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Top trends to inspire your outdoor living

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Outdoor living spaces rank first among special function rooms desired by consumers, according to the American Institute for Architects, and so homeowners are expected to be going all-in for the outdoors in 2018.

Trex Company, a maker of premium decking and railing, has gleaned insights from contractors, homeowners and industry experts to compile the following outdoor living trends that will dominate this year:

Year-round enjoyment

Among the biggest trends is a shift away from seasonality as consumers adopt more of a year-round mindset, no longer restricting outdoor living to spring and summer. Thanks to new high-performance materials and innovative design approaches, homeowners everywhere are transforming their outdoor spaces into multi-seasonal extensions of their homes. For example, Trex contractors have reported an uptick in requests for its RainEscape deck drainage system by clients looking to add multi-seasonal living space underneath an elevated deck.

Minimal maintenance, maximum enjoyment

Just because people are spending more time outdoors doesn’t mean they’re willing to put in extra hours for upkeep. In fact, high-maintenance materials like wood are seeing a decrease in demand as people are opting for offerings that deliver better performance and sustainability.

Unlike wood, high-performance composites resist fading, staining, scratching and mold — and won’t rot, warp, crack or splinter. No sanding, staining or painting is required, and food and drink spills wash off easily with just soap and water.

Comfy cozy

Among the hottest design influences right now is “hygge” (pronounced hoo-gah) — the Scandinavian term for a feeling of coziness and comfort. This year, outdoor spaces will beckon homeowners and their guests to relax and rejuvenate with hygge-inspired accents, from plush cushions and throws to protective pergolas, cozy warming features and outdoor lighting.

Residential goes commercial

While railing matched to the decking remains popular, an increasing number of homeowners are taking advantage of the complementary decking and railing pairings afforded by new railing materials in modern, metal finishes, as well as sleek designs inspired by commercial architecture. More homeowners are inspired by outdoor spaces they find in commercial settings, such as hotels and urban rooftops, and want to replicate those looks in their homes. A prime example of this commercial-to-residential trend is the growing popularity of horizontal railings such as rod rail — a sleek, industrial look that’s ideal for optimizing a panoramic view.

Hide and chic

With the increased usage of outdoor living spaces comes higher demand for chic decor and privacy. An easy design trick that adds personal style and functionality, lattice panels are perfect for enhancing privacy and concealing storage areas or unsightly views. With styles ranging from romantic to deco, lattice panels can be integrated into any outdoor area and applied to structures such as arbors, trellises and gazebos, or used as decorative wainscoting or deck skirting.

Fun and games

Kids are not the only ones who enjoy playing outside. Outdoor play spaces for all ages are on the rise, including everything from swimming pools and embedded sandboxes to regulation cornhole courts, horseshoe pits and dedicated spaces for volleyball, badminton and bocce ball.

Beyond yard games, electronics manufacturers now offer televisions and entertainment systems specifically designed for the outdoors, taking into consideration differences in lighting and outdoor acoustics. Meanwhile, new storage options include durable wall-mounted television and entertainment centers that beautifully protect pricey electronics from the elements, while concealing all of the unsightly — and potentially unsafe — cords and cables.

For more information about outdoor living trends, go to www.trex.com.

House & Gardens

Bathroom customization: Stylish options for styling needs

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The kitchen may be the heart of your home, but don’t underestimate the importance of your bathrooms. If you think about it, bathrooms are one of the most frequented spaces in the home. It’s where you go to rejuvenate and get ready for the day. It’s the place where you take the time to make yourself look and feel your best. A thoughtfully designed bathroom can start your day on a positive note and end it in a calm, relaxing and stress-free manner.

With this in mind, good design becomes essential. A well-designed bathroom has many elements that come together in a cohesive fashion. The space should not only reflect your personal aesthetic, but also adapt to your needs by streamlining your day-to-day routine. Finding a balance between fashion and function might seem challenging, but when you look to customization that incorporates technology, you’ll quickly see that creating a bathroom of your dreams is easily within reach.

Modular configurations

Whether you have a standard bathroom layout or a tricky design with boxed-in constraints, modular configurations are a simple solution. When you choose configurable products from companies like Robern, you’ll be able to select from a wide array of sizes, shapes and options to fit your construction needs. That means you can design an amazing bathroom experience in the tiny powder room outside the den as well as the large master bathroom suite. Thoughtful design and complete customization can help you maximize any potentially awkward space.

Storage and organization

Even the most exquisite bathroom can become a source of frustration if the counters are cluttered or styling tools are hard to reach. Configurable solutions — like modular vanities and multiple medicine cabinets creatively ganged — let you design a storage solution that fits your lifestyle. Robern engineers put cutting-edge technology into each product to simplify the bathroom styling process. For example, vanities feature electronic outlets for modern styling tools, strategic lighting for easy all-day use and magnetic strips for simplified storage.

Strategic lighting

Lighting is a fundamental part of bathroom design and highly influential to enhance your routine. While lighting can perfectly illuminate the bathroom, it doesn’t necessarily mean it does a good job of illuminating the face. Top lighting — common in bathroom design — casts shadows on the face, which is bad for makeup application, shaving and other personal hygiene tasks. Consider lighted mirrors from Robern, designed to strike the face from at least two directions, providing even illumination and minimal shadows. No matter what illumination you choose, keep in mind that lighting from all sides with adjustable features will increase functionality.

Fixtures and faucets

There are a multitude of choices that allow you to create a personalized and custom bathroom experience. For the shower, consider a variety of showerheads, raindomes, wands and ceiling shower tiles that elevate the ordinary to the extraordinary. Wall-hung toilets can be a subtle interior design statement that not only adds a cosmopolitan flair but also makes cleaning a breeze. For faucets, gooseneck or low-spout faucet designs are currently trending. To instantly boost the faucet luxury factor, plumbing brands such as KALLISTA offer an array of handles that can be selected with decorative elements including semi-precious stones and marble or onyx inserts.

Custom flooring

The bathroom floor is often overlooked as an opportunity to inject your own personal style with custom elements. Prefer warm and cozy? Minimalist and modern? Whatever vision you have in mind for your bathroom design, tile is always on trend due to its high performing functionality and variety of colors, patterns and textures. ANN SACKS offers an abundance of choices, from custom colors that can be created on demand to faux finishes that look nearly identical to the real deal (think porcelain tile that looks like wood). Add heated elements during installation to further enhance your bathroom experience.

With smart bathroom design, fashion and function can blend together for the ultimate in customization. To learn more, visit www.robern.com.

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House & Gardens

How to create the perfect, four-season outdoor living space

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Creating an outdoor living space will give you an extra “room” to enjoy in all types of weather, even as the temperatures drop. You can start small with an inexpensive patio set and charcoal grill on a new deck, go all out with a fully installed kitchen, fireplace and living room, or something in between. It depends on your budget and how you plan to use the space.

Here are some ideas for must-have elements in your perfect outdoor living space that will allow you to enjoy your back yard in style with family and friends all year long.

Deck

It’s the foundation of your outdoor space. Using real wood for your deck is the key to creating a natural, beautiful outdoor living space. One great option is Western Red Cedar. It’s resistant to rot, decay and insects so it lasts a long time with minimum maintenance. It’s also durable, yet surprisingly lightweight, which is one of the reasons DIYers and building professionals find it so easy to work with. It’s also a green choice. Woods such as cedar leave the smallest carbon footprint compared to any other building material.

Fire

There’s nothing cozier on a crisp night than curling up in front of the fire. Adding a fire element to your outdoor room creates the same sort of ambiance. Imagine gazing up at the sky on a dark, starry night while sitting in front of the fire and you’ve got the idea. You’ll find a wide variety to choose from, including decorative metal fire pits or bowls; chimeneas, which are earthenware or stone outdoor fireplaces; or full-blown, permanent fireplaces like you might find inside the house. Whatever you choose, the crackling fire will draw people and create a focal point for conversation and reflection. Added bonus: It will provide a heat source for chilly nights.

Outdoor kitchen

You can go big, creating a second full kitchen alfresco with a high-end gas grill, a wood-burning pizza oven, a fridge, a sink, storage for dishes and utensils, and a countertop for prep, or you can go small, with a simple grill. Either way, it’s essential to be able to cook outside so you won’t be stuck in your home’s kitchen preparing dinner while your family and friends chat on the deck.

Furniture

A patio table and comfortable chairs are a must, as are some Adirondack or other sturdy, comfy chairs positioned around your fire source. But beyond that, think about how you’ll use the space. Does a chaise or two for lounging with a book and a cold beverage make sense? What about an outdoor sofa and chairs to create more of a living room–type feel? Whatever you choose, comfort, durability in all types of weather, and the size (not too big or too small) are prime considerations.

Shelter

In addition to the standard umbrella for your patio table, creating shelter for your outdoor space lets you enjoy it in all types of weather. The sky is the limit on your choices: a simple wood and fabric canopy to shade your seating area, a more structured gazebo complete with mosquito netting, a decorative wooden pergola, or an outdoor sunroom or solarium that attaches to your home’s exterior wall. Get some ideas for great DIY projects, be it a pergola, a Tiki bar, a cover to protect your grill (and the grillmaster) from the elements, or for less experienced DIYers, a dining table, benches and chairs, by downloading free DIY project plans at http://www.realcedar.com.

Landscaping

The final touch is the yard beyond your deck. Extend your outdoor space with a patio, create a walking path with stone pavers, or add shrubs, plants and flowers that will cycle and change with the seasons, giving your space a fresh look as the months go by.

For more information about creating your perfect outdoor living space or to download DIY plans, visit http://www.realcedar.com.

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House & Gardens

5 steps to building and designing a sustainable, energy-efficient home

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For the 21st-century home, building with environmental sustainability in mind is a must. A sustainable, energy-efficient home makes the most effective use of building materials and natural energy. Many home builders look for new ways to ensure energy-efficiency measures are incorporated into their home features and construction methods. This not only saves money in the long run for the homeowner, but also reduces the impact the home has on the environment. Are you looking to build a sustainable home? Here are some options to consider:

Smart thermostats

For many builders, smart thermostats are the standard offer in new homes and are included in the floor plan to create energy savings over time. This smart technology can sync up with the homeowner’s mobile device to show real-time settings, goals and energy usage stats. Smart thermostats can be programmed to have set temperatures throughout the day to save energy when you’re not at home. For example, Clayton, one of the leading builders of prefabricated and site-built homes, has started including ecobee3 lite smart thermostats in all newly built prefabricated homes. ecobee is the inventor of the world’s first Wi-Fi smart thermostat and a leader in the smart home space. Smart thermostats are designed to improve comfort and efficiency, while saving homeowners on monthly utility costs and reducing their footprint on the environment.

Low-emission windows

Low-emission (Low-e) windows are designed with two glass panes to help block UV rays from entering the home during the day. By blocking UV rays from entering the home’s interior, the windows can help regulate the indoor temperature. Without this technology, the home’s HVAC system ends up fighting against the heat of the sun, especially during the hot summer months. Low-­e windows allow less heat to enter or leave your home through your windows and reduce the light’s ability to wash out colors in home fabrics. Low-e windows can help reduce UV-­induced fading of indoor furniture by as much as 75 percent, as reported by Energy.gov.

Green building practices

Green building practices, such as recycling and dust control, can divert several tons of landfill waste every year which has a positive impact on the environment. Efficient home construction methods that result in less construction waste help the future homebuyer save money by lowering the overall cost to construct the home. Sustainability is one of the core values of Clayton, where the company has adopted internationally recognized ISO 14001 green building standards for its home building facilities. This home builder closely monitors its waste usage and in 2017, the company was able to divert 17,476 tons of landfill waste using these green practices.

Drought-intolerant landscapes

It’s not just the building processes and materials that make a home sustainable. The overall landscape also makes an impact. Try methods like drip irrigation to cut down on wasteful watering. A drip irrigation system slowly drips water directly onto your lawn and garden through pipes that run along your yard.

Eco-friendly habits

Environmental sustainability is a lifestyle — there are many easy habits you can incorporate into your daily routine that won’t cost a dime. Simple changes like unplugging your electronics when they’re not in use, turning your thermostat down (or even replacing with a smart thermostat) and turning off the water while you brush your teeth can go a long way. Adopting habits like these is the next step to having a sustainable, energy efficient home, while keeping more money in your pocket to spend on yourself!

When you buy a home that was built with sustainability in mind, you’ll save energy while helping to protect the environment.

These eco-friendly methods will help you create a happy, healthy home. For more tips, visit claytonhomes.com.

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