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    May 4th, 2016

    Everyday Ways To Conserve Energy At Home


    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.



    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 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 | leave a comment » | Posted by Susan

    Jul 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 | leave a comment » | Posted by Susan

    Dec 12th, 2012

    Hiring A Roofer: 5 Things To Consider

    Here in Texas, we’re no strangers to big weather. Thunderstorms, hail storms, tornadoes…we get hit with a lot. And our poor roofs take the brunt of it!

    Last April, a hail storm tore through Lewisville and beat us up good. We had to have our roof & gutters replaced. (I won’t even get into what happened to our cars!) Thankfully our insurance covered most of it but I was still responsible for paying a deductible AND finding a reliable company to do the job. I learned a lot through that process so I thought I’d share a few things that might help others who are going through the same thing now or after the next storm hits!

    1. Start your search at the BBB. There are lots of business reviews and you can easily see what a given company’s “rating” is. Ideally, you’ll identify a company that has an “A+” rating. Even if not, though, they should be reasonably trustworthy if they’re a member. You’ll be able to see any customer complaint history, too. Read, read, read and then read some more!

    2. DO YOUR HOMEWORK. Get references. You’ll want to hear about other folks’ experiences, see the work that was done, etc. Confirm that they’re licensed and insured. Ask questions about customer service, timeliness, and anything else that comes to mind.

    3. Get multiple bids. I’d recommend getting 5, but that’ll take time & effort. The thing is, we saw some people bid us really low, but after some investigation there were hidden costs that made the overall cost skyrocket…I’m guessing this tactic is employed to prevent sticker-shock.

    4. Get a formal proposal or quote in writing. It’s important to forward-think and consider things like post-job-cleanup and completion dates and whatnot. Getting verbal agreements never flies…trust me!

    5. Don’t pay upfront! Our next-door neighbor got a “really good deal” because they paid up front and guess what? Their roof never got done! The outfit they used was a “storm chaser” and canvassed our neighborhood door-to-door. Their “company truck” was a personal vehicle and other red-flags were simply ignored. Suckers!

    We ended up going with an A+ rated roofing company in Plano called Daltex Contractors. They turned out to be awesome from start to finish. They weren’t the cheapest or the most expensive. I’m sure there are loads of reputable companies out there so just do yourself a favor and be selective!

    Posted in Tips & Ideas | leave a comment » | Posted by Susan

    Oct 30th, 2012

    Guide to Choosing the Right Sofa Beds

    Sofa Beds are very handy pieces of furniture, and they will certainly go a long way in giving your guests a memorable and comfortable night. If you had guests for a slumber, and it turned out that you were out of beds then sofa beds would be the answer. A Sofa bed looks just like any other sofa, but it can be easily converted into a bed.

    This article will give you a guide to choosing the right sofa beds, and below are some tips to help you buy.

    Look at your living room area and ensure that your bed will not take up the entire room. This you can do by measuring the dimensions in your living room and comparing then against the sofa bed. It should not scrap your walls, but leave enough room for strolling.

    Consider the comfort it offers. This you can do by sitting and lying on it for about five minutes. Doing this will help you determine the quality and comfort that your potential acquisition can offer. A good sofa should be able to support your back and at the same time be of superior quality. Squeeze the cushions and ensure they are not too tough or gentle.

    Scrutinize the material used on the sofa and cushions. A good sofa bed should have layers of padding to offer maximum comfort and not have metal or wood protruding through the edges. Some beds are made of thin layer cushions, and these may not be the ideal ones to choose from lest you want to wake up with a backache. Ask your store if they do allow you to change cushions and replace them with ones that suit you.

    Durability is another factor to consider. Although you cannot determine this, but it may be beneficial to ask the store how long, your bed is likely to last. A genuine store will always be open with you and give you advice on how to increase its lifespan. Do your homework and check out how firmly tight the frame and bolts are so as to avoid any accidents.

    Consider the colour and how it will match with your walls and home décor. It is not just about the colour matching with your living room walls, but also with other accessories in the home. This is important, as it will ensure that your latest piece of furniture does not distort your household setup. If you are undecided on the colour, you could always take photos of your living room and let your chosen furniture store help you decide, you can also check design online on furniture stores like Bedroom World.

    Consider how genuine and legitimate your furniture store is. The last thing you want is to order something that will last you a few months before it starts falling apart. Different stores offer different quality products. Whilst most may sell genuine furniture, others may not and for this, it will be up to you to carry out a thorough research. Ask friends on a prospective furniture store and read reviews, these will help you choose effectively.

    Don’t be persuaded into buying something before you’re ready and absolutely sure about it, but take time to shop around and ensure that you get what your money is worth.

    Posted in Tips & Ideas | leave a comment » | Posted by Susan

    Aug 4th, 2012

    Creating Art for Your Home with Photos of Your Kids

    If you’re good with computers and have a photo editing application then creating art for your home is something you can do yourself. But if not their are services that will do this for you.

    art for your homeI created this as a gift for the mother of my Goddaughter. I take a lot of pictures of her and the camera loves her. So I started with the cute photo of her looking up at me.
    art for your homeI cropped the photo tight and used only her head and removed the background so it would be less busy and kept the background transparent.
    art for your homeNext I copied that layer of her head so that I had two copies of it. The top copy I applied a filter that took out a lot of pixels and made is look posterized. Kind of like something from the 60’s. But then I overlayed it over the other layer to put back in some of the information posterization removed. This is the tricky part. You need to play with it depending on the photo. I then added a shadow around her head and picked a bright color for the background.
    art for your homeNext I changed the color of her dress. I found a color that complemented the background color. I also added a black border around her head.
    art for your homeRepeat all these steps to make for unique versions and then put them all together in one photo. The result is your very own Warhol creation of someone you love. You can print this yourself on your inkjet printer or order a canvas online.

    Imagekind will create a canvas print or you can purchase a framed print of your finished piece. Click here.

    Posted in Art for the Home, Tips & Ideas | leave a comment » | Posted by Susan

    Feb 23rd, 2012

    A trend in home textiles

    Ikat fabrics have been around for centuries but is a current big trend in textiles for the home. Ikat is a near universal weaving style common to many world cultures. You can find Ikat textiles from Mexico, South & Central America, Thailand, India, Japan, Philippines, and Bali. Ikat floral patterns are traditionally used in Europe on Mallorca, Spain.

    There are a large variety of patterns ranging from subtle to very bold. I’m drawn to the more bold, colorful fabrics. These chairs were given new life with this bold Madeline Weinrib Ikat fabric.
    Ikat fabrics for the home

    The trend is so big I’ve seen designers mimic the look with paint on the walls. When done in a subtle pattern it look stunning.

    There are outdoor Ikat fabrics as well. Add some Ikat pillows to your outdoor furnishings and you will get a more finished looking outdoor “room” with a tropical feel.
    Outdoor ikat fabric

    Posted in Tips & Ideas, Trends | leave a comment » | Posted by Susan

    Nov 3rd, 2011

    Saving Time and Money: DIY Guide to Building a Bunk Bed

    Children often clamor for bunk beds when they share a bedroom with another sibling and have grown tired of the limited play space available at floor level. After all, squeezing two beds into a single room leaves little extra space for free play, whereas two beds stacked one on top of the other provide just as much sleeping space but leave more available room on the floor. Unfortunately, not everyone has the option of purchasing a high quality, pre-built bunk set. So if you want to put bunks in your kids’ room but can’t afford to buy a set, you’ll just have to build the structure yourself.

    Since you’re trying to save money and have never built a bunkbed structure like this before, let’s start with a simple design. To build a twin-over-twin sized bunk structure that adequately and stably sleeps two children, you’ll first need to have the appropriate building material for the main frame. Wood is a good choice for first-time builders, as it is easily cut and manipulated, and won’t require welding or other more advanced processes that metal bunks would need. When choosing a wood, select something strong and durable. Most hardwoods work well, such as birch, oak, or cherry. If you’d like to save on expenses, you can choose pine as well. Pine is perfect for painting later so you don’t have to stick with the natural wood color if you don’t want to. If you do choose pine though, be sure to uses a southern yellow pine. White pine is quite soft, and wouldn’t be stable enough for bed building.

    Once you’ve picked out and purchased your building material, you’ll have to lay everything out to begin building. Start with the base of the lower bunk, as this will help to support the rest of the structure. When all else fails, always start from the bottom and work towards the top. Since this is your first bunk building project, measure the width of the base slightly larger than is typical, to provide extra foundational support. The base should extend several inches further than the size of the twin mattress being placed on it, and it should be completely flat. Use a level to ensure the base is flat in its entirety before moving on.

    Once the base has been constructed, you’ll have to assemble four beams that will support the top bunk. Use as few separate pieces as possible, as that will help to improve structural integrity. The beams should be evenly spread out, and you can use supplemental cross pieces to connect the beams for further support. You can use metal clamps and nails to secure the wood.

    After that section is finished, you’ll simply need to build the support section for the top bunk. This layer should be slightly smaller than the base, and considerably lighter (though still strong enough to support the full weight of a body). Line up the top section so that is sits directly over the base, and so that weight is distributed evenly between the four beams. If effectively installed, there should only be a little give on the support beams when a body moves around on the top bunk, and the base should be stable regardless. Once stable, you’ll be able to craft some bars for the top bunk to prevent rolling off, and you’ll also have to install a small ladder so your child can climb to the top bunk and access it easily.

    Paint and design is up to you or the taste of your children, as really, your concern should be on bed sturdiness and child safety. Though exact measurements will depend on the type of building material you use and the construct of the room you’re putting the bunk bed set in, so long as you test for sturdiness and strength along the way, the set should hold up well.

    Posted in Tips & Ideas | leave a comment » | Posted by Susan

    Oct 26th, 2011

    Make your walls beautiful without paint or wallpaper.

    Are you renting a house or apartment and forced to live with white walls? You don’t have to anymore. The hottest, newest product for wall art are decals. They are removable graphics that let you be creative. Some are even MOVEABLE!

    Wall DecalsMy favorite site for wall decals is Blik. Blik was the brain child of Scott Flora, an architect, and Jerinne Neils, a food writer. While trying to decide what to do with their own walls they came up with this brilliant idea. The application of their product is perfect for any home or business space. I love the flexibility. Change your mind, no problem. This is perfect for a child’s room. The walls can be changed as they get older. Bringing them from infancy to teenage years easily.

    Blik’s newest product is the pattern wall tile. You can create a feature wall, an accent over the bed, cover closet doors, or well you name it… we can go on and on. The tiles are self-adhesive and can be repositioned and moved easily. These self-adhesive fabric tiles are eco-friendly, non-toxic and free of both PVC and phthalates.

    So there are no longer excuses for you to live with white walls. Get creative and have fun.

    Posted in Living Green, Tips & Ideas | leave a comment » | Posted by Susan

    Jul 7th, 2011

    Need help in selecting colors for your home?

    ColorSnap app by Sherwin-WilliamsSherwin-Williams has an app for you. Introducing the iPhone, Blackberry and Android app that helps you choose a color palette for your home. It’s call the ColorSnap® app.

    You can search for specific colors or browse the full Sherwin-Williams color palette and fine tune the colors using lightness, saturation and hue features. The ColorSnap® app also helps you select coordinating colors, so if you suffer from color stress this is the tool for you.

    Did I mention this is all for free? Go to the Sherwin-Williams web site to download the ColorSnap® app.

    Posted in Tips & Ideas | leave a comment » | Posted by Susan

    Jul 7th, 2011

    Choose black to add sophistication to any room

    painting walls blackIf you want to make a dramatic change and add sophistication to any room then paint one or two walls black. SHS Roofing explains that dark walls make your room look larger. It’s best if it’s the wall opposite your sofa in the living room or bed if it’s the bedroom. Make it the wall you will see the most and make it visually interesting by adding a great abstract painting or a grouping of smaller paintings. Artwork really pops against black.

    Carry the black to other parts of the room with your accessories: Candle sticks, pillows, lamps or a large mirror with a black frame. Found a brass chandelier at a flea market? Spray paint black and give it new life.

    I recently visited Inspired Interiors in Fort Lauderdale and they have a black wall that looks spectacular. They specialize in painted furniture and the black walls set off the furniture beautifully. The artwork in this photo is the beautiful work of Gisele Haselbarth.

    Posted in Tips & Ideas | leave a comment » | Posted by Susan