8 Great Home Ideas

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New home design,architecture,interior design concept - blueprints for a new home and background of a paint color palette to be chosen for home

By Angelique Gammon

You’re building, remodeling, or maybe just thinking about making a change somewhere around your house. Here are eight great tips for the kinds of spaces and places you want to live in.

1. Save That Sink Cutout…and Never Scrub Grout Again!

home+products+zwernamenYou love the granite you picked out for your bathroom and kitchen countertops, so why not take the cutout from the sinks and use pieces of it as an embellishment…say in the decorative bands in your tile shower surround or in the backsplash in your kitchen, suggests Leah Hamm at Zwernemann Flooring in Bryan.

Best known for their superior customer service and warranties on “flooring from A to Z,” Zwernemann also designs and installs custom tile shower surrounds and backsplashes. It’s your luxury shower, so talk to Greg and Katy (Aggie Class of ‘94) Zwernemann for other custom ideas like corner or bench seats and creating the perfect shower niche for hair care and bath products. Look at extra-cool river rock for your shower pan and repeat it at the back of the niche.

Finally, ask the Zwernemanns about the grout sealant that can be mixed in at installation that will mean your shower and tile floors will stay in showroom shape for the life of your home. That’s how to really make a splash in the bath and kitchen.

2. Keep It Squeaky Clean: Clearly the Best Shower Glass

home+products+acmeGarden tubs are out and big, bold showers are in. The trend in new homes and bath remodels are clients asking for frameless shower surrounds for their large, luxury showers. Clearly, the best choice would be a custom glass option that resists hard water, heat, humidity, soap, and even cleaning agents to prevent it from becoming dull over time. ShowerGuard glass is a patented technology barrier that prevents glass from showing signs of age and locally available through Acme Glass Company, a Guardian ShowerGuard registered dealer.

The exact fit is just as important as the choice of glass. “Everything we make at Acme Glass is custom-made and manufactured to exact measurements from each location,” says Donna Morehead, one of the officers of this family owned company that has been crafting glass locally since 1946. For an exact, custom fit, the craftsmen at Acme Glass won’t measure for your custom shower surround until the tile work is finished, but Morehead urges clients to come in early in the building or remodel process to discuss glass options like ShowerGuard, compare framed and frameless styles on display in their showroom, and discuss other glass options including bathroom mirrors.

3. Green Is More Than a Paint Color…Imagine An Allergy Friendly Paint With Zero Smell

home+products+paintEco and allergy friendly products are at the top of most home trend lists, and one of those products also earned the prestigious Product of the Year award for 2015: Benjamin Moore Natura Waterborne Interior Paint, available at Chapman Paint Company in Bryan.

Not only is Natura environmentally friendly with Zero VOC (Volatile Organic Chemicals), it has zero emissions – no paint smell! – making it an excellent option for home interiors.

“Natura dries quickly to allow full, same-day use of the newly painted room,” explains John Jahnke, owner and store manager at Chapman’s Paint Company. Not all paint manufacturer claims of zero-VOC formulas can withstand the rigorous, independent, scientific testing that Benjamin Moore subjects all its products to, notes Jahnke. The 40,000 consumer votes that back the U.S. Product of the Year designation agree. The award is designed to guide consumers to the best products in their market and reward manufacturers for quality and innovation.

Jahnke points to statistics that show 66 percent of 1,000 homeowners surveyed say they paint because they grew tired of their current paint scheme, while 25 percent change hues to keep up with the latest decorating trends or to accommodate a change in how the room is being used. When you decide to make those changes, you can now choose the best paint for the health of your family and the planet. Read more about Natura and how all the Benjamin Moore Paint lines are created to address the demands of the professional, commercial, industrial and do-it-yourself markets at ChapmansPaint.com.

4. Don’t Get Trapped in Our Out: Battery Backup a Must-Have Garage Door Option

home+products+garagedoorClick. Click, click. Standard automatic garage door openers won’t do you any good if the power fails – and it always fails in the worst possible weather – unless you also selected a battery backup option when your overhead garage door was installed. David Coonse of American Overhead Door in Bryan says he taken more than a few calls from homeowners with cars trapped in or out of their garage because of a power outage.

“For under $100, a battery backup means you won’t get caught out in the rain, or have your car trapped in the garage,” says Coonse. If you’re building a new home, Coonse advises asking your builder if he provides this option, and if you’re ready to replace a badly weathered garage door, consider adding a battery backup. Most new garage door openers are wired and ready to be smartphone compatible.

A-plus tip: shop for an insulated garage door. The Coonse family has been installing overhead doors in the Brazos Valley for three generations, and David says their insulated garage doors are very close in price to non-insulated doors available from other retailers. “Your garage isn’t cooled or heated, but an insulated door will keep down some of the heat gain in the summer,” says Coonse. “Where it makes a real difference is in the winter, keeping warm air in the house.” Insulated doors are also quieter when there is street noise.

5. You Wanted a Fireplace…But Got a Smoker Instead

home+products+fireplaceIndoor fireplaces are consistently on the must-have list for new homes, but with the increase in builders using foam insulation, homeowners need to know before framing starts that an airtight house can turn your open fireplace into a smoke blower.

“It can create negative pressure in the home that doesn’t allow the fireplace to draw,” says Dusty Strange, co-owner of Fireplaces, Etc. in Bryan. Foam insulation plus double-paned windows make the home sealed and airtight, says Strange. The solution, which not all builders choose, is to install a sealed fireplace unit that has a fresh-air intake to pull oxygen into the house, says Strange. “You want your primary air source for the fireplace to be outside air,” he explains.

Standard fireplace designs are energy hogs, sending as much as 85 percent of your home’s heated air up the chimney. Energy-efficient fireplace designs can help wood-burning fireplaces achieve efficiency ratings of 70 percent or more, and fireplace inserts and gas fireplaces are even more efficient, says Strange.

Location also matters. Avoid locating fireplaces next to stairways or return air vents, advises Strange. Since keeping your fireplace clean and serviced is key to long-term enjoyment, you also want to avoid the “stackhouse” effect with chimney exhausts making lots of right angle turns before exiting the roof.

A-plus tip: Fireplace inserts are sealed metal boxes designed to fit inside masonry fireplace openings. They use outside air for combustion, and are designed to circulate and warm inside air. Inserts burn a variety of biomass fuels, including wood and pellets with some units rated at 80 percent efficiency. You can read more at FireplacesEtc.com.

6. A Win-Win in Window Coverings: Shades, Blinds, Shutters…

home+products+silhouette+shadeWhichever you select, home trend sites agree that the naked window look is on its way out and window coverings you can adjust (even from your iPad!) for energy efficiency, warmth, and style are big and getting bigger. Look for cords on blinds or shades to soon be a thing of the past with motorized controls an option even in a remodel.

“For safety, convenience, and operation, we want to talk with clients at the beginning of a home project,” says Barbara Holley of Holley’s Window Fashions & Interiors. “That way, you can prewire for motorization.” If you are past the wiring stage, it’s not too late. A lot of the latest technology can be plugged in to outlets and still be operated from your smartphone or iPad.

Where function and budget meet style, Holley says the trend is to soften up today’s homes with window coverings.

“We are putting so many hard surfaces in homes, we need to put something softer on windows,” says Holley. “Shades and shadings are soft, but they can open up like a blind. Roller shades are back, and they are not your grandma’s roller shades!”

So many options, so little time? No worries. A-plus tip: Holley suggests you take advantage of the Hunter Douglass iMagine site that lets you upload pictures of your windows to try with different covering options even before you meet with a window covering professional. Visit HolleysWindowFashions.comto try it out.

7. Light Up Your Life: Bright Ideas in Recessed and LED Fixtures

home+products+dealers2For years, recessed lighting was used only in the most customized homes, says Jan Lee of Dealers Lighting in Bryan. “These days, it is the rare home that does not have at least one,” says Lee. “It is so unobtrusive and does not interfere with any sight line. Improvements have been made in the recessed lighting that we use in wet areas such as showers and tubs. They have been upgraded so that they can also have an open reflector, which means more wattage in the bulb and more light on the surfaces.”

Lightolier’s SlimSurfaceLED fixtures area new affordable alternative to using air-tight recess cans while still getting the architecturally pleasing recess look you want, says Lee. A-plus tip: Lightolier invented recessed lighting and is brand you can trust in new lighting innovations, says Lee. This low-profile downlight can be used for both wall and ceiling mount applications.

“What we see on the horizon is simple straight lines, no acanthus leaves, fewer scrolls, less tea stain and more white glass and nickel finishes – both polished and matte – as well as painted finishes that incorporate lighter colors,” says Lee. But that is the horizon, she adds. If Aggieland stays true to form, oil-rubbed bronze and aged bronze finishes will be dominant a little longer. “This community in general has a very traditional taste that leans more old world, Tuscan and even some Spanish influence. That is not to say we can’t provide the most current styles to fit any taste. Variety is, after all, the spice of life!” says Lee.

8. How to Downsize Building Stress: Make a Match With Your Builder

New home design,architecture,interior design concept - blueprints for a new home and background of a paint color palette to be chosen for home

According to a recent National Home Builders Association survey, average new-home sizes are 10 percent smaller than in 2010, with the average new, single-family home coming in around 2,152 square feet. Prospective homebuyers expect that space to be packed with customized options like walk-in showers, built-ins in the bathrooms, and natural materials throughout the house, says Michael King of King Custom Homes.

In new home construction trends, clients are forgoing formal living and dining rooms and opting for open spaces, big breakfast rooms and more creative built-ins, says King. Things are looking up, literally, with most ceiling heights in custom homes now starting at 10 feet instead of the traditional 8 feet, and they just go up from there, he adds.

The limitless ideas and options available in new home construction and remodels can increase the stress of what should be the beginning of your happily ever after home. King’s advice for the best way to build a house from the ground up is to first make sure you and your builder are a good match.

“Find a builder that suits your needs – one that will do it your way not their way – and who works with your needs,” advises King. If the buyer and builder don’t click “then it makes it 100 times more stressful,” says King.