Desert Living Expo to kick off in Palm Springs, Cali.

While some parts of the country are settling into winter hibernation mode, other parts are just stirring to life after a drowsy, blistering summer. It’s one of those times those of us in Northern, colder states wish we could all fly south for the winter. In Palm Springs, Cali., the Desert Living Home Show will be kicking off its expo on Friday, Dec. 6 and stay open through the weekend.

In the South, while we up North are surrounded by leafless tress, yellowed grass, and frostbitten ponds, the people of Palm Springs will be treated to a home improvement expo that provides resources for homeowners looking for minor and major renovations. It’s also great for those looking to build their own homes and who need some inspiration on what types of accoutrements they should include.

Over 150 Vendors Showcased

With more than 150 vendors, it will be quite the show. Louise Herbert, the owner of Stellar Expos, said, “If they are looking for any home improvement, they are going to find windows, doors, roofing, painting, fireplaces, pools, patios, and anything they can think of. We have everything for the home, including the kitchen sink.”

Expert Contractors On Hand

It’s a great resource for people looking for verified, expert contractors. A few types expected to be there include interior designers, masonry professionals, and solar companies. There will also be a variety of appliances and furnishings for sale, including everything from barbecues to pizza ovens to garage doors to refurbished metal décor. Herbert wasn’t joking when he said they “have just about everything for just about everyone, including renters who may not be able to complete home renovation projects.”

Renovations For Renters

People who don’t own their dwellings are limited on the changes they can make, but they can generally put up décor that doesn’t require drilling holes in the walls, putting design stickers on walls, hanging their own choice of curtains, and providing their own mood lighting. Renters can also sometimes make more global changes, like painting, and they’re sure to find inspiration at the expo, as well.

Age Busters Inc. Help Aging In Place

Deborah and Sean Flavin will be bringing their company, Age Busters Inc., to the show for the first time this year. They specialize in consulting and constructing changes to homes that allow their owners to age in place. Such changes include lowering the microwave oven, making bathrooms wheelchair accessible, and installing grab bars.

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Hiring An Interior Designer Might Save You Money

Think hiring an interior design is an unnecessary expense? That tends to be their stigma. When you think of hiring a professional to coordinate your décor, you probably think your home is too normal or average to require such an investment. Interior designers are just for rich people with enormous mansions, right? Not so fast.

Designers Can Enhance Space Planning

According to Rona Spiegel, president of Lifestyle Interior Designs Ltd. in New Jersey, “the right [interior designer] can help you save money and time by avoiding costly mistakes.” She went on to explain that designers can help with space planning in your home, helping you make the most of the square footage you have. They will generally create multiple wall elevations and design plans and then let you decide which one you like best.

Spiegel explained their methodology, saying, “They draw upon many disciplines to enhance the function, safety, and aesthetics of interior spaces. A skillfully design space looks like you spent more money than you did!” However, you should be choosy in your selection of the right interior designer for yourself and your space.

Research And Interview First

Your selection should involve several steps, including research to figure out what types are available in your area and what their respective styles are. Interview them and leaf through their portfolios to see what their finished products end up looking like. Before signing a contract with them, make sure their education and credentials are  legitimate. No formal licensing is required to practice interior design. You can check out for referrals to real, accredited designers.

Trust Them

Once you’ve selected your designer, you need to be willing to put the fate of your design into their hands. Be open to ideas that seem a little foreign to you. After all, they are the ones with experience and your decision to hire them symbolized your admittance that you don’t know enough to do it on your own. Spiegel said, “Your designer is there to help you enhance your style and take it to a higher level.”

Consider Your Home’s Potential

Sometimes when you move into a new home, it’s easy to compare it to the comfortable setting you had in your last home. You want everything to be perfect and homey and cozy immediately. However, as with any new thing, it will take time to adjust yourself to your new environment. Before spending big money on renovations and remodeling, allow an interior designer to show you what your home is capable of.

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Keep Your House Warm Without Breaking The Bank This Winter

Have you ever wondered where the phrase “breaking the bank” came from? It doesn’t refer to breaking into and robbing a building downtown. Actually, it is a reference to the types of in-home safes or “banks,” piggy and otherwise, which allow you to easily insert money, but make it challenging or impossible to remove money unless you “break” the bank. Generally, this is done as a last resort. And I know that some winters, it feels like that’s what I’m going to have to do in order to pay my utility bills.

Simple Repairs To Lower Bills

Keeping a home warm in the winter is necessary, but costly, especially if it’s 10 years old or older. There are all kinds of places where heat can escape your home. Luckily, it’s possible to plug a few of those heat sinks with some simple repair jobs.

Use Electric Blankets

For instance, instead of running your heater all night long, consider getting an electric blanket for your bed. Inside these blankets heat coils are sewn that produce an ambient heat which you can adjust to fit your preference for the right temperature as you sleep. Heated blankets come in all sizes and can often be set on timers so they aren’t operating all night long. This allows you to turn down the heat in the house a little while you stay snuggled warmly in bed.

Replace Weather Stripping

Add or replace weather stripping on your windows and doors. This is what provides the seal when apertures are closed against the frigid outdoor atmosphere. Weather stripping should be replaced when it gets torn, wears down, separates from the frame, or allows light to enter the room even when the door or window is closed. This is a quick, cheap fix that most homeowners can do on their own in just a couple minutes.

Reverse Ceiling Fans

A trick few people know about is that ceiling fans can actually help you stay warm as well as cool. When the cold months begin, simply flip the switch which is found on all ceiling fans so it rotates clockwise. Instead of pulling cool air up like they usually do, the blades will now push warm air down. This is especially useful when your heat vents are in the ceiling or high on the walls. Hot air rises, after all, and you probably don’t spend a lot of time a foot or two from your ceiling.

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Top Kitchen Remodel Trends of 2013

Kitchen design is constantly changing. My parents’ current house was built 21 years ago and the kitchen is typical of those built in the early 1990s: pastel linoleum floors, oak cabinets, blue laminate countertops, and a cream-colored porcelain sink. Though modern at the time, these days it has an old-fangled feel that bothers my mom who would like it to be updated.

These days, kitchen designs revolve around open spaces, granite countertops, and islands. keeps up with these fashions and concocted a list of the top kitchen remodeling trends of 2013 which was gleaned from a Kitchen Remodeling Survey administered to 7,500 homeowners who were in the middle of or contemplating a kitchen remodel. On surprising thing: people weren’t focusing on enlarging their spaces, rather they wanted to merge their kitchens with nearby living areas to create an open concept feel.

Stainless steel, once thought to be an industrial material, is now invading kitchens everywhere. Stainless steel appliances throughout the kitchen give it a cohesive feel with the added bonus of seeing your own reflection anywhere you turn. Houzz said, “65 percent of homeowners are incorporating stainless steel into their new kitchen design” and those who can’t afford a complete redo of all appliances tend to be “combining them with white, colored, or appliances integrated into cabinetry. Stainless steel sinks are especially popular with high arcing faucets that allow clearance for large pots and dishes.

Not only are homeowners replacing their old black or white stoves with stainless steel varieties, they are also looking for chef’s stoves. These are gas burning stoves with up to 6 burners. The gas burners allow for more precise temperature control, though you do need to be careful of gas leaks and the proximity of flammable items to the stove.

While bright colors are popular in living spaces like bedrooms and family rooms, 74 percent of people are going with lighter, more classical color schemes for their kitchens these days. This doesn’t mean they choose variations of white or gray, but they might mix a butter yellow with aquamarine or mint green with pale purple rather than bolder colors.

People were split on flooring preferences. Hardwood won out, but just by a little. Houzz reported, “While 35 percent of respondents said hardwood would be their flooring [of] choice, tile came in close second at 32 percent.” Either way, linoleum  is out.

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Tips For “Green” Home Improvement

You might not have known when you embarked on your most recent home improvement journey that you’d end up discussing sustainability or how to be more “green.” It sounds like a conversation you’d have with Kermit the Frog. The reality is, however, that incorporating green design is a must in today’s world, not only because you can lower your impact on the environment, but also because it can help save you money in the long run.

Two Green Philosophies
Korina Branson-Jones and her husband David Jones own GreenStick Energy Efficient Construction which specializes in how to build sustainably. Korina said, “The main thing is, there’s kind of two trains of thought for sustainable materials in your home. Some people do it because it’s the right thing to do. They want to reduce their carbon footprint . . . and there’s also the energy-efficiency side of things.”

Energy-Efficiency Requires Investment, Pays Dividends
If you fall in the first category, cost won’t be an issue to you. The truth is, energy-efficient construction can be expensive and be more work than a lot of homeowners are up for. The latter category probably describes a wider pool of people who might not realize at first the personal benefits of green remodeling. According to Korina, however, “that upfront cost is going to be offset by the overall savings by buying something like, say, a tankless water heater.”

Buy Building Products Locally
One way you can live sustainably is not only by purchasing Energy Star products, but also by buying locally. Sure, bamboo floors are attractive and bamboo is a fast-growing, easily harvested product, but it isn’t grown commercially in the United States. It has to be shipped here which in turn raises its carbon footprint significantly. If you have a stone home, look for local quarries to purchase your materials. You’ll probably save yourself some money on shipping and save the environment the extra carbon required to ship it over long distances.

Hire A Green Contractor
Once you commit to trying to remodel sustainably, you’ll need to find contractors who share your vision. Korina said homeowners should “interview them to see what their knowledge is in using these practices and using these materials and products. If the contractor isn’t well versed in green building practices, they’re not going to be very open to using them.”

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Helping Out With Low-Income Family Home Renovation

We are headed into the holiday season which means the temperatures and bank accounts are dropping, and the spirit of giving is rising. And giving is precisely what Ontario Renovates, a home-improvement assistance program, does for its community.

In Cornwall of Ontario, Canada, a program has been put into place to help provide funds for home improvement projects to low-income homeowners. Cornwall’s mayor, Bob Kilger, explained, “The goal of the program is to help residents stay in their homes longer.” The funds can be used for repairs and modifications that help residents make their homes safer and more livable.

Urgent Home Repair Projects

Ontario Renovates is split up into two components: The first is Urgent Home Repair, which allows low to mid-income homeowners “receive a maximum forgivable loan of $16,000 which is earned over a 10-year period.” Residents can then use the money to upgrade their heating systems, repair their foundations, fix or replace their roofs, and improve or bring up to code their electrical systems.

Accessibility Modification Projects

The second component is Accessibility Modification, which gives eligible homeowners a grant of up to $3,500. This money is supposed to help make the home more accessible to those in wheelchairs or who have mobility issues. Qualifying projects might include ramps and handrails.

Qualifying For Program Assistance

In addition to the gross household income requirement of making no more than $40,000 a year, the house must be worth less than $160,000 to qualify. It cannot go toward rental properties or temporary residences. Seaway News, Cornwall’s newspaper, explained, “The property must be owned and be the sole and principal residence of the applicant, and property taxes, home insurance, and mortgage payments must all be up to date. The property must be located within the City of Cornwall or the United Counties of SDG. Funding is not available for work that is already started.”

Spokane Habitat for Humanity

In the United States, there are similar programs available to help improve or replace dwellings for low to mid-income families. For instance, the Spokane chapter of Habitat for Humanity is currently looking for volunteers to help out with a “114 twin home development in the lowest income area in our county, Deer Park.” The website said that it’s the biggest build in the chapter’s history. They are looking for volunteers to help out Thursday through Saturday 8:30 AM to noon and 12:30 PM to 4:00 PM.

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How To Select And Hang Artwork

Selecting and hanging appropriate artwork for your home isn’t as easy as it sounds. Each piece should coordinate with the other pieces you have already selected, complement the style of the room, and be an appropriate size for the space you have available. If you’re not a professional art curator, the task of tastefully decorating your home might seem daunting. However, the experts at have done their fair share of artwork selection and have come up with some tips on how to select and hang beautiful artwork in your home.

Complement The Color Palette

If you’ve never seen a color wheel, it would behoove you to look one up before trying to coordinate colors in your home. A color wheel can tell you what colors are complementary, which means you know which ones look best with each other. Colors situated directly across the color wheel from each other are “complements” which is why red and green look so good together—it’s not just because they symbolize Christmas and the holiday season. Similarly, blue and orange and yellow and purple are complementary pairs. Try to use color theory in your interior design.

Don’t Hang Them High (or Low)

Appropriate height for pictures allows viewers to look at them comfortably without craning their necks up or having to bend down. experts said, “Art that’s too high or low is a dead giveaway of a decorating rookie. Eye-level is the goal so, unless you hang out with a lot of giants, aim for the middle of your piece (not the hook, that will be higher) to be about 57” high. So if your picture is 30” tall, you would want to measure so the middle (15” from the top) is at 57”. If the picture is hung by a wire, you would need to take into account the hang when you mark how high the hook needs to be.

Listen To Your Gut

Sometimes you end up with decorations or pieces of art you just don’t love. It’s hard to get rid of them though because they came from a good friend or you spent money on them. Sometimes there’s nothing wrong with the decoration, it just doesn’t fit your style or the wall you hung it on. Don’t ignore those feelings. Change what doesn’t seem right or else you’ll never be totally at peace in that room. designers suggested, “Even if you spent time and money [on your artwork] . . . not addressing what you know isn’t working is costing you even more energy and satisfaction with your home.

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