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Pablo Solomon Artist and Designer | Pablo Solomon

Pablo Solomon is known around the world for his drawings and sculptures of dancers as well for his visionary practical environmentally friendly designs. He has been featured in numerous books, magazines, newspapers, TV, radio and even a short film that aired on HBO for his art, design and conservation work.


tv crew

Home Improvement on Television

OK--I love home improvement TV shows I have an actual TV antenna out here on the ranch and get PBS and Create TV for free over the public air waves. A great way to save money. I try watch them all as I take breaks during the day. Since Create runs its shows on a loop, I can watch at really weird times like my usual 3am wake up. I began working on homes with my dad as a kid. And despite a lifetime of doing new designs and remodeling, I usually get something useful from every show. The only complaint that I have is that since they get their tools and products from their sponsors, they too often use complicated and overly expensive solutions. One of my favorites is Around the House as Matt's projects are usually done with a skill saw and a drill. Norm Abrams is a master carpenter, but every time he says things like let's cut some dove tail joints or and we will allow 1/16 for expansion--I wonder how many times he has had to resort to the bigger hammer solution to get it to make something fit. However, I do wonder where they get their flawless lumber. I also do wish my plumbing projects went as well as those on TV so I did not have to worry about burning in hell for my all my plumbing related cursing. Pablo Solomon Artist & Designer
future house

The Future of the Home Industry

I have often been decades ahead of the game on home trends.Whether or not these predictions come about, only time will tell. 1. The big battle continues to be between individuals wanting to live somewhat self sufficient and self contained lives outside of cities and those forces for reasons of control and self gain want to push the megacity concept. It will depend on whether new energy sources allowing for what I call "green freedom" will develop before most of the population is forced to live in faceless economic slavery in a drab Soviet style condo in an ant mound megacity. 2. In the meantime, those living in the societal limbo of the suburbs will build smaller, more energy efficient homes of higher quality in design and materials. 3. As the large "MacMansions" built to impress others in the 80s and 90s become unaffordable to buy and maintain for new generations, they will be converted into multi-family units. 4. More families will be living in multi-generational settings and will build family compounds with shared areas and amenities. 5. For those lucky enough to escape the horrors of giant cities, more options for building their own homes will emerge. Just as Sears would sell you a house in a box that you could assemble yourself back in the early 1900s, more companies will sell similar versions prefabricated in high tech factories. 6.Adding to allowing people to build their own homes will be more and more of one block at a time construction--from adobe brick to basically giant Lego type blocks--where you can stack them as time and money allow. 7.Wireless controls will make redoes easier. 8. Plumbing will finally become more simple, affordable and long lasting for the DYI folks as new products are developed. 9. In disaster prone areas, more sensible solutions--building above flood plain levels, putting tornado proof core rooms to protect family and valuables, creating fire barriers and building of fire resistant materials in wild fire places, etc. 10. The cities will have to do more to reduce crime Until the police state suppresses the rampant crime so endemic to large cities, security will be a top priority of all homes and condos. Best wishes, Pablo Solomon Artist & Designer
cutting costs 1

Cutting Costs Without Cutting Corners

As with all things, learn all that you can. Try to separate the facts from the hype. Buy as much as you can on sale, with discount coupons, etc. Many materials--brick, stone, lumber, etc. can be salvaged or bought from salvage companies and are often better than what is available new or as new synthetics. Frankly, many building materials, cabinets, architectural details, etc. are just thrown away or hauled to a dump when demolition or remodeling projects are being done. Always ask first, but often contractors are glad to let you haul stuff off. Also understand that there can be a big price difference between good and over the top luxurious /top quality. Sometimes buying the very best pays. However,often buying good will meet your needs just as well. And in some cases good is better than "best" as it is less complicated and more durable. Do not be afraid to barter. Often a dealer or contractor collects something that they value more than money. Over the yeas I have traded stuff for stuff, stuff for services, services for services, etc. Good luck, Pablo Solomon Artist & Designer
project pride

Getting Started in Home Improvement

I got started in the home improvement business over 50 years ago helping my father renovate homes. Here is what I learned along the way. 1.Buy the best tools that you can afford. 2.Treat you clients with respect and honesty. 3.Be on time, be on schedule and stay on budget. 4.Keep up with current trends, products, rules, methods, etc. 5.Don't bite off more than you can chew. 6.Live below your means and above your fears. 7.Your wife will like you more if you keep your home in top shape. 8.Find the best help that you can and treat them well. 9.Stay on top of things--work and paperwork. 10. Maintain a balanced life. Best wishes, Pablo

Upcycling, Recycling and Removing Old Junk

Thanks to all my fellow professionals for the great tips! However, there is one Truth you cannot escape--The junk you keep you will probably never use, and the junk you dump you will probably wish you had back by next week. Thanks to Melissa for a great topic ! Pablo Solomon Artist & Designer

The Keys to De-Cluttering

I have preached getting rid of clutter for decades. So to hear all of you younger designers/service experts giving such great advice is actually a dream come true--I can rest assured that the battle against clutter will be carried on by a new generation. You have made my day ! Thanks--Pablo
unhappy clients

How to Handle an Unhappy Client

My fellow professionals are correct in what they are advising--especially about being a good listener. I would suggest that you do not get respect unless you both earn it and demand it. If a client is heading in the direction of showing me or my associates disrespect or rudeness, I just lay it on the line. I basically say, "We need to start over here. I want to make you a satisfied customer, but in return you must treat me and my associates with respect and politeness. In addition, if you have a problem with any of the workers, let me handle it." It is also important to let the client know contractually in no uncertain terms upfront that changes in design, materials, accessories, etc. will mean additional costs. This is probably the most common source of problems. Also, as you get more and more experience with people you learn that some clients are just not worth the trouble. I try to avoid any stress that I can--and that includes avoiding stress inducing people. I love what I do and I love to have happy clients. I do not want a few jerks to ruin that. Of course, on rare occasions it really is all my fault and I do what is necessary to make things right.
green tips

Quick Tips for Going Green

As most of you know by now, I have been at the forefront of the Green movement since day 1--my role in the first Earth Day was even covered in a National Geographic article by Mark Anderson. So I have been preaching preservation, conservation, restoration, living a balanced life, etc. for decades. I also coined the terms "vertical greening' and 'green freedom". It all boils down to making living green part of your value system. The details of how you do that and to what degree are really less important than that you really decide that being a good steward of the Earth is important to you. And like a broken record I keep giving the tip that will save you the most energy for the least investment--put up a clothesline and use it when weather and time permit. Do not think you have to go all out and live like a pioneer to do some good. Every little bit helps. Each drop of water and each watt of energy that you conserve is helpful. Best wishes, Pablo Solomon Artist & Designer

DIY: the Dos and Donts

Never do anything to do with natural gas or propane. Make certain that you get a service/installation company that is licensed and bonded. If necessary check with your local supplier or governmental agency to get a list of qualified companies. And at the first hint of a gas leak get out of the house as fast as you can and do NOT flip any electrical switches on the way out-- the spark can ignite an explosion that can blow up your house and half the neighborhood. Do not use your cell phone in the house. Go outside or to a neighbor and call your gas company or 911 and they will send emergency crews to check it out. If you have a propane tank, shut off the valve to the house--same for your city gas if it is away from the house. But stay out of and away from your house until it is given the all clear by professionals.

Toilet Buying Guide from the Experts

Of course being a life long conservationist, I always suggest catching as much "gray" water as you can in your sinks, tubs and showers. Then saving it in a bucket and using that water to "boost" the flush in your toilet. It makes good use of the water that normally would go down the drain. You also can use rain water to flush toilets. I think it is practically a sin to use drinking quality water to flush toilets. Hopefully gray water systems for toilets will be the norm in future construction. That being said, get a toilet that is easy to clean, easy to fix and reliable. Also put a few extra dollars into a top quality cut off valve--nothing is more irritating than the valve leaking after you repair the toilet. On a side note, I have a friend who lived in Austin who was an herbalist. She won a battle with the Austin City Council to allow her to have what could best be described as an a hightech outhouse. For years she would come out to our ranch to harvest a plant called mullin which has large, soft, velvety leaves which the pioneers used for toilet paper. While I do not particularly advocate going that "green", it shows that some people actually do.

Designing Around Disagreements

There is an old saying: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. The more that you as a designer can get a handle on what the clients want, the more likely you are to provide them with plans that they like. I like to find out as much as I can about what the client is hoping for and to get the client to go through books, magazines, ads, etc. and then show me designs that they like. However, if push comes to shove the smart designer understands who is paying the bills. I have never had a client so far off of the planet of good taste that I could not find a way to present them with something that I could put my name on while making them happy. Of course, I have seen some really bad design result from clients paired with designers who were basically selling stuff and/or who did not have enough design experience and depth to create good design in a wide range of styles. The more experience that you have in working in design and with people--the better. Thanks Pablo Solomon Artist & Designer
acting green

Acting Green vs. Buying Green

General Patton once said that wars are fought with weapons but wars are won with men. The most important thing that you can do to make a difference in preserving, protecting and restoring this beautiful earth is to make being a steward of the earth part of your value system. Once taking care of the earth actually means something to you, the rest is a matter of filling in the blanks according to your skills, available time and budget. Pablo Solomon Artist & Designer
stay cool

Stay Cool, Save Money

Alan has some great ideas. Here are a few more to think about. 1. In pre-AC days many homes had an "attic fans"--a large fan ( often over 4 feet in diameter ) that was installed parallel to the floor in the ceiling. This fan would draw air through the open windows of the house and out through the attic. These worked really well on mild days, cool nights, etc. They cooled both the living area and the attic. I am advocating homeowners consider them to be an option/backup to AC. Can usually be installed for a few hundred dollars either new construction or retro. 2. In some areas of the country you want the winter sun coming in your windows while avoiding the summer sun. I have used several solutions-- a. Use deciduous plants to provide shade in the summer that loose their leaves in the winter and allow the sun in. b. Have vertical plantings in large pots ( vines on trellises etc.) in wagons/carts that can be moved during the seasons/time of day to provide best shading. c.Have movable screens of solar screening. 3. If your climate has low humidity the old time "swamp" coolers work well. 4. Mist your walks, walls, roof, etc. for a few minutes during the heat of the day. I use water collected from rain water to water my plants and to cool down walls. Do not waste water. But in a really hot climate the savings in heat reduction can justify some water usage. What you use on this, balance off by using plantings that are drought resistant.
managing projects

What’s the best way to choose a home improvement team?

Projects usually boil down to time and money. So weigh things out. If you have more time than money act as your own general contractor. Make certain that you have a clear idea of what you want done,good plans and understand what constitutes quality. A professional chooses his/her team to get things done on the following--experience, reliability, quality of workmanship, price to quality ratio, reputation, are properly insured and availability. With enough research you can find good people to do the job. However, be certain that you understand the proper sequence in which to do things and the building permits and inspections that are necessary for each step. There are some great books available on how to be your own general contractor--some even have sample contracts and other forms you will need.

How are you using sustainable materials?

Having been an artist, designer and environmentalist for decades, I have used, promoted and championed the use of sustainable materials as part of my value system. In my younger days I rescued building materials and architectural features from dumps and demolition sites out of necessity. I now rescue and use the same materials out of conviction. Of course, living in the Texas Hill Country in an area that has some of the most wonderful rocks and minerals in the world, I use granite, sandstone,limestone, serpentine, tavertine, dolomite, etc. to make benches, walls, walks, pools--you name it. I love stone. I feel that stone has a presence that transcends time. I believe that some how it remembers the dinosaurs, yearns for the past balance of Nature and mourns the folly of man. Stone is testiment to great civilizations that have come and gone. Most of man's greatest architectural and artistic wonders are done in stone. I love the thought that the stone sculptures, architectural features and environmental landscapes that I have done may well last for centuries. We as humans have a duty to make the best world that we can for each other while doing our best to preserve, protect and restore Nature. Our beautiful blue planet is so alone in space and we must work together to keep it a livable home for man and for all living things.

How did the recession affect your business?

My wife and I are old enough that this was not our first recession. We were more prepared than most people because we have saved and invested in a diversified manner and could weather the storm. Our international art and design business depends on a good over all economy. From past experience we knew that pushing sales in a recession is very hard. So instead we concentrated on building name recognition, building client relationships, building our image in the community, etc. We provided free services for our clients such as evaluating art collections and making recommendations on what to keep and what to sell. We acted as honest brokers between clients wanting to buy, sell or trade. We supplied art and expertise to money strapped charities. We even worked with law enforcement on art theft cases. And of course we worked with writers, photographers, publishers, etc. to exchange our expertise in art and design for name recognition. As a result, since the beginning of this current recession we have appeared in 30 books, most of the major magazines and newspapers--from Wall Street Journal to National Geographic. On TV, radio and even in film. Because of our intense focus on building name recognition and a positive image, we actually have developed new clients and made sales even in this tough economy. Best wishes to all my fellow professionals, Pablo
home estimates

How should homeowners interpret estimates?

Four quick points-- First--do not confuse a rough estimate with a contract that spells everything out in detail and has set standards and costs. Second--the more detailed the estimate, the more likely it is to be accurate. Third--Understand up front that when you make changes as the project progresses, those changes will usually cost you extra money. Fourth--Quality is always the best value.
historic home

What should homebuyers know about older homes?

So far the advice has been excellent--a great primer for buying an older home. As I am a bit older than most of the other contributors here, I have probably been dealing with really old homes longer. I actually grew up helping my dad restore homes dating from the 1870s to the 1940s. My wife Beverly and I live in a historic home NW of Austin built in 1856 by a famous Texas Ranger. A few quick points to add to the discussion. -In some tax districts you get a break for fixing up an old/historic home--others treat old homes the same as newer ones and sock it to you when you do any improvements. Having a designated historic home/living in a historic area often requires sticking to an authentic restoration. An older home will often have decades of pests living in them--I have dealt with scorpions, bats, rattlesnakes, etc. -Insulating, rewiring,new pipes, etc. can be a challenge. One trick I have used is to add a new interior wall behind the old one backing the exterior. While you may lose a few inches of interior space, it makes rewiring, re-plumbing and insulating much easier.

What is the best tool in your toolbox?

In both my art and my design work I love my cinnamon scented pencils from France. A friend gave me a set years ago and I have been hooked ever since. The scent puts me in a calm, creative mood. Clients also ask me abouth the pencils so they are a conversation starter as well. Pablo Solomon Artist & Designer
confessions of professional

What do homeowners not know about your industry?

When giving a designer or contractor a budget figure, the client should give a number that is 20% less that what he/she really wants to spend. On almost every project, problems arise that result in more money being spent than anticipated. Also carefully think through what you can afford and stick to that budget. In most cases, a good designer/contractor/team can give you good results within a realistic budget. A good designer or contractor will not take on a project that is under funded to the point that the results will be second rate.
home improvement career

What career advice do you wish you had been given?

Learn all that you can about everything. We live in a big interwoven world. Keep you life in balance, your values as a foundation and your goals in focus. Remember that in life it really is not the money--it is the lifestyle. Live you life and approach your business with passion. Give your best. Give respect and demand it in return. If you do not enjoy your life's work as much as any form of play--find a new career.

How can you creatively reuse or recycle in the home?

OK--this will seem a bit over the top, but it really is fun and works well. We rinse and keep all of the Styrofoam cups, boxes, etc. we get. While sitting around watching TV or listening to the crickets, we use scissors to cut the Styrofoam into pieces. When we have a bag full we dump it in the attic, between walls, etc. This is great insulation and you would be amazed at how much you accumulate over time.
buy home

What do home buyers need to know before buying?

In my opinion there are too big components to buying a home--1.The dollars and sense of the home and property 2. The sociological components. I will boil both down as simply as I can. 1. Dollars and sense boils down to value. You must separate the minor cosmetic problems from the real structural and mechanical big money problems. Value also includes things like taxes, insurance, ease of maintenance, etc. And of course, are so called "green" features worth the money or just hype. 2. Sociological concerns include--schools, crime rates, cultural opportunities, etc. You can often get great buys in terrible neighborhoods and get taken to the cleaners in great neighborhoods. In the long run, the best buy is the best value in the best neighborhood. I have a cousin who has done exceptionally well buying and selling homes by buying the least expensive--both in price and problems--in the best neighborhood for the money. That really is a winning approach. Thanks, Pablo

Where do you find inspiration for remodeling projects?

Here is a tip that I learned about 20 years ago from a top designer. Send your clients to the model homes in high rises and condos. These units usually make exceptional use of space and are decorated and furnished by top designers in your area. OK--nothing new with that. However, here is the really helpful part--take a 20 foot tape ruler. You will be amazed at how small the spaces really are. Many high rises are two bedroom, two bath units with less than 1,000 sq. ft. Most owners of older homes can work in at least one or two extra rooms in their existing space by using some of the design tricks used in these high rise units. Another amazing use of space using built ins can be seen on luxury yachts. Thanks, Pablo
Home Design

What elements are overused in home improvement?

What a great list my fellow designers have created ! I had a fun time going down the row as most of their complaints are mine as well. While as an environmental designer I create a lot of stacked walls, I will be the first to say that I see them stuck in designs that make no sense. Actually, I prefer to do more formal stonework but that clientele is limited. My over all biggest complaint is to take a house with great bones, great design, great ambiance, that represents a distinct design period and expand it into a big monstrosity. I would prefer that people buy homes that they like and update them with care to maintain the character of the original style. If you want a McMansion built it from scratch. Or if you love the location, expand in a way that compliments the current structure.
natural disaster

How can homeowners protect from natural disasters?

Hi follow experts, Here are a few points that I would like to share concerning my original inquiry. The great architect of many of our national park lodges--Gilbert Stanley Underwood--felt that not only should park structures blend into their surroundings and be aesthetically pleasing--but as much as possible be fire resistant as well. For his wonderful 1927 Ahwahnee Lodge in Yosemite he used a weathered granite exterior and created very realistic looking faux logs and planks of concrete. Such touches as slate or metal roofs also help to reduce the risks of fires. I have also seen techniques such as building berms, concrete/stone fire protection walls, land scaping in such a way as to create visually pleasing fire breaks, etc. used as fire prevention. The early Spanish settlers here in Texas designed their communities to resist both attacks and fires. For protection against a number of various disasters, one of the most creative things going is the recycling of the metal shipping containers to make modular housing. If properly anchored, the container homes are nearly indestructible and can have remarkably pleasing designs. I think that homeowners need to insist on homes that are as disaster proof as possible for the following considerations: 1. Obviously for safety of life and property. 2. For reduced insurance costs 3. For increased resale value 4. For welfare of the overall community 5. For peace of mind I look forward to hearing what suggestions that my fellow professionals have to share.
outdoor living

How can you create the ultimate outdoor living space?

When thinking about an outdoor living space, you should ask the same basic question you ask for any design work--How do I want this space to make me feel? For different people of course the answer will vary--I feel safe and peaceful after a stressful day at work, I want to feel free, etc. However, there are some elements that every good outdoor space should have--water, mystery places, color, balance, privacy, framed highlights, views if possible, etc. Since I have spent most of my life working with stone as an artist, I love stone work. Stone is virtually maintainance free and lasts forever. While the initial installation of stone benches, fountains, steps, etc. can cost more, in the long run it is worth the investment. Stone just ages so beautifully and adds such presence and elegance. If you cannot afford the real thing, concrete benches, statues,etc. are almost as good as stone. As I mentioned, every good outdoor space should have a water element. You can buy recirculating pumps from under $20. You can create a water wall, water fall,interesting series of pools,flow shelves, fountains, etc. But dollar for dollar nothing adds a soothing feeling like the sound of water. The only thing that I will go into in this limited venue on plants is to go to the woods and get ground mosses and lichens. Over time these organic elements will add a timeless quality to your space which few plants can match. I look forward to hearing ideas from all of the great contributors.
obligation green

Should professionals promote the green movement?

First, I admire Elena's business and I try to use recycled/salvaged materials whenever possible. However, designers have only one major obligation--to give the clients what they want in the most well-designed, well-executed and value-conscious manner possible. In the process, if you believe in green methods you certainly can try to educate and suggest. But the final decisions are made by the client. If they want to save energy or to guzzle energy, it is their decision. However, in most cases an appropriate green alternative can be presented in such a way as to persuade the client. However, do not BS the clients. Make certain that you are offering them the best value and best fit for their project. Yes, we live what we preach. I authored the concepts of Green Freedom and of vertical greening. Our 1856 historic ranch has been featured in numerous major publications for our conservation projects. We were also nominated for the highest award in Texas for land stewardship. Mark Anderson featured my part in the first Earth Day in his March 2010 article for National Geographic. So yes, I practice what I preach.

How will our homes change in the next 5-10 years?

I appreciate the comments made by fellow designers so far. I have been involved in forward looking design in housing for decades. Much of what I have preached for years is finally being recognized as the way to go. Here are some simple basics 1. Think smaller but of higher quality in all aspects. The days of big box houses that guzzle energy and have few redeeming design qualities are over. Smaller homes require less of everything--energy, insurance, upkeep,etc.--which gives you more money for investment and fun. And more space on your space for greening and growing. 2. I like DeAnna Radaj's suggestions for making homes easily adapted from one life stage to another and ready if need be in case of handicaps. I think my neighbor Steve Crossland down the road in Austin is correct in his recognition of the importance of "feel". As a designer, the key question I always ask is "how do you want this project/house/landscaping to make you feel?" 3. The real change will be in the suburbs and gated communities as children inherit homes much larger than they can afford to maintain. There will be a glut of these homes in the near future. Zoning laws will have to be changed so that as in times of past economic stress, large homes can be turned into multi-unit dwellings. 4.You will also see the family compound evolve here as it has in many other countries. You will have a core home with large kitchen, family room, library,swimming pool, etc. Several generations of the family will have smaller attached units with basically a bedroom, bath, small kitchen--think small resort. This will allow the sharing of expenses in order to be able to afford shared luxuries while maintaining some privacy. 5. While I must sadly admit that mega cities are probably on the horizon, I am totally against the concept. I believe in the concept that I developed years ago--"Green Freedom"--that is for each individual family to have its own energy sources, food sources, water sources, space in nature, etc. With modern digital communications, on demand manufacturing, new energy sources being developed, etc. the prospects of true freedom for all is possible. Mega cities are designed more to control people than to make their lives better. True freedom is freedom from both government interference and from deprivation. People who love freedom should embrace Green Freedom as a way to fight tyranny as well as to live in harmony with Nature. 6. An architect friend of mine, Tom Burke, was preaching the concepts of growing your own home and "edible" housing over 40 years ago. While far out on first glance, the concepts are thought provoking ( and no you do not have to be high and listening to the Moody Blues to contemplate the concepts ) . Tom was part of the design firm Ant Farm which ushered in many of the innovations of the 1960s in green design--wood laminates, earth berms, passive solar heating, etc.
diy do and dont

When should a homeowner hire a home professional?

I will add a few quick comments to those of my fellow professionals already given. 1. Never do anything to do with gas or propane leaks yourself. Period.Get out of the area and call the utility company and professional plumbers.Do not even call from the leak area or turn a light on or off as you might blow yourself up. 2. Yes, it is fun, frugal and satisfying to do as much as you can. However, Ms.Tako is correct when she advises to consider your age, your health, your time constraints,etc. For example, I can easily switch out a water heater for my own home. But, as fate would have it, the last time the water heater went out it was a rare icey day in Texas and my wife and I were on our backs with the flu. So it was well worth getting a pro out. I also have had friends to hurt themselves badly trying to do at 70 what they once did at 40. When I turned 60, I vowed to no longer do anything that requires getting on my second story roof or a ladder over 6 feet tall. One broken leg would cost much more than getting some one out to trim a limb or paint trim. 3. If you have money--and yes many people stil do--hiring a designer can result in something special. Not that you cannot pick your own colors, rugs, furniture, etc. But often a professional designer will give you ideas that you never thought of and can even give you creative ways to use what you already have in unique and interesting ways. 4. As an artist and designer, my challenge is always to give my clients value while creating something special that make them feel good. I really want them to go away feeling that I was worth money.
working with professional

How can homeowners make a professional’s job easier?

The early designers get to make the good suggestions. My colleagues are right on. I suggest to home owners that they keep detailed records of what has been done in the past. I live in an 1856 historic home that my wife and I have basically rebuilt over 20 plus years. It has stone walls 2 feet thick and thus all sorts of odd construction challenges. I have photos of everything done and how it was done. We also keep records of paint--the brand, color, etc. Any records on anything and everything helps. Some things are especially tricky to locate when hidden--pipes, wiring, etc. On my home, it would be almost impossible for someone to do any work without my detailed records of where things have been run and done over the past 155 years. If you are building a home, photo each stage from foundation up.
house facelift

What preventive maintenance tasks are essential?

My fellow designers have pretty well covered the field--really great advice. The better you maintain your house and property the fewer emergency problems you will have. An ounce of prevention really is worth a pound of cure.

Renovations and their resale value

Here are three rules with which you cannot go wrong: 1. Always use quality materials, design and workmanship. Good quality and design always pay off. 2. Avoid fads. 3. Avoid outlandish anything. What remodeling and/or design changes will have the best resale value and give a homeowner the biggest bang for the buck? Again here are three general rules: 1. Quality, proven energy savers with long life expectancies will pay off. Things like energy saving windows, more insulation, quality energy saving appliances, etc. Avoid unproven, overly complicated and/or over priced technology. 2. A beautifully designed kitchen with top quality everything is always a plus. Avoid over doing it. Not everyone wants a kitchen the size of a barn. 3. Quality wood flooring. Avoid the cheap imitations. Real wood is almost as cheap and will last forever. Three free to cheap changes that pay off: 1. Get rid of the clutter. This is my design mantra. It is better to have less if more means a lot of crap. Just clearing the room and walls of second rate junk will do wonders. 2. A thorough cleaning. You will be surprised how much better everything will look with a major cleaning--steam cleaning, scrubbing, etc. 3. Paint--the cheapest, easiest DIY project with the biggest return for the buck. Here are 3 wastes of money--of course sometimes you just buy things for fun and not profit: 1. Chandeliers 2. Expensive, overly decorative doors 3. Murals, stenciling, and other permanent art. Even though as an artist I have done it all, in the long run you should only buy framed art and sculptures that you can move with you. How can homeowners marry their personal preferences with the those of the average potential buyer? Again, the best tips from years of experience: 1. Go see model homes in new neighborhoods and condos. The builders pay designers like me big money to create display rooms that sell the home. 2. Get good books on architecture and design. 3. There will always be some people who like any style of design that you can come up with. However, the more unique, expensive, quirky, out of the box, etc. the design, the smaller your audience.


Home Expert Awards: Cutting Costs

As with all things, learn all that you can. Try to separate the facts from the hype. Buy as much as you can on sale, with discount coupons, etc. Many materials--brick, stone, lumber, etc. can be salvaged or bought from salvage companies and are often better than what is available new or as new synthetics

Home Expert Awards: Home Improvement on Television

OK--I love home improvement TV shows I have an actual TV antenna out here on the ranch and get PBS and Create TV for free over the public air waves. A great way to save money. I try watch them all as I take breaks during the day. Since Create runs its shows on a loop, I can watch at really weird times like my usual 3am wake up. I began working on homes with my dad as a kid