Make the Most Out of Limited Kitchen Space

Living with a smaller sized kitchen? Whether you’re planning a holiday gathering or simply cooking dinner with family, don’t let limited kitchen space inhibit your hosting and dining dreams.

With some ingenuity – and a few storage solutions – you can transform a smaller kitchen into a fully functioning space that lives up to chef’s standards.

Check out these tips for making the most out of a smaller kitchen:

Find gadgets that free up countertops

Minimal counter space can be a challenge for the at-home chef, and storing things like small appliances and produce on your countertops eats away at available working space. Staying organized can help alleviate stress and create the feeling of a larger, more efficient kitchen.

If your countertops feel cluttered, storage solutions like pantry bins, drawer dividers, a rotating spice rack, mountable shelves, and an over-the-sink dish drain can keep items organized – and even out of sight.

Expand your working space

Need more room to chop, dice and mince? Invest in a cutting board that covers the sink. Best of all, any mess will be an easy cleanup when the cooking is done. Or, consider adding a compact, moveable island (or cart) that can add valuable counter space and storage. In smaller kitchens, the addition of a portable island can create the experience of a 360° area.

Make seating versatile

Does the size or layout of your kitchen limit seating options? There are alternatives to a traditional kitchen table that may better fit your unique space.

If your kitchen is outfitted with built-in bar seating, you may not need to add a table. Or, if you have space for an island, consider one that can comfortably fit chairs or bar stools on its perimeter. For a more traditional table, consider a folding style that stores small and can be expanded when needed. Some may consider a table that mounts to the wall and can double as decorative space, storage, or even a home office.

Use the walls

Running out of room? Go vertical! Blank wall space presents abundant opportunity to get creative and generate storage. Consider implementing things like pegboards and floating shelves. Plus, try mounting a magnetic knife holder, adding hooks underneath cabinets to hang coffee mugs, and putting up an overhead rack to hang pots and pans.

Don’t skip out on food prep

Especially when hosting multiple guests, one of the best ways to move fluidly in a smaller space and free up appliances is by prepping some dishes ahead of time. If you have the space to store precooked components of a meal, you’ll save yourself stove and oven space the day of the gathering.

Make use of other spaces for your guests

Ever heard the phrase “too many cooks in the kitchen”? This can feel especially true when cooking and entertaining at the same time.

If you’re hosting an event and don’t have a large kitchen space, avoid gathering your guests in the kitchen so you have room to finish preparing the meal. When possible, draw guests to the table or living room until the food is ready.

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6 Checklist Items to Make a Home’s Interior Ready for Winter

‘Tis the season for snow boots – and the mess they trail inside. Prepare the interior of your home now for wintry days ahead.

Have you checked the forecast? Winter is almost here – and some places have already received their first snowfall of the season!

For homeowners in chillier climates, now’s the time to prepare for the challenges of winter weather. In addition to turning off outdoor waterlines and stocking up on shovels and sand, it’s important to get the interior of the home ready for frosty temps, too.

Consider these checklist items to help prepare the inside of your home to withstand the colder months – and run smoothly throughout them.

1. Stock the entryway with winter gear

If you live in an area that experiences the harsh weather of the season, it’s officially time to remove summer items from the entryway and replace them with more insulated options. Store away warm weather shoes like sandals and bring out the boots and slippers. In bins or on hooks, find convenient space to store coats, mittens, and hats.

Invest in plastic or rubber shoe trays for each entrance to prevent dragging snow into the house. Some people even opt for a boot brush mat outside the door to wipe off shoes before stepping inside.

2. Make sure nothing is touching the heater

Redecorated recently? Whether the answer is yes or no, furniture can scooch around throughout the year with use. To prevent risk of damage or fire, make sure items like furniture, blankets, or drapes aren’t touching the heating system, including baseboards or a radiator.

The same awareness goes for candles. Lighting a candle is a great way to make a room feel cozy on a winter day, but be cautious when placing them throughout the house. Put them in exposed areas situated far from notoriously flammable items like drapes and curtains, holiday decorations, and more.

3. Switch out linens for warmer options

If your house runs cold, try swapping out lighter bedding for toastier options, including flannel sheets or a more insulated comforter. Also consider adding a few throw blankets in common seating areas to make evenings more comfortable.

4. Organize the garage for indoor parking

Home to yard supplies, sports equipment and outdoor recreation gear, the garage can get messy in the warmer months when people tend to park outdoors more frequently. Take time now to organize the garage, sweep the floor, and make room for a parked car. This could save you from the trouble of windshield scraping when overnight frosts and snowstorms arrive.

5. Reverse ceiling fans

Did you know the direction a ceiling fan’s blades spin determines whether it pulls air up or pushes air down? This little fact can help cut costs on energy bills throughout the year.

In the summer months, it’s best to have the fan run counterclockwise, blowing air down to create a cooling effect. And in the winter months, it’s best to have the fan run clockwise, redistributing hot air throughout the room. Figure out which way you currently have it running by turning off the fan, standing underneath (looking upward) and having someone else switch the fan back on. Pay attention to the first few revolutions.

Then, to change the direction of the blades, turn off the fan (wait for a complete stop!) and then flip the switch that is often found on either the motor housing or the base.

6. Clean up the fireplace

Whether you have a wood-burning or gas fireplace, make sure it’s in good shape prior to using it.

For a gas fireplace, ensure you have a sufficient supply of propane and, while the fireplace is off, clean the vent and glass panel of any dust and buildup. For a wood-burning fireplace, have the chimney inspected by a professional chimney inspector and hire a professional chimney sweep. These annual services will help keep your fireplace in pristine condition and safe to use.

Spending the first winter in your new home? Check out tips for preparing the exterior of the property for the snowy season ahead.

4 Ways to Prepare for the First Winter in Your Home

Have you recently moved to a colder climate with harsh weather? Plan ahead to get your new home ready for winter.

The winter months are right around the corner – and in some locales, winter weather is already here. It’s time to make sure your home is ready to stand up to the freezing temperatures on the way.

Will this be the first winter spent in your new home? If so, consider these steps to ensure the property is protected and prepared for the upcoming season.

1. Hire a professional to conduct an in-home energy audit

Conducting an energy audit may save you a few dollars off your electric bill in the winter months. Hire a professional to locate air leaks in windows and doors and identify other places to save on energy costs.

If you’re already aware of drafts in your home, applying weather stripping or caulk – or even putting a draft-stopping pillow in place – are relatively easy DIY fixes. As a bonus, you’ll likely notice a difference in the summer months, too, when better sealed areas trap air-conditioning.

2. Prep the fireplace for use

If your home has a fireplace, whether gas-powered or wood-burning, make sure it’s ready to use so you can safely enjoy its toasty benefits on cold days.

With a gas fireplace, start the winter with a sufficient supply of propane. And, make sure to clean the vent and glass panel of any debris (while the fireplace is off, of course).

With a wood-burning fireplace, have the chimney inspected by a professional chimney inspector to prevent the possibility of a house fire or carbon monoxide buildup in the home. Hire a professional chimney sweep, too, to spruce up a charred firebox and remove creosote buildup. Take advantage of still-temperate days to start chopping or purchasing wood and storing it in a cool, dry place.

Now is also a great time to test smoke and carbon monoxide detectors inside the home and replace batteries where necessary.

3. Drain and cap outdoor water pipes

When below-freezing temperatures are on the horizon, it’s time to drain any outdoor water lines (like a hose or sprinkler system) and turn them off for the season. If leftover water freezes inside pipes, you run the risk of pipes bursting and causing catastrophic plumbing issues and damage.

4. Gather the right tools for snow removal

If you live in an area where winter storms are common, make sure you own a sturdy snow shovel to help clear the driveway and surrounding sidewalks. A bag of sidewalk salt or sand are seasonal staples to keep on hand to melt ice.

If you recently moved to a new climate – or just need a refresher – check out local snow removal regulations that vary town by town and state by state.

While preparing for snow maintenance outside the home, pick up necessary tools for the car too, including a windshield scraper, freeze-proof windshield wiper fluid, and essential supplies in case of emergency, such as a blanket and flashlight.

Exterior Home Maintenance Tips for the Transition to Spring

Snow is melting, temps are rising, and grass is growing (though the ground still may freeze from time to time). In locales that experience the four seasons, these are a few tell-tale signs that spring is almost here.

For homeowners, seasonal change comes with care and keeping – inside and out – to maintain the property and repair damage.

With spring just days away, consider these maintenance tips and inspection reminders to help prepare the home for a change in weather.

Clean out gutters

Leaves from the fall, debris from winter storms and general grime (and pests) can easily clog gutters, preventing proper drainage. And with spring showers on their way, it’s important to ensure water has an unobstructed path away from the house, keeping the home’s roof, structure, and foundation dry and mold-free. Depending on your comfort level using a ladder, consider hiring a professional to do a safe and thorough cleaning job.

Complete a roof check-up

See any sagging spots on your roof? Or, notice any leaks from the inside of the house? With snow persistently falling and melting over the course of the winter, the roof could be subject to leaking. Locate any of these issues now and make a plan for repair before the rainy season begins.

Remove debris that may have piled up (think: twigs and pine needles) and, if this applies to your home, make sure you’re not missing any shingles. Like with the gutters, consider hiring a professional – and schedule a routine inspection while you’re at it! – if accessing the roof is difficult or unsafe.

Inspect the sprinkler system

Dead grass will be parched come springtime, so if you’re looking to have a luscious lawn, it’s time to check in on the sprinkler system. Check for damage to sprinkler heads as broken equipment can lead to patchy lawn watering and dry spots. It’s important to note that prepping a sprinkler system for warm weather should happen when there’s likely no more snow or frost in the forecast.

Prep windows for A.C.

Identify drafty windows now to ensure you have enough time to repair them before the first heat wave of the season calls for air-conditioning. A deep cleaning of a window’s frame and hinges can prevent pileup from obstructing its ability to open and close smoothly. For leaks, consider applying caulk around the window to reseal it. By functioning properly and containing cool air, windows can help save money on A.C. costs.

While you’re at it, take this time to change the air filter to optimize the efficiency of your HVAC system and improve air quality inside the home.

Wash outdoor furniture

If you have patio furniture, it likely got covered for the winter or stored away. Take the time to wipe down each piece and make sure nothing is broken. The grill could use some TLC as well – scrape, deep clean and degrease the interior, scrub the grates, and refill the propane fuel tank in preparation for future BBQs.

Audit the outside

There are many other components to exterior maintenance that are specific to each individual home. Walk around your property and take note of any tasks you can get ahead on or appointments with professionals you need to schedule. Planning ahead for services like mulch delivery, air-conditioning unit installation, lawn aerating and more can alleviate stress when spring finally arrives.

Hot Home Trend: Paint it Black

Black is popping up everywhere in home design, from flooring to windows. Black feature walls also are trending. Matte black finishes have become popular choices for hardware, decor, and finishes.

Take a look at some of the latest trends:

Faucets and Fixtures

Matte black finishes are mostly found in kitchens and bathrooms, often up against a white background for a high-contrast look. It’s being used in both modern and more traditional spaces. Matte black is an easy-to-maintain finish: No need to polish!

Also, matte black is increasingly appearing against brass for an even trendier look, which you can get in one fixture. Kohler is now offering a faucet that is half brass and half matted black—two finishes in one.

Black-Framed Windows

Windows are coming to the forefront. A black window trim can add an industrial look to a space.

Black Accent Walls

Few paint jobs are bolder than painting a wall black. But up against lighter colors, a black feature wall could provide drama to liven up your space.

Black Doors

A black front door can add some luxury to a home’s curb appeal. Black doors on white homes create a trendy farmhouse style, but the look can work on other home styles, too.

Source: Realtor® Magazine

What’s Trending in Kitchens for 2022?

The kitchen is the heart of the house where everyone congregated during the pandemic, and it’s still the go-to room for multiple functions—that means it keeps changing.

The kitchen became an even more significant heart of the home during the pandemic as the focal point for gathering, working, entertaining, and, of course, cooking, says Joe Fava, CEO of Fava Design Group in Miami. Now, homeowners are putting more into their kitchen space—literally. They’re buying larger refrigerators, freezers, and sinks, and second dishwashers and ovens, he says.

Homeowners are entertaining and cooking even more at home, and the price tag reflects their exuberance. Those who can afford to do so spend upwards of $100,000 on kitchen upgrades. But your clients don’t have to pay that much to get a kitchen they love. Much smaller, less costly improvements can make any kitchen more appealing.

Read more…

Source: Realtor® Magazine

Fall Home Maintenance Tips: From Raking Leaves to Mitigating Frost Heaves

Fall is the season of change, from the color of leaves to daylight hours to temperature. And during this time, homes face the effects of drastic fluctuations in weather as summer slowly fades away.

Before snow creeps its way into the forecast, take the time to prepare your home in advance for colder days ahead.

Assess drainage

Foliage is beautiful, but those fallen leaves can be pesky. Take time to unclog gutters to ensure snowmelt efficiently drains off of your home without causing damage to its exterior.

While you’re at it, have a professional address any leaks in the roof now before wetter weather identifies them for you. And at the end of the fall, don’t forget to drain outdoor hoses and faucets to prevent them from freezing, breaking or bursting.

Get the HVAC system in order

Don’t wait until the first frost to test out your heating system. Schedule a maintenance appointment with an HVAC professional this fall to guarantee you can be toasty in a moment’s notice. Check up on the filtration system while you’re at it – experts suggest replacing the filter in your heating system every two to three months to prevent buildup.

Invest in outdoor furniture covers

Once days grow cold, using patio furniture will be on pause until spring. To keep furniture in good condition – and to preserve your grill – look for heavy duty, waterproof covers. Purchasing these for preservation can help prevent having to replace items down the road, potentially saving you big bucks.

Autumn also marks the time to store away other lawn ornaments, like ceramic flowerpots, to prevent cracking.

Fix driveway cracks

Existing cracks in pavement will only expand and even crumble when water – or snow – seeps in. Concrete sealer is readily available at hardware stores and can ultimately save you from needing to repave the whole driveway once those frost heaves start creeping up.

Stock up on snow supplies

Ever been running late and can’t find your scraper after a snowfall? Stock up now on snow supplies like a shovel and sand for the driveway and a sturdy scraper for the car windshield. For those without a garage or covered parking, check out windshield covers that line the windshield end-to-end preventing snow and ice buildup.

If you live in a remote area, consider preparing a car kit for winter emergencies, including items like snacks, a flashlight, blanket, ice scraper, jumper cables and any other essentials.

Clean your fireplace

Deep clean the base of your wood-burning fireplace before it gets to work this coming winter. Schedule an appointment with a chimney sweeper to ensure all apparatus – including the flue – are safe and functioning accordingly. The National Fire Protection Association of America recommends having a professional inspect your chimney at least once per year.

Control airflow

Assess your home, especially windows and doors, for drafts. With weather-stripping, film wrap, physical blockers and other DIY methods, you can prevent the cold draftiness that often results from having older windows. While keeping you more comfortable, doing so can also help save money on heating costs.

A lesser-known tip for controlling airflow within the home is to reverse the direction of your ceiling fan. In the summer months, the ceiling fan should spin counterclockwise pushing down cold air. In the fall, reverse its direction using the button on the fan’s base to counterclockwise, which will pull cold air up and keep the lower half of the room warm.

Prep Your Home for Summer with These Exterior Maintenance Tips

Warmer weather has many locales feeling like it’s summertime already. But before you dust off the grill, remember the annual upkeep that ensures your home’s outdoor space is the perfect place for entertaining.

There are many quick and easy measures you can take to ensure your house is equipped for both the joys of summer and the elements (ahem, falling leaves and dry grass) associated with the months that follow.

If you’re spending time at home this long weekend, consider these home maintenance tips to get your space in tip-top shape for the summertime.

Sand the deck

Summer is the best season for outdoor entertaining. Most grilling (a BBQ essential) is done on the deck, so don’t let pesky splinters ruin the time you and your guests spend enjoying the sunshine.

If you’re dealing with aging or rough wood, sanding your deck may be a good idea. A smooth deck allows for a more enjoyable outdoor entertaining experience for everyone, guests and hosts alike. Hopefully, after a long evening in the backyard, your guests will all head home smiling and splinter-free.

Stock up on grilling supplies

Speaking of barbecues – take inventory of your grilling supplies before hosting the first cookout of the season. If you are using a gas grill, make sure your propane tank is filled up and ready to go, and if your grill of choice heats with charcoal, ensure that you have enough coals on hand.

Whichever grill you own, make sure to clean it before burgers hit the grates. Gas grills require high heat followed by brushing, while charcoal grills can be scrubbed with the standard sponge and dish soap.

Complete simple landscaping

The four seasons pose many challenges to lawn-upkeep: leaves in the fall, frost and snow in the winter, laying seed in the spring and watering through a hot summer. Use this time to get ahead on the landscaping that you haven’t given much attention to in recent months, like trimming shrubbery and fixing dead patches of grass.

Landscaping projects can be as small as mowing the lawn, adding a fresh coat of mulch to plant beds, plucking weeds from the pavement and planting new flowers.

Check the sprinkler system

The sprinkler system contributes greatly to your home’s curb appeal. Whether you have a built-in system or one that you arrange yourself, check that the mechanics are operating smoothly. For automatic watering systems, check that the sprinkler heads are unobstructed from rising out of the ground.

If you place sprinklers above ground yourself, check that all the plants needing water are being reached. Your lawn ultimately does a good job of telling you when you’ve missed a patch.

Have the roof inspected

Did you know it can be a good idea to get your roof inspected every year? If you haven’t yet, make note to have a roof inspection conducted soon. Not only could it save you money in the long-run, it’s also far better to catch a leak in its early stages than to fix the damage in the aftermath.

Temperatures Are Dropping – Here’s How to Save on Energy Costs This Winter

Winter is here with shorter days, afternoon sunsets and frosty temps.

With an increase in work-from-home flexibility and remote learning for children, chances are that in 2020, your electricity costs are higher than usual. And, depending on the climate where you live, it’s time to assess how prepared your home is to accommodate more time indoors due to frigid weather and dwindling daylight hours.

Snow is on the way and Wi-Fi use at an all-time high, so you may be looking for ways to operate a more sustainable residence. Consider these tips for reducing your household’s energy bill.

Schedule an energy audit

You can hire experts to inspect energy outputs throughout your home while looking for ways in which you can conserve energy. The goal is to ensure your home is running as efficiently as possible. To make that determination, the expert will take a close look at appliances – like your water heater – as well as structural components – like the insulation between walls – and determine if these features are working to the best of their abilities.

An energy audit serves as a roadmap, helping you navigate where to invest time and money in order to make your house as energy-efficient as possible.

Swap out lightbulbs

Nowadays, it’s easy and affordable to swap out traditional incandescent lightbulbs, the kind that produce electricity from heat, for more efficient options. Compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) and light-emitting diodes (LEDs) are two of the most common energy-efficient bulbs on the market.

Additionally, “smart” lightbulbs are becoming increasingly more popular as well, with options to set timers and schedule lighting to avoid wasting energy. Sometimes, these smart light fixtures can even be paired with voice assistants or controlled through smart phone apps for the utmost control over your home’s lighting.

Invest in an advanced thermostat

The modern advancements in heating and cooling technology mean your HVAC system can actually work with you to maintain a comfortable temperature and avoid wasting heat when no one is home. “Smart” thermostats are designed to internalize the homeowner’s living patterns and adjust the temperature accordingly and automatically.

Many of these smart thermostat devices are controllable via a smart phone app, which means that if you left the heat on high, you can turn down the temperature while away from your house.

Seal off windows and doors

You’d hate to be cranking the heat in your home only to find out the hot air is seeping out the front door. If your home feels drafty or has trouble retaining warmth, assess whether you need to better seal doors and windows. This can especially be an issue in older homes.

Found at most hardware stores, draft guards and DIY window and door insulation methods can seal any gaps to trap in heat in the colder months.

Switch the direction of your ceiling fans

Did you know that the direction your ceiling fan spins determines whether it’s helping cool or heat a room? As winter approaches, reverse the direction of your ceiling fan’s spinning to clockwise to encourage cold air to rise, as opposed to the summertime setting of counterclockwise where cold air gets pushed down.

To change the direction, turn off the fan (wait for a complete stop!) and then flip the switch that is often found on either the motor housing or the base.

Regularly replace air filters

When furnace and air filters become clogged, the build-up causes your HVAC system to work harder and use more energy to simply heat the house.

Regularly replacing the air filters not only takes a burden off of your heating system, but it also ensures you and your family are breathing cleaner air.

Give Back This Fall: Upcycle Your Unwanted Goods

We’ve spent a lot of time at home this year. A lot!

This means your storage space is likely cluttered with new hobby apparatus and unworn clothing – and, it’s most definitely due for a deep cleaning.

Good news: Fall cleaning is the new spring cleaning. As the holiday season kicks off, it’s the perfect time to find responsible, sustainable ways to dispose of unwanted goods. Consider these options for donating and upcycling household items that others may need.

Clothing, toys, other goods

When in doubt, remember that smaller thrift shops and donation centers as well as national chains like Habitat for Humanity, Goodwill and The Salvation Army accept nearly all household goods and personal items.

As you sift through closets and tackle the basement, keep in mind that you can donate most things: unwanted clothing, shoes, furniture, household appliances, children’s toys, sports equipment and much more.

Composed Living lists ways to dispose of other household goods, including electronics and paint.

Many donation centers have an outdoor drop-off option or an at-home pick-up service to safely upcycle goods during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Food

While you can’t salvage all food, you can typically donate most canned goods and unopened, sealed products to organizations such as food banks, rescues, pantries and/or homeless shelters.

Peanut butter, pasta, rice and canned goods are the most common donations. If you have perishable food to give, you can contact the organization to check if it will accept your items.

For food that donation centers won’t accept (but is still safe to consume), get creative and try to use it rather than tossing it in the trash. For instance, you can freeze overripe bananas and use them later in banana bread.

Linens

Your local animal shelter can always use old sheets and towels as bedding for the pets they house. Especially during the cold of winter, your extra bedding can keep dogs and cats warm. With nervous chewing and accidents – you know, general puppy mannerisms – shelters and rescues go through a lot of blankets.

If possible, wash and dry any linens before you donate them.

Books

Most charity centers and local libraries will accept new and used books. In the U.S., chain donation organizations as well as veterans’ associations and retirement homes are always on the lookout for reading material.

Becoming Minimalist lists 20 useful places to donate books that benefit people of all ages.

As you clean your home in preparation for the winter, it’s always nice to consider those you can help this holiday season.