Easy ways to add more color to your home

Home improvement projects are missing from the list of Americans’ top 10 New Year’s resolutions for 2019. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t undertake one or two this year, especially if what you do makes living in the home more relaxing. And changing up the color, even if it’s in small ways, can do just that.

Intimidated?

Intimidation is usually what stops homeowners from experimenting with color in the home. Despite learning the color wheel and all about complementary colors as kids, many of us still clench up when it comes time to choose a color that we’ll live with.

We scoured the internet for advice on how to choose a color you can not only live with but enjoy as well.

A good place to start

Looking at paint chips can be overwhelming if you do it for too long. Some industry professionals say the best way to start your search for a paint color is by doing so in short stretches of time.

Whether you’re standing in front of the paint chip rack at Home Depot or perusing colors on Pinterest or other online sites, don’t dwell on the process.

When you see a color that speaks to you, grab the swatch or save it to a color folder that you create on your computer. Don’t’ overthink the process. The idea is to go with your first reaction.

If it’s “I kind of like that one,” save it. You’ll revisit it later when it’s time to narrow your choices. Then, take it a step further and choose a lighter and a darker shade of that same color.

“Colors look brighter on the walls than they do on a tiny chip. You may be surprised by which you ultimately go for,” color expert Amy Krane tells Houzz contributor Tiffany Carboni

What to do with your new color

The choices are plenty. Consider:

  • Painting an accent wall. Remember, this wall will become the room’s focal point, so choose your wall carefully.
  • Accessorize with it. If you choose to start small with your new color, consider choosing fireplace mantel or coffee table accessories in the hue. Other ideas include sofa pillows, a throw or an area rug. The latter is especially useful in a smaller room because rugs make small spaces appear more inviting.
  • Painting just the trim with your new color. Unexpected pops of color are fun.

Color is the wonder drug for home interiors. It can make a space feel clean, new and energized or it can calm it down. It all depends on which you choose.

Find inspiration online at HGTV.com, BHG.com and, for ideas on how to add color to your home without picking up a paintbrush, head to ApartmentTherapy.com.

Your 2019 home, according to Pinterest

As huge fans of Pinterest, we’re always eager to read the year-end wrap-up and predictions of what will be trending on the platform in the new year ahead.

The beauty of Pinterest is that so many of the projects on display are DIY-able, meaning huge savings over hiring someone to do the work for you.

In fact, searches for DIY projects on Pinterest made up 83 percent of all home searches in 2018. Remodeling and landscaping were popular as well.

So, what are Pinterest’s prognostications for 2019? Read on and find out.

Your walls

Pantone is the undisputed leader when it comes to showing us the Color of the Year. In 2019, it’s “Living Coral,” so don’t be surprised if your neighbor paints her dining room a peachy orange.

Pinteresters, on the other hand, are opting for yellow. And, not just your standard sunny yellow, but “bold mustard yellow walls,” according to the platform’s “Pinterest 100-The Top Trends for 2019.

Searches for “mustard yellow” were up 45 percent.

But new wall covering doesn’t necessarily have to be of the latex variety. “People are wrapping up their walls – and themselves—in fabric for a textured, artsy aesthetic,” according to the report.

They may just be onto something with that. Many designers are predicting the return of wallpaper in 2019. Today’s wallpaper, however, should be one with bold patterns and bright colors.

Consider geometric patterns for the kids’ rooms (searches on Pinterest for geometric décor are up a whopping 1,178 percent).

Once you’ve decided on wall covering, it’s time to turn your attention to what to hang on those walls. Naturally, Pinterest offers their 2019 obsession: textile art. Searches for the term have increased nearly 2,000 percent and you’ll find inspiration here.

Or, if you prefer green, consider a vertical indoor garden. There are lots of ways to approach this trend. Check out some of the ideas at Decoist.com.

Under foot

There’s no need to rip out the old vinyl flooring; just paint right over it. Keep the colors bold (the theme for 2019, apparently) and consider mosaic patterns.

The secret is in the stencil you choose and, thankfully, there are many. Check out what some of Pinterest’s DIYers are doing with stencils and paint on a dated floor.

Succulents have been at the top of the must-have list for a couple of years now, but 2019 sees the trend moving more niche, to cacti. Searches for cactus arrangements have more than doubled at Pinterest and here’s a sample of what they find.

The great outdoors

Outdoor living spaces are popular with homebuyers and homeowners alike. The outdoor fireplace, as long as it’s “modern and sleek” is what they’ll be clamoring after in 2019, according to Pinterest.

This trend is, of course, useless to homeowners whose beloved garden is of the cottage or other less-modern style.

So, turn your attention instead to the aforementioned vertical garden. Whether you intend to cover an entire wall or create a privacy screen, you’ll find gorgeous inspiration on Pinterest.

We’ve saved the best trend (in our opinion) for last. If you’re considering the addition of a swimming pool, forget the chemicals and consider a natural swimming pool.

This trend has been simmering on the back burner for a year or so now and trendwatchers expect it to move front and center this year.

These low-tech alternatives offer not only that luxurious sensation of swimming in the wild but can be tailored to your particular landscaping style and the size of your yard. From huge ponds to plunge pools, we hope the natural swimming pool is a trend that’s here to stay.

Get ideas at AquaMagazine.com, HouseLogic.com and HGTV.com.

 

 

3 of the Best Home Organization Blogs

If you’ve just purchased a home, putting all your “stuff” away is something you’re most likely not looking forward to. Unpacking boxes and then finding a place for everything can take a while.

The good news is that if you make a vow to get organized now, instead of promising to do it later, it will make the unpacking a lot easier.

Home organization isn’t just for new homeowners, however. In fact, the longer you’ve lived in a home, the more you most likely need a little help in getting things sorted.

It wasn’t easy choosing “the best” home organization bloggers but we found two criteria that helped us whittle down the list: the blog must be primarily about organizing (recipes and decorating tips tolerated, but not if they dominate the blog) and the blogger must actually BLOG at least once a week.

With a little input from friends and clients, we give you our list of 3 of the best home organization blogs on the internet.

It apparently takes a village to produce the Unclutterer blog and, judging by the volume of posts every week, we get it.

Canadian Jacki Hollywood Brown is the woman in charge and writes from Winnipeg, Manitoba. The site also has an editor at large, Erin Rooney Doland, in the D.C. area and a staff of writers.

You’ll find advice here from how to organize just about everything in the home, from prescription medication bottles to books, computer data, closets and more.

We love this post, with brilliant advice on speed decluttering (breaking the task down into five, 10 or 15 minute sessions).

Visit Unclutterer online at Unclutterer.com or connect with them on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

Canadian Laura Wittman is a self-professed “organizing junkie,” while many of us can be described as “clutter junkies.” If the latter describes you, this is your new favorite blog.

Laura and staff not only offer up brilliant solutions for decluttering but helps us dig deep into why we hang on to so much stuff and why we’re so disorganized.

You know those nights (at our house it’s almost every night!) when you can’t figure out what to make for dinner and when you finally hit on something, you’ll need to head out to the market for missing ingredients?

Laura fixes that for you by not only advising that you create a weekly menu, but posts sample menus for you as well. It doesn’t get any more no-brainer than that!

Find Laura and her amazing tips online at orgjunkie.com or connect with her on Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram, Youtube

While we’re north of the border, take a look at Laurence MacSween’s storage solutions blog, Storage|Glee. Once you get on the organization bandwagon, you’ll need these solutions and MacSween has plenty of them.

While she doesn’t offer how-to advice, you’ll find no shortage of inspiration. Take a look at the right sidebar to get started. You’ll find storage solutions for everything from salsa to vodka and from utensil to photos.

Prefer room-specific suggestions? You’ll find those as well.

Visit Storage|Glee online at storageandglee.blogspot.com.

Honorable Mentions:

Clutter Bug

If you can stomach the huge push to buy products, you’ll find that Clutterbug offers brilliant organizing tips.

They’re a bit challenging to find, nestled in among the products for sale, but if you scroll down the home page, just under the book for sale you’ll find her tips, organized by room.

A lot of what’s on the site is in video form (who has time for that?). Your mileage may vary. Visit them online at Clutterbug.me

A Slob Comes Clean

Again, lots of podcasts, videos and “please buy my stuff” to wade through, but we love her decluttering and organizing tips. Find them online at ASlobComesClean.com.

Decorating on a budget with sofa slipcovers

Wouldn’t it be nice to have a new sofa whenever you wanted? Good news: when the seasons change and the urge to update your living room accordingly strikes you, you can have that “new” sofa, or at least one that looks new, with sofa slipcovers.

Couch covers are a wonderful way to update your home’s decor. With the variety of fabrics, colors and styles offered by manufacturers you are sure to find a way to create sizzle in your home redecorating project.

Fabric slipcovers have become so affordable that it would be easy to change your decor with the seasons.

Tips for choosing sofa slipcovers

The folks at Calico Corners caution against choosing linen or linen blend slipcovers because the fabric is wrinkle-prone.

Instead, opt for couch covers in textured fabrics, such as denim, cotton duck and twill – any fabric that is tightly woven. For inspiration, check out some of the fabric choices at Ikea.com, BallardDesigns.com and MyBluPrint.com.

Of course, it’s easy to get excited about a certain fabric or pattern, but keep in mind how heavily the sofa is used.

If it’s used often, choose a slipcover that has stain resistance and is washable. If you have pets and kids, choose a fabric that won’t tear easily. Durable poly blends are ideal.

Avoid slipcovers with a latex backing. “Latex backing causes the fabric to buckle and wrinkle instead of sliding over the fabric beneath it,” according to the pros at Calico Corners.

Then, there is style to consider. Do you want a tight, tailored fit or something looser and more casual?

“A fitted slipcover provides a seamless look where it is nearly impossible to tell that the furniture has been covered,” according to the decorators at Overstock.com.

Measure your sofa accurately to get the proper fit. Huffpost offers a walk-through of how to do it.

If you’re more of a DIYer and handy with a sewing machine, head over to BigDuckCanvas.com for a yardage estimator

 Winter sofa covers

It’s winter and folks tend to spend a lot more time indoors. Our homes become somewhat of a haven from the harsh elements. Therefore, a winter home should provide warmth and an air of coziness.

When deciding the fabric for your slipcovers in your winter redecorating scheme look to the heavier more textured types of fabrics. Corduroy, brushed suede, soft chenille, are all fabrics that provide a feeling of warmth. 

Recover your sofa in spring

Spring is, of course, a time of renewal. If you decide to renew your sofa to match the season, choose from lighter, airier fabrics in floral prints or soft solid colors.

Think “Easter,” and you’ll be on the right track.

 Summertime color

Summertime sofa slipcovers tend to be a bit more casual and your choice of fabric a little broader. Since we spend so much time outdoors in the summer, your slipcovered furniture won’t be getting as much use, and abuse, as in other times of the year.

This affords you the opportunity to go with a lighter-weight fabric such as cotton and cotton blends and silk-like polyester.

Color choices are fun – turquoise, peach, sunny yellow and crisp white. 

Fall ideas

Fall marks the transition from summer into winter. It’s harvest season, offering you a ton of color and print choices. If you opt for a solid colored couch cover, you can get more creative with accessories, such as pillows.

If you imagine colors associated with all of the seasons you can probably come up with more connections to fall than any other season. Brown, auburn, gold, and orange are the predominant colors of the season. Prints can range from botanical to plaids.

Where to shop for sofa slipcovers

Some of your favorite brick-and-mortar stores carry couch covers, including WalMart, JC Penney, Kohl’s, Target, Macy’s, Pottery Barn and Bed, Bath & Beyond.

Shopping online for sofa slipcovers is a snap with lots of retailers from which to choose. These include Overstock.com,  Wayfair.com, SureFit.com, Hayneedle.com and even Amazon.com (check out this gorgeous Micro Fiber slipcover).

With sofa slipcovers you truly can provide a whole new environment in your home each and every season.

Tiny kitchen? Let’s fix that cramped feeling

Our clients often tell us that it was their dinky kitchen that prompted their decision to sell their condos to buy a house. While the kitchen may not be the “hub” of a home any longer, it is the room that most Americans spend the most time in, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

And, those with tiny kitchens end up spending even more time in them. From meal preparation to clean-up, everything is more challenging when there is minimal storage and work space.

We’ve scoured advice from home décor and design experts to come up with ways for you to ease that cramped feeling in your kitchen.

Declutter 

“If you’re the only one in your apartment and you wash everything by hand, you might not need to stock a few dozen glasses in your cabinets,” suggests Ayn-Monique Klahre, lifestyle editor at TheKitchn.com.

How often do you use a vase? Often enough to own a collection of them? Pare down these collections to two or three favorites and donate the rest to charity or have a garage sale.

When you rid yourself of the excess in your cupboards and on your counters, your small kitchen instantly feels less cramped.

Get tips on downsizing the clutter at apartmenttherapy.com.

 Go up

Take a tip from your gardening friends – when life throws you a small yard, go vertical. Consider installing the following to the kitchen walls:

  • Magnetic knife strips (out of the reach of little ones, of course)
  • Hooks for everything from towels to small kitchen implements
  • Hanging pot racks (think of the cupboard space you’ll free up)
  • Shelves to hold anything from your dinnerware to vase collection

“You could free up whole cupboards by hooking everything and anything that has a handle,” suggests Laura Wheat at Houzz.com.

You can even go vertical within the kitchen’s cupboards, creating even more space, according to Regina Yunghans at TheKitchn.com.

She suggests storing common kitchen items, such as cupcake and other mold-type tins, baking sheets and racks “standing up instead of lying down.”

Check out the photos on the website for ideas.

A final thought on going vertical: If you can afford new cabinetry, ditch yours if they don’t go completely to the ceiling. That’s wasted space up there that could be put to better use.

Install “drawers” in deep cabinets

Even the tiniest of kitchens has an under-the-sink cabinet and it’s typically quite deep. Which means, the back of it holds rarely-used items. Consider installing slide-out drawers, like these from Home Depot.

You’ll find this same concept for use in your pots and pan cupboard at Amazon.com.

Of course you could go even thriftier by using bins or baskets instead. These can be slid out of the cupboard to find what you need. Amazon.com offers solutions in both wire and plastic. Get ideas on how to use these containers at GoodHousekeeping.com.

If you fancy yourself an ace DIYer, check out The Family Handyman’s walkthrough of how to build your own “kitchen sink storage trays.”

Invest in new lighting

Even if you have lots of natural light in your dinky kitchen, consider adding under-cabinet lighting.

“The light will fill in the shadows under the cabinet and reduce the contrast, giving the impression of a larger kitchen,” Dave Lincon, Director of product management and business development for Sears Home Services tells BobVilla.com’s Glenda Taylor.

Under-cabinet lighting solutions range from hard-wired to battery-operated to those you plug into an outlet. For the latter, check out these at Amazon.com. You’ll also find a large selection of all varieties at Lowes.com and HomeDepot.com.

Wall colors

It may be boring, but white is the best paint color for a small kitchen, according to Ann Wilson at bhg.com. “White walls, ceilings, and backsplashes reflect light and make the perimeter of a small kitchen recede, which causes the room to appear larger,” she suggests.

She goes on to suggest that you add a splash of robin’s egg blue and cheery yellow in accessories (or even one accent wall or pantry door) to bring a bit more interest to the room.

Regardless of how tiny your kitchen is, it doesn’t have to feel cramped. Find solutions to help you feel less claustrophobic so you can enjoy the time you spend in the kitchen.

 

 

3 Home maintenance resolutions for 2019

As most homeowners understand, owning a home isn’t a set-it-and-forget-it kind of possession. It requires what sometimes seems like almost constant maintenance. While some of these tasks can be deferred, and often are, there are others that shouldn’t wait.

Not performing these maintenance tasks can cost you dearly. We have a fresh, new year upon us, so why not resolve, right now, to undertake these three common but often deferred ways to keep your home maintained and save money in the long run?

1. There’s a reason your HVAC system has filters

Perhaps the easiest and quickest piece of home maintenance you could ever perform is changing out the filter to your heating and air conditioning unit. However, I still hear about homeowners who don’t know about this.

The filter may not look like much, but it performs a very important function – keeping debris out of your HVAC unit.

“The primary purpose of a filter is to protect HVAC equipment, not to improve indoor air quality,” according to Joe Provey at BobVila.com.

“If your air filter is dirty and you’re experiencing AC problems, the majority of the time it always comes back to that clogged filter,” claims the experts at Cool Today in Sarasota, Florida.

They go on to explain that when the filter is dirty, the HVAC unit needs to work harder. The strain does a number on the system’s motors and, eventually, the unit may break down.

At a nationwide average cost of $5,413 to replace the system, not routinely changing its filters seems borderline nuts.

How frequently you’ll need to change the filters depends on several variables:

  • Number of pets in the home
  • Number of people in the home
  • The type of filter
  • Current indoor air quality

“For basic 1″-3″ air filters, manufacturers usually direct you to change them every 30-60 days,” according to the pros at Service Experts Heating, Air-Conditioning & Plumbing.

They go on to recommend that if anyone in the home experiences allergies or if you have a dog or cat, change the filters every 20 to 45 days.

If you’ve grown tired of the frequent trips to Home Depot to pick up new filters, consider installing a washable filter. Also known as a “permanent electrostatic filter,” it can last up to 10 years, but should be washed monthly.

You’ll find a brilliant explanation of these filters and why you should considering switching to them at Gardenologist.org.

2. Get at those ‘fridge coils

Did you know that refrigerator condenser coil problems account for more than 70 service calls per year? It’s true, according to familyhandyman.com.

Cleaning the coils is a 5-minute job so there’s really no excuse for a homeowner to have to place a condenser coil-related service call.

The experts suggest that we perform the task twice a year, especially if we have pets.

You’ll need to pull the refrigerator away from the wall because the coils are attached to the back of the appliance (sometimes along the bottom). Unplug it before doing any work on it.

Use the vacuum to remove the loose fuzz and a coil cleaning brush (familyhandyman.com recommends this one at Amazon.com) to get at the caked-on material.

They also suggest that you check the gasket around the edges of the door to ensure that stray food particles aren’t impeding the door, allowing the cold air to escape or hot air to get in.

Use warm water and a sponge to avoid damage to the gasket.

3. A quick and easy inspection of this part of your windows pays off

Those small holes on the bottom of your exterior windows have a very important purpose. Known as “weep holes,” their job is to drain water that catches in the sill, so it doesn’t build up and end up inside the home.

Like most things on your home’s exterior, they get clogged with dust, leaves and bugs. Let this “junk” accumulate for too long, and you’ll end up with the water entering the home and dripping down the walls.

Make it a point to inspect weep holes each year, preferably just before the rainy season. Spray the outside of the window with a hose and watch for it to drain from the weep hole. If it doesn’t, the water is getting stuck somewhere along the line.

Experts at TheFamilyHandyman.com recommend that you use a wire hanger to poke into the hole, then use the hose on the window again.

“If the little flapper (designed to keep out driving wind) is stuck shut, it can be removed with a putty knife and replaced.”

Newer windows may have a weep hole on the inside of the window as well. Find a handy walkthrough video of how to clean these at YouTube.com.

Do these 7 things before moving into your new home

If there’s one thing we can guarantee during the home sale process it’s that you’ll walk away from the closing table with a sore wrist and a bad case of brain fog.

The sheer volume of papers you’ll sign is mind-boggling. The time you’ll spend sitting in the chair will numb more than your rear end.

But there is still work to be done. This is the fun part of the process though. As soon as you have the keys to your new home, get busy getting it in move-in condition.

In fact, there are some things that should be done before closing.

1. Transfer the utilities to the new address

Naturally, this is something you’ll want to do in advance of closing. We typically remind our clients to transfer utilities at least two weeks prior to closing on the new home.

And, by utilities, we mean electricity, water, gas and/or propane, sewer, trash collection, telephone land lines, security service (if the home has one), cable and internet.

Find out what day of the week the trash collectors come to the new neighborhood.

If you’ll be transferring other services to the new address, such as landscaping and pool cleaning, do those at the same time.

 

2. File a change of address with the post office

The post office needs to know where to deliver your mail and you have two ways of letting them know. You can either go to the post office and fill out a change-of-address card or use the U.S.P.S. online service.

Go online and navigate to moversguide.usps.com. Click on the blue “Get Started” button. Answer all the questions on the new page and use the “Next” buttons to navigate the rest of the process.

There is a $1 charge to change your address online, so you’ll need a credit or debit card.

 

3. Determine the quickest route to school and the best commute route to work

In all the excitement of moving into the new home, Monday will roll around before you know it.

Do you know what time to leave the home to get to school and work on time? Use the weeks before closing to familiarize yourself with the various routes you can take to each.

Make the trips during the morning commute time (not on a weekend), so that you can time your trips to the minute. This way, you can relax and know that nobody in the family will be late for school or work.

4. Change the locks on all doors leading to the exterior of the home

This task will need to wait until the home is actually yours, and you have the keys in your hand. Call a locksmith or, if you’re the DIY type, change the locks yourself.

Consider one of the new smart locks. They’re especially handy for large families and for those who have a tendency for losing keys.

Check out PC Magazine’s list of the best smart locks of 2019 at pcmag.com.

5. Need paint?

It’s a rare home that couldn’t use fresh paint on the walls and now is the best time to slap some on. If you wait, you’ll need to cover or move furniture out of each room and remove art work from the walls.

If you’ll also be replacing the flooring, you can be as messy as you want without a care as to where the paint is landing.

Speaking of new flooring, get that laid after painting and before moving in.

6. Give the home a deep clean

The previous owners of your new home were most likely told by their real estate agent that they were expected to leave the home in “broom swept” condition.

There is really no one definition of this term, but at the least, the floors should be swept and vacuumed and all personal belongings removed from the home.

No, it doesn’t always happen. But one thing you can most likely depend on is that the home won’t be deeply clean.

You’ll be so happy you took the time to do this, or hired someone to do it for you, when you move in and don’t have to lift a finger to be able to enjoy your new digs.

7. If you have pets

Parole the perimeter of the home to ensure the fencing doesn’t include gaps wide enough to allow your pet to get out. If your dog or cat will spend time in the garage, store chemicals (especially automobile anti-freeze) up high, out of their reach.

Finally, notify the microchip company of your new contact information so that if Fluffy does get loose and someone finds her, you can be notified quickly.

Your veterinarian can help you find the company contact information for the particular chip implanted in your pet.

Welcome home!

Tips for a Brilliant Bookshelf Makeover

Sure, books aren’t exactly selling like the Instapot (2018’s hottest selling product on Amazon’s Prime Day in the U.S.), but if you’re of the opinion that something isn’t worth reading unless you can hold it in your hand, read on.

Even if you consume your literature on Kindle, shelves holding books are an asset to your décor – especially if the shelves are aesthetically pleasing.

Fortunately, if they have seen better days, bookshelf makeovers are easy and inexpensive DIY projects that don’t require a lot of carpentry experience.

The first step

Any decorating project is best undertaken with a clean slate, so remove everything from the shelves. Then, dust and clean the entire unit.

If your shelves are of the particle board/plastic variety, such as those sold at Ikea, a damp cloth and some mild cleaner is all you need to clean them.

Wood units, on the other hand, require the use of a wood-safe cleaning product, such as Murphy’s Oil Soap or Bona Cabinet Cleaner (both available from Amazon.com).

Now, stand back and imagine the possibilities.

Does it need paint?

Older bookshelves that seem to have seen as many years as some of the books they hold will look youthful again with refinishing or a fresh coat of paint to the frame and shelves. Especially if the bookshelf is a castoff or bargain purchase, paint or varnish can make it look high-end.

We found a YouTube video walk-through of how to paint wood veneer and laminate surfaces, here.

Painting wood surfaces also has its challenges, but, step-by-step, this how-to video makes the process a lot easier.

What’s behind the books?

Bookshelves with closed backs offer far more creative opportunities than those that are open to the wall in the back.

Aside from painting the backboard, DIYers use everything from wallpaper to wrapping paper, fabric and even shower curtains to decorate it.

Consider lighting it up

Lighted bookshelves offer a warm glow to the entire room and there are several ways to provide the light.

Consider LED strip lighting, attached to the bottom of each shelf to illuminate the shelf below. Here’s a video walk-through to help you get this very easy project underway.

For a more casual look, try twinkle lights. Even if you decide against this idea, we recommend watching this charming YouTube walk-through purely for its entertaining nature. We’ve fallen in love with TheFilmingFangirlBOOKS.

If you’re really handy, consider adding hardwired feature lights to your bookshelf.

Time to put the books back

If you’re using the unit to store books and only books, your décor options are limited. Suggestions for arranging them include:

  • Arrange alphabetically
  • Arrange books by theme
  • Separate them by color.
  • Stack some and use the stack as a bookend.
  • Arrange hardbacks separately from soft-bound books.
  • Arrange books by size

Bookshelves can hold more than books and offer a subtle way of decorating the room. The sky is the limit when it comes to which accessories to add to your bookshelves. You’ll find ideas online at HGTV, Elle Décor and House Beautiful.

Is your home smarter than you? It could be

Have you ever stocked up on groceries for a week’s worth of recipes and then forgot which of them you’d intended to follow?

If you owned an LG InstaView ThinQ Refrigerator, it would’ve reminded you. This smart ‘fridge was but one of the many home tech creations on view at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

Some of the others we found intriguing include: 

Tetra Dishwasher

Described as “a compact, connected dishwasher with 10-minute, half-gallon cycles,” Tetra is also downright gorgeous.

While we predict it will be popular with those with tiny kitchens, the fact that it requires no plumbing (water is poured in manually) “and can be placed and used anywhere with a standard electrical outlet,” may put it in-demand for even the owner of a full-size kitchen with a small family.

See Tetra at work at myheatworks.com.

 

Smart plumbing fixtures

We’ve used smart plumbing fixtures for years in public restrooms – toilets that flush automatically and faucets that stream water as soon as a hand is placed beneath it.

Now that same tech idea is available in our homes, only better. How many times has the cooking goo you want to get off your hands ended up on the faucet’s handle? With voice-sensing fixtures, it’s now hands-free and oh, so clean.

Check out Delta’s Wi-Fi-connected and Alexa-powered Touch2O smart faucet.

 

Brilliant home security

Deep Sentinel is revolutionizing home security by pairing “Artificial Intelligence with human intervention.” It starts by establishing a security perimeter around your home and then the smart cameras, motion sensors, extra loud siren, two-way speakers and “AI processing hub” all work together to defend it.

Rolling out this winter, Deep Sentinel’s equipment package is selling now for $299 (the early bird special, otherwise plan on spending $399) and the Monthly Surveillance Subscription is priced at $49.99. Learn more about how to purchase the system here.

 

Check the weather while you shave

The stuff of sci-fi movies just a few years ago, Alexa and Google Assistant are added to mirrors, smoke alarms, and more.

Bathroom and kitchen product giant Kohler Co., introduced the Verdera Voice-Lighted Mirror, with Alexa built in. Use your voice to control the lighting, check the traffic while you shave or apply your makeup in the morning without putting up with the clutter of a TV or radio on the bathroom counter.

The next Consumer Electronics Show happens in January so we’ll keep you posted on what’s new and exciting in smart home technology.

The cure for wet basements

Pretend, for a moment, that it’s spring (yes, it will come). Although snow is still deep, temperatures are rising.

What happens?

The snow will melt, sometimes rapidly, creating lots and lots of flowing water. Add a spring rainstorm to the scenario and you may be facing a serious problem.

Where will all this water go? Since the earth is still frozen, it won’t go down. It will follow the path of least resistance, according to Waters Basement Services in Buffalo, NY.

That path typically leads to the home’s foundation and, eventually, to the basement.

Rainwater isn’t the only type of moisture that seeps into basements, however, something as simple as condensation can build into puddles.

Just as condensation forms when cold outside temperatures meets warm window glass, so can that same warm air hitting a cold pipes or a concrete foundation create condensation.

Think you’re safe because your home is relatively new?

Think again. The American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) claims that most new homes experience basement leaks within 10 to 15 years of being built.

Worse, excess moisture leads to the development of mold. ASHI experts claim that 60 percent of homes in the U.S. have moisture in the basement and nearly 40 percent of these basements will develop mold.

More than 60 percent of basements in existing homes have basement moisture.

The key to fixing the problem is to figure out where the moisture is coming from.

Searching for the source

First, you’ll need to determine if the moisture is seeping into the basement from the outside or if it’s a result of condensation.

Thankfully, this is easy. When you find moisture on a wall, tape a piece of foil to the location. Leave it on the wall for 24 hours and then check the foil for signs of dampness.

If it’s wet on the outside, then the source of moisture is coming from inside the basement (condensation, most likely). If the underside is wet, suspect moisture intrusion from outside the home, according to John D. Wagner at ThisOldHouse.com.

Now you’ll need to pinpoint exactly where the moisture is coming from. Wagner suggests that the most likely areas are where the floor joins the walls. Then, check the ceiling for signs of water intrusion (flaking paint, discoloration, etc.).

Other areas to check for leaks include:

  • Beneath buckled floor boards or lifted tiles
  • Rotten wood
  • Near rusty metal surfaces, such as nails and screws
  • Powdery-looking deposits on concrete, stone and stucco surfaces

 Fixing the Problem

The fix for your wet basement depends on the cause. If it’s condensation, airing out the basement may be the cure.

If the source of the moisture is coming from outside the home, the solution may range from filling foundation and wall cracks with epoxy to more expensive tasks, such as:

  • Re-grading the yard to direct water away from the home
  • Installing drains
  • Installing a sump pump
  • Replacing downspouts and gutters

Kevin Brasler of Washington Consumer’s Checkbook and HouseLogic.com offer DIY solutions to try before calling in a professional.

If that doesn’t work, don’t give up. Moisture can damage the home’s structure and cause mold. If the DIY suggestions don’t cure the problem, call in a pro.