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5 Outdoor Living Trends that Instantly Turn a Drab Deck into a Beautiful Oasis

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The weather is finally warming here in Boston, and warm weather means more time to spend outside enjoying gentle breezes and sunshine-filled days. Is your deck or patio ready for months of outdoor fun? If your outdoor space is a bit drab, there's no need to fret. The year's top trends in outdoor living will transform any deck in an instant and create a space that is truly an extension of the home.

"Homeowners are demanding expanded livable spaces and are looking for fresh ways to update their decks and patios for premium enjoyment," says Madeleine MacRae, exterior market manager for Somfy Systems, maker of motors and controls for shades, screens and awnings. "The good news is that an existing space can easily be transformed into an outdoor oasis with minimal effort and financial investment." MacRae offers top outdoor living trends that will instantly transform your deck into a beautiful, relaxing oasis:

Shade Sunny days define the warm weather months, but outdoor spaces can quickly heat up and drive homeowners indoors to cool off. That's why shade options are a necessity, with automatic awnings leading the trend. Somfy Motorized awnings not only create cooler, more comfortable outdoor spaces, but they can also be set to react to the environment with sensors customized to open and close the awning as wind and sun intensities shift. These modern high-tech awnings do more than enhance outdoor living; they improve indoor living by blocking the sun from coming inside the home, creating real energy savings by keeping AC units from kicking on in peak times.

Lighting The American Society of Landscape Architects recently released the results of its 2014 Residential Landscape Architecture Trends Survey, and lighting topped the list of in-demand outdoor living features. As the sun goes down, there's no need to retreat indoors when your patio has the proper lighting. Solar lights are a popular option that again pair well with the sustainability theme - they charge during daylight and glow automatically at dusk. Strings of garden lights are another popular option, adding a subtle twinkle to outdoor spaces.

Ambiance Potted plants bring rich shades of green and other beautiful colors directly onto the deck or patio area to add unparalleled ambiance. A few strategically placed pots add a touch of serenity while tying together landscape themes. What's hot for 2014? Sustainability and low-maintenance continue to be in high demand, making native plants a natural choice. When deciding which plants to use in your pots, ask your local garden center expert to see what native plants will perform best in the area you intend to put them.

Some local options for advice and great plant selection include:

Mahoneys Garden Center in Brighton, (http://www.mahoneysgarden.com/mahoneys-brighton)

Russells Garden Center in Wayland, (http://www.russellsgardencenter.com).

Furniture Stylish outdoor furniture is a necessary element of designing a cozy, usable outdoor space with superb ambiance. Upholstered sofas and oversized accent pillows in a variety of colorful patterns are big this year. When furnishing your deck or patio, keep in mind the flow of traffic and embrace thoughtful arrangement of furniture to encourage conversation and comfort. In addition to couches and chairs, incorporating an eating area makes dining al fresco a joy any time of day. If you're tight on space, seek multifunctional furniture that performs double duty, such as a couch that also serves as a storage space for blankets under the cushion. If you have liberal space, installed furniture is super trendy, such as a hanging swing or sofa. If you are looking for furniture to spruce up the patio, deck or roof deck, there is no debating the quality and style that can be found locally or online. A few of our favorites:

JAUNUS et Cie located at 1 Design Center Place and online at http://janusetcie.com

RocheBobois, located in the Ritz Carlton Towers at 2 Avery Street, Boston and online at http://www.roche-bobois.com.

Brown Jordan: http://www.brownjordan.com

Frontgate: http://www.frontgate.com

Outdoor Kitchens Naturally aligning with homeowners' desire to create functional space both indoors and out, the demand for outdoor kitchens is growing. Whether it's a corner with a grill or a full kitchen with refrigerator, prep sink and all, incorporating a space on your deck for cooking food is a top trend. Whether you're slow-grilling for an intimate family dinner or flipping burgers for a cookout, outdoor kitchens will serve you well time and time again throughout the warm weather seasons, all while adding value to your overall home investment.

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10 Inside Tips From a Designer Who Specializes in Small Baths

481045989 SMALL BATH 10 Inside Tips From a Designer Who Specializes in Small Baths

By: Dona DeZube

A New York City designer shares secrets to making a small bath both functional and beautiful.

Got a small bathroom to renovate? Go wild with texture and colors if its a rarely used guest bath, but stick to clean and simple in a master bath. Thats the word from designer Jamie Gibbs, who transforms incredibly small New York City bathrooms into beautiful spaces. I liked being shocked by details in a little space, especially if its not going to be used much, Gibbs says.

His small-bath secrets:

1. Avoid textures in bathrooms that get daily use. In a heavily used bathroom, anything with texture becomes a collection spot for mold, mildew, and toothpaste. Say no to carved vessel sinks or floor tile with indentations.

2. Be careful with no-enclosure showers with drains right in the floor. These Euro showers allow for a feeling of openness, but the average American contractor doesnt know how to waterproof the floor for them, Gibbs says. The tile seals can be compromised if not installed correctly, causing the materials to decompose, and water to leak underneath.

3. Use opaque windows and skylights to let light filter into all parts of the bath. A long skinny window with frosted glass means you don't have to burn high-wattage light bulbs. Make sure water condensation will roll off the window into an appropriate place (i.e. not the framing or the wall) to avoid future maintenance issues.

4. Look for fixtures that have a single handle rather than separate hot and cold taps. Space-saving gearshift faucets are a very good choice in small bathrooms, says Gibbs. Youll also save money by not having to drill holes in the countertop for the hot and cold taps.

5. Save space with wall-mounted toilets and bidets, but be aware that the water tank goes into the wall. Thats fine if space is such a premium that you wont mind going into the wall to make any repairs. But if you share a wall with a neighbor, that's a different issue.

6. Use a wall-mount faucet to make a reduced-depth vanity work in a small space. I can get away with a 22 vanity instead of a 24 vanity with a wall mount faucet, Gibbs says.

7. Check the space between the handles and the faucet of any space-saving fixtures. If you can only get a toothbrush in it to clean, you'll save space, but its functionally stupid, Gibbs says. Make sure the sink is functional, too. If youre using a vessel sink, make sure its large enough and not too high. If its too high, you'll knock it so many times that the fittings will come loose, Gibbs says.

8. A pedestal sink is all form and no function. Its a great-looking sink, but theres no place to [set] anything, Gibbs says.

9. Wall-mounted vanities seem like theyre space savers, but they create dead space between the vanity and the floor a space that often accumulates junk and never gets cleaned.

10. If you're comfortable with it, go European and put up a glass walls between the bathroom and bedroom to create the illusion of space. Or put bathroom fixtures in the bedroom just outside the bath.

Visit HouseLogic.com for more articles like this. Reprinted from HouseLogic.com with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS.

Read more: http://members.houselogic.com/articles/small-bathroom-design-tips/preview/#ixzz3FhG5ksVe

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Sustainability and Functionality Key D�cor Trends in 2015

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If you are considering selling a property in 2015, whether it isa primary residence or an investment property, it is a good idea to start thinking aheadto whatleading designers are forecasting for the coming year. Dcor trends in 2015 favor functionality, with designers turning to self-renewing materials that are both stylish and environmentally friendly. Looking towards the new year, celebrity designer Vern Yip lists these six trends to watch.

1. View the floor as an extension of the living space. Opt for materials that are both stylish and comfortable, such as cork flooring. Warm, soft on the feet and eco-friendly, cork's natural ability to insulate against heat, cold, noise and vibration make it an ideal choice for "on-the-floor living.

2. In open concept homes, mix and match old with new, high with low or light with dark. Using timeless and resilient materials, or those that can be used and reused, allows homeowners to be eclectic and bold.

3. Geometrical and angular designs are making a comeback. Think of zigzag, herringbone or chevron patterns to bring mid century flair back into your home.

4. Living outdoors is a great way of maximizing living space. Make it cozy with pillow, tiki lights or a bonfire pit. In cold temperatures, use heat lamps positioned around the border of the patio.

5. Look at the floor, which is a home's largest surface area, as a canvas. It offers ample opportunities to add visual interest and achieve a unique look. Think about combining textures and colors. Create a pattern of alternating colors and grains.

6. Break away from a sea of neutrals. Replace old pillow covers, throws or lampshades to reflect the hues and tones of the season. Or, create an accent wall with a printed wallpaper or painted design. Do keep your larger items white or neutral, so that you can easily mix and match seasonal colors with permanent pieces.

"The variety of stylish product choices available to today's environmentally-conscious consumers is remarkable," says Yip. He points to the many color choices of no-VOC* paint, new agave plant and sisal fiber area rugs as great examples of the intersection between style, functionality and environmental responsibility.

*VOCvolatile organic compounds chemicals given off by paints that have been linked to respiratory illnesses

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