Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Prepare Your Home For The HOT Atlanta Summer

 We wish we could say that these would be great tips to implement before the heat begins, but with the mercury climbing to 95 degrees today and 97 tomorrow, Atlanta residents are already looking for some relief! Aside from a general dislike of sticking to your couch, even as the air conditioning runs non-stop, you may also be worrying about the looming energy costs of this heat wave and the toll it will take on your wallet. There are a few steps you can follow and tips you can take that may help ease the pain....just a little!
  • Check the insulation. According to EnergyStar insulation is usually measured using the R-Value.  R-Value is a measure of insulation’s ability to resist heat traveling through it. The higher the R-Value the more effective it will be to beat the heat. The level of insulation recommended for your area can be found at www.EnergyStar.gov.  If you are lacking the recommended insulation, you can add more right on top of the old insulation. However, don't put a vapor barrier between the layers. Be sure the insulation doesn't block vents or cover exhaust fans.
  • Ventilate the attic. When the outside temperature is in the 90's, your attic can easily reach 140 degrees. Adequately sized vents and/or an attic fan can help keep hot air from building up.
  • Get the air conditioner ready
    • One secret to getting the best efficiency from your air conditioner is to be sure the maximum amount of air moves across the coils. Make sure air can flow freely over the inside and outside coils. Shut off power to the unit before cleaning it. Outside, clear away leaves and debris. Inside, clean or replace filters. If you can reach the fan blades, be sure the power is turned off and then dust them - if they're filled with lint they can't push as much air.  If your air conditioner doesn't give you as much cooling as it has in the past, call a cooling professional to inspect and tune it up. 
  • Put a timer or programmable thermostat on your air conditioner. Leave it on a higher temperature while you're away, and set it to cool the house half an hour before you return home.
  • Install awnings over windows exposed to direct sunlight.
  • Consider installing ceiling fans. On moderately warm days, fans can circulate enough air to keep you comfortable without air conditioning. Even on hotter days when you use the air conditioner, you can set your thermostat higher and save.
  • Open windows and doors and let outside air cool your house on moderate days, and be sure to keep them closed when you're operating the air conditioner.
  • Avoid unnecessary trips in and out of the house, especially on the most sultry days. Heat and humidity come in each time you open the door.
  • Keep the sun out of your house. Close blinds, shades or draperies during the hottest part of the day.  Consider planting fast-growing trees and shrubs near your home but away from power line, to provide shade.
  • Set lamps, TV sets, and other heat-producing devices away from the air conditioner thermostat. Heat from the lamp could cause the thermostat to read higher temperature and keep the air conditioner running more than necessary.
Need help checking your windows & doors? Installing a ceiling fan or an awning?
One final note, if you have any older friends or relatives in the Atlanta area and would like to speak with us about checking on the efficiency and readiness of their home, please contact us right away! Small children and the elderly are most effected by the severe heat and humidity, spending a little time and money up front to ensure their safety is typically a much smarter investment than fixing something once it has become a problem, or broken all together. We would be happy, and honored to help our fellow Georgians!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Plan A Memorial Day Party

  eHow has the right idea, "Memorial Day is a time for remembrance and observance, it's also a time for socializing, relaxing and having fun. Plan this year's Memorial Day party with ease. Ask your guests for a little help when it comes to the menu, and reward them with some fun games and party favors." If you're just getting struck by the spirit now, throwing together a fantastic party on your deck or your outdoor living space isn't as hard as you might think!
  • Try using Evite for free online invitations. They have many options for Memorial Day parties and you can customize them all. Your guests can even use this forum to discuss potluck options!
  • You don't have to spend much on decorations, either! Being as the party is in your beautiful outdoors, nature provides much of the decor. However some red, white and blue touches can bring the theme of the party together. Check out the 4th of July decorations at your local party store for a few festive items, like paper & plasticware so you're not running the dishwasher non-stop!
    • Some floral pieces for your tables will be just enough color. Add a small American flag to the vases, or even your potted plants!
  •  Plan a simple meal. Make it a barbecue event, ask guests to bring their own meats and you'll provide the side dishes, or you can keep it simple and make it a potluck party asking for a dish to pass. Plan on grilling up hot dogs, chicken or hamburgers if you want.
  • Prepare a few activities to keep your guests occupied. Kids love crafts in the house or a shaded area of the yard. Set up a table with paper, crayons, glue and scissors. Put a table up with modeling clay, or you could even set up a sand or water activities table. For adults, plan games like horseshoes, bocce ball, Frisbee or a water balloon toss for all.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Bath Design: Classic Luxury

  This classic luxury, European-inspired bath caught our eye online recently. It was only the 3rd place winner in the Signature Kitchens & Baths contest but we found the look incredibly rich. We haven't seen as much cabinetry design like this recently; more often than not the luxury baths featured are sprawling oases that have no business being called bathrooms.  We wanted to make note of and share this one because as homes begin to boast more usable, moderately sized spaces with practical instead of decadent luxury, we think this bath is a very rich example of reasonable opulence. (Hmm...maybe we should coin that term!)
Tom Kindred
17625 Route 84 NE
Moline, IL 61244 

His and her vanities, steam shower with rain head, fireplace, heated floors, bubble massage tub, arched barreled ceilings, walk-in closets, crystal chandeliers, coffee bar

23' x 18'

Cabinetry: Medallion Designer Gold in Espresso

Flooring: 18' x 18' Carrera marble with black granite accents

Vanity Tops: Carrera marble with ogee detail

Sink(s): Kohler Memoirs

Plumbing Fixtures: Newport Brass in chrome 

Tub: Kohler Memoirs Bubble Massage 

Shower Door: European Custom frameless 

Toilet: Kohler Memoirs

Lighting: Restoration Hardware 

Hardware: Atlas Homewares chrome mega pulls 

Mirrors: Custom

Backsplash/Tile: Carrera marble with chair and pencil accents 

Plumbing Supplies: Newport Brass in chrome

Steam Shower: Kohler

Towel Warmer and Floor Heat: Warmly Yours

Closets: Closets Plus

Vents: Fantech 

Fireplace: Regency

Window: Pella

*Member of SEN Design Group

*Photographer: Steven Paul Whitsitt

Monday, May 16, 2011

Are You Eligible For A Federally-Insured Home Improvement Loan?

   Many U.S. homeowners are now eligible for up to $25,000 in federally-insured loans to make energy-efficient upgrades such as adding insulation, sealing ducts or replacing windows, the Obama administration announced Thursday.

   Consumers with good credit scores, manageable debt and some equity in their homes can get "PowerSaver" loans at or below market rates to finance efficiency measures that also include new HVAC systems, water heaters, solar panels and geothermal heating/cooling.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Christening A New Space? Consider A Wall-Writing Party!

  Friend, speaker and author, Mel DePaoli (Brand Or Culture) recently posted on Facebook of her intention to host a "wall-writing" party at her new home. Being in the business of new rooms & new homes we naturally loved the idea! (In fact had even suggested it to a client some years back as something that her teens may enjoy doing in their basement before AK finished the basement remodel) If you're not sure what a wall-writing party is, we'll let Mel explain:
"So my husband and I moved into our new place last month. Knowing we would be doing some painting, I got the brainy idea to have a “Wall-Writing Party.” For whatever reason this generated a bunch of interest and people wanted to know What is a wall-writing party? Since you asked, I will explain.
I have a reputation for creating my own traditions instead of following others’ so when I got the idea to write on walls, I didn’t get to many surprised looks. Here is the invitation that we had sent out:
Come join us for a Wall-Writing Party! As you know, we just bought our first house and
would like to invite you to come help us make the house, our home.
So what is a Wall-Writing Party?
Every culture, heritage, and family has their own tradition and as many of you know I pride myself
in creating our own traditions. Since they usually tend to be a little off–the –wall, this time we decided
we would write on the wall.
We would like you to join us and take a behind the scenes, sneak peak of the house before we move in.
Help us document good wishes, happy drawings, and fun on the walls of the house. After we write,
then we’ll paint and move in. (Both of which you are more than welcome to help with!)
What should I bring? Since the house will be empty, bring whatever will make you comfortable
or help us to celebrate.
While that was the goal, things ended up happening a little differently. We got the keys five days before our Wall-Writing Party and we were just a bit excited. So we moved about half of our stuff in and slept on a blow-up mattress until the official moving day.
Preparing for the wall-writing party I knew not to use permanent markers as they will continuously bleed through, so I went with good ol’fashioned Crayola washable markers. We have textured walls so the thin points didn’t work as well as I wanted, so I also got flip-chart markers that “won’t bleed.”
 The Crayola markers truly were washable, heck if you rubbed up against it the drawing or words they came right off, the flipchart markers adhered quite nicely but with some elbow grease you could’ve gotten them off too—I was set, markers that wouldn’t bleed through paint—or so I thought.
Anyway, the night was a success and a lot of fun. People were allowed to write in every color except red and various shades of red or pinks. We ended up with English, Chinese, Indian, German, Spanish, and ‘kid’ on the walls with everything from well wishes, to inside jokes, even some drawings. The only rule was that if you wrote on a wall that wasn’t marketed as “writeable” (by a special symbol that was already written on each of the walls) then you had to come help us paint it back. But everyone was good and only wrote on the designated walls.
 We also learned about an Indian tradition of bringing something sweet the first time you go to someone’s new house. That is a tradition I think we will adopt! We served some appetizers and were even able to get the Science Experiment out! Jolene saw it and goes “WHAT IS THAT!” She took video of it with her Personal Camera Crew Stick. Which I must add I absolutely love mine—but that is another story!
Anyway, after everyone left my husband Randy and I added our own wishes and thoughts, and then we went back with the red markers and connected everything. Red can be a very powerful color and I used it as a way to ‘activate’ the good wishes, love, and fun that we had documented and intended on preserving in the walls of our new home.
So that was the wall-writing party. Simple and low-key, but heartfelt and fun, next came covering up the so-called washable and “won’t bleed” markers! Maybe that will be my post next week. Until then . . . share with me any traditions you have when someone buys a new house.

Friday, May 6, 2011

The Latest In Induction Cooking

   Last October, we read and posted a great post by our friend Paul Anater: Induction Cooktops Take A Big Step Forward .  Paul talked about the future of induction cooktops, and now we have taken one step further into that future. Appliance giant Whirlpool has introduced it's very own induction cooktop. We were expecting Whirpool's latest venture into the induction world may come with less of a price tag than their competitors, but sadly, no. The Whirlpool top is still retailing for around $1,349.00 while the Thermador / Bosch's eqivalent 30" (4 element) stands at about $1,430.00.
    Of their latest cooktop, Whirlpool says "this Resource Saver™ induction cooktop is our most efficient and easiest to clean cooktop ever. It features a 30" eco-friendly Schott Ceran® surface with 4 induction elements, plus Power Boost and Simmer features. Advanced induction technology transfers up to 90% of energy directly to your magnetic cookware, using 25% less energy than traditional ceramic-glass cooktops and 58% less energy than gas cooktops.   Plus, the Boost feature allows you to boil water in half the time, and the Glass Touch controls offer a contemporary look and an intuitive design that’s easy to use."
   The induction technology transfers up to 90 percent of energy directly to magnetic cookware, using 25 percent less energy than traditional ceramic-glass cooktops and 58 percent less energy than gas cooktops. This savings could power a 60W light bulb for 7 hours with the energy saved every time water is boiled.

   If you're considering making the move to induction cooking, there is one other very important consideration to, well, consider. Your cookware. "We know by now that for the present and at least the near future, any cookware to be used on an induction-cooking unit needs to be able to well support a magnetic field in it--that is, to be substantially "ferrous". If you recall a little of either Latin 101 or Chemistry 101, you'll know that "ferrous" refers to a metal that is iron or iron-based. But, though steel is certainly iron-based, in fact not all stainless steel is readily magnetizable. There is a widespread misunderstanding about that as relates to induction cooking: but, again, merely being made of stainless steel does not make a piece of cookware "induction ready"." (http://theinductionsite.com/induction-cookware.shtml)
     "Because induction cooking is so common in Europe and in professional settings, makers of high-quality cookware--and, in recent years, even of good to average cookware--have taken pains to produce extensive lines of induction-ready cookware. That they do by making sure that one of the layers in the base cladding "sandwich" is a readily magnetized metal of sufficient thickness to readily absorb the available electromagnetic energy and convert it to heat. Regrettably, there is no simple way to know if this or that line, or particular piece, of cookware is really induction-ready, unless you have the opportunity to actually handle it. In that case, all you need is a simple magnet of any kind--say one of those decorative toys meant to be stuck onto refrigerator doors. If such a magnet readily clings to the base of the cookware piece, that piece is induction-ready; if the magnet does not cling, or clings only very weakly, the piece is not."

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Start Celebrating National Home Improvement Month: Outdoor Living Spaces

Yes! May is National Home Improvement month! What better month out of the year to be working on home projects? So to start celebrating this fantastic occasion, let's start with some outdoor living spaces!
  • Decks & Patios: Most homes have one or the other, and maybe both. So these are the easiest places to start revamping your outdoor living space! Whether it requires a little HandyMan update, a full remodel or even a metamorphosis into a sunroom - these outdoor spaces are full of potential!
  • Four Season Sunrooms:  Ever wish you could use your deck all year long? Well, you can either move to sunny southern California or you can consider enclosing your deck and creating one of these fabulous sunrooms!
  • Outdoor Kitchens: Wondering what's cooking these days in outdoor kitchens? Then you'll definitely want to read this: Atlanta Outdoor Kitchens