There’s an outdoor shower for every “body” and budget

If you loved running through the sprinkler as a kid, the kid in you is likely to find the same pleasure in an outdoor shower. Or if you longingly associate showering outdoors with watching the sun set over the sound and savoring a book during an afternoon storm from the cocoon of a screened porch—in other words, vacation—we can help extend that off-duty relaxed feeling long after the sunburn fades.74th St Outdoor Shower


Don’t have a pool or live at the beach?  No worries?  The chlorine-saturated and sand-coated no longer have exclusive rights.  If you exercise outdoors, do lawn work, have dogs to bathe, or simply want to feel a little freer and more in touch with the natural world, alfresco showering may be perfect for you.  And there is an outdoor shower for every budget and every style. An outdoor shower can be as simple as a garden hose run between a spigot and a showerhead fixture.  And there are plenty of DIY models on the market.  But if your sights are set a bit higher, here are a few tips to keep in mind:


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 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.

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.

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