China Hotel Defies Gravity

China Hotel Defies Gravity

Nestled at the banks of Lake Taihu in Zhejiang Province (about 150 kilometers west of Shanghai) lies this incredible Sheraton hotel. The half-ring lights up at night, casting shadows and reflections against the surface of the lake. “The design is the perfect embodiment of water, giving every room a view of the lake, natural light, and ventilation no matter where it is located,” writes Designboom.

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The Chinese architecture firm MAD is the creator of this magnificent space– it has already created those gorgeous curvy towers in Toronto and an “urban forest” skyscraper in China. What will they think of next?

10 Amazing Granny Flats Part II

10 Amazing Granny Flats Part II

The days of putting in-laws and parents in basement or attic apartments is long gone: today’s families are opting for more chic, stylish options for mom and pop. Check out the rest of the amazing “granny flats:”

Architects Tolya and Otto Stonorov redid this 400 square-foot barn in Oakland and moved in with an infant while renovating a main house on the property. Deep window ledges and a movable stainless steel kitchen island make up for a lack of counter space. The design is flexible enough to turn into a studio or home for Tolya’s mom.

Empty-nesters built this tiny floating in-law for themselves minutes from downtown Portland. Architect Russ Hamlet used space-expanding materials—for example, a corrugated metal ceiling that reflects light off the river. After a year, the couple built a bigger houseboat nearby, and kept the in-law to use as a guesthouse and getaway.

When a 130-foot-tall Douglas fir tree that measured nearly five feet across fell on her property, just 100 yards away from her house, the middle-aged homeowner decided to turn the tree into a rental cottage —and extra rental income. Milled on site, the tree became framing lumber, siding, flooring, ceiling boards and even furniture.

A couple bought a Victorian house with a 1917 outbuilding, and turned the extra structure into a home for mom. They found the original building permit, issued for 50 cents, which allowed them to renovate in place, although it was over the modern-day setback line. Removing a bearing wall by adding a flush beam hidden in the ceiling created a large, open space.

Mom and daughter, Billie and Suzie McKig, bought a property in Berkeley together, with room to build this new cottage in the backyard for mom. They share the garden. The front deck is built around a live oak tree. A gas fireplace with a stone surround and built-in shelves for collectibles make it homey.

10 Amazing Granny Flats Part I

10 Amazing Granny Flats Part I

The days of putting in-laws and parents in basement or attic apartments is long gone: today’s families are opting for more chic, stylish options for mom and pop. Check out these five beautiful “granny flats,” and come back on Monday to see another five:

A back hatch window from a Porsche 928 is used as an awning over the front door of grandma’s new northern California digs — an L-shaped floor plan wrapped around a garage. Grandma’s daughter and grandkids live in the main house. Additional custom details by Hyer Architecture include a sewing counter and fire-engine-red kitchen cabinets.

This addition in Seattle (on the left), a legal rental unit, turned a single-family home into a two-family one. If you add in-law space to your home, consider going through the hoops of making it official. That may allow you (and future owners) to rent it out. Ask your local zoning and building department officials for rules and permitting information.

Here an adult son and his family moved into the parents’ main house, while the parents moved into a new in-law home built on the site of a dilapidated garage. The new building incorporates “universal design” and “green” features, including construction from bales of straw, really. A sloping patio is made of recycled concrete—and makes the house wheelchair accessible.

A daughter rehabbed an old garage apartment for her newly-widowed father in this Minnesota home. For this type of unit, insulation and soundproofing are key. An existing dormer works as a bed nook. Lots of built-in cabinets save space.

A daughter built this San Francisco Bay Area cottage in her backyard for her widowed mother. Everything is on one-level. The house and a trellis surround a patio, which became an extra room yet didn’t count as square footage towards the maximum footprint allowed by the local zoning rules.

Claiming Disasters on Your Taxes

2012 was a tough year for homeowners– from landslides in Alaska to Hurricane Sandy on the East coast– who, across the country, saw 112 natural disasters. If you have been affected by a federally declared disaster, you can claim losses to personal property not covered by insurance. If you are claiming, you should write the disaster designation (Superstorm Sandy, etc.) across your tax form to insure a quick return.

The IRS has promised to remove late-payment, late-filing, and interest for anyone in an affected area. They are also helping those who are outside of the affected area, but whose records and professionals may be within the affected area. If you are outside of the affected area, call the IRS hotline at 1-866-562-5227 to make a claim.

The IRS is waiving the usual fees for copies of previously filed tax returns for disaster-affected taxpayers. Taxpayers should write the assigned Disaster Designation in red ink at the top of Form 4506 (Request for Copy of Tax Return) or Form 4506-T (Request for Transcript of Tax Return) before submitting it to the IRS.

Avoiding House Hunt Heartbreak

Avoiding House Hunt Heartbreak

House hunting is a little like dating: you see a series of homes until you find “the one.” But much like dating, falling in love can hurt.

1. Prepare to Get Your Feelings Hurt
Just because you feel a connection doesn’t mean a seller has to sell to you. In high stakes bidding wars, all is fair. The seller may feel a connection with someone else, so keep your guard up until you know for sure that the seller has commited to you.

2. Don’t Obsess Over One Home
You’ll never find a home that has everything on your wish-list, so you’ll need to compromise. But that doesn’t mean you lose sight of what you need: just because a home has a finished basement and home theater doesn’t mean you can ignore the missing bedroom or lesser square footage. Be smart and think about what you need to have a successful, long-term relationship.

3. Don’t Fall Too Hard
When you fall in love, it can be hard to let go. Say you’ve signed a contract for your dream home, but a large list of issues come up during inspection. Those issues will cost you a lot of time and money: don’t be blinded by your love. Sometimes, you need to walk away.