Apartment Therapy Complete and Happy Home (2015)


setting up your home

 the home hunt

 getting the right flow









the home hunt


Ruthie Sommers + Luke McDonough

Interior Designer + CEO, Air Media

daughters Eloise, Bailey, Posey

Go find your home in a place you love …

We like to believe we can make a home anywhere. Typically, the farther you are from a city the more space you’ll get. Never forget, though, that even more than square footage, the three things that matter most when finding a home are … location, location, location.

How far you are from friends and family will influence how “at home” you feel. Take this to heart, and choose a place as close as you can to the neighborhood and people you want to be near. Also, keep in mind that the spaces outside your door are an extension of your home. You’ll live in these areas as much as you will inside your house. So no matter how “perfect” a home might appear, if the land it sits on is problematic, it won’t be perfect in the long run.

What should you spend? Unlike in many other areas of life, it’s always a good idea to stretch when buying a home. How far should you stretch? That’s a very personal decision, but spending a little more (between 10 and 20 percent) can often make a big difference. Be aspirational. Remember, you want room to grow, so aim for a space that’s a little bigger, a little nicer, and a little better located than you may have originally intended. It will pay off in the end, because it inspires you to work harder for a home you’re excited to live in.

If you have it in you to take on a fixer-upper, there’s no better way to save money. Regular people can be lazy, but Apartment Therapy people take on challenges—and there’s great value in that. With a little style and elbow grease, any home can be transformed for far less than if you bought it done. The DIY route allows you to add your own character from the get-go.

common house styles

You’ve settled on your dream location—and now you’re ready to start the home hunt. Our quick guide to housing styles breaks down the pros and cons of some of the most popular types on the market.

the craftsman bungalow

WHAT’S TO LOVE: Hallmarks include wide front porches, open floor plans, and loads of built-in charm (exposed beams, custom woodwork). These (typically) one-and-a-half-story homes have roots dating back to the Arts and Crafts movement.

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW: Space is limited, with most bungalows clocking in at 1,000 square feet or fewer. Older (unrenovated) homes often have small closets and only one bathroom.


the split-level

WHAT’S TO LOVE: These multilevel homes induce Brady Bunch nostalgia on sight. Designed to separate living functions by floor, they offer lots of privacy and noise control.

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW: Though split-levels have lots of rooms, they tend to be small—and the mazelike floor plan makes renovating costly. Curb appeal can be an issue, too, with uneven window placement and out-of-scale roofs.


the tudor

WHAT’S TO LOVE: The steeply pitched roofs and decorative half-timber framing are the stuff of fairy-tale castles. Massive chimneys and large casement windows add to the charming facade, while inside, decorative details are echoed throughout.

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW: Because the floor plan is typically dictated by an aesthetically pleasing exterior, rooms can be small and choppy—especially upstairs, where ceilings tend to have a slope.


the modern high-rise

WHAT’S TO LOVE: Most new-construction buildings have window walls, which mean plenty of sunlight. Open designs focus on an increased living area, so kitchens and living rooms often share a bigger space.

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW: To compensate for the large living area, bedrooms and storage spaces are typically small. Finishings can be on the cheaper side, so it’s always worth paying extra attention to those during your hunt.


the mid-century ranch

WHAT’S TO LOVE: Hugely popular in the ’50s and ’60s, this long, single-story style is known for its compact-but-open floor plan. Today, they’re being snapped up and renovated into modern, green homes at a minimal cost.

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW: They can appear plain and dated unless spruced up with architectural flourishes. Numerous ground-level windows can present a security issue in certain locations.


the colonial

WHAT’S TO LOVE: Easily spotted by its symmetrical exterior (a centrally placed door flanked by evenly placed windows) and overall grandness, this two- to three-story style is one of the most common—and sought-after—housing types.

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW: Bigger homes equal bigger utility bills, especially in older colonials running on outdated heating systems. Upgrading to an efficient HVAC system is necessary.


the row house (or brownstone)

WHAT’S TO LOVE: These city buildings often feature original architectural details, like ceiling medallions and decorative molding. By urban standards, they have a lot of living space divided vertically among multiple floors.

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW: Because owning an entire row house is pricey, a lot of these buildings have been split into multiple units (one or two per floor), often with a railroad-style layout. Size and privacy come at a premium.


the modern green home

WHAT’S TO LOVE: Wide-open floor plans offer lots of flexibility, and the eco-minded design translates to sweeping views. Highly efficient HVAC systems leave a smaller footprint on the planet (and your bank account).

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW: All that glass and concrete can come off as sterile and cold. Using reclaimed materials for building will require more frequent upkeep. And large windows make privacy a consideration.


countdown to a stress-free moving day


○ CONFIRM YOUR MOVE-IN DATE. Give your landlord written notice if you’ve been renting.

○ START PLANNING. Work on basic floor plans to determine what you need to bring—and what you can get rid of.

○ RESEARCH MOVERS or make a truck rental reservation.

○ SET UP OUT-BOXES (one per room) for belongings you won’t be taking with you. Be tough! Fewer items mean a smoother move—and lighter life in your new place.

○ START SELLING. If you plan to sell items online, take good photos and get them listed.


○ STOCK UP ON PACKING MATERIALS. Buy, beg, or borrow plenty of boxes.

○ START PACKING. Getting nonessential items boxed up early is super-efficient and a great stress reliever.

○ UPDATE YOUR ADDRESS on all accounts and subscriptions.


○ TAKE ARTWORK DOWN from the walls, wrap or pack it safely, and patch the holes.


○ REQUEST TIME OFF. Give your employer your new address.

○ MAKE PACKING YOUR NEW HOBBY. If an item isn’t essential at this point, it should be in a box.

○ GET UTILITIES IN ORDER. Arrange cancellations or transfers.

○ EMPTY YOUR OUT-BOXES. Donate, give things to friends, or set items outside with a FREE sign.

○ PLAN MEALS FOR THE NEXT WEEK to finish off perishables you won’t be taking with you.


○ SAY YOUR GOOD-BYES TO NEIGHBORS, and arrange for someone to keep an eye out for packages or important mail that might arrive after you’ve moved.

○ PACK UP EVERYTHING BUT THE ABSOLUTE ESSENTIALS: bedding, toiletries, a place setting or two, a change of clothes, phone/computer chargers, etc. Set aside a box to toss these things into on moving day.

○ CLEAN AS YOU GO THIS WEEK, leaving a few hours for a thorough cleaning the day before you move.

○ RETURN KEYS. If you’ve been renting, hand over your keys, arrange for your security deposit to be returned, and provide a forwarding address to your landlord.

○ RELAX. Order in, and enjoy your first night in your new home. It’s the beginning of many good memories to come!