Sunday, January 24, 2010

Remodeling Your Home in a Not So Big Way

There are three options for remodeling your home in a Not So Big Way.

1. Work within the existing footprint. When people think about remodeling, they often begin in the wrong place. They immediately assume they have to add on and that it will cost more than they can afford. But there are literally thousands of small alterations you can make to your house as it is, without having to change the original footprint. Removing or opening up a wall, adding storage, or rearranging the way you move through a room can solve all sorts of spatial problems without resorting to added square footage.

2. Bump-out. If you’ve considered every possible change within the existing structure and can’t accommodate your needs, consider a bump-out or two. Any time you alter your home’s exterior envelope, you’re likely looking at a bigger investment of remodeling dollars. This is because the exterior surface is the weather barrier—the home’s raincoat—and it consists of an intricate combination of components that usually make it significantly more challenging to remodel than an interior space. But extending a space just a couple of feet can make a big difference to a room’s utility and aesthetics, so it is important to understand where a minimal modification to the existing footprint is worthwhile.

3. Add on just a little. This is the last step in a Not So Big remodel, and yet it, too, is often overlooked as an option by people planning to modify their houses to fit them better. It is a solution that inevitably costs more money because it involves increasing square footage. But when it is accomplished in a Not So Big way, a small addition can be a cost-effective strategy when compared with the alternatives—a substantial addition, moving or building new.
The concept of proportion—the harmonious relation of parts to each other or to the whole—is one we’ve all but forgotten in much of what we build, eat and otherwise consume these days. When it comes to houses, start with the proportions of your own body. If you are 6 feet tall or more, you’ll likely want different dimensions for the spaces you inhabit than will someone who is 5 feet tall. That is as it should be. Houses that feel comfortable to a shorter person may feel cramped to a taller individual, and vice versa. The point is that your house should first and foremost fit you and the other members of your household.

House feels too big?
A few simple strategies can help cure your home of a case of Too Bigness.

1. Create a hierarchy of ceiling heights. A ceiling height hierarchy simply means that different areas of your home have lower or higher ceilings based on their functions. On the interior of a Too Big House, the first step should be to identify areas that would benefit from a lower ceiling. Although it is often difficult for homeowners to believe that less volume will mean more comfort, a ceiling height hierarchy can completely transform the home’s interior if done well.

Here’s a list of things I’ll typically do to improve the ceiling height hierarchy:
■ Create a distinction in ceiling height between the main gathering places and hallways and alcoves; the larger spaces should have the taller ceilings, and the subordinate spaces should have lower ceilings.
■ Consider establishing a third, in-between ceiling height for spaces such as kitchens, informal eating areas and small alcoves. Alternatively, use the same ceiling height in these spaces as you would use in the hallways.
■ Consider running a dropped soffit around the perimeter of the main gathering places. I will often make this continuous soffit the same height as either the middle ceiling height described above or the height of the hallways.

2. Include some more intimate spaces. If your house is too big in its horizontal dimensions, look for places that would benefit from some downsizing. With space to spare, you can actually increase the thickness of some existing walls in order to sculpt new rooms and alcoves within the existing space.
We usually build our interior walls out of 2-by-4s, so the finished wall is around 4 inches deep. It is economical to do this because we typically want to maximize space. But if space is not an issue, your walls can be any thickness you want, and they can define a differently shaped space on one side than they do on the other. You can give each new place its own unique form and character, making some cozy and intimate.

3. Make the exterior less monumental. Many large houses have little or no grace to their exterior composition. Their various surfaces are a random assemblage of windows, doorways, vinyl, and brick or stone veneer, sometimes with a couple of Palladian windows and some extra-tall columns thrown in on the front fa├žade.

Step into sustainability with these great home-improvement products....
If this is your challenge, you’d be well advised to hire a professional to help you. The remedy will take someone with a practiced eye for composition to help manifest your home’s true potential. The art of it usually requires some paring away of the unnecessary, some reorganization of the surface components and some newly introduced design elements to help break up the massive surfaces into more bite-sized pieces.

Green is beautiful
When you do a remodel of any size, you have the opportunity to make your house more healthy, affordable and earth-friendly by increasing its energy efficiency and choosing sustainable materials. You should also focus on creating a beautiful, inviting space. “green” refers not only to sustainable construction materials and the energy efficiency, indoor air quality and durability of the structure, but also to the appropriateness of its size and its innate beauty. Not So Big should be the first step in sustainability because, when a house is the right size for its inhabitants, beautifully designed and crafted for everyday inspiration, it’s efficiently performing its current function and is also likely to be cared for by future residents. Beautiful things tend to be well cared for by all owners over time. But somehow this simple and rather obvious truth has been overlooked in much of modern construction.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Earth Hour 2010

On Saturday, March 27, 2010, at 8:30 pm, we are taking part in Earth Hour—an event sponsored by World Wildlife Fund in which millions of people around the world will turn out their lights for one hour to make a bold statement of concern about our planet and climate change.

Earth Hour started three years ago in Sydney, Australia and is now the largest event of its kind in the world. Nearly one billion people from 4,100 cities in 87 countries on seven continents participated last year and, with your help, Earth Hour 2010 can be even bigger.

During Earth Hour, international landmarks including the Golden Gate Bridge, Empire State Building, Eiffel Tower and Great Pyramids have gone dark alongside the city skylines of Las Vegas, Hong Kong, Tel Aviv and more.

But Earth Hour isn’t just for big cities—anyone can participate. I hope you will join us for this amazing event and help send a message that the time for action on climate change is now. To sign up and start spreading the word, visit www.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

The Importance of Resilience

By Chris Stanton
The Remodeler's Advisor Newsletter

The Importance of Resilience We live in a time of accelerating change full of hope and great opportunity. But it's also obvious that we also face significant challenges - personal, social and global. This newsletter primarily focuses on the business of building and remodeling but none of us check our souls at the office door. We have families, we listen to the news, we get flipped off on the way to work. Some of us have even surrendered to the 24/7 electronic dashboard that keeps us running adrenaline way beyond formerly sane levels.

Stress is one of the primary byproducts of a lifestyle inundated with change and stimuli. And while stress in and of itself is not necessarily bad, there is a plethora of evidence that too much stress and/or poorly managed stress are leading causes of illness, accelerated aging, irritation, distractedness and excess wear and tear. No earth-shattering news here. But how we respond to stress and the constant roar of change is critical.

One key to adapting more quickly when too much stress is occurring is learning how to increase and maintain your resilience - the ability to withstand or recover quickly from difficult conditions. Resilience gives you the power to prepare yourself in advance of a potentially stressful event. It also gives you the power to reset your system and to recoup or bounce back faster when experiencing unexpected challenges. Resilient individuals have the sustained capacity to create an energetic cushion that helps reduce the stressful effects of overload, time demands and resistances more effectively. Building a reservoir of resilience is also essential if we want to effectively serve others and make valuable contributions towards creating a new and better world. A portion of my coaching always focuses on building this capacity. But the solutions are also simple (with a caveat) and readily available. Love and care and appreciation and kindness and compassion and laughter and meditation and breathing and exercise and resting and being in nature all work great. Simply stopping for a moment to catch oneself in an internal rant and gently shifting your energy to a more positive (heart) space does too. The world is not going to slow down. In fact, I suspect it's actually speeding up right now. People won't need you less. In fact, most evidence points to accelerating stress across the planet.

So why not start increasing your effectiveness and health by taking better CARE of yourself? Here's the caveat: because it's so damn hard to remember to stop long enough to remember to stop-for a minute or so, a few times a day-and escape the "tyranny of the immediate", all those "have-to's" and never-ending "to-do lists". Learn this one habit and change your life-radically!!!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Banned From Your Can

Did You Know?
Did you know that batteries, compact fluorescent light bulbs(CFLs)and fluorescent light tubes are banned from being thrown in your garbage can?
Banned From Your Can
City Implements Door-to-Door Collection of Batteries and Light Bulbs
Many of us don't even think about throwing our old batteries and compact fluorescent light bulbs in the garbage cans. But since 2006, these items, along with fluorescent light tubes have been banned from garbage cans by the state of California.

Realizing that residents often don't have any quick and easy options for disposal of these items, the City of Sacramento Department of Utilities is implementing a new residential door-to-door collection of these items by appointment.

Participating is easy! First, collect batteries, compact fluorescent light bulbs and fluorescent light tubes. Then call the City of Sacramento Department of Utilities at 808-5454 to schedule an appointment. On your appointment day, place the items out for collection. Please put batteries in a closeable freezer bag, put light bulbs in a container and wrap the light tubes to prevent breaking. Place the items on your driveway, away from the street and curb and City crews will collect it.

For more information about proper disposal of household hazardous waste, recycling, green waste or solid waste services, please visit or call 808-5454.