Decorating for the Peak of Holiday Season

Christmas-decorating

Want to know just how to decorate for the holidays? It’s always easier when you go with your own style and preferences. So, what’s your style:  country cabin chic with plaid or burlap ribbon, holly and winterberries, a cranberry and popcorn garland? How about elegant Victorian, with mercury glass ornaments, velvet or lace ribbons, pearl or beaded garlands, candle lights on the tree? Maybe you’re a trendsetter with a fuchsia or neon turquoise color scheme with silver accents and sophisticated silhouettes.

Your holiday home can express themes of your personality and aesthetic, whether contemporary or old-fashioned, or something in-between. Do you love nature and wildlife? Winter outdoors has a certain mystique as illustrated with scarlet cardinals, chickadees, reindeer, turkeys, snow hares and though far from New England, polar bears.

Traditional to Trendy

For the Dickensian look and feel, heirloom or reproduction Victorian cards or illustrations, vintage trees or light-up villages, horse-drawn sleighs can bring a classic Christmas to life. Creches or nativity scenes are centuries old and the tradition of displaying village scenes started in the mid-1800s, and having trains circling the tree began later that century as toy trains were introduced.

Some of your favorite collections can be incorporated into holiday décor, whether menorahs, angels, snowflakes, gingerbread figures, Father Christmas, or nutcrackers. But they don’t have to be holiday-related. Seashells, tea cups, cast-iron banks can find a way to be included in your collection for a one-of-a-kind display.

A traditional homespun Christmas includes bulky knit stockings hung by the fire, hand-strung garlands of cranberries, popcorn and wooden beads or thread spools, pine boughs and garland studded with pinecones.

contemporary-holiday-decoratingOr consider a sophisticated style that shimmers with mirror and gold, silver or mercury glass accessories, with a pop of frosted icy blue for accent. Scandinavian holiday décor is elegant in its simplicity, with sparkling snowflakes, glowing tapers, slender birch branches – nothing too fussy about it.

Appropriate to the Festival of Lights, Hanukkah celebrations feature lots of candles (besides the ones in the menorah), and shiny blue, silver and gold (for gelt). Think glow, glam and sparkle with glitter and foils. Mixing the metallic is no problem.

Separate what’s separate! 

We don’t advise mixing themes & styles—at least not in the same room. But you could have a formal tree in the living room or parlor and a kids’ tree in the family or great room featuring their decorations, construction paper chains, candy canes and handmade ornaments shedding gobs of glitter. Or put a nature-themed tree on a porch or three-season room.

Fireplaces are focal points, especially in the winter. When designing your mantel display, include items of varying height for interest (paperwhite amaryllis, tall branches or candlesticks). If you have ornamental andirons, brass or black wrought iron for example, pick up the color of the finish in your tableau.

Make sense of scents.

christmas-2984210_1920

Appeal to all the senses: from fresh pine boughs to fragrant candles, cinnamon and clove cider simmering on the stove, and of course, the music of the season. A memorable scent (like that of evergreens) and favorite carols can transport you and your guests to times gone by. Don’t forget the sense of touch. Even a winter white color scheme can come to life with a variety of textures, from satin to feathers to fur and nubby-knit throws or pillows.

What a lovely surprise!

Part of the fun of the holidays is surprises – from gifts to guests. Include the unexpected to delight family and friends with a whimsical vignette in a powder room, along a staircase, unique-Christmas-decorationor on a windowsill. Attach sleigh bells to an old ski or snowshoe for the front door. Plop a Santa hat or antlers on that bronze bust or statue.

Love the idea of saving memories? Take plenty of photos before you put things away—whether it’s after Chinese New Year or in time for Valentine’s Day—so you’ll remember next year. (New Englanders love to keep their lights up long after the holidays to fight the early gloom.)

Most of all, enjoy the holidays. If you feel overwhelmed by the thought hauling out dozens of boxes of decorations, just focus on one thing, such as the tree, or a mantelpiece. Then resolve to go through the bins some stormy Saturday, and give away what you no longer use.

Remember, nothing must be perfect—just perfectly you. All of us at 3W design wish you and yours a warm, wonderful holiday season filled with the joy of family and friends.

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Warming Up to Winter

efficient-gas-fireplaceChilly enough for you yet? The first snow has already fallen but what about the temperature inside your house? Nothing says, “Welcome home” in New England more than a cozy feeling of warmth when you enter.

But at what cost? Whether oil, gas, electric, wood or solar, weigh the cost efficiency of the fuel you use and the heating system, not just when building or remodeling but over the lifetime of your home.

Beyond the efficiency of the heating system, when building or doing major renovation (or turning a seasonal vacation home into a year-round getaway), consider the envelope first; that is, how well-insulated and air-tight your house is. What exposure do your windows have, and how many panes?

Next, how is the heat distributed through the home: forced air, steam or hot water radiators, radiant heat in the floors, zone heating in each room? There’s another type of distribution, called natural air flow, letting heat from a single source (a woodstove or solar elements) flow through the rooms. Of course, the layout needs to be conducive to this kind of heat conduction and distribution.

In terms of overall fuel efficiency, solar tops the list with utility electricity dead last. Here’s the list in order of the most efficient to the least:

  1. Solar
  2. Natural gas
  3. Wood (especially if you have your own source)
  4. Heat pump
  5. Oil
  6. Geothermal (takes heat from underground, requires some electricity)
  7. Electric heating from utility power

According to www.green-energy-efficient-homes.com, most North American homes have forced-air heating. This means the heat (or air conditioning) is distributed through ducts.

Let the sun shine in!

When incorporated into your home’s design, you can benefit from the sun’s heat without having solar panels through “passive solar” means. Basically, it’s using appropriate materials that soak up the sun and release its to warm you, and designing floors, walls and openings to make the most of it such as tile floors that warm up in the winter but feel cool in the summer and window coverings that provide insulation. See https://energy.gov/energysaver/passive-solar-home-design for more.

Exterior solar panels warm up liquid or air that then travels throughout the house. This is typically supplemented with another stand-by heat source and/or radiant heating.

Old Standbys

Many antique homes are heated by hot water or steam traveling through metal radiators, which can be noisy and inefficient. Some may like the nostalgia and want to preserve or upgrade these units. Hey, it’s your money!

Wood is an age-old source of heat in New England and is considered “carbon neutral” traditional-wood-stovebecause you’re not burning fossil fuel. Today you can burn wood in an efficient woodstove or fireplace insert. Pellet stoves are another way to burn this age-old renewable fuel very efficiently.

A Heated Discussion

The look and smell of a yule log on the fire speaks of the holidays but you may be screaming when you see the heating bill. You can have a “tight” house and a top-notch heating system, but if you use your fireplace as is, you lose a lot of heat up the chimney. Think about a woodstove insert: you can still enjoy the dancing flames, but you get more bang for your buck in terms of heat output (BTUs). Otherwise, with an open hearth, you are literally sending heat up in smoke.

Remember from science class, heat rises? That’s the idea behind radiant in-floor heating. Imagine stepping out of bed and onto to warm wood or tile floor. Heat distribution is more efficient because the heat from the warm flooring goes up, warming the living space as it goes. This is much more efficient than mini-splits—a form of zone heating with a device in each room–which releases heat near the ceiling.

For toasty tootsies, radiant heat under the flooring is the way to go—unless you have carpet, which blocks the heat. So, consider this when building new or putting on an addition (especially in the bathroom, where it can feel absolutely decadent).

Taking Tour Temperatureradiant-floor-heat-bathroom

If all these choices have you wondering about your heating system, look for its Energy Star rating. Go to www.nhsaves.com for more on choosing efficient and environmentally friendly fuel and heat sources. And check the website of your utility to see about an energy audit. Eversource, Liberty Utilities, New Hampshire Electric Co-Op and Unitil can help determine how your current home rates and suggest solutions such as weatherization to improve energy efficiency. There may even be rebates available.

For Comfort and Safety

So how cozy is your home? With a digital thermostat, it depends on the time of day. Programmable thermostats let you set a temperature so that your bedroom cools down overnight, using less heat, and warms up as the sun comes up. Traveling for the holidays? It’s worry free when you can set the temperature low enough to keep from wasting heat while you’re gone; high enough to prevent frozen pipes.

The design and construction professionals at 3W design, inc. know the ins and outs of every type of heating system and whether new construction, an addition or renovation, we’ll work with you to ensure your home’s temperature–and utility bills–are comfortable year-round.

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Building and Remodeling Smart: What’s Your Home’s IQ?

smart-home-leisureImagine this: you get out of your side of the bed, which has been individually programmed to be at the perfect temperature for you all night. As your feet touch the floor, the coffee pot starts. Meanwhile, 5 minutes before your dawn-simulating alarm clock began to light up the room, radiant heating turned on to warm the bathroom floor. These features and many more are making homes smarter, safer and more carefree to live in.

What makes a home “smart?” Smart refers to systems being connected to the Internet, wirelessly integrated into the house and accessed and controlled remotely by computer, tablet or phone.

According to the 2016 Houzz Smart Home Study, the top two smart products people invest in are security/safety systems and thermostats. Going down the list is entertainment, climate (HVAC), and lighting upgrades.

Integrated into your home’s “hub,” smart systems can listen, conserve energy, increase your family’s safety, and prevent disasters such as flooding from burst pipes in the winter if the power goes out.

Why get smart?

  • Savings in money due to more efficient use of energy, and conserving energy
  • Improved safety and security, from remote notice of smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and intruder alarms, to in-home remote viewing of pets, family
  • Greater ease of living for disabled people and the elderly with voice-controlled or motion-sensing technology.

office-at-homeSo, what’s your home’s IQ? High efficiency, long-lasting (up to 22 years) light bulbs are typically one of the first items people choose when they decide to go smart. Digital thermostats with timers can be programmed to lower the temperature while you’re out all day and bump it up to a more comfortable level when you get home. But now you can adjust the temp at will from your office.

The home of the future is now

Remember The Jetsons TV show? It took a long time—55 years since the show debuted in 1962—but we now have robot housekeepers (Roomba), video watches (Apple Watch), and a talking virtual assistant: Siri, Amazon Echo, Google Home.   

Many know Bob Vila from “This Old House,” the first of several home-improvement TV shows he’s hosted, but now at http://www.BobVila.com he’s looking to the future. Among his favorite smart innovations are the Keen Home Smart Vent, which purports to solve the age-old problem of maintaining a consistent, comfortable temperature in all rooms of the house. The voice-activated Amazon Echo also makes his top list, as does the Nest Cam, the closest thing “to having eyes in the back of your head.”

Smart locks are examples of key-less technology. They enable you to let someone into your home when you’re offsite, to double-check that it’s locked, and to record any comings and goings. Other independent devices include video doorbells, billed as “Caller ID for your front door.”

Centralize Control

From entertainment remote controls to garage door openers to programmable thermostats, you already have devices with some “smarts” built in. Products that take intelligence to the next level include appliances such as refrigerators that can tell you when you’ve run out of something. A Bosch model, for example, has an interior camera that can send a photo to your phone so you can see what you need to pick up when you’re at the grocery store.

But these are just cool gadgets without a hub, a central electronic address or system to integrate all your devices. You have several choices: contract with a company such as Comcast, ADT or a local smart home specialist to use their menu of services; work with a smart-hometechnology professional to help you plan, link, and learn to control all your home’s smart features; or buy a basic hub unit for as little as $50. (As with most things, you get what you pay for—much better ones go from $600 and up.)

More sophisticated hubs have switches or touchpads that disappear into the wall, and make it easier to integrate technology as it becomes available.

Back to bed: Luna makes a mattress cover that fits over your current bed with sensors linked to other devices and was featured recently in www.PCMag.com. Luna’s smart technology—like a television that “learns” what shows you like—learns your typical bedtime, temperature preference, and tracks your heart and respiration as you sleep.

Luna co-founders Matteo Franceschetti and Massimo Andreasi Bassi created it based on what they call “If this, then that” technology, or IFTTT, a website and app. So when the mattress cover “realizes” (senses) you got up, commands you’ve given it kick in: the coffee maker, for example.

So, want to teach your old house some new tricks? A remodeling or renovation is the perfect time. The design/build professionals at 3W design, inc. can help you integrate the latest in smart-home technology seamlessly and beautifully into your home. Ask us how!

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Universal Design for the Ages

Inclusion means being welcoming to all. But how welcoming is your home? If a family member or guest is in a wheelchair, would he or she have ease of access? Will the house suit you well into the future as you “age in place,” that is, as you grow older and your needs change? Unless brand-new and designed to Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) specifications, it probably isn’t.

Impaired vision and diminished mobility happen to many of us as we age, and a traumatic injury can occur any moment. So, if you’re designing a new home, remodeling or retrofitting an older one, it makes sense to prepare for the future with features of “universal” design.

Sometimes referred to as barrier-free design, the idea behind universal design is to make places more accessible to all. But this doesn’t have to mean an institutional look with grab bars and ramps! Attractive, engaging design suitable for all ages and stages of life and health can be as unobtrusive as wider, more welcoming doorways, and using contrasting colors to differentiate subtle changes in floor levels or edges of countertops.

Our old Granite State is facing a “silver tsunami” as Baby Boomers grow older and fewer young people remain to start families. According to the NH Center for Public Policy Studies, by 2030 one-third of the population (almost half a million of us) will be 65+. So, while it’s not yet every man or woman for himself, remaining independent in our homes is important in the Live Free or Die state.

Simple steps to take now…

  • Replace all remaining incandescent bulbs with LED ones as needed. LED bulbs last much longer, are more efficient, and save money.
  • Examine lighting overall, including outside along paths and at entryways. More is better for both residents and guests. Install motion-sensor lights at entrances.
  • Is your street number well-lit and easily visible for visitors and emergency services?
  • As you replace appliances, think long-term: sit front-loading washers and dryers atop storage pedestals for less back bending; get a dishwasher with pull-out drawers; a range with controls that are front and center (with safety locks for the grandchildren).

When remodeling or building…

  • Keep it on the level! This goes for deck or patio access too. Anywhere you can provide access without adding steps can pay dividends down the road.
  • Plan a bedroom and bathroom suite on the first floor.
  • Widen doorways (looks more welcoming too), and work with your designer to eliminate or minimize a change in floor levels on each story.
  • Use drawer-type pulls instead of knobs on cabinets and drawers, and swap out doorknobs for push-down handles, to make it easier for arthritic hands.
  • Install brighter and more lighting, and more outlets to prevent the need for cords stretched across the floor. Put outlets higher up on the wall for ease of access.
  • Kitchen remodel? Have counters and cabinets installed at the right heights for more control over you’re your cooking areas as well as cleaning up.
  • Install a walk-in shower or tub with nonskid surface and flooring, and ergonomically placed grab bars (in décor color instead of metal) and a seat. Use antiscald valves and include a handheld showerhead.

Your high-tech home can be a lifesaver

Remember when the “space-age home” of The Jetsons TV cartoon? Baby Boomers do. Today’s wireless technology makes much of that a reality. Having your home connected through the Internet, you’re your mobile device allows you to check on the security of your residence and turn on lighting or heat from anywhere so your home environment is ready for you the moment you arrive.

And, it can also be a lifesaver, enabling you to check in with an elderly parent—and allow a senior or disabled adult to summon help at the push of a button or with a word command.

Things we now take for granted, such as remote-controlled power garage-door openers, were once considered assistive technology, so power up! Build in remote controls for lighting, heat and cooling. Add intercoms to avoid getting up or busting your vocal chords to communicate from different rooms.

Do you love where you live and plan to stay awhile? Create a home that’s warm and welcoming well into the future without sacrificing style or beautiful design. We’re proud to be a Certified Aging in Place Specialist (CAPS) as designated by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB).

You can feel confident working with your 3W design, inc. professional to remodel a home that you’ll love no matter what your age or circumstance. You’ll always look forward to coming home and have a more welcoming space to accommodate all your family and friends.

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Designing a Pet Friendly Home

Designing for your dog or cat? Well, sort of. Think of it as more of a lifestyle choice. Pets add so much to our lives. Some might say that a house isn’t a home without the pitter-patter of paws.

dog-bed

You may be balancing kids and pets, or perhaps your adult children have left the nest. Whether remodeling, new construction or designing a second home, why not make things as comfortable and easy-care as possible for you and your critters. Let’s concentrate on cats and dogs since they are the most popular housemates.

Things to consider:

  • Walls
  • Flooring
  • Furnishings and accessories
  • Sleep space
  • Play space

Floors for Pets’ Paws & People

Start from the bottom up. What flooring surface works best for your lifestyle and animal companions?

Carpeting is quiet and comfy but if your precious is a Persian, be prepared to purchase a heavy-duty vacuum. The best defense may be matching the carpet color to the fur color. Stainmaster has a line of PetProtect Carpet with guarantees against pet stains, though that won’t help with shedding.

Hardwood or laminate floors are noisier, which may be a consideration if you have a large breed dog. Marmaduke’s claws may also scratch softer floors, such as pine, and lesser quality laminates.

Hardwood stairs are slippery for furry feet, so add a carpet runner or treads (sisal hides a lot of dirt and is easy for paws to grip).

Stop dirt at the door!

A great strategy when planning for pets (especially larger ones or multiples) is dedicating space at an entrance such as a mudroom. Tile or heavy-duty vinyl flooring is easy to mop clean of muddy paw prints and stray kitty litter.

Hang hooks for towels, collars and leashes, and have a basket for pet toys. Having a sink or dog-washing station is even better. Paint the walls or wainscoting with washable paint (at minimum a satin or eggshell finish, not flat) and wipe down at least seasonally. When Rufus shakes or Bernie the Saint Bernard drools, you’ll be glad you used semi-gloss.

Shelving units like those to organize closets are an attractive way to store pet shampoo, brushes, dog sweaters, etc. Can you slide a litter box underneath?      

Of course, regular grooming including clipping nails, washing, combing and brushing can go a long way toward keeping your pooch, feline and your home clean! Pet odors come from fur or hair, and skin oils. Anything you can do to keep Fido or Fluffy clean means a cleaner home and furniture for your family.

Lounge Act

If you’re going to let furry friends on the couch (as if you can keep them off!), you need domestic-catupholstery that’s forgiving of sharp claws, hair and fur. Made to be moisture-, stain- and odor-resistant materials that are easy care include canvas or “duck”-type fabrics, and indoor/outdoor materials such as Sunbrella or Crypton.

Traditional Home magazine even suggests taking upholstery samples home, to “pet” your dog or cat with them, to see what camouflages hair best! (Warning word to the wise: chenille and velvet are fur and hair magnets.)

Slipcovers in a sturdy washable fabric may be your saving grace. When company comes, even if there’s not time to wash and replace them, you can always whisk them off and tuck them out of sight. (Wash-and-dry duvet covers do the same trick for your bed.)

A lint roller in the coffee or end table drawer may be your second-best friend for quick clean-ups.

Quality leather or Pleather is a good choice if your buddy doesn’t have long claws and won’t use the sofa as a scratching post (provide an alternative, like a cat condo, for climbing and scratching). But it does age over time, gets scratches and discolored from the oils in an animal’s coat or skin. Rambo the Rottie may be persuaded to adopt a corner of the couch if you keep a favorite blanket or throw to nest in on top of the upholstery.

Ever notice how cats and dogs move from place to place throughout the day to nap? If you provide more than one perch or bed, you have a better chance of keeping them off the wing chair. Pet lovers have even designed end tables with cozy crates underneath, and wall units and bookshelves incorporating a den-like cubby for Cujo.

Window dressing is another important consideration. If your kitty is a climber, cross floor-to-ceiling silk drapes off your wish list. Roman shades are a better option and you can dress them up with a swag or valance.

Cats jump up, and a Dalmatian or Lab’s tail can swipe a table clean in an instant, so place any fragile accessories behind glass in a display case.

Rumpus Room?

A basement or “rec” room is an ideal roughhousing place for children and pets. Leave lots of open space and put a carpet or rug down. If your pet is older or if you have puppies or kittens, consider “tiling” the floor with individual carpet squares, which can be replaced as needed.

Whether coarse or wiry hair, kitten soft fur or short-haired coat or however our pets are dressed, we love ’em! Ask the animal lovers at 3W Design how you can welcome them into your home with style and comfort.

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Celebrating 29 Wonderful Years in Business!

29-year-business-anniversary

August 5, 2017 was our 29th company anniversary. Many thanks to all of our clients, friends and associates. We look forward to many more years of helping people enjoy beautiful and comfortable spaces!

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Time for an Addition to the Family?

home-addition-exterior

No, not a baby—although that may be one reason you might want a home addition. We’re talking, of course, about adding on to your house – a major remodeling job and one that needs to be carefully thought out and executed with design/build professionals. Why might you want to add on to your current home?

  • You’ve outgrown it and love the neighborhood: you may have more children or older children who need their own room. Young adults may “boomerang” back home. Or you may have parents moving in with you.
  • The style and features are very outdated and need a major refresh.
  • Your business has moved into or expanded in your home and you need a dedicated office or workspace. Or maybe a hobby has taken over your dining room.
  • You plan on “aging in place,” that is, living independently in your own home as long as you can, but would like a master suite on the first floor featuring universal design.
  • You’re considering selling farther down the line and want to get the most resale value from the real estate.

Picture an old New England farmhouse with its add-ons from over the decades or centuries – connecting to the kitchen to the barn work sheds and other shelters, maybe with a wrap-around porch. Home additions were very common and functional in historic times and they still make sense for a lot of people.

Do the bump!

kitchen-expansionThe most conservative way to get a little more room is to “bump out” a window or side of a room. Sometimes called a micro or mini addition, the new space is cantilevered out and supported as a bay window would be from underneath. No new foundation or slab is necessary. Besides costing much less than a typical addition, because you are not changing the actual footprint or adding more foundation, you don’t have to worry about zoning, setbacks, etc.

Things are looking up!

Certain styles of architecture lend themselves to building up. Capes, for example, can usually be expanded by building out the dormer and eaves, changing the roofline somewhat but making the most of every space. Again, you don’t have to worry about adding on a foundation, but supporting a new level or enlarged level and changing the roofline are major engineering considerations. Other things to think about are plumbing and electrical wiring. If you expand or add bedrooms or make a third-floor playroom, you may want to add a bathroom. Can you “stack” it on top of the second-floor bathroom? Raising the roof may require another staircase, in which instance you’ll need to allow for at least 80 to 120 square feet in the plans.

Zoning and legal issues

Additions to the back (kitchen, great room, porch or mudroom), front (porch or entryway) or sides of the house (master suite or office) need their own slab and foundation for support and keep them level to the rest of the house. An addition is a major investment, so you can’t afford to make a mistake. This is not the time to call on that brother-in-law from out of town. You need to work with professionals in construction, building and design who know the lay of the land—and local zoning laws. Considerations include:

  • Regulations regarding setback from property lines
  • Amount of “impermeable” (that is, solid) surface allowed, from pavement to house footprint/slab
  • Height restrictions and number of levels allowed
  • Any wetland areas to be aware of
  • Specific community, association or cooperative rules and regulations.

Reframe the view. From the beginning of a project through completion, the design is crucial. Think of a neighbor’s point of view and curb appeal in terms of resale. Appearance is paramount. An addition can’t just look tacked on. It should integrate seamlessly into the original architecture—or be a complementary annex. Whether more bedrooms, a great room for entertaining, master or in-law suite, gourmet kitchen, or all-season porch, the professionals at 3W Design can design, engineer and build any size addition to enhance your dream home.

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Plan to Enjoy Your Outdoor Space!

outdoor-living-pool-area

With summer so short-lived in the Northeast, it’s no wonder that we New Englanders make the most of it. A beautiful porch, deck, patio and garden is an extension of your home’s total living space, if only for a season. So why take any less care when planning and designing your outdoor oasis?

The key to an outdoor living space that looks like it naturally belongs there is plenty of careful preparation. Let’s look at it from a few important perspectives.

Safety First for More Enjoyment

  • Don’t have a water feature without a filter and pump. You may as well put out a flashing “Mosquito Spa” sign. Standing water is breeding grounds for mosquitos. Whether a simple waterfall fountain or complicated koi pond, get professional advice.
  • Don’t know much about biology, and even less about chemistry? If you’re installing a swimming pool, hire a professional to maintain it, at least the first season. Pools can turn into the black lagoon virtually overnight.
  • To avoid a truly shocking disaster, work with a licensed electrician when planning outdoor lighting and outlets, especially if they’re anywhere near water features. That goes for pool pumps and filters too. Water and electricity are a deadly combination.

The Birds and the Bees

A common mistake is swooping by the garden center the first warm weekend in April and scooping up dozens of annuals and perennials, then planting them too close together. Plants need room to grow! And in New Hampshire, it really isn’t safe to plant tender backyard-living-spaceannuals and vegetables until middle to late May. Frost and even snow can wreck a garden planted too early.

Keep flowering plants away from picnic tables, bars and barbeques that can attract stinging insects. Plants that attract bumble and honeybees such as bee balm, butterfly bush, black-eyed susans, poppies and lavender are also colorful and fragrant. But put them on the far side or periphery of the patio, so you can barbeque without a side of EpiPen.

Birdwatching is entertaining year-round, but place feeders over plantings or mulched areas, not a paved patio, and certainly away from seating areas. Bird feeders and bears: need we say more? Take them down by April 1 or you’re the April Fool. Do not feed the bears!

A canopy of trees provides shade, but overhanging limbs can be a hazard during storms. They also drop leaves, berries and insects, so, when designing a barbeque or fire pit, or an outdoor kitchen, keep away from trees. “Messy” trees or shrubs that shed dead blossoms should not be near a pool either because they complicate maintenance and cleaning.

But do plan for shade! Consider a pergola, arbor or awning where you need to block the sun.

Don’t plant shrubs with vining roots too close to patio stones or pavers. Mother Nature is powerful and cracks in the pavement can sprout weeds in one season. Speaking of hardscaping, pavement around pools needs to have a nonslip texture.

White tiles or pavers reflect light and will stay cooler than dark-colored tiles. But they get messy and may get stained by insect and bird droppings, or berries.

Alien Invasion

Not all plants make good neighbors. New Hampshire has dozens of invasive shrubs such as bittersweet and burning bush. These crowd out native species and can, in the case of bittersweet, even strangle trees. See https://extension.unh.edu/Forests-Trees/Invasive-Plants for ones to avoid.

shady-porch

Other unwanted guests are microscopic invaders: bacteria. Outdoor kitchens are great for entertaining but work with a professional to include cold and hot water for cleaning. You don’t want a food prep disaster to make your get-together memorable for the wrong reason.

Prevention is worth many bushels of cure, so work with designers to avoid pricey pitfalls when planning a patio, pool surround or outdoor kitchen and barbeque. Then enjoy your great outdoors for a few months! It won’t be long before the chill air and bright colors of October remind you of the stunning change of seasons here in New England.

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Window Treatments: Dressed to Impress!

You’re in an elegant opera house or theater. A hush falls over the audience as the orchestra strikes up the overture. Spotlights play on the massive folds of the heavy drapery as it slowly separates, revealing the stage set.

ceiling-to-floor-curtains

Draperies add drama, framing the view out the windows when open, and when drawn, creating intimacy and warmth. Since they began to replace wooden shutters in the 1600s, curtains and drapes have been fashioned in wool, silk, velvet, brocade, moiré, damask, chintz, linen, cotton, and more.

For maximum impact, drapes should go to the floor. (I know, being an inch or two shy of the floor keeps bottoms from getting dirty, but it’s like looking at something that doesn’t fit. And drapes that look like high-water pants make the ceiling look lower.)

Some lighter materials like sheers, silk or summer-weight draperies are meant to “puddle” at the bottom for dramatic effect, and look very elegant in high-ceilinged rooms. However, if you have pets that might like to adopt the “puddles” as a second bed or worse, like to climb drapes, these aren’t for you.

The peek-a-boo factor

Function comes first. Is the purpose of the window covering for privacy, decorative, or both? Window treatments have many functions, and can help insulate a room from cold or heat, and protect furniture and floor coverings from fading from direct sunlight.

When you have a beautiful view, large windows bring the outdoors into your living space, and window “dressing” acts as a picture frame. But there are things to consider beyond aesthetics, such as privacy and temperature.

Unless you’re on a mountaintop with no neighbors, you’ll have to factor privacy into your choice of bathroom and bedroom window treatments. (And in high-humidity areas like bathrooms, faux-wood blinds may be your best choice.)

full-window-coveringIn New Hampshire, if your bedroom faces east, you’ll want room darkening shades when the sun rises at 4:30 a.m. in the summer. In the winter, when the sun sinks at 3:45 p.m., west-facing rooms need windows that take advantage of every bit of light, and window treatments that can buffer drafts.

 

Crowning touch

Speaking of peek-a-boo, there are a number of different curtain or drape “toppers” that not only add style, they act to hide the hardware.

  • Valance: this adds softness and, ornamented with tassels, fringe or as a reversible fabric – color. Pleated valances add a more formal flair.
  • Cornice: Where valances are made of fabric, a cornice is stretched fabric over a box, or can even be just stained wood. They add architectural interest and elegance to a formal room.
  • Swag or scarf: not as popular as they once were, these are best for informal or casual, feminine, beach or lakeside décor when used by themselves. But they’re very easy to put up, and portable when it’s time to move—or for a seasonable changeover to, say, insulated panels in the winter.

bathroom-window-treatmentThose choices are nothing compared to the myriad of fabric treatment options: tab-top curtains hung on a simple rod (Colonial), café curtains (so sixties), velvet portieres with tassels and gold rope tiebacks (very Victorian/Baroque), balloon (cottage look), etc.

Other window coverings are blinds, shades and that oldie but goodie: shutters. (The first roller shade, by the way, appeared in the early 1700s.) Even here the selections are dizzying. There are shades and blinds with honeycomb for insulation and room darkening; slatted blinds in all sizes of wood, plastic or faux wood; cordless and with wands or remote controls.

Hang ’em high!

Well-made, quality window treatments should last a long time, making draperies an investment in your home. Here’s where working with a professional designer can make a beautiful difference.

Besides function and style, you need to consider room proportions, height and width of room and windows, and how you’ll hang them. How many panels will you need for fullness? How many inches to allow on either side of the window when curtains are pulled back?

bedroom-window-treatments

Did you know you can make low ceilings look higher with window coverings? (Hang the rods high—which means you’ll need enough length so the drapes “kiss” the floor.)

Lined, unlined, or interlined panels?

What materials are best to prevent fading?

Okay, enough questions! Working with a 3W Design team ensures you won’t make any inexperienced—or expensive—mistakes. We can make sure your window treatments set the stage for a stunning room.

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Choosing windows so you can see clearly (now)

custom-windows

Imagine living in a house without a window. You can’t, can you? Windows are your view of the world from inside your home. Light from windows lifts our spirits and keeps us connected to the view and perpetual drama of the weather outside, from the cozy warmth of our homes.

They’re also an important design element when viewed from the outside, contributing to—or detracting from—“curb appeal.” But beyond aesthetics, windows are one of the big drivers of energy use in your home. Old single-pane windows or windows with broken seals between double glass panes leak heat in the winter and boost air conditioning costs by letting in too much heat in the summer.

If you feel drafts, see signs of moisture such as fogging or ice crystals on your windows, or if curtains blow while windows are tightly shut, it’s time for a window upgrade. Let’s look at it in perspective.

Though a complete re-do, installing energy efficient double-paned windows can result in significant savings, lowering energy bills by as much as 10% or more. The economic benefits don’t stop there. Replacing windows also pays off when it’s time to sell your house. Buyers love to see that this major change has been made and it results in excellent resale value for sellers.

What to look for

First, look for the Energy Star rating, a government program that indicates that the product is energy efficient.

replacement-windowsWhen New Englanders buy new windows, they make it a double; double glazed, that is. A double-glazed window consists of two panes of glass with very little space in between for insulation. The space is filled with either argon or krypton gas. The gas is non-toxic, has no odor or color so you don’t see anything, but it provides the extra insulation value. Gas is better than just air in the space because it lessens heat transfer.

When you are replacing windows in an existing home, new window panes are fitted into the present framing and millwork. With an addition or new construction, you’ll buy an entirely new window. The frames around the glass may be made of vinyl (most prevalent), wood (traditional but more expensive and looks weathered sooner), aluminum (not ideal, can be too flimsy for larger windows and is not as energy efficient), and fiberglass (glass-reinforced plastic, a newer material that’s durable).

Aesthetics and energy value are only part of what you need to consider. What about building codes? In historic areas, you’ll be limited to wood frames, probably with muntins (vertical strips that make glass look like smaller individual panes), to coordinate with the colonial, Victorian, arts & crafts or federal style of the antique home.

Other code issues that come up on older houses are window size and placement in terms of emergency exit. Although she was hoping to put off replacing windows for another year, one homeowner who was renovating a hundred-year-old camp to make it comfortable year-round discovered that the building code had changed. To proceed with the remodeling, she had to put in different sized windows upstairs.

See a design/build professional

Another cost factor comes into play when you need custom designed windows versus standard replacement windows. If your federal style home has the old rope sash and pulleys inside the frame, you’ll need someone experienced working with them and will most likely have to have windows built to size, for example.

Condominiums, co-ops and association properties have their own standards and guidelines, and will most likely require you to use a specific window manufacturer.

kitchen-window-viewWhen the contractor pulls out the old window, take a good look. Is there any wood rot or insect damage in the wood framing? What about insulation? You may find there is no or little insulation around the window, or that it has settled to the bottom. Remedy this situation as soon as possible.

Because there are so many considerations when changing out windows, or selecting windows and sliders for a new home, remodel, or addition, it pays to ask questions, especially to experienced design/build professionals like the 3W Design team. Adding or replacing windows—whether fully functional like double hung or sliding glass doors, or static ones such as sidelights to a door or decorative arched styles—is a major investment and must be done right.

Variety of views

Additional options to consider are tilt-in windows for easy cleaning and buying single sash windows instead of double hung. The difference with a single sash variety is that the upper sash doesn’t move. Double hung where both can move are more expensive but good for households with small children (you can open just the upper part), and they’re easier to clean, especially for upstairs windows. You can get away with only one bottom screen with single hung windows.

New windows make your home sparkle! Rooms feel more comfortable, are quieter, and you’ll see the savings on your energy bills. What a nice reflection on you and your home!

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