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Luxury upgrades

Small changes can make a big impact

by Molly Cinquemani


From the core-rattling boom of a home theater system to the serenity of a trickling, Tuscan-style fountain, every homeowner has a luxurious fantasy for his or her home that can become a reality. Install a wine cellar if you prefer your luxury served in a glass, or perhaps an eco-friendly facelift would better suit your home. Whatever your pleasure, area specialists are on the job.


“With the housing market in a slump, we are seeing more customers choosing to stay put and update their homes and yards, and for most this includes renovating pool and outdoor areas,” says Tara Onthank, co-owner and vice president of retail operations for Rising Sun Pools in Raleigh.


Rising Sun offers fiberglass and vinyl-lined in-ground and above-ground pools, as well as spas, saunas, and one of the newest hot-ticket items: outdoor kitchens.


According to Onthank, new construction traditionally has been the bulk of its business, but Rising Sun currently is seeing more renovation work being done. Fortunately, she says installation doesn’t have to cost a fortune. A simple way to save money is by installing a tile and vinyl combination pool, which gives the appearance of a concrete and tile pool with the more economical choice of a vinyl liner.


Surround sound

Whether indoors or out, most upgrades are done with entertaining in mind. To keep family and guests  entertained, Audio Designs in Raleigh offers integrated home controls that command every detail, from the lights in an outdoor pool to the volume of a home theater.


 “A lot of houses in this area have basements, attics and bonus rooms that are prime candidates for turning into home theaters,” says Don Psencik, operations manager.


“As more people are staying at home, this gives them a family place to entertain.”


 Less extravagant upgrades also are available at Audio Designs, such as high-definition televisions and Blu-Ray players.


Green living

Why not consider an upgrade that’s as cutting edge as it is environmentally friendly? Common Ground Green Building Center in Durham offers cabinetry, kitchen countertops, paint, carpet and flooring in a variety of sustainable, financially viable options, says co-owner Paul Toma.


Countertops made from concrete and recycled glass are comprised of locally recycled materials and are mixed onsite to prevent waste. All of the store’s paints contain no volatile organic compounds (VOCs), with zero VOC tints as well.


“It is some of the best-performing, best-hiding paints in the industry,” Toma says. “A lot of people complain that zero-VOC paint is too watery or that it require too many coats, but this is really thick. We also can match anyone’s colors.”


The cabinetry offered at Common Ground Green Building Center is made from sustainable hardwoods produced in South Carolina. The cabinets are also certified through the Forest Stewardship Council and contain no formaldehyde or toxic glues. Often, these types of cabinets are the same price as other cabinets on the market, Toma notes.


“One of the big stigmas of green is that you’re going to have to spend a lot more money, but that’s not the case,” he says.


A fine wine

A custom wine cellar also doesn’t have to break the bank. While The Cellar Masters Inc. in Raleigh can convert a pantry, basement or attic in to a custom-built wine cellar — the company offers customers 11 types of wood to choose from and installs temperature barriers, as well as cooling and ventilation systems — there are economical options as well.


“A lot of people who do not want to spend a lot of money will buy the kits online and do it themselves, but they have to make the size of the racks work in the space they have,” says Greg Holmes, the company’s president. “We offer custom-sized shelves and walls.”


For one customer, The Cellar Masters created a wine cellar connected to a kitchen with an oval window looking into the dining room and a second storage cellar upstairs, creating a 10,000-bottle capacity. It also has worked on smaller projects such as storage-only cellars, all with a focus on quality and elegance.


“Some others we do are in a converted pantry that holds 400 bottles,” Holmes says. “We put a beautiful door on it and enhance it with lighting.”


It’s time to stop dreaming and get moving on those upgrades. They don’t have to cost a fortune, and the comfort and value they’ll add to your home can be priceless.  ” 


Molly Cinquemani is a freelance writer based in Raleigh.