The current trends are all about utilizing rich color, maximizing texture and creating comfortable interiors you can’t wait to relax in. Use these trends to get inspired to makeover your home’s interiors and create spaces you love that also appeal to your personal style. Remember, if you plan to sell in the next few years, you may want to avoid doing anything dramatic and instead incorporate small changes that would appeal to buyers. [Read more…]
Great curb appeal not only makes your home the star of the
neighborhood, it can also improve its value and help you sell
it for more. Whether you’re thinking of listing your home or
just want to make your home the envy of your neighbors,
here are several ways to increase your home’s curb appeal. [Read more…]
Have you ever been flipping through the channels, only to find yourself glued to the couch in an HGTV binge session? [Read more…]
Published: January 7, 2013
When you declutter your house, are you choking off your life energy or soothing your soul?
When it comes to decluttering your house, do you ever want to just throw in the towel (preferably on the floor) and stop trying so hard? Maybe a little clutter is a good thing.
After all, is life really better when we sort, color-code, and neatly stack everything in clearly labeled plastic bins? Or is an uncluttered life not worth living — antiseptic, alienated, a Stepford home that feels like nobody really lives there?
Clearly, mounting clutter stresses some folks. A UCLA study shows that cortisol (stress hormone) levels in women rise in sync with the amount of clutter in their homes.
Yet some people love their clutter and think a full house is akin to a full heart and an active brain. Lifestyle coach Jolanda Molenaar says that if you love the items around you, and you don’t feel overwhelmed, then clutter is a nonissue.
Teenagers, we know, seem happiest when sweaters and dirty dishes litter their bedroom floors. And when parents pick their battles, the clutter hill is not one many moms choose to die on.
Some adults hate clutter, but seem helpless to corral it. They turn to $150/hour professional organizers who crack the whip and force them to toss old photo albums and even the trophies that junior got for merely showing up to the pee-wee championship soccer tournament.
But I find that the more chaotic my insides, the more I must simplify and organize my outsides. Unfortunately, my clutter bug husband is the opposite; when he’s most stressed, clutter soothes him, like a security blanket of stuff.
If I get him to organize the garage, is that a fair compromise?
How about you? Are you a neat-freak or a clutter aficionado?
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We’ve got more than 9 mood-lifting ideas to make your home more welcoming and efficient this winter.
The dark days of winter can really do a number on your well-being. Shorter days trigger the blahs; freezing temps spark the sniffles. So we put together a list of ideas that’ll turn your home into a comfy haven.
Cozy and Clever Energy Savers
Here’s how to create a brighter and warmer home without using more energy or cranking up the thermostat.
1. Clean dirty light fixtures and dusty bulbs to make your home appear 30% brighter without turning on more lights.
2. Seal sneaky air leaks. It’s not just window and door leaks killing your cozy vibe. Don’t forget to plug stealthy gaps around recessed lights, electrical boxes, and wall outlets. Use a lit incense stick or scented candle to hunt down drafty spots while leaving behind a cozy scent.
3. Replace your traditional gas or wood fireplace. Why? Both suck out heated indoor air and send it up the chimney. A gel fireplace insert is an eco-friendly option that produces a burning fire without gas, wood, electricity, or even a chimney. It’s also smoke-free and emits fewer allergens than a wood fireplace; some options crackle like the real thing. A basic model costs between $100 to $210; custom models go up exponentially from there. A case of gel fuel comes with 12 cans that burn for three hours each (about $35).
Tip: Use a slow cooker to infuse your home with a warm and cozy aroma. Even better, slow cookers are more energy efficient than electric ovens, typically using less energy than a light bulb.
You’ll feel coziest in a healthy indoor environment that keeps allergies at bay and reduces your chances of getting sick.
4. Get plants. Some indoor plants, like golden pothos and gerbera daisies, are particularly adept at sucking up nasty VOCs — the vapors emitted from household cleaners, paints, and dry cleaning. And since plants increase humidity levels, they help decrease household dust.
5. Vacuum while your thermostat is set to “fan on.” This helps filter dust that gets kicked-up while cleaning. Just leave the fan on for about 15 minutes after you finish vacuuming and switch it back to “auto” afterward. HVAC blowers aren’t intended to run all the time.
6. Change your HVAC filter every couple months (monthly if you have pets) to prevent excess dust from circulating.
Tip: Combat superbugs with copper. If you’re planning to upgrade your kitchen or bathroom fixtures, consider classic and homey-looking copper or a copper alloy like brass. A three-hospital study in 2011 found that bacteria can only survive on copper for a few minutes, but germs can live on stainless steel for weeks.
Lack of natural light can trigger a mean case of the winter doldrums — or worse, mood-altering seasonal affective disorder. Maximize daylight and make rooms feel warmer by adding the following to your yearly fall maintenance checklist.
7. Make your windows pane-fully clear. Clean glass not only lets more natural light into your home, it’s a feel-good task, according to a survey by the American Clean Institute. When ACI asked consumers what clean surfaces make them happy, “gleaming windows” made the top five above a “spotless sink.”
8. Ditch your window screens in the fall and winter. They trap dirt and can make your home appear darker inside and out. It’s a good curb appeal booster, too.
9. Add an interior window to a room next to a sun-drenched space to take advantage of natural light.
Tip: Paint chilly rooms, especially north-facing walls that don’t typically get sunlight, in reds, oranges, or yellows — cozy colors that can actually help the room feel warmer, according to a Michigan State University study.
Related: Save Energy and Feel Better with Daylighting
Paint has remodeling power when you use it to emphasize a room’s best features or play down the flaws.
“Paint is a powerful tool that can enhance the architectural character and intent of space,” says Minneapolis architect Petra Schwartze of TEA2 Architects. “As you choose your paint, think about what the experience in the room should be.”
More Schwartze advice:
- Always sample paint colors on a few walls. Don’t be shy about painting a few large swaths on walls and trim to consider the effect of natural and artificial lighting. Add samples to opposite sides of a room to judge the paint color from different angles.
- Check the space with the samples in place and watch how the paint color changes at different times of the day.
- Evaluate your reaction to the proposed colors: Does the space feel cozy or is the openness enhanced?
How to enlarge space with color
Painting walls white, cream, pastels, or cool colors (tinged with blue or green) creates the illusion of more space by reflecting light. Paint trim similar to walls (or use white on trim) to ensure a seamless appearance that visually expands space.
White or light colors lift a ceiling; darker shades can have a similar effect if you select a high-gloss paint sheen, which reflects light and enhances space.
Employ a monochromatic scheme to amplify the dimensions of a room. Select furnishings in one color and paint walls and trim to match. Lack of contrast makes a room seem more spacious.
Make walls appear taller by extending wall color onto the ceiling. Create a 6- to 12-inch-wide border of wall color on the entire ceiling perimeter, or wherever walls meet the ceiling.
Vertical and horizontal stripes of alternating color can make a room grand. While vertical stripes enhance room height by drawing the eye upward, horizontal stripes lure your gaze around the perimeter, making walls seem further away. Use similar light colors for low-contrast stripes, and your room will look even larger.
When a space feels cavernous, draw walls inward and make it cozy with warm colors (red-tinged) because darker hues absorb light. Similarly, a dark or warm color overhead (in a flat finish) helps make rooms with high or vaulted ceilings less voluminous.
Give peace a chance
The right paint choice can lend tranquility to a bathroom, master suite, or other quiet, personal space. A palette of soft, understated color or muted tones help you instill a calming atmosphere. Some good choices include pale lavenders, light grays or greens, and wispy blues.
Define your assets
Call out notable features in a room with paint. Dress crown mouldings and other trims in white to make them pop against walls with color. Make a fireplace or other feature a focal point by painting it a color that contrasts with walls.
“Using a higher sheen of paint on woodwork, such as baseboards and door or window casings,” says Schwartze, “creates a crisp edge and clear transition from the wall to the trim.”
Not everything should stand out in a space. Using a low-contrast palette is a good way to hide unappealing elements or flaws. Conduit, radiators, and other components painted the same color as the wall will seem to disappear.
Selecting low-sheen or flat paint colors also helps hide flaws. Unless walls are smooth, avoid using high-gloss paint because it reflects light and calls attention to an uneven surface.
What’s the cost?
As a DIY job, painting a 12-by-12-ft. space costs about $150, including paint, primer, brushes, drop cloths, and other painting tools and supplies. A professionally painted room using high-quality, brand-name paint costs $200-$400.
Incorporating universal design into your new bathroom guarantees access for everyone and saves money in the long run.
Deciding to add universal design
As smart as universal design is, it can be a tough sell. Ninety-five percent of home builders report that buyers aged 55 or older can be resistant to purchasing a home with universal design features, according to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB). That’s interesting when you consider that two-thirds of those buyers also say they plan to stay in their own homes after retirement.
There are two reasons for this disconnect, says remodeler Dan Bawden of Houston, founder of the NAHB’s Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist (CAPS) program. First, buyers don’t like to face the prospect of getting older. Second, there’s the notion that a universal design bathroom will look institutional, like a hospital facility.
Los Angeles bathroom designer Sarah Barnard battles both these misperceptions frequently. “No one ever asks me for universal design features up front,” Barnard says, “but I recommend them to every single person I consult, even if they’re 25 years old.
“It’s funny—the closer people are to retirement, the less they want universal design. They say, we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. I tell them, even if you’re perfectly healthy and able-bodied right now, if you have an accident or develop a health problem, the last thing you’re going to want to deal with is a three-month remodeling project to retrofit your bathroom.”
Most important, contemporary universal design features are aesthetically pleasing, even hip. “A bathroom with universal design does not have to be ugly!” Barnard says. “In fact, a well-designed accessible space can be spa-like and luxurious. There are attractive high-end finishes out there, such as luxurious grab bars with beaded escutcheons. They’re not like the grab bars in public restrooms.”
If you’re thinking about adding universal design features, consider consulting a CAPS-certified contractor. CAPS builders are trained specifically on which building features accommodate certain disabilities.
Most universal design features are simply modifications of products and design specifications that you would consider for any bathroom space.
Wider doors. A 30- or 32-inch-wide interior door is considered standard, but universal access requires 32 inches of clear space when the door is open, which usually means specifying a 36-inch-wide door. Expect to pay $20 to $30 more for a 36-inch-wide door over the cost of a 32-inch door.
Be sure to check how much space a larger door requires when it swings open. Bathroom doors should swing outward.
Grab bars for shower, tub, and toilet. Bawden recommends covering the framing of the entire tub, shower, and toilet surround with ½-inch pressure-treated plywood so that you can install grab bars anywhere on the wall, either immediately or at any time in the future.
Adding the plywood costs about $250 for labor and materials per area; grab bars cost from $50 to $300, depending on the quality of the finish. Expect to pay $50 to $100 per grab bar for labor.
If you have restricted mobility, consult a CAPS-certified builder about how many grab bars you need, what sizes they should be, and where they should be located. Because different health issues require different bar placements, it isn’t a good idea to add more than one bar now if you’re healthy.
A curbless shower. These showers have no lip at the floor and can be accessed by those using a wheelchair or other mobility device. The floor slopes down toward the drain; a swing-out door or a shower curtain keeps water contained. From a design standpoint, the minimalist lines fit seamlessly into a contemporary spa-style bathroom.
A curbless shower requires that the shower pan or drain be slightly lower than the surrounding flooring. Typically, your building contractor lowers the shower floor area by trimming the tops of the floor joists (and strengthening them if necessary), then installing a concrete shower floor (for tile) or a curbless shower pan.
Installing a curbless shower costs about the same as installing a “regular” fully tiled shower stall. However, expect to pay an additional $200 to $300 in labor for modifying floor joists.
Lever-style door handles and faucets. Lever-type handles are easier to use than twist-type knobs or handles, and they’re especially convenient for those with arthritis or with limited dexterity in their hands. They’re available in as many styles and finishes as other faucets and handles, at comparable prices.
Hand-held shower. These versatile shower heads attach to a flexible hose that makes them easy to use while sitting. “I convince people to consider these because they’re great for cleaning the tub or shower,” Bawden says. “Plus they have a ‘trickle’ or ‘pause’ setting that allows you to shave or wash your hair without wasting water.” Hand-held units are no more expensive than fixed shower heads.
A shower bench. “A triangular bench in the corner of a shower has multiple uses,” Bawden says. “If you need to sit in the shower, you can, but the able-bodied can use it to store stuff or balance while shaving.”
Choosing an acrylic shower surround with a built-in bench costs no more than a plain stall, and adding a built-in corner bench to a tiled shower costs around $150 extra. A folding, waterproof shower seat that attaches to the wall costs $150-$500.
Tall toilets with no-slam seats and lids. “I put these in every bathroom unless the bathroom is for small children,” Bawden says. “People love them; they’re easier to sit on and more comfortable.” Test-drive one in a showroom to see if you agree; tall toilets are 16 to 18 inches high compared with the standard 14 or 15 inches. Additional cost for a tall toilet is minimal, around $50 more for comparable styles.
Wall-mounted sinks. To provide space beneath a bathroom lavatory for wheelchairs or other mobility devices, consider a wall-mounted sink. Wall-mounted sinks have no vanity cabinet or supporting legs underneath, yet they’re designed for strength and durability. Depending on the style, some have shrouds that conceal drain traps and water supply tubes under the sink. Expect to pay $200 to $1,000 and up.
If cabinets are desired, mounting them at least 9 inches off the floor allows room for a wheelchair footrest to pass underneath.
Wheelchair clearance. Wheelchair-accessible bathroom dimensions require clear space of at least 5 feet (60 inches) in diameter to allow a 180-degree turn. If space is at a premium, consider keeping the room open rather than compartmentalizing the toilet so that a wheelchair’s turning radius can be accommodated.
Here’s how to get the bathroom of your dreams without making your budget a nightmare.
A mid-range bathroom remodel is a solid investment, according to Remodeling magazine’s annual Cost vs. Value Report. An average bath remodel of $15,782 will recoup about 65.2% of those costs when it’s time to sell your home, and a more extensive $50,000 job returns about 58%. In addition, you can maximize the value of your investment by using these smart strategies, which will create a stylish yet budget-friendly bathroom.
1. Stick to a plan
A bathroom remodel is no place for improvisation. Before ripping out the first tile, think hard about how you will use the space, what materials and fixtures you want, and how much you’re willing to spend.
The National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA) recommends spending up to six months evaluating and planning before beginning work. That way, you have a roadmap that will guide decisions, even the ones made under remodeling stress. Once work has begun—a process that averages 2 to 3 months—resist changing your mind. Work stoppages and alterations add costs. Some contractors include clauses in their contracts that specify premium prices for changing original plans.
If planning isn’t your strong suit, hire a designer. In addition to adding style and efficiency, a professional designer makes sure contractors and installers are scheduled in an orderly fashion. A pro charges $100 to $200 per hour, and spends 10 to 30 hours on a bathroom project.
2. Keep the same footprint
You can afford that Italian tile you love if you can live with the total square footage you already have.
Keeping the same footprint, and locating new plumbing fixtures near existing plumbing pipes, saves demolition and reconstruction dollars. You’ll also cut down on the dust and debris that make remodeling so hard to live with.
Make the most of the space you have. Glass doors on showers and tubs open up the area. A pedestal sink takes up less room than a vanity. If you miss the storage, replace a mirror with a deep medicine cabinet.
3. Make lighting a priority
Multiple shower heads and radiant heat floors are fabulous adds to a bathroom remodel. But few items make a bathroom more satisfying than lighting designed for everyday grooming. You can install lighting for a fraction of the cost of pricier amenities.
Well-designed bathroom task lighting surrounds vanity mirrors and eliminates shadows on faces: You look better already. The scheme includes two ceiling- or soffit-mounted fixtures with 60 to 75 watts each, and side fixtures or sconces providing at least 150 watts each, distributed vertically across 24 inches (to account for people of various heights). Four-bulb lighting fixtures work well for side lighting.
4. Clear the air
Bathroom ventilation systems may be out of sight, but they shouldn’t be out of mind during a bathroom remodel.
Bathroom ventilation is essential for removing excess humidity that fogs mirrors, makes bathroom floors slippery, and contributes to the growth of mildew and mold. Controlling mold and humidity is especially important for maintaining healthy indoor air quality and protecting the value of your home—mold remediation is expensive, and excess humidity can damage cabinets and painted finishes.
A bathroom vent and water closet fan should exhaust air to the outside—not simply to the space between ceiling joists. Better models have whisper-quiet exhaust fans and humidity-controlled switches that activate when a sensor detects excess moisture in the air.
5. Think storage
Bathroom storage is a challenge: By the time you’ve installed the toilet, shower, and sink, there’s often little space left to store towels, toilet paper, and hair and body products. Here are some ways to find storage in hidden places.
- Think vertically: Upper wall space in a bathroom is often underused. Freestanding, multi-tiered shelf units designed to fit over toilet tanks turn unused wall area into found storage. Spaces between wall studs create attractive and useful niches for holding soaps and toiletries. Install shelves over towel bars to use blank wall space.
- Think moveable: Inexpensive woven baskets set on the floor are stylish towel holders. A floor-stand coat rack holds wet towels, bath robes, and clothes.
- Think utility: Adding a slide-out tray to vanity cabinet compartments provides full access to stored items and prevents lesser-used items from being lost or forgotten.
6. Contribute sweat equity
Shave labor costs by doing some work yourself. Tell your contractor which projects you’ll handle, so there are no misunderstandings later.
Some easy DIY projects:
- Install window and baseboard trim; save $250.
- Paint walls and trim, 200 sq.ft.; save $200.
- Install toilet; save $150.
- Install towel bars and shelves; save $20 each.
7. Choose low-cost design for high visual impact
A “soft scheme” adds visual zest to your bathroom, but doesn’t create a one-of-a-kind look that might scare away future buyers.
Soft schemes employ neutral colors for permanent fixtures and surfaces, then add pizzazz with items that are easily changed, such as shower curtains, window treatments, towels, throw rugs, and wall colors. These relatively low-cost decorative touches provide tons of personality but are easy to redo whenever you want.
As the spring gardening season kicks off, the Chicago Sustainable Backyards Program is excited to announce the launch of an exciting new and convenient website for the program. The new site centralizes resources that will help Chicagoans create environmentally beneficial landscapes throughout the city.
The Chicago Sustainable Backyards Program offers City of Chicago residents information and rebates of up to 50% on purchases of sustainable backyard improvements, including
• Trees (up to $100 back)
• Native Plants (up to $60 back)
• Compost Bins (up to $50 back)
• Rain Barrels (up to $40 back)
More info at: www.sustainablebackyards.org
Excited about designing your first flower garden? Calm down before you make these 5 rookie mistakes.
Nick Statton of Monrovia plant sellers says beginners don’t ask enough questions or read planting labels. The cure? Don’t be shy about bugging your local plant growers with basic inquiries — they’re there to help!
George Pisegna of The Horticultural Society of New York says newbies don’t know enough about their soil. Get smart by testing your soil.
What other mistakes do first-time gardeners make when designing and planting their flower gardens?
Mistake 1: Disregarding the sun
Do you know how many hours of full sun your garden gets each day in each season?
If you can delay gratification, study your yard over a year before designing a garden. See how long the sun shines in the fall, spring, and summer. Read planting labels to determine how much sun a particular plant needs.
Sun-loving plants, such as roses, need at least 6 hours of sun a day; partial sun/shade plants need 4 to 6 hours; and shade plants need little or dappled sunlight: more sun can burn their leaves.
Mistake 2: Failing to consider color
It doesn’t matter what color story you tell, just make sure you know the story before you plant. Here are some ideas:
- Pull out your color wheel and find plants with complementary colors, such as yellow coreopsis with violet salvia.
- Monochromatic gardens are stunners. Dot your one-color story with whites (daisies) and greens (hostas), considered neutrals in the garden world.
- If you want to attract birds, add plants with vivid colors. Hummingbirds like reds, and goldfinches fly to yellows.
- Pick blooms that contrast with the exterior paint color of your house, so plants will stand out and add to your curb appeal.
Mistake 3: Over-planting
When it comes to perennials, remember this rule: First year they sleep; second year they creep; third year they leap. Be sure to leave 2-3 feet between plants, giving them room to breathe and space to grow.
Mistake 4: Favoring lines over bunches
Tulips look like lonely soldiers when planted in lines. Instead, arrange bulbs and plants in more natural-looking, odd-numbered clusters of 3, 5, 7, and so on.
Mistake 5: Forgetting that size matters
Check labels for mature plant heights. Tallest go in back; medium in the middle; shortest in front. And don’t forget to install a focal point, like an ornamental tree or fountain.