Category Archives: Living Space

How Home Décor Can Reduce Holiday Stress

The holiday season is always busy.  It can cause extra stress and wintery weather can mess with your mood. Even though the holidays should be a time of joy, making plans and preparing for the many different activities with family can make it a not-so-jolly time some days.

To help reduce the stress of the season, consider decorating your home for the holidays.  That’s right – decorating for the holidays can reduce stress.

Whether it’s Fall, Halloween, Christmas, or New Year’s Eve, you have fond memories of celebrating the holidays over the years. Nostalgia from holiday home decor can improve your mood. Put up decorations that remind you of your favorite holiday memories. Rekindle a bit of holiday magic from when you were younger and enjoy the warm feelings this season.

Decorating your home for the holidays can also improve joy. Acting cheerful actually will make you feel more cheerful. The old adage, “Fake it ‘til you make it!” kicks in here. Spruce up your home with festive furnishings that make you smile.  Put on a funny movie or favorite seasonal songs to lift your spirits, and you’ll be feeling more joyful during the season.

Once your home is decorated for the winter season, you’ll have created the perfect environment to make more happy holiday memories with the ones you love. You may want to host your loved ones for holiday festivities to show off your decorating skills. Spending time with those you love most in your home will create lasting memories for years to come.

 

If you’re decorating for the holidays this year, try some of these ideas:
  1. Use throw pillows to decorate quickly and interchangeably. Invest in a few different festive pillows and toss them around the house on beds and couches. Save space by using pillow covers to easily swap out your decor for different holidays!
  2. Hang garlands around the house. Trailing greenery (faux or fresh), twinkling lights, and more can add miles of holiday spirit quickly.
  3. Opt for festive hand towels. These are functional and can go in bathrooms and the kitchen. Just like throw pillows, you can easily change them out for different holidays.
  4. Hang a wreath on your door. If decorating inside isn’t your thing, but you still want to do something to decorate, a wreath is a quick and easy way to spread some holiday cheer. They aren’t just for Christmas, either!  Shop around to get a fun wreath for every fun occasion on the calendar this year.

Don’t Overlook a Room’s Fifth Wall

When you’re decorating your new home, you fill the space with things that bring you joy. You adorn the walls with art, paint, and family photos. You roll out functional and fashionable rugs and hang curtains to soften windows. An empty space is brought to life with furnishings you and your family can enjoy for years to come.

That sounds like everything, right?

Maybe not. Have you forgotten a key feature in that room?  The fifth wall. Your ceiling!

Ceilings can open up a new playground for interior design. They don’t have to be left white. You can decorate a ceiling much like any other wall — just think about the masterpiece on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel! You may not want to go that far, but there are options that can make the fifth wall a fun, appealing addition to your decor.

 

Here are some ways to spice up ceilings in your home.

  1. Match the walls. While many leave the ceiling white, consider painting it the same color as your walls. This can create an extra-cozy, more intimate space.
  2. Install fun lighting. Whether a chandelier, an ornate ceiling fan, or recessed accent lights… choosing a stylish lighting fixture will add spice to a white ceiling.
  3. Wallpaper. Instead of wallpapering an accent wall, place a statement wallpaper on your ceiling. It’s more subtle when overhead, but can add a lot of visual interest to the room.
  4. Add a wooden texture. Wooden ceilings are versatile features in your home, since wood comes in so many different shades, grains, and can be painted any color. Use any kind of wood, from wooden slats to wainscoting for a little extra interest on your fifth wall!

 

Remember to look up and add a new dimension to your home decor!

Aspen Exterior

Meet the Aspen

The Aspen floorplan is a 3 bedroom, 3 bath home with 1,977 heated square feet and a bonus room. It also comes with a spacious two-car garage, offering ample storage space for the whole family.  

 

Starting on the covered front porch, you enter the home’s foyer that contains a conveniently placed coat closet. Immediately to your left is the dining room. The dining room features a large window to offer plenty of natural light for family meals and more.   

 


Aspen-dinning-kitchen-area

 

The living room is just a few steps away and has an option to include a cozy fireplace to provide a lovely focal point in the open floorplan. The kitchen is spacious, featuring an island for additional storage and counter space. You can also entertain guests on the optional covered patio!  

 

   

 

To the right of the living space is the master bedroom. With three windows, an ensuite bathroom with a bathtub and double vanity, and an extremely spacious walk-in closet, it is the perfect escape from the busier shared spaces in the home.  

 

The other two bedrooms are on the opposite side of the house, allowing space for family while preserving the master suite’s privacy. These two bedrooms shared an unattached bathroom and are similar in size. They’re also near a laundry room and linen closet.  

 

Up the stairs, you’ll find another bathroom, a walk-in closet, and a bonus room. This room is perfect for a home office, game room, gym, or even as a guest bedroom! The Aspen is a wonderful option for families and has just enough space for room to grow.  

 

The Aspen Floorplan Rendering

Simple Ways to Decorate Your Front Doorstep

Are you ready for holiday parties and welcoming your loved ones to your home? Decorate your front door with some festive embellishments to offer a warm welcome. Even the simplest decorations can go a long way and will only take a few moments to hang!  Here are a few ideas to inspire your holiday door and front porch décor!

 

Recycle a Wreath


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Repurpose old Christmas decorations for your front porch. Old ornaments, strips of ribbon, pine cones, and more, can be fastened to a wreath and hung on your front door. Reduce, reuse, recycle, and be merry while you do it! We do not recommend over-the-door wreath hangers as they can throw doors out of alignment.

 

 

Swap Out Your Doormat

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Replacing your doormat with a seasonal one is another fun way to decorate your front doorstep. Choose a wintery message or a cute Christmas icon to get into the holiday spirit!

 

String or Garland Lighting

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Add joy by lighting up your entryway with string or garland lights. Frame the door, wrap columns and railings, or even the walkway leading up to your door. Try finding energy efficient lighting options so your energy bill doesn’t skyrocket and to reduce your carbon footprint.

 

Jingle Bells


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Greet your guests with a holiday jingle by adding a strand of Christmas bells around your door handle.

 

Natural Greenery

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Keep things simple with greenery, whether man-made or fresh. Drape it around your door frame, along the banisters, and add a small tree to the stoop. It’s festive throughout the winter season. Elevate it with some ornaments, bows, or with white fairy lights for nighttime.

The Multi-Purpose Garage

While it is easy to think of garages exclusively as places to park your cars and store tools, they really provide an opportunity for much more. After all, they’re large, flexible spaces with a big door to the driveway. Garages can have many uses.  Here are a few options to consider.

Workout Space

Whether you’re a weightlifter, crossfitter, dancer, martial artist, yogi, or just want a space to do a few jumping jacks, equipping a portion of your garage with fitness equipment for your chosen activity is a valuable use of the space. Add a weight rack, a barre, padded flooring, or a treadmill to convert your garage into your ideal home gym, without sacrificing any of the space in your house. Use cation in using heavy weights or equipment, as dropping heavy items could damage your concrete.

Entertainment

In summer months, it can be fun to project a movie onto a wall in your garage, set up some lawn chairs or a sofa and convert your garage into a movie theater. It can also be a space for food at an outdoor party, live music (or a practice space for a band), or even a dance floor.

Arts & Craft Studio

From simple to sophisticated, art projects make a mess.  What better place to be creatively messy than in a garage converted to an art studio or craft room?  Enjoy your hobby, make projects with the kids or create masterpieces in a room that has plenty of storage space.  And no one will cry if the paint drips.

Game Rooms

Some homeowners have converted garage spaces into family game rooms. Bring on the card table, pool table and foosball table! Give your game room a personal touch with colorful seating, rugs, artwork and game-themed décor. It will make family game nights come alive.

Mudroom Area

If your floor plan doesn’t already have a mudroom, adding a storage bench and a coat rack to your garage can give your family a place for coats, muddy boots, and other gear. It won’t take up much space in the garage, but it can save you a lot of storage issues inside.

 

Be creative and think outside the box. Your garage space can be adapted to fit the regular needs of your family or a special event.

Value of a Mudroom

A mudroom is the perfect place to keep extra dirt and clutter from finding its way into the rest of your home. It provides a specific location for dirty shoes to be removed before dirt or mud is tracked onto your living room floor. Backpacks, coats, and sports gear can be stored, instead of tossed on the couch or in the dining room. It can make your life so much easier! Here are 5 valuable benefits of having a mudroom in your home.

 

1. More Useful Storage

Winter gloves? Coats? Rain boots? Extra shoes you don’t want in your closet? Having a mudroom is like having an extra-large coat closet. It’s the perfect place to stash seasonal items, keeping them out of your bedroom or coat closet. They’re available when you need them, but not in your way everyday.  With built-in storage options, your mudroom will stay tidy, too.

 

2. Everything in One Place when it’s Time to Go

Many families can have a hard time getting out the door. Everyone’s shoes are in different places, someone left their backpack in their room, you can’t find your coat, etc. A mudroom makes it easier to get everyone ready to leave in one place and at the same time. All the shoes, bags, car keys, everything you need to leave the house can be safely stored in one place! A little bit of planning can make your morning routine “grab and go.”

 

3. Everything has a Place, too

Giving kids a dedicated place to hang school bags, or sports equipment, means there is less chance that it will end up in the middle of the floor. Everything should have a home, and a mudroom is a great home for a lot of things. And when they are stashed on the way in, life’s a little easier for everyone.

 

4. Functional Space

Many mudrooms have a bench to make putting on shoes a breeze. It’s also right by the door, so the perfect place to take things on and off as soon as you leave or enter the home. No more stomping around the house in your boots! Use this space to create functional storage that fits your family’s lifestyle and needs.

 

5. Keep it Clean!

Rain and mud are part of daily life in eastern North Carolina. Mudrooms help ensure muddy shoes and dripping raincoats don’t make the whole house messy. Consider adding a sink to your mudroom.  It’s a great place to clean muddy shoes, dry umbrellas or soak a stained uniform. Some families even plan for laundry rooms to be near a mud room for easy access. Talk to your builder about your options.

 

A mudroom helps preserve your home’s interior, flooring and well… maybe Mom’s sanity.  We think that’s a great investment.

Bonus Rooms

Bonus rooms open a lot of possibilities for homebuyers. They’re creative spaces that add to what you might traditionally have planned for your home. Because a bonus room is not limited to a specific function, it can be whatever you want it to be. Here are a few ideas for how you can use the space.

 

Game Room or Movie Theater

Making the bonus room into a space for your kids is a more traditional route for bonus rooms. Adding in comfy seating and a TV for movie nights or video games can create an escape from the rest of the house that is purely fun for the whole family. Making a media room is particularly effective if the room will not get a lot of light.  After all, no one wants to watch a movie with the sun glaring on their screen.

 

Home Office or Library

Setting aside a space for work can be beneficial many who work from home. Whether it’s for daily business, homework, or a late night project brought home from the office, keeping work out of the areas where you relax is good for your mind and health.

If your bonus room has areas with low ceilings or unique nooks and crannies, they make perfect spots to add in built in shelving to utilize the space.

 

Exercise Room

Making a room for workout gear and exercise in a bonus room can be very beneficial for many families. Taking care of your physical health is important for everyone.  For many, that’s easier to do when there is a dedicated space at home for physical training. If you have heavy machines for exercises that require repetitive high impact movements, such as a treadmill, talk to your builder about adding additional support beams. This will help reinforce the flooring of a second floor exercise room and reduce wear and tear overtime. Feeling less active?  Using part of your bonus room for a meditation space can allow you to escape from the rest of the world and refocus.

 

Multipurpose Room

Of course, many families choose to turn their bonus room into a multipurpose room. Some combine guest space and a treadmill.  Others use the space for crafts or a studio but have a space for gaming.  One benefit of a multipurpose approach is that you can modify uses easily over time.  As kids grow, interests change or needs arise. By avoiding a narrowly targeted use, you give yourself freedom to make changes more easily in the future.

 

When planning what to do with your bonus room space, think about what suits your family now but also ask yourself about the future.  How long will a home bowling alley be the favorite activity? How many hours do you want devoted to gaming?  Will the kids still love it in 3-5 years? Your home is your refuge, and you should love every inch of it when you are building your own.

Smoke & Carbon Monoxide Detectors

We all want to keep our family safe. Taking certain precautions in your home can help. One simple, important way to protect your family at home is with carbon monoxide and smoke detectors.

 

Carbon Monoxide Detectors & Maintenance

Carbon monoxide is a gas that has no color and no odor, making it virtually impossible to detect with your own senses. It is potentially lethal and can cause a number of symptoms, such as chest pain, vomiting, or dizziness.

Carbon monoxide detectors have an alarm that sounds whenever they sense unsafe levels of carbon monoxide.  There are a few kinds of detectors on the market, but in general, the alarm is set off when carbon monoxide causes a reaction in the chemicals the detectors contain.

There’s easy maintenance for carbon monoxide detectors to ensure they are working properly. Simply test the detectors once a month by pushing the test button on the front of the unit. Replace the batteries as often as the manufacturer recommends and replace the detector every few years. Also, remember to keep them clean and free of dust.

 

Smoke Detectors & Maintenance

Smoke Detectors are another simple, but very important way to protect your family. Some smoke detectors can also detect carbon monoxide. It is important to have a both types of alarms in your home at all times, whether they are separate devices or a hybrid unit.

Smoke detectors set off an alarm when smoke causes a chemical reaction inside the device or heat rises to a very high level. Maintenance for smoke detectors is similar to the maintenance of carbon monoxide detectors, but be sure to check the manufacturer’s instructions for specifics. Generally, you should test them once a month and change them out every few years. Also, keep them free of dust.

 

What About False Alarms?

Sometimes, both detectors may give a false alarm. For example, smoke detectors can go off because of steam, which causes a similar reaction as smoke would inside the device. Carbon monoxide detectors may sound a false alarm if they are too close to appliances that use gas, like a stove.

Even though a detector may give a false alarm, always take any alarm seriously and take appropriate action until you can confirm the alarm was false and your home is safe. Since carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless gas, it is strongly advised to have a professional come out and verify that there is no leak in your home if your carbon monoxide detector sounds an alarm.

Heating and Cooling Systems

Central Cooling

The most common central cooling system is a split system, which includes an outdoor cabinet containing a condenser coil and compressor, and an indoor evaporator coil, usually installed in conjunction with your furnace or air handler. The compressor pumps a chemical called refrigerant through the system.  Heat is transferred from air in your home to the refrigerant in the evaporator coil, thus “cooling” the air. Your cooling system is usually combined with your central heating system because they share the same ductwork for distributing conditioned air throughout your home.

Central Heating

Central heating systems have a primary heating appliance, such as a furnace, typically located in your basement or garage. All furnaces consist of four main components:

  1. Burners that deliver and burn fuel
  2. Heat exchangers
  3. A blower
  4. A flue that acts as an exhaust for gaseous by-products.

Depending on your situation, region, and needs, you can choose from heating systems running on either gas or oil as fuel, or a hybrid packaged system that can use both fuel types. Air from your home blows across the heat exchanger to be warmed. It is then blown through a system of ducts to distribute around your home. During warm seasons, your heating system works with your central air conditioning. Air is cooled as it is blown over your air conditioning unit’s cooling coil and then sent through the same air ducts through your home.

Heat Pumps

Heat pumps are designed to move heat energy from one location to another.  They typically pull heat out of the air or ground to heat a home or building, but they can be reversed to cool a building.  They transfer heat very much like air conditioning units transfer heat with refrigerant. One of the biggest advantages of a heat pump is there’s no need to install separate systems to heat and cool your home.  In moderate climates, heat pumps work very efficiently because they simply transfer heat, rather than burn fuel to create it.

System Efficiency

Heating and cooling systems are rated according to their seasonal energy efficiency ratio (SEER). SEER indicates the relative amount of energy needed to provide a specific cooling output. Many older systems have SEER ratings of 6 or less. Look for the ENERGY STAR® and EnergyGuide labels — qualified central units are about 15% more efficient than standard models.

Air Conditioning Troubleshooting Tips

  • Check to make sure your thermostat is set in the “cool” position.
  • Ensure that your outdoor air conditioning (condensing unit) is running:
  • Check the circuit breakers in the circuit breaker box (or electrical panel), most likely mounted to an outside wall in the back of the house. Are they in the “ON” position?
  • Check the outdoor unit “disconnect switch” to make sure it is in the “ON” position. The disconnect switch is located near the outdoor unit. (Typically, a grey 8″ wide x 6″ high x 4″ deep box mounted to the wall).
  • Ensure that the blower motor in your air conditioner is running. (If the thermostat is in the “cool” position, the air conditioner blower should be running.) If it’s not, check to make sure the on/off switch on the air conditioner is in the “ON” position. Sometimes a switch is located at the top of basement steps.
  • Be sure that you have changed your filter in the air conditioner recently. Your filter should be changed every month.
  • Check all return air grilles to make sure they are not blocked by furniture.
  • Check all supply air registers to make sure they are open and blowing air. (The return air grilles are normally located on your walls and are wide and flat).

Gas Furnace Troubleshooting Tips

  • Check to make sure that your thermostat is set in the “heat” position.
  • Make sure that the temperature setting on the thermostat is set above (or higher than) the indoor temperature showing on the thermostat.
  • Ensure that there is power to the furnace: Try turning the fan to “ON” using the fan switch on the thermostat to test for power to furnace.
  • Check the circuit breakers at the electrical panel to make sure they are in the “ON” position.
  • Check the SSU switch (it looks like a light switch on a gray box located at the furnace) to be sure it is in the “ON” position.
  • Replace the furnace filter if needed. All 1-inch thick furnace filters should be replaced monthly.  Purolator 2-inch-thick and other high-capacity pleated filters can most likely be changed every other month; 6 times per year.
  • If the system is running but you have not changed your filter, the filter may need to be replaced.
  • Check all return air grilles to make sure they are not blocked by furniture.
  • Check all supply air registers to make sure they are open and blowing air. (The return air grilles are normally located on your walls and are wide and flat).

Heat Pump Troubleshooting Tips

  • Check thermostat settings. Is the heat pump set on the desired mode and temperature?
  • Ensure the unit has power and breakers have not been flipped.
  • Clean or replace the air filter in the indoor air handler.
  • Ensure the outdoor unit is not blocked and has free airflow on all sides.
  • Your heat pump may need a tune-up. Having your heat pump serviced regularly by a professional, qualified HVAC technician can provide higher efficiency operation and more reliable comfort. One service typically offered during routine maintenance is cleaning your outdoor coil. If the coil is extremely dirty, your system may have trouble keeping up with demand.

Call an HVAC Technician

If you’re not comfortable troubleshooting, or attempts to find the issue don’t resolve the problem, it’s time to call a trained HVAC technician. Some HVAC issues are best left to the experts.  Frozen coils, water leaks in an indoor unit, an outdoor unit that will not shut off, and strange and/or loud noises are a few examples that call for a pro. Calling an HVAC technician will ensure that your repair is done safely and correctly the first time, reducing the risk of needing more costly repairs down the road.

Fireplace Safety and Care

Fireplaces, whether wood burning or gas, offer homeowners a warm haven during cooler seasons.  Understanding proper safety and operating procedures is important for any homeowner with a fireplace.  Families with children are often concerned about the possibility of accidental burns and increased fire hazard.  No need to fear.  In this article, we will share safety and care tips for wood burning and gas fireplaces to help you enjoy this feature of your home comfortably and safely.  We’ll also point out when it’s important to hire a qualified technician.

Gas Fireplace Safety

Gas appliances have some automatic safety features, but they still require good safety habits from you, the homeowner.  Here are a few helpful safety tips for gas fireplace use.

  • Always obtain and review your fireplace’s model information and manual so that you fully understand how to operate and maintain the appliance.
  • Know exactly where the gas shutoff and control key are located, before operating the fireplace.
  • For direct vent and B-vent fireplaces, practice operating the valve before the fireplace is used for the first time.

What to Inspect

Damper inspection is similar to that of a traditional wood burning fireplace.  Direct vent and B-vent appliances do not have dampers, but still check the flue termination to look for bird or rodent nests or the buildup of spider webs.  Debris from your lawn can also contribute to clogging the horizontal direct vent.

You can contact a local National Fireplace Institute (NFI) professional technician to inspect for leaking seals, loose gas fittings, dirty burners, or anything else that might affect the safety of your gas fireplace.

Wood Burning Fireplace Safety

The National Fire Protection Association recommends chimneys be swept at least once a year, at the beginning of winter, to remove soot and debris by a professional. Here are several safety items you can check yourself.

  • Store wood away from your home’s foundation and bring in what you need to use in small batches.
  • Choose the right woods: dense, hard woods such as oak should be split and stored in a high dry place for about six months.  A mix of seasoned and more green wood is helpful to control how long your fire burns, but avoid soft woods such as pine.  Pine can produce more creosote and eventually create a hazard.
  • Clean ashes out regularly, ensure they are completely cool before dumping them or spreading outdoors.
  • Use a metal-mesh screen or glass fireplace door to prevent hot embers from popping out of the fireplace onto flooring.
  • Ensure young children are unable to reach hot surfaces or fireplace tools.

What to Inspect

Inspect your damper to ensure it is opening and closing properly.  Check the flue for creosote buildup.  Creosote is a chemical mass of carbon formed when wood, tar, or fossil fuels are burned.  Creosote buildup is one of the many causes for chimney fires. Make sure a wire-mesh cap covers the top of the chimney to keep birds, squirrels, rain and other debris from entering and blocking the flue.  Finally, as always, test your smoke alarms to be sure they are functioning properly.

Once a year, before you start using the fireplace, contact a professional to clean and inspect your flue, damper and fireplace.

When you understand how your fireplace works and use basic safety measures, you can enjoy a warm fireside with your family all winter.