Feb 8, 2011

IDEA of the month: February

Your growing family needs a better place to gather than in front of the TV. IdeaPaint can turn virtually anything you can paint into a high-performance dry-erase surface, giving your family a place to interact, communicate and fully explore your creativity. No matter where you use it, it can keep your family connected. Who knows, it may even help end the battle over the remote control. IdeaPaint is the most flexible, durable and cost-effective dry-erase solution on the market. It can be applied to any smooth surface, outperforms and outlasts the leading dry-erase options and works better with all brands of dry-erase markers. 
It's inexpensive, eco-friendly, won't crackle, peel or get stain yellow, has a warranty, and you can go over it with ONE coat of paint. 

Feb 7, 2011

9 Tools we can all use.

As a design-construction industry professional, I often am called upon to render advice - and even service - to repair or install. Many of my clients have the desire but not the know-how for specific projects, but are willing to tackle them. At worst, they have wasted their time, at best, the satisfaction of doing a job right. To help my handy homeowners, I've compiled this list of new tools that are JUST right for specific jobs. Need to borrow versus buy? Come on over!

 Love this one. It's great for demo, leverage, pulling nails and easy to swing with one hand.

Door jack. Ok, so not many of you will use this. Need to remove a door to replace an appliance or bring in new furniture....voila.  When I needed to take the doors from my lower level off to re-do the tile, I wanted to put them back.  This makes it easy and I didn't need a helper. 

Metric hex set! Awesome for specialty screws in many appliances, cabinet pulls and knobs, and there are 15 bits here.There are also eight standard bit sizes, which store inside the retractable handle.
Another -many in one screwdriver. Having added dimmers, swapped receptacles for an upgraded style and adding GFCI, this is handy.  This one has 11 bits and is great for screws found on switches, receptacles; conduit fittings have special head sockets that can be driven with Phillips, square-drive, or flat screwdrivers.This is like reverse-engineering a screw by making a bit that fills the entire socket!
Nail puller. Used when you need to get into a tight spot or need specific leverage that a claw hammer can't give. Also good for more 'delicate' nail removal so you don't dent your surfaces.
As one who measures, designs and drafts custom rooms, showers, furniture, etc..this tool is great. It's a true square, marking gauge, and saddle square all in one. The pencil-holding marking gauge is removable, and can be used as a giant compass. A wing below the body of the tool lets you mark around outside corners.
Finally a long stand-out tape (truly 13 feet) with an end that actually hooks a wall and stays there. I dislike asking clients to hold one end of a tape - even in a long room - and certainly despise having mine fall off the wall and bend and twist awkwardly. Problem solved!

Again, for more specialized jobs. These vise-grip pliers have a “self-energizing” jaw design that shifts under load and self-tightens, similar to the action of a pipe wrench. This means that the grip strength of the tool isn’t determined solely by the crushing force of the jaws, which may prevent the deformation of some materials the pliers are used on. They have curved jaws that are more V-shaped than standard curved jaws, to better lock on round shapes and hex nuts.
Who doesn't love a good set?  This is a seven-piece Universal Design ratcheting wrench set whose 12-tooth ratcheting ends fit four-, six-, and 12-sided bolts. The teeth even grip partially rounded-off bolt heads. Wrenches are from 5/16- to 11/16-inch sizes.

Feb 5, 2011

To brand or not to brand?

Is it worth paying for a name brand when there are so many options available today? Should you shop for designer fabric instead of visiting your local discount store?  Are mid-priced appliances as good as top-of-the-line?   Can a home improvement store brand faucet deliver the same function and aesthetic as a famous name faucet?

Yes and no to all of the above....and many more.  Let's use fabrics as our first example. You find an upholstery fabric at local discount store, yet you've also hired a designer to help with re-covering your sofa. Which do you select; the former  (Eva) is $20 per yard, the latter (Mist) is $85 per yard?  Style, hand, dimensional stability and durability are KEY to selecting the right one.  Both may be chenille, but is there a rating for durability on the "Eva"? What is the fiber content? Can you tell the difference in the hand? Is the weave apparent and some idea of stability visible? "Mist" offers a tighter weave and has a high durability rating.  How much yardage will you need based on the width? Finally, is the texture, color and overall appearance right for you? There IS a difference between low cost and designer fabrics in all of the above elements.  The use guides the selection of fabrics. From years of experience, the value in selecting the best quality and best durability, including the right style leads me to the designer fabric 95% of the time; using with the right fabric does save time and money. Check out  fabulous fabrics with great value at Kravet.

Appliances have multiple elements to consider; function, style, energy consumption, size, warranty, and cost.  I have recommended mid-priced appliance suites with features that meet a client's needs and budget perfectly, rather than have them place all branded appliances in their kitchen. Function and style are often tied to cost; high-end appliances do offer wonderful features and do cost more. If you are using panels to cover some of your appliances, brand names may be less of a factor since function and not style are your primary concern. If a manufacturer offers a short warranty, it may reflect their confidence in that appliance.  While I love high-end appliances for the specific features and style they provide, I do recommend other brands based on how they work in individual kitchens, baths and laundry rooms. Don't forget that you can mix suites and brands.  If the design of the appliance and how it looks in your space drives your decision, then absolutely get that La Cornue range!

Faucets and sinks are offered by brand name manufacturers as well as privately labeled ones. Function and longevity are very important since these items are used multiple times daily.  What is the finish and how durable is it?  How easy is it to maintain the finish? Does the spout have the reach you need? Does the style offer function for you (single or double handle style, levers, pull-out sprayers)? Where and how is the product made?  Body construction and internal construction (cast or tubular brass base material, and compression, ball, cartridge or ceramic disk valves, lead free interior, etc..) should all be examined.  A good valve will ensure that water temperature will be consistent during use, and a scald guard will be critical in baths and showers. Does the faucet meet 2.5 gallon/minute mandated flow rates? Style and design are very important elements. Consider your counters and sinks, since the faucet should be paired with both to work well. For example, a 4" deck mounted faucet is not appropriate for a 36" under-mounted kitchen sink, but could be ideal for a powder room sink. From ultra-modern stainless to traditional oil-rubbed finishes, there is a tremendous variety in faucetry for every room and you can purchase a high-style faucet and not pay top dollar.

Feb 3, 2011

5 tips to save water

You know the global benefits of conserving energy and water — including saving money on your utility bill. But maybe you're not sure where to start. Here are a few ways to embrace earth-friendly practices in your home and routine. Remember, even the smallest steps help make a difference. 

1) Upgrade to green.  With new government standards and technology, modern faucets are more efficient than ever. Saving up to 32% on your water usage, WaterSense certified faucets and shower heads make going green practically effortless.

2) Look, no hands. We waste gallons of water everyday by leaving sink faucets running while performing daily tasks. WHY? With hands-free electronic faucets you will ensure water is used only when needed. Can't add one? Try turning off that water while loading the dishwasher, brushing teeth and shaving.

3) Get in on-demand Tankless water heaters offer a great way to cut home energy costs without impacting performance. By flash heating water and eliminating tank style water heaters long cycles you can cut your energy use by 20%.

4) Cost effective green.  A quick, first step toward going green, flow optimized aerators can add highly effective performance to older faucets without much cost to you.

5) Ditch the bottle  Avoid the need for plastic bottles with water filtering faucets or free-standing filters. There are many tap, pitcher and other water filtering devices that are easily installed. Then you can re-fill  BPA-free or stainless bottles. You will save on costs to purchasing bottled water and help unclog waste disposal sites of these increasingly hazardous items.

Feb 2, 2011

5 design trends to follow.

It's hard to follow home design trends for many reasons.  First, of course, is the expense. While being fashionable and current is a great idea, to re-do your home frequently is time consuming and costly.  Second is that a trend may not accurately reflect who you are....a great style doesn't mean you should use it.  By incorporating - subtly - some of the top trends, you can be cutting edge and stay true to your budget and your personal style!

Pottery from your travels works well in decor.
1) Uniqueness: With a trend towards our heritage and ethnicity, this style trend is easily incorporated into most decor. Most of us have a favored piece from family or travels. Do you collect unusual art?  Make those pieces stand out in a room and highlight their individuality. Hang that art by itself...add a picture light, drape an old table or chair with a brightly colored throw, place collectibles in a single area and light it.

A new paint job moved this dresser to the entry.

2) Reclaiming:  This has broad meaning. From using items that have been made from materials used before, to re-purposing something for a new use, you can capture the essence of this long-term style trend. Try using a small bedroom chest as an entry table...a new finish and hardware can make it a statement piece.  Turn a found object into a candlestick...express your creativity.

3) Time worn:  In every type of decor from country, to classic formal, to sleek modernist, adding aged pieces in the right proportion and color is stylish. An old stone piece on a sleek tabletop, a rugged architectural remnant hanging in a traditional dining room. You can even create aging or distressing on pieces you don't love and find a new use and place to display them.

4) Handcrafted: Reminiscent of the Arts and Crafts movement, this moves us away from mass-manufactured products to those made by hand.  Ideas... baskets for display and storage - these add leather strapping and brass buckles -  a wooden bench, an earthenware vase. One standout piece, or a grouping, makes a great statement and captures the essence of craftsmanship.

A large hand-painted pattern in a dining room.

5) Exaggerated scale: With full knowledge of scale and proportion, and how to use them, designers have been 'breaking' the rules using this element in ways that could be considered over-the-top. By placing a very large scale object d'art on a small table, or a huge painting on a small wall, you create a statement that draws the eye and gives a unique message about your style. At home, try using large scale wall-coverings, a big pattern on an area rug, a large pendant over a table. One 'over-the-top' chair can work really well if positioned correctly in

Feb 1, 2011

5 tips for an updated kitchen.

Ready to update your kitchen? Consider these ideas to incorporate something new.

1) Raise your counters.  Rather than standard 36" high counters, try 38". The extra 2" can mean better ergonomics. Can't do that? Try a thicker edge to modernize their look.

2) Update your storage.  Cabinet manufacturers have added wonderful new pantry pull and roll outs, corner units that access the former 'dead' spaces, drawer fittings for flatware and knives, and multiple accessories for organizing food, dry goods, trash and recycling, and even composting.

LED in this entrance is elegant and earth-friendly.

3) Be eco-friendly. With new counter, cabinet and surface materials, you can have a beautiful and earth friendly kitchen. Select Water Sense faucets and Energy Star appliances. Don't forget the lighting! LED and compact fluorescent fixtures - installed in the right places - will save energy and provide great task, accent and ambient light.

A Miele built-in for coffee, tea and cocoa.

4) Add custom features or work zones. Carve out space for a coffee-bar, bake center, wine service and tasting, and even a pizza prep center for lasting function and enjoyment.

5) Incorporate electronics.  With access to information on the Internet so easy, create a space for a laptop, TV/Internet screen, or other devices that will enable a 'smart home'. Shopping, lighting control, audio-visual, security, and many other functions can be controlled with hard wiring or wireless if you plan in advance.

The best advice for a major upgrade is to hire a professional - at minimum for a consultation. Don't make mistakes, and add the important features and functions BEFORE you start.

Jan 31, 2011

Light up - Save Energy

With increasing energy costs, concerns about our carbon footprint, and global awareness of eco-friendly design how do you consider these elements and still have great lighting design?  In less than 10 years, incandescent light bulbs may no longer be readily available. They will be replaced by Light Emitting Diodes (LED), compact fluorescent (CFL), and other innovative lighting sources. Here are 4 ways to get better light that costs less.

An energy-saving lighting design for an historic home.
1) Swap bulbs:  The simplest way to make an immediate change is to purchase CFL's or LED bulbs and screw them into your existing light fixtures.  Both come a variety of styles from chandelier shaped bulbs with small bases, to regular "A" base incandescent bulbs (IB), to the reflector shapes found in recessed or 'can' fixtures.   They are no longer many times more expensive than IB's, and combined with their longevity - up to 10 times longer - you save time as well as money, for example a 13 watt CFL - using 104 kilowatts - gives the equivalent light produced by a 60 Watt IB - using 4X as many kilowatts.  Check out the color temperature ratings of the bulbs for cool white, warm white, or crisp blue light.

2) Add dimmers. Another easy way to save money, add ambiance, and a great look on your walls is to replace existing light switches with lighting controls. Dimmers are the simplest. These can all be retrofitted in the same space occupied by your regular switches or installed without wires at all.  Those I recommend are made by www.lutron.com, and are sold at most hardware and big box stores. When you don't need lights on full power all the time, dimming them 50% will save you 50% on costs.

3) Install sensors.  Does your family forget to turn out lights when they leave a room? Wouldn't it be great for the lights to come on when you walk into a room with an armful of groceries? Use occupancy and/or vacancy sensors and see the benefits in energy use and functional use immediately. 

4) Start with a plan. When remodeling, building or doing a major upgrade - particularly where local codes require energy savings - you can install ready-made fixtures that meet energy code in kitchen and bath design. Many well-known lighting manufacturers offer hanging and wall mounted fixtures that are designed specifically for fluorescent bulbs.  Long -term, LED's are more energy saving, longer lasting, and are available in many styles. Whether you need recessed or can fixtures, under cabinet task fixtures,wall or ceiling fixtures or puck style lights, there is a fixture that will be stylish and energy-efficient to meet your needs. Check out Lutron's room, lamp and whole home lighting systems for long-term design planning, energy efficiency and cost savings

When in doubt, contact a lighting design professional. We want you to have the right light for your rooms and tasks while saving energy!

Jan 27, 2011

Mirror, Mirror on the wall.

Once considered solely for bathroom domain, mirrors have broad use in interior design. 
From simple reflectance to the accentuation of light to changing the apparent space of a room, 
mirrors can make or break a space...no pun intended.   They can serve as a wall treatment, a 
decorative accent, and even the cladding for furniture.  One of the newest configurations 
are modular mirrors.  Whether you fit them together or space them apart for interest, 
you can use them as both art and a space enhancer.  Framed or unframed, mirrors 
can visually expand or reduce the space in a room. Consider a small dark room..
hanging a wall mirror to capture light from a window, doorway or floor lamp can 
visually increase the space. On the other hand, when used in a small bathroom 
reflecting a unattractive wall filled with towels and shelving, the space can seem 
cluttered and small.  Here are five tips for mirror placement that you can try to accentuate your decor.
Clever use of this mirror set surrounds the room with a garden view.

1) As a centerpiece, placing candles to reflect light for dining.
2) Over a small bed as both a headboard and dressing mirror.
3) An over-sized mirror on the floor to fill an empty corner or reflect a beautiful furniture vignette.
4) Along the walls of a narrow hallway to make it seem wider and brighter.
5) As a backsplash in a small kitchen to expand the space.

Jan 26, 2011

5 Favorites for February

 With another three months of cold weather and early darkness to contend with, winter is a great time to add color, light, and softness to your rooms. Take a look at these generic items and how similar ones are used in this photo. Don't forget your bath and bedroom....these items work beautifully there as well.

 1) Cashmere, wool or woven throw. To warm you as you read or watch TV, a bold color adds instant warmth to a room. Whether you select textured or smooth, natural fibers or acrylics, a throw (or two) at a great price will add just the right touch.

2) Blue and white. Classic in style and color, blue and white urns, vases, and other accessories add function and aesthetics to any room.  Add flowers for bold color and a touch of spring, store your remote controls, coasters and other items in a lidded urn, set a large piece by the fireplace for matches and kindling, and enjoy the results. Williams-Sonoma has a set of bath accessories in blue and in coral.

3) Baskets and trays. Add a wooden or woven tray to place candles, books, nick-knacks and other items on. They gather items together for a neat appearance, keep wax from spilling onto furniture, and add a great architectural element. Woven baskets are great for storage and absolutely add a spring-like feel. You can opt for a heavily textured weave for a casual appearance, or find a sleek weave for an elegant one. Bring them outdoors in summer for year-round use.

4) Hurricane and lantern candle holders. Available in many sizes, color and shapes, you can find the right style for you. Whether you opt for a silvered mercury - classic and elegant - or clear glass with a metal rim, you'll add safety and function to using candles.  Opt for flame less candles.  Not your style? Try a table lamp in a unique finish or shape.

5) Area rugs. The fastest way to physically and visually add warmth to a room is with an area rug. There are nearly limitless selections for every style room, with natural and man-made fibers, and machine and hand loomed options to fit your budget.  Keep the color neutral for year-round use, or add a bold color or pattern for seasonal appeal.

Jan 25, 2011

10 steps to a new kitchen.

Thinking of remodeling the kitchen?  With new technologies, new surfaces, and updated trends, your ceramic tile counters and oak cabinets may be dated for your taste. If you are like many homeowners, you wait until your appliances finally fail before updating the entire space.   Remember that a kitchen adds equity to your home or condo, so making an investment in this space is more than just refreshing the appearance; a remodel should create a more effective cooking space. It's wise to invest in a professional kitchen designer to create a solid plan. Here are ten stages to follow, so your remodel is done right.

1) Create a plan and develop a time line. This is where you define your needs. Is your existing space too small, badly arranged, and the cabinets don't hold what you have? If you require only a surface-level renovation rather than a remodel, identify what needs to be changed. Consider your short and long term cooking needs and how you and your family will use the space over time. While the classic kitchen triangle no longer works in multi-cook, multifunctional kitchens, it's a guide to developing a new space plan. The larger your project, the more important the planning stage will be. A time line from start to finish should be developed. When should you apply for a permit? When do you need to select appliances, finishes and fixtures? How long will your kitchen be out of commission? Have you considered an alternate kitchen to use during an extensive remodel? Most people hire contractors to do the work, so share your plans and time line with them.

2) Start demolition. When your plan is complete and you have a contractor, removal of what exists is the first step in your remodel - following
your plan as a guide. Be aware that kitchen materials may contain hazardous materials such as lead-based paint and asbestos and they require special handling. Consider recycling your cabinets, metal, windows and doors, porcelain and ceramic tile and drywall.  Many communities have places to donate usable items (windows, sinks, faucets and cabinets), and centers to take and recycle construction waste.

4) Construct and repair.  Depending on the new kitchen's configuration you may be moving or adding walls and windows. When the 'guts' of the old kitchen are removed, inspect studs, joists, wiring, drywall and everything that you can. With the space open, you can perform necessary repairs or updates. Shoring up a floor for a new island, raising a ceiling, and re-framing walls are done at this stage.


5) Rough-in the plumbing.  If you are changing the position of your sink, refrigerator or adding appliances including ice-makers, you will have plumbing needs. At this "rough-in" stage, new supply and drainage pipes are added for sinks and appliances. 

6) Install electrical infrastructure.  To power a modern kitchen - especially if you are adding appliances - you should have at least a 200 ampere service panel; have a professional electrician do that work.  Are you considering a smart home? A lighting control system? These systems and wires will all be installed at this stage. Even adding an appliance where none existed will require a new receptacle; be sure you know the power requirements. This is the time to update old wires, run new circuits, install ground-fault-interrupt receptacles, and change the location of lights. Consider long-term changes even if your budget does not include them now...wiring for an audio system, a new bank of lights, etc..will eliminate the need to open the drywall again.

7) Close the walls. When you've finished the wiring, prepare to close walls by first insulating all walls considered exterior walls. With the wall cavities accessible, now is your chance to install high-quality insulation rather than using less-effective blown-in insulation later. Be sure to have the electrical system inspected and approved by the local permitting agency. Then hang drywall, tape and fill the seams. Before you add your texture, sand the seams until smooth.  Popular textures include, orange peel, knock-down, and varying thicknesses of skip trowel.  Finally, prime and paint.

8) Install a floor. Typically the kitchen floor is laid after the heavy work to save it from wear and tear. If you are installing a wood floor, you should wait until after the cabinets are installed to protect them from damage. The age-old argument of installing tile under the cabinets can be answered now. Since you do need flooring under your dishwasher, refrigerator and range, the cost of additional materials and labor to go under all cabinets can be determined and the decision made based on your budget.  There are many flooring options, among them vinyl, tile, wood, and cork. Finished cement floors are a good option for modern style.

    9) Install cabinets and counters.  Once the base cabinets are installed and level, the countertops can be installed. Contractors typically hang upper cabinets before installing the toe kicks and base cabinets. Whether you opt for ceramic tile, granite, marble or surfaces like Vetrazzo, Corian and Caesarstone, base your choice on using and maintaining it. Natural stone counters - slab or tile - are porous and require proper sealing and care, while quartz counters are sustainable, non-porous, have antibacterial properties and the same heat resistance as granite.  

    10) It's time for fixtures, trims and appliances. With the new counters in place, your sink and faucet, cook top and other appliances are ready to be installed. Since the electrical work is done, the trims for recessed fixtures, the housings for your LED and under cabinet lights, and all of the wall and ceiling mounted lighting can be installed.

    Don't forget to add the final items - trims, receptacle covers - and create a punch list before you sign off on the finished project.

    Jan 24, 2011

    Engineered wood floors - a primer.

    Engineered plank flooring provides a number of benefits not found in solid wood flooring. First, they are real wood from the cross layering layers of hard or soft plywood - pressing the layers together at right angles - to the surface wear layer. Engineered wood floors are more resistant to higher moisture levels so are appealing in many types of installations, and their durability as a result of their construction makes them ideal for above and below grade applications. The top layer - thicker for wear - is added in the choice of species the floor will be. This entire process enables smaller pieces of lumber to be used and produces 4X more square feet of product per tree harvested than standard wood flooring, making it eco-friendly.  

    Since stability is vastly improved, engineered flooring is more durable than natural wood flooring therefore can be used in harsher environments. The final coating - urethane, aluminum oxide, etc.- provides durability and scratch resistance to the wear layer. Among the methods of installation are floating, glue-down, nail-down or stapling, and click-lock, but all require the proper layer over the sub-floor. Based on the factors above, the appeal of engineered wood flooring is that same as that of solid wood, and resale values will be the same.

    Like hardwood floors, engineered floors are made in widths from 3-7 inches wide and come in a wide variety of domestic and exotic hardwood species. Brand-to brand, the wear layer will differ, providing different ability for the wear layers to be sanded and refinished when worn. Thinner wear layer floors (2mil and under) have an average lifespan of 30 to 40 years while thicker (2-4 mil) wear layers last from 40 to100 years - like solid harwdood - before having to be replaced.

    Your concern should be to match the demands of use for your flooring to the type of floor you select. There are hardness differences between the wood species and manufacturers use a variety of sealer products on the wear layers. If the area where the flooring is to be installed will receive heavy traffic with little maintenance, then opt for an engineered floor with a thick wear layer to enable sanding and refinishing as needed.  For areas with less foot traffic and that you intent to maintain, you won't need as thick a wear layer.  

    Their lifespan can be 30 - 100 years.
    Engineered wood enables you to have a wood floor on any grade level.
    Can be used on both wood subfloors or dry concrete slabs.
    Some species are well suited for humid areas.
    The floors are very easy to install.
    They are more dimensionally stable than solid wood floors.
    The availability of, sizes, colors, species and styles is nearly endless.
    Wear layer dependent, they can be sanded and refinished.
    It is the only floor covering that can increase the value of your home.
    Wood floors are a good choice for allergy sufferers.

      Jan 21, 2011

      5 commercial remodeling tips.

      An open conference area...appealing yet easy care and hygienic.
      Look closely at your office space. Many companies have working environments that are not conducive to effective work, nor to best serving their clientele.  What are the walls like? Are surfaces cold and hard? Is your floor layout difficult to navigate? Is the space able to accommodate future growth?  Considering these factors before embarking on an update or committing to a leased or purchased space is wise. As an after-thought, the cost to update may still be returned in more productivity, impress your clients, and lead to growth.

      1. Add Color.   The simplest way to make an office appealing - considering safety and health as well as cost - is to add color. Gray, pea green and white are bland colors and while easy to maintain, the lack of color doesn't contribute to a feeling of well-being.  While blazing red walls may not be appropriate for a medical office, a palette of light earth-toned hues is right.  Color guides emotions, affects stress levels, and can impart elegance, sophistication and satisfaction.  With low odor and no VOC (volatile organic compound) paints, a wall color change will have a long-term beneficial impact on your air quality. For a complete update, new textiles, accessories, and plants create a new environment without structural work.

      2. Reduce hard surfaces.  Use of hard surfaces including vinyl flooring, metal blinds, and the lack of upholstered furniture is unappealing and results in terrible acoustics. Care and safety/health are always primary considerations in selecting surfaces for commercial design. With new materials and surfaces that incorporate anti-microbial, anti bacterial, and moisture resistance, no-slip technology, and even air-purification, the reasons for using older surfaces are no longer valid. For high-impact, plants and water features are two additions that are inexpensive and easy. Depending upon your industry, when adding fabrics to windows, furniture, etc.. consider durability and flammability.

      3. Space plan your main work area well.  If your reception area is your first exposure to your client base, then it should be the focus of a well-defined space plan.  For firms who don't see clients, and its employees are key to the company, designing common areas (including break rooms, conference rooms, etc..) for comfort will enable high quality, long-term use of your office space. Whether your key area is an environment for circuit board assembly or a waiting room for patients, the planning for that space will affect the long-term stability of your business. In the former example, without considering room for assembly line modifications (as a result of technological or other changes) or appropriate and private spaces for patient greeting and triage, overall corporate health will suffer.

      4. Design your layout for work-flow.   Is your office ideal for the actual work-flow requirements?  Whether you are a law firm, a cosmetic surgery center, or have an assembly line,  you should consider the needs of your staff and clients based on peak work times so you can function optimally all the time. Generate a work-flow diagram so you can identify immediate and long-term space requirements; obtain input from staff involved in the work process. If your employees must use a common area repeatedly in their work cycle, or there is equipment that everyone shares, the placement of that area and equipment is critical to efficiency.  A quick cost-benefit analysis can also guide you as to whether a second area or additional equipment would be worth the expense.

      5. Plan for the future.  Space plans for offices are often geared towards immediate need. Thoughts on layout and infrastructure as a result of future growth are often ignored. While you cannot plan for exponential expansion, the addition of a few new employees and new equipment should be considered. Certainly investments in technology show more immediate returns, but a lack of consideration for a new client base, an expanded department, and where to put them and the furnishings and equipment they require would be remiss if near-term growth is projected.

      Jan 20, 2011

      10 tips for pillows

      Pillows are a wonderful accessory to provide color, texture,and style. Here are some ideas for use, size,  and shape. 
      1) DON'T use too many. Sitting on furniture overstuffed with pillows
      isn't comfortable and they often end up on the floor. 
      For a standard 8' sofa 3 to 4 pillows should be sufficient.

      2) DO consider changing the shape and color of the pillows from that of your base sofa cushion and fabric color. Have many pillows that came with your sofa? Add another fabric to the face of some, and add welting, trim and other details for interest.

      4) Square pillows work for many applications. For example16" squares are good corner pillows for 6-7' sofas and 18" squares work for 8' or larger sofas. 26" x 26" is a good size for floor pillows and back pillows for queen and king sized beds.  

      5) Try neck roll pillows. These are long and round - generally 8" in diameter and 16" long for lounge chairs. Bolsters in larger scale 10"in diameter and 22" wide, are great for beds. Scale the width for the chair.

      6) Kidney pillows dress up large dining chairs and the center of sofas. The chair pillow should sit just inside the width of the seat and be as high as needed for comfort when sitting in the furniture.
      Neckroll pillows are a great shape.

      7) Add detail with contrast welting, a second fabric, and appliques. How about corner or center buttons?
      One decorative pillow has more impact than 3 plain ones.

      8) Knife-edge pillows are fine but try adding flanges and welting

      9) Experiment with mixing round and square shapes together. On large sofas I like to use square corner pillows with a smaller round in front, and a large bolster in the center which also serves as a back support.

      10) Swap the color, texture and location of pillows throughout the year for interest! Bedrooms aren't often in the same color as the living areas, but if they are, swap room to room. 

      Jan 18, 2011

      5 Small space tips.

      We all want the best design solutions, especially for small spaces. Try one or more of these tips for your apartment, condo or small home.  They work well in multi-unit homes and dorms too!

      A great way to lift clutter in the kitchen.

      Get organized. Clutter can make smaller spaces feel cramped and uncomfortable. Make a plan and place for everyday items. Upgrade closets with built-in organization systems rather than just rods. Digitize music and video collections and remove the boxes from view. Add pre-made desk units, storage cabinets and items that will help hide but make work and stored items readily available. In the kitchen, add shelving and store items above the visual plane.

      2. Connect with the outdoors. On a wall with only windows to the outside, try a wall color and window coverings that appear like the outside colors and textures. If your doorway opens to a usable outdoor space, treat it to flooring and furnishings that look like your interior. Clean your windows since grime will cut down incoming light.

      Adding a raised desk keeps the floor area open.
      3 Combine spaces. Open adjoining rooms (you do not need to remove walls)  by installing glass, a built-in bookcase with an open back, or a wider pass-through. Remove doors between rooms and leave the passage open. Can you raise or lower a floor area? A loft in a bedroom or sinking a living area will create the illusion of a larger room. Good color choices are another great solution. Sharing colors in adjoining rooms can visually connect and expand them.  Send along your photos and we'll give you on-the-spot solutions for your small space challenges!

      4. Let in the light. Install windows above or below cabinets to brighten and make it feel larger. High, narrow windows let in light while maintaining privacy. Transoms on interior bedroom walls or over doorways are great to bring light into rooms. Change window coverings to open weave blinds and fabrics and keep the colors lighter.  Translucence adds privacy but allows light in. Install fabric panels beyond the window frame to make the window look larger.  Can't add windows, try adding 'light boxes', up-light cans behind furniture and plants, and rope type strips under shelves, cabinets and moldings. 
      Sheers  at the window bathe this apartment in light.

      5. Change the arrangement of furniture. Pieces set away from - in lieu of lining - the walls, does make spaces appear larger. Remove pieces that are not useful. If needed, add TALL pieces to bring the eye up.

      Jan 17, 2011

      5 features for your remodel

      Here are five features to consider adding if you are remodeling or selling a home in 2011.

      1) Energy-efficiency. This includes appliances, high-efficiency insulation, and high window efficiency. The use of recycled materials will not be demanded until later in this decade, however, home lighting systems, sustainable surfaces and Water Sense fixtures will be must-haves by 2016.


      2) Home office/study. People would much rather have this space than a formal dining room.

      3) Luxury kitchens. Hidden appliances, craft centers, and other personalized areas are must-haves. Islands are still in demand and granite is the top choice in luxury counter tops.

      4) Outdoor living rooms. Extend indoor spaces to the outside and furnish them for daily use. Consider adding an outdoor kitchen or shower.

      5) Over-sized showers. Larger showers with two types of shower heads are considered transgenerational which adds to the appeal of a home. Add a seating area and shore up the walls for decorative grab bars, particularly if the clients will be aging in place.

      Jan 16, 2011

      Tips to reduce clutter

      We all have 'things' that we need on a weekly - often daily - basis. They're functional but oh so unattractive.  How to hide them is always a creative challenge. Try these tips.

      1. Charging station: For phone chargers and I-pods and the like.  Most console tables and nightstands have power outlets behind them. If they have a drawer, drill a hole in the thin back, mount a power strip inside the drawer, and run the cord through the hole to the power outlet. Plug in your devices, close the drawer and everything's out of sight. Some devices produce heat, so beware, but often only need 2 hours to fully charge. Of course, you can buy this item as well....

      2. Mail storage: Whether it's in an office or left in another room, this 'clutter' element is much-needed and out of sight can often lead to forgetfulness.  A simple habit of always placing it in the same location will help you determine whether the storage is a simple decorative folder, an attractive letter sorter, or a closed box.

      3. Keys, wallets and change:  Your partner come home from work, his pockets are full...after unloading keys, change, a money clip and other paraphernalia, there is a pile of stuff in the kitchen, entry...somewhere. Hiding in a drawer is a reasonable idea, but a more practical solution is a small box or flat canister that works with your decor and is easy to access; on the kitchen table, on the counter, in the entry, or by the bedside.
      4. Toilet paper:  One of the simplest and aesthetically pleasing storage solutions, for those small baths without room for a cabinet, is a lidded box sitting along the toilet tank. Where possible, a great wall-mounted cabinet will hide many rolls, cleaning supplies and hand towels. If you don't have a tank, add a small glass shelf and then your pretty storage box or basket.

      5. Laundry:  Some homes have a laundry room that hides baskets and sorting. If you don't have a dedicated space, try something other than a wicker hamper...how about making an old dresser into a laundry hamper by joining the drawers together and creating ONE deep one?  This takes a bit of doing, but if you can update and re-purpose that old dresser it can serve as a great hallway piece...add a lamp and art...voila.

      6. Toys:  A great idea for toys is a dual function ottoman/storage cube. They are inexpensive ($50-100), come in squares and rectangles, the cover is light enough for most 5 year old's to lift, and they can be used as seating also.

      Jan 15, 2011

      Kitchen Trends

      Here are 4 trends for kitchens which are derived from the overall vision of interior trends for 2011.  I have noted that it's hard to follow home trends because it can be time consuming and costly and they may not accurately reflect who you are.  However, by incorporating some of the top trends, you can be cutting edge with products and technology and stay true to your budget and  personal style!

      Handmade tiles and pendants, a Lutron lighting system, hidden appliances & 'green' finishes customize this kitchen.

      1) Personalize and make it unique. As kitchens have moved from being separate spaces in our homes, to open spaces adjoining 'great rooms', and often a space for multi-tasking, the function and aesthetic must be customized to the user(s).  From the footprint, to specialty appliance selection, to the finishes used, your lifestyle should be reflected in your kitchen. Rather than being a strictly utilitarian space, a kitchen should incorporate your personal style and preferences. If you are a crafter, your island may serve as a dual-function storage/use space. Love Asian design? Incorporate that style with appropriate materials, scale and layout.

      2) Handcrafted is desired.   Show the brush strokes on your hand-painted cabinetry, use honed stone in lieu of polished. Add your travel collectibles in place of dish displays.

      3) Focus on healthy and green. Use of eco-sensitive products is on the rise with improved availability at more affordable price points.  From flooring, to finishes, to lighting and appliances, installing green products can positively affect the long-term health of your family and home. With no-to-low off-gassing from finishes for walls, cabinets and floors, more efficient energy consumption through improved appliance and lighting performance, anti-bacterial surface treatments, you can expect better overall air quality, lower energy bills and a beautiful aesthetic. 

      4) Use technology to your advantage.  By incorporating lighting control, you gain function, improved aesthetics, and better energy conservation.  Incorporating new appliances into cabinetry helps maintain continuity with adjoining spaces. Improved panel displays, wireless technology and other innovative solutions will make your kitchen state of the art today and work as you grow older.