Preparing Your Fireplace for the Cooler Months

On chilly fall mornings, there’s nothing quite like curling up in front of the fireplace with a hot cup of coffee or tea. Here are some tips to make sure your fireplace is ready before the cool, damp mornings of autumn set in.

Clean the fireplace

For traditional wood-burning stoves, the National Fire Protection Association recommends that chimneys be professionally swept at least once a year to remove soot and debris. Fall’s a good time to thoroughly clean the fireplace box, chop kindling and make sure you have enough dry wood to last a season.

Natural gas or propane fireplaces still need to be cleaned, as dust and cobwebs can collect.

Turn off the gas

Turn the gas off at both the pilot light and at the gas shut-off valve. Visibly check that the pilot light is off and make sure the fireplace is also completely cool. Additionally, if you suspect a gas leak, call a professional immediately.

Dismantle the fireplace

This includes removing the glass front (if applicable) and the logs. Pro Tip: Take a photo of the logs before disassembly so you know how to reinsert them after cleaning is complete.

Clean the fireplace of debris

Use the hose attachment of your shop-vac or vacuum cleaner to clean the interior of your fireplace of cobwebs and dirt.

Bust the dust

Clean dusty logs with a brush, such as a paintbrush or a toothbrush, and wipe them down with a dry cloth. Next, clean the glass cover with glass cleaner, and then clean the exterior of the frame with warm, soapy water.

Reassemble the fireplace

Using the picture you took earlier as a guide, place the logs back into the fireplace. Remember, these need to be placed exactly as they were for proper functionality and to reduce carbon monoxide poisoning.

Check detectors and fire extinguishers

Now is an ideal time to make sure your carbon monoxide and fire detectors are in good working order. Also, make sure your fire extinguishers are charged and are easily located should you need them.

Design with a Focal Point in Mind

Any designs you create cease to exist without a definitive “focal point.”

But what is a focal point, and why is it so important in design functions? Based on the Gestalt principle, a focal point or emphasis works as the star of the room. It captures the attention of the viewer and accentuates the surroundings.

The use of “focal points” is common across all fields of design, including architecture, interiors, fashion apparel, digital transformation and even in paintings. Although overtly used, focal points are inexplicable for layman’s eye or perception. We, as humans, tend to see a picture in its unified form, where similar patterns and elements are grouped together.

Typically, natural focal points in interior design include windows, doors and fireplaces. But what if your room doesn’t have one? Look at the space as an empty canvas, and create your own focal points by:

  • Accentuating one of the walls
  • Adding artwork
  • Including showstopper furniture piece
  • Using backsplashes in your kitchen

How to Create a Focal Point in Your Room

Creating a focal point doesn’t imply decorating each nook and corner of the room but needs concentration on a single feature to grab attention. Here are some tips for creating a focal point in any living space:

Emphasize the Interiors

Stay budget-friendly by using the already existing elements, such as walls, windows and doors, to create a focal point. Some common ideas are to drape windows, accentuate it with bold artifacts, or texture the walls and ornate them with wall frames and hangings.

Custom-Design Room Décor

If you find natural focal points boring, then create your own with movable, custom-made structures. Look for a patterned partition, false ceiling or an eye-catching centerpiece to create an alluring point of focus.

Reinvent Your Lighting Set-Up

For extra attention, reset your lighting system, but keep the colors and patterns to a minimum. You can even re-establish the aura of your room with proper lighting that also enhances the interior.

Creating a Focal Point in Minimalistic Bathroom

When you first enter your bathroom, it shouldn’t be the mess on the sink that catches your attention. It should be of the design elements. For most of us, the aesthetics of the bathroom are as important as any other room; thus, we believe in creating masterpieces.

Tiled or Textured Walls

Tiles add architectural interest by giving character and depth to your bathroom. You can find a variety of options today, including different textures, materials and appearance. You can be as creative as you want to be.

Trendy Vanity

A bathroom vanity is one of the most purposeful spaces in the bathroom. It’s easy storage for bathroom essentials. But with the right design, it can add visual appeal. However, using vanity as a focal point requires careful planning so that other elements, such as tapware and benchtop, must complement it.

Standalone Bathtubs

A freestanding bathtub can be a head-turner element in your bathroom if you amplify it with the right décor. When using standalone bathtubs, leave ample space around for easy cleaning and maintenance.

Funky Mirrors

Bold, tall mirrors are the latest fads in the bathroom interiors. Accentuate them with funky frames and warm lights for a style statement. However, consider its width, height and proportions when using it as the centerpiece for attraction.

Creating a Focal Point in Modernistic Kitchens

Do you check out the latest kitchen interiors in lifestyle magazines and feel inspired and depressed at the same time?

Watching DIY renovation shows augments your search for home improvement. Here, we have ideas to establish eye-catching, head-turning focal points in your kitchen.

Contrasting Colors

Use bold splashes of colors, such as bright red and yellow hues. Did you know colors have dramatic effects on hunger? So why not accessorize your kitchen with bright colors and make it a homey spot for reunions at dinnertimes when the whole family enjoys a hearty meal?

Wall Décor

They can be crazy and expensive, but you can make it budget-friendly, with monochromatic paint accentuated with a vibrant wall hanging or maybe spoon-holders. Such a setup works well in minimalistic designs where a single element works as a focal point.

Upgrade Pantry

Your pantry is storage for your kitchen essentials, but in modernistic designing, well-organized pantries and cabinets can create visual interests. Showing off the contents of your storage space creates an illusion of a wider and bigger kitchen.

Can You Have More than One Focal Point in a Single Living Space?

The idea of having a singular focal point is a myth. Our living spaces have multiple features and functions that can accentuate the overall look. Thus, having multiple focal points in a single room makes sense.

Stacking all elements on a single wall or corner will create a lopsided image; therefore, you should evenly distribute the focal points for a balanced design. Have you ever heard of the Rule of Three?

Although there is no restriction on the number of focal points that a room can have, stick to three when feeling less confident with your interior design skills. But if it’s a small room, two focal points are your safest bet.

When having multiple focal points, set one to be the most dominant to establish a sense of visual structure. A logical flow in your design declutters the space and creates harmony while adding a dramatic look with multiple accentuated focal points. Typically, a dominant focal point is one that you see first as you enter the space—it could be a wall, window, fireplace or even the furniture.

Finding a focal point is highly important to prevent a chaotic look. Our tips will guide you in finding and designing an attention-grabbing point of focus that will stand out from other elements and functions of the room.

Are you ready to remodel? If you’d like to discuss how we can help you create a beautiful kitchen or master bath, contact us.

The Home Office Re-Imagined

2020 has changed so many things, especially how and where we work. Before this year, many of us only conducted a few hours of business a week at home. We answered emails on our smartphones or did a little work on the laptop while sitting on the couch or at the kitchen island.

McKinsey recently wrote, “…estimates suggest that early this April, 62 percent of employed Americans worked at home during the crisis, compared to about 25 percent a couple of years ago.”

With the shift in how and where we work, a new emphasis on the home office has emerged. Trying to get solid hours of work into a day sitting at the kitchen table simply doesn’t fit our needs anymore. We want a place in the home that limits the distractions and is more comfortable.

If you are considering renovating your home to accommodate a home office, here are our suggested four steps.

Step 1: Define your needs.

Before you look at pretty home office pictures on Pinterest or buy a desk, the first step for any home renovation project is to define your needs. Recognize that your needs will be different than those of your neighbors and friends, so to get to the heart of defining your home office needs, ask yourself, “What do you need the space to do?”

Every professional has a different style of working and has different needs. If you are a consultant, for example, you may need space for files or a door to close for video meetings or recording audio. Graphic artists may need additional space to spread out; others may need a larger desk to house two large monitors for research or to see large spreadsheets.

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Step 2: Find a space.

Here are a few options for finding the space you need for a home office.

Option #1: Under-utilized space. Look for under-utilized spaces that can be transformed into a dedicated home office. This will help reduce the number of distractions and increase your overall productivity. Formal dining rooms can be renovated into functional office environments quite easily simply by shifting the way you use the space, as some dining tables make excellent (and spacious) desks.

Take this space to the next level by adding built-in shelves, additional lighting and outlets. A door (or wall, depending on the layout of the space) will certainly increase privacy and reduce noise.

Spare bedrooms are often another under-utilized space that can be transformed. You can switch out the guest bed that is only used a few times a year for a Murphy bed with shelves. Give your office additional storage functionality, and just like with the dining room scenario, remodeling will create a more efficient space.

Option #2: Smaller spaces. If your home doesn’t have a larger space that can be renovated into a home office, smaller spaceswork, too. Desks can be set up behind bi-fold doors. Larger closets can be converted. Even a spare corner of a room can be a good spot for a home office. 

Bonus rooms, basements and lofts can also make great home offices, but as these spaces often do not have a door, you’ll need to consider the number of distractions an open space may have. In this instance, remodeling the space is a great option so it’s better adapted to this new use.

Option #3: Renovate. The third option is to build an addition that adds an office space, perhaps as part of a larger kitchen remodel or another renovation project. With this option, you’ll be able to create the space exactly how you want, and it adds value to your home.

Step 3: Design for functionality.

With your needs and space defined, the next step is to identify what you need in the space to be functional. At a minimum, your home office should have a computer (or laptop), a printer and some type of storage. Here are a few other items you may want to consider including in your home office space:

  • A second monitor makes researching and viewing much easier.
  • An energy-saving surge protector will protect your expensive electronics from any voltage spikes, and the on/off toggle switch can also help conserve energy.
  • Equipment for video conferencing needs include a webcam and headset.
  • High-speed Internet access is a must in today’s telecommuting environment. When considering your options, think about how many people and devices could be using your Internet at the same time. If other family members are streaming shows, playing online video games or also doing work at the same time as you, it will affect your Internet speed.
  • A desk that fits your needs could be a built-in desk, which can create a great space for focused work and give you a lot of storage options.
  • A good chair works wonders, as you’ll be sitting on it all day. Invest in one that fits your body and helps with lumbar support.
  • Adequate lighting, which can come from natural light (windows), overhead or desk lamps.
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Step 4: Design for beauty.

Now that you’ve addressed the functionality of your home office space, it’s time to make it beautiful. No matter the square footage, there are always dozens of fun ways to make space fit your personality.

When designing your space, don’t just think horizontal. Think vertically, too. Find ways to get printers, books and other items off the desk and onto shelves. For example, a printer drawer can be built into your desk.

You may also want to create a reading nook with a comfortable chair, ottoman and side table. Many find stepping away from the desk (and screen) for focused reading/reviewing incredibly beneficial to their workday.

Other ideas to make the space uniquely yours:

  • Install a fun chandelier
  • Hang pictures and artwork
  • Add plants or a Zen-like fountain
  • Extend the space outdoors by adding a water feature or garden outside your window or turning the first-floor window into a door that leads to a patio
  • Use LED lighting on shelves for additional work lighting or to highlight a piece of art

Once you start using your new home office, you’ll be happy you invested in creating a dedicated space. If you’d like to discuss ways to redesign your space to create a beautiful and functioning home office, contact us.

Grill Maintenance

No matter what the seasons, it’s always a good time to grill. Here are some tips to keep your barbeque clean – and safe – throughout the year.

  • Clean lightly after every use by turning the heat on high until the grill no longer smokes from burning the food residue (approximately 10 minutes). The remaining grease and food particles will turn to ash and be easier to remove.
  • Scrub the grilling grates with a steel grill brush. This is easier to accomplish when the grates are still warm from the previous step. For more thorough cleaning, use a sponge with soapy water.
  • Degrease the cook box. The cook box will collect grease and food particles – which is a fire hazard and a source where bacteria can grow. Use a brush and soapy water to clean, pushing the excess grease into the collecting bottom tray. Then remove the collecting tray and throw out the grease and debris.
  • Clean the exterior of the grill with soapy water, or if you have a stainless-steel grill, you can use a stainless-steel cleaner.
  • Keep your grill covered to protect it from the outside elements.

NOTE: The above are general recommendations. Always follow your manufacturer’s instructions for cleaning, maintenance and repair.

Managing Your Energy Use and Cost

As families are spending more time at home, they will probably notice that they are using more energy than they typically do. Here are a few recommendations we have so you can conserve energy and keep electric bills manageable.

  • Turn off lights when not in use.
  • Devices that are plugged into an outlet can still use a small amount of energy, even when they are not turned on. Connect multiple devices such as phone chargers, laptops and tablets into a power strip that can be turned on and off.
  • Add weather stripping or caulking to windows, doors or other area where outside air can infiltrate. This will help minimize drafts and energy loss all year long.
  • Set your refrigerator between 33-39 degrees.
  • Run the dishwasher when it is full, and use the energy-saving setting for drying dishes or let them air dry.
  • Wash and dry full loads of clothes. If you have smaller loads to wash, set your machine accordingly. For the dryer, use an automatic timer, not a timed cycle. Always make sure the lint trap is cleaned to maximize efficiency and lower energy consumption.
  • Make sure that nothing is blocking your air supply vents, such as furniture or drapes.
  • Lower your water heater to between 120-125 degrees Fahrenheit, which is the optimum temperature.
  • Use a toaster oven, microwave or outside grill, when possible, instead of a conventional oven.
  • Install a programmable thermostat.

Kitchen Storage: Now and Later

Is it important to have an organized kitchen?

This is a question that many of us have asked—and answered—these last few months. As we adjusted to a new stay-at-home work/school environment, we have experienced just how functional our home truly is. The kitchen has long been the hub of the home. But as this space continues to be asked to do more, we are seeing how the kitchen plays a vital role in the overall health of our home’s ecosystem. And the more organized it is (based on each family’s needs), the better it functions.

Here are a few of the big benefits of having an organized kitchen:

  • Saves time—When you can see what food you have, you’ll spend less time searching for ingredients during meal prep because you know precisely which kitchen nook it’s in.
  • Saves money—When your food and cooking gadgets are organized and visible, you are less apt to purchase something you don’t need.
  • Better planning—Meal planning is much easier when you have a system in place for easily accessing recipes, ingredients and cooking utensils.
  • Less frustration—Whether you enjoy cooking or see it as a necessary task, it becomes an easier and less stressful process when you are organized.

Kitchen Storage: Now and Later

You have probably noticed a few areas you’d like to improve in your current kitchen. Here are some ideas for maximizing the current space in your kitchen now and later.

Storing Small Kitchen Appliances

Small kitchen appliances are fun to use and add an element of convenience, but they can also take up a lot of space by cluttering up the most precious real estate in your kitchen—your countertops.

Now

Think strategically about what you’ll keep on your countertop all the time, like the coffeemaker, and what can be moved to another area or be stored. You can keep small appliances that you use frequently (ex. toaster or Instant Pot) nearby. But the ones you don’t (ex. waffle maker or immersion blender) can be stored elsewhere.

Later

There are lots of innovative ways to upgrade your kitchen cabinets to more efficiently store those small kitchen appliances. An appliance garage is a compartment that can store—and conceal—a few of your frequently used kitchen appliances. Pull-out drawers can easily hold and help you maneuver heavier and bulkier machines.

Kitchen Drawers and Cabinetry

The area of the kitchen where you have the most potential to organize and maximize functionality is with the kitchen drawers and cupboards.

Now

Go through all of your cabinets and drawers with the intention of organizing and purging. You will find a lot of additional space simply by removing the items you rarely use. For instance, you may have a drawer full of plastic utensils but only a few that you use often. Keep those you use regularly within reach, and put the rest elsewhere.

Later

The days of having to crawl on your hands and knees to reach into the back of the cabinets are over.

Today’s kitchen cabinet manufacturers have developed some fantastic options for maximizing storage space and keeping everything visible and easily accessible.

  • Tip-out trays
  • Sliding spice racks
  • Rollouts
  • Lazy Susans
  • Utensil bins … and more.

Blind corners can now be adapted for their optimum potential as the perfect spot to store bulky small appliances or serving dishes that you only use occasionally. Peg board pullouts can organize pots and pans, dishes and more. Kitchen islands can reach maximized storage potential with built-in waste containers, microwave drawers, pet feeding stations and additional storage built into the backside.

The Pantry

The most important organizational tip for a pantry of any size is that everything needs to have a place so you can see everything at a glance.

Now

Clear containers are good for organizing dry foods and for protecting food, too. Group like-items together, such as breakfast foods, baking goods, canned goods, etc. If you have kids, make a kid-friendly spot with a few plastic bins for them to store their own snacks.

Later

Just like with the kitchen drawers and cabinetry, there are many options to update your pantry space to make it more functional. If a walk-in isn’t possible, you can install a pantry cabinet. Incorporate pull-outs for easier access to those lower spots.

More Drop-Zone Storage

The kitchen is often the “drop zone” for everything—shoes, backpacks, sports equipment, cell phones, wallets, purses and keys. While the kitchen is usually the most convenient spot in the home, this extra stuff adds clutter and decreases functionality of the space.

Now and Later

Look around your home to identify other places where a drop zone would make sense, such as adding cubbies to a laundry room or creating a charging table at an entrance. Later on, consider adding an improved entrance that integrates a drop zone/charging area as part of a larger project, such as a kitchen renovation. The key to keeping your kitchen organized and less cluttered is to make the most frequently used items easy to access. For the rest, find another spot. If you’d like to discuss updating your kitchen for better functionality, contact us.

Tips for Selecting a Paint Color

The right interior paint color can be inspiring, energizing or calming. But with thousands of paint colors available today, it can be difficult—even overwhelming—to select which one. Here are some tips to help you with this process.

  • Don’t start with the paint color. It may feel counterintuitive to not pick the paint color first but don’t. Instead, use your furniture or décor to help narrow down the options.
  • Gather inspiration. Pinterest is a great place to start to collect ideas. Create a board for each room of the house and start pinning.
  • Use testers. Before purchasing a gallon of paint, buy a few shades for testing. You can either paint it in spots on the wall or paint a poster board (12” x 12” section is fine) to test the color. Make sure you put it in a few places around the room and against your furniture and flooring so you can see how it looks at different times of the day. If a spot isn’t enough, paint a larger section to help you “see” what the paint will look like in the room.
  • Pick the right sheen. Paint comes in six different finishes: flat, eggshell, satin, semi-gloss, high gloss and ceiling. Make sure you select the one that’s right for the room. For example, satin is typically chosen for kitchen and bathroom walls because it’s durable and washable, but it can also be used in other rooms. The gloss paints are usually applied to cabinets, doors and trim.
  • Understand undertones. Every paint, including neutrals, has an undertone. Sherwin Williams describes it this way: “Whenever a color is made by mixing two or more colors together, that color will have both a mass tone and an undertone. The mass tone is what you see first; it’s what tells you the color is red, blue, green and so forth. The closer the undertone is to the mass tone, the truer the color will appear. So a true red will have a mass tone and undertone that are very similar, but magenta will have a blue undertone, while poppy will have an orange undertone.” As you narrow down your choices, make sure you understand the undertone of the paint. That way, the paint won’t look too pink or too green for your liking.
  • Do research. There are many videos, articles and guides online to help you select the right paint color. There are also several color visualizer tools you can use to help, like the Home Depot ProjectColor App or Sherwin Williams ColorSnap® Visualize.

Kitchen Design Trends 2020

Of all the rooms in your home, your kitchen is probably the one you spend the most time in—and is also the hardest working. At the Kitchen and Bath Industry Show (KBIS) in January, more than 600 manufacturers debuted some of their latest products. The show revealed several new kitchen trends as well as those that are still popular today.

Trends for Today & the Future

  • Open Space: Because kitchens are, and continue to be, an important hub of the home, the open space design—where the kitchen flows into the family room—will continue to be popular for most consumers.
  • Private Nooks: However, there is a growing segment of consumers who are pushing back from the entire common area being open. While they still want a nice flow from the kitchen to living room, they also seek a bit more privacy. Watch for more designs with a kitchen and a small sitting area or nooks that create a space for more solitude, when wanted.
  • Livability: Baby Boomers want to remain in their homes and as independent as possible, and more manufacturers are focused on products that allow for folks to age-in-place, such as an Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)-compliant sink by Elkay. Additionally, small space living is trending, such as those found for in-law suites or accessory dwelling units (ADUs). Whirlpool has a small spaces collection of appliances that are perfectly portioned to fit this small kitchen niche. 

Less Complexity, More Convenience

  • Smart Home Tech: One common theme throughout the show was functionality. Designers have said for ages that good design isn’t efficient until it’s functional. Now that smart home appliances are growing in popularity, there is a demand for ease of use. Consumers, and designers alike, want smart home technology to talk to each other. Expect to see more solutions available for smart home tech integrations over the next year.
  • Fewer Appliances: More manufacturers are introducing appliances that can do more than one thing.
  • The KitchenAid® SmartOven+ features three oven-powered attachments to grill, bake and steam with one appliance.
  • The Smart All-In-One Washer/Dryer by Whirlpool is ventless—allowing you to hook it up practically anywhere.

The Samsung 22 cu. Ft. FamilyHub™ 4-Door Flex Refrigerator has features that will help your family stay organized and connected. From leaving notes for each other and syncing calendars, to assigning expiration dates and loading coupons directly to your loyalty card, this refrigerator is the next wave of truly making your kitchen your hub. This fridge also has three built-in cameras, voice activation and even a wine rack—making it your total food management station.

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Colors & Finishes

  • Appliance colors: Black (or slate gay) stainless steel appliances continue to be a popular option, but there is also a growing collection of colored appliances, like a canary yellow range from Bertazzoni or a vintage-inspired refrigerator in turquoise by Elmira Appliances.
  • Mixing finishes: There is a growing movement to be less matchy-matchy with fixtures. For the last few years, homeowners have been experimenting with mixed metal accents in the kitchen and now this is gravitating to other areas of the home, including appliances. Metal is also getting paired together, such as matte black and gold, on faucets, hardware and small appliances.
  • Cabinetry: White has dominated kitchen cabinetry design, but it is being replaced with more bold colors and even wood-toned cabinetry accents.
  • Matte Black & Rose Gold: Core hardware finishes, like polished chrome and stainless steel, remain constant in kitchen and bathroom design. However, new tones, like matte black and rose gold, are on the rise. In bathroom renovations, we see matte black frameless shower doors and rose gold shower hardware growing in popularity.

As you think about how you want your kitchen, what comes to mind? Are you ready for a more open layout with greater functionality or do you want to update your colors and finishes? Whatever it is, we’d love to help. Contact us to talk about your project.