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August 2, 2017  |  by Trent Brown - Vandenberg's Landscape Design

Some Like it Hot...But Your Garden Doesn’t

A big thank you to Trent Brown from Vandenberg's Landscape Design for contributiong this timely and informative blog post with tips for designing and maintaining your lawn to withstand hot dry summer weather!



Keeping your yard looking healthy during extremely hot weather and drought can be a challenge. Below are a few tips to help your landscape look it’s best this summer.

Water Early in the Morning

Between 6am and 10am is the most efficient time because the sun isn’t too hot yet, and it allows time for the water to get absorbed by the roots before evaporating. Watering early in the morning also saves you from burning the plant foliage. Water droplets left on any leaves while the sun is at its hottest will heat up and almost act as sun through a magnifying glass, damaging your plants and leaving brown spots.

Mulch Your Garden

Maintaining a 2-inch layer of bark mulch on all of your gardens will help retain moisture longer, giving your plants the best chance to get the most water they can before the soil dries up. Don’t forget to water long enough to allow the water enough time to percolate through the soil to the entire root system, not just the surface roots.

Group Plants by Watering Needs

Drought tolerant plants are a great choice for the garden, but that doesn’t mean your entire garden has to be drought-tolerant plants. Instead, create drought-tolerant sections in your garden to localize your watering efforts and minimize waste on plants that don’t really need it. Lavender and Euphorbia are great mid-height selections. Sedums are an incredible groundcover with lots of variety. Blue Oat, Fescue, and Pampas are all different sized Grasses that thrive in this setting. Yuccas are another great option to create a strong, upright visual interest in a drought-tolerant garden, drawing your eye to its dominant form.

Your Lawn Space

A lawn's watering needs are the most demanding in your yard. If it constantly struggles during July and August, think about where you could cut back on it, and whether you really need that much lawn. If not, enlarging some of your gardens, creating a nice garden patio, or building a propane/natural gas fire pit area are just a few great ways to remove some of your lawn and replace it with usable, low-maintenance space. For the lawn areas that are kept, be careful not to cut them too short. Maintaining a height of 2.5-3 inches will help the roots grow deeper and retain more water, as well as create more shade for the soil to keep the temperature down.

Even though its these months when we all take off for summer vacations, this is when our yards are stressed out and working overtime! Help them out as much as you can by following some of these simple tips, and if it’s a little too much work than you want during the summer, don’t hesitate to call a landscape professional to take care of it.

Categories: landscaping
July 19, 2017  |  by Rachel

Flooring - Part One - Hardwood

We sat down with our designers to ask some questions and to learn more about flooring. As they help our clients walk through many of the decisions that need to be made when it comes to selecting floors, we knew they would be a great source of information on flooring options, current trends and some tips and tricks on making the best choice for your space! Thank you Lee-Ann, Leslie, Lina and Vanessa for your fantastic input. 

We will be breaking this topic up into a few separate posts, and decided to start off our series on flooring with Hardwood Flooring. Hardwood flooring has definitely become the standard for flooring over the last number of years, particularly for use in main living spaces in most new and renovated homes. Hardwood floors can be classic and timeless, yet can also be trend-forward and modern depending on your preferences. There are so many options when it comes to color, grain, width and installation patterns. The variety available means you can create a unique look to suit virtually any style of home!

 
 

Engineered or solid?

When it comes to hardwood people often wonder whether they should choose solid or engineered flooring. While they both have their pros and cons, we generally recommend engineered hardwood for a number of reasons. The primary reason is that it tends to be more stable due to the base it's manufactured on, and as a result there is less expansion and contraction which results in less gaps. Solid flooring is more impacted by weather and moisture levels, and there can also be a limitation to the plank width.

Designer tip: Engineered hardwood can be refinished! Just be aware of the wear layer so you know how much you will be able to sand it down in the future.

Finishes and patterned install:

As a trend, we are seeing more gray, and gray-toned floors, or a white-washed oak finish. A wire brushed finish has also been gaining popularity recently. If you prefer more of a classic look, consider a hand scraped finish in a mid brown tone as a timeless option!

Pinterest and magazines are awash with herringbone or chevron patterned hardwood floors. While this is a beautiful look, keep in mind that installation costs are substantially higher. A great way to get a unique look but at a more reasonable cost is to consider having your flooring installed at an angle instead.

 
 

Designer tip: Darker and shinier floors will show more dirt, pet hair, foot prints, etc. A mid tone color, with more of a matte finish, some variegated pattern and/or some distressing will show less of the everyday wear and tear.

Where to use hardwood:

We are seeing hardwood being used more often throughout the main living spaces in homes, even throughout kitchens to maintain a consistent look. Keep in mind that wood flooring is more susceptible to water damage (ie a dishwasher flooding). If there's a natural area to transition your flooring in your kitchen, you may want to consider using tile to reduce the chance of damage. There are some great products out there that can minimize the transition between different types of flooring.

Hardwood can also be used on stairs to minimize different types of flooring in your space. You can customize the look of your stairs by the type of nosing you choose (the edge of the stair, in either a rounded or square finish) or by a combination of white and wood (ie white risers/wood tread or the opposite). 

More people are choosing hardwood floors for bedrooms as well. Consider adding rugs to keep the space warm and cozy!

Designer Tip: For a seamless look with hardwood, consider heating vent covers that are flush to the floor and match your flooring.

Type of hardwood:

The type of hardwood you choose is going to be largely dependent on your preference to grain and color. The harder the type of wood, the more durable your flooring is going to be. Hickory, oak and maple are all great choices for flooring that will stand up to pets, children and other potential sources of scratching.

 

Thanks for tuning into the first post in our Flooring series! We'll be back soon with our next installment on Tile!

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June 14, 2017  |  by Leslie Teague and Vanessa Palframan

Kitchens 101 - Choosing Your Appliances (Part 3)

Thank you for following along on our Kitchens 101 series! This post is our third installation in this series with some great tips and suggestions from our designers in choosing appliances for your kitchen.

We will always ask you about how you use your kitchen, which will play into appliance choices. If you entertain larger groups, love to bake, have young children or other potential safety concerns; these are all considerations that will help us to assist you in the decision making process. It's also worth going to some appliance stores and asking lots of questions. They will be able to provide you with more detailed information and educate you on the latest products available. This will be a great way to gather information so you can decide what will work best for you and your kitchen.

Another consideration to keep in mind when shopping for appliances is energy efficiency. Even though huge strides have been made with more efficient appliances, they are still some of the highest users of energy in our homes. By being aware of energy usage of the individual appliances in your home you can not only be kind to the environment, but can also save on your monthly electrical bills as well. This information on how to use the Energy Guide Label is super helpful.

When it come to finishes, most of our clients choose stainless steel for their appliance finishes. With stainless steel, be sure to talk to the appliance store about ones that are less likely to show fingerprints and are easier to keep clean. Higher end kitchens will often choose a fully integrated panel system, which gives a matching finish to the cabinets for the fridge and dishwasher. This is a great way to give a clean and streamlined look to your kitchen (see photo below!)

Now on to some tips and suggestions for choosing your appliances from Leslie and Vanessa:

Stoves and Ovens:

There are so many choices available when it comes to cooking surfaces, and your cooking lifestyle will be a determining factor in what you choose. Things to consider are some of the extras that can be integrated into the cooking surface such as: built-in griddles, fryers and grills. These are all potential options that are dependent on how and what you cook.

Gas is really the standard for stoves, especially if you like to cook! People often choose gas over electric as it provides instant heat, and generally higher heat as well (which is especially important for some styles of cooking, ie: wok cooking). However, for ovens, most people choose electric as they are considered to have more consistent heat, particularly for baking. Keep in mind the plumbing and electrical requirements, especially if you are choosing dual fuel appliances! 

Induction stoves are becoming quite popular as well. One thing to keep in mind for induction cooktops is that your current cookware may not work (Tip: To test, see if a magnet sticks!). The induction cooktop surface does not heat up in the same way as other conventional cooktops, as the heat conducts through the cookware and doesn't create a super hot surface. It's a safer alternative that reduces the likelihood of accidental burns, especially with little ones, elderly people, or roaming pets around.

We are receiving less requests for double wall ovens and instead are seeing more clients looking at alternative cooking options like convection microwave ovens and steam ovens. However, if you bake often or host holiday gatherings, a second oven can be very helpful. Also, wall ovens are more easily accessible for inserting and removing items which some homeowners love.

Designer Tip: Consider putting your microwave below your countertop or in a tall cabinet. A drawer style microwave is a great choice if you're placing it below countertop level as it is easier to access and helps to streamline your upper cabinets. The island tends to be a popular spot for microwaves.

Fridges:

One of the most important aspect of choosing a fridge, even more so than selecting the door type for your new fridge, is choosing whether to do counter-depth or standard-depth. Choosing a counter-depth fridge tends to look nicer as it's more streamlined, gives you more placement options within your kitchen, and because it's shallower it generally makes your fridge items more accessible. A standard-depth fridge typically has more space, and if you're designing your kitchen from scratch, we can work with you to create cabinets that will accomodate the extra depth.


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French doors, side-by-side, or full door fridge and freezer are all going to come down to personal preference. Just be sure that you will have sufficient space in your kitchen to open the doors fully so that you will have room to extend the fridge drawers (sometimes wall placement can impact the doors fully opening, which in turn affects whether the drawers can open).

Designer Tip: If you want a water and/or ice dispenser, you will need to ensure that sufficient space is planned for the plumbing, as it can take several inches to accommodate.

Hood Fans:

These are a necessary part of every kitchen, and there are many options for virtually any design aesthetic. The most common choices from our clients are the stainless chimney style hood, particularly for a modern kitchen. For more of a traditional or transitional style kitchen, the popular choice is an enclosed hood with a cabinetry surround.

While you can also choose a downdraft type of fan (mostly used for islands), keep in mind that they take up a lot of cabinet space and are less powerful and effective than a hood fan mounted above your stove. In small kitchens, a microwave hood fan is a great multi-purpose item that is also an efficient use of space.

Dishwashers:

We consider noise levels to be one of the most important consideration when choosing your dishwasher. Nothing can be more distracting than a loud dishwasher, especially in a small space. 

If you're not running your dishwasher regularly (ie you don't eat at home often, or it's just one or two of you) you might want to consider a dishwasher with an eco-function, or a smaller drawer-style dishwasher.

If you entertain regularly, or have a larger family, having a second dishwasher in the pantry is a great way to tackle the extra dishes. You will likely also want to look at dishwashers that have a high capacity and an efficient interior layout to fit the maximum amount of dishes.

Some additional features to do your research on are options like temperature controls, adjustable racks, cutlery racks, air-drying options, soil sensors, rinse/hold cycles, wash zones, cycle progress indicators, filters and more! The more options usually mean a higher price point, so knowing what features are and aren't important for you in advance will help as you compare in store.

In-sink Garbage Disposal

We occasionally receive requests for these, but keep in mind that more and more jurisdictions are not allowing these and instead require composting. Also, they aren't always a fit with septic fields, so be sure to do your research prior to installing! 

 

We hope you enjoyed and found this post on appliances informative and helpful. Thanks for following along with us for this series. We will have more information and tips from our designers soon, stay tuned!

 

May 31, 2017  |  by Leslie Teague and Vanessa Palframan

Kitchens 101 - Kitchen Style (Part Two)

This is Part Two of our Kitchens 101 series with a focus on the style of your kitchen. Thanks again to our Design Leads, Leslie Teague and Vanessa Palframan for some great information to help you determine the style and finishes of your kitchen.

Choosing the finished look of the kitchen is a very important aspect for most home owners. Kitchens are often the hub of the home and as such, it not only needs to be a functional space, it should look fabulous too. There are so many choices in terms of finishes, it can be hard to narrow down your choices: cabinets, counter-tops and fixtures, there are so many choices!

Like we mentioned in Part One of this series, it's important for you to think about how you will use this space and what fits your style and needs today and long-term.  Here are a few suggestions from Leslie and Vanessa to aid you in your decision making process.

Cabinets: White, Wood or Painted?

- White is classic, fresh and clean, and is what we are seeing everywhere around us in the design world. However, we are also seeing more mid-toned wood finishes, as well as painted cabinets (light grey or blue are popular) or a combination of the above. A white kitchen with some wood floating shelves, or dark lower cabinets with light upper cabinets or adding a wood island with white cabinetry. The options are truly endless!

- The most popular cabinet door styles we are seeing is a shaker style or a flat panel door. These are classic and will stand the test of time!

Designer tip: With a shaker style cabinet door, choosing a small interior bevel helps reduce dust buildup and makes it easier to keep them clean while still maintaining the door style you're looking for.

Countertops:

- Quartz is certainly the new standard for most new higher-end kitchens. The modern look and the non-porous surface makes them both popular and low maintenance. They are a great option that will stand the test of time when it comes to style and durability. For a modern look, consider a waterfall finish on your island!

- Butcher block counters are another option that we continue to see. Often it's used on a smaller counter space, like an island. They can add a nice, warm and natural look to your space. Keep in mind that there is maintanence that needs to be done to keep these looking their best: How to care for a butcher block countertop.
- Granite was the standard for a number of years, but the colors and patterns are a bit more limiting. Because it's a natural material, it does have more variations and inconsistencies. It will require some resealing and maintenance. Here's a handy article on how to choose a timeless granite: The Most Timeless Granite

Designer Tip: One thing to keep in mind as you design your kitchen, is the maximum lengths available for your countertop surface. If you want to avoid seams in your island for instance, the size of your island may be determined by the size of slabs available.

Backsplash

The backsplash is an area where you can bring some personality into the kitchen by adding a splash of color, texture or pattern. However, if you're looking for something that is versatile and time-proven, we will almost always recommend white subway tile. Even within the subway tile category there are quite a few options such as matte, glossy or textured. 

- One trend that our homeowners are requesting more often, is an integrated quartz backsplash (see image below). While they are not inexpensive, it does create a clean and streamlined look that is easy to maintain, and it looks amazing!

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Fixture Finishes:

- For many years a chrome or brushed finish was the standard for kitchen fixtures and cabinetry handles. While they are probably still the most timeless choice, there are many great options in brass or matte black finishes as well to give a more modern and trendy look to your kitchen. Traditionally, it was recommended to match your faucets to your cabinet handles and pulls to keep your space consistent. Today, mixing and matching style and color is definitely considered acceptable.

This hardware finish guide gives some great detailed information on many of the options available: Hardware finishes

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Designer Tip: Cabinetry handles aren't as difficult to change as some other aspects of your kitchen, so it is a place you might choose to go a little more trendy in either finish or style, knowing that down the road that you might want to update.

We hope this information was helpful and gives you some direction if you're starting the design process for your kitchen! Stay tuned for Part Three of this series about kitchen appliances coming next week.

 

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