Building a House…I Wish I Had Thought of That! (Part Two)

Screen Shot 2013-05-07 at 10.36.28 AMAs promised we have added more helpful tips that will hopefully keep you from saying “I wish I had thought of that!”

  • Bathroom: I wish I had thought of this one…when designing your cabinets for your bathrooms, think about longer drawers and fewer cabinets. The storage in drawers can be so efficient. Adding draw organizers is sure to make anyone happy!
  • Rounded Corners: Round corners create a smooth custom look throughout your home, which is sometimes easy to miss when you’re thinking about the design of your home.
  • Wall Texture: have you ever noticed the wall texture on homes that you have visited? Some are rough, others a little textured (referred to as knocked down), and then there is smooth. Think about the style of your home and remember there are options when it comes to wall texture.
  • Screen Shot 2013-05-06 at 1.30.12 PMHardwood or Ceramic Floors: You don’t have to pick one or the other, you can have both! Combining wood floors and ceramic adds texture and style to any home. Just remember that the transition from one material to another can make or break a design. Make sure you have a clear-cut line between the two rooms; adding a border in the wood creates a very clean look.
  • Basement Ceiling:  The average basement ceiling is 8 to 9 feet tall. To make your basement feel more open and like the rest of your house consider 10-foot ceilings. You will pay a little more but at the end you will be happy you did it!
  • Interior Doors:  Solid 8-foot wood doors throughout your home will make a statement. Larger doors bring a custom feel to your home that you will enjoy for years to come.

Building a house takes a lot of time and planning. Try to put things in perspective and prioritize what is important to you and your family.

We’d like to take this opportunity to thank Megan for spending her time and sharing her home building insight!

Building a House…I Wish I Had Thought of That! (Part One)

Screen Shot 2013-05-07 at 10.37.00 AMWe would like to introduce Megan, one of our readers who has been kind enough to share her story and advice on building a house.

If building a house is in your future there are many things to think about and consider. Below are some helpful tips that will hopefully keep you from saying, “I wish I had thought of that!”

  • Window Shape: When I built my house I was set on having bamboo shades. It wasn’t till after I moved in that I discovered bamboo shades couldn’t be customized to an arched window. This actually made a lot of sense, but I had not thought about it when we were designing the window shapes in the house.
  • Master Shower: This is a brilliant idea instead of installing shelves in the corners of the shower for your shampoo.  You can do pocket shelves on the same wall as the shower knob. This provides a dry area for all your shower essentials and keeps things neat, tidy, handy, and dry!
  • Hallways: For an added touch use arch niches in your hallway. This is great for a picture or plant. Don’t forget the accent light!
  • Screen Shot 2013-05-07 at 10.35.58 AMEntry Area: An insert of tile or slate is the perfect solution for keeping your wood floors from getting moisture from rain and snow. It’s easy to maintain and worry free.
  • Carpet:  Make sure you get a good carpet pad. A good pad will extend the life of your carpet and you’ll be able to feel the difference on your feet!  Also, go one step further and research carpet beyond “base grade”.

You don’t want to miss next week’s post! Megan has even more information she’d like to share.  Stay tuned.

Choosing the Best Flooring for Kids

The flooring in your child’s room has to be versatile: safe, easy to clean, and hopefully durable enough to withstand all the jumping, scraping, and playing that is bound to happen. Luckily, there’s a wealth of choice available—all you need to do is pick the one best suited to you and your child’s needs. Some of the pros and cons to consider: 




Crawling toddlers and active kids will appreciate the soft surface. Easy on knees and elbows, carpet also helps cushion falls. Children with allergies may want to stay away as carpet can breed mold and mildew if, for example, a drink is spilled and left there for too long (as is prone to happen in kids’ rooms). While carpets are vulnerable to stains, certain types are available that are stain-resistant.




Hardwood can be made to be scratch-resistant and more durable with protective coatings, or by choosing particularly hard species on the Janka scale. However, the downside is that it can also be less comfortable to play and take tumbles on. Thicker boards allow for several refinishings, which can minimize marks of wear and tear. However, boards may swell if exposed to excessive moisture. Solid hardwood flooring requires more environmentally-controlled conditions for these reasons. However, engineered hardwood floors can compensate in areas where higher moisture levels are more common.




Eco-friendly and high-replenishing bamboo offers a trendy floor that is easily refinished if scratched or marked. Unfortunately, the softer, carbonized bamboo floors are more susceptible to scratches. The harder ‘blonde’ or ‘natural’ bamboo may be your best bet. Natural anti-bacterial qualities make it a good choice for kids sensitive to irritants.




Spills won’t leave a trace and are easy to clean up. The slippery surface can be a concern for small ones learning to walk or kids running in socks, although zoning a kids room with brightly colored area-rugs can help to minimize slippage. Individual boards can be replaced, with laminate offering the look of wood but requiring less surface maintenance.




A good option for kids with allergies or sensitive to irritants, cork is hypoallergenic and resistant to bacterial growth. This antistatic surface is a plus for playtime, while the softness is a good shock-absorber for clumsy toddlers. Heat-retaining floors make it comfortable for kids to sit and play on. Unfortunately, the softness also means the floor can be more easily gouged or scratched than a choice like hardwood might be. However, Cork absorbs noise more than a laminate or hardwood floor, keeping parents happy as well.


As with any flooring decision, there are trade-offs that need to be made. Harder floors are typically easier to clean, but are not as comfortable for playing or falling on. Soft floors are comfortable, but are also more easily dented or scratched up. Ultimately, your flooring choice will be decided by the needs of your child, such as their age, allergies, and level of activity.


Alexandra Wong is a writer for BuildDirect, leading online supplier of wood flooring and other quality building materials.


Foam Floor Tiles – Think Soft!!!

What an honor it is to be writing as a guest to you all in this thorough and informative blog. I’m Bill Harris of We are a website dedicated to marketing and selling closed cell EVA (Ethylene-vinyl acetate) foam tiles in many varieties.

For those of you not familiar with what closed cell, EVA foam is, it is the same material high quality flip flops are made from. If a little patch under each foot can last years, imagine the longevity you can expect with an entire room’s floor covered in it! The “closed cell” part of the description means that, while foam, it is non-absorbing. Liquids will pool on top and can be easily wiped away with a towel. There are many uses for EVA foam. You can find this amazingly versatile product in shoe soles, seat cushions and ski boots to name a few.

This inexpensive and resilient flooring option has becoming one of the most popular choices for flooring in many different applications. It has been used for years in children’s play rooms and day cares as kids play mats. The wide variety of colors, durability, ease of installation and cleaning have all aided the increased usage of these products to protect little heads and knees.

Additionally, foam tiles can now be found in home weight rooms and light duty commercial gyms where a lot of ground work or body weight exercises are performed. The increased popularity of the P90X and plyometric type routines has added to the popularity of soft floor tiles. I can tell you from experience that it is much nicer taking a knee or doing sit ups on foam flooring products than a wooden or hard rubber surface found in many work out areas, providing extra cushion for the joints without being so soft that it will compromise stability. For gyms, it should be noted that heavy equipment like tread mills or weight racks can cause indentations where the feet sit that may not fully recover if the machine is moved from its place.

Another usage that has become increasingly popular lately is in martial arts studios. Anyone that has watched a competition or demonstration can tell you; these guys hit the ground with all their body weight. Having anywhere from ½” to 1 full inch of padding to land on will allow you to extend your workouts and prevent bruising from the throws associated with this kind of sport. They link together tightly with a jig-saw type puzzle interlock that prevents separation during even the most vigorous sparring.

Closed cell EVA foam tiles have infinite color options. There are even tiles that have a very realistic wood pattern laminated to the surface. Tiles like these can be found in trade show booths at nearly every convention center in North America. It is an excellent way to set your booth apart from the competition while providing antifatigue properties for you and your presenters.  Being light and easily installed means you can set up and take down quickly as well as take them with you from show to show, avoiding the costly rental of the facilities flooring. They can also be reconfigured to fit any booth size.

In closing, if you are interested in soft yet durable, affordable and versatile flooring for an area in your home, studio, exercise area, child’s room or trade show booth, consider soft floor tiles next time.  They work great as a portable foam mat or as an installed wall to wall soft flooring solution.  For more information, please feel free to

Online Home Design Tools by Armstrong

This is the year you’re finally going to get that new floor you’ve been dreaming about. Let’s start planning! Armstrong has several online home design tools to help you find that perfect floor. Maybe you already have an idea of the type of floor you want or maybe you prefer to keep all your options on the table. Either way, with these tools, you can find the floor that works with your room, your design style and your budget.

Design a Room

This tool helps you visualize the room you have in mind. Try different floors, looks and colors in a variety of room styles to create the room scene you like best.

Step 1: Choose a room and design style (e.g., Kitchen – Contemporary, Bathroom – Traditional, etc.)

Step 2: Select flooring, look or pattern type, wall color, and cabinets (kitchen only)

Step 3: Save your favorite room scenes to My Project

Floor Finder

This tool steps you through the flooring selection process to find a floor based on: room type, look, size of household, installation method and budget. After you select the answers that fit your situation, Floor Finder shows you recommended flooring options.

My Project and Project Estimator

With My Project, a design organizing tool, you can store your favorite flooring products from Armstrong and the room scenes that inspire you all in one place. After you’ve selected the floors you like, use the Project Estimator to calculate the cost of a full flooring project.

Choosing a floor has never been so easy – or so much fun!

My Project was recently featured in an article from Fox that described the Best Online Home Design tools.

(This post is a guest post provided by Armstrong)

Get Your Floors Ready for the Holidays!

afp_E8322_rsShopping, decorating, wrapping presents, baking, you’ve got a million things to do to prepare for the holiday season, don’t forget to add “floor cleaning” to your list. If you’re entertaining over the holidays, you want to make sure your home looks beautiful. Taking care of your floors is one way to do it. Sparkling clean, polished floors will make a great impression on your guests.

For the best results, you should always clean your floors regularly with the proper products. Armstrong floor care products are ideal for regular and heavy duty cleaning for all types of floors. Now, you may be thinking, why should you spend money on Armstrong floor care products? The simple answer is: they work.

In addition –

  • They’ve been tested and proven in the lab and on thousands of residential floors.
  • They’re specially formulated to work on Armstrong floors and other floors.
  • They’re engineered to be environmentally friendly. So you get a great-looking floor without dumping harsh chemicals down your drain.
  • By using the proper cleaning products, you will help protect your flooring investment for years to come.

Let’s get started. Armed with your mop, bucket and cleaning products, follow these tips to get your floors ship-shape for the holidays!

Hardwood & Laminate Floors

Before the entertaining begins in earnest, dry mop or vacuum your floor, then clean your wood floor with Armstrong Hardwood & Laminate Floor Cleaner in the spray bottle. It comes in a ready-to-use, no-rinse formula, and it’s suitable for all gloss level finishes. For highly worn areas of your floor, try Bruce’s Fresh Finish to restore the shine. Finally, before your guests arrive, place runners and area rugs with slip-resistant backings along high traffic areas.

Wood Floor Cleaning Myth #1: Dry mopping is the best way to clean hardwood flooring or laminate flooring. Any type of liquid cleaner could damage the floor.

Truth: Dry mopping is fine for a quick dusting, but if all you do is dry mop, you will eventually grind the dirt into the surface of the floor. Use only cleaning products specifically designed for hardwood or laminate to remove soil. RSCB5277_web

Wood Floor Cleaning Myth #2: Concentrated cleaning products are fine for hardwood floors. Just add water and go.

Truth: Never use any cleaner that requires you to add water on hardwood floors – even sealed floors. Water will get seep into and around the planks and cause serious damage to your floor.

Vinyl Floors

Routine maintenance will keep your floor looking good longer. Regular cleaning also reduces the number of times you’ll need to do heavy duty cleaning. Armstrong’s Once ‘n Done Resilient and Ceramic No-Rinse Floor Cleaner is good for spot cleaning or all-over floor cleaning. It comes in a convenient, ready-to-use spray bottle or a concentrated formula. You can also use Once ‘n Done with ceramic, tile, marble, granite, terrazzo, slate and stone floors.

But with the holidays fast approaching, you probably want to put in a little extra effort to make your floors look like new. Armstrong’s Shinekeeper restores the appearance of high gloss vinyl floors, while Armstrong’s Satinkeeper does the same for low gloss vinyl floors. For seriously faded or dirty floors, try New Beginning® Extra-Strength Floor Stripper. New Beginning solves tough cleaning problems, but use it only once every couple of years, or, depending on traffic, once a season.

Enjoy the holiday season and bright, sparkling floors with help from Armstrong.

Get a $2.00 mail-in rebate on Armstrong floor care products at

Changing Spaces: Smaller Can Be Better

Today’s post is a guest post written by Beryn Hammil

Question: My family tells me the time has come for me to give up my seven- room house and move into a one-bedroom in a retirement place. So I made the big decision (more like an incision. It hurts so much).

Enclosed is the floor plan. I have a large green and white sofa and wing chair, and an Italian cane-and-wood chair in white. My pair of gold velvet chairs — no arms but large — may have to go.

I am selling the dining room furniture; however, I would like to keep the white credenza trimmed in green and a side piece with drop leaves. I have a small marble table next to the wing chair with a narrow lamp.

I have a French Provincial card table with cane-back chairs that I think I’ll use in the living room. Any advice would be appreciated.

MAE BRASH, Daly City

Answer: Although moving to a smaller home may be difficult, it sounds as if your new home will be a much easier place in which to live because its smaller size offers you a much more practical lifestyle. Think of it this way; there’s less for you to manage, clean and maintain.

The floor plan of your new apartment offers everything you’ll need to create an inviting home, and it seems that you’ve chosen well regarding which pieces to take with you.

My recommendations involve arranging the pieces you’re keeping to create rooms within rooms.

For example, in the living room I would place your green and white sofa so it faces both the fireplace and the view outside through the large sliding doors and windows. At its back, I would place the off-white credenza that’s trimmed in green so it faces into what will become the dining area. You’ve now created a wall of furniture that’s a room divider. This layout helps you define and separate the dining area from the living room area.

To help reinforce this divided room concept, I would place a pair of console-height table lamps on either end of the credenza and put some of your favorite accessories in between. This provides lighting for the sofa area as well as ambient light for the new dining room.

Your French Provincial card table and cane-backed chairs are the perfect pieces for your new dining area. In addition to functioning as a dining area, these pieces give you and your guests a place to sit and play cards or board games.

To make it seem less like a card table when it’s being used as a dining table, I suggest adding a wood disk with a 48-inch diameter that’s intended to expand a card table on the top. Then put a round table cloth that drapes to the floor on the newly rounded table. A fabric that complements the sofa fabric will be a nice finishing touch.

For an extra luxurious look, you can put another piece of fabric on top of the table’s “skirt” fabric. This piece should be square so you can see the underneath layer of fabric. It can be changed with the seasons or holidays so there’s some variety in the space.

Moving to the living room area, I would place your oval marble cocktail table in front of the sofa. Your pair of gold armless chairs should face the sofa. We’ve now created a living room with a conversation area around the sofa.

Your narrow liquor cabinet, the side piece with drop-down leaves, is a perfect piece to put on the long wall opposite the fireplace. It provides another focal point to balance the room and functions as a serving area for cocktails and after-dinner drinks. Placing a large framed mirror on the wall above it will visually expand the room. And if you put a tall vase of flowers on the top of the cabinet, the flowers will be reflected in the mirror and create the illusion that your bouquet is twice as abundant.

I would place your wing chair with its side table and floor lamp on the window side of that cabinet to create your own little reading corner. It provides a view to the outside or you can look across the room at the fireplace. And, if you need more seating for an additional guest, you can always bring it closer to the other seating in the living room.

With this furniture layout we’ve succeeded in creating three different living areas within the one large open space. There’s the dining area, the living room seating and the reading corner, making the room more intimate by creating rooms within the one large room.

Keep the bedroom simple; all you need is your full-size bed, night tables on either side with table lamps, and the dresser on the opposite wall. Put the TV on the dresser, and now you can read in bed or watch TV from there.

This variety of spaces will make your home seem as if it has more rooms in which to live, and without all the hassle of a larger house.

© San Francisco Chronicle, 2002

Known throughout the Bay Area for the “Design Dilemma” columns she writes for the San Francisco Chronicle’s Home & Garden section, Beryn’s interior design and remodel projects are as compelling as her written ideas.

As a designer, Beryn listens carefully to her clients’ needs, and then expands on them to create the homes that people enjoy living in for years after the work is complete. Projects are finished on time and on budget, making good on her goal that the process should be as enjoyable as the results.

Beryn works directly with all her clients, and they appreciate knowing that her hands-on approach is being used on their behalf in both design and management.

Additionally, Beryn’s talent includes being the featured designer on many episodes of HGTV’s “Curb Appeal” and “Sensible Chic.”

Travertine Tiles – Guest Post

Today’s post is by Rob Jones, chief blogger and social media coordinator at BuildDirect, an online flooring and building materials firm in Vancouver, Canada. Here, Rob talks about the appeal of travertine tile, treasured and well-used in the Ancient World, and now offering the same imperial qualities to your indoor and outdoor spaces …


Marble and granite are well-known for use in commercial applications. Slate is naturally slip-resistant, and ruggedly beautiful too in various settings, both indoors and out. And even limestone gets a look-in when it comes to patios and foyer spaces in the minds of most consumers looking for a sturdy material in a natural stone surface. Yet, travertine has also been a natural stone workhorse for thousands of years and across many cultures.

Travertine is possibly most associated with the Classical era of Ancient Greece, Palestine, and the Roman Empire, when it was a key building material in building residences, municipal buildings, and even the famous Roman Coliseum. As a result, travertine has taken on something of that history, suggesting a sort of imperial air, and sense of permanence.

The color range of travertine tile offers gray, tan, beige, golden, and brown tones, with variation from tile to tile, which renders a refined-to-rustically-earthy-appeal. Even if there are associations with its use, you’re open to use travertine nearly anywhere, just because of its subtle decorative potential.

But, when it comes to buying and installing travertine as a floor or wall tile, what are your options? What kinds of surfaces and their visual effects are available for you use to transform your space? Let’s take a look at three options that stand as the more popular choices for travertine tile surfaces.

1. Honed and Filled Travertine Tile
With this surface treatment, the natural pores in the travertine, once caused by escaping gasses seeping through when the stone was formed, are filled with color-matched cement. Then, the tiles are polished until smooth. For those who like a refined, more pristine look in a stone surface, honed and filled is the perfect choice if you also want the unique color range of travertine.

2. Brushed and Chisled
Because travertine is known for its classical look, a very popular choice is travertine that has been artificially aged. The surfaces of the tile have been literally brushed, using a wire implement. And the edges of the tile are similarly treated using, you guessed it, a chisel. The effect is a replication of wear over the course of hundreds of years, giving the space in which brushed and chiseled travertine is installed the look of imperial regality.

3. Tumbled
Another way that this worn, imperial look is achieved is what’s called ‘tumbled’ travertine tile. In the travertine tile tumbling process, the tiles are placed in a machine, with gravel and smaller stone fragments, and then shaken. The smaller stones score the surface of the tile, and that aged effect that so many love is produced.

There are of course variations to be found here, with tiles which are only partially filled to gain the best of both worlds when it comes to a smooth tile that shows off the natural pores in the stone. Also, there are multiple tile sizes to consider, which also affects the way the tile will look, from mosaic 1″x1″ tiles, to 24″ x 24″ tile.

But, whatever way the tiles are purchased and installed, the use of travertine surfaces tie your space with a tradition of style that extends back to when civilization itself began. It’s hard to match that kind of longevity.


You can read more about travertine and other natural stone surfaces from BuildDirect on the BuildDirect blog.

Teak Flooring – Guest Post

bedroomTeak wood is a great choice for flooring in your home. It is a hard and sturdy wood, which provides durability and a guaranteed longevity, especially in areas that have high traffic. It may cost a little bit more money, but it is well worth the cost as it may be the only floor you will ever need to install. It is able to resist decay and insect damage. Teak has natural oils that helped make it waterproof, however, you will still need to make sure that you waterproof seal the floor.

Teak is one of the hardest woods that are available. The Brazilian variety is the hardest, African is harder than maple and Thai teak is as hard as oak wood. The issue is the fact that this has been over harvested for many years, and some varieties are even on the verge of extinction. There are sustainable growers who are certified by the Forest Stewardship Council, which gives approval for growing and harvesting methods.

Teak flooring is a costly floor to purchase. For this reason, those looking to install a teak floor choose teak laminate flooring. A laminate is manufactured by putting several thin layers of wood together with the top layer being the actual teak. The other layers are wood by-products or other inexpensive woods. This process helps to keep the cost affordable, while still having the beautiful look of a teak floor.

Teak ranges and colors from reddish brown to a yellow brown. As the floor ages, it can often take on a deeper shade. The actual maintenance of teak laminate flooring will only require general cleaning. There are products available to help protect and keep your floor looking brand-new. You can visit for additional tips on how to take care of your teak flooring.

This guest post was written by Shawn Higgins from Thanks, Shawn!

Breaking Free From the Rules of Design – Guest Post

Question: How can I make my living room a little bit roomier? This sofa bed in the living room seems so big that there are only small spaces going to the window. The small dining room is on the left side of the picture. The sofa bed measures 89 by 36 inches. I was thinking of replacing the sofa bed with an Oriental-style rosewood sofa that measures 76 by 30 inches that I saw in a store here in San Francisco, to go with my coffee table, which is also rosewood. Do you think this will look OK?

Eleanor F. Silvano San Francisco

Answer: Decorating a space while keeping everything in good proportion is what designers do every day, but the challenge of doing it well in a home with furniture that is too large for the room is always difficult.

If, as you suggest, you can replace the offending piece of furniture with one that has a more appropriate scale for the room, you’ve come up with a no-brainer solution to your design dilemma. And any designer or person trying to redecorate their own home would be thrilled if this solution were always an option.

However, sometimes this isn’t feasible, and the real challenge is how to decorate a room that has to include furniture too big for the space. Having said that, let’s try to solve this design dilemma as if keeping the large furniture is the only option available. Continue reading “Breaking Free From the Rules of Design – Guest Post” »