New Year, New HGTV Dream Home

HGTV’s 2018 Dream Home

It wouldn’t be the start of a new year without a review of the highs and lows of the HGTV Dream Home.  The unveiling of the 2018 HGTV Dream Home was just one small thing to look forward to the night before everyone trudged back to work and school today.  As with the last several years of Dream Homes this one was also a renovation rather than a complete new build, because ya know, who can resist a stunning before and after?  I was particularly excited by this year’s contemporary style since it’s a similar style to my home that we’ve been slowly remodeling over the last few months.

Before, Exterior

The HGTV 2018 Dream Home is located in the Pacific Northwest, right along the Puget Sound.  The setting is gorgeous.  The previous exterior, not so much.  Let me rephrase, it wasn’t awful, just a bit outdated and weird.  What’s up with that asymmetrical ship’s watch?  My guess would be that similar to our home, this one was originally built in the mid-80’s.

dream home exterior

The back of the home looks slightly better, but all you see if building block looking windows, stark white railing, and too-big arborvitae bushes hiding the wall.

exterior before

After, Exterior

The after is much improved, sleek and truly contemporary.  None of that “I am a contemporary but would rather be coastal” that it previously possessed.  The metal roof over the entire home probably cost a pretty penny (I’ve been researching them as a possibility for my own home) but makes such a difference.  Removing that ship’s watch was also a great choice and the updated driveway, garage doors and landscaping don’t hurt either.

after exterior dream home

This home is just reaffirming many of the contemporary design choices we’re making for our own home, and the black modern windows and dark painted exterior help immensely.  I wish HGTV would name all of their products somewhere and the cost for the product and the installation and construction. I’ve found that black (interior and exterior) windows are not as readily available as one might think, and when you can find slick black contemporary windows, they are $$$$!

black windows

Dream Home Interior

I won’t bore you with all of the choppy wrong-ness of the before interiors, you can check them out for yourself on HGTV’s website but I did want to take you through some of my favorite parts of the completed interior.

Ok, here the view says it all, and perhaps that’s why they chose not to go with black interiors on the windows here but rather white with white trim? The millwork is simple and contemporary and honestly fades away unless you’re really looking for it, making the Puget Sound views the main event.

great room

I’m torn about the fireplace placement.  On one hand it’s ideal to have your great room furniture be focused on both the fireplace and the views all at once, but a fireplace of this size does take up a good portion of that view.  And while the look of this one is very coastal, I’d have gone with something a bit more contemporary that didn’t take up so much real estate, like this one here by Malm.

suspended fireplace

I am still a sucker for a white kitchen, and I really love that they are using a shaker cabinet in a contemporary home.  (More positive design affirmations for my home – yay)! The metal and wood railing are perfect and add the modern edge while the white wicker pendants over the island give it just enough coastal kitsch.  I may need to pick up these counter stools for my own home.

kitchen modern coastal

This entry door is perfection.  You can see in the second pic below it’s a very modern black interior/exterior French door.  I am hoping that this is what our new Marvin Contemporary door will look like in our in-progress kitchen. It’s harder to find modern looking French doors without mullions than you think.  They are not a standard off the shelf Home Depot purchase, trust me.  I’m a bit disappointed by the random hooks just hung on the wall with no framing or bench.  The hooks themselves are adorable whale tails but I wish this wall had been framed out (maybe with some board and batten) so that the coats weren’t the focus. The art is gorgeous though hung at a weird spot, probably to detract your eye from random coats.  And the idea of a burled wood boot tray in the Pacific Northwest is a smart and good-looking idea.

contemporary doors

In my opinion this is the best bedroom of the bunch.  The blues are calming, but not boring, and this is a great example of how things don’t need to be perfectly matchy-matchy but can still “go.”  See how those mirrors are similar but not the same, and the desk and dresser, too?  I also like how larger furnishings are used as nightstands.  Lots of folks don’t have room for a bed, nightstands and a desk and dresser in their room.  So it makes perfect sense to replace some of the less utilitarian pieces with those that can do double duty.

blue grey bedroom

There are so many things I like about this vignette even though I don’t love pink.  I adore large scale art.  I love this fish sign and it fits this house outside Seattle perfectly.  My other faves here are mixing dining chars with a bench, the mismatched table and bench and  the pendant trifecta.  There is so much interest and mixing of styles here that you don’t even really miss an area rug under the table… ok maybe I miss one just a little…

large art

Finally, the outdoors.  The view from this property is just amazing.  And while it may rain a ton in the Pacific Northwest, for those times when it is nice enough to be outside, it helps when it looks like this space.  Who wouldn’t want to snuggle up next to that fire pit or have a meal with family and friends at that outdoor table?

Outdoor Entertaining Spaces

hgtv dream home

hgtv dream home

And HGTV, if you’re reading, here’s what I really wanna know:

1) How much does everything cost? Like regular retail cost that your everyday person would pay?

2) How much time does it take Ryan Patrick Flynn to design all these spaces?  How large is his team?

3) Next year can you create a list where everything came from. I mean everything.  Shingles, doors, windows, counters, light fixtures, a duvet, everything.  Not just those that pay sponsorship.  It doesn’t have to be emblazoned anywhere, just a list, no logos, no ads.

4) How much did you pay for the fixer initially?  How much did you put into it (labor and materials)?  What’s it worth now?

What were your favorite parts of the 2018 HGTV Dream Home?  What do you want to know about the HGTV Dream Home?  Lemme know in the comments, maybe we could get a petition going 😉

Marvelous Architecture of Martha’s Vineyard

Ugggh.  I am so guilty and feel terrible that I haven’t created a blog post in such a long time!  Sorry!  It all started back in early June.  First my husband was surprised to find out that the Army was promoting him.  So planning for a ceremony and party occupied a bit of our free time, then on top of that excitement we decided to make an offer on a house we liked, which ultimately resulted in us having to get our house ready to put on the market, an offer from the military to move to Italy (which we ultimately turned down), and celebrating my son’s graduation from 8th grade, and both my husband and my birthdays within 2 days of each other…. June was a whirlwind and July hasn’t been much better.

Thankfully there was 4 days of respite amongst all of it.  My husband surprised me with a trip to Martha’s Vineyard for my 40th birthday!  I had never been there but had read several books that are set in the relaxed, upscale, posh island.  Besides spending some time lying on a beach I was most looking forward to perusing the streets taking in all the great shingle clad architecture.  Martha did not disappoint!  Architecture ogling started as soon as our little plane touched down.  The airport with its whitewalls natural wood shiplap ceiling, detailed beams complete with turnbuckles offered a worthy welcome to this picturesque little island.  Check out those beams!

I really expected to see more grand homes with lots of weathered gray cedar shake siding, and while those did exist I think some of the large compounds were tucked away in the meandering woods of the island so their residents can enjoy privacy.  I was so surprised to find lane upon lane of adorable little Victorians dripping in gingerbread details.  The first sample of vintage Victorian architecture was our little B&B, the Oak Bluffs Inn.  Painted in pretty pastel shades of blue, lavender and pink it was a quintessential Victorian with seashore inspired antiques decorating the inside.  Our little cottage was a separate building in the back yard and was simply appointed and perfect for relaxing.  Very private and no TV.

oak bluffs inn


oak bluff inn carriage house

A few blocks over the Victorian delight continued with tons of shaded streets lined with adorable doll house like seasonal residences.  The area known as the Martha’s Vineyard Camp Meeting Association (MVCMA) is a community ripe with adorable Victorian homes in every color of the rainbow.



























And yes, the parks, beaches, and lighthouses were gorgeous and every meal we had was excellent – so many great restaurants to choose from.  I’d go back to Martha’s Vineyard in a heartbeat.  Alas a return trip will have to wait because, fingers crossed, if everything goes well in the next month or so we’ll be moving! Stay tuned!  In the meantime, amidst purging and packing I promise to be better about blogging regularly and will share some highlights and ideas from some of my recent clients and moving tips too!


Building a Dream: Our Vacation Rental Property Series #5

Designers and Floorplans

Rental season in the OBX is gearing up for us right now, so I’ve been busy with handling last minute crises like broken icemakers and area rug cleaning.  But four years ago, we were only concerned with making sure we created a home that fit both our family and our future rental clients.  We loved to peruse home design magazines that were filled with floorplans and websites where you can order a stock floorplan.  Initially, we thought that getting a custom home would be far too expensive and that we’d be stuck with a stock plan.  We were so wrong about that!  Our builder recommended a few designers, we perused examples of their past work online and ultimately went with his recommendation on who he thought would give us the result we were looking for.  In the end the design of the home was very affordable.  It cost us only about 1% of the total home cost and we got exactly what we wanted!

Personal Wish List

Our personal wish list included these design features:

  • 5 Bedrooms, 4 + baths
  • A relatively small footprint at about 2500 sq. ft.
  • Efficient use of 2500 sq. ft. (i.e. no dead space)
  • An energy efficient “green” home
  • A pool
  • A bathroom at ground level for pool users
  • Built on stilts, a common thing for homes in OBX to avoid potential flooding. Even though our home was in an area at low risk for flood we wanted to go as tall as the HOA allowed in order to get any ocean views possible. *(more about this below)
  • A reverse floorplan, meaning that the main living areas are on the top floor. Again, our goal was to maximize any potential ocean view.
  • Incorporation of a “ships watch.” Yep, you guessed it, highest potential area for views.
  • Stairs situated on the side of the home (center stairs, while popular, take up and break up open floor plans).
  • An open floor plan on the main living level.
  • A traditional beachy appearance on the exterior utilizing finishes like painted cedar shake and board and batten
  • Potential space for a future elevator (knowing that someday faaaaaar in the future it may be our retirement home, or at least more appealing for future buyers. Lugging up a weeks’ worth of groceries up 3 stories is NOT ideal.  Oh, the things we do for a glimpse of ocean!)
  • Highest ceilings we could possibly achieve with a 35’ HOA imposed roof height limit
  • Lockable storage

Vacation Renter’s Wish List

During this process, we also consulted with local property management companies to ensure that we created a home that would be “rentable”.  Therefore, we had some real requirements we felt we had to meet on top of our own personal wish-list.  Rental requirements included:

  • A home that sleeps at least 12. Many vacationers choose to rent homes with family or friends and pool resources, and for some reason a home that sleeps 12 is the “sweet-spot” of rentability / cost effectiveness for the OBX rental market.
  • As many en-suite bedrooms as possible. So that families joined together on vacation can at least have a private bathroom.  We made 3 bedrooms en-suite and the other 2 share a jack and jill bathroom.
  • Room for as many king beds as possible. We were able to make 3 bedrooms king, 1 queen and then a kid’s bunk room with 4 twins.
  • A pool
  • A hot tub
  • An open, chef’s kitchen
  • A dining area that can seat as many as the home sleeps, so in this case, 12.
  • A rec room with a hang-out spot (most renters want a pool table, but we weren’t willing to make the lower level rec room big enough to hold a real pool table, so we made it large enough for a shuffle-board table, mini-bar, half bath and loveseat)
  • Parking for at least 5 cars
  • Outdoor living area

Whoa, that’s a lot of stuff to cram in 2500 square feet!  Thankfully the lists overlapped a bit, so we gave our requirements and some exterior sample photos to our designer and he came up with a perfect floorplan and use of space.  I recall us just working through a few tweaks here and there before we were ready to get cracking on the build!

Design-Build Firm, Designer or Architect?

We learned so much from this process, and it was fun!  Our major takeaways: When you are building at the beach there may be special building codes or just good practices so I highly recommend hiring a designer who is from the area where you are building and is familiar with both the codes and the concept of vacation rentals in that specific area.  A common misconception is that you have to hire an architect when in fact, a designer, in conjunction with an engineer can accomplish the same great design for your home!

To View or Not to View… That is the Question!!!

*A funny story about those views.  Our property is about 2 blocks from the beach, in a treed neighborhood with other homes between us and the beach.  We had absolutely NO IDEA if we’d build this house and have an ocean view.  All of our neighbors were smaller/ lower homes so there was no way we could ask them to stand on their deck and know if we’d get a view.  We attempted to duct tape our digital video camera on 40 feet of PVC pipe and raise it over the trees on the highest point on the property.  We did this in the presence of our designer and builder and they probably thought we were a  couple of nutjobs.  We may have felt legitimate had it worked, but it didn’t.  The resolution on our camera wasn’t good enough to see that far.  Maybe if we were building today we’d use a drone.  Anyway, we went into the design and build process knowing that all those requirements on our list for an ocean view may be for naught.   Spoiler-alert! In the end, from both the top deck, main living area and the ships watch we DID achieve the tiniest ocean view ever!  Even still, we love it, with all the windows and doors open it feels like a treehouse up there viewing bright blue skies through the tall live oaks and pines.  It’s heaven.

Our dream beach house in OBX!


dream beach house ground floor


dream beach house bedrooms


dream beach house floor plan

Building a Dream: Our Vacation Rental Property Series #4

Selecting a Builder

So hopefully you’ve been keeping up with the series and have heard about my family’s adventure in finding and building a vacation rental property.  We’ve discussed  looking for real estate, buying the land, and searching for a builder for our dream home in the Outer Banks of North Carolina.  In case you’ve missed any you can find those episodes by clicking the links here, here and here.  Ok, now that we’re all caught up, I want to pick up where I left off. We had just sent the looooooong questionnaire to 3 builders and were eagerly awaiting their replies.  Each of their responses couldn’t have been more different.  Builder A, who could better be termed as a developer (which is a rarity in OBX since the community is relatively small), answered all of our questions and also took me on a tour of one of their homes and created a several-page-long packet showing us what we could get for our budget including selections of floorplan, finishes, etc.  Builder B, who is known for being OBX’s “green” builder also responded by answering each of our questions thoroughly and followed up with a phone call as well.  Finally, Builder C opted to not respond to our questions in full but rather called us and attempted to sell us on his services.

After reviewing these 3 very different responses, our selection was evident.  We decided were not at all interested in working with a developer (Builder A) who would only allow us to select certain cabinets from a certain company in a prescribed finish.  Also, when I was taken on a tour, the rep from Builder A picked me up in a dirty minivan and it was just a real turnoff.  If your business is trying to win a client who’s about to plop down about a half mil to build a custom home, at least have the tour guide vacuum out their car – I would have even preferred if the rep had hopped in my car.  Builder C who didn’t even “have the time” to respond to all of our questions as we had asked (even though he probably was the least expensive option) was obviously out.

The builder we did select, Builder B, not only answered all of our questions but we were also happy to have green, eco-friendly expertise available at our fingertips.  He was also willing to consider any “oddball” thing we brought up, like building a pre-fab home, which he had never done (ultimately, we decided against this because of all of the strict building codes for coastal, hurricane resistant homes would have negated the cost effectiveness).  He was open to us being as involved as we wanted to be or could be given our long distance during the building process.  He was not at all pushy, and just seemed to be a regular, down to earth, experienced and nice guy.  Above all, what we valued most was that he was responsive.  If we asked a question, he answered either via email or text within hours.  If we called him he called us back.  You may be thinking, “duh”, since it’s sort of important thing for a business-owner to return their client’s inquiries, right?  You’d be surprised.  Maybe it’s a regional thing.  We had high expectations.  At the time, both my husband and I worked in Washington DC’s fast paced Federal Government Contracting industry in which we competed fiercely for our client’s business.  Certainly, the mindset in OBX is not as competitive, it’s MUCH more laid back (as we’d learn in our dealing with other vendors).  We knew we’d be most happy working with a builder who was client oriented.

We made our builder selection while we were searching for land which I highly recommend.  Our builder came with me to plots of land to help us select the right one for building and met with us separately to discuss budget, pools, architects, and floorplans before we ever even signed a contract. Selecting the right builder is SO important.  I think we definitely made an excellent choice.  Our builder managed the project from start to finish, was responsive, provided impeccable workmanship and quality control, and gave us our dream beach house and meanwhile made the whole experience positive and enjoyable.

Next installment in the series we’ll talk about floorplans, architects and custom versus cookie cutter.

Serene view of Currituck Sound in Duck, NC

Tropical Escape in the Florida Keys

I’ve been seeing a lot of advertisements recently for the Florida Keys.  The visions across my TV include gorgeous seascapes that look serene, tropical, relaxing, warm and inviting.  This is not the Florida Keys that I remember driving through in our red mini-van as a kid.  Honestly, back in the late 80’s, I remember the keys looking pretty dumpy.  No offense Keys, I may have been moody because it seemed like the longest drive of my life!  I’d love to go back and see if the Keys could prove my 11-year-old brain wrong.  I decided to take a more immediate approach for seeing what the real Keys may have in store by perusing some real estate.  Two things are certain, beautiful homes and land are available in the Keys, and they don’t come cheap!  Check out these beauties.

These first 2 homes, one a traditional colonial, the other a edgy modern number are in Islamorada.



This next lush tropical palace is in Key Largo and offers a bit of seclusion which is a rare luxury on the Keys which are so super skinny that there’s not a lot of room to be a land baron.


And when you’re secluded on Key Largo, this is how you get around… wonder if they are included in the purchase of the home? Is that one on the left a golf cart or the old Pope Mobile?


Key West, all the way at the bottom of the Keys, is the one part of the Keys that I recall being quaint, historic and having a lot of personality in a small package.  There are a ton of homes that are really cute Hemmingway-esque British Colonial cottages in Key West.



Now that I’m seeing images of present-day Florida Keys, I’m thinking they’d make a wonderful escape from winter, maybe for a long Valentine’s Day weekend.  Do you have a favorite not-to-far tropical getaway?



Perfect Beachy Paint Colors

Picking perfect paint colors can be so hard.  You have to consider furnishings, light, room structure, setting, environment and the feeling you want to evoke.  At the beach we probably want to feel relaxed, refreshed, or maybe even energized and invigorated.  These are some of my favorite beachy paint colors.  In addition to walls and decor, at the beach we can take a bit more risk and go bold on a kitchen island, a dresser or a bathroom tile.

Here’s my selection of go-to beachy hues in soft relaxing tones and bold seaside inspired colors.

Perfect colors for a beach house
Go-to Beachy Paint Colors


What are your favorite shore inspired colors?


Building a Dream: Our Vacation Rental Property Series #2

Continuing our journey for finding a vacation rental property, we had a whirlwind weekend of seeing about 8 houses across the Outer Banks towns of Duck, Corolla, and Southern Shores.  We had seen a house that we liked very much but the current owners couldn’t tell us much about its history, things like the last time the HVAC was replaced, how old the roof was, if the pool pump had been replaced etc.  That was a red flag for us, but not totally surprising as a lot of homes change hands frequently in this beach community.  I think many people idealize the concept of owning a beach home but then the reality sets in that owning a rental home is a lot of work, homes near the beach require so much maintenance and the older the home is, the more work is required and accordingly the more money necessary for upkeep.  It’s not all relaxing in the hammock and pina coladas at sunset.  Therefore, some people give vacation rental home ownership a go for a few years and then throw in the towel.

We were having a heck of a time finding a home that met our requirements.  Most homes were disqualified due to location, either lack of proximity to beach or too close to major roads.  As we searched we did see a plot of land about a quarter mile closer to the beach than the aforementioned house.  This piece of land got us thinking that perhaps we should build our beach house.  Certainly, there would be benefits to building; we would be able to get exactly what we want and have a brand-new home requiring little maintenance and we could finish and furnish it to our liking rather than falling in on old dilapidated furnishings.  However, there would be disadvantages to this approach as well; total end cost would be higher, would require work to find a builder and architect to design the home from scratch resulting in a longer wait time.  No matter the disadvantages, we decided to look at several lots that met our requirements for flood zone, location, and neighborhood, while we still kept an eye on other homes coming on the market.  We also simultaneously embarked on the process of researching local builders.  There is a pretty large selection of builders of varying degrees of experience across the small Outer Banks community.  If we had known anyone who had built in OBX previously we would have asked for a recommendation, but since we did not, we initiated our own research.  Of course we started our search just like many other super important searches in our lives, with our best friend, Google.  Through Google we came upon the Outer Banks Home Builders Association and read about their annual OBX Parade of Homes Competition.   The past winners of this competition rose to the top of our potential builder picks.  I’ll discuss more in the next installment about how we went about choosing the best builder for our dream home, but we did make that selection WHILE we were still searching for a lot and that was probably one of the best decisions we made.  Our builder even came out to a few potential home sites with me to debate their positives and negatives, which was immensely helpful as he was able to comment on things I was not smart on.  For example, one site was completely wooded and significantly “gullied” in the center.  Our builder pointed out that we would need to bring in tons, yes tons, of fill dirt to make this lot buildable.  In the end, after significant searching, we settled on a wonderful partially wooded, mostly level, half acre which was only about 1400’ from the beach.








We’ll pick up the next installment talking a bit about how we successfully negotiated a great price for our land and how we selected the best builder.


Building a Dream: Our Vacation Rental Property Series #1

I envision this post to be the first in a series to describe our process for making the leap to purchasing a vacation property and ultimately building a beach home from the ground up.  It’s no doubt a scary venture, with a lot on the line. I figure reading about our successes and mistakes might help a few people venture into vacation home dreams of their own.

I had been half joking with my husband for several years, whenever he would ask me what I wanted for my Birthday, Christmas, etc. I’d always reply, “A beach house.” Hah, funny, right…. I knew I’d never wake up to a house with a big bow on it like those silly Lexus commercials (don’t you hate those people on those commercials even though you know it’s not real?)  Anyway, in saying that I wanted a beach house as a gift, I really meant that I wanted us to save money and forego trivial gifts and really sock away some savings so someday we really could buy that beach house.

On a (sort-of) whim, one winter, I started searching on  Initially our plan was NOT to build a brand-new house but find a home that needed a little bit of cosmetic work, which many beach rentals do, and fix it up.  Cause, ya know, we fancy ourselves pretty handy.  We had been traveling to the Outer Banks of North Carolina for several years and renting homes for a week for summer vacation.  Over the course of my childhood I had spent time in other beach locations like Virginia, Maryland and Delaware beaches and the Jersey shore …yes that’s really what it’s called, it’s not the “beach” it’s the “shore” and if you say it with a Jersey accent it’s even more accurate… and if you refer to OBX as the “shore” people look at you like you have three heads.   Of all of those places I loved OBX the most and it was a manageable 4 hour drive from our home in VA. So I found a house I liked and I promptly contacted the realtor.  This is the house that drove me to start our search in earnest – adorable, right?

initial coveted vacation home
Photo: Southern Shores Realty


Okay, here’s recommendation #1, don’t do what I did, and call the realtor who lists the house you may want to buy, because if you make this person your agent, they are then working for both sides.  We were lucky because in our case it worked out because the seller wasn’t willing to negotiate as much as we’d have liked and I was hell bent on getting a good deal (that was a high priority of ours) but we did find a good agent in the process and he showed us a number of places in a whirlwind rainy weekend).  Finding someone who is willing to roll up their sleeves and dedicate a whole weekend to you is a pretty big deal because if you’re looking for a vacation property that is several hours from your home you want to be efficient with your time and not do multiple trips back and forth.  Working with a realtor that is local to where you want to buy is really important.  They know the area, and will know what areas work best for rentals as well as what home elements will help return on investment potential.  And although your realtor will hopefully have lots of info for you don’t forget to do research on your own.  We did and it came in really handy when it came time to negotiate (more on that in a later installment).  In fact, when we started our vacation home search I was dead set on buying in the quaint town of Duck, pictured below.













Did I buy a home in Duck? Nope.  Based on our priorities, our agent turned us on to a neighboring town called Southern Shores, which was a much better fit for what we wanted in a property.  I still find new and interesting things about Southern Shores, NC and I just love, love, love it!  Every time I visit I say that I don’t want to go home to Virginia and just want to stay there forever.  Here’s the gorgeous dunes at Southern Shores.











A few other things I learned and I recommend as you start looking for that vacation rental property: know what your priorities are. Do you want maximum ROI in rentals?  Proximity to the beach and amenities? Peace and serenity?  A place for boating? Low maintenance? (Hint, you may want to scratch this last one off your list if you’re going to rent your beach home out, but we’ll talk about that more later).   We knew (or thought we knew) our primary priorities going in. Here’s our list:

  • Within a 5-minute walk to the beach
  • In an “X” flood zone (see more on this below)
  • A good deal (and preferably below our budget of 550K)
  • Have consistent summer rental history (or potential)
  • Not along a main road with a lot of audible traffic
  • At least 4 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms or one that could sleep about 10 or more people
  • A pool or room to add pool
  • Not in a commercialized area (no views of stores, restaurants)
  • A water view

I’ll let you know which of these we actually accomplished at the end.  But these all sorta make sense except, why wouldn’t you want a house RIGHT smack dab on the beach if you’re buying a beach house?  Ok, well admittedly, that would be lovely and would probably help a ton with rental potential, right?  Only I’m at least somewhat risk adverse and wasn’t willing to push those limits on our first foray into rental properties.  Houses on the beach are exponentially more expensive in terms of sale price.  But consequently, you could rent it for more, which is true, but there are other expenses you incur with a house ON the beach.  Maintenance is one; you will have higher overall maintenance costs for things like painting, rusting metal that needs to be replaced, and storm damage, which brings me to our #2 priority, an “X” flood zone.  FEMA has mapped all coastal areas and assigned different letter codes to designate potential risk for flood based on historical events and geography and probably all other sorts of scientific stuff.  More info on all of this is available at FEMA’s flood risk website.  Here’s a pictorial simplification of FEMA’s flood risk lettering.

FEMA Flood Zone lettering
Image: FEMA


What is important to know if you are buying a coastal property is that these letter codes affect how much or how little flood insurance you have to carry and ultimately, how much you’ll pay.  Being in an X zone doesn’t mean that our home is invulnerable to weather, not at all, but it is at a lower risk for flood devastation.  For us, it wasn’t just about the money but not having to worry about having to board up our little vacation abode every time a hurricane threatened the east coast or worse worry about having to rebuild it or worse yet, worry about being so severely impacted that our entire property was rendered unusable….. and it happens….  These homes are along the beach in South Nags Head, NC, just a few miles south of ours that had been condemned after a storm.

Photo: Steve Earley, The Virginia Pilot


Are you considering buying a vacation rental property?  What are your thoughts or dilemnas?  We’d love to hear them! Share in the comments.

Next installment coming in a week or so – continuing the house hunt and expanding it to a “land hunt”…


HGTV Dream Home: Inspiration for 2017

One thing I look forward to every New Year’s Day is the unveiling of the HGTV Dream Home.  I like to watch to get attainable (they use materials from every-man retailers like Lumber Liquidators, Wayfair and Cabinets to Go) design ideas to implement in my home or to inspire new designs for clients.  I really like that over the past few years HGTV remodeled existing homes vice building anew as they always used to.  This year’s home was a stunning remodel converting a Contemporary-Spanish-ish home on St. Simons Island, GA into a Modern-Low Country beauty.

They did away with a previous yellow stucco in favor of a white cedar shake siding and bold black trim and shutters.  The entry way and several other access points were converted from dated archways to expansive double doors.  Finally, the brown architectural shingle roof was changed to a lovely metal roof complete with an adorable cupola to give it an authentic Low Country look.  The conversion looks great, and close up shots reveal gorgeously finished wood front doors, but from a distance I’d maybe like to see a front door with a fun color maybe a vibrant mango or coral, especially since this is a seaside community.

HGTV Dream Home Before (Photo: Joe Loehle)
HGTV Dream Home Exterior, After (Photo: Robert Peterson, Rustic White Photography)


The interior designer, Brian Patrick Flynn, wasn’t afraid to take a few risks in the interior and achieved bold looks without looking totally whacko.   This large scale bust portrait at first glance has an air of traditional to it, when in reality, with her bandana and earrings, she’s a bit irreverent and lets you know her owner has a sense of humor.

HGTV Dream Home Entry with Quirky Art (Photo: Robert Peterson, Rustic White Photography)



















This living room is a great mix of styles, Southern, Rustic, Glam, Cottage…. which could easily have gone awry, but instead looks relaxed and collected.

HGTV Dream Home Living Room mixes styles without looking chaotic (Photo: Robert Peterson, Rustic White Photography)


Ok, I’m a bit conflicted on the kitchen selections.  I really like the drab khaki-grey toned shaker cabinets as they remind me of the early 2000’s Martha Stewart drabware everything.  Totally a great fit for a Low-country home and a great alternative to the bright white cabinet of 2016.  But oh, the green subway tile AND green counters AND green hardware?  I get the earthy vibe it’s trying to elicit to keep in touch with the swampy, Spanish moss covered setting…. but it’s a bit much for me.

HGTV Kitchen with 2017 trend in cabinets (Photo:Robert Peterson, Rustic White Photography)

























I’d change out the counters for something like this and the hardware for something in black, like this one below.

River White Granite as a more neutral alternative


Almost black oil rubbed bronze might be hardware with more style longevity























This Master Suite design is spot on.  The blue shade is calming but rich and vibrant and I think taking it onto the ceiling was the right decision (maybe without the bright white can lights, though).  I think we’ll see a resurgence of the traditional heavy drape in 2017 too, and Brian Patrick Flynn does them perfectly here, keeping the color light and style classic.

HGTV Dream Home Master Bedroom mixes calming blues (Photo: Robert Peterson, Rustic White Photography)


Usually home gyms are utilitarian and stark.  Why not exercise in a space that has a bit of style so that even if you don’t enjoy what you’re doing you can at least enjoy where you are?  Cork floors are a smart choice for the occasional dropped weight and are forgiving on the joints, not to mention looking classy.  The mullioned antiqued mirrors are also a great choice that make this look more like a real thoughtful room in the home than just an industrial utilitarian space.

HGTV Dream Home Gym to workout in style (Photo: Tomas Espinosa)


I wanted to be sure to share this guest bathroom from the HGTV Dream Home.  Is it the most spectacular bath in the home? Nope, not at all, BUT I think the setup of this bathroom is very similar to bathrooms in many American homes – it’s small, has room for just a single vanity, and has a standard tub – yet it still looks fantastic.  Some takeaways for what you could copy, rather than a regular shower curtain, use real drapes and take them from ceiling to floor.  Remove that frameless contractor grade mirror and replace it with a uniquely framed mirror and don’t be afraid of a bold color, especially if your fixtures (sink, tub, tile etc.) is white.  You could do those 3 things for under $200 and totally give a new 2017 look to your bathroom.

HGTV Dream Home small bathroom with big style (Photo: Robert Peterson, Rustic White Photography)

























Finally, one of my favorite spaces in this home is actually not in the home at all, it’s the backyard and pool area.  Much of the style isn’t because of any intentional styling at all but rather due to the landscape designers decision to leave lots of foliage, including that lovely dripping Spanish Moss.

HGTV Dream Home pool and arbor (Photo: Cristina Wedge)


HGTV Dream Home backyard lush with mature trees and Spanish moss (Photo: Tomas Espinosa)


Coastal Living’s Lowcountry Rambler

Hands down, lowcountry style is my favorite.  It’s all equal parts worn, casual, genteel, beachy, rustic, country, proper, and southern.  This month, Coastal Living Magazine featured a South Carolina lowcountry rambler that I could move into today!  Take a look at how amazing this place is.

Trees dripping with Spanish moss frame the home perfectly.  The whitewashed brick chimney gives the home a less buttoned up look, while those huge porches welcome, “come and sit a spell.”



















That front door is complete perfection.  I also love how they weren’t afraid to mix and match different styles of overhead lighting all in one front porch entry space.  I could just imagine sitting here sipping an iced tea and watching the river roll on by.



















If you were planning this space below you might think, no, the golden tones in the hardwood flooring will certainly clash with the reclaimed barnwood ceiling, but surprise, they totally don’t.  They work perfectly together, thanks to the crispness of the white walls and window frames and the casual slipcovered furniture.  All of it melds beautifully and lets the real star, the outdoors, shine.



















This little breakfast nook is so charming I want to sit down, sip a coffee and eat that croissant right there.  The painted ceiling paired with the mismatched vintage table and chairs balanced by the worn plank floors comes off cute not cutesy.



















It is amazing what you can do with a small space.  This room, if you saw it without the built-in bunks would probably look more like a hallway than a bedroom, but with the space-maximizing built-in bunks it looks like a perfectly generous room for two kids to crash at night.  I really have an obsession with built-in bunks.  We put them in our own beach house and the kids LOVE sleeping in there, and I’ll admit, I’ve spent a night or two in the bunks and they are very cozy.



















And finally, the outdoors. This looks like it would be the most refreshing respite on a hot and humid South Carolina summer day, I can hear the cicadas humming.  This space is a great example of the lowcountry’s ability to mix prim with casual.   The detailed architecture under the eaves, iron patio furniture, and black-bottomed pool are formal, yet pair really well with the rustic, worn look of the oyster shell brick and au naturale landscape.