How to Keep Your Pet Cool This Summer

cat standing by water fountain

Practical steps, like ensuring your pets have fresh, cool water, can go a long way in making sure your pets are comfortable this summer.

By Patricia L. Garcia

The dog days of summer are upon us and for homeowners with pets, it’s difficult to keep cooling costs down and pets comfy.

While your new home comes with a great HVAC system and energy-efficient features, there’ still more you can do. Small, yet practical, steps like keeping a bowl of water out for pets can go a long way in helping pets stay comfortable on toasty days. Here are some of the most practical and low-cost ways to keep your pets cool:

1. Understand Your Pets

Pets like dogs and cats don’t have sweat glands, so they expel heat by panting and through their paws. While an effective cooling technique in most cases, it may be difficult for pets to cool down in extreme heat. So it’s important to understand when your pet is in distress. Learn the signs of heat stroke in pets and how to manage it if your pet is overheated.

While you may be tempted to shave a pet such as a chow chow, don’t! Shaving a pet messes with their heat regulation and puts pets at risk for sunburns. Always talk to your vet or groomer before taking the clippers to Fido. And, if you have a pet with a short snout (brachycephalic breeds) like a pug or Boston terrier, know that they don’t tolerate the heat as good as other breeds.

2. Keep Them Hydrated

This is the most practical advice we can offer: make sure pets have water. A bowl of cool water will help them in the process of cooling down. You can even put some ice cubes in the bowl to keep water from getting warm throughout the day. Kim Pezza, a dog owner in Punta Gorda, Fla., says she uses crocks to keep water cool. Crocks don’t only keep water cool; because they are heavy, spilling is prevented.

If you’re with your pets during the day but want to give your AC a rest, you can try frozen treats or popsicles specially formulated for your pet.

3. Give Them Shade

This doesn’t just apply to outdoor pets; make sure you’re home isn’t inundated with sunlight all day long. Using blackout curtains in areas of the home that are particularly bright can go a long way in keeping rooms — and pets — cool. This is especially important if your pet is crated or lives in a cage or tank (birds, fish, guinea pigs, etc.).

4. Cooling Mats

There are plenty of gel mats online and in pet stores that you can use to help pets stay cool. These mats are filled with a self-cooling gel that absorbs body heat. These mats are easy to use, use little space and don’t use electricity.

5. Ceiling Fans, Dehumidifier and Air Conditioners

Most folks have ceiling fans in just about every room of their home. While a ceiling fan doesn’t actually cool down a room, it does cool down the room’s occupants, including pets. As a rule of thumb, ceiling fans should run counterclockwise during the summer. If it’s running the opposite way, reverse it by switching the small button located on the base.

In some parts of the country, humidity can make an already hot day unbearable. To help you AC work better, use a dehumidifier in your home to keep humidity levels down, suggests Tobi Kosanke, president of Crazy K Farm, an animal rescue organization. A dehumidifier will keep air drier and just a bit more tolerable for your pet (and you too!).

Most pet owners deal with pet hair, so it’s important to change out AC filters on a regular basis. Doing so will help you AC work more efficiently, so don’t forget this important maintenance task.

Patricia L. Garcia is content manager for NewHomeSource, where you can search for and get information on new homes and new construction communities. You can find her on Google+.

Posted in Did You Know?, Opinion | Leave a comment

Tips for Decorating a Functional Kid’s Room

Spirited colors and fun storage cubes give this kid’s room flair. The Benjamin Model by Drees Custom Homes near Dallas, Texas.

Spirited colors and fun storage cubes give this kid’s room flair. The Benjamin Model by Drees Custom Homes near Dallas, Texas.

By Ashley Steel

Children don’t make decorating the home an easy task. Between their undying curiosity for their surroundings, their ever-changing tastes and a penchant for making messes, most parents have probably found themselves sniffling over the juice-soaked couch and crying, “This is why we can’t have nice things.”

This sentiment is especially true of children’s rooms; a private haven for their mess and mischief making. But if you’ve decided to give up on decorating your kid’s room, think again!

Buying nice furniture and fragile decorations and telling your kids they can’t be kids lest they damage these item, simply won’t fly. A room isn’t stylish if you can only look at it. Instead, try decorating in ways that facilitate childhood fun.

Here’s our top tips for creating a stylish, kid’s room:

Paints and Varnishes

Starting with the basics, there are many paints and varnishes that can be scrubbed clean in the event that your kid decides to take crayon or marker to the walls. In particular, paints that come in semi- to high-gloss finishes are great for messy, high-trafficked areas, as they can be scrubbed clean without damaging their sheen. When meeting with your builder, be sure to ask for high-gloss paints.

These same glossed paints and varnishes can also be used to protect furniture. And not only will the finish help protect against stains and messes, but paints can be easily changed if your child outgrows the color of their room.

Tip: When selecting paints, make sure they don’t contain VOCs (volatile organic compounds), which can release toxic chemicals into the air.

Flooring and Fabric

Spills are a common childhood hazard, but let’s face it, they continue to happen all of our lives. Rugs, especially dark rugs, are a great way to protect against spills and also protect flooring from day-to-day wear and tear. No matter the color scheme of your child’s room, select a dark coordinating shade for their rug.

Using Scotchgard or another fabric protector can provide an additional layer of security against spills. Not just for carpet, many of these products can also be used on couches, chairs, shoes and more.


One of the primary roadblocks to creating a stylish kid’s room is keeping messes at bay. The short attention span of most kids requires cleanup be a swift and efficient process. An empty shelving unit fitted with cloth baskets is a great solution for kids. The soft, fully removable baskets allow kids to stow away toys, clothes and other knickknacks and return them neatly to shelves when cleanup time comes.

Choosing a Theme

Creating a room your child loves is crucial to making them feel at home. A great way to do this is to involve your child in decorating. When left entirely to their own devices, this could result in a decorating monstrosity, but as the adult, it’s important to moderate the process.

Let your kids choose a theme, a color scheme and maybe a team, character or other item for the room to revolve around. Then, take it upon yourself to find tasteful coordinating pieces that meet their desired qualifications.

Decorating a kid’s room doesn’t mean choosing between childhood play and stylish décor. Simple precautions ensure that you accommodate for the lifestyle and growth of your child. Good luck on your journey to a stylish kid’s bedroom, and remember, there’s no crying over spilt milk when you use these easy tips.

Ashley Steel is staff writer/editor for NewHomeSource, where you can search for and get information on new homes and new construction communities. You can find her on Google+.

Posted in Interior Design | Leave a comment

Five Ideas for Functional Entertainment Centers

floating wall-mounted TV stand

A floating TV and media stand, like this one from Prepac, puts a slight twist on typical entertainment centers.

By Ashley Steel

Recently I made the move to a smaller space. While inevitably this meant getting rid of many of my possessions and having to forgo the purchase of many large, dazzling pieces of furniture, it also meant getting smarter about the way I utilize space.

I set my sights on an entertainment center; an expansive jack-of-all-trades storage unit that could sit flush with my wall and provide ample shelving and storage. Deep into my search, one thing was clear: the entertainment center I had in mind wasn’t in the cards for me. My discoveries yielded pieces too big, too bulky and, frankly, outdated.

Not ready to give up, I changed my parameters to include smaller pieces and took my search online to see what I could discover in the way of stylish, functional entertainment centers. Here are my favorite discoveries:

Broadway Black Altus Plus 58-inch Floating TV Stand; $139.99;

Perfect for the simple guy or gal, this unit shown above mounts cleanly above the floor and creates just enough space for your basic electronics and DVDs. Its stylish flair creates a look similar to a piano for a classic look and feel.

Wildon Home Demuline Entertainment Center; $573;

Curved entertainment centerUniquely curved, this entertainment center is in a class of its own. With its black and silver color combination and open metal frame, this piece bears a clean, ultra-modern design. Perfect for accommodating the oddly shaped knick-knack, this unit creates eight vertical and three horizontal storage spaces.



Manhattan Comfort Morning Side Entertainment Center; $639.78;

light grain wood entertainment centerMinimalist and sleek, the light grain wood pairs nicely with the black reflective glass and shelving. Ample height makes up for its thin profile and guarantees efficient use of space. Balancing cabinetry and open shelving, this unit is perfect for hiding your less-attractive items, while still showing off your most prized possessions.



Heritage Rustic Entertainment Center; $693.89;

distressed metal and wood entertainment centerDistressed wood and metal meet in this entertainment center for a look that’s artistic and vintage. With a low, long profile this unit saves overhead space. Rectangular wood drawers and square glass-paned cabinets balance each other out to create an interesting geometric visual. Metal studs and slim, arched handles round out the look.



Carson 3-Piece Entertainment Center for TVs up to 50; $215; Black and Cherry Finishes;

adjustable three-piece entertainment centerA bit like Tetris, this 3-piece entertainment center can be adjusted to meet your spacing needs. A combination of closed cherry cabinetry and open metal shelving lends both warmth and openness to the room. Silver accents pop against the dark, chic unit.



Ashley Steel is staff writer/editor for NewHomeSource, where you can search for and get information on new homes and new construction communities. You can find her on Google+.

Posted in Home Decor/Furniture, Interior Design | Leave a comment

Welcome Home: Five Fun Doormats For Every Taste

Red doormat wit white text that says Keep Calm and Come In

Keep calm! We’ve got the perfect doormat to bring some character to your front door. Photo Courtesy of Decorative Things.

By Patricia L. Garcia

When folks think of welcoming guests to their home, they think of curb appeal. An attractive front lawn and home exterior are important – it’s the first impression guests get of what’s in store inside.

A welcoming door and well-manicured lawn aren’t the only features, though, that should welcome guests. The right doormat can enhance your welcoming stage – here are our five favorite doormats for tastes of all kind.

For The Trendsetter: Keep Calm and Come In Doormat; $32; Decorative Things

You’ve seen the posters: “Keep Calm and Carry On” and the rest of the variations. Now you can carry on the trend with this fun doormat, shown above. Whether you appreciate British wit or simply enjoy the “Carry On” slogans, this is a fun way to tell guests to forget knocking and just walk on in.

For the Pet Lover: Dog Doesn't Know Sit Doormat; $24.79; Amazon

Dog DoormatIf “Beware of Dog” doesn’t suit you well, then a humorous doormat might. This kooky doormat lets guests know that you love pets and that your pets are the ones who rule the home

At 27 inches by 18 inches by 0.8 inches, it’s unlikely folks won’t be forewarned of a feisty Fido. And, you’ve got pets, so you’ll be happy to know that this doormat is easy to clean – just wash it off with a hose.


For the Music Fan: Cassette Tape Doormat; $20; Perpetual Kid

Mixed Tape DoormatA true music fan reveres the cassette tape for its nostalgia, so this doormat will make them smile each time they come home. The retro polyester mat will not only help music fans remember the days when they’d make a mixed tape for their crushes, but it’ll help keep their home clean, which is good for their album collection.

Put this out and prepare for all the compliments from other hardcore music fans.


For The Contemporary Lover: Floating Feathers Doormat; $25.00; Uncommon Goods

Uncommon Goods Feather MatThis coconut fiber doormat is both welcoming and chic with its print of five bird feathers. The nature-inspired print says “contemporary style can be found here” and is subtly showy. To add some sizzle to an unfussy home front, use this doormat to help customize the look.



For Preppy, Classic Lovers: Lion Crest Monogram Doormat; $99.50-$169 (two sizes available); FrontGate

Lion Crest Monogram DoormatIs a preppy polish more up your alley? Then this lion crest monogram doormat will be perfect for you – and the monogram will allow you to customize it to further represent your classic style. This doormat is distinguished and classy, yet still fun and unique. Place this in front of your door and guests will know that a classy home awaits.



Patricia L. Garcia is content manager for NewHomeSource, where you can search for and get information on new homes and new construction communities. You can find her on Google+.

Posted in Buying a New Home | Leave a comment

Gadget of the Month: SWASH Express Clothing Care System

SWASH Express Clothing Care System

The SWASH Express Clothing Care System will save you time and help you extend the life of your clothes. Photo Courtesy of

By Ashley Steel

It doesn’t take long for my jeans to lose their elasticity. That perfect just-been-washed fit goes out the window by the day’s end and, though my jeans may not be dirty yet, I’m ready to throw them in the wash just to get their shape back.

By no means the most financially viable or environmentally friendly option in clothing care, I have yet to find a good alternative — until now. Enter the SWASH Express Clothing Care System, the brainchild of Whirlpool and Proctor & Gamble, and our NewHomeSource Gadget of the Month.

What Does it Do?

A system that is designed to cut down on clothes washings, you can get the wrinkles and odor out of your clothes, restore their shape and pump them with fresh scent in the space of 10 minutes. Perfect for the on-the-go business man who needs his suit pressed in a hurry or the mom that needs to make her kids presentable before heading out the door, the versatility of the SWASH system is endless. Saving you time with its 10-15 minute wash cycle — and money by extending the time between cleanings — the SWASH system can also extend the life of your clothes by cutting down on the number of washes and preserving fabric integrity and color. An incredibly gentle system, the Swash system can be used on almost any fabric including denim, wool, cashmere, sequins, beading and even lace.

How Does it Work?

The SWASH system has a slim profile that sits on the floor. A pop-out frame allows you to hang and secure clothes while a cleaning pod — much like the pods used in Keurig coffee makers — is inserted into the top. Determine the length of the cycle based on the weight of the fabric, push the frame back in the machine and hit the start button. The cleaning pod will release the fragrant cleaning solution in a light mist, while the machine heats secured clothes to eliminate wrinkles and restore shape.

Priced at $499, this machine could prove very affordable in the long run by saving you trips to the dry cleaners, extending clothing life and cutting down on washing machine use. Happy savings!

Gadget of the Month Suggestions

Tell us: What innovative home product should we name as our September Gadget of the Month. Leave us a comment below with a review of an innovative home product you can’t live without. Tell us why you love it and it might be featured in our September Gadget of the Month article!

Ashley Steel is staff writer/editor for NewHomeSource, where you can search for and get information on new homes and new construction communities. You can find her on Google+.

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Knobs and Pulls, Oh My! Cabinet and Drawer Hardware That’ll Freshen Up Any Room

West Elm agate drawer pull

Change up your cabinet and drawer hardware -- our first pick would be this green agate pull from West Elm -- for a fresh look in your home.

By Patricia L. Garcia

Often paint is hailed as the easiest way to freshen up any room. If I may be so bold, I would say that cabinet hardware is a much easier option that can quickly change the mood of a room. And, you can find a knob or pull for any budget (and no weekend clothing is required).

The thing about cabinet hardware is that you can easily swap them out as often (or not at all) as you like — to add whimsy or to class up a room or to match seasons, moods and even hobbies. There’s really no wrong way to go with knobs, handles or pulls. Another fun thing about cabinet hardware is that you can create your own (check out the wine cork pulls below) and they help show off your personality in a way that other home décor just can’t match.

Below are some of my favorite knobs, handles and pulls that will become a focal point in your new home:

Agate and Brass Cabinet Pull, $49, West Elm

These agate cabinet handles, shown above, will please everyone — kiddos just learning about science and nature and adults who appreciate this natural piece brought indoors. Funky and stylish, these pulls are colorful, natural and calming. These will update older pieces or add a fun splash of color to contemporary cabinets. These pulls are simple enough to not overpower drawers or cabinets that are modest and classic to the core.

Anchors Aweigh Hook, $14, Anthropologie

Anthropologie Anchors Aweigh HookAhoy, mateys. While it’s easy to go overboard — get it? — with the nautical look, this wall hook is a cool-meets-coastal piece that can be used as a door pull. The iron hook is a statement piece that is both functional and stylish and will make you want to use it all over your home. When your friends ask where you got it, you can tell them it was the only thing that survived your voyage from vanilla home decorator to style maven. (Just go with it.)



Satin Brass Faceted Knob, $60, Nest Studio

Nest Studio Facet Brass KnobIf you want a knob that’s both old school and contemporary, this satin brass faceted knob from Nest Studio is the way to go. The knob’s brass and faceted geometric shape says Art Deco all the way, giving any home a classic look and yet, it’s fab enough to be a cool, contemporary piece for cabinets with a modern flair.



Farmhouse Hardware, $12-$15, Pottery Barn

Pottery Barn Pull and KnobWhimsy is the focus of this farmhouse rooster and pig and drawer and cabinet pull from Pottery Barn. An antique-bronze finish gives a rustic look, while the brass metal base keeps them sturdy. Even if you don’t live anywhere close to the range, these fun pulls bring country living to you.



Wine or Champagne Cabinet Pulls, Free

Wine Cork Cabinet KnobsWine or champagne cabinet pulls add a custom touch to any set of cabinets. For a wine enthusiast, they will help show off your appreciation for vino and will help you find a use for leftover corks. Such hardware gives your cabinets both a sophisticated and inviting look.

If this is the option you’d go for, replacing your current hardware with wine or champagne corks is easy and cost effective. The only tools necessary to do so would be screwdrivers. Simply unscrew your old pulls and insert a pointy screw roughly the same length as the originals. Hold the screw in place with a screwdriver while twisting the cork onto the screw. Make sure that you are twisting the cork on evenly so that it lines up with your cabinet correctly. This process shouldn’t take more than 10 minutes or so, depending on how many pulls you have. Photo Courtesy of My Home Ideas.

Patricia L. Garcia is content manager for NewHomeSource, where you can search for and get information on new homes and new construction communities. You can find her on Google+.

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Tips for Designing a Functional and Stylish Home Study

Home study from Mid-Atlantic Builders with white walss and shelves and large windows.

A rounded wall of windows and built-in shelves are distinctive touches in this study. The TARA plan by Mid-Atlantic Builders. New homes in Upper Marlboro, Md.

By Patricia L. Garcia

Up until a month ago, my home study was filled with cardboard boxes, miscellaneous pieces of furniture and a computer desk and computer that went unused. The room was such a clutter of items that I ended up doing work on my laptop in the living room or while in bed.

I’ve since cleared out the room and splashed a coat of paint on my beat-up old desk and the walls and now I want to work exclusively from my home study! What a difference an organized study has made for me — and I know the same would hold true for you. Now that school’s in session (or about to be), it’s important to have a space for kids to do homework or study or a place where adults can concentrate on work they’ve brought home, free from distraction.

Whether you’re building new, just moved in to a resale or just need to give your study a touchup, these tips for designing a functional and stylish home study will get you or the kids off to work in no time:

Create the Right Atmosphere


As described above, a cluttered study is not conducive to completely those spreadsheets or mastering math problems. So, when designing a study, think of organization. Book shelves not only create a scholarly environment, they provide a spot for those magazines you’ve been meaning to read or to display your prized collection of books.


Before you go out and buy bookshelves, consider the height, says Debbie Wiener of Silver Spring, Md.-based interior design firm, Designing Solutions. “You want to reach everything without too much effort or straining,” she says, adding that comfortable seating and good lighting are other considerations.

To help keep your study’s look fresh, opt for non-traditional shelving, suggests Wiener. “Use both vertical and horizontal book storage,” she says. “Try asymmetrical shelving to prevent long shelves overfilled with books.”

What study would be complete without a desk to do work? If you have a lot of items — computer, printer, scanner, lamp —then a desk that can accommodates all of them is what you should buy. A small compact desk with no drawers will suit those with laptops or those who don’t plan to keep many papers around. If you have important files that you’d like to keep, a desk that has drawers will help keep things organized.

If you have children, get a desk or two where they can easily store all of their school supplies, along with any knickknacks they like to keep around.

While a few decorative items will add design touches in your study, use these sparingly. You don’t want to clutter your study, but enhance it.


Though color can enhance — or create a less-than-calming effect — a room, when it comes to the right color for your study, there’s no right answer! However, Wiener likes to go bright colors when designing a home study. Barbara Green, a designer at Sensibly Chic Designs for Life in Charlotte, N.C., says she likes rich and bold colors, particularly where there’s little wall space.

“My most common treatment is painting the walls red and then going over it with a glaze mixed with brown or black paint and lifted off with plastic sheeting,” says Green. “It gives an amazing look of leather.”

Green also suggests orange shades. “I’ve used deep, rusty-orange since studies have shown that students who study in orange rooms score higher on tests than in non-orange rooms,” she says.

To Dust or Not to Dust?

I love the idea of a bookshelf full of books and magazines, but the reality of bookshelves includes dusting. Lots and lots of dusting. However, you might feel like placing books behind a cabinet door defeats the purpose of a book collection. “To minimize dust, you can use glass doors over the book area,” says Green.

Now that you have tips on how to design and maintain your home study, check out this slideshow that includes some inspirational studies from our “Stunning Studies” board on Pinterest:

Gleaming wood on the coffered ceiling, shelves and cabinets contrasts with blue walls. The Preston Collection by Amedore Homes at Winding Brook Estates. Saratoga Springs, N.Y.

A sunlit wooden dome caps this rounded study. The Tolliver II Model by Drees Homes. New homes in the Shaddock Park Community, Allen, Texas.

Crisp white molding against a gray wall: A simple, but memorable design touch in this Study. The Ellingwood Model. From Meritage Homes, Erie, Colo.

A circular white rug contrasts with the dark wood floor and bookcase. Blue and brown paint complement the window treatments. The Wesley Model by Pulte Homes in Wildwood, Mo.

Using the same taupe as the walls inside these shelves provides contrast to the white trim. The Lexington model by Ryland Homes at Highland Knoll. Woodbury, Minn.

A bold area rug and stripes flanking the entry add drama to this study. Newly built homes in Camberly Place at Stonebrae. Hayward, Calif.


Patricia L. Garcia is content manager for NewHomeSource, where you can search for and get information on new homes and new construction communities. You can find her on Google+.

Posted in Buying a New Home, New Home Design | Comments Off