Gadget of the Month: The Andrea Plant-based Air Purifier

aloe plant inside Andrea plant-based air filter

The Andrea Air Purifier uses plants to filter toxins from the air.

By Dan Chapman

Do you deal with severe allergies and know the pain of bad indoor air quality?

If you’re like the approximately 50 million people in the United States who the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology says suffer from nasal allergies, you’ve probably invested in an air purifier or two at some point.

Generally, these do a good enough job of filtering out harmful air pollutants in a room while keeping your allergies at bay. You don’t need to have allergies, however, to want a cleaner atmosphere in your home, as toxins emitted from household objects can be harmful to everyone’s health.

Or perhaps you’ve gone the natural route by using a houseplant such as aloe or English Ivy, which are natural air purifiers and can absorb chemical pollutants emitted from household items. Sure, both man-made and organic air purifiers do their part in keeping your space pollutant free, but what if there was a more effective gadget that combined both?

Enter the Andrea Air Purification System, which blends the power of an indoor plant and the efficiency of an air purification system for an ingenious process that filters cleaner air into your home. You could call it the Superman of air purifiers. Mathieu Lehannuer and Harvard professor David Edwards spent two years developing the product, which they claim filters air 1,000 percent better than a normal houseplant and outperforms many other air purifiers.

The process of how the Andrea works is really cool. Inside is a fan that circulates air into the apparatus that contains the houseplant of your choosing. The air is channeled through the plant’s leaves, down toward the soil and roots and finally out of the apparatus through an opening where a tray of water absorbs toxins. The fan essentially pushes the unclean air through the plant’s filtration system at a much faster rate than a normal houseplant, which is what makes the system more effective than a houseplant alone.

It’s important to note that there’s dozens of plants that you could use with the Andrea, but a few are ideal: gerbera, philodendron, spathiphyllum, pathos and chlorophytum are the most effective (prices range from $5-$50). Don’t skimp on this part of the process, as you want to maximize the filtration power of the system as best you can.

If you’re looking for a powerful air purifier with less upkeep, the Andrea is the perfect gadget for you. Unlike most others air purifying systems, the Andrea doesn’t need replacement filters — just turn it on and watch it go! Head on over to Bed Bath & Beyond ($99.99) or Amazon and give it a try for a fresher home and a healthier you.

Suggest Our Next Gadget of the Month

Do you have a favorite household gizmo? Tell us why you love it in the comment section below and we may feature it as our October Gadget of the Month!

Dan Chapman is a content intern for NewHomeSource. You can find him on Google+.

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Stylish Halloween Décor Ideas

Black wingback chair and red orchid sit in front of teal wallpaper with white Day of the Dead skulls.

Halloween decor need not be tacky nor have an expiration date. This Day of the Dead wallpaper from Street Anatomy is festive enough for Halloween, yet stylish enough for use all year round. Photo via Curbly and Street Anatomy.

By Patricia L. Garcia

There’s no better time of year for me than Halloween. What’s not to like? There are spooky times, family gatherings and candy!

To celebrate, I enjoy decorating my home with Halloween décor. I’ve built up quite a collection of Halloween décor and noticed that my design style has become a little more sophisticated over the years. If, like me, you’d rather not put the “gore” in gorgeous this Halloween, here are some stylish Halloween décor ideas to make your home delightfully frightful.

Black Walls

Black WallsThough it may not sound elegant, blacks walls done right can make for an elegantly spooky atmosphere. This room takes advantage of contrasting colors with black walls and white accessories.

Add a few fake spider webs or distressed white cloths for a Victorian gothic look that’s spooky without being tacky. The best part is the versatility of this design, since you can rock these walls all year round. Photo via Panda’s House.

 

Poison, Anyone?

Apothecary JarsApothecary jars are a stylish way to serve up innocent scares. What’s creepier than a set of jars labeled “poison,” “eye of newt” or “witches’ brew”? Should you take a drink or bite or what’s inside?

It’s fun to serve a Halloween candy buffet in these kind of jars or simply place water that’s been tinted with food coloring for a “mad scientist” look. Photo via CrowsFeetChic.

 

Day of the Dead

white pillow with black Day of the Dead skullWith sugar skulls and bright colors, this Mexican holiday is not as grim as it sounds. A celebration of loved ones who have passed away, the Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos) includes altars with loved ones’ favorite items.

If an altar is too much for you, try incorporating elements of the holiday, liked sugar skull wallpaper that, much like the aforementioned black walls, can be used all year long for a stylish look. For something more subtle, try a black and white sugar skull pillow. Photo via The Paper Source.

 

Nevermore!

fake ravens sitting in branches on desk with lit candlesWhether it’s that they are extremely intelligent creatures or that they scream “nevermore,” ravens are a classy way to spook up a place. (Hey, they don’t call a group of ravens an unkindness for nothing!)

Add one to your apothecary setup and that’ll up its boo factor, but five or more crows will be something out of Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds,” giving even bird enthusiasts the heebie jeebies. Photo via Wanda Hoffs.

 

It’s easy to get a spooky look that’s elegant and fun. Take inspiration from décor that’s functional and stylish the rest of the year. Happy haunting!

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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Your First Home: What Every New Homeowner Needs in Their Master Bedroom

A tranquil sitting area completes this elegant owner’s suite. The Devonshire plan built by WGB Homes at Brookmeadow Village. South Grafton, Mass.

A tranquil sitting area completes this elegant owner’s suite. The Devonshire plan built by WGB Homes at Brookmeadow Village. South Grafton, Mass.

By Ashley Steel

For first-time homeowners, the master bedroom is often one of the most exciting rooms of their new home. Aside from wanting to plop onto their bed after all that moving, it’s one of those rooms that offers respite from everyday life.

However, while you may be finding the perfect comforter for your bed or figuring out the layout of your furniture, it’s easy to overlook the basic privacy, comfort and convenience essentials that every master bedroom needs.

But don’t worry — at NewHomeSource, we’re seeking to educate first-time home buyers on how to stock a starter home. This month, we’re walking through the master bedroom. Here’s what you’ll need:

“Since this room is tucked away from company, many homeowners put it on the backburner, but this is you space to relax and unwind at the end of the day,” says Robin Bond, owner of interior design firm, Robin Bond Interiors. So, make it the kind of space that generates tranquility and relaxation.

When it comes to filling up your master bedroom, “buy the large items first and then the small ones,” says celebrity interior designer Cathy Hobbs. “Large items will anchor the room and serve as the signature pieces” that will define the rest of the room’s décor.

The Bed

Most likely, the biggest item in any bedroom is going to be the bed. And considering that you spend one-third of your life sleeping, you’re going to want to make sure you have the most comfortable mattress that you can afford, says John Loecke, co-founder of design firm Madcap Cottage.

For tips on choosing the right bed, check out our post, Everything You Need to Know When Shopping for a New Bed.

Bedding

With any bed comes bedding, which Loecke suggests using to set the scene. “As the biggest piece of real estate in the room, (your bed) should be the focal point. Take a layered approach when selecting your bedding, so that you can not only adjust your comfort level by adding or removing layers with the changing season, but also the look,” he says.

In addition to aiding comfort, layers also provide the opportunity to change a room’s appearance quickly and easily. Another way to do this is to look for reversible pieces that can change a room’s look on a budget. Similarly, sheets sets that can be easily mixed will give you a variety of bedding options, says Loecke.

Another thing to consider when it comes to bedding is how you use your bed. Many people enjoy reading or watching TV from the comfort of their bed. In this situation, Bond says, “I like to recommend upholstered headboards — not only are they versatile and easy to clean, but they are comfortable to lean against if reading in bed. For added comfort, invest in great pillows and make sure your reading light is adequate, so you aren’t straining your eyes.”

Wall Color

Moving beyond the room’s focal point, let’s take a look at the walls. A lesson in basic color psychology suggest that with wallpaper or paint, “darker colors usually have a more calming effect, while brighter colors have a more stimulating effect,” says Patrick Cullen, founder and owner of Panda Bear Linens, a small business that produces allergy-free bamboo linens. So think about how you use your bedroom; is it your office during the day or is it exclusively for sleeping at night?

But beyond the basic necessities there are many bedroom components that are readily overlooked:

Ambient Lighting

“The bedroom is a place to retire to at the end of a long day, so create a relaxing atmosphere in the master with soft lighting.” Dimmers are an ideal option for the bedroom and can help transition a space from day to night and even set the mood when the time is right.

Privacy

As one of your most intimate settings, you don’t want to overlook privacy in the bedroom. “Select shades with at least 3-percent opacity. The lower the number, the tighter the weave and the less light that will shine through,” says Hobbs.

Art

Don’t forget unique art pieces, says Cullen. “They really add a lot of overall context and, best of all, they don’t have to be expensive.” When selecting art to fit into a specific room scheme, he suggests mosaics and abstract pieces, as they are the easiest to work with.

Storage

Another thing that can prove frustrating if not addressed are storage needs. “Not only do you need closet space for each person using the room,” says Loecke, “but you’ll also need bedside tables and a chest or desk for keeping other personal items.”

Flooring

“Always pay attention to the hard versus soft relationship. If you have hardwood floors, remember to have something soft under foot,” like a shag or sheepskin rug, which Hobbs says are ultra-comfy.

Seating

Ask your building about the possibility of creating a seating area in your master suite, as this can bring another level of relaxation to your retreat.

“I like to incorporate a small seating area in master bedroom designs with a side table for reading, small projects or just drinking a glass of wine or tea with your partner,” says Bond. It can also serve as a great place to slip on shoes in the morning.

By properly outfitting your new master bedroom, you’ll create a room that’s more than the place that you sleep — it can be a restful retreat that you enjoy spending time in all day long.

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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App of the Month: Nextdoor

Screenshot of Nextdoor app with yard sale message and notice of strange vehicle in neighborhood

Get to know your neighbors and keep up-to-date about what’s happening in your neighborhood with the Nextdoor app.

By Judy Marchman

A recent WhitePages survey found that 93 percent of Americans still believe it’s important for neighbors to look out for each other and that 67 percent of homeowners feel safer when they know some of their neighbors.

But the realities of today’s busy, on-the-go world don’t leave us with a lot of extra time to get to know those around us as well as perhaps we should. That’s where Nextdoor, our App of the Month, comes in.

Nextdoor allows residents in a particular neighborhood to create their own private social network to connect with one another and stay in touch more easily about concerns involving their community. Neighborhoods across the country are using the app in a variety of ways, from posting classified ads and yard sale notices to organizing block parties and neighborhood watches.

How does it work?

To join Nextdoor, you have to be invited by the creator or another member of your neighborhood’s group and then verify your address. You also must use your own name, not a separate username, to promote transparency among group members.

Nextdoor can help you and your neighbors go from meeting virtually to getting together in person. Via the app, residents can organize children’s play dates, walking groups, yard sales or block parties. They can look for or advertise services, such as lawn care or pet sitting, or post furniture or other items for sale or giveaway. If your neighborhood has a homeowners association (HOA), your HOA board can post important news or updates.

Because crime and safety are two of the most important concerns to a neighborhood, Nextdoor allows public agencies to post emergency notices, such as severe weather or crime alerts affecting the area. Residents can also use the app to coordinate special events, such as National Night Out, to bring neighbors together with local law enforcement and other community services.

The app includes a membership directory and a map of your neighborhood, indicating which households are group members, which have been invited, and which ones still need to be invited to join. You can also adjust the app’s settings to receive as much or as little contact as you want, from notifications for pretty much everything to a daily digest of posts.

Nextdoor is available for free via the Web at nextdoor.com or as an app for iPhone, iPad and Android mobile devices.

Judy Marchman is a freelance contributor to NewHomeSource with 20 years of magazine and book publishing experience. You can find her on Google+.

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Saving For a First Home

girl with two thumbs up standing in front of whiteboard with lots of colorful exclamation points

Homeownership can be in the cards for you if you start saving for a first home now — and it’s not as difficult as you may think.

By Ashley Steel

For many people, buying a home is a someday dream. Many first-time homebuyers aren’t ready yet; often, the funds aren’t there. But if buying a home is your someday dream, it’s time you start saving for a first home now.

Where Do I Start?

The first step is to outline your dream in concrete terms. When will you buy a home and how much will you need to save? Since the average price of a starter home varies, a general suggestion provided by lending giant Freddie Mac is that a person can afford roughly 2.5 times their annual income.

For the sake of this article, let’s pretend that you’re buying a home in five years at a salary of $50,000. This would make your target home price $125,000 (salary X 2.5), requiring roughly a 10-percent down payment of $12,500. From there, you work backward, says John Bustrum, CEO and founder of My 403b Coach, a financial coaching institution. If you need $12,500 over the course of 60 months, that brings your monthly savings goal to $209. “Stay the course,” says Bustrum, “and the goals will be yours.”

Tip: Keep in mind that a starter home is not the time to play guessing games with your salary. Do not assume a raise in five years and plan for a modest total budget so that you’re not living on the edge every month, says Bustrum.

How to Save

There are a variety of ways to save money for a home purchase. Not all options will be compatible with your lifestyle needs, but it’s important to start considering those that do. Here are some ways to save for your first home:

Tax Refunds

Tax refunds can be an exciting source of extra funds. In years past, perhaps you put this money toward a shopping spree or an expensive dinner, but when saving for a new home, Bustrum recommends applying a refund toward your house fund. “Every dollar counts toward your goal,” he says.

Money Markets

While a savings account is a great and safe place to store money, they yield very little in the way of interest. Putting your money in a high-yield savings account like a CD or money market can produce greater funds in the short term. But Bustrum warns avoiding higher-yield market exposure, where you risk losing a substantial amount of your savings right before you need them.

Inflation

“The good news,” says Bustrum “is when you have a steady income, most likely your income will rise with inflation every year, enabling you to save more.” Should you get a raise, Bustrum recommends putting away the extra into your home savings account where you won’t miss it and you have the chance to shorten the savings term.

401K Contributions

Maxing out your 401K contributions is another great way to save for a home, says Hillary Legrain, vice president of First Savings Mortgage Corporation. “You can withdraw from your retirement account with no penalty for a home purchase and, if your company provides matching contributions, then that will give you even more funds to work with.” This strategy can also reduce your gross taxable income.

Roommates

An easy, time-tested method, you can also seek financial aid via a roommate, says Kyle Gonnell, marketing manager of iGrad, a financial literacy program for students. Relatives and friends can bring down the cost of rent, groceries and even gas. Other basic options include downgrading to a smaller apartment, moving closer to work or taking advantage of public transportation.

The task of saving for a new home may be daunting, but developing a strategy to span the years until your someday can make saving for a down payment manageable. The dream of homeownership can be yours, so start saving today!

For more helpful info on saving for your first home, check out our New Home Guide article: How to Start Saving For Your First Home.

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 Buying a New Home, Mortgages & Financing | Comments Off

Let the Sparks Fly: Our Favorite Fire Pits

Long concrete fire pit with glass barrier

Fire pits can range from the simple to the elegant, like this one — the Laguna Concrete Propane Fire Table — from Restoration Hardware.

By Seve Kale

Autumn is here and porches, decks and patios are once again calling our names. Why not take some of the bite out of chilly autumn nights by installing an outdoor fire pit?

The perfect setting for campfire stories, s’mores or a few adult beverages, fire pits are a great way to enjoy your outdoor space in an intimate setting, even after temperatures drop. Regardless of the size of your yard or the size of your budget, chances are there’s a fire pit perfect for you.

Before you purchase or install anything, be sure to consider exactly what your fire pit needs are. Are you looking for a family gathering spot or a sculptural work of art? Do you want a traditional circular stone pit or something smaller and portable? Are your design sensibilities modern or more traditional? There are seemingly infinite options when it comes to fire pits, so take your time and choose carefully.

Not only will a fire pit transform your home’s exterior, it will change the way you think about your outdoor space. With the proper accessories, fire pits have the power to convert your yard into a living room or party space. For your inspiration, we’ve compiled a list of our favorite fire pits (with a slideshow below), ranging from a simple wood-burning pit to an extravagant eco-friendly fire sculpture.

Laguna Concrete Propane Fire Table

Why bother with a kitchen table if you’ve got a fire table? If you’ve got the money to burn, this is the fire pit for you. At once an elegant work of art and source of heat, this propane fire table instantly starts a blaze that’ll keep your friends and family warm for hours. Photo courtesy of Restoration Hardware.

Landmann USA Ball of Fire Outdoor Fireplace

This fiery orb is a quick and easy way to convert a simple patio into autumn’s coolest hangout. The Ball of Fire’s unique, spherical screen will protect from any stray sparks, while allowing everyone a view of the flames. Photo via Amazon.com.

Deep Wok Fire Pit by Potted

This Zen-inspired fire pit will give a modern edge to any outdoor space. Whether you choose to burn wood or plumb to use natural gas, the Deep Wok fire pit is a guaranteed source of heat, light and entertainment. Photo via Houzz.com.

Urbanfire Ethanol Fireplace by Modfire

We didn’t start the fire — it was your Urbanfire’s eco-smart, clean-burning ethanol burner. Safe enough for indoor and outdoor use, this sculptural and futuristic work of art will be an instant hit — no matter where you choose to display it. Photo via Modfire.

Antigua by TIKI Fire Sculptures

If an island vibe is more your style, this fire sculpture from TIKI will transform your backyard from plain to paradise. The Antigua’s unique design adds plenty of ambience to your outdoor space, while acting as a beacon for good times. Photo courtesy of TIKI.

Laguna Concrete Propane Fire Table
Laguna Concrete Propane Fire Table
Landmann USA Ball of Fire Outdoor Fireplace
Landmann USA Ball of Fire Outdoor Fireplace
Deep Wok Fire Pit by Potted
Deep Wok Fire Pit by Potted
Urbanfire Ethanol Fireplace by Modfire
Urbanfire Ethanol Fireplace by Modfire
Antigua by TIKI Fire Sculptures
Antigua by TIKI Fire Sculptures

 

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

Posted in Home Decor/Furniture, Outdoor Living | Comments Off

Bar Carts for Every Home

Rustic Bar Cart

Hardly limited to their original purpose, the bar cart of today serves a multitude of purposes in addition to being a stylish home accessory.

By Ashley Steel

Maybe you drink, maybe you don’t — regardless of your lifestyle, a bar cart is one of the most stylish home accessories you can own. And you should. In fact, many newly built homes are now offering the option to install a built-in wet bar due to its increasing popularity and versatility.

More than meets the eye, the bar cart — and it’s more permanent counterpart, the wet bar — are versatile pieces that can do a lot for any home. From serving up drinks to serving as an entertainment hub, to showing off personal items and adding stylish flair to a room, the bar cart isn’t just what it seems, and it certainly isn’t just for drinks.

Let’s explore bar cart style and usage:

old-fashioned Bar cart

Photo courtesy of HGTV

1. This bar cart’s old-fashioned appeal caught my eye. With rounded, brassy details and glass trays, it stands in stark contrast to today’s minimalist, matte pieces. With front and back wheels of differing sizes, it recalls the era of vintage bicycles. On top, a chaotic arrangement of liquors balances against the clean bartending tools. On the bottom shelf, mixers are grouped by color, creating order and visual interest. Paired with martini glasses, tumblers, highball glasses and a bowl of mixed fruit, this bar cart is for the true artisan.

Tip: For parties, it’s important to cater to your guests’ tastes and stock up on more than just your favorite liquors. When you’re unsure of brands to buy, ask your local liquor vendor to help you find the intersection of quality and price, so you don’t send your guest home with a college-style hangover.

Yellow Bar Cart

Photo courtesy SayBrook Homes

2. This bar cart’s color brings cheer to any home. A basic three-tiered frame with minimal geometric detail stocks plates, glasses and linens. An ice bucket, juice pitcher and wicker pastry baskets make this the perfect spread for a breakfast buffet. A vase of flowers and bowl and fruit add the perfect pop of contrasting color and add a homey touch to this cheerful getup.

Tip: If you’re not a drinker, bar carts can act as a home for other items as well. Try using a bar cart for a kid’s birthday party by storing all the fixings for sundaes or provide a breakfast spread for overnight guests.
 

 

Rustic Bar Cart

Photo courtesy of A Creative Interior

3. I love the counter space this bar cart affords, along with its efficient storage. Rustic in nature, its rich wood finish and artistic wheels lend a refined farmhouse style to any home. Pastry serving platters make this bar cart multipurpose and napkins tucked into the handle add an elegant touch. Mesh metal baskets and a wooden crate add a rough-hewn touch.

Tip: When it’s not party time, keep mixers on hand in small single-serve bottles. From fizzy to fruity, this ensures your mixers stay fresh and don’t go flat.
 

 

Wooden Bar Cart

Photo courtesy of Here in this House

4. This bar cart does a terrific job of making space for more than bottles — store glasses, plates and bartending utensils, as well. With extended fold-out storage, this unit can be open to the public or closed behind its classic, wood façade. For the sophisticated entertainer, this bar cart can store a lot, while classing up a space.

Tip: Entertaining is about the experience. You can get drinks anywhere, so why not make your drinks memorable? Owning specialty cocktail glasses, like a copper cup for Moscow mules, a beer stein or brandy snifter can really leave an impression on guests.

 

French Industrial Bar Cart

Photo courtesy of Restoration Hardware

5. Books make a great addition to this French industrial-style bar cart. Less of a liquor cabinet than a statement cabinet with select gold-tipped glasses and collection bottle sets, this bar cart is a great place to show off some of your finest pieces behind the lock-and-key chain-link finish.

Tip: Open-faced bar carts and those secured behind glass allow for homeowners to showcase personal items in a unique way. Try to keep thematic party goods or permanent conversation pieces as part of your bar cart setup. They also make great bookcases.

 

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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