Giving the Formal Dining Room Its Day

formal dining room with butler's pantry and wine bar

This formal dining room in the Wyndham Estate plan by Fischer & Frichtel includes a wine bar and butler’s pantry to make it easy to entertain and keep the room clean and cluttered free.

By Patricia L. Garcia

When San Francisco interior designer George Brazil styles a home, he makes every effort to give the formal dining room the attention that space deserves.

“Unfortunately, dining rooms seem to be getting smaller since most people don’t use them as often as they should,” says Brazil of SagreraBrazil Design, Inc. in San Francisco. “They end up being a staged room or an extra play room for the kids. It doesn’t have to be this way. When we design a dining room, we design it for daily use — family dinners, not just holidays.”

We agree with Brazil — formal dining rooms needn’t become long forgotten because casual living is the rule of the day. Here’s how to embrace your formal dining room so you can have your formal — and casual — cake and eat it too.

Drama, Drama, Drama

When it comes to formal dining rooms, bold is in.

“The formal dining room these days is all about drama and interest,” says Jessica Davis, owner and principal designer at JL Design in Nashville, Tenn. “Often one of the first areas you see in a home, this (space offers) an opportunity to accent the other areas of the house and draw the eye into an area that is set apart from the others with bold patterns and colors.”

Still unsure about making bold choices in your formal dining room? Don’t be, Brazil says. “Since the dining room is not used throughout the day, here is a place where you can be daring.” He suggests wallpaper and decorative paint treatments; using outdoor fabrics, greens and other vibrant color treatments and mixing pieces.

“Never go for the matching tables and chairs,” he says. “It’s more fun and approachable to see woods that don’t match and styles that complement each other. Same goes with fabric — the upholstery doesn’t have to be timid and match the drapery.”

The Heart of It All

No dining room would be complete without a dining table. If you have a formal dining room, it’s likely because you entertain – that means having a versatile table that can host small intimate meals, as well as large groups of guests

“It’s still standard to have a large dining room table that comes with inserts so you can expand into a larger table,” says Tracy Kay Griffin, expert designer at real estate investment company Express Homebuyers in Springfield, Va.

If you prefer a smaller table for everyday seating, Brazil suggests two small tables that can be pushed together for large gatherings. “Same goes for an expandable table: just because it can be expanded to seat 10 or 12, take out the leaves so a family of four or six can sit there comfortably.”

Other important pieces include a buffet, side boards and serving tables to provide storage for linens and serving pieces.

Let There Be Light

A well-lit dining room is versatile enough for formal dinner, Sunday brunch or casual weekday meals. One way to add drama is dramatic lighting piece. “Lighting is a huge component of the space,” says founder of Aidan Gray Home and interior designer Randall Weeks. “Chandeliers, sconces and even buffet lamps finish off a look in dining rooms. Lighting should always be on a dimmer switch to set the mood depending on the time of day.”

Weeks also says candles add ambiance to dining rooms, so don’t exempt those as a lighting option.

Another way to add more light (and perceived space) is to use a statement mirror or lots of smaller mirrors.

Entertaining Spaces

Because entertaining at home plays such a huge role in our daily lives, homebuilders are creating spaces that will make entertaining easier. In addition, keeping homes clean and clutter free is another aspect of owning a home. That’s why you’ll find spaces like wine and wet bars and butler’s pantries in or near dining rooms in newly constructed homes.

Patricia L. Garcia is content manager for

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Gadget of the Month: Ring Video Doorbell

Ring video doorbell

With the Ring video doorbell, you can answer your door, even when you’re at the beach. Photos via Ring.

By Patricia L. Garcia

Picture it: someone rings your door bell and you answer — by video.

No need to get up from the couch or peek out the window because you don’t answer the door unless you expect company. In fact, you don’t even need to be home. Answer your door from the comfort of anywhere and via your smartphone, tablet or computer with the Ring video doorbell ($199).

Is this the ultimate in laziness? No! The smart doorbell is just another way to protect your home — and your family — from burglaries with smart home tech. Ring is easy to use: simply install the video doorbell, connect it to your home’s Wi-Fi and install the app on your smartphone, tablet or computer and you’re set to welcome guests or scare off would-be burglars and other unwanted guests.

A Smart Doorbell

Ring video doorbellThe doorbell has built-in motion sensors will send mobile alerts when it senses movement around your home. You can then see and speak with whoever is causing the alert (maybe it’s just a raccoon, so you can safely yell at it to scram). If it’s a delivery person, you can simply ask them to leave the package in a hidden spot (and ultimately, verify that the package was indeed delivered). If it’s unexpected company — particularly at night — you can safely verify that it’s someone you know and want to allow into your home. And, if it’s a would-be burglar, you can scare them off by answering virtually or fool them into thinking you’re inside — even if you’re at work or out shopping. If they’re still persistent about getting into your home, the app will record a video of the person, so you’ll at least be able to give this to police to help catch thieves.

Ring provides 720p HD video, a built-in rechargeable battery, night vision and lifetime purchase protection. Separate accessories for the Ring video doorbell system include a stick up cam, which you can put on your back or side entrance for enhanced security around your homes perimeter and Chime, a chime that lets you know when someone’s at the door, even if you’re phone is in another room. Ring works with many smart locks and smart home devices, including Kwikset’s Kevo, Lockstate smartlocks and wink.

Across the country, the Ring video doorbell has been credited with thwarting would-be burglars and catching package thieves (and even reuniting families with lost pets), making the investment well worth the money in order to protect your family and home and to provide peace of mind when you are home — and especially when you are away.

Patricia L. Garcia is content manager for

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Creative Ways to Save for a Down Payment on a Home

Down Payment Ideas

These creative ways to save for a down payment might make the difference in getting you the keys to your new home.

By Drew Knight

One of the biggest obstacles deterring hopeful home shoppers from buying a new home is the down payment. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Once you’ve figured out how much of a down payment you really need, the only step left is to find out how you’re going to start saving.

For those who don’t have an overflowing piggy bank, below are a few creative ways to save for a down payment.

There’s an App for That

Just like there is with ordering your pizza and hailing an Uber driver to get you downtown, there are smart phone apps and other online services to help you monitor your savings — and also make it fun. Joe Saul-Sehy, co-host of the award-winning personal finance podcast “Stacking Benjamins,” suggests the following:

  • Simple: This online tool can tell you how much money you have that’s available to spend or save after taking your goals and bills into account, so you don’t blow your budget.
  • Digit: An app that can track your spending and automatically move money you won’t need into a savings account.
  • TipYourself: You tip your servers, so why not tip yourself when you do something awesome? Little by little, you can add some cash here and there to your tip jar to save for that down payment.
  • Tiller: This amped-up spreadsheet service makes it easy to see where money opportunities are hiding.
  • YNAB: An acronym for “You Need a Budget,” YNAB is an app and personal finance system adored by its fans that aims to give you total control of your money.

“These tools can rock your down payment,” says Saul-Sehy. “The banking stuff is important so that you can easily stay on track with your down payment and not accidentally spend money meant for the house.”

Try Strategic Saving

A former financial advisor, Saul-Sehy introduced clients to his own savings strategy.

Firstly, Saul-Sehy would help his clients find out how much more the payment and escrow costs were going to be each month than their current bill. Then, they would use direct deposit and automatic transfers to “practice” saving this money every month.

“This was a great plan on two levels,” Saul-Sehy says. “First, it helped us know ahead of time if the budget was going to be too tight or not. Second, when people could afford the payment easily, they were able to use the extra money accumulated by ‘practicing’ to either meet the down payment more quickly or purchase furniture, landscaping or updating costs.”

Your local lender or financial institution is a great resource to help you find a strategic savings plan that works for you.

Talk to the Bank

And that’s why you should talk to the bank, not just for savings plans, but for more information on direct deposits, information on down payment assistance programs and to help you discover what type of loans are available in your area.

“The cool news is that the two best tools to save money aren’t an app or online specific, it’s direct deposit and automatic transfers,” says Saul-Sehy. “Every bank has these so that you’re able to hide money from yourself.”

TD Bank, a financial institution based on the east coast, is happy to sit down with homebuyers to answer questions and find programs that work for them.

“I would start with talking to a couple lenders, get an idea of what they have that are lower down payment options,” says Chris Copley, regional sales manager for TD Bank in the Philadelphia area. “The most important thing is educating yourself before you get involved in the process.”

For instance, TD Bank’s Right Step loan program is designed specifically for first-time buyers with flexible options and substantial savings every month.

Copley also advised to go with the direct deposit route once you find out your monthly number and have it deposited so that it’s out of sight and out of easy reach.

“Find out what that number is, sit down with you monthly budget and look back at the past two or three months,” suggests Copley. “Where did you spend money and how much of that did you spend on stuff that wasn’t a need or don’t mind giving up?”

Drew Knight is a digital content associate for

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Smart Home Technology: Survey Says It’s Hot

smart home technology

What makes a home a smart home? Smart home technology! Our panel of home shoppers told us what they really think of this new frontier of tech.

By Drew Knight

As more devices out there are being labeled as having “smart home technology,” we came up with the question: Just how interested are new-home shoppers in this technology and would they actually use it in their new homes?

We worked with the New Home Source Insights panel, a panel of new-home shoppers with varying demographics and at various stages in their home search, to see what they had to think about this ever-changing field of tech.

The survey results are in!

So what did they have to say? Smart home technology is a hot commodity.

Who’s Interested in Smart Home Tech?

The panelists were asked a series of questions regarding smart home technology. When asked, in general, are you interested in smart home tech, 91 percent of panelists said yes and only 9 percent said no.

Thus, it’s clear smart home technology is something worth considering.

Who Owns Smart Home Tech?

For the purpose of this survey, smart home technology was broken into seven categories: temperature (thermostats and other temperature-monitoring devices); entertainment (TVs, music systems, etc.); security (door locks, alarm systems, etc.); safety (smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and other safety devices); lighting (lightbulbs, control systems, etc.); appliances (refrigerators, ovens, etc.); and other.

When asked if they owned any of these smart home technologies, 38 percent of panelists said yes, while 62 percent said no, proving smart home tech is still quite a new idea for buyers.

Of those who said yes, the amount of each category owned is as follows:

  • Temperature — 66 percent
  • Entertainment — 53 percent
  • Security — 50 percent
  • Safety — 42 percent
  • Lighting — 42 percent
  • Appliances — 32 percent
  • Other — 3 percent

Who Plans on Purchasing Smart Home Tech This Year?

Which brings us to the next question, do you plan on purchasing smart home technology at some point this year?

A staggering 71 percent of panelists said yes, while 29 percent said no.

Of those who said yes, panelists were asked to specify their price points:

  • Under $50 — 0 percent
  • $51 to $100 — 12 percent
  • $101 to $499 — 50 percent
  • $500 to $999 — 24 percent
  • $1,000 or more — 14 percent

What Devices Make a Home “Smart”?

Because the term “smart home” might be relative to some, we were curious which of the categories is most important to home shoppers in defining “smart” for them.

So, we asked our panelists which category of smart tech a home must have to be considered a smart home. They ranked them as follows:

  • Temperature — 85 percent
  • Security — 79 percent
  • Lighting — 67 percent
  • Appliances — 61 percent
  • Entertainment — 46 percent
  • Safety – 42 percent

It’s also worth noting that of those surveyed, more than 84 percent said that the inclusion of smart home tech would increase their likelihood of purchasing that home.

How Useful Is Smart Home Tech?

Finally, panelists were asked to rank each category in order of usefulness. Here’s what they said:

  1. Temperature control
  2. Smart appliances
  3. Security
  4. Lighting
  5. Safety
  6. Entertainment

Interested in joining our panel? Head to for more info.

Smart Homes Infographic

Drew Knight is a digital content associate for New Home Source.

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A Beginner’s Guide to Tax Credits and Deductions for Homeowners

tax credits & deduction info for homeowners

It’s tax time and if you’ve purchased a home, there are a few things to know about tax credits and deductions for homeowners.

By Seve Kale

If you’ve recently purchased a home in 2015 or 2016, you’ve probably heard about the tax credits and deductions available for homeowners.

“Tax-wise, this is a good time to buy – homeownership offers tax breaks that renters do not have,” says Yvette D. Best, CEO of Best Services Unlimited LLC, an income tax preparation firm in Fayetteville, Ga.

Though the thought of itemizing your taxes and figuring out what you qualify for may be intimidating, we’ve talked to the experts to come up with this helpful guide.

Mortgage Interest Write-Off

Let’s start with the basics: mortgage interest deductions.

According to, the biggest tax break for most homeowners comes from deducting mortgage interest.  If you itemize, you can usually deduct the interest on a mortgage used to acquire a main or secondary home.

Mortgage Points

“In addition to the commonly known write-off for home mortgage interest, there are other deductions and credits for new homeowners,” says Amanda Kendall, president of True Resolve Tax, based in Northglenn, Colo. “In some instances, when buying a new home, you pay what is known as points (origination points and discount points), that the IRS views as being prepaid interest. They can be written off along with your mortgage interest,” Kendall says.

This deduction may be worth thousands. “The return on your investment is two-fold — you get to deduct the cost of the points and the amount paid in interest in the same year as the home purchase,” adds Best.

First-Time Buyers

“As a first-time buyer, the IRS will allow you to withdraw an amount up to $10,000 from an IRA (traditional or ROTH) penalty-free to help with the purchase of a home,” says Kendall. If you’re married, you and your spouse can withdraw a total for $20,000 penalty-free. You are also allowed a $10,000 withdrawal to buy or build for a spouse, kids, grandchildren or parents.

Property Taxes

You can also write off property taxes as an itemized deduction. However, if you’re using an escrow account to pay your taxes, you can’t deduct payments into that account as real estate taxes. “Homeowners often make the mistake of deducting the wrong year’s property taxes — this deduction is allowed in the year the taxes are actually paid,” says Kendall.

Energy Incentives

If your new home is built with energy-efficient appliances and/or energy-efficient technology, you are likely eligible for a tax credit. Green technology such as geothermal heat pumps, small wind turbines and solar energy systems make you eligible for a tax credit of 30 percent of their cost, while a credit of up to $500 is available for energy-efficient HVAC systems, windows or doors.

Home Rentals or Improvements

If you’ve done any renovating, keep your receipts. All improvements will be added to the purchase price of your home. If you track your home-related expenses, you can reduce the capital gains amount you must pay tax on when you decide to sell. “These days, with AirBnB, homeowners may rent their home out or rent a room, in which case all expenses related to the house can be deducted against rental income,” says Ryan Saltz, a licensed tax professional at Jacksonville, Fla.-based Tax Defense Network, LLC.

This guide only covers a few of the deductions available to homeowners, so sure to do your research. “If you take a credit you’re not allowed to take, the IRS is going to make you pay it back, but not before they add interest and penalties,” says Kendall. She recommends consulting with a tax professional.

Seve Kale is a contributor to NewHomeSource.

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Housing Market Forecast: Morgan Stanley Shares 2016 Outlook

Housing Market Forecast

As we scope out the path to recovery in 2016, Morgan Stanley provides their housing market forecast for the new year.

By Drew Knight

Reflecting back on 2015, most of those associated with the housing industry can agree that it experienced another great year on the road to recovery.

As we continue down the path in 2016, now is the time to scope out what’s ahead on the journey to housing market success. To do that, it’s going to take some looking forward and some looking back.

Morgan Stanley, a multinational financial services company, polished their crystal balls — and their calculators — to do some of that forecasting for us all. Below you’ll find the results to their research over the past few years and some predictions the company presented during its recent 2016 U.S. Housing Market Forecast webinar:

Household Formations

2016 Prediction: 1.25 to 1.3 million

“U.S. housing has been one of the few consistently bright spots in the U.S. economy in 2015,” says Ryan Gilbert, an equity analyst for Morgan Stanley. “We expect 2016 to be a positive year for both housing activity and home prices. One of the chief drivers will be sustained demand as a result of household formations remaining above long-term averages.”

According to the report, a lack of formations throughout the recovery has led to substantial pent-up demand (2.5 million households worth) that could fuel the industry in 2016.

Homeownership Rates

2016 Prediction: Down Toward 63 Percent

Because lenders are leaning toward stricter guidelines, data shows that a majority of the 1.25 to 1.3 million new households that are expected to form this year will also be rental households.

Additionally, Baby Boomers are bringing the largest amount of changes to these results, despite the fact that Millennials belong to the largest and most diverse generation the country has ever seen, says James Egan, vice president of the securitized products strategy team at Morgan Stanley.

Home Prices

2016 Prediction: +3 Percent Base Case

“From their trough in 1Q12, home prices have appreciated meaningfully,” says Egan. “However, we do not think this represents a bubble in U.S. home prices.”

Data also suggests that decelerating home price appreciation has brought home prices closer to a fair value.

New Home Sales

2016 Prediction: 575,000 to 600,000

Morgan Stanley reports that new home sales have been outpacing their 2014 levels and were up 15 percent during the first 10 months of 2015.

Still, these levels remain sustainably below long-term averages, data shows. When compared to the pre-crisis, pre-bubble period averages over 2000 to 2003, new home sales are nearly 50 percent lower.

Housing Starts

2016 Prediction: Total – 1.3 million; Single-Family – 845,000

“We project housing starts to increase to 1.3 million units, with a higher share of multifamily starts (35 percent) relative to longer-term average compared to single-family starts (65 percent),” says Egan.

Although both multifamily and single-family starts are higher, multifamily starts are at a 28-year high and have dominated the recovery.

Mortgage Credit Availability

2016 Prediction: Easing Only at Margins

Morgan Stanley believes that higher home prices, better labor market conditions and low interest rates in 2016 will contribute to expanded credit availability on the margin, although expansion may be limited.

Even though data shows that credit availability appears to be on the mend, levels pale in comparison to those before the housing crisis.

Other Considerations

  • Land and Labor: Shortcomings in this area will continue to be a supply side limitation and these shortages are impacting margins and build times. The top three concerns for 2016 revolve around the rising cost of building materials, labor shortage, lackluster job creation and income growth.
  • Return of the First-Time Buyer: Morgan Stanley reports that there is evidence of improvement at lower price points in the new-home sales data and that first-time buyers showed strong growth in the resale market over 2015.
  • Housing Affordability: Although data shows that housing is remaining affordable when compared to long-run averages, the market as a whole is less likely to be able to maintain that affordability in an environment where rates are rising.
  • Rates: Should we fear that kind of environment? According to the report, demand was negatively affected by higher mortgage payments in 2013 and 2014, but over the longer term, new-home sales and interest rates are uncorrelated.

For more in-depth information, check out Morgan Stanley’s video highlighting this report.

Drew Knight is a Digital Content Associate for New Home Source.

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Go Scandinavian Modern with These Standout Etsy Shops

By Drew Knight

When it comes to Scandinavian Modern interior design, your mind might immediately rush to retail giant IKEA. Justly so, IKEA was founded in Sweden, one of the three Scandinavian countries (Norway and Finland being the other two).

But if you want your interior design scheme to tell a story, you may want to shy away from the mass-produced designs of stores like IKEA, even when they do focus on the design you love so much, and at a relatively low price. Enter Etsy, the online marketplace for unique and quirky items you usually won’t be able to find anywhere else.

Here you’ll find a list of standout Etsy shops that could help you discover the perfect pieces — from furniture to rugs — that perfectly capture the Scandinavian Modern design for your new home.

Scandinavian Modern Rug

Decorative Rug by TheGretest.

The Gretest

When it comes to Scandinavian-inspired rugs, The Gretest might just be the greatest.

With nearly 150 rugs, 95 throw pillows and other odds and ends like shower curtains and tapestries to choose from, The Gretest is a great first stop. All of these designs are one-of-a-kind and original products created by textile and graphic designer Grete.

Because the Scandinavian Modern design style relies on minimalism and simplicity with a few choice bold accents, unique rugs are found in almost every design. The Gretest is the perfect place to find your inspiration.

Scandinavian Modern Chairs

Scandinavian Teak Cube Chairs in Blue Upholstery by Galaxie Modern.

Galaxie Modern

When choosing furniture, Scandinavian Modern design plans tend to stick with simple, modern or vintage modern pieces. Enter Galaxie Modern!

With more than 54 furniture items to choose from, you’ll find all sorts of vintage Scandinavian and Danish pieces from chairs and sofas to coffee tables.

But it doesn’t stop there! Galaxie Modern also offers artworks, books, décor, houseware, lighting, rugs and more. And don’t you worry about shipping; Galaxie Modern has years of experience shipping mid-century modern furniture and goods both continentally and internationally.

Scandinavian Modern Coffee Table

The Miami: Solid Walnut Coffee Table with Steel Legs by moderncre8ve.


Now, if you’re looking for furniture that’s modern in today’s terms, moderncre8ve is the shop for you.

These unique designs are a great way to add a lot of character to a design scheme that really is quite simple. Simply add one of these coffee tables, dining tables or benches and you’ll be making the perfect bold statement Scandinavian Modern schemes are known for.

If you purchase a piece from this store, you’ll also be making a positive impact for the world: a portion of all moderncre8ve sales are donated to Save the Children and used for monthly sponsorships of children in need throughout the world.

Scandinavian Modern Fabric

Scandinavian Fabric by OOMFinteriors.


For those with an affinity for fabric, OOMFinteriors is the shop for you.

There is no better way to add color to a Scandinavian Modern interior design than with carefully chosen fabrics and OOMFinteriors offers 44 styles that were distinctly Scandinavian inspired. Pillows? Curtains? Table runners? You got it!

Design Tip: Scandinavian Modern interiors rely on simplicity and neutral color schemes. However, they do require pops of color and a few unique oddities. Pick the fabric that suits your style and make this your go-to inspiration for choosing a few accent pieces like vases or modern sculptures.

Scandinavian Modern Inspired Tea Set

Vintage Mid Century Modern Block Bidasoa Demitasse Set by SandHollowVintage.


Finally, nothing says Scandinavian Modern like a few odd accent pieces and SandHollowVintage has plenty — some of which are actually Scandinavian.

From animal sculptures to kitchenware, pottery and more, you’re bound to find a couple of pieces that work in your home.

Keep in mind that you shouldn’t overdo it with accent pieces in a Scandinavian Modern design. A simple sculpture here and a modern vase there is usually all you’ll need.

Drew Knight is a Digital Content Associate for New Home Source.

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