01 Aug / 2011
The mudroom is a familiar fixture in areas of severe weather and in farming communities. However, even in our temperate California climate, it still makes sense to create a buffer zone between the outdoors and the interior of our homes. Raingear, sports equipment, and dirty uniforms are all better left in a mudroom where they will not damage interior finishes. And, it’s great to have a place to keep items organized so they are easy to grab as we head out to work or school. The mudroom has become a popular home design feature and we’re sharing some terrific ideas on how to create a mudroom that fits your home.
Lynn and John
Every home can benefit from having a spot where family members are able to deposit items such as jackets, umbrellas, and backpacks that don’t need to be carried into the rest of the house. If there is no space like this, these items tend to clutter up the floor or furniture next to the door. In addition, it is handy to have a station near the entrance where cell phones and iPods can be charged and keys stashed so they are easy to find again when needed. For families with school-age children, a multi-purpose mudroom can also function as a “launch pad” to make mornings less stressful as everyone heads out the door. If you already have a separate rear entry, you can design a mudroom there, or if your kitchen is large enough, a portion of it can be used to create a separate mudroom. Another option would be to build a mudroom addition to the side or rear of your home. Although it is ideal to locate the mudroom away from the front entrance, for homes where this is not possible, the main entry can be remodeled to accommodate the clutter and hide it from view.
To keep your mudroom well-organized, install a variety of storage options such as wall hooks, storage cabinets, cubbies, and wire baskets. This is a convenient space to store sports equipment, such as balls, bats and gloves and outdoor toys as well as gardening supplies. A bench or built-in seating will ease the process of removing or boots and cleats. Choose floor, wall, and cabinet finishes that are water and stain-resistant and easy-to-clean.
A mudroom can also do double-duty as a laundry room. Placing laundry appliances close to the rear entrance makes it possible to toss dirty sports clothing directly into the washer before the odors and dirt are transported into other parts of your home. Add a utility sink for soaking heavily-soiled items and for washing hands after yard work or play. For gardeners, add a countertop to create the perfect place for potting plants. If you have a cat or dog, consider locating a pet door in your mudroom so your pet has easy access to the outside. The low-maintenance finishes of a mudroom provide an excellent spot for food and water dishes, litter boxes and a grooming station and the mudroom cabinetry offers a great solution for organizing and storing pet supplies.
15 Jul / 2011
Over 100 years ago, after putting the finishing touches on his first gasoline-powered car, Henry Ford was forced to invent something else…the garage. You see, once it was ready for a test drive, his Quadricycle — so termed because of its four bicycle tires — didn’t fit through the doors of the coal shed in the home he was renting in Detroit Michigan. Yielding an axe, he pounded the brick wall to create a bigger opening and, as they say, the rest is history. His landlord allowed him to add a larger door in the new opening!
The Famous HP Garage
In 1939, Stanford University classmates Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard built an audio oscillator in a Palo Alto garage that would become Hewlett-Packard’s (HP) first product. Short on funds, the young company received a surprise order from Walt Disney Studios for eight oscillators, purchased to develop and test the sound for the movie, Fantasia, thus launching the company and this humble garage on Addison Avenue as the birthplace of Silicon Valley.
Another HP Engineer, Steve Wozniak, and his friend also created a revolution in a garage. While at HP, he and Steve Jobs, an Atari employee, tried unsuccessfully to convince their respective employers to support their new idea. However their employers just didn’t believe that the computer would be relevant to individuals. So, in his spare time, Wozniak collaborating with Jobs in the Jobs family’s Los Altos garage built a personal computer. An old, wooden workbench served as the assembly station and soon became Apple’s manufacturing plant and shipping department.
Another famous Detroit resident, Barry Gordy, launched Motown Records by auditioning acts in his garage. Imagine listening to Smokey Robinson, The Supremes, Marvin Gaye, The Temptations, The Four Tops, Gladys Knight & the Pips, The Commodores, Martha and the Vandellas, Stevie Wonder and The Jackson 5 emanating from your neighbor’s garage.
For more on the history of garages, visit Garagez.
01 Jul / 2011
Ah, summer! Many people look forward to the warmer weather and casual atmosphere that arrives with the summer months. From out of the garage come the bikes and skateboards, the gardening tools and golf clubs…..if you can find them, that is. Isn’t it about time to organize the garage? Continue reading for some helpful tips.
Is your garage a catchall for the equipment you use when involved in activities such as gardening, home maintenance or sports? How often are you frustrated by your inability to find your favorite garden clipper or paintbrush? It is high time to get your garage organized so everything has a specified place of its own and you know where it belongs. When that happens, you will be pleased to find out that your car fits back inside as well!
Many people want to tidy up the garage, but get overwhelmed by the magnitude of the job and then give up. To keep that from happening, start with a detailed plan that has been custom designed for your individual storage needs and that functions well for your preferred activities. If you wish, the plans can outline how the project is to be completed in stages, rather than all at once.
Similar to your kitchen, a garage may be divided into zones so more than one person may be active in the space without bumping elbows. For example, do you complete small woodworking projects in your garage? Place all the tools necessary for this hobby within easy reach of your work bench. On the other hand, you should separate this activity from the area where another family member enjoys repotting plants.
The mainstay of today’s garage storage systems is a specially designed heavy-duty rail or panel that is mounted along the garage wall perimeter. From this rail many different modular components, consisting of lockable cabinets, wire baskets, shelving, work surfaces, hooks and other accessories, may be hung. Utilize not only the garage walls, but also the ceiling, to maximize your storage possibilities. Ceiling hooks work well for bicycles and ladders, while a shelf suspended from the ceiling can store items you use infrequently. These systems will protect your items from damage, increase their longevity, and eliminate the safety hazard they present when left lying about the garage. Since these systems are designed to be adjustable without tools, the components can be easily rearranged and new ones added as your needs change.
To increase the functionality of your garage, also consider adding a heavy-duty sink for clean-up (this would require plumbing), a non-porous stain-resistant floor covering, as well as a refrigerator/freezer. If your garage is uninsulated, the refrigerator/freezer should be designed to endure extreme temperatures and humidity.
27 Jun / 2011
For a culture that spends much of its work day inside, having a connection to the outdoors while at home is very desirable. Have you ever thought about creating an outdoor room for your home? Read below for ideas on how to make the most of the outdoor living at your home.
After a day spent indoors, the freshness of an outdoor living retreat can help you unwind, de-stress, and enjoy the natural surroundings. In California, where the temperate Mediterranean climate allows for outdoor living in three seasons, a new outdoor room can be a cost-effective extension to the living space of your home and the perfect spot for relaxing with family and entertaining friends.
Determine the Best Use of Your Outdoor Space
In thinking about your room, the first thing to decide is how you will use it. Do you want to relax, eat, or entertain, in your room-or all three? It’s also important to decide how large the room will be and how the space will be defined. These decisions are also predicated on the need for protection from the elements – sun and wind in California.
Ceilings, Walls, Floors
A pergola, trellis, or awning will help define the space at the same time it provides shade on a sunny day. Adding permanent walls made from stucco, concrete, wood or brick, or free-standing walls provide protection, direct your eye to the room and route accordingly. Other room-defining options include “framing” the room with plants growing on vertical trellises that provide a visual boundary but offer a view of what’s behind or movable planter walls that can be reconfigured as needed. An alternative to creatingan entire outdoor kitchen is to add a wall of French doors or a movable wall such as made by NanaWall. Then, when desired, the whole wall can be open to the outside and your existing kitchen is open to the outside.
Furnishings and Fabrics
As you plan your outdoor room, choose furnishings that are intended for outdoor use. Furniture cushions should be covered in fabrics that resist water,stains, and fading. Some newer cushions are offered in “fast dry” styles that prevent water from pooling on your seats in the event of a summer shower. Outdoor drapes are now widely available and can be used to block sun or wind, provide privacy for an afternoon snooze, and add visual interest.
An outdoor kitchen can be as simple as a free-standing grill or as elaborate as a full kitchen complete with a grill, refrigerator, dishwasher, sink, cabinetry, and countertops. When shopping for appliances, keep in mind that they must meet outdoor electrical and plumbing requirements and should be wind, rain, and rust resistant.
Furnishings and Fabrics
In addition to the traditional landscape light fixtures and pathlights, additional options for outdoorroom lighting such as lanterns,chandeliers, and candles create ambience and lend a feeling of.
Swimming pools, spas, fountains, and ponds provide a focal point for outdoor rooms and can provide recreation and relaxation.
Fireplaces and Heaters
Fireplaces, chimeras, firepits and outdoor heaters provide ambiance and extend the use of the room into cooler seasons.
Products for the Outdoor Room
Hearth: Wood burning fireplaces, gas fireplaces, fire pits, chimaeras, fire and fountain combinations
Cooking: Barbecue grills, wood-fired pizza ovens, refrigerators, dishwashers, sinks, cocktail bars, food preparation areas, and countertops
Furniture: Dining tables, couches, chairs, cocktail and end tables, hammocks, chaise lounges
Water: Swimming pools, fountains, spas, waterfalls, ponds
Flooring: Wood, brick, stone, slate, stamped concrete pavers, pebbles
Shelters: Trellises, pergolas, gazebos, sunrooms, awnings, umbrellas
Accessories: Sound systems, televisions, art, sculpture, rugs
Lighting: Landscape lanterns, pathway lighting, chandeliers, candles
Decks: Natural woods, vinyl, fiberglass, recycled plastics
Heaters: Freestanding or table-top
15 May / 2011
Though it might seem hard to justify spending money on something you “should” be able to do yourself, hiring a professional organizer will likely pay for itself in time savings and stress reduction. When you can quickly and easily find a document without digging through stacks of papers to find it, or you reach into your closet and find only clothes you like, or you have a toy storage strategy that keeps toys out of every room in your home, you’ll have more time to do what you enjoy. And, we have a local, professional organizer to recommend. Her name is Amanda Kuszak, founder of Kuzak’s Closet.
While televisions shows like Clean House and Hoarders have gained popularity of late, you don’t have to be a pathological hoarder to benefit from the services of a professional organizer. Sometimes you just need permission to get help with something you’ve been putting off or a push to get past your inertia. Making an appointment with a professional, like Amanda, can give you the impetus to get started.
01 May / 2011
The National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA) surveyed more than 100 of its designer members across the country to uncover the likelihood that they would incorporate various materials and styles in their designs. The following seven top kitchen trends and four top bathroom trends emerged for 2011. Note: percentages may not total 100% as the survey tallied only whether a designer specified a product in a design, not how often they did so. Results reflect national trends and may not be consistent with local preferences.
Shake It Up
When it comes to style trends in the kitchen, Traditional remains the top choice. The big news is that Shaker has now supplanted Contemporary as the second most popular look.
Dark and Beautiful
The most specified type of finish for cabinets and floors is a dark natural finish. In contrast, the use of medium natural, glazed and white painted finishes has diminished.
Take the Chill Off
Interestingly enough, unchilled wine storage has grown in popularity, while the incorporation of wine refrigerators seems to be on the decline.
In terms of refrigerator styles, the French door refrigerator is now the most popular (78%.) Freezer-bottom models (single-door refrigerator on top, single-door freezer on the bottom) fell slightly in popularity to second place (59%.)
Induction is Hot
Induction cooktop selection is heating up! This trend is expected to continue due to induction’s energy efficiency. Gas cooktops are still the most popular though specification fell from 76% to 70%, while conventional electric cooktop specifications increased slightly from 38% to 41%.
LED Lighting the Way
For energy-efficient lighting solutions, designers are flipping the switch on LEDs (light emitting diodes) rather than CFLs (compact fluorescent lights) most likely due to the poor quality of light CFLs produce.
Take Out the Trash
Trash or recycling pull-outs were included in 89% of the kitchens designed by NKBA members. There was also an increase in both garbage disposals and trash compactors.
Quartz solid surfaces such as Zodiac™ and Caesarstone™, are an increasingly-popular choice for bathroom countertops, up from 48% to 54%, but quartz still has not had the impact it has in the kitchen. For bathroom countertops, granite remains the most popular choice (83%.)
The use of the color green in bathrooms is on the rise. Whites and off-whites, beiges and browns remain the most commonly used color tones, however.
A Worthy Vessel
Undermount sinks continue to dominate the bathroom scene, but vessel sinks have become the clear second choice among designers.
Supreme Satin Nickel
In bathrooms and kitchens, satin nickel is now the favorite faucet finish, while brushed nickel comes in second. Stainless steel remains popular in the kitchen, but not in the bath.
15 Mar / 2011
In the case of Bosch and Takagi, the answer is, pathetically, “Not much.” These companies, both with historically-stellar reputations for quality and service, have allowed the quality of their products and the value of their word to– pardon the pun– tank.
As a green-certified design + build firm, we have championed the installation of on-demand, aka “tankless” water heaters, since 2006. Unlike traditional water heaters, where a volume of water is continuously heated thermodynamically in a tank, tankless water heaters heat water only when the system is triggered such as when a faucet is turned on, a toilet A selection of antique water heaters is flushed or a washing machine is started. Bosch was the first brand of on-demand water heaters we installed.
A selection of antique water heaters
After experiencing problems with a number of the heaters, including one installed in our home– malfunctions such as repetitive days of ice-cold showers at 6:00 am after the unit worked properly the night before; error codes not listed in the service manual for which we were told, “It’s impossible, it just couldn’t happen,” and (this would be humorous if it wasn’t so painful) when, on a customer site visit, a Bosch field engineer denied hearing the banging noise emanating from a unit until he called the home office and a customer service agent told him she could hear it over the phone, Bosch did nothing. They did not repair or replace their malfunctioning products and never called to follow-up. The truth is they have no warranty.
Ultimately, we decided that the units had to be replaced. After reviewing the available options, we made the decision to install on-demand water heaters made by Takagi. Our research indicated that they made quality products and what appeared to be responsive support and a great warranty. At our expense, we removed the Bosch water heaters, paid for their disposal, and installed the replacement Takagi units purchased at the homeowners’ expense. These units seemed to solve the problem and we continued to install them in new projects.
Over the holidays, one of our customers, an engineer with Failure Analysis, called to let us know that his water-heater was behaving erratically. The heat exchanger on his year-old Takagi had started to leak and then failed. He and his family were without hot water for 1_ weeks. Takagi said that the reason the unit failed was not a manufacturing defect, but calcium build-up and that a scale prevention device (water softener) should have been installed to prevent this. Because we did not install one, the warranty was void. However, the installation instructions do not call for one. In the manual, in very small print on a separate page, you find in areas of hard water (not the case in Mountain View) a scale prevention device must be installed.
We called Takagi; spoke to them at length, asked them to test the water hardness (they did not) asked them to stand by their product if their directions were wrong and were told that corporate would not authorize the replacement. Close to 50 emails later, our client was able to convince Takagi that they should honor their warranty and replace the unit. The Takagi replacement process is slow, time consuming, and, get this, you have to pay for the replacement unit until Takagi confirms that the problem was due to a manufacturing defect.
A selection of antique water heaters
We now recommend that a scale prevention device be installed, regardless of water hardness, to prevent calcium build up and assure that manufacturers will honor their own warranty. While no one enjoys maintenance chores, the Housepure Secure water heater scale prevention device is compact and easy-to maintain- the cartridges need to be replaced once a year or when the gauge indicates. We will continue to research the performance of the various brands of on-demand water heaters in the literature and the real-time experiences of other contractors and report our findings in an upcoming issue.
01 Mar / 2011
You probably think of your kitchen as the room in your home where energy-efficiency really matters. However, your laundry room can also be a big guzzler of energy and water. The laundry room shown here is from the zero-energy Concept Home 2011 by BUILDER magazine with Martha Stewart. This show home demonstrates ideas that may be incorporated into a remodeling project, as well as a new home. Just a few of the ideas include:
Choose Energy and Water Efficient Appliances
Look for ENERGY STAR® qualified appliances to ensure they meet government standards. This helps conserve natural resources and saves you money on utility bills. For example, the Whirlpool efficient Duet washer installed in this laundry room can use up to 77% less water and 81% less energy over traditional top-load washers.
Bring In Natural Light
Use a tubular skylight to bring natural daylight into a windowless room. This helps decrease the use of electric lights, thereby decreasing your electric bill. A tubular skylight is thin enough to fit between roof rafters or trusses and ceiling joints. This interior windowless laundry room benefits from the addition of a VELUX Sun Tunnel skylight.
Use a Ventilation Fan
Install an ENERGY STAR® qualified ventilation fan to remove excess moisture from your laundry room while adding very little to your utility bill. The laundering process releases humidity into the room that must be properly ventilated or mold and mildew problems could result. The energy-efficient Broan-NuTone fan in the Concept Home laundry room costs approximately $1 per year to operate.
Select Low-flow Faucets
A WaterSense™ labeled low-flow faucet can provide the experience of a strong water flow, while cutting back on water usage. The utility sink in the Concept Home is fitted with a low-flow faucet by Kohler, which can deliver up to 45% water savings over traditional 2.75 gpm faucets. Sink water is also filtered and redistributed for outside irrigation.
Provide On-demand Solar Hot Water
Instead of a traditional tank water heater, the Concept Home runs on an on-demand hot water recirculation system. Water is heated by rooftop solar panels and then stored in an 80-gallon thermal tank. When demanded, the hot water is circulated through a loop under the slab to the required outlet.
15 Feb / 2011
Are the winter doldrums setting in? Try this for inspiration – the February, 2011 edition of House Beautiful provides the game plan on how designers Pat Healing and Dan Barsanti transformed a long, narrow, hard-to-furnish, living room in less than nine hours.
Here are the designers’ tips for successful transformations:
- A furniture arrangement that looks good on paper may not work in reality. Look at your room after a party to see how people have instinctively moved the chairs for conversation. That’s your clue for the room’s best layout.
- Use versatile furniture pieces in multiple ways. A large table can be used for dining, homework, games, and serving hors d’oeuvres at a party.
- Every chair in the room does not have to face the TV.
- There are no hard and fast rules – it all depends on your room and how you use it. Sometimes matchy-matchy can be a good thing to unify the space.
- Treat bookshelves as a composition and arrange them for balance and symmetry. Pick up accent colors used elsewhere in the room and repeat them in the bookshelf in art or accent pieces. One trick used by the designers was to remove all of the book jackets which made the composition less busy.
- Decorate in layers to add depth and interest the way decorators do. Rather than using the same solid color in the same exact hue, repeat the color in different ways, with textures, intensity, or sheen, for example, use the same color for textured chenille pillows on the sofa, shiny ceramic vases on the mantel, as one of the colors on dining room seat cushions, and sheer curtain liners.
01 Feb / 2011
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.
Today’s consumers, in general, give more thoughtful consideration to their purchases than they did a few years ago. People want to be sure they are getting good value for the dollars they spend.
As you are making plans to improve your home, perhaps you long for the upscale look and functionality of kitchens you see in magazines and on TV, but you want to avoid frivolous spending when you remodel. Our practical suggestions can help you get “more bang for your buck.”
- Exquisite glass or metal accent tiles used on a backsplash make a big design impact in a kitchen. Use them to create a focal point below the range hood. Select a less expensive coordinating field tile for the remainder of your backsplash.
- Select a luxurious granite, wood or quartz surface for the kitchen island countertop, while using a solid surface for the rest of the countertops. Beautiful new introductions in plastic laminate convincingly imitate natural stone, providing another good option.
Formica’s new laminate pattern:
- A free-standing double oven range supplies the convenience of double wall ovens, without the added expense of purchasing a separate cooktop. These appliances are available in a variety of finishes — including stainless steel — that offer an upscale look.
- Choose a cabinet-depth refrigerator that provides the look of an integrated built-in without the expense.
- A kitchen sink with a low-profile basin divider offers the ease of handling both large pots as well as smaller items. You only need to purchase one sink.
- Purchase pull-out drawers in the cabinets you will use on an everyday basis and for the less accessible areas of your cabinets. Utilize adjustable shelving — a less pricey option — for the rest of the cabinetry.