Blog Archive for June, 2014

Gather Around the Grill

Categories: Blog | Posted: June 26, 2014

Family Enjoying A Barbeque

The back yard used to be where you sent the kids to play, to get them out of the house. And there was the good, old reliable grill for barbecue season.

But today’s home dwellers live differently. Their homes reflect the new lifestyle of combining open spaces with functionality, and the need for entertaining. This trend is true indoors and out. Homebuilders recognize that the exterior living space is as important as the interior of the home. The outdoor kitchen, in particular, has become a popular feature with homebuyers.

An outdoor kitchen is more than a nice grill set-up. This space provides a fully functional workspace for preparing, cooking, and serving meals—from the simple cookout to more epicurean fare. Anything you can cook indoors can be moved to your outdoor kitchen, where you can enjoy the open-air experience.

From food storage to cooking to clean-up, your outdoor kitchen design could be customized to include a wide array of culinary appliances and resources:

  • Grill
  • Stovetop
  • Oven
  • Pizza oven
  • Refrigerator
  • Sink
  • Cabinets
  • Bar
  • Breakfast nook or counter
  • Firepit or fireplace with rotisserie

The main difference between the inside kitchen and its outside counterpart is that everything installed outdoors must stand up to tougher weather conditions, like extreme heat and cold. Appliances should be constructed of stainless steel, which not only stands up to the temperatures, but also resists rusting. Cabinets must be waterproof and resistant to rot. Countertops need to be more durable outside, with stone or brick as good choices.

Depending on where you live, you might want to extend the season for outdoor entertaining by adding a heat source. Enhance the style of your outdoor kitchen with weather-resistant light fixtures and even a television that is engineered for outside use. good choices.

The great outdoors has never been so great. Take a look at your back yard and start thinking about how you can get cooking out there!

Pet-friendly Landscaping: Keep Fido Healthy!

Categories: Blog | Posted: June 18, 2014

Every year, the ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) handles tens of thousands of calls from anxious people whose pets have come in contact with hazardous plants, insecticides, and weed killers. Poisoning can range from discomfort to death, so homeowners need to know what’s lurking in the great outdoors where your pet roams.

Dogs and cats are naturally curious creatures. Their highly developed sense of smell attracts them to fragrances we mere humans can’t sniff out. So, they’ll venture into plants, seek shade among the greenery, and nibble on places where bugs are dwelling.

Some of the beautiful flowers you love can cause a wide range of medical problems if your dog decides to snack on them. Hyacinth, narcissus, tulips, daffodils, iris, crocus, gladiolas, hydrangea, oleander, lily of the valley, foxglove, English ivy, dieffenbachia, and cyclamen should be avoided if you have a wandering pup. Rhododendron, azalea, and the sago palm are also toxic to dogs and cats. Bulbs can be toxic to digging dogs, so avoid them, too!

On the safe side, impatiens, columbine, begonia, primrose, coleus, and nasturtium can add beautiful color to your garden and landscape without adding dangerous poisons. Check out this list of pet-safe annuals and perennials.

Before planting anything where your pet might wander, check out VeterinaryPartner’s list of plants that are poisonous to your pet.

Also consider the mulch you spread in your garden. Cocoa mulch has the aroma of chocolate, which can be tempting to a dog. And, like any other chocolate consumption, the result could be vomiting and diarrhea, or far more serious. Instead of cocoa mulch, play it safe by using shredded pine, cedar, or hemlock bark.

Finally, remember that insecticides, pesticides, and plant food can be toxic for pets. The ASPCA suggest you avoid all rat poisons and any chemicals with the following ingredients: metaldehyde, methomyl, disyston, disulfoton, zinc phosphide.

Make your yard beautiful and safe for everyone in your family. Make sure everything you plant is pet-safe.

Cook Up a Gorgeous Kitchen

Categories: Blog | Posted: June 12, 2014


Your kitchen should be a reflection of both your taste and your cooking and dining style. And, because we’re talking “style” here, you need to pay attention to kitchen design trends so that your new kitchen incorporates all the latest features and conveniences.

One of the largest investments in your kitchen is the cabinetry. Whether you like the appearance of natural wood or prefer country white, sleek black, two-tone, or some other option, one of the current kitchen design trends is glass-front kitchen cabinets. People are using cabinets to display their pottery, dishes, serving pieces, and glassware.

Cabinets are also getting an interior makeover, with more cabinet manufacturers thinking about practicality. Pull-out trays, narrow spaces, and customized drawers are just a few of the current options that increase your cabinets’ efficiency.

For kitchen countertops, granite has been the rage for quite a few years, but quartz is on the rise. Quartz is an engineered stone (93% quartz and 7% polymer resin and pigments for bonding), which allows for a more uniform look. It has a natural appearance, exceptional durability, and a broad array of color choices.

Like everything else in today’s design trends, kitchen lighting is getting a fresh look. Sconces have become a popular choice, because they add a design feature as well as task lighting—shining light on specific workspaces. Also, stainless steel light fixtures accent the popular stainless steel appliances.

Next, backsplashes define the look of today’s kitchen. From subway tile to mosaics to marble slabs, the color, texture, and style of your backsplash adds a finishing touch to the room. Whether you want subtle or exciting, you can find your style in today’s choices.

Other kitchen design trends include the use of a gray color scheme, the concept of the “social kitchen” with more space for conversation and entertaining, and deeper, larger sinks. Here’s a great blog post from Design Confidential on more kitchen design trends.

Smart Garage Design

Categories: Blog | Posted: June 5, 2014


Many homeowners put a lot of stuff in their garage, when they should be putting thought in there. Smart garage design gives you more functional space. Other than a place to park your car, the garage seems to be the receptacle of your home’s leftovers—holiday decorations, seasonal clothes, memorabilia, and anything else that wouldn’t fit in a closet. Add to that the usual garage items—tools, sporting goods, bikes—and you can amass a mess.

By spending a little time doing smart garage design, you can make the most of this afterthought space. Remember, you have both horizontal and vertical storage space, so you have many options to organize the clutter residing on the floor. You can hang items from overhead hooks, or, if you have rafters, you can turn them into additional storage.

  1. Start by taking the measurements of the space and your vehicles.
  2. List the functions you want for your garage, like parking, storage, music studio, man cave, and workshop.
  3. Determine how much space you need for the large items, like the vehicles, lawnmower, and snowblower. Be sure to leave at least two feet around each vehicle to open the doors.
  4. Create zones in your garage, much like you do in a kitchen. Map out the functionality so that you have easy access to what you need. For example, create a workshop in one corner, with a pegboard on the wall, workbench, and tool chest. Designate a house storage area where you can install cabinets. Allocate a place for gardening tools.
  5. Plan a utility space where you can organize and store items like recycling, non-perishable food, small household tools (so careless hands aren’t digging through your tool chest for a screwdriver or hammer), hardware (picture hangers, screws, hooks), and tape (masking, duct, packing, electrical). Use shelves and pegboard to organize everything you need here. Put labels where you want items to be placed (which helps to determine when someone took off with a tool or the duct tape and didn’t return it).

Finally, don’t forget that your garage doesn’t just have to be utilitarian. Paint the walls and pegboard. Use flooring that is more interesting than run-of-the-mill gray, like stained concrete, garage floor tiles, epoxy coating, and even porcelain or hardwood tiles—or just paint the garage floor!

Your garage is part of your home. Make better use of the space with design and planning for garage organization.

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