Category Archives: Misc

We Asked The Pros: Which Home Improvements Have the Best ROI in 2018

ROI in 2018

These are a few home improvements that will give you the biggest bang for your buck in 2018. Image: My House Design Build Team

Every homeowner wants to get the biggest impact possible out of their home improvements. Whether you’re looking to make a move in the near future or are planning on staying put for years to come, it’s comforting to know that your investment of time and money is worth the effort, that the work you’re doing will add value to your home.

With that in mind, we decided to take the issue to the experts. We asked the leading minds in real estate to tell us which home improvement projects are set to have the best return on investment (ROI) in 2018. Read on below to see what they had to say and to learn where in your home your sweat equity will ultimately have the biggest impact.

smart home technogies

Expect smart home technologies to start popping up everywhere. Image: Honeywell Home

1. Smart home technologies

“According to the most recent Luxury Portfolio Global Luxury Real Estate Report, 76% of buyers agree: Having a ‘smart home’ is very important to me. In particular, safety is a top concern. Of those surveyed, 39% are looking for a convenient, centralized network that securely controls smart-home and internet connections; aka the ability to operate a home security system through a mobile device.” — Stephanie Anton, EVP of Luxury Portfolio International

outdoor living space

Let an outdoor living space draw in buyers. Image: Creative Environments

2. Outdoor living space

“According to a recent survey, 51% of home buyers find outdoor living space the most attractive quality when searching for their perfect home, more so than open floor plans and curb appeal. As such, outdoor spaces are becoming an ideal investment, not only for current homeowners’ enjoyment, but also for sellers looking to bring added value to a home for future sale.” — Joe Raboine, National Design & Training Specialist for Belgard in Atlanta

Energy-efficient kitchens

Energy-efficient options are set to be a smart investment. Image: Energy Efficient Homes

3. Maximizing energy efficiency

“Making energy-efficient upgrades will give you more bang for your buck in 2018. When thinking of energy efficiency, people often go straight to solar panels. However, smaller changes like upgrading your HVAC, water heater, or windows can also cut energy costs — resulting in an accumulation of savings over time. You can even make improvements as simple as adding solar-powered lighting to your front yard, which will help increase overall savings.” — Sacha Ferrandi, Founder of Source Capital Funding Inc., San Diego

modernized bathrooms

As always, modernized bathrooms make a big difference. Image: Robson Homes

4. Modernized bathrooms

“Modern bathroom trends are staying the same in 2018 as in 2017. Clean lines with rustic touches. Adding grays into the color scheme is also very popular right now and most consider this the greatest non-offensive tone to go choose from. (Beige is out.) Be careful, though, buyers like a very light gray. Some darker grays can come across as purple in certain lights.” — Sotereas (Teris) Pantazes, CEO & Founder of EFynch in Baltimore

fresh finishes

Sometimes fresh finishes are all that’s needed. Image: Designtheory Inc.

5. Refreshed finishes

“Not all renovations have to be huge. I like to suggest that homeowners update their finishes before they go to sell because it’s not always easy for buyers to visualize the potential of a space. If a space is really run down and a buyer thinks that he will have to redo everything, it’s easy to either over or underestimate the cost to achieve what it could look like. Older finishes also eliminate a big chunk of the buyers out there who just aren’t willing to do the work.” — Ori Goldman, CEO of Loftey in New York City

ROI in 2018

These are the projects to keep in mind when ROI matters most. Image: David Morello Garden Enterprises Inc.

Home improvements can be a bit of a gamble. On the one hand, while you’re living in the space, it’s only natural to want to create a space you’ll enjoy. On the other, if you intend to sell, you also want to make changes that appeal to buyers. That’s why we asked the pros to help you weigh the risks. They told us which home improvements will probably have the best ROI in 2018, so you can make sure to get the most bang for your buck.

What do you think of these home improvements? If you were a buyer, would they sway your opinion on whether or not to buy the home? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.

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Wood and Glass Boxes Define Contemporary Retreat in Norway

Architecture Studio Snorre Stinessen completed the design of Malangen Retreat, a cluster of accommodation units located in Tromsø, Norway. The cabins are located on a ridge rising from the fjord below and neighbor a lush forest.

The clients wanted to enjoy a high level of privacy, while also being able to receive guests during the weekend. The main residence and the annex are each composed of two boxes. The main part accommodates the entrance, children’s room and a small secondary living room in the first box, while the bathroom and master bedroom were placed in the second unit.

The “annex” hosts guest rooms, utility rooms and a relaxation area with a sauna directly exposed to the view outside.

“We planned the main entrance, the living room and an annex separated by the central courtyard,” the architects said. “From here the retreat opens up to the natural clearing in the forest and you can enter into either the main building or the annex. A dedicated exit from the kitchen leads to the south-facing outdoor area where the family enjoy their dinners on warm summer days.”

All the individual boxes are clad in cedar panels and treated with iron sulfate. Large expanses of glass create a seamless connection with the surrounding landscape. Photography courtesy of Snorre Stinessen.

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The Vintage Travel Trailer Needs a Name!

K’s vintage camper trailer renovation project needs a name!

Remember this?

scary old camper

If you don’t, I really can’t blame you from blocking this mess from your recent memory. A brief history:

Where It Started

K has an old family travel trailer that hasn’t moved from his family’s land since the 80s (hence the flat tire). I first saw it last fall, when I went to hang out with his family for a bit and help them move to their new home in Tennessee. K had been trying to talk me into the idea of restoring this thing long before I saw it in person, and has been a major topic of conversation during the winter months as we started setting goals for 2018.

What would it take? What would it cost? Would we have even the slightest clue where to start? Do I call it a camper or a trailer? Who would pay for what? Wouldn’t it look really cool with a giant white stripe going down the top?? And black lacquered floors?!?! (Ok, those last few were totally me.)

At one point, this 1940s Spartan Manor (still not sure of the exact year) was used as an old workshop. The inside of it is pretty grimy, too:

sneak peek inside old Spartan camper
Pictured: nightmare fuel.

Finally Convincing Me

As you might say with a house that’s seen better days, it has good bones. Or perhaps, since we’re talking about a trailer, it has good shell? The rest is a complete gut job. Even in the state it’s in, as I’ve seen from research, it still has considerable value. More importantly, K is pretty invested in it emotionally since it belonged to his dad and grandfather before him.

I said “maybe,” and kept saying it for months. K’s response was to keep talking about it very ambitiously until I said yes.

Honestly though, I was sold on the idea minute he suggested it; I just wanted him to show me he was serious and had a plan. Because that? That sumbitch needs a PLAN.

The Details (So Far)

Here are the details I have for you guys up to this point:

  • Zero werewolves, zombies, or Freddy Kruegers have resided in this trailer. I thought I’d share that first to put us all at ease.
  • Spartan Manor travel trailers were manufactured by the Spartan Aircraft Company starting in 1946. This particular look (with that Art Deco style) was made from 1946 to ’50/51 and had either a mahogany or birch interior. It is not an Airstream; the Spartan Aircraft Company went defunct in 1961, so these are no longer made, even in modern versions. So, it’s a cool score, but it makes finding replacement parts that much tougher.
  • When it was used as a workshop, all of the interior was pretty much ripped out. So, no interior items can/will be salvaged. All insulation and interior walls will be part of the gut job.
  • I have found multiple examples of the original floor plan, but that kind of planning is too far off to be concerned about at the moment.
  • The windows (even the glass) appear to be intact; research tells me that’s a very good thing!
  • The exterior is really nasty looking, but when it’s restored, it will be that shiny “silver bullet” look you might already be familiar with. That will probably take the most work, but will also be the biggest payoff.
  • K has a few things that are early wins, such as being pretty savvy with mechanics and engineering (he’s a design engineer by profession, so he does a lot of 3D modeling and has all of those adorable nerdy skills that will come in very handy here). The company he works for does a lot of custom work in-house, so there are additional resources available should we need more expertise.
  • This will be a restoration-slash-upgrade project. The exterior will be a restoration as much as possible, while the interior, plumbing, electronics, etc. will be modern so we have an efficient and very “us” space to travel in.
  • We totally want to take this on the road when finished!
  • K’s eventual dream is to also find an old truck or car to lug this thing around. It’s a pretty romanticized view, so I’ll be bringing my 7 year’s worth of DIY experience with me to keep him from biting off too much too fast.

If anything on this blog could be called an ugly duckling, then this travel trailer definitely meets that criteria!

Getting Inspired

Every winter around the start of a new year, I feel like my creative mojo is zapped. After the frenzy of hosting both Christmas and New Years at my place (small recap forthcoming), I felt especially tank-on-empty this time around. To fill ‘er up, one of the things I like to do is buy a fresh batch of art supplies. Inexpensive, but usually gives me the color/creativity boost I need. This year, I chose a set of colored pencils. My first completed subject was a sketch of what this travel trailer might look like if we bring it back to its former glory!

drawing camper with colored pencils

sketch of Spartan Manor travel trailer

I need your suggestions!

The one thing I’d love to figure out, though? THE NAME. I want to name this guy/gal something awesome and fun and make it REAL. Names like The Nugget and Mavis and other blogs and accounts I’ve found online have me salivating over this. So, can YOU help me out? I have a box o’ random DIY goodies to send to someone if they come up with a perfect name! Here are all of the names I’ve got in my head right now:

  • Sylvester (because it’s silver, get it?)
  • Murray
  • Henry/Hank
  • Lydia
  • Mona
  • Shelly/Sheldon (because of taking it down to the shell, ha!)
  • Waiting until we figure out the exact year and then picking from the top 10 baby names of that year
  • Barb/Barbie
  • Patty
  • Bruce
  • Marge
  • Peggy
  • _ Sue (Peggy Sue, etc.)
  • Ruth
  • Doris
  • Something from Greek mythology (since this is a “Spartan” Manor), such as Leda

sketch of Spartan Manor travel traler

See? I’m ridiculously undecided at the moment. Thanks for your help!

The post The Vintage Travel Trailer Needs a Name! appeared first on The Ugly Duckling House.

It’s Time! Get the Scoop on 2018 Interior Design Trends

2018 interior design trends

It’s time for a sneak a peek at the most anticipated 2018 interior design trends. Image: Stephen Graver Ltd.

It’s that time of year again! The holidays are behind us and now you’re wondering what the new year will bring in terms of new style trends to enjoy. It turns out 2018 will bring big changes. We’re seeing old aesthetics come back into favor and entirely new looks take shape.

If you’re ready to find out about the top 2018 interior design trends, read on. We asked the experts to share their predictions on what’s in and what’s out. Their answers may surprise you.

bold colors

Neutrals are out and bold colors are back in. Image: Taylor + Taylor

Bold colors

“2018 will be about anything but neutral tones. Things are moving in a bold direction. Reds, strong blues and vibrant greens, in particular. People have tired of neutral, sometimes boring palettes.” — Rainey Richardson, Rainey Richardson Interiors

This is officially your incentive to push the boundaries of pattern and color. While neutral shades should still make up a portion of your design, in 2018 it looks like we’ll see them take much more of a background position. You can either go big with statement furniture or use these shades throughout your accessories. In particular, rugs, throw pillows and blankets are a great way to get in on the trend without feeling overly committed.

vintage accessories

Use vintage accessories as conversation pieces. Image: rigby & mac

Vintage accessories

“Curating old and vintage accessories and art to tell a story. Whether it’s your home or a hotel, mixing found items, books and art into your space creates a unique and personal experience. One-of-a-kind items are easily accessible these days, from social media channels through to eBay, antique shops and even Craigslist!” — Kellie Sirna, Studio 11 Design

Design should be anything but boring. We love the idea of this vintage accessories trend because it allows you to give your designs a little something special, a built-in showpiece and potential focal point. We suggest doing some research to see which era of design you connect with the most and using those types of accessories as your inspiration.

dark fixtures

Darker fixtures are making a comeback. Image: Brio Interior Design

Darker and mixed finishes

“Brass is making a comeback and overtaking the ubiquitous rose gold.” — Sarah Hullinger, Hirsch Bedner Associates (HBA)

“I see a continued affection for mixing metal finishes in all areas, from furniture, kitchen and bathroom fixtures to lighting, cabinet hardware and accessories. Copper, bronze, brass, satin brass, gold and black nickel now all work together and are interchangeable” — Juliet Gold, Juliet Gold Design

We’ve talked about how to mix metals before. If you’re going to go this route, remember to pick one dominant metal to carry the room and to use the others as accents. You should also be sure to match the finishes on each type of metal to help pull them together visually.

wide plank flooring

Wood plank flooring is getting wider and longer. Image: Granit Architecture + Interiors

Wide-plank woods

“The popularity of wider planks has been on the rise. As homeowners are trading out conventional widths for more expansive planks, 5-inch wide planks have become the new classic. Wider planks represent a return to a more rustic or vintage look and there is a strong trend towards random width installations.” — Sara Babinski of Armstrong Flooring

Wider planks are the perfect choice for those who prefer rustic or industrial aesthetics. They have a way of providing the room with a sense of history and charm that is rarely found in more mass-engineered looks. Additionally, even though the wood will probably be fairly neutral, the wide planks will add a subtle pop of visual interest to the room.

aspirational spaces

2018 is about creating spaces that feel aspirational. Image: Marie Flanigan Interiors

“Aspirational” spaces

“I believe we will see a shift toward designing spaces based on how people want to feel. At home, people are done feeling the pressure to impress their friends. They don’t want a generic home that looks like a magazine. People are ready to get crystal clear on how they want to feel at home — and they will make design choices from there. Whether it’s ‘relaxed’ or ‘energized’ or ‘intimate’ or ‘professional’ — spaces have the power to help us feel the way we want to feel in our lives.” — Annie Kip, Annie Kip STYLE + DESIGN

With this trend, we’re seeing even more emphasis on design freedoms. Here, instead of relying on conventions or pre-determined sets of rules for a particular aesthetic, you truly have the ability to create a one-of-a-kind space that suits who you are and what you want the room to accomplish. How cool is that?

2018 interior design trends

Get ready to see these trends pop up over and over again. Image: De Meza + Architecture

Each year brings changes to the design landscape and 2018 is no different. Fortunately, we can always rely on the pros to tell us what to expect. The trends above are the ones we heard mentioned time and time again. Keep your eyes peeled and we guarantee you’ll see them popping up before you know it.

What do you think of these 2018 interior design trends? Which looks deserve to top the list and which do you totally disagree with? Let us know in the comments.

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Chicken Enchilada Dip is Cheesy Goodness • The Ugly Duckling House

This cheesy, creamy Chicken Enchilada Dip is a simple yet hearty appetizer that will be the star of your next get together!

Hey y’all! It’s Pam and Sara here, the mother-daughter blogging duo from Biscuits & Burlap. We’re back to share another one of our scrumptious party recipes developed just for Ugly Duckling House! We just know that you’ll love this Chicken Enchilada Dip as much as we do.

If you’ve missed our past posts, you should definitely check out our appetizers like Herbed Goat Cheese Crostini with Roasted Cherry Tomatoes and cocktails like Spiked Hot Chocolate with Bourbon and Grand Marnier. Today, though, we’re bringing you chicken enchilada dip!

Southwestern flavors are just our absolute favorite and this enchilada dip has it all. That smoky enchilada sauce, creamy Monterey Jack cheese, black beans and cilantro… You really can’t go wrong! The shredded chicken and black beans make this dip hearty enough to hold over your guests until dinner is ready and if you’re taking it to a party, it won’t take long to see how addictive it is.

Here’s how easy it is: Mix together cream cheese, sour cream, enchilada sauce, cumin, chili powder, and salt. Then, gently fold in the diced or shredded chicken, 3/4 of the Monterey Jack cheese, and the green chilis. Then, add the black beans… be gentle! you don’t want them to turn to mush. Add the whole shebang to a cast iron skillet or a small casserole dish.

If you’re not yet a member of the cast iron skillet fan club, you need to get on board! They’re inexpensive, indestructible, and you can literally make anything from breakfast to dessert in these bad boys. We made our chicken enchilada dip in one because cast iron heats up quickly and it stays that way, so it’s perfect for a hot dip.

Now that you have the mixture transferred to your skillet (or casserole dish), top with the remaining cheese, and pop it in the oven for 20-25 minutes, or until bubbling around the edges and in the center. Serve with tortilla chips!


Chicken Enchilada Dip

This cheesy, creamy Chicken Enchilada Dip is a simple yet hearty appetizer that will be the star of your next get together!

  • Author:


  • 1 cup cooked chicken, diced
  • 1/2 cup red enchilada sauce
  • 4 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 4 oz. can green chili peppers, drained
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 2 cups Monterey Jack cheese, grated and divided
  • 1/2 tsp. cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup black beans, drained (We prefer reduced sodium)
  • cilantro for garnish


  1. Preheat oven to 375.
  2. Mix cream cheese, sour cream, enchilada sauce, cumin, chili powder and salt until smooth.
  3. Stir in 1.5 cups Monterey Jack cheese, chicken and green chilis. Add black beans last.
  4. Pour into oven safe skillet or small casserole dish and top with remaining 1/2 cup of cheese.
  5. Bake 20-25 minutes or until hot through and lightly browning around edges and on top.
  6. Garnish with cilantro and serve with corn chips.

Have you made any of the recipes we’ve shared on Ugly Duckling House so far? Tell us below!

This cheesy, creamy Chicken Enchilada Dip is a simple yet hearty appetizer that will be the star of your next get together!

While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy & effectiveness of the information displayed on this website, The Ugly Duckling House is for entertainment purposes only. All tutorials and demonstrations are not intended to be professional advice (nor substitute as such), and I make no guarantees as to the procedures and information here. Creating with my suggested methods, materials, and tools is under your own risk. Please ensure you are following proper guidelines with anything used, and seek professional advice if you don’t know how to do something! Read my complete disclosure here.

4 Questions To Help You Finally Identify Your Interior Design Style

Collect this idea

interior design style

Here’s how to figure out your interior design style once and for all. Image: helsingHouse Fastighetsmäklare

Before you can start any design project, you need to have some sort of inspiration in mind. If you’re fully aware of which design styles you’re consistently drawn to, finding a muse should be fairly easy. If not, though, it can be hard to even figure out where to start. In that case, the question becomes: How do you go about finding your interior design style?

We’re no strangers to defining a personal aesthetic. Below you’ll find a few questions. Ask yourself each one, in turn, and look over each of the corresponding options. You’ll likely find some overlap in your answers. At the end, research whichever style catches your eye most often and see how you feel. We bet you’ll find a look that resonates with you.

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modern or traditional

Are you more modern or traditional? Image: Forsite Studio

Past or present?

If you’re all about the PAST, you may want to consider:

  • Contemporary: Full of sleek lines and ’60s flair, contemporary design will make you feel like you’ve landed on the set of Mad Men.
  • French country: French country design is full of romance. Its elegantly curved furniture and opulent décor can remind you a palace.
  • Traditional: Traditional design is the epitome of “old world.” Classic lines, comfortable furniture and orderly lines reign supreme.

If you’d rather appreciate the PRESENT, you may feel drawn to:

  • Modern: As the name suggests, ultra-clean lines and minimalism are the keys to today’s top design trends.
  • Scandinavian: Using warm woods and area rugs, Scandinavian design is a blend of modern and rustic.
  • Eclectic: Defined by its rejection of traditional conventions, eclectic design offers a chance to create your own casual aesthetic.
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colors or neutrals

Would you rather have lots of color or plenty of neutral shades? Image: Lucy and Company

Full of color or pleasantly neutral?

If you’re into bright, bold COLORS, you might be drawn to:

  • Contemporary: Contemporary design is full of bold, saturated colors like burnt orange, mustard yellow and navy blue.
  • Eclectic: The create-your-own aspect of eclectic design means you can basically use whichever mix of colors catches your eye.
  • Traditional: Traditional design is all about invoking richness. It involves a lot of deep, dark colors like reds, blues and greens.

If you rely on NEUTRALS, you may prefer:

  • Modern: Modern looks usually are built around monochromatic shades.
  • Scandinavian: The base of a Scandinavian color palette is based on whites and grays. Sometimes there are pops of subtle colors like pink and blue.
  • Coastal: Stark whites and sandy tans are the backbones of coastal style. As you might guess, blue is the dominant accent color.
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minimalism or opulence

Would you rather have minimalism or opulence? Image: Anastacia Schular

Less is more or more is more?

If you believe LESS IS MORE, you might enjoy:

  • Contemporary: Contemporary spaces have a clean feel to them. There tend to be few accessories, most of which are function forward.
  • Modern: Modern designs are all about minimalism and including plenty of negative space.
  • Scandinavian: Scandinavians believe in a concept called hygge, part of which centers around being comfortable without going over the top.

If you’re a fan of a MORE IS MORE philosophy, check out:

  • Eclectic: When putting together an eclectic design, it’s important to balance the room with plenty of unique accessories.
  • Traditional: Traditional looks are all about creating a sense of coziness. These rooms have plenty of accessories, usually heirlooms or pieces with history.
  • French country French country styles are defined by opulence. Gold and embroidery are common.
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urban or rustic

Do you prefer a more urban or rustic look? Image: Tate Interiors

City or country?

If you feel at home in the CITY, you’ll prefer:

  • Modern: Cities are hubs for modern design and fresh ideas.
  • Contemporary: Contemporary design may be from the past, but it was very modern for its day. It has managed to stand the test of time without feeling out of date.
  • Scandinavian: Scandinavian looks are cousins to modern design. They follow the same principles with a European twist.

If you’d rather be in the COUNTRY, you may feel drawn to:

  • Rustic: As the name suggests, this style is built around the idea of living in a cabin in the woods.
  • Coastal: Though it may not be woodsy, coastal styles are a good choice for those who enjoy spending time at the beach.
  • French country: It’s in the name. French country styles are a variation on European rustic.
Collect this idea

interior design style

Use these tips to learn your interior design style. Image: Benjamin Moore

Finding your interior design style for the first time can be tough. After all, how do you even know where to start, much less how to put an entire room together? You don’t have to go through this process alone. Let the questions above provide you with a direction for finding your design inspiration.

Do you know what your personal interior design style is? How did you go about finding it in the first place? Share your experience with us in the comments below.