Even if you’re not needing to use your range or refrigerator tonight because you’re sending out for pizza, chances are you’ll be using your kitchen sink for clean up. The sink is one of the most heavily used fixtures in the kitchen. Doesn’t it make sense to purchase a sink that performs well for your needs? Be sure to review all the options below, before you choose your new sink.

Homeowners tend to give their kitchen sink little consideration when making selections for their new kitchens. They may spend weeks deciding on the perfect chef-style range and then only rarely use it, while the sink is put into service continually. Why shouldn’t your sink be highly functional and lovely to look at — in others words, a joy to use?

1. Stainless Steel

Stainless steel sinks complement the look of commercial-style appliances. Steel is more protective of dropped glassware than harder materials like cast iron. It does scratch and can dent if a heavy pot falls into the sink. A thicker gauge of steel will be less apt to dent. Sound-absorbing pads underneath the bowl will result in a quieter sink.

2. Porcelain Enameled Cast Iron
Enameled cast iron sinks boast a glossy porcelain finish that is available in a wide variety of colors. This sink can withstand a hot pot, but if a pot is dropped into the sink, the enamel can chip, after which the underlying iron may corrode. Always use a nonabrasive cleaner to protect the finish.

Granite composite sink

Granite composite sink

3. Fireclay (Vitreous China)
Fireclay is hard and quite heavy — made from a ceramic-like material that is fired under intense heat. The glossy color goes all the way through, so there is nothing under the surface to corrode. Using a nonabrasive cleaner, the sinks are easy to maintain, but they can chip.

4. Granite Composite (such as Silgranit)
Granite composite sinks are made of a mixture of 80% natural granite and acrylic resin — the material extends throughout. These sinks resist scratching and chipping, plus they are non-porous and resist most household stains. They can easily handle a hot pot up to 500 degrees.

5. Solid Surface (such as Corian)
Solid surface sinks may be joined to a countertop of the same material for a seamless look. The non-porous material offers easy maintenance, since there are no recesses to collect bacteria. A downside is that the sink can be damaged by heat and sharp objects.

6. Natural Stone
Natural stone sinks are valued for their unique beauty and ability to integrate with a stone countertop. Most stone is porous and should be sealed with a penetrating sealer. Even after sealing, certain acidic liquids may stain and etch the surface. Always use a nonabrasive cleaner.

Recycled copper sink

Recycled copper sink

7. Copper
Copper sinks develop a patina over time, which is one of the characteristics most people love about the material. The relatively soft metal can scratch, but most scratches may be removed by polishing. Avoid long exposure to hot pots, which can distort the shape of the sink.

8. Concrete
Concrete offers great versatility in the shape, color and texture of a sink. Objects may be embedded into the concrete for decorative, as well as functional purposes. Newer products are highly resistant to cracking, chipping and staining — problems that plagued concrete sinks in the past.

23 May / 2012

Color Forecast 2012

Are you longing to tear down walls and transform the dark, closed-off rooms in your home into open light-filled spaces that connect to the outdoors? You want your home to feel refreshed, invigorated, and up-to-date. But how can you know your color selections won’t go out of style in a year or two, making your new space look dated? The 2012 colormixTM forecast from Sherwin-Williams helps give you confidence in choosing colors for your remodeling project.

Jackie Jordan, director of color marketing for Sherwin-Williams, points out that a dominant trend this year is for pairing colors within the same color family–but not the expected tone-on-tone pairings we’ve seen in the past. The new color forecast features 40 hues in four vibrant palettes that help you discover a fresh array of combinations within color families.

Reds Burn Brightly
This vibrant palette includes hues of brilliant flowers and glowing embers. It isn’t a single red, but a deep gradation of fuchsias, red-oranges, violets and delicate pinks. “Red has a renewed dominance,” Jordan said. “But the old taboos about mixing reds with oranges and purples don’t apply.

Blues Not Washed Out
This soothing palette celebrates a pair of functional and treasured blues: denim and water. It explores the darkest indigo to faded-jeans hues, some with violet undertones, as well as the calm, shimmery shades that reflect rivers, lakes and seas.

Greens Firmly Planted
Representing a shift from some of the yellow-tinged greens of the past, this eclectic palette focuses on greens that are lush, moody and complex. It showcases the depths of the sea and forest, leafy motifs, rustic natural textures, and organic elements such as algae, moss and seaweed.

Neutrals Provide Balance
Raw materials continue to influence color trends, especially the more subtle hues. Picture a field of grain, pile of pebbles, weathered wood and earthen clay. Gold tones embody the sun and soft metallics–and warm up this understated yet refined palette. Textural elements, such as linen, unfired porcelain and mixed woods, provide subtle variations.

Comparing the average cost for 35 popular remodeling projects with the value those projects retain at resale, the data in Remodeling magazine’s Cost vs. Value Report includes national and regional averages for midrange and upscale projects. At the peak of the market in 2005, on average, nearly 87% percent of remodeling costs could be recouped. Although current returns are lower, some projects still offer a chance to recoup a majority of your investment.

According to the report, the top five projects nationwide for upscale homes are all exterior improvements. Fiber cement siding replacement is at the top of the list, offering a 78% return on investment. Exterior upgrades also place high on the list for midrange projects — entry door and garage door replacements rank at 72% and 73% respectively.

It is also possible to cut the data by project level within a region, such as the San Francisco Bay Area as in the chart below.

Visit the Remodeling magazine website to see the full Cost vs. Value Report.

In an interior remodeling project, cabinetry is often one of the larger expenditures, so it makes sense to choose your cabinets carefully. You want to be certain you have the storage capacity and functionality you need. The height and depth of the cabinets are also taken into consideration. You want the cabinet style, wood species and finishes to create that fabulous look you have in mind — the perfect fit for your personality and tastes.

One small detail that is often overlooked is the decorative hardware. Yet sometimes it is the tiniest detail that makes the biggest impact and leaves a lasting impression. While still in the planning stage of your project, take some quality time to select your decorative hardware.

One of your first considerations should be how the hardware feels to your hand. Since you continually open and close your cabinet doors and drawers, hand comfort and accessibility is vital. The hardware should project out from your cabinet far enough to protect the cabinet finish from sharp fingernails or oil from your fingers. For some people with limited hand mobility, a pull may be easier to grasp than a knob. In this case, test it out and make sure it is large enough to grip with the entire hand.

Secondly, your decorative hardware should coordinate with the style and proportion of your cabinets. When used appropriately, decorative hardware doesn’t clamor for its own individual attention, but rather intensifies the loveliness of your cabinet, and thereby influences the look of the entire room. A long, lean stainless steel pull beautifully accentuates a streamlined European-style cabinet. A vintage-style cabinet becomes even more lovely when set off by an elegant period piece garnished with gemstones.

Finally, when making your choices, remember to have fun and be creative. You do not have to match every piece of hardware from room to room. Too much similarity throughout your home decreases the excitement. Select something out-of-the-ordinary that fits your personal style and adds vitality to the room.

Currently the trend is for oversized decorative hardware, along with coordinating appliance pulls for the kitchen. Unique knobs and pulls are available in a wide range of materials, from metal, porcelain and glass to stone, wood and even leather. The most popular metal finishes are brushed nickel, stainless steel, polished chrome, and hand-rubbed finishes in bronze, pewter and antique brass.


Is it your New Year’s resolve to get a kitchen make-over? You definitely want your kitchen to function better for you, but you also want to pull all the elements together into a design that is pleasing visually. Read further for some ideas on how to do that.

Are you wanting to remodel your kitchen because your existing cabinetry no longer provides the storage or function you need? Or perhaps you want to update your kitchen with efficient appliances and fixtures to save on energy and water bills. Either way, you would also like your kitchen to be beautiful and feel inviting to your friends and family. This last aspect may feel very elusive, because you aren’t sure how to pull it off. You want your kitchen to look fresh and original, but not to the extreme. How can you know when your kitchen design is too bland, or when it is too elaborate for current aesthetics?

Today’s look is clean and simple, but definitely not cold and sterile. Perhaps you are like many other homeowners who are entertaining more at home these days, and you want spaces that feel welcoming. Soft matte finishes and artisan finishes, like bronze, copper, and brass give warmth to sinks and faucets. If your preference is for traditional style cabinetry, think minimal ornamentation and lots of white. Old World Tuscany features, such as high cathedral arches on cabinet doors and heavy corbels, are being traded for simpler elements like picture rail and painted bead board. Craftsman style cabinetry that emphasizes natural materials and honest craftsmanship, is currently the most popular look.

Clean and simple does not mean plain vanilla — pay attention to the details that will give your kitchen personality. One idea is to vary the color of your cabinets in sections, mixing natural wood with paints or stains in delicious new colors, such as raspberry or grass green. Another possibility would be to juxtapose smooth and rough textures, matte and shiny finishes, or light and dark shades throughout your kitchen — in your cabinetry, countertops, and flooring. Cream and chocolate brown is a current favorite, but black and white never goes out of style. The layered glazes that were so popular a few years ago are being replaced by texture and depth, such as visual brushstrokes and surfaces with an aged look. Just remember to exercise restraint, allowing enough space for a dramatic item to shine, rather than compete for attention.

If you are concerned about the long term, and you want to make trendy choices only in areas that can be changed easily and inexpensively at a later date, try selecting just one focal point to emphasize in your kitchen. It might be a kitchen window with a stunning view, an island, or a unique ventilation hood. By highlighting that area with an unusual color, a contrasting finish, uncommon hardware, or special lighting, you can make a distinctive design statement without a big expenditure. Choose neutral finishes for the larger, more permanent items.

1) DEDICATED SPACE — Are you an avid gardener, a craft-enthusiast, seamstress, or woodworker? Dedicate a space in your house to your hobbies. Often a guest room can be repurposed into a study or hobby room that would be used on a regular basis. Install a Murphy bed on one wall that can be used pulled down for guests but remain out of the way 90% of the time. Purchase storage furniture or install built-ins with drawers and cabinet doors that conceal office or hobby items when not in use. An innovative and pricey alternative may be this Zoom Room Murphy bed that rolls into the wall rather than being pulled down. It’s so attractive and innovative that the price may be worth it.

2) OPEN SPACES — One housing trend that is here to stay is the open floor plan. Opening up small rooms helps to make your home feel larger (long views trick the eye into perceiving a larger space) and brighter, because light can travel unimpeded throughout the house. Taking out walls, parts of walls or even creating openings in walls to allow views from room-to-room will make your home feel more spacious and up-to-date.

Wrapping and decor armoire tucked in a living room corner

3) REPURPOSE WASTED SPACE — We often become unaware of the wasted spaces in our homes because we’re used to things as they are. Carefully examine how often each area in your home is used. Most formal living rooms and dining rooms are used only for entertaining. Consider repurposing these areas for other uses or incorporating a new function into an existing space.

A corner of a living room can become an office area. Furniture-grade cabinetry with doors that hide the office equipment will make it unobtrusive, or a privacy screen can be used to separate the areas. A dining room can become a craft room and gift wrap area with the addition of an armoire to house craft and wrapping supplies. Or, purchase, task-specific storage furniture that can be easily moved out-of-the-way for the 4-5 times a year the room is used for dining. Extra space in an entry can be used to create a “launch pad” with cabinets for jackets, backpacks, or sports equipment and hooks for keys, umbrellas, and hats. A mudroom or laundry room may be able to house a potting bench and gardening nook by adding a table with drawers and installing some shelves and/or cabinets on the wall.

4) CREATE A RENTAL UNIT — An idea for empty-nesters may be to create a rental unit within your current home. If the kids have moved out and your house is nearly paid off and in a fantastic neighborhood, but you feel like your space is too large, it may make more sense to stay put and create a separate rental unit. By reconfiguring your house to accommodate a small rental unit with its own exterior entrance and kitchenette, you’ll earn extra income and have a built-in house sitter if you travel.

Read more on this topic at Mother Earth News.

I read with interest a number of design and décor magazines each month and have been surprised this year with the number that suggest simplicity in Christmas decorating. Whether it is a reflection of the state of the economy and the challenges facing our country or just the fatigue of too, too, much, it felt like a breath of fresh air. Here are some of the suggestions I found most valuable:

  1. Pick two colors and use them throughout the house. While it may seem limiting to choose only two colors, using them in different shapes and textures and layering them in varied shades creates a more elegant and soothing environment than a jumble of different colors — think Whoville.

    When you look from room-to-room, you want everything to work together to create a pleasing vignette. In addition to traditional red and green, attractive color combinations include green and silver, red and white, and white and gold. The idea is to pick a basic color and a metallic, or to pick two colors and use a metallic as an accent. Another option is to pick a range of neutrals (white, tan, beige) and pair them with silver or gold.

  2. Only decorate common areas such as the entry, living room, and family room/kitchen and forgo decorating every bedroom and bath. Imagine a fresh garland strung with tiny white lights and silver snowflakes hung over a kitchen window.

  3. You don’t have to decorate every surface. A wreath, a tree, and a stair garland or mantel display are enough. Too many decorations can be visually overwhelming as one bed and breakfast owner attested. She typically decorated every nook and cranny, but stopped when she sensed that it made some of her guests uncomfortable. The long days of winter (even without the snow) offer the opportunity for reflection which can be compromised when there is an overload of visual and auditory stimuli.

  4. It’s OK to use an artificial tree. I know, I know, as blasphemous as it sounds, having had an artificial tree for the last three years, I can attest to the fact that it truly saves time and reduces major sources of holiday stress — finding the “perfect” tree, installing the tree straight and stable in the stand, untangling and testing multiple strings of lights, and watering the tree daily so it doesn’t dry out. If you do decide to take the leap, make sure to choose a tree with a natural look and feel (more $ but worth it) and one with pre-stung lights to eliminate this major source of aggravation. Another advantage of artificial trees is that you can choose one that fits perfectly in your home — you can select a slender tree if you have an especially-narrow space or, if you have high ceilings, you can find 12′, 15′ and taller varieties.

    And, so you are still able to enjoy the beauty and fragrance of fresh greenery, hang a fresh wreath on a mirror or window or a fresh garland to a mantel or stair rail.


The winter solstice occurring on December 22 marks the beginning of winter and the longest night of the year. The amount of light that reaches us from the sun decreases this time of year, which can darken our home interiors more than usual. Read below about how you can bring more natural light into your home this season and year ’round.

Lack of light exposure has been shown to make people feel sluggish and even depressed. Dim interiors can pose safety hazards, especially for those with diminished eyesight. Rather than turning on more electric lights during the day, which drives up your electric bill, you can introduce more natural light into your home. This process is called daylighting. Exposure to sunlight in your home has many benefits, such as preventing vitamin D deficiencies, making you feel more connected to nature, and increasing your sense of well-being.

Start by determining how your home is oriented on its site. Your home will let in maximum winter sun and minimum summer sun when a majority of the windows are located on the south side. East and west facing windows often let in too much sun in the summer and not as much in the winter as south facing windows. Windows on the north side can lose heat in cooler months, so should be de-emphasized. If you are planning an addition, or if you want to reconfigure the existing interior spaces of your home, keep in mind that the direction a window is facing is crucial.

In order to block heat gain and glare from entering through south-facing windows in the summer, include a deep overhang on the exterior. Other options are retractable awnings and adjustable interior window blinds. Either way, it is important to choose energy-efficient windows with the proper glazing and low-E coating for the climate zone. Remember that daylighting requires careful evaluation of where each window is placed on the walls and ceilings of your home.

It makes use of a wide variety of openings, including clerestories, skylights, tubular skylights, translucent doors and windows installed in interior walls. When the placement of openings is calculated to bring natural light even into the deepest recesses of your home, it is possible to eliminate most of your electrical lighting needs during the day.

Positioning a window to one side of the room or high up on the wall allows the daylight to reflect off an adjacent wall or ceiling, increasing the amount of light entering the space. If wall space for windows is limited or unavailable, install a small skylight with a flared light well. A tubular skylight fits between roof framing members, offering a daylighting solution for hard to reach areas, such as closets. Interior windows or glass doors offer a way for one room to borrow light from another.


The holidays will soon be here. Have you looked around your home to see if there are ways it could function better for family gatherings and feel more inviting? Even if you haven’t the budget for a major remodel, there are less expensive ways to make a big impact. We are here to help you get those projects completed.

Fall is a great time for having remodeling work done, so prepare your home now for welcoming holiday visitors. Our workload starts to loosen up a bit, which means we may be able to begin your project sooner than at other times of the year. Also, our vendors often offer special sale prices on their products in the fall with savings we can pass on to you.

Entrance Foyer

Here’s where your guests catch their first glimpse of your home’s interior, and you want it to be visually appealing. Have those tired walls covered with a fresh coat of paint. Choose a zero-VOC product, so there are no lingering, harmful fumes. Add interest to the door and ceilings with decorative wood trim in an unusual pattern. If your foyer has a low ceiling, consider track lighting instead of a chandelier.


As various family members get involved in preparing those holiday meals, you’ll want your kitchen to provide a functional workspace, as well as attractive surroundings. Now would be the perfect time to upgrade to a range with two separate ovens so multiple dishes may be cooking at different temperatures at the same time. Install a new faucet with a pull-down spray so both food prep and clean up can go faster. Have your scratched and stained plastic laminate countertops replaced with beautiful new solid surface or granite. Likewise, replace your worn vinyl flooring with engineered hardwood flooring-a product that not only is durable, but also handles moisture well.

Family Room

There never seems to be enough storage space for all the games, toys, magazines, DVDs, pillows etc. that accumulate in the family room. You will want to clear up the clutter before your holiday guests arrive. We can help suggest places where you can easily tuck some additional cabinets or shelves, such as below a bay window, beneath a stairway or against an empty wall.


If your bathroom lighting is limited to an overhead ceiling fixture, install additional fixtures, such as stylish pendants or sconces at the vanity. This is convenient for guests applying make-up at the mirror, but more importantly, it helps prevent accidents for those with diminished eyesight. Update a basic plate-glass mirror by adhering decorative molding around the outer edges to form a frame. New hardware can greatly enhance the look of your existing cabinets. Choose hardware with a creative design or unique color that also coordinates with the existing finishes.

There’s No Law that Says You Have to Do it All at Once

The unstable economy has forced many people to put their larger remodeling plans on hold. However, a number of homeowners are completing their projects one stage at a time. Additionally, some are doing updates in lieu of complete remodels. Below is a list of budget-friendly projects that can increase the enjoyment of your home now but also contribute to its long-term value. Some require professional remodeling services (that’s us) while others are DIY. Find more budget- friendly before and after photos on the Sunset website.


According to an ASID (American Society of Interior Designers) survey of U.S. homeowners, most Americans (82%) want to remain in their homes as they age, even if they should require assistance and care. Is your home designed to provide a comfortable and functional environment for every stage of your life? We are sharing some ideas to help make sure it is.

If you are nearing retirement age, you are probably looking forward to all the activities you have not had time for in the past. Maybe you would like to plan more sleepovers for the grandkids. Or perhaps you and your friends would like to start a cooking club that meets in each other’s homes. If you are like most people belonging to the boomer generation (1946-1964), when you imagine your future, it generally includes being active, doing the things you enjoy, and staying in your own home. Boomers usually like to avoid thinking about aging and how it might affect their active lifestyle.

It’s a good thing, however, to start the process now of remodeling your home so it will meet your future needs with comfort and style. As your home is remodeled, modifications that accommodate all physical limitations can be seamlessly incorporated into the design without detracting from your home’s beauty. This is what is known as “barrier-free” design or “universal design.” Without certain modifications, even the most luxurious of homes could become a barrier to your freedom of movement, should you ever have an accident or require surgery.

Consider your bathroom. If you ever are confined to a wheelchair, will you be able to bathe yourself independently? Here’s a check-list of items you may want to include as you upgrade to a barrier-free bathroom:

  • Zero-threshold shower with a seat
  • Grab bars inside and outside the shower
  • Adjustable-height hand shower with thermostatic controls
  • Wide-decked bathtub
  • Comfort-height toilet
  • Electronic hands-free faucets
  • Knee space under the vanity or wall-mounted sink
  • Rocker light switches or motion-detector light switches
  • Lever handles on doors

An additional benefit is that these kinds of products are available from many manufacturers today in stylish designs and luxury finishes that enhance the look of your bathroom, rather than make it appear institutional. The Wave grab bar from Great Grabz (photo above) provides a sophisticated look, yet can hold over 250 lbs. of force. Also pictured (photo left) is Jason’s sleek zero-threshold shower base that includes an integral seat and a slip-resistant textured floor.

Take a look around the rest of your home and think about whether you will be able to move from one area to another safely, independently and comfortably in the years to come. If you prepare ahead of time by remodeling your home using universal design guidelines, you can look forward to enjoying a home that is livable for a lifetime!

Pleased to Be Here

“I’m very pleased to be here. Let’s face it; at my age I’m very pleased to be anywhere.” George Burns

Aging in place – doesn’t the idea of it make you queasy? I envision someone slowing to a grinding halt and keeling over as gravity overcomes inertia. I know what it’s meant to suggest – the ability to live in one’s home – wherever that might be – for as long as confidently and comfortably as possible, but couldn’t they have called it something more appealing?

The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) reports modification for aging in place is the fastest growing segment of the residential remodeling industry. A “Fixing to Stay” survey of 2,000 persons aged 45 and over, conducted by the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) found that 70% of the respondents had made at least one modification to their home to facilitate their ability to remain in the home as they aged. The most common modifications were:

  • Installing additional lighting in hallways and stairwells
  • Placing living quarters (bedroom, bath, kitchen, laundry) on the main floor
  • Replacing knobs with levers on doors and faucets
  • Adding handrails and/or grab bars

You can find a helpful Aging in Place Checklist for Home Remodeling on the NAHB site.

Incorporating universal design principals to make a home safer, more comfortable, and increase the likelihood of remaining independent, does not have to result in an unattractive, clinical environment.

Walkway before, without the ramp

As with every remodeling project, our goal is to assure that the results are not only functional, but aesthetically-pleasing. Here are two examples of recent work that achieve this goal. A past customer asked us to make changes to their home to make it safer and more accessible for an aging parent who was about to move in with them. The parent uses a walker and would havedifficulty maneuvering up the steps to enter the home. Initially, the plan was to install a ramp near a side door so it wouldn’t negatively impact the home’s curb appeal. However that location proved to be logistically-inconvenient. The home’s circularfront driveway provides an ideal location for picking-up

Walkway after, with ramp installed

and dropping-off passengers. To assurethe ramp blended seamlessly into the existing landscape, we created it using the same pavers installed on the driveway and porch so it looks like it was part of the original design and not an afterthought. Now the only challenge will be keeping neighborhood skateboarders away! Another project, a master bathroom remodel, was completed for a couple who wanted to remain in their home as long as possible. Though neither of required a walker or a wheelchair, they wanted to assure maximum accessibility to the shower and toilet area, in case one of them was in a wheelchair in the future.

At the same time, they wanted to assure that the remodel increased the home’s resale value. We designed a curb-less travertine stone shower with a built-in seat. It also includes a flexible shower and grab bars for safety. A fixed glass-block wall separates the shower from the barrier-free comfort-height toilet. The choices for accessible fixtures have increased dramatically in the last few years. Many manufacturers such as Kohler now make innovative products that provide extra stability, ease-of-use, and comfort, without compromising beautiful design. Many updates, such as grab bars, ramps, and increased lighting do not require a long lead times, nor are they large budget items. Contact us for more ideas on how to make your home accessible and safe.

Curb-less shower w/ grab bar and seat

Barrier-free, comfort-height toilet


Recent social and economic developments in the country have been changing what Americans are looking for in their homes, regardless of whether they are remodeling or buying a new home. Read on to learn more about this trend:

The sprawling McMansions of several years ago are no longer so popular. Rising energy costs have increased the consumer’s desire for smaller, more energy-efficient homes. Builders and remodelers are carefully taking note of this trend.

According to a recent study by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), builders expect new homes to average 2,152 square feet in 2015, 10 percent smaller than the average size of single-family homes built in 2010. In addition to floor plan changes, 68 percent of the builders surveyed said homes in 2015 will include more green features and technology

One result of the new direction toward smaller homes is that homeowners are re-evaluating how the interior spaces of their homes are organized. Given today’s more casual lifestyle, certain rooms — such as the formal living and dining room — are only rarely used. In contrast, the kitchen has become the central gathering area for a majority of activities. To make the best use of limited space, a large open area that encompasses a kitchen, dining room, family room and living room is becoming more common. In our hi-tech society, where individual family members tend to keep busy with their own laptops or cell phones, this is a favorable arrangement since it is conducive to bringing families together. Each member may be doing something different, but the fact that everyone is together in that same space creates a welcome sense of family bonding.

Increasingly, homeowners are choosing to stay in their familiar neighborhoods and remodel, rather than build a new home. A professional remodeler can skillfully re-configure existing spaces, safely removing walls to provide the open, airy home environment their client desires. Often, this can be achieved without the necessity of enlarging the home. Remodelers can also help their clients gain energy savings in an older home by, among other things, adding new insulation; upgrading the HVAC system; installing energy-efficient windows; purchasing Energy Star qualified appliances; and replacing outdated incandescent lighting with fluorescent or LED.

The Dinosaurs

“Mom, were the dinosaurs still alive when you were born?” I credit my twisted sense of humor as the reason the child who asked me this question is still alive and that I was able to formulate an answer without slugging him — “No honey, all of them had died out by then, only the mastodons were still alive.” Similarly, the living room and dining room are on their way to becoming dinosaurs but, unlike being struck by a comet or asteroid, it is a slow and painful demise. Decedents from a time when people lived more formally, the living room was one of a progressive series of separate rooms starting with the front door entry, designed to conceal private areas, such as the kitchen (and the help) from view. As such, the dining room was the primary eating area for the family.

Today, the kitchen not only serves as the primary place for dining but as the social center of the house. They are much larger and more open — often incorporating a family room. John recently served as a judge in a remodeling competition and noted that the kitchen/family room/great room combination was evident in most of the entries.

And yet, the U.S. Department of Energy’s 2009 Buildings Energy Data Book shows that the average American house still incorporates both a living room and a dining room. In a 2,500 square foot home, these two rooms represent about 15% of the total living area — area that owners spend money and energy to heat, cool, and maintain, only to walk around them like an elephant in the proverbial, excuse my pun, living room.

So why are we so hesitant to let go? Is it because of our “Bigger is Better” cultural mentality or the fear that our home will be perceived as less valuable if these rooms are missing? Whatever the reason, rather than plodding further and further into quicksand, check out the links in the left hand column for inspiration on how turn these rooms into space your family will enjoy.

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