Categories: Blog | Posted: August 28, 2014
5 kitchen must-haves
The kitchen has become the social center of the home. Cooking has become more of a family affair, not just one cook, and as it evolved, there are more elements that are kitchen necessities for today’s homeowners. Here are 5 kitchen must-haves:
- Kitchen Island—The bigger, the better. The kitchen island functions as additional storage, food prep, and cooking space. With built-in cabinetry, work area, cooktop, sink, and/or microwave, the kitchen island functions as a central workspace, as well as a gathering spot. Whether your island has a dining area or just a place to set out appetizers, this free-standing unit reflects the social function of today’s kitchen.
- Induction cooktop—Energy efficiency is what’s cooking. The magnetic induction cooktop is 90% more efficient at converting energy into heat. It heats up quickly, like gas, but more safely—no fumes or vapors, fire risk, or environmental hazard.
- Creative cabinetry—Divide and conquer. With more “stuff”—gadgets and specialty cookware—finding their way into the kitchen, the cabinet space needs better organization. The pull-out spice cabinet or trash can, built-in drawer organizers, pegged dish drawers, and pull-out shelves raised the bar on kitchen organization.
- Hands-free faucet—The smart touch. When you’re up to your wrists in sauce, batter, dough, raw chicken, or other messy kitchen creations, wouldn’t it be nice to turn on your kitchen faucet without having to grab the handle? Smart touch technology lets you tap the faucet—with the back of your hand, your wrist, elbow, or other available body part—to turn the water on and off.
- Warming drawer—Timing is everything. One of the biggest challenges of a cook is to prepare a meal so that every course is ready at the same time. That can be difficult when you have limited oven space or under-estimated the cooking time. With a warming drawer, you have a convenient place to stash your culinary delights until every dish is ready to serve.
Cooking doesn’t have to be stressful. If you consider the different functions for your kitchen, you can easily outfit it to make it organized and fun!
Categories: Blog | Posted: August 21, 2014
A bright idea for your bathroom: Layer the lighting
As bathrooms have evolved from basic functionality to a spa-like quality, lighting has become a key design feature. Manufacturers of bathroom light fixtures have stepped up with a plethora of bright ideas.
Homeowners are looking for sunnier brightness in their bathrooms, but they also want the sense of calm when relaxing in the tub. Layering the lighting in your bathroom creates a pleasant blend of light and shadow, with enough brightness for the task, but adding the softer lighting where you want it.
Dimmers give you the power to control the intensity of the light, but don’t stop after installing these switches. You can also create the ambience you desire with the right choice of bathroom light fixtures that utilize the four types of light to include in your bathroom:
- Task lighting—First and foremost, plan for lighting the necessary chores that require good visibility, like shaving and putting on makeup. A pendant or canister light over the vanity’s mirror can be complemented by sconces on both sides, to give you the best cross lighting.
- Ambient lighting—Natural light streaming in the through windows and skylights is a softer light that lessens shadows. If you don’t have these sources in your bathroom, you can fabricate the effect by bouncing light off the ceiling.
- Accent lighting—Just as in any other room of the house, your bathroom can benefit from accent lighting to bring focus to specific details, like wall art of decorative tile.
- Decorative lighting—Lighting designer Randall Whitehead refers to this as “architectural jewelry”. A chandelier over the tub or in the center of the bathroom used to be unheard of, but is now a common trend in bathroom lighting.
When designing your bathroom lighting, look at this room as any other. Blend décor with functionality to achieve the style that carries throughout your home.
Categories: Blog | Posted: August 14, 2014
The care and feeding of your HVAC: Preventative maintenance checklist
The heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system is an unsung hero in your home, keeping the interior climate comfortable. As long as it does this job, you tend to ignore it. When it fails, you can have an expensive repair bill on your hands.
By taking care of some basic preventative maintenance, you can keep your HVAC system running better, longer. Plan to have an HVAC professional come in twice a year—spring and fall is best—to clean and check your system. ENERGY STAR recommends the following:
- Check the thermostat settings. Make sure the temperature is set for a comfortable level without wasting energy.
- Tighten electrical connections. Faulty connections can range from reducing the life of a major component to creating a safety risk in your home.
- Lubricate moving parts. Reducing the friction in the motors also improves the energy efficiency.
- Inspect the condensate drain. A clogged drain in the central air conditioning system, furnace, and/or heat pump can lead to water damage and affect the humidity in the home.
- Check the system controls. The start and shut-off should be working properly for safe operation.
- Clean the central air conditioner’s evaporator and coils. When debris builds up, your system has to work harder, which will increase the energy use.
- Check the refrigerant level. Keeping the air conditioner’s refrigerant at the proper level improves the efficiency of the system.
- Clean and adjust the blower. Proper airflow is essential for comfort and efficiency. Blockage can cut the efficiency by up to 15 percent.
- Check the gas/oil connections, pressure, burner combustion, and heat exchanger. Reduce the fire hazard and increase the efficiency by ensuring the your heating system is in good shape.
- Inspect air filters. You can handle this step on your own. Every month, check the filters in your central air conditioner, furnace, and/or heat pump, and replace any that have gathered dust and dirt, which reduces the quality of the air in your home.
By taking care of this checklist, you can avoid many of the health and safety risks that arise from faulty HVAC.
Categories: Blog | Posted: August 7, 2014
Do you drive up to your home and wish there was greater curb appeal? Well, it doesn’t take a professional landscaper or designer to improve the exterior look of your home. Here are some quick tips to improve your home’s curb appeal.
- Brush up on color. There’s nothing like a fresh coat of paint to perk up the exterior of your home! If you don’t want to commit to the entire exterior, consider repainting the trim.
- Show them the door. Highlight your front door with a splash of eye-catching color, new hardware, a decorative wreath, and a new set of house numbers.
- Make an entrance. Create a more inviting entryway by adding colorful pots or topiaries on each side of your front door. Then highlight your doorway with new outdoor sconces.
- Lighten up. Add exterior lighting along your front walk, in the gardens, and on the trees. If you don’t want to invest in electrical wiring, choose solar lights, which are available in a broad array of styles.
- Contain yourself. Container gardens are low maintenance and can fill in dull spaces with splashes of color—from the plantings to the pots themselves.
- Mail it in. If your mailbox is about as exciting as your junk mail, do a makeover. Update or upgrade the mailbox and add some plantings around the post.
- Wake up your beds. Stand on your sidewalk and take stock of your gardens. Replace the withered and dead plants with more vibrant flowers, shrubs, foliage, and new mulch.
- Get the edge. Define your landscaping with new pavers or edging for a simple fix for your curb appeal.
- Start with art. Accent your great outdoors with yard art. A birdbath, fountain, sundial, ceramics, or sculpture will add interest without effort.
- Get out of the gutter. If your gutters are looking worn, replace them and give your home a refreshed look.
- Define the drive. Your driveway takes a beating and can detract from the beauty of your home. Have it resealed, stain the concrete, or add stonework (brick, pavers, or stone).
- Pave the way. A nicely defined walkway creates a statement and boosts your curb appeal without draining your budget.
If you’re still at a loss for looks, take a drive and check out homes with curb appeal. Then ask yourself what caught your eye, and duplicate the accent in your own yard.