Unhappy Hipsters — What about the child?

Written By: Kathy Price-Robinson - Feb• 11•10

DwellIt occurred to her that in choosing the repurposed airplane ramp as a staircase, she hadn’t considered the child.


(Photo: Bryce Duffy; Dwell, April 2007)

See more, much more, at Unhappy Hipsters.

Bravo mystery blogger, whoever you are!

Where to put the microwave? 14 tips

Written By: Kathy Price-Robinson - Feb• 10•10

Where to put microwaveAnother winning piece by kitchen designer Susan Serra:

Honestly? Sometimes, not always, but sometimes, finding a place for the microwave drives me crazy! It’s not always such an obvious, easy, appliance to place. In fact, I could write a book on placing the microwave alone.

First, determine how “much” microwave you need, and by that I mean size and function. Microwaves range in a very wide variety of widths, heights, and one of the most important dimensions, depths. Take special note of the depth, once you find a microwave you like. If the microwave is planned to integrate with wall cabinetry, the depth WILL be an issue, I promise. Not only the depth, but the height as well, particularly if it requires a trim kit or other space for venting.

Easy access is desirable for universal design purposes. Microwave drawers, an image which is not shown below, are a recent great ergonomic development. Situated just below the countertop, the bending is kept to a minimum, while the upper cabinetry does not have to be interrupted by another appliance.

See the whole feature at www.houzz.com

My plea to the National Association of the Remodeling Industry — help us locate award-winning contractors

Written By: Kathy Price-Robinson - Feb• 07•10

remodeling winnersThe National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) is an organization that helps raise the professionalism of remodeling contractors. So what does this have to do with homeowners?

NARI holds a competition each year called the CotY Awards, or Contractor of the Year. Winners are chosen in a variety of categories, like Best Residential Kitchen Under $40,000 and Best Residential Bath Under $30,000.

No problem with any of that. In fact, I often suggest to homeowners nervous about having a bad contractor experience that they hire award-winning companies.

I’ve found that the companies who: 1) are members of professional organizations like NARI, 2) enter their projects in competitions and 3) win those competitions are often many steps above other companies.

So here’s the problem: NARI does not make the information on winners easy to access. It does not give us a highly searchable database. And why not? I guarantee you if there was a winner database searchable by area, project type, price and with before and after pictures . . . well, I’d be on that site for hours.

Instead, what we’re offered is a static list of winners announced Jan. 22, 2010 with no hot links to the winners, no pictures, nothing. What a missed opportunity. See what I’m talking about here.

On that page, you’ll find a listing of a 2010 winner that looks like this:

Residential Bath under $30,000

Region 1 Northeast

Dwyer & Leavenworth, Inc.

Monroe, NY

First of all, what is Region 1? Why not hot link to the company’s website in case I want to check them out? And where is this winning bath? We know the company submitted copious photos to enter the competition and that the judges saw them. Why are we being denied?

The list of past and current winners is even more deadly boring, if that’s possible. See it here.

OK, so maybe there is another location on the website where all the before and after photos are located. I found a digital magazine that lists the 2009 winners and shows one little picture for each winning project. The “magazine” looks like it took a lot of work and talent to layout and produce. But it’s bulky online and has a weird search function. And again, where are the before and after photos! Please, the potential clients want, need, crave, salivate for before and after photos. Again, why hold back?

So this concludes my rant. Again I plea: NARI, give us a user-friendly way to find the winning companies and see the before and after photos of the winning projects. How can I suggest to homeowners that they hire award-winning companies if you make it so difficult to find those companies?
Thank you for listening!

The dangers of laundry detergent overload

Written By: Kathy Price-Robinson - Feb• 06•10

Washing machine overloadFrom Kathy at DIY Life:

After we bought our new high-efficiency washing machine, I was warned by a few different people not to use too much detergent. High-efficiency washers use less water and require less detergent to do their job (hence, the efficiency.) I didn’t give it too much thought, though. What’s the worst that could happen?

Then one day I went out walking in one of the torrential rainstorms the South is so famous for. When I got home my jeans were drenched, and I noticed something curious: a row of white suds had formed above each knee. I realized that my walking action had agitated the denim and brought trapped, excess detergent to the surface. I had to wash my clothes with no detergent just to get rid of the embedded soap.

See the whole story at www.diylife.com

Hip architecture: are the inhabitants unhappy?

Written By: Kathy Price-Robinson - Feb• 06•10

I try not to be too overtly negative when discussing “hip” architecture. I don’t want to bring bad karma onto myself in berating the efforts of other good souls, however misguided I believe those efforts are.

So imagine my delight when a website emerges that goes all out and puts words to my thoughts! I’m referring to Unhappy Hipsters (slogan: It’s Lonely in the Modern World), which shows photos of stark, bleak, uncomfortable-looking and oh-so-hip architecture and adds snarky captions. Here’s one from Dwell magazine:

And the caption: It became their routine. And so the evenings stretched out before him: still, gray, and gravel-strewn.

(Photo: Dean Kaufman; Dwell, November 2006)

And another:

Dwell The caption: So focused on erecting a structure that would be impervious to atmospheric whims, he’d forgotten the obvious: an exit.

(Photo: John Clarke; Dwell, April/May 2005)

And one more, also from Dwell, the magazine that keeps on giving:

And the caption: The stale smell of disappointment permeated the room.


(Photo: Christopher Sturman; Dwell, November 2009)

Please, stop me before I download the whole website. Thank you, Unhappy Hipsters, for all that you do!

The drain that never clogs

Written By: Kathy Price-Robinson - Feb• 05•10

Clogged drainThe last time my sink clogged up, I tried muscle power and the force of a plunger to unclog the drain. When that failed miserably, I switched to liquid drain cleaner, then graduated to crystal drain cleaner and finally moved up to a thick gel. Nothing helped. At all. Finally, I called the plumber to come over and snake it.

We all know, clogged drains are the pits. Why can’t they just not clog, right? Well, a company called PF WaterWorks claims to have a drain that does just that: it NEVER clogs! The see-through self-cleaning drain is called PermaFlow. It costs only about $40 (less than I spent on the drain cleaner alone), and it’s apparently it’s a cinch to install yourself.

See the whole story at www.diylife.com

2P-10, the Super Duper Glue

Written By: Kathy Price-Robinson - Feb• 04•10

2P-10From DIY Life:

When the corner of my favorite wooden picture frame broke apart during a move, I pondered the ways I could fix it elegantly, preferably with a thin and quick-setting adhesive.

Wood glue would be sloppy on the finely crafted joint and slow to set. In typical carpentry, a joint can be held together to dry with a bracket or brace. Obviously I didn’t want to drill holes into my frame. I imagined using clamps to hold it together, but worried the glue would squeeze out and mar the finish, and I didn’t have clamps that big.

See the whole story at www.diylife.com

The disaster-proof house panels: lightweight, waterproof, nonflammable, mold-resistant and termite-proof

Written By: Kathy Price-Robinson - Feb• 04•10


From Builder Magazine:

Who will rebuild Haiti and provide permanent shelter for the ravaged country’s now estimated one million homeless people?

InnoVida, a Miami-based building materials manufacturer, says it can–just not with the standard residential combination of steel, concrete, and wood.

Instead, the company is donating houses made with a product it debuted at last month’s International Builders’ Show (IBS) in Las Vegas: structural insulated panels (SIPs) made of a lightweight fiber composite similar to the material used to make boat hulls, aircraft components, and wind turbine blades. The patented, load-bearing technology is lightweight, waterproof, nonflammable, mold-resistant, and termite-proof.

Read the whole story at www.builderonline.com

$60,000 pool adds only $5,000 to home’s appraisal

Written By: Kathy Price-Robinson - Feb• 03•10

Swimming poolFrom Baton Rouge Real Estate Appraisals:

I ran across a situation in the Greater Baton Rouge Housing Market where a homeowner, located in a subdivision where the average home is worth $150,000, installed a $60,000 Gunite Inground Pool recently. Now, their home is on the market and they are about to be taken through the “school of hard knocks” when the appraiser doesn’t give them any more than $5,000 to maybe $7,500 contributory value for their pool. I’ve been appraising now for 18 years and see these types of situation several times per year and just shake my head when I see this happen.

ACCURATE VALUATIONS LOGO BorderWhy only $5,000 to $7,500 contributory value for a $60,000 “gunite” pool? It’s not that “blankety blank” appraiser’s fault. It’s actually the market, the buyers, that don’t reward such expensive overimprovements. And mortgage underwriters that scrutinize the appraisals when appraisers do.

See the rest of the story at  www.batonrougerealestateappraisal.com

From the Why Don’t More People Do This Department — The natural backsplash

Written By: Kathy Price-Robinson - Feb• 02•10

Natural Backsplash in AustinIf you want to bring natural light into a kitchen, you’ve usually got to sacrifice some upper cabinets. Typically, kitchens have one window: above the sink. And if you’re really daring, you can put in a skylight. But if you’re addicted to natural light, as I am, you look for other ways.

This kitchen, by CG&S Design-Build in Austin, found another place for natural light: in the backsplash area. And why not? Why does a backsplash have to be tile or stone?

Now some folks might worry about privacy issues. You’re obviously not going to put a tiny mini blind or curtain along there. So I can understand the concern if you need to have you house completely privatized at night.

But if your kitchen wall faces a private back or side yard or courtyard or if you’re just not that worried about people peeking into your kitchen, this could be an option. And you even choose glass block to get the glow of natural light if not the views. Another idea: a mirrored backsplash to reflect natural light from other parts in the room.

This kitchen was part of the 7th Annual Austin NARI (National Association of the Remodeling Industry) Tour of Remodeled Home in December.

See more kitchen light ideas from kitchen designer Susan Serra.

Tired of heating and air conditioning your attic space?

Written By: Kathy Price-Robinson - Feb• 02•10

The video below shows the hands-on basics of sealing your ducts. I like the part where this HVAC expert uses toilet paper to find leaks in the system. Then, he shows you how to seal them up. This is not just theory or book learning, folks. This is the real thing.

So will you spend a few moments of your time on this? The investment could be great. Getting your ducts sealed sure beats losing your money to needlessly high heating and air conditioning costs. And you know that condensation that forms when air leaks out of the system? That's not a good thing.


 Video from Train2Rebuild.

Coach Sean Payton wants to know: Does your house contain tainted drywall?

Written By: Kathy Price-Robinson - Feb• 01•10

Sean Payton New Orleans Saints
By Kathy Price-Robinson for DIY Life:

Lately, when Louisiana residents like myself see New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton on TV, it’s usually not in reference to the Saints’ first-ever trip to the Super Bowl February 7.

Rather, in numerous ad spots, Payton can be seen discussing tainted drywall from China that was used in his home in Mandeville, just north of New Orleans. In the ads, he urges homeowners to take notice and perhaps seek legal help.

Payton is the lead plaintiff in a class-action lawsuit filed last month in U.S. District Court against Knauf Plasterboard Tainjin Co. Ltd, a Chinese drywall manufacturer. According to Payton and and his attorneys, ingredients in the drywall smell like rotten eggs, and corroded certain metal components in the house — such as plumbing and electrical equipment — and caused his family to become sick. Payton now considers his house uninhabitable and moved his family out.

See the whole story at www.diylife.com

Yoga for builders

Written By: Kathy Price-Robinson - Feb• 01•10

Have you ever seen anything so beautiful?

Fine Homebuilding See the whole story at Fine Homebuilding.


The Future: Machine makes toilet paper from recycled office paper

Written By: Kathy Price-Robinson - Feb• 01•10

The Japanese are at it again in the bathroom. This time, we see a large machine that shreds recycled office paper, mixes it with water to make a pulp and then turns it into rolls of toilet paper. This newfangled contraption is currently as large as a bathroom, but I can see a day when all kinds of paper and cardboard can be transformed right in the house to other uses. But we'd better increase our use of organic, non-toxic inks because what goes around comes around.

See the thing at work and read the whole story from Popular Science:


Remodeling with allergies in mind

Written By: Kathy Price-Robinson - Feb• 01•10

P1010008_7 Photo: Remodeled house in Southern California. For allergy sufferers, hardwood floor are the way to go.

From the Indianapolis Star:

Question: How can I make sure the materials I use in my remodeling project are safe for a family member with allergies?

Answer: The best place to start is by talking with an allergist. Details on your family member's specific allergies can help determine where to focus your time, energy and money.

Then, find a professional remodeler willing to work with your precise needs. An experienced remodeler will listen to your requirements, help you find solutions and make your home a healthier place to live.

There are many areas to consider — from the foundation to the fabric on your sofa — so ask questions and do your homework. Flooring is a key component in allergy control because carpet can be a source of allergens. Hard floor surfaces are a must, especially in bedrooms and closets.

See the whole story www.indystar.com

Haiti earthquake revealed the terrible cost of poor building design

Written By: Kathy Price-Robinson - Jan• 30•10

Earthquake_catastrophe_apartment_buildingFrom architect Roger K. Lewis in the Washington Post:

The sight of thousands of collapsed structures in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, may lead you to wonder whether a strong earthquake could cause equally widespread, catastrophic building collapse in an American city.

Fortunately, diligent engineering, up-to-date building codes and sound construction techniques ensure that many structures in America would withstand earthquake forces. But could some of our buildings, especially old ones, be vulnerable if seismic forces are sufficiently strong?

Age, per se, does not determine earthquake survivability, which instead depends on the inherent strength of a building's overall structural framework. Old or new, any poorly engineered or cheaply constructed building always will be vulnerable to severe earthquake-induced damage or collapse.

Read the rest of the story at www.washingtonpost.com

Hot or Not Hot? Brad Pitt Homes in the Lower 9th Ward

Written By: Kathy Price-Robinson - Jan• 30•10

Brad Pitt Homes from New York Times
Brad Pitt homes in Lower 9th Ward
Brad Pitt homes in Lower 9th Ward
Brad Pitt homes
As you may know, Brad Pitt helped create the Make It Right Foundation, which has the goal of building 150 new homes in the Lower 9th Ward of New Orleans. The area was decimated when the defective walls of the Industrial Canal gave way after Hurricane Katrina blew past, making the destruction part of the worst engineering failure in U.S. history.

No one can fault Brad Pitt for his efforts. But when the first few houses emerged from the ground, eyebrows shot up. What are these things, some people said? These structures were designed by some really famous architects, and you get the feeling the architects were trying to express themselves. That’s cool. I like to express myself, as well.

But some of the folks who were to move into these houses complained. According to an architect quoted in a New York Times article, the new owners may have been robbed of that feeling of “home” that they would get from homes in the historical New Orleans styles of creole cottages and shotguns houses. (See some old-school New Orleans homes here.)

So you hate to say anything negative about this Brad Pitt project. Few of us will ever do anything this powerful and meaningful. But as only a dozen or so houses have been built so far, it would not be too late, it seems to me, to change direction and build the rest of the houses in a traditional New Orleans style. 

Or am I being a fuddy duddy?

What’s your take?

Flash Bulletin — Mike Holmes is single!

Written By: Kathy Price-Robinson - Jan• 28•10

Mike Holmes A breathtaking bit of news from HGTV popped up on my Twitter page the other day. Here's what it said:

What is our #1 question lately? "Is Mike Holmes married?" And the answer is…NO! He is single :)

This brings to mind a follow-up question:


I mean, isn't Mike Holmes, star of Holmes on Homes, exactly what so many women crave? He's a knight in shining armor, galloping in to rescue us from the bad guys (other contractors). And he's big and brutish. And he wears those undershirts to reveal his guns. I bet he even smells good.

Doesn't it seem like women would be all over this guy? Is he looking for a woman? Was that the purpose of the tweet from Twitter?

What's your take on this breaking news from HGTV?

HGTV Casting Calls

Written By: Kathy Price-Robinson - Jan• 28•10

HGTV BlackJust as the Internet has allowed everyone to become a publisher, HGTV is making it possible for all of us to be TV stars. (Well, if we're attractive and bubbly, that is.)

The shows below are looking for guests and information that may be used in a show. Anything here fit your situation?

Let a Design Star Update Your Home
HGTV Design Star

Let Steve Watson help with your home improvements
Don't Sweat It

Are You Considering Buying a House With Friends or Family?

Compete With Your Neighbors in a Home Design Showdown
Battle on the Block

Have You Recently Renovated a Room in Your Home?
Bang for Your Buck

Are You Buying a Home Outside the United States?
House Hunters International

Are You A Homeowner Selling Your First Place In Denver or Philadelphia?
My First Sale

We're Looking for Couples Who Need Help Designing a Room
Apply now and you could get a room update with the help of an HGTV designer, plus we'll send you on a vacation getaway!


Decorating idea: funerary urns as modern art

Written By: Kathy Price-Robinson - Jan• 27•10

Decorative urn
From the Los Angeles Times:

They may be cast in steel, assembled out of driftwood, machined on industrial lathes or hand-carved out of salt, but ultimately all of these urns have two common purposes: to contain and to heal. Rather than be burned, buried or sequestered in a columbarium, the vessels are destined for a more visible final resting place — a mantel, perhaps, or a family room bookshelf, maybe even a spot in the garden.

The dead, you see, are coming home. Though the majority of Americans are still buried in a casket, more are choosing cremation. Rates have risen from 23.6% in 1997 to a projected 39% in 2010, according to the National Funeral Directors Assn., and the figure is expected to hit 60% around 2025. With this rise in cremation comes the emergence of a related field: urn as decorative art.

See the whole gallery at www.latimes.com