Welcome to the Home Design Blog where you can find out what's new and interesting in the world of home design ideas and products, as well as what's new at HomeStyleChoices.com.
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Photo Courtesy of Moen
The latest article highlighting kitchen faucet choices puts the spotlight on Moen. Like other manufacturers they've developed technologies and innovations to make their products more versatile.
What sticks out about Moen's faucet lineup however is the breadth of their collections. There's arguably something for just about anyone. If too many choices tend to paralyze you then you might be better off going to your local hardware store and choosing from their limited selection. Otherwise check out what Moen has to offer and see if there's a design that resonates with you.
Photo Courtesy of Delta Faucet Company
The Delta Faucet Company gets its name from one of the characteristics of the first washerless ball valve, a primary feature of the single handle faucet that was introduced back in the 1950s. That was a Delta innovation. It's a trend that they've continued, introducing a range of what they call "smart features" to make their kitchen faucets meet the demands of today's kitchen. Check out what they have to offer and shop the kitchen collections here.
I don't know about you but when my neck of the woods starts to warm up to tolerable temps it makes we want to get things done. That usually means yard projects or house projects. It's that sense of needing to accomplish something after a long winter season of project-hibernation (getting 5 inches of snow on April 21st only heightens the feeling).
How about you? Do those house dreams (or needs) bubble to the top and start nagging you for more attention? Maybe this spring it's time to take action and make those dreams become a reality. Or at least maybe it means taking some concrete steps toward making them happen.
If you've been dreaming of a remodel now's the time to take those first few steps to get started. Even if it's just putting down on paper what it is you really want. Surfing at online home design sites and pinning photos for that "someday" remodel only goes so far. Whether you're looking for bath ideas or thinking of a remodeled basement, make something happen. Planning is paramount to getting a project successfully completed but don't plan forever. Sooner or later you need to take action.
You'd be surprised what a little momentum can do for you. Schedule a time on your calendar to look for and/or meet with one or two potential contractors. Once you take a few concrete steps toward your objective the other parts of the process start to come a bit easier as one step unfolds into the next.
If I sound like I'm preaching it's probably because I am. I've been in that situation. My wife and I dreamed for years about what we would do to our house but nothing ever changed. Sure, there were external factors that came into play that delayed us. But in the end it was only when my wife and I looked at each other and said, "what are we waiting for?" and started actually doing stuff did we get the house we had thought about for so long.
It's spring. Be a doer.
Corners. What do you do with them? From a furnishing perspective they're kinda tricky. In some rooms they go unnoticed while in other rooms, particularly smaller ones, it'd be nice to make use of every square foot.
Take the bathroom for example. If you're lucky to have one that's large enough you have the option of installing a corner tub. That frees up wall space for other things like a shower or vanity.
But if the thought of a corner bathtub conjures up images of the typical triangular-shaped whirlpool, think again. There are other options. You have a few choices in materials as well. Choose wisely and you'll make the most of the real estate your bathroom has to offer.
See what I'm talking about here.
I'm not one who's generally known as being connoisseur of fine art. My wife is definitely better in the art appreciation game but regardless of that skill, our home will never be mistaken for an art museum. The shameful result is that we have lots of bare walls.
Although I fall down in the art department something I do have a strong appreciation for is wood, particularly reclaimed wood. Maybe it's my love of history or the fact that my father was a carpenter. Either way, the beauty and character of old wood is something that I find very appealing.
That's why I was particularly intrigued by a new home I recently had the opportunity of touring. The builder used reclaimed wood as a decorative overlay on large expanses of interior walls. What would otherwise have been flat drywall in need of some artful "pop" was now turned into something of simplistic beauty. The character of the wood provides both texture and color and draws the eye much as a great piece of art would.
In some locations the wood is used alone, having sufficient character to provide its own decorative appeal. In other locations it's used as a backdrop for more "conventional" artwork, providing something of a three dimensional frame around the piece.
A lot of reclaimed lumber is used either for furniture or flooring. But I thought this application was particularly unique and interesting. It would certainly take me off the decorating hook if this particular house was my own. I wouldn't have to sweat over what to put on the walls to give them some visual interest. The reclaimed wood panels would be enough for me.
This house is the creation of AMEK Custom Builders located in Minnesota. Even if you don't live in Minnesota you can still get a virtual tour of the house. It's worth a look-see as there's more to it than just the wood-with-a-history that's hung on the wall.
You can see more of this modern farm home here at AMEK's website.
See if this sounds familiar. You walk into a public restroom, approach the sink to wash your hands and you're faced with an array of touchless faucets. No knobs, no handles. Maybe just a little light at the base of the faucet blinking at you. You wave your hands, trying to elicit water from the spout but nothing happens. Finally, after a performance that would make a seasoned conductor proud, the water finally shows up. Oh yes - then it turns off before you're through, dooming you to perform the whole routine again.
Photo courtesy of Kohler
There's no denying the fact that touchless faucets can be annoying, despite having been conceived with convenience and conservation in mind. But some manufacturers haven't ignored the cries of hand-waving homeowners. Kohler for one has actually been listening and developed what it considers a better product. They call it "Sensate".
The main benefit of Kohler's Sensate, or any touchless faucet for that matter, is the ability to turn the water on and off without having to grab the handle or tap the faucet. You just wave your hand, forearm or a dishpan under the sensor and the water flows. It's convenient if your hands are dirty or occupied.
But those memories of stubborn public restroom faucets die hard. Why opt for the same frustration in your own kitchen? That, according to Kohler, is where things change. Kohler reports that they've refined the sensing technology used in the Sensate faucet so that it responds within 20 milliseconds. Most people take 300 milliseconds or so to blink an eye.
In other words, it's fast.
The other notable feature is that this faucet is hard-wired into your home's electrical system. There's no need to replace batteries like you have to with battery-powered touchless faucets. If your power goes out you lose the touchless functionality but you still have the reliable old faucet handle to turn on the water.
Expectations are notably higher for this product, having won both 'Best Kitchen or Bath Product' and 'Best in Show' at the most recent International Builder's Show. I haven't personally used one of these faucets yet but I'll yield to the collective wisdom of the writers, building professionals and attendees who voted for it.
Kudos to Kohler for pushing the boundaries of touchless faucet response time and packaging it in a nice looking design. Hopefully the days of arm-waving just to turn the water on are gone. Instead a simple hand motion will suffice. You might even wow your kids and tell them it's your own version of a Jedi mind trick.
There's no denying the fact that today's kitchens and bathrooms have been elevated to a status beyond their functional purpose. I don't recall my grandmother ever fretting over some minor stain in her cast iron sink or needing to refresh the look of her cabinets because oak was no longer the trend. By the same token, she didn't have the overabundance of choices we have either.
The fact remains however that because of this plethora of choices, we also have the ability to bling out our home, to whatever degree our desires, tastes and resources permit.
Sleek countertops and wowser cabinets are typically the stars of any new kitchen based on the amount of space they monopolize. The utilitarian and can't-do-without kitchen sink can easily get overshadowed, particularly if it's sunk down below the countertop surface. There is however, a sink that's made to strut its stuff. It's the farmhouse sink. And the modern stainless steel adaptation is a sink that intends to hold its own among the rest of a kitchen's cast of product-characters.
By virtue of its classic apron front, this stainless steel sink visually raises itself out of its meek hole in the countertop as if to say, "Here I am, in all my splendor." It's hard to overlook and adds some pizzazz to what's really nothing more than a necessary kitchen tool.
You can learn more about these show-off sinks and the variety of choices you have in the stainless apron front sink article.
According to General Electric's appliance division, some homeowners want an alternative to stainless steel when it comes to choosing new appliances for their kitchens. For that reason GE recently introduced their new "Slate" finish.
The Slate finish is best described as a metallic gray color, somewhat similar to stainless steel but not as "bright". It's a more muted tone but still offers a sophisticated look compared to the whites, blacks and avocados of the appliance world. GE says this new finish resists fingerprints and is easy to clean.
I got my first chance to see this new finish live and in person and I have to agree with the notion that it's more resistant to dirt and fingerprints than stainless steel. I put my greasy mitts on the surface but didn't see any offending smudges. I know what it's like to live with a stainless steel refrigerator. I have one in my kitchen and it draws my constantly hungry teenage sons and their grimy hands like bees to honey. The end result isn't pretty.
My initial reaction was that the Slate finish was definitely darker than what I expected, even though I had seen pictures. Note the contrast between the stainless handles and the Slate-colored finish in my bad grainy photo to the left.
Right now the new finish is offered with refrigerators, dishwashers, microwave ovens and free-standing ranges. Unfortunately it's not offered on any GE wall ovens and I don't know when or if it will. That doesn't make much sense to me when you consider that some homeowners doing a total kitchen makeover may look to purchase a matching suite of new appliances.
On the point about "match-ability" however, one of GE's reasons for going with the neutral metallic gray is so that it will complement a homeowner's existing white or black appliances. The point here being that people don't always replace all of their appliances at the same time.
Stainless steel still dominates among choices made by homeowners for some appliance products. And according to a Wall Street Journal article on the subject, that's why manufacturers like LG aren't looking for alternatives, seeing no drop-off in the stainless steel trend. Truth be told, I wouldn't trade mine in. It's pretty easy to clean off the smears and fingerprints and stainless is simply my preference. However from my quick test at the showroom it does appear that this finish will do a better job than stainless at hiding fingerprints.
The local salesperson who showed me the floor model quipped that this approach has been tried before and never caught on. I guess time will tell. If stainless seems too bright or industrial-looking and you're not a fan of other appliance colors, this neutral gray may be the next best option, particularly if you don't like a smudgy refrigerator.
You can see more of GE's Slate appliances (and much better photos than mine) at their website.
As I write this the furnace is blowing at max capacity to bring the house up to a livable temperature before the rest of the family gets home. Our thermostat is turned down during the day to save on heating costs. And while my second son likes to equate our home to that of walk-in cooler, I like to tell him that every degree dropped is a few dollars more into his college education fund.
The point is that I don't like paying for heat, even though it feels good. It's here one moment and has to be replenished the next, depending on my caulking ability and the laws of thermodynamics.
That's one of the reasons I'm glad I don't have one of those huge houses that that I drive by every day. Sure, it'd be nice to have a little extra space now and then but the financial worry-wart in me would go crazy every time the furnace or air conditioner came on. I like to ogle at those 5000 square foot behemoths on the Parade of Homes every year but I cringe at the thought of heating, cooling and maintaining one.
It gets a person to thinking about the value of a smaller home. Don't get me wrong. I don't want to be cramped, particularly with 3 teenage boys to contend with. But the 'bigger-is-better' mantra that's marketed to us in virtually every facet of life isn't always the best option in my opinion. As long as a home has the right floor plan, a good layout and is comfortable for its occupants and perhaps a few guests now and then, isn't that sufficient?
Maybe you're thinking of a new home now or perhaps once the kids leave in a few years. Smaller homes definitely have their benefits and you might be surprised at the ways a smaller home can feel larger. See for yourself and check out a few plans while you're at it.
What seems like ages ago my wife and I embarked on the search for our first home. While we ultimately ended up finding an existing home that we've remained in for the last 20 years we came close to making a choice to build new. For the longest time it seemed we couldn't find "the right one".
Sometimes the only way to get what you really want is to build a new home altogether. That's a pretty exciting possibility too. There are countless styles of house that you can choose from and the thrilling part is that you can make it exactly as you want. There's no need to "fit" yourself to an existing layout or buy the maintenance issues that come with an existing home.
To do that however you need to start with a plan. Whether it's a custom or stock plan is one thing you'll have to decide too.
Find out what's involved in finding the right plan and then taking a tour of what's available at the house plans page. With thousands of designs that are available, there has to be one out there that'll fit your style and your budget.
When the time comes to remodel or build that dream home you're going to be faced with gobs of choices and decisions to make. Some of them are fun while others fall into the more mundane category. Deciding whether to go with cherry or reclaimed Doug Fir flooring has a bit more appeal than choosing which type of trim to use on your soffits.
If you work with design and building professionals they can help you make those decisions. In fact, you might even defer some of the choices to them altogether. Let's face it; it's easier to have someone else decide for you or at least narrow down your choices than have to do it all by yourself.
Going the delegation route is certainly an option. But that raises the question of whether it's really in your best interest long-term. It might alleviate some stress during the renovation and building process but this is your house we're talking about. Once it's done the people you relinquished some of your decision-making authority to are gone. You're the one who has to live with the results.
Making decisions about things you have no knowledge about or that don't raise the needle on your interest meter doesn't mean you should simply choose not to get involved in the process. You may not know the first thing about choosing a new furnace or whether to go with forced air or a radiant heating system. But care you must, at least sufficiently to ask the right questions of the individual you're paying to make those decisions for you (assuming you go that route).
The bottom line here is that there are implications with all of these decisions. How will that product hold up over time - do you know? What is the warranty that's associated with this choice? How will that design decision play out five years from now when your family is now (you fill in the scenario here. . . ).
My advice? It's your house. Act like you're the project manager. Get engaged with all the facets of the process and decisions that need to be made. If you delegate some of them, know why those choices were made and what the alternatives are. Your building professionals will appreciate your active participation in the process. I don't advocate being a micro-managing customer-from-hell. But be more engaged than my seventeen year old when I ask how his day was. You'll have a better home because of it.
Should I go with go with Absolute Black or the Arctic Green granite for my countertops?! Is cherry a better looking floor color against my cabinets than a honey colored oak?! I can't decide between white or biscuit for my kitchen sink color!
We've all been there before. It's time to make choices about some aspect of our home and yet we're paralyzed. Too many choices, too much information. The biggest fear of course is making the wrong decision. What if I choose the wrong style?! What if it's not the right shade of (fill in your color here)?! Gasp!! Horror of horrors!!
Believe me. A year from now you won't perceive the difference.
If you're in a decision-making quandary over some piece of your home's design, make an educated choice but don't turn it into a stressor. In many instances it'll be off your radar screen before you know it.
Case in point: my mudroom's tile floor. It's a textured porcelain tile, made to look like stone. Since it's not real stone it has a repeating pattern with duplicate tiles in the mix. Some are light in color, some are darker.
When it was first installed it looked as though the installer had put it down in a checkerboard layout. Darks were juxtaposed against the lighter tiles. My wife commented that it was too noticeable. Had we made the "wrong" tile choice?
Fast-forward three years later. Do we even notice? Nope. Do we really even care. Nope again. It's faded into the background of our daily lives. The floor looks nice, it's durable and it serves it's purpose well. Nobody walks in and says, "nice checkerboard floor", probably because it really doesn't look that way anyway. We were just too hyper-focused on it when it was first installed.
What's the moral of this story? Many choices we make about styles and design choices fall into the "will-become-irrelevant" category shortly thereafter. I'm not talking about trends or whether something will be 'out of style' later on. I simply mean that they won't have near the significance to you down the road that you give them when you're in the heat of decision-making battle.
Of course there are home design decisions that have a greater impact on the livability that we experience within our home. I don't advocate making rash or foolish decisions particularly when functionality and quality of space are involved. But I argue that we tend to make mountains out of molehills on too many choices that ultimately are inconsequential. In the end that just makes improving your home that much harder and more stressful than it has to be.
Don't fret too much over the choices you're faced with. Go with your leanings but then move on and don't second-guess yourself. A lot of those decisions will become irrelevant not long after. They'll just blend into the pleasant background of your home, as you tend to the more important stuff in your life.
I was at the home of a good friend last weekend and admired the work he had done remodeling his kitchen. He's pretty handy, having worked as a contractor in a past life.
One piece of handiwork was the cherry wood floor under my feet. It was beautiful to be sure. What amazed me however was the lack of any perceptible scratches. You see, my friend owns two dogs and that night, one of them was happily chasing a rubber toy, wildly skidding around corners and sliding to a stop.
Throughout this display of playfulness the hiss of the dog's claws along the wood's surface sounded much like that of steel skate blades across a patch of ice. In fact, the dog seemed to enjoy this faux-skating experience particularly since he didn't need to bear the cold.
"Engineered wood?" I asked my friend.
"No. Solid, but pre-finished," he replied.
It was clear from looking at the surface that this wasn't a site-applied finish. The lack of scratches from sliding pets was apparent too. I was impressed. His pre-finished cherry floor, complete with its aluminum oxide topcoat was thumbing its nose at the abuse being dished out by these medium sized dogs.
If you have pets and wonder whether or not choosing a wood floor is a good idea, your answer depends on the type of product you select. Pre-finished wood floors offer finishes and coatings that a site-finished floor simply can't. As a result they can be a lot tougher from a scratch and wear perspective. It was pretty evident with my friend's floor (and it had been in place for a while).
Oh yes - and did my friend's cherry floor change color in areas exposed to the light? He reported that it did, in classic cherry-wood form.
Quite often the biggest hurdle homeowners face when wanting to upgrade their home is where to find the money to do it. Through a survey on this site I get responses that tell me that the money, or lack of it, is holding people back.
Ultimately that might be the truth. But before you resign yourself to the fact that it's a no-go, here are a few strategies you can look at to see if there just might be a way to move things forward on the home improvement front.
Make Small "Bridge" Improvements
Renovations are made up of a combination of small changes (with relatively small costs) and larger, more costly changes. Depending on your ultimate grand plan there may be small improvements you can do to make your space look and feel a little nicer.
Cosmetic changes aren't that expensive, particularly when compared to the total cost of a more major renovation. Paint, wallpaper (new or removing the old), tiling a backsplash (with self-adhesive tiles for an easier DIY approach) and changing fixtures can make the space feel better until it's time for the big spend. There are products out there specifically tailored to these kinds of low-cost upgrades.
Prioritize Your Expenses
Look at your budget and see if you truly don't have available funds for your improvement or if you're giving too much sway to discretionary expenses. Things like cable TV with a gazillion channels (do you actually watch them all?), cellphone plans with features you don't need simply to talk to another human, and the weekly Starbucks allocation are questionable "must-haves".
Which do you want more - unlimited texting or a better looking bathroom? Granted - cutting back on lattes isn't going to fund an addition and kitchen remodel. But I think you see my point. Careful consideration of your budget and prioritization of what you really want might help free up funds that allow you to do those 'bridge' upgrades or accelerate you toward your bigger savings goal.
Do It Yourself
Do it all or share some of the more complex tasks with outsourced labor rather than have a general contractor do it all for you. Commit to learning some new skills like tiling or installing sinks and faucets that you previously thought you couldn't do. Years ago I had never gutted a bathroom, mudded a floor, installed tile and replaced every fixture. But I did. I simply bought a few books on the subject of how to do it and went from there. That was before the internet and immediate access to how-to videos.
It worked, I learned a lot and I saved a lot too.
Only you can know if you have the resources to improve your home the way you want to. But it doesn't always have to be an all-or-nothing approach. Take a hard look at your budget, prioritize and consider making some small improvements on the road to the Big Remodeling Kahuna.
I don't know about you but with three teenagers and two working parents our household gets hectic. School and sports schedules, bills to pay, the college application process to sort out (eeek!) and countless other administrative challenges stare down our family each week. It's nice to have one spot where we can attempt to rein some control over them.
We do that using our home office as a command and control center. It's a communication hub, a place for our files, an actual place of employment and the occasional repository of snack debris left over from someone playing a game on the computer. Truth be told however, it does it's job well.
Our first "office" was a self-contained office armoire that (still) resides in our living room. It effectively housed our computer and provided a convenient spot for managing the household. Later, we renovated a spot in the basement for our new office and it's from there that I write this, sans the food-stuffs left over from late-night teenagers.
A home office is a handy feature to have. They don't have to be a dedicated room, although that's a plus, and they can be located just about anyplace in the house that suits the needs of the users. Finding the right spot is probably the biggest hurdle. After that comes the task of outfitting it so it's functional and productive.
Looking for some office space in your house? Check out these design ideas and see if any might help you stake a claim to an office space in your home.
The DIY approach is still a great way to upgrade your home for less money than you'd pay a professional. But you have to be careful too. From dust and mold to lead, mercury and asbestos, your house may harbor many health hazards. Fortunately, there are ways to protect yourself and your family as this guest post by Brian Turner, staff writer at Mesothelioma.com points out.
Common Hazards in the Home
Tearing down walls, cutting lumber, scraping paint and installing drywall are common renovation activities that stir up dust. Your lungs can dissolve some dust particles. Too much dust, however, carries harmful substances that can irritate your lungs and cause respiratory problems.
Mold is often a problem in homes with abundant moisture. If inhaled, mold spores can cause bacterial infections, allergic reactions and other health problems. They may also give off toxic gases that can adversely affect your health.
If your house is an older home, the paint on the walls may contain lead or mercury. These chemicals can cause health problems if the paint is scraped or sanded. Inhaling or ingesting lead or mercury allows these toxins to enter your bloodstream. Lead and mercury poisoning are linked to neurological problems and birth defects.
Asbestos is another possible danger. Since the early 1900s builders used the durable material in floor tiles, roof shingles and other building supplies. Known for its resistance to fire and heat, asbestos was banned in the 1970s when the public learned of its health dangers. Asbestos exposure has been linked to asbestosis, emphysema, mesothelioma and lung cancer.
Do-it-Yourself Protection and Prevention
Safety gear can go a long way toward protecting you and your family, or a hired contractor, from health hazards in the home. Respirators, face masks and other safety gear can prevent exposure to dust, mold, lead and mercury in construction dust, paint chips and contaminated areas in your home.
Plastic sheeting provides a protective barrier between the construction area and the rest of your house. Exhaust fans and vacuum cleaners are helpful tools for cleaning up construction dust. Asbestos should never be disturbed, though, as exposure could be deadly.
When to Hire a Professional Company
Most homeowners can handle the clean-up of simple construction dust, but some projects are too big to tackle alone. Large areas of mold growth require professional mold removal. Removing lead and mercury may also require professional assistance. The dangers of asbestos exposure necessitate abatement by a licensed asbestos removal company.
For more information on the prevention and removal of health hazards in the home, visit the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) website and the Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxins (OPPT). These government agencies offer several environmental stewardship resources. They can also refer you to professional removal companies in your area.
It's Thanksgiving time in the U.S., time to focus on those things that we're grateful for. If I take pause for a moment I can think of a few things, like health, family and good friends.
I'm also grateful for the roof over my head and along those lines I experienced a moment recently when I felt particularly appreciative of one of my home's attributes. I came up from the basement office at the end of the day to find the sun dropping behind the horizon. At this time of year it always hits our living room at a certain angle that bathes it in an orange glow. It lasts for only a few minutes.
In that moment I came to realize that I really like that room, particularly at that time of day. I can close it off from the rest of the commotion in the house and enjoy a bit of tranquility. It's a more intimate spot, a place to read or just ponder, as the light fades.
Many of us look at our homes and see something that needs improvement. There are bathrooms that need gutting or a kitchen that looks dreary and out of date. It seems there's always something.
But consider for a moment something about your house that you're thankful for. Some spot or characteristic that you enjoy. I'll venture a guess that you can name one or two. Like my living room, that's always there to catch those last rays of sun.
Sure, there are things I'd like to change or fix. But once in a while it's satisfying to simply appreciate what you have, just the way that it is.
Look around. What is it about your home that you're thankful for?
Building a new home or remodeling the one you have typically starts with a collection of ideas. In most cases, those ideas emanate from pictures collected from magazines and online sources. And while this is a good way to formulate ideas, it shouldn't be the only way.
In your quest for home design inspiration let me suggest the following five ideas for getting the type of home you want. They're not a bunch of pictures but I think they'll give you another kind of inspiration, the kind that helps you hone in on an end result that will ultimately give you the satisfaction you're looking for.
Make Livability A Top Priority
This is all about making your home comfortable and easy to live in. It conforms to your life and how you live. Doing this is the result of taking some time to think about what's important to you as it relates to living in a home, like having sufficient space, convenient and easy traffic flow or whatever other priorities you have. In the end everything about your home's design will flow from that perspective.
Size It Right
Don't fall into the trap of using your home as a status symbol and making "bigger" the prevailing design theme. Big isn't always better. It costs more to build, maintain and heat/cool. Right-size it instead based on your livability needs.
Use Your Crystal Ball (AKA Think Ahead)
If you plan on staying in your home for the foreseeable future, look into that future and assess how your needs may change. Then make sure you incorporate products and designs that accommodate those needs. Whatever you build into your home that keeps it easy to live in as you age allows you to stay there longer.
Personality & Style
Here's where you get to incorporate your own tastes and style into your house. Think about the kind of personality you want your house to reflect. Often times it's a reflection of you or your family's personality or values. Maybe it's casual and definitely comfortable. Or perhaps it's contemporary and efficient, matching (and accommodating) a busy career.
Do yourself a favor and incorporate energy efficiencies into your new or remodeled space. Better windows, more insulation and efficient mechanical systems are just some of the ways to do this. Some choices may be more expensive to purchase but they also produce savings over the long term in the form of reduced energy and maintenance costs.
Don't stop browsing the web, pinning photos to your virtual bulletin boards and tearing out pictures from home magazines. These are all great ways to get inspiration for how to get your home the way you want it to be. But do it consistent with the ideas listed above. I think you'll find that if you do, you'll be pretty satisfied with the end results.
Much more information on these and other home design ideas can be found in this article.
Tolerance of cold isn't in my DNA. Sitting on aluminum bleacher benches watching my son play soccer (or football for you purists) in 45 degree F temps with a 15 knot wind makes my body feel cold for hours on-end, even when I'm back inside. I take partial responsibility for this however, given my free will choice to live in Minnesota. But it's all made much better when I can park myself in front of the fireplace upon returning from the frigid pitch (that's soccer field for you non-purists).
Which leads me to a quote I read recently from some home designer about making better choices relative to living spaces. The person essentially said that the fireplace is a thing of the past and that they're space-wasters that nobody uses anymore.
Assuming they were talking about a home that uses more modern means of heating, no doubt there's probably some truth there. It's not like we're living in 1760 and need that fireplace to keep the frost off of the chairs on the other side of the room. Thank goodness for high efficiency furnaces.
Today's fireplaces have become something of a sentimental decoration, a nod to those "old days" when the fireplace was the focal point of the house, keeping its occupants from freezing. Or are they?
I'll admit; I'm spoiled. We have two gas fireplaces (one is a converted wood burning unit). The ability to flick a switch and in a matter of minutes have sufficient heat to warm my bones is pretty darn nice. One of them is in our family room and it's usually the place where my sons park themselves like cats in the sun when the weather turns cold.
Do we need that fireplace? No. The furnace does a decent job of keeping our house warm. But the heat register on the floor just doesn't give the same toasty feel that standing in front of the fireplace does. There's also something to be said for the flicker and dance of the flames that sooth the mood when the sun's setting on the stark white snow out back. My boxy beige furnace, reliable and efficient as can be, just doesn't seem to measure up on that front.
Fireplaces are a thing of the past? Not in this household. In a northern clime where temperatures dip, they're still a worthwhile design option. And with a bit of modern technology thrown in for added efficiency and convenience, I think they've earned their space in the room.
Bits and pieces of news reports from a variety of sources say that remodeling activity in the U.S. is up. Looking through my local Parade of Homes remodeling guidebook shows me that indeed, people are still remodeling, with projects ranging from a small bathroom to a whole-house renovation.
If you've been sitting on the sidelines but hope to jump into the remodeling game sometime soon, good for you. It can be a very rewarding experience (mostly when the job is done. . .). But aside from all the enthusiasm that comes with the anticipation of transforming your space, how realistic are your expectations? Do you have a good idea about how much this will cost or how long it will take?
One of the biggest mental challenges I had to get over when my home was remodeled was how much it was going to cost to achieve our plan. In all the years (yes, years) we ruminated about pulling the trigger on our remodel I had somehow become blind to the "real" cost of making this happen. I thought I was informed; I read so many remodeling magazines that showcased prices for various projects like additions or new kitchens. Where those publications got their information, I don't know. All I know is that what I thought the project would cost and what the bids came in at were very different.
Forget about the "general averages" you see that show a 'typical kitchen remodel in the northeast costs $XX thousand dollars'. And don't fall for the '$$-per-square-foot' model either. The best way to find out how much your dream will cost is to establish a detailed plan, including the types of products you want, and getting bids. You can make a reasonable estimation to get in the ballpark by pricing out your own specification yourself.
The popularity of HGTV has made us all more aware that, in the words of a present-day politician, "yes we can". We can remodel our homes and we can make them the way we want. It just doesn't usually happen as quickly as those TV shows seem to represent. The last time one of my bathrooms was "crashed" it took about a month before it was back in operation. It wasn't just a weekend deal.
I didn't write this to throw a wet blanket on any of your dreams. Rather, to simply shine a little light of reality on the whole picture. Having realistic expectations going into a remodel is one of the best weapons you have for making it a success, without a lot of surprises.
Go ahead. Dream. Take that idea and turn it into reality. Just do it with reasonable expectations based on good research and an informed perspective.
There's no doubt that the "fun" aspect of home design revolves around the kitchen and bathroom, followed perhaps by other interior living spaces. Why wouldn't it be that way? That's where we actually live and spend our time when we're at home.
But when was the last time you really thought about the exterior of your home? Roofing, siding, and I'll lump windows in there too, serve an obvious practical purpose of giving us a standard of living that the Neanderthals would have relished. These materials keep us warm (or cool) and dry.
We can't deny however that they also act as the "outerwear" of our home's structure. Not unlike our own clothing they affect the impression your home makes on those who see it.
Any time a remodel impacts the outside envelope of the home you're faced with the decision on what to do about the siding and roofing, and perhaps some windows too. You have a choice of matching the existing materials that are already installed or going with something different (while obviously 'converting' what's already there).
Although it certainly impacts the budget it's still a good time to think about the value of making changes. If part of the roof or siding is going to come off anyway, now is the time to make wholesale changes. The workers are already on your project and you avoid having to hire another contractor. It's actually cheaper to do the whole-house change now instead of later, since you'll end up pulling off the replacement materials that were installed during the initial remodel.
The point here is this: don't forget about your home's exterior when your remodel breaks it's exterior boundaries. Taking time to consider roofing, siding or new windows may not be as fun as matching new countertops to your interior décor. But then again, giving your home's exterior a makeover has its rewards too, like the satisfaction that comes with a pleasing curb appeal. Or maybe it's the freedom associated with having more durable, low-maintenance materials that don't need as much upkeep.
There's a questionnaire form on this website that I use to solicit feedback from readers like yourself. It helps me understand the type of information your're looking for.
One of the most frequent responses I get is the plea for how to find a good contractor. There are a number of ways to do that but they don't all provide the same results. Remember; we're looking for the "good" contractors, not just any person to do the job.
In my view the good contractors are competent and reliable but they should also be a "right fit" for your project and you. That also means being your advocate in seeing your project through to its successful completion. What's an advocate? Someone who puts your needs as a customer first to make sure the job is done to your satisfaction, without any hassles.
There's no magic pill that'll help you find these people overnight (unless you get really lucky). It takes some time and patience on your part. You'll need to look for and then vet a list of contractor candidates as if you were looking for a presidential running mate. Yes, it takes some effort but the results are well worth it. I like to say that it's one of the most important parts of a successful remodel.
Where do you even begin to look? It's all explained in the new report titled "How To Find A Good Contractor". You can find more information about it here.
If there's one thing that's a surety when it comes to a home improvement project it's this: the person you hire to do the job has a big impact on the quality of the end result and your peace of mind along the way.
When I was a kid seat belts were thought of as "optional". I really don't remember my parents wearing them and of course, every Friday night as we made the ritualistic drive to get the weekly groceries I was propped up on the edge of the back seat, peering through the windshield. Never mind the fact that both my parents and I were oblivious to the potential of my becoming a ballistic missile through that windshield in the event of a collision.
It was no different with the playgrounds either. I played on hard metal structures that were built over asphalt. Wood chips or crumbled rubber? What's that?
Fast forward to today and neither I nor any of my kids would think of driving away in a car without first buckling up. And yes, for the most part, they grew up on play structures built on top of spongy, pliable surfaces (they also got trophies simply for participating on the baseball team but that's another story).
Whether we like it or not we've been conditioned or legislated to be safer. And while I have no great stats to whip out for you, I think I'm probably "safe" in saying that we're better off for it.
But what about your house? Do you ever think about how safe you are on your own couch? I'm not talking about trees crashing down into your living room but rather your home's environment itself. What's in the air you breathe?
More and more we hear about new developments in the production of the things we put in our homes that make it a better living environment. In particular, there's that "VOC" thing - volatile organic compounds. Translated, it's the stuff that's in paint, wood products and other materials that's not really that good for us. How often do you think of that before you make a home improvement choice?
It's actually easy to start making better, healthier choices for your home's environment. You don't need to wait until you replace your cabinets. The next time you decide to repaint a room, consider using a no-VOC paint. There are plenty of choices. Simply do an internet search for "0 voc paint". It tends to be more expensive but it's still one of the easiest choices to make when it comes to a healthier home.
How about radon? Have you ever had your basement checked for radon levels? Some regions are more affected than others but if you're in one of the "hotter" zones it's worth it to find out.
I won't back the car out of the driveway until my sons have their seatbelt on. Maybe I should think about making the home we live in a healthier place too. Seems like we paint at least one room per year.
What's the next choice you're going to make for your home? Is it time to start becoming aware of better, healthier choices or is it time to get beyond awareness and do something about them?
The first noticeable cool front dropped in this week prompting me to open my windows. The only problem is that I risk straining my back trying to open some of the older units, the ones that weren't replaced when we remodeled several years ago. They're old double-hungs that require Herculean strength to budge. I can almost hear them chuckling "here comes the girlie-mahn" as I stride over and then do battle to let the fresh air in.
For me it brings home the significance of universal design and features that are designed into products to make them easier to use, not just for geezers like myself but for everybody (the very definition of universal design).
Recently I saw that Milgard Windows & Doors developed a feature they call SmartTouch. On their windows it takes the form of a streamlined handle that makes it easy to lock and unlock the window. It's located right in front on the sash and alleviates the twisting motion needed on conventional window locks. In fact the Arthritis Foundation awarded the design with its Ease-of-Use Commendation.
This design also highlighted the fact that windows themselves have come a long way from the style of my old double-hungs. They incorporate a host of features and design innovations that make them both efficient, beautiful and easier to use.
If new windows are in your not-too-distant future, check out the features and innovations you should be aware of so that you won't have to battle your windows in 10 years.
How do you get your air conditioner to bring your home to a comfortable temperature just before you return from vacation? Or how do you know if your kids got home from school ok while you're still at work? Answer - with a smart home system.
Just as our cell phones have gone from brick-sized behemoths (remember those?) to sleek pocket-sized super-computers, home technology has evolved from 'dumb home' to 'smart home'. And there's no need to build a new home from scratch either. You can bring your existing abode into the 21st century with just a few upgrades.
The basic premise behind a smart home system is a network of "smart components". These components allow you to communicate with and control various systems in your home. You can control lighting, your heating and cooling or monitor what's going on using small video cameras. The beauty behind today's technology is that you can do this remotely from a device like your smart phone, a PC or tablet.
There are two ways to go about doing this - a DIY approach and the service provider route.
The DIY approach was recently brought to the fore with the introduction of the Iris system by the Lowes home improvement chain. Iris is a group of smart home products that you as a homeowner can install yourself. Doing it this way saves you labor charges of having someone do it for you. You then have a choice of staying with the basic setup or buying into a premium service for a monthly fee. The difference between the basic (free) and premium services is that you get a few more capabilities with the premium plan. The free route will still allow you to enjoy the essential benefits of whatever smart home system components you install.
A service provider system is one that's offered by a variety of companies such as Z-Wave by Verizon, Comcast, Prodigy, Vivant and ADT . The benefit of using a service provider is that you don't have to do any of the installation work. They'll do that for you but you'll have to pay for it. You can also opt for 24/7 monitoring, depending on the provider, to watch over your home and alert the proper authorities in the event of a break-in or fire. These kinds of services come with a monthly fee that's dependent on who you contract with and what's in your plan.
Don't overlook the conveniences and efficiency that a smart home system can offer your lifestyle. Remote accessibility through your smart phone or office PC provides the ability to monitor and control your home how and when you need to. It's one way to make your home work smarter, not harder.
Time for a quiz: what's the importance of U-factor in a new window? Is solar heat gain a big deal on north-facing windows in Quebec? Should you go with true divided lites or simulated divided lites?
Fortunately for most of our lives we don't need to know the answer to these questions. But if you're shopping for new windows it might be a good idea to get out your cheat sheet. Not so that you can pass the test but that you get the right windows (and also understand what the window dealer is talking about).
Window efficiency is an important subject because without it your house is uncomfortable and you pay higher energy bills. If you're not familiar with the important parts of a window you might be at a disadvantage when you have to choose which window is best for your situation.
What I find so intriguing about reclaimed wood is that it has a history. Some of it passes through time without a lot of notoriety, forming the walls of an old Midwest barn before it's salvaged into reclaimed flooring.
Other finds come with a bit more celebrity, like the recent batch from the airship hangar at Moffet Field. Regardless of whether you're into aviation lore or not this latest find from TerraMai is certainly a conversation starter.
Moffet Field is where Hangar One is located, one of most odd-looking airship hangars ever conceived. It was designed to house the USS Macon, a U.S. Navy zeppelin from the 1930s. The hangar still exists, now shared by NASA and the founders of Google to shelter their fleet of private jets. A recent renovation of this hangar is what turned up a cache of old growth redwood. The wood was part of the roof, hidden away until it was recently uncovered.
Redwood is a beautiful wood and old growth material is getting harder to find. The combination of these characteristics makes for some desirable lumber. Its aviation heritage makes it that much cooler. If those boards could only talk.
You can read more about TerraMai's reclaimed redwood at their website.
I once read somewhere that windows are the "eyes of a house". I'm not sure I fully understand the intent behind that statement but it sounds good nonetheless. In my simple mind I can at least make the connection that if the eyes make a significant impact on a person's appearance, the windows of a home can have the same result.
When it's time to choose new windows do you simply default to the type of window you're replacing? Or if you need completely new windows, either for an addition or a new home altogether, what style do you choose?
A lot of literature out there tends to lump window "types" and "styles" together to mean the same thing. I beg to differ. In my opinion one deals with functionality whereas the other involves appearance. Both have an impact on your home and understanding what's available can help you make good window decisions.
Maybe you're up to speed and know a tilt-and-turn from a hopper window and where/when each might be a good choice. However if you think jalousie is something you see on 'The Real Housewives of Orange County', the information on the window types and styles page might be for you.
If you ask several homeowners who want to remodel some part of their home but haven't yet done so what's holding them back you're likely to get a variety of answers. If there's any common answer it might be the lack of funds. That's not too hard to understand given the state of the global economy, limited credit and diminished (or negative) home equity.
Those are valid reasons and they're not solved overnight. But there's another roadblock that holds people back from making changes to their home and it's an insidious one. Insidious because the roadblock is of their own making. The solution is within their grasp but they don't know it.
The name of this dastardly hurdle? Inertia.
The dictionary defines inertia as a "tendency to do nothing or remain unchanged". It's also an uncanny description of my middle son's response when he's told to vacuum the upstairs but that's another story.
Inertia is what prevents us from taking the necessary steps to making that remodel happen. It's also called "life". We're stuck in our routines. We're creatures of habit and we tend to do the same things day in, day out, week after week. Who's got the time (or the energy) to think about collecting ideas, hiring a contractor or figuring out what products to choose? We're too busy.
Despite the seeming lack of time it's not that difficult to overcome. It simply takes a few nudges, in the form of some concrete actions aimed at getting the process rolling. And just like in the physical world, once it's in motion, it's easier to keep in motion than it is to stop.
How do you do that? What's the 'nudge'? It can be different things to different people but it usually means breaking out of your normal routine and actually scheduling in some time to take those first few steps.
"But I have no time" you say. Well actually, you do. You just don't realize it because it's disguised at "me" time or some other form of relaxation. If you really want that new kitchen, you might have to sacrifice the latest episode of "Mad Men".
Make the effort to block off some time in the coming month to plan for your remodel. Whether you use a paper calendar or some electronic scheduling device, schedule the time. Do it now.
Lack of cash will certainly prevent you from making the changes to your home that you've been wanting. But if that's not the issue, if you just can't seem to get started, you might be a victim of that dreaded inertia. I should know. I was a victim too.
If you need help on the required steps to get started you can use this remodeling roadmap. Once you start the process it gets easier. Then, before you know it, you've got that new kitchen or bathroom you've been pining for.
C'mon now. Get started.
It's not too often that I'm excited about a kitchen faucet. But every once in a while a product will turn my head, so to speak, and make me want to give it a shout-out.
That is what's happened with the Delta Fuse Faucet. It's a unique combination of metal and color and it's something you don't see too much of in the kitchen and bath fixture department.
Photo Courtesy of Delta Faucet
All too often we become conditioned to the way something should be or look based on everything similar that's preceded it. How long have kitchen faucets been metallic? Ages. That's probably why we'll continue to see more of the same for years to come.
But that's what I like about the Delta Fuse. The combination of color and stainless steel is a nice twist on a concept we typically take for granted (stainless-looking faucets that is). It's not a complete cannonball into the pool of change but rather a toe-dip, just enough to make it stand out.
The shape is appealing too. The graceful arching neck, slightly bulbous base and flaired handle conjure up images of swans in my head (. . . did I actually write that?). Yes, I actually mean that.
You can get a Fuse faucet in black, red or white. Or, if you prefer Delta parlance - "Cracked Pepper", "Chili Pepper" or "Snowflake White" respectively.
I can see a choice like this working well in any kitchen that dares to show off some color. In fact the recent issue of This Old House magazine showcases a home with red kitchen cabinets. The 'Chili Pepper' Fuse faucet would be right at home there. The black looks good too as a complement to the rest of the faucet's stainless steel. I'd like to see it paired with black granite or a dark soapstone countertop.
If your kitchen could use a spot of color or just a change from the all-stainless look, this faucet might do the trick. You can see more at the Delta website.