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Saving Money with Soft Water

Pros of Soft Water(BPT) – For many homeowners the biggest utility bill is electricity. Heating and cooling the home makes up nearly half of electricity costs, but the next biggest source is the water heater. Water heaters can account for up to 25 percent of total household energy use. Taking steps to improve the energy efficiency of a home with better insulation and more efficient furnaces and air conditioners can reduce energy costs significantly, as can making sure water heaters are operating properly.

However, purchasing a high efficiency water heater does little good if the environment in which it operates is not right. The main culprit in reducing the efficiency of water heaters is hard water. Nearly 90 percent of American homes have hard water which contains high levels of calcium and magnesium. These minerals cause scaling, a buildup that clogs waterlines and plumbing forcing appliances to work harder and operate less efficiently. Hard water can reduce the efficiency of water heaters and increase electricity costs by as much as 48 percent according to the Battelle Memorial Institute.

The problem can be particularly severe with electric water heaters. These can accumulate up to 30 pounds of calcium carbonate, a rock-like scale, eventually damaging the heating element which will have to be replaced. The cost of hard water is not higher just because of reduced energy efficiency and higher electric bills; hard water also damages appliances like water heaters, dish washers, shower heads and faucets. These must be repaired and replaced more often as a result.

To determine if you have hard water, look for spots and scale build-up on fixtures. “A less obvious indication is the lack of that luxury feeling of a hot shower you get at a nice hotel,” says Michael Mecca of Performance Water Products. “That feeling is not because of the nice towels and soaps. It’s because nice hotels use soft water not only for their guests’ benefit but also to protect their investments in boilers, piping and fixtures.”

Kitchens benefit from soft water as well because soft water is up to 12 times more effective at cleaning dishes than increasing the amount of detergent used. Researchers also found that for washing machines, the most important factor in removing stains from clothing was water softness. Reduction of water hardness was up to 100 times more effective at stain removal than increasing the detergent dose or washing with hotter water. In fact, soft water can reduce soap use by as much as half.

Many water treatment companies offer free tests to homeowners to measure the degree of hardness in the water and offer appropriate systems that fit. “Hardness in water can vary widely in some parts of the country and pipe size, number of bathrooms, number of people in the house, types of showerheads and intended use all need to be considered for the right system,” says Mecca.

“Wells in particular are susceptible to hard water since municipal water departments often take care of the worst offenders such as iron-manganese-hydrogen sulfide. Even if you get municipal water you likely still have calcium and other hard water deposits and can benefit from a water softener. Systems for well water will cost a little more but it is well worth it,” he adds.

The only way to truly remove the calcium and magnesium from household water systems is with a salt-based water softener. These remove the scaling in the pipes entirely by running the incoming hard water through a resin filter that traps the calcium and magnesium in the water – as well as any iron, manganese or radium ions. It then replaces them with sodium ions.

A salt-based water softener is one home improvement that will not only pay for itself but add value to a home. A properly sized quality water softener appliance can save a homeowner thousands of dollars over its life in reduced soap and detergent costs, electricity, efficiency and extended life for expensive appliances.

Creating an Inviting, Low Maintenance Porch

Capture(BPT) – Your porch should be a warm, welcoming outdoor living space that offers comfort and helps make a house a home. Whether you want to remodel your porch from the ground up, or just give it a refreshing new look and feel, it’s easier than you think to create a perfect porch.

Start with a Kleer deck as enchanting flooring for your remodeled porch, choosing from the rich, nature-inspired color palettes available for the Sierra Series and Coastal Series Decking. Sierra offers deep, solid earth tones with wood grain textures such as Sequoia, plus streaked tropical wood looks, such as Golden Teak. The Coastal Series offers charming Cobblestone and serene Sand Dune hues, which give your porch a relaxing feel reminiscent of a seaside resort.

Framing your porch, like a picture for the world to see, is easy with Kleer Trimboard. Add elegant white or colorfully painted accent trim around the top, bottom and sides of the porch using durable cellular PVC trimboards in a variety of sizes. This trim can even be crafted into ornate gingerbread or curved using heat-bending to make soaring arches. Kleer Mouldings can be readily cut so that you can add eye-catching detail anywhere. Using Kleer Beaded Sheets, you can build a porch ceiling with great warmth and charm. For a picturesque porch, enclose columns in Kleer Post Wraps to protect them from the elements while adding wood’s natural, finished look.

To complete your perfect porch, dress up nearby windows and doors with distinctive touches that complement the look and feel of your outdoor livingporch space. High-impact, budget-friendly ideas include adding Mid-America Siding Components’ richly-colored shutters with matching window headers to enhance your porch’s warmth and curb appeal. The sophisticated Flat Panel and geometric-style Classic Dentil headers pair perfectly with decorative shutters like the classic Open Louver or Old World-style Board-n-Batten.

Another quick, easy upgrade is an inviting door surround in cream, white or another neutral color to enhance porch aesthetics. Adding a door surround is a natural way to create that “welcome home” feeling too.

Designed for easy living, Tapco’s enduring Kleer and Mid-America brand solutions never require painting or wood’s time-intensive upkeep. Whether you want to transform your porch into a cozy gathering spot or grand wrap-around retreat, Tapco’s exterior products can put the perfect low-maintenance outdoor living space within your reach.

Spring: 4 Designer Touches For a Well-Dressed Deck

(BPT) – When spring arrives, will your deck be ready for “primetime?” Or will it still be wearing the shabby remnants of last season’s look? Clunky,spring home improvements view-blocking railings, a rectangular layout and dark stain are so last decade. Before warm weather gets here, consider upgrading your outdoor living space with the trends that every well-dressed deck will be wearing this year.

Cable railing = better views

Whether you’re lucky enough to live on the water or you spend a lot of time keeping your backyard green and blooming, wouldn’t it be great to be able to enjoy the view from your deck? Traditional wooden railings can block your view, and glass can be hard to clean.

More view-seeking homeowners are replacing wooden balusters with Ultra-tec stainless steel cable railings. Do-it-yourself kits from manufacturers like The Cable Connection make it easy to replace old balusters with stainless steel cable, creating a sleek, upscale and view-friendly look. The cable can be used with wood, metal or sleeved posts with a solid core, and you can retrofit any railing with the cable. Whether your deck is made of wood or composite, cable railing works wherever you would install a traditional railing, including the deck perimeter and stairs. Visit www.thecableconnection.com to learn more.

A deck of a different color

Clear sealant for a natural look or subdued rustic hues have long been the colors of choice for decks. This year, expect to see a plethora of fresh colors popping up on decks. While changing the color of a wooden deck from a darker hue to something brighter may be problematic, composite decking manufacturers have branched out into a variety of brighter colors, including whites and light grays. You’ll even see pops of color like greens and blues in designs and inserts set into decking planks.

You can also add color to your deck through plantings. Think outside the planter box – and traditional floral plantings – to mix things up with decorative grasses and leafy foliage that will splash color around your deck throughout the summer.

Mixed media ups interest

Wooden planks, wooden railings, stairs and even furniture – long gone are the days when decks were single-material constructions. Today’s decks are a study in mixed media, incorporating traditional materials like wood, brick and tile with modern elements such as composite planks, cable railings and even ceramic tile.

The amalgam of materials can yield a multitude of patterns, styles and looks. Pair a traditional wood deck with cable railing and stairs that descend to a patio of pavers set in a herringbone pattern. Use heat-resistant ceramic tile to create a decorative and functional cooking area on a composite deck. Varying the materials used in your deck adds visual depth, interest and excitement to your outdoor living space.

On the lighter side

Outdoor lighting isn’t just for the purposes of safety, or to extend the deck’s usability well into the night. Lighting can be a design statement and a powerful decorative element for your deck.

Decorative post caps can add a designer look to railings while also providing ample light for outdoor activities. Inset lights create mood and ensure safe footing on stairs. For a soft, glowing effect, tuck rope lighting beneath upper and lower railings. Don’t forget the beauty of natural light, too; fire pits and chimineas offer up warmth, ambience and gentle light.

With some designer touches, it’s easy to turn your deck from dull to delightful – and ensure your outdoor spaces stay in step with today’s best-dressed decks.

5 Projects to Recreate Your Basement

bsmt(BPT) – Have you ever wished you had more space in your home? Maybe you’d use the space to pursue a hobby, host out-of-town guests or just spread out and get some quiet time to yourself. The space you desire could already be in your home- in your basement. If your cellar is nothing but a series of unfinished areas used for storage, you’re not getting all the benefits you could be from the space.

Making the most of your basement doesn’t have to mean costly contractors and expensive remodeling scenarios. Several easy DIY projects that you can take on alone, with the aid of the right tools, can help you gain that extra space you wish for.

Ready to get started? Give these projects a try:

* Build walls. Adding drywall to your basement has a big impact on the space immediately. Use 2-by-4s to mark where the walls will stand and place studs 16 inches apart. Then nail the panels to the wall where the edges meet the studs and cover the seams with drywall tape. Once the walls are up, mud the seams and areas where nail pops appear. A drywall saw or power saw will help you shape your drywall perfectly, but if you don’t own one, you don’t have to buy one. It’s more cost efficient to simply rent it instead for this one-time project. Your local American Rental Association member rental store will have what you need. Don’t forget to add drywall stands to your rental list.

* A touch of paint. A fresh coat of paint means you won’t have to stare at those drab walls in your new space. You can paint the space by hand, but if you have a large basement and you want to give every room that professional look, rent a paint sprayer instead. The cost is worth the time saved.

* Freshen up your floor. If your basement is completely unfinished, you probably have cold, concrete floors. How you improve them is up to you. Ifbsmt 2 you want the polished, marbled look, consider renting concrete floor finishing equipment for a look that’s sure to amaze. And if the appearance of hardwood is more your style, laminate flooring panels are inexpensive and easy to install. Lastly, if you want the feel of carpet beneath your feet, don’t forget to add the pad first to make those future steps a pleasure.

* Eliminate the stink. Your new basement is coming together, now what can you do about that musty basement smell? A dehumidifier can help. You can purchase one at your local home goods store and when you get it home, try to place it near the washtub sink if your basement has one. This will allow you to drain right into the sink and save you from having to empty the dehumidifier regularly.

* Install a sump pump. Now that you’ve refinished your basement, don’t let water damage ruin all your hard work. A sump pump can protect against flooding issues and installing one is easy. Most new homes have a location marked for a sump pump; it will look like a small well. Follow the water pipes in your home and you can find it. Once you do, purchase a sump pump from your local home goods store and follow the easy instructions to install in less than an hour.

The extra space you have dreamed of has been with you all along. Transform your basement from barren to beautiful and you’ll be creating a space you can enjoy for years to come. To learn more about renting the tools you need for your home improvement projects, visit RentalHQ.com.

How to Stop Pet Stains from Straining Your Family Events

carpet(BPT) – While there is no doubt that pet owners love their furry friends, it’s fair to say that dogs and cats can easily take over the home. Whether you’re dealing with a sick cat or attempting puppy potty training, you can quickly find yourself in a bacteria breeding ground.

Eighty percent of pet owners admit to masking stains instead of remedying them, according to a new survey from Woolite(R) Carpet & Upholstery. This includes flipping cushions, rearranging furniture, covering furniture, entertaining guests and visitors in other parts of the home and dimming the lights.

But you don’t have to hide stains. With a few easy steps, you can provide a clean and healthier home for the entire family:

* Set boundaries: Pets function best when they have consistent access to specific rooms. Rather than changing the “allowed” areas from day to day, determine which rooms are “pet-friendly” and stick to them. Close doors and set up pet gates to make sure boundaries are clear. It’s wise to have at least one pet-free room in case guests are affected by pet allergies.

* Wipe paws: For pets that go outside, it’s handy to have a towel by the door to wipe paws all year round. Not only does this cut down on tracking outside dirt and debris in the home, but it’s also important to reduce the amount of moisture sitting in a dog or cat’s paw.

* Sanitize pet messes: While many household cleaners reduce the visible signs of pet messes (including vomit, feces, urine and blood), they don’t always sanitize the affected area. Woolite(R) Advanced Pet Stain & Odor Remover + Sanitize kills 99.9 percent of Enterobacter aerogenes (ATCC 13408) and Staphylococcus aureus (ATCC 6538) (Staph) on carpets (not for use on Polypropylene/olefin or wood fibers) and soft surfaces, and eliminates tough pet odors for a cleaner, fresher home.

* Brush pets regularly: To reduce the amount of pet hair on your floors and furniture, it’s important to brush pets regularly. Try to make it a daily chore and do it outside if possible.

* Use specific linens: Assign linens for cleaning up pet messes and then only use them for that purpose. The same goes for towels and linens that are used in pet kennels or to shield furniture from pet hair.

* Clean with frequency: While it seems like common sense, it’s easy to push off cleaning tasks that don’t seem urgent. Include the entire family by assigning pet cleanup duties to everyone. One person can even take the pet for a walk or distract him while the others are completing chores. Items that should be cleaned on a weekly or biweekly basis include food dishes, pet beds and toys.

* Don’t neglect the yard: Make a habit of picking up after your dog on a daily basis and guests won’t have to tip toe around your yard. Dog owners who dread yard pickup can pay for a service that will do so on a weekly basis.

Owning a pet doesn’t mean the clean state of a home needs to be sacrificed. By keeping up with these tips, you will be able to spend more quality time playing with your pet.

Turn Kitchen Time into Quality Time: Three Upgrades

kitchen(BPT) – The average American spends an hour a day in the kitchen preparing food and cleaning up afterward, according to the American Time Use Survey by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Add in the time it takes to put groceries away, load and unload dishwashers, organize cabinets and pantries or just hang out, and you spend a whole lot of time in your kitchen.

But do you really enjoy that time? Whether cooking is your favorite activity or you would rather clean the bathroom, the livability and usability of your kitchen can directly affect how you feel about the time you spend there.

If you’re considering a kitchen renovation – among the most popular and profitable of all home improvements – keep in mind the value of upgrades that will enhance the efficiency, practicality and beauty of the space. This type of improvement will not only pay off at the time of resale, but can improve the time you spend in your kitchen.

Here are three key kitchen upgrades that can elevate the appeal and usability of your kitchen:

Improved Natural Lighting and Ventilation

The positive effects of natural lighting on mood are well documented. If your kitchen is small and dark, it can feel dingy and tired, no matter how new your appliances or shiny your granite countertops. Consider adding natural light sources such as skylights and roof windows. Not only can these natural light sources improve the feel of your kitchen, they can decrease the need for artificial lighting.

What’s more, if you opt for an Energy Star-qualified, solar-powered fresh air skylight, like those made by Velux, you can improve your kitchen’sbath ventilation as well. These skylights create a chimney effect that passively vents fumes, odor, humidity and cooking smoke from the kitchen without the need for a noisy, less efficient exhaust fan. Adding energy efficient solar blinds can allow you to control the amount of sunlight that enters your kitchen, closing the blinds to keep the room cooler in summer and opening them to admit more warming light in winter. Operated by remote control, solar skylights and blinds, as well as the installation costs, are eligible for a 30 percent federal tax credit. Visit www.veluxusa.com to learn more.

Upgraded Fixtures

Sinks and faucets are functional essentials for a kitchen, but they can – and should – also make a design statement. Replacing a basic, dated faucet and swapping out an older sink can have a significant impact on the overall look and utility of a kitchen – for a fraction of the cost of grander renovations.

It’s possible to find new sinks that fit virtually any design taste. Stainless steel provides a sleek, modern look while delivering outstanding durability. Apron sinks, which come in a variety of materials, blend well with a rustic design theme. Undermount and integrated sinks eliminate unsightly edges on countertops. You can also find a variety of basin styles in virtually every material, from single to double basins and prep sinks.

Whatever sink you choose, be sure to accent it with a high-tech faucet. Pull-down faucets make cleaning and filling pots a breeze, while touch-free faucets allow you to turn the flow of water off and on without ever touching the faucet itself – thereby avoiding the spread of germs. A vast array of colors, styles and handle types ensure you can find an upscale faucet that improves usability and looks great in your kitchen.

Energy-Efficient Appliances

Appliances are a kitchen element well worth a little extra investment. Considering how much the average American family uses their refrigerator, dishwasher, microwave and stove, improving the usability and efficiency of these appliances can both elevate your enjoyment of the kitchen and save you some money in the long run.

In the typical American home, appliances represent 13 percent of the household’s total energy consumption, according to the Department of Energy. Replacing older appliances with newer, more energy-efficient models can reduce your energy costs. For example, replacing an older refrigerator with an Energy Star certified appliance could reduce your energy costs as much as $300 over the lifetime of the refrigerator, according to the Department of Energy.

What’s more, newer appliances offer many of the high-tech features that make life in the kitchen easier, from touchscreen interfaces and temperature controls on dishwashers to Wi-Fi enabled refrigerators. For more kitchen ideas visit www.houzz.com.

Simple Steps Can Keep You and Your Family Healthy

20811762(BPT) – Pay attention to the news headlines and you may be wondering if you and your loved ones are safe from unseen perils like germs, bacteria and viruses – even in your home. There are things you can do to protect your health but it’s also good to know where germs linger. Some of their hangouts may surprise you.

According to WebMD, there are likely more germs in your kitchen sink than in your toilet. You’re probably using a bowl cleaner to disinfect your toilets, but is the kitchen sink getting equal treatment?

Your salt and pepper shakers dispense salt and pepper, but they also dispense cold viruses and other nastiness. A University of Virginia study tested the salt and pepper shakers of 30 adults who were showing signs of a cold, and every one of those shakers tested positive for the cold virus.

Now add your TV remote (also the dirtiest thing in your hotel room), your toothbrush, your computer keyboard and mouse, and your bathtub, and you have a good list of the dirtiest places in your home. And your floors? According to University of Arizona researcher Charles P. Gerba, PhD, they can have up to 4,000 times more germs than a toilet seat.

So, what can you do to reduce your risk of exposure to germs? Here are a few ideas to help reduce the risks and keep everyone healthy.

* Wash your hands. Your hands come into contact with each of the surfaces mentioned above and they can move viruses and bacteria to your nose, eyes and mouth. This means it’s important to keep them clean. It may seem like a long time to be washing them, but the 20-second rule is for real. Hand sanitizers are useful but not a substitute for good hand washing.

* Sanitize commonly used items. Remember the germs on that salt and pepper shaker? Wiping them off is very beneficial, as is more frequent cleaning of the kitchen sink. And for a deeper clean, consider using products that use UV-C light to kill germs, bacteria and viruses on surfaces. Verilux offers several sanitization tools that use UV-C light to kill up to 99.9 percent of these undesirables – quickly and easily – without chemicals. The 21-inch CleanWave Sanitizing Wand, for example, can be passed an inch above the area you wish to sanitize, be it the keyboard, the remote or those salt and pepper shakers.

“UV-C is a type of ultra-violet light with a shorter wavelength than visible light,” says Verilux President Nicholas Harmon. “The light penetrates a microorganism’s cell membrane and damages its DNA. This prevents growth and kills the organism. These products are the ideal chemical-free cleaning solutions for people who are concerned about their environment, particularly in light of recent headlines.”

* Cough smart. Covering your mouth when you cough or sneeze is just a good habit. But doing so with your hands is a bad health habit. Next time you feel the urge to cough or sneeze, use the bend of your elbow instead. This will keep germs from transferring to your hands.

* Keep the carpets clean. Millions of allergens and germs camp in the carpets and floors of your home. Evict them with the CleanWave Bagless Vacuum and its portable version, the CleanWave Portable Vacuum. These devices use UV-C light to kill germs, viruses and bacteria, as well as microscopic pests like dust mites and flea eggs. You can use the portable vacuum to kill bed bugs before they hatch on mattresses.

* Avoid close contact. You don’t want to be anti-social but a little separation this time of year can be beneficial to your health. Avoid sharing items such as water bottles, glasses or food with others, and don’t be afraid to sit a seat apart whenever you can. You’ll be healthier in the long run for doing so.

Germs and allergens are part of everyday life, but that doesn’t mean they should be able to dominate yours. Keeping your home clean and practicing good health habits can reduce your risk of getting ill and keep you and your family healthy and happy. To learn more about the products available from Verilux, visit www.Verilux.com.

The Beauty of Wood Turns Homes into Architectural Masterpieces

 

fire(BPT) – Ever since humans stopped dwelling in caves and started living in huts made of tree branches, wood has been an indispensible structural and decorative residential material. Man’s house-building relationship with wood – historically, culturally and experientially – is deep, long and universal. In part that’s because wood is abundant, economical, durable and flexible. But our enduring love affair with wood is also due to the fact that, like us, each piece of timber is unique – its color, texture and grain are as individual as a human personality, so we keep discovering new aspects of its beauty and versatility to delight in.

Architects, designers and homeowners are creatively using wood’s inimitable qualities to bring character, warmth and distinction to different parts of the modern home. In Denver, Colorado, Sun Mountain, Inc., a manufacturer of custom doors and flooring, used select-grade alder – a hardwood with a tight grain and few knotholes – for a traditional-style double front door. The elegantly rustic design, which combines solid alder with glass panels and metal hardware, is set off by the house’s dry-stacked limestone walls.

“The double-pane glass doorlites are hermetically sealed for insulation against the Colorado winters,” says Ed Wright, Sun Mountain’s vice president of marketing. “And the door handles are bronze with a rubbed oil finish.”

The total effect is at once substantial and low-key – country style that’s sophisticated but with a sense of welcome that is so essential for a front entrance.

An entry hall is an equally suitable space for the beguiling charms of hardwood. Behind the custom poplar front door of a new residence in Gladwyne, Pennsylvania – a collaboration between Archer & Buchanan Architecture, Ltd., and E.B. Mahoney Builders, Inc. – the hall is a fine example of traditional, millwork-intensive style. Featuring a beautifully proportioned staircase, painted poplar paneling and wide-plank flooring, it was inspired by the work of architect, R. Brognard Okie, who designed many fine Colonial Revival houses in Philadelphia area between 1900 and 1945. The hall’s sense of Old World graciousness is further enhanced by the use of locally sourced red oak for the floors and stair treads.

“The 24-inches to 32-inches wide planks come from a Bucks County, Pennsylvania, mill run by two brothers in their seventies,” says builder Edfront door Mahoney. “The workshop was surrounded by huge old-growth oak trees from which the planks were cut – they had to be ordered months in advance. The boards are plain – not tongue and groove – and stained with a satin finish. We left them in the house for a month to stabilize before installing them.”

Wood can be used to create a sense of intimacy and ease and is demonstrated in the library of a very large retreat in Lake Keowee, South Carolina. Not only is the fireplace surrounded by quarter-sawn oak mantle and trim, the whole room is paneled in the same hardwood, which is also used for the coffered ceiling and floors. The library’s intimate scale and traditional detailing were inspired by a ship captain’s quarters – a subtle reference to both the home’s lakeside location and the style in which the house is built.

Designed by Atlanta-based architect Stephen Fuller and constructed by Gabriel Builders, Inc., the imposing house is a playful take on the grand Shingle Style made famous by New England’s “summer cottages.” But Fuller made sure to include a number of smaller, cozier rooms where the family would feel snug and comfortable, and he often used wood to achieve this. Such is the case in the library, where the wonderful familiarity of the oak makes the room a tranquil, reassuring haven.

5 Simple Steps for Protecting Your Home During the Holidays

Home Protection(BPT) – When you think of the holidays, celebrations, presents and friends likely come to mind – not crime. Unfortunately, burglaries increase at this time of year, and your home could be a target. With a few simple safety precautions, you can protect your property, your family and your valuables now and well into the new year.

“Taking steps to protect your home during the holidays isn’t radically different from what most people should be doing the rest of the year,” says Thomas Leman, a retired 27-year veteran of the police force and criminal justice professor at Argosy University Online. “The problem is that most people get lured into a false sense of security and tend to let their guard down, thinking that crime won’t happen to them.”

Take precautions today to protect your home and deter criminals. Consider these five simple steps:

Step 1: Decorate with care
When it comes to holiday decorations, modesty is definitely the best policy, says Leman. “While you may love the look of a Christmas tree in your front window, expensive decorations on display can be a signal that there are valuables inside your home worth a criminal’s time. Gifts under the tree are the most blatant of these displays and are a welcome invitation for thieves.” Leaving gifts tucked away until the last possible minute is a quick and easy safety precaution. If you must display presents, make sure they are out of sight from any windows or doorways.

Step 2: Lock it up
Whether you are home, running errands or away on vacation, take care to close and lock all doors and windows. Remember to set alarms, too. “Given that most people have extra valuables and gifts in their homes during this time, it’s a good idea to practice home safety whether you’re there or not,” says Leman. Leman adds that a simple dowel placed in a sliding glass door or window can be an inexpensive way to secure vulnerable entrance points. “Alarms or closed circuit video surveillance systems are a great and inexpensive way to protect your home,” he adds.

Step 3: Light the night
A well-lit and well-groomed home provides an important measure of safety. “The better the lighting in your home and yard, the fewer places there are for criminals to lurk,” says Leman. USAA, a leading provider of banking, insurance and investment services to the military community, recommends the 3 foot/6 foot rule: trim branches to 6 feet off the ground and shrubs down to 3 feet to minimize hiding places for burglars.

Step 4: Dispose smartly
It’s best not to alert strangers to the new 70-inch flat screen in your home by leaving the box on the curb for refuse pickup. “When it comes to big-ticket items and valuables, boxes on the curb can be an advertisement for the new valuables in your home,” cautions Leman. “Take the time to break down boxes and recycle them or put them on the curb over time and inconspicuously,” he says.

Step 5: Be a tricky traveler
Be proactive about home safety if you have holiday travel plans. Never let mail or newspapers pile up at your home, as it is an instant indicator you are not there. Have a neighbor collect mail and newspapers or have your service stopped by calling the post office and newspaper provider. “Set your lights and television on timers,” suggests Leman, who also advises homeowners to have a neighbor park their car in your driveway intermittently to keep up the appearance that someone is coming and going.
For more information about Argosy University, visit argosy.edu. For more information about The Art Institutes, visit artinstitutes.edu.

The Art Institutes is a system of over 50 schools throughout North America. Programs, credential levels, technology, and scheduling options vary by school and are subject to change. Several institutions included in The Art Institutes system are campuses of South University or Argosy University. Administrative office: 210 Sixth Avenue, 33rd Floor, Pittsburgh, PA 15222 ©2014 The Art Institutes International LLC. Our email address is csprogramadmin@edmc.edu.

Argosy University (www.argosy.edu), with 28 campus locations in 13 states and online, is a private, accredited academic institution dedicated to providing undergraduate and graduate degree programs to students. Programs, credential levels, technology, and scheduling options are subject to change. ©2014 Argosy University. Our email address is csprogramadmin@edmc.edu.

6 Design Trends to Heighten Your Home’s Style in 2015

21007363(BPT) – As the new year kicks off, it’s the premier time to refresh and refocus on certain aspects of your life… and the home is no exception. Say goodbye to lackluster interiors as renowned interior designer and DIY television personality, Taniya Nayak, has forecasted the top trends for 2015 that will be sure to enhance and revive any home.

Deep, Rich Hues

Be bold with shadowy and opulent tones; there are many ways to infuse a rich color scheme into your space. “Don’t be intimidated by dark hues,” says Nayak. “Incorporate shades from the same color family throughout a room with a coordinating accent wall, rug and decorative pieces – such as pillows and blankets. This creates a bold, yet harmonizing visual.”

“The concept of a ‘pop’ of color is blown up in 2015,” adds Nayak. “We’re seeing deep, rich hues adorning walls, lavishly upholstered furniture pieces, window treatments and area rugs. This year, we like to say ‘go bold or go home.'”

When painting with deep colors, imperfections are more visible than with lighter shades. To ensure your painting project is flawless, use FrogTape brand painter’s tape to achieve sharp paint lines. The tape is treated with patented PaintBlock Technology, which prevents paint bleed, leaving you with an impressive, crisp edge.

Gallery Walls

Create a room that’s uniquely yours by making a gallery wall with items of your choice. Display an array of mirrors, framed family photos, sketches or even postcards – the key is to be creative and be yourself!

“2015 is all about you,” Nayak explains. “Hanging a variety of frames or objects in a well thought-out cluster on the wall provides the perfect place to showcase pieces that are important21007397 and meaningful. When people walk into your home, they’ll know exactly what you love.”

Bold Patterns in Neutral Colors

Although neutrals provide a calm palette, it’s possible to infuse bold statements into these rooms, as well, with the use of patterns. Revitalize your room with a geometric rug in an earth tone, and also add window treatments with a daring floral design in a complementary, yet understated, color. When mixing prints, pair structured, linear patterns with organic ones for a look that’s polished, and not too “matchy.”

“This is a beautiful way to add drama and what appears to be ‘texture’ to a space,” adds Nayak.

60’s Mod

The retro panache of mid-century modern decor will perk up rooms with its soft, sculptural lines, woven upholstery and bright accessories in geometric shapes. Search for vintage furniture pieces like rounded chairs and button-cushion couches with short, tapered legs to add a sense of authenticity.

“We are going retro mod – way back to the 60s where design was about curvy forms, vibrant colors and eccentric patterns,” Nayak says. “Be prepared to leave your design fears at the door and go full throttle with the bright and loud elements found in the mod movement. ”

Organic Elements

This year, mount antlers above your mantel; or create centerpieces with shells, metallic leaves or branches for a rustic vibe. With these earthy components juxtaposed against woodsy furniture and ivory tones, you’ll create an impressive, outdoorsy aesthetic.

“It’s easy to bring nature and organic structures into your home,” Nayak assures. “Leave linear styles out of the equation. Instead, think of free flowing shapes, colors found in nature and the peaceful serenity associated with the outdoors. The goal is to evoke the same emotional responses throughout your home.”

Copper

“Each year we see a particular metal rise to the top of every designer’s list; and this year, it’s all about copper,” Nayak says.

Copper is a captivating metallic that adds a modern edge to even the simplest scheme. Small pieces make a big statement, so subtly pepper in copper pieces to your decor, like light fixtures, planters or table settings. Display copper cookware in your kitchen – it’s a great way to add a touch of glamour without being gaudy.

2015 is full of impressive design trends. Use Nayak’s expertise, and this year, your home will serve as a canvas for self-expression, creativity and style.