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  • February 10th, 2017

    Eco-Friendly Wood Flooring for Your Home

    In today’s home construction many designers, contractors, and homeowners are opting for more sustainable materials in an effort to better protect our environment. With this in mind, there are many more options available now that is considered eco-friendly floors. Some of these are new concepts and some have been around for ages. Let’s explore what is available and what makes these flooring products environmentally friendly.

    Bamboo
    For some time now bamboo has steadily been gaining in popularity as a desirable flooring choice. Unlike forested trees, bamboo is a very fast growing grass, considered an invasive weed in some areas because of how quickly it matures and takes over a landscape if not controlled. One way to control it is to harvest mature stalks and use it as finished surfaces in home construction. It behaves similarly to hardwood as a flooring surface, and comes in planks or boards. It has varied grains and can be stained and sealed and is a very durable material.

    Concrete
    Concrete has been around for thousands of years in various forms and is a versatile building material. It is extremely strong and resistant to staining after it has been sealed. While it has an industrial aesthetic, it is extremely practical, insect resistant, non-toxic, and hypoallergenic. It is best installed in slab-on-grade construction. Today’s concrete can have pigments or aggregates added to offer a variety of colors and textures. Once down, it should last for several decades and is so easy to clean and maintain. Another cool benefit of concrete is that you can easily embed radiant floor heating systems into it, reducing the exposure to dust from ducted air.

    Salvaged Wood
    Also known as reclaimed lumber, salvaged wood flooring is wood that has been removed from older homes and barns to be reused in newer construction. The beauty of this flooring option is that it protects our forests from being overly harvested. Salvaged wood can look really nice in a traditional home or cottage and provides a rustic look. The planks are generally wider and stronger than today’s floorboards, as they were likely cut from old growth timbers.

    Linoleum
    Linoleum is not to be confused with vinyl flooring. Linoleum is a hypoallergenic product that is linseed oil based with other natural materials mixed into it, many of them recycled or by-product content, such as saw dust. The color options are also endless. Linoleum feels soft underfoot and is kind to things that are dropped on it. Linoleum is easy to clean and requires very little maintenance and is available in both tiles and sheets for easy installation.

    Cork
    Cork is another product that has been around for a very long time. It has mostly been used as wine bottle corks (hence the name), as insulation behind brick veneer, and as a sound deadening wall surface material. It is mainly harvested from the cork oak trees grown in Spain and Portugal. The advantage to using cork is that the trees will grow new bark, making it a renewable resource. It can be finished similarly to wood with a variety of stain colors and low VOC sealers.

    There are so many flooring options available that are considered “green” these days. As well as being environmentally friendly, they are healthier options for your home and family. If you have your heart set on classic hardwood floors, make sure you choose wood that is sourced from an FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certified producer.

    Guest post by MacDonald Hardwoods, a Denver-based hardwood flooring company with over 30 years of experience. MacWoods can help with choosing floor species that works for your home, from oak to bamboo to pine flooring and more.

    Posted in Living Green | I Welcome Your Comments »

    May 4th, 2016

    Everyday Ways To Conserve Energy At Home

    eco-friendly

    In an ideal world, we’d all have the budget to afford the renovations to make our homes completely eco-friendly—a solar panel setup, energy-efficient replacements for all home appliances, and more, but for many of us, that is simply not an option. Does that mean we should just give up in our quest to have an eco-friendly home? Definitely not! By making these smaller-scale changes, you will be making your contribution to the welfare of our planet, while being easy on your wallet!

    Water Heater

    Water Heater

    The Department of Energy reports that almost 17 percent of a home’s energy use is accredited to the water heater alone. Although hot water is a luxury virtually all of us are unwilling to part with, there are ways we can make our energy-sucking water heater more efficient. First, turn the temperature up to 120 degrees Fahrenheit. The more moderate of a temperature that your water heater has to maintain, the less energy that will be used. Conserving water whenever possible by turning off the tap while scrubbing dishes or washing your hair translates to gallons of savings every year. Similarly, taking shorter showers using a low-flow showerhead can save upwards of 14 gallons of water per shower. And to really “green” your spring and summer lawn, try using a rain barrel or drip irrigation system. And finally, wrap your poorly insulated water heater in an insulation blanket to help retain as much heat inside the unit as possible.

    Lighting

    Lighting

    Although more expensive than traditional light bulbs, you can save hundreds of kilowatt hours a year by switching to energy-efficient compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFLs) or LED bulbs in all your interior light fixtures. Make sure that you are using the right size wattage for your lamps and ceiling fans to ensure that no excess energy is wasted. If you notice that you use particular lights at specific times of day, opt for setting them on a timer so that you never forget to turn them back off. Don’t forget about any lighting outside your home, too! Switching to solar-powered or motion-detector lighting for any exterior light fixtures makes them both convenient and efficient when combined with exterior-grade CFLs. If every American chose to swap out their top five most-used light fixtures and bulbs with ENERGY STAR-approved products, the country would see a yearly energy savings of nearly 8 billion dollars!

    Electronics

    Electronics and Appliances

    Most electronics and appliances pull energy continuously whenever they are plugged in, regardless of whether they are turned on. To begin conserving this energy, unplug all available electronics, including chargers, when they are not in use. For items that are used frequently, use a powerstrip with an on/off switch to make energy savings that much simpler. Don’t forget your large appliances like your washer and dryer, as well! Even better, forget the dryer altogether and use the most natural clothes dryer around—the sun!

    By making a few simple and inexpensive changes in your home, you can begin to conserve energy and save money today!

     

     

    Posted in Living Green, Tips & Ideas | I Welcome Your Comments »

    June 2nd, 2015

    Bathroom Remodeling On A Budget

    No matter if you are looking for a new place to live and notice that bathroom should be improved a bit, or you are thinking about renovating your old one, you sure don’t have unlimited amount of time and money to spend. It is incredible just how different your bathroom could look if you only change a few smaller things. Some brainstorming, a lot of paint, and even more patience will get you far, and when you finish you will not be able to recognize the place. There is no need to put aside significant amounts of money when you can do it for less and even do it yourself.

    Bathroom Remodeling on a Budget

    Mirrors

    Mirrors are great and essential in bathrooms – they make it look bigger and more open, plus they make it lighter. If you cannot afford those big mirrors with intricate frames, you could use simple hanging mirrors without frames and build your own frame around them. Use caulk gun to ‘glue’ your mirrors to the walls, and make sure you leave enough space for the crown molding and boards. Next, cut the boards and crown molding so that thy fit around the mirror and make sure you use either nails or Liquid Nails. When finished, simply paint it any colour you like and enjoy your customized mirrors.

    Change the walls

    Many people choose to paint their walls white in order to make the room look bigger, but it often ends up looking sterile and cold instead. My adding more shades and patterns to your bathroom, you will make it look more cheerful and warm. Add some orange, green, or blue stripes on the walls, thus you will not completely lose all white colour, but rather add some fullness. On the other hand, if you have tiles on the walls and don’t feel like taking them off (which is reasonable and understandable), you might try painting them over instead.

    Tiles

    Choose the tiles which go well with the wall colour, and think about whether you would like them to be ceramic, vinyl, or even marble. Marble does sound expensive, but if your bathroom is not too big, you could use marble tiles on your floor, and other king on the walls or for the shower. You could even combine different colours and pattern which you could arrange to get your own pattern, a perfect reflection of your own style.

    With a little help of caulk gun, power tools (I prefer Makita tools, but any other will do just as well), bubble level, and some patience, you can do anything.

    Vintage Bath Accessories

    Accessorize

    Women love to do this in every room in the house, and while it may seem pointless, it is not the case. Simply by adding a few details in the bathroom will make it look completely different: more mirrors will open up the space, snazzy curtain hooks will spice the curtains up too, and adding a small, mirrored soap container made of metal instead of plastic will completely change the way that room looks. Don’t put back in everything you initially took out – choose only a few things which will not clutter up the space.

    There is no need to give an ‘extreme makeover’ to your bathroom even if you believe that is what it needs. Maybe buying a new tub or a new sink will make the place look different, changing the walls colour is much simpler and easier. Make a plan, go through it step by step, decide how much money you could put aside for this project, and make sure you get some help from your family and friends too. Good mood and cheerful people will make the entire plan seem easier, and you will be finished in no time.

    Smooth DecoratorJohn Stone is a DIY enthusiast who occasionally likes to put his ideas down to paper and share them with like-minded people. Currently works as the editor of SmoothDecorator. His fields of interest include home improvement, sustainability, new technologies, and pretty much all-things-DIY. In his spare time he enjoys playing guitar and watching Formula 1.

    Posted in Trends | I Welcome Your Comments »

    March 4th, 2015

    Is the Tiny House Movement for you?

    Anyone who’s ever lived in a New York City Studio apartment can say they’ve lived in a tiny house. I was one of them and I can tell you it’s doable. But once you’ve lived in a larger space it is really hard to downsize. But people are doing it. Why? Some people taking part of the tiny house movement are mortgage free and living off the grid with few bills to pay. If they have a tiny house on wheels, they pack up the house and take it on the road.

    I’m amazed at how nice some of these tiny houses are. Beautifully designed, compact tiny houses that take your breath away. I love watching the TV show called Tiny House Nation. It’s addicting. The tiny house ideas they come up with are ingenious, murphy beds, wine barrels for tubs, kitchen islands that house the family dog and the best storage ideas ever. I know from experience when you live in a small space you need smart storage.

    How to build a tiny house

    If you’re adventurous you can build your own tiny house. Tiny house plans can be found online for free or you can purchase plans. One of the best houses I’ve seen is at tinyhousebuild.com. You can purchase plans and a step-by-step DVD series to build the tiny house. Watch the video and let me know if you agree, it’s a great house.

    So I’m thinking after watching this video that I need to go minimal. It probably wont ever happen, but I love the idea of it. In this busy world we all live in we all have too much stress and too much stuff. We CAN take a lesson from tiny house living without going tiny. But I would consider it for a vacation home, absolutely.

    Posted in Living Green, Trends | I Welcome Your Comments »

    August 7th, 2013

    Cottage Style

    Cottage BedroomWhen I think of Cottage Style I think comfy, cozy and laid back. But not your grandma’s cottage. A more contemporary cottage is less cluttered but still has all the cottage charm. Eclectic furniture-finds mixed with slipcovered furnture add to the casual, organic feel. It’s a perfect style for coastal living but can be found in the city as well. I was working on a photo-shoot years ago in New York City and we found an apartment on the upper west side that was done in an Americana Cottage Style. A mix of red, white and blue plaids with pine furniture and rustic, paint peeling, cupboards. We were transported to another place by entering that apartment. If I were still living in New York City I would probably have a minimalistic cottage loft. My oasis in the middle of Manhattan.

    coastal cottageIf you are looking for a more coastal look then think Martha’s Vineyard or Key West. Bring in lots of Blues, Whites, and Stripes. Add just a few nautical elements but don’t be too literal. Too much of that and you will feel like your in a theme room at Disney. Especially if you live in the city…just a touch. Select your accessories carefully and edit the room if it starts to look cluttered. The result will be a more contemporary cottage style that fits in the 21st century.

    Posted in Vintage Home | I Welcome Your Comments »

    July 11th, 2013

    Setting up a maintenance plan to keep your new office space clutter free

    Week 8.

    So the one thing I noticed so far is that over the last few weeks I have organized areas and then a few days later they look terrible again. I will admit that I still haven’t finished all the areas of the room and that is part of the problem. Until I have a place for everything and create a system to maintain it this will continue to happen. So if you’re having that problem then stay on top of it and continue to get each section organized. There will be a point when everything has a home and it will be easier to keep your office space clutter free.

    Creating new habits
    BUT…you will need to set up a system to keep it neat. Create new daily habits to maintain your space. Get a timer and for 15 minutes each day file away your papers and clear your desk. If everything in the room has a home then you shouldn’t need more than that. Once a week you will need to really clean the room, dust the shelves, wipe down the counters and desk areas, vacuum, etc. If you work all day in your home office then you are spending a lot of hours in this room. Your days will be happier if you are in a pleasant space.

    Make a task list
    In addition to your daily to-do’s create a task list that you will use daily for routine tasks, all the little things that will help you maintain your new home office. Check off each thing as you do them and keep track of the things you did. This will help you create the new habits. I’m doing this for the whole house. I broke it up into morning, afternoon and evening tasks. Morning tasks help keep the house orderly. The afternoon tasks are all home office related: filing and clearing off the desk. My evenings are mostly related to dinner and preparing for the following day.

    Dress it up
    Add some flowers and personal photos to make it your happy place. Bring in things from other parts of the house that you love. Artwork is a must. Choose something peaceful. Maybe with a positive quote. I have an inspiration board where I post things that either make me smile or remind me why I’m working so hard. I post goals, press clippings and family photos as well.

    If you’re working at home then you have the discipline to do this and probably have time management skills as well. So you just need to learn new habits to keep your office space clutter free. I’m not completely finished but here is a photo of my improved, mostly organized office.

    office space clutter free

    Posted in Get organized | I Welcome Your Comments »

    July 1st, 2013

    Oak Flooring Options For Your Project

    Oak flooring has come a long way in recent years, from a flooring solution that suited only a small number of projects, it is now abundantly featured in residential and in commercial projects across the world. A number of changes have contributed to this influx in Oak wood flooring adaptation, from colour technology that can turn Oak flooring into a light or darker flooring solution to the sourcing of Oak wood from ethical managed forests.

    If you are thinking of fitting such flooring solution in your interior, here are just a few of the considerations that your interior designer will consider.

    Oak Flooring OptionsYour Options In Terms Of Types

    In previous years, there was only one type of Oak flooring made from natural wood. Called ‘solid’ Oak flooring it inherited the natural limitations of Oak that made it either suitable or unsuitable in your project. Nowadays, you will also come across ‘engineered’ or ‘machined’ Oak flooring so the chances of fitting Oak flooring in your projects even in unusual circumstances grow. Let’s look closer at both types.

    Solid Oak Flooring – Often described as ‘real wood flooring’, each floorboard plank is made from complete natural Oak wood. On the one hand, it results in an extremely strong floor that can cope with extensive foot traffic (such as in commercial properties for example) and owners have the ability to sand and recoat the floor many times over during its service life. On the other hand, the natural limitations of wood in terms of damage from damp or wet conditions apply here making solid Oak flooring unsuitable to fit in the bathroom or kitchen areas. In all other respects, it makes for a fantastic floor.

    Engineered Oak Flooring – Often referred to as ‘semi-solid wood flooring’, each floorboard plank is made from a top layer of natural Oak wood and three to seven supporting layers of artificial materials. Visually, this alternative flooring solution looks identical to solid due to the use of natural Oak wood as the top layer and suits all circumstances. On the one hand, it can be fitted in damp or wet areas as well as over under floor heating if one is present. On the other hand, service life is shorter and owner’s ability to sand and recoat the floorboards is limited.

    Engineered oak flooring can fit any property and most areas within the property. Solid oak flooring is only limited by the natural characteristics of wood in terms of damage from wet conditions or from extensive heat causing the floor to rise (such as when fitted over under floor heating).

    oak flooringYour Options In Terms Of Grade

    Both solid and engineered types contain real Oak wood. In the case of solid, it makes for 100% of the floorboard, while in the case of engineered it makes for a top layer of 3mm to 6mm thick. Natural wood may contain few or many sapwood and knots determined by its grade. Your choice of one grade over another will not impact the quality of the floor it is merely a visual indication based on personal taste and your budget. Let’s look closer at your options.

    Prime or AB Grade – Prime is the ultimate grade for owners who are looking for the most refine wood. It means that both sapwood and knots are pretty much non-present. It is therefore the dearer option of the bunch.

    Select or ABC Grade – Select is the next one on the list and in which sapwood and knots will start to appear randomly. You should expect limited sapwood not exceeding 10% of the floorboard and knots of up to 20mm in size.

    Natural and Rustic Grades – Also referred to as ABCD (natural) and CD (rustic) grades, the two will present significant sapwood and knots in sizes of up to 35mm. These basic grades make the floor more affordable and often the choice when large areas are to be covered on a tight budget.

    oak flooringThe Origin Of Wood and The Environment

    Environmentally minded individuals have refrained in the past from fitting Oak flooring due to the impact of irresponsible logging on natural forests and habitats. Nowadays stock is sourced from managed forests in which tress are replenished and your decision to fit Oak wood does not harm natural habitats.

    If you have any concerns as to the origin of the wood, talk to your Oak flooring supplier prior to making the purchase. They in return will account for the origin of the wood.  Several organisations such as the FSC (FSC Forest Stewardship Council) will even hand out certificates to vendors who can prove ethical sourcing of their woods.

    We hope you found this information useful.

    Written by Jonathan Sapir, managing director of WoodandBeyond.com.

    Posted in Tips & Ideas | I Welcome Your Comments »

    April 30th, 2013

    6 things to consider when setting up your desk

    Week 7.

    Your desk is where you spend most of your time, so it’s important to make it functional and pleasant. Before setting up your desk, ask yourself the following questions.
    1. Is it ergonomic?
    2. Is the computer monitor at a good height?
    3. Is my chair comfortable, and is it supporting my back?
    4. Is the phone close by?
    5. What hand do I use to answer the phone?
    6. What things do I use the most?

    So what is ergonomic?
    The word “Ergonomic” comes from two Greek words “ergon,” meaning work, and “nomos” meaning “laws.” Today, however, the word is used to describe the science of “designing the job to fit the worker, not forcing the worker to fit the job.” If your desk was ergonomic your keyboard and mouse position will allow for a natural position of your wrists and arms. Your monitor will be eye level or below. The chair should have good lumbar support. If you use a laptop then prop it up with an adjustable laptop stand. With a proper desk and chair you can prevent repetitive stress injuries. Learn more on how to ergonomically optimize your workspace.
    Ergonomics in the Home Office
    It’s all about convenience!
    I answer the phone with my left hand so I positioned the phone on the left. I sometimes have to type while talking to a client so I use a headset. No more neck problems from using my head to hold the phone. Do you do that? Keep things you use frequently within arms reach. I don’t like the typical in/out box concept. It may work for you but I do have a to-do box and then a file box. All papers pertaining to what I’m working on go in the to-do box. Then when they need to be filed I either file them or put them in the file box to file later. Think about working from left to right. Another handy item is a small box to corral the miscellaneous items so they don’t litter your desk. You will need the essentials near by: stapler, paper clips, tape dispenser, calculator, pencil/pen cup, notebook and a small box to store recently acquired business cards.

    Desk AccessoriesMake a list of things you use daily and plan-out the desk. If your desk doesn’t allow for ergonomics, invest in one that does. It may be a simple fix like installing a keyboard tray under the desk to drop it down to the right height.

    Final thoughts, keep it clean and healthy. Practice new habits to keep it that way. That is the subject of the next and last week of the organizing challenge, Maintenance! Creating a daily system to keep your home office organized, functional and beautiful.

    Posted in Get organized | I Welcome Your Comments »

    April 18th, 2013

    How to get rid of the paper pile-up, or some of it. Go Electronic!

    Week 6.

    smartphones and tabletsAre you one of those people that uses a smart phone but doesn’t use most of it’s great features? If you learn nothing else, at least learn to use the calendar and contacts properly. And sync regularly. It is such freedom to not have a big organizer anymore. It all fits in my iPhone and syncs with my computer and iPad. I never forget appointments and always have my entire contact list with me. How did we do business before the smart phone?

    So after you learn those basics try some other apps that will make life easier and save you from using paper. There are apps for making todo lists, grocery lists, calorie counting, and one of my favorites, Simplenote. With Simplenote you can make notes from your computer or app and they sync automatically. There are also other third party computer applications that will sync with Simplenote.com. I use Notational Velocity for all my writing and notes. I can access those notes from my phone or iPad anytime. Add to them and the updates are on my computer when I get back to the office. Did I mention both are free?

    Another app I love is Instapaper. I do a lot of browsing on the web and do most of my research online. Instead of reading at my computer, I hit a button in my toolbar called “Read Later”. This adds the content from that page to my Instapaper.com account and then I can read the content anytime on my iPhone or iPad. This helps with time management. Instead of wasting time reading when I should be working, I read these articles at my leisure, in waiting rooms or on the treadmill. Instapaper syncs with Android, Kindle Fire and Nook devices as well.

    Magazines, a major source of clutter.
    I love magazines and have trouble parting with them. They clutter every room. Last year I let the print subscriptions lapse and now have electronic subscriptions. Unfortunately not all my trade magazines have electronic versions but this has helped cut down on the amount of paper coming into the house. Plus I can now take all my magazines with me on vacation. I like that. Of course this also applies to books but I think many people have already made the change to electronic reading. Last year I donated 8 boxes of books to the library.

    Business Receipts, aaugh!
    Try Neat, the digital filing system. Neat transforms your digital and paper documents into useful, organized information. They also have a cloud service and mobile app that makes it easy to search, share and access your important information. I don’t have one yet but planning to get one soon.

    If you think you can’t do this, think again. With a little effort this is achievable. Here are some books to help with the learning curve. Good luck with taming your paper pile-up electronically.

    Posted in Get organized | I Welcome Your Comments »

    April 16th, 2013

    Organizing your office supplies in a snap

    Week 5.

    This should be an easy week.  My biggest problem is that my computer desk doesn’t have drawers. Do you have that problem.  Our office closet is filled with art supplies, camera supplies, cameras, lighting, tripods…no room for office supplies.  So I bought some nice attractive containers I can label and place on shelves. Organizing your office supplies can be easy and attractive.

    Storage Boxes from West ElmFirst start by sorting all your supplies, putting like with like.  Use boxes designed for storing paper, stationery, and letterhead; deep boxes for staples, push pins, rubber bands, label maker supplies, etc.  Pens and pencils can go in cups on your desk.  Throw out all pens that no longer work.  This is a great time to weed out the junk.  I discovered I had 3 boxes of staples.  I consolidated them into one.  It is also nice to have small containers handy for frequently used supplies like paper clips and push pins.

    If you’re like me you use a lot of media like DVDs and CDs.   If you use them a lot then don’t hide them in a box or drawer.  Find a unit that fits on your desk and leave room for more DVD’s in the future.

    DVD-CD storageTry to pick items that look attractive.  Look around your home first and try to find boxes or baskets that will fit the bill.  Shoe boxes are great. Cover with your favorite paper and they will look great too.

    Easy week, right!  Next week we will have tips on going electronic to save on paper pile up.

    Posted in Get organized | I Welcome Your Comments »