Dealing With Builders – A Checklist Of Important Terms

Spring is on the way and you have decided that it is time to get some renovation work carried out in your home. Perhaps it is the decking that you have always talked about, or maybe it is getting an extra room built above the carport or possibly even adding a conservatory. Whichever remodelling job you are thinking of it is important to first understand the different terms used by members of the building trade. This will save you from handing over large deposits for materials and ending up with either a second-rate job or even worse a half-finished extension carried out by a cowboy builder. Use these terms as a checklist before entering into any agreements:

Certification: Check that your builder has all the necessary certificates and experience to carry out the work. This is especially important if the work is to be approved in line with local building regulations. Do not just ask about certification; actually ask to see the certificates.

Contract: This is a legally binding agreement between you and your builder. It is better to ask for a written contract. An oral contract is also binding however it can be harder to prove should problems arise. A contract should include:

– Start and completion dates.
– Exact work to be carried out.
– The quoted price.
– Details of insurance.
– The agreed upon payment plan.

Contractor: The builder you hire to carry out the work is your contractor. They may in turn sub-contract out part or all of the work. If so it is important to check that they will be liable for any substandard work or injuries caused by the third party.

DIY: If you feel it is within your capability then you may wish to carry out the work yourself. Be aware that this may seem like the least expensive option however can often end up costing more in the long run as people over-estimate what they are capable of. Also check with your home insurance company as to any liability should a third party sustain injury during the project.

Document: Keep a record of all work carried out from day one.

Estimation: This is a costing based upon a calculated approximation of what needs to be purchased and how much time a job will take. It may be subject to change unlike a fixed quote however it is a more educated costing than a Guestimation.

Groundrules: Having workmen in your home can be a stressful time. Agree upon some basic groundrules at the outset to avoid future disagreements. These can include daily start times, lunch breaks and issues such as wearing work boots inside the house.

Guestimation: A guess as to the cost of the work. If a builder provides you with only a guestimation it would suggest they lack familiarity with the work done and cost of materials. Be wary – generally you will lose out in the end.

Dealing with builders is not an easy task.

flickr by ZeRo`SKiLL

Insurance: Ask to see a copy of the builder’s insurance and also check with your own home insurance company that any proposed changes or additions do not alter your existing policy. When it comes to insurance it is always better to be safe than sorry.

Materials: Decide who is responsible for the purchase of materials and the quality of materials that will be used. It is also important to decide where the materials will be stored and who will be responsible for protecting them whilst the work is being carried out. Before final payment ask for all necessary documentation regarding product guarantees.

Quotation: A direct costing of the work which takes into account exactly what must be purchased and how many hours the work will take. A written quotation is the best protection you can get against extra costs down the track. If any issues arise during the work make sure to ask for a revised quotation from your builder.

Payment: Work out a payment plan at the outset and ensure this is included in any written contract. If you pay in cash it is important to ask for a receipt as evidence of payment. It is also advisable to hold back some of the money until the job is completed to your satisfaction.

Plan: It is vital you make a plan of what work you would like to be done, the timeframe in which you would like it to be carried out and also your budget. Discuss these with your builder to ensure that they know your expectations and also to assess how realistic your expectations are within a given budget. Managing expectations is extremely important.

Public Liability Insurance: Check that your builder has public liability insurance in the event of any accidents involving third parties. This will prevent any actions being taken against you personally or your home insurance.

References: Ask for references before entering into any agreements. Verify these references and ensure that previous clients were satisfied with the workmanship.

Regulations: Check local planning and building regulations. If the proposed work requires any approval then make sure your choice of builder is properly qualified.

Research: Go online, ask for recommendations. The best way to find a suitably qualified and experienced builder is to do research.

Retainer: This is the money you are advised to hold back until you are satisfied that the work has been finished.

Sub-contractor: A third party which enters into a contract with your contractor to do either part or all of the work.

Vision: Make sure you know what your vision is before you agree to the work being carried out. Share this vision with your builder using either pictures or sketches. This will help you both reach a common understanding of your desired end result.

Use this checklist to ensure you are satisfied with the end result of any building work carried out, or if unsatisfied at least you will have the necessary documentation to seek redress. Cowboy builders are out there unfortunately but it is possible to protect yourself from them if you are builder savvy.

A Budget-Conscious Guide To Landscaping

Landscaping on a budget does not mean settling for an untidy backyard that is so embarrassing you are not able to invite friends over for a BBQ. Using this guide you can learn how to cut costs on your landscaping without cutting corners. The only corners you will be cutting are those of your new beautiful lawn.

• Teach yourself some basic gardening skills

In order to get the most out of your landscaping it is necessary to learn the basic principles of gardening:
– How to water plants
– How to feed plants
– How to propagate your plants (increase their number) by dividing or taking cuttings

Once you learn these three basic gardening skills the benefit to your garden will be manifold. If you fail to learn them no amount of landscaping advice will improve your garden.

• Low-cost lawns

Before deciding on which type of lawn is best for you do a simple soil test which can be purchased online. This will tell you the Ph level of your soil and therefore you can understand which type of plants and lawns are most suitable and will require the least amount of fertilizers. It is better to grow a garden that suits your soil rather than engage in an ongoing battle to make your soil suit your garden. Starting a lawn from seed is also a cheaper option than from sod. It will take longer however it is a much more budget-friendly option. It is also important not to overcut your lawn as this will affect its survival rates and therefore your budget if it needs to be replaced. Find out the optimum height of the lawn you have selected.

• Shop around

The cost of plants can vary dramatically between nurseries, supermarkets and online. However the quality of the plants must also be taken into account and whilst you may get some varieties for much cheaper online their survival rates may be much lower than buying from a nursery. There are some ways that you can reduce the cost of the plants you purchase. Check which varieties are cheapest in which season and also avoid buying newly released varieties as they will be more expensive initially. The price will come down eventually and thereby waiting can save you some money on the budget.

• Avoid over-planting

Remember that as plants grow and mature they will take over more space within your garden. Therefore it is important not to overplant as this is both unnecessary financially but also may lead to overcrowding when plants start to grow.

• Water conservation

It is not just the cost of individual plants that is important in landscaping. It is also important to know the individual needs of each plant variety as this will greatly affect maintenance costs of your garden. Some plants will require larger amounts of water which will increase your water bill and can prove particularly difficult to maintain during times of water restrictions. By selecting plants which require less water you can save money on irrigation systems.

• DIY garden features

Water features such as fountains and ponds and also features such as patios and borders are often the central pieces of a well-landscaped garden. These are no longer the domain of professionals and are now often simple enough for amateurs to install yet look as if they have been professionally designed. DIY pond and fountain kits are available from garden stores. The most important part is to know your own limits. Brick patios are easier to lay in sand rather than concrete. Do not try and do something beyond your capabilities as this will be reflected in the final piece. Do your research before you attempt to install anything yourself for the greatest chance of success.

There are tips to consider when you do landscaping.

flickr by LeonESpencer

• Landscape in phases

Divide your landscaping plan into phases and buy according to each phase. Even on a budget landscaping can still be expensive and by dividing your project into sensible phases you will be able to pay as you go. Take into account factors such as the water needs of each plant as this will impact upon expenditure in the next phases.

• Get some free inspiration

Google is a wonderful starting point for inspiration on your landscaping. You can also look to a number of gardening magazines or books in the local library to get inspiration. With a multitude of pictures and ideas at your disposal it is no longer necessary to pay large amounts to landscape designers to come up with a vision.

• Patience is a virtue

It has already been stated that plants take time to grow. It is therefore important that you exercise patience when landscaping your garden. Rome was not built in a day and likewise your dream landscaped garden will not grow overnight especially if you have divided it into phases in order to satisfy your budgetary needs.

Creating The Perfect Cooking Station In 8 Simple Steps

Whether you are a budding Jamie Oliver, a domesticated goddess like Nigella Lawson or a complete and utter novice in the kitchen it is important that you create a suitable cooking station in which you can work. Follow these 8 simple steps to achieving the cooking station that will perfectly nurture your culinary talents and ambitions.

1. De-Clutter and Simplify

When it comes to kitchen planning the simplest rule is to de-clutter and simplify. It may seem like the perfect cooking station should have an appliance for everything but the result would be chaotic. Instead you should restrict the appliances you have to those you actually use on a daily basis. Yes having an ice-cream maker is a fun idea but in reality that ice-cream maker could probably be tucked away in a cupboard and taken out on the rare occasion it is used.

Keep the really important appliances like a food processor readily accessible as this will save you time on a daily basis. It is also a good idea to keep the most important utensils such as knives in a convenient location as well as those ingredients you use daily such as herbs and spices. Check out kitchenware stores for attractive ways to store these items on show.

2. The Work Triangle

Kitchen planning is the foundation of creating a cooking station. When planning the layout of your kitchen it is always important to consider the ‘work triangle’. This is comprised of three important areas which must be close together and without any obstructions between them.

They are:
– The cooker
– The sink
– The refrigerator

Unless you have established a clear work triangle you will always struggle to create a workable cooking station within your kitchen.

3. Storage

Storage is often a problem in smaller kitchens and how you approach this problem can make or break your cooking station. Be creative about your storage problems. If countertop space is premium then take advantage of the many different ways of hanging utensils on the walls. That way they are close to hand but you still have plenty of preparation space. If cupboard space is limited then only keep what you really need in the kitchen. That beautiful wedding present china set could be displayed in another room rather than hidden away in a kitchen cupboard. Also think outside of the box and investigate the range of kitchen trolleys that you can buy. These could offer a movable storage option which may prove more convenient for you. Remember it is your kitchen and how you store things is a personal choice.

Know tips on how to arrange or design your cooking station.

flickr by New Inspiration Home Design

4. Kitchen Islands

One solution for storage problems is a kitchen island. This will give you another preparation area and also can act as a divider between the cooking area and dining area for kitchens that incorporate both. You can choose between permanent fixed kitchen islands or moveable islands. Both have advantages and disadvantages. With a more permanent fixture it can be fitted with electricity and therefore become an extra cooking area. However it is then fixed and may take up a large area of floor space. Moveable kitchen islands on the other hand can be moved out to open up the kitchen floor space for socializing or dining space for a growing family.

5. Worktops

Worktops are an important consideration in any kitchen. If you have the choice of which kind of worktop you will install it is important to carefully consider the options within your budget. Granite has a beautiful finish and is both heat resistant and durable. However it comes with a larger price tag than other options such as quartz. Stainless steel is a popular choice among professionals however scratches easily. If you have young children that like to help with cooking such a surface could very quickly become scratched. Also consider how many people will be involved in food preparation and therefore how much counter space will be dedicated to preparation.

When considering worktops and preparation areas it is also important to fully understand what you want from a kitchen. Will it be used as a focus area for socializing? If so perhaps preparation areas such as kitchen islands are more suitable as they allow the chef to engage with others whilst preparing, rather than standing with their back to people.

6. Maximize Your Space

Small kitchens can cause stress for a number of reasons including storage and preparation area. They can also look more cluttered and disorganised. Trick your mind into thinking your kitchen is bigger by painting it in light tones and using more layers of lighting to open up the space. You may not actually have any more space to work in but at the end of a long day at work it will definitely look more inviting to cook in than a dark cluttered kitchen which will have you reaching for the pizza delivery number.

7. Make a Budget

Depending on what kind of cook you are different aspects of your kitchen will take priority. It is important therefore to make a budget at the outset. You may want to spend money on a traditional Aga stove and therefore opt for cheaper options on worktops and other appliances. Alternatively you may choose to spend money on a free standing food processor which will both take up a large portion of the budget and of the available space within your kitchen. The main thing is to understand yourself and what you and your family want from the kitchen. Then prioritise and budget accordingly to get the kitchen of your dreams. There is no point buying granite worktops and never being able to afford any of the appliances you dreamed you would be using to make your soufflés.

8. Light Up Your Kitchen

Lighting is one of the most important aspects of any room design and the kitchen is no different. Use spotlights and under cabinet lighting to aid in the functional needs of your kitchen such as food preparation and cooking. Invest in a dimmer switch for overhead lighting to add to the ambience of your dining experience. By layering your lighting you will be able to make your cooking station both functional and aesthetically pleasing.

Using these 8 simple steps you too can have the perfect cooking station for your needs. However be honest with yourself from the outset. Create the kitchen you will use not the one you dream you will use. There is nothing worse than spending lots of money and ending up with a kitchen that the mere thought of entering is overwhelming.

5 Easy Steps To Designing Your Own Garden

The perfect garden is one that you can relax in, socialize in and that reflects you. Therefore who better to design your garden than you! You know your needs better than anyone else, you also know your budget better than anyone else and what better way to enjoy your garden than to know you actually created it, that it is an extension of you. However before you get too carried away it is important to first understand these 5 simple steps to designing your own garden.

1. Hardscape vs Softscape

With computers there is a difference between software and hardware. A similar distinction exists in garden design. Softscape refers to the lawn, the plants and trees whereas hardscape includes such garden features as water fountains, patios and borders. An easy way to remember is that if you fell the lawn would be a softer landing than the patio!

2. Learn the basic elements of garden design

The basic elements of landscape design are:

– Color
– Form
– Line

Garden design is essentially art and the backyard is your canvas. Therefore structural concepts such as form and line are important in any garden design. Form is essentially the three dimensional nature of an object and line is the way the eye focuses on the garden and traces its way across the features such as hedging and tree lines. These two concepts must be addressed alongside the colour palette which you choose to go into your garden design plan. It is important to consider how different colours will interact together when choosing plants and flowers. Do not plant anything in isolation as it will be viewed as part of the garden as a whole. As with interior design the colours you choose can maximise the space and other features within your garden. These basic elements are important in both the Softscape and hardscape elements of your garden.

Making a difference in your own garden.

flickr by turtlepatrol

3. Choose the right products

Choosing the best plants and lawns for your garden is crucial. You can buy a simple soil test online and establish which plants will suit your soil type best. It is better that you choose plants and flowers to suit your soil rather than engage in a long-term battle to make your soil suit your plants.

4. Border Basics

Borders are a great way to frame your garden and individual features within it. Borders add a touch of the professional and can maximise the appeal of even the simplest flowerbed or rockery. They also separate different areas of your garden and highlight the different textures between the Softscape and hardscape features. Do not be restricted to traditional border techniques such as paving or rocks. Borders offer the perfect chance to display your creativity and originality. Find some interesting logs to use as a border or instead collect beach pebbles. Creative bordering will not only be attention grabbing it can also be incredibly low-cost. Search online or in gardening magazines for inspiration.

5. Perfect Patios

Patios are both decorative and functional features for your garden. When choosing where to place your patio and what size it is important to bear both its decorative and functional purpose in mind. If you plan to eat outside a lot then ensure the patio is conveniently located to the kitchen. If the patio will be used for large dinner parties then you will need a larger patio area with room for everyone both to sit and then push back their chairs and relax. If you don’t like gardening then a patio is a great way of filling space within your backyard which is relatively low-maintenance as opposed to lawn. Be creative in the shape of your patio design and also in the way you border your patio area. A brightly coloured flower border will emphasize this feature and disguise any edges. Make sure the colors you chose match the colour of stone used in the patio.

The most well designed garden is one that takes into account your own needs. A beautifully landscaped garden with a large lawn area and a plethora of different plants and flowers is no use if you detest gardening and cannot afford to pay a gardener. It will very quickly lose its beauty. Know your own limits and design a garden that reflects this.

Turning Your Bathroom Into A Home Spa Experience

The Romans did it, the Japanese love them and even today the Turkish are famed for theirs. The use of bathing as a means of relaxation has been around for centuries. The sound of the water and its purifying effects on the body make a visit to a spa an unforgettable experience. However an average spa day is also unforgettable for any budget conscious individual.

In a time of economic stress it may seem that giving up on such a means of relaxation is the only option. However think again – using these 6 concepts below you will be able to transform your bathroom into a home spa sanctuary and yet still maintain its functionality within the home. An endless array of new technology means that devices such as steam saunas, multiple shower heads, and whirlpool baths are now available for home use. However creating a home spa does not even require the purchase of expensive appliances. It can be as budget conscious or as salubrious as you desire using these simple concepts.

Feng Shui

Feng shui is based upon Chinese philosophy and its principles can be applied to design and layout as a means of channelling the flow of energy and healing. According to Feng Shui principles bathrooms have a tendency to leak energy and therefore by properly balancing out the water energy within a bathroom such leakage can be prevented. For example closing all drains and plugholes and placing growing plants and mirrors within the bathroom. Whether or not you believe in Feng Shui it cannot be disputed that water has a relaxing and soothing quality. Any room which is focused around water has the capacity to soothe and relax.

Feed Your Senses

The ultimate spa experience is a feast for all of your senses and therefore recreating this experience within your own home requires you to feed each and every sense. Visually a spa is aesthetically pleasing. With luxurious tiling, large fluffy towels and calming neutral colours you too can recreate the visually stimulating aspects of a spa within your own home. Texture is also important as it stimulates the sense of touch. Contrast the hardness of the tiles with luxurious rugs which will also add warmth to the room.

One of the most important ways that a spa feeds your senses is through the use of smells. Invest in an oil burner and some essential oils. Use Bergamot to combat stress, peppermint to target mental fatigue and lavender to relax. Combine oil burners with soft lighting to give the ultimate feeling of calm.

The final way a spa can soothe is through the sounds of gentle music or other relaxing noises such as the sound of water. If it is within the budget buy a sound system, to be installed in the bathroom, taking into account the potential dangers of electrical leads near water. For those on a tighter budget you can buy a sound machine which will give a choice of relaxing sounds such as waves crashing on the sea or birds in a forest.

Warmth

Keep your space warm and cosy at all times. Shivering is not conducive to relaxation and therefore it is important that you keep your bathroom space cosy and warm. This can be done by simply turning up the heating and allowing the steam from the hot water to engulf the room. Heated towel rails are another must-have. Not only should the towels feel luxurious they should also be warm and inviting at all times. If you truly want the full experience you can go further than this. You can install heated floors and heating lights overhead. What better way to relax than to step out of the bath onto warm floors. Stepping onto a cold floor with wet feet can cause your body temperature to drop. This can detract from the relaxation you are experiencing

Making a bathroom spa.

flickr by Mosby Building Arts

Bath vs. Shower

Personal choice is very important when it comes to deciding whether you prefer horizontal or vertical water relaxation. For those who like to soak in warm water then a whirlpool bath or spa insert is a necessary purchase. Soaking in hot bubbling water will both massage and relax you giving you a spa sensation of weightlessness. For those of you who prefer the sensation of showering there are also a number of products on the market. A rainshower showerhead will give you the sensation of tropical rainfall flowing over your body. Or you can also buy multiple showerheads which will pummel your body all over giving a massaging effect.

Accessorize

A major part of the spa experience has to be the decadent accessories. It is important that you pay attention to such details in your own home if you truly want to recreate the experience. Buy some luxurious scented products such as bath salts and oils. It is these extra touches that will really make the experience memorable. Just the smell or sight of such little extras will awaken all of your senses.

Now just sit back and relax! That means turning off all distractions as you would if you were in a spa. Turn off the mobile, turn the answering machine on and hang a “Do Not Disturb” sign on the door. Enjoy.

Choosing The Best Lighting For Your Home – 8 Powerful Tips

Lighting is one of the most important features of interior design. Often people spend hours choosing the colour of their paint or their furniture and yet in essence colour is only the way in which light reflects upon an object.

Therefore lighting is actually of the utmost importance. Bad lighting not only detracts from your homes appearance it can also cause a number of health related problems such as poor eyesight and recurring headaches. Good lighting on the other hand can uplift the mood as well as maximize the space and furniture within your home.

Before you start to consider which lighting is important for your home first read through these 8 tips to make the most out of your lighting.

1. Know the different types of lighting

There are four different types of lighting and it is important to know the role of each one before you decide which lighting is most appropriate for each room within your home.

Natural Lighting: This is the light which is present naturally within our homes and environments. It can be either sunlight or moonlight.

Accent Lighting: This is the form of lighting which is used to highlight certain features such as paintings, or parts of rooms within your home. To be effective, accent lighting requires at least three times as much light to be focused on the selected feature as the general lighting surrounding it.

Ambient Lighting: This is an artificial form of light which best attempts to mimic natural light. A central source of ambient light in all rooms is the foundation of a good lighting plan.

Task Lighting: This is the most functional type of lighting and is used to carry out a particular task such as reading or writing.

2. Know the sources of natural light in your home

Depending on the direction from which natural light enters your home it can have a range of characteristics which are important for you to understand in order to choose the best accompanying light fixtures.

North facing: This is a much colder and harsher form of natural light.

East facing: This light is bright first thing in the morning and then characterized by long shadows and an absence of sunshine in the afternoon and evening.

South facing: South facing rooms will have a much warmer natural light all day with the brightest point being midday. South facing rooms are excellent choices for rooms in which you spend the majority of your time for example the kitchen and living rooms.

West facing: These rooms can get quite a lot of glare from the natural sunlight and can be quite warm at the hottest part of the day.

Choosing the right lighting for your homes.

flickr by baliboro

3. Make a lighting plan

Before you begin to buy any lights for your home first draw up a lighting plan. To do so you should draw up a layout plan of your house and room-by-room answer the following questions:

– What is this room primarily used for?
– What are the key features in each room that you wish to accentuate?
– Who uses this room? An older person requires many times more light for reading than a child.
– At what times of day will people use this room?
– What are the sources of natural light in the room and during which parts of the day?
– What are the current drawbacks to each room? This can include the size or ceiling height.

Now mark on your plan the key features of each room including windows, furniture and existing fixtures. Now taking into account the types of fixtures available to you and the different types of lighting you are ready to go shopping with your plan. Do not be afraid to ask questions when buying light fixtures, and use your map to demonstrate to the sales assistant the space for which you are buying light fixtures.

4. Maximize natural light

There are few things as nice as sitting in a sun drenched lounge room on a Sunday morning. Natural light really is central to any good lighting plan. However it is also capable of being manipulated to give your home the best possible natural lighting. Remember that seasonal fluctuations in light must be taken into account when seeking to maximize natural light in your own home.

Here are some quick ways to make the most of the natural light in your home:

– Hang mirrors opposite windows to catch sunlight and reflect it around the room.
– Block out harsh sunlight with roller blinds.
– Use glass paneled inner doors to allow natural light to filter around your home.
– Trim any outside vegetation which may block out sunlight.
– Use pale carpets and furnishings as they will reflect more natural light.
– Layer your lighting.

The best lighting plan uses natural light plus a combination of the three types of artificial light to accentuate the best features of your home and also mask any negative aspects such as smaller rooms. Do not feel restricted to one type of lighting within any room. There are many different types of lighting available today and often the best way to use them is in conjunction with others.

5. Change the dimensions of your room

Clever lighting tricks can completely alter the appearance of any room.

Here’s what you can do to make the room appear larger:

– Uplighting can focus light onto the ceiling and walls therefore giving an impression of more space.
– Light up one end of the room as this will pull the eye towards that end making the room seem larger.
– Put lights in each corner of the room.
Make the room appear taller or smaller:
– Vertical light beams give an impression of higher ceilings.
– Use low-hanging pendant lights to add height to a low-ceiling.
– Use numerous different small lamps to make a larger high-ceilinged room seem cozier.

6. Types of lighting decoration

Ambient Light can be accomplished with chandeliers and ceiling light fixtures.
Task Lighting can be achieved using desk lamps. Task lighting should be bright enough to prevent eye strain.

Accent lighting uses fixtures such as backlighting or spotlighting to draw attention to particular features.

7. Energy saving tips

Perhaps the most important energy saving tip for lighting is to ensure lights are turned off when a room is not in use. It is also a good idea to use energy saving light bulbs as they use up to 80% less electricity than normal ones. Remember that many energy saving bulbs are not necessarily compatible with dimmer switches and this is something to enquire about before you make your purchase.

The “Four Rs” Of Revitalizing Your Old Furniture

Is your furniture in need of a new lease of life, has it become dated and washed out looking. Rather than breaking the bank and investing in brand new furniture follow these steps on how you can rejuvenate your furniture and save your bank balance. Remember beauty is in the eye of the beholder and often your furniture can be every bit as attractive as new furniture with just the right amount of tweaking.

Rearrange

Rearranging your furniture is the quickest and most cost-effective way to update your room. Often people do not know the best way to arrange furniture and therefore the result can look dreary. It is irrelevant how expensive a piece of furniture is if it is poorly positioned inside a room. Before re-arranging sketch a plan of the space and visualize how you would like the furniture to be positioned. Bear in mind that a room should be well-balanced.

Do not place all of the larger darker pieces of furniture to one side. A clever trick to arranging a room is to choose a focal point such as a window or a fireplace and build the furniture around it. Use the lighting within a room to bring out any furniture that needs a new lease of life. An old dark armchair can be completely transformed with a tall floor lamp placed beside it. Alternatively by removing one piece of furniture it is possible to change the whole layout of a room and its contents. Often rooms can become cluttered over time. Take a minimalist approach and you can change the overall effect of the remaining pieces. Often clever re-arranging can completely alter the appearance of a room and the furniture within it.

Restore

Restoration is the process of returning something to its previous unimpaired condition. In the restoration of furniture this clearly depends on the type of furniture and the extent to which it has been damaged. Some pieces will be beyond salvaging and the most cost-effective thing will be to discard them. Other pieces may simply need some TLC to repair small breakages and cracks. It is also possible to buy products to clean and polish your pieces back to their former glory. This is especially true for wood. Be wary however that you buy the correct product for the finish of wood that you are dealing with. A general rule of thumb is if in doubt ask a professional. This is especially true if a piece has some sentimental value. Incorrect cleaning could destroy the finish of wood.

Repaint

You should never under-estimate how much difference a new coat of paint can make to a piece of furniture. Tables and chairs can be repainted in brighter colours giving them a completely new polished appearance. It is also possible that repainting a room in more neutral colours can maximize the natural light within the room and therefore add new life to the furniture within the room.

Know tips to take care of your furniture.

flickr by New Inspiration Home Design

Reupholster

Fabric can fade away and become stained and therefore appear lacklustre, especially such pieces as armchairs. With constant advertisements for new furniture on the television it can seem too tempting to throw out the old and bring in the new. However this is not your only option. Re-upholstering is a quick and relatively easy way to jazz up your old furniture with some new fabrics and colours. Older furniture is often of a better quality than newer pieces and it can be a waste to throw out a perfectly good piece just because the fabric is faded. Instead take a trip to your nearest haberdashery and browse through the wide selections of fabrics, colours and textures on offer. Then with just a little know how you can teach yourself to reupholster using online how to articles. If this seems beyond your capabilities then you can always cheat and buy furniture slip covers or even buy some new bright textured cushions to bring to life that dark and faded armchair.

Maximize your furniture with the Four Rs to give them a new lease of life and save your bank balance.

Childproofing – 6 Steps To A Safer Home For Your Kids

Children are a welcome addition to any home. However with their arrival comes a whole host of new safety concerns that must be taken seriously. Every year thousands of children are admitted to emergency rooms following accidents in the home ranging from minor burns, to fractured bones to electrocution. Children are curious and this curiosity coupled with a lack of understanding of danger can lead them into numerous accidents. As a parent, guardian or homeowner it is your responsibility to childproof your home making it a safe place for children to play. Accidents can be avoided with a little attention to detail and common sense. Follow these 6 steps to childproofing your home and remember prevention is always better than cure.

Step 1: Take a Child’s Eye View

In order to know exactly what risks your child faces it is necessary to see the world from their viewpoint and this means getting down on your hands and knees – you can therefore see what is in their line of vision and what they are able to reach for.

Step 2 & 3: ‘Know the Dangers’ and ‘Reduce the Risks’

Steps 2 and 3 go hand-in-hand. First you should list all of the hazards within your home and then come up with ways to reduce these hazards.

Protect your child by knowing tips for childproofing.

flickr by aplatti

Cooking

This can be a stressful part of the day and often a time when parents are easily distracted and accidents can happen to children. The best way to avoid hazards whilst you are cooking is to give your kids a task that they can do either in the kitchen where you can see them or if they are older in the living area. Put on a DVD for older children to keep them occupied and for younger children give them some play dough or crayons to entertain themselves with at the table. For very young children it is important they are not crawling around the floor when the oven is in use. Instead they should be in a playpen within eyesight. Make sure any playpens are not overfilled with toys as this can then create a hazard itself.

Stairs

Falling down the stairs is a leading cause of accidents involving children. In order to safety-proof your stairs install safety gates at the top and bottom of stairs.

Burns/ Scalds

Scalds are the leading cause of accidental deaths for young children in the US and Canada. It is therefore important that children are not able to reach kettles and pots during cooking as they can then pull boiling liquids over themselves. Tap water should also be controlled at a maximum of 120 degrees Fahrenheit. The water in the tank itself has to be over a certain temperature to ensure all harmful bacteria are killed. The best option is therefore the installation of devices which reduce the temperature at the water’s exit point. Anti-scalding devices can be attached to faucets and showerheads. At bath time always test the water yourself with your elbow. If you are unsure of which temperature is suitable buy temperature changing bath products.

Furniture

All cupboards should have safety latches fitted and bookshelves should be secured against the wall to prevent toddlers from pulling them down on top of them. Flat screen TVs are dangerous as they attract curious children. Whilst it happens rarely it still happens that children are fatally injured each year due to accidents involving flat screen TVs. It is therefore imperative that such TVs are out of reach of children or mounted on the wall. As children learn to walk they also learn to cruise on furniture. To prevent injury sharp corners can be fitted with cushions. Glass-top coffee tables, although decorative, are just not suitable for young children. You do not have to discard them just put them in a safe location until children are older and more aware of potential dangers.

Cleaning Materials

Make sure all cleaning materials are out of reach of young children. Even seemingly harmless products such as toothpaste can prove dangerous if ingested in large quantities.

Fire

Always use a fire guard and install smoke detectors on every floor and outside bedroom doors. Any household should have an emergency fire escape route planned out. Ensure that this is updated when children are brought into the house bearing in mind how vulnerable they are to smoke inhalation.

Toys

The strings on toys can potentially be dangerous. Maybe you have older children whose toys are perfectly safe for their age range however they may pose a serious threat to younger children. Make sure toys are tidied away to lessen the chance of injury.

Windows

Never set furniture close by windows as it can be used as step to reach up and look out the window which can in turn lead to accidental falls.

Cords

Use cord tidies to position cords out of reach of children. They can lead to strangulation and also electrocution as children use them as teething aids. Cords are also often attached to heavy appliances such as irons which can cause extreme injury if pulled down upon young children.

Appliances

Appliances such as ovens can cause severe burns to small children. Make sure any appliances are unplugged and out of reach of children. Also buy safety covers for plug sockets to prevent children from placing their fingers inside sockets.

Toilet

A child can drown in a very small amount of water. Installing toilet locks are a necessity.

Outside / Pools

The garden offers a whole new range of hazards for children of all ages. Ensure that all fertilizers and toxins are secured out of reach of children. If you have decking or raised patio check that these are secured from children falling over the side. If you are lucky enough to have a swimming pool in your backyard then it is imperative that it is fenced off and the gate locked at all times.

The safety devices mentioned are available at most hardware stores, drugstores and baby stores.

Step 4: Be Prepared

Keep emergency numbers close at hand. Saving even a few minutes in the event of an accident may be critical. These should include your physician’s number, the poison control center number: 1 -800 -222-1222 and also the number of a close neighbour or relative who can easily come and watch any other children. It is also advised to learn basic first aid so that in the event of an accident such as a burn or a scald you know the appropriate response. If in doubt about the best course of action it is always better to wait until you see a trained medical practitioner.

Step 5: Update Your Childproofing Regularly

Children grow and as they grow they are exposed to a whole new level of dangers. Therefore the best childproofing plan grows with your child and is updated regularly. Review your safety measures every six months to make sure your child has not outgrown or outsmarted any of them.

Step 6: Supervision, Supervision, Supervision

Even with every conceivable safety device installed and hazard removed it is still possible that your children can be exposed to unforeseen danger. There is no safety device capable of removing the need for constant supervision of your children.

Childproofing your home can seem like a daunting task at times. When you stop to think about the number of injuries every year you realise how important it is. A home should be a place of safety for your child. Childproofing your home is the best way you can ensure this. If you feel overwhelmed by the thought of childproofing you can always seek the services of a professional childproofer. Whether you decide to do it yourself or call in a professional it is never too soon to start once a child is on the way. Once a child is born it will be even more difficult to find the time.

The ABC Of Transforming Your Bedroom Into A Classy Hotel Boudoir

Have you ever come home from a long day at work and wished that you could have that feeling of stepping into a hotel bedroom? Folding back the clean crisp sheets and snuggling up under a luxuriously soft duvet whilst turning off the everyday interruptions of life whilst turning on the plasma screen TV in front of the bed. There is something about a classy hotel room that can whisk you away from your reality. In the current economic climate the hefty price tag attached to stylish hotels mean such escapism seems like an unreachable dream. However using these few tricks you too will be able to enjoy the feeling of stepping into a chic hotel room within your own home. Open up the door of your bedroom and step into another world. Shut the door behind you on all of your daily stresses.

Accessorize

One of the most important things about staying in a hotel is the fact that every whim is catered for with a useful and luxurious accessory. There are miniature toiletries, thick warm dressing gowns, soft slippers and a mini bar crammed full of drinks and snacks that just do not seem as sinful when in miniature. If you want to recreate the perfect hotel experience in your own home sit down and think about which of these accessories excites you the most when you are staying at a hotel. Invest in a miniature fridge which can be disguised as a cabinet in your bedroom. Perhaps buy a dressing gown with matching slippers that is specifically for those days when you need to feel pampered. You can even buy a hotel styled telephone alarm clock which will provide you with a friendly wake-up call in the morning. Every whim can be catered for with just a little online research. Remember the more luxurious the accessory the more realistic the hotel experience.

Making a classy bedroom.

flickr by New Inspiration Home Design

Bedding

The central feature of any classy hotel room is the bed – the bigger the better. Think King Size with the most comfortable mattress you can find within your budget. Choose luxurious fabrics for the bedding and the best pillows your budget can afford. Lavish fabrics which are soft to the touch give the utmost in pampering. Textures are of the utmost importance when choosing bedding for your boudoir.
Now for the hard part: Unless your budget allows for maid service you will have to be responsible for making the bed. There is something about stepping into a hotel bed that is so much more appealing than climbing into crumpled sheets or an unmade bed. In order to get this feeling you are going to have to learn how to make the bed properly, and dedicate 5 minutes of each morning, to doing so.

How to make a bed like a classy hotel –

1. Remove all the sheets and blankets. Starting afresh is a must.

2. Lay the bottom fitted sheet on the bed.

3. Lay the flat sheet out on the bed.

4. Make ‘hospital corners’ by ensuring that equal amounts of the flat sheet hang off each side of the bed. Tuck the foot edge under the mattress from corner to corner and smooth out the sheet.

5. Tuck the hanging edge tightly in at a 45 degree angle as if you are wrapping a present. Repeat with the other corner. Fold the sheet back at the top of the bed.

6. Tuck and smooth out the flat sheet.

Making your own bed does take some of the escapism away from your perfect boudoir bedroom however spending five minutes every morning will be minimal compared to the feeling of stepping into a perfectly made bed. If it seems like too much work maybe you can bargain with your partner that they make the bed and you draw a bath for them in the evening.

To complete the hotel feel buy a comforter for sleeping and a decorative cover to place at the foot of the bed. This adds texture and depth to the bed. Also make sure to puff up the pillows for maximum comfort. You can even add a little chocolate on your pillow to greet you when you climb back into bed later that night.

Creativity

Hotel rooms are designed to be aesthetically pleasing and therefore creativity is of the utmost importance. Hotel designers focus on developing a color palette and theme which fits with the hotel. This bedroom should be a sanctuary to which you want to escape at the end of the day. Choose colors that remind you of the most luxurious hotels you have ever stayed in. If you want your hotel experience to be relaxing choose neutral tones.

If you prefer a more dramatic statement suite choose more vibrant colors and perhaps create a matching feature wall or invest in a faux fur rug so that even your feet feel as if they have stepped into a new and luxurious world. Hotel rooms are also areas which serve a multitude of purpose and their design incorporates this by dividing different areas of the room for different purposes such as sleeping or grooming. Hotel designers need to take everyone’s interests into account. The wonderful thing about designing your own bedroom is that you only have to cater for your own needs.

Nine Home Appliances You Cannot Live Without

Would you be able to list every single home appliance that your family owns without forgetting at least one? In today’s appliance oriented society every room is filled with a range of home appliances that have been marketed as being necessary to the full enjoyment of life. However how many of them are actually necessary on a daily basis? How many of them could we quite literally not live without?

It could be argued that we can live without any household appliances, after all our ancestors did. However we cannot argue with progress and the extent to which our day-to-day needs have been changed because of it. After all if there was no such thing as a cooker, a washing machine or a refrigerator could women really have gone out to work as easily and their full emancipation been achieved. Appliances are indeed now central to our enjoyment of life and this list gives the top ten home appliances you simply should not live without:

Know the must have home appliances.

flickr by samsungtomorrow

1. Oven

An oven is without doubt one of the most crucial home appliances. If we did not have an oven we would still have to cook over a fireplace which is both dangerous and a lot more time-consuming! An oven can boil water and cook or bake anything we need. Ovens come in all shapes and sizes, gas or electric, depending on individual culinary capabilities. No matter what your needs there is something out there to suit you.

2. Refrigerator/ Freezer

Before there were refrigerators ice houses would be located in the foothills of mountains. It has long been understood that refrigeration is an essential part of food storage. Now we no longer need to hike up a hill to get ice to store our meat and dairy – with the aid of a refrigerator and freezer you can do it in the comfort of your own home. Refrigeration appliances have made food storage so much more cost-effective for the average household. They have reduced the amount of food wastage as now it can be refrigerated and used the next day. You just need to look on the storage instructions of many food products to know how important refrigeration is within the home. Choose a freezer with a built-in ice-maker for absolute luxury.

3. Food Processor

Having a food processor is a must for every chef no matter how professional or amateur they are. It is essentially like having a sous-chef as it takes care of so much of the preparation work for. Food processors can chop, slice grate and blend. Every kitchen should have one. With such a wide variety of sizes there is one for every single kitchen whether the size of a shoebox or big enough to rival Gordon Ramsay’s kitchen.

4. Washing Machine and Dryer

Before there were washing machines and dryers there were women: tired and overworked women with hands red raw from being exposed to harsh laundry products for hours at a time. The advent of washing machines, as well as other home appliances, has freed women by reducing the amount of time necessary for household chores. No home is complete without a washing machine and dryer. If space does not allow for these appliances then make sure a launderette is close by to keep you sane.

5. Vacuum Cleaner

Whether you prefer a Dyson or a Hoover the fact remains that the vacuum cleaner is a necessity for a clean and dust-free household. It means you can have a pet, clean out the fire and eat that crumbly chocolate cake whilst sitting in the living room. Then all you have to do is spend a few minutes vacuuming and all traces are gone. If you do not think a vacuum cleaner is not a necessary household appliance then take a look inside your hoover bag. You will be amazed at how much dust and dirt accumulates in a very small space of time.

6. Hand Blender

So you may wonder why you need a hand blender when you already have a food processor and the answer is pure convenience. If you just want to quickly blend a soup or make a smoothie a hand-held blender does the job without the need for extra dishes and more importantly without the extra washing-up. This versatile and space-saving appliance is a must for every kitchen.

7. Microwave

Microwaves are a modern day convenience it would be hard to live without. What a timesaver for the kitchen. Using your microwave you can easily reheat left over pizza or defrost a piece of meat at the touch of a button. Coming home from work at the end of a long day is much easier when you know that you have a microwave to simplify the cooking process and also to make that microwave popcorn so you can sit down in front of your home entertainment system and watch a movie with surround- sound cinema style visuals.

8. Coffee Maker

Waking up to the smell of brewing coffee is an instant pick-me-up. Ok so technically coffee is not a household necessity. However if you stop to consider the cost of buying a take-away cappuccino you will soon realize that getting your coffee fix at home is the best move for your household budget. With machines coming in all shapes and sizes from a one-cup cafetiere to larger espresso machines there is a coffee machine out there for every household and every budget.

9. Rice Cooker

A rice cooker may seem like an odd addition to a list of top ten home appliances. A cooker dedicated to the preparation of one type of food is surely unnecessary when you already have a stove. Yet a rice cooker is without doubt one of the most versatile appliances on the market. Not only can it cook rice it can also prepare risottos, soups, stews and often incorporates a rack for steaming vegetables at the same time as cooking rice. It is essentially a one-pot multi-tasking cooking aid. For the best results look for a rice cooker with a good non-stick surface and then simply place in the ingredients and turn it on. A treat for the laziest of chefs!

Buying home appliances can be a daunting task with so many on the market. Before you buy do some research and identify your needs. An ice-cream maker is a fun idea but in reality how often will you use it. Take into account your needs, how much space you have and also your budget before you hit the shops.