Transitional Design

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Transitional Design – for the modern traditionalist

If you’re drawn to the overall shape and style of traditional designs such as farmhouse, Craftsman, Prairie, or even Gothic, but you’d like a little more pizazz, then Transitional Design might be just your style.

Transitional takes traditional design, then introduces elements such as steel I-beam columns, metal grid railings, corrugated metal siding, oversized windows, and blocks or bands of contrasting color and texture.

Think of a farmhouse with floor to ceiling windows in the living room and oversized corner windows in the upstairs bedrooms. Think of a barn-style design, but with a recessed porch and geometric windows.

What Transitional doesn’t alter is the proportion, massing, scale, and roof slopes of the traditional designs.
Indoors, Transitional is clean and uncluttered – it’s definitely not for the homeowner who loves fussy floral prints, gallery walls filled with photos, and shelves filled with knick-knacks.

Color schemes revolve around the neutrals, such as beiges, creams, greys, and taupes, with an occasional touch of chocolate or espresso for punch. Those who need bright colors accomplish it with a few well-placed accents, such as bold color in a painting, paired with the same color in oversized lamps or throw pillows.

While the colors are monochromatic, the textures are not. Subtle patterns in draperies, wall coverings, and flooring, paired with a variety of shades and textures in everything from furniture to flooring and wall coverings add interest and energy.

Transitional interiors feature good sized rooms that flow naturally to outdoor spaces and are furnished with large-scale pieces that invite visitors to settle in and relax. Gentle curves pair with rigid lines. Art work is generally bold and uncluttered.

In a Transitional kitchen, you won’t find ornate millwork, painted tiles, or fussy chandeliers. You might find stainless steel appliances paired with wood or stone surfaces and paneled cabinetry. In living areas, you’ll find that billowing draperies and balloon valances have been replaced by basic panels, bamboo blinds, or neutral Roman shades.

When done with care, your Transitional interior will provide a restful environment, with an air of peace and tranquility.

Nearly 100-Year-Old Beam Repurposed

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Back in 1923, carpenters chose a sturdy Douglas Fir beam to lend structural support to the Craftsman Bungalow they were building at 466 Aster, in North Laguna.

In 2016, when the home was remodeled and the floor plan altered, workers removed the 19-foot, 8” X 10” beam. But did they consign it to a burn pile? Absolutely not.

Antique beams such as this one are in high demand for “repurposing,” and this one has become an artfully designed door.

Old boards and beams such as this one have qualities that new lumber simply can’t match. They were harvested from trees that grew slowly due to competition from other trees for the available light, rainfall, and nutrients. This led to tight growth rings, which make the wood more stable than wood harvested from todays’ fast-growing managed forests.

Why does this matter? For one thing, old wood with tight growth rings is more attractive. It’s stronger, so beams can hold a heavier load, but more importantly for wood that’s been reclaimed and repurposed into doors, window trim, fireplace hearths, etc. it holds the finish better, is more stable, and is far more rot and termite resistant.

Houses move, and wood moves. Wood contracts when dry and expands when wet. This causes paint and varnish finishes to fail and causes joints to open, destroying the “fit” of windows and doors. Old wood with tight growth rings is drier and harder, and thus does not move as much as soft new wood with widely spaced rings. The dryness and hardness also discourage rot and insects, both of which thrive in soft, moist wood.

Not all old wood can be reclaimed and repurposed. Too much exposure to the elements can destroy even the hardest wood, and some is too small or so filled with nails that it wouldn’t be worth the effort. However, this old beam has been sheltered from the weather for all of its 90+ years, so it was a perfect candidate.

Below are a few pictures showing the beginnings of a new door, which, when finished, will be installed in another home in North Laguna.


Aster Beam Remilled -2Aster Beam Remilled -3 Aster Beam Remilled -1

Soapstone Countertops

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Why soapstone countertops grace this renovated historical home

Stuga Properties will soon announce completion of renovations at 466 Aster, in Laguna Beach. This 1923 Craftsman, which may qualify for the Mills Act, is within walking distance to town and features both ocean and white water views.

Renovation includes all new plumbing and electrical, central vacuum, a home entertainment system throughout, and home security. It’s wired for an electric vehicle charging system and hardwired for Internet and CAT 5.

In the kitchen, Thermador appliances are paired with what might be the most desirable counter top material known to man: soapstone. This choice is very much in keeping with Stuga Properties’ earth-friendly building practices, since it is all-natural and will last throughout many decades.

This versatile material, composed of 60-75% talc, has been in use since the Late Archaic Period (3,000 to 5,000 years ago). Here in North America, Native Americans once used it to make bowls, smoking pipes, cooking slabs, and even ornaments. Scandinavians began using it during the Stone Age, when they also discovered that it made a perfect firebox liner and could be carved into molds for casting knife blades and spear heads.

In the 19th century, it was widely used in New England. One important use was as boot and bed warmers, and as foot warmers in sleighs and automobiles. Many old homes in New England still have soapstone sinks – and they’re as serviceable now as they were 150 years ago. Soapstone was a wise choice, but as we all know, fashions change and people want something new.

Why was soapstone once so valued for these applications? Because it absorbs heat and radiates it slowly, and because it is virtually indestructible.

Today, it has come back into fashion for everything from floors, to benches, to fireplace surrounds and fireboxes, to bathtubs, sinks, and shower stalls. It has long been the counter top of choice in chemistry labs.

Three qualities make soapstone a perfect easy-care choice for both sinks and counter tops.

  • It doesn’t burn. Soapstone’s heat resistance means you can set pans on it right from the top of the stove or oven without damaging the counter top.
  • It doesn’t absorb stains. Unlike granite, marble, or limestone, soapstone is non-porous. That means spilled wine, grape juice, beet juice, or food colorings wipe off without penetrating. Other materials must be repeatedly sealed for protection.
  • It’s unaffected by acids and alkalis. That means liquids such as lemon or tomato juice won’t do damage, and you can use whatever household cleaners you prefer.

Care consists of oiling the surface occasionally to keep the color even. Because it’s a soft stone, over time the edges will soften and scratches may appear. These can easily be sanded out.

The only real drawback: the color of soapstone centers around one color – grey, or bluish grey with lighter flecks. After oiling, and over time, it will darken to a charcoal black.

This beautiful renovated home will be ready for viewing in November – watch for the announcement!

Mini Split Pump System

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Consider the heating/cooling flexibility of a mini split heat pump system

When you’re adding a room or renovating a home without ductwork, a mini split heat pump could be the easiest, most efficient solution to heating and cooling.

These ductless systems allow you to add heat and cooling to specific rooms or areas of the home without tearing into walls or compromising your available space. The indoor air-handling units are joined to their outdoor compressor/condenser by a conduit housing the power cable, tubing, and condensate drain. This conduit requires only a 3″ hole in an exterior wall and may be as much as 50′ long, allowing for convenient, unobtrusive placement of the exterior component.

Many models can handle as many as 4 interior units per compressor/condenser. Each is controlled by its own thermostat, so you don’t need to heat or cool unused rooms.

Because mini splits have no ducts, they’re more energy-efficient than ducted systems. Traditionally, central forced air systems lose more than 30% of their heating and cooling capacity as the air travels through ductwork. This is especially troublesome when ducts run through un-conditioned attics or crawl spaces.

The mini split’s indoor air-handling units, which are typically 7 inches deep, can be mounted on a wall, suspended from a ceiling, or mounted flush into a drop ceiling. Remote controls are available with many systems.

When you’re thinking of adding cooling to an existing home with non-ducted heat, the mini split is the better, safer choice. Window units do cost less, but they must be installed and removed as seasons change, and they do present a security hazard. It’s a simple trick for a thief to shove a window air conditioner out of the way, but no one is coming in through the mini split’s 3″ hole in the wall!

What are the disadvantages of a mini-split system?

The cost is typically 30% more than central systems (not including the duct work). In general, mini split systems cost between $1,500 and $3,000 per ton of cooling capacity. (One ton equals 12,000 Btu per hour.)

If you’re remodeling a house with no existing duct work, the time, mess, and expense of installing duct work may make the mini-split the more favorable choice.

The biggest disadvantage is that the system must be installed by a qualified installer. It’s important to correctly size each indoor unit for the room/space. These qualified installers are not always easy to find, as most heating and cooling contractors are still focused on installing whole-house ducted systems.

Old-Growth Wood

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The Amazing Value of Old-Growth Wood

As you know, the latest Stuga Properties’ project is the renovation of 466 Aster – a 1923 Craftsman home. One of the factors that attract us to these historic cottages is the presence of old-growth wood throughout the house.Interior view of open walls 1

What is old-growth wood – and why does it matter?

The term “old-growth” refers to wood harvested from tees that grew up over hundreds of years. It is extremely dense, which makes it structurally strong, stable, and resistant to insects, disease, and decay. It’s also not something you can find at the local lumber yard. A search on line reveals that most of what you’ll find today has been reclaimed.

As a rule, you’ll only find old-growth wood in homes constructed prior to the 1940’s.

The bulk of lumber used in construction today has been harvested from trees cultivated to grow rapidly, so the wood is less dense – making it weaker and more susceptible to decay, disease, and instability.

The reason – trees that grew up slowly over hundreds of years have approximately 10 times the number of growth rings per inch as do trees that have been forced into rapid growth. Each of those rings is another layer of strength and stability.Interior view of open walls 1B

The stability factor in lumber refers to how much it expands and contracts due to weather conditions such as heat and moisture. The stability of old-growth wood means there’s less movement, so paint jobs last longer and fewer gaps appear during the cold and dry months.

If you have a newer home and need to repaint your wood trim every year, or if your doors fail to shut properly at different times of the year, blame it on the instability of that “fast growth” wood.

In the 1950’s many homeowners decided to modernize by covering their wood siding with aluminum – a situation that has delighted more than one renovation contractor. Often, when removing that old, battered aluminum siding, they find old-growth wood that can easily be repaired and repainted – and expected to last at least another 100 years.

The tragedy of replacement windows… Interior view of open walls 1C

Unfortunately, far too many homeowners have responded to window replacement ads promising unbelievable energy savings. As a result, they’ve torn out beautiful, repairable old growth wood window sashes in favor of new wood or vinyl frames. Earlier, many were talked into aluminum frames – which turned out to be energy disasters. Renovation contractors have no choice but to replace them, since most replacement windows aren’t built to last – despite the “lifetime guarantee.”

Meanwhile, a 100-year-old wood sash can easily be restored to last another 100 years – and to do so with beauty and class. Even when the outside appears at first glance to be in poor shape, that sash can be sanded down to reveal strong, healthy wood, ready for a new finish.

With new caulking, weather stripping, and installation of storm windows, the energy savings will be as good or better than that of new windows. The overall dollar savings will be even greater.

Builders estimate the average cost of replacing an entire home’s worth of windows at approximately $12,000. The energy savings could be as much as $50 per month. Even if you use heat or air conditioning all year round, that’s only $600 per year – so it would take 20 years to recoup the costs, assuming you paid cash with no interest charges to consider. Meanwhile, most replacement windows don’t hold up over time – they must be replaced again after about 20 years.

Repairs and maintenance can also take a bite. Your old wood sashes were constructed one piece at a time, whereas new windows are installed “of a piece.” Damage to any part of the frame or the window means replacing the whole thing. (Do read the fine print before believing that “lifetime guarantee.”)

New windows aren’t the “Green” solution they’re purported to be…

The energy required to build those new windows is significant. Think of the energy it takes to extract the raw materials, transport them to a factory, make them into a new product, and ship them to market. By comparison, the energy required to repair an existing wood-sash window is minimal.

Add that to the fact that a properly maintained old window with a storm window added is just as energy efficient, and it makes much more sense to repair and restore your old-growth wood window sashes.

If you’re considering purchasing an historic home for renovation – do consider the value of keeping and restoring that old growth wood – in the siding and trim, in the window sashes, in the floors, and in the interior woodwork.

You’ll not only save money, your home will have more authenticity and charm, and it will require far less maintenance in the future.

466 Aster

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Introducing 466 Aster. We are off to a good start and are delighted to have already been embraced by many of the neighbors. The purchase of this historic cottage also comes with beautiful ocean views and a walkable neighborhood. Watch our progress as we revitalize this 1923 Craftsman home.


Living and Loving the Nordic Lifestyle….

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Why are so many fond of the Nordic lifestyle and Nordic home design? Because the Nordic love of clean design, nature, light, and living the good life all embrace “Hygge.”

Hygge is a Danish word that means “cozy warmth” – spending time with the ones you love, in a home that’s filled with light and well-loved items that bring you pleasure. It’s a Nordic state of contentment that can only be found at home, and can only be created by the people in that home.

If you’d like to enjoy this lifestyle, follow these steps:

Organize and declutter. Scandinavians like both order and selection, and see beauty in simple, everyday things, such as a Shelf of color-coordinated books, a pile of neatly folded towels, or a jewel-toned row of home canned fruits on the pantry shelf.

Live close to, and in nature. While Scandinavians do appreciate conveniences such as reliable Wi-Fi, they don’t have to have central heating, or even running water, to enjoy life. They love landscapes and sceneries, and love bringing nature inside. Country homes with floor to ceiling windows (triple glazed to keep winter winds outside) allow for scenes of nature all day long. And, while Scandinavians appreciate the beauty of winter snows, a Scandinavian home is often filled with simple terra-cotta pots and green plants to keep nature alive through the longest winter.

Design for the good life. For Nordics, living with design is about living well, caring about how things around you make you feel, and caring about good craftsmanship. It’s not at all about trying to impress. Both homes and furnishings are designed in the “form follows function” mode. That’s not to say Nordic homes and furnishings aren’t beautiful, and sometimes even funky.

Love Light. When you think of Nordic design you think of white walls and pared-back interiors, and of course that’s not always true. Although Nordics do love all shades of white, there are plenty of colorful Nordic homes. However, Nordics always seek to let in the light and to design rooms that are bright and cheerful, allowing in the light even when the rays of the sun are low on the horizon, and reflecting it back to every corner.

See things in black and white. The Nordic climate has no darkness in summer and no light in winter, making these northern countries nations of extremes. With deep-running currents of emotion, Nordics are attracted to opposites, even in their homes. Whites, which chase away the gloom of darkness in winter, are offset by blacks, which temper the constant light of summer. This contrast creates a perfect balance of interior yin and yang that works around the world.

Shop and live sustainably. The five Nordic nations are graced by large swaths of forest, making wood a prime source of building materials. This is the material that is close at hand, renewable, and friendly to interior environments. Rather than import plastics and other commercially produced materials, Nordics construct everything from saunas to stools from the pine and spruce logged from Nordic forests.

Always buy an original.

Nordics value quality over quantity. For instance, Scandinavians prefer to buy one Poul Henningsen lamp rather than a dozen knockoffs. Knowing that originals will hold their value for a lifetime and beyond makes them worth the price. This attitude is no doubt one of the reasons you’ll seldom see a cluttered Nordic home.

Make space for the children. Scandinavians believe children should be both seen and heard, and that playtime is important. Perhaps that’s why Legos originated in Denmark and the video game Minecraft was invented in Sweden.

If you would like to enjoy a Nordic lifestyle, you can start with a home designed in the Scandinavian fashion, or begin taking small steps to transform the home you have. Either way, I wish you hygge.

Six Home Interior Design Trends You Might Want to Skip

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New trends in interior design often set off a flurry of activity, with home builders and remodelers hurrying to jump on the bandwagon with the “latest and greatest.”

Some are attractive – but in practical use prove not to have been such wise ideas. Among those trends are:

Dark wood floors

They look sleek and sophisticated – as long as they’ve been dusted and polished within the last five minutes. Every speck of dust or lint shows – as do footprints. And if you have pets – so does every toenail scratch.

A lighter shade is a better choice for most homeowners.

White upholstery

Again, it looks beautiful when brand new, but unless you simply don’t use your furniture, it can’t stay that way for long. Spills happen. That’s simply a fact of life no one can escape. We can’t even imagine white upholstery in a home with pets or children, but even sophisticated adults are apt to spill a bit of wine or cocktail sauce from time to time.

Marble counter tops

What the sales person won’t tell you is that it isn’t actually made to be used in a kitchen. Marble is porous, so the stain from the wine or the tomato sauce you spilled is there to stay. It also scratches easily, so when used in everyday cooking, will soon have etched areas where the polish has worn off.

You can seal it, but that won’t protect it completely, so you’ll have to be ever-vigilant about using soft mats and scrubbing off every spill as it happens.

If you love the look, consider quartz instead. It’s non-porous, doesn’t scratch, and some versions look almost identical to marble.


It’s great for an accent, but if you plan to sell that house, skip doing an entire room. Wallpaper is a highly personal choice, and your buyer isn’t likely to love what you chose. Even if you’re planning to stay for the next 20 years, think twice. Removing it when you’re ready for a change is much more difficult than installing it.

And in the bathroom… Two of the latest trends are proving to be far from good ideas.

Rain showerheads

Do you really want to soak your hair every time you step in the shower? What if you just came from the hairdresser?

If you love this idea, go ahead and install a rain showerhead, but make sure you ALSO install a normal showerhead and give users a choice of which to use when showering. This could turn out to be a “make it or break it” feature when you decide to sell your home.

Eliminating bathtubs

Yes, many people today prefer showers and wouldn’t consider getting into a bathtub. But some day you might want to sell that home to a person who loves a good bubble bath – or a person with small children. A home with no bathtub will be eliminated from consideration immediately.

Our advice: Leave at least one bathtub in close proximity to the bedrooms.

Before you decide to jump on the latest trend…

Think about the practicality. Will this trend make life in the house easier and more pleasant, or will it add to the work load?

And, since most people do move at some point, think about the resale value. Is this change something the majority of buyers would embrace, or is it so specialized that your buyer pool will shrink?

Latest and greatest is nice – but will it still seem nice five years from now?