Category Archives: Design Tips

Take Our Poll: Painted or Natural Woodwork?

Do You Prefer Painted or Natural Woodwork?
Painted - love the accent and uniform look
Natural - wood is too beautiful to change
Depends on the overall style of the room
Poll Maker

Natural woodwork has a welcoming feel and can warm upĀ a cool palette while painted trim can ground bolder colors and create a unifying element throughout your home.

So, we wondered ... which look do you prefer? Take our poll!

Celebrate National Painting Week; Let’s Paint!

Completely changing the look and mood of a room doesn't have to involve a total tear-down, new flooring, furniture and fixtures. Instead, grab a gallon of paint and a roller and transform a space - any space - in about a day.

This week (May 11 - May 15, 2015) is National Painting Week, so celebrate by changing the look, the mood, and the light - yes, the light - of a room or two.

Go from "meh" to marvelous; here's how to properly prep for the best possible outcome:

1. Remove smaller furniture and take everything off the walls. Remove the blades from the ceiling fan if there is one. Otherwise, place blue painters tape around light fixtures to protect them.

2. Move larger pieces of furniture to the center of the room and drape with cloths or plastic sheeting to protect them from splatters. Make sure the floor is covered, too.

3. Dust and wash the walls with mild soap and water to remove any dirt, greasy residues, or moisture streaks from humidity.

4. Patch any holes in the wall with spackle and smooth down; caulk any gaps between baseboards/trim and the walls; and putty any exposed nail heads in the trim.

5. Prime the walls (and trim if wood work is getting a fresh look, too) with either white or a primer tinted the same color family as the paint. This is especially important covering white with any color in the red, blue and purple families.

6. Prime the ceiling to help make sure the ceiling coat goes on evenly, even if white is covering white.

7. After the primer dries for an hour (or according to instructions), cover the walls with the color of choice, let it dry and apply a second coat.

Once the second coat dries, stand back and admire the way sunlight bounces off that brilliant new shade of blue or how a formerly beige room full of blah is now full of smiles and a bouncy shade of berry.

Every room in the house should feel welcoming in its own way, and paint can help make it happen.


How to Choose the Right Kitchen Countertop

The sink might be the workhorse of the kitchen, but the countertop is certainly no slouch. Not only does it have to stand up to hot pans, things getting dropped on it and the occasional gouge, the countertop has to look great, too, no matter what.

Fortunately, there are only a handful of materials for countertops out there; it's the color, pattern and edging choices that create a little havoc.

Stone - Easily the most expensive countertop material available, it's also one of the most popular because of its association with high-end finishes. Granite, soapstone and slate come in a riot of colors and patterns, and can be cut in long slabs to minimize seams. Natural stone does require some maintenance like resealing, but also stands up to hot pans, isn't easily scratched and doesn't dent if something heavy is dropped on it.

Solid surface - Quartz is the industry leader for solid surface countertops because of its versatility and because it is virtually maintenance-free. Like other solid surface products from brand names like Corian, quartz is stain and scratch-resistant and stands up to heat and cold. Solid surface countertops are repairable and come in hundreds of color combinations, including those that look like natural stone.

Laminate - Tried and true, laminate - or Formica, as its known - continues to be a go-to countertop material because of its economical price point and the variety of colors, textures and patterns available now. Matte or fine matte finishes at 1/16" thickness should only be used for countertops while 1/32" can be used as a creative backsplash.

Wood - Butcher block is the most well-known of wood counters, but it's not the only wood up for consideration. Wood slabs are used in kitchens but primarily for secondary surfaces like islands or butlers pantries. Both the butcher block and the slabs require a fair bit of maintenance, though, including regular sealing, and they don't stand up well to heat, moisture and stains.

Eco-friendly - Recycled glass, bamboo and paper composite have a small foothold in the countertop market, but they aren't the friendliest materials to work with. Glass can chip and break; bamboo needs to be sealed just like other wood; and paper is easily stained and scratched. Still, all three are easy to clean, and glass is both heat and scratch resistant.

How to Choose the Right Kitchen Flooring

So much goes on in the kitchen that the floor needs to stand up to a lot of use and abuse. Wood is warm and beautiful, but tile is tough and resilient and vinyl is so easy to clean ... the choices for kitchen flooring are almost endless.

To help cut through the chatter, homeowners should answer a few questions to determine which flooring option best suits their lifestyle:

  • Is there a lot of cooking?
  • Was the home designed with an open floor plan or is the kitchen a little more isolated?
  • Is low- or no-maintenance a priority?
  • Is environmentally-friendly materials important?
  • What is the budget?

Hardwood - up to $20/square foot installed

Warm, beautiful and timeless, hardwood can stand up to some serious traffic, but it's also susceptible to contraction and expansion because of the amount of moisture generated by cooking. Hardwood is a great flooring choice in open-floor plan homes because it ties the living spaces together seamlessly.

Tile - up to $30/square foot installed.

Ceramic and porcelain tile are the workhorses of flooring, especially in the kitchen. Both materials hold their looks for years (with proper care) and provide one of the most durable surfaces available in such a variety of colors, patterns and textures - including the look of wood! - it's almost impossible to not find a tile that will work in a kitchen.

Cork - up to $20/square foot installed

Cooking can often involve hours of standing and moving around, so flooring that is both durable and kind to joints like knees and backs might be the right choice. Cork fills the bill on both counts, and it's eco-friendly because it's harvested every eight to 10 years from trees that regrow their bark.

Vinyl - up to $10/square foot installed

If the kitchen is the heart and stomach of the home, vinyl might the perfect flooring choice. Not only is it extremely durable - waterproof and almost maintenance-free - vinyl is also the least expensive flooring choice, which can be important if budget is an issue. Color, pattern and texture choices are also almost unlimited so finding the right vinyl is a snap.