• 2016, MARCH 29

    Creating a Home Remodeling Firm in Northern Virginia

    Commonwealth Home Design has served residents of Northern Virginia for 30 years. Hear what inspired architect Susan Pierce, co-founder and co-owner of Commonwealth, to create a design/build and home remodeling firm in Vienna, Virginia.

  • 2015, AUGUST 25

    Renovate or Relocate: A Common Homeowner Conundrum

    Almost all homeowners contemplate buying a new house or remodeling an existing home at some point in their lives. There’s no right or wrong choice but several potential life-changing considerations.

    Before jumping into a major home remodeling project or spending hours online searching for a new house, create a wish list outlining your needs and wants. Here are four primary considerations to include in your list:

    1. Location, Location, Location

    How much do you love your existing neighborhood? If you have a family or are thinking about starting one, how are the school systems. Would you be leaving behind neighborhood friends and playmates? What amenities are readily available that may not be easily accessible in a new town or city.

    Another incredibly important factor in Northern Virginia is a move’s impact on your commute. Will it be longer or shorter. Are you willing to spend more time in your car than enjoying your new home?

    If these factors make you want to stay, can you renovate within your current footprint? An experienced architect can help you determine if your existing home can expand to meet your needs while complying with local building codes. You may uncover areas for expansion you never realized were available. (See related: Four Ways to Gain More Space in Your Home.)

    Great Room After

    Great Room AFTER Renovation & Expansion

    Great Room Before

    Great Room BEFORE Renovation & Expansion

    2. Quality of Life

    Living through a renovation can be stressful but so can moving! Are you prepared to live through a few months of flying dust, the constant sound of power tools and a bevy of contractors walking through your home. (See related: The Remodeling Process Rollercoaster – What You Can Expect.)

    The idea of packing a lifetime’s worth of belongings may be reason enough to stay put. For some though, moving is an opportunity to purge and start anew.

    If you’re unable to line up closing dates, you may find yourself in a temporary housing situation. Can you deal with the stress of packing/unpacking and moving twice?

    Carefully consider the impact a home renovation or multiple moves may have on your quality of life before, during and after!

    3. Budget and Financing

    A new house means qualifying for a new mortgage and expenses beyond the purchase price of the home—i.e. real estate transaction fees, closing costs, moving expenses, new fixtures and furniture, etc.

    There are also numerous tax laws that affect the calculation of taxes upon the sale of one’s home and the repurchase of its replacement. Tax credits may be available, depending on when you buy the property. Seek professional advice to understand the tax implications of selling your home and buying a new one.

    A renovation can be financed through savings, home equity loans or lines or credit. Acquiring a home equity loan or line of credit depends on several factors: the equity in the home before the project, the cost of the remodel, and the expected market value once completed.

    Extensive renovations and expansions also may end up more costly than expected if your wish list changes throughout the course of the project. It’s important to plan for the unknown in any high value investment involving your home.

    4. Value

    Are you currently living in a booming neighborhood with rising home values. If so, you may want to stay put and invest in your house. A remodeling project should result in added value to your property. According to Remodeling Magazine, the most profitable renovations when putting a house on the market include kitchen remodels and room additions.

    Whether you choose to renovate or build new, it’s important to work with an experienced architect. Superior design not only increases the value of your home, but can also greatly improve your quality of life. Conversely, mediocre design may diminish resale value and lead to missed design opportunities and years of regret.

    Kitchen After Renovation and Removal of Fireplace

    Kitchen and Breakfast Area AFTER Renovation

    Kitchen and Fireplace Before Renovation

    Kitchen and Breakfast Area BEFORE Renovation

    Next Steps…

    Determining you need more space or a change of environment is easy. The quandary is how best to achieve it. Relocating and renovating each can be satisfying and effective if you weigh the options carefully. Seeking the assistance of an expert residential architect may result in upgrades and additional space you never dreamed available in your existing home.

    An informed and educated decision can minimize your aggravation and ensure your family years of good living!

    Give us a call today at 703-255-9861 and let the experienced architects at Commonwealth Home Design help you to weigh your options.

    Live the Difference

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  • 2015, JUNE 9

    4 Ways to Gain More Space in Your Home

    Feeling like you’ve outgrown your current house? The experienced architects at Commonwealth Home Design can show you how to creatively and efficiently gain more space in your home.

    With housing prices back on the rise in Northern Virginia, you may want to consider a renovation or addition project before seeking a new home.

    Look up, look down, look around—you may find you have more room for rooms than you think!

    1. Tear Down

    Aging homes are often filled with tiny, unused rooms that cramp modern lifestyles. This can be addressed by removing interior walls and expanding important rooms like the kitchen or creating new family gathering spaces, like a great room. Before you remove any wall, you must determine if the wall is load-bearing. The experts at Commonwealth Home Design have nearly 30 years experience transforming cramped rooms into spacious, open floor plans.


    Great Falls, VA – An open, spacious floor plan with voluminous ceilings was created through a comprehensive interior gut and remodeling project. Walls and ceiling were removed and replaced with new wood beams and brackets. A new, expansive kitchen and great room were created.

    2. Build Up

    Attics can be transformed into a variety of spaces beyond your grandparent’s treasure trove. Home offices, in-law and au-pair suites, recreational rooms and even master bedrooms can be creatively situated in a redesigned attic. Reclaiming existing space under your roof also avoids many zoning and easement concerns common to the Northern Virginia area. There are several considerations when converting attics into new spaces, including building codes; support structures; electrical, HVAC and plumbing systems; and access. Commonwealth’s experienced, solutions-oriented architects can help determine if your attic is ready for a life-changing transformation.

    Attic master suite addition with sitting area, large bright; windows and sloped ceilings.

    Great Falls, VA – Attic conversion into a Cape Cod-style master suite with sitting area, large bright windows and sloped ceilings.

    3. Add On

    In many cases, you can gain more space from your existing home through an addition project. There are numerous ways to add onto a home. Adding onto and renovating the first floor may allow for an expansive new kitchen; and you know that everyone tends to gravitate towards the kitchen! A sunroom addition can function in many ways. It can be a light and airy, relaxation space with lots of glass and outdoor views, or a great place to mix, mingle and entertain. Second story additions are increasingly popular. Rather than using limited ground area and building a foundation, adding a second floor addition to a ranch house is a great and cost effective way to gain extra space. Master suites are common second story additions, providing more privacy and task-oriented spaces. Second floor laundry rooms are also popular in comprehensive addition projects. Many second story additions are designed above garages. Building over the garage is an efficient way to add space for everything from a master bedroom suite to an office or “bonus room”.

    Arlington, Virginia - Second story addition with new master suite and multiple bedrooms; bathrooms; and a two-story staircase.

    Arlington, Virginia – Second story addition with new master suite and multiple bedrooms; bathrooms; and a two-story staircase.

    4. Reconfigure

    Take a look around your home. How many rooms do you really use on a daily basis? Do you have unused sheds or small buildings on your lot? Your family may benefit greatly from a whole house reconfiguration. Unused sitting rooms, mudrooms, extra dining spaces, even under staircase storage areas and small outdoor buildings can be repurposed for today’s lifestyle and possessions. Additional storage can be found in the most creative of locations. Removing walls can increase the natural light into rooms by allowing light to flow through the center of the house from the sunny to the shady side. Sometimes a modest bump-out combined with an interior reconfiguration can work miracles. Older homes in Northern Virginia no longer meet the needs of modern families. But many people like you aren’t ready to pick up and move. Your love your neighborhood and value your investments!


    Great Falls, VA – Linear design with natural light; contemporary kitchen and family room reconfiguration.


    Let the design/build professionals at Commonwealth transform your aging house into a luxurious modern residence rivaling today’s new homes!

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  • 2015, MARCH 20

    6 Considerations for Creating a Versatile Outdoor Kitchen

    The close of winter and promise of spring are making us Northern Virginians anxious for some outdoor living! Now is the time to maximize your yard and create a dining and entertaining space that compliments your indoor kitchen.

    With an outdoor kitchen you can prepare meals and be around your guests with minimal time spent running inside for forgotten items. Here are some considerations when developing your new outdoor kitchen.

    1. Site Selection & Space Planning

    Choosing the optimal location for your outdoor kitchen can have a major impact on your budget. Ideally, the site should easily connect to home utility sources and be accessible to your indoor kitchen. Your outdoor kitchen will also need shelter from wind, rain and extreme sun.

    Consider your workflow and how your indoor and outdoor spaces will be used together. Design your space according to functional zones, including preparation, cooking, serving, entertaining and cleanup. For example, it’s important to separate beverage serving areas from food prep and cooking to minimize disruption while meals are being prepared. You know what they say about too many cooks!

    Outdoor Kitchen Stainless Steel

    2. Appliances

    A luxury outdoor kitchen may contain just as many appliances as an indoor gourmet kitchen. Grills, smokers, pizza ovens, cooktops, refrigerators, ice makers, recessed blender stations, sinks, and wine and keg reserves are commonplace in outdoor kitchens. Determining the frequency of use and types of meals to be served in advance of your project will inform your appliance selections. Appliances should come from companies specializing in outdoor kitchen supplies.

    Outdoor Kitchen Grill Sink and Brick

    3. Materials

    The look and feel of your outdoor kitchen should be in harmony with the design of your home. Use compatible materials and incorporate subtle architectural details to create a space that’s a natural extension of your house.

    Durability is key when choosing materials and finishes for your outdoor kitchen. Everything has to be waterproofed. Selecting low maintenance materials and equipment that withstand the impact of outdoor elements is critical. High-quality stainless steel provides a sanitary surface that’s easily cleaned and corrosion-resistant.

    Counters and patio or decking material should be resistant to grease stains and able to withstand high temperatures. For flooring, avoid materials that may become slick when wet, such as tile or marble. Natural stone blocks with low porosity, such as granite, sealed pavers or concrete work best for outdoor flooring.

    Outdoor Kitchen Stone Fireplace

    4. Storage

    Determining how many supplies you need on-hand, such as utensils, pots and pans, serving ware, etc., will determine your need for storage. Planning ahead will eliminate the need to go in and out of the house for supplies.

    Like everything else, storage cabinets must be waterproof and resistant to rot. High quality stainless steel that matches a grill is a good option for cabinets.

    5. Lighting

    Much like indoor kitchens, lighting is an essential element of your outdoor space. Adequate task lighting for food prep and cooking, as well as ambient lighting for after-dark dining and entertaining, are important.

    Outdoor Kitchen Lighting6. Dining Spaces

    There are endless options for dining spaces within your new outdoor kitchen. Do you regularly entertain large groups of guests or only need accommodations for a small family?

    Consider creating a bar counter connected to your countertop so guests may sit on stools and chat while you’re working. A bar also can be conveniently used for serving and setup.

    Durable outdoor tables and chairs can look and function as well as any formal dining room set. Consider the placement of seating spaces to eliminate smoke and splatters from prep and cooking areas.

    Spring is just around the corner, now is the time to plan and build your versatile outdoor kitchen. Give us a call at 703-255-9861 today to get started.

    Live the Difference

    Craving more tips? Check out this infographic from Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet.

    Tips for Designing an Outdoor Kitchen

    Tips for Designing an Outdoor Kitchen

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  • 2014, MAY 12

    From Home Tours to the Web – Home Remodeling Ideas Are Everywhere

    When planning your next remodeling project you needn’t look far for inspiration. Design ideas can be found everywhere from inside your neighbor’s home to the internet. Here’s a list of readily available resources:

    Home Remodeling Ideas Source #1: Other Homes.

    Pop inside a model home or open house and be sure to have your camera on hand to snap pictures of your favorite fixtures, finishes, and interior/exterior layouts. Whether you’re having dinner in a friend’s newly remodeled home or you’ve signed up for a new house tour, you can uncover ideas first-hand within your own community.

    Home Remodeling Ideas Source #2: Resources.

    Publications like Remodeling Today and Qualified Remodeler Magazine and organizations such as the National Association of the Remodeling Industry, contain a wealth of ideas and resources. Interior and exterior design magazines also can be found everywhere from local bookstores, to grocery stores, drugstores and home remodeling warehouses.

    Home Remodeling Ideas Source #3: The Internet.

    The Broadband Information Age has had an enormous impact on the residential remodeling and design industry. Imagery intensive sites such as Pinterest and Houzz make it easy to locate and virtually organize remodeling ideas.

    Home Remodeling Ideas Source #4: Publications.

    Many conventional home publications, such as Better Homes & Gardens (www.bhg.com), Country Living Magazine (www.countryliving.com) and HGTV (www.hgtv.com) devote entire sections of their online sites to remodeling tips and ideas.

    Visit Our Work and follow us on Houzz to get design ideas for your next remodeling project!

    See Commonwealth Home Design and Remodeling on Houzz for Home Remodeling Ideas

    Follow Commonwealth Home Design on Houzz.com

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