2009 Real Estate Guide
A white house with large windows, a brown roof and trees surrounding it on top of house plans
real estate
Make your small house a dream home

Now that homeowners no longer obsess about how much their homes have increased in value in the past week, they're reacquainting themselves with the joys of homeownership from a new, healthier perspective.

Recognizing that larger is not necessarily better and that less can actually be more, many homeowners are looking for ways to make the homes they're in more useful, comfortable and enjoyable.

Here are 10 tips that may help you make the house you're in your dream home:

1. Show your true colors. "Paint is the cheapest and most powerful thing you can do to put your personal stamp on a home," says Barbara Corcoran, a New York City Realtor and NBC's "Today" show real estate expert. "Paint your home the colors you enjoy living with, the colors you feel happiest within."

2. Ditch some stuff. "You probably have more stuff than you need. Get rid of some of it," says James Gauer, author of "The New American Dream: Living Well in Small Homes."

3. Start simple. Find the simplest remodeling solution within your home's existing footprint before considering expanding its size, says Marc Vassallo, co-author of "Not So Big Remodeling: Tailoring Your Home for the Way You Really Live."

4. Dine in a booth. "I've yet to see a small living/dining room where a free-floating dining table and chairs really works," says Gauer. "A dining banquette against the wall looks and feels luxurious and comfortable while taking up considerably less space."

5. Check out books. "Put a wall of books in any room and it's cozy and inviting," says Corcoran.

6. Consolidate doorways. "Attempt to locate all the doorways to the kitchen on one side of the room and eliminate any that are not absolutely necessary," Vassallo says. "This leaves the rest of the kitchen for continuous countertop and appliance arrangement while limiting the flow of foot traffic through the work area."

7. Plan your furniture first. "Never buy furniture without first laying out a furniture plan," says Gauer. "Chances are, that sofa you're eyeing is too big and will just make your living room feel crowded."

8. Let there be light. "The right lighting can make a heck of an improvement," says Corcoran. "Throw in task lighting to make tasks easier, mood light to make a room sexier. And don't forget dimmers! I can't imagine lighting without them."

9. Add a column. "Create a more open floor plan by removing a wall and replacing it with a new support beam and columns," says Vassallo. "Columns allow for differentiation of places with minimal view obstruction."

10. Dare to be modest. "Modesty requires us to arrange our homes first and foremost to suit the real needs of our private lives with no thought to public display, to eschew the showy and unnecessary and embrace the appropriate and suitable," says Gauer.


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