2019 Summer Home Maintenance Guide

Did you catch that summer officially starts today? The season of long days, sometimes oppressing heat, family vacations, and days spent by the pool has returned! And with the change in the season it is time to once again tackle a few maintenance items around the house to keep things running smoothly. Keep reading for a few ideas of what to add to your to do list this summer.

 

Inspect Kitchen and Bath Plumbing Fixtures

The kitchen and bathroom are some of the most important rooms in the house, so is something goes wrong in one of those rooms it can be quite disruptive. Avoid this unexpected headaches by doing periodic inspection and maintenance of the plumbing items so that you can avert or catch issues early before they become big problems. Check your pipes for signs of leaks or damage. Make sure your toilets do not run indefinitely or start running spontaneously. Unclog any slow moving drains (a quick Google search can help you find a safer and less caustic way to do this). Finally, regrout and recaulk areas where it has degraded or is missing so that water does not get into places where it doesn’t belong and cause damage.

 

Clean the Laundry Room

Despite often being one of the smallest rooms in the house, the laundry room has an uncanny knack for being one of the messiest and most disorganized. Laundry is already a chore so why make it harder on yourself by having to do it in a room that only makes the job harder and does not inspire joy? Take some time to clean up and organize. But before you start tackling the room take a few moments to think about what changes and organizational methods would work best for how you use the room. Perhaps adding a cabinet or shelf by the washing machine for storing your detergent, dryer sheets, and other cleaning items would help keep everything closer to the areas where they will most be used. Does the room have enough countertop working space for folding and sorting clothes? If you have some items that need to air dry would it be helpful to add a hanging rod in the room? And before you finish make sure to clean out your dryer duct and the water lines for your washer to keep both machines working as efficiently as possible.

Keep Your Home Safe While You’re Away

Summer and vacations go hand in hand, but while you’re away traveling make sure that your house is safe during your absence. Before you leave set up a few helpful security measures. Use a motion detector or timer for your front porch light so that your home won’t look completely dark and deserted at night. A few timer set lights on the interior might also be a good idea. If you’re going to be away for more than a few days make sure you stop your mail and newspaper delivery. Nothing screams empty house more than a bunch of newspapers lying in the front yard. Let a trusted neighbor know about your plans so they can also keep an eye on your home and inform you of any emergency issues they might see.

General Maintenance

Safety devices like smoke and carbon monoxide detectors should be checked regularly. If it’s been a while then let this serve as your reminder. The last thing you want is to find out in the middle of an emergency that they are not working. Check the maintenance date on your fire extinguishers to make sure they are still up to date and replace or service any that have expired. Once the spring rains have moved on take some time to inspect and clean out your gutters. Your life will be significantly easier come fall when you only have to clear out the freshly fallen leaves and not several seasons worth of build up. Also make sure that all of your downspouts are properly draining water away from the house and that the water doesn’t pool anyway. Mosquito season is coming and pools of water can quickly turn into breeding grounds for those pesky bugs.

 

Find Ways to Conserve Water

Water can fast become a previous commodity in the summer given the heat and general lack of rain, and that makes summer an ideal time to adopt some water saving strategies. Inside the house look into replacing your faucets and shower heads with low flow models. Also be sure to make sure your faucets aren’t randomly dripping and toilets are running excessively. Outside the home keep an eye on your sprinklers to make sure they are positioned to actually water your landscaping and not the side walk and check that none of the heads are broken and have turned into geysers. Also check what the proper watering schedule is for your landscaping and don’t over water.

Schedule Some Downtime

Despite the longer days and lack of school for the kids, somehow summers still seem to fly by without as much downtime and relaxation as we might like. Don’t let this summer slip by. Instead, actively make sure that you set aside some time for a little R&R in whatever way works best for you and make sure your house is ready to help you achieve the rest and relaxation that you deserve. If you like to read then find a quiet area of your house and stock with a comfortable chair and good lighting. If time outside lounging by the pool is your thing then get a comfortable lounge chair or pool floatie and have some sunscreen well stocked and ready to go. Or maybe you’d like some quiet time to catch up on missed sleep, in which case some light blocking curtains and creating the comfiest of beds might be what you need.

The Importance of Light

It takes a lot to have a well designed and well-functioning home. If you’ve ever planned a large remodel then you know just how many little pieces there are to consider when designing a room. One thing that should not be ignored when it comes to home design is lighting. Lighting design can easily make or break a room. Poorly placed or not enough lights can leave your home feeling dark and unwelcoming. Too much light and you risk a room being too bright or wasting precious remodeling monies on unnecessary items. Keep reading to find out more about the various types of lighting that are part of room design so that you will be ready the next time you’re designing a remodel project.

Natural Light

When it comes to lighting, nothing can beat the original light source: natural light. There is nothing quite like letting the light pour in through a home’s windows on a sunny day. Unfortunately, natural light is the only type of light that is out of our control. If the sun has set or it’s a day filled with clouds and rain then there’s no way to appreciate and use natural light. But when it is present then you should take advantage of it as much as possible when it comes to lighting your home. This home pictured above features curved windows that take up most of the wall space. These large windows allow for a plethora of natural light to flood the room.

 

Large windows with limited coverings will allow that light to naturally flow into your home. Rooms that lack in natural light tend to feel smaller and more restricted. If you’re someone who really enjoys sunshine then a lack of natural light could also lead to a room feeling unpleasant and not a place you want to spend a lot of time in. And when it comes down to it, natural light is the most cost effective way to light your house, just as long as you’re already set up to take advantage of it.

Ambient Light

Ambient light, also known as general light, is the most basic of artificial light. Quite simply it is designed to provide general light for a room so that inhabitants can safely move around. The most common sources for ambient light are can lights, chandeliers, or pendant wall lights. The amount of ambient light needed will depend on the room itself, both its intended function and overall size and shape. A smaller room might be fine with just an overhead ceiling fan/light combination whereas a larger room with high ceilings or a weirdly shaped room might require an army of canned lights to provide adequate general lighting. The size of the open floor plan breakfast room and living room pictured above uses multiple sources of ambient light to provide adequate illumination including a large chandelier that overhangs the table, recessed can lights in the ceiling, and pendant wall lights.

Task Light

Like the name implies, task lighting is meant to help you better perform certain tasks. When designing task lighting for a space think about what activities will be taking place and the best way to provide extra light for those specific activities. The kitchen is a room that can most benefit from well placed task lighting. Undercabinet lights can provide extra light for tasks performed on the countertops, especially since upper cabinets can block ambient light from fully reaching all spots of the countertop. The above pictured kitchen features under cabinet lighting to provide extra working light for the countertops.

 

The bathroom is another area where task lighting can be particularly beneficial. Proper lighting for tasks like putting on makeup or shaving can make a big difference. Additional lighting in the shower can also be helpful as its often more enclosed nature can sometimes cause it to feel like a dark cavern. The bathroom pictured here features task lighting with the extra lights that overhang both vanity mirrors. The lights above the bathtub area another example of how task lighting is used in the bathroom to make the lives of its users easier. Not only will it help provide extra light when getting in and out of the tub, but it also helps the tub be the perfect place to take a relaxing bath while enjoying a good book.

 

Other areas of your home that could benefit from task lighting will depend on the design of the home and your specific needs. An at home office would likely benefit from additional lighting around work spaces, like the desk or bookcases. Additional lighting around cooking and eating areas in an outdoor kitchen could be quite handy as the main source of light in those areas, natural light, can’t be controlled. Trying to enjoy an evening barbeque when the sun has gone down will be quite difficult. If you’re an avid reader and find yourself always gravitating towards specific areas in the home when reading then adding some extra lamps in those spots. The wine room pictured to the right uses task lighting above the rows of wine to better illuminate the bottles’ labels and make them easier to read.

Accent Light

Accent light is the extra, the cherry on top, when it comes to lighting. Ambient and task lighting provide the necessary light, but accent lighting is where the fun gets to come in. This can range from specialty colored lights to a statement chandelier over the dining room table, from museum lights over wall hung artwork to string café lights. While this type of lighting can help fill in some small voids in the overall lighting of a room or even add some extra lighting in areas where it is most especially needed, it is not designed to be the primary source of light for a room or area. The purple lights in the kitchen pictured above is a perfect example of the impact of accent lighting. These lights to do not add a lot of extra lighting to the overall room but they help to give the space a fun and unique vibe.

 

The hallway pictured here uses overhead museum lights above the built in bookcase to better illuminate and highlight the homeowner’s extensive book collection. The extra lighting helps to the bookcase stand out as a design accent in the hallway.

When It All Comes Together…

Creating a well lit room requires using all four of these types of light in a way that will best complement the form and function of a room. That may sound easy in theory but putting it into practice takes intention and care. A properly lit room can make a huge difference in your quality of life and in how much you love your home. The dining room pictured above does a great job of combining sources of light. The large floor to ceiling windows allows for an abundance of natural light. Recessed canned lights in the ceiling provide ambient light while the two chandeliers overhanging the table provide extra task lighting for a key area of the room. Finally, lighting inside the upper level cabinets illuminate the dishware that doubles as decor on display inside.

               

How to Use Color in Your Home

How and where to use color in the home can be a tricky subject. Some people are natural lovers of all things color and are happy to bring it in everywhere that they can in their home. Other people prefer more muted designs and would balk at anything that was too much mustard yellow or sage green. Neutrals have tended to reign supreme, at least when it comes to the larger, more difficult to replace items in the home (think appliances, cabinets, flooring). But sometimes throwing in some color, even in small amounts, can add some unexpected drama and character to a room. When done right, color can set a room apart. Keep reading to get some ideas from a few of our previous projects on how to do color well in your home design.

 

This bedroom uses a bold, rich hue of purple on the walls to create a striking look. The use of color in this room gives it unique personality and a sense of fun. Combined with the decor, this room is truly one of a kind. Without the bold wall color this room would be just another bedroom with nothing super special or noteworthy (although the bust that hangs over the bed deserves its own accolades). Best of all for those who are more color wary is that paint isn’t too incredibly difficult or expensive to swap out when you’re ready for something different.

At first glance this modern styled kitchen doesn’t seem to feature any exciting colors and would seem the epitome of how to use neutral colors without it feeling stale and safe. But don’t let that fool you. With just the flick of a light switch this kitchen is transformed! When the purple lights are turned on this kitchen has a completely different look and feel. The shiny finishes throughout the room help to reflect the purple light and spread the color throughout.


This kitchen does not shy away from color. It incorporates various shades of blue throughout in the cabinets, countertops, and backsplash tile. Mixing the blue with white features helps the bolder color choice to not be too overwhelming. But interestingly, blue cabinets are currently newly trending as a hot item in design, so we like to think that these homeowners must’ve had a hint about the future when they designed their remodeled kitchen.

The only truly non neutral colored item in this bathroom is actually just the wallpaper. But its prevalent use throughout the room, the lack of any other non neutral colored items to compete with (save for the bright orange stool), and the shiny bathroom fixtures that reflect the color make this bathroom seem like it is just popping with color. The wallpaper features a more muted tone of green which helps contribute to a relaxing feel for the room, exactly what you would want in a master bathroom retreat.

 

The neutral brown tones from the wood and brick in this outdoor kitchen border the line of becoming too overwhelming. Luckily the homeowners choose a fun and colorful mosaic tile backsplash to help break things up. Green is the dominant color of the tile but it also features a mix of blue, yellow, tan, and brown tones. Most importantly though, the tile pairs well with the other source of non neutral color in the kitchen, the Big Green Egg.

When it comes to home design, most conventional advice will tell you there are certain items where non neutral colors should not be used. These are typically the big ticket items that will either cost you a lot of money to change out or decrease the resale value of your home because future owners will have to pay to change it. Large appliances are an item that fall into this category. But sometimes the risk is worth it if you find a truly remarkable piece. Take this retro refrigerator in avocado green. It feels right at home in this country rustic styled outdoor kitchen and is a worthy exception to the rule of always getting appliances in neutral colors.

 

This living room does not shy away from its use of the dark, saturated blue that is seen throughout. From the walls to the furniture to the decor, blue is very prevalent. While some homeowners might mix in non neutral colors in smaller ways, this living room shows that large doses can work as well when you’re willing to truly commit to it. The blue helps contribute to the high end and luxurious feel of the room without being too heavy handed.

2019 Spring Home Maintenance Guide

Have you felt a change in the air as the winter cold moves away and warmer weather of spring begins to take its place? If not then hopefully you will soon be able to enjoy the more temperate temperatures that are coming. Because yesterday marked the first official day of spring and that means it’s a great time to add some around the house tasks to your to do list. Keep reading for some ideas on what to include.

 

Prep Outdoor Living

It’s time to get the outdoor living areas of your home ready for use. Pick an upcoming weekend when the weather will be nice and spend some time outdoors getting things ready. Give your outdoor furniture and cooking equipment a good washing and visual inspection. Look into replacing any items showing signs of wear and tear now before the stores get picked over later in the season or something breaks when you’re in the middle of using it. Dewinterize outdoor plumbing once the temperatures stay above freezing. Another good idea to consider as you’re prepping your outdoor living areas is mosquito management. Look around for areas where water collects and doesn’t drain well (which could become mosquito breeding grounds). If you plan on spending a fair amount of time outdoors in the coming months then consider having more permanent pest retardants.

 

Update Bedrooms

When it comes to home remodeling, rooms like the kitchen and bathroom tend to get a lot of attention Unfortunately, they can also be quite pricey and intensive.  If you’re looking for a smaller way to update your home consider giving some love and attention to your bedrooms. Fresh paint, new linens, new flooring, or even rearrangement of the furniture are smaller updates that can still make a big difference. The transition from colder to warmer weather is a great time to lighten things up. Plus, warmer weather naturally means you won’t need as many layers to be comfortable. And if you’re looking for more substantial updates consider a fireplace or built in coffee bar to the master bedroom.


Make Small Touch Ups Around the House

Do you have a list piling up of little maintenance things that need to be done around the house that keep getting put off? Perhaps you’ve got walls in need of some paint touch up, or its been a bit too long since you’ve replaced the HVAC air filter, or maybe that squeaky hinge could really use some WD-40. Spring is a great time to take care of those normal wear and tear items that come with owning a house, but it can seem like a daunting endeavor as the list of tasks start to add up so focus on making it as manageable as possible. Walk around your house and make a list of all these little things that need to be done. Then make sure you’ve got the supplies on hand to get them all taken care of. Once everything is ready to go take a day or a weekend to get it all done.

 

Window Maintenance

Windows are an incredibly important part of the home and as such require a certain amount of care and concern. Take some time to inspect all of your windows to make sure the glass, frames, and open/close mechanisms are not broken. Replace caulk if you notice it missing or if it has deteriorated. If your windows are older then this might be a good time to consider replacing them with more energy efficient windows. This will help your home better manage the heat to come. Finally, give your windows a good clean, both inside and outside. The longer days of sun will be much more enjoyable if you can admire them through clear windows

 

Deep Spring Cleaning

Spring cleaning, no matter how much you may not like it, is something that is not going away anytime soon. And while the idea of devoting a fair amount of time cleaning your house may not fill you with joy, the benefits of a good spring cleaning can make the effort worthwhile. You likely already follow some home cleaning schedule throughout the year to keep up with the normal mess that accompanies life. So this spring focus on doing the sort of deep cleaning that doesn’t get done on quite a regular basis. Good rooms to focus on include the kitchen, bathrooms, and closets. Get to those hard to reach or easily forgotten areas. Get rid of or donate anything that you don’t need or use anymore.

 

Make A Bad Weather Safety Plan

Here in the DFW area we know that spring brings with it tumultuous storms that can include anything from a downpour of rain, strong winds, hail, and even tornados. As much as we would like to hope that our home will be spared from any associated destruction, it’s good to have a plan in place so that you will be safe and not left scrambling when bad weather hits. Designate a safe room in your house, ideally an interior room without windows or a bathroom with a tub that can be sheltered in, and stock it with a few emergency supplies.

 


Find Ways to Save Energy

Winter and summer can be tough on your electric bill thanks to all that heating and A/C usage. The milder temperatures of spring will hopefully help you to naturally save on that bill. But there are some ways you can more actively help save energy both in spring and throughout the year. First, when the weather allows try to avoid running your heater or A/C. Open windows and use ceiling fans to help keep the air in your house cooler. Maintain your HVAC system so that it is running as efficiently as possible. Adding solar screens to your windows can help reduce heat transfer through your windows. A few other small things you can do to help save energy? Replace light bulbs with energy efficient bulbs, add extra insulation in the attic, and be sure that any new appliances you purchase are rated for energy efficiency.

Project Spotlight: Small Changes in Kitchen Provide Large Transformation

When it comes to remodeling it’s often the big changes that inspire the most awe. It’s hard to not say “wow” when an old, dated space that looks like it hasn’t been touched in decades is completely transformed to become sleek and modern. But a remodel doesn’t always have to involve such massive changes to make a strong impact. Sometimes it’s the little things that can make a big difference. This North Dallas kitchen is proof that an effective remodel doesn’t have to change much to completely update the look and feel of a room. A few strategic changes packed a powerful punch in this remodel.

In approaching the remodel, the homeowner didn’t want to change much in the kitchen. The existing cabinets and appliances were in good condition and fit well with the homeowner’s needs and design style. Further, the homeowner had also taken great care to over time update her appliances to the ones that she wanted rather than having to shoulder the burden of replacing them all in one go, a great way to lessen the cost burden often associated with replacing those big-ticket items. With these two big parts of the kitchen in good shape the homeowner instead decided to focus on three other areas of the kitchen: the backsplash, the countertops, and the elevated peninsula.

The old tile backsplash wasn’t horribly dated or out of place, but it had a very traditional feel to it and lacked a modern edge that the homeowner desired. A mosaic metallic tile was chosen as the replacement. Remarkably, the relatively small change completely transformed the vibe of the room. The tile gives the kitchen a uniqueness that was missing and is easily the standout feature of the room. The stainless steel finish matches well with the stainless steel appliances so it doesn’t feel out of place in the design of the room. It is also a great complement to the metallic strips that are used to hold knives and kitchen utensils throughout the room. In fact, we’d be willing to bet that if someone didn’t know the metallic strips existed they just might think the utensils were magically adhering themselves to the backsplash.

The homeowner also wanted to adjust the peninsula cabinets. The outer facing portion of the peninsula had an elevated bar cabinet that was too small to be practical for the homeowner. So rather than waste valuable countertop space the elevated section of the cabinets was lowered to match the countertop height throughout the rest of the kitchen. This created additional work space around the sink and helped to more seamlessly tie the kitchen into an open floor plan design with the adjacent living room area. The height change did necessitate that the countertops be replaced. New quartz countertops were installed throughout the room. The lighter color of the material helps them to not distract from the standout backsplash tile.

With just a handful of changes this homeowner was able to completely transform the look and feel of the kitchen. While remodels are often seen as a costly endeavor, making smaller changes provides a solution that is still transformative but also cost effective. So, if cost is what is holding you back from beginning a remodel take a page out of this homeowner’s book and look for ways to make smaller yet powerful changes to your home instead.