15 Oct 2013
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
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.
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:
01 Dec 2012
Multigenerational households are on the rise in the U.S. Do you belong to a family that has several generations living together under one roof? Below are some ideas for enhancing your home to make this arrangement work successfully for everyone.
A dramatic change is quietly taking place in the make-up of the typical American household. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that since 1990 the number of multigenerational households has grown approximately 40 percent.
This nationwide shift is due to a number of factors, one of which is the rising cost of living. College debt has caused many young adults to move back home again after they graduate, even if they have good jobs. Single moms or dads have often decided to move in with their parents who can help provide less expensive childcare. Older adults are living with their children, rather than pay the high costs of an assisted living community.
If your family lives in a multigenerational household, it is probably for a variety of reasons. Families from ethnic groups such as Asians and Hispanics are more accustomed to multigenerational living, and often find it preferable. However, this lifestyle does present challenges, the greatest of which is to reach that delicate balance between privacy and togetherness.
One of the most successful strategies for optimizing multigenerational living is to create a separate, self-contained suite within the home. This concept is often referred to as a “home within a home.” These suites, regardless of size, offer everything necessary for independent living, including a small kitchen, bath, living area and bedroom. There may be a separate laundry area as well. Each suite has a separate outside entry so family members may come and go without disturbing each other, yet it shares an interior door with the main house. The suite may also share the back yard, or have its own small patio instead. This enables families to stay close, while individual members retain a greater degree of privacy.
Almost any home can be remodeled to include a separate suite. If you desire to stay within the confines of your home’s existing footprint, one option would be to combine a couple of adjoining bedrooms to create the necessary space. A professional remodeler can help you analyze any other underutilized areas in your home and consider whether they could be re-engineered to function as a suite. Of course, if you have space for an addition, this may give you the most flexibility.
Families who have added separate suites to their homes have been pleasantly surprised to discover how these suites can continue to meet their ever changing needs throughout the various stages of their lives.
05 Jan 2012
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.
01 Dec 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.
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.
15 Aug 2011
When most people think about remodeling, they envision adding a number of new rooms and lots of square footage to assure they don’t feel cramped. Yet, sometimes all that is needed to improve the flow and function of a space is a simple bump-out. Keep reading to find out more about the five basic types of additions and how one or more might work for your home.
A bump-out is ideal for introducing more light and elbowroom into a cramped space. A well-designed bump-out can host an entry, dining area, home office, or homework nook. A bump-out is relatively quick to build and requires little foundation work. It’s important to assure that it doesn’t look tacked on, especially when viewed from the home’s front. In the photo above, the entry bump-out is the only square footage added to this whole house remodel, but it has a big impact on the home’s function. It provides a place to transition from the exterior to the interior and allows the main living area to remain separate from the process of entering.
A bump-up, adds architectural interest and can boost the function and usable floor space of upper level rooms. Raising the ceiling height and adding a clerestory can also add light and the feeling of spaciousness to small spaces.
Adding square footage to an existing room or rooms can increase the usability of the area(s) and often is less expense than whole room additions in that the new area can use the existing HVAC system. The challenge with this type of addition is to assure that it does not distort the home’s original shape and creates a seamless transition between the two spaces.
Single Room Addition
A single room addition can increase a home’s livability and resale value, however linking new and old spaces requires care and creativity. In the Silicon Valley, as homeowners outgrew their ranch homes, they sought ways to inexpensively add square footage to their ranchers. A popular option was to create a second floor addition, only over the existing garage. While cost-effective, these additions distorted the home’s proportions and style. Many cities now prohibit the building of a “box” addition on top of an existing home without also making design modifications that create a more pleasing roofline.
Multiple Rooms Addition
In this type of addition, significant square footage and functional spaces are added, sometimes on multiple levels. While typically more expensive than other types of additions, because a new heating and cooling system may be required, this type of addition has the power to transform the functionality of the entire home. As in all additions, it is important that the design of the new space is integrated with the existing structure to produce not only a functional but aesthetic remodel.
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.
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
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.