Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Convert The Unused Space In Your Home

Do you have extra space in your home? Want to put it to better use? Turn that spare bedroom into a home gym, or convert the room over your garage into a media room. Here are a few helpful hints for your upcoming project:

Home gym
The convenience and time benefits associated with a home gym are priceless for those looking to fit workouts into their busy schedules. To get started, think about how much space is available and the exercise equipment you'll need. Make sure there's enough room for your mat, free weights, balance ball and any other equipment. Electrical considerations and built-in storage areas may come into play too, depending on your vision for the room.
Flooring is another component to think about, as larger equipment and heavy weights need a durable base that stands up well to wear and tear. Practically speaking, ventilation or fans can provide a more comfortable workout experience. Having a few large mirrors on the wall to see your progress or a small refrigerator for those post-workout protein shakes are a few valuable comforts not to be forgotten in the initial planning stages.

Media room
There's nothing like a new media room to add value to your home and a little fun for the family in the process. Whether you're starting from scratch or adding enhancements to an existing room, you'll want to take into account a few things to make the experience a good one.
  • An enclosed, rectangular space works best for sound.
  • Low ceilings work best —12 feet or lower is ideal.
  • Cover the walls and ceiling with something to absorb sound; try floor-to-ceiling drapes and give the room that true movie-theater feel.
  • Lighting should be soft and subtle. Strategically place light sources to avoid screen glare. Point track lights at the ceiling or walls, or direct lights toward the floor. Install dimmer switches so that you can control the light level.
Consider consulting with a sound specialist that can really help create an ultimate entertainment experience for your home.

Your final helpful hint is to contact AK Complete Home Renovations if you have any questions about converting your space. Sometimes an expert eye may see possibilities for the space that you haven't even considered yet!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Caring For Your Appliances After A Kitchen Remodel

Don't you just love that "new kitchen" smell? Whenever we get something new - be it a car, a home or a kitchen - we want to keep it looking and running like new as long as possible! After a kitchen remodel many of our clients are full of questions on how they should use and take care of their new appliances. Here are some over-arching tips for most appliances that we hope you'll find helpful:

Monday, March 21, 2011

Easy Tips for Spring Cleaning Your Kitchen

(Can you reach a limit on "Spring" tips and posts? We wonder. Chalk it up to AK's Spring Fever!)

For most families, the kitchen is the heart of the home where everything from family meals to homework takes place on a regular basis. And with all of that activity, your kitchen is bound to need a thorough cleaning from time to time. Spring cleaning your kitchen isn't as tough as you think and will leave you with a clean kitchen you can be proud of. From cleaning kitchen appliances to getting rid of extra clutter, these kitchen cleaning tips will make spring cleaning your kitchen a breeze.

In most modern families, the microwave takes a bigger beating that the stove. It's used multiple times a day, and that can add up to a lot of crusted-on food bits. But don't get out your chisel yet! This kitchen cleaning tip will have your microwave sparkling in no time. Fill a microwave-safe mug two-thirds full of water and add a few splashes of lemon juice or some fresh lemon slices. Microwave it on HIGH for 4 minutes. When it's done, leave the door closed and keep it in there for another 4 minutes. The moisture from the steam and the acid from the lemon will loosen the food particles. After 8 minutes total, remove the mug and wipe down the interior with a wet paper towel. Take out the glass plate and give it a good washing with soap and water. To finish up, wipe off the outside of the microwave with a surface-appropriate cleaner.

When it comes to cleaning kitchen appliances, you may be tempted to just buy a new fridge instead of tackle the one you have. However, the fridge can be cleaned without too much effort and a little elbow grease, and cleaning the refrigerator is an essential part of spring cleaning your kitchen. Save this chore for a time when your food supply is low, like before you do your weekly grocery shopping. Remove everything from your fridge and take out the bins and shelves. Wash them in hot, soapy water to remove any food bits and get them clean. If you want to disinfect, or if the mess is really caked on, add a little bleach to your water as well. While they're drying, use disinfecting wipes to scrub the walls, floor, inside door, and wire shelving. If any spots are discolored, mix some baking soda, lemon juice, and water to make a paste, and scrub at these spots. They should come clean and whiten back up.
Put the dried shelves and bins back in your fridge and fill it with your food. (Be sure to throw out any old or expired food!) To finish, use your vacuum hose and clean the bottom vents and coils in the back (you may need help to move the fridge out enough to do this). This will help your refrigerator to run at its peak capacity, keeping your energy bills down and your food cold. Finally, use a surface-appropriate cleaner for the front and sides, and you're done! Keep up with this every month or so, and you'll be on your way to a continually clean kitchen.

Stove And Oven
Months of cooking and baking can certainly leave their mark on your stovetop and inside your oven. Start by cleaning your stovetop to get rid of cooked-on food particles and film that can build up over time.
Electric Stoves
Unless there are food bits stuck to the coils, you can simply remove them. For food on the coils, use a mild soap and water mixture and clean them. Make sure they are fully dry before reattaching them. Take out the metal trays under the coils and soak them in hot, soapy water. Scrub off all food stains with an abrasive sponge and clean them thoroughly. If they seem beyond repair, you can buy new trays for a small cost. Using a soapy sponge or antibacterial wipes, clean off the stovetop and get any food bits and crumbs out of underneath the coils.
Flat Top Stoves
When it comes to cleaning kitchen appliances, these are the easiest to clean and keep clean. For a quick cleaning, use a soapy sponge and wipe off any residue. For tougher stains, use a specially-formulated Flat Top Stove cleaner such as Scotch-Brite Scratchless Cooktop Cleaner.
Gas Stoves
Many gas stoves now have removable grates that can be washed in hot, soapy water or even put in the dishwasher. Check your manufacturer's instructions and wash them accordingly. Then, take a soapy sponge or antibacterial wipes and scrub the stove surface clean.
Most ovens now have a self-cleaning feature so you don't have to work so hard. However, the fumes are strong, so open up the windows and stay out of the kitchen while it's going through the cleaning cycle. When spring cleaning your kitchen, save this task for last and relax in another part of the house. For small messes that don't require an entire self-cleaning cycle, a spot cleaner like Easy Off® Fume Free Oven Cleaner works well.

Don't forget this small, yet frequently used machine when cleaning kitchen appliances. Depending on the quality of your water, mineral deposits can build up inside the water reservoir over time, affecting the taste and quality of your coffee. To clean it, mix equal parts distilled white vinegar and water and run it through the coffeemaker without any coffee. Depending on how much buildup your machine has, you may need to repeat this. Finally, run a pot of just water through a brewing cycle before making coffee to clean out any vinegar residue. 

When it comes to spring cleaning your kitchen, the cabinets are often overlooked. But cooking can leave a film or residue on cabinets, and dust and dirt can build up on the insides. One cabinet at a time, take out the contents and wipe down the shelves with antibacterial wipes. Clean out any expired food, and make sure dishes are arranged in a way that best serves your daily life. If you use shelf paper, replace any paper that's too dirty or torn. Finally, use a mild dish detergent and water to wipe down the fronts of each cabinet. Clean the handles and pulls as well. And use glass cleaner to polish up any glass-front cabinets. The results will give you a clean kitchen that shines.
*Note: Check the manufacturer's instructions beforehand for any special cleaning precautions for your particular cabinet finish.
Since the pantry is behind closed doors, it's east to constantly take food out and put more in without giving much thought to its order (or the food wedged in the back). But over time, things can become so disorganized that you forget what you have, and food goes bad or you end up buying more of something you don't need. Begin by removing everything from the pantry and following the kitchen cleaning tips for cabinets, above. Lay everything out on a countertop or table, and take stock of what you actually have. Start by throwing out any expired foods. Then, organize foods into like groups, like canned goods, spice packets, and cereals. For smaller items, wire shelving like these from the Container Store can help you get organized. If you have a lot of small items like dry soup mixes and spice packets, try hanging a plastic shoe organizer on the inside of the door. The compartments are the perfect size for smaller odds and ends that tend to get lost. To help other family members put food back in the right place, try labeling the shelves with a Dymo Label Maker for organizational ease.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Be Inspired By Green

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

 Lá Fhéile Pádraig

  While a traditional Irish home may look more like the amazing thatched houses on the Aran Islands, we thought we'd take the spirit of the day and take a peek at some other - maybe more practical - decorating ideas that embrace the feeling of the isle. The key to decorating is to make it personal! What reminds you of your trip to Ireland or your Celtic heritage might not be what anyone else would glean from the same decor. But that's OK! Previewing ideas like the ones below is one way to help you figure out what best represents the personal statement you want to make in your own home. Providing you want to go green...



Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Bath Product Trends: Elegance Alert

Some beautiful product trends caught our eye in K+BB's Industry Watch newsletter, and we wanted to share with you!
From K+BB - Product Trends: Elegance Alert
Sometimes a refined touch is exactly what a bath needs. Maybe it's the decorative hardware or a bath filler that would look at home in a contemporary or transitional environment. Or perhaps you'd like to jazz up the shower with a patterned grid drain…


Sleek and streamlined, TOTO's two freestanding bath fillers offer a transitional look and can be paired with a variety of the company’s tubs. The two-handle filler with handshower features a curved longneck spout that swivels, while the single-handle model, also with a handshower, has an angular architectural look. Both units feature 90-degree-turn ceramic disc valving that is resistant to debris and hard water.

Watermark Designs

Pay attention to detail in the bath with Watermark Designs's new shower grid drains. Held in place with rare earth magnets, which allow for a clean look by eliminating visible screws or fasteners, the drains are available in six patterns, including elongated parallel bars, geometric circles and symmetrical labyrinths. The drains are offered in 37 finishes to complement almost any decor.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Bathroom Remodeling Design Ideas

  In many home designs, bathrooms are often given low priority. ­But it doesn't have to be that way! The owner's bath is not far behind the kitchen when it comes to resale value. Who doesn't want to have an in-home retreat to start and end every day in? What's fun about remodeling a bathroom is that every popular decorating style can be interpreted for the bath. On the other hand, the bath is also one place you can indulge in styles that depart from those used in the rest of the house. 

  So why not make your bath a romantic refuge or your kids' bath a tropical aquarium? You may even want to treat the powder room to a more adventurous or opulent look than in the rest of your home, indulging in ornate mirrors, lavish tile work, vividly colored wall-covering, or an unusual sink. 
   Take a look at this incredible list of bathroom design ideas, complete with style suggestions and pictures: Atlanta Bathroom Remodeling Design Ideas. Style ideas include ranch style, pan-asian, low-key luxury, french flair, glamor, playful color, modern art and so much more! Whew!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Kitchen Organization Tips

 Clear Countertops

Countertops should hold only things you use on a daily basis. Create a permanent spot for everything else, including appliances. "Clutter-free countertops make you feel like you have things under control," says Meryl Starr, author of The Home Organizing Workbook.

Divide and Conquer
Avoid jumbled messes in drawers and cupboards with dividers, bags, and caddies for frequently used items, such as silverware, napkins, even baking supplies. Most cabinet manufactures have good options for pullouts, shelf inserts, hooks, and other kitchen organizing tools.

Corral Personal Items
To prevent the room from becoming a dumping ground, try this rule: By dinnertime, the kitchen must be clear of personal items.

The Big Picture
To get a handle on all the food, gadgets, and equipment that live in the kitchen, catalog those you use regularly and divide them based on where in the room they're most used. Store things as close as possible to where you use them. If you rarely or never use an item, give it away or store it in an out-of-the-way spot, such as in the basement, on high shelves in the pantry, or in the back of a corner cabinet.
  • Hang aprons, pot holders, and dish towels on pegs (mount them at least two feet away from the stove).
  • Arrange your kitchenware by frequency of use, with everyday dishes on an easy-to-reach lower shelf and special-occasion pieces up above.
  • Group objects by purpose and assign them to specific cabinets, as with the bakeware centralized here.

Friday, March 4, 2011

The Most Beautiful Buildings From Around The World

By Karrie Jacobs

These are the world’s most beautiful buildings? Are you kidding?

A hundred years ago, naming the world’s most beautiful buildings was easy: the Parthenon. Sure. The Taj Mahal. Absolutely. Hagia Sophia. No argument. But now, in part because the whole notion was chewed up and spit out by those troublemaking Modernists, we’re just learning to think about architecture in terms of beauty again. It’s open season.

Certain themes are evident in our choices of the world’s most beautiful buildings. We love buildings surrounded by water; the interaction between water and daylight is always magical. (Why do you think the Lincoln Memorial has a reflecting pool at its doorstep?) And we are head over heels for flamboyant uses of pattern and color. The Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision, for example, is positively psychedelic.

So are we consistent? Nope. But however capricious our choices may seem, we don’t take beauty lightly. After all, the ongoing search for beauty is what travel is all about. It’s certainly the best reason we know to leave the house.

 Sagrada Família
Visionary Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí spent more than 40 years of his life on this glorious, chaotically complex, and still unfinished Gothic-Art Nouveau cathedral. After his untimely death in 1926 (he was hit by a streetcar), his associates continued his sculptural masterwork, and despite the fact that the original drawings were destroyed during the Spanish Civil War, construction continues today. Completion is scheduled for sometime between 2017 and 2026.

Authenticity Alert: The east-facing Nativity façade was the only one completed by Gaudí himself.

 Burj Al Arab
This 60-story sail-shaped hotel, which sits on its own private island, was designed to be a national icon. But the interior is where the beauty lies: a nearly 600-foot-tall atrium—the world’s tallest. The undersides of tier after tier of semicircular balconies reveal a spectrum of colors. And the tower’s powerful diagonal braces, like the flying buttresses of the past, inspire awe.

Insider Tip: Non-guests can gain access to the Burj Al Arab’s private island by booking a meal at one of its restaurants; try afternoon tea at the Skyview Bar or a buffet lunch at Junsui.

 Institute for Sound and Vision
The work of Jaap Drupsteen, the graphic artist responsible for the building-size media collage, used to be everywhere in the Netherlands. This building is his comeback. Along with architecture firm Neutelings Riedijk, he covered the façade of the massive media archive and museum with images from Dutch television, abstracted into a giant four-sided mural and baked directly onto cast glass. The effect is stunning inside and out.

Experiential Beauty: Tour the history of Dutch broadcasting, or simply gaze up at the stained glass from a table at the atrium’s Grand Café.

 The Golden Temple
This most sacred Sikh shrine sits in the middle of what was once a wooded lake. The Buddha came here to meditate, and so did Guru Nanak, the founder of the Sikh faith, some 2,000 years later. The Harimandir, or “Temple of God,” was built and destroyed many times before the current version was erected in the late 1700s. The radiance of this gilded building, a mixture of Hindu and Muslim architectural styles, is amplified by reflections in the surrounding water and the devotional music that emanates from the temple day and night.

Night Owls Welcome: The temple is open 20 hours a day, from 6 a.m. to 2 a.m. daily, and is illuminated (and especially lovely) at night.

National Congress Hall 
Brasilia probably works better as a Modernist sculpture garden than as a city, but if there is one piece of it that best represents the whole, it’s Congress Hall. Architect Oscar Niemeyer’s colonnaded marvel, with its grand sci-fi entrance ramp, skinny twin towers, and two bowl-shaped meeting halls (one for the Chamber of Deputies and one for the Federal Senate), treats the business of government as a monumental work of art.

Not Just Skin Deep: Go inside and check out the Green Hall (named for the color of the carpet and the Brazilian flag), with its collection of paintings, sculptures, and decorative screens by renowned Brazilian artists.

 The Guggenheim
The Frank Gehry–designed, titanium-clad phenomenon that upstaged the Guggenheim’s Frank Lloyd Wright transformed the way the world understands architecture, art museums, and the strategies for reviving depressed industrial cities. Today, the shiny undulating museum doesn’t look as shocking as it once did, but it does embody a certain kind of late 20th-century thinking—the thrill of formal complexity and high art.

Small Is Beautiful: Alternatively, we could make a case for Frank Gehry’s first major building, the diminutive white Vitra Museum in Weil am Rhein, Germany.

 The Chrysler Building
Designed by architect William van Alen, the Chrysler’s shiny, filigreed Art Deco spire is the most indispensable piece of the New York City skyline, perfectly balancing the primal thrust of the classic American skyscraper with the desire for a little bling. (It was the world’s tallest for less than a year in 1931 before that zeppelin-masted tower eight blocks south took the spotlight.) Day or night, its stainless-steel crown still dazzles like nothing else.

Icon Alert: This is possibly the only building in the world that is decorated with automotive hood ornaments: the big eagles on the 61st floor were copied from a 1929 Chrysler.

 Mont St. Michel
Though not as lavish as some landlocked cathedrals, this abbey is certainly the most dramatically situated, enjoying prime real estate just off the coast of Normandy. The first abbey was built in 709, with construction continuing for hundreds of years. Spurning the safety of the causeway (built in 1879 and currently being reconstructed), pilgrims still scamper across the sands at low tide to reach the Mont, and risk being overtaken by fast-moving waters.

Dining Tip: Try the agneau de pré-salé, a local specialty made from meat from the lambs that graze on the nearby salt meadows.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Why Kitchens Sell Homes

 In reading the Atlanta Journal Constitution, a "Homes" piece about an Atlanta-based Coca Cola executive being drawn to a European-style home in Sandy Springs, a particular comment caught our eye.

When looking at the home prior to purchasing, "after Lee Kravitz saw the kitchen, she didn’t need to check out the rest of the house. It begged for crowds,” said Lee, 39, an executive in global marketing for Coke. “We love to entertain. It was everything that made us feel it was home.' Christopher Oquendo, AJC"

In their new home, the Kravitzes have three dishwashers, two prep sinks, a 48-inch Viking range, a Sub-Zero refrigerator and a wine cooler, all set in a room with stone archways. 

After moving in, the couple added their own touches, such as four stools around the island made from red wine barrels. Christopher Oquendo, AJC

You can see more of this beautiful Atlanta home, here: Coca-Cola execs drawn to European-style house