Preparing Your Patio or Backyard for Summer

by Paul Foresman 15. May 2013 10:42

Getting your patio and backyard ready for the warm summer months is about a lot more than restocking your Tiki torches and cleaning the grill (although that may very well be part of it). It’s about making your yard, patio, or deck ready for lots of summertime activities. It may take a little work to get everything in shape, but as you enjoy the beautiful yard and patio throughout the summer, you’ll realize that it was worth it.


Wash the Patio

First things first: get out the hose and start washing off the patio. A pressure washer is the most effective way to clear out the residue that builds up over the winter months, but just keep the pressure below 1,000 psi on wood surfaces to avoid causing any damage.


Check and Repair Patio Damage

If you have a cement or brick patio, check for cracks or crumbling areas. Cracks can be fixed with various patching compounds, and any broken bricks or tiles should be replaced. If you have a wood deck, you may notice splintering or rotting in some places which you can sand down. Be sure to hammer in any nails that have started to stick up and repair any beams or planks that have st

arted to split.

This may also be a good time to reseal the surface of your patio to prevent further weathering, abrasions, or moisture problems. Spring means a lot of rainfall in some areas, and this will help you extend the life of the patio.


Check and Wash the Furniture

All the snow and rain of the past few months has probably left a lot of unwanted dirt and residue on your patio furniture. Wipe everything down with warm, soapy water to clear away that dirt and clean any cushions or other coverings. Your furniture will see a lot more use if it doesn’t look like you have to dust everything off before taking a seat. You should also check for any rust buildup and make sure all the bolts and screws are still solidly in place and make any necessary repairs.

Treat the Yard for Weeds and Pests


en the weather turns warm, a lot of things start waking up and moving into your yard. Spring may be the time for flowers to bloom, but there are a lot of weeds and pests that want to stretch out and take advantage of the weather, too. Treat your yard for the local weeds and pests to make sure they don’t get the upper hand throughout the season.

Refresh the Lawn

Rake the lawn to remove excess thatch (decaying plant material) and let water and light reach the ground, and put down some fertilizer to give it a head start on the summer. You can also aerate the lawn for better oxygen and nutrient exchange. Now would also be a good time to reseed bare areas and make sure the sprinkler system is working correctly.

Trim the Trees and Bushes

Overgrown trees and bushes can crowd your patio and give everything a shabby appearance. Get out the trimmer/clippers/saw and cut back the overhanging branches and start shaping those bushes. Clear any pathways and find and remove any dead branches. Be careful how you cut, though, because you don’t want to lose the shade around your patio.

Take All Safety Precautions

Now that it’s warm and family and friends are running around your yard and enjoying the patio, make sure you’ve taken all the necessary precautions. Protect your children and guests by clearing out any poisonous or thorny plants and always put away any dangerous tools and landscaping implements. Check your fences to make sure they’re still secure so kids and pets can’t run out into the street, and keep toys and play equipment where no one will accidently trip on them.

Enjoy your summer and be safe!


Backyard | Destressing | Patio

You do it 92% of the time

by Greg Dodge 6. May 2013 07:48


Rear entry foyer with open hooks and cubbies

Rear foyer with openhooks and cubbies

According to a 2011 study by Recon Analytics, people who have an attached garage go in and out of their home using the door between the home and the garage 92% of the time, rather than using the main entry door.  Yet, many new homes  focus lots of attention of the front entry foyer and treat the entry from the garage almost as an afterthought!


The rear foyer entry from the garage deserves no less design attention than a front foyer.  It serves as a vital transition space, a place to remove and store coats, backpacks and computer bags, shed shoes, and keep clutter out of the kitchen.  Unless there is simply no other option, you probably don't want the washer and dryer in your rear foyer either (who wants to trek past the dirty laundry-and be reminded of all that work-every time you arrive home?)


Ask your builder or remodeling contractor about incorporating a rear foyer in your new home or remodeling project! 

Rear-Foyer Resources:




Decade of Change | Flexible Living Options | Organization | Rear entry foyer | Storage

Splitting up can be good for your relationship

by Greg Dodge 23. April 2013 08:09

Whether we realize it or not, our bathrooms are very personal—which means if there are two of you using that bathroom, there’s a potential for misunderstanding and conflict.


Take the vanity and sinks.  Years ago designers recognized the preference for his and her sinks in the master bath.  That alleviated some of the schedule conflicts over who used the sink and when, but also led to more countertop clutter.  His mouthwash…her make-up…sometimes it’s so crowded you can hardly tell what the countertops look like!

Splitting a single vanity with two sinks into two separate vanities, each with their own sink, is desirable.


Last time we discussed how having two separate vanities provides highly prized personal space in the owner’s bathroom, particularly eliminating conflict over countertop clutter.  But what’s the most desirable layout for the two vanities?  We show four options below. 

50020 50001
42158 50031

Plan 50020illustrates the two vanities in-line, separated by a built-in dresser or linen cabinet.


Plan 50001  has the sinks positioned opposite each other.  Some people really like the fact that when the two mirrors face each other, you can easily see how the back of your hair looks in the opposite mirror!


Plan 42158 staggers the two opposite-facing sinks, eliminating the likelihood of brushing up “cheek-to-cheek”.


And plan 50031 has the two sinks back-to-back, providing a true sense of “me” space. 

Which is best?  Only you can decide that!




Bathroom Design | Design Trends | Destressing | Plannng

Beyond Three Bedrooms

by Greg Dodge 1. April 2013 08:28


Design Basics' "Hester" is a popular 3-bedroom family plan. It's also possible to build this home with a second master suite, shown as the "Sadie" plan. (Yes, the dual owner's-suite version does utilize storage space from the original design's garage, but if doing this conversion as a remodel, the contractor will build that closet floor accordingly.) 

Home plan #29344 the Hester Home plan #293353 the Sadie
#29344 - Hester #29353 Sadie


Whether new construction or remodeling, dual owner's suites and independent in-law suites are increasingly in demand. It might amaze you to find out just how many committed, happy couples choose not to share the same bedroom. It could be conflicting schedules, medical conditions or simply snoring, but the need for getting a good night's sleep is paramount to a good life.

Plan now to stay in your dream home!


Decade of Change | Design Trends | Dual Master Suites | Flexible Living Options | Home Styles

You can control unwanted noise in your new home

by Paul Foresman 26. March 2013 07:04

Not too long ago we discussed controlling unwanted noise in the home.  Your feedback confirmed this is a hot topic so we'll look deeper at reducing noise from within the home, starting with sounds that originate within an area.  


Ever walk into an empty house for sale?  Sounds echo as sound waves bounce back and forth against hard surfaces (flooring, walls, windows, ceilings).  Materials such as rugs, carpet and carpet pad, upholstered, padded furniture and soft, lined window coverings help absorb sound.


Noise also echoes in tall ceilings.  Design Basics lead designer Carl Cuozzo notes that even in big custom homes he's designing today, buyers are opting for 11-foot high ceilings rather than 2-story high spaces.  According to Cuozzo, "You still get the drama and taller doors and windows without so much echo and energy loss."


Soft close hinges for cabinet doors and drawers virtually eliminates the sound of these closing.  Similarly, soft-close toilet seats eliminate that "bang".  Having a dishwasher in a kitchen island introduces more noise than if the dishwasher backs up to a wall.  And of course quieter dishwashers, refrigerators, laundry pairs, exhaust fans, food waste disposers, and furnaces will reduce noise at its source.

Another source of unwanted noise in homes comes from sound traveling into one area from other areas.  Solid core doors block significantly more sound than hollow core doors.  For walls themselves, Quiet Rock® and SoundBreak® are special drywall products which absorb considerably more sound than standard drywall.   


QuietZone® Acoustic Sealant

QuietZone® Acoustic Sealant

George Auen at Fougner Engineered Sales suggests, "If you want the best sound isolation, use the acoustic drywall over sound isolation clips. The resulting sound transmission is so good you could swear you were deaf!  Auen also recommends using an acoustic caulk (like Owens Corning® Acoustic Sealant) around the perimeter of the walls, lid, and any gaps need to be addressed (like electrical boxes, pipes, etc.).  Thanks, George!


From the perspective of a home's layout, having a separate entertaining place for the kids when entertaining other adults is golden.  That way their Xbox games or even loud conversations don't have to disrupt the adults.



Finally, you can enjoy a more serene environment by minimizing sounds transmitted through the structure of the home by vibration.  Certain sound waves cause vibration which is amplified as it passes through walls.  When possible, locating items which create noise and vibration (i.e., big screen TV, clothes washer, dish washer) to exterior walls rather than adjoining interior walls will help.  

Here again, product choices can go a long way in minimizing noise and vibration.  An excellent example is your choice of garage door opener, especially if there is a room over the garage!  Then there's Acoustiblok®, an 1/8"-thick, flexible sound proofing mat that can be glued, stapled, nailed or screwed to floors and walls.  According to the manufacturer, Acoustiblok® actually transforms sound and vibration into inaudible friction energy.  So if your son's is a drummer...





National Gypsum - Gold Bond® SoundBreak® XP® 5/8" Gypsum Board

Owens Corning - QuietZone® Acoustic Sealant

Acoustiblok® - Residential Soundproofing




Destressing | Noise Reduction

Woman-Centric Matters!

by Greg Dodge 7. March 2013 08:47

What is the Woman-Centric Matters!® Approach?

Our woman-centric approach is based on customer feedback, mostly from our women customers. We’ve been inspired to design our homes with innovative solutions for enhanced livability and style. We have a new understanding and appreciation for women’s preferences of products selected for the home.

In addition, we help home builders and remodelers use this approach to:

Take the customer’s experience from stressful to delightful.

Accomplish more with their marketing dollars.




Click to enlarge


Embed this image on your site:


Decade of Change | infographic | Woman-Centric Matters

The Rise in Popularity of Craftsman Style Homes

by Greg Dodge 2. March 2013 07:56

The Rise in Popularity of Craftsman Style Homes

Craftsman styled homes seemingly have always had a part in American home building, but did you know this famous American housing style actually originated in Great Britain in the 1860s? For over a century, homes have been designed in the Craftsman style that is known and loved today, making this unique and customizable style of home one that has stood the test of time. Because this type of home design is so well loved and one our favorite designs to work with, we would like to share the history and rise in popularity of Craftsman homes with our readers to give an in-depth look at why these homes can so often be found across America and the world.

The Early History of the Craftsman

The British Arts and Crafts movement of the 1860’s gave birth to the wonderful Craftsman homes styles of today. This British movement was started by a man named William Morris, who was in a rebellion against the traditional and common (at the time) Victorian home style. Morris felt the Victorian homes were over-decorated and eclectic and so he presented the Arts and Crafts Movement as a way to create an anti-Victorian movement throughout Britain. This movement gave way to a style that accentuated furniture and décor items that were hand crafted over the traditional mass produced items and also presented an idea away from a traditional Victorian housing structure. 

Craftsman Homes in America

As the British Arts and Craft movement swept the United Kingdom, many homes in the United States were still built in a traditional colonial manner. However, during the latter years of the 19th century, popular architect and interior designer, Frank Lloyd Wright introduced the modern Craftsman home to America. The Craftsman style was almost immediately picked up by the West Coast, and the Californian firm of Greene and Greene are the most famous Southern California architects to produce these homes along the coast.

Soon the Craftsman design was implemented across America, and it became an integral part of the American Arts and Crafts Movement. A renowned architectural magazine named “The Craftsman” featured the first Craftsman home within its pages, thus officially naming this design style the American Craftsman. Also within the pages of “The Craftsman” were homes and furniture features showcasing the work of the Greene and Greene firm and members of the American Arts and Crafts Movement. The editor of this renowned magazine, Gustav Stickley, defined a Craftsman home as a house that was built on “the virtues of beauty, simplicity, utility and organic harmony.” To put it simply, a Craftsman home was built to be simple and fit the necessities of the life to be lived in the house. It was also built to fit with the natural environment surrounding the home as well as be built from local materials.

The American Craftsman was very popular until the late 1930’s and saw many offset styled homes such as the Queen Anne, the California Style, the Craftsman Style, the Prairie Style, and the Mission Style. After the 1930’s, this style of home slowed down in construction but stayed a part of the American landscape for years to follow.

The Resurrection of this Iconic Home Style

Now, as a green eco-friendly movement sweeps the United States, we are seeing the construction of Craftsman styled homes being resurrected. Craftsman homebuilders are supporting local economies by purchasing recycled and eco-friendly building equipment from local suppliers. The homes melt into the surrounding natural environment and are perfect for families not looking for more than they need in a home.

These homes are also drawing a lot of attention from homeowners because of their unique style of peaked front porches, wood floors, and wood interior elements as well as natural colors and inlayed stone facades. Everything about the Craftsman home design offers an element that benefits the homeowner, thus contributing the continuing rise in popularity of this home style being built in communities across modern America.

Interested in learning more about Craftsman homes? Read more about Craftsman homes
here on our site.




All square feet are not created equal!

by Greg Dodge 18. February 2013 08:24

All square feet are not created equal!

It may come as a surprise to you that there is no universal method for calculating a home's square footage. Discrepancies occur when including (or omitting) porches and screened-in decks, lower levels, attic spaces and garages. Should the square footage occupied by a staircase be counted once or twice, since it occupies space on both levels?


Then there's the question of where the measurement is taken from. Some homes may only include the space inside the walls. More often, the calculation is based on taking measurements from outside of the exterior wall framing (which adds the square footage represented in the wall thickness.) Further increasing square footage calculations, some homes are measured from outside of exterior finish materials. If the home has brick siding, for example, measuring to the outside of the brick may add 50 or even 100 square feet to the home's overall size. 


This is one reason homes should not be compared solely on the basis of cost-per-square-foot.


Different builders calculate square footage differently. Home site costs differ. The quality of materials used differs by builder, as does the costs charged by the builders' sub-contractors such as electricians, plumbers and painters.


Design also has a huge bearing on cost. These 2 homes have exactly the same  floor plan, and square footage, but the cost to build is very different.



1755 sq. ft., 3-bedroom

1755 sq. ft., 3-bedroom

1755 sq. ft., 3-bedroom

1755 sq. ft., 3-bedroom


Finally, what's included in one builder's bid will vary from what's included in another builder's bid. It's virtually impossible to get an "apples for apples" comparison between two builders, and even if you could control most variables by having the home design finalized and all products selected, there's still differences in quality and customer service to be considered.


Beware of comparing two homes solely on the basis of cost per square foot! 


Example Plans

  Part I - 1752 the Lancaster

  Part II - 43016 the Bay Hill and 43017 the Saugatuck

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Building cost | General | Plannng

Do you have a new home buyers personality? Sure you do!

by Greg Dodge 6. February 2013 07:41



Which word would you most likely use to describe your ideal home: “haven,” “showcase,” “unique,” or “carefree”?

You see, the words we use reveal a lot about how we see ourselves and are a reflection of our personalities. In the same way, our personalities are reflected in our homes. After all, there are few places on Earth where you have as much freedom to be yourself than in your home!

The neighborhood you choose…the home design you fall in love with…products and finishes you select for your home…even personal items you love to display...all of these reflect your personality. Many aspects of our lives are “learned”, but personality is a gift we were born with. And personality influences only grow stronger with age.



Even though our magazine "Her Home Magazine" is published from “her” perspective, all women don’t want to be thought of (or treated) the same. That truth inspired our woman-centric team at Design Basics to go deeper with their research into women’s preferences in the home, its design and products used, to look for personality-based influences. The research suggested four primary personas, and they were given names: Margo, Elise, Claire and Maggie.


A fun, interactive quiz (“Finally About Me!”) was developed to help women identify which of the four personas were closest to her personality. While no one is “purely” or “exclusively” one of the personas (to varying degrees, everyone is a blend of the different personas), quiz results identify the primary personality.

It’s simply uncanny how knowing your personality helps you understand your preferences in home design and product choices. The quiz, which takes about 3 minutes, will likely save you hours by helping focus on your priorities and avoid wasting your time on things you’re probably not interested in.

For more regarding the quiz and all four personalities, start HERE!


For more regarding the HER Home Magazine, start HERE!


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Finally About Me

“What have you done lately?”

by Greg Dodge 16. January 2013 22:25

 “What have you done lately?”


Your work has been recognized with awards. You’ve listened to customers, “heard” their problems in a whole new way and responded with innovative solutions. The media has given you your 15 minutes of fame. You’ve taken chances on being first, introducing new, unproven ideas. Your work has had significant impact in many peo­ple’s lives.

“OK, what have you done lately?”

Marketing effects take place over time. But in our micro­wave-fast, 4G-enabled society, we’ve come to focus almost exclusively on what’s immediately ahead of us. The new normal has minimal appreciation for what came before; it’s been replaced with short-term results. Next quarter’s numbers usurp what’s been accomplished.

Without minimizing the importance of focusing on the daily and weekly efforts that effect quarterly and annual numbers, maximum results are often found by tying in with past successes, establishing a company history that’s relevant and meaningful to today’s and tomorrow’s customers. This month’s incentives are important, but so is the prospective buyer’s peace of mind that comes from your company’s solid foundation (you’ll be there for them in the future). Prospects find it safer choosing to do busi­ness with a leader (minimizes risk). Many buyers embrace companies with a reputation for innovative solutions. Favorable press lends credibility and name recognition, numerous press features imply expertise.

So in looking forward, remember to also look back. What is there in your company’s history worth celebrating by keeping it at the forefront of your current marketing activities? By way of example, take a moment to review Design Basics’ short 30th Anniversary video.