Fastest Remodels that Make the Most Impact

Here are a few big-picture renovations you can make in surprisingly little time, whether you do it yourself or hire help.

Guest Post by Lauren White 

Remodeling projects can seem like a distant fantasy when days off are usually consumed by errands and chores. What can you accomplish with the slim hours you have to spare? Here are a few big-picture renovations you can make in surprisingly little time, whether you do it yourself or hire help.

Instant Patio

Time: 4-6 hours
Budget: $3,000

Outdoor spaces are deceptively quick and affordable to make. If you have a half-day to spare, you can turn a patch of yard into a gorgeous patio before sundown. The process will involve digging and leveling the area you need, preparing a base for proper drainage and laying your stones. Once the project is complete, you will have a relaxing outdoor living space to enjoy.

Keep your time down by choosing pavers or bricks that don’t need to be cut. Interlocking patio pavers come in many variations and they eliminate the dilemma of fitting awkward pieces together.

One-Day Backsplash

Time: 2-8 hours
Budget: $30-$600

It only takes a few hours to install a new kitchen backsplash, but it could take less time depending on the material you choose. If you paint the backsplash, it will take mere hours of preparation and application. Painting costs as little as $30. If you use peel-and-stick ceramic tiles or rolls of faux metal, it will take roughly the same amount of time.

If you have more than a few hours, make a stand-out backsplash using an adhesive tile mat and individual tiles. The adhesive mat will ensure that heavy tile materials don’t fall off, and requires less curing time than traditional, wet adhesive. Explore your tile options in HomeAdvisor’s resource center.

Weekend Window Replacement

Time: 2-3 days
Budget: $5,000

High-efficiency windows are a strong investment, whether you are planning to sell or stay. These windows save homeowners anywhere from 10% to 30% in home energy costs. Efficiency is a top priority for today’s buyers, and this project has over 70% return on investment.

Removing old windows, installing heavy panes and finishing up with framing is a complex process. Professionals can do it in a matter of days, where it might take you much longer. Hiring a pro is worth it, because this renovation will put money back in your pocket when it is done right.

72-Hour Countertops

Time: 1-3 days
Budget: $3,000

In most cases, you’ll want to hire a professional to replace your countertops. Installation and cutting needs to be very precise, and most counter slabs weigh up to and over 400 lbs! With the right amount of muscle, you can finish this job in 1-3 days. Some materials and pre-fabricated pieces can even be installed in 3-7 hours.

Upgrading your countertops can do wonders to improve your kitchen and raise your home value. Granite, for example, can handle a lot of wear-and-tear. If your kitchen is like the Union Station of your house, this low-maintenance, high-resistance material is perfect for your counters.

For the adventurous weekend warrior, check out these countertops you can make yourself.

Two-Week Hardwood Floor Refinishing

Time: 2-14 days
Budget: $1,600

Flooring has a big impact on the appearance and value of your home. If your hardwood floors are in bad shape, you’ve probably already thought of refinishing them. Whether you hire a professional or do it yourself, you’re going to need at least two days.In fact, you may need as many as fourteen.

You will need one day for sanding and one day per layer of polyurethane finish. Each layer will need 24 hours to dry. Two to three layers of finish are recommended. If you’re going to stain the wood, add another day for that between sanding and finishing.

This project may take longer, but the results are worth it. Refinishing seals the wood against rot and moisture, and adds appeal for homebuyers. They will be more impressed by a glossy shine than rough, exposed wood. If you’re not sure it’s the right time for your floors, check out these answers to common questions to help you decide.

Investing in your property can mean a faster sale, or will at least give you a few extra luxuries to enjoy. See what you can accomplish with an afternoon or your next three-day weekend, and format your budget using these helpful cost guides.

 

Lauren White is a freelance writer who enjoys reading, hiking and traveling. She can usually be found on an outdoor adventure with her boyfriend and little sister on the weekends.

 

References

  • www.bhg.com/home-improvement/remodeling/budget-remodels/weekend-home-projects/
  • www.houselogic.com/remodel/remodeling-tips-advice/house-remodeling-how-long-does-it-take/
  • www.fix.com/blog/tile-kitchen-backsplash-in-one-day/
  • www.thespruce.com/easiest-and-cheapest-backsplashes-1821174
  • www.popularmechanics.com/home/outdoor-projects/a22394/how-to-build-a-bluestone-patio/
  • www.thespruce.com/process-of-installing-replacement-windows-1822901
  • www.replacementwindowsfordummies.com/articles/energy-efficient-windows-advantages-and-disadvantages
  • www.remodeling.hw.net/cost-vs-value/2017/
  • www.valentiflooring.com/blog/hardwood-floor-refinishing-project-how-long-does-it-take
  • www.thespruce.com/cost-to-refinish-hardwood-floors-1314853
  • www.homeadvisor.com/r/refinishing-hardwood-floors/
  • www.rempros.com/estimating-time/kitchen-countertop-replacement.html
  • www.diynetwork.com/how-to/rooms-and-spaces/kitchen/how-to-install-a-granite-kitchen-countertop
  • www.homeadvisor.com/cost/kitchens/tile-backsplash-install/
  • www.homeadvisor.com/cost/outdoor-living/install-a-patio-or-pathway/
  • www.homeadvisor.com/cost/doors-and-windows/install-windows/
  • www.homeadvisor.com/cost/flooring/refinish-wood-flooring/
  • www.homeadvisor.com/cost/cabinets-and-countertops/install-countertops/

12 Ways to Curb Sugar Cravings at Home

Here’s the scoop on why you should rein in your sweet tooth, and how to do it.

,  COLDWELL BANKER LLC

Guest post by Amy Magill, MA, RD, LDN

We’ve all had it—that intense feeling when you get home from work, or while you’re watching late-night TV, when you need to have a piece of chocolate right this minute. While satisfying your sweet tooth may feel good at the time, giving into sugar cravings too often can wreak havoc on your health and waistline. Here’s the scoop on why you should rein in your sweet tooth, and how to do it.

The Dirty on Sugar

“Added sugars” are sugars and syrups added to processed foods while they’re being made. They’re not the same as naturally occurring sugars in foods like fruit or milk, which also provide vital nutrients like calcium, vitamin A and vitamin C. Added sugars come with calories but have little to no vitamins and minerals. And when you go overboard on calories, it can lead to weight gain.

What’s more, a study in The Journal of the American Medical Association found that having too much added sugar in your diet can raise your risk of dying from heart disease. Other research shows that added sugar is linked with type 2 diabetes, obesity, cavities and certain types of cancer.

How Much Is Too Much

The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans say to limit added sugars to no more than 10% of your total calories per day. This means if you consume 2,000 calories each day, no more than 200 calories, or about 50 grams of sugar, should come from added sugar. If that sounds like a lot, consider this: One can of cola contains a whopping 41 grams of sugar. This is why it can be easy to exceed the limit.

Where the Sugar Hides

A high amount of added sugar isn’t just in obvious treats like soda, candy and ice cream. In fact, much of the sugar people consume today is in processed foods that we don’t consider sweets. It’s added to frozen meals to enhance flavor and pasta sauces to balance out the acidity. Added sugar may also lurk in protein bars, cereals, barbecue sauces, ketchup and sports drinks.

Finding out how much added sugar is in your food and drinks can be tricky, because the nutrition label does not differentiate between sugars that are added and those that occur naturally. Instead of relying on the number of grams listed on the label, check out ingredient lists to learn how much sugar has been added to a product. Some common names for added sugars include:

  • Corn syrup or high-fructose corn syrup
  • Brown sugar
  • Malt syrup
  • Molasses
  • Honey
  • Dextrose
  • Fructose
  • Glucose
  • Maltose
  • Lactose
  • Sucrose
  • Trehalose
  • Invert sugar
  • Raw sugar
  • Turbinado sugar
  • Sorghum syrup
  • Fruit juice concentrate

If any of these names show up first or second on the ingredient list, the item is likely packed with sugar. Consider swapping it for a healthier choice.

How to Kick Your Sweet Tooth to the Curb

Sugar tastes good and it surrounds us, so controlling your cravings is often no easy feat. But know that with the right tools and mindset, you can tame your sweet tooth and reduce your sugar intake, replacing nutritionally-void choices with options that are higher in vitamins and minerals. Try these tips:

1. Go cold turkey.

Some people find it’s best to avoid all added sugars to nip their cravings. With this approach, the first 48-72 hours will likely be especially challenging, but some people say that their cravings go away within a few days. Remember to read labels closely since sugar is hidden in many packaged foods.

2. Give in a little.

On the other hand, giving up sugar altogether isn’t for everyone. In fact, being too restrictive can backfire and cause you to crave sugar more. Then you may overindulge and feel guilty. Allowing yourself one small treat each day may keep you from overdoing it.

3. Avoid processed foods.

Sugar is added to most processed foods to enhance flavor and extend shelf life. Swapping processed foods for whole foods, including vegetables, fruits, whole grain products, lean sources of protein and dairy can help lower your overall sugar intake.

4. Eliminate temptations.

You may be more likely to eat sugar if you can get it easily. Clear the candy bar stash from your cupboards and avoid the snack aisle at the grocery store. When you host gatherings, send guests home with leftover treats. Out of sight, out of mind.

5. Keep a bowl of fruit on the counter.

If the urge for sweets strikes and you can’t resist it, have a piece of fruit instead. Its natural sweetness should quench your craving, and it will give you a dose of vitamin-rich nutrition. Stock up on apples, oranges, watermelon and berries so you’re always ready the moment a craving hits.

6. Roast your veggies.

It’s true—you can satisfy your desire for sugar by eating vegetables. This is because roasting veggies brings out their natural sweetness. Try roasting sweet potatoes, purple cabbage and Brussels sprouts for a tasty, nutritious treat.

7. Schedule snacks and meals.

It’s not uncommon to mistake hunger for a sugar craving. Eat healthy meals and snacks at set times to prevent yourself from feeling famished and making unhealthy food choices. Keep snacks at your desk and in your car. You’ll always be prepared with a nutritious option when hunger strikes.

8. Buy single servings.

If you really want ice cream, don’t purchase a half gallon. Instead, buy a single serving size. This way, once you’ve eaten it, it’s gone. The rest of the ice cream won’t be in the freezer tempting you to polish off the carton.

9. De-stress.

A lot of people eat when they’re stressed. But it’s not usually broccoli we’re reaching for. Studies show that people crave “comfort foods” (foods often high in sugar and fat) when they’re under physical or emotional stress. Finding ways to ease stress may keep you from turning to sweets. Consider taking up exercise or trying meditation to combat stress.

10. Distract yourself.

Cravings tend to be short-lived. Instead of giving into a craving when it hits, take a break from whatever task you’re doing. Go on a short walk or call a friend. Distracting yourself for a few minutes can make you forget about a craving.

11. Keep a journal.

When you crave sugar, make a note of the time, the food you want, how you feel and how you avoided giving in. Eventually, you may notice a pattern and learn what strategies work best to beat your cravings. Then you’ll be better equipped to overcome cravings in the future.

12. Enlist a buddy.

Don’t go at it alone. Ask a friend or family member to cut down on sugar with you. Having a buddy can help you stay motivated and hold you accountable. Plus, you can trade tips on how you’ve cut down on sugar.

 

Amy Magill, MA, RD, LDN is Manager of Clinical Programs at Walgreens, where you can find nutritious snacks and vitamins. She prides herself on educating others about how to live healthy lifestyles through a balanced diet.

Although it is intended to be accurate, neither Walgreen Co., its subsidiaries or affiliates, nor any other party assumes for loss or damage due to reliance on this material. Walgreens does not recommend or endorse any products, opinions, or other information that may be mentioned in the article. Reliance on any information provided by this article is solely at your own risk.

The Ultimate Mudroom Makeover

Having an elegant mudroom is not only great for home organization, but for re-sale value, too!

Guest post from Jennifer Tuohy 

mudroom

A mudroom is a modern mother’s manna from heaven. It’s a must-have in any family home. The mudroom is the perfect place to corral all the sports gear, shoes, hats, coats, school bags and soccer bags before they creep into the rest of the house and become clutter. What really makes a mudroom work, however, is storage. From cubbies and lockers to baskets to bins, well-planned, easy-to-access storage is essential for turning a mudroom into a usable entryway and not just a repository for stuff.

When we remodeled our 1960s home, we added a mudroom and a contiguous laundry room as part of a garage conversion. I can say categorically that it has been one of the best decisions we made during the entire remodel. When we have guests over, it’s always the room they “ooh and ahh” over the most. Having a built-in, elegant storage system is a very attractive feature for a home, especially when it comes to resale value.

Our mudroom incorporates a built-in locker/cubby storage unit, a broom closet and the laundry room (which we fitted under the stairs and can easily close off courtesy of a pocket door). This set up makes it simple to keep the area clean and tidy, even when it is full of all the many mountains of gear two children, two adults and two dogs create. Plus, having the laundry room next to the mudroom means that really dirty, grimy clothes never make it any further into the home before coming in contact with water and soap! Read on for a look at how we built our mudroom storage system.

How We Built Our Mudroom

before

When we bought our home, it had a large room that had previously been a garage. However, the conversion from garage to room had consisted of putting carpet down over the concrete floor, tacking some panels up on the walls and knocking together a few closets. We enlisted the help of a local contractor to turn the large room into four smaller ones: a master bedroom with a master bath, a laundry room and a rear entryway/mudroom.

After the walls went up and the entryway was finished, we began using the space to store our gear and quickly realized that a built-in storage solution was essential. I worked together with our contractor, Christian, to create a locker/cubby combination system that would hang our coats, give us a place to easily put shoes and also provide a higher spot to stash less used but still essential items. After researching dozens of ideas online (which I compiled into this Pinterest board), I came up with a rough plan for him to work from.

plans

He decided the easiest way to create what I had envisioned was to build the unit in three separate stages. First was the bench/bottom cubby unit, then the lockers and the top cubbies.

He measured the space to determine how big each cubby would be (we wanted four—one for each member of the family), and constructed a simple bench with three dividers. He left an open space at the end for what would become my “broom cupboard.” We opted for a curved outer corner to cut down on the number of bruised knees we might get when walking around it!

bench

To make the unit “built-in” and provide plenty of strength, Christian cut slots in the baseboard the width of the bench’s dividers and fitted the bench against the wall. He then attached it with screws directly into studs.

slots

Next, he built the “locker” component, which was a larger version of the bench. It consisted of four long compartments and a top, plus a base and a taller wall on one end, which would form the exterior of our broom cupboard.

lockers

To provide stability and to give us an area to attach hooks for hanging coats, hats and bags, he inserted two 1 x 4 pieces of wood into notches he’d cut in the back of the locker dividers.

Image 7

Then, he brought the finished locker unit into the mudroom and placed it on top of the bench, attaching it to the wall with screws drilled directly into the studs.

Image 8

The wall on the far left closed off a small section of the room to give us our broom cupboard/storage area. We contemplated putting a door on this, but as our back door opens into it we decided it would probably get tricky to access, so we left it open.

Image 9

Next, he attached the five cubbies, which he had built as individual boxes, to the top of the lockers and the wall with screws.

Image 10

Now that the structure was in place, he caulked around every joint, further securing the unit to the wall. He attached trim pieces to all the exposed shelving sections using a nail gun. He also put quarter round around the base to give it a real built-in look.

Image 13

Then, he used wood putty to fill in all the holes from the nails, and primed and painted the whole unit.

Image 11

Now it was up to me to choose hooks, storage baskets and boxes to ensure everything had its place. I picked large bathroom robe hooks for the cubbies, alongside two smaller garment hooks, as they were the biggest I could find and we wanted to make sure we could hang as much as possible in the lockers.

I selected simple wooden crates for the shoe storage. They were the perfect solution because not only are they sturdy, but the slatted bottom means I can just pick them up, take them outside and shake out any dirt that’s accumulated without having to unload the contents. I then chose some baskets with chalk name plates on them, so we could each have our own designated cubby.

Image 12

The Finished Product

Image 14

The built-in storage unit in our mudroom has become the hub of our home. We use the bench to sit on while putting shoes, coats and hats on before we walk out the door. We unload all our gear straight into it when we come home, making it much easier to find what we need when we go back later to look for it! When I find random things around the house that belong to certain members of the family, it goes straight into their cubby. That way, they know where to find it when they go looking for it. This alone has saved us countless hours of futile searching. It truly is the ultimate family organizer and we are so pleased we invested in adding one to our home.

 

Jennifer Tuohy writes about the extensive renovation projects she’s pursuing at her Charleston, South Carolina, home. Jennifer writes updates on her storage refinements and restorations for The Home Depot. If you are looking to research storage ideas for your own space, you can visit Home Depot’s website.

8 Space Savers for a Small Bedroom

If you find yourself drowning in piles of clothes and surround by belongings, you’re not alone. Here are eight simple tricks to save space and maximize storage in a small bedroom.

Guest post by  Michelle Lee, Houzz

Not everyone is blessed with endless square footage and expansive master suites in their home. If you find yourself drowning in piles of clothes and surround by belongings, you’re not alone. Here are eight simple tricks to save space and maximize storage in a small bedroom.

1. Fold Out Furniture

Murphy beds and pull-out sofa beds have gotten bad reputations in the past for being clunky and old-fashioned. However, there are many new and stylish ways to integrate a convertible bed in today’s modern home designs, one of which is shown above. Also try installing a fold-out desk against a wall for a small workspace. It can work double-duty as a mini makeup vanity too.

2. Use Large Mirrors

Here’s one of the oldest tricks in the book: mirrors. Mirrors never fail to visually expand and enhance a small space. The effect is strongest when it covers the entire side of a room with floor-to-ceiling or wall-to-wall mirrors. If you have an unsightly open closet situation, you can resolve both problems by opting for mirrored doors to hide the clutter and add visual dimension.

Tip: Another strategy for making a small room feel bigger is to capitalize on as many natural light sources as possible. Not only is natural light beneficial for your health and well-being, it draws the eye outwards and beyond the corners of any small space. Reflect a window in a mirror to bring more light further into a room.

3. Underbed Space and Storage

A lot of potential is hidden in floor space, an area that’s often forgotten and unused in many bedrooms – big or small. If it isn’t already, prop your bed a foot or two above the floor with store-bought bed risers and voila! You’ve found more space. Don’t start cramming everything you can in your newly found space though. Being able to see beneath the bed will make a bulky bed feel light and airy. If you need more storage, purchase wide and shallow drawers that can easily slide under the bed. You can use this space to keep belongings dust-free and easily accessible.

4. Combine Your Nightstand and Dresser

Most people try to buy the smallest furniture pieces possible for a small bedroom, but in certain cases, one large item is much better than two small ones. With an oversized nightstand, you can eliminate the need for a big dresser and keep everything within arm’s reach of the bed. The surface can still hold bedside essentials while the space below can be used for clothing storage.

5. Outfit Your Headboard With Storage

Headboards with built-ins make the most of otherwise wasted space. Traditional tufted headboards are gorgeous in all their glory, but block the wall space above the bed from being used for anything else. You can pull out your headboard to create a ledge at the top or purchase a one with storage cubbies built in or around the panel. For the most storage, use a combination of both, as seen in this storage-savvy contemporary bedroom.

6. Utilize Open Wall Shelves

If you have cherished knick-knacks that you want to put on display but don’t have the surface area to spare, look to your blank walls. Just as easy as hanging a picture frame or piece of artwork, mounting vertical wooden boards is a simple solution for holding your favorite photos or books. In this modern New York bedroom, multiple rows of open shelves above a desk hold countless frames and pottery pieces without using a single inch of floor space.

7. Mount Wall Lighting

If you’re struggling to fit a table lamp on your nightstand, look to your walls once more for another space-saving solution. Wall-mounted lights with flexible arms can be pulled to wherever they’re needed most or they can lay flush against the wall when unused. Like lamps, wall lights are come in a variety of sizes and prices.

8. Look Behind the Door

Behind-the-door storage seems to have vanished largely from recent home design trends, but if you’re desperate for more space, look no further. You don’t have to confine yourself to classic over-the-door hooks; this space can also be used to hold shoes and coats; hats and scarves; and even makeup and bath supplies. Get creative and customize the back of your door to fit your storage needs.

Moving with a Baby: The Complete Guide for Parents

We have organized the guide into three sections: Before the Move, Moving In and Baby Proofing.

By NorthStar Moving Co-Founder Laura McHolm

On the move with a little mover in tow? Every parent knows having a baby at home is an adventure. Take that everyday baby voyage and mix in moving your home, now your adventure is more like a hike up Mt. Everest! Here’s the good news, if you plan ahead and take simple steps that trek will become a walk in the park (well maybe not, but a manageable stroll up hill.) Before you pack up and gear up for the baby + move exploration, check out this complete guide for parents moving with a baby to ease the stress and enjoy the transition.

We have organized the guide into three sections: Before the Move, Moving In and Baby Proofing. You can think of it like pregnancy, nesting and then labor!

Before the Move

Stick to Routine: Baby’s love and need their routine. Don’t let the moving to-do list and packing get in the way of your regular daily routine. Instead of pulling an all-nighter to pack, try to pack over a long period of time. Use naptime and baby’s early bedtime to get packing done in bits. Baby & parents need their sleep!

Create a Moving Calendar: To keep your head from spinning, it is best to plan your move 8 weeks out. Here is a Moving Day Count Down Calendar to copy, print and hang it up where you can easily refer to it while feeding the little one. This way you can take it day-by-day and get the satisfaction of checking off moving to-dos!

Use Childcare: During the actual moving day, when boxes and furniture are being moved, little ones should be somewhere else. Ask a trusted babysitter, friend or family member to take your bundle of joy for the day. It is also ideal to use childcare for days leading up to your move so that you can get more done on your moving calendar. There are great nanny and babysitting services that help you find qualified childcare.

Talk To Your Current Pediatrician: Your pediatrician is a great resource. If you are traveling long distance, ask them for tips for keeping your baby happy on a plane or long car ride. If you need to find a new pediatrician, make sure you get a copy of all of your child’s medical records to give to your new pediatrician. Get copies of all your child’s prescriptions and have them called into a pharmacy near your new home. Ask your current pediatrician for recommendations on how to find a new pediatrician close to your new home. When finding a new doc, it is recommended to set up a meet and greet appointment as soon as you move.

Pack a Baby Bag: You know the daily drill; pack half the nursery to carry with you wherever you go. Well, this time the baby bag (box or small suitcase) should include all of your needs for three days (if you’re moving a long distance, you may want at least one month of supplies with you rather than on the moving truck). Once you move into your new place, you may not have easy access to diapers, baby food, pacifiers and the important squeaky toy. So be sure to pack everything you need for three days (or more) in one place that you keep by your side for easy access on moving day and the first few days after.

Moving In

Unpack the Nursery First: When moving in you should set up the nursery first. This will allow you to change your baby and easily put them to sleep on the first night in your new home. Arrange the nursery as closely as possible to your previous nursery. The familiarity will help you and your baby in the transition.

Setting Up The Crib: All new cribs on the market today meet the safety standards of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association (JPMA). When setting up a new crib or reassembling your crib look for the following suffocation and strangulation hazards:

  • Sharp or jagged edges
  • Missing, broken or loose parts
  • Loose hardware
  • Cut out designs in the headboard or footboard
  • Crib slats more than 2 3/8 inches apart (width of a soda can)
  • Corner post extension over 1/16 of an inch high
  • Gaps larger than 2 fingers width between the sides of the crib and the mattress
  • Drop side latches that could be easily released by your baby

Use Safe Bedding: Soft bedding can suffocate a baby, blocking the baby’s airway during sleep. Babies can suffocate when their faces become wedged against or buried in a mattress, pillow or other soft object. Use a safe crib with a firm, tight-fitting mattress covered with a crib sheet and nothing else in it. To keep your baby warm, use a sleep sack (wearable blanket).

Baby Proofing the New Home

I turned to the uber knowledgeable folks at Safe Kids Worldwide for a Baby Safety Checklist:

Crawl Through Your Home: The first step to a safe home, say the experts at Safe Kids, is to look at the world through your baby’s eyes. See what looks interesting and what can be reached. And I mean it literally – get down on your hands and knees in your new home and check for small things your baby can choke on. You will be amazed at what you discover! If you question if an item is a choking hazard, take an empty toilet paper roll and put the small object in it. If it fits completely into the roll, don’t let children under 3 play with it.

Test Alarms: Have working smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors inside all bedrooms, outside all sleeping areas and on every level of your new home. Test alarms monthly and change batteries once a year.

Install Gates: Install stair gates at the top and bottom of stairs. Stair gates at the top must be attached to the wall with hardware.

Secure Furniture: Secure furniture to the wall to avoid tip overs.

Check Windows: When decorating your new place, be sure to use cordless window coverings.

Mindful Unpacking: When unpacking, be sure to lock up medicines, vitamins, cleaning products, pet food, alcohol, poisonous plants, and chemicals (like paint, gasoline, etc.) and store them high out of your baby’s reach.

Your baby’s arrival was certainly the most blissful and incredible life change. Now you get to start the next chapter together in your new home. A home that is safe for your little one to play, grow and explore!

Laura McHolm is an organizational, moving & storage expert and co-founder of NorthStar Moving Company. NorthStar Moving Company is an award winning, “A+” rated company, which specializes in providing eco-luxury moving and storage services.   www.northstarmoving.com

6 New Countertop Ideas That Aren’t Granite

Not a fan of granite countertops? Here are 6 beautiful alternatives.

Guest Post By Andrea Davis

Granite’s durability and looks make it a popular investment for many homeowners. But there are other options aside from granite. Keep reading to learn more about six alternatives to granite countertops.

Butcher Block

Empty kitchen countertop

Butcher block countertops provide visual warmth to modern spaces, particularly those with white cabinetry. These countertops are also very cost-effective, especially compared to natural stone.

You’ll need to make oiling a regular part of your maintenance routine if you do install butcher block countertops. You’ll also need to use trivets or pot holders under hot pots and pans to avoid burning your counters.

Soapstone

Soapstone is a natural stone that’s easier to maintain than marble, but still requires more work than sealed granite. Soapstone is particularly vulnerable to liquids and acidic spills. Too much heat can also damage its appearance. Despite regular maintenance, soapstone is a beautiful alternative to granite.

Marble

Empty marble table with white brick wall background.

Marble is a natural stone that is considerably softer and more porous than most other stone options. If you don’t have a busy kitchen, marble can be a perfect material. For busy home chefs and homes with kids, marble may not be a good choice.

Ceramic Tile

Ceramic tile is a fun and incredibly durable countertop material. Unlike other countertops, ceramic tile isn’t prone to damage from liquids or heat. Ceramic tiles can stain and chip over time, but individual tiles are easy to replace. Tile is also extremely inexpensive, making it an ideal choice for budget-conscious homeowners.

Stainless Steel

Modern kitchen with stainless steel counters

Modern kitchen with stainless steel counters

Stainless steel’s sleek looks and durability make it the perfect material for modern or cooking-focused kitchens. You can wipe down stainless with a cloth, though special cleaner should be used from time to time as well. Stainless steel countertops can be expensive, but they’re perfect for design- or cooking-obsessed homeowners.

Quartz

Quartz, also called Caesarstone or Silestone, is a man-made stone that’s cost-effective and attractive in many spaces. Its uniform finish also appeals to many homeowners who feel that natural stone is too busy in terms of patterns. Quartz is easy to maintain and incredibly durable, making it the ideal choice for homeowners who use their kitchens regularly.

Andrea Davis is the editor at HomeAdvisor, which connects homeowners with home improvement professionals in their area for free. Connect with Andrea on Google+

How to Face Your Fears and Buy Furniture Online

Whether you’re updating your home or furnishing a newly-purchased house, buying furniture online can feel like taking a leap of faith. Here are some tips to help make your experience a success.

Guest post by Laura Love Bardell

Whether you’re updating an existing room or furnishing a newly-purchased house, apartment or condo, buying furniture online can feel like taking a leap of faith. How can you trust that such a big purchase will be comfortable and fit well in your space? For those who are ready to take the plunge, here are some tips to help make your experience a success.

The Benefits

Online shopping for furniture has its perks. Internet retailers provide us a nearly endless array of furniture options. Looking for a slipcovered couch? What about a mid-century modern coffee table or a reclaimed-wood headboard? Chances are, you’ll be able to find exactly what you’re looking for online. Compare multiple choices from different retailers side-by-side by keeping a few tabs open in your browser window. If a retailer offers a custom upholstery program, you can have a lot of fun experimenting with different combinations of fabrics, leg styles and furniture finishes. What’s more, you can browse from the comfort of your home without having to spend valuable time stuck in traffic or fighting crowds. You don’t even need to plan for a babysitter.

Buying furniture online also gives you the opportunity to find more competitive pricing, which is especially important if you live in a small town or an area without a lot of local furniture stores. Additionally, many online retailers incentivize an online purchase by offering free or flat-fee shipping for larger furniture orders.

The Potential Pitfalls

For all the advantages that online furniture shopping provides, you may run into some potential pitfalls that could make the process a little more daunting. With a seemingly endless number of choices, it can be overwhelming to begin the search. And once you find some pieces you think you might like, you may fear that the real-life version won’t match what you saw online. What if that navy sofa looked compact in the pictures, but now it takes over your living room? Perhaps the biggest consideration is the fact that you can’t sit on a sofa or chair that you’re buying online, so you can test its comfort. However, with a little bit of effort and care, you can face your fears and buy furniture online.

Step 1: Narrow Down the Choices

You can look everywhere for furniture inspiration — Pinterest, friends’ homes, decor magazines and furniture store websites. Once you know the basic style you’re looking for, it’s time to narrow down the choices.

  • • Choose the feature that is most important to you. Many online retailers allow you to filter items by style, color, material, size and even by specialty features, such as family-friendly fabrics or pieces made in America. Identify your priorities and hone in on what will work best in your home.
  • • Explore interactive options. Some sites provide interactive tools that allow you to rotate images of the sofa, table or chair a full 360-degrees, allowing for full visibility — just as if you were walking around it inside a store.
  • • Order swatches. Shopping for upholstered furniture? Don’t be shy about ordering fabric swatches to make sure it’s exactly what you want. View the swatch in different lighting conditions throughout the day, and run it through your fingers to see what it feels like against your skin. You can even take the experiment a step further: Spill food or liquid on it and then clean it according to the manufacturer’s instructions to see how it holds up to everyday use.

Step 2: Check the Fit

Avoid buyer’s remorse by ensuring the dimensions of the piece will work in the room. Use painter’s tape to mark an outline of the furniture, using the measurements listed on the website. For a 3-D feel, consider using cardboard boxes to mimic the shape of the item. Some retailers even offer an interactive app that will help you visualize how furniture will look in your space.

The right fit is more than just about how it will sit in the room. It’s also about how your body will fit on the furniture. For sofas, understanding the unique characteristics of cushions, seat depth variations and frame construction will help you choose one that’s comfortable. Do you want to sink into the cushions, or do you prefer firmer support? Is the couch going in a formal sitting room, or a den for watching TV? Here are some tips for making your choice:

  • • Consider a deeper seat with lots of throw pillows for sofas where you plan to do a lot of napping or lounging.
  • • Down-filled cushions provide sink-in softness, while high-performance foam offers a sturdier feel.
  • • The height of the seat is also an important consideration. Use the dimensions of your existing sofa as a starting point to decide what is most comfortable for you.

Step 3: Read the Reviews

To feel confident about ordering a quality piece of furniture, be sure to read online reviews. Take the time to read the negative reviews as well as the positive ones. It’s important to understand why someone may have left a negative review —it doesn’t necessarily mean there is something wrong with the product. (Perhaps some reviewers had unrealistic expectations about choosing a white sofa with three shedding, mess-prone dogs, or their measurements were off, and their new dining table didn’t fit in their dining room.) The key is to pay extra attention to the qualities that matter the most to you. However, if the product has multiple negative reviews, consider going in another direction.

Here’s a bonus tip: Look for reviews that include user-generated pictures of the item you’re considering. Companies spend a lot of time and money on product photography, so if you can see photos taken by the average user, you’ll be able to get a deeper understanding of what the item looks like outside the photo studio.

Step 4: Look at the Fine Print

Be sure you understand the retailer’s return and delivery policies. Some custom pieces might be a final sale, or there might be a limited window of time during which you can return an item. Some companies also charge a restocking fee or charge more to deliver an item inside the home or up a flight of stairs.

You will have better luck shopping at stores with a clear and easy way for you to contact a real human at any time, either through live chat, a phone call, or by visiting a brick and mortar location. If the store doesn’t have any physical locations, make sure it’s easy to find the company’s customer service phone number. Consider giving that number a call before you buy to experience their customer service.

Step 5: Anticipate Potential Delivery Problems

It’s easy to forget that a new couch, table or chair has to fit through the door and into the room. First-floor rooms with wide halls and doorways are not usually a problem, but if you want a sofa for a media room in your fully finished basement or upstairs loft, be sure to measure tight corners or narrow hallways to avoid delivery snafus.

With just a little bit of homework, planning and prep, your online furniture purchase has a much better chance of making you a satisfied customer.

 

Laura Love Bardell writes for Crate and Barrel, where she creates inspirational, design-savvy content. In her spare time, she enjoys triathlon training and spending time with her pets and family.

8 Budget-Friendly Touches for a Spa-Like Bathroom

Good news! You don’t have to spend a fortune to achieve a high-end, luxurious look for your bathroom. Read on for 8 easy updates for a spa-like bathroom.

Guest post by  Michelle Lee, Houzz

If you find yourself daydreaming about a perfect bathroom, you’re not alone. The good news is that you don’t have to spend a fortune to achieve a high-end, luxurious look. Read on for eight easy updates for a spa-like bathroom that will please homeowners and buyers alike.

1. Swap Lighting Fixtures

Many trending bathroom photos have chandeliers hung above the bathtub, which are glamorous, but often expensive. You don’t need to spend an arm and leg to have a beautiful bathroom when a set of pretty pendants can do the trick. Pendant lights come in just about every style and price point, so you’ll have a wide selection to choose from.

Tip: Pendants are most functional when hung at eye-level in the bathroom.

2. Simplify the Mirrors

Like lighting, mirrors also come in a wide price range. A key point to remember when refreshing your bathroom is that less is more. The simple pair of thin, black-framed wall mirrors in this Melbourne bathroom exude sophistication and style to the highest degree.

3. Change Up Your Tiles

Subway tile is one of the more cost-effective tile options, but it doesn’t have to be traditionally bright-white and straight-lined. Colored tile has a rightfully earned spot in home design, as seen in this Atlanta bathroom. The perky yellow hue keeps summer going all year long. Take another budget-friendly cue here by only outfitting one wall with tile to draw in the eye and enhance the effect.

4. Paint a Wall (or Two)

This simple trick will cost you nothing more than a quick trip to your local hardware store for a bucket of your favorite paint color and a paintbrush. Create a statement-making accent wall by lathering up a wall or two in a beautiful hue. The deep sea blue seen here promotes a peaceful vibe in an otherwise ordinary, stark-white bathroom.

5. Bring In Plants

If you’re blessed with a green thumb, this one is for you. Pair local garden favorites with stylish new vases and watch them breath new life into any dark or dreary space. Houseplants not only keep you healthy by purifying the air, but they also effortlessly complement any style. Start with a snake plant, also known as mother-in-law’s tongue, which requires low light and watering every couple of weeks.

6. Switch Out Cabinet Hardware

At a cost of $5 or less per cabinet pull, you can’t get much cheaper than this. Although they’re small, your choice of hardware can make a huge difference in a room’s design. Gold and silver are classic options for any bathroom, but brass has also made a comeback. Keep in mind the contrast between the cabinet color and the metal finish whenever possible; the stronger the better.

7. Hang Your Towels

If you have a spare ladder in your garage, you don’t need to spend a penny for this trick. Prop it up against a bare bathroom wall and hang fresh towels on it for rustic charm and a designer showroom look. It’ll save you money on towel holders, hooks and shelves and will give you a new stylish solution for all your bath linens.

8. Keep It Clean

Even the fanciest bathroom will look like a mess if it’s not well taken care of. After investing in these small changes to glam up your bathroom, make them count by doing daily or weekly maintenance. Set a timer for 20 minutes to wipe down surfaces and clear clutter to truly enjoy your beautiful new bathroom.

The Best and Worst Flooring Materials for Family & Pets

Is it possible to have children, pets, and beautiful flooring? The answer is yes.

Guest by By Katy Caballeros

Is it possible to have children, pets, and beautiful flooring? Yes—but you’ve got spills, muddy feet and the occasional pet “accident” working against you. You just want to find flooring material that meets your needs, like:

  1. Durability – The floors should be able to withstand untrimmed dog nails, kneading cats, and sippy cup spills.
  2. Easy to clean – In a house full of kids and pets, messes are going to happen. What’s important is that your flooring material is easy to mop, sweep, and clean with your preferred products.
  3. Safety – The right flooring for your family is safe, soft and slip-resistant. You also want to check that it doesn’t contain harmful chemicals—such as lead and phthalate.
  4. Visual appeal – It’s your home—you should enjoy your space! That means picking out flooring that makes you happy. Choose an appealing color and texture that compliments your space.
  5. PriceAccording to HomeAdvisor, it costs an average of about $2,900 to install flooring in your home. Since new flooring is a big investment, it’s best to pick a material that’s cost effective and will last a few decades.

Here are materials that do and don’t meet these specifications.

The Best

Bamboo Flooring

Bamboo floors are kid, pet, and earth friendly. Bamboo’s surface is hard (on par with maple and oak flooring) and extremely durable. It’s also stain resistant and can be easily cleaned using a mop, broom, or vacuum. And, its attractive exterior should be able to withstand scratches from toys and claws, making it the ideal choice for families.

Linoleum

Linoleum flooring makes the list because it’s easy to clean, fairly water resistant, quiet, and hypoallergenic (a must with stray furs flying around). And, since its color and print design extends from the surface into the base, it’s harder to detect scratches.

Vinyl

Vinyl flooring is among the most resilient flooring materials. Its tough surface will resist scratches, tear, and wear and is incredibly water resistant. And, it takes minimal maintenance to keep clean. Spills and stray hairs can be mopped, swept, or vacuumed away in minutes time and won’t leave long-lasting stains. Just be sure not to skimp on the price—cheap vinyl won’t offer the same durability and softness as higher end brands.

Tile or Stone

Tile flooring is a great option for families and pet owners because it can stand up to almost any mess or accident. It’s water resistant, stain resistant, and incredibly durable. Terra cotta and natural stone are beautiful and will compliment almost any home. One drawback is the relative hardness of the flooring—what makes it so easy to clean is also what makes it uncomfortable to sit and play on. Counteract this by adding a soft play rug to rooms where animals and kids gather and keep the beautiful flooring for yourself.

Rethink Carpet

While this is one of the most popular types of flooring, it has many qualities that children and pets love—it’s soft, warm, and slip resistant. However, it does a terrible job hiding pet accidents, fur and stains. It can also trap foul smelling odors! Even worse, looped cut carpet can catch on animal claws and cause a lot of pain. If you must have carpet, choose either polyester, nylon, or eco-friendly, triexta fibers. These types are known for their durability and stain resistance.

Choose Flooring That Will Last

Choosing the right flooring for your family is important—the floor is where you gather, play, and roam. Why spend that time worrying about spills and messes? The right flooring for your family will stand up to the chaos and provide a space for fun first.

 

Katy Caballeros is a freelance writer who enjoys scheming eclectic home design ideas for her apartment. She can usually be found with book and bottle of ginger beer on the weekends.

How to Plan Your Furniture Arrangement Before Moving In

Map out how you want to arrange your furniture in your new home before moving in with this 7-step checklist.

Guest post by Laura McHolm

Designing a floor plan in your new home is a step that is frequently overlooked. However, it is essential to create a floor plan for your new home before you move.  Not only is it the step that saves you money on moving day, it also transforms a new house into your new home.

If you have a plan for where each piece of furniture will be placed in your new home, you will save time and money on moving day. The movers will not be rearranging your furniture for hours while on the clock. Sadly, the easy act of creating a floor plan before a move is a rarity. If you are not an interior designer it can be extremely challenging to know how to create a floor plan and envision a layout for your new home. So naturally, I called upon an experienced pro, Interior Designer Kathy Geissler Best of Kathy Best Design, to unwrap the secrets behind creating a beautiful and functional floor plan.

Here are Kathy’s seven steps to create a well-designed floor plan:

1. Edit

Edit your furniture. Move only pieces you love and use. Now is the time to get rid of furniture. You want your new home to look open and feel fresh. Give items that you no longer love to the Goodwill, Habitat for Humanity, a family member, or sell at a consignment store.

2. Measure

Once edited, measure your key pieces. You don’t need to measure every piece of furniture, just the large items like sofas, beds and main tables.

3. Take a Field Trip

With furniture measurements in hand, take a trip to your new home. Stand in each room and think about how you are going to use each space. Rooms will be used more often if they have multiple purposes. For instance, a living room can be both for entertaining and a family game room, and a guest room can double as a home office.

4. Don’t Rush

Walk around the new home. Experience the light in each room at different times of the day and if possible on different days. Think about how you want to use each room and what will be the focal point of each room.

5. Take Note

Once you have a purpose and a feel for each room, it’s time to make a sketch. Draw a rough sketch of the room and jot down measurements. Note locations of electrical outlets, windows, light switches, chandeliers. This information will help you place furniture and décor later. Be sure to measure the path of entry to be sure big furniture items will fit through doorways, halls, and stairs.

6. Play & Design

Another way to get ready for the move is to make templates of the large furniture pieces on butcher-block paper. Move the templates around and play with them, rearranging them in different places of the room, until you find a layout that feels right. Then adjust to these pro rules:

  • Think about where you want to look in each room. At the fireplace, the view, TV? Face the furniture to work with this focal point.
  • Figure out where you want the bigger pieces and then build around them.
  • If you can, place dressers in the bedroom closets to open up space in the bedroom.
  • Leave an open welcoming path into each room. For example, do not have the back of a sofa facing the entrance to a living room.
  • Think about seat heights. A dining chair is taller than a lounge chair. You want chairs and a sofa to be at the same level in a sitting area.
  • Leave at least 18 inches to walk around beds. If guest rooms are not large, a queen bed will make the room appear bigger.
  • Use rugs to define areas. For instance, define a reading space in the living room with a separate rug. Be sure to make note of where rugs go so the movers can lay them down first in the correct locations.

7. Sketch & Post

Now that you have figured out where you want each large piece of furniture, complete your sketches. Tape the drawings of each room layout in the rooms. The movers will know where to place the furniture.

Congrats, you have a plan and the fun part is just beginning! At the end of move day, you will be walking into a home that fits you. The furniture staples will be placed just where you want and need them and now you get to add the décor accents! Furniture is like a wardrobe, dress it up with seasonal throw pillows, side tables and other accessories. You want to feel happy when you walk into each room. With the layout done now you can make your new home your happy place.

 

Laura McHolm is an organizational, moving & storage expert and co-founder of NorthStar Moving Company. NorthStar Moving Company is an award winning, “A+” rated company, which specializes in providing eco-luxury moving and storage services