Wednesday, May 31, 2006

New home sales increase in April

New Home Sales Increase
April sales of new single-family homes up 4.9% to adjusted rate of 1.2 million units.

Washington/May 24, 2006/—Sales of new single-family homes were up 4.9 percent in April to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.198 million units, following a substantial downward revision to sales for the first quarter of the year, ...  Link: News : Industry News : Sales of New Homes Increase in April :

From HGTVPro e-newsletter

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Kitchen sinks

We want to replace our kitchen sink, and I sent off for an Elkay brochure, which I got the other day.  They have a nice selection of sinks, including one that is four feet long and looks like a little river--very impractical, but if you want something pretty and unique...  It's called the Mystic.  (There's a photo of the river sink in the July/August issue of Home magazine.)  They have a good selection of faucets too.  What I want is a big double sink with a drainboard on each side; the clean dishes would go on the right and the dirty dishes on the left.  We need a drainboard on the left because water accumulates there and knives with wooden handles get soaked.  I wanted a catalog or brochure from Kohler's too, but they charge for them.  Elkay gave us a list of local kitchen & bath stores--with distances, which I will visit.    

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Home furnishings for your dog

I came across an automatic dog waterer in a catalog--Collections Etc.--today.  I usually prefer pretty to cutesy, but this complete glazed ceramic toilet (10 1/4" high) with the cute puppy drinking out of it made me smile.  (You use a 2 liter plastic bottle--not included--to fill the bowl.)

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Building material shortages (link)

The Cost of Doing Business
Builders face higher copper prices, drywall shortages, and a short supply of cement.  Link: News : Industry News : Builders Face Higher Copper Costs, Drywall Shortages :

From: HGTVPro News e-mail newsletter

Monday, May 22, 2006

Green Living

I came across this book in the May 21st Parade magazine.  Want a healthier, more environmentally friendly home and yard?  Check out Green Living (Plume; by the editors of E/The Environmental Magazine).  It includes the baby's room, kitchen safety,  nontoxic lawn care, ....  It's a user-friendly handbook.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Design tips from Lisa LaPorta (link)

You can click on a room in a house plan to get a list of tips for sprucing that room up: Kitchen, Bathroom, Bedroom, Family/Living room and Garage.  Link: PARADE Magazine |

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Homebuilding Pitfalls

This is from an e-mail ad I received; it sounds interesting:

About a month ago I sent you a note about our recent acquisition Homebuilding Pitfalls.  I am writing to report to let you know that we were recently contacted and did an interview with WJR radio, out of Detroit, which is syndicted and reaches 38 states.   We will soon have an audio copy of the interview and will post it on the site.

Homebuilding Pitfalls was written by a couple of people who worked for one of the largest residential constructions builders in the U.S.  One of the authors managed the warranty department for this large builder.  His "insider views" will save you money and headaches -- not to mention a great deal of frustration.  Don't miss them! 

For anyone who has toured a model home at a builder's development -- this book is especially valuable; it walks you through the entire sales process from the minute you open the door an are greeted by a salesperson --- and most importantly it shows you how to avoid the pitfalls and traps often encountered.   

The book was endorsed by Homeowners Against Deficient Dwellings (HADD), a large, nonprofit organization dedicated to educating housing consumers and promoting better building practices. This organization is made up entirely of volunteers who have had a new home built and have been burned to the tune of thousands of dollars (if not hundreds of thousands of dollars) in the process. Here is what HADD had to say about Home Building Pitfalls:

"Written with first-hand knowledge and expertise of a home building industry 'insider', Home Building Pitfalls offers details for what can (and should) be one of the most exciting events of your life. Mr. Thomas familiarizes readers with 'must do' research and actions that should precede any decisions regarding the purchase of a newly constructed home. Lawrence Thomas expertly iterates items that should be part of every potential home buyer's arsenal".

If you haven't taken a look at the book, I would encourage you to do so.  You won't find this type of inside information about the house building industry anywhere else.  Backed by a 100%, life-time, money back guarantee, and a Better Business Bureau Reliability Seal, you can buy with confidence.  

Link: Building a new Home? Avoid home builder construction rip-offs

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Housing Market Index (HMI) decline (link)

Builder Confidence Declines
Rising mortgage rates, deepening affordability issues are key factors in May.

Link: Economic Issues : Builder Confidence Declines in May :

From: HGTVPro newsletter

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Flower arrangements (links)

Click here: Floral Design Instruction    I think this is the one that even had a 'conditioning' section on how to cut/care for the flowers...which is essential so flowers will last for week or more.  also had some great simple instruction on what kind of stems to use first for what you want to do, etc.
(Thanks to Millie, the flower arranger)

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Preparing to buy a house (link)

by Holden Lewis
Scripps Howard News Service

Summer is the busiest time of year for home sales. If you want to buy a house this summer, spring is a good time to get the ball rolling.

No, it's not necessary to start looking at houses so early. It's the financial stuff that you tackle three to four months before moving day: finding out your credit score and fixing any errors on your credit report.   ...

Link: At Home : Buying Homes : Preparing to Buy a House : Home & Garden Television

From HGTV e-newsletter



Saturday, May 13, 2006

Top five recommended garden books

Top books on horticulture recommended BY LEEANN LAVIN

1. "The Well-Designed Mixed Garden" by Tracy DiSabato-Aust (Timber Press, 2003).

Tracy DiSabato-Aust, a daring master gardener, weds an intimate knowledge of horticulture to a brilliant design sense ...

2. "Pioneers of American Landscape Design" by Charles A. Birnbaum and Robin Karson (McGraw-Hill, 2000).

In its profiles of more than 160 of the country's most influential garden artists, this remarkable book combines horticulture, history, commerce, aesthetics and engineering. ...

3. "The Passion for Gardening" by Ken Druse (Clarkson Potter, 2003).

[/BK-5ID]Anyone who has ever drooled over spring gardening catalogs is likely to appreciate Ken Druse's heartfelt response to the 10 superb gardens he writes about in "The Passion for Gardening." ...

4. "Wildflowers in the Field and Forest" by Steven Clemants and Carol Gracie (Oxford, 2006).

In addition to being the most comprehensive field guide for the northeastern U.S. and Canada, this is an eminently practical book of advice on the cultivation of native plants, ...

5. "The Botany of Desire" by Michael Pollan (Random House, 2001)

Michael Pollan posits a revolutionary way of looking at man's relationship to the world of nature and plants.  ...

Ms. Lavin, a garden writer and landscape designer, is the director of public affairs for Brooklyn Botanic Garden in New York.

Article link: OpinionJournal - Five Best

Friday, May 12, 2006

House link (English manor)

This lovely home is a National Trust house in Cambridgeshire called Wimpole Hall; photography inside is not allowed, but there are some sculpture photos also.  Link:

Weblog - April 2006 (Wimpole Hall - A Gallery of Images). The Eternal Night Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Web Site

Thursday, May 11, 2006

House building glitches

Doing It Right is the subject of the editorial in the June Home magazine.  Whether problems were caused by the original builder, subsequent owners, or yourself, these issues have to be dealt with sometime...  Building means making hundreds of decisions, and it's easy to overlook a minor detail while wrestling with bigger decisions, but as the editor, Donna Sapolin, says, "it's easier to prevent a problem than to undo one."

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Architecture of the Imagination

"It was a landscape, hanging in space.

There was a squat little house with a garden around it.  ...

The Hogfather apparently lived in some kind of horrible slaughterhouse in the mountains, festooned with sausages and puddings and painted a blood red. 

Which suggested style.  A nasty style, but at least style of a sort.  This house didn't have style of any sort.   ...

She found the front door.  It was black, with a knocker in the shape of an omega.

Susan reached for it, but the door opened by itself.

And the hall stretched away in front of her, far bigger than the outside of the house could possibly contain.  She could distantly make out a stairway wide enough for the tap dancing finale in a musical.

[Another room] could have housed a small town.

A small area of carpet occupied the middle distance, no more than a hectare in size.  It took Susan several minutes to reach the edge.

It was a room within a room.  There was a large heavy-looking desk on a raised dais, with a leather swivel chair behind it.  There was a large model of the disc-world, on a sort of ornament made of four elephants standing on the back of a turtle.  There were several bookshelves, the large volumes piled in the haphazard fashion of people who're far too busy using the books ever to arrange them properly.  There was even a window hanging in the air a few feet above the ground.

But there were no walls.  [and] The carpet had a skull-and-bones pattern."

From Soul Music by Terry Pratchett

Tuesday, May 9, 2006


There's a helpful article on clutter in the June issue of Home magazine, titled Call to Order: Losing clutter, gaining peace of mind.  "Ask yourself: what are you afraid of losing?"  The article includes helpful hints and storage solutions. 

Monday, May 8, 2006

Changing house plans

Make changes as early as possible! 

We did make some changes to our house plan, but they were mostly on paper. It's much easier and cheaper to change things on paper. A neighbor mentioned the lack of windows on our kitchen wall--and we were the ones who wanted cross ventilation--so we added a window and subtracted a cabinet. Then we made a last minute change in a bathroom. (Sometimes, however, the changes don't make it to the sub-contractors' copies, but when it's not your fault, you don't have to pay for it. And a house inspection can end up changing your house plan and catch mistakes. Inspectors caught a mistake with the framing of mother's back door and made us move electrical outlets to an outside wall in her back porch room.) Speaking of bathrooms, we learned about resale value when building, but we decided we only needed three bathrooms. I did not need a bathroom off my bedroom; I use the guest one off the Great Hall; it's right across from my bedroom. That decision gave us a big closet off the Great Hall. Resale value is why we put in the dishwasher. We weren't going to. Disposals, we found out, require a larger septic tank and maintenance. We compost anyway. So, if buyers want one, they'll have to put it in. It's always a matter of choices.

Excerpt from Building a Cool House for Hot Times without Scorching the Pocketbook: Building a Cool House for Hot Times Without Scorching the Pocketbook: Books: Joy V. Smith

Sunday, May 7, 2006


There's an interesting article on decks in the June 2006 issue of Home magazine with a list of materials, their performance and maintenance.   I didn't know they made decks from aluminum; they're powder-coated and need the least maintenance.  Natural wood (not pressure-treated) requires the most maintenance, though it's similar to pressure-treated, and has a warranty of 10+ years.  Lots more useful information.  There's a Trex ad in the magazine, btw; it looks like they have more choices now.

From a Country Home e-mail:

Introducing the Trex® Create Your Space® Deck Designer - an interactive tool to help you create your space. With a few clicks of your mouse, customize your Trex deck with different colors, textures, design shapes, and outdoor living accessories to create the outdoor living space of your dreams. help in designing the deck of your dreams, call 1-800-BUY TREX, ext. 1337, or start now at

Saturday, May 6, 2006

The new living room?

"Is the kitchen the new living room?" asks David Johnson in Kitchen Trends (Vol. 20, #7).  "'s trend is ... towards open-plan communal kitchens the whole family can enjoy."  Products in this issue include little fireplaces in the kitchen, sometimes sitting on the counter; high end appliances; and pewter countertops (long used in France "for cafe and brasserie countertops because it lasts for generations and its appearance improves with age").  And I see that LG is now making fancy countertops.  (I thought they only made appliances.  Interesting background on the company in Treasure Hunt, btw; I learned that LG evolved from Lucky Goldstar.) 

Friday, May 5, 2006

Endangered Species Day

Celebrate the first ever Endangered Species Day! - May 11th

It's like a big hug for wildlife. Join people across America to celebrate endangered species and the safety net that keeps them from slipping into extinction - the Endangered Species Act. Click here to see what can you do to celebrate!

From the National Wildlife Federation e-newsletter

Thursday, May 4, 2006

Wax ring warning

In the Great Moments column in Fine Homebuilding's Kitchens & Baths (Winter 2004 issue) was an interesting piece about a leaking toilet--The Wax Ring by Nate Thomas.  A stain appeared on the ceiling of the first floor bathroom (a second-floor bathroom had been added above the first), so he checked the second-floor toilet's wall connection and the tank fitting--no problems.  He knew the tank didn't sweat so he could rule that out, and then he cross-examined the kids to see if they'd been playing bathtub games the way he did when he was a kid...  Nope.  Finally he opened up the ceiling in the first floor bathroom and was inundated with drywall and dripping insulation.  Oh, yuck!  It was definitely a leaking toilet, and the problem turned out to be a melted wax ring.  The culprit was a small ceramic heater that the kids pulled too close to the toilet.  The heater warmed the toilet and melted the ring. 

Wednesday, May 3, 2006

Kitchen Design

The Seven Sins of Kitchen Design was the subject of Patrick Sutton's Taking Issue column in Fine Homebuilding's Kitchens and Baths annual issue (Winter 2004).  What I found most interesting was #1: Some kitchens have too many cabinets. (Hmm.  I think you can never have too much storage in a kitchen.)  #2: Spending too much money on high end countertops; he suggests mixing materials and focusing on what you need.  (Yep.)  #5: Commercial appliances.  He points out that many other products perform better and are easier to take care of.  Commercial appliances are expensive to buy, to install, to vent, to maintain, and to repair.   #6: Backsplashes.  Sink and cooking areas are messy, yet you still see a standard-4-in.-high backsplash with drywall above.  (Yep.  We wanted a backsplash over the sink up to the window.  We should have taken a firmer stand.  We tiled it a year or so ago, and now we want to redo it again.)

Tuesday, May 2, 2006

Renovation Style

I came across Renovation Style (Spring 2005 issue) recently, and it is full of interesting products for the home, including colorful concrete vessel sinks for the bathroom; Semi-Precious Stone Mosaics for the bathroom (all but mother-of-pearl are harder than granite); a vessel sink made of African hardwood (beautiful); sheet vinyl (pros call them resilients) that looks like sisal; and luxury vinyl tiles with three-dimensional patterns that look like sisal, brushed steel, clay, and pebbles (as tough as ceramic tiles but much warmer underfoot).  There are also a number of remodeled and updated homes.  This magazine was a pleasure to look at.

Monday, May 1, 2006