From the rise of separate spaces to mixing eras and styles, Katie Kurtz shares some advice for when you’re considering making changes to your home.

Whether you’re making improvements to your forever home, or updating your house to sell, there are some basic tenets to keep in mind. And who better to offer that advice than an expert with a hand in both the interior design and real estate worlds?

Katie Kurtz, a Minnesota-based interior designer and real estate agent, shares these four ideas for when it comes time to make those all-important design decisions.

Separate Spaces are Making a Comeback

Seemingly for as long as there has been home improvement television there’s been a singular buyer request: “open floor plan.” But for Kurtz (and many other designers and architects), the tide is finally turning. No longer are prospective buyers and homeowners clamoring for wide open spaces. There’s momentum for turning rooms into, well, rooms again.

“What homeowners are asking for is separate spaces,” Kurtz said. “I think that may have to do with the past couple years we were going through COVID. We were at home a lot, and people wanted their separate office spaces. They wanted spaces where they could go to be by themselves.”

An entertainment room with dark walls and ceiling and three guitars, featuring Marvin Elevate Double Hung windows with SDLs.

Whether it’s a quiet cove that offers a serene backdrop for work-from-home calls, or a hobby room that helps homeowners pursue their passions (ranging from music to reading to sewing), a space to get away from it all is becoming a preferred destination.

Steer Toward Timeless Styles Rather than Following Trends

Maybe it goes without saying, but timeless is timeless for a reason. A return to the classics, when it comes to architecture and interiors, is a way to future-proof your project. Working with a designer or architect to find a style that speaks to you as much today as it will tomorrow should be one of the goals of any project.

And as for a trend that Kurtz sees in somewhat of a decline? The omnipresent farmhouse and its many offshoots.

“In the past couple years, we've really been pulling back from farmhouse style. It was so saturated,” she said. “Every new house was farmhouse style. So, we’re going a little bit more toward the classics.”

The front porch of a traditional home featuring Marvin Ultimate Double Hung windows.

One way to keep your home classic and not trend-reliant is with color.

“We're doing wood tones in the kitchen versus all white kitchens,” Kurtz said. “For exteriors, I love a tone-on-tone, so if that's a white window with a white frame, and then you're doing more of a creamy main part of the house, I think it's just so classic and looks amazing.”

There’s still a place to be trend-aware, but maybe with a twist, or a more classic take, she said. “It still has a little bit of that white farmhouse vibe, but it's bringing everything back to more of the classics.”

It’s OK to Mix Design Styles

Speaking of twists on trends, styles, and eras, for Kurtz it’s an important point to land with homeowners. In fact, many feel like they have a particular style in mind. That is, until the inspiration pictures come out.

“Many clients think they know what their style is, but when we start looking at inspiration pictures and they start pointing out the things they like, you can really start to pull out what their style is and what they like about a room,” she said. “When we can really pinpoint why they like a space, that's when we can hone in on what their style is.”

In today’s social-media-driven environment, the Instagram-ification of design has made styles so hard to define. But while the mash-up of design cues creates a world that might be hard to label, it offers nearly endless possibilities for designers and their clients.

“I feel like [design] has gotten a little bit muddy over the years because we mix so many different things now,” Kurtz said. “Definitely when I'm designing, I love a more classic look, but I also love modern furniture, so I'll bring in really modern furniture pieces or a really unique lighting item that feels like it could be super modern but in a contemporary home.”

Think Outside the Box with Windows and Doors

One of the most impactful ways to change both the exterior look and the interior feel of a home or building is with new, and oftentimes larger, windows. Thoughtfully planned windows can evolve the space and fill it with light indoors and increase the nature-embracing sightlines to the outdoors.

Kurtz definitely agrees. “I love natural light, as do I think many people, especially in Minnesota, where we have a long winter,” she said. “And having large windows that let in a lot of sunlight, it just makes you feel completely different than if you're in a small, dark space all day. It just changes the whole feel.”

Kurtz took her own advice to heart when it came to choosing windows for her office/studio/commercial space. In fact, she took what was once a garage door, built it up a bit, and filled the opening with Marvin Essential windows.

“Having the wide range of sizes really helped because when we tore everything out of the studio, we literally gutted everything,” Kurtz said. “We found that these openings were already there, so there were two openings on the side, and there was an opening in the front, so we retrofitted those original openings with Marvin windows.”

“I love natural light, as do I think many people, especially in Minnesota, where we have a long winter,” she said. “And having large windows that let in a lot of sunlight, it just makes you feel completely different than if you're in a small, dark space all day. It just changes the whole feel.”

This change not only filled the studio space with the natural light she was craving, but also created the very classic, streamlined look of the exterior she was going for. So, her advice for homeowners: Take a minute and think about your space before just replacing your existing windows.

“The biggest advice I have for homeowners looking for new windows and doors is to think outside the box. Yes, you can definitely just replace your windows in the same size, same style,” Kurtz said. “But if there is a way you can just slightly change the front exterior of your home by adding maybe a bigger window in one of those spaces or changing the door style, do it. It's the biggest thing you can do to change the look of your home.”

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