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Home Care

Practical tips to improve your home’s function and ambiance

If a kitchen or bathroom renovation is in your future, take a holistic approach that considers how the space will be used now and in the future.

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Homeowners tackling interior upgrades often focus their attention on two of the most-used rooms the in the house: the kitchen and bathroom. Tailoring these rooms to your personal preferences may enhance your enjoyment of the space, but most experts recommend thinking long term for the biggest return on your investment.

If a kitchen or bathroom renovation is in your future, take a holistic approach that considers how the space will be used now and in the future.

Kitchen Considerations

As the hub of activity for many households, the kitchen is a space that commands efficient, functional design. Aside from the practical issue of losing access to the space while it’s under construction, there’s another important challenge for homeowners to consider when tackling a kitchen remodel: for maximum return on your investment, avoid making choices that are too trendy or personal.

Design trends come and go, so while a contemporary update is almost always a good idea, many design experts recommend sticking with classic looks and styles that have broad appeal, especially for big ticket (and big price tag) elements like cabinetry. Save your flair for aspects like the backsplash tile or wall color, which can be relatively easily changed by a new owner or even yourself when you want a refresh down the road.

Another area to give special attention is the overall ambiance of the room, which is largely influenced by the light from natural and electric sources. For a room that needs brightening, skylights are a smart option because they free up wall space for more storage and cabinets while adding abundant natural light.

However, natural light from above isn’t the only advantage of adding skylights. Some models, such as a Velux solar-powered, fresh-air skylight, can be opened with a remote control to bring fresh air inside, which helps keep the kitchen fresh and rids indoor air of pollutants from daily activities like cooking and cleaning.

Skylights can be ordered with light-filtering or room-darkening blinds, which give homeowners maximum control over the exact amount of light they want. Plus, solar-powered blinds come in over 75 colors and patterns for customizable design options that allow you to truly make the space your own.

Be sure to ask whether the line you’re considering qualifies for a federal tax credit. Solar-powered skylights and blinds are eligible for a 26% federal tax credit on product and installation if purchased and installed by the end of 2020. The credit decreases to 22% in 2021.

A Better Bathroom

In the bathroom, modern upgrades are also a smart investment. However, many experts actually recommend thinking not just about what’s in vogue right now but considering needs far into the future.

Universal design is especially relevant in the bathroom, where simple adjustments can provide added accessibility as you age, and these updates can flow seamlessly into the design. This means considering a vanity with a raised counter height and a taller toilet base, which can add stylish enjoyment no matter your age. Other features like a zero-entry shower deliver high-demand design and safety simultaneously.

Outside of accessibility-oriented updates, upgrading your fixtures, fresh paint and contemporary tile can go a long way toward transforming a bathroom. If you find your space is still in need of a boost, a skylight may be the answer. Natural light can be that last touch to bring your space from just OK to perfect, and skylights in the bathroom allow homeowners to maximize their natural light without losing any privacy.

In a space like the bathroom, where ventilation is a top concern, a choice like Velux No Leak Solar-Powered “Fresh Air” Skylights provide natural light as well as fresh air ventilation to make the environment healthier. They help rid indoor air of bacteria, volatile organic compounds and carbon dioxide.

Smart Climate Control

Fresh air ventilation is one way homeowners can promote better indoor air quality, especially in rooms like kitchens and bathrooms which are especially vulnerable to poor air circulation.

A smartphone-controlled skylight automation system such as Velux Active with Netatmo can help improve indoor climate from the convenience of your mobile device. It allows homeowners to automate when they open and close their skylights and blinds. The system monitors an online weather station and uses indoor sensors to measure temperature, humidity and carbon dioxide levels in the home. Based on a homeowner’s settings, the system will automatically open the skylights or extend the blinds as needed to improve air quality and temperature inside the home.

Explore more design ideas to enhance your kitchen and bathroom spaces at whyskylights.com.

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Home Care

Things to know when shopping for a generator

Consumers want and need reliable power. When the electricity goes out, gen­erators keep your home or business humming with light and power.

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Increasingly, consumers are turning to generators for power in emergency situations, because the world is unpredictable. Year-round weather challenges are now the norm with snow, ice, wind, tornadoes, hurricanes and record-breaking rain and flooding occurring throughout the year and no longer just confined to a season.

“Consumers want and need reliable power. When the electricity goes out, gen­erators keep your home or business humming with light and power,” said Kris Kiser, President and CEO of the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI). 

Kiser added: “Today’s generators offer a variety of features, and there is a product for every need. While shopping for your generator, consider other equipment that could be useful in cleaning up after challenging weather such as a water pump, chain saw or pole pruner. And don’t forget outdoor-rated extension cords and fuel cans.”

Tips from OPEI for safe generator use:

  • Consider what you need. When purchasing a generator, determine how many kilowatts are needed for essential items (charging family cell phones, a refrigerator, etc.) during an emergency.
  • Research generators online before you buy. Talk with the staff at the store or ask questions online. Discuss safety features and ask about manufacturer fueling and care instructions. Generators offer a variety of features. Circuit-breaker-protected outlets will guard against generator overload. A larger fuel tank will provide extra running time. Integrated fuel gauges will help keep tabs on fuel levels and prevent power interruptions. Low tone mufflers make for quieter operation. Fold-down handles and wheels can make it easier to move your generator.
  • Keep an outdoor-rated extension cord on hand. Be sure it is long enough to place the generator a safe distance from your home, and is certified to carry the generator’s power load.
  • Identify where you will put the generator. Place the generator outside and away from windows, doors, and vents that could allow carbon monoxide to come indoors. Never put a generator in your home, garage, porch or breezeway. Give portable generators plenty of room for ventilation. Determine now how you will secure the generator.
  • Install a carbon monoxide detector. Add this safety device to your home and be sure to keep extra batteries on hand for it.
  • Keep generators dry. Before a storm hits, identify how to cover and vent the generator. Buy model-specific tents or generator covers online, at home centers or a hardware store.
  • Have the right fuel on hand before a storm hits. Use an appropriate container designed to hold fuel that seals well.
  • Store fuel in a safe place away from heat sources and out of the reach of children. Label the can with the date of purchase and the ethanol content. Check filled cans regularly and replenish them if needed. Remember fuel more than 30 days old should not be used in any outdoor power equipment and can phase separate.
  • Use the type of fuel recommended by the generator manufacturer. It is illegal to use any fuel with more than 10% ethanol in outdoor power equipment.

For safety information and to find out which manufacturers make various outdoor power equipment products, go to www.opei.org.

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Home Care

Infuse living spaces with color

Thoughtful use of color is among the most effective design tools for reveal-worthy style in your home.

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From experiences to surroundings, the past year has brought a renewed focus on feeding the soul. In an era of overstimulation and information overload, many are finding a new appreciation for living life minimally but with maximum experiences.

That mentality is increasingly evident in all aspects of life, especially with home design and decor. After all, spending more time at home means more time to discover what truly evokes happiness.

At the same time, as the focus on physical and mental wellness heightens, design experts see those trends reflected in a more considered approach to design inspired by color therapy, which makes it possible to create beautiful spaces filled with healing color.

With an expertly coordinated color palette, like the Color Collections from HGTV Home by Sherwin-Williams, colors work in perfect harmony in any combination. Thoughtful use of color is among the most effective design tools for reveal-worthy style in your home.

Appliances
In the past, appliances were meant to blend into the decor to be less obvious, albeit essential, elements of a kitchen. A more contemporary approach: vibrant appliances that get noticed. You can find major appliances in a wide range of colors, but if you’re not sure about going that big and bold, many smaller countertop appliances, such as stand mixers and toasters, come in a range of colorful options, too.

Architecture
When contemplating where and how to apply color to a space, avoid boxing in your options. Think beyond traditional wall space when planning ways to change the color in a space; be thoughtful with color and highlight architectural details to elevate the interest and charm in your home. Take a 360-degree immersive color approach, painting the same shade from floor to ceiling and all around to create a mood-boosting lift to a room. 

To infuse more color and boldness into your space, consider a timeless and elegant shade of red, like HGTV Home by Sherwin-Williams’ 2021 Color of the Year. This paint color, “Passionate,” is a deeply saturated hue that is daringly rich and invigorates the senses. This bold and empowering red is steeped in history, merging modern design with traditional charm.

Furniture
Whether you’re into project pieces you can transform into something new or simply shopping for furnishings that complement your space, be sure to consider how the furniture fits into the overall color scheme. Selecting furniture that fits with the design brings a more cohesive and stylized feel to the room. For example, a desk and bookshelves in pale natural hues can lend warmth to an office with walls painted a cool dynamic blue.

Cabinets
Painted cabinets are on-trend, and if you’re bored with basic whites and grays, you’re not alone. Designers are going bold in the kitchen and using cabinetry as a showpiece. These color palettes create inspiring spaces that invite you to get busy baking or simply pull up a chair and linger over a cup of coffee.

If you’re concerned about how to bring a color palette together, consider using a collection that has been intentionally curated to mix and match shades for a perfect look no matter which hues you choose. You can easily achieve a new look with an option like the Delightfully Daring Color Collection from HGTV Home by Sherwin-Williams. With earthy tones inspired by nature and a dose of vibrancy, the shades are simultaneously energizing and calming. The palette makes it easy to introduce statement colors in unexpected ways so you can feel confident in your selections.

Get inspired to bring healing design elements into your own home at hgtvhomebysherwinwilliams.com.

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Home Care

Spending time on household chores may improve brain health

Engaging in household chores may be beneficial for brain health in older adults. In a recent Baycrest study, older adults who spent more time on household chores showed greater brain size, which is a strong predictor of cognitive health.

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Photo by @deconovo from Unsplash.com

Engaging in household chores may be beneficial for brain health in older adults. In a recent Baycrest study, older adults who spent more time on household chores showed greater brain size, which is a strong predictor of cognitive health.

“Scientists already know that exercise has a positive impact on the brain, but our study is the first to show that the same may be true for household chores,” says Noah Koblinsky, lead author of the study, Exercise Physiologist and Project Coordinator at Baycrest’s Rotman Research Institute (RRI). “Understanding how different forms of physical activity contribute to brain health is crucial for developing strategies to reduce the risk of cognitive decline and dementia in older adults.”

In this study, published in the journal BMC Geriatrics, the researchers looked at the links between household chores, brain volume and cognition in a group of 66 cognitively healthy older adults living in the community. The participants attended three assessment visits at Baycrest Hospital, including a health evaluation, structural brain imaging and cognitive assessment.

Participants were asked about the time they spent on household chores, such as tidying, dusting, meal preparation and clean up, shopping, heavy housework, yard work, home repairs and caregiving.

The researchers found that older adults who spent more time engaging in such activities had greater brain volume, regardless of how much exercise they did. This was observed in the hippocampus, which plays a major role in memory and learning, and the frontal lobe, which is involved in many aspects of cognition.

Although it is possible that individuals with larger brains are more likely to take up household chores, there could be several explanations for the brain benefits of household physical activity.

First, we know that heart health is closely tied to brain health. It could be that household chores have a similar effect on the heart and blood vessels as low-intensity aerobic exercise.

Second, the planning and organization involved in household chores may promote the formation of new neural connections over time, even as we age.

Third, it could be that the older adults who engaged in more household chores spent less time being sedentary, which has been shown to be associated with negative health outcomes, including poor brain health.

“Besides helping to guide physical activity recommendations for older adults, these findings may also motivate them to be more active, since household chores are a natural and often necessary aspect of many people’s daily lives, and therefore appear more attainable,” says Dr. Nicole Anderson, Senior Scientist at the RRI, Director of the Ben and Hilda Katz Interprofessional Research Program in Geriatric and Dementia Care, and senior author of this study.

This study was funded in part by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR).

As a next step, the researchers would like to assess household physical activity more objectively using wearable technology. With additional funding, they could also plan controlled trials with the aim of increasing individuals’ household activity and studying brain changes over time.

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