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Blue-tiful Kitchen

Blue-tiful Kitchen

“Stearns did an excellent job and our kitchen turned out better than I could have dreamed. We had been overwhelmed by all the potential choices before we engaged Stearns, and we found their design services to be hugely helpful. I was especially impressed by their professionalism. They told us exactly what everything would cost and when things would be done, and they stuck to those promises. They kept us updated every day on what was going on and when to expect workers. A day rarely passed when progress wasn’t made on the project. They were absolute sticklers on quality and at times made their subcontractors come back and redo things they weren’t satisfied with. A great experience. “

This cozy kitchen is a nice gathering point for entertaining guests and family. Unfortunately, despite being open to a large vaulted ceiling family room, it was isolated from that large space. It was divided to the rest of the house due to a wall blocking the view.

We found that the solution for this is opening the kitchen up onto that room without compromising it’s function. Adding a glass door into the laundry room provides more light to the back of the kitchen. A touch of color with the blue cabinets makes this kitchen pop from the rest of the house, while still complementing the existing color palette.

Is HomeAdvisor a Good Way to Find a Contractor?

Is HomeAdvisor a Good Way to Find a Contractor?

HomeAdvisor.com is a popular site that spends a lot on marketing. So, are they a good resource for finding a contractor? My answer is that depends. So, let’s break it down.

Pros

  • HomeAdvisor has some great content, though some of it needs to be taken with a grain of salt.
  • There is no licensing of most contractors in Texas. You must have a license to sell a house but not build a house. The mechanical trades are licensed but there is zero oversite. The state has no mechanism for dealing with bad contractors. HomeAdvisor has some standards that must be met. A low bar is better than no bar.
  • If you are going to use a contractor dating site, they are at least the biggest one.
  • It is free to consumers. As in, “you get what you pay for.”

Cons

  • Most contractors are not listed. Contractors must pay a yearly fee plus a per lead fee. Decent contractors do not need to pay for leads so they are not presented. In my experience, most contractors featured are either inexperienced or not very good. In checking the listings for College Station and Bryan, I did not see any that I recognized.
  • Though HomeAdvisor requires some minimum standards and does background checks, they are limited, because of a lack of access to information and possibly because they are not motivated to chase away too many perspective advertisers.
  • While they have a lot of good information much of it is aggregated from their advertisers, which we have already established are not the best in the business.
  • There are better ways to find a contractor.

I would like to tell you that you don’t need help finding a contractor because you can just hire us. But I know that you are smart and can recognize a blatant conflict of interest when you see one. The fact is that even though we love everyone, we know that we are not the right contractor for everyone. Read the information on the link provided and hire a contractor that is right for you.

Mastering Color in Residential Remodeling

Mastering Color in Residential Remodeling

My name is Hugh. But today we will be talking about color so, today, I am Hue: a person of color.  The color palette is such a powerful and unifying element in interior design that it is to a where we start.

In the process of guiding clients through selections and interior design, we start thinking about color by thinking about mood. We want to know the mood that our clients want for their entire home as well as the areas we will be remodeling.

With our hedonic (focused on creating happiness) approach to design we often seek designs that create connection to nature. Though it is a bit tricky, color can play a role in creating this connection by choosing colors outside a window to set the palette. The reason that this can be tricky is that colors in nature change seasonally. Many of those colors will only change in shade and tone allowing an inside color to fit through the seasons. Other colors such as seasonal flowers are only present for part of the year. But this, too, can provide delight that mimics nature. The thrill of the first blooms will be heightened and shared indoors if they match an inside color.

 

Another way to mimic nature is to use the pattern of color that are found in nature. That is dark floors, somewhat lighter walls and light ceilings.

The intentionality of color can also be used to create connection to indoor features as well. Matching colors in a favorite piece of art or furniture can bring a room together in a deep and layered way.

In addition to paying attention to what is happening outwardly it is also good to look inwardly. What are the colors that best flatter you? Just as people tend to pick clothing that is more flattering to their skin tone or hair color, they should also think about dressing themselves in the surroundings of their home.

One strategy is to use color symbolism. For example, choose one color or intensity of color for public areas and another for private areas.  Though subtle, this can help inform the intention of the space.

Just as color can create connection to outdoor landscapes or indoor features, it can also help connect interior spaces. The open concept is very popular. At times a designer will want spaces to be open and connected yet distinctive. Color can help create this effect. Likewise, color can help pull together two spaces that are tangential and slightly divided. A line of sight into an adjacent room that uses similar colors can help create connection.

A general rule of interior design is to create a color ratio of 60% of an ambient color; 30% of a highlight color and 10% of an accent color. It is generally discouraged to use more than three colors in a single room… but rules are made to be broken. General rules should not be forced into all situations.

Light colors tend to make small rooms feel lighter and airier. This can also be a good place to create some pop with a bit of a deep color used for accent. A small room using light color can also depend on interchangeable items such as towels to provide accent color thus allowing for easy seasonal changes.

Large rooms provide a great opportunity for an accent wall of a different color. This is a good time to pick up a color from a piece of art, furniture, or something out a window. An accent wall will add interest to a plain room.

Don’t be afraid of vibrant colors. They can be fun and interesting. And if you don’t like them, you can paint over them. If you tend to be cautious, consider limiting the amount of vibrant color you use rather than eliminating it all together. Even if it is only an accent in a single room a vibrant wall can create a fun surprise.

Color can also be used to bring attention to other features as well. A subtle way to do this is lighten or darken the trim or door color by one or two steps from the wall color. For more dramatic appeal use a contrasting color to draw attention. This method adds depth and interest to a space.

Color can help accentuate or create important lines in a design. Consider a long blank wall with a low ceiling. This potentially annoying feature can become a point of interest by lining up photographs in the same size and color frames accentuated by a line that is slightly larger or smaller than the height of the frames and two steps lighter than the wall color, or of a color drawn from the photographs. This will accentuate the linearity of the space and make it interesting.

Use black to create emphasis. It can draw attention to a specific item such as a piece of furniture or it can add emphasis to something in its field of view. A light-colored picture on a black background will pop. Red will become even more dramatic when given a black background. This is to be used sparingly unless you want to create a goth ambiance.

Use the color wheel to your advantage. Colors next to each other create harmony; they tend to be calming and relaxing. Colors opposite each other on the color wheel are complimentary but also create contrast. They insinuate activity and movement.

Stay mindful of lighting. A color will look entirely different in the morning than it does in the afternoon, than it does at night. Added lighting on an accent wall can create a dramatic effect. There is no element in design more important than lighting.

Mirrors can play a nice part in the plan. They provide an opportunity to amplify light as well as color or a dramatic line. Pay attention to what is being reflected in a mirror because it has at least twice the impact that it would without the mirror.

Speaking to Your Home

Speaking to Your Home

I have always advised those who seek to build a home to camp on the land at least once, and through the course of a year if possible, before embarking on design. “let the land speak to you,” I advise. And the same is true of those who have bought a home and want to remodel it right away. It is best to spend some time in that space and let it speak to you.

I have noticed that I no longer think of that advice as metaphor. I have expanded my concept of language to include more than what is taught as language. Space really does speak to us and allows us to develop a relationship with it. And so does everything else that we decide to listen to.

This understanding began with reading Martin Heidegger who pointed out that older western languages did not isolate the speaker so thoroughly from the world they were in. Perhaps language is not so much the construct that allows us to define the world as it is the construct of the world itself.

Heidegger tied this change in language to the development of materialism. He somewhat unfairly pinned this on Parmenides, whose sixth fragment encouraged exploration to be restricted to only that which could be seen and measured.

When most think of materialism, they think of a jaunty song and the quest for new shinny things. While that is certainly an aspect of materialism, it is far from its meaning. Materialism is this turning away from those things that cannot be seen or measured. Materialism is most manifest not in the mall but it the lab. It is the scientific method delivered with engineering.

Science and engineering are not evil; to the contrary, they are quite beautiful. Evil arises in the faith that all of existence is contained in them. The degree to which most resist this thought is a measure of its accuracy.

Interestingly, it is those things least measurable that most clearly signal the limitations of a materialist perspective. And it is these things that are most human: Love, beauty, gratitude, foresight. Science seeks to count the synapsis, measure the enzymes, measure the electrical activity, but these things are not contained in the measurable realm. That which, since Parmenides, we have restricted ourselves to.

Our language and the perspective created by it do not make room for those things most human. Is it any wonder that loneliness and isolation are the angst of modernity?

Can it be doubted that this linguistic isolation from the very nature of who we are and the world we are connected in is the source of our destructive nature? If that is the case, as I think that it is, then language must be an important part of the move to a more sustainable and hopefully regenerative existence.

Let us learn to be in conversation with our homes.

If you want an example of the power of this perspective. Think back to the first time you walked into your home and how you thought about it then. In all likelihood it is almost as if it were a different place than the home you walk into now. That is because it is. You have since built a relationship with that space. That only happens through dialog. You speak to it with your needs, desires and character and it speaks the same to you. That the needs, desires and character of a space are different in nature than yours is of no more consequence than that those things are different in nature in each of us humans.

By being in dialog with a place we give enough of ourselves to that place to develop a relationship with it. To the degree that we avoid distinguishing ourselves as different from it, we make that relationship more intimate.

In the language of Native Americans, the world is animated and they speak to it as brother or sister. In this way they are more intimate with their surroundings, which allows them to be more respectful and in harmony with it. If you speak to a tree, you are far less likely to see it as a resource to be taken cavalierly.

Westerners cannot simply put on native language and spirituality to save the world. But we can recognize their wisdom and seek to allow our needs, desires and character to be influenced by it. Simply recognizing that language is a vital part of the process seems significant to me.

Nature’s Free Energy Audit on a Frosty Morning

Nature’s Free Energy Audit on a Frosty Morning

You can learn a lot about building science on a frosty morning drive.  The next time you are driving down a residential street on a frost morning, notice the roofs. Are they all glittery or is the frost patchy or all together absent in some places? The patterns of frost say a lot about the home. Frost is nature’s free energy audit.

Where the frost is light or missing is an indication of heat. While it might seem that a frosty roof is indication of a cold home, in fact, in most situations, it is the sign of a well-built home. A frosty roof means that the home’s heat is not escaping to the attic and warming the roof.

You may notice that some roofs have less frost higher up, which could be for a couple of reasons other than the sun hitting the top of the roof first. Heat rises so, if heat is escaping from the home into the attic, this will cause the top of the roof to warm quicker than the lower section. This is an indication that the home needs to be better sealed from the attic. In older homes, there was little effort made to seal the attic. In terms of an energy retrofit, this is some of the lowest hanging fruit and something that many homeowners can do for themselves to reduce their energy bills.

Random patches of thin or missing frost may indicate the location of an appliance such as a water heater or furnace. It may also indicate a place where insulation is thin or missing.

Another place that you will often see frost missing from a roof is under a tree.  Unlike elsewhere on the roof, this is a good sign and an indication of the value of trees.  Unlike build up of heat in the attic, this is the sign of heat being maintained outside the home. The canopy of a tree is like a blanket holding heat in. We think about trees shading our homes in the summer and reducing AC costs, which they do. They also help keep our homes warmer in the winter.

Nature is always talking to us, if we only take the time to listen.