Design Your Home

  1. Dream Home Kitchen Upgrades Are Now Standard

    Kitchens are no longer confined to cooking. They are a place for sharing stories, taste testing, homework help and all of the other things that occupy our evening hours. Kitchens are a place for living.

    That’s why we are kissing kitchen upgrades goodbye with new standard features.

    New Kitchen Features Include:

    • Hardwood floors that keep kitchens looking clean longer, even during seasons with sandy sandals or snowy boots.
    • Kitchen islands that add both style and function with bar seating for lunches on the go–who has time for dining room china these days?
    • Granite countertops that resist red wine, Crayons and airborne toddler toys.
    • Stainless steel appliances from GE are built-in, providing a sleek finish and extra space for cookie dough and cutting boards.
    • Maple cabinets that are as durable as they are beautiful. Don’t be afraid to booty-bump a drawer or kick a cabinet door–they can take it!

    Sure, the descriptions are great, but we know what people really want. What about the photos? Here are some photos from Heartland Homes models with the newly standardized kitchen upgrades.


  2. 5 New Home Upgrades that Should Be Standard

    Kitchen upgrade options that most families demand in their home

    Add-ons add up quickly. Whether shopping for electronics online or cars on the lot, there always seems to be a big difference between the sticker price and final sales price. Shipping costs, preferred seat assignments, warranties. Enough!

    The same things often happen with new homes. The base price sounds great, but each little upgrade comes at a cost. Enough!

    This is a list of the top 5 things that should be a stardard feature of every new home. Some are qualities found in every Heartland home and while others are things that we simply could not imagine family life without.

    Top Upgrade Standard Features for Your New Home

    Kitchen islands have become a mandatory fixture for many busy families. They allow dinner prep, homework help and light snacking to all happen at the same time in the same place. Like immersion blenders and stand mixers, once you have them, it’s hard to imagine a kitchen without them.

    Wood and ceramic floors are timeless investments because they always look nice, regardless of seasonal styles. Unlike the earth-toned shag carpeting that can still be found in many 70s era homes, prospective buyers will never gawk wood floors or question seller sanity.


  3. Luxury Has Arrived

    Luxury Has Arrived

    The anticipation is over as Heartland Homes has revealed the initial five new luxury home designs in its ‘diamond’ series.  The homes are available to build in certain communities throughout Allegheny, Butler & Washington counties and at the Summit at Cheat Lake in Morgantown, West Virginia.

    With feedback from previous home buyers, Heartland designed the new homes with the customer and their family in mind.  Open and spacious floor plans, second to none curb appeal and many luxuries included are the highlights. Family Room

    A few of the standard luxuries that come included in the new series of homes are:

    • Granite kitchen countertops
    • Kitchen islands
    • Hardwood floors in the kitchen, foyer, hallway and powder room
    • 9′ ceilings on all floors
    • Ceramic floors in the master bathroom
    • Many more…

    Click on the individual links below for specifics on each home design:

    For more information on where you can build these new luxury homes, contact our new home specialists and they can answer any questions you may have.


  4. Patio Ideas by Pittsburgh Design Blogger Nancy Barsotti

    A patio at the newbury community

    The spring showers might only be settling in for the season but homeowners across Greater Pittsburgh are excited to have the winter weather behind them. We can finally begin to talk about those pleasant summer thoughts that kept us going for the past six months. It’s spring, everyone!

    Nancy Barsotti, who was mentioned in our best Pittsburgh design blogger article, provided us with some design-inspired tips for making the most of our favorite outdoor spaces.

    Nancy’s Patio Design Tips

    Outdoor furnishings have come a long way from wrought iron and redwood.  My new favorites are the many styles made of weather resistant fiber woven over powder coated aluminum frames.  From contemporary European styles to the more traditional curved wicker, the furniture is both elegant and functional.  This advanced fiber resists Ultra-violet light, moisture and bacteria.  It will not tear, snag or fade and is available in an array of colors.  Whether you choose the upscale designs of Brown and Jordan or the more affordable Crate and Barrel, you can find a style to suit your taste and budget.  I also like the FSC-certified solid eucalyptus wood finished with polyurethane stains with comfortable cushions from Pottery Barn as well as the time-tested teak.  The “Mateo Collection” from Richard Schultz features anodized aluminum with an elastomeric mesh that will look and wear beautifully for years.

    One of the best ways to accent these furnishings is with fabric.  I know I am dating myself, but I can remember when the choice was just a few solid colors and stripes that looked like awnings.  Wow! Now there are endless patterns and colors from companies such as Sunbrella and the designer lines like Kravet and Schumacher.  Whether you favor a Victorian style floral, a bold Marimekko print, a retro geometric, vivid stripes or a Bali-inspired botanical design, there is no excuse to have a boring backyard or plain porch.

    Skyline Designs have you covered with cushions made from polyurethane outdoor foam, marine quality zippers and even UV resistant thread and covers to protect from the elements and dirt, which I still recommend when the furniture is not in use.

    Fire pits add so much glow and warmth to the outdoor setting.  If space permits, a built-in fireplace of stone or brick, surrounded by benches or chairs, is a nice gathering place.  For smaller spaces, there are fire bowls made of steel by Colombo Construction and even a “Vesta” Fire Table by Stone Forest.  Many local garden stores have these and other selections.

    For the dedicated grill chef, the outdoor kitchen is the latest and most popular addition to your entertaining prowess.  Companies such as Kalamazoo, Wolf, Subzero and Fire King will make sure you don’t have to set foot inside your indoor kitchen all summer long.  Long-gone are charcoal grills, replaced by stainless steel gas grills of all sizes and configurations, warming drawers, side burners for pots, refrigerators and icemakers.  Like most things, the sky is the limit and the choices go from simple to fancy, affordable to expensive.

    For some afternoon sun shading umbrellas look no further than Tuuci.  They make an amazing dual-cantilever parasol that opens in a variety of ways and sizes and folds seamlessly.  It is available in a range of Sunbrella fabrics and colors. Pottery Barn and Crate and Barrel are good sources too.

    Accessories always make the room.  Poufs that recall slouch knit hats designed by a Dutch textile designer and made by Bonnet remind me of fancy beanbag chairs.  Side chairs by Janus et Cie, “Forest” and “Rion,” are fun designs of powder-coated aluminum in great colors.  Pillows of different sizes and shapes of the above –mentioned outdoor fabrics would be the best pick-me-ups for your existing furniture.  Polypropylene outdoor rugs of will set-off seating and dining areas.  Hammocks of colorful weaves or macramé are popular again. There are even contemporary takes on them such as Seora’s marine plywood on a stainless frame. Colorful dinnerware set on rattan mats is the perfect finishing touch.  My all-time favorite is Fiesta Ware.  Last week I attended the Tabletop Show in New York and saw Fiesta’s latest color – flamingo.  It was paired with other recent colors – peacock blue, lemongrass, tangerine, sunflower and ivory. I love combining all of them for a fabulous riot of color on the table.

    Don’t forget the all-important statement of lightingRotoluxe makes illuminated stands and planters of recycled plastic powered by the sun.  Like the comet, “Halley’ by Vibia is an arch of LED lighting on configurable metal poles.  They can be used in the yard, over a table or seating area.


    As Nancy points out, the opportunities are endless but one thing is absolute: the perfect patio is available. We suggest that you use these rainy days to prepare for the sunny ones because summer is just around the corner. Fingers crossed!

  5. Best DIY Home Improvement & Design Blogs in Pittsburgh

    It’s your home.  You live, play and sometimes even work in it.  That’s why it has to be our own.  It has to complement our lifestyles and personalities so it is the most comfortable (or inspiring or welcoming) place in the world.  There are several fantastic DIY and design blogs in Pittsburgh that illustrate how every family can construct an atmosphere that fits them.  Here are some of our local favorites.

    DIY Show Off

    Picture of DIY blogger from DIY ShowoffDIY Show Off is maintained by a self-proclaimed DIY addict named Roeshel, who credits her own motivations as being the owner of a big old farmhouse in need of lots of TLC, having a strong desire for creativity and possessing a love of shopping and planning.  For the frugal consumer in all of us, Roeshel shares low-cost, easy projects that will add some zest to any home and make it better-organized.  Even better, her blog provides actual tutorials for the “noobs” of DIY.

    Roeshel was proud to share a few details of one of her upcoming projects, adding that there’s always something in the works.  Next she will begin a handful of fixes, including an open pantry as well as installing built-in shelving in her own family room.  Check back soon; she will surely post about it!

    Rocket City Digs

    Photo of the DIY blogger from Rocket City DigsRocket City Digs is a DIY blog run by a San Franciscan-turned-Pittsburgher mother of two who loves to share her myriad of craft and home projects with others.  Jody was first inspired to blog about her DIY adventures upon realizing that her former 680-square foot apartment in California would be a challenge to renovate while maintaining its get artsy flair.  Luckily for Jody, her husband (often referred to as RocketMan on the blog) and children found a larger abode in Pittsburgh a year ago with a bit more room to move.  Her blog shares everything from cooking adventures to baby product reviews to easy and affordable DIY projects.

    Jody’s most recent, ongoing project is a family effort, involving not only Jody but also RocketMan and his father.  Unhappy with the large slab of an island in the kitchen, the family has been renovating it, or as Jody says, “Prototyping.”  More details about the new island are already available on Rocket City Digs, and Jody says the next phase will involve getting her hands on the right materials to coordinate with her unique vintage steel cabinetry.

    Nancy Barsotti

    Photo of the interior design blogger from Barsotti BuildingRun by a professional interior designer, the Barsotti website and blog features a treasure trove of knowledge for design pros and novices.  Nancy Barsotti has undertaken design projects of every size and scale, from in-home renovations to commercial improvements to staging.  She operates two design locations in New York and Pittsburgh, and is able to lend a professional point of view to home owners seeking a change.  Visiting Nancy’s site gives readers the option to either hire her for design services or gain useful project tips via the blog.  As to why she loves interior design and sharing her expertise with readers, Nancy simply says, “You should be proud of your home and you should endeavor to make it proud of you.”  Her favorite projects include working on older homes, as she enjoys the dual challenge of creating a modern livable space and preserving a home’s original design.

    Nancy, an active interior designer, has several projects in the works right now.  Focusing in on her in-home endeavors, she told us about refurbishing a modern North Hills home, renovating furnishings for a spacious abode in the South Hills and fixing up the game room, kitchen and bathroom in a mid-century home.

    Did this satisfy your hunger for DIY and design?  Now is the best time to think about home improvement projects, as spring is nearly here—giving us a much-needed energy boost—and the Pittsburgh Home and Garden Show just happened, undoubtedly getting the wheels turning in the minds of countless Do-It-Yourselfers in Pittsburgh.  So stretch those creative muscles and find a new home project!


  6. Grand Release of Our New Tablet Tours

    Summerbrooke New Haven Model
Saturday, March 23rd

    With digital tablets and iPads being of second nature to many, we have designed new and improved interactive digital tablet tours for our model homes!  Virtually walk through our beautifully crafted homes 24/7 from the comfort of your own home with a nice hot cup of coffee in hand.

    Tablet Tour Grand ReleaseScroll through stunning photography, read ­about our thriving new communities, watch community videos, save your favorite features, customize your dream home and get new ideas!  Our custom “hot spots” are strategically placed throughout each room that hopefully will answer any questions you have – whether it be about a paint color, light fixture family, hardwood finish, plumbing feature or color of granite countertops.

    The unveiling of our new tablet tours will be held on Saturday, March 23rd at Summerbrooke’s New Haven model home from 12pm – 3pm.  Come join us for an afternoon of fun!  You will have a chance to walk through our model, favorite items you like, play our “Hot Spot” treasure hunt, win great prizes and enter to win the grand prize!

    Summerbrooke CollageFor more information on this event, please call Jodie McCormick at 412-945-1316 or email her at [email protected].

  7. 10 Cheap Staging Tips to Increase Home Value

    Staging a home can feel awkward. Why make improvements on your way out? We all know it’s about the return on your investment. Smart rearrangements and simple remodeling can increase home value by thousands, almost overnight. Do we have your attention? Great! Here are 10 inexpensive tips for increasing offer prices.

    1. Curb Appeal.  Nothing speaks better of a home before entering its interior than the surrounding yard.  If it’s in the budget, try adding a few small bushes to bring the entryway to life. Alternatively, closely-spaced potted plants may do the trick, and in Pittsburgh’s colder months, planters filled with pine branches or holly can make an empty house feel like home.Landscaping
    2. Make an Entrance. To foster a safe and secure feeling for potential homebuyers, it is important to create a welcoming entrance to the home. One way to do that is by updating hardware like front door handles and locks. Luckily, “rustic” can also be affordable.
    3. Un-decorate. No one needs to strip a home down to its bare bones, that’s for sure. However, try to neutralize the space by removing some highly personalized items and style preferences. This puts the focus back on the house and its own appearance, instead of on the current occupant. What’s nice about this is that toning down the rooms in a house helps potential buyers to envision their own decorations, belongings and family inside of the space.
    4. Re-purpose.  A major trend today is the desire to have a master bedroom on the first floor, or at least a spare bedroom. An unused den or office may easily be converted into a bedroom for future occupants so try decorating it accordingly. Additionally, a spacious patio in the back may serve as added seating space or an alternate dining room for warm weather days, so highlighting this with a simple table and seating will add function to the space.
    5. Mind the Carpets. Replacing carpeting in a home would cost thousands of dollars, be it for one room or the whole house. A money-saving option, then, is to have the carpets professionally cleaned. This is especially important for pet owners, whose furry friends may have misbehaved a time or two.
    6. Increase Storage. Everyone wants somewhere to keep their vast collection of whatevers, from clothes to shoes to plain old junk. That makes closet space a hot commodity. However, many homes lack closets in bedrooms, especially old homes, so creativity is in order. Luckily, inexpensive wardrobes and shelving units are usually available and may be added to bedrooms to fit buyer needs.
    7. Update and Match. The kitchen is the hub of entertainment in most homes. Our modern families gather and talk, share meals and have a drink with friends there. Therefore, the appearance of the kitchen is often a priority. One way to spruce up the kitchen is to either update or match major appliances. Swap out the old faucet for a shiny new one, for instance. Also, consider matching the colors of appliances, like all black rather than a mix of white, black and stainless.  Did you know: some dishwasher faces can be removed and turned around, revealing the black front for the unit which has white on the other side? Might be worth a try.
    8. Change the Cabinetry. By “change” we mean “reinvent.”  Kitchen cabinets are pricey, so to avoid breaking the bank, consider replacing just the doors (rather than the whole unit) or adding a coat of paint to change the look. Alternatively, hiring someone to do this is still affordable.
    9. Light the Way. Believe it or not, there are trends in lighting design. Brass fixtures, for instance, are now outdated and Pendant Lightsshould be swapped out. Bronze or nickel lighting fixtures are common today. Style-wise, pendant lights are the thing to have, especially in the kitchen. These hanging units create a clean, neat look.
    10. Floor Them with Flooring.  Aside from kitchen and bedroom spaces, bathrooms come in high on the list. A few things to avoid, though, are grungy or ancient-looking flooring. It shouldn’t look like Grammy has been living there with all of her cats, so anything that’s dirty or looks super old should be removed or covered. An inexpensive option for this is either vinyl tiles or sheet vinyl. Additionally, consider cleaning up the tub or shower tiles by re-grouting the unit.

    It is important to impress when selling a home. Many houses need a little love before selling, but this doesn’t have to be a pricey endeavor. These tips make changes that buyers like, without going overboard or skimping on the details. The balance between these extremes will help you and your buyers in the long run!

  8. Best Bedrooms for Kids: Decorating the Perfect Room for Children

    Kids Play Room Under StairsNot every room for kids can look like this. But that doesn’t mean that decorators are limited to pastels and stencils—even if the decorators are mom and dad. Decorating a child’s room can be a great experience for everyone and, just like any other room theme in the home, many aspects go into planning the look and feel so it is as special as can be. After all, it will probably be your child’s favorite place in the whole world!  Here are a few things in mind.


    One of the first things we think of when decorating any room is what color we want it to be. Therefore, our minds turn to paint. Firstly, if your child is old enough to voice preferences, ask what he or she would like (within reason). This will keep the child involved in the decorating, as well as allow for an opportunity to express their personality.

    Some color suggestions include using relatively neutral colors, or at least cool ones. Blue or yellow (or even combinations of the two) are pretty safe options to consider, as well as red. To make these colors less intimidating, create different shades by adding white to the paint mixture. This is not to say that darker colors like greens and purples cannot be used, however, darker colors are both more intense and make the space look and feel smaller. Reserve use of these bold colors, as well as blacks and grays, for accent coloring.


    Next, we wonder what to fill this adorable space with. Now’s the time to begin searching for furniture. Generally speaking, lighter-colored wood furnishings are better because they blend with a myriad of colors within a bedroom. Dressers and nightstands painted white or in light oak work well.

    Interior decorating pros recommend rounded or at least soft-edge furniture in a youngster’s room, as this is safer in the case that the child bumps into a given item. Nightstands provide a surface for a child to set things on, as well as give a few drawers to put things in. Desks, too, are becoming increasingly necessary in the bedrooms of school-age children, as much time is spent on homework. Luckily, various sizes and styles are available both to mesh with and fit comfortably inside the child’s room.

    Of course all children need their growing sleep. It’s best to be practical with this. After all, even if your little boy bleeds black and gold as a teenager, he’s not likely to want a bed with a football-shaped headboard beyond a single-digit age. Keep in mind the same flexible wood colors as you did with other furniture, and go with a bed that the child can grow in. A standard twin bed may accommodate a child until their very early teens.


    Storage options are essential with any kid. Toys, seasonal clothes and more should be stowed away well.  Toys especially accumulate rapidly for little kids. In this case, consider sorting your child’s toys into like types and sizes and putting them in plastic boxes. Keep dolls in one box or action figurines together, for example, as the child will be better able to find and put these items away. If a given toy is part of a set, keep it with the other parts!

    Similarly, older kids may have accumulated a good bit of clothing. One way to sort this is to keep items related to the current season (i.e. winter sweaters) inside dresser drawers and those that are not in season (i.e. summer shorts) in containers or the closet.


    Many of us might already deal with eyestrain (as you read this article on a bright monitor, for example), and even little kids feel these effects. You should therefore place adequate lighting inside a child’s bedroom, including overhead lighting (i.e. fan with light) and lamps mounted above a nightstand or sitting on a desk.


    Decorations within a child’s bedroom should be in line with the rest of the room’s theme and feel. If your child chose light purple as the primary paint color, for instance, consider a shade of purple bedding or a light blue coat hook.  Let the child’s passions show through in the decorations as well. If your son loves superheroes, put up a picture and lamp light of a hero and their logo, or if your daughter likes kittens get her a kitty wall calendar or accenting stuffed animals/figurines.  Also consider their hobby, which might be the beginning of the passions that define them later in life. (We’re looking at you, Olympians!) Regardless of their pending professional sports careers, they’ll enjoy displaying items related to it (which also gives relatives gift ideas later).

    Similarly, it’s great to see parents honor children’s all-out collections. If your son or daughter collects memorabilia or shells or pet rocks, think about making a space to show them off. A shelf or case would work nicely.

    These are some of the biggies to consider when decorating a child’s bedroom.  In the end, it will be a balance between what makes the child comfortable and happy and what does the same for you.

  9. How Not to Hang a Picture Frame

    How to Correctly Hang a Frame

    Oh, Bryan.  Did you choose the wrong spot to hammer that many times?  Super glue?  Really?  Oh, boy.  It looks like Bryan needs some tips on how to hang a picture frame, and you could benefit too!  Don’t make the same mistakes he did!  Follow these steps and you’ll have some beautiful wall art to admire in no time.

    • Measure the Wall.  Always know where you want your piece to hang ahead of time, and measure that space.  It is usually ideal in terms of viewing pleasure to hang picture frames at eye level, though that’s up to you.  If you want to follow this rule of thumb, note that the average eye height is 57”.  Measure from the ground up, keeping the tape as vertical as possible.  When you reach the desired height, make a light pencil mark on the wall to reference where the screw or nail will go.  Your picture will eventually hang centered from this point.
    • Measure the Frame.  Assuming that you want pictures to hang straight on the wall, it’s a good idea to measure the picture itself.  Take your measuring tape or ruler and measure down the piece.  Whatever that measurement is, divide it by 2 and that will give you your center point (if the picture measures 20”from top to bottom, for instance, your center point is 10” and the picture should hang from that spot).
    • Measure from the Top to the Wire.  Take your tape and measure from the top of the picture frame to the wire that is already attached to the back of the frame.  This wire will hold the piece onto the nail you put on the wall.  Take note of how many inches this difference is, as it affects your next step.
    • Measure from the Original Wall Mark.  How many inches was the difference between the picture top and wire in the previous step?  Whatever that number is, go back to your original pencil mark on the wall and measure from the mark up or down that many inches.  We say up or down because you may find that you wish to adjust the height (Example: you choose the standard 57” for the hanging position and realize that the picture will drop to 55” when hung.  You’d rather have it higher, so measure up).  Make another light mark on the wall where that measurement hits if you would like, again keeping the tape vertical.  This will tell you where the picture will sit when it is hanging from the wire.
    • Drill, Drill, Drill.  Get out your drill or hammer and put the screw or nail in the wall.  Your target height with the pencil mark is exactly where the screw should go.  Remember that this is just where the wire will hang from and that your picture should drop down a few inches.
    • Make Adjustments.  Now that your piece is on the wall, if you find that it tilts slightly, adjust it for perfect balance.  No one likes crooked pictures on the wall!

    Now you know how to hang a frame correctly.  Additional steps may be needed if other hanging devices are to be used, but this can be done fairly simply.  Don’t be like Bryan and muck up your walls with unneeded nail marks, and NEVER put glue on the wall (it’ll ruin the paint).  Follow the guide and display your pictures proudly!

  10. PPG Pittsburgh Paint’s Tool to Help Customers Choose Their Paint Colors (Video)

    Today, Dee Schlotter, the National Color Brand Manager for PPG Pittsburgh Paints, shows off Heartland’s model home in the North Hills Community of Pinecrest and discusses PPG Pittsburgh Paint’s program, “My Voice of Color” where customers can have interior designers come to their home, see their lighting and furniture and help them decide on the paint colors to use in their homes.



    PPG Pittsburgh Paint’s Tool, My Voice of Color

    Let’s say you have been in your house for about a year, maybe eighteen months and you decided to buy some new furniture, or some new bedding for a bedroom. And you’re looking to repaint the wall and change it up a little bit. We have a program at PPG called, “My Voice of Color.” You can go to

    We have interior designers that will come into your home for one hour, its seventy five dollars; you get a fifty dollar gift certificate for paint. And they are able to come into your home, see your lighting see your flooring see, your furniture, every piece that’s in the space that you want to paint, to help you choose the paint colors for that space.

    Typically in an hour they can get through one or two rooms and maybe a hallway, so that you’re able to actually make sure all the colors flow together as well.

    It’s a great program! You get to go online to choose you own designer, schedule the appointment directly with them, and like I said they come to your home and they’re able to help you pick the paint colors and update the space with your new furniture and your new bedding.

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