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February 2018

Saving Space with Bunk Beds

With many homeowners finding space at a premium, there are few additions to a kid’s room that make more sense than a bunk bed. And while most of us think of the basic, stacked, twin bed designs that we slept on at summer camp, these beds have gone through a renaissance as of late. Whether you need your kids to share a room, are looking to maximize the space in a room they already have, or just need an extra bed in your home for surprise guests, bunk beds are a great product to look into.

The Traditional Bunk Bed
At its heart, the basic idea behind bunk beds hasn’t changed. You can sleep two kids in the space a single bed normally takes up. If you’re short on bedrooms, can’t give up that home office, or just want to take advantage of the bonding that takes place between siblings when they share a room, any bunk style bed will do the trick. It’s a two for one option that many parents just can’t pass up.

Safety First
Of course these beds do come with a few safety concerns that a single twin doesn’t, and all involve the fact that one of the beds sits about 5 feet off the ground. Make sure you buy a bed with railings on both sides of the top bunk if you can. Many beds don’t come with the wall-side rail, which is a mistake. A kid can slip between the mattress and wall and get hurt just as bad as if they go over the edge facing the open room. Also, make sure the rails are placed close enough together so your child can’t slip through or get stuck between them as they thrash around at night. Be sure your ladder ties into the frame of the bed so that your kid doesn’t take a tumble climbing up and down, and finally, don’t ever let your kids use their bunk setup as a gymnasium. It’s a recipe for disaster, and doing so makes a trip to the ER just a question of when not if.

Beyond the Standard Fare
Like I said before, these beds have undergone some changes over the years. Loft beds, or bunk bed designs without a bottom bunk, have grown increasingly popular as today’s kids seem to need office space of their own. That space under the top bunk is usually transformed into a desk and computer area for getting their homework done. Lofts also allow for a lot of extra storage space in the form of built in drawers and closets, meaning you can get rid of some of that other furniture that’s taking up valuable space. Many lofts also have a built in couch or futon underneath, making for a nice hang out spot for your youngsters to take a load off and read their favorite book during quiet time.

Bunk Beds as Guest Beds?
This suggestion might sound a little out of sorts, but if you’re short on extra bedrooms it can be a lifesaver when company shows up. Instead of setting up a guest room, purchase a bunk setup with a full size bottom mattress. It’s not the ultimate in privacy, but you’ll find that most adults actually enjoy the trip through memory lane. That and your kid will love having a sleep over with grandpa and grandma snoring away in the bunk below.

Finally, if you’re fun loving and have the means, look into more creative, custom bunk designs as well. Bunk beds are being sold that look like tree houses, doll houses and even castles, and often have a slide attached to make springing out of bed in the morning a little more fun. Kind of goes against the “no jungle gym” rule, but I guarantee you won’t hear any complaints from your kids about it. Just a high pitched scream of delight as they slide down in time for the morning cartoons.

Floor Cleaners

Keeping your home floors clean is a necessary part of maintaining your home’s appearance. It requires diligence, especially in areas with a lot of foot traffic. Carpets are notoriously difficult to keep clean, but hardwood and laminate flooring must also be maintained to make sure your floors are looking their best. Investing in floor cleaners and floor cleaning equipment will reduce the time and energy you need to spend cleaning your floors and, in general, result in cleaner floors.

Floor Steam Cleaners
The most difficult type of floor to maintain is carpet. Many floor cleaners are specifically designed to clean carpet for this very reason. Floor steam cleaners can remove the typical dirt and grime that gets tracked into your carpet fibers. The process isn’t too difficult but it’s more involved than would be practical for part of your weekly cleaning chores. Most homeowners who know this try to keep dirt off their carpet as much as possible, vacuum weekly or several times a month, and only occasionally break out the steam cleaner. If this is your situation, you might not even want to purchase your own floor steam cleaner and, instead, hire professional carpet cleaners to come in twice a year to revive your carpet.

On the other hand, while floor steam cleaners are most often used for carpets, they can be used for other types of flooring as well. Investing in a high-powered, adjustable steam cleaner will allow you to clean, not only your carpets, but can even get the oil stains out of your garage floor. The major disadvantage of floor steam cleaners is that they require deft handling. Improper use or employing steam cleaners that have fallen into disrepair can damage your floors. Your floors will also have to be protected as they dry after the cleaning, although most steam cleaners will leave floors that dry after 2-6 hours.

Hardwood and Laminate Floor Cleaners
Hardwood and laminate floors are not only classic, elegant installations, they’re also the easiest to maintain and clean. The first, big step you can do is simply to sweep or vacuum the floor regularly—although if you’re vacuuming, use a soft brush extension. There are expensive floor cleaners out there, but vinegar and water can work just as well on laminate flooring. Whatever you use, try the cleaning solution on a small, inconspicuous area the first time before proceeding to the rest of the floor. If you’re in doubt, the flooring manufacturer is usually the best source of advice. If they try to sell you an expensive cleaning product, however, watch out for a scam. These cleaning products are often unnecessary.

Hardwood floors usually require nothing more than water, unless your hardwood has been stained. The biggest danger with hardwood flooring is moisture damage, so use the water or cleaning solution as sparingly as possible when cleaning your floor.

The First Step of Floor Cleaning is Choosing Your Floor
One of the most common mistakes in home improvement is becoming obsessed with the look of a new home improvement installation. As infatuated as you might be with your new home or home remodel, the ability to maintain that look is probably more important in the long run. Pick a floor that you can afford, but also one you can afford to maintain. This may mean actually splurging on your initial floor installation, but can be worth it in the long run. Carpet is a cheap floor covering, but your floors may have to be re-carpeted several times over in the same lifespan as a hardwood or laminate floor. In fact, it may be worth it to take out a small homeowner’s loan to ensure a floor that won’t require further financial investments down the road.

Details Make Home Offices Work

These days, more and more people are taking the bold step of doing at least part of their job at home. A 30-second commute has a lot of appeal, but increasingly, people are opting to work at home in order to create a more humane schedule that allows for more flexibility to attend to family joys and responsibilities. As anyone who has been down this road can tell you, however, working at home has its down side as well. By planning wisely and upgrading appropriately, you can make your home office an excellent work environment where you will be comfortable as well as motivated.

Home Offices that Fit Your Lifestyle and Work Habits
Many people prefer to locate their offices away from the rest of their living space. Attics, basements, and rooms over detached garages are ideal places to locate your residential office. Parents, however, may be in the unenviable position of needing to work in their office while monitoring the kids. Moreover, not all home offices are for at-home employment. Many people use office spaces for writing, reading, musical composition, etc. Hiring an interior designer with specific experience with residential office spaces—and rates to match this minimalist space—can be invaluable in designing the right space for your needs.

Custom Desks, Chairs and Furniture
You might be able to find “acceptable” office desks and chairs from your local furniture store, but your home office is an investment. Many people use their offices every day, or nearly every day. To maximize productivity and minimize stress, joint pain, and poor posture, you may want to splurge on a custom-built desk and ergonomic office chair. Indeed, a finish carpenter can deliver all sorts of custom amenities that aren’t symptoms of indulgence but smart investments for one of the most productive areas of your home and your work life.

Design a Home Office Environment for Visitors
If there is any chance that you will have visits from colleagues, your boss, vendors, subordinates, partners, clients, or others, you must pay special attention to the kind of statement your work environment makes. Whenever possible, have a separate outside entrance so that visitors don’t have to traipse through private family spaces to get to your office. It is very difficult to project a sense of professionalism when you have to pick up toys or laundry en route to your meeting. In most traditional office environments, you have the use of a conference room for meetings. But if your work area stays neat and has room for another table, you may be able to create your own mini-conference area.

Ideally, the office area should have its own bathroom that is off limits to family members. This makes it easy to keep it especially clean and free of the clutter that inhabits the typical domestic bathroom. If you can’t swing a separate bathroom, consider designating one of the family bathrooms for office use. You might want to add additional storage in the bathroom to minimize clutter and make it easier to keep clean.

Wiring and Communication Needs
It usually makes sense to have at least one separate phone line exclusively for your office. If you use the Internet, faxes, or e-mail extensively, additional lines are a good idea. A separate business line allows you to use a professional voicemail or answering machine message. It also gives you the option of using call-forwarding if you occasionally work from another location. A designated business line also makes it easier to keep youngsters from intercepting your important business calls. And, at the end of the day, you can leave the business line to the answering machine or voicemail without missing calls from friends and family.

Another common issue with home offices is electrical power. Copiers, laser printers, and computers use a lot of juice. Check with an electrician about adding a couple of circuits so that you don’t have to worry about tripping the circuit-breaker every time you make a photocopy. More than convenience, you also need to hire a qualified electrician for safety. Many office spaces weren’t originally designed to handle any sizable load-bearing circuits and advanced electrical devices.

Don’t Forget Home Office Ground Rules!
No matter how well designed your workspace is, you will have to establish basic ground rules for you, your family, and even visitors. If you find yourself making continual raids on the refrigerator, you may need to establish a rule for yourself that limits trips to the kitchen to meal times. A separate business phone line isn’t much use if family members routinely turn to it when the main family line is tied up, and your “conference room” won’t serve its purpose if it becomes a hide-away for empty boxes, half-finished puzzles and spare camping equipment!

Small Space Remodeling

Most of us wish that our homes were larger, but the obvious solutions like building an addition or moving to a bigger place are simply not an option in many cases due to budget restraints. There are, however, some excellent small space solutions out there that can either physically increase your living space inexpensively, or at least give an area the appearance of being bigger.

Making Small Spaces Look Bigger

For many people, the most cost-effective remodeling ideas are focused on increasing living space without increasing the size of the home. Sound impossible? It’s not. One way to make small spaces look bigger is to better integrate indoor and outdoor living areas. In many homes, especially those that are a decade old or more, the indoor and outdoor areas are completely cut off from each other, but by blurring the line between inside and outside, you can give the feel of more space without actually having to add on.

Small Room Ideas: Windows and Glass Doors

Architects and designers have understood for years that, when creating physical space is just not practical, the illusion of more space can really go a long way. If you take a 10 ft. x 15 ft. room with windows and another without and ask people who’ve just been in both rooms, “Which room was larger?”, nearly everyone will say the one with windows. Of course it isn’t larger, it just feels larger. So, the simplest way to combine indoor and outdoor spaces is to add or enlarge windows. The bigger the window, the greater the feel of added space. A similar effect can be achieved with groups of windows. If you take an existing window and add sidelights (vertical windows flanking either side) or a semicircular top light, you can really open up and brighten a room.

Sliding glass patio doors are a small space solution that will enhance the look of a room and provide the option of physically connecting the inside with the outdoors, as well. Glass doors not only increase the feeling of space, they also allow you to move freely into the outside; add an awning or even some patio furniture and you’ll essentially be expanding the living space of your home. When you find yourself heading outside to open the mail or relax with a glass of iced tea, you’ll begin to fully appreciate the benefits of integrating the spaces.

Small Room Ideas: Painting

Proper color choice is another tool in making a small room look bigger. Lighter colors open a space up and darker colors pull a space in, so if you’re dealing with an already small space, dark paint or dark stained wood paneling are your enemies. While painting a solid color on walls or ceilings can make a difference in how big a room feels, some folks have combined this small space solution with the openness provided by windows by actually painting a large window on the wall. It sounds a bit silly, but you’d really be amazed at how much bigger a room feels with even a faux window. While your painted window won’t have all of the same benefits of a real one, faux windows offer one very interesting perk: the view from them isn’t limited to your location. If you want a painted window to overlook the Eiffel Tower, the Great Pyramids, or even a sunset from a memorable vacation, it is well within your reach.

Small Room Ideas: Furniture

One of the biggest factors in making a small room look bigger is the furniture you choose. Putting a full-sized couch in a cramped space only serves to make the room less navigable; opting for a loveseat frees up space and allows you more room to breathe. Storage is a must in small rooms, but a busy bookshelf can scream clutter; choosing end-tables, coffee tables, and foot rests that also provide storage space kills two birds with one stone. For a more permanent solution, consider custom made built-in furniture; it’s expensive, but there’s simply no better space saver on the market.

Most of all, remember that the most effective small space solution is good planning. Almost any room can be made to function better if it is planned out before it gets outfitted, and in a small space, getting the most from what you’ve got is essential. If you’re working on a small space that is new to you, keep it empty until you know exactly how everything should fit together; if you’re dealing with an existing small space, clearing it out completely will give you clean palette and a better idea of what options are possible. A good interior decorator or designer can be very beneficial, but if you take your time and consider your choices carefully, just about every homeowner can come up with a few small space solutions that will fit perfectly with his or her tastes!