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Author Archives: Andrew Peck

5 Kitchen Design Trends Foodies Will Love

Category: Trends

Okay foodies, here’s the deal. We all know the kitchen is the cornerstone of your home; it’s where you’ll spend most of your time, both alone and with friends, cooking and eating. You’re likely more excited about decorating or upgrading your kitchen than any other room.

Farmhouse sinks and Pinterest-inspired flour sack dish towels are great, but for someone who spends most of their time in the kitchen (or thinking about their kitchen), function is as important as aesthetic. With that in mind, here are some kitchen design trends guaranteed to make your cooking life easier.

Take Your Knife Storage Seriously

Where would you be without your trusty Chef’s knife? Having a reliable and sharp blade is cooking 101, but improper storage can quickly lower the life expectancy of this likely-spendy knife. Storing knives down on their blade can actually damage them over time, so instead consider a magnetic knife strip. These handy strips attach directly to your wall, keeping knives at the ready and out of the way. Besides their usefulness, a magnetic strip turns your knife collection into a flashy kitchen showpiece.

Hang, Don’t Stack Pots and Pans

Is there anything worse than getting down on your hands and knees to pull out every pot and pan you’ve ever owned to get to that one specific saucepan? Instead of resigning yourself to sorting stacks of cooking gear, hang those pots and pans from hooks. If you’re keeping a minimal vibe to your kitchen, apply sturdy hooks to the back of your cabinets. Bonus: this organization tip will clear up space in your cabinets too.

Boldly Cook Anything You Want (Without Lingering Smells)

Some foods are more pungent than others, lingering hours and even days later. No matter how great a meal tasted, it’s never pleasant to smell it the next morning. Invest in a proper ventilation system above your oven to rid yourself of these unwanted odors. A few things to know when making this purchase: If you have a gas range, you will need a more powerful vent than if you have an electric one, and there’s no need to buy a vent that’s larger than your oven.

Shine a Light On It

A kitchen is no place for mood lighting. You need to see what you’re doing, especially when cooking on your range. There are so many beautiful lighting options available that there’s no excuse for under-lighting here. Make sure your hood vent has a light, add a light over the sink, and maybe even additional runner lights under cabinets or above counters. You’ll never regret having strong lighting in the kitchen, especially when chopping and slicing.

Spend Extra on the Best Dishwasher Possible

Whether you’re constantly entertaining on the weekends or just cook elaborate meals for your family, a dishwasher is a must in every kitchen. But not all dishwashers are created equal. Consider purchasing one that includes a utensil rack above so you can wash spatulas, serving spoons, and whisks without taking up too much space elsewhere. Nowadays, dishwashers are nearly silent, which is a must if you have an open floor plan and don’t want to hear it running while watching TV on the couch nearby.

If you love food and love cooking, then now’s the time to invest in your dream kitchen. Consider designs that are both functional and beautiful to create a room you’ll never want to leave.

~the Brennans

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Tame the Chaos in Your New Home -Tips for Turning Your Entryway into an Organized Drop Zone

Category: Organization, Tips, Trends

You’re in the process of moving into your new home. Boxes of furniture and clothes and plates sit stacked all over the place, hopefully in the right rooms. Each time you walk in or out, running errands or bringing in bags from a Target run, you (or your kids) tend to leave things behind. Shoes, backpacks, jackets, stacks of mail. Pretty soon, you’ve got piles of random stuff cluttering the front room in your home. It’s not a pretty sight that greets you when you’re coming in from the garage. If this is sounding familiar, don’t worry! You can tame this chaos by turning that entryway into an organized drop zone.

Make a Decree: What Should Stay, What Should Go

This is the entryway from your garage into your home, and everything in it should have its own place. Don’t let this room become a repository for all things you can’t fit anywhere else – decide what should stay here, and what needs to go. For example, it makes sense to store coats and boots here, especially in the cold months when you and your family need to bundle up before going outside. But unpacked boxes or library books? It doesn’t make sense to store those things here. Once you’ve decided what should stay here and what should be taken into the house, it’ll be easier to keep this place tidy.

Hang Hooks to Hold Jackets and Scarves

If your entryway includes a closet, that’s great! But if you don’t have a dedicated place to hang coats, consider adding some hooks to the wall. You can find a wide array of attractive, stylized hooks at most hardware stores, making it easy to match them with your home’s décor. Hanging jackets on hooks is undoubtedly better than heaping them in a pile on the ground.

Extra Tip: If you have young kids, be sure to hang some hooks at the right height for them! Encourage them to hang up their own coats and scarves when coming into the house.

Keep Your Keys Handy

How many times have you gotten halfway out the door only to realize you can’t find your keys? Keep these important items in one place and give yourself one less thing to worry about. Find a designated spot for your keys, wallet, sunglasses, and anything else easily misplaced. You can opt for a low table, a key bowl, or smaller hooks. Keeping these items in the entryway to your garage goes a long way in taking the chaos of your home’s “drop zone.”

Add a Bench and Take a Seat

Nobody wants to stand in the entryway while holding groceries trying to kick off a pair of shoes. Adding a bench to this room actually does double duty here. You can use this bench to set down whatever you’re holding (great if you’re trying to snag all those bags in one trip!) and it’s also handy to sit on while taking off or putting on boots in cold or rainy weather. Consider using the space below your bench for extra storage as well. This is perfect if the room off your garage isn’t very spacious.

The most important thing in organizing your entryway, or any room in your new home, is consistency. Prevent this room from descending into chaos by planning ahead, making it easy to put designated items away, and keeping your most important belongings in one place. You can even add potted plants, artwork, or decorative pillows to brighten the room that greets you. Soon you’ll have a highly organized and tidy drop zone, setting the tone for your new home.

~the Brennans

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5 Ways New Homes Help Conserve Energy in the Summer

Category: Build Process

Summer’s finally rolling around, and we all know what that means: crazy high energy bills from blasting the A/C. But if you’re living in a home built within the last few years, those costs may not actually be so high.

Did you know that newer homes tend to be more energy efficient? This is true for new homes even without investing in smart thermostats or high-end appliances. Homes built in the last five years tend to have better insulation, are constructed with higher-end materials, and often have state-of-the-art ventilation systems to improve air quality.

1. Energy-Efficient Window Panes
New homes are often built with double- or triple-pane windows, which can help prevent heat from coming through or going out. Since many older homes were constructed with single-panes, sunlight beaming through those windows can raise those cooling costs. With a new home, you won’t have to worry about keeping your drapes closed – let all that sunshine in!

2. Cooler Light Bulbs
No, we’re not talking about multi-colored or glow-in-the-dark bulbs. Energy-efficient light bulbs can keep your home cooler than traditional ones. Did you know that 90% of the energy coming off of regular light bulbs is wasted as heat? Many newer homes come equipped with CFLs and LEDs, offering a cooler lighting option for homeowners.

3. Improved Insulation
We mentioned this one before. Newer homes have better insulation, which helps keep your home cool longer. Keeping your home at a comfortable temperature is much easier with improved insulation, meaning you’ll run that air conditioner less with a newer home.

4. More Efficient Home Appliances
New appliances perform now better than ever with highly efficient systems that offer features like quieter operation and moisture control. These high-performing appliances quickly cool down your home and then switch off, saving you money and keeping your new home at its optimal temperature longer.

There are many advantages to buying a new home, like improved ventilation and air quality, but in the summertime, those benefits really shine. You can keep your home cooler and your energy costs lower with a newer, more energy-efficient house.

~the Brennans

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Hot Tips for Outdoor Summer Living Made Easy

Category: Tips, Trends, Upkeep

Is there anything better than a summer BBQ in the sun? When summer rolls around, it’s impossible not to get excited about pool parties, sun bathing, grilling, and playing in the backyard with your family. If you’re planning on spending some serious time outside this summer, here are some helpful tips for making your backyard THE place to be.

Grow Your Own Produce

You don’t know “fresh” until you’ve eaten a tomato straight from your own garden. Spice up salsa, freshen up pasta salad, and surprise your guests with a tasty salad of veggies you grew yourself! Plenty of plants thrive in the heat and make an excellent addition to your summer meals. Try growing some sweet potatoes, hot peppers, green beans, sunflowers, and zucchini.

Cool Down with Kiddie Pools, Sprinklers, and More!

If you don’t have a pool in your backyard, consider investing in a temporary water feature. They’re fun for all ages and a great way to cool down. You can buy kiddie pools in various sizes (some even large enough for adults to sit in), goofy sprinklers, and even hot tubs or saunas.

Add Ample Lighting for Late-Night Partying

On a 90-degree day, it’s hard to do anything but lay in the shade and drink lemonade. When it gets to be that hot, why not plan a party later in the night? Set up lighting on your deck, patio, and around the yard, and invite friends over. As the sun goes down, you and your guests will be much more comfortable.

Set Up in the Shade

Summer fun comes to a screeching halt when you and your family are burnt to a crisp. Avoid staying out in the sun for too long by setting up in the shade. If you don’t have a covered porch or trees in your backyard, invest in an umbrella or two to keep everybody nice and cool while they’re enjoying the sunshine.

Create an Outdoor Kitchen

Outdoor kitchens have been all the rage lately – from traditional charcoal grills to tricked-out gas ranges and ovens. Whether your budget allows for an extravagant outdoor kitchen or just a few appliances, setting up an outdoor kitchen is a smart idea for hosts. Cooking outside is much cooler than crowding around a hot stove, and preparing food for guests is easy. Just make sure you’re keeping kids away from any open flames or heat sources.

Maximizing your backyard for the summer doesn’t have to cost a fortune. With a few additions, you can set your family and friends up for a summer filled with BBQs, pool parties, and outdoor fun.

~the Brennans

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The Cost to Hire Movers

Category: Tips

Moving to a new place is exciting, whether you’re moving into your first home across town or a bigger home across the country. But moving can also be stressful, and it can seem like there are a million things to do before you pack. One of the most important things to plan is the cost of moving. More importantly, how much will it cost to hire movers? We put together a short guide to help you understand what goes into the high cost of moving, how much to budget for professional movers, and other considerations.

Overview of All Moving Costs

Deciding whether you’re going to DIY it or hire a professional mover is only one of the considerations that go into the high cost of moving. There are many other factors to moving costs, including:

  • Cost of living changes, if moving to another state or city (Use this handy tool to compare costs of utilities, groceries, transportation, and more)
  • Paying double rent or mortgage if move-in dates don’t line up
  • Renting a moving truck (fees generally run $20 a day, not including gas and mileage costs)
  • Storage units if you need to store furniture or belongings before moving

You can reduce some of these costs by moving into your new place quickly. Taking too long to move from one place to another can rack up costs surprisingly fast.

Cost of Hiring Professional Movers

According to Home Advisor, hiring a local professional mover costs between $80 and $100 an hour. You may be charged additional fees if movers need to take items down stairs or a considerable distance.

For long-distance moves, companies charge by weight and distance rather than time. With this type of move, you may be charged a flat rate as high as $10,000, not including gas and mileage costs. These costs do not factor in additional movers or truck fees.

Booking Professional Movers in Advance

For local moves (under 100 miles), book movers between 2 and 4 weeks ahead of time. When you book early, you’re more likely to get a time and date that best fits your moving schedule. For local moves during the busy season – between May and September – consider booking at least 4 weeks early.

For cross-country moves (over 100 miles), book as soon as possible! Try to book at least six to eight weeks ahead of time. Moving can be stressful, so book ahead of time and save yourself the worry.

How Many Movers Do You Need?

Depending on the size of your home, you may need to hire up to four movers. Moving Labor’s chart below shows roughly the amount of movers and time it will take to move for each home type:

Studio Apartment: 2 Movers / 3-4 Hours

1-2 Bedroom Apartment: 2 Movers / 4-5 hours

2-3 Bedroom Home: 3 Movers / 5-7 hours

3-4 Bedroom Home: 3 Movers / 7-9 hours

4+ Bedroom Home: 4 Movers / 7-10 hours

You will need to factor in the additional cost of movers ($25 to $25 per mover) and moving time into your schedule.

Make Preparations in Advance and Move ASAP

Moving doesn’t have to be stressful, and with a little preparation, you can put your mind at ease. To limit moving costs, book movers as soon as possible. Check the company’s rates and reviews online before hiring and try to move quickly. Storing items, paying double rent or mortgage, and renting supplies is expensive. The sooner you get to your new house or apartment, the less outgoing costs you will have!

~the Brennans

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Decorating for Spring – On a Budget!

Category: Cleaning, Organization, Tips, Upkeep

After the cold, dark months of winter, is there anything more exciting than Spring? These warmer months bring vibrant colors, cool breezes, and sunshine. What better way to usher out the snow and welcome the season with an indoor makeover? Celebrate Spring with these budget-friendly indoor decorating tips.

De-clutter your home. During the winter, homes tend to accumulate a lot of extra stuff. Holiday decorations, cold-weather gear like boots and hats, and extra blankets can make your home feel small and cluttered. Now that Spring has arrived, it’s time to de-clutter these spaces and simplify things. You can also try for a monochromatic feel with soft whites and light colors. Your home will feel bigger and brighter with that extra space.

Fresh flowers. Flowers add a pop of color and life to any room. But not everyone has a green thumb or the garden space to plant a variety of flowers. Visit your local supermarket for fresh and pre-arranged bouquets to liven up any room in your home. To keep flowers looking fresh longer, use room temperature water and cut the stems (about 1 to 2 inches) before putting them in a vase. Look for flowers at your local grocery store, co-op, or farmer’s market.

Create an edible centerpiece. Spring brings with it a bounty of fresh fruits and vegetables. This produce is beautiful on its own, so why not use it as a centerpiece? Find your favorite serving bowl, or go shopping for one, and fill it with bright oranges and fresh apples. The best part about this decorating tip? You can eat it!

Swap out or put away throw blankets. In the fall and winter, there’s nothing better than curling up under a fuzzy blanket. But we’re saying goodbye to cold weather, so it’s time to put away or swap out those thick, dark-colored blankets. Look for thinner blankets in vibrant colors, like pastel blues or yellows, to give a spring-y look to your living room. For an even more budget-friendly option, repurpose leftover light-colored fabric and drape it over your couch. You’ll be surprised how much this simple action changes the entire feeling of a room.

Buy or make pillow covers. Pillows are an excellent way to decorate on a budget. You can instantly change a room by switching up a pillow cover, which is an easy cost to manage. This has to be one of the easiest ways to decorate a room – no fussy arrangement needed. Just throw a few pillows onto your couch, chair, or bed for a new look. These covers aren’t expensive to buy or make, and storing them takes almost no room at all.

Faux plants or flowers. Fresh flowers are relatively affordable, but maintaining the look can be a hassle. Faux plants or flowers have only an upfront cost and can add a nice natural look to your home. You can change the pot or vase for a fresh décor and never have to worry about cleaning up wilting or dead flowers left out too long. Craft stores often carry these plants and flowers at an affordable rate.

These easy options help your home look brighter and more vibrant without breaking the bank. Preparing your house for Spring will help you bring in the new season and transition from the darker months with ease. Brighten up your home with flowers and new fabrics, and enjoy the sunshine.

~the Brennans

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Tips for Choosing the Right Floor Plan

Category: Build Process, Floor Plans, Tips

The process of choosing the design for building a new home is exciting but can also be overwhelming. There are lots of decisions to make that will have a lasting impact. As you browse the home designs, here are some tips for choosing the right floor plan.

Make sure it measures up. You might have a certain square footage figure in mind as you look at homes. However, some floor plans are smartly designed and can make better use of the space. You might be able to “live large” in a home that’s slightly smaller than you expected.

Follow the flow. When you’re looking at a floor plan, imagine yourself walking through the home. Go from the laundry room to putting the clothes away. Is it convenient? Does the flow of the kitchen to the dining area feel right? Will the bedrooms afford privacy for the occupants? When you’re coming in with an armload of groceries, will you have an easy path to the kitchen?

Level it out. How many levels will suit your lifestyle? Do you need a two-story home to accommodate everyone in your household, or is a single-level ranch more to your liking? A single-level home certainly fits the household that doesn’t want to deal with stairs. You can also integrate a first-floor owner’s suite if you need more space but want to do most of your living on the first floor.

Consider the wide, open spaces. Many floor plans feature the open concept. It’s a popular layout because the lack of walls between the kitchen, living room, and dining area allow for more socializing. The cook is no longer cut off from the activity outside the kitchen. As you look at the open floor plan in the home designs, think about how the rooms connect. It might be one big space—long, square, or rectangular—or an L-shape with the kitchen as the pivotal point. Do you prefer one style over the other? How will your furniture fit in the layout? With an open floor plan, you can create separate spaces, like a reading area or study space. Envision how you will use the main living area so you choose a floor plan that fits your family’s lifestyle.

Don’t underemphasize the functional places. Features like a mudroom and the design and placement of the laundry room might not seem as important in the big picture, but small details often spark a big change. The mudroom, for example, is a threshold that protects your home from the great outdoors and keeps the clutter under control, if you plan it that way. Cubbies or cabinets are a smart choice here. Establish a system for organizing shoes, backpacks, school stuff, leashes, and everything else that often gets lost when it’s allowed to meander into the main living area.

Some homeowners prefer to have the laundry room closer to the master suite, while others want it near the kitchen. Which location do you prefer?

Do you need more function for your laundry room, like storage or a utility sink? Maybe you’d like a space to bathe and groom the family pet. Or possibly you would like a laundry room with a countertop to fold laundry and cabinets to store more supplies.

Explore the undiscovered needs. As you browse the floor plans, think of alternative uses for rooms that might seem like a “bonus” right now. A formal dining room or living room could seem extraneous but you consider repurposing it for a playroom, hobby studio, game room, library, or other function. A bonus or flex room can work as a guest room or home office, too.

Ask a lot of questions—of yourself and your builder—when reviewing home designs to be sure you’re choosing the right floor plan!

~the Brennans

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Quick Tips to Help with Spring Cleaning

Category: Cleaning, Tips

Winter is finally slipping away and we’re starting to feel refreshed, and ready for the change that spring brings. One of the most popular rites of spring is doing an overhaul of your home’s interior—cleaning, purging, reorganizing, and perhaps redecorating. But before you launch into a full-scale attack, here are some helpful spring cleaning tips for your home.

Make a plan. If you just dive into spring cleaning without a plan, you’ll waste time and probably miss certain areas that you’ll regret later—after your energy has been depleted. Decide where you need to purge—closets, attics, and basements are a great start. Determine how you’re going to approach each task. Set aside boxes or bags for “Keep”, “Donate”, and “Toss” in the area you’re purging so you don’t have to carry out piles.

Include the tiny places that seem to get ignored during normal housecleaning, like sliding door tracks, baseboards, door frames, behind the kitchen appliances, and cabinet doors.

Next, prioritize the spaces that need your attention. If you have a dreaded area, put it at the top of the list. Don’t procrastinate. Tackle it first. You’ll feel better about getting it out of the way.

Organize your supplies. Now that you have your spring cleaning plan all ready, gather up the supplies, like rags, paper towels, various solvents, sponges, brushes, squeegies, gloves, drawer liners, and replacement batteries and light bulbs. Sort them into categories. Make a bucket for window washing, use another container for dusting supplies, and so on. Then you can just grab the right bucket and head off to tackle the cleaning.

Make a checklist. Keep a clipboard with you and make notes of things you need to get, replace, clean, or fix as you move from room to room. Don’t stop during your cleaning frenzy to run to the home store because you’ve decided you need to change your cabinet hardware or bathroom accessories. The distraction will slow down your progress. Instead, at the end of the day, review your clipboard and make a shopping and errand list to tackle all at once.

Start at the top. In every area of your house, start your spring cleaning from the top. Sweep away cobwebs and dust the light fixtures. Then move to the windows and walls. All the dirt, dust, and debris will fall to the floor, to be cleaned away last.

Hand out the assignments. Spring cleaning should be a shared challenge for everyone in the household. Once you have your plan, share it with your “helpers” and decide who will do what and when (yes, make sure there are deadlines).

Plan to be tired. At the end of your spring cleaning day, reward your hard work by putting your feet up, letting someone else make or deliver dinner, and kicking back to enjoy your fully refreshed surroundings!

~the Brennans

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Tips for Working With Your Home Builder’s Design Center

Category: Home Studio, Tips

Your new home plans are finalized, and now it’s time to choose the details—colors, flooring, countertops, cabinetry hardware, lighting, door knobs, and so much more. It can be a bit overwhelming if you’re unprepared, so follow these tips for working with your home builder’s design center to get the look you’re going to love for many years.

Set a budget for upgrades. You can select choices among the standard features that your home builder offers—type of color of flooring, wall colors, cabinets, lighting and plumbing fixtures, to name just a few. These are included in the price of your home. However, you will also be presented with choices for upgrades. Maybe you want granite or quartz countertops instead of a solid surface, or different doors for your kitchen cabinets. Before you walk into the design center where you will be tempted with shopping made so easy, determine how much you can afford for adding upgrades to your new home. Be sure your design center professional understands you have a limit and provides you with cost of each upgrade.

Determine your priorities. Along with coming to the builder’s design center with a budget, be clear about how you want to use those funds. Think in advance—before all those shiny choices are staring you in the face—what’s more important. For example, can you live with certain fixtures in your powder room in order to upgrade the light fixture in the foyer? Consider which details will deliver more satisfaction in the long run—and stick with that decision.

Bring pictures and swatches. You probably have ideas in mind for your interiors. Maybe you’ve pinned photos on Pinterest, torn pages out of magazines, and collected fabric and paint swatches. Bring everything you’ve gathered so you can share it with the designer. Snap photos of furniture you’ll have in your new home, with measurements, too. You’ll be able to better envision your new space when you have all these details together.

Describe your lifestyle. When you meet with your selections coordinator at the design center, talk about the way you’re going to live in your new home. Offer details like how often you entertain, the age of your children (and whether your home is the “fun place”), and where you like to eat your daily meals. Are there bottleneck places in your home, like the bathroom or kitchen? How often do you do laundry, and do you fold it in the laundry room? The more you share, the better this pro can guide you toward smart choices.

Take your time. The decisions you make at the design center will have a lasting impact on your new home. Don’t rush through them. It might be helpful to ponder some of the choices for a few days before you commit. Borrow the swatches and samples you need, look at them at different times of the day (bearing in mind it might be different in your new home), and then return to finalize the design details on your new home.

~the Brennans

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