Drool-Worthy Backyard Ideas for Your Summer Inspiration

We're just about one month into summer. The weather is warmer and the sun stays out longer. It's the perfect season to enjoy spending ample time outside. So why not make your backyard a dreamy retreat? Here's some of our favorite ideas to help get you started:

1. Sun Shades

Also referred to as sail shades, these giant pieces of fabric are a great, easy way to create a backyard cover without a lot of time or investment. Swedish retail giant Ikea currently has some for $24.99!

You can even enhance the space with some ambiance lighting for longer nights or a mister to keep you cool on those extra hot August days.

2. Patio Furniture

Summer is the time to invest in new patio furniture. From conversation seating, to dining tables, to bistro-style furniture - the options are varied and the styles are practically endless. You can buy furniture as individual pieces, or buy a whole matching set. (Just make sure you also invest in some furniture covers, or have extra storage, to keep them out of the elements in the Fall and Winter.) You can also wait until the end of the season to get some great clearance deals on patio furniture for next year. 

3. Privacy Walls

If you want to hang out on your front porch, but don't want your neighbors to be able to watch you, it might be worth investing in (or DIY building) a privacy wall. The Garden Glove has lots of great DIYs to keep your outdoor living area secluded, as does The Home Depot Blog. These ideas can be transfered to the backyard as well, to create separate areas within the space, or even to hide eye-sores like your HVAC unit.

4. Stone Paver and Pebble Pathways

We've seen this patio trend popping up all over the place! When laying out your pavers to make that path from one area to another, lay them a little further apart than you would think, and fill the gaps in with small pebbles. There are all sorts of beautiful variations on this theme (like using glow-in-the-dark spray on the pebbles). Just scroll through Pinterest. To get you started, check out these helpful DIY tips from The Home Depot.

5. Fire Pits

Fire pits are a classic way to add furniture and activities to your back yard. They offer a communal area to gather and enjoy those long, gorgeous summer nights with friends and family. Fire pits can be in-ground or above ground, DIY-ed or purchased off the shelf, and come in just about any style you can imagine. Just look at these gorgeous modern fire pits in Relocated Living's roundup. Or you can scroll through Wayfair and look at hundreds of different styles.

6. Outdoor Lighting

Adding lighting to your backyard is a great way to extend its use year-round, but especially in the summer. Christmas Lights, etc. has this great tutorial for planning your patio lights. You can incorporate lights in many different ways, such as these paver lights that fit right in with the rest of your pavers.

7. A Pallet Bar

Pallets are being turned into all kinds of furniture and decor. Turning a few pallets into a bar space is a great way to start an outdoor kitchen in a small space. Plus, stick a mini fridge out there, and you don't have to keep running back inside to refresh your guests drink every half hour. You can build your own with pallets, or buy one that suits your style straight from Wayfair.

8. Giant Games

Besides lounging on your new patio furniture, or roasting marshmallows over your new fire pit, you have to have activities ready so when friends come over for a summer BBQ, they won't forget that you've got the coolest backyard in town. Giant games are growing more and more popular. This is another one that can be DIY-ed or purchased. Little House of Four has a great collection of DIY games, or you can get them already made from places like Home Depot.


What are you doing with your backyard this summer. We want to hear your ideas!


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DIY Storage Closet Organization for Under $150

American financial journalist and author Jean Chatzky said,

Every minute you spend looking through clutter, wondering where you put this or that, being unable to focus because you’re not organized costs you: time you could have spent with family or friends, time you could have been productive around the house, time you could have been making money.

She's absolutely right. A cluttered space is a cluttered mind is a cluttered life.

We've been extremely busy here at the office lately. (Noted especially by the fact that this is my first blog post since December 28th.) When work (or life) gets busy, it's vital to have an organized environment to keep things running smoothly. In an effort to continue to organize the office more efficiently, last week, I tackled the storage closet.

The storage closet in its pre-organization state.

The storage closet in its pre-organization state.

Now, the storage closet wasn't in awful condition. Everything was mostly grouped by item type, and nothing was overflowing out of the closet. But it was in a state where we didn't know what we had and didn't have because office supplies weren't easy to find. For example, a couple months ago, I ordered envelope openers because we thought we didn't have any. Not including the extras that I ordered (because apparently they came in a two-pack and I can't read so I ordered two two-packs), we had two envelope openers already. But I wouldn't have known that if I hadn't gone through the entire left-hand side of the shelf they were on.

The main culprit: the daily-use office supplies.

The main culprit: the daily-use office supplies.

STEP 1: EMPTY THE SPACE

In order to really see what we had in that closet (a 96" tall, 67" wide space), I first pulled out everything from the closet.

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I tried to pile everything in one area, but our poor little conference room got overwhelmed, and multiple piles in multiple spaces started to spawn. Here's a bit of a look at what was in the closet:

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STEP 2: VISIT THE STORAGE GODS

I spent some time on the Container Store website, browsing all the goodies they had to offer. After taking some measurements of the closet space and coming up with a fairly solid plan of how I wanted to go about organizing the closet, I hopped in the car and drove the only Oregon Container Store at Bridgeport Village (where I was helped by the mom of one of my good friends from high school - small world, much?).

(Okay, so this actually happened before anything else, but since we're going in order of taking things out of and putting things back into the closet, so we'll keep it as step two.)

(Okay, so this actually happened before anything else, but since we're going in order of taking things out of and putting things back into the closet, so we'll keep it as step two.)

Yes, I bought a shoe shelf - it was the only long shelf and I wanted something that would cover at least half the shelf space. I know I could have just bought two of the smaller ones that are marketing specifically for the office, but it was the same price for one of these as it was for two of those, and it was one less thing I had to try and wrestle out to my car and back into the office.

Yes, I bought a shoe shelf - it was the only long shelf and I wanted something that would cover at least half the shelf space. I know I could have just bought two of the smaller ones that are marketing specifically for the office, but it was the same price for one of these as it was for two of those, and it was one less thing I had to try and wrestle out to my car and back into the office.

. . . six Mini Stackable Storage Bins, two Silver Mesh CD Bins, and two Small Silver Mesh Stackable Storage Bins. Plus, I already six filing shelves, a three-drawer storage container, and a small assortment of various medium and large plastic storage bins that had been sitting in the closet just begging to be used.

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STEP 3: START GROUPING

After taking off all of the packing and tags from my Container Store goodies and setting them up, I began going through my large piles of stuff that had come out of the closet, sorting it into general categories: electronics & tech, paper goods, office supplies, and marketing.

I then started putting all of the electronics and tech away. Because we don't often get into this closet for the tech stuff, it all got stored in places that were not front-and-center real estate: the bottom corner of the closet, the corner of the shelf right above, and the very top right-hand shelf (which you can't see in any of these pictures because it sits above the exterior trim opening of the closet doors and I have to maneuver my body in complicated ways while standing on a ladder to even reach it to put stuff on it).

The paper goods are what we go into the closet for most - things like folders, labels, actual paper, notebooks, and the like - so they scored the most prime real estate. Before organizing the closet, they had all been thrown together in a few different locations, but they weren't sorted by type or use, so I made sure to put all of the envelopes together, all of the folders together, all of the files together, the colored paper, the labels, etc.

The office supplies are generally small items, so in order to keep them from going everywhere, about half of the storage containers I purchased were for them, plus some of the storage containers I already had. This area was more a matter of keeping things sorted with like-items and putting them away in such a way that they wouldn't explode all over the closet again.

And finally, the marketing items (things like plastic stands for business cards and informational brochures) got put on the highest left-hand shelf, also not visible in these pictures, because we use it so rarely

Et voilà, the finished product:

Sooo much better. Looking at this makes my heart happy.

Sooo much better. Looking at this makes my heart happy.

All in all, including my trip to the Container Store, I spent just under $150 and about 4.5 hours on this project, and it made a significant impact on the space and the office in general. My boss loves it, and we now know exactly where everything is and don't have to waste time searching through the closet to find what we are looking for

What about you - What spaces have you organized recently? How did you go about the process? What were the results?

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9 Ways to Amp Up Your Bathroom

Take your bathroom to the next level with these great ideas:

1. Shower Faucets

Arguably one of the most important features of the bathroom, the shower faucet(s) plays a big role in your day-to-day life, whether you realize it or not. 

As evidenced in the photo above, multiple shower heads, facing multiple directions, is become more and more popular, bringing that luxurious hotel spa feeling home with you. If you're not ready to go full on with your shower heads, a great way to slowly work your way there is switching your shower head out for a rainfall one.

This is the Delta Metal Raincan Shower Head (shown in their signature stainless finish), available at The Home Depot for $304.90. It's considered a low-flow shower head, saving you up to 60% the water usage of a non-low-flow shower head. Just because it's low-flow doesn't mean you should worry about the water pressure - capable of up to 80 psi, you're still getting enough pressure to make sure your shampoo actually rinses out and doesn't take forever to do so.

Delta also offers the HydroRain® 5-Setting Two-in-One Shower Head as well as the H2Okinetic® Pendant Raincan Shower Head, two more rainfall-style shower heads to help you relax and rejuvinate. 

 

2. Multiple Tiles

Tile is a staple in the bathroom, especially in the shower itself. But tile can get boring. So why not change things up a bit by throwing in a second (or even third) kind of tile. Just look at this gorgeous update featured on Decoholic.

There are infinitely more things to love about this bathroom than just the tile, but it is a great example of using multiple kinds of tile in one space and have it really work. Using tiles that are all in the same color palette (black and white) and in geometric styles is what makes these tiles fit so well together.

 

3. Recessed Caddies

Recessed caddies are the perfect way to create in-shower storage space and not actually take away any of your valuable shower space. They are also a great way to incorporate multiple tiles (per suggestion #2).

This one, featured on the Better Homes & Gardens website, is a great example of using multiple kinds of tile and complementary colors to really make the space pop. For more great recessed caddy inspiration, check out our Pinterest board. The best part? They aren't limited to the shower - you can put them anywhere.

 

4. A Clean Toilet

This is the American Standard Clean ActiVate Touchless Flush Right Height Elongated Toilet, a part of the Clean Collection that features easy-to-clean sides, unlike normal toilets that show you outlines of the piping.

(image source)

(image source)

We've talked about some of the benefits of this particular toilet before, but we didn't even cover how great the "Clean" style is. Look at the sides of the toilet - no outlines of pipes, making it infinitely easier to clean! Plus, this model has a motion-activated flush, so you don't have to worry about spreading germs.

 

5. Clever Storage

Smart use of space when it comes to bathroom storage is what keeps your bathroom looking in tip-top shape rather than cluttered and ignored. Consider creative cabinetry your new best friend. 

These pull outs are both excellent ideas, and a quick search of "bathroom storage solutions" on Pinterest yields endless more. Stop neglecting your bathroom's organizational needs and start enjoying your space again.

 

6. Lighting Through Windows

Properly lighting your bathroom is vital for ensuring ease of use at any time of day. No one wants to do their hair and makeup in the dark. One great way to get that extra lighting is with windows, and not just any windows - skylight windows in the shower. 

Placing the windows in the ceiling is a great way to get the light you want while still keeping the privacy important to a bathroom. You can opt for obscured glass for extra privacy without losing any great natural light.

 

7. Heated Flooring

Something I've long thought of as the ultimate in bathroom luxury, heating flooring is more affordable and accessible than ever before. Installing electric radiant heated flooring does require a bit more forethought, as is doesn't work as well with some kinds of flooring as others. It works best with tile flooring, and less great with coverings like hardwood and carpet. Just think about how wonderful it will feel to step out of a hot shower on a cold winter's day onto heated flooring. Mmmmm. Yes, please.

 

8. The Curb-less Shower

Besides being a fantastic idea for anyone who plans to age-in-place, curb-less showers offer a lot of great benefits, not to mention the their design aesthetics.

Curb-less showers are super easy to clean, and they actually make your bathroom space look larger because, by eliminating the curb, the shower becomes less of a fixture placed into the space and more a bonafide part of the space. And surprisingly, curb-less showers keep water from going everywhere more than a standard shower or tub/shower because the floor underneath the curb-less shower gets sloped toward the drain to prevent water spillage and run-off. Plus, they're just so darn visually appealing - just look at all these beautiful designs!

 

9. Statement WallS

I'm a fan of the statement wall no matter the room (of course, you wouldn't want one in every room), so when I saw that statement walls in bathrooms were starting to become popular, I latched on right away!

You can put it in the shower with some gorgeous tile or behind the toilet with some fabulous wallpaper, and the best part is, they look fantastic in bathrooms big and small. Whether you are using wallpaper or tile, or even a dramatic paint color, you can't go wrong with a statement wall. Or, you could really get ahead of the curve and go for a statement floor.

 

The average person will spend over 2 years of their life in the bathroom, so why not make it an enjoyable two years? For more bathroom inspiration, click here.


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7 Subtle Ways to Incorporate Pantone's 2018 Color of the Year into Your Life

On December 7th, renowned color company Pantone released their pick for the 2018 color of the year, Ultra Violet:

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Executive Director of the Pantone Color Institute, Leatrice Eiseman, says Ultra Violet will "[take] our awareness and potential to a higher level ... [it] lights the way to what is yet to come."

Purple signifies creativity and imagination, as well as introspection. It is a luxurious, thoughtful color, stimulating the problem solving area of the brain. (You can read more about the color theory of purple here.)

While you may not be ready to run out and paint your entire home the luscious shade of Ultra Violet, here are 7 subtler ways you can incorparate the color into your life for 2018.

This gorgeous frosted glass lamp. It's just under two feet tall and is the perfect addition to any side table in your living room. Add some cute coasters, a candle, and some of your favorite trinkets, and your side table is all set! The Taylor Lamp is available at Chown Hardware.

Aromatherapy and essential oils continue to grow in popularity, so what better way to introduce Ultra Violet into your life than through all of your senses. Mr. Steam Aromatherapy has several steam head options, and the violet nirvana essential oil is available at Chown Hardware.

Schoolhouse Electric & Supply Co. has this super adorable Woodland Meadow sheet set and matching quilted pillow sham. It's available in twin, full, queen, and king sized sets, and offers the perfect subtle pop of Ultra Violet. The Woodland print is exclusively made for Schoolhouse by Austin-based artist Leah Duncan.

Subtly incorporate the color into your kitchen with this chicken-print tea towel from Portland-based shop Budd + Finn, named for the owner's rescue dogs, available in a variety of colors, including Ultra Violet.

The Galligaris Amelie chair is a sleek and comfy addition to any room. It's designed and manufactured in Italy, and comes in a variety of colors and fabrics. You can purchase the Amelie at Hip PDX.

McMinnville home decor shop MD Haney currently has this linen apron, (shown in eggplant), available on their website. An apron is the perfect way to start wearing Ultra Violet without much comitiment since you don't wear it out of the kitchen.

Last but definitely not least, you can get this James Ward china plate at Budd + Finn. The design features a bulldog in an Ultra Violet mask, to protect his identity after he finishes off the whole plate of cake. The plate is eight inches in diameter.

If you are ready to add more Ultra Violet into your life, you can find lots of great products at Wayfair.

To learn more about Pantone and Ultra Violet, check out their 2018 Color of the Year page.


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Beyond Subway Tile

Subway tile is one of the most popular backsplashes for kitchens and bathrooms right now. And why shouldn't it be? It's cool and chic and lends itself to practically every style of decor. But with its radical rise in popularity, perhaps it's time to look beyond subway tile - afterall, you don't want your kitchen or bathroom to look like everyone else's.

Maybe you still love subway tile and aren't quite ready to move on yet. One way to ever-so-slightly change things up is by changing up the orientation of your tile. Check out this wall where the tile runs top to bottom rather than side to side:

This simple difference completely changes the style and makes it much more unique, even though all they did was lay it in a different direction.

An important step to leaving subway tile behind is to add a bit of color. Subway tile is nice a white, so while it looks beautiful when it's clean, it can get kind of boring. This Dove Gray piece by MS International is just the ticket:

Next, it's time to think about size. The standard subway tile sizing is 3" x 6". This beautiful Marazzi tile is a long and skinny 6" x 24", with great color variation to it:

Or you could go for shorter and taller, like this 12" X 24" MS International Carrara:

Instead of going bigger, go smaller. Sheets like these are great options for a mini-subway tile look:

Another beautiful look  is mirrored subway tile, and it can go around fireplaces (like below), as well as in kitchens and bathrooms, adding just that extra bit of sparkle and glamour to a room.

Branching really far from the classic rectangular-look of subway tile is the arabesque shape. You can opt for a basic white, a colorful look, or even a tile with intricately carved details.

Arabesque tile has those lovely curves that keep the eye moving, and it lends a bit of a old world feminine flair to a room.

A style that's becoming more and more popular is octagonal tile. You can get it in big individual tiles like these:

Or in smaller sizes on sheets, like these:

And of course, there's a sparkly option for that extra glitz:

If you kind of like the look of octagon tile, but you aren't completely sold, you could try a rhombus mosaic tile that is laid in a hexagonal-looking pattern but has three-times the grout lines.

There's also the slightly simpler hexagon style:

To really vary it up, consider having an area of tile that's different from the rest as an accent piece:

Penny tile is a classic look, and you can also get it in varying sizes.

One of my personal favorites is the Moroccan fish scale tile, like this eclectic boho beauty:

Tile comes in so many different patterns. Here's just a few more options:

For a really natural, textured look, something like this is a great option:

And there's always the classically seamless look of matching the countertop to the backsplash, which ends up looking something like this:

Whether I've been able to change your mind about subway tile or not, hopefully you're now more aware of the hundreds of styles of tile out there. (And hopefully you're not too overwhelmed by it.) 

Besides your typical home improvement store, a great place to find fun tile is Wayfair. And you can always get inspiration on Pinterest.


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Design Ideas to Steal from Tiny Homes

In a world where stuff is the hot commodity, space matters. And how space is used really matters. This is why I love the tiny home trend. Not only are these pint-sized houses absolutely adorable, but they are so smart. Here’s why:

WELL-THOUGHT OUT DESIGN & MULTI-FUNCTIONAL SPACES

Because tiny homes are so small, everything about them has to be carefully thought through and purposefully planned. No space can go wasted. The Tiny House has this great list of 30 questions to ask yourself when planning your tiny home. Walk-throughs of the space before it's a reality are common. Every home should be this well-thought out.

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(image source)

Stairs become both storage and art pieces:

Nooks and crannies become precious real estate and every bit of coveted real estate is used to its fullest (and space-maximizing) potential. I don't know about you, but I'm all for the minimization of wasted space.

LESS IS MORE

According to Living Big in a Tiny House, the average house size in America has almost doubled since the 1970s, while the average household has gone down in size. We have more space and less people to share it with so detaching from those we live with and love has become easier. But do we really need all that space? Not really, or at least, not all of it.

One of the biggest draws of tiny homes are how they force you to have less stuff because you don't have room for it - and tiny house owners say they don't miss having that stuff. How much of what you own sits in storage boxes waiting to be dusted off and appreciated? Can you even park in your garage? 19th century textile designer William Morris is quoted as saying, "Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful." If only we really lived like this. Elle Decor recently released an article entitled 'Where You Hide Your Clutter Says A Lot About Your Personality.' Most of us aspire to not have clutter to hide. Wouldn't it be great if that were the case?

Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.
— William Morris

Because tiny homes are just that, tiny, there's only room for what you really need. They also cost less and require less maintenance, making them a great budget saving option. Or, because they are so small, you can go all out and get those higher-end finishes you have been drooling over because you don't need to fill up as much space, saving you money. Another great thing about tiny homes is how you can easily make smaller spaces look and feel bigger than they actually are, which goes back to the idea of well-thought out design. Just look at this kitchen:

Tiny homes also require less power to heat up or cool down because they have less space, cutting your power bills down. Living Big in a Tiny House lists many other ways less is more with a tiny house here.

COHESIVITY

Another perk of less space is how much easier it makes it to have a cohesive look and color scheme running throughout the house. For example, this Minnesotan tiny home that's outside matches the style of it's inside:

Tiny homes ooze cohesivity, something that many larger homes lack. Experts recommend having one color scheme that runs throughout your entire home. Not only does this make your home look significantly more put together, but it also makes it easier to shop for and rearrange furniture and decor throughout the home. Just ask Amy of Modern Chemistry at Home. Here are 105 more tiny homes to look at and admire their use of theme.

HOW YOU LIVE, NOT WHAT YOU HAVE

Perhaps the best part about tiny homes is the emphasis on how you live, rather that where you live and what you have. Because tiny homes are so well planned and offer a significant "less is more" strategy, it means you can finally take your mind off of your home and focus on those who live in it. There's an element of living in such close proximity with (an) other(s) that forces you to learn how to work well together. The fact that there's not a lot of space will push you to go outside more, something that is better for your health and overall well-being. 

 

Whether you plan to downsize to 400 square feet or not, these are principles that can be transferred to any home, no matter the size. For more information, check out these resources: Architecture & Design's 31 Tiny House Hacks to Maximize Your Space; Mother Nature Network's Big Perks of Living Small infographic; and, of course, the ever-loved Pinterest.


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Choosing the Right Countertop Material for Your Lifestyle

There is an abundance of countertop materials to choose from when renovating your kitchen - marble, quartz, quartzite, soapstone, butcher block, concrete, granite, limestone, laminate, recycled glass, stainless steel, terrazzo, ceramic tile, and even paper composite. But which material is right for you and your lifestyle?

Let's take a look at the pros and cons of some of the most popular materials:

MARBLE

Pros: The look (obviously); marble is as classy as it gets; it's mostly heat durable; and it's timeless so you maintenance aside, you won't want to change it.

Cons: Marble is a porous surface so it will absorb liquids and stain and etch, meaning it needs to be resealed every year or two. It gets nicked, cut, and scratched easily. Plus it's the one of the most expensive materials you can pick for your countertops.

If you watch home improvement shows at all, you've probably heard the phrase "carrara marble" thrown around a lot. Carrara marble is a variety of marble that is one of the highest qualities of marble, and it comes in the typical white and blue-gray color people picture when they think of marble. Marble is absolutely beautiful, but it is also extremely expensive. If you are going for a kitchen that is luxurious, timeless, and more show-than-tell, marble might be the right countertop for you.

QUARTZ

Pros: Quartz is the man-made version of marble, so you get the beauty of the real stuff, combined with great engineering that has gotten rid of the flaws, making quartz stain, scratch, head, acid, and impact resistant. It's also a non-porous surface, so you don't ever have to reseal it - you gotta love low maintenance.

Cons: Like the real thing, quartz can get chipped, particularly on the corners and edges, and the repair work requires a professional.

We here at Square Deal Construction Company love quartz. We always include it as an option in our kitchen remodel estimates because we think it's so great! If you like the look of marble, but you have a budget and you actually use your kitchen on a daily basis, quartz is probably the countertop for you. To see what your kitchen would look like with quartz, check out Cambria's online app DragonVision, or if you have iOS, you can use the Cambria AR app.

GRANITE

Pros: Granite comes in a huge variety of color options and variations, and it can be polished (shiny) or honed (matte). Once it's been sealed, granite is non-porous so it's easy to clean. It's also mostly resistant to heat, cuts, and scratches.

Cons: Needs to be sealed! Seriously, granite absorbs absolutely everything if it's not professionally and properly sealed, and periodically resealed. Another con is how easy it is for the corners to get chipped.

Because they are anything but man-made, granite countertops are one-of-a-kind. If you don't mind a little more maintenance for your counters, and you are possibly interested in more rare colors, granite just might be what you're looking for. You can see what different granite colors look like in a kitchen with the Keystone Kitchen Visualizer.

CONCRETE

Pros: Because concrete is so sturdy, it's almost completely stain, heat, and water resistant, as long as it's been properly sealed. It's also super easy to customize - everything from the thickness to the edges to the color to the finish can be customized.

Cons: Concrete will patina (darken in color) over time and it does require periodic maintenance such as resealing to keep it in tip top shape.

If you're going for a more unique, very stylized aesthetic in your kitchen, concrete might be just the countertop you need.

RECYCLED GLASS

Curava  Recycled Glass Surfaces from  Keystone Granite

Curava Recycled Glass Surfaces from Keystone Granite

Pros: Recycled glass countertops are super unique and fun. They have large pieces of glass to significantly more finely ground pieces. It's also mostly resistant to cuts, scratches, and heat, although that varies by manufacturer.

Cons: The two biggest cons for recycled glass surfaces is that they can stain and how wide a cost range there is.

If you want a more colorful, eco-friendly kitchen, recycled glass is a good way to go, although you should definitely do more research into which manufacturers are better.

BUTCHER BLOCK

Pros: Butcher block brings some often much-needed warmth and character to a kitchen, and it is a great way to have multi-use surfaces. They are also extremely sanitary when they've been properly sealed. 

Cons: Butcher block needs to be sealed and oiled regularly to stay in good condition. It's not a great material to put around a sink because of how wet the sink area usually is, but it's a good option for a counter space near the oven or as an island top. The wood is also susceptible to scratches and dents, just like a regular cutting board.

If you like a more natural look, and you need multi-functional space, you should consider adding some butcher block to your kitchen.

 

You can find more information on countertop materials at these locations: Studio McGee's rundown of countertop surfaces pros and cons; Consumer Reports "Best Countertops for Busy Kitchens" report; Stock Cabinet Express's comparison of granite versus quartz; the Countertop Preview consumer toolbox Countertop Comparison Chart; Jenna Burger's helpful rundown of materials; Zillow's guide; and Lindsay Stephenson's revisit of quartz countertops.


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Thriving in Place: A How-To

Aging is become more and more of a concern for the population as baby boomers continue to retire in masses. A topic quickly gaining in popularity for home renovations is making a home safe for "aging in place." Beyond just aging in place, we want you to be able to thrive in place. Your home is just that, your home, and you probably want it to stay that way. Here are our remodeling tips to help you thrive in place. We call them the 7 R's:

1. Re-view the Laundry

If you're washer and dryer are front load, (as most are these days), you'll definitely want to put in a stand (approximately 6" tall) to raise them up and limit back pain from constantly bending over while doing laundry. Another thing to consider is the location of your laundry - the less stairs the better, and so much better if you can move it straight into the master closet.

2. Remove the Bathtub

The bathtub definitely presents an issue when it comes to stepping over the side. Remove the bathtub in favor of a low-profile shower. (We work with a great company called Onyx to install low-profile and ADA compliant shower stalls. Onyx makes a great in-shower seat, too.) Or, if you can't bear to part with your tub, get a walk-in bathtub.

3. Raise the Bar

The grab bar, that is. Install at least one grab bar in your shower and consider adding one next to your toilet as well. We recommend this one from Moen; it comes in three sizes.

4. Ramp It Up

Remove front entry and backyard stairs in lieu of wheelchair-accessible ramps. Add rails for extra safety.

5. Re-think the little things

Door handles and faucets should all be changed to lever-styles to make them easier for your hands to grab and maneuver. Change cabinet knobs to bars that won't get clothing caught on them, like these Delta ones.

6. Radiate light

Bring in all the exterior light you can get by making windows taller where possible, adding new exterior doors with glass panes inside, and adding recessed canned lights to the ceiling anywhere that needs more light for safety (like over the staircase or in the kitchen).

7. Rid the trips

Smooth, potentially slippery surfaces are just trips waiting to happen. Save yourself the trouble and install grip tape in places that could become a hazard such as the steps of a staircase or the tiled entryway. 

 

Whether you plan to stay in your home as long as you can, or you are looking to downsize, we hope that our 7 R's help you thrive in place.


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8 Things Every Great Laundry Room Needs

If you are lucky enough to have a dedicated room for your washer and dryer, here are some ideas to consider upgrading the space for optimal function.

1. CABINETRY

Space to store things like detergent is essential. Check out this beautiful before and after from Gather & Flourish:

Or, if you don't have enough room for the full size cabinets, try something smaller like this pull out by Manhattan Nest

2. HANGING RACKS

Those "hang-to-dry" pieces need their own space too, like these wall-mounted beauties from Bolig Magasinet:

3. AN IRONING BOARD

And so much the better if it has it's own designated space. We all know what a pain it is to pull out and put away.

You could even DIY this Ikea hack:

4. CLOTHING RODS

Of course, you'll need a place to hang things up when you're done ironing them. I love the location of this one:

5. COUNTER SPACE FOR FOLDING

Even if it's as small as this clever pull-out:

6. A HOME FOR YOUR HAMPERS

How many times a day do you trip over or into hampers that are sitting on the floor? If you're anything like me, it probably happens every time you go into the laundry room. Give your hampers their own place to hang out, like this DIY by Ana White:

7. SINK SPACE

Bring a sink into your laundry room and stop handwashing those delicates in your kitchen.

8. DISGUISE THE BIG GUYS

If your laundry room doubles as your pantry, or if you just don't like the look of your washer and dryer, here's a great idea for disguising them:

Hopefully as you've been scrolling through this post you've noticed that these inspiration photos all feature at least two of the elements I've mentioned. When it comes to the laundry room, it's all about creative use of space. Plus, you want it to be pretty - you sure spend enough time in there.

You can find more laundry room inspiration here.


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A Deck for All Seasons

We love capped composite decking materials, and with the ridiculous rise in cedar prices over this last summer, composite decks have become quite competitive in their pricing. But don’t just take our word for it – here are some of the many reasons composite decking is better than wood:

Maintenance

Of course, one of the most important things to consider, second only to how well the deck is actually built, is maintenance. Wood decks require a lot of maintenance. They have to be thoroughly cleaned and re-stained every year to protect against rot and fading. Plus, it needs to be sanded down and re-finished every couple of years. Then you have to check and spray for bugs, and pray that the beetle you just saw running across your deck is in fact a beetle and not a termite. That’s a lot of time you could be doing something more relaxing, like enjoying sitting on your deck. Composite decks do not require more than an hour of maintenance every year – they just need a good soap and water washing once a year.

Eco-friendliness

Composite decking helps the environment. Wood decking means cutting down trees that protect us from carbon dioxide and replenish our oxygen, using more trees to create the energy needed to power the machines that refine the wood and make it construction ready, and having to replant more trees to start the process all over again. Trees are what makes our home here in the Pacific Northwest so stinking beautiful. (Especially like right now at the end of October when the leaves are turning the most brilliant shades of red and orange and yellow and the whole area is just glowing.) Composite decking is mostly made out of recycled plastic materials, keeping them out of dumps. TimberTech advertises that their decking is made from 73% recycled materials, and Trex’s is 95% recycled materials. You can learn more about turning plastic into composite decking in this Trex video and this Fiberon video.

Sturdiness

Wood decks splinter and twist and rot and warp. Composite decks do not. Plus, composite decking is more weather-resistant. Wood decking materials last at most 10-15 years. Composite decking materials last at least 25 years and longer if you take good care of them. That’s almost twice as long! And considering cedar and composite materials are running about the same price-wise right now, you end up getting so much more for your money’s worth with composite decking – a longer lifetime with significantly less maintenance time.

The Look

If the only thing holding you back from going with composite rather than wood is that you are afraid it won’t look like real wood, please come into our office and let us show you the 30+ samples of composite decking we have from four different companies that are designed with a wood grain finish. (Or just look at these samples on Trex’s website.) Composite decking has the look of real wood, without the hazards and dangers of real wood. And you don’t have to stain it to get it the color you want. Plus, most composite decking materials have color all throughout the material, rather than slathering on a coating at the end, so you don’t have to worry about fading or staining.

Let us know your thoughts on capped composite decking in the comments below.


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The 2018 Color(s) of the Year

While the Godfather of the color world, Pantone, has yet to release their color choice for 2018, (which we are eagerly awaiting), they have released eight color palettes to inspire 2018 designs. You can read a rundown of the palettes at Elle Décor. In the meantime, here’s what some of the big paint companies are pushing for 2018.

Behr released a palette of 20 colors, with the lead color being In The Moment (T18-15), a pretty, serene shade of blue-green, perfect for an update farmhouse look.

In The Moment

In The Moment

Ready for a bold statement color in 2018? So is PPG Paints, selecting Black Flame (PPG1043-7). Don’t worry – Black Flame isn’t that black, but it does have all the power of a dark color.

Black Flame

Black Flame

Perhaps Kelly-Moore Paints hasn’t gotten the memo about running from neutrals because Bahia Grass (KM4782) is barely a few green steps away from grey.

Bahia Grass

Bahia Grass

Going in a completely different, but exciting and warm direction is Benjamin Moore’s Caliente (AF-290). While I'm personally not a big fan of red, I'm looking forward to seeing more color in decor for 2018, even if it isn't my favorite color. Plus, Caliente has a very refined feel to it, keeping it from being obnoxious.

Caliente

Caliente

And last but definitely not least, our favorite paint company Sherwin-Williams chose Oceanside (SW 6496) for their 2018 color of the year. It’s bright, playful, and exactly the cure we need to finally get away from the monochromatic, minimalistic neutrals that have been ruling the color world as of late. Check back soon for a post all about different ways you can decorate with this brilliant color.

Oceanside

Oceanside


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To Fiberglass or Not To Fiberglass

Everyone has a front door; do you know what yours is made of?

There are pros and cons to every material. Let's look at a few of the differences between wood and fiberglass.

Wood

Pros: real wood grain; looks high-end; easy to repair and refinish; a look and feel that’s almost impossible to truly mimic (think about the sound a wood door makes when you knock on it)

Cons: expensive; absorbs moisture; warping, twisting, bowing, peeling, & bubbling; not energy efficient; fades & requires regular maintenance

Other tips: Solid wood doors are by far the most safe of wood doors, but they can cost you upwards of $2,000. If you’re adamant about getting a real wood door, check out options from Pella or Simpson. Their doors are specially made to have a higher insulation value than the average wood door. They’re also fairly cost effective, depending on size/shape/etc. Apply a marine varnish every couple of years to aid in protecting the door from moisture.

Fiberglass

Pros: low-to-no maintenance; no dents, scratches, rotting, deterioration, rust, warping, bowing, or twisting; can have wood grain or smooth finish; very energy efficient (has up to five times the insulation value of wood); can be painted or stained; secure; long lasting; holds up better in extreme weather conditions

Cons: aesthetic; can crack under severe impact (but really, how often does this happen short of someone trying to shoulder your door in?)

Other tips: May or may not cost more upfront, but will definitely save you in the long run. You will still need to re-stain or re-paint the door.


OTHER DETAILS TO CONSIDER

Obviously, the most important details to consider are the size and shape of your door. Is your door a standard size? Standard heights are 6'8", 7', and 8'. Standard widths are 2'6", 3', and 3'6". Having a standard size door helps keep costs down; if your door is not a standard size, it will have to be specially made, which means a higher price tag.

There are a lot of different shapes of doors, but the three most common styles are square, round, and arched, with square being much more common than the others.

The next question to ask yourself after deciding size and shape is: Do I want a window in my door? If your answer is yes, you just created two more questions for yourself. First, you have to decide how much window you want. The options are 1/4-lite, 1/3-lite, 1/2-lite, 2/3-lite, 3/4-lite, full-lite, and a center arch. Check out these fiberglass Therma-Tru doors for reference:

                                                                                 You can learn more about each of these different Therma-Tru door styles here:  Opaque ,  1/4-Lite ,  1/3-Lite ,  1/2-Lite ,  2/3-Lite ,  3/4-Lite ,  Full-Lite , and  Center Arch .

                                                                                 You can learn more about each of these different Therma-Tru door styles here: Opaque, 1/4-Lite, 1/3-Lite, 1/2-Lite, 2/3-Lite, 3/4-Lite, Full-Lite, and Center Arch.

After you decide how much window you want, you have to figure out what kind of glass you want. Is it going to be clear? Decorative? Privacy? If you want decorative or privacy glass, you can choose from even more specfics. Plus, there are glass coatings like Lo-E to consider.

While we're on the subject of windows, let's talk about transoms and sidelites. A transom is a window that is horizontally-placed above the door, and a sidelite is a window placed vertically on either or both sides of a door. Check out these wood sidelite options from Rogue Valley Door:

You can learn more about this Rogue Valley Door  here  and sidelite  here .

You can learn more about this Rogue Valley Door here and sidelite here.

Doors also have lots of little details to consider. Do you want panels? If so, what style and how many? If you're going for a Craftsman look, you may want to consider adding a dentil shelf.

Think about the architectural style of your home. This may help narrow down the style of door you want.

Once you have the door itself figured out, it's time to move on the hardware, which is a another topic for another blog post.


Considering a wood door but wanting to know what it will look like before you buy? Check out Rogue Valley Door's Interactive Door program. You can upload a picture of your front entry way and then play around with different styles to figure out what you like best.

For those interested in fiberglass doors, Therma-Tru has an app called DoorWays you can use to see what your front door could look like. Once you sign in, go to “Create a New Project,” give it a name, select size and configuration, and then the fun stuff begins. You can upload a photo or take one from there in the app.

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Browse by glass style, collections, or architectural style. Select the door you want, adjust the finish, glass, and handleset, and click “Update” to view your new door in place. You can save the project to view and make changes later on. If smartphones are not your cup of tea, Therma-Tru also allows you to do all of this online here.


Before you go door shopping, read these great tips from This Old House:

"For complete entry systems, be sure all components come from the same manufacturer. (Many systems are assembled by distributors with parts that might not mate perfectly.) Check that the weatherstripping seals properly and that the threshold interlocks with the bottom edge of the door.
Look for [lo-e] glazing on window units. For added security, some manufacturers offer glazing designed to resist break-ins. Decorative windows with real lead or brass caming cost more than ones with the fake stuff.
High-quality steel and fiberglass doors have a thermal break — often a vinyl strip or part of the wood frame — that separates the inside and outside door skins. This prevents outside cold and heat from being conducted through the skin and frame, and frost from forming on the inside surface.
Picking the right front door will pay off in smoother operation, less maintenance, and added energy savings. You'll also have an elegant entry that makes a great first impression for years to come."

Still not sure which way to go? Read what other homeowners are saying on Houzz.


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Fall Home Decor Trends 2017

Bring out the pumpkins, throw on the plaid; there is officially only one week left till fall! The fall is a glorious season of change. Everything is a little brighter, a little moodier, and a little more colorful. You may be getting ready to dust off your autumnal decor, but while your at it, consider a few of these trending home decor items.

1. Dark Green

A big trend for this fall is the color green. Whether it's painting your walls a beautiful viridescent color, hanging a leafy wall paper, tossing some jade throw pillows around, or bringing the outside inside with lush wreaths, green is the way to go.

2. Brass Finishes

Experts tell us that people are getting tired of the ever-so-trendy copper look and are moving on to brass, and specifically aged brass. This may be great news if you're a budget-conscious designer like me - brass doesn't have nearly the price tag copper has. You can find great brass pieces at flea markets, vintage shops, and thrift stores.

3. Quilting

What better to keep you warm through those chilly fall nights than a beautiful quilt? Quilts have such wonderful details and can be found in monochrome coloring or any other color combo you might want. They are an excellent complement to the luxurious feel of velvet, bringing a bit of rustic down-home flavor to a room. Plus, if you can't find one that's exactly what you want, basic color blocked quilts are super easy DIYs for beginners. And if you need some help, you can always ask grandma.

4. Nailhead Details

Nailhead furniture is a bit edgy and a bit old school (like Renaissance old school). If you're lucky enough to find a piece with brass nailheads, this becomes a great way to bring a bit more brass into a room at the same time. Two trends with one piece! Here's a great nailhead armchair from Gallery Furniture.

5. Wood-Look Tile

We've talked about wood-look tile before, but it never hurts to mention it again. Wood-look tile is a great alternative to hardwood flooring, plus you can put it anywhere you would normally put tile, like on the walls of a shower, to bring a little of the outside into your bathroom.

6. Mix-n-Match

Gone are the days of furniture sets. Design experts are now loving mix-matched furniture. This is a great way to bring in more color and more texture to your home, as well as lending to the eclectic playful vibe that's trending right now.

7. Matte Black Fixtures & Faucets

Forget stainless steel. Fall 2017 is all about matte black. It's a great finish that lends itself to a lot of different styles - edgy, chic, luxurious, farmhouse, rustic, boho, etc. Chown is definitely a place to check out if you're on the hunt for some matte black hardware.

8. Velvet Fabrics

Luxury is in and that means velvet, (or velour for the budget-conscious). Velvet has a soft, inviting texture, and unlike cold leather, velvet will keep you warm through the fall and winter.

9. Blush

This color is often jokingly referred to as "Millennial Pink." As a millennial myself, I have no problem with that because blush is such a gorgeous shade of pink. It's refined without being to girly, offering just the right amount of femininity. Blush is also a great way to bring lighter colors to a dark room during a cloudy, overcast season.

10. Terra Cotta

Terracotta is not just for the Tuscan style anymore - it's popping up all over, especially as the tile choice for kitchen floors. Using terracotta details is a great way to bring an unexpected texture to a room, and it lends a warm shade of orange to the space. You can find terracotta pots at any local home improvement store or garden center to aid in bringing the outside inside.

11. Textural Details

Colors step aside, texture is in. Here are some great ideas for adding texture to your space: mixing like-colored items with different textures, using cork as wall decor, chunky knits, woven baskets, or faux flora. Texture adds dimension, making you want to reach out and touch something. 

12. Moody Jewel Tones

In addition to dark green and blush, jewel tones are the go-to colors for interiors right now. They bring a moodiness to a room that is perfect for the fall/winter season. Darker colors bring character and personality to a room. They ground the space and add an extra layer of coziness. Plus, with the right furniture and accessories, they can be very luxurious and elegant.

13. Bone Inlay Furniture

This trend is a bit more boho, which is probably why I'm loving it so much. There's something almost whimsical about furniture pieces that have bone inlay detailing. Just look at this gorgeous example from Nadeau. The delicate nature of the inlay makes it a great statement piece for any room, after all, the details make the design.

14. Local Materials

Here in the Pacific Northwest, buying local has always been in style. It's great for the local economy! All of the pieces mentioned in this blog post are local to Portland and the Pacific Northwest. A great resource to check out is SCRAP PDX, located just west of Powell's.

15. Curated Collections

Designers are loving vintage details and eclecticism. Displaying a well-curated collection is a great way to bring this into a room. Collections can range from figurines to baskets to camera equipment to artisanal blown glass - you name it, someone probably collects it. Personally, I love vintage postcards - I try to get at least one from every city I visit.

16. Graphic Patterns

While minimalism is on its way out, the graphic and geometric nature of the patterns it brought in with it are here to stay, just perhaps in more color. Graphic patterns make for great detail pieces. You can find them on things like rugs and throw pillows among other things. I've also seen some great DIYs that feature graphic wallpaper like this one from Manolo Walls on the back of bookshelves. 

17. Naturalism

A great place to find texture is in nature, and so natural features are coming into the spotlight along with the need for texture. Reclaimed wood is definitely the heart of this movement, and companies like TerraMai are offering what they call "Reclaimed Treasures" such as exquisite live edge slabs that make great table tops, counters, bars, doors, and whatever else you want.

18. Brown as the New Black

The experts are saying that deep chocolate brown is the new black. It's warmer and friendlier than black, but still brings the power of dark toneage. While personally I believe that black is never going to be replaced, I am definitely a fan of mixing chocolate brown with black in my decor for a more interesting, depth-filled look. For inspiration, check out French Roast from Sherwin-Williams.


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