Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Bathroom Trends









Glass Tile:
Recycled glass can give the look of your bath being under water





Subway Tile:  Subway tile is still very trendy. This classic tile works well with many vintage style homes











Bold Colors:  Colors like this adds drama and can make a small space unique











Multi-Head Showers: Hard to believe that in our drought situation...these are still in demand. Luxuroius yes!








Radiant Heat: In floor heating is a wonderful addition.  It can be more cost effective than most heating methods and certainly feels great on a cold Winter morning!










Framed Mirrors: A great look for little money and effort!














Steam Showers: Good for you and turns your bath in to a spa















Decorative Lighting: bringing glamorous, unexpected lighting in to your bathroom can change the entire feel of a bathroom













Remote Controled TV, Music, Windows:  My favorite!  Remote controlled music and TV add ease and make the bath  just a little more fun!









Wall Fireplace

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Home Energy Hogs

Cutting down on energy use is a huge part of going green, but sometimes even our best efforts to be eco-friendly at home can come up short. So if you’ve updated your house but still can’t seem to bring down those sky-high utility bills, try looking out for these sneaky energy hogs that may be driving up your home energy needs.
 
Energy vampires
Shutting down your TV or computer may seem like a guaranteed way to decrease your energy bill, but did you know that many appliances continue to use energy even after you’ve turned them off? Sometimes called “energy vampires,” these appliances, including printers, DVD players, and computers, will continue to suck up energy even when you’re not using them in order to power features like LED displays, cooling equipment, or wireless sensors. Battery packs and cell phone chargers are especially bad and will continue to pull power even when your devices are disconnected - this type of stand-by power accounts for 5% of all residential energy!
How to fix it:
The easiest way to make sure your appliances aren’t using up energy is simply to unplug them. If you want to go a little more high-tech, though, look for a power strip that will sense when your electronics are not in use and cut off any remaining power supply. If you’re not sure which appliances in your home are energy vampires, you can use a kilowatt hour meter to measure how much energy your appliances are using when turned off.
 
Inefficient appliances
Old or poorly maintained appliances can be a huge power drain – for example, older refrigerators can use upwards of 1,400 kWh a year, while newer, Energy Star certified models will use only a third of that. And those wasted energy numbers can climb even higher when you have problems like poor insulation and dirty coils or if you’re using your appliances inefficiently. Running half-empty dishwashers, setting your thermostat too high or low, and doing laundry in hot water can make even the most modern appliances guzzle up electricity.
How to fix it:
Think about replacing old, worn out appliances with new, more efficient models (often the savings on your utility bill can often make up for the cost of a new air conditioner or washer), and do regular maintenance to make sure all your appliances are running as well as they should be. Also work on adjusting your own habits to maximize efficiency: small changes like being conservative with thermostat, water heater, and fridge temperature controls, washing your clothes in cold water, and keeping that freezer door closed will make a big difference.
 
Aquariums
Whether you want to teach kids about pet ownership or just love to watch the gentle back and forth of your favorite goldfish, fish can make great, low-maintenance pets. But what is that bubbling aquarium actually costing you to run? A lot of us focus on large appliances like air conditioners and washing machines when we want to tighten up our utility bills, but small appliances like aquariums can also be an energy drain. A typical 120 liter tank with lighting, heating, and aeration can cost up to $50 a year, and if you have several tanks or an inefficient system those costs can shoot up quickly – in fact, two 120 liter saltwater tanks can use as much energy as your refrigerator!
How to fix it:
The most important way to keep your aquarium energy use down is to make sure your system is running as efficiently as possible. Keep your tank in a warm area of the house, insulate the bottom and back of the tank to cut down on the need for heating, and select the smallest wattage heater and pump you need for the size of your tank. Also make sure you’re using a high-efficiency fluorescent bulb.
 
Cable boxes and DVRs
Although they don’t draw as much power as larger appliances, the energy cost of cable boxes and DVRs can add up quickly because they are usually on 24 hours a day. In a 2010 study, the National Resources Defense Council found that the combination of a cable box and DVR actually used as much energy as a high-efficiency refrigerator in many homes, and up to 2/3 of that energy is used when the TV isn’t even on!
How to fix it:
It can be a hassle to turn these devices on and off, but you can save energy by shutting off your DVR when you’re not recording or watching TV. Also ask your cable company about replacing your cable box with newer, more efficient models that include low-power sleep states and the option for smaller, multi-room units.
 
Bad habits
No matter how green you make your home, if you keep up your bad habits you won’t see those utility bills go down. Even the most efficient appliances will continue to suck up energy if used incorrectly, which means changing your daily routine is a necessary part of cutting down your energy use.
How to fix it:
The little things you do at home every day can dramatically reduce your energy bill. Start by dialing back your thermostat, water heater, and refrigerator—turning down the furnace by just 1° can save you 1-3% on your heating bill. Simple changes like turning off the lights when you leave the room and keeping the fridge door closed will also help. Lastly, make sure you’re using your appliances as efficiently as possible; for example, try to only run washers when they’re full and skip the extra dry cycles.
This post was posted in Blog and Green LibrarySave Energy and was tagged with Eco Home ImprovementENERGY EFFICIENT

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

10 Tax Write-Offs You Aren't Using To your Advantage

You already know that you’re legally obligated to pay your taxes, but that doesn’t mean you should pay more than you owe.
Each year, American taxpayers leave money on the table by missing some key deductions. Run through these commonly overlooked write-offs to see if there are any you should be taking. It might just mean more money in your pocket this year.

1. Education

When it comes to education, you may be able to deduct up to $4,000 for tuition-related expenses for you, your spouse or a dependent. You also may be able to deduct up to $2,500 in interest paid on a student loan in 2013.
In addition to these deductions (which lower your overall taxable income), there are also two relevant credits that could save you thousands: the American Opportunity Tax Credit and Lifetime Learning Credit. IRS Pub 970 covers all the details.

2. The Job Hunt

If you were looking for a job in 2013, you may be able to deduct your job-search expenses — and that’s true whether or not you actually found a new job. Expenses can include employment agency fees, costs for printing and mailing resumes, advertising, and travel expenses for interviews.
But the caveats include:
  • Your job search must be for a position in the same line of work
  • You can’t deduct expenses if it’s your first job
  • These expenses are part of your “miscellaneous deductions,” which need to exceed 2% of your adjusted gross income to qualify
Refer to IRS Pub 529 for more details on all of this.

3. Home Ownership







If you bought or owned a home in 2013, you’re probably already aware that you can include your mortgage interest in your itemized deductions. But there are other tax deductions related to home ownership that can add up as well.
You can deduct what you pay in property taxes, interest paid on a home equity loan, any points you paid when you bought your home, premiums paid for Private Mortgage Insurance, and potentially any home improvements made for medical care.

4. Health Costs

Did you have a lot of medical and dental expenses last year? If your medical expenses exceeded 10% of your adjusted gross income for 2013, you can claim a deduction with your itemized deductions. Potential deductible expenses include preventative care, surgeries, doctor’s visits, fertility treatments, psychologist and psychiatrist visits, prescription medication, glasses, contact lenses and even the cost of travel for medical care.
Generally speaking, you cannot deduct non-prescription drugs, your health club dues or anything that was reimbursed by insurance. You also cannot include your health insurance premiums (although self-employed people can deduct their health insurance costs separately). IRS Publication 502 gives the details on itemizing medical expenses.

5. Charitable Donations

If you’re itemizing your deductions on Schedule A, any charitable donations can help lower your tax bill. This includes any cash donations you made throughout 2013 — don’t forget any text message donations (note: Your cell phone bill is a sufficient record as long as it shows who you sent money to, when and for how much).
If you cleaned out your closet and donated items (clothes, furniture, etc.) to Goodwill or another charity, you can deduct the value of these items. Get a receipt in case you’re audited. In addition, if you volunteer for a qualified organization, you can’t deduct the value of your time, but you can deduct travel expenses for getting there (14 cents per mile). Refer to IRS Pub 526 for more details on what can and can’t be deducted.

6. Moving for Your Job






If you landed a new job and moved in 2013, congratulations — your moving expenses may be deductible. And the good news is that you can take this write-off even if you don’t itemize your deductions. Check out IRS Pub 521 to see if you qualify.
In general, your new job location must be at least 50 miles away from your home (or 50 miles farther from your old home than your previous job was from your old home).

7. Energy Efficiency Upgrades

If you made your home more energy efficient last year, you may qualify for a tax credit. For example, you may be able to claim a credit of 10% of the cost for qualified energy efficient insulation, windows, doors and roof for your home, as well as 30% of the cost for installing alternative energy equipment in your home (such as solar hot water heaters or wind turbines).
These credits are both claimed on IRS Form 5695. In addition, for 2013, the purchase of plug-in hybrid-electric and electric vehicles may qualify for a tax credit.

8. Self-Employment Expenses

If you’re self-employed (whether it’s your full-time job or a part-time gig), you’ve got a grab bag of deductions to pull from. You can deduct expenses from your home office (including pro-rated rent/mortgage, energy bill and insurance for that part of the house).
Don’t forget whichever conferences you attended in 2013, or the books, subscriptions, technology and office supplies you purchased to keep your business going. In addition, you can deduct your health insurance, as well as 50% of your self-employment tax. Visit the IRS’ self-employed tax center to learn more.

9. Children











If you welcomed a new baby in 2013, you are eligible for new tax deductions -– including another exemption (which represents a $3,900 deduction for 2013). Parents that meet certain income requirements can qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit as well as the Child Tax Credit. You may also be able to claim the Child Care Tax Credit for qualified child care costs for any care provided so you could work or look for work.

10. Parents as Dependents

Most people know to claim children as dependents, but fewer are aware that if they cared for an elderly parent, that parent may qualify as a dependent. The same applies to other relatives such as uncles, aunts, grandparents, nieces, nephews, etc. (note that certain relatives do not have to live with you to be considered a dependent).
To claim a dependent on your tax return, you have to meet certain criteria, including that the dependent’s income can’t exceed $3,900 for 2013 and you need to have provided at least half the support for that person. Check out IRS Pub 501 for more details.
Keep in mind that this is all general information to put these valuable deductions on your radar. You’ll still need to research the relevant IRS documents or check with your tax advisor to make sure you qualify for a particular credit or deduction.
Nellie Akalp is the CEO of CorpNet.com, an online legal document filing service

Monday, February 10, 2014

Door Colors Gone Wild

Raucous Orange, Quixotic Plum, and Relic Bronze are some of the bold colors that color-trend forecaster Kate Smith predicts will be most popular on residential door exteriors in 2014.
Smith, president of Sensational Color, sees two trends influencing these colors. “People [are] painting their doors with exuberant hues as a way of telling the world they’re tired of spinning their wheels in place,” she says. “These people are ready to move forward, embrace challenges and show their energy through vibrant colors like Capri blue and Dynamo raspberry.”
Second, some people are looking for colors that are vibrant yet at the same time connect them to a sense of community and culture. “These simpler colors, like Classic French Grey and Polished Mahogany, give us comfort, warmth and reliability.”
Among the top 10 door colors Smith has identified for 2014, the top five that match up with the “exuberant homeowner” trend include:
·      Capri, a tropical blue that wakes up natural woods and neutral surroundings.
·      Raucous Orange, which demands attention with its energetic orange tone and makes the perfect punctuation point for the front of the home with a modern look.
·      Dynamo, a flirty violet hue that instantly updates a traditional color scheme.
·      Relic Bronze, a deep, almost brown mustard color that reflects a home’s aged beauty.
·      Quixotic Plum, a sophisticated deep purple that is both timeless and trendy.
The remaining five door colors follow the “community and culture” trend:
·      Georgian Bay, a step-above reserved blue that’s brighter and more moving than dark navy.
·      Show Stopper, a slight spin on traditional red that adds a touch of mystery.
·      Polished Mahogany, a deep, rich shade of brown with a staying power that traverses trends and captures a solid feeling.
·      Classic French Grey, a cool, neutral gray that Smith says will continue to rule the palette in 2014. 
·      Gulfstream, a bright, modern blue with an of-the-moment appeal that at the same time feels rooted in something familiar and nostalgic.
Click here to download a free copy of Smith’s e-book offering color guidance for Ranch, Colonial, Bungalow, Victorian, Spanish Mission, European and New American-style homes. 

Susan Bady -Senior Contributing Editor.  Professional Builder

Monday, February 3, 2014

Design Bloggers Predict What Trends Will Be Hot in 2014

Design Bloggers Predict What Trends Will Be Hot in 2014

Top design bloggers share their picks for the New Year.

By Sarah Bray

Interchangeable Accents
"I think we'll see a trend towards chameleon decor. Instead of settling on one fixed look, people will opt for a versatile neutral base and use big-impact accents to easily change their decor." — Arianna Vargas, ariannabelle.com
Ushering in Glamour
"Move over white walls, in 2014 we'll be seeing rooms with a lot more drama and glamour. Dark, moody walls in black will be the perfect backdrop to the metallic accessories that we're all loving right now." — Jeanine Hays, aphrochic.com
Vintage Wonders
"Thanks to social media, the lifespan of a trend has been cut in half. We're all a little overexposed. I think vintage and one-of-a-kind pieces will be highly sought after. It's the curiosities that make a house a home and keep your guests asking: "Where did you get that?" — Lindsay Souza, thepursuitofstyle.com

Say Bye to Beige

"Of course I hopefully predict that color will be the trend story every year in hopes of banishing the boring beige box, but this year it really could happen!" — Christian May, maison21.com
Blossoming Prints
"Florals and Chintz: These tried-and-true fabrics are popping up everywhere in fashion and decor. Mix them with other graphic patterns for a modern look." — Stacey Bewkes, quintessenceblog.com
Metal Mash-Up
"Mixing and matching metallics, such as silver and gold." — Devon Dyer, devonrachel.com
A Need for Navy
"Navy blue will be a big trend for 2014. I'm seeing a lot of the shade on the runways, on the streets, in editorials, in chic interiors... I actually think everyone will get it in 2014." — Mark D. Sikes, markdsikes.com

Timeless Design

"A return to tradition. After the long-standing trend of modern and eclectic decor, more people will want to feel comfortable and at ease by returning to traditional styles." — Erin Gates, elementsofstyleblog.com

Innovative Combinations

"Lots and lots of layering: both materials and textures. We love the look of mixing different metals, woods, and fabrics!" — Jennifer Beek and Georgie Hambright, jandgdesign.com
A Bevy of Blues
"From rich, saturated colors like navy and indigo to bright, vibrant shades like peacock blue and cobalt, blue will continue to reign supreme in the coming year." — Paloma Contreras, ladolcevitablog.com

A Softer Black and White

"Black and white is a classic home decor palette, but for 2014 I see it softening and feeling more cozy. In the cooler months think Scandinavian chic, while in the summer months think French striped shirts." — Joanna Hawley, jojotastic.com




































Tuesday, January 28, 2014

100 Under $100 for Your Home

100 Under $100 for Your Home from SHOPSTYLE by Pop Sugar






8 Kitchen Counter Options That Will Make You Forget Granite

AUTHOR: for Zillow Blog

Granite is great. No one is denying that.
Its use in residential applications has skyrocketed in recent years. A 2012 survey conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of The Marble Institute, found that 75 percent of homeowners who intend to remodel their kitchens in the next two years indicated they want granite countertops.
Granite’s durability, longevity and good looks make it ideal for kitchen countertops and other heavily used surfaces, including table tops and floors. Still, it’s expensive (typically $60 to $100 per square foot installed), it’s extraordinarily heavy (requiring reinforcement of base cabinets) and requires considerable upkeep.
Beyond granite, there are a multitude of countertop options available and their number just increases over time. If you’re in the market for a kitchen makeover, you may find one of these great, non-granite surfaces is just what you need:

Carrara marble

Marble is softer than granite, which means it stains and scratches. “But it creates its own patina when it does that,” says Alan Zielinski, immediate past president of the National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA) and president and CEO of Better Kitchens Inc. in north-suburban Chicago. “That aging process gives the marble a nice, warm look. That warmth appeals to some people – if you’re not one of them, you probably should avoid marble.”


Wood

Wood countertops are enjoying a resurgence in popularity, largely due to their durability and style. Adding a wood top to an island, while using a contrasting material for perimeter counters is a great way to add interest to the kitchen.
Butcher block is the most common type of wood countertop, but slabs can be crafted from a variety of woods, ranging from cherry and bamboo to zebra wood and iroko. Wear will give wood counters a charming patina, but you’ll need to periodically oil them to prevent drying.

Soapstone

Soapstone is a smooth, matte natural stone that comes in a hues ranging from soft grey to charcoal. It is one of the only natural surfaces that is not affected by acids, so spilled coffee or orange juice won’t leave a stain. Soapstone is also heat resistant.
No special cleaners are needed to keep soapstone clean but mineral oils can be used to enhance the stone’s natural beauty.


Engineered quartz
Although some quartz countertops are actually made of quarried slabs of stone, the new engineered material is created through a manufacturing process that mixes approximately 95 percent ground natural quartz with 5 percent polymer resins. The result is a super-hard, low-maintenance, natural looking countertop that’s available in a wide range of colors.
“Because quartz is a composite material, it brings with it both the practicality of natural stone and the consistency of a manufactured product,” says Zielinski. “It’s resistant to scratching, but it can be scratched and it’s resistant to heat, but you don’t want to set a hot frying pan on it.”




Concrete

New colorizing and stain techniques have made concrete counters more popular than ever. Skilled craftsmen can create beautiful concrete countertops in any color, shape and size. Embedded stones, tile or even silicone chips can be added to the mix to create a piece of art. The result is a beautiful counter that’s durable as well as scratch- and heat resistant.
The counters, which can be extremely heavy, are susceptible to damage from acidic liquids and must be sealed and regularly maintained to resist stains.

Glass

Glass countertops can endure high heat without cracking or scorching, they won’t stain and they’re non-porous, which makes them very hygienic. “I really like glass because it’s so versatile,” says Zielinkski. “You can laminate three pieces together and use a crackled surface or other art layer between the top and bottom. They can be painted on the back, or lit. They’re very high-end and very versatile.”
Glass counter tops are typically three-quarters to one-and-a-quarter inches thick. Glass is tempered;  polished square edge finishing or edge banding is generally recommended. Under-mount sinks are not recommended due to the transparent nature of glass.

Stainless steel

Stainless steel countertops can be found in any style of kitchen, from contemporary to traditional, because they complement many of today’s appliances. Stainless steel is stain- and heat-resistant but it can be scratched or dented. Of course, steel isn’t the only metal countertop material on the market. You might also consider copper, pewter or zinc.



Solid surfaces

Solid-surface countertops can look like natural stone but they’re generally less expensive and require less maintenance.
“Another big advantage,” says Zielinski, “is that solid surface counters can be created with virtually no seams. That can be a plus not only in terms of appearance, but it also makes cleaning much easier.”  These counters are heat- and moisture-resistant and easy to clean. They can, however, be scorched and scratched.