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High maintenance vs. low maintenance design ideas (indoor and outdoor)

There is no one-size-fits-all answer for design ideas and upgrades—it is your home after all, so it is ultimately influenced by what you want (and what you need). And there are a host of factors that vary for everyone: taste, budget, footprint, climate and more. Frequently, however, there are designs and solutions that require plenty of regular maintenance and other options that are closer to the set-it-and-forget-it variety. Each comes with trade-offs. High maintenance might hold up better. A low maintenance solution could look more, shall we say, free. Whether you decide to spend or splurge on these design ideas, make sure your  budget  is in great shape to afford them.

It’s all about which design choice makes the most sense for your house and day-to-day life. Here are four design ideas to inspire, with a low maintenance and high maintenance option for each.

The bathroom revamp

A bathroom remodel can give new life to a dull room. But water, steam, plumbing and the humidity of where you live can make maintaining the space difficult if you're not careful and considerate of the conditions. Listen to your local trained tradespeople here—they know what they’re talking about.

Low maintenance: A standup shower

Get smart by getting vertical. A simple, self-contained space for a shower can be nice and cozy, and best of all, simple to keep clean (just don’t get those fully glassed-in showers, you’ll loathe squeegees for the rest of your life). The key is picking tiles and grout that's easy to clean—the less grout the better—and a door made of a material that wipes off easily. The shower head won't be difficult to maintain no matter what, but we'd suggest one that mimics the rain to maximize the experience and bring joy into your everyday life.

High maintenance: A freestanding claw bathtub

That clawfoot tub looking out a steamy window is giving English cottage vibes, but it can be a real pain, too. All those crevices make ideal spots for bacteria and mold to accrue. While this isn't the end of the world, of course, it does require constant cleaning. If you're a bath person, the effort and cost is worth it—just picture yourself with a novel enjoying your tub on a cold day. If not, well, consider a different direction. (One additional factor to consider: As you age, it can be tricky stepping into the tub to take a bath.)

The yard update

Yards are wonderful things to have. The open expanse. The extra room for entertaining. Space to grill and chill. Yards can also be a lot of work. Choose your path wisely.

Low maintenance: A rock garden

There's the old trope about Americans watering their lawn and, yeah, that's great and all but this is 2023. We have things to do, places to be, meetings to handle between cooking and cleaning—and what if the yard didn't need any maintenance at all? No mowing, no pruning. Just an oasis of one’s own that doesn’t necessitate fossil fuels to maintain. Rock paths can be your friend. This is especially relevant if you live in an area prone to droughts and fires. Rocks can be easier and environmentally friendly. A true win-win.

High maintenance: A lawn that will leave the neighborhood green with envy

Then again, you might love some green. The American Dream is still alive in your mind and you are ready to upstage your neighbors with a lawn so beautiful, so pristine, that you will be the golden child of the neighborhood. That's alright, too. Plant some seed, spread some fertilizer, buy a mower, and water, water, water. But, remember, when it comes to a prize lawn: the work never ends.

The siding refresh

A change of siding can make an old house look brand new. But what should you pick? A decision determined by budget, weather and vibe.

Low maintenance: Vinyl siding

Here's the truth that some aesthetes don’t want to admit: Vinyl siding is a simple fix and a good solution for many homeowners. It's easy to clean, long-lasting, and comes in a wide variety of colors. The price point is a strong factor in its favor as well. No one will fault you for going with vinyl siding. The downsides? It can feel basic, a bit uninspired, and a bit boring. (But, remember: boring is efficient, lasts, and withstands father time.) If you don't want to think about siding, this is the way to go.

High maintenance: Wood siding

Wood siding requires some love. It will require upkeep to maintain, washing and painting, painting and washing. Wood siding boasts a higher price point than vinyl and likely won't last as long because it's more affected by the elements. It does have a classic look, however, a certain je nais se quois. It might be for you, high maintenance and all.

The kitchen countertop conundrum

It’s easy to overlook kitchen countertops. Appliances can be expensive. Cabinets, too. So the countertops can, in some remodels, get the least love. But countertops are one of those things that if you get it wrong, you’ll notice.

Low maintenance: Quartz countertop

Quartz countertops are as versatile as they are unfussy to maintain. They come in all sorts of customizable colors and price ranges. And they are a nice aesthetic choice for houses both old and new. Can’t go wrong with quartz.

High maintenance: Marble countertop

Marble means work. Not difficult, hours-long elbow grease; but consistent attention. Marble is a porous stone, so it needs to be well sealed from the outset. Once installed, experts recommend wiping countertops down daily with soap and hot water to keep the seal solid. Neither the most arduous task nor one that requires special supplies, but it can get repetitive and dull (unlike those shiny countertops).

No one choice is wrong here Perhaps you enjoy the meditative nature of upkeep and house work so you already have a remodel document with links to clawfoot tubs and marble countertops. Simply put: If you’re updating your house it’s updating your happiness, and you can’t misfire there. Whatever you do, measure twice and cut once.

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