical two-story home with a basement.

Do you have any tips or tricks you rely on to visualize square footage? Share them with us by leaving 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

The 9 Coolest Home Automation Products

Posted: October 21, 2016 at 7:57 am by: NewHomesGuide

Home automation products make your life easier, but they’re also just plain cool. You can control so many things in your home without moving more than a finger. There are endless products to choose from, some of which you never would have thought you needed.

The WeMo Insight Switch is a great place to start. It turns anything you want into a home automation product. Plug the WeMo Insight Switch into any gadget or appliance and download the app to control it from your phone. You can even see how much energy your devices are using and how much it costs you to run them.

WeMo Insight Switch (Dave Taylor via Flickr)

WeMo Insight Switch (Dave Taylor via Flickr)

L.U.C.Y. is your personal assistant, and she’s also a robot. L.U.C.Y. recognizes the faces of your family members and can learn to anticipate everyone’s preferences. You can ask her questions, set reminders and write notes. You can also use L.U.C.Y. to control all of your other home automation products.

Lutron’s Serena Remote Controlled Shades may be a bit of a novelty, but there is no denying that they make your life easier. Not only can you control your window shades from your phone, but you can set timers and even use voice control. This is especially helpful for windows that are hard to reach.

These Philips Hue Smart LED Lightbulbs are just lightbulbs, but they also happen to have features that allow you to change the colors of the lights, toggle the brightness and set alarms and timers, all from your phone.

The Kohler DTV+ Digital Shower Interface allows you to design your perfect shower. The waterproof touch screen is mounted inside your shower so you can customize water pressure, temperature, lighting and even music for up to six different people.

Check out the August Smart Lock for a durable and reliable way to lock your door. You can lock it from your phone, but you can also lock it manually if you want.

August Smart Lock (Scott Lewis via Flickr)

August Smart Lock (Scott Lewis via Flickr)

The Koubachi K001 Indoor Wi-Fi Plant Sensor makes sure your plants are never neglected. This device monitors water, temperature and soil. It will alert you when your plant needs attention and tell you what the problem is. It can even graph the plant’s data, so you can check up on its needs.

Think you know your pet? The Petnet SmartFeeder might know your dog or cat better than you do. It lets you set a feeding schedule for your pet and manage the portion sizes, so you can feed Fluffy remotely from your phone. It also allows you to have more pet food delivered right to your door.

The Toasteroid App-Controlled Toaster is exactly what it says it is. Not only can you use your phone to make perfect toast, but the Toasteroid lets you create your own designs and print them directly onto each slice of bread.

Give some of these products a try to see how much easier your life can be with just a few gadgets and a smartphone.

Don’t Miss These Four Builder Incentives This Fall

Posted: October 7, 2016 at 9:00 am by: NewHomesGuide

Discovery Square Condominiums by K. Hovnanian Homes in Oak Hill, VA The Westchester by CalAtlantic Homes at Rosedale in Aldie, VA The Redwood by Brookfield Residential at Oakview Village in Glen Burnie, MD The Portman by Winchester Homes at Landsdale in Monrovia, MD
Discovery Square Condominiums by K. Hovnanian Homes in Oak Hill, VA

For many people, fall is the best time of the year. The leaves are changing, the weather is getting cooler and more comfortable, pumpkins are back in style again and fall-themed home decor seems to be everywhere.

What you might not know is that this is also one of the best times of the year to buy a new home. As homebuilders prepare for the winter ahead, many of them are offering some of the deepest discounts and incentives on beautiful new homes right now. Best of all, many of the homes that are eligible for these savings are ready now or will be soon, meaning you could be in your dream home before the end of the year.

Here’s a look at the great incentives a few of the area’s premier homebuilders are offering right now (Terms and conditions may apply. Please contact a homebuilder representative for more information.):

Brookfield Residential — Pay $0 Down until November 15

Brookfield Residential is making it easy for you to get in your dream home by telling you to skip the down payment when you purchase your Move-In-Now home by November 15. That’s right, a $0 down payment gets you in a gorgeous new single family home or townhome at one of Brookfield’s fantastic communities across Maryland and Northern Virginia.

To learn more about this $0 down payment offer and the available Move-In-Now homes, visit the official Brookfield Residential website or speak with a sales manager today. Be sure to visit the builder profile on our website to learn more about this national homebuilder.

CalAtlantic Homes — $10,000 in Closing Costs until October 31

When you fall in love with your CalAtlantic dream home this fall, you’ll receive a special housewarming gift of up to $10,000 in closing cost credit when you use CalAtlantic Mortgage℠ for financing and CalAtlantic Title℠ as your closing agent/title insurer. This incredible offer applies to both Quick Move-in Homes and to-be-built homes purchased by October 31 in the DC metro area.

Ready to start your search? Learn more about this builder on our website or find your home on the CalAtlantic website today.

K. Hovnanian Homes® — ½ Off Options until October 31

Start thinking about options and upgrades because K. Hovnanian®  Homes invites you to “Imagine the Possibilities” with half off options (up to $50,000) for your new to-be-built home when you purchase by October 31. It’s never been more affordable to create something that has all of your must-have features.

Get all the details for this offer here and learn more about K. Hovnanian® Homes on our website now.

Winchester Homes — Save Thousands on Move-In-Ready Homes until November 15

“Home at First Sight” happens when you see that all your favorite upgrades and options are already built into the single family home or townhome that caught your eye. Winchester Homes is inviting you to fall in love, move in fast and save big when you experience “Home at First Sight” with a Move-In-Ready Home by November 15.

Visit the Winchester Homes website to find a home you’ll absolutely love or learn more about the homebuilder on our website now.


Business Casual: Working Comfortably and Productively from Home

Posted: September 23, 2016 at 9:11 am by: NewHomesGuide

The distinction between home and work is a line that is being blurred evermore. Technology has enabled us to “plug in” virtually anywhere. This has yielded far more flexibility in how and where we conduct business, giving rise to the recent popularity of home offices. The convenience and benefits are undeniable, with the saved cost and effort of commuting ranking at the top of the list.

There can certainly be some cons to this arrangement, though. Without the constraints of a typical office environment, like the surveillance of your boss or co-workers, your productivity is attributable to you and only you. In addition to the lack of oversight, the necessities of everyday life at home can become distractions: the full dishwasher that needs emptying, the dog who’s begging for play time, and the peculiar dust collecting below your less-used furniture can all become detrimental to your workflow.

This means it’s important to establish a space that’s functional and efficient, facilitating your ability to focus in a way that’s actually enjoyable. If the space you retreat to when it’s time to churn out your work is inviting and comfortable, you’ll be all the more inclined to spend time there, especially when you have to! Here are some considerations for designing a workstation, home office, or study nook that works for you:


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.

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.


DR Horton — The Brandywine


DR Horton — The Easton


K. Hovnanian — The Addison


K. Hovnanian — The Tara


Pulte Homes — Pulte Planning Center — The Kingswood


Pulte Homes — Pulte Planning Center — The Sherwood


Van Metre Homes — The Barrington


Van Metre Homes — The Townsend Collection


Winchester Homes — The Milburn


Winchester Homes — The Langley II



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.


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:


  • 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.

Image Credit: W.C. Ralston Architects LLC


  • 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.

Image Credit: W.C. Ralston Architects LLC


  • 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.


  • 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.

Image Credit: W.C. Ralston Architects LLC


  • 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.

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.

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

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 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 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

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