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8 Toasty Outdoor Seating Areas Have Us Ready for Fall

1. Covered Indoor-Outdoor Living Area

Enclosing a porch or patio can be a great way to extend the use of an outdoor room in cold-winter climates.

This enclosed lounge area in Dallas feels like an outdoor room — it’s one step down from the house and is furnished like a luxe patio — but it can be used year round. What could be more cozy than sitting by the roaring fire and watching the rain fall outside?

2. Blankets at the Ready

Adding warmth to your outdoor seating area can be as easy as bringing out blankets from the house.

For this house in Jackson, Wyoming, plaid blankets draped over the backs of outdoor dining chairs bring a hit of color and warmth, tempting guests to linger past sunset.

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3. Heated Roof Deck

This Seattle rooftop is designed to be extra inviting at twilight, as glowing lanterns dot the perimeter and an outdoor heater casts radiant warmth. Guests enjoy the view of the sunset behind the Space Needle.

Freestanding patio heaters can warm up a patio area of 115 square feet. One heater is enough for a smaller patio; two heaters would cover a larger outdoor lounge.

4. Warmed-Up Common Space

This cozy fire pit and bench seating area sits in a shared outdoor space for residents of a bungalow complex. One could only imagine that the inviting area would help foster community among residents.

If you live in an apartment building with a shared outdoor area, or in a home that is governed by a homeowners association, it could be worth suggesting a communal outdoor heating element.

Portable fire pits, like this one by Modfire, are often less-expensive than large fire features and can be less-contentious additions to shared spaces, as they can easily be removed. Choose a model that’s gas-burning for a nonpolluting option.

Place the fire feature in an area that is fire-safe, on a spark-proof floor material and away from structures or any potentially flammable plants.

5. Suntrap

A southwest-facing terrace is not just a great spot for watching the sunset, it’s also oriented to provide maximum evening light and warmth.

This Spanish-style courtyard acts as a shady spot during the heat of the day and a suntrap in the evening. With rich-colored pillows and the flicker of nearby fire, the seating area invites you to spend an evening appreciating the last rays of sunshine and cooler temperatures of fall.

6. Outdoor Fire Lounge

A fire feature adds a focal point to an outdoor seating area and when lit, it increases evening coziness as the weather cools down. Look for smoke-free models that run on natural gas for a cleaner alternative to wood.

If you’re using a fire feature as a piece of furniture as well as for warmth, choose one with a rim that’s 6 inches or wider and can double as a place to rest a glass, a small plate or a narrow tray.

7. Heated Seating

It turns out that “being in the hot seat” is the prime spot for this San Francisco patio. The cast stone and steel bench plugs into an outdoor outlet and offers gentle radiant heat to anyone sitting on it. The heated bench helps extend time spent outdoors on a cool fall evening or when the fog rolls in.

8. Cozy Courtyard

Cushy seats, warm throws and soft lighting help this courtyard in North London feel like a cozy retreat. The metal paneling behind the seating area can be lit from behind, with light casting a patchwork glow along the exterior brick wall that encloses the courtyard.

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Enjoy Outdoor Soaking With a Classic Wood Hot Tub

A classic wood hot tub is the perfect spot for relaxing, refreshing your body and mind, socializing and taking in the nature around you in a calm, serene setting. It resonates with those who appreciate the simple design and organic look and feel.

“I use these tubs because I find them more humane and naturalistic than the much more common molded plastic options,” says architect Michael Howells of Howells Architecture + Design in Portland, Oregon. He adds that the dark finish and lack of an interior light allow the water to read as much darker and more like it is in nature. “They are more pond-like…simple and reductive,” he says.

Though hot tubs are, by definition, filled with hot water, it’s not a requirement. Many people transform their hot tubs to “cool” tubs by not heating the water and instead enjoying the cooler water temperature on hot summer days. If you want it even colder, you can add a chiller element.

Whom to Hire

Check with your hot tub supplier about installation requirements. You’ll need a professional to install any plumbing or electrical lines.

Expert do-it-yourselfers with handy friends may be able to do the rest, especially if the tub is delivered prebuilt. Otherwise, check into contractors that can help, especially if the tub will need to be assembled on-site. Your manufacturer can provide more guidance.

Hot Tub Basics

Traditional wood tubs are deep tubs that are lined with seats around the inner perimeter. The depth allows you to relax in shoulder-height water, which increases your sense of buoyancy and weightlessness; the seats keep you at a comfortable height. They’re generally smaller than acrylic spas, without as many bells and whistles.

Size and shape. How big your tub will be and what it will look like will be your first decisions. Hot tubs come in a variety of sizes, from cozy versions designed for one or two people to those that can hold up to eight people.

A round tub isn’t your only choice — you can also find tubs that are oval or rectangular. The design is based on the design of ofuros, the traditional soaking tubs found in Japan. “It is traditionally a tongue-and-groove wooden tub that has no fasteners or adhesive to hold the vertical planks together, but instead uses two steel straps that are tightened,” says architect Amy Lopez-Cepero of Ampersand Architecture in New York.

Material. Today’s wood hot tubs are generally made of cedar or teak, rather than the redwood or oak that was previously used. Both types of wood are more durable and less prone to leaking. You can let the wood weather to a soft gray or stain or seal it to keep the original color.

Heat source. Choosing a heat source is the next step. Electricity is the most popular heating option. It’s both easy to set up and has the lowest start-up costs. Gas, whether from a propane tank or a natural gas line, is also fairly straightforward, although the start-up costs are higher. If you opt for a tank, be sure you can easily reach it when it’s time to replace it. A gas-and-electric hybrid heat source is another option.

You can also consider a wood-fired heating system. This requires more prep time to start the fire, and you’ll also need to clean up afterward. It’s a good choice if you’re in a remote area or if you are simply looking for a traditional heat source.

Along with the heat source, you’ll need a pump, a filter and any connections for plumbing and electricity.

Cover. A cover for the tub is also a priority. Safety is your first concern, but a cover also holds in the heat and keeps out debris. You’ll find a variety of options to fit your personal style, including wood, aluminum, vinyl and similar materials. Thermal or insulated covers are best for holding in the heat and are recommended for cold-winter climates.

Wood and aluminum covers are lifted directly off the tub and set aside. Before you invest in one, check the weight to be sure you can easily move it — wood, especially, can be bulky and heavy. Vinyl covers can be lifted off or rolled back, much like a swimming pool cover.


Bonus features. Wood hot tubs generally have far fewer bells and whistles than acrylic or fiberglass spas, as mentioned, but that doesn’t mean you can’t deck them out. A simple but useful addition is a ledge that encircles part of the tub, making a great spot for drinks or snacks.

You can also find small jets to add to your tub. You won’t get the bubbles of a spa, but they will aerate the water. For added convenience, look for a control with a Wi-Fi connection so you can make adjustments without getting out of the tub.

While you’re enjoying the distant view, such as this one from the rooftop of a New York City loft, you can also take in the sights closer to the tub. Great plantings, soft lights or a nearby fire pit can add to the ambiance, as can a TV for watching the game — or watching nature that’s a bit farther away.
Planning and Installation Basics

Once you’ve decided on your hot tub, the next step is deciding where it will go. You’ll also need to prepare the site for the tub and its accessories.

Where it will go. Hot tubs are remarkably versatile when it comes to where to put them. The ideal spot for a hot tub is one where the surroundings and views are equally relaxing.

Think about when and how you plan to use the tub. Should it be close to the house so it’s easy to get to it and back? The nearness also might tempt you to use it more often. Do you envision it right outside your bedroom for an evening or early morning dip away from the rest of the household? Perhaps you want it set far out in the yard, whether to let you take in the surrounding landscape or create a true getaway spot.

Wherever you put it, remember that even the smallest hot tub holds a large amount of water, which is heavy. You’ll want a sturdy, level base that can withstand the elements.

A concrete base is a good choice for most installations. If you don’t want concrete or another type of permanent, solid base, place the tub on a level, flat surface covered with a base of sand or fine gravel to prevent rot.

Stand-alone or submerged? Once you’ve found the right spot, decide how you want to incorporate your tub into the surrounding space. Stand-alone tubs sit fully above the surface, whether it’s the ground, a patio or a deck. This makes installing them fairly straightforward.

You’ll also need to add a way to get in and out of the tub easily and safely. You can add steps that either sit directly against the tub or partially encircle it. The seating inside the tub will also serve as a step. If the tub is particularly deep, you may want to add extra support, such as a handhold, to make it easier to get in and out.

The edge of a completely submerged hot tub is even with the deck, patio or ground. The surrounding surface gives you plenty of space for setting towels, drinks and snacks, and it’s easy to converse with those around you. You’ll need to be sure the cover is secure and sturdy enough to handle any unexpected weight.

A partially submerged hot tub sits slightly above the surrounding surface. A good maximum height is about 18 inches above the ground. More than that and you’ll probably need to add steps.

A hot tub set directly into the ground has extra requirements. For the tub seen here, that meant adding materials to separate the tub from the surrounding soil. “We rolled a piece of steel so that the hot tub would look as if it was in the ground but no direct soil was put up against the hot tub,” says Jayson King, principal designer of Landform Design Group in Salt Lake City. “We also set the hot tub on 6 inches of compacted base so it was structural and not sinking.”

One popular approach is to set half the hot tub at deck level at the edge of a raised patio or deck and extend it out. This allows people to easily access the hot tub from one side and plays up the views of the yard and beyond.

Mechanical equipment. Plan for where the mechanical equipment will go and if you want to disguise it with a cover or by building it into any steps or ledges. Another consideration is any pipes. “If you don’t enclose a portion of the tub, you are going to be looking at PVC piping entering the side wall at one side,” Howells says.

Care and Maintenance

Even the simplest hot tub needs some maintenance to keep it looking good and the water in it clean and fresh. Your hot tub supplier will have specific recommendations, but here are some basic guidelines.

Inside the tub. The first step is to avoid debris with a cover and filter. Taking a quick shower before you enter the tub or having a foot bath nearby can also eliminate a lot of dirt, debris and bacteria.

You’ll find eco-friendly and nontoxic sanitization options such as specialty hydrogen peroxide solutions and ozone sanitizers. You can also find test strips to check levels weekly. Wipe off any dirt on exposed surfaces with soapy water and a soft brush, and wipe off the ends of pipes every week or so.

Outside the tub. Wipe off any dirt with a mild soap solution and a soft brush, and make any repairs as soon as you notice a problem. If you’ve added a stain to your tub, you will need to renew that periodically.

Water replacement. You don’t have to replace the water every time you use the tub, but you will need to do it on a regular basis. Much will depend on how often you use the tub and how clean the water stays. If you soak often, you might want to drain every six to 10 weeks. With less use, every four to six months might be enough.

Using eco-friendly care products lets you recycle the water. You can use it for ornamental landscapes, but do not use it for edible gardens. Another option is to tie the hot tub into your underground drainage system, especially if it is part of a new landscape installation.

Hot tubs are designed to be always filled with water, but you may want to forgo the tub in winter, depending on how extreme your climate is or if it’s at a vacation home you don’t use in winter. If this is the case, drain the tub and then follow the manufacturer’s directions for winterizing it.

Other Considerations for Adding a Wood Hot Tub

When to do this project. When you can add a hot tub depends on your weather. Those in warm-winter climates can usually add one year-round. Where it is colder, you’ll need to wait until the prep work can be done.

How long it will take. Give enough time for a professional to install any new plumbing or electrical lines before you begin installing the tub. You’ll also need to ensure you have a solid base in place before you begin.

It may take as little as a weekend or up to a week to have your hot tub ready to go. If the installation is simple, you won’t need too much time, especially if you don’t need to put the tub together. More complicated installations, especially if you’re adding features or the tub is part of a bigger project, may take longer.

Rules and regulations. It’s always wise to check your local building codes and any homeowners association regulations before you start any landscaping project, including installing a hot tub. There may be requirements for placement or security as well as other considerations.

This content was originally published here.

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How to Hang Curtains Just Right | Houzz

Learn how to hang your curtains properly with key methods and measurements. Get your drapes and window treatments on the right track with these tips and tricks for hanging curtains.

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6 Ways to Keep Your Edible Garden Going Until Spring

1. Figure Out Your Garden’s Specific Climate

So much depends on when the first hard frost hits in your area, so it’s important to be aware of your backyard space’s microclimate. Start by consulting the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s hardiness zone map.

You should also consider which sections of your garden get the most sun, wind or shade. This information helps determine which plants are likely to do well in colder conditions and what you need to do to protect them.

2. Learn About Season Extenders

You can stretch planting and harvesting seasons — or get a super early jump-start on spring harvesting — by using cold frames, mini hoop tunnels, row covers, mulch, portable greenhouse structures, or a combination of several.

In colder climates, cold frames are your best bet. They’re basically a bottomless wood or polycarbonate box with a clear top designed to capture solar energy. You can pick one up at any garden center, and it acts as a mini-greenhouse, fitting right over your garden beds. Pair up your season extenders to protect your crops even more: Place a polycarbonate tunnel over the top of a mini-hoop tunnel on your beds, for example.

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3. Focus on Just a Few Crops

If you’re a small-space gardener or are trying winter harvesting for the first time, choose just a few of your favorite crops to try. Baby Japanese turnips, beet greens and other salad greens can usually be planted until late fall, depending on where you live.

It’s best to get a head start by calculating when your veggies will be close to fully grown and back-timing that from your area’s frost predictions. You can plan your winter garden now by doing this simple math and also focus on extending this year’s harvest for plants you already have in the soil.

4. Warm Up Your Soil With Lots of Mulch

For root or stem crops that are already in your garden, keep them cozy by deep-mulching them now with at least a foot and a half of shredded leaves or straw. Use a row cover, bed sheet or garden fabric weighed down with rocks to keep the mulch from blowing away. Mulch also smothers weeds, keeps moisture in the soil and prevents erosion.

When you’re ready to dig up some radishes, just remove the cover and mulch, pull up what you want and replace the insulation.

5. Reduce Wind Exposure and Protect Your Plants With Layers

Wind is just as bad as frigid temperatures when it comes to gardening, so if your edible beds are in the middle of your yard, you’ll want to put up a mesh fence around your crops and some polypropylene garden fabric or burlap. You can also use a staked and secured tomato cage covered with plastic over the top of your plants. Adding insulation barriers like plastic will allow you to garden even in the coldest months.

Bonus: Protecting your crops this way will also deter pests from chomping on your harvest.

6. Resist the Urge to Water

Unlike growing edibles in warmer months, you can put away the hose and watering can for now — your season extenders act as terrariums, providing enough humidity to keep your thirsty plants hydrated. Plants won’t be actively growing in the winter months, so they’re not releasing water that needs to be immediately replaced.

On warm, sunny days during the winter, any moisture let off by your herbs and veggies will be trapped in the cold frame or hoop house and then recycled into the soil. Most gardens won’t need to be watered between late November and late February. Also, during winter when your root crops aren’t growing, they don’t need the sun to photosynthesize. Layers of snow will insulate and protect your edibles.

There’s nothing quite like the taste of home-grown produce picked straight from the garden. Now that the seasons are changing and colder temperatures are in the cards for parts of the country, you may think your yummy salad days are over. But guess what? There’s no need to put your garden to bed just yet.

You can enjoy root crops like carrots, beets and celery root, stem crops like leeks, Brussels sprouts and hardy greens way into the winter months. We’re talking Christmas carrots straight from the garden. You can even plant some especially tough herbs and other edibles right up until the soil freezes. Here’s how to turn your edible garden into a year-round food factory — even when your yard is piled with snow.

This content was originally published here.

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25 Stylish Ways to Improve Your Outdoor Storage

Cabinets and Closets

1. Weather-tight cupboards. A weather-resistant closet or cabinet makes just as much sense outdoors as it does inside your home. Fully enclosed cabinets will keep your outdoor paraphernalia secure and out of the weather — from the too-hot sun to rain or snow — when not in use and readily available when needed.

Avoid having the cabinet stick out like a sore thumb by tucking it into otherwise unused or seldom-used spaces and giving it a stylish finish. These cabinets fit nicely under the stairs, and their attractive facades match well with the traditional look of the house.

2. Under-deck storage. A raised deck offers another opportunity to add style and storage. A wooden barn door and siding are stained to complement the rest of this Washington home’s deck. It’s also right off both the house and the side yard for easy access.

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3. Floating console. This open-air pool house in New York includes a wood-paneled wall containing a built-in floating console table with hidden storage that doesn’t interfere with the area’s floor space. The mix of black, white and natural wood fits in with the patio’s modern barn look.

4. Integrated cabinets. A shallow cabinet built along one side of a deck is a good spot for storing outdoor accessories without stealing too much space from the outdoor area — or, if this was on a patio next to the home, the interior. Here, the door finish matches the fencing above, and the cabinets are tucked along a wide walkway. Everything is handy when it’s time to work but is tucked out of sight when it’s time to entertain.

Hidden Drawers and Storage Bins

5. Built-in drawers. Built-in drawers beneath this deck can stash outdoor pillows and blankets. They’re easy to access but aren’t taking up valuable patio floor space.

6. Concealed cubbies. Three drawers built into a multilevel deck are almost invisible when closed but can be easily opened to reveal ample storage space. The interiors are lined with metal to protect the contents.

7. Underground cellar. These oenophiles keep their wine collection naturally chilled yet readily available with this underground cellar built into their patio. Plus, there’s the “cool” factor of dropping down into the cellar to get your wine.

Niches and Nooks

8. Cutouts. Niches cut into the back side of this outdoor kitchen cabinet in Austin, Texas, are the perfect spot for storing small items such as towels, pool toys or bottles of water. They’re close enough to the nearby pool to be readily available but safe from water splashes or accidental spills and breakage. They also bring a nice touch of color to what would otherwise be a blank wall.

9. Multiuse shelves. This multipurpose design in London takes niche storage to the next level with open shelves, storage bowls and baskets. There are also handy spaces for storing firewood without having it spill into the garden area itself. Building it into the fence keeps the walkway that runs beside it open and clear as well.

10. Wood accent. The wood for this wood-burning grill is close at hand while being protected from the elements with a storage spot under the floating bench and shelving. The stacks of wood serve as a striking design feature on their own in a blend of sophisticated and natural looks.

11. Freestanding furniture. Use bins to create multiple nooks for tidy storage. This unit in Dallas does triple-duty as a spot for firewood, small counters for holding snacks, drinks and other paraphernalia and a decorative feature that helps screen the fire pit itself.

12. Trash niche. The street-facing side of this detached studio in Santa Barbara, California, has a hidden practical purpose as the storage spot for garbage and recycling cans and other utilitarian necessities.

The storage section on the lower half has doors that blend into the rest of the siding and artwork and a window above, giving no hint of what’s hidden behind the doors when they’re closed.

13. Concealed bin cabinet. This storage area appears to be a decorative cabinet that screens the neighbor’s house and frames an outdoor lounge area. In reality, it conceals the homeowner’s trash and recycling cans, which they can easily wheel down the driveway on trash day.

The copper lid over the bins is hinged to provide easy access to the cans while also doubling as a counter if necessary.

Small Solutions

14. Wall-mounted shelf. If you have only a few things to store or want separate storage for items you use all the time, think outside the traditional garden shed. This wall-mounted cabinet does just that, as it is set on the side of the larger garden tool and storage shed. Its size is convenient for often-used tools you want close at hand. The rack keeps the tools in place when you open the door.

15. Slim cabinet. This small cabinet conceals an outdoor shower, but you can borrow the idea for a storage spot that is sleekly contemporary in style as well as practical. Small tools, garden supplies, swim towels, toys, and even outdoor serving ware can be readily available. Add it to a patio or deck or set it alongside the house.

Double Duty

16. Shed shelves. Make the most of your outdoor storage spots by designing them to serve double duty. Shelving along one end of this garden shed in the United Kingdom is a useful spot to keep firewood dry and unused pots close at hand. It’s also a good stashing place for small toys, tools and other outdoor accessories that can wind up all over your yard.

17. Hardworking potting bench. An extended potting bench provides storage room for more than garden supplies. Clear things off and you have a great spot for setting up drinks, hors d’oeuvres or a buffet for a garden party.

Sports Spots

18. Double doors. Sports equipment should be both handy and out of the way when not in use. That can be a challenge, especially when the sports equipment is bulky. These homeowners found a solution for their kayak and all the related equipment under the deck. The area is dry, but it’s also ventilated to prevent mold and mildew. It’s also just a few steps to the dock when it’s time to get on the water.

19. Side-yard solution. A simple open-sided shelter with a sloped corrugated roof keeps this family’s bike and boating gear corralled and out of the direct rain and sun in Minnesota. There’s even room for a bike stand and fix-it area at the far end. The family kayak sits overhead.

20. Sports shed. A stacking storage system houses the family skis along one side of a detached shed. Wall-mounted racks provide a convenient spot for storing bikes. The overhead provides added protection, and the equipment is easy to access.

21. Storage screen. An almost hidden storage area sits behind the fence on the left side of this backyard in Los Angeles. It holds equipment, supplies and other necessities for the pool and spa without detracting from the overall design of the yard.

Personalized Style

22. Woodland shed. For most people, a garden shed or storage area, whether it’s for tools, supplies, equipment or toys, will be an integral and noticeable part of the landscape. You can minimize it by nestling it into an inconspicuous spot. You can also make a garden feature that complements the rest of your landscape.

This contemporary shed in Bethesda, Maryland, may be nestled into the trees and shrubs, but its modern look still stands out. There are enough walls to provide protection, but the open L-shaped door encourages you to enter.

23. Stylish outbuilding. This traditional shed in Raleigh, North Carolina, looks more like a small cottage. The porch draws you to the space and encourages you to linger outside. Inside, there’s plenty of room, and everything is hidden from sight.

24. Backyard barn. Even if you prefer both the shed and the contents hidden away, you needn’t sacrifice good looks. This backyard shed in Toronto balances rustic and stylish charm, and the Dutch doors make it a versatile spot for backyard events. The wide ledges on the Dutch doors can double as a bar or self-serving area during gatherings,

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Bathroom of the Week: Large Curbless Shower Bathed in Sunshine

“After” photos by Ashley Sullivan Marks of Exposurely Photography

Bathroom at a Glance
Who lives here: A professional couple
Location: Reston, Virginia
Size: 127 square feet (12 square meters)
Design: Emily Bickl (layout and cabinet design) and Camille DeLew (interior design) of Synergy Design & Construction

Before: The large platform tub with tile deck dominated the aging bathroom. “The clients hated the tub,” Bickl says. “It was taking up space, and they didn’t use it.”

A dark shower was crammed into a small nook between the tub and a water closet, which the couple wanted to keep.

What they didn’t want were the tan-colored walls, brown tile floor with an inset pattern and basic white double vanity. “Their biggest issue was that [the vanity] had low-quality materials and was much too plain,” Bickl says. “They really wanted a warm stain.”

After: The design team stripped the former space and started fresh. A spacious curbless shower with a wall-to-wall glass front now sits beneath the skylights, enjoying the sunshine during the day. “They definitely wanted the shower to feel open, and see all the materials in the shower,” Bickl says.

River rock tile covers the shower floor and extends to the main floor to form a border around light wood-look porcelain tile with radiant heat. “The inspiration photos from Houzz the clients showed us had cut stone being used as an accent on the bathroom floor,” Bickl says.

A custom double vanity with mahogany stain adds a dose of warmth. Opposite, a new linen cabinet improves storage. Soft blue-green walls (Rainwashed, Sherwin-Williams) create a soothing, nature-inspired backdrop.

Shower door: ABC Glass and Mirror; main floor tile: Etic series in color Rovere Bianco, Atlas Concorde USA; floor border tile: Mixed River Marble Pebble, MSI; ceiling paint: Ceiling White, Sherwin-Williams; trim paint: Chantilly Lace, Benjamin Moore

The upgraded maple double vanity features a rich mahogany finish and brushed satin nickel pulls that coordinate with brushed nickel mirror frames and sconces. The faucets are a stainless finish. Wispy gray veining in the marble-look quartz countertop picks up the metal finishes.

Two square towel rings complement the rectangular tube lights and rectangle mirrors. “The clients liked that square look that we used for the plumbing fixtures and accessories,” Bickl says.

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Textured 12-by-24-inch 3D porcelain tile covers the wide wall of the shower. Similar tile in a flat matte finish covers the two side walls. “We wanted to tile that whole end of the room but break it up by not using the same tile everywhere,” Bickl says. “The 3D tiles provided a different texture, without a huge contrast.”
After: With the shower eliminated, the design team added a built-in linen storage system with a mix of cabinets, open shelves and drawers. The pulls match those on the vanity.

A wider hinged door to the water closet makes it easier to enter and exit the space. New recessed niches inside the water closet provide user-friendly storage. “We used a little leftover space from when we removed the old shower to add those niches,” Bickl says.

The designers also added a new exhaust fan and heat lamp during the renovation.

Before: This look from the old tub toward the hinged bathroom door gives a sense of the basic look and feel the owners wanted to update.

If you don’t use it, lose it. That was the jumping-off point for these Virginia homeowners when it came to their large platform tub. The built-in tub, which the couple never used, sat right below the best spot in the bathroom: under two large skylights. So they decided it was time to lose it.

They also wanted to update the generic double vanity, the dark and narrow shower stall and the overall look of the space. They gathered design ideas on Houzz, then reached out to designers Emily Bickl and Camille DeLew for help making their vision a reality. The designers ditched the tub, of course, and created a generous glass-enclosed curbless shower in its place, putting it in the best light.

This content was originally published here.

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5 Big Takeaways From the 2021 U.S. Houzz Bathroom Trends Study

1. Common Pet Peeves

Many people embark on a bathroom renovation to address frustrations with the style and function of their existing space. In fact, a third of homeowners say the trigger for starting a remodel is that they “can no longer stand the old bathroom.”

The main frustration is having an old and outdated space. More than two-thirds of homeowners say it’s their top pet peeve, as this chart shows. One-third say insufficient storage is a major concern, and about the same share say a small shower is a factor.

Designer Kirby Foster Hurd addressed many common pet peeves in this Oklahoma City bathroom. Zellige-style shower tile and other elegant finishes and accessories give the space a fresh, current look. A substantial vanity offers plenty of storage, and a spacious low-curb shower provides a roomy experience. Sconces, overhead lighting and a window tackle a top concern among a quarter of homeowners: insufficient lighting.
2. Aging Family Members

A rising need among many homeowners is a bathroom that can accommodate aging family members, either now or in the future.

More than a quarter of homeowners say they currently need their bathroom to address an aging family member’s needs. Nearly 2 in 5 say they’ll need to accommodate an aging family member in the future.

This Bethesda, Maryland, bathroom by design-build pro Jonas Carnemark is a good example of a bathroom designed for someone with mobility issues. A wide, curbless threshold allows for a step-free entrance, or a wheelchair, and multiple benches and grab bars offer support and stability.

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3. White Leads All Finishes

When it comes to materials and finishes, white leads in all categories. It’s the top color choice for vanities (32%), countertops (58%), shower walls (46%) and nonshower walls (34%).

An all-white scheme works well in a bathroom, where a sense of cleanliness is often desired. White also enhances light, giving a space an airy look, which is especially important in small spaces. Plus, a crisp palette helps create the soothing, spa-like feel that many homeowners desire.

Wood vanities (27%) and gray nonshower walls (27%) are popular elements for introducing another tone. And keep an eye on blue vanities, which are rising in popularity. The share of homeowners who included a blue vanity in their bathroom remodel rose 3 percentage points, from 5% in 2020 to 8% in 2021.

4. Making Changes Within the Same Footprint

A large majority of homeowners (77%) keep their bathroom about the same during a renovation, which makes sense. Expanding a space into another area of the home might not be an option, and adding space can significantly increase the cost of a project. So homeowners generally work within the same footprint.

The most common bathroom size is less than 100 square feet (43%) followed by 100 to 199 square feet (36%). A decreasing but still significant share of homeowners are working with a bathroom that’s 200 or more square feet (21%).

But major changes and upgrades still occur within those kept footprints. Half of homeowners increase the size of their shower, though the share decreased 4 percentage points compared with 2020.

Many homeowners change the layout (42%), such as relocating the shower, and many modify existing walls (40%).

Architect Anik Pearson created a smart layout for this elegant apartment bathroom in the Tribeca neighborhood of Manhattan. She placed the tall shower element at the end of the narrow room, helping draw the eye into the space to settle on the beautiful black metal enclosure. And tucking the toilet behind a partition obscured the piece a bit to keep the focus on the luxurious tile and slab work.

5. Freestanding Soaking Tubs Stay on Top, but Alcove Tubs Are on the Rise

While 1 in 4 homeowners removes a bathtub during a renovation, the majority of homeowners are keen to keep and possibly upgrade their tub.

Freestanding acrylic soaking tubs are by far the most popular bathtub style, material and type. But alcove tubs, such as those found in the common shower-tub combo, are rising in popularity. They’re up 4 points, from 22% in 2020 to 26% in 2021.

In this Phoenix bathroom, a deep soaking tub is tucked against a textured tile wall, on which is mounted a contemporary tub filler. An open shower stall with views to a private courtyard creates a breezy, spa-like feel.

There are countless decisions to make when remodeling a bathroom. But knowing what other homeowners are doing in their bathroom renovations can be a good guide for how you might want to handle your own. For example, if your neighbors are prioritizing new finishes and adequate storage, and making design accommodations for aging family members, you might want to focus on those elements during conversations with your own design and remodeling professionals.

To help get you started, consider these five big takeaways from the 2021 U.S. Houzz Bathroom Trends Study.

This content was originally published here.

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Simple Pleasures: Rise and Shine!

Get Up 30 Minutes Earlier Than Usual

You can improve your morning within the current time frame you have (try any of the ideas that follow), but if your mornings tend to be a frenzied rush, it really is worth it to get up a bit earlier. Half an hour is long enough to feel as if you’ve gained a lot of time, but not so much that it requires a huge shift in your schedule. If you are a parent, those extra 30 minutes before your children get up could be the only time you have to yourself all day — certainly worth the effort!

Swap Your Alarm

As the first sound you hear in the morning, your alarm can begin your day on a positive note … or a not-so-positive note. Try starting your day to a favorite song or nature sounds. Also, if you use your phone as an alarm clock, it can be tempting to immediately check your email and social media when you wake up, but screen time first thing isn’t likely to make for the most positive morning experience. Try switching to a plug-in alarm clock, or try one of the new apps that allow you to limit access to online distractions.

Meditate While Your Coffee Brews

While waiting for your first cup to brew, use the time to center yourself: While taking long, deep breaths, close your eyes and imagine you are in a very peaceful place. Allow any thoughts that pop into your head to drift by like clouds. When your coffee is ready, take one more deep breath and open your eyes.

Savor Your First Cup of Coffee

Rather than grabbing your cup and immediately rushing off to begin your morning routine, take a moment to really notice and savor those first sips. Sit down, relax, stare out the window — just let yourself be for a moment.

Write in Your Journal or Read a Few Pages of Your Current Book

If you’ve been trying to keep up a journaling habit, first thing in the morning is a good time to fit this in: Make a practice of writing a few pages, simply getting your thoughts onto paper to clear some space for the day ahead. Alternatively, reading a few pages of a good novel or a great poem can inspire you and uplift your mood as you begin the day.

Step Out Into the Sun

If the weather is good, bring your coffee or tea outdoors for a few minutes. Inhale the fresh air and feel the sun on your face. If you have a garden, you could wander down to have a look at the plants, or just sit on the patio and listen to the sounds of the world waking up.

Get organized by writing down a quick list of things you want and need to get done today, but keep it short and manageable by prioritizing. An easy way to do this is to ask yourself, if at the end of the day you felt really accomplished, what three things would you have done to make that happen? Those are your three must-dos for the day.

Give Your Breakfast a Special Touch

Squeeze fresh juice, make a smoothie or simply enjoy a bowl of perfectly ripe fruit. If you normally have plain oatmeal or a bowl of yogurt, sprinkle some nuts and berries on top, or swirl in some honey, agave or maple syrup. If you usually have a pastry or muffin, take the extra moment to warm it in the oven.

Have a Bit of Zen Alone Time as You Get Ready

The beauty of getting up a bit early is not having to rush through your getting-ready routine at light speed. Put on some music you love (or savor the silence), slow down and focus on the most pleasurable parts of getting ready: the scent of a delicious soap, smoothing on a wonderful cream, wrapping up in a fluffy towel and robe after your shower.

Do Something Creative

Feeding your creativity before you go to your “real” job is a wonderful way to prioritize what is really important in your life. Pull out your sketchbook and draw, paint a small watercolor, fire up your laptop and work on a scene in your novel, knit a few rows or grab your camera and step outside to snap a few photos in the beautiful morning light. It’s easy to think that you don’t have “enough” time to devote to your art or craft, but you can accomplish a lot even in 10 minutes — if you squeeze in those 10 minutes every chance you get!

Do Something Satisfyingly Productive

Marinate some chicken for dinner, start a load of laundry, make the beds or run the dishwasher. None of these tasks takes very long at all, and coming home at the end of the day to freshly made beds, clean dishes and dinner prep that’s halfway done is a very positive thing indeed.

Exercise, Stretch Out or Do a Few Yoga Poses

It’s true that to have enough time to get to the gym in the morning, you would likely need to get up more than a half hour early — but even with limited time, you can still do a few yoga poses or a set of strength exercises, or even fit in a quick run in your own neighborhood.

Make Plans for a Special Morning Treat

If you tend to drag on weekday mornings, it could be because you feel as if (unlike the weekends) there’s nothing especially positive to look forward to in your day. So change that! Make plans to stop by your favorite bakery, pick up fresh flowers for your desk, meet a friend at a cafe for tea in the afternoon or take in an art gallery on your lunch break. Just because it’s a workday doesn’t mean you can’t have fun too!

Leave early so you can have a more pleasant commute. Take your bike or walk if possible, or simply leave a bit earlier than usual so you don’t feel rushed as you drive or head out to catch the bus. Relieving some of the stress of the morning commute can put a much more positive spin on your entire day.

It’s easy to love weekend mornings (who doesn’t love a leisurely start to the day?), but weekday mornings don’t need to be rushed through. In fact, by reclaiming a bit of time for yourself in the morning, your workdays can begin on a note of inspiration, creativity and pleasure. The sun is up, the birds are singing and the French press is full and hot — pick from these 14 ways to make the most of your mornings, even if it is Monday.

This content was originally published here.

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New This Week: 7 Living Rooms With Stylish Fireplace Designs

1. Marble and Wood

Designer:
Sheila Rich Interiors
Location: Monroe, New Jersey

Homeowners’ request.
“The homeowners wanted a warm and inviting living room steeped in elegance and grace,” designer Sheila Rich says. “They wanted a timeless, fresh, traditional aesthetic utilizing performance and stain-resistant fabrics.”

Fireplace details. “The elegant two-story marble-and-wood fireplace, enhanced with rich millwork, displays cherished art,” Rich says. “The soft, subtle draperies frame the fireplace and fill the volume of the 20-foot coffered ceiling.”

Other special features. “The coffered ceiling and wainscoting enhance the room with beautiful millwork,” Rich says. “Rich architectural details are maximized with gently contrasting Sherwin-Williams Reflection on the walls, creating a luxuriously timeless design, balancing elegance and refinement. The scale and proportion of the dual-purpose cocktail ottoman completes the room.”

Designer tip. “Creating dramatic focal points adds interest to this room,” Rich says. “The fireplace is on one wall and a custom, asymmetrical entertainment unit, which uniquely frames the TV and beautifully displays prized collections, is on the other wall. The custom wool area rug adds warmth and defines the living room in this open floor plan.”

“Uh-oh” moment. “Our ‘uh-oh’ moment — and there always is one — occurred when a sectional that was too large and out of proportion for the room was delivered,” Rich says. “The client didn’t realize at first because the fabric and style of the sofa were similar to the one we ordered. A room does not work when the furniture is out of scale. We eventually got exactly what we ordered. Problem solved.”

2. Reclaimed Wood

Designer: Emily Mughannam of Fletcher Rhodes
Location: Napa, California

Homeowners’ request.
“The owner has a small child who was just starting to crawl,” designer Emily Mughannam says. “They wanted the space to feel sophisticated for their friends but soft and child-friendly enough for their little one. The space was cold, with concrete floors everywhere and massive ceilings. We added a lot of soft textiles, materials and furnishings for them to get cozy.”

Fireplace details.
Reclaimed-wood boards that match the dramatic ceiling beams. “We didn’t want other dark colors to overwhelm the space, so we opted to use lighter, creamier colors elsewhere,” Mughannam says.

Other special features. “We kept a very consistent color palette throughout,” Mughannam says. “Neutral sofas have layers of texture and subtle patterns with pillows and throws.”

Designer tip. “Because the space was so large, we had two full sitting areas,” Mughannam says. “We used the same rug in both spaces to pull the spaces together and keep them cohesive.”

3. Oxidized Steel

Homeowners’ request. “This contemporary Houston home stands in contrast to the area’s historic and Victorian-style homes,” designer Laura Umansky says. “The homeowners wanted the interior to match the exterior facade while honoring the neighborhood’s past. The goal was a warm and thoughtful space to entertain friends and family. The team delivered a formal living room paired with postmodern silhouettes and antique accents.”

Fireplace details. Oxidized steel surrounding a wood-burning fireplace. “It was a great focal point for the room,” Umansky says. “Its continuous face ties in the color scheme perfectly.”

Other special features. Oxblood sofa. Custom textured chaise. “The use of refined finishes such as leather, walnut, oak and cordovan communicates the grandeur of the space,” Umansky says. “The homeowners’ handsome piano, accompanied by a soft cream boucle bench, rests in the corner. The inkblot flat-weave rug offers continuity throughout the space, joining the pale Scandinavian neutrals with their heavier dark-toned counterparts.”

Designer tip.
“Don’t be afraid to use bold colors, even in a modern space,” Umansky says. “For this living room, we selected burnt sienna and cordovan hues. Even though these are darker hues compared to the rest of the pieces in the living room, they complement the room perfectly.”

Need a pro for your home remodeling project?
Let Houzz find the best pros for you

4. White Oak and Stone

Homeowners’ request. A bright, open floor plan.

Fireplace details. Rift-cut white oak. Cedar Creek Berkshire Rubble stone surround. Firebrick firebox and hearth. “The room is designed to focus on the fireplace,” architect Greg Kent says. “The ridgeline, or high point, of the ceiling aligns with the fireplace to add further emphasis.”

Other special features.
European Oak Cayman flooring. Wall painted in Antique Paper by Dunn-Edwards.

“Uh-oh” moment. “We struggled with how to make the basement level not feel like a basement,” Kent says. “The stairway is located directly behind the fireplace. That created an opportunity to use open shelving on both sides of the fireplace to bring natural light from the living room into the lower level. It was also an opportunity to extend the pitched ceiling into the stairwell and use those same materials on the fireplace down into the lower level.”

Project photos: Roehner + Ryan

5. Black Slate

Homeowners’ request. For this new-construction home, the owners wanted to capture the stunning mountain views.

Fireplace details. Black slate tile surrounding a simple modern gas fireplace. Wood hearth that doubles as a bench with storage underneath.

Other special features. “This neutral palette of black-gray and wood is complemented by simple midcentury-inspired furniture in pops of colors chosen by the owner,” says architect Kristen L’Espérance, who used Houzz ideabooks to tease out her clients’ design sensibilities.

Designer tip. “Extruded surfaces or changes in elevation like lowered ceilings and floors, soffits and walls help delineate more intimate and purposeful spaces within one large space,” L’Espérance says.

6. Marble-Look Porcelain

Designers: Laleh Shafiezadeh (interior design) and Mark Teale (architecture) of Teale Architecture
Location: Corona del Mar, California

Homeowners’ request. “This was a new-build home, but the difficulty was a long, narrow property with a canyon view at the rear,” says architect Mark Teale, a Houzz Pro who collaborated with his clients through ideabooks for this project. “The wall on the right had to be broken up to not look like a long blank wall. The fireplace needed a dramatic material to emphasize the end of the room and reorient your view as you came into the room.”

Fireplace details.
Marble-look porcelain slabs. “The fireplace material needed to be light and contemporary without being stark,” Teale says. “The organic shapes help to soften the appearance despite being a bright, light material.” The slabs are echoed in the nearby kitchen backsplash and island.

Other special features. “The wood flooring ties all the materials together and ensures the warmth of the space,” Teale says.

Just the hint of cool weather has many people thinking ahead to gathering around the fireplace. But a fireplace is an important design feature no matter what the season. Often the focal point of a living room, a fireplace can set the tone for the entire space. And there are many ways to handle it. Here, design and remodeling professionals on Houzz share which materials and details they used to create a captivating fireplace in seven living rooms.

This content was originally published here.

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How to Plan the Perfect U-Shaped Kitchen

Know the Pros and Cons of the U-Shaped Design

Generally, U-shaped kitchens provide lots of storage and work surface. They’re also very safe since they have only one entrance and no through traffic. This last point, however, also means that within small U-shaped layouts, there may be space for only one cook at a time. It’s also worth noting that U-shaped layouts are typically more expensive than others, such as galley or L-shaped designs, because they require more cabinetry and countertop material for the additional run of cabinets.

Plan Your Layout

The cabinetry lengths on a U-shaped kitchen can be roughly the same or vary; in both cases, there’s opportunity for flexibility within the design. Where all walls are the same length (for example, 10 feet), your starting point for planning usually depends on where the windows are located.

If one of the walls has a window, this usually would be the run we’d suggest for your kitchen sink. Not only will a window offer natural light for washing up, but there’s also the romantic notion of gazing outward while doing the dishes. This, of course, very much depends on your view.

Position the Sink and Cooktop

If the sink sits in the middle run of a U-shaped layout, then your stove can be located on either of the other runs. However, if these two runs vary in length, the longer wall would usually house the range to allow more space on either side of it.

Meanwhile, if the sink is on a run other than the middle one, as pictured here, we would try to ensure a continuous flow of countertop from this point onward, and around the U. So if you were including tall cabinets, this would mean locating them together at the farthest end of the cabinetry run (as in this kitchen). This deliberate spacing ensures that the counter isn’t interrupted and the kitchen’s functionality (in the form of a galley layout) is unhampered.

Employ Symmetry

U-shaped kitchens offer the opportunity for symmetry within a design, as long as it doesn’t compromise the kitchen’s usability. While it’s not essential, many homeowners appreciate symmetry for the resulting clean and balanced aesthetic.

We would usually choose an appliance, such as an oven or oversize range hood, for the midpoint of the central run, as pictured here. We’d then work outward, implementing furniture and appliances accordingly.

Of course, you can deviate from a symmetrical layout, either because you think it will look better in your space or because the room’s structure dictates it — for example, if a doorway or window interrupts one of the runs.

Hide Less-Than-Lovely Features

U-shaped kitchens can also be designed so they mask less attractive kitchen components and appliances behind cabinetry. Through foresight in planning, they can be obscured from sight. This is particularly beneficial in an open-plan kitchen. In this kitchen, the appliances are hidden behind cabinet fronts.

Maximize an Efficient Work Space

Whatever the size, a well-planned U-shaped kitchen design will ensure that only a limited number of steps are needed between cabinets and appliances. This makes the kitchen a much safer place during cooking, especially when other people are present.

In addition, having generous counter space and storage means everything’s within reach and easily tidied after use to maintain a clean and uncluttered look.

Incorporate Corner Storage

As mentioned, one of the great advantages of a U-shaped kitchen is that having three runs of cabinetry provides ample opportunity for storage. Having said that, the two corners in a typical U-shaped kitchen take up significant floor space.

So to achieve an ergonomically sound design, it’s important to select a specialist kitchen corner solution, such as a carousel or LeMans corner unit (seen here, and so called because its shape and curves are reminiscent of the famous French racetrack). These make use of the otherwise dead space within corner cabinets. Without these options, you’d lose this space or the back of your cabinets would be extremely difficult to access.

Add a Peninsula

Small U-shaped kitchens can be restricting, particularly if there’s no space for a table and chairs. But sometimes it’s possible to arrange the U shape so that one of the legs extends into open space (even if this means restructuring to take down a wall).

While you would lose the upper cabinets, the lower cabinets could then form a highly efficient kitchen peninsula. You could add stools to make the space more sociable, and it would offer a useful platform for dining, working or socializing. Alternatively, you may put your sink or range in this area.

Peninsulas can be great for open-plan spaces and offer a physical separation between the kitchen and living area, which a lot of homeowners desire.

Make Room for an Island

Typically, you need a much larger space if you want to include an island within this layout. As a rule of thumb, U-shapes with islands generally require a minimum of 3 feet of walkway on all sides between the cabinetry and the island’s countertop. As the cabinets around the island are more than 2 feet deep, and given that islands are normally 3 to 4 feet deep, this means the room would need to be at least 14 feet wide. We tend to recommend a minimum room width of 14 feet for this layout to allow optimum clearance around the island.

Comparatively, for an open-plan space, the depth would need to be a minimum of 8½ feet. In this instance, you would have one long back wall with two short wings forming the U and the kitchen island in between. Usually, one of the shorter wings would contain the tall housing, and the long back wall would house the sink or stove, with the alternative on the island.

Depending on the location of the windows, the shorter run of cabinets on the other side often provides additional countertop space for small appliances, such as toasters, blenders and coffee machines.

Contemplate Curves

Some customers request curves rather than square edges for their kitchen’s interior corners. Curved corners are effective in creating a stylish, flowing design and great for softening a kitchen’s look. The main drawback is a reduction in storage space. Most curved units don’t continue fully into a kitchen’s corners, reducing access and use of this space. This may not be a problem in larger U-shaped kitchens, but it’s worth noting when planning for smaller spaces.

Tailor Your Shape to Your Space

One of the key things to remember about U-shaped kitchens (apart from their generous countertop and storage space) is that there’s a lot of room for flexibility when designing them.

From small to large spaces, or U-shapes with an island or peninsula, there are many variations and possibilities for what you can achieve with this layout. This means you can most likely design a U-shaped kitchen that’s right for you and right for the space you have available.

A U-shaped kitchen, sometimes called a C-shaped kitchen, has workspace on three adjoining walls of cabinetry, with an open end for access. In a small U-shaped kitchen, the opposing cabinet runs effectively become a galley layout, but with one end closed off. This galley format works for larger kitchens too, although if the opposing runs are too far apart, this can reduce the kitchen’s efficiency. Is a U-shaped layout the right choice for your kitchen — and, if so, how can you best make the most of it?

This content was originally published here.