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Quick Tips to Help with Spring Cleaning

Categories: Home Owner Tips | Posted: March 22, 2018

Winter is finally slipping away and we’re starting to feel refreshed, and ready for the change that spring brings. One of the most popular rites of spring is doing an overhaul of your home’s interior—cleaning, purging, reorganizing, and perhaps redecorating. But before you launch into a full-scale attack, here are some helpful spring cleaning tips for your home.

Make a plan. If you just dive into spring cleaning without a plan, you’ll waste time and probably miss certain areas that you’ll regret later—after your energy has been depleted. Decide where you need to purge—closets, attics, and basements are a great start. Determine how you’re going to approach each task. Set aside boxes or bags for “Keep”, “Donate”, and “Toss” in the area you’re purging so you don’t have to carry out piles.

Include the tiny places that seem to get ignored during normal housecleaning, like sliding door tracks, baseboards, door frames, behind the kitchen appliances, and cabinet doors.

Next, prioritize the spaces that need your attention. If you have a dreaded area, put it at the top of the list. Don’t procrastinate. Tackle it first. You’ll feel better about getting it out of the way.

Organize your supplies. Now that you have your spring cleaning plan all ready, gather up the supplies, like rags, paper towels, various solvents, sponges, brushes, squeegies, gloves, drawer liners, and replacement batteries and light bulbs. Sort them into categories. Make a bucket for window washing, use another container for dusting supplies, and so on. Then you can just grab the right bucket and head off to tackle the cleaning.

Make a checklist. Keep a clipboard with you and make notes of things you need to get, replace, clean, or fix as you move from room to room. Don’t stop during your cleaning frenzy to run to the home store because you’ve decided you need to change your cabinet hardware or bathroom accessories. The distraction will slow down your progress. Instead, at the end of the day, review your clipboard and make a shopping and errand list to tackle all at once.

Start at the top. In every area of your house, start your spring cleaning from the top. Sweep away cobwebs and dust the light fixtures. Then move to the windows and walls. All the dirt, dust, and debris will fall to the floor, to be cleaned away last.

Hand out the assignments. Spring cleaning should be a shared challenge for everyone in the household. Once you have your plan, share it with your “helpers” and decide who will do what and when (yes, make sure there are deadlines).

Plan to be tired. At the end of your spring cleaning day, reward your hard work by putting your feet up, letting someone else make or deliver dinner, and kicking back to enjoy your fully refreshed surroundings!

Tips for Your Selections Meetings After Purchasing an American Classic Home

Categories: Home Owner Tips, Interior Design | Posted: March 8, 2018

Your new home floor plans are finalized, and now it’s time to choose the details—colors, flooring, countertops, cabinetry hardware, lighting, and so much more. It can be a bit overwhelming if you’re unprepared, so follow these tips for working with your home builder’s design center to get the look you’re going to love for many years.

Set a budget for upgrades. You can select choices among the standard features that American Classic Homes offers—type of color of flooring,  cabinet colors, lighting and plumbing fixtures, to name just a few. These are included in the price of your home. However, you will also be presented with some choices for upgrades. Maybe you want granite over quartz countertops, or more hardwood in your home. Before you walk into your home selections meeting where you will should aim to determine how much you want to spend fpr adding upgrades to your new home. Be sure your selections professional understands you have a limit and then they should work with you to provide you with cost of each custom request.

Determine your priorities. Along with coming to the selections meeting with a budget, be clear about how you want to use those funds. Think in advance—before all those shiny choices are staring you in the face—what’s more important. For example, can you live with certain fixtures in your powder room in order to upgrade the light fixture in the foyer? Consider which details will deliver more satisfaction in the long run—and stick with that decision.

Bring pictures and swatches. You probably have ideas in mind for your interiors. Maybe you’ve pinned photos on Pinterest, torn pages out of magazines, and collected fabric and paint swatches. Bring everything you’ve gathered so you can share it with the designer. Snap photos of furniture you’ll have in your new home, with measurements, too. You’ll be able to better envision your new space when you have all these details together.

Describe your lifestyle. When you meet with your selections professional talk about the way you’re going to live in your new home. Offer details like how often you entertain, the age of your children (and whether your home is the “fun place”) if you have any, and where you like to eat your daily meals. Are there bottleneck places in your home, like the bathroom or kitchen? How often do you do laundry, and do you fold it in the laundry room? The more you share, the better this pro can guide you toward smart choices.

Take your time. The decisions you make at the selections meeting will have a lasting impact on your new home. Photograph swatches and samples you need, look at them at different times of the day (bearing in mind it might be different in your new home), and then return to finalize the design details on your new home.

Tips for House-Hunting in the Winter

Categories: Home Owner Tips | Posted: February 22, 2018

There’s no need to postpone the search for a new home just because it’s winter. While you’re hibernating, you could be missing out on the home of your dreams. You probably start your new home search online, browsing real estate listings in the warmth of your cozy home. Once you have narrowed down your list of homes to see, follow these tips for house-hunting in the winter.

Consider the accessibility. Seeing a home in the winter gives you valuable insight into features like the way the roads are maintained. Are the streets and driveway plowed well? Think about coming home here on a wintry night. Will you be able to access drive up your street and driveway to get home? As you walk to the front entry, do you find slippery spots?

Look at the curb appeal when it’s not pristine. When the garden, shrubs, and trees are in full bloom, you might not get the true picture of the home’s exterior. Without the leaves on the trees, will you have privacy here? How does the foundation look? Seeing the home in the dead of winter is like looking in the mirror first thing in the morning.

Check for leaks and drafts. You’ll feel the cold air seeping in from the outside a lot more in the winter than on a spring day when the windows or open or during the summer with the air conditioning running. As you walk through the home, place your hand on the window sills and frames, the door jamb, and wall outlets. Do you feel drafts? These issues are tips about the home’s maintenance as well as the leaks. If you find drafts, you should also look into frozen pipes, roof leaks, and the quality of the insulation.

Gauge the natural light. The days are shorter in the winter. By touring a new home during the afternoon, you will see how much sunlight streams into your home. Is it sun-drenched or dark and dreary? Sunlight provides vitamin D, which is essential to maintaining a happy mood through the short days. Will this home replenish you?

Sniff out odors. When a home is closed up, you’re more likely to notice odors, like mold and mildew or pet odors. If the home has carpet, take a deep breath.

Get an accurate figure for the heating bill. It’s easy to forget how much you paid to heat your home when you’re enjoying the low bills of summertime. During a winter viewing, those heating costs are fresh in the memory of the homeowner, so you’re more likely to gauge more correctly what it will cost to heat this home.

Ask for a spring inspection. You might need to check features like the sprinkler system and swimming pool for yourself, and it’s not possible during winter. If you have time to wait, make your purchase contingent on an inspection after the snow has melted and the ground has thawed. You can also ask for escrowed funds to cover possible repair of specific items that are unable to be inspected during the winter.

Give yourself a break from the winter doldrums and start looking for a new home during the winter, when there is less competition and motivated sellers.

Bathroom Vanity Design Trends for 2018

Categories: Home Design Trends, Home Owner Tips, Interior Design | Posted: February 8, 2018

Are you thinking about updating your bathroom? The new year brings new design trends for every room in your home, from the colors to the fixtures to the style. Bathroom vanity design trends for 2018 can show you how to make a big difference here with the focal point of the room.

What will we see more of this year?

Quartz is replacing granite countertops. Granite has dominated the countertop industry for most of this century. It’s natural, durable, and available in so many colors and patterns that you can easily find one to match your taste. Quartz is an engineered stone, a combination of about 95 percent ground quartz stone and 5 percent polymer resin. Quartz looks and feels like stone, but, because it’s manufactured, you can order the pattern and color and get the consistency you want. Unlike granite, quartz doesn’t need to be resealed. Finally, quartz isn’t porous like granite, so bacteria isn’t absorbed, an important factor in a bathroom countertop!

Brass is back in the bathroom. Polished brass has returned from its exile. Designers are trending toward warmer metals, like brass, bronze, and copper. Even rose gold is making a play for bathroom presence. With trends toward richer colors in the bathroom—like navy blue and plum—the warmer hues of other metals will gain prominence in plumbing fixtures.

Sinks are taking a cue from nature. Homeowners have shifted toward natural looks throughout the home, and the bathroom is reflecting this preference. Stone sinks are popular choices, using granite, marble, and onyx that take advantage of the one-of-a-kind patterns created by nature. Wooden basins—like oak, cedar, teak, and bamboo (which is a grass but largely considered wood)—share the same natural beauty as stone.

The all-white bathroom is fading to black. Vanities are going to the dark side with designers moving away from light cabinetry in the bathroom, in favor of matte black and darker stains, like deep chestnut and espresso. The richness of these deeper hues creates a completely different look that transforms the room.

Bathroom storage gets smarter. Vanities are no longer about vanity. They have beauty, of course, but you should expect more. Manufacturers have recognized the way we use bathrooms and vanities today. Drawer organizers present a custom storage solution, along with a tall cabinet that separates the dual sinks. New vanities are incorporating electrical outlets inside drawers. Keep your hair dryer plugged in yet out of sight.

Sinks will have a splash of color. If you love color, you can get more of it in your bathroom. New ceramic and metal sinks reflect the trend toward vibrant statements, like orange and turquoise.

Every year brings more options to customize your home to the place and space you want it to be. Are you ready to make some changes?

Decorating Tips for Your Open Concept Design

Categories: Home Design Trends, Home Owner Tips, Interior Design | Posted: January 25, 2018

An open concept is a desirable floor plan for today’s homeowners. Having rooms without walls enhances the spaciousness, but it also presents a design challenge. With less definition provided by walls and doorways, how do you create your spaces within this open space?

These decorating tips for your open concept designs can guide you in the right direction.

Consider the flow. The colors you choose and the placement of your furnishings must flow seamlessly throughout your family room, dining room, and kitchen. Look at the natural flow of movement from one space to the next, like the kitchen to the dining area. Do you need a small workspace adjacent to the kitchen or would it work better as part of your family room? How much space do you need to comfortably move around the furniture, like the dining table, kitchen island, and family room’s seating?

Use color consistently. Decide on one color palette to pull it all together. Start with your foyer, which is the entry to this open floor plan. Expand that color spectrum by incorporating a few shades of your chosen colors.

Plan the lighting. The lighting design for your open floor plan must take into account the wide array of uses in this space. Task lighting will be critical in the kitchen and any other work areas. Be sure to incorporate dimmers on every wall switch to give you control of the room’s overall ambience.

Define task areas. You don’t need walls to create rooms. Use your furniture and decorative accents to establish smaller purposeful spaces within the open floor plan. Make a reading nook by setting a comfortable chair, ottoman and occasional table near a window, with its own area rug. Set up a small workstation for managing bills, sorting mail, or doing homework by placing a small desk or console table near the breakfast nook. Be sure you have good lighting here. You can expand the workspace by adding a bookcase or wall-mounted organizer.

Use area rugs. Define nooks and gathering spaces with area rugs that complement one another with a consistent blend of colors and styles. They don’t have to match, but avoid drastically different designs, like bold contemporary with traditional.

Don’t “arrest” the room. Placing your furniture up against the wall leaves a tremendous gap in an open floor plan. Since you don’t have walls, add boundaries by using larger furnishings, like bookcases and sofas. Break up your seating by building a large section (maybe near the television) and a smaller, more intimate conversation space.

Complement with curves. If your open concept features angular lines, soften them with rounder shapes, like an oval or round dining table, rug, or occasional tables.

An open floor plan presents a creative challenge for decorating, but also gives you plenty of room to create the space that perfectly fits your lifestyle.

Understanding home insulation

Categories: Home Owner Tips | Posted: December 7, 2017

Every homeowner knows that insulating a home is important for comfort and energy efficiency. But it’s equally important to understand how home insulation works so you ensure you’re taking the right steps to effectively prevent the swap of interior and exterior temperatures.

Insulation provides resistance to heat flow. Heat flow is the movement of warm or hot air to cooler air. The flow continues until there is a balance of temperatures. For example, hot air will continue to flow into your home on a hot day until the inside temperature is equal to the outside. On a pleasant spring or fall day, you might open up the windows to take advantage of the ideal temperature. When the weather is more extreme, however, you need to manage the heat flow.

When you buy a new home, insulation is installed to slow down the movement of heat. Now, heat flow moves in three ways:

  • Conduction: Heat moves through a material, like a metal pot absorbing heat.
  • Convection: Heat circulates through liquids and gases, and since hot air is lighter, it rises above cold air.
  • Radiation: Heat travels along a straight path and absorbs energy from anything along that route.

So, your home insulation is installed in any place with exposure to heat flow: exterior walls, around the foundation, and in the roof, to name a few. Without insulation, the heat will move through the walls, floors, and ceilings—up from the basement, down from the attic, and in through the walls, doors, and windows. The goal of insulation is to produce resistant to the natural flow of heat.

R-value: The resistance factor

Home insulation products are rated for their thermal resistance factor, commonly known as R-value. This measurement is determined by the insulation type, thickness, and density. To determine how much home insulation you need, refer to a map that shows the R-value zones, rated on a scale from 1 to 7, with colder climates on the high end. Southern Florida and Hawaii score a 1 rating, while Alaska and northern Minnesota earn a 7.

You probably hear about radiant barriers. This reflective material doesn’t absorb heat, like insulation does. Instead, it reflects the heat. Radiant barriers are commonly installed on roofs to deflect the heat away from the roof (where it can be absorbed and potentially pass into the main part of the home). According to the U.S. Department of Energy, a radiant barrier on a home in a sunny climate (e.g., Zones 1-3) can reduce cooling costs by 5% to 10%.

Retrofitting an existing home with the correct amount of insulation could require a professional, depending on where and what type of insulation you need. New homes incorporate the standards for home insulation. They also improve the comfort and energy efficiency in a new home by installing moisture control and air sealing.

Spend a little time learning about your home’s insulation and you’ll spend much less later on the energy costs.

Garage organization: De-cluttering and storage tips

Categories: Home Owner Tips, Interior Design | Posted: November 9, 2017

The garage is probably one of the most preferred stash places in your home. The attic is great, but it can be difficult to access. The basement is good, if you have one, but you might worry about dampness. Or you have a finished basement that’s already full.

Rather than continue to pack and stack boxes and bury items so deep that they are essentially lost, spend some time reorganizing your garage. Take back the space! Here are some de-cluttering and storage tips for garage organization.

  • Start with a blank canvas. Remove all the clutter from the garage. Otherwise, you will be shifting things around, not truly organizing them. Sort things out as you go. Set up bins for “Discard”, “Donate”, and “Keep”. Eliminate all items that really aren’t worthy of valuable space (like your t-shirt collection from the 80s). Will you ever repair that broken thingamajig? Be honest with yourself. If these things are buried in your garage, are they worth keeping? Once the garage is empty, sweep and clean the floor. An empty garage is perfect for cleaning the various stains and repairing cracks. You might even consider painting the floor for a really fresh start.
  • Plan the storage zones. Think about the uses of your garage: tools, car care supplies, seasonal décor and clothing, sports gear, lawn and garden care, and paint/home repair, to name a few. You probably also need an area for your trash and recycling. Once you determine the storage zones, choose the most suitable place for each, based on the frequency of use. Label each area so you know where everything will go, and you can visibly see the flow from zone to zone.
  • Design the storage spaces. Your garage offers many options for creating storage zones. In addition to the walls, you have the overhead area where you can attach hooks and shelves. You can install cabinets and pegboards. Explore the local home centers to get ideas for smart storage systems. Invest in a lockable cabinet to store potentially hazardous items (chemicals, sharp tools).
  • Respect the new and improved space. Place the items from your “Keep” stash in the designated storage zones. Give all household members a tour of the new and improved garage and remind them that your garage storage system must be maintained.

Look at your calendar and schedule a weekend for garage organization. Use the reward of not just having a perfectly organized garage but also finding the treasures that have been long lost in the clutter!

Look ahead at kitchen cabinetry trends for 2018

Categories: Home Design Trends, Home Owner Tips, Interior Design | Posted: October 26, 2017

One of the first things people notice when they walk into your kitchen are the cabinets. Your choice is a major factor in both the aesthetics and the function of this all-important room. Before you decide on the kitchen cabinets for your new home or renovation, consider some of the style shifts happening. Here’s a look ahead at kitchen cabinetry trends for 2018.

You can never go wrong with white or light. White, off-white, and light gray continue to dominate kitchen cabinet colors. The brightness these neutral tones bring to your kitchen is unbeatable, and they work with just about any color you want in the room.

Mix and match. You don’t have to choose just one color for your cabinets. Kitchen designers are leaning toward one color for the base and another for the wall, or a complementary color for the island.

Put more behind the doors. Today’s (and tomorrow’s) cabinets are more efficient than their ancestors were. Pull-out drawers and shelves enable more efficient usage. A narrow, vertical cabinet door can hide a sliding spice rack or pull-out holder for trays, cookie sheets, and racks. Deep drawers provide more convenient access to your dishes.

Raise your cabinet standards. You know that gap between the top of your cabinets and the kitchen ceiling where you either display things or stash them? Cabinetry is now reaching to the ceiling, a design trend that gives the perception of a bigger room.

Show-offs. Glass doors on some of your upper cabinets allow you to proudly display your most eye-catching pieces, like crystal, pottery, dishware, and kitchen collectibles.

I know the fridge is here somewhere. If you find the front of your refrigerator or microwave a bit disruptive, you’ll appreciate the trend toward masking them with a door that matches your kitchen cabinets.

Mix in a few shelves. Open, “floating” shelves in a contrasting material—like rustic wood with white cabinetry—and a few less cabinets add an airy feeling to the kitchen.

Unjunk your junk drawers. The kitchen drawers are now featuring dividers and even multiple tiers to make organization easier than ever. Whether you’re separating silverware or the mounds of miscellany, these new and improved kitchen drawers are the clutterbug’s new best friend.

Park your appliance in a cabinet garage. Homeowners want a tidier look to their kitchen, so a place to store your small appliances (toaster, coffee maker, mixer, juicer) out of sight, but not out of reach, is essential.

Accessorize. Kitchen cabinets are being finished with more accents that resemble fine furniture. Decorative corbels, carved feet, moldings, and arches are easy ways to embellish your kitchen’s style.

You spend a lot of time in your kitchen. Why not make it as stylish as every other room in your home?

Tips for choosing the right wall colors for your home

Categories: Home Design Trends, Home Owner Tips, Interior Design | Posted: October 12, 2017

For some people, changing colors in a room is like changing your hairstyle. It’s nice to try something different—and it’s easy enough to change back if you don’t like the result. For others, the prospect of switching is a scary proposition.

Painting a room is one of the most affordable ways to make a big change in your home. The only hard part can be the color choice. Looking at the array of paint chips in the store can be overwhelming. Before you head there, narrow down your choices.

Here are some tips for choosing the right wall colors for your home.

Look at your wardrobe. What colors do you like to wear? That’s a big clue to your color preferences. If you’re drawn to neutral colors, you’re comfortable with those soft shades, making this palette a smart choice for your interior walls. If your penchant for lime green or sunshine orange feels too daring for your walls, tone it down a bit.

Inspect your photos, artwork, and other accents. What colors prevail? You chose these decorative pieces for the message they communicate, but was color a factor as well?

Pull the paint color from a print. You might have a favorite pillow, upholstered chair, or even table linens. Zoom in on the shades that might work well on your wall. Take the fabric to the paint store and ask them to match it.

Use a color wheel. See how colors relate to each other. A color wheel gives insight into the hues that work harmoniously together. You might like a monochromatic color scheme, with variations of a particular color (lightness and saturation). A complementary color scheme uses colors that are opposite each other on the color wheel, usually a warm and a cool one (yellow and blue, for example). An analogous color scheme combines colors that are next to each other, like blue and green, or orange and red, and varying shades of those colors. There are several other options for color schemes, but this will get you started. Once you choose the color scheme, you build your palette of specific colors.

Check out color trends. Home décor colors are like fashion. They change with the seasons and the years. Greenery was the 2017 Pantone Color of the Year. The foliage-inspired shade is like a springtime refresh. Home décor watchers are expecting 2018 interior color palettes to move from pastels to more intense hues. With palettes named “Far-fetched”, ”Resourceful”, and “Resourceful”, you might find one to suit your taste.

Think holistically. Your house is a sum of its parts, which includes your wall colors. Make sure you have smooth flow from room to room. This is where organizing a whole-house color palette will help.

Which is the best smart home assistant?

Categories: Home Owner Tips | Posted: September 30, 2017

If your name is Alexa and you’re an actual person, you’re probably getting asked a lot more questions these days. ”Alexa, what time is it?” “Alexa, when is the next full moon?” “Alexa, how far is it to the nearest coffee shop?”

And you can thank Amazon for this annoyance.

Amazon launched the Echo in 2015 in the U.S. This cylindrical speaker connects to a voice-activated, computer-generated, smart home assistant named Alexa. Alexa is capable of answering questions (when properly phrased), playing music, acting as a timer or alarm clock, requesting an Uber ride, checking your calendar, making lists, reading audiobooks aloud, and reciting the news and weather updates. Of course, Alexa can also place your Amazon orders, too.

Yes, Alexa is smart, but is she the best smart home assistant for you?

Google Home emerged soon after Echo, and at a lower price point, while offering the same type of assistance. The Echo Dot, a hockey-puck-sized version of the larger Echo, gives you a very affordable entry into the smart home assistant experience.

If you want the most accurate “intelligence”, Google Home appears to have a slight edge. Digital agency Stone Temple quizzed both devices. Google Home was able to answer 3,383 questions, while Alexa was only able to answer 1,030. Of those responses, Google Home was correct 89.5% of the time, and Alexa achieved 86.9% accuracy. Alexa relies primarily on Wikipedia for information, while Google reaches a wider range of third-party sources, like Google Maps for checking traffic conditions.

Google Home can also remember your last question. So, if you ask, “Who won the last Super Bowl?” and followed up with “What was the score?”, you’d get both answers. With Alexa, your second question would have to be, “What was the score of the last Super Bowl?”

Amazon Echo, however, currently has the edge on managing your smart home devices, like your thermostat, lighting, security, home entertainment, and appliances, but Google Home is gaining ground. Compare the Alexa-enabled smart home devices with Google Home’s list of supported devices and partners.

Google Home will also connect your videos, photos, and television, via Chromecast. You can even tell it to skip ahead 30 seconds on a video, and show photos of a selected person, location or time period. Alexa isn’t quite as savvy.

Both Google Home and Echo offer hands-free calling. Tell them to call a contact from your list or ask your smart home assistant to find a phone number.

Apple is finally responding to the demand for the smart home assistant. The Apple HomePod is scheduled to launch before the end of the year. It promises to have superior audio, but like all Apple products, will also emerge in limited quantities and at a higher price than Google Home and Amazon Echo.