Your front door is the first impression that you get to make when someone visits your home, which means that many of us want to choose the most attractive door possible, to cast your house in the best light. Should you however be basing your choice on how the door looks, rather than how it performs? The short answer is no, because choosing a front door purely on looks, might be something you regret in the long term when it fails to meet it’s functional requirements. We’ve put together some guidelines below on how to buy buy the best exterior doors for your home, to help you to choose a door that will meet your practical as well as aesthetic needs.
This factor is probably the most important of all considerations when buying your new door. While a solid wood door may look lovely you should be aware that if it gets wet, it is at risk of swelling and then subsequently shrinking as it dries out. A well designed and professionally fitted door will need to be carefully installed to ensure that the gap between your door and it’s frame is a consistent size, ensuring a snug but not tight fit between the door and the door frame. The constant expansion and contraction of a wooden door, that can be caused by it getting wet, will mean that it the door is more likely to become stuck on the frame, or to develop gaps which will let in air.
With the above in mind, our advice would be to only install a solid wood door in areas that are very much under cover, so that they won’t get excessively wet, or cold. If your door isn’t covered, then an alternative to a real solid wooden door, would be to go for a composite door which will have fewer of the issues that can be caused by damp and cold. A composite door will still look great, however it will need very little maintenance, unlike wood. A UPVC door will suffer even less than a composite door from issues surrounding damp, however they can be unattractive, with none of the rustic appeal of a wooden door.
Do you want your door to have any glass? This is the next consideration to bear in mind when selecting a new door. You should be aware that any glazing will inevitably mean that you more draughts around the door, however glazing can be very practical for seeing who is outside and importantly for letting in light. You may prefer to have double glazed windows to each side of the door and a peephole instead. This is certainly down to preference as the best doors are still very secure even with glazing. A good compromise between the translucent benefits of clear glass, and the privacy aspect of a non-glazed finish, can be to install frosted glass that will still let light in, but won’t allow anyone to see into your home.
No matter what type of door you choose you need to ensure that it has excellent security features. That means installing a good lock (even a double lock if necessary) or choosing a door that comes with the best lock you can afford. Some of these will have bolts that are at the top and bottom and some will have self locking mechanisms. Be aware that some doors can be manipulated through the letterbox to be opened from the outside unless you double lock them. Not only will a high quality lock give you peace of mind that your home is secure – having locks that reach a high standard can even save you money on your home insurance premiums. Generally a five lever mortice deadlock conforming to BS 3621 will be the minimum standard required to get a discount on your home insurance premium.
The colour that you choose for your door is of course down to personal preference. You can choose almost any colour for your door regardless of the style or material you choose, however one advantage of going for a wooden door is the fact you can repaint it any time you like, without having to replace the door. Many of the plastic or composite doors are made in white which is a very safe option, but for an attractive look to the front of your home, try a colour such as green or red. Your front door is highly visible, and therefore an important centrepiece when it comes to defining the style of your home. In summary, don’t go for the best quality door possible that will suit your needs – choose well and it should last as long as your home does.
TRY A TRENDY OVAL SINK
In a Lake Martin, Alabama, lake house bathroom designed by Bill Ingram, an oval-shaped sink by Toto is softer — more like a bowl — and gives you more counter space than a square.
CHOOSE A WASHSTAND WITH TOWEL BARS
“I love this washstand from Waterworks, because I can hang wet towels without having to have towel bars everywhere,” designer Barry Dixon says of the bathroom in a Washington, D.C. row house. Undermount basins and Etoile fixtures from Waterworks. Sconces by Crowder. Urban Smokebell lantern by Baker.
OPT FOR A LEGGY TABLE
A small table with an open base doesn’t close off space in the master W.C. of designer Thom Filicia’supstate New York lake house. Cavern Home Migration wallpaper.
STYLE BUSY FLOORS WITH SIMPLE WALLS
We love the intricate details of elaborate tiled floors, but (asdesigner Barrie Bensonknows) it’s important to keep the rest of the tiny space simple, so the room doesn’t become overwhelmed with patterns and color.
DON’T FORGET TOWEL RACKS
Towel racks above the tub are both convenient and save on wall space in a Park Avenue apartment designed by Christina Murphy.
KNOW WHERE TO SAVE ON SPACE
If you need a big tub (it’s theonly way you can unwind) then make sure you’re saving space elsewhere.
NEVER BLOCK PRECIOUS WINDOWS
Natural light is too important for cramped spaces to block with a dingy shower curtain. Instead, opt for clear glass doors (and a trusty lock on your door).
GO BIG WITH YOUR MIRROR SELECTION
In a Vermont cottage designed by Deirdre Heekin and Caleb Barber, the cedar bathroom’s claw-foot tub is made glamorous by painting it midnight blue. A mirror over the tub creates the illusion of a larger space.
CONTINUE FLOOR TILE INTO THE SHOWER
In a New York City bathroom, designer Alla Akimova ran zig-zag tile straight into the shower stall. “It makes the room feel larger,” she says. “If I had changed materials, it would have interrupted the space.”
TRY TO CURVE THE CORNERS
We’re not advocating for cutting corners, just curvingthem. By making the edge of your vanity softer and rounded, like designer Frank Hodge did here, you’ll gain back space and you’re less likely to bang into the edge when you’re in a rush (win-win!).
USE FIXTURES WITH STORAGE
A small but efficient master bath in a Los Angeles modern house designed by Pamela Shamshiri is packed with storage.
DON’T BLOCK THE SHOWER FROM SIGHT
Sure, most people opt for a foggy glass or dark curtain to block the shower from view. But designer Amy Meieropted for glass doors, which makes the shower suddenly to feel like livable square footage again.
DON’T UNDERESTIMATE A WELL-PLACED LEDGE
If your bathroom doesn’t have a built-in vanity, opt for a savvy ledge right above the sink. This will hold all your daily essentials (toothpaste, soap) but won’t take up as much floor space as a big piece of furniture.
GO WITH A SLIDING DOOR
Instead of a door on a hinge that, when open, takes up space in your small room, opt for a door on a rail that stays parallel with the wall at all times.
CHOOSE AN UNUSUAL ACCENT COLOR
Chrome shower accessories, like the door handle, knobs, and even drain (!) add decorative elements to the bathroom, which allows the room design as a whole to feel clean and open (but not overwhelming).
THE MORE MIRRORS THE BETTER
It turns out mirrors are useful for more than just touching up your makeup: Light bounces off the reflective surfaces and helps make rooms appear bigger. So even if you can only fit in a mini mirror (like the one on the hanging shelf in this bathroom) it makes a big difference.
DITCH THE BUILT-IN VANITY
Sometimes that giant storage unit is just not worth the bulk. A vintage table with open shelving feels slimmer and adds an airiness to the space.
USE AN UNTRADITIONAL SHOWER CURTAIN
This curtain looks more like a drape than your average plastic shower curtain — which not only makes the room feel more sophisticated, but it also makes the shower feel like more than just space reserved for later use — it feels like a bonus room!
The color black never goes out of style and white signifies style and class in any home. Combined, these two colors are an unstoppable force of interior design perfection for homeowners everywhere.
I’m not bashing the idea of adding color to your rooms. I’m saying that, when properly executed, a kitchen decorated in black and white looks timeless and beautiful. I’m going to share all sorts of possibilities and combinations for your next black and white kitchen makeover. I promise, you won’t be disappointed with what I found
White Kitchen Island
If you’re lucky enough to have a kitchen island, you need to consider painting it white or installing a white countertop. Remember that your island doesn’t need to match the surrounding items in your kitchen perfectly. You’re allowed to make this centerpiece stand out and catch the eye!
If you don’t have a kitchen island and you want one, check out our article on how to build a kitchen island yourself. After your island’s assembled, grab yourself a paint brush, some white paint and see how it brightens the room and gives your kitchen the right amount of pop.
Black or White Tile Floors
While you always have the option to combine black and white tiles on your floor, I’m going to show you a few examples of how using each color on its own will affect the look of your kitchen. Installing black tiles will give your room a mysterious and sleek look and feel, while allowing your eye to be drawn to any white or natural light present in the room.
As long as you use other features to brighten up the surrounding space, such as paint and windows, you shouldn’t be too concerned about the room looking too dark. If you’re concerned that an all-black floor will look too dreary, then consider using black and white pattern combinations.
White tile floors are always a smart choice. While they may take a little more effort to keep clean, they’re certainly a selection that’ll project timeless elegance. As you see in the photo above, white floors brighten up a kitchen and allow you to play around with different accent colors of your choosing. Installing white tile floors alongside white walls and a white ceiling draws the eye upward so your room looks like it has more height than it really does.
Black & White Backsplash
A backsplash is a great addition to a kitchen because of the many different patterns, colors and styles made available to you. Adding a new backsplash is a subtle and effortless way to bring in additional texture and style to a white and black kitchen. Kitchen backsplashes undergo trends and fads just like any other design element in the home, but black and white are two colors that are here to stay.
White and off-white kitchen cabinets are not only a safe choice, but a classy one too. Neutrals add effortless elegance and natural brightness to a kitchen. We’re also seeing homeowners pair their white cabinets with dark wood and black accents. White cabinets allow you the flexibility to add contrast in the room by decorating your walls, floor, lights and a backsplash in hues that’ll compliment your cupboards.
You may hear the words black countertop and immediately turn up your nose, but I challenge you to give this trend careful consideration. Black granite is one of the top five color choices for homeowners installing new countertops. It’s easy to maintain and when the light hits it, the black granite countertop will sparkle and shine.
Don’t mask this style with dark cabinetry. Instead, use it as a focal point in your kitchen with white cabinets to create a modern ambiance. Add a touch of silver and you’ll have a winning combination in today’s modern kitchen design.
Combine with Wood
You may have already noticed, but wood is one of the best accents to use for complimenting your white and black interior design. There are so many different options for incorporating wood into your scheme. A few that come to mind are your floors, ceiling, countertop, cabinets or furniture. This is one trend that won’t disappoint you in the long run because it’s classic and enduring.
Black or White Fridge
One area of your kitchen you don’t want to skimp on or overlook is your appliances. Many of us assume we have to purchase stainless steel appliances or keep the outdated ones we have until they break. Well, this just isn’t true anymore.
KitchenAid recently introduced the first-ever professionally inspired Black Stainless Steel appliance finish. I don’t know about you, but I think it’s fantastic! It’ll give your kitchen a softer and warmer look than what you’re used to seeing with the shiny stainless steel. On the other hand, a white fridge will blend nicely with your white cabinets and offer a unique look.
Never underestimate the power a fresh or bold coat of paint will bring to a room. Interior designers will tell you that many homeowners don’t think to decorate and utilize unused space in their kitchen. Think outside the box and determine how you may be able to add a splash, stripe or band of paint to hidden areas or spaces that are hard to reach.
A black and white kitchen isn’t for everyone, but it doesn’t have to be an all or nothing color scheme either. As you saw, there are an endless amount of possibilities for integrating black and/or white into your kitchen design. Be methodical and strategic, but also don’t forget to think outside of the box and try new ideas and combinations.
Many people choose to have conservatories installed in their home so that they can enjoy bright sunlight and relative warmth without having to leave their home and venture out into the unpredictable British weather. Whether using the conservatory as a dining space, a place for relaxation or somewhere to entertain, they’re a wonderful – and valuable – addition to the home.
One thing that all conservatories need, however, is a way to control the sunlight that streams in from every angle. Having blinds installed is a great way to do this – there are a multitude of options designed to suit your own needs, and they give you full control over how much sunlight manages to creep into your conservatory. Here’s how to ensure you choose the right blinds for yours:
Type of conservatory blinds
The first thing you’ll need to think about is what type of blinds you want to have installed. There are four types of blind that rank among the most popular for conservatories in the UK:
Roman blinds – these blinds consist of a horizontal rail and a section of fabric, which can be pulled downwards manually for total control. Simple, elegant and effortlessly stylish, these blinds come in an almost inexhaustible range of colours, patterns and design style, so it’s easy to choose blinds that work with your existing conservatory décor. You can even have them lined to provide total blackout when they’re extended, if you fancy breakfast in your conservatory without blinding morning light streaming through!
Roller blinds – simple, effective and enduringly popular, these blinds provide privacy and ambience when they’re pulled down, but when they’re rolled up fully, they almost disappear into the window frame, allowing the largest amount of light to come through. Most manufacturers can provide a made-to-measure service for your roller blinds, to ensure they’re tailor-made to your conservatory space – and as with the Roman blinds, there are a multitude of styles and designs to choose from.
Pleated blinds – a stylish alternative to roller blinds, the ‘concertina’ effect that the pleats on these blinds provide injects some interest into the room. If you want to make a focal point of your blinds, rather than simply installing them as a necessity, pleated blinds make a great choice. They do take up more window space than any of the other popular options – but for those who are making a feature of their blinds, this is likely to be an advantage; it means they’re always on show!
And lastly.. venetian blinds – usually made of wood or metal, these blinds are great if you want to be able to adjust the amount of light that comes into the space. Horizontal venetian blinds are also great for creating an illusion of space.
Choosing a blind material
When choosing the right material for your blinds, you need to think about what you’re installing blinds for. Are you looking to increase the privacy in your conservatory without blocking too much light? In this case, a thinner material would be perfect – it obscures the view from the outside without plunging those inside into darkness! Are you getting blinds to keep your conservatory cool when the sun is blazing down? You’ll need to consider thermal fabrics for heat control. If you’re simply getting blinds to make you conservatory look fabulous, choose any material you like – as long as it fits with your interior style!
Measuring the space
In order to ensure your blinds are inch-perfect, you’ll need to provide very accurate measurements to your blind specialist. Here’s how:
Step 1 – Identify if your window has a recess – and if so, decide whether your blind will slot into the recess or sit just outside it. Make sure there’s nothing that can prevent the blind from hanging straight downwards, including window handles or permanent fixtures.
Step 2 – Using a metal tape measure (they’re more accurate), measure the width of your window at three different points to ensure you get the same reading. If you’re planning on getting Roman or Venetian blinds, reduce the total width by 1-2cm to ensure the blind can extend smoothly.
Step 3 – Measure the length of the windows using the same approach – choose three separate points and measure straight down. Again, reduce the length by a small amount to prevent fabric from clattering into your windowsill every time it’s extended.
Step 4 – If you want your blinds to cover the whole window without a recess, measure the outside of the window frame and add around 10cm to the measurements (so you’ll have a 5cm overlap on every side, great for light-blocking).
Do you want your blinds to be as low-maintenance as possible, or are you happy to give them a clean once every week or so? Roller blinds and Roman blinds are perhaps the blind types that require the least maintenance – there’s no surface for dust to settle on, which means they’ll stay pristine for longer. Venetian blinds, especially if they’re horizontal, do tend to gather a lot of dust – but all you need to do is give them a quick once-over with a feather duster or a microfibre cloth every week to keep them looking perfect.
Other things to think about
If you have a particularly large window in your conservatory, consider breaking it up into two or three separate blinds, rather than having one large one – this will allow you further control over heat and light.
Always request fabric samples before you commit to buying – you don’t want to place an order for a set of blinds and discover the material clashes with something in your home!
Be sure to shop around. There are a multitude of blinds available out there, with different retailers and manufacturers offering plenty of variety. Don’t just settle for the first blinds you lay eyes on!
The first thing to consider is what will the room be used for: do you need it to be a playroom or a dining room. A lot of people like to use their conservatory as a breakfast room, or another space to relax in the evening. Knowing exactly what you want your conservatory to be will help you decide which room it should lead off from. A general tip is that a conservatory which is attached to a room which is used a lot will be a well used conservatory, and a conservatory leading from a little used room will become a little used conservatory.
Is planning permission needed for a conservatory?
Planning permission is not usually required unless you are extending a listed building, or are in a conservation area. Since 1st October 2008 Conservatories are now allowed under the permitted development for a house. Although it is still worth visiting our Council Links page to access your local council website and obtain more information specific to your own area. More information about planning permission for conservatories can be found at the government’s Planning Portal website.
Building regulations only apply if the conservatory exceeds 30m² floor space, has no connecting doors to the property, or is a kitchen/conservatory extension. Again, it is advisable to check details with your council and their website can be found through our Extension Guide section.
Mapping out the area and getting quotes
One of your first considerations will be the size of the conservatory. Mark out the area with sticks and string. Mark out both the internal and external measurements. You will want to see the effect on the garden from the external measurements, and these are the measurements suppliers will quote you.
It will probably be more interesting for you to see the internal measurements. Fill the area with furniture such as sofas and plants to make sure you have as much room as you would like.
It is always a good idea to get several quotes for major works such as this. When comparing quotes ensure the specification is the same in each, such as the glass type used and the number of window openings. It is also useful to meet the person who will be doing the work as it is often subcontracted. Do you have confidence in them? Discuss what they will be doing with their rubbish and other detritus. Take a look at How much does a conservatory cost? for a clearer idea of the kind of money you can expect to pay.
Building your conservatory
You will be asked to decide what materials you want for your conservatory.
There are three main types:
uPVC is the most popular. It combines low maintenance with low cost. It can come in white or wood grain. It is however not favoured by planners in conservation areas or on listed buildings.
Hardwood is suitable for listed buildings. It requires periodic maintenance and can be finished with paint or wood stain.
Aluminium conservatories are less common on house conservatories. It is more expensive than UPVC and not such a good insulator. It is however very strong and often used on commercial buildings.
Try to match any brickwork and render details with your existing building so that it looks like an integral part, not an add on.
How long will the work take?
This is a very common question and, of course, the answer varies. As a rough guide: experienced fitters should take 3-4 days. For a DIY enthusiast it will probably take 2-3 weekends.
You will need to put blinds in the conservatory to reduce glare and heat build up. They will also reduce any damage caused by the UV light fading furniture and carpets.
It used to be that choosing the right windows for your home involved nothing more than simply selecting a frame you liked and letting the contractors take care of the work. But nowadays, choosing windows means giving a lot of thought not only to aesthetics, but to energy efficiency and the heating and cooling credentials of a particular type of window. Windows have the power to dramatically improve the energy efficiency of your entire home, lowering your electricity bills, offering superb insulation – and overhauling your décor in the process.
But how do you go about selecting the right windows for your home? Unfortunately, there’s no one-size-fits-all guide – you’ll need to take many individual factors into account. However, there is a list of steps you can take to make sure you’ve chosen the best windows for yourself and your home. Read on…
Why should I change my windows?
There are many reasons why you might want to overhaul your windows. Perhaps you’re concerned about energy savings, or maybe you’re looking to spruce up your interiors with some new frames. Some older, wood-framed windows can experience issues with damp and mould if they’ve not been maintained properly, and windows that haven’t been used for a while can be troublesome to open and close.
Brand new windows, or replacement windows?
First off, you’ll need to make an important decision: are you going to invest in totally new windows, or simply replace the ones that you already have? Here are the pros and cons of both:
- Pros of new windows: you’ll have total control over your windows – not only when it comes to dictating frames and materials, but also when it comes to deciding the shapes and sizes of your windows.
- Cons of new windows: if you’re planning to change the shape of your windows, as well as installing new frames, it’s likely that the window price will be higher, purely because of the additional labour involved. It may also take longer, so if you’re looking for a quick fix, you might consider the alternative.
- Pros of replacement windows: if you like the size and shape of your existing windows, you’ll be able to use your existing measurements to simply change the frame material or the type of window.
- Cons of replacement windows: it can feel like not much has changed! If aesthetics are partly the reason for your new window installation, you might be seeking more of a dramatic change than simply a slightly different frame material.
The right window frame material
To some extent, your window style will dictate the frame material that you’ll need to use – but there is some leeway if you’re hoping to have flexibility in this area. Here’s all you need to know about choosing your frame material.
First off, there are three main options you can choose: wood, PVC-U and metal. Each one has its own list of benefits and disadvantages – and each one is compatible with one or two window styles.
Wood is obviously the material of choice for architectural purists. It looks great, and it offers good insulation, which makes it a strong all-round choice. They’re often used for sash windows, but they do need some maintenance to ensure they don’t rot or become damp. There are some conservation areas around the country where you must use wood frames for your windows to ensure your home conforms to a local aesthetic.
PVC-U is a very low-maintenance option which is incredibly long-lasting. These frames are available in realistic-looking wood grain and colour finishes, but they can’t be used in listed buildings or in certain conservation areas where a certain aesthetic must be adhered to.
Then there’s the metal option, with the most popular metal frames made from steel or aluminium. Other (more expensive) choices include cast iron and architectural bronze. These frames are an ideal choice when replacing very old windows in period-style homes, although they can look equally stylish in more contemporary settings.
Next up: choosing your glass
After you’ve settled on your window style and frame, you need to choose the kind of glass that’s going to fill said frame. There are a multitude of glass choices on the market today, and you can choose double, triple or even quadruple-pane glass. It’s worth bearing in mind that it’s not actually the number of panes you have which dictates your window’s insulation – it’s the air between the different panes. Inert gases like argon are usually used between the panes to ensure maximum insulation for those buying new windows.
The various types of glass you can choose are as follows:
- Low-E (or low-emissivity) glass economises heating energy with a dual-action coating, which reflects heat back into the room while still allowing heat and light from the outside to pass through.
- Acoustic glass also works to reduce any noise coming from outside – ideal if you live near a motorway, airport or construction area.
- Self-cleaning glass might sound too good to be true, but it’s ideal for windows in locations that are tricky to reach. Skylights, conservatories and hard-to-reach windows can be dangerous to clean, but self-cleaning windows can keep themselves sparklingly transparent all-year-round.
Before choosing your glass, you’ll also need to bear in mind the Solar Heat Gain Coefficient (SHGC) – a metric which measures glass’ ability to transmit solar energy into a room. The higher the value (on a scale of 0-1), the better a window is at transmitting solar heat and increasing your energy-efficiency at home.
Another process called ‘sputtering’ helps to build thin but highly insulated coatings around windows to ensure they’re efficient. These products have been demonstrated to reduce heat loss around the edges of the windows, the notorious spot where heat most often escapes back outdoors.
So there you have it – the comprehensive guide to choosing the right window frames for yourself and your home.
If your home doesn’t already have a combi boiler, you may have considered replacing your current boiler for one – especially if you have heard good things about them. But do you really understand the full benefits? Here is the definitive list of reasons to buy a combi-boiler.
No need to store hot water
A combi boiler eliminates the need to have any storage of hot water and so you can get rid of that hot water tank that is taking up space in your loft or hallway cupboard. This can free up the space for other things. Pipework and cold water storage is also minimised.
A combi boiler is usually a smaller and more compact unit so it can easily fit inside your kitchen cupboards. This more streamlined look makes it a more attractive option for smaller kitchens.
A combi boiler is highly efficient – you are only heating water as and when you need it, so this will save you money in the long run. Combi-boilers are usually A-rated and will therefore offer huge monetary savings compared to any boiler than is more than 10 years old. It is estimated you could save up to £300 per year by replacing your old boiler with a combi boiler.
No more cold showers
Because the water is heated as it is used, it isn’t affected by other factors such as the water being used up previously. Combi boilers will also often have thermostats included that will keep the water at the temperature you choose. The water pressure is usually very stable due to the water coming directly from the mains feed however if you have a number of bathrooms the pressure may drop if they are being used all at once.
Cheaper to install
Because of the simplicity of a combi boiler system, there is less work to do to install one. In particular the pipework and tank system is very simple. However you will need to remove or disable the old system and tanks. The ongoing costs are likely to be less too as there are fewer parts to keep an eye on or to go wrong.
Your combi boiler will have much less sludge build-up in the pipes and radiators as the water comes from the mains and not stored in a tank where dirt can build up. This clean water is also safe to drink (if you wanted to!). This cleaner system means fewer breakdowns too.
Granite may have more competition than ever before, but its popularity is still unquestioned. The beautiful, strong surface of granite has a natural grain, which gives each installation a unique look. The downside is the fact that it’s porous, which means a yearly sealing is required. Stains should also be wiped up promptly.
Pricing reflects the range between a thinner unfinished wood countertop you can install yourself and a thick finished custom wood countertop, which is more difficult to source. The countertop shown is distressed black walnut with a tung oil finish.
Care for stainless steel countertops is actually similar to that for wood: You can’t bleach it or use other caustic chemicals, but you can completely disinfect it with vinegar and water. The countertop shown, made by Eskay Metal Fabricating, has a built-in backsplash and drain board as well as an apron front with a marine (raised) edge to catch liquids. It comes standard with a wooden core; you can install it yourself just as you would a laminate countertop.
“It’s my number-one choice,” says contractor Jeff Streich of Prime Renovations in New York. “I used to favor natural stone, but in Manhattan, where resale value is most important, engineered stone has almost no drawbacks. It’s strong, it’s beautiful and you don’t have to seal it.” He suggests, for example, that in a kitchen where you envisioned white marble, Caesarstone Blizzard offers a crisp-looking alternative that will stand up far better to heavy use.
Soft, handsome soapstone is a countertop favorite because despite its pliable texture, it’s heat-resistant and doesn’t readily absorb stains (although you should wipe up spills promptly to be safe). Soapstone can be scratched rather easily, but imperfections fade gradually or can be sanded out. Note that light-gray soapstone weathers over time and develops a darker — and occasionally uneven — patina, which may or may not suit your color scheme. Applying mineral oil occasionally will also darken the surface if that’s the look you prefer, but it isn’t necessary to protect the stone.
Although you can’t make a glass countertop yourself, glass manufacturer Jockimo says that you can install a prefabricated one with the proper instruction.
Concrete countertops can stand heat well and they won’t scratch, but they must be sealed regularly to prevent stains and water damage. Fabricating and installing them properly also requires considerable time and attention to detail, so although the materials themselves are inexpensive, you should be prepared to do it yourself or pay handsomely for labor.
Picking new flooring can be daunting task. There are many materials to choose from and each type has a gamut of options to go along with it. Also, depending on the room and the flow of trafiic, there are a variety of considerations to think about. This guide explains the eight most popular types of flooring materials, where they’re best used and their pros and cons.
For starters, let’s take a look at a traditional favorite: hardwood. Thanks to hardwood’s durability and warm, natural feel, it continues to be the flooring of choice for many homeowners. Of the hardwoods, oak remains the most popular choice, but other woods like cherry and imported exotic woods such as Brazilian cherry or Tasmanian oak are definitely worth considering. Hardwood floors come in a variety of styles such as plank, parquet and prefinished boards that you can install yourself.
A variation on true laminate floors are engineered wood floors. Engineered wood consists of a real hardwood veneer attached to a number of plywood layers. This is a little more expensive than laminate because the top layer is real wood rather than a photographic imprint. This top layer of wood gives engineered wood floors a much more convincing sound, feel and look than laminate.
Unlike hardwood floors, the material used to create bamboo floors is not a tree, but actually a lightweight woody grass. This fast-growing, regenerating plant has the tensile strength of steel, which makes for a highly durable floor that resists swelling and contraction with changes in humidity. Bamboo flooring is pre-finished and engineered with tongue-and-groove joints, just like standard solid wood flooring. Bamboo is grown in controlled forests and takes just three to five years to reach maturity, as compared to old-growth hardwoods that can take 120 years to grow to full size.
Like bamboo, cork is a green flooring alternative. Another bonus of cork is that the wood’s honeycomblike cellular structure gives the flooring a cushiony feel underfoot. This distinctive structural characteristic also causes cork floors to absorb vibrations and sound, and they bounce back if dented. Cork flooring is available in pre-finished tiles in a range of finishes. The tiles have a natural, nonslip surface that makes cork ideal for wet areas like kitchens or bathrooms.
Linoleum’s current popularity is primarily due to its appeal as a green flooring choice. Linoleum is considered eco-friendly because it’s made from all natural materials and does not deplete forests. It’s made primarily of linseed oil, rosins and wood flour. Because linoleum is composed of natural materials, it creates no adverse health issues during production, installation, use or disposal. The bactericidal properties of natural linoleum stop microorganisms from multiplying, so you often see natural linoleum floors in many hospitals.
Porcelain is a popular choice as is terra cotta and natural stone, such as marble, granite, travertine or slate. When selecting tile on a budget, porcelain is the most cost-effective. It combines the beauty and hardness of stone, but costs considerably less and is much easier to maintain than marble, which is porous and must periodically be resealed. Glazed porcelain tile is durable enough to handle heavy traffic areas and is available in a wide range of hues, textures and finishes. Unleash your creativity and combine tiles of various sizes, colors and textures to create a one-of-a-kind floor.
One of the most value-conscious flooring options today is vinyl. It’s an especially popular choice for rooms that are prone to moisture problems, such as basements, bathrooms and kitchens. Vinyl is also easy to clean and softer underfoot than tile. Vinyl is available as sheets and self-stick tiles, and it is sold in a variety of widths and thicknesses. One rule to remember when selecting vinyl is the thicker it is, the more traffic it can bear.
Concrete is one of the hottest flooring options today. With the wide range of sealers and specialty stains currently on the market, plain and gray concrete can be stamped and stained to resemble polished marble, tumbled stone, brick pavers or really anything you wish. There’s no limit to the design possibilities, that’s the real beauty of concrete floors. You want long-lasting durability? Concrete holds up like no other flooring. You want low maintenance? Concrete is as low as it goes. It’s also the perfect flooring for radiant heat. So, express yourself, concrete allows you to make your floors a work of art.
Buying curtains seems like a no brainer. You do a little measuring, go into the store, pick out what you like, and you’re good to go. But unfortunately, it’s not that simple. Or at least is never has been for me. There are a lot of factors that go into the purchase of curtains and you have to get a lot of them right in order to choose a winner.
So if you’re thinking about buying curtains, keep these 12 things in mind:
1. Length. The length will depend on what else is near the curtain. If your bed is under a window, you might want shorter curtains so they don’t get in the way. If the curtains go behind a couch, maybe shorter is better, too. If it’s a curtain for the kitchen window over your sink, you’re obviously not going to want it to go to the floor!
2. Style. There are several different options and it pretty much just depends on the look you want for the room. If you’re wanting a light, airy look, you probably won’t want heavy drapes. If you have a privacy issue, you won’t want sheers.
3. Fabric. This is a really important point, especially if you have kids or pets. My family room/dining room curtains are silky and they’re hard to spot clean – not a great choice for the dining room. I didn’t think of that when I bought them. Maybe it would have been okay if it was just my husband and I but the grandkids are a bit messy and they like to grab the curtains or hide behind them – with dirty hands! See the problem?
4. Dry clean only or machine washable. I made a big mistake when I bought our family room curtains – I didn’t check the fabric content and they were dry clean only! When we first got them, each panel was horribly creased. But because they were dry clean only, I couldn’t throw them in the washer. I also couldn’t toss them in the dryer because they required low heat. So I ironed EACH AND EVERY PANEL – 12 of them in all – on a low heat setting. It took 30 minutes per panel! I will never do that again!
5. Rod. Keep in mind that curtain rods can eat up a big part of the budget. Sometimes the curtains themselves aren’t that expensive but the rods are the budget buster. The sheer curtains in my bedroom are on inexpensive café rods. The grommet top curtains in my living room are on a rod my husband made out of closet poles. Actually, the window is so wide we couldn’t find a rod we could afford which is why he made one. And the curtains in our family room/dining room are on curtain rods he made out of plumbing hardware. Very affordable compared to buying pre-made for six wider-than-usual windows.
6. Rod color. This isn’t necessarily a deal breaker unless you’re OCD, but if the grommets in your curtain are brass, you might want a brass rod. If all the metal in the room is chrome, you might want a chrome rod. It doesn’t bother everyone if the metals don’t match, but if they bother you,watch for that!
7. Cost. We’ve been lucky in that we’ve found most of our curtains on clearance. The family room curtains were only about $10 a panel. We got them at Bed, Bath & Beyond. But we did have to go to two stores to get enough. If you have the ability and time, you might be able to save money by making curtains yourself.
8. Tie Backs. If your curtains slide open, you’re good to go. But if want to tie them back, don’t forget to purchase tie backs or hold backs. Currently we just slide all ours back. It’s easier plus it doesn’t block our great view.
9. Additional window coverings. If you have blinds or shades, you can buy “cheater curtains” which cover the edge of the window and don’t actually close. Sometimes blinds look harsh and the cheater curtain can warm things up.
10. Window size. Don’t guess – ever! That rarely turns out well. Measure the width and the height of the windows.
11. Number of panels. When we bought our family room curtains, we tried to get by with two panels on the extra wide windows but that wasn’t enough. We went back and bought six more panels which is what we should have done in the first place. Most of the time you’ll need at least two panels per window.
12. Color. I was shopping for a comforter for the bedroom recently and missed on the color several times! If you can, take pictures of the room, including the colors you’ll be matching to, and take those with you. It helps you get it right the first time! One thing I hate more than shopping for curtains is taking the wrong curtains back!
See what I mean? There’s a lot to buying curtains if you want them to look great. So next time you’re curtain shopping, keep these things in mind and go pick out some killer curtains!
Like everything else in this era of endless choice, there seem to be infinite options when it comes to choosing a sofa. You might think you know exactly what you want, but once you walk into a shop or browse images online, the styles, shapes, and customization alternatives can become overwhelming. Save yourself the time, money, and potential buyer’s remorse and use these tips to get a clear idea of what you want (and what you need!) before you start the hunt.
1. Consider size first. If you have a bigger living room, you’ll need to decide exactly how much of the living room you want your couch to fill. Do you want to include other couches or chairs? Do you want a coffee table? If so, a simple sofa, or one with a slight L-shape is probably the best fit. If you’re looking for a sofa that will be the focal point of your living room, look for rounder couch shapes that take up a bit more room and provide a lot of seating.
If you have a small living room, odds are you’ll need a smaller couch. With less space, any couch or sofa is going to be in the spotlight, so it’s important to pick something that is practical, but is also of a strong design that carries and complements the rest of the space.
2. Decide exactly how the sofa will be oriented. Successfully organizing a living space starts with analyzing your lifestyle. What do you do the most in that space? Do you like to wind down in front of the TV? Make sure your couch faces that direction. Love hosting game or wine nights? Create a semi circle (or even full circle) around a central table.
3. Determine which shape will suit the room best. Now that you’ve decided your sofa’s function, it’s time to figure out which shape will help it fulfill that purpose. A clean L-shapethis one from IKEA is great for open areas that need to be divided — such as separating the living room from the dining room.
A rounder shape is a bit more conducive for a smaller space meant to serve as a gathering area for groups of people, but could also be perfect for a media room.
4. Research upholstery materials. Which will be best for you? Aesthetic is important, but functionality is key when it comes to choosing a material for your sofa. A lot of us that would love to indulge in a plush, white suede sofa —they’re so gorgeous, but so dangerous. Suede can be a poor choice if you have pets or small children who will cause some serious damage.
Leather — particularly in darker colors — is consistently in style, generally wears well with age, and can be fairly easy to clean. Another choice is to opt to have your couch upholstered in an outdoor fabric. Many companies now carry Sunbrella fabrics, which resist stains, water and fading from the sun. Many outdoor furniture companies also have outdoor couches and love seats that are so simple and classic in design that they could easily be used indoors.
5. Choose a style that complements your home. It can be a little hard to nail down your own personal style, but go with your gut instinct when picking the type of couch that will fit naturally in your home. If your style is sleek and modern, pick something that reflects that in clean lines and dramatic colors.
If your home is an eclectic mix of colors and designs, a couch that combines several styles (such as a vintage couch re-upholstered in a colorful fabric, or a more modern shape with traditional accents) could be the perfect expression of your taste. If your look is a little more traditional, a classically structured sofa in a durable and neutral fabric will stand the test of time and will work well with various colors and complementing pieces.
6. Pick a color: bright, printed, or neutral? Re-upholstering furniture has become a relatively inexpensive option for anyone who wants to personalize a piece of furniture.
Don’t be afraid to choose a couch with a fun or unique print! It can add a surprisingly personal touch and quickly transform the feel of the entire room. Urban Outfitters has a similar chaise in beautiful fabrics, at a perfect price point.