4 Ways to Recreate Your Entertaining Space

(BPT) – The holidays, the big game, New Year’s and everything in between: At this time of year there are plenty of reasons to invite family and friends to your home to entertain. In addition, there are also plenty of times – particularly on cold winter nights – when you just want to have a place you can go to get cozy, play a video game or watch a movie in peace.

Either can be an appealing option, but do you have an entertaining space that fits the bill? One where you want to spend your free time?

If the thought of your entertaining space has you sadly shaking your head no, the good news is there’s no reason you have to settle for a less-than-ideal solution. Like the events you use it for, your space can change as needed. To help you make the most of your space for all of the group and individual events you have planned, follow these tips.

Control light.

A common design tip for most spaces is to allow for lots of light. You may want that when everyone comes together to watch a game, but for those times when you want to watch a film or play a video game, a darker environment may be more immersive. To keep total control of the light in your entertaining area, invest in room-darkening blinds or dark curtains that can block out the sun when you crave darkness and let in the light when you don’t.

Redefine your viewing experience.

When people come to your home, they will often be there to watch something on the screen. That makes the right technology essential. The 4K UHD Laser Smart Home Theater CineBeam Projector is perfect for binge-watching the hottest shows, enjoying an immersive gaming experience or cheering on your favorite team. The projector itself can be ceiling mounted or set up to reflect onto any screen you want, and because it is empowered with Smart TV, you’ll have access to wireless streaming, Netflix and YouTube. What’s more, HDMI and HDCP input make your projector ready for Blu-ray and gaming consoles right out of the box. Whatever you want to do or watch, this project enhances your experience.

Install a seating strategy.

Every entertaining area has viewing seats that are less than ideal, and while a new projector can expand your viewing options, there’s still no reason to settle for second-class seating. If you’re planning to have a large group over on game day, a simple platform can provide your room with stadium seating and give everyone that at-the-game feel. If stadium seating isn’t for you, strive for an open arrangement and place display tables and other storage solutions behind seating when guests come over. Those items don’t need a good viewing angle anyway.

Add a few extra comforts.

It’s time to take customizing your entertaining space up a notch by adding a few elements that are uniquely you. From full bars to mini fridges, humidors and portable air conditioners or dehumidifiers, there are several tiny additions you can make to any entertaining area to make the space more enjoyable. If you’ve ever wished you had something nearby, now’s your time to add it. Think it over and you’ll see that the right additions can have a big impact on how you use the space and how much you enjoy it. Reshape your entertaining space today. With so many big events coming up, every moment you waste in reshaping your entertaining space is another opportunity missed, so don’t delay. Start visualizing your space for what it could be instead of what it is and you’ll be on your way to creating the entertaining space you’ve always wanted.

To learn more about the LG’s latest 4K UHD projector and to see it in action, watch the team from Inverse play this year’s hottest game on this one-of-a-kind technology at https://www.inverse.com/squad-up.

5 Smart Ideas To Refresh Your Deck

(BPT) – As seasons turn, your focus begins to shift to the outdoors. Your deck or patio becomes your new living room – an ideal setting for memorable moments with friends and family. If you look at these spaces and long for a refresh, the time to start planning is now. You have options, and many you can do yourself with minimal effort.

To start, if you don’t have a deck or patio, research materials carefully before making an investment. One prevalent building trend involves making the smart choice toward natural, environmentally friendly materials that will never end up in landfills. As such, more homeowners are choosing Real Cedar because it is naturally resistant to rot, decay and insects. It’s low-maintenance and easy to work with, being durable yet lightweight, laying straight and taking fasteners easily. Plus, nothing looks, feels or smells quite like cedar.

To refresh your deck with style and functionality, consider these five trending outdoor-living projects:

Planter boxes:

If you want to add beauty and functionality to your deck, construct planter boxes and put them in sunny spaces. From small boxes that house herb gardens to larger boxes that allow vegetables to thrive, you can have a bounty of fresh flavors right outside your door. No need for a garden plot! Planter box designs come in a variety of sizes and can be built low to the ground or at waist height for easy tending.

Outdoor sectionals:

Built-in sectionals are becoming a focal point and favorite hangout spot on the deck. Perfectly set into a corner, these multi-directional couches can be built as large or small as you desire. Use Real Cedar for your project because it is pitch- and resin-free, so accepts and holds a wide variety of finishes beautifully so you can customize the look to your tastes. Finish with cushions for that decorator touch and you’ll have your new favorite cozy outdoor corner.

Water features:

As homeowners look to make their decks and patios a true retreat from the stress of everyday life, they want to add elements of Zen, which is why fountains and water features are becoming so popular. New decks are often built to incorporate these features, including pathways where water provides a calm ambiance. If a pond is too significant an undertaking, fountains provide a more affordable alternative that can be used in any size space.

Pergolas:

These beautiful semi-shelters can be built in a number of useful configurations depending on how much shade you require, what you wish to situate beneath it (A dining set? Outdoor couches and chairs? Grilling equipment?) and whether you want to incorporate climbing plants. For complete project plans and instructions on how to make your own pergola over a weekend, visit www.realcedar.com.Lighting: When the sun goes down that doesn’t mean the fun should stop. Add lighting to extend the functionality and enjoy special moments under the stars on your deck or patio. Stair, railing and pathway lighting add a necessary safety feature, while under-table lighting and deck-post sconces provide the perfect illumination for the space without being overwhelming. For a touch of twinkle, add a few outdoor string lights in white, or for a more festive atmosphere, go for the color of your choice.

These five outdoor living ideas are sure to enhance any size deck or patio space. Make plans today so you can enjoy many seasons of fun outdoors with loved ones.

Real Estate Financing: The 3 main Factors Lenders Consider

(BPT) – Sponsored ad content from Vanderbilt Mortgage and Finance, Inc.

Buying a new home is an exciting milestone. While finding the right home is essential, the most important step toward homeownership is making sure you’re ready to apply for a home loan.

Applying for a mortgage is not something people do every day, so it’s natural to have questions. There are several factors that help determine a loan decision, along with strategies you can follow to help position yourself for the best loan at the best rates.

Angela Patterson, Vanderbilt Mortgage director of Credit and Credit Services, explains the three factors that have the biggest influence on any loan decision.

Credit

Your credit is a critical factor for lenders making a loan decision. They will learn more about your credit history and credit score by pulling a credit report.

A credit report shows how well an applicant has repaid any loan or credit obligation. Usually lenders look at the most recent pay history and look for debts with a high balance. While score is important and will most likely have an impact on the interest rate offered, the detailed pay history plays a significant role in whether an applicant is approved or declined.

Does this mean if you have a past blemish on your credit you will be denied a home loan? Not necessarily. There are many factors lenders consider.

“It is very important to our team to call every applicant,” says Patterson. “Our customers are more than just a credit score. We want to understand their journey and provide the financing program that best fits their situation.”

Income and debts

Determining your ability to repay the debt on time each month is important to a lender when making a loan decision. A debt-to-income ratio, or DTI, is one of the tools lenders use to determine your ability to pay. Two things need to be calculated to know this percent: monthly income and the existing credit obligations that are paid monthly.

Lenders typically use verified gross monthly income, your pay before taxes, when determining an ability to repay. Gross monthly income includes a paycheck from an employer, plus any money you may receive in government aid, child support or pensions.

After totaling gross income, the lender will need to determine the amount of debt the applicant pays toward each month. Typically, lenders use a credit report to identify the applicant’s debts. Some examples include car payments, student loans and credit card balances.

Employment

Employment is another important factor that goes into a loan decision. Lenders will look at the type and length of employment. If a person is self-employed, the applicant will need to prove steady income over a two-year period.

Consistent and non-temporary employment are seen favorably by most lenders. This means being regularly employed for two or more years. Consistent employment shows a lender stability in an applicant’s source of income, which is an indicator of their ability to repay the loan.

How does the lender learn about your employment history? Typically, they will request a Verification of Employment from your employer and will consider the information provided in the loan decision.

Next steps

Understanding these three factors and knowing where your personal finances fit within them is important when applying for a home loan. While there are other things lenders consider, making sure you are financially fit in these three areas is a great start to getting ready to buy a home.

Retaining Walls To the Rescue

(BPT) – Segmental retaining wall (SRW) units are one of the most versatile landscaping tools in the homeowner’s and professional landscaper’s toolbox. Retaining wall units have evolved from just being used to retain soil, transition slopes and prevent erosion. Today’s SRWs can do all that plus serve as multipurpose building blocks for a variety of outdoor-living features, including stairs, columns, freestanding walls, tiered walls, curved walls, seating and more.

Creative designs

While SRWs still beautifully accomplish their original intent, professionals and homeowners alike can easily create hardscape features that make outdoor-living spaces more useful and enjoyable. “Our landscape designers are very inventive in their use of segmental retaining wall units, and our customers really appreciate all the features that can be created with SRWs,” says Scott Arnold, manager of Villa Landscapes in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Products such as the VERSA-LOK retaining wall system can be creatively adapted by homeowners and professionals to accommodate curves, corners, columns and tiers – without any special pieces. For example, one popular application is a retaining wall that employs a convex curve set into a small slope. Additional courses can be stacked against the lower courses of the wall to create a “couch” or seating area to surround a circular paver patio and fire pit installed at ground level.

Freestanding walls

Freestanding walls are common applications for retaining wall units. Sometimes called garden or seat walls, freestanding walls are designed to surround the perimeter of a patio and can serve as space for seating or potted plants. They also add a measure of privacy around an outdoor-living space, and when designed with inset columns, can be a support for fencing.

Tiered walls

Tiered walls are a common solution for grade changes and erosion control. The benefit of tiered walls is that they look great, and the space in between the walls can be used for a patio or for perennials, shrubs, vegetables or herbs. Tiered walls add visual depth and texture to a hardscape design and can be more aesthetically pleasing than a single wall. Stairs incorporated into a tiered wall design give safe access to a home on a slope or hill. A tiered design also creates a low-maintenance landscape, eliminating the need to mow a difficult slope.

Stepping up

Retaining wall units can serve as risers for steps. Stair treads can be finished with special precast stair tread units or bullnose (round-edged) paving stones. When installed in a contrasting shade or color, stair treads add interest to a hardscape design. Stairs created from retaining wall units can be placed within a tiered wall design, in a single wall or with wing walls on each side. Raised patios, built with a foundation created by SRWs, are another popular feature that is often used to replace high-maintenance decks.

Can-do columns

Columns created with SRWs are a versatile, beautiful and functional feature within a hardscape design. They can support a pergola, lighting or other landscape features such as statuary, and are used to finish off the ends of a freestanding or seat wall. They can also be installed at intervals within a wall design, and columns create an attractive way to frame and support fencing.

The use of SRWs is limited only by the imagination for outdoor-living features. With a variety of colors, textures and configurations, the VERSA-LOK retaining wall system is one that can do it all – from landscape walls designed with curves, columns, corners and steps to professionally engineered, soil-reinforced retaining walls. VERSA-LOK, the original solid, pinned SRW system, enables homeowners and professionals to create multi-angle corners, curves, stairs, columns and freestanding walls with just one type of unit, and no voids to fill or special pieces to purchase.

“VERSA-LOK is the one block I do 90 percent of my projects with; it can do it all,” says Stan Genadek, owner of Genadek Excavating and Landscaping in Mendota Heights, Minnesota, and the creator and host of a popular YouTube channel on landscaping, “Stanley ‘Dirt Monkey’ Genadek.” Says Genadek: “Because of its versatility and ease of installation, VERSA-LOK is the gold standard in retaining wall systems.”