Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Latest Availability and Pricing Info for Pacific Place

We've got the latest pricing and availability info for phase 1 of the Pacific Place project! We've only got 4 units left that are as of yet unspoken for, and we expect them to get snapped up quickly. If you're interested, make sure you visit our sales office for info.

For all the details, see http://www.pacificplacerwc.com/sales_sheet.pdf


Friday, February 22, 2013

Protect Your Home with Fire Resistant Landscaping

As California and the Southwest continue to experience drier than normal conditions, it is important for homeowners to be "Firewise" in their landscaping choices. Maintaining a fire resistant property entails careful planning and regular maintenance. By paying attention to what you plant, removing dead and dry plant materials, and keeping a defensible space around your property, you will lower the chances of becoming a fire season victim. Plus, the more actions you take to protect your home, the more likely it is that local fire fighting units will be able to extinguish a fire on your property.

Monkey Flower

5 Tips For Creating a Fire Resistant Landscape
  1. Use Fire Resistant Plants. The good news is that many of California's native plant species are both fire resistant and drought tolerant. This means that in addition to protecting your home from the threat of fire, you will also be conserving water. Another benefit to using native drought resistant landscaping is that birds, butterflies, and bees will be attracted to your backyard as they prefer the pollen, nectar, and berries from native plants. There are no "fire proof" plants, but fire resistant plants retain more moisture than other varieties, which makes the more resistant. Examples of fire resistant plants include
    • Monkey Flower (Mimulus)
    • California Lilac (Ceanothus)
    • Sage (Salvia)
    • Common Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)
    • Coast Live Oak
    • California Sycamore
    Bring this list to your local nursery and discuss your plans for a fire resistant landscape. The employees will be able to help you design a landscape that is both attractive and fire conscious.
  2. Maintain Defensible Space. Before wildfires became more prevalent, most experts recommended maintaining a defensible space of about 15 feet. Currently, most cities - including Redwood City - recommend maintaining a 30 foot boundary. If your home is close to tall grasses and trees, which are more difficult to contain once ignited, it is recommended you keep a defensible space of 100 feet around your home.
  3. Prune Regularly. Hire a professional landscaping maintenance company or an arborist to keep trees and shrubs properly pruned and cleared of dead branches and leaves. Not only will this enhance the health of your landscaping, it will minimize its ability to burn should sparks make their way into your yard.
  4. Keep Roof and Chimney(s) Clear. Make sure your roof and chimney are free of tree branches. Always clear fallen debris, such as leaves and twigs, from your roof and gutters. This dry material can act as tinder during fire season.
  5. Create Fire Resistant Barriers. Use rock gardens, rock walls, and heavily mulched flower beds - which retain moisture - to create additional fire barriers around your home. Also, when upgrading your home, ask your contractor(s) about fire resistant building materials, such as siding, insulation, and roofing products.  
In addition to creating a more fire resistant landscape, we recommend you and your family have a fire evacuation plan in place. Rehearse your evacuation plan every quarter to ensure everyone is on the same page. With a little planning and preparation, your family will be able to minimize fire damage, preserving your home and its valuable contents.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Tired of Bleary Winter Weather? Brighten Your Interior With Color

We humans may not hibernate, but winter is still a season for hunkering down, catching up on reading and indoor hobbies, and planning the upcoming year. While there is beauty in the harsh winter landscape, the lack of color can become dreary. Winter light and cloudy skies can make your home's interior seem darker than normal. Combine that with a lack of sun and your interior decor may seem downright depressing.

If the winter doldrums are a reality for you too, you don't need to do a complete remodel, but it might be time to look at how bright colorful home design accents will cheer you up and add vibrance to your interior space.



Colorful interior design ideas that will cheer up your winter days

Winter is when home furnishing stores begin to show off their upcoming colorful spring lines. Take advantage of this by picking up interior design accents that will add color to a dark corner or room.

Feng Shui. Use all of that indoor time to learn about the art of Feng Shui home design. Winter days provide the perfect opportunity to study up on how to increase the positive energy flow of your home using the ancient principles of Feng Shui. By the time you welcome spring, your home will be ready to embrace a new season with a positive and harmonious outlook.

Vases: Talk about versatile accent pieces - vases are small, easy to store, and can be mixed, matched, and rearranged for different effects. Visit your local florist and pick up some seasonal bouquets to liven up your living space even further.

Lamps
: A bright and colorful lamp is a great way to literally light up a dark corner. You'll appreciate the pop of color and the extra interior light. Try using colorful light bulbs or switch your normal lamp shades for something with more color or a decorative pattern. This article from HGTV shows how you can repurpose an old garage sale lamp with a little imagination, a coat of paint, and a new shade.

Accent wall. Papering or painting an accent wall is a great way to use up a dreary winter afternoon and completely transform a space. If you aren't interested in making a permanent commitment, try using a bright, cheery, piece of fabric or a batik to temporarily add a bright spot. Check out these ideas for adding color to your home using temporary wall paper or fabric starching.

Pillow Shams. Rather than purchasing a collection of cheap accent pillows, try buying high-quality throw pillows and finding deals on versatile pillow shams. In one box you can store a year's worth of seasonal shams. Simply change the old for the new and voila! It's like a brand new pillow.

Beat the winter blues by finding ways to bring spring into your home a little early. Having a project to work on, and enjoying the visual fruits of your labors, will make the winter doldrums become a thing of the past.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Innovative Kitchen Appliances are Smarter Than Ever

Did you ever watch The Jetsons when you were a child? Cars that flew, robots that cleaned the house, and kitchens that made meals and cleaned up on their own. Who didn't fantasize about that futuristic lifestyle? While the world of innovative kitchen appliances isn't quite there yet, you would be amazed at what modern appliances are able to do these days.

Today's modern kitchen appliances are more energy efficient, attractive, and smarter - yes, smarter - than ever before. We thought we would take the time to highlight the must have appliances for this year's kitchen remodelers.


The World's Smartest Appliances


Invisible Dishwashers. We thought it was pretty impressive when dishwashers became "whisper quiet." And when we saw the first models that utilized cabinet facing to help the dishwashers blend into the kitchen design, we thought, "brilliant!" But just look at some of the amazing features new dishwasher models can offer.

The Bosh dishwasher is more than just the quietest dishwasher in North America. It also won the Energy Star award for distinguished excellence due to it's water and detergent sensing features, multiple which adjust the water/detergent according to the dish load, multiple wash cycle options, and a high efficiency heating element. Like to entertain? Bosh claims you can wash the dishes from a dinner party serving 14 in just a single load. That is something worth investing in.

Smart Refrigerators. Here is where kitchen appliances really start to get Jetsonesque. There are several refrigerators on the market that are energy efficient - using as little energy as a single 100-watt light bulb! But we are über impressed with the LG Smart ThinQ. It can tell you what's in the fridge, what's going to spoil if you don't use it soon, and potential menu options based on the ingredients stored inside. All of the information can be accessed using your SmartPhone App. So our question is, "what's for dinner?"

Built-in Coffee Station. A built-in coffee station, such as this coffee hutch, are becoming a standard installation for modern luxury kitchen designs and remodels. They allow you to brew a traditional cup o' joe, or step it up and notch and create gourmet coffee drinks in your very own kitchen. It's hard not to want one when you see one.

Wine Storage. Everyone loves a nice glass of wine, but those of us who live in the Bay Area have to admit we are a bit spoiled by having the Sonoma and Napa wine meccas right in our own backyard. Need a place to store your collection but don't have room for a cellar? No problem. The SubZero Wine storage options are high-tech, attractive, and can be built-in to your kitchen. Say arrivederci to over-chilled whites from the fridge, and lukewarm reds from your room temperature wine rack. Now you can offer your guests - and yourself - wine bar-worthy pours.

It's hard to imagine where kitchen appliances will be headed from here but for now, your modern kitchen can be as well designed as a professional bistro kitchen. Bon Appétit!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

What to Look for When Shopping for Energy Saving Appliances

Energy efficient appliances are all the rage these days and for good reason. In addition to reducing your carbon footprint, and improving outdoor air quality, they also save home owners considerable money in annual energy costs. There are several things to keep an eye on when you are in the market for a new appliance. Those are the Energy Star label, SEER or AFUE ratings, and the WaterSense label. Each of these will provide you with information about how a prospective appliance or plumbing feature compares with standard counterparts.



Energy Star

The Energy Star label was created by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as a way for homeowners to easily spot appliances that will save them money - in addition to improving the health of our planet. Although Energy Star appliances may be more expensive than other models, the government-backed program guarantees they will earn the extra money back - and then some - via energy savings over a "reasonable amount of time." Because it requires high-quality engineering and craftsmanship to build exceptionally energy efficient appliances, homeowners often reap the additional benefit of lower maintenance costs over the lifetime of the appliance. The Energy Star website is an excellent source for information about everything "green" and energy efficient in the world of home improvement.

SEER and AFUE

Heating and cooling equipment are labeled with a SEER or AFUE rating, depending on the type of equipment you are evaluating. AFUE stands for Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency. You should see an AFUE rating on any fuel-burning heating appliance. The higher the rating, the more efficient the appliance. SEER stands for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating. This measurement is visible on the packaging of cooling equipment. As with AFUE, The higher the rating, the better the energy efficiency. If you opt not to purchase a heating or cooling appliance with an Energy Star label, try to purchase one with the highest SEER or AFUE rating possible.

WaterSense

The WaterSense label is to plumbing fixtures and faucets as the Energy Star label is to appliances. Manufacturers of products with the WaterSense label guarantee their products are at least 20% more efficient than their standard counterparts. That is a pretty significant savings. In fact, the site advertises that even simple changes, such as adding a WaterSense aerator to your faucets or replacing your faucet with one that has a WaterSense label, can save your household as much as 11,000 gallons of water over the lifetime of the faucet! Visit the WaterSense website to learn more about how you can save water, to calculate your average water consumption, and to learn more about how you and your family can do your part to help conserve one of the planet's most precious resources.

Many municipalities are beginning to offer rebates to residents who purchase energy and water efficient appliances and plumbing fixtures. Hooray for us because Redwood City is one of them. Before you purchase your next appliance, keep your eye on the Star - the Energy Star that is, and begin to save multiple times over.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Top 5 Trends in Kitchen Design

If you're considering a kitchen remodel, you most likely scour home design websites, determining which features and functions will work the best in your kitchen. While designs and trends are important, especially in terms of resale value, never lose sight of the fact that you and your family spend the most time living in your kitchen. Make sure to prioritize kitchen options that work with your lifestyle. That being said, it's on to the fun stuff.



Top 5 Kitchen Design Trends

Sustainability. Green building is an overarching design trend and kitchens are no exception. Today's homeowners are interested in style and function, but they also want to know the features they add to their home are energy efficient and as minimally toxic as possible. You will want to consider how the choices you make during your remodel will effect indoor air quality quality. Are you using low-VOC paints, installing energy-efficient appliances, and ensuring gas appliances are well ventilated? What about energy efficient LED Lighting? Cabinet refacing is a more affordable and eco-friendly way to update cabinets, and countertop surfaces such as Quartz and Corian meet top green building certification requirements.

Open Floor Plans. There's no doubt that the open floor plan, including an open kitchen space, is still hot in the design world. While it may leave a few unwashed dishes exposed, today's hosts and hostesses want to be in on the action. Plus, with home design being more popular than ever before, homeowners want to share (dare we say show-off?) their brand new top-of-the-line updates with friends and family. In most cases, open floor plans also mean creating a feeling of space and extra square footage, which is desirable for older, smaller, floor plans. Opening up your kitchen space means opening up your living space.

Countertops. First it was Laminate. Then it was 4.5 x 4.5 tile (talk about a grout cleaning nightmare!). These days, kitchen countertop selections can be agonizing. There are so many options to choose from. Although granite is still one of the most popular choices, Quartz and Corian countertops are pulling ahead. Aforementioned sustainability is one of the reasons why. If you are a budget-conscious remodeler, ask your countertop vendor to show you their newest laminate samples. It has come a long way in the past two decades.

Cabinets. Cabinet options depend much more on the type of look you are going for than modern trends. Country kitchens usually opt for white and bright, or distressed. The modern kitchen may opt for darker finishes or bold paint colors. Either way you go, talk to your cabinet vendor about whether cabinet refacing is an option. It's affordable, will make your cabinets look like new, and saves landfills from thousands of tons of wasted cabinet materials. Consider using cabinet facing to cover appliances, such as the fridge and the dishwasher, to keep your kitchen lines clean and uninterrupted.

Good luck with your upcoming remodel. And remember, at the end of the day, trends are only guideposts to creating a functional and aesthetically pleasing kitchen your family will love.

Tell us what you like in a kitchen in the comments!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Ensure A Good Experience Hiring A Contractor

Whether you're considering a small remodel or are building a home from scratch, it's important to find a licensed and certified contractor who is experienced and trustworthy. You need to know they are adept at sticking to a budget and are experts in the area of construction they practice. Most of all, take the time to check their references, potential complaint history, and work portfolio. It's worth the time and effort to uncover important details so you can make sure to hire the best contractor for your job.

Here are some tips on how to go about hiring a contractor who you can trust.



Find a Contractor You Can Trust
  1. Ask Around. Online references and reviews can be helpful but they aren't always accurate.  Who's to say if the comments are posted by honest customers or a contractor's friends a family? The best references are people who have had work done by a contractor in the past five years. Know any friends or neighbors who have had recent remodels? Ask them about the pros and cons of the contractors they have used. Honest word of mouth, from people you trust, is a valuable resource.
  2. Verify Their State License. Once you've narrowed the prospective field to a few companies, make sure you're getting bids from licensed contractors. Verify they are listed on the California Contractor's State License Board website. This will give you information regarding their license and whether it is active or expired. It is best to check by license number, as names can be similar. Most contractors display their license number on their business card. If not, just ask for it.
  3. Investigate their Professional Complaint History. Always check with two agencies: The Better Business Bureau and the California Attorney General's Office to see if any complaints have been filed. This might take a little time and effort on your part but it's much better than finding out the hard way when you are filing the complaints!
  4. Examine Their Work. Ask for lists of recent and current projects so you can take a look. If the contractor has current jobs it can be a good idea to see their work in action. Ask for a list of subcontractors they use and call around to get references from the individuals your contractor employs. This can be another way to gain insight into the contractor's work ethic, and to see if they have long-standing relationships with their subs. If the concrete sub says, "Yeah, I'm the fifth company he's used in 2 years..." it's not a good sign.
  5. Trust Your Instincts. Don't dismiss your gut instincts. If a contractor comes highly praised but you don't get a good feeling during your initial interviews, do not hire him/her. Or, perhaps a contractor is lesser known in the community but you like his/her work and feel confident about how they communicate - then honor that.
Hiring a contractor requires due diligence.  However, the time and effort you make now into researching the potential candidates will be well worth it.