Sunday, 24 June 2018

Renos Where to Start #8 Top 10 Mistakes to Avoid in DIY Renovations

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With the advent of DIY and home renovation TV shows, home renovations and remodeling has been on the rise. Other than the recession of 2008, home improvement and repair expenditures has increased by over 120 billion USD since 2001.

More and more people are jumping into renovations with two feet, taking on new challenges and getting their hands dirty. But with any DIY type endeavors, there are bound to be mistakes made.

Here are our top 10 Mistakes to Avoid in DIY Renovations. 
  1. Design Planning
    • Hiring a designer can be costly on a tight budget or for a small project but they have vast knowledge and experience.
    • Ever walk into a room and think "what where they thinking?" Remember the trampoline in the living room
    • The more complex the room the more there is to consider. Kitchens & bathrooms,  Electrical, plumping & HVAC have not only key things to consider but specific codes that need to be followed for the safety of your family and home.
    • If you are in charge of design, take your time and do your research.  
  2. Project Planning 
    • How to go about the renovation.
    • What should be done first, second,...?
    • All too often people start pouring cement for a new deck and slapping up drywall without building permits, or electrical inspections.
    • Planning not only involves picking colors and appliances but also organizing ordering of materials, scheduling contractors & inspections. Poor planning can be costly and frustrating. 
    • A cement truck arriving when the site and people are not prepared is not cheep.
  3. Not Knowing When to Contract Out the Work 
    • Knowing your limits.
    Now What?
    • You spend thousands of dollars on structural work, electrical work, insulation etc for your new master bedroom only to take on the task of drywall taping and mudding yourself. 
    • Drywall taping/mudding is a very unique set of skills and it is literally the finishing touch on your project. A poor job could create cracks in the taping and bumps in the mud that may not be evident until the painting is all done and you're laying in bed looking up. 
    • We are not all plumbers, electricians, drywallers, builders and designers. 
    • Know your skill set and work within it.
  4. Time Management
    • My uncle once told me of a friend he knew that hand measured out the placement of every drywall screw (not guide lines, every screw) when finishing his basement. That's 48 screws per 4' x 8' sheet. While that's awesome attention to detail, it is not necessary to be that accurate.
    • The value of a journeyman is that they know where to spend the time on the details and where not to. Watch a journeyman in any trade and they are methodical and patient. They take the time in the prep/planning phases, spend an extra 5-10 mins setting up there equipment, truing up the blades and guides. 
    • In the end DIY's spend more time sweating the small stuff, worrying about aspects that are not needed. 
    • Consider what is the purpose or focus of the particular stage you are on. Finishing work, take your time, rough construction doesn't need to look pretty.
  5. Going over budget
    • Add 25-30% to your planned budget. 
    • If this is your first time hanging drywall, buy an extra sheet. First time tiling or laying hardwood, ensure the company has LOTS of extra stock for those missed measurements.
    • There are going to be unforeseen expenses for any project: hidden water damage, mold, below code structural aspects. 
    • When we built our first home, the lot was sold as serviced, only to find out the services were ancient and had to be brought up to code. $15 000 was added to the build before we even got started. 
    • BUT if this is your first time there will be unforeseen expenses simply because you didn't know that they existed. 
  6. Shinny Object Syndrome
    • Bathroom renovation. You walk into the bathroom show room and the sales person does there job.
    • Don't be distracted by the newest, the fanciest displays. Set your budget for each item. Toilets, sinks, light fixtures, appliances. If you see something that is above your set value, stop and take the time to see how it effects the budget. 
    • If you don't keep track of an extra $50 here, $200 there you will be surprised how much it adds up in the end.
  7. Gold Faucet on an Ikea Vanity
    • Consider the age, style and the value of your home. The neighborhood you live in.
    • Don't put in a $20 000 bathroom in a home valued at $300 000. 
    • At the same token, discount kitchen cabinets in a $500 000 home could actually devalue your home. 
    • Ensure the renovation scale, features, appliances etc, are proportionate to the value and design of your home. 
  8. Poor Allocation of Funds
    • This ties into #7
    • You most likely don't need a gold toilet. You are better off spending a little more on an experienced drywaller. 
    • Quality kitchen cabinets come from quality materials. Cheap hardwood is, well, cheap.
    • If you have hard water in your area, a water softener is a good investment.
    • Spending your budget in the right areas will pay off ten fold in the time to complete the project and the overall quality of the project. 
    • Get three quotes for any contracted work and check references. I saved over $60 000 when building our home through this process. Better doesn't always mean more expensive, but you better check.
  9. Lack of Knowledge
    • This has come up in every point so far. 
    • This is why its called DIY. The entire point is that this is a journey for you. An opportunity to learn new skills and knowledge. To take true ownership of your home and pride in making it your own. 
    • Do your research. If the renovation is going to take a week, spend a month planning. If it will take a 1-2 months to gut the kitchen spend 6 months designing and planning it out. 
    • Minimize issues by planning and then planning some more.
  10. Lack of Experience 
    • You can't fake experience, so don't.
    • If you don't know how to use a table saw, don't. Get someone to walk you through the process.
    • Ask questions.
    • Hire a contractor that is willing to work with you and have you as their assistant. You're paying them, learn from them.
    • Be on site but don't get in the way. Watch how professionals work. 
    • Got a friend that has a trade? It's amazing how hard friends will work for the promise of a cold beer and a BBQ. 
Know your limits. Do your research and ask questions, as many questions as you need, from experts you trust. Completing DIY projects can be incredibly rewarding. Start with small, safe projects and scale up as your skill set and experience increase. Know when to stop and ask questions so that you can have a safe and rewarding final product.

What are your thoughts on our Top 10 Mistakes to Avoid in DIY renovations? Anything we missed? Share in the comments section.

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Monday, 18 June 2018

Outdoor Lighting Design

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A number of years ago, a young boy was taken from his home in the middle of the night in a near by community. It's hard to imagine of a bigger nightmare for a family. He was thankfully found unharmed and the perpetrator was arrested. Later that summer a door to door home security salesman came to our home and yup, we signed up, believing that a home security system would help to protect our family and our belongings.

We are not alone. Home security solutions in the US has increased by almost $1 billion USD in the last 5 years approaching $4.69 billion USD in 2017 according to
The top three crimes people worry about the most are often related to online activity, identity theft, email hacking and stolen credit numbers. After that, home burglary when you are not home, is next on the list before car theft and getting mugged.

Often considered to be the first and most simplistic approach to home security is exterior lighting, but how effective is it at deterring a robbery? Is that it's main purpose?

After reading the research presented by The Crime Prevention Website's article on The Benefits and Limitations of External Lighting it made me reconsider what the purpose of external lighting is for my home and family. The article brings to light (pardon the pun) the reality of how effective external lighting is at actually protecting my home and to its real purpose.

The reality is that exterior lighting is more for the home owner and their safety in and around the house at night, than it is for burglary prevention. In fact, the question to ask oneself as presented in The Benefits and Limitations of External Lighting:

"Who will benefit from this particular exterior light the most, the home owner or the burglar?"

For example we have motion lights on our detached garage, but the lights around the man doors are behind a 6 ft solid fence. If the lights turn on due to a burglar the light will actually make it easier for the burglar to do their work and not actually make them visible to a passing car or my neighbors due to the fence. So what's the benefit to having the lights in these locations? Well for safety for my family and I as we go to and from the garage at night. Ultimately not for burglary prevention.

So how do you use external lighting effectively? It can be broken down to these three considerations:
  1. Security
    • Lighting can be effective at home security, however it is not external lighting, it's internal lighting.  
    • Think Home Alone, the movie, when Kevin pretends there is a party inside? The appearance that someone is home due to interior lights being on, is more of a deterrent then outside lights. 
    • Exterior lights that illuminate an area that CAN be seen by someone else (neighbor etc.) or an area protected by a camera can be effective at crime prevention according to The Crime Prevention Website.
    • The key is to give the impression that someone is home. 
    • Remember, most home robberies occur during the day while the home owners are at work and school. Growing up, my neighbors home was robbed three times in one year, each time during the work day. 
  2. Safety
    • Illuminating pathways and entrances.
    • Ensuring stairs are adequately lit to prevent tripping and/or falling.
    • Motion lights can be effective in areas that are not occupied such as out buildings as they turn on as you approach. 
    • As we installed in our previous home, lights placed on a solar sensor can turn on all exterior lights from dusk to dawn. Having lights on throughout the night is less of a concern today when we have access to low wattage LED's that run at 4-6 Watts vs 40-60 Watts per bulb prior. 
  3. Home design
    • Entrances, patios, decks, architectural features can be highlighted with the right fixture that also serves multiple roles such as security, ambient and/or task lighting.

    • directional wall sconces can create up or down light to focus light in key areas such as walkways or architectural designs. 
    • As traditional wall sconces are available in limitless design styles and colors, they can add character to entrances, patios or decks. 
As discussed in previous blog posts,  RENOS - WHERE TO START #4 It's Gotta Function and RENOS - WHERE  TO START #2 What was I trying to accomplish?, when you are about to make those important investments into your home, ensure you have a clear understanding as to the purpose for those changes to ensure you get out what you put into your projects.

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Tuesday, 12 June 2018

Reno's-Where to Start # 7 Kitchen Renovation Review


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I came across an interesting article this week from that inspired me to follow up on our latest post, 10 Tips to Kitchen Lighting. The article is about a beautiful renovation of a 1960's ranch style kitchen and dining room. It in fact resembles my very own kitchen in many ways (style and age). This beautiful renovation was the handy work of Erin @ Lovebergs at Home

What can we take away from this beautiful renovation and apply to your potential renovation?
  1. Don't kid yourself. This was a major overhaul. This is not a little face lift. Major electrical, plumbing and structural changes. BUT often to get this level of improvement you are going to have go to this extent.
    • TAKE AWAY: Big improvement may require big change (depending on your current situation)
  2. The Island - The addition of an island based oven/stove top creates a more efficient kitchen work triangle (stove/oven, sink and refrigerator). In the old design the layout created a very elongated work area. Now the majority of the tasks are focused in a much more efficient layout making prep work more enjoyable and effortless.
    Image source
    • TAKE AWAY: Ensure to improve or at the very least do not take away from the kitchen work triangle. 
  3. Addition of the Bar Stools - This may seem like a minor addition but now the kitchen is a social area. While preparing a meal, the chef no longer has to be cooped up in the kitchen and can now have the benefit of company without their back to their guests.
    • TAKE AWAY: Multi-purpose. On a budget or if you have limited space, a few extra $$$ could increase the functional space by creating multiple purposes for said space. This ties into #7.
  4. High Contrast design style - White doors/light colored counter tops with dark base cabinets/flooring creates a sense depth to the room, creating form and purpose for a small location.
    • TAKE AWAY: Play with your color choices. Consider what will still hold value in 10 years. Remember the pink bathroom fixtures ;(
  5. Light in the Room - This new design is much brighter for multiple reasons.
    1. Lighter cabinet color/material choice.
    2. Pulling the cabinets away from the sink window, allowed the incoming light to fill the space. The previous design created a mini cave around the window (see previous photo).
    3. Working with the window, white tiled back splash ensures to push the light into the room.
    4. A large light counter top on the island - a huge reflective surface to increase the light in the room.
    • TAKE AWAY: Effective lighting is not just about light fixtures. Colors, textures and layout has a significant impact. 
  6. Layered Lighting - there is not just a single new lighting fixture in the room. Layers, it's all about the layer's. There are a mixture of lighting options:
    1. Strategically placed recessed lights allowed a more even lighting of the key areas. The prior design most likely had a single fixture in the center. 6 new pot lights distributes the same light where it is needed and creates highly effective ambient lighting which will double for task lighting at the island.
    2. Adding in the vent hood will provide task lighting over the stove top.
    3. Addition of a mini pendant for task lighting over the sink.
    4. Cabinet lighting and under cabinet lighting in the dining area.
    5. New pendant over the dining table. The shades on this beautiful pendant fixture will cast light downwards to the table top while still creating ambient light, much like a table lamp.
    • TAKE AWAY: Create a layered lighting strategy. Make use of multiple lighting sources so the room has greater flexibility and usability. 
  7. Re-purpose Underutilized Space - While they removed an entire section of cabinets and moved the fridge to open up the wall into the seating area, they re-purposed unused space. The dining room before and after:
    • Given that most homes don't have a formula dining room, creating spaces that can be dual purposed is key to living efficiently. Here they created effective storage space by utilizing essentially a vacant wall.
    • The mixture of solid doors, glass doors and wine racks breaks up the wall creating a sense of style and elegance.
    • The openness created by removing the wall between the kitchen and dining room, combined with the two windows means the space didn't feel more cramped as it would have if they tried to add the cabinets in the old dining room.
    • TAKE AWAY: What areas are underutilized in your home/room? Empty wall space, the upper 1-2 ft of wall space around a bathroom, mudroom and laundry room can be underutilized storage space. In this case floor to ceiling cabinets. 
In conclusion, while planning a future renovation, consider what you are ultimately looking to achieve with this new space and keep that in the forefront of your decision making.

For more information on this kitchen redesign, Erin walks you through the entire renovation HERE, complete final budget breakdown and all.

What are your thoughts on Erin's new kitchen? Do you prefer open concept designs? Comment in comments section below!

Thanks for stopping by!

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Tuesday, 5 June 2018

Renos - Where to Start #6 10 Tips to Kitchen Lighting

Thanksgiving. The entire family has shown up for the weekend. Siblings, cousins, nieces and nephews, the house is packed with conversation. Where does everyone end up? The kitchen. The focal point of any home. Food preparation is a key part to any day. Many important conversations happen while you are preparing a meal, feeding the little ones.

As such the kitchen can be a highly productive and active area. Proper lighting design and fixtures can make even the simplest kitchen designs become a beautiful extension of your homes design and feel. Given how much time is spent preparing meals, having proper, adequate lighting ensures this process will be more enjoyable and less fatiguing,

Here are some tips to kitchen lighting designs:
  1. Start Early in the Design Phase - If you are designing a kitchen for a new build or for a renovation, consider the lighting needs at the inception. Don't let lighting be an afterthought. Cabinet and flooring color with impact the perceived amount of ambient and task light in a room. The darker the surfaces, the more lumens (see My Lumens are Hot the difference between lumens and wattage) you will need to create the same perceived lighting intensity.
  2. Work with Natural Light - Have you ever done dishes staring at a wall? Sinks and dining areas placed near windows eliminate the need for artificial lighting throughout much of the day. If you are in the design phase, splurge on larger windows near the sink and dining areas. You won't regret the investment.

  3. Layered Lighting - kitchens are diverse rooms with multiple architectural elements. Cabinets, dining areas, breakfast bars, islands, pantry's, appliances, prep areas, windows, patio doors, etc, all potentially require different lighting needs depending on how you intend to use the space. Ambient, task, and accent lighting all have their specific place in a kitchen. A pendant lighting fixture will not provide enough light for an entire kitchen, nor would under cabinet lighting. They both have their purpose.
  4. Ambient Lighting - Maximize your lighting needs with effective ambient lighting first. This is general lighting when you enter the room. This should provide you with 80% of your lighting needs to make a snack, get organized, find your car keys, etc. throughout the day. This can be achieved through strategically placed LED recessed lights for a larger kitchen (providing a mixture of ambient and/or task lighting) or one to two flush or semi flush fixtures depending on size and layout.
  5. Task Lighting - fill in the voids not addressed by ambient lighting. Under cabinet lighting is a MUST in any new kitchen. Small LED pod lights or strip lighting are effective in these areas. Also a light over the kitchen sink is another MUST. If you have a window by the sink, recessed pot lights work well here. Light the surfaces you will be working at the most, directly.
  6. Accent Lighting - Under cabinet lighting can be dual purposed. I often leave the under cabinet lights on in the evening to create a soft low light that can be calming in the late evening. Open cabinets or glass doors with glass shelves are great for in cabinet lighting. Up lights form wall sconces or top cabinet lighting can create ambiance in any room. Dimmer switches give you more control to create the lighting you need.
  7. Islands/Breakfast Bars - Often a feature of any kitchen, mini pendant fixtures are a must. With endless styles, materials and colors, there is a mini pendant to highlight any island. It also can provide both accent and task lighting depending on the fixture of choice.
  8. Mini Pendant & Recessed Light Placement - a general guide for spacing: Using an island as an example, take the longest dimension and divide it by the number of fixtures (pendants or recessed) plus one. So if your island is 60" long, you are going with two fixtures, so 60"/3 = 20". So a fixture will be placed every 20", so 20" and 40". They would then be placed centered across the shorter dimension. For recessed lights being used for ambient lighting, you would want to avoid placing the lights so that they are directly over your head or slightly behind you as this will create unwanted shadows as you stand at the counter. This places the recessed lights more along the edge (outside third) rather than closer to the middle/center of the area.
  9. Light Switches - One-way, two-way, three-way or dimmer switches? How many entrances do you have into your kitchen? There must be a switch for at least one light in the area for safety and code requirements. Consider where you will place the various switches for each type of lighting in the room. Sit down with your electrician and work through those details. Get it right the first time. It can be timely and $$$$ to make changes once the paint is on the walls.
  10. Tall Ceilings - Draw the eye lower using long pendants or mini pendants to lower the source of the light. In combination with top cabinet lighting this will create a sense of layers and texture in the room.
There is much to consider when piecing together a lighting design plan for a kitchen. Talk to your electrician or designer about what you are looking for and how to best achieve that goal. 

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Wednesday, 30 May 2018

My Lumens are Hot

When I was a university student, I was a server at a prominent steak house. They set the mood by using dimmed lighting and the lighting was very "warm", bulbs that emitted more red and orange light. They told us it was intended to make people feel more relaxed, romantic and even look better. The warm colored bulbs make your skin look more natural and radiant.

You just bought a new pendent fixture from Stride Lighting with the purpose of creating a similar atmosphere in your dining room. What bulbs should you buy?

Well your choices are basically Halogen, CFL, LED or the retro Edison bulbs. Printed on the majority of light bulb packages are two numbers to help you decide: Lumen rating (light output) and Color Temperature. So lets take a look at how these two numbers will help you set up your lighting to give you the best end result.

Lumens are simply a universal way of comparing different lighting sources on an a even playing field. Prior to the need to be energy efficient in our society, light bulbs were sold based on their wattage, or total power consumption. More wattage meant a brighter light source. However with the rise of new technology (CFL and LED) that is no longer the case. Greater wattage does not equal greater light output (see our previous posts, No Love for Tungsten, and CFL Bulbs Explained for why they differ in efficiency). You can produce a brighter bulb with less wattage. That's where lumens come into play. Simply put lumens are the SI (Système international) unit of a measure of the perceived visible light emitted from a light source.  

Now, many people want to know how many watts are equal to a lumen. 

Well unfortunately that's not a question that can be answered. Watts and lumens are a measure of different quantities, energy consumed vs. emitted light. So for a LED vs. an incandescent light bulb it varies, 100 lumens/watt compared to 10-15 lumens/watt respectively. 

So what many manufactures do is simply compare a new product to an old product. A 100 W incandescent bulb. For example, a certain 26 watt CFL bulb may be equal to a 100 W light bulb, or they could simply give you the lumen rating ~1600 lumens. The lumen rating is a more accurate rating than a generalized comparison. 

Your basic goal is to find the correct brightness to meet your needs with the lowest wattage possible. Biggest bang for the lowest buck. However brightness is not color. This is where color temperature comes into the mix.

Color temperature is used similarly to lumens as an attempt to inform customers what they can expect when they buy that product. 

So you purchase  26 watt CFL bulb and the package says 6400 K on the front, what does that mean? 

This is the color temperature rating. The K value is a temperature measured in Kelvin, used primarily in the scientific community. As a reference point, the freezing point of water is 273 K. The number, or temperature, is used to indicate what color the bulb will glow/emit when operating. This is referenced to the color a black body object, see No Love for Tungsten, will emit when it is at a specific temperature. So the higher color temperature number, the more "cool" or blue the light produced will appear. The lower the color temperature, the "warmer" or more red the the light produced will appear. Daylight falls right around 6500 K with a standard incandescent light bulb closer to 2400 K, an open flame below 1900 K. Color emission starts at the red end of the rainbow and builds with temperature to the blues/violets.

Hence why cooler is warmer color and why hotter is a colder color. Color temperature values refers to the perceived colors emitted from the bulb (not necessarily the lumens, they are independent. You can have a high lumen but warm colored light). 

So how does this tie into your dinning room or any other location?

Consider what are the needs of the room you are placing this fixture in. If it is to be a relaxing, cozy area (living room, dinning room, bedrooms), look for bulbs in the lower K range. If you are needing good lighting to do work (kitchen, work shop) then perhaps on the upper end closer to a day light rating (6500 K). 

Keep in mind, different bulb designs have natural limitations. CFL bulbs may have similar color temperature rating however they are not equal with the actual light they are producing.

An LED 2700 K bulb vs a CFL 2700 K bulb may look similar in color but due to how they produce light ( see CFL Bulbs Explained)  CFL bulbs do not always produce a complete spectrum (rainbow) of light. Here you can see, this LED bulb produces true white light with a complete light spectrum (A diffraction gradient and a spectroscope where placed in front of the camera lens to capture the light spectrum).
However a comparable CFL bulb is missing the yellow portion of the light spectrum. Even though your eyes may perceive the bulbs to be similar they will create poorer light quality. 
That makes CFL bulbs a poor choice for art studios and bathrooms as the incomplete light spectrum tends to be unflattering. Incandescent/halogen bulbs will always produce a complete warm light. LED's are being manufactured that function across a broader color temperature spectrum as they can be manufactured to meet that specific demand. More to come on LED's.

I hope this helps you on your next shopping trip to pick the appropriate bulb for your design needs. 

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Thursday, 24 May 2018

Renos - Where to Start #5 Create Effective Lighting

During my latest trip to the eye doctor, my optometrist recommended that I "perhaps pick up some of those reading glasses at the pharmacy".

I was like, 

"I'm only 38!" 

I do have my fair share of grey hair but I was less than impressed.

But his point was picking up a pair of low powered reading glasses, not that I need them, would simply take any strain off my eyes. They would simply make it easier for my eyes to work while reading. Less fatiguing and more enjoyable.

That, in essence, is effective lighting design within a room. You won't notice effective lighting. You will simply enjoy the room to its fullest. Poor lighting however, you most definitely notice. Rooms are too dark, its difficult to read, too hard to do detailed tasks or its over powering. 

I love lights! I know, that's weird, but it's the key aspect of a rooms design that highlights all the money and hard work you have put into a new renovation. It can bring out the colors within the flooring, highlight key design features or artwork and sets the tone/mood of the room. 

Think of an old Irish pub. 

I think of a warm environment defined by dark wood and warm low lighting. 

Think of an art gallery. 

I think of beautiful canvases silhouetted on the wall by spot lights. 

Lighting is how we show the room as we intended it to be. So how do you create the lighting design you desire? Today we will focus on the general aspects and get more specific as we move along. Lighting falls into basically three categories: Ambient, Task, and Accent. 

In any room you want at least two of the three as a minimum. Trying to light a room using only one will simply lower the overall quality and enjoyment of an area.

1. Ambient - General Lighting. 
    • If you think of an entrance area, these are often lite by ambient lighting. Usually a ceiling pendant or flush mount fixture of some sort.
    • These types of fixtures usually have a substantial shade, designed to diffuse the light creating ambiance and to highlight the fixture itself. This Gwen pendent is designed to bring attention to fixture itself while giving you some functional light.
    • Gwen Pendant
      • This type of lighting allows you to navigate the room with general lighting but adds to the style and decor of the room 
      • Ambient lighting is suitable for: 
        • ceiling lights in bedrooms, boot rooms, entrances
        • outdoor lighting
        • dinning rooms chandeliers/pendants
        • general kitchen lighting
        • hallways
    2. Task Lighting - as implied. 
      • Task lighting purpose is to provided specific lighting to one location for a specific task.
      • Depending on the room and your needs, you will often have multiple sources of task lighting in the form of floor lamps, table lamps, spot lights, over head lights, pendants and chandeliers. Having a floor lamp, such as this Gode Floor Lamp behind your favorite chair can provide the needed light to sit and relax for hours on end.
      • Gode Tiffany Floor Lamp
      • This can be a bedside table light, under cabinet lighting, office desk lamp etc. in order to give you the light needed to read, work etc.
      • Pendants and chandeliers, depending on the design, can provide a certain amount of task lighting for a kitchen/dining room table. In our small house, the kitchen table is home to homework, crafts, fine dinning, etc so the light fixture of choice is important for us to consider. 

      • A strictly ambient light fixture will limit the use of this area. So a fixture such as this can provide multiple roles. The down shades will cast light directly below for task lighting but also provides ambient light with the opaque glass shades.
    Belle Tiffany Mini Chandelier

    3. Accent Lighting - Highlights.

      • Accent lights are where you get to have some fun and highlight the unique nature of your rooms. 
      • Accent lighting most often is in the form of spot lights, track lighting, in cabinet lighting, back lighting and wall sconces. 
      • Some of the easiest ways to create a beautiful accent light is with wall sconces. These can flank a seating area or hearth and can cast light upward along the wall and the ceiling creating a beautiful indirect light that adds shape and form in the room.
      • Track lighting or spot lights can focus on pieces of artwork or unique features in the room such as a fireplace. 
      • This is where you can truly define a rooms purpose and feel. 
    So where do you start? Task lighting and accent lighting. In a large room such as below, it would be difficult to light the entire space with ambient lighting. The pot lights are trying to do just that. Focus on how and where the space will be used, start there. Remember, the larger the room, the more watts you will need to illuminate it adequately. Tough job for one light.
    Do you need the room to be flexible? Than lamps are a better starting point. If not then you can commit to installing wall sconces and ceiling lights. Otherwise in a large room such as this consider having floor outlets installed so task lighting can be used where it is needed, such as by the sofa.

    Take time to consider how you want the space to be used. Revisit Renos - Where to Start #4 It's Gotta Function, and ensure you have thought through this step. Then decided on what type of lighting will allow you to have the room you desire.

    Thanks for stopping by!

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    Thursday, 17 May 2018

    CFL Bulbs Explained!

    Well it took a little more than a week, but here it finally is. CFL bulbs, compact fluorescent lamps, are the second most efficient lighting choice right behind LED's. Why?

    If you have not already read No Love for Tungsten or A Halo of Tungsten, we have been working through the various light bulbs options that are still available in North America. Tungsten based bulbs are on their way out leading to a greater demand for CFL's and LED bulbs. But is this a good thing? 

    In the following video find out why CFL's are more efficient than the old Tungsten filament light bulbs. This might be a little heavy on the science but I tried to keep it light (I'm sorry, I couldn't resist :). Wouldn't you know, light bulbs are complicated. 

    I just happen to be a science guy that sells lights. 

    As you decide what lighting fixture you will need for your new kitchen, bathroom, bedroom or living room remodel, the bulbs you place into those fixtures can dramatically influence the amount and color of light that the fixture emits. Also, LED's and CFL bulbs are efficient but are not the best choice in all situations such as in cold outdoor areas or bathrooms.

    In the age of energy efficiency and high energy prices, it is important to choose a bulb that not only gives you the light you need but also will be efficient and cost effective to operate. In future blog posts we will look at how the bulb type determines the type of light that it produces. Fluorescent bulbs are cheep to operate BUT are also not the most flattering.

    Any questions don't hesitate to ask. Join us on Facebook @ to join in on more helpful information, support and discussion on home lighting. 

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    Friday, 11 May 2018

    Renos - Where to Start #4 It's Gotta Function

    If you have every spent time looking at new homes, open houses, etc, you will have undoubtedly came across floor layouts or unique designs that made you question the decision making process of the prior owners.

    I once came across a bedroom with a toilet beside the master bed.

    Not master bedroom, BED. 

    Not, “oh they just didn’t finish the walls for the ensuite”, 

    nae, nae…BED! 

    Like, “Oh this would could double as a side table as well”. 

    Whatever the outcome of your renovation, it has to function for not only the next several years but also for potential buyers. As much as you think you will own that property for ever, life can introduce some curve balls and all of a sudden you are listing your home. Dramatic floor layout changes and color schemes can make it very difficult to sell a home. Some design ideas may have good intentions, but with unintended consequences...
    Image may contain: indoor 

    When we built our home several years ago, we built it based on functional purpose. It was a 1.5 story farmhouse with a full basement. Each floor served a specific purpose.
    • The basement was for sleeping. Three bedrooms, full bathroom, 3 pcs ensuite, small seating area, laundry and utility room. 
    • Main floor, the living space: kitchen, mudroom, living room, dining room. 
    • Upper floor loft: Office space, lounging area, TV area, place to sit and relax. 
    • This design took into account functional use of the space, but also practical as well. Basements tend to be dark and cool. Great places for a quality sleep (are you a shift worker?). The basement was heated using in floor radiate heating. This kept it comfortable and allowed the heat to naturally rise up throughout the remaining floors, creating some passive heating. A wood stove took care of the upper two floors. Having bedrooms on the top floor would be too hot in the summer. Each floor had a distinct purpose and allowed the choice of materials to meet that need. We could enjoy the day light on the upper floors when they are in most use. 
    With that being said, the design made sense to us, we loved it, but it was certainly unique. Many people prefer to NOT have their bedrooms in the basement. To us, it makes perfect sense.

    When you begin your renovations, there are some key things to keep in mind:

    1. Functionality – It might be a great idea but is this a long term functional idea? 
      • I once had a neighbor that had a trampoline in the basement. They cut out the living room floor so they could jump on the trampoline and see out the living room window. I'm not joking. 
      • If you are choosing a lighting fixture, it may be the most amazing fixture, but do you need it to be functional (task lighting) or just a visual piece (ambient lighting)? If you need both then you need to search for a fixture that serves both roles or look for two different lighting options. 
      • Removing closet space of one room to gain space in an adjoining room. While this may work for how you are using the rooms currently, if you had to sell, how that would impact the perceived bedrooms or use of those rooms? 
      • Kitchen islands are great but is your kitchen large enough? 
      • Hardwood/engineered flooring: looks great, but if you have a large area it will change the acoustics of the room. Basement bedrooms, great idea. Hardwood flooring on the above floor…bad idea, stomp, stomp, stomp…
      • The one downside to opening up an area is it opens up the area. Our design was open, we loved the feel, but sound travelled easily. There was little to divide up the noise. We never considered that and it was frustrating at times. 
      • I built a Narnia fort in my house through a closet. It is very functional for my daughters but not perhaps for a retired couple. So I ensured to build it in such a way that it can easily be converted to a storage area in the future and still serve a purpose. 
    2. Resale – Will these changes increase or decrease your property value or selling potential? 
      • For me, any time I consider a change to my home, I consider how this will impact the property value. As homes tend to be peoples single greatest investment, ensure you are continually adding value to your investment. 
      • Consider any dramatic changes to layout carefully and seek out the opinions of those in the industry. 
      • See if realtor can do a walk through for a small fee and give you some advice as to what would and what would NOT add value to your home, not just for resale, but also to the increased enjoyment of your home. They see so many different homes and can look at it from both perspectives. 
    3. If you’re going to do it, do it right or else wait – I can use artificial vanilla extract instead of the real thing and no one is going to notice (at least that I know). However, if you cheap out on a shower tile job that could be an expensive mistake. 
      • Invest in your fixtures. Buy quality pieces, everything form bathroom fixtures to tile to lighting choices. They will stand the test of time and depending on the circumstance will give you the functional use you need. 
      • Cheap hardwood can dry and swell dramatically, the pieces are milled to low tolerances, the finishes are of a low quality and the overall product will not hold up well. In the end you would have been better off waiting to invest in order to get more enjoyment out of your investment. 
    Take the time to find what you like, find the right materials, the right color, the right contractor and ensure your final result was worth your investment.

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    Thursday, 3 May 2018


    My wife and I designed and built a 1.5 story farmhouse style home that had an open concept design. We designed the house based on two things: Feel and functional purpose.

    For myself, when I walk into a room it is important for me that the room has the appropriate atmosphere. Our new home had ALL the bedrooms in the basement, for reasons I will go into in Renos - Where to Start #4 It's Gotta Function (to come). What that meant was that the upper two floors had a ton of space to fill. This was an open concept main to an upper loft floor. 

    We wanted to create a home that felt very warm and grounded. We wanted to come home from work, from skiing and feel like we just put on a warm blanket. A place to relax and just enjoy our family time together. With such a large space that can be difficult to do. There were four main aspects that allowed use to obtain what we were trying to create:

    1. Flooring type - We picked a character type maple flooring that brought a variety of earthy tones into the main and upper areas. 
    2. Wall color - With such a large space, it can easily feel too big with a lighter color. We went with a deep chocolate brown that played off the highlights in the flooring and created a warmth making the large space feel more grounded.
    3. Made use of the features of the room - We had a large, open stringer, Douglas fir staircase and a wood stove central in the room (with purpose). These two brought the key components to define this room and house. This often can be created by your furnishing. 
      • your dining room table set 
      • a beautiful sofa a granite top kitchen island  
      • a beautiful sleigh bed in the master bedroom. 
    4. Lighting - It was important to use layered lighting. We used a mixture of lighting throughout both floors to allow the rooms to serve the specific purpose that we needed them to at a given moment. Ultimately, the lighting choices can define how a room it utilized or underutilized.

    What is the atmosphere or feel you are hoping to create with this new room?
    Is this going to be a place to rest and relax, to get work done, and to be a family space, warm, cozy, modern, clean?

    This ultimately comes down to personal taste:
    • Are you looking for a rustic, modern or a contemporary feel? 
    • What style do you naturally gravitate towards? 
    • What features of the room can you can make use of? 
    • What current furniture pieces are you going to keep and will be a focus of the room? 
    • What colors are you considering for both the walls and ceiling? 
    • Floor type and color? 
    • Lighting choices? For example chandeliers can produce either up-light or down-light (indirect or direct light). Depending on what "feel" you are looking to create will determine which type of chandelier you may choose. 
    No single light fixture can cover all purposes of a room. We will look closer at some of the key features to creating effective lighting in any room in future articles.

    So, what feeling are you looking to create with your renovation? Pay attention to the homes, restaurants and business you visit. Pay attention to what you are naturally pulled towards and to what type of decor rubs you the wrong way. Look online and start collecting ideas and images to form your final idea. 

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    Wednesday, 2 May 2018

    A Halo of Tungsten

    "Are Halogen light bulbs better than the old incandescent bulbs?"

    In many ways yes, it depends on what you consider by "better". They are fundamentally the same. Halogen bulbs are actually Halogen-Tungsten bulbs and work on the same premise as ordinary tungsten bulbs, a black body object. That basically means the hotter the filament of tungsten becomes, the faster the atoms move, the more light they kick out.  If you have not yet checked out No Love for Tungsten, it is explained in more detail.

    "So what's the difference?" 

    Simply put they are brighter and can last longer than a regular bulb. 


    Think of it this way; imagine taking 20 kindergarten kids to a dinosaur museum with ONE supervisor. Very quickly, one by one, those little ones will be off running all over those exhibits, out of control with no way to get them back! That's a regular incandescent bulb. Now image the same 20 kids with 10 supervisors. As one pops out of the line to climb up the T-Rex's tail, there is a supervisor to get them back in line. The tour is more enjoyable, more efficient and will last much longer before you're kicked out of the museum. Well that is a halogen bulb; it has got some help to keep things running more efficient and longer. 

    Instead of just having an inert gas in the bulb to prevent the filament from burning up they have a halogen vapour (supervisors) as well, iodine or bromine. Halogens are the 17th group on the periodic table (ahhhhh, high school chemistry flashbacks!). As the tungsten filament heats up, atoms of tungsten will pop off the filament one by one. In a regular incandescent bulb this will eventually weaken the filament causing it to burn out so they have to operate at a lower temperature to slow down this process. 

    The halogen vapor creates a halogen-cycle. Essentially when the tungsten atoms pop off, the halogen causes a reaction that will cause the tungsten to redeposit and preserve the filament increasing it's life span, doubling it compared to incandescent bulbs. This allows the bulb to operate at a much higher temperature (the higher temperature facilitates the halogen-cycle in the first place). 

    Now this not only extends the bulbs life BUT also creates a brighter, more SUN like light. This is what makes halogen-tungsten bulbs so appealing in use in photography, automobile headlamps, and kitchen lighting. As discussed in No Love for Tungsten, as the filament gets hotter, the faster the atoms oscillate and the brighter the light is produced. A halogen bulb has a more complete light spectrum (rainbow) of light than a regular incandescent bulb because it operates at such a high temperatures, above 2750 °C / 5000 °F. It creates a much brighter and whiter light (more blues and violets), more sun like, but that means its more sun like. These bulbs do produce some UV light, which can be damaging to fabrics and artwork and so they are encased in quartz and not regular glass to absorb the UV rays. They are then also enclosed behind a second piece of glass to protect against the high temperature of the quartz glass, which can cause a fire.

    In the clip below, as the tungsten filament heats up the color shifts form a cooler, warm orange/yellow to a hotter brilliant white, enclosed behind the quartz glass. The external glass is simply for show and is far cooler than the internal quartz chamber.

    This intense light is perfect for driving at night or when you need more natural or high quality light like in a kitchen for preparing food etc. Halogen-Tungsten bulbs are more efficient than incandescent bulbs and can be manufactured in very small sizes to produce very bright light form an extremely compact design. Because of their need to run at high temperatures to replenish the tungsten filament, using halogen bulbs with a dimmer switch will shorten their lifespan if run for extend periods at a lower setting.

    Next week we will go spirally with CFL bulbs. Think of Kramer's levels, the key to efficiency. 

    Any questions don't hesitate to ask. Join us on Facebook @ to join in on more helpful information, support and discussion on home lighting. 

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    Thursday, 26 April 2018

    RENOS - WHERE TO START #2 What was I trying to accomplish?

    If you have not already checked out RENOS-WHERE TO START #1 THE HORROR STORIES OF INSPIRATION, pause and have a look and come right back.

    I LOVE doing renovations. The entire process is very cleansing, creative and rewarding. We bought a 100 year old home several years ago knowing that the previous owner was unable to do any sort of updating for many years and we would have the pleasure of bringing this beauty up to the date.

    The house was, and still is, in a desperate need of entire gut job to be honest. I don't have a spare $100 000 laying in a forgotten bank account somewhere in the Grand Caymon's, so we needed to figure out an approach to tackling this lath & plaster, wonky floors, 70's wood paneling show piece.

    We always start with this question: What are we trying to accomplish with this renovation?
    We first started in the master bedroom. There was an "odd" smell…that wonderful moldy/mildew smell that brings thoughts of BLACK MOLD to mind. The remainder of the house was solid. Everything worked and was functional. Not the most up to date, but certainly livable for however long needed.

    What had been happening is the radiant hot water heating system had been leaking from one of the corner joints in the master bedroom. SO, up came the carpet, and sure enough it had been leaking for quite some time. This is something that needed be to be fixed and addressed. We had already been looking at a basic paint job but with the water damaged flooring, we decided to do a full renovation, find what else needed at be fixed and do it right.

    This renovation was driven by a need to correct something that would eventually cause bigger issues down the road (massive water leak, most likely while we are out of town, and mold). We could have simply repaired the defective pipe, but since we were new homeowners and we had no idea how long the leak was present, we couldn't imagine sleeping in a room with potential mold issues.

    Any scale of renovations must be entered with thought, planning and foresight to ensure the end result is a success and done without wasting time and money.

    What are YOU trying to accomplish with this renovation?

    1. Increase the Resale Value
      • You have no immediate desire to sell but you are wanting to keep this in consideration. You see your property as an investment in the short term not something you are going to retire in. The changes you make (big or small) keep the market, trends in mind.
      • Many ideas WE prefer are not always great for resale. You might love pink wall paper, but your realtor does NOT. That’s fine if you’re going to be in that house for the next 20 yrs. 
    2. Selling/Listing the house in the Near Future
      • You are very focused on what is selling and what is not selling in a competitive market. Keeping colors and décor simple and neutral. 
      • You are NOT looking to spend a boat load of money. What is the biggest bang for the smallest buck? 
      • Fresh coat of paint, decluttering, some wall art or staging, a new light fixture in the dining room, maybe adding a tiled back splash and at the extreme end perhaps ripping out some really old/warn out carpet with a low coast vinyl or laminate flooring. 
    3. Flipping 
      • 100% investment. You are looking to sell quickly and make a profit. 
      • If this is you, this is no small project. Anything from new paint, fixtures, doors and trim, to full kitchen and bathroom renos. No small task. 
    4. Face lift: Modernization/Aesthetics 
      • Most people. You have a property, love it but want to make it yours. You want to make it feel like it’s your home. 
      • Other than the big two reno rooms (kitchens and bathrooms) these are usually about putting your creative style and identity on the house. A mixture of renovation and styling. 
      • Updating the look for current color trends or design ideas. Remember, that classic 70/80’s wall paneling was the hottest trend at one point. Mustard colored shag carpeting? Why? 
      • Fresh paint, new lighting, perhaps flooring, crown molding, new furniture and the token throw pillows. We have soooo many pillows. My dog just loves them. 
    5. Full GUT 
      • The classic 70’s style home in the year 2018. This may be you but also will involve some contractors to some extent, $$$$ and time. 
    6. Upgrade/Replace Damage 
      • “Well, since we are doing this we might as well…” It’s amazing how many other things get an upgrade when a water pipe burst. 
      • It’s just easier and more cost effective to take care of certain issues all at once. 
      • For me, any older home, electrical sockets and switches are often an immediate upgrade while the painting is being done. 1) Modernize 2) the contacts in electrical outlets wear out and electrical cords actually fall out in some cases. Updates the look and functionality since you will roll paint across at least one socket you didn’t cover in tape;)
    TIP OF THE DAY: Try to think long term. If you know your going to have to open up a wall or upgrade this or that, is the time and money worth spending now on a face lift? Maybe, maybe not. A little planning goes a long way.

    Once you have determine the scale of what your goals are, we will look into the atmosphere or feel that you are hoping to create with this new renovation so that you can move onto the planning phase and the fun stuff!

    Any questions don't hesitate to ask. Join us on Facebook @ to join in on more helpful information, support and discussion on home lighting. 

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    Renos Where to Start #8 Top 10 Mistakes to Avoid in DIY Renovations

    Join us on Facebook @  to join in on more helpful information, support and discussion on home lighti...