Projects to bring your home into the 21st century

Get an award-winning designer's suggestions for giving your home a modern look.

Yahoo Homes

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When you look around your home, does it feel like the 1980s or 90s? Do you want to give it a more modern feel, but just aren't sure how or whether it makes sense to try? Well, there may be more of a reason to renovate your home than just keeping up with the Joneses.

"By remodeling you're probably going to improve your property's value," says Lisa McDennon, an award-winning interior designer in Laguna Beach, California. "But ultimately it's going to give you a cleaner, simpler life and a more modern look."

According to McDennon, modern homes are leaning toward a sleeker, more European look. In addition to simplifying your life, this style can make rooms look and feel bigger than they actually are, which could be another benefit to resale value.

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But which projects can do all of this? Good question. For the answer, read on for five ways to bring your home into the 21st century.

Project #1: Renovate Your Bathroom

If you feel like you're going back in time whenever you take a bath or brush your teeth, your bathroom could probably use an update. With bathrooms, you can do a little, or change everything. There are ways to make them feel more modern for every budget, says McDennon.

"For instance, new sinks and countertops can be a quick way to give a bathroom a facelift without a major expense," she says. These are relatively simple renovations that will standout when people enter your bathroom.

If you do replace your cabinets and countertops, think taller. "Things are getting taller now. Countertops are tending to be installed at a higher height so everybody's not bending over all the time," says McDennon.

As for finishes, flat panel and high-lacquer ones are all the rage. "The trend is moving toward a very European modern style on cabinetry," she says. "Lots of floating cabinets. We're not seeing a lot of decorative legs and we're eliminating toe kicks."

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Finally, McDennon says a great way to give your bathroom a modern feel is to avoid medicine cabinets. "Ditch the traditional medicine cabinets for either floating shelves or the new amazing mirrors that have recessed storage. Some even slide up with internal lights that illuminate your cabinet behind," she says.

Project #2: Replace or Reface Kitchen Cabinets

Are your recipes modern masterpieces while your kitchen seems stuck in the old world? You might want to kick your kitchen up a notch with new or refaced cabinets.

The first thing to decide is whether to reface or replace your kitchen cabinets. "The choice between the two is clearly a cost issue," says McDennon, as refacing is less expensive. "[Homeowners] have to determine the quality of the base cabinets first, and then, whether or not the current configuration works for them."

That's because sometimes the cabinet design prevents any changes to configuration, says McDennon. But keep in mind, when you reface cabinets, you may be able to switch some doors and shelves to drawers, which will be the cheaper route in the end.

"If the quality and configuration are good enough, then do a reface. You can definitely save a lot of money," she says.

[Do your cabinets need a quick facelift? Click here to find a home contractor now.]

Whatever you do, says McDennon, think drawers not doors. One way to get a modern look is by installing a double drawer.

A double drawer is "a drawer within a drawer," explains McDennon. "When you open the drawer, you have a shallow drawer, but there's a push-touch latch to access the second level of the drawer. So you can double up your storage space utilizing this mechanism."

Project #3: Install Wood Flooring

Here's a quick test: Does your carpet require raking? If so, it's time to replace it for something a little more contemporary. Unfashionable flooring can date your home sooner than you think. The good news is that there are many new flooring options that can give your home a modern feel.

A popular choice right now is wood in a grey or charcoal tone, says McDennon. These hues have the added benefit of hiding wear and dirt, something a busy modern family might appreciate. The general rule is the darker the floor, the more maintenance and cleaning required.

"The bottom line is people need to know what they're getting into," explains McDennon. "If they're okay with maintaining the floor on a daily basis, then great. Go as dark as you like. But if they've got a very busy lifestyle, lots of pets or kids, then they'll be a slave to the dark floor."

[Ready to update your floors for the modern world? Click here to find a contractor in your area.]

Finally, a clean, modern feel can be accomplished by using wood in the kitchen, she adds. This could also help people with bad backs: "Wood can be a lot softer on your feet and back than stone or porcelain."

Project #4: Replace or Redress Windows

Windows are the eyes of your home. And like our eyes, they can be old and tired, or young and alive. Windows have a huge effect on making a house feel more contemporary, but fortunately you have a lot of choices when it comes to updating them, says McDennon.

"Many people don't know that they can order their windows with different finishes for interior or exterior," she says. This means you can match both the exterior and interior look of your home, even if they are slightly different.

"For example, you could order a window that has an aluminum or vinyl exterior, but choose a paint or stain grade interior. I really recommend either a paint or stain grade interior on a window because it allows you the choice to change the color later," says McDennon.

[Ready to give your windows a new look? Click here to find a home contractor in your area.]

And if you can't afford or aren't willing to change out your windows, you might still consider changing the casings and trim.

"A lot of times, we remove the casings for a more contemporary look. Or do more of a streamlined or squared off casing with no detail. Or switch to a stained casing rather than painted. Or paint the casing the same color as the wall," she says. There are many options and much of the decision depends on your budget.

Project #5: Lose the Entertainment Center

"One way to give your home a more updated feel is hiding," says McDennon. No, she doesn't mean stuffing yourself into the broom closet. She's talking video and audio components and that giant, space-eating entertainment center.

"When thin TVs came in and everyone started hanging them on walls and over fireplaces, it really revolutionized all of the design work we used to do with entertainment centers," says McDennon.

Current home design is all about hiding electronics. "A lot of times now we are putting the audio and video equipment in a remote location such as a coat closet or bedroom closet," she says. "It's awesome to have a super thin TV just floating on a wall with nothing else."

And don't worry about losing your surround sound. You can still go as movie-theater big as you want - without even seeing a speaker. "We can now install speakers behind a special kind of drywall that goes over the actual speaker area, so you can't even see them," she says.

Sound coming out of the walls? That's about as modern as it gets.

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