You may need a home office for keeping up with family finances, or for telecommuting, or for a small business with regular clients. Whichever it may be, we recommend these three essentials for creating a perfect home office.

1. Allow for Privacy
In years past, a home office often consisted of a desk tucked into a corner of the kitchen. The intention was to help a busy homeowner multi-task: prepare meals, watch kids, and pay bills all at the same time. This concept is no longer so popular, since the kitchen has increasingly become the place in the home where everyone congregates. Homeowners need a quieter location to concentrate on family business without constant interruptions and distractions. Today the home office is usually located in a separate room adjacent to the kitchen. Keeping the office door open provides a sight-line to the kids, but closing the door allows privacy when necessary. If this arrangement is not feasible in your home, another option is to install tall bookcases in the kitchen (or family room) to divide the office area from the rest of room.

2. Include Daylighting
Home offices are sometimes set up quickly with little forethought. They are squeezed into whatever space is easily available, such as a large hall closet or under a staircase. If ample lighting is not provided, these spaces can be disappointingly dark and gloomy. Ideally, a home office should have windows or skylights that allow natural daylight into the area. Some of the benefits of natural daylight include helping energize your body and uplift your mood by increasing serotonin levels. It can also help your immune system by boosting the body’s production of Vitamin D. Plentiful general and task lighting should be installed in addition, utilizing daylight-replicating light sources. It is important, however, to avoid creating a glare on your computer screen from the overhead lights.

3. Select the Right Furnishings & Equipment
Homeowners will often purchase a standard office desk, filing cabinet and bookcase when they outfit a home office. As time goes by, they may discover that this arrangement does not function well for their particular business needs. It is best to plan ahead: make a list of all your various business activities, and start thinking outside the box. Do you need a large, flat surface on which to work? Perhaps a table would suit your needs better than a desk. Would a number of small cubbies serve your purposes better than open bookshelves? Consider ergonomics as you are selecting your office furnishings and deciding where to store equipment and supplies. Heavier items that you may need to lift should be located at waist height to avoid back strain. Invest in the fastest, most reliable office equipment you can afford, from your cell phone to your printer. This will pay you back with time dividends in the final analysis.

01 Oct / 2013

Wired for Wireless

By Shane Hammond
CEO, Ideal Sound

Wireless communication is the transfer of information between two or more points that are not connected by an electrical conductor. With most technologies going the wireless route, people sometimes forget that wiring makes a wireless system possible. Here are a few tips on how to plan for a solid and complete wired and wireless system for your home.

Pre-wiring is the installation of “structured wiring” inside your home’s walls and floors that passes low-voltage electronic signals to devices such as TVs, audio systems, and security/home monitoring systems. Until recently, each of these device types required their own specific kinds of wire, like coaxial cables, HDMI cables, and twisted pair copper for telephones. While some applications still do require specific wiring, the latest structured wiring solutions are capable of running many of these signal types over Ethernet – a digital cable technology that’s fast, easy, and economical to install – especially if you are building a new home or remodeling.

It makes the most financial and technical sense to pre-wire your home when the walls are open. The specific types of cable to use will depend on the home systems you want to include and their locations. As a general rule, plan for more than you think you’ll need. The best pre-wiring plans will leave plenty of flexibility to make changes or additions in the future.

Why Not Use Only Wireless Technology?

At the present time, wireless signal transmission is not as robust or reliable as hard-wired connections. In the case of data-intensive signals like HDTV, most wireless systems are barely up to the task, even in a small space. In larger homes, they will disappoint – especially if your home has plaster walls, stone interior facades, or other common residential obstructions. If you are committed to whole-house technology, it makes sense to install the structured wiring to assure the best results.

Performance Issues People often wonder why they don’t get the internet speeds they were promised by the provider, why their TV cuts in and out, or why their modem needs to be reset so often. What they may not realize is that their system relies on multiple parts all working together to deliver the signals. The system will only be as strong as that weakest link. If one part of the system isn’t working correctly; it can impact the performance of the whole system.

Having a wiring system that has been installed and tested from the point service is key; one mis-wire can affect the performance of all components. Additionally, a good firewall, installed as a separate unit, will be the commander and chief of your network. And, make sure that you install surge protectors that recognize when your modem needs to be reset that turn the modem off… and then on again.

Ideal Sound
If you need help in designing a system for your home, it’s wise to use the services of an A/V integrator that specializes in residential technology. Ideal Sound specializes in the design, layout, and installation of home technology systems including lifestyle home theater, home automation, structured and network wiring, and hearing-impaired assistance technology. Professional and experienced, the Ideal Sound staff focuses on meeting the needs of each individual customer. Contact Ideal Sound via email, website, or the phone number below:

Ideal Sound 330 S. 3rd Street, Suite D
San Jose, CA 95112
Phone: 408-400-7339

Several years ago, Hammerschmidt Construction remodeled the Powell Art Gallery room at Sequoia High School in Redwood City. This year, art teacher, Mozy da Costa Pinto called with what seemed an unusual request “Do you have any idea where I could find a number of used doors for an art project?” And, being the Certified Green Remodeling Company that we are, we happened to have many.

Rather than dump used windows and doors in landfills, we store them in our warehouse and either donate them to our church youth group’s, Mission to Mexico project, which builds homes each summer for needy families or we find new homes for them on Craigslist.
Da Costa Pinto wanted to provide each senior art student with a door to paint, symbolizing their impending rite-of-passage, from high school to the next step in their journey.

A few of the completed projects are pictured above. Check out more of the creative doors here.

Homeowners have very individual tastes and preferences when it comes to describing their favorite bathroom environment. It is important to realize that if you desire a relaxing, spa-inspired master bathroom in your home, there is no one standard look and feel for that room. The most important requirement is that it be a place where your personal comfort and enjoyment is a priority.
The gorgeous master bathrooms pictured here run the style gamut from Asian/Contemporary, to Transitional, to European/Modern. What ties these three bathrooms together, however, is the attention given to the 10 spa-inspired details below:

1. Calming hues that harmonize with each other and are flattering to your natural skin tones. Surrounding yourself with favorable colors can enhance your mood.

2. Elegant natural materials that are also eco-friendly—promotes pure pleasure. Experiencing the natural beauty of wood, bamboo, glass, stone and metal is even more satisfying when you know your selections are sustainable.

3. Straighter, less complicated cabinet exteriors, with highly-functional interior organizational systems to optimize storage. An uncluttered environment helps refresh and rejuvenate your mind.

4. Dual sinks, cabinets and closets that provide room for more than one person to use the master bathroom. If you share the room with someone else, having your own personal space will increase your feeling of tranquility.

5. Plenty of natural and artificial light for safety and a sense of well-being. Light plays an important role in helping you avoid accidents; plus, the amount of time you are exposed to light can affect your emotions.

6. Commodious zero-threshold shower and deep soaking tub—for all eventualities. Sometimes relaxation means a lengthy soak; sometimes it means hydro massage body sprays and rain showerhead in the shower.

7. Underfloor radiant heating and heated towel racks that ward off the shivers. Staying toasty warm as you exit the tub or shower prolongs your enjoyment.

8. WaterSense labeled plumbing fixtures, ENERGY STAR qualified appliances, and LED light fixtures that reduce water and energy usage. It feels great knowing you chose wisely and saved money, all the while helping protect the environment.

9. Easily adjustable pre-set temperature controls for shower, bath and underfloor heating that removes all the guess-work. When you are tired, how nice not to have to think—just enjoy.

10. Audio/visual enhancements. Waterproof audio devices can be installed into your shower- head or tub, allowing you to play music through a blue-tooth enabled device, like an iPod or smartphone. A waterproof flat screen TV can be placed in your shower or on the wall next to your tub. You will not have to miss your favorite podcast while you are relaxing in the shower!

If you’re wondering how to incorporate dog-friendly features in your home, look no further. John received the title, Certified Dog Designer, from a client when he was asked to design a number of dog-friendly features into their whole house remodel. The home’s dog room (laundry/ mudroom) incorporated a dog washing station, a place for dog crates under the counter, and specific storage areas for food, leashes, and dog care items along with the requisite dog door.

Large slate tiles were installed on the floor in the dog room and main living areas. The beautiful natural stone is able to disguise dog tracks and it can be easily cleaned with a damp mop.

Playful dog paw tiles were installed on the floor leading to the dog door and custom “portrait” accent tiles were integrated into the backsplash – one for each of their current dogs and other special dogs in their lives. Having completed multiple remodels with custom pet-friendly features, John is well-versed in designing a home that accommodates the needs of the whole menagerie.

If you decide to transform your kitchen by opening it up, one of the challenges you will face is where to store the wide variety of items a homeowner typically wants or needs in the kitchen. When several walls come down, it means that some of the locations where your cabinets were installed earlier are no longer available. With less wall space for cabinets, you must get more creative with storage, using every inch of space as efficiently as possible.

One of the most popular storage solutions for open kitchens is to build a large island with drawers underneath the countertop. Unlike cabinets with doors and shelves, full-extension drawers make it easy to see and reach items, even if they are stored in the back of the drawer. These drawers can be deep enough to hold large bowls and baking pans, or shallow enough for utensils. Today’s drawer organization systems can help you store much more in a new drawer than you were able to store previously in a drawer of the same dimensions. There are options like pegboard systems and drawer dividers that can compartmentalize the space to fit your specific items. Drawers may be fitted with soft and self-closing mechanisms, so that opening and closing a drawer is effortless. Find whatever you need inside the drawer, even at night, by including in-drawer LED lighting that activates by motion sensor when the drawer is opened. Design a storage cabinet on wheels that slides under the island countertop when not needed, but can provide an additional flat surface for food prep when rolled out into the room.

Another answer to the open kitchen storage quandary is to optimize the functionality of all wall cabinets. Consider using frameless cabinets, since these give you freer access to the contents of the cabinet. Lift-up or sliding cabinet doors, along with those that retract into the sides of the cabinet, are convenient since the cabinet can stay open and accessible for meal preparation, without disturbing the workspace. Try to conquer the dead space that often goes to waste in the corners of the kitchen. Currently, in addition to the traditional lazy susan, there are an amazing number of pull-out and swing-out solutions to a “blind corner.” Take time to decide which system will best fit your needs. If you choose to take your cabinets to the ceiling in order to maximize wall storage space, consider adding pull-down shelving systems inside the highest cabinets to make your items accessible without a step-stool. Narrow shelves or wire racks installed in the backsplash area provide easy-to-reach storage, along with an opportunity to bring a bit of color and excitement to that space.

* Photo : Formaldehyde-free cabinetry, cork flooring, low-VOC paints and a locally-made backsplash with recycled content.
(Photo by Michele Lee Willson)

Kirsten A. Flynn
Sustainable Home

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