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Fall Overhaul

by Jennifer L. Nelson

Looking to spruce up your surroundings? Find some inspiration in our room-by-room tips from local experts.

Fall is the perfect time to roll up your sleeves and tackle nearly any home improvement project, and with good reason. While the season for barbecues may have come to an end, it turns out there are still plenty of reasons to improve the appearance of your backyard. And with more time spent indoors this coming winter, the perfect opportunity presents itself to take on interior remodeling or design projects—just in time for the holidays. But first, let’s head outside.

The great outdoors
Outdoor occasions may not have been on your agenda as the season cools down, but according to Jock Lewendon, president of the Association of Professional Landscape Designers’ New Jersey chapter, that doesn’t have to be the case.

One of the most common landscape redesigns this time of year, he says, includes building outdoor fire pits—a great way to bring the warmth and coziness of your living space outside into your backyard all winter long. Just be sure to brush up on obtaining any necessary permits from your town, Lewendon advises.

This is also the perfect time of year to beautify your outdoors and capture the vibrant colors of fall with plants that thrive in cooler temperatures, such as mums or asters. Lewendon suggests visiting your local nursery to learn more about varieties of native plants. “There are so many options this time of year, from flowers in a range of colors to fruit-bearing trees,” he says.

A new perspective
When you spend more time indoors during the autumn and winter, it’s pretty common to start noticing little odds and ends around the house that could use some attention.

“After so much outdoor entertaining during the spring and summer months, the move back indoors causes people to take a hard look at the interiors of their homes and see with renewed eyes what needs to be updated, upgraded or completely renovated,” explains Sharon L. Sherman, president of the New Jersey chapter of the American Society of Interior Designers.

These upgrades could mean tackling inexpensive DIY projects like applying a fresh coat of paint in the living room, but for larger jobs, homeowners should realistically consider both their own skills and abilities as well as the time commitment involved to complete any home improvement project. “There are plenty of stories of professional remodelers getting called in to complete half-finished projects that the homeowner just never got around to finishing,” says Richard Van Osten, executive vice president of the Builders League of South Jersey.

With many families’ budgets allocated for holiday gift-giving and travel plans, homeowners must also consider the costs of any proposed home improvement projects, whether outdoors or indoors. “The first step is to determine how much money you can spend, and then you can define your vision of the completed project,” Van Osten says. “Working with a professional designer can help ensure your vision comes to life and will prompt you to define your goals. … For example, do you want an innovative new design, or are you striving for functionality?”

A 2012 survey released by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) indicates the demand for common home remodeling projects continues to grow, compared to a similar survey from 2010. But one thing hasn’t changed: the prevalence of both kitchen and bathroom upgrades, which have remained on top of the list of popular remodeling projects since 2001. “With the holiday months approaching, kitchen and bath remodeling becomes even more important,” Sherman confirms.

What’s cooking?
Whether you’re preparing the Thanksgiving feast or hosting relatives for Christmas, the kitchen may be the ideal room to remodel for the sake of both appearance and functionality this fall. “The kitchen always seems to be where everyone ends up gathering during the holidays and at parties, so it’s no wonder that kitchen renovations are at the top of surveys of popular remodeling projects year after year,” Van Osten says. Homeowners can consider adding new countertops or cabinets, or even expanding the kitchen to provide more space for both weeknight cooking and weekend entertaining. “It’s one renovation that will be a great benefit not only during the holidays, but on a daily basis,” he adds.

A private retreat
One room in the house that warrants attention from all family members, the bathroom, is another top project for local residents. Whether they’re looking to wind down from the hectic start to the school year, or maybe find a new way to de-stress as the holidays approach, it’s a good place to start your home renovation. “Homeowners are frequently asking for a high-end spa feel to their new bathrooms,” Van Osten says, a trend which includes adding features such as television screens built right into mirrors.

Other common remodeling projects include the addition of exotic wood finishes, recycled glass tiles, and more sophisticated lighting systems.

The gathering spot
Then of course there is the living room, the focal point of visits and celebrations along with nights at home with the family. Sprucing up your home’s living area can be done inexpensively with a new coat of paint or lighting fixture, making such an important room a relatively easy update. Homeowners should also consider how updated lighting choices can make stairs safer for little ones and those hallway closets more convenient to use.

“Proper lighting makes the home safer, makes tasks easier, and improves the home’s aesthetics, while good ambient lighting sets the mood that allows for conversation and moving around in the space,” Sherman explains. “Often overlooked but strikingly effective, updated lighting can work wonders,” Van Osten agrees. Try swapping the shades on current fixtures or installing new ones.

And, when in doubt, don’t forget the power of adding a splash of color to a room by hanging artwork or arranging colorful throw pillows on the couches. If holiday shopping is going to leave little remaining funds for the purchase of new furniture, it’s easy to make the most of what you already own.

The Change of Season Checklist

…Special Advertising Section from the pages of Suburban Family Magazine…

We talked with South Jersey’s experts in everything from interior design to home remodeling to pool maintenance to find out one thing: What homeowners should be doing this fall to extend their backyard use, liven up their living spaces, and get ready for the cooler months ahead.

Brindisi Builders
Mike Brindisi
“Checking basement walls is a must. Too many people ignore cracks and openings in the block wall, which is usually caused by poor grading and water buildup. They should be inspected by a professional experienced in this problem and any necessary corrections made prior to the snow season. If this is ignored, it could create more damage and more expense.”
59 S. Maple St., Marlton
(856) 596-8067

Burlington Carpet One
Eric Schienholtz
“With the fall and holiday season upon us, we suggest to plan now to avoid any last-minute crunch for any flooring improvement projects. Look at your home as a homebuyer and evaluate each hallway or room from the moment you step into your home. If your flooring is showing signs of wear and tear or just needs to be updated, call us to come to your home and help you with an estimate.”
1 White Horse Pike,
(856) 310-9292

Closet City Ltd.
Janet Stevenson
“When organizing, work on just one closet or storage area at a time, starting with what stresses you out the most. To be successful, stay in one area and sort through everything until it’s done; don’t get distracted by messes elsewhere. You won’t see progress by doing a little of this area, a little of that one, and you’re more likely to abandon the project.”
619 Bethlehem Pike,
Montgomeryville, Pa.
(215) 855-4400

Ed Marinchak
Fall is time for seeding and planting, according to Ed Marinchak, owner of Create-A-Scape. With more than 22 years of experience in landscaping and lawn maintenance and multiple awards for landscape design and builds under their belt, he knows what he is talking about. Their philosophy is to always put the customer first and do a quality job, no matter what it takes. This attitude creates a customer for life.
2011 Old Cuthbert Road,
Cherry Hill
(856) 547-4276

Elite Landscaping
Dave Feast
"The fall season is an excellent time to think about all types of landscape projects for your home. The weather conditions are ideal for installing new plantings, adding seasonal color, renovating your lawn, deep root feeding for your plants, and don’t forget to winterize your irrigation."
8 Pineview Ave., Berlin
(856) 753-1944

The Fireplace People
Earl Marshall
“As the seasons change, you’ll want to check your fireplace units to make sure they’re working properly before the cooler weather comes; change the batteries in any remote, hand-held receivers; and check for any debris around vent caps. To save on energy costs, be sure to think about upgrading your old wood stoves or wood inserts. Come in to see our beautiful line of gas stoves, gas fireplaces and gas logs. Heat your room for pennies an hour. Remember, home is where the hearth is.”
Serving South Jersey
(856) 768-0009

Gill’s Landscaping
Ed Swietanski
“This is a good time of year to consider having a project completed in two stages. There are several projects that homeowners can have done this time of year that they can still enjoy in the autumn and have fully completed in early spring; for example, a deck, patio or walkway with lighting. All of these can be done within the next few months. When spring rolls around, homeowners can have landscaping or water features added around these projects.”
240 Commissioners Pike, Mullica Hill
(856) 223-9770

Green Lea Garden and Patio Furniture
Rob Dougherty
“The outdoor living room is the hottest concept in homeownership. Homeowners are opting to furnish their backyard like their favorite vacation resort, and creating their own ‘staycation.’ Now that summer is over, the best way to extend that staycation is the addition of a fire pit seating group. Available with wood-burning, propane and natural gas fire options, you can use your fire pit for warmth, and extend the usability of your backyard well into those cool winter nights.”
204 Route 73, Voorhees
(856) 767-4413

John’s Air Conditioning and Heating
Daniel S. Frame
“If a furnace needed to be fixed or replaced from last year, this is the time to do it. Waiting until it gets too cold can bring added aggravation. Even if a furnace operated fine the previous winter, a checkup or preventive maintenance contract can go a long way for any homeowner.”
Serving South Jersey
(856) 933-9300

Otto’s Landscaping and Lighting Contractors, LLC
Chris Otto
“At this time of year, homeowners should be getting estimates for a few things. If your landscape has suffered, planting shrubs in the fall is always your best bet. If the turf needs help, homeowners should have their lawns aerated, de­thatched and seeded. The cooler temperatures allow for better establishment with less stress.”
400 Park Drive, Cinnaminson
(609) 334-2660

Rooms in Bloom
Jennifer Baxter and Kathy Geller
“A new trend we are seeing is clients wanting a new look for their home without re-inventing the wheel, so we rearrange and repurpose their furnishings and simply bring in touches such as new artwork and accessories to give them a beautiful, fresh look.”
202 Bridgeboro Road, Moorestown
(856) 722-1505

Springdale Farms
John Ebert
"Now that the summer is over, we are all looking for a change to match the season. The quickest way to usher in the season would be the simple addition of a bundle of natural corn stalks on a lamp post or on either side of the front door. A fall wreath and a potted mum for the front step would complete the look. It's fast and simple. The look can be further embellished with fall ribbons and bows. A pumpkin later on will bring the entire look up to date for the Halloween season."
1638 S. Springdale Road, Cherry Hill
(856) 424-8674

Swim-Mor Pools & Spas
Michael P. McCool Jr.
“In preparation for the winter months ahead, the first thing pool owners should do is make sure that their water chemistry is balanced. Also, be sure to use a winter kit that has both a phosphate remover, to prevent algae growth, and a scale inhibitor to make opening in the spring a breeze.”
Serving South Jersey
(856) 456-3332

The Window Factory
Jack Merryfield Jr.
“Fall is prime time to replace old windows with new, energy-efficient ones. The options in replacement windows are enormous and you can have them custom fit to tailor the openings in your home. While the weather is not too hot or cold, get those windows replaced. Not only will you save money in the long run on your utility bills, but you will improve the look of your home’s curb appeal at the same time.”
1500 Kings Highway, Haddon Heights
(856) 546-5050

Published (and copyrighted) in Suburban Family Magazine, Volume 3, Issue 7 (September, 2012).
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