In anticipation of holiday visitors and guests, have fun sprucing up your home to make their visit more enjoyable with things that you’ll enjoy throughout the year. Whether you have a dedicated guest room or need to convert an office into a bedroom for holiday guests, here are a few ideas to get you started.

Begin with your home’s exterior

Refresh Your Entry
Your home’s entrance makes an important first impression. Refresh your entry with a new coat of paint on the front door. And if the trim is starting to look weathered, scrape and repaint those areas as well.

Deck Out Your Planters
While you have the paint can open, paint planters and window boxes in the same color as your trim or door. Then, add some seasonal color by filling the window boxes with annuals such as Cyclamen, primroses, stock and decorative kale.
Another idea is to use real or artificial holly, pomegranates, birch sticks and greenery to create a holiday planters. Top them off with a string of tiny white lights to brighten the front entrance.

Clear the Clutter and Light the Way
Remove any clutter from your front entrance and pick-up leaves and other debris by the front door. Test bulbs in your exterior light fixtures to ensure they safely illuminate pathways and steps. Add a new doormat that extends a warm welcome to your visitors.

Then move into the interior

Add comfort
Wondering how you are going to turn your home office into a B&B for your house guests? Consider a versatile Wall Bed/Murphy Bed. Wall beds open to a normal resting height and accommodate any standard mattress. They are space savers, safe and easy opening and no comfort is lost ! For more ideas and wall bed options, check out our trusted friends at Valet Custom Cabinets and Closets.

And that Special Touch
You can always count on Martha Stewart for ideas to make people feel welcome and to ensure that their time spent with you is memorable.

An easy example she gives is to keep sets of guest towels together, bound with twill tape or ribbon. When visitors arrive, just transfer a stack from linen closet to guest bedroom.

Click here for a checklist that will help you impress your guest.

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.

* 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

It is an exciting time to work in residential interior design. Technology has made many parts of the process so much easier.

Read More

Wondering how to pull nature indoors, as well as promote balance and harmony? See the article on the Color of the Year for 2013 and find out how Emerald Green can add Glam to any room.

Update your Home with this Season’s Hottest Hue, and Color of the Year – Emerald Green.

Pantone LLC, the global authority on color and provider of professional color standards for the design industries, announced that PANTONE®17-5641 Emerald- a lively, radiant, lush, green, is the Color of the Year for 2013.

According to the Pantone website, Emerald, a vivid, verdant green, enhances our sense of well-being by inspiring insight, as well as promoting balance and harmony. Most often associated with brilliant, precious gemstones, emerald green is sophisticated and luxurious. Since antiquity, this luminous hue has been the color of beauty and new life in many cultures and religions. It’s also the color of growth, renewal and prosperity – no other color conveys regeneration more than green.

Photo: williowblog.com

“Green is the most abundant hue in nature – the human eye sees more green than any other color in the spectrum,” said Leatrice Eiseman, Executive Director, Pantone Color Institute. “As it has throughout history, multifaceted Emerald continues to sparkle and fascinate. Symbolically, Emerald brings a sense of clarity, renewal and rejuvenation, which is so important in today’s complex world. This powerful and universally appealing tone translates easily to both fashion and home interiors.”

According to Shawn Gauthier, a design enthusiast and freelance writer for Houzz, “Emerald green pulls nature indoors.” Summer is just the right time to use this rich and elegant shade to tie interior and outdoor spaces together.

Visit Houzz for wonderful photos, like the one above from Carlyn And Company Interiors + Design and ideas on how to incorporate this color trend throughout your home.

One of the first signs of the Christmas season is the sight of a front door adorned with an evergreen and holly wreath. A welcoming sign of holiday cheer, wreaths have been used symbolically for centuries.

In ancient Rome, the wreath became so powerful that people used decorative wreaths as a sign of victory. Some believe that this is origin of hanging of wreaths on doors. The ancient Druids believed that holly, with its glossy, shiny prickly leaves of green adorned with red berries, remained green all year due to their magical properties. Many speculate the holly berries have given us our green and red colors of Christmas. Combining the symbolism of the wreath with the believed magical powers of holly, the Romans exchanged holly wreaths as gifts. Once Christianity took hold in Rome, holly wreaths became Christmas wreaths.

A traditional evergreen, holly, and pinecone wreath

To add color to their Christmas wreaths, the American colonists incorporated colorful fruits. Pomegranates, in particular were used as they represented wealth. Celebrating the Christmas season for 12 consecutive days (the “12 Days of Christmas”) the celebration ends on January 5th, the 12th day.

Christmas and Advent Wreaths

While there are many designs and styles of Christmas wreaths, they mainly fall into two categories, the decorative wreath and the Advent wreath. The decorative Christmas wreath is used for holiday decorations and is usually made of evergreens, holly, or other materials which symbolize life emerging through a tough winter. The ring or wheel of the Advent wreath of evergreens decorated with candles was a symbol in northern Europe long before the arrival of Christianity. The circle symbolized the eternal cycle of the seasons while the evergreens and lighted candles signified the persistence of life in the midst of winter. Some sources suggest the wreath – now reinterpreted as a Christian symbol – was in common use in the Middle Ages, others that it was established in Germany as a Christian custom only in the 16th century.

Traditionally, the Advent wreath consists of three violet and one rose candle set in a circle of evergreens. In the center of the wreath sits a white candle. As a whole, these candles represent the coming of the light of Christ into the world. Beginning with the First Sunday of Advent, one candle is lit. An additional candle is lit during each subsequent week until, by the last Sunday before Christmas, all four candles are lit. The fifth candle, which symbolizes the birth of Christ, is lit on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.

Whether you are looking to start your holiday decorating or trying to find a gift, a wreath can brighten a front door, a window or various places inside your home. See our resources section in the left hand column for more ideas.

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.

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.

Motown Sound

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.

15 May 2011

Get Organized!

Get Organized!

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.

kuzakscloset@gmail.com
650-646-4343
www.kuzakscloset.com
http://blog.kuzakscloset.com

Conventional forced-air systems produce uneven heat, with the highest air temperatures near the ceilings. Heat radiating up from the floor, however, warms not only the floor, but also the other objects in a room, such as your walls and furniture, which in turn begin to radiate heat. This produces a pleasant, even heat that is very quiet and healthy. Noisy fans become unnecessary, eliminating the dusty air that blows about and creates havoc for those with allergies. Vents and radiators are dispensable, providing a cleaner look in each room.

There are two main underfloor heating systems used today: hydronic and electric.

A tile installer bonds a NuHeat
heating mat to the subfloor
with thinset before laying the tile.

· The hydronic system is used for heating an entire building. With the hydronic system, hot water from a boiler or water heater, heat pump, or solar collector, etc. is circulated through loops of flexible plastic tubing embedded in a concrete floor. This system can be more expensive to install than forced-air, but once in place it can be up to 30% more energy efficient because no energy is lost through ducts.

The WarmlyYours TempZone
system is used under tile, stone
and hardwood floor coverings.

· If your primary concern is to avoid stepping out of a warm shower onto a chilly tile floor, an electric radiant system is for you. Remove the throw rugs — they have been known to cause serious injuries when people accidentally tripped on them. An electric radiant system is a more healthy way to heat up smaller areas of your home, such as bathrooms, mudrooms and kitchens. An electric radiant system uses loops of thin heating cables that are installed just below the flooring material or embedded in it. Manufacturers often sew the wires to a mesh backing that holds them in place for easy installation. An electric system works well for retrofit projects.

Either type of floor heating system can be controlled by programmable thermostats with setback features to ensure that the floor is being heated only when the room is being used-thereby saving energy.

01 Jan 2011

Ring in the New

Greetings!

Happy New Year! This time of year often brings reflection on what has transpired throughout the year and hope for what can be in the new year. We wish you and your family all the best in the coming year.

Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.
~Alfred, Lord Tennyson, 1850

The full effects of the global financial crisis of 2008 are yet to be seen. While the credit-crunch caused by the burst of the sub-prime mortgage bubble is considered the primary cause, other factors propelled the crisis to global proportions. Speculation in the commodities market spurred energy to its highest prices ever. In the period leading up to the collapse, unemployment and bankruptcy were rampant. In fact, during that time, two of our customers, both long term (15+) year employees of local high-tech companies, lost their jobs in the middle of large remodeling projects. The declining value of the dollar abroad and inflation at home further weakened the economy and by late summer, the number of home foreclosures and housing loan defaults forewarned that the United States’ economy was about to collapse.

The federal government’s buyout of lenders Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac failed to rectify the situation and within weeks, Wall Street investment banks were on the brink of collapse. Congress approved a massive, $700 billion economic package to rescue the failing banks, hoping to avoid a nationwide depression. While it brought some stability to the market and avoided a nationwide depression, at least temporarily, it has not yet reversed the negative economic trends and the remodeling industry has been especially hard-hit. Let’s face it; remodeling is, in most cases, a nice-to-have luxury and not a necessity. Unless your home is damaged in a fire or natural disaster, or your roof is leaking, remodeling is not imperative. That being the case, remodeling has come to a screeching dribble. We have it from a reliable (though not official) source, that in 2010, approximately 200 building permits were issued in Los Altos – down from the 2,000+ issued in recent prior years.

And, while we are receiving the same number of leads, whether it is the realistic fear of a job loss, the inability to obtain financing, or apprehension about the shaky state of the economy, most would-be remodelers are watching from the sidelines to see where the market will settle. Or worse yet, they are choosing to proceed with a low-ball bidder who gave them a price that is 50% less than it will actually cost to build their project – a game we have chosen not to play – but that’s another story. Underpinning all of these fears, whether conscious or not, is the awareness that something profoundly wrong was at work in the highest levels of power in our nation and there is no evidence that it has been exorcized. To the contrary, we think “it” was given a slap on the hand and big bonuses.

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