Looking to Move to the Beach

Great opportunity to move to the beach! Two new homes in development on 55th Street and Atlantic Avenue. Call VB Homes today for more information at 757-491-1996 or visit our website vbhomesliving.com

#beach home #northend #oceanfront #virginiabeach #customhome #coastal home #beach #beachliving





Better design the key for great outdoor spaces on any budget

A fireplace anchors one of the outdoor living spaces at the Ettel home, May 22, 2014.

There is nothing wrong with a backyard grill and a couple of Adirondack chairs. However, if you are at a point in your life where you want your outdoor spaces to feel more like your indoor spaces, consider our tips for better design regardless of budget.

First, decide on the extent of your transformation. Do you want a simple patio or deck, or is a series of outdoor rooms more to your liking? If the latter, yet your budget is tight, consider creating an overall design that can be installed in phases for a result with cohesive flow.

Regardless of the size of your project, consider how you want the outdoor spaces to function. Is it for dining, cooking, conversation, lounging, recreation? How will they connect to the indoors visually and physically? How will they connect to each other and relate to surrounding areas.

Outdoor spaces that aren’t easily accessible, regardless of how beautifully appointed, are not likely to get much use. So consider the inside-to-outside transitions from both the interior and exterior perspectives.

Zones can be established in a number of ways like shifts in hardscaping materials from, say, concrete pavers to brick, or defining boundaries through the placement of planters and plantings. Regardless, moving between zones should feel seamless.

Traffic patterns can be established in similar ways to create spaces that unfold into each other through simple openings or down more formal walkways. If the latter, a curve to help create a sense of discovery is nice.

Always consider the “borrowed landscape” or what lies beyond the areas you are developing, taking advantage of attractive features and views and minimizing or camouflaging those that aren’t, like your neighbor’s shed.

With your plan mapped out, next consider focal points for each area, including sources of fire and water. A full-size fireplace will draw people to it outdoors just as it will indoors, or perhaps more so. But so will a more flexible and affordable fire pit if your space or budget is restrictive. Just be sure to consult building codes in relation to fire safety. Water features, whether an extensive pond or a tabletop fountain, provide both beauty and soothing sounds. Other focal points might include a specimen tree, a garden wall or trellis, or a piece of sculpture.

Provide a variety of seating options for people of all ages: low, high, stationary, portable, rigid and upholstered. Maybe even a swing or hammock. But coordinate colors, styles, and materials and limit the number to avoid a cluttered look. For upholstered furniture, invest in fabrics that can take a beating from the sun and that dry quickly. Overhead, consider some protection from the sun in the form of pergolas, umbrellas or awnings.

And lastly, have some fun decorating your spaces to engage all of the senses and create visual interest in support of your focal points. Be thoughtful in your selection of shapes, colors, and textures in both manmade and natural materials: accent tables, candles and outdoor-rated lighting, throw pillows, rugs, planters, decorative objects, rocks, and plant materials, including some with scents.

Whether your outdoor areas have a kicked-back Parrothead vibe, country-cottage charm, or sleek South Beach sophistication each should be a function of your personal style combined with the style of your home. Outdoor spaces can offer surprise elements perhaps not found inside your home, but generally a few repeated elements, colors, or motifs ensure a more satisfying and harmonious look and feel between indoors and out.

If an outdoor kitchen is in your budget, be sure to read next month’s column. The considerations are many – materials, location, appliances, storage, work surfaces, and ambiance – and we will get you cookin’ outdoors in comfort, safety, and style.

Chris Ettel is founding partner of VB Homes. He serves on the Tidewater Builders Association board of directors, serves as past chairman of the TBA Remodelers Council and is a longtime board member of the Virginia Beach Public Schools Education Foundation. For more information, go to www.vbhomesliving.com.

Bright ideas for night light

We spend significant money beautifying our landscapes with just the right trees, shrubs, flowers and hardscaping, but when night falls, all of that effort “goes dark.” 

As warm weather approaches and we tend to be outdoors more often later into the evenings, wouldn’t it be nice to enjoy our homes and streetscapes even as the darkness deepens?

Landscape lighting is the answer. And, besides aesthetics, mood and atmosphere, there are at least two other good reasons to brighten things up a bit: safety and security.

Like anything else, outdoor lighting can be incorporated into your landscape design along a spectrum from minimalism to maxed out. Here are some “bright” ideas for designing a landscape-lighting plan that is just right for your context.

1. Be clear about your goals, be they illuminating walkways, driveways and steps; creating an ambiance for outdoor entertaining; highlighting your home’s architectural and landscape features; or even deterring intruders.

2. Respect your neighbors and those coming and going from your home by choosing and positioning fixtures to avoid outdoor light pollution, which comes in many forms. Those intrusions include shining a light into a neighbor’s window or your guests’ eyes, washing out the night sky, or creating glare. Shields, collars and guards are among the considerations that can help.

3. Invest in LEDs. Though they cost a bit more than halogen, LEDs offer vastly longer life, are more energy-efficient and withstand shock, vibrations and inclement weather. LEDs offer nearly unlimited flexibility for dimming, brightening and creating a design plan with layers of subtlety.

4. Choose your look. Gentle, dramatic, elegant? Regardless of the look you desire, landscape lighting can provide it through a strategically placed mix of down-lighting, up-lighting and cross-lighting. Down-lighting, referred to as moon lighting, creates a romantic glow by mounting downward facing fixtures in trees. Up-lighting is positioned at ground level and creates more drama by aiming light directly at elements you wish to feature. Cross-lighting will grace the landscape with more depth by illuminating water features, specimen trees, swings and arbors from both sides while helping to eliminate shadows.

5. High wattage bulbs are too much of a good thing. They lend harshness to the landscape when a very different effect was the goal. You may be surprised at how much sophistication even 20 watts can deliver. Consider, as well, volts. Most landscape lighting today is low voltage which is safer to work with and less costly to install than 120-volt systems. A step-down transformer delivers one-tenth of the power, but the effects are, nonetheless, virtually limitless.

6. Think of the big picture. Types of outdoor lighting to consider, as with indoor lighting, include task, accent and overall achieved through fixtures like bullets (narrower beams), floods (wider beams), garden (on short posts), wash (softer and more diffuse) and well (buried in the ground). Incorporating all of these types of lighting will result in a fuller look and feel to your landscape. Timers ensure convenience and energy savings.

Through a combination of artistry, engineering and electrical know-how, you can look forward to a bit more brightness in your (night) life.

Chris Ettel is founding partner of VB Homes. He serves on the Tidewater Builders Association board of directors, serves as past chairman of the TBA Remodelers Council and is a longtime board member of the Virginia Beach Public Schools Education Foundation. For more information, go to www.vbhomesliving.com.

Before and After Renovations

Check out this before and after exterior renovation in Bay Island. Let VB Homes design your next remodel project by calling us at 757-491-1996 or visiting our website vbhomesliving.com

#vbhomes #remodel #exteriordesign #exterior#virginiabeach #coastal #home #beforeandafter#design

Image may contain: house, tree, sky, plant and outdoor

Looking to Remodel Your Kitchen

Take a look at this gorgeous North End remodeled kitchen! Our client wanted a beachy look for their new kitchen design. Call us at 757-491-1996 or visit our website vbhomesliving.com for us to design your next kitchen. #vbhomes #virginiabeach #remodel #kitchendesign #kitchen #beachhouse #coastaldesign



Picture: North End Custom Home in Virginia Beach, VA

Floored by flooring choices?

When it comes to what’s underfoot, there is more than meets the eye. Whether you are building or remodeling, flooring is one of the most important long-lived decisions you will make in relation to aesthetics, function and even issues like safety and sound. Besides the number of choices in materials, each comes with a slew of options. Here, we take a look at the top choices:

HARDWOOD is durable, natural and warm underfoot. Oak floors say “traditional,” while some of the exotic woods like Brazilian cherry and acacia say “contemporary.” Wider planks and hand-scraped surfaces look Old World while remaining grounded in the present. Planks, parquet with their geometric patterns, and prefinished boards for easier installation should all be considered, though hardwood, which can take 120 years to mature, is not the greenest of choices.

LAMINATE is composed of layers of different wood-based materials that are glued or laminated together and topped with a photographic imprint with the appearance of wood grain. Embossing adds more realistic texture. And embossing in register (EIR) ensures that both the look and feel of the wood grain lines up. Easier to install than hardwood floors, it is also more affordable. Expect more bounce and “give” than traditional hard floor coverings as well as more sound transmission underfoot as they are not glued down to the subfloor.

ENGINEERED wood floors are a variation on laminate in that a genuine hardwood veneer tops a number of plywood layers. A little more expensive, an engineered floor is prized for its more authentic look, sound and feel than laminate. It also resists cupping and warping much more than solid planks.

BAMBOO is one of the most eco-friendly choices. Taking only three to five years to reach maturity in controlled forests, this lightweight woody grass has the tensile strength of steel, and one that resists humidity-related swelling and contraction but is still more susceptible to moisture and humidity than other species of woods. It is sold prefinished with tongue-and-groove joints like standard hardwood. Its Janka rating will indicate hardness, with traditional construction bamboo in the range of red oak and strand-woven bamboo rating as high as Brazilian cherry and teak.

CORK is another of the more sustainable choices. Its cushiony feel comes courtesy of this natural material’s honeycomb structure, which also will absorb vibration and sound. Cork’s natural nonslip surface makes it a wise choice for kitchens and baths. Though the surface will largely bounce back if dented, stiletto heels are not a cork floor’s best friend. It also can be more easily damaged because of its softness.

CERAMIC TILE, whether glazed porcelain, terra-cotta or natural stone (e.g. marble, granite, travertine or slate), is a popular, durable choice. Glazed porcelain offers the most affordability and freedom from maintenance, as porous materials must be sealed. The range of colors, textures, finishes and sizes of porcelain tiles lead to an infinite number of possibilities when combined. But drop something breakable on any of these surfaces, and it likely will shatter. And they are not known for a warm feeling underfoot, unless you install radiant flooring.

Finishing the look is grout, typically a cement-based, porous product. For the most maintenance-free grout – one that does not require sealing and re-sealing – consider an epoxy type, which is flexible and less prone to cracking and chipping, or one with an additive that strengthens and eliminates the need for sealing.

VINYL has come a long way and is one of the most budget-friendly flooring choices around. An ideal choice for spaces with moisture issues, it is easy to clean and more cushy underfoot than ceramic or stone. Available in sheets or the easier-to-install self-stick tiles, it comes in varying widths and thicknesses. The thicker the wear layer in millimeters, the more durable it will be. Try to pick a vinyl with at least 15 mm of wear layer for durability.

CARPETING is still the preferred choice of many for bedrooms, especially upper-story bedrooms where it will help muffle sound. Shag has left the ‘70s and has arrived more stylish than ever in the 21st century, although its extra-deep pile makes it a poor choice for dining spaces. Solid cut pile, the most popular choice, is soft and dense and absent of loops that can get “pulled” and unravel, especially by pets’ feet.

For commercial application, modular tiles come in a near limitless range of colors, patterns and textures, are the most durable, and can be easily replaced if one becomes damaged or soiled.


Picture: Bay Colony Custom Home

Hemp and sisal lend a casual, coastal feel, but are not plush, nor are the recommended for homes with pets and small children.

SUBFLOORING AND UNDERLAYMENTS. Regardless of the flooring you choose, you are creating problems down the road – a long and bumpy road – if you don’t insist on a proper subfloor and underlayments. Issues of cushioning and sound absorption are just the start of it. An unsightly appearance, compromised performance and uneven wear, because of raised areas, are perhaps more troublesome.

Underlayments are placed on top of the subfloor. They absorb the roughness and imperfections of the subfloors, which provide structural support, preventing squeaks and cracks. “Strong, sound, level, dry, clean and smooth” are the operative words here.

For carpet, rug performance and appearance, it’s all about the pad. Pads protect against packing wear and absorb impact from feet and furniture, lessening stress on the carpet. Pads also lend softness, warmth and sound reduction, but can be problematic for wheelchairs.

Before you begin, remember that, in the end, the finished floor is only as good as what’s under it.

Bathrooms – making a list and checking it twice

If the winter holidays have meant more traffic in your home – kids home from college, grandparents visiting, friends in and out – you may be thinking that all you want for Christmas or Hanukkah is a new bathroom.

The first decision on your list will be whether to remodel a current bathroom, create or expand an existing bath by carving out space from an adjacent room, or adding on so that the footprint of your home is altered with, say, a large master bath. The latter will likely bear the biggest budget, but it may be worth it. If remodeling, one of the biggest ticket items is likely to be moving plumbing, and some homeowners avoid it for that reason. But, if rerouting plumbing will result in the bathroom of your dreams, it may well be the best decision.

Regardless of whether you remodel, expand, or build from the ground up, following are additional considerations that should receive decision-making priority.

As for layout, avoid skimping on space, as dual users need approximately 3 feet to 4 feet of space to avoid having to squeeze pass each other. Also, make sure the toilet is not the first thing people see when passing by the door. Toilets definitely make a statement, but probably not the one you desire. If at all possible, try to conceal it in its own water closet or behind a wall, which is nice for privacy as well. And if it cannot be hidden, perhaps choose one of the new styles that look almost like sculpture.

The focal point of bathrooms is ideally a beautiful shower and/or tub. Though frosted glass was once popular for showers – and they do provide more privacy – most owners of remodeled or newly constructed bath are opting for clear glass. Clear glass allows all of those ceramic and marble design dollars to be shown off to advantage. Similarly, most homeowners favor frameless or semi-frameless showers, with the former costing a bit more.

In terms of function, showers with spa-like amenities for relaxation are replacing jetted tubs. Consider dual rainfall shower heads, multiple spray nozzles, and steam. At the very least, include niches for shower products – no one wants those on the floor or in a shower caddy – and some type of seating.

Overall, tubs are generally not included in every bathroom nowadays. They are more difficult to clean and, for some, to step into. When tubs are included in the design, more homeowners are choosing smaller ones, at 5 feet to 6 feet, and freestanding styles, like claw or pedestal. In any case, for durability we recommend choosing a cast iron or engineered stone material over fiberglass.

Though dressing tables or vanities are not as common anymore, double
or integral sinks – provided you can devote about 6 feet of counter space to the sink area – are popular for designating personal space and ample elbow room. More homeowners still choose vanities over pedestal sinks. However, there are many pedestal styles available with handsome under-sink storage. Vessel sinks look terrific but, often, because of the splash factor, aren’t practical. If you choose one, be sure your counter height is low enough to accommodate the raised sides.yu3a0616

Pictured: North End Custom Homes Bathroom

As in a kitchen, the best material for your countertop is critical. But without as much wear and tear, bathroom countertops may not need to be quite as durable. Yet hot appliances, like curling irons, still need to be considered. Weigh the pros and cons of granite vs. marble, quartz, and solid surfaces before making a decision. Comparisons are readily available online. Whichever material you choose, consider a grommet through which cords can be threaded for a neater countertop appearance.

Also, as in kitchens, a combination of task, ambient, and accent lighting is ideal. Washing faces with light from above and in front, about at eye level, minimizes unattractive shadows. Sconces, perhaps set into mirrors, are ideal. For the shower, consider a waterproof recessed style. As for mirrors, most homeowners are choosing to frame them, even if large. And, if at all possible, include a window in the design for natural light. If there’s no exterior wall for a window, a solar tube is a good alternative. An operable style will also allow moisture to escape.

Exhaust fans provide that function as well, but should be vented to the outside, not into the attic. They also need to be the correct size for the job, especially if your shower includes steam. Consider carefully the noise level of your fan because, while a quiet fan may seem preferable, the noise level can provide privacy in bathrooms, especially those adjacent to more public spaces.

For walls, avoid wallpaper which, generally, can’t withstand the moisture level in a full bath, though it can work well in a powder room. When choosing paint, select an eggshell finish for durability.

On floors, ceramic and stone are the most popular choices for aesthetics and function. Wood looks and feels warmer, but is not impervious to water. However, many ceramic tiles with a very convincing wood look are available in today’s market in a wide range of finishes. Properly installed heated floors keep toes toasty warm.

And for faucets and cabinetry hardware, the most popular and timeless finishes are still brushed nickel or polished chrome. But there are others, like oiled bronze for an Old World feel, to consider.

Hopefully, these considerations will remove the naughty and preserve the nice when transforming your bathroom spaces.

Kitchen upgrades that make the grade

The frenzy of cooking and family togetherness of Thanksgiving is now past. And if this favorite culinary-centric season left you thinking that the heart of your home is in need of a serious upgrade before next year’s feast rolls around – say, opening up the space to adjacent rooms – we are here to help you make the grade with an abbreviated checklist of sorts. Just think A-F and you’ll leave no stone(ware) unturned.



Aesthetics: Of course you want your kitchen, the hub of your home, to look terrific. As you begin to plan your remodel – a process that should take longer than the actual construction – one of the questions to ask yourself is whether you want a kitchen that looks like a kitchen – often a more modernist approach – one that looks like another room in your home, or something that’s somewhere in between. Your answer will drive many of your aesthetic decisions about what to conceal or reveal and whether to include furniture-style details.

Appliances: Among the many obvious appliance decisions related to aesthetics and function, a couple of key considerations are whether you need one oven or two, as well as whether a microwave oven is as indispensable as it once was. Most homeowners need two ovens only once or twice a year, and many are ready to jettison the microwave. An increasingly popular decision is to select a single oven and a dual-purpose combination microwave-convection oven. As for ranges, be sure that whatever model you choose is vented to the outside. Hearth, mantel and chimney-style range hoods will help transform this, the hardest working appliance in your kitchen, into a handsome focal point.


Budget: Kitchen remodels are not inexpensive, depending on the extent of the remodel. But these $30K-$50K jobs enhance the livability of one’s home immeasurably. And while it is unlikely that you will recoup more than 65 percent to 70 percent of the cost should you sell your home, your inviting kitchen just might be what sets your property apart from others on the market.


Cabinetry: Based on the clutter factor, most homeowners still prefer closed, solid wood cabinets. But many possibilities exist for combining closed cabinets with open shelving. Soffits, unless they hide ductwork, are a thing of the past. Yet cabinets that stretch to the ceiling create hard-to-reach space at the top. One attractive solution is lighted, glass-enclosed cubby holes for display. Another is to stagger cabinet height so that some reach the ceiling and others don’t, creating an airier feeling.

Countertops: Natural stones like granite and marble are practically unbeatable for their “natural” beauty, but they are porous. Hence, sealing is recommended. Yet, most people don’t do it, so don’t let that be a deterrent. Soapstone, with a range of colors limited to whites and grays, is also natural, but is nonporous and more pliable, meaning it is less likely to crack from stress or weight. Slate, too, is nonporous, but it comes in a somewhat wider range of colors than soapstone, and is more affordable than granite or marble. Engineered quartz countertops – ground quartz mixed with polymer resins – are durable but more expensive. Concrete is heavy, sometimes requiring additional reinforcement. Do your research before making an informed decision for your application.


Design: While you could certainly serve as your own designer/contractor, professionals can see past the limitations that often limit homeowners’ imaginations about what could be. Plus, professionals are not only trained to solve functional and aesthetic problems that crop up in a kitchen, but they know how to avoid painful design mistakes from the outset.


Efficiency: The equilateral “work triangle” from refrigerator to range to sink is still a fundamental principle in kitchen design. Avoid letting your desire for the highly sought-after “eat-at” center island upset the flow by incorporating one of the points of the triangle into the island.

Extras: It is easy to become seduced by these bells and whistles: “instant hot” dispensers, pot fillers, warming drawers and many more. Think carefully about which of these sometimes costly add-ons will really provide increased functionality.


Fixtures: The importance of lighting can scarcely be underestimated in a kitchen, whether overhead or under-cabinet task lighting, preferably on dimmers. Though recessed lighting is popular, consider flush mounted fixtures for all-over brightness absent that “surgical suite” feel. And, while pendant lighting adds pizazz, pick a style that won’t leave your friends and family seeing spots.

Flooring: Wood is edging out tile for kitchens because of its warmth, both literally and figuratively. Even sealed, though, it is not impervious to water, especially in a leak situation. A possible happy-medium is ceramic wood-look tile.

Though this checklist barely scratches the surface, it hopefully lays the groundwork for top marks on your kitchen upgrade.

For more kitchen tips visit our website at vbhomesliving.com

So, you’ve decided to remodel your home. Here’s how to select a contractor.

You’ve decided to remodel your home. That means you’ve decided to, as Southern architect Bobby McAlpine would suggest, reflect “the gorgeous world inside of (you).” And that is no small decision. Nor is it an inexpensive one. But it is transformative. In this month’s column, we provide you with tips for choosing a top-notch remodeler to ensure a rewarding renewal.

Think of this matchmaking process in four categories: business experience, technical expertise, customer service and communication, and company policy.

In terms of business experience, legitimate remodelers will maintain a permanent mailing address and phone number so they can be reached in a timely fashion, and they will carry proper insurance. In Virginia, for jobs exceeding $1,000, contractors must be licensed as Class A (unrestricted dollar amount), Class B (up to $120,000 or $750,000 annually), or Class C (up to $10,000 or $150,000), each with appropriately stringent requirements.
Though there is always room for newcomers in the industry, someone with an established presence may be more likely to have financial stability and solid relationships with trade contractors and suppliers, not to mention an excellent reputation with peers and with customers who would be willing to offer recommendations. Membership in a trade organization demonstrates a commitment to professionalism, as do professional designations like Certified Graduate Remodeler.

When assessing technical expertise, beware of the very low bid, which could indicate a lack of knowledge of actual costs involved. Your remodeler should offer a warranty and have an intimate knowledge of products and materials used for your project, offer an array of options and maintain a portfolio of finished projects at the ready. This professional should also arrange for the building permit, thereby rendering him or her the contractor of record who is, as such, liable for the work.

Your remodeling contractor should be someone you are happy to welcome onto your property day after day, as well as someone with whom you feel comfortable addressing the issues that are bound to arise. Be sure this person not only listens to and fully understands what you need and want, but enthusiastically embraces your ideas. Ask for examples of how the contractor has solved remodeling challenges within budget for other customers. And assess whether this person’s communication style suits yours.

Finally, understanding company policy and procedures at the outset will help you sidestep heartburn along the way. Insist on a written contract to include work performed and a fair payment schedule. And be sure you understand procedures related to changes such as to design, materials or schedule.

McAlpine asserts that the only reason to build a house – and we would assert, remodel a home – is to “expand the territory of the heart.” Hopefully, these considerations will do just that while helping to avoid heartache.

Have a question on building or remodeling? Please send them to chris@vbhomesliving.com