Tuesday
Mar032015

This Will Floor You

Back in January, part of my Blogtour experience was visiting the 2015 New American Home (NAH), a project co-produced by the National Association of Home Builders and Builder magazine in conjunction with the International Builders' Show. The NAH is an annual project to showcase the latest technology in home building. In the past, the sponsors intended the home to be a "one-of-a-kind" custom home but this year, they intended to showcase how cutting-edge technology could be integrated into a production home--the type of home offered in a suburban subdivision.

                          

I guess if you're a production home builder in the southwest or some other part of the world with an arid climate, this year's NAH, on the outskirts of Las Vegas, would have been extraordinary. But coming from the northeast, I confess I was not in love. The house beautifully merged indoor with outdoor spaces, something that is no big deal in Las Vegas. But as I look out my window to the more than two feet of snow that has been my landscape for the last 4 to 6 weeks, a home that blends interior with exterior spaces is a total fantasy.

                          

Can you imagine this type of home in New England? Hah! Nevertheless, there were lots of take-aways from the house.

The strongest take-away was the flooring materials used in the house provided by Mohawk Industries. Mohawk provided the hardwood flooring, wall-to-wall carpeting and area rugs made of SmartStrand Forever Clean, and area carpets from their Karastan luxury brand.

Mohawk’s Clarett Graphite Oak hardwood flooring was featured in the home. This beautiful oak hardwood has a subtle gray wash and matte finish making it equally suitable for homes with country and contemporary decor.

   

Mohawk's Graphite Oak hardwood and Karastan Area Rug shown left, with close up of Graphite Oak hardwood shown right. 

Karastan area carpets added color and pattern to the neutral interiors in the NAH. The rug below was my favorite, setting off a sitting area in the NAH's second floor billiard room and lounge.

                             

       

I have witnessed some pretty amazing product demonstrations, but by far the best I've seen was the demonstration by Mohawk's product development team of their new SmartStrand Forever Clean carpet. This carpet is the perfect solution for heavily-used family areas of the home. Using technology developed by DuPont, Mohawk has incorporated stain and soil protection into the core of carpet fibers for lifetime protection that will never wear or wash off. With new Nanoloc spill protection, the carpet prevents spills from penetrating the fibers, making cleanups quick and easy.

Mohawk's team demonstrated the stain repellant quality of the carpet with red wine. They submerged two pieces of carpet -- one with ordinary topical stain protection and the other, SmartStrand Forever Clean with Nanoloc protection -- into bowls filled with red wine. The carpet with ordinary protection absorbed the wine and did not come clean. But the SmartStrand Forever Clean carpet repelled the wine, and the carpet wiped completely clean.

                          

                          

Needless to say, all of us from Blogtour were completely floored. You would be too.

Photos of the exterior of the 2015 New American home are courtesy of tnah.com. All other photos courtesy of Chasen West Photography.

Disclaimer: Mohawk was a sponsor of BlogtourVegas and, together with other sponsors, paid for my Blogtour experience.

Tuesday
Feb242015

Guest Post: Which Home Improvements Make Sense When You're Selling Your Home

Today, I'm turning over the blog to my friend, Joanne Taranto, from Gibson Tom Matthews and Joanne TarantoSotheby’s International Realty. Joanne and her teammate, Tom Matthews, assist a wide selection of home buyers and sellers in the suburbs west of Boston, Massachusetts, specifically in the Lincoln, Carlisle, Acton and Concord, Massachusetts real estate markets. Take it away, Joanne . . .

When I go on a listing appointment, a question I often hear is “Joanne, which home improvements pay off?” While any improvement project is sure to add some extra value, there are some things that matter more to buyers than others. In this blog post, I’ve pulled together seven home improvement projects you can add to your property to add extra value and ultimately increase your resale value.

Landscaping & Outdoor Improvements - Unkempt trees, untrimmed bushes and messy flower beds can obscure views, darken interiors and ruin curb appeal, even with otherwise beautiful homes across all price points. Whether you’re doing it yourself or hiring a professional, some simple and affordable landscaping can go a long way to help you secure the price you want for your property.

If your property permits it, consider adding a backyard deck. At a cost of approximately $30 per square foot, a wood deck provides extra space for the buyer and increases the opportunity for entertaining.

Updated Entry - A modestly priced steel door will upgrade both energy efficiency and curb appeal at a minimum investment. For an updated look, consider removing old awnings over windows and doors. If your porch is a little bare, you can add drama with columns or a pergola, both attractive and affordable.

Kitchen Appliances & Fixtures - In many American households, the kitchen is still considered the heart of the home. Potential buyers will often make a beeline for this room on showings. For a couple of hundred dollars, you can increase the perceived value of the kitchen with minor changes like replacing the faucet, adding new cabinet door handles and upgrading lighting to newer, brighter energy-efficient bulbs.

If you have mismatched appliances, you may be surprised to learn that you can replace the faceplates on many appliances for a minimum investment in time and money. Matching appliances makes a kitchen look more cohesive, and this improvement can make a big difference in a buyer’s mind.

With a slightly larger budget you can give your cabinets a makeover. Rather than springing for all new cabinets, consider hiring a refacing company.

More Space & Storage - According to a study released by the National Association of Realtors, every 1,000 square feet added to a home boosts the sale price by 3.3 percent. With more and more buyers looking for dedicated rooms for hobbies, extra rooms are always a welcome addition. For more affordable ways to add extra space, consider finishing your basement or attic.

If you have a lower budget, consider increasing your perceived living space by investing in storage opportunities like built-ins, a pantry or additional cabinets.

Bathroom Improvements - In the hottest real estate markets, a bathroom remodel is a sure-fire way to increase the sale price of a property, often returning more than 100 percent of the cost. Bathrooms are areas of the home where you can tell if money has been well spent or not. They’re also one of the most expensive areas in a home in terms of construction.

If you’re on a tight budget, you’ll be surprised at how much a new pedestal sink, cabinet handles, caulk and a toilet seat can make. If you’re listing a more expensive home, buyers have been opting for larger walk-in showers in lieu of whirlpool tubs

Energy Efficiency - With energy costs always on the rise and the growing interest in protecting the environment, many buyers are becoming conscious of buying homes that are “green.” There are also tax credits available for certain efficient home improvements. While you don’t have to go solar, buyers are often cognisant of older, inefficient water heaters and furnaces, inadequate insulation and out-of-date windows.

Eliminating “What’s That?” Problems - Regardless of price point, every home has a couple of small but immediately noticeable things. Examples include a broken front step, dated wallpaper, cracked light switches, dented garage doors or paint that needs some retouching. The good news is that these changes are almost always relatively small.

Of course, this list isn’t meant to cover all of the home improvements you can make to boost the value of your property, but it’s a start. Savvy home sellers can do all of these things and much more in order to achieve a higher price for their property. It’s important to remember that the sale of a home is a negotiation between two parties and everyone has different preferences.

Friday
Feb202015

Pawsitive Feedback

I last wrote about the trend toward the integration and customization of kitchens and how Poggenpohl, a German brand, was forwarding that trend with its introduction of the P'7350 kitchen concept.

Take a look now at how Wood-Mode -- the largest U.S. manufacturer of custom cabinets for the kitchen, bath and other rooms in the home -- is championing that trend stateside.

At the 2015 Kitchen and Bath Industry Show (KBIS), Wood-Mode featured new cabinetry options targeted to specific lifestyle needs. Its just-launched Coffee Station and Wine Bar is a complete beverage station, with lateral bi-pass doors that switch the focus from breakfast duty to bar service.

  

                                                              Photo courtesy of Wood-Mode.

The upper doors slide left and right, maintaining the upper cabinets sleek low profile.

           

                                                               Photo courtesy of Wood-Mode.

Cabinet interiors are constructed of solid walnut, making the cabinets as handsome on the inside as they are on the outside.

                      

Pull out pantries are fashioned in chrome and white.

                            

Recognizing the value of pets in our lives and the accommodations they require, Wood-Mode introduced the Pet Parlor last year and showcased it at KBIS. Doubling as a utility or laundry room, the Pet Parlor features low-height pull-out drawers with pet bowl cut-outs and and bin storage for pet food. A low cabinet unit can accommodate an apron sink for pet-bathing.

                          

     

                                                      Photos courtesy of Wood-Mode.

Showcasing its ongoing partnership with Susquehanna Service Dogs, Wood-Mode brought to KBIS several Labrador service dogs including two adorable puppies -- service dogs in training -- to demonstrate the features of the Pet Parlor and the talents of these service dogs. You'd think that travelling almost 2500 miles by airplane to work at a trade show would be disadvantageous for the dogs. But interestingly, the trip was ideal for their training. Being able to guide their human companions among large crowds is just the skill these dogs have to master. A purely pawsitive outcome!

Disclaimer: Wood-Mode was a sponsor of BlogtourVegas and, together with other sponsors, paid for my Blogtour experience.

Tuesday
Feb172015

Trend Watch Tuesday: Kitchens as Works of Art

The kitchen has taken center stage as the heart and command center of the modern home. It's where we eat; where we entertain; where our kids do their homework; and where we manage the household. To serve all of these functions, the kitchen not only has to look good but perform well.

The latest trends in kitchen design are integration and personalization: blending utility with style and meeting the lifestyle needs of the consumer.

  • Functional pieces like appliances blend seamlessly into cabinetry.
  • Cabinetry is customized to suit the functional and ergonomic needs of its owners.
  • Technology infuses kitchen design to make the kitchen user-friendly.

At the 2015 Kitchen and Bath Industry Show (KBIS), these trends were strikingly evident. Cabinet makers are leading the charge, combining state-of the-art engineering with functionality to yield beautifully designed and highly serviceable units.

Poggenpohl -- the 123-year-old luxury cabinet maker -- aptly illustrated these trends with its introduction at KBIS of the P'7350 kitchen concept. The P'7350 is Poggenpohl's second collaboration with the Porsche Design Studio. The first collaboration yielded the P'7340 which raised the bar on kitchen cabinetry in two significant ways. First, it introduced an aluminum framework for positioning cabinets. This framework multiplied the customization options for arranging cabinets. Secondly, the collaboration with Porsche marked the innovative use of the aerodynamic material, carbon, for cabinet fronts.

In the award-winning P'7350 kitchen, Poggenpohl and Porsche have engineered a unique industrial mitering of cabinet fronts and boxes to create a brushed aluminum vertical reveal.

                                

   

The reveal adds a strong vertical element to the kitchen cabinet assembly and contrasts with the seamless planes of the cabinet fronts. Offered in gray walnut veneer and white, black, and gray matte and lacquered finishes, the P'7350 feels like the kitchen of the future.

  

As with all Poggenpohl kitchens, the P'7350 is entirely bespoke. It is built to order and customized to meet the organizational and lifestyle needs of the consumer. Poggenpohl prides itself on organizational personalization down to the smallest detail. Drawer fittings, like dividers and inserts, enable the customer to keep everything easily at hand and in its proper place.

      

To achieve this level of performance, Poggenpohl has truly elevated kitchen design to an art form.

Photo credits: All photographs except the photograph of the Poggenpohl logo are courtesy of Poggenpohl.com. Photograph of the Poggenpohl logo courtesy of  Chasen West Photography.

Disclaimer: Poggenpohl was a sponsor of BlogtourVegas and, together with other sponsors, paid for my Blogtour experience.

Tuesday
Feb102015

How to Add Steam to Your Shower: Q&A With Mrs. Steam

A highlight of my experience with BlogtourVegas was the respite afforded us by Mr. Steam after the intensity of three days and four nights spent at ModenusTalks, Las Vegas Market, KBIS and the 2015 New American Home. Mr. Steam, the largest manufacturer of steam boilers in the world, treated us to an afternoon at the luxurious spa at the Aria hotel complete with an education in the art of the hammam, or Turkish bath, with Tala Bath & Body products.

   

Photos courtesy of vegas.com (left) and modenus.com (right)

After luxuriating in the hot pools with a Tala mud mask and steaming it off in the steam room, I had a beautiful pink glow to my skin. It made me want to repeat this bathing ritual often. But without an at-home spa or health club membership, how could I?

Believe it or not, being able to enjoy the hammam experience is indeed possible and affordable in your home, explained Martha Orellana, Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Mr. Steam and nicknamed by Blogtourists "Mrs. Steam." I asked Martha some basic questions to help me --and you-- understand how easy it is to install a steam shower in your home.

LG: What are the minimum space requirements for a steam shower in the home?

Martha: Our Steam@Home package can be installed in a space as little as 3 x 3 and 7 feet high.

LG: Maybe that's all you need for the shower. But where would I put the steam generator?

Martha: The smallest steam generator is actually about the size of a briefcase and can be installed in the bathroom vanity, a nearby closet or even a heated attic, as long as it's within 60 feet of the steam enclosure.

LG: Is that it?

Martha: Kinda. The size of the steam generator is tailored to the size of the shower. So for bigger showers, you need a bigger generator.

LG: Some day I hope to redo my Master Bath (Seriously, I still have the builder's fiberglass all-in-one shower unit). What material can I use for the shower surfaces?

Martha: You can use natural stone, ceramic or porcelain tile, as well as acrylic, fiberglass, or other composite material. But -- and this is a a big BUT -- the material you use affects the size of the steam generator you'll need. Some materials are more porous than others. Like stone. You'll need to produce twice the amount of steam for a shower lined in natural stone than you would for a shower lined with ceramic tiles. More porous materials -- more steam. More steam -- bigger generator. Luckily, we have a tool on our website that helps you with this. You just plug in the shower dimensions and the building materials, and it will tell you the size of the generator you'll need.

LG: Now Martha, where I live, the water is very hard. Do I have to do anything with the water if I have a steam shower?

Martha: Yup. The high mineral content in hard water, like calcium, can build up and clog the generator. That will affect the steam output and the life of the generator. You'll need to install some kind of water softening system to pre-treat the water for the steam shower.

LG: Martha, I like clean . . . but I hate to clean. Is there a lot of upkeep involved in maintaining a steam shower?

Martha: Let's talk about the shower first. You'll have to take precautions to avoid the build up of mold or mildew in the shower. Running the exhaust fan while taking a steam and routine cleanings will help with that. But you'd have to do that for a regular shower anyway.

Now for the steam unit, we offer AutoFlush Technology to insure a practically no-maintenance system.

LG: Tell me about AutoFlush.

Martha: With AutoFlush, the steam shower tank automatically empties two hours after every shower. Impurities flush out, and every shower starts with clean water.

LG: Martha, all of this must cost a boat load of money. Dare I ask?

Martha: Please, ask! Our Steam@Home packages start at $1,250.

LG: I'm sold! Where can I buy?

Martha: Check our website for authorized dealers in your area or authorized e-tailers.

For more information and requirements for installing a residential steam shower, read Mr.Steam's blog.

Disclaimer: Mr.Steam was a sponsor of BlogtourVegas and, together with other sponsors, paid for my Blogtour experience.