improve curb appeal

How can you make your home stand out?

improve curb appealWhy is curb appeal so hard to get right? Put simply, this elusive phenomenon is about far more than your house. True curb appeal comes from the way your home’s design interacts with and balances its natural surroundings–whether that’s a bright, busy street or a shady wooded lot.

The most luxurious, inviting homes are all designed on a few basic principles. Whether you’re building from scratch or making home improvements, you can use these simple tips to improve curb appeal–and maybe even make your neighbors jealous!

Follow These 4 Design Rules to Improve Your Home’s Curb Appeal

If you’re planning new construction or a custom addition, make sure you keep these two important principles in mind:

1. Treat your whole property as “designed” space. Now, that doesn’t mean that you should tear out everything on your property and start over! Instead, make sure that the new house or addition you’re planning complements the site. The most important rule to keep in mind is balance. If you want lots of square footage on a small lot, you’ll have to get creative to keep your home’s footprint from overwhelming the space around it. Try to think of the natural features of your property, whether it’s sloped or flat, large or small, as assets, and choose a home design that can bring out the best in your lot.

2. Pay special attention to first impressions. The best way to improve curb appeal and make your home inviting is to make your front door or front porch the focal point of building. This doesn’t have to be ostentatious–after all, there’s nothing more cozy than the front door of a cheery cottage. No matter what the size of your building project, ask yourself, “What’s the first thing people will notice about my house when they drive by?” If your answer was “The roof,” or, even worse, “The garage,” you may want to simplify your design to focus on the front door. After all, that’s the first thing your guests will be looking for!

But what if you aren’t building from scratch? If you’re remodeling or making improvements to your property,  the next two rules are for you:

3. Work with what you have . . . Nothing looks lonelier–or less inviting–than a house on a bare lot. Before you start tearing up your front yard in an effort to improve its curb appeal, take stock of the unique features of your property. Remember that large shade trees take many years to grow–cutting them down to make space for a new design could be an irreplaceable loss for your property. Make a list of everything you love about your front yard or the front of your house, and plan your new garden or front walk around them.

4. . . . But don’t be afraid to update when necessary. After all, the biggest reason why a home lacks curb appeal is poor maintenance. The best way to ensure that your home will continue to look cozy and inviting for years to come is to make sure the siding, paint, roof, and windows are all up to date. You might even want to add a garage or another building to your property to keep up with your family’s needs. Another important way to improve curb appeal is to use the best, most high-quality and durable materials and to keep your home well maintained. After that, the rest is a only matter of taste!

For design inspiration for your home, check out our gallery of completed projects. And for a free consultation, contact us at 484-841-8391 or nick@howbuildingservices.com.

backyard bbq entertaining

Skip the sweat and the stress.

backyard bbq entertainingIt’s hot; you’re sweating; you know you’ll smell like beef franks for at least a week. The music isn’t loud enough, but your guests are milling hungrily around, snatching up whatever choice piece of meat happens to be done next, like so many hungry seagulls with a bucket of Johnson’s popcorn.

It’s a nightmare that anyone who loves backyard bbq entertaining knows and fears. But how can you avoid it? For a successful backyard bbq design, you have to start from the beginning, which means asking the right questions:

5 Questions to Determine Which Backyard BBQ Entertaining Setup You Need

How much space do I have? Not all backyards are created equally, so you need to determine how much space you have, and how you want to allocate that space.

What’s my priority? If you have children and you want to prioritize swingsets and inground pools, then be sure to choose a backyard barbeque plan that doesn’t cut into the space allotted for the kids. If you principally use your backyard to entertain friends and host parties, then it makes a lot of sense to consider splurging on a barbecue or even an outdoor kitchen!

Who am I? Okay, before we trigger a metaphysical, existential crisis, just breathe. We’re talking more stereotypes here: hipster, athlete, homebody, foodie, businessman, stay-at-home mom. Are you someone who prefers red wine over beer? Or would you take cheesesteaks over foie gras anyday? Basically, go with your gut: make sure that your choice feels comfortable and reflects your style.

Where’s the wind? On a practical level, you either want to choose a spot that is well-sheltered from the wind, or where the prevailing wind will blow smoke away from your guests. If you can’t have both, consider building a structure around your barbeque.

What’s my budget? If you’re working on a shoestring budget because you’ve already spent most of your backyard bbq entertaining budget on building a spectacular patio or new pool house with all the bells and whistles, there are a lot of affordable options. Backyard barbeque entertaining units can be divided up into the following price categories:

  • $–     On a tight budget, you can get a mini grill on wheels, or a small, portable camping grill. Those are great options if you want your entertaining to not be confined to just your backyard: you can bring them with you if you like to go camping, or even down to the beach for a weekend.
  • $$–     Stainless steel grills aren’t very expensive, but the quality varies widely from one brand and model to another. If you do your research, though, you should be able to find something that works like a charm, without draining your wallet.
  • $$$–     Grill units with built-in cabinets can be expensive, but you can just purchase the cabinets to fit a new or existing grill, and the customization is up to you. Add on what you want: fridge, bar, warming drawer, sink, etc.. The only limits are your imagination.
  • $$$$$– Five dollar signs represent the cash you’ll plunk down for an outdoor kitchen.All those dollar signs may seem to be overwhelming, but the quality and beauty of what you’re getting is undeniable. It’s definitely an investment worth saving for.

What are you waiting for? Now is the time to get your backyard bbq entertaining set-up in place for next year’s entertaining season. Contact us to talk about the details of coming up with a one-of-a-kind backyard design that perfectly incorporates all the elements you want.

home addition seniors

Aging at home presents new challenges. Learn more about how to make your home senior-friendly.

Aging at home can present new challenges for seniors. In the past, many homes were not designed with seniors in mind, which can make even daily chores taxing and difficult. But everyone should have the choice to stay at home.

After all, a home is more than just a place to live–it’s a center of community and family life, a place infused with memories and adorned with years of loving care. It’s more than a building–it’s what keeps you connected to neighbors and friends. It’s no wonder that the prospect of downsizing or moving to a senior living community can seem daunting to seniors and their families.

Continue reading “Bring Your Loved Ones Home with a Senior-Friendly Home Addition” »

organizing your home life

Less mess = less stress!

organizing your home lifeDepending on your generation, you’ve either heard or said something to the effect of, “It looks like Hurricane Katrina came through here!” And if you’ve clicked on this link, chances are you really are curious about organizing your home life…not just the obvious things (dirty dishes, messy living rooms) but also the things that make life unmanageable: unfinished homework, needing to run to the store multiple times a week, that one corner in the garage where the boxes are still unpacked.

The stress can take a toll. Here are some great tips that will help you stay organized from day-to-day, as well as providing long-term solutions to avoid any big problems.

5 Tricks To Make Organizing Your Home Life A Snap

Delegate, delegate, delegate! Make a chore chart with each household member in charge of at least one task. They don’t have to be big tasks, but even small tasks like ‘picking up all the shoes and putting them in the closet’ can make a huge difference when performed daily.

Tackle the Clutter: Instead of constantly fielding questions of ‘whose is that?’ or ‘where does this go?’ all random/unidentifiable objects can go in a to-be-sorted bin. Have everyone pitch in to empty it once a week.

Go green by going digital. Technology makes organizing your home life easier than ever. Try…

  • Apps like Wunderlist and Paprika.
    • Wunderlistⓒ keeps everything from grocery lists to to-do lists synced between household members. Did dad leave for the store, and you forgot to tell him to get milk? No problem, just add it to the list on your phone and he’ll get a notification!
    • Paprikaⓒ is the easiest way to search for and download recipes, plan meals, and keep track of your pantry.
  • Synced Calendars. Both iPhones and Google provide ways to sync certain calendars across devices, showing each person’s events in different colors for readability.
  • Have kids do homework on Googledocs for easy access, even while travelling. It also means no more excuses from computer crashes erasing documents–Googledocs automatically saves any and all new changes.

Write it down. Chore charts and a calendar with everyone’s events (sports, pta meetings, or parties) marked on it are essential to organizing your home life. Place it in a visible location so that everyone can get in the habit of checking it daily.

Remodel your home. Many huge obstacles to organizing home life can be taken care of with a quality remodel.

  • Long lines at the bathroom every morning? Add one on!
  • Dirt, snow and mud getting tracked all through the house, and coats abandoned willy-nilly? A mudroom will take care of that problem.
  • Feeling cramped and lacking storage? Update your floor plan to be more open, and include built-in floor-to-ceiling storage while you’re at it!
  • Hungry family members constantly devouring the contents of the refrigerator when you aren’t looking? A smart refrigerator means you can access a photo of the inside of your refrigerator from the last time it was opened, so you’ll always know if someone drank the last of the orange juice or ate the breakfast sausages you were going to have for brunch in the morning.

If you aren’t sure how to organize your home, or if a remodel is right for you, contact HOW today.

Custom home architects can make or break the vision of your home, so choosing the right one is vital to the project.

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Your home is the most important structure in your life. It’s where you go to relax, entertain, eat, rest and recharge. Your home is supposed to be the constant in your life. When you’re caught between work, obligations and enjoying your hobbies, your house is your structural refuge.

The importance of your home may explain why you can feel so much anxiety about its architectural design. You want your house to be perfect: efficient, comforting, inspiring, beautiful. The more important the structure, the higher the stakes are. When it comes to your home, the stakes are as high as ever.

It’s normal to feel anxious about the construction of your home. However, you do not need to fret. Take it one step at a time. A good place to start is by considering who you will hire to build your home. Should you hire a custom home architect? Will an architect be able to understand the unique vision of your home and translate that vision into a comforting and compelling structure? Let’s look at some of the dangers and benefits of hiring a custom home architect.

There are many dangers involved in hiring the wrong custom home architect. Here are some unfortunate consequences that can come out of a bad match.

  • Miscommunication: The wrong architect is prone to miscommunication. They can fail to understand your vision and, as a result, construct a home that is not tailored to your needs and desires.
  • Poor construction: Some custom home architects like to cut corners in order to save money and time. Your house may look great and work properly for a little while, but you can end up paying for it with stress and maintenance in the future.
  • Slow progress: Custom home architecture takes time, and it takes care to execute an excellent architectural plan with precision. However, if you hire the wrong custom home builder, then you may have to wait a long time for nothing more than a sub-par job.

The Benefits of A Reputable Custom Home Architect

After hearing about the follies of poor custom architecture, many are ready to throw in the towel and settle for a generic architectural design. They want to “play it safe.” However, that’s not always the best route to go. You can still play it safe and go with a custom home architect, as long as a reputable and reliable company is involved in the process. Here are some of the benefits…

  • Stunning and unique design: A custom design can be absolutely unique. The right custom home architect will know exactly how to fine tune the structure of your home to your preferences in a way that allows you to see your own personality reflected in the walls around you.
  • Compelling intricacy: A seasoned architect will definitely sweat the small stuff. They will be meticulous and make you aware of particular details that you would not otherwise be aware of. They will keep the big picture in mind, of course, but the big picture is composed of the small things.
  • Transparency: The right architect will be transparent about what they think is best and what they plan to do. They will not misrepresent the reality of any situation, nor will they surprise you with unforeseen problems and costs. Transparency and honesty make the process, and the end result, much less stressful.

If you are interested in working with a reliable construction service that you can trust, then do not hesitate to contact us at How Building Services. The local residents have testified to our reliability and ability to create the best homes. We will deliver. Call us now at (484) 841-8391.

Throw the party of the year this fall!

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There’s no question about it: sweater weather means that it’s time for a harvest party! Time to break out the cider (and cider donuts, because hibernation is real). Check out these awesome tips to make simple backyard entertaining perfect for the fall.

Ways to Make Simple Backyard Entertaining Unforgettable

  1. Pumpkins Everywhere. Need a chip bowl? Hollow out a pumpkin and put a simple checked cloth in it! Need a cooler for drinks? Hollow out a pumpkin and fill it with ice! Need mood lighting? Hollow out a bunch of pumpkins, cut slits in them, and place strategically. The point is, pumpkins are your friend for any fall party, and can be the answer to pretty much any decorating conundrum.
  1. Dress up your table. Fall is the perfect time of year for table-top decorations. Not only are there fewer insects to plague you, but the decorations won’t wilt by the time the evening is out. Gourds, indian corn, decorative leaves, vines or wreaths, etc: they’re lovely, and durable.
  1. Fire it up. Nothing says fall like a toasty fire on a crisp autumn night. Everyone really does love a fire, so plan to incorporate a firepit for simple backyard entertaining that is also useful. You have a lot of options, as well. Either you can choose to purchase a firepit/fireplace, or you can throw one together yourself. Just make sure that whatever option you choose is safe for the kind of simple backyard entertaining you will be doing.
  1. Light it up. No matter what that looks like for you–whether it be hanging lanterns on a string, votive candles in jelly jars scattered across the tables, or even providing jars and nets for guests to capture fireflies for the evening–the more light the merrier. While a little dark can be mysterious, you also want to make sure that there’s enough lighting well-distributed so that no one area is left completely blind. Guests’ eyes won’t adjust quickly to a sudden lack of light, and that’s when accidents happen. Also, lights are pretty.
  1. Make it cozy. If you want your simple backyard entertainment setup to be simply unforgettable, set out a stack of basic fleece blankets. Keep the fire stoked. Set out a buffet of hot beverages: cider, hot chocolate, coffee, and a tea stand. And above all, have some scarves, ear muffs, mittens, and hoodies readily available for the inevitable guest who forgot that the party was supposed to be outdoors. It’s an easy step to take, but it makes all the difference between miserable guests and happy guests.

What are you waiting for? Hesitating to install a new firepit and you don’t know what to choose? Have plans for your backyard that have never been brought to fruition? Don’t panic. Contact How Building Services for a free consultation. Whatever your dream for backyard entertainment designs, we can bring it to life!

Meditation Space Ideas

Have it your way.

Meditation Space IdeasHere’s a sweeping generality for you: life can be hard, sometimes. We all cope in different ways. Some people do sports to blow off steam; some people use video games to distract themselves; some people would rather drown the difficulty in a nice chilled glass of Chardonnay. Science shows that one of the best ways to navigate the difficulties of life is by taking time to meditate.

Unfortunately, most of us don’t have meditation space ideas for how to create one, making it difficult to come by.

That’s we’ve come up with this list of meditation space ideas that will help you clear a space in your home and get on the path to less stress right away.

4 Meditation Space Ideas To Jumpstart The Process

You might not want to make this a monumental project or, ironically enough, add stress to your life with this project, so let’s streamline and simplify the process into 4 basic steps.

  1. Choose an appropriate space. The ideal meditation space is a place that meets as many of the following requirements as possible:
    • Lots of natural light. For most people, busy schedules and long winter nights mean they’re running short on Vitamin D. Meditation is the perfect time to catch up on that light deficit.
    • Fresh air. While a quiet outdoor space is wonderful for meditation, weather and crowded neighborhoods mean that the outdoors is not always the relaxing space we would wish it to be. In that case, good ventilation is an absolute must-have.
    • Quiet. A secluded area of the house is the best place to have your meditation space in. That way, not even summer vacation or visiting relatives can interrupt your time away.
  2. Strip it down. Studies show that clutter causes stress, so the more minimalist your space is, the better to be able to calm your mind in.
  3. Bring the outdoors in. Here at HOW, we’re big on incorporating natural elements in the interior floor plan, since they’re proven to A) improve air quality and B) reduce stress. A water fountain and some plants will ground and identify your space.
  4. Find what feels good. The key to a great meditation space design is not just copying what you see in magazines. If there’s a color that speaks to you, even if it’s not noted for its ‘soothing’ or ‘calming’ properties, choose that color! The same goes for artwork. Don’t choose design elements because you think they would look good in a meditation room, choose design elements because you feel comfortable around them, because they make you feel good.

And if creating a meditation space isn’t your idea of a good time, how about a man cave or in-home fitness center? Whatever you choose, we’re here to help turn your dream into a reality.

 

Related Tags: Meditation Space Ideas | Creating A Meditation Space

Household Cleaning Checklist

Eradicate the winter dust bunnies before they even have time to move in.

Household Cleaning ChecklistHave you ever seen the t-shirt that says: “There are three kinds of people: those who can count, and those who can’t”? Well, since we can count, here are two different kinds of people.

#1. The people who saw this blog title and clapped their hands, ‘Oh yes! A fall household cleaning checklist!’ (after which they promptly run for the cleaning closet–because they have a closet dedicated solely to cleaning products–to see which supplies they are getting low on)

#2. The people who saw this blog title and grimaced, ‘Oh no, a fall household cleaning checklist. Let’s click and find out the 17 Things I Should Have Done Already But Forgot.’ (we call that morbid curiosity)

No matter which classification you fall into, this list might surprise you. It’s not an overly-itemized list of do’s and don’ts (DO dust your refrigerator coils, DON’T forget to drain the pool), but a useful household cleaning checklist to help you simplify your life and prevent dust, dirt, and mud from becoming Public Enemy Number 1 throughout the long winter months.

The Ultimate User-Friendly Preventive Household Cleaning Checklist

  1. Combat dust with dryer sheets. Any surface that tends to attract dust should be thoroughly wiped with a dryer sheet, which decreases static cling and makes for less dust settling on that surface in the future. This applies to electronics, screens, fans, wooden surfaces, paintings and prints, etc etc..

    [Pro Tip: Microfiber does just as good a job, but this list is for everyone, not just people with an entire closet dedicated to cleaning supplies.]

  2. Eliminate Pet Odors with citrus laundry detergent. Laundry (or dish) detergent with a high concentration of citrus is perfect for cleaning floors and carpets in homes with pets, making it harder for the animal hairs to stick to the floor.
  3. Make a Whole House Cleaning Checklist. Room by room, write down every single step required to straighten up and clean that specific room. Then, put a star or a line or an extra-thick box to indicate the tasks that need to be done every day. Assign each member of your household a certain number of these daily tasks (that’s your basic house cleaning list), thereby spreading the load and making occasional deeper cleanings a much less complicated affair.

    Also, having every task listed (Living Room: clear off couches and chairs, clear off end tables and coffee table, put everything away, sweep/vacuum, dust, mop) makes commands much clearer. ‘Clean the living room’ is a less monumental task for a young adolescent or partner when it’s broken down into an achievable list of 6 tasks.

  4. Keep out all the dirt with a mudroom. You can either repurpose an existing space or have a new mudroom added on. Either way, there’s no better method for keeping dust and dirt and leaves and snow out of your home. This blog has great tips on how to design the perfect mudroom.

Don’t forget to check our blog periodically for more useful tips and tricks, and for more ways to keep transforming your home into the home you deserve: the home of your dreams.

 

Related Tags: Household Cleaning Checklist | Fall Cleaning Checklist

timeless decorating ideas

Because timeless decorating isn’t black and white.

timeless decorating ideasLet’s do a word association test. If I say ‘shag carpets and lava lamps’, what words pop into your head? ‘Flower power’? ‘Tie dye’? ‘The 70’s’? Those trendy items were just that–trendy items that are now looked down upon as border-line revolting (especially the shag carpet in yucky blah green).

So how do you know which trends will endure, and which will become stigmatized, necessitating a total overhaul of your current deco? The short answer is that you don’t. But if you count on timeless decorating ideas, you don’t need to worry. The following timeless decorating tips are just a sampling of some of the many tips compiled by RealSimple, SheKnows, and John Saladino himself.

Timeless Decorating Ideas: On Furnishings

The older the better.

Decorating with antiquities has been an established practice for millennia. Even the Romans made it a fashion to copy famous Greek statues in their homes. If you can get an original, that’s ideal (think tattered Persian rugs, chipped Ming dynasty vases). And don’t be afraid to mix antiques with modern pieces. After all, that’s how John Saladino (interior designer extraordinaire) made his fortune!

Be minimalist.

While much can go wrong with a cluttered decorating scheme, it’s hard to mess up a minimalist plan. Just pay attention to the proportions, color, and lighting, and you’re good to go.

Make it liveable.

Furniture is like shoes. If they aren’t comfortable, no one is going to use them (more than once or twice). That applies to sofas and chairs alike. When it comes to coffee tables and shelves, make them useful as well as beautiful, and you’ll have a home that is liveable, no matter its size or function.

Timeless Decorating Ideas: On Color

Pick a color that doesn’t have an identity crisis.

This wonderful, timeless decorating tip comes from Dorothy Draper, a celebrated decorator from the turn of the 20th century. She said: “Muddy-colored walls are nothing but a blight. So are undecided colors that compromise…(such as) blues that are neither sea, sky, nor good old cornflower. There should never be any doubt what your color has to say.… It may be chalk blue, watermelon pink, lemon yellow, grass green, chocolate brown, café au lait, warm gray―anything on earth you like, just as long as it knows its own mind.”

Get color inspiration from the masters.

David Hicks, who decorated for both Vidal Sassoon and Prince Charles, suggested observing how people master color: in films, in ballets, at the opera, by a particular fashion house. Well-implemented color schemes are both satisfying and inspiring.

Combat commitment-phobia with accent colors.

If you fear color almost as much as you love it, express yourself with accent colors. Throw pillows, artwork, and vases can easily be changed out, without compromising the overall feel of the room.

When you decorate timelessly, you invest in the future. For more information on how you can invest in your home, check out our blog! To get started today, contact How Building Services.

 

Related Tags: Timeless Decorating Ideas | Classy Decorating

home life hacks

It’s not a regular home; it’s a cool home.

home life hacksThere are two kinds of people in this world: people who can scroll through their feed without watching or impulsively clicking on all the life hack videos they see, and people who can’t resist. If you’re the second kind of person, and you spend a good portion of your free time implementing life hacks youtube and facebook have shown you, this is the blog for you.

You should have more in your home improvement toolbox than just great resources: add in these awesome home life hacks for a DIY smart home! We’ve divided them up into two levels–one for beginners, and one for the really committed DIY enthusiast.

Home Life Hacks: Level 1

  • Philips Hue. Are you totally new to smart home life hacks? Philips Hue is the place to start. Not only are LED lights more efficient and long-lasting than traditional halogen light bulbs, but these are totally adjustable! On top of that, they’re remote access and can be controlled entirely by your smartphone. This is a great way to reap the benefits a smart home can bring, without making a huge commitment on your time/finances.
  • Husqvarna AutoMower. Speaking of big financial commitments, the AutoMower is a miracle of automation. The Roomba of the outdoors, it costs a pretty $2,400, but consider the time saved!
  • Nest Thermostat. This one tends to pay for itself over time. The Nest Thermostat allows you to control the heat remotely, and it learns your habits over time, eventually meaning less involvement is needed on your end to ensure energy efficiency and a warm home when you step in the door.

Home Life Hacks: Level 2

For the serious DIY aficionado, the level 2 hacks require a good time commitment and a certain amount of giftedness with technology.

  • Nest Cam or Canary security systems can be set up yourself in a weekend, and are very affordable.
  • Smart water valves require a little plumbing savvy, and allow you to turn your water off remotely. Some even do it automatically if they sense a burst pipe.

Now that we’ve shown you some cool ways to make your home smarter, a word of caution:

Thenextweb.com points out the flaws of relying too heavily on DIY-only smart home configuration. If you’re looking for something more complete as far as smart homes go, installation can be a pain. Also, making sure all that software is compatible can be daunting. That’s why you should carefully consider your goals beforehand.

If you’re just looking for a few home life hacks to make life easier, then feel free to DIY-it. If you want the smartest of the smart homes, however, you might want to consider a consultation with a professional who can help you determine what system you want, and the best way to install it.

And if you’re still not sold on the smart home idea, check out our blog on some of the other cool smart home technology that exists.

 

Related Tags: Home Life Hacks | DIY Smart Home