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Bathroom of the Week: Big, Bold Design in a Texas Bath

Photos by Sarah Natsumi Moore

Bathroom at a Glance
Who uses it: A couple with grown children
Location: Austin, Texas
Size: 82 square feet (7.6 meters)
Designer: Jessica Love of Urbane Design

The owners worked with Love to get the updated style and functionality they desired, complete with eye-catching tile on the floor and shower, and loads more storage. “Our process is very collaborative. We really work with each individual client and get to know them and their life. It goes along with making sure products function with their lifestyle,” Love says.

Before: Here’s a look at the bathroom before the remodel, with a sample of the large-format black hexagonal tile in front of one of the old vanities. The room was typical of the rest of the house, built in 1999. “It was not pretty at all,” Love says.

Here’s another view of that remodeled corner with the family dog.

Before: Two vanities met at an awkward intersection in the previous bathroom. There was storage, but a makeup area took up much of the larger vanity’s counter space. In this photo, one of the new large hexagonal floor tiles sits atop the old beige tile, a dramatic preview of what the future holds for this space.

After: The designers chose the left side vanity as a makeup area, and the long vanity on the right now has two sinks and a storage cabinet where the old makeup spot was. The 20-by-24-inch large-format geometric floor tiles in two patterns and a solid color are a bold contrast to the white oak vanities. To get the desired array of solid and patterned tiles, the designers laid out the tile patterns in a computer-aided design program before the tile was installed.

The owner was more interested in having storage than a place to sit at the makeup area, so Love included multifunctional cabinets. The top drawers have charging stations built in, and the lower right vertical drawer is a pullout for storing a hair dryer, curling iron and other supplies.

Love and her team designed the custom cabinetry so the drawers would be flush with the frame. They were inspired by a prefab vanity they used in the owners’ guest bath, which they also redesigned.

“We wanted to add some warmth, part of that Texas style, integrating that general warmth you should receive from any Texan,” Love says. They also considered the striking contrast with the tile floor. “Just in general we were helping to break up the monotony of black, white and gray.”

Love also did some research to give the cabinetry custom details while staying within budget, so the metal inserts in the center cabinet tower are from an unexpected source.

“It’s hard to tell, but in the mesh are teeny hex shapes. It was made from an automotive grill. In general, we find chintzy metal on the market, or have to go custom with serrated steel. So here we were thinking out of the box and made it approachable and cost effective.”

Here’s a closer look at the cabinet front wire mesh, with tiny hexagon shapes that correspond with the tile floor.

Love got creative with the Kohler cast iron sinks. “They’re meant to be dropped in the countertop, but because the outside has a pretty black rim, we decided to mount them as vessel sinks,” she says.

Rather than a flat paint for the walls, the team applied a fairly labor-intensive concrete finish in a custom grayish tone to give it some movement. “I think there were eight people working on it,” Love says.

The mirrors over the sinks are custom-made, with four pegs in the corners that hold them in place. The homeowner found the sconces from Mitzi. The mirror reveals a peek at one of the room’s barn doors.

A custom-made sliding black barn door conceals the master closet. The homeowner requested the Hunter drum fan on the ceiling. Love had her doubts, but it ended up being a striking feature in the boldly designed space.

“When we started the project, her first ask was that they have a fan in the center of the room. I’m not gonna lie. I freaked out a little bit,” Love says.

The two custom black hanging barn doors are additional dramatic accents, with chevron patterns that correspond with the geometric floor tiles. When both are open, as in this view from the master bedroom, the chevrons form a diamond pattern. The door in the foreground of this photo has a mirror on the other side and is located next to the makeup vanity.

Before: Previously, the bathroom had a built-in tub and a separate shower. The space hadn’t been remodeled since the home was built, so it was due for an update. The outdated soaking tub with spa jets was wedged in next to the small enclosed shower with a brass surround.

After: The designers eliminated the tub and created a wet room big enough for two. There’s a small curb at the entrance and no shower door, but panes of glass provide partial enclosure. Inside the shower, conveniences include a bench, two shower heads and niches built into the pony walls. The floor is slightly sloped for drainage, and the window was adjusted to fit the space.

“We had to center and enlarge the window that had been above the tub. It was very important to gain that symmetry. We had to reframe that exterior wall and redo stone on the exterior,” Love says.

The shower was built out to give the toilet area, on the left side, some privacy.

The team laid the shower’s thin glazed white matte brick tile in a double herringbone pattern, creating an elegant contrast to the black floor tile. Love says the homeowner is particularly fond of the handmade shower tile, from local company Clay Imports.

“Her major inspiration was that handmade tile that went into the shower. She loves local, loves working with local companies as much as possible,” Love says. The tile and other details enliven the space, but comfort and convenience were just as important.

“I think it’s all the very small details that came together that make it special. It’s really a space that, if you were there in person, you could hang out in this bath for 45 minutes and still discover new things.”

A busy professional couple with grown children didn’t have the time to oversee a remodel of their primary bathroom, so they turned to Jessica Love of Urbane Design for guidance in the design process and to oversee construction. The Austin, Texas, homeowners used Houzz photos for inspiration. The wife, whose preferred style was as big and bold as Texas, knew she wanted black and hexagonal shapes but was overwhelmed by the options. The couple relied on Love to keep their focus and define the design.

This content was originally published here.

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11 Ways to Refresh Your Deck

1. Hang Art

Custom-made artwork done on fiberglass panels with aluminum frames brightens the wall behind this outdoor bench. Art pieces made from metal, wood, glass, fiberglass and resin are weather-resistant choices, as is canvas treated to be weather-resistant.

Look for art designed for outdoor installation, including pieces made of metal. Even the most weather-resistant works should be placed out of direct sun and rain to prolong their longevity. Bringing them inside during the winter months will also help ensure they’ll last.

Alternately, you can always just find something you love and use it temporarily. That will give you a chance to change your look over the years.

2. Up Your Lounging Game

Embrace the dog days of summer with a dedicated spot for lounging. A hanging daybed on this deck is perfect for lazing away long, sunny afternoons.

If a daybed isn’t quite your style, or your space is limited, a hanging swing or hammock is another possibility. If you prefer to stay firmly planted on the ground, a glider might be your lounging spot of choice.

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3. Install a Built-In Bench

Permanent (or seemingly permanent) benches are multipurpose additions to any deck. They provide extra seating while not taking up as much room as freestanding chaises and chairs, which is a plus if your deck is on the smaller side. They can substitute for or augment deck railings, providing a solid edging. They can also add storage space.

You can have custom benches built or create the same effect with ready-made pieces that match your deck’s style.

Add planter boxes at either end or between two benches to give you more growing space, whether it’s favorite fragrant annuals and perennials or vegetables and herbs that you can pick fresh when it’s time to prepare an outdoor meal.

4. Upgrade Lighting

Give your deck an enchanted nighttime glow with outdoor lighting. The downlighting mounted under this built-in bench creates pools of light that subtly draw your eye throughout the space.

You can also do an updated take on string lights by running them vertically along one wall rather than stringing them overhead. Or, scatter a few lanterns throughout the space. If you don’t have them already, add step lights along the edge or near level changes to make your deck an inviting (and safe to navigate) space where you can still enjoy the night sky.

A landscape screen is a simple way to block an unsightly view, add privacy, define a space or even provide decorative interest.

You can turn almost any material into a screen. Wood or lattice may be the first things to come to mind. Take the time to explore something more decorative, from metal to glass or fabric. A row of planters filled with tall grasses or small trees could serve as a living alternative.

6. Play Some Games

Who can resist the draw of oversize chess pieces? The board integrated into this deck’s surface entices even casual fans to try their hand at the game. When no one’s playing, it becomes a focal point of the deck.

If chess isn’t your game, consider setting up a cornhole game, pingpong table or other outdoor activity. Add some lighting and you can continue into the evening.

Consider adding covers or an overhead structure if you want to protect the equipment from rain; you’ll also want to bring them indoors once the weather turns chilly. In the meantime, let the games begin.

7. Elevate Your Plants

This take on a living wall lets you show off your plants while adding some style to your space. These are staggered along a wall, but you can easily add planters in various sizes to the deck surface and fill them with some combination of flowering plants, small shrubs, trees, fruits, vegetables and herbs.

It’s best to keep the planters themselves slightly elevated above the deck surface to allow for runoff from watering and to prevent staining. Place a support with casters under the largest planters to make them easier to move.

8. Serve Up Things in Style

A counter or bar takes your deck’s functionality up a notch or two. A simple countertop mounted on the wall beneath a kitchen window can become a serving bar or eating area — and it makes shuttling food and drinks outside much easier.

If a kitchen window isn’t available or practical, a serving bar set along a wall is another option. It gives you a permanent spot for setting out drinks and food when you’re entertaining and also an opportunity for a bit of decor or lighting. A bar set on a railing provides a conversation spot while you enjoy the view.

9. Update the Color

If the surface itself is looking faded, give your deck a jolt of color. Painting the decking, rather than re-staining, allows you to add some personality to the space.

Paint gives you an almost unlimited palette to choose from. Shades of blue, green and brown that reflect nature’s hues have a calming effect. Brighter colors add a burst of energy to the space. Add stripes or patterns, outline the edges to add definition, create a faux finish such as a rug or tile look or add decorative elements throughout.

Be sure to choose paint that’s formulated for use on a deck. From cleaning to adding final touches, the process will take time, so be prepared for your deck to be out of commission while this is happening.

10. Add a Shade Structure

Adding a pergola above all or a portion of your deck may not be as time-consuming as you think. Depending on the complexity and the amount of preparation needed, including time for setting footings and staining or finishing the materials, it could take about a week to build a basic pergola (after you’ve got a landscape pro on board).

In the end, you’ll have a shaded spot when the sun is blazing. Include some lights, whether wired in or battery operated, and it will also become an evening destination.

11. Do a Deep Clean

If you notice that your deck is starting to show some wear and tear, summer is a good time to give it a good cleaning or even refinish the decking and railings.

Cleaning your deck’s flooring is a good weekend project that you can probably finish in a day. In many cases, moving things off the deck and back into place may take the most time. Rent a power washer or use warm water and dish detergent, or opt for a cleaning solution formulated for your deck paired with a stiff broom.

Refinishing will take longer. You’ll need to wait 48 hours after cleaning to apply the finish, and that can take some time. It will be worth it, though, when you see how much it improves the overall look of your deck.

New decor, potted plants and string lights are good places to start when refreshing a deck. But there are other ways you can make a big difference without a major renovation. Read on for 11 tips that will give your deck flair, functionality and interest for years to come.

This content was originally published here.

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When to Harvest Vegetables and Fruits

Harvest notes: Err on the side of caution, and use clippers or sturdy scissors when harvesting. For more information about the best times to harvest and other growing advice, check out the Home Garden Seed Association.

Summer crops like the heat and long days of summer. You’ll most likely get started with these plants in late winter or early spring, after the threat of frost has passed.

Beans. Pick green beans, or string beans, and shelling beans when they’re long but still thin. Don’t let either get too large or mature for the best flavor. Harvesting every couple of days will keep your plants producing longer.

Corn. The silks are the first indicator that the corn is ready to harvest — they should have turned brown but should still be silky and not dry. The husk should also still be green, but the end should have become more rounded. Just to be sure, peel back the husk and poke at a kernel. It should be milky inside.

For best eating, use immediately. If that’s not practical, keep the husks on until you’re ready to cook the ears.

Bonus: Harvest the cornstalks, set them in a cool, dark place to dry and then use them as part of your exterior decor in the fall.

Cucumbers. Cucumbers are ready to harvest once they’ve reached a size you can use. The older cucumbers get, the more bitter they become, so harvest when they’re still firm and the skin is still glossy. Keep picking to keep the plant producing.

Cucumbers should always be cut from the plant with clippers or sturdy scissors. If you aren’t using your picks immediately, leave a bit of stem to help keep them from rotting.

Eggplant. If the skin of an eggplant is purple and shiny, it’s ready to harvest. Letting it continue to grow won’t produce a more mature fruit. Instead, it will tend to make it more bitter.

Snip or clip the stem when harvesting to avoid damaging the plant itself.

Melons and watermelons. Melons can be tricky, as anyone who has ever harvested (or bought) a nonjuicy melon can tell you. Fortunately, there are a few ways to tell if your particular melon is ripe.

Cantaloupes should be harvested when they are fragrant, look like they have a net over them and can easily be lifted and separated from the plant. For other melons, pick when they have a strong and sweet aroma. Another sign is when the blossom end is slightly soft.

You should hear a “thunk” when you rap on a watermelon. To double-check for ripeness, see if the tendrils near the stem have begun to wither and darken and if the underside has begun to turn yellow. Watermelons should always be cut, not pulled, from the plant.

Peppers. Peppers are pretty easygoing when it comes to harvest time. They can be picked once they reach a usable size and are firm, but the longer you leave them on the plant, the more complex their flavors will become. Sweet peppers become sweeter as they change from their initial green color; hot peppers become more intense.

The exception is pimientos; they need to be completely red before harvesting.

Pumpkins. Don’t worry if your pumpkin crop is running a little behind on the harvest schedule; they can even handle a light frost as long as you pick them before the heavy frosts hit.

Harvest pumpkins once they are full size and firm and the stems have started to dry out. Stop watering a week before you plan to harvest, then cut each stem about 4 inches from the pumpkin itself. Store in a warm and airy outdoor spot for a couple of weeks to let them cure.

The stems can snap, so hold your pumpkins underneath when moving them from place to place.

Squash. The hardest part of harvesting squash, especially summer varieties, is staying on top of it. Summer squashes will be ready to harvest about two months after you sow seeds. They also grow quickly, so be prepared to check your squash patch daily. Cut the crooked-necked varieties when they are about 2 to 3 inches long; straight squashes should be about 4 to 6 inches long.

Winter squashes, those that can be stored up to six months, give you a little more breathing room. Wait until the skin is hard and the vines have dried up before cutting them from the vines. Set them outdoors in a cool spot until the stems have shriveled, and then store them indoors in a cool, dry area.

Tomatillos. A ripe tomatillo, even though it is still green in color, is easy to identify. Pick when the fruit has filled the husk but the tomatillo is still firm. The husk should also have started to turn brown and begun to split.
Tomatoes. Nothing really beats a homegrown tomato, so picking them at their peak is a delight. For most tomatoes, they should be completely colored and just a bit soft. Because they tend to crack when they’re fully mature, heirlooms and cherry tomatoes should be picked a bit earlier; just let them ripen out in the open rather than refrigerating them. All tomatoes should be easy to pull from the plant.

But an added joy of tomatoes is that you don’t have to wait until they’re ripe to enjoy them. Fried green tomatoes are a real recipe (not just a movie title), and if the fall and winter frosts are rapidly approaching, you can always harvest the green fruits and let them ripen in a cool spot indoors. Or simply pull up the entire plant and hang it upside down in a cool, dry place to get the last of the summer’s crop.

Cool-Season Crops

These favorite edibles prefer the shorter days and cooler weather of fall and spring. Some even do their best with a touch of frost. Most gardeners will plant these crops at the end of summer or early in the year.

Beets. When their shoulders are 1 inch to 3 inches across, it’s time to start digging up the roots. Don’t overlook the leaves while you’re doing this — they’re equally edible and tasty.

Broccoli. Broccoli is ready to harvest in about two and a half to three and a half months after you’ve sown the seeds. The trick is to harvest when the head is fully grown but the plant hasn’t yet flowered.

Cut the stem about 6 inches below the head (don’t pull).

Brussels sprouts. These miniature heads are ready to pick when the large leaves on the plant have turned yellow and the heads themselves are firm and almost the size of a golf ball but haven’t yet opened.

Start from the bottom and snap off the individual heads — these are part of one vegetable that you don’t want to cut unless you’re harvesting the entire stalk.

Cabbage. Harvesting the perfect head of cabbage requires paying attention. Most cabbages are ready in about two and a half to three and a half months after sowing, depending on the variety. You want to leave them on the plant until they’re fully grown, but harvest them before the heads split. Check regularly to see how each plant is doing.
Carrots. Carrots come in a range of lengths, from very short to very long, so before you start pulling, double-check the expected size of your variety. If you aren’t sure, another easy way to see if they’re ready is to check the shoulders of the root; they should be about three-quarters of an inch to 1 inch in diameter.
Celery. If you’ve gone to the trouble of growing, and possibly blanching, celery, then you want to know when it’s time to harvest. They’re generally ready about four months after you’ve sown the seeds, but you’ll need to start blanching them about three to four weeks before that. This process involves blocking the celery stalks from the sun with soil or cardboard to prevent them from developing a bitter flavor.

You can harvest individual stalks or cut off the entire plant at the base.

Chard. The younger the leaves and stems, the more tender they are, so continually harvest from the outer edges to get the newest leaves and also to keep your plant producing. Another option is to cut the entire plant back to about 2 inches from the ground — you’ll have plenty of leaves and stems to cook with now, and the plant will rejuvenate.

Gardeners in warm-winter climates may find that their plants last well into winter, and maybe beyond.

Kale. Want a lot of kale throughout its growing season? Simply cut the outer leaves and let the plant continue to grow. Need a lot at once? You can cut the entire plant back. Either way, kale is a remarkably prolific producer during the cooler months.
Leeks. Leeks are a vegetable for the patient. It can take more than six months for them to mature, though some may be ready in as little as three months. When they’re one-half inch to 2 inches thick, you can start harvesting.
Lettuce. You can start harvesting lettuce the minute the leaves are big enough to use. The more you harvest, the longer your crop will last. For varieties like butterhead and iceberg, you can also wait until the heads are completely formed.

No matter which approach you take, once the plants begin to form flowers, they have passed their prime and will be bitter.

Onions and shallots. Green onions are the easiest members of the onion family to harvest; simply pull them up once they’re big enough to use. Mature onions require a little more care. When about half the foliage has turned yellow, push all the foliage to the ground. Wait about three weeks, then start harvesting.

Shallots are heady to harvest when the shoots have died.

Peas. Both shelling peas and edible-pod peas are best harvested early. Shelling peas, or English peas, are ready when they’re bright green and the peas inside the pods have formed but are not too large. You’ll know that edible-pod peas are ready when the peas inside have just started to appear.

Harvest often for a long-lasting crop.

Potatoes. When you harvest depends on what type of potato you want. If you’re looking for new potatoes, dig them about two months after setting out the starts or when the vines start to flower (for those varieties with flowering vines).

More mature potatoes are ready in three to four months. Before harvesting, cut away the vines and wait five to seven days, then dig up the potatoes.

One of the joys of growing your own vegetables is enjoying them when they’ve been freshly picked at the peak of their flavor. One of the conundrums of growing your own vegetables, especially for beginners, is knowing just when that moment is. If you’re wondering if your crop is ready to pick, or worried that it’s beyond its prime, here’s a quick guide to determining harvest time for some of the most popular edibles in home gardens.

This content was originally published here.

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New This Week: 8 Beautiful Bathrooms With a Curbless Shower

1. Creative Corner

Architect and interior designer: Robin McCarthy of Arch Studio
Location: San Jose, California

Homeowners’ request. A light, bright and airy bathroom with a freestanding tub. “Lots of natural daylight and window views were important, while also maintaining privacy,” architect and interior designer Robin McCarthy says. “The clients wanted the flooring material to be seamless across the room and into the shower, and also liked the idea that it would be perfect for aging in place with no trip hazard.”

Curbless details. White Carrara marble tile covers the floors and shower walls. McCarthy introduced the tile in a herringbone pattern for the shower floor to differentiate the space.

Other special features. Rift-sawn white oak vanities have a natural sealed finish and Sandy Blue marble countertops. “We thought that polished chrome hardware and fixtures would maintain the elegance and timelessness of the space,” McCarthy says.

Designer tip. “Some clients can get hung up on resale and will not add personality to the space,” McCarthy says. “I think that personality ideas for color, finishes and details are what make a space a success. It is what separates your space or home from everyone else. A designer can help guide you to make a wise and seamless design choice.”

2. Wet Room That Wows

Homeowners’ request. An open, sleek bathroom that captures the lake view.

Curbless details. “It seemed natural to have a curbless shower because of the openness of the space,” says designer Amy Faulkenberry, who used Houzz ideabooks to collaborate with her clients. “We had an amazing tile installer that was able to flawlessly make the transition from the level bathroom floor to the sloping shower floor in the same herringbone pattern. A fixed glass panel prevents the view from being blocked while containing the water from the shower.”

Other special features. Terrazzo tile shower walls and vanity backsplash. Custom concrete countertops with integrated sinks. Custom floating vanities.

Designer tip. “We made the walls and trim the same color to create a simple, modern feel,” Faulkenberry says. “Painting the window sashes a dark color gave some depth and contrast.”

3. Open and Outstanding

Designer: Lorie Satzger of LSDesign
Location: Menlo Park, California
Size: 62 square feet (5.8 square meters); 5 feet by 11 feet

Homeowners’ request. A new en suite addition for a daughter that’s also accessible to guests and other family members. “The style of the bathroom needed to be welcoming as well as fun and artistic to a young girl,” designer Lorie Satzger says. “Our main goal was to appeal to our clients’ daughter while offering a sophisticated feel that will coincide with the rest of the home remodel that’s to come.”

Curbless details. “I use curbless showers in the majority of my projects,” Satzger says. “I like them because of the clean and seamless look they provide, especially in a smaller bathroom as it helps open up the space. We also added a linear drain in the back of the shower where the floor slopes for function and drainage.”

Other special features. “We wanted to maintain a neutral color palette that expressed elegance while maintaining a whimsical feel in the space for our clients’ daughter,” Satzger says. White geometric wall tile adds dimension and brightness. Black basalt stone floor tile provides grip. Brass hardware and fixtures bring a bit of warmth to the black-and-white palette.

Wall paint: Swiss Coffee, Kelly-Moore

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4. Daring Duo

Designer: Sarah Armstrong of Studio360
Design-build pro: BOWA
Location: McLean, Virginia
Size: 324 square feet (30 square meters); 18 by 18 feet

Homeowners’ request. “The homeowners wanted a modern, clean bathroom to share but still maintain separate zones,” designer Sarah Armstrong says. “They wanted something that would wow them every time they walked in.”

Curbless details. The double-sided curbless shower features porcelain tile on the floor in a smaller size and pattern than the same tile used for the main bathroom flooring. A linear drain tucks along the front edge of a shower bench.

Other special features. Large-scale marble-look porcelain slabs line the shower wall and ceiling. The shower also functions as a steam shower. Glass panels near the ceiling can tilt open or closed to trap or release steam as needed. “We angled the ceiling slightly to prevent condensation from dripping on the client when using it,” Armstrong says. The custom vanity is stained white oak with metal edging hardware.

Designer tip. “We created a 3D model of this space to help the client visualize the space and present all the selections at one time,” Armstrong says. “They fell in love with the image and then we executed that look down to every detail. It made the decision-making process go very smoothly.”

Project photos: Stacy Zarin Goldberg

5. Glam and Gorgeous

Designer: Laksmi Lucky Lumpkin of Laksmi Interiors
Location: Knoxville, Tennessee
Size: 126 square feet (12 square meters)

Homeowners’ request. Convert a living room and an unused porch into a large primary bathroom and closet. “The wife is a glam girl but loves nature, so I had to incorporate both of those vibes in a harmonious way,” designer Laksmi Lucky Lumpkin says.

Curbless details. “My client wanted a glam and transitional bathroom,” Lumpkin says. “The way to allow for a seamless transition in the tighter space between the shower and vanity was to leave it curbless. She also wished for beautiful glass doors, which helped keep the space open as well.” Gray wood-look porcelain floor tile in a polished finish transitions to matte black penny round tile for the shower floor.

Other special features. “The center tile is the showstopper,” Lumpkin says. “There was only one of those tiles left and my client is a huge nature enthusiast, especially for birds. Keeping the field tile neutral with white classic subway tiles and natural marble allowed the elegant bird tile to shine. Of course, the brushed gold Moen shower fixtures added a little sparkle to finish it off.”

Designer tip. “The most important thing is space planning,” Lumpkin says. “This was not a large space, but with the correct space planning it feels large and open. Try not to create ‘dead space.’ Scale and measurements are everything.”

Wall paint: Boudoir, Benjamin Moore

6. Welcoming Walk-In

Homeowners’ request. For this spec home, designer Sara Malek Barney aimed for a fresh, modern and timeless look. “For this bathroom, we used a mix between transitional and contemporary design styles with a bit of a rock ’n’ roll edge,” she says.

Curbless details. Malek Barney chose a curbless shower for a clean design and to give the room less of a traditional, standard-grade bathroom feel. “Don’t be afraid to consider a curbless shower,” she says. “It can make the space flow together really nicely and provide a more elevated look.” Large-format porcelain floor tiles transition to smaller porcelain tiles in the shower, where the additional grout lines provide better grip. The shower walls are also large-format porcelain tile.

Other special features. Rift-sawn white oak vanity with a marble-look quartz countertop.

Sconce lighting: Basis, 36 inches, Tech Lighting

7. Bright and Blue

Designers: Matthew Dougherty and Richard Loosle of KUBE architecture
Location: Bethesda, Maryland
Size: 73½ square feet (6.8 square meters); 7 by 10½ feet

Homeowners’ request. “The overall theme for this bathroom, and the entire renovation, was to create an open and light-filled interior in what had previously been a cramped and dark space,” architect Matthew Dougherty says. “We wanted to take advantage of a large backyard with many trees and create a visual connection between interior and exterior. The best way to accomplish this in the bathroom was by using large windows and putting a skylight in the shower.”

Curbless details. Large-format navy blue tiles run the length of the space, into the shower and up half the wall, where they end at a shower shelf. “The homeowners preferred the ease and accessibility of a curbless shower,” Dougherty says. “It allows for easy entry into the shower for the owners, who plan to age in place in their home. Aesthetically, we love how simple and elegant it looks. A curbless shower allows for an unbroken row of floor tiles and a seamless transition into the shower. Our contractors were able to slope the floor joists to allow for the shower floor to gently slope to a linear drain along the back wall.”

Other special features. Streaked blue-and-white ceramic tiles cover the other shower wall areas.

Designer tip. “The use of only one color — blue — and neutral walls allows for streaks of light from the windows to have a stronger visual presence in the space,” Dougherty says.

Blue-and-white tile: Watercolor Lines in French Blue by Annie Selke, The Tile Shop; general contractor: New Era Builders

8. Marble Mood

Designer:Erica Bryen Design
Location: Cabo San Lucas, Mexico
Size: 175 square feet (16 square meters)

Homeowners’ request. For this new-build home, the owner wanted a guest bathroom that’s light, bright and airy and has some visual interest.

Curbless details. “We really wanted to incorporate a clean, bright, sleek and modernized look in this guest bathroom and for it to be accessible for all users that may be visiting the home,” designer Erica Bryen says. “By using the curbless shower style, we were able to achieve this look while still using all of the materials we envisioned for the space.” The hexagonal tiles on the shower floor are white Venatino marble.

Other special features. The shower walls and vanity countertop are Bianco Gioia marble in a honed finish. The backsplash tiles are an elongated hexagon with Thassos and gray marble.

Designer tip.
“Add variation and use different materials that work together to add interest,” Bryen says. “When doing this, decide mindfully to repeat that same element elsewhere to connect the whole space together.”

“Uh-oh” moment. “A huge recommendation while working on any project that incorporates tiles or slabs is to ensure you add at least 10% to 15% more material to your purchase for incidentals,” Bryen says.

A curbless shower entry offers many benefits. The smooth transition creates a streamlined look, amplifies a feeling of openness and assists with accessibility. To see what’s possible, check out the curbless shower details in eight new bathrooms on Houzz.

This content was originally published here.

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5 Organizing Tasks to Tackle as Summer Winds Down

Readjust to In-Person Learning

If you have children who have been learning remotely and will resume full-time, in-person classes this fall, consider how to transition them smoothly and regain your space at home.

You may have purchased a lot of supplies and equipment — extra paper, pens, pencils, art supplies, glue, scissors and more — to manage home-schooling during the pandemic. These items that normally would stay in the classroom may now be taking up significant space in your multipurpose home.

Organize these items, starting with “shopping” from your stash and pulling out those necessary for the upcoming in-person school year.

It may be premature to get rid of all home-schooling supplies, since the coronavirus hasn’t been completely contained yet and guidelines could change. It may be wise to prepare for potential stay-at-home orders again if cases continue to surge. But you can still organize and pare down your items.

Depending on their condition, consider tossing, recycling or donating age- and grade-specific items, such as outgrown workbooks, crayons, finger paints, math games and flash cards. I recommend storing the remaining useful items in a container with a lid.

At this time, most schools appear to be planning for in-person learning this fall. If that continues, you can store this container of home-schooling supplies in a less prime location, such as in the garage or back of a closet. Don’t forget about it, though. Once remote learning is behind you or the items in the container are no longer relevant for your family, donate them to benefit someone else.

Prep for Morning Routines

With the return to the classroom or workplace comes the return of the chaotic morning routine. Consider what your daily exit flow will be and how you can situate items to make leaving the house and putting things away when you get home more efficient.

Having a designated spot by the front or garage door for bags, backpacks, jackets, shoes and face masks can help prevent a scramble in the morning. Something as simple as a damage-free, removable hook for each family member’s mask should get the job done.

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Optimize Your Remote-Work Setup

If you’ll continue to work from home this fall or even longer, consider setting up your home office with ergonomics in mind if you haven’t already. At the beginning of the pandemic, you may have created a makeshift workspace — and possibly even chosen your “office” location based on what would make the most attractive virtual conferencing background.

If these setups don’t support proper posture, the small stresses tolerated by your body in the short term can accumulate into potential injuries. It may be wise to invest in appropriate furniture and accessories to create an ergonomic work environment in your home office.

Be sure your chair is not only comfortable but supports a neutral posture and assists you in maintaining the natural curves of your spine. The armrests shouldn’t hinder you from relaxing your shoulders and keeping your elbows by your side. Consider purchasing a footrest so your body can maintain proper alignment if your feet don’t firmly touch the ground.

Risers may help you sit up straighter if you find yourself constantly hunched over to view your monitor. If you use a laptop, adding a separate keyboard so your keyboard and monitor can be positioned at different proper heights can also help with posture.

Most tables have a standard height of 29 inches. In my previous career as an ergonomics consultant, I found that placing keyboards at this height was too high for most people — I’ve recommended clients either raise their chairs (and then obtain a footrest if necessary) or install a keyboard tray underneath their desk so the keyboard can be placed at a height that allows for typing with a neutral wrist posture.

Share Excess Pandemic Food

Early in the pandemic, I stocked up on groceries, not because I was worried about the supply chain of food, but more because I wanted to maximize the time between shopping trips. I selected items with long shelf lives that would be able to sustain my family through the pandemic. These foods aren’t ones we necessarily enjoy on a regular basis, and I have bypassed them many times this past year.

It’s definitely time for me to share them with others who will appreciate them more. In the future I will commit to buying only foods my family actually likes to eat. Beware also of bulk purchases — they require bulk storage. If you haven’t gotten around to eating something you bought early in the pandemic, perhaps you don’t have any intention to. Donate nonexpired foods to local shelters and food banks.

Sort Personal Protective Equipment

After more than a year of wearing masks, you may have a better idea of which style is most comfortable for you. If you’ve accrued some that your family doesn’t use, consider giving away or eliminating those and saving just your preferred types.

I believe mask wearing will continue at least in the near term so be sure to save enough for your family’s needs. I use washable, reusable masks, so I keep enough to last between laundry days. I also have a supply of N95 masks to use when I’m in more crowded public spaces, and I’m anticipating using them again for working indoors with clients. Some prefer to use surgical masks.

This content was originally published here.

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10 Ways to Refresh Your Patio

1. Change Things Up With Color

Give your patio more color with painted walls or colorful mounted or freestanding panels. A painted green wall adds punch and interest to this Chicago patio, and it pops against the bright pink-and-red outdoor cushion and potted flowers.

Painting projects can usually be finished in a day or two, depending on the size of the space and the amount of prep needed. A simple but colorful panel or screen will take even less time. Look for landscape screens made of weatherproof materials such as metal, wood, glass, fiberglass, resin or concrete to perk up the space.

You can also add color with smaller decorative pieces such as pillows, throws or outdoor serving ware that will brighten the space now and can also transition with the seasons.

2. Add Art

Create immediate impact with a large-scale art piece. Look for art created expressly for outdoor use to be sure it will work. Wood, metal, glass, fiberglass and resin can handle the elements. Canvas can be treated to make it more weather-resistant.

For the best long-term results, keep art out of direct sunlight and rain as much as possible. Consider bringing it inside during the winter months. Another option is to get something temporary and enjoy it while it lasts.

3. Tuck In a Daybed

Find a corner for a daybed that will give you a place to relax and maybe even catch an afternoon nap. While a traditional chaise lounge or outdoor sofa can fit the bill, there’s something particularly inviting about a daybed’s extra lounging depth. Add plenty of cushions and maybe a light throw to help you nest.

Choose a daybed designed for outdoor use and furnish it with weather-resistant cushions and pillows (or plan to cover the piece when rain threatens). You can set it under an overhang or add a nearby umbrella or shade cloth to keep you from getting too hot.

4. Create Shade

Give yourself some protection from the hot afternoon, or visually divide your patio into “rooms” with a shade structure. A simple umbrella will provide direct shade; larger versions will cover more area, and a tilt feature lets you adapt to the sun’s arc. A shade cloth strung between three or four points is another easy way to gain some shade.

A fabric gazebo does double duty, providing sun protection during the day and then becoming a relaxing outdoor living room at night. You can get them with or without sides, although the implied walls on this gazebo create a sense of intimacy. Most fabric gazebos have metal supports and fabric made from canvas, polyester or outdoor acrylic fabric. They’re easy to install; just be sure to anchor them securely, especially in windy areas.

5. Fill In With Potted Plants

Use your patio to show off your favorite plants or landscape style — from a tropical-themed vibe to an homage to succulents or a cheerful collection of favorite annuals and perennials. You’ll gain additional gardening space, soften the hardscape and enjoy favorite plants up close.

Group similar plants in different size planters to fill a corner or line a row of matching plants and planters to outline the edge of the patio. You can also add interest and dimension with a living wall or other vertical garden. Consider installing one large frame designed to hold a mix of plants or mount wall planters at various heights for a similar look. If you don’t have a nearby wall, you might be able to add small patio trees in containers to give you a lush feel.

Plants in containers, especially hanging plants, will dry out more quickly than those in the ground. Be prepared to water more often.

6. Screen for Privacy and Enclosure

A landscape screen provides a sense of enclosure and privacy. Even the simplest screen will turn your open patio into a defined and separate space. Screens come in an amazing variety of sizes and materials — everything from wood and wood composites to metal, fiberglass, resin, glass and even concrete.

7. Upgrade Your Lighting

Hang lanterns or pendants from an overhead beam to add flair to your patio’s lighting. Battery-operated lighting means you don’t have to deal with wiring and outlets.

If overhead lighting isn’t viable for your space, scatter lanterns or outdoor lamps around the patio. You can place them on tables, tuck them into planters or set them on the patio floor to create a welcoming atmosphere during the evening hours.

If your lights have an open flame, place them in a safe spot where they won’t be easily brushed against or tipped over and where the flame can’t ignite your decor or furnishings. Be sure to extinguish any candles before you leave the patio.

8. Install a Focal Point

Consider installing a permanent feature center stage in your space. You can place it over the existing paving or remove part of the surface to create a base.

An oversize planter set into the middle of a patio makes a bold statement that will draw people into the space. Set it where you want on a level surface. The weight of the soil and plant will help keep it in place.

Fountains are more complicated to install. Depending on the type of fountain, you may have to plan for a water reservoir below the fountain itself and an electrical outlet nearby.

If that’s more involved than you want, consider moving the fountain to a corner of the patio. Set the reservoir on the surface of the patio, surround it with a mix of container plants to hide the sides and place the fountain in the center. Add pebbles on top of the reservoir and run the cord behind the fountain and along a wall to an outlet.

9. Choose a Decorative Accent

Add a decorative note to floors, tables and counters or posts and beams with outdoor tile. A row of tiles along the risers leading to this patio is a subtle way to highlight the steps without drawing attention away from the patio itself. If tiling isn’t possible for your patio, consider adding decorative contrast with paint.

10. Do a Deep Clean

Sometimes, the simplest approach is also the most rewarding. Patio surfaces are designed to take a lot of wear and tear, so you may not notice when they’re not looking quite as pristine as they once were.

To keep patios looking their best, take a day to give the space a good cleaning. Clear off the moveable furnishings, sweep the floor well and then wash or treat the surface with the appropriate cleanser. Often, a mix of warm water and dish detergent, plus a sturdy broom, is sufficient. Let it dry, then put everything back in place.

While you’re at it, clean any cushions and patio furnishings that have become a bit grungy or stained. Usually scrubbing items with a solution of warm water and dish detergent, then rinsing them and letting them dry, is all that’s needed. You may have to work a bit to get off stubborn stains, but the clean look will be worth it.

Refreshing your patio with new furniture, decor or color automatically brightens the space and draws you into it. The good news is that giving your existing patio an upgrade doesn’t need to take a whole lot of time or money. Instead, you can tackle many updates in a day or a weekend, and most apply to patios of all styles. Read on to learn 10 ways to upgrade your current patio setup.

This content was originally published here.

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Houzz Tour: New Build With Locally Inspired Vintage Touches

Photos by Tony Li and Sarah Baker

House at a Glance
Who lives here: This home was designed, built and decorated on spec.
Location: Bryn Mawr neighborhood of Tulsa, Oklahoma
Size: 3,506 square feet (326 square meters); four bedrooms plus study; 4½ bathrooms
Designers: Danielle Palm and Rocci Chandler ofRose Rock Properties and Pinnacle Home Design (architecture)
Contractor: Monroe Design

“We love bringing back the character to the beautiful historic homes in Tulsa,” Palm says. “And the original craftsmanship is on a whole other level. But it was a fun challenge to start with a blank slate and it was a real labor of love.” For this project, she and Chandler added special touches gleaned from their experience with historic homes to give the new house unique charm.

Though they serve as contractors on their remodeling projects, Palm and Chandler hired contracting firm Monroe Design to help on this one, as it was their first new build. They learned a lot from being on the site every day working with the subs. “We already had the home we envisioned and plans drawn on paper, but needed the expertise of an architect to solidify our vision,” Palm says. They hired architectural firm Pinnacle Home Design to turn their designs into technical drawings and help with the permitting process.

On the exterior, the front porch, board-and-batten siding, barn lights and lanterns and X shapes on the railings and garage doors are farmhouse-inspired touches. The windows and doors, black accents and rectilinear planters provide modern elements. The shape and massing of the house fits in with the Colonial-style homes in the neighborhood.

Simple columns, a black porch ceiling, pendant lanterns and topiaries add to the home’s curb appeal. Historic homes that Palm and Chandler had remodeled in the past inspired the dentile molding-like brick pattern where the wall meets the porch ceiling.

“We really love the streamlined look of black iron doors and windows, but they are so expensive,” Palm says. Instead they had their window and door vendor create the look with black-painted wood.

“We wanted a grand entry like many of the neighborhood’s Colonial-style homes have,” Palm says. “We chose a herringbone pattern for the white oak floor because it’s stunning and timeless and sets the entry apart.” The glass doors and windows fill the space with light.

The pair worked with local artist Susan Eddings Perez to create custom pieces for the home. Her scored stucco piece on the left stands up to the scale of the entry.

With a two-story space to fill, the designers added elongated board-and-batten millwork above and below the stairs. This mitigates the height of the space.

The simple flat millwork pieces and black iron railings blend traditional and modern styles. A rustic wood table with a well-worn patina and burlap-covered poufs add more casual touches. An arched mirror boosts light and brings a classic curve to the space.

Dark walls create moody drama in a cozy office-sitting room off the entry. “There was so much white in this house, we needed to add some black for depth,” Chandler says. They used Benjamin Moore’s Cheating Heart paint on the walls and ceiling. They added texture and depth to the fireplace wall by covering it in shiplap.

A Carrara marble fireplace and ivory swivel chairs add light contrast, while an Oriental rug and brass finishes bring in warmth. The designers repeated the wall color, shiplap, brass and marble in other areas of the house to create a cohesive feel.

The designers found the botanical prints at a local antique store that was going out of business. “These are one-of-a-kind. We used them throughout the house,” Palm says.

This room also has a full bathroom off of it. “This bathroom leads to the backyard,” Palm says. “So if they want to install a pool, it can serve as the pool bath. It’s also nice to have for guests when entertaining outdoors.”

The kitchen and family room are open to each other along the back of the house. A modern ring chandelier and ceiling beams add farmhouse touches to the chic space. “We wanted the look of white oak beams, but to save money we had to get creative,” Palm says. “We used pine lumber and had it stained to look like white oak.”

They hung a Samsung Frame TV over the fireplace. It can camouflage itself as artwork when not in use.

The fireplace surround and hearth are the same Carrara marble used in the office. Shelves and cabinets flanking the fireplace provide space for display and storage for games and toys.

The designers used Sherwin-Williams Snowbound paint on the walls and trim throughout the house. “We’ve tried other whites, but we always go back to Snowbound. It has just the right amount of warmth,” Palm says.

Large windows with black muntins and simple flat trim provide a modern look and fill the room with light.

A long island separates the kitchen from the family room within the open plan. A sun-filled dining area takes advantage of the backyard views. The dining space works well for both casual and formal meals and takes the place of a separate formal dining room. “We are finding most homeowners don’t care about having a separate formal dining room anymore,” Palm says.

The designers carefully considered the view from the family room into the kitchen. Dramatic black pendants, rift-sawn white oak paneling on the island, a streamlined range hood with a strip of brass on it and a beautiful built-in china cabinet enhance the view. “We splurged on rift-sawn white oak for the island because its vertical detailing is so strong,” Palm says. They tucked the fridge on a wall opposite the left end of the island to keep it out of view.

The dark 18-inch pendants create a strong statement over the island. “We loved the size and the conical shape of these pendants,” Palm says.

This photo was taken where the kitchen meets the butler’s pantry. “We like to keep the appliances out of view in the main kitchen area,” Palm says. “We slid the rest of the appliances and a lot of storage into a butler’s pantry.” The island hides the dishwasher from view.
Rather than a hulking stainless steel refrigerator, the family room has a view of the pretty built-in china cabinet. “We like to mix vintage in on all our projects,” Palm says. The pair had salvaged lattice interior shutters from an old renovation project years ago, and they repurposed them as these cabinet doors. The cabinet serves as a furniture-like piece in the main part of the kitchen, capped by a brass art light that makes it even more special.
“We used the butler’s pantry to stash the wall ovens, ice maker and other small appliances,” Palm says. They also incorporated a bar sink and pantry cabinets.

One of the smartest ideas the duo had for the pantry can’t be seen in this photo. Hidden behind the pantry cabinets on the right is a 3-foot-high door into the garage. It allows the homeowners to take groceries out of the car and drop them directly into the pantry. The grocery door has a combination lock on it for security. The actual garage entry is located off a mudroom. Forgoing another full entry door in here left more room for storage.

Because this large window faces the street, the designers ended the cabinetry with a waterfall countertop to provide a beautiful view from outside. Shiplap adds a nice accent behind this bar sink area. Palm and Chandler repeated the shiplap and Cheating Heart black paint they used in the office.

Historic homes the designers had worked on around Tulsa inspired this ogee arch opening. To the left, the hallway leads to the mudroom, laundry room and powder room. To the right, it leads to the homeowners’ bedroom suite. Two more of the special antique botanical prints, illuminated by a sconce, are an inviting touch on the wall.

The laundry room has a patterned encaustic cement tile floor. “We really lucked out — the gorgeous gray marble countertop was a remnant we found at the stone yard, and it worked beautifully with the floor pattern,” Palm says.

In the powder room, the vanity is rift-sawn white oak with a marble top and brass fixtures. The wall paint is a deep earthy green, Shade Grown by Sherwin-Williams.

The painting of the lady on the wall has a somewhat scandalous story behind it. Chandler found it at a garage sale many years ago and fell in love with it. Her husband, not so much. “I used to tell him that she was my Aunt Shirley and we had to keep her,” she says.

Eventually she and Palm decided to keep the painting for staging purposes, but it was damaged in storage. “We had Susan Eddings Perez repair it, and when she held the painting up to the light, she could see that this painting originally had been a nude and that the dress had been painted on her later,” Palm says with a laugh.

The homeowners’ bedroom has a vaulted ceiling and another ring chandelier. The designers added the same board-and-batten millwork on the headboard wall that they used in the entry. An Oriental rug with a well-worn look adds warmth underfoot.

Eddings Perez custom-painted the floral artwork for the room. The dark background adds contrast while the greens pick up on the throw pillow fabric.

Calming natural hues such as terra cotta and deep green and natural materials like wicker and alabaster create a relaxing atmosphere.

A fiddlehead fig and a woven chair bring organic elements into the master bathroom.

Elements seen elsewhere in the house, such as a herringbone pattern on the floor, rift-sawn white oak, shiplap and a big splash of black, show up here as well. The mirrors were a lucky find. The shapes resemble that ogee arched opening between the kitchen and hallway, and the repetition adds to the cohesive feel of the home.

The designers chose a marble-look porcelain tile for the floors and shower walls. “We are finding that a lot of people prefer porcelain to marble for easier maintenance,” Palm says.

“We wanted to give the vanity a furniture-like feeling,” Palm says. “And we love to include open shelves for towels and things homeowners will need to grab with ease.”

Danielle Palm and Rocci Chandler’s business usually involves finding historic homes in a state of disrepair, highlighting their original charms while remodeling them back to their former glory, staging them and selling them. But with the recent seller’s market in their hometown of Tulsa, Oklahoma, making it impossible to find any existing homes, they decided to complete their first new build. They found a good deal on a lot and designed a modern farmhouse, taking inspiration from the historic Colonial-style homes they had worked on before. The house is fresh and up-to-date, with a few key touches that add a vintage vibe.

This content was originally published here.

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Houzz Tour: A Couple Meet in the Middle of Their Forever Home

Photos by Fredrik Brauer

House at a Glance
Who lives here:
An engineer and an architect
Location: Hart County, Georgia
Size: 3,597 square feet (334 square meters); two bedrooms, 3½ bathrooms
Architects:Robert Cain and Carmen P. Stan of Robert M. Cain, Architect

The couple had owned the property for years, using the cabin there as a weekend getaway from the city. When they were ready to retire to the spot, they searched for an architect to build them a new full-time home. On a home tour, they had admired Cain’s RainShine House, one of the earliest residential projects in the Southeastern United States to meet LEED Platinum standards, and they decided to hire his firm.

We’ll start the tour of the couple’s home with the same first peek that guests have on their way down the property’s long wooded driveway. Cain carefully framed a few glimpses of the house through the garden wall, placed at exactly the right height to be seen from a car while approaching via the driveway. They show enough to be intriguing without revealing the full story.

This is the second glimpse visitors get through the garden walls along the approach. The engineer’s wing is on the left, the architect’s is on the right, and the shared spaces are in the center. Breaking up the home into three separate structures maximized the potential for natural light and ventilation in each one.

“The engineer is really into restoring classic cars and building race cars. The architect is really into gardening,” Cain says. He planned the house to accommodate their favorite pastimes.

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A glance at the master plan shows how the pieces of the home relate to one another and the surroundings. The land slopes from the street down to the lakefront. Cain walked the property with his clients and ordered a full topographic survey to find the best site for the house. Thoughtful planning maximized the views of the lake while minimizing the impact on the land.

The driveway winds down from the street through the trees. The building at the top of the plan is a separate garage, which hasn’t been built yet. The wing at the top is the engineer’s, and the driveway leads to an automotive shop that’s part of his wing. The central space contains the main entry, the living room and the kitchen, as well as front and back porches. The wing on the bottom is the architect’s, and it overlooks the gardens he’s currently designing.

“The engineer also races cars, and the one seen in the shop here is one he’ll be racing soon,” Cain says. The engineer’s wing, including the automotive shop, is 813 square feet. The mulched area will become a spectacular entry garden. “The architect is an incredible gardener and is planning an entry path surrounded by gardens right now. It will be inspired by Piet Oudolf — very native and natural,” Cain says.

The couple have been very involved in constructing the house, which, like the gardens, remains a work in progress. “Once the housewas dried in, the homeowners finished the house themselves, acting as general contractors on some aspects and as their own subs on others,” Cain says. “For example, all the work on the geothermal system, exclusive of drilling the wells, was performed by the engineer, including installing much of the heat pump, energy-recovery ventilation systems, low-voltage wiring, ductwork, grilles and returns. The architect completed much of the finish work. The scope of the components they installed and finished is amazing, and the quality of the results, due to their direct and hands-on involvement, is superior.”

The front entry has a large cantilevered roof that’s supported in part by elegantly light V braces. The floating aspect of the roof nods to the way the house sits lightly on the land.

This covered porch overlooks what will soon be the garden. The approach of walking through the garden and onto the porch creates a transitional journey from outdoors to in. The bridge on the left creates an almost uninterrupted view between the structures to the trees.

Cain designed the red chairs on the porch and crafted a pair of unique low floor lamps placed in the foyer. He gave them to his clients as housewarming gifts.

The is the view from one of the bridges. This photo also provides a good look at the patina of the Cor-Ten steel siding and the plywood on the underside of the roof. White Azek trim boards provide strong contrast to the siding.

This photo of the side of the house shows how it works with the slope of the land. Cain used butterfly roofs on each wing to create soaring views through the clerestory windows.

The central common space is 1,185 square feet. The kitchen sits in the center of the open plan. “They love to gather lots of people together and have their guests participate in cooking as part of the entertainment,” Cain says. The living room area takes advantage of the lake views; a dining banquette is at the other end of the space.

The butterfly roof creates dramatic angles for the clerestories. “The clerestories are delightful,” Cain says. “The sun traces a path across the sky and the light in the house continuously changes throughout the day. And it’s really spectacular to watch the moonlight too. They really extend the house into the environment.”

Cain also used solar tubes to bring sunlight into the house. All the artificial lighting is energy-efficient LED. “It was also important to the homeowners that the home could be naturally heated and cooled as much as possible,” Cain says. “So we placed operable clerestory windows to create cross-ventilation.

Strong connections between indoors and out let the homeowners feel immersed in nature even when they’re inside. The living room opens to a screened-in porch. The flooring came from the site. “When we were walking the site, there were two large white oaks on the ground that had fallen during a storm,” Cain says. The homeowners told him a neighbor had offered to cut the trees up into firewood for them, but the architect had a better idea. The boards were milled locally and turned into floorboards. The Cor-Ten steel fireplace surround and hogwire stair railings tie into the exterior materials.

The panel-front fridge and pullout pantries blend seamlessly into the kitchen cabinetry wall. Placing this wall here provides privacy for the architect’s wing, which is located beyond it.

Cain created a special display area for the bulk of the couple’s extensive Georgia folk pottery collection. The architect is a descendant of one of the most influential families in the history of Southern Appalachian folk pottery. Most of the collection is his family’s wares.

For those unfamiliar with the face jugs in the collection, they are well known in the mountains of Georgia and there is quite a bit of folklore surrounding them. Some say they were designed to ward off evil spirits in the kiln when a batch of pottery was being fired. Others say they were meant to keep children from imbibing the product of another well-known Georgia mountain craft, moonshining. The vessels often contained moonshine or other adult beverages. As the folklore goes, some parents warned children that their faces would become like the ones on the jugs if they dared to drink the contents.

Both large kitchen islands will have counter stools for guests. The banquette and dining table at the back of the room are flanked by built-in shelves for more display. “They don’t have a formal dining space, they prefer to have everyone spread out when they entertain,” Cain says.

In between the banquette and the foyer behind it is a pantry-laundry area. The opening to the left is the bridge to the architect’s wing. Just off the bridge is a powder room for guests. The stairs on the right lead to a lower-level flex space and full bathroom. The home is set up for one-floor living so the couple can age in place here.

Dramatic cantilevered decks and porches provide lake views. Connections to the outdoors were a priority throughout the home — there’s 420 square feet of screened-in porch space, 597 square feet of covered porch space and 744 square feet of deck space, for a total of 1,761 square feet of deck and porch space.

This bridge connects the engineer’s wing and the common area. A system of rain chains carries water from the roofs in lieu of downspouts. They empty into collection boxes full of stones. Under the boxes, piping leads the water to an area away from the house. If needed, rain chain systems can collect water for irrigation, but it wasn’t necessary on this site.

Each wing is one room wide, allowing for light to come in from at least three sides. This photo of the engineer’s bedroom shows how dividing the home into three separate structures allows more light and air into each wing.

Each wing has an open porch facing the lake. This is the engineer’s porch, looking toward the common space, which has the large screened-in porch. The decking is hardy garapa wood. The white pieces over each wing’s deck are cantilevered awning frames. Louvers will be installed within them to provide shade.

The bow-tie-shaped window in the architect’s office marks where the two wings of the butterfly roof meet. To the right is a private screened-in porch on the street-facing side of the house. It overlooks the entry garden.

Because of the private nature of the property and the layout, Cain designed the bathrooms with an open feel. This strategy allows the bathrooms to enjoy light and views from the other spaces. He installed well-placed pocket doors for those times when the owners want to close the bathrooms off.

The central common wing juts out closer to the lake than the private wings do. The large overhangs help control solar heat gain indoors during the summer.

The lower level of the common wing contains the 426-square-foot flexible space and full bath. Originally intended to be a billiards-TV room, right now it’s mostly serving as the staging and planning area for the garden. The planned covered porch beneath it is another work in progress.

The house was built to meet LEED Gold standards, though it hasn’t been certified yet. Sustainable and healthy features include:

  • Ground-source geothermal heat pumps
  • Tight thermal envelope, including low-E glass
  • Energy-recovery ventilation systems
  • Low-maintenance Cor-Ten steel siding and concrete foundation walls
  • LED light fixtures
  • Natural cross-ventilation
  • Overhangs, porches and roofs that minimize solar heat gain
  • One-floor living
  • No VOCs (volatile organic compounds)
  • Radon-elimination systems
  • Strong and direct physical and visual connections to nature

This content was originally published here.

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These Are the Spaces People Are Updating the Most

Outdoor Projects on the Rise

Homeowners worked on a variety of outdoor projects last year. In 2020, a larger share focused their attention on improving their landscaping than did so in 2019. The percentage of people making updates to garden beds and borders increased year over year, from 27% to 35%. The share who upgraded lawns rose from 17% to 20%. And a significant share of homeowners updated a patio or terrace (15%), outdoor lighting (21%) and irrigation (14%).

Shade, storage and features for cooking can make an outdoor area more functional or enjoyable. The share of homeowners updating these types of outdoor structures rose slightly year over year. Projects included sheds or workshops (which rose from 8% to 9%), gazebos or pergolas (from 5% to 6%) and built-in kitchens (from 2% to 3%).

Many homeowners turned to decks, porches and balconies as a way to make their outdoor spaces more appealing. The share of homeowners updating one of these outdoor features increased slightly year over year.

Homeowner spending on decks, porches and balconies also increased. The median spending on decks jumped year over year (from $2,000 to $2,500), while spending on a porch or balcony also increased (from $1,200 to $1,500).

“Median spending” means half of homeowners spent more and half spent less than that figure. Economists like to reference the median figure rather than the average because the average can be skewed by a number of factors. The median should not be interpreted as the likely cost of a project. The cost to remodel varies widely by location and project scope and can be much higher in some metropolitan areas and for major remodels.

Outdoor Decor Draws Attention

Furniture, lighting, pillows and other decor items make an outdoor area more inviting and comfortable. And as the share of homeowners tackling outdoor projects rose, so did the share of homeowners who bought outdoor decor products.

The percentage of homeowners who bought fire features, such as fire pits and fireplaces, increased year over year (from 11% to 16%), as did the share of people who bought large outdoor furniture (from 21% to 25%).

The share of homeowners who bought small furniture, lighting, pillows and throws, rugs and water features for their outdoor spaces all rose slightly as well.

And with more homeowners making updates to landscaping, they bought more lawn and garden supplies last year (48%) than in the previous year (44%).

Some homeowners integrated smart tech products into their outdoor areas. The percentage of homeowners who bought smart outdoor light fixtures jumped (from 4% to 7%), while those who bought smart security cameras increased slightly (from 17% to 19%).

Kitchens Sill Lead in Renovation Spending

While outdoor projects grabbed a lot of attention last year, kitchens are the heart of the home for most people. More than a quarter (27%) of homeowners said they renovated or added a kitchen in 2020. And kitchen improvements captured the most renovation spending last year, as they did in 2019.

Overall median spending on kitchens ($12,000) remained the same year over year. But homeowners spent more to tackle major updates to larger kitchens.

Median spending on major renovations — in which at least all the cabinets and appliances were replaced — to kitchens over 200 square feet climbed to $40,000 last year from $35,000 in 2019.

Homeowners remodeling a smaller kitchen spent less last year than in 2019. Median spending on major renovations to kitchens of less than 200 square feet fell to $20,000 from $24,000.

Bathroom Spending Bounces Up

After kitchens, homeowners spend the most on renovations to bathrooms. And similar to kitchens, overall median spending on master bathroom remodels held steady year over year, at $8,000. But spending jumped for major bathroom renovations, in which at least the cabinetry and vanity, countertops and toilet were replaced.

For major renovations to master bathrooms larger than 100 square feet, median spending rose from $17,000 to $18,000.

For major renovations to master bathrooms of less than 100 square feet, median spending jumped from $10,000 to $12,000.

Other Interior Rooms See Rise in Spending

Many homeowners skipped eating out at restaurants during the pandemic, and perhaps that resulted in some diverting more funds to improving their dining rooms.
Median spending on dining rooms rose year over year (from $1,200 to $1,500).

Many homeowners who found themselves working from home last year decided to rethink their home office setups. The share of homeowners updating a home office, including home office additions, increased compared with 2019 (from 10% to 14%). And median spending on home offices also rose (from $1,000 to $1,100).

The new working environment and the extra time at home perhaps had some homeowners reassessing their wardrobe as well. While the share of homeowners updating a closet stayed the same year over year (14%), the median spending on closet updates rose (from $700 to $1,000).

Homeowners budgeted money for making updates to other rooms as well. Median spending on living rooms and family rooms ($3,000), guest bedrooms ($1,000) and laundry rooms ($1,500) held steady year over year.

The share of homeowners who bought home improvement products was highest for paint (67%) and light fixtures (51%) in 2020, as it was in 2019.

Updates to home systems were also popular. About a quarter of homeowners updated plumbing (26%) and electrical (24%). And while spending on upgrades of most top home systems held relatively steady year over year, it rose slightly for heating (from $3,500 to $4,000) and in the home entertainment category (from $800 to $1,000).

Smart Features Boot Up

A relatively small share of homeowners bought tech products for their updated homes in 2020, as was true in 2019. But the share of homeowners who chose to buy smart products increased year over year.

The percentage of homeowners who bought smart light fixtures, which allow lighting to be controlled using a phone, tablet or computer app, increased from 11% to 16% year over year, along with the share who bought smart alarms or detectors (up from 12% to 14%), smart streaming-media players (from 10% to 14%) and smart TVs (from 7% to 12%).

This content was originally published here.

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Essential Watering Tips for Your Edible Garden

Water Just the Essentials

Granted, you don’t have that option when you’re relying on summer rains. But when you do water, make sure you focus just on the plants. This has the bonus of discouraging weeds; plus, sidewalks and patios certainly aren’t going to be growing and don’t need to be wet.

Water in the Morning

Try to give plants a drink at the beginning of the day. Consider it your garden’s morning caffeine jolt. Being hydrated helps plants combat the heat of the day. It also gives the foliage time to dry in the sun, which helps prevent diseases.

If a morning watering session doesn’t fit your schedule, your next best choice is the evening, especially once things have begun to cool down. Be sure not to get foliage too wet, especially if your edibles are prone to fungus. At mid-day, water only the plants that are wilting significantly.

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Water Slowly

Spraying a full blast on a garden is more likely to wash away the dirt than provide the plants with enough water. Take it easy, and let the water fall gently on the soil and plants.

Plants do best when they’re on a regular schedule rather than a seesaw approach of overwatering followed by droughtlike conditions.

Water Less Often but Deeply

The water needs to reach the deepest roots, which can be as shallow as 6 inches for radishes, around 1 foot for most vegetables, up to 2 feet for deeper-rooted plants like tomatoes and even deeper for fruit trees.

The general guideline is to water about 1 inch a week, but it can vary depending your plants, climate conditions (dry and windy versus still and humid) and soil type. Insert a thin rod or screwdriver into the soil next to the plants (be careful around the roots) an hour after watering to determine how deep the water has reached.

Know Your Plants’ Water Needs

As a rule, most edibles need regular watering and aren’t happy if the soil dries out too much in between. But that’s not true of all of them, so you may want to put some plants, such as and even tomatoes, on a separate schedule in which you water less. At the same time, other plants, such as cole crops, might need extra watering sessions.

Know Your Soil Type

The ideal garden soil is a rich, easy-to-work loam that is porous enough for water to easily (but slowly) seep down, yet heavy enough to keep the water at the root level. If you’re lucky to have this soil, rejoice. The rest of us are jealous.

Sandy soil is just what it sounds like — very loose and porous. The good news is that sandy soil absorbs water easily. The bad news is that it also allows the water to quickly pass by the roots and drain away. If you have sandy soil, you’ll want to amend it. You’ll probably need to water more often to be sure the soil near the roots stays wet.

With heavy clay soil, you’ll water less often but you’ll need to make other adjustments. Because clay soil absorbs water very slowly, it’s easy for the water to run off before it penetrates the ground. The solution is to keep the flow low, almost a trickle if the soil is very dense. Also, try watering in two blocks — water for 5 to 10 minutes, turn it off for 20 minutes, then water again for 5 to 10 minutes. This allows the soil time to absorb the water.

Add Mulch

Mulch helps to keep the soil cool and prevent evaporation while also deterring weeds. Once you’ve finished planting, add mulch around the beds. Just be careful not to put it too close to the plant stems or tree trunks.

Beyond the Basics

Add watering basins. Other options will also help you water efficiently and effectively. By filling watering basins around plants, especially fruit trees, you let the water slowly permeate the soil and reach the deepest roots without having to stand there holding a hose. Above-ground bags that fit around trees are becoming more common and allow you to do the same thing, especially for newly planted trees.

Consider covering larger watering basins with decorative rock, like the ones surrounding these trees. The stones allow water to permeate the soil while protecting the trees from lawnmower blades and adding a finishing touch to the landscape.

Create garden furrows. The traditional furrow alongside a row of vegetables serves the same purpose as a watering basin, allowing water to slowly reach the roots. Keep the furrow level so the water doesn’t pool at one end.

For both watering basins and furrows, be sure the water doesn’t sit directly against the stem of the plant or trunk of the tree. Leave a small dirt barrier between the two.

Plant just what you need, and group edibles with similar watering needs together. This applies especially if you want only a few plants, not an entire market garden. Create a separate herb garden, and consider planting beans, corn and squash together. (The beans use the stalks for support, and the squash leaves keep insects at bay.) Or keep shallow-rooted plants, like lettuces and spinach, in the same garden bed.

Monitor your garden’s moisture level. If summer rains are providing enough water to keep your plants happy, turn off an automated system or forgo a scheduled watering session. An old-fashioned rain gauge is one way to keep track of weekly rainfall.

For an automated watering system, you might want a rain sensor. Gardening supply stores, home improvement stores, nurseries and catalogs are good sources for easy-to-install sensors that can measure rainfall and turn off an irrigation system automatically.

Watering is essential for any landscape, but it’s at the top of the to-do list if you’re growing an edible garden. Most edibles require regular watering. If you live where summer rainstorms are common, Mother Nature might provide enough to keep everything happy. If you live in a dry climate, or are facing drought conditions, you’ll need to do more if you plan to keep growing. No matter your climate, there are some watering guidelines that apply to any edible garden.

This content was originally published here.