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Dominant Design Trends for 2015 Honored

In June, the Gold Nugget Awards - the nations largest and most prestigious awards in the areas of design, planning and development - held its 52nd annual gala bash in San Diego, California. Builders, Architects and Land Planners from around the globe were recognized for their exceptional concepts, unique visions and flawless execution of design and development.

The folks that comprise the recognizing body of the Gold Nugget awards emphasize not only aesthetic talent and technical skill, but place high value on the ways in which these home and land designs positively impact our environment, our communities and ourselves.

This year, the awards within the U.S. leaned heavily toward the overall themes of efficiency, sustainability, ambiance and understated elegance. While our European counterparts favored opulence, the U.S. - especially in the west - was feeling a little more zen. With trends that bring outdoor spaces - and the transitional space between indoor and outdoor - into the forefront, it is clear that many Americans are embracing (arguably craving) the natural world like never before. Repurposed materials are becoming commonplace and energy efficiency and sustainability, almost a market mandate.

According to Builderonline.com - Gold Nugget's chief sponsor - the prominent trends of 2015 are:

Integrated, open designs, unexpected materials, sophisticated lighting and striking, thoughtful details.

Emphasizing and formalizing outdoor space while minimizing indoor space. Seamless, innovative transition areas like collapsible, floor-to-ceiling doors were the types of "space shifting" designs that were given great praise.

Along a more practical vein, the trend of creating multi-functional spaces was recognized as a forward-thinking approach to not only solving a space crunch, but to help move folks away from designating spaces in the home that go largely unused. Outfitting a formal dining room to double as a home office solves the problem of working at the kitchen table or in the basement, but also puts to use a space that is perhaps only inhabited three or four times per year.

Minimalism: Clean lines and single focal points within rooms (a bathtub, for example) were the indoor trends that caught the attention of the judges.

Sustainability. It appears these days that no matter how innovative or captivating a home or land design may be, it is considered clumsy and irresponsible if not executed in an earth-friendly, efficient and sustainable way. That's very good news for the environment, but also good news for the homeowner. Soon will be gone, the days of energy-gouging appliances, inefficient heating/cooling systems and slipshod construction.

A wonderful slideshow of the winners is up for viewing on builderonline.com and a list of all the winners in all categories (single/multi-family, custom, mixed-use and commercial), can be found directly on the .

Simple, Affordable Ways to Increase your Home's Resale Value

According to most sources, the housing market has still not fully rebounded from the 2008 recession although there are some positive trends (prices rising, low interest rates) as well as some negative ones (sales growth flat). That said, spring is traditionally a big season for real estate sales and the season is just revving up. Increasing the value of your home is always an advantage and thanks to a recent article by ConsumerReports.org, we discovered five ways to efficiently boost that value by 10%.

Consumer Reports conducted an online survey of 303 professionals across the country (from all areas and market sizes) and gathered some very eye-opening insights. Asking questions such as "What are the costliest mistakes sellers make?", Consumer Reports found that maximizing the value of your home is simpler than most people thought.

Get Thee to the Dump
According to the experts, nothing drives away potential buyers like clutter. The potential return on clearing out and cleaning up ranges from 3% to 5% and can cost you nothing if you do it yourself. Home buyers apparently have a difficult time imagining themselves in your home if it is filled with personal effects and piled high with junk - even if the junk is valuable. If the task is too daunting to go at it alone, think about hiring a professional organizer. It may cost upwards to $2000.00 to get the job done, but selling items online or at a swap meet can help offset that cost. Opening the blinds and permanently getting rid of any odors that may be lingering from years of cooking or pet ownership is also essential.

A Mini-Makeover in the Kitchen
The kitchen has always been reported to be the single most important room in the house when it comes to selling - even for folks who aren't particularly interested in cooking or entertaining extensively. Whether meals are painstakingly prepared or nuked on the way out the door, the kitchen is a convening place - a place that needs to appear efficient, comfortable and, of course, good looking. If the kitchen is painfully outdated, it is probably a good idea to do some major renovations, but simple solutions can often reap returns ranging from 3% to 7%. A fresh coat of paint, new hardware on cabinets, an interesting light fixture and even just a fancy new faucet can draw the buyer toward the good points and diminish the not-so-good.

Give your Bathroom a Day at the Spa
If we consider how most if us think of bathrooms, we see them at once as spaces of cleansing, renewal and relaxation - but also as veritable Petri dishes of every germ imaginable. When showing and selling a home, this is a paradox, however, that is very easily overcome. An excellent tip from the folks at Consumer Reports, is to apply fresh caulk around all of the relevant places. People don't want to just know that the bathroom is clean on the day of their visit, they want to know that it has been well-maintained all along. Maintenance is vital throughout the entire home, but sometimes folks can be more forgiving of a leaky roof than they can a leaky faucet. The way a property is kept over the years is a personal reflection of the previous homeowner, but there is a difference between not having the money to fix certain things - and just not having the desire. If a home is perceived to have been impeccably maintained, they feel more confident in the integrity of the seller and this goes a long way in increasing the value of your home. New fixtures on the bath and sink are pretty much a no-brainer, but creating a relaxing feel is also of vital importance. For many people - especially those with children - the bathroom is elevated to the level of sanctuary and achieving this effect couldn't be easier. Removing as much cloth-clutter as possible - especially layers of brightly-colored towels - is a great way to lighten the space . Rolling white towels in a yard-sale basket lends to the look of a spa and hanging one clean, white or neutral towel on each bar screams tidy, clean and best of all - sanitary. Bamboo accessories finish the spa-effect and these can now be purchased a places like TJ Maxx, Marshalls and Home Goods for very little money.

Selective Painting
When it comes to interior painting, the Consumer Reports survey indicates that re-painting the entire home is not always necessary. Kitchens and baths are the priority second only to brightly-colored walls. Colors are extremely influential on people's moods and are very much a matter of taste. Not everyone will think that your burnt-orange phase was charming, nor will many find the custom periwinkle in the nursery as pleasing as you do. Let the buyer's imagination run wild by painting with clean neutrals - and for rooms that are already quite neutral - leave them be. Leave artwork to a minimum and as universally pleasing as possible. And, for all of the holes left by taking down the clutter - a little spackle and touch-up paint should do the trick. If you do not have back-up of matching paint, most hardware stores have sample sizes for just a few bucks. Selective painting does not yield the highest in terms of resale value (between 1%-3%) but in relation to cost, it is very much worth it.

How Does Your House Say Hello?
It goes without saying the exterior of your home is the ultimate first impression. Over the years, many of us begin to take the exterior for granted as we busily live our lives inside. We also tend to overlook certain things like dirt build-up because it is something that develops almost imperceptibly. A good power wash is almost always in order and never, ever show a home with dirty windows. A great bit of advice from Consumer Reports is a fresh coating of mulch around the trees to make the landscape pop and with all of the new colors now available, you can really coordinate the look with the rest of your exterior. Many real estate professionals advocate a new front door to heighten the curb appeal and to further instill confidence that the home has been well-maintained. The great news about all of the above suggestions, is that the entire cost - when taking a middle-of-the-road approach - can be implemented for less than $2500.00. And, who knows, perhaps once you give your home this easy min-makeover, you won't mind waiting until it sells!

Photo courtesy of Graur Codrin The last thing you'll ever see? Not anymore!

New Hair Dryer Regulations Make Bathrooms Safer

How many times have we seen the female character in a horror movie get killed off when a hair dryer falls (is thrown) into the bathtub she's soaking in? Classic.

And about to be completely unrealistic (as opposed to the rest of the movie), thanks to a recently approved federal safety rule on hand-supported hair dryers.

The new rule gives the CPSC the authority to stop shipments of any hand-supported hair dryer that lacks an immersion protection device, which is designed to prevent shock and electrocution.

Until now the inclusion of an immersion protection device was an industry voluntary standard.

So this is a good thing for consumers. And a bad thing for Wes Craven. Time to think of new ways to off your characters, Wes.

Read more on the new standards rule at the CPSC website. Be sure your hair dryer has an immersion protection device included in its design.

LED lighting in the kitchen will grow in popularity in 2011.

NKBA Releases 2011 Kitchen & Bath Trends

Want to keep your home up with the times? Then take a gander at the latest release from the National Kitchen & Bath Association: "11 Kitchen and Bath Trends for 2011."

The results of a survey of over 100 NKBA member designers, the release predicts seven kitchen trends and four bathroom trends for 2011, including Shaker styles and dark finishes in the kitchen (not simultaneously, of course) as well as quartz countertops and environmental friendliness in the bathroom.

The prediction for a rise in LED lighting makes sense, as that technology is gaining traction in the wake of the Energy Independence and Security Act passed by Congress in 2007, which will see improved standards for incandescent light bulbs and an increase in residential use of halogen, CFL and LED lighting options.

Take a look at the full NKBA release to see all the trends. There are some great ideas to help your next kitchen remodel or bathroom remodel or assist in the bathroom and/or kitchen design process.

New and improved Small Steps bathroom products.

Environmentally Friendly Products for the Bathroom

Small steps are better than no steps. When it comes to making small steps towards a more environmentally friendly home life, the bathroom is a good place to start. We dispose of a lot of toilet paper, tissue paper and paper towels in our bathrooms. Small Steps from Marcal is a new bathroom paper product line that can make you feel less guilty about all that throwing and flushing away.

Although they've been around for a while, the new and improved Small Step line of toilet paper, tissues and paper towels is supposedly softer (for the tissue) and stronger (for the paper towels). The 100% recycled paper product's new and improved version will ship in February.

When it comes to paper towels, I'm not incredibly picky. I find that one will do the job about as well as another, so in this category I'm more inclined to pick a product like Small Steps or Seventh Generation, even if the price is a little higher.

But with toilet paper and tissues, comfort matters. Having a runny noses is bad enough - I don't need to be blowing my nose into sandpaper and turning my nose into Rudolph's.

I'll be giving Small Steps a try to see if their new line are up to my personal standards. If they are, they may have a new customer.

Do you use an environmentally paper good product in your home?

Has GE put an end to TP tension in the home?

No More Tissue Issue

Just about every one of us has, at some time, co-habitated with one or more roommates/flatmates/housemates. Sharing dwelling space means sharing bathroom space, and it's within those confines that relationship strain can take root. In a coed situation, the toilet seat "problem" is a big one. Should it stay up? Should it stay down? Who's to say?

Georgia-Pacific is recognizing the used-up toilet paper tube as one of these bathroom-born tensions worth mention by introducing the industry's first flushable toilet paper core. Citing a research study that indicated "more than 70% of people state it's always them having to clean up the core and change the toilet roll," GP has released the Aqua Tube -- a biodegradable, fully flushable TP tube -- onto the European market.

I have mixed feelings about this latest "innovation." I understand the frustration that comes with always being the person changing out the used-up tube for a fresh roll of toilet paper. But being able to flush the tube down the toilet does nothing to lesson one's responsibility -- the tube still needs to be replaced. So flush it, throw it away or recycle it; a new tube is still getting unwrapped and put into place.

I'll give points for the biodegradability of the Aqua Flush, and I hope that claim is truthful.

I do have to call into question the findings of the research study. 70% of people are "always having to clean up the core and change the toilet roll?" I think that statistic can only actually be true if 70% of the population lived alone. Is my logic off? Weigh in, mathematicians...

Use the Int2ition in the Wash Away the Day game.

Delta's New Wash The Day Away Game

What's better than taking a shower? Taking a virtual one, of course. Or, better still, washing a virtual person.

Confused? Just check out Delta's new Wash the Day Away game, where you can play around with their new In2ition Two-In-One shower head, selecting filthy characters and trying to wash them clean before time runs out. You'll then have a chance to actually win one of the new shower heads by selecting three dirty tiles to wash off (out of about 50 or so) to see if you've won. Kind of like an online scratch ticket, with a shower head instead of a penny.

I chose the Yoga Master character to clean, and no, I didn't win an In2ition. But I get to try two more times today, as you're allowed three tries per day.

Not that I'll be wasting the work day trying to win a shower head or anything...

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