Thoughtful Home Design: 4 Tips to Transform Any Small Space

23137956_original(BPT) – During the 1950s, the average-sized American home was just around 1,700 square feet. Fast forward to today, and the average size has increased to about 2,600 square feet, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. While many Americans think the bigger the better, there is a growing trend of homeowners around the country opting to downsize to tiny homes, condominiums, apartments or just smaller single-family homes.

Deciding to scale down is driven by many reasons – the quest for less maintenance, parents recently becoming empty nesters, an increase in the cost of living or simply looking to live a greener lifestyle. However, having less square footage doesn’t need to mean skimping on style or function.

If you are planning on downsizing, here are four tips for thoughtful small space home design.

1. Think Durable Material That Can Handle Double Duty.

As people continue to downsize, it is important to maximize space by having rooms work double duty. If your home isn’t large enough to accommodate an eating area and an office, have your kitchen island work as both.

To keep up with daily wear, such as sliding pots and pans, plates, spills and more, look to a high performance countertop such as Neolith. This material is scratch, heat and stain-resistant. It’s also non-porous and hygienic, so there’s no need to worry about cross-contamination on office papers by day and food by night.

2. Less is More.23137392_original

According to popular belief, it is better to fill a space with several small pieces of furniture. However, design savvy professionals and homeowners are turning this idea on its head by using fewer, yet larger pieces to furnish living rooms, bedrooms and dining rooms. By doing so, this creates an optical illusion of space and adds a designer’s touch.

3. Make a Statement.

When designing a small space like a bathroom, thoughtfully selected wall colors can make a huge difference. To really make a statement, think beyond paint with unexpected textures, designs and materials such as Neolith sintered stone in the La Boheme design. This decor is an accurate interpretation of Lebanese-inspired cedar that adds visual interest and is much easier to maintain than its natural counterpart.

Finish off the look with oversized art, large mirrors to bounce light around the room, a floating sink and toilet, and open shower to pack a punch in a small space.

4. Bring Only What You Love.

It may seem obvious, but when moving or scaling back on your next home, be sure to take an inventory of everything you own, and only bring items that make you happy. Without the extra storage space larger homes afford, downsizing is a great opportunity to really ask yourself, “Do I love this and do I need it?” When you have only the possessions you love surrounding you in your new space, it will automatically feel bigger.

To start your small space project, experiment with different styles and colors through online design tools, like the visualizer on While smaller rooms demand creative thinking and individuality, quality design is well within reach.

7 Steps to Secure Your Home While You’re On Vacation

30363120_original(BPT) – Warmer temperatures, budding trees and blooming flowers are all lovely parts of spring, but what you really look forward to is the start of vacation planning season! Deciding where to go and what to see, making arrangements and planning your wardrobe are all exciting aspects of summer vacation planning. But before you pack up to leave on your getaway, be sure to take care of the most important asset you’ll be leaving at home – your home itself.

“Before going away on vacation, homeowners do a lot of things to prepare for the security and safety of their home while away, including stopping the mail, powering down electronics and turning off water and gas,” says Emily Lewicki, brand manager with Coleman Heating and Air Conditioning. “Additionally, it is important to keep in mind that a home’s temperature needs to be monitored, which can easily be done by using a programmable thermostat.”

While you’re savoring the fun of your vacation planning, here are seven steps you also should take to prepare your home to remain secure while you’re away:

1. Stop the Mail

Home safety experts agree: a stuffed mailbox is a sign of an empty home. The United States Postal Service allows you to request a vacation hold on your mail up to 30 days before your departure date. Go to to see if this service is available in your area. You should also put newspaper and package delivery on hold, too, as uncollected newspapers or parcels in front of your house could also alert others that you’re not home.

2. Turn Off Water and Gas

If a water or gas leak occurs while you’re not there to address it, the emergency could cause significant damage to your home. You can reduce risks by turning off water flow to appliances like the clothes washer. To conserve energy and money, you can also turn off the gas flow to your water heater.

3. Adjust the Thermostat

You don’t need to spend money to heat or cool your home to a comfortable level when you’re not there to enjoy it. Turn down the thermostat, but don’t turn your HVAC system completely off. Extreme temperatures can harm your home and its contents. A programmable thermostat can take care of temperature adjustments for you while you’re away. If you don’t already have a programmable thermostat, consider installing a model like Coleman’s Hx(TM) thermostat. The touch-screen interface makes it easy to program the system, plus a free downloadable app allows you to control the thermostat from your smartphone, no matter where you travel. Just be sure to leave your internet connection active at home so your thermostat can communicate with the app while you’re away.

4. Put Lights On Timers or Sensors

A well-lit home looks lived in and is less appealing to burglars. Put outside lights on sensors so they’ll turn on when the sun goes down. Use timers to turn interior lights on and off at appropriate times.

5. Prep Your Kitchen

Go through the refrigerator and pantry and throw away any food that could go bad while you’re away. No one wants to come home to smelly, spoiled food. Empty the trash and arrange for a neighbor to put the trash at the curb on your scheduled pickup day. Unplug all small appliances like the coffee maker, toaster ovens, food processors, etc.

6. Power Down Electronic Devices

Items like computers, TVs and phone chargers all draw power while plugged in, even if they’re not switched on. Turn off and unplug electronic devices to reduce power usage in the house and protect electronics from power surges while you’re away.

7. Secure the Garage

This is especially important if your home has an attached garage with direct access into your home. Most garage doors have a simple bolt lock that can be engaged from inside to prevent the door from being raised. Remember to also lock the door from the garage into your house.

Everyone looks forward to vacation. With some simple prep, you can ensure your home stays secure while you’re away. To learn more about home heating and air-conditioning, visit or follow Twitter @ColemanHVAC.

The Home Design Trend You Need to Know About

30467700_original(BPT) – With the new year underway, the housing world is buzzing about the next transformative trend in home design and remodeling. This year it seems certain the growing trend of mixing and layering materials, something many designers and architects noticed was growing in popularity over the past few years, will dominate the remodeling and design scene.

When it comes to mixing materials, there’s no rule book; all you should do is find a combination to match your personality. This might be one of the biggest reasons why people have taken to mixing materials, as it truly allows you to create a home that is uniquely yours.

Bold and Innovative

The most immediate effect of mixing materials is that it opens new possibilities and new ways of expression. An example of this can be likened to how hard stone surfaces in a room can be complemented by soft carpet and furniture, or how the highly textured wood on a ceiling can stand in stark contrast to polished stone. Some of the hottest looks today, such as the blending of unfinished industrial materials with modern floors and cabinets, would have been considered outlandish only a few years ago. Mixing materials gives you greater freedom to create a space that represents your style.

Style on a Budget

Of all the rooms in a home, kitchens and bathrooms still get the most attention. Unfortunately, getting that dream kitchen or perfect bathroom isn’t always inexpensive.

For those who have uncompromising taste, but are on a budget, mixing materials is the ideal solution. For instance, say you had your heart set on a marble island and surrounding countertops, but just can’t afford marble. Instead, you can choose from a variety of Wilsonart(R) Quartz for the island. Engineered to showcase the erratic veins and patterns prized in marble, quartz also has the advantage of being non-porous, so it won’t stain and requires virtually no maintenance. A timeless look that continues to win the popularity contest are nature’s neutrals in white, grey and black, offering flexibility to play with bold or demure colorful accents.

You can complement the quartz island by mixing in an even more affordable material like Wilsonart(R) Laminate for the perimeter countertops and vertical applications such as backsplashes and walls. With numerous styles to choose from, you’ll be able to create a stunning contrast and dimensionality that will make your room pop. With today’s innovation in laminate manufacturing and fabrication, adding affordable luxury to your kitchen or bath has never been easier.

Utility Meets Style

Parents, in particular, face a constant dilemma: They want a home with rooms that can stand up to all the abuse toddlers and teenagers can throw at it, but still have it look good. The answer lies in Wilsonart(R) Solid Surface. This material is tough, non-porous, seamless and repairable without sacrificing beauty. With a wide variety of styles replicating stone, you can easily mix it with other material looks to make an intriguing statement.

To explore hundreds of options, visit and start mixing materials to see what’s possible in your home.

5 Tips On Choosing The Right Fence For Your Home

shutterstock_456001000Finding the best new house for you means thinking about details — from square footage to layout to landscaping — and that includes fencing. When you’ve found the right house plan and are building your dream home, you can’t forget to consider features that will make your home stand out. A quality fence is one such feature, able to enhance a home’s architecture, provide backyard privacy, add security and more.

How do you select the right fence for your home? Does it make sense to go for a picket fence or a privacy fence? Will you be happier with a low-maintenance option or one that is easy to replace when it needs repairs?


To help answer these questions, here are five key tips to keep in mind:


  1. Start with why you want one. To make sure you pick the right fence for your property, take the time to think about the fence’s purpose: Are you looking to enhance curb appeal or protect pets from traffic? Are you most concerned with fencing style or added security? Know what matters most to you. By defining your goals in adding a fence, you’ll be better able to prioritize what features to look for and how to make a selection.
  2. Think about aesthetics. Ideally, your fence will complement your home’s architecture and fit with your property’s style. With that in mind, think about what kind of fence would look good with your home. Just as a wrought iron fence may not fit a log cabin, a chain link may not fit a suburban home. Likewise, find out if there are any community regulations you must comply with when choosing a fence.
  3. Consider privacy. Determine how much privacy matters to you in your fencing choice. If you’re looking to protect your yard from unauthorized views or to create more of a retreat feel on your property, choose a fence that has no space between boards. If, on the other hand, privacy isn’t a big issue, feel free to look at wrought iron fencing, fencing with space between slats, and other options that don’t necessarily block views.
  4. Explore your options. Today’s market includes fences in a wide range of styles, from classic picket fences to durable metal railings. Explore the options that are available, from designs to materials, and get inspired with possibilities. Some possibilities to explore include wood, chain link, vinyl, composite, ornamental metal and galvanized steel.
  5. Understand fence maintenance. One of the biggest differences with different types of fences is how much maintenance they’ll require. While some fences need to be painted or stained every few years, others need little ongoing upkeep. Wood fences require a lot of maintenance, for example, but they are some of the easiest to repair. Vinyl or aluminum fences require almost no upkeep. However, if they get damaged, you have to find the original manufacturer and see if it still makes the same product. If you can’t find replacement parts that match what you have, you could end up replacing the whole fence.


shutterstock_498244105The bottom line with fencing? There isn’t one best choice for everyone. Rather, by looking at your specific property and needs, you can find the right fence for your home. When you’re shopping options for your new home, use the five tips above to guide your efforts. By starting with your reasons for getting a fence, thinking about aesthetics and privacy, exploring the possibilities, and thinking through fence maintenance, you’ll be equipped to make a decision you can feel good about for years to come.


Author bio: Dean White is Owner and Operator of Tru-Link Fence, one of the largest fence companies in northern Illinois. He has more than 30 years of experience in the fence industry. 

Make a Design Statement with Cypress

23087460_original(BPT) – As Americans design their dream homes, or plan the remodel of their existing ones, wood is once again becoming a prominent feature in their interior design schemes. One species in particular – cypress – is attracting the attention of both millennials in the suburbs and boomers along the shoreline. So what’s the appeal?

“Cypress is a unique wood that offers a variety of looks,” says Brian Meier of the Southern Cypress Manufacturers Association, “It’s readily available in visual grades ranging from knotty to knot-free. And it’s a beautiful wood. Its natural color, which typically varies from golden honey to light chocolate tones, can include red and olive hues. And while wood is a timeless building material that can complement any architectural style, cypress will make a design statement in any room.”

The Appeal is Real

Cypress is often the go-to material for siding and other exterior applications where good looks and durability really count, and rightfully so. However, it’s those same attributes that make cypress an ideal choice for indoor applications like high-end cabinetry and bold, built-in storage solutions.

Mandeville, Louisiana custom cabinet manufacturer Geoff Philippus agrees. “Thanks to its natural resistance to water, cypress is a great wood to use in wet zones, such as kitchens, bathrooms, mudrooms, and even outdoor cooking areas,” he says. Philippus added that customers usually come to his custom shop with a design in mind, and he then offers suggestions on how to achieve their desired look.

“More often than not we introduce people to cypress, from new growth, reclaimed, river recovered, or pecky cypress with its naturally occurring 23087731_originalpockets and holes,” Philippus says. “It’s something they’ve never seen before, and they fall in love with it. We recently completed a massive kitchen island and matching built-ins showcasing pecky cypress. The visual effect is like nothing else out there and it’s one of my favorite projects.”

Add Some Personality

Plain walls and bare ceilings are passé. Today’s savvy homeowners are looking to add personal style to their living spaces beyond what a fresh coat of paint can provide. Adding a touch of cypress to the mix is a great beginning.

According to Mark Jefferson, a specialty woodworker from Palm City, Florida, “Nothing adds aesthetic warmth to a room like wood,” he says. “And cypress packs plenty of character and design flexibility. I’ve used it for everything from coffered ceilings and decorative doors to paneling and general millwork. Cypress also is excellent for structural design elements, such as exposed timbers and beams, which are popular because they open up a space, making ceilings seem higher and rooms look bigger.”

Be Inspired

Wooden furniture is synonymous with durability and a long-term investment that can be repaired, refinished and passed down from generation to generation. And while furniture can be crafted out of many different wood species, for custom furniture maker Jason Straw of Gainesville, Florida, his choice is cypress, and for several reasons.

“Cypress offers intense imagery and color, with a rich grain and texture that makes stunning furniture – or rather, functional pieces of art,” Straw says. “It’s a great wood to craft dining room tables, desks, vanities, headboards, and nightstands.” But for Straw, there’s an even greater appeal.

“I like using cypress, especially logs that are recovered from rivers and swamps,” Straw says. “To know that I’m using wood from a tree that probably started growing thousands of years ago – and has been under water for at least 100 years – is fascinating to me. The wood’s history is on my mind every time I work with it.”

You too can be inspired. Visit to explore the myriad ways cypress can make a design statement in your living space.

Playroom Upgrade: A Wall-Mount ‘Barn Door’ Makes More Room for Fun

22781563_original(BPT) – With spring fast approaching and the kids at school, there’s no better time to upgrade the playroom.

Why not swap out a traditional swinging door for a playful chalkboard wall-mounted sliding door? Your little artists can draw for hours on the chalkboard, plus the sliding door can add up to 14 square feet of floor space which means more room for spreading out toys, games and building forts. There’s also more flexibility in furniture arrangements. This means even the smallest nook in your house could turn into a cozy play space.

It’s easy to do with Johnson’s 2610SC Soft-Close Wall Mount Sliding Door Hardware. You can use it with virtually any metal or wood door from 1-inch to 1 3/4-inch thick, up to 60-inches wide, and weighing up to 200 pounds. The 2610SC Wall Mount includes hardware that gently slows the door’s travel speed to softly pull it into the fully open or fully closed position. The hardware works like a cabinet door closer, enabling doors to open and close quietly and securely. It also prevents door slamming and pinched fingers, as well as significantly reducing door operational noise.

The built-in satin finish fascia gives a warm decorative detail to the room (also available with bronze fascia). There are also adjustable door guides and smooth rolling tricycle hangers. You can set the adjustable track stops to control the door travel as well. The jump-proof aluminum box track is available in lengths up to 96-inches for single doors, and up to 192-inches for double doors.

The smooth rolling door hardware and track exceed ANSI standards, which means it can successfully complete 100,000 opening and closing cycles. Made in the USA. This is an easy project for an experienced handyman to complete. Check out the installation video for guidance:

For more information, visit or call (800) 837-5664. Follow the Company on Twitter: @JohnsonHrdware, Pinterest: Instagram: johnsonhardware or Facebook:

Ready For Your First Move? Beginners’ Tips For A Successful Move

shutterstock_549354853Whether you’re a renter or whether you’re among the 35 percent of homebuyers who are settling into their own home for the first time, you probably have a lot on your mind as you approach your first move. From creating a broad overview to getting down to the nitty-gritty details and then into the execution of the plan, these tips will help you through organizing and carrying out this enormous project.


Moving Timeline:


As Early As Possible

Find the movers you’ll use and get your moving date locked in at least a few months ahead of time. You may also wish to arrange other moving services, such as:


  • Car shipping
  • Extra insurance for valuables
  • Packing services
  • Move-out cleaning
  • Child care or pet day care


Other tasks to start immediately include downsizing, making travel arrangements, arranging to transfer utilities to your new home (or canceling utilities and finding new providers), and getting paperwork together. Personal documents, medical and vet records, referrals for new doctors and emergency contact info are all included here. Keep this moving paperwork together in a binder or file folder for easy access.


One Month Before the Move

Some tasks to work on a month ahead of time include:


  • File a change of address with the post office
  • Notify credit cards of your new address
  • Find a new bank if necessary
  • Have school transcripts sent to your kids’ new school
  • Fill prescriptions, then transfer to a pharmacy near your new home
  • Start packing (beginning with infrequently used items)


You’ll also need to identify all the things you own that can’t go on the truck, such as:


  • Solvents
  • Aerosols
  • Cleaning solutions
  • Paint
  • Plants
  • Pets (obviously)


These can either go in the family vehicle or find new homes before the move.


Before Moving Week

Moving week will be filled with last-minute preparations, and you’ll probably be in a rush to finish packing. Before that week arrives, try to complete these tasks:


  • Use the perishable foods in your fridge and freezer
  • Donate extra non-perishable foods to a food bank
  • Take your car in for a tuneup
  • Make sure you have equipment for move-out cleaning


Moving Week:

Now is the time to wrap up loose ends before the movers arrive. These last-minute tasks include:


  • Defrost the refrigerator the day before the move
  • Fill nail holes in the wall
  • Make a list of everything you’re taking in the family car


Packing Tips

Look for online ads for free moving boxes or call local businesses like bookstores, print shops, liquor stores and grocery stores. Ask if they have any extra boxes you can take for free. Next, supply yourself with equipment, such as:


  • Tape
  • Scissors
  • Labels
  • Permanent markers
  • Padding material
  • Moving dollies, straps and blankets (if it’s a DIY move)


Using soft items, such as hand towels and dishrags, to pad breakable items can save both money and space. Don’t skimp, though; it’s better to spend money on some bubble wrap than end up with broken dishes because you didn’t have enough hand towels to go around.


Other clever packing strategies you can implement include:


  • Use containers you already own (like suitcases, laundry baskets and pots) to pack other things in
  • Use plastic wrap to hold dresser drawers shut
  • Be sure to pack an overnight bag and an “open first” box
  • Pack glassware in wine cases
  • Pack plates vertically to reduce chances of breakage


As you put these tips into practice, remember to factor in time to relax and de-stress. If you feel overwhelmed, stop and remind yourself of the good things that await, like better opportunities at work or better schools for your kids. If the moving stress is negatively affecting your health, work or relationships, consider hiring additional moving help. Making your first move doesn’t have to mean doing everything yourself!


Author bio: Kim Schachtele is Director of Consumer Sales at Berger Allied, an agent for Allied Van Lines. Throughout her 13-plus years in the moving industry, Schachtele has held many positions ranging from inside sales to most recently managing Berger Allied’s new call center. Schachtele is a member of the National Association of Senior Move Managers (NASMM) and the Professional Sales Association (PSA). 




Smart Storage Ideas to Squeeze Extra Space From Your Bathroom

21140860_original(BPT) – Shampoo bottles, makeup tools, lotions, linens and laundry – the bathroom is one of the most frequented rooms in the home, and clutter can collect quickly. Stop the chaos before it gets out of control by implementing some smart storage solutions. With these simple ideas, your bathroom will be the most functional and fashionable room in the house.

Streamline Shower Shelving

It’s time to say goodbye to hanging racks from shower heads and precarious corner shelving. The new Store+ shower from Sterling has customizable storage accessories, minimizing clutter and ensuring everything you need is close at hand. Sturdy shelves and accessories are easily snapped into any of eight pre-molded locations within the shower – no tools necessary. A fully accessorized wall includes four rimmed shelf/soap dishes, two 4-inch deep storage bins, and soap dishes with towel bar and two shower hooks. Plus, the back wall has molded foot ledges on either side, providing a safe, handy shaving ledge. To clean up your shower clutter for good, visit

Dare to Go Vertical

Expand the storage potential of a small bathroom by using vertical storage options. Floor space may be limited, but by installing shelving and other smart storage options on walls, you dramatically increase space for necessities. For example, floating shelves are an elegant and space-saving option that are easy to install over the toilet or between a mirror and a pedestal sink. That small space above the door? Perfect for a shelf to store mason jars full of supplies or those beautiful perfume bottles. Need extra space to store linens and washcloths? Install stacked towel racks on the back of your door or hang baskets on the wall and then place folded linens inside for a tidy look that keeps fluffy towels within easy reach.

Vamp Up the Vanity

From shaving and combing to primping and curling, the vanity is center stage for your daily routines. That means clutter can easily take over the countertops and drawers if you’re not careful. A few thoughtful steps will help you organize and maximize your vanity space. To start, dispose or donate of any products or tools you don’t use. Then purchase some drawer organizers or reuse small plastic containers to get items in order. On the inside of doors, install small pieces of PVC pipe vertically to store hair tools and cords. You can also repurpose spice racks on doors to hold a slew of personal products. For hair accessories or other small metal objects, a magnetic strip on the inside of a door or drawer is amazingly effective.

With these simple storage ideas, you’ll cut clutter, keep spaces clean and never trip over a random bottle or towel on the floor again.

3 Tips to Protect Your Home This Winter

29603288_original(BPT) – Cold temperatures, snow, sleet and ice can all wreak havoc on your home’s gutters, windows and gardens, but it can have even more harmful effects on exterior wooden surfaces, such as decks, siding or roof shingles. Residing in Rhode Island, Pete Flood, whose family founded the Flood wood care brand 175 years ago, knows this all too well.

“The coastal climate is tough on wood,” Flood says. “The salt and humidity in the air sticks around all year. Maintaining your home’s exterior wood surfaces, and of course using the right products, can help protect your home from harsh climates year round, but particularly harsh winter weather.”

While the Flood wood care brand is now powered by PPG, a global innovator in coatings, Flood’s knowledge and deep understanding of the Flood brand’s heritage gives him a unique perspective on his own staining projects. Having just refinished his home’s siding and roof shingles this past August, Flood shares his favorite professional tips and products to help you prep and protect the outside of your home for the winter.

Prepare Before Starting Projects

Whether you are refinishing your deck, porch, siding or roof, it’s important to properly prepare the surface before starting your project. It not only helps to clean the wood, but also helps the stain to look its best for as long as possible. Rather than using a power washer, Flood recommends using a wood cleaner to properly remove dirt and loose fibers. “My family developed the first Flood wood cleaner in 1980, and today, the Flood Pro Series Wood Cleaner cleans a deck in half the time it takes to power wash while removing four times more dirt than water alone.”

Choosing the Right Product

“Since my grandfather and brother were painting contractors, our family knew the importance of a quality products,” Flood says. “Choosing the right product for your project can make the difference between both appearance and protection. First, it’s important to understand the climate in your region to ensure you use a product that can protect against particular elements such as rain, snow or sunlight. Then, it’s just as important to select a product that will meet your appearance expectations.”

“When I last refinished my house in 2008, we used Flood CWF in Cedar Tone, and the product has held up really well over the years,” Flood says. “This time around, we used Flood Pro Series CWF-UV 5 for its UV protection, water repellency against rain and snow, as well as penetrating protection below the wood surface.”

Maintenance Moving Forward

It’s important to plan for protection this winter, but ideally you will also be protecting your home for future winters, summers and more, which is why choosing a durable, lasting product is so important. With the harsh climates in Rhode Island and many other areas of the country, this is especially important to Flood to avoid having to refinish his home year after year.

“Flood products have that balance of great appearance and durability as they age. When you do need to refinish your home again, it may not need to be completely redone. It may only require cleaning and recoating, which is a lot less work.”

Pete Flood received Flood stain product in exchange for participation in this interview. All opinions expressed are his own.

5 Residential Design Trends in Hardwood

23086641_original(BPT) – Hardwood may be one of the oldest building materials known to man, yet architects, designers and homeowners are always finding fresh ways to use it in the modern home. What’s the appeal? Flexibility and variety, for starters.

“We’re constantly delighted to see how traditional woods like oak and walnut are being employed with renewed flair and imagination,” says Linda Jovanovich, of the American Hardwood Information Center, “Subtle tweaks can make something familiar, look innovative. The current trend is to take a classic hardwood application, like paneling or flooring, and give it a stylish, up-to-the-minute twist. Here’s a look at what’s trending.”

Wide-Plank Flooring

Perhaps no recent trend has been more influential than the use of wide-plank hardwood flooring. Traditional plank widths, ranging from 2 1/4 to 3 1/2 inches, are still popular. But today’s homeowners often ask for widths between 5 and 7 inches, and there is even demand for up to 10 or 12 inches. “Wider floorboards can make a space look larger and more modern,” says Melissa Morgan of M Interiors in San Antonio, Texas, who has used the generously proportioned planks in traditional and contemporary homes. “With fewer seams, these floors can be treated like a canvas: ebonized oak or walnut for a sleek, dark look; light woods like ash or maple for a chic, urban vibe; weathered-gray tones for a slightly rustic affect – the possibilities are endless.”

Wood Ceilings

It used to be that hardwood planks primarily went on floors or walls, but today they’re appearing on residential ceilings too. “Simple poplar beadboard, painted white or with a light natural stain, looks crisp and airy overhead, adding visual interest while remaining quiet and unassuming,” says Rebecca Ascher, Ascher Davis Architects in New York and Newport, Rhode Island. “For a more assertive affect, I might specify tongue-and-groove walnut or hickory, characterful woods that provide a degree of drama. For that reason, they’re best reserved for large, high-ceilinged rooms that are not easily overwhelmed. In smaller, lower spaces, a ceiling with too much personality can feel oppressive.”

Mix and Match23086998_original

Architects and designers, who once avoided using different varieties of hardwood in a single residential space, now mix and match them with newfound enthusiasm. Clearly contrasting wood tones – blond maple and black walnut, for example – create a striking effect that can work well in both traditional and contemporary settings. This is particularly true in kitchens, where a favorite configuration features upper cabinetry in a light-color wood such as birch, and lower cabinetry in a dark-color wood like cherry. The result is a space that has strong visual interest, and is light and airy, yet solidly grounded.

Gray Stains and Finishes

Gray is a classic “neutral” that never truly goes out of fashion. It’s currently one of the most popular colors, ranging from pale smoke to deep charcoal, showing up in hardwood flooring, paneling and cabinetry. “Whether light or dark, gray stains bring out any wood’s natural grain and texture,” says New York interior designer Laura Bohn. “Grays are versatile and timeless – quiet and soothing colors that recede into the background without losing personality or becoming faceless. That’s why they work in any style décor, yet always look modern.”

Distressed Hardwoods

Homeowners drawn to the popular look of weather-beaten rustic and elegantly timeworn are turning to distressed hardwoods – new product to which scrapes, nail holes, notches, saw marks and other signs of wear and tear have been carefully applied, often by hand. Manufacturers are able to reproduce convincing facsimiles of anything from the burnished walnut floorboards of an 18th century salon to the rugged oak-plank siding of a 19th century Pennsylvania barn. It’s a distinctive look that offers a wide range of aesthetics.

Visit for more about residential design trends and other applications and products using American hardwoods.