Sunday, December 30, 2018

10 Ways to Enjoy Your Garden During the Winter

Serve dessert by an outdoor fire, clip branches for decor and other ways to love being outside this time of year.

Colder weather and shorter days tend to make us feel like hunkering down indoors, but a dose of fresh air can be just what we need this busy season. Whether you’re looking for ways to entertain friends out-of-doors or would like to escape the house for a bit of peace and quiet yourself, here are 10 ideas for getting out in the garden soon.

1. Cozy up around a fire pit. If you’re hosting friends for dinner, take the group outside to enjoy a bit of fresh air before the meal. Bring out drinks and appetizers to share and plenty of warm blankets to wrap around shoulders. When you step back inside for dinner, the house will feel even more warm and inviting.

Perhaps you built your fire pit yourself or bought it ready-made. Even if you don’t have a fire pit, you can enjoy a breath of fresh air before or after a meal by bundling up and sitting on a patio or taking a walk around the neighborhood.

2. Refresh seasonal containers. Some garden projects can feel too ambitious when it’s chilly out. By redoing or refreshing containers, you can pack a lot of punch for not too much time or effort, and little or no cost. Use cut branches and pine cones instead of live plants for a seasonal display. Get the welcoming look of these entryway containers by sticking curly willow branches into the existing soil of a container (or a bucket of sand if the container is empty) and covering the base with pine cones.

3. Go for a garden stroll. The holidays are a busy and often stressful time of year, and just getting out into your backyard can be one way to calm your mind. Instead of focusing on garden chores, the shrubs you should have cut back or the bulbs you wish you had planted, change the way you look at and experience your garden to one that’s more forgiving. The grasses you didn’t trim might catch the light in a beautiful way, or the seeds of a plant might be providing food for birds.

4. Putter around in a greenhouse. If the weather is poor — or you’re looking for an escape from a full house — head out to the greenhouse and get a head start on some of your winter garden tasks. Oil and put away tools for the season, organize potting supplies and bookmark seed catalogs for the spring garden. Or just sit and curl up with a book and a cup of tea and enjoy a bit of downtime.

5. Deck the halls. Dressing up the exterior of your home for the season can be a great way to get in a festive mood and create a welcoming entrance. Whatever decorations you choose — making a wreath for the door, lining the eaves with lights or draping garlands along windowsills — get the whole family outside to help share the work and the fun.

6. Host a dinner outside. If you live in a warm climate or have lingering warm weather in fall, host an outdoor meal. Make it into an occasion, such as a celebration of the season, holiday dinner or even just one last hurrah before you pack up the patio cushions. Bring out blankets to drape on the backs of chairs, heat sources like portable electric heaters if needed and light sources to make the patio feel more comfortable.

7. Create an inviting outdoor destination. Sometimes the hardest part about getting people outside in chilly weather is getting them to leave the house. You may need to lure them there, such as with a row of luminarias set across the lawn or along a garden pathway leading to a cozy lounge setup. Be sure the eventual destination also has something inviting to offer like warmth from a fire pit or portable outdoor heater, or the prospect of hot drinks or desserts.

8. Take dessert outside. A perfect way to lure guests, particularly young ones, outside is to sweeten the deal; for instance, plan for making s’mores around a fire pit after dinner. Stock up on graham crackers, marshmallows and chocolate now, and you have an easy fallback dessert tucked away in your pantry.

9. Watch birds. Another way to take a break and enjoy your garden this season is by paying more attention to the wildlife your garden supports. If you’ve been observing birds for a few seasons, perhaps you’ll spot ones you haven’t seen before, as winter migrants return to your neighborhood.

10. Forage for decor. Instead of adding more to your shopping list, plan on gathering ingredients from the garden or fallen branches on sidewalks to make seasonal arrangements. When you’re walking around your yard, it’s easy to spot the ones like winterberry (Ilex verticillata) or heavenly bamboo (Nandina domestica) that have bright-colored berries. Supplement these with bare twiggy branches, ones with dried fall leaves or peeling bark, or evergreen conifer boughs.

This minimalist arrangement of winterberry, holly and redwood sprigs anchored in cut log slices would make a festive mantel or side table decoration for the season.

Tell us: How do you get out and enjoy your garden during the holidays? Share your ideas in the Comments.

5 New Year's Resolutions for Your Home

Check out this great article from HGTV about setting some New Year's Resolutions for your home! Every year when January rolls around you vow to lose weight, save money or spend more time with family and friends. But what goals do you set for your home?

In the spirit of new beginnings, HGTV has consulted the experts and come up with some resolutions that will make your home a more beautiful, efficient, clean and green place in the coming year.
Here are our five picks for the best home improvement resolutions for the new year and how to achieve them:

1: Streamline the stuff

One of the best and least expensive ways to feel better about your home is to clear it of clutter.
Each year most of us acquire a mountain of stuff. Without some regular purging, cabinets and drawers get jam-packed and it becomes hard to find the things you use and enjoy the most. (All that clutter also makes your house look dated and dirty, designers say.)
This year resolve to go room-by-room periodically clearing anything that you don't use, wear or love and donate it to charity. After that, think twice about what you bring in, says Antoinette Nue, an Atlanta consultant who specializes in helping people simplify and go green.
"Fill your home with the things that raise your energy level and make you feel good, and get rid of the things that drain your energy or are broken," she says.
Stash useful (but not beautiful) items such as DVDs, remotes and those kicked-off shoes in simple woven baskets. Group similar items together on sleek trays, says Stuart McCormick, a designer with Liz Levin Interiors in Washington D.C.
Clear your counters of everything you don't use on a daily basis. And get ready to breathe a little easier in your own home. 

2: Make it safe and sound

Your home may be beautiful, but is it safe? There are a few things that every homeowner should do to ensure that they're not living with a potential health hazard or fire risk.
First, check your house for radon. This colorless, odorless gas causes about 21,000 lung cancer deaths each year from the radioactive particles it traps in your lungs as you breathe, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. One in every fifteen homes has elevated levels. And with test kits costing as little as $20 at your local hardware store, there's no reason not to get right on that.
While we're on the subject of deadly gas, make sure you install a carbon monoxide detector on every bedroom floor in addition to fire detectors. If a chimney flue or furnace vent gets blocked or leaks, carbon monoxide could back up in your house and kill you. Like a radon test, this is a small investment — $40 or more — for such an important safeguard.
Watch out for dryer lint. We know you clean the little trap inside the door, but most people neglect to clean the vents and ducts behind the dryer. Lint may seem innocent, but it's highly combustible, according to the U.S. Fire Administration, accounting for more than 15,000 building fires a year.
Make sure your house can breathe. Hickory Hills, Ill. home inspector Jack McGraw is always surprised at how many people's bathrooms and attics aren't vented to the outside (or the vents are covered over with shingles.) This makes you a prime candidate for mold.
And if you're considering a remodel — and your home was last built or remodeled before 1978 — consider testing for lead paint and asbestos flooring. It will have to handled properly during removal, or particles can be released into the air for you to ingest.

3: Shrink your bills (and your carbon footprint in the process)

When people think of going green, they often think it takes solar panels or a hybrid car to make a difference.
Not so, says Bob Schildgen, who wrote the "Hey Mr. Green" column for Sierra magazine. It just takes a little old-fashioned common sense.
The best place to start is by cutting your energy usage in your home:
- Remember your mom's advice and switch off the lights when you leave a room.
- Turn off your air conditioner when you leave the house and dial your heater down to 55 degrees at night.
- Install LED bulbs and low-flow showerheads.
- Try drying some of your clothes on the line and wait for the dishwasher or washing machine to be full before you run them.
- Turn off your power strips and/or set your home computer to revert to sleep mode when not in use.
- Water your yard less. Put in drought-tolerant landscaping if necessary.
- Give composting a try. Your garden will thank you.

4: Work out a weekly system for keeping your house clean

Here are a few tips for keeping the mess under control from Jeff Campbell, author of the book Speed Cleaning and owner of the Clean Team housekeeping service in San Francisco.
Daily: Dishes go in the dishwasher every night - no excuses! Dirty clothes go in the hamper and jackets or clean clothes are hung in the closet. Bring everything back to its assigned place.
Weekly: Clean your entire house, using these tips:
- Keep all of your cleaners, as well as rubber gloves and spare cleaning cloths - in a portable carryall that moves with you from room to room.
- Stash cleaning implements such as a toothbrush, scraper, sponge, a few cleaning cloths and plastic bags in a builder's apron that you wear when you clean. Hook your glass cleaner and all-purpose cleaning spray on the loops to keep your hands free as you work around the room clockwise, cleaning from high (cabinets) to low (floors.)
- Focus on one type of cleaning at a time. It's faster, Campbell says. Wipe down fingerprints on all of the cabinets, for instance, before moving on to spraying and wiping counters. Then move on to windows and mirrors and appliances. Once that's done move on to sweeping and then mopping floors.
- For optimum efficiency, enlist the help of your family. If you can, divide the jobs among at least three parties: One of you can do the dusting/vacuuming and changing beds, the other can do the bathroom cleanup, leaving only the kitchen and trash emptying for you to handle. The upside? You can get the whole house done in 45 minutes, Campbell says, leaving more time on the weekends for the park or the movies.

5: Get your place ready for entertaining

Each year most of us vow to spend more time with family and friends. To make you feel like inviting people in, why not give the areas you entertain in a little update?
You don't have go for broke here and invest in a new kitchen remodel. All it takes to get a fresh new look is a little bit of rearranging and a few updates, says designer McCormick.
One easy update that makes your home seem more "finished" is the addition of plants, she says.
"They bring in new energy and help clean the air," she says. "And it's a great way to decorate if you're on a budget."
A couple of dramatic presentations like a large flowering agapanthus or potted palm in a bright ceramic planter that complements your existing color scheme will do the trick.
Pulling out a new accent color from your existing decor can make the whole room seem fresh. Pick an underused color in the room and add more of it in the form of a new pillow or throw to update your look, McCormick advises. A colorful rug or runner can also help anchor your space.
Lastly, take some time to rearrange your furniture so it is oriented in conversation groups and not just facing the television. That just might up for chances for real conversation and connection in the New Year.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Before and After: Bathroom Transformation

We have quite a few new before and afters for you, and we're so excited to share this bathroom projects with you.  What was once a dark and dated bathroom is now a bright, modern oasis.  Instead of feeling like you're in a time warp, you feel like you're in an upscale spa.

Check out this before:  The bathroom is so dark and crowded feeling.  The dated tile contributes to this as well, and feels overbearing.

The countertop was crowded and the mirror and lighting don't contribute to the space in a visually appealing way. Are you ready to see the after?!?

Tada!  Can you even believe this is the same space?  What was once dark and cramped is now light and airy.  With some design changes and lighter colors, the room feels larger, even thought the footprint of the room was not touched.  

The shower now features a beautiful glass door instead of a fabric curtain, and the wooden cabinets and white counter top set off the clean feeling of the room.  The larger mirror also helps to contribute to the bright room, as the light bounces off it to create the illusion of more light.  

What do you think?  How would you like to transform your bathroom to look like this?  Give us a call at 805.682.2226 and we can help you create the bathroom of your dreams. 

Before and After: From Horse Stable to Gorgeous Guest House

Who doesn't love a good before and after post?  Prepare yourself for the ultimate transformation! This horse stable was turned into a guest house in 1967, and hasn't been remodeled since.  Projects General Construction, Inc helped these homeowners bring their guest house back in style with this gorgeous renovation.  What do you think?

This laundry room was dark and not very functional. The dated flooring and curtains also needed some updating.  

This gorgeous paint color really brightens up the room! The cabinetry and countertops adds extra functionality, while the white color also lightens up the room.  

What used to be a cluttered, confused looking guest room has been transformed into a cozy guest bedroom.  The beachy feel immediately makes you feel relaxed.  The blue wall color perfectly compliments the white shiplap, which is currently a popular trend.  

Another cluttered room turned in to a serene space.  This living area felt dark and cramped before, but look at it now!  The wall color and wall treatments brighten the room, making the space feel larger.  The beach theme continues throughout this room, and that blue carpeting is no more, with beautiful hardwood flooring. 

We've saved the best for last!  You won't believe your eyes when you see this bathroom remodel...This bathroom needed a major facelift.  From the shower, to the toilet, to the vanity, everything was updated.  What felt like a narrow, claustrophobic space now looks and feels like an upscale spa.  The flooring ties the room together, as does the gorgeous lighting and fixtures.  

Friday, October 26, 2018

10 Cozy Bedrooms You'll Want to Curl Up in This Fall

With the temperatures outside already dropping, we can't help but crave a weekend spent inside curled up in bed. If your space is lacking in the cozy department though, now's the perfect time to make a change. These 10 bedrooms from HGTV are sure to inspire you to update your sanctuary for the coziest season of all.

Classic Colors

Go all in by bringing the best harvest-inspired colors right into your own bedroom. Yellows, oranges and reds all come together seamlessly to create a flawless interior that will be a hit all autumn long — and even into the winter. Whether you use them on bedding or window treatments, these warm hues will turn any standard space into a next-level atmosphere that will makes cozying up easier than ever.

Bedding Upgrade

One of the easiest ways to transition from season to season is by going the budget-friendly route. Quick upgrades are easily achievable, especially if you focus on only one or two decorative pieces. A good place to start? The bed. Find a pattern or color that captures the fall — like this muted plaid option — and show it off for the next few months. The look is soft, cozy and totally welcoming.

Quaint Quilts

While extra plush bedding is often associated getting cozy, this bed is just as inviting — all thanks to its multiple quilts. Less is often more, and this country-inspired bedroom certainly proves that. Layer two or three different patterned and colored quilts on the bed to create a low-fuss aesthetic that you’ll want to stay in all season long. Tie this warm look together by placing an antique rug on the floor for even more homey vibes.

Moody Ambiance

A moody ambiance is easily attainable with the help of some carefully curated lighting. Sure, comfortable bedding and warming elements are important, but the overall glow is crucial for a truly cozy setup. Avoid overhead lighting or any other harsh lamps and make sure you find an option, like this bedside stunner, that produces the ideal amount of soft light. Whether you’re reading or catching up on some TV, a dim light is the best way to set that seasonal mood.

Tons of Textiles

Introduce elements of next-level coziness by bringing in a variety of textiles — the combination of differents materials will add undeniable warmth. Faux sheepskin and faux animal hides create a bedroom ambiance that will be hard to leave this chilly time of year. Just drape them on the bed, the floors or on any other piece of furniture that needs some extra love. Prefer a neutral color palette? This textile heavy approach is the perfect way to incorporate seasonally appropriate decor without straying from the minimalist design you love.

Rich Colors

Transform any bedroom into a high-style, autumn-ready oasis by choosing rich, oppulent colors. If a dark set of walls feels like too big of a commitment, opt for decorative pieces that can be swapped in and out depending on the season. An oversized, plush throw blanket at the foot of the bed will do wonders for the overall setup. For an extra dramatic effect, consider pairing white bedding with a throw in your favorite deep shade to create a bold contrast.

Seasonal Touches

Add warmth to any bedroom by choosing colors, textures and materials that represent autumn in all the right ways. An accent rug with various shades of orange and red will add a cozy factor to cold, bare floors. Take this area of the room one step further by bringing in a basket to hold your extra blankets, and a small-scale stool on which to rest books and a warm mug for those days spent in bed.

Plush Pillows

The right use of colors and textures can do wonders for any space. Skip major upgrades and easily incorporate autumnal accents with the addition of some plush pillows. Pillows are the quintessential way to add snug-worthy style thanks to their extra cushiony nature. Take these already soft additions to the next level by choosing cases that exude warmth, like faux fur, velvet or chenille.

On-Trend Style

If cliche fall styles aren’t your favorite, there are ways to achieve the same levels of coziness without committing to the season's traditional color scheme. Update your minimalist bedding for the cooler months by adding a few details that will transform any bed into a comfy corner. A few furry pillows paired with modern stripes will give any bed a toasty feel, without clashing with the rest of the trendy design aesthetic.

Completely Comfortable

This whole bedroom is rocking a cozy vibe, from the floor to the windows. Whether you have a true canopy bed frame, or you just drape curtains around your headboard, this intimate setup can’t be beat. Don’t forget to utilize your windows, too. Set up some comfortable seating with throw blankets and extra pillows so you can enjoy the views while keeping warm inside.