The High Price of Home Design

All too often I speak with friends, family, and home owners who know that they need to do something with their house — but they don’t know where to start. Maybe they are bored with their same old vinyl exterior, tired of the lack of green space or gardens out front, or envious of their neighbors custom patio and deck. We all know that feeling – but acting on improving your house is a whole different matter!

I have to admit, my family members are big fans of that addicting web site and App called Houzz. We scrolled through their iPad app for weeks on end looking for cool ideas that may have worked for us – when we decided to do a big home reno. But ideas are one thing – albeit a fantastic starting point – committing to a reno without actually seeing what YOUR house would look like is pretty darn scary!

That’s when we decided to hire a professional house designer to draw up some sketches of “what could be”. Unfortunately we must have forgot to have her also draw up a more concrete list of what her deliverables “would be” along with a firm price quote. *sigh*. But, she was a friend of a friend and we were anxious to get moving. Lesson Learned.

After nearly $1,000 in “designer fee’s,” we ended up with a couple pages of loose leaf paper that had some new design concepts sketched of our homes exterior – plus introductions to some of her contractor friends who would give us a “great deal” on the work. Needless to say – we declined.

We wanted to do something to our house – but in our haste we learned just how expensive professional designer fee’s can be. We didn’t want architectural drawings, schematics, plans for city approval… we wanted some basic ideas, colors, and concepts that we can could quickly say we either like or dislike. We didn’t want any pretentious expert to have sit down meetings with us about our motivations, desires, likes and dislikes… heck we just wanted someone to make our real estate look great! This simple and quick approach is something that professional designers often have a hard time doing – and fair enough. They want to display their best talents, best ideas, and best abilities to you – a potential client. And their time is worth money. Lot’s of money depending on who you hire!

But sometimes we just want to get it done. Make it quick – make it affordable – make it great.

So here are the top three tips to get you started… and remember, you should always start out with the basics. Play around with your own ideas surrounding colors, materials, and landscaping before ever hiring someone to spend thousand of dollars designing your dream… because you may just find that all you really wanted was a little help spurring your own imagination and giving you that quick glimpse into “what could be”.

1) Outsiders Opinion

This is so important – talk to friends, family, colleagues and see what they would suggest for your home. But don’t forget they can be a little nice. The real home run opinion is that of your neighbors… you know… the ones with the perfect lawn, seasonal flowers, and freshly painted window trims. They have a vested interest in you doing the right reno’s as it only helps their curb appeal!

2) Online Ideas

Visit apps and websites for home design and home improvement. Don’t spend hours – spend seconds scanning photos & videos. Find something that looks like your house and quickly note what you like and what you hate. Can you recreate that archway with your roofline? Would that outdoor rock work be suitable for your climate? Take note of the improvements or designs that stand out the most to you as being “difference makers” then try to think about whether they would work on your property.

3) Affordable Designer Options

The web has an abundance of highly talented and highly motivated individuals and companies. You can hire a professional design Company half way across the world who may be hungry for work, or an independent contractor from Croatia who has just the skills you need. Search for “freelancers” or “online contractors” and then find the perfect worker for your needs.

So before shelling out thousands of dollars for exterior and landscape designs – start of with the basics. New ideas don’t necessarily have to mean big bucks, and who knows – maybe you’ll discover your own inner designer!

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Top iPhone Apps to Increase Productivity

Tools are an indispensable part of your productivity strategy. Choosing the right tool for your needs can be a confusing and somewhat daunting task. The decision must be based on your needs, working style, and level of comfort with technology. With that in mind I have decided to do a series on productivity tools that I have found to be the most useful for improving efficiency, organization and focus. Each week in the series I will feature a different type of tool. Is there is some particular device or tool you’d like to learn about? Please let me know and I’ll try to report on it.

Since I have been absolutely enthralled by my iPhone lately, I’ll start with that device. *Note most of these apps have a version for the iPad as well so I am lumping them in together. I unfortunately don’t have the iPad yet, but one can dream…

These are the most useful iPhone apps that I have found to be effective, easy to use and as glitch-free as possible. This list is by no means exhaustive as there are literally thousands of apps available, but they are what currently work best for me.

Evernote – Free, open source note program, but way more than just notes. Evernote allows you to capture thoughts using text notes, voice recordings, photos and web clippings. You can tag notes or separate them into different notebooks. All notes are fully searchable and sync with a companion desktop application is desired.

Home Routines – This is my favorite home management app. It helps me to keep my home neat and organized, but keep those household tasks and maintenance off my business calendar. You can make as many routines as you want, and choose which days you want to see them. Routines can reset their stars overnight, or wait for you to clear them. Plan your most important one-off tasks for today, this week and the future with the handy built-in To Do list, and use the daily message feature to give yourself a short reminder for each day of the week. Home Routines is customizable to suit your home and priorities – get things done without cluttering up your calendar, email or to-do list.

HootSuite – Hands down my favorite iPhone app for every day social media management. Monitor Twitter and Facebook accounts, send and schedule updates, view statistics, watch lists and track keyword searches.

Paymo – I use Paymo to track my client and project time for billing and time management purposes. The Paymo iPhone app allows you to easily track your time while on the go. You can use it during client meetings or while working on tasks when you’re away from the office. Use timer or manually enter your time and it syncs with your online account to keep accurate time logs.

Pomodoro Pro – Really neat timer that helps you to focus for short periods of time and reminds you to take breaks. You can set the length of time and breaks if you don’t want to use the default 25 minute periods.

Quickoffice Connect Mobile Suite – Create, open & edit Microsoft® Office Files (DOC, DOCX, XLS and XLSX.) Email, view & access attachments with popular file formats (PPT, PDF, iWork, HTML, PNG, JPG, GIF, SVG, TIF, MP3, etc.) Remotely access files via cloud storage services (Box.net, Dropbox, Google Docs and Mobileme.) Share files via email or cloud service providers. Manage and transfer files via WiFi. *Note – if you don’t need the “Cloud” features look at Quickoffice Mobile Suite.

Smart Time 4 Adaptive Organizer – I have just recently started trying this app, but it has serious potential, especially for those who use Google calendar and tasks. This is a really neat logic-based organizer and calendar for busy people. It looks at your appointments, then finds time for your tasks – and integrates both into one simple view. Keep track of lists, tasks, to-dos, appointments, events, and recurring anniversaries all from one integrated view. Categorize your tasks and events and share with family or team members. Don’t need the calendar views, look try Smart Tasks 4.

Shopper – This is the most useful shopping list app I have come across: Barcode scanning, customizable lists and stores, aisle layouts, local store sale flyers, multiple lists, recurring list templates, list sharing and more. This little app has cut my shopping headache down to practically nothing.

Todo – I tried many task management apps, but this is the only one that synced well with Outlook for me. Todo is able to sync with Outlook tasks using an interface that runs in the background on your desktop (though you can get a paid subscription to sync over the air. This app will sync categories which are crucial to me. It also has tags, different types of tasks (checklists, projects, calls, etc.) allows notes, recurring tasks and has the ability to share via email.

Traxitall – This is a very effective goal-setting tool. Track sales calls, social media followers, weight, spending budget, hours works, sleep, client load any anything else you can think of. It has recurring tasks, reminders, notes and best of all graphing of data and goal progress.

Please come back and let me know what you like or dislike about the various apps or if you have any to add to the list.

Royale Scuderi is a personal productivity expert and author. She blogs about productivity tips, tools and strategies at [http://www.personalproductivity101.com]. Her mission is to Help you to work smarter and live better! You too can have business success and life satisfaction through increased efficiency, organization, motivation and awareness.

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Use Apps for Shower Bath Decisions

When it comes to shower bath decisions, it’s not always easy to pick the most appropriate one, so people might find it beneficial to make use of smartphone applications. According to the Miami Herald, Good Housekeeping recently launched a free app boasting step-by-step instructions for craft projects and home improvements.Lifestyle director Sara Lyle confirmed that the software offers lots of advice on a number of issues, ranging from “inspiration for a bathroom renovation” to “how to remove mustard stains”.

She went on to note that the portable nature of the program means homeowners can take their phones with them when shopping for materials or bathroom furniture. The ColorSnap app from Sherwin-Williams could also prove useful, as it allows people to take photos of items and then find the paint shade closest to them. When contemplating bathroom suite design, it can often be tricky to know just where to begin, but rather than panic it could prove useful to head to the internet, as one publication has noted there are a number of interiors websites offering assistance.

Fox News suggested turning to pages such as Colorjive when considering repainting a space – this portal allows users to upload photos of the rooms in question and road-test different schemes. Benjamin Moore’s Personal Color Viewer does similar, while Armstrong’s My Project could help anyone intending to redo their flooring in the future as it permits the testing out of numerous options from laminate to hardwood. Google SketchUp also received a mention and is apparently “fairly easy to get started with and enormously powerful”, enabling people to build 3D models of properties, as well as featuring appliances and furniture that can be dragged and dropped. It is also possible to see what other homeowners have done with their bathroom suites, if they post their creations on the Warehouse facility.

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Which Home Improvements Add the Most Value?

During difficult times of economic slowdown and falling home prices, each and every penny spent on home improvement should be well planned and thought out. It might not be the best idea to over invest on home renovation and improvement given that the return on this investment is not going to be commensurate with the value of the investment that you make towards home renovation. Data suggests that the average return on home improvement has been showing a declining trend. Last year figures suggest that the return on home improvement had dropped to app. 70% which indicates that for every 1 USD spent on home improvement, the appreciation in your property would be to the tune of 70 cents.

However, there still seems to be several reasons to go for home improvement. There are several home renovation options available but the ones that seem to be the most preferred ones for the investors based on the return on their investment are Upscale siding replacement, Adding a wooden deck, Minor kitchen remodeling, Replacing windows, Midrange bathroom remodeling, Renovating an attic into a bedroom, Finishing a basement, Adding a second room, Adding a garage and Adding an upscale bathroom

The home renovation ideas may broadly be classified into minor, mid-range and major investments depending on the amount required for the task. A minor facelift would typically cover things such as charging the flooring, tiling work, shower doors, replacing faucets, and fitting new doors and windows. The mid-range changes would include remodeling the bathroom, installing a new counter top with sink and putting a new toilet with a new tub surround.

If however, you are someone who shall be staying in this for the rest of your life and have always dreamt of those high end home improvements, more often than not you are likely to go by your heart and desires rather than your head. You very well know that you are not going to gain any return but you don’t care less. Be it that extra stylish gourmet kitchen, a hot tub, building a pool, an outdoor kitchen or fire space, these ideas certainly make s style statement.

Home improvement ideas that make your home more energy efficient, beautiful and comfortable would make your living even more enjoyable. Fuel efficiency and energy saving measures have always been in the top performing home improvement ideas because of the associated “green” factor. Simple ways to make your home more eco friendly and energy efficiency measures like fitting UPVC windows and wall insulation would go a long way in reducing your energy bill. The other home improvement idea that is a hit with most people includes home security measures. This is one aspect most people consider a necessity and yet provides a good return on investment. There are plenty of options to finance your home renovation. The rates charged by various lenders towards home improvement usually move in line with home loan rates.

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Great Home Improvement Tools For Your iPhone Or iTouch

I am going to share with you some of the great applications that can turn your iPhone or iTouch into a great source of home improvement tools and put them right at your fingertips.

Dimensions App: This handy application which costs less the $2.00 and includes a level, a caliper, a tape measure, a GPS based pedometer, a speedometer, an App to measure ingredients and so much more. This one alone is worth it’s weight in gold.
Material Calculator App: Also, less then $2.00, this one include a volume calculator, a paint calculator, Apps for wallpaper, flooring and it does all types of conversions like square feet to cubic feet, meters to feet, centimeters to inches and other great calculations. You will never have to worry about getting the right amount of materials again.
Home Improvement Calculator App: For less then $5.00, this is a great tool for homeowners. With this App you will be able to figure out the amount of material you need most home improvement projects. Whether it’s wallpaper, decking, concrete, gravel, brick, block, carpet, etc., this calculator with figure out the exact amount you need every time.
FIS Calculator App: FIS stands for Feet-Inches-Sixteenths and is one of the most advanced dimensional calculators available, and the App costs about $10.00. With this App you will be able to add, multiply, subtract and divide in feet and inches, so getting the correct calculations will never be a problem again.
Right Angle Calculator App. Here is another great App that runs about $10.00, and it is really worth it. Imagine being able to calculate sides, angles, tangent or pitch. This is a great tool for use in roofing because you can calculate the slope, pitch and rise of the roof and be able to know exactly what materials you need and it measures in feet, inches and fractions.
Builders Formulator Calculator App: For about $10.00, it’s hard to believe what all this calculator can do. It contains over 200 formulas for use with electrical, heating, concrete, carpentry, excavating, piping, area calculations and even financial calculations. It can even calculate heat loss, cooling requirements and fresh air in a room requirements. It includes specialized programs for carpenters, architects, engineers, electricians and plumbers. There is just too much to include in this article.
CAD Touch Tool: For about $7.00 you will be able to draw floor plans right on this little mobile device. So, if you get an idea for a project or need to draw out the dimensions of a room when you are away from your computer, with this handy App, you will have the tool you need when you need it. Of course it will also calculate the area of the room and includes structural, mechanical and other useful calculations. You can even email the file when you are finished. What a handy home improvement tool this is.

So there you have it. For a less than $50.00, you can get all these Apps and never have to worry about any type of measurements or calculations again when you take on any home improvement project. You will save time, material and money.

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