Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Kitchen Sink

Hard-Working and Durable, the Sink Can Also Be A Thing of Practical Beauty

When I was growing up, the kitchen sink in my home was dark brown enameled steel. It chipped easily and, because it was thin, it was noisy. Not a great sink, but it probably fit my parents’ budget. In those days, choices were few: enameled steel, cast-iron or stainless. How things change: Today the choices are so many that they’re overwhelming--you don’t just choose the sink material, but its style, type, color and bowl configuration.

The high-end farmhouse sink above was carved from a single block of limestone. The manufacturer recommends that all stone sinks (or natural stone tiles and countertops) be sealed with a penetrating sealer. Even then, acidic liquids such as lemon juice or vinegar may etch the stone surface.
(Photo compliments Walker Zanger)

Oh, and the sink has to accommodate the type of faucet you want, plus add-ons like sprayers and soap dispensers, so whichever sink you choose has to have enough cut-outs to accommodate the accessories.

Depending on your budget and your taste, a new kitchen sink can set you back anywhere from $50 to several thousand dollars. For instance, a low-end home center stainless-steel model can be yours for about $50, whereas a high-end stainless sink can cost more than $1,600. Get into more exotic materials, and the cost can go even higher. A one-of-a-kind hand-made copper sink (double bowl with backsplash, from Dino Rachiele, can cost about $4,000. A German Silver Sink Co. fixture can run $4,200 or more.

The more you know your taste and budget, the better decisions you’ll be able to make when choosing your sink.

Here’s something new and unusual, a sink/cook center combination. Made of 18-gauge stainless steel, it includes a standard sink plus includes an integrated cooking vessel for steaming, boiling, poaching and blanching.
(Photo compliments Kohler Co.)

The Most Likely Suspects

Odds are, you’re not in the market for a kitchen sink that costs as much as a semester in college. If you’re like me, you want something that holds up to heavy use, looks good in your new kitchen, is easy to maintain and doesn’t cost a small fortune. Fortunately, there are lots of good sinks out there that fit several or all of those criteria. You just have to choose the type that’s right for you.

Stainless Steel: Stick with High Quality

If put to a vote, stainless steel sinks would top the popularity list, followed by solid surface (Corian, etc.) and composite sinks, with cast-iron coming in third. The reason that stainless sinks are so popular is that they’re affordable, durable and work well when mounted under the countertop (called an undermount sink).

Here’s an interesting variation on the farmhouse --or "apron-front"--sink, a high-grade stainless-steel version.
(Photo compliments Franke)

Bryan Farrow, with Kitchen Designers Inc. in Marietta, Georgia, says his clients use undermounted stainless steel sinks "because the majority of countertops are granite and most people are using good-quality stainless steel undermount sinks because you need the rim strength to give extra strength. Everything’s held to the countertop by the rim. In fact, most of the inexpensive sinks don’t even come as undermounts."

When it comes to choosing a stainless steel sink, you want to look at several things. Look for the highest-grade stainless, which is known as Type 302 (18/8). This kind of steel contains 18% chromium and 8% nickel for a really durable, rust-resistant finish.

You also want to look at the gauge, or thickness, of the stainless steel sink, because a thicker sink is less likely to dent than a thinner sink, plus the thicker sink won’t be as noisy as the thinner, tinnier one. So when you’re looking at the gauge, just remember that the lower the gauge number, the thicker the steel. While most sinks come in 18 to 20 gauge, sinks in 14 and 16 gauge steel are available on the high end, as well as 24 gauge on the lower end.

Although stainless sinks of the past were quite noisy--even the expensive ones--improvements in sound deadening technology have virtually eliminated the noise problem. Now, all but ultra-cheap stainless-steel sinks are sold with a factory applied undercoating that greatly reduces the sound of pots, pans, dishes and silverware banging against the sides of the sink.

This two-bowl undermount stainless-steel sink is one of the most popular sink types installed in new homes today. Good stainless steel, such as this 18-gauge stainless, resists dents and staining and its heavy undercoating reduces noise.
(Photo courtesy Kohler Co.)

Solid Surface: The Seamless Material

In popularity, solid surface sinks rank in second place. And when it comes to solid surface materials, most people think of DuPont’s Corian, which is the oldest (having debuted in 1969) of the non-porous, acrylic brands used in creating countertops and integral sinks. But other solid surface manufacturers include Gibraltar, Avonite, Surell, Swanstone, Fountainhead, and Wilsonart.

The beauty of a solid-surface sink is that it’s fused with the solid-surface countertop to form one seamless piece, which means easy cleanup and low maintenance.
(Photo courtesy Corian)

A huge benefit of an integral solid surface sink is that it’s pretty much seamlessly joined to the solid surface countertop, which means no little crevices for moisture and grime to build up.

Amy Sussek,a kitchen designer and one of the hosts of, suggests to her clients that, if they want a solid surface countertop with an undermounted sink, they get an integral solid surface sink as well.

" If you do use an undermount sink, the (solid surface) fabricator charges a couple hundred dollars to do the sink cut-out, then you still have the price of the sink to consider," according to Sussek.

"If it’s an integral sink (basically a one-piece, solid-surface sink-countertop combination), you don’t have that extra cost, just the cost of the sink added to the cost of the counter."

Sussek says that integral solid surface sinks are at the top of her clients’ lists and many choose Swanstone. "It’s easier to take better care of the Swanstone sink. You clean with Ajax and a Scotchbrite pad. One client has one that still looks good after five years."

"A huge benefit of an integral solid surface sink is that it’s seamlessly joined to the solid surface countertop, which means no little crevices for moisture and grime to build up."

Farrow also likes solid surface sinks, especially Corian. "Corian is a great product. You can do anything you want with solid surfacing material. What you get is only limited by your imagination."

Cast-iron: The Heavy Standard

A perennial kitchen favorite going back to the 19th century is the porcelain-coated cast-iron sink. Although it’s still a great value, it’s mostly relegated to use in kitchens that use laminate or some other type of countertop that requires a so-called drop-in sink (as opposed to undermounted or surface-mounted).

I’ve always been partial to big, heavy cast-iron kitchen sinks despite their drawbacks. In my opinion, they have no match when it comes to depth of color and beauty of finish. I also like the solid, substantial feel I get from cast-iron. And the thickness and density of the cast-iron makes it very quiet to use, which is something I appreciate.

This classic two-bowl cast-iron sink comes from the factory with an unsurpassed gleaming finish and a deep, rich color. When choosing cast-iron, don’t skimp; buy from a quality manufacturer.
(Photo courtesy Kohler Co.)

Cast-iron does have its critics. Some homeowners have complained that the porcelain coating over modern cast-iron sinks chips more easily than it used to, because, they say, the sinks aren’t made as well as they once were. However, the porcelain coating will chip on even the best and most expensive cast-iron sink if you’re not careful--just like a Rolls Royce will dent if you carelessly back over the neighbor’s mailbox.

I haven’t found excessive chipping to be a problem with my sink, although I do take care to avoid chipping. I use a plastic-coated wire rack on the bottom of each bowl and I’m careful when washing heavy pots to avoid banging them against the sides of the bowl.

Both kitchen designers and plumbers recommend that you stick with name-brand manufacturers when you buy a cast-iron sink. And before it’s installed, make sure to check it for chips, especially around the rim, which is subject to regular contact with water.

What Else Is Out There?

From high-end to low-end, the world is full of other types of sinks. At the least-expensive level, there are enameled steel sinks, which, thanks to heavy spray-on undercoatings, perform much like cast-iron sinks but at a much lower price.

Composite sinks are another type on the market that are giving the solid surface sinks a run for their money.

Composites are often made from quartz or granite mixed with an acrylic binder. These sinks are fairly hard, scratch resistant and good values for the money.

This beautiful fireclay sink is durable and actually has a harder surface than even porcelain-coated cast-iron, which means it’s less likely to chip. The apron sink style requires strong support and careful detailing to avoid water damage, especially in this application where it’s surrounded by wood.
(Photo courtesy Kohler Co.)

On the high end are a gamut of sink types from fireclay to copper to soapstone to, believe it or not, carved granite. It’s probably unnecessary to remind you of this, but anything out of the ordinary--especially anything hand made or created custom or in small quantities--costs more than the mass-produced sinks you’ll find at home centers and kitchen and bath shops.

Margaret Clarkson, a kitchen designer at Walker Zanger Inc. in Atlanta, sells an imported limestone farmhouse sink that’s carved from a solid block of limestone.

"Our business is tile and stone," she said. "And this sink, which retails for $2,400, is absolutely beautiful." Needless to say, they "appeal to the high-end user," according to Clarkson.

Other high-end types of kitchen sinks include soapstone, marble, fireclay, copper and German silver, which is a copper, nickel and zinc composite.

One of the more popular and at the same time traditional high-end sink is soapstone, which is created by joining slabs of soapstone with epoxy to form the sink basin. One complaint about soapstone is that the bottom of the sink is so perfectly flat that anything on the bottom of the sink such as like crumbs must be manually swept toward the drain. Otherwise, it’s a beautiful material and ages gracefully.

Relatively new on the scene are so-called composite sinks like this undermount sink made of Silacron, which is 70% quartz and so very resistant to scratches and stains and is heat resistant up to 446 degrees. This model includes a waste-chute system accessory, a large bowl and a smaller prep-sink bowl. (Photo compliments of Blanco America)

Fireclay sinks, which have probably been around longer than even cast-iron, are one the newest trends in kitchen fixtures. Made by pouring liquid clay into a mold, then removed form the mold and sponged to a slick finish, fireclay sinks are then allowed to air dry. Later they’re sprayed with a ceramic finish and fired in a kiln. Fireclay is very hard and durable and reportedly doesn’t chip nearly as easily as cast-iron. It can be pricey, though, costing hundreds of dollars or more depending on the finish and any decoration.

Keep in mind, though, that many of these high-end sinks require wall-mounted faucets, which are expensive and often hard to find in just the style you want for your kitchen.

Bowls and Holes

Bryan Farrow says that most of the sinks his firm installs are "double-bowl, but big bowl-little bowl-often one decent size bowl and a bigger bowl. Most kitchens have that type or two sinks. They’ll come in with a vegetable or prep sink, often on an island."

Amy Sussek says her clients like "deeper bowls--and two different size bowls at that."

Brookwood Kitchens’ Thomas Caswell says his Atlanta clients are "always looking for something new and different" when it comes to kitchen sinks. "We’re doing a triple-bowl stainless right now. Most of our kitchens have two sinks: the main sink and a smaller sink on an island, which is sometimes a full-size single-bowl sink."

Fraser, Colorado, kitchen designer Jim Barna says his firm is "doing a lot of two-sink kitchens that include a vegetable prep sink on an island. These island sinks tend to be smaller, 15 in. by 15 in., as opposed to the 3 ft. by 2 ft. deep main sink, which people want for big pots."

"It’s important to know the kind of faucet and other features you want before buying a sink."

Cutouts are the holes created in the rear of the sink to accommodate faucets, sprayers and soap dispensers. Some sinks, such as undermounts, don’t need cutouts. Others, like the large farm sinks, require wall-mounted faucets, so they also don’t need cutouts.

Most ordinary sinks come with cutouts, but it’s important to know the kind of faucet and other features you want before buying a sink--unless you fall so madly in love with a sink that has four cutouts that you’re willing to fill the holes with just anything.

Some sinks come with only one cutout; these are for the newer all-in-one faucets that contain hot and cold controls as well as a pull-out sprayer.

According to Barna, most homeowners are "moving away from the huge number of hole cutouts. Grohe has one-hole faucet that has a number of different functions. No separate hole for hot, no separate hole for cold and no separate hole for spray arm."

Three Ways to Mount A Sink

1. Undermounted

The most popular method of mounting a kitchen sink today is undermounted, which means the sink literally is mounted beneath the counter. An advantage to undermounting is that crumbs and food trash simply can be swept into the sink. A disadvantage is expense: Most undermount sinks are a bit costlier than comparable drop-in or surface-mounted sink.

2. Drop-in

This is the traditional way of mounting a sink in which the sink is literally dropped into the cut-out in the countertop. Drop-in sinks are often cast-iron and are ringed by a large, raised lip, which rests on the countertop surface. An advantage to drop-ins is that they’re preferable for use with laminate countertops, which aren’t suitable for undermounted sinks because of potential water damage to the laminate substrate.

3. Surface-Mounted

Although very popular in past decades, the surface-mounted sink is probably one of the least popular sink installations today, especially since the rise of the undermounted sink. The surface-mounted sink comes with a metal rim that attaches to the countertop. The sink is then attached to the rim using screws. Although it’s nearly flush with the countertop, a standard complaint is that grime and moisture get trapped on both sides of the metal rim.

By Harriet Reasoner

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Window Box Planters Will Add Charm To Any Exterior

Window box planters and raised deck and balcony planters full of blooms, greenery, and cascading vines brighten dark and uninteresting areas of the exterior of your home, soften harsh lines and materials, and add dramatic focal points. Make your planters harmonize with their surroundings by considering color, texture, and design before choosing a home for your plants. Nothing says romantic like plant tendrils, vines, and flowers spilling over a balcony; the cottage look is enhanced by cheerful flowers in picturesque window boxes, and elegant planters with stunning color-coordinated blossoms are an outstanding choice for the windows of a formal home.

Types of Window Box Planters

1. Ceramic – Large ceramic planters aren't a popular choice for window boxes because of their weight, but you can find small planters to fit on sills and railings and to hang against walls. You may lose your heart to one since they are available in so many colors and designs and they certainly are suitable if you have a safe site.
2. Fiberstone – This is a material made of real limestone mixed with fiberglass to produce planters with the look, feel, texture, and durability of limestone but are light and waterproof and make an excellent window box choice.
3. Ironworks – Ironworks make artistic window boxes of welded steel dipped in a rust-proof coating (e.g., black plastic) and designed as baskets with lining of natural fiber or coco moss.
4. Wood – One of the most popular choices for raised planters and window boxes is rot-resistant wood like cedar or redwood, which can be adapted to all architectural styles.
5. Plastic – Plastic is light, moisture proof, and a popular choice for hanging planters, but is less commonly used for window boxes because it is not as strong or durable as many other choices.
6. Fiberglass – This is a good material for window boxes because it is light, moisture proof, and durable, and is available in many different styles, colors, and textures.
7. Metal – Metal window boxes (e.g., wrought iron) are popular for their charm and functionality and, like ironworks, are usually designed in a basket style because of their weight and are lined with fiber or moss to retain soil and moisture.

Secrets of Success

1. Raised and window box planters should be at least eight inches high and ten or more inches across. The length is a matter of choice, but for window boxes, the container should fit snugly on the ledge. If you have a very long window, it might be advisable to fit one or more boxes end to end, just to make them easier to handle than one long, unwieldy container.
2. Make sure the window ledge – or the railing on your deck or balcony – can support the weight of the container, the watered soil, and fully-grown plants, especially if the box is one or more stories off the ground. Use screws, wires, chains, or whatever it takes to make sure that your planters aren't going anywhere without your approval.
3. In the spring, you can grow flowers like primroses that need only three or four hours of sunlight, and then, as the day lengthens, switch to colorful geraniums and other blooms that require more sun. It is a lot easier to re-plant raised patio planters and window box planters than re-plant beside garden pathways or in garden beds. If your window box planters don't ever receive much sun, grow an assortment of the many beautiful shade plants available.
4. It is easy to change outdoor color schemes when you are a container gardener. Color theme plantings are fun and garden planters lend themselves to the process. Try monochromatic color schemes in white (e.g., verbena, bacopa, marguerit, alyssum, and white petunia), pink (e.g., pink petunias and geraniums, and pelargonium), or use gentle mixed colors (e.g., candytuft, pansy, lavender, and mixed petunias), or brilliant splashes of color (e.g., pansy, nasturtium, and dwarf marigold).
5. What better place for your herb garden than a window box? Picture yourself opening the window and pinching off fresh parsley or basil for your dinner. Yum.

City, town or country dweller – everyone should have the fun of window box gardening.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Bathroom Mirrors

Looking Good Never Looked So Good With a New Bathroom Mirror

For nearly as long as there have been faces, there have been mirrors--of one type or another.

Our first ancestors saw their reflections in calm pools of water. Later, they hammered metal smooth enough to reflect their faces (the Bible even mentions mirrors of brass). The Romans and Greeks viewed themselves in discs of polished silver. But it wasn’t until the Renaissance that glass first got crafted into a mirror that could reflect clearly enough for people to really get a good look at themselves.

Made of nickel-plated brass, the three-way "Bistro" wall mirror above could be a bathroom’s main mirror or something that folds up and tucks out of the way for occasions when you need to see more than just your face--say the length of sideburns. (Photo Above Compliments Restoration Hardware)

The mirror-making process has changed a great deal since the days when a woman could blame her own poor complexion on the poor mirror quality of her mirror. Today, even inexpensive mirrors provide good, clear reflections. In other words, you can’t blame the mirror anymore.

Today, mirrors are everywhere in the home. They’re used as decorations, or to reflect great window views, or they’re strategically placed to make a small room appear larger than it really is. In bedrooms and dressing rooms, full-length mirrors allow us to see how we look from head to toe.

Like seeing your face framed in an art gallery, this elegantly curved bathroom cabinet possesses all the style and grace needed to be right at home in a penthouse bathroom or in a suburban ranch home. (Photo compliments Kallista/Kohler Co.)

But it’s in the bathroom that the mirror performs its most critical task. It gives us a clear, close-up look at ourselves. In the morning, when we walk in fresh out of bed, it shows us at our perceived worst. After showering, shaving, makeup, it shows us at our best. Without a good bathroom mirror, we’d all be a bit self conscious about showing ourselves to the world every morning.

What’s the Difference?

So what makes one bathroom mirror better than another? Is it the mirror itself, the size of the mirror, the cabinet it’s set into, or the lights that surround it? Well, it’s some of all those things.

To a large degree, the best bathroom mirror for you is the bathroom mirror you like. The style fits with the décor of your bathroom and it suits your taste--and your budget.

Solid and well-made, this Barbara Barry-designed medicine cabinet is both stylish, visually appealing and practical. With its 4-in. depth in a recessed cabinet that’s 23 3/8 in. wide by 38 5/8 in. tall, the mirrored medicine cabinet provides ample storage for toiletries and cosmetics. (Photo compliments Kallista/Kohler Co.)

Experts in Feng Shui (the ancient Chinese art of design and layout, pronounced fung schway) caution that you should install the biggest mirror that your bathroom can hold. A small mirror means a small future and vice versa, they say. But if you put aside the spiritual implications of mirror size and focus on the mirror’s purpose, you realize there’s a good, practical reason for a big mirror: It gives you a better view of you.

The Three Types of Bathroom Mirrors

Three basic types of mirrors are common in the bathroom. There’s the fixed mirror, which is often set into the door of a built-in medicine cabinet. There’s the hanging wall mirror which, as the name implies, simply hangs on the wall. And there’s the mirror that moves--whether it telescopes outward from a wall mount, swings in or out, or pivots up or down.

Fixed mirrors are usually part of an ordinary metal, built-in medicine cabinet, the kind most of us grew up with. The truth is, they’re basic, utilitarian mirrors that work just fine, though they’re far from stylish.

This handsome, recessed medicine cabinet has been installed between studs to allow the mirrored door to close flush with the wall. (Photo compliments Kallista/Kohler Co.)

New, modern fixed-mirror medicine cabinets are available now, though, that put these old clunkers to shame. They come with heavy mirrors and sturdy, stylish cabinets. The better cabinets are made of heavy-duty aluminum rather than non-rustproof steel, so they hold up better and look better.

Other new cabinets on the market are made of fine wood such as beech or mahogany. Of course, if you want something completely different, find an architectural salvage store and buy an old wooden medicine cabinet, which often will come with a heavy beveled mirror. Often you can buy them already refinished, but because these are relatively small projects, you should be able to refinish them yourself. Just remember to remove the mirror first so you don’t damage the coating on the mirror back.

But if your budget can stand the shock, check out the new generation of mirrored medicine cabinets. Styles are available that fit virtually any décor.

Hanging Mirrors

When it comes to hanging mirrors, the sky’s the limit. If you don’t need the storage space provided by a traditional mirrored-door medicine cabinet, nearly any mirror that strikes your fancy is fair game for hanging above the bathroom sink.

When it comes to hanging mirrors, the sky’s the limit, allowing you to match any décor. This elegant mirror is a perfect compliment to a clean, traditional look. (Photo compliments Herbeau Creations)

Just remember, however, that depending on the moisture level in your bath, the material should be able to stand up to all that expected humidity. My wife, for instance, bought a handmade Mexican mirror made of ceramic tiles and tin. After a few months in our bathroom, the tiles had held up just fine, but the tin looked like it had spent time under water. The point is, remember that materials used in the bathroom have to be made to hold up to wet, damp conditions.

Movable Mirrors

You often find movable mirrors in nicer hotels: They’re fixed to the wall and either swivel out, fold out or extend on a flexible metal arm of some type.

But movable mirrors aren’t just made for the luxury hotel market, lots of different models are available for the home, including some new types you might not have seen before.

Handsomely styled in the Edwardian manner, this nickel-plated brass framed mirror has ceramic fittings and tilts up to 10 degrees away from the wall for a good clear look. (Photo compliments Restoration Hardware)

Many of these mirrors are on the expensive side, but the ones I’ve seen are well made and should give years of trouble-free service.

Movable bathroom mirrors have been around for awhile, but a couple of newcomers on the market take design, materials and style a step further. Made with high-quality, heavy mirrored glass, these new movable designs are beautiful enough for the most stylish, elegant bathroom, and sturdy enough for even men and kids to use on a daily basis. Heavy-duty hinges, pivot points, latches and hardware are made to last. Frames are created from rust-proof metals like nickel-plated brass or even silver.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Faux Finishing

Common mistakes to avoid Part 1: Lap lines or seams that are too dark

If you’ve ever used finger paint as a child or experimented with water colors, you will remember how the colors you use are like a film and the paint underneath is changed to look like a mixture of what is on top and what is on the bottom. Because Faux Painting Glazes are used to make paint dry slower (open time) in order to be able to work with the paint to achieve different effects, the glaze also makes the paint transparent. In other words, the paint is no longer opaque and will no longer block out the color on the wall but whatever is underneath will show through slightly. Therefore, if you fail to “feather out” the glaze in an area where you know you will not be getting to for awhile and allow the glaze to dry, then when you join the next section to that area, you must be extra careful not to overlap the areas too much or you will get “lap lines” or “seams” .

There are a few things you can do to tone the lap lines down if this happens. Use any step that seems easier and achieves your desired finish.

1) This is the preference of this author - When you come back to add deeper hues or a second coat, work off the existing dark area. Alternate the darker hues of the color to the left and right of the lap line. how you cannot notice the lines anymore. Adding shapes of darker hues (use same colors as before) adds depth and dimension to the wall. In addition, the colors are darker and deeper.

2) If you don’t desire to add deeper hues, then you can try to break up the area with a mixture of rubbing alcohol and diluted dishwashing liquid. Dip a cloth or paper towel into the mixture and rub the lap lines very lightly until the paint begins to come off. This method does take time and you must be careful not to take off the base coat. Once the area has been taken off (doesn’t come off completely but enough), then with a chip brush dab some color very lightly onto the area and blend into the adjacent areas. Remember that the glaze dries darker than when it is wet, so don’t add too much glaze. When it dries, if it’s too light, you can always go back and add a bit more.

3) When you come to a section that has already dried, before you add the next section, you can break up the dried glaze by first adding some clear glaze and work it into the dried area where you will be butting up the next section. Blend the section as best as possible.

4) If you find that you don’t like the way the wall looks, remember that you can always paint over the wall with the base coat and start again. Keep in mind that faux painting is meant to give movement to the wall by having some areas dark and others lighter and is not meant to have uniformity that only machines can achieve. As long as there is some consistency in the faux finish as far as the over all look, then it’s better to leave well enough alone sometimes. Take a look at the finished wall...beautiful, don’t you agree? You can no longer tell where the lap lines or seams used to be.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Faux Finishing Tips and Techniques

Here are Five Free Faux Painting Tips for Your Next Finishing Project
1: Preparation- Fix walls first
Tape off your ceilings and baseboards with low tack masking tape. Blue tape works great. Use a cloth drop cloth instead of plastic. Drips will soak into the cloth and dry quicker so you don’t track paint thru the house. Fix holes or cracks on the walls first and remove dirt.

2: Base coat
Water based Latex Paints in “satin” or “eggshell” is the best type of paint to use for your base coat.

Make sure you paint the patches where you fixed the wall with the same base coat as the rest of the wall. If not as you can see by the picture to the right, the patches will show through. That’s because glazes are not like paint which is opaque. So the texture of the wall must be the same unless you want to have places where the faux finish looks different. Hint - you can paint designs on the wall with a different texture and when you faux paint the wall, the designs will be enhanced yet subtle.

3: Practice first
Always practice your faux painting technique on boards first. You can save money by purchasing poster boards at any stationary or office supply store. Paint the board with the same paint you are using for your basecoat. Test out the glaze on a small section to see if your mixture needs to be darker. Any glaze can be darkened with a drop or two of acrylic paint.

Tape your board onto a section on the wall instead of painting on the floor. That way you can practice the technique just the way you will be doing it on the walls.

Once you are happy with the board then proceed to a discreet place on your wall first. Remember, there are no mistakes in Faux Painting; if you don’t like what you see, just paint over and start again!

4: Lining your trays
If you are mixing your own glazes, line your trays with a plastic bag. This saves time and mess because you don’t need to wash the tray afterwards. If you need to quit and continue your project the next day, bring the back of the plastic bag to the front and tie up the bag with a knot. That way the glaze will not dry out and you can use it the next day.

Then, keep your tools in a plastic bag, also when you are not using them. You can safely keep them overnight, too. However, we don’t recommend going more than one day without washing out your tools.

5: Mixing Glazes
Mix just a small amount of glaze first. Usually it is 3 parts glaze to one part paint. After you mix a small amount, try that out on your board first to see if the color looks according to what you desire. If not, then add more glaze or more paint until you are satisfied. Then put aside a small puddle of the glaze to the side, fill your tray with the rest of mixed glaze and match the new mixture to the small puddle that you have set aside.

When you run out of glaze, then do the same thing. Set aside a puddle of the mixture before you totally run out. Then refill tray with glaze and keep adding paint until the mixture is the same density in color. Place a small puddle next to the puddle you have from the mixture you were using to compare the two. This is very important, because if the next tray of glaze is not the same, you will notice a difference on the walls.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Additional Rooms in Your Garage

The Garage Can Be Used as an Extended Living Space

More and more homeowners are using their garages as extensions of their living space: as children's play areas, workshops, hobby areas, laundry rooms and more. As the activity in the garage increases, so does the need to maintain a constant, comfortable temperature in this space.

For the attic, walls and crawl space you can use the same techniques outlined in our article on home insulation to increase the comfort level in your extended living space. But, there is one more, often overlooked, space in your garage where you can increase insulation value and energy efficiency - the garage door.

Look for a door with:

Good insulating qualities. Look for a door with an R-value of at least 3 in moderate to temperate climates. In harsher climates go up to an R-value of 10.

Weather seals between the sections. The seal may be designed into the mating surfaces of the panels or it may be in the form of gasket material that compresses when the door is closed.

A bottom seal/threshold. If the door doesn't come with a bottom seal standard, you can always add one to keep drafts and rain out.

If you have a garage-workshop, get the highest R-value you can in the door to make heating and cooling your work space easier.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Decorative Wall Painting Techniques

How To Instructions for Your Next Painting or Faux Wall Finish Project.

Do your walls seem dull and uninviting? Do you long for a cozy, welcoming room? Consider decorative wall painting techniques, such as sponging, ragging, stenciling or stamping. Even if you have no experience, you can brighten even the dullest room quickly and cheaply with one of these easy decorative wall painting techniques.

Before painting your room, pick out a color scheme for your walls. When you chose your paint, remember that many painting techniques use two shades of one color. If you are using one of the techniques that does use two shades of color, you can pick a darker color than you normally would chose for your base color, since the lighter top color will make the final result much lighter.

To sponge or rag a wall, paint on your base color and let it dry thoroughly. Then, dip your sponge or rag into the lighter paint color and sponge or drag the lighter color over the base coat until you are satisfied with the effect. If you are unhappy with your final result, you can repaint any areas that you don’t like with the base coat. Once the repainted area is dry, repeat the faux painting technique.

If you are considering using a decorative painting technique such as stenciling or stamping, you may just want to create a wallpaper effect by stamping or stenciling a simple design over your base coat. However, you may want to go a step further with your project and use stencils or stamps to create a faux brick or stone wall. You don’t need to be an artist to create one of these faux finishes. Just follow these simple steps. First, paint the walls with the color you chose for the mortar between the bricks or stones. Once the base coat is dry, stamp or stencil your bricks or stones over the base coat. Once the brick or stonework is dry, spatter a bit of the darker color over your faux art to give it depth and make it appear more realistic.

Creating faux effects such as making your walls look like they are made of plaster or suede can also really make your room stand out. You can easily learn how to create these seemingly difficult finishes at your local paint store. Paint bases that automatically give a suede or textured effect to the walls are a shortcut that even artists use to create fun finishes.

Finally, no matter which decorative wall painting technique you choose, remember that it is just a few layers of paint. You can always redo the finish on your walls as you learn more about the art of decorative painting.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Top five home renovating tips

With rising interest rates and the jump in housing prices, it's not looking like an ideal time to move house by anyone's standards. But tht doesn't meant that you can't live somewhere new — it's just a matter of improving your current address until it feels like a different house.
Yes, we're talking renovating. Anything from slapping on some new tiles in the bathroom, to a second-floor extension.

Of course, there are good renovations, there are bad renovations and there is just plain over-capitalisation (putting way too much cash into the wrong kind of 'improvements' on a property that just won't net you any return).

But how do you tell the difference?

We asked Rose-Marie Hillier, Interior Design Editor of House & Garden magazine, and Alex May, author of Planning Your Perfect Home Renovation (Allen & Unwin, $26.95) for their expert advice.

First up, the best places to put your money.

Are kitchen and bathroom renovations still top of the list for adding value to your home?

Alex May: "No! While it's true that potential buyers judge the quality of a house by the kitchen and bathroom, it doesn't necessarily mean you will renovate those rooms and see a return. Plenty of buyers will pay the same amount of money for a house with no renovations to the kitchen and bathroom with the idea of renovating to their own tastes."

Rose-Marie Hillier: "I think people look at bathrooms more than kitchens these days. It's important to do it properly, however. Don't make them too cutting-edge or gimmicky. Substituting inferior finishes is also a mistake."

Okay then, if it's not automatically the kitchen and bathroom, what should I be looking at renovating to impress buyers?

RH: "It's important to look at trends in home use and plan accordingly. For me, a quality renovated home now would have a flexible space — a room that will complement any potential owner's lifestyle. For instance, a media room, home office, guest room, teenager's retreat, a deck, a parents' retreat, an indoor/outdoor connection and a quality kitchen and bathroom.

AM: "Property markets are highly segmented according to suburb, city and the style of property. The trick is to research which renovations work well in your local area. In leafy garden suburbs, an open-plan family room with bi-fold doors to a deck will be in demand. In the inner city, it might be off-street parking. In general, light, airy renovations work. Don't slavishly follow new trends — plenty of agents are reporting that the minimalist, warehouse white kitchens that were so big five years ago have lost their appeal in the market."

What can I do to improve a place quickly?

AM: "Paint, paint and more paint. But only bother if you prepare well. And wash the exterior of the house — it makes it look like new."

RH: "Reorganising the furniture and changing the light fittings can make a huge difference."

Top five tips for improving your home

Let there be light
Whether you exchange windows for French doors (subject to council approval) or add skylights, light is vital in a welcoming home.

Keep it simple
There's no need to utilise every trend and tricky finish available.

Call in the experts
Paint colours can be difficult to get right. Colour consultants are available to help and can give your home the kind of fresh, new look that may have you falling in love with it all over again. Companies such as Wattyl ( and Dulux ( can help you find a consultant.

Do it right
Don't assume that a cheap job won't show. "Go for quality fixtures and fittings in bathrooms and kitchens. If your budget won't stretch, then stick to the mid-range — never choose the cheapest taps, benches or handles," says Alex.

Plan twice, renovate once
Jumping in to a renovation is a mistake. "People spend money replacing things they abhor (like the daggy old laundry) rather than rooms that will really improve the value of the house," says Alex. "Failing to plan and work out what you really want also means you tend to overspend."

See for more advice from Alex May.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

DIY renovating tips (part 3)

4. Layout and Sketch
Get good drawings done.
The more detailed the drawing the easier it will be to build. Consider drawing up a rough sketch yourself to show an architect or builder. If you don't use an architect and your renovation is sizable, consider using a draftsperson to draw up plans.

Avoid small boxy rooms.

Open plan design costs less than a series of rooms, creates a sense of space, and is better for ventilation.

Changing the configuration costs money

Keep as much of the original configuration of your house because changing it usually means new plumbing, electrics and possibly alteration to wall construction, windows and doors. Sometimes it's possible to swap the kitchen and bathroom around with out much cost because the plumbing is not radically changed.

5. Architects and plans
Consider an architect

If your renovation is major, use an architect, and one that is experienced with the style and level of renovation you desire.

View images or their previous work.

Talk to their previous clients.

Suss them out. Can you form a constructive, working relationship with them? While they are the expert, you are the user. Will they be too precious about changes to their proposals.

Make sure you can read plans.

6. Budget and Resale
How much to spend?

How much to spend depends on how long you want to keep the house. No point in spending a huge amount if you are going to sell it within a couple of years.
Set an affordable budget. If on a restrictive budget, spend the money where the water is ie kitchen and bathroom.

Allow 10% for contingencies.

The simpler the house the less expensive.

Every corner in walls and roofs cost more money, likewise every door and window.
Custom made, name brands or imported items will costs a lot more than local off the shelf

Don't compare costs too much
Costs increase each year- what your friends paid 2 years ago is unfortunately no longer relevant .

Break down costs
Break down costs, right to the fitting and fixtures- so you know where the money is going.

7. Legals
Check your contract

Understand every aspect of the building contract.

Consider having a penalty clause for late work

Consider having a clause on how to deal with disputes (via independent arbitration)

Check the schedule of payments. A builder cannot charge more than what is in the contract (unless you agree.)

Consider having a solicitor check out the building contract.

All works approved by council will be inspected by the 'Certifying aurthority' (council or a private certifier) - inspections are paid for by the property owner at the council application stage and are manditory at various stages during constrcution but if you feel you need the opinion of a professional during these regular inspection you can engage a private certifier/inspector for reasurance

Don't sign a contract until plans and specifications have been completed (and if applicable, approved).

Holding back payments

Make sure there are holdbacks in the contract and ensure the last builders payment is a large amount and not paid till all work is complete otherwise it is difficult to get the builder back to finish off those last little items. Include a hold back in the payment to builder or critical trades where the quality of the work is not 100% immediately evident and especially trades that are associated with water entry ( eg tiling, roofing, windows).

Incomplete work, incorrect or substandard work

Don't pay for a building stage unless it is complete.
If you believe work is sub standard, discuss it immediately with the builder or contractor. If no action is forthcoming, maybe get a 2nd opinion, take photographs, send the contractor a registered letter advising him of the complaint and contact the relevant building regulation authority.
Council Permits and Caveats
• Council permits

You will require a permit if you change the footprint of the house, change the position of exterior windows and doors, make structural changes, or alter the roof line. Permits are also required if you change the plumbing diagram or you are altering load bearing walls. However if you move the plumbing slightly within a room, a permit can be avoided if no extra toilets are required. (Often a kitchen and bathroom can be swapped around with minimal change to the plumbing diagram.)

• Caveats

If your house is old or was part of an estate check with your solicitor on caveats that might prevent you from expanding your existing structure.

Any building work worth more than $12,000 requires home warranty insurance.
Home Warranty protects the owner (either the original or subsequent owners) against
Non completion of the building contract due to death, disappearance or insolvency of the builder, and failure of the builder to correct faults, (which are deemed by law to be the builder's responsibility for a nominated warranty period.)

Construction and Public Liability Insurance is a must for owner-builders.

DIY, Builders and Trades
DIY, or use a Builder?
Do you have the time, skill and inclination for DIY or DIWT (Do It With Trades). If not, get a builder.

Selecting a builder and tradesperson
This can be a difficult task because many tradespeople, perhaps because their skills are in high demand, do not see the need to act professionally (for example: by calling you when they are running late). They often operate on their own time and many have absolutely no awareness of neighbours and the environment (and will often leave their mess for you to clean up). Some will get upset if you criticize their work, rather than try to correct their mistake or explain why they have done the work a certain way. So... given that there are professional tradespeople out there, and that you do have some choice:

Check references. If a tradesperson doesn't want to give you a reference, don't use him or her. Either they are no good or too precious. When checking previous work, ask the previous client:

were they happy with the work?

was it on time and on budget?

did the contractor clean up?

did the contractor accept suggestions or criticism?

Don't necessarily take the lowest bid from a builder or contractor. If a quote is well below the others it could mean the contractor is cutting corners.

Always have a 2nd choice for contractors.

Make tradespeople contact you if they cannot turn up. If they don't, fire them and use your 2nd choice.

Establish ground rules if necessary on smoking, music and rubbish (e.g., who cleans up and where rubbish will be stacked).

If your tradesperson is working on an hourly basis, ask them if they come with an apprentice, because you will have to pay for them too.

Working hours

Be clear on timelines - for when and how long they will be working.
Be clear on their daily working hours and start time which must never be before 7 am (unless you live far away and have NO neighbours)

Keep communication going

Be clear with your builder about the lines of communication with him and their trades people. Advise them of the level of information that you require regarding what is happening

Specify position of underground services as written on original plumbing and electrical diagrams

Find out if the driveway will be kept clear, and when the power and water will be off?


Keep records

Keep an expandable folder with individual folders inside for each category of work
Log decisions from phone calls and meetings.

Take photographs, especially of plumbing while it is exposed

If DIY or DIWT, work out the building schedule ie the order of which all building is done and check it with the tradespeople.

Make sure your materials and fittings are requested in time for the trade that needs them, but early otherwise they may take up room and slow down work. Or if they are laying around too long, they might just, wel... disappear (ie get stolen.)

Ensure the order of trades is correct and that they complete their work at the agreed time (ie in time for the next trade).

Understand the building process or the trade by observing and reading up on their particular work.

Try to stick with first choices- changes cost time and money

Set up building inspection at the correct time for architects and council inspectors (eg Council Plumbing Inspectors for basic and final plumbing.)


Think very carefully about furniture layout so outlets they are conveniently placed yet hidden as much as possible.

Mark the positions for the electricity outlets and media jacks on the wall.
If the house is 60 years old insurance companies may require rewiring.


Hire a colour consultant if you are not competent at selecting harmonious colours
Make sure the surface (especially timber and render) is well prepared.
Use premium paints and ensure that correct paints are used for exterior, weather affected areas.

Save some paint for touch ups.

Make sure the structure is strong and stable enough for a new floor, especially if laying over on old one. You may have to restump (adding galvanized white ant protectors).


Avoid natural or white aluminium windows. They make the house look cheap and signal no style.

Retain door and window position where possible: It saves money and may avoid getting a council permit.

Consider cleaning: Some windows have removable sections for access for cleaning the outside. A narrow balcony under windows can provide access for cleaning.

• Does it just need a clean?

If the roof is sound, cleaning it with hi pressure water spray or repainting may be all that's needed.

• Do you have sufficient ventilation and heat dispersal?

For flat roofs with little space for insulation, consider a double roof with a layer of air in between. For gabled roofs, insulation plus a rotating air vent is very effective.

• Use anti leaf fouling guttering when building amongst trees.

Don't go up on wet roofs.
Control children on a building site.
Use eye, ear and face protection when necessary.
Don't use unfamiliar power tools.
Renovating can be an extremely satisfying undertaking - you get to appreciate and be proud of your own effort and creative decisions. However the renovation, be it DIY or by an experienced builder, will usually not go completely smoothly. There is likely to be some unexpected difficulty that will frustrate the daylights out of you. But you will eventually deal with it and move on, to the next step. That's the nature of renovation.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

DIY renovating tips (part 2)

3. Design and Style

Keep renovations in character

Consider the architectural integrity of your building. If partially renovating, keep the style similar, or in character with the original house (including the car port and garage.)

Don't be excessively trendy or ambitious.

Fads fade, but a simple elegant style in neutral colours (and subtle patterns) is timeless.

Don't be too ambitious unless you are loaded.

Use colour carefully and thoughtfully.

Collect samples and play with combinations. Only use three colours in a room, two if the room is small.

Light colours will not go out of fashion (or fancy) as fast as strong colours. If you want to use a strong colour, use it in small areas, as punctuation, so if necessary it can be easily changed.

Period and older style homes are hard to cost control
Best get a fixed price from a builder.

Think how you can maximize space or the sense of space.

No matter how much space you have, you are likely to want more. Prioritize your space requirements for each room.

The less corners, lines and intersecting surfaces, the greater the visual flow and the more pleasing and less expensive it will be.

Try and keep as much of the floor visible by raising cupboards off it.

Give great consideration to the front exterior.

The exterior presents the first statement about you and your home.

Put your money in the right places

Put your money firstly where the water is (kitchen and bathroom), then living and master bedroom.

Higher ceiling looks better.

Higher ceilings will cost a little more you will recoup that in resale value. Paint them the lightest colour possible so they look even higher.

Consider the resale value of the property after building.

Don't over capitalize ie spend more money that you will get back when you sell. Make sure the total value of your house plus new building is not greater than the value of the smartest house in the street.

Only renovate if the basic structure is sound.

If you have to repair the basic structure it is likely that your project will be too expensive and you will overcapitalize. Either reduce your plans significantly or sell and build a bigger house elsewhere.

Consider your future requirements.

Think how your proposals will fit into your present and future lifestyle . Will everybody be able to negotiate stairs? Will you need more car space later? Will extra rooms be required for children?

Consider ventilation and air flow.
Open living spaces are cooler than boxy rooms. If possible try and design the floor plan so that you can see right through the house, from one end to the other.

Try to stick with first choices
Any changes you make during the building process will cost you more money.

Monday, July 20, 2009

DIY renovating tips (part 1)

Renovating your house can be a personally and financially rewarding undertaking however is often fraught with frustration and stress. Depending on your time, skill, inclination and budget you may like to DIY. Most DIY renovators are actually DIWT (Do It With Trades). They manage the job, do the demolition, select the colour scheme, source fixtures and fittings, remove and install simple fittings and other simple jobs. However, unless they are really skilled they contract the specialist trades of bricklaying, carpentry, electrics, plumbing and tiling. The following are some general tips that may help to make the process a little easier for you.

Note: Before you get too enthusiastic we recommend you read our Overcapitilising with renovations article.

1. Preparation
Move out of home unless it is a very small job. The renovation will be dirty, dusty noisy. The power and water will go off and when it doesn't you'll have tradesman scrutinizing your breakfast and observing your bathroom habits.

Keep neighbours on your side. This is an impossible task but do what you can by informing them of noise and inconvenience. To pacify them, consider giving them gifts at appropriate times (like earplugs, champagne and a night in a hotel.) If they get really stroppy, just tell them how your renovation will increase their property value.

2. Research
Find out all you can about everything
Troll the internet for advice and researching materials, appliances and fittings. Print out pictures of appliances so you can see how they look. Study home magazines.
Start a neat file of fittings, appliances and design examples that you like.
Draw up a wish list.
Get the household together and discuss the building. Together draw up a wish list in order of preference.
Get advice. Ask architects or builders to look at your site and sketch to give you a ballpark estimate.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Lighting For Bathroom

In the bathroom, you need plenty of even, shadow-free lighting for shaving, grooming, and applying makeup. In small bathrooms, mirror lights will illuminate the entire room, but in larger bathrooms, an additional ceiling fixture is needed for general lighting. A recessed infrared heat lamp will give you added warmth on chilly mornings.

Bath/Vanity Lighting Strips supply task lighting, while supplementing the general lighting provided by ceiling fixtures. Similar to the lighting in theater dressing rooms, these softly glowing strips of globe-shaped incandescent bulbs provide excellent lighting for applying makeup, shaving, and grooming.

Wall-Mounted Fixtures can furnish general, task, and accent lighting. Many are designed to match and supplement dining room chandeliers, or to provide hallway, bedroom, or living room lighting. Wall brackets are often used for task lighting at the bathroom mirror. They are available with a choice of incandescent, tungsten-halogen, and energy-efficient compact fluorescent bulbs.

For small mirrors, decorative wall brackets on each side will illuminate both sides of your face evenly. You can also mount a wall bracket across the top of the mirror.

Fixtures equipped with incandescent bulbs behind glass or plastic diffusers provide the most flattering light. If you opt for more energy-efficient fluorescents, choose warm white tones They come closest to the color of incandescents.

Theatrical lighting strips around your bathroom mirror will give you the same excellent lighting the stars enjoy in their Broadway dressing rooms.

Tub and shower enclosures can be adequately lighted by placing an enclosed damp-location recessed downlight in the ceiling. These downlights are also recommended over whirlpool baths or in saunas.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Tips For Ideal Kitchen Lighting Design

Lighting in the kitchen is key, not only for it's decorative value but also for your everyday tasks. Find out how to get great lighting that is both decorative as well as practical.
Having the ideal kitchen lighting design can have a pronounced impact on your interior decorating scheme. It is a good idea for functional reasons as well as adding great decorative value. When thinking about kitchen lighting design, there are certain elements which you ought to consider. Below are some tips on how you can add wonderful kitchen lighting.

The type of lighitng you go with is pivotal and florescent lighting in particular is a huge no-no. Flourescent lighting is very stark and not charming at all. You can compliment your kitchen lighting design purposes by making use of an alluring dome or chandelier. You might also install a chandelier over the eating section.

You might want to decide on using recessed lights in your kitchen lighting design plan. You can use them together with other methods of lighting fixtures. Recessed lighting won't detract from your general interior decorating scheme as they are set into the ceiling . If you plan appropriately, they can supply even lighting all over the room. It is also practical to buy Pot lighting that you can move around to illuminate a chosen spot like cabinets or a certain display.

Installing your lighting in the most fitting place is another thing that is important. You would be smart to place the lighting where it will be needed the most. You will need to be sure to plan for lighting in the food prep area of the kitchen together with the dining section. Aim for even, moderate lighting but steer clear of over lighting, which could be harsh and give off more heat. It is a fantastic idea to have each light be operated from a separate dimmer switch so you are able to adjust the level of light.

For lighting above an eating bar or island, make use of pendant lights. They can be bought in several distinct lengths and designs to match any kitchen. If your island is used for food prep, this style of lighting is great as it illuminates directly down to brighten a particular area.

Since you will be chopping and preparing food in the kitchen, you also will need task lighting for those areas. Now, this can be accomplished with recessed lights, even still there are other places where task lighting should not be disregarded. Generally, undercounter lighting is practiced for these task areas. This type of lighting can kill two birds with one stone. They light up your food prep tasks. And they can also illuminate any decorations you have on your counter.

There are various kitchen lighting design options to make your home interior design really shine. Pick what you like, but be certain that the lights coordinate with your room design. Lighting should be practical but also balance your room design. There are a bunch of lights which you can pick, so have fun decorating with your own distinct lighting design.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Lighting Tips: Easy Ways to Improve a Home

In this economy, people turn to investing in things closest to them particularly the comfort of their homes. One of the easiest and most affordable ways to do that is with lighting: Redeco-rating with lighting is not only a nice reflection on a home, it can upgrade your living space.

Whether you install a dramatic chandelier, accent your house with outdoor lighting, or simply plug in a beautifully designed table lamp, lighting does more than complete the décor it boosts the value of your home, creates atmosphere, and helps to express your per-sonal style.

The reason lighting is one of the most economical investments for homeowners is that it can make a great difference without involving major renovation expenses. People see their homes as havens from day-to-day difficulties, says Todd Langner of Kichler Lighting, the world's largest decorative lighting company. The right lighting sets a comforting tone and conveys to guests that the people who live there value home and family.

Dollar-for-dollar lighting adds more to your home because it makes an impact in more than one way: when it's off, the light fixture or lamp itself is a design element, and when it's on, the light plays can dramatically affect the look and feel of the room.

Lighting also is functional: It can make a small room look spa-cious and a large room seem cozy. Here are some tips to help you choose the right light:

*Consider the size of the room. Simply put, it should be in the right proportion for your space. It's a good idea to bring a photo of the room as well as its dimensions to the showroom, so the lighting professional will be able to tell you the proper height, width and extension to select.
*Ask yourself what you want the lighting to accomplish? Do you want to illuminate the whole room, highlight a task, or accent an area for effect?
*Use a professional, certified electrician for installation. Refer-ral from an authorized lighting showroom can mean the work is backed by service guarantees.
*Bring the inside out. Don't forget that outdoor lighting not only adds to the curb appeal of your house, it can increase its value and provide security for your surroundings.
*Look for quality in design and craftsmanship. Remember that lighting should look as beau-tiful in a room in the daytime when it's turned off as it does in the evening.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Choosing Kitchen Lighting

Lighting has a major role in setting up the moods and interiors of any place. Same is applicable to the case of a kitchen. Even in a kitchen it is very important to go for the right kind of lighting. It's up to you to decide what kind of light makes you feel active and vibrant, for most of the people bright and clear light are mind and activeness booster. The lighting in your kitchen not only affects your mood but also your quality of work then also while designing kitchen people tend to ignore this aspect. Here is something that you must know about choosing Kitchen Lighting

Kitchen Lighting: What should you keep in concern?
There are basically two types of lighting in Kitchen, the functional lighting and the decorative lighting. For functional lighting popular fixtures are fluorescents, recessed lights, and low voltage lighting. For decorative fixtures people tend to opt for ornamental glass, pewter and satin nickel lighting fixtures. The most important factor in Kitchen lighting is that there should be a balancing nature between decorative and functional lights. If a kitchen has a amicable environment, it is because of the proper task and ambience lighting.

How to choose the right kitchen lighting?

You should be clear about selection and placement of lights in your kitchen and the focus should be on amicable lighting environment in the Kitchen.

If you are completely unaware of the lighting procedure, it is better to seek a professional advice. A professional lighting expert will tell you about the correct lighting fixtures in accordance with your interiors.

You can actually get confused if you go to market without drawing a rough sketch of your requirements and wishes, you must priory decide whether you want to go for a traditional or a contemporary kind of lighting.

You can customize your kitchen lighting by using two or three kinds of lighting together, this will also help you achieve a dramatized effect.

Do not just think of the looks, also keep in concern that the fixtures that you are choosing are easily maintainable or not.

It is good to choose lighting systems with dimmers so that intensity of light can be varied according to need and mood.

Apart from top lighting, you should also go for fluorescent lighting in the cupboard and below the shelves. If you have a kitchen island go for two or three pendent fixtures over it.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Tips On Choosing A Chandelier For Your Family Room

Fashionable and functional elegant lighting fixtures should be incorporated into the home just as any decorative accessory or art object would be chosen. Most home decor experts say that a fine chandelier is an investment that will add to the value of your home.

In finding the right chandelier style for your home, simply begin with a color or a material that is predominant in the overall decorative scheme of a room. What catches your eye in a specific room and what type of statement do you want to make?

If the room is more traditional, choose chandeliers with more ornamentation and classical decorative details. If your home is modern, go for those with less ornamentation and simpler details.

Tips In Getting The Right-Sized Chandelier For Your Living Room

Mounted lighting fixtures have dual purposes. They are there not just to illuminate a room; they also provide aesthetic appeal to it by bringing elegance and adding a unique glow to your room. Unlike lamps that one can move around, chandeliers are more of semi-permanent structures which will require more proper positioning for these fixtures to work well and look good.

The first tip in choosing a chandelier relates to size. Homeowners need to consider the proportion between the size of the room and the size of the lighting piece. A chandelier that is too small for a room will surely look isolated. On the other hand, if it is too large for a room, it will appear cluttering. With a wide array of chandeliers available today, the chances are high in getting the perfect one that suits most homes.

Employ Some Creativity When Getting The Right Chandelier

The art of squeezing out the best of your creative juices, is very much needed in getting the right lighting fixture for your room, as there are a wide range of designs, finishes and styles to choose from. Each chandelier adds a touch of elegance to any room and vibrancy into the domestic atmosphere.

Many unique styles can range from the elaborate and large ones to minimalist and aesthetically pleasing designs. These elegant lighting pieces can complement other lighting very easily and will certainly add value to one's home. When choosing a living room chandelier, in particular, attention to proportions becomes clearly magnified.

The fixture must neither dominate a room nor look totally insignificant. The best thing to do is to measure width and length of the family room's main table and consider these measurements in shopping. As a rule of thumb, the span of the chandelier must be 12 inches shorter than the table's width (or diameter).

It's a rule that most chandeliers should be placed generally higher than 8 feet above the floor in the middle of the room or foyer for safety and style. If the electrical connection on the ceiling does not work with the center of a room, add a heavy-duty decorative hook on the ceiling above the center, and then attach a length of chain to carry the wiring from the electrical connection to the hook.

A chandelier with three or more light sockets is probably more suited to 40 watt bulbs. Once correct bulbs are chosen and installed, the chandelier should give off sufficient light coverage without blinding anyone. Installing dimmer controls is often recommended because they allow adjustment of the light's intensity, and suit your preferences.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Practical Living Room Lighting Tips

These living room lighting tips takes into account the many activities in the living room. With these living room lighting tips, you’ll be able to get a grip of flexible lighting to accommodate the range of activities:

Mix Lighting - Avoid using one central light that will create hard shadows and glare. Instead, combine general lighting like fluorescent or PLC downlights with halogen lights. This will distribute light more uniformly throughout the space. Also, general light, recessed in the ceiling or spots overhead will need back up from 'task' lighting at eye level.

Spotlighting - Your prized decorations, be they a favorite pottery or sculpture – are probably in the living room. So show them off with spotlighting, this goes for art on walls as well.

Floored - Floor lamps are handy for areas where it isn’t easy to fit wall, ceiling or table lamps. Position one behind the sofa to add interest to a room.

Level It - Lamps placed at a low height around the living room emphasize the “sit-down” feel around the sofa.

Glare Gone - Don’t strain your eyes by watching television in a darkened room. Backlight your TV set by placing a lamp behind the screen to soften the contrast and reduce the glare.

Read Well - The best reading light is provided by a floor lamp with a bulb shielded from the eyes and adjustable shade that casts a direct beam of light to the exact spot you need it.

Chill Out - Dot table lamps around the room; such as side tables, shelves and consoles. When you want a chill-out mood, switch these on instead of general lights.

Diffuse It - For the day, folding screens of fabric, wood or paper on pivotal hinges can be unique options to curtains and shutters for diffusing light. Also, indirect lighting (suggested above) creates flattering glow. If you can, reflect light off the ceiling, walls and floor. I recommend using warm white light bulbs instead of daylight bulbs since the latter pick up everything, reducing the feeling of warmth most home-owners seek.

Control It - Using a centrally controlled lighting system, pools of light may be created in the living room to define separate areas.

Fake It - If you have areas where general lighting does not reach, install false ceilings with overhead downlights to cover the entire room with sufficient lighting.

Dim It – With a dimmer, you’d be able to control artificial light to suit your mood and the range of activities.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Lighting For Dining Room and Extra Tips.

Dining room lighting should be both beautiful and functional. This requires a mix of general, task, and accent lighting that can set the mood for a number of functions, including a formal dinner, a family get-together, and other activities such as homework, hobbies, or family bookkeeping. Dimming controls will enable you to vary the light for each occasion.

  • Chandeliers can add sparkle and style to your dining room while giving you the general lighting you need for dining and entertaining. They are also used in bedrooms, foyers, or over a living room grouping or a grand piano. Some are designed with downlights to provide task lighting for homework or table games, or to accent table settings. Chandeliers are available in both incandescent and tungsten-halogen. The addition of a dimmer control lets you alter the intensity of light to suit the mood and activity.
  • A buffet or sideboard can be flanked with wall sconces on either side. Choose fixtures that complement the style of your chandelier. Displayed objects can be accented with recessed downlights installed in the ceiling above.
  • A chandelier is the focal point of the dining room. Suspended over the dining table, it serves as a decorative style element that enhances the beauty of your fine furnishings. When the light is dimmed, a soft, glowing atmosphere similar to candlelight is created. If equipped with a downlight, the chandelier provides task lighting for the table and accent lighting for a centerpiece.
  • A China cabinet, breakfront, hutch, or wall niche can become a showplace for your prized collectibles by installing strips of low-voltage mini-lights under the shelves.
  • A family portrait can be dramatically lighted with recessed adjustable accent fixtures. Ask the certified lighting consultants at your local ALA showroom to help you choose fixtures that are best suited for this purpose.
  • Recessed or track lighting provides general lighting, while enabling you to highlight prized possessions throughout the room. A ring of four recessed downlights around the dining table supplements the light from the chandelier, while providing accent lighting for your tableware. The pure white light of low-voltage fixtures with tungsten-halogen bulbs will make your crystal and silverware sparkle.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

6 Essential Tips For Choosing Children’s Room Lighting

When you’re doing up a room for your child you always come up to a problem of choosing the lighting for the room. There are a lot of lighting units in the store but you should choose the one that will suit the whole design of the room and will be safe and convenient for the child.

All the things that surround your child in the room should have the minimal injury risk and the maximum material quality. That’s why you should always make purchases in special stores and check the manufacturer and certificates.

A newborn baby doesn’t need a lot of light for the first months of its life. A simple table lamp with a matt lampshade or a night-lamp will be enough. But in about three months you may start thinking about placing something else. Children lamps in the shapes of different animals can be a good choice – they light up the room with a gentle yellow, light orange, light green or blue light and provide a source of entertainment for the kid. They can be either ceiling lamps or table lamps.A lot of manufacrurers produce lamps for childern. You may check out IKEA Store, for example.

When your child gets older, a simple lamp in the shape of an animal won’t be enough. The room should have a better lighting in the play zone and the area of the kid’s desk where he draws or learns to read or to write. Moreover, lamps in the room should be break-resistant. Your child will also need a bed lamp for reading with a regulated brightness, so that it could provide a good lightning when the child reads and could be dimmed when the child goes to sleep.

When it’s time your kid went to school you should make sure that the child’s room has three sources of lighting: ceiling lamps, wall lamps and a proper lighting of the working area of the desk. While you’re free to choose any style and type for the first two sources, you should pay special attention to the last one. The desk should be lighted with a halogen light – this type of lighting is quite close to the day-light and gives less tension on the eyes.

And at last - you should always control the safety of plugs and make sure there aren’t too many wires in the child’s room.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Think about your purpose before purchasing curtains, and you won't go wrong.

Curtains have a multitude of uses besides merely covering windows. They can serve a decorative purpose, insulate your home, divide spaces, or cover ugly window frames. Before you purchase curtains, first decide what you would like their primary purpose to be.

If you would like curtains for privacy, choose a heavier curtain with a lining. You can add tiebacks for occasions when you would like to look out of the window. If you like, you can keep the look relatively simple. Hang the curtain from rings on a pole, and presto, you're finished.

To block out light, and thus lower your electric bills while protecting your furniture from fading, you will want to choose a curtain that is heavily lined, perhaps even with blackout fabric. These liners can be purchased separately and hung behind the curtains if need be. If you are someone who is not only looking to lower their electric bill, but who also needs complete light blockage due to working a night shift, consider also hanging a roller shade behind the curtain for extra darkness.

Decorative curtains can take all kinds of forms, and can include curtains used for privacy and light blockage as well. Many people do not need curtains for these reasons, however, but would like to add a more designer feel to their home. In this case, you may want to consider purchasing a simple window dressing. You can mount a decorative curtain rod with fancy finials, and hang a long swag across the rod so that it hangs down on both sides of the rod and reaches to the floor. Sometimes these swags are called scarves. At any rate, you will want to make sure that it is long enough for your purpose, if you will be hanging it alone, without the curtains themselves.

If your purpose is to merely accent a room, sheer curtains are a lovely way to accomplish this. You can choose the curtain rod that strikes your fancy, and hang the curtains from it in a variety of ways. You may want to choose rings, tab-top, or simple gathered curtains. Sheers do not block out light or provide privacy, but they are a beautiful airy addition to a room. You can find sheers that feature beautiful embroidery on them, further enhancing their decorative appeal.

If you like, you can go all out, and hang multiple window treatments. There are many ways that you can do this. You can hang curtains, and then hang a scarf in a complimentary color from the rod as well, or you may choose a box valance instead. You can even hang two rods and have sheer curtains behind a practical set of privacy curtains. You can also combine curtains with different types of blinds and shades. Consider a Roman shade in a complimentary color or pattern hung behind the curtains.

Sometimes, you may want to use curtains to provide a separate space in your home, as opposed to limiting their use to windows. If you have a closet without an attractive door, or perhaps no closet at all, but a clothes rack, you can use curtains to conceal these areas, and provide protection from dust. In these cases, you will want to choose a thick curtain that cannot be seen through. Curtains with backings, or that are made of a thick material, such as velvet, are perfect for this purpose. Suddenly, where you once saw a cluttered closet, you have a beautiful fabric treatment instead. This can also give the room a space-enhancing effect, as the curtain implies a window behind it.

You may want to use curtains as space-dividers if you live in a studio apartment, and would like to separate your sleeping area from your dining area, for example. In this case, you would suspend poles from the ceiling, and hang the curtains. It can be a particularly attractive arrangement if you have tie backs, so that the curtains can be opened, in which case, they provide a beautiful decorative effect. Again, you will want to choose a heavy curtain for this purpose, although in this case, the curtain should be attractive on both sides, since you will be able to see it from either side. A lined curtain may not be a good idea. You may want to simply purchase a heavy curtain. If you are not pleased with how the other side of the curtain appears, you can hang double panels, so that the decorative side is facing out on both sides of your curtain divider.

Many people choose curtains over shades and other window treatments because of how easy it is to coordinate them with other furnishings in the room. In this case, you may choose to have curtains custom-made for your home, or to make them yourself. If you have had your sofa reupholstered, you can choose a complementary fabric for your curtains. An inexpensive way to accomplish a similar look in a bedroom is to buy extra flat sheets and make curtains out of them that will match the bedding. In these instances, be careful not to overdo it. Too much chintz, for example, can be hard on the eyes!

You have more options than ever when it comes to curtains and their accessories. It can be overwhelming to walk into a store and see all of the different choices. Remember to keep your purpose in mind, and you will have no problem selecting the right ones for your home.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

How To Choose A Shelving System

Shelving provides one of the most efficient methods of maximizing storage space. Shelving systems vary, from simple, single shelves supported by fixed brackets to fully adjustable units.
Shelving can be designed to blend in with the style, character, and shape of a room, or even to function as a decorative feature. Always make sure that the materials you use are strong enough to bear the load.

You can obtain shelves in a large range of woods of different thicknesses and in a variety of finishes, as well as in certain types of glass. The simplest shelf supports are non-adjustable track system.

Once you have decided on the shelving support system that you need and have chosen the most appropriate shelving material, you will need to support objects that may be heavy to the wall.

Whether you are putting up fixed brackets or an adjustable system, make sure that you secure the shelf support safely to the wall, and take care to hung the shelves so that they are perfectly level.

Always use hardware that suits the structure of the wall. A range of metal and plastic anchors, as well as bolts with spring clips, is available for securing screws or a bracket to cavity walls.

When mounting lightweight shelving on a cavity wall, use anchors made of plastic or metal. Most have wings that expand against the wall within the cavity. Select the size of bit recommended by the anchor manufacturer. Mark and drill the holes. Insert an anchor, and drive home the screws.

The most flexible type of shelving and one that is ideal for storing objects of various sizes, such as books, is a track system. Making a set of shelves entirely for display purposes gives the opportunity to design a tailor-made, highly decorative unit.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Home Interior Designs Will Dress-Up Your Home Decor

The success of any decorating scheme depends on how well it suits all the members of your family. To create a decor that you will be happy with, think about what you want and also what you don't want.
It's a good idea to know what you have before you begun to change things. As you begin to pull your design ideas together, think about your preference and what will work in your home.

Putting a new face on an old room is more fun when you have the basics on hand and can move ahead whenever the urge to decorate comes on.

There are three surfaces, floor, ceiling, and walls, that can be treated all alike or each in a different way. Part of the fun is designing a space that appears as inviting and comfortable from within.

Color can work wonders; it can change the look of a room and change your feeling about the room. You can start by looking through magazines, and display catalogs. Give yourself plenty of time, it will take longer than you think, and your ideas will develop as you go.

Gathering samples is a great way to begin. If you are starting with a color, your samples might include fabric, paint chips, wallpaper, carpet, wood, stone, and tile.

Knowing what you can spend on a project will give you a clearer idea of what you can achieve. If you'll on a limited budget, mark off those things that will make the most difference, such as a new wall color and a new sofa.

You can set the mood of a room in lots of ways, such as lights, and furnishings. There are no hard or fast rules or must-do sequence for this process. Whatever the purpose, you can create a truly inviting room.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

5 Tips for Preparing Your Guest Bedroom for Overnight Guests

Expecting overnight guests? Preparing a stylish guest suite is a snap with inspiration from 5-star hotels.

Preparing a stylish guest suite is a snap with inspiration from 5-star hotels and these five tips:

1. Create an environment that promotes a great night's sleep. Make the bed super comfy by adding a thick duvet and lots of fluffy pillows. High thread-count, 100 percent cotton sheets are also a must.

2. Stock the guest room with magazines and books, and put together a snack tray or basket filled with light snacks and bottled water.

3. Lay out bathrobes and place rolled bath towels at the foot of the bed in case your guests would like to freshen up upon arrival.

4. Hang a small mirror in the guest room to provide a spot for touching up makeup or putting on jewelry. A long dressing mirror is also a nice addition.

5. If your overnight guests are family or close friends, it's always a nice touch to display photos of time spent together in the past; everyone enjoys a trip down memory lane.

Monday, July 6, 2009

10 Tips to Choose The Right Curtains

Consider the style, size, and shape of the window, and what you want the curtains for. Think about the room, its proportions and what it's used for, the upholstery, and accessories. Curtains can be hung from rods in a number of ways.
Although most are functional rather than stylish, some decorative types are available. The right choice will not only enhance the window but also turn an ordinary room into a really special place.

Here are ten household helpful hints for choosing curtains:

1. Match curtain fabric with upholstery to unify space that seems untidy.

2. Use carpet to mark off space. A rug is ideal for establishing a social zone within a room.

3. Fabrics with classic patterns give a period feeling to the ambience of a room.

4. Remember that the bed linen, tablecloths, and towels also contribute to decoration.

5. Sheer curtain and gauze enable us to filter light.

6. Venetian blinds allow control over the amount of light entering a room.

7. Do not limit curtains and blinds to just windows. They can be used in an excessively long passage or hallway. Blinds make good screens.

8. In rooms with a lot of pictures, different colored walls, or furniture, it is suitable to use neutral tones for the curtains and upholstery.

9. Take advance of fabrics by using them to renovate your furniture.

10. Use rugs and tapestries as hanging on a wall. Their color and texture are unbeatable and they improve acoustics. About The Author: Roger King has been involved in home interior designs for several years, and has been helping people find and review the best value for interior design solutions.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Choosing Fabric for Curtains in Your Home Deco

There's more to shopping for curtain fabric than seeking out the perfect print of the weave those complements the color scheme to perfection. Furnishing fabrics are not all suitable for every situation.
With the wide range of weaves and weighs of cloth available, make sure the one you buy will do the job you have in mind. The two most important factors to bear in mind when looking for curtain fabric are resistance to fading and the weight of the fabric.

Light resistance curtains, being so close to windows, take a lot of punishment from sunlight. Make sure to close fabrics that are resistant to fading and rotting by the sun's rays, particularly for rooms which get the sun throughout most of the day.

Look at the weight and quality of the fabric. In general, all but the lightest curtains are worth lining, and even some of the thinner softer cloths, which drape well look very limp unless they are lined.

The after-care of made-up curtains also needs some though when choosing fabric. Unless a fabric is labeled and sold as pre-shrunk of fixed-finished, shrinkage have between five and six per cent is considered normal.

Fabric needs to be flexible enough to roll around a wooden dowel. All medium-weight fabrics can be used, but look for tightly woven cottons for really reliable results. If curtains are going to need regular washing it is sensible either to pre-wash the fabric, lining and tape, or to make curtain with detachable linings.