Year: 2017

Year: 2017

5 Tips for Selecting Floor Tiles Worthy of Your Home

Tile is a perfect choice for flooring. While ever popular wood floors are making their way into more and more spaces, including kitchens, the strength, durability and beauty of tile ensure that it will always have a place in the home. If you’re installing tile in your home, your choices in materials, colours, texture, size and shape are many. Follow these tips to find floor tiles that suit your tastes and lifestyle.

tile floor


1) Durability is key. Not every tile is suitable for use on the floor. Glass mosaics, for example, are very appealing for walls and backsplashes, but will not hold up on the floor in a high traffic area. Porcelain and ceramic, on the other hand, are well suited for floor applications, but it is important to know just how durable the tile you select is. The Porcelain Enamel Institute (PEI) rates the durability of all glazed porcelain and ceramic tile on a scale of 1-5, with 5 being the most durable. For lightly trafficked areas in the home, such as a bathroom, a PEI rating of 2 or higher is acceptable. A rating of Stone tile floor3 or higher will work for moderately trafficked areas like hallways and living rooms, and a rating of 4 or higher is recommended for high traffic areas like kitchens and entryways.

Natural stone is your most durable option. Even if you do manage to chip or break it, it is typically a consistent colour throughout, so the blemish will barley be noticeable. Make sure you understand the maintenance recommendations of the stone you select, however. Some types of stone are naturally porous and, therefore, need to be sealed to prevent them from becoming stained or even from breaking down over time.


marble-floor2) Texture matters. Polished stone, marble and porcelain offer a high-sheen look that many homeowners findappealing. The downside, however, is that they can be very slippery, particularly when wet. If the look of these smooth, shiny tiles is something you simply can’t live without, go for it, but be aware of the slipping danger. If you’re installing them in a kitchen or bath that is frequently exposed to water, be especially careful. For a safer option, choose a tile that is textures or has a matte finish. Unlike many products for your home, tile is not necessarily something you want to buy online. It’s better to not only see, but to touch and feel the product before making a purchase.


large-bathroom-tiles-111216-1143-15-800x5603) Size has visual impact. The size of the tile you select becomes a feature of the design that can make your floor stand out or blend into the background. Tile size also plays trick on the eye, making rooms seem larger and more open, or smaller and cozier. Generally speaking, large tiles make a room appear larger, and by minimizing grout lines, they also make the room flow better and appear more open. If the room is too small, however, large tiles can seem overwhelming. Small tiles can work in small space too. By using a mosaic tile in a small bathroom, for example, you minimize the number of cuts required, which, not only makes the installation easier, it results in a more finished look.




4) Shape and layout can change your whole design. Square tiles can be laid side-by-side in a straight line, also known as a straight lay pattern to create a clean, simple look.

Tile floors and Inlays 2-9-2007 7-12-30 PM 720x1089They can also be placed in a staggered layout, also known as a running bond or brick pattern, to create more interest. There’s no rule, however, that floor tiles must be square. Rectangular, or plank tiles can be laid much the way hardwood floors are laid, in a staggered or variable pattern. You can also lay rectangular tiles in a herringbone pattern to really create something very dramatic.


There’s also no rule that every tile in a room must be the same size. Use smaller tiles or mosaics to create a border around a larger room and define the space, or create something totally unique with specialty tiles.


dark-floor-tiles-15) Colour does more than compliment your décor. You’re going to select a colour you like, one that compliments the other finishes in the room, like countertops and cabinetry, but it’s important to understand the overall affects that tile colour can have. Lighter colours tend to make a space feel larger and more open, while darker colours create warmth and coziness. Dark colours also minimize the appearance of dirt, making them a great choice for anyone who’s not a cleaning fanatic. Neutral colours are less likely to clash with furniture and more likely to appeal to homebuyers than bright colours, a consideration if you have resale in mind. Bright colours, however, can help you create a design that fits your personal style.


A floor tile worthy of your home is out there, but you’ll want to choose carefully because one of the features of tile that make it so desirable, durability, also makes it difficult to remove and replace. Combine these tips with your own specific needs and you’ll be pleased with the results every time you see, touch and feel your beautiful tile.


Want to read more?

Houzz: House Planning: How to Choose Tile

Accessorize Your Bathroom with Brilliant Results

Many homeowners find that a renovation is an opportunity not only to update the finishes and  fixtures in their bathroom, it’s also an opportunity to get organized and add some stylish and functional accessories. Maybe you’ve just completed a full renovation of your bathroom and you want to get organized before you move back in. Or, maybe you’ve just had enough of the shampoo bottles strewn about your tub ledge, mismatched towels and ragged bath mat in your existing bath. Either way, make a plan to accessorize to make the room complete.


Start With a Clean Slate

clutterIf you’ve renovated, this won’t be difficult, but a large part of properly accessorizing a bathroom involves organization. Start by getting everything out of your bathroom. (Again, if you’ve completed a renovation, this took place before demolition). Keep only what you need. Many people find shampoos or lotions they forgot that had or haven’t used in months. Throw those out. You won’t miss them and it will make the rest of the process much easier.



Lose the Clutteruncluttered

It sounds repetitive, but now that you have your toiletries, products and necessities pared down to a minimum, if you simply move everything back into the bathroom, you’ll quickly end up with the same mess you had before.  The advantage to clearing everything out of the bathroom is now you can see exactly what needs to be stored away and you can create storage around your specific needs. This can involve larger solutions like adding shelving or a furniture piece, all the way down to jars specifically intended to hold cue tips.


Make Your Towels Part of the Décor

bathroom-towel-storage-ideas-basketsYou may not realize it, but bathroom towels already are part of your décor. Picture clean, plush towels neatly folded, sitting on a shelf or perfectly draped over a towel rack. Now picture drab, old towels in the same position. Which bathroom would you rather walk into? It’s a fact that the towels in a bathroom, from hand towels hung near the sink to extra bath towels hanging on a rack or folded on a shelf can make a bathroom feel like a luxurious spa or a dank, utilitarian space. Towels can be incorporated into your décor and, in some cases, displayed with creative storage solutions.




Choose Your Shower Curtaintraditional-two-tones-shower-curtain-blue-and-white

You probably spent a significant amount of time selecting your bathroom materials, from the size, colour and texture of the tile, to the finish on the fixtures. Now you are about to hang a piece of material approximately 2 meters by 2 meters in front of much of that tile and several of those fixtures. Take the time to find a shower curtain that matches your décor and fits your personal style. The good news is that they are relatively inexpensive and can be replaced on a whim.


Complete the Process

spa-bathroom-with-candles-and-flower-vasesNow you’ve got the necessities taken care of. Everything is neatly stored away or displayed appropriately. This is a good opportunity to look around the room for additional opportunities to accessorize. Be careful not to add clutter back into the space, but if you have some unoccupied counter space that you can add accessories to without them being in the way, go for it. Decorative (or functional) soaps can be arranged on a tray next to the sink. Flowers are a nice touch and they look and smell great. Candles are another good idea. Even if you rarely have the time to take a bath, just the thought of lighting a few candles and slipping into the tub gives your bathroom a spa-like feel.

6 Steps for Choosing the Right Appliances for Your Kitchen Renovation

While they may be the last things installed during a kitchen renovation, appliances should be among the first things you think about when designing your new culinary space. A little planning and foresight before you even begin demolition will go a long way towards delivering the kitchen that’s right for you in terms of both style and functionality. If you select your appliances early on, it will also reduce the chances of a delay near the end of your project caused by special order products not arriving on time.


  1. Have a Plan

Apartments Office Architecture The Kitchen Planner New Kitchens intended for Unique Online Kitchen Cabinet PlannerDon’t even begin your kitchen renovation without knowing some basic facts about your appliances. First is location. Your plumber and your electrician will both need to know where your appliances are going so they can install the proper connections. There’s also a cost-saving opportunity here. Planning around existing plumbing, gas and electrical work saves the labor required to relocate pipes and fixtures. Don’t forget to locate your microwave. A microwave that is built-in, either above the range, or elsewhere within the cabinetry has a much more finished look than one that has been haphazardly placed on the countertop.


Second is size. Appliances come in standard sizes, but you do have some options. You’ll need to know the size each appliance you plan to install before you plan the surrounding cabinetry and counter space. It’s important to note here that most manufacturers recommend that you leave 2.5 CM of space around a refrigerator to allow for ventilation and for the doors to swing open.


  1. Have a Budgetshopping

It’s easy to walk into an appliance store and get caught up in all of the fancy gadgetry that today’s manufacturers offer and wind up spending more than you need to on appliances. It’s also easy to envy your neighbor’s appliances and end up spending too much because you want your kitchen to be like yours. Instead, select the appliances that fit your needs. If you’re always buying fresh, not frozen, food, spend up on the refrigerator. Or, perhaps the microwave is more important to you. That professional quality range looks great, but ask yourself if you’ll really use it to its fullest before you make the purchase. If you have a big family that stacks up tons of dishes after every meal, maybe you want to make sure you have a durable dishwasher. Consider your own specific needs, set your budget early on in your renovation process and stick to it.


  1. Know Your Options

Research is key and knowing what’s available will give you a leg up when it comes to selecting the appliances that are right for you. You’ll want to take the time to explore the features that different brands offer, but let’s take a look at the basic options.

sidebysideRefrigerators come in a few different configurations. Top freezers are typically the least expensive alternative and are very common on homes today. Bottom freezers put the food in your refrigerator at eye level, so if you appreciate the ability to grab a midnight snack without bending over, this might be the option for you. Side-by-sides offer yet another option where storage in both the freezer and refrigerator is more vertical and narrow unless you purchase the widest available model. Ice and water dispensers are a convenience that many of us have come to rely on, but their downside is maintenance. Basically, they are one more thing that can break.





rangeRanges or cooktops are available in gas and electric models. Many people prefer one or the other, but your choice may depend upon what’s in your home currently. Installing new gas or electrical lines to make the switch may be an expense you don’t want to bear. Gas models are known to be more difficult to clean while electric stoves wipe down very easily but are more prone to damage.





stacked_ovenOvens offer a variety of features from the standard bake/roast/broil set up to convection, which circulates air inside the oven with a fan to cook food faster. If you’re a traditionalist who appreciates a slow-cooked roast or a steak seared in a broiler opt for the former, but if you crave convenience, the ladder is for you. If you want the best of both worlds, how about a convection oven stacked over a traditional one? Your oven does not need to live beneath your cooktop if you have the space.





dishwasherDishwashers all clean dishes, but some do so better than others. If you don’t want to pre-wash your dishes by hand, choose a dishwasher with a heavy duty or pot-scrubbing setting. The drying process is also important. A   heat dry setting to dry dishes uses more energy than an air dry setting. If saving on our utility bills is important, make sure your dishwasher offers an air dry option. As people spend more and more time in their kitchens and open layouts become more popular, the noise dishwashers makes has become increasingly important. If you’re apt to run your dishwasher while entertaining or just relaxing nearby, make sure it makes minimal noise.


built-in_microwaveMicrowaves have gone from newfangled kitchen gadget to mandatory equipment over the last 30 years. When selecting a microwave, consider its size, so that it fits into your kitchen design and so that it will accommodate the food you intend to cook in it and its wattage. Generally speaking the higher the wattage, the faster they cook food, but anything below 700 watts may also cook unevenly.



  1. Ventilateventhood

An often overlooked aspect of a itchen renovation, proper ventilation will carry the moisture, heat and odors generated by your culinary delights out of the space before that set in and cause any damage. A range hood is also a great opportunity to add style to your space. When it comes to functionality, you’ll need to choose between a vented and a recirculating hood. Vented hoods require a vent to the outside be installed during your renovation if one does not already exist. Recirculating hoods, on the other hand pull air through a filter before distributing it back out into the room. Vented is always preferable, but if you don’t generate steam, smoke and odors in your kitchen often, recirculating is a less expensive option.




  1. Select a Finish

rustic-kitchenWhen choosing a finish for your appliances, be wary of colours that may go out of style. Many homeowners in today’s market opt for stainless steel and, while it’s more expensive than other options it’s a safe bet when it comes to resale value as its popularity seems to have staying power. If you’re a stickler for consistency, you may want to make sure your stainless steel appliances are all the same brand so that their hue matches precisely. If you’re looking for something other than stainless steel, it’s best to stick with neutral colours, unless you’re absolutely sure that you’ll be happy with that red refrigerator 10 or 20 years from now. Anyone who’s removed 70s-era avocado green appliances from a kitchen can attest to that. Another option is to ignore finish altogether and panel your appliances so they blend seamlessly with your cabinetry.


  1. Be Energy Efficient

Don’t overlook energy efficiency ratings when choosing appliances. It may not be their most glamorous feature but kitchen appliances can either cost you or save you a bundle over the long term. If you want your kitchen to stand the test of time, find appliances that are highly rated and offer efficient features. You’ll be glad you did.

Blinds or Curtains – How to Select Them and What’s the Difference?

Window treatments are one of the finishing touches on a room that can have a dramatic impact on its final appearance. Not only are they an opportunity inject your own personal style into your home, they also serve several practical purposes. You’ll use them to control the natural light in the room, create privacy and they can even help insulate your home. But, what’s the best way to achieve the look and the function you want? Blinds? Curtains? Both? What’s the difference anyway? And what different types of each are out there?


Let’s start with the definitions:

are typically defined as window coverings that can be raised and lowered and have either vertical or horizontal slats that can be adjusted to allow varying amounts of light to enter through them.




shadesA variation on the blind is the shade, which can be raised or lowered, but not adjusted to change the light coming through.





curtainsCurtains, on the other hand, are fabric that is hemmed to hang from a rod above the window.  They are typically drawn, or closed, by pulling them across the front of the window.





Now let’s delve into the different types of each and how to select the best ones for you.

Vertical Blinds

vertical_blindsCommonly use to cover floor-to-ceiling windows or patio doors, vertical blinds can have a dramatic impact on a room when drawn across the window, yet they become relatively inconspicuous when you want to let the light stream in. Homeowners can control the amount of light that coms through them by opening and closing the slats to different degrees. Vertical blinds allow for complete control of privacy and light and can be made of a variety of materials, with vinyl, fabric-covered plastic and wood or faux wood being the most common.


Horizontal Blinds

venetian-blindsWith slats that run across the window, as opposed to up and down, horizontal blinds are commonly used on smaller windows than their vertical counterparts. Also, the width of the slat is typically less than that of vertical blinds. More commonly made from vinyl, wood, faux wood or aluminum than fabric, horizontal blinds tuck discretely out of place when open at the top of the window. With both vertical and horizontal blinds, take maintenance and durability into consideration. Known to collect dust, blinds must be cleaned. Wood, faux, wood, vinyl and aluminum can be wiped down, however, fabric should be vacuumed. In addition, the individual slats and the strings and hardware used to control them can be somewhat delicate.




Roller Shadesroller_blinds

As their name indicates, roller shades are made from a single piece of material, typically fabric or vinyl, that rolls out of the way at the top of the window when open. Roller blinds have come along way since the white vinyl versions in your grandmother’s house. Today, they are made in an array of colours and styles that can either completely block out the sun or let a little light thorough while providing privacy.




Roman Shades

roman_shadesAlso made from a single piece of fabric, Roman shades tuck out of the way by folding along a set of horizontal folds. This folding gives Roman shades a depth and dimension that other, more flat shades do not offer, without occupying the space surrounding the window like a curtain does.




Pleated Shades

pleated_shadesWith more folds than their Roman counterparts, pleated shades are also made of a single piece of fabric, but all the extra folds almost give them the look of slats when they are closed to cover the window. When they are open and tucked out of the way, they take up minimal space.




Cellular Shades

honeycomb_shades1Made from fabric formed into honeycomb-shaped compartments, cellular shades not only look good, but they act just like the insulation in your home, trapping air between the window and the shade. In winter, this keeps cold air from penetrating your home and in the summer, it helps retain cooler air.





lined_curtainsWhen it comes to style, there are, literally, hundreds of options in curtains. There’s not only colours, patterns and textures to consider, but what about length? Should my curtains touch the floor or stop at the window sill? Should my curtains cover the edges of my windows when they are open or should I extend the curtain rod past either side of the window so that they can be pushed completely aside? (This will make the window look bigger too!) Should I tie my curtains back or just move them to the side?

Only you can answer these questions, though you might want to enlist the help of designer with these issues. Let’s get you started down the road with a quick look at function though. Your first decision will be lined or unlined curtains.




Lined Curtainslined_curtains3

Only curtains made of a lined material will completely block out the sun and provide total privacy. A thick, lined fabric will also provide a level of insulation and warmth.





Unlined Curtains

sheer_curtainsIf however, your curtains are more for style, or simply to provide a level of light filtering rather than a black out or total privacy, then an unlined curtain will work perfectly. Perhaps, you’re planning to pair your curtains with blinds or shades that will provide privacy and light blocking you need. In that case, you can select an unlined or even sheer curtains.







Whether you opt for blinds, curtains or a combination of the two, your window treatments are an opportunity to control the natural light in your house, create the required privacy and personalize your space. Trust your own sense of style to narrow down the choices and come up with a solution that’s unique to your home.


Want to read more?

Real Simple: Your Guide to Curtains and Window Treatments


Exhaust Fans – As Important as Soap and Water!

Your bathroom is wet. It’s the only place in your house where water flows freely. Yes, you have a sink in your kitchen, but unless you’re showering in the kitchen, the amount of steam, humidity and moisture produced there is miniscule compared to your bathroom. The bathroom is also one of, if not the smallest room in your house, so moisture can build up quickly. Lastly, let’s face it, odors can also build up in your bathroom.


White Bathroom, ContemporyAll this adds up to one thing: your bathroom requires ventilation. Moisture and odors need somewhere to go. Otherwise, mold and water damage will occur. Building codes, in fact, require that bathrooms have some form of ventilation. In older homes, this is accomplished simply by opening the bathroom window. That works, but it’s not the most comfortable solution when temperatures rise or fall. Modern homes have exhaust fans for this reason.

Exhaust fans work by pulling moist, odorous air to the outside of the home so that fresh air can enter the bathroom. This requires two things in addition to the fan itself: electrical power and ductwork.





exhaust timer

The wiring for your exhaust fan can either be connected directly to an existing light switch so that when the light is on, the fan is also on, or it can be connected to a separate switch so that the fan can be operated independently. The second option is preferable because it uses less electricity when you want just the light or just the fan to be on. You may also want to consider putting your exhaust fan on a timer so that, after a long shower, you can leave it on to clear out the moisture after you’ve left the bathroom.


5-DUCTWORK-RESIDENTIAL-bigThe ductwork attached to your fan delivers the moist foul air to the outdoors. As such, it needs to connect to the outside of the house and not another room or attic space. Otherwise, you are just moving moisture from one part of the house to another. Additionally, the ductwork should take the shortest route possible to the outdoors and have as few bends and turns as possible, so that the fan can perform with optimal efficiency.





When selecting the actual fan to install in your bathroom, the most important feature to look at is its power. Generally speaking, the larger your bathroom, the more power your fan will need to have. Measure the cubic area of your bathroom and check with the manufacturer to make sure the fan you select is rated for the amount of space you want to ventilate.


The type of fan you select will either be inline, ceiling-mounted or wall-mounted.


inlineInline fans are installed to the joists above the drywall of your bathroom ceiling. The only visible portion of the fan is a louvered vent that sits flush with the ceiling. Because the hardworking part of the fan resides in space above your ceiling, inline fans make very little noise and tend to be more powerful than other options.





Ceiling-mounted fans are attached directly to your ceiling rather than the joists above it. They function similarly to inline fans in terms of exporting air through adjacent ductwork. They are easier to install and replace, assuming the required ductwork is in place. They also offer a larger variety of options, including combination units with lighting in addition to ventilation.






wall mounted

Wall-mounted fans are installed and function just like ceiling-mounted fans, but, as the name implies, they are attached to a wall rather than the ceiling. These can be an option where logistics do not allow fan to be installed on the ceiling. Perhaps your bathroom has cathedral ceilings, no attic space above it or the ceilings are occupied by skylights or lighting. When installed on an exterior wall, these models nearly minimize the amount of ductwork required to vent the to the outside. If on an interior wall, however, more ductwork may be required to route the air up the wall, into the space above the bathroom and, ultimately, outside.




If your bathroom is undergoing a complete renovation, ventilation is not something that you want to overlook. Take the time to work an exhaust fan, along with the proper electrical and ductwork, into your renovation plan. If your bathroom does not have a window, it’s an absolute requirement, but even if it does have a window, you’ll be glad to have a fan when hot or cold weather strikes.


8 Cool Kitchen Handles – Let’s Get a Handle on That!

You’ve chosen cabinets for your kitchen. You’ve selected a tile for the floor and one for the backsplash. You’ve chosen a one-of-a-kind piece of granite to have your countertops carved from. Your kitchen is going to be gorgeous, but you haven’t made every important decision that you need to make. Or, you’re looking for a quick and easy way to add style to your kitchen without tearing anything down. The hardware for your kitchen cabinets is something that you see, touch and use, every day. It’s also an opportunity to add a complimentary touch of style to your kitchen. If you take your time, consider it carefully, and choose something you love, you’ll appreciate your kitchen even more.

Tubular Bar Pulls

tubularA very popular choice for modern, minimalist or contemporary kitchens, tubular bar pulls, as the name implies, consist of a simple bar secured horizontally to drawers and vertically to cabinets. Tubular bar pulls tend to stand out from the cabinets more than other styles and, essentially, become a feature of the kitchen. They are available in a variety of finishes from brass to black, but stainless steel is a very popular choice and many designers find them to be a great compliment to stainless steel appliances.

Tubular bar pulls are also a very functional choice. Opening a drawer or cabinet with a bar pull is much easier, for children or seniors, for example, than a small knob. When selecting and installing tubular bar pulls, however, be conscious of how prominent you want them to be. Typically, they run two-thirds to three-quarters the width of the drawer, but there’s no rule that says they can’t run the entire length of the drawer. Rely on you personal style to determine how much pull you want on each drawer or cabinet.



Curved Bar Pullscurved bar pulls

Taking their cue from the Streamline Moderne and Art Deco schools of architecture of the 1930s, curved bar pulls are slimmer and curvier than tubular bar pulls. They offer a sleek, modern look that is slightly more elegant and subtle than the more industrial straight bar pulls.





Flat Bar Pulls

flat-bar-pullsAnother more subtle alternative to tubular bar pulls are flat ones. These consist of a flat, rectangular bar that is secured to the cabinet. Flat bar pulls create a more squared off  look that compliments many of today’s modern styles, including shaker cabinets.




Bin PullsBP202-polishedchrome-binpull

Also known as cup pulls, bin pulls are, basically, an upside down cup that you pull from underneath to open the cabinet. These are typically used in more traditional or vintage kitchens, though, they are less ornate than some traditional options. Bin pulls are known to be stable, sturdy and functional while adding a subtle touch of style without dominating the kitchen.





Back Plates

back plateBack plate knobs and pulls include a metal piece that sits flat against the cabinet or drawer and a knob that extends out from the plate. It’s the plate that makes these handles fancy. The back plate can be a very simple design or it can be incredibly intricate and offer an opportunity to do something very unique in your kitchen.




Drop Handles

drop-handles-back-plate-bidpro.co_With this type of handle, a pull hangs down, or dangles from a piece mounted to the cabinet. Traditionally, the dangling piece is round, however, other shapes are available to compliment a variety of styles. They are, however, less functional than other types of pulls and handles as you basically have to lift the dangling piece every time you open the cabinet. You may also scratch or damage the cabinet door over time by lifting and dropping the dangling portion of the handle. The upside, however, is a style that gives cabinets the look of furniture and a cozy feel to your kitchen.


Recessed Pulls

recessedThe ultimate in streamlining, recessed pulls are built into the cabinet door itself. Ideal for a modern or minimalist kitchen, these handles do not break the visual plane of your cabinets. They also eliminate the possibility of snagging your clothes on a handle, a particularly useful feature in a high-traffic or smaller kitchen. Obviously, some advance planning is required here and you can only add recessed pulls if you are replacing your cabinets or at least the cabinet doors, but if streamlined and modern is what you’re looking for, there’s no better choice.


Novelty Handles

creative-idea-for-cozy-diy-handles-for-kitchen-cabinetsIf you’re looking for something unique, artsy or quirky, take a look at the variety of novelty handles that are available. Maybe you want something natural, like a tree branch-shaped pull for your cabin, a seashell-shaped pull for your beach house or fork and knife-shaped pulls to highlight your culinary skills. If you can imagine it, chances are an artisan somewhere has created it.




Whether you play it safe or go bold, don’t overlook your kitchen handles. Don’t get overwhelmed either. The choices are almost infinite, but trust your instincts and find something that fits your style and gives you the functionality you want.

How to Spruce Up Your Old Fireplace

Over the centuries, fireplaces have evolved from functional necessities, required to keep us warm during colder months, to highlights of our homes. We still enjoy cozying up next to a roaring fire, but today’s fireplaces are as much decorative and architectural focal points as they are heat providers. In many older homes, they’re also dated. If that’s the case for your fireplace, consider giving it an update. Many options for brining your fireplace into the 21st century exist. Pick the one that’s right for your budget and your style and customize it to make it all your own.



painted_fireplace_finished_3Colour can have a dramatic impact on every part of your home and the fireplace is no exception. First, determine what, exactly, needs a colour update. Is it actually the fireplace itself, or would painting the surrounding wall, trim, moulding and mantle do the trick? Painting most fireplace materials, like brick, is essentially an irreversible process. Taking brick back to its original colour will be an incredibly arduous task for you or any future owner of your home. If you decide to take the plunge, be sure to clean the brick thoroughly before painting. Start with a wire brush to remove any loose dirt or dust. Then, apply a heavy-duty cleaner and allow the brick to dry thoroughly. Apply a stain-blocking primer and, finally, your top coat.





WhitewashWhitewashed fireplace IMG_6254

Another option is to whitewash your brick fireplace. This creates a more natural look than pure paint by allowing some of the natural colour and variations of the brick to show through. There are a number of techniques for whitewashing brick. Most involve either diluting paint with water or brushing paint on, then wiping the brick down to remove most of the paint. If possible, experiment on extra bricks or an inconspicuous spot. This will allow you to experiment with the paint-to-water ratio, how to wipe the paint off and how many coats to apply.



68_fireplace-after-tintingBrick fireplace surrounds can also be stained. While paint coats the brick and changes its texture, stain soaks into the brick. As with painting or whitewashing, the brick needs to be thoroughly clean before you start. Brick stain is available in a variety of colours. Choose one you like or choose several and stain different bricks different colours for variety. You can choose whether or not you want to stain the mortar in between the bricks.






Stone VeneerLedgestone-Veneer-fireplace-West-Mtn

Slightly more expensive and complicated than a paint job, but still reasonable, stone veneer installed over an existing surround, completely changes the look and feel of a fireplace without having to demolish it. Stone veneer covers the existing surround with a thin layer of manufactured stone, which mimics the look of real stone. The process requires preparing the surface and cutting the veneer to fit, although, it’s much easier to cut than natural stone. Mortar holds the stone in place and, in some installations, grout is installed between the stones.



Blues__Fireplace__Offset__Tile_600_447_84_intTile is another great way to cover up an old, dated fireplace. Tile allows you to incorporate your own personal style, whether it be subway tiles, more natural-look tile, hand-painted terra cotta or any of the other options available in tile. If you’re tiling over brick or another uneven surface, you’ll want to create a consistent substrate by applying a layer of thinset mortar to the surface. Set the tiles in another layer of mortar and finish by grouting between the tiles.




MantelAuburn shelf

A fireplace’s mantel is its crown. It can add tremendously to the overall impact your fireplace has no your home. In terms of materials, profiles and styles, the options are many. Depending on your style, a rustic, single piece of timber secured to the wall above the fireplace may fit the bill. Then again, an ornately carved wooden mantel that surrounds the top and sides of the fireplace may be a better fit. Not into wood? Stone, concrete or steel may be options for you.




Wall Treatments

559b6408-5e27-4974-9515-c1163740a83f_1000The impact of a fireplace need not end at the surround and mantel. In many stylish homes, the entire wall becomes a focal point with the fireplace at its center. Adjacent built-in shelving or cabinetry can be a great compliment to a fireplace. Paneling, wainscoting and moulding can be carried out from the mantel to expand the focal point. Dimensional wall panels are a modern version of paneling that many designers have utilized in more modern applications. When you’re planning your fireplace redesign, you don’t have to stop where the surround ends.





If it’s not already, your fireplace has the potential to be a major focal point in your home. It may not currently fit your personal style, but there are many options for updating it. Take the time to pick the one that’s right for you and bring that fireplace from drab and dated to the epicenter of your home.


Want to read more?

HGTV: 15 Ways to Refresh Your Fireplace on Any Budget

Bob Vila: How to: Whitewash Brick

This Old House: How to Tile a Fireplace Surround


Read This BEFORE You Buy a Bathtub

In today’s fast-paced world, many homeowners opt for a walk-in shower rather than a bathtub when renovating their bathroom. The fact is, most of us take a quick shower much more frequently than we take a bath. Some of us, however, simply must have the option of a long, luxurious soak, even if we don’t do it that often. Additionally, most real estate experts agree that, for resale purposes, a home should have at least one bathtub. If the plan for your bathroom includes a new bathtub, your options are many, ranging from the inexpensive and easily installed to tubs with special features that require special considerations when installing. Choosing one that fits your style, your budget and your bathing needs is an important step in your renovation.



Let’s start with the materials that our bathtub could be made of. How important is durability to your family? What about style and the feel of the material? And, of course, your budget will come into play.



fiberglass-bathtub-1Marketed as fiberglass, these tubs are actually made of a combination of fiberglass and plastic. Fiberglass reinforced plastic (FRP) is the technical term. During the manufacturing process, layers of fiberglass are formed into the shape of the bathtub and then coated with plastic. The result is an inexpensive, lightweight material that is easy to carry, work with and install. The downside is that it’s not as durable as other materials. Because fiberglass is inherently flexible, it does not have the stable feel that some people prefer in a bathtub. The finish easily fades, cracks and scratches.





A step up from FRP, these tubs can either be solid acrylic or they can have a fiberglass core. In either case, the
acrylic makes them more durable than FRP. Solid acrylic is slightly more expensive, but more durable. Because the colour is the same all the way through the product, scratches are less noticeable. Solid acrylic can also be molded into unique shapes with soap dishes, arm rests or other detailing. Like fiberglass, it is lightweight and easy to install.


Enameled Steel

enameled_steelIn the manufacturing process for these tubs, a thin sheet of steel is stamped into the shape of the tub. The steel is then coated with a layer of porcelain, resulting in high-end, stone-like feel. Because porcelain is resistant to most chemicals, these tubs can be easily cleaned over and over again while retaining their sheen. Negatives include the fact that the thin, porcelain surface can chip or crack when impacted, they are available in fewer shapes than fiberglass or acrylic and they are heavier and somewhat harder to work with.





Cast Ironcast-iron-tub-with-shower-cast-iron-tubs-american-standard-19a4f1c747aa86e3

Many older homes have cast iron tubs and, in most cases, they have not chipped, cracked, dented or faded over the years. That’s what happens when you form molten iron into the shape of a tub, smooth it and coat it with a thick porcelain enamel. Not only are these tubs durable and resistant to most cleaning chemicals, they offer a solid, luxurious feel that can not be matched by other materials and they retain the heat in your bath water better than any other material. The only downsides to cast iron tubs are their relatively high cost when compared to other types of tubs and their extreme weight, which requires not only additional labour, but reinforcement in the bathroom floor.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThese are the most common materials for bathtubs, but if you want to look beyond the traditional, you do have other options. Manufacturers have begun making tubs out of solid surface materials, which are commonly used in countertops. Cultured marble tubs are made from crushed limestone finished with a gelcoat, creating a durable finish that is less expensive than cast iron. If you want to get really creative, you can make your tub from ceramic tile, though you’ll need to maintain the grout, or you can custom order a tub made from natural stone or even certain woods like teak.





Now, the fun part. It’s time to think about what style of tub you want. Find one that suits your personal aesthetic and also fits the dimensions of your bathroom.


Standard Bathtubsstandard tub

Typically built into the bathroom itself with walls or cabinetry surrounding it, standard tubs are rectangular shaped and are available in standard sizes. The most common size is 1.5m x 0.75m, however, other standard sizes are available if your bathroom has special dimensions. When selecting a standard tub, be sure to purchase one that has the drain on the right side and finished face on the right side so that it faces out.





claw footA freestanding tub is not built into the wall or cabinetry. Instead, as he name indicates, it stands on its own and can be a glamorous focal point of any bathroom. These tubs can sit flush against the floor, be raised up on a platform or stand on feet. One popular form of freestanding tub is the claw-foot tub, which offers a traditional look that has been popular through the ages.




Soaking TubsSoaking

Longer, wider and deeper than most tubs, soaking tubs can be a luxurious addition to any bathroom if space allows. Available in most of the materials mentioned above, these huge tubs can hold 200-300 liters of water. All of that water, plus the tub itself, particularly if it’s cast iron can stress floor joist. Make sure they are properly reinforced. Heating all that water can be beyond the capacity of a typical water heater. Consider installing an on-demand water heater if you choose a soaking tub.


Whirlpool Tubs

whirlpoolA tub with jets that shoot either recirculated bath water or air to create bubbles takes bathing to another level. Not only are you getting clean, but you’re getting a relaxing massage. Typically, the jets are housed behind the walls next to your tub and special installation is, therefore, required. When selecting a whirlpool tub, look for one with a powerful, but quiet motor and when installing it, allow for access to the internal parts for maintenance purposes.






If you’ve made the decision to install a tub, you’ll want to make sure it is one that will meet your expectations for durability and comfort. Understanding your options in terms of materials and style will help you do that. If  you’re not sure what type of bathtub you want, take a trip to the home store to touch and feel different kinds and learn as much as you can about each option. Every time you decide to pamper yourself with a nice, long bath, you’ll be glad you did.

Painted Kitchen Cabinets – The Average and the Awesome!

If your kitchen needs an update, but you’re not ready to tear it down to the studs and start over, painting your existing cabinets can be a great way to create that fresh new look you’re looking for. Gone are the days when kitchen cabinets had to be stained a natural wood colour. The movement towards white cabinets has, in fact, been prevalent, particularly in more modern designs. A modern, white look, however, is far from your only choice if you’ve decided to paint your cabinets. With the right design choices, you’ll find a colour that matches the rest of the décor in your home, and your personal style.

red cabinets

If you’re taking on the project yourself, knowing what you’re getting into and what pitfalls to avoid will help bring your results from average to awesome! Simply plan your project, set aside the appropriate amount of time (and then add a little extra for the unexpected) and bring your kitchen from lifeless to spectacular.


Set Expectations

wood grainYour existing cabinets have certain characteristics that paint alone can not change. If you’re unhappy with design of the doors, for example, including mouldings and/or engravings, you may want to consider other options. The grain of the wood is also something you’re going to have to address. If the wood had visible grain, it will most likely remain visible after the paint has been applied. Your options are to fill the grain with wood putty, which can be a time consuming, laborious process, or embrace the grain; make it part of the design. It won’t be as prominent as before you painted, but it can be toned down so that it adds character without being overpowering.





Remove and Label Doors, Drawers and Hardwareremoving doors

Your kitchen cabinetry includes a number of moving parts and trying to paint everything in place will almost certainly lead to  failure. Anything that moves will start to peel and chip within a short time of you completing the paint job. Instead, remove all the doors. A screwdriver or drill set to reverse are the only tools you will need. Then, remove all the hinges and handles from the doors. Likewise for the drawers, pull them out and remove the drawer pulls. Equally as important, label everything. You’ll have a much easier time reassembling your painted kitchen if you simply affix a piece of masking tape to the back of each piece, write a number on it and a corresponding number on the inside of the cabinet it belongs to.


Sand Every Surface

sanding doorsCarefully inspect your newly disassembled cabinets, including the pieces you removed and sand every surface that will be painted. This is a requirement even if your cabinets are in perfect condition. The purpose is to prep the surface so that the paint will adhere better. You do not need to expose bare wood across the entire surface. Simply use a 120 – 150 grit sandpaper and buff the surface. A hand-held power sander will save time and wear and tear on your arms, but it is not required.




Sanding, while a vital step, also generates a large amount of dust. Just a few dust particles can make an otherwise quality paint job look gritty and bumpy. Vacuum the surfaces to be painted and remove as much dusts as possible from the rest of the room as possible so that stray particles are not flying around while you paint.




Clean the Wood

cleaningYou may think you’re done prepping, but you’re not quite ready for paint yet. You’ll need to clean the wood with a quality degreaser. The point of this step is as much to neutralize the effects of any remaining stain, varnish or paint as it is to clean the surface. Without a degreaser, the new coat of paint will not adhere properly to the surface.




Don’t Skip the Primerprimer

Now that you’ve put so much work into your cabinets, it’s tempting to get your chosen colour on there and see how it looks. A primer coat, however, is vitally important, particularly when painting wood. Without it, your cabinets will look beautiful for a few months, but over time, the knots in the wood will show through and other stains, whether from the natural oils of the wood itself or from the prior coats of stain, varnish or paint, will make themselves known. A high quality stain-blocking primer is well worth the investment of time and money.


Pick the Right Colour

Colour2OK, we’re finally ready to get the colour on the cabinets. It’s an exciting moment. Caution, once again, however, will lead to better, longer-lasting results. Assuming you don’t want to redo this project in a few months, let’s make sure you’re happy with the colour. Purchase a sample of the paint you want to use (most paint stores make them available inexpensively). Side note: Choosing a quality paint is worth it. It will give you a smoother finish and the typical kitchen requires less than two gallons of paint, so the overall expense is not astronomical.

Purchase a sample of the paint you want to use (most paint stores make them available inexpensively). Paint a large piece of poster board.  Hold the poster board up against your countertops, backsplash, flooring and walls. Take a look at the light hits it at various times of day and with different lights in the kitchen turned on and off. Keep in mind that paints are available in different finishes from flat to high gloss. The peace-of-mind you get in taking this step will give you confidence as you apply the actual paint to the cabinets and a higher degree of certainty that you’ll be happy with the results.


Time to Paint!Colour

A paint brush and roller will produce high quality results. If you’re confident with a sprayer, that’s another option. Assuming you’re going with brushes and rollers, paint any recessed or raised areas, such as mouldings, first with a brush. Then, go back and paint the remaining surface with a roller. If you’re using a sprayer, make sure to work in a well-ventilated area, mask off any adjacent areas that you don’t want to paint and apply an even coat across all surfaces. Once all coats have fully cured, reassemble the cabinets, reinstall the knobs and pulls (new ones if you want to change the look even more) and you’ve successfully painted your cabinets!


Want to read more?

HGTV: Best Way to Paint Kitchen Cabinets

Good Housekeeping: 11 Big Mistakes You Make Painting Kitchen Cabinets