Category: Other Rooms


Planning Guide: Home Theater

Design a blockbuster theater room for convenient, casual, cinema-style entertainment at home.

Home Theater Ideas

Photo: HGTV

Millions of Americans are plugging into dedicated home theaters as their ticket to relaxation and casual entertaining. Though any space with a TV and a surround sound audio system qualifies as an entertainment area, only a home theater room simulates a sensory cinema experience. Here are four key considerations to help make an attractive, comfortable space with top-quality acoustics and viewing.

Room Place, Shape and Size
Unless you have exceptional wall insulation, locate the home theater room in an area of the house where ambient noise won’t disrupt viewing, and where cinema sounds won’t interfere with other household activities. Possibilities include a basement or a space adjacent to the family room with minimal natural light.

Choose a rectangular-shaped room rather than a square space where sound build-up bounces off the walls. For excellent acoustics, most design experts suggest an area that measures about 20′ x 13′. Others point to an acoustics room ratio, which indicates that room width should be 1.6 times, and room length should be 2.6 times, the ceiling height. Considering cinema sound is as powerful as its imagery, acoustics deserve to be a big deal.

Projectors vs. Big-screen TV
Deciding between a television or a projector should be based on how you plan to use the room. If you’re keen on TV programs or gaming, then image quality is usually better on a flat-screen TV. But if you’re more interested in watching movies (DVD, Blu-ray, HD-DVD) and entertaining friends, then a projector offers the better picture, the largest screen size, and a more authentic experience. Projectors trump televisions in tendering realistic 3D escapades, too.

Screen Size and Viewing Experience
Remember the days when owning a 27″ TV model practically ensured you’d be hosting the next Super Bowl party? Today 4′ and 5′ screens are the norm (with 6′ and 7′ models gaining ground). Bigger isn’t always the best choice, however. When the screen is too large for the viewing distance, the individual pixels are evident, and the eyes are strained by the need to scan the whole thing. When the screen is too small, viewers miss the experience of being drawn into the show.

As a general rule, select a screen size that is about one third of your viewing distance. For seating about 13′ (156″) from the television, for instance, opt for a 52″ screen. One way to test optimal viewing distance is to measure between your seating area and the television, then stand that far away from the displays at the store. If you can see a model’s whole screen without moving your head or eyes, you’re in the right range.

Finally, when it comes to size, projectors go up to 300″ diagonally, compared with 70″ to 90″ for flat-screen TVs. Keep in mind that projectors have “throw” ranges, indicating the distance between the projector and the screen. (Find a throw range calculator on individual manufacturers’ websites.)

Home Theater Ideas - Cinema

Photo: HGTV

Furnishings and Lighting
A home theater room can trump even the poshest cinema in terms of comfort and personal style. To set a specific mood, turn to theme decor ranging from swanky Hollywood glamour to cozy wine bar or lively ’50s drive-in. Or take design cues from favorite genres like Westerns or from beloved series like Lord of the Rings.

For the sake of both comfort and acoustics, begin with carpet that adds warmth and absorbs sound. Next, indulge in comfortable seating. Though sofas, chairs, and even bean bags will work, the ideal arrangement is a row or two of cushy chairs facing forward to mimic theater seating. Consider using risers or platforms to elevate the second row and add LED step lighting that can be dimmed. In fact, wall sconces and subtle lighting controlled by a remote can greatly enhance mood—everyone enjoys the suspense when the lights go down. And because you want things as dark as possible for improved viewing, choose deep colors for walls and dress any windows with blackout curtains.

Finally, add in special touches like a star ceiling made from fiber optic tiles, acoustic panels on the walls, a mini concession stand with popcorn machine, movie posters and a velour curtain to trim out the screen.


Designing a Kid’s Room: Make It Their Own

Regardless of what you decide for walls, windows, furnishings and storage, be sure to get the kids' involved when designing their rooms.

Kids Room Ideas

Photo: the boo and the boy

Everybody needs their space, right? Even a kid. Nothing’s better than having a little place all your own—one that feels like you and makes you feel good when you’re in it. When designing spaces for kids, get the children involved so they have a sense of investment in their space. Who knows, maybe it’ll inspire them to keep their clothes off the floor.

Here are some tips on how you can easily create a kid-worthy space in your home:

WALLS
Almost nothing makes a bigger impact for less money than paint. Painting is an easy way for kids to help with their room design. Picking the color can give them a sense of excitement and ownership.

Kids Room Ideas - Painted WallsIf your kid wants to paint each wall a different color, why not? It’s just paint. All ages can participate, even if it’s just the undercoat. If you really want to give them some freedom, let them have one wall to do as a mural, all on their own. You might be surprised at how creative your kids are and how well it turns out.

Related: 12 Jaw-Dropping Room Ideas for Your Prince or Princess

If painting with your kids is more than you can bear, step down the intensity and decorate the walls with decals or stencils. Decals are easiest. There are heaps of designs, from small accents, to large murals, to peel and stick borders. Kids can take part in the design and placement of decals. And if they don’t come out just right, pull them up and move them. Stencils require a little more effort.

Depending on the age, you might want to place the stencils on the wall yourself (with a child’s supervising eye, of course). Then let them apply the paint. Removing the stencils will be thrilling for both of you.

WINDOWS
There are so many options for windows, even for kids’ rooms. Basic vinyl roller shades are inexpensive and functional, and available to be cut to size at your local hardware store, they are extremely customizable. Many projects are easy enough for kids. You can stencil, stamp, or paint them. You can border them with fabric glue and ric-rack, ribbon, or other embellishments. You can apply fabric accents with spray adhesive, or cover the entire shade with a coordinating fabric. If light control is not an issue, cut-outs can add extra zing. Any kid would love to pull down their own work of art every night.

Creating a valance that reflects a special interest can serve to highlight windows as well. With a basic curtain rod, a hot glue gun (for adults only, of course), and some tulle, sports pennants, award ribbons or other materials, you can make something that’s fun and meaningful to wake up to.

Kids Room Ideas - Trim

FURNITURE
If you are purchasing new furniture while redesigning a young child’s room, try very hard to resist the cutest-ever princess headboard or the race car bed. Your kid will outgrow it before you want to buy a new one. You’ll get the same effect by dressing the room to suit their young sensibility with less expensive items like bedding sets, window treatments, throw pillows and rugs, which you can switch out easily when tastes change.

Concentrate on buying the best quality furniture your budget can afford and choosing pieces that will grow with along with your kids. A young child’s reading nook can become a study desk. A train table can become a Lego construction zone, or an art center. You get the idea.

STORAGE
Kids have so much stuff. It must be controlled, corralled. Storage is a major priority. The ubiquitous cubbies with baskets, buckets, and boxes work well, and you can find them almost anywhere these days. You’ll get the same functionality from an old bookshelf with a fresh coat of paint, perhaps with special decoration added by your kid.

Artwork and special treasures constantly collect in piles at our house. Paint a pegboard and attach some bulldog clips and elastic bands. Art can be stored and displayed at the same time, and your child is the curator. And did you know about magnetic primer paint? Yes, really. Paint any surface—a closet door, side of a cabinet, or an entire wall. Paint over it with any color you choose. Grab some funky magnets and voila! A place for all that STUFF—and the magnetic letters crowding the fridge.

Kids Room Ideas - Storage CratesFor closets, consider putting rods and shelves at kid-height, so they’ll be independent when getting dressed. Then, there’s no excuse not to hang things back up! No matter how many cubbies, book shelves and bulletin boards you have, there are things that seem to have no “place” to go.

A “catch-all” type of storage piece, like a toy box or large hamper to throw everything into becomes pure gold when your mother-in-law calls and says she’s dropping over. Have Granddad’s old steamer trunk? Make it new with some paint. Or, throw some casters on a big crate, so the chaos can be wheeled into the closet.

However you decide to design a room for your kids, do it with your kids. It will be a memorable experience, and will make the space much more meaningful for them. And don’t forget to have fun. It’s not a good day’s work unless there’s paint in your hair at the end of it!


Home Renovation: The Living Quarters

To restore, preserve, or simply renovate, examine your home in detail.

Home Renovation

Photo: lakemartinvoice.com

The biggest challenge in inspecting your own house is to be able to see it as if for the first time. Let me suggest one mindset you might adopt that may help detach you from your day-to-day life. Try thinking like an archaeologist.

You don’t have to wear a pith helmet to do it; this is an architectural kind of archaeology. Your job is to go back in time and try to identify layers of change in the house. You’re seeking signs of alterations made in the past. Unless your house is very new, some changes were made, even if they were only cosmetic. Most older homes have seen a lot of change: remodeled kitchens, added baths, dropped ceilings, partitions added or removed, paint jobs, floor or carpet changes, updated lighting fixtures, and on and on.

Unless you just bought the place yesterday, you’ve probably made some changes yourself and encountered evidence of other people’s changes. Is there cheap paneling on the walls? How about a ceiling with dusty old acoustical tile? Such surfaces are probably evidence of 1960s remodeling work. In a house that’s more than thirty years old, you are likely to find wood floors beneath wall-to-wall carpeting while such carpeting in more recent homes typically was laid directly on a plywood subfloor. Narrow strip flooring in a house you know was built before the Civil War was probably applied in the twentieth century directly on top of earlier wide-board floors. Beneath a surface layer of wallpaper may be more layers of paper, as well as wall board or perhaps plaster and lath.

If you are lucky in your archeological investigations, somewhere beneath the layers you’ll find much evidence of the original house. If you’re not so lucky, someone gutted the place and off to the dump went much original fabric (that’s preservationist jargon for the physical material of the building, the implication being the original component materials were interwoven).

The changes made in remodeling usually go more than skin deep. Often the floor plan gets transformed, too, with new walls added, old ones removed, new doorways introduced or old ones closed up. A small bedroom or pantry may have become a bath. Perhaps two original rooms, such as the kitchen and dining room, were opened into one another to create one larger, multipurpose space.

If you have already detected changes made to spaces in the house, how was the floor plan changed? Look for evidence of new partitions. If you noted any apparent additions while examining the exterior, follow up those clues inside. How about the bathrooms? Patch marks or long straight cracks in a plaster wall are often indicators of change.

When you were examining the exterior, did you detect certain windows that differed in form, style, or detailing from the rest? Look carefully at the window trim on the inside. Follow the baseboard, cornice, and other moldings from room to room. Does the trim remain the same throughout?

Often in older homes, there are fancy areas with more elaborate moldings (the parlor, the entry hall, the dining room) and private areas with fewer and simpler profiles (the bedrooms upstairs). Even when such differences are evident, however, the moldings usually relate to one another and are consistent within a given room or area. But when the same room has two different window treatments, the chances are that you are looking at two different generations of construction work. In a house that has been renovated over the years, it’s not surprising when different molding profiles have been used—tastes change, and the local millwork supplier will sell different molding profiles from one generation to the next. So look for things that are different: When there are two or three interior doors that are different from the rest or if the floorboards vary only in one area, those are clues that something changed.

Trim and Wall and Ceiling Surfaces. Examine every surface. You’re looking for cracks, stains, and peeling paint. Look at the corners in particular: they’re structural points where problems often reveal themselves. Are there water stains anywhere? Look with especial care at ceilings and walls beneath upstairs bathrooms. Showers and bathtub enclosures are notorious for leaking. Is there peeling paint? In an old house, this can actually be a health hazard, especially for children, since lead paint was once commonplace.

The Floors. Perhaps the most common floor covering is wood, whether it’s hardwood like oak or maple or a softwood like pine or fir. Wood has a literal and visual warmth that can enhance the comfort of a room. A quality wood floor, when well maintained, can be beautiful and durable. Do you have wall-to-wall carpeting? If you’re going to change it, you need to see what’s beneath. If there are tile floors, are there loose tiles? Have the grout joints deteriorated?

Windows and Doors. Are the windows loose in their frames? Are the window sash suspended on sash cords and pulleys like mine were? Again, in a cool climate that means the cavities in which the weights are hung are energy eaters, allowing heat to escape. Do any of the doors stick? Is there a thick buildup of paint on the edges of the doors or on the jambs (the inside surfaces of the door frame)?
Examine all the details of the house. Make notes of problems—and any desires you might have to change things.

Safety Concerns. Does each staircase, inside and outside, have a handrail? Are the railings solid? Is there adequate lighting? In an older house, an occasional creaky tread is not unusual—but if virtually every step complains when you walk up the stairs or there’s a noticeable give, it’s time to check that out.

Are there smoke detectors on each floor and, in particular, is there one near the bedrooms? Is there a window in each bedroom that opens enough to serve as a fire exit?

Don’t leave out the fireplace: Is the chimney lined? Is there adequate hearth in front of the fire box? (According to most building codes, it should project at least 16 inches and extend at least a foot on either side of the firebox opening). Has the chimney been cleaned recently? Is there a damper? The damper—which closes off the chimney flue when not in use—is key to conserving energy in the house. Without one, the chimney flue continually draws warm heated air out of the house.

In order to restore, preserve, or simply renovate your home, you need to examine the place in detail as you think through your needs and desires. You know your house and what aspects of it make you unhappy. Make notes not only during your walk through, but as you go about your daily activities. Are there rooms that are too hot or cool? Are there too few electrical outlets? Not enough of this, too much of that… keep a running list.


The Green Bedroom

Here are a few eco-friendly ways to light your bedroom and clean your air.

How To Be Eco Friendly

Photo: Flickr

Your Electricity
You hear it everywhere, but it’s an easy and cost-effective change: compact fluorescent (CFL) bulbs. When Leah Ingram wanted to trim her family’s budget, which she wrote about in her blog, www.suddenlyfrugal.com, light bulbs were the first thing to change. “While they are significantly more expensive than the incandescent ones, we’ve seen our electric bill drop,” she says.

Got shutters? Use them. If you don’t, install them. They’re the easiest way to keep hot air inside in the winter and cold air inside in the summer. “We open up the window treatments so on warm sunny days we help to heat the house,” says Ingram.

Ceiling fans. They might not cool you like air conditioning will, but they help your system circulate the air, and the breeze keeps your skin temperatures cool.

Your Bed
“If your linens are made of synthetic materials, you could be sleeping with toluene [an inhalant drug], formaldehyde, PDBEs [polybrominated diphenyl ethers, or flame-retardants] and petroleum derivatives,” says Anca Novacovici, founder and president of Eco-Coach, an environmental sustainability consulting company based in Washington, DC. Choose bedding and pillows made of organic cotton or bamboo instead. Avoid polyester sheets, which are made with petroleum-based fibers.

“Bamboo doesn’t have as much of an impact on the environment when it’s harvested,” says Linda Chipperfield, vice president of Green Seal, a nonprofit organization that writes environmental standards and gives their seals to the best of the best.

If you’re in the market for a new bed, think green, too. “Standard mattresses are made with petroleum-based foams and soaked in about one and a half pounds of toxic chemicals,” says Novacovici. Plus, if you or anyone in your family has allergies or asthma, the encasing on green mattresses help keeps dust mites from coming into contact with your skin.

Your Air
Clean the air inside your room by installing high-efficiency particle air (HEPA) filters. Not only will it improve indoor air quality — the EPA estimates that indoor air is two to five times as polluted as outdoor air — but it could help your heart since a recent study found that HEPA filters can improve cardiovascular health. To ensure you’re getting a top-quality filter, look for those that trap 99.97 percent of particles that are 0.3 microns in diameter.

Your Cleaning Routine
Get rid of anything that says “danger” or “poison.” Instead, check out care2.com for easy-to-make recipes for household cleaners, most of which can be made with baking soda, white distilled vinegar and liquid soap. The site even has instructions on how to make a non-toxic cleaning kit. You can also check out eco-friendly cleaning lines, such as Seventh Generation, Mrs. Meyers, and Green Works from Clorox, whose products are non-toxic and biodegradable. Clean on a regular schedule. “The more consistent you are with cleaning, the less deep cleaning you’ll have to do in the long run,” says Chipperfield.

… AND IF YOU’RE REDECORATING 

Your Paint
You don’t need to change your paint to go green. But if you’re considering repainting your room, look for paint cans with low or no volatile organic compounds, also known as VOCs . You can also look for paints with the Green Seal stamp of approval. “You want to buy paints that have minimum toxins and minimum violates so when you’re painting, the fumes aren’t toxic,” says Chipperfield. Benjamin Moore, Dutch Boy, MAB Paints, and Cloverdale are just a few name brands with the Green Seal. You can find a full list at the paints section of the Green Seal website.

Your Floors
Look for carpet that comes from recycled content. Not only are you recycling, but if you or the next owner decides to replace that carpet, it’s recyclable, too. If you’re thinking of hardwood, look for products approved by the Forest Stewardship Council, which certifies companies and products that practice responsible forest management.

Your Furniture
Remember the three Rs: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle? The same goes for furniture, so consider going consignment if you’re in the market for a new bedroom set. “At the end of the day, you’ve saved about 10 trees,” says Terri Bowersock, of Terri’s Consign and Design in Phoenix, AZ, plus you can save 50 percent on cost. To make sure you’re buying good wood, look at the back and underside of dressers to make sure you’re buying solid wood instead of pressed wood covered in a veneer. Also, pull out the drawers to see how they’re slotted into the dresser. Wood on wood is best. Plastic wheels on thin metal slides? Pass.

Small changes can turn your bedroom into eco-friendly green. Just remember to recycle what you’re not using anymore — whether you go green now or later.


Nursery Safety Tips

Worried about the hazards lurking in your child’s room? Skip the fretting and check out these expert tips on how to make the nursery the safest place in the house.

Childproofing

Photo: sheknows.com

Want to know what you need to do to make sure baby’s nursery is safe? Don’t ask your mom, says Meri-K Appy, president of the Home Safety Council.

“Things have changed so much as far as safety,” Appy says. “You really need to make sure you have the best, latest information so you can keep your children safe.”

Crib Care
The crib should be the safest place in the house,” says Jamie Schaefer-Wilson, child safety advocate and author of The Consumer Reports Guide to Childproofing & Safety: Tips to Protect Your Baby and Child from Injury at Home and on the Go. “There should be no soft bedding, comforters, blankets, dolls, bumpers or quilts,” she says. “It may seem severe, but you don’t hear of babies becoming hurt or entangled in an empty crib.”

Schaefer-Wilson says parents often underestimate babies’ abilities to get into trouble, even at a very young age. “Kids put everything in their mouths,” she emphasizes. “It just takes one second for something to happen.” Removing all toys from the crib is one of the best ways to keep baby safe.

Some studies have shown that bumpers or other soft items in the crib can increase the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, according to First Candle/National SIDS Alliance and the American Academy of Pediatrics. While some trade groups maintain that soft items don’t pose a danger, activists say it’s better to be safe than sorry.

And while it’s important to make the crib environment as safe as possible in your home, don’t forget to safety check anywhere a baby will be sleeping, such as a babysitter’s or grandparent’s house. “They may have outdated information,” Appy says. “You really have to confront old myths. Make sure they keep the crib clear and don’t wrap the baby in blankets or put them to sleep on their stomach. Create a safe sleep environment wherever baby will be.”

Another thing to remember is to always use a tight-fitting, crib sheet — never put an adult sheet on a baby’s mattress. “It can be tempting in the middle of the night when you’re out of clean sheets and you just want to sleep, but it is really so dangerous,” says Schaefer-Wilson. “Babies can easily become entangled.”

Appy says while it may sound austere, the facts support the empty crib advice. “Research is very clear on this,” she emphasizes. “The safe way for a baby to sleep is on her back in a very sparse environment with a firm mattress and tight-fitting crib sheet.”

Window Hazards
The designer-photo image of a bright, airy nursery with huge windows and long, sheer curtains backlit by sunshine may be a beautiful sight, but experts say it is not the safest place for baby to rest.

Windows are a major hazard in children’s rooms, especially in multi-level homes or high-rise apartment buildings. But if you take care to create a safe environment, you can mitigate the dangers windows cause, says Appy. “Never put a crib in front of a window,” she says. “Babies become toddlers soon, and they can easily climb up and fall out.”

Install window guards, recommends Schaefer-Wilson. “A screen won’t stop a child from falling through an open window,” she says. “Window guards are a good idea, just ensure they’re properly installed. Look for something hardware-mounted that has a latch to allow for safe escape in case of fire.” Another option is clear, hard plastic window covers. Just make sure they’re easily removable for an adult in case of fire.

Be aware of the window coverings you choose for the baby’s room, says Michael Cienian, vice president of quality assurance for Hunter Douglas and past president of the Window Covering Safety Council (WCSC).

Window cords may seem like a small detail, but ignoring them can be a tragic mistake. “Strangulation deaths on window cords really do occur, and it’s usually with children under two years old,” Cienian says.

He says all window blinds sold in the year 2000 or later should have built-in safety features. But if your blinds are older, the WCSC has free retrofit kits that will make pre-2000 blinds safer for homes with children. If you’re installing new window coverings, cordless options are now available, and that’s the safest choice.

If you’re unsure about the age or safety of your home’s blinds, here are some tips from Cienian:

  • Look for a loop: If a cord loops at the bottom, it is unsafe, he says. Go to WSCS and order the retrofit kit, or simply cut the loop to reduce the strangulation hazard.
  • Search for “stop beads”: “Look at your cords where they go into the headrail. You want to see some little plastic rings or washers tied up there. Those are called “stop beads” and they prevent inner-cord loops from tangling,” he says. If they’re not there, order a retrofit from the WSCS site.
  • Vertical blinds pose a danger. They often have what’s called a “continuous cord” loop or chain, which is also a strangulation hazard. The WCSC also offers a free fix for this.
  • Know how to fix it: Visit the WCSC website or call 1-800-506-4636 for help solving any of the problems mentioned above or to find out more information.
Childproofing

Photo: sheknows.com

Electrical Dangers
Outlet covers are often one of the first things parents buy when they’re safety proofing their home. Here are just some of the many options available today:

  • Outlet caps: The cheapest and easiest solution, these plastic caps simply slide into the exposed outlet, blocking little ones from sticking in fingers or foreign objects. These work well for babies’ rooms, but as toddlers watch you remove them and gain manual dexterity, they may figure out who to work these covers. OneStepAhead designs outlet caps that are larger so they’re less of a choking hazard, but it’s still prudent to make sure these aren’t left loose within a child’s reach.
  • Plug adapter and cover: Want full coverage for outlets where something is plugged in? This boxy adapter provides that as well as a cord-shortening device to reduce cord hazards.
  • Universal outlet covers: These outlet covers are often found in commercial settings like doctors’ offices or play areas because of their effectiveness and convenience. These are easily installed in minutes with just a screwdriver, and they keep little fingers out of sockets while allowing adults to plug in needed items.
  • Power strip cover: If you have an outlet shortage and must use a power strip in your child’s room (or anywhere else in the house), these covers are a great way to keep your littlest family members safe. They snap over the entire power strip and are a cinch for an adult to remove, but they will stymie curious little fingers looking for trouble.

Also, be aware of cords from outlets snaking around a baby’s room. Not only do they pose tripping hazards, they also make the outlets more attractive.

Can’t figure out what you need for your house or want to simplify shopping? The Child Safety Kit from CableOrganizer.com offers several different electrical — and other — safety solutions in one package.

Changing Table Safety
The changing table can be a hidden danger spot in many nurseries, says Schaefer-Wilson. “Parents sometimes leave kids [unattended who] they think can’t roll off, but they will surprise you,” she says. “Children have fallen off changing tables and died.”

Appy points out that the safety straps on changing pads should not be ignored. They wouldn’t be there if someone hadn’t been hurt before, she says.

Also, be cautious about the baby care items you leave in the area. “Never leave an oil or a powder on the changing table,” says Schaefer-Wilson. “If a child ingests the oil, they can’t get it out of their lungs and they can actually suffocate that way.” She says powders and other creams should also be kept out of reach, preferably stored away in a medicine cabinet that isn’t in the baby’s room. For ease of use, however, try installing wall shelving high above the changing table where the child—even a standing toddler—can’t reach.

Safe and Secure Furniture
One subject that has been gaining attention as a safety hazard is furniture tips and falls. It’s garnering more attention for good reason, says Schaefer-Wilson: “Think about it — what does a child do when they want to get to something on a dresser?” she asks. “They open the bottom drawer and they step in.”

She says just opening all of the drawers on the dresser, if the drawers are full, can cause a tall piece of furniture to tip over. She also warns that in any room, putting a television on top of a dresser is a bad idea because kids can climb anywhere, and television falls have been associated with many tragic tipping deaths.

Furniture straps are an essential ingredient in any nursery, she says, and they should be installed before the child is old enough to climb. “[Children will climb] as soon as they can, which is going to be earlier than you think,” she says.

Breathe Easy
Because babies’ systems are still developing and they breathe at a faster rate than older children and adults, it’s especially important to ensure the indoor air in your home, and specifically in your child’s nursery, is healthy.

One way to ensure better air quality for your whole house is to buy an air filter specifically designed to trap harmful particles like formaldehyde and volatile organic compounds (VOCs), like the SafeHome air filter. “It is sad that many of the exciting steps taken to prepare for a child’s arrival, from painting walls to moving into a larger home, can be detrimental to their health,” company president Sam McLamb says.

Beyond filtering out harmful air quality problems, you can help your child by choosing “green” items and practices. Natural and organic mattresses are a great choice since the fire retardants used in conventional mattresses contain many harmful chemicals. “We decided to go with a natural mattress after we shopped and realized the regular ones were recommending they be aired out before being used,” McLamb says. “The recommendations to leave vinyl mattresses outside for two weeks before use were not comforting.”

If you’re painting a room, choose low- or no-VOC paints, and have your home checked for radon, lead and mercury by an environmental inspector. If you’re worried about allergies, add a mold inspection to the list. You and your baby will breathe easier because of it.

Odds and Ends
Some other things to consider:

  • Appy emphasizes that parents often worry about babies getting cold, but it’s been shown that if the adult is comfortable with the temperature, the baby is, too. In fact, she says new research shows the safest temperature for a sleeping baby is between sixty-eight to seventy-two degrees. “And it should never get above seventy-five degrees in a nursery,” she says.
  • Loose floor rugs may look pretty, but they can be a tripping hazard, especially when you’re dealing with a baby that often wakes in the middle of the night.
  • Make sure furniture hasn’t been recalled, and reconsider using “vintage” pieces—they may pose risks you haven’t considered. Old toy boxes aren’t designed to open from the inside, so toddlers can become trapped and suffocate, for example. All newer designs come with a feature that allows them to open safely. Never use an old crib, either, because it may not be stable and the slats may be far enough apart to allow child entrapment and strangulation.

Creative Kids’ Spaces

Because your child's room should be as awesome as they are.

Photo: roverhomes.com

When Dr. Randy Pausch gave his famous “last lecture” in September of 2007 at Carnegie Mellon University, he talked about the creative space his parents gave him when he was a teen, letting him paint his bedroom at will, even if it meant they ended up with the quadratic formula on the walls. He implored parents, “If your kids want to paint their bedroom, as a favor to me, let them do it. It’ll be okay. Don’t worry about resale value on the house.”

What Pausch understood, and what kids innately know, is that children need space that’s theirs, where they can let loose and really be creative.

“Engaging kids in active play to inspire creativity is so important,” says Glen Halliday, founder of Windham, Maine-based Kids Crooked House. “There are so many things in kids’ lives today where their creativity is force-fed to them, that doing anything you can create that evokes that imagination and creative play is key.”

Article New Ehow Images A06 67 2u Tools Painting Walls 1.1 800x800
Photo: ehow.com

Design for Your Kids, Not for You
One of the first mistakes parents make when creating a space for their kids is not involving them in the process enough. The best way to set out on a project like this is making your kids a part of it from the beginning.

“There are so many times a parent will design a house for their child, and it will have all the bells and whistles,” Halliday says, “but if you ask a kid, they just want the simplest things.”

And giving up a little control can make all the difference in how well-loved the room becomes. “What really makes a difference is when parents allow their kids to conceptualize, and pick the colors and textures, and have a say in what elements they would like in the space,” says Doug Masters, founder of the design and building firm Masters Touch in Medfield, MA.

Color Their World
Paint can be a very evocative substance for kids, who are often passionate about the colors they love and those they can’t stand. Kelly J. Thyen, owner of the Blaine, MN-based kids’ design boutique Wiggles N’ Giggles, says parents should consider not only their child’s interests, however, but also the “psychology of color” in choosing the base shade for their child’s creative area.

“Blue is a fabulous color for a kids’ space,” she says. “It is a peaceful color that actually causes the human body to create calming chemicals and also make you more productive. Green is another great color because of its calming effect.” Thyen adds that although kids often love colors like red and yellow, using them only as accent colors may make for a more pleasant space. “Red stimulates chemicals in your body that create excitement and hunger, and yellow can have a very unsettling effect; even though it’s cheerful and sunny, it tends to make people loose their tempers and children cry, which is definitely not what you want in your child’s play space,” she says.

Beyond just color, however, paint can be used to delineate a space. “It’s important to remember that for younger kids, their eye level is right around three feet or so,” says Ann McGuire, Valspar Color Consultant and founder of Beehive Studios of Buckhill Falls, PA. “Think about doing borders along the bottom of the wall like handpainted flowers for a little girl’s garden or a cityscape for little boys who want to play with their trucks or LEGOs.”

And it doesn’t have to stop with the walls. McGuire says when parents are willing, painting the floor adds a whole new dimension to kids’ play. “Painting hopscotch boards, roads for cars or even four-square sets, especially in a basements, where you don’t mind the bouncing ball, can be great for kids.”

Focus on Kid-Friendly Materials
When designer Sharon McCormick, principal of the Durham, CT-based Sharon McCormick Design, LLC, created a playroom for her clients with a rambunctious two-year-old, she knew she had to choose materials that were both attractive and durable.

She recommends checking out Flor carpets for soft, modular flooring that can be easily replaced. “We made a checkerboard design, but the number of designs and colors are seemingly limitless,” she says. “By buying a few extra tiles, if one gets dirty, you can take it out and replace it in a jiffy.”

McCormick also chose beadboard wainscoting for the room. “It’s tough and much more washable than sheetrock,” she says, adding it’s important to choose high-grade paint that can withstand multiple cleanings before having to be repainted. But even then, having the wainscoting will reduce your work. “Since with little kids, the lower half of a wall takes the brunt of the dings, when it’s time to repaint, you can just repaint the wainscoting instead of the whole room,” she says.

For fabrics, she chose stain-guarded, relatively inexpensive cottons and rugged denim. And instead of choosing fragile tassels for window treatments, she went with a more practical trim. “We used a braid trim on the bottom of the roman shade and saved the tempting tassel fringe for the top of the valance,” she says.

Don’t Neglect Safety
Creating a room that’s just for kids means they will sometimes end up there without much adult supervision, which is why safety is a key concern in any room you design with kids in mind.

One safety issue parents need to address early is making sure the space is completely finished. “Don’t leave any bare studs or loosely tacked carpeting that the child could get caught, cut, or slip on,” says Thyen. “The space should be fully finished.”

Also, Thyen says to make sure any furniture that can be climbed on or that might wobble is screwed securely to the wall. Any large, heavy items like televisions should also be secured. And don’t forget the cords: “Make sure cords are hidden, wound up, and secured,” Thyen says. “And cover every outlet.”

Finally, don’t forget lighting safety. “Watch that light fixtures are fully enclosed and that they don’t get hot enough to burn, especially when creating a playroom under stairs or in another small space.”

Worry Less, Play More
Still worried about the resale value of your house if you install that fireman’s pole your son craves or turn your fourth bedroom into a jungle room? So was Janie Glover, who created a deluxe playroom for her daughter Katherine in their former home in High Point, NC. When the family put the house up for sale, their realtor suggested they remove the room, which had been featured in several local papers and had been a labor of love for the entire family. So Glover decided to wait.

“We decided we would try to feature it as a selling point first,” she says. “We knew that it was a unique feature and felt it would set our house apart. We told our realtor that if a couple was interested and did not have children or grandchildren, we would take it down and repaint the room.”

Glover’s decision was the right one — the house was put on the market on Thursday, and it was under contract on Friday to the first couple who looked at it. “They had been looking for a home for more than a year,” she says. “They had a two-year-old little girl who spent hours in the playhouse while her parents toured the rest of our home. It was perfect for them and they said the playhouse is what sold them on the house.”


Remodeling the Empty Nest

The kids have left home, and you’re left with extra space. If you’re looking for ideas for your empty nest, here are six transformation ideas for a newly vacant bedroom.

Photo: freshome.com

Some families prefer to leave bedrooms alone when their children move out after high school; they want their children to have a familiar place to come home to. But for the parents who want to find a new use for that space, experts have some suggestions.

If you plan to stay in your home, says Judith Sisler Johnston of Sisler Johnston Interior Design in Jacksonville, FL, you’d be wise to invest in a renovation that might include built-ins, lighting, and new furniture. Sisler Johnston says the cost to renovate can begin at $10,000 and increase depending on what you want to do and where you live. “But from a practical standpoint and resale value later, it’s worth it,” she says.

If the price sounds steep, it doesn’t have to be. Hardware stores offer do-it-yourself books, products, and ideas that can cost a lot less, but only if you don’t intend to hire designers and labor or to tear out walls.

A Master Suite for Guests
But tearing out walls between bedrooms is common these days. “Most of our residential clients are converting those spaces into multiple guest rooms for the returning adult children and grandchildren,” says Sisler Johnston, who has worked with clients who have transformed spare bedrooms into spas, complete with massage tables, or meditation areas or exercise rooms.

She’s not talking about just any kind of guest bedroom, however—she’s referring to creating a guest suite. It’s the latest trend to provide your guests with the ultimate comfort.

Maintaining a guest room or guest suite is top of the list, says Letty Rozell of Designworks in Denver. It can include adding full bathrooms, king-size beds, and sitting areas. Some homeowners might even add a wet bar and big-screen TV. Rozell, who works with builders who design homes for active adults, says, “It’s not about having more square footage—it’s about having the square footage do more.”

A Room of One’s Own
Some couples might decide to have separate bedrooms in which to retreat and even sleep. “They want their own space,” says Sisler Johnston, “even their own private bathrooms. He gets the shower. She gets the Jacuzzi.” Rozell agrees, saying, “Living together 24/7 is tough. Spouses still want a place to do their own stuff: watch investments, read a book, watch football, smoke a cigar, whatever. So that extra bedroom becomes a nice way to do that.”

Sandye Abele, interior designer and owner of SAS Designs in Las Vegas, suggests creating a relaxation room. “I did this two years ago in a client’s downstairs bedroom,” she says. “The oldest child was getting married, and she didn’t need the room anymore.”

The client wanted a room to read and loved spas. Abele removed everything from the room, installed slate tile flooring, painted the room a light celery color, and added music, dim lights, and aromatherapy. A waterfall affixed to a wall gave the homeowner soothing sounds to listen to while she read. Furnishings included two chaise longues and a side table for her cup of tea. Live plants and palm trees finished the look and gave the client a nice place to unwind.

Photo: houzz.com

A Place to Play
Another trend is having a space to set up the card table. “It’s the new cool thing,” says Rozell. More and more baby boomers are playing games like mah-jongg, bunco, Uno, and poker. Without the kids at home, they have more time to host card parties and want a room to play. All you have to do is clear out the bedroom furniture and put in a round table and club chairs, shelving or cabinets, and wooden floors, these experts suggest.

One of Abele’s clients, who had gone back to school to take art classes after her kids moved out, wanted an art room in the spare room. And she wanted it ready to go, says Abele, “We took out the closet doors and put in a small kiln,” she says. “We brought in a potter’s wheel on a bench so she could throw pots. We left easels out on stands. She had her paints out, ceramics out, canvas on the floor, artwork on the walls. It was her place to play.”

Home Work
Other families with less space might keep the spare bedroom but add a work area with a desk in the corner, says Rozell. It gets the computer out of the family room and provides a more private place to go online. If you’re going to do this, she adds, “Pottery Barn makes great bookshelves that don’t take up too much space.”

For those who need more than just a desk area, the newly empty bedroom is also the perfect place to put a home office. For a more professional look, hire someone to design and install custom millwork. That’s what Sisler Johnston did for her husband, who was helping care for their elderly parents. Their son’s bedroom was converted into an office decorated with matching mahogany desk, bookcases, and cabinetry for storing paperwork and supplies.

Store It
Empty nesters alone with extra space? “In theory, that may be true,” says Pat Simpson, an Alabama-based contractor and the host of Fix It Up, a remodeling show on HGTV. “But no matter how many cabinets or closets you have,” he says, “there’s always a shortage of space—especially in the Southwest, where for the most part homes don’t have basements or attics.”

You can make good use of a small bedroom by transforming it into a cedar closet. “It’s a safe storage space we can all use,” Simpson says. Just line the walls of the closet with cedar plank or panel liners, which you can buy at Lowe’s or Home Depot for less than $200, and it’s an easy nail-in weekend project.

“You can position the planks horizontally, vertically, or even diagonally to create a great look,” says Simpson. The benefits go beyond being visually appealing. Cedar planks made of 100 percent eastern red cedar smell wonderful, are safer than mothballs, and have a natural resistance to moths, roaches, and silverfish.

Buy extra cedar planks to trim the rest of the walls in the room. Then the entire space becomes a great place to store seasonal outdoor equipment and clothing that might otherwise take up space in the garage.

Wrap It Up
If you have all the storage space and bedroom you need, Abele suggests a hobby room. For one client she created a gift-wrapping room. “It’s great for families with grandchildren,” she says. She has used organizing systems, including peg boards and pullout drawers, to create a fun place to hang ribbon rolls and store gift wrap bags and ready-made bows. And she discovered that drawer organizers that you’d use for jewelry or makeup make a handy place to store gift tags.”You can get creative or carried away,” she says.

Whatever you do with that extra space, says Robert Weinstein from the Weinstein Design Group in Boca Raton, FL, make sure it blends well with the rest of the house.


Child Safety During Home Renovations

Watch out for potential hazards during your home renovation to keep kids safe.

Photo: granitetransformations.com

Safety is an important consideration in any home renovation, but when children live in a home under reconstruction, keeping them out of harm’s way isn’t as simple as it may seem. Kids are curious, exploratory beings, and simply having an area with something new, interesting and dangerous going on is an attractive nuisance.

“Parents really need to talk to their kids who are old enough to understand and lay down ground rules for the renovation,” says Eric Phillips, vice president and general manager at DreamMaker Bath and Kitchen of the Triangle in Apex, NC. “And once the rules are there, parents really have to have the discipline to enforce those rules with their kids.”

The first step, of course, is awareness of the dangers that lurk for children during a home renovation.

Change Home Habits
One of the most difficult things for children to get used to during a home renovation is changing the way they use their home. This is especially true when a remodel is focusing on a room the kids use every day, like a kitchen, bath, or living area.

Phillips says the contractor and the family need to work together to set up alternative areas that will fulfill the family’s basic needs while the job is underway. “If I’m doing a kitchen remodel, for example, we’ll set up a temporary kitchen somewhere like a garage or extra room,” he says. “Just having a refrigerator, microwave, and crock pot in a separate area helps kids stay out of that area.”

For bathrooms, parents need to help kids remember to stay out of those areas, whether it’s by locking doors, putting up physical barriers like plastic sheeting, or adding signs around the house.

Prepare the Air
More and more children (and adults) suffer from allergies and asthma than ever, and the dust and particulates brought into the home through a large remodeling project can be damaging to the health of the air in the household.

Protecting the quality of the air you breathe is one of the most important steps you can take to keep your family save during a renovation, says the carpenter Christopher Ashe.

“Sealing off any HVAC ducting or vents in the area, hanging plastic sheeting, using disposable drop cloths and maintaining a clean workspace by vacuuming all horizontal surfaces with a HEPA-filtered vacuum at least twice a day, preferably more often, can really protect your family from the particulates and dust that can get into the air,” he says. And these steps are particularly important, he adds, if there are any materials like asbestos or lead paint that will be disturbed during the project.

Phillips says his workers seal off areas and HVAC units with plastic sheeting, and they also use “air scrubbers” while doing work like sanding drywall to protect the household’s air. “There’s so much more allergies and asthma in kids than there used to be, it seems,” he says. “We have to be very conscious of the materials, dust and particulates in households.”

Keep Tools Tamed
Many children’s toys have buttons to push and sliders to move that often result in colorful lights, funny noises, or fun moving parts. Now, consider how the average power tool would look to a three- or four-year-old.

“Parents should tell contractors they shouldn’t leave power tools there overnight—or plugged in and within reach when kids are in the house,” says Phillips. “Taking batteries out of cordless tools or moving those out of reach and unplugging corded tools is definitely a good idea.”

Just keeping track of where all the tools are can be a challenge, Especially with large jobs that aren’t necessarily isolated to one area of the house,. “At the end of the day, we like to have a ‘tool gathering’ where we collect all our tools and put them in one secure area,” says Dean Bennett, president of Castle Rock, CO-based Dean Bennett Design and Construction. “That’s good for us, too, because tools can get scattered during a day’s work. But you don’t want a kid finding a tool somewhere on the site and deciding to see how it works.”

Photo: essentialkids.com.au

Know the Hazards of Unfinished Areas
Even when tools are put away and workers aren’t present, there are still plenty of dangers on an unfinished work area.

“Sometimes parents don’t realize that even when a room looks mostly done, if something like the wall socket covers are off, that can be a real hazard to a kid because the sides of those switches are live,” says Phillips.

When important safety features are missing, a room is still a hazard, agrees Bennett. “Even something like having a toilet off with the wax ring exposed—that looks neat to a kid, but it’s full of bacteria,” he says. “Or, if a stair rail isn’t up on a new stairway, that’s a dangerous situation.”

Stay Out of the Path of Work
Workers moving around in a home with small children can be dangerous to the kids—and the workers.

“When guys are carrying in something like lumber or cabinets, they can’t see a curious little kid who might get in their way,” says Bennett. “Parents really need to keep kids out of the way in those situations so neither the kids nor the workers get hurt.”

Parents also need to realize that when workers are moving large equipment or materials in and out of the home, they probably won’t be too worried about shutting the door behind them. “It’s really easy for a little kid to slip out the door while it’s open and have no one notice,” Phillips says. “It’s just so important for them to be really well-supervised.”

Keep Waste Contained
Bennett recalled one of the few times that a child get hurt while he was working on a home —in that case, a kid was playing in a trash pile and stepped on a nail.

“The parents needed to keep the kid out of the trash pile, of course, but it would be less interesting to a kid if the trash had been in some kind of container,” he says.

Beyond hazards like sharp metal and nails, keeping used chemical containers out of reach is important because even after the contents are gone, toxic chemical residue can remain. Even a small amount of these substances can harm a child, so making sure they have no access, even to empty containers, is a must.

Be Conscious of Allergies
Beyond the dust and particulates that come from any remodeling job, Bennett notes that many people may be sensitive to some of the materials and chemicals being used in the project.

“With paints and primers, you can go with low-VOC [volatile organic compound] options to help reduce sensitivities, especially in kids,” he says. “Carpets are another problem sometimes because they have lots of formaldehyde. Sometimes it’s best if the family can just take a week-or-so vacation after these products are installed to let them off-gas without harming anyone.”

Bennett says the danger is reduced by opening windows and using air filters after painting or installing materials with formaldehyde (like composite-wood cabinets or carpets). There are also materials available that don’t harbor the dangerous chemicals. For instance, look for paints and finishes with “no-VOCs” on the labels.

Ashe says while it may cost a bit more, looking for more environmentally friendly choices can pay off in the long run, especially when children are involved. “You can always find an eco-friendly alternative,” he says. “It may cost more, but sometimes it’s a small price to pay.”

Choose the Right Contractor
While conscientious parents are the best way to keep kids safe during a family’s remodel, choosing a contractor who understands and appreciates the unique challenges that come with remodeling a home with children is an essential step toward ensuring a safe renovation.

1. Choose certified contractors. Too often, people mistakenly hire the contractor who offers the lowest price with lots of assurances, which, according to Phillips, can end up a costly mistake. “There are a lot of operations that are really just two guys and a fax machine, and they’re not reputable,” he says. “It can be expensive to license and insure a contracting business, but it protects you to choose someone who may cost a little more but is regulatory compliant.”

2. Find out about safety practices and record. While everyone wants a safe contractor, families in particular should concern themselves with a company’s safety record because a low injury rate usually means the contractor follows good safety practices, like keeping work areas clean and storing tools safely.

3. Ask how they feel about kids in the house. Before deciding on a contractor, ask about any issues or concerns he may have with children around a construction site. A good contractor should mention ground rules for kids, their own safety practices, and any experiences they’ve had working with families living in a house while it was being remodeled.


The New Family Room

New trends in home remodeling, like the 'family studio,' bring projects (and families) together.

Photo: ekoti.files.wordpress.com

Homes, how we live in and use them, are constantly evolving. Kitchens have opened up to living spaces and become family gathering spots. Spare bedrooms are now home offices. Under-utilized formal dining areas are becoming catch-alls for spillover projects. Chores like mending, ironing, laundry, and homework have become the tasks of family time. Ironing and wash are done during dinner preparation and homework. Bills are paid during science projects, and sewing. Crafts, mending, and hand wash go hand-in-hand with Internet research. This is more than multi-tasking, it’s how families function.

But these are all messy projects that bring clutter and chaos to kitchen tables and family rooms. So, as homeowners evaluate their space and needs, architects, builders, and designers are creating a new kind of living space while big-name companies are devising the products to enhance it.

Friendly Space
The family studio concept is a space apart from the public or show spaces of the home, where the nitty-gritty of daily life can take place without cluttering the rest of the house. More than just a project room, this space functions like an active family room, housing crafts, laundry aids, computers, even music. The goal is to create comfortable family space that accommodates the messy moments in life and the chores that go with them. Counters, a sink, functional surfaces, and project-specific space are critical.

How much space? Functional home studio spaces start at around 8-by-10 feet. To work properly, the family studio does require significant square footage that must be borrowed from existing spaces or added on to the home. Key to the success of these spaces is a location close to the core of the home, perhaps off the kitchen or family room, in a converted upstairs space or lower-level family area.

As with any home enhancement project, add-ons and upgrades increase the cost. Still, this is the room where those add-ons will really pay off. Storage is a key function in a home studio, so cabinets are prominently featured in most designs. However, save for a sink cabinet, designs with fewer built-in features are possible if the space exists but not the budget. The Whirlpool Corporation, maker of kitchen and laundry appliances, is actively promoting the home studio concept by marketing creative appliances to make it function smoothly.

Appliances: A New Category?
Whirlpool’s advocacy of the family studio makes sense: If the concept takes off, a new category of appliances will likely line the room’s walls. The company has developed a suite of convenience appliances intended to make laundry chores less cumbersome. The company now offers a spa-like jetted sink that is designed to swirl water under and around delicate washables, with adjustments for the degree and height of spray. A warm-air cabinet, called the DryAire, puts hand washables in the proper drying position, behind cabinet doors. It features fold-down shelves for flat drying, racks for hang drying, and door racks for gloves, socks, and scarves. A chemical-free cleaning system, called the Personal Valet, is housed in an armoire-like cabinet. The device steams and freshens most fabrics, including machine-washable and dry-clean-only items. To round out the collection, an ironing station and front-loading washers and dryers are also offered. Buying the full suite of Whirlpool appliances can cost around $5,000; the Personal Valet, the centerpiece of the collection, starts around $1,000.

Planning for Projects
Organization is critical. Storage and workspace are the key features of the home studio space. Storage cabinets and cupboards house glues, paints, fabrics, books, and cleaning supplies. Table and counter space accommodates projects large and small. Lighting, task centers, and project-friendly surfaces help the entire space function easily and well.

When designing a home studio space, attention should be paid to specific project areas. Some families will want a large central surface for layouts, projects, homework, and snacks. Overhead diffused light is good for these areas. Counter space should be incorporated for laundry folding, and small task space. Recessed cans can provide task lighting for these spaces, but for delicate work like sewing, quilting, or handwork, special task lighting should be included. Attention to outlets and power requirements is essential. Wiring may be required for certain appliances and all built-in lighting. Other tasks will require ready access to outlets. Some families opt to include music, computers, or even a television. Surfaces should be made user-friendly, both in height and in reach. Hardwood floors, vinyls, or manufactured flooring make cleanup of spills a breeze. Carpet may be warmer, but should have a short, tight pile to allow for easy vacuuming and cleanup.

The most important aspect of all is to create a space that works for the family. Cabinets make for organized chaos, and can neatly store craft, fabric, and project clutter. Shelves can be used for drying, display, and books. Built-in storage cupboards can house appliances, spare tables, boards, and tools. In the end, creating a space that allows for family collaboration makes for productive, enjoyable home time — even when there’s laundry to be done.


Design a Home Gym

Create a workout space that’s safe and structurally sound.

Many homes have a treadmill or dumbbell these days, but a home gym is more than just an accumulation of equipment — it’s the product of a well-conceived design that’s as functional as it is motivating.

The good news is that it doesn’t take much space — nor does it require plumbing or a lot of rewiring — to set up a home gym. It does, however, take careful planning to optimize the square footage and create a sound, safe, and inviting workout space.

Space Considerations
Before you start equipment shopping, settle on the location of your home gym. Space limitations will impact the size, quantity, and layout of your apparatus. According to the American Council on Exercise, free weights require 20 to 50 square feet of space to use properly, treadmills need about 30 square feet, and a multi-station gym necessitates 50 to 200 square feet.

“Maximizing smaller space comes down to choosing the right equipment,” says Jeff Thomsen, president of Fitness Solutions Direct in Hoboken, NJ. Thomsen works with homeowners to design gyms based on their space, lifestyle, and fitness goals. “There are pieces of equipment that are very functional and take up minimal room,” he says. Thomsen also suggests you select a square or rectangular area as “odd-shaped rooms tend to result in a lot of wasted space.”

Basements are a natural for an exercise area. According to Cary, NC-based architect William J. Hirsch, Jr., author of Designing Your Perfect House: Lessons from an Architect , “It’s best to place the home gym on the lowest floor of the house to reduce noise transmission from the exercise equipment.” Sound is a top issue in designing a gym. Treadmills, stationary bikes, and elliptical machines produce droning vibrations that can be transmitted through a wood-framed floor. On the other hand, the concrete slab floors usually found in basements absorb the vibrations. Another plus? Basements are cooler.

Architect Joshua Zinder of JZA + D in Princeton, NJ, recently finished a large basement for a family that included about 250 square feet for a home gym. “Because it was all subterranean, we had to make sure the gym felt light and airy and open even though it was in a small section of the basement that didn’t have windows” says Zinder. who achieved that airy feeling by using bright lighting, reflective white acoustical ceiling tiles, and mirrors. “Lining the room with mirrors made it feel twice the size.” Mirrors play a dual role, as well, since they help you monitor your form to ensure you’re exercising properly. There was also a green aspect to Zinder’s design: The ceiling tiles and rubber flooring were made from recycled materials.

Prior to Zinder’s completion of their basement gym, homeowners Michael and Lori Feldstein had their exercise equipment in the bedroom. Lori Feldstein says it was used “more as a towel bar” than for its intended purpose. “I love that the space is in the basement, in a room intended for exercise,” she says. “When I go down to work out, I can tune out the chaos that my three kids may be making upstairs and enjoy some well-deserved time to do something for myself.”

Attics are another popular location to house a home gym. An advantage of attic gyms is they often have high ceilings that can accommodate tall pieces of equipment. Most have windows, too, and natural light can be especially motivating. One drawback is that vibrations can carry down to the rooms below. If the gym is being planned in a newly constructed home or as part of a remodeling where the floor system is accessible, “then placing sound-deadening insulation in the floor is a good idea,” suggests Hirsch. The walls and ceiling should be insulated for sound, too. “This can be done with fiberglass sound-deadening batts, sound-deadening drywall, or a sound-deadening board installed between the drywall and the studs.” If you opt for a gym in the attic or an upper level, additional bracing might be required to ensure the floor is strong enough to support heavy exercise equipment.

Of course, any space — from a spare bedroom to a small alcove — can be repurposed for a gym. “The important thing,” Zinder says, “is a space that’s going to encourage you to use it.”

Flooring Options
The choice of floor surfaces is critical. Gym floors are susceptible to perspiration drips, so sheet vinyl, tile, or hardwood flooring with a polyurethane finish are low-maintenance choices, Hirsch says. Another smart option is using carpet tiles, which are resilient, sound-absorbing, and easy to replace. And if one gets damaged, there’s no need to replace the entire floor.

If you have a free-weight area, think about heavy-duty mats that will protect the floor. Zinder recommends half-inch-thick recycled rubber flooring available online from retailers who specialize in both residential and commercial-grade products such as Rubber Flooring Inc. “It’s going to be able to take the impact from the dropping of weights a lot easier,” he says. If your fitness area is comprised mainly of machines, rather than free weights, you can opt for flooring that’s more stylish and less heavy-duty.

Air Quality
Engage in a vigorous workout and suddenly a home gym becomes hot and humid. For that reason, many prefer to have the room cooler than the rest of the home. Architect Hirsch says, “It’s a good idea to have the home gym on a separate heating and air conditioning system, or at least be controlled as a separate zone off the main system” so it won’t affect the temperature in other rooms of the house. Installing a ceiling fan to circulate the air will also keep the room comfortable.

Motivational Tools
Televisions, DVD players, and stereo systems are almost a prerequisite in home gyms today. To keep your workout space clutter- and hazard-free, mount audio-video equipment on a swiveling ceiling bracket or recess it in a niche in the wall. Be sure to position the TV at a height that’s comfortable to view when you’re on a raised piece of equipment like a bicycle or elliptical machine.

“The most important thing is designing something that’s integral to the way you use your home,” says Zinder. “For us, aesthetics are everything. If you improve the finishes and make it a place you want to be, it’ll encourage you to use the gym and not feel like working out is a chore.”