Backing up the Home

The state-of-the-art modern 21st century home isn’t what we envisioned decades ago when we started fantasizing about it, but it has come pretty close. The spaceship-like abode of the future never appeared, although many of the internal gadgets have. You can virtually run your home from your phone if you want to. What a boon to busy people who are often away.

Thermostats can be regulated and temperatures controlled; the fireplace gas log can go off or on. The coffeemaker is timed just right for the morning ritual and the toaster browns your favorite bread just right. The freezer will never go on the fritz and the lights will never go out, unless it is desired. Your bath water is perfect, heated by solar panels on the roof. It is a marvel of modern living all done electronically. But it does depend on power, whatever the source.

Built into such homes are standby backup generators like these so nothing can miss a beat. In the worst storm, your heating will be intact and in hot summer blazes, your AC will function. Your security system will not go on the blink during any power surge. Gone are the days when you have to activate the thing yourself, not to mention go out to the garage and uncovering it under layers of tarp. You can stay within the comforts of your home during all seasons of the year, knowing that it will take care of any plight.

A generator is a machine that produces electricity that can power appliances to a total home depending upon its size. The old ones were simple motors; the new ones are computerized. Basically it does not so much create energy as convert it from another source. A generator forces the movement of electric charges present in the wire of its winding through an external electric circuit. It is like a water pump which causes water to flow, while it is not actually creating the liquid itself.

A generator’s role is more or less the same: to provide power during outages or as an additional energy source where no other is available. As such they work on fuel such as gas, and batteries (for the start function). People think of them for camping and outdoor activities, for example to provide lights at a concert in the park. They can power your computer, radio, hair dryer, microwave, and more.

When used for a home as a built-in appliance in its own right, a generator is part of your total energy system. It is part of one’s backup system as well to be used in case of emergency. Every homeowner should give this requirement serious thought. You never know when lightening will literally strike and put your electrical power out of commission.

Having a generator in your home for lightening, cooking, air conditioning, and the like is to be prepared. It can be used at a moment’s notice. Lost power need not be a catastrophe requiring a myriad of candles and a few flashlights. There is almost no transition when it is installed correctly.

A caveat is that a professional will have to put this device in place. Don’t try to do it on your own as you can seriously damage your generator, and they are rather expensive as you might know. Treat it right and it will work hard for you and your family. Plus, if you have a contractor do the work, you will no doubt have the device covered under warranty. You will also know that all safety measures have been taken.

A good generator can last the lifetime of a home, or at least a very long stay. If you invest properly in the right unit, you will do everyone a service. Think of a family member stuck at home in the dark or an elderly person without heat. Deaths occur during bad weather, both hot and cold, implying that power is the preserver of life.

Portable generators can cause thousands of dollars and so can a large one that will run your home in a pinch. It pays to learn about different systems to evaluate what your contractor is presenting. You will want an easy-to-use control panel with a clearly marked start and shut down buttons. Buying a known brand at a fair price will put you in good stead if adversity rears its ugly head. Your life will not be disrupted in the event of an outage. Owning a generator is to have the ultimate peace of mind.

Protecting Your Castle from Attack

If you have had an onslaught of termites, or even the more harmless ants, you know what it means to protect your castle from attack. It is so destructive to have pests eat away at the timbers of your home or to feast on window sills and trim. It can be prohibitive to replace all existing wood if the process has gone too far. Hence, the real estate laws that protect would-be buyers by requiring pre-deal inspections to ensure there are no lurkers about.

If they are, buyer beware; and seller, you can cringe. It has to be taken care of. It doesn’t matter if you tent the entire premises or treat it more gently with environmentally-friendly orange oil. It has to pass muster with the powers that be. Pests are thus not only disreputable and disgusting, but they can raid your pocketbook as well.

The rest of the homeowners in the world that have long ago made their purchase are responsible for any treatment they discover is required. Your monthly serviceman may notice droppings, or you may see the telltale signs on your own. There can be dead insects with the customary winged appearance, or you can see wood shavings at times. If a bit of panic besets you, it is because you know the cost of eradication. Thousands of dollars can take its toll on the household budget. Plus there is the embarrassment that a giant ugly tent brings in one’s neighborhood!

Imagine a scenario like this. A realtor is showing a lovely home with a garden. Everything looks so Edenic and pristine. It just feels clean inside and out. The owner has gone to great lengths to fix leaky faucets, exposed wires, and any fire hazards perceived. The furniture has been carefully staged, or arranged in an attractive and comfortable manner. All seems well. Until the prospective clients spies a bit of termite dust. All hell can break loose as a result. Even if the seller agrees to treatment, the place now seems unclean. Buyers fear a chemical residue that they and their pets might have to breather in.

The house can be a new one on the market with remodeling done only a few years ago. It will now have a tarnished reputation! Older buildings are usually the victims, making contractors and builders less savvy about the pests. It depends on where you live and the climate of course. They know little about subterranean or dry wood control.

But any homeowner should. Imagine your chagrin when you have friends visit and they are seated down for a nice meal at the dining table. Imagine further some ants crawling all over the table, coming up the leg of your dining room table and streaming into a hole in the corner of the room. Or worse, the unpleasantness of your guests discovering a cockroach running across the floor. It is not a pretty picture, my friend – after all, it reflects poorly on you as a host and home owner.

So when you see them, immediately send them packing. Hire a reputable service and hear what they have to say. There are many ways to skin a cat, as they say in the woods. You want a healthy and safe environment after treatment, and certainly because of it.

The word fumigation used to cross all lips the moment the dreaded termites were first mentioned. It is a scary word denoting heavy toxic chemicals that invade every nook and cranny of your home, resting there and potentially wreaking havoc on health. Those days are long gone and modernization has reached pest control. It is coordinated to the type of termite found. The subterranean are said to be the most destructive. They can collapse a building if they feel like it. You don’t want them around. They are attracted to moisture and like to congregate around plumbing leaks. They live in huge colonies making treatment a pretty extensive job.

On the other hand, dry termites love firewood and they are wont to dwell happily within. You will see a kind of swarm of black bugs. As a result, scrap wood should be stored well away from a home. They are resilient and can jump easily from one place to another.

There are dampwood termites, too, that are not as hard to eradicate if you clean up moisture. But the Formosan variety are killers, lurking in wet places, concrete slabs and walls. You are going to have a major job on your hands, so start saving now.

It is clear that pest control is part of building ownership and it can happen to the best of us. You can take some precautions in regard to moisture, but it is most often a case of treatment after the fact.

Building for Pools, and Pools for Building

02-marina-bay-sands-singapore-pool_1600Water features are more than a finishing touch on a building project or just something you add on for interest at the end of a job. They may be part of the exterior design in conjunction with landscaping, but they work together with a building, or group of them, to create a total concept or environment. Sometimes it is for the purpose of water recreation, and often it is a matter of artistic “finish” as when pools, ponds, and fountains bring a welcome touch of décor. In any case, the goal is to be innovative and meaningful.

In old world architecture, back to the Italian Renaissance, the look was representative of the time. Major constructions such as palaces and public buildings were done in the Greco-Roman revival style (complete with pediments, posts and lintels, etc. and putti spouting fountains) or Baroque, with lots of swirling, exciting forms bedecking a massive water system. They could go ultra-ornate, as in the Rococo period, or Romantic in the 19th century which water grottos were de rigueur (complete with real moss and stone statues). It is a lot of fun to look at the best designers had to offer in the distant past.

In the 20th century, the Olympic swimming pool was the ubiquitous features in mansions and at resorts that did not have ocean views. After all, the sea is a landmark that captivated attention from afar, drawing people to come and relax, have some fun in the sun. Many people started to take up underwater sports with advances in the 20th century in underwater access, through the development of affordable snorkel marks and of course, scuba gear becoming a lot more accessible than the initial designs of solid helmets and suits filled with air tethered to the boat above. It became so commonplace as to be expected; and early awes turned to cordial compliments. Right from the start, landscaping had to work around its giant presence. Palm trees began to propagate.

In the 20th century, the hallmark of luxury in water features is the infinity pool that creates the magic illusion of extending forever. What new or remodeled Malibu home doesn’t have one? Don’t be confused by infinity and endless pools. They are not the same animal. While the smaller endless pool accommodates a swimmer doing laps, the infinity pool can work in a desert or ocean setting to become one with the distant horizon. With an endless pool, there are no flip-turns thanks to a variable speed current. Some call it a treadmill for swimmers, but it is also quite picturesque when adorned with exquisite tiles and painted a deep color.

The infinite edge pool, as it is also known, or the vanishing edge pool has one or more exposed wall called a weir. This is a pinch shorter than water level, causing water to flow into a catch basin positioned below. The result is a stunning sense of infinity as an optical illusion. It is a wonderful structural and mechanical feat (massive pumps keep the water going constantly. The Olympic pool pales in comparison in spite of its larger size because it is just more of the same traditional concept.

What it all comes down to, apart from some rather pleasant encounters, is form and function in some kind of special synergy. The utilitarian aspects of fountains, ponds, and pools has to meld with a desired appearance. In the best and most innovative work, the purpose is expressed creatively. This means that there is a true aesthetic sense required to conceive of projects that enhance a garden or backyard space, but do not contradict the building style. You would not want a sprawling mess of an English garden, for example, with a French chateau style home complete with manicured lawn, fountains and statuary. They are not even distant relatives.

Knowing the history of art and styles is thus a pre-requisite for designers, contractors, and planners. There is also more than a modicum of engineering involved for the main architect. If a team is at work, a unified concept should be offered that transcends the ideas of each member.

Given raw land, or maybe the bare bones of a structure, is like a blank sheet of paper for a drawing or a raw canvas for a painter. You can make of it what you will. You can transform earth and sky with the addition of your own natural elements. A water feature grabs the eye and takes it to a mythic place inhabited by nature spirits. There are so many associations to make with each and every one. Even the most modern, sleek pool or fountain has its story to tell.

Deciding on which water feature to include, and imagining the right shape, proportions, and size takes a level head with a huge dose of artistry mixed with in. Do you want a gazebo nearby, a greenhouse, or a heated indoor pool? It is an enjoyable aspect of any building project, and you always welcome the opportunity.

About Bathroom Design

7Interior design is a luxury for many who buy tract homes and have to settle for builder’s grade finishes. Cost savings dictates generic looks and run-of-the-mill appearances. This is particularly the case with kitchens and bathrooms since they entail fixtures of all kinds, where style becomes apparent. If you are allowed to make choices, no doubt the word “upgrade” would cross your lips.

There are wonderful ways to construct a bathroom these days, and you just don’t want to miss out. Watch TV and read the magazines. People want spa-like spaces that make them feel relaxed and unstressed. They want a retreat that is up to date and uses the latest devices like low-water flush toilets and knobless sinks. They want to feel pampered when doing the most mundane activities. If you want to please your customer as a bathroom designer, there are now certain requirements advised. The smallest room in the house is hardly the least important.

It is always about form follows function in this most private room of the house, but it is also about a luxurious appearance to be sure. When vast numbers of faceless, nameless homes grew up after World War II, there was a tub or shower, a toilet and a sink with some added white tile. It was all about basics and nothing more-all in a pretty diminutive space. There were no “en suite” master baths, only Jack and Jill. If you had a stylish home with a big more grandeur, you might have some Malibu or Mexican tile, or the ubiquitous combo of pink and black. This was a paean to Art Deco and it was rife.

In the sixties, aqua reigned supreme as popular color number one. Sometimes you saw tubs and matching sinks and johns in pink or burgundy as well. Color was hot. Taste was minimal. It was a time of avocado and turquoise kitchens that held stacks of plastic Melmac dishes. They mirrored the color scheme of the bathroom if you could call it that. But things were still basic. As time wore on, marble was added to sink countertops or tub ledges for real pizzazz. It wasn’t just for powder rooms any more.

People seem to be able to identify when a house was built by the look of the bathroom and kitchen. They can put a date on it right away. We all know about stainless steel replacing just about any other stove and refrigerator option. Too much brass was used in bathrooms for a time as the accent metal and too much grout in the ever-widening tile. The look did not last in popularity and begged for a transformation. The late 20th century saw a change. The mansions of the 80’s were Dynasty personified, and the bathrooms followed suit. They got bigger and better. Floors were heated as were towel bars. Finishes improved. When things calmed down after a decade or two, and a few economic recessions later, the spa look came into being. It worked for any size room.

More and more people were joining gyms during the initial stages of the fitness craze. They are now hooked on exercise. The “me generation” wants to stay fit and young, even as they age. They started to look around when first exposed to the new-look gyms and came to appreciate that less is more. A spa style meant clean lines, granite or marble, not too much metal, and never gold or brass. It meant fixtures that look like sculptures and toilets that rivaled that of a prince in quality and style. No tacky decorations, shower curtains, decals, or window treatments. No area rugs that match your tissue holder and toilet seat.

Plush white folded towels, as dense and thick as sheepskin, are laid elegantly on beautiful chrome bars that cost a pretty penny. You have to have more than a few. They match your cabinet knobs that look hand-made, never mass produced. Tissue holders, toilet paper dispensers, and medicine cabinets are completely reborn. The look is stunning and you have to have it. Those who can afford to update are standing in line to get new bathrooms that rivals the best spas. Showers have pebble stone floors and high end fixtures like rain shower heads for two people or more. There is glass everywhere but no wall to wall mirrors. Music is piped in and soap comes from France. It is the epitome of the modern loo.

It is an exciting time for interior designers who want to create individual looks for the new generic concepts. They are experimenting with more than gray, white, and black. They are seeking alternatives to subway tile and mosaic inlays. We are all waiting to see the results.