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Including Built-Ins in Your Home Design or Remodel

There is something about a room that comes with its own built-in furnishings. Whether it be window seats, bookshelves, or a wet bar, built-ins give a room special appeal; especially when done tastefully. Frank Lloyd Wright was the father of the built-in. Born June 8, 1867, he was one of the world’s most influential architects and was most famous for his Prairie and Arts and Craft style homes. In many of the residences he built, he also built furniture for the house. Some of the furniture was free standing, but all of the furniture was distinct to the houses. If you are building a new home, or remodeling an old one, consider the use of built-ins to give your home a higher perceived value due to a level of uniqueness and individual style. Items that can be built in rather easily for a reasonable price are:
Fireplace surrounds: Fireplaces are often the focal point of the room, but if your fireplace surround is boring or too plain, your focal point can quickly become an eyesore. You can have a fireplace surround and over mantle built above your fireplace that will give the room a unique personality. A new and attractive trend to add to your fireplace surround is a flat screen TV directly above the fireplace.
Bookshelves: Have you ever noticed how much nicer a room looks when there is a wall of bookshelves, or library cabinets flanking the fireplace. Not only do they personalize a room, but also they allow you to show of your most precious treasures and favorite books.
Window Seats: I am a sucker for a deep widow seat with a comfortable cushion, a light blanket and a good book. Window seats provide extra seating for gatherings, a place to catch a bit of sun on a chilly day, and a spot to enjoy the rain. One of my favorite features about window seats are hidden compartments or drawers underneath to store games and blankets.
China Cabinets: Built in China cabinets give you an opportunity to add strong architecture to the room and make it more inviting. Actually, installing a built in china cabinet, in many cases is more practical than purchasing one because a built in cabinet can be made into the wall to take up less space leaving more room for your table and seating.
Niches: Niches are a great way to make use of an empty space that would not otherwise be utilized. You add cabinets to an odd corner in an upstairs hall. You can install a desk under a stairway. You can add a workspace to an otherwise useless dormer. If you do not have built-ins or the budget for it, you can find freestanding furniture that will mimic a built in.

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Kitchen Design Ideas

Whether you’re redesigning your old kitchen or designing a new one, the word to remember is “triangle.” A working triangle whose points are the sink, cooking area and refrigerator, is the byword in kitchen design. Kitchen designers strive to create a working arrangement in a triangle so that your distance from one point to another – the main points of activity in a kitchen — is limited.
For example, the combined measurement of the three sides of an efficient kitchen triangle should be at least 12 feet but no more than 23 feet. The goal is to keep enough space to work in between the points of the triangle, but not too much.

Too little space between the points of the triangle and there’s not enough room to work. Hubby and wife are always bumping into one another between the stove and refrigerator, between the sink and the stove, the sink and refrigerator. Additionally, if there’s too little space between these working points for people to move about adequately, there may not be enough room to use small utensils and prepare the meal.

Too much space between the triangle’s working points and you’d better think about wearing a jogging outfit; you’re going to get tired of dragging pots and pans from cook-top to sink. Work-space triangles should be used in any shape of kitchen. Basically, there are four basic kitchen shapes: corridor, U-shaped, L-shaped, and one-wall kitchens. These basic four shapes can vary slightly in numerous ways, especially with the addition of an island.

A corridor kitchen consists of two parallel rows of counters and appliances. The triangle has two of its points on one side, the remaining point on the opposite side. A big problem with corridor kitchens is traffic flow; by the very nature of being a corridor, traffic is expected to pour through the kitchen. The sink and range should be located on the same side and the refrigerator on the opposite side in a corridor kitchen.
Nonetheless, rules aren’t always fixed in stone. In Southern California, for example, with its great views and informal style, you can’t always obey the rules they live by back East. You sometimes have to allow for a view from the kitchen, or some other aspect. Easterners don’t always have that luxury.

Another style of layout is the U-shaped kitchen. For efficiency, this layout may be best. It provides for the least amount of walking space between points of the work triangle, yet leaves sufficient space for food preparation. It is recommended that the sink be located at the base of the U with the refrigerator and range on opposite sides.

A third style of layout is the L-shaped kitchen, in which two points of the triangle are located on one side, the third point on the perpendicular side. The L-shaped kitchen is the most open and most versatile. For example, if you want to install an island — a very trendy movement in kitchens — it’s usually easiest to design it for an L-shaped kitchen. Islands generally are rectangular, though they may take on almost any shape. In an L-shaped kitchen, almost any shape of island at virtually any angle can be used in the open area.
Islands frequently are used in kitchens of any shape, though their use in corridor and U-shaped kitchens often is more limited because of the confining nature of the design; two rows of work spaces are parallel. Unless the kitchen is large, installing an island can be self-defeating, trading function for space.

A final type of kitchen layout is the one-wall kitchen. With all appliances, countertops and cabinets against one wall, a work triangle is not possible. Usually, one-wall kitchens are small, though with proper appliance placement and the placement of cookware and utensils, they can be efficient.

It is recommended that the sink be placed in between the cooking area and refrigerator. In planning locations of appliances and the sink in a kitchen triangle, consideration should be given to the function of a kitchen by a person or family. For example, if, in examining the use of your kitchen you find that the refrigerator is used most often, you may want to consider placing it near the entrance to the kitchen. In that way, traffic through the kitchen may be kept to a minimum.

There are numerous other aspects to kitchen planning. You really have to keep in mind those people who actually use the kitchen. You have to ask such questions as: are they the type of people who shop once a day for groceries, once a week, or once a month? That information can make a difference in the number, type and size of cabinets and the size of the refrigerator and/or freeze.

Whether the family has any pets, what type of pets and whether they’re inside pets is another big consideration. People often don’t plan their kitchens with their pets in mind, and then they find themselves tripping over a pet’s food dish and putting up with the food smells. It’s much better to work things out on paper. Erasers are a lot cheaper than jackhammers.

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Dining Room Design Basics

Dining room design basics range from the luxuriant traditional dining room to the small and chic dining room/kitchen combination. Whatever your favorite dining room design-one thing is certain-choosing the best design for your space can be difficult when so many choices are available. Use this basic guide when designing your dining room to help you make an informed decision about the numerous choices involved in dining room design.
The Traditional
One the most common and easily recognized dining room design options, the traditional dining room space is elegant, luxurious and is more than likely filled with wood. Whether dark or light wood is used, traditional dining room design almost always involves wood. Mahogany, oak, cherry and walnut are all typical woods used in traditional dining room design. From chairs and tables to raised panels and hardwood flooring, wood plays an important role when designing a traditional dining room.

The Contemporary
A contemporary dining room design may also use a focus of wood, but with a twist. Contemporary design often employs light wood colors with the addition of vibrant and bright colors, particularly red. Metal appliances are often incorporated into a contemporary dining room design, making a room pop without being too overbearing. Metallics combined with rich colors and bright spaces then accented with light colored wood completes the contemporary dining room space.

The Modern
Often used in smaller spaces, but certainly not limited to them, modern dining room designs are bright, sharp, clean and crisp. While bright colors are often thought of as the basics of modern dining room design, dark colors can easily be incorporated into a modern dining room design as well. Lighting plays an important role in the modern dining room. Task lighting mixed with accent lighting is a common theme in many modern dining room designs.

The Butler’s Pantry
Dining rooms additions are often added to expand a small dining room space. With the addition of space, dining rooms are often filled with huge dining room tables that may complete the space, but are truly impractical. Use your newly found dining room space wisely by adding a serving room or butler’s pantry.
A butler’s pantry is used to ferry food and other dining room supplies from the kitchen to the dining room and vice versa. A small sink, refrigerator and warming trays all seek to serve guests in a practical way and make any dining room addition more functional. Whether a butler’s pantry is a whole room unto itself or a small buffet area set aside in the dining room, these spaces are often overlooked, but may be necessary in your dining room design.

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Designing an Outdoor Living Room

Designing an outdoor living room may seem like something that should only be taken on by a landscape professional, but in reality, a little planning can make your outdoor living room dreams a reality. All construction planners and architects start with a rough sketch of the landscape they want to accomplish. Three questions are always asked first when determining the scope of the project:
1. What will the area be used for? Is it a playground or a relaxing garden to unwind after a long day? These two parameters by themselves will determine a number of issues, including what safety considerations must be met, what structures can or will be used in the area, and how much seclusion or privacy is needed or wanted.

2. How much traffic will the garden see? This is particularly important in determining what types of plants will be used in the landscape. Some varieties of grass are not tolerant to heavy foot traffic and will require pathways or marked borders. Other varieties are very tolerant, but require nearly constant care. There’s always going to be a tradeoff.

3. What are the maintenance needs? Some people will be able to handle the maintenance needs of a beautiful English garden, while others won’t have the time. You should select plants which match your lifestyle, particularly whether you enjoy gardening, or just relaxing in the garden. Be warned, however, many of the most beautiful plants require nearly constant attention. Once you have answered these three questions, you can begin to plan your landscape. Use a clean sheet of paper and draw up all your favorite ideas. You won’t need artistic talent to do this; you’re just jotting down landscape ideas.

Choose colors, textures, and uses of the area you want to landscape, and write them down. Later, when you’re done throwing all your ideas together, you’ll find that it will be much easier to visualize the garden in your mind, and discard the ideas that you don’t feel will work.
After planning, go to your local home and garden store, and take a look at what they have to offer for patios, as well. If you have a newer home, chances are you have a patio slab in the backyard which could be made into a very attractive addition to your structure. Consider your options with this and try to get a rough estimate for pricing. It also couldn’t hurt to run your ideas past one of the sales associates for their opinion. They might be able to provide you with detailed instructions on how to complete your project efficiently.

After planning and pricing, the only step left is doing, so go put on some grubby clothes and get to work, because the hardest part is done, and soon you’ll be enjoying your beautiful new landscape that you built by yourself.

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