From Modest to Magnificent: Create an Entertainment Space for Any Home

kitchen 2(BPT) – Entertaining at home? Whatever you’re planning – big bash or intimate soirée, cheery beer fest or elegant wine tasting – an inviting and accessible built-in bar featuring handsome hardwood cabinetry can help transform mundane household space into the life of the party. And once the festivities are over, all the accouterments such as glasses and silverware, not to mention wine, liquor and mixers, can be stored in those cabinets, either displayed behind glass or hidden by solid wood doors.

“Today, the term ‘built-in bar’ covers a variety of possible set ups,” says Linda Jovanovich, of the American Hardwood Information Center at

At its simplest, a bar may occupy the end of a kitchen island – nothing more than a short length of dedicated countertop above a neat grid of cubbyholes to store wine and a small fridge to cool it when necessary. Slightly more ambitious bars comprise a niche or doorless closet fitted with wood shelves and cabinets, a countertop and perhaps a faucet and sink. Then there are more imposing affairs, the modern equivalent of a traditional butler’s pantry, fully plumbed stations where not only drinks, but also finger foods and hors d’oeuvres can be prepared and served. Finally, there are dedicated sit-down bars. Complete with stools, behind-counter serving space, and semi-professional equipment, these pull-up-a-chair facilities have special requirements that take them beyond our present consideration.

“Many houses and apartments have a closet or unused space that can easily be converted into an attractive and useful built-in bar,” says Laura Bohn, a New York-based interior designer who has done this for several clients over the years. “If you live in a house with stairs, the space beneath them is often an ideal place to install a small, modestly equipped drinks center. It should be able to accommodate enough countertop to prepare cocktails, enough storage for a liquor cabinet, and maybe enough room for a fridge or wine cooler.” A sink is not an absolute necessity, but if the small space you requisition is near a kitchen, powder room, laundry or bathroom, you may be able to make use of the existing plumbing and create a true wet bar.

As Bohn notes, one advantage of using such confined spaces for built-in bars is that they can be closed off when not in use, so that a commandeeredkitchen closet looks just like a closet, an appropriated staircase just like a staircase. “But a well-designed, well-crafted hardwood mini-bar needn’t be hidden,” she adds. “Made of walnut, cherry or some other distinctive wood – my favorite is maple – it can be an integral and pleasing a part of the décor.”

Of course, larger butler’s pantry-style built-in bars cannot be hidden. Ideally, they are located discreetly in transitional spaces between kitchens and adjacent dining or living rooms. But in today’s more open-plan houses, such built-in bars, often dubbed buffets, are likely to be in either the kitchen or living area itself – wall-spanning installations that are on full public view and should therefore look as elegant as pieces of fine hardwood furniture.

“Walnut is very popular right now for this type of bar,” says Christine Donner, a kitchen designer in New Canaan, Connecticut. “It is an elegant wood and its cool tones complement the white-and-silver palette that my clients currently favor. It can be bleached to a lighter tone, left natural, or stained much darker, almost all the way to black. Limed oak, bleached to a lovely honey-blonde color, has a marvelous midcentury-modern feel that is slowly catching on, too.”

For Donner, functionality is as important as aesthetics. “Wine connoisseurs often have an extensive collection of varietal-specific glasses that they want displayed, so I get asked a lot for glass-fronted cabinets with interior lighting,” she says. “Much of this stemware is oversize or extra tall, so I make sure the shelves can accommodate their height. And I always include solid-door cabinets to stow motley collections of assorted liquor bottles.” Fine hardwood cabinetry can also be used to conceal icemakers, refrigerators, bottle-cooling drawers, dishwashers and other unsightly appliances and equipment.

“A small bar sink is also very useful,” Donner continues. “Less for the water coming out of the spout than as a place to dump out old drinks or melted ice.” Loading up your built-in bar with such practical, laborsaving features will free you up to enjoy your own party to the fullest. And that, surely, is the point of the exercise. Visit to learn more about cabinetry for built-in bars and other products made from American hardwoods.

The Answer to Overcoming Color Cowardice in Home Decorating: More Natural Light

natural light 2

(BPT) – Have you ever picked a paint color you loved in the store, only to hate it when it’s on the walls at home? Or purchased throw pillows that you thought would be delightful on your neutral-hued couch, only to decide they look positively garish there? In both cases, you loved the colors when you first saw them, so what happened between the store and home? The problem is simple – the light changed.

Every color looks different depending on the type of light by which you view it. You probably first viewed that ultimately disappointing paint color and throw pillows under fluorescent light bulbs in the store. When you got home, your light bulbs are all old-fashioned incandescent bulbs or (if you’re eco-minded) compact fluorescent lights (CFLs).

This effect is one reason why so many people hesitate to decorate with rich, dark or vibrant colors in their home, opting instead to stick with neutrals. While neutral tones can be a wonderful background that allows the beauty of a home’s architectural bones to shine through, decorating with neutrals atop neutrals can leave a room looking bland and lifeless. Your neutral background still needs pops of color, and wouldn’t you secretly love to have a dark plum wall or two in your dining room or hot pink accents in the family room?

How can you make the most of color in your home while minimizing the risk of disappointment? The solution is as simple as the problem – decorate your home with natural light.

Daylight contains all the colors in the visible spectrum, so hues of every depth and saturation always look their best in natural light. That’s because the essence of that color is already present in natural light, whereas certain colors dominate different types of artificial light. For example, LEDs are highly energy efficient, but blue is the dominant shade in most LEDs. Halogens emit more light in red wavelengths, while fluorescent bulbs are heavier with green light.

natural light 1Only natural light perfectly blends all colors in a pleasing balance. Chances are good, if you just reposition those couch pillows slightly to capture the light from the living room skylight, you’ll love the color again.

Bringing more color-friendly natural light into your home can be as basic or as grand as you wish. Simply opening blinds and drapes can alter how colors look in a room. Or, if you want to maximize natural light with a tactic that’s also a stunning design element, try installing skylights.

Skylights like those from Velux America can admit ample natural light into your home, enhancing not only the colors of your home decor, but your mood as well. Place a remote-controlled, solar-powered fresh-air skylight in a kitchen or bath and you may feel more comfortable taking a bold color risk, plus you can reap the benefits of passive ventilation. The skylights carry a no-leak warranty and close automatically in case of rain. Add solar-powered blinds, and it’s easy to give a room a whole new look simply by closing or opening the blinds. What’s more, light blocking or light filtering blinds – available in a variety of designer colors and patterns – further enhance the Energy Star-qualified skylights’ energy efficiency.

Dorian Lytle, the architect for the 2014 Coastal Living Magazine Show House in Coronado, California, specified solar-powered fresh-air skylights for that home. “One of the big reasons was for natural light,” he says. “I like the way skylights will bring natural light in from above. Ventilation was another reason. If you have the opportunity to strategically place skylights in your home, they will make a world of difference. Skylights are a terrific and easy way to bring natural light and ventilation into a home.”

Installing the latest solar-powered fresh-air skylights with solar blinds, both of which are operated by programmable remote control, can qualify you for a 30 percent federal tax credit on the products as well as installation costs – and you can spend the savings on bold, intoxicating color executed with confidence. Visit to learn more.


Five Tips to Get a Whole New Look in Your Bathroom, for Less

(BPT) – A bathroom remodel is one of the most valuable home improvement projects you can undertake. According to Remodeling Magazine’s 2015bath Cost vs. Value Report, a mid-range bathroom remodel of $16,000 recoups 70 percent of its value at the time of resale.

But what if you want a great bathroom on a smaller budget? Or crave better efficiency and function, but aren’t willing to lose the use of your bathroom during weeks of renovation? Fortunately, a bathroom can get a fresh look with improved function and efficiency, without the hassle and expense of a full remodel.

Here are five easy improvements that can rejuvenate your bathroom – and they can each be accomplished in just one day!

1. Replace sink faucets

Faucets are more than just a functional bathroom element – they are the “jewelry” of a bathroom. A new faucet can redefine the complete appearance of a vanity, and evoke the feeling of a whole new design for the bathroom. Manufacturers like American Standard offer styles that fit with virtually any bath decor: classic to contemporary, cosmopolitan to country, refined to rustic. An online search for faucet designs will yield numerous options. A breadth of options are available at local home improvement stores or a kitchen and bathroom showrooms.

Replacing faucets can also make your bathroom more water efficient. Older faucets generally have a higher flow rate than newer models, so more water, and money, goes down the drain. American Standard bathroom faucets have a flow rate of just 1.5 gallons per minute, using 32 percent less water than standard faucets, and are WaterSense-certified for high performance and water efficiency.

bath 22. Repaint

There’s a reason why painting is on virtually every list of “must-do” home improvements – it’s a fast, easy and economical way to completely change how a room looks and feels. Most bathrooms will require only a single gallon of paint and one day to repaint. You can save money by doing the job yourself, too.

When choosing paint colors for a mini-remodel, remember that the bathroom is an oasis of relaxation, not just a place to shower and brush your teeth. Soothing, neutral tones on the walls will help inspire this sense of calm, while providing a placid backdrop for pops of color in your accessories and linens.

3. Swap out hardware

If the faucet is the crown jewel of your bathroom, the cabinet and drawer hardware are lovely accents to tastefully complement it. Once you’ve replaced that tired old faucet, it’s time to look at cabinet knobs and drawer pulls. Look for options that match the style statement made with your faucet – traditional, transitional, contemporary, eclectic, etc.

Keep in mind that coordinating the knob finish to the faucet will create a pleasing, cohesive look for your overall bathroom design. Popular finishes are brushed nickel, polished chrome, oil rubbed bronze and satin brass. Swapping hardware can be a fast, cost-effective way to underscore your remodeling theme.

4. Upgrade your shower

Sure, a single spray showerhead that’s 10 years old can be adequate to get you clean. But a shower should be an experience – a satisfying and relaxing one. Replacing a single spray showerhead with a multi-function model can provide varied spray patterns for different purposes – and help create a more spa-like experience in your bathroom.

Plus, a new showerhead can save you money in the long run, especially if your current one is dated and inefficient. Water-saving models like the American Standard FloWise Water Saving Showerhead use significantly less water than traditional models. A special aerator spins a mere 1.5 gallons of water per minute to make it feel like a powerful spray.

5. Freshen the softer side

Just as new window treatments look great in the living room, they make a big difference in bathrooms, too. Update window treatments – roman shades, mini-blinds, valances, full-length sheers – whatever style works in your bathroom. Splurge on an upscale shower curtain and throw rungs that match the window treatments, and finish off with a luxurious set of towels.

Bathroom remodeling doesn’t have to cost a bundle or take a lot of time. A few simple updates can make all the difference, at a fraction of the cost.

Transform Your Home Today, Stay Safe Tomorrow

bath(BPT) – While many can only dream of the day they’ll retire, for baby boomers, that dream is quickly becoming a reality. By the year 2030, approximately 20 percent of Americans are expected to be age 65 or older, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. But retirement doesn’t necessarily mean relocating to a senior community. More and more, adults choose to “age in place,” remaining in their current home, even after retirement. Here are a few ways to add extra convenience today – and ensure a safe home in the future.

Change Up Common Areas

When thinking about the long-term, start with the layout. In a perfect world, it’s ideal to have all the key living spaces – bathroom, kitchen and bedroom on the first floor. If your home wasn’t built with a first-floor bedroom or bath, and stairs have to be a part of your plan, install no-slip strips on the edge of each stair to help limit trips and falls.

Next, make sure there’s plenty of room to move. Aim for doorways that are at least 32 inches wide, though 36 inches is ideal. Tight corners and doorways are a challenge for those with walkers or canes. For stress-free opening and closing, change out door handles from traditional knobs to lever handles for an easier grip.

Then, focus on the flooring. Installing carpeting can provide warmth and cushioning for you to enjoy now, and offers an added element of safety when it might be harder for you to maneuver around in the future. Choose a low pile carpet to minimize tripping – too much shag is a safety hazard. Area rugs are a major no-no, as unsecured rugs and loose carpet are one of the main causes for slips and falls. If you can’t bear the thought of losing your area rug, use carpet tape to secure it firmly to the floor.

Boost the Bath

If you can only update one place in your home, make it the bathroom. The bathroom typically offers the most opportunities for injury. In fact, roughly 234,000 injuries occur annually in the bathroom alone, as stated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. An easy way to incorporate safety is to install grab bars. Today’s grab bars are stylish, fitting in seamlessly with your space, rather than seeming obtrusive and sterile. Install them near the toilet, (make sure you have a comfort-height commode for easy sitting and standing) as well as in the shower. Some models, like the corner shelf with grab bar from Moen, pull double duty adding an element of additional storage you can take advantage of immediately, providing room to store your shampoo, and will help keep you safe while entering and exiting the bath. Check out retailers like Lowes for a wide array of options that are fashionable as well as functional.

In the shower, a handheld showerhead, like the Magnetix Engage showerhead from Moen, is an ideal option for those who may want to be seated while they bathe. Engage with Magnetix is also handy for cleaning the shower, by eliminating bending and squatting which can be hard on your joints as you age. Finally, at the vanity, choose a faucet with lever handles – they’re easiest to grip and turn – and install sconces near the mirror for additional lighting.

In general, the most important advice for any room in your home is to think efficiently. Locate items that work together near each other to make tasks easier today, tomorrow and in the years to come.

5 Smart Upgrades for the Most-Used Rooms in Your Home

kitchen(BPT) – Kitchens, bathrooms and bedrooms are typically the rooms in any home that get the most use, which could also be why homeowners, when surveyed, consistently cite those rooms as the ones they most want to renovate. It makes perfect sense to upgrade the rooms where you spend the most time, but in high-traffic areas, you can’t afford to make changes just for the sake of cosmetics. You want improvements that can enhance your enjoyment of a room and its functionality.

Here are five smart improvements to make in the rooms users of voted as the most popular ones in their homes: kitchens, living rooms, bedrooms, bathrooms and game rooms.

1. Add Natural Light

Most rooms in the home look better and are more functional in natural light, and more daylight can help reduce the need for artificial light. What’s more, there’s no arguing the positive mental and physical health effects of natural light. Daylight stimulates the body to produce Vitamin D and boosts brain levels of serotonin, which is thought to be associated with positive moods.

Adding skylights is a practical, cost-effective and attractive way to bring more natural light into virtually any room. Remote-controlled, solar-powered fresh-air skylights from Velux America provide not just natural light, but passive ventilation, a real plus in kitchens and baths. Adding solar powered blinds, in designer colors and patterns, increases energy efficiency while giving you total control over the amount of sunlight entering a room through the skylight.

In kitchens, Energy Star-qualified fresh air skylights increase natural light and ventilation without requiring any loss of wall space you could better use for cabinetry. In bathrooms, they provide the perfect combination of privacy and healthful natural light and ventilation.

If you already have older glass or plastic bubble skylights, you can upgrade to the latest solar powered models, plus solar blinds, and receive a 30 percent federal tax credit on the products as well as installation costs. You can even bring more natural light into rooms or areas without direct roof access, like half-baths, closets and hallways, with Sun Tunnel tubular skylights. Visit to learn more.

2. Add Organization/Storage

Clutter and chaos not only make a room function less efficiently, it can impact your mood as well. Adding organization and storage to rooms where clutter typically collects – such as bedrooms, living rooms and game rooms – is an easy, cost-effective way to improve the function of the room and how you feel about spending time in it.

In bedrooms, maximize closet space by installing organization units. A variety of manufacturers offer ready-made units you can install yourself. Or, for a bit more investment, you can have a professional closet organizer custom-make a unit to fit your space and needs. In living rooms and game rooms, built-in shelving and cabinetry is a functional and beautiful way to improve organization.

3. Improve Ventilation

Air flow is critical to the health of your home and everyone who lives in it. Ventilation in kitchens and bathrooms carries away excess moisture that can cause mold and mildew, and creates a fresher, more healthful environment by exhausting stale indoor air.

Bathrooms should be equipped with exhaust fans, and kitchen hoods should vent to the exterior of your home whenever possible. You can further improve ventilation by installing Energy Star-qualified, solar-powered fresh-air skylights, like those made by Velux. Because these skylights open, they provide passive ventilation to allow stale indoor air to escape and admit fresh air. A sensor operates a motor to close the skylights automatically in case of rain.

4. Replace Older, Inefficient Fixtures and Appliances

Fixtures and appliances are key elements of kitchens and bathrooms. Older ones not only look dated and shabby, they can cost you money because they use more electricity and water than newer, more efficient models.

Replacing old faucets, shower heads, dishwashers and washing machines with newer models that use less water can reduce your water bill and give kitchens and bathrooms a whole new look. Energy Star-qualified appliances such as stoves, clothes dryers, refrigerators and washers also use less electricity than older appliances, so you can also lower your energy bills.

5. Freshen the Foundations

Every room benefits from a good foundation, and that doesn’t just mean sturdy flooring. Wall color, flooring materials and trim are fundamental elements in any room. Simply repainting walls and woodwork can completely change the way any room looks. Or, if you like the colors you have, a fresh coat in the same color will make the room look brighter and newer. Replacing worn carpeting or dated tiles, or refinishing a hardwood floor are also great ways to improve the foundations of any room.

4 Futuristic Bath Upgrades to Indulge in for 2016

bath 1 (BPT) – Are you planning a bathroom remodel in 2016? If so, you’re not alone; the National Association of Homebuilders predicts a 6 percent increase in remodeling in the coming year. Some of those remodeling homeowners will seek upgrades to transform their bathrooms into true oases of luxury, beauty and efficient functionality.

Bathroom renovations remain among the most popular home improvement projects, and can greatly enhance not only real estate value but your enjoyment of your home as well. From high-end fixtures that clean themselves to smart showers, here are leading-edge bathroom upgrades that add luxury and value to your bath:

The Fixtures of Tomorrow

Space-age technology now meets timeless design in luxury fixtures like the Neorest 750H by TOTO. While the toilet’s sleek, contemporary styling compliments a variety of modern bathroom design themes, its Actilight technology uses ultra-violet light and a special glaze to break down dirt in the bowl and rinse it clean with ewater+, a system that mists and cleans the bowl with electrolyzed water after every flush. A heated seat, deodorizer and warm water personal cleansing system elevate this high-tech sensor toilet to a relaxing and refreshing experience.

The ewater+ system is also a key technology feature of TOTO’s Washlet S350e. Ergonomically contoured to make personal cleanliness more comfortable, the Washlet is fully automated and includes a remote control and heated seat, warm aerated cleansing, a self-cleaning dual-action spray wand, warm air dryer and built-in deodorizing system.

Space-Age Showers

The idea of a shower as a place to relax – rather than to just get clean – has been around for a long time, but modern technology is taking the concept tobath 2 the next level. From showers that can function both as traditional spray showers and steam showers, to “smart showers” that allow you to program customized temperature, pressure and spray settings for multiple users, a variety of high-tech, luxury upgrades are transforming the simple shower into a customized experience.

Smart showers can also be remote-controlled, allowing you to start the water flow and set the temperature before stepping into the shower – ensuring you’ll never again get an unpleasant temperature surprise. You can also choose to install a water-proof sound system that allows you to stream your favorite music from a mobile device and listen through multiple speakers, including one in the shower head itself.

Smart Mirrors

If you’re a bathroom multi-tasker, smart mirrors can make life easier and help you keep step with the busy pace of your lifestyle. On the simple end of smarter mirrors, an anti-fog bathroom mirrors use heat and/or special coatings to ensure mirrors remain free of condensation even after the hottest shower – so you never have to wait for the mirror to clear or wipe of fog and live with the streaks.

On the higher end are digital mirrors that incorporate a touchscreen display, WiFi, TV and Internet functionality. Some also allow you to use favorite apps, so you can check the weather or scan emails while shaving or doing your hair.

Digital Electronic Faucets

Touch-free faucets have been around for a while, but modern digital electronic faucets do far more than turn on without the touch of a finger. Electronic faucets also use infrared technology to turn off when a user’s hand moves away. Digital features also allow users to see the temperature of the water and program the temperature and the duration of the flow, so you don’t have to touch the faucet to turn it on or off while brushing your teeth. You can even find faucets that feature touchscreen technology so you can not only control temperature, but monitor your water usage too.

An upscale bathroom remodel returns nearly 60 percent of its cost at the time of resale, according to Remodeling Magazine’s Cost vs. Value Report. However, when you opt for luxury bathroom upgrades, your investment can enrich your enjoyment of your home far beyond the monetary value of the improvements.

Reduce the Risk of Home Fires

fire(BPT) – While the number of home fires occurring in the U.S. each year has fallen by more than 50 percent since 1977, the ratio of people who die in home fires has remained virtually unchanged, based on data from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). In 1977, deaths occurred in .8 percent of home fires, and in 2013, that rate was .7 percent. One possible explanation for this discrepancy: home fires now burn hotter and faster than they did 40 years ago, meaning victims have less time to escape a burning house.

“In a series of experiments, UL demonstrated that the nature of residential fires has changed dramatically,” says Eric Skare, a volunteer firefighter in Minnesota and product manager of fire safety systems for Uponor. “Flashover – the point when intense heat causes an entire room to become engulfed in flames – now occurs less than five minutes after a fire starts. It used to take 30 minutes or longer for flashover to occur. People now have less time to get out of a burning house, even if their smoke alarms have alerted them to the fire.”

The UL study cites several factors as driving the changes in home residential fires, including:

* Modern home design is toward larger homes with more open floor plans, an arrangement that facilitates the spread of fire. Older homes were smaller overall and featured smaller room plans.

* Construction materials currently in use contribute to a faster burn time.

* Today’s home furnishings are made from many synthetic materials that combust easily, meaning fires have more fuel.

* In UL testing, modern windows of all types failed faster than windows made from older – or “legacy” materials. In some cases, the time difference was significant. For example, legacy windows made of wood with a metal frame and nine single-glazed panes failed in about 12 to 16 minutes, while modern premium wooden frame windows with two panes of double-glazed glass failed in about four to six minutes. When windows fail, they admit more oxygen into a burning building to feed the fire.

Working smoke alarms in a home are proven to reduce the risk of injuries and fatalities. Virtually every construction code in the U.S. requires smoke alarms in new construction. Functioning smoke alarms reduce the risk of home fire fatalities by 50 percent, according to the NFPA. A residential sprinkler system slashes the risks even further – by 80 percent. The U.S. Fire Administration recommends that all homes should be equipped with both smoke alarms and sprinklers. And the International Residential Code also requires fire sprinklers for new-home construction.

A typical system represents about 1 to 1.5 percent of the total cost of new-home construction. For example, a $200,000 new home would require an investment of about $2,000 to install sprinklers – far less than the cost of other, less safety-oriented upgrades, such as premium appliances or flooring.

Multipurpose systems like Uponor’s, which use durable, flexible PEX piping, reduce costs even further. Because the home’s cold-water plumbing fixtures are fed from the sprinkler loop, less piping is required for the installation. And recent approvals now allow Uponor’s PEX piping to be left exposed in unfinished basement applications, which simplifies installation requirements even more.

“If you’re building a new home or undertaking a major renovation, there’s life-saving value in asking your builder to install a fire sprinkler system,” says Skare. “It doesn’t have to cost a bundle to buy yourself and your family more time in case of a fire, and it’s well worth the investment.”

To learn more about residential fire sprinkler systems visit For more information about fire safety and building construction, visit or

These 2016 Kitchen Design Trends Are on Track to Become Timeless

kitchen 2(BPT) – Some kitchen design trends fade as quickly as they come in – tile countertops, naked windows or avocado-hued appliances may come to mind. Other trends, however, are so deeply rooted in good design that they’re destined to become timeless style statements – and enhance your kitchen with a look you’ll love as much in a decade as you do the first moment you see it.

Those are the trends homeowners should watch for in 2016 and incorporate into their kitchen upgrade plans, says stylist and designer Emily Henderson, season five winner of HGTV’s “Design Star.” Given nearly nine in 10 homeowners plan to renovate their homes in the near future with half of them planning to do so within the next year, according to a survey by LG Electronics, being armed with the right information will help make those renovations a success.

“Timeless design has an enduring aesthetic that seamlessly complements a range of infinite kitchen styles and colors,” Henderson notes. “They create looks and enhance functionality in ways that will pay off for homeowners for years to come.”

Henderson points to five design trends to watch in 2016:

Open It Up

Areas that seem small or cramped have never been a staple in homes. Look for design enhancements that create a more open atmosphere, like open shelving or glass-front cabinets, which appear contemporary, sleek and functional. Open storage encourages organization, cuts clutter and eliminates chaos since the contents are always on display. They also provide a great way for homeowners to display their pretty dishware, Henderson notes.

Stainless Steel Revamp

Stainless steel appliances have long been the standard of elegance in modern kitchens. “It’s hard to imagine improving on such near-perfection, butkitchen LG Electronics’ new Black Stainless Steel Series of appliances have done just that,” Henderson says. The new finish from LG adds luster and warmth to the satin-smooth finish and durability of traditional stainless steel. The effect is warm and sophisticated, meshing perfectly with a range of kitchen design styles and colors. “It only helps that the finish is smudge-resistant, which is perfect for a mom like me who likes to keep things clean and pretty, especially with little ones around,” Henderson notes.

Let Your Personality Shine

Modern designs and the sheer number of home décor products make it easier than ever to personalize virtually any design theme. You can add a dash of your personality to your kitchen decor in many ways. Use decorative accents on counters and focus on underscoring a theme you love in the rest of the house, for instance. A lived-in look with touches of style adds life to the space. “I love vintage salt and pepper shakers, brass or wooden utensils, glass canisters, wooden bowls, enamel pots and even vintage cookbooks,” Henderson says. “You can find so many ways to add personal flair to a design, and it’s a sensibility that will never go out of style.”

Contrast is Good

Some combinations will always be on trend, and Henderson predicts more of them will be showing up in kitchen design in 2016. “Black and white, metallics like brass, gold or copper paired with natural and wooden touches – these combos will never tire,” she says. “They can be used alone or in combination with other elements. You really can’t go wrong with any of them.”

In celebration of 2016 design trends, you have a chance to win a suite of LG Black Stainless Steel Series kitchen appliances, $25,000 and a design consultation with Henderson to completely make over your kitchen. Now through Jan. 29, 2016, create your own kitchen design Pinterest board inspired by the black stainless steel finish and submit it to the contest. Visit for contest details and how to enter.

No purchase necessary to participate in the contest. The contest is open to legal residents of the 48 contiguous United States and District of Columbia, age 21 or older. Void where prohibited. Contest ends at 5 p.m. EST on Jan. 29, 2016. For full official rules, visit The contest is sponsored by LG Electronics U.S.A., Inc., 1000 Sylvan Ave., Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey 07632.

6 Expert Maintenance Tips to Keep You Warm in Your Home All Winter Long

winter tips 2(BPT) – Is your heating system ready to brave the long, harsh winter? As cold temperatures take hold all over the country, it’s important for homeowners to safeguard their homes from heating system breakdowns.

“It’s fairly simple to ensure your home is ready for the freezing months ahead,” says Mike Clear, vice president of operations for home warranty company American Home Shield, which has responded to more than two million service requests for heating system issues over the past five years.

“Paying attention to little things now can help you avoid problems down the road, like unexpected repair or replacement expenses or disruption to your family’s routine.”

Clear offers tips to help you maintain your heating system and keep your home warm this winter:

1. Schedule a maintenance check-up.

Each year, have your heating system serviced by a qualified professional. This will not only keep small issues from escalating into bigger, costlier problems, but it can also extend the life of your heating system. Once you begin using your heat regularly, check the system filter and inspect the exhaust vent for rust and wear at least once per month.

2. Replace your filters.

Be sure to regularly check your heating system’s air filters and replace them as necessary, or at the manufacturer’s suggested intervals. Clean filterswinter tips 1 can help cut energy usage, extend the life of your unit and improve your home’s overall indoor air quality.

3. Routinely clean heating components.

Easy-to-reach heating system components, like air registers and radiators, should be kept clean and unobstructed. Put this on your weekly cleaning checklist to keep your unit from working harder than necessary.

4. Seal the leaks.

Keep warm air in and cold air out by making sure your doors and windows are properly caulked or have necessary weather stripping. Not only will this help you stay warm and comfortable, but it will reduce the stress on your heating system.

5. Consider a home warranty.

A home warranty, like those offered by American Home Shield, can help you control costs when covered components of your heating system or other covered items break down. Plus, with their network of professional contractors, you avoid the hassle of having to search yourself for a qualified technician to make repairs.

6. Check your hot water heater.

Inspect your hot water heater tank for leaks or corrosion, and flush it per the manufacturer’s instructions to eliminate sediment buildup. Test the pressure relief valve once a year to make sure it is working properly.

Follow these tips and you’ll stay warm and cozy this winter instead of getting stuck in a heating system rut. For more information and helpful homeowner advice, visit or learn how to protect your home with #AHSWinterMaintenance tips through the American Home Shield Facebook, Pinterest and YouTube channels.

Tips to Make Your Next DIY Home Improvement as Green as Possible

diy(BPT) – If you’re thinking about making your next DIY home improvement project “green,” but aren’t sure how to achieve a balance of eco-friendly and affordability, there’s good news. It’s now easier than ever, especially when you do the work yourself with rented equipment and choose salvaged building materials for your project.

As you plan your next home improvement, here are some tips to help you ensure it’s as green and cost-effective as possible:

* Rent rather than buy. While you probably have a respectable stock of basic DIY tools, some projects may call for equipment you don’t have. Rather than buy new, try renting the tools you need. Renting is cheaper than buying new tools, especially if it’s a specialized item you may not use again for a while, if at all. You’ll also avoid the hassle of having to store larger tools between projects.

Renting is also green. When you get a tool from a rental company, you’re basically sharing with other DIYers in your area, and that means cutting down on the energy use, materials consumption and pollution associated with producing, delivering and selling new tools. You can find an American Rental Association member store near you by visiting

* Seek salvaged materials. When you decide on a home improvement project, one of the first things you consider is what material you’ll need. Before you hurry down to the home improvement store or lumber yard, however, consider if you can do your project with reclaimed materials.

Building a patio? Recycled bricks or pavers will do the job just as well as new, they cost less and they impart unique character that you just can’t getpavers from new materials. Installing a new wood floor in your family room? Wood flooring reclaimed from an old warehouse or barn not only reduces the amount of construction materials going into landfills, but it can give your floor an authentically rustic and historic flair. A simple online search can help you find suppliers of salvaged building materials in your area.

* Reuse from your own home. You don’t always have to buy reclaimed materials from outside sources. Often, you have items in your own home that could be used in your DIY projects. The front walk might need to be redone with level pavers, but the old ones could work great for a backyard fire pit. The lumber from that fence you took down in spring could be turned into decorative seating for your deck this fall. The pedestal sink left over from your bathroom remodel could make a great ornamental birdbath for the garden.

Look for opportunities to reuse items you already have on hand – in creative new ways. You’ll reduce the amount of waste going into landfills, save money on waste removal fees, and spare the expense of buying new building materials. And don’t forget – you’ll have extra storage room since you’re renting tools, rather than keeping them lying around.

* Keep recycling in mind. Sometimes construction leftovers just can’t be reused, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they can’t be recycled. The rusted tin ceiling you tore out of your 1920s home may never be useful again, but it can be recycled. As you’re working on your DIY project, look for opportunities to recycle what you can’t use. And if you do have to buy new materials, choose ones that could potentially be recycled some day in the future.