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.

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…


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.



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.


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


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.


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.


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.

Something for Everyone: A Survey of Generational Design Trends for 2016

Posted: February 26, 2016 at 11:00 am by: NewHomesGuide

This year is poised to be a big one for building and real estate! All signs point to the largest annual increase in new home construction since 2006, with a particularly unique population of buyers changing the face (literally) of the national housing market.

Three generations will have the largest impact on sales this year, each with a distinctive set of design priorities and preferences: Millennials (ages 25-34), Gen X’ers (ages 35-44) and Boomers (ages 65-74).


Millennials will comprise the largest percentage of the active segments in the homebuying market at 32%. As a generation hindered by student loan debt and bleak professional prospects, your decision to buy is likely fueled by an emotional consideration — a measure of personal independence and stability — it’s yours! You are well-versed in social media, employing resources like Houzz and Pinterest to form a definitive expectation for your home. Leading the design trends among this demographic are:


Photo Credit: David Madison Photography

  • Smaller, efficient homes: “Performance over scale” can be applied generally to many aspects of new Millennial home designs. You spend most of your time outside your home, so your priority is having a space to comfortably retreat back to, after a long day in the office and around town.
  • Multi-functional interiors: With less space, the emphasis needs to be on flexibility. You want casual living spaces that can do dual-duty for entertainment and relaxation. Open floor plans with connections between rooms will cater to this lifestyle.
  • Home-automation technology: Your phone is fundamental to your lifestyle and as such, your living space should operate on a seamless digital connection. Technology can facilitate a more responsive and energy-efficient home.
  • Low-maintenance living: Between your commute and recreational activities, you likely make use of shared amenities and have external interests that keep you out/away from your home. When you are there, you seek out personal space that doesn’t require dedicating your energy to constant upkeep. A small outdoor patio/balcony can be an ideal sanctuary.

Generation X

Generation X poses a special opportunity for designers. 45% of you have previously owned another home, so you are both informed and motivated. Your family’s needs are at the top of your list and as you are facing what will be the most important investment of your future, the last thing you want is to settle. You have an established lifestyle with idiosyncrasies that shape the way you use your home.   

  • Custom options: As an experienced home-owner, you know what you want. Between your family and career, you are likely busy as well and want a streamlined buying experience. A builder that can offer you a menu of choices that can accommodate your specific needs and desires is the way to go!
  • Potential for expansion: You are in your prime earning years and have recovered from the economic downturn. Now might be the perfect time for your family to grow. A larger home with extra bedroom(s) will allow you to welcome the new addition to your family now and a space for yourself (an office, sitting room or craft room) when the kids leave the nest.

Photo Credit: Allen Kennedy Photography

  • Outdoor living space: As your next home is probably your second or third, you are seeking an investment and upgrade. Cultivate a special outdoor space where your family can come together and indulge in each other’s company…perhaps with outdoor dining and entertaining space, a screened porch or a fire pit?
  • Multi-generational home: Whether it’s your parents or young-adult children, you may be facing the potential of sharing your home with another segment of your family. A first-floor guest suite and bonus loft space are easy to integrate into almost any design and will ensure you all maintain the privacy and comfort you deserve.


The current generation of retirees is more active and connected than any that preceded you. Today’s Boomers are working longer and doing more as they make the transition into retirement. In determining your design needs, your fluctuation in lifestyle will dictate the size and types of spaces in your home.

  • Age-in-place: Your home should allow you to remain comfortable as you get older. Stairs (height and depth of treads, straight runs versus turns), width of hallways and doors, and access to appliances, are all functional considerations that make moving furniture easier now and wheelchair accessibility possible in the future.

Photo Credit: David Madison Photography

  • Single-level living: A consolidated but open floor plan makes for flexibility and easy movement. Your needs and desires will likely change as you age, so giving yourself space to reconfigure is key. For instance, two master-bedroom suites are a growing trend in two-story homes, so single-level living is an option in the future.
  • Dynamic lighting: Larger windows, more light fixtures (in places like cabinets, stairs and hallways) and convenient switch locations all accommodate your increased need for lighting.
  • Home offices: Your career is life-defining — for your generation, it extends beyond your income source. Even after you technically retire, you may choose to retain some professional activity as a hobby or an opportunity to socialize with your community. A home office, located close to the front door will give you flexibility and privacy as you welcome others into your home.

While each generation distinguishes itself with a set of unique design principles, they also share a set of common trends. For the upcoming year, walkable communities with a connection to public transportation and close proximity to amenities will remain a priority for each group. Increasingly, more buyers are choosing contemporary exteriors with low maintenance materials and an emphasis on details. Above all, the character of their communities is the biggest draw for homeowners, including Millennials, Gen X’ers and Boomers, seeking the right balance between accessible resources and personal space.

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.

Get a Fantastic New Home Without the Wait. Don’t Miss Our Move-In-Now Supplement.

Posted: January 15, 2016 at 10:59 am by: NewHomesGuide

15Jan_BlogAre you looking for a brand new home, but you’re not looking forward to waiting through months of construction? Choosing a Move-In-Now Home means that you can get a thoughtfully upgraded, perfectly located new home in a fraction of the time it would take to build from the ground up.

Our new Move-In-Now supplement is available as part of your free New Homes Guide subscription and will help you find hundreds of immediate delivery homes from the region’s top homebuilders. With the help of the latest edition of New Homes Guide, complemented by this FREE supplement, you can see which homebuilders have immediate delivery homes available. Finding the right home that’s ready now at the right price, right location and in the right school district just got even easier.

The Move-In-Now supplement is part of the latest New Homes Guide issue, so order your FREE guide today and get moving sooner!

Showcasing the Area’s Best with Our ‘12 Days of Model Homes’

Posted: December 11, 2015 at 11:00 am by: NewHomesGuide

Much like the carol that’s become a holiday favorite, our “12 Days of Model Homes” will be giving a look at one of the area’s most beautiful model homes each day for 12 days.

Beginning on Sunday, December 13, we’ll showcase a new model home from the region’s top homebuilders each day until December 24 on our Facebook page.


The Oxfordshire model at Willowsford Greens in Aldie, VA built by K. Hovnanian Homes. Image courtesy of Maxine Schnitzer Photography.

Each model home will give you a chance to get inspired for your new home and give you a look at what’s possible with New Homes Guide and the builders that are dedicated to making your dream home a reality.

Don’t miss any of our “12 Days of Model Homes” — Like New Homes Guide on Facebook today.


What Are Mid-Atlantic Home Shoppers Looking For? The Numbers Tell the Story.

Posted: October 30, 2015 at 11:00 am by: NewHomesGuide

30OctAs the region’s leading new homes resource for more than 40 years, we’ve had the opportunity to learn a lot about home shoppers.

It’s constantly evolving, but the information that visitors are searching for on NewHomesGuide.com paints the clearest, most up-to-date picture of what’s in demand in the Mid-Atlantic.

We recently crunched the numbers for a year’s worth of online home searches. Here are some of the highlights:

Top 5 County Searches Top 5 City Searches
1. Montgomery County, MD 1. Ashburn, VA
2. Loudoun County, VA 2. Bowie, MD
3. Prince George’s County, MD 3. Stafford, VA
4. Anne Arundel County, MD 4. Chantilly, VA
5. Howard County, MD 5. Upper Marlboro, MD


Top 5 Armed Forces Searches Top 5 Amenity Searches
1. Andrews Air Force Base, MD 1. Clubhouse
2. Fort Belvoir, VA 2. Swimming Pool
3. Walter Reed National Medical Center, MD 3. Park/Open Space
4. Marine Corps Base Quantico, VA 4. Tennis Courts
5. NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, MD 5. Playground


Top 5 Option Searches
1. Immediate Delivery
2. Single-Family Home
3. 3-4 Bedrooms
4. 1st Floor Master Suite
5. Planned Community


The great thing about New Homes Guide is that no matter where you’re looking or what you want in your new home, you can find it with the help of New Homes Guide. Try it out. Start your search today!

Prepare to be Inspired: Our New Interiors Supplement is Out Now

Posted: July 14, 2015 at 11:30 am by: NewHomesGuide

Your new home is an empty palette, just waiting for your special touch.Interiors 2015

Decorating is one of the most exciting parts of moving into your dream home, and it all starts with planning. The possibilities are endless. That’s why we created the New Homes Guide Interiors supplement to give you all the inspiration you need to create something beautiful.

When you order your free New Homes Guide, be sure to click on the Interiors supplement to have it delivered right to your mailbox. The 2015 edition is available now with the July/August issue of the magazine.

Interiors is a collection of the best model homes and the most stylish planned community and active adult community clubhouses in the Mid-Atlantic region. Flip through the pages and dog-ear your favorite rooms or design elements. You’ll find no shortage of inspiration.

You’ll also get an idea for which homebuilders have a style that matches your own. It just might help you find the right home and community for you.

Click here to order your free New Homes Guide and Interiors supplement today.

5 Rooms Dads Will Love in Your New Home

Posted: June 16, 2015 at 11:39 am by: NewHomesGuide

If you’re considering buying a new home, you’ll want to make sure that it’s the right design, the right floorplan for your entire family.

With Father’s Day upon us, this is a perfect time to think about what Dad wants in a new home. What are the places in a home that he truly appreciates?

We’ve recently introduced a new feature on NewHomesGuide.com. It lets you search by room type and browse a collection of corresponding photos. When one jumps out at you, a simple click lets you find out who built that room and where you can find it.

So here are some rooms we think dads (and the rest of the family) will love:

Today’s builders are really taking basements to the next level. A well-designed recreation room can become the heart of the home and the place where the family spends quality time together.

Whether Dad works from home or he just likes to relax with a good book and a bit of quiet time, you can find a sophisticated, exquisitely designed study that he’ll love.

There’s no better place for a dad to unwind with a cup of coffee and the Sunday paper than a well-lit sunroom.

If your dad likes to entertain, he’ll definitely want to include a wet bar in a new home. He can impress your guests with his ability to craft the perfect drink.

Is Dad a movie buff? Or maybe a huge sports fan? Either way, he’ll love taking in the action from a comfy spot with a large-screen television in his new media room.

Wet Bar - Drees Homes

While you’re celebrating Father’s Day this weekend, pull up NewHomesGuide.com and let Dad spend some time imagining the possibilities.

Your Guide to the Mid-Atlantic’s Best Beach Communities

Posted: June 5, 2015 at 4:35 pm by: NewHomesGuide

With summer upon us, our thoughts inevitably turn to sunny days and sandy beaches. But what if the beach was more than a vacation destination? What if the beach was home?

New Homes Guide can help make that a reality for you. Whether you prefer life on the Atlantic or the Chesapeake, we can help you find beautiful homes in the Mid-Atlantic’s very best beach communities.

Here are a few favorites we think you’ll like:

Millville by the Sea is a master-planned, amenity-rich beach resort community just minutes from Bethany Beach, DE. Homes by Christopher Companies and Miller & Smith range from the upper $100’s to the low $400’s. Residents enjoy neighborhood pools, fishing or paddle boating in the community lake. The new Lifestyle Center is full of fun activities and the community has its very own “Crab Shack.”

You know what’s a good day? Golf in the morning, beach in the afternoon. That could be you at Plantation Lakes in Millville, DE. This premiere golf course community features a wide selection of ranch and two-story designs by K. Hovnanian Homes, from the low to mid $200’s or townhomes from the mid $100’s and single family homes from Lennar from the mid $200’s.

On the Chesapeake’s western shore, you can live the resort lifestyle year-round at The Harbours at Solomons Island. The Calvert County, MD, community encompasses 120 acres and it’s surrounded by water on three sides. Boaters can take advantage of the deep-water marina, but there’s something for everyone, including parks, trails and a pool. Go fishing or crabbing from the pier or order up your dinner at one of the on-site restaurants. Main-level living in single-family homes and villas by Classic Community Companies starts in the low $300’s.

Enjoy all the excitement of Ocean City, MD, when you choose a new townhome by Evergreene Homes or Lennar at Seaside Village. Homes start in the high $200’s and private boat slips are available. Choose from expansive floorplan options and relish life so close to all the shopping and fun on the boardwalk. And, of course, the beach.

These are just a few ideas to kickstart your search, but you can find many more beautiful beach communities with New Homes Guide’s Featured Coastal Builders and Planned Communities. Good luck and don’t forget to pack the sunscreen.

Seaside Village
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