By Carolyn Iannone
Everywhere you turn these days there are television shows and websites teaching us the how-to of home improvement. With all of this great information, it becomes a great wonder why we haven’t yet tackled that list of projects around the house. To help you in your quest, we bring you Home Improvement 101.
A for effort
Let’s face it–when it comes to home improvement, finding a starting point is never easy. Sometimes, it can seem impossible, especially when you’re looking at years of chaotic clutter. Many times, stopping before you start seems a lot easier. You tried, right? Wrong. This time, you will start that project because there are dozens of ways to make home improvement work for you, no matter what your project or budget may be.
Stay on schedule
Whether you are organizing a closet, making over a room, or taking on a full renovation, sorting out a step-by-step plan will allow you to fit your project into any budget and give you an estimated time of completion.
Keep a binder of key styles, colors and textures that appeal to you. You may want to look into hiring a contractor to help you with large renovations or an interior designer for help with room makeovers.
Some tools are not so cost or storage friendly. Heavy-duty projects call for heavy-duty equipment and renting will cost a fraction of the price it would to purchase. Many rental stores not only rent equipment, but offer advice on how to use it safely and efficiently to get the most for your money.
Renting vs. buying
Wallpaper Steamer–buy: $400-$800; rent: $60 per day.
Paint Sprayer–buy: $400-$800; rent: $25 per day.
Pressure washer–buy: $1,400; rent: $55 per day.
Tiller–buy: $975-$130; rent: $45 per day.
Electric Chainsaw–buy: $350; rent: $25 per day.
Carpet Cleaners –buy: $200; to rent: $20 per day.
So far so good! We have plans, ideas, tools and an inexhaustible bank account. Okay, maybe not that last part. However, if you are like the many other homeowners who need to budget their money cost effectively, no need to worry. You can solve this by prioritizing a few key items that can’t be compromised for cost. For example, if you are dreaming of a luxuriously, comfortable couch for your family room, then splurge on it. In turn, compromise on items that are lower on your list, like accessories for a side table or prints for the walls. By cutting some corners and splurging on key items, you’ll feel like you are spending where it counts and the finished product will also fit inside your budget!
When devising a plan to update a certain room, knowing when to be “new” and when to be “improved” can be helpful. Give old cabinets a new look by painting them a bold color, renovate an old chair by reupholstering it, convert an old trunk into a coffee table that you won’t mind relaxing your feet and coffee mug upon. These are a few inexpensive and creative ways to make what you already have work with a fresh, new look.
There is nothing like having a space that you can call your own, even when you are sharing it with other people. Customizing your environment to fit your style will make any room your own. From dishes and flatware to curtains and colors, everything should have a hint of your style and personality.
Looking for inspiration?
Find your focus
If you’re still stuck on finding that perfect style for a room, pick a focal point to work off of. For example, a colorful pillow or rug; a piece of artwork with distinct colors and patterns; or maybe an area rug that speaks to you. By examining what it is that attracts you to these pieces, you will find yourself inspired by various colors, textures, patterns and styles.
Being in the flow–Feng Shui for all aspects of your life
By Mary Mei-an Winslow
Do you ever wonder why you feel more comfortable in certain places than others? Or why you feel exhausted whenever you shop at the mall, even if you’ve only been there for 30 minutes? Or why you feel energized after you take a walk in the woods or on the seashore? It’s all about the flow–the energy flow of the place.
Everything in life has an energy, for everything is energy. The ancient Chinese science of Feng Shui, which is enjoying a renaissance in the West, works with the energy of a place–your home, garden, office, business, stores, malls, woods, mountains, literally everything in the universe. The Chinese call this energy “chi”. Those of you who are familiar with yoga, tai chi, reiki, or the martial arts are especially aware of this energy. The study of these energy patterns provided guidelines for the Chinese in designing homes, businesses and cities, including the Forbidden City in Beijing.
We need to ask what is the quality of this chi that surrounds us and which constantly bombards us. Buildings are not merely inanimate objects. We can effectively affect and accelerate whatever we wish to change by balancing or “charging” our environment. We place ourselves in jeopardy if we do not pay attention to our surroundings–we sabotage ourselves with clutter, disorganization and dilapidation. If we are to survive successfully in peace and harmony with ourselves, and the world, we must create it externally to reflect back to our inner selves. When the energy (chi) of a space is in balance with the occupant of that space then harmony, peace, beauty and whatever qualities we desire will naturally occur.
Feng Shui is exciting in that it gives us the possibilities to bring about changes to our lives by use of various adjustments, such as placing special objects in certain places, moving furniture around and use of color. However, it is more than just re-arranging furniture, painting walls, or adding wind chimes, as prescribed by many books on the subject; though these are certainly good beginning processes toward change. Adjusting the energy of a space is adjusting the energy of the occupants living in that space. Some typical tools used for bringing new energy into our life might be placing a plant, mirror or water fountain by the front door for the purpose of finding a better job or a career change. It is also necessary to consider several factors that oftentimes include architectural problems, outside surroundings, and the spatial arrangement of the rooms that may hinder the desired change. Implementation of Feng Shui principles restores empowerment and control back to you and changes your perspective of your connection to the environment and of life. By having a supporting environment we become less stressed which improves our mental, physical and emotional health.
The principles of Feng Shui have been practiced for at least 3,000 in China. There are various schools of thought in Feng Shui, but all methods use a map called the “ba gua”, an eight-sided figure that is used as an overlay for a floor plan, a piece of land, home, business, a work cubicle, 40 story building, or a desk. The ba gua is divided into sections representing various aspects of one’s life such as family, wealth, health, relationships, careers, etc. Visual energy patterns are uncovered by using the ba gua.
As the outside world appears to be more hostile–pollution, crime, terrorism, disease, fear–it is ever more important to create sanctuaries of our homes. Since many of us spend time telecommuting from home offices, it’s important to pay special attention as these arrangements impact on our home harmony.
Remember how you felt after you’ve been to the ocean, on a mountaintop, or witnessed another wondrous sunset? That feeling is what brings you into harmony with your environment and with yourself. It is the ultimate goal of Feng Shui to create and capture this feeling whenever you enter a space. If you do not have a home that heals your spirit, this whole world will never feel comfortable to you no matter what or how much else you may have.
Feng Shui constantly upgrades the aliveness that surrounds us. What we are doing in Feng Shui is matching our surroundings to the magnificence of who we truly are.
Mary Mei-an Winslow is a certificated Feng Shui consultant. You may contact her by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 330.6314.
A color guide to help brighten your home and life
By Arcangela Mele
Brightly painted rooms with color schemes of greens, purples, blues, and yellows are popular these days. Many of us would love to create a similar look in our own home, but experimenting with color can be risky. Yet with a little imagination and experimentation, you can turn that dull room into something you’ll love.
Decide what colors best suit you
The good thing to know about color is that you do not have to completely redo a room, but can introduce it on a single wall or accessory. Rugs, chairs, pillows, even flowers, are good things to start with because they can be changed or replaced easily. Since color has the ability to affect our moods and emotions, it’s essential to find out what shades make you feel happy and comfortable. To help you through your exploration, here are some helpful characteristics of color:
The mood:Sunny and happy, energizing and uplifting
Shades to consider:Lemon, gold, canary
What to pair it with:Yellow always looks best when paired with white, and pale shades (lemon) are perfect with pastels such as light blue, green and pink. Bolder shades like gold and canary look great paired with black, blue and dark brown.
Where it works:Yellow is quite versatile and will work well in just about any room. However, it’s an especially inviting color for halls and entries and makes small spaces appear open and expansive. Yellow is thought to stimulate creativity and imagination, so it would also be ideal for a library, office, or study.
The mood:Calming, relaxing, serene
Shades to consider:Periwinkle, turquoise, cerulean, pastel blues
What to pair it with:If you opt for a lighter shade it can make a room feel chilly, so you may want to balance it with warm hues in furnishings and fabrics, such as purple-blues and warm greens. Bright and warm blues (periwinkle, turquoise, cerulean,) always look fabulous with white or gold or blond wood.
Where it works:Blue is known to slow down blood pressure and heart rate, so it’s often recommended for bedrooms and bathrooms. Warmer blues are sometimes used for a fresh, contemporary look in dining and family rooms. You can even try pairing it with red and white accessories for a nautical look.
The mood:Natural, comfortable, peaceful
Shades to consider:Soft sages, mint, bright lime greens
What to pair it with:Green has endless variations and blends easily with every other hue, making it a great color for beginners to start with. All shades of green always look best paired with neutral fabrics and furnishings, and soft sage blends especially well with brown and black. Bright limes are a new, daring trend, and they can be paired with orange, yellow, or stainless steel for a futuristic look.
Where it works:Since green is so versatile, it can work easily in just about any room in your home. Sage greens are common in family rooms, dining rooms and bedrooms, and mint works well for a traditional bathroom or kitchen. Bright limes are a new trend in kitchens and childrens’ bedrooms.
Luxurious, restful, dramatic
Shades to consider:
Pastel lilac, lavender, deep violet, bold eggplant
What to pair it with:
Pastel purples are most popular and have the same calming effect as blue, yet are less chilly. Like blue, pastel purple looks crisp and clean paired with white, and pretty with other pastels like pink and yellow. Deeper, bolder shades of purple are best paired with black and dark wood, or even silver. Bright reds, oranges, and yellows can also be paired easily with deep purples for a dramatic and modern look.
Where it works:
Pastel purple and lavender can be used to create a frilly little girl’s room or a feminine bathroom. Bolder shades of purple can be paired with brightly colored accessories and paintings for a dramatic statement in a living or dining room, or just about any room you’d like to show off.
The Mood:Airy, clean, serene
Shades to consider:White paint comes in warm shades (leaning toward yellow, rose, or beige tones) and cool shades (with a hint of gray or icy blue). Although they look like pastels on paint chips, once they are painted on your walls they will look white with a cool or warm undertone. Pure white is the perfect backdrop for bold artwork and colorful furniture, yet there are various shades of white that can compliment a room on its own.
What to pair it with:Pure white trim on black or red walls makes a bold statement and is currently a popular trend. Yet, white on white can also be appealing by incorporating different shades of white with various textures. For example, a room could be painted a warm or cool shade of white with bright white trim and be filled with textured accessories, like a fuzzy chenille bedspread, leather couches, or weathered wood (blonde, cherry and ebony are all great). These textures will reflect light differently and contrast against the smooth, white walls. Also, jutted rugs and wicker furniture work great with white and create, creating a calming effect.
Where it works:White can work just about anywhere with a little creativity. A current trend is the revival of black and white, which can be introduced in virtually any room. You can try the “Old Hollywood” style by incorporating classic furniture with checkered floors, or a contemporary look with black and white striped fabrics, leather furniture and modern artworks. Toile walls and valances are also a popular black and white trend for bedrooms and baths.
Better and more popular than ever
By Larry Miller, CKD, CBD
Mixing high style and relaxation, today’s luxury baths focus on comfort with a nod toward self-expression. The new luxury baths are highly serviceable and technologically savvy rather than the huge, opulent spa-like versions that have dominated for the past few years. And, people are spending money on them on a level once reserved for kitchens.
Today’s consumer is looking for simplification and a quality experience. People want their homes to service their functional needs but at the same time, personal style, aesthetics and craftsmanship are important. Since many homeowners are short on space and/or have to work within budgets, size and opulence are not the only criteria for luxury bathrooms. They are opting for high quality, beautifully designed, well-engineered elements instead of just fabulous looking objects.
Showering is in these days and many bathrooms are tub free. Large showers have replaced the 3′ x 3′ showers of the past. Many showers are 4′, 5′, 6′ and larger with amenities such as bench seats, multiple shower heads, body sprays, hand held showers and ceiling-mounted rain shower heads. Another popular feature is the steam shower, which offers the ultimate in relaxation. Careful consideration must be given when designing a steam shower so that condensation does not drip on the bather.
While the purpose of the shower process is to keep the bather wet, it is equally important that they stay hot during and after the shower. Therefore, floor heating and towel warmers are very alluring options. If you shower at the same time every day, you can set the towel warmer and the radiant floor heat on a timer.
Where space allows, whirlpool tubs and soaking tubs are still popular. There are many sizes available, from the 32″ x 60″ that replaces a standard tub, to 60″ x 84″ with a tub deck all around.
Homeowners are also exploring many new materials. They are being much more creative and artistic with tile work, going wild with the patterns they can create. Glass tiles, for example, are moving to the forefront. The use of clear frameless glass for shower doors is also very popular, allowing the tile designs to be easily seen.
Countertops run the gamut from solid surfaces like Corian to marble, granite and quartz materials. People are also looking for more exotic stones like lapis or onyx.
Regardless of how exotic any of the amenities are, when choosing colors they should have timeless appeal. Earth tones and lighter pastels are among the most recommended.
Lighting, whether for ambience or tasks, is also key to creating a successful luxury bath. There should be adequate general lighting to create a warm mood in the space and specific task lighting at the mirror for applying makeup or shaving.
Creating your luxury bath can be challenging, especially when dealing with a smaller space. Sometimes you can borrow space from an adjoining room or closet, and sometimes you are limited to what is there. Careful planning can make a smaller space appear larger by creating an open entrance. Whether your space is 5′ x 8′ or 18′ x 24′, you can have a luxury bath of your own to enjoy for many years to come.
Larry Miller is a Certified Kitchen and Bath Designer, and the general manager of Creative Kitchens of Glenmont, Ltd., in Glenmont. He can be reached at 432.1320 or visit www.creativekitchensofglenmont.com.
By Tom Barber
What makes an organized home? Is it having everything in its own place? Is it having tons of space for all your stuff? Or, is it having your closets, basement and garage organized?
For many, it’s a combination of all these factors. Because of this, the trend in closet organization began 20 years ago. Over time, it has expanded to the basement, kitchen, home office and garage. Since homes have natural architectural limits to them, the organization industry can only help make the existing space function better.
There are some basic architectural designs that make a closet work much better.
First, complete access to your items is key. Try to avoid sliding doors, which only give partial access. Rather, bi-fold or swing doors are the best choices. Whenever possible do not have the door swing into your walk-in closet. If it does you are taking away usable storage space and if you have garments behind the door you always have to close the door behind you to get to them.
Walk-in closets need to be a minimum of 5’6″ if you intend to hang clothes on both side walls. The return walls by the door need to be 23″ wide if you are going to hang clothes up to the door area.
A reach in closet should never have more then 12″ of return walls on the front of them. Deep returns make it impossible to access your clothes. Closets need to have full ceiling height to them if you intend to double hang clothes as the top clothing is hung at 84″ off the floor. Closets with eves or with sloped ceilings do not offer you much chance of good utilization.
Always keep in mind that a hanging garment needs between 21″-23″ to clear the wall and fit in a closet for space allowance. You should plan on 1″ for each hanging garment and 2″ for coats. Generally, a hanging shirt, blouse or pants over a hanger needs 39″-40″ to hang up and long garments need around 68″ to hang up. A folded garment, i.e. sweater, needs an area 12×12 by 2″ high at a minimum. Ladies’ shoes need around 7″ per pair and mens’ shoes need around 10″ per pair when stored side by side.
Today’s closets offer all kinds of accessories–tie and belt racks, scarf racks, jewelry drawers, clothes hampers, shoe cubbies, folding ironing boards and folding seats to name a few. The common material used is ventilated steel, melamine wood and ventilated hard wood. There are three major manufacturers of steel shelving–Rubbermaid, Schulte and Closet Maid.
Melamine covered particleboard, which is most commonly called laminated wood, comes in 3/4″, 5/8″ and 1/2″ thickness. Good quality closet systems come in 3/4 thick material. It can hold more weight and is structurally sound. Systems can be floor mounted to give a built-in look or wall hung by using the European hang rail system. Less expensive systems come in 5/8″ and 1/2″ material and are most commonly found in big box retail stores. There are a number of wood grains patterns and solid colors available through your professional closet companies.
Why is melamine particleboard used verses solid wood? Melamine covered particleboard board does not warp, splinter, expand and contract with the weather and never needs painting like wood does, and it costs a lot less.
Remember that a well-designed storage space should double or triple your usable space.
Tom Barber is owner of Closet Crafters & More, Inc. & Albany Shower Door located at 25 Kraft Ave. Albany. For more information call 459.0037 or visit www.closet-crafters.com & www.alb-showerdoor.com.
Save energy, money and stay warm with New York Energy $martSM programs
With the help of New York Energy $martSM programs, New Yorkers can save energy around their homes by making deliberate choices to use energy wisely. In addition to saving money, you can also help the environment–the less electricity produced by power plants, the fewer greenhouse gases released into the air. With increases in both the price of electricity and heating fuel, consumers often concede to paying more to stay comfortable.
Why should New Yorkers care about home performance? Whether your home is old or new, it could be wasting up to 40 percent on energy costs due to inefficient heating and cooling systems, poor insulation, and air leaks through cracks and gaps in the attic, basement, plumbing fixtures and duct systems. Many homes have rooms that are too hot or cold, or have drafts, poor indoor air quality, and ice build-up on the roof that can cause structural damage. These may be common signs that the house is not sealed, ventilated, insulated or heated properly. While it’s not always easy to pinpoint the problem, taking time to find it and fix it can make your home more energy-efficient and comfortable.
Seniors and others who live on a limited income are the most vulnerable to the higher bills, which is why for this winter only, the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) is now offering additional financial incentives for energy upgrades performed through its Assisted Home Performance with ENERGY STAR Program. Developed under the New York Energy $martSM Program, the program will cover up to 60 percent of the costs associated with the energy-efficiency improvements, up to a maximum of $6,000 per household or $12,000 for a two-to four-family building. The program connects you with a participating Building Performance Institute (BPI)-certified Home Performance contractor to inspect your home and provide recommendations for energy improvements they can even do the work. These contractors will use diagnostic equipment to evaluate the performance of your home and generate a customized list of improvements that may include sealing air leaks, adding insulation or sealing duct leaks.
The program even offers a number of financing options to help pay for making the improvements.
“BPI-certified Home Performance Contractors take a unique, comprehensive approach to home energy usage that looks at the whole house, not just one room or single problem area. It’s a great service and value for homeowners,” said Peter R. Smith, president of NYSERDA, which administers the New York Energy $martSM programs. And if you are not eligible for the extra incentives, you can still participate in Home Performance with ENERGY STAR and have access to the low-interest financing.
Also, remember to look for the ENERGY STAR label on lighting, appliances and various electronics. Whether you are in the market for a clothes washer, refrigerator, or other home appliance, make sure it has the ENERGY STAR label. To reap more energy savings, replace your five most frequently used light fixtures or the bulbs in them with ones that have earned the ENERGY STAR label. ENERGY STAR lighting products use two-thirds less energy than standard incandescent lighting, while providing more light. In addition, compact fluorescent bulbs last seven to 10 times longer than incandescent bulbs. This means less time changing light bulbs, a convenience especially in hard-to-reach areas.
Additional energy tips:
Have your heating and cooling equipment serviced annually and remember to replace air filters regularly.
Use a programmable thermostat and lower your thermostat when you’re not at home and at night.
Sign up for your utility’s budget plan. You may qualify for help with your bills.
Shop around for an alternative energy supplier.
When it’s time to replace old equipment, choose an ENERGY STAR qualified model.
Insulate your home, particularly in the attic. Not only is this spot usually the easiest to insulate, but it’s also where you’ll see the greatest energy-saving benefit.
Turn down the temperature on your water heater to 120 degrees F.
For more information on other energy efficiency programs and money-saving tips during the upcoming winter months, visit www.GetEnergySmart.org or call toll-free 1.877. NYSMART (1.877.697.6278).
What’s the buzz on shower doors and enclosures?
By Tom Barber
With bathrooms becoming more luxurious, it’s important to play up the importance of the shower door, which becomes the “exclamation point” of the room.
A shower door, tub door and enclosure all mean the same thing. There are literally thousands of sizes available with many options of frame finishes and glass styles. There truly is not a standard size in today’s market–the width may be somewhat standard, but the height of units seems to be all over the place.
They all do the same thing–keep the water inside the shower area as best as possible. Shower enclosures are not aquariums and they can allow some water out. With hand held sprays and body sprays, water can be forced out of the enclosure by the hinge area and on the closure side. To prevent this, the showerhead should always be turned toward the wall and away from the enclosure whenever possible. Shower thresholds and built-in seats should pitch into the shower by 1/8 of an inch. Walls need to be plum and the threshold needs to be level. Flat or pitching out thresholds make for leaky showers and need to be avoided at all costs.
There are basically three types of doors, framed, semi-frameless and frameless.
Framed doors which have aluminum all around the glass will most likely be 5/32″ thick. These doors are also the least expensive to buy.
Semi-frameless doors usually have two areas on the door that do not have the aluminum frame on it. The glass in these doors may be 1/4″ thick. You may also find a C-pull handle on them. These are usually in the middle range in cost.
Frameless doors have some kind of system to hold the glass in place. This may be a small aluminum channel or glass clamps. These door can be made to fit most configurations and designs. The most common glass is 3/8″ of an inch thick and some are made of 1/2″ inch glass. Frameless doors will cost two-three times more than a framed or semi-frameless door. All glass is tempered safety or laminated glass.
Tub doors may be two by-pass doors, three by-pass doors, swing door with a panel, French doors or spray panels that swing out of the way, which are becoming more popular. This makes it easier to bathe children, without having to lean over the track that by-pass doors have.
Shower doors also come in a number of configurations: by-pass, door and panel, panel door panel, panel and door with a side buttress, neo-angle, French doors and single swing doors that can be a pivot or hinged style.
Because of the beautiful decorative tiles available today, clear glass is popular choice for doors. However, there are many other glass options available, including rain, hammered/obscure, bubble, frosted, autumn, glue chip and fluted.
Maintenance of your shower door is much easier nowadays, especially with many doors coming with easy clean jambs and sills. The easy clean track allows most of the water to drain back into the shower area. The old E-track held some water back, which would turn to mildew or mold. Glass is also easy to keep. There are a number of glass cleaners and finishes available in the supermarket to help the water run off the glass. It’s also important to get into the habit of using a squeegee on the glass. This little chore will save you from big cleaning jobs and keeps the door looking new for a long time.
Tom Barber is owner of Closet Crafters & More, Inc. & Albany Shower Door located at 25 Kraft Ave. Albany. For more information call 459.0037 or visit www.closet-crafters.com & www.alb-showerdoor.com.
Tempur-Pedic and Stressless-EKORNES:
Better beds, better seating, better support, better comfort, better health
By Paul Balzer
One of the latest terms that you may have heard when shopping for home furnishings is tempur-pedic. What is it and how does it work?
Tempur pressure relieving material, the heart and soul of all the Tempur-Pedic products, is a breakthrough in sleep technology. The story of this revolutionary material begins with NASA’s research to develop a material to relieve the tremendous G-forces experienced by astronauts. A Swedish scientist realizing the potential of such a material spent nearly a decade, and millions of research dollars to perfect the Tempur material as the ultimate sleep surface.
This material has introduced a sleep revolution that has proven to people that a mattress does not have to be firm or soft, it can be both. A Tempur-Pedic mattress conforms to custom fit your body. It virtually eliminates painful pressure points and greatly reduces your body’s need to toss and turn in search of a comfortable position. Instead of inner springs pushing against your body, you feel like you are suspended on a Tempur-Pedic bed.
Tempur-Pedic currently has five different models of mattresses and a complete line of customized pillows. Three of the five mattress models come in an optional adjustable bed. The adjustable beds have wireless remote controls for raising and lowering the head and the feet separately, and come with a built in message feature. These models can also be purchased as a split adjustable bed. This allows each person to move on his or her side independently.
Many people with health issues find additional relief by customizing a sleep position. Tempur-Pedic has the Ease of Use Recommendation of the Arthritis Foundation, The Good House Keeping Seal of Approval and the Consumer’s Digest Best Buy Certificate. Tempur-Pedic backs up their product with a 20-year warranty and a 90-day money back guarantee.
Paul Balzer is owner Owner European Comfort Fine Furniture for Healthy Living located at The Crossing, Clifton Park. For more information call 371.2900 or visit www.europeancomfortfurniture.com.