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

How to Decorate With the Ever-Stylish Warm Gray

Tired of tan? Getting gloomy from cool gray? Make warm gray your new go-to neutral.

Houzz Contributor,  Jennifer Ott

You may have noticed that gray is everywhere these days when it comes to home design and decor. Just about every product and material supplier I talk with is rushing to bring more gray products to the market. I’m noticing a bit of pushback, however, from homeowners who either are growing tired of cool gray hues or find them too cold and somber.

For those folks, I’ve been recommending warm gray as an easy-to-use neutral. The best way to spot warm gray paint colors is to gather a selection of grays together and compare them. You’ll notice some veer cooler (with a blue cast) or warmer (with a hint of brown).

Shown here is a sampling of warm gray paint colors. From left to right: San Francisco Fog from Kelly-MooreDolphin Fin from Behr, Mindful Gray from Sherwin-Williams and Cape May Cobblestone from Benjamin Moore.

There’s nothing gloomy about this gray bedroom. The walls are painted a medium warm gray that adds just the right amount of contrast against the beautiful white trim. It’s a neutral palette, but because the colors are neither overly warm nor too cool, it’s a fresh, soothing space.

A warm gray wall color is a terrific alternative to pure white, which can sometimes feel too sterile, or a cool gray, which might register as chilly in a space with lots of hard surfaces, such as a bathroom. The color palette seen here is fairly restrained, but the different shades of warm grays play well together and add variety and visual interest.

Here’s a more modern bathroom with our featured color on the walls. The medium warm gray serves as a bridge between the dark tiles and the white elements in the room, softening the palette nicely. The wood elements add a good dose of warmth and also help soften the contrast between dark and light.

Warm grays play well with a variety of wood tones. Because our featured hue has a nice earthy quality to it, it adds an organic vibe to a room, especially when paired with natural materials such as wood and stone. This living room features a variety of different textures, but they are tied together well through the use of warm gray neutral hues.

If you prefer a softer palette, or your room lacks an abundance of natural light, go for light warm grays. The wall color seen here is almost an off-white, but that small hint of warm gray adds a cozy quality.

Oftentimes homeowners default to white walls throughout the house because they want to play it safe, or they are overwhelmed by the paint color options. If you don’t have the time or energy to audition a bunch of paint colors for your home, find a light warm gray and make that your default hue. You can always add punches of color here and there via accent walls, textiles and decorative accessories. Or keep the palette supersoft and neutral, as in this bedroom. You really can’t go wrong with light warm gray.

For those with interesting furniture, furnishings or artwork to show off, keep your walls a light neutral so they don’t compete for attention. A soft warm gray is a nicer, more inviting alternative to stark gallery-white walls.

One thing I love about warm grays is how they change color throughout the day. In warmer light — during sunrise and sunset — warm gray colors will appear taupe or brown. In the cooler light of dawn, midday or dusk, or in cool artificial light, the color turns a purer gray. That’s why I advise homeowners who are testing out paint colors to view the hues during various times of the day, in the changing light, before making the final selection.

Warm grays, like all good neutrals, work well with any design style. This transitional-style dining room looks super elegant clad in a light warm gray. Like the first example, the color provides just the right amount of contrast against the white painted woodwork, but it’s not an aggressive, in-your-face kind of color — it allows the woodwork to stand out. If you want more drama, go for a darker warm gray hue. If you want a soft and airy, barely-there wash of color, go for a lighter warm gray.

Tell us: Are you a fan of warm grays, or do they leave you cold?

33 Tried and True Tips for a Sparkling House

Houzzers from around the world share their tips for transforming housework into child’s play.

Houzz Contributor,  Pauline Warlet

Household chores are a fact of life — no matter how we tackle them, there’s no getting around them. Sometimes we divide them up among family members and try to turn them into a game; at other times, we simply integrate them into our weekly routine. Either way, we’re eager to make them as easy as possible, and we want our tactics to be both cheap and effective.

Because 33 opinions are better than just one, we’ve asked the global Houzz community for household cleaning tips that will transform the novices among us into veritable pros. From herbs for deterring insects in Australia to green tea for banishing bad smells in Japan, these magic tips have one thing in common: They’ve been tested and approved by the best experts around — you!

KITCHEN


Refresh Your Storage

1. Scatter a handful of bay leaves in the pantry to deter critters, such as flies and weevils, says Houzz Australia user georgi02.

2. If a plastic food container still has a food odor after washing, leave it outside overnight with the lid off, suggests American Houzzer decanio3. “By morning the odor will be gone.”

Keep Your Countertop Spotless

3. Houzz Russia user Liubov fiore advises covering the counter with parchment paper or aluminum foil while peeling fish or vegetables. “You just throw away the paper with the garbage — fast and easy.”

4. Putting out a saucer of cotton balls steeped in vinegar will quickly eliminate cooking smells, such as from cauliflower or cabbage, says Houzz Australia user islanine.

5. Pop over to your local dollar store and grab a magic sponge, says U.K. home stager Amanda Caley of Property Reviver Ltd. “They are excellent for removing all sorts of marks and you only need to add water — no chemicals.”

Freshen Appliances and Silverware

6. Mix vinegar with detergent in the dishwasher to keep your dishes shining, says Houzz Italy user Marta Fincato.

7. Also proclaiming the power of vinegar is Houzz Italy user mikea62, who notes you can use this versatile ingredient to remove limescale from your kettle. Simply mix one part vinegar to one part water in the kettle, bring to a boil and let sit for about 15 minutes.

8. When it comes to keeping the fridge clean, Danish Houzzer Pernille Jensen says it’s a good idea to keep food away from the back wall, as bad smells can develop. “Food residues get attached to the ice [at the back of the fridge], which then melts and becomes moldy water.” Check your refrigerator once a week to avoid a big clean.

9. Here’s another easy and natural tip from Denmark from Rie Munthe-Rasmussen. “I sometimes use a lemon to dissolve the limescale that builds up on faucets or around the drain. Let the lemon or lemon juice sit for a while to allow it to penetrate.”

10. Want to know how to make your microwave spick-and-span? Try this nifty trick from Houzz France user Val Cats. “Take a damp cloth, make it into a ball and place it in the microwave. Heat the cloth for one minute until it gives off steam. This will loosen all the food debris stuck on the microwave’s internal walls, allowing you to remove it with a simple wipe of the very same cloth.”

11. “If you want to make your silverware sparkle like new again, take a container that’s big enough to hold all your cutlery, line it with aluminum foil, and fill the base of the container with salt. Now fill the container with water, place your cutlery in it, and stand back and admire the results,” says Houzz France user Yves Chasselin.

LIVINGROOM


Make Windows and Other Surfaces Sparkle

12. For many Houzzers, natural solutions work best. Baking soda, vinegar, lemons, borax, and newspaper were among the things suggested for cleaning glass and windows. “We really don’t need chemical cleaners,” says U.K. Houzzer Laara Copley-Smith of Laara Copley-Smith Garden & Landscape Design.

13. For hard water spots on the outside of windows, U.K. Houzzer Jean says it takes only a couple of drops of toilet cleaner designed for lime and rust deposits: “On a wet rag (wear gloves) wipe on, let it sit for a few minutes, then rub lightly and rinse. Works great.”

Take Care of Textiles

14. Use lint rollers to remove dust from lampshades, says Houzz Spain user Maria BM.

15. Houzz France user veillet has this little trick for removing dog and cat hair: “Put the leg of a pair of pantyhose on a broom and it will pick up everything in its path. Then simply turn it inside out and throw it away — magic!”

 

Clean Floors Quickly and Perfectly

16. “I love my vacuum cleaning robot! It works exactly as I imagined it would: It’s quiet, thorough and completely reliable. My little helper impressed me so much that I decided to buy a robotic lawn mower too,” says German Houzzer kirchmaier.

17. Houzz Italy user agnese guanella sprays vinegar diluted with water on the floor to keep ants and small insects at bay. “If you do it every two weeks, that’s sufficient. You can even use it if you have cats or other pets at home, since vinegar contains no harmful chemicals — the perfect solution!”

18. “To clean your floor tiles, mix 1 pound (about 450 grams) of oat bran with about 10 pints (5 liters) of water and let sit for roughly 25 minutes. Once the mixture is ready, use a sieve to strain the liquid, which you now use to clean your floor. Leave it on the floor for five minutes before rinsing it off with clean water. Works a treat,” says French Houzzer Germaine NGDEAN.

19. To clean and polish wood floors, make a small bag the size of your palm using a worn-out cotton cloth such as an old T-shirt. Fill the bag with rice bran and sew up the opening. Now moisten the bag a little and use it to clean and polish flooring, walls — in fact, anything made of wood, says Houzz Japan editor Atsuko Tamura.

BATHROOM


Showers

20. Try this tip from Danish Houzzer Dorthe Puccio, who uses a mixture of dishwashing liquid, vinegar and ammonia to remove soap scum, limescale and dirt from the shower. “It works every time and saves me a lot of money!” she says. “However, it should not be used on marble, as the vinegar breaks down the limestone surface!’’

21. “I don’t know if it’s unusual or a bit dangerous, but I use razor blades to remove the limescale around faucets and in the bath tub. It works very well,’’ says Houzz Denmark user Trine Nyborg.

22. Tatiana Medvedeva of Houzz Russia urges us not to throw away old toothbrushes. “They come in useful when cleaning difficult-to-reach places. For example, I use them to remove hairs from the bathtub and drain.”

23. A good tip, which also happens to be eco-friendly, is to use vinegar to remove limescale from a shower door. “I macerate orange peels with a liter (about a quart) of vinegar in an airtight bottle for a fortnight — this improves the smell (although the smell of vinegar disappears quickly). Then, as already recommended, I dry it either with an old newspaper, or, if the frame is made of white plastic, I use a cotton cloth,” says Ana Triay of Houzz Spain.

24. Keep a heavy-duty bathroom cleaner and soap scum remover such as Shower Power in the shower caddy and give the door a spray with it every couple of days as you get out of the shower, suggests Australian Houzzer Sian Sampey. “I haven’t scrubbed a shower in years and my shower doors are crystal-clear.”

25. Use vinegar and baking soda to clean shower doors, stainless steel, ceramics, porcelain and drains, says Australian Houzzer georgi02.

Towels

26. “Don’t use fabric softener with towels — it creates a coating and prevents them from absorbing water when you dry off your body. Use white vinegar instead,” recommends U.K. Houzzer saratogabrown.

Toilets

27. Houzz Italy user Serena Meneghetti pours one or two glasses of vinegar into the toilet to get the bowl sparkling.

BEDROOM

 

Keep Your Sleep Zone Healthy

28. “When you’re sick, cut an onion in half and place it on the bedside table — it will absorb any harmful bacteria in the air,” suggests Houzz Australia user Jamie Bailey.

Protect Your Closet From Odors and Humidity

29. “In old apartments, the smell of damp can sometimes be transmitted to clothes stored in closets. To solve this problem, simply use a piece of newspaper rolled up into a ball to absorb the humidity and a glass of warm white vinegar to get rid of the smell,” says Houzz France user Isabelle Blanc du Collet.

30. Houzz Australia user purplewombat swears by borax, which acts as a deodorizer for shoes. “I soak my sneakers in a bucket of water with a couple of tablespoons of borax, then rinse and hang them on the line to dry. They smell as good as new.”

31. To remove ink from clothes, spray them with hairspray, then wash them as you normally do, says Houzz U.K. user 163hrd.

32. To get rid of odors in closets and shoe cabinets, place some charcoal in a small piece of gauze and leave it inside the enclosure, says French Houzzer Germaine NGDEAN.

33. Use green tea as a deodorizer and dehumidifying agent. Wrap well-dried, used green tea leaves in a small piece of gauze, washi paper or a used stocking and put it in a shoe cabinet, says Kawakami Junko of Houzz Japan. “Make sure the tea leaves are completely dry, either by drying them in the sun or microwaving them for a couple of minutes.”

Simple Water-Saving Bathroom Upgrades

Read about the three simple bathroom upgrades that have a positive impact on your wallet and the world.

Guest post by Katy Caballeros 

Between the toilet, shower, and sink, your bathroom accounts for nearly 60% of your home’s water usage. With water scarcity estimated to affect 2/3 for the global population by 2025, water costs are bound increase. Make a water-saving change and an investment in the future, without sacrificing performance. Read about the three simple bathroom upgrades that have a positive impact on your wallet and the world.

1. Install a Low-Flow Faucet Aerator

Although a sink doesn’t seem to use as much water as the shower or toilet, it can pour out around 3 gallons of water per minute (gpm). Those extra gallons add up, especially if occasionally forget to turn off the sink while you shave or brush your teeth. By installing a low-flow faucet aerator on your bathroom sink, you can cut your water waste in half, reducing it by as much as 1,400 gallons per year. Purchasing an aerator for your sink is one of the cheapest conservation renos, with aerators available for as little as $1.

2. Switch Out Your Showerhead

It’s easy to waste water in the shower—many of us use the shower to relax or perhaps leave the water running as we wait for it to warm. While taking shorter showers can definitely help with water conservation, new energy-efficient showerheads can help reduce water waste without sacrificing enjoyment.

WaterSense labeled products are certified by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to help save water and are worth consideration as you search for the right products for your home. Showerheads labeled “low flow” are another option for your bathroom reno, as they deliver 2.5 gpm instead of the wasteful 5 gpm of older showerheads.

Newer models, like Evolve’s showerheads, have features like smart home technology, which conserve water and reduce energy use. Here’s how it works: instead of wasting water as you wait for the shower to warm, this technology automatically reduces the water flow to a trickle when it reaches 95 degrees. When you’re ready to shower, you pull on the showerhead’s built in lever and the flow returns to normal. No more letting energy-burning hot water flow down the drain. They estimated this showerhead technology can save homeowners 2-6 gallons of water per shower!

3. Replace Your Old Toilet

The toilet is the most water-wasteful piece of plumbing in most homes. Nearly 1/3 of a household’s total water consumption is flushed down the toilet. They can use as much as 7 gallons per flush! Luckily, toilet technology has come a long way in the past few decades. Newer energy-saving models can reduce water waste up to 67%. There are three main types of water efficient toilets:

  1. Low Flow Toilets
  2. Duel Flush Toilets
  3. Pressure Assist Toilets

Some toilets use a combination of low flow, duel flush, and pressure assist to create a conservation-friendly commode. Low flow toilets are designed to use significantly less water than older models, whereas duel flush toilets customize each flush for either solid or liquid waste. Pressure-assist toilets use an air cartridge to push water from the tank, which means using as little as one gallon per flush. With thousands of gallons a year in water savings at stake, a toilet reno is a must for water-conscious homeowners.

HomeAdvisor surveyed homeowners and found that replacing a toilet cost an average of $377. Compare that to savings up to $2,200 over its lifespan, and that’s more than a 580% return on investment.

Luckily, with innovations in water-saving technology, it’s easy to drastically cut back on water consumption without sacrificing performance. And, compared to other home updates, purchasing and installing water-saving products is relatively cheap and promise big savings on your water and energy bills. Whether you’re conserving water for your wallet, the environment, or state regulations upgrading bathroom fixtures can make a positive impact.

 

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

Small Upgrades That Go a Long Way

When it comes to making home upgrades, it’s important that sellers remember to go for simple, clean improvements that make homes look more modern and elegant.

No one wants to spend a fortune when it comes to selling a home, but most want to spruce up a few areas to make their property more appealing to potential buyers. There are several types of small improvements individuals can make that can transform the look of a home without forcing them to break the bank.

When it comes to making home upgrades, it’s important that sellers remember to go for simple, clean improvements that make homes look more modern and elegant.

New Countertops

One of the first areas sellers often focus on when making improvements is their kitchen, and rightly so. Buyers may examine a kitchen space more closely than bedrooms and bathrooms because this is the area where a family will spend the majority of its time. However, unless there is significant damage to the room, sellers may not need to renovate the entire kitchen. Instead, small changes, such as replacing the countertops may be enough to give the area a newer and fresher look. Owners should consider using materials that are common in neighboring homes. A buyer may be less likely to purchase a home with tile countertops when the surrounding homes on the market all feature granite or marble.

New Doors

Many homeowners overlook the appeal of new front, back and side doors, but these features are some of the first that buyers see when they pull up to a home. Adding a new door or painting the current ones to make them stand out can make the home feel more welcoming. In addition, adding new handles and locks can make buyers feel more secure. Doors are relatively inexpensive, and can be installed by the owners themselves with little effort.

Replace Hardware and Fixtures

Old, ruddy cabinet handles, kitchen spouts and light fixtures can be a turn off to buyers and make the home seem outdated. Replacing these fixtures with modern, top-of-the-line hardware is a simple and affordable solution that can be done quickly. Most home improvement stores carry a variety of fixtures and hardware, and owners can compare costs easily by doing some research online.

While homeowners are seeking out new fixtures, they may also examine paint samples to freshen up the colors in their home and make it more inviting.

Privacy-Minded Home Security Options for the Camera Averse

As a homeowner, security and privacy can be an important priority. Learn about how to secure your home without always keeping a watchful eye.

Guest post by Eric Murrell 

It’s never been easier to secure your home, thanks to an abundance of new gadgets on the market. Setups that once required professional installation and thousands of dollars in highly technical equipment are now easy to put together with off-the-shelf products and a few inexpensive apps. It’s a great time to be a consumer, and frankly, a bad time to be a criminal.

All of these new gadgets and services are great, but what if you’re worried about your privacy? Hacks and security breaches in the news—or simply the fear of loss of privacy between family members—have made some people uncomfortable with a camera-based security system inside their home. Thankfully, you can still make high-tech upgrades to your home to keep you safe without always keeping a watchful eye.

The first option to consider is a modern twist on a classic home security setup: motion sensors. Whether it’s a motion-sensitive light on your front porch or a few sensors placed around the home, motion-activated lights and alarms can be a surprisingly effective deterrent to the average thief.

Using today’s smart home technology, it’s easier than ever to add battery-operated sensors to strategic spots around your home. Both inexpensive and easy-to-install, these new sensors can trip lights and alarms like the old ones, but can also pair with a smart home hub to send instant alerts to your smartphone the moment an intruder is detected. Take a close look at your new thermostat or other smart devices; many include motion sensors that are already built-in.

To add an additional layer of security, purchase smart door and window sensors that serve as a first line of defense from the outside world. Like the motion sensors, inexpensive models are available that integrate with most smart home platforms. It’s simple to configure open and closed alerts, but you might find it even more helpful as a passive form of home security. Worried that you forgot to close the garage door after letting the dog out? By taking a quick glance at an app while you work, you can know for sure.

Even if you rule out in-home smart cameras, do consider having smart cameras outside your home so you can see if packages are delivered and if there are any trespassers in your yard. The most well-regarded systems now include location-based privacy features that use your smartphone to automatically adjust their settings, offering an unprecedented combination of privacy and security. Using the GPS signal from your phone, it’s easy to activate your full security network when you leave the house, and have the cameras automatically turn a blind eye the second you pull in the garage.

Security is personal for every family. Explore your device options, and even ask your internet service provider if they offer a home security solution, as bundling services often results in additional savings. Likewise, your ISP may offer the ability to control all of your existing home security gadgets from a centralized app. Whether you install array of sneaky sensors or smart locks, there are a wealth of connected home devices that can help keep your family safe without betraying their privacy. A good night’s sleep is only an app away.

 

Software developer Eric Murrell is a technology contributor working with Xfinity HomeAs the blogger for At Home in the Future, he shares tips on how people can benefit from incorporating smart home and home automation into their houses.

What You Need to Know About Solar Panels

Once you have decided to install solar panels, it’s important to research which solar panels are best for you, your home and your budget.

Guest post by Lauren White 

The solar panel industry has developed exponentially, in the past decade. Much of that is owed to increased demand. According to the Department of Energy, Americans use 23 times more solar energy now than we did around ten years ago.

Homeowners have more solar energy options than ever before. In order to meet demand and outshine the competition, companies are putting their resources toward research and development. They are constantly working toward creating more efficient and innovative solar energy technology.

Once you have decided to install solar panels, it’s important to research which solar panels are best for you, your home and your budget. There are generally three solar panel choices for residential homes: Thin-Film, Polycrystalline and Monocrystalline. These three panels are part of solar photovoltaic (PV) systems, which means they convert the sun’s photons into electricity.

Thin-Film

Perfect for: The homeowner with a small budget, a low-to-average rate of energy consumption, and lots of area for installation.

The cells of thin-film panels are constructed by layering photovoltaic material on glass, metal or plastic. These layers can be measured in nanometers, significantly thinner than in traditional panels. Their thin construction makes them lightweight and flexible, and they have a low cost of production. As such, they come at a lower cost to consumers.

One drawback of this technology is its rate of degradation. These solar panels have an average life expectancy of 10-15 years, depending on the photovoltaic material used. Comparatively, monocrystalline solar panels have a life expectancy of 25-35 years.

Another drawback is their low efficiency rating of 7-15%. This rate doesn’t work well for homes consuming more than the national average of 11,000 kWh per year. Also, these panels must be installed over a significant amount of space, which can be a deterrent for homeowners with limited area for installation.

In recent years, technology has improved and certain thin-film technologies are pushing past 20% efficiency. With a higher efficiency rating, this technology can meet higher energy demands and become a greater competitor in the market.

Polycrystalline

Perfect for: The eco-conscious homeowner with wiggle room in their budget, an average rate of energy consumption, and perhaps a penchant for the color blue.

Polycrystalline panels are constructed by melting silicon into molds to create perfect square “wafers.’ These wafers of silicon are then installed on a grid to form the panel. The cost of making these panels is relatively low and the process produces minimal waste. This makes polycrystalline a more affordable option than the original solar panel, monocrystalline.

The efficiency rating for polycrystalline panels is typically 13-16%. They would perform best in homes with typical rates of consumption. You will still need a significant amount of installation space, for these panels, in order to achieve optimal benefits. You must also take into consideration whether or not your taste will agree with their blue tint.

Monocrystalline

Perfect for: The homeowner with less roof space for installation and/or a higher rate of energy consumption, who wants a longer-lasting product and can make a sizeable investment.

Monocrystalline panels were the first solar panels to be made available. Currently, they are some of the most expensive. Each panel is created using high-purity silicon cut into “wafers.” These silicon wafers are extremely efficient at converting photons into energy, with monocrystalline panels hovering around a 22% efficiency rating.

Since these panels can convert more energy per square foot, you won’t need as much space for installation. Greater energy conversion also means you’ll be able to power more appliances, like hot tubs, heated pools and electric cars.

Get What You Pay for—and Then Some

In most cases, homeowners surveyed by HomeAdvisor say the cost of installing solar panels is much less than their projected energy savings over a twenty year period. In fact, it’s been estimated that, in 2017, homeowners in Massachusetts and California will save double their investment in solar energy.

Calculate Your Estimated Savings

If you’re not sure of your ROI, Google has a convenient tool called Project Sunroof, which will calculate your estimated savings based on your specific home address. As for your installation cost, you can request local estimates through HomeAdvisor to get a realistic figure for budgeting.

While you’re doing your research, or when you are speaking with a professional, see what’s new and on the horizon in the industry. These technologies are developing so rapidly, there are breakthroughs on a yearly basis. In July of 2017, for example, scientists developed a solar cell with 44.5% efficiency. There is hope that this technology, and others like it, can be streamlined and integrated into the residential and commercial solar market.

 

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.

How (and Why) to Combine Open Shelves and Cabinets in Your Kitchen

A designer and her builder husband opt for 2 styles of storage. She offers advice, how-tos and cost info.

Houzz Contributor,  Lyndsye Felsman

I’ve encouraged clients and friends to step out of the box of traditional kitchen cabinets and try something different. I’ve offered suggestions such as bold cabinet colors, contrasting shades and a minimalist option: open shelving. It was time to put my money where my mouth was and mix it up in my own kitchen.

 Note: These photos are examples of different styles of cabinets. See the writer’s actual kitchen at the end.

Why I Was Drawn to 2 Styles

Stepping out of your comfort zone can be hard, but I had decided that during this remodel, I’d be open to a new look for me and my family.

During the planning stage, I realized that installing two styles of cabinetry would work in my kitchen, so I kept an open mind to the idea, and especially to open shelves.

I liked the fact that open shelves could add depth to my kitchen and provide a display space for my pretty dishes that I love so much. It brings me joy to stage items around the home, so while I realize that open shelves aren’t for everyone, I knew that I would enjoy them. I’m a designer and home stager, so I enjoy rearranging things, including those pretty dishes. Plus, I could also store other everyday items in a handy place for my busy family.

Budget Matters

To keep costs low, my husband (a builder) and I did the cabinet work ourselves, from installing the open shelves to painting the existing cabinets. It’s definitely something you can learn to do if you have the time and patience.

Open shelves: We built and installed our own open shelves, as I mentioned. This was cost-effective because the bill included only the cost of the wood, stain and urethane finish. If the DIY approach isn’t for you, find a cabinet professional in your area who can help you with shelves or any other type of kitchen cabinetry project.

Brackets versus floating: We built shelves that slid over brackets on the wall to make the shelves look as if they were floating. Since we were going to tile the whole wall behind the brackets, we could bury the brackets under the tiles to give the shelves a floating look. Whether you have brackets that are visible or floating, make sure you affix the shelves directly to the studs in the walls to handle the heavy load of dishes.

Material: Make sure you choose substantial, sturdy brackets, not tiny or plastic ones, because you want them to be able to hold the weight of the shelf and anything you put on it.

Total cost: $200

Paint, not replace: For us, it made sense to paint, and not completely replace, the rest of our cabinets. It was much cheaper than all-new cabinets and took less time.

Total cost: $125. Replacing the cabinets would’ve cost at least $5,000.

How we refinished the cabinets: 

Remove doors and hardware. Be sure to number and label both the doors and the hardware as you remove them or you’ll regret it later. We also found it helpful to put the hardware for each door in a plastic bag and then store that bag inside the cabinet. This made it easy to reinstall the hardware.

Clean the existing cabinets. You want to use something like a trisodium phosphate (TSP) degreaser. You may have to go over the doors a few times to remove all the grime. Don’t skip this step! It’s necessary to get a good finish in the end.

Fill any scrapes or dings with wood putty. This will give you a smooth finish and make old cabinets look new again.

Sand the cabinets. You want to sand just enough to rough up the surface so that the new finish will adhere better. You don’t need to sand the cabinets completely down unless there are areas that are flaking or chipping. We used 100-grit sandpaper — that should do the trick.

Vacuum the cabinet surfaces. Vacuuming will remove any dirt or dust from sanding.

Prime the cabinets. You’ll want to use a good stain-blocking primer, such as Zinsser’s B-I-N or a Kilz product, to ensure a smooth painting process.

Do a quick sanding, if needed. This step will remove any brushstrokes left behind after the priming. Use a 220-grit sandpaper and wipe off any resulting dust.

Paint your first coat. The key is to use a light coat so that you don’t layer on too much paint. You can roll or brush paint on the cabinets, but if you can, spray-paint for a better finish.

Sand with 220-grit paper. Don’t forget to wipe off and vacuum dust after each sanding.

Paint your second coat.

Sand again. Remember to wipe or vacuum away dust.

Apply a clear coat or acrylic finish, if desired. This provides extra protection to the surfaces.

Reinstall doors and hardware. Because you labeled the doors and organized the hardware, this process should be straightforward.

Pro tips: Put a couple of coats of protective urethane on your shelves. This won’t affect the style, but it will make them easier to clean and keep your dishes from scratching the surface. If you are going to put on new cabinet hardware, buy it in bulk if you can. Many times, the more you buy, the more you save.

Style Selection

Open shelving has always been a favorite style of mine because I love displaying the vintage and custom dishes I’ve collected over the years. Although I didn’t install it exclusively in my kitchen, I took this remodel as an opportunity to add the open shelves I’d always wanted.

Two styles: Choosing two styles can seem daunting to some, but mixing styles, like mixing patterns, can bring so much personality to a space. I landed on keeping the lower cabinets and the upper cabinets above the stove, and then installing three open shelves above my largest expanse of countertop. This seemed like the best place for them because having them around my stovetop would cause more mess than I wanted to deal with.

Storage concerns: Surprisingly enough, it’s amazing how much you can fit on the shelves. You just have to be disciplined about keeping them tidy and clean, and set them up to suit your family. In the end, open shelves gave me a little more storage space because I didn’t have any vertical dividers. Of course, I didn’t want everything in my kitchen on display, so I kept some of my upper cabinets and all the lower ones.

Family Needs

We have three boys and all the friends and visitors we can welcome, so I wanted my kitchen cabinets to first off be functional.

Pros of two styles: Open shelves make everyday items accessible. People don’t need to ask where to find a coffee mug — they can just snag one from the shelf. Plus, unloading the dishwasher is a breeze. The most common things go right back up on the shelves. At the same time, the closed cabinets hide our less attractive kitchen items.

Cons: The items I don’t use all the time can accumulate dust, but I’ve just added them to my dusting routine. The additional 30 seconds of cleaning is worth the display space for me.

Before Photo

See My Kitchen Cabinet Transformation

Before: My upper and lower cabinets were maple with peeling hardware. They made me feel a little claustrophobic in the space and were suffocating when I was at my sink.

After: The floating shelves and fresh paint on the lower cabinets make my kitchen feel brighter and bigger. We were able to transform our cabinets for $325 and a little elbow grease. That price tag included the open-shelving materials, cabinet paint and new cabinet hardware.

My open shelves are everything I thought they would be and more. Our everyday items are easy to reach, and I love styling the shelves and changing out seasonal decor.

For the floating shelves, we used sanded plywood with a pine edge and installed them on floating brackets. They opened up the space, making it feel much larger than it is.

Across from the shelves, we have our original cabinets, just painted in new shades. For the top, we used Alabaster from Sherwin-Williams. On the bottom, I went with Still Water by Sherwin-Williams. I chose the color because I loved the bright feel, and now that it’s in the space, I love it! It’s so daring and feels so right.

This mix of styles and colors pushed me out of my comfort zone, but I’m so glad I followed my designer-self’s advice and did it. There’s no need to be scared of mixing two colors or styles, especially if one is a neutral. I absolutely love how these cabinet choices really made our kitchen feel like our own.

Do you have a mix of cabinets in your kitchen? How did you decide on your cabinets? Tell us in the comments section.

How to Find Inexpensive Art for Your Home

Add your own flair to your home through art with these creative & inexpensive ideas.

Your home should reflect your personality, interests, and all the people and things you love. One of the easiest ways to accomplish that is through the artwork you display around your home. When my husband & I moved into our apartment, we initially worried about finding art that was not only beautiful, but at a price point that wouldn’t break our budget. Here’s what we discovered:

Print Your Favorite Photos on Canvas
Some of our favorite artwork displayed in our home is actually photos we took ourselves while traveling, and had blown up & printed onto canvas. Snapfish allows you to create your own canvas photo art starting at $39, and it’s the perfect way to show off your favorite family photos or pay homage to your favorite vacation spot as a reminder to get back out there!

One Word: Ikea
I have somewhat of an Ikea obsession, and their “decoration” department is no exception. Between their extensive collection of artistic prints, frames, and accessories, you could truly find something for every room in your home — and still have money left over for those Swedish meatballs on your way out.

Joss and Main
Clicking around on this website is like digging for treasure – except you always find one .. or two, or three. This site is beautifully curated with discounted art, furniture, rugs, bedding… you get the idea. The best part? You can browse by style, so if you’re going for a certain vibe – coastal, bohemian, rustic – the site will only show you items that align with that style.

DIY
One of our favorite pieces of art in our home is one we made ourselves. I find my inspiration for these projects on – you guessed it – Pinterest! It’s not only a great way to add something totally unique and special to your home, but it provides a great excuse to gather up your art supplies and enjoy a relaxing day of creativity. You can see a few of my favorite Pinterest DIY projects here, here, & here.

Need more home decor ideas? Click here to discover 12 ways to make your home even more awesome!

Staging Your Home for a Successful Sale This Fall

Consider these key points when you are staging and marketing your home for success this fall!

The following is guest post from Patti Stern of PJ & Company Staging and Interior Decorating. The photos are examples of design and staging work by PJ & Company Staging. 

With a competitive fall real estate market ahead, it may be challenging to get your property noticed and on the top of buyers’ lists. The best advice we give our clients is to step back and look at your property from the perspective of today’s sophisticated buyers and then present it as a product that will help them envision living there. The following are some key points to consider when marketing your home for success in a competitive market.

Second Floor Den Staged by PJ & Company Staging and Interior Decorating. This home sold within 36 hours of being listed for sale and had previously been on the market for over one year.

 

Keep It Simple

Less is always more with home staging. After decluttering and depersonalizing, find the proper balance of furniture and accessories that will enhance a room so that buyers won’t be distracted and can focus on its unique features, size and flow. Keep decor simple, fresh and bright to help buyers visualize what it would be like to live there with their own furniture in the space.

Master Bathroom Staged by PJ & Company Staging and Interior Decorating

Boost Perceived Value With a Cosmetic Facelift

The majority of first time buyers are willing to pay more for a home that doesn’t need improvements. Instead of spending time and money on expensive renovations, increase perceived value with basic updates and repairs such as repainting kitchen and bathroom cabinets, new hardware, modern lighting, eco-friendly faucets and neutral wall color. These updates are all that is needed to suggest a home is in move-in ready condition.

Living Room Staged by PJ & Company Staging and Interior Decorating

Create a Lasting Impression

Most prospective buyers can’t visualize beyond what they see so if they don’t connect with a property right away, they’ll simply go to the next listing around the corner. Whether vacant or occupied, make the home memorable from the entry to the basement with key pieces of furniture, rugs, lighting and wall art. This will add warmth and personality so that buyers can emotionally connect and be more likely to make an offer.

For more examples of interior decorating and home staging, visit www.pjstagingdecorating.com.

 

Patti Stern, principal, interior decorator and professional stager of PJ & Company Staging and Interior Decorating, has been decorating and staging homes since 2005. She and her team provide turnkey, full service home staging and interior decorating to clients across Connecticut, New York and Massachusetts. Her company has received Houzz 2015, 2016 and 2017 Awards for Customer Service. Patti has been featured in Connecticut Magazine, the Hartford Courant, Danbury News-Times and on NBC Connecticut and FOX TV.  She is a regular contributor to the National Association of Realtor’s Blog, “Style, Staged and Sold.”

For more information, contact Patti Stern at 203-640-3762 or patti@pjstagingdecorating.com.