Friday, March 26, 2010

Choosing The Right Flooring For Your Home - BTSH Around The House Tip of the Week

While it would be difficult to tell you all you need to know on the various choices of flooring in one article, I wanted to hit some key points for various flooring options available today to allow you to make an educated choice. I’m a “carpet-free” believer, so have focused on bringing you information on hardwood floors, as well as some great hardwood alternatives.

Cork Flooring is made from the bark of the cork oak series. The bark naturally re-grows and can be harvested again in 9-12 years without any harm to the trees. It provides great sound and heat insulation, and is naturally resistant to mould, mildew and bacteria. It is incredibly durable, and very compressible and elastic, meaning that if dented, it will often regain shape once the pressure is released. Cork is considered one of the comfortable most flooring options available. It has a unique cellular structure, with millions of cells enclosed with a gaseous substance. It gives a soft feeling to the feet and joints of people walking and standing on cork floors for long.

Bamboo Flooring has attracted a lot of attention over the last several years as bamboo is a rapidly renewed resource that is generally grown without the use of pesticides or other harmful chemicals. These floors can be very durable and long-lasting, and come in a variety of styles, similar to hardwood. There are some cautions when it comes to bamboo though. Be sure to look for a mature bamboo, such as Moso which is harvested after 5 years. As well, to prevent warping look for a kiln-dried bamboo to ensure a low moisture content.

Leather Flooring, while once reserved for the rich and famous, is now quite economical, in addition to being eco-friendly. Eco-engineering has made it possible to create beautiful, durable leather flooring that is environmentally friendly and sustainable with an innovative use of recycled leather. Torly’s Leather has been a leader in this field, and backs their leather floors with a 25 year warranty. Torly’s leather floors contain no harmful VOC emissions, no added formaldehyde and exceed California Indoor Air Quality standards, giving you a healthier home.

Hardwood Flooring today is available in a great variety of styles, widths, and colours. Always a classic choice, today’s hardwood floors are easier to install and easier to care for than ever. Hardwood floors can still fade due to direct sunlight, and can scratch fairly easily. They generally need to be refinished every several years, but can last for the life of the home.

Laminate Flooring is a much less expensive alternative to any of the other floors mentioned in this article. It is scratch, fade, impact, and stain resistant, and is very easy to care for. These floors give the look of hardwood, for a fraction of the cost, and can be installed almost anywhere in the home. While they never need to be refinished, their life expectancy is generally less than 20 years. Be sure to keep this in mind when choosing to install in your home.

Written by Shauna Lynn, Beyond The Stage Homes

Monday, March 22, 2010

Storage Solutions - BTSH Around The House Tip of the Week

I continually hear people say “I wish I could be as organized as you!”. I am always looking for ways to better organize my own home, and make things easier to find and access. I’m a firm believer in having everyday things at my fingertips. The first step in organizing is to sort through the areas of clutter and arrange a system. Categorize the items by what needs to stay where it is (but in an organized way of course), what is truly junk and can be tossed, and what is worth keeping, but is in the wrong place. Once you’ve done this, start with the “wrong place” items, and put them in the correct place immediately. Next, conquer the clutter and organize the items that are going to stay put.

Small Solutions
Jewellery trays—these don’t have to be your traditional silver trays, but can be a vintage ceramic plate or bowl. I keep one in every bedroom in my house, so that guests have a safe place to put their jewellery, watches, and other tokens.
Store remote controls in a decorative dish or basket (one with dividers is ever better!). This could also be a good place to keep a pen and paper handy.
Use small clear containers or reseal-able bags to store small items such as paper clips, hair elastics, travel shampoos, etc. By using a clear container, it will be easy to find, and keeps all like items together. I have a large collection of craft items and find that this is the best way to keep all my thingamajigs and doohickies organized.

Kitchen Storage
Perhaps the room that simply never seems to be big enough, or have enough storage space! When doing staging projects, one of the first things that I always suggest to homeowners is to clear off the kitchen counters. From a resale point of view, buyers want to see the counter space available, so you don’t want to hide it. The problem? Homeowners shriek at the thought of having to find room in their cupboards for the items that are sitting on the counter! As a first step, I always recommend looking at what is on the counter, and see what is used several times a week. For items that are not used as often, consider how important it is to the kitchen, and whether it can be stored in another storage area (such as a crawl space, closet, or even the garage), or whether it can be tossed altogether.

A Few More Kitchen Tips
Add drawer dividers to keep even your junk drawer organized
Use clear, stackable containers to store flour, sugar, rice, etc in your cupboards
Make use of the empty space above the fridge—place baskets or storage boxes to keep it looking clean and organized, and store takeout menus, recipes, and special occasion dishware.

I Know I Said To “Toss” It, But Please Don’t Throw It Out
Since this article touches so much on “tossing” unnecessary items, which may not be the most environmentally friendly approach, consider donating to a salvage store, or selling through a local classified paper or online site. The latest in re-using is “Freecycle”, which allows only free items to be posted in an effort to keep them out of landfills. Search online to find a site for your region.

Written by Shauna Lynn, Beyond The Stage Homes

Monday, March 15, 2010

Spring Prep For Your Yard and Garden - BTSH Around The House Tip of the Week

Wow, in some areas the snow hasn’t even finished melting, so why are we thinking about getting our yard ready for spring? Well, believe it or not, this weekend will mark the first day of spring, and in order to make your yard tasks less overwhelming this year, it’s best to get an early start. So, when the sun is shining, take it outside, soak up some vitamin D, and get your yard in shape.

Raking and Seeding
This is a great time to rake up any left-over leaves from the fall, as well as clean up any other debris that has blown in and around your yard over the winter. Raking also helps to prepare the grass for growing season. By giving your lawn a good, deep rake, you can remove any built up thatch, dead grass, as well as lifting any matted blades to allow for new blades to sprout. Overseeding is a great practice that can be done even before the last frost. After raking, spread new seed and fertilizer throughout the lawn, concentrating especially in any bare patches. For uneven areas, add some fresh soil to level out. While some recommend that you wait until fall for overseeding, I prefer to do this in both the spring and the fall. If doing this in the spring, be sure your new seeds get lots of water. With rainy season approaching, you may be able to capitalize on this method of watering.

Herbs and Vegetables
If you’re thinking about a herb and/or vegetable garden this year, now is the time to plan. There are several things you will want to take into consideration when planting.

Annuals vs Perennials—Determine which plants are Annuals (will need to replanted each year) or Perennials (will return year after year). For lower maintenance gardens, try to focus on planting mainly perennials.

Planting from Seeds or Plants—If planting from seeds, you will want to start potting these indoors soon to ensure proper germination. For best results, plant indoors approximately 2 weeks before last frost, and transplant into your garden after last frost.

Placement of Plants—Take into consideration how the sun rises and sets in respect to your garden and be sure to plant accordingly. Some plants will require more sun than others. As well, be sure to take into consideration the anticipated size that the plants will grow to, and avoid blocking the sun from smaller plants with larger plants. Space your plants appropriately. Some plants require more growing room for roots then others. Most nursery plants and seed packs will provide instructions for this.

With all this being said, if you live in Canada, don’t put that snow-blower and shovel away just yet. While many areas have experienced spring like temperatures in the recent weeks, there is always a possibility for more snow. Check with your local weather authority to see when they are forecasting last frost to ensure safe transplanting.

Written by Shauna Lynn, Beyond The Stage Homes

Monday, March 8, 2010

Displaying Your Artwork - BTSH Around The House Tip of the Week

As a general rule, artwork should always be displayed at eye level. This means that while it might seem like a good idea to center the art on the wall, it may not catch your eye the way that you would like. Of course, this rule is often broken, so if you’re looking to break away from tradition, here are some ideas for displaying your art.

Don’t Hang It, Display It
Who says you need to actually “hang” your artwork? Consider displaying pieces of art on narrow art shelves. Or, display several pieces on a mantel. Choose different sizes and overlap slightly for extra effect.

Grouping Art
Group several similar pieces together and display as one unit. Each piece should share a common theme, whether it’s simply a colour tone, or image similarity. You can choose to hang symmetrically, by framing all in the same frame style and size, or you can choose to display all different size pieces. If choosing this method, I suggest laying them out first on the floor or a table, to determine placement. Then measure the whole unit and ensure that the space you have chosen is appropriate.

Lighting Your Artwork
A beautiful piece of art can be lost if not properly lit. Display in a well-lit room, or provide accent lighting, such as wall sconces on each side, or installing a picture light above or below the piece of art. This technique for lighting your artwork also makes the piece a focal point in the room, and captures attention.

Hanging It
For a more casual atmosphere, hang your groupings in an asymmetrical pattern. Wherever you choose to hang your artwork, be sure to choose picture hangers appropriate for your art, and your wall. If you’re unsure, ask for assistance at your local hardware store.

Choosing Your Artwork
This has been touched on briefly in other pieces I have written, but I like to compare choosing art to choosing wine—there really is no wrong choice. If you love it, then make it work. Be sure to blend colours to the room and the art’s surroundings though. Also, don’t be afraid to think outside the box. Some great artists create masterpieces through metal works. It’s not just about a brush to canvas. Wreaths, empty picture frames, old windows, architectural pieces, and other objects can all impart unique style to your home. Take a favourite hi res photo and enlarge and frame it. Whatever it is, let it inspire you, whether it’s by the colours the artist has chosen, it’s unique style, or the story it tells. Remember that you are looking at these pieces more often than your guests, so be sure to select pieces that you will enjoy.

Written by Shauna Lynn, Beyond The Stage Homes

Monday, March 1, 2010

Making a Big Screen TV Work - BTSH Around The House Tip of the Week

So, you have done your research, and you have carefully chosen that big screen TV for it’s sound, picture, and size. But have you figured out where you’re going to put it? When staging a home, it is common practice to eliminate TVs wherever possible. Unless we are showing a room as a “man den”, we don’t want the TV to be the focal point. This is generally easiest to do when the home is not being occupied. However, realistically, the average person watches about 20-26 hours of TV each week, so eliminating the TV altogether isn’t always practical. When entertaining, drawing the focus away from the TV can often be a dilemma. While occasionally your entertainment is centered around the big game, generally you aim to distract from the big TV in the room.

Choosing Your TV
While I can’t tell you how to choose your TV from a resolution point of view, or whether LCD is better than Plasma, I can advise you on choosing the appropriate sized TV for your room. It’s been shown that choosing a smaller TV that fits the room appropriately will allow for a more enjoyable viewing experience then choosing one that is just too large for your room. Sometimes bigger really isn’t better. The chart to the right provides a bit of a guideline to ensure that you get the most out of your HDTV.

Positioning Your TV
For starters, lose the traditional entertainment center. Today’s flat-screen TVs offer the advantage of being able to mount them almost anywhere. You can mount on a flexible arm so that you can store flat against the wall when not in use, and angle appropriately to maximize viewing when it is in use. This helps to minimize it as a focal point. Another idea to “camouflage” the TV is to use a dark paint or wallpaper on the wall, so that the TV blends into the wall. Media accessories can be stored in decorative cabinets above and/or below.
Another idea is to surround the TV by artwork. An asymmetrical design works best for this, helping to blend the TV into the background. For an added touch, consider adding a frame to the TV.

Perhaps my favourite method though for concealing your big screen TV when not in use is the 2-way mirror. This is one of those ideas that you see, and really wish you had thought of it yourself. While I can’t take credit for the idea, I can certainly promote the cleverness of it. When the TV is off, you simply have an elegant mirror mounted above your fireplace or other focal point, however when the TV is on, it comes through the glass brilliantly.

Written by Shauna Lynn, Beyond The Stage Homes