Saturday, July 13, 2013

Technology In The Home


High-tech homes make everyday living simpler

The main idea is that “home automation” makes things happen automatically


If you find yourself wondering how you ever got along before your smartphone, laptop and GPS, you’re not alone. Technology is so much a part of how we go about our days that we often take it for granted. However, in many cases, houses haven’t caught up to the same technological standards as the gadgets people carry with them 24/7. But that’s all about to change, as new ideas begin to revolutionize the way we view our homes.

Technology can do two things: First, it can make everyday tasks simpler and faster. Second, it can enable us to do things that weren’t possible before. So when it comes to your home, having technology on your side can make a big difference – in terms of time, energy and money savings. If you want your home to join the world of high-tech living, consider these solutions:

* Entertaining made easier: Part of the fun of owning a home is inviting friends and family to come over. Because everyone has a busy schedule these days, planning and hosting a party needs to be as easy as possible. With the help of some smart new audio systems, setting the mood with music is a snap. Bluetooth-streaming stereos like iLuv’s MobiRock let you control the music from wherever you are, right from your smartphone – no more having to leave your conversation to go turn the music up or down, or switch to a new track. The Aud 5, also from iLuv, features a dock that accommodates Lightning, the next generation connection port on the latest iPhones and iPods. Since you can charge your device while using Bluetooth to control it, there’s no worry about the music stopping in the middle of your party.

* Staying secure: Protecting belongings and family in the home has been a priority since time immemorial, but now there are far better ways to do it. While everyone wants protection, in the past state-of-the-art home security technology has been well out of many homeowners’ budgets. But that was then – today, protecting your home is becoming much more affordable, and the average homeowner can install high-quality security cameras that make it easy to always keep an eye on your property. Polaroid’s line of Wireless IP security cameras include both indoor and outdoor models, can be operated via computer or smartphone and even let you send snapshots via email. Whether you just want to check in while you’re at the office or during a weekend getaway, security cameras make it easier to know that your home is safe.

handheld remote controls are often used for home automation


* The automated home: It’s inevitable – a few hours into what’s supposed to be a relaxing vacation, you’ll wonder, “Did I leave the lights on?” or “Were the window shades left open?” The stress of not knowing – and not being able to do anything about it – might soon be a thing of the past. Reasonably priced home automation systems that allow you to take care of those little household chores remotely are already available. TaHomA, from Somfy Systems, enables you to schedule and supervise window coverings, lighting and thermostats. Using an iPad, iPhone or computer, you can make adjustments from within or outside the home in just a few clicks.

Technology has changed virtually every facet of business and communication – it only makes sense that our homes will be the next frontier of innovation. As you consider all the ways to make your life simpler, keep in mind that a high-tech solution will be able to help, now and in the future.

Have you incorporated home technology into your home?  Do you have any recommendations to share with others on the best and the worst?  We’d love to hear your feedback! Gary B.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

High Impact, Low Maintenance Home Improvement

No-leak skylights

The best kind of home improvements: high-impact, low-maintenance

Yes, everyone knows making home improvements is a worthy investment in your greatest material asset. Sure you want every improvement job done well with top-notch end results. But when all is said and done, do you really want to have to put a lot of effort and money into maintaining those improvements? For most people – whether they’ll admit it or not – the answer is “no.”

The best home improvements are the ones that not only enhance your home’s value and livability, but also require little work from you afterward to keep them looking great and functioning well. If you’re looking for high-impact, low-maintenance home improvements, consider these popular projects:

No-leak skylights

When it comes to an improvement that brightens your home, enhances its indoor air quality and boosts energy-efficiency, skylights deliver. Unfortunately, early skylights had a reputation for being leaky – a problem that simply doesn’t occur with modern, no leak, energy-efficient skylights like those made by Velux America. Pre-engineered flashing kits (the metal shield that surrounds any opening in a wall or roof) work with all types of roofs, from shingles to metal, to ensure a properly installed skylight won’t leak.

Need further low-maintenance points to make the case for adding a skylight? Not only do modern skylights keep water out, they’re energy efficient as well. Energy Star-qualified, no leak solar-powered fresh air skylights, like those from Velux, deliver fresh air through cost-effective passive ventilation. Adding remote-controlled, solar-powered blinds allows you to easily open or close a fresh air skylight and shade it when the sun hits that part of the roof, boosting the skylight’s energy efficiency by 39 percent. Keep the shade open during cold weather to admit warmth and reduce heating costs. A 30 percent federal tax credit on both products and installation costs makes a skylight project even more appealing. Visit for a tax calculator to show your savings for a new installation or replacement skylights and a skylight planner app to show exactly how skylights and blinds will look in any area of your home.

Lighting upgrade

Older light fixtures not only look dated, they often use outdated, inefficient bulbs and are lacking in the energy-efficient emphasis that comes with newer fixtures. Upgrading lighting throughout your home is a great way to ensure you won’t have to think about it again any time soon.

tubular skylights with lightingIf a total lighting redesign is out of the question, you can still make your existing light fixtures lower maintenance simply by swapping out old, inefficient incandescent light bulbs with newer, electricity-sipping versions. Options like CFLs and LEDs provide all the light of incandescents while using a fraction of the energy. says Energy Star-rated LEDs use at least 75 percent less power than incandescent bulbs, and last 25 times longer. Imagine the time, hassle and money you’ll save not having to replace bulbs constantly – especially in lights that get a lot of use, like porch lights, or that are hard to reach, like the chandelier in your two-story entryway.

Vinyl siding

Wood, fiber cement, stucco, brick – there are nearly as many types of exterior siding as there are colors to paint it. When it comes to low- or no-maintenance siding, vinyl remains the gold standard.

While early versions of vinyl siding introduced in the 1950s earned criticism for being less lovely than wood, even those less sophisticated versions had staying power; it’s possible to find homes in use today sporting vinyl siding that was added to the house in the 1970s or even earlier.

Vinyl siding never needs to be painted, and when properly installed provides exceptional shielding from the elements. New technology has made modern vinyl siding look better and last longer without fading issues associated with older versions of vinyl. It requires basic cleaning, and overall maintenance demands are much less than other types of siding.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The Importance of Trees in Landscaping

The Importance of Trees in LandscapingMost homeowners are looking for a few specific things when they are shopping for a new home. These might include the location of the home, the square footage, and the cost of improvements, if there are any that need to be performed. Something prospective homeowners should also consider is the landscaping.

Whether you’re looking to purchase a home, sell your home, or to just make general improvements to the exterior aesthetics of your property, research is crucial before choosing your trees and shrubbery.

Trees are a welcome addition to any property. They provide much-needed shade to keep heating and cooling costs down as well as an exterior sound barrier against the outside world. Recently in Jacksonville, Florida, homeowners have complained of a church that backs up to their community that plays their music excessively loud. In an attempt to placate the homeowners, the church has planted trees as a natural sound barrier.

Even if you’re not trying to keep the sound in or keep the sound out, there are some things you should know before you plant.

Know Your Neighborhood

If your neighborhood is filled mostly with pine and fir trees, chances are a palm tree is going to stand out. While it may seem like a great idea, creating an eye-popping attraction to your home may not have the desired effect. Instead, travel down your street and look at your neighborhood for the types of trees that are grown to maturity. Those are the trees that do well in your climate and in your neighborhood. Create a landscaped environment that blends in and creates a cohesive look with the rest of your neighbors.

Know Your Supplier

More often than not your local arborist will know which trees will thrive and do well in your local environment. In some tropical locales, certain trees are banned because they are wildly invasive, and still others will fail to thrive because of the soil acidity or an aversion to heat. A knowledgeable arborist can save you time and potential fines by eliminating the types of trees that do not grow well, or which are prohibited in your area.

Know the Climate

Trees are living organisms and, as such, need tender care. Certain species of trees do better in hotter climates and some do better in wetter climates. The Douglas Fir tree, for example, is native to the Pacific Northwest and is among the tallest trees in the world. It has been used extensively in reforestation plans by timber companies, and remains one of the most iconic trees in the Pacific Northwest. It does well in wetter, cooler climates.

Additionally, the palm tree thrives in a hot climate. A palm tree would look out of place in the Pacific Northwest and would not grow well if planted in such a rainy climate. If you choose to plant a tree that is not native to the area, you run the risk of spending time, money, and valuable resources for a tree that may end up dying, no matter how much care you give to it.

Maintaining a tree is not excessively costly. Beyond the cost of the actual tree, the mulch, and the fertilizer, trees require that which nature usually provides. Rain and sunshine are the things that a tree needs most. If you choose the right tree for your climate and neighborhood you will be investing in a living organism that will create shade, a sound barrier for your home, and improve the resale value of your property for years to come.

This article was written by Andre Hickson, a home contractor, landscaping project manager, and self-described DIY-enthusiast. Andre hopes to help readers with great ideas for home renovation projects, and suggests researching professionals in the industry like those at Bio Landscape.


Sunday, July 7, 2013

21 Blogs Detailing How to Make Your Own Laundry Aids

laundryIt’s not cheap to continually buy laundry detergent, stain removers and dryer sheets, but they’re necessary evils we encounter in daily life, right? But what if you could stop buying them by making your own laundry aids at home? Not only would you save a ton of money, but you’d also be able to control what chemicals come in contact with your family’s skin.

These 21 blog entries tell you exactly what you need to do to prepare laundry detergent, stain removers and dryer sheets at home, so you never have to waste money on them at the store again.


Since the main ingredient in detergent is soap, this laundry aid is not only easy to assemble, but it’s also highly customizable to your favorite scents. By using your favorite bar of soap as the base or adding in a couple drops of essential oil, you can create your own unique laundry detergent. For other tips on how to mix up laundry detergent at home, check out these seven blog posts.

Stain Remover

Instead of running to the store the next time the kids come home with a stain, whip up a batch of your own stain remover – you probably already have everything you need around the house! The trick to treating stains is determining the type of stain it is and treating it as quickly as possible after it happens. To learn more about making your own stain removers, read these seven blog articles.

Dryer Sheets

You can use anything from a washcloth to strips of flannel fabric with a little fabric softener or essential oil to make your own dryer sheets. If you would like to do away with dryer sheets altogether, try using rubber dryer balls or making your own dryer balls from wool. These solutions and more are explored in the next seven blog entries.

Teri Jones is the content manager for ““. She loves writing articles on “interior decoration”. You can check out one of her recent posting “

Friday, July 5, 2013

Making a Space ‘Your Own’

personal spaceNo matter who you are or where you live, it’s important to have a personal space that fits your personality. Maybe this place is where you go to relax, or maybe it’s where you like to entertain guests. Whatever it is, it should reflect who you are even if it is in a rental home where decorations are limited.

Creating your own personal space sounds like an easy task. After all, nobody knows you better than you know yourself. Unfortunately, this is often one of those things that seem easy until you sit down to do it. It’s quite possible that your resources are limited or that you live in a rental home or an apartment that doesn’t allow drastic redecorating. Nevertheless, everyone can benefit from making a space their own and there is always a way to go about that.

If you are interested in establishing your own space and redecorating it to better reflect who you are, here are some tips that should help.

Think About What You Want in Your Space

Before you do anything with your personal space, you should have some idea about what you want yogato put in it. If you enjoy reading, you might want to have a comfortable place to sit and read while you are surrounded by bookshelves and your favorite books. If you are into yoga and meditation, you might want a sparsely decorated room with incense and soft pillows. Music lovers may want some high-tech stereo equipment, and artists may want a place to paint or sculpt. You know who you are and what your favorite things are and that will go a long way in deciding how you want to design your personal space.

Add Some Kind of Enclosure

If you want your personal space to be private, make sure it’s behind some kind of enclosure. If your space doesn’t have a closing door, consider putting up a divider or a curtain over the doorway to give yourself some privacy. You might even be able to use a bookshelf or other piece of furniture as a partition in a larger space if you wish.

Consider the Lighting

A space’s lighting can make a big difference in how it is used and how it feels. If you want a place to read or do arts and crafts, you will want a lot of light. If you are establishing a place to relax, dimmer light might work better.

One last thing to consider if you are living in an apartment or a rental home is that you shouldn’t be afraid to redecorate to create your own personal space. Many landlords won’t allow painting or drastic redecorating, but in the end it is still your space as long as you are paying rent and living there. It’s your home, and it should still be a reflection of who you are. Many landlords will allow you to make minor changes as long as you discuss them first.

Making a space your own can be both easier and more difficult than it appears. On one hand, you know who you are and what you want out of a space better than anybody else, but people tend to balk when they are suddenly given the freedom to do whatever they want. At the same time, it can be very exciting. This is your chance to create your own perfect safe haven and you should never be afraid to embrace that.

This article was contributed by Chase Roberts, home & garden connoisseur, personal decorator, and all-around handyman. Chase recommends Home Exterior Systems, a Houston-based company offering custom-made windows that helps make your home your own.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Fun Focal Points For Your Home

upcycling ideasWhether you are moving into a new apartment or home or redecorating your current living space, creating fun focal points will make each room feel unique. Focal points are a great way to express your sense of style, reflect your personality, and are a way to take a regular old room and make it an amazing room. Just one small change can take a space from ordinary to extraordinary!

How about a new painting in a bare room? A couple of pieces of upscale furniture? Modern LED light fixtures? Perhaps a new entertainment system? You can even create fun focal points outside. How about a new play-set? A gazebo? A zen garden? A lot can be considered a ‘focal point,’ as long as it attracts people’s attention and is fun.

Here are some fun focal points you can consider for your home or yard.


Sometimes creating a focal point is just a matter of reworking something that is preexisting. If you already have a fireplace but it doesn’t attract much attention, consider sprucing it up. A few fun ideas are:

• Paint the brick

• Add a mantle or header – this can even be done for plain gas fireplaces

• Change the mantel or header

• Redecorate the mantel with statement artwork or vases

Decorative Walls

Creating a statement wall is another way to take a preexisting room and drastically change its Home improvement, remodeling and renovations are our specialties!appearance. You can create one wall that pops, or do the entire room in a bold wall covering. A few fun ideas are:

Add decorative wall paper: Wallpaper has really come a long way with a vast variety of colors, textures, and patterns.

Add a wall sticker: This is an enlarged piece of art that can be ordered in a variety of shapes and sizes.

Paint a wall so it pops: This could be done by creating one wall in a standout color, or painting a unique pattern, texture, or finish.

Add panels: There are a variety of textures of wood, stone, or fabric panels that can be added to your wall to create fun focal points. These panels can even be custom built to incorporate your entertainment system or to include custom-lighted walls.

A Statement Piece

Finding a statement piece that calls attention when you enter the room is a great way to create a focal point. Consider a unique piece of art, a standout couch and chairs, or a beautiful antique piece that can be used as the inspiration for how you design your entire room. A few fun ideas are:

A unique piece of art: This could be a sculpture, wall art, or a series of strategically placed vases.

• Distinctive furniture: This could have a standout pattern or color, a unique shape or texture, or be accented by one-of-a-kind pillows.

• An antique piece: An intricately crafted armoire, a table you just can’t take your eyes off of, or an antique piece reupholstered in a modern fabric.

The Great Outdoors

New Rochelle: patio and pergola additionThere are several strategies you can take with your landscaping that will not only create a focal point, but will make it the ideal place to entertain. A few fun ideas are:

Build something: This could be a beautiful patio, deck, archway in the yard, or a gazebo.

Plant an eye-catching tree: The type of tree will need to be determined by the climate in your area, but consider standout tress like a flame maple, a Japanese cherry blossom, a weeping willow, or a twisted or sprawling tree.

Build a secret garden: Create an enclosed flower garden with a small pathway that leads to a man-made pond.

Other elements: This could include a rock garden, a fountain, a bonfire pit, or a gaming area.

Creating fun focal points both inside and outside of your home allows you to express your signature style, makes your home uniquely yours, and gives you a place you enjoy sharing with your friends and family.

Guest Post By: 

This article was contributed by Chase Roberts, home & garden connoisseur, personal decorator, and all-around handyman. If a gorgeous new patio or driveway is your idea of a unique outdoor focal point, Chase recommends Houston Paver, highly-skilled pavers in Houston TX

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Renovate your outdated bathroom with a frameless glass shower screen

The bathroom is one of the most important rooms in your home and it can be one the larger projects (along with the kitchen) to fix up. When you consider the amount of plumbing changes that may be involved as well as durable fixtures, the cost of simply updating the look, not just the functionality, may go beyond the average Joe’s budget. With this in mind, it is important to do your research when deciding to update your bathroom as there are ways to renovate your bathroom that don’t actually require completely overhauling the whole room, fixtures and all.

Bathrooms traditionally consist of a basin, bath and a shower – or shower /bath combination. In older bathrooms, the fixtures are often ceramic and a little out of date, especially when you are dealing with the older gaudy colours like pink, green and orange. You could paint over the existing fixtures to update the colour palette and you can try retiling – but this can put your bathroom out of action for a while and you risk air bubbles popping up if the job isn’t done carefully. Another option, one that is going to seem so simple and obvious when I mention it, is just replacing your shower screen! Your average framed shower screen can quickly create a visual barrier within the room, and when you have quite a compact bathroom, creating the illusion of space is very important. Frames also create more work when it’s time to clean but installing a frameless shower screen, like those from Frameless Impressions, you can instantly open up the space in your bathroom and reduce your cleaning time! A clear, frameless shower screen can turn a compact bathroom into one that creates the illusion of more space making your time in there a lot more enjoyable. Their flawless appearance adds a touch of elegance and sophistication to any old bathroom.

Frameless shower

There is quite a bit of versatility with frameless shower screens too. You have the ability to choose which way the door opens or whether it slides and what kind of tint you would like, if you want one at all. They are sleek and sturdy, built with thick, heavy glass to make up for the lack of frame.Elderly people, children or people with physical disabilities will enjoy the frameless design as there is no danger of tripping on a step. There is also the freedom of creating a large, wall-to-wall shower if the extra room is available.

A frameless shower screen really can dramatically alter the appearance of your bathroom without breaking the budget. You don’t have to put up with those brown tiles and that mouldy shower curtain anymore when a comfortable new shower is this easy to achieve.

Guest Post By:

Ivy is a home renovation enthusiast who spends her time researching current and affordable renovation trends.

Ready to update your outdated bathroom?  Give us a call or send us an email for a free in home estimate! ~Gary B.