A Place For Wine

While the incorporation of wine refrigerators seems to be on the decline

according to The National Kitchen and Bath Association, unchilled wine storage is growing in popularity. While only 39% of surveyed designers incorporated wine storage areas into their kitchens at the end of 2009, just over half—51%—did so as 2010 came to a close.

What does that mean? Either we Americans are not aware that there is a need to optimize our wine, so it does need to be stored properly, or maybe we are drinking it faster so it does not have time to spoil! I think that wine bottles stored for “show” is a really a total waste of space.

How you store your wine will affect the flavor, color and character of each bottle. Even those bottles kept for a few weeks or months can be positively or negatively impacted by the type of home wine storage you have. For most wine lovers, having the right kind of wine storage unit is imperative. Think about temperature, light, humidity, storage angle and ventilation… and a wine cooler. And use those cubbies for some other purpose.

Make It Work

While I hate to say this to you all, finding the space is more critical than

designing the space. Here creativity is the key… Even if you have lived in the same home for years and think you have exhausted every possible space that could be a home office, think again.

I find people looking at corners and closets and other areas that at first glance may seem useless. Laundry rooms and wet bars are favorite conversion areas because of availability of electricity outlets and off the beaten path of traffic in the home. I advise readers to think about the space under the staircase or an unused upstairs landing or alcove rather than the corner of a family room or bedroom, which interferes with other part of life.

Of course the obvious choices are guest bedroom (guests can go to motels), living room (it’s where Grandma’s furniture or the Christmas tree are displayed), dining room (for some of us the three times a year room) basement, (think light and more light) converted garage, attic (should you be lucky to have one).

The last resorts are the bedroom and kitchen or even a walk-in closet. Bedroom should be for sleeping, and if this room is selected, you are essentially sleeping with your job… not a good idea. Likewise the kitchen is not an optimum space as it can be as noisy and crowded as a downtown street. The walk-in closet may not do well for the claustrophobic. And then there is the problem of how to fit the chair in the space as well.

Home Office Design Challenges

Who needs long commutes, office gossip, and high overhead? Certainly

not the 42 million people who call their home – or at least a portion of their home – their office. In fact, more new homes are being designed and built with a home office as part of the plan, according to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB). Advances in technology, reduced equipment costs and the removed stigma of working from home make home offices a perk for corporate employees (telecommuters) and a money and time-saver for entrepreneurs.

Working from home does present its share of challenges, however. I know this only too well when I left Home magazine after ten years as editor-in-chief to work at home. The truth is that I had always been working at home but not in an organized way. Spreading my papers and magazines over my bed for reading and catching up, working on my laptop from a comfortable chair, or paying bills or writing letters (yes, I still do that) from the antique secretary that sits in my living room as a vestigial dinosaur from the past. I had thirty seconds to take charge of my space because thirty-two boxes that represented my magazine life were also coming home as well.

That’s why creating a comfortable and dedicated workspace is so important. It’s imperative to separate work from the rest of your life. The first step in that goal is to create a space in which you can work efficiently, effectively and comfortably, away from the distractions of everyday life. Stepping into your office, you should feel as though you’ve crossed an imaginary threshold: you’re at work now, away from laundry, lawn and cable TV.

Predictions From the Builders Show

Walking the convention floor in Orlando for the International Builders

Show takes perseverance, politeness and comfortable shoes. But when you are in search of the next big thing, then walking and talking is what it is all about. This year some distinct trends appeared. Some are repeats recast in a new way and others are simply emerging.

  • Small is the New Big
    The trend among home buyers favoring smaller homes with open multifunctional rooms continues. “The sense of entitlement that people used to feel about having everything they wanted in their homes is being replaced by a sense of gratitude for things they already have,” says Jill Waage, editorial director of Better Homes & Gardens’ Home Content Core.
  • Island Living
    Islands, the perennial darling of kitchen plans, hold even more potential in new-home plans updated for modern living. Marc Thee, co-CEO and co-founder of Marc-Michaels Interior Design in Winter Park, Fla., suggests eliminating the breakfast nook to make room for a larger island, which can be useful both for casual family dining and for giving guests something to gather around. He encourages, “Give them something people can hang on to—something to get the party started.”
  • Storage is Still King
    Lack of storage is the No. 1 complaint from most homeowners. And it’s something that homes rarely offer enough of It is particularly critical near the home entry, be it back or front of the house. Hopefully this new conversation about mudrooms will create more options for proper shelving and storage near the entrance, including a drop zone for keys and recharging electronics, etc.
  • Universal Design Reinvents Itself
    Although it’s hard not to mention the term “universal design” without referencing baby boomers (the graying of this generation of 78 million is certainly creating a sense of urgency on matters of home safety and accessibility), UD proponents are quick to note that it isn’t just for older homeowners.

    “The new universal design is pretty, easy to use, and has high-tech functionality that is nearly invisible,” Brookfield, Conn.-based kitchen designer Mary Jo Peterson pointed out during a press conference on the topic. “Right now this is a concept that is age driven, but truly the target should be everybody.”

Organizing A Home Office

How much space do you really need? I am often asked this question,

and my answer is always 30 percent more than you think. This is really true in high–intensity work areas such as the kitchen and baths, but it is true of the home office as well.

Most of us are in denial about what we need to store. Even if you have cleared out and cleaned up, you know that the excess paper will find its way back to that room. And have you allocated room for copy paper, air freight boxes, and other office supplies? Where are you planning to put these necessities without causing more clutter?

How about room to expand your storage needs? Have you factored that in?
I found in setting up my own home office that despite my best estimates about the need for files and books, I had really not considered that I would need increase this space as my work grew. I have not just talking about spreading out but the day-to-day storage that got bigger with too much effort.

I spend about 15 or 20 minutes at the end of each week, trying to stay on top of my office organization. Try it, it works!

Working at Home

When one or both of you suddenly need a place to work at home,

the obvious scenario is rethinking one of the children’s bedrooms or the seldom-used guest room. Working at home can be a challenge because it requires storage space as well as work space. Is the new home-worker a “show it or stow it” kind of person? The former alternative may need a dedicated room with closed doors while the latter may be comfortable doing double duty in a room that has another life at night or at holidays.

Before you begin to make right-sizing changes for working at home, think about the space you will need to accomplish this. When you can answer these questions below, it will help you understand you and your family’s needs versus your wants:

    Are you self-employed?

  • Want to create a space for creativity
  • Office needs to be fashionable
  • Need to have light and noise control
  • Do you plan to work at home part-time?

  • Want a duplicate of work office at home
  • Office should be elegant
  • Need storage invisible from work space
  • Will you share an office at home?

  • Need an office to be double-duty
  • Office space will be shared by more than one
  • Want to have office space that never sleeps
  • Do you need a family communications center?

  • Want a place to be a family communications center
  • Office does not need to be a dedicated space
  • Need to catch-up with work, bills or correspondence
  • Are you a telecommuter?

  • Need a workspace but not on daily basis
  • Office should be very functional
  • Want to be able to lock away files

Coming Clean

Time to confess! Do you really use your whole house? Is your dining

room a walk-through space on the way to elsewhere? Does inherited furniture occupy the living room instead of you? How many times a year does someone visit your pristine guest room? Do you need more space to really work at home?

I urge you to come clean about how you really use your home. For example, a foyer is probably a superfluous space if your main entry is through the mud room or garage. Similarly, the oversized great room of the 1990s—which morphed from separate rooms for eating, entertaining and preparing food—doesn’t necessarily work for every family all the time. Gathering areas must incorporate too many functions today: TV viewing, eating, homework, reading or game playing. All this activity in one space, while the nearby dining room is totally ignored. That dining room which gets used three times a year can be repurposed. And for many of us, one home office may simply not be enough anymore in this economy.

Take a good long look at how you use your home as though you had never seen it before… Hopefully you will see new possibilities for trading spaces. Right-sizing should enable you to live efficiently, flexibly, and best of all, comfortably.

Beginning the Process

Start the process of Right-Sizing by forgetting about the traditional

room names. This is not about resale any more. Give yourself permission to re-imagine how these spaces can really be utilized based on your family’s need and varied activities.

Take that ignored living room, for example. It could be a new office for a home-based business with easy access to the front door. Or it may make a perfect “chat room” to make quiet conversation when the great or family room is otherwise occupied with sound and music. If Grandma is coming for an extended stay, could this be reconfigured as an easy-access main floor bedroom so she can avoid climbing stairs?

There are circumstances in our lives such as the one described previously that call for an immediate change in the configuration of our homes. These could be multi-generational families living together or the need for multiple work spaces of all kinds. How flexible is your house?

Becoming Space Smart

We all need more space. Most of us cannot add on to where we live.

Are we doomed to live with our possessions in disarray as a result? “No way,” say I. The first trick is to be in command of of your things. If you let them keep piling up, then they will get out of control. By that time, your belongings have taken over your house and your life.

Let’s look at how this stuff even got into the doorway. Are you guilty of bringing them in yourself and then ignoring them? Do they come in the mail? Do other members of your family contribute to this mess? You cannot stop the mess until you understand what causes it.

Take a look at your mail with all those tempting catalogs that you intend to glance at before you throw them away? Are you reading the daily newspaper that arrives on your doorstep? How about the magazines that pile up by your chair, waiting for you to show some interest? Let’s not even think about those unopened bills.

This is something you can take charge of right now. Make new rules for yourself:

  • If a newspaper is over two days old, it needs to be thrown away
    or recycled (not kept).
  • Keep magazines for a month and discard when the new one comes.
  • Open your mail and sort bills. If they get hidden, then they do not get paid.
  • Coupon flyers are not to be saved; clip them and throw away.

At the end of a month, your piles of mail will not have increased and you may feel brave enough to tackle the old ones. You are on your way to becoming SpaceSmart.