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Having a beautiful home is wonderful, but having a beautiful home with an elegant and functional kitchen is fantastic. Updated kitchen décor and finishes are an on-trend way to create a warm gathering place for friends and family. A real wood countertop is a top option for perfecting the natural kitchen décor motif.
Wooden Countertop Styles
There are distinctive styles of wooden countertop materials available, and each serves a different purpose and esthetic.
Butcher Block Countertops: For countertop that allows you to slice and cut directly on the surface, the butcher block is your best choice. The wood is two to three inches thick of alternating species and can withstand damage from chopping and dicing with proper care. Available in various wood mixtures as end-grain and edge-grain, its hardness and color options make it easier to choose the one that fits into your kitchen theme.
Reclaimed Wood Countertops: For people who appreciate the rustic look, a repurposed wood countertop is a great option. Currently among the trending countertops, reclaimed wood is relatively simple to find and source locally. Most reclaimed wood countertops come from recycled or discarded wood.
Live Edge Wood Countertops: Made from planed but not trimmed raw wood, a live edge countertop retains the original shape of the tree. The unique thing about this countertop is its rustic and uncommon look; it curves inward in some areas and rounds out in others, giving your kitchen or bar area a beautiful and unique look.
Solid Wood Countertops: The solid wood countertop option works well with all kitchen designs, creating a timeless and traditional look for your kitchen. Thick planks of mahogany, walnut, knotty alder, or other hardwoods waterproofed with acrylic polyurethane come in flat, dull, satin, and semi-gloss finishes for an elegant addition to your countertops.
Your Choice of Wood
Ensure that the design, grain, and finish of the wooden countertop you choose is appropriate for its purpose. Hardwood like maple, teak, oak, chestnut, and mahogany make great countertop material, especially if you intend to chop and slice directly on the counter surface. For a more sustainable option, bamboo, while not technically wood, is an attractive and durable choice.
Your kitchen countertop has a significant impact on the look and feel of your room. For best results, consult with or hire a professional contractor who is knowledgeable about the installation process for these unique surfaces.
Buying your first home is exciting, and your dream-book is full of magazine cutouts and interior design sketches. But many entry-level or starter homes do not come with the built-in shelving of your designer-inspired visions. What do you do on a budget? Use your imagination, a little ingenuity and flat-pack furnishings.
What Are Flat Packs?
Furniture from in-store and online retailers sell shelving and cabinet units that arrive in flat boxes. They have all the parts, and often the tools, so you can put together the pieces. The main advantage of ready-to-assemble, flat-pack furniture is its affordability. If you’re even a little bit handy, they are simple to set up and offer a lot of sizes to fit most spaces.
The challenge is that it can look sterile and universal. Your stark-white, four-cube by three-cube shelf looks just like everyone else’s.
Hacking to the Rescue
No, not computer hacking — furniture hacking!
Personalize your furniture with some creativity, elbow-grease and experimentation. The Internet abounds with ways to hack your flat-pack furniture. Some websites devote their entire content to ways of updating low-cost furnishings to fit your style. Options range from changing hardware to painting laminate and all ideas in between. Here are some top contenders for getting a built-in look with your flat packs.
- Add trim. Often, basic, ready-to-assemble shelving has simple square corners and flat faces. You can change the face of your cubes or bookshelves with wood, MDF (medium-density fiberboard) or PVC trim. All you need is a sharp handsaw, miter box and some strong glue. The glue you use depends on the composition of the trim. Add a twisted rope design to the face of your shelves for a vintage look or give them some class with crown molding along the top. Choose to merely cover the front with straight cuts, or trim around the sides using your miter box to get beautiful, fitted corners.
- Attach it to the walls. Most ready-to-assemble furniture comes with wall brackets to keep it from tipping over. Use these to attach it to the wall. Then, add half-round (outside) or curved (inside) corner molding at the seam with the wall. Glue the molding to the furniture but nail it into the wall with finishing nails.
- Add feet. If your furniture would benefit from molding along the floor to match your wall’s baseboard, add feet cut from a 2-by-4. Cover the feet with baseboard and paint it to match your walls.
A Word About Paint
Unfinished wood, MDF and primed PVC materials readily accept paint. Laminate and foil veneer over fiberboard (also called thermofoil) are different. Before you start, make certain you know the composition of the furniture. Trust your paint dealer to direct you to the perfect product. But remember, you cannot sand foil veneers easily. Doing so will tear the finish and damage the furniture. Instead, consider using chalk paint.
For more ideas about making flat-packs appear built-in, talk to your local DIY store professionals. When preparing your home to sell, some built-ins may increase the value, so run it by your real estate professional.
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Heating bills are an engrained part of homeownership. Make some energy-savvy updates to your house that will give you more to spend (or save) throughout the year.
Windows: Upgrade old single-pane windows with double- or triple-pane versions with low U-factors (energy efficiency ratings). Repair leaky seals or drafty sashes too. If you can’t replace your windows, cover them with heavy clear vinyl during the cooler months to protect your home from the winter chill.
Insulation: Check the insulation levels in your rafters. Over time, loose-blown insulation settles and shifts, leaving gaps and thinner areas. You can purchase bags of loose insulation at DIY stores and use a lawn rake to spread it evenly to fill in where it needs more. Add layers of rolled insulation atop existing insulation for added thickness. Insulation comes in R-values with a higher number denoting better insulation.
Go solar. Adding solar panels is an excellent way to reduce energy costs. You can go one step further and install a solar water heater. A flat-paneled solar system that sits on your roof can heat water up to 140 degrees. They even work on cloudy days and have a backup system to augment if necessary. Another use of solar is metal or passive solar roofing materials that allow snow or ice to slip off the roof. These products protect your home from the snow's weight, and any damage ice could cause.
Live outdoors year 'round. To get the most from your outdoor living space, roof patios, sunrooms, and porches with glass panels so that winter sun warms the space with radiant heat. Screen your outdoor space with heavy-grade transparent vinyl curtains. That way, you're protected from the wind and chill and heated by the sun.
Invest in a smart thermostat. Install a thermostat that adjusts your home's energy usage down while you're away and adjusts up to a comfortable temperature a little before you arrive home for the evening. If you get one you can operate from an app on your phone, you can make adjustments without being home.
For other ideas on getting the most from your home’s energy usage, ask your local utility about a home energy inspection. They’ll check for leaks in vents, around windows and doors, and in the attic and basement, too. If you require a more energy-efficient home, be sure to let your real estate agent know that it's top of your list.