New laundry rooms do double or triple duty

The new oversized laundry room is an “all-in-one” space for work, rest and play. No longer relegated to the “crowded mudroom” or “dark basement”, the laundry room is both upscale and ready for prime time.

Big, beautiful laundry rooms are cropping up in homes across the country. Experts say it’s a result of homeowners’ ongoing desires to revamp their living space to better suit their lifestyles.

“You try to fit all these things in your life and still spend quality time with your kids,” says Dubs, 44, whose laundry room upgrade cost about $30,000. “Now, I can multitask with him.”

Multi-functional and easily accessible, the new laundry rooms have:

  • more room,
  • more storage,
  • better organization,
  • space optimization,
  • workflow optimization, and
  • ergonomic design

… all designed to help take the “work” out of the chore.

But the biggest differences between the new and the old are the customizations to integrate with other lifestyle needs. Play room for the kids (complete with integrated toy storage), gift-wrapping and crafting stations, built-in ironing cupboards, recycling centers, computer workstations, you name it.

For more, read the source article New Laundry Rooms Are Multi-Purpose.

For design considerations, read Laundry Rooms Move Upstairs and Upscale on HGTVPRo.

Want more? Try Dress up your laundry room decor tips from HGTV.

The Weatherproof Sunbed – new for the great outdoors

DelMar Outdoor Daybed from Restoration Hardware

In recent years the trend has been to live more outdoors, by blurring the lines between what we do “inside” and “outside” of the home; the patio has become an extension of the living room and dining rooms. Now in 2007, your patio can become an extension of your bedroom. Sleep under the stars. And I don’t mean in a sleeping bag. The hot new trend this season is weatherproof mattresses with teak, metal or woven-resin frames, mildew resistant cushions, and mosquito netting canopies (for obvious reasons).

Smith & Hawken - Royal Hall Sunbed

Called sunbeds, daybeds, or lounges, furniture in this new category is now available at a major retailer near you. The Del Mar Daybed, from Restoration Hardware is pictured top left. Bottom left, the Royal Hall Sunbed from Smith & Hawken.

Why the big move outside?

“There is a total celebration of nature going on,” says Marian Salzman, executive vice president at J. Walter Thompson and coauthor of Next Now, a book on forces shaping our culture. “We are so worried the environment is a precarious place, we want to embrace nature whenever we can. There is something very special, even mystical, about anything that we do outdoors.”

Of course, there’s also this compelling reason to move outside: “We already have so much stuff that they could not sell us anything more to put inside the house,” Salzman says. “So where else can we go but outside the walls?”

Read more: What’s new in outdoor furnishings? The bed.

Hot New Gadgets & Products for a better garden

Check these out:

  • the Cordless Chainsaw from Black & Decker – lightweight and convenient
  • Garden Safe Slug & Snail Bait by Spectrum – safer and more environmentally friendly
  • ReelSmart Hose Reels by Hydro-Industries – no cranking required, powered by water
  • Ooze Tube by Engineered Water Solutions – keeps new plantings “watered”, even through severe conditions
  • Termite Killer Granules by Bayer Advanced – single treatment,easier to use, and safer around children and pets after drying
  • the Adjustable Auto Wrench from Black & Decker – battery powered wrench that puts “190 foot-pounds of torque grip onto stubborn nuts and bolts”

For the full story, read A gaggle of gadgets for the garden.

Green Search Engine aims to make “going green” mainstream

Looking for dedicated green search and research tools? Look no further than Green Maven, billed as the “world’s most comprehensive” green search engine.  The site has earned Kudos from Time.com as #9 on it’s 2006 year end Website Top Ten Best List.

What is Green Maven?
Green Maven is your gateway to the Green Web. We’re a search engine that emphasizes green, conscious, and sustainable websites.

Just be warned, the site looks a lot better in Firefox 2 than it does in IE6.
Read the most recent press release: Green Search Engine makes “going green” easy

http://www.greenmaven.com/

Smart Homeowners: Pamper your Contractor

That’s right. You read correctly. Pamper your home improvement contractor. I’m not talking about giving him a pedicure and a massage (he he, he he he), just showing your appreciation in small ways throughout the course of the job. It’ll make a big difference in your relationship and the quality of workmanship you receive.

I enjoy visiting ContractorTalk.com and reading the threads there. As you have to be a professional contractor (in construction, remodeling or related trades) to participate and I am a homeowner with 2 left hands so to speak, I can only lurk and learn. But learn I do about how the “other half” feels and thinks ( we care about contractors here at RenoCheck / RenoWire ;) ).

One recent thread, “Good homeowner stories”, was especially insightful. I guess that means contractors might have “bad homeowner” stories too? Why yes they do, but they wanted to talk about something else for a change ha ha … So! What makes you a “good homeowner” in the mind of a contractor? What makes a difference? You would be surprised.

It’s home-made cookies or food to take home. Cold water or beverages on a “sweltering hot day”. Bonuses or tokens of appreciation (gift certificates for dinner) for a job well done. Referrals to friends and family. One contractor, “woodmagman” made a very interesting observation:

I don’t think most customers realize that we don’t hold back 10% of our service; they just get an additional 10% by being nice.

So smart homeowners: pamper your contractor. You’ll be glad you did. A little genuine thoughtfulness (good karma) goes a long way. It’s easy to just focus on how much you’re paying and wanting the job done yada yada … But contractors are people too. And when you make an extra effort on their behalf, they’ll go that extra mile in return. It’s the difference between someone just doing the job they were contracted to do and someone genuinely committed to the outcome of your home renovation or remodeling project. I know which I’d rather have …

Read the full thread Good homeowner stories and learn …

Interior Designers vs. Decorators vs. Political Commentators

A recent opinion column by George Will is stirring up a fuss the design community. Mr. Will, a Pulitzer Prize winning author, usually does political commentary … not Home & Garden news …

But in his recent column In the new West, its interior designers vs. decorators, Will points up some, in his opinion, absurdity implicit in some of the new laws separating Interior Designers from Decorators …

In Nevada, such regulation has arrived. So in Las Vegas, where almost nothing is illegal, it is illegal — unless you are licensed, or employed by someone licensed — to move, in the role of an interior designer, any piece of furniture, such as an armoire, more than 69 inches tall. A Nevada bureaucrat says that placement of furniture is an aspect of space planning and therefore is regulated — restricted to a registered interior designer.

Placing furniture without a license? Heaven forfend. Such regulations come with government rationing of the right to practice a profession. Who benefits? Creating artificial scarcity of services raises the prices of those entitled to perform the services. The pressure for government-created scarcity is intensifying because the general public — rank amateurs — are using the Internet to purchase things and advice, bypassing designers.

The column has generated some debate in the design community, including this response from Michael Alin, the Executive Director of the American Society of Interior Designers …

If furniture is placed in such a manner that it impedes egress during an emergency or exit pathways are not appropriately marked or laid out, people will die. Should a nonqualified, noneducated person select the materials for the interior of a hospital, nursing home, school or high-rise building?

And some conservative commentary backlash.

As with anything, there are two sides to the story. I think they both have a point … the question becomes where to draw the line. When do you need the regulated professional and when do you not? If it’s a question of building materials or decisions for hospitals, nursing homes, or even public buildings, yes it’s easy to agree we want the regulated professionals: lives are on the line. But put in that context, I know what I would prefer: not just an interior designer but a designer in conjunction with a dedicated safety professional.

Let’s take the argument outside of the public domain and into the private home. If it’s a question of a designer who is involved in writing the technical or construction specifications for my home, yes I want a trained, certified, regulated professional. Hands down, no questions asked. If it’s to place furniture in my home … what on earth for?

I think where the Interior Design profession opens itself up to criticism is when it attempts to apply the regulatory brush too liberally, when it tries to regulate tasks that just need “common sense” or where there are other professionals who could provide the needed guidance to the same level or better. Who’s going block the front door with a 69 plus inch armoire for lack of an Interior Designer’s instruction? Anybody? No takers? I can see someone blocking a rarely used back door that could serve as a fire exit. But in that case, who should be called? An Interior Designer or a Fire Marshall?? I’m thinking Fire Marshall. The point is, this type of unneeded regulation does nothing to enhance the perception of the Interior Design profession.

If there is anyone to benefit from the new laws in Nevada, it’s lazy spouses. As one commenter put it on townhall.com,

Nevada, here I come. It’s the Land of Liberty. Why, every time my wife asks me to move this or that piece of furniture. I can demur, pointing out that I am not licensed to do that. Free … Free at last.

Contractor Good Deeds give happy ending to bad contractor story

When home improvement contractors make the news, it’s usually about the bad, not the good. Great contractors aren’t news, bad contractors are – the rip-off artists and convicted scammers … which is what makes this story about a contractor volunteering to help out a family in need that much better.

I remember reading the original story published at the end of February and just shaking my head. Another bad contractor story. The Brown family had been able to raise $17000 in donations to make their home accessible for their wheelchair-bound son EJ. They paid contractor Frank Bontempo to do the renovations, he took the money, and gutted the home never to return. Mr. Bontempo has since been arrested and charged but he didn’t give the money back and the home was still in ruins. Where did that leave the family? In an absolute crisis.

Enter semi-retired home improvement contractor Dave Prowse. He read a news story about the family’s plight and was moved … moved enough to organize crews of of other volunteer contractors to help out with the rebuilding effort and to get local companies to donate the needed materials – wallboard, kitchen cabinets, baseboards, plumbing and other supplies.

Since then Prowse and his team have been working shifts around the clock to rebuild the home. From the New Haven Register:

Prowse’s crew of 10 or so contractors worked throughout the day, drywalling the five rooms and this week will return to do trim, tile the new handicap-accessible bathroom, paint, install a kitchen and install heat at no expense to the Browns.

Prowse estimates the family should be back home within the next couple of weeks. It just depends on when the materials they need arrive.

The Brown family is truly grateful and inspired by the effort. “It’s what I call a miracle” said Mrs. Brown.

Read more of Contractors come to the aid of bilked homeowners on Greenwich Time. And another story with more details Happy Ending on the New Haven Register. Found originally on Topix.net.

To Dave Prowse and your crew of volunteers (including drywall contractor Noel McNamara, Ned Woods of Image Paint and Restoration and Jeff Valenzano of Jeff Valenzano Builders Inc.), you are all “great contractors” and good men – we salute you!

Want tips for a beautiful lawn?

Check out the latest Consumer Reports blog post 8 tips for a show-off lawn. A full feature is coming in the May 2007 issue of the magazine.

Hot Bathroom Fixture Trends for 2007

See a full review of new model shower heads on Trendir

Large round shower heads that simulate the sensation of rainwater are one of the hot trends for this year. For a full run down on what’s hot read Shower Head Trends 2007 – The most desirable shower heads on Trenddir.

Not surprisingly, showers are getting bigger (faster than we are getting bigger anyway). There seems to be less interest in adding whirlpool tubs; although they add value, people don’t have the time to enjoy them. Instead, homeowners are enhancing the experience they have time for, the shower, making it a more luxurious, spa-like experience with pulsating and multiple spray options. Hand held showers are also very popular because of their flexibility.

Read more from the original source article: April Showers – The latest trends in bathroom fixtures.

5 Surprising Home Remodeling & Building Trends

From a recent survey of real estate execs, agents and brokers, here are the surprising features people are asking for:

  • Upscale garages
  • “Caving” – more personal space, a room of one’s own
  • Rejuvenation rooms
  • Heated patios
  • Snoring rooms

Read Five Home Trends We Never Saw Coming for the full story.

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