White Balance

This Symmetrical, All-White Kitchen Provides a Calming Family Gathering Place



“When I leave, it should look like I was never there,” says Katja van der Loo, CEO of Papyrus Home Design, a Boonton, New Jersey interior design firm. She’s describing the desired end result after a remodeling project. “Whatever style the kitchen is, if it is in keeping [with] and respectful to the architecture of the home, I think that’s when it’s most successful. This bright kitchen would look awful in a different type of house. In this house, it looks incredible,” she says.

When van der Loo was hired for this project, she found a kitchen stuck in the ’80s. The older part of the home had a classic design but suffered from a poorly executed addition. The remodeled portion appeared to be tacked onto the house as an afterthought. The owners, a couple with young children, needed a fresh start. The previous construction was removed and a new three-story addition was planned for the back of the house. This kitchen was part of that project. “We had to seamlessly blend the old with the new,” says van der Loo.

“I knew this client was into balance and symmetry, and that’s how I approach things too,” explains van der Loo. “The cleaner it is the better it feels, I think.” Balanced designs create a calming effect, which is helpful for any busy homeowners.

The range and island are perfectly centered, as are the large glass pendant lights. “Those pendants add an industrial touch to the kitchen,” she says. And they are grand enough to be noticed. “The kitchen has nine-foot ceilings and the island is nine feet long. I felt we needed something large scale to balance all that space.”

Off to the side, the bench seating that skirts the wide bay window is also perfectly symmetrical. The seat cushions are custom, while store-bought pillows in gray, white, and taupe finish the look. Drawers beneath the window seat add more storage, which the homeowner uses to keep serving pieces that are rarely used.


In any remodeling project, it’s smart to save dollars where you can. The homeowners already had the table and chairs used in the eating nook. Chair slipcovers were a practical selection because they could be removed and machine washed if the children spilled on the furniture. A glass chandelier, with a traditional shape but modern transparency, sparkles above the dining table. The transparency gave an added benefit to the room. “The garden, which you can see through the windows, is spectacular. I didn’t want anything to obstruct that view,” explains van der Loo.

The children use the small desk off to the side to work on arts and crafts projects. Open cabinets above the desk make books easily accessible. A printer is hidden in one end of the island, which provides easy access without visual clutter. At the island sit practical and lightweight aluminum barstools, which van der Loo calls “indestructible.”

Attention to proportion promotes the calming effect as do the colors and materials used. The cabinets, subway tile, and crown moldings are awash in white. Room flow is enhanced by how the cabinet molding merges seamlessly with the crown molding that circles the room. Pietra cardosa, a mineral-laden gray stone, tops the perimeter counters. Neutral paint with the slightest hint of gray covers the walls. The range and hood serve as the room’s focal point, while other appliances are hidden beneath cabinet panels.

One of the homeowners has a great passion for cooking and baking and many of the room’s features align with that. Many an amateur baker covets a marble surface, so statuary marble tops the island at the homeowner’s request. A high BTU range is professional grade and the warming rack above it aids in meal prep. A mixer lift is hidden in the other end of the island.

“A lot of people store mixers in a pantry, but that’s not convenient. With a lift, you open the cabinet and it pops up. When you’re done, all you have to do is clean the bowl, then it pops back down to be hidden in the cabinet again.”

A custom cabinet to the right of the range hides steel cooling racks for baked goods. To the left of the range is a wall oven and microwave. To the side of the island is a wet bar. It contains a beverage fridge and a small sink. This spot is adjacent to the family room, which is helpful for enter-taining. Guests can serve themselves without getting in the way of food prep in the main cooking area.

Symmetry, soothing tones, and hiding places that keep clutter at bay—each element plays a role in creating a calming atmosphere that draws the family together. “I love the openness and balance of this room,” says van der Loo. “But you know what the best thing about this kitchen is? It’s how you feel when you’re in it.”


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Porches are Making a Comeback

Porches Are Making a Comeback


More new homes are coming equipped with front porches. Sixty-five percent of new single-family homes started in 2016 included a porch, according to a Census data analysis from the National Association of Home Builders. It’s only the second time since tracking began that new single-family homes with porches have moved back above 65 percent. For comparison, in 2005, 54 percent of new homes had porches.

Certain regions of the U.S. are showing higher preference for porches. For example, the East-South-Central region of the U.S. had the highest share of new homes started in 2016 with porches at 86 percent.

The Census data from the Survey of Construction report does not indicate much information about the look of the porches. However, the NAHB reports that the Annual Builder Practices Survey, conducted by Home Innovation Research Labs, shows that front porches on new homes tend to be more common than side porches. Also, most new home porches are open rather than screened.

The average size of a front porch on a new home is about 60 square feet, according to the report. The materials used often tend to be concrete and treated wood. However, some regions—like the Mountain and Pacific areas of the U.S.—tend to favor redwood over treated wood for their front porches.



Housing Inventory Hits 30-Year Low

Spring is traditionally the busiest season for real estate. Buyers, experiencing cabin fever all winter, emerge like flowers through the snow in search of their dream home. Homeowners, in preparation for the increased demand, are enticed to list their house for sale and move on to the home that will better fit their needs.

New data from CoreLogic shows that even though buyers came out in force, as predicted, homeowners did not make the jump to list their home in the second quarter of this year. Frank Nothaft, Chief Economist for CoreLogic had this to say,

“The growth in sales is slowing down, and this is not due to lack of affordability, but rather a lack of inventory. As of Q2 2017, the unsold inventory as a share of all households is 1.9 percent, which is the lowest Q2 reading in over 30 years.”

CoreLogic’s President & CEO, Frank Martell added,

“Home prices are marching ever higher, up almost 50 percent since the trough in March 2011.

While low mortgage rates are keeping the market affordable from a monthly payment perspective, affordability will likely become a much bigger challenge in the years ahead until the industry resolves the housing supply challenge.”

Overall inventory across the United States is down for the 25thconsecutive month according to the latest report from the National Association of Realtors and now stands at a 4.3-month supply.

Real estate is local.

Market conditions in the starter and trade-up home markets are in line with the median US figures, but conditions in the luxury and premium markets are following an opposite path. Premium homes are staying on the market longer with ample inventory to suggest a buyer’s market.

Bottom Line

Buyers are out in force, and there has never been a better time to move-up to a premium or luxury home. If you are considering selling your starter or trade-up home and moving up this year, let’s get together to discuss the exact conditions in our area.


2017 Mid Year Single Family Sales Trends for Suburbs North of Boston


The market this year continues to favor sellers with less inventory, less days on market and as a result of strong buyer demand, higher median sales prices.

We have seen a spike in offers and prices early in the spring season.  Currently, the market remains strong, however buyer competition is less fierce, and buyers are getting some breathing room.


If you are considering a move, and would like to understand what time of year would work best please contact us today.


Get your homes instant estimated value, and search all MLS listings at


Have great summer!


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The Best Paint Color to Sell a Home

Lure potential buyers with a simple and clean palette. Shades of white and off-white are the top colors for a quick home sale, Jody Finglas of Finglas Painting in Ossining, N.Y., told USA Today.

“White is the foundation that anchors the home,” adds Friley Saucier, a broker-associate with Sotheby's International Realty in Naples, Fla. “This is absolutely what is most requested when I’m working with home buyers.”

Finglas says less is more. “We’re seeing a lot of requests for lighter, brighter colors,” he notes.

When working with a white backdrop, the trick is to add in color through the furnishings and accessories, Finglas says. He says selecting the right shade of white paint isn’t easy. “A white kitchen can mean 40 different colors,” Finglas says.

Homeowners should still bring home paint swatches, says Dwayne Bergmann of Dwayne Bergmann Interiors in Fort Myers, Fla.

“Whites can have a more blueish hue or more of a brown or even pinkish hue depending on the exact lighting,” Bergmann says. “Even a pure white is going to look different.”


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Buying Is Now 33.1% Cheaper Than Renting in the US

The results of the latest Rent vs. Buy Report from Trulia show that homeownership remains cheaper than renting with a traditional 30-year fixed rate mortgage in the 100 largest metro areas in the United States.

The updated numbers actually show that the range is an average of 3.5% less expensive in San Jose (CA), all the way up to 50.1% less expensive in Baton Rouge (LA), and 33.1% nationwide!

Other interesting findings in the report include:

  • Interest rates have remained low and, even though home prices have appreciated around the country, they haven’t greatly outpaced rental appreciation.
  • With rents & home values moving in tandem, shifts in the ‘rent vs. buy’ decision are largely driven by changes in mortgage interest rates.
  • Nationally, rates would have to reach 9.1%, a 128% increase over today’s average of 4.0%, for renting to be cheaper than buying. Rates haven’t been that high since January of 1995, according to Freddie Mac.

Bottom Line

Buying a home makes sense socially and financially. If you are one of the many renters out there who would like to evaluate your ability to buy this year, let's get together to find your dream home.


Are Home Prices Approaching Bubble Territory?

As home values continue to rise, some are questioning whether we are approaching another housing bubble. Zillow just reported that:

“National home values have surpassed the peak hit during the housing bubble and are at their highest value in more than a decade.”

Though that statement is correct, we must realize that just catching prices of a decade ago does not mean we are at bubble numbers. Here is a graph of median prices as reported by the National Association of Realtors (NAR).

Are Home Prices Approaching Bubble Territory? | MyKCM

We can see that prices rose during the early 2000s, fell during the crash and have risen since 2013.

However, let’s assume there was no housing bubble and crash and that home prices appreciated at normal historic levels (3.6% annually) over the last ten years.

Here is a graph comparing actual price appreciation (tan bars) with what prices would have been with normal appreciation (blue bars).

Are Home Prices Approaching Bubble Territory? | MyKCM

Bottom Line

As we can see, had there not been a boom and bust, home values would essentially be where they are right now.


Why Working with a Local Real Estate Professional Makes All the Difference

If you’ve entered the real estate market, as a buyer or a seller, you’ve inevitably heard the real estate mantra, “location, location, location” in reference to how identical homes can increase or decrease in value due to where they’re located. Well, a new survey shows that when it comes to choosing a real estate agent, the millennial generation’s mantra is, “local, local, local.”

CentSai, a financial wellness online community, recently surveyed over 2,000 millennials (ages 18-34) and found that 75% of respondents would use a local real estate agent over an online agent, and 71% would choose a local lender.

Survey respondents cited many reasons for their choice to go local, “including personal touch & handholding, longstanding relationships, local knowledge, and amount of hassle.”

Doria Lavagnino, Cofounder & President of CentSai had this to say:

“We were surprised to learn that online providers are not yet as big a disruptor in this sector as we first thought, despite purported cost savings. We found that millennials place a high value on the personal touch and knowledge of a local agent. Buying a home for the first time is daunting, and working with a local agent—particularly an agent referred by a parent or friend—could provide peace of mind.”

The findings of the CentSai survey are consistent with the Consumer Housing Trends Study, which found that millennials prefer a more hands-on approach to their real estate experience:

“While older generations rely on real estate agents for information and expertise, Millennials expect real estate agents to become trusted advisers and strategic partners.”

When it comes to choosing an agent, millennials and other generations share their top priority: the sense that an agent is trustworthy and responsive to their needs.

That said, technology still plays a huge role in the real estate process. According to the National Association of Realtors, 95% of home buyers look for prospective homes and neighborhoods online, and 91% also said they would use an online site or mobile app to research homes they might consider purchasing.

Bottom Line

Many wondered if this tech-savvy generation would prefer to work with an online agent or lender, but more and more studies show that when it comes to real estate, millennials want someone they can trust, someone who knows the neighborhood they want to move into, leading them through the entire experience.