Designed to Be Cool

cool-in-summerMany people escape the steamy South for the cool mountains in the summer, but sometimes, such as this year, even Northern New England feels the heat. It’s especially tough because many Granite Staters don’t have air conditioning.

But you don’t have to sit there and sweat. Here are some tips to help you beat the heat, no matter what style home you have.

Inside Job

When it comes to energy savings and comfort no matter what the temperature, having enough and the proper grade of insulation is very important. It’s also a relatively easy fix. (While you’re in the attic, consider an attic fan to draw heat up and out of the house.)

Our Biggest Fan

Ceiling or paddle fans are a Southern staple, but they are an efficient way to help cool a room and can even help distribute heat in the winter. Today there are styles to suit any décor or era of home. A gently whirring fan can make the room temperature feel as much as 5 degrees cooler than it actually is, according to Green Building Advisor.

Keeping air moving is key to feeling cooler. Ceiling fans that rotate “forward” or counterclockwise circulate hot air upward and create a breeze. (In the winter, reverse direction at a low speed to move heated air back down to keep you warm.) But you’ll need a fan that reverses. Some new fans even have wireless controls including apps for your phone.

Look out!

mountain-lake-view…Especially when you have a mountain or lake view. When it comes to windows, the bigger the better. Southwest-style haciendas that feature smaller windows to prevent heat from baking your house are no good for views. But you can savor your Western sunset without breaking a sweat with a few simple strategies that follow.

First, when building or remodeling and replacing windows, be savvy. Besides choosing the right insulation value, consider UV-blocking glass. Windows that block the sun’s damaging ultraviolet rays not only keep your AC from running all day, but prevent fading of furniture, rugs or carpet.

Not getting new windows? There are effective window films that install easily and function in much the same way. Plus, once installed, you’ll forget they’re there. Some films add security or privacy too. One manufacturer says the film can block 99% of UV rays, and can reduce heat by 78%.

Made for the Shade

Shades and blinds—maybe with liners—are another option. That way you can see through the blinds or shades when you wish but block out the sunlight (or cold) as desired. Plantation shutters can be a dramatic addition to large vertical windows.

Speaking of light, compact fluorescent light bulbs put out about 70% less heat than incandescent bulbs. Don’t worry–the light is no longer the sterile blue flicker you think of when you hear fluorescent.

There are many exterior options to tame the sun’s rays, from awnings, pergolas, external blinds (big in Europe—they reflect heat before it enters window glass), to light-colored roofing. Sturdy shade trees (think elms, sycamores and oaks) on the southwest side of your home are a sound investment.

poolsideA water feature can be cooling if only psychologically. Center a fountain within a tile, brick or pavered courtyard for a Mediterranean vibe.

When building your home or putting on an addition, cross-ventilation is key. Situate bedrooms on corners whenever possible so there are a couple of windows to catch a breeze and cool the room at night.

The roof can be designed in a lighter color to reflect heat, with an overhang or eave to shade windows and entrances. (But make sure it has a good pitch; snow lasts longer on light versus dark-colored roofing materials.) Overhangs have the added plus of enabling you to leave the windows open even when a cooling rain squall blows through.

Then there are passive solar basics:

  • Close West-facing window treatments and shades or blinds in the afternoon
  • Take up rugs from hardwood or laminate floors to make it feel cooler
  • Close windows in the morning to keep the house cool during the day
  • Open them at night when it’s cooler.

When contemplating new construction or a remodel, the design-build professionals at 3W design have the know-how you need to do everything right. If heat and high energy bills get you down, there’s no need to lose your cool. Just give us a call and soon you can be chilling out in comfort, all summer long!

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Design Your Commercial Space to Grow Business!

We all know how important first impressions are, and when you own a business or run a company, the stakes are even higher—and potentially more valuable.


A welcoming and well-designed corporate headquarters, professional office, retail or manufacturing space is an important extension of your brand. 3W Design’s design/build services can create a commercial environment that’s distinctive, expresses your brand, is functional, and even attracts and helps retain good employees.

Your people come first!

How do want your staff or employees to function or feel at work?

work-spaceAccording to the Labor Department, the average American works 38.7 hours a week, almost 47 weeks a year. Keeping staff (and yourself) comfortable, productive and happy is only one of the reasons why it pays to create a beautiful, efficient workspace. They are your first-line ambassadors.

Clients or customers are next

Back to the first impression, what signals are you sending to your clients or prospective new customers? A distinctive building or interior space that expresses your firm’s personality speaks volumes to potential clientele and customers. It’s another way of setting yourself apart from the competition, making your business singular and memorable.

Think about how you want guests and visitors to feel when they enter your establishment. What does your property say about your company, shop or professional practice? More importantly, what do you want it to say…

  • Trustworthy?
  • Dependable?
  • Distinctive, unique?
  • Fun, friendly, welcoming?
  • Serious or studious or somber?
  • Polished & Professional?
  • Efficient, hard-working?
  • Innovative?
  • Creative?
  • Eclectic?

High tech calls for a sleek, futuristic or industrial vibe, with grays and charcoal as neutrals. Here, soaring ceilings and exposed pipes of an old building can fit right in. For a pop of color, bring in contemporary art and/or paint the ductwork. (Pantone’s color of the year—ultraviolet—would work well with the gray neutrals and contemporary flair.)

A law firm may feature glowing wood paneling, stately built-in bookcases, deep jewel tones and plush carpeting for a quiet setting. Although legal libraries are online now, nothing says professional law office like a library wall of floor-to-ceiling books. Especially if the setting is a renovated mill building (keep some exposed brick), or antique home such as a Victorian.

art-spaceIn an art gallery, a good designer can ensure the artwork takes center stage, while incorporating all the behind-the-scenes details (office, ambient and task lighting, workspace) in an unobtrusive but tasteful manner.

Funky décor focusing on fashion as part of the design is perfect for a trendy boutique; don’t forget the sound system. Because fashion is always moving forward, a shop with movable modular displays and other flexible features can keep it looking fresh in any arrangement. (And draw customers in to see what’s new.)

For a pediatrician’s office, fun, bright, colorful and child-sized is key. The challenge is making medical instruments and gear look nonthreatening. Materials for work surfaces and furnishings must stand up to frequent cleaning and disinfecting, besides being durable.

There is so much more to think about when designing a commercial space versus a residence; considerations are a lot broader. Number-one is function (including safety). For example:

  • Acoustics
  • City and state building codes for commercial buildings
  • Lighting
  • HVAC systems (not just for comfort; for dust and germ control)
  • ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) requirements
  • Efficiency of work flow
  • Space for guests, clients, visitors (lobby or waiting room)
  • Employees’ comfort, ergonomically at a workstation, and overall culture
  • Warehouse or storage for product
  • Manufacturing space or laboratory
  • Loading dock, distribution center

Do try this at home!

home-office-designRemember your home office—you deserve a beautiful, functional workspace too!

3W design, inc. is an award-winning design/build firm who can plan any commercial workspace or property, efficiently and attractively. We’ll transform each area into a distinctive, branded workspace, whether you’re at home, in a mill loft, downtown shop, industrial park or a strip mall.

We can help you mind your business (keeping your brand top-of-mind) and set it apart from the competition—with flair and distinction. Feel free to call us to speak with one of our design/build experts at 603-226-3399.

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Building on Hope – for and with the Concord Community


Building on Hope, based in Concord, NH is an organization of volunteers including builders, designers, architects and suppliers who renovate buildings for nonprofits. 3W design, inc. was invited to be a part of the round-the-clock work on the Crisis Center of Central New Hampshire (CCCNH) emergency shelter. CCCNH is the only agency exclusively dedicated to working with survivors of domestic and sexual violence in Merrimack County.

As owner and president of 3W design, inc., Cheryl Tufts, CGR, CAPS, CPG has 30 years’ experience in designing, building, and remodeling commercial and residential properties. But she never imagined being part of a project to completely transform an outdated, 17-room, 100+-year-old building – in only 10 days onsite!

This isn’t the first time 3W design has pitched in to aid the community. As a longtime board member of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central New Hampshire, Cheryl said, “I really understand the issues that kids, women and some families face in Concord so much better.

“Several years ago, the director of the Concord Crisis Center of NH at that time asked for a donation or help with a bathroom countertop that needed replacing due to water damage. Between our fabricator and 3W design, we donated the counter.

“So, when asked to volunteer with this Building on Hope project, it was an absolute yes for me.”


3W’s team agreed to take on the largest bedroom on the third floor and third floor bathroom. “During the intensive week, I wondered why I was crazy enough to take on two spaces,” Cheryl said, somewhat wistfully. This of course had to include a bed and bathroom integration with a completely new HVAC system.

Cheryl added, “But to see the faces of the staff and CCCNH’s board of directors, knowing that growing the shelter from 14 to 23 beds means they will not need to turn away so many women and children, and that their environment is so beautiful inside as they help these families, was worth every bit of it.”

seeing the room

The renovation, with $500,000 in community funding, was a labor of love by more than 400 volunteers and hundreds of businesses of all types.

Cheryl noted that the project was extra tough for her and 3W’s designer, Alyssia Zevos, because their workspaces had to be delayed for installation of the new HVAC system. The HVAC was going through a scuttle attic into the attic with a small opening for access—with the only eaves entrance in the bedroom Alyssia was working in.

“Alyssia ended up putting together the entire room between Saturday and Sunday, Shelter Buildingfinishing Sunday a.m. at 11:55—with the big ‘reveal’ happening at noon,” Cheryl said, “truly in the nick of time!” She painted rooms, made 5 beds and a crib, hung drapes, and set up all the furniture to make a fabulous large bedroom that sleeps 6!

The Building on Hope projects’ results are well articulated on their website. “The structures and facilities of service groups are more than just buildings. They are like homes where lives are changed, and hearts are mended or strengthened. By enhancing those ‘homes’ we help these vital organizations in their work and bring renewed hope to their efforts. The benefits are far-ranging, helping not only the people being served by the non-profit, but also empowering and inspiring workers, volunteers of the groups and the communities around them… Building on Hope sees ‘hope’ as more than just a feeling. It is the most essential tool or building supply we have to make our communities, our state and our world into a better, stronger, happier place.”

The project volunteers’ accomplishments over the past two years have been amazing and they include:

  • The building, which featured an inefficient floor plan, was virtually gutted
  • The shelter’s capacity was almost doubled, from 4 bedrooms with 13 beds to 7 bedrooms with 23 beds.
  • Seventeen rooms were renovated
  • New HVAC and a security system were installed
  • There are new windows, flooring, and sidingnew-bath-design
  • There is an ADA-compliant bedroom, bath and kitchen; it’s wheelchair accessible
  • Bedrooms have new bedding, built-in shelves, desks, and storage.

“Living in Pembroke, raising our girls and helping with our five grandkids over the years has maybe sheltered us somewhat. With the Boys & Girls Club, I realized the other side of what some families have to deal with just to survive,” Cheryl said and continued, “It was the same with the CCCNH shelter project. For me and the 3W design team, it was a reminder of how fortunate we are. I feel so grateful that we could contribute our talents and expertise to the community for this cause.”

For more about Building on Hope and this project, see For more about the work of the crisis center, see

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From 3 Season Camp to Luxury Getaway

Everything old is new again!


One of the real estate trends here in New Hampshire is rehabbing old cabins and cottages on the big lakes and turning them into luxurious all-season getaways. Working with a designer, you can retain the rustic summer camp feel with today’s comforts, whatever your personal style may be.

Whether starting from a rustic cabin, kitschy cottage or ancient A-frame, consider:

  • Will you expand the footprint of the building? (In most cases, it’s yes!)
  • Is the foundation sturdy and stable?
  • Are walls free of dry rot, insect damage or pest infestation?
  • Will the layout remain the same or change? (Think about plumbing and structural rework.)
  • How will you insulate and heat the home?
  • Can the service panel accommodate today’s electricity demands?

The answers to these questions will tell you and your designer/builder whether your project is a teardown, gut job, or major renovation. (If you have enough property, you might also consider rehabbing the camp as a guest house and build your dream year-round vacation home next door.

From the bottom up

Old granite stone foundations are classic, but is the mortar crumbling, or has the cabin settled, leaving cracks? Shoring up an insufficient foundation—especially with today’s demands for multiple bathrooms, or another story above—is critical. And any addition needs its own foundation. If you’re expanding the footprint, you’ll need a current survey showing property lines and a run through the local planning and zoning department.

Changes in layout present their own challenges. Plumbing will need to be added and/or rerouted. The same with the wiring and electrical panel, which will need to be replaced to accommodate today’s household power demands. This includes adding more than the ancient standard of one outlet per room.

Plan for the unexpected.

One of the “charms” of old cottages is discovering that rubber insulation has been chewed off wires, or that there’s aluminum wiring—a hazard. A fun find: pulling out pages from a 70-year-old Sears catalog or newspaper that had been used as insulation in the walls.

That rickety porch that’s starting to sag from wood rot can last ages longer if rebuilt with highly durable decking made of composite material that never needs painting or waterproofing.

Wrap-around porches fan out to include multiple-level decking with a water feature, hot tub, patio, fire pit and outdoor barbecue big enough to handle a pig roast. Maybe with a wood-fired pizza oven on the side. Now you have three-season living and entertaining space outdoors.

Do you really want to fuss with maintaining a lawn? Instead, make the most of natural features such as glacial boulders, ferny groves, and consider care-free xeriscaping. Presto! You have your weekend back for boating, hunting, skiing, entertaining or just plain escaping.

Any re-design calls for new windows. For year-round comfort, replace inefficient and drafty single panes with well-insulated double- or triple-pane Energy-Star rated ones. A-frame-remodel(Newer designs are not only more energy efficient, they’re easy to pop in and out for cleaning.

“Up and out” are the watchwords for transforming a chalet, cottage, A-frame or beachy bungalow into a mountain or seaside showplace. Gone are low ceilings and postage-stamp decks or balconies. Beamed ceilings soar, second stories top a single story, with maybe a loft above that.

Make the heat a treat!

A fireplace—at least one—is a must, and there are so many choices. The simplest is gas, which glows at the touch of a remote, either natural gas if available, or from a propane tank. Wood-burning fireplaces are classic; no other smell says “Welcome to camp” as authentically. (The grandest lodges feature two-sided, see-through fireplaces big enough to stand in.)

A wood stove or wood-stove insert gives the glow, heats more efficiently, and can be loaded at night to burn unattended until morning. But pellet stoves look like wood stoves, without the hassle of splitting, hauling, stacking and storing wood.

In the luxury market, air conditioning is standard, even on a breezy lakefront; on humid nights you’ll appreciate it. But at minimum, ceiling fans move cool and heated air, directing it up or down according to the temperature outside.

Setting the getaway mood    

A simple and effective way to complete the classy cabin or luxury lodge look is with colors: weathered barn red or rust, matte sage to forest greens, mahogany, or dusty gray/blue. Popular metals are copper and pewter, or black wrought iron. Wood is a natural wood-interiorthroughout, whether in warm honey tones, rustic redwood, or gleaming polished golds; big timbers or classic logs, wood is good!

Picture blacksmith-style hardware on a sliding barn door, or a forest green metal roof. Wood, stone and nature’s colors (a green roof or trim) also help integrate your second home into the landscape.

You can have your heated towel racks and sauna while still honoring the original purpose of the property and the integrity of the old cabin. Complementary architectural elements can “echo” gables, timber style and size, or a farmer’s porch. Repurpose weathered boards or siding to preserve the truly rustic look and feel where you want it.

Another way to honor the home’s heritage is with artifacts. A couple ideas would be to create a shadow box with great-grandfather’s fishing lures and hat; mount canoe paddles, skis, or rod and reel over the doorway, or hang a fishing tackle basket on a wall.

One thing you won’t miss when transforming a family cabin into an all-year getaway: the smell of mildew or musty walls. Talk to the experts at 3W design, inc. about making your summer place and all-season getaway space. You’ll have all the comforts of home and go from camping to “glamping” in style.

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Your Life During a Home Renovation

It’s decided. You love where you live, and you want to stay a long time, so you’re going to tackle a major home renovation. All you can think about is the completed result and you can’t wait to start the project! Now pause. Before you write the first check, think about this: should you stay, or should you go during the work?


Demolition and construction cause lots of dust. Even if the renovation is closed off with a plastic zip tent and has its own air handler or filter (highly recommended), anyone coming and going will track fine dust on their shoes. Plus, the dust released every time the area is opened hangs in the air for a long time.

If anyone in the home has lung or breathing issues such as asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), the decision is already made for you: You really need to move out during construction.

Other reasons to plan for a temporary rental or sharing a home with friends or family include installing a new roof or another floor, if baths are being remodeled, or when more than half the house is being done (such as after a disaster like a fire). Having a baby or toddlers is enough reason too, as are pets, for safety reasons.

The 3W Design/build team does our utmost to “zip” construction dust away from the rest of your home. But you’ll still have daily noise to deal with: hammering, sawing and drilling, which can set your teeth on edge and make pets anxious

How long does it take?

After creating a comprehensive plan with you, your contractor coordinates everything: arranging for permits, debris removal (picture a Dumpster in your front yard), subcontractors including licensed plumbers and electricians, material deliveries, construction and inspections. Because of so many factors, any estimate is subject to change.

A kitchen remodel consisting of a full gut and moving/installing plumbing or electrical, could take six to eight weeks. If you decide to stay, there’s a lot to think about. Can you relocate the fridge and set up a kitchen in the garage? It depends on the season, and if the builder needs that space to measure, cut and saw.

Or maybe the refrigerator moves to the dining room. Appliances that will be your best friends may include:

  • Microwave
  • Toaster oven
  • Electric skillet (great for eggs, pancakes, grilled cheese)
  • Crock-Pot

But be careful what surface you have the appliances on. Unlike kitchen counters and a stove top, your dining room table’s hand-rubbed finish can’t stand the heat. Fire up the grill and eat outside when feasible.

Use paper plates and disposable cups whenever practical, but you’ll still need access to a sink for washing—maybe a laundry sink?

Got kids? Make it fun!

When it feels as if the kitchen job is dragging on too long, make it a challenge to eat at or get takeout from a different ethnic restaurant each night for a week: Italian, Chinese, Indian, Thai, Mexican, French, Japanese, etc. You may discover a new favorite! Or, hit a diner and have breakfast for dinner once a week. Chances are the kids aren’t as wigged out as you are over the construction chaos.

If we’ve learned nothing else from HGTV, it’s “expect surprises.” Those surprises usually have a price tag accompanying them, and virtually always add extra time to the job.

So, if you’re redoing your living or great room and/or expanding your kitchen and formal dining room for a milestone anniversary party or small wedding, leave a couple of months “wiggle room” in the contracting schedule.

Older Homes with Hidden Surprises

When the dining room of one 1765 colonial was opened to fix water damage from an upstairs bath, the contractor discovered the whole wall was rotted from foundation to rafters. Faced with an unexpected cost, remind yourself that you’re remodeling because this is your home and you hope to live there a long time.

A delightful surprise in an antique farmhouse was discovering stone walls behind the drywall in a bathroom redo. They were left exposed for a unique shower enclosure.

Plan to avoid scope creep.

Beware of “scope creep” and yes, we’re talking to you, the client. Homeowners are notorious for changing plans, adding items that aren’t on the original plan of work, and then wondering why the job comes in late and over budget.

To circumvent this, be prepared to spend plenty of time with 3W design’s team before a single work truck pulls up. For example, you may have your heart set on a Mexican tile, but if it’s back ordered, you may be asked to select something else you like that’s available sooner.

Once it’s in, typically early in the process, plumbing and electrical can’t be moved “a little to the left” or fixtures changed without delaying everything else—and incurring extra cost.

Time to Celebrate!   

Remember the before-during-and-after’s—photos, that is. We like “during” the project pictures to document the progress and provide some architectural history of your home. In a few months you’ll be enjoying your addition, new bathroom or kitchen so much that you’ll forget what it used to look like and wonder how you got along without it.

Waking up in the remodeled home you love is one of the most wonderful gifts you can give to yourself and your family.


Posted in Construction, Home Renovation, Redmodeling | 1 Comment

What Colors Are You Living Today?


We live in a world of color, which has the power to lift our mood, express ourselves, brand our lifestyle and even tell us whether we’re celebrating or commemorating. It’s part of our vocabulary: he’s feeling blue, she turned red, blushing pink with pride, purple with anger and so on.

“When 80% of human experience is filtered through the eyes, we understand that the choice of color is critical,” according to the authority on colors, the Pantone Color Institute (

The 2018 Pantone Color of the Year is Ultra Violet. What does this mean? It means you can expect to see ultraviolet in everything from paint colors to furniture and accessories to fashion. (Oddly enough, our eyes can’t see actual ultra violet light.)

Executive Director of the Pantone Color Institute Leatrice Eiseman describes Pantone 18-3838 as, “A dramatically provocative and thoughtful purple shade,” which communicates “originality, ingenuity, and visionary thinking,” Eiseman says.

Founded in 1962, Pantone created the Pantone Matching System (PMS), ensuring consistency of color in printing ink, paint and fabrics. Along the way the company made predicting color trends into an artful science, forecasting and influencing what color dresses, appliances, even cars we’ll be seeing, and creating brand palettes for clients based on color psychology.

Although there was no official color of the year back then, the fact that colors trend in popularity over time explains why you can see an avocado or harvest gold kitchen and immediately think “Sixties.”

Color is universal. Recognize any of these? What do they make you think of?

  • Minion Yellow (yes, it’s a thing!)
  • Fire-engine red
  • Emerald green
  • Tiffany Blue (see for the backstory)

Now picture the institutional green of old hospitals and prisons, and battleship gray.

What is color – really?

It starts with light, which is made up of waves of electromagnetic radiation on a spectrum. light-and-colorIt was Isaac Newton who discovered that focusing light through a prism broke the waves up into separate colors: the seven colors of the rainbow. Of course, he didn’t think of them as waves, but each color is a different wavelength, with violet being the shortest at 380 nanometers.

According to Eiseman, Ultra Violet is complex because purple is a blend of colors from the opposite ends of the spectrum. Red is a warm color, and blue is on the cool end of the spectrum. What’s important is how you want to feel in that room.

When you think neutral, you think of white (in endless variations) and beige (which doesn’t have to be boring, and with a spoonful of cream can be nice and warm). But any HGTV fan knows that gray is the new beige, from dove, to fog, to silvery blue-ish, to sophisticated pewter, dramatic charcoal, and “greige.”

If you’ve ever stared at the bewildering array of 2X2 sample chips in a paint department, you know how frustrating finding the right color can be. That’s where 3W design, inc. can help.

Nurseries and kids’ rooms have run the gamut, from baby blue and rose pink to gender-neutral sunny or butterscotch yellow, to primal primaries. Chalkboard paint comes in assorted colors now, so kids can show their true colors.

Dark typically conveys drama. Chocolate brown had its day; recent saturated colors have included aubergine (the expensive name for eggplant) or cobalt blue. Think twice before rolling an entire room in one of these colors—try an accent wall first. warns that yellow can be “tricky.” Though you may love it on that paint chip, on the wall it may be too intense. The pros at Houzz recommend selecting a hue that’s paint-colorsalmost beige; it will look much brighter on the wall.

Can you picture your traditional home with ultra violet walls? Maybe not. But as an accent color alongside other jewel tones (magenta, emerald) in fringed silk drapes, it could make for a dramatic late-Victorian parlor.

Thinking spring? For that fresh-as-a-daisy look, consider a spring palette of green (perhaps the 2017 Pantone Color of the Year, Greenery) and white, with a splash of pink or rose, and/or daffodil yellow.

What is color but reflected light? That’s why it’s vital to get a large-sized color sample, put it on the wall, and examine it at various times of day. Small paint jars make it easy to slap on swatches without committing to a gallon. (Be sure to get the sample in the same finish—flat/matte/eggshell or satin or gloss—that you plan on using.)

Just as there are people with an ear for music and those who are tone deaf, some people have an eye for color and others do not. And just as with music, harmony is key. That’s why working with a design professional when building, remodeling and decorating can make all the difference.

Crisp white trim is always in style, for example. But some palettes—khaki and browns– are better suited to off-white with a splash of cream. A cool gray palette needs trim with the slightest dusting of gray. It makes a difference.

Best of all, with paint there’s no fear of commitment. If you made a mistake, or when it’s time for a change, you just paint over it!

Though one person’s puce is another person’s carmine, there’s one thing everyone can agree on: life would be awfully dull without colors!

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Man Cave or She Shed: A Space of One’s Own


If you’re male and don’t yet have one, you want one: a man cave. Elevated in form and function from the old-fashioned snooze-worthy den, a man cave is an all-out expression of a masculine territory grab, and woe betides the woman who tries to put her stamp on it. In fact, according to psychologist Sam Gosling of the University of Texas, having your own space is psychologically healthy, perhaps especially for guys.

“Space is very important,” Gosling told Houzz editor Mitchell Parker, as a “powerful mechanism for evoking our emotions.” That affects emotional well-being.

Since most homes are decorated by women, and guys wisely defer, the “man of the house” is usually conditioned to live in a feminine influenced space and will go along. Hence, lots of men feel the need for making their own mark with a man cave, whether in the basement, garage or loft.

Themes for Him

A vinyl weight bench, big-screen TV, dorm syle mini-fridge and shelf of dusty trophies in the basement does not make for a legitimate man cave. Think broader and bigger, based specifically around typically masculine interests.

Picture a theme that resonates with you?

  • Wild West saloon or British pub, diner or arcade, billiards parlor
  • Indy 500 or NASCAR with a part of the room for your slot-car track
  • Hunting or fishing theme with mounts, antler chandelier, paneling
  • Sports, trophy case, memorabilia
  • Home theater with horror or sci-fi movie posters
  • Hero characters, memorabilia, collectible books
  • Total geek gamification with virtual reality technology

When the Gang’s All Here

Compared with its female counterpart, which tends to be a quiet space, a man cave is meant to be shared, where nobody’s “shushed” and guys can get rowdy. You’ll need to equip it for entertaining.


Consider outfitting your space with these appliances and toys:

  • Refrigerator, wine cooler or Kegerator
  • Pool table, foosball, darts, pinball, ping-pong, putting green
  • Giant TV with surround sound (size matters), theater seating
  • Video games or slot cars

Getting in Gear

The benefits of building your “no girls allowed” space in a garage include bigger toys: ATVs, motorcycles (and an extra engine or two for parts), racing bikes, tools mounted on the wall.

A half bath or one with a shower is helpful if you’ll be lifting more than 12-packs in your home gym, or tinkering with engines in your shop. While you’re configuring extra plumbing, what about a sauna?

Okay boys, so what’s your pleasure? If you need inspiration, take a spin online at Houzz, HGTV or Pinterest for more inspiration. You can even find a Little Rascals’ “He-Man Woman Haters Club” sign, should you desire one!

Her Time – Her Space

Because most of the home is typically her province, the female equivalent of a private space is often a quiet retreat or sacred space, not a place to party with pals.

Consider the “she shed,” which quite literally gets her out of the house into the backyard. Bigger than a gazebo, smaller than a guesthouse (though that would make a great hideout), a she shed can be a greenhouse or cottage-style shed (with windows of course), or a grown-up dollhouse.



You may desire a potting table for plants or an art studio; with a couch for lazy afternoon naps. They can also be craft spaces for pottery or maybe you’re into natural fibers and knitting. House Beautiful once featured a crystal chandelier for a she shed that included tea lights for lighting the space.

Practically speaking, in Northern New England, a separate space away from the house may not make the most sense, unless you have an old farmhouse with an undercover ell all the way. If your she shed isn’t insulated and electrified, it will only be a seasonal retreat.

Welcome the comeback of the Victorian parlor or sitting room. Today’s home design is big on “open concept,” but older homes were broken up into smaller spaces according to function. The parlor is where you received guests and held formal events, and a sitting room was where women gathered to read or converse; it often functioned as a sewing room.

Many of today’s homes have cozy rooms or nooks without doors that can be easily transformed into an “estrogen room,” as one musician friend dubbed hers. It contains her piano, CD player, a loveseat, books including her devotional reading, a family photo wall, and is decorated around a tea and florals theme—delightfully girly.

Fitted with French or pocket doors for privacy, a parlor can be an island of serenity within the home, where you can read, dream, craft, do yoga, play music, meditate, whatever your heart desires.

Dreaming of a special place in your home to call your own? Stop dreaming and start planning. The design/build team at 3W design, inc. can make that space a reality – for him and for her!

Posted in Home Entertainment, interior Design, Man Cave | Leave a comment

Decorating for the Peak of Holiday Season


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.


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.

Posted in Holiday Decorating | Leave a comment

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, 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 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 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.

Posted in Heating Systems | Leave a comment

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 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 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!

Posted in Lighting, Smart Home Technology | Leave a comment