Sunday, 26 October 2008

Fireplace Mantel Ideas and Buying Guide

Welcome to the wonderful world of fireplace mantels and fireplace mantel ideas. A mantel shelf is more than just a piece of wood mounted above your hearth. It's the perfect accent you place on your home. The mantel is where you place your most prized possessions, pictures of loved ones, and even where you hang your stockings at Christmas time. That's why you need to select a fireplace mantel that reflects the design of your home, fits well with your fireplace, and has enough space to accommodate the possessions you want to place on it.

However, selecting the perfect mantel piece is not an easy job, especially if you're fresh out of fireplace mantel ideas or have no clue what your options are. Use this fireplace mantel buying guide to help you find and select the best mantel shelf for your home.

Types of Fireplace Mantels

When it comes to selecting a fireplace mantel, you definitely have choices. Today, mantels come in many different types of material, shapes, sizes, and construction. Modern design has pushed the boundaries of fireplace mantel design farther than ever before.

Common makes of fireplace mantels include wood, marble and stone. If you want your mantel to blend in perfectly, these are the things you need to consider:

The size of your fireplace.
The wall space available.
The décor of the room.

All three of these elements come into play with a fireplace mantel.

The size of your fireplace: This is probably the most crucial element you need to keep in mind when browsing fireplace mantel ideas and possibilities. You want to measure all dimensions of your fireplace and have them on-hand. The last thing you want to do is guess on the size - you might end up with a mantel that's too short or too tall.

The wall space available: The amount of wall space available will dictate the maximum size you can get. It's not uncommon to have a mantel shelf that extends past the width of the fireplace. If you want a long fireplace mantel shelf, measure how much wall space you have. As they say, measure twice, cut once (in this case, it's measure twice, buy once - you don't want to end up with a mantel that's too long and have to go back and buy another).

The décor of the room: This is where you narrow down your fireplace mantel ideas. Once you start shopping around, you'll quickly discover that you have a ton of colors, shapes, sizes, makes, materials, and appearances to choose from. So, always consider the décor of the room where the mantel will be mounted. You want your fireplace mantel to accent your fireplace and blend with the room. If you're looking for a fireplace mantel for a cabin, stick with the antique, rugged models, if that's the décor of the room. Picking a mantel shelf that doesn't blend with the room can turn an exquisite mantel into an eye sore.

Lisa Becker is an avid home decorator and writes for Fireplace Mantels 123: Shop For Your Perfect Fireplace Mantel and Surround. Her expertise regarding fireplace mantels and surrounds provides insight into the world of interior design and home decorating. For more articles, visit Fireplace Mantels 123 Articles.

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Tuesday, 21 October 2008

The Cost Of Heating A Home

When we purchase a home we tend to think about the cost involved in the initial purchase. How many of us take the time to think about the running costs associated with living in a property?

With energy prices having risen around the world, more and more people are taking a keen interest in their utilities bills. After all, given that the price of basics like gas and electricity has been increasing at a faster rate than inflation, energy bills are taking up an ever increasing proportion of our incomes.

So should we be thinking about the cost of heating and lighting a property before making our purchase? It seems like a sensible thing to do - with any purchase that you make, it's always wise to ensure that you fully understand all of the costs involved.

But you might wonder whether it does really matter. After all, if you're looking at properties within a certain budget then won't they all be of a similar size and hence cost about the same to heat?

If this were true things would certainly be much easier, but sadly it's not the case. For starters, you need to consider that there will be many different property sizes available within a similar price range.

More importantly, different properties will have been built using varying materials, will be insulated in different ways and may well be heating using different appliances and energy sources.

So how should you go about estimating any ongoing costs? The key here is to ask lots of questions and to build up as much information as you can.

Ask what type of appliances are used to heat the property and the water supply. Is a single boiler used to heat both? Is every room of the house heated in the same way?

Some properties may have multiple fuel solutions. This can be quite common in period properties, where you might find that electric radiators are used in all rooms but that a traditional multi-fuel fire is used as a feature in the living room.

Find out exactly what the situation is and ask the current home owner about their fuel bills. If you're not certain that you're receiving an honest response then you could always get estimates from an energy supplier.

Don't overlook these additional costs which could make a real difference when you come to purchase a fire.

By: Keith Barrett

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Thursday, 16 October 2008

Kinds Of Dining Room Chairs

Dining room chairs are a very important element when buying dining furniture, not only because of how they look but because of how they feel. Dining room chairs should be both good looking as well as comfortable for the optimal dining experience. You can choose the finish of the chair (upholstered, leather, wood etc.) you can choose formal chairs or casual chairs which can fold away for easy storage when not in use, and even armchairs if that is a particular requirement. There are many different styles of dining chairs, and one can choose from several different styles, such as Chippendale, Parsons style, Windsor etc.

Chippendale Style: Chippendale furniture and its original creator Thomas Chippendale are very well known for their distinctive style. Originally known as cabinet maker, Chippendale was also known as an interior designer who advised on soft furnishings and color selections. Apart from other kinds of furniture, Tomas Chippendale was also a trendsetter in terms of chairs, and more particularly dining room chairs, and the Chippendale style of chair became highly popular. One style popularized by Chippendale is the Chippendale-style chair with elaborate "Gothic" tracery splat back, which is a well known and distinctive style. While you could buy Chippendale inspired items, (carved motifs, and typical chair backs such as ladder backs, rail backs, carved, rung backs etc) the original item would be an antique piece that would be both difficult to come by and extremely expensive as well.

Windsor Style: While Chippendale is a more ornate, even more formal style of chair, the Windsor Style is less formal and more casual in appearance and in its practical application. The style is both relaxed and recognizable. These chair styles are known for certain qualities such as excellent seating comfort and strength. These chairs are also known to be light in weight and well proportioned. These chairs would be an excellent choice for your dining furniture if you want to create a casual or a more provincial kind of look and feel.

Parson’s Style: This style of furniture was developed by the Parsons’ School of design and is characterized by its streamlined look of naturalism and simplicity which has become something of a modern classic. The Parson style chair is typically shaped with a slightly curving square back and legs. Another characteristic of this style of chair is the slip-cover that extends from the back of the chair down over the legs. They can also be leather finish chairs in the Parson style of furniture. The sheer simplicity of the style makes the appearance modern but its popularity has made it a classic. This kind of dining chair is a very popular option for eating establishments such as restaurants etc. especially since the chair and the table were designed together to match and complement one another and because this is a very adaptable style making it easily adjustable to various requirements.

It can be interesting to get to know about such historical and stylistic aspects of dining room furniture, which makes you better able to appreciate the craftsmanship that you are paying for.

By: Rika

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Monday, 13 October 2008

Houston Home Design

Home design requires lighting as well as decoration to create comfortable and personalized living space. Home designers in the Houston area frequently partner with lighting and electrical experts like ILD because they know their services will only look better when placed in the best possible light. Home remodeling often requires advanced home electrical systems and circuitry work that only licensed professional electricians can perform. The intricacies and often complex color schemes of interior home design require specialized lighting controls and multiple layers of light to be completely revealed; and home exteriors and landscapes require specification grade home lighting systems and equipment to blend architecture and indigenous vegetation into a harmony of luminance that is both directionally focused and economically cost effective.

Home Remodeling

Houston home design firms often remodel and expand existing homes, creating new interiors and spaces that must be properly wired, grounded, and protected to comply with local electrical regulatory codes. If you are currently having your home remodeled, be sure to contact a certified electrical design firm who can partner with your home design firm to ensure that new home wiring is installed correctly and safely. Any number of steps may end up being taken by our team to safeguard the operability and reliability of your home electrical wiring. These upgrades may include a new circuit panel, new outlets, and dedicated circuits for sophisticated electronics, home theater systems, and major appliances that require an individual source of power to work correctly.

After completion of all necessary electrical panel upgrades, we recommend you take an additional step and invest in one or more protective measures to safeguard your home’s access to uninterrupted power. During Houston area thunderstorms, tropical storms, and hurricanes, lighting can cause voltage to spike in homes throughout entire neighborhoods. This can destroy appliances and circuit panels if a whole house surge suppression system is absent. Investing in a surge suppression system protects your circuit panel, dedicated circuits, and power outlets that feed electricity to your entertainment, communication, and daily living systems. You may need more that this, however, if the power grid itself goes down in your neighborhood. A reasonable investment in an electrical generator will enable you to maintain power to your home so that you may continue to receive vital news and communication services if a major crisis knocks out the power in the city.

Interior Lighting

If you have hired an interior decorator in the past, you have already invested considerably in exquisite home design and beautification. Without the proper lighting, however, the full magnitude of your investment can be diminished by shadows or glare. Finding the balance between light and darkness is critical to showcase many of your home’s unique designs and points of differentiation such as vaulted ceilings, trusses, coves, custom kitchens, dens, and guest bathrooms. Homeworks lighting controls installed make fine tuning your home’s interior lighting design as simple as tuning a stereo dial or pushing a television remote. As a vendor of Lutron, AMX, and Vantage lighting controls and software, we can both program automated lighting sequences into various rooms of your home to correspond with specific activities, and we can give you one touch manual control over any luminaire or multiple layers of lighting within a room.

Consider the value that proprietary, hidden display and fine art lighting fixtures can add to your interior home design in places like private libraries, ornamental displays, gun racks, and antique cases. Knowing where to install these fixtures and how to precisely adjust them requires a blend of science and art. Using advanced photometric analysis software, our home lighting designers can render your interior home design in three dimensions and both calculate and illustrate the outcome of multiple lighting systems we can install upon your approval.

House Lighting

Make it a point as well to work with a lighting design firm that understands the disciplines of architecture and knows how to illuminate the exterior design of your home as an aesthetic unto itself. Without light, the beauty of your house remains hidden at night. Companies like Illuminations Lighting and Design know how to bring this hidden beauty to the forefront in a manner that will impress the entire neighborhood without annoying it. Only specification grade, US-manufactured lights are used in exterior home design lighting, and all of these fixtures now are being made with light pollution controls and reflectors that keep the light focused only on your house so your neighbors will be impressed—but never annoyed—by its presentation.

This can also be done very cost effectively in keeping with the principles of “Green Energy.” Most house lighting fixtures we use are low voltage and will keep power costs down and still put your home in the best light. Furthermore, because we take a less-is-more approach to equipment, we utilize photometric calculations and optimal angles to spread out more light with fewer physical luminaires.

Landscape Lighting

Landscape lighting unifies the illumination of your exterior home design with the geometry of Nature Herself. Low voltage, energy efficient fixtures will keep your power costs down and create safer environments for children and pets. If you work with a firm such as ILD who partners on a regular basis with reputable Houston landscapers such as Dawson Estes Landscaping, you can actually receive turnkey landscaping services that transform the landscape and the lighting all at the same time. Proprietary methods of environmentally friendly outdoor tree lighting and innovative path, garden, and patio lighting can make your home both a sanctuary for private times and a hotspot for weekend entertainment should you wish to throw an outdoor party. Even more importantly, landscape lighting systems can be automated to work on timers or turn themselves on or off according to exterior lighting conditions.

Best of all, if your home is protected by a home security lighting system, you can can have your outdoor lights linked to your alarm controls so that any intruder will be blinded by immediate, unexpected light at the same time the system signals the police.

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Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Read This Before You Burn Your Next Candle

Most candles are made from paraffin, a by-product of the crude industry. Many are toxic when burned and many are scented with poisonous synthetic oils, with the claim to freshen our air. Fumes from paraffin wax showed to cause kidney and balder tumors in lab animals.

Some paraffin candles still have lead core wicks. Particles of lead do volatilize during candle burning. All the lead that is inhaled gets into the bloodstream. Lead can damage the central nervous system, reproductive system, and kidneys.

The black soot that candles products is as harmful to our health as tobacco smoke. The particles are microscopic and can penetrate into our lungs. The soot includes neurotoxins, carcinogens, and reproductive toxins.

Many candle makers are increasing the amounts of artificial fragrance oils in their wax mixtures. When anything has the word "artificial" on the label, it means it is not natural, rather man made. These candles can release chemicals including such as acetone, benzene, and chlorobenzene, just to name a few. Many these chemicals are stored in the fat of the body over time where they damage DNA.

So which candles are safe?

Beeswax candles with cotton wicks are probably your safest choice. These candles are natural, non-toxic, non-polluting, and non-allergenic. These candles are made from flowers by honeybees, and are natural, uniquely non-toxic, and non-allergenic.

Pure beeswax is actually healthy when burned, producing negative ions that actually clean our air of odors, pollens, smoke, viruses, mold, dust, dust mites, and other allergens. Make sure the candle is 100 percent beeswax. Some may label the candle as a beeswax candle when in fact, it may only contain 10 percent beeswax. Read your labels!

Soy wax candles are also safe to use. These candles are made primarily from soybean oil. Soy candles are very clean and do not give off oily soot. Many soy candles burn even longer than most paraffin candles.

Make sure that whichever candle you choose, that the label always states that the wick is 100 percent cotton.

Heather Zell is a natural health advocate and educates consumers about healthy living. Her website is

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Sunday, 5 October 2008

Cost Effective Home Improvements

Many people make the mistake of assuming that home improvements will be cost effective because they will add value to their homes when they come to sell them. Unfortunately this is often not the case.

Thousands spend on a new conservatory, for example, may well end up being wasted if the cost of the conservatory is not even covered by any increase in the value of the property. The most famous, or possibly infamous, example of this is when people install swimming pools in their home or garden.

It may seem like a good idea and one which sure to add value to the home, but it's unlikely to be a cost effective solution. In reality, it can actually have the opposite effect.

Many potential buyers with young children would actually be put off buying a property if it included a pool. This is because of considerations surrounding the safety aspects of having young kids around such a hazard.

Others may also be put off, mainly due to the maintenance costs that are involved.

So what sort of home improvements do represent value for money? You need to think about what potential buyers are likely to be attracted to. A new look bathroom or kitchen may well be selling points, so those are two rooms of the house that you could look at.

Consider how much they might increase the value of your home by. Don't simply have a guess - do some research and closely examine property prices in the area where you live.

The golden rule is that a home improvement won't be cost effective if it costs you more to carry it out than you could ever hope to get back as a result of your efforts. Aim to spend your time and money wisely.

Other improvements that you might consider would include a feature for your living room, such as a fire. This could act as a centrepiece for the room, transforming the entire feel of your living space.

Improvements made to the exterior of the property can also pay dividends. Don't forget that time can often be well spent in the garden, where dramatic results can be achieved through hard work and often without spending too much money.

If ensuring that you are being cost effective is important to you then always do your research and always know your budget. If you don't have a budget then you could find that you'll lose control of the costs.

Be sensible and you could add real value to your home.

More on Electric Fire Suites is available online, as discussed by Keith Barrett. This article may be used by any website publisher, though this resource box must always be included in full.

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Saturday, 4 October 2008

Natural Pools: A Green Oasis

Summer may be coming to a close, but that doesn't mean it's too late to think about a trend that's merging the green and the wet: natural pools. A natural pool is a man-made swimming pool that utilizes natural means of cleaning itself. Instead of utilizing chemicals, these pools are carefully designed around plants that act as filtration systems. Usually, a deeper swimming area is surrounded by a larger, shallow area planted with plenty of water-loving plants. This water-garden area is called a regeneration zone, and a pump directs water from the swimming area through the garden zone to be filtered and cleaned by both the plants and a bed of gravel. The exact ratio of plants to size of pool and number of swimmers has been calculated by the professionals, allowing people to have completely chemical free yet safe swimming pools, right in their own back yards.

The concept is the same as a lake. There are enough natural filters in place that the average lake, if not overwhelmed by a pollution source, is perfectly safe for multiple people to swim in it on a regular basis. Plants are very affective at absorbing organic matter, neutralizing toxins and releasing oxygen into the water, giving the owners of these natural pools mini-sanctuaries in the privacy of their own backyards.

One factor to consider about a natural pool, called a swimming pond in Europe, is that it will need a larger footprint than the space you actually want for swimming. So these are most suited to larger yards. Typically, about half of the total area is the deeper swimming area and half is the water-garden area.

You will know if a natural pool is functioning properly because the water will be clear and luscious looking. Algae growth can occur, and is most common during the first year after the pool is developed. Once the plants grow and develop larger root systems, they will starve the algae and the water will clear up. With the right balance of plants, and a functioning pump to circulate the water, there should be minimal to no algae growth, just crystal clear, pure water and that sweet smell of lake-water.

Natural pools have been gaining popularity in Europe over the past twenty years or so, but there are only a few companies building them in the United States. They are so different looking compared to what people expect a pool to be, but the concept is taking off. It is no surprise that natural pools should become popular, as the "green" trend moves people away from things like chemicals and towards something like this that actually creates an ecosystem. Imagine attracting butterflies to your backyard swimming hole.

However one of the main obstacles to a natural swimming pool is zoning regulations. You will need a building permit to create one, and you might run into challenges from engineers and city officials who are unfamiliar with the concept. But referring them to the research done by the Kansas-based Total Habitat or California's Expanding Horizons will help.

By: Kevin Koitz

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