Thursday, August 20, 2009

Home Remodeler's Stimulus Package 2009

Trends in Home Remodeling

For many homeowners, remodeling offers a chance to improve their lifestyle. From bigger bathrooms and kitchens to greener living spaces, take a look at some of the latest trends in home remodeling and design.

Lavishly expanded bathrooms: Master bathrooms are becoming a personal oasis where homeowners can unwind and relax. Standard showeheads are being replaced with oversized rain shower heads, and some are equipping showers with body sprays, steam showers, solid surface shower walls, and heated tile floors. Concrete flooring is again on the rise due to its reasonable cost. Stained concrete maximizes in-floor radiant heat and is a durable, easy-to-clean flooring solution that can refresh and update an entire look.

Larger, more functional kitchens: The kitchen is no longer just a place to prepare meals. Now more than ever, it is a place for gathering, doing homework, crafts, bill paying stations, and more. Kitchen remodels are including the addition of computer desks, comfortable seating areas, fireplaces, and large workable islands. More and more homeowners are opting for commercial-grade stainless steel appliances, Viking stoves and Sub-Zero refrigerators. Cabinetry - maple and hickory are neck and neck with cherry wood in popularity, and the simple, sleek lines of Mission, Asian, and Shaker design can be found in many kitchens. Darker finishes are also a frequent choice for cabinets, with black and deep red/brown showing to be very popular.

Going green: Solar panels are now sleek integrated solar power systems that are capable of handling all the power needs of a house. More homeowners are looking to solar technology as a viable option. Sustainable living is proving to more than pay for itself.

Neutral, down-to-earth colors: Homeowners are looking to their homes as a place of refuge, natural and muted earth shades are being used in the home. The days of highly polished granite or porcelain tile are over, and flooring and countertop choices are also muted. In their place, soapstone and honed granite, as well as quartz countertops with matte finishes, are quickly becoming a popular choice of homeowners.

State-of-the-Art laundry rooms: Isolated laundry rooms in the basement or garage are long gone! Colorful and housing the best appliances, laundry rooms are becoming something of a status symbol. This room is also a place for completing messy chores, crafts, and gardening projects.

Current remodeling projects show heightened emphasis on creating specialty areas to fit individual family members needs. Attractive, high quality materials are the method of choice and high on the priority list for today's consumers.

It is not unusual to find remodeling projects that result in the creation of very specific areas for each member of the household. The home library, media room, craft room, spa area and wine cellar are a few "stand-out" spaces that are growing in popularity. It seems the ultimate luxury consists of more space and homeowners are not willing to sacrifice quality for quantity.

Before you begin any project in which you are unsure of where to start, don’t hesitate to call a professional to give you design tips and construction management services.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Chicago's great architectural bookshop facing the end of its own long story

For the sheer wealth of its collection, few architecture bookstores in the world can match the Prairie Avenue Bookshop. Architects and architecture lovers can browse thousands of titles at the store, which set up shop on Chicago's Prairie Avenue in 1974 and has been at 418 S. Wabash Ave. since 1995. Unfortunately for the proprietors, Wilbert and Marilyn Hasbrouck, not all of the browsers have been buyers.

“People would come to the bookshop with their notepad, make notes of what they wanted and then go buy it somewhere else," Wilbert Hasbrouck said last week. He blamed the 10.25 percent sales tax for driving buyers to online booksellers like

Forty-eight years after Marilyn Hasbrouck started the business from the couple's suburban Park Forest home, the Hasbroucks say they will likely close the bookshop, an institution in Chicago's architecture community, on Sept. 1--unless, that is, a buyer can be found. "We're losing a national resource," said Chicago architect John Eifler. "It's very sad."

The bookshop is more like a library than a Barnes & Noble. On the forest-green walls of its 9,000-square-foot, three-level space are gold letters spelling out the names of more than 300 architects, from Frank Lloyd Wright to Helmut Jahn. It's a meeting place, of sorts, for Chicago's notoriously competitive architectural community. "You would run into other architects there--or hide from other architects," Eifler said.

Wilbert Hasbrouck, 77, and Marilyn, 76, decided about a year ago that they would try to sell the bookshop. But finding a buyer has not been easy. The store does not operate in the black and the Hasbroucks have subsidized it ever since the move to Wabash Avenue, Wilbert Hasbrouck said. A buyer would have to assume responsibility for two lines of credit that total at least $650,000.

The Hasbroucks have discussed a sale with book dealers and even the Chicago Architecture Foundation, the non-profit group that runs architectural tours and has a gift shop at its 224 S. Michigan Ave. headquarters. But nothing has jelled. Which raises a broader question: Can architectural book stores succeed in this digital age?
"You just have to realize that it's a different climate and provide something that people can't get elsewhere," said Matt Stromberg of William Stout Architectural Books in San Francisco. "Fifty years ago, you couldn't find normal architectural books anywhere. Now you can find them everywhere--for a discount. ... Why would you buy that $200 book from us when you could get it almost 40 percent off, free shipping and no tax?"

Other architectural bookshops have survived by transforming themselves into museum shops. An example: the former Ginkgo Tree Bookshop next to Frank Lloyd Wright's Home and Studio in Oak Park, which was renamed the Home and Studio Museum Shop about two years ago, according to Joan Mercuri, president of the Frank Lloyd Wright Preservation Trust.

In its previous incarnation, she said, the 800-square-foot shop was book-heavy, carrying a multitude of titles on Wright and other Prairie Style architects. It still offers lots of Wright books, but you can also buy everything from puzzles to home decorations to clothing there. "It's just that people are looking for different things now," Mercuri said. "With the economic slowdown, people are looking for things that are less expensive as well."

Wilbert Hasbrouck would love to find a 35-year-old who has the vision and the energy to expand the Prairie Avenue Bookshop's Web presence. If that could happen, he said, "I'm convinced that it would not just be profitable, but would be what it is by reputation--the best architectural bookshop in the world." But without a last-minute miracle, this icon of Chicago's architectural community will continue to sell down its present stock at a deep discount (at a recent sale, customers got 50 percent off if they bought $100 or more worth of books). The jobs of three full-time staff members are at stake, too.

"Most of the changes that happen with technology I'm fine with," Eifler said. "But this loss of publishing is really hard to take. I don't know if some Kindle look-alike will ever replace having a nice book in front of you with photographs."