Facing the Future

Will and I just attended the beautiful wedding of a lovely young couple. From the setting on a lake in Maine to the joy on the faces of many friends and family, there was little to not celebrate. So Will and I found ourselves pretending we could subtract decades off of our lives and spent more time than my feet were prepared for on the dance floor. Turns out going to a wedding to celebrate a young couple’s commitment to one another also serves as a reminder of our physical limitations as we continue on our course of sharing this life together.

So, as I sat at my desk on a Monday morning contemplating another bowl of ice for my right foot, I came across a hot topic in building: designing for those of us who would like to prepare to age in place. And while I will never suggest to any one homeowner that they might want to consider any of these design ideas, it might be a good idea for all of us who are now feeling our joints despite generous doses of glucosamine to give some consideration to these details as we contemplate our custom homes.

The greatest gift we can give our older selves will be improved mobility and access to our homes’ elements. Let’s give ourselves a no-step entry way. Let’s make our passageways wide and either provide ourselves one-floor living or the space for a future elevator (it’s fairly easy and affordable to plan for it now). Let’s make our kitchen user-friendly, with easy-pull drawers and appliances. Let’s give ourselves good task lighting (and maybe gentle lighting in our entertaining spaces!).Modern ShowerAnd we might not need the grab bars now, but why shouldn’t we block for them behind the walls in our bathrooms? Curb-less showers are now the latest trend so go ahead and add it now. And lastly, tell your guests you love mixing textures and no one will ever guess you were just being practical being able to dance around your kitchen island for many years to come.

For many of us, these years after child-rearing provide the best time to enjoy designing, building, and living in a beautifully constructed custom home. There is no reason why we shouldn’t discuss these less-pleasant realities of our future selves as we intentionally  decide upon fun design elements. We just might have to do it with a hearty dose of humor.

Tips from the Trade Show

60,000 of us descended on the Orange County Convention center earlier this month to see what is new in home construction, design, planning, and financing. It was dizzying in its breadth. As I flew home on Friday, mentally sorting all I saw during the miles of walking in the wrong shoes amongst the displays and demonstrations, I landed on one real certainty. Building a custom home allows the owner to reflect not only the basic needs of their lives but provides an opportunity to relay core values and priorities.

15940915_608611219339334_1314703349137074137_n-editedHere’s an example of what I mean. This stunning range is designed and manufactured in France. The price definitely puts it in the “luxury” category. It’s much pricier sibling is custom-designed and hand-tooled. Does it do anything other quality dual-fuel ranges can’t do? Probably not. But who can deny that the bonds we build while entertaining in our kitchens are unique in their warmth and authenticity? Installing a unique range might reflect a buyer’s commitment to those moments.

Another example I like is the use of manufactured quartz countertops. One of the top trends interior designers are reporting is the choice of quartz over other kitchen and bath surfaces. While I naturally lean towards the most natural, I 15966002_608611292672660_6868232574638607914_n-editedhave a new appreciation for the beauty and wear of manufactured products. Quartz manufacturers are no longer just trying to imitate stone slabs. Cambria has such a cool product waiting for a patent that we weren’t allowed to photograph it.  This, from a competing manufacturer, is an example of some forward-looking design options for someone who prioritizes ease and durability.

The “extras” people might choose are expressions of priorities and personality. If convenience is important, you can wire your house to turn on the shower, monitor the weather report while managing the sprinkler system, or set the mood lighting to direct your meditation. If you are concerned about energy efficiency, new products and technologies address climate, lighting, and water use so you know you are in control of your consumption. If you are a wine collector, installing a conditioned cellar beneath your floor is a fun and dramatic option. If you are concerned about security, you can install invasion-resistant doors and windows or an underground bomb shelter. If serenity is a goal, you can start your morning with a warm summer rain and ground your living spaces with natural surfaces, lovely fireplaces, easy access to outdoor spaces, or soothing water features.  Let us build your nest. And your fortress. And your tableau. The options are endless. The blisters on my feet prove that.



As I am writing this, it is already 7:30 in the morning on this rainy winter day and the sun isn’t yet doing its job. January mornings are tough on this early morning riser. Luckily, I was born in the latter part of the 20th century and can manipulate my world through the use of many terrific technologies. Today, I proclaim, “Thank goodness for good lighting.” So I want to share some information about LED lighting; luckily, I know the owners of a wonderful business providing such lighting to the DC Metro area. LED Source DC’s blog post introducing residential LED lighting is posted below. Their contact information can be found at the bottom of the post.


“Thinking of putting LED lighting in your home?

Here are 6 things you need to know before you buy.

For years you have mentally laid out how you want your home. You’ve read books on Feng Shui, watched countless hours of HGTV and have even taken an intro to interior design class at your local college to make sure your home is perfect. Now the living room is cozy, the entryway is regal and the kitchen is to die for. But something is off. You can’t put your finger on it. It could be the lighting.

Lighting is like the perfect wrapping on the perfect gift. It brings all of the good things you’ve placed in the room together and presents it in the way most pleasing to the eye. Problem solved. So now, you’re going to get some lighting. Then you realize that there’s another problem. Buying lighting has gotten complicated. It used to be we just walked into the hardware store and bought a light bulb. Now you have to consider lumen packages, color temperatures and color rendering indexes for your solid state light source (that’s a light bulb to you and me). Mastering the jargon alone can feel intimidating. But fear not, here are some tips that will simplify the process of choosing the perfect LED lighting plan to complete your home.

1. It all starts with Lumens. Lumens is simply a measurement of how bright the bulb is. The trusty old 60W bulb is about 800 lumens, so you can use that as a guide. Then it’s a matter of figuring out how much light you need in each room. For example, in a dark kitchen try 1000 lumens and for a bathroom try 800 lumens.

2. Color has a Temperature? Color temperature (or CCT) determines what shade of white light the bulb produces. Without getting into too much science just know that there is a number that corresponds to the warm, cool and daylight colors you may be familiar with. Typically in our homes we use warm colors or

2700K-3000K. Again, for reference the trusty old 60W bulb is 2700K. In offices, we like cooler colors, typically around 3500K-4000K. Daylight is cooler still, in the 5000K-6500K range.

3. How you are going to use the lighting? LED lighting is so much more flexible than traditional lighting and manufacturers have come up with some really creative products. Are you trying to create a mood to relax or a high energy space to work? There are a lot of really creative options now. If you are looking to remodel, this is one situation where consulting with a lighting expert may make sense.

4. Get smart. In the same way as smart thermostats, home automation is making its way into lighting products. You can now have your lights blink when your phone rings or change color when it is going to rain. You are only limited by your imagination.

5. Clean up your act. One of the great things about LED lighting is that it doesn’t contain any hazardous materials, unlike fluorescent lighting which contains mercury. By converting to LED lighting, we are eliminating that toxin from our homes. When planning your lighting remodel, make sure that you identify any older bulbs and check with your local municipality to ensure that you dispose of them properly.

6. Get LEDucated. In order to help consumers, the lighting industry has developed a ‘lighting facts’ label, similar to the ‘nutrition facts’ label we find on food. This label can be found on most light bulb packaging and tells you everything you need to know!”

LED Source DC is part of a national lighting company that specializes in LED technology with offices throughout the US providing local expertise to help you with your lighting product. We carry all of the major LED lighting brands to ensure we create the ultimate lighting solutions. Located in Ashburn, Virginia, LED Source DC is your local LED lighting experts serving Washington, DC, Maryland and Virginia. 

For more information, please contact

Steve Searles – 

LED Source DC

p 571-585-4533 m 703-786-5139

ssearles019@ledsource.com www.LEDSourceDC.com


Baby, Is it Cold Outside?

Energy efficiency can be a goal in any home you wish to build. How much it should determine your architectural design and budget is a consideration to discuss at the beginning of the custom home process. Whether you share my (high) maintenance preferences or Will’s penny-pinching proclivities, any tact you take will find a proponent at LCH.

While I fancy myself to be an outdoorswoman hardened by a youth in the Rocky Mountain West, I love a great climate-controlled room (turns out I grew up in the Denver suburbs). shutterstock_130221638I want my home to be 70 degrees year-round, dipping to 68 only when I sleep. If you understand what I’m talking about, you too have probably experienced the shame of tiptoeing to the thermostat, hoping you make it back to your seat before your frugal spouse catches you in the act.

There is an alternative for comfortable living. Building a custom home with a good builder offers the opportunity to design a home that will create a comfortable climate while minimizing the impact on your utility bill. Here are some of the choices you can make that will keep your hands warm in January and sheets cool in mid-August.

  1. Design an efficient house. Even if you dream of a large home, architectural details can help maintain it as a comfortable yet efficient home. Ask your architect to avoid tricky cantilevers, corners, and other complications that will make tight seams and thorough insulation difficult.
  2. Take orientation into consideration. Plan around the sun.
  3. Use only experienced and committed insulation and HVAC contractors. Poorly installed work by either trade will waste the “bought” air.  Don’t skimp on insulation. It is already pretty affordable and it will be one of the most cost-effective investments you can make.  Appropriately zoned HVAC units can rapidly respond to small area needs with measured outputs. No longer do you need to heat the entire floor if your office is chilly.
  4. Install efficient appliances. The market is encouraging rapid innovation and manufacturers are responding.
  5. Select quality windows customized to your home environment needs. If your house takes advantage of a great southerly view with huge floor to ceiling windows, consider purchasing optional window coatings that can block hot and damaging rays.
  6. Details matter. Work with a builder who cares about the small issues that can compromise an exterior envelope, HVAC system, or installation of any of the components that comprise an efficient home. Again, you bought the air. It’s our job to keep it in.

Energy efficiency can be a goal in any home you wish to build. How much it should determine your architectural design and budget is a consideration to discuss at the beginning of the custom home process. Whether you share my (high) maintenance preferences or Will’s penny-pinching proclivities, any tact you take will find a proponent at LCH.



Wines Under a Hundee

Though I love a great glass and have watched my share of documentaries about sommeliers, I am no wine expert. I know enough to enjoy Sideways and to find a great wine shop. I learned this last lesson in my early days of shopping for gifts. Will and I were in the cellar of our favorite wine store in Denver (http://www.vineyardwineshop.com/, btw), looking for a nice bottle for a friend’s celebration. We overheard a nearby customer asking for a $450 bottle of Bordeaux. wine-1164591-639x433The store stocked the requested bottles but the manager was encouraging the buyer to look at a wine a fifth of the cost. The manager’s point was that the pricey, well-known label was charging for the name recognition but the lesser known wine was more interesting and at least as good.

I love the lesson that keeping the customer’s interests at the center of your business is more important than selling the most expensive products. In homebuilding, as in life, some products are worth the investment. SubZero makes a fantastic refrigerator. Asko dishwashers are quiet and efficient. Clark Hall Doors are beautiful. But depending on your priorities, less expensive options for all selections are easy (and fun) to find. Like a great wine, your home should age well and be a solid investment. Our goal is to help you cultivate that investment by making the best decisions throughout the process. Your home should a beautiful composition of carefully selected elements that might well equate to that $90 wine surpassing the best vintage of the most sought-after chateaux.

Experience Matters

trussesI am trying to embrace the benefits of being middle-aged. One great one is being surrounded by people who have flourished in their chosen fields and are now proven experts. In the last few weeks, I’ve sat in awe as friends presented in depth information about their work in science and business. This morning, as I walked a project with my husband, my reflective mood allowed me to recognize I was watching my husband’s expertise in action.

We are currently working on a home that is long on both beauty and complicated roof lines. It is at a critical stage in construction; we need to make sure the building’s bones are built correctly and to last before drywall hides the guts. Ahead of bringing our framer in to address issues big and small, we want to make sure the roof trusses are in good shape, where they are intended to be, and installed with the proper placements outlined by the engineer.

When the trusses img_0919-editedare dropped on site, each comes marked with a code and is packed in bundles according to its size. The framers disassemble the packs, sorting trusses according to the provided layout. They then follow the layout like they are assembling a huge Lego project. Given its complexity and physical challenges, it is entirely understandable that excellent framers will still occasionally miss a piece of wind bracing or the manufacturer missed a gusset. Years of evaluating trusses enables an experienced eye to find a broken chord or forgotten brace. This is where Will’s experience matters.


Let’s Get Real

Owning and running a business with your spouse should confer special credentials in marital communications. While parenting together is likely more stressful (or is that just us?), sharing our livelihood requires us to challenge, cheer lead, and negotiate in ways we didn’t anticipate as we sat next to one another in our premarital meetings with our officiant.

I bring this up because, like all big life moments, building a custom home can bring new opportunities for growing with your partner. Depending on how involved you each would like to be, you will likely navigate some new waters. Who will design what? Who is going to choose which component? Are you on the same page about budget details?

Will and I still run into these issues. In our recent inventory home, Will wanted rich walnut trim to extend from the hearth room into the kitchen space. I, seeking to keep the kitchen light and bright, wanted the white woodwork to fill the transition area.

Notice the white doors at the far end of the kitchen?

Because we had already stocked custom walnut doors, this wasn’t a seamless conversation.

We like to think that a benefit of working with a husband and wife team is that our shared experience helps us listen to and understand our customers. It also doesn’t hurt that we know when to quietly leave the room so doors can be selected.

Thinking through issues ahead of time will make the process enjoyable and effective. To that end, here is a very brief survey to help spark some good conversation.



To Trend or Not to Trend

I recently had to  got to go shopping for a new evening gown. As all women know, this is a confounding activity. Before you are able to select one of the right color and fit, you have to first decide if you are going to buy the dress that reflects up to the minute fashion awareness (and your current physical shape) or are you going to invest in something classic, something that you might actually want to wear again years down the road.  This time, I went with something super-trendy which probably won’t fit in a few years.

Designing a house mimics the same dilemma. Everything from the architectural design to the choice of bath hardware can reflect the latest design trend. While there are no right answers for every owner and situation, there are some basic concepts that can help inform these decisions. Below are a list of some of the choices and their implications for the long term.

  • Architectural design trends – This is the biggie. If you feel like your response to the screenshot2016-09-08at6-35-02amon trend style and layout is almost spiritual, go for it. You will love living in this space and visitors will enjoy experiencing the home as an extension of your personality. Do know this might narrow the folks interested in purchasing the home when you are no longer there but we firmly believe every home has a buyer.
  • Bathroom and kitchen finishes – These are the most common. For some reason, we all really pay attention to design trends for these rooms and there are so many great options for responding to them. If you think you will have the stomach for spending the time and money on renovations down the road, this is a great place to reflect today’s aesthetic. Tile, counter tops, and fixtures can be easily replaced. Cabinets, if chosen carefully, might even be refinished.  Just keep in mind the story about giving the moose a muffin. Once you start remodeling a bathroom or kitchen, you just might want to keep going.
  • Design details – These are the difficult ones. Who knows if the latest design innovations will stand screenshot2016-09-08at6-49-16amthe test of time or firmly plant your home in the year it is built? Again, the decision to follow a trend might be made by your willingness to absorb future renovation costs. LCH will be able to help you predict some of those future costs.

If you have some idea of how long you will want to live in your home before either renovating or moving, your design selections will be easier to define. Fortunately, manufacturers and suppliers offer not only wide variety of styles but there are often diverse price points. Don’t be afraid to follow trends; just know ahead of time what costs might be associated with which choices.  Your particular set of choices is what will make your home customized and unique.

So, that trendy dress? As I made sure to inform Will, it came from the clearance rack.

R.E.S.P.E.C.T. I’ll tell ya what it means to me.


I am a sucker for a good craft fair. Show me an artisan who has spent hours blowing a glass vase or weeks stitching a quilt, I start digging for my credit card. A furniture maker who has built a beautiful rocker will require my bringing Will back to see. And let’s not forget about the amazing apple sauce or the addicting kettle corn.

But back to my point… We love craftsmanship. However, several forces have conspired over the last couple of decades to “throw shade” on the reputation of the construction trades.  We all know some of this has been earned by a segment of the build-fast industry. But knowing how hard the men and women on our jobs work, I hope to change some opinions.

Here are some examples of work reflecting the contractors’ investment of time, skill, and experience. 12512477_474219506111840_5076241198064488781_n-1The gentleman who installed this stone fireplace surround spent three days cutting, fitting, and laying the stones in the family room. He paid attention to the color and size of individual stones and created a beautifully balanced centerpiece.

The tile installers spend an impressive amount of time preparing the underlayment and determining placement before they ever start cutting.12469615_457606591106465_3148176234363639367_o Not only do they concern themselves with precision symmetry, they spend hours upon hours ensuring that the product won’t shift, move, or crack long after buyers take possession.

We love our plumber. He has been working in Northern Virginia for decades and brings a wealth of experience and advice to our sites. There was no functional reason for him to create such beautiful symmetry with these pipes.plumbing And weeks later, drywall forever sealed it from view. But he cares so he did it.

So, yes. There are contractors out there giving their contemporaries a bad name. But we are routinely blown away by the care and skill the craftsmen exhibit. And just as I envy the quilter’s careful stitching, I wish my two hands could perfectly plumb a house or build a beautiful fireplace around which families will gather. Fortunately, we know people whose hands do exactly that.