Blog Archive for April, 2014

Wallpaper vs. Paint: Can they live in harmony?

Categories: Blog | Posted: April 23, 2014

blue & white interior design planning

The choice of wallpaper versus paint has always been a dilemma for homeowners. Just like dog lovers versus crazy cat people, one side is firm on their favorite.

The truth is that both wallpaper and paint have pros and cons, but you can leverage the benefits for creating the perfect atmosphere for a room. You don’t have to choose one or the other.

Wallpaper adds texture and pattern to a room, and it’s more durable than paint (as long as you buy good wallpaper). Be sure you pick a pattern that you can expect the to outlast the style trends. Wallpaper, however, is more expensive than paint and will probably require the services of a professional wallpaper hanger to avoid mistakes and waste.

Conversely, paint is less expensive and can be applied without the help of a professional. You also can achieve a wide range of textures and patterns using a variety of paint colors and types. It’s also very easy to paint over a painted surface when you want to make a quick change to a room’s decor, while painting over wallpaper is not recommended.

A house that is not totally committed to paint or wallpaper has a more inviting atmosphere. The blending of wallpaper’s patterns—from subtle to bold—in combination with the power of paint’s color ranges can live in harmony in a home. Whether you change your wallcovering choice from one room to the next or combine them in the same room, using accent walls, you can achieve the look of an interior designer’s touch.

Create Your Perfect Home Office

Categories: Blog | Posted: April 16, 2014

Man in home office using computer holding paperwork and smiling

Technology has made it easier for you to work from home, but how well has your home adjusted? Are you still using the kitchen table or trying to work in the middle of the living room’s distractions?

A well-planned home office gives you the right environment for productivity and organization, in an area to call your own. Here are a few home office design tips for creating a workable workspace.

1. Choose a quiet space.

A room with a door you can close is the ideal space for your home office, because you can separate yourself from the activity that doesn’t involve your job. If you don’t have a spare room to designate, consider a few other options, like apportioning part of your attic, basement, or garage, or converting a closet. You might also be able to steal space from a larger room. If you can’t add walls and a door, think about movable partitions, like a bookcase or privacy screen. Add carpeting inside and outside your office to cushion the noise.

2. Identify your power needs.

Before you start moving furniture, look to see where your outlets are. If you need to plug in equipment, add lights, or hook up to a phone or cable jack, plan it out first. Think about the equipment you need and where it should be. If your space will be more efficient by having someone run more lines, do it before you settle in.

3. Think about your work zone.

Do you roll around from a desk to a table to a file cabinet to the printer? Do you prefer to be encircled by your work zone? Try this, Sit down and envision your average workday. What do you reach for? Where would it be most convenient to locate that equipment? If you’re regularly accessing your printer, for example, don’t place it across the room where you have to keep getting up. And if you don’t keep hard copy files, use the file drawer in your desk for something that needs to be handier.

4. Create a relaxing ambience.

Your home office is a blend of both spaces—living and working. You don’t have to isolate work to a desk and chair. Incorporate design elements, like color, accessories, and innovative lighting. Bring in natural elements, like plants, which add oxygen to the room. Create an atmosphere that will give you a sense of calm, not frenzy, because you will be more focused.

5. Consider your office storage needs.

From office supplies to samples to files, you’ll need storage space in your office so you don’t pile everything on your desk. Determine what you will be storing and how often you access it in order to decide where it should be located. If you don’t need to take up space for certain files, books, or supplies, consider storing them in the garage or basement. Look for functional furniture like end tables and ottomans that also feature storage spaces. Consider mounting cabinetry on your walls or adding an attractive armoire.

6. Manage the climate.

Is your home office going to be located in a sunny area? Is it too sunny? Conversely, is it an easy space to heat in the chilly weather? Think about the climate and natural light in the room and how you can manage it by efficiently using window treatments, lighting, and flooring to stay comfortable.

7. Inspire yourself.

What gets you excited about work? What helps you focus? Be sure to integrate features that spark a more productive environment. Some people thrive with music, so installing a sound system is a good investment in productivity. Does color invigorate you? Bring it in. Hang quotes or images that ignite your passion.

Whether your office consists of an entire room or a nook, you’ll be spending a lot of hours in the space. Make sure you work in a space that is also working for you!

What you need to know about energy ratings for windows

Categories: Blog | Posted: April 9, 2014

fenêtre window

The windows in your home bring the beauty of your surroundings inside, but they might also be letting your energy dollars slip out. About 10% to 25% of your heating costs could be passing through your windows. In warm weather, your air conditioner is using more energy to chill the hot air streaming through your windows.

Maybe you’ve looked into energy-efficient windows and wondered if the expense—yes, it’s not cheap—is going to show a return on investment. An energy-efficient window—one that qualifies as ENERGY STAR-qualified—can range from $120 for a 36” x 72” window to about $1,000, or more.

Before you decide to commit to energy-efficient windows, here are some features and terms you should know:

  • Glazing is not a coating, but the number of layers of glass. Having more layers doesn’t necessarily mean more energy savings.
  • Low-E is an abbreviation for “low emissivity”, and refers to a coating that helps the window to absorb or reflect heat. This can be added later, applied as a film to existing windows.
  • Gas fill improves insulation by sandwiching argon or krypton gas between the layers (glazing), which adds to the insulation and heat transfer efficiency.
  • Spacers are separate sheets of glass that are used to increase a window’s insulation.
  • U-factor is the value of a window’s ability to conduct non-solar heat flow. A low U-factor means higher efficiency.
  • Air leakage measures how air moves around a window. A good, tight window will have a low air leakage rating.

When looking for energy-efficient windows, you need to pay attention to the frame materials as well as the glass inside. Vinyl is a popular choice because it’s a low-maintenance material that offers good insulation, but vinyl also reacts to temperature changes—contracting in cold and expanding in heat—which can allow leakage. Wood looks beautiful, but reacts much the same way as vinyl, and requires more maintenance. Fiberglass is more stable than vinyl and low-maintenance, but fiberglass windows will drive up your cost. Finally, aluminum is an option, but remember that is conducts heat, which could absorb energy savings.

Talk to your builder about your choices, and take into consideration where your house is, because certain features will work better, depending on the climate. Also, check out your federal tax credit for installing ENERGY STAR-qualified windows.

Is a pool a sink or swim investment?

Categories: Blog | Posted: April 3, 2014

Enfant nage sous l'eau


You’ve been thinking about adding a pool in your backyard, but can’t quite decide if the investment is a smart one.

You’re probably picturing those hot days, when you could be lounging in your pool or watching your kids, family, and friends enjoying it. Those are the emotional return on investment.

But what about the more practical one?

A pool might increase the value on your home—emphasis on “might”. From a resale value perspective, it could boost your home value if you live in a neighborhood or region where pools are common. Conversely, in these areas, your home’s value would actually decrease if your yard is one of the few without one.

You also have to have a yard that is large enough to accommodate the addition of a pool. If you’re squeezing it in, you dwarf the back yard space, which reduces the appeal to a possible buyer.

According to, your home value could increase about 7% by adding a pool. That number will also be influenced by the style, condition, and age of your pool. An attractive pool that has been well maintained is more appealing than one that has been unattended.

When weighing your decision, also consider factors like the cost of a safety fence, heating, and maintenance. Also, how will the addition of a pool affect your property taxes and home insurance?

Ultimately, the choice is whether the emotional return on investment of having the convenience of a pool in your yard will balance or outweigh the financial ones. As with any modification on your home, think about the long-term consideration.

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