When you’re designing your child’s room, it’s tempting to begin by purchasing a comforter set from his or her favorite Disney character–say Perry the Platypus–and then go from there. Bright teal-green walls with tangerine accents, and you’re in business, until next year, that is, when your child prefers a different cartoon hero. Keep reading for our tips on designing bedrooms that are flexible enough to transition through all stages of your children’s lives.

Parents love to delight their children with fanciful bedrooms that resemble a princess castle or a pirate den. But how can you design bedrooms that both fit your children’s needs and imaginations right now, yet are flexible enough to fulfill their needs and desires as they grow and mature?

The bedroom should function well for your child’s activities and well-being.

  • Kid’s rooms should provide ample storage for clothing, toys, books and games, and make that storage easy for them to use, so they can clean up after themselves. One of the best solutions is built-in cabinetry that is anchored to the bedroom wall, since children will often try to climb.
  • Include some open shelving, cubbies and baskets, which are easier for smaller children to manipulate than deep drawers and large closet doors.
  • Install several clothing hooks inside and outside the closets, since these are simpler for children to use than hangers.
  • Include a table, desk or built-in desktop for completing arts and crafts projects or schoolwork, along with seating that provides good back support and encourages healthy posture.

Kids Room

  • Make certain this area is well-lit to avoid eyestrain. General overhead room lighting is important, as well as task lighting specifically focused on the activity area.
  • Kids like to personalize their rooms. Allow them to express themselves by providing a chalkboard or install a cork board where they can attach their artwork. If your child is a budding artist, paint a section of the bedroom wall with chalkboard paint.
  • Choose materials and finishes that are easy care and non-toxic, such as low or no-VOC paints, stains or sealants. Select natural flooring materials, such as hardwood, cork, bamboo or real linoleum (Marmoleum), rather than carpet that can harbor allergens or vinyl that can emit harmful fumes.

The bedroom should be flexible enough to perform well into the future

Kids Room

  • Children grow up more rapidly than parents expect, and their needs change quickly. Unless you want to completely re-do your child’s bedroom every year, design the bedroom for flexibility.
  • Avoid choosing a juvenile theme for your child’s bedroom that he or she will quickly outgrow. Choose cabinet finishes and paint colors that can form a backdrop for your child’s ever changing interests.
  • Select a crib that transitions into a toddler bed and then later into a regular twin or full bed. It will save you the cost of purchasing a new bed as your child ages, and may make the adjustment for your child easier as well.
  • Install adjustable rods and poles in the closet, so the space can evolve to fit various clothing sizes as your child matures.
  • Include a comfortable adult-size lounge chair or loveseat for reading books or cuddling with your child. The same lounge chair, transformed by the addition of some colorful new throw pillows, can serve your child during the teen years.

How long does it take you to find your favorite hairspray or body lotion as you’re getting ready in the morning? If you’re like most Americans, trying to locate things you own but can’t find takes up almost an hour of each day. This lost time can result in missed deadlines, which only adds to the stress. For your own peace of mind, make the decision to start organizing your bathroom today!

The first thing to do is to make an inventory of all the items found in your bathroom and decide which need to stay there. Divide everything into three piles: keep, donate and discard. Will you ever use those brand new burgundy-colored towels a friend gave you years ago? Doubtful, since they no longer match your color scheme. Donate them! If you have expired medications, or half-used products that you don’t like, discard them.

Once you have whittled your pile of “keep” items down to the essentials, decide where in the bathroom they should be located. If they are décor items, they can go back on your countertop. Other items should be organized carefully in drawers or cabinets.

Interior cabinet storage solutions, similar to those designed for kitchens, are just as convenient in bathroom vanities. A drawer with dividers is perfect for smaller make-up products. Pull-outs, like those in the photo above, make larger items easily accessible. Slide-out under-sink organizers are great for storing cleaning supplies, but lock the cabinet if you have children in your home. Consider installing a separate wall hung medicine cabinet to help keep medications out of the reach of children. Robern offers a mirrored cabinet with an integrated cold storage unit, making it possible for you to keep all your medications together in one place.

Even if you’re not needing to use your range or refrigerator tonight because you’re sending out for pizza, chances are you’ll be using your kitchen sink for clean up. The sink is one of the most heavily used fixtures in the kitchen. Doesn’t it make sense to purchase a sink that performs well for your needs? Be sure to review all the options below, before you choose your new sink.

Homeowners tend to give their kitchen sink little consideration when making selections for their new kitchens. They may spend weeks deciding on the perfect chef-style range and then only rarely use it, while the sink is put into service continually. Why shouldn’t your sink be highly functional and lovely to look at — in others words, a joy to use?

1. Stainless Steel

Stainless steel sinks complement the look of commercial-style appliances. Steel is more protective of dropped glassware than harder materials like cast iron. It does scratch and can dent if a heavy pot falls into the sink. A thicker gauge of steel will be less apt to dent. Sound-absorbing pads underneath the bowl will result in a quieter sink.

2. Porcelain Enameled Cast Iron
Enameled cast iron sinks boast a glossy porcelain finish that is available in a wide variety of colors. This sink can withstand a hot pot, but if a pot is dropped into the sink, the enamel can chip, after which the underlying iron may corrode. Always use a nonabrasive cleaner to protect the finish.

Granite composite sink

Granite composite sink

3. Fireclay (Vitreous China)
Fireclay is hard and quite heavy — made from a ceramic-like material that is fired under intense heat. The glossy color goes all the way through, so there is nothing under the surface to corrode. Using a nonabrasive cleaner, the sinks are easy to maintain, but they can chip.

4. Granite Composite (such as Silgranit)
Granite composite sinks are made of a mixture of 80% natural granite and acrylic resin — the material extends throughout. These sinks resist scratching and chipping, plus they are non-porous and resist most household stains. They can easily handle a hot pot up to 500 degrees.

5. Solid Surface (such as Corian)
Solid surface sinks may be joined to a countertop of the same material for a seamless look. The non-porous material offers easy maintenance, since there are no recesses to collect bacteria. A downside is that the sink can be damaged by heat and sharp objects.

6. Natural Stone
Natural stone sinks are valued for their unique beauty and ability to integrate with a stone countertop. Most stone is porous and should be sealed with a penetrating sealer. Even after sealing, certain acidic liquids may stain and etch the surface. Always use a nonabrasive cleaner.

Recycled copper sink

Recycled copper sink

7. Copper
Copper sinks develop a patina over time, which is one of the characteristics most people love about the material. The relatively soft metal can scratch, but most scratches may be removed by polishing. Avoid long exposure to hot pots, which can distort the shape of the sink.

8. Concrete
Concrete offers great versatility in the shape, color and texture of a sink. Objects may be embedded into the concrete for decorative, as well as functional purposes. Newer products are highly resistant to cracking, chipping and staining — problems that plagued concrete sinks in the past.

23 May / 2012

Color Forecast 2012

Are you longing to tear down walls and transform the dark, closed-off rooms in your home into open light-filled spaces that connect to the outdoors? You want your home to feel refreshed, invigorated, and up-to-date. But how can you know your color selections won’t go out of style in a year or two, making your new space look dated? The 2012 colormixTM forecast from Sherwin-Williams helps give you confidence in choosing colors for your remodeling project.

Jackie Jordan, director of color marketing for Sherwin-Williams, points out that a dominant trend this year is for pairing colors within the same color family–but not the expected tone-on-tone pairings we’ve seen in the past. The new color forecast features 40 hues in four vibrant palettes that help you discover a fresh array of combinations within color families.

Reds Burn Brightly
This vibrant palette includes hues of brilliant flowers and glowing embers. It isn’t a single red, but a deep gradation of fuchsias, red-oranges, violets and delicate pinks. “Red has a renewed dominance,” Jordan said. “But the old taboos about mixing reds with oranges and purples don’t apply.

Blues Not Washed Out
This soothing palette celebrates a pair of functional and treasured blues: denim and water. It explores the darkest indigo to faded-jeans hues, some with violet undertones, as well as the calm, shimmery shades that reflect rivers, lakes and seas.

Greens Firmly Planted
Representing a shift from some of the yellow-tinged greens of the past, this eclectic palette focuses on greens that are lush, moody and complex. It showcases the depths of the sea and forest, leafy motifs, rustic natural textures, and organic elements such as algae, moss and seaweed.

Neutrals Provide Balance
Raw materials continue to influence color trends, especially the more subtle hues. Picture a field of grain, pile of pebbles, weathered wood and earthen clay. Gold tones embody the sun and soft metallics–and warm up this understated yet refined palette. Textural elements, such as linen, unfired porcelain and mixed woods, provide subtle variations.

Comparing the average cost for 35 popular remodeling projects with the value those projects retain at resale, the data in Remodeling magazine’s Cost vs. Value Report includes national and regional averages for midrange and upscale projects. At the peak of the market in 2005, on average, nearly 87% percent of remodeling costs could be recouped. Although current returns are lower, some projects still offer a chance to recoup a majority of your investment.

According to the report, the top five projects nationwide for upscale homes are all exterior improvements. Fiber cement siding replacement is at the top of the list, offering a 78% return on investment. Exterior upgrades also place high on the list for midrange projects — entry door and garage door replacements rank at 72% and 73% respectively.

It is also possible to cut the data by project level within a region, such as the San Francisco Bay Area as in the chart below.

Visit the Remodeling magazine website to see the full Cost vs. Value Report.

In an interior remodeling project, cabinetry is often one of the larger expenditures, so it makes sense to choose your cabinets carefully. You want to be certain you have the storage capacity and functionality you need. The height and depth of the cabinets are also taken into consideration. You want the cabinet style, wood species and finishes to create that fabulous look you have in mind — the perfect fit for your personality and tastes.

One small detail that is often overlooked is the decorative hardware. Yet sometimes it is the tiniest detail that makes the biggest impact and leaves a lasting impression. While still in the planning stage of your project, take some quality time to select your decorative hardware.

One of your first considerations should be how the hardware feels to your hand. Since you continually open and close your cabinet doors and drawers, hand comfort and accessibility is vital. The hardware should project out from your cabinet far enough to protect the cabinet finish from sharp fingernails or oil from your fingers. For some people with limited hand mobility, a pull may be easier to grasp than a knob. In this case, test it out and make sure it is large enough to grip with the entire hand.

Secondly, your decorative hardware should coordinate with the style and proportion of your cabinets. When used appropriately, decorative hardware doesn’t clamor for its own individual attention, but rather intensifies the loveliness of your cabinet, and thereby influences the look of the entire room. A long, lean stainless steel pull beautifully accentuates a streamlined European-style cabinet. A vintage-style cabinet becomes even more lovely when set off by an elegant period piece garnished with gemstones.

Finally, when making your choices, remember to have fun and be creative. You do not have to match every piece of hardware from room to room. Too much similarity throughout your home decreases the excitement. Select something out-of-the-ordinary that fits your personal style and adds vitality to the room.

Currently the trend is for oversized decorative hardware, along with coordinating appliance pulls for the kitchen. Unique knobs and pulls are available in a wide range of materials, from metal, porcelain and glass to stone, wood and even leather. The most popular metal finishes are brushed nickel, stainless steel, polished chrome, and hand-rubbed finishes in bronze, pewter and antique brass.


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.

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.


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.


The holidays will soon be here. Have you looked around your home to see if there are ways it could function better for family gatherings and feel more inviting? Even if you haven’t the budget for a major remodel, there are less expensive ways to make a big impact. We are here to help you get those projects completed.

Fall is a great time for having remodeling work done, so prepare your home now for welcoming holiday visitors. Our workload starts to loosen up a bit, which means we may be able to begin your project sooner than at other times of the year. Also, our vendors often offer special sale prices on their products in the fall with savings we can pass on to you.

Entrance Foyer

Here’s where your guests catch their first glimpse of your home’s interior, and you want it to be visually appealing. Have those tired walls covered with a fresh coat of paint. Choose a zero-VOC product, so there are no lingering, harmful fumes. Add interest to the door and ceilings with decorative wood trim in an unusual pattern. If your foyer has a low ceiling, consider track lighting instead of a chandelier.


As various family members get involved in preparing those holiday meals, you’ll want your kitchen to provide a functional workspace, as well as attractive surroundings. Now would be the perfect time to upgrade to a range with two separate ovens so multiple dishes may be cooking at different temperatures at the same time. Install a new faucet with a pull-down spray so both food prep and clean up can go faster. Have your scratched and stained plastic laminate countertops replaced with beautiful new solid surface or granite. Likewise, replace your worn vinyl flooring with engineered hardwood flooring-a product that not only is durable, but also handles moisture well.

Family Room

There never seems to be enough storage space for all the games, toys, magazines, DVDs, pillows etc. that accumulate in the family room. You will want to clear up the clutter before your holiday guests arrive. We can help suggest places where you can easily tuck some additional cabinets or shelves, such as below a bay window, beneath a stairway or against an empty wall.


If your bathroom lighting is limited to an overhead ceiling fixture, install additional fixtures, such as stylish pendants or sconces at the vanity. This is convenient for guests applying make-up at the mirror, but more importantly, it helps prevent accidents for those with diminished eyesight. Update a basic plate-glass mirror by adhering decorative molding around the outer edges to form a frame. New hardware can greatly enhance the look of your existing cabinets. Choose hardware with a creative design or unique color that also coordinates with the existing finishes.

There’s No Law that Says You Have to Do it All at Once

The unstable economy has forced many people to put their larger remodeling plans on hold. However, a number of homeowners are completing their projects one stage at a time. Additionally, some are doing updates in lieu of complete remodels. Below is a list of budget-friendly projects that can increase the enjoyment of your home now but also contribute to its long-term value. Some require professional remodeling services (that’s us) while others are DIY. Find more budget- friendly before and after photos on the Sunset website.

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