Browse Month

May 2016

Details Make Home Offices Work

These days, more and more people are taking the bold step of doing at least part of their job at home. A 30-second commute has a lot of appeal, but increasingly, people are opting to work at home in order to create a more humane schedule that allows for more flexibility to attend to family joys and responsibilities. As anyone who has been down this road can tell you, however, working at home has its down side as well. By planning wisely and upgrading appropriately, you can make your home office an excellent work environment where you will be comfortable as well as motivated.

Home Offices that Fit Your Lifestyle and Work Habits
Many people prefer to locate their offices away from the rest of their living space. Attics, basements, and rooms over detached garages are ideal places to locate your residential office. Parents, however, may be in the unenviable position of needing to work in their office while monitoring the kids. Moreover, not all home offices are for at-home employment. Many people use office spaces for writing, reading, musical composition, etc. Hiring an interior designer with specific experience with residential office spaces—and rates to match this minimalist space—can be invaluable in designing the right space for your needs.

Custom Desks, Chairs and Furniture
You might be able to find “acceptable” office desks and chairs from your local furniture store, but your home office is an investment. Many people use their offices every day, or nearly every day. To maximize productivity and minimize stress, joint pain, and poor posture, you may want to splurge on a custom-built desk and ergonomic office chair. Indeed, a finish carpenter can deliver all sorts of custom amenities that aren’t symptoms of indulgence but smart investments for one of the most productive areas of your home and your work life.

Design a Home Office Environment for Visitors
If there is any chance that you will have visits from colleagues, your boss, vendors, subordinates, partners, clients, or others, you must pay special attention to the kind of statement your work environment makes. Whenever possible, have a separate outside entrance so that visitors don’t have to traipse through private family spaces to get to your office. It is very difficult to project a sense of professionalism when you have to pick up toys or laundry en route to your meeting. In most traditional office environments, you have the use of a conference room for meetings. But if your work area stays neat and has room for another table, you may be able to create your own mini-conference area.

Ideally, the office area should have its own bathroom that is off limits to family members. This makes it easy to keep it especially clean and free of the clutter that inhabits the typical domestic bathroom. If you can’t swing a separate bathroom, consider designating one of the family bathrooms for office use. You might want to add additional storage in the bathroom to minimize clutter and make it easier to keep clean.

Wiring and Communication Needs
It usually makes sense to have at least one separate phone line exclusively for your office. If you use the Internet, faxes, or e-mail extensively, additional lines are a good idea. A separate business line allows you to use a professional voicemail or answering machine message. It also gives you the option of using call-forwarding if you occasionally work from another location. A designated business line also makes it easier to keep youngsters from intercepting your important business calls. And, at the end of the day, you can leave the business line to the answering machine or voicemail without missing calls from friends and family.

Another common issue with home offices is electrical power. Copiers, laser printers, and computers use a lot of juice. Check with an electrician about adding a couple of circuits so that you don’t have to worry about tripping the circuit-breaker every time you make a photocopy. More than convenience, you also need to hire a qualified electrician for safety. Many office spaces weren’t originally designed to handle any sizable load-bearing circuits and advanced electrical devices.

Don’t Forget Home Office Ground Rules!
No matter how well designed your workspace is, you will have to establish basic ground rules for you, your family, and even visitors. If you find yourself making continual raids on the refrigerator, you may need to establish a rule for yourself that limits trips to the kitchen to meal times. A separate business phone line isn’t much use if family members routinely turn to it when the main family line is tied up, and your “conference room” won’t serve its purpose if it becomes a hide-away for empty boxes, half-finished puzzles and spare camping equipment!

Saving Space with Bunk Beds

With many homeowners finding space at a premium, there are few additions to a kid’s room that make more sense than a bunk bed. And while most of us think of the basic, stacked, twin bed designs that we slept on at summer camp, these beds have gone through a renaissance as of late. Whether you need your kids to share a room, are looking to maximize the space in a room they already have, or just need an extra bed in your home for surprise guests, bunk beds are a great product to look into.

The Traditional Bunk Bed
At its heart, the basic idea behind bunk beds hasn’t changed. You can sleep two kids in the space a single bed normally takes up. If you’re short on bedrooms, can’t give up that home office, or just want to take advantage of the bonding that takes place between siblings when they share a room, any bunk style bed will do the trick. It’s a two for one option that many parents just can’t pass up.

Safety First
Of course these beds do come with a few safety concerns that a single twin doesn’t, and all involve the fact that one of the beds sits about 5 feet off the ground. Make sure you buy a bed with railings on both sides of the top bunk if you can. Many beds don’t come with the wall-side rail, which is a mistake. A kid can slip between the mattress and wall and get hurt just as bad as if they go over the edge facing the open room. Also, make sure the rails are placed close enough together so your child can’t slip through or get stuck between them as they thrash around at night. Be sure your ladder ties into the frame of the bed so that your kid doesn’t take a tumble climbing up and down, and finally, don’t ever let your kids use their bunk setup as a gymnasium. It’s a recipe for disaster, and doing so makes a trip to the ER just a question of when not if.

Beyond the Standard Fare
Like I said before, these beds have undergone some changes over the years. Loft beds, or bunk bed designs without a bottom bunk, have grown increasingly popular as today’s kids seem to need office space of their own. That space under the top bunk is usually transformed into a desk and computer area for getting their homework done. Lofts also allow for a lot of extra storage space in the form of built in drawers and closets, meaning you can get rid of some of that other furniture that’s taking up valuable space. Many lofts also have a built in couch or futon underneath, making for a nice hang out spot for your youngsters to take a load off and read their favorite book during quiet time.

Bunk Beds as Guest Beds?
This suggestion might sound a little out of sorts, but if you’re short on extra bedrooms it can be a lifesaver when company shows up. Instead of setting up a guest room, purchase a bunk setup with a full size bottom mattress. It’s not the ultimate in privacy, but you’ll find that most adults actually enjoy the trip through memory lane. That and your kid will love having a sleep over with grandpa and grandma snoring away in the bunk below.

Finally, if you’re fun loving and have the means, look into more creative, custom bunk designs as well. Bunk beds are being sold that look like tree houses, doll houses and even castles, and often have a slide attached to make springing out of bed in the morning a little more fun. Kind of goes against the “no jungle gym” rule, but I guarantee you won’t hear any complaints from your kids about it. Just a high pitched scream of delight as they slide down in time for the morning cartoons.

Home Office Organization: Work from Big to Small

You know what good home office organization looks like. It doesn’t include piles of books and file folders on the floor, papers strewn about the desk, half a dozen pens hiding underneath those papers. You look at your office, see the state it’s in and decide to do something about it. You probably hear the clichés: start small, one step at a time, create a new habit, stuff like that. You try it and maybe see it work for two or three days. Once you see improvement you lose the motivation to keep at it. The truth is all the good habits in the world aren’t going to help you if your office isn’t set up to facilitate good home office organization. You can spend countless hours working on habits that might transform themselves naturally if you dedicate one weekend to remodeling your home office with an eye looking specifically at organization.

Your Office Desk
Take a look at your desk. Is there enough shelving for everything? Do you have an open space for paper trays? If you have papers lying around everywhere, you’re probably a person predisposed to having things lying around at your desk. This isn’t a bad thing. You want as many items as possible within an arm’s length, you just don’t want it buried. Sit down at the desk you have now and look at it. Is there a better design that will allow your clutter to have its own place? On the other hand, if you want to remove the clutter from your desk area but simply have trouble finding the motivation in the moment, maybe you should consider a smaller desk to limit the clutter space available. You know yourself and how you work. Before you try to will yourself into better home office organization, ask if you have the right desk.

Home Office Cabinets
Maybe the desk isn’t the problem, though. Maybe everything’s gravitating toward your desk because it doesn’t have any place else to go. Do you have sufficient storage throughout your home office? The answer is probably no. It’s time to put in some new home office cabinets. Chances are if your work area is overrun with clutter, it doesn’t need to be on-hand. It’s nearly impossible to have too many home office cabinets. Install smaller cabinets on the wall to preserve a feeling of space in the room. Wider, floor cabinetry will get those bulky items off the floor and away from the work area. Modular cabinets will allow you to create custom spacing for awkward items for an affordable installation price. You can also use the closet in the office and invest in organizers there for extra items.

Creative Differences: Love Chaos and Stay Organized
Everybody works differently. Maybe the resistance you’ve been feeling toward home office organization is nothing more than a psychological personality trait. Some people find it difficult to concentrate when their environment is too neat. Still, you need to be able to find things in your work area in a reasonable amount of time to avoid losing valuable time. If you need help organizing your home office, you can hire a professional organizer to get it in shape for you.

Try to find another way to express your need for creative chaos. Organizing your home office should free up space in the room. Make half of the room a mess of artistic endeavor. If you like to paint—if you’d like to learn to paint—get some paint, some canvasses and go at it. The importance of home office organization is to keep your work area organized and your mind focused on the task at hand, but don’t feel like you have to spend five minutes looking for buried items just because you like to be messy.

Spring Cleaning Myths and Mistakes

Many of us learned our spring cleaning habits growing up. Like other home remedies, for every spring cleaning tip that has served us well over the years is another one that is all smoke-and-mirrors. Here are some common spring cleaning myths and mistakes that either don’t get things cleaned as they should or waste valuable time that could be spent on other areas of your home:

The Surface Cleaning Myths
A big chunk of spring cleaning is putting your weekly or monthly cleaning schedule on steroids: After vacuuming, you also steam clean. After sweeping, you also mop the floors. You move furniture and refrigerators. You dust edges and corners. You really do a number. So, here are some common myths and mistakes associated with this super-cleaning.

  • Flooring, Countertops, and Fixtures: The notion that bleach effectively cleans these surfaces is myth. You must first clean, then disinfect with bleach or a similar product. Without first removing the dirt and food particles, germs can linger even with a bleach application. Likewise, without using a disinfectant, germs can linger.
  • Carpets: Carpet cleaning does more harm than good. Some homeowners have become so petrified of these dangers that they neglect any form of carpet cleaning. Most of these dangers—mold, odors, shrinkage—arise from carpet that is left too wet for too long. If you hire a reputable cleaning company or invest in solid carpet cleaning equipment, your carpet will be fine and have better durability.
  • Wood Cabinets and Furniture: The biggest myth about maintaining wood is that consistently applying wood polish is not necessarily the best thing for wood. The interaction between the polish’s chemical composition and the wood can attract excess dust or even dull the finish. Consistent dusting may be enough to keep your wood looking good. Otherwise, stick to the manufacturer’s recommendations.
  • Tile Grout: The myth here is the degree of difficulty in cleaning tile grout. After removing as much dirt as you can with water, you can use baking soda with a little bit of vinegar to clean your grout or a pH-balanced cleaning solution. Still, many homeowners choose to hire a pro, since the process is tedious, time-consuming, and homemade solutions won’t come close to the clean provided by professional, high-powered water vapor systems.

The Home Maintenance Myths
After cleaning each nook and cranny, home maintenance is the other side of spring cleaning. Unfortunately, it’s too often the neglected side. From changing the air filters on your A/C to pressure washing your siding, this is far from a complete list. Still, be sure to watch out for these common spring cleaning myths and mistakes.

  • Gutter Cleaning: You can’t just throw the leaves out of your gutter and call it a day. Good gutter cleaning involves identifying leaks, seams, flushing downspouts to prevent clogging and ensuring they’re properly draining, along with comprehensive gutter channel cleaning.
  • Window Washing: Ever wash your windows and find them dirty by the time summer rolls around? Many homeowners use paper towels, squeegees, or rags that cause static to build up on window glass and attract new dust. Professional window washing services uses a specific methodology that most homeowners are either unable or unwilling to duplicate.
  • Painting, Staining, and Sealing: Rather than myths, mistakes with these projects generally involve bad habits or practices. The work may not be the most technically demanding, but knowing which type of paint works best for your climate can save you dozens of labor hours and extend the lifetime of the paint job. A poor paint job can last as little 3 years before it needs attention. A good one can last for upwards of 20.
  • Professional vs. DIY Maintenance: Perhaps the most pervasive myth is that you’re a wimp unless you do your own spring cleaning. People with hectic schedules can easily justify the costs of hiring a handyman, especially if you can bundle your spring cleaning list into one full day’s work. Professional maintenance also includes professional experience and expertise. A home inspection can create a comprehensive spring cleaning and maintenance list.

The Biggest Mistake of All
Not keeping your priorities straight is the overarching mistake homeowners make. Specifically, caring more about things appearing clean than actually being clean is at the heart of many spring cleaning myths. From reducing the risk of infection and other health hazards to increasing the life expectancy of your home furnishings, having a clear understanding and methodology for your spring cleaning is critical to maintaining a healthy home. And this is spring cleaning we’re talking about, so do it right.

Bedroom Furniture for Looks and Function

Few additions to your bedroom define the space more than the bedroom furniture set you purchase. Bedroom furniture is something that, when chosen wisely, gives your bedroom character and compliments your personality and tastes. Of course, choosing the right furniture can also make a huge difference when it comes to maximizing space usage and storage, so it’s important to take into account both your needs and desires before you purchase a new bedroom furniture set.

Basic Bedroom Design
The right bedroom design for you varies depending on what you use your bedroom for. Is just a place where you sleep away the night? In that case focus on the bed and little else. If you’re like most homeowners, however, the bedroom has become a multi-purpose space. Avid readers probably will want to incorporate a nightstand and bookshelves into their design plan, while movie buffs and television addicts should explore television wall mounts or T.V. stands. Fashion devotees probably need to consider larger clothes storage needs, and purchase the appropriate wardrobes, dressers, and other storage solutions. Before you start shopping, sit down and make a list of what your bedroom is used for and look for furniture that compliments that.

What Bedroom Furniture Do You Need (And What Do You Not?)
Some homeowners have the luxury of spacious bedrooms that can accommodate just about any furniture choices they make. For the rest of us, it’s important to be realistic about weighing needs and desires. Is a king sized bed the best choice, or would a queen sized bed allow for that much needed second dresser? Sure, two nightstands add a touch of symmetry to any bedroom, but would purchasing just one free up space and give your bedroom a more open and inviting feel? And that antique wardrobe is a stunning piece, but keep in mind it’s going to take up most of an entire wall. If it’s the perfect fit, go for it. But something a little smaller and compact might be a better choice if you’re pressed for space.

Think Space and Storage
By now you’ve probably noticed a theme coming through here: even the most beautiful bedroom furniture set can make a room feel cramped and uncomfortable if it’s overdone. The best way to avoid this is to look for furniture solutions that provide both looks and storage. Platform beds, for example, offer ample storage space underneath either in open space or built in drawers. A shoulder height lingerie chest provides more storage space in the same area than a delicate Queen Anne style dresser. And a nightstand with drawers and cabinets is always a better choice than a small end table. Generally when it comes to bedroom design, more storage in less space is the way to go. It will mean you’ll be able to enjoy the furniture you do have more, and because you’ll have ample storage space for your needs, you won’t be constantly fighting the clutter and inconvenience that is so common when you run out of space to put all your stuff.

Take Advantage of Expert Advice
When it comes to designing the perfect bedroom for you, there are two resources you’d be remiss not to look into. The first is a good interior decorator. They are more than skilled in optimizing space and beautifying rooms at the same time, and you’d be amazed how valuable their services can be. The second is a good custom furniture builder. If you have the means, you’ll be getting exactly the look you want in your bedroom furniture, it will be built to last (unlike so much of the stock furniture available to customers at retail outlets), and it can be built specifically for your needs. Both professionals and their services are well worth the extra investment in the end.