Smarten up your home in the New Year…

5 of the Smartest New Smart-Home Gadgets

Reuters  | Dec 3rd 2013 | link


lockitron remote electronic doorlock

From Entrepreneur

We might not quite be in the age of “The Jetsons” yet, but there are quite a few gadgets on the market than can make you feel a little more like you’re living in the future. More than something to just keep you connected the web, your wireless network can now be used to keep you connected to your home or home office while you’re out on town, ensuring that your home stays safe and even making sure you have what you need to make breakfast in the morning. Here are five of our favorite gadgets in the growing connected-home market that would even give the Jetsons’ robot assistant Rosie a run for her money:

1. Lockitron: The Lockitron is a Wi-Fi-connected door lock that allows you to lock and unlock your door using your smartphone. The $179 lock is simple to install and works with any smartphone — as well as older phones via SMS message — to lock and unlock your door on command. As an admin, you can grant access to whomever you want, for any time period you want. So, you can give your neighbor a virtual key to go let your dog out when a meeting runs late, or pass out virtual keys to your whole family while they’re visiting. An online log lets you see when your door is locked and unlocked and by whom. [See more about it in the video below.]

2. Dropcam Pro: This nifty gadget is a $199 Wi-Fi-connected camera that can be used as everything from a baby monitor to a home surveillance system. With Dropcam Pro, you can tune in to a live feed from the camera from your smartphone or computer no matter where you are in the world, and a built-in speaker and microphone allow you to communicate through the camera. Push-notifications alert you when there’s movement in the camera’s view — for instance, your front door opening — and an optional subscription service records and stores the video feed from your camera in the cloud. Since video is stored off-site in the cloud, you’ll be able to access it even if your camera is stolen in a burglary, a feature that has already help nap a few criminals.

3. Belkin WeMo Switch: Belkin’s $49.99 WeMo switch turns any outlet in your home into a “smart” outlet. The device plugs into your standard electrical outlet, allowing you to control it from anywhere on the planet through Belkin’s free WeMo app. You can use the app to turn on a light when you’re not at home, or even just turn on a fan that’s located across the room. Outlets can also be programmed to turn on and off at any time you specify. [See more about it in the video below.]

Read more…


A safe haven during the holidays…

10 Serene Bedrooms To Inspire Your | November 10, 2013 | link

Serene spaces come in many forms — that’s why we’re rounding up the best of the bunch every week. Today, we’re sharing our favorite relaxing bedrooms from the inspiring home design site Houzz. From zen retreats to cottage rooms, there’s a serene style for everyone. Take look at the photos and tell us which one is your favorite.

Better yet, show us your favorite spot to unwind in your home. Just take a pic on Instagram with the hashtag #SanctuarySunday. Be sure to tag @HuffPostHome too, while you’re at it.

Prepping the hearth for the season…

Getting Your Fireplace Ready for Winter

Jennifer Noonan | | November 4, 2013 | link

Source: Viscusi Elson Interior Design

Source: Viscusi Elson Interior Design

As days get shorter and weather gets colder, we retreat indoors to the warmth of our homes and hearths. If you have a fireplace, fall is a great time to make sure the chimney and flue are in good working order. If your assessment uncovers any issues that give you pause, call in a chimney professional to diagnose the problem before it gets big, expensive and potentially dangerous.


Visually assess the chimney from the outside. Is it leaning? Are there any chipped bricks or masonry joints? Do you see any cracks or holes? If your chimney is factory-built metal, look for any corrosion, stains or loose sections. If your chimney is exposed to your attic, make sure to check there as well. Look for any signs indicating repairs are necessary.

Chimney cap

A good cap can reduce damage caused to a chimney by water and wildlife. Rain and snow can enter an uncapped chimney, and subsequently freeze and thaw, causing expansion damage. Small wildlife can nest in chimneys, creating clogs and potentially introducing fleas, ticks, worms and other disease-causing pests to your home. A chimney cap with screen mesh will keep animals out while shielding your roof from embers and sparks.

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Finding buyers their perfect design…

10 Principles of Good Home Design (and the Ugliest Car in the World)

Richard Taylor | Zillow Blog | September 4, 2013 | link


There’s a lot of good home design out there, and unfortunately, a lot of bad.

But when poorly designed homes are selling well, as they were in 2007 (heck, you could sell anything in 2007), it’s challenging to argue for better design.

The year 2007, however, was followed by 2008 and the famous collapse of the American housing market.

Really bad news, but it also created an opportunity for architects, home builders and homeowners to rethink how we design and build family homes in this country.

An opportunity to reconnect to the meaning of “home,” “family,” “neighborhood” and “community” in our lives.

We need to do that.

For too long we’ve built homes that have little relationship to the lifestyles they’re meant to support; that deliberately turn their backs on the world outside, and do far more to separate the occupants from their community than they do to connect them.

As the housing market continues on a long, slow recovery we have a chance to “reboot” homebuilding in America.

We have a responsibility to start designing and building the best homes we’ve ever made. Homes of character and quality, and free of the ridiculous waste of space, materials and energy in many homes today.

We need to do that, too.

American homes used to be all about character and quality design. But then we started building houses — and forgot to build homes.

Maybe that’s because we’ve been taught to think of our homes as investments first, showcases for our personal status second, and only then as homes for our families.

That’s probably why some 3,000-square-foot homes dedicate almost 10 percent of their floor area to a two-story entry foyer. Really? Is the rest of the house so well-planned that 10 percent can be wasted on one of the least-used areas?

The answer of course is no, but we’ve become so accustomed to poorly-planned homes that we often don’t recognize one when we see it.

Pontiac Aztek (Source: Wikipedia)

Pontiac Aztek (Source: Wikipedia)

It’s the same reason that now-defunct Pontiac managed to sell 115,000 Aztecs, voted “the ugliest car in the world” by a British newspaper in 2008, and ranked as the 47th worst car of all time by Time magazine. For fans of AMC’s hit TV series “Breaking Bad,” you will immediately recognize this car as the one Walter White drove. (See homes featured in “Breaking Bad“).


Any design process (cars, homes, T-shirts, coffee makers) is usually guided by recognized values of some sort. How those values are interpreted by the designer is what makes the difference between good and bad design.

Good home design is …

1. Shaped by the individuals who live in it

This is No. 1 on my list for a reason — the primary purpose of a home is to serve the specific, individual needs of the home’s occupants, rather than the needs of a generalized house market.

2. Shaped by its environment

At first glance this would seem to be the opposite of the previous definition, but it’s not. In addition to serving its occupants, a home should recognize the influence that climate, topography, solar access, vegetation, culture, etc., can and should have on its design.

3. Recognizes and works with its context

Context and environment are similar, but in this definition, “context” means the other homes in the area. When a home fits in well with its neighbors it helps build the fabric of the community. But that doesn’t mean it has to look like the other houses in the area.

4. Uses building materials efficiently

A carefully planned home doesn’t use any more material than necessary for function and aesthetics, and uses construction systems that are appropriate for the home’s site.

5. Has visual harmony

We’ve all seen houses that just didn’t look quite right — most often that’s a result of not using principles of massing, rhythm, texture and scale to create harmony. Great-looking homes result when these principles are used with skill and imagination.

Read more…

Making an entrance…

Welcoming Front Doors

Artistic entryways made of wood, glass and metal.

Molly Hensley-Clancy | Wall Street Journal | July 25, 2013 | link

Your guest’s first impression starts at the front door. To make a statement, many high-end homeowners seek custom designs that use wood, metal, glass and other materials in creative ways to reflect the home’s luxurious interiors.

In recent years, entry doors have gotten wider and sleeker, with clean lines and artful lighting. Here are some examples of custom designs:

All Aglow

Paul BardagjyLighting contrasts with the home’s stone walls.

Backlit onyx panels are featured in this pivot door, which means that it is mounted at the center of the door frame instead of hinged on one side. Designed by Austin, Texas-based Dick Clark Architecture and builder Gary McFarland, the lighting contrasts with the home’s stone walls and has a handle that is recessed into the door. ‘It keeps the onyx the focal point,’ Mr. Clark said.

Cost: about $25,000



Sans SoucieGlass door called ‘Branching Out’

Taking Root

Sans Soucie’s glass doors are hand-etched and sandblasted to give the designs a deep, textured look. This colored glass door, called ‘Branching Out,’ was custom-designed by the Palm Desert, Calif., company to blend natural elements with a sleek, modern look.

Cost: about $7,000

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Khaki comeback…

Room Color Trend: Khaki Is the New White

Date:August 2, 2013 | Category:Eye Candy | Author:

Zillow Digs - Top 5 colors of late summer With the dog days of summer upon us, you may be looking forward to a few fall favorites, whether it’s curling up with a good book or watching the leaves change color. You may also be thinking about adding some warmth to your home to get ready for that crisp autumn weather.

According to Zillow data, homeowners and designers are turning to neutral colors, with hues of brown and tan topping their list this season.

Fortunately, adding a fresh coat of paint is one of the easiest ways to update your home without breaking the bank. To aid your next project, Zillow Digs recently added a color search and match feature to its iPad app, and starting today, the feature is also available to Zillow Digs Web users.

Whether at home or on the go, you can browse more than 100,000 photos from designers and homeowners with virtual paint chips of a room’s most prominent colors. Find a color you love? You can view your favorite colors in additional photos on Zillow Digs for more design inspiration.

Zillow Digs Color Web - filters

Here’s a look at the most popular colors currently on Zillow Digs:

Zillow Digs - Khaki

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Bob Vila still knows best…

5 August ‘Must Do’ Projects From Bob Vila

Bob Vila | Zillow Blog | August 5, 2013 | link



Sweltering August can sometimes feel like the cruelest month of all. But you can turn “cruel” to “cool” by creating a tech-smart home, a backyard water park, custom landscape edging and a super-efficient, small-size garden. If you’re looking to get even cooler, check out these nine top-rated window air conditioners.

No. 1: Get home-smart

Whole-home wiring systems — or “smart home” systems — have been around for decades, but it’s only since the proliferation of wireless that the advantages of being totally connected to your home have become so beneficial.

The term “home integration” finally fulfills its promise: From a single console in the kitchen, by your bed, or on your phone or tablet, you can control your music collection, set the scene with lighting, control the temperature and see who’s at the front door. Multi-room audio, lighting, intercom, thermostat and camera systems can even be integrated into one home system.

If whole-house integration is not something within your reach, there are enough self-programing, voice-activated and mobile app-operated appliances and devices on the market to let you easily improve your home’s tech IQ. For example:

  • Your refrigerator can now do more than just keep your food cool. Once Wi-Fi-enabled, you can access your apps on the LCD screen, check the weather, browse the Web for recipes and even maintain a grocery list to view on your phone when shopping.
  • TV is no longer just about viewing your favorite shows and movies. New smart models allow you to navigate seamlessly from movies to games to apps, and even help you stay connected with friends and family through Facebook, Twitter, and Skype.
  • Even your front door can get a quick “smart” update with door locks that can be controlled from your mobile phone or tablet, and a video/audio doorbell that allows you to see and communicate with any visitor, without leaving the comfort of your easy chair.

Read more…