Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Spring Cleaning De-Cluttering Tips for Your Home

How many winters do you imagine yourself spending the cold, rainy days inside, de-cluttering and deep cleaning your house. Then those cold, rainy days arrive and you have a million other things to do and never get around to the De-Cluttering Extravaganza you envisioned. If that sounds familiar then take the bull by the horns and get it together. Use the "Spring Cleaning" excuse to de-clutter your closets and your house, making them perfectly presentable for your summertime socializing.

Clean the Closets. It's time to pack up your sweaters and cold-weather gear and make way for spring and summertime clothing. That means, you can multi-task and throw in a little de-cluttering action while you're at it. Rules of thumb:
  • If you haven't worn it in the past year and you don't LOVE it, donate it.
  • If you haven't worn it in the past year AND it doesn't fit, pass it on.
  • If you haven't worn it in the past year and it's stained or damaged, toss it.
Using those three rules of thumb, will get rid of a surprising amount of clothing and shoes. If your pass-it-on pile is big enough, have a clothing swap party with some friends.

Just Say No to Piles. Are there visible pile ups in your house? If so, tackle these next. Choose a pile and stick with it until it's gone. Use boxes or paper bags to divide it into "trash", "recycle", and "put away" piles and then deal with those when the pile is gone. If there are papers and/or magazines you keep meaning to read but don't get to, recycle or donate them. Cancel subscriptions to magazines you never read. It will prevent further clutter and you can often access them online anyway. Be ruthless. Nobody wants to become a hoarder, but piles are the first step in the wrong direction. 

Eliminate Junk. One way to minimize those piles is to stop receiving all the junk mail, and non-junk mail you don't want to receive. You can use online sites, such as When you pay $1, they reduce your junk mail by 75% in just three months. It's a pretty good deal. You only need one phone book. Call the publishers of the others you receive and ask to be taken off their list. Contact catalog companies and ask to be removed from their lists as well. It may take more than one phone call but it will be worth it.

Buy Organizers
. There are so many stylish organizers available. Plastic crates, wood baskets, stainless steel shelving, etc. Use this year's tax refund and finally purchase the organizers you have been talking about. It you go the plastic tote route, we recommend using clear plastic so that you can see what is in there, in addition to labeling them clearly. 

Once your home is de-cluttered, take a deep breath and look around. Make a commitment to take one minute every day (that's 6 hours a year!) to keep clutter in check. Here's to a clutter free spring!

Monday, March 25, 2013

9 Tips For Updating Your Outdoor Living Space

While our day- and nighttime temperatures can still tend towards the cooler side of the thermometer, now is the time to update your outdoor living space for the upcoming "Outdoor Entertainment Season". As the "Staycation" becomes more popular, the backyard patio is becoming an extension of indoor living space, including swanky outdoor designs, lighting schemes, outdoor kitchens professional chefs would envy, and stunning landscapes.

Here are 9 ways to update your outdoor living space this spring and summer.
  1. Consider Existing Space. If you weren't a part of your outdoor design, make sure it works for the lay-of-the-land. Is sun and shade balanced? Are you protected from wind? Does it drain well after a storm? If not, first things first. Consult a local architect or interior designer (they do exteriors too!) and create a functional outdoor space. Then you can move onto the fun stuff.
  2. Seating. If a grand outdoor living space is your goal, don't skimp on outdoor seating. Find a mixture of couches, chairs, and benches to accommodate social gatherings. The furniture should be comfortable enough to enjoy a long read, or a satisfying nap, on a lazy afternoon.
  3. Outdoor Kitchen. Kitchen remodels have been a hot interior design feature for some time, but now they have a rival - the outdoor kitchen. Things to consider: grills, smokers. sinks, refrigeration, and peninsula or bar seating.
  4. Landscaping. Just as your paint colors, wall paper, flooring set the tone for your interior design, planting flowers, plants, trees, and even an edible garden will set the backdrop for your outdoor aesthetic. Consider using drought and fire resistant plants for an extra "Green" bonus.
  5. Succulents. If you haven't experienced the joys of container gardening with succulents, head on down to the local nursery. Succulents are hardy, beautiful, and colorful. Plus, they can be planted in just about anything from tea cups to pots and wreaths.
  6. Lighting. While we love our outdoor spaces during the day, there's nothing better than whiling away summer evenings, sitting outside and enjoying star-lit skies. Your outdoor lighting can be a couple of traditional patio lights OR you can create a magical wonderland by selecting a combination of artistic and unique hanging, twinkle, and lantern-esque lighting for a more ideal nighttime ambiance.
  7. Water Feature(s). It's a rare human that doesn't have a natural affinity towards water. Patio fountains come in all different shapes and sizes. A large enough fountain can become home to water plants and a few goldfish. Try building your own fountain using a wine barrel and a water pump. Water sounds are a pleasant addition to any backyard.
  8. Fire. From small, low-profile fire pits to large, ornate outdoor fireplaces, most fire features require minimal room but provide maximum enjoyment. They also make your backyard usable in cooler weather.
  9. Screens and/or Cover. One way to maximize your outdoor space is to make one section an outdoor room. Screens and overhead cover will create a year-round outdoor space.
Once your outdoor living space has been transformed, your backyard will be the go-to spot for summertime garden parties and BBQs.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

The Importance of Safety Around Swimming Pools

As the spring and summer seasons are just around the corner, sparkling blue waters will look increasingly inviting. Whether you're a residential pool owner, or spend hours at your community pool, it's critical that you and your family recognize the importance of safety around swimming pools. While pools are a place where summertime memories are built, one minute of absent-mindedness can bring disastrous consequences. 

Make sure members of your family are on the same page about pool safety, as well as how to help someone who is drowning. Taking a few minutes throughout the season to refresh your pool safety skills could save a life.

General Pool and Spa Safety Tips
  • Never let children into the pool or spa area without supervision.
  • Do not let children run in the pool area.
  • Never allow children or adults to dive in the shallow end.
  • Teach your children to avoid the drains, exposes pipes, and other opening to avoid being trapped.
  • Make sure there is a phone close by in case of an emergency.
  • If you notice a child is missing, always check the spa or pool first.
  • Review your family's pool safety rules and procedures with friends and neighbors who use your pool/spa.
Helpful Pool Safety Tips

Learn how to swim. If you don't know how to swim, you will be devastated in the event that you aren't able to help someone else. Check with your localYMCA or Parks & Rec to sign up for adult swim classes. The more comfortable you are in the water, the more comfortable you will be helping someone else.

Teach Your Children to Swim. Whether you opt to teach your children to swim yourself, or enroll them in swim classes, learning to swim will provide a lifetime of safe and enjoyable water fun. During swimming lessons, your children will learn water safety and rescue tips, as well as floating- and water survival skills that can help them should they get into trouble.

Take a First Aid & CPR Class. Basic First Aid and CPR is a handy thing to know in general but it is especially important if you have a backyard pool or spa. Your first aid and CPR knowledge can help keep a drowning victim alive until professional medical attention arrives.

Safety Equipment for Your Pool and Spa

Having the right equipment in and around your pool or spa area can go a long way towards pool-related injury prevention. Here are things to consider:
  • Have a four-foot enclosure with self-latching gates around your pool and/or spa. Ask your neighbors to do the same.
  • Use lockable covers to prevent children from entering the water without your permission/supervision
  • Install childproof latches on doors and windows on residential walls that serve as the "fourth barrier" of your pool or spa area. You may also want to install an alarm (and use it!) on the door that accesses the pool.
  • Make sure your pool and spa covers are in good working order
For more information about pool/spa safety, visit Attention to safety will ensure that good memories are the only memories made this summer.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

These Backyard Pool Design Ideas Will Make Your Neighbors Jealous

Can you feel that change in the air? A slightly warmer feel in the sunshiny patches? Have you noticed the days are growing longer by This means spring and summer are right around the corner. It's time to dust off the winter doldrums, get out the sketch book, gather the family around and begin planning a stellar backyard pool design that will make your neighbors green with envy. 

WARNINGIf you don't like spending long, luxurious afternoons poolside or having friends and family over for amazing backyard BBQs, this blog post is not for you!

Like everything else in life, pool designs revolve around current trends. There was a time when all pools were rectangular. Then they were kidney-shaped. Now, modern technology and exuberant landscaping plans are merging to create backyard pool designs that are worthy of an upscale resort. Here are a few of the hot pool design trends for 2013.

The Infinity Pool
. If your backyard overlooks a stunning cityscape or wide-open vista, you will probably want to incorporate at least one infinity edge. An infinity pool gives the impression of being completely wall-less, so the edges appear to drop off into "infinity." In reality, the water gently spills over the edge into a reclamation trough where it is filtered and recycled. The pool we linked to also incorporates another new pool trend, which is using a much larger shallow walk-in area, great for kids or those who want to lay out sans excessive heat.

FountainsFountains are a simple addition that provide multiple benefits. They are visually pleasing, the sound they produce is lovely when you're inside and acts as a sound-privacy barrier when you are outside. Fountains also help to aerate and clean your pool water, which is good for your overall pool health.

Waterfalls. Waterfalls have always been a hot item in boutique and resort homes. They would occasionally make their way into hip backyard pool designs. But with landscaping trends becoming more popular than ever before, you now have a wide variety of waterfall styles to add to you pool's ambiance. Stunning mosaic tile work, rocky bottomed faux-creek beds with foliage, or greek-inspired spillways, are all available for the average homeowner. 

Less is More. Have a smaller backyard and/or don't want your entire backyard space to be consumed by a pool? No problem. Backyard lap pools have become more popular - and aesthetically pleasing - than ever. You can add a pool that's big enough to swim daily laps, soak with friends, or let the kids cool off in the summertime without breaking the bank. As long as you're at it, you can even add a spa on one end for nighttime and cooler weather soaks. Even a waterfall is an option for lap pools. You can have a luxury resort feel for a more modest size/price.

So, take these ideas and begin designing a backyard pool that's just right for your family. All we ask is that you invite us to the first pool party of the summer.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Universal Design Principles: Providing a Comfortable Home for Decades to Come

Universal design principles are a relatively new concept. As modern homes have become bigger, taller, and more complex, aging seniors and those with disabilities find themselves at a distinct disadvantage: they love their home but can no longer inhabit it comfortably. More and more clients are approaching interior designers and architects with a simple request: I want a home that will serve our family's needs for decades to come. This request has led the design industry to implement universal design principles - meaning designs that accommodate a variety of living needs.

For the homeowner, this provides security that with time and the expected - and unexpected - life progressions, adults and children will be able to enjoy a home that accommodates everyone's needs. It also add significant value to your home, making it marketable to a wider range of potential buyers. Here is a list of space-by-space considerations for  more universally functional home, while maintaining a luxurious and aesthetically pleasing interior design.

The Kitchen

Kitchens can be one of the trickiest places to navigate when mobility becomes an issue. Wheelchairs, walkers, and arthritic joints can transform a high-end kitchen into an inaccessible obstacle course.
  • Cabinets: Consider cabinet drawers, as opposed to doors, with heavy-duty sliders. They can be designed to stack dishware, include spice racks, slide-out trash receptacles, etc. No more bending/reaching into the far recesses of your cabinets.
  • Room to maneuver: Leave enough space between the island, peninsula, and between counters, appliances and in corners to allow a wheelchair or walker to pass and/or turn comfortably.
  • Side Access Appliances. Ensure appliances can be easily approached, opened, and utilized from the side. Consider a separate stove-top with space for knees underneath.
  • Drawer pulls. Small nobs and artsy drawer/cabinet pulls aren't always the easiest to access for weak or stiff hands. Think about using large nobs or handles which can accommodate the whole hand in order to be pulled open.
The Bathroom

Some of the ideas from the kitchen will translate to a universally designed bathroom. Other features to consider include:
Foot-operated or levered faucets for easy utilization
  • Grab bars in the bath/shower area
  • Hand-held shower faucets that can be used in a bathing chair if necessary
  • Room for knees under the sink
  • A Raised toilet 
These features can be added without detracting from your overall design.

General Living Space

While you may desire a multi-level home, it's a good idea to ensure the first level includes a living area, bedroom/bathroom, laundry room and kitchen so those with limited mobility have a comfortable, spacious habitat, even if other areas of the home are more readily accessible to the rest of the family. Additional universal design elements would include things like:
  • Wider hallways
  • Front loading washers/dryers
  • Pocket doors to seal unused areas of the home off from unnecessary heating/cooling
  • Raised Electrical outlets
  • Lowered light switches/dimmers
  • Step-free entrance and exits from main entrance and/or patio areas
If you are considering a renovation or remodel, give a second thought to implementing at least a few universal design elements. They will improve your home's resale value and will create an attractive space that will allow you to age comfortably.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Spring Time Events in Redwood City: Fun for the Whole Family

This time of year can get a little crazy for families. Kids have been cooped up all winter long and although the sun may shine more often, that doesn't always mean its warm enough to be outside. If you are looking for things to do with your family in and around Redwood City, here are a few suggestions for you. 

Connect with your inner artist. If you haven't been to Laurel Street Arts in San Carlos, you are in for a true treat. This place is chock full of potential for kids, teens, adults, and even your co-workers. Whether you choose to drop-in and paint your own pottery, or sign up for one of their many classes and activities, there is a little something for everyone. Laurel Street Arts teaches classes ranging from jewelry-making and fused glass to pottery and general craft classes. You can also make arrangements for parties and a host of group events as well. This is a perfect way to spend a weekend day or two before our summer season begins to kick off.

Reading Time
. Have you taken the time to check out the variety of reading time and/or book club opportunities hosted by our public library system? We are so fortunate to have a library staff who are so inspired and committed to running programs for Redwood City residents of all ages. Among other events offered by the Redwood City Library system, you children can read a book to specially trained dogs from the Humane society, learn to make origami, and/or participate in multi-lingual learning opportunities.

Seaside Story Time. Speaking of the public library, sometimes local experts visit the  main library to speak and educate the public about their exciting fields. O Saturday, March 23rd, the library will host experts from the local Marine Science Institute to teach the public about "Sharks of the Bay."

Been to the theater lately? We mentioned the Fox Theater in our previousThings to So and See Do in Redwood City post, but our local school theater productions deserve equal attention and support. For example, the weekend of March 15-16 you can catch Woodside High School's live production of "Legally Blonde." This is a great way to support the arts and remind yourself of why prioritizing arts and music in our public school system is so important.

After school programs
. Did you know Redwood City offers vibrant After School Programs? Whether you need a safe place for your children to go until you are home from work, or your children need help with their academic pursuits, you can find the right spot for your child. The Sandpiper Youth Clubalso offers After School Programs, ranging from preschoolers through adolescents, as well as Summer Camp programs your children will love.

It's easy to get caught in the hustle and bustle of "things-you-need-to-do." Once in while, make sure to get out and about Redwood City with the family. It's a wonderful way to make memories and enrich your family's dynamic.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Nature Inspired Home Designs for Your Pacific Place Home

There is a fascinating article published by the Oxford Journals titles, Healthy nature healthy people: ‘contact with nature’ as an upstream health promotion intervention for population. It summarizes how important nature is to the human mind, body and spirit. In the cosmic picture, humans have only been living as "urban dwellers" for a very short amount of time. From the biologic perspective, it seems we all crave contact with nature and an absence from that connection affects us on multiple levels. Why not let nature inspire your Pacific Place home design?

How about a forest floor? This stunning Forest Floor floor tapestry is the creation of east coast-based Angela Adams. Adams is a home furnishings designer and each of her pieces is named for favorite people, places and things. Her furnishings and tapestries are functional art and every piece is infused with elements of nature.

Logs and Stones. While hardwoods and natural stone have long been a popular choice for flooring, innovative flooring manufacturers have created materials that are even more rustic and natural in their  appearance. For example, this Logs and Twigs flooring is available in pine and oak. Your bathroom or shower can be transformed into a soothing river bed using easy-to-install river stone mosaic sheets.

Birds and Butterflies. Who doesn't find pleasure watching winged creatures in flight? While you can plant bird and butterfly friendly gardens to attract them to your outdoor living space, why not create an interior design that's bird and butterfly friendly as well? You can use framed art pieces or upholstery and accent pillows to add color to pay homage to your feathered friends. Abandoned bird's nests are another artistic way to decorate your home. Unique metal wall art adds an ethereal quality to any wall - the butterflies seem to be in passing right through the living space. Hunt for vintage and antique framed butterfly taxonomy illustrations that can be set on hearths, hung on walls, or propped on book cases and dressers.

Natural colors
. It's true that earth tones and neutral colors can be used to mimic nature's background, but sometimes the best way to infuse your home with nature's energy is to mimic her more vibrant colors. This Atlanta loft space uses a vital mossy green, bright blues, and other warm energetic tones that look like a meadow fairy flew by with her paint palette and brush.

Curves and soft angles.
If you are considering a remodel, why not take some of your more angular spaces and grace them with natural curves, softer lines, and gentler forms. This amazing Ojai house is a testament to nature inspired design and influences.

Indoor Landscaping
. With the right amount of natural lighting or special grow lights, you can create indoor landscaping of all shapes and sizes. From simple cut flowers and floral arrangements, to full fledged terrariums and indoor trees, a few living additions can make a world of difference.

Imagine the pleasure you'll receive when you can get back to nature right in your very own home.