Gadget of the Month: Haiku Smart Fan

Media room with Haiku smart fan

The Haiku ceiling fan from Big Ass Fans is a game changer. Both stylish and “smart,” the Haiku is a must for any home. Image via Gizmag.

By Patricia L. Garcia

Ceiling fans are not sexy. They certainly keep you cool (or warm, depending on the season), but there aren’t many times when you bring someone into your new home and brag on the ceiling fans.

Until now. The Haiku smart fan from Big Ass Fans (stop chuckling!) is changing the game. Not only is it pretty, oh so pretty, but it also brings the ceiling fan into the 21st century with its smart technology. Its minimalist design make it an easy fit in a trendy condo or hip modern home and comes in five finishes and either sustainable bamboo or a glass-infused composite material.

What’s So Smart About It?

Let’s face it, when things turn on and off without you having to do anything more than simply walk in or out of a room, that’s pretty neat. It’s not like you can’t turn the switch yourself, but it’s still nice. The Haiku fan has SenseMe technology, which means it detects when you enter or leave a room and turns on or shuts down accordingly. And, much like the Nest thermostat, the Haiku fan learns your habits and adjusts for you. Been leaving that fan on medium speed, not high? The Haiku’s got you.

The Haiku has 10 settings, including a Whoosh mode that simulates natural breezes (wha??? I know!). What’s better than that? The fact that this ceiling fan monitors a room’s conditions — temperature and humidity — and adjusts itself. For example, if you open a window to let a cool breeze in, the Haiku will sense that and reduce the fan’s speed.

Like many other ceiling fans, you can light up a room with a Haiku ceiling fan. Unlike other ceiling fans, Haiku has a digital dimmer that offer 16 brightness settings and uses LED lighting to save you on energy costs. Speaking of energy costs, the Haiku exceeds Energy Star performance standards by 450 percent.

Another pro of the Haiku smart fan is that it’s meant to be quiet for a comfortable experience, whether you’re simply sleeping or hanging out in the media room, and it is balanced by hand so you don’t have to deal with wobbling.

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 Home Decor/Furniture, Interior Design, Opinion | Leave a comment

Everything You Need to Know When Shopping for a New Bed

photo of owner's suite with with walls, beige fabric headboard and plush bed

The right bed, like the one in this owner’s suite, and the right environment means the difference between a sleepless night and a restful night. The Sanibel plan, a new home by GL Homes at Seven Bridges. Delray Beach, FL.

By Patricia L. Garcia

Now that you’re building your new home, there’s no doubt you’re ready for some new furniture, including a new bed. There are so many beds to choose from — memory foam, plush, pillowtop, oh my! — that it can be downright confusing trying to find the right one.

When it comes to choosing the right bed, it comes down to personal preference. Some like a firm bed, while others prefer falling into what feels like a soft, fluffy cloud.

“Determining the right bed for you is a very personal matter and one that must take in account several different factors,” says Erick Arbé, founder of Fohm, a memory foam pillow company. He says to ask yourself these questions before shopping for a new bed:

  • What type of sleeper are you (back, side, stomach)?
  • What type of firmness do you prefer? Soft, medium firmness, extra firm?
  • Do your pets sleep with you?
  • Do you have any physical ailments (back or neck issues)?
  • What is your budget?

Know Your Mattress Types

Now that you’ve accounted for what you want from your bed and presumably how big it should be, it’s time to do a little research on the type of mattress you should get. According to mattress company Beautyrest, there are five basic types of mattresses:

  • innerspring mattresses: traditional mattress that incorporates a system of open coils or metal springs between padding;
  • encased spring mattresses: innerspring beds where springs or coils are individually wrapped in fabric, which allows each spring to adjust to your body. Those with high coil counts are higher quality;
  • memory foam mattresses: mattresses made of viscoelastic polyurethane foam that conforms to the body to reduce pressure points and to provide proper support;
  • hybrid mattresses: these mattresses utilize two technologies — memory foam for comfort and encased springs for support; and
  • air mattresses: these mattresses use air chambers as their primary support and can be inflated or deflated to change the bed’s firmness.

While we’re on the subject of materials, it’s important to consider eco beds. “Does it matter to you that the materials are environmentally friendly?” asks Ricky Joshi, co-founder of Saatva, an online-only mattress brand. “Many mattresses use cheaper chemicals such as formaldehyde as a flame retardant, while green beds should use much healthier natural alternatives. Also, green beds have much lower VOCs (air pollutants) and won’t usually off-gas.”

Do your research on which material will be the most logical — and comfortable — for your needs.

How Does It Feel?

Even after all of the research you’ve done, what it all comes down to is how a mattress feels. Now comes the fun part of your research — test driving some mattresses that seem like possible winners.

“Nothing compares, however, to actually lying down on the mattress to best understand your preference,” says Beautyrest. “Focus on support and comfort and remember you can’t get one without the other. If you suffer from back problems caused by a poor mattress, spinal alignment and support may be the key. Research, feel and see the difference that the latest bedding technology offers before you buy. Go to a local retailer armed with questions. Test-run all the models, and then test them again.”

Keep Your Bed In Good Shape

“With proper care, a good mattress should last you 10 to 15 years,” Joshi says. “Rotating your mattress twice a year (especially if it’s a pillowtop type) will assist with evenly distributing the applied weight on the mattress, allowing it to last longer. If young children or pets are sleeping on the mattress, investing in a mattress cover/protector is a great option.”

Aside from those suggestions, change the sheets every one to two weeks, says Arbé. “The more frequent, the better,” he says. “Sheets that are changed more often don’t let sweat and dead skin cells penetrate through to the mattress.”

A Restful Retreat

Once you find the perfect mattress for you, it’s time to create a restful retreat to make your bed — and bedroom — a place where you can easily find rest. First thing to do is make your home a tech-free space. It’s hard to sleep or relax when you’re texting, working on a laptop or tablet or watching TV, so keep all of those electronics out. Invest in an alarm, rather than using your phone, to wake you.

Also use peaceful colors in your room and on your bed to help you get rest. “Your bedroom, more specifically your bed, should be your haven,” Joshi says. “Your peaceful retreat where you experience your greatest dreams during your deepest sleep. Decorate your bed with colors that relax you, so you can’t wait to lie down on it.

“If you’ve got a fancy style, accessorize with comfy decorative pillows,” he says. “If you’re more the neat and modern type, go for a minimalist approach with a simple yet sophisticated bedspread. And though it may seem like a chore, try to make your bed every morning so that it welcomes you each evening!”

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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Mexican Home Design and Décor

Photo os outdoor pation with pool

Looking for Mexican design inspiration? Look no further — here are some stylish examples.

By Ashley Steel

As our neighbors to the south celebrate their independence (Sept. 16 is Mexican Independence Day), we’re celebrating the bold style commonly found in Mexican homes.

Mexico is a place with home design and décor as rich and varied as its storied past. From ultra-modern to rustic — and everything in between — there’s a wealth of inspiration to be found in the Mexican home.

Here’s a look at some of the top trends in Mexican home design and décor that you can incorporate into your own home:

Exterior & Structure
Though home design is by no means uniform across the country, there are some common themes that appear time and again. Adobe and stucco exteriors make a frequent appearance in both muted, tan hues and bold, vibrant colors. Roofs of red Spanish tiles are exceedingly common, lending rich character and texture to homes, except in the case that the roof is a bare, flat top.

Despite the relatively sharp, boxy shape of many homes in Mexico, many bear arched entryways both indoors and out. Often supported by pillars, these arches lend themselves to an open, airy layout. Exposed wood beams reveal the architectural integrity of the home, as well as lending a natural look complemented by sizeable windows and ample natural light.

Outdoor Living

A common feature in Mexican homes, outdoor living is ubiquitous and conducive to gatherings. Patios and courtyards abound here. Alive with foliage and adorned with fountains, these outdoor spaces often bear the signature arched entryways, peachy walls and tiled floors. At other times, a rectangular pool takes the place of a more traditional patio. Sometimes enclosed by curtains, these outdoor spaces are inviting and casual.

Decorative Tiles & Prints
Going as far back as the pre-Colonial era, Mexico has been renowned for its bold patterns, commonly attributed to the Aztecs. Available in everything from fabrics to tiles, these decorative prints are often a design focal point. These prints can serve as wall tapestries, rugs, throws pillows and bedding.

Hand-painted “Talavera” tiles are also a common source of décor inspiration in Mexico and are found everywhere from backsplashes to bathrooms. Their patterns and sheen can breathe life into in even the smallest of spaces.

Modernity
Mexico City has long been a haven for modern architecture. Here, some of the most futuristic buildings are produced. Made from geometric shapes adjoined at interesting angles, these homes often have seamlessly integrated windows and a lavish backyard pool.

Exterior & Structure
Exterior & Structure

Photo courtesy of New Homes Designs Latest

Exterior & Structure
Exterior & Structure

Photo courtesy of Harvest House Craftsmen

Exterior & Structure
Exterior & Structure

Photo courtesy of Usual House

Exterior & Structure
Exterior & Structure

Photo courtesy of Realtor.com

Outdoor Living
Outdoor Living

Photo courtesy of Architectural Digest

Outdoor Living
Outdoor Living

Photo courtesy of Trek Earth

Outdoor Living
Outdoor Living

Photo courtesy of Architectural Digest

Decorative Tiles & Prints
Decorative Tiles & Prints

Photo courtesy of Consign 2 Design

Decorative Tiles & Prints
Decorative Tiles & Prints

Photo courtesy of Paul Bardagjy Photography

Decorative Tiles & Prints
Decorative Tiles & Prints

Photo courtesy of PizaTella

Decorative Tiles & Prints
Decorative Tiles & Prints

Photo courtesy of images 4 you

Decorative Tiles & Prints
Decorative Tiles & Prints

Photo courtesy of HGTV

Modernity
Modernity

Photo courtesy of Hi Consumption

Modernity
Modernity

Photo courtesy of Treeinggear

Modernity
Modernity

Photo courtesy of Freshome

 

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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Succulents 101: Four Tips to Create a Thriving Succulent Garden

Photo of succulent garden with green, silver, orange and red succulents.

A succulent garden can include an array of plants in all sorts of colors. And best of all? A succulent garden is low maintenance. Photo Courtesy of Gardens by Gabriel.

By Seve Kale

My thumb is so far from green, it may as well be red. Regardless, I recently decided to hop on the gardening bandwagon and start my own succulent garden.

Through trial and error, along with some advice from the pros, I’ve created a cheery little garden on my back patio. Best of all, it is thriving in the dead heat of the Texas summer! If you’re looking to add a little plant life to your porch, the following tips and tricks will put you well on your way to succulent success:

Educate Yourself

Having adapted to survive harsh, arid conditions all over the world, succulents are fleshy leaved plants designed to store water. From brushy leaves to rosettes and paddle leaves to twisting columns, succulents come in a variety of colors, shapes and sizes. Be creative and do some research to figure out which variations will look best in your garden.

In addition to their aesthetic appeal, some plants such as aloe provide homeopathic remedies. No matter the particular plant you choose, your drought-tolerant succulents will create a sustainable, low-maintenance garden.

Plan Your Strategy

Success may be hard to come by, unless you do your research. Check the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Plant Hardiness Zone Map to find out which zone you are gardening in. Knowing your zone will help you pick the succulent species that will thrive in your climate. You’ll likely want sempervivums or sedums, unless you live in Zone 8 or 9.

Once you’ve chosen the sort of succulent(s) you’d like to grow, chose your container. Succulents have very shallow roots, so even an interesting bowl or dish can make a great setting for a container garden. “Succulents appreciate soil that is well aerated and drains well,” says Robin Stockwell of Succulent Gardens, a nursery dedicated to succulents based in Castroville, Calif. “Coarse bark or crushed lava work well for this, sand does not.”

Everything in Moderation

According to Stockwell, “Succulents are low maintenance, not no maintenance.”

Remember, succulents aren’t cactus — they do need constant moisture. However, take care that their soil doesn’t become soggy and allow the potting mix to dry between watering. They will be at their healthiest and most colorful in full sunlight, but some species may scorch if suddenly exposed to direct sunlight. Most succulents will survive the winter right in their containers, but those in colder climates might want to require additional protection.

With careful observation and persistence, you’ll learn to create the ideal environment for your plants. Snails, earwigs and hail can wreak havoc on your succulent garden, along with other bugs and diseases, so keep an eye on your plants to make sure they are staying healthy and happy.

If at First You Don’t Succeed

Try, try again! If your plants are looking sad — dried up or shriveling — try taking cuttings and making new plants.

It’s easy to propagate a new plant from the leaves — simply remove some of the bottom leaves, set them aside for about three days to callous (which prevents rot) and then set the cuttings on a pot of soil and wait for them to root. Use this technique to expand your own garden or give away plants as gifts.

Armed with a bit of background knowledge, you’re well on your way toward creating a beautiful succulent garden. Don’t be afraid to be creative with your garden — incorporate shells, rocks or other interesting objects to create a unique masterpiece. From succulent wall gardens to hanging wreaths, the possibilities are endless.

Seve Kale is a writer for NewHomeSource. You can find her on Google+.

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Your First Home: What Every New Homeowner Needs in Their Brand New Kitchen

kitchen with white cabinets and stainless steel appliances in new home by Hudson Harbor

Are you a first-time homeowner with a sleek, contemporary kitchen like this one at Lookout North Residences by Hudson Harbor in Tarrytown, N.Y.? Then you’ll need a few essentials to stock up on.

By Patricia L. Garcia

If you’re a first-time homebuyer, you likely have a few items that you’re carrying over from your rental or parent’s house. But, as time goes on, you’ll realize that you might be missing a few practical items.

So, to help those who are experiencing their first home, we’ve come up with a series of articles to help you stock up on handy items you may not have even considered before moving in. Since you’ve purchased a newly built home, you’ll save time by not having to do any repair work or deal with old plumbing. In the first of our “Your First Home” posts, we’ll cover the basics of kitchen necessities — can opener, anyone?

1. Be Practical

As Wendy Santantonio, a Realtor with McEnearney Associates in Alexandria, Va., says, “Forget the customized gadgets and small appliances.” If you go for trendy items that aren’t practical – like, say, that fondue set that you’ll probably use once or twice a year – they’ll likely go unused and take up valuable storage space.

Instead, you’ll find more value from items that are practical and that serve many purposes. “Focus your budget and your space on items that can serve multiple functions and lay a good foundation for your culinary and entertaining needs,” Santantonio says. “Consider investing in durable pots and pans and a good set of knives. Choose basic white dishes that can be dressed up or down, as well as lidded glass bowls that can meet your prep, serving and storage needs.”

2. Go For Quality

You may be tempted to purchase inexpensive cooking items, like those that come in sets, to hold you over until the pricier house gifts start rolling in. However, while these sets may be inexpensive, they might not be of the highest quality. Now that you have a new home, it’s time to stop skimping.

“Having been a chef for a long time, I’ve always believed that a few quality items beats a collection of cheap gizmos,” says Tannar Agar, founder and CEO of The Chef Shelf based out of Fort Worth, Texas. “Quality knives and pans make cooking safer, easier and more fun. If I could only spend $500 on my kitchen, those (items) would be the first purchase.”

3. Knives

As mentioned above, quality knives are critical for any kitchen.

“The knife is the most important – and also most dangerous – tool in the kitchen,” says Rachel Sherwood, a Minneapolis, Minn.-based food stylist, culinary expert and author of The Pretty Plate.

Dull or low-quality knives are dangerous because you have to work harder to cut food, making it easier to “slip” and cut yourself. You don’t have to have a set of professional knives, which can cost hundreds or thousands of dollars for just one, but you should have three basic knives for all of your cooking needs, suggests Sherwood:

  • paring knife: for cutting small fruits or cutting a piece of cheese;
  • serrated knife: for breads and cakes; and
  • chefs’ knife: for all of your main chopping tasks.

While, you’re at it, don’t forget the cutting board!

4. Appliances

A food processor may not seem like a necessary kitchen item, but it will help keep your menu varied and recipes manageable. From dough to hummus, this kitchen workhorse will make cooking and baking a breeze. “It chops, kneads, slices and blends, so you’ll be making pizza dough, croquettes or veggies burgers, chapped salads and dips like hummus, in minutes,” says Rachel Asher, a Brooklyn, N.Y.-based food writer.

Sherwood also suggests a crock pot, which can make easy dinners while you are away at work, and a mixer, which will make mixing easier than doing so by hand.

5. Pans

Also on Sherwood’s list? Pans of all types:

  • Sheet pan: for cookies and bacon;
  • Baking pan: for cakes, brownies, casseroles;
  • Sauté pan: for cooking meats and vegetables; and
  • Sauce pan: for soups and sauces.

6. Utensils

Don’t get lost in the sea of kitchen gadgets out there. There are a few basics that Sherwood suggests to perform basic tasks:

  • Mixing bowls: for holding items and mixing salads, cookie or cake batter;
  • Whisk: use to make fluffy eggs, creaming batters, blending sticky substances, blending sauces and whipped cream;
  • Rubber spatula: to scrape up all the goodness from a pan or bowl;
  • Spatula: for turning food that is being cooked in a pan, such as burgers;
  • Tongs: to easily grab things or flip them;
  • Grater: to shred cheese, vegetables, chocolate or cinnamon sticks;
  • Strainer: to separate a solid from a liquid, draining pasta, vegetable and removing particles from sauces or soups;
  • Peeler: for peeling veggies, but can also make “vegetable ribbons” and shave items like chocolate and cheeses;
  • Slotted Spoon: for removing items from a liquid;
  • Garlic press: to easily mince garlic; and
  • Zester: to remove rinds from citrus, to grate fresh spices like nutmeg and to finely grate chocolate and hard cheeses.

Now that you have your list, go forth and prosper, er, cook well in your new kitchen!

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, Interior Design, Opinion | 2 Comments

Decorating a Football-Themed Room for Kids

Kid's rom with bunk beds and locker room-type organizer

Does your child love football as much as you do? Nourish their need for gridiron everything with a football-themed room, like this one with bunk beds and locker room to boot. Photo Courtesy of HouseLogic.

By Ashley Steel

Football season is upon us and while you’re out buying jerseys and face paint for this momentous occasion, perhaps you should consider some spirited home décor too. If you’ve got kiddos who are crazy for football, then a football-themed kid’s room is a great place to channel their fanaticism.

It’s time to huddle up and get ready to go all out this season!

1. Friday Night Lights

Football Room 1Retrofitted furniture comes together to give this space a striking locker room vibe. However, unlike a locker room, bright accent colors lend warmth to otherwise sparse, industrial space. Cones and an imitation field rug add an additional layer of authenticity. A pullout bed opens to reveal a photograph of players emerging from the tunnel beneath the over-head lights. Photo courtesy of Marie’s Manor – Kids Theme Room.

 

 

2. Gridiron Fun

Football Room 2A football-shaped headboard and matching leather seat with ottoman are a charming touch to this otherwise subtle bedroom. Striped brown sheets help tie the football pieces in with the rest of the room, while miscellaneous posters, sporting and gaming equipment demonstrate this room’s versatility. Photo courtesy of Azure Interior.
 

 

 

3. The Longest Yard

Football Room 3A two-toned wall with football field replica and coordinating green wall mounts makes for a very unique room. Matching curtains, football bed sheets, photographs and even a lamp join forces to demonstrate this kid’s love for the sport. Pairing the hunter green of the football field with rich wood furniture also lends natural appeal. Photo courtesy of HGTV.

 

 

4. Pee Wee League

Support your team with this bunk bed spread in the Washington Redskin’s colors shown up top. Sheets, throw pillows and wall decals celebrate the burgundy and gold pride of this sibling pair. Also going for the locker room look, built-in and bare-faced cubbies provide storage for clothing and gear. The checkered tile adds texture to this modest space, while the wood and metal bench provides a great place to slip on shoes in the morning.

5. Football Dreams

Football Room 5For the general football lover, this room supports the league with this chunky grid quilt. A large NFL poster and mounted jersey adorn the walls along with an aerial shot of a football field, team pennants and inspirational lettering. Wood furniture provides a consistent motif throughout the otherwise vibrant, multi-colored room. Photo courtesy of Room Decoratin.

 

 

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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Pocket Full of Doors: What to Know About Pocket Doors

Mirrored pocket door with white frame sliding into wall between bathroom and hallway

A pocket door tucks discreetly into walls, like this mirrored one that separates a bathroom from a hallway. Photo Courtesy of Johnson Hardware.

By Patricia L. Garcia

Ever see those cool hideaway doors that tuck into the wall and think, “I’d love a door like that!”? The good news is that you can — commonly known as pocket doors, these doors are functional, save space and look great.

But, is a pocket door the right type of door for your new home? While these types of doors may be attractive, they should be used in certain cases. If you’re unsure if a pocket door will work in a certain room, talk to your builder. In the meantime, here’s what to know about pocket doors:

The Basics

What is a pocket door and how does it differ from a regular door? “A pocket door can be the same size and look of a regular door, but it instead slides discreetly within the interior of the wall,” says David Soriano, founder and president of Bryan Construction in Doylestown, Pa. “This can be used on any interior door in a home, providing there is enough wall space on one side of the door to allow room for the entire door to slide in to.” Pocket doors come in a variety of styles, including solid wood, glass and even rice paper.

While these doors offer space savings, Soriano says that homeowners who use these doors are often after a desired look. They want “a very open, seamless look consistent throughout the home,” he says.

Barn Doors, The Pocket Door You Can See

wood barn door separating bathroom from master bedroom

Photo Courtesy of NW Artisan Hardware.

An alternative to pocket doors (and the need for a pocket door frame) is the barn door. Barn doors glide on hardware you install above a door. While barn doors don’t close in the same way that a pocket door does, they provide privacy without taking up space.

“Barn doors are perfect for areas where you don’t want to impede traffic flow,” says Barbara Green, owner of Sensibly Chic Designs for Life in Charlotte, N.C. “You can cover a pantry with them or a doorway between a formal living room or a hallway.

“They can close off a space, but when you want it to open, it completely opens the room up without having to worry about traffic flow being impeded by the doors jutting into the hallway or room,” says Green.

Not All Doors Are Created Equal

It’s important to understand that a pocket door shouldn’t replace every type of door in your home. Erin Davis, owner and lead designer of Mosaik Design & Remodeling in Portland, Ore., suggests pockets doors in cases where they’ll see “light to moderate use only.”

Placement is also important when thinking about a pocket door, Davis says. “The framing that is required for a pocket door limits plumbing and electrical placement,” she says. Because you don’t need to remove parts of the wall to install a pocket door frame, newly built homes are ideal for these types of doors. “You can pre-plan in locations and frame it in from the start” with a new construction home, Davis says. Your builder can offer advice on the best way to incorporate this type of door into your new home, so don’t be afraid to ask.

Save Pocket Doors For Smaller Spaces

While pocket doors are hailed for giving folks more space, that’s not true in every case, says Anjie Cho, a New York City-based registered architect and feng shui interior designer. “People think that they get more space, but not always,” she says. “You lose the back of the door (for hooks, like in a closet or bathroom). You also lose acoustical privacy. This is something to consider with bathrooms and bedrooms.”

Cho suggests using pocket doors in rooms where space is limited, such as a powder room.

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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