Spring has sprung and the garden is full of color. After a long winter, it is refreshing to bring those colors in to expand the visual space and revive our spirits. Here are some ways to bring the outdoors in:

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If you wait until the last minute to consider your lighting needs when you are remodeling your kitchen, you may repeat some of the mistakes you have lived with all these years. Installing a single ceiling light fixture in the center of your kitchen creates unwelcome shadows over your work space as you try to prepare meals. Another oversight would be to install ceiling cans around the perimeter of the kitchen without carefully considering where the beams of light will contact the various surfaces in the room. If you place the ceiling cans too close to the kitchen cabinets, for example, you may create uneven scallops of light on the surface of the cabinets, as well as shadows in the middle of the room.

Good lighting design is developed simultaneously with the rest of your kitchen remodeling plans. It takes into account the following three separate layers of light that work in concert to achieve the optimal lighting experience. Ideally, these layers should be switched individually.

1. Ambient — This is the general illumination of your kitchen that allows you to see well enough to move about the room confidently and safely. The ceiling mounted fluorescent boxes that used to be the standard fixture used for this purpose are out. The most popular choices today are ceiling cans and large surface mounted fixtures. Chandeliers may also be used for ambient lighting.

2. Task — This is lighting that helps you perform tasks in your kitchen, such as meal preparation, cooking and work space clean up. For obvious reasons, when you are wielding a sharp knife you want your work space sufficiently bright, but free of glare so you can clearly see what you are doing. The same thing is true when you are stirring a bubbling pot of soup on the stove. Task lighting is usually provided by under-cabinet lights or pendants over an island.

3. Accent — This is the lighting that emphasizes the little details that make your kitchen look exceptional. It can include the spotlight that accentuates a large painting hanging on the wall, as well as the several small pucks installed behind glass cabinet doors to highlight your favorite crockery. Recessed cove lighting is accent lighting that creates visual interest on a ceiling.

As you are planning your lighting, take into account that highly reflective surfaces will impact your lighting design. You should avoid placing fixtures in a location where the light will reflect off your polished granite countertop, causing an uncomfortable glare in the eyes of anyone seated at the kitchen island.



It is also important to consider how your age, and the ages of others living in your home, may influence the amount of light necessary in your kitchen. In order to see clearly enough to read recipes or the instructions on food packages, most older adults need three to four times more light than they did when they were younger.

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.

Valentine’s Day is almost here and many of us will try to find the perfect greeting card, gift, or night out to show appreciation to our loved ones. While these offerings may provide a brief spark in your relationship, may we suggest a more permanent Valentine’s Day gift that will enhance your home and bring you and your loved one closer for much longer than a holiday? . . . . A Fireplace!

On chilly winter nights, nothing adds as much ambience to your home as a roaring fire. Year-round, a fireplace adds beauty, dimension, and a focal point for your room. While there are a number of federal and local regulations that restrict the construction of old-fashioned masonry fireplaces in new and remodeled homes, there are a number of EPA-certified wood-burning fireplaces that provide the richness only a real wood fire can impart and, at the same time, curtail the particulate matter in the smoke by as much as 70%. Two are shown in the photos at right. Additionally, there are a number of ways to retrofit an existing wood-burning fireplace to comply with current regulations. Most will require glass or metal doors and an insert or retrofit to contain the particulate matter. See the list of EPA-certified Fireplacesfor more information.

Renaissance Rumford EPA

Gas fireplaces are also a great option if you do not want to be concerned with obtaining a consistent supply of dry, seasoned, firewood or with cleaning the ashes from the fireplace. In the past, gas fireplaces failed to provide anything close to the experience of a wood burning fireplace. Today, there are a number of greatly-improved gas and electric fireplaces options from which to choose. See the EPA Website for a list of EPA-certified choices.
To help our customers sort through the maze of options and regulations, Hammerschmidt Construction has teamed with Blaze Fireplacesbecause of their expertise and superior customer service.

Blaze will walk you through the five steps of selecting the right fireplace for your space and make the installation easy and enjoyable.

    1. Is a fireplace or fireplace insert needed? A fireplace insert is installed in the existing wood burner. A regular fireplace is installed in the framed opening.
    2. Are you looking for a traditional or modern style?
    3. Are you using the fireplace for heat, and if so, how much heat will be required?
    4. What options (log set, brick, doors and control functions) would you like installed?
    5. Review the flue piping and the installation parameters.


Blaze Fireplace is a family-owned and operated full service contractor and supplier of fireplaces, mantels, insulation, and garage doors. Blaze provides onsite consultation, installation, service, warranty, and after-sales support. Their 6,000 sq ft designer fireplace showroom features more than 60 active burning fireplace displays and over 40 mantels. The Blaze San Francisco Office and Showroom is located at 101 Cargo Way in San Francisco, CA 94124 Phone: 415-495-2002.

01 Feb / 2013

Space-Saving Doors

Do you wish you had more space inside your home, but you aren’t interested in an addition right now? We are experts in re-configuring your existing space to optimize its functionality. Keep reading below as we discuss some space-saving door options.

Perhaps your home feels overcrowded and you’re looking for ways to increase usable space without adding on. Have you considered the fact that a standard hinged door requires eight to ten square feet of floor space to swing open? This is basically wasted space in your home, since nothing else–such as a chair or table–can occupy that same floor space. You may want to keep in mind the following attractive options:

Pocket Doors
A pocket door uses no floor space around an entry, but rather it slides within the wall, providing a clean, unobtrusive look to a room. The door hangs from a track mounted to the ceiling, with a guide placed at the door opening. One big advantage of this type of door is that furniture or shelving may be placed along the wall next to the door opening.

Wall Mounted Sliding Doors
A wall-mounted sliding door has a track-and-roller system that attaches directly to the wall, reminiscent of barn doors. The hangers either can be exposed for an industrial look, or hidden in a facia for a more finished look. Unlike pocket doors, these doors remain outside the wall and therefore are an ideal solution for walls constructed of concrete block or brick, or for wood-framed walls containing pipes or wiring. Furniture may be placed beside the doorway without interfering with the door’s operation.




Additional Tips and Benefits:

  • Use door panels with decorative glass inserts to add style to the space and allow light to be shared between rooms when the doors are closed.
  • Always choose robust, high-quality hardware for all of your sliding doors. This will go a long way toward assuring trouble-free performance.
  • As families transition through the various life stages, they want their homes to be flexible enough to adapt to their changing space needs. At times there may be a need to define some private space within an open floor plan. Converging wall-mounted sliding doors or a multiple pocket door system are able to maximize an open floor plan, easily creating two rooms out of one large room.
  • Pocket doors and wall-mounted sliding doors both offer a universal design solution, since it is not necessary for a person to remain clear of the door as it is swinging open. Also, if a person is needing help from behind a closed door, easy access may be gained from either side. To meet ADA requirements, a pocket door must open with no more than 5 lbs. of pressure.

Have you already gathered lots of ideas for how you’d like your new kitchen to look, once it’s remodeled? Perhaps you’ve thought about the style of cabinets you’d prefer or the beautiful materials you envision on your countertops and backsplash.
You should also consider these three kitchen trends that will add both safety and convenience to your kitchen. And, their green benefits extend beyond the usual energy and water savings.

1. Hands-free Faucet Controls – touch or motion activated

A kitchen faucet with hands-free technology is a tremendous advantage to meal preparation. Advanced sensors detect movement or a slight tap on the faucet itself to start the flow of water. If your hands are full or too dirty to turn on the faucet, a wave of your hand, the touch of your arm, or the presence of your hands under the spout will start the water flowing.
Hands-free technology saves water, since faucets shut off automatically, unless instructed to do otherwise. And, it can be incorporated as part of Universal Design for those with restricted reach and/or limited hand mobility.

2. Induction Cooktops

Would you be surprised to learn that induction cooking technology was developed in the United States? It didn’t immediately take off here–as it did abroad–possibly because of the specialized cookware requirements. It now appears to be gaining popularity in the U.S as consumers become better acquainted with its advantages.
Induction cooking uses induction heating to directly heat a cooking vessel, as opposed to using heat transfer from electrical coils or burning gas as with a traditional cooking stove. For nearly all models of induction cooktops, the cooking vessel must be made of a ferromagnetic metal, or placed on an interface disk which enables non-induction cookware to be used on induction cooking surfaces. Induction cooks food very quickly–90% of the energy produced is used in the cooking process as it heats only the pan and the food inside the pan–rather than the kitchen environment. The induction cooktop surface remains cool to the touch, so spills can be wiped up easily and there are no open flames or hot burners that can cause safety issues.

3. LED Lighting

LED lighting has opened up amazing new opportunities for placing light in your kitchen wherever you desire and however your imagination dictates. It doesn’t produce heat so it is perfectly suited for the inside of refrigerators and food storage cabinets. And, it’s available in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, from long, narrow strips that fit under cabinet toe-kicks to round pucks suitable for cabinet interiors. LED provides white light in warm and cool tones, as well as a wide variety of other colors that can add drama to your kitchen décor.
Quality LED products typically last longer than CFLs, and are therefore preferable for hard-to-reach areas such as ceilings. The long life of LED lights make them an eco-friendly product.

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.

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.



15 Nov / 2012

Less is More

If you are remodeling your kitchen or bathroom and contemplating what material to select for your backsplash, consider the sleek and contemporary alternative to tile or stone–simple, classic, architectural glass. While an elaborate tile or stone backsplash may provide a focal point for your room, sometimes less is more. Back-painted glass slabs provide more than a focal point; they can change the whole feeling in the room, providing a sense of depth and vibrancy in a clean, uncluttered way.

It can be used virtually anywhere you currently use glass, tile, or stone: kitchen backsplashes, bathroom vanity tops, tub and shower walls, fireplaces, accent walls, and refrigerator and cabinet door panels.

Maintenance is easy; back-painted glass is non-porous and seamless and outlasts many architectural products such as tiles and laminates. It doesn’t allow mold or bacteria to form; it is water-proof or water-resistant and it is easy to clean.

  1. Fast & easy installation. Has to be tempered but this can be done by the glass company you choose. The glass is optically clear and the thickness is typically 1/4″, 3/8″, or 3/4″.
  2. It can blend well with the colors you have already chosen for your remodeled room. Instead of trying to find the perfect size, color and textured tile pieces, glass slabs can be painted to match the color codes of all leading paint manufacturers.
  3. The simplicity of a glass wall allows you to get creative and fun as well. Glass is the perfect surface to tape decorations, stick cling-ones, and best of all dry-erase markers can be used to draw on the walls! It wipes right off! Chalkboard paint is fun, but the kids will love this too.

We’re entering the season for parties and holiday get-togethers at your house. As visitors make their way up the walk, what kind of first impression does your front entryway make? If you’re thinking about replacing your doors, you’ll want to read our discussion below.

The front entry to your home is one of the first things a visitor notices. The doorway, as the home’s focal point, will greatly influence the perceived value of your home. It also becomes an opportunity for you to make a unique statement about the character of your home.

A Material Choice
Exterior doors are generally available in three different materials: wood, fiberglass/composite, and steel. As you are making your choice, factors to consider are cost, endurance, climate, energy-efficiency, usage and finish. If you prefer natural wood because of the warmth of its appearance, keep in mind that wood requires regular maintenance to protect it from the weather. Today’s manufactured wood doors usually have an engineered wood core that provides stability. Fiberglass/composite and steel doors are designed to withstand the elements and provide easy-care. In addition, these doors can convincingly resemble wood grain.

The Insulation Factor
Doors are an important part of the overall insulation picture for your home. A flimsy, poorly fit door can allow a regular, unwelcome flow of cold or hot air into your home, negatively affecting your energy bills. Your fiberglass/composite or steel door should have an energy-efficient and environmentally-safe core. Consider purchasing an entry door system with the components–such as hinges and weather stripping–all designed to work together efficiently.

The amount and kind of glass used makes a difference. You may want a lot of glass to improve your view, or to increase your indoor lighting. On the other hand, security and privacy may be more important to you, and therefore you want a door with minimal glazing. Either way, choose an ENERGY STAR qualified door with a double layer of glass, a low-E coating, and argon gas between the glass panes.


Decorate with Doors
Use your doors as a design element, coordinating them with the architectural style of your home to make the whole picture attractive and appealing. Doors come in virtually every style, from Victorian to Rustic. Glass can be etched, beveled, leaded, frosted, stained, textured or tinted. Obscure glass is valued for transmitting light and maintaining privacy at the same time. Doors may have inserts in many shapes. Large glazed doors, often with sidelights and transoms, are currently very popular. Some doors are painted, some stained, and some have baked-in color.

By carefully selecting your entry door, you can create a welcoming appearance for your entire home, while adding value and energy savings at the same time.

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